Newswire : West Africa inequality crisis called extreme in new report

African goat herder

July 8, 2019 (GIN) – “Inequality has reached extreme levels in West Africa, and today the wealthiest 1 per cent of West Africans own more than everyone else in the region combined.”
That was the finding in a new report published by Oxfam and Development Finance International.

According to the “West Africa Inequality Crisis” report, six of the ten fastest-growing economies in Africa were in West Africa, with Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal among the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies.

“In most countries the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth have gone to a tiny few,” the report said.

The report said the vast majority of West Africans were “denied the most essential elements of a dignified life, such as quality education, healthcare and decent jobs”.

While West Africa suffers the most inequalities on the continent, many governments prefer to ignore problems despite economic growth, the report said.

In Nigeria, for example, the wealth of the five richest Nigerian men combined stands at US$29.9 billion – more than the country’s entire budget in 2017, the report said.

Rather than tackle inequality, some of the region’s governments were underfunding public services, such as health and education, and failing to tackle corruption, Oxfam’s regional director Adama Coulibaly said.

The report called on governments to do more to promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labor market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholders.

For example, it said the region loses an estimated US$9.6 billion annually because of corporate tax incentives offered by governments to attract investors.

But not all governments were tackling inequality the same way. Cape Verde, Mauritania and Senegal were among the most committed to reducing inequalities, it said, while Nigeria, Niger and Sierra Leone were among the least.

Newswire : Patrick Gaspard to receive prestigious NAACP Spingarn Medal


Patrick Gaspard

BALTIMORE – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation’s foremost civil rights organization, has announced that Ambassador Patrick Gaspard will be awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal during the NAACP’s 110th Annual Convention taking place in Detroit, Michigan on July 24.

The award recognizes Gaspard’s lifelong commitment to equality and civil rights. Gaspard, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved with his parents to the United States when he was three years old. He served as political director for President Barack Obama in the White House and as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, overseeing the party committee’s efforts to re-elect President Obama.
In 2013, President Obama nominated Gaspard to the post of United States ambassador to South Africa. He worked to strengthen civil society and worked in partnership with the South African government to develop the country’s healthcare infrastructure and to support innovations in local governance. He also worked to connect South African entrepreneurs to United States markets; develop clean, renewable, and efficient energy technologies; and to end wildlife trafficking.

“Patrick Gaspard is a global champion for civil and human rights. Hiscontributions to campaigns to end police brutality, improve access to affordable health care, and increase dignity for working families is unparalleled,”said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO.For over 100 years, we have honored leaders who have served as pillars in the fight for justice and this year’s selection of the Patrick Gaspard is no exception.”
“The NAACP has been a beacon and an inspiration to me my entire life; Its leaders blazed the trails we now walk, and helped make my career, and the careers of countless other organizers and activists, possible,” said Gaspard. “The previous recipients of this incredible honor are among my greatest heroes, who showed us what dedication and the courage of our convictions could achieve. To be in their company is beyond humbling. I am enormously grateful for this recognition, and will do all that I can to try, now and in the years to come, to live up to its promise.”
“Ambassador Gaspard’s service within the Labor Movement as well as his tenure as a member of the Obama administration has always inured to the benefit of all Americans,” said Leon W. Russell, NAACP Chairman, National Board of Directors. “His service in the diplomatic corps as Ambassador to South Africa during a challenging period of that nation’s development was stellar.”
The NAACP Spingarn award was established in 1914 by the late Joel E. Spingarn then Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. It was given annually until his death in 1939. The medal is awarded “for the highest or noblest achievement by a living African American during the preceding year or years.” A fund to continue the award was set up by his will, thus, the NAACP has continued to present this award. Previous recipients of this award include: Mrs. Daisy Bates (Little Rock Nine), Jesse L. Jackson, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Earl G. Graves Sr., Oprah Winfrey, Cecily Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and the Honorable Nathaniel Jones. Tickets to the Spingarn Dinner can be purchased on the NAACP Convention website here.

ABOUT NAACP 110TH CONVENTION:
Other highlights will include a Presidential Candidates Forum, a legislative session, a CEO Roundtable, LGBTQ workshop plus the highly anticipated NAACP Experience retail expo and diversity career fair. More information about the 110thAnnual NAACP National Convention, including a detailed schedule of events may be found by visiting naacpconvention.org. Media interested in covering the event should apply for press credentials here.

