Newswire: Record $1.7 Trillion student debt drowns HBCU borrowers

Calls for Loan Forgiveness Gain Support

By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As the cost of a college education continues to rise, an estimated 45 million consumers collectively owe a record $1.7 trillion dollars in student debt, according to the Federal Reserve, — a $905 billion increase in just the past decade.
 
For Black America, the struggle to gain a college education is an even more daunting challenge. While historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continue to provide value-priced higher education compared to non-HBCU institutions, financing college often means students and families alike taking on loans that can take decades to retire.
 
An October 28 virtual panel of student debt experts and cancellation advocates discussed how the ongoing student debt crisis has generally impacted Black borrowers nationwide, and particularly Black borrowers at HBCUs. Co-convened by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), and funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the forum emphasized the need for across-the-board student loan cancellation, as well as increased HBCU funding.
 
“We were taught early on if you go to college, you do well, you can have a great life, only to find ourselves in a debt cycle that many will not be able to get out of,” said Derrick Johnson, a panel participant and President of the NAACP. “Almost half of Black graduates owe more on their undergraduate student loans four years after graduation than they did when they received their diplomas.”
 
“Not only do they have less wealth to borrow on to pay back loans because of the racial wealth gap, but the underfunding of HBCUs compound the financial challenges which result in higher debt for students who attend these schools,” said Rep Alma Adams.
 
The North Carolina Congresswoman speaks from experience. An HBCU graduate and professor for 40 years before joining Congress, Adams is also the founder and chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. Since its inception in 2015, this bipartisan and bicameral caucus has procured $1.3 billion for HBCUs to rebuild campus infrastructure, and $40 million in HBCU scholarships for land grant colleges through the Farm Bill.
 
For the estimated 300,000 HBCU students attending one of the 101 accredited campuses spread across 19 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, these funds help but do not fulfill the escalating costs of securing a college degree. Among these students, 80% are Black, 70% are from low-income families and 41% are the first generation of their family to attend college, according to UNCF.
 
As a result, many HBCU students and their parents often need a combination of student loans, Pell Grants, and jobs to offset limited family contributions to college educations.
 
As students increase job hours as part of financial aid packages, the amount of time required to complete a traditional four-year degree is also increasing.  Today, most students – 60% — earn their baccalaureate degrees in six years. Only 39% graduate in the traditional four years. And the longer it takes to graduate, the number of loans and their indebtedness increase as well.
 
Pell Grants, a needs-based federal program designed to serve low-income students and their families, has also failed to keep pace with rising college costs. The maximum annual Pell Grant award for the 2020-2021 school year is $6,345; due to the program’s sliding scale that takes family income, size, and contributions into account, this aid can be as low as $639. In the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 6.9 million students received a Pell Grant that averaged $4,117.
 
While this amount of financial assistance is helpful, the actual annual cost of college surpasses the financial capabilities of most Black Americans. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the annual average cost of attending a moderately-priced, in-state public four-year institution is $26,820. For out-of-state students attending the same college, the annual cost jumps to $43,280, and the average cost of attending a private, four-year college is even higher at $54,880.
 
By comparison, the annual average cost of attending an HBCU is 28% less than that of a non-HBCU institution, according to UNCF. Average public HBCU tuition and fees for the same academic year are $7,195 for state residents and $14,966 for out-of-state students. At private HBCUs, like Howard University, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, annual costs run higher, but are still less than $30,000.
 
When median family incomes are compared by race, the ability to finance college education shows stark differences. In 2020, Black median family income was $57,480, while that of white families was $96,170, according to the College Board, a nonprofit institution that since 1900 has been dedicated to promoting excellence and equity through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools.
 
In response to these and other educational concerns, a growing chorus of stakeholders are calling for federal student loan forgiveness to alleviate decades-long debt and give all college graduates the opportunity to build wealth.
 
Graduates from many HBCUs earn starting salaries in excess of $50,000. Further, for STEM graduates, starting salaries can bring more than $60,000. At face value, these salaries seem sufficient to begin a career – until the cost of student loan repayment takes several hundred dollars each month away from net earnings.
 
