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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.

Despite Widespread Appeals, Obama Fails to Appoint Black Woman to Supreme Court

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President Taps Elena Kagan As Supreme Court Nominee

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In what could be considered as the most powerful public appeal to President Obama thus far on behalf of racial justice, 28 Black women sent the President a letter early this week, expressing concern that he might appoint Solicitor General Alena Kagan as the successor for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U. S. Supreme Court and reasserted a request that he consider a Black woman instead.

But, the May 9 letter was too late. Less than 20 minutes after receiving the document, emailed to the NNPA News Service around 10:37 p.m. from Melanie Campbell, CEO and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR), a breaking news email from the Washington Post came headlined, “Obama to pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court”. By morning, the news was out and widely reported.

Still the letter was strong and clear, sending an “end-of-honeymoon” type message that President Obama must begin to listen to those he credits for having put him in office with hopes for Black progress.

“As we have throughout history, African American women played a significant role in the 2008 election because we were especially aware of the impact this presidency would have for generations to come,” states the letter, dated May 9. “Our trepidation regarding General Kagan is premised on the lack of a clearly identifiable record on the protection of our nation’s civil rights laws. As women leaders, we greatly respect General Kagan’s intellectual capabilities and highly accomplished record in the Administration and academia. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of a specific emphasis on the civil rights laws utilized in the protection of racial and ethnic minorities and those traditionally disenfranchised in this nation.”

The letter also asserted, “Especially disconcerting is the perceived lack of real consideration of any of the extremely qualified African American women as potential nominees. While we were very pleased to witness the placement of the Honorable Leah Ward Sears and Judge Ann Claire Williams on the reported lists of potential nominees, there did not appear to be any serious consideration of their candidacy, once again.”

The women’s names, listed on the bottom of the letter, represent a broad section of leadership in the Black community. The letter described them as members of the “Black Women’s Roundtable of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and African American female faith leaders and legal scholars”.

The letter not only appeals to the President’s espoused sensitivity to the plight of African-Americans, but reminds him of the staunch position of the late Dr. Dorothy Height who he eulogized only two weeks ago: “Mr. President, the nominations and appointments you make today will be far-reaching, particularly for the Supreme Court. As we continue to promote the legacy of our late founding leader and Co-Convener, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, we will always seek to highlight the concerns of Black women, our families and our communities. Thus, as Dr. Height stated in our previous meeting with your Administration, we believe it is time for African American women to be represented in all sectors of government – including the Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 221 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on our highest court in the land.”

Supreme Court appointments are rare given that justices serve for a lifetime. Still Obama has nominated Kagan, a former dean of Harvard Law School rather than seize the opportunity to not only make history, but to further diversify the court with different perspectives. The BWR also cited “Justice Stevens’ leadership in protecting and defending civil rights on the Supreme Court” as a compelling need to appoint someone with similar views.

Political scientist and Black political strategist Dr. Ron Walters says the Supreme Court appointment is yet another revealing moment for the administration of America’s first Black president as close to 100 percent of African-American voters supported him.

“It is another one of those pin pricks where African-Americans are not happy with the president’s decision. These things were inevitable, but they continue to happen. And this was just another one,” Walters says.

Walters sought to explain Obama’s decision as disseminating from the “elite crowd of Harvard law school that’s the other world that he’s been traveling in since he was a very young person.”

He warns, “Don’t underestimate the strength of that culture because it is certainly there. And he is a part of that culture. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that he is more a part of that culture than he is of the civil rights culture.”

Another disappointing issue has been the President’s handling of Black economic justice as he has maintained a “rising tides lifts all boats” philosophy even as Black unemployment remains stagnant or continues to rise month after month.

A push for greater diversity on the court had been a major topic of discussion over the past weeks since Stevens announced his intent to retire late this spring. In a recent column, NNPA Columnist George Curry quotes Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and former civil rights litigator, as predicting that Obama’s next appointee would be more conservative than Stevens.

The column quotes Greenwald: “‘(1) Kagan, from her time at Harvard, is renowned for accommodating and incorporating conservative views, the kind of ‘post-ideological’ attribute Obama finds so attractive; (2) for both political and substantive reasons, the Obama White House tends to avoid (with few exceptions) any appointees to vital posts who are viewed as ‘liberal’ or friendly to the Left; the temptation to avoid that kind of nominee heading into the 2010 midterm elections will be substantial… and (3) Kagan has already proven herself to be a steadfast Obama loyalist with her work as his Solicitor General, and the desire to have on the Court someone who has demonstrated fealty to Obama’s broad claims of executive authority is likely to be great.’”

