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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."

Mid-term Elections Leave Blacks Vulnerable

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By Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

As Americans, politicians, and pundits sift through the results of the voting yesterday, the one thing heavy on everyone’s mind is the question: What’s next?

President Barack Obama in a one-hour nationally televised press conference that found him at times reflective and somber but still able to laugh, particularly after taking what he called a “shellacking” at the polls, refused to accept that the vote was a rejection of his policies.

Instead, the president described voters’ decision to hand control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans as a demonstration of “their great frustration that we have not made enough progress on the economy. They cannot feel progress and they cannot see it,” Obama said. “I’ve got to take direct responsibility. We have not made as much progress as we could have made.”

The president added that now it is a matter of the Democrats and the Republicans sitting down to develop core areas of agreement on issues they can agree on such as alleviating our dependence on foreign oil, and educating American children so that they are equipped to compete in the global economy.

David A. Bositis, Ph.D., senior research associate with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and an expert on national Black Electoral Politics, agrees with the president that the election results were about the economy.

“If you look at the exit polls, you will see that it’s about the economy, especially insecurity about the economy. Eighty-five percent of people who voted said they were worried about their personal economic situation and half of those said they were very worried,” pointed out Bositis.

“This election was about punishing the people in power, and the people in power were, of course, the Democrats,” added the political observer.

Why Democrats lost depends on who you talk to.

Lorenzo Morris, Ph.D., a political science professor at Howard University, says the Democrats really did very little to mobilize the youthful base that helped them win the presidency in 2008. He also said they waited too late to begin the kind of heavy-duty stumping done in the final two weeks before the election. They were also tremendously outspent in terms of campaign advertising money pumped into Republican races by corporate interests.

But don’t consider these election results a replay of 1994, admonishes Professor Morris, who said that loss was a huge setback for Clinton and was followed by two years of immobility and impasses as he battled Republicans to push his agenda.

When he was re-elected two years later, Morris said his agenda turned more conservative.

Morris does not think that Obama will face the same kind of partisan divide that Clinton faced, in part, because he believes the conservatives elected to office this term are much less organized than those elected by Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America brigade.

“This group of people, they are so disorganized. They’re like free electrons knocking into each other. They just lucked out,” contends Morris. “They are not connected by any sense of party unity. The Republicans will be lucky, if they have an impasse.”

Bositis agrees that this Republican victory does not at all resemble what happened in 1994.

“First, in a lot of the victories, the republicans had very, very close elections . . . when politicians have close elections like that, they get scared, and it makes them cautious,” noted Bositis, who pointed out that there’s a difference between getting elected and getting rejected, which is what he thinks happened with Democrats. He also believes that while Republicans may never admit it publicly they are probably definitely saying to themselves: “Let’s not kid ourselves that these people love us. They don’t. As a matter of fact, they hate our guts.”

The political researcher points to Harry Reid’s re-election in Nevada as a case in point. “Do you think Harry Reid was being embraced by voters in Nevada? This was his biggest victory," he asked.

But people in Nevada don’t like Harry Reid. I don’t know if it’s his personality or what, but they voted for Harry Reid because the Republicans nominated one of the Tea Party nuts,” explained Bositis. “Voters in Nevada say there is no way we are going to have this person as our senator. They were not voting to say I love Harry Reid. It was just that voting for the alternative was unacceptable.”

While the president in his press conference stressed that the key to making the next two years productive was for the, top democrats and Republican leaders to sit down and find areas of agreement and to work on moving those items forward, Bositis and Morris are much less optimistic about how much is going to get done.

“If I would guess, my guess would be no,” said Bositis. “On the other hand, if the more sensible Republicans start to take a look . . . I think one of the things they are going to discover, is that they’re not very popular. They also know that come 2012, the electorate is going to be a lot younger, and a lot more minority than it was this time around.”

Howard University’s Morris sees the situation as potentially dismal for African Americans. He thinks Republicans will attempt to cut back on things that are vitally important to Blacks such as the unemployment structure (particularly in urban areas), educational subsidies, welfare; criminal justice, and catastrophic health programs used by people who are the least likely able to afford them and fight back.

