January 02, 2014
By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Nearly 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty, a new report finds that robust social safety net programs are slowly leading the nation to victory.
According to the report, “Trends in Poverty With an Anchored Supplemental Poverty Measure,” the poverty rate has dropped 40 percent since 1967, as a result of provisions such as housing vouchers, free school lunch unemployment benefits, Social Security, food stamps, and more. Without these programs, the researchers find, the percentage of Americans living in poverty would be twice as high.
“Our research tells us that these programs are important for families struggling to put food on the table and find adequate shelter,” says study co-author Christopher Wimer, a research scientist at the Columbia Population Research Center. “For a family of four our measure puts the poverty threshold higher at about $25,000 a year, which is not going to go so far.”
The Census Bureau introduced the official poverty measure (OPM) in 1963 to aid in distributing federal aid. At that time it was based on income and the cost of food. Today, the measure is based on a family’s size, cash income, and ages of its members.
The study’s authors say that it’s an outdated and insufficient measure—not only are there non-cash types of income (such as food stamps or housing subsidies), but also the OPM excludes tax burden, and only considers families linked by blood, marriage, or adoption (same-sex partners or cohabiting couples with children, for example, do not count as family).
It seems the Census Bureau picked up on these deficiencies; in 2010 it introduced the supplemental poverty measure (SPM). This measure uses an improved threshold, a more inclusive tally of a family’s expenses and resources, and a broader definition of “family.”
Although the SPM is only intended for research use (the OPM is still used for federal spending), the authors contend that it offers a better picture of American poverty.
According to the OPM, the poverty threshold is around $23,000, and has been since the late ‘90s. The SPM offers a higher threshold, largely because it reflects changes in cost of living more acutely—and it also means more people qualify as poor.
To study poverty trends over the last 45 years, the researchers used today’s SPM threshold and applied it to American families’ household data since 1967 (adjusting for inflation). That year, the official poverty rate was 14 percent; and it hasn’t changed much since then, lingering between 11 and 15 percent over 45 years of data. But with the SPM, the poverty rate has steadily declined—in 1967 it would have been 26 percent. It’s come down to 16 percent as of 2012, which means that poverty has fallen 40 percent since 1967.
The measure also reveals the impact of anti-poverty programs and policies by examining the effect of taxes (tax requirements, breaks, and credits) and transfers (in-kind federal income, such as housing vouchers and free school lunch). Without including taxes and transfers in the SPM measure the poverty rate would have been 27 percent in 2012. In other words, tax breaks and safety net programs have saved 13 percent of lower-middle income Americans from poverty.
Elise Gould, an economist with think tank nonprofit, Economic Policy Institute also believes in the potential of this measure.
“We absolutely see that if we look at measures—even just the OPM—that if it had not been for these economic programs more people would be in poverty. All these programs like sick days, housing vouchers, child care credits, help lift people out of poverty,” she says. “And the SPM is absolutely the best thing today to examine that. Trying to recreate it back in time is a great undertaking.”
The researchers also calculated SPM-based poverty rates for the elderly, working age people, children, and for those in deep poverty (who live on 50 percent or less of the poverty threshold). Taxes and transfers have kept deep poverty around five percent since the ‘70s. Without them, that rate would be closer to 15 and 20 percent.
This study comes at a time when media spotlight has focused on the rising tide of poverty, especially for urban children. But this month Congress approved nearly $40 billion of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) over the next decade, starting last month. One in seven Americans will be affected.
“It’s not that we’ve solved the problems through these programs—there’s still 15 or 16 percent of the country living in poverty under our measure,” Wimer says. “But our research shows that programs like SNAP do a decent job of helping families meet their food costs, which clears room in the budget to pay rent.”
Gould, who also studies economic mobility, believes that while safety net programs are essential, they’re only half the battle.
