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First Lady Michelle Obama to Campaign for Democrats

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By Dorothy Rowley, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Democrats are deploying First Lady Michelle Obama to the campaign trail to help them retain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 mid-term elections and boost her husband in the 2012 presidential election.

The first lady, who has appeared on the cover of 12 magazines since ascending to the White House nearly two years ago, currently has a 66 percent approval rating. A staunch advocate for military families, she is popular among women as well as among the legions of new young voters who helped put President Obama in office.

But Obama has also had her tough moments in the media. She was criticized during the 2008 campaign for saying that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of her country. More recently, she was taken to task over her vacation in Spain during a time when many Americans struggle for financial balance.

Along the way she has also garnered widespread applause for efforts such as those to curb childhood obesity. Overall, Democrats believe her high popularity could bring them much-needed favor.

But Maryland-based political analyst Ron Walters said that much of the first lady’s success on the campaign trail will depend on how she’s prepared.

“If they send her into districts where the president is unpopular, she’s not going to be able to turn things around,” Walters said. “But if they send her to some districts where she’s popular and she’s got a lot of women and families that she can talk to, then she can make a difference.”

During a recent CNN interview, White House senior advisor David Axelrod was asked how valuable the first lady would be for Democrats between now and Election Day.

“I think she feels strongly about the affirmative things that this administration has done,” Axelrod said. “She’s been a leader on some of them [including the childhood obesity campaign and]…just last week, the United States Senate passed a bill on child nutrition.”

Wyclef Jean for President of Haiti. Will He Be Another Aristide?

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By Dr. Ron Daniels –


(NNPA) - Two weeks ago on CNN's Larry King Live the multi-Platinum, multi-Grammy Award winning recording artist and cultural icon Wyclef Jean made the long anticipated announcement that he will be a candidate for president of the Republic of Haiti. Surrounded by throngs of admiring followers in Port Au Prince, Wyclef suggested that the youth of Haiti, who constitute the majority of the population, are drafting him to run for President.

For months, observers of the political scene in Haiti have been quietly indicating that his popularity on the ground is such that, if Wyclef were to announce his candidacy, he would be the odds on favorite to be the next President of Haiti. That prospect notwithstanding, scores of candidates may register to run, e.g., Wyclef's uncle, Ambassador Raymond Joseph; former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis; former Prime Minister and Lavalas stalwart, Yvon Neptune; Kompas music legend Sweet Micky; and, former Minister for Haitians Living Abroad, Leslie Voltaire to mention a few.

At the moment the buzz is all about Wyclef Jean, and his candidacy is raising the kinds of questions one might expect about an inexperienced entertainer seeking the highest office in Haiti, particularly at a moment of such grave crisis: Should Wyclef run? Is he qualified? And, what kind of President would he make? In addition, Wyclef has come under withering fire from some on the left who believe his criticism of President Aristide and endorsement of the idea of regime change prior to Aristide being ousted is an unpardonable sin.

Before commenting on this and other aspects of Wyclef's candidacy, however, I would like to briefly state my position on the election in general. To begin with, I find the decision by the Haitian Government and the international community to push for elections at the height of the catastrophe mystifying. With virtually all the election registration records destroyed during the earthquake as well as many administrative offices, it will require a huge allocation of human and material resources to conduct an election by November.

Haiti is in a de facto state of emergency and, therefore, in my judgment the full energy of the Government and international community should be focused on recovery/reconstruction.

Accordingly, after our visit to Haiti in February (30 days after the earthquake), in lieu of national elections, the Haiti Support Project (HSP) recommended the creation of a broad based/ inclusive Interim Government of National Reconstruction to steer the nation for a period of a year to eighteen months.

The interim government would have been based on a consensus of political parties, the private sector and civil society, with the sanction of the international community. In Haiti, everyone wants to be President and the rivalries and competition can sometimes become vicious. In short, I believe national elections at this time are a major distraction from the urgent need to focus on alleviating the suffering of the millions who are living in misery, and building a path to a new future. But, obviously the elections are on and Wyclef Jean is the man in the spotlight.