Newswire : Waters convenes hearing on need for diversity on Federal and corporate Boards

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

WASHINGTON – At a full Committee hearing entitled, “Diversity in the Boardroom: Examining Proposals to Increase the Diversity of America’s Boards,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following opening statement:

Today, this Committee convenes for a hearing on the lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity on federal and corporate boards.
Strong diversity in the boardroom is critical to continued U. S. competitiveness and to ensuring that consumers of all backgrounds are served and not excluded. Unfortunately, corporate and federal boards are not living up to their responsibility to reflect America’s rich diversity.
According to the Alliance for Board Diversity, over 80 percent of new board directors at Fortune 500 companies in 2017 were white males. The Federal government also has a long way to go. For example, our own Federal Reserve System has been in existence since 1913, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Raphael Bostic became the very first African-American and first openly gay man to serve as a Federal Reserve Bank president.
At the same time, America continues to become more demographically diverse. According to the 2018 Census projections, youthful minorities will be the leading source of future workers, taxpayers and consumers.
In our May 1 Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee hearing entitled, “Good for the Bottom Line: Reviewing the Business Case for Diversity,” we set the record straight that highly inclusive companies:
· Outperform their competitors;
· Rate themselves 170% better at innovation; and
· Generate 1.4 times more revenue.

Despite the clear benefits of inclusivity and diversity, white males still remain in the majority of seats on corporate and federal boards. Women of color in particular have been excluded from participation on boards. Although some reports show that the percentages of women on boards may be increasing, the raw numbers reveal that compared to white males and white women, African-American, Asian and Latina women still have the fewest seats. In order to understand these trends, we must continue to have access to board diversity data.
Diversity is one of the best investments a company can make. Diverse boards help intentionally guide companies and industry toward business solutions that maximize returns on that diversity investment.
Before us today are witnesses who can share perspectives on the status of board demographics. I look forward to drilling down on the current state of board diversity and discussing solutions so that more women and minorities can be appointed to board seats.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), is the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services.

Black Belt Community Foundation awards Community and TRHT Grants

Greene County Children’s Policy Council: $1,500 grant to provide writing coaches and supplies to host a four-day writing camp for elementary, middle and high school students.
Boy Scout Troop 945: $1,500 grant to provide speakers, transportation and supplies for young and adult men to travel on an educational journey including workshops and forums to help prepare them for life.
The Mt. Hebron Community Coalition: $1,500 grant to purchase electronic equipment and supplies for public exercise activities three days a week for citizens to live healthier lives.
Center for Rural Family Development: $1,500 grant to provide stipends, field trips and supplies to support an eight-week leadership and business training for students in 8th thru 12th grade.

 The Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF) is celebrating several months of hard work in completing two concurrent granting cycles with its 2019 First Round of Community Grants for 11 Black Belt counties and its first 2019 Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Selma grants for Selma and Dallas County. The Total pool of funding for Community Grants is approximately $75,000 funded across 54 different community organizations, and for the TRHT grants, approximately $24,000 in funding is being awarded to six different organizations based in Dallas County. This represents 84% of applications being funded from a total of 64 applications for community grants and 55% of applications being funded from a total of 11 applications for TRHT Selma/Dallas County grants.
This community granting cycle involved the full participation of BBCF’s large network of volunteer community associates active across its 12 county service area of the Alabama Black Belt. A key component of community granting is the ‘participatory granting’ process where communities start their own fundraising locally that are matched with funds from BBCF to create a greater collective impact in funding community enriching work across each county.
BBCF President Felecia Lucky states,”’Impressive’ is the word I have in reference to all of our grant applicants, awardees and the amazing team of our community associates and TRHT Selma grants committee and partners in engaging the community for this process. To be able to award nearly $100,000 in vital funding to 60 different organizations engaging in community transformative work is truly a blessing!”
The TRHT Selma granting cycle involved a three-month long grants application process starting in April that included four public grant seekers workshops in Dallas County and two racial equity workshops held in Selma. Of note, BBCF’s TRHT Selma place partner, The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation produced and conducted all of the racial equity workshops that were required for applicants alongside of attendance at a workshop.
All grant recipients were announced and celebrated at BBCF’s joint Community Grants/TRHT Grants Awards Ceremony held at Wallace Community College in Selma on Sat. June 29th in the Hank Sanders Technology Center Conference Room (11AM start).
Specific details on the names of the grant recipient organizations and the type of work that will be funded is presented with photos above.

