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Text Message Sparks Major Strike Against Price Hikes in Mozambique

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – In another sign of the power of new technologies, a simple SMS message to cellphone users in Mozambique’s capital city Maputo brought thousands of citizens to the streets to protest soaring cost of living increases.

The anonymous SMS message read: "Mozambican, prepare yourself to enjoy the great day of the strike… Let's protest the increase in energy, water, mini-bus taxi and bread prices. Send to other Mozambicans."

On Sept. 1, residents of poor neighborhoods responded, breaking store windows, vandalizing banks and setting up barricades with rubber tires. Police responded with rubber bullets and live fire. Over 286 were arrested, 400 were wounded and 13 left for dead in the clashes.

In a press interview with French news agency AFP, Samira, a 35-year-old who lives in Mafalala, a zone of tin shacks on the edge of Maputo, said, ”That message went around to the whole world... Even me, when I saw the message I forwarded it to other people. To my friends, my sister. 'I'm asking you, please read this message'."

At first, Members of Cabinet insisted that the price increases were "irreversible", but more SMSes circulated criticizing the government's response.

"Mozambicans, the government appears to have met just for a coffee and whiskey and not to resolve the problems of the people," said one message.

Joao Pereira, a lecturer at Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique, said cellphone technology was giving the poor a voice in politics in a country with a weak opposition, and where the media is dominated by the state-owned newspaper and television station.

"This technology is a new way of giving a voice, of giving power, of giving a means of expression that poor people themselves don't have,"

After an emergency meeting this week, the Cabinet reversed course and agreed to cancel the bread price hike, scale back an increase in electric bills, and withdraw increases in water prices.

Part I: Long After Tuskegee, Blacks Still Leary of Clinical Trials

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

(NNPA) – The general distrust that African-Americans have of clinical trial research goes back a long way. History tells them that it would be in their best interests to not participate but the reality is that Black participation in clinical research is critical because African-Americans disparately suffer from some of the highest disease rates and respond differently to many treatments. Researchers like Dr. Claudia Baquet, associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and director of its National Bioethics Research Center, wants to not only foster public trust among African-Americans for research, but also stress the importance of participating in such research.

“The reason that this is so important is that we know that the public has a lack of trust in research and also in academic institutions,” said Baquet, one of the few Black clinical researchers in the country. “We know that African-Americans and other under-served communities do not participate in medical research or clinical trials at the same rate of the general population.We feel that the lack of diversity in clinical trial participation contributes to health disparities. Plus, it affects our ability to develop new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat illness.”

The National Center of Minority Health Disparities, which is a part of the National Institute of Health, provided Baquet a $2.5 million dollar grant to establish a national bioethics research center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and attempted to remove the stigma and mysteries associated with medical research within minority and under-served rural communities. The two-year grant is funded by the stimulus funding passed by the U. S. Congress last year.

Among the educational programs, Baquet established a partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation in order to encourage Black Press Reporters to explore the issue of clinical trials and report on the impact of the issue in 2010. Six reporters participated in the exploration. That includes five from around they nation, who applied and were selected as fellows, who spent two days at the University of Maryland. They were: Joan Allen of the New York Daily Challenge; Linnie Frank Bailey of Black Voice News in Riverside, Calif.; Elaine Hegwood Bowen of the Chicago Crusader; Gordon Jackson of the Dallas Weekly; and Rhetta Peoples of the Florida Sun in Orlando.

NNPA National Correspondent Pharoh Martin, the writer of this story, also participated. The reporters studied how African-Americans could benefit from clinical trials and the fear that still prevail.

Baquet has also been setting up community educational programs on bio-ethics in Maryland called “mini-medical schools”. The community attends a four-week medical school. They are taught some core research methods involving ethics, its history of scandals and tragedies, the federal regulations that came about to protect participants and the application of those protections such as the importance of informed consent, the knowledge level of a person participating in a clinical trial.

Students also receive lessons on health care problems that affect their communities such as HIV/AIDS, hypertension, diabetes and the need for vaccines. The approach is multi-level; so in addition to educating the public researchers also educate community physicians and nurses. “There is still the persistent concern about research abuses and scandals that have happened in the past such as the Public Health Service’s study of untreated syphilis in Tuskegee, Alabama, which recruited African-American men in Tuskegee who were promised treatment for syphilis,” Baquet said. “Even after penicillin was identified as a cure the treatment was withheld from them by the federal government.

So there is still the persistent fear and concern about being treated like a Guinea Pig and not understanding that research has a role to play in improving the health of the community.”

Because of the historical concerns of events like the Tuskegee experiments and others, lecturers go through intense efforts to explain how federal regulations resulted from such scandals to protect individuals who participate in clinical trials so that similar incidents are not repeated.

Baquet said, “By promoting research literacy, it breaks down those barriers and the historical distrust that the literacy it breaks down those barriers and the historical distrust that the African-American community has had of research and of researchers.”

