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RNC's Michael Steele Rebuffs Stiff Winds of Disapproval

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By Zenitha Prince, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

(NNPA) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his management of party affairs April 5 and attributed mounting criticism to his race and “street-wise” style of management.

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Steele was asked if he has a slimmer margin of error because he is African American. “The honest answer is yes. It just is,” he said. “Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. ... That’s just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it.”

His political origins and style are also contributing factors, he added. "It's more because you're not somebody they know. ... Not old-boy network oriented,” he continued. “My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented ... so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise. That's rubbed some feathers the wrong way."

The White House on Monday decried Steele’s use of the “race card.” Political analyst Lester Spence, political science instructor at Johns Hopkins University, agreed Steele was “no Obama” and the racist overtones are not as clear in the charges made against him.

“He’s the chair of a really White political party, so I know race has to be involved in evaluations of him,” Spence said. “But it’s not clear that others in his position have made the type of gaffes that he has.”

Steele’s appearance on the morning talk show came amid escalating controversy surrounding the RNC’s $2,000 expenditure at a bondage/sex-themed Hollywood nightclub, the last in a string of questionable spending on private planes, limousines, luxury hotels and consultants, according to critics.

“This kind of thing has got to stop or they won't get any contributions,” said Washington Republican leader Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., April 4 on “Fox News Sunday.”

He continued, “The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way.”

Already, donors such as the Family Research Council (FRC) are holding back their dollars and advising others to do so.

“There’s a pattern here,” said FRC Action Vice President Tom McClusky on MSNBC's “The Ed Show” on April 2, referring to Federal Elections Commission reports on the committee’s expenditures.

“The problem with the strip club incident goes beyond the strip club incident. It’s emblematic of two things that supporters of the Republican Party want to see – that’s fiscal responsibility and moral responsibility. And, it just shows how the RNC has failed under Michael Steele’s leadership to provide either of those.”

Steele defended himself against these accusations, saying he had not been “staying at fancy hotels like the Four Seasons and flying around in corporate jets,” nor was he present at the strip club. “When I first heard about this behavior going on I was very angry;” he said, “and we dealt with it.”

The employee was fired, he said, and other controls on their finances were implemented. On Monday the RNC’s chief of staff, Ken McKay, resigned – or was fired – along with Steele’s top consultants Curt Anderson, Wes Anderson and Brad Todd of OnMessage, a GOP campaign management firm.

Steele said, “I hear my donors, I hear our base out there, I hear the leadership and we’re taking steps to make sure we’re even more fiscally conservative in our spending."

 

White Supremacist Leader Dead, New One is Named

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – The leader of a notorious far-right separatist movement was killed this week, over his alleged failure to pay two farmworkers he employed since December.

Eugene Terreblanche, 69, was found Saturday, bludgeoned to death at his farm house in North West province. A 28-year-old farm laborer and 15-year-old casual worker were charged with theft, unlawful entry, and killing Terreblanche. Reports from the scene say he had refused to pay them their monthly pay of $41.

President Jacob Zuma remarked: “We strongly condemn such acts of violence. People should use legal and peaceful means to resolve differences of any nature including labor disputes. We should uphold the right to life that is enshrined in the Constitution and abide by the rule of law at all times.”

A farmer from the southern Free State immediately replaced the deceased leader of the “White Wolves” (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging) with a following reported to be 150,000. The AWB, formed in 1973, is ruled by an executive council - of which Terre'Blanche was the chairperson.

The incident shocked the nation and provoked at least one heated confrontation reminiscent of the days of racial apartheid. At a court hearing for the two suspects, white supporters of the dead AWB leader and South African Blacks traded insults and sang racially-charged songs with the AWB singing Die Stem, the national anthem before the dawn of multiracial democracy in 1994.

Black spectators responded with Zulu choruses from the new national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.

The trial will be closed to the public. A new hearing was set for Apr. 14.

 

HUD Awards Grants to Help Low-income Families Get Job Training, Employment

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Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

(NNPA) - U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced that public housing agencies across the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico will receive nearly $49.3 million to provide low-income people with the necessary job training to put them on a path toward self-sufficiency.