Though I do not know Wyclef intimately, I have had the pleasure of being in his company on a couple of occasions, most recently at the Nation of Islam's Saviour's Day Commemoration in Chicago in February. Over dinner we actually had an opportunity to share a few ideas about the work of Yele Foundation and HSP, the relief effort and the direction of reconstruction. I don't think there is any question that Wyclef is a sincere person who loves Haiti and is deeply devoted to the uplift of the Haitian people.

As such he is entitled to his opinion about the state of political affairs in his homeland, including offering a critique of President Aristide during the time when a combination of forces was orchestrating his ouster. In some recent interviews, I have had to come to Wyclef's defense on this point because, as mentioned above, there are those in the progressive movement who consider his criticism of Aristide's failings and call for him to step aside as tantamount to treason. To paint Wyclef in that way is grossly unfair. Not everyone who parted company with Aristide was an agent of the CIA or a reactionary. Indeed, many of his critics were former allies who saw him morph into someone far different than the visionary leader they had embraced early on.

So, Wyclef's views on Aristide should not be a disqualifier. Having said that, I strongly agree with the growing crescendo of voices from various quarters demanding that the Lavalas party (or parties) be certified to participate in the forthcoming elections. The failure to do so will damp down participation and call into question the legitimacy of the outcome. Wyclef could do himself some good by speaking up on this issue. As to the effect of the attacks on his candidacy, the masses on the ground have already rendered their verdict. He's wildly popular!

Indeed, this is what makes the prospect of Wyclef's candidacy intriguing. He could well be an Aristide- like figure. Jean-Bertrand Aristide captured the imagination and aspirations of the people like no other leader in modern Haitian history. He personified the desire and will of the Haitian poor, peasants, workers and forward-looking people from all sectors to transform the nation into a participatory democracy with a vibrant economy. Aristide had the capacity to inspire the dispossessed to believe a brighter future was possible with their engagement.

One of the elements that is sorely lacking in the current reconstruction effort is precisely this kind of call to the nation to act. There does not appear to be an effort to mobilize the millions who are living in wretched conditions to become part of the process of building the new Haiti.

There is a "Plan" which was developed at the behest of the international community in order to make the case for billions in foreign aid. The Plan has received good reviews, but the problem is large sectors of the Haitian population played no meaningful role in formulating it. There is a critical need to engage/involve all sectors of the population in the reconstruction effort. In that regard, the process is as important as the outcome. Given his popularity with Haitian youth and the poor, perhaps, Wyclef Jean is the candidate who could mobilize the population to play a powerful role in building the new Haiti. That would be a positive.

For those who question Wyclef's lack of experience, Aristide was overwhelmingly elected president despite the fact that he had no prior experience as an elected official. In my view, experience is never the critical criteria for seeking elected office. The most important ingredients are a vision of what it is you want to accomplish, a platform that embodies the vision, a plan for achieving the vision and the judgment to assembly a team with the skill to implement the vision.

In addition to years in the trenches fighting against the Duvalier dictatorship and subsequent authoritarian regimes, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was a devotee of Liberation Theology from which he derived a vision of the dispossessed as the vital center and driving force for a new Haiti. And, he had thought long and hard about what kinds of measures/policies that would be required to achieve his vision. Frankly, we have yet to hear Wyclef clearly articulate his vision for Haiti and his platform and plan for implementing it. Celebrity and popularity among the masses is not a vision or a program. In the coming weeks, it will be imperative that Wyclef lay out his vision and plan for the new Haiti. An entertainer as head of State without a vision and plan for the future could be a disaster.

Finally, while charisma and popularity can be positives, they can also be negatives. "Stars" or messianic leaders who view themselves as "drafted," "anointed," or "ordained" are susceptible to becoming self-absorbed figures. They are often resistant to input or criticism and suspicious of people or organizations that might offer an opposing idea. The seeds of authoritarianism are often to be found in the personalities of those who see themselves as "called" to lead. Let's hope this is not the case with Wyclef Jean, the man who just might be the next President of Haiti.

