Civil Rights Murder Indictment, Sharpton and Romney Spar, Cisco Discrimination

Farai Chideya scans the day's headlines for news affecting black life and culture. Thursday's roundup includes the indictment of a former Alabama state trooper for a Civil Rights-era murder, Rev. Al Sharpton and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spar over Mormonism, and networking-technology maker Cisco Systems is accused of employment discrimination.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Coming up on the show, we have got the 10 best cities for African-Americans. Are you in suspense? You might be sitting in one of them right now. But first, we've got a few headlines. Let's start in Perry County, Alabama. According to the Birmingham News, a grand jury has indicted a 73-year-old state trooper in the shooting death of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson.

The indictment comes a full 42 years after the crime. In February of 1965, demonstrators gathered for a nighttime civil rights rally in Marion, Alabama. The streetlights mysteriously went out. They were attacked by locals and law enforcement. Jackson was shot and died of his wounds eight days later. And former state trooper James Fowler surrendered to authorities this morning.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are going at it. At a recent debate with author Christopher Hitchens, Sharpton criticized Romney's Mormon state for its history of racial discrimination. Romney is a former Massachusetts governor. He fired back, accusing Sharpton of religious bigotry. And neither side so far has apologized.

Cisco Systems is a titan of Silicon Valley. It's on the defensive as well. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Cisco is being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. The Mercury News quoted a letter from the EEOC which says that Cisco demonstrated an ongoing pattern and practice of not hiring qualified minority candidates based on their race, color and national origin.

Cisco responded to the Mercury News, pointing out that more than 40 percent of its workforce self-identifies as minority. But according to Cisco's own data, less than three percent of its workers are African-American. Four of the five plaintiffs are black.

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