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KKK Letter Ignites Safety Concern

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By Floyd Alvin Galloway, Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant –

Columbine in Colorado – 1999, Heath High School in Paducah Kentucky - 1997, University of Arizona -2002, Virginia Tech 2007. Far too often violence has erupted on the campuses of too many schools, from grade schools to universities. In most of the cases there were signs that officials and others didn’t take seriously.

Daniesha Flannigan loved her job as a Student Resource Center service coordinator. She loved helping students achieve their academic goals and encouraging them to continue in their pursuit of furthering their careers and education. Working in the position for four years things changed drastically when she was emailed a letter from student Eric Frizzle on December 30, 2010, asking her to proof read the letter for him.

The letter was his request for his membership in the terrorist group, Ku Klux Klan. Frizzell was no ordinary looking student according to Flannigan. “He is in his 40’s or 50’s. He would always dress in black jeans, black shirt, black trench coat, looking like the two involved with the Columbine shootings in Colorado.” Most of the employees were aware of Frizzell and avoided him Flannigan stated, because he gave them an eerie feeling.

In his opening he proclaims, “Here we go-yehaa!” In the letter Frizzell states, “I would not only like to become the Klan historian, but I am also striving for life membership in the Klan; and I am fully aware of the commitments that are required of me, here.”

He goes on to say, “I didn’t rejoin The Knights only to set around letting my mouth overload my ass.” The Knights he is referring to is the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society The primary economic and political goal of this organization was to create a prosperous, slave-holding Southern Empire extending in the shape of a circle from their proposed capital at Havana, Cuba, through the southern states of the United States, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Flannigan immediately reported the letter to her supervisors, the same day. The only African American in her location, she was concerned with her safety. Flannigan felt the student was trying to send her an intimidating message. The response from her supervisors and company officials were not what she had hoped for.

A month after receiving the letter and voicing her concerns with officials the student was still seen on campus. This is the same student that had previously been banned from one of the other campuses Flannigan later learned. But was not aware of the reason why, but knew it had to be critical.

Flannigan’s co-workers would give her signals when they would see Frizzell. When Frizzell was given a letter of reprimand he made it a point to give his letter of appeal to Flannigan, which let her know that he knew she was the one the filed the complaint. “The student was allowed to continue to come to the campus and give me his letter of appeal in regards to the incident and complete his course. No one of authority wanted to address the student, but I still had to have contact with him when he was well aware of the complaint that I made against him. I don’t think that was putting my safety first,” Flannigan stated in an email she sent to Flora Dominquez, Apollo Group Inc., Human Resources.

In February 2011, Flannigan filed for Family Medical Leave of Absence and in May requested an extension. Noting the stress from that situation has greatly affected her life. Flannigan was also a student at the University of Phoenix, ten credits short of her degree. Now she doesn’t know how or when she will be able to finish. The unemployed Flannigan now says the school is calling her for payment for the 10 credits she is was not able to finish.

The situation was so stressful that it began affecting not only her work life, but also her home life. Instead of supporting Flannigan they began to question her. Urging her to get her emotions together, school offered to change her work schedule, which would not suppress her concerns but put her in more danger she felt. She began to seek professional help from a therapist. According to Flannigan she was diagnosed with post traumatic syndrome.

The university’s handling of the issue outraged Rev. Oscar Tillman, president of Maricopa County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Ms. Flannigan came to us when she was not getting any satisfaction from the school. When she came to us they started to come after her and made her feel like she was the person causing trouble.”

Rev. Tillman noted in trying to reach the president of Apollo group to discuss the matter he was unsuccessful and was given the run around by others. “We are here to work with people. The NAACP is a place for people to turn to. In many cases when they do they become targeted by the company officials.”

This is not the first racial incident the educational group has been called on. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Ohio chapter filed a complaint with the school on several issues a couple of years ago. The hiring and promotion of African Americans have also been complaint for years Rev. Tillman noted.

Dominique Brown, Apollo’s corporate diversity officer, who has only been with the company for five months, admits there probably were some things that could have been handled differently in Flannigan’s case. “She probably felt there was no one to turn to.” Brown said that is one the reasons she is in the position that had been vacant for some time before her. School would not release statistical information on African American employees.

Mario Middleton, Apollo’s national director for African American Affairs noted that the group is working with several groups on the national level to assist in its diversity issues. The company is lacking in African Americans in executive decision-making positions and faculty positions.

