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Obama Can Get Re-Elected without a Majority of Popular Vote

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Even if President Obama loses the popular vote on Nov. 6, as some national polls are projecting, he could still get re-elected by winning in the Electoral College, where he currently holds an edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

If that scenario plays out, it would mark the third time that has happened in the nation’s history and the first since George W. Bush entered the White House in 2000 after losing the popular vote to Former Vice President Al Gore, Jr. by 500,000 votes.

“The Electoral College is a process, not a place,” the U.S. Electoral Colleges notes on its Web site. “The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.”

States have the same number of electors as they have members in their congressional delegation. In addition to the 535 members of Congress, the 22nd Amendment provides that the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a state under this process.

A majority – 270 of the 538 electors – is needed to become president and vice president. Generally, electors are selected by the candidate’s political party and can be counted on to support the party’s nominee. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all states have a winner-take-all system. That’s important for large states, such as California, which has 55 electors or 20 percent of the votes needed for victory.

The names of electors generally appear on the presidential ballots in most states. States tabulate the votes of electors in December of an election year before forwarding results to Congress for a final count.

A 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), titled, “Electoral College Reform: 111th Congress Proposals and Other Current Developments,” stated: “…This system has elected the candidate with the most popular votes in 48 of the 52 presidential elections held since the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804. The four exceptions have been negatively characterized by some commentators as Electoral College ‘misfires.’

“In three instances (1876, 1888 and 2000), the Electoral College awarded the presidency to candidates who won a majority of electoral votes, but gained fewer popular votes than their principal opponents. In a fourth case (1824), the House of Representatives decided the contest by contingent election because no candidate had an electoral vote majority.”

Unlike Gore, who accepted the results after the Supreme Court halted the counting of ballots in Florida and handed down a decision favoring Bush, House Republicans would likely use the outcome to increase their partisan attacks on President Obama. They would most likely call for abolishing the Electoral College, a position they did not take when Bush assumed the presidency after losing the popular vote.

By design, the U.S. Constitution is not easily amended. Proposed amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and passage by three-fourths of the states, usually within seven years. Over the past 200 years, more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. None have been passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The CRS report noted, “In the final analysis, given the high hurdles – both constitutional and political – faced by any proposed amendment, it seems unlikely that the Electoral College system will be replaced or reformed by constitutional amendment unless its alleged failings become so compelling that large concurrent majorities in Congress, the states, and among the public, are disposed to undertake its reform or abolition.”

Under the present system, a joint session of Congress will be convened on Jan. 6 to officially count the electoral votes. The vice president and president of the Senate preside over the session and announce the official tally.

In the unlikely event that neither Obama nor Romney receives the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, the Republican-led House of Representatives would pick the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate would select the vice president. That means Romney would probably be elected president and Joe Biden would likely remain as vice president. Few political scientists expect that to happen. Going into this week, Obama was leading in 11 polls taken in battleground states, Romney was ahead in four and two were tied.

Every president re-elected in the last 50 years returned to office with a larger share of the popular vote than they had received in their first term. If Obama loses the popular election to Romney, he would be the exception. And if he loses the election and wins in the Electoral College, the strained relations between Republicans and the White House is likely to grow worse.

Mark Mckinnon, a political strategist for George W. Bush, told the Washington Post, that if Obama returns to the White House in that manner, “the Republican base will be screaming that Romney should be president, and Obama doesn’t represent the country.” He added, “It’s going to encourage more hyperpartisanship.”

Anti-Black Attitudes Increased Over Past 4 Years

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Slightly more than half of all Americans – 51 percent – express anti-Black attitudes, an increase of 3 percent over the past four years, making it more difficult for President Barack Obama to win next Tuesday’s popular vote, according to a poll conducted for the Associated Press.

The results, which were released over the weekend, showed an even greater increase in racism when implicit racist attitudes were measured. In those findings, the number of Americans with anti-Black sentiments increased from 49 percent when Obama was first elected in 2008 to 56 percent today.

“The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race,” Frederick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, told the Associated Press. “There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you can see, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.”

Even though anti-Black attitudes may hurt Obama in the popular vote, he is still favored to win the Electoral College and return to the White House.

