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Blacks Failing the Grade in Military Testing

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Blacks More Likely to Flunk Entry Standard

By Sommer Brokaw, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

The achievement gap is affecting not only African-Americans’ college and career goals on the civilian side, but also their ability to join and move up in the military.

The Education Trust, a Washington-based education research and advocacy organization, released the report “Shut Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for the Army” last December.

The report is based on a sample of 350,000 high school graduates from 2004-09 who took the Army’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test that assesses candidates’ aptitude for enlistment. Four subgroups make up the test: math knowledge, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension.

According to the national report, 23 percent of test takers failed to achieve at least 31 out of 99 percentile score - the minimum qualifying score. More than twice as many Blacks as White applicants failed to qualify. Those that do often have lower scores, which could exclude them from higher-level training.

Other branches such as the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard have higher qualifying scores. Those scoring 50 and higher on the AFQT are eligible for Army incentive programs like college repayment programs and the Army College Fund, a monetary incentive that increases the value of the G.I. Bill benefits.

In N.C., 35.7 percent of 4,824 Black applicants are ineligible based on ASVAB scores compared to 15.3 percent of 6,450 white applicants.

“The fact that they’ve met the graduation requirements of high school, four years of English, three years of math, at least two years of science and social studies but can’t pass this test is disappointing,” said Christina Theokas, director of research at The Education Trust. “That suggests to me our high schools need to think differently about how they’re preparing kids, the rigor of classes, and courses for students to be prepared for that option in the military. A lot of people think that the military is an open access employer for them, that it’s that second chance, but the military is a selective employer.”

End-of-grade and end-of-course tests in N.C. public schools also show an academic gap between Black and White students. In 2008-09, 43.6 percent of Blacks in grades three to eight passed the EOG math and reading tests compared to 76.7 percent of Whites.

“I think we see those gaps in the National Assessment of Education Progress or state standardized achievement tests,” Theokas said. “We’re seeing it reflected here as well with national scores or across most states, you see those disparities jumping out at you.”

The Education Trust study defies the myth that academically unprepared students can always find a place to shape up in the military. Staff Sgt. Desmont Upchurch, a California military recruiter and Durham native, said Blacks and other minorities are hardest hit by perpetuating this myth because they are mostly likely to fail the test.

He added he would like to set up a tutoring program in Durham Public Schools to tutor young minorities who are failing the test at disproportionate rates, because they are missing out on what the military has to offer like college tuition assistance.

Eileen Lainez, office of the assistant secretary of defense at the Department of Defense, said in an emailed response that recruiting is always a challenge. Entrance standards are stringent, and just 25 percent of American youth qualify for enlistment in the military.

“We should not lose sight of the fact that, although the overall youth population is large, a relatively small proportion of American youth is qualified to enlist,” said Dr. Curtis Gilroy, director of accession policy for the Department of Defense in a 2009 statement to the House Armed Services Committee. “It is an unfortunate fact that much of the contemporary youth population is currently ineligible to serve.

“For example, about 35 percent are medically disqualified (with obesity a large contributing factor), 18 percent have problems with drugs or alcohol, 5 percent have some level of criminal misbehavior, 6 percent have more dependents than can reliably be accommodated in the early career, and 9 percent are in the lowest aptitude category. Another 10 percent are qualified but are attending college. That leaves fewer than 5 million – or about 15 percent of the roughly 31 million youth ages 17-24 – who are available to recruit.”

Farrakhan Addresses Attack on Libya, Warns of Catastrophe Headed for America

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By Richard B. Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) - America is facing a major earthquake as part of God's divine judgment against the country for her evil, warned the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan during a recent press conference at the Nation of Islam's flagship Mosque Maryam.

The Minister called the news conference to address this upcoming major catastrophe, U.S. policy in the Middle East and military attacks on Libya. He again condemned U.S. and Western military action against Libya and warned the president about politically-motivated “tricks” from interest groups and advisors that could lead to Mr. Obama's disgrace and ruin.

The bombing of Libya has ended hope in Africa and in the Middle East that President Obama would usher in a different type of U.S. policy and hurt the president's popularity, he said. Satanic advisers have shifted the president away from a moral position and into a dangerous one, he warned.

