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Without a Gun How Many Lives Would Have Been Saved?

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By Marian Wright Edelman

NNPA Columnist

When news broke of the murders at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August 5, people of all faiths and backgrounds and the first responders who came to the scene to help were horrified by the ambush on men and women as they prepared for worship services. Leaders across the country quickly denounced the hate crime and the FBI immediately began investigating the attack as a possible case of domestic terrorism. But as easy as it was for all of us to be outraged by another senseless attack and heartbroken by the congregation’s stories, it was difficult to be surprised by how it took place again in a nation unwilling to curb guns designed just to kill lots of people in the hands of lawless people. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?

The shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin came only two weeks after James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Would this have happened without an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 870 12-gauge shot gun, and a semi-automatic handgun with high-capacity clips of bullets? After the Aurora massacre, the Denver Post published an interactive timeline listing some of the others:

August 1966, University of Texas at Austin, Texas: 16 people killed, 31 hurt. July 1985, a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California: 21 people killed, 19 hurt. October 1991, a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas: 23 people killed, 22 hurt. May 1998, the community of Springfield, Oregon: four people killed, 21 hurt. April 1999, Columbine High School, Colorado: 13 people killed, 26 hurt. April 2007, Virginia Tech University, Virginia: 32 people killed, 27 hurt. February 2008, Northern Illinois University, Illinois: five people killed, 16 hurt. March 2009, Coffee and Geneva counties in Alabama: 10 people killed, six hurt. April 2009, a community center in Binghamton, New York: 13 people killed, four hurt. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas: 13 people killed, 24 hurt. Other shootings, like the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and injured 13, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, could be added to this list. Would any of this devastation have happened without semi-automatic guns and high capacity clips of bullets?

Every time another mass shooting happens in the United States, the debate over gun control comes fleetingly to the forefront—until political fear paralyzes courage and action. Inevitably, some people repeat the argument that the solution to preventing mass shootings is not better gun control laws—even control of assault weapons which have no place in nonmilitary hands—but getting even more Americans armed. The apparent fantasy result would be something straight out of Hollywood where every single time a bad person stands up with a gun a good person with their own gun would quickly rise up out of the crowd, shoot the bad person, and save the day.

But arguments like this ignore both common sense and scientific evidence about the connection between the ready availability of guns—including assault weapons and guns with large ammunition capacity—and the epidemic of gun violence in America. Daniel W. Webster, professor and co-director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a panelist at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent conference, wrote after the Aurora shootings: “We should not brush aside discussions of gun policy as too politically difficult to expect meaningful change, or ‘the price for our freedoms.’ Instead, we should reflect on why the U.S. has a murder rate that is nearly seven times higher than the average murder rate in other high-income countries and a nearly 20 times higher murder rate with guns. And we should consider how flaws in current gun policies contribute to this disparity . . . Following mass shootings, gun control opponents have not been bashful about pushing for laws to remove restrictions on carrying guns in schools, bars and churches. Indeed, calls for removing restrictions on carrying concealed firearms will not stop mass shootings. Research indicates that so-called right-to-carry laws don’t reduce violence, and may increase aggravated assaults. But studies I have conducted indicate that stricter regulations of gun sales, whether by retail dealers or by private sellers, are associated with fewer guns diverted to criminals. Moreover, national surveys show that a large majority of citizens favor these reforms to our gun laws, including most gun owners.”

It is way past time for common-sense gun law reform in America. Many of the victims of mass shootings have been strangers—sometimes children—who were personally unknown to the shooters but were simply in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” even if the “wrong place” turned out to be going to class, attending a worship service on a Sunday morning, or going to the local movie theater on a summer evening. In other words, they could have been any one of us.

What will it take for us to do something about it?

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

The Domino Effect of Student Debt

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By Charlene Crowell

NNPA Columnist

When this year’s student debt burden surpassed the $1 trillion mark, it became even larger than the amount of debt held on credit cards. New findings now conclude that heavy student loan debt delays the ability of young graduates to buy a home and in the worst scenarios, strips Social Security benefits and even disability income paid under Supplemental Security Income.

“There has been a 46 percent increase in average debt held at graduation from 2000 to 2010. Moreover, total outstanding debt held by the public has skyrocketed 511 percent over the past decade”, according to Denied: The Impact of Student Debt on the Ability to Buy a House, a new research paper by the Young Invincibles, a national youth advocacy group.

