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Obama Proposes Plan for Paid Family Leave

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

President Obama has signed a directive which allows agencies to provide six weeks of advanced sick leave for federal employees to care for newborn children.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 12 percent of American workers receive paid family leave, and only 61 percent have paid sick leave.

“Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home,” states the memorandum, which Obama signed Thursday. “Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce.

“Yet, the United States lags behind almost every other country in ensuring some form of paid parental leave to its federal workforce; we are the only developed country in the world without it,” continues the memorandum, which also offers the chance for women to recuperate after giving birth, even if they haven’t earned enough sick leave. It will also provide leave for spouses and partners to help out during the recuperation.

Employees who are bringing a foster child into their home will also be eligible for advanced annual leave.

GOP Lawmaker Apologizes for Obama-Hitler Comparison

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By Maria Adebola
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

A recent tweet by United States Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) incited another social media outrage when he compared President Obama to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. But just less than 24 hours after Weber made his thoughts public on Twitter, he issued an apology before deleting the tweet.

Weber’s original tweet was spurred by the president’s absence at an anti-terror march in Paris Jan. 11 following a recent terrorist attack.  “Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons,” Weber stated.

The post was one of many public criticisms lobbed at the White House for not sending an official of higher profile than Jane Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to France, to join other world leaders for the anti-terrorist rally. “I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a somewhat apology.

Still, Weber acknowledged he might have gone too far–though he claimed the mention of Hitler was not meant to be a comparison to the president. Instead, he said, he wanted the name drop to represent the evil that still exists.

“It was not my intention to trivialize the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler. The mention of Hitler was meant to represent the face of evil that still exists in the world today. I now realize that the use of Hitler invokes pain and emotional trauma for those affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust and victims of anti-Semitism and hate,” Weber said in a statement.

Weber has an infamous knack for publicly criticizing the president using his Twitter account. Sometime last year, during the president’s State of the Union Address, the Washington Post referenced a post in which the congressman referred to Obama as “Kommandment-In-Chef.” The word “chef” was initially a typo that was supposed to mean “chief.” The congressman was also criticized for misspelling Hitler’s first name in the latest tweet.

Sagging Pants of Today Could Hurry Hip Replacements of Tomorrow

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By Sandra Jordan
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

Some of the same activities and behaviors that can cause disease can cause health problems in your bones, joints and your neuromuscular system.

“For every one pound of weight that you gain, you put three pounds of pressure on your knees; so the opposite of that is, for every pound that you lose, you take three pounds of pressure off your knees.”

Spine expert Chiropractor Michael Gerdine of West End Chiropractic said when it comes to wellness, the approach should be proactive rather than reactive.

“There are many stresses  in life that contribute to illness, whether it be stresses from work, family, job, poor diets, lack of exercise, not getting enough rest” Gerdine said. “All of those things lead to problems with the nervous system, due to what we call in chiropractic care ‘subluxations.’”

Subluxations occur when the body’s infrastructure gets out of alignment.

“Its bones out of place irritating the nerves,” Gerdine said. “Subluxations are caused by – I call them the three T’s: Trauma – which could be an accident, sports injury, repetitive motion on the job, weekend warrior stuff; Thoughts –

Which would be stress-related; and Toxins – bad food, poor diet; medications can be toxic to the human body; bad air, recreational drugs, cigarette smoke, all of those things are toxic.”

The Missouri Chiropractors Association describes subluxations as a response to stress, causing the muscles to spasm, spinal bones to lock up and choking or chaffing nerves. Nerve impulses communicate messages to the brain and throughout the body through your spine. If there’s a hitch somewhere in the nervous system, it will manifest as some type of health problem.

“Most of us have subluxations and don’t even know we have them,” Gerdine said.

He said that occasional “crook in the neck” or stiff back when you wake up in the morning – subluxations.

“It could be because you slept wrong or it could be because you hold the telephone at work with your shoulder cocked up on the phone … and one of the contributing factors to subluxations, a big one – is posture,” he said. “Most human beings have bad posture and people who are sedentary have even worse posture.”

