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Obama, Top Companies to Help Long-Term Unemployed

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Keeping his promise to act with or without a cooperative Congress, President Obama recently announced plans to work with business leaders to tackle crippling long-term unemployment that disproportionately impacts African Americans.

Even though Blacks make up roughly 13 percent of the population in the United States, they account for 23 percent of Americans unemployed for more than six months. Whites makes up 63 percent of the U.S. population and 51 percent of the long-term unemployed.

The Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., estimated that 12.7 percent of the population went without a job at some point during 2013. According to EPI, nearly 20 percent of Black workers fell into that group.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with EPI, wrote on the group’s website that: “Given unemployment projections for 2014, it is likely that 17.4 percent of black workers will be unemployed at some point this year.”

Shierholz continued: “The labor market is improving extremely slowly for all major groups, but the employment situation of African Americans remains at something more akin to depression-level conditions.”

On a call with reporters to discuss President Obama’s plan to target the long-term unemployment crisis, Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, said that the administration is working to address “the potential stigmatization of people merely for the sake that they are long-term unemployed and the negative cycle that it creates.”

Last week, the White House issued a report on long-term unemployment citing a study that illustrated the implicit bias that shadows the long-term unemployed as they search for jobs.

For the study the University of Toronto, University of Chicago and McGill University researchers applied for job listings in sales, customer service, and administrative support using 12,000 fake resumes, only changing the employment status of the applicants.

When the period of unemployment listed on the resume stretched beyond eight months, the study found that the chances of an applicant getting a call back decreased by 45 percent.

“When people are unemployed for a year or two years they often lose their health, they often lose their house, they sometimes lose their spouse, and many of them never recover their earning potential for the rest of their lives,” said Sperling.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the long-term unemployed find jobs they often earn 5-15 percent less than workers who never lost their jobs.

In a collaborative effort to combat long-term unemployment, the White House outlined a list of “best practices” for hiring to assist major companies in eliminating any barriers to hiring the long-term unemployed.

The “best practices” pledge included steps to ensure advertising didn’t “discourage or discriminate against unemployed individuals” and reviewing guidelines in the recruiting and hiring process to make sure that the opportunities for qualified long-term unemployed applicants are consistent with other applicants. Companies that signed the pledge also committed to casting a “broad net” to make sure that the long-term unemployed understood that they would get a fair shot at a job.

Sperling said that if people feel like that they still have a fair shot at getting a job and companies are communicating that they are willing to give long-term unemployed applicants a fair shot that it would be a net win for the country, a net win for growth, and a net win for the U.S. labor force.

Sperling said that 21 of the 50 largest companies in the United States and 47 of the Fortune 200 companies have committed to following the “best practices.” General Motors, Apple, and Walmart, Best Buy, Bank of America, eBay and The Gap clothing company have signed the pledge.

“Many companies and CEOs recognize that this is the right thing to do for people who are our neighbors and friends,” said Sperling. “But it’s also the smart thing to do for the future of our labor market.”

And President Obama is also using his executive power to spur economic growth through a new program at the Labor Department that will provide $150 million in new grant opportunities for businesses and “workforce intermediaries” focused on getting the long-term unemployed back to work through “job-training, subsidized employment and sector-based strategies.”

During his speech on long-term unemployment at the White House, President Obama said that he’s working with business leaders and community stakeholders to help nearly 4 million long-term unemployed Americans find good jobs.

“We’re going to keep encouraging employers to welcome all applicants. You never know who is going to have the next great idea to grow your business,” said President Obama. “We’re going to keep building new ladders of opportunity for every American to climb into the middle class.” He added, “It’s good for our economy, but it’s also good for our people.”

Judge to Decide if Black Press will be Treated Fairly by Tobacco Firms

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A “concerned” U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler is expected to rule next week on whether advertising she ordered major tobacco companies to purchase in order to correct their past false statements about the danger of smoking should be expanded to include Black media.

On Jan. 22, Judge Kessler held a hearing in Washington, D.C. in which she stated, “… I do have some real concerns and I want to put those concerns in the public record now so that everybody is clear about matters of substantial import.”

She continued, “Number one, I’m concerned about the issue that has arisen – and I have to say –arisen for the first time some seven years, I believe, if I’m counting right, seven years after Order Number 1015 was issued. And the issue is beliefs that in setting forth the newspapers in which the corrective statements have been placed, that we have ignored an extremely important segment of the population in general, and that we have ignored a segment of the population that was directly targeted by the Defendants in this case.”

Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., chairman of the NNPA, said he remains optimistic that his group will get a fair hearing in federal court.

“Judge Kessler has a reputation for being a fair-minded judge and we are hopeful that when all the facts are presented, she will see that the Black media should be central to any proposed settlement,” Campbell said.

A proposed agreement was reached June 9 between the U.S, Justice Department, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and the four major tobacco manufacturers – Altria, R. J. Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris USA – that would place advertising in White and Hispanic newspapers and the three major TV networks. No advertising was planned for any Black print or broadcast media company.

Under the proposed agreement, the tobacco companies must purchase full-page Sunday ads in White- and Hispanic-owned newspapers and commercials on either ABC, CBS or NBC network four days a week for a year. Target Market News, which first disclosed the proposed settlement said industry sources place the value of the ad buy at $30 million to $45 million.

The U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the cigarette manufacturers on Sept. 22, 1999 charging that they had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act.

After the companies were found guilty, Judge Kessler wrote in her ruling that the case “is about an industry, and in particular these Defendants, that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly, and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, to the Government, and to the public health community… In short, Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”

In her initial ruling against the tobacco industry in 2006, Judge Kessler provided a list of publications where “corrective statements” should be made. It is uncertain how or if she will amend her original list beyond the two newspapers that have since gone out of business.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB), two trade associations whose members reach more than 95 percent of African Americans, filed an amicus curiae or friend of the court brief objecting to the proposed settlement.

“…The Defendants targeted the African America community with advertising campaigns which were delivered in part by their paid advertisements in African American print and electronic media,” the amicus brief states. “The proposed remedy does not list any media which specifically targets the African American community. To insure that the Corrective Statements reach the population that the Defendants targeted, the Court should require the parties to jointly select alternative newspapers that specifically target the African American community.”

Judge Kessler has scheduled another hearing for Feb. 18. Since the NNPA and NABOB went to court, the NAACP has also filed a supporting brief.

“To rectify the damage created by Defendant in their targeting of African American communities, this Court should require Defendants to use NABOB and NNPA member organizations to fulfill its remedial order. Black-owned print and visual media remain a primary method of receiving information for African Americans,” their amicus brief stated. “The NAACP fears that the current list of media sources will not effectively inform the black community of the Defendant’s illegal targeting and provide correct information in line with this court’s order.

“In fact, the Defendant corporations knew of the black print media’s reach when it used their advertising space to target African American communities. Leaving the NNPA and NABOB member publications out of the remedial order advertising list allows the Defendant to walk away from the community that it directly targeted African American communities. As a result, the Defendants will have directly disseminated misinformation to the African American community without the responsibility of returning to correct their errors.”

After NNPA and NABOB went to court, two cable giants filed briefs asking that they be included in the settlement deal.

FOX, which has been in operation since 1986, said it should be included, saying: “ FOX Network programming is broadcast over the airwaves to virtually any U.S. resident with a working antenna and a television, reaching 99.8% of the United States population, slightly more than ABC, CBS or NBC.”

In its amicus filing, Fox stated, “FOX enjoys particular popularity among younger

audiences, having been the preferred network among teenagers 12-17 and men 18-34 for 12 consecutive years. It was also the top-rated network for 11 of the past 12 seasons among all adults under the age of 35.”

Viacom, Inc. – the parent company of BET, MTV, MTV2, VH1, Comedy Central – filed a brief challenging the idea that the three major networks reach a significant number young people or African Americans.

“The Proposed Consent Order provides that Defendants shall cause Corrective Statements to be broadcast through 260 spots on CBS, ABC, or NBC between Monday and Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., over one year,” Viacom said in its brief. “This ignores the reality that much of the programming on those networks during those hours is not geared to reach youth and African American demographics. For example, the median age of viewers of CBS, ABC, and NBC is between 50 and 60 years old, and only 1%-2% of those networks’ primetime viewers are Black adults ages 18 to 34. Moreover, pursuant to the Proposed Consent Order, Defendants could purchase the lowest-cost airtime on the least-viewed shows on CBS, ABC, and NBC and further minimize the impact of the Corrective Statements on young adult and Black viewers.”

