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Islamic State Group Accepts Boko Haram Pledge of Allegiance

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This file image made available from Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2012, taken from video posted by Boko Haram sympathizers shows Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the radical Islamist sect. Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned that an attack was imminent, witnesses said on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (AP Photo/File)

This file image made available from Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2012, taken from video posted by Boko Haram sympathizers shows Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the radical Islamist sect. Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned that an attack was imminent, witnesses said on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (AP Photo/File)

ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants have accepted a pledge of allegiance by the Nigerian-grown Boko Haram extremist group, according to a spokesman for the Islamic State movement.

The development Thursday came as both groups — among the most ruthless in the world — are under increasing military pressure and have sustained setbacks on the battlefield.

Islamic State seized much of northern and western Iraq last summer, gaining control of about a third of both Iraq and Syria. But it is now struggling against Iraqi forces seeking to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, while coming under fire from U.S.-led coalition air strikes in other parts of the country and in Syria.

Boko Haram, meanwhile, has been weakened by a multinational force that has dislodged it from a score of northeastern Nigerian towns. But its new Twitter account, increasingly slick and more frequent video messages, and a new media arm all were considered signs that the group is now being helped by IS propagandists.

Then on Saturday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau posted an audio recording online that pledged allegiance to IS.

“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah,” said Boko Haram’s message.

On Thursday, the Islamic State group’s media arm Al-Furqan, in an audio recording by spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said that Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance has been accepted, claiming the caliphate has now expanded to West Africa and that “no one can stand in its path.”

Al-Adnani had urged foreign fighters from around the world to migrate and join Boko Haram. He also sent a message to Christians and other non-Muslims in IS lands to convert to Islam or pay a special tax — something the extremists have already put into practice in IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria.

“If you insist on being arrogant and stubborn … soon you will bite your fingers off in regret,” he added.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, noted the Islamic State group’s quick acceptance of Boko Haram’s allegiance and said that the bond highlights a new risk.

“Militants finding it increasingly harder to get to Syria and Iraq may choose instead to go to northeastern Nigeria and internationalize that conflict,” Pham wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

In the past — as was the case with IS affiliates in Egypt, Yemen and Libya — it took weeks for the Islamic State to respond to a pledge of allegiance.

“The prompt — one might even say ‘fast-tracked’ — acceptance by the so-called Islamic State of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance” underscores that both needed the propaganda boost from the affiliation, Pham added.

The Boko Haram’s pledge comes as the militants reportedly were massing in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza, considered their headquarters, for a showdown with the Chadian-led multinational force.

Boko Haram killed an estimated 10,000 people last year, and it is blamed for last April’s abduction of more than 275 schoolgirls. Thousands of Nigerians have fled to neighboring Chad.

The group is waging a nearly 6-year insurgency to impose Islamic law, or Shariah, in Nigeria. It began launching attacks across the border into Cameroon last year, and this year its fighters struck in Niger and Chad in retaliation to their agreement to form a multinational force to fight the militants.

Boko Haram followed the lead of IS in August by declaring an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria that grew to cover an area the size of Belgium. After their blitz last year, Islamic State extremists declared a caliphate in the territory they control in Iraq and Syria and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

The Nigerian group has also followed IS in publishing videos of beheadings. The latest one, published March 2, borrowed certain elements from IS productions, such as the sound of a beating heart and heavy breathing immediately before the execution, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

In video messages last year, Boko Haram’s leader sent greetings and praise to both IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and leaders of al-Qaida. The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is in itself an al-Qaida breakaway that was rejected by the global terror network after the two had a brutal falling out more than a year ago.

Boko Haram, however, has never been an affiliate of al-Qaida, some analysts surmise because al-Qaida considers the Nigerians’ indiscriminate slaughter of Muslim civilians as un-Islamic.

Recent offensives have marked a sharp escalation by African nations against Boko Haram. An African Union summit agreed on sending a force of 8,750 troops to fight Boko Haram.

Military operations in Niger’s east have killed at least 500 Boko Haram fighters since Feb. 8, Nigerien officials have said.

Members of the U.N. Security Council proposed Thursday that the international community supply money, equipment, troops and intelligence to a five-nation African force fighting Boko Haram.

Also Thursday, Nigeria acknowledged it is getting help from regional security operatives following reports that South African and other foreign contractors are assisting in the fight against Boko Haram. Government spokesman Mike Omeri said Nigeria has extensive experience in coordinating with other African militaries and leading peacekeeping missions across the continent.

Omeri noted the involvement of soldiers from regional militaries in the fight against Boko Haram, and said other “individuals” from the region “are on the ground in a capacity limited to training or technical support.”

___

Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Nairobi, Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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African American News & Issues

Gwen Berry: “Activist Athlete” Tokyo Olympics 2021

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

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Gwen Berry, Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Gwen Berry is headed to Tokyo representing the United States at the 2021 Olympics in the hammer throw, a track and field event.

Berry, a two-time Olympian, was also in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  She was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1989 and is 32 years old.

On June 26, 2021, while qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in Eugene Oregon, Berry was surprised to hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the U.S. National Anthem being played.

On the podium she turned away from the flag and draped her “Activist Athlete” tee-shirt over her head.

Berry said: “I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose. . .. I was pissed to be honest.”

Berry said she was told that the athletes would be on the podium before or after the playing of the national anthem.

“That’s what they’ve done the whole trials” Berry said.

Texas Republican politicians Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Dan Crenshaw called for Berry to be removed from the USA Olympic team as she was unpatriotic.

Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic decathlon winner in 1976 and candidate for California governor on the September 14th Newsom recall election in a statement said Berry’s actions were “disgusting” and to “stay out of politics” and not use the Olympic stage “for your own political gain.”