Bositis also believes the change will hurt African Americans because Republicans are going to be more influential in the budget process.

“In terms of money for unemployment, for social services and things of that sort, those guys’ attitudes are going to be “hey, who cares if you’re poor; it’s your own fault. If you’re sick, it’s your own fault.

“Remember something. In terms of unemployment Blacks consider White unemployment a joke. African American employment is really bad now. If the government starts to cut back on spending, that’s only going to make unemployment worse,” Bositis said.

There are a number of other critical issues to note as a result of the mid-term elections. First, for the first time in years there is no African American in the Senate; the majority of seated Democratic governors are up in age in comparison to their Republican counterparts. This is noteworthy because often governors move from running state houses to serving in the Senate and eventually the presidency. A large majority of the Democrats will be too old to make that move.

By contrast all the newly elected Republican governors are at the right age to make the move.

Africans View U.S. Through Prism of Elections

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

On the eve of a possibly altered political landscape in the U.S., one U.S.-resident Nigerian, “glued to the TV”, as votes rolled in, recalled the current plight of his ancestral home.

“ I know America has taken more than 232 years to be where she is today, and that Nigeria, 50 years after independence, still has a long way to go,” observed Dr. Wumi Akintide. “…. But when I remember little countries like Singapore, South Africa after years of Apartheid and even tiny countries like the State of Israel which was only founded in 1948… I see some sense of urgency in complaining about Nigeria.”

“Two years ago, a Black candidate, the least expected to win a presidential election, was suddenly swept into power in the greatest country in the world. It is something nobody has predicted could ever happen in our life time, but it did, pretty much like the second coming of Jesus in a Tsunami of an election and a tidal wave that changed America forever,” Dr. Akintide said.

“That is the kind of Tsunami Nigeria needs.”

Elizabeth Kuranchie-Mensah, writing on the BBC website, observed: “Africans will continue to love and admire Prez.Obama - after all the first Black American President. ..Prez Obama has a mission and he is visionary…. Americans should just relax for our man to get things done the way it will benefit the good of all. Patience is more precious than "GOLD".

Ismail Rashid concurred. “Ultimately, Barrack Obama will continue to enjoy a lot of solidarity from Africans, and peoples of African descent in the U.S. and around the world. His political achievement - even though it has not yet been translated into concrete change for them - still has a great symbolic resonance, especially in showing individually and collectively how far peoples of African descent have traveled in the last century.”

And “MelodySystem” wrote the following: “We still support the bro. He is the man of change. Africa for Brother Barack!”

Splashy Chevron Ad Campaign Spoofed by Environmentalists

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A mega-million dollar ad campaign by oil giant Chevron that critics say “greenwashes” the company’s record in Nigeria, Ecuador, and other oil-producing countries, has met its match.

Satirists and comics joined the campaign lead by environmentalists and human rights activists to produce a dead-on take-off of the oil company’s full-page ads seen recently in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

In one of the Chevron ads, two Black young people with wide smiles are posed alongside the message: “Oil Companies Should Support The Communities They’re a Part of.” The ad is signed “We Agree” by Chevron’s VP and the Director of The Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

But a spoof press release managed to appear before the campaign got launched. Sent by the Yes Men and the Rainforest Action Network, the release came complete with fake quotes from Chevron executives and a phony Chevron website, pointing a finger at the company's environmental disasters.

Rainforest Action Network, calling the hoax a “satirical counter-campaign”, observed: “When it comes to oil spills, climate change and human rights abuses, we need real action from Chevron… Instead, the oil giant has prioritized a high-priced glossy advertising campaign that attempts to trick the American people into believing it is different than BP.”

Chevron is embroiled in a long-running, multi-billion-dollar lawsuit that contends the company is responsible for oil pollution in Ecuador, which Chevron denies and it continues to face claims in Nigeria that its oil spills there have tainted fish ponds in Delta State. Maria Ramos, Rainforest’s campaign director said: "Chevron's rhetoric and the public image that they put forward is very different from how they're actually operating."

Chevron won’t say how much it is spending on the new effort. The company has spent $92 million buying advertising time and space in the U.S. in the 12 months that ended in June.

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