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Oil-Coated Fish Found Near Exxon Wells In Nigeria

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – The appearance of oil-coated fish are raising fears for the fishing industry in southern Nigeria where a leakage was reported near a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil.

MPN, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, on May 1 confirmed leakage at one of the company's offshore platforms in south Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State.

Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Chairman of the state chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), told the Nigerian news agency they could no longer cope with the spills.

"We no longer make reasonable catch, and after fueling our outboard engines, we toil day and night, yet the catch does not cover the fuel costs.

"It is hope that keeps us going; we have been running at a loss and have been praying that God will turn things around."

Ayadi said that fishermen operating along the Atlantic shoreline recorded four oil spills within the past six months on Dec. 4, 2009 as well as March 24, May 1, and June 21, 2010.

According to the Ministry, since May 1, about 300 barrels of crude have leaked from one of ExxonMobil offshore platforms in southeast Akwa Ibom State. The story was first reported in SaharaReporters.com, a citizen journalism website.

Kagan Scrutinized for Confirmation This Week as Black Support Grows

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By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, President Obama’s pick for the U. S. Supreme Court, has gained more Black civil rights support as she goes before the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, who said in May that the LCCR would await decisions from more of its some 200 organizational members before it announces a formal endorsement, has released an updated statement announcing the organization’s endorsement of Kagan.

“The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights today announces its support for the nomination of Elena Kagan to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and urges her speedy confirmation.

"In every step of her career, Elena Kagan has highly distinguished herself through her outstanding intellectual credentials, her independence of thought, and her strong respect for the rule of law. She is fully qualified and ready to serve on the Supreme Court,” Henderson said in the statement.

This adds to a significant list of civil rights organizations, which have chosen to back Kagan, despite deep concerns that Obama failed to continue diversifying the court by nominating a Black woman. The NAACP also endorsed Kagan while the Black Women’s Roundtable, led by Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civil Participation, expressed strong disappointment that the court still has no Black female justice.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund also came out in support of Kagan last week despite some reservations.

The NAACP-LDF released a report last week stating, “Notwithstanding some concerns detailed in this report, LDF supports Elena Kagan’s nomination to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Our review of her record leads us to conclude that she has the professional credentials, respect for the institutional roles of all three branches of federal government, intellect and independence of mind, ability to build consensus, and commitment to justice required of one who would serve in this critical role.”

The National Bar Association, representing 44,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students in 80 affiliate chapters in the U. S. and around the world, had also recommended a Black woman appointee. NBA President Mavis T. Thompson said the organization hopes to eventually support Kagan, but would wait to learn “more about the nominee's sensitivity to issues of race, gender, class discrimination and to affording equal opportunity to all segments of our society.”

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has also withheld support of Kagan, noting questions that still remain on her protection and defense of civil rights while the National Urban League this week announced support of Kagan.

Meanwhile, Kagan will be questioned intensely this week by members of the majority Democratic Judiciary Committee, who will decide her fitness as an associate justice for the Supreme Court to replace long-serving Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Predictably, Republicans have threatened a possible filibuster if the nomination advances to the entire Senate for vote. They say she is too liberal and has never been a judge. She is ultimately expected to survive all challenges.

Henderson and the LCCR are apparently poised to battle on her behalf:

“We also urge Senators not to be swayed by a small number of ideological extremists who have been grasping at straws to characterize her as having an ideological agenda,” he said in his statement. “While the Senate should thoroughly explore her views, it is abundantly clear to us that Elena Kagan is a consensus-builder who will play an important role in healing a fractured Court and in protecting the rights of all Americans.”

For One Man, 15-Minute Wait for HIV Results Feels Like Hours

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - For 15 minutes, Austin Weatherington rewinds the last seven months of his sex life and reflects on every encounter. He sits with his stomach in knots while anxiety is having its way with him. Fifteen minutes feel like it's been stretched into hours.

Sitting behind a black curtain in the lobby of National Council of Black Women building in Washington, D.C., Weatherington is waiting for the results of his HIV test. He admits that he now realizes that 30 minutes of pleasure suddenly seems heavier. One of those 30 minutes of pleasure could change the rest of his life.

He swabbed the inside of his mouth a few minutes earlier. The man administering the test cracks a couple of jokes to help relax him and tells him that it will take about 15 minutes to get back the results. The tester, a dreadlocked man in disposable latex gloves, then asks Weatherington a series of basic screening questions regarding his sexual history, drug use and other behaviors:

“Have you had unprotected sex in the last six months?”

