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Hoyer, Clyburn Reach Accord Over Dispute for House Democratic Whip Post

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Special to the by AFRO-American Newspapers (DC) –

Following a Friday night meeting, which averted a fearful public Democratic Caucus battle for power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked her party colleagues to support Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., for a newly created “assistant leader” position.

The action settles a storm that had been gathering as House Democrats organize themselves as the minority party in the House in the 112th Congress.

In a letter to her fellow Democrats, Pelosi wrote "should I receive the privilege of serving as House Democratic Leader, I will be very honored to nominate our outstanding colleague, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, to serve in the number three House Democratic position. I will also ask the Caucus to designate that position as Assistant Leader."

The action followed a night meeting among top Democrats with Pelosi and Clyburn present, according to The AP. When they emerged, Pelosi announced creation of a third post in the House Democratic Caucus.

Clyburn has served as the Democratic Majority Whip since 2007. As a result of the sweeping losses suffered by House Democrats in the recent elections, Clyburn was forced into a battle with House Democratic Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD., to retain the Democratic Whip position as the Democrats transition to a minority status in the House.

Democrats lost at least 60 House seats in the Nov. 2 elections, reducing their caucus to about 188 members and meaning it would take at least 95 votes, in a secret ballot, to win a spot in the leadership in a battle that was sure to be racially tinged.

Hoyer has broad support among both moderate and conservative Democrats, according to The Hill. Last week, seven Democratic committee chairmen in the House sent a letter to their colleagues in support of Hoyer for the Whip position. Rep. Barney Frank, D.-MA, Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-CA, Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-WVA, Rep. Bob Filner, D-CA, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-TX, Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-MA, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, all indicated their preference for Hoyer at the reins. In contrast, however, Clyburn showed he had the Black votes.

The Congressional Black Caucus, last week, announced it is supporting Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, for Democratic Minority Whip, the second highest party post in the House for the 112th Congress.

"The Congressional Black Caucus endorses Majority Whip Clyburn,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, said in a statement: “He (Clyburn) has been an extremely effective consensus-building member of the Democratic Leadership who has brought together all corners of our caucus behind a unified agenda.”

"With our country at a crossroads, it is vitally important that we have a leadership team in place that recognizes and reflects the strength and diversity of both the Democratic Caucus and our great nation,” she said.

With the battle lines for the Democratic Caucus Minority Whip position apparently resolved, for now, the Democrats are now preparing to face a Republican onslaught focused on either repealing or radically changing the Health Care and other pieces of legislation enacted during the Democratic controlled 111th Congress.

African Leaders Face Corruption Probe Over Excessive Bling

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

For buying sprees that included Riviera villas and fleets of luxury cars, three African presidents are slated for investigation by a French court to see if state funds were used for the purchases.

The allegations name President Teodoro Obiang, of Equatorial Guinea, President Denis Sassou Nguesso, of the Republic of Congo, and Gabon’s late President, Omar Bongo.

Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, said the African leaders and their families had stocked up on penthouses and villas and custom-made cars including Ferraris, Maseratis, and a Rolls-Royce.

The Bongo clan reportedly has 39 properties in France, 70 French bank accounts, 11 in Omar Bongo's name, nine luxury cars in France, including Ferraris and Mercedes. Bongo, once the world's longest-ruling head of state, died last year and was succeeded by his son Ali.

The family of Sassou-Nguesso, Omar Bongo's father-in-law, had 112 French bank accounts, 18 properties and at least one car in France worth more than 170,000 euros.

The Obiang family had eight luxury cars in France, worth 4.2 million euros. Obiang's son, a government minister, owns an apartment in an exclusive area of the capital.

Transparency International said the assets were worth several times more than the African leaders officially earned.

The case could expose the secretive deal-making and blind eye to corruption of France's special "Françafrique" relationship with its former African colonies.

Document: Oil Giant Tried To 'Re-Brand' Itself After Execution of Nigerian Activist

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The Guardian newspaper of London reported that internal documents of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell described a “crisis management strategy and plan” in response to the execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiwa.