“HBCUs are known for their culture, homecomings, but more importantly, they produce the world’s greatest and top black doctors, lawyers, engineers, and STEM graduates,” said Jaylon Herbin, panel moderator and a CRL Outreach Associate. “Without our HBCUs, Black America would not be what it is today. We must continue to leverage the support and funding for HBCUs, so that the graduates that they produce are not burdened by student debt.”

 

Newswire : Alabama honors two women who fought for voting rights with statues at Archives & History

Carver Boynton, left, and Clydetta Fulmer post with bust of Amelia Boynton Robinson. Boynton is Robinson’s granddaughter, while Fulmer is the artist who created the sculpture.

By Mike Cason | mcason@al.com

The Alabama Department of Archives History today unveiled busts of two women who fought for voting rights in Alabama, monuments that will be on permanent display in the ADAH’s Statuary Hall.
Pattie Ruffner Jacobs, (1875-1935) was Alabama’s leading suffrage activist, founding the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association and serving as its president from 1912 to 1916, according to the ADAH. When the Alabama Legislature declined to pass a suffrage amendment in 2015, Jacobs turned her focus to a national amendment, helping organize and serve as a board member for the National American Women Suffrage Association. After the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, she helped establish the Alabama affiliate of the League of Women Voters and served on the organization’s national board.
Amelia Boynton Robinson, (1911-2015), was one of Alabama’s leading civil rights and voting rights activists, co-founding the Dallas County Voters League in 1933 and leading efforts to register Black voters at a time when that was difficult and dangerous, according to the ADAH. Robinson was among the civil rights marchers beaten and gassed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, a day that helped galvanize support for the Voting Rights Act passed by Congress later that year. President Lyndon Johnson invited her to attend the signing of the landmark bill.
Jacobs and Robinson are the first two women to be honored with statues in Statuary Hall, which has busts of six men.
Gov. Kay Ivey attended the unveiling. Relatives of Robinson attended, and posed for pictures with the monument. Robinson’s granddaughter, Carver Boynton of Birmingham, said her grandmother always encouraged people to take up their own battles for civil rights.
“One of the things that my grandmother always said that people know her for is ‘Get off my shoulders,’” Boynton said. “And what she means by that is she wants us all to move forward in our own activism and in our own creation of equality and equity for one another.”
The statues were unveiled after a program that included a slide show narrated by the sculptor, Clydetta Fulmer, who explained step-by-step how the busts were created. Fulmer was also the sculptor of the Rosa Parks statue on Montgomery’s Court Square and of the statue of Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery in the capital city.
Fulmer said she remembers visiting Archives & History as a child, a traditional field trip for Alabama elementary school students. She said she remembers being amazed by the marble hallways, artifacts, portraits and displays.
“I would not have thought that it was possible that my work would one day be a part of this institution,” Fulmer said. “And I hope that these sculptures that are being unveiled today will inspire all who see them with the sense of their own possibilities. “
The statues unveiled today are the first added to Statuary Hall since memorials to Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver in the early 1990s. Others memorialized in Statuary Hall are Robert Lee Bullard, Braxton Braggs Comer, Richmond Pearson Hobson, and Joseph Wheeler.

Newswire: House passes Bipartisan Infrastructure deal; President Biden moves to sign legislation

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Congress has finally passed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and President Joe Biden said he would sign the bill with lawmakers present at a date he’ll determine soon.
Known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the White House called the measure a once-in-a-generation investment in the nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.
“For far too long, Washington policymakers have celebrated ‘infrastructure week’ without ever agreeing to build infrastructure,” The White House said in a statement.
“The President promised to work across the aisle to deliver results and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. After the President put forward his plan to do exactly that and then negotiated a deal with Members of Congress from both parties, this historic legislation is moving to his desk for signature.”.
The White House said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal would rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.
“The legislation will help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads,” President Biden declared.
“It will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come. Combined with the President’s Build Back Framework, it will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years.”
The President proclaimed that the bill would make historic investments in environmental clean-up and remediation, “and build up our resilience for the next superstorms, droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes that cost us billions of dollars in damage each year.”
“I’m also proud that a rule was voted on that will allow for passage of my Build Back Better Act in the House of Representatives the week of November 15,” President Biden continued. The Build Back Better Act will be a once-in-a-generation investment in our people, the White House stated.
“It will lower bills for healthcare, childcare, elder care, prescription drugs, and preschool. And middle-class families get a tax cut,” President Biden demanded.
“This bill is also fiscally responsible, fully paid for, and doesn’t raise the deficit. It does so by making sure the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share and doesn’t raise taxes a single cent on anyone making less than $400,000 per year.”
 

