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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.

ANALYSIS: Cain's Presidential Bid was Asinine-Nine-Nine

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NEWS ANALYSIS

By George E. Curry, TheDefendersOnline.com –

(NNPA) Herman Cain’s asinine campaign to become president of the United States is now toast. Not just toast – burnt toast. He officially flamed out Saturday on the heels – or, shall we say, high heels – of yet another woman accusing him of sexual misconduct.

The latest of five female accusers, Ginger White, claimed she and Cain had a 13-year affair and produced telephone bills and text messages proving that she and Cain had been in constant communication, sometimes at 4 a.m. Moreover, she said, Cain had lavished her with money and gifts and flew her to cities across the country where they rendezvoused at posh hotels.

“It wasn’t a love affair. It was a sexual affair, as hard as that is for me to say and as hard as it is for people to hear it,” White said in an interview with MSNBC.

Cain fought back against Sharon Bialek, the first woman to go public with allegations of sexual harassment. Cain supporters tried to contain the damage by asserting it was simply a case of “he said, she said.” But a second woman Karen Kraushaar, came forward and before it was over, the total was five women and counting. “He said, she said,” quickly became he said, she said, she said, she said, she said and she said.

After the initial story was published by Politico, Cain vehemently denied the two allegations of sexual harassment; he also subsequently denied two more charges and the assertion of a long-term extramarital affair with an Atlanta woman. But much of the public remained skeptical, remembering New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s week-long denial last summer and later confession that he had used his twitter account to send a nude photo to a woman who was not his wife.

Sex scandals are nothing new to politicians, including Weiner, President Bill Clinton, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey, United States Senators Gary Hart, Bob Packwood, David Vitter and John Edwards, and Congressman Gary Condit.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 46 percent of those interviewed said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had an extramarital affair in the past, compared to 49 percent who said it wouldn’t matter and 2 percent who said they would be more likely to vote for the flawed candidate. A majority of Republicans – 57 percent – said they would be less inclined to vote for an unfaithful candidate.

While slightly more than half of the public expressed forgiveness toward infidelity, the problem becomes magnified for conservative candidates campaigning on family values and morality. And that goes double for someone such as Cain, an ordained minister.

Although it was White, the lone Black accuser, who sealed Cain’s political fate, Cain’s quixotic campaign had been fading for weeks, largely because his explanations became less believable by voters and his failure, in some cases, to directly deny the specific charges.

Politico broke the story on Oct. 30 that at least two females who were employed by the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, a period when Cain was president, had filed sexual harassment claims against him. In an appearance at the National Press Club on Halloween, Cain said he was “unaware of any settlement” with the women.

Later that day, however, he said he recalled one complaint in which a woman was given the equivalent of three months’ salary. The following day, he said on CNN that the payout had been “somewhere in the vicinity of three to six months.” The New York Times subsequently reported that the two women were awarded a year’s salary after filing complaints against Cain.

In a Republican presidential field known for flip-flopping, Cain proved he can switch positions with the best of them. On CNN, he said that in the case of rape, a woman should make the decision about whether to have an abortion. But in an interview on CBS, he took a contrary position, objecting to abortion in all cases, including rape, incest or when the life of the mother is threatened.

Cain ran an unorthodox campaign to win the Republican nomination for president. When his competitors were crisscrossing Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – the first states to hold Republican primaries or caucuses – Cain was promoting his new book in Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Texas and Indiana. In the week leading up to his withdrawal, Cain campaigned in Ohio, which has next to the last primary in the nation.

In addition to having a third-rate political operation, Caine simply wasn’t ready for prime time. He was a male Sarah Palin. In debates, his 9-9-9 tax plan seemed to be his answer to every question. He blamed the media, Democrats and Republicans for his various missteps. He pointed fingers everywhere except where they belonged – at himself.

Even when his camp tried to blunt the sexual harassment charges by presenting his wife, Gloria, for a television interview, Cain overshadowed the story line by inviting himself to an editorial board meeting in Wisconsin – another state that does not vote early – and showing appalling ignorance about Libya, which was prominent in the news at the time.

At an editorial board meeting at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cain was asked a simple question: Do you agree or disagree with President Obama on Libya?

A videotape of the interview shows Cain, leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling and asking whether Obama had supported the removal of Moammar Gaddafi. After saying he disagreed with Obama, he said, “Um, nope that’s a different one.” Looking at the ceiling again, he said, “I gotta go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”

Evidently stuff was twirling around in Cain’s head during his visit to a Cuban restaurant in Miami. When asked how he liked his snack, Cain asked, “How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?” Of course, Cubans speak Spanish. There is no such language as Cuban.

Ironically, the candidate who sought to minimize the impact of racial discrimination in the U.S. said he was disliked by Democrats and the media because he was an “authentic” Black candidate. Cain said African-Americans were brain-washed into voting for Democrats. He predicted that he would receive one-third of the Black vote, proving that if Cain isn’t brainwashed, he’s brain-dead.

What Cain failed to realize was that conservatives weren’t so much interested in supporting him as they were ABM – Anybody But Mitt. First, there was flirting by Donald Trump and, to a less extent, Sarah Palin. After the rapid rise and fall of Michelle Bachman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Cain, Newt Gingrich, who has so much baggage that even Southwest Airlines charges him a baggage fee, is the flavor of the month. And much of Gingrich’s rise has been at the expense of Cain, who will probably endorse him.

A month ago, a poll by the Des Moines Register showed Cain was favored by 23 percent of Republicans in Iowa. By the time the darling of the Tea Party exited the contest, his support had fallen to only 8 percent.

Similarly, support for the Tea Party has also taken a nose dive.

A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll taken last month shows that since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationally, but in the 60 congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus.

More Americans (27 percent) say they disagree with the Tea Party movement than agree (20 percent). A year ago, amid large GOP gains, 27 percent agreed and 22 percent disagreed. According to Pew, support for the Tea Party ran high in Tea Party districts throughout 2010. Now, however, 25 percent of the voters in those districts agree with the Tea Party and 23 percent disagree.

The Republican Party has also taken a beating in those districts, according to the poll. As recently as March, voters in Tea Party districts favored Republicans over Democrats by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent. Today, Democrats have almost pulled even in those districts, with the GOP enjoying a slight 41 percent to 39 percent edge over Democrats.

Cain may have gotten out of the race at just the right time.

It was hard to take Cain seriously. His ever-present fedora hat made Herman Cain, the presidential candidate, look like Big Daddy Kane, the rapper. And some say his political journey was all about promoting the Herman Cain brand, which was non-existent before he entered the presidential race last May. He sold many books while pretending to be a serious presidential candidate. Getting out now, before he embarrassed himself in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina allows him to exit the stage without facing certain defeat at the polls. Closing one door at this time opens up other doors for yet more books, high-paying speeches and perhaps a network show on Fox.

That’s not as asinine as you may think. Eliot Spitzer had a short-lived program on CNN and far more women have implicated Cain than the former New York governor. If that happens, it might not be the last time we hear Cain’s trademark, “Awwww, Shucky Ducky Now!”

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