May 16, 2013
LAWT News Services
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Kobe Bryant and an auction house that wants to sell memorabilia from his high school days and early pro career are heading for a trial next month, unless they can work out a deal before then.
U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb on Monday set June 17 as a trial date, but also set a court-guided mediation session for Friday in a case that’s the manifestation of an ugly family dispute that all sides seem to want to resolve quickly.
“Maybe I should have had you bring your witnesses today and we would have tried the case,” Bumb said at a hearing. “You’re all so ready to go.”
The main reason she didn’t schedule the trial for an earlier date was that Bryant’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, said he could not get to a trial sooner because he’s coaching a Thai team in the Asian Basketball League playoffs.
The animosity became public earlier this month, shortly after Berlin, N.J.-based Goldin Auctions announced its plan to auction off Bryant's mementos, which date to his days at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia. Goldin’s April 30 announcement promised a June sale of 100 items provided by Bryant’s mother, Pamela Bryant.
The collection includes high school uniforms, signed basketballs, trophies and other items, to be auctioned off along with 900 other items. It gave Pamela Bryant a $450,000 advance, which she used to buy a home earlier this year in Las Vegas.
The same day the firm announced the auction, the NBA star’s lawyers sent Goldin a letter asking it not to hold the sale, arguing that the collection belonged to Kobe Bryant, not to his mother.
Since then, the auction house filed a lawsuit in New Jersey seeking the right to sell the materials.
Kobe Bryant has sued in California, saying that some of the items — a surfboard from the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and a trophy — were last seen in his home there.
Several family members have submitted statements taking sides.
Joe Bryant, a former NBA player himself, and Kobe Bryant’s grandmother are siding with Pamela Bryant, saying that Kobe told his mother she could have the items.
Bryant’s sister, Sharia Washington, gave lawyers a statement supporting her brother.
The court filings also dredge up old troubles, including Pamela and Joe Bryant saying Kobe made them move out of his California home after he met the woman who would become his wife. Washington brought up other times when she said her mother wanted to make money off Kobe Bryant's name.
Though a trial date was set, there are several legal questions.
Bryant’s lawyer, Christian Carbone, said he may continue to argue that the case should be dealt with in California, though Judge Bumb said there is no reason not to handle it in New Jersey.
Also, Bumb said the case could be decided by a jury if either side demanded it. So far, though, neither side has done so.
A California judge last week ordered that Goldin not sell any of the items yet. Goldin’s lawyer, Jeffrey Cohen, said in court Tuesday that the auction house would voluntarily extend that ban on sales until after the matter is resolved.
Two items — 2000 NBA championship rings made for Pamela and Joe Bryant — are exempt from that order.
By Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – For Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, trouble seemed to come easy.
His troubles began in 1997, when at age 12 he plead guilty to setting fire to the apartment of his grandmother, Betty Shabazz, that resulted in her death in New York. As a result, young Malcolm spent four years in juvenile detention centers.
In 2003, he was back behind bars—this time as a result of an attempted robbery. And in 2006, it was for punching a hole in a donut shop wall in Yonkers, N.Y..
His troubles ended for good in Mexico City last Wednesday, when the 28-year-old was killed after being beaten outside of a bar, according to sources close to Shabazz.
Well-known publicist and family friend, Terrie Williams of New York, confirmed Malcolm’s death via Twitter and Facebook.
“I’m confirming, per US Embassy, on behlf of family, the tragic death of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcom X,” Williams tweeted.
Shabazz was reportedly traveling to Mexico City with RUMEC, a Mexican labor organization based in California, when he was beaten to death in an attempted robbery, according to Juan Ruiz, a member of RUMEC.
Ruiz, who spoke to the political news website, Talking Points Memo, was one of the first to get in contact with RUMEC leader Miguel Suarez, who was with Shabazz at the time of his death. Suarez had been deported to Mexico from the U.S. last month and Shabazz reportedly traveling to Mexico to support the labor rights activist.
Reporters from the Associated Press spoke to Suarez who said, Shabazz was beaten outside of a bar in downtown Mexico City, after the owner asked to two to pay a $1,200 bar tab for drinks, music, and dances with women inside the establishment.
The owners of the club hassled the two, demanding the cash, according to Suarezm and the two were separated—a man with a gun took Suarez into a room, Shabazz was left in the hall. Suarez reportedly managed to get away, and left the bar in a cab. When he came back, he told reporters, he found Shabazz outside of the bar.
“He was in shock. His face was messed up,” Suarez told the AP. “He was alive.”
