Newswire : Vendors in tears as Zambia’s biggest outdoor market burns

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Market in Zambia is burning

(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – A fire of unknown origins raced through the largest outdoor market in Zambia, destroying the livelihood of its many vendors. Goods worth millions of kwacha – the Zambian currency – have gone up in flames. Images on social media show how the fire which began July 4 and was barely extinguished by July 7 destroyed the Lusaka market.
The market was built a decade ago with a designated police post as well as day and night guards. It is also said to be a facility that prohibits cooking and fire inside the market. Reacting to the catastrophe, Zambian President Edgar Lungu blamed arsonists and economic saboteurs who will be found out, he warned, wherever they are hiding.
But the President’s words were cold comfort for many Zambians who fear the country is sliding into dictatorship. They cite a series of incidents including the jailing of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, the suspension of 48 members of parliament for boycotting a speech by Mr. Lungu, and the imposition of a state of emergency over the apparent arson attack.
A Zambian professor, writing in the online UKZambian, wondered if 53 years of peace since independence in 1964 could be coming to an end. “Creating a nation of peace and tranquility is not easy,” noted Mwizenge S. Tempo in the news website. “When I saw the images of the massive fire in which 1,901 shops were destroyed, I was alarmed,” he wrote, adding that since August 2016 there have been over 10 such incidents with fires gutting public building and vandalism.
“I am both stunned and fearful about my home and country of Zambia. Could this be the end of peace in Zambia after 53 years?” In BusinessLive of Zambia, writer Greg Mills condemned the arrest and jailing of Mr. Hichilema on treason charges.
Critics of President Lungu are “systematically being silenced”, he charged. This “stop-at-nothing government” has closed the major opposition paper, The Post, shut down opposition rallies and constricted access to the state broadcaster, he declared. Mills heads the Brenthurst Foundation, and is the co-author of ‘Making Africa Work: A Handbook for Economic Success’.

Newswire : Harvard Study: Steep declines in Black home ownership in major cities 39 million families challenged with housing costs

By Charlene Crowell

housing study
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – For the 12th consecutive year, America’s national homeownership rate has declined, according Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS)’ annual report, State of the Nation’s Housing 2017. This year’s report also found these declines vary by race and ethnicity.
As some might expect, the steepest homeownership decline occurred in Black communities, where the percentage of homeowners dropped to 42.2 percent. Among the nation’s largest metro areas, Black homeownership declined the greatest in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas and Detroit. By contrast, Latino-American homeownership is higher at 46 percent; but both communities of color severely lag behind the nearly 72 percent rate of white homeownership.
“The ability of most US households to become homeowners,” states the report, “depends on the availability and affordability of financing.”
And therein lies the crux of the problem: access and affordability.
The lack of access to mortgage financing in Black America has a long history rooted in outright discrimination by private actors such as banks, and supported by inequitable federal housing policies that favored white communities, while intentionally disadvantaging Black communities. This discrimination hindered generations of Black families from entering and remaining among America’s middle class. These practices also resulted in lower levels of both Black wealth and homeownership.
Today, applying for a mortgage means a visit to a bank where high incomes, low debt and high credit scores are among the most favored measures for loan application success. Since the foreclosure crisis, according to the JCHS report, the median credit score for an owner-occupied home purchase origination increased from about 700 in 2005 to 732 in 2016.
Just as communities of color were wrongly targeted for predatory and high-cost mortgages that pushed them into foreclosure, these same communities are the most likely to have suffered credit score declines from foreclosures, unemployment or delinquent debt – or a combination of all three.
According to a 2017 CFED report, A Downpayment on the Divide, the mortgage denial rate for Blacks is more than 25 percent, near 20 percent for Latinos but just over 10 percent for white applicants.
The issue of housing affordability is just as challenging. CFED also found that whites are three times more likely than Blacks to receive financial assistance from families to pay for down payments and other upfront costs that accompany a mortgage. The racial disparity is due to America’s history of whites being able to accumulate wealth through homeownership opportunity while Blacks were denied. As a result, Black households typically delay homeownership 8 years longer than whites, resulting in a comparable delay in building home equity.
JCHS also found that nearly 39 million American families are financially challenged with their cost of housing.
So is the American Dream of homeownership realistic for communities of color?
A June 29 public hearing before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee focused on how mortgage finance reform and government-sponsored enterprises, also known as GSEs, must live up to its “duty to serve” all communities.
“Homeownership is the primary way that most middle-class families build wealth and achieve economic stability,” testified Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending. “Wide access to credit is critical for building family wealth, closing the racial wealth gap and for the housing market overall.”
In the throes of the 1930s Great Depression, Congress created the GSEs to provide stability to capital markets and to increase the availability of mortgage credit throughout the nation. They were also given a mandate: Serve all credit markets all times, ensuring access and availability across the country.
From 2003 to 2006, the years leading up to the housing crisis, the GSEs followed an unfortunate private mortgage market trend. By loosening underwriting guidelines, particularly for Alt-A no documentation loans, millions of foreclosures occurred and GSE credit losses led to conservatorship under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, also known as HERA. HERA also enacted a number of reforms that have made today’s market stronger.
Now, with far fewer foreclosures nationwide, Congress is deliberating over the future of the GSEs and $6.17 trillion in mortgages they now hold along with Federal Housing Administration issued mortgages. “Home equity accounts for only 30 percent of the net worth for wealthier households,” continued Calhoun, “but constitutes 67 percent for middle-to-low income households. Home equity accounts for 53 percent of African-American wealth as compared to 39 percent for whites.”
Homebuyers of the future will be more racially and ethnically diverse than those of the past. The JCHS reported that non-whites accounted for 60 percent of household growth from 1995-2015. By 2035, it predicts that half of millennial households will be non-white.
When communities of all sizes, colors, and economies succeed, so does America. While much of our nation has financially recovered from the foreclosure crisis that brought the loss of homes, jobs, businesses, and wealth, recovery has been uneven and left many communities behind.
Those entrusted with leadership roles in the public and private sectors must agree that it is in our national interest to ensure that the recovery is inclusive and sustainable long-term. Broad access to mortgage credit still helps families and the national economy.
Concluded Calhoun, “The goal must be to ensure that the full universe of creditworthy borrowers – regardless of where they live, including in rural areas, or who they are – have access to the credit they need to be able to secure a mortgage so that they can build their American dreams.”
Charlene Crowell is the communications deputy director for the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Newswire : Study: Blacks comprise majority of defendants who are wrongfully convicted

