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One on One Interview with Martin Luther King, III

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Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

(NNPA) On the eve of what was supposed to be the landmark dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, The Washington Informer spoke with the preeminent civil rights leader's son Martin Luther King III. He shared his thoughts about his father, the monument and the momentous occasion. The dedication ceremony was postponed due to Hurricane Irene.

How does it feel to have a memorial on the National Mall honoring your father?

I am gratified and overjoyed by the coming unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in the nation's capital. More importantly, it is a great gift to America. Of course, it's an historic accomplishment for an African American leader to be honored on the National Mall, adjacent to the Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt memorials. But it is even more gratifying that, for the first time, a nonviolent leader, a man of peace, will now be represented alongside the greatest presidents of American history. It will provide a symbolic affirmation that nonviolent leadership can make history and transform America. This memorial will have powerful symbolic resonance, and it will certainly increase requests for information from The King Center in Atlanta, which remains the primary resource for information and education about the life, work and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Does the design of the memorial and the inscriptions that speak of love, peace, justice and freedom give an accurate representation of your father and his legacy?

Yes. I like the design, particularly the imagery associated with my father's challenge to "hew a stone of hope out of the mountain of despair." I think the other quotations in the memorial are excellent and very relevant to our times. 'Love, peace and justice' are cornerstones of my father's teachings and they never go out of style.

What can young people gain from visiting the King monument at the National Mall?

They can gain inspiration and hope and a sense of the unique power of nonviolence as a transformative historical force, and perhaps they can also gain an understanding of the redemptive power of nonviolence as the hope of humanity for a more just and peaceful world. They can learn something as well from the quotations. My hope is that they will also make a point of visiting or contacting The King Center in Atlanta (www.thekingcenter.org), which is the official institution charged with educating people of all races, religions and nations about my father's teachings.

Key Aide to Michele Bachmann Once Charged As Terrorist in Uganda

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(NNPA) A political organizer who helped send Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to victory in the recent Ames Iowa straw poll faced a life sentence in Uganda in 2006 on a gun-running charge.

Peter E. Waldron was held for 37 days, along with six Congolese and Ugandan nationals, in Luriza Prison, outside of Kampala. They were charged with possession of assault rifles and ammunition. Waldron was deported back to the U.S. reportedly after intervention from the Bush Administration.

Waldron, originally from Wyoming, spent several years in the East African country. The Kampala Monitor reported he was working with a Congo group to set up a Christian political party in Uganda. He also reportedly told a friend he has worked for the CIA.

He was also rumored to have been working with Congolese rebel militia members to capture Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord's Resistance Army, and claim a $1.7 million bounty on his head but that planning for the operation went awry, leading police to Waldron's house and the guns.

Waldron ‘s East African ordeal is detailed in The Ultimate Price: The Peter E. Waldron Story, a film whose trailer was abruptly removed from YouTube after The Atlantic online magazine carried a piece on it. A synopsis of the film reads as follows:

"Lebanon. Iraq. Syria. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Uganda. India. For over 30 years, his family never knew where he went -- never knew what he did. Based on a true story, Dr. Peter Waldron was on a mission. Was he a businessman, a preacher, a spy? Tortured and facing a firing squad, he never broke his oath of silence. What secret was worth the ultimate price?"

For now, presidential hopeful Bachmann is standing behind her man.

Amnesty: $260 Million Intended for Ivory Coast Toxic Dump Victims Must Be Found

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(NNPA) A settlement of $260 million owed to citizens of the West African nation of Ivory Coast, victims of a nighttime dumping of toxic trash by a foreign barge, must be found and distributed, says the rights group Amnesty International.

According to the group, only a handful of the 92,000 victims received any payment and the money paid to the former government of Laurent Gbagbo is largely unaccounted for. “It’s unacceptable that so many people …have not received the compensation they are entitled to,” said Benedetta Lacey, special advisor to Amnesty on the 5th anniversary of the disaster.

Hundreds of tons of highly toxic oil waste were offloaded in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, on Aug. 19, 2006. Later it was learned that the British company, Trafigura, was fully aware that its waste was so toxic that it was banned in Europe. More than 100,000 Ivorians required medical attention and 12 victims appeared to show fatal levels of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, one of the waste's lethal byproducts.

Trafigura agreed to pay $195 million for about 95,000 victims. A second payment of $20 million was approved as final payment for additional costs and clean-up expenses.

But a group calling itself the National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Cote d’Ivoire managed to hijack some of the funds. Much of the money is now missing and the head of the group has disappeared.

Genevieve Diallo, of the victims’ group next to Akouedo dumpsite said: “On the 5th anniversary, we must think about the victims… “Those who have misappropriated the money must be brought to justice. Justice must be done.”

Harvard Study Finds Housing Affordability A Growing Issue

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) While the recession has contributed to a price drop in residential homes, many consumers still lack the resources to transition from renting to homeownership. In fact, according to a recent housing report, not only are the numbers of renters growing; but the nation’s supply of affordable rental housing is shrinking.

According to a recent report, America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Buildings on Opportunities, from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the number of renters paying more than half their income for housing is at a record. A record high of 19 million American households – homeowners and renters combined - pay more than half their income for housing. One in four renters – 10.1 million households nationwide – spends more than half their income on rent and utilities. Workers earning $45,000-$60,000 saw the biggest increase in housing costs since 2001 with an increase of nearly eight percent from 2001-2009.

The common standard for housing affordability is that the combined cost of rent and utility costs are less than 30 percent of household income. A housing burden connotes monthly costs between 30-50 percent; and when housing costs are more than 50 percent of household earnings, the residents are severely burdened. By 2009, the share of moderately burdened renters stood at 49 percent and those severely burdened passed 26 percent.

