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Black Farmers Still Face Political Hurdles to Discrimination Settlement

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Despite a discrimination settlement and congressional and presidential approval for payment to cover past injustice, Black farmers in the United States are still struggling to get money and respect from government officials.

The latest attack is coming from Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and her tea party cohorts who last week blasted the settlement recently saying that it reeks of fraud and that the money should go to flood victims on the Missouri River instead.

“When money is diverted to inefficient projects like the Pigford Project where there’s proof positive of fraud, we can’t afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River,” Bachmann, said July 18 in report by MSNBC.

Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) agreed with Bachmann saying “That’s $2.3 billion; a large percentage of that paid out in fraudulent claims. Now we have them opening up a similar one for women farmers and Hispanic farmers. That’s another $1.3 billion. I’d like to apply that money to people that are under water right now.”

It’s not the first accusation of fraud in this case. At a February forum in Washington, D.C., a blogger criticized National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd for his advocacy.

“Not one damn dime has been paid out,” Boyd told the blogger, as reported by the AFRO. “And all of the sudden you’ve labeled 80 percent of these people fraudulent? Let them go through the process.”

It is the latest slap in the face to the farmers who’ve been struggling to get money owed to them from the original Pigford vs. Glickman case, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture was found to have discriminated against Black farmers from 1983 to 1997.

Many were late in filing applications for funds and that led to more court action resulting in a court mandate stating that claimants who’ve not had their cases heard can seek relief or damages of up to $250,000.

Both chambers of Congress passed legislation to pay the farmers and President Obama signed the order in late 2010.

That final hurdle is a ruling by federal Judge Paul Friedman who signed an order granting preliminary approval of the settlement agreement on May 13. He is set to issue a ruling Sept. 1 on whether the settlement should go forward.

Notorious Apartheid Enforcer Dies in South Africa

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

Former apartheid-era defense minister Magnus Malan, who led the resistance to Black rule, died at his home on Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday. He was 81.

The notorious General Malan viewed domestic and foreign threats to South Africa as a "total onslaught" against the white-minority regime that could only be answered with a "total solution" that included bombing southern African countries that opposed apartheid.

Malan and his "securocrats" in the police and army sent troops in South Africa's townships to violently repress anti-government riots in the 1980s, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1986.

He also launched bloody raids against African National Congress bases in neighboring countries, and joined with rebels in Angola to fight Cuban troops aligned with the government in Luanda.

In 1995, Malan and 19 other top military brass were charged with the murder of 13 people, seven of them children, in what was called the KwaMakhutha massacre in 1987, and the creation of hit squads.

After seven months, the court voted to acquit, finding the apartheid government had paid vigilantes of the Inkatha Freedom Party for the killings. No link to Malan was proved.

He leaves his wife of 49 years, three children and nine grandchildren.

Unrest Spreads Across Africa with Strikes, Rallies, Attempted Coups

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

From West to South to the eastern Horn, African leaders are facing a rising tide of anger and frustration seen in massive rallies and strikes from Guinea Bissau, Guinea, to Malawi and South Africa.

This week, the recently-elected President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, survived two attacks on his home in the capital, Conakry, including an assassination attempt in the early morning hours.

Guinean authorities arrested several military figures, one of whom is said to be the former head of the Guinean army, Gen. Nouhou Thiam. He was fired by Conde soon after the president took office seven months ago.

To the north, in neighboring Guinea-Bissau, thousands took to the streets in Bissau for the second rally in five days to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Junior, accused of blocking an assassination probe.

Thirteen opposition parties took part in the protest that drew some 15,000 people, according to organizers -- more than the 10,000 who gathered for the first rally on July 14.

The protesters were demanding justice for ex-president Joao Bernardo Vieira and other figures murdered in 2009 in the small west African nation said to be the poorest country in the world. The European Union has suspended aid and the U.S. has imposed sanctions over the country’s links to international drug trafficking.

Looking south, in a rare show of unity, Malawi's opposition parties and a coalition of civil society groups are planning protests on July 20, targeting repressive media laws recently passed by parliament, fuel shortages and bad economic governance.

Finally, labor protests threatened in South Africa and Nigeria could create massive gridlock in Africa’s two leading countries. Nigerian workers are furious over the government’s refusal to enforce a new minimum wage equal to less than $120 a month. Governors of some 36 states are refusing to pay the new wage, claiming they have insufficient funds.

