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Deal or No Deal? Chibok Girls Still Held

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By Nayaba Arinde
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A myriad of stories is swirling around the Chibok girls.

April 14, armed men of Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is a sin”) kidnapped 276 school girls aged 16 to 18 from the village of Chibok in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno. There were reports last week of a cease-fire between the Nigerian government and accused kidnappers. Then hopes were dashed. Then there was news that the girls were about to be released. Then they weren’t.This past weekend, Boko Haram killed many villagers as they took another town in Borno State.

“Deal. Wait, no deal. Yes, deal. No, maybe,” mocked Ruth Evon Idahosa, lawyer and international activist. “In the wake of recent conflicting reports about the Nigerian government’s alleged cease-fire with militant group Boko Haram, those of us in the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls have been caught in the awkward arrhythmic dance between hope and hopelessness on the emotional roller coaster we have been forced to ride.

“As one of the campaign’s organizers, it is unfathomable that a little over six months later, the Nigerian government is still no closer to rescuing our daughters from what some of the 56 girls that courageously escaped their abductors described as a living hell.”

“The Nigerian government continued to contradict itself. Today it will talk about dialogue, tomorrow it will say it will destroy the sect, or that the sect does not exists at all,” AllAfrica.com Abubakar Umar Kari as stating. His comments come after six months of confusion. First Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan took weeks to acknowledged the kidnappings. Then the government said it never happened. Then they said they knew where the girls were but feared the girls would be used as human shields if the military went in with guns blazing. Then they said the girls had been freed, and then they said the girls were not freed. Confusion.

In the midst of this is the concern that Boko Haram may be an internationally created or funded organization set to undermine one of the most powerful countries on the African continent, especially as the controversial 2015 presidential elections loom.

Idahosa said, “Back in May when the Nigerian government brazenly announced to the world that ‘we know where the girls are,’ I, along with many other protestors around the world, were filled with hope that the nightmare would soon be over. However, as the hours turned to days, the days to weeks and the weeks to what has now been six months, the dance between hope and hopelessness continues to force an imbalance of unhealthy emotions that no human heart, especially the hearts of grieving parents, should have to endure.”

She concluded, “According to Nelson Mandela, ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ On the heels of Boko Haram’s apparent breach of the alleged cease-fire less than 24 hours after it was negotiated by the Chadian government on behalf of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia, we are left with what arguably reflects the tortured soul of failed government and despicable extremism. We are left to continue to grasp for hope in light of the apparent darkness which sometimes shrouds uncertainty. Nonetheless, we are also aptly reminded that faith in light shines brightest in this darkness and that although caught in the tangled web of hope and hopelessness, we can still choose to believe, even if solely for the sake of children who can likely no longer believe for themselves, in the annihilating power of hope.”

The #TakeMeOffMute campaign was recently launched in Nigeria to amplify the voices of young women and girls, along with the #NoChildSexAbuse and the #NoRape campaigns.

Obama Stumps for Md. Gubernatorial Hopeful Brown

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By William J. Ford
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

President Barack Obama visited Prince George’s County Sunday for a get-out-the-vote rally, urging voters to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 midterm elections and to support Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in his quest to become Maryland’s first African-American chief executive.

With about two weeks to go until voters head to the polls in the midterm elections, Obama told the majority-black audience at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro that Brown’s stances on education, the economy and other issues would benefit Marylanders more than those of his opponent, Republican Larry Hogan, 58.

“Anthony Brown devoted his entire life to fighting for you. This is what this election is all about,” Obama told the cheering crowd of 9,000. “Who is going to fight for you? You guys fight for him!”

Obama’s appearance at the political rally turned out to be the latest of several visits to the near-Washington jurisdiction in a year. It comes as Brown supporters are watching Hogan whittle down their candidate’s lead – an unexpected development in a state where Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown waved to the crowd during a get-out-the-vote rally Sunday at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro. (Courtesy of the Anthony Brown campaign)

According to recent polls, Brown (D), 52, of Prince George’s, is leading Hogan, of Anne Arundel County, though the margin appears to be less than 10 percent. A recent Washington Post/University of Maryland poll of 549 likely voters showed Brown leading Hogan, 47 percent to 38 percent, with 11 percent of the respondents still undecided.

