February 21, 2008 — Vol. 43, No. 28
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Sharpton says race a factor in steroid scandals

NEW YORK — The Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday that he believes the U.S. government has been pursuing black athletes more aggressively than white athletes in scandals over performance enhancing drugs.

In his weekly address to followers in Harlem, Sharpton compared the treatment of Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run king, to the treatment of Roger Clemens, one of the game’s greatest pitchers.

Bonds was indicted last year on a charge that he perjured himself while testifying before a grand jury investigating criminal steroids distribution by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Clemens has been accused by a former trainer of taking steroids and human growth hormone — a charge he denied during sworn testimony before Congress.

Sharpton said the members of Congress who were there for the hearing “treated Roger Clemens like they were at a fan club meeting.” He questioned why a steroids scandal had landed Bonds in trouble, but no white athlete of a similar standing.

“You’ve got to understand that the fight has always been about the criminalization of black men,” Sharpton said.

NAACP asks feds to look into police fatal shooting of suspect

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The leader of the Bridgeport NAACP chapter wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the fatal shooting of a black suspect by a white police officer.

Sgt. Brian Fitzgerald shot and killed 33-year-old Frederick Devon McAllister during a foot chase through the Success Village housing complex Jan. 31.

Police say McAllister had refused to stop his sport utility vehicle and fled on foot after crashing. McAllister’s family contends the shooting is a case of mistaken identity.

The incident is being investigated by state police and the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Craig Kelly, president of the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wants federal officials to join the probe.

African refugees in 1860 burial site remembered at Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. — A Black History Month event in Key West on Saturday honored victims at an oceanfront burial site believed to be the only African refugee cemetery in the United States.

The 1860 African burial ground, located on the island’s Atlantic Ocean shore beside a Civil War-era fort, was virtually forgotten until historical research and a 2002 ground-penetrating radar analysis revealed the presence of graves.

The commemoration’s highlight was a dance tribute, performed in memory of Africans buried at the site, by a spoken-word artist and professional dancer. Local drummers and residents of African descent also performed.

Experts believe the burial ground contains graves of Africans who died after being freed by the U.S. Navy from three American-owned slave ships captured near the Cuban coast and transferred to Key West for sanctuary.

More than 1,400 African men, women and children arrived on the island, were housed and cared for. Most eventually were returned to Africa, but 295 died in Key West, probably from illnesses resulting from the brutal conditions aboard the slave ships. They were buried in unmarked graves along the island’s southern shore.

A memorial honoring the buried Africans is being constructed at the site where about a dozen graves have been confirmed.

“This site is significant because it shows the compassion of the people of Key West during the 1860s when they heard of the plight of these Africans,” said Norma Jean Sawyer, the event’s organizer.

Nigerian militants ask for U.S. mediation in oil crisis

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerian militants have asked President George W. Bush, who is on a six-day visit to Africa, to help end years of unrest in their country’s impoverished oil-producing south.

Militants’ attacks on the Niger Delta oil infrastructure and kidnapping of foreign oil workers have cut the output of Africa’s biggest oil producer by about 20 percent in the past two years, helping send oil prices to all-time highs.

Militants say they are fighting for more government oil revenues for the poor region, but criminal gangs also flourish in the Niger Delta and the two are closely allied and frequently indistinguishable.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, released a letter late Sunday asking for U.S. help.

“Mr. President, considering your commitment on democracy, peace and stability and considering that MEND is devoted to the war against terrorism, we humbly ask for the mediation of you and of your great country to settle the dispute in the Niger Delta,” the militants wrote in a statement released to journalists.

Bush was in Tanzania on Monday on his six-day visit to five African nations aimed at improving health on an impoverished continent.

One of the group’s leaders, Henry Okah, was extradited to Nigeria last Thursday after months in detention on gunrunning charges in Angola, authorities there said.

The militants say they want the government to release Okah and divert more of the proceeds from oil sales to their poor region.

The government considers the Niger Delta dispute a domestic issue and is unlikely to agree to any third-party mediation. It has promised to quell the unrest, but a major peace conference promised last year never took place.

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