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Alleged Strauss-Kahn Rape Victim Tells Her Story

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Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

NEW YORK - The hotel housekeeper accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her is telling her story publicly, she says, because she wants the former International Monetary Fund leader behind bars. But it's hard to say whether her striking move will help or hobble her goal.

Nafissatou Diallo's decision to speak out in media interviews is an unusual and risky move for an accuser at this point in a criminal case, legal experts said.

It gives her an empowering chance to tell her side of the story as prosecutors weigh whether to press ahead with the case amid their concerns about her credibility. But it also enshrines a version of events that defense lawyers could mine for discrepancies with her grand jury testimony or use as fodder to argue she was seeking money or public attention.

After staying silent for nearly two months about an alleged attack that Mr. Strauss-Kahn vehemently denies, Diallo gave her account to Newsweek and ABC News.

Adding details and her own voice to the basics authorities have given, Diallo said the former IMF leader grabbed and attacked her “like a crazy man” in his $3,000-a-night Manhattan hotel suite on May 14 as she implored him to stop and feared for her job.

“I push him. I get up. I wanted to scare him. I said, ‘Look, there is my supervisor right there,' ” she told Newsweek in an interview in her lawyer's office. But Mr. Strauss-Kahn said no one was there to hear, she said, and he went on to yank up her uniform dress, tear down her pantyhose, forcefully grab her crotch and then grip her head and force her to perform oral sex.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers called the interviews “an unseemly circus” designed to inflame public opinion.

The interviews come with the case against Strauss-Kahn in limbo after Manhattan prosecutors raised doubts about the housekeeper's overall credibility. They said on July 1 that she had lied about her life story and gave inconsistent descriptions about what she did right after the alleged attack.

The disclosures prompted her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, to criticize the district attorney, press prosecutors to keep going with the case and even call for a special prosecutor to take over.

Diallo told her interviewers she wants Strauss-Kahn held accountable, and she was going public to tell a story she said had never wavered, to counter misleading portrayals of her and to address doubts about her trustworthiness.

“I want him to go to jail. I want him to know there are some places you cannot use your power, you cannot use your money,” she told Newsweek.

Diallo told ABC she didn't know Strauss-Kahn was a high-profile French politician until later.

“I was watching the news and they said he's going to be the next president of France,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh, my God.' I was crying. ‘They're going to kill me. I'm going to die.' ”

Before July 24, the 32-year-old Guinean immigrant's name had been reported by some French media outlets but not by major U.S. media, which generally protect the identities of people who say they've been sexually assaulted.

“I never want to be in public, but I have no choice,” she said, according to ABC News. “God is my witness, I'm telling the truth.”

But against the backdrop of uncertainty about her believability and motives, the interviews may raise as many questions as they answer, legal observers said.

“On the one hand, there's an upside that perhaps it will encourage the prosecutors to move forward with their case. On the other hand, there's the risk that whatever she says can be used against her in a civil or criminal case, especially with respect to any inconsistencies,” said Sanford Rubenstein, a New York lawyer who has represented victims in noted cases—and advised them not to give interviews while the case was ongoing, he said. His clients have included Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was tortured in a New York City police station bathroom in 1997.

Prosecutors generally discourage potential witnesses in criminal cases from speaking outside court while a case is pending, partly to avoid creating multiple accounts that could diverge, even slightly. In a trial, such gaps can become thin edges of a wedge for adversaries to drive doubts about an accuser's veracity into jurors' minds.

“The more that's out there, the more you're susceptible on cross-examination,” said Elizabeth Crotty, a defense lawyer and former Manhattan assistant district attorney.

The housekeeper's interviews also could provide an avenue for Strauss-Kahn's lawyers to suggest she was out for publicity or cash, a notion that already has shadowed the case. A day after the Strauss-Kahn arrest, she was recorded alluding to his wealth on a phone call with an incarcerated friend, a law enforcement official has said.

Newsweek said she had not ruled out trying to make some money from her situation, a suggestion that a civil lawsuit could be forthcoming, though she told the magazine, “I don't think about money.”

The interviews nonetheless could tempt prosecutors to bow out rather than go forward with the case because “she's already trying it in the court of public opinion,” Gershman said.

The DA's office has said its investigation, not external factors, will determine the outcome. Communications chief Erin Duggan said July 24 the investigation was continuing and declined to discuss the case further.

In the interviews, Diallo addresses some of the inconsistencies that already have rocked the case.

She testified to a grand jury that after the alleged attack, she cowered in a hallway and watched Strauss-Kahn leave, then told a supervisor. Prosecutors said earlier this month that she later told them she actually had gone on cleaning rooms before consulting her boss. Diallo told Newsweek she was disoriented and went into the rooms briefly before a supervisor appeared and asked why she was upset, but the maid denied changing her account.

