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Wesley Snipes Supporters Demanding Retrial

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By Gregory Dale, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers –

Following the federal imprisonment of actor Wesley Snipes on a three-year sentence for failure to file income tax returns, a collection of celebrities, politicians, friends, and supporters are demanding the actor receive a fair trial.

A group calling itself The Friends of Wesley Snipes is pushing a petition for the famous actor in order to bring awareness to perceived misconduct during his trial. Spearheading the movement is Snipes' wife Nicky and a laundry list of celebrities and supporters including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Denzel Washington, Judge Joe Brown, among thousands of other supporters.

According to CNN, Snipes reported to a Pennsylvania federal prison camp on Dec. 9, 2010 for not filing tax returns in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Though Snipes initially faced felony charges of tax fraud and conspiracy, those charges were later dropped and Snipes was charged with misdemeanor violations.

Prosecutors argued that Snipes had received $40 million since 1999, but had not completed tax returns and was involved in a tax resisters group. The actor denied his involvement and said his failure to file was due to a mistake by his financial advisor.

The Friends of Snipes contend on their website that, in addition to Snipes unfairly receiving the maximum sentence of three years in prison on misdemeanor charges, he was denied an appeal. Additionally, the group claims that two jurors from the Snipes trial sent out e-mails explaining that three other jurors presumed that Snipes was guilty before the trial began. In their e-mails, the two jurors claimed the remaining jurors, in rendering their verdict, never believed that Snipes would be sent to jail, and felt they needed to come forward to show misconduct.

But Judge Hodges, who issued Snipes' sentence, declined to interview the jurors to confirm any misconduct and issue the actor a new trial.

Snipes' lawyer, attorney Daniel Meachum, said a brief for Snipes' appeal will be submitted this month and the petition is slated to be submitted to the Supreme Court in February.

"It's not so much a case about Wesley Snipes, but it's a case about the judicial process right now," Meachum told the AFRO during a recent interview. "This case is about the everyday man. Wesley Snipes is actually just a vessel because there's a bunch of people—Black and White—who have been incarcerated when they don't necessarily need to be there, because the prosecution has not turned over all the discoveries [evidence] that they're required to do. Wesley's just one of many victims in this system."

Former NY Governor Paterson Reflects on His Tenure

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Reported Cyril Josh Barker, Nayaba Arinde and Curtis Simmons
Written by Cyril Josh Barker

As the final days of the historic New York Governor David Paterson administration come to a close, the outgoing governor sat down with several members of the Amsterdam News staff to reflect on his term as governor.

Paterson faced unprecedented challenges, including one of the worst economic climates in the history of the state and nation, and an often hostile press corps, which openly and consistently questioned his legitimacy and competence.

But despite the obstacles he faced, Paterson was upbeat about his future and the future of the State. As he mulled over his governorship, he said that, first and foremost, he wanted to be remembered as one of the first political actors in the country to identify the economic crisis, and begin the process of asking for shared sacrifices. And, as he addressed the fiscal crisis, Paterson said he always kept in the front of his mind where he came from and the people who have made his political life a possibility. But, he also knew that he had to deal with overwhelming challenges. Paterson’s goal was to keep the state from crumbling into a financial disaster similar to Illinois and California.

“To come in the midst of this economic downturn and crisis was prohibitive then to have problems with leadership in the legislature, I think there was a perception that I had changed,” he said. “But I didn’t change, my circumstances changed. If I didn’t manage the way I did, the state would have become insolvent.”

It was a little less than three years ago that Paterson took over the job as New York State’s governor, making history as the state’s first Black governor, and the first legally blind governor in United States history to serve for more than a few days.

Looking back on his journey as governor, he recalls his greatest achievements being the enhancement in opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses (MWMBEs). Paterson believes the increased tax revenues from those businesses, in the long run, will lead to replacing lost manufacturing jobs with biotech, research, broadband and clean renewable energy opportunities.

Under his leadership he diligently worked to keep New York off of the list of 20 states that were in financial distress. And, despite the odds, and more than a decade of Republican mismanagement under the stewardship of “the empty suit” Gov. George Pataki, New York has weathered the turbulent climate better than most big states. However, many mainstream media outlets let his accomplishments go unnoticed. On a regular basis Paterson was on the receiving end of aggressive and hostile reporting, which often focused on unsubstantiated rumors about his personal life and peripheral aspects of his governing style.

“What the media wants to write about and the truth are very far apart,” he said. “They are willing to lecture public servants about the truth. If you read the stories, they are in a lockstep. If one media outlet writes something, no matter how wrong it is, they don’t refute it. When that goes on in politics, that’s called cronyism.”

