January 31, 2013
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
LAWT Religion Editor
Moving to assert his legal rights, the Rev. Dr. John J. Hunter filed a civil lawsuit on January 24 against individual members and the congregation-at-large of Bethel A.M.E. Church in San Francisco.
His charges against them allege assault, battery and libel he endured on November 4 when he arrived at the historic edifice to preach his first sermon as the new pastor following eight years as spiritual leader of First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.
“I have taken the affirmative steps to address the wrongs that have been committed against me in the city of San Francisco by the officers and members of Bethel A.M.E. Church,” said Dr. Hunter.
“We do not give up our legal rights as citizens when we’re ministers. We still have rights not to be assaulted, not to be battered, not to be defamed. God has called us to serve, not to be doormats.”
Describing Bethel’s actions as “unprecedented,” Hunter said he was shocked by “the rudeness, the crudeness, the hostility and disrespect that they have shown consistently.
“To see God’s people behaving as they did, I was devastated and hurt that people would act as they act and reject me as their pastor based on anything they might have heard and/or read.”
Dr. Hunter and his wife, Denise, have garnered steady public attention since his appointment last October. Media across the country reported when Bethel members blocked his entry into the sanctuary and in December, the FAME congregation filed suit against the Hunters contending mismanagement of church funds and property. Earlier this month, Mrs. Hunter captured news headlines by denouncing all allegations and declaring the family’s innocence of all charges.
While the community response is far from decided, one entity, the A.M.E. Church Judicial Council, addressed Bethel’s actions. In a recent decree, the body admonished the congregation and confirmed Dr. Hunter’s assignment to the church.
“The Judicial Council ruled that the activities of the members were wrong and ordered them to cease and desist of the kind of activity they had engaged in that started on November 4, physically assaulting me, blocking me from entering the sanctuary, the publication of a resolution which had erroneous material in it that they handed to me and distributed to numerous sources including media, and then, of course, their persistent walking in and out of the service, particularly out of the service when the word of God has been proclaimed,” Dr. Hunter said.
Despite the tenuous relationship with the members, Dr. Hunter said he has preached five Sunday services since his appointment. Advised by his doctor not to travel in December, he returned to the pulpit this month and intends to perform his pastoral duties.
“I remain prayerful and will continue to serve the church I have been appointed and assigned to serve as best I can and continue to pursue my legal remedies as I have laid them out as causes of action in the lawsuit,” he said.
In addition, he vowed to wait patiently for the Judicial Council’s decision on the validity of his reassignment from FAME to Bethel.
“The whole issue of the ecclesiastic legality of my move has yet to be determined, so given that, I will reserve comment until that has been dealt with internally.
“I respect the AME Church and its processes and we do have a number of processes and procedures to deal with issues as they arise in the church. I will submit to that process until it’s completed,” said Dr. Hunter.
As for allegations contained in FAME’s lawsuit, Dr. Hunter declared, “First AME’s corporations have been audited every year. We continued to use the CPA firm that was being used prior to us. It’s necessary to do that to run the various entities.
“We could not continue to serve in the various capacities which we have served in if we were not doing it with accountability and credibility.”
Although facing several challenges on multiple levels, Dr. Hunter utilizes any spare time to contemplate his future.
“I’ve not thought about giving up on God or not participating in ministry. It’s been a time to certainly reflect.
“One of my favorite scriptures, and one I found to be true, is Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.’
“So I know in my own life, even the disappointments of life, have worked for good. God knows what God is doing and He knows what we face.
“I believe that ultimately, even this horrific chapter in my life and the life of my wife and family, will ultimately work for good and we will see the hand of the Lord in this and through this before it is all said and done.”
January 31, 2013
Los Angeles County is planning a crackdown on makeshift maternity wards where mothers from other countries stay while giving birth so their children will be U.S. citizens.
The county has received 60 complaints about such facilities in the past month, according to a report by the Planning Department submitted to the Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Times reported.
That compared to just 15 complaints in the previous five years. The surge might be due to publicity over the closure of a house in Chino Hills that authorities contended had been used to house as many as 30 Chinese women.
It isn’t illegal for foreign citizens to give birth in the U.S., but authorities say the maternity tourism hotels frequently are remodeled single-family homes in areas that aren’t zoned for hotels or boarding houses.
County Supervisor Don Knabe wants to develop a county law that would specifically outlaw such facilities.
“They’re a moneymaking machine. They’re totally unsafe,” Knabe said. “It’s so obvious that they jeopardize not only the health of the baby, but the mother as well.”
The Planning Commission report said efforts were being made to crack down on the hotels for zoning, building and health code violations.
Pregnant women, many from Asia, can pay thousands of dollars to stay in the facilities, authorities said.
Officials who went to the Chino Hills home in November said the single-family home had been divided into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms. Neighbors complained of a sewage spill from an overloaded septic tank.
The house was shut down after the city sued the owners.
Elsewhere, joint inspections have been staged by the planning, public works and child welfare departments, and cases have been referred to the state tax board, the report said.
Inspections can be difficult because people answering the door sometimes claim they are unable to speak English and won’t allow inspectors to enter. The Planning Department will try to include Chinese-language translators on its inspection teams, the report said.
In addition, child welfare investigators will look for signs of child abuse and neglect, such as newborns crowded into makeshift nurseries, said Neil Zanville, a spokesman for the county Department of Children and Family Services.
“We’d not only ask about sleeping arrangements, we’d ask, has this baby been seen by a doctor? Has it had its shots?” Zanville said.
January 31, 2013
By JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press
Indonesia may hold the key to a $1 trillion injection into the global economy.
