June 06, 2013

By George E. Curry

NNPA Editor-in-Chief

 

ATLANTA (NNPA) – Sacramento, Calif. Mayor Kevin Johnson, the newly-elected president of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM), told his colleagues that if they don’t improve the lives of their constituents, they don’t deserve to remain in office.

“We got these good seats, we’ve been elected and we get honored and esteemed everywhere we go,” Johnson said at a luncheon here at the group’s 39th annual convention. “It’s not just for us. It’s for the communities that we represent. Our obligation is to bring more and more people along. Because if we don’t do that, then we’re not fit for the seats that we hold.”

Johnson, a former star NBA point guard for the Phoenix Suns, cited the enormous growth of the mayors’ group. He noted that the NCBM began as a small, Southern organization in 1974 and now is a national force with nearly 700 mayors in the U.S., representing 48 million people or 15 percent of the U.S. population.

In recent years, it has expanded its international reach and now has more than 26,000 mayors on its roll, including many from Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Columbia and throughout the Caribbean.

“In terms of [population served], we’re bigger than Spain, Canada and Australia,” Johnson said. “Think about that. If we come together in numbers, we have that type of strength as an organization to do some remarkable things.”

He continued, “The question we all have to ask ourselves is this: As African-American mayors, are our cities better off because we’re elected? Are the people we represent better off because we hold the seats that we hold?”

In too many cases, Johnson said, the answer is no.

“Any category that’s bad, Black folks are at the top,” Johnson said. “Any category that’s good, Blacks folks, we’re at the bottom. That’s hard to do. We have somehow managed to do that.

“If you think about obesity, which is bad, we’re at the top. If you’re talking about unemployment, which is not good for us, we’re at the top. If you’re talking about dropping out, we’re at the top. If you’re talking about teenage pregnancy, we’re at the top.  If you’re talking about being a renter instead of a homeowner, we’re at the top. Come on now.”

Because mayors work so closely to people, they are in position to bring about some fundamental change.

“We’re where the rubber meets the road,” Johnson explained. “Don’t expect Washington to solve our problems. That’s what this organization is all about.”

He said, “I’m just saying to us today, we have an opportunity to do something really special. And it’s not only about talk, it’s about us holding ourselves up and banding together as one unit and making sure our voices are heard, that we have a seat at the table

“We don’t just want a seat at the table, we want more than one seat at the table. And when you’re at the table, we need to be able to make decisions at the table and give some solutions and problem-solving ideas.”

Johnson was passionate as he discussed the future of the organization.

“The National Conference of Black Mayors – that name needs to mean something,” Johnson stated. “Every decision that we make going forward needs to be in the best interest of this organization. It’s not about one individual, it’s not about our cities, it’s not about any staff or mayor. It’s about what’s in the best interest of this organization. And that’s the commitment we’re all making here.”

He also said, “There are many people who counted us out. They said over and over, this organization can’t last. And we’re standing here after 39 years and the best days are ahead.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 06, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser is resigning and will be replaced by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who has been a lightning rod for Republican criticism over faulty explanations for the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Tom Donilon has been a key foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama. But the 58-year-old had been expected to depart sometime this year, with Rice seen as the likely candidate to replace him.

Rice’s selection was greeted by a muted response from some Republicans who had earlier accused her of being part of an administration cover-up in the Benghazi attacks.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of Rice's harshest critics, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that he disagreed with her appointment but would “make every effort” to work with her on important matters. And Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the foreign relations committee, said he had spoken with Rice and looked forward “to working with her on shaping important foreign policy and national security issues.”

Rice, a close Obama confidante, came under withering criticism from Republicans as part of the investigations into the deadly attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi. Relying on talking points from the intelligence community, Rice said in television interviews that the attacks were likely spontaneous, which was later proven incorrect.

Obama considered nominating Rice as his second-term secretary of state, but she withdrew amid the GOP criticism, saying she didn’t want her confirmation fight to be a distraction for the White House. The president instead nominated John Kerry, who easily won confirmation from his former Senate colleagues.

