News Briefs – Jul./Aug. 2011

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Black Farmers 
The Court-ordered process of officially notifying African-American farmers and their heirs about the $1.25 billion “Pigford II” class action settlement in the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation suit is under way. Class
members should visit www.Black-FarmerCase.com, or call 877-810-8110 for complete information, including the detailed notice, key dates and claims-filing information. Class members eligible for the settlement are African-Americans who farmed (or attempted to farm) between Jan. 1, 1981, and Dec. 31, 1996; were prevented from applying for or were denied a USDA farm loan during that period or were given a loan with unfair terms; and who filed or attempted to file a late claim between Oct. 13, 1999, and June 18, 2008, in the original Pigford case that was never considered because they tried to submit it after the late claim deadline. Heirs or kin of people who fit this description but have since passed away may also be class members. Those who wish to object to the settlement must do so by Aug. 12. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will consider whether to grant final approval of the settlement at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 1.

Earnings Discrimination

A report published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that African-Americans make less — in some cases, much less — than their white and Asian counterparts, no matter what their undergraduate major. In the most extreme case (economics majors), whites make 50 percent more than African-Americans. African-Americans are most concentrated in law and public policy majors (14 percent of people in these majors are African-American), and psychology and social work majors (11 percent) and are extremely underrepresented in agriculture and natural resource and engineering majors (2 percent and 5 percent, respectively). The lifetime advantage of a college education ranges from $1,090,000 for engineering majors to $241,000 for education majors, the report shows. 

Hollywood and Race 
Hollywood movies directed by African-Americans are significantly more likely to include African-American characters with speaking roles than movies not directed by African-Americans, according to a report from USC Annenberg. The report says five African-American directors headed up six of the top 100 productions during 2008. Nearly 63 percent of the characters with speaking lines in those six films are Black while less than 11 percent of the characters with speaking lines are Black in the other top 94 films from the same year. In 2007, 13 percent of overall speaking roles in the top 100 movies went to Black characters, but that percentage rose to 50 percent in films with Black directors. Only one of the top 200 movies from 2007 and 2008 was directed by an African-American woman. 

Best IT Companies for Blacks
National Black Data Processing Associates and WorkplaceDiversity.com named Allstate Insurance, American Airlines, BlueCross BlueShield of IL, NM, OK, & TX, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Northrop Grumman, State Farm Insurance, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., WellPoint and Wells Fargo & Co. the winners of the 2011 Best Companies for Blacks in Technology Award and will receive the coveted Epsilon Award. BDPA said the companies promote a significant number of African-Americans into their IT management ranks and have implemented “outstanding” community outreach and minority vendor programs. Epsilon Awards are presented annually to the top companies in the nation that promote a workplace and environment that support the advancement of Blacks in the information technology industry. This year’s awards will be presented at the 2011 National BDPA Technology Conference in Chicago, Aug. 3 – 6.

Globalizing Alcorn State   
People to People Ambassador Programs, specialists in global educational travel experiences, and Alcorn State University, the country’s first historically Black public land-grant academic institution, formed a partnership to engage in a long-term, globally focused dialogue on issues relevant to the education of all students. A delegation of land-grant college researchers and Historically Black Colleges and Universities leaders will travel to Kenya in December to visit with key educational leaders, participate in classroom observation and dialogue with government officials. The partnership fits with the mission of M. Christopher Brown II, Ph.D., Alcorn State’s newly inaugurated 18th president, to steer the university toward global opportunities and the pursuit of academic excellence. 
 
Wellness Grants
Section 10408 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to small businesses to create comprehensive workplace wellness programs based on evidence-based research and best practices. The provision authorizes the appropriation of $200 million for fiscal years 2011, which begins Oct. 1 through 2015. Companies with fewer than 100 employees and no wellness program prior to March 23, 2010, may qualify for such a grant. To be eligible the wellness program must include health awareness initiatives, efforts to maximize employee engagement, initiatives to change unhealthy behavior and lifestyle choices and supportive environment efforts.

Foggy about Cloud Computing 

In the May 2011 Small Business Authority Market Sentiment Survey, conducted by The Small Business Authority under Newtek Business Services Inc., 71 percent of respondents said they had never heard of cloud computing. The survey polled more than 1,800 small-business owners. The Small Business Authority contends cloud computing will be the next important trend in the U.S. economy for businesses large and small, and businessowners will need to understand what it can do for their businesses in the areas of cost control, data security, data protection, accessibility, efficiency and productivity. While only about 25 percent of the survey respondents said they understood cloud computing, 78 percent thought that their data was secure and 71 percent said their data was not backed up offsite.

English Plus

The Town Council in Jackson, N.Y., voted to overturn its English-only law that went into effect last year. The SEIU said the policy reversal should serve as a stern reminder to other communities that have or are considering English-only laws that such policies are unconstitutional and discriminatory. It said: “By denying limited-English proficient Americans access to workplace safety instructions, emergency health services, and information on how to pay taxes, this law undermines the government’s ability to communicate with the people it serves and also strains workers and employers.” Immigrants in New York, including Latino foreign born, have English proficiency and citizenship rates higher than the national average, according to
a 2010 study by the University
of Southern California’s Population
Dynamics Research
Group