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.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

January 31, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

Contributing Writer

 

After being ousted as president of one of the nation’s most powerful and influential labor unions three years ago, a disgraced Tyrone Freeman was dealt a federal conviction this week that could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

Freeman, 43, who became the youngest leader in the storied history of the Services Employees Inter­national Union (SEIU) was convicted on 14 of 15 federal charges which included stealing tens of thousands of dollars and faces an April sentencing that could land him in prison for a maximum term of 180 years.

When reached by telephone on Tuesday (Jan. 29), a subdued Freeman said that he was going to pick up his children ages five and ten and would begin a phase of soliciting character letters for his final court date.

He began working for the union at the tender age of 21 as executive director of SEIU Local 1985 in 1994 in Atlanta, GA, and by 1996 was elected to the International Executive Board making him the youngest leader in the then 90-year history of the SEIU.

Freeman then was moved to Los Angeles where he became vice president of SEIU International and subsequently president for one of the largest locals in the country SEIU 434B.

During his tenure he led drives in the south and here locally where the political culture for a young African American demanded creative organizing.

He earned his final post at the new SEIU 6434-United Long Term Health care Workers Union as dual presidency which yielded him power and influence over 190,000 homecare workers ultimately became his last.

Three years after gaining such power, a local newspaper revealed in explosive articles that he had abused it in 2008, igniting a four year federal investigation that culminated in a 10-day trial and a two and a half day jury deliberation, which resulted in his current fate.

According to published reports, Free­man was among the highest paid union leaders in the nation commanding an annual salary of $200,000, but was convicted on tax counts that he failed to report $63,000 in income in 2006 and 2007.

Last August he was indicted on charges that he embezzled from the statewide local, using some of the stolen money to pay for a lavish Hawaiian wedding. Other charges included violation of tax laws and giving false information to a mortgage lender.

Freeman hired his wife Pilar Planells as a consultant paying her more than $540,000. She pleaded guilty to a tax charge.

The three investigation agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor, FBI and Internal Revenue Service painted a picture of Freeman as a man who funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from his members dues and money from a related charity to his relatives, and also Four Seasons Resort golf tournaments and on a membership at an exclusive Beverly Hills cigar club.

In 1996 Time magazine honored Freeman as a leader who was revitalizing the American Labor Movement. In 2003 he received The John F. Kennedy “Profiles in Courage” Award and the Southern Christian Leadership Con­ference “Drum Major Award.”

Freeman told the newspaper that he does not know of his ultimate fate and that he would like for people to remember him for the many good deeds that he has done.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

January 31, 2013

Thandisizwe Chimurenga

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

President Obama is joined by African Americans this week who are voice their concern over the escalating rate of gun violence which is sweeping across the nation leaving school children, teachers and African Americans either dead or wounded.

More than 40 people died in the city of Chicago during the month of January – including 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton, a student at King College Preparatory High School who had recently performed with her school’s marching band at President Barack Obama’s 2nd inauguration.  Pendleton was shot in the back on Jan. 29, while seeking shelter from rain with some friends in a park not far from her school.

Chicago and Sandy Hook, Conn. – where a gunman opened fire and killed 26 people at an elementary school in December – have been on the nation’s radar non-stop as gun violence across the country continues to claim the lives of children, women and men.   They were also on Obama’s mind as he announced his plans to reduce gun violence during a White House briefing on Jan. 16.

The president announced 23 Executive Orders that would go into effect right away including:  launching a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign; providing law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations; providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers; and developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

Executive Orders are limited, discretionary powers allowed to the president.  Although they carry the full force of law, they are not laws in themselves, since Congress is the body charged with creating federal law in the United States.

Currently, federally-licensed firearms dealers are required to run criminal background checks on gun buyers, but it is believed that close to 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private individuals who are exempted from that requirement. Many of those private sellers take advantage of gun shows – large, periodic and temporary exhibitions of various firearms, military paraphernalia, and collectibles – to sell their guns since they do not engage in the activity full time.  The president has called on Congress to close this loophole. 

President Obama has also called on Congress to reinstate a ban on military-type assault weapons that expired in 2004, and to ban the possession of armor-piercing bullets and automatic handgun magazine clips that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. 

The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, also known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  That act, which stood for 10 years, banned the possession of certain semi-automatic firearms, termed assault weapons, by name such as the Colt AR-15, the AK-47, and Uzis.  The act also defined an assault weapon has having a minimum set of features such as a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip; a flash suppressor, or a grenade launcher.  Semiautomatic handguns with an ammunition magazine that attached outside of the pistol grip, such as the Tec-9 were also considered to be assault-type weapons (regular or non assault-type, semiautomatic handguns have magazines that attach in the pistol grip, such as a Glock). 

