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Rep. Rangel: Congress Should Have Been Consulted on Libya

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

If there are any side effects or residue left from a straining battle over his possible removal from office, Rep. Charles Rangel did a good job concealing them. What wasn’t hidden was his objection to the Obama administration as it joined a coalition in an attack on Libya.

“What needs to be done at this point is a call by the president or the vice president for a special session of Congress to inform us and to ask our position on this matter,” Rangel said during a press briefing last week at the State Office Building.

“Obama is going along with past presidents and the United Nations, which is 90 percent [influenced by] the U.S. At the end of the day, we pay the price physically and financially.”

Rangel was outraged that President Barack Obama agreed to launch an attack on Libya without consulting Congress, thereby repeating a pattern of previous presidents, including Harry Truman in Korea, Lyndon Baines Johnson in Vietnam, and George W. Bush in Iraq. “When they say we should get rid of Gaddafi, who is the ‘we’”? Rangel continued. “Yes, we should have compassion for the rebels, but should we have a number of sleepless nights worrying about getting rid of Gaddafi? I don’t like the idea of his being taken out.”

The congressman stopped short of endorsing Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s call for an impeachment of Obama, who has charged the president with going beyond constitutional guidelines. “I’ll leave that alone,” Rangel said of his feelings about impeachment. And, he used an anecdote from his past to sidestep Minister Louis Farrakhan’s idea of sending a diplomatic team of prominent Black Americans to sit with Gaddafi.

“I was in Tanzania at the time of its independence, and I was asked by some of the leaders, ‘What brings you to our country? Are you also made in America like so many of the bombs falling on our people?’ It dawned on me, from their perspective, that color had nothing at all to do with the situation.”

Critically connected with the recent move by the Obama administration on Libya, which the president said he didn’t need congressional authorization for since the Senate had unanimously approved a resolution calling for the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, Rangel, a decorated soldier of the Korean War, introduced once again—for the fifth time he said—a Universal National Service Act, or a draft bill.

The bill calls for the establishment of a universal requirement for national service. “If you enjoy the benefits of our democracy, then you should be willing and required to contribute to its defense,” he said, reiterating a recently released press statement. “We make decisions about war without worry over who fights them. Those who do the fighting have no choice.”

The Obama administration, Rangel observed, may have no choice about the cost of entering another war or “what’s the end game and how do we get out of it.”

Nigerians Deploy Internet Against Fraud in Upcoming Poll

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

With more than 29 million users of the internet across Nigeria, election officials and activists are turning to the web to monitor the country’s upcoming national elections in early April.

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and the chair of the national electoral commission observed the launch of reclaimnaija.net – a website based on the Ushahidi technology developed in Kenya to track activities at polling places nationwide.

Social media has also been called into action. ReVoDa, a new mobile application from the Enoughis Enough Nigeria coalition, allows citizens to report violence/fraud, police behavior, election staff conduct, etc, from their respective polling units – and from their mobile phones. “ReVoDa turns eligible voters into informal election observers, and allows monitoring organizations to draw conclusions about the legitimacy and accuracy of the elections,” according to the site http://eienigeria.org

Meanwhile, close to a million people were discovered to be double-registered in the just-ended voter registration period, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Those involved will be prosecuted, said INEC chair Attahiru Jega, including some “high profile Nigerians.”

About 73.58 million people registered during the exercise that ended on Feb. 5.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses report more than a dozen deaths and the burning of campaign vehicles in the state of Akwa Ibom stemming from an apparent grudge match between supporters of current president Goodluck Jonathan and candidate Akpan Udoedeghe of an opposition party.

African Leaders Sound Off on Disputed U.S. Bombing Campaign

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A growing chorus of African leaders are loudly voicing opposition to the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, allegedly aimed at disabling his air force but also, as President Obama has said, “to tell Mr. Gaddafi he has to go.”

