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Anti-Muslim Attacks At Minnesota Public Schools Reported

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to look into possible civil rights violations at two Minnesota public schools, after a group based in St. Paul filed complaints against the two districts.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed the complaints in March, saying Somali and Muslim students were harassed about their race and religion.

These included name-calling, vulgar language, derisive comments about Muslim traditions and obscene gestures, threats on Facebook and the refusal of a school bus driver in St. Cloud to pick up Muslim students at bus stops.

Taneeza Islam, civil rights director for CAIR, a Muslim advocacy organization, said the organization is pleased that a neutral body will look into its complaints.

Meanwhile, a St. Cloud Baptist minister is defending himself against charges of racism after he placed an ad in a newspaper claiming that “when Muslims take over a nation they will destroy the constitution, force Islam on society, take freedom of religion away, and persecute all other religions.”

In a radio interview, the Rev. Dennis Campbell of Granite City Baptist Church insisted he was not racist and his ad was misjudged. Other religious leaders condemned the ad as fearmongering, shocking and untrue.

Advocates Blast BP for Major Disaster, Demand More Accountability

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By Jesse Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

(NNPA) - The deepening crisis in the Gulf Coast caused President Barack Obama to amend his Memorial Day weekend plans; plus make several trips to the disaster area. He landed in Louisiana to tour the devastation amid frustrated complaints that his administration has responded too slowly and has been weak in its pressure on British Petroleum (BP) to halt what is being called the largest oil spill in the nation's history.

“We expect that frustration and anger to continue until we solve the problem,''said President Obama during his May 28 speech at Grand Isle. He still was unsure whether the “top kill” method will halt the ecological disaster.

The visit was the president's second trip to the region since BP's offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded over a month ago on April 20, killing 11 and triggering a massive oil spill. It is estimated that this oil spill has surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989.

According to the White House, the purpose of the trip was for the president to meet with local officials and hear their ideas. But this crisis has some analysts zeroing in on what they call a systemic history of corporate criminal behavior and negligence by government to fully hold these companies accountable.

“BP is a habitual criminal offender and cannot be trusted. The fact they were even allowed to manage this oil spill up to this point in the Gulf is horrendous. The company has one of the worst track records of any oil company operating in America,” Tyson Slocum, energy policy program director of the progressive group Public Citizen, told The Final Call.

At Final Call press time, a BP press release reported that the cost of the response as of May 28 was about $930 million, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.The company says that 26,000 claims have been filed and 11,650 payments have already been made and over 96,000 calls have been made to the help line. Experts have estimated that the rate of oil spill into the Gulf could reach as high as4.2 million gallons (100,000 barrels) a day.

“We cannot let bureaucracy and red tape delay our action while oil hits our wetlands week after week,” said Louisiana Gov.Bobby Jindal. “More than 100 miles of our shoreline has been impacted by the oil spill. That is more than the entire sea coastline of Mississippi and Alabama combined,” said Gov. Jindal.

BP officials have said the company “will pay all necessary response costs and is committed to paying legitimate claims for other loss and/or damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident.”

“The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I'm concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy,” said President Obama at a May 27 press conference.

President Obama alsoordered a halt to drilling operations at all 33 deep-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for six months or until a commission completes its task. Rigs that are alreadydrillingwill have to stop and others that were preparing to drill will have to stop those preparations.

According to the U.S. State Dept., some 17 countries have offered assistance, including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Croatia, France, Germany,Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, theUnited Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. But no approval has been made by the U.S.

Lack of corporate transparency

“BP is as transparent as oil about the disaster. BP has consistently misled the public about how much oil is gushing from the well. BP must be held accountable and should be subject to permanent sanctions and criminal charges against executives,” said Slocum of Public Citizen.

"It is clear that Obama's administration responded too slowly. He needs to fire BP and put this under full federal control. The solutions to this are difficult but he made a mistake entrusting BP with handling this,” he continued.