Rep. Sewell to host Hale and Greene County Town Hall Meetings

Saturday, July 13 – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) will continue her annual Congress in Your Community town hall tour in July, stopping to meet with constituents in Greene and Hale Counties.
Sewell hosts a Congress in Your Community Town Hall Meeting Tour every year, visiting each of the 14 counties in the 7th Congressional District. These meetings serve as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue with constituents, allowing her to connect with residents and address their concerns. Sewell’s stop in Greene and Hale Counties will be her seventh and eighth stops respectively on the 2019 town hall meeting tour.

Details for
Saturday, July 13, 2019:

What: Hale County Town Hall
Where: Horseshoe Farm, 1202 Main St, Greensboro, AL
When: 11:00 a.m.

What: Greene County Town Hall
Where: Forkland Town Hall, 13327 US-43,
Forkland, AL
When: 2:00 p.m.

Eutaw City Council continues to debate financial issues

The Eutaw City Council met twice during the past month on June 11 and June 25 to do the business of the city. The Council continues to debate financial issues which affect other major policy and project decisions.
The Council still does not have a clear budget, showing income sources and expenditures. A budget and an audit are being worked on but no written information is available yet for the City Council as a basis for its actions. Two separate CPA firms are working on the budget and audits but no documents have been produced yet.
A budget would be helpful for the City Council to see the flow of incoming revenues and the payment of expenses for planning future projects and obligations. The audits are needed to verify past operations to file applications with USDA Rural Development, ADECA and other state and federal agencies for needed equipment and new projects to improve the city.
A listing of bills to be paid was presented at each meeting. The June 11 list shows $276,365 in unpaid bills and the June 25 listing shows a reduction in outstanding bills to $265,243.
Councilwoman Latosha Johnson praised City Clerk Kathy Bir for preparing an understandable list of the City’s obligations to allow the council to make decisions on which bills are most pressing and need immediate payment.
The Mayor suggested using funds in a special infrastructure account, set up by the Sheriff, with bingo funds, to pay for improvements to the Branch Heights Roads. These roads were repaired using funds in the highway tax accounts. Several council-members opposed the Mayor’s proposal to spend these funds to pay other bills and initiate other road repair projects without consulting with the Sheriff and clarifying what the City did and plans to do with funds. Again, it is clear that a budget with up to date revenue and expenditure amounts would help to resolve what seemed to be difficult and at times insurmountable problems facing the city.In a related financial matter, the City Council and Mayor deadlocked in a 3 to 3 vote, with Latosha Johnson, Sheila Smith and LaJeffrey Carpenter voting in favor and Joe Lee Powell, Benny Abrams and Mayor Raymond Steele voting against a proposal for pay increases for the police force, supported by donations from the TS Police League, a bingo charity associated with the Palace Bingo Group. The Mayor voted for a tie vote to stop the motion until he had time to discuss with the City Attorney and other legal advisors.
In other actions, the City Council:
• Heard from City Attorney Zane Willingham that the Sate Legislature had passed local legislation to allow for Sunday liquor sales; Willingham said he would draft a new ordinance for on and off premises sale of alcoholic beverages, for consideration at the next Council meeting;
• Received a report from Rev. Jerome McIntosh of SCORE International, a religious organization that wishes to partner with the City on a job skills training program, to be offered at the Carver School – Robert H. Young Community Center;
• Approved travel expenses for Police Chief Derrick Coleman to attend a conference on leadership at UNA in Fort Payne on June12-14, 2019;
• Referred legal claims from Erica Purse and Roland Elliot to the City Attorney;
• Appointed Mrs. Isaac Atkins to serve on the Eutaw Housing Authority Board of Directors.
During the public comment period, a number of residents complained about drainage, road repairs, grass cutting, refuse removal and other similar problems in areas around the city.

