Friday, February 12, 2010

US university teacher kills three, wounds three

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A US female teacher Friday shot dead three people and wounded three others after learning she had been denied tenure at an Alabama university, school officials and local media said.

The incident happened at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and college spokesman Ray Garner told reporters that police had arrested one person and detained another.

"At this point we have three dead, three confirmed people who are dead," Garner said. "We have three dead and three wounded," he added.

Garner said two of the three people injured in the shooting remained in critical condition while a third was in stable condition.

Local television WAFF, citing local authorities, said the shooter was a female staff member who had opened fire after learning at a biology faculty meeting that she would not be granted tenure.

The television station said all three fatalities were staff members at the university.

The local Huntsville Times reported that a female biology professor had been taken into custody and that her husband had been detained.

Erin Johnson, a second-year student, told the newspaper that a biology faculty meeting was underway at the Shelby Center when she heard screams coming from one of the rooms.

Senator Richard Shelby, the Republican senator after whom the university center was named released a statement offering his "thoughts and prayers" to students and faculty members, WAFF said.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of this horrible tragedy," his statement said.

The incident was just the latest in a series of school shootings to rock the United States -- most of which have been carried out by students -- amid the nation's ever-prevalent debate about gun control.

The shooting comes more than two years after the southern state of Virginia was left horrified by the April 2007 massacre of 32 people at the Virginia Tech university by a student gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who turned his gun on himself.

In 1999, two teenagers went on the rampage at Columbine school, Colorado, gunning down 13 people before killing themselves.

In the first six weeks of this year alone several shootings have already been reported around the country.

Last month, eight people were killed in the southern state of Virginia. A man surrendered to authorities after a massive manhunt in the woods near the historic town of Appomattox, during which he opened fire at a helicopter aiding the search.

And in early January a disgruntled employee at a Missouri plant of a Swiss power company went on the rampage shooting dead three people and wounding five others.

He also killed himself in the bloody shooting, believed to have been triggered by a dispute with the ABB company over his pension funds.

How Illegal Immigration Hurts Black America

With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it's just not true that undocumented workers are doing the jobs that we won't do.

Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that nabbed 300 undocumented workers at a Columbia Farms processing plant in Columbia, S.C., a spooked House of Raeford quietly began replacing immigrants with native-born labor at all of its plants. Less than a year later, House of Raeford’s flagship production line in Raeford, N.C., had been transformed, going from more than 80 percent Latino to 70 percent African-American, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer.

Under President George W. Bush, showy workplace raids like the one that befell Raeford were standard—if widely despised—fare. And though the Obama administration has committed itself to dialing down the practice, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has occasionally found herself the bearer of bad news to immigration activists who expected the raids to end entirely under her watch.

For the most part, the workplace crackdowns themselves are unremarkable—gaudy, ad hoc things that mitigate America’s immigration problem the way a water balloon might a forest fire. Increasingly however, their immediate aftermaths—in which dozens of eager African-American job applicants line up to fill vacancies—call into question a familiar refrain from the nation’s more vocal immigration proponents: Illegal immigrants do work American citizens won’t. Even former Mexican President Vicente Fox fell victim to the hype, infamously declaring in 2006 that Mexican immigrants perform the jobs that “not even blacks want to do.”

Four years later, with national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it seems even less likely that immigrants are filling only those jobs that Americans won’t deign to do. Just ask Delonta Spriggs, a 24-year-old black man profiled in a November Washington Post piece on joblessness, who pleaded, “Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance.”

Spriggs has a difficult road ahead. In this recessed United States, competition for all work is dog-eat-dog. But that holds especially true for low-skilled jobs, jobs for which high school dropouts (like Spriggs) and reformed criminals (also like Spriggs) must now vie against nearly 12 million illegal immigrants, 80 percent of whom are from Latin America. What's more, it seems that, in many cases, the immigrants are winning. From 2007 to 2008, though Latino immigrants reported significant job losses, black unemployment, the worst in the nation, remained 3.5 points higher.