Ron Daniels is president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at info@ibw21.org.

Local HIV/AIDS Activist Speaks At International Gathering

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By Ayana Jones, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

(NNPA) - For local activist Waheedah Shabazz-El, delivering the closing speech at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria last monthh was an unforgettable experience.

Shabazz-El delivered a speech titled “Human Rights as a Conscious Achievement” to world leaders and over 25,000 delegates who gathered for the weeklong conference. During her speech, Shabazz-El called for women living with HIV to be involved in the policymaking process and ending the criminalization and violation of women living with HIV and AIDS.

“For all people we have to ensure that communities are able to access HIV education, prevention, testing and counseling services that meet their needs. We must eliminate all funding for abstinence-only programs that fail young people by violating their right to life-saving information,” Shabazz-El told conference attendees.

“All people with HIV have the right to work, have a full and satisfying sexual life, bear children and access high quality HIV care that meets their needs.”

Since the 2012 International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, D.C., Shabazz also took the opportunity to address challenges surrounding HIV in the U.S. such as housing for those living with HIV, the disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color and women and stigma.

While the U.S. has finally lifted the 23-year travel ban on HIV-positive people entering the country, Shabazz-El noted that two of the most vulnerable populations, sex workers and drug users will not be allowed to legally enter the U.S. and participate in the upcoming conference.

She was honored to have the opportunity to speak during the conference.

Throughout her years as a HIV-positive activist, Shabazz-El has been steadfast in speaking up about HIV/AIDS related issues and educating others.

“It’s only through speaking out that the healing can start and the resources can come to your community,” says Shabazz-El, who was nominated to speak at the conference by the U.S. Positive Women’s Network. “I can’t be silent and just watch my communities get swallowed up by HIV. I’m just not a sideline player, where I can allow that to happen. Until we have a cure, what we have is education.”

Shabazz-El is also one of many community leaders who helped develop the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Shabazz-El joined other members of a national working group to develop input for the strategy. The strategy has three primary goals which include reducing the number of people who have been infected with HIV, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The strategy was developed at a time when there are over one million Americans living with HIV.

“It’s something that we can start building on. We have a plan with some substance,” Shabazz-El said as she lauded the Obama administration for being willing to develop a strategy. “I’m just glad that we have an administration that sees that addressing HIV at home is a priority. I’m really pleased that we have an administration that heard us when we asked him (President Obama) to start working on this. ... Housing for people with HIV will be a cornerstone of this strategy because housing will be a way to increase (drug) adherence and access to care and housing will also be a way to reduce disparities.”

Shabazz-El, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003, is a community organizer and trainer with the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). As an employee of Philadelphia FIGHT, she works as an HIV counselor and tester.

Alleged Flint Serial Killer Will Face Charges In Michigan

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By Deanna Dunham, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Chronicle –

(NNPA) - Elias Abuelazam, 33, a suspect in the string of attacks in three states has been arrested and appeared in an Atlanta court. Sixteen of the stabbing and bludgeoning victims were Black, one Hispanic and one White man.

According to the Washington Post, police apprehended Abuelazam, a Christian Arab, on August 11 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where he was waiting to board a Delta flight to his native home in Tel Aviv, Israel after they received an anonymous tip.

Charged with attempted murder in connection with the July 27 stabbing in Flint, Michigan, Judge Richard Hicks informed Abuelazam that more charges were expected to be brought against him.

The judge also explained that Abuelazam would have to return to Michigan if he wanted to fight the charges, to which he agreed.

Since late May, authorities allege that Abuelazam has randomly stabbed and attacked 18 men, including the five fatal deaths and nine stabbings in Flint, Michigan; the two stabbings in Virginia, including the one bludgeoned to death with a hammer; and the fatal stabbing outside of a Toledo church Aug. 7.

Rage in Harlem

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - Without the consolation of tears and in a quivering voice, Myrna Soto, the grandmother of a young man slain in Harlem over the weekend, said, “I wish this had never happened.”

