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ANC Veteran Sounds Alarm Over Media 'Self-Censorship' in South Africa

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

South Africa’s media organizations recently marked Black Wednesday, when the former apartheid regime outlawed The World and Weekend World newspapers and Pro Veritate (a Christian publication) for publishing ‘inflammatory material that threatened the nation’s security.” Scores of critics and 19 Black consciousness organizations were also detained on Oct. 19, 1977.

Yusuf Abramjee, chair of the National Editors’ Forum said it was important that the media industry in South Africa honor this day, especially now that media freedom is in the spotlight.

In August, the ANC party set off a storm of controversy with a proposed Tribunal and Public Information bill to check the press which, according to President Jacob Zuma, “tends to go overboard sometimes.”

The Tribunal would be government-run as opposed to the independent office of “press ombudsman” where a retired judge currently hears citizen complaints. Decisions are posted on the website: www.presscouncil.org.za. The South African Press Code and other relevant documents are also posted on the site.

Writing against the Tribunal, the Professional Journalists Association urged the ANC to strengthen the office of ombudsman which “has operated reasonably well, with a host of decisions going against the media, who have been ordered to publish apologies and corrections, often on their front pages.”

Instead of a tribunal, some have suggested more self-regulation by the media.

But ANC veteran Kader Asmal, in a speech at the University of Witwatersrand, warned that self-regulation could turn into self-censorship. "The core element of a free press… is its right to determine its own opinions and to record the facts", he said.

Meanwhile, journalists and members of the public marched to Constitution Hill in a silent protest and the Right 2 Know campaign announced a week of protests against the bill, saying it will destroy civil society’s ability to fight corruption.

Baltimore Mayor Accused of Race Bias in Lawsuit

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By Sean Yoes, Special to the NNPA from The AFRO-American Newspapers (Baltimore) –

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is being sued for $5 million by a former employee, Jennifer Coates, who claims she was forced from her job because she refused to fire a White colleague.

Coates, who is Black, served as director of council services for three Baltimore City Council Presidents including Rawlings-Blake. Coates says she was forced to resign from her post in August 2008 because she wouldn’t fire Richard Krummerich, the oldest and only White worker in the council services office at the time. Rawlings-Blake was president of the City Council from January 2007 until she was sworn in as Baltimore mayor February 2010 following the resignation of former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office declined to comment citing the lawsuit is pending litigation and Coates could not be reached for comment. Coates’ attorney Thomas J. Maronick Jr. said “Coates gave up a $90,000 a-year job because she wanted to do the right thing.”

Maronick says his client was pressured “directly and indirectly” by Rawlings-Blake and her then-chief of staff and current deputy chief of staff Kimberly Washington to fire Krummerich, who worked as a legislative policy analyst, and replace him with a younger Black man, Sean DuBurns.

Coates balked at the request because, “the OCS, Office of Council Services, would have no more White employees if Krummerich were fired and Coates did not believe such a move would comply with employment laws,” according to the suit. Coates was fearful the city could be vulnerable to a discrimination suit based on race, as well as age. Coates allegedly informed Rawlings-Blake and Washington that firing Krummerich would circumvent a required five-step performance review process in violation of the Civil Service Act. Maronick said, “She [Coates] was told if you do not fire Mr. Krummerich it could be bad for you.”

Court documents indicate once Krummerich was made aware of Rawlings-Blake’s desire to fire him, he urged some City Council members, including Bernard “Jack” Young, who replaced Rawlings-Blake as president, to intercede on his behalf. That’s when Rawlings-Blake allegedly told Coates, “If it doesn’t stop, it will hurt you.”

“If the tables were turned and Mr. Krummerich was the only African-American member of that office the media would jump all over this,” Maronick said.

According to the suit, Rawlings-Blake wanted Krummerich terminated because she felt he was incompetent and specifically because he was found sleeping on the job.

Coates is seeking $500,000 for wrongful termination and $1.5 million for each of three other counts: defamation, hostile work environment and retaliation. Coates, who lives in a predominately Black neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, worked for the city since 1992 and served as director of council services since May 2001. Since her resignation she has been relegated to, “part-time seasonal employment with the IRS,” according to Maronick. “No one wants to touch her; she can’t get a job.”