Berry responded: “I say Caitlyn Jenner does not know how it feels to be a Black person in American who’s representing a country [that] has literally done nothing for Black people in America.  She needs to do her research and understand the history in America before she says anything like that.

Berry was formally reprimanded and put on 12-month probation by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2019 for raising a fist after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

In June of 2020, the USOC supported peaceful protests and condemned “the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans.”

Berry tweeted “I want an apology letter. . . mailed . . . just like you and the IOC MAILED ME WHEN YOU PUT ME ON PROBATION. . . stop playing with me.”

Berry added to The Associated Press: “The anthem doesn’t speak for me.  It never has. . ..  I am here to represent those . . . who dies due to systemic racism.  That’s the important part.  That’s why I’m going.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “[p]art of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we are, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals.  And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

The 2020 Summer Olympics delayed because of the pandemic will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

The New York Times, CNN, and Wikipedia were sources for this story.

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City Government

City Officials Encourage Residents to Get Vaccinated to Combat COVID-19 Variants

San Francisco, along with all Bay Area counties, is seeing trend of rising COVID-19 cases due to delta variant

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Nurse administers a vaccine photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute via Unsplash

San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, and the Department of Public Health (DPH) encouraged residents to get vaccinated as the delta variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain in the United States and California.

This variant spreads more easily than the original virus and poses new risks to communities in San Francisco. Vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness and death.

Over the last three weeks, all Bay Area counties have seen at least a doubling of new COVID-19 cases, causing concern that unvaccinated people are more at risk than ever.

“Vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible, is our best defense against COVID-19, the delta variant, and the harm it can do to our communities,” said Breed. “In particular, the Black community has the lowest vaccination rate compared to the citywide rate, which means more people who are already struggling with significant disparities in this City might get sick.

“While we beat back three surges in San Francisco, the delta variant brings new challenges that will continue to increase the disparities we see in communities of color. We need everyone to do their part to get vaccinated and encourage their friends and family to do the same,” Breed said.

San Francisco’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in low case rates and hospitalizations, and relatively high vaccination rates, with 83% of the eligible population with at least one dose and 76% of the eligible population fully vaccinated as of July 13.

Over the week ending July 7, for which there is full data, average daily new cases have increased four-fold to 42 new cases/day from a low of 9.9 cases/day on June 19.  Forward-looking data through July 12 indicates that new cases will increase to at least 73 cases/day, a seven-fold increase since June 19.

“As we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections are not distributed evenly throughout all neighborhoods and communities in San Francisco,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of Public Health. “Our focus and work to achieve vaccine equity and access continues in partnership with the communities that are most impacted. Get vaccinated – hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are preventable through vaccines.”

Those who are not yet vaccinated should continue to follow the health precautions that work to help curtail the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent new variants from emerging: wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you have to go outside; stay at least six feet away from others; when able choose outdoor settings versus indoor; and wash your hands frequently after touching your face or touching shared objects. People who develop or show any symptoms should get tested, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“Bayview Hunters Point is still one of the hardest hit areas with COVID-19 infections, particularly in the African American community. With the new delta variant that is more transmissible, it is critical that our community gets vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Walton, president of the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco continues to make vaccines accessible to all residents through sites located in neighborhoods and through mobile vaccine efforts.  In the Bayview, the Southeast Health Center at 2401 Keith St. is offering vaccines – no appointment needed – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Vaccines are also available at 1800 Oakdale, with drop-ins available on Fridays and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, visit sf.gov/getvaccinated.

The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communications provided this story.

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Barbara Lee

Reps. Lee and Watson Coleman Call on International Swimming Federation to Change Policy on Swim Caps for Natural Hair

Joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and cosponsors of H.R. 2116, the CROWN Act, the signers request FINA evaluate how barriers to participation, like the unavailability of swim caps, impact the representation of Black swimmers.

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A girl swimmer at starting point photo courtesy of Arisa Chattasa via Unsplash

On July 15, congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) shared a letter sent to the president of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) in response to the rejection of the use of swim caps designed for natural Black hair in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

 

Joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and cosponsors of H.R. 2116, the CROWN Act, the signers request FINA evaluate how barriers to participation, like the unavailability of swim caps, impact the representation of Black swimmers.

 

“We write to you to express our concern with your rationale for rejecting the use of swim caps designed for natural Black hair in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics,” the members wrote. “It creates an unnecessary, exclusionary barrier to competitive swimming for under-represented minorities, particularly people of African descent with Afro-textured or natural hairstyle. It is unfair and unequal.”

 

“Black women face natural hair discrimination each and every day in the workplace, and now we’re seeing it on the world athletic stage,” said Lee. “There is no justification whatsoever to ban swim caps, which serve as an essential accessory for people with natural hair texture. This is an incredibly clear example of the ways in which systemic racism impacts every facet of life for black people, especially black women. We are urging that FINA take steps to reform this discriminatory policy and align themselves with the intended spirit of inclusion and diversity the Olympic games represent.”

 

“Women of the African diaspora have notably been the overwhelming recipients of bias and discriminatory policies that have challenged the very definition of what is deemed “natural” and therefore acceptable,” said Watson Coleman. “The decision and justification by the International Swimming Federation to ban the use of swim caps that accommodate the natural hair texture and/or hairstyles of Black women is not only insulting, inconsiderate, and irrational; but consequently, serves as a deterrent in participation for Black swimmers. The natural state of one’s hair should never be a limitation for participation. It is my hope that FINA takes immediate and robust steps to improve their policies to better align with the goals of inclusivity and representation.”   

 

Joining representatives Watson Coleman and Lee are Karen Bass (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Andre Carson (D-IN), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT).

 

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