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Obama: Extended School Year Could Benefit Students

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers Staff –

Though many students across the nation may not like an extra month in the classroom, the extra classroom time would benefit them, President Obama said.

“That month makes a difference,” Obama said during a recent appearance on the “Today Show”. “It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It’s especially severe for poorer kids who may not see as many books in the house during the summers; [they] aren’t getting as many educational opportunities.”

According to Obama, American students are falling behind some of their international counterparts, particularly in the math and science fields. He added that Chinese, Indian, and other students of fast-growing countries are already leaving U.S. students in the dust.

Currently, U.S. schools offer an average of 180 school days per year, according to data from the Education Commission of the States, in comparison to 196 and 197 days in countries with the highest student achievement levels like Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Japan.

Obama also believes that teachers should be more highly honored, as they are in China and other countries, but he added that teachers that aren’t doing well should be fired. While the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” is mandating improvement among the nation’s schools, the President believes parents should increase their involvement in the children’s education.

Asked about whether his own daughters’ would receive the same quality education at a D.C. public school they now receive at their private institution, Obama said during the interview: “I’ll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now.” The president said D.C. public schools are “struggling.”

Critics of the president’s plan to extend the school year believe it will have a severe economic impact, saying the extra time would increase costs for school systems, cause major losses to the country’s summer hospitality industry and have a severe impact on summer camp operations.

“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we hire many high school and college students for summer employment to work,” Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association told Fox News. “If we don’t have those people, there will not be enough Americans out there available to fill those positions.”

Though the president believes an extended school year would be “money well spent,” others question how struggling states and districts could pay for it.

“It comes down to the old bugaboo, resources,” Scott Smith, Mesa, Ariz. mayor told the AP. “It costs money to keep kids in school. Everyone believes we can achieve greater things if we have a longer school year. The question is: ‘How do you pay for it?”

Ailing Barbados Leader Re-shuffles Cabinet

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Special to the NNPA from The New York Carib News –

For the third time since he became Barbados’ Prime Minister in 2008, David Thompson, who is battling pancreatic cancer, has reshuffled his cabinet. And, in so doing he gave up the powerful Ministry of Finance, handing that portfolio to Chris Sinckler, the former Minister of Social Care who is now being seen as a possible heir apparent, should Thompson decide to step down. Freundel Stuart remains the Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney-General.

At the same time, he has seemingly demoted Dr. David Estwick, Minister of Economic Affairs while making him Minister of Agriculture & Food. The current Agriculture Minister Senator Haynesley Benn is now the Minister of Commerce, succeeding George Hutson, who has been named the Minister of International Transport and International Business.

The Other cabinet responsibilities:

• Richard Sealy: Minister of Tourism
• Esther Byer-Suckoo: Minister of Labor
• Steve Blackett: Minister of Social Care and Community Development
• Stephen Lashley: Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
• Donville Inniss: Minister of Health
• Ronald Jones: Minister of Education and Human Resources
• Michael Lashley: Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban and Rural Development
• John Boyce: Minister of Transport and Works
• Patrick Todd: Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing
• Denis Lowe: Minister of Drainage, Water Resource Management and the Environment
• Senator Maxine McClean: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
• Senator Darcy Boyce: Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office with responsibility for Energy and Immigration.
• Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner: Parliamentary Secretary
• Senator Jepter Ince: Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs
• Senator Harry Husbands: Parliamentary Secretary, office of the Prime Minister

South Africa's Air Force Steps in to Fill Shortage of Black Pilots

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

South Africa’s Air Force has volunteered to help produce more Black African pilots following the report that 16 years after the end of apartheid, the national airline’s pilots are overwhelmingly White.

The failure of South African Airways (SAA) to increase the number of pilots from previously disadvantaged communities shows that the aviation industry is far from reaching its transformation deadline, observed Mmanaledi Mataboge, a reporter with the South African Mail and Guardian.

The racial make-up of the SAA currently includes 27 Indian men, 3 Indian women, 45 White women, 37 Black men, and 657 White men. Currently, there are no Black African women pilots.

Chief director of policy for the Air Force, Major General Lucky Ngema, recently announced a country-wide awareness program called Siyandiza (We are flying) to address the shortage of Black pilots.

Siyandiza aims to attract high school pupils to aviation, with the focus on previously disadvantaged communities. Through Siyandiza, the air force visits schools to draw the students' attention to possible careers in aviation. Its latest excursion was to the Reed Dance ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal to draw girls into the industry.

Pricey Diamonds for the Super-Rich Mined from African Soil

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Sep. 28 (GIN) – The ‘Lesotho Promise’ - “one of the most important diamond necklaces ever assembled’, according to the British jewelry firm Graff - is expected to reap close to $50 million for the British billionaire Laurence Graff - the dealer known as the “King of Bling”.

Named for the Kingdom of Lesotho, a tiny mountain enclave within South Africa’s borders, the 223.35-carat necklace was carved from a 603 carat stone the size of a golf ball, discovered in a Lesotho mine. It features 26 white flawless diamonds, the most valuable on the grading system.

While the Kingdom owns part of the mining rights for the Letšeng Mine where the Promise was extracted, it is 70 percent owned by the Gem Diamond Mining Company of Africa, an Australian firm. Sold uncut at the Antwerp Diamond Center in Belgium for $12 million, it could fetch five times as much in the necklace form.

While the necklace elicits gasps and wows at private showings, the southern African kingdom starves for cash, with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates, the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world after Swaziland and Botswana, and over 200,000 orphans and other vulnerable children, most of them AIDS orphans.

The World Fact Book also finds Lesotho to have the highest level of inequality of incomes between rich and poor, after Namibia and South Africa. Life expectancy is 40 years of age.

District Rallies to Support Congresswoman Johnson

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By Iman Evans, Special to the NNPA From The Dallas Examiner –

Residents of Texas’ 30th District and long- time friends of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) came together recently during a to show Dallas that they continue to stand behind the congresswoman.

Johnson has been in damage control mode since it was revealed that her office violated the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s nepotism and residency rules by directing scholarship money to four of her family members and the children of a top staffer. In an attempt to repair her tarnished image, Johnson has announced a new CBCF Scholarship Committee that will take over deciding which students living in her district will be awarded CBCF scholarships.

“She did a lot for us in this district and she’s still doing a lot for us in this district,” said community activist Willie Mae Coleman. “I’m not excusing what she did, but haven’t we all done something that was wrong?”

As a member of the Bertrand Neighborhood Association, Coleman is in a position to bear witness to the blight of the Southern Dallas area that Johnson represents, as well as difference-making projects that Johnson has stewarded.

“When they were going to spend all that money for the Trinity Project, she [Johnson] stopped that so that homeowners would not have to get flood insurance,” said Coleman. “[And] that rail that is running right by my house, that’s going to be a blessing for the community.”

Johnson’s new committee appears at first glance to be a model of moral and professional rectitude. The members are Mavis Knight, presently serving on the Texas State Board of Education; Randy Skinner, director of the Greater Dallas Area Justice Revival; longtime educator Dr. Roscoe Smith; Raul M. Magdaleno, Director of Diversity & Community Outreach for Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts; and Dr. Al Roberts, professor emeritus of Education at Paul Quinn College.

It remains to be seen what effect the rally will have on Johnson’s legacy. But, it is clear that for supporters, Johnson has been a conduit for benefits that South Dallas would otherwise not have been able to access, and that the kind of petty self-dealing for which she has admitted guilt is, in the grand scheme of things, forgivable.

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BVN National News Wire