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Caribbean Nation Impose Travel Ban on Visitors from West African States

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

As fears about the spread of the Ebola virus mushroom across the U.S., several Caribbean nations have imposed travel bans on people arriving from West African states where the disease has taken a foothold.

Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis and St. Vincent & the Grenadines have all announced that anyone coming from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia would be denied entry into the respective island-nations and coastal states. Just as important, in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, people who visited those African states within the past six weeks would also not be allowed entry. That’s not all. Trinidadians and Tobagonians who visited the West African states on the list would be quarantined for 21 days when they return home.

At last count, 4,555 persons in affected countries have died from the disease and almost 10,000 were infected according to the World Health Organization in an effort to ward off the presence of the virus in various countries, ministries of health have heightened immigration screening; urged their own citizens to avoid traveling to places where the virus was entrenched; identified specific centers where Ebola carriers could be treated and quarantines; and launched health information campaigns to educate the public about the disease.

“We have to take every possible precaution to not only reassure our citizens, but to protect the country because if we don’t, the damage could be huge,” was the way Dr. Kenny Anthony, Lucia’s Prime Minister explained his government’s decision to impose the travel ban. “We are an extremely small country with limited resources and inexperienced in dealing with a global health crisis.”

In an interview with a Miami newspaper, Dr. Anthony said Caribbean countries must be equally concerned about visitors entering the region from the U.S. and Europe which recorded a few Ebola cases.

“The events in the United States have heightened awareness and reminded us how vulnerable we are,” said Dr. Anthony, one of the Caribbean’s legal luminaries and one of the region’s best known leaders. “We rely principally on tourism, and if, for example, there is any case in St. Lucia that sets off a chain reaction, we are going to be in very serious trouble.”

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Public Health Agency with headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago said the region hadn’t recorded any Ebola cases and Dr. James Hospidales, CARIPHA’s Executive Director said that the likelihood of cases being brought into the Caribbean was low. Still, he added, the region must move aggressively to comply fully with the international health regulations. No Caribbean country was in full compliance, he explained.

The Ebola picture across the Caribbean and Latin America was one of spirited activity to guard against any presence of the virus. For instance:

Colombia is denying visas to anyone who visited the worst affected areas of West Africa.
The Haitian government has asked international agencies to suspend the sending of employees to Haiti of any employees from Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia.
Jamaica had quantized an American at the airport after his arrival. He had visited Liberia two weeks prior to his arrival. Health officials examined him but found him “not to be exhibiting any symptoms of the Ebola virus. He was subsequently released and he returned to the U.S.
The CARIPHA executive director cautioned against travel bans warning they could “give rise to a false sense of security as they do not eliminate the risk” of the virus.
Belize, Caricom’s lone member state in Central America, refused to allow a woman, suspected of having the Ebola virus from disembarking from a cruise ship. The woman, a laboratory technician from Texas may have been in contact with blood samples taken from Eric Duncan, the American citizen who became the first victim of the disease in the U.S. He had traveled to Texas from Liberia where he was infected. Duncan subsequently died. She was eventually cleared of the virus.
Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, said his government had a responsibility to protect its citizens from the disease.

“The countries, need to strengthen their capacities, preparedness and response,” said Dr. Hospidales.

Ebola Drug Safety Tests Raise Ethical Issues as NY Times Commends Cuba

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Special to the NNPA from Global Information Network

Oct. 20 (GIN) – Can you test a promising new Ebola drug by giving it to one sample infected group and giving a deactivated placebo to another? That’s the issue dividing medical experts at a World Health Organization meeting this week in Geneva.

“Is that even ethical? Will workers amid an epidemic be willing to consider getting a placebo? Which villages won’t get the active vaccine? Will the bad roads and overwhelmed medical systems even allow for such a study?” These questions were posed in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

A rigorous vaccine study that would cover anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 subjects would be challenging to say the least in the three affected West African countries.

The issue has moved to the front burner since a drug developed at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center has been proved to block Ebola. “[We] have generated, for the first time, durable protection against a lethal Ebola virus challenge,” the NIH scientists reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

But the next step—a clinical study in the region—presents daunting hurdles. The vaccine needs to be kept at the temperature of dry ice. That means a minus 80-degree centigrade freezer in a part of the world with a spotty power system, notes WSJ reporter Thomas M. Burtos.

Reaching treatment centers in the rural countryside from congested Monrovia could take days. Finally, health care workers might object to taking part in a test if only half of them are getting the actual drug as opposed to the placebo.

