Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Congressman Stands by Calling Clarence Thomas an 'Uncle Tom'
Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi has called Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas a sell-out.

By Catalina Camia

A black congressman is sticking by his comment calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom,” saying the jurist’s positions on the high court “have been adverse to the minority community.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., made his original comment about Thomas, the only African-American judge on the Supreme Court, in a webcast Sunday with the New Nation of Islam. His remarks were first reported by BuzzFeed.

Asked Wednesday by CNN whether “Uncle Tom” was a racially charged term, Thompson said: “For some it is, but to others it’s the truth.”

Thompson cited Thomas’ votes on Supreme Court cases dealing with voter identification laws and affirmative action. Last year, the high court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that left the door open to new voter ID rules. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in a Michigan case upholding the right of states to ban racial preferences in university admissions.

“The people that I represent, for the most part, have a real issue with those decisions,” said Thompson, who was first elected in 1993. “All those issues are very important and for someone in the court who’s African-American and not sensitive to that is a real problem.”

Thompson was also asked by CNN’s Dana Bash to explain his view that opposition to Obama is based on the president’s race.

“Well, I’ve been here a long time,” said Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. “I’ve never seen the venom put forth on another candidate or a president like I’ve seen with this president and that’s my opinion.”

Ryan tries to clear air with Black Caucus, but poverty divide remains

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
Wed April 30, 2014

(CNN) -- It was a much-anticipated summit between Rep. Paul Ryan and the Congressional Black Caucus.

More than a month after the Wisconsin Republican ignited an angry backlash over comments that many viewed as racially insensitive, the House Budget Committee chairman sat down with members of the group to clear the air.

But Wednesday's session on Capitol Hill didn't bridge the gulf between Ryan's philosophy of addressing poverty and that of the black caucus - whose members defend many of the current federal anti-poverty programs that Ryan's proposed budget would cut.

The black caucus chair, Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, stood next to Ryan after the closed-door meeting and thanked him for coming. But then she said bluntly that the meeting "didn't get a whole lot accomplished."

She said while the black caucus and Ryan both are concerned about poverty, "we just disagree on how we address the problem."

Controversial remarks

Ryan opened the meeting explaining his comments a few weeks ago on a radio program - which triggered the invitation to sit down with the group -- didn't come out the way he intended, according to a Democrat who attended the session.

During a March interview with conservative commentator Bill Bennett, Ryan, who has been working on alternative ways to address poverty, said there is a "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."

Many African-American leaders called the comments racially charged and the blowback prompted Ryan to swiftly admit his remarks were "inarticulate."

Fudge referenced the controversy to reporters.

"There was some concern about comments that have been made about the culture in which we find this poverty, but we have agreed today that it is across the board. There is no particular place or people who experience poverty at a different rate than others," she said.

Didn't say sorry

Democrats who attended the meeting said Ryan didn't say sorry, and wasn't asked for an apology.

He told members that sometimes what he's thinking in his head doesn't come across the way he wants and admitted that in the debate going forward, he needed to do a better job at explaining his position.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, characterized Ryan's presentation as trying "to walk back" what he said, but she said there are still some black caucus members who believe Ryan was expressing his true feelings.

Moore told reporters she thinks the meeting helped open a door to continued dialogue.

Ryan explained after the meeting "the point I've been making all along is that we are marginalizing and isolating the poor in our communities and we need to stop doing that as a country."

Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate and a potential White House hopeful next time around, argued "the status quo doesn't work" and said the point of the session with the black caucus was to improve "the tone of the debate so that more people are invited to this debate."

Challenged on his budget

But Ryan also acknowledged that major differences on "macroeconomics and budgets" still existed.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina and the top ranking African-American in the House, said he believed Ryan was sincere, but pointed to his proposed budget and said flatly "if he stands by his resolution than he can't be serious about the discussion we had today."

CBC members challenged Ryan about the more than $900 billion in cuts to discretionary programs in his budget, saying they didn't mesh with his stated commitment to helping the poor, pointing specifically to his effort to repeal Obamacare and target social welfare programs in his proposal.

According to Moore, Ryan "punted, saying it was members on the House Appropriations Committee who get to decide which federal programs would actually see cuts."

Ryan's work on poverty issues dates to the 1990s when he was an aide to the late GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who headed a policy group called "Empower America." Kemp visited poor neighborhoods and pushed proposals to earmark federal and private resources to "empowerment zones" to lift people out of poverty.

Over the past year, Ryan has traveled to a dozen communities around the United States to learn about efforts to reduce poverty and promote more economic opportunity through mostly charitable organizations.

He is expected to unveil his own anti-poverty plans this summer. But it's unclear if he will introduce legislative proposals or just some concepts to continue the debate about the Republican party's alternatives to current federal policy.
Gerry Adams Arrested for Questioning Over 1972 IRA Slaying
Gerry Adams MP for Sinn Fein based in Northern Ireland. Adams was
arrested and questioned in a murder investigation of an incident from
40 years ago.
By Chelsea J. Carter and Peter Taggart, CNN
Wed April 30, 2014

Adams: "I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville"

Belfast, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Police on Wednesday arrested Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for questioning in connection with the 1972 Irish Republican Army abduction and slaying of a widow, a move that could shake Northern Ireland's fragile peace.

In a statement released shortly before he surrendered for questioning, the 65-year-old Adams vehemently denied any involvement in the killing of Jean McConville. The Police Service of Northern Ireland announced the arrest of a 65-year-old man whom they declined to identify but described as a suspect in the McConville case.

Adams has long denied having any role in the death of McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who was reportedly killed by the IRA because the group believed she was a spy for the British army.

"I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice," Adams said in the statement posted on his party website. "Malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these."

The questioning of Adams was not unexpected. Adams said he told authorities last month that he was willing to meet with investigators.

Long associated with the IRA, once considered the armed wing of Sinn Fein, Adams is a prominent Catholic politician who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland. Today, Sinn Fein is Ireland's second-largest opposition party.

"While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville," Adams said.

Northern Ireland is part of Britain, and Protestant fighters wanted to keep it that way. Catholics were fighting to force the British out and reunify the north with the rest of Ireland.

Known as the Troubles, the conflict lasted 30 years, ending in 1998 with the Good Friday
Agreement that brokered peace. The agreement provided a political framework for power-sharing among the parties.

The IRA admitted in 1999 to killing a number of people who have become known as "The Disappeared" -- those who vanished during the Troubles.

Among the victims was McConville, whose remains were found partially buried on a beach in County Louth in 2003. She died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

McConville, 38, was taken from her home in Belfast in December 1972, her daughter, Helen McKendry, told CNN in 2012.

"They came about tea time and they dragged her out of the bathroom and dragged her out," said

McKendry, who was a teenager at the time. "...All I ever wanted was to know the reason why they killed my mother."

The investigation into McConville's killing was revived by authorities after the release of interviews given by members of the IRA, who implicated Adams.

The recordings were made by Boston Collage as part of the Belfast Project, which is a collection of interviews conducted with former Northern Irish paramilitary fighters. They provide an oral history of the decades of fighting.

Participants in the project believed their recorded interviews would be kept secret until their deaths.

One of those featured was Brendan Hughes, a now-deceased former commander of the IRA, a Catholic paramilitary.

Hughes told his interviewer about McConville: "I knew she was being executed. I knew that. I didn't know she was going to be buried or disappeared as they call them now."

Hughes went on to allege Adams was involved: "The special squad was brought into the operation then, called The Unknowns. You know when anyone needed to be taken away, they normally done it. I had no control over this squad. Gerry had control over this particular squad."

