March 27, 2014
By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent
The gaping underrepresentation of women of color on the political stage deeply undermines the American ideal of democratic representation.
That’s a conclusion reached by the Center for American Progress and detailed in an article titled, “Why We Need a Political Leadership Pipeline for Women of Color.”
The article, part of the Center’s Women in Leadership project, was unveiled during a panel event featuring prominent women of color scholars, organizers, and professionals.
“The relative lack of women of color serving in elected office raises grave concerns regarding democratic legitimacy and the fundamental issues of political representation,” the article states. “Lack of representation, of course, can mean a lack of attention to and advocacy for issues important to communities of color. And … translates into a major missed opportunity for the empowerment of underserved communities.”
Today, there are 14 African American women in Congress, less than 3 percent of that body. There is only one woman of color in the Senate, an Asian American. And both delegates to Congress – elected representatives who do not have the right to vote except in committees – are Black women.
The picture is the same at the state level. Black women hold about 3 percent of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats, across 40 states. Among the 100 largest cities, Baltimore is the only one currently led by a Black woman mayor.
“What I’ve experienced over these years is that if it’s something that’s beyond Black, then it isn’t necessarily obviously seen that a Black woman could be the lead of it,” said panelist Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “Because it’s a multi-racial or multi-ethnic, so therefore – ‘No, we’ll get to your issue later.’ There’s the reality that, in a broad women’s movement, for Black women and [other] women of color, are we all equal in that opportunity for leadership?”
According to the article, lack of representation in politics results in a lack of attention to issues that affect women and people of color more. Moreover, males and females behave differently in politics.
A 2009 report from now defunct The White House Project notes that on average, women in Congress introduce more bills, attract more co-sponsors, and bring home more money for their districts than their male counterparts.
Even in high-stress professions, women can more than hold their own.
For example, Val Demings, the keynote speaker at the Women in Leadership panel, is the first woman to serve as police chief of Orlando, Florida. In her four-year term, violent crime dropped 40 percent.
A 2006 study in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy found that Latina representatives in four southwestern states were more likely than their male counterparts to prioritize the needs of African Americans and Asians, as well as women and families.
But women need to be represented in more than token numbers, Demings said.
“I can only speak as a Black woman…but if you don’t see a whole lot of folks who look like you doing what you’re thinking about doing, it’s tough to believe that you can do it,” she said in her keynote address.
After she retired as police chief, the mayor urged her to consider running for Congress.
“I was meeting with a member of Congress and he said to me that women have to be asked about seven times to run for public office before they’ll even consider it,” Demings recalls. “I was floored. I felt like I was a pretty assertive, bold, going-into-places-where-others-would-dare-not-go type of person – but I was on my seventh ask.”
Demings ran for a House seat in 2012 on the Democratic ticket. She lost the race to the incumbent candidate by 3.5 percentage points, in a district that was 69 percent white. Currently, Demings is running for mayor of Orange County, Florida.
In a 2012 study, American University researchers found that women are both less likely than men to have anyone suggest they run for office, and twice as likely as men to consider themselves “not at all qualified” for the job. Consequently, fewer women – especially women of color – decide to run for office.
“The barriers holding back women of color are undoubtedly much the same as those shown to limit the political ambitions of all women in general: lack of financial resources, weaker social networks, lack of familiarity with the political process, a greater level of responsibility for children and household tasks, and a greater tendency to be more risk-averse than potential male candidates,” the article explains. “The lack of economic support is perhaps one of the greatest barriers for women of color, as they are often the primary or sole caregivers of their children and their elders, earn less, and have considerably less wealth than men of color and white men and women.”
But there is some encouraging news.
According to the Center for American Progress, women of color are increasingly showing up to the polls; African American women voter turnout rose from nearly 60 percent to nearly 70 percent between 2004 and 2008 (Latinas and Asian American women made 20, and 17 percent gains, respectively, in the same time period). This is higher than the 2008 national voting average of 58.2 percent.
If all eligible women of color voted, that would mean more than 41.8 million votes – or, the equivalent of 62.5 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2008 votes, and 71.7 percent of John McCain’s.
“As I worked through voting rights issues, and working in civic engagement…[I was] focusing on what to do to really deal with the power of the sistah vote,” said Campbell. “I say that as an affirmation, because we have not met that yet. We have the numbers, we turn out, people say we’re the most progressive vote, but we have yet to benefit from that power.”
March 27, 2014
City News Service
The city will offer twice as many jobs to young people this summer, with a total of 10,000 openings, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this week. The Walt Disney Co. donated $1 million to fund the Hire L.A.’s Youth program, which makes jobs available to people aged 14-24, Garcetti said.
“I can’t think of a better partner for our youth than Disney,” the mayor said. “I also want to thank Citibank and the Citi Foundation for their generous commitment and thank our other incredible partners.”
Garcetti made the announcement at the Yo! Watts-College Center, where he was joined by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, county Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilman Joe Buscaino and Disney and Citibank executives. Garcetti said the expansion fulfills a goal he set when he first assumed office.
“Too often, young people can fall behind during the summer when school is out,” he said. “But our summer jobs program makes sure summer is a time for young people to get ahead by earning a paycheck, job skills and financial education.”
Teen employment dropped 15 percent drop between 2000 and 2012, according to a report released last week by the Brookings Institute.
“That is unacceptable and we are going to change that,” Garcetti said.
March 20, 2014
President Barack Obama on Monday March 17 froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine. The sanctions are the most comprehensive since the end of the Cold War. Obama said he was moving to “increase the cost” to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.