If Brown needed a boost in Prince George’s, the appearance by Obama in Wise’s gymnasium proved to be just what the doctor ordered. The upbeat two-hour event featured a band playing and plenty of thunderous applause for the nation’s chief executive and other Democrats who appeared at the microphone.

The esteem in which many Prince George’s residents hold the president was evident. When a man in the audience interrupted Obama by shouting out about immigration, the crowd responded by chanting “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” Law enforcement officials hustled the man away.

“I couldn’t quite hear the young man. I think he is concerned about immigration reform,” Obama said. “The problem is [that] I support immigration reform. He needs to [complain] to the folks who are blocking immigration reform.”

During his speech, Brown, the father of two children, laid out his vision for the state, citing a universal pre-kindergarten program, improved technical school education and help for small-business owners.

“I see the foot soldiers in this campaign. It’s a different kind of fight. We fight for middle-class families and middle-class values across this state,” he said. “We’ve got work to do until every Marylander can step out of their home … and look around and say, ‘I live in the safest neighborhood in Maryland.’”

To make that happen, Brown said, those in attendance needed to do their part.

“Here’s the challenge: We have to get out and vote,” he said.

Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) urged the audience to consider early voting, which runs Oct. 23-30.

“In Prince George’s County, you can lead the effort to vote early,” Edwards said. “Next Sunday, I’m going to take my soul to church, and then I’m going to take my soul to the polls. Are you going to take your soul to the polls?”

Caribbean Nation Impose Travel Ban on Visitors from West African States

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

As fears about the spread of the Ebola virus mushroom across the U.S., several Caribbean nations have imposed travel bans on people arriving from West African states where the disease has taken a foothold.

Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis and St. Vincent & the Grenadines have all announced that anyone coming from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia would be denied entry into the respective island-nations and coastal states. Just as important, in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, people who visited those African states within the past six weeks would also not be allowed entry. That’s not all. Trinidadians and Tobagonians who visited the West African states on the list would be quarantined for 21 days when they return home.

At last count, 4,555 persons in affected countries have died from the disease and almost 10,000 were infected according to the World Health Organization in an effort to ward off the presence of the virus in various countries, ministries of health have heightened immigration screening; urged their own citizens to avoid traveling to places where the virus was entrenched; identified specific centers where Ebola carriers could be treated and quarantines; and launched health information campaigns to educate the public about the disease.

“We have to take every possible precaution to not only reassure our citizens, but to protect the country because if we don’t, the damage could be huge,” was the way Dr. Kenny Anthony, Lucia’s Prime Minister explained his government’s decision to impose the travel ban. “We are an extremely small country with limited resources and inexperienced in dealing with a global health crisis.”

In an interview with a Miami newspaper, Dr. Anthony said Caribbean countries must be equally concerned about visitors entering the region from the U.S. and Europe which recorded a few Ebola cases.

“The events in the United States have heightened awareness and reminded us how vulnerable we are,” said Dr. Anthony, one of the Caribbean’s legal luminaries and one of the region’s best known leaders. “We rely principally on tourism, and if, for example, there is any case in St. Lucia that sets off a chain reaction, we are going to be in very serious trouble.”

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Public Health Agency with headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago said the region hadn’t recorded any Ebola cases and Dr. James Hospidales, CARIPHA’s Executive Director said that the likelihood of cases being brought into the Caribbean was low. Still, he added, the region must move aggressively to comply fully with the international health regulations. No Caribbean country was in full compliance, he explained.

