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NRA’s New Commentators Pander To Women, Minorities, Veterans

The National Rifle Association this week debuted a new lineup of special commentators — three young adults whose biographies are tailor-made to appeal to three groups the NRA is targeting with special outreach programs: minorities, women, and military veterans. Colion Noir, Natalie Foster and Dom Raso each will produce regular, short video segments on issues that include gun control and politics for NRA News Network.

Foster, a Los Angeles-based gun blogger, founded Girls Guide To Guns, a blog that combines posts about the joys of shooting semi-automatic weapons with advice, such as how to look “extra cute at the [shooting] range.” Pandering to women is nothing new for the NRA, which has long maintained special programs aimed at increasing gun ownership among women, which the gun industry views as a huge market.

The veterans’ outreach is covered by Raso, who the NRA said is a former Navy SEAL. In 2011, the NRA launched a veterans recruitment program called “Life of Duty”, which offers free annual memberships to active duty military, police, and first responders.

Minorities are the NRA’s newest target group, and so far the effort begins and ends with Noir, who the NRA bills as an “urban gun enthusiast.” Noir wears hip-hop clothes and tailors his topics to African Americans. He said in a recent segment that gun control is racist because it prevents inner-city minorities from getting the kinds of guns they need for self-protection. (Huffington Post)

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Can March on Washington’s Unity Be Duplicated?

In five months, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1963, the March was jointly called by the Civil Rights Movement’s “Big Six” – A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, James Farmer and John Lewis.

At this point, it is unclear whether today’s leaders will come together and rally around the theme of jobs and justice as leaders did on August 28, 1963.

Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III are planning a march in Washington. Bernice King has announced a commemoration of the “I Have a Dream” speech at the King Center in Atlanta to observe the 50th anniversary. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. King’s old organization, will be holding its annual convention in the nation’s capital the week of the anniversary and is considering holding an activity. (New Journal & Guide Online)

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South Africa: Mandela in hospital with lung infection

Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa’s first black president, has been admitted to a hospital with a recurring lung infection, South Africa said Thursday.

Mandela, 94, has become increasingly frail in recent years and has been hospitalized several times since last year, most recently earlier this month when he underwent what authorities said was a scheduled medical test. The Nobel laureate is a revered figure in South Africa, which has honored his legacy of reconciliation by naming buildings and other places after him and printing his image on national banknotes.

“I’m so sorry. I’m sad,” said Obed Mokwana, a Johannesburg resident. “I just try to pray all the time. He must come very strong again.”

The Nobel laureate was admitted to a hospital just before midnight Wednesday “due to the recurrence of his lung infection,” the office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.

“Doctors are attending to him, ensuring that he has the best possible expert medical treatment and comfort,” the statement said. It appealed “for understanding and privacy in order to allow space to the doctors to do their work.”

It did not identify the hospital. In December, Mandela spent three weeks in a hospital in the South African capital of Pretoria, where he was treated for a lung infection and had a procedure to remove gallstones.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj acknowledged there was cause for worry, but said the medical specialists treating Mandela were very competent.

“The health has been OK given his age, but the downturn last night — obviously when the lung infection recurs, the doctors will want to do everything possible and make sure that they don’t allow the infection to spread, that they arrest it as quickly as possible,” Maharaj said in an interview with eNCA, a South African news channel.

He said there had been a global outpouring of messages expressing concern for Mandela’s health.

Zuma wished Mandela a speedy recovery, referring to him affectionately by his clan name, “Madiba.”

“We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts. We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recovery,” the presidential statement quoted Zuma as saying.

Mandela spent a night in a hospital and was released on March 10 following a medical test. At that time, spokesman Maharaj said Mandela was “well.”

In February 2012, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011, he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged days later.

He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.

Under South Africa’s white-minority apartheid regime, Mandela served 27 years in prison, where he contracted tuberculosis, before being released in 1990. He later became the nation’s first democratically elected president in 1994 under the banner of the African National Congress, helping to negotiate a relatively peaceful end to apartheid despite fears of much greater bloodshed. He served one five-year term as president before retiring.

Perceived successes during Mandela’s tenure include the introduction of a constitution with robust protections for individual rights and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel that heard testimony about apartheid-era violations of human rights as a kind of national therapy session. South Africa still struggles with crime, economic inequality and other social ills.

Mandela last made a public appearance on a major stage when South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

He had spent more time in the rural village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, where he grew up. He was visited there in August by Hillary Clinton, who was U.S. secretary of state at the time.

Doctors said in December that he should remain at his home in the Johannesburg neighborhood of Houghton for the time being to be close to medical facilities that can provide the care he needs.

During Mandela’s previous hospitalizations, the South African government had criticized some media outlets for what it described as rumor-mongering and a failure to respect the privacy of the former leader and his family. The media, in turn, expressed concern about an alleged lack of transparency and occasionally conflicting reports from officials.

Maharaj, the presidential spokesman, told eNCA on Thursday that authorities were mindful of public interest in Mandela’s health, but would allow the medical team to focus on treating the former president.