The oil company had faced accusations that it colluded with the Nigerian government in the snap trial and sentencing of the community leader and eight others, who became known as the Ogoni 9.

The documents were part of a legal case settled in June 2009. The company paid $15.5 million to settle the suit of the “Ogoni 9” in a federal court in New York without admitting liability.

It was one of the largest payouts by a multi-national corporation charged with human rights violations.

Saro-Wiwa had been a vocal critic of Shell's failures to properly maintain its oil-extraction activities in the Ogoniland, which had heavily polluted its rivers and contaminated the air. The military government, allegedly with Shell’s tacit approval, arranged for trumped-up charges against the Ogoni 9 and their immediate execution by hanging on Nov. 10, 1995. The killings prompted international outrage and a public backlash against Shell and the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth for three years.

Shell officials have never faced prosecution for their purported role of furnishing Nigerian police with weapons, participating in security sweeps of the area, and hiring government troops that shot at villagers protesting the construction of a pipeline, as laid out in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, the U.S. Justice Department has ordered Shell to pay $48 million after admitting it "approved of or condoned the payment of bribes on their behalf in Nigeria and falsely recorded the bribe payments made on their behalf as legitimate business expenses in their corporate books, records and accounts".

Saro-Wiwa’s life will be commemorated this week in Houston, Texas, New York, Rome, Amsterdam, and many other cities worldwide with candle-light services and other memorials. A video of the activist can be seen at : http://www.cleanthenigerdelta.org/index.php/watchthevideo

Minnesotans in Shock Over Gang-led Sex-Trafficking Network

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The Somali-American community in Minnesota and Tennessee are reeling from news that a sex-trafficking ring involving Somali youth were busted in the two states by federal agents with a warrant.

The victims were girls from the Twin Cities, some age 13 and younger, who were shuffled across state lines to work as prostitutes, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court.

At a news conference in Nashville , U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin announced the 24-count indictment against three women and 26 men who are said to have run the operation in the Twin Cities, Nashville, and Columbus, Ohio. The alleged victims, all minors, were listed as Jane Doe 1 through 4.

The indictment targets three so-called Somali gangs: the Somali Outlaws, the Somali Mafia, and the Lady Outlaws. The defendants are listed by name and nicknames such as Shorty, Forehead, Hollywood, Barnie, Fatboy, and Pinky.

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith credited Somali parents and elders with coming to police investigators in 2007 with concerns about young girls and gang activity.

“You’d hear about it, but not who’s doing it,” said Abia Ali, who runs a girls’ program at the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis. “This is a wake-up call to educate the whole community,” she said. “We can’t be in denial. We should take care of our girls.”

Reports of the trafficking of minor-age girls have been published with increasing frequency.

At a Capitol Hill briefing last May, actress Demi Moore said: "I think many Americans are more willing to accept that there are girls enslaved in Cambodia or Delhi, and really can't imagine that it's happening right here… As a society, we owe it to them to ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else."

Mid-term Elections Leave Blacks Vulnerable

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By Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

As Americans, politicians, and pundits sift through the results of the voting yesterday, the one thing heavy on everyone’s mind is the question: What’s next?

President Barack Obama in a one-hour nationally televised press conference that found him at times reflective and somber but still able to laugh, particularly after taking what he called a “shellacking” at the polls, refused to accept that the vote was a rejection of his policies.

Instead, the president described voters’ decision to hand control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans as a demonstration of “their great frustration that we have not made enough progress on the economy. They cannot feel progress and they cannot see it,” Obama said. “I’ve got to take direct responsibility. We have not made as much progress as we could have made.”

The president added that now it is a matter of the Democrats and the Republicans sitting down to develop core areas of agreement on issues they can agree on such as alleviating our dependence on foreign oil, and educating American children so that they are equipped to compete in the global economy.

David A. Bositis, Ph.D., senior research associate with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and an expert on national Black Electoral Politics, agrees with the president that the election results were about the economy.

