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Black Church Group Criticizes California NAACP on Marijuana Support

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) Some Black church leaders are calling for the head of the California NAACP to step down over her group's support for the legalization of marijuana in her state as well as over alleged ties to the marijuana lobby.

Rev. Anthony Evans, president of National Black Church Initiative, and Bishop Ron Allen, president and chief executive officer of the International Faith Based Coalition took issue with an editorial California NAACP president Alice Huffman wrote in a popular online newspaper The Huffington Post outlining reasons why her organization supports California Proposition 19 - the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act 2010 - a measure that would make California the first state to legalize marijuana.

“The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal and we support that because we advocate health but those are prescribed by a physician and are prescribed for certain conditions,” Evans said. “But when the NAACP just says legalize marijuana we believe that it sends out the wrong message given that over the last 30 years we have lost over 200,000 people to drug-related crimes in the African-American community. How can the church be in the business of promoting illegal drugs? It just doesn't fit into the proper role of the faith community or an organization that came out of the Black church."

The reverend is calling on all of their member churches to publicly denounce the NAACP for supporting this legislation and he is also asking them to withdraw all monetary contributions and support for using Black churches for their meetings until Jealous repudiates Huffman and the California NAACP.

Evans said that his 34,000 Black church-backed group no longer believes that the nation's oldest civil rights organization represents the best interests of the Black family.

“How can they say they are for Black people when they are legalizing drugs that has killed tens of thousands of African-Americans?” Evans asked. “It makes no sense."

State conferences can independently take position on issues on which there is no national policy, so she and the California State Conference were within their right to do this.

"The focus for the California State conference is not decriminalization of Marijuana," said Benjamin Jealous, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP. "The emphasis is getting a handle on out of control and racially disparate enforcement strategies. And it's a problem across the country. For example, in New York City, Black children, are 20 percent less likely to have drugs in their pockets when the cops stop them, but they're 500 percent more likely to be stopped."

He said, "This is a very serious issue" that deserves more digging into beyond the controversy or salaciousness.

"The National [NAACP] just passed a resolution to study the issue more deeply because there is a high level of concern by Black leaders who are engaged with the crisis of the mass overcriminalization of our young people and about misguided enforcement strategies. And so we'll need to study this nationally to see where we should go," Jealous said.

Huffman's stance is centered on the decriminalization of a drug that unfairly penalizes African-Americans at a higher rate than other races.

In her article, published in The Huffington Post on July 6th, Huffman wrote that Rev. Martin Luther King was “roundly criticized by friend and foe alike for speaking out on an issue considered outside the purview of civil rights' leaders" for taking a radical stance against the Vietnam war in 1967.

"The California NAACP does not believe maintaining the illusion we're winning the ‘war on drugs’ is worth sacrificing another generation of our young men and women,” she wrote. “Enough is enough. We want change we can believe in; that's why we're supporting Prop. 19. Instead of wasting money on marijuana law enforcement, Prop. 19 will generate tax revenues we can use to improve the education and employment outcomes of our youth. Our youth want and deserve a future. Let's invest in people, not prisons. It is time to end the failed war on drugs by decriminalizing and regulating marijuana to save our communities."

Huffman cited Drug Policy Alliance report that supports the legalization of marijuana because African- Americans disparately represent 22 percent of California's marijuana arrests, a percentage that is more than three times the state's Black population.

"We believe whatever potential harms may be associated with using marijuana are more than outweighed by the immediate harms that derive from being caught up in the criminal justice system," Huffman reasoned in her article.

While the California branch of the NAACP publicly supports Proposition 19 the NAACP national chapter has not issued any public statements denouncing their state affiliate's position. In Evans' eyes, their silence means that they support Huffman's position.

"We have not heard that the National is denouncing them in any way," Evans said. "What we have concluded is that the national wouldn't allow their affiliates to do whatever they wanted because if they did they would have chaos."

He also implied that Huffman has receive money from pro-marijuana groups which has influenced her decisions.

Huffman denies receiving any money from pro-marijuana groups, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite Evans and Allen's unsubstantiated claims, Huffman does have a well-reported history of allegations involving entanglings with her organization's civil rights agenda with the business agenda of her successful political consulting firm A.C. Public Affairs, Inc. For years, mainstream California newspapers have reported on suspected corruption of Huffman as the head of the California NAACP.

For example, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2006 that Huffman received $100,000 in consultation payments from tobacco giant Philip Morris. The California NAACP, at the same time, opposed a California measure to raise taxes on cigarette companies. The national NAACP supported the measure.

