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Still Fighting for Voters’ Rights

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OPINION-EDITORIAL

By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from New York Amsterdam News –

As the nation enters another presidential election year, it seems that the push to get people of color registered is being met with a fight to keep the Black, other minority and youth vote from being strong.

New voting laws are being enacted across several states that require government IDs, eliminate early voting and ban registration drives in order to block qualified voters from getting to the polls. These laws restrict access to the franchise in ways that have not been so aggressively pushed in decades-in some cases, in nearly a century.

History is clearly trying to repeat itself, at least in the hopes of those who want our nation to relive some of its darkest moments-the time after the Civil War when laws like grandfather clauses, literacy tests and poll taxes aimed to keep Blacks away from the polls. Black voting rights activists have not seen such a clear and brazen assault on their work since the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement led to the passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964, outlawing poll taxes.

But with the rise of Republicans in legislatures and governorships across the nation in 2010, these emboldened politicians have been looking for ways to suppress the Black vote. Republican politicians have been looking for ways to turn back the clock since the 2008 presidential election that brought to office the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama-an election that saw the highest turnout of young Black voters, including Black women, yet.

“It doesn’t take much, with how close elections have been both at the national, state and local levels, to suppress the vote and for the opposition to win,” said political consultant Bill Lynch. “This comes right out of the Republican playbook. Attorney General Eric Holder has to enforce the Voting Rights Act and let these states know that what they are doing is unconstitutional.”

Last month, Holder spoke about the voting laws and how he plans to enforce the “law of the land,” which was passed nearly 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“In 1965, when President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law, he proclaimed, ‘The right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless.’ Today, as attorney general, I have the privilege and the solemn duty of enforcing this law. We will examine the facts and we will apply the law,” Holder said.

Republicans have good reason to fear the Black vote. In 2008, states including Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Maryland and Mississippi saw a 70 percent Black voter turnout.

That election also saw other voters who had previously stayed away from the polls, including Hispanics and the young, become engaged in the process as never before. If the Republican lawmakers and governors succeed in their efforts to suppress the vote, 5 million legitimate voters could be kept from the polls, according to voting rights advocates.

So far, five state legislatures have enacted laws that would require voters to show government ID when they go to cast their ballot: Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. These states have an estimated 3.2 million people who don’t have state-issued photo IDs.

Another 240,000 voters are affected by proof of citizenship laws in Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. Florida and Texas have banned voter registration drives, impacting 202,000 potential voters, and in Maine, 60,000 voters will be affected because of the ban on Election Day voter registration.

The elimination of early voting in Florida, Georgia and Ohio is slashing 1 million to 2 million potential voters, and 100,000 citizens in Florida and Iowa won’t be able to vote because of laws that make it difficult for people with past felony convictions to get their voting rights restored.

While none of these laws are in effect in New York State, they do set the national tone, which, that if allowed to go unabated, could have implications here. New York Rep. Yvette Clark and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are doing their part to address the issue and have formed a task force.

“It is a battle,” she said. We are in a Northern, consistently Democratic state, so not as many New Yorkers will be threatened. At this stage, it’s a legal challenge. These states have passed legislation. I think that we all have to be focused on what’s taking place in this country: the movement to disenfranchise the Black vote.

“If we don’t fight back against what is going on in the South, what will it mean for the political future of our communities in the North?” Clark asked. “Nothing is written in stone that New York State will always be governed by Democratic rule.”

The nation’s civil rights leaders say they are ready for the fight and will get the word out. History has proven that one of the first things to go when people attempt to control a certain population is the right to vote, followed by Jim Crow-style laws that further deteriorate democracy.

“Whenever our democracy expands, suddenly there is a sense to contract access to it,” NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told the AmNews. “Our country’s history tends to progress two steps forward, one step back.

“The good news is that we have made gains and we will continue to make gains, but the reality is that we have to fight to make these gains,” he said. “No matter what the barrier is, we have to be prepared to clear it.”

The NAACP is one civil rights group at the forefront of the fight against new voting laws. With their “Stand 4 Freedom” campaign, the organization held a major protest rally in the city in December. Jealous is not only asking people to get the word out about the new laws but also to be educated about them.

“Have a plan for voting. People have to say to themselves, ‘I’m going to vote, no matter what.’ Have a plan, and in that plan you need to be registered to vote and know the laws in your state,” Jealous said.

Fears Expressed for Growing Instability in Guinea-Bissau

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – Dueling political factions ended the year in bloodshed as dissidents within the military sought unsuccessfully to remove the government of President Malam Bacai Sanha in a surprise coup.