Gadhafi has been hated by America for his revolutionary ideology and stand against imperialistic exploitation of poor nations, the Minister said.

While Americans are losing their homes and have no health care, Libyans have been given free health care, free education, and free housing, Farrakhan noted. Oil money was also used to build hospitals and a major water project stretching from the Sahara Desert almost to Tunisia, he added. While Libya was the poorest country in the world in the 1950s, its current income is double that of Egypt and the highest in Africa, said Farrakhan.

Libya's revolutionary leader has spent billions in Africa and helped oppressed peoples are the world, he said.

The western image of Gadhafi doesn't fit what I know about him and his history, he continued.

The Libyan leader who has supported the Nation of Islam with loans for purchasing its headquarters, starting the POWER economic program, and opened doors to relations with African leaders is not a mad dog or the ugly person depicted by America, he said.

America has supported dictators around the world and already has CIA agents in Libya according to media reports, noted Farrakhan.

The United States will suffer grave loss and massive death as God's chastisement strikes the country and steadily increases, Farrakhan said. The losses and divine chastisement are God's punishment of America for evils done to Blacks in America, who are his chosen people today, said the Nation of Islam leader.

"My teacher was not only a messenger but a warner to you (Blacks) and America and the nations of the earth. He knew what was coming and put it in Muhammad Speaks and in the minds of his ministers," said Farrakhan.

Muhammad taugh that America would suffer four great judgments from God--the judgments of rain, hail, snow and earthquake, the Minister said.

Elijah Muhammad was a Moses speaking to a modern pharaoh saying let Black people go and I am his Aaron, said Farrakhan. I am a man you will have to deal with and you cannot deal with me as you have ordinary Negroes and you won't be able to kill me, he said.

"I love Muammar Gadhafi and I love our president. It grieves me to see my brother president set a policy that would remove this man, not just from office, but from the earth," Farrakhan said.

Will Congressional Black Caucus, Black Leaders Stick with Obama?

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

A year ago when President Barack Obama signed the landmark legislation known as the Healthcare Reform Act, he said, "At this moment, we are being called upon to fulfill our duty to the citizens of this nation and to future generations... I don't know how passing health care will play politically, but I do know that it's the right thing to do. I t's right for our families. It's right for our businesses. It's right for the United States of America."

That was a milestone and since then, many state's attorney generals have challenged its constitutionality. However, California's Attorney-general Kamala Harris has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit strongly asserting the legality of federal health care reform and urging the court to uphold the law stating, "The law strikes an appropriate--and constitutional--balance between national requirements that will expand access to affordable healthcare while providing States with flexibility to design programs that achieve that goal for their citizens," according to the amicus brief states.

In addition, since President Obama came into office, he has been dogged by chronic unemployment and a faltering economy when he inherited from his predecessor. The effects of those twins of national disaster have reportedly been on a rollercoaster ride, according to many economists.

However, the disastrous effects can also be readily seen through the experiences of the average American and especially Black Americans. Massive foreclosures, joblessness, unprecedented homeless, high consumer prices added to the aforementioned have lowered the standard of living and quality of life for a large segment of Americans.

Now comes war--another unprovoked military entanglement--in addition to the two that the President inherited that at present seem unwinnable and an inability to be extricated from. And, that is exacerbating most of what is ailing the country--economically and otherwise.

Some statistics: 46 of the 50 states are operating 'in the red' and cannot expect any assistance from the federal government, which is also operating 'in the red'; one of the generals, reported to the Defense Budget Committee that the recent military engagement has cost approximately half a billion dollars; recovery from disasters such as Hurricane Katrina (more than five years ago), the more recent BP oil spill, and recoveries from the mid-western and eastern seaboard weather-relative tragedies, just to name a few, have been stalled at the expense of military expenditures.

The light at the end of the tunnel appears to be the support that President Obama has received especially from members of his own party even though they are the minority in the House (of Representatives); but the slim majority that he enjoys in the (U.S.) Senate often acts as a buffer to counteract the GOP majority in the House.

