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Report: Blacks Disproportionately Affected by Hunger

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately high rates of hunger and poverty despite the growing economy, according to an analysis released Friday by a Christian-based citizens group working to end hunger.

The Bread for the World report says the shortage of good, stable jobs and the impact of mass incarceration on the community exacerbates the situation.

“As African-Americans, we still suffer from some of the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the country despite the growth of our country’s economy since 2008,” said Eric Mitchell, the organization’s director of government relations. “The lack of jobs that pay fair wages is preventing people of color from moving out of poverty and the recession.”

According to the most recent data, the median income for African-Americans in 2013 was $24,864, significantly lower than the median for all Americans, the analysis found. Poverty affected nearly three out of 10 African-Americans or nearly twice the average rate for the general population. The same rates hold in terms of their ability to feed their families.

Mitchell said the problem is worsened by the effects of mass incarceration.

“Incarceration for non-violent criminal offenses aggravates the situation for black people in America since these laws, time and again, put people of color behind bars at a higher rate than white people for the same offense,” he said.

African-Americans constitute nearly half of the total 2.3 million prison population in the country. Many states deny returning citizens access to such programs as SNAP, even while they look for work. For those who land a job, their yearly earnings are reduced by as much as 40 percent, Bread for the World reports.

“The best way to combat hunger and poverty in the African-American community is through jobs that pay fair wages, strong safety-net programs, and by ensuring laws are in place to protect people and not further marginalize them from society,” Mitchell said.

Reversing Course, US to Aid Nigeria in Boko Haram Fight

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) – After a published plea from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for U.S. combat troops in the fight against Boko Haram, U.S. Africa Command appears ready to sweep aside its hesitation and jump in with both feet.

The previous position held that advanced weapons could not be provided because of troubling allegations of human rights violations by Nigeria’s security forces. There also appeared to be a lack of political will to defeat Boko Haram, a senior U.S. official told the BBC.

Now, however, Africa Command is “ready to assist in whatever way [Nigeria] sees as being practical,” Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, deputy to the commander of military operations, was quoted as saying.

Counterterrorism exercises, under the name “Operation Flintlock,” are currently underway in Chad, with drills in Niger, Cameroon and Tunisia. The war games are intended to help African militaries bolster their counterterrorism skills.

However, the coordinated actions by Niger and Chad have elicited warnings from Boko Haram leaders. They threaten to send suicide bombers if troops are deployed, stating, “If you insist on continuing the aggression and the coalition with the government of Chad, then we give you glad tidings that the land of Niger is easier than the land of Nigeria, and moving the war to the depth of your cities will be the first reaction toward any aggression that occurs after this statement,” according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

A multinational force to fight Boko Haram is expected to be deployed in coming weeks. Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin initially pledged to help Nigeria. This week, Burundi and Central African Republic also agreed to contribute troops to fight the militant group.

Also this week, leaders in Central Africa said that 10 member states had agreed to contribute most of the $100 million needed to combat Boko Haram. They did not state how much had been raised or how much remains to be raised, despite calling for the creation of an emergency fund to bridge the difference, according to reporters with the Associated Press.

The death toll from a suicide bomber’s attack on a bus station in the northeast city of Damaturu now stands at 13, with 26 injured. The attacker was reported to be a female.

Sierra Leone Promises Probe Into Missing Ebola Funds

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) — A full investigation will be conducted into multiple failures of accountability regarding the use of $5 million in funds sent for the fight against Ebola, the government of Sierra Leone has pledged.

An internal audit found that nearly one-third of the money received to fight Ebola was spent without providing receipts and invoices to justify the spending.

In their report released late last week, the auditors cited “inadequate controls” over the disbursement of funds, hazard payments being made to hospitals with no proof the money was actually going to the health workers on the frontline and, in some cases, a “complete disregard for the law” in procurement.

The $5.75 million in funds without spending documentation represents about a third of the total $19.32 million under review. The money came primarily from institutions and individuals donating from mostly within Sierra Leone and from tax revenue.

These undocumented losses may have slowed the country’s emergency response to the Ebola outbreak and may have led to unnecessary loss of life, the authors of a detailed report on the crisis said.

In an extensive report by The Guardian newspaper, a spot review found that army and police personnel were included on a list of workers to receive hazard money “even though funds had been transferred to both forces to meet the deployment of their officers.”

In the town of Makeni, where workers in one hospital went on strike because they had not received hazard payments, concerns were that some money was diverted to nonexistent ghost workers.

One member of parliament was singled out in the report when it appeared that payments were made to him to carry out sensitization programs, even though an amount had earlier been paid to all seating MPs.

The head of the Health for All Coalition has also been asked to explain himself after checks were made out to him personally instead of to his organization. The Ministry of Health has since disputed the amount of money allocated to the coalition and promised to hand over “all documentary evidence” to the auditors, who said this case was of the “utmost concern.”

In an official press release, the president promised to “ensure full accountability” and warned that anyone found guilty of misusing Ebola funds would face the full force of the law.

The report by Sierra Leone’s auditor general covered the months of May through October 2014, after which the Ebola response was handed over to the Defense Ministry. The auditors looked at donations received directly by the government to fight Ebola.

“It is clear from our audit conducted that there continue to be lapses in the financial management system in Sierra Leone, and these have ultimately resulted in the loss of funds and a reduction in the quality of service delivery in the health sector,” the report stated.

St. Lucia’s at 36 Years Old: A Mature Island-Nation Moves Forward

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

Much has taken place in St. Lucia since February 22, 1979 when the country took control of its own destiny.

And most of it has been positive, fueling an upbeat and can-do spirit.

