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Suicide Bomber Dressed as Student Kills 48 at All-Boys Public School

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) — As Americans honored their veterans in a national day of parades and ceremony, Nigerians were grieving over a war with terrorists, who are now slaughtering children with suicide bombs.

Schools have become the frontlines of the war waged by Boko Haram against Nigerian security forces. As Boko Haram occupies more villages in the country’s north, they claim to be building an Islamist state, one in which boys’ education would be limited to Koranic schools and Islamic universities, and girls would stay home and get married.

Monday, in the town of Potiskum in Yobe State, students were lining up at the all-boys Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School. The attacker was disguised as a student in a school uniform.

The blast, set off when the youthful bomber was questioned by a teacher, killed 48 people, mostly young children, according to hospital and morgue officials. Two teachers were among the dead, and 79 were injured, some critically.

This bombing was only the latest in a series, however, of attacks on schoolboys and male college students that began in 2013. Newspaper accounts of a massacre in Yobe state told of students locked in their dormitories and burned alive, shot in their beds, blown up or having their throats cut.

“We were waiting for the principal to address us, around 7:30 a.m., when we heard a deafening sound and I was blown off my feet,” Musa Ibrahim Yahaya, 17, told the Associated Press from his hospital bed. “People started screaming and running. I saw blood all over my body.”

“The explosions flung students at the center of the blast in all directions,” said another student in a telephone interview. “It also sent many of us reeling on the ground. I found myself under the weight of another student who fell over me. I’m certain he was dead.”

“It was confusion all over,” he said. “Everybody was hysterical.”

After the bombing, Adamu Ibrahim said he and other students with minor injuries ran home.

“When my father, who was sitting outside the house, saw me, he was terrified,” Ibrahim said. “I didn’t realize my white school uniform was stained with human blood and bits of flesh. I’m all right, except for the pains in my ears from the thunderous blast. My ears hurt and a humming sound persists inside.”

He said the school was poorly secured, with no fence, making it an easy target.

Education levels in northern Nigeria are lower than in other parts of the country, and state governments have been forced to close schools in some areas because of frequent terrorist attacks. Only 28 percent of children in the northern state of Borno attend school, according to government statistics, and the literacy rate in the north is 32 percent, compared with the 68 percent national average.

Meanwhile, the U.S. came in for blistering criticism from Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S., who condemned Washington for refusing to sell his government “lethal” weapons to fight militant Islamists.

Nigeria needed support to deliver the “killer punch,” not “light jabs,” against the Boko Haram group, Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye told members of the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. laws ban the sale of lethal weapons to countries whose military are accused of gross human rights abuses, and Nigeria’s government soldiers have been accused by rights groups of carrying out many atrocities, including torturing and executing suspects.

Lynch Nomination will Test Obama's Relationship with New Congress

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In what may be the first test of the GOP-controlled, United States Senate’s willingness to work with the White House, President Barack Obama nominated United States Attorney Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as the next attorney general.

If confirmed, Lynch would become the first Black woman to serve as Attorney General.

During a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President Obama said that he couldn’t be prouder of Attorney General Eric Holder and that “our nation is safer and freer, and more Americans – regardless of race or religion, or gender or creed, or sexual orientation or disability -– receive fair and equal treatment under the law.”

Praising his new nominee, President Obama continued: “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta.  Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country.  She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights.”

Lynch earned degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Law School and served as a United States Attorney of New York under President Bill Clinton a position she returned to during the Obama Administration.

“She has boldly gone after public corruption, bringing charges against public officials in both parties,” said President Obama. “She’s helped secure billions in settlements from some of the world’s biggest banks accused of fraud, and jailed some of New York’s most violent and notorious mobsters and gang members.”

President Obama said that one of Lynch’s proudest achievements was the civil rights prosecution of the New York City police officers involved in the brutal assault of the Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

After police busted up a fight outside of a nightclub and arrested Louima, Justin Volpe, a White police officer, sodomized the Haitian immigrant with a broomstick in a New York City police precinct. Volpe pled guilty to a number of charges associated with the 1997 attack and is currently serving 30 years. The city awarded Louima nearly $9 million in a settlement. Lynch was credited for working behind the scenes and navigating the city’s prosecution of the racially charged case.

