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Guineans Swear in First President To Be Democratically Elected

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Numerous African heads of state and government officials arrived in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, to take part in the swearing-in ceremony of Alpha Conde, a long-time opposition leader, as president of the West African nation.

"I say loud and clear: poverty and underdevelopment in the Republic of Guinea does not have to be our destiny," said the 72-year-old Conde, who narrowly defeated his rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, in the November vote.

"I will try in my small way to be Guinea's (Nelson) Mandela and unite every son of Guinea," Conde said after taking his oath. "The restoration of social cohesion and national unity requires a collective look at our painful past."

Conde's election marks an end to half a century of despotism and military rule in the nation, which is extremely poor despite rich mineral wealth, and remains ethnically divided.

The ceremony included a minute's silence in memory of the 157 opposition supporters murdered by forces loyal to former junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara at a stadium in the capital in September 2009.

Conde has already promised a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission to examine atrocities ranging from the recent violence to the use of starvation cells to execute dissidents under Sekou Toure, Guinea's first president.

U.N. Refuses Order to Leave Ivory Coast As Skirmishes Break Out

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

U.N. peacekeepers have refused an order from the embattled Laurent Gbagbo, out-voted candidate in recent national elections, to leave the country as a standoff between Gbagbo and the widely-accepted election winner, Alassane Ouattara, heats up.

From his headquarters in the National Palace, the former president is under a barrage of international criticism for refusing to accept defeat in the latest poll. Gbagbo who received fewer votes than this rival, accused the U.N.’s 10,000-member peacekeeping force of arming former rebel fighters, now loyal to Ouattara, of plotting against him. Recently, the U.N. Security Council voted to renew the force's mandate for six months, after hearing reports that Gbagbo's forces have been involved in "massive" human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Youth, Charles Ble Goude, has reportedly been touring run-down suburbs of the principal city, Abidjan, firing up crowds of youth with demands that Ivorians fight for their sovereignty. Commentaries from African writers were marked by dismay at another deadly ‘food fight’ between warring politicians. Charles Onyango-Obbo, writing in The East African of Kenya, observed: “Last week Ivory Coast took another step toward the grave, as the country moved closer to a return to civil war… The madness is likely to end in a bloodbath.”

“Cheating is nothing new,” declared writer Jenerali Ulimwengu of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “It’s this brazen nature of electoral rape that especially worries one.”

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, wrote: “I join the many, led by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, who call on former President Gbagbo to step aside and respect the will of the people. They have chosen Alassane Ouattara and no repression, however brutal and long, can undo this decision nor Mr. Ouattara’s legitimacy. The international community has accepted Mr. Ouattara’s victory and encourages him in his quest to bring peace and reconciliation to Cote d’Ivoire.”

Portland Organization Transforms Way Black Men Approach Their Health Using Website

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By Brian Stimson, Special to the NNPA from The Skanner Group –

The new site – www.ourhealthalliance.org – provides a way for people to access information about diseases and health concerns and provides a comprehensive listing of health clinics and community groups in the Portland Metropolitan area. While the site focuses on health issues more likely to affect men, it also includes a lot of information useful to the entire family.

Sponsored by the Men’s Health Project, in a partnership with PSU’s Center for Healthy Inclusive Parenting, the website was borne out of a conversation between Jeffrey Showell and Damon Isiah Turner. After a meeting about a different grant opportunity, a conversation continued into the parking garage about a much-needed community service. The men wanted to find a way for health practitioners to communicate with each other and provide an online community gathering space for Africans and African Americans to find culturally specific health information. “Our hope is that there will be synergy created for coalition building, refining ideas, things that wouldn’t happen, although there are a lot of things going on in Portland around health for African American and African communities, a lot of times people just aren’t talking to each other and they just don’t know what other organizations are doing,” Showell said. “We’re going to try and break down the barriers.”

Turner says that easily accessible medical facts are helpful for a population plagued by a higher incidence of many preventable diseases. “You may have heard of “the Sugar” growing up,” he said. “But they didn’t necessarily know the implications of Diabetes.”

Designed and hosted by local web company WolfPk, the site is funded with a grant from the state of Oregon’s Office of Multicultural Health and Services. Although the sites designers are not medical professionals, the information on the site is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

They say the site is limited only by their imagination and the site’s current crop of offerings is by no means the last. Turner and Showell say they hope to soon include information about preparing healthy foods, perhaps including video instructions and even information relating to small subsets of the African immigrant population.

“This is definitely a starting point,” he said. “This is where we wanted to have it; it’s going to be evolving. It’s not in any way stagnant.” One of their main missions with the website is to reach out to Portland’s community of African immigrants. “We would be adding to this list (of health concerns on the website) based on what we get back from specific African communities,” Turner said.

