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Taxi Union Leader Urges Drivers to Racially Profile

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

If taxi drivers take the advice of New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers President Fernando Mateo, Mateo might not be able to catch a cab if he wears a hoodie this winter in New York City.

Mateo’s words were simple after an incident involving a livery cab driver in Queens who was shot multiple times by a Latino male suspect: “Profile your passengers.” The message is especially shocking being that Mateo himself is half Black and half Latino.

The words stem from the shooting of 58-year-old livery cab driver Trevor Bell, who was recently shot six times in the neck and legs. The alleged suspect was a 22-year-old Latino male who was caught on a surveillance camera in the cab, with footage showing his face and him aiming a gun. The suspect made off with less than $100. Police have made no arrests.

The taxi union boss made the statements during a press conference in Queens outside Jamaica Hospital , where Bell is clinging to life. Mateo said that racial profiling was sometimes a “good thing.”

“I don’t care about racial profiling,” he said. “Because the God’s honest truth is that 99 percent of the people that are robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are Blacks and Hispanics. So, if you see suspicious activity, you know what? Don’t pick up that person.”

Known for his strong support of right-wing Republicans, Mateo said that he is not racist and that he is simply advising drivers to be more careful in certain parts of the city and to be vigilant concerning customers wearing hoodies.

Mateo’s statements received a quick backlash from various groups and leaders in the community. Those who condemn his advice to drivers say that Blacks and Latinos already have a hard time catching cabs in New York City.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said in one TV news report that Mateo “exacerbates the problem” and “racial profiling is never justified.”

David Yassky who serves as the Taxi and Limousine commissioner, said Mateo’s advice to drivers was “down right wrong and simply unacceptable,” according to a statement.

At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall, several Black and Latino organizations spoke out against Mateo’s words, including the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

“His statement that livery cab drivers should racially profile passengers is not illegal—it’s outright insane given the fact that people who are serviced by livery cabs are people of color,” said David Galaraza of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

“We are trying to end the practice of racial profiling at the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies. For a Latino to put something out so simplistic—it just made no sense whatsoever to put out a call like that at a time when we are trying to stop these practices.”

City Councilman Charles Barron was also at the press conference and pointed out that the real issues at hand are a rise in crime and a need for jobs and economic improvement in poor neighborhoods, where many livery cabs get business.

He said, “Racial profiling is a crime. It’s unconstitutional and it’s illegal. You can’t fight crime with racism. He’s talking out of his head. I wear a hood in the winter, so I can’t get into a car service?”

Congressional Black Caucus Opposed to Tax Cut Deal

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By Zenitha Prince, Special to the NNPA From the AFRO-American Newspapers –

The Congressional Black Caucus on Dec. 10 said its members overwhelmingly oppose the tax cuts compromise reached between the White House and congressional Republicans, saying it is “bad for African-Americans” and other vulnerable communities.

“You can’t give tax cuts away like you’re Oprah Winfrey or Santa Claus,” Virginia Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott, a member of the House Budget Committee, said during a Capitol Hill press conference. “Someone eventually has to pay for it.”

And traditionally, it’s been communities of color that have had to pay, the Black lawmakers said.

President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal which would extend Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for also extending unemployment benefits and other programs favored by Obama.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax deal is projected to increase the national deficit by almost $900 billion—a figure larger than the recent financial stimulus measures—adding to an already towering debt. And, to reduce that balance, Republicans will likely impose “draconian” cuts on programs important to minority communities such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and health care, Congressional Black Caucus members said.

“There are tough choices that will have to be made next year [and] we know what will happen—it’s going to be low-income communities, poor communities of color that are going to pay,” Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told reporters.

The caucus offered its own plan, which is built on some elements of the existing deal:

· A 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits plus additional assistance for the chronically unemployed

· A payroll tax holiday with a guarantee that Social Security would not be affected

· Two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts to middle- and low-income families

· Extension of the Recovery Act’s Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and $2,500 college credit.

But the Caucus rebuked Republicans for their insistence on cuts to the estate tax, which Scott called “particularly offensive,” and the tax cut for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, both of which will cost $114 billion in lost revenue.

“Employing an out-of-work parent would provide much more benefit to the economy than padding the bank account of a CEO,” Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., D-IL, said in a statement. “If we recklessly cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent then Obamanomics will look an awful lot like Reaganomics.”

Jackson and others say the tax cuts won by Republicans reflect President Reagan’s “starve the beast” strategy of lowered taxes and increased spending in areas such as defense that would then force Congress to make deep cuts in social programs. And, the recently passed health care reform act may well be the chief target of this strategy.