"There is no backing down on our demands. The governors must pay the new wage or there will be no industrial peace in the country," said Owei Lakemfa, of the Nigeria Labor Congress. "We will cripple the oil industry. Workers manning export terminals will be withdrawn and this will halt export of crude."

PrEPing for the End Of The HIV/AIDS Epidemic

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By Phill Wilson, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Now 30 years after the first AIDS case was diagnosed in America, evidence is quickly mounting that we are turning the corner and the tools that could end the HIV pandemic lay in our hands.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the results of two clinical trials involving heterosexual men and women that demonstrated for the very first time that antiretroviral (ARV) medications taken daily can dramatically reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. This strategy of providing daily ARVs to uninfected people to reduce their chances of infection is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The two trials, conducted in three African nations, provide evidence that ARVs, originally developed to save lives, also offer a powerful strategy for preventing new HIV infections acquired through heterosexual contact—the epidemic’s primary method of transmission across the world and a disproportionate factor in Black America.

The smaller of the two studies, known as TDF2, involved just over 1,200 sexually active, HIV-negative young adults, ages 18-39. Researchers found that participants who took a daily pill of Truvada—a mix of tenofovir and emtricitabine—reduced their risk of becoming infected with HIV by 63 percent. This study was conducted in Botswana and managed by the CDC and the Botswana Ministry of Health.

The second study, known as Partners PrEP, was conducted in Kenya and Uganda by researchers from the University of Washington and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study recruited 4,758 sero-discordant couples—that is, couples in which one partner has HIV and the other does not. The uninfected partners were randomly assigned to take Truvada, Viread—an ARV containing only tenofovir—or a placebo. Those taking Truvada saw their infection risk drop by 73 percent. The HIV-negative partners taking Viread had an average of 62 percent lower chance of becoming infected.

The Partners PrEP findings were so definitive that it was stopped early because it would be unethical to continue providing participants placebos.

These study results come on the heels of promising clinical-trial findings showing that vaginal microbicides can prevent HIV-infection in women and that PrEP can prevent infection among gay and bisexual men. And only two months ago, breakthrough research showed that when participants started taking ARVs almost immediately after being diagnosed with HIV rather than waiting until the disease had progressed, they were much less likely to infect others, a strategy known as "treatment as prevention."

We have reached a deciding moment. HIV is 100 percent preventable, including among some of our most at-risk populations: women, gay and bisexual men and young adults. HIV is also 100 percent diagnosable and in many cases treatable. Our prevention toolbox is now exploding with options. We now have the all of the tools needed to end the AIDS epidemic!

The promising new PrEP results arrive at a critical time. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of the historic National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the nation’s first comprehensive roadmap for fighting the epidemic, and one that places the wellbeing of Black people front and center. We also have health-insurance reform to provide care to the least among us.

But the anniversary and this remarkable string of study results come during an economic downturn that has seen many people lose jobs and others slip through the proverbial “safety net”—losing health insurance, unemployment, and other benefits. It also comes at the same time many states are cutting funding for HIV/AIDS-prevention programs and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

So while we have the toolkit to end the epidemic, the question remains whether we have the political will to invest in using the tools strategically, effectively and compassionately.

It’s time to call on Congress, the Obama Administration, and federal and state agencies to do three things:

1. Invest in expanded access to testing and linkages to care. People need to know their HIV status, and those who are HIV positive need to be linked to appropriate care immediately.

2. Increase access to care for vulnerable communities including the ADAP waiting lists. Nationally over 8500 people remain on ADAP waiting lists. Fourteen states have reduced the number and types of drugs they will pay for. A number of states have stiffened financial eligibility requirements, capped enrollment or removed some people who were already enrolled. Other states are considering doing the same.

This approach is outrageous. Not only are such cuts immoral and financially shortsighted, as these recent data prove, starving ADAP programs creates a public health threat.

3. Raise HIV science and treatment literacy in vulnerable communities. HIV health disparities are growing in the U.S., and Black people are disproportionately impacted. Black Americans become infected at a younger age and at higher rates, are diagnosed at a later point in their disease and die faster than any other racial ethnic group. Our lack of scientific understanding about how the virus behaves in the body and what options exist to treat it is one of the biggest barriers to efforts to confront HIV in our communities.

Lacking this knowledge too many of us in the Black community become distracted by myths and misinformation. When we don’t understand the science of HIV/AIDS, we are unable to protect ourselves, we put off getting tested, delay starting treatment, fail to adhere to the treatment regimens and are reluctant to own the disease and/or our responsibility for ending it.