Newswire- Kenyan reserve deploys an anti-poaching technology arsenal

This is a photo of an African Rhino

Ol Pejeta Game Reserve, in Kenya, has taken the battle against poaching a notch higher and deployed an arsenal of anti-poaching equipments.
The conservation’s ranger uses a 360 ° camera films the area and relays round-the-clock possible intrusions to the reserve headquarters. The camera is part of high-tech equipment launched last month by the conservation as part of the first high-tech laboratory for wildlife, a research center located in the heart of the sanctuary to integrate new technologies into the daily management of animal reserves.
“What’s bothering me with the world of wildlife protection is our slow pace of adopting new technologies and putting in place new ways of doing things – it has to change,” said Richard Vigne, the director general of Ol Pejeta.
Computer engineers at Ol Pejeta test the next generation of animal geo-location chips and develop sensors that will one day provide information on the health status of rangers, river levels etc.
The private reserve on Kenya’s Laikipia plateau is home to the last two northern white rhinos in the world – two females – and the largest population in East Africa of black rhinos, a critically endangered species.
The 360 km2 reserve with 250 rangers responsible for security is battling the high threat of poaching. Last year, three rhinos were killed, their horns sectioned and carried away, in the Meru National Park, on the other side of Mount Kenya.

Newswire- Neo-Nazi who killed Charlottesville protester Heather Heyer sentenced to Life in Prison

By Laurel Wamsley and Bobby Allyn, NPR

This is a photo of a car plowing into pedestrians and vehicles on the mall in Charlottesville during a white supremacist rally. The driver hit the knot of cars and people at high speed, then backed up and fled the scene.

The man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Va., killing one person and injuring 35 has been sentenced to spending the rest of his life in prison.
A federal judge issued the sentence of life without the possibility of parole on Friday for self-proclaimed neo-Nazi James Fields Jr., 22, of the Toledo, Ohio, area.
The judge’s punishment, announced in a Charlottesville courtroom, came after numerous survivors delivered emotional testimony about the psychological and physical toll the attack caused.
After the hearing, prosecutors described the 2017 attack as heinous.
“It was cold-blooded. It was motivated by deep-seated racial animus,” Thomas Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told reporters. He said Fields’ lethal car-plowing was calculated, calling it “a hate-inspired act of domestic terrorism.”
“Charlottesville is never going to be the same,” Cullen said. “It will be with this community, and the commonwealth of Virginia, and this country, for a long time.”
Survivors who testified included Rosia Parker, a longtime civil rights activist in Charlottesville. She told the court she watched the attack from just feet away. “You could have done anything else but what you did,” Parker said, according to The Associated Press. “You deserve everything that you get.”
In legal filings presented to the judge on Friday, Fields’ lawyers said while he committed a “terrible crime,” they asked the judge to also consider Fields’ “traumatic childhood and his mental illness,” wrote Fields’ federal public defender, Lisa Lorish.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge for a life sentence for Fields. A plea deal brokered in March took away the possibility of the death penalty, and federal prosecutors and Fields’ lawyers agreed that federal sentencing guidelines called for a life sentence. As part of the deal, Fields pleaded guilty to 29 of the 30 federal hate crimes he facedand is not eligible for parole.
Prosecutors had said Fields’ crimes were “so horrendous — and the maiming of innocents so severe — that they outweigh any factors the defendant may argue form a basis for leniency,” according to a sentencing document filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh before the Friday hearing.
Last week, Fields’ attorneys asked for something shorter than a life sentence, citing Fields’ age and history of mental illness.
Fields has already been convicted of separate state charges for murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people. The jury in that case recommended a life sentence plus 419 years and $480,000 in fines. Sentencing in that case is set for July 15.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said in Aprilthat she was satisfied with Fields’ federal guilty plea and was not intent on his getting the death penalty. “There’s no point in killing him. It would not bring back Heather,” she told reporters.
Fields was 20 when he drove his Dodge Challengerthrough the night from Ohio to attend Unite the Right, a white nationalist rally, in August 2017. The weekend turned deadly when Fields accelerated his car into the group of protesters. Two Virginia State Police troopers investigating the day’s events also died when the helicopter they were in crashed.
Before he was sentenced on Friday, Fields offered an apology for “the hurt and loss I have caused,” the AP reported.
Lawyers for Fields wrote the court to say that he used Twitter in search of community and “quickly learned that provocative and hateful comments led to more exposure,” leading him to follow white supremacist accounts, including Richard Spencer and Mike Peinovich.
Fields’ lawyers wrote that he found out about the Unite the Right rally through its organizers’ online recruiting campaign.
His attorneys say he had no intent to commit a violent act, instead describing the attack as a “impulsive, angry and aggressive decision.”
President Trump said afterwardthat there was “blame on both sides” for the violence in the college town.