“Government support has done an incredibly good job in helping people, but pre-tax and pre-transfer income for people really hasn’t changed a lot,” she explains. “You have to really think of ways to increase people’s income and that usually means better wages. When the economy is not doing a great job of serving and providing jobs for ordinary people, the government has to step in. With both aspects, you can do a fair amount to alleviate poverty in this country.”
January 02, 2014
By Brian E. Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from
The Final Call
Ten days of mourning and celebrating Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela ended with an emotional yet dignified state funeral and burial in the hills of Qunu, the former South African president’s ancestral home village. The 95-year-old statesman, who died in early December, was interred with 21-gun salutes and a military formation of six fighter jets that graced the sky in respect to the former commander-in-chief of the South African National Defense Forces, founding president of a democratic South Africa and father of the nation. According to reports, the full military ceremonial honor was a first for the country.
The service was broadcast live on huge screens throughout South Africa and globally via the Internet. Mr. Mandela’s grandchildren, South African President Jacob Zuma, Malawi President Joyce Banda and former Zambia President Kenneth Kaunda spoke among others. Respecting the Mandela family, the Dec. 15 ceremony was more private than five days earlier with a public memorial and three days of the late president’s remains lying-in-state.
Family, select friends, international dignitaries including civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, media giant and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, Prince Charles of England and South Africa’s senior leaders were among those invited to Qunu in the Eastern Cape to bid a final farewell to a man who became the face and symbol of struggle, triumph, freedom and integrity.
“Today marks the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago,” President Zuma reflected in opening words about President Mandela, a former political prisoner jailed for armed struggle and activism to end brutal White minority rule in the country. While Mr. Mandela’s personal journey has ended, the country still faces serious challenges of inequity, poverty, crime, racial discord and questions about how land and resources taken by Whites will be redistributed to the Black majority.
“The father of the nation is gone, Our Moses is gone. Who shall take us further on this journey for true emancipation of our nation and the people of the world,” asked “Lugubrious10,” whose comments were listed on SABC TV’s Youtube channel.
Public tributes and purposeful deception?
Over 10 days, nearly 100 heads of state converged on South Africa to participate in memorials for Mr. Mandela. In Johannesburg a huge public service was held at a sports stadium, before police escorted the flag draped casket from 1 Military Hospital outside of Pretoria to the Union Buildings where Mr. Mandela’s remains laid for public viewing.
People lined the streets showing their respect for the freedom fighter. As is the custom at African funerals, there were energetic cultural expressions of chanting, dancing and hymn-singing about liberation while saying goodbye to “TaTa”—a Xhosa word for father. A military honor guard carried Mr. Mandela’s casket to a special viewing center erected in the building’s amphitheater, which Mr. Zuma named after Mr. Mandela by presidential decree.
The Union Buildings once symbolized White domination as the place from which the repressive apartheid regime governed. Mr. Mandela kept the location as presidential offices when the African National Congress came to power in all-race elections in 1994 and subsequent voting. Thousands endured long lines for hours to view Mr. Mandela in a half-glass covered coffin, demonstrating their love and gratitude for “Madiba,” as he was often called by his countrymen.
During the memorial held in the same Johannesburg football stadium where Mr. Mandela delivered his first speech after being released from Robben Island prison 23 years ago, speaker after speaker expounded on his life and significance. However there were contradictions, depending on the speaker. Some remarks were seen as sincere and credible, while others were seen as historically dishonest.
Among world leaders paying homage to Mr. Mandela was an obvious dichotomy between the likes of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and President Raul Castro of Cuba—an ally of anti-apartheid and African liberation movements—and the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama—who delivered soul stirring words. But these were leaders of countries that actively supported racist White minority rule over the struggle for self-determination for Black South Africans. No top Israeli political leader was present, but Israel’s nuclear capability came from White Afrikaners, largely isolated from the rest of the world, except Israel’s big brother, the United States.
