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New Hearing Date Set For Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal will receive a new hearing on Nov. 9 to review his death sentence for the 1982 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

In late September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed to hear arguments in the case, under a directive from the U.S. Supreme Court to review Jamal’s death sentence for killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

In an e-mail to supporters, Jamal’s defense lawyer Robert Bryan said “We are cautiously encouraged that the federal court has taken this step.”

Abu-Jamal was convicted in a unanimous decision by a majority White jury and sentenced to death.

Born Wesley Cook, he has maintained his innocence from death row in a Pennsylvania state prison, submitting appeal requests based on allegations of judicial bias, police brutality, and an inadequate defense during his arrest and trial 28 years ago.

At the time of his arrest, Abu-Jamal was a radio announcer and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He was known for his outspoken political views and commentary on racial injustice and police brutality.

During his incarceration he has written several books, appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” and continues to protest his conviction on prisonradio.org, a non-profit organization run by The Redwood Justice Fund.

Opponents to Abu-Jamal's claims of innocence include the Fraternal Order of Police and Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the murdered officer. At a recent screening of the film “Barrel of a Gun,” a documentary about the case, Faulkner’s widow said the movie “will put people’s mind at rest,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“There is no doubt that Mumia Abu-Jamal wanted to murder a police officer that night and that person was my husband,” she said.

His trial and subsequent attempts at an appeal have gained international attention and support including from former South African president Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, members of Congress, and celebrities.

Black Farmers Rally on Capitol Hill

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By C.K. Moreland, Jr., Special to the NNPA –

WASHINGTON—John Boyd, a fourth generation farmer, wants it to be clear - his effort to secure Congressional funding for a discrimination settlement that Black farmers reached with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not the pursuit of "reparation."

"It's [about] discrimination," John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association told Fox News. "It's about justice. Black farmers have not been getting justice."

Black farmers originally filed a lawsuit against USDA in 1997 and reached a settlement agreement in 1999. Even though thousands filed claims in the settlement, many more were unaware of the deadline. A second deadline was set for September of 2000 but only a small percentage of those farmers filing claims were declared eligible for payment. Now, nearly a decade later, Black farmers are still waiting for funding for the Black Farm bill. President Obama proposed adding $1.25 billion to settle the suit and the plaintiffs agreed. However, the money was to be allocated by Congress by March 31st, it was not.

Standing in solidarity beside the Black Farmers were members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and former CBC Chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who has been standing with the Black Farmers since the mid-1990s.

“I was pleased to join my friend John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association, and the many Black farmers and their families and friends…to urge the Senate to fund the $1.15 billion settlement owed to these hard working Americans,” said Waters. “I have been working on this issue for almost 15 years, as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late ‘90s, I worked closely with my CBC colleagues to urge then-Attorney General Janet Reno to waive the statute of limitations so that farmers could redress decades of financial and racial discrimination with the Department of Justice.”

With support from the Obama Administration and with the funding already passed by the House, Waters said , “we now find ourselves waiting on the Senate, which is using procedure as an excuse to further delay and deny justice to these Black farmers. I firmly believe the Senate should make the Black farmers’ settlement a legislative priority, and that they should not recess for mid-term elections until this issue is resolved. I therefore applaud Senator Kay Hagan and some of her colleagues latest efforts to fast track this payment.”

In a symbolic gesture to garner support for and bring attention to the Black Farmers Bill, Boyd recently led a peaceful march from the USDA headquarters to the U.S. Capitol atop an orange tractor he named “Justice”. Prior to the march, Boyd drove “Justice” through the streets of Washington for a week. He has been calling on the Senate to pass funding for claims stemming from the class action lawsuit, known as "The Pigford Case", in which Black farmers sued the USDA for denying them fair treatment when they applied for federal assistance. The case was settled in 1999 and the federal government paid out approximately $1 billion to claimants.

Approximately 80,000 black farmers missed the deadline for the 1999 settlement. In February 2010, the Obama Administration announced a $1.15 billion agreement to resolve the second round of claims, with the purpose of bringing "these long-ignored claims of African-American farmers to a rightful conclusion."

