August 01, 2013

By Frank Jordans

Associated Press

 

HALLE, Germany (AP) — Karamba Diaby makes his way through the historic heart of Halle with the speed of a seasoned politician: slowly. More than two decades of involvement in local politics means the 51-year-old immigrant can't go more than a few steps without being stopped for a chat.

Two months before Germany's general elections each handshake and greeting carries added significance because Diaby is intent on becoming the country's first black member of Parliament. He listens patiently to his constituents and responds in fluent German with a strong Franco-African accent, courtesy of his Senegalese origins.

Nationwide just 81 — or about 4 percent — of the candidates running for the roughly 600-member parliament in the Sept. 22 election have an immigrant background. It is the highest number yet but still far behind countries such as France and Britain. Most of the immigrant candidates belong to the Greens or the Social Democrats, while Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party has only six immigrants on its slate.

Diaby's Social Democrats badly need candidates who will pull in enough votes to hold onto the three seats they won in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in 2009. Diaby has been placed third on the party list, making him one of the few immigrants with a strong chance of being elected.

"I didn't throw my hat in the ring," he said, a touch apologetically. "I was asked by others."

View gallery."

In this picture taken July 25, 2013, Karamba Diaby, …

In this picture taken July 25, 2013, Karamba Diaby, a German Social Democratic Party candidate talks …

The decision to place him near the top of the ticket is all the more remarkable because, like other states in the former East Germany, Saxony-Anhalt has a reputation for being more hostile toward immigrants — especially those from outside Europe — than western parts of the country.

While the trained chemist is reluctant to criticize his adopted home — he moved to Halle in 1986 and gained German citizenship in 2001 — Diaby nevertheless acknowledges that he was once physically attacked because of the color of his skin.

Still, the father of two puts this down to the fact that under communist rule East Germans had limited exposure to immigrants and that time will change old habits.

Another tradition he would like to see broken is that politicians from ethnic minorities are automatically pigeonholed as experts on immigration. "I want everyone to talk about immigration, not just immigrants," he said.

Germany urgently needs immigrants to make up for the country's falling birthrate, though few politicians are prepared to campaign on the issue. Diaby's pet topic is education and how it can help people from all parts of society — immigrants, the unemployed, school dropouts — improve their lot.

View gallery."

In this picture taken July 25, 2013, Karamba Diaby, …

In this picture taken July 25, 2013, Karamba Diaby, a German Social Democratic Party, SPD, candidate …

To make his point, Diaby cites the story of Anton Wilhelm Amo, a former slave who became the first West African to study and teach at a European university about 300 years ago. By coincidence, it was the University of Halle.

As an example of the way black immigrants were treated in Germany, Amo's story remained unique for more than two centuries — except for the racism he reportedly endured, and that prompted him to return to West Africa.

That racism reached its horrendous peak with the Nazis' 12-year reign, which ended in 1945 with millions killed in death camps. Among them were many of Germany's small black community at the time, said Nkechi Madubuko, a Nigeria-born former athlete and TV presenter who has researched the history of Afro-Germans.

The biggest influx of African immigrants to Germany occurred in the post-war period, when newly liberated countries in Africa sent their best and brightest abroad to study. Diaby was one of them, receiving a scholarship to study in East Germany at a time when communist rule was slowly unraveling.

By 2005 there were about 200,000 people of African origin with full German citizenship, and about 303,000 more Africans with residency permits in Germany, said Madubuko.

While Afro-Germans have become more visible in recent years as athletes, actors and journalists, none has broken into national politics. This reflects the general lack of minority representation in German political life. Although nearly one in five people in this nation of 80 million are first-, second- or third- generation immigrants, only a handful has made it into the federal legislature — and most of them are ethnic Germans from eastern Europe.

Three have a parent who was born in India, another is of Iranian origin, while several more belong to Germany's sizeable Turkish community. Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler is an ethnic Vietnamese who was adopted by German parents before he was a year old.

Ekin Deligoez, a member of the left-leaning Green Party whose family came to Germany from Turkey when she was a child, said immigrants were long discouraged from becoming involved in German politics by the country's restrictive citizenship rules and a general sense that they were not welcome.

"Every step of the way immigrants get the signal that they don't belong here," she told The Associated Press. "A foreign name will get you worse results in school, turned down for jobs, and rejected by landlords."

The period after 1990, when the unification of East and West Germany sparked a burst of nationalist sentiment, was particularly difficult, she said. But hostility remains today. "I'm pretty sure that some of the farmers in my Bavarian constituency still have a problem with me," she said.