NAACP Report Debunks Tea Party Leadership

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NAACP Leader says Some Members are Hate Group Leaders

By Linn Washington Jr., Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

The controversial resolution issued by the NAACP this past summer calling out racism within the ranks of the tea party produced surprising results within that raging political/social movement, according to the head of America’s oldest civil rights organization, Benjamin Jealous.

The national tea party ejected Mark Williams, the chairman of the pivotal Tea Party Express, for making outrageously racist remarks, another important tea party entity issued an anti-racist statement and that movement began showcasing persons of color at its events often adorned with racist and anti-Semitic signage, reactions the NAACP leader sees as “small” but salient steps. However, according to Jealous, the tea party still harbors dangerous racists within it leadership ranks.

Jealous made these observations on Wednesday when his organization released an extensive report on tea party activities across America, which documented the leadership roles of individuals in that movement who also hold leadership posts in virulent white supremacist and pro-Nazi organizations. The “Tea Party Nationalism” report provides over a dozen examples of hate group leaders holding leadership posts in tea party factions.

The report cited people like Roan Garcia-Quintana of South Carolina who recently joined the board of America’s largest white nationalist group the Council of Conservative Citizens, Texas tea party official Karen Pack who is closely aligned with the KKK, Florida tea partier Peter Gemma who is a staunch Anti-Semite, and Larry Pratt of Virginia, the executive director of Gun Owners of America who frequently solicits support from the pro-Nazi Aryan Nation.

“Tea Party Nationalism,” prepared by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, debunks many of the positions advanced by this overwhelmingly white, politically conservative, Republican-leaning movement, like party claims that its sole concentration is lowering budget deficits, taxes and federal government power.

Tea party ranks remain “permeated with concerns about race, and national identity and other so-called social issues,” the report states in its introduction. This party’s “storied opposition to political and social elites turns out to be predicated on an antagonism to federal assistance to those deemed the “undeserving poor.”

Crediting the tea party with resuscitating “the ultra-conservative win of American political life,” the report criticizes the tea party for having had “a devastating impact on thoughtful policy making for the common good, both at the local and state as well as at the federal levels.”

During the teleconference with reporters announcing release of the report, A. Elena Lacayo of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization, said “This report shows how extremist groups try to take advantage of other groups to advance their agendas.” Citing the recent beating death of a Latino man and the ugly anti-immigrant climate sparked by tea party candidates and their media supporters, Lacayo reminded “hateful words have hateful consequences.”

The NAACP’s Jealous carefully noted that neither the report nor the civil rights organization consigns all tea party members to the category of racist. “Most tea party members are sincere and of good will. We do not have a problem with the tea party’s right to exist. We have a problem when a majority of its members stand silent when they see racism,” said Jealous, an Ivy League graduate and Rhodes Scholar. “For the past 100 years, the NAACP has challenged the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of racism and now we challenge the tea party to stand for inclusion and basic civility.”

The “Tea Party Nationalism” report examining instances of extremism and intolerance in that movement’s six most active organizations, produced denunciations from tea party officials, including one who termed it a cheap political shot attempting to “tie crazy people together with a movement that is not about what these people are about.”

Prominent Black tea party member Lloyd Marcus blasted the NAACP and the report on his blog yesterday. “All of the racism is coming from the Obama camp,” claimed Marcus, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Conservative People of Color (NAACPC), contending he’s never seen or heard overt racism while attending more than 200 tea party events nationwide. “We tea party patriots are opposing Obama’s socialist agenda, not his skin color.”

Republican Strategy Depends on Low Minority Turnout

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By Isaac Adul Haqq, Special to the NNPA from The Los Angeles Sentinel –

In a stunning display of bigotry and viciousness, powerful Republicans are raising millions of dollars to support an extreme crop of GOP candidates for the mid-term elections. They are called "Tea Party Candidates," and they are being funded by the Super Rich who have been promised $4 Trillion Dollars in tax cuts for their support by the GOP. These Tea Party Republicans are directly attacking Blacks, Latinos, women and gays--and they are winning votes in the process.