Newswire- Innocence Project: 2018 was a record year for exonerations

By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet

This is a photo of Gregory Counts

Gregory Counts freed after 26 years

The Innocence Project reported in the most recent issue of its magazine that a record nine clients were exonerated and released from prison in 2018 for crimes they didn’t commit.
Maddy deLone, the Innocence Project’s executive director, wrote in Spring 2019 issue of “The Innocence Project in Print” that the nine exonerations were most at one time in Innocence Project’s 26- year history.
Exonerations continued into 2019 with three more men being released from prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

The incarcerations took a problematic toll on the 12 men who were locked behind bars for a total of nearly 300 years. “Time away from their homes, families and loved ones cannot be replaced,” deLone wrote.

Gregory Counts, one of the exonerated said, “I want to jail when I was 19. I did 26 years—over half of my life in jail. I need to see the world.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. vacated rape, sodomy and kidnapping charges against Counts after a woman who claimed she was the victim admitted to lying. Semen and other physical evidence eliminated Counts as a suspect.

Malcolm Alexander, another exoneree, said, “freedom is a new life. It’s like being reborn. It’s giving a chance to live a life I had been denied.”
Prison officials locked Alexander behind bars for 38 years for a rape he didn’t commit. A judge sentenced Alexander to life in Angola Prison in Angola, Louisiana, the country’s most-notorious prison and former plantation, when he was 21.
The Innocence Project determined Alexander’s attorney was incompetent.
Genetic testing eventually eliminated him as the rape suspect. He left prison with a smile on his face and his black pet Labrador Retriever named “Innocent.”

In another matter, New York created the first ever state-wide commission to study prosecutorial misconduct, such a failure to disclose or discrimination in jury selection.

Newswire- WashPost: Democratic candidates rebuke race attacks on Kamala Harris

By Eric Mack , Newsmax

This is a photo of Senator Kamala Harris (D – CA)

Attacks on the race of Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif., suggesting she is not African American, have brought fellow Democratic presidential primary candidates to her defense, The Washington Post reports.
“The attacks against @KamalaHarris are racist and ugly,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted Saturday. “We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks.”
Warren was pointing to Internet and social media reports rebuking Sen. Harris because she is not African American because she is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. Warren is one of Harris’ chief presidential primary rivals, but she too has been criticized for her claims of distant Native American heritage.
“This stuff is really vile and everyone should speak out against it,” Sen. Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams tweeted.
Adams tweet linked to The Daily Beast report outlining a rebuke of Sen. Harris as not being an “American black,” a claim that was retweeted –but since deleted – by President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., according to The New York Times.
“Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted.
Among the other Democratic primary candidates, rushing to the defense of one of the surging rivals:
· Former Vice President Joe Biden: “The same forces of hatred rooted in ‘birtherism’ that questioned @BarackObama’s American citizenship, and even his racial identity, are now being used against Senator @KamalaHarris. It’s disgusting and we have to call it out when we see it. Racism has no place in America.”
· South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “The presidential competitive field is stronger because Kamala Harris has been powerfully voicing her Black American experience. Her first-generation story embodies the American dream. It’s long past time to end these racist, birther-style attacks.”
· Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.: “The coordinated smear campaign on Senator @KamalaHarris is racist and vile. The Trump family is peddling birtherism again and it’s incumbent on all of us to speak out against it.”
· Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: “These troll-fueled racist attacks on Senator @KamalaHarris are unacceptable. We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this type of vile behavior.”
Sen. Harris directly challenge Dem frontrunner Biden’s social justice record in Thursday night’s debate, which led to a surge of anti-Harris tweets within minutes, according to Caroline Orr, a behavioral scientist who studies disinformation campaigns online.