The funding has passed the House but has been stalled in the Senate, where it has been attached to several bills only to be scratched out.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also stood with Boyd, during the news conference to announce they are introducing a standalone bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to fund the $1.15 billion settlement. "We're working together to send this language to the President as quickly as possible because our Black farmers have waited too long," said Sen. Hagan. “We want to ensure Black farmers in our country finally receive the justice they deserve,” she said.

“More than 4,000 African American farmers in North Carolina and over 75,000 nationwide have been discriminated against and denied just compensation for decades. Today, I join with my colleagues from Louisiana and Arkansas, Senators Landrieu and Lincoln, to introduce a bill to fund the settlement once and for all, and we are working to send this language to the President.”

The news conference was the culmination of the mile long march, led by Boyd, which began at the steps of the Department of Agriculture and ended at the U.S. Capitol. Among the participants: John Bonner of Dinwiddie, Virginia, whose father passed away earlier this year but continues to have an outstanding claim.

“At this late and critical stage of the process I was compelled to walk over to the Senate, stand up with my friends, and speak out for jobs, for justice, and for civil rights,” said Waters. “I will continue to speak and work with John Boyd and the Black farmers to make sure that this issue is finally resolved in a swift and fair manner.”

Sound the Alarm: City Rejects Judge's Options to Unfair FDNY Test

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By Jasmin K. Williams, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News Newspaper –

The fight for fair testing and hiring practices within the Fire Department New York (FDNY) continues as an extra 30 days is granted to all parties to think about how to proceed and the city now refuses to hire new firefighters and has rejected options to revamp the current test proposed by Federal District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

Last August, Garaufis ruled that the Entrance Exam 6019 was unfair because it is biased against minority candidates and does not successfully establish a difference between qualified and unqualified candidates.

The court gave the city the opportunity to chose from among five options that involved hiring individuals who had passed the 2007 entrance exam until such time that a new test is created.

The judge, recognizing the city’s hiring needs, determined that the city could do interim hiring, as long as it was done in a non-discriminatory manner. This was supported by the Vulcan Society, the professional association of Black firefighters.

The city, however has rejected all five of Judge Garaufis’ proposals, deeming them to be illegal, race-based quotas, choosing instead to delay the hiring of approximately 300 firefighters and increase overtime for current firefighters at an estimated cost of $2 million.

“The city respectfully believes that using raced-based quotas to select firefighters is both illegal and unwise public policy,” stated a letter to Garaufis from the city’s corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardozo. “For these reasons, the city declines to select any one of the five proposals offered by the Court.”

There is a need to revamp the FDNY’s disproportionately white ranks to accurately and fairly reflect the diversity of the city it serves. New York City has the least diverse fire department of any major city in America. While the combined Black and Latino population of New York City is more than half the total population of the city, Black and Latino firefighters make up roughly 4 percent and 7 percent of the FDNY, respectively. More than half of Los Angeles and Philadelphia’s firefighters and 40 percent of Boston’s firefighters are comprised of people of color.

Darius Charney, an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights, offered insight on the judge’s ruling and the options that were proposed.

“The goal of all five options is to ensure that if the city is to hire new firefighters while they create a new test—which they must do—the new test must not have a disparate affect on minority candidates,” Charney said.

“One option involves random selection from among the top 2,500 on the eligibility list. The list would be adjusted to ensure that the pool would include 17.5 percent Black and 18.5 percent Hispanic candidates, reflecting the number of minority applicants that took the test so that the proportions were adequate.

“Another proposal was called ‘applicant flow.’ The city has a list, which ranks applicants based on their test scores. The city has processed enough people to give 300 offers. That group would have to be adjusted to reflect the 17.5 percent Black and 18.5 percent Hispanics applicants. Some white candidates would have to be replaced.

“Another version of this option would be to bring in a class of 221 applicants, which would include 22 Black and 33 Hispanic candidates and remove from that group the lower scoring whites. This would create a class with the proper proportions. An additional 13 Black and four Hispanic candidates would have to be processed,” Charney explained.

He stated that one of the other options proposed “hiring the group of 300 right away, but a second class would be hired in January, ensuring that the two classes combined reflected the proportion of minority applicants.