Curry adds, “The most disturbing aspect of a possible Kagan appointment is her admiration of the Federalist Society, a network of conservative and libertarian students, law professors, attorneys and judges whose goal is to advance the conservative agenda by pushing America’s legal system to the right.”

According to the letter, “The Black Women’s Roundtable network comprises an intergenerational membership of Black women civic leaders of international, national, regional and state-based organizations and institutions that works collectively to advance policies and strategic initiatives that help to improve the lives of underserved women and girls. Our BWR members work in a wide range of social justice, civic, corporate, labor, academic, women and youth organizations.”

The following women were listed as co-signers of the BWR letter:

Melanie L. Campbell, CEO and convener, Black Women’s Roundtable, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Barbara Arnwine, national convener Black Women for Justice; Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, president, Skinner Leadership Institute; co-facilitator, National African American Clergy Network; Dr. Barbara Shaw, interim chair of the board, National Council of Negro Women; Dr. Elsie Scott, president, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Lezli Baskerville, president, The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher education (NAFEO); Clayola Brown, president, A. Philip Randolph Institute; Vanessa Williams, executive Director, National Conference of Black Mayors; Ms. Felicia Davis, president, Just Environment; Makani Themba-Nixon, executive director, The Praxis Project; Rev. Dr. Judith C. Moore, executive director, Sisters Saving Ourselves Now; Lisa Fager Bediako, president, Industry Ears; Constance Berry Newman, member, Black Women’s Roundtable; Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, executive director, Center for Community and Economic Justice, Inc.; Rev. Marcia Dyson, member, Black Women’s Roundtable; Eleanor Hinton Hoytt; president & CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative; Kathi Wilkes, president, Wilkes & Associates; Letetia Daniels Jackson, president and CEO, Tandeka, LLC; Sandra Fowler, founder and president, Brewton Enterprises; Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of Research, Policy, and Programs, National Council of Negro Women; Reverend Cheryl J. Sanders, senior pastor, Third Street Church of God and professor of christian ethics, Howard University; Barbara Perkins, executive life coach, Image Builders Etcetera; Claire Nelson, president & CEO, Institute of Caribbean Studies; Lakimba DeSadier, member, Black Women’s Roundtable; Gaea L. Honeycutt, president, G.L. Honeycutt, LLC; Carlottia Scott, board member, NCBCP; Rev. Gloria Miller, associate minister, First Baptist Church Glenarden; Joycelyn Tate, telecommunications policy advisor Black Women’s Roundtable.

Mississippi Officials Report Latest Storm Damage Assessment

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Special to the NNPA from the Mississippi Link –

PEARL, Miss. (NNPA) - Although the death toll remains at six, new reports show that the number of destroyed and damaged homes continue to rise due to the devastating May 1 storm systems that caused major flooding and produced two tornadoes in North Mississippi. Nearly 250 residences were destroyed or have major damage and 482 homes received minor damage. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency personnel and the Mobile Operations Command Center have been in the affected counties since the storm hit.

MEMA also distributed tarps and water to assist victims.

The following counties are reporting damages to the State Emergency Operations Center in Pearl:

• Alcorn: One death; 10 homes and seven mobiles homes destroyed; 107 homes and 40 apartments with major damage; 13 homes with minor; 100 roads with major damage; 11 bridges with minor damage; one publicly owned building with major damage; three nonprofit utilities with major damage; assistance needed with shelter support.

• Benton: Two deaths; four injuries; 11 homes and 13 mobile homes destroyed; seven homes and three mobile homes with major damage; 56 homes and 23 mobile homes with minor damage; 10 injuries; 20 roads with major damage; 40 roads with minor damage; one bridge with major damage; 75 people displaced.

• Lafayette: One death; two homes/ mobile homes destroyed; two homes with major damage and 40 homes with minor damage; shelters are closed, but monitoring needs of victims; clean-up efforts continue.

• Lee: One death; one home with minor damage; trees downs; one bridge with major damage.

• Marshall: Twenty one homes/ mobile homes with minor damage; 8 roads with major damage; 17 roads with minor damage.

• Montgomery: Two homes and six roads with minor damage.

• Prentiss: Ten roads and two bridges with major damage; 100 roads minor damage; city of Booneville issues proclamation. • Tippah: Six homes/mobile homes destroyed; 29 homes/mobile homes with major damage; 58 homes/mobile homes with minor damage; Nine roads destroyed; eight roads with major damaged; two roads with minor damage; two bridges destroyed; one public building with major damage; one nonprofit building with major damage; city of Ripley issues proclamation.