The survey of anti-Black attitudes was conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 11. In a similar survey conducted last year, 52 percent of non-Hispanic Whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes, according to AP. That figure increased by 5 percent when the implicit test of anti-Hispanic views was administered.

The survey was conducted for the AP by GfK Custom Research in cooperation with researchers at Stanford University, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan. It had a sampling error of approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans,” the Associated Press stated. “Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent.”

In gauging explicit racism, researchers measured how people responded to such words as “friendly,” “hardworking,” “violent” and “lazy” when applied to different groups. To measure implicit racism, researchers used various photos to assess deeper feelings. The survey was conducted online because respondents tend to be more honest on line than in face-to-face sessions with interviewers.

“We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history worked,” Jelani Cobb, director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, told the Associated Press. “We’ve seen progress, we’ve also seen backlash.”

That backlash has been on display on bumper stickers, in the president being portrayed as an ape or monkey and references to watermelon rolls rather than Easter egg rolls at the White House.

During the Republican national convention in Tampa, two alternate delegates were ejected from the convention after they tossed peanuts at a Black CNN camerawoman and said, “This is how we feed animals.”

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate, has made a series of race-tinged comments. He said Obama needs to “learn how to be an American,” characterized the president as “lazy” and said former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Obama because of the president’s race, not his policies.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted after the third debate between Obama and Romney: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” She used the word again the following day, saying if Obama is the smartest guy in the room, “it must be one retarded room.”

After groups representing the mentally challenged objected to her use of the term, Coulter said she would not be bullied by the “language police.” While many justifiably criticized the commentator for using the offensive term, most commentators seemed less concerned that she had used the R-word to describe the president of the United States, who happens to be a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

In an interview Friday on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Coulter denied the term retarded is offensive. She said in the interview, “It’s offensive to whom? Moron, idiot, cretin, imbecile, these were exactly like retard, once technical terms to describe people with mental disabilities. Changing the word doesn’t change the definition. I was not referring to someone with down syndrome. I was referring to the president of the United States.”

And that’s precisely the point.

Donald Trump revived the birther movement by falsely asserting that President Obama was not born in the U.S., despite a long-form birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii after it had been admitted as a state. More recently, Trump offered to donate $5 million to Obama’s favorite charity if he would release his college records and passport applications before Tuesday’s election.

At this point four years ago, Obama trailed Republican presidential nominee John McCain by seven percentage points among White voters. According to a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll released last week, Obama trails Romney by 23 percentage points. Among White voters, the former Massachusetts governor leads the president 60 percent to 37 percent.

Romney holds that lead over Obama even though 48 percent of White voters interviewed said as president, Romney would do more to help the wealthy than the middle class. By comparison, most White voters said Obama would favor the middle class over the wealthy.

“There is no way to tell from these findings what role, if any, racial prejudice may play on either side of the racial gap,” the Washington Post observed. “But the data suggest that concern about the economy is amplifying the division, as Obama’s decline in support among white voters appears to be closely linked to views of his handling of the economy. And yet minorities have suffered unemployment and housing foreclosures in the current economy as well.”

In recent years, Democratic presidential candidates have not done well among White voters. With 43 percent of the White vote in 2008, Obama did better than John Kerry in 2004 and tied Bill Clinton who won 43 percent of the White vote in 1996. Among Democrats seeking the presidency, Obama and Clinton won the largest share of White voters in 20 years.

But with Obama winning 80 percent of the Black and Brown vote, he – like Bill Clinton – doesn’t need a majority of the White vote in order to win the White House. And the good news for Obama is that he is performing better among Whites in key battleground states. In Ohio, for example, a Time magazine poll found Obama trailing Romney by only six percentage points among White voters.

David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said with the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, this is the last election in which Republicans can be competitive nationally by appealing strictly to White voters.

He told the Washington Post, “The formula they have right now is a long-term loser.”

Stone Cold Marketing: Selling Alcohol to Young African Americans

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By William Covington, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly

(NNPA) The former owner of the Payless Market in South Los Angeles, gleefully described how the Black community’s passion for malt liquor and his “unofficial grassroots advertising campaign” allowed him to significantly increase his store revenue within a few weeks and save his business.

