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After 30 Years of Appeals, Prosecutors Rule Out Execution of Abu-Jamal

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By Herb Boyd and Nayaba Arinde, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Almost 30 years after being convicted of shooting a police officer and spending nearly an equal number of years on death row, Mumia Abu-Jamal, 57, is free of the death sentence but still might spend the rest of his life behind bars. Hearing the news on Wednesday afternoon though, his supporters immediately felt relief but instantly turned their focus to continuing the fight to get a new trial for the former journalist and Black Panther activist.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, prosecutors, with the support of the Philadelphia's police commissioner and the widow of the slain officer Daniel Faulkner announced they would no longer pursue the death penalty in the case.

"There has never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs."

There are thousands in America and around the world who strongly disagree with Williams, who is Black, and they have voiced their support for Abu-Jamal, many of them calling not only for the end of the death penalty but for a new trial.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of Abu-Jamal's many worldwide supporters demanding his release. In a statement (see Opinion), he said, "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life-yet another form of death sentence. Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released. I therefore join the call, and ask others to follow, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights and justice: Drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released, with full time served."

Tutu decried the fact that Abu-Jamal's nearly 30 years as a Pennsylvania death row prisoner were equivalent to "torture...because he is innocent, justice for Mumia will not be served by life imprisonment, but by his release from prison."

"This is only a partial victory," summed up attorney Roger Wareham of the December 12th Movement's International Secretariat. "At least he has been removed from death row. But the case is not over...Mumia Abu-Jamal did not do the crime, so we will keep fighting to get the conviction overturned."

An international industry has been built around freeing Abu-Jamal over the last three decades. Few have been more vigilant in this quest for freedom and justice than Pam Africa, chairwoman of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On many occasions, at rallies, marches and conferences, she has vociferously cried out on his behalf. "We're calling on the attorney general," she said in a recent speech. "And when I say we, I'm saying there are several groups and organizations that are spearheaded by the New York [Free Mumia Abu-Jamal] Coalition that is calling on the attorney general, because what we're pointing out is that Mumia cannot get any fairness whatsoever.

"Mumia cannot get any fairness in this court system, so we're calling on the U.S. attorney general [Eric Holder] to do a civil rights investigation into this case, because Mumia's civil rights, from the beginning to the end, and our civil rights as citizens of this United States who have pointed out the evidence very clearly [are threatened]. That, nobody can get around. Mumia is innocent. He is factually innocent," Africa asserted.

"We know with this mountain of evidence that our freedom fighter Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent of the crime, and he has remained behind bars for 30 years simply because of his political stance, which is to free the minds and hearts of Black people," said Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron, a fellow original Black Panther. "We celebrate the fact that he will be off death row, but this has been a long time coming; and now we continue the fight to bring him home and address this heinous injustice."

Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. A year later he was sentenced to death.

For more than a quarter of a century, his plight has garnered international attention with protest rallies organized from San Francisco to Paris. There's even a street named after him in France.

Celebrities such as Danny Glover, Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins have signed petitions and appeared on panels denouncing the death penalty and calling for a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Several years ago, there was even a confession from a man who said he was responsible for killing the officer and that Abu-Jamal was innocent. His story corroborated one that Abu-Jamal has maintained since his arrest. He said he witnessed his brother scuffling with a police officer early that morning and ran towards the scene. Subsequently, Abu-Jamal was found wounded by a bullet from Faulkner's gun. Meanwhile, Faulkner was found dead nearby. According to the police, the revolver found near the scene with five spent shells was registered to Abu-Jamal.

In his statement, Tutu pointed out that there are "thousands of other cases in Philadelphia in which the prosecutor, the judge and the police conspired to obtain a conviction." He also brings up the concealed existence of a fourth person at the crime scene, Kenneth Freeman.