The project is currently meeting with a variety of different community organizations and leaders to try and determine how the site can better deliver needed information into the community. There are some that they hope to hear from. “The faith-based organizations have been a tough nut to crack,” says Showell. “Some of them have active or growing health ministries, for whatever reason, they haven’t jumped over those barriers.”

Contact Turner at damon@know-agenda.com and Showell at showell@easystreet.net to give them your ideas.

Report: Despite Unemployment Rate, Minority Businesses Booming

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By David Hinson, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the latest details on the American job market. The report mixed good news with bad — private-sector firms created 159,000 new jobs in October, but the unemployment rate remains persistently high, at 9.6 percent.

Policymakers continue to search for ways to help those looking for work to find jobs. The minority business community should be at the center of that conversation. Minority firms have been an engine of job growth for the U.S. economy in recent years, outpacing growth within the general business community for most of the last decade.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people employed at minority-owned businesses jumped 27 percent — from 4.7 million to 5.9 million — between 2002 and 2007. Job growth for non-minority-owned firms was less than one percent during that time.

In those five years, the number of minority-owned firms in the United States grew 46 percent, to a total of 5.8 million. Meanwhile, the number of firms in the overall economy expanded at less than half that rate.

Minority businesses are emerging as leading exporters, too. They exported to 41 countries on six continents between 1992 and 2009, according to the U.S. Export Import Bank. With these figures in mind, there's no doubt that minority entrepreneurs will lead the American business community's charge to double exports within the next five years, as the president's National Export Initiative has challenged them to do.

While minority-owned businesses are growing at a breakneck pace, disparities continue to exist between minority- and non-minority-owned firms. Just 800,000 of the nearly six million minority firms in existence have more than one employee. And, the annual revenue for the average minority-owned firm is about $300,000 less than that of a non-minority-owned firm.

Closing the entrepreneurial revenue gap between minority- and nonminority-owned businesses based on the share of the adult minority population would add $2.5 trillion to our nation's economic output, creating 11.8 million more American jobs, and unleashing the innovation of an economic sector that has long been undervalued.

Corporate America can strengthen its efforts to make minority-owned businesses a larger part of its global supply chain, and minority business owners can and should do a better job of embracing aggressive growth models and capitalizing on opportunities for alliances, mergers, and strategic partnerships.

Minority-owned firms don't have to pursue these growth strategies blindly. The Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce supports more than 40 business centers around the country to help minority-owned firms secure access to capital and contracts and assistance in entering growing foreign markets.

As we look for ways to create more jobs for Americans still desperately in need, shining a light on the economic potential of the minority-business community can significantly benefit the American people and the U.S. economy.

Congressional Black Caucus Struggles to Maintain Influence After Nov. 2

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By Charles D. Ellison, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

The political landscape changed dramatically on Nov. 2 for Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., the audacious, skip-to-his-own-beat Philadelphia lawmaker hoping for tightened polls that evening — just enough to hold off an expected Republican takeover of the House.

His original plan was to embark on an ambitious, long shot bid for Chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, overseeing $1.4 trillion in discretionary funding and finding ways to push education as a top priority.

As the Grand Old Party amassed big gains that night, plans changed.

That didn’t really deter Fattah from his dream to run things on “Approps” as Capitol Hill rats affectionately abbreviate it. He simply went into minority ranking member mode, still intent on openly defying the Democratic Party’s Congressional seniority system.

Selection based on years served seemed like a simple formula long observed by Democrats. It worked to the favor of the quiet and senescent Rep. Norm Dicks, D-WA, who was next in line after retiring Appropriations Chair Rep. David Obey, D-WI.

Hopes for ranking member glory were dashed, however, when Fattah’s own Congressional Black Caucus gave the appearance of an endorsement for Dicks, who is White and has served in the House since 1976. It was a saddening and unexpected blow to Fattah, himself a longtime CBC Member.

“Members of the Congressional Black Caucus strongly support maintaining the seniority system for selecting committee leadership. The seniority system has served the Democratic Caucus well and has ushered in an era of diverse committee leadership, which is an asset to our party and our nation,” current CBC Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said in a statement released by POLITICO.

But, CBC spokesman J. Jioni Palmer disputes the authenticity of that statement. Dismissive of the reports and flatly denying any Caucus endorsement of Dicks, Palmer seemed annoyed by the question. “Reporters don’t know everything,” he retorted.