“They would like you to believe that the United States and the West had seen all along in Mandela what we’ve seen from the outset. That they were friends to him, but we know that they were enemies to him,” Maurice Carney, executive director of an Africa advocacy group, The Friends of the Congo, told The Final Call. “We must not allow the dominant powers to rewrite the story; they were not on the side of peace; they were not on the side of justice; they were not on the side of freedom for the South Africans or for the other freedom fighters on the African continent.”
Sentimental language toward Mr. Mandela versus a sordid history of opposing him highlighted the hypocrisy of Western nations, who pushed a message of “peace” and “forgive your enemies” in a controlled, twisted and false narrative about Mr. Mandela.
Mr. Mandela was a giant of the continent and not just South Africa, and his passing represents the loss of a recognized moral voice and one who would criticize Western behavior. Already, emasculated African leadership will continue to face, and often accept, takeovers by foreign corporations and U.S. militarization of the continent through AFRICOM — the Pentagon’s African Command.
At memorial services and in many conversations there was little talk of seeking accountability for America’s past wrongs on the continent. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency delivered up Mr. Mandela to his apartheid persecutors in 1962. Earlier, the CIA partnered with Belgium and Congolese reactionaries in the capture and assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961. In 1966 the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. In 2011 along with NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — America facilitated the illegal toppling and assassination of Muammar Gadhafi of Libya — an avowed friend and supporter of Mr. Mandela and the freedom struggle. The same CIA has kept U.S. regional proxies of destruction — Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni — in power, say critics. These leaders and America are responsible for war that killed 6 million Congolese from 1996 to 2007, they added.
“On the other hand, we know who were on our side. We saw that Cuba had sent thousands of troops into Angola and the battle of Cuito Cuanavale was seminal in the liberation of Namibia and Namibia’s independence and ultimate downfall of the apartheid regime,” said Mr. Carney.
President Obama was received enthusiastically as he eulogized Mr. Mandela at the stadium memorial. “How to promote equality and justice … uphold freedom and human rights … end conflict and sectarian war?” he asked rhetorically. “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” President Obama said.
But America historically joined the chorus of Zionist antagonists who accused Mr. Mandela of anti-Semitism and branded him a rogue and a terrorist. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was on U.S. terror watch lists until 2008 — fourteen years into his global service that drew praise. It was ironic for President Obama to recognize Mr. Mandela as an example of forgiveness and peacemaking while the American president has authorized extra-judicial killings, U.S. drone assassinations of foes abroad and is trying to extradite U.S. freedom fighters in political exile like Assata Shakur in Cuba.
“Explain to me how Obama pretends to embrace a Black revolutionary who engaged in armed struggle in the person of Mandela but puts Assata Shakur, another Black revolutionary on a most wanted terrorist list,” asked Ajamu Baraka, longtime human rights activist and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. “For us it is a major contradiction.”
America lauding Mr. Mandela’s legitimate struggle in South Africa while holding U.S. political prisoners who participated in Black liberation struggles in the 1960s and 1970s must be raised consistently, said human rights activists.
“Sister Assata Shakur and all the freedom fighters who were involved in that struggle still entombed in these dungeons here in this country has just as much right to be released as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa,” said Mr. Baraka.
“Mandela is being praised in the corporate-owned media and western governments for his achievements and especially for his policy of ‘peace and reconciliation’ with the former racist oppressors following the fall of the apartheid system,” said Brian Becker, the national coordinator of A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition — Act Now to End War and Racism.
Mr. Becker explained the wave of pro-Mandela coverage has the effect of “masking the ugly truth” and hypocrisy of these same entities who are attempting to reinvent the former liberation fighter as someone that meets their comfort levels and covers their contradiction.
As the era of Madiba closes, the global struggle for self-determination continues. The principles that drove him to struggle against oppression are alive and the marginalized people from America to the Caribbean, Central and South America and from Europe to Africa must unite against the same forces that are seeking to redefine Mr. Mandela and hide their own misdeeds, they said.