Black Advocacy Group Says: 'Turn Off FOX'

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

(NNPA) - ColorOfChange.org, the community activist group that successfully urged dozens of advertisers to pull away from Glenn Beck’s FOX news show, recently announced a new initiative directed at discouraging public establishments across the country from airing FNC. The campaign, dubbed “Turn off Fox,” attempts to expose what the group’s leaders call, “divisive rhetoric and dishonest smear campaigns” while reducing the number of TVs broadcasting the network in public venues like airports and gyms.

Colorofchange.org began a phone and online campaign to its more than 600,000 members asking businesses and other public establishments not to be a “conduit for the race-baiting and distortions put forth by Fox News Channel.”

“The case against Fox News Channel is easy to make - no legitimate news organization consistently wages smear campaigns based on lies and race-baiting,” said James Rucker, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, in a press release. “But for years, Fox News Channel has done exactly that, and the pattern has only gotten worse since President Obama entered the White House. Our campaign gives people a way to demand that businesses that serve the public not force Fox News’s divisive propaganda on their customers.”

Fear, Exclusion Prevent Haitian-Americans from Voting

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - As Wyclef Jean continues to criticize the Haitian government for not allowing him to run for president, questions are being raised about the Haitian government’s attitude toward Haitians not living in the country.

Unlike in the United States, Haitians who aren’t living in their country at the time of an election are not able to vote. There’s no system set up to submit a votes from another country.

This is due to the stigma that spending time away from the country leads the Haitian government to give the label of those not in the country as uninvited.

“Haiti has gone through a lot of changes since the overthrow of the old government,” said Haitian-American and political candidate Rodneyse Bichotte. “The constitution was revamped, and it takes time for a country such as Haiti, which has been under in dictatorship so many years, to grab the meaning of democracy.”

Involving herself in American politics, Bichotte is running for state committee leader of the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, which has the largest number of Haitian immigrants in the state. None of those living in the district can vote in Haiti’s presidential election.

“If you look or sound American with Haitian roots, then you are not invited,” she said. “Sometimes, people get backlash for being away so long. I’m not sure why they make it so difficult.”

But along with the stigma that Haiti has against those not living in the country, many also fear being involved in Haitian politics at all because of the history of corruption.

Bichotte said, “Some people are afraid and they feel that anything having to do with Haitian politics is bad karma. Having that sense of independence seems unreachable, but everyone wants the best for the country.”

Haiti was supposed to hold an election this February, but it was postponed due the January earthquake. Elections in Haiti will be held in November with 38 candidates running for president of the country.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters Helps Black Businesses, Homeowners

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By Joseph Wright, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly News –

(NNPA) - Congresswoman Maxine Waters was the keynote speaker at a recent forum designed to help Black and other non-White businesses, as well as those run by women, gain greater access to major banks and brokers to help sustain and establish their corporations.

“Since the recession really took hold in December 2007,” the congresswoman explained, “about 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by banks. Currently, about one in 10 American households, with a mortgage, is at risk of foreclosure.”

According to Waters, the non-White communities across the United States suffered the most in this economic downturn because African-American and Latino families represent more than half of all California foreclosures. This data came from the Center for Responsible Lending which also notes that African-American and Latino foreclosure rates, respectively, are more than double those of White borrowers in California.

On the business side, the Black community has been impacted by the disproportionate distribution of foreclosed properties given to brokers from outside of Black areas for resale. Many Black-owned real estate offices have been forced to close down their businesses because of the disparities. “These are a couple of (the) reasons why I have worked so hard to help to offer more solutions to the problems facing our community,” Waters told those in attendance.

“We all reached out to [Rep. Waters],” Inglewood Century 21 owner Denise Woods said. “Some of us reached out individually to her as real estate professionals; African American real estate professionals. Then we decided we would come together as a group for the whole organization . . ."

“We told her what we were dealing with as far as the financial institutions were concerned in the distribution of their resale (and) their foreclosure properties, because we [African-American real estate brokers] were being excluded. . . . the banks were using agents from outside of [the Black community].”

Within President Barack Obama’s Wall Street Reform bill were provisions authored by Waters that establishes a $1 billion program with The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide low-interest loans to unemployed homeowners in danger of losing there homes.

CEO Mark Alston of Alston and Associates Mortgage Company applauded the efforts of the congresswoman. “I am proud to say that I am the friend of someone who will stand up for those in our community,” Alston said. “I started looking at the numbers and the data (regarding Black businesses and Black foreclosure rates). After I saw the data, I got (angry). The economy and the recession has got me in a corner, I thought. I’m tired of working hard and not being able to go to the dentist. That is why this meeting is important.”

Alston emphasized that the Black community and its businesses need to understand what steps are necessary to remedy the problem of foreclosures. In addition, he pointed out the need to understand what policies and laws are in place to help those businesses and homeowners who face troubling situations due to lack of finances.

Alston said, “You need to understand that you as a homeowner or business owner are not in the fight alone. You have people in government like [Waters] fighting for you.”

The corporations and businesses attending the summit included Citibank, Chase Bank, members of the Consolidated Board of Realists, and representatives from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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