Still, observers argue that it makes sense, a shrewd and calculated move by the Caucus to ensure the integrity of the seniority system. Without it, many CBC Members wouldn’t have had their chance to chair influential committees: from Bennie Thompson, D-MI, on Homeland Security to Charlie Rangel, D-NY, formerly chairing Ways and Means.

The venerable Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, is still stone locked into Judiciary and Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-NY, held on as Chair of Government Reform. Turning on a native son to save the family seemed like an essential move since many CBC Members have been in the Congress long enough to assume an impressive number of leadership roles on influential committees.

At the end of the Democratic-led 111th Congress, there are four CBC House Committee Chairs and 18 subcommittee chairs. When Republicans take control in January, most — if not all — will transition into the Ranking Member role.

Fattah, however, was congratulatory in a statement on Dicks’ win. “I look forward to working with him and our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to advance an agenda for the American people. I know that our leadership team, led by Norm, will be united as we head into the 112th Congress.”

And, in a conversation with the Tribune, he seemed pleased with his conciliation prize: ranking member of House Appropriation’s subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, a decent look worth $70 billion in discretionary funding and a chance to transcend the urban politics typically associated with Philly’s most senior Congressional Member.

“Competition is a good thing,” said Fattah, particularly jovial that the controversial tax cut deal he endorsed in opposition to the CBC was about to pass.

But, the CBC remains in a state of constant, traumatic flux, struggling to regain or maintain influence on a scarred post-midterm battlefield. After weeks of uncertainty and a mountain of speculation, Towns suddenly withdrew himself from consideration as Ranking Member of the Government Reform Committee.

It was a move contradicting earlier stands from weeks before when Towns insisted he would take on incoming Republican Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ambitious California pol vowing to conduct non-stop, Eliot Ness-like investigations into White House inner workings and other issues stirring the Beltway gossip pot.

Towns had promised a spirited defense of the administration as Ranking Member, at times using Brooklyn brawl vernacular and political threats. But, there were lingering doubts from both House Democratic leaders and the White House that Towns would not be aggressive enough, citing examples when Issa appeared to best the low key New York Congressman.

That suddenly left two CBC ranking members on powerful House Committees: Thompson on Homeland Security and founding Member Conyers on Judiciary. Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Towns’ New York delegation member, was poised to fill the spot with little noise made.

But, in a recent 119-61 caucus vote, Democrats made the unusual move of confirming Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, as ranking member, another CBC member only one step behind Maloney who — like Fattah — seemed happy to buck the seniority system.

Again, the CBC’s spot was blown. Would they go with the natural choice of Cummings, the most senior African American Member from Maryland or would party loyalty reign supreme?

The vote was significant considering Democrats typically observe the seniority system. And Maloney was reportedly “bitter” about the vote, expecting CBC compliance with party rule.

But, Hill sources expressed frustration with Towns leadership as Chair of the Committee during the last two sessions of Congress. Administration officials feared the Brooklyn lawmaker would not be able to withstand the onslaught of inquiries expected from Issa.

However, Democrats saw an immediate opportunity once Cummings announced his plan to run: a proven Baltimore brawler willing to box and undercut Republicans when needed. Many quietly considered Maloney as somewhat soft and unfocused.

“He will not out-work me and he will not out-maneuver me,” Cummings reportedly said about Issa during conversations with Democratic colleagues before the vote. “I come from a tough place.”

With the selection of Cummings as ranking member and Issa chairing, observers predict Government Reform will be one of the more bombastic in recent memory given the reputations of both lawmakers.

Issa is the clean-cut and disarmingly affable, yet unapologetic conservative livewire who refers to the Obama Administration as “corrupt and arrogant.” To the left of the ring is Cummings, a well-known “bulldog” and fierce legislator legendary for his keep-it-real style and famous blasting of Committee hearing witnesses. Both are expected to battle for Committee microphone as the 112th Congress gets underway with Republicans eager to flex political muscle into the next election cycle.

“I think we’ve got to hold this administration to a high standard,” said Cummings to reporters after the vote. “But at the same time, we’ve got to be fair, we’ve got to be reasonable and we cannot abuse the process.” The Maryland Congressman referred to a time during the Clinton Administration when Republicans were in power and “… it seemed like we had a new investigation every few weeks.”

When asked how Issa would chair the Committee in the new political climate, spokesman Frederick Hill responded that “rigorous government oversight is something that’s going to happen.”

“Being a tough watchdog and being collegial is mutually exclusive,” said Hill in describing the relationship between Cummings and Issa.

Would Issa use Government Reform as a political leveraging tool, dangling the prospect of fewer subpoenas as a way to gain concessions from House Democrats and the White House? Hill refutes that: “The top concern here is what can government do differently that can get this economy back on track.”

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BVN National News Wire