October 17, 2013
By Barbara Surk
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s foreign minister said Wednesday that relations between his country and the United States are in “turmoil” following Washington’s decision to suspend delivery of tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to Egypt.
The suspension, announced last week, came in response to the unrest in the wake of the July 3 military coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and that led to the deaths of hundreds in police crackdowns.
In an interview with state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said that there is “unrest in relations” between the two countries, warning that the strain could affect the whole Middle East region. The interview was published Wednesday.
However, Fahmy said he was “not worried about this turmoil in relations,” because it’s also a chance for the two to “better evaluate their relationship in the future.”
The Obama administration’s decision to cut off military aid was meant as a warning that it no longer can be “business as usual” with Cairo, as President Barack Obama put it last week.
In announcing the decision, the State Department did not say how much of the $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to Egypt was affected. It held up the delivery of Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank kits, which are put together in Egyptian factories, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
But the U.S. decision is more of a symbolic slap than a punishing wound to Egypt’s new military-backed government for its slog toward a return to democratic rule.
The military-backed government enjoys the support of wealthy Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These oil-rich states have poured billions of dollars into Egypt’s anemic coffers and to continue the common fight against Islamists.
The U.S. also is withholding $260 million in cash assistance to the government in Cairo until “credible progress” is made toward an inclusive government set up through free and fair elections.
The U.S. said it will keep providing support for health and education and counterterrorism, spare military parts, military training and border security and security assistance in the volatile Sinai Peninsula.
Near-daily attacks against Egyptian security forces and soldiers in Sinai have increasingly resembled a full-fledged insurgency.
October 17, 2013
By Cierra Duncan
Special to the NNPA from The Houston Defender
HOUSTON – Should “sagging” be banned? Some establishments think so. Two Houston McDonald’s locations recently joined the list of Texas restaurants that have banned customers wearing sagging pants with their underwear showing.
Signs placed on the doors read, “Pull your pants up or don’t come in. Try to have some decency and respect for others. No one wants to see your underwear.” Children under the age of three are exempt.
In September, 25 Dallas McDonald’s restaurants outlawed sagging. They posted signs that read, “No sagging allowed in this restaurant. Thank you. Management.” (The McDonald’s owners could not be reached for comment).
Bans on saggy pants have become a nationwide issue. Cocoa, Fla. and Terrebone Parish in Louisiana both enacted saggy pants ordinances.
USAirways faces a lawsuit from an African American college student who was arrested for his saggy pants on a San Francisco to New Mexico flight in 2011. Deshon Marman, a football player for the University of New Mexico, was removed from the flight. He said an airline employee yelled for him to pull up his pants while collecting board passes.
Two Houston activists who mentor young Black men say that that unfortunately, sagging pants can lead to negative stereotypes.
“Most young people who have sagging pants are not a part of the criminal class,” said Luthuli-Allen, co-founder of the International Youth Friendship and Development Program. “However, it’s a question of perception. So many youth are engaged in oppositional and defiant behaviors that people who don’t have daily interaction with youth have bought into deep stereotypes about young people.”
Deloyd Parker, co-founder and executive director of SHAPE Community Center, agrees. He said that bans on sagging pants by certain establishments are another strike against young men.
“By creating that rule, they’re creating another reason to mess with and profile young Black men,” Parker said.
Luthuli-Allen said policies banning customers from wearing sagging pants are “reactive rather proactive.”
He added that such policies are an attempt to protect companies’ customer bases and their ability to continue to remain profitable. He said that if a part of the customer base is offended by something, for example sagging pants, they will not continue to patronize the establishment.
“They are trying to make sure paying customers are not alienated because of something that is perceived as offensive,” Luthuli-Allen said.
Parker echoed his thoughts. “It has to be addressed in a way that does not turn away people,” he said.
Like Luthuli-Allen, Parker has the opportunity to interact with young people from the surrounding community. He also has rules in place about what to wear at the center. Sagging pants are not allowed and women cannot wear excessively revealing clothing.
“When they come into SHAPE I tell them I don’t want to see their underwear,” Parker said.
Luthuli-Allen said if youth have proper guidance they will understand they can be profiled solely based on their appearance.
“Youth who don’t have the proper guidance from adult mentors may not understand they can be profiled and victimized based on something as simple as sagging pants,” he said.
He added that as they did in the past, institutions of family, church and school should become more active in the lives of young people. If they do, youth would understand the importance of appearances and proper behavior in public.