For example, during floor debate on the Republican legislation to repeal health care reform earlier this year, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said in part, "I'm proud to join my Democratic colleagues on the floor this afternoon to state our unequivocal stance against health care reform repeal. The landmark health reform law takes a stand against the health care disparities that exist for low-income Americans, people of color, and people with pre-existing conditions.... I implore my Republican colleagues to work with us to strengthen the law, make it better, and provide health care and jobs to millions of Americans."

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) released the following statement marking the anniversary of the Health Care Act: "One year ago, history was made when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. On this important anniversary, there is certainly much to celebrate. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans are far better off now than they were a year ago. More Americans have increased access to quality health care than ever before, as well as improved coverage, more control and fewer obstacles to receiving the care they need...."

In an op-ed, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) stated: "This week will mark one year since the Health Care Reform bill was enacted, making quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. Before President Obama, before this legislation, we were the only modern industrialized nation in the world to lack any kind of comprehensive system ensuring that its citizens had access to basic medical care. Now we are headed towards a future where Americans of every economic level can afford basic health insurance...."

The plaudits for the President came from throughout the nation as Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) reiterated his continued support of the act that was designed to provide quality and affordable health care for all Americans: "The Affordable Care for America Act has the same monumental significance that Medicare and Medicaid has had for all Americans," Thompson said. "The Affordable Care Act has extended health coverage to more than 32 million Americans by providing security for seniors, guaranteeing health insurance coverage for the uninsured, and making health care more affordable for middle class families...." Thompson maintains that the law is highly beneficial.

But, the light at the end of the tunnel dimmed somewhat as some of the President's supporters, though standing shoulder to shoulder with him, questioned the value of him sending America's military once again into battle. Thus far, many have proceeded cautiously.

Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) of the Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement on his recent address to the nation: "As an ordained minister, I am an advocate of the seven principles of a just war which are not, in my opinion, theologically present in the military policy relating to Libya. As a Member of Congress, however; I can understand the position that President Obama was in to protect the Libyan people in order to prevent a potential genocide. I am pleased that NATO will take control of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone on Wednesday, and equally pleased that the United States will take a supporting role in this effort. We cannot afford another Iraq or Afghanistan and I firmly believe that the President fully understands that."

Anti-abortion Billboard in Washington Park Aimed at African-Americans

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

During a press conference in Washington Park last week, a Black Texas minister announced he was starting an anti-abortion campaign aimed directly at the African American community.

Rev. Stephen Broden, pastor of Fair Park Bible Fellowship Church, said he is placing the billboards in Black communities across the nation in an attempt to draw attention to high abortion rates within the community. His first billboard in Chicago went up in the 5800 block of South State Street. Broden had billboards in New York City, but they were taken down after controversy ensued.

That could also be the fate in Chicago as several people the Crusader spoke with said they did not approve of the image of President Barack Obama being a part of Broden’s campaign. Obama’s likeness appears on the billboard along with the words “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.” Broden said he used a likeness of the President’s image to try to convey the message that future leaders in the Black community are being aborted.

“I think the potential of this community lies in its children,” said Broden, who is a board member of the anti-abortion group Life Always.

“Too often we say we’re doing things for our kids, but do we really mean it? When we are aborting fetuses, we are basically taking away a life that could help us solve some of the issues in our community.”

Several people who were walking by during the press conference stopped to confront Broden and offer their opinion. Some said they agreed with his position on abortion, but did not agree with the tactics he was employing.

Joanne Fishback, 30, said she had an abortion at 15 and regrets it every day of her life. But, she was offended by the Life Always billboard because it featured Obama.

“During his campaign the President said he supported a woman’s right to choose, so I don’t see why they would put him on an anti-abortion campaign,” Fishback said.

“I think it is disrespectful to the president and his family. They could have gotten their message across without Obama’s face on it.” Teddy Williams, a local plumber, said he was upset not just with Obama’s image, but the campaign in general. Williams, 56, and a father of three adult women, said he has always told his daughters not to allow any man to tell them what to do with their bodies. He sees anti-abortion activists as a threat to the message he instilled in his own children.

“I think women are constantly being told, by men none the less, what they need to do with their bodies,” Williams began. “We want women to look a certain way, dress another way, talk this way…now we’re trying to shame them into keeping a baby that may not be in the best interest for them to have. I think we should provide women contemplating an abortion with the best information possible on the subject and then let them decide.”