Similar allegations were reported in other instances involving the California NAACP endorsing measures that Huffman's special interest clients such as AT&T and the pharmaceutical industry have pushed.

"The campaign payments to Huffman's political company, A.C. Public Affairs, come only a year after the firm was paid $330,000 in consulting fees by the pharmaceutical industry. In 2005, the state NAACP sided with the drug companies' position on two ballot measures," the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2006.

In 2008, The Sacramento Bee reported that Huffman and the NAACP together received more than $100,000 dollars from a coalition of Indian tribes while at the same time endorsing ballot measures that those same tribes backed.

The marijuana issue in California is just the latest split between Black church leaders like Evans and the nation's foremost Black civil rights leaders and organizations. The reverend is planning on challenging the NAACP on a number of hot button issues such as same sex marriage, which the NAACP supports but so do some other prominent leaders such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and organiziations like the National Urban League.

He said, "We're taking a critical look at all of the civil rights organizations in making sure that they are standing to protect the Black family and the Black community, and most of these organizations are not."

Anger in Haiti Grows as U.N. Rates Earthquake Response as Good

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By Joseph Guyler Delva, NNPA Haiti Correspondent –

PORT-AU-PRINCE (NNPA) – U.N. officials in Haiti are saying that the response given by the international community to the devastating earthquake disaster was good. But six months after the earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people, survivors in makeshift tent cities continue to express growing discontent with aid relief efforts.

“I have four children and over the past two days I have not been able to cook anything to feed the children,” said 40-year-old mother Medgine Morancy, holding her 4-year-old boy outside her plastic tent in an overcrowded camp in downtown Port-au-Prince.

“We rely only on some neighbors who sometimes share some food with us,” Morancy said. “All we’ve been receiving is water, but we can’t live only with water … We’re dying of hunger”.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator and U.N. Secretary-General’s deputy special representative in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, said U.N. agencies and other humanitarian actors did a good job with the limited means available in the aftermath of what he said was the worst natural disaster ever in an urban area in the world.

“I am not saying more could not have been done, but I think the response provided so far, six months after the disaster, was good compared to previous disasters in other parts of the world,” Fisher stated. The Haitian government said up to 300,000 people died in the January 12, 7.0 magnitude earthquake that sent more than 1 million people leaving in makeshift camps in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and in other affected areas.

U.N. officials said more progress has been made in Haiti over the six-month period than in the hardest hit Indonesian province of Aceh, following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“Six months after the tsunami in Aceh 700 temporary shelters were built. However in Haiti we have more than 3,700,” Fisher said. “In Aceh 14,000 people got temporary jobs through high labor intensity programs, while we have more than 200,000 working here,” he stated.

Fisher also mentioned the case of Kobe, in Japan, that was devastated in 1995 by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed 6,400 people and left 300,000 people homeless. He said after 5 years of recovery, it’s only this year Kobe is getting back to the situation it was before the disaster.

“And all that occurred in an industrialized country with advanced social and economic infrastructures,” explained Fisher, showing how difficult it has been for the poorest country in the western hemisphere to cope with the aftermath of the disaster.

U.N. officials said 1.5 million people have already received temporary shelters, 4.3 million have received food assistance and 1.2 million receive potable drinking water everyday.

According to the U.N., 11,000 toilets have been set up, 600,000 children vaccinated, 250,000 m3 of rubble have been removed, 1,700 school tents have been distributed and 80 percent of affected schools have resumed classes while 560,000 school children have received a hot meal.

Despite all these figures, many homeless survivors, like Morancy, have expressed growing frustration with the lack of access to some of the most basic living conditions.

Others complain about the unbearable heat generated by the plastic tents exposed to a burning sun in wide open areas, mostly without any vegetation to provide shade. Survivors also expressed concern about the current rainy and hurricane seasons that could cause another disaster if appropriate precautionary measures are not taken immediately.

“Here, it’s like hell. When it rains we are flooded, when it is sunny, the heat is killing us,” said Jonas Meridien, living in a camp near the national road #1.

U.N. officials said that 170,000 homes affected by the quake have so far been assessed. And about 30 percent of them are habitable while 40 percent that are seriously damaged can be repaired.

On top of the 3,700 houses already built, the U.N. announced the construction of 12,000 more as part of a plan to build 125,000 homes by the end of August 2011. The Red Cross separately plans to build 30,000 and has already started construction for the first 300 transitional houses near Cite Soleil slum in the capital.

