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Buju Banton Seeks Early Release from US Prison

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Grammy winning reggae artist Buju Banton, who was convicted on cocaine trafficking charges in 2011, has filed a motion in court in an attempt to secure an earlier release date.

The Tampa Bay Tribune reports that Buju,whose given name is Mark Myrie, filed his own motion from prison asking to be released early based on a recent change in federal drug sentencing guidelines.

This would mean an earlier release date and deportation to Jamaica.

Buju is currently serving a mandatory ten-year sentence for his conviction on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

He is scheduled to be released in 2019.

However, the amendments do not apply to those serving minimum mandatory sentences under the law.

This would only be possible where the convicts cooperate with investigators or at give a full confession to their crimes.

According to the paper, this is unlikely to happen, as Buju has maintained his innocence since being arrested.

Buju was convicted in February 2011, days after he won a Grammy award for his album, “Before the Dawn.”

Blacks Rejoining the Labor Market

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Black unemployment rate rose to 11.1 percent in November, according to the latest jobs report from Labor Department, because of increasing optimism in the economy.

The Black unemployment rate rose from 10.9 percent in October to 11.1 percent and the jobless rate for Whites increased slightly from 4.8 percent to 4.9 percent in November.

The unemployment rate for Black men also increased from 10.7 percent in October to 11.2 percent. The share of Black men that either held jobs or looking for work in November, the labor force participation rate, fell from 67.7 percent in October to 67.1 percent last month.

The jobless rate for White men increased from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent, the labor force rate was flat at 71.8, and the employment-population ratio declined from 68.7 percent to 68.6 percent.

Even though the unemployment rate for Black women increased from 9.4 percent in October to 9.6 percent in November, William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist at AFL-CIO, a labor group that represents 12.5 million workers, said that that labor force participation rate for Black women over 20 years old continues to go up.

The employment-population ratio, the share of the population of Black women that hold jobs, was 55.1 percent in January 2014 and compared to 56.1 percent in November. The labor force rate for Black women was 61.5 percent in January. The unemployment rate for Black women was 10.4 percent.

Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused fiscal policies that affect low- and middle-income families, said that as the economy continues to grow and the labor market continues to grow, we still have to make investments for those who face challenges with gaining employment.

“That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth,” said Wilson. “That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth.”

Wilson said that access to enter the labor force and to get early work experience, whether that’s a part-time job in retail or fast food or something more career directed like apprentice programs, will be essential for Black teenagers.

“We’re finally seeing enough jobs, where people are getting optimistic to pull them back into the labor market,” said Spriggs. “That’s a good sign.”

Spriggs explained, “The numbers are good because it means the labor market is on solid ground, it’s growing in a healthy way and the big worry is federal reserve policy. The [federal reserve bank] has to wait until real wages grow and savings get built back up the positive way.”

At 11.1 percent, the Black unemployment rate continues to hover around twice the national average (5.8 percent), a trend that goes back nearly 50 years.

“It’s caused in large by part by discrimination,” said Spriggs. He said part of the difficulty in the recovery for Black employment is that we had such a backlog of job needs.The surest cure of anti-discrimination is full employment, said Spriggs.

“‘If I think I can kill you, without giving a thought to that, do you think I’m going to be fair in hiring you?’” asked Spriggs. “I don’t even have to be fair about letting you live. If I don’t have to be fair about letting you breathe, why do you think I’m going to be fair about whether you need a job whether you need money?”

AT&T Faces $10 Billion Race Discrimination Suit

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A group that advocates for economic inclusion and fair contracting for Black-owned media recently filed a $10 billion dollar lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against AT&T and DirecTV.

The National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) filed the lawsuit for an unnamed company that “owns seven original content, high definition television networks (channels), six of which were launched to public in 2009 and one in 2012” and according to the complaint “is the only 100 percent African American-owned video programming producer and multi-channel operator/owner in the United States.”

The suit alleges that AT&T and DirecTV violated a federal statute (Title 42 U.S. Code 1981) found in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law that was originally designed to protect freed slaves from discrimination as they joined the labor market and entered business contracts.

Marty Richter, a spokesman for AT&T, called the allegations ‘outlandish’ and ‘completely baseless,’ and said that the company spent $15.5 billion with diverse suppliers last year.”

Skip Miller, the lead trial counsel for the plaintiff and partner with the Miller Barondess, LLP law firm in Los Angeles, said his firm is going up against one of the largest corporations in the United States with vast resources, but it’s a lawsuit like any other lawsuit.