In 2013, Holder asked Lynch to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and recognized Lynch and her staff for being instrumental in implementing the Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime” initiative.

“Throughout her career, and especially during her tenure as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York – during both the Clinton and Obama Administrations – Loretta has earned the trust and respect of Justice Department employees at every level, in Washington and throughout the country,” said Holder.  “She is held in high regard by criminal justice, law enforcement, and civil rights leaders of all stripes. And from her time as a career attorney, prosecuting high-profile public corruption cases, to her leadership of sensitive financial fraud and national security investigations, she has proven her unwavering fidelity to the law – and her steadfast dedication to protecting the American people.”

Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a civil rights group that advocates for social, economic and political equality, applauded the nomination of Lynch to be the next Attorney General.

“She is an excellent and worthy choice to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder in his groundbreaking work for the American people,” said Sharpton. “Though we have not always agreed on cases, I have always seen her operate in the most fair, balanced, and just manner. Americans would be served greatly by her becoming our next Attorney General and the president should be given kudos for such a nomination.”

In a written statement on Lynch’s nomination, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups, said that Lynch would bring stability to Department of Justice.

“Lynch would bring a steady hand to guide the Department of Justice and would make history as the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General,” said Henderson. “Having already unanimously confirmed Lynch twice as U.S. Attorney, we urge the Senate to approach its third confirmation process with integrity and expedience in the lame duck session.”

But Republicans have already signaled that they don’t have any plans to take up the nomination until the new Congress in 2015, leaving some Washington watchers to speculate about what President Obama will have to give up to get Lynch confirmed by the majority-Republican Senate.

Earlier this year, the president made a deal with Senate Republicans to fill vacant seats on federal judicial benches in Middle District and Northern District of Georgia.

The deal involved nominating Leslie Abrams for the United States court of the Middle District of Georgia and Eleanor Ross to the United States Northern District of Georgia. Abrams and Ross would become the first Black women to serve lifetime appointments as federal judges in Georgia, but the Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t voted on either candidate.

The compromise also drew the ire of prominent Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights leaders, because of two other nominees: Michael Boggs and Mark Cohen.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) criticized Cohen, because he led the team defending the state’s laws requiring photo identification to vote. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke out against Boggs for voting against removing the Confederate battle emblem from Georgia’s state flag when he served as a state legislator.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also failed to bring President Obama’s nomination for U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy up for a vote, because it was reported that Reid wasn’t confident that he had enough votes to get him through.

Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association attacked Murthy over one of his 2012 tweets that said: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c/ they’re scared of the NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”

The problems that President Obama had getting qualified candidates confirmed to key positions with a Democratic-controlled Senate may foreshadow greater challenges now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Still, some lawmakers remain optimistic.

In a statement on Lynch’s nomination, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) said that President Obama showed that he is uncompromising and determined that our country’s top attorney be dedicated to doing what is right for the American people.

Fudge said, “I commend President Obama for this selection, and request the confirmation of Ms. Lynch without delay.”

Employment Outlook for Black Males Improving

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) — Last month’s Black unemployment rate (10.9 percent) was more than twice the White unemployment rate (4.8 percent), but when it comes to key measures in the labor market, Blacks and Latinos have experienced greater gains than Whites over the past year, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Valerie Wilson, the director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at EPI, a nonpartisan think tank working to improve economic conditions for low- and middle-income families, said that not only have the unemployment rates for people of color declined faster than the jobless rate for Whites over the last year, the labor force participation, the measure of people that have jobs or currently looking for work, has also increased, pulling more people into the labor market.

Wilson said that an examination of the employment-population ratio, the share of the population of people that have a job, those numbers have also increased more for Blacks and Latinos than the employment-population ratio for Whites.

“That shows that strong job growth matters when we talk about improving employment outcomes for people of color,” said Wilson. “It would be especially beneficial for these groups if the economy continues to proceed on this path.”

