Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty late Monday afternoon on 17 out of 20 counts which includes an attempt to sell or trade President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.
The jury which is composed of 11 women and one man said Blagojevich was not guilty on one bribery count and they could not come to a decision on 2 others.
The verdict was reached during the tenth day of deliberation in the impeached governor’s second corruption trial.
The retrial jurors include a librarian, a school teacher, a longtime church choir director and a recently laid-off marketing director.
The conclusive verdict came less than a year after the jury in the first corruption trial found Blagojevich guilty of one criminal charge but deadlocked on the rest, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
Jurors at Blagojevich’s first trial deliberated for 14 days before coming back deadlocked on 23 of 24 charges.
In addition to the guilty count from last summer’s trial, the former governor has been convicted of 17 counts of wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy and lying to the FBI.
According to the Associated Press, Blagojevich took the stand for seven days at the retrial and denied all 20 counts against him.
In a statement to the Citizen, Randall Samborn, Assistant US Attorney, Public Information Officer said, “We are pleased with the verdict. The jury sent the message that corruption will not be tolerated. The second time around we presented what we thought was a more streamline case.”
After the verdict was read, Blagojevich made a brief comment to the news media.
“Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome. I, frankly, am stunned. There’s not much left to say,” Blagojevich told the news media. “Gotta sort things out.”
NBC 5 News reports that the 17 guilty counts carry a maximum sentence of 350 years in prison; however legal experts believe Blagojevich ensuing sentence will be closer to a decade than three centuries.
The former governor’s legal downfall spurred the creation of some legislation during the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session.
In response to Blagojevich’s prolific fundraising, captured on FBI wiretaps played in court, Illinois imposed its first-ever caps on political donations. The new donation limits went into effect this year and cap how much money individuals, political action committees and interest groups can give to candidates.
Individuals are barred from donating more than $5,000 to a candidate in both the primary and general elections. Businesses, unions and other associations can give candidates twice that much, while political action committees can give $50,000 to a candidate in each election.
In addition, the state established its first-ever fines for Freedom of Information Act violations as part of a new law to prevent abuses by state offices that sought to deny or delay responding to requests, something the Blagojevich administration routinely did.
The law included training public employees so they would understand how to comply with public records laws, and it gave the Illinois attorney general’s office enforcement authority.
Blagojevich’s legal trouble began when he was arrested at his North side home in December 2008. His arrest consisted of federal corruption charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.
The prosecution had been seeking a guilty verdict for the past two-and-a-half years.
According to an ABC 7 news report, Blagojevich is expected to be sentenced in the fall.
Thelma Sardin, AP, news reports
by Thelma Sardin
Executives at Toyota Motor SalesUSA have found themselves embroiled in a battle with members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) with the NNPA accusing the automaker of rescinding a decision to runa multi-million dollar advertising campaign targeting Black consumers.
The clash between Toyota and the NNPA first arose when automaker was allegedly unwilling to run a “Thank you” ad in African American newspapers. This came after Toyota reportedly spent millions of dollars in advertising in mainstream newspapers after a safety recall last year.
NNPA also cites that earlier this year, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president and CEO said, “Everyone will continuously maintain a sense of gratitude to customers….” But NNPA Chairnman Danny Bakewell Sr. responded by saying, “Based on Toyota’s actions, it appears that Mr. Toyoda’s statement applies to everyone but the Black consumer.”
“Toyota insulted us by putting those thank you ads in white newspapers and refusing to address Black consumers in Black newspapers,” Walter Smith, publisher of the New York Beacon told the Los Angeles Sentinel.
The NNPA contends that Toyota’s actions are shocking considering Blacks contributed $2.2 billion towards Toyota’s annual sales.
In addition, Black consumers purchased 96, 118 Toyota vehicles in 2010. Moreover, according to research from a leading automotive marketing research firm R.L. Polk & Company, Black consumers represent almost 10 percent of Toyota’s American market share, 15 out of every 100 Black consumers purchase a Toyota, the Los Angeles Sentinel reports.
Currently, Toyota spends $1.6 billion annually advertising in America of which $20 million is spent in total in Black media, including radio, print, television, and digital advertising. However, Bakewell pointed out in the Los Angeles Sentinel recently that the media Toyota uses to reach Black people is not always Black-owned even though Toyota claims to spend $20 million with Black-owned media, he said.
NNPA’s latest battle with Toyota is not the first falling out the automaker has had with the Black community.