Their research shows that the challenges of becoming a homeowner are magnified with student debt. Student loan debt has been rising much more rapidly than salaries for college graduates. When researchers compared salaries of the typical single student loan borrower to the cost of a median-priced house, they concluded that potential borrowers with a student loan and average consumer debt are not likely to qualify for a mortgage. If a married couple carries a double burden of student debt, it becomes even harder to qualify.

Although student loans are usually considered to be a problem for young people, the reality is that many seniors share the same debt dilemma. The Treasury Department reported earlier this year that people ages 60 and older owed $2.2 million on student loans that were 90 days or more past due. As a result, Treasury reduced benefit payments on Social Security checks for 115,000 retirees. Legally, the share of benefits withheld can be as high as 15 percent. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court upheld two federal laws that enable the government to take money from federal benefits to make student loan payments. The Higher Education Technical Amendments Act allows the federal government to collect funds without statutory limitations from defaulters.  A second and related act, the Debt Collection Improvement Act, authorizes reductions in Social Security payments for past due student loan borrowers. The only exemption to this second law is on monthly benefits of $750 or less.

Consumers who owe $60,000 or more on federal student loans are allowed by Treasury to take as long as 30 years to repay the loan. An additional eight years of repayment is allowed in the event of economic hardship or long-term unemployment. In these instances, payments are deferred while the interest continues to accrue.

Who would ever have imagined that a student loan repayment would take 30 years or more? In bygone years the only loans that incurred such lengthy indebtedness were mortgages.

Consumers with blemished credit scores or those with limited funds for a down payment may seek an Fair Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Affairs (VA) financing with down payments as low as 3.5 percent. However these loans can be expensive and typically take a longer time to be approved. Since October 2010 three separate price increases on FHA loans have occurred. The most recent was the addition of an upfront mortgage premium payment announced in April that will add $1,500 in upfront costs for a typical home of $200,000.

The domino effect of debt begins with a student loan and then delays the ability to qualify for a mortgage. With other consumer debt payments such as car loans, and credit cards taking a larger share of net income, the ability to gain wealth is limited if not stymied.

Consumers opting for rental housing may find the monthly payment more affordable on a cash-flow basis; but no equity or wealth is derived on rentals. Further, as the rental housing market has tightened, the cost of rental housing continues to increase, leaving fewer disposable dollars to save for a home down payment. And if parents or grandparents signed for a student loan, the benefits they worked for most of their lives are siphoned and tarnish what ought to be the proverbial ‘golden years’.

The Denied report reaches a thoughtful conclusion: “Policymakers who may be unmotivated by individual struggles of borrowers, or unconvinced of the extent of the problem today, would be wise to begin to view student debt in an additional light: as an encumbrance on the recovery of the housing market, and as a result, a potential hindrance to economic growth.” Charlene Crowell is a communications manager for the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: HYPERLINK "mailto:Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org"Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Green Economy Symposium Explores Sustainable Development

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Black Voice News Staff Report

Green jobs, recycling and disposal, electronic waste and disposal and environmental health were the topics of a lively discussion at the Green Economy and Sustainability Symposium and Mini Job Fair sponsored by the Black Voice News.

The Riverside event held Saturday in conjunction with the newspaper’s 40th anniversary celebration at Grier Pavilion explored the role of social and environmental enterprises in shaping the Green Economy. The morning symposium brought together representatives from state and local governments, public utilities, financial and research institutions, start-up entrepreneurs, job staffing firms and the private sector.

The event explored accelerating the transition to green economies, job trends and resources available to individuals and local economies.

Lea Petersen, public affairs manager of The Southern California Gas Company, moderated a panel discussion on green power initiatives.

"Our goal is to assist people in doing their part to help the environment by being energy efficient, using low-flow water showerheads, weather-proofing your home and taking advantage of the many rebates we offer to help in your next step in your green routine.”

Matt Beaumont, Customer Communications at the SoCalGas Solar Water Heater and Customer Assistance exhibit provided information on the Ca. Solar Initiative - Thermal Program and Energy Efficiency.

A solar water heating system captures the warmth of the sun, transfers that heat to water, and works with your conventional water heater to help use less energy, said Beaumont. The utility’s Solar Thermal Program also offers cash rebates to SoCalGas customers who purchase qualifying solar water heating systems. For more information, go online to SoCalGas.com or call 877-238-0092 Beaumont says assistance is available to help people, who are income qualified to lower their natural gas bills by 20%.

