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U.N. Refuses to Cancel Prize Named for Dictator

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – A life sciences award administered by the U.N. agency UNESCO and funded by the President of Equatorial Guinea has stirred outrage among the exile community and human rights activists worldwide.

In a letter to the Paris-based UNESCO office, Tutu Alicante of EG Justice wrote: “We repeat our call for the $3 million that UNESCO has accepted from President Obiang to be applied to the education and welfare of Equatoguineans, rather than the glorification of their president.” The money could better be used, he said, to buy school books, benches and other supplies for the poorly financed primary school system.

The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences is a $300,000 grant to be awarded to up to three scientists each year in the name of Equatorial Guinea's allegedly corrupt and repressive ruler.

Equatorial Guinea is Africa's fourth largest oil producer. Most health and quality-of-life indicators rank the country West African nation near the bottom, with life expectancy at around 50 years old.

Objections were first raised in 2008 by executive board members of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said Alicante. More recently, UNESCO received communications from Equatoguinean human rights defenders, global civil society groups, scholars, and others to cancel the prize without delay.

"We hope you agree that a political leader with this record is not worthy of the positive endorsement of UNESCO," Human Rights Watch wrote. Nevertheless, on April 22 UNESCO informed governments that it plans to award the UNESCO-Obiang prize for the first time at the end of June 2010.

Anti-Apartheid Activist Warned of Rich-Poor Gap

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, a scholar, author and former member of the anti-apartheid opposition, died this week at age 70 during treatment for liver and other problems.

Before he died, he signaled the dangers of the growing gap between rich and poor. "I do know from talking to ordinary people that there is a great deal of anger at the conspicuous consumption of the new emerging elite," the former leader said in a press interview.

"The biggest gap at the moment is not between black and white, but between black and black in terms of access to economic opportunities."

Once the rugby-playing son of conservative Afrikaners, Slabbert turned towards multi-racial politics in the late 70s and 80s, opening up dialogue between Afrikaners and the exiled African National Congress.

Later, with rights advocate Alex Boraine, he helped formed the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa, known as Idasa, to organize meetings between whites and blacks in apartheid South Africa. The group is now the Institute for Democracy in Africa.

Meanwhile, in an unscheduled visit to a Johannesburg slum, President Jacob Zuma said he was nearly reduced to tears when he saw a family's living conditions in a shack he visited there. "You could swear no-one lived in that shack," Zuma told premiers and ministers at the President's Coordinating Council in Pretoria.

There is currently a 2.1 million housing backlog and more than 2,700 informal settlements.

Thousands of Graduates are All Dressed Up With No Place to Go

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Like thousands of recent college graduates who have marched proudly in their caps and gowns, 22-year-old Nikole Pegues' plan is to now get a job. But, how that plan is going to pan out is a little bit of a mystery at this point.

The Queens, New York native, upon receiving her bachelor's degree from Howard University, went from being a college student with high hopes to an unemployment statistic with a six-month countdown to pay back four years of student loans.

"I don't know many people who have paying jobs lined up after graduation," Pegues said. "I only know of two or three."

The good news is that the economy produced 290,000 jobs last month, the largest gain in four years, according the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report. The bad news is that the unemployment rate for African-Americans is an unacceptable 16.5 percent.

Pegues has been sending out resumes since January, but she’s gotten very few responses. Two weeks ago, she received two rejections. But two days following her graduation ceremony she received two calls for interviews.

"I'm not sure if companies were waiting on me to graduate or what," she said.

Her back-up plan is to start applying to jobs completely out of her field.

"It really hurts me to think that I've spent four years in school and spent about $100,000 dollars to end up working in a field that is not related to my degree,” Pegues said. “In the same breath, six months out I have to start paying on my school loans."

And as a very last resort, if she is still unable to find some type of gainful employment, she'd be willing to drive herself further into debt and apply to graduate master's programs in an attempt to become even more competitive. But, while searching for options, the impact on self-esteem can be grueling.

"What's wrong with me where I'm not competitive enough? Why am I not getting a response that I thought I would? I felt entitled,” she said. “I thought once I got a college degree I'm entitled to a job, that's just how this was supposed to work. You're told your whole life, "If you go to college you'll get a degree and make 'X' amount of money.""

Carol Dudley, director of career development for Howard University's School of Communications, is sending job leads to the hundreds of other students and graduates who are scrambling for positions. She said that while full fledged jobs are still hard to come by for post-recession graduates, many are taking advantage of post-graduate internships to get a foot inside with employers.

"The trend I'm noticing is that employers are not yet ceasing all of their jobs but what they are offering are college graduates post-graduate internships,” Dudley said. “They are paid. And you [are] expected to work full-time as a permanent employee."

The benefit to the company is that they don't have the permanent commitment to somebody that may not workout. But at the same time, the person interning will have an opportunity for permanent employment after their internship ends, which is typically in about 8-12 weeks.

Internships are good for temporary income, but they are not stable.

Jan Challenger, a recent graduate from City University New York- Brooklyn College, will be working on a 10-week paid internship for a company in Philadelphia for the summer.

Unfortunately, she's not counting on getting hired afterward.

"I wanted a job but because they are in bankruptcy even if I do well I won't get a job,” Challenger said. “After that, I really don't know what the future holds."

The internship will still give Challenger some tangible work experience and maybe a few contacts in her field.

"What job recruiters are looking for, and I don't think this ever changes, is someone who is skilled, confident and knowledgeable about the job, someone who has a vision beyond the expectations of the job,” Dudley said. “I think a company is looking for a kid that is work-ready, has an adequate resume that not only establishes leadership and academic preparation but they are looking for someone that has service and overall preparations to be competently employed, including being technologically prepared by being familiar with applications that are used across workplaces."