“If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,” Obama said. He added in a brief statement from the White House that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be calibrated based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.
The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians — including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported Crimea's separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order.
“We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine. We’re making it clear that there are consequences for their actions,” Obama said.
But he’s not going far enough, said Sen. John McCain, just back from a weekend trip to Kiev.
“I think Vladimir Putin must be encouraged by the absolute timidity,” McCain said on MSNBC. He said of Obama’s response, “I don’t know how it could have been weaker, besides doing nothing — seven people being sanctioned after naked aggression has taken place.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not rule out future sanctions against Putin himself.
“We have the authorities to more broadly identify individuals and entities in the future, and we will do that as necessary if the costs to Russia need to be increased,” Carney said.
Officials speaking to reporters on a conference call on the condition they not be quoted by name said those sanctioned are very close to Putin and that the sanctions are “designed to hit close to home.”
The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea. Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the U.S. and European list, which wasn't immediately made public. Biden was heading to Europe Monday and Obama plans to go next week. The president said that demonstrating a “solemn commitment to our collective defense” as NATO allies will be at the top of the agenda.
The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly on March 16 in favor of the split. Crimea’s parliament on March 17 declared the region an independent state. The administration officials say there is some concrete evidence that some ballots for the referendum arrived pre-marked in many cities and “there are massive anomalies in the vote.” The officials did not say what that evidence was.
The United States, European Union and others say the action violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin.
The administration officials said they will be looking at additional sanctions if Russia moves to annex Crimea or takes other action. Those targeted will have all U.S. assets frozen and no one in the United States can do business with them under Obama's order.
“[These] actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation,” the White House said in a statement.
“[These] actions also serve as notice to Russia that unless it abides by its international obligations and returns its military forces to their original bases and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States is prepared to take additional steps to impose further political and economic costs,” the statement said.
Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political players in Russia also responsible for the country’s tightening of human rights and civil liberties in the country. Obama’s order targets were:
• Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide
• Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser
• Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy
• Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation
• Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council
• Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation.
• Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy
The four newly targeted by the Treasury Department are:
• Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia and has supported the dispatch of Russian troops into Ukraine
• Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Crimea separatist group Ukrainian Choice and a close friend of Putin
• Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea’s regional government
• Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament
Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.
March 27, 2014
By Didi Tang
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama spoke to rural Chinese students via web conferencing Tuesday March 25, at her last stop of the six-day China tour focusing on education and cultural exchange.
She was visiting Chengdu No. 7 High School in the southwestern province of Sichuan, an elite school known for its use of distance learning technology to bring quality education to impoverished remote regions in the mountainous province.
Mrs. Obama has largely avoided thorny, political issues on her China trip, although she made a statement that free expressions, choice of religion and unfettered access to information are “universal rights” in a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing on Saturday.
China has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on Internet discourse. Mrs. Obama’s remarks did not call out China directly and have not drawn any governmental protest. But that part of her speech has been kept out of all official Chinese media reports.
While in Beijing, she also visited an elite high school, where more than 30 American students are studying as exchange students, and she held a private discussion with a handful of Chinese professors, students and parents.
Mrs. Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday March 21, before Xi flew to The Hague for a nuclear security summit and held a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday.
Accompanied by her mother Marian Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha, Mrs. Obama has toured the former Imperial Palace, the Great Wall in Beijing, and the Terra Cotta Museum in the ancient city of Xi’an.
March 20, 2014
LAWT News Service
As part of a hearing to investigate data security following breaches at large commercial retailers, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, pointed to the emerging epidemic of cyber crimes and called on legislators to ensure the safety and security of critical consumer financial information.
Waters raised concerns about the frequency of data breaches and the length of time they often go undetected. She also called on law enforcement, regulators and businesses tasked with safeguarding consumers’ information to do more to identify when and where breaches occur – and notify consumers about it as quickly as possible.
In the wake of the massive Target data breach that compromised more than 40 million credit and debit card accounts as well as the personally identifiable information of as many as 70 million consumers, Waters led Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee in calling for an inquiry into the problem. The recent hearing was a response to those inquiries.
Waters released the following statement into the record:
“Thank you, Chair Capito for scheduling this hearing on the important topic of how we can better safeguard the sensitive financial information of consumers. The recent high-profile data breaches have raised pressing concerns about the safety and security of critical consumer information – such as credit and debit card accounts and other personally identifiable information. This is an issue that is not going away.
“Testimony from the Secret Service makes it clear that the recent attacks on large retailers are just the latest in a string of breaches.
“They recognize that there has been a ‘marked increase in the quality, quantity, and complexity of cyber crimes targeting private industry,’ and that the data breaches of Target and Neiman Marcus are, ‘just the most recent, well-publicized examples of this decade-long trend of major data breaches perpetrated by cyber criminals who are intent on targeting our Nation’s retailers and financial payment systems.’
“ It’s troubling to me that despite the increasing prevalence and scale of these attacks, we don’t seem to be much closer to protecting consumer’s credit and debit account information.
“Instead of using this committee to attack the data collection and security procedures of government watchdogs like the highly successful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we should be exploring how we can take action to better protect against these types of massive security lapses in a bipartisan manner.
“Despite extensive efforts to share information among industry, law enforcement and other stakeholders, a surprising number of breaches go undetected for far too long. A 2013 Data Breach “Investigation report conducted by Verizon, found that 66 percent of breaches took “months or more” to be discovered. This is unacceptable and must change.
“Clearly, law enforcement, regulators and businesses tasked with safeguarding consumer’s information must do more to identify when and where breaches occur – and notify consumers about it as quickly as possible…”