In the 30-plus years of sovereignty child survival has galloped ahead at break-neck speeds as infant mortality rates fell. St. Lucians are living longer than ever before, on average 74 years, outdistancing the life spans of Russians, Pakistanis and Lebanese; and the country is considered one of the easiest places in the world in which to start a business in the 21st century.

Just as important, confidence in its ability to deal with the myriad of challenges is growing by leaps and bounds, say government officials and commentators. Little wonder, then, that St. Lucians are looking forward to even better days now that the economy is beginning to show signs of stirring from its prolonged recession that was triggered by the global economic recession; management missteps by successive governments in Castries, the capital; and the fact that its English-speaking neighbors, from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St. Vincent to Jamaica and Guyana are all suffering from the same things: the terrible impact of tough economic times in which they are living that are characterized by a mountain of debt, gaping fiscal deficits and high unemployment rates

With a return of many of the North American and British tourists to the tourism dependent country, the 36th anniversary of sovereignty is being celebrated with renewed optimism in song, dance, national debates about the future, national sporting competitions, culinary festivals and cultural exhibitions across the 238 square mile country.

“We believe we have weathered the economic and social storm and the independence celebrations are adding to our positive feelings about our country,” said Renee Charles, a St. Lucian who has been living in New York for more than a decade and who monitors every step taken by the government, the opposition United Workers Party and the private sector. “Five years ago when we had just passed 31 years as a sovereign state we were struggling to get our country back to normal after the floods and other environmental disaster. We have seen many improvements as a result of our own efforts and the assistance of foreign countries and international agencies.”

Although beset with a mountain of debt, a wide fiscal gap between what the government collects in revenue and spends on social services and a worrying crime rate fueled by illegal drugs, the Roman Catholic oriented and English and patois-speaking country of 170,000 souls is heralding its achievements since the advent of independence.

Interestingly, even before the celebrations began earlier this month, Dr. Kenny Anthony, the Prime Minister told a gathering of national and foreign dignitaries attending the recent official launching of a historic cultural site site and “urban enhancement project” in St. Lucia that they were “becoming a more mature” nation eager to recognize the contributions of all St. Lucians, regardless of political affiliations.

“We can take a new path in striving for our own identity,” he said.

Lucians in the Diaspora in New York and the rest of the United States told Carib News in recent conversation that the maturity was evident for some time, a years now, and it was reflected in the way people dealt with economic, environmental and social adversity than ranged from the prolonged recession, environmental damage and social challenges, including crime.

They have set out repairing the damage and putting the country back on its feet without waiting on foreign assistance, they said.

Sherrilyn Ifill Calls for Renewed Focus on Housing Segregation

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By Roberto Alejandro
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Preventing future Fergusons will require dismantling the patterns of segregation established by decades of federal housing policies, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), told a gathering of law and social work students at the University of Maryland on Monday. Speaking at a series held by the University of Maryland School of Law titled ‘Beyond Ferguson,’ Ifill cautioned that rather than move beyond what happened in Missouri last August, we must thoroughly engage the implications of Michael Brown’s death.

“All too often, in this country, we are so hesitant, so nervous, so afraid of engaging in difficult conversations, especially about issues of race and justice, that we are always looking to get beyond it as quickly as possible,” said Ifill. “And as a result, we have left on the table . . . a bevy of problems that continue to bedevil us over and over again.”

The past, Ifill says, explains our present, and the problem of police killings is partly a problem of police culture, but mostly a function of America’s history of segregated housing that continues to shape cities and communities across the country.

On police culture, Ifill says that while it will be slow to change, one effective way to help spur movement in the right direction is to tie the almost $1 billion in annual federal grants to police agencies to training requirements in areas such as implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, and how to handle encounters with the mentally ill.

“Several levels of training [are] needed,” said Ifill. “Whatever is happening now is not doing it, and it needs to be better.”

Additionally, the federal government should be requiring greater data collection by police agencies on matters like departmental diversity, the number of civil rights complaints against a department and the nature of any resolutions, incentives for officers to keep their weapons holstered vs. unholstered, and the supervisory and internal investigatory mechanisms in place to ensure accountability.

Arguing that data collection requirements are also a reflection of our values as a society, Ifill pointed to gaps in our knowledge of policing. “I can go online, right now, and tell you how many officers were feloniously killed last year, and the year before, and the year before that,” said Ifill, “but I could not tell you how many unarmed citizens were killed last year and the year before that, so we need data.”

These measures would help address the problem of police killings in part, but the bigger issue is the persistence of segregation in American society. The Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education highlighted social-scientific findings on the effects of segregation on Black children, but left out that this same body of research also found that segregation gives White children a false sense of their own abilities and what they can achieve, as well as an overdeveloped respect for authority even where such respect is misplaced.

“I really believe we’re living with the results of that,” said Ifill. “And I think we can no longer turn away from that reality.”

Ifill said past federal policies created a segregated America that has persisted long after those policies were taken off the books. One example she cited was federal mortgage insurance which began in 1934 and whose beneficiaries were 98 percent White because most mortgages during that era required racially restrictive covenants – binding agreements that a homeowner would not sell their home to non-Whites.

“The truth is you cannot have massive amounts of money and decades of investment and policy to create a segregated society, and just stop doing it and think you’re going to get an integrated society,” said Ifill. “We have never, on the other side, created the policies or the investments that would undo what created this landscape that we all have inherited.”

Pursuing such policies and investments that would reverse the legacy of segregated housing, says Ifill, is a renewed focus for the NAACP LDF in the civil rights arena.

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BVN National News Wire