“Kids are being socialized by popular culture,” Luthuli-Allen said. “They are having to learn what is required to be successful in this culture by trial and error.”
October 17, 2013
By Ed White
DETROIT (AP) — A former Detroit mayor was sent to federal prison for nearly three decades Thursday, after offering little remorse for the widespread corruption under his watch but acknowledging he let down the troubled city during a critical period before it landed in bankruptcy.
Prosecutors argued that Kwame Kilpatrick’s “corrupt administration exacerbated the crisis” that Detroit now finds itself in. A judge agreed with the government’s recommendation that 28 years in prison was appropriate for rigging contracts, taking bribes and putting his own price on public business.
It is one of the toughest penalties doled out for public corruption in recent U.S. history and seals a dramatic fall for Kilpatrick, who was elected mayor in 2001 at age 31 and is the son of a former senior member of Congress.
While Detroit’s finances were eroding, he was getting bags of cash from city contractors, kickbacks hidden in the bra of his political fundraiser and private cross-country travel from businessmen, according to trial evidence.
Kilpatrick, 43, said he was sorry if he let down his hometown but denied ever stealing from the citizens of Detroit.
“I’m ready to go so the city can move on,” Kilpatrick said, speaking softly with a few pages of notes before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered the sentence.
“The people here are suffering, they’re hurting. A great deal of that hurt I accept responsibility for,” he said.
In March, he was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, fraud, extortion and tax crimes. The government called it the “Kilpatrick enterprise,” a yearslong scheme to shake down contractors and reward allies. He was doomed by his own text messages, which revealed efforts to fix deals for a pal, Bobby Ferguson, an excavator.
Prosecutors said $73 million of Ferguson’s $127 million in revenue from city work came through extortion. The government alleged that he in turn shared cash with Kilpatrick.
Agents who pored over bank accounts and credit cards said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time as mayor, from 2002 to fall 2008. Defense attorneys tried to portray the money as generous gifts from political supporters who opened their wallets for birthdays or holidays.
“It is difficult to quantify the total cost of the devastating corruption instigated by Kilpatrick. ... But one thing was certain: It was the citizens of Detroit who suffered when they turned over their hard-earned tax dollars but failed to receive the best services,” the judge said.
Kilpatrick was convicted in March, just days before Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sent an emergency manager to Detroit to take control of city operations. The city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July, overloaded with at least $18 billion in long-term debt.
Edmunds said Kilpatrick can’t be blamed for the bankruptcy — he’s been out of office for five years — but “corruption has its own cost.”
“We’re demanding transparency and accountability in our government. We expect it,” the judge said. “If there has been corruption in the past, there will be corruption no more. We’re done. It’s over.”
Kilpatrick covered much ground in his 30 minutes of remarks to the judge. He said he hated being mayor after just six months because the job was so difficult. He lamented that his three sons now will grow up without their father, a problem in Black families, and said his scandals “killed” the political career of his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Democrat who lost re-election in 2010.
The former mayor didn’t specifically address his crimes, though he said he respected the jury’s verdict. An appeal is certain. He said his family wasn’t in the courtroom because he didn't want to make them uncomfortable under the media glare.
“I want the city to heal. I want it to prosper. I want the city to be great again,” he told the judge. “I want the city to have the same feeling it had in 2006, when the Super Bowl was here.”
The sentence was a victory for prosecutors. Defense attorneys argued for no more than 15 years in prison.
The punishment matches the 28-year sentence given to former Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Commissioner James Dimora in 2012. In Illinois, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to peddle President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat for personal gain.
Outside court, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Kilpatrick seemed to be contrite but not enough.
“At the end of the day, he did not accept responsibility for stealing from the people of Detroit. ... That to me diminished the impact of his words,” said McQuade, who noted that public contracts ended up costing more money because the fix was in for Kilpatrick’s buddy Ferguson.
Kilpatrick also tapped a nonprofit fund, which was created to help distressed Detroit residents, to pay for yoga, camps for his kids, golf clubs and travel, according to evidence.
Kilpatrick quit office in 2008 in a different scandal. Sexually explicit text messages revealed that he had lied during a trial to cover up an affair with his top aide, Christine Beatty, and to hide the reasons for demoting or firing police officers who suspected wrongdoing at city hall.
After more than three hours in court Thursday, Kilpatrick stood up and stretched by twisting his waist. He looked for friendly faces in the gallery, placed his hands behind his back for handcuffs and was escorted away. He hopes to be assigned to a federal prison near family in Texas.