Adams has called the allegations libelous.
U.S. Lost $11.2 Billion in GM Bailout, TARP Report Says
People's Summit participants marching to General Motors World Headquarters
during June 2009. 
By Tim Higgins - Apr 30, 2014

The U.S. Treasury’s bailout fund lost $11.2 billion on the rescue of General Motors Co. (GM) with the government’s exit of the largest U.S. automaker, a report said.

The total includes $826 million that the Treasury wrote off in March for its remaining claim in old GM, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report to Congress today. In December, the government had put the loss at about $10.5 billion on its $49.5 billion investment.

The Treasury sold its remaining shares in GM in December, signaling the end of Government Motors, as the Detroit-based automaker was derisively labeled by some critics after the U.S. government stepped in with emergency funding in 2008. Bailouts from the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations helped GM avoid liquidation and reorganize in a 2009 bankruptcy that has given new life to the company.

“The goal of Treasury’s investment in GM was never to make a profit, but to help save the American auto industry, and by any measure that effort was successful,” Adam Hodge, a Treasury spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Buoyed by lower debt, reduced labor costs and a focus on only its strongest brands, GM is emblematic of a revitalized U.S. auto industry. While the government lost money, its exit paved the way for an influx of fresh investor capital.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and State Street Corp. were among investors to buy into GM. J. Kyle Bass’s Hayman Capital Management LP also took a stake in GM.

GM shares rose 42 percent in 2013. However, the stock has fallen 16 percent this year as the automaker struggles with reputational issues following its slowness to recall 2.59 million cars with potentially faulty ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.

After reporting first-quarter earnings last week that were better than analysts had expected, GM told investors to temper their expectations for the rest of the year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Detroit at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at Niamh Ring, John Lear
Kiev Concedes That Militants Won the East
Imperialist-backed forces in Kiev are losing control of the industrial regions
of eastern Ukraine.
New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — It is by now a well-established pattern. Armed, masked men in their 20s to 40s storm a public building of high symbolic value in a city somewhere in eastern Ukraine, evict anyone still there, seize weapons and ammunition, throw up barricades, and proclaim themselves the rulers of a “People’s Republic.” It is not clear who is in charge or how the militias are organized.

Through such tactics, a few thousand pro-Russian militants have seized buildings in about a dozen cities, effectively establishing control over much of an industrial region of about 6.5 million nestled against the Russian border.

Day by day, in the areas surrounding the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, pro-Russian forces have defied all efforts by the central government to re-establish its authority, and on Wednesday, Ukraine’s acting president conceded what had long been obvious: The government’s police and security officials had lost control.

“Inactivity, helplessness and even criminal betrayal” plague the security forces, the acting leader, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, told a meeting of regional governors in Kiev. “It is hard to accept but it’s the truth. The majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”

With Mr. Turchynov’s acknowledgment that a significant chunk of the country had slipped from the government’s grasp, the long-simmering conflict in Ukraine seemed to enter a new and more dangerous phase. Whether that amounts to the lasting dismemberment of Ukraine or hands control of the east to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, were among the many questions left unanswered after Mr. Turchynov delivered his stark assessment.

Whatever the long-term effects, the militants’ seizure of symbolic buildings in cities throughout the country’s southeast is serving what analysts in Russia and the West say is Mr. Putin’s short-term goal of so disrupting normal life there that the pro-Russian separatists’ plans for a May 11 vote on autonomy from Kiev could trump Ukraine’s plans to hold a presidential election two weeks later.

While Russia denies any role in stirring the unrest, Secretary of State John Kerry and others have flatly accused the Kremlin of sending operatives to the region to organize, equip and direct the Ukrainians who make up the pro-Russian militias.

The presence of 40,000 Russian troops just over the border is also contributing to the instability, particularly as Russia has warned repeatedly that it will intervene in Ukraine if the safety of the ethnic Russians there was threatened, a sweeping claim that could justify an incursion at almost any time.

But so far that has not been necessary. Through stealth and misdirection, and in defiance of Western sanctions, Russia has managed to achieve its immediate goal of what Western and Ukrainian officials believe is rendering Ukraine so chaotic that it cannot guarantee order, mend its teetering economy or elect new leaders to replace Mr. Turchynov and the acting government installed after the pro-Russian president, Victor F. Yanukovych, fled in February.

“Until May 25,” when the presidential vote is scheduled, “is unfortunately still a lot of time,” said Olga Aivazovska, a co-founder of Opora, an independent election monitoring and polling group. Whether a vote will take place — and how valid it could be if parts of the east do not take part — “is a big puzzle,” she said.

Days after imposing new sanctions on Russia, President Obama announced that he would travel to Poland in June to reassure Eastern Europeans nervous about Moscow’s aggression. The Poland stop will be added to a previously scheduled trip to Normandy to mark the anniversary of D-Day and to Brussels to meet with other members of the Group of 8, reconstituting it as the Group of 7 now that Russia has been suspended.

But none of that is expected to deter the militants. Since April 6, they have been smashing their way into local offices and hastily erecting barricades outside, wearing uniforms without insignias. The latest to fall was Horlivka, where on Wednesday armed men appeared at the City Council building and began checking the documents of anyone entering.

In Donetsk, a tough mining city, the militants say they will conduct a referendum on May 11, and other cities under separatist control are expected to follow suit. Gunmen in Luhansk seized control of that city’s administration on Tuesday and declared their intent to join in.

To date, however, there are no voting offices, nor have any ballots been distributed. They have not even decided what question they want to put before voters.

Nevertheless, the buildings now seized could serve the effort. A sample ballot reported in the Russian news media suggested voters would be asked whether they support a declaration of independence for the “People’s Republic.” There was no mention of joining Russia.

Although Russian is widely spoken in the east, which abuts Russia, credible opinion polls suggest that at most 20 percent of citizens want to join their giant neighbor, Ms. Aivazovska said.

For Mr. Putin, the disruption ensures that Ukraine cannot firmly join the West by becoming a member of NATO or the European Union. That would comport with his strategy in Georgia and Moldova, where Russian troops occupy small sections of the country, with Moscow leaving the status of the enclaves up in the air, neither leaving nor claiming them as Russian territory.

In some ways, the situation seems no more certain for Mr. Putin. As leaders in Serbia and Croatia discovered during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, once guns, money and a little importance are doled out to locals charged with unsettling their territory, the militants can slip from their supporters’ grasp.

In Slovyansk, the eastern Ukrainian town where the armed men are most firmly in control, local militia leaders say they now hold about 40 people, including seven Europeans in a German-led military observer mission captured last Friday. They were paraded before cameras Sunday, much as scores of United Nations peacekeepers captured by Bosnian Serbs in 1995 were filmed chained to bridges.

Mr. Putin, who values relations with Germany, where he was once a K.G.B. officer, hinted early Wednesday that the observers could be freed. The self-appointed mayor of Slovyansk responded via the website of Bild, Germany’s top-selling newspaper: “We have had no contact with Moscow yet, and here we don’t obey Putin but the People’s Republic of Donetsk.”

On top of nerves, Ukraine’s economy is worryingly frail. The board of the International Monetary Fund voted Wednesday to approve $17 billion in loans for Ukraine, with conditions that will undoubtedly be felt as hardships by ordinary Ukrainians. Igor Burakovsky, head of the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s foreign debt amounts to $73.2 billion.

This includes several billion dollars — the exact amount is fiercely disputed — owed for deliveries of Russian natural gas on which Ukraine depends each winter, and which passes through its territory to European clients of the Russian gas concern Gazprom.

Unlike some of the militants now strutting Ukraine’s east, or other friends of Mr. Putin, the head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, was not sanctioned this week by the United States or the 28-nation European Union, where at least 10 former Soviet bloc countries depend wholly or largely on Russian gas for heat and power.