The amicus brief continued, “The Court should not countenance this approach. Defendants should be required to target the young adult and Black markets with their Corrective Statements, just as they targeted young people and young African Americans with their deceptive advertising and marketing campaigns.”

Parents of Dead Teen Demand Justice

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Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen

By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Justice for Kendrick “K.J.” Johnson is what his parents want, now.

In a visit to Detroit, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson told an overflowing room at the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church they would not give up on looking for their son’s killer.

“We are not going to stop no matter what it takes,” Mr. Johnson told those gathered Jan. 25, for a weekly Michigan National Action Network meeting. Detroit was the Johnson’s first stop in a national trek, sponsored by NAN, calling for the truth in their son’s death.

“We’re continuing to heighten the call from Detroit to Atlanta, from Charlotte to California,” Michigan NAN President Rev. Charles Williams told the Michigan Citizen, “to engage people in helping shed light on what we believe is one of the most horrific crimes in the 21st century.”

It’s been a year since Kendrick’s death. The student athlete was found dead Jan. 11, 2013 rolled up in a gym mat inside the gymnasium at Lowndes High School, where he was in the 10th grade. His death was ruled an accident.

The local sheriff said the 17-year-old fell into the vertically positioned mat to retrieve a gym shoe, and became stuck. Four months later an autopsy report ruled Kendrick’s official cause of death as “positional asphyxia,” meaning he suffocated by his own body weight in the mat. “No foul play,” the sheriff said.

The Johnsons don’t buy it. There’s no way their son could fit into the rolled-up mat, they say. And the sheriff’s explanation of how their son died only proves to them someone killed their son, and the authorities are trying to cover it up.

“They said my son was reaching for a shoe. They wanted to make the public believe at first it was a wrestling mat and as we all know it probably takes probably takes 10 people to pick up one. They probably stand 12 feet tall; they stand so tall you probably can’t stand them straight up. But it wasn’t a wrestling mat it was a cheerleading tumbling mat,” said Mr. Johnson, standing between his wife and family attorney Chevene King. “It stands about six feet tall. I knocked it over, and Mr. King and I picked it up with one hand with no problem. So why is my son going to get over into a tumbling mat to try and retrieve his shoe, when he could have simply pushed it over?

“It’s not possible,” he said. “The coroner came back and told us the hole was 14 inches at its widest point. He measured Kendrick’s shoulders, Kendrick’s shoulders were 19 inches across. So it’s impossible.”

Another flag for the Johnsons was the shoe which Kindred was supposedly reaching for. If Kendrick bled out as he hung upside down in the mat, “why wasn’t there blood on top of the shoe beneath him?” he asked.

“Blood (was) up under the shoe,” Johnson said. “(They’re) just so many things.”

Inconsistencies and questions keep the Johnsons on their quest for the truth. Why didn’t someone hear their son’s cries for help if he was stuck in a mat when students and staff were in and out of the gym until 8 p.m. that evening? Why weren’t they called to identify their son’s body until two days after it was found in the school — when Mrs. Johnson was in the school building when Kendrick’s body was found?

Why were there bruises on Kendrick’s neck and face — bruises that were not reported by the medical examiner? Why was Kendrick’s body in a warm room in the city morgue and the drawer heated where his body was kept? Atty. King came to the conclusion Kendrick’s body was being “cooked” to disguise the bruising. Why were his clothes not returned to the family — only a pair of ear buds? Traditionally, bodies are returned with all of the articles of clothing that covered it at the time of death. Why did the county pathologist state Kendrick’s lungs measured at the normal size, if he died of suffocation? According to a private pathologist in Orlando, Fla., hired by Atty. King, if suffocation was the cause of death, Kendrick’s lungs would have been filled with fluid, and therefore not of normal size.

These questions led the Johnsons to get a court order to have their son’s body exhumed and sent to the pathologist in Orlando to perform a second autopsy. Things became even more bizarre. When the pathologist went to perform the autopsy, Kendrick’s body was stuffed with newspaper. “His organs were gone,” said King, “His esophagus, and when they went to look into his head, “Nothing.”

According to livescience.com, following examination, the organs are either returned to the body (minus the pieces preserved for future work or evidence) or cremated, in accordance with the law and the family’s wishes. The Johnsons contracted to have Kendrick’s body embalmed. No one from the pathologist’s office or funeral home made other arrangements with the family.

