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GOP Quashes Congressional Black Caucus Attempt to Oust Issa

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The Congressional Black Caucus, upset by the recent treatment of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) as the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee by its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling for Issa be stripped of his chairmanship.

“The American people have the right to expect that their elected leaders be held to the highest possible standards of conduct,” CBC chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in the letter. “Congressional committee leaders are held to an even higher standard due to their unique positions. The abuse of authority and misuse of the congressional privileges afforded them are an affront to the expectations of the American public.”

On Wednesday, former IRS employee Lois Lerner refused to testify during a committee hearing about the agency’s alleged targeting of tea party organizations, citing the Fifth Amendment. When Cummings was scheduled to speak on the matter, Issa ordered the Baltimore Democrat’s microphone closed and stopped the hearing.

Fudge noted that other members of the committee were also prevented by Issa from commenting and that he violated several House rules and common customs by doing so.

“Mr. Issa is a disgrace and should not be allowed to continue in a leadership role,” Fudge said. “As the speaker, you are responsible for maintaining decorum and appropriate conduct in the House of Representatives and ordering the Sergeant at Arms to enforce House rules. We urge you to take prompt action to maintain the integrity of this body and remove Mr. Issa as chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee immediately.”

House Republicans backed Issa, however, voting down the Fudge-led Democratic resolution to formally censure him regarding the matter. Boehner also tentatively supported Issa, saying the chairman had a right to cut Cummings’s mic.

Grim 'Future City' for Poor Neighborhoods in Detroit

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By T. Kelly
Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Don’t wait for the street lights to come on because they will not — in certain neighborhoods. Nor will there be any kind of infrastructure investment in the neighborhoods written off by Detroit Future City planners.

Instead, there will be forests and storm water retention ponds, limited public transportation, and only those residents who brave it out.

So residents don’t have to worry about being relocated, they can move if they choose, but staying may not be a viable option.

Peter Hammer, a Wayne State University professor and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University, presented his analysis of the Detroit Future City Plan to 300 residents at a Michigan Coalition for Human Rights forum at Marygrove College, Feb. 25. It was a grim picture for the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Race, regionalism and reconciliation are the three Rs that, Hammer said, guided him in his analysis of the plan.

Race in Detroit is historical, it is the context to explain what has happened not only in the city, but the region over the last six decades, Hammer said. The plan ignores race.

Regionalism puts the city in a regional perspective. However, examine the maps in the 347-page plan and Detroit is shown in isolation, with nothing but white space surrounding the city, he said. “You don’t know Dearborn, Southfield are out there… It portrays Detroit as an island in violation of regionalism. Only the watershed is not portrayed in isolation.”

Reconciliation is how the region could bridge the historic divides that have contributed to the city’s decline and the region’s fractures. Since the plan ignores the divide, it offers no reconciliation, Hammer said. However, divides will not only mark relationships between suburbs and Detroit, but within the city as well.

The plan’s maps depict the current viability of neighborhoods from high occupancy to low. Hammer said the population densities on current maps will determine which of five types of neighborhoods will dot the city 50 years from now. They range from traditional neighborhoods to “innovation ecological.”

Certain neighborhoods deemed viable now will be sustained, maintained and saved for traditional residential purposes: Palmer Woods, East English Village, Boston-Edison, Rosedale and Grandmont. These neighborhoods are colored yellow on the 50 years from now map.

The medium density, moderate vacancy areas will morph into “productive landscapes,” colored in green on the future maps. Areas colored in blue on the future maps will be the land converted from residential now and developed to manage water in the future.

Neighborhoods with high vacancies like Brightmoor, North Corktown, Petosky and Chandler Park will have been replaced with forests and are the areas marked on the maps as green and blue. There will be 550 feet — the length of two football fields — on either side of the freeways planted with trees, or accommodating storm water retention ponds, “further fracturing communities,” Hammer said.

“The logic of the report is of social triage,” Hammer said. “It is based on the idea that we are isolated and there will be no more revenue. They are going to spread money away from less viable to more viable neighborhoods.”

Although these are historic Detroit neighborhoods, nowhere in the DFC plan are any neighborhoods identified.

Hammer notes neighborhoods will be cleared out by attrition, through lack of investment. “It is not a rational assumption of value. The virtue of the blue-green plan is it’s cheap.”

Such thinking, he said, is a failure to think “regionally or out of the box. It is a failure to recognize the historical context of Detroit — race.”

