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Jamaica: Help for Schools in Drought Stricken Areas

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has instructed that action be taken to help schools cope as the dry spell continues to affect the country.

With the countdown now on to the start of the new academic year, a meeting will held with several Government Ministries, and a plan of action will be outlined early next week.

Water Minister, Robert Pickersgill, says schools in parishes experiencing severe drought could be could be impacted and as a result the ministry will also focus on hospitals and infirmaries in areas adversely

affected by the reduction in rainfall.

The National Water Commission (NWC) in collaboration with the Local Government Ministry will be supplying water to schools in affected areas.

The NWC has already assisted some schools in the Corporate Area, that are experiencing challenges with their supply, by providing water tanks.

PIckersgill has urged school administrators to place importance on establishing catchment and storage facilities.

“I am encouraging all schools to establish additional facilities for storage, so that in the absence of regular supplies, water may be supplied to them and stored. After all, we are all aware that ‘water is life’,” he said.

Although the island has been experiencing some rainfall in recent days corporate communications manager for the NWC, Charles Buchanan, says there has not been much improvement in the country’s water supply.

“It is still severe, and, in some places, worsening ,” he said.

Buchanan said both rural and Corporate Area water systems were under pressure and this was likely to increase for the reopening of schools.

Caribbean Immigrant Children May be Placed on Fast Track to be Deported

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Obama Administration speeds up deportation proceedings

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News


If Caribbean nations and their consular representatives in New York and Miami see a surge in the number of families being deported by the U.S. especially children they shouldn’t be surprised. That’s because the Obama Administration is moving swiftly to place entire families, including toddlers onto a fast track for deportation to their respective homelands.

It’s a change in strategy, charge immigration advocates and attorneys, which is being fueled by the steady influx of unaccompanied Central American children, some of whom are being taken to remote parts of the country, including Texas and New Mexico where their cases are being heard by immigration judges.

In Texas, for instance, the Administration is adding new beds in a center in Karnes City to house more than 532 adults and children. It is doing a similar thing in Pennsylvania, albeit for much smaller numbers of immigrants. “Our borders are not open to illegal immigrants,” warn Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, as he sought to explain the reasons for the fast track approach.

Before the new approach was launched recently, immigrant families were released while their deportation cases were moving slowly through the system. But Washington has changed gears expanding facilities so that centers can house more families.

In New York where immigration judges are hearing hundreds of cases involving families from the English, French and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries as well as Central America, attorneys say entire families were being moved to the top of the deportation list so their cases can be resolved expeditiously.

“It seems as if the Administration has made a determination that families, not simply adults must be deported if they are in the country illegally,” said a Caribbean consular representative who has attended hearings involving nationals of his country.

“The perception is that people come there to get deported,” insisted Laura Lichter, a former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who has helped to assembly a group of lawyers to work on immigrant cases in Artesia, Texas where as many as more than 600 women and children, most of them from Central America were awaiting a hearing while being held in a center.

The strategy is in line with President Barack Obama’s vow to fast-track deportations to Central American countries.

More than 50,000 youths from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have come across the U.S. borders in Texas, Arizona and California, fleeing gang violence at home. The policy has stirred the anger of Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a prominent voice in the immigration movement who has strongly criticized the fast track policy. “We should not take short-cuts and circumvent due process at this critical time when children are fleeing violence and asking for our help,” the lawmaker said. Although Vice President Joseph Biden has stopped far short of urging the Administration to soften its fast track deportation policy, he did say “there’s an awful lot of kids who need help.”

Jesse Jackson Calls Michael Brown Shooting 'Crime of Injustice'

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By Chris King
The St. Louis American


ST. LOUIS — Jesse Jackson told The American he hopes that the U.S. Department of Justice sees the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday and resulting community violence as “systematic of a national crisis.”

Jackson said, “It was a crime of injustice.” Jackson said.

The injustice, he said, was two-fold: a police shooting of an unarmed black teen followed by black youth from high-unemployment neighborhoods erupting in rage.

“Black men should not be the objects of target practice,” Jackson said of the shooting. “It’s not a unique situation. It’s a prototypical American situation. Police departments do not reflect the population. It’s awful, but it’s not unique.”

The resulting community violence on Sunday, following a non-violent candlelight vigil to commemorate Brown, should be seen in the context of a chronic urban crisis, he said.

“Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction,” Jackson said. “Poverty is in the community, guns are in, drugs are in, jobs are out. Banks are bailed out without meaningful community reinvestment. Too many people have no stake in the culture.”

Jackson said that chronic urban problems remain to be addressed after the shooting of Michael Brown and the community’s outrage are resolved.

“These kids need educations, skills, job training, jobs, scholarships to college,” Jackson said. “We need a national forum on urban policy, justice and repression. This is a national crisis that has manifested in Ferguson.”

Asked for advice to organizers on the ground, Jackson said, “That’s tough. I saw a sign that said we need quietness. Quietness is not the answer. Quietness is the absence of noise. We need the presence of justice.”

Africa: Obama Ignores African Journalists at Summit in U.S.

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By Genevieve Quinta
Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen


The closing press conference of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with United States President Barack Obama was dominated by questions about local policy issues, sparking indignation from African journalists last Wednesday.

Obama rushed onto the stage an hour and 14 minutes late and launched into his closing speech on the summit, Aug. 6, which saw more than 40 heads of states or representatives from African countries converge on the U.S. capital.

