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Black Unemployment Rate Continues to Fall

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – For the second month in a row, the Black unemployment rate decreased, and the economy added more than 200,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate for Blacks decreased slightly from 11.6 percent in April to 11.5 percent in May and was two percentage points lower than the 13.5 percent rate recorded a year ago. Meanwhile, the jobless rate for Whites barely rose from 5.3 percent in April to 5.4 percent in May.

While the jobless rate for Black men over 20 years old increased from 10.8 percent to 11.5 percent in May, the unemployment rate for White men decreased from 5.1 percent to 5.0 percent.

Black women continued to make modest gains in the job market this year. The unemployment rate Black women fell from 10.4 percent to 10 percent in May, compared to White women who saw their jobless rate climb from 4.7 percent to 4.9 percent last month.

Last year, more Blacks and Whites were either working on looking for jobs, a measure recorded as the labor force participation rate. In May 2013, that rate was 61.7 percent for Blacks and 63.8 percent for Whites. Now, the participation rate is 60.8 percent for Blacks and 63.1 percent for Whites.

Even though the national unemployment remained flat at 6.3 percent from April to May, 217,000 people found work.

According to the Labor Department, the health care and social assistance industries experienced big gains in May.

“The health care industry added 34,000 jobs over the month, twice its average monthly gain for the prior 12 months,” stated the Labor Department’s monthly report. “Employment rose by 21,000 in social assistance, compared with an average gain of 7,000 per month over the prior 12 months.”

Even as the nation limps through the current economic recovery, Black unemployment remains much higher than it was before the Great Recession.

During December 2007, as jobs evaporated from the economy and the Great Recession began, the Black unemployment rate was 9 percent and the labor force participation rate was 63.3 percent.

In a statement on the latest jobs report, Chad Stone, chief economist for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the job losses suffered during the Great Recession have been erased.

“There are now 620,000 more jobs on private payrolls and 113,000 more jobs on total payrolls than there were at the start of the recession in December 2007,” wrote Stone. “Because the working-age population has grown over the past six and a half years, however, the number of jobs remains far short of the number of jobs needed to restore full employment.”

Stone said that long-term unemployment, roughly a third of all people who are unemployed, remains a significant concern. Blacks are more likely to suffer long periods of unemployment, compared to Whites.

Many economists have called for Washington lawmakers to restore emergency federal unemployment insurance, a critical resource for millions of Americans that ended abruptly in December 2013 amidst partisan gridlock. Last year, almost 1 million Blacks received benefits through the unemployment insurance program. This is money that families use to buy groceries, help pay rent and get to job interviews.

“Emergency UI [unemployment insurance] not only provides needed financial support to jobless workers and their families, but also keeps long-term unemployed workers in the labor force looking for work rather than dropping out,” said Stone. “On a bang-for-the-buck basis, it’s also one of the best ways to stimulate demand and strengthen the job market. That policymakers let it lapse was a tragedy.”

Trayvon Martin’s Friend Rachel Jeantel: 'I’m Still Standing'

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As Rachel Jeantel inched toward a high school diploma, she tried to keep in mind that she had a promise to keep. Her slain friend, Trayvon Martin, would have wanted her to finish school, and she had promised his parents and other supporters that she would.

Now, she has kept that promise.

The world met Jeantel last year, when it was disclosed that she was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin before he was killed by George Zimmerman. Over two days of testifying as a key witness in the Zimmerman trial—in which she was questioned for six hours—a storm of opinions, analyses, and judgments were made about her – some on target, some not.

At the time, she was just a teenager thrown into the spotlight in the midst of a personal and national tragedy.

It’s a chapter of her life she doesn’t like to talk about, mostly referring to it in solemn tones as “the situation.” Bringing it up immediately deflates her cheery, laugh-filled conversation.

“I’m grateful for Trayvon and everyday when I work hard or have the smack-down on me, I just say if he was here he would say ‘keep going,’” Jeantel said in an interview.

“The situation was a learning experience for me, and for everyone. As everyone was watching the trial, we were all learning things about the United States. But I’m still standing. You don’t need to be afraid of me, and you don’t need to feel bad about the situation. Justice will still be served.”

Last year, Jeantel wanted nothing more than to be left alone. She was grieving and feeling guilty, choosing not to attend Martin’s funeral.

“I was running from Sybrina [Fulton], “she says referring to Martin’s mother. “I wasn’t ready to face her. I didn’t want to talk about it.”

She was traveling constantly, for questioning as part of FBI, law enforcement, and legal investigations. She was missing a lot of school. Only her closest friends knew that she had been on the phone with Martin when Zimmerman first spotted him.

“Nobody knew where I was. I’d lie about where I’d been every time somebody brought up Trayvon, and they would always bring it up in school [that he had been on the phone]. I’d deny saying it was me,” Jeantel says. “All the traveling and talking to the FBI was too much on me, and I was doing it by myself. I still wanted my normal life.”

That normalcy never quite returned. She still gets recognized at Wal-Mart, where people ask her why she shops there “now that [she’s] a celebrity.” They want to take pictures. Sometimes they’re too nervous to approach her, and send their children to ask instead.