In 2001, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson met with Toyota executives about a culturally insensitive advertisement.
The ad which was a postcard, from Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif., showed a smiling mouth on an obviously black face with a gold 2001 RAV4 SUV on a front tooth, according to an Advertising Age report.
Rev. Jackson met with the executives to ensure that a diversity initiative was institutionalized throughout the company, says Glenda Gill, executive director of Rainbow PUSH’s automotive project in Detroit.
The initiative was in response to the racially charged advertisement. As a product of the initiative, Toyota formed a 21st Century Diversity Strategy including the company’s Diversity Advisory Board.
In 2001, Toyota said the Diversity Advisory Board would consist of high-level community leaders from such fields as business, law, labor and government. The automaker added that the board would represent the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the community.
In a recent letter to NNPA, James H. Colon, Toyota’s Vice President of Product Communications, said, “Since 2001, when our Diversity Advisory Board was formed, Toyota has received excellent advice and superior guidance to enhance all aspects of our engagement with the African American community.”
Although Colon stood by Toyota’s “engagement” with Blacks in the letter, even Japan has had a history of making racially insensitive remarks in reference to Blacks.
In 1987 for example, Rev. Jackson traveled to Japan after the country’s prime minister; Yasuhiro Nakasone made racial slurs against minorities.
Nakasone’s inflammatory remarks implied that Blacks and other minority groups had a low intelligence level.
Jackson’s trip was profiled in the Jan 12, 1987 issue of Jet Magazine. Several US businessmen accompanied Jackson on the trip including, Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group, Inc.’s publisher William Garth, Sr.
According to the Jet article, Jackson not only met with Nakasone but with also heads of many Japanese corporations including Toyota.
Jackson informed Nakasone that Blacks at the time purchased 15 to 18 percent of Japanese products but were basically ignored in business contracts with the country.
Additionally, Jackson warned the corporation heads that Blacks would boycott their companies if change did not come.
As a result, Nakasone reportedly said he could only encourage Japanese companies to do business with Blacks and Hispanics in developing “smoother” relations.
But twenty four years later, Blacks are still in conflict with receiving fair business trade from Japan and Toyota, in particular, according to the NNPA.
by Thelma Sardin
On Friday afternoon, several prominent Black leaders from religious, political and educational backgrounds discussed the state of Black America during the National Leaders Forum at the NNPA Annual Convention. The distinguished panelists included Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Maulana Karenga, NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell, Sr., Rev. Marcia L. Dyson and Dr. Benjamin Chavis.
Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law professor and director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice moderated the forum.
The event’s theme centered on the many disparities Black America faces. The group of intellectuals stated their positions on what needs to be done to reclaim the Black community.
Rev. Jackson began the forum discussion acknowledging the peril that Black America faces.
“The misery index in Black America is rising. Enthusiasm is dropping. Newspapers are falling off, radio stations are falling off, black banks are closing, black insurance companies are in trouble,” he said.
Jackson also described how the expansion of the Prison-industrial complex in America.
Prison-industrial complex is a term used to attribute the proliferation of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies.
“There are 1.2 million Blacks in prison, 500,000 Latinos—we’ve built an entire industry off our backs,” Jackson said. “The biggest growth in the economy is prison labor,” he added.
African Americans need to be more vigilant to solve their problems according to Rev. Dyson.
“…We need a day of presence…our value is only recognized when we show up and show out,” she said. Dyson elaborated that the only way Blacks will be taken seriously is if they began to draw a stronger presence in their communities.
In addition, Dyson believes Blacks have always been the driving force in ethical progression of the human race.
“African Americans whether we are involved or not have always been the moral compass and barometer for other communities in society. We have a responsibility to evolve humanity,” she said.
Dyson added that it is important for Blacks to recognize they are not only American citizens but global citizens.
She added that as global citizens Blacks have to watch how they deplete or help Africa’s economy.
“We got African negroes wearing kente cloth that was made in Taiwan.” Dyson added that not supporting African businesses diminishes the continent’s commerce.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of the Kwanzaa holiday presented a fiery position.
“What Black needs more than anything else seems to me is to break beyond the catechism of impossibility. People tell us what we can’t do, what we haven’t done…. People don’t realize even when we praise our tradition we go back and we tear it down.”
Karenga also added that it is important for Blacks identify what they can achieve.
“We’ve got to talk about what is possible as well as what is wrong. If we don’t do that and we give greater weight to pathology then we duplicate the instructions of our oppressor….we have to have a clear conception of who we are.”
by Thelma Sardin
On Friday morning, Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for The Nielsen Company, presented the details of a three year partnership the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has developed with the corporation.
