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Black Voters to Play Big Roll in November, Climate Change Issue May be Factor

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By Kendra Desrosiers, NNPA Special Correspondent –

(NNPA) - As Democrats gear up for midterm elections this November, the Black electorate will play an important role in battleground states. But, with all the new political jargon about “climate change”, “green jobs” and the environment, how much will those issues weigh on Black voters?

According to a recent poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES), between 74 and 80 percent of African-Americans surveyed said they are very likely to vote in key elections.

The poll questioned 500 African-Americans in South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas and Indiana on their opinions on climate change and the elections. In the political area, these are considered battleground states because the races are highly contested.

Two-thirds of the polled African-Americans said they are following news on the midterm elections closely. And a majority of the respondents said that climate change will be important in choosing a senator.

Because African-Americans traditionally vote for Democratic candidates, high participation rates in the Black community could impact party control in Congress, potentially reversing the prediction in favor of the Democrats.

According to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a publication of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, the majority of the congressional seats rated a toss-up are currently held by Democrats and if elections were to occur today, Republicans would gain seven seats in the Senate and 27 in the House of Representatives.

“There’s a lot of states where Democrats just can’t win unless African-Americans turnout at the same rate that they did in 2008,” says Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, a polling research company based in Raleigh, NC.

Jensen anticipates a drop in Black voter turnout by 10 to 11 percent but says it will vary by political race in each state. “There are some candidates who are willing to motivate Black voters to come back out to the polls just like they did in 2008 for Barack Obama and there are other candidates who will not inspire African-Americans to vote,” Jensen says.

Of the JCPES respondents, majorities in each state have already demonstrated favor for particular candidates. Among them, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D-Mo.) who is one of two leading candidates vying for the senate seat left open by the retiring Republican, Kit Bond. The other candidate, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), received neutral approval responses.

“It’s very clear that African-Americans are paying attention to what is going on right now,” says Dr. David Bositis, director of the JCPES poll. “They’re very supportive of President Obama and issues related to climate change. They take those issues very seriously.”

The majority of respondents said they believe the Senate should pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the next election. This is an issue that some relate to increase in jobs and reduction of the Black unemployment rate.

“Republicans will lose votes that they could possibly win from Blacks, the young, and working class Americans if this issue is successfully framed as boosting America's stagnant economy,” says Katherine Tate, University of California Irvine professor and author of the upcoming book, “What's Going On? Political Incorporation and the Transformation of Black Opinion”.

Tate says the environment has never been aggressively linked to the Black political agenda. She attributes the strong interest to Al Gore's leadership as vice president to his interest in the environment for which he has since received the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, President Obama has successfully linked his green policies with job creation.

Jacqueline Patterson considers the support a natural extension of a historical relationship between African-Americans and the environment.

“We’re building on existing practices,” says Patterson, the director of the NAACP Climate Gap Initiative. Patterson believes that gardening and frequent use of public transportation are among the activities that have kept the African American community in “sustainable mode” and leaders in the environment.

“We’re willing to put our money where our values are,” Patterson says. According to Patterson, extreme weather, displacement and health concerns are among the issues influencing Black opinion and the commitment to fight climate change economically.

The majority of the polled African-Americans said they would pay an additional $10 per month on their electric bill to curb global warming. More than a quarter said they would pay up to $25 per month. Despite a tumultuous economy and high unemployment rates, respondents were clear on their willingness to make a financial commitment.

In closely contested races, the need for candidates to be in tune with the issues important to their constituency will be ever pressing. Despite the strong interest in environmental issues, they will not take priority.

“Voters of all stripes say that their number one thing is jobs and the economy,” Jensen says. “What is going to be most important for Democrats to get across is that putting the Republicans back in charge is not going to make things better, but the policies pressed in Obama’s pursuit will take some time to really make an impact.”

According to Jensen, Democrats will ultimately need to be successful beyond Black voters and push more than green issues.

“There are still many, many more White people in the country than Black people. If Democrats completely lose the White voters like 70-30—and that’s what we’re seeing in some races— then it’s not going to matter how many African-Americans turnout,” Jensen says. “The democrats will still lose.”

 

Fear Factor: Does NYC Have a Mob Problem?

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

NEW YORK (NNPA) - Recent violence in New York City has officials and community residents questioning if the practice of flash mobs are on the rise. Coupled with the recent news that crime in the city is on the rise, activists are also questioning how the alarming trend is being handled by the city.

A flash mob is defined as a gathering of people organized by e-mail, social networking or telecommunications such a text messaging. In the past, the practice has been used for more humorous occasions like snowball fights and even sing-alongs.

However, recently, youth have been using the tactic as a way to wreak havoc in communities by meeting in public places, sometimes by the hundreds, and rioting, vandalizing and even assaulting innocent people.