“We condemn the obvious double standards and hypocrisy of the West in ignoring the ravaging bloodshed and abuse of human rights in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Koku Adomdza, President of the Council for Afrika International, a U.K.-based think tank.

“We urge proactive diplomatic and mediatory intervention and condemn foreign military intervention, since the latter will only escalate violence.”

In Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia expressed reservations at what he described as the 'complexities and contradictions of international foreign policy'.

'The international community imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, seemingly to protect civilians, yet the same international community watches as women are killed in Cote d'Ivoire,' he said.

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma called for an immediate cease-fire and said his government would not support any foreign effort to overthrow the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, which has been battling an eastern-based insurgency for the past month.

"We say no to the killing of civilians, no to the regime-change doctrine and no to the foreign occupation of Libya or any other sovereign state," Zuma said.

Zuma is part of a special committee appointed by the African Union to mediate the Libya conflict. The Union has also criticized the multinational coalition attacks on Libyan anti-aircraft and communications installations in which several dozen civilians were reportedly killed.

Other leaders speaking out against the bombing strikes include Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the presidents of Zimbabwe and Uganda.

Dr. Jesse Jackson, during a visit to Trinity College Historical Society in Dublin, concurred with the African heads of state.

"Something had to happen to stop the genocidal march,” he said. “On the other hand, the U.N.'s resolution was about containment and cessation not about aggression. It was not a resolution to wipe out Gaddafi but a humanitarian mission to save the victims of genocide.”

Justice Department Issues Scathing Report on New Orleans Police Department

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By Lee A. Daniels, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

A U.S. Department of Justice report on the New Orleans Police department released last week has described it as wracked by a culture of incompetence and corruption that is “serious, systemic, wide-ranging and deeply rooted” and in need of complete reform.

The city’s police force, which nearly completely collapsed when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, has been the subject of multiple city, state, and federal investigation since then. Some of these probes have led to criminal indictments and convictions of more than a dozen officers thus far for unprovoked lethal and deadly use of force against innocent citizens in the storm’s aftermath.

But, this investigation, conducted by the federal agency’s Office of Civil Rights, deliberately did not consider those cases. In one sense, it didn’t need to because, it stated, pointedly, “these serious deficiencies existed long before” Hurricane Katrina struck.

In fact, the department was enmeshed in scandal in the 1990s after a series of criminal convictions of police officers – including the conviction of two for murder – exposed widespread problems. But, its deterioration in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with a wider national and even international audience looking on, has forced the concerted, multifaceted effort at reform now underway.

New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu, elected in February 2010, last year asked the Justice Department for a “top to bottom review” of the beleaguered police force, one that would help him bring about its “complete transformation.”

Certainly, the resulting document leaves no doubt that a complete transformation is vital. For, believing its prosaic title, “Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department,” it is one of the most damning indictments of an entire police department – and, implicitly, of a city governmental structure responsible for its oversight – in the modern history of policing.

The report states that, bolstered by its unwillingness to adhere to seemingly basic rules and bureaucratic procedures, the New Orleans force indulged in “patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law” so pervasive and constant that they came to be routine. They include: unwarranted use of force; illegal stops, searches and arrests; rampant discriminatory behavior toward New Orleanians of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens; and, often, women who reported that they has been sexually assaulted. Not surprisingly, sanctions against police officers who abused their positions were virtually non-existent.

One of the more striking indications of the depth of the department’s managerial incompetence cited in the report was that its canine unit was so badly mismanaged—the police dogs were so badly trained—that they often attacked their own handlers.

These attitudes and practices made New Orleans itself less safe for its law-abiding citizens, the federal report stated, in part because police officials had often failed to investigate actual crimes and because their behavior produced a widespread distrust of the department among many citizens that inhibited their calling on or cooperating with police officers when they witnessed a crime being committed.

In fact, the report states, New Orleans criminal courts have trouble empanelling juries because so many prospective jurors say they wouldn’t trust the sworn testimony of police officers.