Supporters of Pres. Sanha captured Major Yaya Dabo, a suspected coup plotter, and executed him as he was being driven to surrender at the police station. Some 30 arrests were reported, and many soldiers were wounded including two generals and a lieutenant.

The country on the West African coast has endured numerous coups and counter-coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. A major hub for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe, the nation is saddled by foreign debt and depends on foreign aid. The majority of its people have no electricity or clean running water, and there are few jobs for young people.

After suppressing the coup, Army chief General Antonio Indjai reported finding a “staggering” amount of weapons at the homes of renegade soldiers, namely 30 Kalashnikovs, three rocket-launchers, a machine-gun, six crates of shells, three crates of flamethrowers, and eight bulletproof jackets.

President Sanha, who suffers from advanced diabetes, has been hospitalized in France since early December, and was reportedly placed in a medical coma during treatment. The fighting that ensued in his absence was strongly condemned by the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank.

Meanwhile, Parliamentarian Raimundo Pereira highlighted the country’s forthcoming privatizations in the telecoms, utility, forestry, publishing and transportation sectors at a meeting of hedge fund and institutional fund managers and investors at the inaugural UK-Guinea Bissau Investment Summit in London. A UK trade mission to Guinea-Bissau is planned for later this year.

Last year, the US Treasury Department froze the assets of navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto — now under arrest for his role in the alleged coup plot — and airforce head Ibraima Papa Camara for their “significant role” in drug trafficking.

Rappers Gives Senegalese Superstar An Edge in Presidency Bid

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – A fired up youth movement in Senegal may give superstar Youssou N’dour the votes needed to capture the nation’s presidency in next month’s polls.

The 52 year old performer has pledged to beat the incumbent, 86 year old Abdoulaye Wade, who shocked many by proposing to run for a third term despite a constitutional two-term limit on the job.

Rappers Omar Toure aka Thiat and Mbessane Seck aka Kilifeu have been stirring up young people with a movement called “Y’en a marre,” or “Enough is Enough” which challenges the government over corruption, the waste of national resources, urban floods and frequent power cuts.

N’dour, a world-renowned artist and Grammy-award winner, enjoys huge popularity among young people. This week he declared himself a candidate on his privately-owned radio and TV station TFM.

“For a long time, men and women have dreamt of a new Senegal. They have called for my candidacy … I listened. I heard,” he said.

N’dour owns a recording studio, record label, and the widely-circulated newspaper, L’Observateur. Long committed to social causes, he organized a concert for Nelson Mandela, performed with Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Tracy Chapman for “Human Rights Now!”, and headlined three Live 8 African benefits, among many other events. Ndour said his platform would include initiatives for peace in the troubled southern Casamance region, good governance, agricultural and social development projects. His new political movement, “Fekke ma ci bolle”, means “I am involved.”

N’dour joins a crowded field of opposition including anti-corruption candidate Abdou Latif Coulibaly, socialist Ousmane Tanor Dieng, and “United to Boost Senegal” candidate Moustapha Niasse.

Soledad O’Brien Becomes a New Anchor for CNN

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By Brian Carter, Staff Writer
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

One of the top Black news reporters has her own program, which will address various news and issues.

On Jan. 2, Soledad O’Brien’s new program aired on CNN entitled, “Starting Point.” Her new show fills in the 7-9 a.m. slot left after the demise of the American Morning Block. CNN has referred to the shows as being a “conversational ensemble” with O’Brien at the center.

This change comes after CNN announced in late October that it was revamping its morning lineup, with O’Brien and former MSNBC anchor, Ashleigh Banfield were named to be among the anchors of a new early programming schedule.

Former “American Morning” anchor O’Brien, who co-hosted from 2003-2007, was recruited back to mornings for the second shift–just in time for the Jan. 3rd Iowa caucuses. According to Broadcasting & Cable, O’Brien will report live from Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 2 and 3.

A graduate of Harvard University, O’Brien is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She began her career as an associate producer and news writer at the then NBC affiliate WBZ-TV in Boston. She would work long hours as a local reporter and bureau chief for NBC affiliate KRON in San Francisco.

She later joined NBC in 1991 in New York where she worked as a field producer for Nightly News and TODAY. O’Brien came to CNN, where she anchored the network’s Weekend Today since July 1999. At CNN, O’Brien would earn numerous awards and accolades for groundbreaking coverage and reports.

