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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.

An America For Whites Only? Who is Behind the Anti-Immigration Push?

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By Charlene Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

(NNPA) - The fall out over passage of an anti-immigration law in Arizona continued across the United States this week with people wondering is America being reduced to a nation “for Whites only?”

Anti-racism activist and author Tim Wise says a sense of “White racial anxiety,” has in his view, “taken over large segments of White America.”

According to Wise, the sense of entitlement that Whites have always enjoyed is being challenged by demographic data showing the growth of Black and Brown populations projected to become equal with the White population by 2050, as well as a change in the political landscape, demonstrated by the first Black president of the United States.

“This idea that White folks give voice to every now and then that they're losing their country, sometimes they mean with Black folks and the Black president and sometimes they're referring to Latinos and Brown folks. It seems that though, when White folks say that they're referring to some nostalgic sentiments of the past that they want to resurrect,” said Wise.

“They can't fathom a country wherein they are not the norm, the prototype of what an American is. The way they've grown up for years is when they hear the word American, they see their (own) face and people of color have never been able to have that reaction, that when they talk about American, they're talking about me, but White folks have, so when all of a sudden you've got to share that title, that symbol with Black and Brown people that have different names and faith traditions than yours, that shakes them up because they have that sense of entitlement.”

SB 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, mandates that law enforcement stops anyone they reasonably suspect to be an undocumented immigrant and obtain their documentation. Anyone without it can be arrested, incarcerated, fined, and/or deported.

According to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the bill signifies that she is for enforcing the law and against racial profiling but immigrant advocates strongly disagree.

“This law is a very racist law and it's persecuting people of color and very much affecting people of dark complexion. If you do not look Anglo you could be questioned and asked for your documents, but in our cases, even though we are of Afro descent, we have accents but they could ask for documentation from all of us,” and many people are now afraid to even go out of their homes in Arizona, said Eunice Escobar, a board member of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America and member of the Association of Afro Columbians in Displacement.

“The most important consideration is why is this law passing now? I think there's really a very strong interest behind it in an attack of America's new generation of Latino people who are coming into this country and making decisions. Most of these Latinos are dark people and they are looking for a change,” said Escobar, who is of Afro and Latino descent.

Part of the fear in America that drives such legislation is the unity of Blacks and Latinos, she said. For instance, the first Black President Barack Obama received a lot of support from Latinos and that makes Whites in America very afraid.

Another example she gave is how Latinos have come out into the streets in record numbers to proclaim their rights. “They thought they were done with this, with the Civil Rights Movement and they didn't think that minorities would come up again and ask for their rights. They're afraid of the new possibilities from these new coalitions and new alliances,” she said.

Javier Rodriguez, Director of the March 25 Coalition, said that obviously the legislation is a ploy by extreme right wing conservatives within the Republican Party to racially profile immigrants and the Latino population, starting within Arizona.

He concurred that the law is blatantly racist and discriminatory and said that it is unveiling the ultimate aim of the Republican Party's upcoming national electoral campaign. People must remember that immigration reform is the big prize that they must keep their eyes on, he said.

“The legalization of the 12 million people and their families is the most effective solution to the Arizona bill,” Rodriguez told The Final Call. He charged that the right wing plan is to create conditions for the undocumented that are so miserable and uncomfortable, people will self deport and to some degree, that occurred in the 1930s and 1950s with Operation Wetback, the United States' repatriation project that targeted primarily Mexicans.

Under Operation Wetback, the U.S. Border Patrol found more than one million undocumented immigrants when they raided Mexican American barrios in Southeastern states in 1954. They sought identification from “Mexican-looking” citizens they stopped on the streets and ultimately, many immigrants were deported and many others fled the U.S.

Now history is repeating itself and without swift, strategic action, opponents of the bill argued, its negative profiling implications could permeate America's entire infrastructure, including the Prison Industrial Complex, and its health care and education systems, for starters.

Wilmer Leon, a Political Science lecturer at Howard University in Washington, D.C., has joined the growing chorus of political analysts to question what other implications loom if SB 1070 is found to be constitutional.