The Ebola picture across the Caribbean and Latin America was one of spirited activity to guard against any presence of the virus. For instance:

Colombia is denying visas to anyone who visited the worst affected areas of West Africa.
The Haitian government has asked international agencies to suspend the sending of employees to Haiti of any employees from Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia.
Jamaica had quantized an American at the airport after his arrival. He had visited Liberia two weeks prior to his arrival. Health officials examined him but found him “not to be exhibiting any symptoms of the Ebola virus. He was subsequently released and he returned to the U.S.
The CARIPHA executive director cautioned against travel bans warning they could “give rise to a false sense of security as they do not eliminate the risk” of the virus.
Belize, Caricom’s lone member state in Central America, refused to allow a woman, suspected of having the Ebola virus from disembarking from a cruise ship. The woman, a laboratory technician from Texas may have been in contact with blood samples taken from Eric Duncan, the American citizen who became the first victim of the disease in the U.S. He had traveled to Texas from Liberia where he was infected. Duncan subsequently died. She was eventually cleared of the virus.
Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, said his government had a responsibility to protect its citizens from the disease.

“The countries, need to strengthen their capacities, preparedness and response,” said Dr. Hospidales.

Ebola Drug Safety Tests Raise Ethical Issues as NY Times Commends Cuba

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Special to the NNPA from Global Information Network

Oct. 20 (GIN) – Can you test a promising new Ebola drug by giving it to one sample infected group and giving a deactivated placebo to another? That’s the issue dividing medical experts at a World Health Organization meeting this week in Geneva.

“Is that even ethical? Will workers amid an epidemic be willing to consider getting a placebo? Which villages won’t get the active vaccine? Will the bad roads and overwhelmed medical systems even allow for such a study?” These questions were posed in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

A rigorous vaccine study that would cover anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 subjects would be challenging to say the least in the three affected West African countries.

The issue has moved to the front burner since a drug developed at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center has been proved to block Ebola. “[We] have generated, for the first time, durable protection against a lethal Ebola virus challenge,” the NIH scientists reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

But the next step—a clinical study in the region—presents daunting hurdles. The vaccine needs to be kept at the temperature of dry ice. That means a minus 80-degree centigrade freezer in a part of the world with a spotty power system, notes WSJ reporter Thomas M. Burtos.

Reaching treatment centers in the rural countryside from congested Monrovia could take days. Finally, health care workers might object to taking part in a test if only half of them are getting the actual drug as opposed to the placebo.

Meanwhile, in an unusual turn from its frequently negative Cuba reporting, The New York Times this week sang high praises for the “impressive role” of Cuba in sending close to 500 medical professionals to Sierra Leone.

“Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus,” wrote the paper of record in its leading editorial. “While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.”

Calling it “a shame” that Washington is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the editorial adds that “the schism has life-or-death consequences.” It was an urgent reminder, they wrote, of the need “to move swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba … as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.”

Blacks Expect More from the Hip Hop Artists

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., members of the Black community and independent artists continue to call on mainstream rappers and entertainers to use their visibility to speak out against police brutality affecting young, Black males.

Nearly two months after Ferguson police officers left Brown’s lifeless body in the middle of the street for more than four hours, Ferguson residents continue to call for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the White police officer who shot Brown to death, following a brief altercation, where many eye witnesses said that Brown had his hands up, surrendering, as Wilson continued to fire on the teenager. In recent weeks, two Ferguson police officers have been shot at, one wounded, in separate incidents that law enforcement officials said were unrelated to the ongoing protests over Brown’s death.

Jasiri X, an internationally-known rapper, six-time Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award winner, and community activist, said that the Black community should not only expect mainstream artists to get involved, but that Blacks should also put pressure on them to get involved.

“Most of these artists are young, Black men and they have probably experienced the same racism and police brutality themselves. So when we see something happen to somebody that is basically their peer, we should expect them to say something and get involved,” said Jasiri X. Even though the primary consumers of mainstream rap music are White males, Jasiri X said that artists still have to maintain ties to the Black community to stay relevant.

Jasiri X continued: “It’s young brothers like Michael Brown, like Trayvon Martin, like Jordan Davis that make them hot. You gotta come to the ‘hood for swag.”

Jasiri X, who also co-founded the 1Hood Media Academy, a program that teaches young, Black boys how to analyze and create media said that staying relevant means that you have to speak out for Michael Brown, you have to speak out for Jordan Davis, and you have to speak out for Renisha McBride, the Black woman killed on a Detroit-area porch while seeking help.

