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Women's Rights and Protections Topped Global AIDS Conference in Vienna

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By Alice Thomas-Tisdale, Special to NNPA from the Jackson Advocate –

VIENNA, Austria (NNPA) – The 18th Annual International AIDS Conference kicked off here Sunday, July 18, with more than 20,000 delegates being urged to make things happen “Rights Here, Right Now” by signing The Vienna Declaration supporting drug policy based on science, not ideology.

Among the top issues at this year’s conference is the examination of the rights of women in the context of HIV. Over 15.7 million women are living with HIV – half of all adults living with the virus. Women from every corner of the world are making their voices heard, especially Women ARISE (Access, Rights, Investment, Security, and Equity), the largest coalition of women’s organizations that have ever come together around HIV/AIDS.

Results of the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial results were alo released during the conference. This study provides the first data demonstrating the effectiveness of an antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicide in reducing a woman’s risk of sexually transmitted infection with HIV and genital herpes.

“We welcome news of progress on a prevention tool that would give women greater control over their health and their lives,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, AIDS 2010 Chair, President of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and Director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada. “Empowering women in this way as part of a broader agenda to ensure human rights brings us one step closer to the goal of universal access.”

Also, the Global AIDS Alliance released its report on Mobilizing Accelerated Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls by 2015. Political will and resource mobilization in tackling violence and HIV/AIDS are at the top of the list of a comprehensive response to violence against women and girls. The other six pillars are legal/judicial reform, health sector reform, education sector reform, community mobilization for zero tolerance, mass media for social change, and breaking the cycle of violence.

Among this report’s findings is that unless the global community addresses violence against women and girls, the multi-billion dollar fight against AIDS is sure to fail. It suggests the response must be comprehensive – taking a multi-faceted approach focusing both on prevention and care and recognizing the socio-cultural factors contributing to the spread of HIV and preventing many persons living with HIV/AIDS from accessing services.

“Around the world, one in three women are beaten, raped or coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Violence against women and girls is a primary barrier to achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment,” stated Lisa Schechtman, Policy Director, Global AIDS Alliance.

Joining Schechtman for a panel discussion on the political breakthrough report on Violence Against Girls and Women were Dr. Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka, President of the Uganda Pediatric Association; Dr. Jantine Jacobi, Director, Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, UNAIDS; Ntombekhaya Matsha-Carpterntier, Senior Civil Society Officer, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, United Nations MDG Envoy for Africa.

Chaka Chaka also is internationally known as an accomplished singer of 20 albums. She stated: “I am a mother first. I have four boys, and I teach them it is unacceptable to abuse anybody.”

Chaka Chaka said she is appalled at adults encouraging youth to sell their bodies for profit. She also criticized African nations for hiding behind their culture to perform genital mutilation on young girls. “Our children should not be subjected to this. I don’t understand why women are tortured when they bring life into the world,” she lamented.

Consistent with the initiatives being recommended at this conference, is legislation currently being considered by the United States 111th Congress in what is known as H.R. 4594. If passed, this bill will direct the Secretary of State to establish the Office for Global Women’s Issues. This Office would help coordinate efforts worldwide to develop comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The proposed legislation also would authorize funding for community-based organizations to implement violence prevention programs.

Alice Thomas-Tisdale is publisher of the Jackson Advocate, based in Jackson, Miss.

Free Press Targets Poor Blacks and Women for Net Neutrality Campaign

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By Yaounde Olu, NNPA Special Correspondent –

(NNPA) - In a bid to ensure Net Neutrality, the Free Press has commissioned the Harmony Institute to develop a strategy that will target poor, rural African- Americans in the South and women to increase support for a Net Neutrality (NN) strategy. Net Neutrality is basically the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. In other words, everyone has access, and all platforms, content, and sites are treated equally. The opposite concept is a system wherein there would be limited or possibly "tiered" access. This could impact small businesses and other individuals without the economic wherewithal to access all sites.

According to the Free Press, the core supporters of Net Neutrality are affluent whites, who, have easy access to broadband and understand the issues. Poor, rural African-Americans and women, however, are the demographic that must be influenced in order to build a secure NN support base.

The Harmony Institute, a self-identified nonprofit organization committed to applying behavioral science to communications, in response to the Free Press' commission, has produced a manual for the purpose of achieving these ends entitled Net Neutrality For the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet. This 40-page document identifies poor, rural African Americans and woman as "persuadable" for Net Neutrality messaging, and lays out very specific strategies for accomplishing their end goal of manipulating this demographic.