Newswire: Stacey Abrams’ group donates $1.34 million to erase medical debts of residents in five states

Stacey Abrams

by Derek Major, Black Enterprise

Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization had donated more than $1 million to help residents in five states pay off their medical debts.

Fair Fight Action has donated $1.34 million from its political action committee to RIP Medical Debt to wipe out $212 million in medical debt by 108,000 people in Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo told NBC News that paying off medical debts is another facet of the organization’s advocacy as it seeks to expand Medicaid coverage in the 12 states that have refused to expand health coverage to their poorest citizens. Of the states targeted, Arizona and Louisiana have since expanded Medicaid.

“What is so important about this is the tie between Medicaid expansion and just crushing medical debt,” Groh-Wargo said.
The organization will send a letter to those who’ve had their medical debt paid off confirming it. The donation will pay off the medical debts of 69,000 people in Georgia, more than 27,000 people in Arizona, 8,000 people in Louisiana and around 2,000 people each in Mississippi and Alabama.
Fair Fight Action has raised more than $100 million since it was founded by Abrams in the aftermath of her election loss to Brian Kemp. The news seemed devastating for Democrats at the time, but the loss allowed Abrams to develop Fair Fight, which was paramount in Joe Biden winning the Peach State during the 2020 Presidential Election.

The group has since added Medicaid expansion to its agenda and is pressuring Gov. Kemp to add Medicaid expansion to the list of topics state politicians will discuss in a special session next week to redraw electoral districts.
In a statement Abrams said she knows the significant weight medical debt carries for Americans. “I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further and further in debt,” Abrams said. “Across the sunbelt and in the South, this problem is exacerbated in states like Georgia where failed leaders have callously refused to expand Medicaid, even during a pandemic.”
RIP Medical Debt said Fair Fight’s donation is the third largest in the nonprofit’s history. MacKenzie Scott donated $50 million last year. The organization typically buys bundles of medical debt at a steep discount from collection agencies.

 

Newswire: Jesse Jackson ‘doing well’ after falling and cutting his head at Howard University, daughter says

Rev. Jesse Jackson

 

Jackson has been on the HBCU’s campus supporting students protesting for better living conditions.

By Bruce C.T. Wright, Newsone

Rev. Jesse Jackson is recovering after taking a spill and cutting his head while meeting with student protesters at Howard University on Monday, according to his daughter. The civil rights icon has been offering guidance and support to students at the famed HBCU while they demand an improvement to their living conditions on the campus in Washington, D.C.
Students are in their third week of protests over issues like mold found in dormitories and certain administrative policies.
Jackson, 80, was returning from meeting with Howard University administration officials to meet with students and let them know how the conversation went when he fell and hit his head on the pavement, suffering what was described as a “cut,” according to the Grio, which first reported the accident. He was rushed to the hospital for treatment and further observation. But according to his daughter, Jackson is healing up nicely.
“Family, he’s resting comfortably & doing well: we thank u 4 ur prayers!” Sanita Jackson tweeted. “Fighting 4 u is what he’ll always do.”
In an apparent reference to the Grio reporting that Jackson “secured a verbal agreement from Howard University’s administration to allow students to end their protest without facing expulsion,” Sanita Jackson added: “His goal is 2 ensure the well-being of@HowardU students: #MissionAccomplished.”
Jackson also reportedly got Howard to guarantee that it would check all dorm rooms suspected of having mold, which can cause serious health problems.
The Rainbow Push Coalition, a nonprofit political and social justice organization founded and led by Jackson, offered a similarly positive outlook for the reverend.
“When Rev. Jackson entered a building on campus, he fell and hit his head. His staff took him to the Howard University Hospital where various tests were run including a CT scan,” Rainbow Push Coalition told CNN in a statement. “The results came back normal. However, hospital officials decided to keep Rev. Jackson overnight for observation.”
Howard University also confirmed Jackson was hospitalized and said its President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick met with him Monday night. “Our prayers are with the Jackson family,” the university tweeted.
Jackson has had an eventful past few months, including being hospitalized for COVID-19 along with his wife in late August. About two months earlier in June, Jackson was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police for protesting Senate Republicans filibustering voting rights legislation after restrictive election laws were enacted in several key states.
Jackson’s tireless efforts fighting for civil rights continued this past weekend at Howard University, where he urged students to “never surrender.”
“Students should not be punished but appreciated for standing up for justice,” Jackson also reportedly said.
Expounding upon that same sentiment, Jackson reportedly said during a town hall on campus Sunday night, “This is not a legal issue, this is a moral issue.”
The protest first began as a sit-in on Oct. 12 when students spent the night in the Blackburn Center to get university leadership to heed their complaints about a “housing crisis” for students as well as the university’s board of trustees, among issues.
The protest sparked a viral #BlackburnTakeover hashtag that populated social media timelines with photos, video footage and first-person testimonials from inside and outside of the Blackburn Center in a demonstration of solidarity against the university administration.

