Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thousands Of German Muslims Rally Against Terrorism, Intolerance.

Muslims take part in Friday prayers in Berlin on September 19, 2014 as part of the nationwide event “Muslims against hatred and injustice”. Maja Hitij/DPA/AFP


BERLIN , GERMANY (AFP) – Muslims across Germany held a day of prayer and rallies Friday to condemn both religious extremism and a backlash against Islam that has seen arson attacks on mosques.
Some 2,000 mosques joined the event “Muslims against hatred and injustice” organised by Germany’s four main Islamic groups, together with government ministers, lawmakers, Christian and Jewish leaders and city mayors.
In Berlin, thousands of faithful knelt on prayer mats under the open sky in the inner-city Turkish and Arabic community hub of Kreuzberg, before listening to speeches in favour of tolerance and against violent extremism.
“We are seeing how people in the name of Allah commit atrocities, torture others, drive them from their homes and murder them,” said a statement read out in mosques across Germany.
“They are acting under the banner of the Prophet, but their crimes show that they have not understood a word of what Allah has revealed to us and how our Prophet lived by these commandments.”
The Coordination Council of Muslims, which released the speech, also bemoaned a backlash against their religion in Germany, sparked by conflicts in the Middle East.
“We are seeing our mosques in Germany being attacked and set on fire,” said the speech, which said there had been 80 incidents targeting Muslim houses of worship since 2012.
Muslim communities in Germany were “worried and unsettled about being increasingly marginalised as Muslims and treated with hostility.”
“Unite against hate”
The prayers follow a rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin last Sunday in which Jewish leaders and German politicians led by Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned a recent spate of slurs and attacks against Jews.
Tempers flared at a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations during Israel’s assault on Gaza, as some protesters chanted that Jews should be “gassed” and “slaughtered”.
Ali Kizilkaya, spokesman of the Coordination Council of Muslims, said: “We must stand united as a society when there are hate crimes, whether against churches, mosques, synagogues or other places of worship.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere praised the Muslim peace rallies as a “magnificent campaign” in a joint interview with German newspaper Die Welt and the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
Vigils and peace rallies were held after the traditional Friday noon prayers in German cities also including Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas said a “very clear dividing line” had to be drawn “between the vast majority of Muslims who live peacefully with us and those who misuse Islam to commit injustice”.
German security services say some 400 German citizens have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, of whom about 130 have since come home, while German nationals have also fought with Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked Shebab.
This month the appearance of self-styled “Sharia police” vigilantes in the western city of Wuppertal sparked outrage in Germany.
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, earlier also said Germany’s Muslims wanted to take a clear stand against extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria, and other extremist movements.
“These are terrorists and murderers who drag Islam into the dirt and bring hatred and suffering to the people, including to their own fellow Muslims, in Syria, in Iraq and elsewhere,” he wrote in the top-selling Bild newspaper.
“We want to make clear that the majority of Muslims in this country and around the world think and act differently. Islam is a peaceful religion.”

New Woman-Friendly Mosque Launches Quiet 'Revolution' In South Africa

Dr Taj Hargay, founder of the Open Mosque, delivers a sermon during its official opening on September 19, 2014 in Wynberg, Cape Town. Rodger Bosch/AFP


CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (AFP) – A new mosque where women are treated equally to men opened peacefully in Cape Town on Friday despite threats of violence.
Launched by Muslim academic Taj Hargey, the South African-born director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, the first Friday prayers at the Open Mosque drew more media crews than worshipers or protesters.
Police were on hand in case of trouble outside the newly-painted green mosque, a former panel beating workshop sandwiched between two similar motor vehicle repair operations on a backstreet in the Wynberg suburb.
While a handful of protesters told AFP they were waiting for reinforcements and would “stop this thing, no matter what”, the Friday prayers went ahead largely unhindered apart from the occasional protester’s cry of “You will go to hell”.
Hargey has described his mosque as a “religious revolution” following on from the political revolution led by late former president Nelson Mandela when democracy replaced apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994.
As revolutions go, this was a quiet one.
In his sermon Hargey condemned the increasing hatred in the world between Muslims and Christians.
He blamed this on “warped theology” from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which he said gave rise to “fanatical” groups like ISIS, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
He said “contaminated Saudi money” was used to promote “toxic and intolerant manifestations of Islam”.
Hargey told reporters outside the mosque earlier that he had been subjected to physical and psychological threats since he announced his plans.
“There’s been threats about castrating me, beheading me, hanging me upside down. But South Africa has the most liberal constitution in the world — they cannot stop us opening today.”
Asked about his qualifications as a religious leader he said: “I have a PhD in Islamic studies from Oxford University, unlike my opponents who went to some donkey college in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.”
Hargey is not new to Islamic controversy — in Britain he has launched a campaign to ban the burka.
His mosque also welcomes homosexual Muslims.
South Africa has around 737,000 Muslims, or 1.5 percent of the population, according to figures from the Pew Research Centre.