“Have you ever taken drugs intravenously?”

“Have you ever tested positive for HIV or AIDS?”

This is Weatherington's third test and, hopefully, third negative result. His last test was seven months ago. The 24-year-old radio producer is getting tested at an HIV/AIDS Testing Day event organized by the National Council of Negro Women from a grant sponsored by the Center for Disease Control. The Washington, D.C. radio station that Weatherington works for is broadcasting on site from the event in hopes of getting people to come out. Organizers are hoping to get twice the amount of people tested than they did previous year when they tested 100 people.

"NCNW held our first event to address the issue of HIV/ AIDS 25 years ago so we are not newcomers to this," said Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of the NCNW Research and Policy Center. "We see it as something that is critically important to our community. In recent years, it has been even more devastating than in years past. We are only 12 percent of the population but we are nearly half of those infected with HIV."

Events such as these are crucial because Washington has the worst HIV/ AIDS rate of any major city in the country. The Nation's Capitol's rate is nearly 10 times the national rate with as many as one in 20 adults having HIV, according to the Whitman-Walker Clinic. Eighty-six percent of those with the virus in Washington is African-American. Nationally, that figure is closer to half, which is still disproportionately high.

"It's quick, it's easy, it's painless," Jones-DeWeever said. "That's the message I want to get across to people."

Compared to the previous testing methods, which used needles to draw blood and could take weeks for a result, the process is literally fast, easy and painless. The practitioners administer an oral fluid test called Orasure that tests for the presence of HIV antibodies, not the virus itself.

Weatherington was asked to swab the inside of his mouth. He had to thoroughly swab around the front of his gums. The swab was used to produced an oral fluid sample. The test uses a fluid picked up by the swab called oral mucosal transudate that comes from the tissues of the cheek, not the saliva.

The swab is then put into a solution that in 15 minutes will read whether the person is HIV positive or negative.

"They swab the inside of your mouth and 15 minutes later you go home with a peace of mind and you're protecting yourself and protecting the ones you love," Jones-DeWeever says.

If you get a negative result on the test it is quite accurate. However, if the result is "preliminary positive" you will need to do follow up blood tests to check whether you actually have HIV or not.

While the quick swab test is very reliable it is not 100 percent. It is reported to be 99.9 percent accurate. It is accurate enough in letting a person know that they don't have HIV. But if a person receives a positive reading, it means that HIV antibodies are present and the result is preliminary until a full blood test can be conducted to accurately diagnose that a person is HIV positive.

"If a positive test comes up, that person is counseled immediately and, in addition, an appointment is made for a blood test so that we can verify the results," Jones-DeWeever says. "They are then referred to the appropriate parties for further help."

Jones-DeWeever said that research is telling experts that there is an increasing sense of complacency among the Black community.

"People think that the fight against AIDS is over or that it is not more serious than a cold and that you just have to take a couple of pills and you're fine,” she said. “This is still a serious disease and it is still killing people. We need to take it seriously."

Being proactive by getting tested early will help people who are living with the virus to live long, strong and healthy lives, she said.

“The secret to being able to live 20-plus years with HIV in a way that Magic Johnson, for example, is that he knew early,” Jones-DeWeever said. “You need to know early so that you could be put on the correct regimen and you can have a great quality of life. That's the key.”

Weatherington said that getting tested is not a topic of discussion amongst his friends or family but he and his girlfriend made it a priority to keep each other informed. They made a pact to know each other's status. She already got tested so now it's his turn.

"Am I worried? I think everyone should be worried if you're having sex,” Weatherington says. “But yeah, I'm a little anxious and nervous. But I'm glad it's a swab test. I'm a little afraid of needles."

The 15-minute wait elapses. After the dreadlocked man in the latex gloves finishes asking Weatherington the screening questions, he nonchalantly informs the radio producer of his results.

Weatherington cracks a smile and looks at the paper with the box checked negative as it's handed to him.

He replies, "I've never been happy to hear something so negative in my life."

