Archive | February, 2011

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The Battle Over Redistricting—Will Latinos Be Represented?


La Opinión, Antonieta Cadiz, Translated by Elena Shore

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It’s an impending battle: the process of redistricting throughout the country, where Hispanic political interests are at stake. The eye of the hurricane will most likely be in states with high Latino populations like Texas, Nevada and California.

A fierce battle will be waged which in the past has ended in the courts.

The first step in the battle is the release of the 2010 census results, delivering a new estimate of how the population is distributed across the country. So far, the Census Bureau has released information for the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. This week it will release data for Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland and Vermont. The bureau will be releasing the rest of the data gradually until April.

According to preliminary data, agency director Robert Groves said racial and ethnic minorities have been responsible for about 85 percent of the population growth during the last decade.

“The increase in the Hispanic community is one of the stories that will be written in the context of this census. We should see a big difference between 2000 and 2010.”

The issue now, however, is whether this growth will be reflected fairly in the restructuring of electoral districts. This means that in areas with a higher concentration of Latinos, the weight of the Hispanic vote must be proportional.

Local leaders use census data to draw up electoral jurisdictions. The problem is that, in this process, various interest groups use redistricting to benefit certain political parties or ethnic groups.

As a result, during the last round of redistricting, the cases of electoral districts in 41 states ended up in court.

“This is part of the process and the reason why the same thing will probably happen now: No one is going to let it go, not Republicans, not Democrats, not us Latinos. We will not leave,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) told La Opinión.

Meetings between community leaders have already begun. Last Saturday a meeting was held in New York that brought together about 100 leaders from such states as Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Rhode Island. NALEO held a conference Tuesday on redistricting in Washington, D.C., with representatives from 18 states.

A key weapon in the battle is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, created to prevent minorities from losing out in the redistricting process and requiring in some cases that states get federal approval to redraw electoral district lines. This is the first time a Democratic administration will be overseeing the redistricting process since the law was enacted.

“We are committed to working to make this happen in the fairest way possible,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The biggest battles for Hispanic interests are expected to take place in the areas where new Congressional seats will be added: Texas, which will add four seats, Florida with two, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington with one.

Other areas that will see major changes are the states that are losing seats: Ohio, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

California will keep its 53 seats at in the House of Representatives. But according to Vargas, with the loss of Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, the redistricting process could change.

“All of the Latino districts in California are going to grow. It was thought that they would be extended eastward, entering the San Bernardino area, which would make those districts more conservative,” he said.

“But if the person who replaces Harman doesn’t have as much political leverage, it’s possible to move African-American districts to the west and better accommodate the Hispanic congressional districts to keep them where they are.”

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Arrested Education—Jailed Mother Sparks Call for Education Reform


The case of the Ohio mother jailed for enrolling her daughter in an out-of-district school shatters the myth that low-income parents don’t care about their children’s education. More parental involvement could speed up education reform.

Since Kelley Williams-Bolar (see photo) was sentenced to jail for 10 days on Jan. 19 and fined $30,000 for enrolling her daughter in an out-of-district school, the tale has taken on a life of its own.

Her story has sparked rallies, petitions and a robust national dialogue about educational equity. But it is more than an illustration of the egregious economic, geographic and racial inequities in public education. Williams-Bolar has become the poster parent for the growing issue of parental involvement and choice.

Williams-Bolar’s story stands in stark contrast to the popular but wildly inaccurate narrative of low-income parents of color being uninterested in–and stubborn obstacles to–their children’s education.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that low-income and minority parents strongly value education and higher achievement. The question is, what can engaged parents, such as Williams-Bolar, do right now as the arduous reform process moves along?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) includes some parental-involvement policies focused on school-parent compacts and parent-teacher conferences. Yet many parents find these tools inadequate, and they are using more dramatic options.

Case in point: Two months ago, African-American and Latino parents at McKinley Middle School in Compton, Calif., pulled what is called the parent-trigger option. This law forces districts to make radical changes at a school that has failed to meet its benchmarks for four years when at least 51 percent of parents sign a petition for reform. McKinley had 61 percent parental support to turn the school into a charter school.