Pearson-McNeil made the announcement at a breakfast program during the NNPA’s Annual Convention that was held at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.
The Nielsen exec is also a Chicago native. She has over twenty years of public relations, communications and writing experience. In addition, she is the former press secretary for Chicago City Treasurer Miriam Santos and is also a former director of station relations for NBC 5 Chicago.
The Nielsen Company is most notably known for its “Nielsen ratings,” that determines the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States.
The alliance includes the awarding of scholarships to deserving students, the release of an annual report and a bi-weekly newspaper column to appear in all 180+ NNPA member publications.
During Friday’s breakfast where Pearson-McNeil made the announcement, NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell, Sr. praised the creation of the annual report to be titled, “The State of the African American Consumer Report.”
“It will help us when we go to corporations and first ask them politely to do business with African American newspapers, radio stations and TV stations,” Bakewell said.
In addition, Pearson-McNeil said the report will be released in September. “Over the next three years, each September during the Black Congressional Caucus reception we will release the State of the African American Consumer Report,” she said. Nielsen analysts are currently working to gather information to produce a profile of the average African American consumer.
Moreover, Nielsen will provide scholarships totaling up to $40,000 for the next 3 years. “We want to recognize students who are majoring in communications and journalism,” said Pearson-McNeil; however Nielsen will also focus on students who are majoring in science, technology, education and math. Pearson-McNeil said that students from these fields will, “… help feed our pipeline of [future workers] in the research company.”
Earlier this year, Pearson-McNeil wrote a blog on Nielsen’s website co-authored with Todd Hale, another Nielsen executive.
In the blog titled, “Dissecting Diversity: Understanding the Ethnic Consumer,” the pair analyzed the behavior of US ethnic groups including Blacks, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders.
According to the blog, African Americans watch almost two hours more of television than average American households.
The blog states that African Americans consume 6 hours and 54 minutes of television a day versus the 5 hour and 11 minute average for all U.S. households. Additionally, more than 30 percent of African American households have four or more televisions. In terms of cellular phone service, Blacks use more voice minutes than other groups (1,261 minutes per month).
In addition, Pearson-McNeil and Hale also cite that African-Americans shop more frequently than other ethnicities, but spend less on each trip and on an annual basis. Compared to other households, African-Americans make relatively fewer trips to grocery stores and supercenters, but are more frequent shoppers in smaller retailers like drug stores, dollar stores and convenience/gas channels. Spending on basic food ingredients, non-alcoholic beverages, and personal and beauty care products exceeds the U.S. average.
According to its website, The Nielsen Company is committed to accurately measuring a broad range of consumer behavior representing a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and organizations worldwide.
Occupation: president, Bronzeville Area Residents’ & Commerce Council (BARCC)
Why does she stand out?
A BARCC founding member, Burnett has volunteered with the organization since March 2004. BARCC is a non-profit organization serving homeowners, condominium owners, renters and commerce enterprises of Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. “We work to create and maintain a safe, clean, enjoyable neighborhood for families to live and businesses to thrive,” said Burnett. In the last seven years, the BARCC has helped hundreds of residents through several activities including Condominium Education Workshops and Historic Bronzeville Tours. The workshops trained over 200 condo owners to better manage their real estate investments. Additionally, the tours promoted the history of Bronzeville’s homes and landmarks while articulating the area’s legacy. “BARCC is a resource that allows residents and businesses to build strong relationships, access information, work on shared concerns and create an environment in which a neighborhood becomes a community,” said Burnett. In addition, she actively participates in community service projects for children (mentorship and tutoring); Alzheimer’s and breast cancer awareness.
By Sandra Jordan
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
When it comes to employee health, the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois hedges its bet. For around 10 years, the casino’s ownership and management has contracted with Dr. Ken Rybicki, an internal medicine physician, who, along with a nurse and a medical assistant, help keep casino workers healthy by providing them with the convenience of an onsite and totally free medical clinic.
“We’ve evolved this set up here from occasionally seeing employees for their colds and flu’s to keeping them on the job to really a very aggressive disease management/wellness prevention center,” Rybicki says. “About three years ago, we put into place some really aggressive screening programs. Employees get screenings for cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, height, weight, prostate –if you’re in the right age-range and mammograms – and that’s free for every employee in the fall.”