Jasiri X said that the Blacks should give credit to artists such as T.I., The Game, Rick Ross, J. Cole, Nelly, Common, David Banner, and Killa Mike for lending their voices to the cause and “for those that didn’t we should ask them why.”

Jasiri X said that, “Next time they tweet about their album or single coming out or a big deal they did with some corporation, we should ask them, ‘Well, why didn’t you tweet about this situation? Why didn’t you tweet ‘Justice for Michael Brown?’”

Kenneth “Mo Skillz” Jones, a local producer, songwriter and motivational speaker from East St. Louis, Ill., released a music video in September in an effort to raise awareness about police brutality and to encourage people to register to vote. The video depicts images of police using excessive force, including footage of a police officer toppling a man sitting in a wheelchair and dragging another man who was handcuffed by his feet. A video clip of Eric Garner on the ground gasping for breath as a Staten Island, N.Y. police officer chokes him to death is also featured. Earlier versions of the Skillz music video were also published to YouTube in August.

Skillz said that many Ferguson residents are still very upset and extremely focused on making a difference.

“And it’s not just the civil rights people,” said Skillz. “It’s also the younger generation as well. I’m not opposed to anyone that’s trying to help get the word out and to keep this alive so that we can actually make a difference to show them mankind is willing to stand against evil.”

Jasiri X, who rapped about mainstream artists being fearful of repercussions from coporate backers if they speak on social issues on a 2012 song titled, “Do We Need to Start a Riot?” expressed frustration that more artists didn’t speak up.

Jasiri X said, “I look at someone like Jamie Foxx. Jamie Foxx stood with Trayvon’s family, he wore Trayvon’s shirt, he’s still in [The Amazing Spiderman 2], he’s still in ‘Annie’, he’s still an A-list actor and celebrity. I mean what are you afraid of?”

Jasiri X also noted that Jay-Z spoke about overcrowded prisons during a concert in California.

Jineea Butler, the founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union, a collective of nearly two dozen Hip-Hop organizations dedicated to promoting civil rights and economic empowerment, said that the Hip-hop community hasn’t done enough in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Butler said that because of how rappers today are handpicked to say nothing and do nothing, we can’t really depend on them to do too much, because they don’t understand the Civil Rights Movement.

Jasiri X said that rap music wasn’t more militant in the early 90s, corporations just hadn’t figured out how to monetize it yet.

When major record labels started pouring millions of dollars into the nascent genre, label executives started pushing certain images of Black men in favor of others, bisecting the genre into underground and mainstream, Jasiri X explained.

Butler argued that “back in the day” artists gained fame and notoriety for the content of their lyrics. Now she feels Hip-Hop is just being used for money.

Butler said that even positive songs from mainstream artists often have a hard time breaking through.

On the popular urban video website WorldstarHipHop.com, page views and clicks give credence to this reality. A version of The Game’s “Don’t Shoot” song featuring Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti and others uploaded August 27 received 370,655 views, while a video uploaded just a week earlier of legendary Hip-Hop producer Dr. Dre performing the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to increase awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease had been viewed 432,954 times by October 4.

Videos on the website featuring street fights often collect millions of views.

Skillz expressed concerns about how easy it is to promote negativity on the airwaves.

“We’ve been focused on things that don’t matter,” said Skillz. “We need to get more involved in what’s really going on in our communities, more than what we’ve done up until this point. I think its happening. You see a lot more youth a lot and more college students being involved in these protests.”

Skillz said that he wants to do free concert in major media markets such as Los Angeles and New York where they register people to vote and drive into their brains the importance of voting on November 4.

Even if you can’t protest in person, Skillz said, everyone can sign one of the petitions online at DontShootMovement.com. One of the petitions calls for prosecutorial reforms and designating the killing of unarmed Blacks by state and local law enforcement officials a hate crime.

“Ultimately, we need to have more of a community spirit,” said Jones. “We can make history by coming together, voting, petitioning and getting more involved in our communities.”

Butler said that Hip-Hop is definitely a part of the new civil rights movement and should play a major role in how Blacks affect change in their communities.

She added: “What everybody needs to know is that Hip-hop has the power, but it’s about who is going to lead and in which direction.”

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BVN National News Wire