With these data points, it is clear that the financial stress of housing affects middle class Americans and the poor alike. Lower and middle income households together represent 79 percent of the nation’s renters– including a significant number of minorities. Blacks and Latinos accounted for 89 percent of the growth in rental housing in this decade.

In the 100 largest metro areas studied, the share of severely cost-burdened renters climbed by an average of seven percentage points between 2001 and 2009. According to the report, by the end of this decade the shares of renters spending more than half their incomes on rent and utilities will be a financial challenge in 73 metros areas.

As the rental market grew from 2000-2010, there was no comparable increase in the supply of affordable housing. By 2009, for every 100 low-income renters, the competition was keen for the 64 available and adequate housing units. The gap between available units and the number of renters contributes to overcrowded housing.

Miami had the largest share of severely burdened renters in 2009, followed by McAllen (TX)and Detroit. Two Connecticut metros (New Haven and Bridgeport) and two Ohio metros (Toledo and Akron) also had shares above 30 percent. New Orleans, Orlando, and Memphis rounded out the list of the 10 least affordable metros.

According to the report, “With millions of homeowners delinquent on their mortgages, further increases in the renter population are likely,” advises the report. “Owners that have gone through foreclosure are especially like to remain renters for a number of years to come.”

With mortgage lenders now favoring would-be buyers who can offer larger down payments, higher credit scores, and verified incomes, few families will readily make the transition to homeownership and the opportunity to build wealth. Remaining current on high rental housing costs removes the ability to save aggressively for a home on the current national median income of $64,200.

The irony is that right now, mortgage interest rates remain historically low and home prices are down in most areas of the country –even for high-end homes. In 2010, says the Joint Center, the median home price fell to about 3.4 times the median household income– the lowest since 1995.

Even so, for the foreseeable future - housing costs for purchase orrental will continue to challenge many American households.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s communications manager for state policy and outreach. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

HIV Portfolio Needed for Black Gay Men That's Rooted in Social Justice

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By Douglas M. Brooks, Special to the NNPA from the Black AIDS Institute –

(NNPA) The theme of this year's National HIV Prevention Conference (NHPC) could not be more timely: "The Urgency of Now: Reduce Incidence. Improve Access. Promote Equity" is a clarion call to action in the wake of the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV surveillance report, released on Aug. 3, 2011.

Data in the report show that while the overall number of new HIV infections in the United States has remained fairly stable from 2006 to 2009, there continues to be an increase in new infections among Black gay men. Most alarming was the 48 percent increase in new HIV infections among young (ages 13-29) Black men who have sex with men (MSM) from 2006 to 2009, with a statistically significant estimated annual increase of 12.2 percent.

Simultaneously, the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition highlighted two other disturbing reports released in the same week: The CDC reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that rates of primary and secondary syphilis disproportionately increased in recent years among Black and Hispanic young MSM, and a new study commissioned by Janssen Therapeutics and the National Medical Association (NMA) found that social stigmatization is still the largest barrier keeping African American frontline physicians from testing their patients for HIV.

What, then, could be more fiercely urgent for a convening of HIV-prevention professionals than to address the tragedy of adolescents and young adults contracting HIV at alarming rates; whose greatest risk seems to be loving, desiring and sexually connecting with one another in their own communities; and whose communities are ill-equipped to respond to the emergency?

The data here are also clear. Through his research, Gregorio Millett, senior policy adviser at the Office of National AIDS Policy, has demonstrated that these men do not engage in riskier behaviors, do not have a greater number of sexual partners and often do have health insurance.

This is not new; we've been here before, in various ways. For example, six years ago this summer, we were all shocked to learn that a CDC-funded study of MSM conducted in five U.S. cities between June 2004 and April 2005 showed that 46 percent of Black MSM tested were HIV positive, and 64 percent of those men were unaware of their status.

The theme of the NHPC is inextricably linked to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (pdf) for the United States (NHAS). We cannot truly claim fidelity to the NHAS vision if we do not actualize an America where new HIV infections among Black gay men are rare and, when they do occur, each man "will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination," as the strategy describes.

The United States has to become a place where Black gay men are enveloped in a system of medical, mental-health and spiritual care as well as nurturing, not a place where they personify a tragic, seemingly intractable, health disparity. As an Institute for Gay Men's Health statement argued six years ago: "If Black, gay men mattered, HIV-prevention interventions would be democratically developed and framed in the language of love, intimacy, connection and sex. HIV prevention would honor the knowledge and wisdom Black gay men bring to bear in creating solutions that make sense to their day-to-day realities. We would embrace this knowledge as credible evidence."

Our country needs an HIV portfolio that considers every possible culturally competent option for Black gay men: behavioral interventions (including trauma resolution), biomedical interventions, spiritual interventions and any other supports that can transform the untenable situation in which we find ourselves.

This should not be read as a call to forget other populations. In fact, this is a plea for inclusion, not exclusion. It is a plea for an HIV portfolio rooted in social justice. Drawing from the social work profession's values of honoring the "dignity and worth of the individual," it is a call for treating Black gay men caringly and with respect, promoting socially responsible self-determination, and enhancing the capacity and opportunity for Black gay men to change and to address their own needs.

Such action will fortify those whose work is to employ their very best open-minded thinking to advance this vision. It will also usher in a brave new world in which empowered Black gay men are supported by the Black and gay communities from which they hail, and the government of their country, so that they can walk with the bold confidence that comes with knowing that they are seen, valued and cherished and that they matter.

Douglas M. Brooks, M.S.W., is senior vice president for community, health and public policy for the Justice Resource Institute and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).

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