Rice's new post as national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. A White House official confirmed the foreign policy personnel changes Wednesday morning ahead of a planned announcement by the president in the afternoon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the changes before they were publicly announced.

Obama will also name Samantha Power, a human rights expert and former White House adviser, to replace Rice at the United Nations. Power left the White House earlier this year.

Power won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for her book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” which examined U.S. foreign policy toward genocide in the 20th century. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.

According to a biography on the White House website, Power also served as a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she taught courses on U.S. foreign policy, human rights, and extremism.

The White House official said Donilon is expected to stay on the job until early July, after Obama wraps up overseas trips to Europe and Africa, as well as an unusual summit in California later this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Donilon has overseen a foreign policy agenda at the White House that put increased emphasis on the U.S. relationship with Asia. He’s also played a key role in the administration's counterterrorism strategy, including the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and in managing the complex U.S. ties with Russia.

Rice, who first started working for Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, has a close relationship with the president and many of his advisers. She’s known for being outspoken on human rights issues and also pushed for a more interventionist strategy in Libya.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 06, 2013

By TAMI ABDOLLAH  Associated Press

 

An internal review by the Los Angeles Police Department concluded that rogue ex-officer Christopher Dorner was justifiably fired, a lawyer who reviewed the findings told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said the lengthy examination found no basis for allegations of racism and bias that Dorner made in a manifesto vowing revenge on his former colleagues and their families.

Authorities said Dorner killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during a weeklong rampage in February that involved a massive manhunt and ended with his apparent suicide in a mountain cabin following a gunbattle with police.

The findings, which are expected to be made public this month at a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting, concluded that Dorner had a history of embellishing stories, misperceiving slights and making bogus complaints against his fellow officers, Rice said.

He took more than twice as long as most officers to complete his training, was nearly incomprehensible during the hearing over his firing, and only filed a complaint against his training officer when he learned she gave him a bad performance review, Rice said.

The department said in a statement the review had not been finalized.

"Any comments or conclusions about the contents of the review are premature," it said. "The LAPD will announce the review once finalized."

Police Commission President Andrea Ordin said the report still needed to go to the inspector general for review and then to the Police Commission.

Chief Charlie Beck ordered the review as Dorner was on the run after being accused of killing the daughter of his former union lawyer and her fiance and releasing the manifesto saying he would get even for being unfairly fired because he was black.

Rice, a longtime department watchdog and frequent critic, was allowed to review the findings.

"The firing was justified and his allegations are completely unfounded," said Rice, who spent two weeks reviewing the findings. "This guy needed to go. And the question was, even if he needed to go, did the LAPD get rid of him in a way that was illegitimate? And the answer for me was no."

The roughly 40-page report relied on about 80 documents, including 900 pages of transcripts from the Board of Rights hearing that concluded Dorner lied when he claimed a training officer had brutally kicked a mentally ill man during an arrest. He was fired for making a false report and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with the department during a 2010 appeal.

The internal LAPD review conducted by Gerry Chaleff, the department's special assistant for constitutional policing, also re-examined at least 10 complaints Dorner officially lodged with the department while he was an officer, Rice said.

In his manifesto, Dorner said the LAPD had tarnished his reputation, ruined the former Navy reserve's military career, and destroyed his life.

"He raised all that racism stuff in my mind because he knew he'd get a rise out of them," Rice said. "He did everything he could to hurt the department."

The department is also conducting a review of the overall discipline system and will also review the cases of a handful of former officers who have since formally requested reviews of their firings.

Rice said she spoke with many black officers in the department who said that though the department still had issues with racism, it had changed a great deal over the past decades.

"Just because racism didn't play a leading role in what happened to Dorner doesn't mean the LAPD is now an inter-racial nirvana," Rice said. "It does still have serious problems like every department does and we shouldn't forget that."

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 06, 2013

By Chris Kardish

Associated Press

 

About 140 people have been arrested during the latest weekly demonstration led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP against the state's Republican-led General Assembly.