The store had a license to sell beer and wine, but to compete with liquor stores in the area, he happened upon the idea of painting on the front of his store a large sign that shouted “Cold Beer” (although then-Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and community activist forced him to the remove it). He returned to the drawing board and put an old claw-foot bathtub filled with bottles of malt liquor under crushed ice in the middle of the store. The crude marketing ploy worked, and his malt liquor sales increased by 60 percent.

Today, the marketing of alcoholic beverages to African Americans, especially their youth has become a lot more sophisticated.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco counselor Tony Lavaughn Johnson, a former Shields for Families senior youth specialist, has heard it all.

References to alcohol beverages have been noted in rap music lyrics throughout its existence. Given that listening to music is the one of the primary leisure-time activities of adolescents, along with texting, and the fact that most teenagers know nearly all of the lyrics to their favorite songs, music is one potential source from which young consumers of popular culture receive information about alcohol.

Jay Z, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Ludacris are among the Hip Hop luminaries who have promoted alcohol, according to Johnson.

Montell Jordan’s song, “This Is How We Do It” (1995) was in vogue particularly with gang members in the ’90s.

Johnson said he would hold group therapy at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings locally and a lot of the clients would reminisce about how they would hang out with fellow gang members and consume malt liquor on Friday nights, blasting the song while drinking 40 ounces, a reference to the 40-ounce-size malt liquor bottles.

This is how we do it.
It’s Friday night, and I feel all right
The party is here on the West side
So I reach for my ’40, and I turn it up
Designated driver take the keys to my truck
Hit the shore ’cause I’m faded
Honey’s in the street say, “Monty, yo we made it!”
It feels so good in my hood tonight
The summertime skirts and the guys in Kani
All the gang bangers forgot about the drive-by
You gotta get your groove on, before you go get paid
So tip up your cup and throw your hands up
And let me hear the party say
I’m kinda buzzed, and it’s all because
(This is how we do it)
South Central does it like nobody does
(This is how we do it)

The song was a hit in the U.S and Europe for weeks, and Johnson also described how brewers would use it to market malt liquor to Blacks in France and Germany. American brewers in the past have used the Afro-German communities as test markets for their malt liquor, especially in Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne.

Alfred “Coach” Powell, a drug counselor and author of the book, “Message in a Bottle,” writes that malt liquor is made from the very end of the brewing process and is known as beer scrap. He explained that some brewers have even injected menthol into the brewing process to make it more palatable. And it is known that low levels of formaldehyde are also used to control the fungi.

Johnson feels young African Americans 12- to 20-years-old see far more alcohol ads on television and in magazines than youth in general, and this is confirmed by a report published last month by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The report cited two key factors at play: many alcohol ads specifically target African Americans and African American youth who consume more media than youth overall. For example, African American youth watched 53 percent more television than youth in general in 2010, according to Nielsen data cited in the study.

Despite the Johns Hopkins findings, young Blacks actually drink less than youth of other racial and ethnic groups. Researchers say this may be linked to factors such as poverty, social norms and religion which temper some of advertising’s impacts.

But African Americans who drink seem to suffer more serious consequences, said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, perhaps because they tend to have less access to healthcare and substance-abuse treatment, live in poorer neighborhoods and are incarcerated more frequently.

Alcohol consumption is linked to three leading causes of death among young African Americans—homicide, suicide and accidental injury.

“There’s rationale for being extra careful,” said Jernigan, whose group receives funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has put out dozens of reports on alcohol marketing to youths over the last decade. The findings suggest that young people’s substance use and aggressive behaviors may be related to their frequent exposure to music containing references to substance use and violence.

A study conducted in 2006 called, “Music, Substance Use and Aggression” by Meng-Jinn Chen, Brenda A. Miller, Joel W. Grube and Elizabeth D. Waiters, states that music-listening preference, conversely, may reflect some personal predispositions or lifestyle preferences. There is also the possibility that substance use, aggression, and music preference are independent constructs that share common “third factors.” This intensifies the possibility for destruction when advertisers and culture exposes youth to drinking.

Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of United States, said the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth’s research on the topic is flawed. It “has repeatedly issued press releases saying the industry’s advertising is increasingly targeting youth,” he said, even as statistics show that underage drinking is declining.

He pointed to a recent federal government survey showing that teenage drinking fell to a historic low in 2011, when only 25.1 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds reported using alcohol in the past month.

Jernigan’s study, however, stops short of claiming that advertisers are targeting Black youth. “I can’t call it targeting because targeting implies intent and I can’t prove intent,” the researcher said.

Marketers’ messages are increasingly reinforced by Hip Hop culture, researchers at UC Berkeley reported in 2011. An analysis of rap lyrics showed 64 percent of the most popular songs released from 2002 to 2005 referenced alcohol. This marked a steep rise in such references. An earlier analysis of rap songs from 1994 to 1997 showed 44 percent contained alcohol references.

Booze ads are also common in magazines read by Black Americans, said Lorreen Pryor, president of the Black Youth Leadership Project in Sacramento. “You keep flipping the pages and the (alcohol ads) are back to back.”

The study comes amid efforts to ban alcohol advertising on public property in some cities. The Community Coalition, a local nonprofit, asked the Los Angeles City Council to ban alcohol ads on property such as bus shelters, and last year the company that manages the city’s bus benches agreed to disallow alcohol ads.

Boston recently stopped alcohol advertising in public transit and advocates hope to extend the ban in other public areas. Minority youth frequently use public transportation and this would help shield them from alcohol ads, said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of Alcohol Justice, an industry watchdog.

However, the new study suggests marketers are falling short on limiting youth exposure to alcohol ads. Young Blacks saw 32 percent more alcohol ads in magazines and 17 percent more on television than youth overall in 2009, researchers found. While African American youth were exposed to 26 percent fewer radio ads for alcohol than youth in general, they heard 32 percent more radio ads for hard liquor.

In magazines, African American youth were 92 percent more likely to see ads for “alcopops”—cheap, sweet, fizzy alcoholic drinks that are of particular concern to anti-alcohol advocates because they appeal to youth. The Snoop Dogg—promoted Blast is a flavored alcoholic beverage sometimes called an alcopop, a colloquial term that describes certain flavored alcoholic beverages, including malt beverages, to which various fruit juices or other flavorings have been added. Others alcopops include Four Loko, Joose and Tilt.

Alcohol advertising in magazines overall declined by nearly 20 percent between 2003 and 2008, researchers found, due likely to a general decline in magazine advertising.

In contrast, cable television has seen a “major ramp-up” in alcohol ads, particularly for hard liquor, Jernigan said. The four largest television networks—ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC—do not advertise distilled alcohol. But African American youth saw 20 percent more ads for hard liquor than youth overall. “TV is going in the wrong direction,” Jernigan said.

Members of the beer, wine and distilled spirits trade associations have agreed to avoid placing ads during TV programs with audiences made up of 28.4 percent or more people under age 21. Still, advocates say these voluntary standards are poorly enforced. “The self-regulation pledge has not worked,” said Bruce Livingston, executive director/CEO of Alcohol Justice, a watchdog group that polices the alcohol advertising industry. The group would like to see government regulation of the industry.

While advertisers often say they can’t keep youth from seeing messages that are intended for adults, Jernigan isn’t buying it: “The industry knows quite precisely what they are doing.”

African American culture isn’t targeted by high-end alcohol companies. The producers of Cristal, an exclusive brand of champagne, were apparently not overjoyed when rap artists began mentioning the brand in lyrics. In an interview with The Economist in 2006, managing director Frederic Rouzaud of Louis Roederer, the maker of the wine, said he viewed the attention from rappers with “curiosity and serenity.”

Asked if he thought the association would harm the brand, he replied, “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

The alcohol brewers have always produced elixirs that target a specific group, which is how they base their advertising strategy. When one sees ads targeting African Americans they are more often than not partying in the back yard or the club holding bottles of beer. There was one print ad that ran in Ebony and Jet magazines showing a Black couple embracing, and the beautiful female isn’t wearing a wedding ring and makes eye contact with the reader. The caption reads, “Life is good.”