According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, the economy added 214,000 jobs in October and is averaging of 229,000 added per month this year.  The national unemployment rate edged down to 5.8 percent in October.

Wilson said that the White labor force participation rate continues to shrink, partly because the White labor force is older while retiring and Black and Latino workers tend to be younger.

Wilson said that Black men saw most of the labor market gains that Black workers experienced over the past 12 months.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years-old decreased from 11 percent in September to 10.7 percent in October and the jobless rate for White men fell from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent.

The jobless rate for Black women ticked down 0.2 points, from 9.6 percent in September to 9.4 percent in October and the unemployment rate for White women also declined 0.2 points, from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent over the same period.

However, since October 2013, the labor force participation rate for Black men has increased significantly compared to White men. The participation rate for Black men increased by 1.1 percent, while White men saw their participation in the labor force shrink by 0.3 percent.

Even though the employment-population ratio for Black women over 20 years-old increased in the last 12 months, the labor force participation rate for Black women fell from 61.6 percent in October 2013 to 61.4 percent last month. The participation rate for White women increased by 0.1 percent from October 2013 to October 2014.

A recent analysis of state-by-state unemployment rates by EPI shed more light on the economic recover for Blacks in the United States.

“The African American unemployment rate was lowest in Virginia (8.2 percent) and highest in Nevada (16.8 percent) and Michigan (16.7 percent),” wrote Wilson in a post for EPI’s website. “By way of comparison, although 8.2 percent is the lowest black unemployment rate in the country, it is still a percentage point above the highest White unemployment rate (Nevada’s).”

During an interview about the state-by-state analysis, Wilson said that Nevada was a state that was bad for Blacks and for Whites and that a lot of the problems plaguing Nevada’s economy are related to the housing crisis and the value of real estate plummeting.

In 2012, CNN reported that Nevada led the country in foreclosures with a shocking 1 in 6 houses in foreclosure, compared to 1 in 69 houses, nationally.

“People are experiencing the recovery much differently based on their race and their location, and for far too many people, particularly people of color, the recovery has yet to occur,” said Wilson. “Until the recovery reaches these families, policymakers should use every available tool to put more people back to work.”

Feds to Create Wrongful Convictions Unit

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By Jazelle Hunt
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – U.S. Attorneys across the nation are professional prosecutors, making sure criminals are locked up for their crimes. Beginning this fall,

the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will take on a new and very different role as it turns its attention to those convicted of crimes they did not commit.

It will be the first time any of the nation’s 93 presidentially-appointed federal prosecutors has taken up this cause.

The Convictions Integrity Unit will re-evaluate violent felony cases in which defendants can supply sufficient, new evidence that warrants a reconsideration of the conviction, especially DNA or biological evidence that can prove innocence.

The National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project between the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, compiles information on all known exonerations since 1989, with convictions beginning in the late 1950s.

Florida, California, Illinois, New York, and Texas have the highest rates of wrongful convictions, and according to the registry, 1,467 people – 46 percent of them Black –    have been exonerated since 1989. This year alone, 81 people have been cleared; (49 of them are African American).

On average, these men and women are imprisoned for at least a decade before their convictions are overturned and their records expunged.

“There’s nothing to suggest that the rate of false convictions is slowing down, at all,” says Samuel Gross, law professor at the University of Michigan, and editor and co-founder of the National Registry of Exonerations.

Together, murder and sexual assault convictions account for 60 percent of the registry’s exonerations. The high rate of homicide in Black communities is reflected in both conviction and exoneration rates; but in the case of the Black men who have been wrongfully convicted of sexual assault, a discrepancy emerges.

“Of the approximately 250 people exonerated for adult sexual assault, a majority are African American, over 60 percent. That’s way higher than their rate of imprisonment [for sexual assault],” Gross says. “Among those exonerated, the African Americans are primarily Black men convicted of raping White victims. And their exonerations are based on misidentifications…because cross-racial identification is notoriously more difficult. This is especially true of White people.”