She shrugs off the attention, often responding to strangers that she still needs clothes and make-up just as they do. “For now, I just deal with it,” she says.

Another adjustment has been the tidal wave of Black men and women who emerged to teach, steer, and coach Jeantel, now 20, as she transitions to college and womanhood. It began with her attorney, Roderick Vereen, who ushered Jeantel through the media spotlight after Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

He remains “like a father figure.” Vereen’s assistant, Rose Reeder, manages Jeantel’s scheduling. His friend, Karen Andre, also a lawyer, stepped up as a mentor. Miami-Dade School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall arranged for her to transfer to the Academy for Community Education, a small, attentive alternative high school where principal, Deborah Carter took Jeantel under her wing.

During an interview on his radio show, Tom Joyner offered Jeantel a full scholarship to any Black college she chooses, and also hired a team of tutors to help improve her math and reading proficiency to college-ready levels.

“I was not used to that. It was a lot of people. I could never sneak around, I couldn’t go no place!” She says, laughing and sighing with appreciative resignation. Once, one of her tutors came to pick her up at home and she invited him in to say hello to her parents, who speak limited English. He greeted them in fluent Creole, much to Jeantel’s chagrin. For the self-proclaimed “spoiled-brat daddy’s girl” who was “used to having her way,” this new team of no-nonsense adults – who could report directly to her parents without her translation – was not exactly welcome.

It’s something they all laugh about now. Though her new normal is a challenge rooted in tragedy, it’s bearing good fruit, too. Jeantel explains, for example, that her friends often draw inspiration from her life. One in particular, at her new school, confided that she was considering dropping out.

“I showed her my schedule of all my tutoring, and my calendar, and I told her she better not quit,” she says. “And she graduated and got her diploma with me. I’ve been through my worst. Everybody’s been through their worst times, but mine was in the public eye. If I could deal with millions of insults, you can deal with two.”

She’s even worked her way back toward Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who she now calls her “number one supporters.” Fulton was one of the people cheering her across the stage as she accepted her diploma.

“I love them because one thing about my village is they keep it real. I’m telling you, I was bad,” Jeantel says. “I would see them every day and sometimes I’d get five different lectures a day. I’m down to two, so I’m working on it.”

In fact, Jeantel is working on a number of things. With her tutors she’s focused on vocabulary, grammar, and mathematic skills. With her mentors, she’s focused on wellbeing and gaining the necessary life skills to become independent. This summer she hopes to get a job. When her academic skills are up to par, she’ll enroll in college. In the far future, she sees a college degree and a creative career, ideally in fashion design.

“I want to thank everyone who was standing behind me during and after the trial – every single person who ever supported me. Trayvon, his family, my family, even President Obama,” Jeantel says. “I’m still standing, still smiling. [Zimmerman’s acquittal] was a disappointing day. But justice will be served, and I will get my degree, and we will continue.”

Report: NYPD Inspector General Should Investigate Police Practices Now

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By Stephon Johnson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A new report by a police watchdog group is calling on the NYPD’s new inspector general to open investigations into police policies and practices that they consider to be “problematic.”

Titled “Priorities for the New NYPD Inspector General: Promoting Safety, Dignity and Rights for All New Yorkers,” the report by Communities United for Police Reform (the same group responsible for advocating for an inspector general in the first place) wants the new appointee to investigate “discriminatory marijuana arrests, unlawful searches, surveillance of Muslim communities, low-level enforcement, use of excessive and deadly force, and disciplinary policies and outcomes in cases of misconduct.”

A section of the report, focused on selective enforcement of minor offenses, suggests that summonses and arrests for infractions like riding a bike on the sidewalk are disproportionately doled out in communities of color and not enforced similarly in elsewhere. Communities United for Police Reform also alleges that the increase in enforcement for minor infractions has replaced stop-and-frisk, which has decreased significantly. The report states that the focus on minor offenses takes away man power in addressing major crimes.

Another focus of the report involved the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses. While the NYPD announced a slight change in that policy last month, New York City Anti-Violence Project Co-Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy Shelby Chestnut wants an outright ban on the practice.

“The New York City Anti-Violence Project’s latest Hate Violence Report documents the pervasive issue of police violence against LGBTQ

[lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] and HIV-affected New Yorkers, including a multi-year trend of police misconduct, with 68 reports of police misconduct in 2013 and 78 in 2012,” said Chestnut in a statement. “We hope to work alongside Inspector General Philip Eure to ban the use of condoms as evidence in all cases including prostitution, prostitution in school zones, loitering for the purposes of prostitution, promoting prostitution and sex trafficking cases.”

Once again, Communities United for Police Reform also called for investigations into what they feel is overaggressive and discriminatory work by the police that has resulted in the deaths of people like Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas, Noel Polanco and Tamon Robinson. Communities United for Police Reform believes that the practices aren’t always based on race, as they also affect people with psychiatric and/or mental disabilities.

According to statistics from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, excessive physical force is the highest force-related complaint against NYPD officers, making up 70 percent (3,695) of the total of force allegations brought against them.

Monifa Bandele of Communities United for Police Reform said that the report shows the need for the new inspector general to act immediately.