"The Republicans are pandering to the most primitive elements of their base," said Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "The pedigrees of their candidates prove it. The GOP is running Saboteurs, Satanists, Scientologists, and Survivalists. This is just like the Nazis in Depression Era Germany attacking the Jews," he said.

At first, many pundits thought that the GOP was simply disorganized, and actually hurting their chances in November by supporting the Tea Party Candidates. Who would possibly support people like Jim Miller in Alaska, who defends hate crimes as "free speech," or Christina O'Donnell in Delaware, who practices witchcraft and wants to ban masturbation?

But then suddenly, the method to the Republican madness became clear in a new GOP document ominously called... "The Pledge to America."

In this document, the GOP calls for tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% in the country. This is the same 2% that now controls more than 50% of the nation's income, thanks largely to eight years of tax cuts given to the wealthy under President George Bush’s Administration. These tax cuts, according to leading economists, will add $4 trillion dollars to the national debt.

Clearly the cuts are meant to serve as a powerful inducement for the rich to fund these extremist Tea Party candidates, especially now since the Bush Supreme Court recently allowed unlimited corporate spending on elections.

Thus, the mid-term election strategy of the GOP is patently obvious: Reward the Super Rich for financing the Tea Party and have the Tea Party turn out the "Joe Six Packs" and the "Hockey Moms" in November.

"Mid-term elections are base elections," said a republican strategist who asked to remain unnamed. "The party that gets its traditional supporters out to vote is more likely to carry the day. And, the Republicans' base, even the parts of it that are insurgent, unpredictable, and kooky, is highly motivated right now to topple the Democrats in November."

Lee is not alone in his assessment of the Republicans running not only for the Congress but also for the U.S. Senate. Ron Brownstein of the well respected National Journal Magazine said on ABC's 'This Week,' "This is an Extreme Makeover of the Republican Party. It is the most militantly conservative class ...of candidates... in the past half-century."

To give the Tea Party extremist credibility, mainstream Republicans are working hard to support them and camouflage the more unsavory characteristics of their new would-be freshmen. For example, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has raised thousands of dollars for Nevada Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, a Scientologist who has called for an "armed revolt' against the Obama Administration.

"I would be happy to appear at any Washington appearance that she had," McConnell said of Angle in an interview with Politico.Com, a popular online political magazine.

"Breathtaking," is how Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the GOP strategy. "...The Republicans...are raising taxes on the middle class, attacking social security, and shipping more jobs overseas. Instead of a pledge to the American people, Congressional Republicans made a pledge to the big special interests...at the expense of the middle class."

Can the Democrats recover and defend their House and the Senate majorities? That depends.

Pelosi and Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn are visibly in the trenches, making the calls and knocking on the doors.

"Pelosi and Clyburn are vigorously and vigilantly campaigning," said Danny Bakewell Sr., Chairman of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, which represents 200 minority papers and 19.8 million readers. "They know a Jim Crow when they see one flying and are sounding the alarm."

On the other hand, Former Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia--who is also the current Chairman of the Democratic National Committee--has been slow to call for Black and minority communities to advertise, advertise, advertise to energize the base. "Given the current climate, an anti-abortionist, clinging to a slim margin in a swing state like Virginia, may not be the best general for this war," said Bakewell. "The man won't heed a call or spare a dime when it comes to us."

Meanwhile, Black leaders are doing what they can to survive the Tea Party onslaught.

"Everybody knows the Tea Party Candidates are a danger to themselves and others," said Bakewell.

"But if the Democrats don't put some serious money into the Black and minority press and other GOTV minority groups nationwide, this is going to be a lynching. The Democrats will lose both the House and the Senate. It's not as if labor and the poor have much to cheer about right now. They didn't get the Employee Free Choice Act passed, they're way behind on immigration reform, and Black unemployment is stratospheric. These groups are loyal to the Democrats in spirit, but their spirits are low,” said Bakewell. “I hope Democratic Committee Chairman Kaine wakes up and helps Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Whip James Clyburn keep our party (Democrats) in control of the Congress."

President Obama to Black Press: 'I still need your help.'