Think of this balancing act; poorly postured humans with bowling balls sitting on top of the smallest area of the spinal column.

“Most people don’t realize that our heads weigh about the same as a bowling ball – between 10 and 15 pounds,” Gerdine explained. “The cervical spine – the neck, those are the smallest bones in the vertebral column and now you have this head that is leaning forward and that’s putting a lot of pressure on those bones and it can cause problems over time.”

Gerdine said the boom in tech gadgetry that has people looking down at their cellphones, tablets and other personal devices will wind up being a major pain in the neck.

“You can rest assured that there is going to be an epidemic of neck problems with headaches, tension in the shoulders, pain between the should blades, pain radiating into the arms,” Gerdine said,  “and a lot of it is going to be due to this repetitive motion that we have developed to exist in the world today.”

Although not so high tech, a low-hanging fashion statement of the millennials, hip-hoppers and the “OGs” who try to dress like them may come back to bite when where the sun didn’t use to shine.

“These young men who are walking around with their pants sagging – you can rest assured there’s going to be an epidemic of hip replacements because the way they have to alter their gait and swing those legs to keep those pants up – they are wearing the hip joints out,” Gerdine said.

Sagging pants get blamed for a number of health issues, from urological and sexual dysfunction to severe posture and bone growth deformities.

Gerdine said seeing a chiropractor is the conservative approach to wellness.

“We are going to look at the bony structures, the musculoskeletal system to try to prevent people from going to surgery and using all the different drugs with the major side effects they may have,” Gerdine said. “We are interested in people doing functional health. My goal is to get people doing the things they are supposed to do, that they want to do, the right way.”

The American Chiropractic Association says chiropractic services are included in most health insurance plans and is also available to active-duty members of the armed forces at more than 60 military bases and is available to veterans at 36 major veterans medical facilities.

For more information about the work of chiropractors, visit http://www.missourichiropractors.org.

Britain and Commonwealth May Suspend Guyana for Breaching Rules

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

The 53-nation Commonwealth grouping of former British colonies this week threatened to sanction Guyana’s government for its suspension of the country’s parliament and for its steadfast refusal to hold local government elections for more than 20 years, Britain’s representative to the country said this week.

Andrew Ayre told reporters that the Nov. 10 prorogation, or suspension, of parliament to stymie an opposition no-confidence vote against the governing Indo-led People’s Progressive Party is of serious concern to Britain and the other Commonwealth nations and might well result in sanctions against Guyana and a reduction of financial aid. Guyana, in addition to being a member of the Commonwealth, is the headquarters of the 15-nation Caribbean trade bloc.

“Guyana is moving into a category of concern for the Commonwealth,” Ayre said. “That is quite clear from discussions that take place in London. Given that the stated reason for the prorogation was to have constructive talks with the majority opposition, and given that those talks are not going to happen, the U.K. is increasingly concerned as to what the basis for the suspension of parliament is and how long it will last.”

President Donald Ramotar suspended sittings of the 65-member house Nov. 10, a full month after sessions should have resumed after the annual summer recess, saying it was clear the 33 opposition members would have approved a no-confidence motion to fire the government.

Ramotar has not as yet exercised the option of dissolving the house altogether and calling fresh elections that the Afro-dominated A Partnership for National Unity is likely to win amid widespread allegations of corruption and graft involving officials in the top echelons of government.

The suspension means that there has not been a single sitting since the summer, and the main opposition party has gone to court to block government from excess spending and binding the country with new mega-projects until fresh elections.

Ayre said that Guyana could be suspended from the Commonwealth, noting that “there is a clear danger of that, and the suspension of parliament and the fact that it has not been resumed since then is a clear breach of the Commonwealth charter and breach of Guyana’s constitution.”

However, National Security Minister and governing party General Secretary Clement Rohee said this week that authorities have no reason to give Britain or the Commonwealth the time of day because Guyana is a sovereign state.

“This country has gotten its independence from Britain since 1966,” Rohee said. “We don’t have to listen to what Britain says in respect to such pronouncements. This is an independent country. The British have their own arrangements there, too.”