Last year, California was the first state to enact a law in which parents can choose the level and type of reform that they want: converting to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff, rebudgeting or even closing the school. Six other states have proposed similar policies since then. The federal government should take note.

Congress must soon reauthorize of the ESEA, enabling them a chance to update the law. That process provides Congress and the administration a clear opportunity to review existing parental-involvement provisions in the law.

Currently, states must set aside a portion of their funds for family-engagement activities, and the Department of Education has proposed increasing that amount.

Funding is important, but parents have spoken loud and clear: We need a better national conversation with new ideas for parental involvement.

Stories like Williams-Bolar’s are more common than most people would think. And cases like that of McKinley–parents using dramatic, effective policies–should be more common. Both cases–examples of nonaffluent parents of color taking their children’s education into their own hands–demonstrate two key principles that are instructive for education reform.

First, the process of designing policies around parental involvement should start with the assumption that all parents are invested in their children’s learning and safety. Low-income and minority parents are often fierce advocates for their children’s education and should be treated as such.

Second, parents who feel that there are no other options will go to extreme measures to change their situation.

Federal and state governments must design policies that provide options for these parents to be active, productive and powerful agents of change. They deserve better than being stuck between a rock and a hard place. They deserve a voice.

Theodora Chang is an education-policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. Erica Williams, selected for The Root 100 in 2010, is the deputy director of the center’s Progress 2050 project, which develops new ideas for an increasingly diverse America.

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News Analysis: Home Mortgages to Minorities Plummet by 62 Percent


News Analysis, By Kenneth J. Cooper

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Since the housing market collapsed, mortgage lending to African-Americans and Hispanics has plunged precipitously—by more than 60 percent, according to a new study of loan information that banks submit to the federal government.

Together, African-Americans and Hispanics were able to borrow 62 percent less to buy or refinance homes in 2009 than in 2004, before the market crashed, the computerized analysis finds. With lenders imposing tighter credit standards, mortgage dollars going to non-Hispanic white borrowers also declined, though by considerably less, 17 percent. Asians fared best, obtaining nearly an equal amount in mortgages.

The study, to be released this week, was conducted by Maurice Jourdain-Earl, founder and managing director of ComplianceTech in Arlington, Va., which advises financial institutions on fair lending practices. The study also found wide racial-ethnic disparities in how often financial institutions approved mortgage applications and made mortgage loans during the six-year period.

SEE RELATED STORY: Loans to Minorities Did Not Cause Foreclosure Crisis, Study Finds

Whites were about twice as likely as African-Americans and Hispanics to be approved for prime mortgages with the lowest interest rates, while members of the two largest minority groups were two to four times more likely to receive subprime loans, which have higher rates. By contrast, the disparities were much narrower for loans insured by the government’s Federal Housing Administration, which has attracted a growing number of borrowers during the credit crunch.

The study concluded that a “dual mortgage market” has emerged, with white and Asian borrowers having better access to lower-cost mortgages than African-Americans and Hispanics, who on average pay more to own or refinance a home—if they can obtain a mortgage.

“The higher cost for mortgage credit translates into less money for basic necessities,” Jourdain-Earl writes. “The higher cost for mortgage credit also translates into African Americans and Latinos having lower homeownership rates and lower opportunities to build wealth, lower educational achievement and higher unemployment.”

Reasons for the lending disparities are not directly reflected in the national data, which do not include credit scores of borrowers or ratios of loan amounts to values of homes. Nor does the Federal Reserve Bank collect information on foreclosures by race and ethnicity.

Jourdain-Earl blames a cycle of higher cost loans being made to minorities for leading to higher levels of defaults and foreclosures, ultimately causing “greater disparities in access to credit.” He raises the possibility of an unknown degree of discrimination, noting an “erroneous notion” that minorities caused the housing market’s collapse, despite the relatively low amount in mortgages they received, compared with those for white borrowers.

The Mortgage Bankers Association declined to comment on the report because, spokeswoman Melissa Key says in an e-mail, “The author does not control for any of the factors that could lead to rate or approval differences across borrowers.”

Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of American, agrees with Jourdain-Earl that a dual market exists. Zigas says it is unclear whether the causes have to do with lower credit scores of African-Americans and Latinos, private investors being reluctant to buy mortgages made in minority communities or the disproportionate subprime loans representing an “unsustainable volume” of borrowing.