Also, King says the pathologist’s assistant noticed bruising on the (right) side of Kendrick’s face and neck. The same bruises noted by paramedics — who transported Kendrick’s body from the school to the county morgue. The bruises were omitted from the medical examiner’s report. However, according to the Lowndes County medical examiner’s report the only wounds on Kendrick’s body were a scrape on the back of his right wrist and three small injuries on his right pinky.

The Johnsons’ pathologist concluded Kendrick died from blunt force trauma, said King. Lowndes County authorities “know something, but they don’t want us to know they know something,” he said. “This is not just a simple mistake, but a deliberate misrepresentation as to what happened to their child.”

In an interview with the Michigan Citizen, King said, “You’d have to understand the climate of a small town like Valdosta” to understand why the Johnsons continue to press for justice despite their son’s case being closed and local clergy and authorities saying they should give up.

It’s a story of the haves and have-nots, in King’s words. A story of a town that eschews attention and wants to keep their image of a nice wholesome town clean. He describes Valdosta — a town of approximately 57,000 — as a “relatively small community.”

“People will tell you, I have to live here,” King said “So that if they shared any information with you, many times it’s cryptic and it’s not the kind of situation where someone volunteers to go down to the police station, look at a photo line up and say that’s the person who I saw do XY and Z.”

King says therefore what they perceive has happened based on investigators’ (former FBI agents) they’ve hired to help solve the Johnson death is Kendrick was possibly killed by schoolmates. “He had this one incident with this student we found out was ongoing,” Mr. Johnson added.

Kendrick had been in a fight a year ago with one of his schoolmates on the school bus on the way to an out-of-town football game. The fight was referred to, according to the Johnsons and Atty King, by several students in the sheriff’s report, but never considered in the investigation of events leading to Kendrick’s death.

According to King, their private investigators have concluded the schoolmate and his brother, who are sons of a local FBI agent, are suspects. Though King did not provide their names to this reporter, an Ebony report published the students’ names as Chris — with whom Kendrick had the fight — and Clark Martin, his older brother. The report also states Kendrick and Chris had an ongoing antagonistic relationship and had been in two fights. Their father Sam Martin initially refused to allow his sons to be interviewed by the sheriff’s department in the investigation of Kendrick’s death, and referred all queries to his attorney.

Later the brothers would offer information the detectives found questionable. Chris told them he was not in a class with Kendrick, yet according to an Ebony article, he tweeted only three days after Kendrick’s death, “Sitting in my first block (class) looking at the chair KJ used to sit in.”

“We’ve had a number of students tell us what they would characterize as ‘this is what I heard’ but they are many times saying that deliberately so they can distance themselves from being someone who pushed the button,” said King.

According to the Ebony article, the Martin brothers posted what could be incriminating tweets about the Kendrick case. One appears to be a threat. Clark Martin, Chris’ older brother tweeted just days after Kendrick’s death: “Who ever (sic) is talking all that shit about my little brother, they better watch where they step!”

In July, prior to the release of the second autopsy report, Chris tweeted:

“Black kills black, it’s gang, black kills white, it’s rarely seen in the news, white kills black, it’s a hate crime and the whole world hears.”

Also in question is the timeline of Kendrick’s disappearance and death. Surveillance cameras show Kendrick entering the gym at 1:09 p.m. on the day he went missing, however, he was in his third period class during that time, which ends at 1:23 p.m.

Detectives have determined the time on the surveillance system is not accurate. They also suspect the videos — some of which appear blurred — have been tampered with. Kendrick did not attend his fourth period class and, according to detectives, there is no accounting for the whereabouts of Chris and Clark Martin at that time.

The Johnsons plan to continue their travels to garner support in obtaining justice for their son. They’ve quit their jobs — Mr. Johnson is a truck driver and Mrs. Johnson a school bus driver of 13 years for Lowndes County, the district her son once attended — and spend their days on the corner in front of the county courthouse with signs demanding “Justice for K.J.”

“Justice is another way of saying, ‘Do what’s right,’” King told the Michigan Citizen. “What’s the right thing to do? … (A) crime has been committed and under our justice system persons who have been responsible must answer in court for those violations.”