“What will happen in Chicago as that city struggles to get a handle on the recent explosion of murder and mayhem and the alarming levels of violence among its schoolchildren? Will the state of Illinois be allowed to “stop and frisk” and detain individuals simply because law enforcement believes a particular individual fits a certain profile?” he asked in his latest commentary, “Now State Reaction to Illegal Immigration Should Matter to African-Americans.”

Not just Arizona

Already, other states are signaling that they could follow Arizona's suit.

“There were eight the last time I heard, who are thinking about copy cat legislation,” said Wise. “One of the things that makes that likely is that the folks who were behind this in Arizona are members of a loosely affiliated set of groups that have a history of White supremacy, White nationalism, like FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), (Sen.) Russell Pearce (R-AZ), the main sponsor in Arizona. Those folks have a connection to a larger network of national groups and individuals. No doubt, Arizona was just a test case,” he added.

On May 5, nearly 100 members of various Hispanic organizations protested outside the Major League Baseball (MLB) game featuring the Houston Astros versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is part of an on-going movement to oppose the recent immigration bill passed in Arizona and to send the message, “Not in our backyard,” to Texas lawmakers.

“The SB1070 is legalized racial profiling and we are 100 percent opposed to it,” Michael Espinoza told The Final Call. He is the lead organizer for Houston's SEIU Justice for Janitors group.

Espinoza was among those outside Minute Maid Park holding up signs that read “No Human Being Is Illegal,” “Boycott Arizona,” with a slash through the words “SB1070.” He says the local coalition is in agreement with boycotting Arizona-based companies and is demanding that MLB officials reconsider hosting the 2011 All-Star game in Arizona.

A Department of Homeland Security report released earlier this year shows that Texas was second only to California in the number of unauthorized immigrants in 2009, with 1.7 million and 2.6 million respectively. Currently, an estimated one million plus undocumented immigrants live in Texas, which is costing the state $4.5 billion annually.

Amidst the debate of the Arizona immigration bill, Republican lawmaker Debbie Riddle of Tomball, Texas is planning to introduce a tough immigration bill for Texas that will parallel the controversial new laws in Arizona. Rep. Riddle is pushing to present the law in the January 2011 legislative session.

“If our federal government did their job, then Arizona wouldn't have to take this action, and neither would Texas,” said Rep. Riddle.

Texas Governor Rick Perry agrees in protecting citizens, but has reservations about bringing similar immigration policy to the Lone Star State.

“Recently, there has been much debate over immigration policy in Washington and what has been implemented in Arizona. I fully recognize and support a state's right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas,” said Gov. Perry in a written statement.

“We're not going to stop protesting. We're going to keep fighting to make sure that which Rep. Riddle is proposing will not get passed even if it means escalating our tactics,” said Espinosa. Some opponents of the bill from within Arizona itself include Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. According to reports, Chief John Harris of Sahuarita said he opposed the bill before Gov. Brewer even signed it, partly on the basis of manpower and budget issues that would only worsen under the law, and because traditionally, immigration has been a federal issue.

According to Rodriguez, the most blatant part that is absent from a lot of discussions and debates about the bill is that the sweeping racial profiling powers extend beyond just law enforcement. “The enforcement of identifying and arresting potential (undocumented) immigrants is to be done by any kind of municipal, county, or state institution in the health field, employment department, any department that suspects that anybody is an illegal immigrant, they are obligated by the law to inform ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” the activist said.

That would undermine the society by setting up a vast network of informants but ultimately, just like with apartheid in South Africa and fascism in Chile, that might deny people their freedom for a few years, even a decade, but eventually, freedom will be obtained, Rodriguez said.

A result of America's own foreign policy

Because America disrupts, or supports countries that work against, the well being of poor people, many people flee their own land for financial benefit in the U.S., Escobar said. Their only option is to come to the U.S. for a better living and America must change her foreign policy and the way she does business with other countries.

