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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.


Obama as Hitler Image Angers Store Patrons in Florida

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By Nicolas Grizzle, Special to the NNPA from The Community Voice –

A protest outside a Rohnert Park supermarket drew police involvement last week thanks to a controversial sign featuring President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache.

"Obama has done so much for us," said Rita Stedman, a German woman who was upset by the sight of the poster. "This is a nice town, Rohnert Park, why here?"

Activists for the LaRouche Political Action Committee set up tables and signs outside Raley's and refused to budge, despite multiple requests to vacate by the market's staff and shoppers.

Police were on scene, but told Store Director Brian King they had a legal right to be there.

The shopping center is owned by Codding Enterprises, and King said police were looking into the legality of the gathering.

"This is killing our business right now," said another employee.

The protestors were not involved with, or cleared by Raley's management. "It's not Raley's at all," the employee said.

The reason for the attention-grabbing poster is Obama's health care bill, said Nicole James, who was one of the two women gathering signatures for the LaRouche Political Action Committee. "Hitler's health care bill... is an exact replica of Obama's health care bill," she said.

James, 28, is an African-American woman from Los Angeles. Her partner, Myhoa Steger, is 34 and has worked full time gathering signatures for the committee for the past eight years.

Steger said she was surprised at the opposition to the images, saying the response was not as negative in other cities she had been. "This is a really strange town, it's messed up."

James said about 15 people had signed up to receive more information in the four hours they were in front of the store.

Shopper Mary Jane Guerra was offended by the image on the poster. She said the two women started singing the National Anthem when she asked them to leave. "This is just not right," she said.

"Some people have an emotional response instead of thinking things through," said James.

Nicole James, left, and Myhoa Steger drew the ire of several Raley's customers in Rohnert Park with their image of President Obama with a Hitler mustache on Tuesday. They are activists for the ultra-right LaRouche Policital Action Committee.

Duncan: Ban Schools with Poor Graduation Rates from NCAA Tournament

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By Perry Green, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

If a school can’t keep at least half of its athletes on pace to graduate, it should not compete for a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship and be cut out of the multi-million dollar post-season pay-out, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said last week.

In a crusade launched in the early stages of the NCAA basketball championship tournaments, Duncan zeroed in on the failure of 10 of the 68 schools in the Division I men’s tournament to be on track to graduate half of their players, noting that Black players are particularly ill-served.

“If you can't manage to graduate half of your players, how serious is the institution and the coach and the program about their players' academic success?,” Duncan told reporters. “Teams with academic progress rates below [that level] should be ineligible for post-season glory.”

His remarks came hours after writing on the Washington Post’s opinion page that schools “need to stop trotting out tired excuses for basketball teams with poor academic records and indefensible disparities in the graduation rates of white and black players.”

Duncan also recommended the NCAA restructure its post-season tournament revenue-distribution formula, which currently pays the conference of each school $1.4 million for every game their team plays in the tournament.

“Right now the formula handsomely rewards teams for winning games in the tournament, but does little to reward teams for meeting minimal academic benchmarks,” said Duncan. “I simply cannot understand why we continue to reward teams for failing to meet the most basic of academic standards off the court.”

He was citing the findings of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. That group, formed in 1989 to combat college sports scandals by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, called for tougher standards for schools and student-athletes a decade ago.

He also cited the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports’ annual study report that found that 10 of the 68 schools currently involved in the NCAA Tournament carry academic progress rates (APR) of less than 925, which would create a graduation rate of less than 50 percent. The academic progress rate is an NCAA measure of the progress toward graduation of student-athletes.

Dr. Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study, noted that only 59 percent of Black basketball players graduate, far less than the graduation percentage of Whites at 91 percent. The reports show percentages are even lower among schools such Kansas State University, where 100 percent of White players graduate, yet only 14 percent of Black players graduate. The University of Akron also graduates every White player, but has a zero percent Black player’s graduation rate.

According to the Knight Commission, in the last five years, teams that had graduation rates of less than 50% or an APR standard of less than 925 earned 44 percent of the total $409 million distributed.

NAACP President Ben Jealous agreed with Duncan, but also acknowledged the high graduation rates made by the other 58 schools in the NCAA Tournament.

“When you are coaching student-athletes, you have a responsibility to them both as an athlete and a student,” said Jealous, who highlighted programs like those at Xavier University, which sends designated personnel to check on players frequently to make sure they attend class and study regularly. “It happens because coaches decide to make sure that the young men are prepared for victory in life and not just on the court.”

Duncan suggested that barring schools with poor graduation rates from the NCAA tournament would motivate more programs to follow Xavier’s lead.

“The dream of playing in the NCAA tournament is what brings so many student-athletes on to these college campuses,” he said. “If the right behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished, you would see all of these schools doing things in a very different way, very quickly.”

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BVN National News Wire