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Local HIV/AIDS Activist Speaks At International Gathering

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By Ayana Jones, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

(NNPA) - For local activist Waheedah Shabazz-El, delivering the closing speech at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria last monthh was an unforgettable experience.

Shabazz-El delivered a speech titled “Human Rights as a Conscious Achievement” to world leaders and over 25,000 delegates who gathered for the weeklong conference. During her speech, Shabazz-El called for women living with HIV to be involved in the policymaking process and ending the criminalization and violation of women living with HIV and AIDS.

“For all people we have to ensure that communities are able to access HIV education, prevention, testing and counseling services that meet their needs. We must eliminate all funding for abstinence-only programs that fail young people by violating their right to life-saving information,” Shabazz-El told conference attendees.

“All people with HIV have the right to work, have a full and satisfying sexual life, bear children and access high quality HIV care that meets their needs.”

Since the 2012 International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, D.C., Shabazz also took the opportunity to address challenges surrounding HIV in the U.S. such as housing for those living with HIV, the disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color and women and stigma.

While the U.S. has finally lifted the 23-year travel ban on HIV-positive people entering the country, Shabazz-El noted that two of the most vulnerable populations, sex workers and drug users will not be allowed to legally enter the U.S. and participate in the upcoming conference.

She was honored to have the opportunity to speak during the conference.

Throughout her years as a HIV-positive activist, Shabazz-El has been steadfast in speaking up about HIV/AIDS related issues and educating others.

“It’s only through speaking out that the healing can start and the resources can come to your community,” says Shabazz-El, who was nominated to speak at the conference by the U.S. Positive Women’s Network. “I can’t be silent and just watch my communities get swallowed up by HIV. I’m just not a sideline player, where I can allow that to happen. Until we have a cure, what we have is education.”

Shabazz-El is also one of many community leaders who helped develop the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Shabazz-El joined other members of a national working group to develop input for the strategy. The strategy has three primary goals which include reducing the number of people who have been infected with HIV, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The strategy was developed at a time when there are over one million Americans living with HIV.

“It’s something that we can start building on. We have a plan with some substance,” Shabazz-El said as she lauded the Obama administration for being willing to develop a strategy. “I’m just glad that we have an administration that sees that addressing HIV at home is a priority. I’m really pleased that we have an administration that heard us when we asked him (President Obama) to start working on this. ... Housing for people with HIV will be a cornerstone of this strategy because housing will be a way to increase (drug) adherence and access to care and housing will also be a way to reduce disparities.”

Shabazz-El, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003, is a community organizer and trainer with the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). As an employee of Philadelphia FIGHT, she works as an HIV counselor and tester.

Alleged Flint Serial Killer Will Face Charges In Michigan

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By Deanna Dunham, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Chronicle –

(NNPA) - Elias Abuelazam, 33, a suspect in the string of attacks in three states has been arrested and appeared in an Atlanta court. Sixteen of the stabbing and bludgeoning victims were Black, one Hispanic and one White man.

According to the Washington Post, police apprehended Abuelazam, a Christian Arab, on August 11 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where he was waiting to board a Delta flight to his native home in Tel Aviv, Israel after they received an anonymous tip.

Charged with attempted murder in connection with the July 27 stabbing in Flint, Michigan, Judge Richard Hicks informed Abuelazam that more charges were expected to be brought against him.

The judge also explained that Abuelazam would have to return to Michigan if he wanted to fight the charges, to which he agreed.

Since late May, authorities allege that Abuelazam has randomly stabbed and attacked 18 men, including the five fatal deaths and nine stabbings in Flint, Michigan; the two stabbings in Virginia, including the one bludgeoned to death with a hammer; and the fatal stabbing outside of a Toledo church Aug. 7.

Rage in Harlem

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - Without the consolation of tears and in a quivering voice, Myrna Soto, the grandmother of a young man slain in Harlem over the weekend, said, “I wish this had never happened.”

But her grandson, Luis Soto, 21, was dead, his body riddled with five or six bullets, the fatal one through his heart probably fired by a police officer. “I didn’t want to lose this grandson,” Soto said during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the National Action Network. “It’s sad. It’s real sad.”

If Soto’s rage was muted, the hundreds jamming the House of Justice were not, and the Rev. Al Sharpton had called the meeting not to point fingers and blame anyone, “but for people to talk and discuss how we can come to terms with violence.”

Such violence was occurring right up the street from the meeting, as it was reported that a young boy had been shot. At first, he was reportedly dead but it was later corrected to say he would survive.

Soto didn’t survive, and amidst an ongoing investigation, it is still a bit murky as to what really happened early Sunday morning near Colonel Charles Young Playground at Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and 144th Street.

According to the latest police report, Soto was in a fight with Angel Alvarez, 23, over a young lady when a gun materialized. It is still not clear whose gun it was, but the police account said Alvarez had it and pointed it at officers arriving at the scene.

Two shots were fired from the fracas between Alvarez and Soto, the police say, which precipitated a barrage of 46 shots. When the shooting was over, Soto lay dead, with Alvarez wounded by 21 bullets and two officers and three bystanders shot.