Reports indicate these types of violent acts have become a trend in Philadelphia, where in the last year, four incidents of flash mob gatherings turned violent. The most recent occurred last month, when hundreds of teenagers spilled into downtown Philadelphia fighting each other, assaulting people and partaking in vandalism.

In February, a group of 150 teens gathered at a shopping mall in Philadelphia during rush hour, violently knocking down customers and vandalizing displays. As a result, 15 teenagers were arrested.

In response to the flash mobs, the Philadelphia Police Department has enforced curfews and limited access on public transportation to youth. The FBI has also begun monitoring social networking websites, according to one report.

Targeting parents as a factor for the problem, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has asked parents to keep better tabs on their children during after-school and night hours with one familiar question: “Do you know where your children are?”

He said, “A small group of kids who have caused trouble should not reflect poorly on the majority of our youth, who are well-behaved and want to enjoy themselves in a peaceful way. There are plenty of activities to keep our kids busy in after-school programs, but it’s the responsibility of parents to know where their children are late at night.”

Evidence of possible flash mobs starting to occur in New York was seen this past Easter Sunday when violence broke out in Midtown, leading to the arrest of 33 people and four people being shot by BB guns. Reports indicate that the incident occurred along Seventh Avenue, with shots being fired on 41st, 51st and 34th streets.

The chaos began at the International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center. Business owners in the area said that the incident is an annual activity that takes place on Easter Sunday and appears to be gang-related.

“There’s a disconnect with youth,” said Graham Witherspoon of the Black in Law Enforcement Alliance.

“You don’t go around and destroy stuff and call it fun. This is something we really need to look at. There’s nothing cultural about this. It doesn’t make a difference who you are. It’s not a race thing.”

Concerns are growing among top elected officials who believe that the city is going backwards to a time when crime in the city was rampant. With proposed cuts to the NYPD, some are saying things could only get worse.

“While law enforcement authorities investigate the violent uprising that resulted in three shootings and dozens of arrests, we need to get in front of this growing epidemic before we find ourselves reliving the bad, old days of the 1970s,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “New Yorkers are on edge, and for good reason. With shootings up 19 percent over the same time last year and murders up 22 percent, everyone should be on heightened alert.”

The borough president added that the city cannot withstand budget cuts from Albany and that Sunday’s melee is an example of what could happen.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg denied in a press conference that the Midtown incident had any affiliation with terrorism and blamed it on gangs looking for trouble.

“The mayhem in Midtown appears to be a bunch of gang members wilding and it certainly has nothing to do with terrorism or anything else,” said Bloomberg. “A bunch of people who think it is cute to cause chaos. We have loaded the area with police, but they can’t be everywhere”

Bloomberg’s statement has struck a cord with activists who say that the mayor is using a scare tactic by using the word “wilding.” The term was coined during the incident of the “Central Park jogger” in 1989, where a group of Black teenagers were accused of beating and raping a white women. After being convicted and serving six to 13 years in prison, the five men involved were released and found innocent due to DNA evidence.

Omowale Clay of the December 12 Movement said the term “wilding” was first used by former Mayor Ed Koch to describe gang assaults on strangers. However, no such incident ever occurred in 1989 due to the fact that the accused suspects were later found not guilty.

“Bloomberg used it as a scare tactic,” he said. “Are we now going back to a time when Black men were ‘wilding?’ This is a code word and 21 years later they want to use it once again as a fear mongering tactic for the threat of Black men and youth raping a white woman.”

 

White Unemployment Goes Down As Black Unemployment Goes Up

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The numbers are clear. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that the national unemployment rate remained steady at 9.7 percent last month, there remains the untold story.

That story is that as the overall unemployment rate remained steady, the Black unemployment rate leaped from 15.8 percent to 16.5 percent. The rate for Black women rose from 12.1 percent to 12.4 percent. The rate for Black men closed in on 20 percent, rising from 17.8 to 19.0.

Meanwhile, unemployment rates for White America – only half that of the Black rate - either remained steady or went down. For Whites, the rate remained at 8.8 percent, well below the national average. For White men, the rate dropped from 9.0 percent to 8.9 percent. For White women, the rate remained steady at 7.3 percent.

Labor experts say racial disparities in education is a key answer.

“There’s a very sharp relationship between the level of education and unemployment rates,” says Dr. Barry R. Chiswick, distinguished professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and director of the UIC Center for Economic Education. “For example, in March of last month, those with less than a high school degree had an unemployment rate of 14.5 percent whereas those with a bachelors degree or more has an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.”

Also exacerbating the Black unemployment rate may be the fact that many of the job areas where Blacks and Latinos tend to concentrate are among the first to lay off or become slow during hard economic times.

“It goes up more rapidly in manufacturing and in construction than it does in service occupations,” Chiswick says. He says there are several ways to reduce the unemployment disparity in educational attainment and the second is to increase jobs.