After a statement on the success of the summit, Obama took questions from a pre-selected list of journalists, of which only one was from Africa.

White House press members dominated the question and answer session, focusing on local policy issues, such as immigration, and the crisis in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The press core was given front row seats to the conference while African journalists scrabbled for space behind the cameras at the U.S. Department of State.

Some waved their arms hoping to get a chance to ask Obama a question or two about the summit, but the chance never came.

After the short Q&A, Obama left the stage and was whisked out the building, leaving many hot under the collar.

“What did we come all this way for?” a journalist asked.

The three-day summit was the first of its kind, initiated by Obama following is visit to Africa last year.

It focused on issues of trade and investment between the US and Africa, peace and regional stability and good governance.

Blacks in the South and Midwest Hurt Most by Jobless Cuts

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent


WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When cash-strapped states in the South and Midwest slashed unemployment benefits after the Great Recession, claiming it was an effort to save money and boost the economy, they only succeeded in disproportionately hurting Black families already struggling to make ends meet.

In a recent analysis of the impact of state cuts to jobless benefits, the Economic Policy Institute reported that Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina decreased the total number of weeks that the unemployed could receive benefits to below 26 weeks, even though no other state had dipped below that mark in more than decade.

When Congress approved the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in 2008, the overall employment rate was 5.6 percent and the long-term unemployment rate was 1percent. But when Congress let the program expire in 2013, the jobless rate and the long-term unemployment rate were much higher; 6.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

The unemployment rate for Blacks was nearly 12 percent (11.9 percent) in December 2013, nearly twice the national average.

The eight states, primarily in the South and Midwest, moved ahead of Congress and cut the number of weeks that people could receive unemployment benefits citing the need to “shore up insolvent state accounts in the federal Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF),” according to the report.

Not only were UTFs in 27 other states also insolvent, the states that made the cuts experienced little to no benefits in their economy or labor force rates.

“The fact that you don’t see any significant effects of the cuts, positive or negative, was surprising to me,” said Valerie Wilson, an economist and director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) at the Economic Policy Institute.

Wilson said that states that made the cuts didn’t gain any labor market improvement, aside from what was already happening, and on the budget side, they didn’t save a lot of money either.

“The justification for doing it was really weak,” said Wilson. “It makes a point that those decisions were made not necessarily for economic reasons, as much as they were politically driven.”

Wilson said that, on the other hand, the loss of income from the jobless benefits was disproportionately borne by African American workers, because in those states where those benefit cuts were made, African Americans are a larger share of the workforce than their overall population.

In Georgia, Blacks accounted for roughly 31 percent of the labor force and 58.3 percent of the long-term unemployed, compared to Whites who accounted for about 56 percent of the workforce and 35 percent of the long-term unemployed.

Even Missouri, where Blacks were only 10 percent of the labor force, they were 18.3 percent of the long-term unemployed, compared to Whites who made up more than 83 percent of the labor force and about 73 percent of the long-term unemployed.

In a July 2013 report, the Urban Institute said that Blacks represented 10.5 percent of workers that held jobs and 22.6 percent of the long-term unemployed, nationwide.

Some state lawmakers have argued that extending unemployment insurance (UI) creates a class of citizens who would rather depend on the government than search for gainful employment.

The EPI report offered empirical evidence that proved otherwise, including 2011 research by Jesse Rothstein at the Goldman School of Public Policy and Department of Economics University of California that showed that “most of the effect of UI extensions on unemployment stems not from any barrier to job-finding introduced by these extensions, but from the inducement to workers to remain in active job-search, which means that they will be classified as unemployed rather than out of the labor force. UI extensions that keep workers engaged in active job-search not only do not harm job-finding rates, they may actually increase them by boosting workers’ job search intensity.”

In 2013, Henry Farber of Princeton University and Robert Valletta of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco “did not find a substantial effect of extended benefits on time to exit to employment” and  “that there may be individuals who remain attached to the labor force, perhaps searching at a low level, because extended benefits are available.”

William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO, scoffed at the idea that cutting UI benefits, somehow creates jobs.

“That would be like saying, if I don’t make you a millionaire, then you’ll become a millionaire, because then you’ll start looking to become a millionaire,” said Spriggs. “Well, all I can do is look.”

The EPI report found “little evidence that extending unemployment aid provides a disincentive to work that is large enough to materially change the trajectory” of key economic indicators. EPI researchers explained a weak demand for workers most likely responsible for the stubbornly low rate of workforce participation in those states.

The report noted that other more effective means existed to shore up resources for state Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) accounts.

“Compared with a tax hike that would have achieved the same boost to the state UTF account’s balance, the savings per covered worker in the six of these eight states for which data are available ranged from $0.06 to $0.69 per week,” stated the report. “In short, unemployed workers lost an average $252 per week of curtailed benefits just so states could save roughly 37 cents per covered worker per week in [State Unemployment Tax Acts] taxes, holding trust fund account balances equal.”

The report also recommended that states build their trust fund reserves when the economy is good and expand their tax bases.

“The fact that African Americans already have high rates of unemployment, already have high rates of long-term unemployment, makes it especially egregious that a cluster of southern states and a few Midwestern states decided to cut their benefits,” said Wilson.

Wilson said that, long-term unemployment is still very elevated and the level of long-term unemployment didn’t justify cutting the benefits between 2011-2013.

Wilson explained: “It’s just poor timing given that there is still a significant portion of the population who have been out of work for a long time and could really use those benefits to help their families.”

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