Newswire: Medicaid issues, not Medicare’s, get fixes in Biden budget;

By Associated Press
Medicaid issues are turning up as winners in President Joe Biden’s social agenda framework even as divisions force Democrats to hit pause on far-reaching improvements to Medicare.
The budget blueprint Biden released Thursday would fulfill a campaign promise to help poor people locked out of Medicaid expansion across the South due to partisan battles, and it would provide low-income seniors and disabled people with more options to stay out of nursing homes by getting support in their own homes. It also calls for 12 months of Medicaid coverage after childbirth for low-income mothers, seen as a major step to address national shortcomings in maternal health that fall disproportionately on Black women.
No Consensus on Lower Prescription Drug Prices

But with Medicare, Democrats were unable to reach consensus on prescription drug price negotiations. Polls show broad bipartisan support for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prices, yet a handful of Democratic lawmakers—enough to block the bill—echo pharmaceutical industry arguments that it would dampen investment that drives innovation. Advocacy groups are voicing outrage over the omission, with AARP calling it “a monumental mistake.” Some Democratic lawmakers say they haven’t given up yet.
The immediate consequence: Without expected savings from lower drug prices, Medicare dental coverage for seniors is on hold, as is vision coverage. The Biden framework does call for covering hearing aids, far less costly. Also on hold is a long-sought limit on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients.
While Medicare has traditionally been politically favored, Medicaid was long regarded as the stepchild of health care programs because of its past ties to welfare. Just a few years ago, former President Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress unsuccessfully tried to slap a funding limit on the federal-state program.
In that battle, “many people realized the importance of Medicaid for their families and their communities,” said Judy Solomon of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income people. “I think there was a new appreciation of Medicaid, and we are seeing that.”
As Medicaid grew to cover more than 80 million people, nearly 1 in 4 Americans, it became politically central for Democrats. Biden’s Medicaid-related provisions have a strong racial justice dimension, since many of the people who would benefit from access to health insurance in the South or expanded coverage for new mothers across the land are Black or Hispanic.
Expanding Medicaid has been the top policy priority for Democrats in Deep South states for years, citing the poverty and poor health that plagues much of the region. The decision by some Republican-led states to reject expansion of Medicaid under the Obama health law meant that 2 million poor people were essentially locked out of coverage in a dozen states, and another 2 million unable to afford even subsidized plans. Texas, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are among the Medicaid hold-outs.
Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff campaigned on closing the Medicaid coverage gap, and it was their election that put the Senate in Democratic hands this year. Warnock made getting a Medicaid fix his signature issue.