The ad, whose target is African American females, is a typical form of subliminal marketing.

In 1996, a beer commercial won a Cleo Award for best commercial of the year. The commercial has Black ants carrying a bottle of beer across a desert-type landscape while African drums are playing. For a brief second, the lead ant crosses barbed wire, which is not visible unless one pauses the tape to see it. This is another subliminal message that could infer prison or some type of barrier. Once the ants reach their colony the bottle is placed inside the opening, the drums stop and KC and the Sunshine Band’s get “Get Down Tonight”—“do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight”—starts blaring.

Ads aimed at White males portray a more subdued setting such as a sports bar or a living room while viewing a basketball or football game. But some of those ads also involve male silliness.

A top beer-selling ad is the Most Interesting Man in the World commercial for Dos Equis, which is directed at Hispanic drinkers.

Recently, Hispanic beer drinkers appeared to be the new frontier for brewers. Having the African American as major consumers of malt liquor, the industry is continuing to look for major growth in the U.S. market and are not about to ignore Latinos, who make up 16 percent of the U.S. population.

As the Latino population grows, beer marketers are trying more nuanced ways of influencing this key segment.

“They love beer,” says Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer for Crown Imports, which distributes such Mexican beers as Corona and Modelo. “Hispanics are 19 percent more likely to purchase beer than the rest of U.S. consumers.” On top of that, Hispanics will make up a large portion of the legal drinking-age population in the future.

Mike Epps Tapped to Play Richard Pryor in Upcoming Nina Simone Biopic

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By Gregory Dale, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

(NNPA) Actor Mike Epps is set to portray legendary comedian Richard Pryor in an upcoming film about jazz singer Nina Simone.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cynthia Mort wrote the script for the biopic, and the title character will be played by actress Zoe Saldana.

In the film, Epps will play Pryor, who opened for Simone during their rise to fame in the early ’60s. In her biography, Simone revealed that she consoled Pryor before his performances because he had stage fright.

Shooting for the film started this week in Los Angeles.

According to TMZ, Epps reached out to Pryor’s widow, Jennifer, before accepting the role.

“That was very sweet and respectful that he called me first,” Jennifer Pryor told TMZ. “I am happy that they picked him. He is a real good guy.”

She added that she’s now considering Epps to portray Pryor in a separate film based on the late comedian’s life.

Despite earlier reports claiming Eddie Murphy would play Pryor in the standalone biopic, Jennifer, who’s acting as a producer of the film, shot the rumors down. “He would want someone authentic like himself,” she said.

Alicia Keys Aims at Child-Rearing in New Software App

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

(NNPA) Fourteen-time Grammy winner and new mother Alicia Keys launched an app for kids this week.

The app, which was created through her company AK Worldwide and Bento Box Interactive, was partly inspired by her experiences in raising her 2-year-old son, Egypt, the singer and entrepreneur told The Associated Press.

“It’s a new adventure for me, and I’m really enjoying it,” Keys said.

Released Oct. 25 on iTunes for $3.99, “The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee” is about a New York City girl’s relationship with her wise grandmother, a story that mirrors Keys’ life.

“Mama Mae, you’re here,” LeeLee greets her grandmother in the trailer for the app. “How’d you know that I needed you?”

“Grandma’s always know, honey pie, we just do,” Mama Mae sagely replies. And throughout the app, the nurturing character continues to demonstrate that “Grandma knows best,” offering wise sayings or comforting words such as, “Sometimes listening is simply the best medicine,” or “Nothing like a good old Mama Mae story for what ails you.”

LeeLee’s bedroom is the hub of the app, serving as a launching point for users to read books, play music and write in a journal.

Not surprisingly, music is a key element of the app. Not only does it feature original productions by Keys but each story features musical instruments that are relevant to the characters’ cultures.

“I thought how cool it would be to be part of something that really allows them (kids) to hear music from different places, different cultures, different sounds,” Keys told the AP. “That’s what we’re able to do with this.”

In addition to the software enterprise, Keys is still focused on music. Her fifth album, “Girl On Fire,” will hit stores Nov. 27. Singers and songwriters Maxwell, Bruno Mars and John Legend are among the featured performers.

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