All Articles Tagged "obama administration"
As we recently reported, hundreds of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are finding themselves with less financial aid due to changes made on federal student loan applications.
Now the HBCUs are fighting back. According to the Washington Times (via Black Blue Dog), HBCUs may end up having to sue President Obama’s administration for allowing changes in student loan standards. These changes have disproportionately affected minority populations. On the HBCU side, they say they were not given advanced notice of changes in loan standards resulting from new eligibility requirements coming from the US Department of Education.
“We’re going to continue to pursue the legislative process to find a better solution,” Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund told the Washington Times. “We are not itching for a fight, [but] we need to do what is necessary to protect what is the most vulnerable and fragile in our society.”
On the White House side, the Obama Administration has said that they made the changes so that the expectations for these loans match industry standards for getting other types of loans. This has not happened, however, for many black students, especially those at HBCUs. “[D]ue to differences in wealth levels, African Americans are often left behind,” writes Black Blue Dog. “Before, less than a quarter of PLUS loan applicants were denied. That number has risen to more than half,” the article continues.
Separately, but related, the average debt for HBCU students is $32,000. So though those loans are needed, many students are walking off campus for the last time with a high degree of debt.
It wasn’t that long ago with Susan Rice was under fire. News reports were filled with negative comments from conservatives who bombarded the UN ambassador over her inability to fully answer questions related to the tragedy that resulted in the deaths of an American official and three others in Benghazi, Libya. She was ultimately pushed out of contention for the Secretary Of State job. It was a humiliating turn of events.
Now according to Keli Goff in her blog for The Root, Rice is making a comeback. The ambassador is said to be the Obama administration’s front-runner for national security adviser.
Since the national security adviser is not an official cabinet post, it does not require Senate confirmation. Yet, as Goff points out, “the post is one of the most influential within a presidential administration in terms of shaping high-level foreign policy.”
Take a look at past national security advisers; Condoleezza Rice (no relation), for example, used the role as a stepping-stone to secretary of state under George W. Bush.
Susan Rice would be only the second woman to serve in the position.
If all goes as rumored Rice’s appointment could also help President Obama. “His administration has struggled with criticism regarding the lack of gender and racial diversity among both his cabinet and high-level advisers,” blogs Goff.
From Black Voices
Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.
Are black people supporting Obama mainly because he’s black? If race is just one factor in blacks’ support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can blacks’ support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he’s white?
Read more at BlackVoices.com.
Obama’s administration has suffered from some high turnovers as of late, starting with Rahm Emmanuel – his former chief of staff who left to run Chicago. Now Obama’s domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes, has announced that she’ll be leaving the White House to focus on her family and “consider opportunities in the private sector.”
Before taking on her White House position, the Richmond native worked as the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Obama’s campaign. Prior to that, she was the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress.
President Obama said in a statement: “I will always be grateful that a woman of Melody’s brilliance, creativity and heart led our domestic policy team during such a challenging time for our nation. Melody has left a lasting legacy, developing and implementing policies that have helped remake our education system, spurred innovation, and fostered opportunity and equality for millions of Americans.”
Read more at Politico
President Obama has been criticized a lot lately for neglecting to address the issues that his black constituency deems important. However, a recent announcement (which has pretty much flown under the radar) just might be the key to swaying the opinions of some disgruntled folks in the black and minority communities.
In what some are calling a drastic shift from the Bush administration, President Obama’s Justice Department has initiated several investigations into charges of systematic civil rights abuse in some of the country’s biggest urban police departments. In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ has announced “pattern and practice” investigations into allegations of police brutality, such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests and excessive use of force, in a handful of cities including Newark, New Jersey; Seattle and Denver.
According to published reports, Congress passed the “pattern and practice” law in 1994 after the brutal police beating of Rodney King. The law allows the DOJ to sue police departments if they are found to have engaged in a pattern of violating individuals’ constitutional rights.
One such investigation the DOJ will be conducting involves the Seattle police department, which was rocked last year by the death of Native American wood carver John T. Williams, whose fatal shooting by police went viral on YouTube. Although an internal police review found that the shooting was unjustified by the officer who shot Williams, the officer was not charged because of a state law that prevents local prosecutors from filing charges.
The New Orleans police department will also be investigated. The department has become internationally notorious for allegations of police brutality, especially the well-publicized post-Katrina murders in which four police officers were convicted of gunning down two unarmed people.
According to Injustice Everywhere, a website that chronicles daily reports of police brutality, from January 2010 through December 2010, there were as much as 4,860 unique reports of police misconduct resulting in an estimated amount of nearly $347 million paid out in settlements and judgments. Of the nearly 6,620 law enforcement officers involved in these reported allegations of misconduct, nearly 1,580 were involved in excessive force reports. These were the most prominent type of reported incidences of police misconduct, followed by sexual misconduct complaints, which were around 9.3 percent.