That same failure appeared in Gov. Rick Snyder’s announcements of population loss in the city. “How can the governor not say anything about race” to explain the city’s condition?

A search of the DFC for the word race was unsuccessful; it doesn’t appear, Hammer said. “There is no meaningful look at where we were, how we got here.”

Hammer said the Ossian Sweet trial is an early example of what happened to Detroit. Sweet, a Black doctor moved into a white neighborhood in 1925 and was attacked in his home by a white mob. Those mobs evolved into neighborhood associations in the 1940s and 50s and when the mobs couldn’t control the racial makeup of their block they moved, they left the neighborhood and the city.

State law aided the segregation. “Michigan has inelastic boundaries,” Hammer said. Unlike other areas of the country, annexation is difficult if not impossible. “This permits re-segregation.”

Omitting race and regionalism from the plan leaves neighborhoods open to more isolation. “If you don’t know the nature of the causes, you can’t find the nature of the solution,” he said.

Not spending money in the neighborhoods currently under-populated means you can spend money in other places, Hammer said. Another map, shows in dark colors the areas to be upgraded and maintained. Those areas include downtown, Midtown, New Center.

All the areas on the DFC maps showing current neighborhoods that are colored peach will be “replaced, repurposed, decommissioned. It is a successional road that equals, back to nature,” Hammer said. “What drives this is us in isolation.”

A major element of the plan is storm water run-off. “You would think it is the biggest challenge facing Detroit,” Hammer said. Engineering of the run off is a dominant theme driving investment. Retention ponds are cheap, saving money. But they displace people and neighborhoods. If you flip in the plan to the residential section, you will find an eerie correlation between channeling water and channeling people. …You can control people out of where you don’t want them to be.”

Between the retention ponds to be built and the forests on each side of the freeways, “suburbanites will have a wonderful scenic view” driving into Detroit, he said. Again he referred to the history of those same highways. When they were built, which people got displaced from Black Bottom and which neighborhoods were severed?

“More isolation, more fracturing,” Hammer said. “Look at who’s winning and who is losing.”

One of the starkest parts of the DFC plan is the section on public transportation. There is a map of current D-DOT bus routes that cover the neighborhoods across the city. The map depicting public transit routes 50 years from now show only public transit will only follow the freeways, Gratiot, Grand River, Michigan Avenue, West Six Mile, Jefferson and Woodward. The same map reveals planners expect no more than zero to two people in great swaths of the city.

“If you need public transportation, you’ll have to have someone come get you,” Hammer said.

Mayor Mike Duggan and the DECG are pushing implementation of the plan. Duggan’s development chief Tom Lewand called the plan his Bible.

Former Mayor Dave Bing said there would be winners and losers when he unveiled the plan a year ago after two years of development. The plan sparked much controversy for chaotic public meetings and Bing’s threats to clear out sparsely populated neighborhoods.

Hired by Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, former Councilman Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. started Jan. 1 as executive director of the Future City Implementation Office which opened an office last month at 2920 W. Grand Blvd. Suite 2. Speaking at opening ceremonies was the CEO of the Kresge Foundation, Rip Rapson. Kresge is a large funding source for the plan’s development and implementation.

Cockrel said at the time that his office will begin work on getting the city’s master plan and zones codes changed to accommodate development of the DFC.

Caribbean Countries Named Among Money Laundering Nations

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

(CMC) — The United States has named several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as major money laundering states whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

In its just released ‘2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report’, the US State Department listed Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, and Haiti as among major money laundering countries and jurisdictions around the world.

In addition to these CARICOM countries, the other Caribbean islands named are the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

The report also notes that countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Russia, France, Canada, as well as the Dominican Republic, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands had been designated major money laundering countries.

The report which describes the steps taken during the previous year by the governments of nearly 90 countries, to reduce illicit narcotics production, trafficking, and use, as well as money laundering and financial crimes, said that the “complex nature of money laundering transactions today makes it difficult in many cases to distinguish the proceeds of narcotics trafficking from the proceeds of other serious crime.

“Moreover, financial institutions engaging in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds of other serious crime are vulnerable to narcotics-related money laundering.”

Washington said that, “this year’s list of major money laundering countries recognises this relationship by including all countries and other jurisdictions, whose financial institutions engage in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from all serious crime”.

The report also notes that Caribbean countries like the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, and Jamaica had been classified as major drug-transit countries.