Police estimate that roughly 1,000 people attended a rally late Monday afternoon behind the Legislative Building. Hundreds later entered the building, with those intending to get arrested wearing green wrist bands.

Those arrested were taken away in plastic bindings. They bring the total arrested in the weekly demonstrations to about 300. The rallies have taken place nearly every Monday since April.

Hundreds more waited outside to cheer on those arrested as they were transported to a detention facility.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has spearheaded demonstrations to protest cuts to social programs, changes to voting laws and other issues championed by the GOP.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 30, 2013

By Charlene Muhammad

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

LOS ANGELES-Youth advocates, activists and lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would set clear standards to help limit solitary confinement of youth in all state and county facilities.

Authored by Senator Leland Yee, the bill seeks to establish a legal definition of the tactic widely condemned as torture and overused in California’s juvenile justice systems, according to advocates.

Solitary confinement contributes to recidivism, mental illness and youth suicides, particularly because weak standards and guidelines allow different departments extreme leeway to determine how the measure can be used, expressed Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition.

“The bill’s also important because it says that solitary confinement will only be used when a young person poses an immediate or substantial risk of harm to others, so it can’t be used for punishment,” McGill stated.

Solitary confinement cannot be used because staff need a break from a young person or doesn’t know what to do with mental health issues, she continued.

At press time, SB61 supporters were on a phone drive to help get the bill out of the Senate and on to the California State Assembly, where the process would start all over again.

The next two to three months of work is worth the effort to get SB61 passed because it would clearly define the measure and severely limit how it can be used, McGill stated.

“We would like to eliminate it all together...There are federal guidelines and state guidelines that can be applied in some ways but the ones around solitary confinement are way too loose and way too vague,” she argued.

SB61 would specifically define solitary confinement as the involuntary placement in a room or cell in isolation from persons other than staff and attorneys.

Youth would be held only to address the safety risk and, if law, would require facilities to report on when the special imprisonment was used, including demographics and the length of confinement.

As a government agency, the California Department of Cor­rec­tions and Rehabilitation (CDCR) typically doesn’t take a position on pending legislation and has no position on SB61, a spokesperson informed.

In 2011, a CDCR internal audit found that youth were often locked up in their cells for over 21 hours a day, according to a fact sheet provided by Sen. Yee. 

The document continued, in one 15-week period, there were 249 incidents of solitary confinement, and in one case, a youth received only one hour out of his cell in a 10-day period. In local juvenile facilities, there have been reports of youth locked up in isolation for 23 hours a day.

Tanisha Denard was among them, she told a Senate Public Safety Committee during a recent hearing.

Arrested at school for fighting, Denard said she was put on probation.  A series of truancy tickets for being late landed her in Los Angeles County juvenile hall on a probation violation, according to the youth.

Negative experiences behind bars rendered her distant. She wouldn’t eat. She became unsure and uncomfortable but, instead of trying counsel her, staff just stopped talking to her, the 19-year-old alleged.

“I guess the staff thought I was depressed, so then they put me on lockdown for real - no cell mate, no dayroom time, no hope,” Denard continued.

“It is by far the worst feeling I had ever experienced...From 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., you are locked into a single person cell that looks exactly like the box.  It’s also freezing, and if you’re found with an extra blanket or sweatshirt, you are accused of having contraband and punished,” she continued.

Denard further stated she and other youth in solitary confinement had no books or writing materials, so their nights were endless.

“... just you, your thoughts and the screams or crying of the young people in the cells next to you...Your family and the community expect that you are safe and unharmed.   In reality you might be safe from other youth – but not from yourself.  Being locked down makes you feel that you are worthless to society.  You start to think about any way to escape – even if it means suicide,” the young activist elaborated.

She recommends creating a nature park as one alternative to 23-hour cells to help incarcerated youth calm down.  “...or have us work outside to grow food, or take vocational trainings so we are ready to start our lives over after release,” Denard suggested.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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