“This just gives our Republican colleagues another chance to play, ‘Gotcha,’” said Virgin Islands Democrat Donna Christiansen. “If we extend the upper end tax cuts and add that big estate tax giveaway, when we move to fund implementation of the Affordable Care Act there’ll be no money—‘Gotcha!’ And, when the 2012 election rolls around, and the tax cuts are about to expire, if we don’t extend them again we, the Democrats, will be blamed for raising taxes—‘Gotcha!’”

The Black lawmakers said though they object to the deal, they understand the president felt jammed against a wall.

“[But] as much as he continues to extend the olive branch, to compromise on their behalf, they really don’t seem to appreciate it,” said Rep. Donald Payne, D-NJ. “And, so we’re saying at this point, [the] line in the sand, enough is enough.”

Payne said that the president followed his previous pattern of not including the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats in the negotiation process. Payne made similar claims during the health care reform debate.

“He could have called us in and said, ‘Look, this is what they’ve offered; these are my options,” he said. “What do you think? At least bring us in so we can understand the situation... For him to meet with primarily Republicans…is not a way to negotiate. We felt we could have been helpful to him. He gave away the shop before he even brought us in to help him.”

War Fires Burning Again in Nigeria's Oil-Rich Southern Delta

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Heavily armed soldiers and aerial bombing runs have reportedly killed as many as 150 people in the southern delta, a human rights activist said.

Oghebejabor Ikim, national coordinator for the Forum of Justice and Human Rights Defense, described devastation in the village of Ayakoromo in Delta state with houses destroyed, civilians killed, and women raped. Soldiers are said to be looking for a militant leader called John Togo.

"I can describe it as a killing spree of innocent civilians," Mr. Ikim said. "Houses have been burnt. Women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get at John Togo?" Nigerian officials say they are looking to reach a truce with militants in the Niger Delta who have turned to militancy over failed government pledges to clean up the environment, share oil incomes, build schools, and health care centers. The “rebels” have turned to attacks on pipelines, kidnapping of petroleum company employees, and fighting with government troops.

The attacks have cut drastically into crude production in Nigeria, an OPEC-member nation that is one of the top suppliers of crude oil to the U.S.

The Nigerian Red Cross and other activists have been unable to reach the targeted communities as the military has sealed off the winding muddy creeks that lead to the region. Activists say they continue to see smoke rising from the area and can hear gunfire.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey recently received the “Alternative Nobel Prize” in Stockholm, for his effort to “reveal the full ecological and human horror of oil production.”

In his acceptance speech, Bassey, who heads Friends of the Earth International, said he represented 'suffering peoples in the oil fields' in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Polluters, he said, should face trial for 'crimes against humanity'. Last year, Bassey was named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine.

South Africa Chemicals Co. Sued For U.S. Spying

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The U.S. division of South Africa’s Sasol chemical plant is facing a lawsuit for industrial espionage and sabotage, filed by environmental activists Greenpeace.

The case, which also involves the Dow Chemical Co. and two public relations firms, was filed in Federal Court in Washington, DC.

Greenpeace claims the two companies hired private investigators to steal its documents, tap its phones, and hack into its computers. Central to the complaint is a community's battle against the pollution of Lake Charles, in Louisiana, near the Sasol plant.

Local residents suffer high rates of cancer and respiratory problems linked to the company's production processes, Greenpeace maintains.

According to Sasol's website, the Lake Charles plant produces commodity and specialty chemicals for soaps, detergents, and personal care products. At the time of the Greenpeace complaint, it was manufacturing ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, and vinyl chloride.

Sasol has denied the charges.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the primarily African-American town of Mossville, Louisiana, on Lake Charles has won a hearing by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights on their claim that racism allowed 14 heavily polluting industries to be built in their residential community. It marks the first time that an international human rights tribunal has taken jurisdiction over a case of environmental racism in the United States, according to Monique Harden of Advocates for Environment Human Rights.

Judge Donald Nominated for Court of Appeals

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Special to the NNPA from the Tri-State Defender –

President Barack Obama last week announced his nomination of Judge Bernice Donald for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Donald, who serves as federal bankruptcy judge in Memphis, has a history of trailblazing.

In 1982, Donald was elected to serve as a judge on the Court of General Sessions in Shelby County, making her the first female African-American judge in the history of Tennessee. Six years later, she became the first female African-American federal bankruptcy judge in the nation when she was appointed to that position by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Congressman Steve Cohen said he congratulated Donald on the nomination during a call last week. “I’ve known Judge Donald for over 30 years, including when she presented cases before me as an attorney during my brief tenure as Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge in 1980. I’ve known her to be fair, honest and just,” said Cohen. “As I told her when we spoke today, she has served Memphis proud.”

Judge Donald will now face the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate.

Donald received both her undergraduate degree and her J.D. from the University of Memphis. Her broad range of legal experience also includes private practice and the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.

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