Back to Obamacare
“Georgians showed up in historic numbers to change the shape of our federal government, and many did so with the hope that Washington would finally close the circle on the promise of the Affordable Care Act [otherwise known as Obamacare] and make health care coverage accessible to the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who are currently uninsured,” Warnock, the state’s first Black U.S. senator, said in a statement Thursday.
Delivering a big achievement is most urgent for the freshman, as he faces reelection next year in a quest for a full six-year term. Multiple Republican opponents including former football great Herschel Walker are vying to face him. Warnock argues that it’s unfair that Georgians can’t access the federally subsidized care available to residents of 38 other states that expanded Medicaid, calling it “a matter of life and death.”
Under the Biden blueprint eligible uninsured people in states that have not expanded Medicaid could get subsidized private coverage through HealthCare.gov at no cost to them. The fix is only funded for four years, a budgetary gimmick intended to make the official cost estimates appear lower. Biden would also extend through 2025 more generous financial assistance that’s already being provided for consumers who buy “Obamacare” plans.
Another major element of Biden’s framework would allocate $150 billion through Medicaid for home- and community-based care for seniors and disabled people. That’s less than half the money Biden originally had sought for his long-term care plan, but it will help reduce waiting lists for services while also improving wages and benefits for home health aides.
The plan “marks a historic shift in how our country cares for people with disabilities and older Americans,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Getting this crucial care won’t just be for the lucky few who can get off a wait list.”
About 4 million people receive home and community-based services, which are less expensive than nursing home care. An estimated 800,000 people are on waiting lists for such services.
The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of a viable home care option for elders, as nursing homes became deadly incubators for COVID-19.
In a coda of sorts, the Biden framework also provides permanent funding for Medicaid in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. And it would permanently reauthorize the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, avoiding periodic nail-biting over coverage for nearly 10 million kids.

Newswire: COVID-19 scams target Blacks, other People of Color

FTC report reveals new and continuing financial fraud

By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Just as the annual holiday season of shopping and celebrating nears, a major federal financial regulator released new research detailing how communities of color not only are targeted by well-known types of predatory lenders, but new forms of fraud seek to exploit consumers in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Serving Communities of Color summarizes the agency’s five-year effort focused on the financial ills imposed upon communities of color. Since 2016, FTC filed more than 25 actions alleging conduct that either targeted or disproportionately impacted communities of color. Cases challenged unlawful practices by auto sellers, for-profit schools, money-making opportunities, student debt relief schemes, and more.

Beyond these financial transactions, the report also notes that many of the payment methods used by Black and Latino consumers provide fewer fraud protections, such as debit cards, cash, and money orders. Although credit card payments afford greater consumer protections, very few complaints filed with FTC by people of color involved this type of payment.

“What has become abundantly clear based on research and experience is that fraud, as well as certain other business practices, have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color, as compared to White communities,” states the report. “An examination of 23 FTC cases shows that predominantly Black communities are overrepresented in the pool of consumers who lost money.”

For example, this June, FTC and the State of Arkansas jointly filed a lawsuit against a scam operation that explicitly appealed to Black applicants who were suffering financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleged that the “Blessings in No Time” program was in fact a pyramid scheme that falsely promised members investment returns as high as 800%. The alleged scam’s minimum “investment” required $1,400, but some members paid as much as $67,700. The Texas-based defendants also falsely assured participants they wouldn’t lose money and could withdraw at any time with a full refund.

More recently, the FTC on October 15 stopped a prison calling scheme that deceived family and friends of incarcerated individuals with marketing and advertising that promised unlimited minutes on call plans to keep in touch with loved ones while in-person visits were suspended due to COVID-19. Instead, no call time was ever provided. The defendants, inmatecall.com and inmatecallsolutions.com, posed as companies authorized to provide calling services to prisons and jails to bolster the credibility of their false claim. A federal court order now requires that all duped consumers be notified and bans the defendants from future activities.

When these financial losses are combined with the effects of a national racial wealth gap that found Blacks have only 22 cents for every dollar of wealth held by whites, it becomes disturbingly clear how deceptive and predatory lending significantly diminishes the ability of Black consumers to effectively manage their financial lives. Just as redlining limited where Black people could live, today’s predatory lending, like fringe financial services, restricts the ability of Black communities to build wealth.

For example, approximately twice as many consumers in predominantly Black communities, compared to that of white consumers, purchased student debt relief programs and payday loans. But the two top complaints filed by Black consumers with FTC were credit bureaus (21%) and impersonator scams (12.5%). In 2020 alone, the FTC filed or resolved seven debt collection cases against 39 defendants and obtained $26 million in judgments for harmed consumers.