In Columbia, she said, gold mining corporations are exploding the gold mines for the wealth, but the mines are located where Afro Columbians live. Ultimately, people are being displaced, which is what happened to Mexican farmers under the Central and North American Trade Agreement. “They made it impossible for farmers in Mexico to continue farming and when 1.2 million of them could not work anymore, their only option was to come to the U.S.A.,” Escobar said.

Report: Black Students Carry More Debt Than White Peers

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

(NNPA) - Across the U.S., another group of Black students have earned their college degrees this month, and have progressed to the next stage in their lives. But they do so carrying the burden of greater debt than their White peers, according to a new study conducted by The College Board’s Advocacy and Policy Center.

The study revealed that 27 percent of Black bachelor’s degree recipients in 2007-2008 borrowed $30,500 or more compared to 16 percent of Whites, 14 percent of Latinos/Hispanics and 9 percent of Asians.

Sandy Baum, the report’s co-author, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that while the families of some Blacks and White students may have similar incomes from their jobs and other activities, there is an apparent gap in their other savings and assets, which can give White students an edge in paying for college and avoiding heavy debt.

Also, experts found that parents and students who take out private loans may find themselves in higher debt than those who take out federal loans, mainly because private loans often hold higher interest rates and there is no government protection to limit payment amounts.

“Some folks will sign the papers without looking at the fine print, and they end up with loans with high interest rates,” Wil LaVeist, co-author of “8 Steps to Help Black Families Pay for College” told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

LaVeist urged parents and students to pay close attention to all documents when signing for college loans. But he said students can avoid the loan process and the possible burden of future debt altogether by getting good grades before entering college.

“I see too many kids focusing on being social [in high school],” LaVeist told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “What is important now is to get good grades in high school...There will be a college that will accept you ….”

Huge Chinese Loan Will Build Major Ethiopian Railroad

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - A Chinese loan of more than $100 million will help Ethiopia complete a major railway line linking the capital, Addis Ababa, to various regions of the country.

The project had been on the books for years but was frozen due to lack of funding.

China has been signing railway construction projects all around Africa, transforming the Asian giant into one of the most influential players on the continent. But in some cases the projects have run into obstacles.

With pressure applied by the U.S. and the IMF, a $9 billion deal signed between Beijing and Kinshasa shrank to $6 billion. Questions have also been raised over the disappearance of a $23 million signing bonus that Chinese companies were to have paid their Congolese counterparts.

Western critics say China is interested only in extracting Africa's natural resources to feed its fast-growing economy, and cares little for African development, acting like the new colonial power on the continent.

But Chinese experts see a lingering "Cold War" mentality. "Is China buying cheap and selling pricey to qualify as a colonial power?" asks Shen Jiru, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Exactly the opposite - we are providing free-interest loans and aid, and we are a reliable backup for Africa's economic development."

Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi defended the railway deal. "It's in their interest to spend tens of billions of dollars in Africa, he said, “and it's in our interest to have access to those tens of billions of dollars."

Congolese Leader Wants Foreign Troops Out

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – U.N. peacekeepers’ days may be numbered in the conflicted Congo. Ten years after they arrived and billions of dollars spent, peace has not been achieved. President Joseph Kabila now stands firm that U.N. troops should be out of the country by the close of 2011.

The 20,000 peacekeepers guarding a country the size of Western Europe have been unable to protect children from kidnaps, women from rape and decapitations. Some of the peacekeepers themselves are even accused of sexual abuse, gold trading and corruption.

A decade-long war has pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda, and DR Congo’s economy and stability has suffered ever since; most especially its civilian populace.

Information Minister Lambert Mende accused the U.N. of pretending "to help people while trampling their dignity" and suggested it is trying to seize power in mineral-rich Congo. "Don't do anything for us. We will do it ourselves," Mende said.

But human rights groups say it's too soon for the peacekeepers to leave. At least 8,300 rapes were committed in eastern Congo alone last year, the U.N. said.

The mission's mandate expires in less than two weeks and cannot continue without the government's consent. The U.N. Security Council plans to visit Congo at the end of this week and that U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon plans to come around the start of June.

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