Funded through HUD's Housing Choice Voucher Family Self-Sufficiency Program (HCV/FSS), the grants allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to work with welfare agencies, schools, businesses, and other local partners to develop a comprehensive program to help participating individuals develop the skills and experience to enable them to obtain jobs that pay a living wage.

"In today's economy, this program is needed more than ever to help families obtain the skills that lead to jobs," said Donovan. Local housing authorities use the funding to hire family self-sufficiency coordinators to link adults in the Housing Choice Voucher program to local organizations that provide job training, childcare, counseling, transportation and job placement. These housing authorities can also hire coordinators to help families get homeownership counseling.

Participants in the HCV/FSS program sign a contract that requires the head of the household to get a job and the family will no longer receive welfare assistance at the end of the five-year term. As the family's income rises, a portion of that increased income is deposited in an interest-bearing escrow account. If the family completes its FSS contract, the family receives the escrow funds that it can use for any purpose, including a down payment on a home, paying educational expenses, starting a business or paying back debts.

Census Day Has Passed, So Now What?

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Census Day, April 1, has passed but that doesn't mean it's too late to turn in your 10-question Census form to be counted. The Census Bureau will continue to accept 2010 Census questionnaires by mail through mid-April.

For households that fail to mail back their forms, census workers will begin making door to door visits beginning May 1, and will continue doing so until mid-July.

Census data determines crucial dollar allocations and political representation within communities. The data determines the apportionment of congressional seats to states. It also determines the distribution of more than $4 trillion dollars in federal funds to local governments and communities over the next decade and lays the groundwork for what community services will be provided.

Still, only 54 percent of the nation's estimated 145 million households mailed back their census forms on April 1, reports the U. S Census Bureau. April 1 was the official deadline day to reply to the Census so that the federal government can begin conducting the nation's decennial headcount, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

The 2010 U.S. Census will cost taxpayers almost $12 billion, according to a 2008 budget request submitted by the Department of Commerce, making it the most expensive count ever.

"The Census Bureau and I would like to thank everyone who has already taken 10 minutes to fill out and mail back the 2010 Census," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement.

"For those who have not yet had a chance to send it back, I'd like to reiterate that it's not too late to participate and doing so will save a lot of taxpayer money."

The massive address canvassing operation will cost taxpayers an average of $57 per household versus the 42 cents it takes to get a response back by mail to send a census taker door-to-door to collect the same information that they didn’t mail it back.

Approximately 140,000 census takers will follow-up in person with every single address that doesn't mail back a form in order. So if the Census form is still sitting on your coffee table expect a visit by a public worker carrying a U.S. Census Bureau badge. For the first time, workers will also carry around GPS-enabled handheld computers to record data. The handheld devices will improve accuracy of the count and precision of geographic data gathered, according to the Census Bureau.

In the case that nobody answers, a census taker will visit a home up to three times. A census taker can only ask census form-related questions but may require your phone number in order to follow up with questions regarding incomplete information.

"If we feel that you may have a discrepancy with your questionnaire we'll call you back," said 2010 Census chief operating officer Arnold Jackson in an earlier interview with NNPA News Service. "We may call eight million households out of 145 million."

By law, the Census Bureau is not allowed to share respondents' answers with any other governmental agency such as the FBI, the CIA or welfare and immigration agencies, nor with any court of law or even with the President of the United States. Its employees take an oath for life to keep census information confidential. Failure to uphold that oath is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

If you did not receive a form or need a replacement, call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance center at 1-866-872-6868.

You can also pick up what's called a "Be Counted" form from a service-based location such as a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Be Counted forms were designed to count people who are displaced or who lack a permanent address but can also be used for people who never received a form. The Census Bureau has said that people are not able to fill out forms online but they are experimenting with allowing Internet submissions in future Census counts.

Secretary of Agriculture Promises Improvements in Civil Rights, Fair Share in Advertising

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has promised Black newspaper publishers that the department, with its long history of documented race discrimination, will do better at civil rights and the fair dissemination of advertising dollars in coming months and years.

Speaking to publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association during Black Press Week in mid-March, Vilsack reflected on what he described as “the unfortunate history that this department has had in civil rights” which has now prompted “the most comprehensive commitment to civil rights that … the USDA has needed for a substantial amount of time.”