By Frederick H. Lowe

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Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from NorthStarNewsToday.com
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – African-Americans comprise the majority of defendants wrongfully convicted of murder, sexual assault and drug crimes who are later exonerated, according to a study released by the National Registry of Wrongful Convictions.
The report titled “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States” reported that African-Americans constituted 47 percent of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations as of October 2016, and a great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group” exonerations.
The report examined racial disparities for the major crime categories of murder, sexual assault and drug crimes, three crimes that produce the largest number of exonerations.
African Americans who were convicted of murder are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers, the report stated. “A major cause of the high number of black murder exonerations is the high homicide rate in the black community—a tragedy that kills many African-Americans and sends many others to prison,” the report stated.
Blacks imprisoned for murder are more likely to be innocent if they were convicted of killing white victims. Only about 15 percent of murders by African- Americans involve White victims, but 31 percent of innocent African-American murder exonerees were convicted of killing White people.
The convictions that led to murder exonerations with black defendants were 22 percent more likely to include misconduct by police than those with White defendants.
Police assist in convicting black murder defendants through witness tampering, which occurred in 21 percent of murder exonerations with white defendants but occurred in 39 percent of trials with Black defendants.
“Many of the convictions of African-American murder exonerees were affected by a wide range of types of racial discrimination, from unconscious bias and institutional discrimination to explicit racism,” the report stated.
Black exonerees spent three years longer in prison before release than White murder exonerees, and Black exonerees sentenced to death spent four years longer behind bars.
Black prisoners serving time for sexual assault are three and-a-half times more likely to be innocent than a White assault convict. “The major cause of this huge racial disparity appears to be the high danger of mistaken eyewitness identification by white victims in violent crimes with Black assailants,” the report stated.
Drug crimes are also those in which the majority of blacks are exonerated. Although Blacks and Whites use drugs at an equal rate, African-Americans are about five times more likely than Whites to go to prison for drug possession. And judging from exonerations, innocent Black people are about 12 times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent White people.
That is because police enforce drug laws more vigorously against African-Americans than against the white majority. Police stop Blacks more frequently, search, arrest and convict them in cases where they are innocent.
“Since 1989, more than 1,800 defendants have been cleared in group exonerations that followed 15 large-scale police scandals in which officers systematically framed innocent defendants,” the report stated. “The great majority were African-American defendants who were framed for drug crimes that never occurred.”
In Harris County, Texas, for example, there have been 133 exonerations in ordinary drug possession cases in the last few years. The defendants pled guilty, but routine lab tests showed those arrested were not carrying drugs. Houston is the largest city in Harris County.
The National Registry of Wrongful Convictions is a project of the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University Law School and Newkirk Center for Science & Society at the University of California Irvine.