Missing Black Children: A Crisis of Media Neglect

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By Nicole Lockley, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Ke’Shaun Vanderhorst, Jeanine Barnwell, Jaycee Dugard and Caylee Anthony.

All four individuals have something in common: their lives were ended or altered tragically.

Philadelphia natives Ke’Shaun and Jeanine, however, differ from Jaycee and Caylee in three ways— they’re both Black, still missing and didn’t receive any national coverage compared to Jaycee and Caylee.“ As with anything, the media is based on sales. Black children aren’t just as valued,” said Gaetane Borders, president of Peas in Their Pods, a non-profit organization that educates the public about missing minority children. “Most people don’t realize how many children of color are missing, and make assumptions because they don’t see them on television.”

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, more than 2,000 children are reported missing in the United States each day. Nearly 20 percent of those reported missing are African-American — that’s 146,000 Black children reported missing each year.

Not often, though, do missing Black children and teens get national news coverage like North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes. She was found dead in Maryland in April. While her death received some buzz in the news, it was too late.

“It’s definitely related to bias against African-American children,” said Borders. “They don’t think they will sell or are newsworthy enough.”

Borders said her organization created the Rilya Alert, similar to the Ambler Alert but for minority children, to counter the institutional biases in this country. Email alerts are sent to people who sign up for the Rilya Alert. Peas in Their Pods also hosts a weekly online radio show allowing affected families to tell their stories.

Michael Coard, Philadelphia criminal defense attorney and founder of Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, sees the biases in the media as well.

Regarding to the Casey Anthony trial, he wrote the following in a July essay on the Avenging our Ancestors website: “I am compelled to condemn the media for its racism. Why did they make this such a big deal… The answer is racism or at least racial indifference.”

Coard then notes the 2007 strangling and stabbings of four sisters by their mother in Washington, D.C.

“You didn't hear anything about this, did you? I wonder why?” he wrote.

Natalie Wilson, co-founder of Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., puts some of the blame on the lack of diversity in the newsroom.

“African Americans need to speak out and say we need to hear of people of color who are missing too, because we matter too,” she said.

Wilson notes the lack of national news coverage on the recent indictment of Antoinette Nicole Davis, who sold her 5-year-old daughter, Shaniya Nicole Davis, in 2009 into sexual servitude.

“Unfortunately the media has focused so much on Casey that they haven’t given any focus to other stories that really need attention. Shaniya matters too.”

Soroya Bacchus, a triple board certified psychiatrist based in Los Angeles, puts much of the blame on leaders of news organizations.

“National media is white male media, so they pay attention to issues in their tribe — white young girls and white women,” said Bacchus. “It’s not biased or racist, but it’s their comfort zone; it’s their cultural background.”

Bacchus said if there were more diversity in the newsroom, more minority stories would be heard.

“It goes back to the white male establishment — who are interested in what is happening to their women.”

Tracy Everbach, a journalism professor at the University of North Texas who teaches a class called “Race, Gender and Media,” agrees with Bacchus.

“The make-up of the media and most people in media are white and they may not be aware of what they’re doing,” said Everbach.

More open discussions about this issue and teaching young journalists to be aware of the content in the news are the answer, according to Everbach.

Additionally, a Kansas man has made it his mission for minority missing children stories to be told. After the 2001 beheading of a Kansas City girl, Alonzo Washington began to advocate for missing minority children across the country.

“If this was in a suburb it would be a national story,” he said. “It’s clear that there’s a disparity. And even in this day and age when we have an African-American president, these are issues that are not addressed.”

Washington and Borders said the old stereotypes of African Americans are factors in why Blacks don’t make national news.

“It’s the national image and the local image that the mass media promotes of crime. Crime is acceptable in the inner-city, and in most major cities, and it’s something that nobody deems as important,” said Washington.

“Many of our kids that go missing, the first thing that happens is they are listed as a runaway,” said Borders. “News stations don’t want to cover a runaway.”

Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele Defends His Past Role

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By John N. Mitchell, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Many in the African-American community have wondered why Michael Steele remained a member of the Republican Party after he was unceremoniously dismissed as the party chair after leading a historic rout of the Democrats in 2010.

Recently, before a group of African-American journalists, he answered that question.

“My job was to stir the pot from within; to be a reflection of America to them; to be a reflection of unity to them,” Steele said. “You’re going to have to deal with me now that I run the entire show as national chair. Defeats, yeah. Push backs, maybe. No matter if it’s me, Herman Cain or whoever it may be, you are going to have to look Black America in the eye at some point and deal with us. Otherwise, remember the Whig Party? Well, there you go. That is the reality right now that this party faces. I’m just a moment in time; there are a hell of a lot more moments to come.”

Steele made the statement on a panel at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia, addressing the upcoming 2012 elections. The panel was moderated by Roland Martin. Steele, the first African American to head up the Republican Party, was joined by author and scholar Cornel West, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and journalist and author Sophia Nelson. The Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, was scheduled to appear, but did not.