“The real deal is the money, that’s what this is about,” said Mark DeVitre, president of NAAAOM. “It’s about economic inclusion in mainstream America. The First Amendment requires diversity.”

According to the lawsuit, AT&T and DirecTV, collectively pay White-owned media companies approximately $16 billion combined, every year for channel carriage license fees, but don’t pay anything to 100 percent African American-owned media companies.

Even though AT&T executives admitted that they have a “black problem” to the company, according to the lawsuit, they have largely adopted a “wait and see” approach, refusing to increase the amount of business they do with the Black media company, unless it has a negative impact on their merger with DirecTV.

“They [AT&T], just said, ‘No,’” said Miller.  “‘We know you have good programming, but we don’t want to deal with you.’”

AT&T carries one of the unnamed company’s seven channels, but instead of paying carriage fees to the company, the telephone and media conglomerate requires that the company pay AT&T hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the programming.

“Ultimately, AT&T stated that it would consider entering into a carriage agreement with the Company only if AT&T’s and DirecTV’s lack of 100 percent African-American owned channels interferes with approval of the acquisition,” states the complaint filed on December 3. “Otherwise, AT&T would continue to refuse to contract with the Company for its suite of channels, and would shut out the Company from its billions in channel carriage license fees and advertising and expenditures.”

The suit also alleges that AT&T and other White-owned media companies donate money to nationally-recognized civil rights groups in an effort to “buy” their support, actions the complaint calls “window dressing and a deceptive practice.”

“They can get up there say, ‘We support the Urban League.’ Those are all good organizations,” said Miller. “But what does that have to do with the media business?”

DeVitre said those contributions don’t have anything to do with getting African American voices and viewpoints on television.

According to the legal document, 100 percent African American-owned media receive less than $1.5 million of the approximately $4 billion that AT&T spends on advertising, every year.

“Likewise, DirecTV allegedly spends less than $1.5 million of its $2 billion in advertising costs each year on 100% African American-owned business,” according to the suit.

That amounts to fourteen thousandths of 1 percent spent annually with 100 percent African American-owned media.

The NAAAOM complaint stated: “This is an economic atrocity, illustrating the scope and magnitude of the racial discrimination in contracting by AT & T and DirecTV.”The suit alleges that AT&T’s racial discrimination in contracting will continue to perpetuate the economic exclusion of 100 percent African American-owned media from American television.

“But for AT&T’s and DirecTV’s refusal to contract with the Company, the Company would receive approximately $328 million in annual license fees for its seven channels – calculated using a conservative license fee of fifteen center per subscriber per month for each channel for AT & T’s and DirecTV’s combined 26 million subscribers. If Defendants contracted in good faith, the Company would also receive an estimated $100 million per year, per network, in national advertising sales revenue, or a total of $700 million per year,” according to the complaint.

Miller said it would be hard for his client to survive without doing business with AT&T and access to their roughly 26 million subscribers after the DirecTV deal, which would account for nearly 30 percent of the pay TV market. The proposed AT&T/DirecTV deal and the Comcast/NBC Universal deal have received lukewarm receptions from industry watchers.

DeVitre said that AT&T’s refusal to increase the business they do with 100 percent Black-owned companies is a form of economic genocide for African American-owned media, a sector that continues to shrink instead of grow.

DeVitre continued: “These companies either have to give away a tremendous amount of equity or make exorbitant ‘ransom’ payments in order to get carried and you can end up bankrupting yourself with this stuff or losing control of your own company and the system is designed to keep perpetuating it.”

Zimbabwe VP Loses Bid for Central Committee Seat

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By Craig D. Frazier
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

According to state media reports last week, the Zanu-PF party decided to “defend” President Robert Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, by rejecting Zimbabwe Vice President Joice Mujuru’s bid for a seat on the powerful central committee after she was accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.

The central committee is Zanu-PF’s most powerful organ outside congress and consists of members drawn from the party’s 10 provinces. It acts on behalf of congress when it is not in session. Among other things, it implements all policies, resolutions, directives, decisions and programs enunciated by congress.

A provincial executive committee refused to accept Mujuru’s election papers ahead of a key Zanu-PF party congress next week following a campaign against her, which was led by Mugabe’s wife, Grace. The power struggle began after Grace Mugabe’s surprise nomination to lead the powerful women’s wing of the Zanu-PF, prompting speculation that she wanted the top job herself.

Mujuru’s home district “rejected her application in elections that saw a number of other Zanu-PF bigwigs linked to her nefarious activities to oust President Robert Mugabe also failing to make it,” reports say. Mujuru and powerful Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa were seen as the leading contenders to replace Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe is expected to be confirmed as the party’s leader early in December, but the fight for positions on the powerful politburo could be decisive for the campaign to succeed him. Mujuru’s failure to win a place in the central committee means she ceases to be in the party’s top leadership even before the congress starts Dec. 3.