Dudley advises that a functional resume should briefly demonstrate an applicant's education, relevant work experience, awards, skills and service. She suggests that job seekers be concise in their descriptions and use a clean, reader-friendly format for the layout of a resume. And while not always the rule, she advises applicants to try and limit the resume's length to one page as it makes it easier for an employer to quickly and accurately evaluate their qualifications against the dozens perhaps hundred of other of resumes that may have been submitted for the same position.

She said that the cover letter is one of the keys to the application.

The letter should introduce the applicant and introduce that person's qualities and characteristics as a potential employee that can't quite fit on a resume. The cover letter is pretty much a professional profile that attempts to convince employers to "read further. Find out more about me." The cover letter should be concise as well, no more than three or four essential paragraphs- an introduction, the meat of profile in the body and a conclusion.

President Obama Reveals Strategy to Curb Drug Abuse

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By Melanie R. Holmes, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

(NNPA) - President Obama has outlined a broad initiative to reduce drug abuse in the U.S. over five years, which focuses on treating the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal-justice problem.

The National Drug Control Strategy, developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, addresses drug prevention, treatment, enforcement, and international cooperation, Obama said.

“By boosting community-based prevention, expanding treatment, strengthening law enforcement, and working collaboratively with our global partners, we will reduce drug use and the great damage it causes in our communities,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident that when we take the steps outlined in this strategy, we will make our country stronger and our people healthier and safer.”

By 2015, the plan is expected to reduce by 15 percent the rate of youth drug use and the number of chronic drug users, as well as reduce the incidence of drug-induced deaths and reduce by 10 percent the prevalence of drugged driving and drug use among young adults. Prescription drug abuse, drugged driving, and preventing drug use are the top three drug-related problems in the country.

National Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske led a nationwide listening tour to receive input for the strategy and also met with police, medical professionals, drug treatment providers, elected officials, corrections officials, academics and others.

“In following President Obama’s charge to seek a broad range of input in the strategy, I gained a renewed appreciation of how deeply concerned Americans are about drug use,” Kerlikowske said in a statement. “It touches virtually all of us, whether we know a family member, a friend, or a colleague who suffers from addiction or is in recovery, a police officer working to protect the community, or a parent striving to keep a child drug free.”

Jay Rorty, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Law Reform Project, gave credit to the Obama administration for moving away from “failed and unconstitutional” drug enforcement policies, but said he wants to ensure that drug importers, rather than smaller domestic dealers, are the main targets of law enforcement efforts.

“Attempting to reduce demand by continuing to focus on the search, arrest and conviction of street sellers rather than importers will further erode the Fourth Amendment, exacerbate the crippling financial effects of our nation’s addiction to mass incarceration and is no substitute for an effective public health-based strategy that promotes public safety while preserving communities’ constitutional rights,” Rorty said in a statement released by the ACLU.

Childhood Obesity Task Force Unveils Action Plan: Solving the Problem Within a Generation

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Special to the NNPA from the Seattle Medium –

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNPA) – First Lady Michelle Obama has joined Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and members of the Childhood Obesity Task Force to unveil the Task Force action plan: Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation. In conjunction with the release of the action plan, Cabinet Members and Administration Officials will hold events across the country to highlight the importance of addressing childhood obesity.

“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measureable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Mrs. Obama said. “We want to marshal every resource – public and private sector, mayors and governors, parents and educators, business owners and health care providers, coaches and athletes – to ensure that we are providing each and every child the happy, healthy future they deserve.”

In February, Mrs. Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

The action plan defines solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s. In total, the report presents a series of 70 specific recommendations, many of which can be implemented right away. Summarizing them broadly, they include:

• Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.

• Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.

• Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.

• Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.

• Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.

Like the Let’s Move! initiative, the Task Force report recognizes that government alone cannot solve this challenge. Achieving the goal will require strong partnerships with the private sector. The First Lady will work with groups such as the Partnership for a Healthier America, a new foundation that will draw upon the experience of honorary vice chairs former Senator Bill Frist and Mayor Cory Booker, to cement private sector commitments towards the shared goal of reducing childhood obesity, including but not limited to the action steps in the report.

Additionally, Federal agencies will be moving quickly to implement the recommendations in the report that require federal action. In the coming year alone:

• The U.S. Health and Human Services department (HHS) will release new guidance for standards for physical activity and nutrition in child care settings, and help consumers make informed choices at restaurants and grocery stores, by getting calorie counts onto menus and by working with the food and beverage industry to develop a clear, standard “front of pack” food label; • USDA will update the Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid to provide parents and caregivers with helpful information about nutrition, and work with Congress to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill that improves food in schools;

• The Federal Trade Commission will continue monitoring how food is marketed to children, with a follow-up study to its 2008 report on industry practices;

• USDA, Treasury, and HHS will work with Congress to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved areas by supporting more than $400 million in investments in a Healthy Food Financing Initiative;

• DOT and EPA will promote walking and biking to school, with a new best practices guide from the DOT-funded National Center for Safe Routes to School and new proposed voluntary “school siting” guidelines from EPA.

• Federal agencies will also make funds available to local communities, including $25 million from HHS to support obesity prevention and screening services for children, and $35 million in physical education program grants to schools from the Department of Education, which will also be working with Congress to create a Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students initiative as part of a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In the coming weeks, Cabinet members and Administration officials will hold events that highlight the ways in which each respective agency can do its part to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

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