October 17, 2013
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
Following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 that brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York and punched a hole in the Pentagon in northern Virginia, the United States government ramped up a massive data collection campaign that effectively claimed privacy rights have become another casualty of the War on Terror.
A new report from the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law firm at New York University School of Law, details the government’s enormous data collection and storage efforts fueled by the fear of another September 11.
According to the report, the U.S. government can collect your public Facebook posts and tweets, all non-deleted and non-encrypted information from your computer, telephone, or iPad, your e-mails, where you travel, who you meet with, your credit history and your driving record.
Every 30 days, the National Security Agency stores 41 billion communications records through its XKEYSCORE program that tracks a wide range of Internet activity and e-mails. Through the program, some data with no connections to terrorism can be saved for more than 75 years.
“One of the things that comes up often is that there was too much information in the system and that really did hinder accurate analysis,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman the author of the Brennan Center report, titled “What The Government Does With Americans’ Data.”
The report stated, “The failure of the intelligence community to intercept the so-called ‘underwear bomber’ – the suicide bomber who nearly brought down a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 – was blamed in significant part not on insufficient information but on an overabundance of data.”
Levinson-Wardman said democracy works best when there is a lot of information flowing from the government to the people and, by and large, that pattern has been reversed. “There’s a lot of information flowing from us and there is very little transparency in reverse,” she said.
The government’s surveillance powers have grown under the Obama administration, even as experts warn that the current approach to data collection clogs the system making it harder to find the real terrorists. Some experts warn that a billion “false alarms” could be generated from the administration’s current levels of data collection.
In 2012, the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC] received a new mandate that allowed for increased collection of American data that had no current link to terrorism – “a ten-fold increase from the previous limit,” according to the Brennan Center.
The report states, “the NCTC may utilize, keep, or share information about Americans in order to monitor their First Amendment-protected activities or other constitutional rights as long as that is not the sole justification for using the data.”
When the National Security Agency was audited in 2012, investigators found that the organization had violated privacy rights of thousands of Americans that ultimately led to zero terrorism plots.
“NSA analysts have also misused the agency’s surveillance systems to spy on spouses or romantic interests,” stated the Brennan Center report. Even though the NSA vowed to comply with all privacy laws, experts say that the violations highlight the need for greater transparency and independent oversight of the surveillance programs.
The Brennan Center report outlined a number of recommendations including making sure that the data set has a “publicly available policy” to increase transparency of the programs, that government agencies “require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to retain or share information about Americans for law enforcement or intelligence purposes,” and “Reform the Privacy Act to better protect against the long-term retention and broad sharing of innocuous, sensitive personal information, and institute oversight mechanisms.”
Levinson-Wardman said that experts from the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense have said that there is so much information flowing from the public to the government that the system is overloaded.
“It’s impossible to find the important parts, it clogs up the system, but people are afraid not to bring it all in,” said Levinson-Wardman. “They are afraid of missing something, but the fact that there is so much [data] makes it almost inevitable that they are going to.”
October 10, 2013
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African American churchgoers, is standing strong with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West as they continue to educate us on how the Obama administration has consistently ignored and vilified the Black community. The Black community has not been treated with the type of respect and assistance we need in the most devastating economic climate since the Great Depression. What is more, this comes after the Black community gave Mr. Obama over 98 percent of his vote both in 2008 and 2012.
So-called African American leaders like our dear brothers Rev. Al Sharpton, Radio Host Tom Joiner, and NAACP leader Ben Jealous have made the poor choice of cozying up to the Obama administration as the black community has literally gone to hell in a hand basket. There is a dire need for them to stop criticizing Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West. These brothers are trying to force the administration to address the economic needs of the black community and to treat African Americans equally. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the traditional civil rights leadership on the other hand went around and told us to “lower our expectations.” In other words, they wanted us for the first time in our history to “lower our expectations” of the new president.
In some sense, this was a reasonable request given the condition of the country. But, after six years of suffering in silence, and after all we gave to President Obama, we are in a much worse economic position.
We love President Obama and his family! We want him to the right thing by us. We want President Obama to succeed, but he cannot do this by ignoring his most loyal supporters - his people.
Sharpton is not the president of Black America; we have a God-given right under the Constitution to air our views. The Black community is not monolithic in its thoughts. We have diverse sets of viewpoints just like all Americans.
One can easily assess this by the massive complaints coming directly from the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are in some sense treated like the Republicans when they want access to the White House to plead their case.