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a speaker at the meeting, said the officers failed to use the necessary precautions and properly evaluate “who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. And 50 shots, that’s excessive.”

What many citizens learned four years ago from the tragic shooting of Sean Bell, a victim in a fatal flurry of 50 bullets, was that according to police procedure, an officer is supposed to, after three shots, evaluate the scene then determine if more force is necessary.

That clearly was not exercised in this most recent incident. That and other points were raised by outraged participants at the meeting, including Ade Williams, who expressed a strong concern about the “culture of snitching” among the current generation. He called for the end of such behavior but was aware that to call the police often exacerbates a bad situation.

“We must police our own community,” was a comment offered by more than one spectator—something Tamika Mallory, executive director of NAN, had stressed during her opening remarks.

The dais was overflowing with noted community leaders and elected officials. Assemblyman Keith Wright picked up on the theme that “it’s up to us, we have to do it ourselves,” he said of ending the violence. “One of the hardest jobs we have as parents is turning boys into men.”

“I’m tired of excuses, no more excuses,” expounded Hazel Dukes, civil rights stalwart and NAACP leader. Soto’s death was like “another one of my children is dead,” she said.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Members Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, District Leader Theresa Freeman, Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, political activist and candidate Basil Smikle, Kirsten Foy of the public advocate’s office, the Revs. Herbert Daughtery and Vernon Williams, and Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement were among those waiting a turn at the microphone.

Clay received a rousing applause during his brief remarks. “It’s easier to get a Glock than an apartment,” he said, referring to the current firearm of choice.

It may have been such a weapon that wounded Makeda Joseph. During her statement, she related how she was shot. “I was shot by a woman, so it’s not just young men with guns,” she said.

Most of the notables forsook their time in order to hear what the community had to say about the wave of violence. And the recommendations came in torrents. “We’ve got to find some way to help our single mothers raising children by themselves,” charged Renna Walker. She also suggested that churches could play a bigger role in stemming the conflict.

Veteran activist Michael St. John called for establishing a curfew for the children. “I’m willing to work with anybody on the details of this,” he declared.

“We need to put all our ideas in a box as we leave here this evening,” said Natasha Green, a local teacher.

Several community members repeated that it’s time to end business as usual when it comes to police brutality. Lesha Sekou, Stafford Warren and Jael Sanchez were among those who indicated that it is necessary to take the messages at the meeting to those in the streets.

“I’m mad,” said Rev. Williams, who had just come from yet another shooting on 129th and Madison Avenue. “What we’re doing to ourselves is over nonsense. We need to take back our streets. All you have to do is to get mad.”

Some of the streets and a few blocks have apparently already been recaptured, such as143rd Street, where Diane Boyde is the president of the block association. “I’m very concerned that our block and association is being blamed in the recent incident,” she said. She took exception to news coverage that suggested her activities were in some way connected to the shooting.

U.S. Seen to Back a 'Goodluck' Win in 2011 Nigerian Polls

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan may already have U.S. support locked up for a 2011 reelection bid. The rationale, according to an editorial in the Vanguard newspaper of Nigeria, is the global energy war.

The “war” pits the U.S. against China and India on one hand and the unstable supply source in the Middle East and Africa on the other. The battle is to decide who controls the supply source.

At stake is the $16 trillion investment in the development of oil production and distribution between 2011 to 2030 in anticipation of a rise in energy demand of 35 per cent.

Former American diplomats have been quietly meeting Nigeria’s officials of state, the paper reports, citing a recent visit by Walter Carrington, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, and a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia.

A further opportunity to burnish the Nigerian leader’s credentials comes next month when Pres. Jonathan attends the UN General Assembly in NY.

So far, other known aspirants to the Presidential seat are Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Otunba Dele Mommodu and Alhaji Ibrahim Shekerau. Anti-corruption fighter Nuhu Ribadu is also hinting at a possible run.

Tentative dates for the polls are Jan. 8-15, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Amidst Soaring CEO Salaries, South African Workers Demand 'Living Wage'

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Thousands of public service workers turned out for a one day strike to demand higher salaries at a time when corporate CEOs and top government officials are enjoying skyrocketing pay packages.

Speaking from the back of a truck at Tuesday’s demonstration, South African labor leader Zwelinzima Vavi wagged a finger at the rising wages of South Africa’s corporate execs in general, government ministers and even President Jacob Zuma.

"If my memory serves me right he is earning more than 2.2-million rand ($312,056)," he said to shouts of disapproval. The public service workers, earning about $1,000 monthly, are seeking a 1,000 rand ($138) housing allowance and better health benefits.

"We are saying to the government; 'if you have a conscience, give us better pay… We also have families. The president has a family, a big family just like we do. He has many children to feed, just like we do'. We want geld (we want money)," said Vavi, leader of the labor federation Cosatu.

Cosatu and the Public Servants’ Association represent more than half of the 1.3-million government employees. Also preparing to strike are metalworkers, teachers and health care professionals.

Workers are not prepared to "suffer the same pain they had suffered in the past three years,” said Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers, which has called for an indefinite strike starting this week. "Today is only a warning. This is not a strike; we are just firing a warning shot."

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