Dominican Republic President Medina Speaks About Ending Constitutional Nightmare Over Haitian Citizenship

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COMMENTARY

Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

Should we accept the word of the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina when it comes to ending the abusive treatment of Haitians in the DR?

Because we want to see a speedy and positive change to the current odious impasse between Dominicans and Haitians over the constitutional rights of the latter in the DR our first reaction was to answer in the affirmative. But until President Medina spells out in detail the solution he has in mind we are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to his pledge to introduce a naturalization law in the National Assembly, one that would eliminate the concerns of Haitians, many of whom were born in the DR and know no other country than the Spanish-speaking republic.

In a two-hour long speech the other day, President Medina promised to act in a way that would ease the concerns of Haitians who were told almost six months ago by the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo that they weren’t entitled to citizenship. The DR’s head of state said he would take steps to end the citizenship nightmare but unfortunately, he didn’t provide a timetable to end the crisis and he kept the steps he plans to take close to his chest.

Actually, Medina used the occasion of the 170th anniversary of his country’s independence from Haiti to give the grand assurance, not simply to Haitians but to the international community. The trouble is that Medina knows better than most that his country has a lot to lose, economically, socially and otherwise if changes aren’t made to the law there and if the court’s decision was implemented.

As a matter of fact when the Constitutional Court ruled last September that tens of thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 children of Haitian parents weren’t entitled to DR citizenship, the international reaction was revulsion in and out of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States and the European Union.

The idea that Haitian families, some of whom were living in the DR since 1929 would be suddenly become stateless persons in their birthplace was so offensive that it triggered international outrage on human rights grounds alone. The fallout from the ruling can harm the DR’s relations with its neighbors, especially the members of Caricom which decided that the Dominican Republic wouldn’t be allowed to join the regional group if it didn’t reverse the Court’s decision.

In its folly, court ruled that anyone born to undocumented parents couldn’t be considered Dominican, a decision that was made retroactive to 1929. The ruling can’t be appealed to any higher legal or executive authority, conveniently ignoring the DR’s obligations to Haitians under international human rights laws.

Medina gave the OAS a solemn promise that he would do something about the situation and one of his diplomatic representatives in Washington gave a similar assurance to the Western Hemisphere’s top decision-making arm the Permanent Council.

Anything that falls short of restoring the full rights of Haitians would be totally unacceptable. After all thousands of Dominicans who are undocumented immigrants in the U.S. enjoy the rights their birthplace is seeking to deny to Haitians. Dominicans who came to the U.S. and later became undocumented immigrants have children who were born in New York, Miami, Boston and other cities and towns they enjoy American citizenship by virtue of their birth in the U.S., yet the DR’s court didn’t think twice before denying Haitians their birthright of citizenship. In effect, the court ruled that it was alright for Dominicans in the U.S. to become citizens but Haitians in a similar condition in the DR should not. That’s unconscionable and hypocritical.

Aria Maria Belique, who belongs to a movement that it is working to protect the rights of people affected by the court’s decision reacted, quite sensibly when she describe the situation as being quite “absurd. How are you going to take away a document that I already have, that is mine and give me the one as a foreigner when I have never been outside of the country?”

The United Nations Refugee Agency was quite clear about absurdity of the situation when it stated quite plainly that “should this process indeed be carried out without the necessary safeguards, three generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent could become stateless.” Medina and his administration can’t pretend they don’t understand the message being sent.

In the meantime, Haitians remain fearful that despite the nice sounding words and promises of Medina the change wouldn’t be made. For one thing, the nightmare spawned by the court decision fits into a pattern of inequalities and abuses Haitians have suffered in the DR for decades. For another at the heart of the court decision is the social exclusion the court decision is intended to accomplish.

What all of this comes down to is that by its own actions in the past and up to now, the Dominican Republic’s credibility is virtually non-existent, the emperor has no clothes. Realistically, it is the fear of being hit with sanctions from the EU, a possible reduction in assistance, and the blot on its international reputation that are both driving Medina to give an appearance of a willingness to compromise. It’s certainly not being propelled by a genuine desire to allow Haitians to remain in a country they call home.

Gun Violence Aimed at Black Males Triggers Concern

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Several new studies confirm what most people have suspected all along: No group is harmed more by gun violence than young Black males.

“While 13 percent of Americans are black, in 2010, 65 percent of gun murder victims between the ages of 15 and 24 were black,” revealed a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). “Forty-two percent of the total gun deaths of individuals in this age group were of black males.”

This trend has continued, the report noted, even as crime rates decline.

