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Black Cubans Still Suffering from Hurricane Sandy

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Some say assistance given to white Cubans first, little for Blacks

By José Pérez
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times

For centuries, Santiago de Cuba has been a loud and lively city nestled at the foot of mountains that meet the Caribbean Sea. Birthplace of people like Desi Arnaz, Rita Marley, and Afro-Cuban military genius Antonio Maceo, Santiago and its residents are always vibrant. It is because of this that a walk around the densely-populated city in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy indicated that something was very wrong. “Santiago is wrapped in a deafening silence of despair,” said Dr. Alberto Jones of the Caribbean American Children’s Foundation, who grew up in nearby Guantanamo and had been in Cuba visiting family and friends when the killer storm hit.

What Jones witnessed in Santiago was not limited to Cuba’s second city. He describes what he saw in places like Songo, La Maya, and Guantanamo as “horrifying, devastating, and unbelievable.” Describing the damage inflicted on Eastern Cuba as “massive,” Jones added that “hundreds of roads are blocked and overflowing rivers have washed away railroad tracks and bridges” in the area. Jones notes that 90 percent of Santiago’s residents are Black Cubans.

Ventura Figueras Lores, a reporter in Guantanamo, said that, despite obstacles, “chlorine and other disinfecting products to purify water for human consumption” are being distributed for free through the Cuban government’s pharmacy network. Both men point out that rebuilding efforts are already underway. Even nontraditional workers like older adults and children are involved with the process, says Jones.

His wife, Sylvia Jones, says such a proactive approach to hurricanes is nothing new for Cubans.

“Cuba has the best record in the Caribbean as far as casualties after storms are concerned,” she said. “Everyone knows where to go, what to do. And they don’t wait for you to evacuate — they come and pick you up.”

Death still strikes

In light of that, the Joneses and many others were devastated by the news that 11 people in Cuba alone were killed because of the storm.

“There are tens of thousands of roofless or windowless homes, schools, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, daycares and cultural centers that were partially or totally destroyed,” Jones added. “It is simply heartbreaking.”

“Here, despite all of the adversity is a real human hurricane,” Figueras said.

He explained that this “human hurricane” is evident by “the people along with the authorities rushing into affected areas with help despite the scarcity of resources.”

But while volunteers have been going into Eastern Cuba to aid with the recovery, more help is clearly needed.

“We are asking every concerned and caring individual to open their hearts,” said Jones, who has spent more than 20 years directing humanitarian efforts in Eastern Cuba from his home in Northeast Florida.

Mrs. Jones says they must “get the word out,” for the need for help for Black Cubans who often do not benefit from the remittances that Cubans in the U.S. (many of whom are white) send to their relatives on the island.

To Shop Digitally or Not

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By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
NNPA Columnist

Last year, when my favorite bookstore closed its doors forever, I actually sat in the car and shed a tear. Not as many tears when the record store closed. And I haven’t even stepped foot into a brick and mortar travel agency in more than 10 years. But, has anyone noticed that these once stable sources for browsing, longing and dreaming have gone by the wayside? What? You didn’t dream of saving 15 paychecks to take that trip to Tahiti when you were in a bookstore or travel agency? Or didn’t enjoy browsing through genres of music you’d never heard of before when you were in a record store, just because the choices were there and you could? These bastions of enterprise are now but all obsolete. Thanks in large part to e-commerce.

How do you feel about that?

According to Nielsen, online shopping for consumer packaged goods (CPG) – grocery related products, such as food, or staples like diapers, cotton balls and coffee, and health and beauty products – is the fastest-growing e-commerce option, and expected to grow 25 percent annually through 2015. Now that’s fast, especially considering digital shopping accounted for just 2 percent of total CPG sales in 2011, with less than 4 percent of Americans buying CPG products online in any given month. But, not to worry, while CPG e-commerce is growing fast, according to the findings of Nielsen’s newest in-depth analysis, Digital Shopping, What You Need to Consider, “clicks will not be replacing bricks” anytime soon, making it more of an evolution than a revolution.

Personally, other than buying books, I love shopping online because it requires minimal time and effort; and can be done in the comfort of my own home, car (while waiting for my son’s basketball practice to end) or wherever I might be. How about you? Do you prefer virtual shopping or brick-and-mortar? Both options fulfill these requisites in their own way and offer benefits and drawbacks.