China Fines GlaxoSmithKline $492 Million For Bribery

A Chinese flag is hoisted in front of a GlaxoSmithKline building in Shanghai, China. Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline was fined $492 million on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014 for bribing doctors in China in the biggest such penalty ever imposed by a Chinese court. The court sentenced the company's former China manager, Briton Mark Reilly, and four Chinese co-defendants to prison but postponed the sentences for two to four years, suggesting they may never be served. The court said it granted leniency because the defendants confessed.

BEIJING (AP) — Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline was fined $492 million on Friday for bribing doctors in China, the biggest such penalty ever imposed by a Chinese court.
The court sentenced the company's former China manager, Briton Mark Reilly, and four Chinese co-defendants to prison but postponed the sentences for two to four years, suggesting they may never be served. The court said it granted leniency because the defendants confessed.
The case, first publicized in mid-2013, highlighted the widespread use of payments to doctors and hospitals by sellers of drugs and medical equipment in a poorly funded health system that Chinese leaders have promised to improve. The fine is the largest such penalty ever imposed by a Chinese court.
In a statement, Glaxo said it would pay the fine and had made changes in its business to remedy flaws cited by Chinese authorities. It said it would change the incentive system for employees and reduce its engagement with health professionals.
"Reaching a conclusion in the investigation of our Chinese business is important, but this has been a deeply disappointing matter for GSK. We have and will continue to learn from this," said CEO Sir Andrew Witty in the statement.
While large by Chinese standards, the fine is dwarfed by the $3 billion GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay the U.S. government in July 2012 for paying doctors kickbacks to prescribe several of its drugs and for having sales representatives promote popular drugs for improper uses. The penalty is still the biggest U.S. health care fine in history, according to the nonprofit group Taxpayers Against Fraud.
Reilly was sentenced by the court in the central city of Changsha to three years prison with a four-year reprieve and was ordered deported, which meant he might leave China immediately. His co-defendants received prison terms of two to four years, with reprieves of two to four years.
In other cases, convicts have been spared prison if they are deemed to have reformed during their reprieve. The police ministry said in May that Reilly was accused of operating a "massive bribery network." It said Reilly ordered salespeople beginning in January 2009 to pay doctors, hospital officials and health institutions to use GSK's products.
A police investigation found that GSK employees funneled as much as 3 billion yuan ($490 million) through travel agencies and consulting firms, which kicked back some of that money for use as bribes. Police have not made clear how much was paid out in bribes.
Investigators said the scheme appeared to be aimed at evading GSK's internal controls meant to prevent bribery. Glaxo had said earlier the employees acted without its knowledge and violated its policy. In December, it said it would stop offering financial support to doctors and other health care professionals to promote its products.
Such informal payments pervade China's dysfunctional health system. Low salaries and skimpy budgets drive doctors, nurses and administrators to make ends meet by accepting money from patients, drug suppliers and others. The Glaxo case brought the flow of illicit money to international attention, but within China the practice is common knowledge.
Many blame a system in which China's hospitals nearly all are state-run but get too little money from Beijing. Most of the country's 2.3 million doctors are hospital employees and are barred from adding to their income by taking on second jobs.
The ruling Communist Party has promised higher health spending as part of efforts to spread more of China's prosperity to its poor majority. But with a population of 1.3 billion, the cost of a full-scale overhaul will be daunting.
A second foreign drugmaker, AstraZeneca, said in July 2013 that police in Shanghai were investigating one of its salespeople. In a separate case, China's biggest drug distributor, Sinopharm Group Ltd., said in January that two former executives were the target of a corruption investigation.
GlaxoSmithKline is among many multinational drugmakers that have crossed legal or ethical lines to boost sales of prescription medicines. Most cases involve promoting prescription medicines for uses that aren't approved — and for which there is often no evidence that they are effective or safe. Some drugs have grown to become multibillion-dollar annual sellers primarily from patients taking them for unapproved uses.
It was also common practice for decades for drugmakers to pay doctors in the U.S. and elsewhere "consulting fees," send them on junkets and give them gifts, with the expectation that the doctors would prescribe more of that company's medicines and even encourage colleagues to do so. The industry has attempted to eliminate or at least reduce those excesses under pressure from the government and others. Companies will soon begin publicly reporting payments to doctors, as required under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Business Writer Linda A. Johnson in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.