“I don't believe there are any jobs that Americans won't take, and that includes agricultural jobs,” says Carol Swain, professor of law at Vanderbilt University and author of Debating Immigration. “[Illegal immigration] hurts low-skilled, low-wage workers of all races, but blacks are harmed the most because they're disproportionately low-skilled.”

Despite President Fox’s assertion, of the Pew Hispanic Center’s top six occupational sectors for undocumented immigrants (farming, maintenance, construction, food service, production and material moving), all six employed hundreds of thousands of blacks in 2008. That year, almost 15 percent of meat-processing workers were black, as were more than 18 percent of janitors. And although blacks on the whole aren’t involved in agriculture at anywhere near the rates of illegal immigrants—a quarter of whom work in farming—about 14 percent of fruit and vegetable sorters are African-American.

For their efforts, African Americans were paid a median household income of $32,000 in 2007. In the same year, the median household income for illegal immigrants was $37,000.

Audrey Singer is a senior fellow specializing in race and immigration at the Brookings Institution. She agrees that blacks are disproportionately hindered by illegal immigration, but says that pay is a necessary variable to note when talking about work Americans will and won’t do. “There is evidence that shows people at the lower end of the skill spectrum are most affected by immigrant labor, particularly illegal immigrant labor,” she says. “But would Americans do the jobs illegal workers do at the wages that they’re paid? I don’t think so.”

Besides competing for work while simultaneously attempting to avoid drastically deflated paychecks and benefits, unemployed African- American job seekers must also frequently combat racial discrimination. In a 2006 research paper called “Discrimination in Low-Wage Labor Markets,” a team of Princeton sociologists discovered that, all else being equal, black applicants to low-wage jobs were 10 percent less likely than Latinos to receive positive responses from potential employers. Furthermore, employers were twice as likely to prefer white applicants to equally qualified blacks.

"To be blunt, a lot of employers would rather not deal with black American workers if they have the option of hiring a docile Hispanic immigrant instead,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Krikorian’s organization advocates a large-scale contraction of immigration to America, one of the main reasons being that low-skilled immigrants aren’t contributing to the U.S. labor force in a way that American citizens can’t. Nevertheless, Krikorian says that easily exploitable immigrants remain attractive to businesses looking to eliminate hassles. “[Illegal immigrants] are not going to demand better wages, and they're not going to ask for time off,” he adds. “And frankly, a lot of bosses are thinking, 'I don't want to deal with a young black male.'"

Most political analysts expect the debate over immigration reform to find new life in 2010, under a president who thoughtfully supports both increased border enforcement and the “recognition of immigrants’ humanity.” Wherever the discussion meanders, however—from amnesty on the left to expulsion on the right—from here on, it seems that anyone interested in speaking thoroughly on the matter can no longer do so without discussing its impact on black America.

This type of discussion has proved difficult in the past, however. “Many of the black scholars dance around this hard issue,” says Swain. “They do their research in such a way that it doesn’t address how immigration affects blacks. There’s a lot of pressure to say the politically correct thing—that immigrants aren’t hurting African Americans. Well, that’s not true.”

Cord Jefferson is a regular contributor to The Root.

Does Vanity Fair Hate Black Girls?

I really couldn't believe the recent spread in Vanity Fair heralding the next generation of Hollywood starlets.

Kimberly Allers: It was bad enough that they couldn't (or didn't try) to find at least one person of color to include in their annual "New Hollywood" spread in the March issue. They've been taking a little heat for this ridiculous oversight. What about Gabourey Sidibe from "Precious" and Zoe Saldana? Even as an Avatar, she was still in one of the highest grossing movies of the year.

I could have stomached the photo spread; I'm pretty much used to African Americans being excluded from mainstream Hollywood. But they really went too far with the descriptive language in the accompanying story with each waiflike actress getting her respective props for "downy-soft cheeks," a "button nose," "patrician looks and celebrated pedigree," "dewy, wide-eyed loveliness," or "Ivory-soap-girl features." Ivory soap-girl features???

