CAUCUS SLAMS OBAMA
President Obama's jobs speech yesterday got mixed reviews - as could be expected, with approval and criticism dividing largely along party lines. But one key constituent group - the Congressional Black Caucus - made it clear to the first African-American president that is was not happy.
The President proposed a number of measures to increase employment, including incentives for small businesses to hire more workers, money to build roads, and rebates for home owners who spend on energy-saving measures in their homes.
However, the Black Caucus has been increasingly vocal in its disagreements with the President, and Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) didn't hesitate to point out that Obama offered no specific measure to address the special plight of African-Americans.
"Not only is the unemployment rate for African Americans nearly twice that of whites, these racial disparities persist in other areas as well," she said in a statement. "Nearly 28 percent of African Americans receive food aid compared to 15 percent of Latinos and 8 percent of whites. Recent African American college graduates are unemployed at higher rates than their white counterparts and African American workers remain unemployed an average of five weeks longer than the rest of America. The gaps are very real."
Pointing to undeniable racial disparities, Lee reminded Obama of his famous race speech in 2008, when he declared that "race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now." But the Caucus's pitch for race-specific solutions is not likely to get much traction with an Administration that prefers a "universal" approach to problems.
‘OUR BLACKS' ARE BEST
The national obsession with student testing can get out of hand. New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made improving school performance a keystone of his administration, is no exception. The city's students didn't fare as well on national exams as they had on state tests that many education experts complain are too easy. But schools chancellor Joel Klein found some sunshine in the national results of African-American students. He pointed out to reporters that the Big Apple's black fourth graders outscored their peers in the state and nation in math proficiency. "Whose blacks are on top?" Klein enthused during a press conference. "Our blacks are dramatically outperforming everybody else here - I think that's a good story." Chancellor Klein may mean well but his proprietary approach to black students may make more than a few folks with long memories a little uncomfortable.
THE GUMBEL FIGHTS CANCER
Bryant Gumbel is recovering from cancer surgery. The once-ubiquitous TV host made his confession on camera, of course, while subbing for Regis Philbin on "Live with Regis and Kelly." The former Today show host said he a part of a lung and a malignant tumor removed two months ago. Gumbel said he didn't even tell his staff at "Real Sports," the award-winner sports magazine show he does for HBO. Gumbel hosted NBC's "Today" show for 15 years, during a period when it dominated the morning ratings. He had several co-hosts, Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville (briefly) and finally, Katie Couric. After leaving NBC in 1997 he tried a prime-time news magazine on CBS and then switched to the "Early Show." Even his charisma couldn't lift the ratings of the CBS program and he eventually left.
The Chicago native was for a long time the most visible black man on television. He sometimes sparked controversy among blacks but he was always clear about the role he chose. "I'm a journalist who happens to be black," he often declared. "I'm not a black journalist. "
POLICE BRUTALITY, BRAZILIAN-STYLE
Human Rights Watch estimates that Brazilian police have killed more than 11,000 civilians in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro since 2003 in their battle against violence triggered by a drug war. Most of the killings, say the group, are outside the law, classified as "self-defense" by Brazilian authorities.
A two-year investigation by Human Rights Watch concluded that police often covered up the nature of the deaths. In one incident in a Rio slum, police killed 19 people in a single day in 2007. Police claimed nine victims were taken to hospital in an attempt to save them but autopsy reports showed they were already dead before they were moved.
"These false ‘rescues' serve to destroy crime scene evidence while providing a veneer of good faith on the part of the police," Human Rights Watch wrote in its 122-page report, "Lethal Force." (See the report at Human Rights Watch) Daniel Wilkinson, the deputy director for the Americas for Human Rights Watch says, "There is a total lack of accountability." His group noted that police in Rio kill one suspect for every 23 arrested, while in the U.S. the ratio is one for every 37,000.
Brazilian officials say the report fails to note the level of violence aimed at law -enforcement officers by drug gangs. From 2003 to September of this year, 3,362 police officers in São Paulo were wounded in the line of duty and 204 were killed, the secretary of security of Sao Paulo state declared in a statement. By contrast, police in the entire U.S. killed 347 people last year.
The issue of violence in Brazil will continue to be scrutinized as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
TIGER GETS DUMPED - BY A SPONSOR
OK. So we swore we wouldn't do any more Tiger Woods stories. But this is really a business story, kind of. Gatorade has announced that it is dropping its Tiger Focus line of sports drinks. The company said it had been planning to end the line long before the world's most famous non-fatal automobile crash . However, this event could be the first of a series of quiet exits by sponsors who pay Tiger an estimated $100 million a year, including AT&T, Nike, Tag Heuer, EA Sports, and Gillette. So far, despite the daily revelations of sexual misbehavior, the sponsors have stood by their Cablinasian, which is more than we've heard so far from Mrs. Woods. Oops. We swore we wouldn't go there.