The president made several other recommendations that would free up resources for local police to better track weapons involved in criminal activities and provide for increased access to mental health services.  Adam Lanza, the man police say went on the Sandy Hook shooting spree, was rumored to have suffered from a mental illness although a psychiatric profile of the young man has not been made available yet.

Critics of Obama such as the National Rifle Association and others have used the recent Executive Orders and recommendations as a rallying cry that the federal government is slowly chipping away at Americans’ right to own firearms. 

A sampling of African-American opinion shows both support for common sense gun policy and a cautionary nod to what has been called the racist roots of gun control.

 “We have to find a way to reduce the availability of military-style assault weapons.  These aren't legitimate hunting weapons.  They pose a unique threat to our community and to law enforcement,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson who represents the 10th District.  “The City Council went on record last week supporting Senator Dianne Feinstein's legislation which would reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.  I support that legislation, and I hope the Congress will too,” said the councilman.

Before she was elected to Congress Karen Bass (D-CA-37) worked and taught as a physician assistant for 10 years at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine program.  During this time period she co-founded the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment after witnessing first-hand what the violence of crack cocaine and gangs were doing to South Los Angeles. She commended Obama for his leadership “in compiling thoughtful recommendations” on ways to reduce the plague of gun violence and stated, “We live in a society where children, particularly those growing up in urban areas are exposed to mass gun violence on a daily basis and the time has long passed for us to take action. Commonsense reforms such as universal background checks and ensuring health insurance plans cover mental health benefits are proposals that all Americans – including NRA members can get behind.”

In her weekly column posted on Jan. 25, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, wrote, “The reason gun deaths are a huge epidemic in the United States is simple: It’s the guns and the permissive gun laws that protect them … Although the U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the global population, Americans own an estimated 35 to 50 percent of all civilian-owned guns in the world.”

 “Our nation is saturated with guns and the National Rifle Association wants more and more,” she said.

That is certainly one view.

Harry Belafonte, well known entertainer and social justice activist, recently remarked to the Associated Press that the Black community was not as involved in the gun control debate as it should be.  “The African-American community ... where is that community? Where is that voice? … What really concerns me is the ingredients of the discourse,” he said.

As part of that discourse, Prof. Akinyele Umoja says a look to the past is in order.  “The recent debate concerning gun control is complex, particularly as it relates to African descendants in the United States. As with almost every other issue in the US, the race dimensions of gun control cannot be dismissed.”

As a youth and a community activist, Umoja spent many days and nights pounding the streets of Compton and South Los Angeles.  Now as an associate professor and chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta, he believes that the issue of gun control for the Black community has to be seen as an issue of self-determination, self-reliance and self-defense.

Much of the debate around gun control in the mainstream press has centered around the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution which states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

 “Slave-holding society fought to prevent enslaved Africans access to weapons to resist and increase potential for insurrection,” said Umoja.  “After emancipation, Blacks sought arms not only to hunt, but to protect themselves from white supremacist terror. Gun ownership was associated with citizenship and liberty and as a means to protect those principles,” he said. Umoja is also the author of the book, “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement,” due to be released this April.

 “Black people will never disarm in a political and social environment where Black life is still challenged and not valued,” he said.  “The Black community must advocate for policies that take weapons out of the hands of unstable elements (e.g. checks for mental illness), but we must also be vigilant to make sure these policies are not utilized in a manner to weaken the capacity of our community to defend itself from white supremacists.”

The concern over white supremacist violence is a real one. Earlier in January, The Atlantic Magazine wrote about a West Point report on the “dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics.” The article went on to describe the far right as “Christian fundamentalists, Militia movement groups, Skinheads, neo-Nazis, and violent anti-abortionists” that had been cited in the military academy’s report entitled Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America's Violent Far-Right.

Back in 2009, Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report, wrote that “[President] Barack Obama’s election has inflamed racist extremists who see it as another sign that their country is under siege by nonwhites … the idea of a black man in the White House, combined with the deepening economic crisis and continuing high levels of Latino immigration, has given white supremacists a real platform on which to recruit.”

Jeffrey Everett, a member of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was quoted in the award-winning film “41st and Central:  The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers,” as saying that the group had a rule:  “Don’t give up your piece’ (gun). Umoja said that one of the late Gil Scott-Heron’s famous lyrics was, “when other folks give up theirs, I’ll give up mine.”

In some quarters of the Black community in 2013, it appears that still seems to be the case.

 

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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