“There is nobody in this room that is surprised by the general tenor and the tone of what this report has to say,” Mayor Landrieu said at a news conference in New Orleans.

He was flanked by Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the department’s Office of Civil Rights, and New Orleans’ police chief, Ronal Serpas, and other city and federal officials. The city and the Justice Department will sign a consent decree that maps out specific avenues of reform, which will be overseen by the federal court.

They said that Chief Serpas has already begun making substantive reforms of the department, aided by a revision of some civil service rules to give him more flexibility in hiring, shifting, and firing personnel within it and the report pointedly praises what it describes as “a remarkably strong shared commitment to the City [among New Orleanians] that spans race, class, and neighborhood … [and] provides a strong foundation upon which to transform” the police department.

Lee A. Daniels is Director of Communications for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and Editor-in-Chief of TheDefendersOnline.

More Red Light Cameras to be Placed in Heavily Black Communities in Florida

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By James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –

The Rev. Victor Gooden and his wife were involved in an accident in April 1991 on the corner of Orange Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Daytona Beach.

Both he and his wife were injured by someone who ran a red light at that intersection. At the time, there were no cameras and no way to identify who was driving the car.

Gooden, who is an advocate for cameras at intersections to catch red light runners, related this story to Daytona Beach commissioners at a meeting last October when they decided to approve installing cameras at selected intersections throughout the city.

The pastor said he is in support of the program because he believes that behavior can be controlled. "Behavior is controlled by guidelines and rules; the commission sets the rules to make it safer," he said.

Penalties imposed

The camera captures a picture of a car’s license plate while it’s running a red light. A fine is then mailed to the owner of the car.

The owner of a car caught driving through a red light where the cameras are installed will receive a $158 citation. The state gets $83 of the money and the city collects $75. Tickets will begin to be issued on April 4.

Daytona Beach city officials have received permission from the Florida Department of Transportation for five locations it requested to have red light cameras installed, according to the city’s public information officer.

The contractor recently began installing cameras at International Speedway Boulevard and Clyde Morris. It takes about two weeks to install five cameras, which includes running cable and pouring concrete for the bases, said Susan Cerbone, spokesman for the city of Daytona Beach.

"There is a 30-day warning period before notice of violations is issued. The intersections were selected based on crash data," she explained.

Cameras pose concerns

The first five intersections are: Nova Road and US 92, Nova Road and George Engram Boulevard, Nova Road and Mason Avenue, Ridgewood Avenue (US 1) and US 92; and Clyde Morris Boulevard and US 92.

Four of the five intersections are located in the majority Black section of the city.

Some critics have raised concerns about drivers who may be ticketed unfairly due to the sensitivity of the cameras.

"It’s about behavior modification. We are looking for people that are blowing the red lights. The objective is to reduce crashes," Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood told the commissioners.

Chitwood said the red light cameras also would help catch criminals. "If you do a drug deal or rob a bank, you are not stopping at that red light and sometimes we don’t get any information other than it was a blue car. If the car goes through a red light, it gets the license plate number... it gives us a starting point that we may not have had to begin with," he said.

Bill opposes law

Daytona Beach City commissioners approved the installation of the cameras last October with a vote of 5-2.

At least one Florida senator Rene Garcia wants the red light law approved last year repealed and has filed a bill to do so.

The law is an "unwarranted, big-brother initiative," said Garcia, R-Hialeah in a statement last month announcing he had filed the bill (SB 672).

If Garcia’s bill were to pass, the measure would require cameras be removed from state roads by next July. At least 50 communities in Florida had red light cameras last year.

The main objections have been that the cameras violate drivers’ civil liberties, a fear of wrongful ticketing, and that they gouge unsuspecting residents.

A study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red light cameras saved 159 lives during a four-year period ending in 2008 in a study of 14 major U.S. cities.


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BVN National News Wire