In addition, a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggest that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have engaged in harsh racial and ethnic profiling, mostly targeting blacks, Asians, Latinos and Arab communities, in the post-9/11 period under both Bush and Obama. Police procedures such as the ‘stop-and-frisk’ procedure have been on the rise in big cities across the country, mostly targeting young black males, particularly in places such as New York and Philadelphia.
It would appear that the Obama Administration is beginning to take issues of civil rights violations, particularly in minority communities, very seriously. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who vowed to reshape the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, has already begun to reverse a pattern of systematically hiring conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights, and instead opting for attorneys with ties to traditional civil rights organizations like the ACLU.
It would appear that things are moving in a far better direction. However, I am cautiously optimistic about the shift in the DOJ’s shift in priorities since I am not so sure of what will come of these changes, besides an increase in investigations. I mean, we are talking about the newly revised Justice Department, which last month closed its investigation into the Jan. 12, 2010 beating of Jordan Miles, a Pittsburgh honor student who was savagely attacked by three undercover officers. Even after an “extensive investigation” including a review of 40 witnesses statements, the DOJ still couldn’t find sufficient evidence to prove that the teen’s rights had been violated. I guess we shall wait and see on this one.
By Charlotte Young
When it comes to the future of America’s youth, healthy eating doesn’t seem to be a top priority for House Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s also not a top priority for schools.
As the Obama administration attempts to promote healthier school lunches, Republicans are claiming that this move is too costly and some schools, especially in poorer districts, are inclined to agree.
The new school guidelines cut sodium in subsidized meals for low-income children, require more servings of dark green vegetables and limit starchy vegetables to one cup a week so that schools can’t serve fries every day.
Associated Press reports an overall spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, estimating that the new school lunch will cost 14 cents extra a meal, and an additional $7 billion over five years. The bill implores the USDA to rewrite the rules issued in January by the Agriculture Department. It also seeks to cut the Food and Drug Administration’s rules that requires restaurants to post calorie information on menus.
While critics of healthy school lunches see the immediate cost saving benefits, proponents say the additional spending now will cut down on obesity and health related costs later.
The new overall spending bill is a major block to First lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to reduce childhood obesity. The billions of dollars it would cut from the USDA and FDA budgets will also curb the efforts of the domestic feeding program and international food aid.
(St. Louis American) — What is the Obama administration doing for the African-American community? “That’s a limiting question,” said Michael Blake, deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and an associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement. Blake spoke to about 75 African-American business and community organization leaders on April 20 to discuss some of the White House’s new programs. He also heard the audience members’ concerns that federal initiatives for minorities often don’t play out on the local level. The event, held at FUSE Advertising on the Landing, was one of 1,000 events in 100 cities that Blake will hold to get the word out about these initiatives and how people can access them. “This is showing that you can organize even if you are not present,” Blake said. “How do you identify people on the ground who do this every day? My job is to find the local leaders around the country.”
(The Root) — President Barack Obama has frequently called education the most important civil rights issue of our generation. “There’s a reason the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools,” he said at the 2009 NAACP convention, citing Brown v. Board of Education and the Little Rock Nine. “It’s because there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential.”
Though it doesn’t make headlines the way it did in the 1950s, that story is still being composed — and a black woman is wielding the pen. Russlynn Ali, the youthful, curly-haired assistant secretary of the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, oversees the enforcement of all anti-discrimination laws related to education. With broad jurisdiction that includes admissions and recruitment, student discipline, as well as classroom assignment and grading, she investigates schools and districts nationwide to ensure equitable conduct across race, gender, national origin and disability. It’s the same perch once occupied in 1982 by conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But over the past two years Ali, 40, has elevated the office’s work to new heights.
While previous OCR leaders have relied on filed complaints to launch probes, Ali has proactively opened 60 investigations based on the agency’s own research. That’s in addition to nearly 7,000 complaints recorded last year, the most in Education Department history. Of the thousands of cases handled in the first year under the Obama administration, resolution agreements increased by 11 percent. Voluntary resolutions, in which schools made sufficient changes without additional prodding, jumped 32 percent.
Last week, news broke that the Obama administration created a new policy that allows investigators to waive Miranda warnings for domestic-terror suspects, even when there is not an “immediate threat,” thus giving the FBI more leeway to question terrorist suspects.
As pointed out by many commentators, this new approach to fighting terrorism is an about-face for the president, who once criticized the Bush presidency for its “ad hoc” approach to fighting terrorism. According to the Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of a FBI memo, the move is one of the Obama administration’s most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S.
