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CBC Says Newly-Elected Black Republicans Will Be Welcomed

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By Zenitha Prince, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers (DC) –

Election Day victories for two Black Republicans raise a rare question in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 112th Congress: How will two African-American members of the Grand Old Party interact with the Congressional Black Caucus?

Fourteen Black Republicans ran for Congress in the Nov. 2 mid-term elections but, after all the votes were counted, only Tim Scott, a South Carolina businessman, and Allen West, a Florida-based Army veteran of the Iraq War, will take seats. They are the first African-American Republicans to be elected to Congress since 1995.

In an e-mailed statement to the AFRO CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said unequivocally, “Should either of the two African American Republicans recently elected to the House of Representatives request membership in the Congressional Black Caucus they will be welcomed.”

The decision reflected the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of AFRO.com poll voters, who said the men should be admitted.

So far, West has said he wants to be part of the CBC, while Scott is still undecided and is leaning toward not participating.

“It’s really heartening to see this type of diversity demonstrated in African-American representation,” NAACP Washington Bureau Chief Hilary Shelton said. “[Republican Party Chairman] Michael Steele deserves credit for seeing more African Americans seeking office under the Republican banner.”

He added, “They could be a real asset to the strategy of passing legislation in the House and in advancing the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus] agenda ... It’s very difficult to get things through without the cooperation of Democrats and Republicans.”

Not everyone is as sure about the Republican freshmen’s value to the CBC, which was created in 1969 as a Capitol Hill advocate for the nation’s African Americans. While membership is open to all African-American lawmakers, its members have been overwhelmingly Democrats, with only Republicans Melvin Evans, of the Virgin Islands, and Gary Franks, of Connecticut, ever becoming CBC members. Though invited, J.C. Watts, a Black Republican who represented Oklahoma from 1995 to 2003, declined membership. Sen. Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican who served in the Senate from 1967 through 1979, was not publicly invited and refused to join a CBC boycott of President Richard Nixon’s State of the Union address in 1971 although he criticized the Nixon administration’s approach to the Black community and civil rights.

“The name of the group is not the Congressional Black Democratic Caucus, it’s the Black Caucus. [And] if they go back to their founding principles then these two men should be welcomed with open arms,” said Black Republican political strategist Raynard Jackson. But, he predicted, even though West and Scott have been invited, “this group will make a hostile environment for another Black [Republican] based on them not being compatible in their philosophical leaning.”

Echoing statements by Chairwoman Lee in an Oct. 22 article in The Economist, Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards told the AFRO, “If they’re aligned with the interests of working people, particularly African-Americans, who struggle and they want to work with us to advance those interests," they would be a good addition to the caucus. But, she added, “what I know of them and their agendas, it is difficult for me to see how that would work [though] it might make for some interesting discussions.”

Backed by the national tea party and elected to office by mostly White voters, Scott and West have decidedly conservative agendas, including limited government, lowered taxes, and cuts in government spending. Jackson said that, even among GOP ranks, the men are considered to be far, far right of center, making them almost incompatible with the mostly liberal members of the CBC.

“These boys are crazy; they’re tea party people,” Jackson told the AFRO. “I’ve had White people calling me up saying these guys are extremely conservative and so far out of the mainstream. Can you see them talking with Maxine Waters? I’d like to be a fly on the wall.”? But, he added, “If I were them, I’d join just to push the issue.”

West, in a Politico interview, indicated his interest in joining the CBC. “That has been a monolithic voice in the body politic for far too long. There is a growing conservative Black voice in this country,” that needs to be heard, West told the publication.

Scott, on the other hand, told Politico he is less willing to join, pointing to his experience in the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus and the dissonance between him and Black Democrats.

Though White Republicans are excited by these two additions to the House, saying their victories signal a potential increase in the number of Black conservatives, the new additions will not incite more Blacks to join the party “if they’re saying the same thing White conservatives are saying," Jackson said. "It’s not the messenger; it’s the message. You can’t send a Black to say the same things Pat Buchanan says."

“In a lot of ways,” Jackson added, “it would be better not to have these guys in these positions because it gives the White folks in the party a way out” of having to create real change, “especially if they [Scott and West] have no real power.”

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."

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