“The last proposal is a hybrid approach. A group of 117 would be hired from the list of 300. This would include 20 Blacks and 22 Hispanic candidates. The advantage would be to hire from the initial group of 300 without having to go farther down the list to reflect the ration of applicants who passed the test.

“The passing rate on the test was higher for whites than Blacks or Hispanics. The problem is when you give an objective test and you see a huge disparity. You’d like to think that most employers would want to have a diverse work force,” Charney said.

“The question becomes, should you be using this test? If you get a score of 95 on this test, does it mean that you are a better candidate? The test is the same one given 40 years ago. The judge has found that this test does not accurately determine who will be a better firefighter,” Charney added.

“If you are giving an employment test that has this severe of a racial disparity then the employer better have a darn good reason to keep using this test. In July 2009, the court ruled that the 1999 and 2002 exams were not valid measures of who the most qualified firefighters would be. In August of this year, the court ruled the same thing. These are bad tests. The city has no legitimate reason to continue to use them. A candidate that passes an unfair test is no more deserving than a candidate that gets a lower score.

“This is about discrimination by an employer by using a test that does not determine the best candidate for a job and which issues a disparity to minority applicants for that job. The law is if the test has a discriminatory impact on a racial group or if the test does not measure who is the best candidate, it violates Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“President H. W. Bush signed the Civil Rights act of 1991, which made it a violation of federal law to use an employment criteria such as a test or other screening method that has a discriminatory impact and that does not measure the skills required for the job,” Charney said.

“A new test could take six months to a year to develop and it would then have to be administered and scored. It could take up to two years to have a new list of applicants to hire from. All of the five options given were legal, though some were better than others. None of these approaches would force the city to hire applicants who are not qualified for the job,” Charney concluded.

A statement issued by attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Levy Ratner, representing the Vulcan Society, said in part, “Since Exam 6019 does not predict job performance in any way, hiring from higher or lower scores makes no difference in terms of hiring the most qualified firefighter candidates. Using 6019 scores is like hiring a Major League first baseman on the basis of a written exam. The test has nothing to do with who would be the best firefighters. Yet, the city’s top attorney issued a statement asserting, ‘The citizens of this city are entitled to firefighters who are hired based on their ability rather than their race or ethnicity.’ Time and time again, the test has been shown to have no bearing whatsoever on ability. The city has chosen to ignore the court’s well-reasoned opinion that the current test does not predict better performance on the job.”

Fire Captain Paul Washington, who is also a former president of the Vulcan Society, said, “Mayor Bloomberg is a new version of George Wallace, who said, ‘Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.’ All people who demand fairness and equality have to finally stand up and say that we’re not going to let you keep this fire department all White. His not following the judge’s order and by stymieing the council’s attempts to pass the bonus points for New York City high school graduates is stopping the fire department from being integrated.”

Will the Real Congressman Jackson Stand Up?

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –

After news broke that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. had an illicit relationship with a white woman in Washington, D.C. and met with an Indian political group, allegedly to talk about raising funds for former Governor Rod Blagojevich, his opponent in the upcoming congressional election said Jackson needs to come clean about all of his recent dealings. Isaac Hayes is the Republican nominee running against Jackson. He said the people of the second congressional district have a right to know who Jackson is.

“I think what all the congressional district members want is for him to tell the truth. Just be open and honest about what happened and why he did it, then we can decide whether or not we believe him,” Hayes said.

“I think he needs to answer to this situation. There are people who have supported him who are now questioning his honesty and integrity. I’m not concerned about the legal ramifications, I’m concerned about the people who want to have a representative in Washington with character and values and right now that’s in question.”

As details continue to emerge about the encounter between Jackson and local businessman Raghuveer Nayak, the congressman said he has done nothing wrong and continues to seek office.

Jackson’s comments came a day after a report published in the Chicago Sun-Times alleges that Jackson directed Nayak during a meeting in D.C. to donate millions of dollars to Blagojevich’s campaign fund in exchange for Jackson being named to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President Obama.

