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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."

Predatory Payday Lending by Banks on the Rise

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Each year, street corner payday loans strip consumers of $4.5 billion. Now, at least four large banks joining the ranks of those offering one of the most predatory products sold to unsuspecting consumers. Banks like Wells Fargo, US, Regions and Fifth Third are all offering their checking account customers payday loans that typically require full repayment within 10 days with interest rates of 360 percent or higher.

Due to federal bank regulation, these payday loans, sometimes called ‘advance deposit loans’, circumvent state rate cap laws in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Further, as banks repay these loans from funds already on deposit in checking accounts, borrowers run the risk of running short of money for other living expenses as well as incurring overdraft fees. Under fee-based overdraft systems, transactions made when available funds are insufficient will result in an average fee of $35 per transaction.

For banks, the ability to take funds automatically to repay loans means is a winning proposition. But for consumers, every loan renewal means another fee and a longer stretch of high-cost debt. And some banks have practices that lead to account closure when low or modest balances result in frequent overdrafts.

Fortunately, there are African-American leaders who are standing up and speaking out on the ills of payday and bank payday loans.

According to Julian Bond, former NAACP Chairman, “A drive through minority neighborhoods clearly indicates that people of color regardless of income are a target for legalized extortion. Payday lending is an economic drain that threatens the livelihoods of hardworking families and strips wealth from entire communities.”

Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas has also spoken against payday lending. “Storefront payday lenders are more common than fast food restaurants – especially in my church’s neighborhood” said Pastor Haynes. “There are 20 payday loan stores within a five-mile radius on my church. As a pastor and community activist, I have personally seen how quick cash payday loans wind up placing borrowers in financial debt shackles.”

Speaking directly to the ills of bank payday loans, Dr. Haynes added, “This practice of lending is especially troubling when one considers that banks, according to the Federal Reserve, are able to receive loans with interest rates of less than one percent.”

Dr. Haynes’ observation is one worth expanding. Courtesy of the federal government, banks get loan rates near zero percent interest. These banks then loan funds to payday lenders at competitive market rates. Then these lenders offer consumers interest rates of 360 percent or more. When banks enter the payday loan market, they eliminate the middle lender and reap all the profits for the institution with the same triple-digit rates charged consumers.

Legal? Not by some state consumer protections; but unfortunately, we need strong federal action to stop this abusive and level the lending field for all consumers.

There’s nothing wrong with a business making an honest profit. But there’s something seriously wrong with price-gouging interest rates for customers needing a small-dollar loan.

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

FAMU Band Director: I Warned Them About Hazing

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Special to the NNPA from the Florida Sentinel-Bulletin –

TALLAHASSEE, FL — The fired director of Florida A&M’s famed “Marching 100” band said he repeatedly warned university leaders over two decades about the dangers of hazing and that he’s been made the scapegoat for a band member’s death in which the practice is suspected.

Julian White, 71, said he suspended 26 band members for hazing two weeks before drum major Robert Champion’s death on Nov. 19. He reported his actions to university administrators, he said.

Hazing has been “rampant on university campuses,” and the suspensions would serve notice it wouldn’t be tolerated at A&M, he said.

But instead of being supported, White said, he was second-guessed, particularly from some parents of band members, and said the punishments were akin to suspending star football players. “And so the band members were apprehensive. `Doc, you think we can go without 19 trombone players?’” said White, who replaced “Marching 100” founder William P. Foster as director in 1998. “And other folks. `Doc, do you think you can do it without them?’ My comment was, it doesn’t matter, I am not going to sacrifice the performance for the principle.”

After A&M’s football team lost its annual game against rival Bethune-Cookman, Champion collapsed on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. The 26-year-old junior had been vomiting and complained he couldn’t breathe shortly before he became unconscious. When authorities arrived about 9:45 p.m., Champion was unresponsive. He died at a nearby hospital.

Authorities have not released any more details, except to say hazing allegedly played a role.

Less than a week later, White, a tenured professor, was fired by FAMU President James Ammons.

“I walked into his office and he said, `Doc, I don’t know any other way to put it, this is it for you,’” White recounted. “He said `you can resign or you can be terminated.’”

Ammons, meanwhile, met Monday with former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who was named last week to head a task force investigating what led to Champion’s death. “If some strong actions had been taken, then Robert Champion may be alive now,” said White, who was asked by the student’s family to speak at Wednesday’s funeral service.

White, who was the lead drum major as a student, said he fears the tragedy could doom the showy high-energy, high-stepping band that has performed at Super Bowls, the Grammys and presidential inaugurations and in Paris on France’s 200th anniversary.

Since Champion’s death, the school has shuttered the marching band and the rest of the music department’s performances.

Shutting it down was a meaningful decision, White said. The band would have been the first of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities to perform at Carnegie Hall. “That hurts,” White said.

Hazing has a long history in marching bands, particularly at historically black colleges, where a spot in the band is coveted for its tradition and prominence.

Amnesty International Calls for Arrest of George W. Bush on Torture Charges

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

Former President George W. Bush began a tour of Africa during the week of Nov. 28 and, according to Amnesty International, he needs to see the inside of a jail cell while he’s there.

The human rights group is calling for the arrest of Bush for authorizing the use of torture techniques of suspected terrorists while he was president.

“All countries to which George W. Bush travels have an obligation to bring him to justice for his role in torture,” Matt Pollard, senior legal advisor for Amnesty International, said in a statement. “International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed.”

According to Pollard, there is enough evidence from prisoners, American Red Cross reports and Bush himself for the two-term president to be investigated for approving waterboarding as a method of interrogation. Bush told NBC’s “The Today Show” last year that the practice was approved by his legal team.

“The lawyer said it was legal,” Bush said. “He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”

Amnesty International has written to the ministers of justice in each country and provided supporting documentation to make their case.

Waterboarding has been banned by President Barack Obama.

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