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

After nearly two years in office and his support within the Black community still high but dropping, President Barack Obama held his first press conference via telephone with Black newspapers. The 25-minute teleconference on October 18th gave the nation’s first African American president the opportunity to speak to the demographic that supported him the most during his 2008 victory. Obama used the time to campaign for support in the upcoming mid-term elections, tout the accomplishments that have been made thus far by his administration and listen to a few of the concerns the Black community has raised about his administration.

Obama began by speaking to the philosophy of his campaign, “Change,” saying it is important for the same energy that swept the community during his campaign to continue throughout his administration in order for “Change” to come. He said the public health care that was passed is just one key change he has made to help better the lives of all Americans. But, he said though progress has been made, the economy is still a major issue.

“People are still hurting out there,” Obama began. “Despite the economy showing signs of growth, there are still too many Americans unemployed or underemployed.”

The President said he expects to be in a battle with Congress to get many of his new initiatives passed. However, he said he is still willing to work with Republicans to get things moving forward. But, he added based on the political climate, he thinks it will be easier to get things done with more Democrats in Congress.

“I have a great deal of confidence that if there is a democrat here in Washington there will be folks that I can work with to continue making progress on helping small businesses and making sure there are programs in place to help blighted neighborhoods and continue to work on a new infrastructure program that can put more people to work as we continue to invest in clean energy,” Obama said. “Democrats are going to be far less likely to cut education spending by 20 percent as the Republicans have suggested. What I say to your readers is look at what the Democrats did over the past two years and there were things that were good for America and things that were good on behalf of the African American community.”

Danny Bakewell, President of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, a conglomerate of African American owned newspapers throughout the country, asked the President why the Democratic Party is not advertising with the Black press when it is the one media genre that has carried his messages from the beginning. Bakewell said with Black newspapers folding around the country due to economics, the industry needs help to survive. Obama responded that it is an issue that needs to be taken up with the Democratic Party leaders and not him as President of the United States.

“As President of the United States I can’t have a call with newspapers focusing on where advertising money is going by political parties. That’s just not appropriate,” Obama said. “What I can say is that my general approach when it comes to the federal government is there has to be an equal opportunity. You can’t just go with the vendors that traditionally have received contracts or opportunities without taking a look at non-traditional folks who may be able to do just as good of a job or a better job.”

Obama was also asked about his plan for putting more African Americans to work in his home state, considering Illinois has a 22 percent unemployment rate among Blacks. A temporary jobs program created by the Obama administration, “Put Illinois to Work,” has been praised for creating thousands of jobs, but will end next month. It has already been extended by two months.

“The program has been highly successful,” Obama said. “It is relatively low-cost and we want to renew it. We are going to need some cooperation on this issue from some of the Republicans because we may not have the votes. It’s an example of the things that we’ve done that we know work, but unfortunately not a lot of people know about it.”

Obama said the “Put Illinois to Work” initiative is part of a larger nationwide effort. However, in many communities around the country, there are complaints that the jobs created by the programs are not going to inner-city African Americans that really need them. Obama said some of that can be contributed to the implementation of the program that he has no control over.

“We have to manage this through local jurisdictions,” he explained. “What we’ve made sure of is that they don’t discriminate in hiring. “But what is also true is in a lot of cities and counties traditionally you haven’t seen enough low-income citizens trained for construction jobs. What we want to encourage are partnerships to make sure there are stepladders for those who don’t have experience in these jobs to get the skills they need.”

Obama said the same can be said in the energy efficient job genre, in which they are retrofitting homes around the country to make them more energy efficient. He said there has been some difficulty in finding young people who need training and then hire them as apprentices in areas such as window installation and other areas.

“It’s not only a clean energy agenda, but also a job initiative,” Obama said. “Every program we initiate, we try to tie a job-training component to it. But I am the first one to admit some of the Recovery Act funding could have gone to a state that doesn’t have one of these programs already up and running. Their priority could have been just to get the road fixed as quickly as possible so they may have just hired the folks who traditionally they have been using without enough attention to make sure they are opening up new opportunities for more people.”

The President was asked what he is doing to combat the high dropout rate within the Black community. He said his focus has been on identifying low-performing schools and putting nearly $2 billion into those schools to improve retention rates. He said they are starting to see the implementation of proven programs to address the problem and it is something that will be monitored during the coming two years.

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