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Casey Anthony Judge Belvin Perry: Next Judge Mathis?

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Throughout the media circus that surrounded the murder trial of Casey Anthony, Judge Belvin Perry is the one person that many claim brought dignity to the proceedings. Now, the Tuskegee University grad is thought of as a star in the legal field.

Several gossip websites are reporting that Perry is in line for his own TV court show in the mold of “Judge Mathis,” a reality show broadcast nationally.

“He's been on the bench since the late 80's and has presided over several high profile cases so his résumé is TV cred-ready,” “Cult of Celebrity” author, Cooper Lawrence told PopEater.com of Perry. “But the real draw is that he doesn't like shenanigans going on in his courtroom, like when he let [lead defense attorney Anthony] Baez have it with, 'We're not stopping anymore for you to get a file!’”

Perry was praised for how he handled many things in the case, including the attorneys, whose bickering in the closing arguments caused him to clear the courtroom.

When the recess was concluded, reports say Perry told the attorneys; “if it happens again, the remedy will be exclusion of that attorney from further representation at these proceedings. Enough is enough.”

Perry, who got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tuskegee, has the distinction of being one of Orlando’s first Black police officers. Perry resigned from the police force in 1976 and a year later obtained his law degree from Texas Southern University.

In 1989, Perry was named Circuit Judge in Osceola County, Fla. and was elevated to Administrative Circuit Court Judge two years later. In 1992, he became Circuit Judge for Orange County, Florida’s criminal court and served in that position for three years. Since 1995, Perry has been the chief judge for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, which includes Osceola and Orange counties, except for two years between 1999-2001 when he was Circuit Judge in Orange County.

Perry currently is a member of the Texas, Florida, and Orange County Bar Associations as well as a member of the Trial Court Budget

Questions for Sudan Amidst South Succession

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By Saeed Shabazz, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

UNITED NATIONS - The news reports concerning Africa's newest nation, South Sudan, seem to change with the wind. But one thing is for sure, South Sudan gained its official independence July 9 and eyes will be on the capital Juba that day, particularly to see if Northern Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir showed up.

President Al-Bashir has a warrant against him from the International Criminal Court, issued in 2009 on charges of alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for alleged atrocities in the Western region of Darfur. He has categorically denied the charges, saying the ICC is a tool of neo-colonialism. Some are saying the ICC charges were a bargaining chip, used as leverage by Western nations to marginalize President Al-Bashir and to weaken his opposition to secession by the South.

A referendum vote on secession was a big part of the 2005 comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended two decades of civil war that began in 1983, between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan.

The Sudan Tribune reported June 28 that an official invite had been extended to President Al-Bashir, despite threats from Western leaders, such as President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister David Cameron that they would not participate in Juba if President Al-Bashir was present.

On June 29, the Associated Press reported officials in South Sudan want the U.S. to remove economic sanctions against the North in place since 1997, when then-President Bill Clinton said Sudan supported terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden.

AP revealed the vice president of South Sudan spent three weeks in the U.S. recently in discussions with the Obama administration and ambassadors representing the United Nations Security Council, attempting to get them to realize U.S. sanctions against the Northern regime in Khartoum serve no real purpose today. Since the peace agreement, North and South have shared oil revenues equally, with the lion's-share of the 500,000 barrels a day coming from the South, according to the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, a group of organizations who say they want to ensure equitable distribution of Sudan's oil wealth.

But, according to the finance minister in Khartoum, the result of the South's secession will be a 36.5 percent drop in revenue. A recent press briefing by a senior U.S. State Department official alluded to the need for agreement between North and South. “They are so intertwined economically that they can hurt each other and hurt themselves very badly, whether it's oil, new currencies, trade or border issues,” said the State Department.

The official then poured salt on the wound, saying the only path for Khartoum was to find peace in Darfur to get back into the good graces of the international community because the North has “major economical adjustments to make.”

Observers say Washington has opposed Northern Sudan receiving support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as a state sponsor of terrorism. News sources in Washington say the administration is preparing to remove Sudan from its blacklist of nation's sponsoring terrorism, but that is contingent on the Al-Bashir government pulling of its army from the contested border region Abyei.