Germany's political parties are beginning to accept that they can be represented by immigrants, even in senior positions, because of changes in the law over a decade ago that made it easier for immigrants to adopt German citizenship. This made them interesting as potential voters, said Madubuko.

"It's a whole new development for parties to actively court immigrants, rather than just use them for negative propaganda," she said. "So it would definitely be important for Afro-Germans if Mr. Diaby is elected."

Putting down his distinctive African-patterned briefcase to exchange Facebook contacts with two university students, Diaby said he hopes that his candidacy alone will encourage other immigrants to consider entering politics.

"The fact that I'd be first African-born lawmaker is not something I would want to dwell on," he said. "But a lot of eyes are on me and I hope they realize I'll be just one of over 600."

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 01, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

LAWT Managing Editor

 

The bold new revitalization project for the city of Inglewood under the watchful eye of Mayor Jim Butts took its first giant leap on Tuesday when representatives of Madison Square Garden joined city officials to launch the renovation of its iconic treasure, The Forum.

More than 40 years after what was once known as The Fabulous Forum had played host to five Lakers NBA championships, performances by the Jacksons, Elvis Presley, Janet Jackson, Prince, Tina Turner, The Eagles and Monday Night Fights the building will reopen after a $100 million renovation under the name Forum presented by Chase with a concert by the Eagles Jan. 15, 2014.

After the Lakers bolted to Staples Center in 1999, leaving behind a legacy of memories including the ‘Showtime’ era, The Forum sat dormant from 2000 until most recent, and the debate of demolition was more dominant than any team or event that had played there.

Bishop Kenneth L. Ulmer kept the Forum on a respirator for the greater part of the past decade when Faithful Central Church purchased the building and held Sunday services.

“What motivated us (to purchase the Forum) was the concern for what happens to the city, what happens to a caucus. We really felt the challenge to try to bridge that gap from yesterday until tomorrow and it was a challenge, it was a good run and we were able to pass the baton to a great company,” explained Ulmer.

Ulmer applauded the bright new future for the building and the city and stated that his primary concern was the building being demolished.

“I think that our concern was the city was moving into a new day, a new era and we were a link to that. We wanted to see the city maintain its forward vision of providing a fun place, a safe place for the community and then one that obviously one that has economic benefits for the community,” he added.

The economic benefits are already beginning to take fold with the creation of an estimated 300 plus jobs during the renovation project and an additional 300 plus permanent position that will be absorbed by Inglewood residents.

Butts was the driving force behind reviving the building as he recalled his personal experiences with the Forum and his goals as a public servant for the city.

“I have decades of relationships with this building,” he stated.  “I went to my first two concerts here in 1969 one of which was Sly and The family stone. When I became a policeman I worked the basketball games from the floor and hockey games from the floor and when Kareem Abdul Jabbar was under threat I picked him up from his home,” he recalled.

Butts said that he was also the venue commander during the Olympics in 1984 when the basketball games were played at the Forum.

He joked that his experience as Santa Monica Police Chief was a work-study program, and that “The music died when nobody wasn’t looking.”

MSG unveiled a video and photographs of the aggressive new face lift that will revert the façade back to it’s original ‘California red sunset’ colors on the exterior and the interior will be completely modernized with more comfortable seating for 17,505 or converted to a half bowl of 8,000.

The new design will allow the venue to host the largest general admission floors in the country. The Forum will also have seven star caliber dressing rooms, an artist lounge and exceptional acoustics. The historic VIP Forum Club will be restored to its former glory and a newly introduced Chase Lounge will serve select Chase-affiliated patrons and offer premium access to loge seating.

The new aggressive fast moving plans calls for the venue to be a concert and entertainment venues only as MSG plans to capitalize on his vast relationships within the entertainment industry.

City Councilman George Dotson joined the mayor and State Senator Rod Wright in celebrating Inglewood’s new day.

“This is a dream of the mayor and the councilman that really came true,” said Dotson. 

“It took a lot of hard work I must admit from the mayor and the city administrative staff and making this contract real and my hat it off to Madison Square Garden because they are living up to what they promised and this is really going to be a shining star in the city of Inglewood.”

“I may have been the leader, but there was a lot of staff and you cant understate the contribution that Bishop Ulmer and Faithful central bible Church made to this city by holding on to that property so that it didn’t get bulldozed and made into condominiums. It was the economic furnace to the city at one time and it is now the economic furnace to the city again,” said Butts.

