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CARICOM Reiterates Call for Peaceful Solution to Gaza Conflict

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping Saturday reiterated its call for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has left hundreds of people dead.

CARICOM said that it wanted an end to the hostilities “and the appalling bloodshed being caused by the bombardments, shelling and ground invasion”.

At least 35 people were killed on Saturday after a university in Gaza was bombed in the latest round of shelling by Israeli forces that hit more than 200 targets. So far more than a 1,000 people have been killed since the fighting began last month.

The Gaza-Israel conflict dates back to 2006 and in this latest flare up Israel has vowed to disarm the military group, Hamas, which is demanding an immediate end to the economic blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.

CARICOM said that the toll of civilian deaths and wounded was mounting incrementally in Gaza with the vast majority being in particular women and children.

“…with hundreds of homes and civilian buildings such as schools destroyed or severely damaged; with few if any safe havens for the thousands of displaced Palestinians, the question must be raised as to whether the principles of proportionality and the norms of international humanitarian law and of international human rights are being respected in the assault on Gaza.

“In like manner, the continuing launching of rockets from Gaza targeting the Israeli civilian population is in breach of these norms, as is the location of firing sites and weapons close to United Nations schools used as shelters as well as close to concentrations of civilians,” CARICOM said.

It said that as the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens dramatically, the regional bloc was adding its “collective voice to the calls coming from many quarters in the international community for all the parties involved to cease hostilities and end the intolerable escalation of death, destruction and violence”.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago has said that the decision by the Human Rights Coun­cil to set up an independent commission of enquiry into the situation in the Middle East was necessary.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, said Port of Spain was joining other countries urging the UN Security Council to act decisively and with alacrity, to stem any further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and to restore calm.

“Trinidad and Tobago condemns the reported grave breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law occurring in that region. Despite regional and international efforts to broker an immediate and unconditional humani­ta­rian ceasefire, the on­slaught continues with total deaths in Gaza amounting today to 1,250 while on the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and two civilians, including a Thai national, have been killed,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago is appealing to the combatants to ensure all those in need of medical care, food and other forms of humanitarian assistance are allowed full, immediate and unconditional access to such support to reach the affected areas and communities.”

Americans Benefit from Helping Africans

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By LaTrina Antoine
Special to the NNPA from the AFRO

WASHINGTON  (NNPA) – Increasing United States investment opportunities in Africa could help the economy create more jobs for Americans, according to U.S. officials

“Our economic and commercial partnership is a two way street,” Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, told African leaders at the U.S.-Africa Summit. “Goods and services exports from the U.S. to African markets support roughly 250,000 jobs here at home.”

Pritzer announced several new initiatives that will begin to strengthen the business relationships with the U.S. and Africa, including 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the U.S. by 2020.

She also said the Commerce Department created “a one stop shop web portal,” trade.gov/dbia to assist U.S. industry engagement in Africa. The fiscal portal enables American businesses to learn about African markets, find financing tools, and discover potential projects, contacts, and resources.

Ashish J. Thakkar, founder and managing director of Mara Group, a pan-African multi-sector business headquartered in Dubai, introduced a panel on “Expanding Opportunities: The New Era For Business In Africa.” The panel was part of the Africa Business Forum of the summit. Panelists discussed the future of U.S.-African partnerships and identified ways in which both countries could strengthen business ties and enable greater economic progress, such as investing in education, energy and infrastructure.

The panel, moderated by former President Bill Clinton, included Aliko Dangote, president and CEO of Dangote Group; Jeff Immelt, CEO at General Electric; Andrew N. Liveris, president, chairman & CEO at The Dow Chemical Company, Phuti Mahanyele, CEO at Shanduka Group; and Doug McMillon, president and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

According to Bloomberg L.P., the host for the forum, foreign investment in African economies will reach a record $80 billion in 2014 with many U.S. companies leading the way, such as IBM. However, there are significant business and financial opportunities that remain untapped, Bloomberg said.

When asked what could U.S. businesses could do to accelerate the process of investing in Africa, Immelt replied, “The number one thing is get local.” He said there needs to be local flexibility risk-based financing along with regional integration in Africa, such as an East African alliance.

Mahanyele said investment in the youth of Africa was a huge contribution to helping the advancement of U.S.-Africa investment.

“The key issue is making sure youth are educated to continue the growth of our continent,” she said.

Agreeing that a way to spur greater economic investment in Africa through education young people, Liveris said American companies could bring supply chains and training that would be a generational move.