“The U.K. government therefore calls on the government of Guyana to resume parliament without further delay or lay out a timeline for the resumption of parliamentary democracy, which helps to deliver shared commitments to democracy, security and prosperity for all,” Ayre said.

Black Unemployment Rate Headed for Single Digits

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After three consecutive months of the economy adding more than 25,000 jobs, the Black unemployment rate could dip below 10 percent by mid-2015 if current trends continue, says Valerie Wilson, an economist and director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) at Economic Policy Institute.

When Wilson analyzed the labor force participate rate, which includes people that currently hold jobs or are looking for work and the employment-population ratio for all workers, she found that Blacks had the biggest increase in both measures from December 2013 to December 2014.

“If the same trends in the labor force participation rate and the decline in the unemployment rate that we saw in 2014 continue into 2015, the Black unemployment rate should get down to the single digits by the middle of this year,” said Wilson.

The Black unemployment rate decreased from 11 percent in November to 10.4 percent in December, and the jobless rate for White workers ticked down 0.1 percent to 4.8 percent in December, according to the latest jobs report by the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years old ticked down from 11.2 percent to 11 percent in December while the unemployment rate for White men fell from 4.6 to 4.4 percent over that period.

The unemployment rate for Black women over 20 years-old slid from 9.5 percent in November to 8.2 percent in December and White women saw their unemployment rate inch down from 4.5 percent to 4.4 percent during the same period.

The Labor Department also revised the number of jobs added in October (261,000) and November (353,000), accounting for an increase of 50,000 jobs.

American workers found jobs in professional and business services, construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing in December.

Wilson said that December’s jobs report signals that the prospect of economic recovery in the Black community is pretty strong.

She said, “The African American workforce is benefitting from the job growth that is taking place right now and the longer that continues, the better it’s going to be for those communities.”

Bernard Anderson, a nationally-recognized economist and professor emeritus at the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, agreed.

“Despite the fact that Black people have a higher rate of unemployment and lower income, they remain far more committed to the labor market than White workers on average,” said Anderson.

Anderson said that employment is growing more rapidly now than at any time since the recovery began in 2009. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014, yet wages have not increased significantly.

“We have an anomalous situation in the labor market where employment is beginning to rise, but earnings are still relatively flat,” explained Anderson. In fact, average hourly earnings for all employees shed a nickel in December.

Anderson observed that wages increased more rapidly during previous recoveries as the unemployment rate fell.

Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in a blog post at EPI.org that stagnant wages hurt more than the workers at bottom.

“Since the late 1970s, wages for the bottom 70 percent of earners have been essentially stagnant, and between 2009 and 2013, real wages fell for the entire bottom 90 percent of the wage distribution,” Mishel wrote. “Even wages for the bottom 70 percent of four-year college graduates have been flat since 2000, and wages in most STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations have grown anemically over the past decade.”

Anderson said that when the labor market tightens the unemployment rate comes down, and employers are forced to compete with each other for available labor. That competition often leads to increased wages.

Unionization also plays a critical role in raising the wages of low- and middle-income earners.

Mishel said that unionization leads to higher wages without harming economic efficiency.

“Collective bargaining also leads to a larger share of corporate income going to wages rather than profits; the fact that corporate profits are at historic highs is a reflection, in part, of the current weakness of collective bargaining and the heightened power of corporate owners and managers,” Mishel wrote at EPI.org.

Even though overall union membership has fallen to record lows, according to a 2012 report on unionization by the Labor Center at the University of California at Berkeley, Black workers were union members at higher rates than non-Black workers in the United States.

“In 2012, 13.1% of all Black workers in the United States were union members; 11.0% of non-Black workers in the United States were union members,” the report said. “Among workers in the largest metropolitan areas, Blacks were 42% more likely to belong to unions compared to non-Blacks.”

Wilson said that if workers don’t feel empowered on the job, it’s difficult to go in to negotiate and demand the pay that they deserve.

She said, “As long as workers feel disenfranchised, barring a sudden boom in the economy that drives wages up, I don’t know that it’s going to happen organically.”

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BVN National News Wire