Paterson got a taste of “editorial cronyism” in February 2010 when rumors circulated that the New York Times had a story about his involvement in a scandal—similar to his predecessor Elliot Spitzer—that supposedly included both womanizing and drug use. The so called “paper of record” never released a story substantiating the rumors, but the rumors swirled around the press, peaking last February with gossip that Paterson was going to be forced to resign. On reflection, Paterson says he would have handled it differently.

“What I should have done was the opposite,” he said. “I should have lured the media in, not answer any questions and made it look like it was true and gotten on stage and said, ‘Good morning, if you are looking for a resignation you are looking for the wrong office. The reason you are here isn’t because of any facts or legitimate sources. You are here because of a bunch of lies, innuendo, and made-up stories. So because you wasted the trip, I will give you a story: I’m running for re-election.’”

Even after the rumors proved to be false, Paterson continued to get beaten up by the White-controlled media. Paterson said that most of the stories written about him were for profit instead of personal. Referred to as the “accidental governor,” he said that his race did play a role in his treatment.

“It’s the first elevation of an African-American to a major post in public service in this country. To me this confirmed backlash in diversity. If you are elected, there’s nothing anyone can say—but this little blind Black person became governor, and no one knows who he is, and he’s probably just a political hack who they put on the ticket to get some Black votes. I was treated as someone who was not serious,” he said.

Being Black played a role in several of his accomplishments as governor that ultimately benefited all racial groups, including better polices for MWBEs, reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and stopping officers from being promoted because they successfully filled their stop-and-frisk quotas.

“These are remedies that wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t become governor,” he said. “I had to take a little heat to do it, but I did it with honor.”

As far as the state budget is concerned, he admits that balancing it has hurt a lot of people, however, there’s been more good than bad. For example, healthcare allocation for the poor was raised for the first time in 20 years, and food stamps and homeless shelters were expanded under his leadership. And, true to form, Paterson received his harshest criticism from big media and their sycophant commentators when he taxed the rich.

“We did take actions that hurt people, but what we tried to do was to share the sacrifice. Twelve billion dollars would have been balanced on the backs of some people. The distance between the rich and the poor is the greatest it’s ever been. The recession has been so deep that if you’re unemployed, you don’t really care if the rich are sacrificing, you are still sharing in the sacrifice,” he said.

As for the state’s future, Paterson said that his successor, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, has a good sense of what he needs to do to get the state out of the economic crisis. Paterson is also confident about Cuomo’s diversity in his administration. However, as the saga of the state budget continues, and after a shift of power in the State Senate, Cuomo has his work cut out for him.

Paterson said, “No matter who the governor is, the real question is if the state is governable. I think that in crisis you need one leader. The problem with the economic crisis was that you had too many processes trying to address it. I’d like to suggest to the new governor and the new legislators that they work out a system where the government could declare a state of emergency, as they can and did in New Jersey, but can’t here in New York.”

And as he contemplates these last issues, Paterson seems quite satisfied with his tenure overseeing the Empire State. He has capped a more than 20-year career in public service by holding the highest public office in the state—surprising for those who do not know well this remarkable man, but what was often expected from a son of Harlem. He sees his future in continuing to work to help New York State develop renewable energy, teaching, or some form of media. And, one can be assured that he will bring vigor and good humor to the next stage of his life, which he revealed includes writing his memoirs.

Africa Races to Catch the Internet Wave

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Five new cables on the continent—worth $2.5 billion – are bringing increasing speeds at lower prices for Africa’s internet-hungry population with user growth in the last decade up by 2000 percent!

The International Telecommunication Union projects 5.3 billion cell phone owners by the end of this year. "The mobile phone revolution continues," says a U.N. report charting the phenomenon that has transformed commerce, healthcare and social lives across the planet. Mobile phone leases in Africa rose from 54 million to almost 350 million between 2003 and 2008, the quickest growth in the world.

“Tremendous progress has been made in the adoption and use of information and communication technologies,” declared Dr Hamadoun I. Toure, head of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at a conference last summer.

“What is most interesting to me,” Toure said, “and what highlights the critical role of connectivity in Africa – is that once people have access to information technologies, they don’t give it up, even when their social or economic situation changes. Put simply, Africans want to stay connected, and they work hard to make sure they stay connected.”

Toure continued: “In Africa, we are seeing new broadband capacity coming on-stream fast, and I was delighted to be personally present in Kenya in March when a new submarine cable was brought onshore, and then to be in French Guiana earlier this month to see new satellites for Africa being launched.