Newswire : In “Chokehold: Policing Black Men” Attorney Paul Butler takes on police brutality

By: Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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 Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler writes about police brutality in “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” (Georgetown University)
Police brutality in the Black community is as old as law enforcement itself.
Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler speaks in depth on the issue in his new book, “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” “Even as a prosecutor I was a still a Black man,” said Butler during an interview on MSNBC with Rev. Al Sharpton. “I was even arrested for a crime I didn’t commit…I was acquitted in less than five minutes.”
In his book, Butler points out that Black people have never been in a situation of good faith in America with police. “When we say that the system is targeting Black men, that’s true,” Butler told Sharpton. Butler worked as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and is now a professor at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. Butler also had a few recommendations for decreasing incidents of police brutality.
“Half of cops should be women,” Butler suggested. “Women cops are much less likely to shoot people.” Butler continued: “Cops should have college degrees. Cops with college degrees are much less likely to shoot unarmed people.”
Butler takes a “no-holds-barred” approach to writing about police brutality. In his book, Butler also points out that White men commit the majority of violent crime in the United States and that a White woman is ten times more likely to be raped by a White male acquaintance than becoming a victim of a violent crime perpetrated by a Black man.
Butler also speaks forcefully on the unwarranted fear Whites have of Blacks, and how that perception ends up impacting American policing.

Newswire : Now is the time to repair, not repeal, the Affordable Care Act

Alabama Arise

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Tuesday in response to the collapse of U.S. Senate efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act:

“The defeat of the Senate’s awful health care bill was a victory for Alabama families. This cruel plan would have gutted Medicaid, which provides essential health coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities in every corner of our state, to pay for huge tax cuts for rich people and big corporations. It would have hammered rural hospitals and nursing homes while sending insurance costs soaring for many older Alabamians. And it would have sent us back to the bad old days of limiting benefits and discriminating against folks with pre-existing conditions.

“Powerful advocacy from everyday people across Alabama and across the country stopped the bad Senate bill in its tracks. We urge senators to stop trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and start trying to make it work better for everyone. Our lawmakers should work together in an open, thoughtful, bipartisan way to strengthen the ACA, reduce insurance costs and extend quality, affordable health care to all Americans.”

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals promoting public policies to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.

University of West Alabama receives approval for a charter school; Will this help or hurt public education in Sumter County?

A News Analysis
By: John Zippert,Co-Publisher

The Alabama Public Charter School Commission on June 27, 2017 approved the application of the University of West Alabama for a charter school on campus.
Dr. Ken Tucker, President of UWA has been vigorously promoting the idea of a charter school since the end of last year. Community meetings were held in March 2017 in Livingston, York, Emelle and Epes to solicit public comments and input on the proposed charter school.
The mission, as stated on the website of the University’s Charter School, is to be a rural, diverse K-12 school that cultivates independent thought, promotes the building of character and civic responsibility. The school is committed to preparing all students for personal and professional success through the discovery of individual learning pathways in a rigorous and integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) focused, project-based and place-based curriculum.
The school ties into other components of the University’s educational program including its Black Belt Teacher Corps, Center for Excellence in Teaching, Rural Schools Collaborative and others.
The school is proposed to open a pre-K through 5th grade in 2018-2019, and add subsequent grades in the following years. Initially the school will be located on the UWA campus but other alternative sites are also being explored.
The charter school will have its own private non-profit board of directors to control the school. The University’s board will not govern the school, according to the website, but the initial work and funding has been sponsored and coordinated with UWA.
The website states, “ A charter school provides an alternative to students and parents. According to the Alabama Kid’s Count Data Book, there are more than 2,500 K-12 students in Sumter County. Of this number, just over 1,700 are associated with a school located in Sumter County. This reveals a deficit of more than 800 students who are either enrolled in a school system outside Sumter County or not enrolled at all. The establishment of a charter school in Sumter County gives those students another educational option.”
Where are these 800 students? Some of the younger ones are in Headstart or Early Headstart; some attend schools in neighboring counties, e.g., Demopolis, Pickens County, Tuscaloosa; and some attend Sumter Academy, which was established in the 1960’s to accommodate white children who did not want to attend integrated schools. Recently, Sumter Academy announced it was closing its doors due to lack of enrollment.