“Our fight was and is a righteous struggle for real self-determination and liberation … our fight is one and the same as the fight that was waged in South Africa against White colonial capitalist domination,” said Mr. Baraka.
December 26, 2013
By Charlton Doki and Jason Straziuso
Less than three years after its creation, the world’s newest country is beginning to fracture along ethnic lines in violence that has killed hundreds of people. What could come next, some warn, is ethnic cleansing.
South Sudan’s numerous ethnic groups have battled each other for decades, but for years their animosity was united in hatred of the government in Khartoum, Sudan, the country’s former capital. When the south gained independence in 2011, the groups’ common enemy receded, exposing the fault lines — this week, even among the presidential guard.
On Thursday, armed youths breached a U.N. compound in Jonglei state, causing an unknown number of casualties.
Emergency evacuation flights took away American and British citizens, aid workers and United Nations personnel to escape the violence.
South Sudan’s government declared that its security forces “are in absolute control of the situation,” but admitted later on Thursday December 19, that the central government had lost control of Bor, the capital of the country’s largest and most populous state, where barrages of gunfire were reported.
“The situation in South Sudan can be best described as tense and fragile. If it is not contained, it could lead to ethnic cleansing,” said Choul Laam, a top official with the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, who spoke in Nairobi, Kenya.
Violence broke out late December 15 when the presidential guard splintered along ethnic lines. Guards from the president’s majority Dinka tribe tried to disarm guards from the Nuer ethnic group, said Laam. Violence in the capital, Juba, spiraled from there, and then extended out into the country.
“The awful accounts of killings in Juba may only be the tip of the iceberg,” said Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch. “Government officials — whatever their politics — need to take urgent steps to prevent further abuses against civilians and quickly deescalate rising ethnic tensions.”
President Salva Kiir earlier said an attempted coup had triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on ousted Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.
Machar disputed Kiir’s allegations that he had attempted a coup, but said he wants Kiir out of power.
“We want him to leave. We want him to leave. That’s it,” Machar told Radio France Internationale. “He can’t unite the people and he kills them like flies.”
Machar, an influential politician who is a hero of the brutal war of independence against Sudan, is Kiir’s rival for top leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party. Tensions had been mounting since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July. Machar later said he would contest the presidency in 2015.
Regardless of the cause, the South Sudan government said the violence has already killedup to 500 people.
Armed youths breached a U.N. compound in the tiny village of Akobo, in Jonglei state, to reach civilians seeking shelter there, said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq in New York.
“We fear there may have been some fatalities but can’t confirm who and how many at this stage,” Haq said.
At the time, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six U.N. police advisers and two U.N. civilian employees were present at the base, as were about 30 South Sudanese who had sought shelter, according to the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The mission said it would dispatch aircraft early last Friday to evacuate U.N. personnel who remain at the base.
South Sudan’s capital was mostly peaceful Thursday, and the government tried to assure the U.N. and foreign embassies “that civil tranquility has been fully restored.”
Countries such as the U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany continued to evacuate residents. A plane with a mechanical malfunction blocked the runway during the day, jamming up inbound and outbound flights.
The U.S. evacuation plane — the fourth group of Americans flown out in two days — was eventually able to take off heading for Kenya. “Runway clear. Wheels up,” the embassy said on Twitter. Two military flights and a charter took off on Wednesday. Britain’s evacuation plane landed in Uganda late Thursday.
The government said it lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, to forces loyal to Machar. Gunfire was reported early and late in the day, and the U.N. used four helicopters to transport 75 people —a mix of aid workers and U.N. staff — to Juba, said Challiss McDonough, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s World Food Program.
“We lost control of Bor to the rebellion,” said Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman.
Aguer said renegade officers wrested control of the town from loyalist forces. At least 19 civilians had been killed in Bor, said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross.