“Since the meltdown, there is no question that credit has constricted across the board,” Zigas says. “It’s even more difficult for minorities and low-income people.”

The report, entitled “The Foreclosure Crisis and Racial Disparities in Access to Mortgage Credit 2004-2009,” illustrates disparities by race and ethnicity. The study uses data banks submitted to the Federal Reserve under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and analyzes racial-ethnic patterns in prime, subprime and FHA loans, which together constitute the vast majority of the market.

Latinos See Biggest Drop

Mortgages made to Hispanics have decreased the most, by 63 percent, to $78 million in 2009 from $214 million in 2004. Lending to African Americans has dropped to $49 million from $122 million, or 60 percent.

Whites have been affected much less and Asians barely. New mortgages to white borrowers declined to $1.1 billion from $1.3 billion, or 17 percent. Lending to Asians stayed almost the same at about $128 million, with the difference being equivalent to one modest mortgage.

“Analyzing the issue of access to mortgage credit by race is significant because of the central role homeownership plays in building personal wealth,” Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee on capital markets and government sponsored enterprises, says of the report in an e-mail. “As a 2010 study from Brandeis University illustrates, for example, the wealth gap between African-Americans and whites is only growing larger, having quadrupled over the course of the last 23 years.”

The financial stresses that accompanied the recession meant many Americans from all racial-ethnic groups did not apply for mortgages. When they did, applications by African-Americans and Hispanics for the best loans were approved or, in bankers’ language, “originated” much less often. On average, whites were twice as likely as blacks to obtain prime loans, and one-and-a-half times more likely as Hispanics. Almost no disparity existed between whites and Asians.

The disparities extended even to subprime loans which, despite concentrations in minority neighborhoods, went mostly to white borrowers. During the six-year period, whites received more than 60 percent of these high-cost loans, which are most likely to lead to defaults and foreclosures.

But disproportionate numbers of subprime loans did go to minorities. African-Americans were three-and-a-half times more likely to have one as whites, and Hispanics about twice as likely. By 2009, even the subprime market had dried up for the two minority groups, with lending to African-Americans since 2004 down by 95 percent and to Hispanics by 92 percent, compared with 87 percent for Asians and 81 percent for whites.

Jourdain-Earl concedes that the big drops in subprime loans to the largest minorities could be interpreted as a positive development, but he adds in an interview: “At this point, African-Americans and Latinos are not even able to get high-cost subprime loans.”

The lending field was more level for mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which spokesman Brian Sullivan says has seen its share of the mortgage market jump from 3 percent to 30 percent since 2006. Compared with those for whites, loan approval rates were 19 percent lower for African-Americans, 13 percent for Hispanics and 9 percent for Asians.

On the other hand, the report found that the rapid growth has changed the racial composition of FHA-backed borrowers, with the higher percentages going to whites and Asians, and lower percentages to African-Americans and Hispanics. Jourdain-Earl questions whether FHA was acting in accord with its affordable housing goals.

Sullivan says the shifting racial balance of FHA borrowers merely reflected that whites predominate in the mortgage market and have turned to the agency in increasing numbers.

“That’s not because of any application of unfair lending practices, he says, speaking generally. “It was a consequence of what was happening in the marketplace.”

HUD Investigating 22 Lenders

Sullivan notes, though, that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating 22 lenders to determine whether their imposition of higher credit standards than FHA’s minimums has had a discriminatory impact on African-Americans and Hispanics.

Chris Herbert, research director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, says the report has limitations in explaining why minorities fare less well in the housing market, a trend he acknowledges.

For instance, he says focusing only on first mortgages and comparing borrowers in the same income levels would provide a sharper picture of home-buying trends in particular, since African-Americans and Hispanics, on average, earn less than whites.

Academics at Harvard’s housing center and elsewhere are examining whether current credit standards are unduly restrictive and not justified by the economic situation.

In response to criticism from Herbert and the Mortgage Bankers Association, Jourdain-Earl says his focus was the flow of credit to different racial-ethnic groups, not the reasons behind the disparities.

“I wasn’t trying to ascertain the why but to shine a bright light on the outcome and the effects on wealth and homeownership rates,” he says.