That’s how much the World Trade Organization believes is riding on talks later this year in Bali, when trade ministers hope to cut through some of the red tape that slows global commerce.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Associated Press that failure is not an option and that a strong effort is being put in to ensure that the WTO meeting in Bali is “crowned with success.”
The current trade talks, known as the Doha Round, began in 2001, and after a decade of little progress for a range of reasons, many had pronounced the negotiations to reduce global trade barriers as dead.
There are hopes that the current fragile state of the world economy, including the debt crisis afflicting the 17 European Union countries that use the euro and unspectacular U.S. growth, may add impetus to the discussions.
“It’s very critical now, especially with the difficulties in the global economy, especially in the eurozone,” he said of efforts to reach a new global free trade pact. “Trade facilitation becomes a key driver for economic recovery, so this is now even ever more important to what it was before.”
Trade ministers from 24 nations met January 26 on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in an unofficial gathering hosted by the Swiss government.
Afterward, Swiss Economic Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the group agreed they could reach a tentative agreement on some of the key elements of a global trade deal this summer, in preparation for the ministerial talks in December at Bali.
Schneider-Ammann said he sensed some “optimism” that efforts to streamline customs procedures and other rules to reduce the costs of trade “will be successful.”
The ministers agreed to resist protectionism, focus on elements such as trade facilitation and agriculture, and to “take stock” around Easter of the progress being made, Schneider-Ammann said.
“Serious attempts to deliver results in Bali have already started,” he added.
The Doha negotiations have been billed as a way of boosting economic development among the poorest countries, by reducing barriers on their exports to wealthier markets.
The WTO’s director general, Pascal Lamy, has been telling the Davos gathering of political, business and academic elites that an international trade deal would provide a $1 trillion boost to the global economy. He estimates world trade is worth about $22 trillion.
Flanked by Schneider-Ammann, Lamy told reporters that he believes it is technically “do-able” to craft draft agreements on some of the key elements of a deal by next summer.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he had to “temper” his enthusiasm for a deal since it has eluded the world for a decade.
Areas of dispute include tariffs on manufactured good, agricultural subsidies, market access and intellectual property rules. Brazil, China and India have resisted U.S. demands to lower taxes on imports of manufactured goods.
“But, at least of the 24 countries represented today, it felt like we had made more substantive progress,” Kirk said in an AP interview. “The good news is we’ve spent a lot of work on a smaller, more realistic package centered around trade facilitation, which can be a huge benefit to developing economies. And it feels like that is starting to bear fruit.”
Kirk, who leaves his job next month, said the ministers renewed their commitment “to double down, do what we need to do” to reach a deal in Bali. “I’m as hopeful as I’ve been in a long time.”
January 31, 2013
Congressman Maxine Waters released the following statement marking the fourth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:
“As a longtime activist for women’s rights, I am pleased to recognize the anniversary of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Four years ago I was privileged to vote for this critical legislation reaffirming a core American principle: equal pay for equal work — regardless of gender, race, or background.
Equal pay for equal work has been one of my top priorities dating back to the women’s movement when I served on the Board of the Ms. Foundation for Women. I have worked with Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Smeal, Patsy Mink and many other women pioneers in the women’s movement to highlight issues affecting working women, and to create and support public policy for equal treatment for all women. Throughout my years in the California State Assembly and Congress, I have been a tireless advocate on issues of concern to women in the workplace and women small business owners.
The signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by President Obama in 2009 was a long time coming. Lilly Ledbetter sued the company she worked at for nearly 20 years after learning that she was paid less than her male counterparts at the facility, despite having more experience than several of them. Although the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restored a woman’s right to fight pay discrimination, significant disparities persist between the pay of men and women in the U.S. workforce.
Simply put, there is still more work to be done to level the playing field for all female workers. According to the latest U.S. Census data, women make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This could cost a woman up to $2 million in lost wages over their lifetime.
I will continue to fight for fairness and equality for women in California and across America. The time is now to enact the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 113th Congress, in order to ensure equal pay for women in the workplace. This law would modernize the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.”
January 31, 2013
By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press
Attorneys for the former neighborhood watch volunteer charged with shooting Trayvon Martin to death asked for more time to prepare his case this week, saying prosecutors had been slow to turn over evidence.
At the same time, Zimmerman's lead attorney, Mark O'Mara, renewed his request for donations to Zimmerman’s legal defense, which he said could cost up to $1 million.
“The state has virtually unlimited resources to prosecute George,” O'Mara said on Zimmerman’s defense fund website. “To finance his defense, however, George relies on the generosity of individuals who believe he is innocent.”
Spokesman Shawn Vincent said Zimmerman’s attorneys want his second-degree murder trial to be moved from June to November. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty.
A hearing in which Zimmerman will argue he was acting in self-defense is scheduled for April. The judge has said that hearing will be at least 45 days before the trial.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls about the defense request.
O’Mara said prosecutors had been slow to turn over evidence. As an example, he said someone from State Attorney’s Office had removed Martin’s cell phone from an evidence locker to have it sent to California for analysis, but the state has refused to give him any information about the agency and the type of tests being run on the phone. He also said prosecutors had made it difficult for O’Mara to get answers to administrative questions from a chief investigative agent and had refused to forward them other information on Martin and a witness.
O'Mara also asked the public to donate more money for his defense, saying on the web site that Zimmerman’s defense fund has raised more than $314,000 since he was charged. Of that amount, $95,000 was spent on bail, almost $62,000 was spent on Zimmerman’s living expenses during the past eight months and $56,100 was spent on security. The pricey living expenses were the result of Zimmerman having to stay at extended-stay hotels until he could find a place to rent after his bail conditions were changed to restrict him to Seminole County, Fla., according to the statement on the website said.