For decades, abortion has been a politically divisive issue. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case of Roe vs. Wade made abortions legal. But, that did not end the debate and on a regular basis, pro-life groups are seeking ways to overturn the court’s ruling.

Life Always is planning on placing more than 30 billboards in African American neighborhoods throughout Chicago. The group said it used data from the U.S. Census and Centers for Disease Control when stating that Blacks are less than 13 percent of the population and about 36 percent of the country’s abortions.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 25,196 abortions in Cook County, Illinois in 2009. Those who work at women health centers were critical of the Life Always campaign.

Cherisse Scott, a health educator with Black Women for Reproductive Justice attended the press conference to confront members of Life Always and give her viewpoint as a person who works with many women who must decide whether to give birth after an unexpected pregnancy. Scott said many anti-abortionists only focus on the woman giving birth and do not consider the quality of life issues once the child is born. In her work with clients, Scott said many women who choose to have an abortion do so not because they do not want a baby, but because they do not believe they can afford one.

Rep. Maxine Waters, Legislator and Activist on HIV/AIDS in the Black Community

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By Nick Chiles, Special to the NNPA –

WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of the most prominent and effective African American members of Congress, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), has long been a fighter against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community and a strong advocate for the rights and care of individuals with HIV/AIDS. Given the tremendous challenges facing our nation at a time of great possibility for people with HIV/AIDS, we asked Waters, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to share her views.

What concerns do you have about how the challenges to health reform might affect people with HIV/AIDS?

Health disparities like HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc., for people of color are getting worse, and more and more people are going without health insurance. That's why the Affordable Care Act, also known as the health-care reform law, specifically addresses these disparities and other pre-existing conditions and makes it illegal to be denied health insurance because of them. We cannot allow the health-care reform law to be repealed, and part of the reason I voted against repeal was because the Affordable Care Act will help lessen health disparities, including those related to HIV/AIDS.

Moving forward, I'm encouraged that the president announced a National HIV/AIDS Strategy last year, with the three primary goals of reducing the number of new infections, increasing access to care for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. A national strategy is something that's long overdue and something I've long called for, and I urge everyone not only to get behind it but to financially support it 150 percent. Again, ideals are one thing, but securing adequate funding to make those ideals come true is something else.

What deciding moment occurred in your life that made you become committed to this issue?

Well, for years I had been troubled by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in our community and among women, homosexual men, and other communities of color. Even though African Americans are about 12 percent of the population, we're almost half of all HIV/AIDS cases! Taken together, two-thirds of all HIV/AIDS cases involve minorities. That kind of disparity indicates a crisis, and as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late 1990s, I got Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to publicly say so after asking her about the disease's impact on the African American community.

From that admission, I began work to create the Minority AIDS Initiative. It wasn't easy, but this was a top priority for me. I held and attended many meetings, hearings, and programs with activists, academics, patients, and government officials to paint a broad but compelling narrative: The Black community was being torn apart by HIV/AIDS, and many other communities of color were not faring much better.

The Minority AIDS Initiative provides grants to community-based organizations and other health-care providers for HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment and prevention programs serving African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American communities. It also enables health-care providers serving minority communities to expand their capacity to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate care and services.

I was proud to announce a $156 million funding formula for the initiative in 1998, and since 2003 I have repeatedly secured about $400 million for the initiative. Of course, we're facing a time of extreme budget austerity, but in fiscal year 2011, I was joined by 56 of my colleagues in requesting $610 million.

What HIV-related advocacy are you involved in on Capitol Hill?

I advocate for the Minority AIDS Initiative in Congress each year, and I usually like to get tested in public on Capitol Hill or in Los Angeles so others can join in and see how effortless it is. I also have some legislation from previous Congresses that hasn't made it into law yet, and which I plan to reintroduce: the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act, which would require health-insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings; and the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, which the House of Representatives passed in March 2009, which requires the Bureau of Prisons to test all federal-prison inmates for HIV upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, (and) provide HIV/AIDS-prevention education for all inmates and give comprehensive treatment to inmates who test positive.

Nick Chiles is a prize-winning journalist and author who lives in Georgia. Read more about him at chilmill.com.


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