In a letter to BP, Rep.Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.) and Rep.Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said company investigators failed to keep lawmakers thoroughly informed in a series of briefings about the company's abrupt decision to use a type of drill casing that was prone to cause more leaks.

“This raises the possibility that BP's internal investigation is not examining the consequences of BP's own decisions and conduct,” the two lawmakers said in the letter. Waxman chairs the Energy Committee and Stupak is chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“Mounting evidence shows that BP was negligent. Firsthand accounts describe BP managers proceeding with work to cap the well, even though they were informed that the integrity of the blowout preventer had been compromised,” said Slocum.

Corporate Gangsters on Capitol Hill

Public Citizen and other progressive groups have been beating the drum for decades about the free ride corporations get when it comes to being held responsible for acts that cause physical, economical and environmental damage.

Slocum believes the government is unjust in its prosecution of corporations and executives when compared to actions taken against everyday citizens.

“We should have seen it coming. BP was under criminal probation at the time of the disaster for felony violation of U.S. environmental laws. The government needs to think about the way it punishes corporations because we treat individual offenders harsher than we do these corporate criminals,” said Slocum.

According to research by Public Citizen, in just the last few years, BP has pled guilty to two crimes and paid over $730 million in fines and settlements to the federal government, state governments andin civil lawsuit judgments for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules, and penalties for manipulating energy markets.

BP paid the two largest fines in OSHA history—$87.43 millionand$21.36 million—for negligence that led to the deaths of 15 workers and injured 170 others in a March 2005 refinery explosion in Texas, according to data compiled by Public Citizen.

“The American people should be very concerned and outraged that these corporate criminals keep getting away with these crimes with only fees. The government needs to start punishing them by putting executives in handcuffs,” said Slocum.

Although BP has vowed to cover all related costs due to the spill, federal law currently caps oil companies' liability at $75 million per spill. Democrats want to raise the cap to $10 billion.

“I don't think BP's words are anything to rely upon,” said Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). “By lifting the cap unlimitedly, whoever is determined to be beyond BP, the responsible party, will also be held responsible,” said Menendez.

“In any case, cash compensation for economic harms caused—while necessary—doesn't bring back destroyed ecosystems and does little to mitigate the company's culpability for not preventing the blowout in the first place,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

“BP needs more than just a financial slap on the wrist, which is what it will get if the $75 million liability cap remains in place. These oil companies are allowed to destroy people's lives and murder workers. That's a slap in the face to the American people,” said Slocum.

According to its annual report, BP made a profit of $17 billion last year, onrevenue of $246 billion. First quarter profits in 2010 were over $6 billion. Based upon data collected by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, BP has positioned itself to combat the foreseen scrutiny from this spill by financially backing U.S. lawmakers and keeping a strong lobbying arm intact.

An online report posted on the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site shows that during the 2008 election cycle, individuals and political action committees associated with BP contributed half a million dollars to federal candidates—40 percent being Democrats. President Obama was reported to be the top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 cycle with $71,000 collected.

The center also says BP handed out $16 million to lobby and influence legislation in 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, BP had already spent over $3.5 million on lobbying efforts in D.C., trailing only ConocoPhillips in the top oil and gas interest groups. The entire oil and gas industry reported $169 million in total lobbying expenditures in 2009.

BP was instrumental in lobbying for the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, which allows increased oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, in areas closer to shore than current law allows. The company also lobbied for the Oil Spill Prevention Act of 2009 and the Clean Water Restoration Act, according the Center.

Phone calls made to BP were not returned.

Environmental damage and future problems

With globs of thick, gooey petroleum balls washing ashore along the south Louisiana coast, marine biologists are beginning to prepare studies to monitor how the spill will impact the gulf longterm. Scientists are expecting a lot of animals and plant life to die.

“We're in uncharted territory,” said Steve Murawski, an adviser with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He's helping to assess the damage caused by the spill.