The Free Press' own National Poll on Internet Usage and Net Neutrality found that the general public gave generally favorable views regarding their service providers and the reliability and speed of their connection. Though this is the case, in order to move ahead with the strategy of broadening the NN support base, they have offered a number of "what if" scenarios in order to shore up their position that the Internet needs "saving." This is because support for NN depends upon the perception that there is a potential threat to a free Internet.

One of the strategies used in the manual to provoke a response among the target demographic is the use of inflammatory images. A cartoon that brings up painful memories of Jim Crow in the South is offered for this purpose. It depicts two water fountains representing the "fountain network"; one is big and elaborate with sparkly stars representing quality and is labelled "premium users," while the other very small one, connected to it with leaky pipes encrusted with spider webs, is labelled "everyone else."

The Free Press has concluded that the best method of persuasion is behavioral science models that rely on psychological techniques, entertainment, and fictionalized storytelling instead of hard data, information, or real education. The model embeds messages into popular culture. They conclude that... "Understanding the audience helps communicators select the most appropriate behavioral science models to employ. It also helps determine the preferred media channels (mobile phone, Internet, television, film, print) for transmitting the message to a specific audience." (Net Neutrality For the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet, p. 28). It continues..."The long term persuasive power of narrative resides in its 'sleeper effect,' i.e., the impact of an idea increases over time when the one discounting cue, that the source of information is a fictional account, is forgotten." (Net Neutrality For the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet, p.31).

Though a good deal of time and attention has been devoted to manipulating would-be supporters in the document, nowhere are there plans for a campaign to ensure that the targeted population of poor rural African Americans and women have equal access to Internet service. Prominent members of the African American community have expressed serious concerns about the strategy laid out in the Free Press document. Shirley Franklin, a former mayor of Atlanta, offered the following observation, "It troubles me that an organization would target women, African-Americans and other minorities on an issue of such importance as universal broadband services without basing their advocacy on access, affordability and relevance."

Julius Hollis, Chairman and founder of the Alliance for Digital Equality (www.alliancefordigitalequality.org), an organization whose mission is to ensure accessible and affordable broadband to the unders erved and un-served, particularly to communities of color, also weighed in on the issue. He stated, "I am extremely disappointed in the Free Press, not only in its policies and tactics that they are attempting deploy in their strategy paper, but equally disturbing are its attempts to portray the African-American and Latino consumers as expendable in their efforts to promote Net Neutrality. In my opinion, this is going back to the tactics that were used in the Jim Crow era by segregationists. It's no better than what was used in the Willie Horton playbook by Lee Atwater who, upon his deathbed, asked for forgiveness for using such political behavior tactics."

The document, which cites 33 references, offers evaluation methods which include a series of questions for survey development, and concludes, "The key questions asked while assessing the impact of entertainment on audiences will help improve the methods entertainment creators and educators use to support social concerns like NN. Building upon previous work, these studies can contribute to a greater understanding of how people understand and why they take action on an issue. Such insights have the capacity to transform the advocacy world as a whole. (Net Neutrality For the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet, P. 35).

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), is taking the lead on fighting the Free Press's NN strategy. He has this to say about it, "... I am outraged. And you should be too. I urge you to get out in your community and tell your friends, tell your neighbors, and tell those you meet at church and other groups about this appalling report. Most importantly, call and email Free Press and tell them you need a broadband connection to your house, not a subliminal message beamed into your subconscious."

The full document is available to the public online at http://www.harmony-institute.org/ftw.

Questions, Confusion, Anger After S.C. Dragging Death

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By Brian E. Muhammad, Special to NNPA from the Final Call –

COLUMBIA, S.C. (NNPA) - A town hall meeting, a march and a rally has revealed a community perplexed about the handling of the murder and dragging of Anthony Hill in Newberry, S.C.

The 32-year-old husband and father of two was shot to death and tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged 11 miles on a Newberry road. Gregory Collins, a White male and reported workplace friend of Hill, is accused of the killing and is in custody for the gruesome crime.

There has been racially-charged conflict between some members the community, law enforcement and activists in the otherwise quiet Newberry ever since the incident.

Because of the horrific nature of the crime there are demands from activists and some community members to prosecute the case as a hate crime under recent federal hate crime legislation signed into law by President Barrack Obama.

South Carolina does not have a hate crime law and currently Collins is accused of murder—the highest charge in the state.

In a high energy town hall meeting, called by the Newberry Sherriff Lee Foster, the family of Anthony Hill said June 15 they were “only seeking justice” for the Army veteran and were willing to work with anyone seeking the same. There has been friction between the Sherriff's Department over involvement of “outside” groups like the New Black Panther Party, which became involved in the case within a week of the June 2 murder.