“We understand we have a lot of African American students. We are trying to make changes. One of the changes is launching of our school’s diversity initiative, which is in recruiting and maintaining minority employees. We know it is a work in progress. We are committed to development and engagement," said Brown. "Take a look at us in few months,” Brown noted she is willing to talk with Rev. Tillman to find a solution to Flannigan’s situation. Flannigan states she hopes no one else in the future has to experience hostile environment she experienced.

Angola's Top Brass Accused of 'Crimes against Humanity' in New Suit

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By Sami Disu, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) - Angolan anti-corruption campaigner and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais filed a criminal complaint this week against mining businesses and seven Angolan generals for daily acts of torture and frequently murder against villagers and informal miners in diamond producing regions.

Those charged include Minister of State Gen. Manuel Helder Vieira (Kopelipa), and several high commanders in the Angolan Armed Forces for abuses amounting to “crimes against humanity”.

The criminal case, filed at the offices of Angola’s attorney-general last week, will be closely watched by anti-corruption and civil society groups in this poor, but mineral- and petroleum-rich country.

Marques, who has been investigating systematic human rights abuses and corruption in Angola’s Lunda region since 2004, is the author of Blood Diamond: Torture and Corruption in Angola. He has previously called on foreign countries to boycott Angola's "conflict diamonds".

Angola, in south-central Africa, has one of the widest income gaps between rich and poor. An extensive list of human rights abuses committed by the government appears on the 2010 Human Rights Report of the U.S. State Dept. published in April of this year.

Illness Catches Up to Zimbabwe's Aging Leader Mugabe

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) - Frequent trips abroad for treatment of prostate disease are fuelling speculation that President Robert Mugabe may not survive his current condition.

Party officials, contemplating Mr. Mugabe’s deteriorating health, have been overheard wishing for a replacement who is younger and fresher. Last week he was rushed to Singapore for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife Grace. It was his ninth visit to that Asian country this year.

"In 2012 Mugabe will be 88… His age and his face are an election issue. He is no longer appealing to the people and his age is not an age where people can invest their future in an 88 year old, who is always in and out of hospital," said former news editor Pedzisai Ruhanya interviewed by SW Radio Africa.

According to local area news reports, President Mugabe has spent $20 million for doctor visits to Singapore just this year alone.

Meanwhile, American investors are sizing up business opportunities in this conflicted country. In a recent visit to Victoria Falls, Chicago developer and real estate mogul, Elzie Higgenbottom, reportedly scoped out venues for a major hotel, convention center and casino. Also on the trip was retired congressman Mel Reynolds whose business interests, he said, include manufacturing medical gloves.

Reynolds said to a local editor: “As a former elected official and now as a businessman my personal view is that President Mugabe is one of the last Lions of Africa that brought freedom to the people of this Great Continent. Africans can debate all day as to how a country should or must be run, but it should be impossible to forget those who made it possible to be able to debate as a free people.”

The Laws of Consumer Power in Motion

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By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, NNPA Columnist –

Let’s give a shout out to English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton who, way back in 1687, developed the Theories of Black Consumer Power. Well, ok, if you want to get technical about it he didn’t name it that. He named it The Three Laws of Motion. But wow, do they explain a lot about your consumer power.

Newton’s First Law of Motion, otherwise known as the Law of Inertia, states “an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” The Second Law of Motion essentially says “motion acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass the greater the amount of force needed to move the object.” And the Third Law of Motion is “for every action there is an equal (and opposite) reaction.” Those of you who read this column regularly, immediately, see the connection between Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and your power, right? For those of you who need a little help read on.

Globally, Nielsen measures what consumers like you watch and buy. Our clients -- advertisers, networks, major corporations and retailers -- pay us for this information to help them best determine which programs, services and/or products to provide you. This is a clear case of the Third Law: “for every action (whatever/wherever/whenever you watch or buy something) there is an equal and opposite reaction (companies determine where and whether to provide more or less of a program, product or service or advertising dollars based on your action).

But what if you don’t like how a company is reacting to your actions? For example, African-Americans watch 40% more TV than others (action) but we don’t often see people who look like us or positive images of ourselves portrayed on television (an opposite reaction). Then you should invoke the First Law which says: An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” YOU can be the unbalanced force. Stop watching the programs that don’t portray positive images. Tell your kids to stop watching them too! Speak up when products aren’t in your stores, or when the stores themselves aren’t in your neighborhoods. Unless you do something to throw things off balance they will continue in the same direction.