In the study, Jourdain-Earl urges the FHA to study “the potential of adverse effects” from its credit standards and proposed that federal laws should require lenders to report on foreclosures, defaults, short sales and loan modifications, including the race and other demographics of those borrowers.

He also calls for implementing financial reform legislation enacted last year “in a way that promotes sustainable diverse lending.”

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Alvin Bentley Dies


WINDSOR — Alvin Melbourne Bentley, 84, of Windsor, beloved husband of Adassa (Thorpe) Bentley for 51 years, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, at St. Francis Hospital.

Born in St. Ann, Jamaica on Dec. 2, 1926, son of the late Edward and Edna (Walker) Bentley, he had spent most of his life in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, Jamaica before moving to Harford and then to Windsor.

Alvin worked for Reynolds Jamaica Mines for many years as a mechanical technician.  He later started working as a builder and cabinet maker, making his own bricks and constructing houses and furniture in St. Ann, Jamaica.

Alvin loved to work and always kept busy and was well-known for his quality construction and attention to detail.  In his spare time, Alvin enjoyed playing dominoes and card games, and watching boxing, especially his favorite fighter, Muhammad Ali.

He was a longtime member of Ocho Rios Baptist Church in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, Jamaica.  He had attended The First Cathedral with his family while living in Windsor.  Besides his wife, he leaves to mourn his passing, three sons, Junior Bentley and his wife Elaine of Windsor, Glenroy Bentley and his wife Sharon of Tampa, FL, and Neville Bentley of Chicago, IL; four daughters, Doreen Linton of Fort Lauderdale, FL, Claudette Bentley of East Hartford, Angela Bentley of Windsor, and Veronica (Bentley) Campbell of Ocho Rios, Jamaica; 18 grandchildren including Carlene, Paul, Otis and his wife Tacayah, Troy, Travis, Jervis, Simone, Natalie and her husband Sgt. Roger, Samor and his wife Barbara, Duwaine and his wife Sonnette, Briana, Felecia, Michael, Christopher, and Sarah Ann; seven great grandchildren; and a host of other relatives and friends, including a special niece, Gloria Gean Wright whom he helped to raise.

He was predeceased by a grandson, Shawn Linton in 2009.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 12, 12 Noon, at The First Cathedral, 1151 Blue Hills Ave., Bloomfield.  Interment services will be private at the Palisado Cemetery in Windsor.  His family will receive friends on Saturday, February 12, 11 a.m. to 12 Noon, prior to the service at the church.

The family would like to extend a special thanks to the doctors, nurses, and other caregivers at Bloomfield Healthcare for all of their care and concern during this most difficult time.

In that spirit the family has requested that memorial donations be made to Bloomfield Healthcare, Staff Appreciation Fund, 355 Park Ave., Bloomfield, CT 06002.

Carmon Windsor Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.  For online condolences please visit, www.carmonfuneralhome.com.



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Cosby Returns To Connecticut For One Performance


TORRINGTON -– Comedian, actor and activist Bill Cosby has been part of our lives since his first starring role in the 1960’s television series, “I Spy”.

On Feb 20 at 3 p.m., “The Cos” returns to the Warner Theater for one performance only.

Cosby’s numerous awards and honors include: The Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to television, the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award and a host of Emmy and Grammy Awards for his work in television and the recording industry.

Here is your chance to see this veteran performer and humanitarian live in concert!

Tickets for this performance can be purchased by calling the Warner box office at 860-489-7180 or online at www.warnertheatre.org.




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Ritter Gears Up For Legislative Session


HARTFORD — Representative Matthew Ritter (D) has been appointed to the several key committee positions that is supposed to bode well for the city.

Ritter was named to the Legislature’s Banks, Planning & Development and Executive & Legislative Nominations committees.

In a recent announcement, Ritter said he was “time to get to work on the state budget and turning the economy around.”

Ritter represents the 1st Assembly District,which includes parts of Hartford and Bloomfield. The Hartford Superior Court last August declared Ritter the winner over incumbent Kenneth Green,  a social worker who had been in the legislature since 1995.

The son of former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter, Matthew Ritter was elected to the city council in 2007.



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City Awards Top Honor To Science Achievers


HARTFORD — Eleven-year-old Brianna Howell has her priorities in order.