We have lost 54 percent of black spending power during this recession.
Black unemployment rates vary between 13 and 15 percent
• Black businesses fell sharply under the Obama administration.
• Black students are saddled with more debt under this administration.
• Black poverty rate increased under this administration.
• Black home owners got little or any assistance from the President’s three foreclosure programs (all of the administration foreclosure assistance programs have been an utter failure of black families).
• Black women, especially black poor women, who have supported the President at 99.8 percent have nothing to show for their single mindedness of support for President Obama.
• Black youth employment numbers are worse under this President than under Presidents Bush or Clinton.
• Black colleges and universities are experiencing the worst economic downturn without any resource support from this administration. Will President Obama let Howard University fall?
• Africa was granted a five year $7.5 billion economic assistance package - pennies when compared to $200 billion in overseas investment in China.
Even more sad and indefensible, the Obama administration has no plan to correct these persistent and permanent conditions. They will give you the old Ronald Reagan line that the President is trying to help all Americans and he sees no difference between the African American middle-class position and the white middle-class economic condition. Hypercritically, President Obama once articulated that the economic scale clearly favored white America.
The economic statistical picture for African Americans continues to decelerate under the Obama administration. These are hard facts. We have invested so much hope in President Obama and he has consistently failed us with his drone and spy programs, and his thirst for killing and talking down to our children, especially at Morehouse. He has and continues to be a moral embarrassment to the black church and the black family by not addressing their real concerns. But when it comes to the gay community, he has and continues to use the full power of his presidency to push and promote the wicked policy of same sex marriage.The question here is to ask for what policy the administration has thrown its full weight behind to benefit Black America. If one will say healthcare, they will be wrong simply because the Affordable Care Act has not taken effect as of the date of this press release.
The Rev. Anthony Evans, President of NBCI says, “I am ashamed of my people that they will go after one of ours — Tavis and Cornel — as they defend the dignity of black people. When I heard that black people and some black women have threaten Tavis’ life I stopped being ashamed and was horrified of the way that we have begun to treat one another. The Black Church will have none of this in our community. The person who threatens and criticizes Tavis and Cornel is morally wrong and should be condemned. Beloved, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are defenders of dignity and what is good and honorable in the black community. They are not political opportunist who will kick these brothers and misrepresent their thoughts in the media and especially in the black press. Shame on anyone who will harm these brothers by words or action. These two brothers represent the Christ who cared and loved the poor. The church according to our Lord and savior must defend the poor — NBCI speaks for the poor-this is our job.”
Against this backdrop of economic catastrophe in the black community, we face political isolation from the White House and African American leaders — Sharpton, Jackson, Jealous and others — telling us that we shall not use our political skills in pressuring the Obama administration to address the needs of the black community. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and many others who dare to question this administration as they trade off of the President's blackness (or the lack thereof) that we should not challenge the President publicly as he ignores us. This makes Tavis and Cornel's challenge important so that we can reclaim the manner of protest and the fight for human dignity. Travis is not perfect like Al Sharpton is not perfect but both of them love our people. This is why it is wrong to vilify Tavis and Dr. West for their approach concerning the President Obama leadership.
Tavis Smiley as you know has over the past 20 years committed himself and his company to come up with a plan to defeat the economic, political and moral issues that confront daily our reality in the black community. The plan was called the Covenant which every single black leader — men and women signed on to it and they were the first ones to violate the core principle of the Covenant which stated that: as leaders we will hold every president/politician to the principles of the Covenant for Black America irrespective of whether they were Republican or Democratic presidents/politician. When President Obama was elected the same so-called leaders told us to — through away our minds. You should have no greater expectations (black people) for President Obama than you should have for a white president. The main advocate of this silly political philosophy of not holding President Obama to the same standards that we would hold any white president was Al Sharpton and Tom Joiner and Ben Jealous.
Both of them signed to covenant. They violated the Covenant that they signed and criticized Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West for upholding the core principle of the Covenant to President Obama and his administration. As a result of this, they allowed a lynch mob of so-called black leaders including black women to threaten the life of our beloved brother Tavis and West because they were both willing to give the Obama administration a free pass just because he was the first one to achieve the presidency. This makes Al Sharpton and Tom Joiner and the rest of the so-called black leaders who signed that covenant moral hypocrites. Are they saying that we cannot have a civil discussion about the moral and political integrity of President Obama’s policies? Or are we betraying the race if we question the leader of the free world about his commitment to his own people as we suffer worse than any other race in this country?