President Ken Tucker says that the proposed charter school will help to deal with depopulation, loss of business and industry, skilled workforce shortages, poverty and lack of child well being. Marcus Campbell, Chair of the Sumter County Commission says he was on an exploratory committee for the charter school and was told that it would help to attract new industry and people to the community.
The charter school will be funded based on the state per-pupil allocation. If the charter school draws from children attending the public schools, then it will hurt and reduce the budget for the existing public schools in the county. The charter school seems to sidestep this concern by focusing on the students, mostly white, from Sumter County, who seemingly chose not to attend public schools in the county.
Ms. Daisybelle Quinney, Sumter County School Board member says, “I am opposed to this charter school, it further divides the community and takes resources from public education. If UWA was so concerned and interested in the welfare and future of Sumter County students why didn’t they come to meet with our Board and Superintendent and help to bring all the students together in one great school system.”
Ms. Julene Delaine, another SC school Board member said,
“I am 100% for public schools. I think it is time for people in Sumter County, Black and white, to come together to build up and make things better, not worse and tear things apart.”
Delaine also pointed out that members of the last graduating class at Sumter Central had entered college at a sophomore level because of taking Advanced Placement classes in the public school and that students earned $6.5 million in college scholarships.
An official release, faxed to the Democrat from the Sumter County Board of Education, stated the following: “The Sumter County Board of Education will continue to improve all aspects of our academic and extra curricular programs. At this time we do not have any comments on the UWA charter school.”
Ms. Drucilla Jackson, Vice-Chair of the Sumter County Commission, said, “ I graduated from UWA but what they are doing to set up a new school to take resources from the public schools is shameful and unacceptable. They are going to take a few of our brightest and best students out of the public schools but most of the students will be white students fleeing school integration. The saddest part of this is that white folks need to face up to living and working in a society with Black people if we are going to have real change in the Black Belt.”
There are many questions that the people of Sumter and surrounding counties need to ask about this charter school. How many students and resources will they take from Sumter County Public Schools and Headstart? How diverse will their student body really be and how will they insure this? What kind of teachers will they have at the school?; will they be properly credentialized? Why does the charter school need a separate board that has only two African-American members in a county with a 70% Black majority?
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, a Greene County School Board member said, “ It is undeniable that this charter school will take resources from the public schools but the real issue is that UWA and its white supporters do not accept or want to be governed and controlled by a Board of Education and Superintendent elected by a Black majority population in Sumter County. How will UWA help education in the Alabama Black Belt if they do not trust or believe in Black leadership?”

 

Newswire : US denies visa to Gambian school robotics team

Robot built by high school students in The Gambia will be shipped to Washington, DC, for event without its inventors.

By: Azad Essa and Colin Baker, Aljazeera News
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The team built the robot during rigorous seven-hour shifts throughout Ramadan [Moctar Darboe/Al Jazeera]

Five teenage pupils from The Gambia, a small nation in Africa. who built a robot for a prestigious international competition in the United States will not be able to accompany their invention to the event after being denied a visa.
The Gambian pupils become the second team of students refused entry to the US to attend the FIRST Global robotics event in Washington, DC, on July 16-18. On Saturday, it was reported that an all-girls team from Afghanistan were also denied a visa to travel to the US to showcase their creation at the same competition.
Moktar Darboe, director of The Gambia’s ministry of higher education, research, science and technology, told Al Jazeera that the team, made up of high school pupils aged 17-18, were “very disappointed”.
“They put in so much effort into building this, and now, after all the sacrifice and energy they put in, they have been left disheartened,” Darboe, who is also the team’s mentor, said on Monday.
The robot, a ball sorting machine, will be shipped off in the next day or two, he added.
The Gambian American Association will represent the team at the event and the students in The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, will watch it over Skype.
The FIRST Global Challenge is open to students aged 15 to 18 from across the globe. According to FIRST, around 158 countries will be represented, including 40 African countries. Only the teams from Afghanistan and The Gambia have had their visas rejected so far.
Darboe said that the visa was denied shortly after their interview at the US embassy in Banjul in April. They were not given any explanation. “We were only told that we did not qualify and that we could try again.”
According to Darboe, the students had to pay $170 each for the visa application. “Their parents had to sacrifice a lot to pay this fee.” The students continued building the robot despite being denied the visa, hoping the decision would ultimately change.
They were further buoyed by a visit of US Ambassador C Patricia Alsup to their project site last month. “She gave us hope not to give up, and she said they would give us all their support to help us go further,” 17-year-old Khadijatou Gassam, a science student and spokesperson for the team, said.
The US embassy in Banjul told Al Jazeera that it did not comment on consular affairs. Kevin Brosnahan, a spokesperson for the state department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, said he was unable to discuss individual visa cases.
Last week, the US Supreme Court allowed the partial enforcement of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on residents, citizens and refugees from six Muslim-majority countries – but both The Gambia and Afghanistan are not on the list.
In March, at least 60 African citizens were denied visas for African Global Economic and Development Summit in the US state of California. Organizers said at the time they were not sure if the rejection was linked to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies or if talk of the travel ban was being used to “to blatantly reject everyone”.
Darboe said building the robot was difficult. When parts arrived, customs officials took their time in releasing them. “They asked us if were building RoboCop,” he said.
Fatoumata Ceesay, the team’s programmer, told Al Jazeera that she had come to terms with the fact their creation will be run by other students in the US. The 17-year-old said they had worked under trying conditions, day and night, and with little guidance over the entire Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. “And we started building it after the [visa] rejection. We built it despite knowing we weren’t going,” she said.
Gassam says that she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to represent The Gambia and “show the world [that] ‘yes, we can do it'”. “But we’re not giving up, despite the challenges we face, we still continue to work hard,” she said. “Next year it will be somewhere else, so I think next year we have hope to get there.”