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Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

Darnell Diggs and his twin sister are the youngest of 15 children who grew up in the small Alabama town of Brundidge to parents who did not finish high school. Their parents did value education. "Our parents inspired us to work hard at school, and if you didn't, you got disciplined. That was encouragement enough," Diggs recalls.

Thirty-four-year-old Darnell is now Dr. Diggs, a physicist working at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Most of his siblings have at least undergraduate degrees in areas as diverse as chemistry, math, physics, business, and education.

Diggs was a 2004 Black Engineer of the Year Award winner in the "Promising Scientist in Government" category. He was also named one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science in 2004 by Science Spectrum magazine.

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During his high school days Diggs was first-chair trumpet player in the school band and was in the ROTC. He preferred biology to the physical sciences and planned to become a physician. Yet when he went off to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, a historically black school near Huntsville in Normal, Alabama, he took a cousin's advice and began to study business, hoping to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) on the side.

That all changed during the final semester of his sophomore year, when he took a required physical sciences class for nonscience majors. The instructor of that class told Diggs he was in the wrong field and that he ought to be majoring in physics. He even offered to help Diggs obtain a scholarship if he tried studying physics. Having paid for his schooling on grants and loans up to that point, the offer of a scholarship was enticing. Diggs enjoyed the physical science course, so he decided to take the instructor up on his offer.

But Diggs found inspiration in a book entitled Gifted Hands by Ben Carson, an African-American who grew up in inner-city Detroit and at age 33 became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Diggs identified with Carson, who had to struggle to overcome many of the same hurdles Diggs did, and drew motivation from Carson's story.

With Carson's book in mind, Diggs dug in for the comprehensive final and came through with a grade high enough to pass the course. That academic near-death experience gave him the resolve to struggle on, although it was not an easy path.

[...]

As graduation approached, Diggs thought about what he was going to do for the rest of his life. During that period of introspection, he attended a seminar at the National Conference of Black Physics Students that discussed the low numbers of black graduate students in physics. The attendees were encouraged to go to graduate school if they were able, and Diggs decided to give it a shot. He was admitted to the master's program in physics, also at Alabama A&M, on the condition that he do well academically. The focus of his master's studies was fiber optics. He enjoyed graduate school and his grades continued to improve. By the time he received his master's degree in physics, his grade point average was 3.5, a considerable increase from the 2.7 at the beginning of his graduate career.......Read More



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                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
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Another reason we need filibuster reform. The White House and Senate need to be doing more to nominate judges of color to sit in states like Georgia, Alabama and Florida, where minorities are severely underrepresented? The Atlantic: Why Aren't There More Black Federal Judges in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia?
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Most of the conversation about President Barack Obama's judicial nominations these days focuses on the unprecedented Republican push to block even those candidates with meticulous professional and personal qualifications. Although there are still regrettable incidents of "false equivalence" in the reporting of now-routine GOP filibusters of these nominees, there seems to be a growing consensus that the tactic in the Senate is as nihilistic as was the House's government shutdown: You can't have a rule of law without enough judges.

Another theme that has attracted some attention about judicial nominations, a counter-theme you could call it, posits that the White House initially did a poor job of quickly and efficiently nominating judicial candidates. There is no doubt that this was true—but that it was more true during the president's first term than it is today. The pace of these nominations has picked up—at last surpassing the pace of George W. Bush—and so, too have the number of candidates who are persons of color. Obama now is nominating women, and minorities, at a pace almost exactly double that of his immediate predecessor. It's quite laudable.

But this column isn't about either one of those things. It's about the dismal record this president has in successfully nominating black men and women to the federal courts in three states in the Deep South—Florida, Georgia and Alabama—which have significant minority populations that are grossly underrepresented on the federal benches there. Coming from a president who has nominated more women and candidates of color than any of his predecessors, this is both surprising and disappointing.