Nielsen’s Digital Shopping report confirms that CPG e-commerce benefits include:

  • Avoiding crowded stores/checkout
  • Easy price comparisons
  • Access to deals and coupons
  • Broader product range
  • Access to more retailers
  • Features like automatic replenishment
  • Ease of research
  • Readily available human online help

If you have a headache, would you rather order your pain reliever online or run to the store for aspirin? Physical retailers offer instant gratification:

  • No waiting for delivery
  • Easy to address immediate or special needs
  • No shipping fees or stiff return policies
  • No inspection barriers (we can see, feel and smell our choices)
  • Exposure to promotions, sampling and signage
  • Ease of interacting with, evaluating and selecting products
  • Interaction with store associates

It’s interesting to note that based on the analysis of 18 product categories, the mix of product sales in e-commerce is 60 percent non-food to 40 percent food; while the exact reverse is true of the total CPG picture, which is 60 percent food and 40 percent non-food. The leading categories in online sales are diapers; diet aids; vitamins; skin care products and pantry staples like coffee; cereal; dog food and toilet paper; with categories such as carbonated beverages; dairy; liquor; beer; produce and frozen food having the smallest sales. Makes sense as refrigeration, perishables , weight and other factors come into play, making shipping cost-prohibitive.

The opportunities for brick-and-mortar retailers to reach out to consumers online are rich, barely-mined territory. Many, who might have been skeptical of e-commerce, are now making it a strategic goal. For instance, some retailers are appealing to shoppers who don’t have time to make grocery trips and aren’t crazy about long lines or crowded parking lots. In some instances, consumers can order online or from an app on connected devices; then pick up the item(s) in-store at a convenient time. (Don’t you love it?)

With our community’s projected purchasing power approaching $1.1 trillion by 2015, we are critical contributors to this growing shopping trend and marketers are responding accordingly. So, as you prepare to purchase items for your Thanksgiving dinner and other CPG items to make your holidays bright, remember you have the power – either online or in-person. Use it wisely.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com

NAACP Poll Details Massive Black Voter Turnout

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What Enthusiasm Can the Democrats and Republicans Expect in 2016?

By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Exclusive polling by the NAACP on election eve examined the role of Black voters in the 2012 presidential election and offered a glimpse into the political mindset and future of African-American voters.

“This data underscores the decisive role we played in key battleground states,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP in a statement.

In the key states of Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia, African-American support for President Obama ranged from 92-99 percent. And Black voters comprised between 12 percent to 33 percent of the vote in the respective states. “We turned out in every place that mattered,” Jealous told the AFRO in a post-election interview.

The polls also belied the pre-election narrative that Blacks were no longer enthusiastic about an Obama White House. Ninety-three percent of the survey’s respondents said they remained enthusiastic about President Obama while 79 percent said they are “very enthusiastic.”

However, in 2016, when Obama is out of the picture, Black support enthusiasm for a Democratic candidate is less certain. Only 47 of respondents were “very enthusiastic” for a Democrat candidacy and 14 percent said they are more likely to vote for a Republican in the future if the candidate has civil rights issues on their agenda.

“It reveals opportunities for the GOP to improve its relationship with our community, and suggests the Democratic Party should not assume it will see the 2008 and 2012 levels of Black turnout in 2016,” Jealous stated.

Still, if the GOP is to gain a stronger foothold within the Black electorate, it would need to revise or better communicate its stance on key issues, particularly civil rights concerns. Fifty-four percent of respondents said Republicans “don’t care at all about civil rights,” while another 32 percent think the party “just says what minorities want to hear.”

The Democratic Party got higher ratings on civil rights advancement and on other items on the Black agenda. African Americans seem to trust Democrats more than Republicans to address issues such as jobs, education and economic opportunity, including poverty, public education, healthcare, and creating jobs.

The NAACP battleground poll, conducted by Pacific Market Research, interviewed 1,600 African American voters who had already voted, or were certain to vote in the Nov. 6 election. The margin of error was 2.5 percent overall and 4.9 percent in each state.