The Miranda warning, also known as Miranda rights, was created in 1966 as a result of the United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. While the warning does not shield against self-incrimination, it does require law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to inform those suspected of criminal activity of their constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent or to have an attorney present, before being placed into police custody or undergoing custodial interrogation.
This isn’t the first time the Miranda warning has been altered. In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement could delay reading someone their Miranda rights if there is an immediate public safety concern involved. However, what’s so troubling about this recent revision is that it not only removes the immediate threat clause but clearly targets those who are considered a domestic terrorist – whatever that is.
The term “domestic terrorism” is partly defined by the U.S. Patriot Act as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State.” As such, the definition of domestic terrorism is broad enough to encompass the activities of several prominent activist campaigns and organizations. Over the years, reports have surfaced about how certain activist groups have been targets of secret Homeland Security investigations that have claimed to act under the guise of tracking “domestic terrorists.”
Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the formation of the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 as a result of the vagueness of the term, “domestic terrorist.” The ACLU expressed concerns that portions of the Patriot Act II could “create a federal crime that could link drug dealers to terrorism without proof of any connection to a Terrorist organization.” Basically, under the new designation, acts related to the manufacture, distribution or possession with intent to sell any amount of controlled substance could be directly or indirectly linked to aiding a terrorist organization.
Just three short years after the passage of the Patriot Act II, a document released by the U.S. Senate showed that in fiscal year 2008, 62 percent of sneak-and-peek searches—also known as delayed-notice warrants—that were conducted under the protection of the Patriot Act were in cases having to do with illegal drugs. By comparison, only 0.4 percent of the Patriot Act sneak-and-peek searches in fiscal year 2008 had to do with terrorism.
During that same period, it had been discovered that the FBI had abused other portions of the Patriot Act, including illegally acquiring phone records, IP addresses and portions of credit histories on thousands of Americans from 2003 to 2005 through the use of self-issued subpoenas based on fake emergencies.
While the revision of the Miranda warning will likely please conservatives, who over the last few years have criticized the Obama Administration for being too soft on terrorism, this revision also serves as a very dangerous slippery slope that could have unintended consequences down the line for American citizens, particularly black and brown people, who have been adversely effected by drug laws. Despite the threat of global terrorism, there is no real cause to give neither the executive branch nor law enforcement agencies carte blanche to roll back rights, including the Miranda warning, especially when those same agencies still have quite figured out who or what constitutes as a terrorist or imminent threat.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
By Charing Ball
I almost passed out yesterday when I opened my home heating bill.
January was a particularly brutal month here in Philadelphia with a string of snowstorms and below freezing temperatures. In Philadelphia, the average home heating bill will total more than $1,300 for the winter season; my bill for the month of January was over $300. This year, I vowed to stay on top of my energy usages, including winterizing the windows and doors, and keeping the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees – even if it meant walking around the house in sweaters, blankets, sweatpants and socks.
But there is just no way around it. To paraphrase and alter the words of Jimmy McMillan: the cost of oil is too damn high.
Generally, oil prices in the U.S. follow a seasonal pattern where prices typically rise during summer—also known as driving season—and drop after Labor Day. However, this year has been the reverse since national average prices have seen a steady increase after the Labor Day holiday.
Crude oil is now selling over $90 a barrel, causing U.S. gasoline and home heating costs to jump to the highest levels ever for the middle of February. Moreover, the national average for gasoline hit $3.127 per gallon last Friday, which is about 50 cents more than a year ago. In addition, all indicators are estimating that gasoline prices will reach $3.50 to $4 per gallon by Memorial weekend.
Despite these dire predictions, the Obama Administration appears to be taking counterproductive measures to assist families that continue to struggle through this impending energy crisis by proposing to cut a couple billion dollars from LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) in order to cut back the U.S. deficit.
Over the years, LIHEAP funding has grown significantly as the government tried to keep up with rising gas prices. In 2008, the government spent $2.6 billion on LIHEAP and in 2009, spending increased to $8.1 billion.
Unfortunately, oil prices aren’t getting any cheaper. According to a former Shell Oil Executive, gasoline prices could reach the $5 mark by late 2012. Additionally, various entities in OPEC are demanding that oil prices rise to over $100 a barrel, which means we are just seeing a preview of what’s to come in the future for oil prices.
The Obama Administration’s response to increasing oil prices has been dismal at best. Thanks in part to the economic downturn that has pushed the unemployment rate above 9 percent, many Americans have had to solely rely on social aid programs such as LIHEAP just to get by. Instead, the focus has been on cutting back some $300 million from community-based initiatives such as LIHEAP, which will barely make a dent in the projected $1.5 trillion deficit for the coming year.
As a result, American families from all economic levels will now be faced with economic challenges that stem from rising oil prices, including the cost of food, heating, and electricity.