He said among the first things he did upon appointment by President Barack Obama was to visit with a number of former secretaries of agriculture. “One of the things that the secretaries would comment on was the poor record of civil rights,” he said. “Agriculture took three significant steps in order to try to close that chapter.”

Vilsack outlined the steps as follows:

• To work aggressively to close the class action suit filed by Black farmers because of gross race discrimination. “We’re close on the Black Farmer case”, Vilsack said. “We need Congress to appropriate $1.15 billion that will then be distributed to thousands of farmers who were not treated fairly by USDA years ago.”

• The Second thing is to “do a better job internally in terms of promotions and hiring in order to make sure we are reflective of the diversity in America and specifically the diversity we find in rural America,” Vilsack said. He asked the publishers to help by getting the word out about internships that are available for college students who might be interested in long-term jobs at the USDA.

• The third and final thing was to “order an external review of all the programs that have previously been a part of the problem in creating these discrimination claims." He said a specialized firm “is in the process of reviewing all the activities in 14 states where most of the problems and issues occurred” and it will bring back recommendations in a year or so “to make sure these programs are not continuing to create claims of discrimination.”

He promised an in depth review:"Is it a training issue? Is it a personnel issue? Is it a program issue? Is it a lack of understanding about the application process issue? Or what precisely is it?”

Vilsack fielded strong questions from the audience from publishers who were not only concerned about how Black people will learn about the many economic and nutrition programs of the Department of Agriculture, but also concerned about the Black Press being overlooked as a means to that end.

NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell told the Secretary that spending advertising dollars with Black newspapers could get the word to the audience he intends to reach. “We talk to 20 million Black people every week. We believe that we represent a significant market place and we want to make sure that we participate in the budgets and in the resources that are available,” Bakewell said.

Vilsack said although Agriculture works every day to fund small and Black businesses development, he was unaware of how much money is spent by the Department with Black newspapers: “Your issue is not one that I have focused on and I wouldn’t be able to tell you today how well or how poorly we’re doing. But, I appreciate you bringing it up and Chris we really need to think about the reallocation of our resources to make sure it’s fairly distributed,” he told a staff member.

Continuing to nail the issue, Richmond Free Press Editor/Publisher Ray Boone told Vilsack, “The greatest indicator of commitment is how you spend your money. I can look at your check book and tell whether you are serious,” Quoting civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer and Black farmers leader, John Boyd, he asked, “Where are your values?”

Vilsack said he would not pretend to know where every dollar has gone from the Department, but he said he has established a new Office of Outreach and Advocacy to make sure resources, including dollars and information, are getting to communities that need it most.

This writer asked Vilsack when First Lady Michelle Obama would speak directly to Black newspapers with her new “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity. A White House press briefing with the First Lady and about a dozen publications early this year omitted Black newspapers.

Vilsack explained, “The First lady is introducing the obesity program to the country as a whole first. And then there will be targeted efforts over the next 12 to 24 months focused on specific communities.” He added, “I can promise you that we can take this message back to the ‘Let’s Move’ initiative and make sure the First Lady understands the need to reach out – not just to the Black Community and the Black Press - but actually in Spanish-speaking publications as well. This is a serious issue with minority kids. And so, there needs to be a targeted strategy. We will convey that message. I’m sure they’re aware of it. I’m sure they’ve got some thoughts about this … We will convey this message today.”

NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy Leavell stressed that NNPA is not looking for one-time hit or miss strategies, but a long-term commitment.

“What I want is a real partnership with the Department of Agriculture,” Leavell told Vilsack. “Sometimes in the grand scope of things, we think we’re reaching everybody when we’re on TV. We think we’re reaching everybody when we’re on the radio. We think we’re reaching all of these people, but our people need to know that you’re talking to us. You’re not talking to us when you’re on TV. You’re talking to us when you’re in our publications…If we don’t get to the people that you are trying to reach; then we will have spent all of this money all of this time and we will still have the same problems.”

Vilsack sought to assure the publishers that he is serious about his respect for the Black Press: “Within rural America and in USDA, we get a much bigger bang for our buck - not with the News Weeks and the Times and the major publications. We get it with the regional and local publications. My view is that people read those local publications.”

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