Suarez later called the police and took Shabazz to the hospital, but Shabazz died soon after as a result of blunt-force trauma.
In a statement, the family of Shabazz expressed grief, but added that the slain 28-year-old can now rest “in peace in the arms of his grandparents and the safety of God.”
The stated released through Terrie Williams said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved El Hajj Malcolm El Shabazz. To all who knew him, he offered kindness, encouragement and hope for a better tomorrow.”
In February, as he traveled to Iran, it was widely reported that Shabazz had been arrested by the FBI. Though the Shabazz family later deemed the news report untruthful, it didn’t come as a surprise given the record of Malcolm X’s namesake.
Like his grandfather Malcolm X, whose own young life was littered with troubles, Malcolm Shabazz was no stranger to the legal system.
When Malcolm was young his mother Qubilah, the second of Malcolm X’s six daughters, was charged with planning to murder Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan with her boyfriend. She believed Farrakhan played a role in the assassination of her father, a charge the Nation of Islam leader has consistently denied.
Though her charges were dropped and she was sent to a rehabilitation center in Texas instead of prison, Malcolm was sent to live with his grandmother in Yonkers, N.Y. at age 10.
Two years later, after an attempt at living with his mother in San Antonio failed, young Malcolm set fire to the apartment he and his grandmother shared. The fire that killed of Betty Shabazz, 61, the widow of Malcolm X.
Her grandson was considered schizophrenic and paranoid. He said he heard voices telling him to set things on fire. He was sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile detention center. The initial sentence led to Malcolm spending the next four years of his youth in and out of detention centers.
According to a 2003 New York Times profile, he joined a gang, sold drugs, and built a rapport among the street thugs of Manhattan. In 2002, he skipped bail after an arrest for an attempted robbery in Middletown, N.Y. and spent another three and a half years in the penal system, this time in Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a prison in Washington County New York, Malcolm was 18.
Malcolm told the Times of his plans for the future, as he studied Islam behind bars, again, like his grandfather before him. He is quoted as saying, “My name will bring attention. People know Malcolm Shabazz, whether you like me or not.”
He found inspiration in his grandfather’s life, as the two both got off to similarly rocky starts. “He didn’t know he was going to be Malcolm X. He didn’t know that,” Shabazz said in the 2003 New York Times interview. “But with me, I know what I want to do. I know what I want to be.”
According to the New York Amsterdam News, Shabazz was in the process of writing two books and was attending Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He is survived by two daughters, his mother, and several aunts.
May 09, 2013
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Social Security changes proposed by Obama could hurt African Americans more than other groups, a new report by the Center for Global Policy Solutions finds.
In this fiscal year 2014 budget, President Obama proposes switching the way benefit programs such as Social Security and civil service retirement adjust for inflation to the chained consumer price index, or chained CPI.
Chained CPI calculates inflation differently from the consumer price index, the current yardstick. The move would save approximately $230 billion, according to the president’s budget.
“The chained CPI significantly reduces the purchasing power of those who rely on benefits issued by the federal government, and especially disadvantages retirees and the long-term disabled because it fails to take into account the higher costs they shoulder as a result of their increased need for health care services and related products,” the report reads.
The Center for Global Policy Solutions report finds that the changes may cause particular harm to older African Americans; many depend on Social Security for the majority of their retirement income.
Nearly half of African American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income, compared to 35 percent of all beneficiaries. Two out of five Black retirees over 65 depend on Social Security for their entire income.
The report show that 18 percent of Black adults over 65 had an income below the federal poverty level; without Social Security benefits, 53 percent of older African Americans would be living in poverty according to the AARP.
The changes to COLA will also impact the one in five Black children receiving disability benefits. Black children are twice as likely to receive survivor benefits as well.
“Chained CPI is also a poor policy considering that Social Security does not contribute to our annual deficit, and the trust will run a surplus of more than $2.7 trillion until the 2030s,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said in a statement. “I am disappointed then that President Obama would consider burdening those who are most in need of our support.”
The changes proposed by the president did not fare well with the constituents they will affect the most. In April, AARP released a poll that showed that 70 percent of older voters are not in favor of using chained CPI for the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment and 78 percent are opposed to using the adjustment for veteran benefits.
“This cut to Social Security would break the promise to seniors and hurt veterans who’ve sacrificed so much for this great country,” AARP executive vice president Nancy LeaMond said in a statement.
According to AARP, those who rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, which includes 47 percent of African American beneficiaries, would experience an 8 percent cut to their income after 30 years using chained CPI.
According to the report, the coming reductions will result in about $3 lost for every $1,000 in benefits. That amounts to a lot for the African Americans over 65 who receive about $13,000 a year in benefits.
