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Somali-Americans Issue Call for Peace

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Close to 50 people gathered recently outside Portland City Hall for a "Peace and Unity" rally sparked by the recent arrest of 19 year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, who police said attempted to set off a bomb at a local Christmas-tree lighting ceremony.

Speakers maintained that the youth’s involvement in a fake bomb plot at Pioneer Courthouse Square reflected local Somali youths' need for support.

"We are gathered here in the cold rain because we care about our Somali community,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “and it takes all of us to keep us all safe… We also recognize that due process will be had and we will be stronger together because of this challenge."

Bashir Warsame, head of the Somali Community Services Coalition in SW Portland, said: "All Somali people are sad and I believe we want to show this as well as show that we want to increase support for our troubled youth."

Muna Obshir Mohamud of the Portland Office of Human Relations added: “"Islamaphobia is very real and we all hope that it will not be re-ignited… It may be too late for this Mohamud, but there are many, many Mohamuds out there. We need to make sure these Muslim men have our support."

The accused teenager, a college student who lived in Beaverton, Oregon, this week pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. Defense attorneys say their client was "groomed" by the FBI who provided a van and the fake explosives that were supposed to terrorize the crowds at the tree lighting.

Officials say they didn't direct the plot, Mohamud did. He not only chose the venue for the attack, they said, but shrugged off attempts to derail the plot when it was under way.

But civil liberties advocates respond that these sting operations, particularly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have ended up focusing on people who pose no real danger but are susceptible to being lured into pretend plots by law enforcement officials. At

At this week’s court appearance, lead attorney Stephen Sady told the court that “quite sophisticated” government agents were “basically grooming the individual.” He called the arrest “obviously timed for maximum impact and maximum publicity.

Mohamud was indicted on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. A conviction would result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Mugabe, Mandela and Others Named in Wikileaks Secret Cables

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Networks –

The publication of confidential diplomatic cables on the website Wikileaks gave ammunition to some African leaders who have complained, without previous proof, of U.S. interference in their country.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for example, learned from the cables that the U.S. is leading efforts to remove him from power. In the leaked memos, former U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell wrote that the U.S. was taking a leading role to bring Mugabe down and that former colonizer Britain could not do the job because it was hamstrung by its colonial past. “Thus it falls to the U.S., once again, to take the lead, to say and do the hard things and to set the agenda,” Dell said in a cable posted on the Wikileaks site.

As to Kenya, classified U.S. diplomatic messages called Nairobi “a swamp of flourishing corruption” and had little good to say about the current coalition government. Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said: "We do not know the details of the leaked cables, but if what is reported is true then it is totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders…. We are surprised and shocked by these revelations."

Mutua said the U.S.'s Africa envoy Johnny Carson had called Prime Minister Raila Odinga this week to apologize for the expected leaks.

Finally, the secret cables revealed that former President Nelson Mandela was resolutely against the Iraq war, and that he believed President Bush ignored calls by the United Nations for restraint because the UN’s then-General Secretary Kofi Annan is Black.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Showcases Progress

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By Dorinda White, Special for NNPA Wire Service –

On the anniversary of the historic actions of Rosa Parks on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation showcased the progress of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Wednesday, December 1)

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project is fifty percent completed. It is situated on one of the most prestigious sites remaining on the National Mall. “The Memorial will capture the essence of Dr. King’s passion and vision for all to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice,” said Harry Johnson, President and CEO of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

“As such, it will serve as a stage to honor his national and international contributions to humankind, acknowledging his unbridled teachings for achieving social change through non-violent methods. The Memorial will remind the world of his dedication to the idea of achieving human dignity through global relationships, and instill a sense of duty within each of us to be responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.”

The Foundation’s presentation highlighted how the entire site will look upon completion. A combination of inscribed granite walls and green space areas will surround the “Mountain of Despair” leading to the “Stone of Hope” and the imposing statute of Dr. King. Under the gray skies of Washington, D.C. with scaffolding surrounding it, the statute seemed ready to step forward out of the stone encasing it.