Other types of predatory and deceptive lending include debt collection, bank lending, and auto sales and financing. The agency also found evidence of fraud in health care, identity theft, as well as alleged jobs and money-making opportunities.

For many consumers, car purchases and financing represent the second-largest consumer transaction – after housing costs. Ample evidence of blatant discrimination against Black, Latino, and Native American car buyers included false information on the applications and contracts, and deceptive ads in Spanish.

“Research indicates that consumers of color experience discrimination in the sale and financing of cars, and often pay higher prices as a result,” states the report.

During the past five years, FTC has brought multiple enforcement actions against auto dealers for deceptive tactics that include advertised prices that were never available to prospective buyers, falsifying financial information in sales, false and/or misleading information, and unfair practices.

Identity theft was discovered in cases where scammers often gain credibility by posing as someone official. For example, one defendant marketed prepaid cards to Black and Latino customers, allegedly saying their cards were like Visa or MasterCard. Instead, consumers either could not use the cards or lost all the money they loaded onto them.

For consumer advocates, these and other recent findings on financial abuses confronting consumers of color deserve even more aggressive enforcement, particularly at the federal level.

“Never in United States history have Black and other families of color experienced a fair financial playing field,
” testified the Center for Responsible Lending’s Ashley Harrington before the House Financial Services Committee this spring. “And the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing disparities. In fact, in many cases, white families will have 5.5 times more savings than Black families to financially withstand the pandemic.”

The evidence of financial abuses is ample. The nation needs a new reckoning to correct the wrongs.

Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

 

 

Newswire: Ugandan Environmentalists jailed for opposing 900 mile oil pipeline

Protestors of oil pipeline in Uganda

 
Oct. 25, 2021 (GIN) – Mere hours before the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference – a major environmental confab drawing world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden – Uganda has arrested six activists who are challenging a $3.5 billion oil pipeline project that stretches 900 miles through two East African nations, shipping crude from fields in western Uganda to international markets.
Hard to imagine worse timing.
The activists have been detained without charge at a police station outside Kampala, according to the global watchdogs Amie de la Terre France (Friends of the Earth) and Survie (Survival). The two groups have called for the immediate release of the activists.
The arrests fit a pattern of harassment against critics of the multi-billion dollar oil venture, the groups say.
The U.N. conference – a major climate summit – is being held in Glasgow, Scotland, and runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. It is known as COP26 and brings together 120 world leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK, Her Majesty the Queen of the UK, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, U.S. President Joe Biden and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland. Some 25,000 delegates are expected to attend.
Special Climate Envoy John Kerry will lead the effort at the international conference.
According to the environmentalists, the pipeline will threaten ecologically sensitive areas along its route, including wildlife reserves and water catchment areas for Lake Victoria. The project could pose immense threats to local communities, water supplies, and biodiversity in Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.
The oil industry routinely claims that pipelines are the safest, cleanest way to transport oil and gas from one place to the next. They claim that leaks and spills are “uncommon.” The problem is, their own pipelines have resulted in widespread harm to people and the surrounding environment.
Pipelines leak, spill, rupture, and explode all the time. We’ve seen countless images of crude oil spills on the news, which are particularly devastating to surrounding wildlife. Oil sticks to everything, killing wildlife that wander through it or ingest it, poisoning the ground and polluting local water supplies.
Worst of all, though, crude oil can linger in the environment for years after it’s been effectively “cleaned up,” according to the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.
Someone tell Uganda.
So far, the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments have signed agreements with French oil major Total and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to build the pipeline from Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park to the Tanzanian port of Tanga on the Indian Ocean.
First oil exports are anticipated in 2025. The pipeline’s critics say 770 square miles of protected areas will be impacted and 12,000 families displaced from their land.
If completed, the $3.5 billion pipeline will transport heavy crude from more than 130 wells inside Uganda’s largest national park, which is home to threatened African elephants and lions, a formidable population of Nile crocodiles, and more than 400 bird species.
Conservationists say it won’t just threaten wildlife but that it flies in the face of efforts to curb global warming by locking in investment in a dirty fuel.
“We have been working in the oil-rich subregion of Uganda. It’s not a desert, like many oil mining spaces, but rather a high biodiversity area,” Atuheire Brian at the African Initiative on Food Security & Environment (AIFE) told the website Mongabay in an email. “We can’t afford to have agreements signed in secrecy, and that’s the case for Uganda.”
“Total is taking into the highest consideration the sensitive environmental context and social stakes of these onshore projects,” Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné said.
 