Workers who have a health issue, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, are put into a disease management group to support them in their efforts to control its progression and help them maintain healthy lifestyles.
“If somebody’s got diabetes, they go into one of our programs for diabetes. We help them track their blood sugars; we give them free diabetes test strips and free monitors for their diabetes,” Rybicki explains. “And this year, we started free diabetes medicine for employees.”
They are working on developing a similar program for employees with asthma. Rybicki said when they had the boat – there were a lot more problems with employees with bronchitis and asthma. He says the high-tech air filtration system at the Casino has made a big difference.
“When we moved from the boat to the facility here, I saw a big decrease in those types of things,” Rybicki says. “Then after that, it became non-smoking, so I don’t know that I’ve seen anything real different since then.”
Results of last year’s employee health screening show that the disease management groups are working. The employees’ cholesterol levels are down, blood sugar levels in diabetics have improved and employees are healthier overall. And Rybicki says there has been a reduction in the overall cost for providing employee health care –a 20 percent reduction in its overall health insurance costs per employee.
“Although the Casino Queen is providing all these free services… their health care cost is going down because we are keeping people healthier,” he says.
“It’s a pretty rewarding program because, as a doctor, we are always used to getting people over their sickness – not as much as we should or like to – prevent their sickness,” Rybicki says. “And with the programs we have in place over here, over half of what we do is just getting people healthy and preventing their problems.”
There are about a dozen free medications for employees that they can get through the onsite clinic for free and also medications are delivered there for free.
“What we are doing here is a total health care for all employees who want to participate – and we’ve really made some headway into employee health,” Rybicki says. “The point is – we are saving employees –they are staying on the job; they don’t have to leave to go to the doctor; they are staying healthier; they are staying out of the emergency room.”
The employee plan health benefits are offered to employee spouses and dependents too. By gaming rules, no person under age 21 is allowed in the casino. Underage dependents are treated in a paramedic room that is outside of the employee entrance.
Rybicki serves as the primary care doctor for many casino employees and he said they are eligible to visit him at his offices in St. Louis and in Belleville, Illinois at no cost because they are Casino Queen employees.
With additional measures in place, such as healthier choices for employee dining and vending options, there are hopes that the health trend will continue.
“The good thing about being here is that people will drop by anytime and just say, ‘Hey, I’m on my break – can you check my pressure?’ ‘Can we weigh in?’ It’s gotten very popular,” he says.
Through their own version of “Biggest Loser” type staff weight challenges, Rybicki’s office is also helping employees lose and manage their weight.
“Last year we had 227 employees participate. It was a four-month program and they lost a total of 920 pounds, so almost half a ton was lost here,” he says. “The winner got a trip for two to Vegas with the flight and hotel and everything.”
A 2009 Mercer study reports 34 percent of companies with 500 employees or more offer healthcare onsite or near their facility. As a result, workers maintain better overall health, and each company sees an increase in productivity with a decrease in healthcare costs. As reported in the American Journal for Preventative Medicine, employers can see a return of $3 to $6 for each dollar spent over two to five years on employee health strategies.
Rybicki says other companies are taking an interest in what the Casino Queen is offering employees as health benefits. And he said it is very much a model for health reform.
“This is what they want with the Obama health care plan,” Rybicki says. “They want employers to really take charge and take care of their employees and help them become better and prevent their disease, and it’s interesting – despite their expense, they are saving money, so it’s a win-win.
By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
AP Fashion Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ The resort season is not a time for fashion to take a vacation. Resort collections, which hit stores during the all-important Christmas holiday shopping season, are a growing part of designer businesses as consumers move toward styles they can wear year-round.
The idea that people fully switch their closets between seasons is outdated, agrees Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for retailer Neiman Marcus. Shoppers want clothes they can wear the day they buy them, he says, and resort wear typically meets that demand.
Not to mention that resort clothes also spend the longest time on the full-price selling floor, typically until mid-winter when spring merchandise moves in.
The name “resort” is a holdover from the days when brands would offer a few key pieces for their wealthy snowbird customers who’d flee cold climates at Christmastime. The modern definition, however, has evolved to be more of a code word for new, fresh merchandise.
“I’m happy to see designers really paying attention to resort, and to really put into it design and style,” Downing says. True fans of fashion know that this transitional period also gives a clue where designers are heading in the future, he adds.
Expect to see less black, more red, navy and neon, and some surf and scuba influences.