“In order for interactions between communities and the police to improve, and for real public safety to be achieved, there must be public accountability. It is also essential that abusive, discriminatory and ineffective policies and practices are eliminated—that is where this report is focused,” said Bandele in a statement. “Whether it is the persistence of discriminatory arrests of Black and Brown New Yorkers for possession of small amounts of marijuana—in part caused by unlawful searches—or the continued attempts to broadly surveil Muslim communities, there is a range of policing policies and practices that continue to be harmful to communities throughout our city and counterproductive to public safety.”

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson agrees.

“After years of hard work by everyday New Yorkers who spoke out and raised their voices, the new office of the inspector general creates an incredible opportunity for a much-needed change of NYPD policies,” Robinson said in a statement. “Our communities deserve and demand a Police Department that values their lives and respects their dignity.”

Nigeria Tries to Stem Protests Over Abducted Girls

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) – Police in Nigeria have issued a ban against further protests by Nigerian citizens, mostly women, who are demanding that government rescue the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls whose whereabouts government claims to know.

National anger and frustration has turned on the government for its failure to rescue the teenage students and many others being targeted around the country. The girls had been studying in the remote northeastern village of Chibok near the Cameroon border when they were kidnapped on April 14.

The administration of Goodluck Jonathan appears to be growing defensive as an international spotlight remains focused on the country’s security failures. Last week a government-sponsored group appeared, calling itself “Release Our Girls” with the intention of turning attention away from government failures to blame the insurgent movement.

Former World Bank vice president for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili, recently joined the protests in Abuja’s Maitama park.

In announcing the ban, Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu, called the protests dangerous and embarrassing. “As the Federal Capital Territory police boss, I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness,” he told the state-run news agency… Dangerous elements are planning to join the groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosives aimed at embarrassing the government.”

Mbu further complained that the Fountain of Unity, the venue for protests in the capital Abuja, had become a place for “cooking and selling” by vendors to the protesters, becoming a nuisance and too near to the homes of diplomats.

Recently Peter Biyo, a legislator representing Chibok, called on federal officials to demolish the Sambisa forest – believed to be the Boko Haram hideout and so dense “you can only see the next person by your side with a flashlight. Lions, elephants and other animals roam freely,” he claimed. “Sambisa Forest must be destroyed. If the government can do that, the problem of insurgency will end”.

But Forest Management Professor Labode Popoola discounted Biyo’s remarks. In a published editorial, he wrote: “Sambisa Forest, now a National Park, has been heavily deforested… In fact, most of the animals have also migrated as a result of perturbation.

“Nigeria has lost her forest cover which as of 1979 represented about 20 per cent of its total land area…

With barely six per cent of her land area now under forest cover, the country is now at the mercy of ravaging negative climate scenarios, desertification, gully erosion, incidence of diseases and communal conflicts.

To now suggest that one of the few relics of forests in the northern part of Nigeria be destroyed because of a social problem accentuated by years of government insensitivity, mindless corruption and impunity in high places, is to say the least, a wrong approach to solving a self-inflicted problem. Why create more problems in an attempt to solve one?”

Bahamas Wants 'Satisfactory Answers' from United States on Spying Allegations

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – The Bahamas says it hopes to get “some satisfactory answers” from the United States later this week to reports that Washington had been spying and collecting the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians.

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, in a statement prior to his departure for Paraguay to attend the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), said the conference “will be the occasion for us to brief colleague ministers on the most recent developments here in The Bahamas with regard to the recent allegations of the recording of Bahamian mobile phone calls by the United States.
“There is to be a meeting between the two sides on this matter and it is my hope that some satisfactory answers will be obtained at that meeting,” he said.

Mitchell said that the Minustry of Foreign Affairs here is gathering “all the pertinent information that we can about the history of this matter and the facts as we know it.

“Following the OAS meeting and my return to the country, it is my expectation that I will be in position to brief Parliament by the time I am to speak on the Budget debate.”

Mitchell said he had also taken note of the position of the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) on the issue and that the Perry Christie government “takes the matter seriously and will endavour to represent the best interests of Bahamians in this matter.

“We were elected on the theme Believe in Bahamians. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accepts that as our mandate and marching orders,” he said.

Last month, Nassau described as “startling” reports that the United States had been spying and collecting the audio of mobile phone calls of Bahamians.

Mitchell said that the Bahamas had contacted the US Foreign Office for an explanation and that the representative of the United States Government’s interest in The Bahamas had been summoned to the foreign ministry to give an explanation.

Mitchell said that he had been givemn prior warning by US Chargé d’Affairs John Dinkelman, of the possibility of a story being released, based on the leaks of the former US Government employee Edward Snowden and that they would involve The Bahamas and the use of monitoring apparatus in The Bahamas.

“The Snowden allegations are believed to relate to a period in and around 2011,” Mitchell said, quoting from the article that indicated the “surveillance is part of a top-secret system — code-named SOMALGET — that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian Government.

“Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained, in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the ‘full-take audio’ of every mobile call made to, from and within The Bahamas and to replay those calls for up to a month,” the article noted.

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