It is more so because President Obama has had success in nominating black candidates to the federal bench in Mississippi, as "Deep South" as America gets. Just last week, the Senate confirmed Debra Brown to a federal trial seat in the Northern District of Mississippi. She is the first black female judge in the state's history and her nomination was supported by both of Mississippi's Republican senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker. In 2011, another black Mississippian, James E. Graves Jr., was nominated by President Obama and confirmed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals building in Atlanta, Georgia. Its territory comprises the highest percentage of blacks of any federal judicial circuit in the country. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

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Fisher v. the University of Texas could be headed back to the Supreme Court after Wednesday’s 5th Circuit hearing. The Root: Landmark Affirmative Action Case in Court Again
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The buildup was big: First the Supreme Court eviscerated a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Then it declared that a federal ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. But when the justices ruled back in June on a case challenging an affirmative action program at the University of Texas at Austin, they sent the case, Fisher v. The University of Texas, back to a lower court.

And on Wednesday the next chapter in the now five-year-old Fisher case began, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit hearing a new round of oral arguments.

There, lawyers with one of the nation’s largest civil rights organizations, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, squared off with litigators hired by the Project on Fair Representation—a one-man conservative, nonprofit organization with an increasingly influential legal footprint, which includes a role as the driving force behind the Supreme Court’s June Voting Rights Act decision.

At issue is this question: Can a school like the University of Texas accomplish what the Supreme Court has, in the past, described as the “worthwhile” and legal goal of creating campus diversity without considering race in its admissions process?

It may sound wonky, or even boring. But affirmative action advocates and opponents alike agree that the idea really at stake here is whether the trinity of American secular dogma—hard work, equality and opportunity—is real.

Attorney Bert Rein with plaintiff Abigail Noel Fisher after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in her case on Oct. 10, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
                                                             MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES



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A homeowner will be charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of unarmed Renisha McBride who was killed, when she went to a man's porch seeking help after a car crash on a suburban Detroit porch on Nov. 2nd. NBC: Homeowner in Renisha McBride's killing to face murder charges.
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Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced three charges against the homeowner — 54-year-old Theodore Paul Wafer — on Friday, the most serious of which was murder in the second degree.

Wafer was not yet in custody and will be asked by prosecutors to turn himself in. He is expected to be arraigned at 2 p.m.

"These are the appropriate charges and he did not act in lawful self-defense," Worthy said.

Few details about what happened the early morning of McBride's death were released before Friday's news conference. The Wayne County medical examiner's office ruled her death was a homicide, finding she received a fatal shotgun blast to the face, fired from a distance.

Police say McBride crashed a car in nearby Detroit and knocked on the homeowner's door afterwards, looking for assistance. McBride was "bloodied, disoriented and appeared to be confused" after the crash, according to witnesses, Worthy said. The homeowner told police he thought McBride was breaking in; he also said his shotgun went off by accident.




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The Brutal End of Public Education? ColorLines: Dispatch From Philadelphia.
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Othella Stanback could very well be a Philadelphia public school success story in the making. At 19 years old and in her senior year at Ben Franklin High in North Philly, she’s dropped out of school twice and considered leaving more times than that. But she’s always come back. And she has dreams for herself.

“I want to be an FBI agent,” Stanback says, sitting in the late afternoon on the steps of a local welfare office, where she’s come to file paperwork. She has two young children—4-year-old Amor and 2-year-old Amira—and while it’s been tough juggling school and parenting, her ambitions have remained intact. “Or teach philosophy,” she says, ticking off her potential careers. “Except I took one of those quiz things for college recently and it told me the thing I’d be good at is organizing.” Of course, before starting any of those careers, she needs to get into to college—and that’s where the odds are stacked against her.

Stanback’s got her sights set on Millersville University, a state college in Pennsylvania an hour and a half west of the city. College applications are typically due at the end of November, but she doesn’t have the strong file she ought to. From ninth through eleventh grades, Stanback attended University City High, where she took biology, chemistry and physical science from a favorite science teacher. That’s who Stanback would have asked for a letter of recommendation for college. But earlier this year, Universtiy was shut down in a massive sweep of school closures in Philadelphia. In the ensuing chaos, Stanback lost touch with her science teacher.