In oil-rich Unity state, fighting broke out in oil fields on Wednesday and Thursday, said Mabek Lang De Mading, the state’s deputy governor. He said five people died Wednesday and 11 on Thursday.
Foreign ministers from neighboring countries Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti traveled to South Sudan to try and diffuse the crisis.
Human Rights Watch said last Thursday that South Sudanese soldiers fired indiscriminately in highly populated areas of Juba earlier in the week and targeted people for their ethnicity.
Citing witnesses and victims, the group reported that “soldiers specifically targeted people from the Nuer ethnic group.” In some cases, the group added, the Dinka may have been targeted by Nuer soldiers.
An estimated 20,000 people have sought refuge at two U.N. compounds in Juba and another 14,000 in Bor. U.N. officials warned of a humanitarian crisis.
Deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said in New York that the U.N. will do its best to protect those who have sought refuge. “Clearly, civilians are in danger,” said Eliasson.
Associated Press reporters Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya; Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda; Cassandra Vinograd in London; Cara Anna and Edith M. Lederer in New York and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report. Straziuso reported from Nairobi.
December 26, 2013
By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News
As immigration reform efforts remain stymied by Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the rush by the foreign-born from the Caribbean and elsewhere to gain legal residence and ultimately citizenship has gathered steam.
Caribbean immigrants, led by people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica in that order account for a sizeable share, 15 per cent to be precise of the 757,434 residents from almost every United Nations member-state who changed their status surpassed the 100,000 mark, according to figures compiled by the Department of Homeland Security for the year 2012. By taking that momentous step, the West Indians and others earned the right to hold any job or elected position, except the presidency of the U.S.; to vote in federal, state and local government elections; don’t have to worry about a knock of the door in the dead of night; no longer be afraid of immigration authorities turning up on job with a pair of handcuffs; or be worried about being deported, except in extreme cases.
The Dominican Republic, which ironically took away its citizenship from as many as 200,000 Haitians who were born in the Spanish-speaking nation and lived there for all of their lives, saw 33, 351 of its own people became naturalized Americans last year. Between 2010 and last year, almost 70,000 Dominicans took on U.S. citizenship. At the same time, 23,490 Haitians whose birthplace shares the island of Hispaniola with Dominicans became American in 2012, joining more than 26,100 who took that decisive step in 2010-2011.
Jamaicans too changed their status from green card holders to citizens in droves. Last year, 15,531 immigrants from the English-speaking country became Americans, at least 1,000 more than in 2011 and 2,500 above the figure in 2010. Between 2010-2012, some 42,000 Jamaicans took the citizenship pledge, stated the Department of Homeland Security.
Sandwiched between the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica was Cuba. More than 31,000 Cubans stepped forward, raised their right hand and swore allegiance to the United States last year, bringing the total number of Cubans to 66,000 in the three year period.
Although the Department of Homeland Security didn’t provide specific figures for Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Suriname, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, officials in Washington said that the combined total of naturalizations from those island-nations and coastal states amounted to at least 20,000.
The Caribbean immigration picture looked somewhat like this:
Last year more than 109,000 immigrants from the region received their naturalization papers from Washington; up from 79,820 the year before and 62,483 in 2010.
Between 2010 and 2012, the largest increase in naturalizations from North America and the Caribbean occurred among persons born in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Of the 10 leading countries for naturalizations, four were from the Caribbean in 2012 – the DR. Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.
On average, Caribbean immigrants spent about seven years as legal permanent residents before becoming naturalized, compared with six years for immigrants from South America.
In 2003, Jamaican permanent resident immigrants in the United States totaled 13, 347 or two per cent of the 703,542 foreign born residents enjoying that status. By 2012, the amounted to 20,705, also 2 per cent of the global total which rose from 703,542 to more than 1 million.
Haiti has surpassed Jamaica as a major Caribbean source of immigrants in the U.S. A decade ago, Haitian permanent residents totaled 12,293 but by last year, the figure had skyrocketed to 22,818 out of more than one million.