In a well attended July 17 rally on the steps of the Newberry courthouse, New Black Panther Party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz described the killing as a “modern day lynching” and the case “an outrage,” while calling for Mr. Collins to be tried in federal court for hate crime violations.

According to Mr. Shabazz, Confederate paraphernalia was found in Collins' trailer home and White supremacy insignia is tattooed on Collins' body.

According to authorities, they are investigating the killing and are yet to decide whether to charge Collins with a hate crime. The U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, William Nettles, said his investigation would dictate when he made the decision.

“He (Mr. Collins) has been charged which means that a magistrate has found probable cause to issue a murder warrant,” said Jerry Peace, a state solicitor for South Carolina, who covers Newberry and three other counties. Mr. Peace told The Final Call July 22 that he is waiting for the investigative report to determine what the next step should be concerning Mr. Collins' possible indictment.

According to Anthony Hill's widow, the authorities have been cagey with information about the case and ongoing investigations.

“I am looking mostly for the truth of what is going on, what happened that night. They say ‘no comments.' We call them, they don't call us,” complained Aurea Hill, the wife of the victim.

“I'm the wife, at least I should know a little bit of what's going on.”

Hill told The Final Call that authorities don't give her updates on the investigation. Hill said except Sherriff Foster, none of the people on the panel at the town hall meeting ever reached out to her. The other panelists were two representatives from the Department of Justice, the state solicitor and NAACP state representative Dr. Lonnie Randolph.

The community expressed outrage and questioned, in light of the fact that an 11 mile blood trail led back to the door of Collins' trailer, why does it take so long to get an indictment?

“I am angry about this. He had to hate him in order to do it. What I was told was that White folks will be with you and pretend they your friend and will turn on you, that's the way I was brought up,” said Emma Boston, 69, of Columbia, which is less than an hour away from Newberry.

Said Newberry resident, Johnny Young, “They don't really want you to know and understand what's really going on. Because the more they dig deeper into the process of it, more stuff starts to reveal itself and the sheet is beginning to be pulled off the whole situation. They don't want the Blacks to really see the hate of it because they are striving to say it's really not a hate crime."

U.S. Funds Sends Africans To Somalia For War

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Special to NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – African leaders will send thousands of new troops to Somalia in a U.S.-funded effort to defeat an insurgent faction that now controls most of that East African country.

The pledges came at an African Union summit which ended Tuesday. The summit began only days after twin bombings in Kampala, Uganda, during the World Cup, that were linked to the Somali insurgent group Al Shabab.

The new surge will by comprised of 2,000 Ugandans and Burundians to the African Union mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, boosting levels from 6,000 to the maximum mandate of 8,000.

According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, a stronger AU force could defeat al-Shabab which has grown in size and strength despite U.S. training, logistical support and equipment worth more than $176 million since 2007.

To complete the mission, African Union leaders are requesting helicopters from Western donors to allow the AU troops to take offensive action against the insurgents. Currently the peacekeeping forces can only respond to attacks or when they see militants.

But large-scale intervention by foreign troops may create even more anti-Western forces as had occurred when the Somalis confronted U.S.-backed Ethiopians in a raid on Mogadishu in 2007.

“AU troops cannot police all of Somalia,” said David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, in a press interview. Shinn, one of the coordinators of U.S. policy in Somalia in the early 1990s, said that the failure of U.S. and U.N. involvement in the country showed large-scale foreign intervention would not work. "That was not the solution then and it will not be now," Shinn said.

U.S. Steel Workers In Liberia Supporting Worker Rights

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Special to NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - A United Steelworkers delegation led by International VP Fred Redmond has met with Liberian government and labor officials to urge caution in dealings with a Brazil-based mining company seeking to transport iron ore to a Liberian seaport.

Vale, the Brazilian company, the second largest mining company worldwide, has already spent $2.5 billion to obtain the iron ore concession in Guinea, according to local reports.

Vale's expansion plans have come under fire from the Forestry, Logging and Industrial Workers Union of Liberia, which, in a letter to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cited Vale's record of "abusing workers and communities in Brazil, Canada, Mozambique and Indonesia."

In April, a coalition of some 80 “Communities Affected by Vale,” held its first meeting of “workers affected by the aggressive and predatory activities of Vale” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their call to action is on the internet at: http://www.minesandcommunities.org

"Liberia needs investment,” said Liberian union official David Sackoh, “and we welcome the creation of jobs, but we need decent jobs which will lead to local prosperity and not just the exploitation of our land and the export of our country's wealth."

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BVN National News Wire