As Wall Street Watches Alibaba, Stocks Drift

Screens show Scotland's referendum results as money traders work at a foreign exchange dealing company in Tokyo, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. The British pound jumped as Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom while Japanese shares surged as the yen extended losses against the dollar.

NEW YORK (AP) — With Wall Street focused on the debut of Alibaba Group, the stock market drifted into the weekend and major indexes ended little changed.
Investors watched as the Chinese e-commerce giant surged 38 percent Friday, in its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Alibaba gained $25.89 to end at $93.89. By the end of the day, the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell less than a point, a sliver of a percent, to 2,010.40. It finished with its best weekly gain in a month.
Alibaba lined up its initial public offering of stock at $68 a share the day before, raising $21.8 billion from investors. That vaulted Alibaba to the top tier of technology companies in terms of market value. It's bigger than Amazon.com but smaller than the titans of tech, Apple and Google.
"We know there's a lot of demand from institutional and retail investors, so it's not a surprise to see it rally that quickly," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade, the online brokerage.
Alibaba was the big story Friday, but the rest of the week belonged to the Federal Reserve. At the end of a two-day meeting on Wednesday, the Fed issued a statement saying that it planned to keep its benchmark lending rate low. Some investors had earlier voiced concerns that the Fed might be in a bigger hurry to hike rates.
"Janet Yellen (the Fed's chairwoman) told people exactly what they wanted to hear," Kinahan said. Encouraged, investors sent stocks to record highs this week. The S&P 500 index has now climbed 9 percent in 2014, better than the average gain for a full year.
In other trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average edged up 13.75 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 17,279.74. The Nasdaq composite fell 13.64 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,579.79. German business-software company SAP announced plans to buy Concur Technologies for $7.4 billion. Concur's stock jumped $19.02, or 18 percent, to $126.82.
Oracle's stock slumped after the announcement late Thursday that Larry Ellison, the tech company's billionaire founder, is stepping down as CEO after 37 years. Ellison remains the company's biggest shareholder. Oracle's stock fell $1.75, or 4 percent, to $39.80.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.58 percent, from 2.62 percent late Thursday. Britain's main index rose slightly after voters in Scotland rejected a referendum to break from the U.K. Some warned that if Scotland left, uncertainty over the future value of the British pound and government debt would have shaken the U.K economy.
Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 0.3 percent. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.1 percent, and Germany's DAX was flat. Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.6 percent as the yen's weakness gave a boost to companies that rely on exports.
In commodities trading, precious and industrial metals fell, extending their losses for the week. Gold dropped $10.30 to settle at $1,216.60 an ounce. Silver sank 67 cents to $17.84 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $3.09 a pound.
Oil fell 66 cents to $92.41 a barrel as the dollar gained strength. Oil trades in dollars, so a stronger dollar makes oil more expensive to traders holding other currencies. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils imported by many U.S. refineries, rose 69 cents, to $98.39 a barrel in London.
In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange: — Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents to $2.611 a gallon — Heating oil was flat at $2.717 a gallon — Natural gas fell 7.3 cents to $3.837 per 1,000 cubic feet
AB Business Writer Kelvin Chan contributed from Hong Kong

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fence-Jumper Makes It In Into The White House