She does classwork and home work before she goes off and have fun. And this discipline has paid off for the Hartford student.

Mayor Segarra is with James Compton (left), Associate Principal at University High School for Science and Engineering and Archit Parmanand, a student at the school who is demonstrating his latest scientific achievement.

On Wednesday afternoon at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, Brianna received an award for top achivement in science and math at her school, Achievment First. Five other students and staff at Hartford Public Schools received the Sir Isaac Newton Award for their achievements in science.

This move by officials is an effort to market the city as a “place where science, technology and research can be incubated, jobs can grow, and related businesses can blossom.”

It was also a celebration of St. Joseph’s College of Pharmacy downtown Hartford.

Aside from the six schools, Saint Joseph College School of Pharmacy— which recently announced its national accreditation— will matriculate students this fall to its new Downtown Hartford campus.

The city also gave awards to Breakthrough Magnet School, Classical Magnet School, Hartford Culinary Arts Academy, University Hight School of Science and Engineering, West Middle School.

Featured photo:  Mayor Segarra, Pamela Trotman Reid, President of Saint Joseph College, Brianna Howell (student at Achievement First Hartford Middle School), Jeff House (Principal), and Matt Fleury, President and CEO of the CT Science Center.

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Hate in Arizona: Two Mothers Mourn Their Murdered Children


PHOENIX — Two Latina mothers are the main witnesses in parallel murder trials that shed light on the political climate of a state that has become a hotbed of extremism, according to human rights organizations.

The women’s stories have slipped under the radar of Arizona’s conservative political leaders, who have fueled the illegal immigration debate by shifting the spotlight to undocumented immigrants and border violence and away from deadly vigilantism.

Paula Valera, Mother of Juan Varela

Paula Varela testified recently about the day she watched her son, Juan Varela, fall to the ground after he was fatally shot in the head a few feet outside his home in South Phoenix on May 6, 2010.

She took the stand as a key witness in the murder trial of the man accused of gunning him down, their next-door neighbor, Gary Kelley.

According to Kelley’s attorney, Kelley approached Juan Varela to talk about Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070, and shot Varela in self-defense.

But Juan Varela’s brother, Anthony, testified that Kelley, who was drunk at the time, was armed and looking for more than neighborly conversation.

Kelley reportedly yelled racial slurs at his neighbor and said, “You f—–g Mexican, go back to Mexico!”

Varela, 44, and his family are Mexican Americans who have lived in Arizona for several generations.

In the aftermath of the passage of SB 1070— one of the toughest anti-immigration laws in the nation —the Varela family’s attempt to highlight the murder as a hate crime has gone largely unnoticed. And so has the trial of his accused killer.

Gina Gonzalez, Mother of Brisenia Flores

Varela’s mother is not alone in her sorrow. Another mother recently took the stand in a different trial in Tucson for a shooting that happened almost a year before Varela’s. This time the victims were a 9-year-old girl and her father.

On May 30, 2009, Gina Gonzalez pretended to be dead after intruders shot her and fatally shot her husband Raul Flores inside their home in Arivaca, Ariz., a town about 13 miles from the Mexican border.

She listened as her 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, pleaded for her life. Then the shooter reloaded the gun and killed the little girl.

The alleged ringleader of the crime is 42-year-old Shawna Forde, a leader of Minuteman American Defense (MAD), an armed watch group whose goal is to detain and report undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border. Prosecutors argue that Forde tried to finance her anti-immigrant activities with robberies like the one that led to the fatal shootings in 2009. She is facing the death penalty.

Jury deliberations have started in the Varela murder case, and are expected to begin this week in the Flores shootings.

Where Were the Media?

Carlos Galindo, a local pro-immigration activist and radio talk-show host, calls the case of Brisenia Flores a “red flag.” If Arizona politicians and communities had rallied against the killing of the 9-year-old and her father, he says, Juan Varela might never have been slain.

Galindo believes Varela’s murder would have created an uproar in Arizona but for the fact that Phoenix police made early statements pushing the case under the rug, denying that it was racially motivated or related to SB 1070.

The case was later labeled a hate crime under former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, after pressure from the family with the help of ethnic media and community members like Galindo.