But is this Vanity Fair's journalistic failure and a bad PR problem (hitting the stands during Black History Month no less. The horror!!) or just an accurate depiction of hot Hollywood these days?

Either way, as a mom raising a daughter, it sends dangerous messaging to all girls in general and African American girls in particular. We've often criticized the beauty industry for their unrealistic images of Barbie-like girls and women. We've told young girls they are beautiful as they are in all shapes, sizes, skin tones and features (Ivory soap or not), but then stories like these show the reality of the world all of our girls are growing up in. And what a challenge we have as moms to counteract these influences to raise confident, self-assured girls who love their bodies.

Quite frankly, I'm no fan of Hollywood lately, anyway. And if Sandra Bullock wins an Oscar for "The Blind Side," I will be on a very long personal boycott of the award show. I mean, yet another movie about a (albeit well-intentioned) white woman saving a large, menacing in appearance, from the hood with nobody else, black person. This blog isn't long enough for me to list the stereotypes in that Hollywood gem (Or in movies like "Dangerous Minds," "Freedom Writers," "The Soloist"). And this is Oscar-worthy movie making?? Puh-leeze.

Attention Hollywood: there a thousands of equally inspirational stories of African Americans saving themselves (gasp!) or white people too (double gasp!), but those don't get told because they don't fit into your stereotype of who we are.

But I digress. Slightly.

My point is Vanity Fair has a problem and Hollywood has an even bigger problem. When a major media outlet ignores its responsibility to represent all its readers and its messaging to the young girls who aspire to be in Vanity Fair (or Hollywood), that's just irresponsible journalism. Read: only "button noses" and Ivory-soap girls need apply.

Hollywood, on the other hand, has a more deeply rooted issue that concerns me as mom. For years, extremely talented black female actresses like Halle Berry, Regina King, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington, Sanaa Lathan, Kimberly Elise, Nicole Ari Parker, Lynn Whitfield, Lela Rochon (I could do this for three more pages...) have lamented the dearth of quality movie roles (no crackheads please) available to black actresses. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston (no disrespect, I'm a huge fan, Rachel) has played the same exact character 50 million times with no end in sight.

Thankfully, my own little black girl has not mentioned any dreams of a Hollywood career because, even in this "Yes We Can" era, I'd feel some parenting compulsion to say, "probably not, sweetie." I wish I didn't feel that way. But this article only confirms my fears.

Unfortunately for us all, Vanity Fair did a great job of highlighting the inconvenient truth of exactly how Hollywood is. New or old.

** Editor's note: A rep for the magazine issued a statement saying, "Deciding who will appear on the Hollywood Issue cover -- and within the issue itself -- is a long process, and one we take seriously. For the young actresses on the cover, both films coming out this year and past work were taken into consideration, as were schedules and availability, since we had to shoot all nine actresses in a single day."

Former US President Clinton Leaves Hospital Following Heart Procedure

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has left a hospital in New York where he underwent a procedure to open a blocked coronary artery.

Doctors put two stents in one of Mr. Clinton's coronary arteries Thursday. He was hospitalized after feeling discomfort in his chest in recent days.

Mr. Clinton's doctor, Alan Schwartz, says the former president did not suffer a heart attack or any damage to his heart. Schwartz says the procedure went smoothly and Mr. Clinton's prognosis for recovery is excellent. He also says the former president has been up and walking around.

Mr. Clinton, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 to open four blocked arteries, is expected to be back at work on Monday.

The U.S. State Department says his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has delayed a planned trip to Saudi Arabia and Qatar and will leave on Saturday instead of Friday.

An advisor to Mr. Clinton, Douglas Band, says the former president is in good spirits and will continue to focus on his foundation, and relief and recovery efforts in earthquake-devastated Haiti.