A Secret Service agent gives directions during an evacuation of the White House minutes after President Barack Obama departed for Camp David aboard Marine One on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man jumped over the fence of the White House on Friday and made it through the front door before officers managed to apprehend him, just minutes after President Barack Obama had departed, the Secret Service said.
The rare breach was likely to renew intense scrutiny of the Secret Service, an agency whose storied history has been marred in recent years by multiple allegations of misconduct by officers. It was unclear whether a fence-jumper has ever made it into the White House before.
After scaling the fence on the north side of the White House, the intruder darted toward the presidential residence, ignoring commands from officers to stop, said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. He was ultimately apprehended just inside the North Portico doors — the grand, columned entrance that looks out over Pennsylvania Avenue.
Donovan said the man appeared to be unarmed to officers who spotted him jumping the fence, and a search of the suspect turned up no weapons. The suspect, identified as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas, was placed under arrest and transported to nearby George Washington University Hospital for examination after complaining of chest pain.
Although it's not uncommon for people to make it over the White House fence, they're typically stopped almost immediately and rarely get very far before being apprehended. Video from the scene showed the suspect, in jeans and a dark shirt, sprinting across the lawn as Secret Service agents shouted at nearby pedestrians to clear the area.
"This situation was a little different than other incidents we have at the White House," Donovan said. "There will be a thorough investigation into the incident." The incident prompted a rare evacuation of much of the White House. Inside the West Wing, White House staffers and Associated Press journalists were rushed into the basement and out a side exit to a nearby street by Secret Service agents — some with their weapons drawn.
The incident occurred shortly after 7 p.m., only minutes after Obama and his daughters, along with a guest of one of the girls, left the White House aboard Marine One on their way to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where Obama and his family were to spend the weekend. First lady Michelle Obama had traveled separately to Camp David and was not at home at the time of the incident.
Evacuations at the White House are extremely rare. Typically, when someone jumps the White House fence, the compound is put on lockdown and those inside remain in place while officers respond to the situation. Last week, the Secret Service apprehended a man who jumped over the same stretch of fence on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, prompting officers to draw their firearms and deploy service togs as they took the many into custody.
The Secret Service has struggled in recent years to strike the appropriate balance between ensuring the first family's security and preserving the public's access to the White House grounds. Once open to vehicles, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was confined to pedestrians after the Oklahoma City bombing, but officials have been reluctant to restrict access to the area further.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Connecticut Ex-Governor Convicted Of New Crimes

Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland arrives at federal court in New Haven, Conn. A jury convicted Rowland Friday, Sept. 19, 2014 on all charges that he conspired to be paid for work on two political campaigns while disguising those payments in business deals. It is the second felony conviction for Rowland, who resigned as governor a decade ago in a scandal over illegal gifts he received while in office.

HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) — Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned from office a decade ago in a corruption scandal, was convicted Friday of federal charges that he conspired to hide payment for work on two congressional campaigns.
Rowland, once a rising star for the Republican Party, served 10 months in prison for taking illegal gifts while in office and now as a repeat offender faces the possibility of a much stiffer sentence.
He was convicted in New Haven federal court of all seven counts, including conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions.
"Americans will not tolerate corrupt conduct in the electoral process," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson said. "Lies and deception can never be accepted as politics as usual in Connecticut. All voters have a right to know the truth when they cast their ballots."
Rowland's lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said he would appeal. The former governor was stoic as he left the courthouse hand-in-hand with his wife and did not speak to reporters. The government's case centered around a contract between Rowland and a nursing home chain owned by the husband of 2012 congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland's attorneys argued he volunteered for the campaign while receiving $35,000 to consult for her husband's company, but prosecutors said the money was an illegal payment for campaign services.
"Hopefully this really is the final installment in a very sad chapter in Connecticut's history," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday. Rowland, 57, was elected to the U.S. House three times, governor three times and served as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He had been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member before he was impeached and resigned.
He was released from prison in 2006 and began rebuilding his life, landing a job as in economic development before becoming a radio show host. In his first interview after leaving prison, the man known for his charm and quick wit said he had faith God would steer him down a different path.
"When you lose your freedom, it's a very humbling experience," he said. But he found himself in the crosshairs of federal investigators once again as he pursued a return to politics. Much of the evidence against Rowland came from email correspondence, including one in which he wrote to Wilson-Foley's husband, Brian Foley, shortly after proposing he become a paid political consultant for his wife. Foley testified during the trial that Wilson-Foley wanted Rowland's help but believed his involvement, if made public, would attract negative publicity.
"Had a brief chat with Lisa. I get it. Let's you and I meet," Rowland wrote to Foley. In March, the Foleys each pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions, a misdemeanor. Both face up to a year in prison at sentencing. Brian Foley became the government's star witness, testifying that he paid Rowland for campaign work and that the work Rowland did for Foley's company, Apple Health Care Inc., was only cursory.
Weingarten attacked Foley's credibility, showing he illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to his wife's campaign and could have faced significant prison time if he had not cut a deal. Rowland didn't testify in his own defense. His lawyers presented one witness, Apple executive Brian Bedard, who testified that Rowland did real work for him and he did not believe the contract was a sham.
"We always believed prosecutors had made a very large mountain out of a very small molehill," Weingarten said after the verdict Friday. Rowland also was convicted of trying to cut a similar business deal with another politician.
Mark Greenberg, a Republican who is again running for Congress this year, testified that Rowland proposed becoming a consultant to his 2010 campaign while being paid as though he was working for the candidate's animal rescue organization. Greenberg said he turned down the proposal.
Rowland's lawyers argued that he never ended up working for Greenberg and the proposed contract only would have violated the law had it been in force and had Greenberg failed to properly report the payments.
The convictions came on the first full day of jury deliberations. The maximum possible prison sentence is more than 50 years, but Rowland likely will receive much less time under federal sentencing guidelines. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Polish Fears Of Russia Run High On War Anniversary