NNPA Exclusive: Rev. Bernice King Says Conflict is 'Suffocating' SCLC

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By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief –

NEW YORK (NNPA) - The Rev. Bernice King, elected nine months ago as the first woman president to serve at the helm of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has yet to be sworn in due to circumstances that she has described as “a sad state of affairs”.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the debilitating strife and conflict that has erupted in the 53-year-old civil rights organization and landed in court, King was pointed and clear. The second daughter and youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King and Corretta Scott King, she told the attentive audience of more than 200 members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Black Press of America, that the infighting has been heart-rending.

“Up until now, I have not spoken publicly about the conflict and turmoil currently suffocating, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization of such significant historic importance to the Black community, America and global progress. What a timely and wonderful occasion for me to express some of my thoughts and feelings about the great organization my father co-founded. God certainly has a way of orchestrating the proper audience, at the proper time.,” King said June 17, opening a luncheon speech during NNPA’s 70th Anniversary Convention. “As SCLC’s president-elect and daughter of its founder, I am, of course, deeply troubled and saddened by the strife and conflict the organization is experiencing. It is, indeed, a sad state of affairs. I was elected to serve as SCLC’s first female president in October 2009 and as soon as I was elected -- turmoil erupted. Amidst the conflict, chaos and confusion, there are some who declare the Southern Christian Leadership Conference dead; an organization of a bygone era.”

Although the organization is no stranger to conflict, the current fight started last fall over the removal of two former board members, ex-chairman Raleigh Trammell and ex-treasurer Spiver Gordon, after allegations that the two mismanaged SCLC funds. Since then, the crux of the infighting has been over who are the true board members. The two men have refused to step aside despite federal and local investigations. The split has essentially become like two SCLCs.

The feud between two factions came to a head over an alleged break-in at the group’s Atlanta headquarters.

According to reports, the Rev. Markel Hutchins, who claims he was recently named interim president, CEO and CFO of the group, welded shut the back doors of the headquarters and padlocked three gates May 17.

His rivals, including SCLC Chairwoman Sylvia Tucker, contend his claims to the presidency and other positions are bogus and, in a statement, called his actions “criminal and deplorable.” Hutchins said there was no theft, but admits he made the decision to secure the building.

"I am not responsible for the mess the SCLC is in, but I will be responsible for helping to right some of the wrongs and get the organization back on course to fulfill its mission," he was quoted by the Associated Press. The padlocks and chains were removed from the building on May 19.

The factional breech is obviously deep. The battle was scheduled to continue in court on Monday, June 28. In a nutshell the question over who controls the organization was to be decided by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey, who began hearing the case, June 2.

In its long history, the SCLC has been no stranger to controversy. Nearly seven years ago, concluded a convention in Jacksonville, Fla. that was so contentious that police was called to keep the peace. Her brother, Martin Luther King III ended his seven-year tenure of leading the organization in 2004.

King exuded the passion and vision of her father and the poise and resolve of her mother as she expressed both hope and disdain in the midst of the latest crisis.

“Once the court hearing is resolved, it is my hope and prayer that SCLC will see the absolute necessity of immediately turning its attention to rebuilding the entire organization from the inside out; with proper governance, internal controls, fiscal accountability and sound management practices, so that it can effectively be about the business of social progress; predicated upon an unwavering love for God, responsibility to community, and a commitment to advancing human dignity and respect,” she said. “God called me to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and as long as He calls, I will answer. I look forward to beginning my tenure in God’s time so that SCLC can once again forge strategic alliances to continue the movement of nonviolent social change, based on Biblical principles, into the next generation. I ask for your prayers that SCLC will be a phoenix rising out of the ashes. I hope that you will join me in looking past the regrettable conflict, toward a bright and promising future.”

King appealed to NNPA, under the leadership of Los Angeles Sentinel Publisher Danny Bakewell, Sr., NNPA chair, to escalate the historic mission of the Black Press in its quest for justice alongside the SCLC and other civil rights organizations. This level of unity has been in the works as prominent civil rights leaders, Marc Morial of the National Urban League, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action network were all keynote speakers at the convention as part of Bakewell’s vision.

“I believe that the power of the Black Church and Black uplift organizations - partnered with the power of the African-American press - can be a catalyst for the next generation of social change. We have certainly accumulated enough power to enforce change,” King said. “Together we can make events happen. Our ‘nettlesome task’ now is to organize our power, focus our efforts and utilize our collective strength in strategic ways not yet employed in the work of social progress for the Black community. We must now take the major step of “examining the levers of power” which Black America “must grasp to influence the course of events” adversely affecting the progress of our people.”