“Our updates will be dependent always on what the doctors tell us and we are not pressurizing them to give us updates every few hours,” he said. “We think that they should attend to their work. We are confident that they know that if there is an upturn for the good, or for the bad, they will always keep us informed.” (AP)

Fla. lt. governor Jennifer Carroll resigns amid gambling investigation

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll announced her resignation Wednesday, a day after she was questioned by authorities investigating an Internet cafe company that she once represented.

Carroll’s resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, dated Tuesday, offered no details about her reason for leaving. But Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with Allied Veterans of the World.

She resigned to ensure her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration, he said. Carroll, a Navy veteran, had owned a public relations firm that represented that company.

While serving as a state lawmaker, Carroll’s ties to the company were also questioned when she proposed a bill that would benefit internet cafes.

Carroll’s aides said they had no immediate comment Wednesday.

The owner of Allied Veterans was arrested Tuesday in Oklahoma on charges of racketeering. He is accused of making $290 million after supplying illegal gambling software in Florida and claiming the games’ proceeds would benefit a veterans group. Oklahoma authorities say the group actually received only 1%of the money. Chase Egan Burns, 37, and his wife, 38-year-old Kristin Burns, both face extradition to Florida to face the charges.

Chase Burns owns International Internet Technologies in Anadarko, about 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

He and his wife were arrested after an investigation that spanned several years and involved the Internal Revenue Service and various law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and Florida, including the sheriff’s office in Florida’s Seminole County, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office.

Chase Burns was released from the Caddo County jail Tuesday afternoon on a $500,000 bond. He denied any wrongdoing.

“What we do is legal,” he told The Oklahoman on Monday, the night before he turned himself in to local authorities.

His father, Tony Burns, also serves as his attorney. Tony Burns told the newspaper that his son broke no laws.

“What Chase was doing was he was actually selling the Internet time,” Tony Burns said. “That’s was what his business was — providing the software. And there’s nothing illegal about providing software to any business.”

Tony Burns did not return a call seeking comment from The Associated Press.

A telephone number listed for Allied Veterans in St. Augustine has been disconnected. Multiple emails sent by The Associated Press to an address listed on the group’s website weren’t returned Tuesday evening.

The former lieutenant governor — who is the mother of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nolan Carroll — has been named in previous scandals.

Last year, a former aide, Carletha Cole, claimed to have found Carroll in a compromising position with a travel aide inside’s Carroll’s office.

Cole is charged with violating state law for allegedly giving a recording of a conversation with Carroll’s chief of staff to a newspaper reporter.

Cole says she was ordered by Ramos to find adjoining hotel rooms for Carroll and Ramos when they traveled. Carroll has said previously the allegations are an attempt by Cole and her attorney to get the criminal charges against Cole dropped.

Carroll, a married mother of three, became the brunt of late-night talk show hosts when she defended herself against the allegations, telling a Tampa Bay area TV station that black women who look like her “don’t engage in relationships like that.” She later apologized for the remarks, which implied that black lesbians are not attractive. (AP)

Chicago district disappointed in ex-congressman Jackson

Residents in this swath of sprawling Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs have brimmed with loyalty to Jesse Jackson Jr. over the past 17 years, giving him an enthusiastic majority each election — even after questionable links to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, reports of an extramarital affair and a bizarre five-month medical leave.

But the former congressman’s guilty plea to charges that he lived off and lavishly spent campaign money for personal use — on everything from toilet paper to mink capes — has turned the tide. In territory where it was difficult to scrape up any criticism of Jackson, his Chicago alderman wife or his famous civil rights leader father, the mood is now simply one of disappointment.

“He knew better; it was a very stupid thing to do,” said 75-year-old Jeannette Reese, shaking her head as she grocery-shopped at a busy shopping complex. “He and his father came to our church. I thought he was the real thing.”
Reese said she had voted for the younger Jackson for years.

Jackson, who resigned from office in November, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Washington to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces up to 57 months — more than four years — in prison and a fine, under a plea deal with prosecutors.

It was an emotional day for Jackson, 47, who held back tears as he addressed the federal judge, just hours before his wife pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She faces up to two years in prison and a fine.

“I did these things,” Jackson told the judge, adding later, “Sir, for years I lived in my campaign.”

Jackson first won office in a 1995 special election and developed widespread support from mayors who said he delivered and constituents who valued his family legacy and said he gave them a voice. That support persevered even through an intense primary challenge last year from former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson who made Jackson’s ethical troubles central to her campaign. He came away with the easy majority even as he remained under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to Blagojevich, who’s serving a federal prison sentence on allegations that he tried to profit from President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate Seat.

Even the most loyal Jackson supporters who praised him for bringing home nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the district were rattled.

“I hate that circumstances ended up like they did,” said Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin. His small community south of Chicago — one of Illinois’ poorest — got a boost in its water system because of Jackson.

Still, Griffin did not want to pile on criticism. “His situation is between the court system and the family,” the mayor said.

Next week, voters in the heavily Democratic district head to the polls in a special primary to replace him. The crowded field of candidates includes Halvorson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.
Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced June 28 and his wife on July 1. Both Jacksons, who maintain homes in Washington and Chicago, are free until sentencing.