A monument to Polish victims of Stalin stands as a reminder of one of the worst Polish tragedies at Moscow’s hands in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. The Soviets killed 22,000 Polish officers in 1940 in an attempt to wipe out a swath of the Polish elite. On Wednesday Poles commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the start of the war. The anniversary comes as some Poles are again fearful of Russia due to its aggression in Ukraine.


WARSAW, POLAND (AP) — It was an unexpected question from a woman hoping to sell me her Warsaw apartment: "Are you sure you want to buy now, when war could be coming?"
Though she was half joking, her comment revealed an anxiety Poles express frequently these days — that Russian aggression in Ukraine could spread, upending this NATO and European Union member's most peaceful and prosperous era in centuries.
The woman was the third Pole in the past couple weeks to advise me to think twice about investing in Polish real estate, forcing me to start wondering if it really is wise for me, an American, to risk my savings here.
Anxieties hang in the air as Poland marks the 75th anniversary Wednesday of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, one of several Russian attacks on its neighbor over the past centuries. With President Vladimir Putin showing renewed imperial inclinations, some Poles can't help but wonder if the 1939 invasion by the Red Army really was the last time Russia will make an unwanted foray here.
It's not that most Poles believe Russian troops will cross the border again; in fact, many believe Putin will probably limit his aggression to Ukraine. And there is a sense that NATO does enhance Poland's security. But now, suddenly, the long theoretical notion of war has entered people's minds as a concrete possibility.
For older Poles war isn't even a theoretical notion. They remember well atrocities inflicted by Germans and the Soviets during World War II. One of the most painful episodes of all was the Soviet killing of 22,000 Polish officers in the Katyn forest, an attempt to eliminate a swath of the country's elite.
While Polish leaders have been asking NATO to do more to protect them, regular Poles ponder how far Putin will go in Ukraine. They ask: If the West doesn't put up a more forceful front, will Putin feel empowered to meddle in the Baltic states, which have sizeable ethnic Russian minorities? If so will Poland be next? And if things get really bad, will NATO be there for us?
I witnessed the emotion at a recent dinner with a Polish friend and her American husband. They clashed over whether NATO offers Poland any real protection — she accusing him of naivety for believing the alliance would go to war to protect Poland, he arguing that Poland was much safer because of NATO's Article 5 that requires members to come to the aid of any fellow member subject to attack.
Where they agreed was on their gratitude that they both held U.S. passports — allowing them to escape if the worst ever happened. This is the tense mood that has defined the summer of 2014 in Warsaw. It's a stark contrast to the summer of 2012, when Poland and Ukraine teamed up to host the European football championships.
On match days during the tournament, my Polish partner Pawel and I would stroll among the football fans just to enjoy the upbeat vibe even though we don't care much about the sport. We kept exclaiming to each other that Poland finally felt like a normal, optimistic Western country, after so many years of struggle to overcome the devastating legacy of World War II and communism.
But since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Pawel keeps trying to make plans for what we should do if war breaks out, talk I dismiss because the prospect of war in Poland feels impossible to me. "Rush to the airport with the baby and get on the first plane out of Poland," he told me again this week. "After that I'll figure out how to join you."
"OK, whatever," I replied. There have been some anecdotal cases reported in the media of Poles preparing for war by making sure passports are updated, getting some of their savings out of Polish banks and stockpiling food.
But those appear to be isolated cases. Economists say that there are no signs of a panicked sell-off of the currency or stocks. Konrad Wierzbicki, 23, said rage toward Russia is a more appropriate emotion than fear, and that he ultimately feels that Poland now is much safer than it was on the eve of World War II.
Still, Poles should remain on alert, he argues. "And if something happens in the Baltics and NATO doesn't react, then we know we will be alone," said Wierzbicki, who is completing a master's in psychology.
I suppose my American optimism — and my desire to get out of a rented apartment that is starting to feel too small with a baby — motivates me to keep on looking for a place to buy. But after looking for many months, I do find myself putting less energy into the search now.
This is partly because the market seems overpriced — but also because it's hard not to be affected by the anxiety I sense all around me.
Vanessa Gera has reported from Poland since 2004. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/VanessaGera