The U.N. and the Haitian government have come under intense criticism from opposition parties and other sectors that blame them for lack of actions and absence of leadership in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

But the U.N. and the Haitian government have rejected criticism that suggests that they have not been doing much to try to assist the affected population.

“Some critics would say we did not do anything, you can see it is not true,” said Fisher acknowledging that there is a lot more remaining to be done.

U.N. and Haitian officials have complained that international donors have not actually contributed funds pledged during the March 31 conference in New York.

The U.N. has recently appealed for $1.4 billion for this year.

The international donor community pledged $5.3 billion over the next two years as part of $9.9 billion aid package to help rebuild the country over the next several years. But officials say only about 10 percent of pledged funds have been disbursed and continues to trickle in slowly.

Explains Fisher, “We have received promises [of] $900 million, of which $530 [million] have been received.”

Rebuilding After Katrina, East New Orleans to Get New Hospital

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Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

(NNPA) - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced plans to deliver a full-service hospital in New Orleans East. After renegotiating a flawed real-estate deal with Universal Health Services (UHS), Landrieu announced that the City will purchase the Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital site for $16.25 million - representing a cost of $23.75 million in savings for the real estate deal alone. Landrieu laid out a plan to renovate and open the hospital for a projected cost of $110 million - resulting in projected total savings of $53 million for the taxpayers.

"It has been nearly five years since Hurricane Katrina, and it is shameful that more than 80,000 residents in New Orleans East, the 9th Ward and parts of Gentilly still have to drive up to 30 minutes to an emergency room," Landrieu said. "I understand that this is a matter of life and death. That's why I've been so focused on putting together a plan that will give the people of the East a quality, full-service hospital as quickly as possible. And that's why it's so important that we put in place a hospital that is financially sustainable over time."

Landrieu also released his administration's Eastern New Orleans Healthcare and Hospital Report, which outlines a strategy to deliver quality health care in New Orleans East.

According to engineering estimates in this report, the full-service hospital is expected to open by the Fall of 2013, and an on-site ambulatory care facility providing emergency-room services will be completed in approximately one year. Mayor Landrieu and his team are in preliminary negotiations with a not-for-profit healthcare provider to operate the hospital.

During focus groups with physicians and community members held in the last 60 days, many expressed concern about emergency transport time from the eastern parts of New Orleans. To address this issue, as a new hospital and emergency room is being developed, the city will post an additional ambulance in New Orleans East.

Landrieu said, "We have laid out a comprehensive plan for health care in New Orleans East, from our vast network of primary-care clinics to a full-service hospital at the old Methodist site."

Landrieu also released his administration's Eastern New Orleans Healthcare and Hospital Report, which outlines a strategy to deliver quality health care in New Orleans East.

According to engineering estimates in this report, the full-service hospital is expected to open by the Fall of 2013, and an on-site ambulatory care facility providing emergency-room services will be completed in approximately one year. Mayor Landrieu and his team are in preliminary negotiations with a not-for-profit healthcare provider to operate the hospital.

During focus groups with physicians and community members held in the last 60 days, many expressed concern about emergency transport time from the eastern parts of New Orleans. To address this issue, as a new hospital and emergency room is being developed, the city will post an additional ambulance in New Orleans East.

Landrieu said, "We have laid out a comprehensive plan for health care in New Orleans East, from our vast network of primary-care clinics to a full-service hospital at the old Methodist site."

Congress Votes to Ban Cell Phones in Prison

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Inmates in federal prisons will have a tougher time using cell phones and wireless devices after both chambers of Congress recently voted in favor of a bill restricting their use behind bars.

Congress voted July 20 to close a loophole in federal law by restricting the use or possession of cell phones and classifying them as contraband. Officials said that with these devices, prisoners conduct a large amount of unlawful activity including credit card fraud, ordering gang hits and running drug operations. Currently, when inmates are discovered with the devices, the hardware is confiscated but the inmates are rarely punished.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the Senate measure, said a recent report found that correctional officers are the major culprits in smuggling cell phones into prisons. She said that in her state, inmates pay up to $1,000 for a phone. In one case, a correctional officer made $150,000 in one year just from selling the devices to prisoners, she said. according to the Associated Press.

With the new legislation, those convicted of selling cell phones to inmates would face up to a year in prison.

“It’s a simple process,” Ojore Lutalo, an inmate of New Jersey State Prison told NPR. “It’s not a big deal getting a cell phone. You have to understand that that is possible due to the level of corruption among the prison staff. If it wasn’t for their corruption, it wouldn’t be possible.”

