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Will Angola be the Next Libya?

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

More than a dozen protestors including a popular rap artist were arrested recently as the Angolan government attempted to head off a protest against the 32-year rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The protest began when an anonymous group of individuals set up a website announcing "a new revolution of the Angolan people."

Government officials rebuked the protest. "Angola is not Egypt. Angola is not Libya. Angola is not Tunisia," said one official. Dino Matross, secretary general of the ruling party, was more blunt. "Anyone who demonstrates," he said, "we're going to get you."

Luaty Beirão, a popular Angolan rapper also known as Brigadeiro Mata Frakus believes the political parties are out of touch with Angolan people. At a recent gig, he called on President Dos Santos to step down while a large audience chanted "Fora!" ("Out!")

Although Angola is the continent's first producer of crude oil along with Nigeria, the majority of its people live beneath the poverty line and the gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the world. Rafael Marques, a noted journalist, observed: "Opposition is weak, but unhappiness with the ruling MPLA party is overwhelming."

Meyers Paving Way as First Female President of Jackson State University

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By Othor Cain, Special to the NNPA from The Mississippi Link –

After 133 years of academic excellence, Jackson State University for the first time has a female as its chief executive officer.

The state College Board voted unanimously in favor of hiring Dr. Carolyn Meyers, 64, as JSU’s 10th president, ending the stronghold of male leadership.

“I’ve had a history of being the first in a lot of situations; either the first Black this or the first woman that so I don’t feel any particular pressure to succeed in what is considered a male dominated field,” Meyers recently shared with The Mississippi Link.

Meyers, who describes herself as a “researcher,” a “collaborative leader” and a “thinker,” replaced interim president Leslie McLemore, a political science professor appointed when Ronald Mason left in June 2010 to lead the Southern University System based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Meyers began her tenure at JSU in January. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, most recently serving as president of Norfolk State University.

Prior to working at Norfolk State, Meyers was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina A&T.

Meyers has been praised for her spirited personality, sometimes bragging about students as though they were her own children. She is also known to be data driven, which brought criticism from those who thought she moved too slowly but accolades from those who appreciated her analytical view.

Her hiring at Norfolk State in 2006 was seen as a coup: a female scientist with degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering who completed postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

Meyers is ready to ensure the masses know about JSU. She plans to start in an unlikely place…Mississippi. “I want to take Jackson State to the people, create listening tours and forge new and build upon old relationships,” she said. “We must get a buy in from everyone across this state and I’m excited about getting out and meeting the great people of Mississippi.”

Community members and staffers alike are excited to have Meyers at the helm of JSU.

Dr. Donna Antoine LaVigne, associate director of the JSU Heart Study Program recently told members of the media that Meyers “seemed like she was a big force in a tiny package. Not only being a scientist and being able to look at evidence based on data but also to have compassion for knowing the university must have a role in the community is very positive.”

Meyers said she’s excited to be at JSU because it is a benchmark school. “As a leader among HBCUs, Jackson State was one of the institutions against which other institutions benchmark,” she said. “The growth, scholarly productivity, and solid reputation made Jackson State University attractive to me.

Meyers made it clear that together, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community would shape the vision for JSU. “This is not Meyers State University, this is Jackson State University and together we win,” she said.

Housing Tussle Continues in St. Bernard Parish

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By Zoe Sullivan, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

After Katrina, St. Bernard Parish issued an ordinance restricting rental of single-family dwellings to people related by blood. It also put a moratorium on the construction of multi-family dwellings. Both of these steps were perceived as efforts to prevent African-Americans from moving into the Parish, and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) won federal injunctions to overturn both of these policies.

Last week, the fight heated up again. After St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro urged council members to "stand with him" while adopting a "resolution to this challenge that incorporates the concerns of the federal agencies while maintaining our ability to govern locally." The Parish President's office told The Louisiana Weekly that the multi-family housing development being planned for the parish is of a high-density type that doesn't fit with the agency for Housing and Urban Development's current policies. "They tore down high-density housing in New Orleans," the Parish President's office said, questioning why similar housing would then be built in St. Bernard.

A press release from the GNOFHAC said that the organization filed a temporary restraining order against the parish because "St. Bernard Parish officials clearly stated their intent to violate the Fair Housing Act and the Consent Order by impeding the development of four mixed-income apartment complexes."

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, "We are profoundly disappointed in Mr. Taffaro and other parish leaders for what is another backwards and wrongheaded step by the Parish to limit housing opportunities for people of color. We will continue to advocate in court and through HUD's processes until there is fair housing choice in St. Bernard Parish."

In his statement to the parish council earlier last week, Taffaro "acknowlede[d] and rebuke[d] discrimination both past and present.” But, he said, "The timing of the Provident project is wrong, the agenda is flawed, and the implementation is skewed. At the end of the day, the developers walk away with their profit, the tenants are herded away from home ownership opportunities in a recovering community, and the parish is left with the burden of being left with additional properties expanding the glut of existing rental and for sale housing."

