by Benjamin Todd Jealous
One year later, the Trayvon Martin tragedy still stings – and some people are still throwing salt on the open wound. Last week George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman, posted a tweet comparing Trayvon Martin to De’Marquis Elkins, 17-year-old black teenager charged with fatally shooting a one-year-old baby.
The tweet showed a photo of Elkins side by side with a photo of Martin, both making inappropriate gestures, with the caption “A picture speaks a thousand words. Any questions?”
Zimmerman’s follow-up tweet read “Lib[eral] media [should] ask if what these [two] black teens did [to] a [woman and her baby] is the reason [people] think blacks might [be] risky.”
The implication was that Trayvon Martin’s actions on the night he was murdered were equivalent to the killing of an innocent child.
This would be worrisome enough if it were just the opportunistic cry of a family embroiled in racial controversy. But this belief – that male “black teens” are inherently more likely to be criminals – is ingrained in our society. It has seeped into our institutions in the form of racial profiling, and too often it poisons the judgment of those who are supposed to protect us.
Last year I visited Sanford, Florida in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case. The NAACP hosted a forum where residents could report incidents of police abuse.
A number of African American mothers alleged that their teenage sons had been profiled, abused or even assaulted by the police. I found that the attitude of the local police department toward “black teens” was uncomfortably similar to that of Robert Zimmerman.
But the fact is that fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, racial bias still runs rampant among law enforcement in this country. And Zimmerman’s attitude infects an institution much more influential than the Sanford Police Department: the NYPD.
The New York Police Department is currently fighting a class-action lawsuit against their racially biased practice of “stop-and-frisk” policing. Stop-and-frisk allows officers to stop, question and physically search any individual they consider suspicious. In 2011 NYPD officers stopped nearly 800,000 people for alleged “suspicious activity”. Nine out of ten were innocent, 99 percent did not have a gun – and nine out of ten were black or Latino.
The most revealing tidbit to come out of the class-action trial is a secretly recorded conversation between a deputy inspector and a police officer. The inspector is discussing a high-crime neighborhood, and he can be heard telling his patrolman: “The problem was, what, male blacks… And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21.” In other words: stop more young black boys.
Other evidence indicates that patrolmen may be encouraged to meet arrest quotas. A tape played at the trial reveals a supervising officer asking for “more 250s” – or more stop-and-frisk forms.
One plaintiff, a police officer, testified about the pressure he felt from supervisors – “they were very clear, it’s non-negotiable, you’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna become a Pizza Hut delivery man.”
A picture may speak a thousand words, but leaked recordings speak volumes about an institution’s priorities. These tapes reveal that the NYPD has effectively placed a bounty on “black teens”. By profiling young teens of color, they are using the same grisly logic as Robert Zimmerman. And the result is apparent: in 2011, Black and Latino men between the ages of 14 and 24 made up 42 percent of those targeted by stop-and-frisk. That group makes up less than 5 percent of the city’s population.
The crime attributed to De’Marquis Elkins’ was truly horrific and despicable. But Elkins does not represent an entire demographic, just like Adam Lanza did not act on behalf of all young white men. Racial profiling punishes innocent individuals for the past actions of those who look and sound like them. It misdirects crucial resources and undercuts the trust needed between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It has no place in our national discourse, and no place in our nation’s police departments.
Ben Jealous is President/CEO of the NAACP.
Mauritania has banned the use of plastic bags to protect the environment and the lives of animals and fish.
More than 70% of cattle and sheep who die in the capital, Nouakchott, are killed by eating plastic bags, environment ministry official Mohamed Yahya told BBC Afrique.
Plastic bag manufacturers could be jailed for up to a year.
Plastic makes up a quarter of 56,000 tonnes of waste produced annually in Nouakchott, official statistics show.
Mauritania’s Organization of Consumer Protection head Moctar Ould Tauf said he welcomed the ban, Efe news agency reports.
It was of “particular importance” given the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment, animals and marine species, he said.
Environment Minister Amedi Camara said that nearly all of the plastic package waste is not “collected and is found in the natural environment – land and sea – where they are sometimes ingested by marine species and livestock, causing their death”.
The government, local non-governmental organizations and the UN Programme for Development (UNDP) have been promoting the use of new biodegradable bags, the Mauritanian Information Agency reports.
Anyone using, manufacturing or importing plastic bags could be fined or sentenced to a year in prison, Mr Camara said.
Several African countries, including Rwanda, have already banned the use of plastic bags.
Madison – Americans have saved an estimated $2.1 billion on health insurance premiums as a result of two important provisions of Obamacare – officially called the Affordable Care Act – that protect citizens from excessive premiums. This includes 288,984 Wisconsin residents who have saved a total of $14,551,793.