Galindo speaks about the murder often on his bilingual radio show on Radio KASA in Phoenix. “If you allow rhetoric to continue to escalate against a certain ethnicity, it’s going to become a situation where it’s okay to violate, to abuse and to kill,” he says.

Neither case has received as much media coverage as the death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz on March 27, 2010, which was used by SB 1070’s sponsor, Republican Senator Russell Pearce, to rally votes for the bill’s passage.

Conservative bloggers and talk show hosts immediately tried to tie Krentz’s unresolved murder to undocumented immigrants, after authorities found footprints leading from his property to the Mexican border.

Steve Rendall, senior analyst for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a New York-based organization that monitors media bias, said news outlets jumped too quickly on the Krentz slaying when there was little information. He said the case received more coverage than the Flores and Varela murders because mainstream reporters and editors “fear being seen as liberal or left-leaning.”

While conservative politicians used the rancher’s death to push an anti-immigration law, the murder of the 9-year-old and her father has been dismissed by many as the act of a mentally disturbed individual.

“The political right has run away from the Shawna Forde case as fast as its feet can carry it, essentially suggesting that this murder has nothing to do with anything beyond a crazy woman,” says Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “There’s a lot going on out there, and it’s not the headless bodies that (Arizona Governor) Jan Brewer likes to talk about.”

Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, arguing that violence from Mexico was crossing the border and that numerous headless bodies had been found in the Arizona desert—a claim has never been proven.

But Potok said popular support for anti-immigration measures and political gains for lawmakers who espouse them have opened a Pandora’s box demonizing Latinos that will be difficult to close.

“I think that Arizona’s response to the vigilante movement was fundamentally to engage in the same kind of activity itself. Rather than trying to deal with the problem of immigration rationally, the politicians in Arizona ultimately endorse that kind of attack,” he says.

Jesus Romo, a civil rights attorney in Tucson, agrees. He argued one of the successful civil lawsuits against Douglas vigilante rancher Roger Barnett for threatening two Mexican-American hunters and three young girls with a rifle in 2004. The Ninth Circuit last week upheld an Arizona jury’s decision on another lawsuit against the same rancher brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He was fined more than $80,000 for assaulting a group of migrants on public land. The federal court found that he was not entitled to claim self-defense because none of the people he assaulted had threatened or attacked him.

“There’s total impunity when it comes to assaults against minorities, especially against Mexicans,” says Romo, who blames the state for turning a blind eye to the activities of border vigilante groups. “Apart from that, they are treated as heroes for what they do, so they feel in the right of attacking people without anything happening to them.”

Bill Strauss, the state director of the Anti-Defamation League, doesn’t believe the media “intentionally de-emphasizes crimes against minority individuals.”

But he is concerned that the current tone of the immigration debate in Arizona has forced hate crime victims into the shadows.

“We are not getting complaints about hate crimes against Latinos in this community as I imagine take place,” Strauss says.

One Hate Crime Trial or Two?

The shootings of Brisenia and her father have never been labeled hate crimes. But for human rights groups that have followed the case closely, the murders clearly meet that definition.

Prosecutors are arguing that Forde and her two accomplices, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Gaxiola, were motivated by financial gain. Forde is accused of targeting for robbery the little girl’s father, whom she suspected of being a drug dealer, and using the proceeds to fund her border watch group.

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League had been monitoring Forde and her organization since 2007 with growing concerns.

“She came onto our radar because she was increasingly taking more extreme action,” says Marilyn Mayo, director of right-wing research at the Anti-Defamation League. Mayo says Forde formed the more extreme MAD because she wasn’t satisfied with what other Minutemen groups were doing.

Before the shooting, there were claims that Forde’s group was going directly after drug cartels. In 2008, Forde claimed that Hispanic intruders raped her in her home— the police dropped the investigation for insufficient evidence— and she suggested the attack could have been retaliation for her undercover investigations of drug dealers in Washington, according to the ADL.

The ADL also noted that some of Forde’s ardent supporters have ties to white-supremacist groups, including Laine Lawless, who recently created the website www.justiceforshawnaforde.com. Lawless has been linked to white-supremacist organizations like the National Socialist Movement and National Vanguard.