Although President Obama has proposed to protect “the most vulnerable Americans,” including those over 76 and beneficiaries who receive benefits for longer periods of time, Mikki Waid, AARP senior strategic policy advisor, says older African Americans won’t reap the benefits of being protected.
“African Americans don’t live as long, so even though the president has proposed these bump ups, an African American male that has made it to 65 is only expected to live to 81, women to 84,” Waid says. “They aren’t going to benefit from the protections.
Waid adds, “The fact that they decided to exempt some individuals makes you wonder if it’s a more accurate cost of living adjustment. Is it really an accurate inflation measure of older Americans?”
The report finds, it isn’t.
A large portion of retirement income goes toward medical expenses, figures that are not considered in the chained CPI adjustment.
The average 65-year-old couple retiring will need $240,000 to cover future medical costs, according to Fidelity Investments, which tracks retiree health care costs. The median annual income for African Americans on Social Security is $14,400.
The report also finds that African Americans will be the most negatively impacted by the switch to chained-CPI because they have much less wealth that could be used to supplement the reduction in Social Security.
“As a result of racial wealth disparities, African Americans will be negatively affected by implementation of the chained CPI regardless of the non-means tested federal program from which they receive their benefits,” said Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions . “With precious few other assets to help meet expenses, African Americans will experience deeper economic pain as a result of the chained CPI.”
In 2010, Whites had six times the wealth of their African American counterparts, according to a new Urban Institute report. Whites who were age 32-40 in 1983 had an average family wealth of $184,000, a figure that rose to $1.1 million in 2010. Blacks, in comparison, had an average family wealth of $54,000 in 1983, which had only grown to $161,000 in 2010, when both groups were nearing retirement age.
Blacks have historically started off with less wealth than their White counterparts, and on average have not reached equal levels of wealth by retirement. Factors such as low wages, high unemployment, and lesser job opportunities have contributed to Blacks inability to accrue enough wealth to keep such large portions of the community from being solely dependent on Social Security into retirement.
The Great Recession, however, also lead to an increased loss of wealth within the African American community, especially in terms of retirement savings. Blacks, according to the Urban Institute report, lost about 35 percent of their retirement assets during the recession, while White families saw an increase.
A major problem, Waid finds, with chained CPI is that the negative impact to benefits will take affect immediately.
“Chained CPI will effect beneficiaries immediately and it will effect all beneficiaries,” Waid says.
She adds that because of this, unfortunately, there is little one can do to prepare.
“It’ll affect them now,” Waid reiterates. “But really what can you do? If you’re an African American 70-year-old woman, I wish I could tell them something they could do, but I just can’t.”
LAWT Staff and Wire Report
President Barack Obama nominated veteran Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also has chosen a former telecommunications lobbyist to head the Federal Communications Commission, the White House said.
Watt, a North Carolina Democrat who has been in Congress for 20 years, would replace Edward DeMarco, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, who has been a target of housing advocates, liberal groups and Democratic lawmakers.
Obama also has settled on Tom Wheeler, one of his top campaign fundraisers, to become the country's top telecommunications regulator. The president is expected to name FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to serve as acting chairwoman.
Senate confirmation is required for both posts.
“I commend President Obama on his nomination of Congressman Melvin 'Mel' Watt as director of the FHFA,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on May 1 after the nomination.
“As Californians work to recover from the mortgage crisis, they need a strong director at FHFA who will be an advocate for homeowners and champion their rights. My number one priority has always been the welfare of Californians, and I am confident that Congressman Watt will advance policies that serve the best interest of working families in California and across the country. I look forward to working with him.”
Watt's nomination comes at a crucial time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-controlled mortgage-finance enterprises. The government rescued the companies at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 as they teetered near collapse from losses on mortgage loans gone bad.
Taxpayers have spent about $170 billion to rescue the companies. So far, they have repaid $55.2 billion.
Fannie and Freddie together own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans. Those loans are worth more than $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 percent of new mortgages.
The nomination comes as the housing industry is making a comeback. Home prices are up, foreclosures are down and housing construction is on the rise. Moreover, Fannie Mae had its biggest yearly profit last year, earning $17.2 billion.
Watt, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, played an influential role in the passage of a financial regulatory overhaul in 2010. That legislation, however, did not address the fate of the major mortgage lenders, an issue likely to come up during Obama’s second term.
His colleague Congresswoman Maxine Waters described Watt as “thoughtful, well informed, principled and fair.”
“I have worked very closely with Representative Watt for almost 20 years,” Waters said in a statement, also released May 1 after the nomination.