"Within hours of the shooting, a driver's license application found in Officer Faulkner's shirt pocket led the police to Freeman, who was identified as the shooter in a lineup," said the archbishop. "Yet, Freeman's presence at the scene was concealed, first by Inspector Alfonso Giordano and later at trial by prosecutor Joe McGill. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted that withholding evidence of innocence by the prosecutor warrants the overturning of a conviction."

Tutu surmised that the "police investigation that led to Abu-Jamal's conviction was also riddled with corruption and tampering with evidence."

In October, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. It was then left to the prosecution whether they wanted to pursue the death penalty or resort to a life sentence.

Abu-Jamal has not been silent about his predicament and his broadcasts and writings have earned him a wide audience, and the publication of his latest book, "Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. USA" (City Lights), is sure to increase his following threefold. Readers interested in learning more about his life and writings will be vastly rewarded by getting a copy of "We Want Freedom" (South End Press, 2004). In addition, his review of Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" will appear soon in a collection of essays and reviews, "By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X, Real, Not Reinvented," edited by Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga and Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press, 2012).

Gap in D.C.'s Black-White Educational Achievement Widest in U.S., Study Shows

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

The gap between Black and White educational achievement is wider among D.C. Public School (DCPS) students than anywhere else in the U.S., a federally funded study has concluded. The 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress released Dec. 7, based on reading and math exams taken this year by fourth- and eighth-graders, revealed a 57-point and 62-point gap, respectively, in math and reading scores for District students.

The overall test results nationally showed student improvement in math, but strikingly little progress in reading, in state-by-state comparisons. Twenty-one large urban districts, including the District, have their results published separately from state results. D.C.’s gap was greater than the national average and for cities with populations of 250,000 or more.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, the umbrella association for large urban school systems, told The Washington Post that the racial achievement gap was more indicative of an income gap, noting that students in predominantly White Ward 3 scored higher than White students nationally, compared with students in Wards 7 and 8 – where the majority of the city’s child population resides – who tend to be poorer.

The DCPS is 79 percent Black, 12 percent Hispanic, 7 percent White and 2 percent self-described as “other.”

While the numbers are striking, the assessment study did not include charter schools, which educate about 40 percent of DCPS students. A separate analysis showed that Black charter school students tended to score higher than their traditionally-schooled counterparts in reading and math.

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson told The Post, “We believe we have put the pieces in place to radically change these results and close the gap,” which would include more intervention, a new curriculum and improved teacher training

An iHoliday, Anyone?

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By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) When parents read the holiday classic, The Night before Christmas to their children, assuming of course this is a tradition that is still being followed, are they doing it from a classic picture book? Or from an electronic device that ensures “visions of sugarplums” are literally dancing in full color across a tablet’s screen? Do little girls still ask Santa for Barbies or Easy Bake Ovens (amazing what a strong light bulb can do, isn’t it)? And little boys for trucks and action figures? Does either still ask for shiny new bikes? (I was so excited the Christmas I got a tandem – you know a bicycle built for two – and I begged my mom to let me ride it right then and there in the snow…Best Christmas ever)! But, sadly no. According to a recent Nielsen survey, now when children make out their lists, there is a very good chance they are asking for an iPad. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Nielsen tracks, measures and analyzes everything consumers watch and purchase around the globe, especially during this time of year, and our data shows that the Apple iPad is at the top of the electronics request list among nearly half (44%) of the 6-12 year old set. That number is up from 31% in 2010. I’m sorry, but I waited until my son was 12 before I even considered getting him a no bells and whistles cell phone, so any phone at age six would be out of the question, let alone an iPad. Other “i” products round out the wish list for this holiday season – the Apple iPod Touch (30%) and iPhone (27%). Apple isn’t monopolizing the list, though – 25% of younger consumers want computers and other tablet brands.

Games are still big. Er, no, I’m not talking about Monopoly, Sorry or Connect Four (a few personal favorites). Research shows that many of today’s kids are asking for Nintendo 3DS (25%) and Kinect for Xbox360 (23%). Younger children are perfectly happy to ask for older game systems like Nintendo DS (22%), PlayStation 3 (17%) and Xbox360 (16%).