• Tishomingo: Nine homes with major damage; one mobile home with major damage; one business with minor damage which is a church that has two buildings; nine roads destroyed; six roads with major damage; 16 roads with minor damage; five bridges/culvert destroyed; three bridges/culverts with major damage.

• Union: One death; 14 homes and 6 mobile homes with minor damage; 15 businesses with minor damage; 28 roads with major damage; one bridge with major damage; one public owned building with minor damage.

• Webster: One injury reported; one home with minor damage; two roads destroyed; three roads with major damage; 70 roads with minor damage.

To report damages contact your local emergency management office. Homeowners with flooding should contact their local floodplain administrator.

For more information, contact the State Emergency Joint Information Center at 866-920-MEMA (6362), or visit us online at www.msema.org. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook using the keyword MSEMA.

Fourth New Orleans Police Officer Pleads Guilty in Shooting Cover-up

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Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

(NNPA) - A fourth former New Orleans police officer has pleaded guilty to helping cover up deadly police shootings of unarmed residents after Hurricane Katrina. Robert Barrios faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Police shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the August 2005 storm. The 29-year-old Barrios was accused of conspiring with other officers to give false accounts of the shootings to detectives.

Three former officers already have pleaded guilty to a cover-up that included a planted gun and phony witnesses.

Marion David Ryder, a civilian, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the shootings. Ryder, 45, of Opelousas faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and $500,000 fine after pleading guilty Wednesday to making false statements and a federal firearms charge.

His sentencing is set for August 4.

As prosecutors secured a guilty plea from Barrios Wednesday, a second member of the Danziger 7, the attorney for a third Danziger officer told a local news station that he has had extensive plea negotiations with federal authorities on behalf of this client, NOPD officer Ignatius Hills.

In addition to the officers involved in the shooting itself, two former NOPD lieutenants - Michael Lohman and Jeffrey Lehrmann " previously confessed to the participating in the cover-up, agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for their cooperation against their fellow officers.

Attorney Robert Jenkins said he has had hours of discussions with federal prosecutors about his client's role in the case.

"We're not there yet," Jenkins told WWL-TV, declining to provide details about the negotiations.

Jenkins took on the case after Hills fired his previous attorney, Bruce Whittaker. Plea negotiations began almost immediately afterward, Jenkins told WWL-TV.

"From the pattern you've seen, the government is focusing on individuals who obstructed justice - that is covered up what happened. They're moving in closer and closer to the shooters," former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg told FOX8 News.

In other NOPD-related news, a former high-ranking New Orleans police officer and two top officers from other law enforcement agencies have made the short list to replace NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley.

A search committee appointed by Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu narrowed the list of candidates to three men: Ronald Davis, police chief of East Palo Alto, Calif.; John Harrington, who is retiring as chief of police in St. Paul, Minn.; and Ronald Serpas, the former New Orleans officer who now heads the Nashville Police Department.

Members of the search committee quizzed six semifinalists over several hours April 27. The committee then whittled the list to three and recommended them to Landrieu, who takes office Monday.

Landrieu interviewed the finalists and will name the next superintendent, though he has said if he's unsatisfied, he'll reopen the search.

Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu hit a sour note last week when he used a back door to avoid media questions about his selection for police chief.

Landrieu, whose selection of a new police chief may be the most important decision he makes as mayor, reportedly left a Wednesday afternoon press conference and sped away before reporters could ask him anything about his decision regarding the city's next police chief.

"You don't get anywhere by snubbing the media. At the very least go up to the camera and say, 'I'm sorry. I can't talk about this right now,'" Tulane University political science professor Thomas Langston told FOX8 News.

Landrieu has already been hampered by several defections from his NOPD superintendent search committee and a rising wave of criticism from Black community leaders about the inclusion of former NOPD Deputy Superintendent Ronald Serpas as one the final three contenders for the post.

The other two finalists are East Palo Alto Police chief Ron Davis and St. Paul, Minnesota police chief John Harrington, who is scheduled to retire in June.

Langston said that the Mayor-elect's quick exit Wednesday will do nothing to quell those concerns and that Landrieu could use a little help to understand that avoiding difficult topics and questions is not an option for a mayor seeking to turn around a city that is already desperate for capable, accountable leadership.

"Controlling the message does not mean not talking to the media," Langston told FOX8 News. "Controlling the message, which all good executives try to do, means deciding with your close advisors what the message of the day, of the week is gonna be and then communicating, communicating, communicating."

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BVN National News Wire