Much is being rethought in Europe in the wake of Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continuing intervention in Ukraine. Earlier this week, Slovakia undertook to supply Ukraine with some natural gas.

For writers, said Ms. Zabuzhko, the events of the last five months have pushed on her and fellow authors the duty of serving as a secular moral authority in the absence of credible politicians. “I have a new profession,” she said, “for which I was not applying.” Ukrainians, she added, “are searching for stability and hope. They want a glimpse of hope.”
April 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Federal Judge Weighing Constitutionality of Michigan's Emergency Manager Law
 Protestors Antonio D. Casssone, from left, Abayomi Azikiwe
and Jean Irwin hold a demonstration at the federal courthouse in
Detroit on Wednesday ahead of the hearing on Michigan's
emergency manager law.
Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The fate of a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s Emergency Manager law will soon be determined by a federal judge.

U.S District Court Judge George Caram Steeh ruled Wednesday that he will issue a written decision on a request from the state Attorney General’s office to toss out the complaint that alleges Public Act 436 dilutes the right to vote.

The lawsuit, representing nearly two dozen plaintiffs, was filed last year as the new law went into effect, giving state-appointed emergency managers in several Michigan cities and school districts the power to amend budgets, change contracts and consolidate or eliminate departments.

Wednesday’s hearing in federal court in Detroit spanned more than two hours and drew a crowd of nearly 100 union members, retirees, activists, residents and employees, prompting Steeh to relocate the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Attorneys behind the suit complain that it violates federal collective bargaining rights, due process, voting and representative government rights under the U.S. Constitution and is unequally applied in minority communities. But the state contends the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate any of their claims including harm to voting rights or elections.

Michael Murphy, a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s office, argued the state’s motion, acknowledging the statute is “unique” but so are the financial times in Michigan.

“It’s not only a unique statute. It’s a unique time that needs unique solutions,” he told Steeh, noting that the act is less restrictive than some other alternatives, including receivership and bankruptcy. “Do they want a judge ruling their communities?”

Murphy further argued that voters in areas under emergency management have not been stripped of the right to vote and claimed the law is not unfairly applied based on the race or wealth of an individual, rather it’s based on the wealth of a municipality or a school district as a whole.

“These are communities on the brink of collapse, and there’s a way to save them,” he said. “This is not about the right to vote. It’s about what power elected officials have.”

Meanwhile, four attorneys for the plaintiffs conveyed to Steeh why the suit is plausible and should proceed.

“The law is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Julie Hurwitz of the National Lawyers Guild, noting their allegations have been stated “factually and legally.”

Plaintiff attorney Herbert Sanders added the law creates a stigma and disenfranchisement “that is indeed a badge of slavery.”

Wednesday’s hearing comes after Steeh in February ruled that an amended version of the suit, not specifically targeting Detroit, could move forward. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes, who is presiding over Detroit’s bankruptcy, previously agreed three separate times that a stay on the lawsuit should be lifted.

The act went into effect in March 2013 after voters repealed in November 2012 a prior law called Public Act 4 that granted emergency managers many of the same powers. Public Act 4 replaced the original, less powerful 1990 law that gave state-appointed managers no power to change contracts.

Emergency managers are running Allen Park, Detroit, Flint and Hamtramck and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. State oversight remains in Ecorse, Inkster, Benton Harbor, River Rouge and Pontiac.
(313) 222-2069

From The Detroit News:
Amid Donald Sterling Scandal, the Clippers Unite
Donald Sterling with V. Stiviano. The Clippers owner has been banned after
his racist beliefs were revealed by Stiviano.
How Fans, Team Responded to Owner's Lifetime Ban

April 30, 2014
Associated Press

Basketball fans often bring homemade signs to games, showing their support with markers and construction paper. But the signs at Staples Center in Los Angeles for Tuesday’s Clippers-Warriors playoff game took an urgent, resolute tone.

“Clippers new owner wanted! Racists need not apply!” read one of the signs.

Another: “Hate will never win.”

Hate didn’t win Tuesday, but the Clippers did, 113-103, taking a 3-2 lead in a series that was, for the first time since Saturday, more about basketball than recordings featuring racist rants by banished Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

In the recorded conversations, which appeared online this weekend, Sterling can be heard telling girlfriend V. Stiviano not to post pictures of herself with black people to Instagram or bring black people to Clippers games. A separate recording features Sterling’s telling Stiviano that he doesn’t think he’s racist because he gives food, clothes and cars to his black employees.

Adam Silver, facing his first true test since becoming the National Basketball Association’s commissioner in February, acted swiftly and definitively, banning Sterling for life.

"We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling's views," Silver said. "They simply have no place in the NBA."

The punishment, which included a $2.5 million fine, is the harshest penalty ever issued by the league.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that the lifetime ban of his boss “can begin the healing process” for the team, the league and the country.

"These last three or four days have been very difficult for everybody, no matter what your race," Rivers said in a pre-game news conference. "We can move forward. We have to. Yes, I do think [the NBA commissioner] made the right decision."

Had Silver announced a weaker punishment – an indefinite suspension and hefty fine, for example – players were willing to boycott the playoffs, NBA Players Association Vice President Roger Mason said.

But with Sterling removed, the focus returned to basketball. Clippers versus Warriors. Two of the Western Conference’s most dynamic squads.

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan shined early, scoring 10 first quarter points on the strength of two alley-oops and a dunk, showcasing the team’s “Lob City” nickname for its high-flying swagger. Blake Griffin contributed a driving dunk through the lane, power and authority personified.

L.A. guard Jamal Crawford provided late highlights of his own, slipping through the Golden State defense for 19 points off the bench.

The Warriors kept it close. Sharp-shooting guard Stephen Curry gave Golden State a 70-69 lead late in the third quarter with a key three-pointer. But Jordan and company were too much. Jordan scored a career playoff high 25 points and also added 18 rebounds.

Midway through the fourth quarter, as Los Angeles padded its lead, the crowd erupted into a chant. “We are one,” the fans chanted, again, and again, and again. The Clippers embraced the phrase after Tuesday’s announcement – even overhauling the team’s website to reflect the statement – but it speaks to a larger theme, a multicultural game enduring a difficult chapter together. Races and colors and team identifications are immaterial in this case.

The game has undergone numerous transformations in the past century, from a YMCA creation using peach baskets to a city-centric expression, a blacktop ballet. The game has now gone global, with leagues and Olympic energy across the world.

Part of basketball’s appeal is its simplicity. All you need is a ball, a flat surface and a hoop to play.

That’s what the Clippers and Warriors did Tuesday night – they played. And hate didn’t win.
April 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

AG to Ask Judge to Dismiss Challenge to Michigan's Emergency Manager Law
Walter Knall of Stop the Theft of Our Pensions speaks outside bankruptcy court
in downtown Detroit.
Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit— The state Attorney General’s Office today will urge a federal judge to dismiss a legal challenge that seeks to strike down Michigan’s emergency manager law on claims it dilutes the right to vote.

The lawsuit, representing nearly two dozen plaintiffs, was filed last year as Public Act 436 went into effect and gave state-appointed emergency managers the power to amend budgets, change contracts and consolidate or eliminate departments.

Attorneys behind the suit say the law violates federal collective bargaining rights, due process and voting rights, and is unequally applied in minority communities. But the state contends the plaintiffs fail to demonstrate any harm to voting rights.

If the lawsuit succeeds, attorneys behind the suit say emergency managers could be bounced in favor of restoring control to elected leaders. In Detroit, however, a decision on the city’s bankruptcy filing and its leadership would likely be made by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.