The Nielsen survey results indicate that those of us over age 13 also have iPads more on our wish lists this year (24%) than in 2010 (18%). Thanks to Apple iPads, there seems to be new tablet offerings popping up left and right – and 17% of us are interested in those brands. Even with the popularity of the all-inclusive tablets, 18% of adults and older teens are expressing an interest in E-Readers, which is slightly up from a year ago (15%).

I always feel more connected when I realize that people around the globe are much more alike than we are different. We Americans are not alone with technology topping the gift-giving (and gift asking) department. Another recent Nielsen survey conducted in 56 countries reveals that technology ranks number one around the world, followed by clothing and books. And, even though holiday traditions differ around the world, the universal theme for us all (well, most of us, anyway) is celebrating on a budget. We’ve got to pay for those fancy electronics, clothes, or books and whatever else may be on our shopping lists. Here’s how we stack up against the rest of the world in terms of our pocketbooks:

· Nearly three-quarters (73%) of global consumers expect to spend the same or less on holiday gifts this year than last.
· Most Americans surveyed (66%) plan to spend the same as they did in 2010.
· About half (48%) of global consumers expect to spend about the same as last year.
· 25% of global consumers plan to spend less this year.
· 11% (concentrated in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions) plan to spend more this holiday.
· 15% do not purchase holiday gifts.

Shopping on a “budget” may mean different things to different consumers. Fifty percent have budgeted between $250 and $500 to spend this holiday season. Thirty percent plan to spend between $500 and $1,000. Only 17 percent report plans to spend more than $1,000. These are good figures to keep in mind as you venture out for Holiday shopping. Always the procrastinator, I’ve perpetually been a late Holiday shopper, sometimes right up until Christmas Eve. In keeping with my pattern, I will just be getting started this weekend.

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas or any other shopping opportunity, remember the reason for the season. Now get out there and embrace your consumer power like never before. Happy Holidays!

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsen/africanamerican.com.

China Admits a Downside in Trade with Africa

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – Not everything glows brightly in the trade deals China is cutting with Africa although they are the envy of western countries including the U.S.

After investing almost a billion dollars on the African continent, Chi Jianxin, head of the China-Africa Development Fund, admitted all is not well.

China has not been able to realize a profit, Chi said in a recent interview in Beijing. The Asian giant is still seeking a “beneficial result” in the long term, he told a reporter with Bloomberg News.

“When we started, we didn’t have investing experience in Africa, and we hoped to have a quite good profit in three to five years so we could exit investments,” said Chi. “But we’ve seen it’s not as easy as that.”

China is Africa’s largest trading partner and has signed agreements worth billions of dollars with African governments, seeking natural resources to feed its economic growth in exchange for building roads and railways, and nurturing a market for its products.

Presence of 'Blood Diamonds' with 'Good Stones' Alarms Group

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

(GIN) – So-called ‘blood diamonds’ are again on the market, glittering in the showcases of the world’s toniest shops, as the regulators who certified good stones from those mined at the point of a gun are now at odds.

Human rights watchdog Global Witness this week said that loopholes and foot dragging by members of the Kimberley Process, a diamond certification body, fatally damaged the institution, and they pledged to withdraw.

The UK-based group said it was particularly outraged by authorized exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields where 200 miners were killed during an army occupation. Mining concessions were then granted in questionable circumstances to several companies, some linked to senior figures in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

The diamond industry should be required to prove that the gems it sells are not fuelling abuse, said Chairman Gooch, a founding director of Global Witness. “Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and what was done to obtain it,” added Gooch.

"Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes" said Gooch.

Zimbabwe officials downplayed the departure of Global Witness. "They are in the business of lobbying, and we are in the business of selling diamonds," said deputy mines minister Gift Chimanikire. "We will sell those diamonds. That will not stop us."

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