Meanwhile, in an unusual turn from its frequently negative Cuba reporting, The New York Times this week sang high praises for the “impressive role” of Cuba in sending close to 500 medical professionals to Sierra Leone.

“Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus,” wrote the paper of record in its leading editorial. “While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.”

Calling it “a shame” that Washington is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the editorial adds that “the schism has life-or-death consequences.” It was an urgent reminder, they wrote, of the need “to move swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba … as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.”

Blacks Expect More from the Hip Hop Artists

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., members of the Black community and independent artists continue to call on mainstream rappers and entertainers to use their visibility to speak out against police brutality affecting young, Black males.

Nearly two months after Ferguson police officers left Brown’s lifeless body in the middle of the street for more than four hours, Ferguson residents continue to call for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the White police officer who shot Brown to death, following a brief altercation, where many eye witnesses said that Brown had his hands up, surrendering, as Wilson continued to fire on the teenager. In recent weeks, two Ferguson police officers have been shot at, one wounded, in separate incidents that law enforcement officials said were unrelated to the ongoing protests over Brown’s death.

Jasiri X, an internationally-known rapper, six-time Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award winner, and community activist, said that the Black community should not only expect mainstream artists to get involved, but that Blacks should also put pressure on them to get involved.

“Most of these artists are young, Black men and they have probably experienced the same racism and police brutality themselves. So when we see something happen to somebody that is basically their peer, we should expect them to say something and get involved,” said Jasiri X. Even though the primary consumers of mainstream rap music are White males, Jasiri X said that artists still have to maintain ties to the Black community to stay relevant.

Jasiri X continued: “It’s young brothers like Michael Brown, like Trayvon Martin, like Jordan Davis that make them hot. You gotta come to the ‘hood for swag.”

Jasiri X, who also co-founded the 1Hood Media Academy, a program that teaches young, Black boys how to analyze and create media said that staying relevant means that you have to speak out for Michael Brown, you have to speak out for Jordan Davis, and you have to speak out for Renisha McBride, the Black woman killed on a Detroit-area porch while seeking help.

Jasiri X said that the Blacks should give credit to artists such as T.I., The Game, Rick Ross, J. Cole, Nelly, Common, David Banner, and Killa Mike for lending their voices to the cause and “for those that didn’t we should ask them why.”

Jasiri X said that, “Next time they tweet about their album or single coming out or a big deal they did with some corporation, we should ask them, ‘Well, why didn’t you tweet about this situation? Why didn’t you tweet ‘Justice for Michael Brown?’”

Kenneth “Mo Skillz” Jones, a local producer, songwriter and motivational speaker from East St. Louis, Ill., released a music video in September in an effort to raise awareness about police brutality and to encourage people to register to vote. The video depicts images of police using excessive force, including footage of a police officer toppling a man sitting in a wheelchair and dragging another man who was handcuffed by his feet. A video clip of Eric Garner on the ground gasping for breath as a Staten Island, N.Y. police officer chokes him to death is also featured. Earlier versions of the Skillz music video were also published to YouTube in August.

Skillz said that many Ferguson residents are still very upset and extremely focused on making a difference.

“And it’s not just the civil rights people,” said Skillz. “It’s also the younger generation as well. I’m not opposed to anyone that’s trying to help get the word out and to keep this alive so that we can actually make a difference to show them mankind is willing to stand against evil.”

Jasiri X, who rapped about mainstream artists being fearful of repercussions from coporate backers if they speak on social issues on a 2012 song titled, “Do We Need to Start a Riot?” expressed frustration that more artists didn’t speak up.

Jasiri X said, “I look at someone like Jamie Foxx. Jamie Foxx stood with Trayvon’s family, he wore Trayvon’s shirt, he’s still in [The Amazing Spiderman 2], he’s still in ‘Annie’, he’s still an A-list actor and celebrity. I mean what are you afraid of?”

Jasiri X also noted that Jay-Z spoke about overcrowded prisons during a concert in California.

Jineea Butler, the founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union, a collective of nearly two dozen Hip-Hop organizations dedicated to promoting civil rights and economic empowerment, said that the Hip-hop community hasn’t done enough in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Butler said that because of how rappers today are handpicked to say nothing and do nothing, we can’t really depend on them to do too much, because they don’t understand the Civil Rights Movement.

Jasiri X said that rap music wasn’t more militant in the early 90s, corporations just hadn’t figured out how to monetize it yet.

When major record labels started pouring millions of dollars into the nascent genre, label executives started pushing certain images of Black men in favor of others, bisecting the genre into underground and mainstream, Jasiri X explained.