The state law went into effect in March 2013 after voters repealed a prior law called Public Act 4 that granted emergency managers many of the same powers. Public Act 4 replaced the original, less powerful 1990 law that gave state-appointed managers no power to change contracts.

“It’s a significant case, no matter what happens,” said Eric Scorsone, a Michigan State University emergency manager expert who has worked for city of Detroit contractors. “... It’s clear that the changes in the law — especially contract powers — triggered people.”

In its motion, the state notes with more communities and school districts “teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe,” additional flexibility and tools were justified.

Emergency managers are running Allen Park, Detroit, Flint and Hamtramck and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. State oversight remains in Ecorse, Inkster, Benton Harbor, River Rouge and Pontiac.

Since the new law took effect, communities or school districts in financial emergencies can choose an emergency manager, negotiate a consent agreement with the state, seek mediation or file for bankruptcy. The Pontiac school district and Royal Oak Township have signed consent agreements, while Lincoln Park has voted to negotiate such a pact with the state. Hamtramck wanted an emergency manager.

The lawsuit, the state contends, “contains no ... alternative solutions to the financial problems that have plagued many communities.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette also argues the suit did not identify specific instances showing constitutional violations and all plaintiffs lack the standing to sue.

But LaMar Lemmons, president of Detroit Public Schools that has operated under emergency management for more than five years, called the assertion “ridiculous.”

“As a citizen, taxpayer, a father and grandfather ... I have standing up the wazoo,” Lemmons said.

“Children, families and citizens are all harmed by this process,” he added, noting the school district is on its third EM while population and neighborhoods and test scores have declined.

Lou Schimmel, who has been an emergency manager in Hamtramck and Pontiac, argues the existing law is valid.

Schimmel said the act was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, all elected by the people. Communities get the authority to operate from the state, he said.

“The State of Michigan has every right to say that its municipalities have to act fiscally responsible. They have the right to step in ... if somebody starts falling off the track,” he said.

Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, said while he agrees the law disproportionately involves cities with predominately African-American populations, a judge will probably rule the law does not impose an undue burden on the right to vote.

“It’s not a situation where the voters can’t vote. Rather, it’s a question of whether the weight of their vote is reduced because of the emergency manager with the powers that the emergency manager has,” Sedler said, adding such cases are hard to win.
(313) 222-2069

From The Detroit News:
Two Giant Banks, Seen As Immune, Become Targets
The French bank BNP and Credit Suisse in Zurich are under investigation for criminal
Two Giant Banks, Seen as Immune, Become Targets

APRIL 29, 2014, 8:40 PM 77
New York Times

Federal prosecutors are nearing criminal charges against some of the world’s biggest banks, according to lawyers briefed on the matter, a development that could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades.

In doing so, prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged. A lack of criminal prosecutions of banks and their leaders fueled a public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are “too big to jail.”

Addressing those concerns, prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy, interviews with lawyers and records reviewed by The New York Times show.

The new strategy underpins the decision to seek guilty pleas in two of the most advanced investigations: one into Credit Suisse for offering tax shelters to Americans, and the other against France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, over doing business with countries like Sudan that the United States has blacklisted. The approach applies to American banks, though those investigations are at an earlier stage.

In the talks with BNP, which has a huge investment bank in New York, prosecutors in Manhattan and Washington have outlined plans to extract a criminal guilty plea from the bank’s parent company, according to the lawyers, who were not authorized to speak publicly. If BNP is unable to negotiate a lesser punishment — the bank has enlisted the support of high-ranking French officials to pressure prosecutors — the case could counter congressional criticism that arose after the British bank HSBC escaped similar charges two years ago.

Such criminal cases hinge on the cooperation of regulators, some who warned that charging HSBC could have prompted the revocation of the bank’s charter, the corporate equivalent of the death penalty. Federal guidelines require prosecutors to weigh the broader economic consequences of charging corporations.

Benjamin M. Lawsky, left, New York’s superintendent of financial services, is one of the regulators who is said to have reached an understanding with prosecutors, like Preet Bharara.
Mike Segar/Reuters and Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Benjamin M. Lawsky, left, New York’s superintendent of financial services, is one of the regulators who is said to have reached an understanding with prosecutors, like Preet Bharara.
With the investigation into BNP, the lawyers briefed on the matter said, prosecutors met in April with the bank’s American regulators: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York’s top financial regulator. The prosecutors who attended the meeting and are leading the investigation — Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan; David O’Neil, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington; and Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney — left largely reassured.

During the meeting at the New York Fed’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan, the lawyers said, Mr. Lawsky said he planned to impose steep penalties against BNP and its employees but would not revoke the bank’s license. The prosecutors secured similar assurances from the New York Fed, the lawyers said, though the Fed’s board in Washington must still approve the decision about BNP, which has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Depending on the regulator — American and European banks are divided among a patchwork of agencies in New York and Washington — the path to filing charges could still be difficult. While regulators might be philosophically aligned with prosecutors, some feel bound by rules that govern their response to criminal charges. At a meeting last September, a top federal regulator vowed not to interfere if Mr. Bharara obtained a guilty plea from JPMorgan Chase over its ties to Bernard L. Madoff, according to the lawyers and records of the meeting. But the regulator, Thomas J. Curry, a frequent critic of Wall Street, warned that federal law might require him to reconsider JPMorgan’s charter if the bank was convicted of a crime.

The discussions with regulators, recounted in interviews with the lawyers and in records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, offer a lens into the political and legal minefields that prosecutors navigate when investigating big banks. The interviews also demonstrate that defense lawyers continue to push prosecutors not to act without assurances that regulators will keep a bank in business.

In a recent speech to Wall Street lawyers, Mr. Bharara said this dynamic created a “gaping liability loophole that blameworthy companies are only too willing to exploit.”

He noted that regulators often possessed many of the same facts, including emails and documents, that underpin a criminal case. The prosecutors and regulators, he said, need to “work in concert.”

His comments echoed concerns that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. raised at a congressional hearing last year, when he said, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them” amid regulatory concerns that charges could imperil the economy.

The off-the-cuff remarks ignited a debate that reverberated through the Justice Department and the halls of the Capitol. Mr. Holder’s concerns also reinforced the popular idea that Wall Street, once considered too big to fail, is now too big to indict.

The idea is born from painful experiences like Arthur Andersen, Enron’s accounting firm, which went out of business after a 2002 criminal conviction. In the wake of the firm’s collapsing, prosecutors adopted a more cautious approach when punishing big companies, imposing “deferred-prosecution agreements” that suspend charges against corporations in exchange for certain concessions.

Those fears helped shape the case against HSBC, accused of “stunning failures” in preventing money laundering. Prosecutors in Washington, unsure how regulators would respond to a guilty plea, imposed a record fine and a deferred-prosecution agreement.

Mr. Holder and Mr. Bharara are now signaling a change in course.

Mr. Holder’s criminal division — which a week after announcing the HSBC case hosted a meeting with regulators to discuss “corporate resolutions,” according to records — has held discussions with the New York Fed about securing a guilty plea in the Credit Suisse tax shelter case. While the criminal division might ultimately extract a guilty plea from Credit Suisse’s main banking affiliate in Zurich, the lawyers briefed on the matter said, they have not ruled out charges against the bank’s parent company. The case is expected to be announced before the action against BNP.

Representatives for BNP and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Mr. Bharara, the lawyers said, has opened his own criminal investigations into a fraud at Citigroup’s Mexican affiliate and other American banks. And in the recent speech, Mr. Bharara warned, “You can expect that before too long a significant financial institution will be charged with a felony or be made to plead guilty to a felony, where the conduct warrants it.”