For 80 percent of Black men wrongfully convicted of sexual assault, mistaken witness identification was one the factors that led to exoneration. And these cases take longer to review and overturn.

In the last decade, several conviction integrity units have sprung up in state and district attorneys’ offices across the country, beginning with Dallas County in 2007. There are also several universities and organizations dedicated to assisting the wrongly convicted through DNA testing, such as the National Innocence Project or The Exoneration Initiative in New York.

But this unit in Washington is unique.

Most crime is tried at the state level, unless it overlaps with federal law and the U.S. Attorney in that jurisdiction decides to prosecute on behalf of the United States. Because Washington has no state-level justice system, both its local and federal crimes are tried in federally run courts. This unit expects to handle primarily local cases, but possibly some federal cases as well. Thus, it may be the first institution within the federal government to examine federal felony cases in search of the innocent.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. handles local crime in D.C. as well as federal crimes. In other places, all sorts of things can be in local court but almost none of these are federal crimes, except in D.C.,” Gross says. “Also, because it’s a federal office, there are more resources they have command of…so they’re capable of doing a more thorough job. [This Office] has more influence than U.S. Attorney’s Offices anywhere else.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington first turned its attention to possible wrongful convictions following the discovery of faulty testing and mismanagement within an FBI forensic lab that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s. Over four years, the Office sifted through thousands of FBI case files, reviewing Washington cases involving hair or fiber evidence processed by the FBI between 1980 and 2000.

Five men were exonerated as a result of this initial investigation. Each had already served approximately 30 years in prison.

Following the last of these exonerations, the Attorney’s Office announced the creation of a permanent Convictions Integrity Unit for the District of Columbia. The unit is part of the Special Proceedings Division, which already handles all post-conviction matters for Washington. A Conviction Integrity Committee of internal prosecutors and vetted defense attorneys will choose and review eligible cases, and will create prosecutor training recommendations to prevent future wrongful convictions.

The creation of a Convictions Integrity Unit in the District of Columbia could have widespread legal implications, but it is still unclear what these implications might be.

“Although wrongful convictions remain a rare phenomenon, their consequences are tragic—for the defendants involved, for the victims of the crimes that remain unsolved, and for the community we work every day to protect,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement. “As prosecutors, our goal is not to win convictions, but to do justice.”

Black Pollster: 'Democrats Got their [Butt] Whipped'

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Even with overwhelming support from Black voters, Democrats still lost control of the United States Senate in the midterm elections and President Barack Obama will have to compromise with the GOP-controlled Congress in order to get anything done in his last two years.

“First let’s put it in context, and this is not an excuse, the Democrats got their a—- whipped, but it was predictable,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist, pollster and president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, a polling firm that works with the Democratic National Committee.

Belcher, an African American, said that Republicans had both history and geography on their side. Many of the key races were run in the heart of Republican territory, through the heart of the South. Belcher added that the midterm electorate also tends to be older and less diverse, voters that tend not to be very favorable towards Democrats.

“There was a lot of conversation going into this election about how wildly unpopular the president is and that was the narrative that the Republicans ran with and the media actually helped them run with it,” said Belcher.

On Election Day, roughly 40 percent of Americans approved of the job the president was doing, according to a recent Gallup poll. In Iowa, Kansas and Arkansas, where Democratic candidates were soundly defeated, the president’s approval rating was below 40 percent.

“If the president’s job approval was 51, 52, 53 percent, that would mean absolutely nothing in Kentucky or a lot of these solidly red states where you’re not going to see a lot of enthusiasm for a Democratic candidate,” said Belcher.

Belcher suggested that the Democrats have a White voter problem.

“Democrats haven’t won White voters since [President Lyndon Johnson] signed the civil rights legislation, said Belcher. “You would think that because we’re post-racial now, we’d been winning more White voters, but the truth of the matter is we’re winning less.”