Without knowing it, she echoed sentiments expressed by Sharpton on the morning of the same day as she focused on the historic and strategic relationship between the Black church and the Black press.

“I surmise that the Black Church and Black Press are two of the most powerful levers to influence social change that we have at our disposal. A recipe for a powerful alliance is the church with its weekly gathering of congregants and the press with its ongoing circulation of news. Just imagine a unified agenda harnessing the power of community; with cohesion in informing and educating the masses. Building bridges between the press and the pulpit is critical to our success. We must exercise our collective power strategically.”

This racial progress that has been forged by this historic partnership is, in part, the reason that the SCLC must remain powerful and thrive, she concludes:

“To suggest that the SCLC is obsolete and a relic of a bygone era is to ignore the great social and economic ills stalling the progress of our nation. At a time when monies are at deficit to save our schools, but at a surplus to grow and build more prisons, now is not the time to pull the plug on SCLC.”

Louisiana's Black Communities Fear Never Recovering From Oil Spill

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By Jordan Flaherty, Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

NEW ORLEANS (NNPA) - As BP's deepwater well continues to discharge oil into the Gulf, the economic and public health effects are already being felt across coastal communities. But it's likely this is only the beginning. From the bayous of southern Louisiana to the city of New Orleans, many fear this disaster represents not only environmental devastation, but also cultural extinction for peoples who have made their lives here for generations, especially African-Americans.

This is not the first time that Louisianans have lost their communities or their lives from the actions of corporations. The land loss caused by oil companies has already displaced many who lived by the coast, and the pollution from treatment plants has poisoned communities across the state - especially in "cancer alley," the corridor of industrial facilities along the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge.

"The cultural losses as a consequence of the BP disaster are going to be astronomical," says Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR) co-director Nathalie Walker. "There is no other culture like Louisiana's coastal culture and we can only hope they wont be entirely erased."

Walker and co-director Monique Harden have made it their mission to fight the environmental consequences of Louisiana's corporate polluters. They say this disaster represents an unparalleled catastrophe for the lives of people across the region, but they also see in it a continuation of an old pattern of oil and chemical corporations displacing people of color from their homes. Harden and Walker point out that at least five Louisiana towns - all majority-African-American - have been eradicated due to corporate pollution in recent decades.

The most recent is the Southwest Louisiana town of Mossville, founded by African-Americans in the 1790s. Located near Lake Charles, Mossville is only five square miles and holds 375 households. Beginning in the 1930s, the state of Louisiana began authorizing industrial facilities to manufacture, process, store, and discharge toxic and hazardous substances within Mossville. Fourteen facilities are now located in the small town, and 91 percent of residents have reported at least one health problem related to exposure to chemicals produced by the local industry.

The southern Louisiana towns of Diamond, Morrisonville, Sunrise, and Revilletown - all founded by former enslaved Africans - met similar fates. After years of chemical-related poisoning, the remaining residents have been relocated, and the corporations that drove them out now own their land. In most cases, only a cemetery remains, and former residents must pass through plant security to visit their relatives' graves.

The town of Diamond, founded by the descendents of the participants of the 1811 Rebellion to End Slavery, the largest slave uprising in U.S. history, was relocated by Shell in 2002, after residents had faced decades of toxic exposure. Morrisonville, established by free Africans in 1790, was bought out by Dow in 1989. Residents of Sunrise, inaugurated near Baton Rouge by former enslaved Africans in 1874, were paid to move as the result of a lawsuit against the Placid Refining Company. In the mid-1990s, chemical producer Georgia Gulf Corporation poisoned and then acquired Revilletown, a town free Africans had started in the years after the Civil War.

"We make the mistake of thinking this is something new," says Harden. She adds that the historic treatment of these communities, as well as the lack of recovery that New Orleanians have seen since Katrina, makes her doubt the federal government will do what is necessary for Gulf recovery. "Since Obama got into office," she says, "I have yet to see any action that reverses what Bush did after Katrina."

Harden says Louisiana and the U.S. must fundamentally transform the government's relationships with corporations. "We've got to change the way we allow businesses to be in charge of our health and safety in this country," she adds. As an example, Harden points to more stringent regulations in other countries, such as Norway, which requires companies to drill relief wells at the same time as any deepwater well.

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