“If you look at the exit polls, you will see that it’s about the economy, especially insecurity about the economy. Eighty-five percent of people who voted said they were worried about their personal economic situation and half of those said they were very worried,” pointed out Bositis.

“This election was about punishing the people in power, and the people in power were, of course, the Democrats,” added the political observer.

Why Democrats lost depends on who you talk to.

Lorenzo Morris, Ph.D., a political science professor at Howard University, says the Democrats really did very little to mobilize the youthful base that helped them win the presidency in 2008. He also said they waited too late to begin the kind of heavy-duty stumping done in the final two weeks before the election. They were also tremendously outspent in terms of campaign advertising money pumped into Republican races by corporate interests.

But don’t consider these election results a replay of 1994, admonishes Professor Morris, who said that loss was a huge setback for Clinton and was followed by two years of immobility and impasses as he battled Republicans to push his agenda.

When he was re-elected two years later, Morris said his agenda turned more conservative.

Morris does not think that Obama will face the same kind of partisan divide that Clinton faced, in part, because he believes the conservatives elected to office this term are much less organized than those elected by Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America brigade.

“This group of people, they are so disorganized. They’re like free electrons knocking into each other. They just lucked out,” contends Morris. “They are not connected by any sense of party unity. The Republicans will be lucky, if they have an impasse.”

Bositis agrees that this Republican victory does not at all resemble what happened in 1994.

“First, in a lot of the victories, the republicans had very, very close elections . . . when politicians have close elections like that, they get scared, and it makes them cautious,” noted Bositis, who pointed out that there’s a difference between getting elected and getting rejected, which is what he thinks happened with Democrats. He also believes that while Republicans may never admit it publicly they are probably definitely saying to themselves: “Let’s not kid ourselves that these people love us. They don’t. As a matter of fact, they hate our guts.”

The political researcher points to Harry Reid’s re-election in Nevada as a case in point. “Do you think Harry Reid was being embraced by voters in Nevada? This was his biggest victory," he asked.

But people in Nevada don’t like Harry Reid. I don’t know if it’s his personality or what, but they voted for Harry Reid because the Republicans nominated one of the Tea Party nuts,” explained Bositis. “Voters in Nevada say there is no way we are going to have this person as our senator. They were not voting to say I love Harry Reid. It was just that voting for the alternative was unacceptable.”

While the president in his press conference stressed that the key to making the next two years productive was for the, top democrats and Republican leaders to sit down and find areas of agreement and to work on moving those items forward, Bositis and Morris are much less optimistic about how much is going to get done.

“If I would guess, my guess would be no,” said Bositis. “On the other hand, if the more sensible Republicans start to take a look . . . I think one of the things they are going to discover, is that they’re not very popular. They also know that come 2012, the electorate is going to be a lot younger, and a lot more minority than it was this time around.”

Howard University’s Morris sees the situation as potentially dismal for African Americans. He thinks Republicans will attempt to cut back on things that are vitally important to Blacks such as the unemployment structure (particularly in urban areas), educational subsidies, welfare; criminal justice, and catastrophic health programs used by people who are the least likely able to afford them and fight back.

Bositis also believes the change will hurt African Americans because Republicans are going to be more influential in the budget process.

“In terms of money for unemployment, for social services and things of that sort, those guys’ attitudes are going to be “hey, who cares if you’re poor; it’s your own fault. If you’re sick, it’s your own fault.

“Remember something. In terms of unemployment Blacks consider White unemployment a joke. African American employment is really bad now. If the government starts to cut back on spending, that’s only going to make unemployment worse,” Bositis said.

There are a number of other critical issues to note as a result of the mid-term elections. First, for the first time in years there is no African American in the Senate; the majority of seated Democratic governors are up in age in comparison to their Republican counterparts. This is noteworthy because often governors move from running state houses to serving in the Senate and eventually the presidency. A large majority of the Democrats will be too old to make that move.

By contrast all the newly elected Republican governors are at the right age to make the move.

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