Blacks, Hispanics Have Doubts About Media Accuracy

Graphic shows poll on news on minorities; 2c x 6 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 165 mm;


WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study shows a large majority of African-American and Hispanic news consumers don't fully trust the media to portray their communities accurately, a statistic that could be troubling for the news industry as the minority population of the United States grows.
Three-fourths of African-American news consumers and two-thirds of Hispanics have doubts about what mainstream media report about their communities, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Media Insight Project. And while most say it's become easier to get news generally in the last five years, few feel the same way about news regarding their own community, the survey said.
African Americans and Latinos currently make up a third of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2043, the number of minorities is expected to eclipse the number of non-Hispanic whites, with the total minority population reaching 57 percent by 2060.
People of color who are "seeking out news about their communities, they can't find it. And what they see, they don't think is accurate," said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, which teamed with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research on the project. The survey was funded by the American Press Institute and the McCormick Foundation.
When asked whether they thought news about their communities was accurate, 75 percent of blacks said only "moderately" or "slightly/not at all." When Hispanics were asked the same question, 66 percent replied "moderately" or "slightly/not at all."
Tia C. M. Tyree, a Howard University professor and the assistant chair of the university's department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communications, said the stereotyping of African-Americans and Hispanics in the media, and a distrust of systems in the United States that used to be rife with racism contribute to the distrust.
"Many will believe there is embedded racism in many of America's systems: the media system, the legal system, the educational system," she said. "Many will believe that minorities aren't treated fairly in those systems, and because of that, any products that come out of it will be problematic."
Tyree also pointed at the small number of African-Americans and Hispanics in the media, saying that affects the viewpoint of the product. "It matters who the owners are, it matters who the producers are, it matters who the editors are, because that's often the agenda or the slant of the media and the news coverage," she said.
Part of the reason for the differing levels of skepticism between Hispanics and blacks, the survey said, is that Hispanics have access to a sizable amount of Spanish-language media on television, including Univision, as well as media from other countries. There are no longer any African-American daily newspapers, and few cable channels aimed at African-Americans offer daily news programs.
African-American consumers felt they could find the largest amount of news about their communities on local media. Twenty-three percent named a local television station as providing the most news about their communities, 15 percent named the black press, and 9 percent named newspapers. Hispanics by far — 41 percent — view Hispanic-specific news sources as the most frequent providers of information about their communities, 10 percent named 24-hour news stations 7 percent named a local news station.
"There isn't an analogous, what you might call 'ethnic' press (for blacks) that has evolved as the Internet has evolved — it's been more of a disruptive medium — while the Hispanic media has sort of adapted and grown," Rosenstiel said.
More blacks get their news from television and on cellphones than non-Hispanic whites or Hispanics: 95 percent of blacks said they got their news from television versus 87 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 86 percent of Hispanics; and 75 percent of blacks said they got news on their cellphone versus 64 percent of Hispanics and 53 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
The news industry needs to figure out how to reach these consumers of color, Rosenstiel said. "They're affluent, they're attractive to advertisers, there's a market there," he said. The Media Insight Project is an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
NORC, at the University of Chicago, conducted the survey Jan. 9 through Feb. 17, 2014. It involved landline and cellphone interviews in English or Spanish with 1,492 adults nationwide, including 358 Hispanic adults and 318 African American adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; For Hispanics, the margin was 8.5 percentage points and for African Americans, 7.9 percentage points.
AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
Online: Media Insight Project: http://www.MediaInsight.org
Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

2014 'MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Winners Unveiled

Provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, poet Terrance Hayes poses for a photo at his home in Pittsburgh. Hayes was named Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, as one of 21 people to receive a "genius grant" from the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.