Butler argued that “back in the day” artists gained fame and notoriety for the content of their lyrics. Now she feels Hip-Hop is just being used for money.

Butler said that even positive songs from mainstream artists often have a hard time breaking through.

On the popular urban video website WorldstarHipHop.com, page views and clicks give credence to this reality. A version of The Game’s “Don’t Shoot” song featuring Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti and others uploaded August 27 received 370,655 views, while a video uploaded just a week earlier of legendary Hip-Hop producer Dr. Dre performing the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to increase awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease had been viewed 432,954 times by October 4.

Videos on the website featuring street fights often collect millions of views.

Skillz expressed concerns about how easy it is to promote negativity on the airwaves.

“We’ve been focused on things that don’t matter,” said Skillz. “We need to get more involved in what’s really going on in our communities, more than what we’ve done up until this point. I think its happening. You see a lot more youth a lot and more college students being involved in these protests.”

Skillz said that he wants to do free concert in major media markets such as Los Angeles and New York where they register people to vote and drive into their brains the importance of voting on November 4.

Even if you can’t protest in person, Skillz said, everyone can sign one of the petitions online at DontShootMovement.com. One of the petitions calls for prosecutorial reforms and designating the killing of unarmed Blacks by state and local law enforcement officials a hate crime.

“Ultimately, we need to have more of a community spirit,” said Jones. “We can make history by coming together, voting, petitioning and getting more involved in our communities.”

Butler said that Hip-Hop is definitely a part of the new civil rights movement and should play a major role in how Blacks affect change in their communities.

She added: “What everybody needs to know is that Hip-hop has the power, but it’s about who is going to lead and in which direction.”

Black Females Lack Leadership Opportunities

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – While Black girls possess high levels of leadership qualities, they receive the least opportunity to fill these roles throughout their lives, a new report finds.

The study, titled, “Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Educational Equity,” was co-authored by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). It examines barriers to educational success for Black girls, and also takes a brief look at leadership access.

This dearth of girls and women in charge is known as the leadership gap – and for women of color, the gap is a chasm.

Despite having the highest workforce participation rates of all women, Black women hold just 5.3 percent of all managerial and professional positions. In business, Black women occupy only 2 percent of board seats among Fortune 500 companies. In government, there is only one Black woman mayor among the nation’s 100 largest cities, no Black women serving as governor, and only 14 Black women in the House of Representatives. In U.S. history, there has only been one Black woman senator: Carol Moseley Braun (D-Il.), who served from 1993 to 1999.

Pointing to a 2013 Girl Scout survey, the report interestingly finds that Black girls are more likely than Latina and White girls to want to lead; to already consider themselves leaders; to already have had leadership experiences; and to rate themselves highly on “leadership skills.”

“African American girls have higher rates of positive self-esteem, even when confronted with harmful stereotypes,” says Fatima Goss Graves, NWLC vice president for Education and Employment, and co-author of the report. “You have this desire to be a leader and this sense that you are a leader, but when we compare that to reports that show only 12 percent of girls overall participate in student council or student government…there’s a bit of a disconnect there.”

For Black girls, all that leadership potential is threatened as racial and gender stereotypes, discipline practices, and poorly resourced schools collide. According to the report, the assertive qualities many Black girls possess – which make for good leaders – are often perceived as defiance and disruption coming from them; this brings harsher discipline and negative school experiences.

The report also points out that Black girls are rarely steered toward activities and opportunities to be leaders. With sports, for example, Black girls at well-funded schools have similar rates of athletic participation as other girls; but at poorer schools, where Black girls are more likely to be enrolled, their participation rates are lower.

“When differences in schools attended were taken into account, Black and Hispanic adolescent males had higher levels of physical activity than their White peers at the same schools, making it ‘clear that the influence of schools (particularly in prioritizing which sports and activities to fund) affects the genders differentially,’” the report states.

Black girls who play sports are 27 percent more likely to graduate from college than their peers. One piece of research cited found that more than 80 percent of executive businesswomen were athletes in their youth.

“When I saw the data I said, okay, the internal tools are there,” Graves says. “So if [Black girls] have support – from educators, from community members, from family – to show leadership, to be engaged in the sorts of activities that foster leadership, then you’ll have everything connected up.”

Teacher attitudes are a large factor in the gap between Black girls’ potential and Black women’s realities.

