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Pricey Diamonds for the Super-Rich Mined from African Soil

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Sep. 28 (GIN) – The ‘Lesotho Promise’ - “one of the most important diamond necklaces ever assembled’, according to the British jewelry firm Graff - is expected to reap close to $50 million for the British billionaire Laurence Graff - the dealer known as the “King of Bling”.

Named for the Kingdom of Lesotho, a tiny mountain enclave within South Africa’s borders, the 223.35-carat necklace was carved from a 603 carat stone the size of a golf ball, discovered in a Lesotho mine. It features 26 white flawless diamonds, the most valuable on the grading system.

While the Kingdom owns part of the mining rights for the Letšeng Mine where the Promise was extracted, it is 70 percent owned by the Gem Diamond Mining Company of Africa, an Australian firm. Sold uncut at the Antwerp Diamond Center in Belgium for $12 million, it could fetch five times as much in the necklace form.

While the necklace elicits gasps and wows at private showings, the southern African kingdom starves for cash, with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates, the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world after Swaziland and Botswana, and over 200,000 orphans and other vulnerable children, most of them AIDS orphans.

The World Fact Book also finds Lesotho to have the highest level of inequality of incomes between rich and poor, after Namibia and South Africa. Life expectancy is 40 years of age.

District Rallies to Support Congresswoman Johnson

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By Iman Evans, Special to the NNPA From The Dallas Examiner –

Residents of Texas’ 30th District and long- time friends of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) came together recently during a to show Dallas that they continue to stand behind the congresswoman.

Johnson has been in damage control mode since it was revealed that her office violated the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s nepotism and residency rules by directing scholarship money to four of her family members and the children of a top staffer. In an attempt to repair her tarnished image, Johnson has announced a new CBCF Scholarship Committee that will take over deciding which students living in her district will be awarded CBCF scholarships.

“She did a lot for us in this district and she’s still doing a lot for us in this district,” said community activist Willie Mae Coleman. “I’m not excusing what she did, but haven’t we all done something that was wrong?”

As a member of the Bertrand Neighborhood Association, Coleman is in a position to bear witness to the blight of the Southern Dallas area that Johnson represents, as well as difference-making projects that Johnson has stewarded.

“When they were going to spend all that money for the Trinity Project, she [Johnson] stopped that so that homeowners would not have to get flood insurance,” said Coleman. “[And] that rail that is running right by my house, that’s going to be a blessing for the community.”

Johnson’s new committee appears at first glance to be a model of moral and professional rectitude. The members are Mavis Knight, presently serving on the Texas State Board of Education; Randy Skinner, director of the Greater Dallas Area Justice Revival; longtime educator Dr. Roscoe Smith; Raul M. Magdaleno, Director of Diversity & Community Outreach for Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts; and Dr. Al Roberts, professor emeritus of Education at Paul Quinn College.

It remains to be seen what effect the rally will have on Johnson’s legacy. But, it is clear that for supporters, Johnson has been a conduit for benefits that South Dallas would otherwise not have been able to access, and that the kind of petty self-dealing for which she has admitted guilt is, in the grand scheme of things, forgivable.

Himba People Protest Plan to Flood Burial Grounds

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The Himba of northern Namibia, who survived deadly droughts, guerrilla warfare, and attempted genocide by German colonial armies, are bracing for a new fight.

After a series of delays, Namibia and Angola are moving forward on a planned $1.1 billion Baynes Dam hydropower plant on the Kunene River that runs along their common borders.

"Angola needs power; Namibia needs power; southern Africa needs power, so the development of a hydropower station is gaining momentum," NamPower director Leake Hangala said this month during a meeting in Windhoek.

The planned dam will flood the valleys where the Himba live and their burial grounds. Approximately 18,000 Himbas live on the Namibian side of the border, with another 9,000 on the Angolan side.

"If they build the dam, they'll kill us," said Muhapikwa Muniombara, who wears traditional necklaces and bracelets over her skin dyed reddish with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre.

In other energy developments, a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency has been signed to study the feasibility of upgrading the Van Eck coal-fired plant on the outskirts of the capital, Windhoek, to meet Namibia’s growing energy needs.

South Africa to Launch Health Care for All

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

All South Africans will enjoy national health insurance under a program scheduled to kick off in 2010 and be implemented during a period of 14 years.

Details of the program were discussed recently at the mid-term conference of the African National Congress (ANC). Thousands are attending the week-long review of the party’s progress in the port city of Durban which featured health care high on the agenda.

Currently, South Africa spends slightly more than 8% of its economy on healthcare, more than any other country on the continent. Still, only 8% of the Black population is covered by a medical care plan, compared to 64% of White people.

Opening the conference, President Zuma, whose administration has created millionaires and billionaires, took the podium to give a speech some called “Zuma straight up with no frills.” He went on the offensive, tackling the challenges to the party from the nationalist ANC Youth League and the socialist Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

“I think they have managed to call each other to order,” observed Fikile Mbalu, ANC head of organizing. “They’re saying ‘Let’s shape what we want the ANC to achieve.’ On the call for nationalization, he said: “I think this is debate we need. I look forward to this robust, somewhat agitated and militant discussion of the issues.”

New Hearing Date Set For Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal will receive a new hearing on Nov. 9 to review his death sentence for the 1982 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

In late September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed to hear arguments in the case, under a directive from the U.S. Supreme Court to review Jamal’s death sentence for killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

In an e-mail to supporters, Jamal’s defense lawyer Robert Bryan said “We are cautiously encouraged that the federal court has taken this step.”

Abu-Jamal was convicted in a unanimous decision by a majority White jury and sentenced to death.

Born Wesley Cook, he has maintained his innocence from death row in a Pennsylvania state prison, submitting appeal requests based on allegations of judicial bias, police brutality, and an inadequate defense during his arrest and trial 28 years ago.

At the time of his arrest, Abu-Jamal was a radio announcer and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He was known for his outspoken political views and commentary on racial injustice and police brutality.

During his incarceration he has written several books, appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” and continues to protest his conviction on prisonradio.org, a non-profit organization run by The Redwood Justice Fund.

Opponents to Abu-Jamal's claims of innocence include the Fraternal Order of Police and Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the murdered officer. At a recent screening of the film “Barrel of a Gun,” a documentary about the case, Faulkner’s widow said the movie “will put people’s mind at rest,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“There is no doubt that Mumia Abu-Jamal wanted to murder a police officer that night and that person was my husband,” she said.

His trial and subsequent attempts at an appeal have gained international attention and support including from former South African president Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, members of Congress, and celebrities.

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