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Africa Races to Catch the Internet Wave

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Five new cables on the continent—worth $2.5 billion – are bringing increasing speeds at lower prices for Africa’s internet-hungry population with user growth in the last decade up by 2000 percent!

The International Telecommunication Union projects 5.3 billion cell phone owners by the end of this year. "The mobile phone revolution continues," says a U.N. report charting the phenomenon that has transformed commerce, healthcare and social lives across the planet. Mobile phone leases in Africa rose from 54 million to almost 350 million between 2003 and 2008, the quickest growth in the world.

“Tremendous progress has been made in the adoption and use of information and communication technologies,” declared Dr Hamadoun I. Toure, head of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at a conference last summer.

“What is most interesting to me,” Toure said, “and what highlights the critical role of connectivity in Africa – is that once people have access to information technologies, they don’t give it up, even when their social or economic situation changes. Put simply, Africans want to stay connected, and they work hard to make sure they stay connected.”

Toure continued: “In Africa, we are seeing new broadband capacity coming on-stream fast, and I was delighted to be personally present in Kenya in March when a new submarine cable was brought onshore, and then to be in French Guiana earlier this month to see new satellites for Africa being launched.

"These are truly inspirational events, and signs of the very positive times in which we live.”

Donna Brazile Keynote Speaker At Airports Economic Forum

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

Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile concluded her busy travel year of lectures, speaking engagements, and personal appearances in Jackson, Mississippi, as she keynoted the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC)/American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Economic Forum.

The forum, in its 17th year, is designed to keep its membership abreast of current information about legislation and regulatory changes affecting the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concessions and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) Program. “It is our job to keep our membership informed, and this forum serves as that vehicle to do so,” said Don O’Bannon, chair of AMAC. “We make sure those in our organization are equipped with knowledge and have the necessary tools to succeed.”

Brazile, who serves as a regular contributor on CNN and ABC news stations and also spent 200 days on the road in 2010, said she knew a thing or two about airports. “Just within the last couple of weeks I have been to Columbia, S.C., Salt Lake City, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. And, I want to thank all of you for what you do to make my travel experiences good,” said Brazile. “The jobs you do to provide support services, safety, shopping, and eating to the millions of Americans that fly daily is unparalleled.”

According to AMACs website, it is the only national, non-profit, trade association dedicated to promoting the full participation of minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises (MW/DBEs) in airport contracting, and the inclusion of minorities and women participation in the airport industry and to capitalize on the opportunities available in the multi-billion dollar industry. “We understand that doing business with small businesses is good business,” an excited O’Bannon told The Mississippi Link. “Participants leave this economic forum with a very healthy potential to do business with airports while also securing a strong base of network support.”

Brazile took advantage of her bully pulpit and talked politics. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you think things were gridlocked in our nation’s capitol before 2008 then I suggest you buckle up because 2011 and 2012 will be gridlocked years like you’ve never seen before,” said Brazile. “What happened during the mid-term elections was just another way of folk wanting to see the policies of this administration fail.”

Brazile acknowledged that some Democrats are a little weary of President Obama after his recent compromise with Republican leaders to continue the tax cuts initiated under former President George W. Bush. “We cannot lose faith; our President (Obama) is a very smart man and is an amazing thinker,” she said. “I can only imagine that some of the compromises that were made were because Republicans held so many things hostage in that bill and at the end of the day the president was looking out for the American people especially those that have so little. This was the only way for him (Obama) to continue the unemployment benefits that so many Americans are using.”

Brazile, a New Orleans native and former campaign manager/director for Gore 2000, also acknowledged the role Mississippi played during Hurricane Katrina. “My family relocated here for about six weeks after the storm hit, and I am grateful for all of you and all that this state did during that devastation,” said Brazile. “That is why since then and even today, I continue to scream and fight for full recovery and full compensation for this state. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was hit hard and you deserve your fair share.”

R&B Singer Teena Marie Dies at 54

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(Reuters) - R&B singer and songwriter Teena Marie, best known for the hit 1980s singles "Lovergirl" and "Ooo La La La," died at her home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to news reports. She was 54.

The cause of death was not known, and a spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Her friend, percussionist Sheila E, reported on Twitter that Teena Marie had a history of seizures.

Teena Marie, whose real name was Mary Brockert, was one of the rare white performers to enjoy crossover success on America's black music charts.

A protégée of funk singer Rick James, she signed with Motown Records in 1975 and released her first album four years later. That album, which was mostly written by James, led fans to believe that Teena Marie was black since it did not feature a picture of her. Her duet with James on "I'm a Sucker For You" peaked at No. 8 on Billboard's Black Singles chart.

"I've always been accepted by the black community and I think that's a beautiful thing," Teena Marie told Jet magazine in 2006.

She released 13 albums up to 2009's "Conga Square," on which she paid tribute to jazz influences, such as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.