BNP has privately said that the consequences of a guilty plea could be dire. In a final bid for leniency, the lawyers briefed on the matter said, the bank is expected to meet with prosecutors next week in the Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington. BNP, which has earmarked $1.1 billion to pay penalties in the case but might pay more, requested the meeting with Mr. O’Neil, Mr. Bharara and Mr. Vance after learning the prosecutors’ intentions to force a guilty plea from the bank’s parent company. The bank, which would be the biggest financial institution to plead guilty since Drexel Burnham Lambert in 1989, hopes that prosecutors will settle for a guilty plea from a BNP subsidiary.

The investigation into BNP has centered on whether the bank processed transactions for countries — including Sudan and Iran — that the United States government has placed under sanctions. The bank, which conducted its own internal investigation that “identified a significant volume of transactions that could be considered impermissible” between 2002 and 2009, may have improperly routed some money through its New York branches. Prosecutors decided that the conduct warranted more than a deferred-prosecution agreement. But leery of spurring a run on the bank, the prosecutors turned to regulators for assurances — which were largely provided at the April 18 meeting at the New York Fed.

Still, to be meaningful, a guilty plea would require some consequences. Mr. Lawsky told prosecutors that he would consider temporarily suspending the bank’s ability to transfer money through New York branches on behalf of foreign clients, a move that could undercut the bank’s revenue.

A spokesman for Mr. Lawsky declined to comment, as did the spokesmen for Mr. Bharara, Mr. Curry and Mr. O’Neil. The Fed and Mr. Vance’s office also declined to comment.

In other cases, Mr. Bharara reached an impasse with regulators.

He first met with Mr. Curry, the Comptroller of the Currency, in September 2012 to discuss the potential fallout from criminal charges, records show. A year later, as Mr. Bharara’s investigation into JPMorgan’s business with Mr. Madoff was heating up, he made another visit to the regulator.

Joined by his top lieutenants — Lorin L. Reisner, Joon Kim and Richard B. Zabel — Mr. Bharara sought to clarify the potential repercussions of a JPMorgan guilty plea, according to the meeting records. Mr. Curry, flanked by his own top aides, Paul Nash and Daniel Stipano, was sympathetic to the dilemma.

But Mr. Curry stopped short of promising that JPMorgan’s charter would be safe. He pointed to a federal law that requires the Comptroller’s office to hold a hearing about potentially terminating “all rights, privileges and franchises of the bank.” Ultimately, JPMorgan received a roughly $2 billion penalty from Mr. Curry and Mr. Bharara, but did not have to plead guilty.

Moving forward, Mr. Bharara is exploring ways around the automatic hearing, which applies only to money laundering convictions. Other charges, including wire fraud, do not automatically require a hearing.

“The revocation of a charter amounts to a death sentence for a bank,” said Daniel Levy, a former prosecutor in Mr. Bharara’s office, who is now a principal at McKool Smith. “Any rational prosecutor would want to know the consequences of a charge, if possible in advance.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oklahoma Execution of African American Botched; Clayton Lockett Then Dies of Heart Failure In Death Chamber; Warner's State-sanctioned Murder Was Then Postponed For Two Weeks
Oklahoma death row inmates are victims of an inhumane and racist system.
Clayton Lockett, left, died of a heart attack after the drug did not kill him
instantly. Charles Warner's execution was postponed then for two weeks.
Michael Winter, USA TODAY 10:21 p.m. EDT April 29, 2014

An Oklahoma death row inmate died of a heart attack Tuesday night more than 40 minutes after his execution was halted because the lethal injection of three drugs was botched.

The execution of a second convicted murderer was postponed.

Corrections Director Robert Patton halted the execution of Clayton Lockett about 20 minutes after the first drug was administered. He said there was a vein failure that prevented the deadly chemicals from reaching Lockett.

Witnesses said Lockett writhed and convulsed on the gurney, shaking uncontrollably.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered an investigation into the botched execution and issued a 14-day stay of execution for the second inmate who was scheduled to die.

Acting hours after the execution, Fallin ordered the Department of Corrections to review the state's execution procedures and determine what went wrong.

Patton said Lockett died after receiving all three drugs.

"There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that (desired) effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown," Patton said at a news conference afterward, referring to Lockett's vein rupturing.

The 38-year-old Lockett, who was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching two accomplices bury her alive in 1999, was pronounced dead in the execution chamber at 7:06 p.m. CT.

The execution began at 6:23 p.m., and he was unconscious 10 minutes later. His death came 43 minutes after the drugs began flowing.

Here's how The Oklahoman described the scene at the death house in McAlester:

Lockett grimaced and tensed his body several times over a three minute period before the execution was shielded from the press. After being declared unconscious ten minutes into the process, Lockett spoke at three separate moments. The first two were inaudible, however the third time he spoke, Lockett said the word "man."

The paper said officials closed the curtains 16 minutes into the execution and ended it 20 minutes later.

"It was extremely difficult to watch," Lockett's attorney, David Autry, said afterward.

Charles Warner's execution had been set for 8 p.m. Tuesday. The 46-year-old was convicted of raping and killing his roommate's 11-month-old daughter in 1997. He has maintained his innocence.

It was the first time since 1937 that two men were to have been executed on the same day in Oklahoma, although it has happened in other states since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976. The last double execution was in Texas in 2000.

Lockett and Warner had sued the state for refusing to disclose details about the execution drugs, including where Oklahoma obtained them.

The case, filed as a civil matter, placed Oklahoma's two highest courts at odds and prompted calls for the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices after the court last week issued a rare stay of execution. The high court later dissolved its stay and dismissed the inmates' claim that they were entitled to know the source of the drugs.

By then, Gov. Mary Fallin had weighed in on the matter by issuing a stay of execution of her own — a one-week delay in Lockett's execution that resulted in both men being scheduled to die on the same day.

"Our goal is to make sure justice is served," Fallin said Tuesday. "The courts have ruled, and there is no doubt as to the guilt of the perpetrators of the crimes."

Lockett's request of steak, shrimp, a large baked potato and a Kentucky bourbon pecan pie was denied because it exceeded the $15 limit, and he declined a separate offer from the warden for a dinner from Western Sizzlin, prison officials said.

Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles; The Associated Press

Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched


McALESTER, Okla. — What was supposed to be the first of two executions here Tuesday night was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to writhe and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “oh man,” according to witnesses.

The administering doctor intervened and discovered that “the line had blown,” said the director of corrections, Robert Patton, meaning that drugs were no longer flowing into Mr. Lockett’s vein.

At 7:06 p.m., Mr. Patton said, Mr. Lockett died in the execution chamber, of a heart attack.

Mr. Patton said the governor had agreed to his request for a stay of 14 days in the second execution scheduled for Tuesday night, that of Charles F. Warner.

It was a chaotic and disastrous step in Oklahoma’s long effort to execute the two men, overcoming their objections that the state would not disclose the source of the drugs being used in a newly tried combination.

According to Mr. Patton, it was the method of administration, not the drugs themselves, that failed, but it resulted in what witnesses called an agonizing scene.

“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Mr. Lockett’s lawyers.

“It looked like torture,” said Dean Sanderford, another lawyer for Mr. Lockett.

A doctor started to administer the first drug, a sedative intended to knock the man out and forestall pain, at 6:23 p.m. Ten minutes later, the doctor announced that Mr. Lockett was unconscious, and he started to administer the next two drugs, a paralytic and one intended to make the heart stop.

At that point, witnesses said, things began to go awry. Mr. Lockett’s body twitched, his foot shook and he mumbled, witnesses said.