“The Memorial is a memorial to a man who was a citizen of the world whose messages of democracy, justice, hope and love transcended racial barriers and resonated around the globe,” stated Johnson.

“This was confirmed when he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.”

Johnson reminded the audience that the fundraising for the Memorial has not met its goal stating, “We have not met our fundraising goals, but the Memorial project is moving ahead as scheduled. We hope that each American and those around the world will make a contribution towards the completion of this Memorial. Dr. King touched lives on an international level and we know that in the end, those who believed in his words and actions will contribute to his Memorial.

The press conference held on the site of the Memorial included remarks from John T. Montford, GM Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Memorial Foundation’s Executive Leadership Cabinet, Robert G. Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., Executive Architect of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

For more information and to make a contribution go to www.buildthedream.org

African-American Achievement Gap to Disappear in 40 Years

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By Rebecca Nuttall, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

The latest report by A+ Schools revealed that the achievement gap between White and Black students continues to decrease. However, at the rate it is narrowing, it would take 40 years to be eliminated.

Even more disappointing is that the report also notes that while Black student achievement, as demonstrated through performance on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, has increased, a decline in White student achievement also contributed to narrowing the gap.

Despite an unclear picture of how the achievement gap is changing, the report, released in mid-November, concluded that high schools, which have the largest achievement gaps in the district, remain the key areas most in need of improvement. Despite gains made in elementary schools, PSSA scores for grade 11 declined in all subjects.

“Gains made in earlier grades are disappearing in high schools. That threatens our youth’s future prospects for achieving the Pittsburgh Promise, college or job training, and becoming independent members of our community,” said Carey Harris, A+ Schools executive director. “These issues deserve our urgent attention.”

The achievement gap narrowed at all grade levels except third grade. Overall, since the previous school year, the gap narrowed by 0.3 percentage points in math and 1.8 percentage points in reading.

The total gap for the 2009-2010 was 28.7 percent in reading and 27 percent in math. However, at Oliver, Carrick, Brashear, and Westinghouse high schools the gap was greater than 50 percent.

“High schools are very much where our greatest efforts need to be,” said PPS Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. “The results at high schools are still unacceptable.”

Upon announcing his retirement in October, Roosevelt touted the creation of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship as one of his greatest accomplishments. When you look at schools with grades 9-12, disparities between Black and White students exist in their eligibility to take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise.

More than 60 percent of White students were eligible for the scholarship in every high school where White students attended. However the highest percentage of eligible Black students at any school was 52.3, dropping as low as 20.9 percent at Langley High School.

One requirement for eligibility is that students must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. On average 39.9 percent of African-American students meet this requirement as compared to 74.4 percent for White students.

The report also examined differences in achievement at different types of schools. Magnet schools and charter schools had higher percentages of Black students who scored proficient or advanced on PSSA tests.

“Overall, we see progress in schools across the district. We have good examples of district and charter schools that are educating students to high levels,” Harris said. “But there is much more work to be done, especially in our high schools.”

The report states that in comparison to all PPS students, Black PPS students made greater gains. However, the relationship between the increase in dropout rates at many schools and the high percentage of Black males who dropout of high school, might have impacted these numbers. If poor performing Black males are dropping out, they are not being tested with their higher performing counterparts.

Two high schools where the student body is predominantly made up of African-Americans, both above 80 percent, have seen the highest drop in graduation rates. Oliver High School went from 79.7 to 44.7 percent and Westinghouse High School went from 83.2 to 67.6 percent. However, graduation rates at Peabody High School, which is 92.8 percent African-American, rose from 72.2 to 80.5 percent.

The report also examined changes in student enrollment. Despite increases during the 2008-2009 school year, enrollment throughout the district continued to decline during the past school year, reaching its lowest point in four years for all grade levels except K-5.