“We have served together on the House Financial Services Committee since 1994, where Mel is highly respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a consummate legislator with the vision to see what Congress can do to help make people’s lives better and the determination to move a good bill through the legislative process. Representative Watt is always respectful of opposing viewpoints and can often find common ground when others can find none. He is accepting, open-minded and collaborative – and he gets things done.”
Watt represents the Charlotte area, home base of behemoth Bank of America Corp. He becomes yet another high-profile African-American and the second North Carolinian nominated by Obama in three days to a top government post. On Monday, Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, to head the Transportation Department.
Watt, who has a consistently liberal voting record, is expected to face Republican opposition to his confirmation and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was among the first to express disappointment.
The White House was already lining up supporters who might hold some sway with GOP senators.
“This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the hen house,” Corker, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said in a written statement. “The debate around his nomination will illuminate for all Americans why Fannie and Freddie failed so miserably.”
By Charlene Muhammad
LAWT Contributing Writer
The California Public Utilities Commission is launching a series of hearings in search of ways to improve a state program that provides low income families a discount on basic, residential and wireless phone service.
Under the federally created LifeLine program, families receive flat-rate, local land-line telephone service. They may also receive wireless service through the LifeLine cell phone program but not at the same time, advocates caution.
The series of state-wide hearings will be held in eight cities (Fresno, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Dimas, Rancho Cordova, and Eureka) between 4-7 p.m., May 14-June, 2013. Discussed will be potential changes such as new discount levels, expanding the services eligible for the discount, including wireless Lifeline service, and other non-traditional services.
“We have seen these kinds of proceedings influence the decisions made at the Commission, especially now, where we have four new commissioners at the CPUC,” said Ana Montes, during a tele-briefing with reporters on May 2. Montes is organizing director of the Utility Reform Network, which works on telecom, energy, water and environmental issues in California.
The “California’s LifeLine to the Future Tele-briefing” was hosted by the Center for Media Justice, the Utility Reform Network, and New America Media, a nationwide association of more than 3,000 ethnic media organizations.
Advocates say they intend to address the number of minutes people need to communicate effectively with employers, schools, doctors, social services, or for job interviews. But for now, their primary aim is to let people in need know what opportunities exist through the program and that the hearings are on the way.
Stephen Renderos, a national organizer for the Center for Media Justice, which works to transform media and end racism and poverty, feels the California LifeLine program is an important safety net for communities of color across the state.
“For communities of color and low income communities, the cell phone is not just a means to communicate. It’s also a means to improve their financial situation,” Renderos said.
Nationally, 13.5 million people are enrolled in LifeLine programs, but another 15 million who are eligible (many in California) still aren’t enrolled, perhaps because they just don’t know about it, he noted.
“We believe that everyone has the right to communicate and when policy issues are being decided, we believe that the solutions should reflect and fundamentally change the real life experiences of marginalized communities, meaning communities of color,” Renderos continued.
In addition, advocates noted, rate payers pay for lifeline. It’s not a gift from telecommunications companies, and people have a right to affordable and reliable services, they argued.
According to Minister L.B. Tatum of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, a consortium of 20 African American churches in the San Bernardino region, the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County is facing an economic crisis.
He’d like to see CA LifeLine expand so grassroots, community based and faith-based organizations can help their constituents gain access, he said.
“LifeLine is needed because the folks we service are not always afforded opportunities to learn about it, and receive assistance filling out applications. We want to make sure the information about the program is marketed to the least of these,” Minister Tatum noted.
Part of what’s good about the program is the money people save on phone service means they’re able to buy food they otherwise couldn’t afford, advocates noted.
A major challenge, however, is the program requires a permanent address. Some families live in hotels and service providers don’t recognize those addresses, they explained.
Tina Cheung, a community organizer with the Chinatown Community Development Center, helps mono-lingual immigrants adjust to life in America. A recent tragedy underscores the importance of phone service, she said.
One family she assisted lived in a single room occupancy hotel, in very close proximity to their neighbors. Yet, no one knew that an elderly tenant had been deceased in the nearby unit until three weeks has passed. They were able to use their LifeLine phone to call 911 and the owner, according to Cheung.
“Often times those that qualify, whether it’s language barriers or other active barriers ... It is very possible for them to be connected ... Having that reliable phone service is so vital,” Cheung said.
Advocates expect a decision on any proposed changes to the program by the CA Public Utilities Commission within a year of the last scheduled public hearing on August 13.
(More information about the California LifeLine program is available at www.californialifeline.com.)
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