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Christian Keyes Shines Alongside Vivica A. Fox In Leading Role Of Latest Project “Lord, All Men Can’t Be Dogs”
(BLACK PR WIRE) – June kicks off a big summer for Hollywood notable Christian Keyes as many of his much-anticipated film, television and theater projects are finally released to the public. With an additional three DVD films coming out before September, Keyes is busy promoting his latest release, “Lord, All Men Can’t Be Dogs,” which went on sale Tuesday, June 11. Leading the cast along with Vivica A. Fox, Keyes stands out in this laugh-out-loud stage play packed with comedy, drama and spirited vocal performances.
“This play will give you those good laughs that come from the stomach!” shared Keyes on “Lord, All Men Can’t Be Dogs.” “It’s an intelligent comedy that shows how black folk can conquer and grow. Of all the plays I’ve done, this is definitely one of my favorites.”
by Fungai Maboreke
Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network
First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her daughters and her mother, visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and was given a tour by Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, of an exhibit chronicling the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island.
After the tour, the Obamas went to the official residence of Mandela, who welcomed her entire family, including a niece and nephew travelling with them.
Mandela, who turns 93 next month, has received few guests since January when he was admitted to hospital with an acute respiratory infection.
Mrs. Obama met briefly with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, one of President Jacob Zuma’s three wives, and a group of about 100 invitees in Pretoria, but she did not get a meeting with the President.
South African officials insisted that Zuma was simply busy – but in fact the visit coincides with a cooling in relations between South Africa and the U.S. Last week, President Zuma issued a sharp riposte to an appeal to African leaders by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help remove Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
“We strongly believe that the (U.N. Security Council) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation,” Zuma told parliament the day after Clinton’s speech.
Professor Chris Landsberg, head of the University of Johannesburg’s politics department, said even if it was not a snub, it was a “missed opportunity.”
“There is no doubt there’s been some irritation on both sides over Libya,” he said. “It might perhaps have been a chance for Mrs Obama to pass some direct messages from her husband, clarify the position and ease some tensions.”
by Sherrie Williams
The 71st NNPA Annual Convention was recently held at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, IL. One of the major highlights of the convention is the Legacy of Excellence Dinner and Awards Gala. This special awards gala honors Black publishers who have far exceeded the expectations of their peers in the Black Press of America.
One of the people honored was 92 year-old war veteran, Garth Reeves who’s still enjoying life and living it to the fullest. Reeves emeritus of the Miami Times, in accepting the award talked about longevity in the business and shared his secrets on living a long and full life. While accepting his award Reeves joked, “old is just a word…and old is better than dead,” he said. He also shared words of wisdom, with the crowd and honored those who were not there to see him receive such a monumental award. He stated that even though the Legacy of Excellence Award was important to him, the greatest award that he had ever achieved in his life was the one he had received the night before which was the Samuel E. John B. Russwurm Award. Reeves received that award during the NNPA’s Merit Awards held at the Parkway Ballroom on Chicago’ Southside.
Before joining the U.S. Army, Reeves attended Florida A&M and earned a bachelor’s degree in printing. When he returned to Miami after the war, he began working for his father at the Miami Times.
During his long career at the Miami Times, he worked as a reporter, columnist, managing editor, editor and publisher. Reeves used the Miami times as a platform to for the voice of the Black community and also helped lead a group of Blacks in a protest to integrate the public beaches in Miami.
Apart from being a publisher and activist he was also a Pulitzer Prize Journalist Juror and the organizing Chairman of the Board for National Industrial Bank, which was the first integrated bank in the state. Reeves can now add the Legacy of Excellence Award to his inventory of great accomplishments.
The other honoree for the evening was Xernona Clayton, the mother of the Trumpet Awards where she is President, Founder, and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc. The Trumpet Awards event was created to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. Clayton also has a long list of awards, honors and accomplishment to go along with her Legacy of Excellence Award.
Among her many other achievements, Clayton is the first African American female host of a primetime talk show. She was also honored in 2004 with two very impressive awards when Spelman College presented her with the first Local Community Service Award for her continued dedication to leadership in the community. Also in 2004, the State of Georgia presented her with the Leadership and Dedication in Civil Rights Award. She has also been recognized for her contribution to broadcasting, her community and her nation, by the American Intercultural Student Exchange (AISE) which created a scholarship in her honor. Recently in Ghana, a school was named in her honor.
Clayton, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is also a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
The night was brought to a close with a riveting performance by the Temptations. The group sang several of their famous hits and brought the crowd to its feet with hits like “Just My Imagination,” “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone,” and “My Girl.”