Cornel West: Obama Is A 'Rockefeller Republican In 'Blackface'

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Sharpton, Harris-Perry, Dyson Are Up For Sale

Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World

In an interview with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now,” our dear brother, Dr. Cornel West, said that while he’s happy that Mitt Romney didn’t win the presidential election, our foreign policy is still imperialistic, politicians should be ashamed of spending billions on campaigns while people are living in poverty, and that President Barack Obama is nothing but a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”

I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.

But that’s not all.

He had some choice words for Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, as well. While the aforementioned scholars have been extremely vocal in their support of the Obama Administration, Tavis Smiley, who was interviewed along with Dr. West, said their support comes at the expense of critical thinking and a legitimate push for a Black agenda:

“…Lincoln isn’t Lincoln if Frederick Douglass isn’t pushing him. FDR isn’t FDR if A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt aren’t pushing him. LBJ isn’t LBJ if MLK isn’t pushing him.

“We don’t believe in making excuses. We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president. And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. But that doesn’t happen unless you’re pushed.”

Dr. West said that Smiley was just being “very kind,” and gave his opinion to Goodman, straight no chaser:

I love Brother Mike Dyson… but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.

Responding to Dyson’s statement that President Obama was “progressive,” Both Smiley and West said that President Obama is not, because to be progressive means taking risks, something that the president has not done.

“In the president’s forward motion in the second term to establish a legacy—and I don’t think that being president ought to be about a legacy; it ought to be about advancing the best for the American people. But in this conversation about his legacy, I want to see what risk he’s going to take. Is he going to put himself on the line for poor people? Is he going have an honest conversation about drones? As Doc said earlier, you know, is he ever going to say the word prison—the phrase, “prison-industrial complex”? Reagan wouldn’t say “AIDS.” Bush wouldn’t say “climate change.” Will Obama say “prison-industrial complex”? I mean, I want to know where the risk is that equates to being the most progressive president ever. That’s the—I don’t get that.”

These are legitimate critiques that all deserve to be addressed. What remains to be seen is will President Obama do so, and will Black voters turn out in 2014 to take back the House of Representatives so that he won’t be faced with the intense obstructionism of the last 4 years.

More importantly, will Smiley and West continue to face obstructionism from factions of the Black community that believe any criticism of the president amounts to treason. And will they ever realize that Black America is not a monolith and just because Dyson, Sharpton and Harris-Perry do not agree with them, it does not make them “sell-outs”?

While Dr. West speaks nothing but truth as it pertains to poverty and the need for this administration to transparently and pro-actively address it, one also has to wonder if our dear brother would be so upset at his colleagues with access to the White House if he had been given that ticket to the inauguration.

Obama is Re-elected to Second Term

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By George E. Curry, NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After riding to victory in Ohio on the strength of his successful auto bailout plan and a come-from-behind victory in Virginia and possibly Florida, President Barack Obama was re-elected on Tuesday to a second term.

Obama was ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney Tuesday night by approximately 1 million votes in the general election, but is expected to win the Electoral College by a much larger margin when electors meet on Dec. 17 to officially determine who becomes the next president of the United States. Of the 538 electors, Obama needs only 270 to win. He is poised to collect approximately 322 votes in the Electoral College.

Although experts had predicted a long night before a victor would be declared, CNN announced Obama as the projected winner at 11:18 p.m., EST. With the outcome still unknown at the time in swing states Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and Nevada, the Buckeye state put Obama over the top.

Obama swept to victory on the strength of a progressive coalition of Blacks, Latinos, youth, unmarried women, Jews, union members and gay men and lesbians. He won about 40 percent of the White vote, down about 3 percent from 2008, and 69 percent of Latinos.

Speaking to cheering supporters in Chicago, Obama said: “While our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up. We have fought our way back. And we know in our hearts that, for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden carried most of the swing states, including: Michigan, Romney’s birthplace; Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor; New Hampshire, where Romney has a summer home; Wisconsin, the home state of Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, as well as Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Virginia.

Obama was leading Romney in Florida by about 45,000 votes, or 0.53 percentage points, as of early Wednesday morning. At that time, 99 percent of the state’s 8.27 million votes had been counted.

In a brief speech in Boston, Romney said, “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader. So Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”

Democrats maintained their majority in the Senate and Republicans kept their grip on the House. In closely watched races, two Republicans who had made controversial remarks about “legitimate rape” and abortion – Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana – were defeated in their Senate contests. Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken liberal, defeated Republican incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Rep. Tammy Baldwin will become the first known lesbian to serve in the U.S. Senate after defeating former Gov. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin.