He said Africa can move faster than other countries, in economic development, if American companies focused on working with African schools.

“I think the U.S.-Africa summit is history in the making,” Thakkar said. “Instead of bringing silicon valley to Africa, let’s bring Africa to silicon valley.”

Vigils Held for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

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By Craig D. Frazier
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Last week, a number of local and international events occurred to mark that it has been more than 100 days since the abduction of the Chibok pupils.

In Manhattan, a silent candlelight vigil, organized by Nkechie Ogbodo, president of Kechi’s Project, was held across the street from the Nigerian consulate. Members of the organization called for the return of the Nigerian girls and were joined by faith-based leaders and community activist.

“We are praying and honoring them so they can stay strong, come back safely and have a chance to live whatever is left of their broken lives,” Ogbodo told the AmNews.

Since 2010, Kechi’s Project, a New York-based nonprofit organization, has empowered underprivileged and under-represented girls in Nigeria. The Nigerian native is responsible for spearheading multiple campaigns here in New York and across the globe that highlight disparities faced by young females in Africa.

“They are still missing, and we still don’t have answers. We promised them hope, yet hope is fast eluding them. Why is the world silent?” Ogbodo added.

The extremist group Boko Haram’s attempt to disenfranchise and subjugate the girls of Nigeria has strengthened her determination to do more for girls by expanding educational scholarships program in Nigeria.

In April, Boko Haram abducted 276 Nigerian girls, sparking an international outcry. Of the 276 girls kidnapped, 219 are still being held captive more than 100 days after they were first kidnapped. Borno State Gov. Kashim Shettima reported that 176 teachers have been killed and 900 schools destroyed in Borno since Boko Haram began attacking in 2011, because they see the community as a reflection of Western education.

The militants, known now as terrorists, have attacked throughout Nigeria, snubbing international demands to release the girls. The Associated Press reports that 60 students managed to escape from the thick jungle, but at least 20 others are ill and at least two have died.

“I stand in solidarity with all those taking part in vigils today to demonstrate that the world has not forgotten the girls who were so cruelly abducted from their school 100 days ago in Chibok, Nigeria,” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, “I repeat my call for their immediate release and for an end to discrimination, intimidation and violence against girls whose only wish is to gain an education.”

For the first time, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan met with parents of the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls and classmates who escaped from their Islamic extremist captors. “Mr. President reassured them of the federal government’s determination and his personal determination to ensure that the girls that are still in captivity are brought out alive,” said Jonathan’s spokesman.

Boko Haram wants to swap prisoners for the girls. The president has refused.

Jonathan said the government wants to avoid a rescue effort that could lead to the girls being killed. “Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we are supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful. Our commitment is not just to get the girls out, it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria,” he told the parents. “But we are very, very mindful of the safety of the girls. We want to return them all alive to their parents.”

Alabama State University Under Fire; So is President Boyd

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By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from The Afro-American Newspaper

The historic presidency of Alabama State University’s first female chief continues to be shrouded in controversy.

ASU’s accrediting body, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed ASU on a six-month warning period in June, citing the college for failing to comply with six standards. Moody’s recently downgraded the university’s bond rating for the second time in nine months. Two Board of Trustee members were forced to resign last week. This week, a member of the committee that helped select Gwendolyn Boyd as ASU’s first female president in its 146-year history is saying he regrets his choice.

In a nearly 1,200-word Facebook post on July 27, Donald Watkins, a former Board of Trustee member and ASU pro bono counsel, detailed the reasons he felt choosing Boyd was the university’s “greatest mistake.”

“I want to publicly apologize to the entire Alabama State University family. I made a serious error in judgment when I nominated Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd and asked the board of trustees to elect her as president of ASU,” Watkins wrote. “At the time, I sincerely believed that Dr. Boyd was qualified for the position. I have since learned that her prior executive experience was greatly exaggerated and that her administrative skills are sorely lacking for what is required to be an effective president at ASU.”

Watkins accused Boyd of being a “part-time executive employee,” who “sprints out of town every Thursday or Friday to advance her ministerial career.” He castigated her for allegedly misusing university funds by accepting a $1,000 monthly car allowance though she does not own a car and is chauffeured by officers that have racked up thousands in overtime pay.

Watkins also accused Boyd of being an ineffective fundraiser. “In her first 100 days, she only raised $26,500 – a pathetic performance by the University’s chief fundraiser,” he said.