Last week, A+ Schools mailed their sixth annual report to 20,000 city households with children enrolled in PPS and children ages 5 and under. The report will also be available in local libraries, city schools and at elected officials’ offices, or by calling A+ Schools and can be accessed online at www.aplusschools.org.

Kamala Harris Officially State Attorney General

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By Yussuf Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

After a long-fought and bruising battle to be the state’s top law enforcement official, Kamala Harris has prevailed to become the next attorney general of California. She will be the first woman and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in more than three decades. A career prosecutor, Harris embarked on a campaign that many thought was insurmountable, but she overcame all the obstacles and barriers that were thrown in her path – and like her campaign slogan stated, she is not only “Smart On Crime,” she is smart.

More than three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Sentinel declared victory on behalf of D.A. Harris in the race for state attorney general, amidst a premature victory press conference call by D.A. Steve Cooley. But, apparently the subsequent counting of the mail-ins and absentee ballots forced Cooley to concede, and he did, recently as he trailed by more than 50,000 votes in what was one of the closest statewide races in California history.

His concession means that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will be transitioning to the post of California’s next attorney general. And now California Democrats can claim a clean sweep of California statewide offices in the 2010 midterm elections.

Cooley issued the following statement: "While the margin is extremely narrow and ballots are still being counted, my campaign believes that we cannot make up the current gap in the vote count for Attorney General. Therefore, I am formally conceding the race and congratulate Ms. Harris on becoming California's next Attorney General.”

Congresswoman-elect Karen Bass said, “I think this is a wonderful day for the state of California to have an attorney general who focuses on being smart on crime instead of the policies that we’ve had over the last few decades that relied on incarceration in a disproportionate manner to African Americans.”

Assemblyman Mike Davis, a stalwart in the Harris campaign said, “This was a necessary and wonderful struggle to make California what it ought to be. This is a state of a majority of minority culture and we need to have leadership in the state that reflects the people being served. We had two outstanding candidates, who ran for attorney general; both of whom would provide excellent service. But, the uniqueness of what Kamala Harris brings to the table is to give to California the opportunity to have women, and minorities such as African Americans and Indian Americans to demonstrate their ability to be included in the criminal justice system of California in a significant way.”

Former Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, who himself was the last statewide elected office holder said, “The election of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to the office of California Attorney General is historic. She set an example of running a "smart" campaign by appealing to the public with an intelligent approach, and not demagoguery. She defeated the big money interests of the country, and all Californians could be justly proud of her accomplishments. She will make a great Attorney General.”

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., executive publisher of the Sentinel and Chairman of the NNPA, a strong supporter of Harris was exuberant in hearing the news of her victory: “This is a great day for California and for African Americans. Kamala Harris has demonstrated that she is ready, willing and able to reform the state’s criminal justice system and bring it more in line with the will of the people. Her historic rise from prosecutor to district attorney and now to attorney general is a culmination of her campaign slogan, “Smart on Crime.” She has an innovative approach to fighting crime and has been an advocate for significant changes in current outdated system. She will be an excellent attorney general.”

Chariss Bremond Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, issued the following statement: “California cannot thrive unless its communities are equipped to raise healthy, responsible, productive, and joyous children. The challenges facing California’s urban communities are a major hindrance to the achievement of this goal. While there are a lot of people who claim to be “working on” these issues, there are very few of us who are actually working “in them”. Kamala Harris is one of those people. Her understanding of the need for more prevention, redemption and second chances is keenly tempered by her ability to still effectuate prosecution and ensure the guilty are resolved to appropriate consequences. This is a great day in the State of California because we’ve elected an attorney general that equitably represents the needs of all Californians and can effectively transition those needs into action.”

It is important to note that Wilson Riles was the first Black statewide office holder; he was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1971.

And former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke laid the groundwork for Harris’ victory as she too had run for the office of attorney general of California in 1978.

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