“The federal response to protect our marshes is a failure,” said Sen.David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana. “Just look at their response to our emergency dredging barrier island plan—weeks of foot-dragging before approving two percent of it so they can study it further over more precious weeks and months.”

The oil spill has nearly crippled the normal shrimping season which has been largely brought to a halt due to government-ordered closures. According to a news report, several restaurants in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have already sued BP and its partners.

Public Citizen wants to send a clear message to BP by calling on the American people to boycott its gas and retail store products. “Don't spend a cent of your hard-earned money to feed the bottom line of the corporation responsible for the worst oil spill in our nation's history,” the group urges.

They launched an online Beyond BP petition and have gathered over 14,000 signatures of support from those who have pledged to boycott the oil giant.

Said Slocum, “Government regulators should have protected us as citizens but they didn't. So this is a peaceful way of channeling our anger. We want to hit BP in the pocketbook. People should be concerned about the practices of these convicted corporate criminals."

Talk Show Host Glenn Beck Mocks Obama's Daughter, Apologizes

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

(NNPA) - Fox News personality and conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has apologized for mocking Malia Obama in a pretend conversation on his radio show.

Beck said he was trying to explain how President Obama uses his children to deflect media criticism, and said he took it too far.

“In discussing how President Obama uses children to shield himself from criticism, I broke my own rule about leaving kids out of political debates,” Beck wrote on his Web site. “The children of public figures should be left on the sidelines. It was a stupid mistake and I apologize—and as a dad I should have known better.”

According to CNN, in a recent press conference discussing the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama noted that Malia asked him if he’d plugged the hole yet. Beck used that as fodder for his show as he mocked her voice in repeating that and a series of other questions.

"... That's the level of their education, that they're coming to—they're coming to daddy and saying ‘Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?’ Plug the hole!” Beck said at one point, according to CNN.

Since then, he’s been criticized by a number of media watchers, including the hosts of the daytime talk show, “The View” and Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post.

“This was a really low-blow on Glenn Beck’s part,” Kurtz said on the entertainment news show, “Inside Edition.” “To use an 11-year-old girl -- to drag her into the political crossfire…when he said it, it was wrong and it’s something that should never be done with kids.”

Dispersants Add to Gulf Spill's Toxic Threats

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By Susan Buchanan, Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

NEW ORLEANS (NNPA) - The Obama Administration has started to rein in BP's use of dispersants to break up spilled oil while a toxic stew swirls off Louisiana's coast, threatening marine life and human health.

More than a month after BP's oil-rig explosion on April 20, over 800,000 gallons of dispersants had been applied to Gulf waters, including 100,000 gallons that were injected underwater. Helicopters distribute the chemical cleaners, or deodorized kerosene, on the ocean's surface, while robots dispense them deep in water.

After the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency let BP use dispersants because they were seen as "the lesser of two evils," said Ronald Kendall, director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) in Lubbock, Texas. Dispersants break oil into small droplets more quickly than ocean waves do, but they can also widen the area of the spill. Using them is "a tradeoff between, on the one hand attempting to keep oil from the shore by dispersing it, and on the other, injecting the ocean with chemicals," he said. Dispersants have never been applied in the quantities that BP is using them in the Gulf, he noted.

The EPA on May 10 authorized BP to use two dispersants-COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT EC9527A, distributed by the Tennessee and Texas units of Nalco Co. in Illinois. BP had already applied those products at the spill site for nearly two weeks. As concerns about COREXIT grew, however, the EPA asked BP on May 19 to find a less-toxic dispersant within 24 hours, and to start using its replacement in 72 hours. BP answered that it wanted to stick with COREXIT.

Frustrated EPA and Coast Guard officials said the company's response was inadequate, and told BP to start reducing its use of surface dispersants. But in a decision questioned by some scientists, officials said BP's subsea or underwater dispersant use, authorized in mid-May, could continue.