At 6:37 p.m., he tried to rise and exhaled loudly. At that point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses and the doctor discovered a “vein failure,” Mr. Patton said.

Without effective sedation, the second two drugs are known to cause agonizing suffocation and pain.

Mr. Lockett’s apparent revival and writhing raised questions about the doctor’s initial declaration that he was unconscious and is sure to call into question the effectiveness of the sedative used.

Gov. Mary Fallin said late Tuesday, “I have asked the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening’s execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett.”

Madeline Cohen, a federal public defender and lawyer for Mr. Warner, said that while prison officials asserted that the problem was only with the intravenous line, “unless we have a full and independent investigation, we’ll never know.”

“No execution should take place in Oklahoma until there has been a full investigation into Clayton Lockett’s death, including an independent autopsy and full transparency surrounding the drugs and the process of administering them,” she said.

The appeals for disclosure about the drug sources, supported by a state court in March, threw Oklahoma’s highest courts and elected officials into weeks of conflict and disarray, with courts arguing over which should consider the request for a politically unpopular stay of execution, the governor defying the State Supreme Court’s ruling for a delay, and a legislator seeking impeachment of the justices.

The planned executions of Mr. Lockett, 38, and Mr. Warner, 46, dramatized the growing tension nationally over secrecy in lethal injections as drug companies, saying they are fearful of political and even physical attack, refuse to supply drugs, and many states scramble to find new sources and try untested combinations. Several states have imposed secrecy on the suppliers of lethal injection drugs, leading to court battles over due process and the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for the two convicts said the lack of supplier information made it impossible to know if the drugs were safe and effective, or might possibly violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Officials swore that the drugs had been obtained legally from licensed pharmacies and had not expired. Ms. Fallin, expressing the view of many here, said earlier Tuesday, “Two men that do not contest their guilt in heinous murders will now face justice.”

But that sentiment was overshadowed by Tuesday night’s bungled execution, which is certain to generate more challenges to lethal injection, long considered the most humane of execution methods.

Mr. Lockett was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman in 1999 and burying her alive. Mr. Warner, condemned for the rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl in 1997, was to be executed two hours later.

The two men spent Tuesday in adjacent cells, visited by their lawyers and, in Mr. Warner’s case, family members. The hulking white penitentiary in this small town in southeast Oklahoma, amid prairies now green from soaking spring rains, is the prison from which Tom Joad is paroled in the opening pages of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

In keeping with the untried drug protocol announced by the Corrections Department this month, Mr. Lockett was first injected with midazolam, a benzodiazepine intended to render the prisoner unconscious. This was to be followed by injections of vecuronium bromide, a paralyzing agent that stops breathing, and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

This combination has been used in Florida, but with a much higher dose of midazolam than Oklahoma used.

Faced with shortages, Oklahoma and other states have turned to compounding pharmacies — lightly regulated laboratories that mix up drugs to order. Opponents have raised questions about quality control, especially after the widely reported dying gasps of a convict in Ohio for more than 10 minutes, and an Oklahoma inmate’s utterance, “I feel my whole body burning,” after being injected with compounded drugs.

Oklahoma later said it had found a federally approved manufacturer to provide the drugs for Tuesday’s executions, but refused to identify it.

Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, derided the lawsuits over drug secrecy, calling them delaying tactics. Many legal experts, especially death penalty opponents, say otherwise.

“Information on the drug that is intended to act as the anesthetic is crucial to ensure that the execution will be humane,” said Jennifer Moreno, a lawyer with the Berkeley Law School’s Death Penalty Clinic.

Elsewhere, Texas has refused to reveal where it obtained a new batch of compounded drugs; a challenge is before the State Supreme Court. Georgia passed a law last year making information about lethal drug suppliers a “confidential state secret”; a challenge is also pending in that state’s top court.

This month, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear suits attacking drug secrecy in Missouri and Louisiana.

But three of the justices expressed interest and the issue seems likely to be considered by the Supreme Court at some point, said Eric M. Freedman, a professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University.

In March, it appeared that Mr. Lockett and Mr. Warner had won the right to know more about the drugs when an Oklahoma judge ruled that the secrecy law was unconstitutional. But the judge said she did not have the authority to grant the men stays of execution, sending the inmates into a Kafkaesque legal maze.

The state’s Court of Criminal Appeals repeatedly turned back the Supreme Court’s order to rule on a stay, while the attorney general insisted that the executions would go ahead.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court said that to avoid a miscarriage of justice, it would delay the executions until it had time to resolve the secrecy matter.

The next day, Ms. Fallin, a Republican, said the Supreme Court had overstepped its powers, and directed officials to carry out both executions on April 29. An outraged legislator, Representative Mike Christian, said he would seek to impeach the justices, who were already under fire from conservative legislators for striking down laws the court deemed unconstitutional.

A constitutional crisis appeared to be brewing. But last Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced a decision on the secrecy issue — overturning the lower court and declaring that the executions could proceed.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed from New York Times
Pan-Africanism, Socialism and African American History
Abayomi Azikiwe with Ramona Africa and others after the lecture in Philadelphia
at Calvary Church on Feb. 25, 2014. (Photo: Joe Piette)
A Pan-African News Wire staff interview with Editor Abayomi Azikiwe

Note: Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, visited several cities on the east coast of the United States during February 21-26. The trip was a tour in honor of African American History Month and had a special focus on the role of Africans in the overall struggle against imperialism and for national liberation, Pan-Africanism and Socialism. The PANW staff sat down with Azikiwe to get his perspective on the tour and the significance of this venture to the work related to raising consciousness and building a progressive movement inside the U.S.

PANW: What is the significance of African American History Month in 2014? Does this commemoration still hold the importance as it did when you were coming along as a student and youth activist?

Azikiwe: This is an important question to ponder. I have thought a lot over the years about the intellectual tradition of Africans on both the Continent and the Diaspora. With specific reference to the U.S., during the entire period of the 20th century scholars and public intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, J.A. Rodgers, Ida. B. Wells-Barnett, William Alpheus Hunton, Claudia Jones, C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Eslanda Robeson, Walter Rodney, Ella Baker, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) , Malcolm X, Julian Mayfield and many others played a significant role through their articles, essays, research studies, pamphlets and books but they were also activists and organizers forming and working with groups such as the Pan-African Congress, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Communist Party, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), etc. It was their work in both the scholarly and political arenas that pushed forward the struggle against national oppression and economic exploitation. The thrust was both ideological and organizational and was heavily rooted in the African American communities not just in the South but across the country.

This important role of the revolutionary intelligentsia in alliance with the working class and farmers is lacking in the second decade of the 21st century with the purported “mainstreaming” of African American and even “Africana” studies within the universities and through corporate-sponsored public media outlets. I think I am safe to say that almost none of the people that are recognized by the establishment within academia and the capitalist-controlled television and print industries are connected with any significant movement or organization in the African American community. Consequently, their approach borders on the notion “disinterested scholarship” and is not concerned with supporting, let alone creating, organizations and movements that fundamentally challenge the ongoing oppressive conditions prevailing in the U.S. and indeed throughout the African Diaspora.

Therefore, since 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford designated February as Black History Month on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Negro History Week by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and the Journal of Negro History in 1916, there has been a concerted effort to commercialize the popular commemoration.

We must recall that in 1976 the U.S. and the world were embroiled in rigorous debates and struggles over the battle against racism, capitalism and imperialism. In the late 1960s African American students waged campaigns on college campuses and at high schools around the country demanding Black and Pan-African Studies. This coincided with the Civil Rights, Black Power, Pan-African, Anti-War, Women’s, Anti-Imperialist and Left Movements of the period. Not only were African Americans in the forefront of these enormous efforts, they supplied much of the ideological weight that proved most effective in at least breaking up the obvious legalized forms of institutional racism.