Other panelists included Jamil Dada, Association of the Workforce Development Board, and Ryan Gleason, account manager of Riverside Public Utilities.

Workforce Development, EDD, Robert Half & Associates and Apple One were on hand to discuss job and small business contract opportunities with potential applicants. The Southern California Gas Company and Riverside Public Utilities sponsored the symposium.

Just Who are “We the People”?

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By James Clingman

NNPA Columnist

Lincoln’s words, included in the Gettysburg Address, “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” take on an esoteric meaning as we look at today’s political situation.  A brief look at politics will show anyone with an ounce of sense that “we the people” have not, do not, and will not run the U.S. government. The silly name-calling among politicians, the bought-and-paid-for members of Congress, the lack of progress on anything related to our economy, the absolute lack of concern for the poor, the elderly and veterans, the kowtowing to Wall Street puppet masters, and the total aloofness of those whom “we the people” sent to Washington are blatant examples of how screwed up our political system has become.

Just who was Lincoln referring to when he spoke his famous line about “the people”?  One thing we know for sure is that he was not talking about Black folks, and I would venture to guess he was not talking about poor White folks, either.  And that whole thing about the government being of, for, and by “the people” is in no way applicable to us, which leads to the logical conclusion that “we the people” must mean those who have the most money.

So where does that put Black people when it comes to the current economic state of this country and its future?  What does it say about our political clout?  Do “we, the Black people” and “we, the poor people” have a dog in the hunt as regards economic security, political influence, and/or power? Can you wrap your mind around $2 billion being spent by the two presidential candidates for the right to occupy the White House for the next four years?  How about the billions of dollars in bailouts for banks and investment firms that are deemed “too big to fail”?   How many of you have attended one of those $20,000 per plate political fundraisers?

When I think about the fact that the bank bailout fund earmarked $50 billion for those whose mortgages were underwater, yet only $4 billion was used for that purpose, I cannot help but think that we are being played.  But what else is new?  As a result of the bailout, the “too big to fail” banks are now even bigger; if one of them fails now its sheer size will drag the entire economy down the drain with it.  Maybe that’s why the Department of Justice has not prosecuted Goldman Sachs.  Banks can now do whatever they want to “we the people.”

At the end of the day, all of the vitriol, sarcasm, and lying back and forth will result in more millionaire politicians holding on to their money and making every effort to cut into yours.  We will see no relief prior to the election because the two parties are squabbling and posturing for votes and dollars right now.  There will be no solution to unemployment, the housing market, tight lending policies, Medicare, the national debt and deficit, and all the other fiscal ailments that have beset us, simply because the folks we sent to Congress are more interested in keeping their jobs and all the accoutrements thereof.

Meanwhile, Black men are incarcerated at an unprecedented rate; they are shooting themselves in the head with guns that were undetected during two searches, all with their hands cuffed behind their backs; they are still being shot (30 times, or was it 46 times?) by six police officers in Saginaw, Michigan, for cursing and holding a knife.  I suppose they shot him because they didn’t want him to hurt the police dog they threatened to let loose on him.

I don’t claim to know much, but one thing I am certain of is that politicians, no matter what stripe, are not going to do anything about the conditions we, the Black people, face.  I believe it was Marcus Garvey who said, “All the shoes have been shined and all the cotton has been picked.”  He went on to suggest that Black people were no longer needed by White folks, therefore, if we did not change our ways when it came to business development we would indeed become obsolete.

No matter how you look at it you cannot deny that our system of government is broken.  A stranger might ask, “Why would you keep putting the same people back in office, especially considering how they treat you when they get elected?”  Good question, isn’t it?   So I ask again: Just who are “we the people”?  Another thing I know for sure is that, it sure ain’t us.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.

Harry Alford Celebrates 70th Birthday

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This past weekend, Harry Alford celebrated his 70th birthday with a huge classic car themed bash. The members of the Old Farts, a hot rod and car racing club, which originated in April of 1993, participated by providing their classic cars for the celebration.

Mr. and Mrs. Ron Baldwin hosted the party at their home. Alford’s wife, Mary Alice, and his two daughters Sonia (Ron) Baldwin and Wendy (Craig) Gladden and grandchildren Tatyana, Cameron, and little Wendy made the affair a special occasion.

Over 70-people attended with family members coming from as far as New York and Missouri. A contest was held to determine who had the best hot rod and the top three winners won signed trophies.

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BVN National News Wire