If we don’t raise HIV-related science literacy, capacity and infrastructure in Black communities, Black people will continue to be left behind, and we won’t succeed in ending the disparities, despite the biomedical advances we’re making.

PrEP offers tremendous promise, but it is not a magic bullet. We still need to use condoms, offer comprehensive sexual education, provide prevention counseling, and choose fewer partners and know our status and our partner’s stratus. Policy makers need to step up and leaders need to lead. But PrEP has the potential to become a powerful weapon in the war against HIV/AIDS.

It's time to get serious about PrEPing to end this epidemic.

Phill Wilson is the President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, the only National HIV/AIDS think tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people. He can be reached at PhillWilson@BlackAIDS.org

Is Race an Issue for Black Suburb with White Mayor?

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By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

Allegations of misuse of a city credit card by Dwight Welch, long-time mayor of Country Club Hills, has evolved into a racial bomb being lobbed by public officials, along with accusations of misfeasance. Welch, a white former policeman has been mayor of the city for the past 24 years and his unsuccessful opponents in the last election—two Black aldermen – Steve Burris and Vincent Lockett-recently accused the mayor of abuse and misuse of a city credit card. Welch countered the allegations are racially motivated.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau south suburban Country Club Hills has a population of 16,169. Nearly 92 percent are Black. About 4.5 percent of the city’s residents are white. Welch maintained that the issues surrounding how he has used his city-furnished credit card are racially motivated. “These two individuals ran against me and lost. So is it any surprise that they are now trying to drum up false allegations against me?” Welch told the Crusader. “I am a white man whose constituents are majority Black. And the only reason why I have been mayor this long is because the voters want me here.”

Kendrick Walker, who is Black, has lived in Country Club Hills for the last two years and does not consider race when voting. “What difference does it make what color a candidate is? As long as that candidate is doing a good job then that is all that matters to me,” Walker, 37, said. “The only issue I have with Mayor Welch is the property taxes, which are too high.” According to Walker, her property taxes have gone from $336 to over $1,000 in two years. She has no problem with Welch as mayor, and said she has no problem with voting for a white mayor, city services are good and that economic development seems to be booming.

The city’s police chief, treasurer and eight of its 10 aldermen are Black. But race had nothing to do with allegations leveled against Welch for allegedly misusing a village issued American Express card, said Aldermen Steven Burris and Vincent Lockett. “Race did not play a part at all,” Lockett said. “The mayor misused his credit card. He created this mess himself and now he wants to use the race card.” Welch said contrary to published reports his American Express card was not revoked. “I voluntarily turned in the card to avoid any further allegations of misuse,” explained Welch. Every charge on my credit card was legitimate. And I do not have any other village issued credit cards despite what some council members are saying.”

Burris doubts if Welch’s only credit card was issued by American Express. “We are still digging through the rubble of paperwork he has created to hide inappropriate charges,” Burris said. Burris added that questionable charges for Welch include a stay at a water park and dining at fancy restaurants. And a review of Welch’s expenditures showed he spent $435 at the Apple Store, $376 at Hooters, $585 at Nordstrom, and $1,400 for charges at Build-A-Bear, Nike Town, the Disney Store, and on Broadway play tickets. His credit card expenditures included charges from the Chatham Pancake House in Country Club Hills. One charge showed $173 while another one was for $216.

Welch countered that aldermen are allotted an annual expense account of $9,000 and many of them including Burris and Lockett, have ‘questionable charges’ as well. “They’re a fine one to talk about credit card charges when you have aldermen using their expense accounts to provide college scholarships,” added Welch, who is allotted a $36,000 annual expense account and is paid an annual salary of $144,000. The fiscal year 2012 budget for CCH is $35 million, according to Welch who added that he used his credit card mostly to cover expenses as the village’s lobbyist.

“The mayor of most cities serve as its lobbyist rather than pay someone. So, when I travel, eat out or entertain prospective developers and businesses it is to benefit Country Club Hills,” added Welch. But all Country Club Hills residents don’t support Welch. “He tries to rule this town like a king. He thinks no one should question him and he does not take kind to those who oppose his views,” said Jack McAdams, 73. “This is a man who is arrogant and cares about no one but himself.”

Lockett and Burris have both questioned why the Cook County State’s Attorney office has not indicted Welch or at the very least investigate him. “We know a Black man would never be mayor of a white suburb like Schaumburg or Highland Park and walk around free if these types of allegations were swirling over his head,” Lockett said. Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney office, said, “we don't confirm or deny if we conducted criminal investigations.”

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BVN National News Wire