The White House says President Barack Obama called Mr. Clinton after he was hospitalized and wished him a fast recovery. An official says Mr. Clinton's efforts as a U.S. and U.N. envoy for relief efforts in Haiti are too important for him to be out of work for too long.

A spokesman for former U.S. President George W. Bush says Mr. Bush, after speaking with Chelsea Clinton, was glad to hear that her father is doing well and that his spirits are high. The spokesman, David Sherzer, says President Bush looks forward to continuing to work with Mr. Clinton on relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent Mr. Clinton a note wishing him a fast recovery and thanked him for his work in Haiti on behalf of the United Nations.

Giants Release Middle Linebacker Antonio Pierce

The Giants are already looking to upgrade this offseason, as today they made somewhat of a surprising move, releasing middle linebacker Antonio Pierce:

After five seasons, the Giants has released middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. Pierce, 32, had one season remaining on the contract he signed as a free agent in 2005. But a bulging disk suffered last season might have played into the Giants’ decision to cut him now. “I’m doing great, feeling great,” Pierce wrote in an email. “Looking forward to endless possibilities. Loved every moment as a NY GIANT.”

Yes!! -- Obama will help select location of Khalid Sheik Mohammed terrorism trial

From The Washington Post:

President Obama is planning to insert himself into the debate about where to try the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, three administration officials said Thursday, signaling a recognition that the administration had mishandled the process and triggered a political backlash.

Holder, in an interview Thursday, left open the possibility that Mohammed's trial could be switched to a military commission, although he said that is not his personal and legal preference.

Word of Obama's increased attention to one of the biggest national security issues he inherited comes as disagreement grows over the Justice Department's use of federal courts to try accused terrorists. George W. Bush's administration employed that strategy at least 100 times, but the public mood has shifted since the Mohammed trial announcement and a thwarted Christmas Day airline bombing plot.

If the White House is unable to find a civilian court where the Mohammed trial can be held, and if the political pressure continues, the administration may be forced to shift to a military commission.

Haitian Judge Recommends Release of U.S. Missionaries

In Haiti, a judge has recommended that the ten U.S. Baptist missionaries charged with kidnapping be released and allowed to leave the country, so long as they keep a representative in Haiti to respond to further questions. The Americans went to Haiti to rescue orphans, but a number of the children they tried to bring into the Dominican Republic were turned over to them by parents. (See prior posting.) Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor and CBN News report that the judge's recommendation now goes to the prosecutor for comment. That may take up to five days.

Majority favor openly gays in military

-- Nearly 75 percent of Americans say they support openly gay individuals serving in the U.S. military, a Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated.

Twenty-four percent said openly gay people should not serve in the military, poll results released Friday indicated.

Majorities favoring a more open policy spanned party lines, the poll found, with 82 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans saying they favored such a policy.

In his State of the Union last month, President Barack Obama called for a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly homosexual individuals from serving in the military. Civilian and military officials began conducting meetings this week to begin a year-long review of the policy enacted during President Bill Clinton's administration.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed men and seniors were less likely than women and young adults to favor gays serving in the military if they disclose their sexual orientation.

The nationwide telephone poll surveyed 1,004 adults Feb. 4-8. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Kennedy to retire

-- U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., said he will not seek re-election this year, leaving Congress after 16 years in office.

Kennedy is the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who died last year. Patrick Kennedy's retirement will mark the first time in more than 50 years that a member of that family hasn't been in Congress.

Patrick Kennedy, 42, said only his life is "taking a new direction" as way of initial explanation for his decision.

Issues Kennedy focused on in the House of Representatives include insurance coverage for mental health problems and healthcare reform, which was a central issue for his father.

The younger Kennedy had his share of controversy, notably for substance abuse, including drug- and alcohol-related problems. The most known incident was in May 2006 when he crashed his car into a Capitol Hill barricade. The following day he said he was addicted to prescription medication and would go to a rehabilitation facility. He also went for rehabilitation last June.