NEWS STAND: Bad Time for Black Politics, Buying African Mobile, Hamburger War

Caucus, Barry and Paterson in the hot seat, mobile heats up, and more..


It's Hard Out Here for a Black Politician

First, there was the exposé by the New York Times of the Congressional Black Caucus' profligate ways, spending more on catering than on the scholarships it gives out to black college students. The story has not provoked the outrage you might expect.Maybe folks are in the don't-air-our-dirty-linen mode, but , pardon the mixed metaphors, the cat is out of the barn. Several days after the Times story laid out the Caucus's cozy relationship with corporations and their ability to influence some of the legislators to vote against the interest of their constituents, there was still no official response from the Caucus. Maybe they're hoping the story just goes away.

Then former DC Mayor Marion Barry clawed his way back into the headlines. A D.C. City Council investigation has accused the former mayor, now a member of the council, of public corruption for securing a $15,000 contract for a former girlfriend and taking a kickback.

Barry has had his share of run-ins with the law but they've usually involved his personal life: drug possession, failure to pay taxes. This is the first time the former working class hero has been accused of reaching into the taxpayers' pockets. Barry denies it, noting that even his many enemies "have never implied that I took a penny that wasn't owed to me."

The drama around New York Gov. David Paterson never ceases. Last week, the guv was demanding that the New York Times squash rumors it was about to run an exposé of his sex life. This week, the paper cast a jaundiced eye on his closest aide, David W. Johnson. The newspaper noted that Johnson was arrested twice as a teenager on felony charges for selling cocaine, once to an undercover cop and that he had another arrest for misdemeanor assault in the 1990s.

In a statement, Paterson noted how long ago the drug arrests happened. "David Johnson has demonstrated, over the course of his adult life, that people can change their personal circumstances and achieve success when given a second chance," he said. "I will not turn my back on someone because of mistakes made as a teenager."

The paper noted that the governor has made domestic violence one of his key issues and that Johnson, who rose from driver to a $132,000 a year aide, has been involved in a number of altercations with women, including charges of assault that were later withdrawn. Like we said, it's hard out here.

Money in Mobile Africa

Business in Africa is no small-time affair. Bharti Airtel Ltd., India's largest wireless phone company, is negotiating to spend up to $10.7 billion for the African assets of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications. The move is Bharti's latest effort to gain a foothold in one of the world's fastest growing mobile phone markets. Last year, talks for a $24 billion deal with South Africa's MNT Group fell through.

With most of the world's cell phone markets saturated, mobile operators are looking at the developing world, where opportunities remain for massive growth. Africa is one of those markets, with low penetration by mobile phone and technology bringing prices down to where more African consumers can afford them.