CHICAGO (AP) — A professor whose research is helping a California police department improve its strained relationship with the black community and a lawyer who advocates for victims of domestic abuse are among the 21 winners of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."
The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday the 2014 recipients, who will each receive $625,000 to spend any way they like. The professor and lawyer, part of an eclectic group that also includes scientists, mathematicians, historians, a cartoonist and a composer, are among several recipients whose work involves topics that have dominated the news in the past year.
"I think getting this (grant) speaks to people's sense that this is the kind of work that needs to be done," said recipient Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford University social psychologist who has researched racial stereotypes and crime.
Her work prompted the Oakland, California, police department to ask for her help studying racial biases among its officers and how those biases play out on the street — topics that have been debated nationally in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Missouri. Eberhardt, who is also studying the use of body cameras by police — another topic of particular interest since Brown's shooting — said, "I hope this will show the work matters, holds value and promotes social change."
The justice system is also at the heart of Sarah Deer's work as a legal scholar and advocate for Native American women living on reservations, who suffer higher-than-average rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Deer, a Native American who teaches law in Minnesota, met with women who simply stopped reporting such attacks because their tribal governments had been stripped of the authority to investigate and because federal authorities were often unwilling to do so, she said. The foundation pointed to her instrumental role in reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act by Congress in 2013 that restored some of those abilities to tribes.
"For the first time since 1978 ... tribes (can) prosecute non-Indians who have committed acts of sexual assault and domestic violence on reservations," she said. Like Deer, fellow recipient Jonathan Rapping has worked to improve the lives of others.
A former public defender, Rapping founded Gideon's Promise after seeing a legal system that he said valued speed over quality representation of the indigent. The organization trains, mentors and assist public defenders to help them withstand the intense pressure that can come with massive caseloads.
Today, the program that began in 2007 for 16 attorneys in two offices in Georgia and Louisiana has more than 300 participants in 15 states. The foundation recognized Khaled Mattawa, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, for his poetry and translations of Arab contemporary poets.
Mattawa, who said he started translating the poetry as way to teach himself to write poetry, said the work can connect people from different cultures. "The poets are bearing witness not only to the humanity of their own people but of a shared humanity," he said.
The awards, given annually since 1981, are doled out over a five-year period. This year's class brings the number of recipients to more than 900. Shrouded in secrecy, the selection process doesn't involve applications. Instead, anonymous groups make nominations and recommendations to the foundation's board of directors.
Most winners are not widely known outside their fields, but the list has over the years included such writers as Susan Sontag and Karen Russell and filmmaker John Sayles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

US Won't Rule Out Working With Iran Against IS

Top row from left, Japanese Ambassador to Iraq Kazuka Nashida, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Bin Mohamed al Attiyah, Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu, Secretary General of the Arab Ligue Nabil al Arabi, middle row from left, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, Jordanian Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled al Hamad, Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates Sheik Abdullah Bin Zayed al Nahyan, unitentified, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Norwegian Foreign Borge Brendem, Czech Republic Foreign Minister Lubormir Zaoralek, German Foreign Minister Frank-Waltyer Steinmeier. Front row from left, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, French President Francois Hollande, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and U.S. Secretary of States John Kerry, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and Belgian