Nielsen recently released The State of the African-American Consumer Report, a groundbreaking, in-depth, first-of-its kind study developed in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association. It highlights the buying power and areas where Blacks over-index (or use more of) specific products and services.

• We make more shopping trips annually each year (167) than other households
• 1/3 of all African-Americans own a smartphone (that’s 14 million of us ya’ll!)
• We talk more on our mobile phones than whites (1300 minutes vs. 606)
• We tend to be brand loyal But companies may not be reacting accordingly: In the advertising
industry, money spent on television advertising alone reached $69 billion in 2010. But for African-American media? Only $1.9 billion was spent totality for all media buys:
• $916 million on TV
• $704 million on spot radio
• $362 million in national magazines

When it comes to advertising, some companies are doing it right: Procter & Gamble remained number one in African-American media buys, followed by L’Oreal (SoftSheen Carson by the way is a L’Oreal brand), Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and McDonald’s were the top five companies who advertised to the African-American market. Their ads have people who look like us in them and we can find their products and/or services in our neighborhoods.

We have to move other companies in this same positive direction. That’s not always easy. But the Second Law of Motion, which I’ve dubbed The David versus Goliath Law can be helpful. It basically says, the bigger something is the more force you’re going to have to exert to move it. You or I alone may not be able to get more advertising dollars going to Black Media. You or I alone may not be able to get the images changed on the screen. But collectively, with a projected spending power of $1.1 trillion by 2015? Lordy, what a force we can be!

What does it take to get you into motion? Download The State of the African American Consumer Report at www.nielsen.com/africanamerican or look for an excerpt of it as an insert in your local Black newspaper. And then get moving. More power to you.

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

Equal Credit Elusive for Minorities, Says Assistant Attorney General

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Federal regulators and lenders convened November 6-9 in Baltimore to review and analyze whether the goals of the nation’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and fair lending laws are being observed. The annual event, now in its 15th year, attracted sell-out attendance to hear a series of expert presenters’ insights and analyses.

For Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, the annual colloquium became the occasion for a keynote address that reminded the audience that for communities of color, fair lending remains elusive. “Regrettably, we have found” said Perez, “that all too often borrowers are judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their creditworthiness.”

As head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division since October 2009, Perez noted that more than half of the 2010 referrals received from other federal lending regulators involved discrimination on race or national origin.

Through the creation of a dedicated Fair Lending Unit at DOJ, over $30 million in direct compensation for individuals whose rights were violated has been secured. Also in 2010, the unit reached settlements or filed complaints in 10 pattern or practice lending cases. Of these ten cases, nine have been settled since last year.

Much of this enforcement, according to Perez, is accomplished in collaboration with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. With representatives from DOJ and other federal agencies, as well as state attorneys general and local law enforcement, the task force investigates and prosecutes a wide range of financial crimes.

“Without a credible enforcement program,” said Perez, “we can never achieve full compliance with the law or fully level the playing field between responsible lending institutions and unscrupulous lenders.”

In 2011, a record number of cases have been filed under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Currently, there are seven authorized lawsuits and more than 20 active investigations involving redlining claims, pricing discrimination, and product steering based on race or national origin.

In an effort to address the devastation of neighborhoods and home values, the Civil Rights Division is including innovative provisions to address the full scope of damage done, in addition to settlement terms stipulating more traditional remedies such as a marketing campaigns or establishing a physical presence in under-served communities.

For example, in a St. Louis settlement with Midwest Bank, the decree calls for assistance to help residents repair their credit and provide access to low-cost checking accounts. Similarly, in the metropolitan Detroit decree with Citizens Bank, the lender must provide home improvement grants to current homeowners living in neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosures. Both Citizens and Midwest agreed to find solutions that would allow them to remedy the harm done while also reaching new customers.

In cases where African-American and Latino borrowers were charged more than similarly qualified white borrowers, the Civil Rights Division examined loan origination practices, guidelines on how fees or interest rates were set, and whether there was any documentation to explain differences in prices.

Summarizing goals for both current and future efforts, Perez called for transparent transactions, prompt decisions, fair lending, and open communication with all borrowers.

“It is the stubborn persistence of race as a factor in the pricing of loans” concluded Perez, “even after you account for relevant creditworthiness factors that we seek to address through our enforcement actions. The disparity grows as you move up the credit score ladder. All too frequently, equal credit opportunity remains elusive for minorities, even upper-income minorities who are creditworthy.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

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