Another report on gun violence by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) mirrors the CAP findings.

“Between 1963 and 2010, 59,265 Black children and teens were killed by guns – more than 17 times the recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968.”

The Children’s Defense Fund study also reported that, “Black males ages 15-19 were nearly 30 times more likely to die in a gun homicide than White males.”

Yet another study on Black homicides in the United States by the Violence Policy Center, shows that 8 percent of Black homicide victims never reached their 19th birthday and the average age of Black homicide victims was just 30 years old.

But the numbers tell only part of the story.

“More than 1 million years of potential life are lost due to gun deaths each year,” the CAP report found. “These are years of life that young people killed by guns would have achieved educational milestones, entered the workforce, had families, and contributed to the social, economic, and cultural advancement of society in untold ways – all erased by gunfire.”

Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, said that the proliferation of guns in the Black community is directly linked to the growth of illegal drug markets there and the failed War on Drugs.

Franklin worked as a narcotics agent early in his career and is now the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group of current and former law enforcement members that advocate for reform in existing drug policies in the United States. Franklin said that guns were tools of the trade for managing the drug territories.

Franklin said that there’s no major drug organizations controlling drug traffic in the cities anymore, just little independent drug dealers on the corners fighting for market share and the “stick up boys” robbing the drug dealers.

Part of the violence can be attributed to the way disputes are settled on the streets.

“Now whenever there is a dispute of any type, whether it’s over a girl or something that someone said, or if somebody’s shoe gets stepped on, the way to settle that argument is with a gun,” explained Franklin.

Add the easy availability of guns to that dangerous mix and the problem is compounded.

According to a report by the Children’s Defense Fund on youth gun violence “virtually anyone can buy a gun without a background check.”

A loophole in the federal law governing gun sales allows private sellers, even on the Internet, to peddle guns without submitting the buyer to a background check.

“In 2009, undercover stings at gun shows in Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee revealed that 63 percent of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who stated that they would be unable to pass a background check,” stated the CDF report.

It also found: “A 2011 study of internet gun sales found that 62 percent of sellers agreed to sell a gun to a buyer who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.”

Researchers say that this is how guns often make it onto the black market – literally and figuratively – and it’s also the reason why many gun control advocates support background checks for every gun sale.

A law mandating universal background checks on all gun sales enjoys nearly unanimous support (92 percent) among with 18-29 year-olds.

According to the CAP report, 60 percent of people under the age of 30 were concerned that gun violence would affect them “personally or their communities in the future.” For people of color under 30 years old, that concern jumped to 73 percent.

“A vast majority of Americans support this idea: that every gun sale should have a background check,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Without that, it’s meaningless to say that certain categories of people can’t buy guns.”

Although Franklin supports background checks on gun sales, he said that handgun laws don’t have anything to do with the massive gun violence in the Black community in cities like Baltimore.

“Criminals don’t care about the law,” said Franklin “They buy their guns illegally. They pay twice or triple what the gun is worth, because they have the money, because they are selling dope. These laws that we’re passing are only going to affect law-abiding citizens.”

Franklin said that background checks don’t get to the root of the problem: the continued drug war waged in our nation’s poorest communities.

The drug scene often attracts urban youth because they aren’t many attractive alternative economic opportunities for them, said Caroline Fichtenberg, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

“A smart, Black boy living in Southeast, Washington, D.C. may see the drug economy as the best way to get money and to be recognized as someone who has accomplished something,” said Fichtenberg. “And that is something we absolutely must change.”

Fichtenberg said that reducing the availability of illegal guns, teaching children that violence is not the way to resolve conflicts, making long term investments in communities and improving educational and economic opportunities for poor communities are just a few of the steps needed to change the tide of rampant gun violence that disproportionately affects young Blacks.

Franklin said that ending the drug war is paramount to stemming the tide of gun violence among Black youth.

“We have to end this drug war, we have to end drug prohibition,” said Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group of current and former law enforcement members that advocate for reform in existing drug policies in the United States. “That’s going to halt the cycle of mass incarceration of sending all these young boys to prison. Once we end the drug war, we have to take some of the money that we’re not spending on cops and court rooms and prisons and we have to beef up these organizations that have these wonderful mentoring programs.”

Franklin continued: “If we don’t start now, outlining a long term plan to deal with these children and their families, beginning with ending the drug war, we’re going to continue to lose generation after generation. It’s been decade after decade after decade. We should know that by now.”

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