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Activist, Politician Julian Bond Looks Back at Civil Rights Past

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By Gregg Reese, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

Social activist and civil rights leader Julian Bond became the latest speaker at the Zócalo Public Square lecture series held in the Petersen Automotive Museum, in Los Angeles.

Displaying the charisma and easy intellect that served him well as a public servant to an overflow audience, including moderator Warren Olney of public radio station KCRW, he reflected on the highlights of his career, from his role as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 1971. Between heading those two organizations, he was part of the inner circle of the movement to end segregation throughout the South.

As a result of this activity and his well-publicized opposition to the Vietnam War, he and other civil rights colleagues were the subject of scrutiny by law enforcement from the stereotypical redneck sheriffs in Dixie backwater communities to the federal minions of FBI honcho J. Edgar Hoover. Reflecting on the fear that was a by-product of those volatile times, Bond ruefully noted “we were always right on the edge of paranoia, but even paranoids have enemies.”

After election to the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, followed by a stretch teaching at universities like Harvard and University of Virginia, Bond was compelled to link up with the most prominent civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1998. The dissolution of once-thriving groups like SNCC, along with financial and internal strife within the NAACP prompted this move, and after assuming the role of chairman, he helped the venerable institution become financially solvent, increase its membership, and he exerted a strong political presence, demonstrated by a dramatic increase in Black voter turnout as the millennium approached.

Bond continued as chairman through the association’s 100th anniversary in 2009, while exhorting it to champion the rights of other disenfranchised groups (his appearance at Zócalo coincides with the NAACP’s 102nd convention being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center). He has become a vocal supporter of gay and lesbian civil rights, along with same-sex marriage (infamously boycotting the funeral of Coretta Scott King, because it was held in a church notoriously opposed to gay rights).

He suggested that the root of Black cultural hostility toward homosexuality might be rooted in the conservative Christian dogma that serves as the bedrock of many African American communities, but suggests that antipathy toward gay issues is changing.

Bond summed up the NAACP’s accomplishments by stating that it enabled the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. The fear and suspicion that are a by-product of his civil rights experiences precluded his personal commitment to the Obama campaign, since he reasoned his would be a wasted vote for a candidate who couldn’t possibly win, but the pivotal victory in the Iowa primary proved to be his own private mid-life epiphany.

Even so, he did not anticipate the intensity of the racism coming from factions within the Republican Party, and Bond believes it will continue to cast a shadow over the rest of Obama’s tenure, regardless of his re-election or limitation to just one term.

“I think he faces an unusual amount of hostility from the other party,” he declared. “Is it because he’s from Chicago? Is it because he’s tall and thin? No, it’s because he’s Black.”

Senegal Government Rounding Up Critics Including Popular Rapper

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

The arrest of Omar Toure, Senegalese rapper and vocal critic of President Abdoulaye Wade, has sparked a round of rallies and protests by Senegalese youth linked by a Facebook page called Y’en a Marre, or “We’re Fed Up.”

Toure was detained recently for addressing a rally and calling for the aging President not to seek a third term.

Touré was reported to have said: “An old man can still be useful to a country when he is striving for the right path. But an old man of 90 years who goes back on his word — or who lies — should not stay in a country.” (Many in Senegal believe the president is older than his official age of 85.)

Senegal’s next presidential election is in February 2012.

Touré’s rap group and the protest movement are closely linked and have for months urged young Senegalese to register to vote in order to voice their displeasure with Wade’s government. “You’re not a citizen if you don’t have a voting card” is among his favorite rhymes.

Somalia's Prime Minister Lashes out at Failed Relief Efforts for Drought Victims

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Following a quick tour of the camps for drought-displaced people, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali snapped when viewing the starving, dying population of mostly women and children.

“[Aid agencies] get money claiming they will help Somalia, yet the people who arrived at Mogadishu were dying of hunger and that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said grimly.

Nearly 170,000 Somalis have fled to already crowded refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia since January, according to U.N. figures recently released. In Kenya, about 1,300 Somalis are arriving daily; an average of 1,700 are entering Ethiopia.

Complicating the survival strategies, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued rules barring the spending of U.S. government money on projects if it might “materially benefit” a listed terror organization, including Al Shabab, an Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda that controls most of southern Somalia, the area worst hit by the current Horn of Africa drought.

Since the Treasury rules came into force in 2009, U.S. aid to Somalia – once the largest share of all world donors – plummeted by 88 percent, from $237 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2011.

"Aid is not flowing to where people are. It is flowing to certain centers and people have to walk sometimes days to get there and unfortunately not everyone makes it," said U.S. based Horn of Africa expert J. Peter Pham.

As thousands of Somalis walk days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex known as Dadaab, young, lifeless bodies lay abandoned by their parents on the sandy paths which have been called "the roads of death."

In other cases parents perish during the journey, leaving children in the wilderness, alone.

The U.N. says it plans to start airlifting emergency rations into parts of drought-stricken Somalia this week.

Is Social Security a 'Ponzi Scheme'?

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

“Social Security is indeed a Ponzi scheme” Texas Governor Rick Perry, November 2010.

Social Security is one of Americans’ most important safety-nets.

The current Social Security program is a mainstay for women. Women are 52 percent of all adult beneficiaries, including retirees, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers. Twenty-five million adult women receive Social Security checks every month.