The former trustee’s acrimony was especially sharp, however, in his accusations concerning her treatment of the trustees and her alleged role in the forced resignations of ASU Board Chairman Elton Dean and Vice Chairman Marvin Wiggins. Boyd previously butted heads with the pair. In a series of letters, the trustees accused the president of disregarding the board’s authority and of behavior that bordered “blatant disrespect and insubordination.”

Boyd denied the charge. She accused Wiggins of disrespecting after a decision made during a meeting on an ASU controversy involving the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Watkins said Boyd’s alleged alienation of trustees was a result of her “unholy alliance” with Gov. Robert Bentley, who forced Dean and Wiggins from their positions last week.

“As soon as she finished taking the oath of office as president, Dr. Boyd swore her allegiance to Tea Party Republican Gov. Robert Bentley,” Watkins said. And Bentley has repaid Boyd for that allegiance.”

“After Bentley forced the resignation of Board Chairman Elton Dean and removed Vice-Chairman Marvin Wiggins from the board last week, the message from Bentley to the remaining trustees was clear – leave Dr. Boyd alone; she is the governor’s overseer at ASU and she is untouchable,” the former trustee said.

The AFRO contacted Boyd’s office for a response, but a university spokesperson said the president is not making any statements on these matters.

According to the governor’s office, however, Dean and Wiggins were removed because of a conflict of interest. The letter sent to Wiggins, a copy of which was emailed to the AFRO, cites Alabama statute, which states: “It shall be unlawful for any member of the board to be financially interested in any contract or transaction affecting the interests of the university; to procure, or be a party in any way to procuring the appointment of any relative to any position of financial trust or profit; or to influence the appointment, non-reappointment, retention, dismissal or compensation of any employee of the university except through the prescribed procedures for such purposes, and the violation of this provision shall subject the member so offending to removal by the governor or the board.”

From 2010 to January 2013, several of Wiggins’ relative, including his wife, received more than $250,000 in compensation from ASU. Dean has a similar familial conflict of interest, the letter stated. The trustees’ violation of the statute was one of the reasons cited by SACS, the accrediting body, for its warning. Other reasons include problems with financial stability and control of funds, Title IV program responsibilities, and control of sponsored research/external funds.

Carib Takes Reparations Case to UK Parliament

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Caribbean trade bloc countries fighting to make Britain and other European countries pay for the transatlantic slave trade have formally taken their case to the British Parliament, with their leading reparations advocate urging legislators to correct wrongs that were enacted into law by that very House of Commons, because millions in the region are still suffering from the effects of slavery.

Sir Hilary Beckles, principal of the umbrella University of the West Indies and head of the Caribbean Reparations Commission, told the House of Commons in an address a week ago that the Caribbean region fully expects that European governments would have no problem acknowledging the sheer brutality of the slave trade and the fact that European slave owners were paid for giving up slaves at emancipation in the 1830s, rather than the people who were brutalized on plantations without being paid a single cent.

The mid-July address to British MP’s was released by the bloc this week.

“Like you, I am aware that this parliament prepared the official political basis of the crimes that defined the colonial past,” Beckles said. “It is here, in this house, that the evil system of slavery and genocide was established. This house passed laws, framed fiscal policies and enforced the crimes that have produced harmful legacies and persistent suffering now in need of repair.”

He said research by governments shows that British slave ships brought an astonishing 5.5 million enslaved Africans to Caribbean colonies over 180 years, but by the time the practice was abolished in the 1830s, only 800,000 remained, a survival rate among the slave population, including those born into slavery, of a mere 15 percent.

His address came two weeks after Caribbean leaders at their summit in Antigua had asked European nations to participate in a reparations summit later this year or early next year and as the region prepares its case to fight Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, among others, for reparations for slavery, genocide against indigenous communities and Asians shipped to work on Caribbean plantations.

He said governments feel that paid reparations will “bring honor and dignity to the people of the Caribbean, as well as to the people of Great Britain and Europe.”

Additionally, Beckles argued, governments today are saddled with the task of “cleaning up the awful mess left behind by Britain’s colonial legacy,” noting that the region has waged this battle valiantly. “We are not beggars,” he said. “We are not subservient. We do not want charity and handouts. We want justice, reparatory justice.

“Britain and its Parliament cannot morally and legally turn their backs upon this past, and walk away from the mess they have left behind. This parliament has to return to the scene of its crimes and participate as a legitimate parliament, as a legal parliament, in the healing and rehabilitation of the Caribbean.”

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BVN National News Wire