But a coalition of NGOs opposing the pipeline says the pipeline planning process has been opaque throughout, disregarding judicial and parliamentary procedures.
 
Meanwhile, in Senegal, hundreds of women are marching through Dakar to highlight climate change. Their objective is to promote their participation in the climate debate and encourage people to consider their specific climate concerns as Senegalese and African women at next month’s climate summit in Glasgow.
 

Newswire : American Bridge and Gov. Deval Patrick announce multi-million-dollar investment in grassroots organizing

NNPA Newswire
American Bridge 21st Century Foundation announced the launch of BridgeTogether, a new c(3) and c(4) fund established to support year-round local grassroots organizing. Conceived by American Bridge 21st Century Co-Chair Gov. Deval Patrick, BridgeTogether will invest in local community groups that are doing critical work to build and sustain a lasting grassroots infrastructure in their states and regions – beginning with Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

“Organizing has to go deeper than getting out the vote on the eve of an election cycle,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

“It has to be about forming relationships of trust and support year-round and about listening to and learning from local communities. Civic engagement is the foundation for lasting change and real political power. I want donors who support progressive politics to value and invest in that.”
“Our research has made it clear: women are key to winning elections, and they are exhausted after four years of Donald Trump and a global pandemic. And, we know Democrats wouldn’t have won in 2020 without numerous grassroots organizations led by women and people of color.

Grassroots outreach and community building is only more important than last year—not less—and it’s needed now,” said American Bridge 21st Century President Jessica Floyd.

“Whether it’s people who don’t have voting booths in their neighborhoods or those who have never had someone knock on their door, BridgeTogether will invest in grassroots organizations that organize and mobilize their communities to ensure that people from every corner of America are represented.”

The first group of organizations to receive grants will include:

• Vote Riders, which Howard University Professor Carol Anderson called “[an organization that] makes the difference in whether thousands of people get to vote or are disenfranchised”
• 1K Women Strong, who contacted nearly 40,000 households through canvassing and phone banking in Georgia for the 2020 election
• Fair Count, a group founded by Stacey Abrams, which ensures that historically overlooked communities are counted accurately in the U.S. Census
• Unity in the Community, who recently helped thousands of people in South Philadelphia on Election Day by registering people to vote, giving rides to the polls, educating the community on candidates, and much more.
• VetsForward, a voting advocacy group based in Arizona that equips and mobilizes veterans to defend the ideals of our democracy.

Newswire: Moderna reports Covid vaccine safe for children 6 to 12

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Company officials have announced that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine generated a robust immune response and was generally well-tolerated in children aged six to 11 years.

The pharmaceutical giant plans to submit its findings later this week to federal regulators.
Moderna reported that its two-dose vaccine generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children, and safety was comparable to what was previously seen in clinical trials of adolescents and adults.

“We are encouraged by the immunogenicity and safety profile of mRNA-1273 in children aged 6 to under 12 years and are pleased that the study met its primary immunogenicity endpoints,” Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said in a statement. “We look forward to filing with regulators globally and remain committed to doing our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic with a vaccine for adults and children of all ages.”

A panel of FDA advisers expects to determine on Tuesday whether to authorize Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid vaccine for children aged five to 11.

The Moderna vaccine has been authorized for adults over 18, and the company recently won approval for a third dose – or booster shot – in some Americans.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration remains undecided on Moderna’s vaccine for those aged 12 through 17, with the doses reportedly resulting in cases of heart inflammation in young adults in Sweden.
Moderna officials claimed that most of the side effects in the trial for kids were mild or moderate in severity, with fatigue, headache, fever, and injection site pain the most common.

Approximately 4,753 individuals participated in the trial, and the company provided each with 50 microgram doses, or half the strength used in the primary vaccine series for adults. The 50-microgram dose also received authorization for use as a booster shot.

“These results demonstrate strong immune response in this cohort of children one month after the second dose and met the co-primary immunogenicity endpoints for 6 to less than 12 years olds,” Moderna officials noted.