"These are truly inspirational events, and signs of the very positive times in which we live.”

Donna Brazile Keynote Speaker At Airports Economic Forum

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By Othor Cain, Special to the NNPA from The Mississippi Link –

Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile concluded her busy travel year of lectures, speaking engagements, and personal appearances in Jackson, Mississippi, as she keynoted the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC)/American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Economic Forum.

The forum, in its 17th year, is designed to keep its membership abreast of current information about legislation and regulatory changes affecting the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concessions and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) Program. “It is our job to keep our membership informed, and this forum serves as that vehicle to do so,” said Don O’Bannon, chair of AMAC. “We make sure those in our organization are equipped with knowledge and have the necessary tools to succeed.”

Brazile, who serves as a regular contributor on CNN and ABC news stations and also spent 200 days on the road in 2010, said she knew a thing or two about airports. “Just within the last couple of weeks I have been to Columbia, S.C., Salt Lake City, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. And, I want to thank all of you for what you do to make my travel experiences good,” said Brazile. “The jobs you do to provide support services, safety, shopping, and eating to the millions of Americans that fly daily is unparalleled.”

According to AMACs website, it is the only national, non-profit, trade association dedicated to promoting the full participation of minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises (MW/DBEs) in airport contracting, and the inclusion of minorities and women participation in the airport industry and to capitalize on the opportunities available in the multi-billion dollar industry. “We understand that doing business with small businesses is good business,” an excited O’Bannon told The Mississippi Link. “Participants leave this economic forum with a very healthy potential to do business with airports while also securing a strong base of network support.”

Brazile took advantage of her bully pulpit and talked politics. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you think things were gridlocked in our nation’s capitol before 2008 then I suggest you buckle up because 2011 and 2012 will be gridlocked years like you’ve never seen before,” said Brazile. “What happened during the mid-term elections was just another way of folk wanting to see the policies of this administration fail.”

Brazile acknowledged that some Democrats are a little weary of President Obama after his recent compromise with Republican leaders to continue the tax cuts initiated under former President George W. Bush. “We cannot lose faith; our President (Obama) is a very smart man and is an amazing thinker,” she said. “I can only imagine that some of the compromises that were made were because Republicans held so many things hostage in that bill and at the end of the day the president was looking out for the American people especially those that have so little. This was the only way for him (Obama) to continue the unemployment benefits that so many Americans are using.”

Brazile, a New Orleans native and former campaign manager/director for Gore 2000, also acknowledged the role Mississippi played during Hurricane Katrina. “My family relocated here for about six weeks after the storm hit, and I am grateful for all of you and all that this state did during that devastation,” said Brazile. “That is why since then and even today, I continue to scream and fight for full recovery and full compensation for this state. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was hit hard and you deserve your fair share.”

R&B Singer Teena Marie Dies at 54

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(Reuters) - R&B singer and songwriter Teena Marie, best known for the hit 1980s singles "Lovergirl" and "Ooo La La La," died at her home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to news reports. She was 54.

The cause of death was not known, and a spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Her friend, percussionist Sheila E, reported on Twitter that Teena Marie had a history of seizures.

Teena Marie, whose real name was Mary Brockert, was one of the rare white performers to enjoy crossover success on America's black music charts.

A protégée of funk singer Rick James, she signed with Motown Records in 1975 and released her first album four years later. That album, which was mostly written by James, led fans to believe that Teena Marie was black since it did not feature a picture of her. Her duet with James on "I'm a Sucker For You" peaked at No. 8 on Billboard's Black Singles chart.

"I've always been accepted by the black community and I think that's a beautiful thing," Teena Marie told Jet magazine in 2006.

She released 13 albums up to 2009's "Conga Square," on which she paid tribute to jazz influences, such as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.

Teena Marie's career had been on the upswing since 2004 when she signed with a New Orleans rap label and released her first album in a decade. "La Dona" debuted and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, the first time she had ever cracked the top 20. A song from the album, "Still in Love," took her onto the Hot 100 singles chart for the first time since 1988.

Two of her albums, 1981's "It Must Be Magic" and 1984's "Starchild," went gold for U.S. shipments in excess of 500,000 units each, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The latter album, released after she left Motown in the wake of a legal battle, spawned the tune "Lovergirl," which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100. "Ooo La La La," meanwhile, went to No. 1 on the black singles chart in 1988.

Teena Marie is survived by a daughter, Alia Rose.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Paul Simao)


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