The EPA and the Coast Guard now say they will call the shots about BP's dispersant use and that COREXIT applications could be scaled back by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent. COREXIT is not the best possible choice for combating the Gulf spill, according to experts, who question why BP first selected and then asked to stick with the dispersant. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC, pointed to corporate ties between BP and Nalco as possibly contributing to the decision to use COREXIT. Nalco board member, Rodney Chase, worked for BP for 38 years.

For its part, BP continues to say that large quantities of COREXIT are readily available and that Nalco can deliver as much as 75,000 gallons per day indefinitely.

Coastal experts worried about the ecosystem have sifted through past evidence about COREXIT and other dispersants. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, a version of COREXIT was used, but abandoned when weak wave action made it ineffective. And in the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, some dispersants were applied before hay turned out to be a better solution. Oil-coated clumps of hay spread by boat washed ashore, and were hauled away by dump trucks.

Weeks into BP's Gulf spill, scientists questioned the company's decision to use dispersants on a wide scale and in particular its choice of COREXIT. On its own, COREXIT 9500 can be four times as toxic as oil, according to product evaluations. And of 18 dispersants approved earlier by EPA, twelve were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than COREXIT, EPA data show.

Kendall said he was very concerned that EPA hadn't assessed risks to the Gulf earlier from BP's massive dispersant use. And in contrast with EPA statements, he is particularly worried about underwater injections. "LC 50 studies have shown that COREXIT is toxic to young marine and other aquatic life," he noted. In toxicology language, a Lethal Concentration 50 rating means that a chemical can kill at least 50 percent of a sample population.

Marianne Cufone, fish program director at Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC, said "COREXIT in studies was shown to be twice as harmful to shrimp as an alternate dispersant called Dispersit," produced by Polychemical Corp. in New York. That's problematic for the huge Gulf shrimp industry, she noted. Meanwhile, according to test results compiled by the EPA, seven alternative dispersants are less toxic to shrimp than COREXIT and at least 14 alternatives are less toxic to fish.

Cufone noted that Dispersit is about twice as effective in breaking oil down as COREXIT and is also far less toxic.

If dispersants must be used in the Gulf spill, choosing the right one makes a big difference because "the dose makes the poison," Kendall said "We're watching the biggest ecological, toxicology experiment in our nation's history," he stated. "Underwater pools of oil have formed that are 20 miles long. And the mixture of chemicals-oil, dispersants and residue from setting oil on fire-presents new threats to the sea bottom, the shore, marshes and the air."

Randy Lanctot, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Fed?eration, worries that dispersants are being used too close to the coast. "Dispersants are not supposed to be applied from aircraft within three miles of land, according to Coast Guard protocol." But he said "I'm not sure that rule is being precisely followed with respect to the barrier islands that are havens for shore and seabirds. Because of the proximity of birds and other wildlife, dispersants should not, in my opinion, be applied landward of these barriers, and they shouldn't be applied within three miles seaward either." He added "wetting birds with dispersants may put their survival at risk."

Andy Nyman, associate professor of Wetland Wildlife Manage?ment at Louisiana State University, said marsh food chains, starting with micro organisms and moving up to herbivores and carnivores, are often altered by an influx of oil or oily dispersants. Oil and dispersed oil can pass under containment booms, he noted. While fishermen usually don't enter marsh grasses, fish larva and young marine organisms spend their first few months of life there, he noted.

Moreover, findings from Dr. Nyman's experiments appear to contradict BP's reasoning that it's better to use dispersants to protect the coast than to allow oil to break up on its own.

An experiment conducted in the late 1990's by Nyman and other LSU researchers on soil from many of the state's tidal freshwater marshes found that dispersants mixed with oil reaching marsh soils were more toxic to fish, crustaceans and benthic invertebrates than undispersed oil for months after arriving in the soil. Benthic invertebrates are small, growing organisms that live at the bottom of the marsh.