Social Security may be the chief support for adult American women, but there are warnings that Social Security is in danger. Texas Governor Rick Perry says Social Security is “bankrupt” and likens the program Social to a Ponzi scheme that is a “safety net” young 20-somethings are “not ever going to see.”

There is also reason for Auntie to have some angst about the stability of Social Security. Social Security is actually a social insurance program that is officially called the federal “Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance” (OASDI). It is primarily funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA). For the moment, Social Security is solvent, and will be until 2037. Social Security currently has “$2.6 trillion in reserves. During 2009, total benefits of $686 billion were paid out versus income (taxes and interest) of $807 billion that produced a $121 billion annual surplus. In 2011, 156 million people paid into the program as 53 million received benefits - a ratio of 2.94 workers per beneficiary.

Social Security’s main problem is that long-term revenues are smaller than promised benefits. Starting in 2015 program expenses are expected to exceed cash revenues. The aging of Baby-boomers has resulted in a lower ratio of paying workers to retirees, as have continuing low birth rates and increasing life expectancies. The government has borrowed and spent the accumulated surplus funds - the Social Security Trust Fund. The Trust Fund consists of the savings of worker contributions and associated interest, to be used towards future earned benefit payments. Funds are held in U.S. Treasury bonds and securities. The funds borrowed from worker contributions are part of the total national debt of $14.3 trillion as of March 2011. The U.S. Government has perpetuated a Ponzi scheme by looting the Social Security Trust Fund. By 2015, the government is expected to have borrowed nearly $3.25 trillion from the Social Security Trust Fund.

To fix Social Security and other entitlement programs Congress and the Obama administration are going to have to go beyond the mundane and employ new and sounder practices and policies. Changes are certainly needed to keep Social Security working to reach the goals it was established to meet. Either benefits will need to be curtailed or the government will need to kick in funding. Between 2015 and 2037, Social Security has the legal authority to draw amounts from other government tax sources besides the payroll tax. However, this will liquidate the Trust Fund, which by 2037 experts it to be “officially exhausted”.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal treasury and is currently keeps roughly 40 percent of Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. Like Auntie, nearly two in every five African Americans expect Social Security to be a major source of income during their retirement. African Americans who were low-wage workers receive back more benefits in relation to past earnings than do high-wage earners. In 2009, among African Americans receiving Social Security, 29 percent of elderly married couples and 56 percent of unmarried elderly persons relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. In 2010, Social Security’s total income was $781.1 billion and expenditures were $712.5 billion.

America’s government is broke and Social Security is evolving into more of a “feather bed” than safety net. For Social Security to be relied upon and more relevant, we will have to require much more in legislation and practices from government officials. Stop staying stuck on stupid, remember: When government increases its debt limit, it’s still a debt Americans have to pay.

William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.

America's Racial Wealth Gap Grows to the Largest on Record

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White American Wealth 20 Times That of Blacks

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

In the 25 years since the federal government began publishing demographic data on wealth, the worst disparities emerged for 2009. A newly-released analysis by the Pew Research Center found that the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Blacks, and 18 times that of Latinos – a gap that nearly doubled in size for these same three racial groups more than 20 years ago.

Further, when Pew compared wealth gaps for 2005 to those of 2009, the clear conclusion was that the combination of the housing market bubble and the subsequent recession were the underlying causes for these record disparities. In 2005, just before the housing bubble burst, white median net worth was $134,992. Comparable figures for Latinos and Blacks were respectively $18, 359 and $12,124.

By 2009, all three groups lost wealth; but Black median net worth was less than half of that recorded for 2005: $5,677; Latinos families were only slightly better at $6,325. Yet for white households, the median net worth decreased to $113,149.

According to Pew, household wealth is determined by subtracting all debts owed from the accumulated sum of all assets, including real estate, cars, savings and checking accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, etc.

Since the report was released, much of the extensive news coverage has omitted a key finding. From 2005 to 2009 the number of families with either zero or negative worth grew dramatically as well. For Black families, the percentage grew from 29 percent to 35 percent; for Latino families, the negative wealth grew from 23 percent to 31 percent. Yet for white families, negative wealth went from 11 percent to15 percent.

More plainly stated, African-Americans are becoming poorer at a faster rate than any other race or ethnic group in the country. Our forefathers may have worn the shackles of slavery. But this generation is wearing shackles of a different kind: poverty and debt.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), America’s Black unemployment level is double that of white America. After comparing unemployment data to that of Core Logic, a private research firm, among the nation’s top states for underwater mortgages – states with homeowners owing more than their house is now worth – the top five of those states also have the nation’s highest unemployment: Nevada (12.4 percent), California (11.8 percent), Florida (10.6 percent), and Michigan (10.5 percent).

If these trends are allowed to continue, America’s ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will move even further towards the two separate Americas first warned by the Kerner Commission Report in the 1960s. Named for then-Illinois’ Governor Otto Kerner, the report told a tale of two Americas were emerging– one Black and the other white. In 2011, the divide is not just about race but wealth as well.

All of America should feel uncomfortable about the growing concentration of poverty in Black and brown communities, who together represent 28 percent of the nation’s population.

It is time for leaders – public and private – to stand up and insist that our nation create new and sustainable jobs with incomes that lift this country’s poor into self-sufficiency and hopefully one day – sustainable prosperity.

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

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