Nonetheless, today a struggle is still being waged and the role of African American intellectuals and students are brought into question due to the changing economic and social character of U.S. society. African Americans are being systematically forced out of the colleges and universities, the prisons are filled with the oppressed peoples who are descendants from both the Continent and Latin America and the socio-economic status of African Americans is becoming more dire every year despite the existence in his second term of a president who self-identified as Black during his 2008 campaign.

PANW: We wanted to specifically talk about your tour of the east coast during African American History Month. How did this come about?

Azikiwe: Two organizers for Workers World Party in Philadelphia have been eager to bring me to the city for at least five years but were not able to arrange the necessary resources to do so. Well they contacted me in January saying that they had mobilized transport and other costs and if I was willing to come they would be glad to have me come to the city to deliver a lecture.

This was African American History Month and since there is so much going on today in Africa as it relates to U.S. and European imperialist intervention it would be a perfect time to speak on these issues and the role that must be assumed by the Left in regard to this situation.

PANW: What cities did you lecture in and what were some of the highlights of the trip?

Azikiwe: I visited New York City, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The entire trip was exciting and illuminating. I was able to talk with people from various organizations and to view directly the conditions prevailing in these cities. In Boston, the United Steelworkers Local 8751 that represents the school bus drivers has been under attack and four of leading organizers were terminated last year.

When I was in Boston on February 22-23, I spoke at a public meeting organized by the local Workers World branch and the turnout was phenomenal. There were people from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean along with African Americans and European-Americans who are progressives and socialists. The response was tremendous to my lecture entitled “Africa and the Struggle Against Imperialism.”

I was able to meet and talk with people from Haiti, Cape Verde, Ireland, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.  Boston has an interesting history in regard to African people. Malcolm X spent a part of his youth under the guardianship of his older sister Ms. Ella Collins in Boston. During the mid-1970s, a protracted struggle was waged to breakdown segregation in the public schools.

When bussing was ordered by the courts in 1974, the African American students and community came under attack. The USW Local 8751 in Boston that represents the school bus drivers was built out of the struggle to defend the African American community in the city. This of course is clearly related to why the four workers have been attacked in an effort to destroy the anti-racist legacy of the union. During the lecture I expressed my solidarity with the fight to win their jobs back and maintain the union as a strong bastion of the ongoing movement in the city.

On Feb. 23-24 I visited Baltimore where I also spoke on Feb. 24. Baltimore was quite interesting due to the striking similarities to conditions in the city of Detroit. Large sections of the African American community has been devastated and decimated by the banks. In areas where the African American community settled after the migration to the cities in the Post-World War I and II periods, there are rows, blocks and neighborhoods of vacant homes. Poverty is widespread and police brutality runs rampant.

At the same time in the areas around John Hopkins University Hospital there is large-scale dislocation of the African American community for construction projects and the gentrification of existing housing and commercial establishments. Being there I thought of the legacy of Frederick Douglass whom spent time in Baltimore and was enslaved in the state of Maryland which very much today is still a southern state in the most political and social sense of the description.

PANW: You then ended your tour in Philadelphia. How was this visit?

Azikiwe: Philadelphia was perhaps the most interesting. My hosts took me on a whirlwind tour of the city focusing on the African American community which extends back to the 18th century. We visited the landmarks of the Free African Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the first organized African churches in the U.S. The AME Church was founded by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones and it was the successor to the Free African Society.

We also visited the last home of Paul Robeson, the legendary athlete, artist, social scientist who worked within the Pan-African, Left and Anti-Imperialist movements from the 1930s through the early 1960s. I was very moved when I was taken to the Robeson home and later to a mural that was constructed in his honor in Philadelphia.
Abayomi Azikiwe outside the last home of Paul Robeson.
(Photo: Joe Piette)
I visited both West and North Philadelphia. In North Philly I was able to visit Kensington where one of the first urban rebellions took place in 1964. My hosts took me to key areas where NAACP leader Cecil B. Moore worked to breakdown segregation. There were instances where he worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We too visited the Historic Church of the Advocate in North Philly which has been a base for progressive activities in the city. The Black Panther Party, which during the period between 1968-1971 was strong in Philadelphia, would hold meetings there. Mumia Abu-Jamal would speak there in his Panther days.

In a brochure given to me during my visit at the Church it says that “The Advocate became a center of activism during the Civil Rights Movement embracing the cause of African American and women’s rights. It was the site of several nationally significant events of these movements including the National Conference of Black Power (1968), the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention organized by the Black Panther Party in 1970 and the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in 1974.”

The Church was built during the late 19th century by Charles Burns, who is recognized as one of the most prominent church architects of the period. He designed churches across the city and in other areas of the U.S.

The staff of the Church was very welcoming and cordial. They took me along with my hosts on an extensive tour of the building which is under renovation. There are murals in the Church that are representative of the African American struggle.

We then visited the Osage Avenue area on the west side where the MOVE home was bombed by police on May 13, 1985. The incident resulted in the deaths of 11 MOVE members including four children and the entire area was burned down due to the actions of the city administration, the police and the fire department. 62 homes were destroyed and even today the efforts by the city to cover up the crime by reconstructing the homes were done is such a way that the homes today are unlivable and are at present vacant.
Abayomi Azikiwe delivering lecture on Africa and the Struggle
Against Imperialism at Calvary Church in Philadelphia.
(Photo: Joe Piette)
I delivered a lecture at Calvary Church on the evening of February 25 in Philadelphia. I was delighted to meet with MOVE leaders Pam and Ramona Africa, Ramona being one of two survivors of the May 13, 1985 bombing. She also spent seven years in prison afterwards on trumped-up charges. After coming out of prison she became a powerful spokesperson and organizer for MOVE and in the struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the MOVE 9, who were imprisoned in 1978 resulting from a previous attack on the organization, as well as other political prisoners and movements aimed at revolution and social justice.

In addition to meeting with MOVE at the Calvary Church lecture, another old friend and ally, Godfrey Sithole, who has represented the African National Congress (ANC) in Philadelphia for many years, attended the lecture. I first met Sithole in 1984 when he was working with ANC youth organizer Kgathi Sethegke who was living in Detroit then. At the time I was the Chair of the Pan-African Students Union and editor of Pambana Journal.

Later in Nov. 1984, we organized with the ANC and the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), the Mid-west Conference Against Apartheid at Wayne State University in Detroit. The conference was the first held during this period to recognize the ANC and SWAPO as the vanguard national liberation movements and sole representatives of the peoples of South Africa and Namibia, both then still under white settler-colonial rule.

PANW: In conclusion, what do you think of the future role of the Left and Pan-African Movements in the current crisis of imperialist intervention in Africa?

Azikiwe: Much more needs to be done to publicize the reality of the political situation involving the increasing role of U.S. imperialism in Africa. This was the purpose of my tour to encourage and motivate progressive forces and leftists to not only pay more attention to the role of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) but also international finance capital and the transnational mining firms which are bleeding the continent dry.