Teena Marie's career had been on the upswing since 2004 when she signed with a New Orleans rap label and released her first album in a decade. "La Dona" debuted and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, the first time she had ever cracked the top 20. A song from the album, "Still in Love," took her onto the Hot 100 singles chart for the first time since 1988.

Two of her albums, 1981's "It Must Be Magic" and 1984's "Starchild," went gold for U.S. shipments in excess of 500,000 units each, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The latter album, released after she left Motown in the wake of a legal battle, spawned the tune "Lovergirl," which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100. "Ooo La La La," meanwhile, went to No. 1 on the black singles chart in 1988.

Teena Marie is survived by a daughter, Alia Rose.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Paul Simao)


Former Clinton Aide 'Flacking' for Outvoted Ivory Coast Leader

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Online newspaper Salon has learned that former special counsel to Bill Clinton, Lanny Davis, has joined the payroll of Laurent Gbagbo, the defeated leader of the Ivory Coast.

Davis, who represents a number of controversial corporate and foreign clients, told reporters at a press conference that the West African leader has “renounced violence” and that he “calls on Mr. Ouattara to join him in putting the arms down and sitting down to talk.”

In addition to the outvoted leader Gbagbo, Davis was on a million dollar per year retainer for Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the longtime repressive oligarch of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, according to Salon.

Davis claims his law firm is counseling non-violence and transparency. But, reports from the scene by the U.N. and Amnesty International, note that vigilante groups are patrolling the streets of the principal city Abidjan and more than 50 people have been killed in recent days, hundreds have been abducted from their homes at night by armed assailants in military uniforms and bodies are turning up in morgues and on the streets. Thousands are reported to have fled the country to neighboring Liberia and Guinea for refuge.

A purported “fact sheet” distributed by Davis presents a litany of charges against the certified poll winner, Alassane Ouattara, who has also won near universal recognition as president since receiving the majority vote.

Dealing with Debt During the Holidays

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Don’t Allow a Seasonal Splurge to Ruin Your New Year

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist–

(NNPA) In 2010, many consumers will likely find that the traditions of the annual holiday season may be difficult – if not impossible - to observe this year. According to the Urban Institute’s National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers, more than 500,000 people in this country do not have a place to call home each night and half of these people are also without shelter. Moreover according to HUD, an estimated 2,000,000 people experienced homelessness at some time during the year.

If you are one of the nearly one in four homeowners with a mortgage owing more on your home than it is now worth, count your blessings and remember that you are not alone.

The most recent survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association found that as of the end of the third quarter this year, approximately 7 million homeowners were 60 days or more delinquent on their mortgage. Although California, the nation’s most populous state, has the dubious distinction of being home to the largest number of delinquent mortgages – over 600,000, the highest average mortgage debt per borrower is in the District of Columbia with $342,695.

Despite deep and widespread indebtedness, the holidays will still tempt many to use credit to help make their celebrations merry. And, although access to credit is a long-standing concern for minority businesses and consumers alike, seasonal celebrations should not become an excuse to worsen already strained personal finances.

As many lenders, especially those offering mortgage loans, raise credit standards to qualify for a range of financial products, the cold and hard factor in reaching a decision on approving or rejecting a credit application will be determined by how well consumers have already managed their credit in this deepening recession. Troubled homeowners who have suffered foreclosure, a short sale or bankruptcy, should be mindful that those developments have likely already dropped your personal credit score.

Similarly, for those who are entering trial periods for loan modifications or are 30-days delinquent on a mortgage, think seriously before taking out a credit application to take advantage of a limited discount for new credit accounts. How often new credit applications are filed is one of the factors that determine credit scores.

The other factors in determining a credit score are payment history, outstanding debt, credit history length, and credit mix. Two of these factors - payment history and outstanding debt - account for 65 percent of the total score.

If you are considering whether to purchase a home in the New Year, be mindful that your credit score will be far more important than a seasonal extravagance. As many prospective homebuyers consider applying for mortgage loans, applicants with a credit score less than 700 will likely find credit approval a dicey process.

Among the largest banks, 90 percent use Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) scores to make decisions. For example, if a consumer had a FICO score of 680 and then missed a monthly debt payment that one failure could lower their score by 60-80 points.

FICO scores range from 300-850 and measure how well consumer credit has historically been handled. In general, higher scores lead to better credit terms. In the case of mortgage lending, the direct benefit could be a lower interest rate over the life of the loan. Consumers with scores of 700 or most often qualify for lower mortgage rates. On a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage, a difference of 100 points could mean saving or paying $40,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

If you do not know your credit score, there is a convenient and free service available. Visit the government-mandated site, www.annualcreditreport.com where each year consumers can receive free credit scores. Although, many firms advertise ‘free credit reports’, those are usually private services that require a paid subscription for full access to your information.

If you’re in doubt this holiday season about your credit, visit the government site and keep those dollars for something more useful.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s communications manager for state policy and outreach. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

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BVN National News Wire