Chiswick’s suggestions mirror that of the National Urban League’s State of Black America released last month. In a plan to “put America back to work” outlined in the annual report, NUL President and CEO Marc Morial lists “targeted investments for job creation” as the number one means of dealing with unemployment. He also lists job training for the chronically unemployed; greater access to credit to help small businesses and the self-employed to stay afloat; additional counseling relief for people caught in foreclosures; and tax incentives for clean energy companies who employ individuals in hardest hit communities.

Despite noble efforts by the Obama Administration, it appears conditions are worsening for Black Americans. The “Equality Index” comparing the economic status of Blacks and Whites in the SBA report is only 57.4 percent.

Morial explains in a recent column for NNPA: “This reflects an unemployment rate for Blacks that is double that for Whites, a widening of the median household income gap, and the sobering facts that less than half of African-American families own a home compared to three quarters of White families and that Blacks and Hispanics are more than three times as likely as whites to live below the poverty line.”

Obama's No-Show in Haiti Disappoints Quake Survivors, Fans

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By Joseph Guyler Delva, NNPA Haiti Correspondent –

PORT-AU-PRINCE (NNPA) - Many survivors of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti three months ago said they were disappointed that US president Barack Obama has not yet paid a visit here to personally show solidarity and to see with his own eyes the tragedy the Caribbean nation is going through.

The Haitian government says more than 300,000 people may have been killed in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that also left more than 1.5 million people homeless, living in makeshift tent camps without access to most of the basic commodities despite an unprecedented international effort to provide assistance to the country.

Haitians, who feel very close to Obama partly because of his racial background, said they thought Obama would have already visited the country after such a huge disaster to see for himself what was going on and to show solidarity with the Haitian people who suffered unprecedented losses.

“We are the first Black independent Republic of the world, and Obama is the first US Black president,” Baptist Minister and political leader, Chavannes Jeunes, told NNPA.

“I think it was a great initiative to send the two former presidents (Bill) Clinton and (George) Bush here,” Jeune said. “But we also expected him to be here personally after such a disaster,” he stated.

Haiti declared independence from French rule in 1804 in a slave revolt that inspired blacks and other oppressed people else where, prompting former colonizers and slave owners to implement measures to block the news from spreading, fearing more slave revolts could follow in other countries, including the US.

The US pledged $1.15 billion as part of a $5.3 billion aid package to help rebuild the country over the next 24 months, exceeding requests made by the Haitian government. The international donor community has pledged a total of $9.9 billion over several more years and more commitments are expected as the reconstruction effort move along, diplomats say.

“We have received tremendous attention from the international community and President Obama has demonstrated great attention from day one of the disaster,” said Stephanie Jean-Jacques. “I believe Haitians are very grateful to him and his administration, but we are dying to see him come here to see us,” said Jean-Jacques. “We are requesting that of him because we love him,” she said.

Others said they were surprised to see French President Nicolas Sarkozy set foot here on the disaster site before Obama, who is just a couple of hours away.

“Actually, we expected to see Obama before we could see the French president who came all the way from France, in Europe,” said Marlan Joseph, a 26-year-old student, sitting on a bench handing a book in a camp in the champ de Mars area in Port-au-Prince.

“When you feel so close to somebody, you expect to receive his visit when you’re facing hard times such as these,” said Joseph. “So you cannot avoid being disappointed when it does not happen,” he said.

Most Haitians feel particularly connected with Obama because they believe their ancestors, who broke the chains of slavery to access freedom and fought for equal rights for black people, made it possible for Obama to become the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

“We feel like Obama is one of ours, our achievement and a result of our own struggle as former slaves,” said Mama Jeanty, a 32 year-old high school teacher. “We might be wrong but I feel like we can ask a bit more of him,” Jeanty said.

Several Haitian personalities publically blamed Haitian president Rene Preval for accepting to pay a visit to Washington recently to meet Obama, arguing Preval should have been the host, not the guest.

“When you mourn your dead, friends come to see you to mourn with you, but this not the time when you go to pay visit to friends,” former Planning and External Cooperation Minister, Anthony Barbier, said during an interview on one of Haiti’s most popular stations, Radio Caraibes FM, in Port-au-Prince.

The situation here is still very dire and many fear the rainy and hurricane seasons may cause other catastrophes if adequate steps are not taken to protect the population particularly from possible flooding and mudslides.

Preval said his government and its international allies are preparing to move thousands of Haitians living in makeshift tents in places exposed to flooding, mudslides and other risks to special camps set up by the government with the help of the U.N. and other NGO’s.

US soldiers from the 82nd airborne division have been very active helping with the relief efforts and providing security for humanitarian and recovery operations.

“President Obama has quickly deployed troops here to help after the earthquake. We appreciate his quick response and he has committed a great amount of funds to help us,” said Marlene Beavoir, 40.

“But showing solidarity is not just to give money. We need to see him here in person,” Beauvoir said. “It is just like coming to his back yard because Haiti is right there.”

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."

 

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