What we need is a consistent political education program that explains the primary role of Africa in the world struggle against imperialism. We must recruit cadre to go out and conduct political work to organize around the intensifying crisis on the Continent. The present world economic crisis has exposed the fragility of international finance capital. Like Lenin, Nkrumah and other revolutionaries, we must not only clearly define the enemy but we must attack it at its roots.
Abayomi Azikiwe lecturing in Boston on Feb. 22, 2014.
(Photo: Steve Kirschbaum)
Supreme Court Delivers Blow to Civil Rights Sixty Years After Brown v. Topeka
Abayomi Azikiwe speaking at a public meeting on Aug. 25, 2007.
Michigan vote to ban consideration of race was based on deception

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A 6-2 decision by the United States Supreme Court on April 23 upheld a 2006 vote in the state of Michigan which placed a ban on affirmative action. The so-called “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” was in actuality a reversal of the very legal and political principles which guided the movement for equality from the 1950s through the 1970s.

This court decided that it possessed no jurisdiction to overturn a vote of the majority of people in Michigan which placed a ban on considering race and the history of national discrimination as factors in admissions to higher educational institutions. The impact of the Michigan vote in 2006 and other similar initiatives have resulted in drastic declines in the number of African American and Latino students at universities and colleges around in the state and the country.

Not only did the majority opinion uphold the anti-affirmative action vote in Michigan, it rejected a federal appeals court decision that the adoption of such a state law violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which ostensibly guaranteed equal protection under the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative jurist, summed up the majority view saying in essence that such considerations of racism and past discrimination was not needed and was unconstitutional.

Kennedy said “In a society in which those lines are becoming more blurred, the attempt to define race based categories also raises serious questions of its own. Government action that classifies individuals on the basis of race is inherently suspect and carries the danger of perpetuating the very racial divisions the polity seeks to transcend.”

In a dissenting minority opinion, the only Puerto Rican jurist, Sonia Sotomayor, abhorred the decision. Justice Sotomayor, who recognizes that her career path is directly related to the affirmative action programs that helped Latinas from the Bronx get into Princeton University and Yale's law school, said the majority opinion represented the refusal "to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. We ought not to sit back and wish away, rather than confront the racial inequality that exists in our society."

Michigan Vote to Ban Affirmative Action Was Based on Deception and Racism

The placing of the anti-Affirmative Action referendum on the Michigan ballot was based on massive deception through a well-financed political program.  A petition campaign was launched to place the initiative on the ballot where canvassers were paid for collecting signatures.

Many of the people circulating the petitions were instructed to lie and say that this initiative would advance equal opportunity by changing the Michigan state constitution to bar discrimination. Once the necessary signatures were collected, a challenge to the placing of the initiative on the ballot was mounted.

Challengers claimed that it was not the intent of most people who signed the petition to ban affirmative action. However, the state elections commission and the courts upheld the initiative and it passed during the 2006 statewide elections.

Most whites still do not recognize the historic national oppression of African Americans, Latinos and other groups. Due to racism many believe that any advancement made by the oppressed nations is the result of “reverse discrimination” against the dominant oppressor nation.

The decision represents the efforts to in fact reverse the political and social gains of the Civil Rights, Black Power and Women’s movements that emerged during the post-World War II period. In 1954, the infamous Brown v. Topeka Supreme Court decision ruled that “separate but equal” facilities for students in public education were inherently unconstitutional.

Brown v. Topeka represented a reversal of the Plessy v. Fergusun case of 1896, which during the era of Jim Crow and lynching, provided a legal rationale for the notion of “second class citizenship for African Americans. Through a series of political and legal campaigns led by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and others, institutional discrimination was eventually outlawed in both higher education and K-12.

Civil Rights Legislation and Affirmative Action Were Products of Mass Struggle

Nonetheless, it would take a mass Civil Rights and Black Power movement beginning in 1955 and continuing through the early 1970s to bring real affirmative action programs into existence. The Johnson administration in response to the militancy of the African American struggle shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through the U.S. Congress.

Johnson noted in a commencement address at Howard University in 1965 that simply passing laws would not be enough to make a dent in historical institutional discrimination. He utilized the term Affirmative Action which later became of source of a right-wing push back against the changing social character of race relations in the country that was built on the genocide of indigenous Americans, the enslavement of Africans and the colonization of large sections of the Mexican population in the southwest.

Johnson said specifically that "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair." In September of 1965 Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 along with the Office Federal Contract Compliance to enforce a policy of non-discrimination. In 1967, the Order was amended to bar discrimination against women in hiring.

Earlier the Kennedy administration had issued Executive Order 10925 mandating that federal contractors not only end discrimination but to take “affirmative action to ensure” compliance. Kennedy’s Order also mandated penalties for non-compliance with non-discriminatory policies.

With the advent of urban rebellions during 1963-1970, the impetus for the implementation of affirmative action was accelerated. However, in the late 1970s, the Bakke Case which challenged quotas and timetables for the implementation of non-discriminatory policies, resulted in the Supreme Court lessening the impact of previous executive orders and legislation in 1978.

With additional anti-affirmative action campaigns in California, Texas, Florida as well as Michigan, these efforts have largely eliminated the institutional commitment to non-discrimination. A recent series of demonstrations by African American students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is calling for the elite institution to institute programs to recruit more people from this oppressed community.

What is needed to make these demands a political force is to initiate a national movement against institutional racism that would encompass the declining social status of the nationally oppressed, who today are still suffering from disproportionate rates of unemployment and poverty. As the gains of the 20th century were the result of the mass struggles of African Americans, Latinos and their allies, the reversal of these setbacks will also require the mobilization and organization of the masses in a militant program of resistance and fight back.
Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. April 27, 2014
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and host of the
Pan-African Journal worldwide radio broadcast.
For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Tues. April 29, 2014

To listen to this special broadcast of the Pan-African Journal featuring guest Norman Otis Richmond in a tribute to Mabel Robinson Williams, Robert F. Williams and Rubin Hurricane Carter, just click on the website below:

This special broadcast features a tribute to the late Mabel Robinson Williams, the widow of Robert Franklin Williams, who made her transition on April 19, 2014. The funeral services for Mrs. Williams was held on Friday April 25 and was covered by Pan-African News Wire editor Abayomi Azikiwe, also the host of the Pan-African Journal.

Mabel Williams was very much involved in the struggle for Civil Rights and self-determination in Union County, North Carolina during the 1950s and early 1960s. The Williams organized a militant local chapter of the NAACP and an armed self-defense unit called the Black Guard.

The Black Guard mobilized hundreds of African Americans to defend their community against the racist violence of the Ku Klux Klan and the police. Williams was expelled from the NAACP in 1959 after saying that African Americans should meet violence with violence.

In 1961 they were forced to flee North Carolina and the United States to Canada seeking political asylum. After the RCMP took up their case, they went into exile in Cuba for five years and then the People's Republic of China for three additional years.

The program features a classic interview with Robert F. Williams by U.S. journalist Robert Cohen in Tanzania during late 1968. Later in the program we then bring on Norman Otis Richmond, the bluesologist and broadcaster from Toronto who met Williams during the period when he returned to the U.S. in late 1969.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. April 26, 2014--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire.
For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Tues. April 29, 2014

To listen to this broadcast featuring host Abayomi Azikiwe, just click on the website below:

This week's Pan-African Journal highlights a Pan-African News Wire report on various aspects of the political situation on the continent and the Diaspora. The Pan-African News Wire was formed in January of 1998 and has been consistently providing news and analysis for over sixteen years.

In the program during the second half we continue our tribute to the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the Convention People's Party (CPP) and the modern state of Ghana. Nkrumah died on April 27, 1972 some forty-two years ago this weekend.

We play further excerpts from his historic speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 1960. Nkrumah deals with the struggle against settler-colonialism in Southern Africa and the need to eliminate imperialism on the continent.

Those who want further access to this program and other archived editions of the Pan-African Journal can merely log on to the Pan-African Radio Network at journal . These broadcasts can be shared via e-mail, blog and website as well as through social media outlets such as Facebook and twitter.