But her grandson, Luis Soto, 21, was dead, his body riddled with five or six bullets, the fatal one through his heart probably fired by a police officer. “I didn’t want to lose this grandson,” Soto said during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the National Action Network. “It’s sad. It’s real sad.”

If Soto’s rage was muted, the hundreds jamming the House of Justice were not, and the Rev. Al Sharpton had called the meeting not to point fingers and blame anyone, “but for people to talk and discuss how we can come to terms with violence.”

Such violence was occurring right up the street from the meeting, as it was reported that a young boy had been shot. At first, he was reportedly dead but it was later corrected to say he would survive.

Soto didn’t survive, and amidst an ongoing investigation, it is still a bit murky as to what really happened early Sunday morning near Colonel Charles Young Playground at Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and 144th Street.

According to the latest police report, Soto was in a fight with Angel Alvarez, 23, over a young lady when a gun materialized. It is still not clear whose gun it was, but the police account said Alvarez had it and pointed it at officers arriving at the scene.

Two shots were fired from the fracas between Alvarez and Soto, the police say, which precipitated a barrage of 46 shots. When the shooting was over, Soto lay dead, with Alvarez wounded by 21 bullets and two officers and three bystanders shot.

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a speaker at the meeting, said the officers failed to use the necessary precautions and properly evaluate “who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. And 50 shots, that’s excessive.”

What many citizens learned four years ago from the tragic shooting of Sean Bell, a victim in a fatal flurry of 50 bullets, was that according to police procedure, an officer is supposed to, after three shots, evaluate the scene then determine if more force is necessary.

That clearly was not exercised in this most recent incident. That and other points were raised by outraged participants at the meeting, including Ade Williams, who expressed a strong concern about the “culture of snitching” among the current generation. He called for the end of such behavior but was aware that to call the police often exacerbates a bad situation.

“We must police our own community,” was a comment offered by more than one spectator—something Tamika Mallory, executive director of NAN, had stressed during her opening remarks.

The dais was overflowing with noted community leaders and elected officials. Assemblyman Keith Wright picked up on the theme that “it’s up to us, we have to do it ourselves,” he said of ending the violence. “One of the hardest jobs we have as parents is turning boys into men.”

“I’m tired of excuses, no more excuses,” expounded Hazel Dukes, civil rights stalwart and NAACP leader. Soto’s death was like “another one of my children is dead,” she said.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Members Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, District Leader Theresa Freeman, Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, political activist and candidate Basil Smikle, Kirsten Foy of the public advocate’s office, the Revs. Herbert Daughtery and Vernon Williams, and Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement were among those waiting a turn at the microphone.

Clay received a rousing applause during his brief remarks. “It’s easier to get a Glock than an apartment,” he said, referring to the current firearm of choice.

It may have been such a weapon that wounded Makeda Joseph. During her statement, she related how she was shot. “I was shot by a woman, so it’s not just young men with guns,” she said.

Most of the notables forsook their time in order to hear what the community had to say about the wave of violence. And the recommendations came in torrents. “We’ve got to find some way to help our single mothers raising children by themselves,” charged Renna Walker. She also suggested that churches could play a bigger role in stemming the conflict.

Veteran activist Michael St. John called for establishing a curfew for the children. “I’m willing to work with anybody on the details of this,” he declared.

“We need to put all our ideas in a box as we leave here this evening,” said Natasha Green, a local teacher.

Several community members repeated that it’s time to end business as usual when it comes to police brutality. Lesha Sekou, Stafford Warren and Jael Sanchez were among those who indicated that it is necessary to take the messages at the meeting to those in the streets.

“I’m mad,” said Rev. Williams, who had just come from yet another shooting on 129th and Madison Avenue. “What we’re doing to ourselves is over nonsense. We need to take back our streets. All you have to do is to get mad.”

Some of the streets and a few blocks have apparently already been recaptured, such as143rd Street, where Diane Boyde is the president of the block association. “I’m very concerned that our block and association is being blamed in the recent incident,” she said. She took exception to news coverage that suggested her activities were in some way connected to the shooting.

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BVN National News Wire