“The intersection of racial and gender stereotypes has a significant impact on discipline rates for African American girls, likely due in part to bias in the exercise of discretion by teachers and administrators,” the report reads. “Ultimately, educators’ perceptions of African American young women…undermine[s] their potential for success.”

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union representing public education professionals, has set out to close the leadership gap for all girls.

Last week they released a report based on a survey of nearly 1,000 NEA members. Researchers found that teachers generally hold an “egalitarian” view of leadership and the skills and character it requires. They also see that gender affects their students’ pursuit of leadership roles, with girls tending to seek leadership in English and language spheres (if at all), and boys tending to seek opportunities in sports, STEM, and student government.

The report also uncovered subtle gender bias among these same educators, who were unaware the survey was about gender until the end of it.

“[The finding] suggests that even well-meaning, highly skilled, and deeply committed educators may hold and act on gender stereotypes,” the NEA findings read. “Research shows that even individuals who may express gender-egalitarian beliefs can still hold stereotypical beliefs at an unconscious level, and those unconscious beliefs may influence our behavior more than our explicitly held beliefs simply because we are unaware of them.”

Both reports cite similar recommendations to educators for closing the leadership gap, namely: professional development and training to address teacher bias and attitudes; and increasing girls’ access to extracurricular and opportunities to lead. The NEA’s report also recommends highlighting the achievements and contributions of women throughout the curriculum.

Graves adds that schools will also need to address underlying inequities before the gap can be closed.

“A lot of our research revealed troubling things that are happening in schools, things like excessive discipline, inappropriate responses that were affecting student learning time, things like unaddressed harassment and treatment of young moms,” she says. “At the same time as schools are thinking and focusing on fostering opportunity and fostering leadership with an eye toward girls of color – which I think is fantastic – they have to be looking at ensuring that they’re addressing some of the negative factors going on as well.”

Black Men Show Job Gain

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The unemployment rate for Blacks fell from 11.4 percent to 11 percent and the labor force participation increased from 61 percent in August to 61.7 percent in September, largely because of short-term gains made by Black men, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department.

Even though the unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years old increased from 10.8 percent to 11 percent last month, the share of Black men that were employed or looking for work (labor force participation rate) also increased from 67.3 percent in August to 68.5 percent in September. The only worker group that saw its labor force participation rate increase last month was Black men. Economists often say that people return to the workforce, as they grow more optimistic about their job prospects.

Although the unemployment rate for White men over 20 years old fell from 4.8 in August to 4.4 percent in September, the labor force rate for that worker group also ticked down from 72.2 percent in August to 71.9 percent last month.

The jobless rate for Black women over 20 years old plummeted a full percentage point from 10.6 percent in August to 9.6 percent in September. The unemployment rate for White women remained flat at 4.8 percent. There were slightly less Black and White women employed or looking for work in September than the previous month.

The national unemployment rate hit a six-year low last month, falling from 6.1 percent in August to 5.9 percent in September and more than 200,000 jobs were added to the economy.

As some economists cheered September’s jobs numbers, in a blog post on the Economic Policy Institute’s website, Elise Gould, a senior economist and director of health and policy research at EPI, pointed out that the national labor force participation rate was 62.7 percent, the lowest participation rate recorded since February 1978.

“And, the biggest drop in labor force participation was among prime-age workers, 25-54 years old,” said Gould.

In a separate blog post, Gould said that public sector employment gained 12,000 jobs, most of it coming in local government education (6,700). Any increases in K-12 education jobs greatly benefits White women who hold the lion’s share of teaching positions at that level.

The economy added 236,000 jobs in September and revisions to Labor Department numbers in July and August accounted for an additional 69,000 jobs.

During a speech at a steel plant in Princeton, Ind., President Barack Obama praised the slowly improving economy while noting that, “too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.”

President Obama said that increasing the minimum wage is one of the best ways to grow jobs and wages in America.

“It’s time to stop punishing some of the hardest-working Americans.  It’s time to raise the minimum wage.  It would put more money in workers’ pockets.  It would help 28 million Americans. Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to $10.10 an hour,” said President Obama. “The folks who keep blocking a minimum wage increase are running out of excuses.”

Raising the minimum wage would disproportionately benefit Blacks, who hold low-wage jobs at higher rates than their total share of the workforce.

As Blacks continue to struggle with double-digit unemployment, some economists believe that Blacks are being left behind during the economic recovery.

“Rather than just reading about our recovery in a headline, more people will feel it in their own lives.  And that’s when America does best,” said President Obama. “ We do better when the middle class does better, and when more Americans have their way to climb into the middle class.”

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BVN National News Wire