Perry countered the assertion of surplus housing, citing statistics that 40 percent of pre-Katrina St. Bernard residents say that lack of housing is one of the factors that prevent them from returning to the parish. Additionally, Perry argued, a "state-of-the-art" hospital is being built within walking distance of the Provident development, which means that the new homes would be suitable for the facility's staff.

Parish officials say that they were forced by the federal government to re-issue a building permit to Provident Realty Advisors, Inc. although the original permit had expired and the firm didn't follow any re-application procedures.

According to the GNOFHAC, the current situation follows on the heels of a fifth motion for contempt that it filed against the parish in January, sustaining that the parish's actions violated the terms of a February 2008 Consent Order and the Fair Housing Act. The previous decree was extended through the end of this year by Judge Berrigan, who said that allegations against the parish, "if true, indicate that the parish is prepared to deviate from normal procedures in an effort to harass and delay Provident's ongoing construction."

Some of the steps Taffaro suggested in last week's council meeting for Provident include obtaining a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a release from the State Fire Marshal, and a review by the Water and Sewer Division.

"Their assertions are laughable," said Perry. "Provident Housing has done everything they have been obligated to do under the permitting process. ...they intend to stop the project regardless of whether [Provi­dent] do[es] anything right or wrong."

Perry also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is considering withdrawing hurricane recovery funds from the parish as a result of this situation. Additionally, in an extremely rare move, HUD's Secretary has initiated a complaint process. Perry says that Secretary Shaun Donovan "saw activities that were so egregious that he decided to launch the complaint process against St. Bernard Parish."

Baltimore's 'Snoop' Drug Sting Raises Questions about War on Drugs

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

A federal drug trafficking sting, which netted 64 arrests in Baltimore, was lauded by federal officials but has introduced new arguments questioning the effectiveness of America’s war on drugs.

“Wherever criminal gangs bring violence to our streets, that is where we will direct the resources needed to send them to prison,” Baltimore U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “We must persist in this coordinated effort, because every American deserves to live in a safe neighborhood.”

A total of 40 people were charged by the state while 24 were charged federally. Authorities also seized marijuana, heroin, guns, and $69,000 in cash.

Among those charged was Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, 30, an actress on HBO’s “The Wire,” whose involvement made the case especially newsworthy. Pearson’s difficult upbringing led her to prior brushes with the law, including a murder conviction in 1996.

David Simon, producer of “The Wire,” said her arrest should be enough to prompt authorities to take a further look at the war on drugs.

“In an essay published in Time two years ago, the writers of ‘The Wire’ made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral,” he said in a statement.

He said that Pearson’s vastly different upbringing and environment from his own is one that makes him incapable of judgment.

“I, for one, do not qualify as a peer to Felicia Pearson,” he said. “The opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own, and her America is different from my own.”

Despite Simon’s opinion, authorities say the arrests were necessary to further eliminate the scourge of drugs and violence on Baltimore’s streets.

“These arrests are representative of law enforcement’s commitment to keep this city safe from the violence and crimes associated with drug trafficking,” DEA Special Agent in-charge Ava Cooper-Davis said in a statement.

Education Secretary: 82 Percent of Schools May Miss 'No Child Left Behind' Goals

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapapers –

Changes to the No Child Left Behind program must be made before the abandonment of America’s at-risk children to failure becomes more deeply engrained, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a House committee last week.

“No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now,” Duncan told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Duncan said that 82 percent of U.S. schools could fail to meet the education goals set by No Child Left Behind—up 45 percent from last year. Duncan wants Congress to examine the Bush-era law to make sure students are getting the best education possible.

“This law has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed,” Duncan said. “We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk.”

Duncan argued that the law requires all states to use uniform standards in how they meet Adequate Yearly Progress; a measure he said prevents states and local jurisdictions from tailoring their curriculum to meet the needs of students.

However, some disagree with Duncan’s assessment, claiming that changing the law would give underperforming schools a free pass.

“If we're going to try, in the name of closing the achievement gap, to whitewash the underperformance of schools, that's really regrettable,” Bush administration Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told The Washington Post.

Duncan has seen resistance on his own education policies. Duncan’s “Race to the Top” plan tied federal compensation to academic achievement, but many officials at at-risk school districts said education should be funded on the basis of need and not achievement.

“There’s a tremendous problem with “Race to the Top” and it’s fundamental,” Nathan A. Saunders, president of the Washington Teacher’s Union, told the AFRO last year. “The structure is that we are going to reward achievement. The problem is not all children achieve at the same level or at the same time.”

At last week’s hearing, committee members largely listened to Duncan without offering criticism, and agreed with the need for change to the American educational system.

“Although we may not always see eye-to-eye, you and I share a belief that the current system is broken and in desperate need of repair,” Rep. John Line, (R-MN), told Duncan during the hearing

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