“I had connections with teachers, it was relationships I built,” Stanback says, looking back at the educational home she lost. “So now when I come to school I don’t really know anyone. I have nobody I can connect to and no teacher I can really trust to talk about certain things, because that takes time.”

Philadelphia’s public education system, with roughly 140,000 students, is struggling for survival. In 2010, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was elected on a platform that included a range of controversial, if increasingly widespread education reform ideas. He called for test-driven teacher accountability, vouchers, decreased regulations for charter schools and a larger role for private, for-profit entities. So when Corbett faced a state fiscal crisis—one that has been compounded by the loss of federal stimulus money, which was propping up the state’s education budget—he responded with a mixture of austerity measures and hardline reforms for public schools. Last year, the governor slashed $1.1 billion from the state’s K-12 budget, cuts that particularly devastated Philadelphia’s state-controlled schools. On the advice of a private consulting group, school officials announced that the district would need to close a stunning five dozen schools, and noted that the district ought to brace itself for dissolution. This year, in an effort to forestall that devastation, the district asked teachers to take pay cuts of between 5 and 13 percent of their salaries. That wasn’t enough. In the spring, the district closed 23 schools, including Stanback’s. This fall, students went back to schools with skeletal staff after the district laid off 3,859 people, one of every five district employees.

Othella Stanback, 19, is trying to finish her last year of high school and get into college, but the chaos of Philadelphia’s collapsing school system is making the already challenging process much harder. Photos by Julianne Hing

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Raphael Saadiq marks his debut as a film scorer with the upcoming holiday musical “Black Nativity”. Eurweb: Raphael Saadiq on Bringing ‘True 70s Gospel’ to ‘Black Nativity’.
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Raphael Saadiq has expanded his creative domain to include Hollywood with the upcoming holiday musical “Black Nativity,” which marks his debut as a film scorer.

The movie – based on the 1961 Broadway musical by Langston Hughes – follows a street-wise teen from Baltimore who is sent to New York City by his struggling single mother to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged grandparents – played by Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.

The two veteran actors also contribute to the Saadiq-produced soundtrack, lending their pipes to the songs “Be Grateful,” “He Loves Me Still,” “Can’t Stop Praising His Name,” “As” and “Jesus On The Mainline.”

“We had a lot that did not make it,” Saadiq said of tracks left on the cutting room floor. “Forest does a lot of songs that will be on the DVD and on the soundtrack.”

Recording artist Raphael Saadiq attends the GQ Men Of The Year Party at The Ebell Club of Los Angeles on November 12, 2013 in Los Angeles

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A battle is brewing between the auto industry and the government as regulators move to prevent car dealers from charging women and minorities higher prices. Washington Post: Justice Department teams with CFPB in probe of possible discriminatory auto financing.
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Dealers have the discretion to mark up the interest rate on car loans they arrange through lenders, a practice that can boost the profit on a sale of a car by hundreds of dollars. Advocacy groups have long warned of disparities in the number of black and Latino borrowers hit with these higher fees and questioned whether the practice breeds fair-lending violations.

On Thursday, a senior official at the Justice Department said federal prosecutors are teaming up with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate possible discrimination in auto financing.

“We have a number of ongoing joint investigations in the indirect auto-lending space,” Steven Rosenbaum, chief of the housing and civil enforcement section at Justice, said at a forum hosted by the CFPB on Thursday.

In a recent regulatory filing, Ally Financial disclosed that the CFPB had accused the company of failing to prevent the dealers it does business with from violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The auto lender warned investors that the case could result in fines or a settlement. People familiar with the probes who were not authorized to speak publicly say other lenders have received similar warnings.

A 2011 study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that the average dealer markup on a car loan was about 2.5 percentage points, or $714 in additional interest payments on a average 60-month loan. Researchers at the National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group, contend that the rate is closer to 1 percentage point for new cars and 0.7 for used vehicles.


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Originally posted to Black Kos community on Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 01:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and Support the Dream Defenders.

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