Wright was equally elated with the event.

“We are going to take the house that Jack built that we often called it and this will be the new life for it and making it an even greater venue in the city of Inglewood.

In December, historic Holly­wood Park racetrack will be closing its doors for good to make way for Hollywood Park Tomorrow, a sprawling housing and retail development.

A month later in January on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Forum will be reborn again.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 01, 2013

By Valerie Jarrett

Whitehouse.gov

 

President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez met with civil rights leaders, and state and local elected officials at the White House to discuss how to safeguard every eligible American’s right to vote in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Shelby County vs. Holder.

The Supreme Court’s decision invalidating one of the Voting Rights Act’s core provisions, upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

President Obama acknowledged that for nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans, and expressed deep disappointment about the recent decision.  He asked the leaders in the room for their ideas on how to strengthen voting rights, and also encouraged them to continue educating their communities on the Voting Rights Act, and how to exercise voting rights.

We’ve seen much progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.  And while the decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of either our efforts to end voting discrimination, or our basic right to vote.

Since the decision, President Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized repeatedly by wide bipartisan margins in Con­gress, and signed into law by Republican presidents.  In addition, every single American should have an interest in ensuring that every eligible American is able to exercise his or her right to vote. So we remain hopeful that we will find a legislative solution to ensure a fair, and equal voting process.

Yesterday’s meeting was another step forward to protect the vote, and we will continue to do everything in our power to secure this most basic right for all Americans.

Yesterday’s participants included:

• Barbara Arnwine, President & Executive Director, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

• Napoleon Bracy, Alabama State Representative

• Roslyn Brock, Chairman,  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Board of Directors

• John Echohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund

• Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

• Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Con­ference on Civil and Human Rights

• Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

• Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas State Representative

• Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

• Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice

• Janet Murguia, President & CEO, National Council of La Raza

• Laura Murphy, Director, American Civil Liberties Union

• Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta

• Thomas Saenz, President & General Counsel, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

• Al Sharpton, President & Founder, National Action Network

• Calvin Smyre, Georgia State Representative

• Alan Williams, Florida State Representative

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 01, 2013

By JOSH LEDERMAN

Associated Press

 

When is a lunch more than just a midday meal? When the two diners are President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and inquiring minds want to know who, if anyone, the president will endorse in 2016.

A summertime meal shared by Obama and his rival-turned-ally threw the political speculation machine into overdrive recently, highlighting how closely both are being watched for signs of their intentions in the next presidential race.

For Clinton, it’s a question of whether the former first lady will take the plunge, launching another campaign eight years after she lost to Obama in a hard-fought primary. For Obama, it’s about dueling loyalties to two of his closest advisers who would both covet his endorsement: Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, who is also said to be eyeing the Oval Office.

Such questions set the table for a midday powwow over salad, grilled chicken and pasta jambalaya whipped up by the White House chef and served al fresco on the patio just outside the Oval Office.

Will Clinton tip her hand? Will Obama offer his support? Or will the two dive deep into current events — bloodshed in Egypt, for instance, or a budding new round of Mideast peace talks that eluded Clinton as secretary of state?

In all likelihood, none of the above.

“The purpose of the lunch was chiefly social,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, calling it a “chance to catch up” and adding that Obama had initiated the invitation. “Secretary Clinton and the president have developed not just a strong working relationship, but also a genuine friendship.”

It’s not the first time the two have huddled since Clinton stepped down in February after four years as Obama’s top diplomat. They saw each other briefly in Dallas at the opening of former President George W. Bush’s presidential library in April. And in March, the Clintons shared a private dinner with Obama that wasn't announced publicly until after the fact.

In the meantime, Clinton has kept up a hectic schedule of speeches and public appearances that has provided further fodder to those urging her to run again. A super PAC seeking to create a campaign-in-waiting in case she runs, Ready for Hillary, recently picked up support from some of Obama's most prominent former campaign organizers.

So it’s no wonder that each Obama-Clinton rendezvous is closely analyzed, elating some and prompting eye rolls from others who lament that barely six months in to Obama’s second term, talk about his replacement is already reaching a fever pitch.

“In Democratic circles, it makes people fantasize and engage in all kinds of speculation, when it fact it may just be a tete-a-tete between the leader of the free world and the most important person in the Democratic Party,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who worked on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election.

So what are the chances that Biden pops in for coffee and desert, a casual reminder that he’s still the one with the office closest to Obama’s?

“I think the table was set for two,” Earnest said.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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