PARIS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he won't shut the door on the possibility of working with Iran against a common enemy in the Islamic State militant group, but the two nations won't coordinate on military action.
Kerry also ruled out coordinating with the Syrian government, although he vaguely described ways to communicate to avoid mistakes should the U.S. and its allies begin bombing the Sunni extremist group's safe haven there.
He spoke to a small group of reporters Monday after international diplomats met in Paris, pledging to fight the Islamic State group "by any means necessary." Neither Iran nor Syria, which together share most of Iraq's borders, were invited to the international conference, which opened as a pair of French reconnaissance jets took off over Iraqi skies.
During the meeting, Iraq asked allies to thwart the extremists wherever they find sanctuary. "We are asking for airborne operations to be continued regularly against terrorist sites. We must not allow them to set up sanctuaries. We must pursue them wherever they are. We must cut off their financing. We must bring them to justice and we must stop the fighters in neighboring countries from joining them," Iraqi President Fouad Massoum said.
With memories of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq still raw, the U.S. has so far been alone in carrying out airstrikes and no country has offered ground troops, but Iraq on Monday won a declaration by the conference's 24 participant nations to help fight the militants "by any means necessary, including military assistance." An American official said Sunday several Arab countries had offered to conduct airstrikes, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.
A French diplomat, speaking only on condition of anonymity after the conference because of protocol, said Paris was awaiting a "formal request" from Baghdad about possible French airstrikes. "The threat is global and the response must be global," French President Francois Hollande said, opening the diplomatic conference intended to come up with an international strategy against the group. "There is no time to lose."
The killing of David Haines, a British aid worker held hostage by the militants, added urgency to the calls for a coherent strategy against the brutal and well-organized Sunni group, which is a magnet for Muslim extremists from all over the world. The group rakes in more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.
Massoum called for a coordinated military and humanitarian approach, as well as regular strikes against territory in the hands of the extremists and the elimination of their funding. Details of the military options have not been made public.
After the conference ended, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met privately with Massoum at the Iraqi Embassy in Paris, telling him that the drive for an inclusive Iraq government had been key to Monday's pledges.
"So I hope you feel that the push and the risk was worth it," Kerry said. "We are beginning to feel it," Massoum said through a translator. Fighters with the Islamic State group, including many Iraqis, swept in from Syria and overwhelmed the Iraqi military in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, capitalizing on long-standing grievances against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
When the militants arrived in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, the U.S.-trained military crumbled and the militants seized tanks, missile launchers and ammunition, steamrolling across northern Iraq. The CIA estimates the Sunni militant group has access to between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Muslim-majority countries are considered vital to any operation to prevent the militants from gaining more territory in Iraq and Syria. Western officials have made clear they consider Syrian President Bashar Assad part of the problem, and U.S. officials opposed France's attempt to invite Iran, a Shiite nation, to the conference in Paris.
Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Iranian state television, said his government privately refused American requests for cooperation against the Islamic State group, warning that another U.S. incursion would result "in the same problems they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years."
But Kerry said the U.S. and Iran have discussed whether there was any way they could work together against IS. "I'm just going to hold open the possibility always of having a discussion that has the possibility of being constructive," Kerry said.
A French intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, last week told The Associated Press that "it would please a certain number of countries for Iran to step in to establish order" in Syria. He said that was the view of some Western powers.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Monday that Syria and Iran are "natural allies" in the fight against the extremists, and therefore must be engaged, according to Russian news agencies. "The extremists are trying to use any disagreements in our positions to tear apart the united front of states acting against them," he said.
Iraq's president, who has said he regretted Iran's absence, appeared ambivalent about Arab participation, saying his country needed the support of its neighbors — but not necessarily their fighter jets or soldiers.
Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have some of the region's best-equipped militaries, and they could theoretically provide air support to a broader international coalition. U.S. officials say the Emirates and Egypt were behind airstrikes against Islamic-backed militants in Libya last month.
Asked about those countries in an AP interview Sunday, Massoum said: "It is not necessary that they participate in air strikes; what is important is that they participate in the decisions of this conference."
Speaking in his first interview since becoming Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi told state-run al-Iraqiyya in comments aired Sunday that he had given his approval to France to use Iraqi airspace and said all such authorizations would have to come from Baghdad.
Two French fighter planes carried out France's first reconnaissance missions over Iraq on Monday, allowing for the collection of digital images and video at high-speeds, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement. It said similar missions could continue in the coming days.
"This was about French military forces acquiring intelligence about the terrorist group Daesh (Islamic State) and to reinforce our ability to carry out an independent analysis of the situation," the statement said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would continue offering logistical help to U.S. forces and that counterterrorism efforts will increase, describing the Islamic State group as a "massive" security threat. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the threat goes beyond just the recent killings.
"This group poses even more of a danger as it risks exporting terrorists to our countries," he said in his outgoing speech as NATO's top civilian official. "It also controls energy assets. And it is pouring oil on the fire of sectarianism already burning across the Middle East and North Africa."
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten, Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris, Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, and John Thor-Dahlberg in Brussels contributed to this report.
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