In a written statement released to the media, Jackson restated that he has done nothing illegal and that he has spoken with federal investigators. He said no charges have been filed and he never expects them to be filed. He further believes it would be silly for him to raise millions of dollars for someone other than himself.

“My interest in the senate seat was based on years of public service, which I am proud of,” the statement began, “not some improper scheme with anyone.”

Jackson went on a local Chicago radio station and taunted federal investigators telling them to “bring it on” if they had any evidence against him. Many feel that was an unwise move on his part and believe all of the media attention out about Jackson’s professional and personal life is because of his interest in running for mayor.

“I think all of this is connected because the election is coming up,” said Raymont Sullivan, who lives in Jackson’s district. “What he did with that woman is between him and his wife. The feds haven’t charged him with a thing. In fact, they said some months back he wasn’t a target of any investigation. So, I think this is all political smearing and it is working.”

Jackson asked for privacy on the matter concerning his relationship with a D.C. bar hostess. Giovana Huidobro was allegedly flown to Chicago on at least two occasions by Nayak at Jackson’s request. His wife, Alderman Sandi Jackson said the couple has had to deal with the Huidobro situation in the past.

“The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago,” Jackson said in his statement. “I ask that you respect our privacy.

“I know I have disappointed some supporters, and for that I am deeply sorry. But I remain committed to serving my constituents and fighting on their behalf.”

Hayes thinks it is time for new leadership in the district Jackson has represented for eight terms. He said he knows he has an uphill battle as an African American Republican. But, he believes the election of Barack Obama two years ago has shown that Americans are not as concerned about political parties or race as in the past. He said they want a person who can fix the problems ailing their communities. He also thinks Jackson is disingenuous when he is talking about the possibility of running for mayor of Chicago while still being in Congress.

“He is expected to serve out two years as a congressman, if elected. If he runs for mayor and wins that would mean he is only going to serve as congressman for three months,” Hayes said.

“That would be unfair to the people that have gone to the polls. They are not getting full disclosure. They want someone who is going to go into that office and clean up some of the problems that have been created in the past 16 years.”

Asked to elaborate on what those problems are, Hayes had three words: jobs, jobs, jobs. He said if elected, he plans to cut taxes for businesses so they can invest in underserved communities. Hayes has a website for his campaign and given all of the recent press given to Jackson’s troubles, he said he has gotten a crush of web hits and phone calls from voters trying to find out about his platform.

First Black Town Incorporated in Alabama Wants ZIP Code

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Special to the NNPA from The Birmingham Times –

HOBSON CITY, Ala. (AP) – Officials in Hobson City, the first Black town incorporated in Alabama more than a century ago, want their own ZIP code.

Hobson City currently shares its ZIP code – 36201 – with Anniston, but Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory says the town of less than a thousand residents wants its own postal service identity. “We need to make sure Hobson City is not lost,’’ she said. ‘’We were never a part of Anniston, but we are lumped in with them and that is not a good thing for us.”

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Joseph Breckenridge told The Anniston Star in a story Monday that Hobson City’s identity crisis has been shared by other small towns. “When we created ZIP codes, we did it just to serve mail,’’ Breckenridge said. ‘’But some thought ZIP codes are the same as city boundaries, but they are not, and they get all scrambled up because of the way cities grow. Sometimes some addresses are in the same municipalities but are served by different post offices.’’

Originally a part of Oxford, Hobson City was incorporated in 1899 and has struggled financially in recent years due mainly to an insufficient tax base. Some city leaders have said the shared ZIP code is partly to blame. But Anniston Finance Director Danny McCullars said Hobson City needs to inform its vendors and taxpayers that license fees and local taxes need to be paid.

“It’s not about the ZIP code, it’s about physical location,’’ he said. County revenue officials said property tax revenue is paid to municipalities based solely on physical location.

Decades ago, a post office was contracted out to a small Hobson City business called Young’s Grocery, and the memory of that little post office has led some in Hobson City to believe it once had its own ZIP code. But the Postal Service has no record of the town having a separate ZIP code.

While ZIP codes typically are shown with only five digits, there are four other digits that post offices can use to identify specific residences. Breckenridge said they might help Hobson City.

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BVN National News Wire