Obama signs law for Indian tribes, black farmers
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has signed landmark legislation to pay American Indian landowners and black farmers $4.6 billion to deal with claims of government mistreatment over many decades.
At a signing ceremony at the White House the president declared, “It’s finally time to make things right.”
Obama promised during his campaign to work toward resolving disputes over the government’s past discrimination against minorities. The measure he signed last week settles a pair of long-standing class-action lawsuits.
Some Republicans have likened the black farmers program to “modern-day reparations” for African Americans and argue that the claims process is rife with fraud. Administration officials say the bill includes safeguards to prevent fraud.
Federal judge upholds Calif affirmative action ban
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit challenging California’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in public university admissions.
U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti ruled last week against the challenge to Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race and ethnicity in public education, employment and contracting.
The lawsuit was filed by the several pro-affirmative action groups that argued the law violated the civil rights of black, Latino and Native American students who are underrepresented at the state’s most prestigious campuses.
Last week’s ruling follows a similar decision in August by the California Supreme Court in August, which also upheld the 14-year-old law.
Judge dismisses part of challenge to Arizona law
PHOENIX - A federal judge has dismissed parts of the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to Arizona’s new immigration law.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling on Friday struck down the federal government’s challenge to the portion of the law that prohibits the transport of illegal immigrants.
But Bolton’s ruling didn't have any effect on the portions of the law that she previously prevented from taking effect, including a requirement that immigrants get or carry immigration registration papers.
In that ruling in July, Bolton let other portions take effect, including a ban on obstructing traffic while seeking or offering day-labor services on public streets.
Bolton on Friday denied Gov. Jan Brewer’s request to dismiss challenges to the law’s most controversial sections.
UGA to mark 50th anniversary of desegregation
ATHENS, Ga. - One of the first blacks to register at the University of Georgia after the school was desegregated is returning to the college to mark the 50th anniversary of the event.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a 1963 graduate of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.
Hunter-Gault is an award-winning journalist who has worked for The New York Times, National Public Radio and CNN. She returns to the campus on Jan. 9, the anniversary of the day she and Hamilton Holmes became the first two African Americans to register for classes at UGA.
On Jan. 10, Hunter-Gault will deliver a 50th anniversary lecture. On Jan. 11, she will join in a campus-wide discussion about her 1992 memoir, “In My Place.”
Oral histories of African Americans now online
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The public can now listen to stories of segregation, community life and other issues important to Springfield’s African American community simply by logging onto a computer.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has put the oral histories online through a partnership with the Springfield African American History Foundation.
State historian Tom Schwartz says the Lincoln Library is trying to tell the larger story of Illinois, not just the life of the 16th president. He says the oral histories help listeners understand the lives of African Americans and the contributions they have made to Illinois.
There currently are 15 interviews online, and more will be added as they are transcribed. They touch on topics from family life to discrimination to the 1908 Springfield Race Riots.
Minority firms rail against high-speed contracts
LOS ANGELES - A group of minority business owners demanded last week that the federal government withhold more than $3 billion in funding for California’s bullet train project while they investigate claims of unfair contracting practices by high-speed rail officials.
Associated Professionals and Contractors filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging that small firms, many of which are owned by minorities, were largely excluded in the bidding process for design and engineering contracts worth millions of dollars.
The complaint alleged that of 134 firms that benefited from lucrative contracts awarded by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, only about a dozen are minority-owned. It claims that the authority’s “restrictive procurement system and a laissez-faire attitude” has funneled nearly all contracting dollars to large firms instead of small firms.
The group claims such practices violate civil rights law.
Fred Jordan, president of an engineering and construction management firm who also heads the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, said the authority has ignored the pleas of minority business owners.
“It just doesn’t seem to be their priority or concern that all qualified businesses in this state have an opportunity to participate,” he said.
The authority said it has complied with the law.