More details emerged in a 22-page statement compiled by prosecutors and filed Wednesday. In it, Jackson admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy thousands of personal items worth $582,772.58 from 2005 through April of last year. The most lavish purchases included the spending of more than $43,000 on a gold-plated men’s Rolex watch.

Court papers said more than $60,000 was shelled out for restaurant, nightclub and lounge outings. Money was also spent on a washer, a dryer, a range and a refrigerator for the Jacksons’ Chicago home.

Jackson even arranged for the use of campaign money to buy two mounted elk heads for his congressional office, according to court documents.

Jackson entered the courtroom Wednesday holding hands with his wife and looking a bit dazzled as he surveyed the packed room. He kissed his wife and headed to the defense table.

After the hearing he shouted to a reporter: “Tell everybody back home I’m sorry I let them down, OK?”

The Chicago Democrat disappeared from the public eye last June for a medical leave, though details on his condition and location were always scarce. Doctors later said he suffers from bipolar disorder and was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

His attorney said after the court appearance that Jackson’s health is “not an excuse” for his actions, “just a fact.” Jackson’s father has said that his son remains under strict medical supervision.

One attorney, Reid Weingarten, told reporters after the hearing that there’s reason for optimism.

“A man that talented, a man that devoted to public service, a man who’s done so much for so many, has another day,” he said. “There will be another chapter in Jesse Jackson’s life.” (AP)

Being young, black, and safe

Whenever 13-year-old Samuel Lindner goes out with his friends, his parents remind him to “act like you’ve been somewhere.”

The phrase has been a constant in the Lindner household since Sam was in preschool. It means he should present himself with confidence, bred of education and experience. Be polite, on his best behavior, and make smart choices.

On the surface, the advice sounds like typical parental nagging. But Sam, his 15-year-old sister, Sophia, and his parents know those five words connote much more – a set of unwritten rules that can mean the difference between success or failure, even life or death. The Lindners, who live in Ardmore, are African American – and that simple fact adds layers of concerns for the welfare of their children. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Obama’s Black Scolds Find Full Voice

When President Obama was publicly sworn into office for the second time on Jan. 21 using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible, many Black Americans were thrilled. Certainly, the King family was—they offered it to the president and attended the event at the Capitol to witness its use.

However, all African Americans did not share that sentiment, most notably former Princeton professor Cornel West and media personality Tavis Smiley, who have, in the past five years, lobbed a barrage of scathing criticism at the president.

In separate statements, the two decried Obama’s use of the Bible given what they see as his spotty record on poverty, U.S. militarism and race relations—issues against which Dr. King fought.

“You don’t use his (King’s) prophetic fire for a moment of presidential pageantry without understanding the challenge he represents to all of those in power regardless of what color they are,” said West during a panel discussion on poverty convened by Smiley at George Washington University on Jan. 17. “The righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King Jr. becomes a moment of political calculation. And that makes my blood boil.” (The AFRO)

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J.C. Watts’ Nonprofit Seeks to Boost GOP Credibility With Minorities

As Republicans continue to grapple with their diversity problem, former Rep. J.C. Watts has moved to fill at least one void by launching a nonprofit charged with recruiting and placing ethnic minority staffers in GOP congressional offices.

Watts, an Oklahoma Republican and African-American who left Congress 10 years ago, said it could take years for his party to build the kind of outreach with ethnic minorities capable of countering Democrats’ success with such groups, which helped propel the party’s candidates to key victories in last year’s elections. Now a lobbyist, Watts hopes that his new organization, Insight, is one solution to a multifaceted problem.

“I am not offended by the words outreach, tolerance and diversity. I don’t see those as liberal code words,” Watts said Tuesday in a telephone interview. (Roll Call)

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HBCU Community Awaits Equity Suit Ruling

Both the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education are waiting for U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake’s ruling, expected in the coming weeks, in the Maryland HBCU equity trial.

The opinion will bring an end—and long-anticipated solution–to a case that some legal observers say will have a deep impact on how the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities are funded.

“The issues that are being tried in Maryland right now are a continuation of the very same issues that resulted in Brown v. the Board of Education and its subsequent cases in higher education,” said Pace J. McConkie, a long-time civil rights lawyer and director of Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education. (The AFRO)

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Voting Rights Act: the 2012 Election Proves Exactly Why We Need It

This month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments that could end key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Shelby County vs. Holder will challenge the provision requiring designated jurisdictions to receive “pre-clearance” before changing election laws. If there was any doubt that the Voting Rights Act needs to be retained, those doubts should have been erased by what happened in 2012.

The greatest justification was the concerted effort by right-wingers to suppress the vote. Republican state houses throughout the country constructed an elaborate and calculated effort to suppress voter turnout. The widespread effort targeted specific demographics and were designed to make it more difficult for voters to exercise their franchise. It was the type of activity expressly forbidden by the Voting Rights Act.

The 2012 elections were a case study in support of retaining the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote is not articulated in the Constitution; however, constitutional amendments state that you cannot prevent an eligible citizen from voting. The Voting Rights Act outlaws practices that prevent eligible citizens from reaching the polls, and yet, in 2012 elected officials were still trying to find ways to deny the vote. (PolicyMic)

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