Minority voting, as a proportion of the electorate, actually increased during the 2014 midterm elections compared to 2010 midterms, Belcher said. Those gains were driven largely by Black voter turnout.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, a group that provides public opinion surveys on Latino views on social economic and cultural issues, Hispanics accounted for 8 percent of midterm voters, the same share they garnered in 2006 and 2010. The share of Black voters has increased steadily from 10 percent in 2006 to 11 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2014.

Meanwhile the share of White voters in the electorate continues to decline, down from 79 percent in 2006 to 75 percent in 2014.

The Pew Research Center found that 89 percent of Black voters supported Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, Whites voted for Republican candidates 60 percent of the time.

“Democrats really pushed women’s equity issues, but [President Obama] is scary and when you tell me you’re a ‘Clinton Democrat’ and you’re parsing it up like that, we Southerners know what that means,” said Belcher. “As much as they tried to run from it, that’s what they couldn’t escape.”

Many Democratic candidates chose to run from President Obama’s record on economic recovery, positive labor market growth, and the Affordable Care Act that has provided millions of Americans with health insurance who were previously not covered. President Obama also kept his promise to bring American troops home and end decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Should Democrats have let President Obama out on the campaign trail more? Absolutely, they should have,” said Belcher. “He had something to run on.”

Dianne Pinderhughes, a political science professor at the University Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., said that there’s still some portion of the population still has a great deal of difficulty dealing with the fact that there is an African American president.

“It adds stigma to any action that he takes,” said Pinderhughes. “People can’t accept the fact that anything that he’s done has anything good associated with it.”

They can’t process information, added Pinderhughes, because race blinds them.

“The blame for what happened during the midterms cannot be laid at the feet of minority voters,” said Belcher.

Andra Gillespie agreed.

Gillespie, the interim chair of the Department of African American Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., and co-author of a report on Black voter turnout for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan think tank focused on racial equity, said that there were a few places where the Black voter turnout as a share of the overall electorate either declined or stayed the same.

“But in many places,” Gillespie said, “the Black share of the electorate increased and the White share of the electorate decreased. Democrats still lost and they didn’t lose because Blacks didn’t turn out and vote for them.”

Gillespie added: “It’s just that, numerically speaking, it takes more than Black votes for Democrats to be able to win.”

Lorenzo Morris, a political science professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said that the midterm elections ushered in a dramatic change in the distribution of power on Capitol Hill.

“But it’s not a dramatic change of what they will do on Capitol Hill, which is probably very little,” said Morris.

Gillespie said that President Obama would have to compromise now, because bills that once passed the House of Representatives and stalled in the Senate will get through Congress.

Pinderhughes said that the president is going to have to do a lot of strategic planning in order to figure out how to get things through Congress. That includes his nomination of

United States Attorney Loretta Lynch of the Eastern District of New York. Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. If confirmed, she would become the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is the presumptive majority leader of the Senate in the next term, said that Lynch’s nomination hearings should begin in 2015 with the new Congress.

As the Democrats gear up for the 2016 elections, Mary Frances Berry, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission under President Bill Clinton, said that the voter suppression efforts are not enough to persuade Blacks and other minorities to turn out and vote for Democratic candidates anymore.

“It’s not going to be enough for Hillary run and say, ‘All the Black people should vote for me, because I’m a Democrat and because Obama’s not on the ticket now, so you should vote for me,” said Berry. “I don’t think it’s going to be enough.”

Berry said that the Democrats need to act earlier and more aggressively to gain the support of young Black voters, possibly targeting the group with a jobs program. The Labor Department can set up model programs using discretionary funds and start pilot programs in certain areas targeting high unemployment areas, Berry explained.

“Then [President Obama] could ask Congress for an expanded program and people would be able to talk about what the party is doing,” said Berry.

Wade Henderson, chairman and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups, said that the interests that Blacks espouse are not partisan interests, they are national interests.

“We want better schools and opportunities that education provides, we want an economy that is responsive to interests and needs of our people and we want opportunities for growth and development that can only occur, if we are fully enrolled in the economy of the day,” said Henderson.

He added: “We’ve got to do our best to make sure that, whoever is in power, that we are signaling that we are here to deal. And that’s just the way it is.”

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