In October of last year, U.S. Attorney Michael Moore in Macon announced his office would perform a formal review of the case. King says Moore chose his words carefully. “Notice he said a ‘formal review’ not investigation.” Moore’s office has indicated he will not be making comments until the review is complete.

Over 200 people at the NAN meeting raised $4,500 for the Johnson’s campaign for justice.

Big Drug Bust Sends DEA Rushing to Trinidad

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A huge shipment of cocaine that customs and border patrol agents found in Norfolk, Virginia this month has sent more than 50 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other federal agents scampering to the South Caribbean island of Trinidad as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic try to come to grips with what is now emerging as a well organized ring that probably smuggled hundreds of tons of cocaine into American cities in the past two years.

The shipment of 732 pounds of cocaine concealed in grapefruit juice cans is worth more than $100M and carried the label of S. M. Jaleel, a prominent Trinidad manufacturing company.

The firm has denied any involvement in the shipment in the 20-foot container. And pointed to discrepancies in the packaging and labeling of the juice cans. Agents say the bust was the largest in the history of Norfolk and they are now beginning to fully understand that similar sized shipments might have passed through Norfolk ports in the past two years.

The bust has thoroughly embarrassed the administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar especially because it has not been able to fend off criticism from locals that it lacks the political will to go after the ‘big fishes’ in Trinidad, those who could afford to find the cash to fund such a large consignment of cocaine to the US and those who are known or suspected of being big governing party financiers.

Part of the problem is that Trinidad lies just seven miles from the South American continent and is known to be the most accessible point for smugglers and traffickers seeking planning to use the Caribbean island chain and Central America to funnel drug shipments to Canada and the US.

The prime minister was, however, among the first to acknowledge the difficulty authorities encounter in dealing with the drug trade, the smuggling of guns and other trans border crimes. She said at the weekend that “it has been known for a longtime that this country is a transshipment point for drugs. The matter is under investigation and very sensitive and it would be inappropriate to comment.”

She also did say that electronic security is being beefed up at ports with the purchase of high tech scanners. The Mexican drug cartel has been known to be operating way south of their base in recent years, taking advantage of lax security in the regional tourist paradise.

Local media reports indicate that the DEA and FBI agents on the island have narrowed down the players to a few prominent businessmen and that requests for warrants are to be issued as early as this week.

Investigations so far indicate that the smugglers had been using a number of dormant or defunct private companies to produce paper work to make the shipments and hide their true identities but former owners have stepped forward bravely to say that the shipment had nothing to do with them.

U.N. Urges Countries to Shelter Somalis Feeling Deepening War

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Jan. 29 (GIN) – The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to countries not to deport Somali asylum seekers to their country of origin as the situation in southern and central Somalia is still unsafe and Somalis fleeing those areas are in need of international protection.

Asylum seekers who are forcibly returned risk persecution or serious harm, warned U.N. spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba.

“Monthly fatalities fluctuated between 100 and 600 people,” she told reporters. “Last June, fierce fighting resulted in 314 casualties in Kismayo alone. Civilians risk being killed or wounded by crossfire between government forces and al-Shabab militants as well as by bomb attacks and as bystanders in targeted attacks.”

Lejeune-Kaba said there is a perception the situation in Somalia has stabilized because it no longer makes headline news. However instead of open warfare as before, she said, the combatants drop a bomb or attack.

Meanwhile, over the past weekend, a U.S. drone killed a senior Shabab commander in a late night missile strike. Using his twitter account, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called the killing a decisive blow to the militant group. The strike took place just a day after 4,395 Ethiopian troops were formally absorbed into the African Union force, also known as AMISOM, according to the Sudan Tribune.

Ethiopia’s contribution takes the AMISOM force to the 22,000-strong level mandated by the UN Security Council. “The Ethiopian deployment will permit Burundian and Ugandan forces to move into parts of Lower and Middle Shabelle,” a news release from AMISOM was quoted to say.

A Shabab spokesman responded to the new developments. “We defeated Ethiopia before and we know how to battle them now,” he said, adding that the inclusion of Ethiopian forces shows a weakening of the AMISOM force.

“It reflects the fact that Somalia has been partitioned between Kenya and Ethiopia, and the international community is legalizing that partition.” Under the new AMISOM concept of operation – to be implemented in the near future – the Ethiopian forces will take over sector 3 and help Djiboutian peacekeepers who are in charge of sector 4.

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