Steele was elected Republican National Committee chairman in January 2009, just two months after Barack Obama became the country’s first African-American president. His election was viewed by many as a reflexive move by a party that has, since the days of the southern strategy, become less and less welcoming to African Americans.

Steele led his party to a 64-seat gain in the House in the 2010 elections, the biggest gain since the Republicans picked up a whopping 81 in 1939.

However, he clumsily navigated the racial terrain in that capacity, and was as unable to increase African-American participation in the party. While many African Americans wanted him to acquit himself with dignity in that role, most lost faith in him when he suggested to a blogger that he would bring “fried chicken and potato salad” if it would help bring African Americans to the party.

The reinforcement of this racist stereotype only served to distance Steele further from the African-American community. He later sidestepped the racist legacies of Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, who once praised the work of segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond.

Much of the fiery and flavorful debate centered on whether or not it was acceptable by African Americans to critique Obama, who faces a tough re-election challenge in 2012. West has been very critical of Obama, but he has also been supportive of the president.

However, he said that Obama must address the plight of poor people, most of whom are Black and brown.

“We are trying to humbly keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, who was shot down and killed like a dog organizing poor people, not just in Memphis, but also in Washington, D.C.,” West said. “Both parties are guilty of rendering poor people invisible. We will continue to confront the president and anyone else who is not paying attention to those needs.”

Reed said that Obama simply is not in a position to be able to talk about issues that directly impact African Americans alone.

“If Barack Obama were to go into a press conference and begin to go item by item about what this country needs to do for Black America, let’s be honest about this, he would be out of office faster than you can bat an eye,” Reed said.

Countered Martin: “You have to wonder why the debate can’t be public. He speaks directly to the gay and lesbian community with ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ He speaks directly to the Latino community on issues of immigration. He speaks to all of these groups. Doesn’t he have an obligation to have this conversation with the Black community?”

Unfortunately, the panel did not get to the issue of jobs, which might be the most pressing issue on the Black community during this recession. According to the most recent numbers of the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the June national average unemployment rate is 9.2. Philadelphia’s overall average was 10.7 percent. However, the numbers for African Americans are significantly worse. Last year the country’s overall average unemployment number was 9.6 percent. However, for African Americans it was a depression era-like 16.0 percent.

Philadelphia’s overall African-American unemployment rate in 2010 averaged out to 15.1 percent. However, during that same time period, the unemployment rate for African-American men was just under 20 percent.

Pat Buchanan's 'Your Boy' Statement Stirs Controversy

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan is playing damage control after creating a bit of controversy when he referred to President Barack Obama as “your boy” in a discussion with Rev. Al Sharpton.

Buchanan, a former Republican presidential candidate, was appearing on a show Sharpton was hosting on MSNBC Aug. 2 when he brought up the issue of the Bush tax cuts.

“And let me tell you; your boy, Barack Obama, caved in on it in 2010 and he’ll cave in on it again,” Buchanan said.

That was all the fuel Sharpton needed as he responded; “My what? My President, Barack Obama? What did you say?”

Buchanan responded, “He’s your boy in the ring, he’s your fighter.”

Sharpton not pleased with Buchanan’s response, fired back again. “He’s nobody’s boy. He’s your president and he’s our president and that’s what y’all have got to get through your head.”

The next morning, on MSNBC’S “Morning Joe,” Buchanan appeared to clear the air over what he meant with his statement to Sharpton.

“I said one of the big losers, using boxing terminology, was 'your boy,' and I meant the president of the United States,” Buchanan reportedly said. “Now this was taken, some folks took what I said as some kind of slur. None was meant, none was intended, none was delivered, for the record.”

Ironically, Buchanan’s shared an appearance on “Morning Joe” with journalist Mark Hampering, who was making his first appearance on the network after being suspended for a month after characterizing Obama with a gutter epithet.

Deficit Food Fights in Congress Dampened Fund Drives for Famine in Somalia

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Relief organizations often chalk up their biggest fund raising successes during major humanitarian crises.

But the devastating famine in Somalia fell by the wayside as media turned its attention to other news scoops – including the protracted Congressional fight over the debt ceiling, the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal, and the recent massacre in Norway.

“It’s even slower for us than Pakistan was,” grieved a spokesman for Mercy Corps, a U.S. relief and development group.

“I’m asking myself where is everybody and how loud do I have to yell and from what mountaintop?” asked Caryl Stern, chief executive of the United States Fund for Unicef, the group’s fundraising arm. “The overwhelming problem is that the American public is not seeing and feeling the urgency of this crisis.”

Funds to provide care and food for the children affected by the famine have totalled $5.1 million — out of $300 million that Unicef estimates it will need during the next six months to address and prevent starvation in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Another relief group, Oxfam is seeking to raise more than $70 million. It has raised about $36 million so far, mostly in Europe, where donors have been more responsive.

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BVN National News Wire