On June 20, the North and South signed an interim agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered, to demilitarize Abyei.

The U.N. Security Council, on June 27, passed a unanimous resolution that establishes a 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeeping force known as UNISFA (United Nations Interim Force for Abyei). The peacekeeping force would monitor redeployment of the Sudan Armed Forces and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army from the Abyei region, roughly the size of Connecticut.

The resolution charges the interim force with facilitating delivery of humanitarian aid and the free movement of relief workers. UNISFA troops would also provide security for the region's oil infrastructure.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said her government “welcomed the agreement,” but said nothing about lifting sanctions against Khartoum.

Guineans Fuming Over Media's Treatment of Alleged Victim in Strauss-Kahn Case

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

When former Socialist candidate for the presidency, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was released from house arrest when new evidence challenged the charges against him for the attempted rape of an African hotel maid at a luxury hotel in NYC, the move enraged many of her fellow countrymen.

Strauss-Kahn (known as “DSK”) was released on allegations that the victim – a young Muslim woman from Guinea - might have lied to the Grand Jury and misrepresented certain facts.

Strauss Kahn had been held in detention since his arrest May 15th while seated in a plane bound for his home country France.

Mamoudou Diallo, eldest brother to the Guinean hotel maid, disputed the accusations against his sister that included headlines in the New York Post calling her a prostitute. "They're nothing but lies, all to discredit my sister,” he said bitterly. A lawsuit has been filed against the Post, alleging slander.

The alleged victim of sexual assault comes from the village of Thiacoule, 280 miles from the capital, Conakry. It is a staunch Muslim community, which survives on communal farming and cattle. She was described as a hard worker.

Thierno Maadjo Sow, president of the Guinean Organization for Human Rights asserted that, "In this case it's all about the strong against the weak."

"Even if they find something compromising about this young lady, that doesn't prove that nothing happened and that Strauss-Kahn didn't try to do something he shouldn't have," added Souleymane Bah, a communications expert.

“What matters most in this case is this: is DSK guilty yes or no? Did he try to rape this young woman yes or no? It's this question we need to find an answer to," Bah said. Strauss-Kahn still faces charges that he sexually assaulted the young woman.

Meanwhile, in France, a 32-year-old French author, Tristane Banon, has filed new charges against DSK. Her mother is a prominent member of the French Socialist party. Banon claims Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she interviewed him in 2002.

Chicago to Hold Banks Responsible for Foreclosed Property

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

In an effort to combat the problem of abandoned properties in Chicago neighborhoods, the City Council approved an ordinance that will hold lending institutions responsible for the upkeep of properties foreclosed upon. The move comes as community groups have become increasingly vocal over the last few weeks because of an upsurge in crime during the summer months. Residents say the abandoned buildings create a crime haven for drug dealers, gang members and squatters. The buildings also cost taxpayers. As of last year the, city spent $15 million for general upkeep, demolition and board-ups of abandoned properties. “All too often, communities are devastated by foreclosures as vacant properties fall into disrepair and the City takes on an unnecessary financial burden,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This ordinance will help protect neighborhoods hit hard by these difficult economic times. This issue affects every part of the city… but is concentrated in communities that need all the help they can get to stay afloat.”

Council members say they too have grown tired of fielding complaints from constituents about bank properties not being taken care of. Several aldermen said the problem has gotten so out of control, due to the bad economy, they have had to assign a staff member full-time for just this one issue. “I’ve had to call my ward superintendent several times to have him clean out yards and talk with my police commanders when we have squatters going in buildings. This ordinance will work to ensure that entire communities are not left behind when individual properties are foreclosed upon,” said the alderman who introduced the ordinance, Pat Dowell. “Banks will be responsible for keeping vacant properties from deteriorating while the foreclosure is in process, keeping them secure and keeping our neighborhoods intact.”

The issue of vacant buildings and squatters is a serious one. This past winter, two firefighters were killed and a dozen more injured as they battled a blaze on the South Side. Investigators believe the fire was started by homeless people who were using the heat to keep warm on a cold winter night. Vacant buildings also create other problems, according to Action Now, a community-based group that focuses on social issues in Chicago neighborhoods. Marsha Godard, a representative for the group, worked with Dowell to address the foreclosure issue. A resident of North Lawndale, Godard said vacant buildings pull down the morale of the neighborhood, in addition to creating health problems.