She became co-anchor of CNN’s flagship morning program, American Morning in July 2003. There she covered world-changing events like Hurricane Katrina, Southeast and Thailand Tsunamis, and the 2005 London terrorist attacks. She earned the George Foster Peabody Award for her Katrina coverage and the Alfred I. DuPont Award for her coverage of the tsunami. Other accolades include the Gracie Allen Award in 2007 on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, a NAACP President’s Award, also in 2007, for her humanitarian efforts and journalistic excellence. In 2008, she received the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Goodermote Humanitarian Award for her reports on Katrina and the Southeast Asia tsunami and was the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award from Morehouse School of Medicine for promoting social change. O’Brien was also awarded the Brotherhood Crusade Pioneer African American Achievement Award by the Brotherhood Crusade in 2009.

One of her most recent projects was Black in America 2, which was a four-hour documentary that focused on successful community leaders who improved quality of life for African Americans.

O’Brien’s Black in America in 2008 revealed that state of Blacks 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She has also reported for the CNN documentary Words That Changed a Nation, which featured never-before-seen footage of Dr. King’s private writings and notes, and her investigation of his assassination. Her project, Children of the Storm and One Crime at a Time documentaries have shown her dedication to stories coming out of New Orleans.

What are Blacks to do About Ron Paul?

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) has come under fire over allegations that a newsletter he edited years ago contained racist commentary. The old geezer is being punk’d by people Black voters really should be leery of instead of quoting. Publicizing of comments published in the 1980s and 1990s reeks as a the latest agenda to mis-educate Black voters. To charge Paul with “racism” is misleading.

Ron Paul is far from being a foe of Black Americans. He is to be admired as a man of principles and a comrade in foiling America’s imperialists and the war crowd that probably were sources of the racially-charged commentaries. In contrast to what has turned up, if Blacks look a little closer they’d see that Paul’s political positions are in line with those preached and practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK’s position on foreign policy was vastly more similar to Paul’s than it is to any other presidential candidate.

Paul is hardly the racist that the mainstream media would have Blacks believe him to be. Blacks have more in common with Paul’s opposition to America’s penchant for imperialistic wars and absurd rationalities behind them like “Manifest Destiny” and “American Exceptionalism” than with President Obama.

Think about it, Paul has been on the national scene for 30 years. He has been labeled “conservative”, “Constitutionalist” and “libertarian”, but never “racist.” Much of Paul’s opposition comes from fear in some pro-Israel circles that Paul reflects an ascendant faction that has little use for a foreign policy so tilted toward Israel. Paul is not “a mainstream man” and the only candidate seeking to change the status quo in America. A medical doctor, Paul advocates ending the drug war and fixing a biased court system that unfairly targets and punishes minorities.

Paul may have made enough people mad enough to punk him, but Blacks have to be discerning in knowing what his actual views toward us are. Over the years Paul’s positions have remained clear and transparent. He hasn’t wavered in his voting or policy ideals. What candidate can you name that is more serious on fiscal matters? Paul wants to get rid of many federal agencies and would like to audit and perhaps abolish the Federal Reserve Bank. Paul advocates an end to the death penalty and, as president, plans to bring all military troops home.

People tied to the military/industrial complex loathe Paul the most. He labels their banter against Iran “warmongering” and states: “In all wars minorities suffer the most. So I hope that they join me in this position … against the war in Iraq… and the war on drugs.” What other candidates will stand up and say “I will pardon … everybody convicted for non-violent drug acts and drug crimes. This is where the real discrimination is … the judicial system … that I’m attacking.”

Paul brings a breath of honesty and accountability to the 2012 presidential races. Blacks of all political stripes would benefit from an honest debate during this season about campaign finance reform, military spending, torture of enemy combatants, immigration, the Federal Reserve, free trade agreements, gay marriage and prison sentences for drug use Paul’s candidacy brings about. In his opposition to American imperialism, Paul provides a certain appeal to people who see through the lies fuelling the Bush/Obama foreign policy: using the American military on behalf of the banks and multinationals. An unbridled military industrial complex is against the interest of any thinking American, and many voters are starting to rethink America’s foreign policy. For these views, Paul has growing appeal among Americans and is being “played”; as he’s portrayed as a racist on racist mediums.

As the primaries play out, look at Paul for practical political positions that help our nation. Black voters should move beyond the newsletters in judging Paul. Try judging his efforts to end a “war on drugs” that has contributed to the mass incarceration of the poor and people of color, you’ll find him far from racist and quite progressive.

 

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