Attorney Jesus Romo believes Forde’s prosecution can’t be separated from her role in MAD and her stance on illegal immigration.

“They are not tying this to what she dedicated herself to: the hunt of Mexicans, and this was yet another chapter within that hunt that ended in death,” he says.


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City Urges Residents To Remove Snow


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City schools, the main library and other buildings will close on Monday to allow city crew to clear the melting snow and ice off rooftops.

The move is a part of the city’s effort to prevent roof collapse of city-owned buildings. In a statement to the press on Sunday, Mayor Pedro Segarra urged residents to clear roofs.

“Public safety is imperative.  More than 110 city-owned buildings are being inspected and re-inspected.  We have and will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis,” Segarra said.

While the city clears the library’s roof, the parking lots behind the library will be closde and all parking will be redirected to the Sheldon Street lot.

There might also be street closings on certain streets near the area.

Emergency shelters Pope Park Community Center and Parker Memorial Center will also be closed tomorrow until all the snow is removed from the roof.  The McKinney Shelter remains open.



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“Farewell Friday”— Mubarak’s Last Stand


By Shirin Sadeghi

Yet another British-American-backed dictator is set to fall from grace. The Shah of Iran, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein —they all refused to concede defeat. And they all fell down.

Hosni Mubarak will, too, if he doesn’t review his history books. There are, after all, only two types of U.K.-U.S.-backed dictators: those who accept the endgame and live free to tell the tale, and those who don’t.

These men are dominoes—there were many before them and there will be many after them to keep the system going. With all signs pointing to the end, more than one of them has refused to bow down— just once. Instead these men remained in their deluded state of mind, fighting to stay in power —never once remembering who had kept them there for so long.

And each time, the fall was hideously embarrassing.

Hussein was ferreted out in an early-morning raid from the hole in the ground he was hiding in. The Shah was expelled into exile, passed from country to country, and when he died, buried abroad instead of at home. Noriega posed for a mugshot (his face scarred and dejected) as he stepped into a prison where he will likely spend his last days.

Though his own father was ousted by British and American forces, the Shah of Iran didn’t seem to understand how serious his predicament was when, in early January 1978, several thousand people marched against him in the streets of Iran. He still didn’t seem to understand by the following January, when he finally fled. It was only after he was bounced from country to country that he realized how much had been at stake. His story ended in Cairo, where his remains rest alone in an alien land.

Panama’s military dictator Noriega never dreamed that the British and Americans would turn on him. They told him to leave—his time was up. He didn’t hear them. They waged war, and now the only thing most people know about him is his infamous mugshot. He will die in prison, if he has lived at all these last three decades.

And then there was Hussein. They pulled him out of a hole he was hiding in. The crow-black dye on his hair was faded to a shadow of its former glamour. His famous mustache was indistinguishable from his barbed nest of beard. They hanged him in a basement and released the “stolen” cellphone video to prove it. He once waged war on his neighbor for them and this was how they repaid him.

On the brink of total loss, there is only one thing that could possibly save these ultimate dictators from themselves: the people. But nary a bone is tossed to the masses. These madmen could save their lives —or at least their legacies—if they would turn on their bosses instead of their people. Rather than siccing the security forces on the “insolent” public, they could reveal the dirty secrets of how they appeased their foreign bosses all those years. Make the backers look bad.

But they never once have.

Should he somehow manage to realize that he’s nothing special, Mubarak has many examples in history to turn to. Will he pull a Pinochet and quietly transfer power, thereby escaping the “ultimate slap?” Will he make like a Batista and flee? Or will he take a cue from Musharraf and negotiate a power-sharing step down that allows him future options at leadership?

If you leave when the United States and British governments tell you to, as these three men did, then you will avoid a crude end. And, you’ll likely live your last years in opulence—perhaps in a nicely developed country (nothing like the one you left behind in tatters)—thanks to the wealth you accumulated in power.

But Mubarak still hasn’t left. And, he’s made all the same mistakes of his predecessors. He didn’t have the sense not to turn on the people. And he was too deluded to flee. If he doesn’t make provisions to leave office immediately, his lot may be that ugliest of endings. Either way, the thousands of people in Tahrir Square are already bidding him farewell.

A version of this article originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.com.

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