Many officials agree with Lutalo and say that unlike drugs and money, cell phones cannot be smuggled through the mail and inmate visits because they would be picked up by metal detectors. “It’s a huge issue, and it’s a complex issue,” Bill Sondervan, a former Maryland prison official told NPR. “I had 8,000 employees in 27 prisons. I couldn’t be everywhere. And the way you really do that is through trying to instill in your staff that we’re all in this together.”

Prison officials have examined ways to block the phones’ service, but believe it may interfere with their radios and other critical devices.

In spite of the hesitation to implement ways to block the phones’ service, EDO, a Maryland defense intelligence company, was commissioned by the FBI to create technology that monitors cell phone usage, and devised a system that detects radio frequencies and notifies officials.

In addition to this technology, The (Salinas, Calif.) Californian found that many prisons across the country have enlisted cell phone-sniffing canines that can find stashed wireless devices as they do other contraband.

United Auto Workers, Rainbow/PUSH to Join for March in Detroit

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By Diane Bukowski, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen –

DETROIT (NNPA) — A rising tide of hope for the future has hit Detroit as Rainbow/PUSH leader Jesse Jackson and prominent union, church and community representatives kicked off a campaign to rebuild the nation’s cities, provide jobs and education, enact a moratorium on foreclosures, and end the wars in the Middle East.

United Auto Workers President Bob King and Jackson are the key leaders of the Jobs, Justice and Peace campaign, which was unveiled at a recent press conference. They announced that a march in Detroit on Aug. 28, the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 march on Washington, D.C., will kick it off. King hosted a Freedom Walk of 125,000 in Detroit that June, where he first gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Jackson said Detroit is again “ground zero” for the crisis faced by the nation’s cities. In addition to the march in Detroit, Jackson said the coalition is calling on people across the nation to march at their local unemployment offices.

“It’s a good day to be alive in Detroit,” Rev. David Bullock said. Bullock, pastor of St. Matthews Church, is a Rainbow PUSH leader and also heads the Highland Park branch of the NAACP. He and King helped lead a march on Chase Bank sponsored by the U.S. Social Forum in June.

“I represent the Facebook, Twitter and hip hop generation, which sometimes says marches are out of style,” said Bullock. “But marches won civil rights laws and created the benefits we have in our world now. It is time to demand good-paying jobs, an end to seniors being held in bondage to the pharmaceutical companies and an end to people deciding whether to turn their lights on or eat. People must come out of their churches, union halls and homes to take the streets again.”

Speakers targeted the nation’s banks, corporations and war as the culprits responsible for the misery of its people.

“The government bailed out the banks with our tax dollars, but the banks never reinvested in our country,” Jackson said. “Instead, they say to urban American ‘austerity and deficit reduction,’ and have foreclosed four million more homes this year.

“The public sector is under attack, public education and public housing are being cut, but Congress just voted $6 billion more for the war in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. bailed out GM, but they are closing plants at home and shifting them overseas.

“Detroit has an unemployment rate of 35 percent and up. We need an urban policy, an economic recovery, reconstruction from the bottom up. We have millions of talented workers ready to rebuild our national infrastructure.”

King said, “We stand strongly with the local and national movements for moratoriums on foreclosures. We cannot stand by while people are thrown out of their homes because of the global economic situation created by the U.S., while bankers get billions of dollars in bonuses.”

Attorney Jerome Goldberg is a leader of Michigan’s Moratorium NOW! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs.

“It was exciting to hear the president of the UAW support a moratorium on foreclosures,” he said after the press conference. “Taxpayers have given the banks $400 billion to pay off the full cost of foreclosed mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This campaign represents a fundamental change in the stance of the UAW, initiated by the election of leaders like Bob King and Cindy Estrada. This is a great time to begin as 400,000 unemployed people nationally are about to lose their unemployment benefits because Congress refused to extend them.”

King also expressed support for the public sector.

“How is America to be competitive if we lay off teachers and public workers?” King asked. “The UAW, AFSCME, SEIU, the Steelworkers and the Teamsters, all workers must come together to demand their First Amendment rights to organize into strong unions, which are the greatest anti-poverty tool of all.”

Al Garrett, president of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, which represents 60,000 state, county, and city workers, beamed during the press conference about the call for solidarity.

“The public workforce in Detroit and across Michigan has been decimated by this economy,” Garrett said. “But the silence has been deafening. We are elated to see the UAW and Rainbow Coalition recognize our plight. We pledge all our resources to make this campaign happen.”

For further information on the Jobs, Justice and Peace campaign, contact Michele Martin at UAW Solidarity House, 313.926.5292, or the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at 773.373.3366.

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