Nyman said "it appeared in our experiments that COREXIT 9500 was toxic to microbes in the marsh soil that eat the oil." And in another experiment with salt marsh soils, Dr. Nyman found that dispersed oil biodegrades, or was eaten by oil microbes, much more slowly than non-dispersed oil.

Based on recent reports likening them to dish detergent and shampoo, dispersants might be viewed as safe to handle. But Kendall warns "for humans, dispersants contain solvents, so you don't want to touch them." A solvent is a substance capable of dissolving another substance. Solvents can be carcinogens, and touching, much less ingesting them, threatens the central nervous system, along with the heart, liver and kidneys. Inhaling solvent vapors can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

The mix of chemicals at the BP spill site explains why the company requires fishermen under its Vessels of Opportunity program and others employed for cleanup to have HazMat training.

A concoction of oil and dispersants is already hovering over corral beds, like the Pinnacles south of Louisiana. And Kendall said the mixture is getting into the Loop Current, which heads to south Florida-where ancient corral reefs could be devastated. With hurricane season approaching, the presence of chemicals in Gulf Coast waters frightens him. Winds from a big storm will push the dispersed oil mixture around, and that could be catastrophic for the salt-and-fresh or brackish-water balance of Lake Pontchartrain, he warned. The lake has only recently been judged safe again for swimming after industrial and farm waste was brought under control.

"Given the size of the Gulf spill, we need to try everything that's environmentally sound to get rid of the oil and the added chemicals," Kendall said. Texas Tech Univer?sity, he noted, developed Fibertect, a product with an activated, carbon core between layers of non-woven cotton that can be used in containment booms and to clean wildlife. He said a marketing firm has explained Fibertect's several applications to BP.

Lanctot said the use of "dispersants in the Gulf is a huge, unplanned and not very well-controlled experiment." He added that it's anybody's guess how dispersants will effect the Gulf ecosystem as it tries to recover after the oil well is plugged.

Meanwhile, the price of Nalco stock rallied in early May after BP said it was using two forms of COREXIT, Cufone noted. Shares swiftly retreated however, after the EPA expressed its concern about using the company's products in the Gulf.

Black-White Marriages Drastically Increase Over Last Three Decades

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By Gregory Dale, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

(NNPA) - While the trend of interracial marriages between Whites and American-born Asians, and Whites and Hispanics has slowed over the years, Blacks are more likely than before to marry whites, according to new census data.

The latest census reveals that the number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has increased by 20 percent since 2000 to nearly 4.5 million, according to the Associated Press. While the overall number of interracial marriages is still rising, the pace of that increase has slowed from the 65 percent increase seen between 1990 and 2000. Interracial marriages now account for 8 percent of all U.S. marriages, up from 7 percent in 2000.

According to the data, Blacks are now three times more likely to marry Whites than in 1980. Nearly 14.4 percent of Black men and 6.5 percent of Black women are in interracial marriages.

Experts attribute the number to a more racially integrated military, higher educational attainment and a rising Black middle class that offers more interaction with other races.

Despite the increase, there are still Blacks that would traditionally feel more comfortable only marrying inside their race.

“I would consider dating outside my race but I probably would stay inside because of fewer complications on [my partner’s] family not accepting me,” said Courtney Gamble, a 22-year-old African-American student at Rutgers University. “I might date outside my race but I would [definitely] marry inside my race.”

However, American-born Asians and Hispanics have increasingly married members of their own races over the last decade, according to the census data.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S.-born Asians marry Whites--a number that has not changed since 1980. But their likelihood of marrying Asian immigrants has multiplied 3 times for men and 5 times for women, to nearly 20 percent.

U.S.-born Hispanics saw a small increase in their likelihood to marry Whites, which grew from 30 percent in 1980 to 38 percent today. But their likelihood of marrying foreign-born Hispanic immigrants has doubled, to 12.5 percent for men and 17.1 percent for women.

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