In a major surprise, conservative Republican Congressman Allen West was trailing Democrat Patrick Murphy 159,959 to 157,578 with 99 percent of the vote counted as of Wednesday morning. West’s district was redrawn to include more Republican voters but apparently that won’t be enough to save his seat.

Another Black conservative, Saratoga Springs, Utah Mayor Mia Love, lost her bid to unseat Rep. Jim Matheson, losing by less than 3,000 votes.

Obama’s re-election probably means that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, probably will not be repealed as Republicans had hoped.

The president, who made two Supreme Court appointments in his first term, will most likely get an opportunity to make another appointment to the court, possibly two. Depending on who retires from the court, Obama’s appointments could alter the direction of the court, which has been drifting to the right.

His first challenge will be a budget showdown with Republicans, who want to reduce the deficit solely through spending cuts. Obama, on the other hand, is insisting on a combination of cuts and increased revenue, including repeal of the Bush tax cuts that favor the wealthy.

Exit polls showed that the economy was the top issue on voters’ minds. The polls also showed that voters blamed George W. Bush more than Obama for the sluggish economy. In addition, voters also said they trust Obama more than Romney to protect the middle class.

Obama’s re-election victory set off a round of speculation about what Republicans need to do to remain competitive in national politics.

Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said on CNN, “This is not just going to be a loss for Mitt Romney…This is going to be a repudiation of the Republican Party. Democrats moved to the middle – new Democrats – and they transformed their party. Republicans are still the party of ‘no.’ We’re not seen as having enough solutions.”

Another CNN analyst, David Gergen, said Obama needs to make some major concessions to Republicans, but James Carville disagreed, saying elections have consequences.

Since the election, everyone has been speculating on whether Tuesday’s outcome will increase the prospect of House Republicans working more closely with the White House. Although no one claimed to have the definitive answer to that question, there were signs than the rancor between the president and conservatives is not likely to evaporate soon.

Some conservatives started raising questions about the size of Obama’s victory, saying he should not interpret the results as a mandate. They didn’t raise similar questions in 2000 when George W. Bush was declared the winner after receiving 500,000 fewer popular votes than Al Gore, his Democratic challenger.

And Donald Trump was being, well, Donald Trump.

He tweeted about a dozen rants, including: “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”

He said in another one, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”

The Electoral College has its roots in the U.S. Constitution.

“Article II, Section I of the Constitution, as amended in 1904 by the 12th Amendment, sets forth the requirements for election of the President and Vice President,” said a Congressional Research Service report. It said the Constitution “authorizes each state to appoint, by whatever means the legislature chooses, a number of electors equal to the combined total of its Senate and House of Representatives delegations, for a contemporary total of 538, including three electors for the District of Columbia.”

State electoral votes are reported to Congress, which usually meets in a joint session on Jan. 6 following a presidential election. However, because Jan. 6, 2013 falls on a Sunday, Congress will probably meet the following Monday or Tuesday.

Vice President Joseph Biden, as president of the Senate, will preside over the joint session. He will open the electoral vote certificates from each state in alphabetical order and pass the certificates to four vote counters or tellers, two appointed by the House and two appointed by the Senate. After the votes are counted, the results will be announced by the vice president.

The electoral outcome has matched the popular vote in 47 of the 51 presidential elections since ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804. The exceptions were 1876, 1888 and 2000 when George W. Bush was declared president after losing the popular vote to Al Gore. No candidate won the majority of the Electoral College vote in 1824, leaving the election of the president to the House of Representatives.

As Trump’s comments show, the debate will continue over whether the Electoral College should be replaced by direct elections.

The Congressional Research Service report noted, “Proponents of direct popular election argue that it is simple, democratic, and foolproof: the candidates with the most popular votes would win under any conceivable circumstance. Opponents, and defenders of the electoral college, claim that the existing system is an integral and vital element in the U.S. federal system, that it contributes to a stable and ideologically diverse two party system, and that it has delivered the ‘people’s choice’ in 47 of 51 presidential elections since the 12th Amendment came into effect in 1804—what they characterize as an excellent track record.”

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