Other politburo members who suffered the same fate include Cdes Dzikamai Mavhaire in Masvingo, Tendai Savanhu in Harare, Francis Nhema, Flora Buka and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi in the Midlands and Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu in Matabeleland South.

Technology and the Continuing Civil Rights Movement

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive and dreaming today, his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech might be broadened to include technology equality along with racial parity, according to some civil rights activists.

“Dr. King could not have predicted what was next. But we now see what was next and that is technology. Just as we had been left out of the economic avenues in Dr. King’s day, we’ve been left out of the economic avenues today, except now that’s technology,” says Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md.

Last week, Browning spoke on a panel as part of a symposium titled, “The Future of Civil Rights: Moving Towards First Class Economic, Political and Digital Citizenship.” The symposium was sponsored by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which has spent the past year urging Silicon Valley giants such as Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo! to disclose workforce diversity data and make a commitment to increasing diversity at all levels. Among those corporations, Rainbow PUSH Coalition found that Black people accounted for 3 percent or less of their tech and non-tech workforces.

Technology is playing a central role in what may be a resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement in the protests over grand jury decisions not to indict White police officers in the death of unarmed African Americans in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, N.Y.

According to research from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, less than 4 percent of those employed in science and engineering fields are Black, compared to White Americans who account for 71 percent.

As advances in technology give rise to new fields and accelerate existing ones, the lack of representation within STEM professions is resulting in a shortage of qualified Americans to fill these new roles. People of color are already the majority among the youngest generation of Americans—and without adequate STEM education, the generation may not be prepared.  This lack of training already disqualifies many Americans from one of the most entrepreneurial, lucrative, and fast-growing sectors.

“The challenge is that we are primarily consumers and not creators,” says Navarrow Wright, president and CEO of the Close the Divide Project, which seeks to increased STEM opportunity awareness among women and people of color. Wright also served as a panelist during the Rainbow PUSH symposium. “There’s no light bulb that this is a business opportunity. When you consume, you don’t recognize you have power.”

Additionally, business and society are now globalized thanks to the Internet, but people of color are less likely than their White counterparts to have access to high-speed Internet in their homes. The Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of Black adults have broadband at home, compared to 74 percent of White adults. Further, Blacks and Latinos are more likely to access the Internet only through smartphones – 74 percent of Black people who own a smartphone use it as their primary access to the Internet as opposed to a computer or laptop at home. Poor Internet access can create a range of barriers, from difficulty with online forms and job applications, to lowered academic performance, to increased costs for financial and administrative transactions via mail or in-person visits.

Paradoxically, the Internet has also given voice to the least heard members of society.

“It’s true that there is a digital divide. However…cell phone is our main access to the Internet,” says entrepreneur and scholar, Avis Jones-DeWeever, who also served as a panelist.

“We tend to be overrepresented on a lot of these [mobile] platforms, on Twitter especially, but others as well. I think it’s amplifying those activists who were already there, already in the trenches, already doing this work…but it’s also I think motivated others to become involved and become changes agents themselves in a way they hadn’t really thought of.”

Social media sites such as Twitter, Vine, and Facebook, have enabled marginalized groups to bypass gatekeepers and communicate, organize, and draw attention to their issues. For most of the demonstrations around the nation in response to police killings—the roadway shutdowns, die-ins, and marches—the word was spread via the Internet. Additionally, online petitions and fundraisers lend financial support and political weight to the cause.

“When the Ferguson grand jury decision came out, that was the first time I watched TV to get information on Ferguson,” says Wright, adding that he followed the story via videos on Vine and first-person reports on Twitter from Ferguson protesters and residents. “I think we see instances of people using social media as part of [using their] power, and we actually have gotten further along with that. But the challenge here is that it’s not sustained.”

As an uprising continues to boil over police brutality, racial discrimination, and condoned police shootings, technology may become the bridge between the Civil Rights Movement and today’s youth-led agitation.

“From Civil Rights elders there’s a lot to be learned as relates to strategizing, as well as coming up with a specific plan for policy action and seeing it through. But I also think young people bring an energy and a new methodology or reaching masses in a very short time,” says Jones-DeWeever.

“The power and potential of [technology] is extraordinary, and we need to continue to use it as a weapon in our arsenal. But we also need to remember the other side of the coin regarding strategy. It needs to be a both-and approach.”

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