“It’s an eyesore to the community to have grass as tall as me,” said Godard, who added there are four abandoned buildings on her block alone. “It’s not a good feeling when I go home and I feel bad because in this neighborhood you can’t even let your kids go outside to play because you are fearful they can be pulled into one of the vacant properties and beaten, raped or killed. And because of the economy, you can’t move anywhere, so you are stuck in this environment.”

Godard said abandon buildings also become nests for rats, roaches, possums and she has even had a raccoon as a neighbor. She said the wildlife creates health concerns for not just humans, but for pets as well. On her block, neighbors have taken it upon themselves as a community to try to keep the abandoned properties clean. But even that is difficult. “The gang members come and just take over. They drink and just throw their beer and wine bottles all over other people’s property so we are constantly cleaning.”

Currently, lenders and lien holders of vacant properties are responsible for maintenance only after they own a foreclosed property. The ordinance amends the current municipal code. Owners will be required to implement routine maintenance on properties such as boarding entrances to a building; responding to complaints relating to the building; cutting grass and shoveling snow or face fines from

Proposed Federal Budget Cuts Could End HUD Counseling

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

As President Obama and Congress strive to resolve different priorities in the nation’s 2012 federal budget, some are proposing an end to the only federal program that provides valuable housing counseling to millions of Americans. Majority members of a House subcommittee seek to zero out the $87.5 million program offering at-risk services has helped serve more than 11 million Americans since 2006. The range of services offered benefit homebuyers, homeowners, renters, and the homeless.

Housing advocates are also warning against the likely scams that will result from the service void.

If allowed to be axed from the new budget, not only will thousands of people not be served; but thousands of housing counselors will be laid off and some local agencies could close their doors. Most importantly, the homeowners now facing foreclosure will no longer have qualified, reliable and free services in their local communities.

In response, housing advocates have only a few days to organize and present an online petition supporting preservation of the counseling services. Although, at press time, over 2,000 people had signed the petition begun by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, (http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-congress-restore-housing-counseling-to-keep-people-in-their-homes), many more signatures will be required to overcome the proposed cut.

While many foreclosures have occurred in urban areas, there are signs that future scams will occur in suburbs as well. Just a few days ago, Supreme Court Justices in Nassau County, New York froze the multi-million dollar assets of two companies that demanded upfront fees in exchange for a promise to secure mortgage modifications. Reportedly, the firms took money from more than 1,000 families across the country.

In suburban Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Marci Polokoff, a counselor told her suburban paper, The Courier Times, “One of my biggest concerns, knowing all this funding is going away, [is that] a lot of scams are probably going to pick up because people aren’t going to get the free services that were out there. They’re grasping for straws trying to find somebody to help them. They’re not going to be educated not to [fall for scams].”

The According to the Coalition of HUD Housing Counseling Intermediaries, the need for housing services already exceeds current funding levels. A significant number of those served were senior homeowners. HUD data shows that 430,000 seniors were counseled on reverse mortgages as an option to preserve their financial independence.

Research from the Center for Responsible Lending confirms that from January 2007-2009, 2.5 million foreclosures were completed and an additional 5.7 million homes are in imminent risk of foreclosure. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board, National Council on Aging, the Urban Institute, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard have all concluded that housing counseling is an important prevention against further foreclosures.

Currently, free federally-funded housing counseling services administered by local service agencies offer:

*Pre-purchase counseling and education for first-time homebuyers
*Post-purchase counseling and education for homeowners
*Reverse mortgage counseling for senior homeowners
*Renter counseling, including for families transitioning out of homeownership
*Counseling for homeless individuals and families seeking shelter or other transitional housing

With demonstrated consumer needs matched by respected research findings, it is indeed odd that some in Congress would prefer cutting proven services. But, this development is also an important reminder that ours is a participatory democracy. As citizens, we must stand up and speak to preserve what works for our nation.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s communications manager for state policy and outreach. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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