In every state, insurance companies must submit a justification for public review if they want to raise premiums by 10 percent or more. This protects citizens from excessive – and unjustified – rate increases. Rate reviews have helped save an estimated $1 billion for American citizens, including $4,182,000 for 6,172 Wisconsin residents.
The 80/20 rule ensures that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on patient care. Those companies that do not meet those spending requirements must write checks back to their customers for the difference. Americans have received rebate checks for $1.1 billion thanks to the 80/20 rule, including $10,369,793 in savings for 282,812 Wisconsin residents.
“Rate review and requiring insurance to spend 80% of premiums on patient care have brought transparency and accountability to health insurance companies,” said Doug Hill, director of Know Your Care Wisconsin. “Because of Obamacare, Wisconsinites are saving millions of dollars on insurance premiums. And for the first time ever, many are getting money back from their insurance companies.”
Washington — With the West Nile Virus outbreak set to be the worst in U.S. history, the nation’s emergency physicians urge the public to take precautions now to protect from being infected.
“Right now, the CDC is seeing cases in practically every state in the country,” said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “This is a problem that affects everyone, everywhere. But simple steps can stand in the way of a person being infected with West Nile.”
West Nile Virus, which is a disease spread by mosquitos, causes only mild, flu-like symptoms in 20 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected show no symptoms at all. But in rare cases, some will develop severe symptoms that can include high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, along with several others. It can cause permanent neurological damage and even death.
So far in 2012, 47 states have reported more than 1,100 cases West Nile cases, including 41 deaths, according to the CDC, with 75 percent of the cases reported in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota and Oklahoma.
The easiest and most effective way to avoid West Nile is to prevent mosquito bites.
When you are outside, use insect repellent that contains an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET. Never use DEEP on infants under 2 months old. Young children should not apply DEET on themselves, and do not apply to their hand, eye or mouth areas or on any wounds. Use caution and use lower concentrations of DEET (such as 10 percent) especially on young children.
Mosquitos are most active when it is darker such as during dawn or dusk. Wear long sleeves and pants during that time or consider staying indoors during those hours.
Put screens on any windows or sliding doors to keep mosquitos out.
Get rid of standing water near your house or in your lawn, such as puddles, flower pots, buckets, barrels and child waiting pools when they’re not in use. These are mosquito breeding sites. Keep fountain waters flowing if possible and maintain clean gutters around your property.
Don’t handle dead birds. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on infected birds. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing the body.
“Always take precautions and go to your doctor or the nearest emergency department to get checked out if you feel you have some of the symptoms associated with West Nile,” said Dr. Seaberg. “It’s always better to be cautious.”
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
The Republic of Congo is set to become the first country in Africa to provide specific legal protection for its indigenous peoples.
“We are looking forward to the adoption of this law because we know it will change many things, especially with regard to our emancipation,” Jean Ganga, chairman of the Association for the Protection and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples.
Almost seven years in gestation, the government-backed bill was passed by both the senate and national assembly in late December and will take effect once signed into law by the president.
Indigenous people, some of whom are known as Pygmies, make up about 10 percent of Congo’s population and live in almost all regions of the country.
The new law aims to counter their chronic marginalization, manifested in their exclusion from the education system and high levels of illiteracy, and lack of access to state services such as health facilities.
“With this Act, indigenous people will be protected and enjoy the same rights as the Bantu. They will cease to be [treated as] subhuman. In the past the Africans in South Africa experienced a state of slavery, as blacks did in the United States. It was the same for Congo’s indigenous people. The new law will change all this,” said Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou, a deputy and senior official in parliament.
“This legislation is a major innovation, a revolution in the rights of indigenous people and the Bantu. It corrects the wrongs that were in place,” Valentin Mavoungou, director of human rights at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, told IRIN.
“The law mandates punishment and fines against anyone who uses indigenous persons as slaves,” said Roch Euloge Nzobo, programme manager of the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (OHCHR).
He explained that the law was so long in the making partly because of certain “prominent people, mainly politicians, who believe that indigenous people should not have the same rights as others and they should continue using them as slaves. But the law prohibits slavery and servitude.”
An independent United Nations human rights expert has also welcomed the new law, calling it a “significant” step in ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples.
“This law is the first of its kind on the African continent, and it provides an important example of a good practice in the region for the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples,” James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a statement.
“This marks a significant step in recognizing and protecting the rights of marginalized indigenous peoples of the country, including groups such as the Baaka, Mbendjele, Mikaya, Luma, Gyeli, Twa and Babongo, which collectively have been known as Pygmies,” he added.
Source: IRIN News and UN News