May 1, 2008 — Vol. 43, No. 38
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Pope appeals for peace in Africa

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called on faithful not to forget the wars ravaging some African countries, and appealed to politicians to end fighting in Somalia and Burundi and put a stop to the “endless tragedy” in Darfur.

The pope expressed “suffering and strong preoccupation” over news of violence in Africa. Speaking to a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, he asked faithful “not to forget these tragic events.”

Benedict deplored the “dramatic humanitarian situation” inSomalia, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, where insurgents have clashed with government forces backed by Ethiopian troops.

Benedict then addressed the plight of Sudan’s Darfur region, where a festering conflict “remains an endless tragedy for hundreds of thousands of defenseless and abandoned people.”

The Sudanese government has been accused of unleashing a militia of Arab nomads to commit atrocities against Darfur’s ethnic African communities in the fight against rebel groups. The United Nations estimates more than 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million displaced in the conflict.

The pope also appealed for dialogue and reconciliation in Burundi “in the face of the risk of a new civil war.” At least 17 people were killed last month when the capital Bujumbura was shelled and government forces clashed with rebels.

Benedict called on local politicians and the international community to “spare no effort to end the violence and to honor agreements, in order to build solid foundations for peace and development.”

Teen pleads guilty in nooses display after ‘Jena Six’ rally

ALEXANDRIA, La. — A teenager pleaded guilty last Friday to using nooses to threaten marchers after the “Jena Six” rally last year, federal prosecutors said.

Jeremiah Munsen, 19, could get up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, authorities said. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 15.

Prosecutors dropped a felony conspiracy charge that carried up to 10 years in prison. Interference with the federally protected right to travel, the charge to which Munsen pleaded guilty, is a misdemeanor.

“The defendant today took responsibility for committing a federal hate crime by using a powerful symbol of hate to intimidate a group of interstate travelers because of their race,” U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said in a statement.

On Sept. 20, Munsen and a juvenile hung nooses off the back of a pickup truck and drove around downtown Alexandria near a crowd waiting for buses that would take them back to Tennessee after one of the nation’s largest civil rights demonstrations.

Some 20,000 people demonstrated in Jena against what critics called the overly harsh prosecution of six black teenagers in the beating of a white classmate. Many of the protesters stayed in the towns and cities surrounding the tiny town, including Alexandria.

Munsen “admitted today that he displayed two large nooses from the back of his pickup truck with the intent to frighten and intimidate the demonstrators,” a news release from Washington’s office said.

D.C. solicits plans to help historic Lincoln Theatre

WASHINGTON — Mayor Adrian Fenty says the city is seeking to develop land near the historic Lincoln Theatre, which would receive financial assistance from the project.

Developers have been invited to submit proposals for two adjacent D.C.-owned parcels behind the theater that are large enough for about 90,000 square feet of development.

The site is suitable for a boutique hotel, an apartment building or offices.

The Lincoln Theatre opened in 1922 and became a showcase for black performers on U Street, including Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

The theater closed in 1984 but reopened a decade later. It has struggled financially, however, even as D.C. has provided annual funding, including $1.5 million for capital improvements.

Duquesne law students to handle NAACP civil rights claims

PITTSBURGH — People who make civil rights claims to the Pittsburgh area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have a new ally.

Students at a new Duquesne University law clinic will work with clients to resolve cases. The students will also improve a database of complaints and streamline the intake process for new complaints.

The NAACP has always relied on free legal help, but local president M. Gayle Moss says the new arrangement with Duquesne is a “milestone for us.”

The students have handled about 30 cases since the pilot project began in February.

The students in the clinic will also work on prisoner rights and freedom of speech cases not related to the NAACP.

Five W. Washington crack cocaine convicts released

SEATTLE — Five crack cocaine convicts from Western Washington have been released from prison since the federal government eased penalties for drug crimes overwhelmingly committed by blacks.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle says sentences for two dozen more inmates are being reviewed and could be reduced.

New guidelines from the U.S. Sentencing Commission that took effect in March affect about 20,000 people nationally.

They are aimed at reducing the disparity in crack-related crimes versus those involving powdered cocaine. Four of every five crack defendants are black. Most powder cocaine convictions involve whites.

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