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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Truth in politics: can you really trust anyone????

With the current media fallout revolving around Herman Cain, one may ponder whether aspiring and present government leaders are capable of telling truths.

Is it possible for man (woman) to refrain from telling falsehoods, and when under extreme pressure, will politicians lie even though they know truth always surfaces?

Watch this video and come to your own conclusion.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Traffic accidents and low scores mar GA vs. UK game

Senior Day for the University of Georgia Bulldogs started out under a cloud, with a fatal accident on I85 N delaying many fans headed to the game. It was not a pleasant day to spend a Saturday afternoon, but the living were thankful to God to be able to enjoy some gridiron fun.

Traffic hazards were the consequences of navigating 91,000 people in and out of Athens, Ga., home of the Dawgs. "Two kids were killed, two were life flighted, and two more people were injured," said a representative of Curt's Detail Shop & Towing of Commerce, Ga., a service that cleared the wreckage.

"Fans from Clemson and Gwinnett were involved. They were on their way to the game and were driving too fast," the tow truck driver said. He seemed visibly moved and shocked at the untimely death of children.

Traffic was backed up for miles. It took over one hour to go five miles. Many fans arrived at the stadium halfway through the third quarter. They were greeted by bored fans leaving the stadium who said it was "a field goal sort of game."  The final score was GA 19, UK 10.

"Kentucky played a good game," said one Bulldog fan. "Kentucky kept the lid on and made it tough on us to win," said another.
On the way back to I85 just before the entrance ramp, motorists were delayed again by a traffic light which was changing from green to red every ten seconds and holding on red for 45 seconds. This created another horrific traffic jam. Proper synchronization of traffic lights and/or police managing the traffic would have made the journey to see the Dawgs more bearable. 

-- a UK Wildcat fan

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kroger's Lucia tours Atlanta division stores

Right as I was doing my weekly shopping at Kroger in Marietta off Shallowford Road, in walked Atlanta Division President Bruce A. Lucia and his entourage. Lucia is touring stores and meeting customers and associates this week, making sure stores are ready for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lucia posed for a picture and gave me a $3 coupon! How lucky is that! "Here's a coupon just for taking a picture with me," he said.

Lucia joined Kroger in 1975 as a clerk in Atlanta. Before coming back to Atlanta in 2000 as division president, Lucia served as president of Kroger's Columbus (OH) division which operates 108 Kroger stores in Ohio and West Virginia. Kroger's Atlanta division operates 164 stores in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

Do not use without permission.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger is the nation's largest retail grocery chain. It prides itself on weekly specials, manager's specials, and customer points used for fuel savings.

Do not use without permission.
Rodney Lanham is the manager of the Shallowford Road Kroger. In a town hall meeting last week, it was reported that Kroger will add five fuel pumps soon at the corner of Shallowford and Sandy Plains.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ilea Johnson becomes member of Alpha Chi

Tomi, Ilea and Kurk Johnson pose with Dr. David Veazie, professor and director of SPSU's Center for Advanced Materials Research and Engineering, who was also a member of Alpha Chi when he was an undergraduate.

Yesterday was a joyous day for Ilea Johnson, her family, mentors, and friends. She became a member of Southern Polytechnic State University's (SPSU) Georgia Nu Chapter of Alpha Chi, an honorary organization promoting truth, character, research, and scholarship.

"It's not easy getting an 'A' here," said Dr. Zvi Szafran, SPSU vice president of Academic Affairs. He said SPSU has challenging, rigorous programs noted for low grade inflation. "These students represent our university's top 10%, the top of the top, the best of the best."

Dr. Mark Stevens, Alpha Chi faculty advisor, confers with inductees before ceremony.

Ilea Johnson was born in Huntsville, Ala. and first attended kindergarten at Alabama A&M University at the age of four. She is a product of Cobb County Schools in Marietta, Ga., however, she was home schooled by her mother, a former educational television producer, during Ilea's last 2 1/2 years of high school. Ilea graduated with honors from Seton Home Study School in Front Royal, Va.

"The Seton curriculum helped Ilea advance at her own pace and expand her skills in critical thinking, test taking, and problem solving," Johnson said. "Our family sacrificed to make sure Ilea had the best schooling, and it was God-sent that I was able to hire a tutor, John Michael Blaser, who helped her with Algebra II. She gained a love for higher mathematics."

Dr. Stevens smiles as Ilea lights her candle during ceremony.

Johnson is majoring in Accounting and was a 2011 summer intern with the City of Atlanta, Department of Watershed Management. She is now interning with Amendia, Inc. which manufactures and distributes custom medical devices for patient, surgeon, hospital, and healthcare industries.

Ilea and Shannon Shumate, accounting instructor.

"I think one reason I have been successful in college is because my instructors are very caring, especially my Accounting teacher, Ms. Shannon Shumate," Johnson said. "She always answers my emails when I have questions about assignments."

"I do have a life of my own and a two year old," Shumate said. "But I do care about Ilea and all my students, especially when they are trying to do their best in figuring things out."

Ilea plans to procure scholarships and grants to help finance graduate school and is hoping to become a CPA.

Alpha Chi Honorary Society admits students from all academic disciplines. Membership is limited to the top 10 percent of an institution's juniors, seniors, and graduate students and is by invitation only. Founded in 1922, there are some 300 chapters in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. To learn more about Alpha Chi, go to

Other inductees wait in line during ceremony. Members may compete for Alpha Chi scholarships and fellowships, including 26 awarded on the national level totaling more than $60,000 a year.

Photos by Tomi Johnson and Felipe Alequín.
©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ways to beat holiday madness

Stress can lead to a hospital stay if you're not careful, and no one wants to be stuck in a hospital bed over the holidays. Kaiser Permanente® gives five ways to keep your sanity during the hectic holiday season:

Take a time-out. Even a quick spin around the neighborhood to breathe in the fresh air and admire holiday displays can boost your mood. Try to find at least a few minutes every day for yourself — whether it's to enjoy a hot cup of tea, or listen to our guided imagery podcast.

Learn to say "no." If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's OK to skip a party or two. Or put off your volunteer work until the spring. Pick the events and efforts you truly want to be a part of, and let go of the guilt about sending your regrets to the others.

Sweat out the stress. It's easy to let exercise take a back burner during the holidays, but physical activity can work wonders on your outlook. Learn about the emotional benefits of working out and get ideas for activities that you'll enjoy.

Grab a pal. Sometimes, a good chat with a friend is all you need to get back on track. Or, how about gathering a group for a relaxing at-home spa event?

Stay organized. Fight that frazzled feeling by keeping your calendar up-to-date, organizing your space, and planning ahead.

And remember, if you feel overwhelmed or depressed for more than a couple weeks, it might be something more than a case of holiday stress.

Photo ©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Obama: What has he done for Blacks lately?

In attempt to document that the Obama Administartion has acted in a way that benefits Black voters, the White House released its report "The President's Agenda and the African American Community." (

In short, the 44-page report tends to lay out reasons why Black voters should stand behind the President's reelection campaign.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ana Marie Morales, Renaissance-style painter, beautifies surroundings

Do not use without permission.
At the front of the Renaissance Subdivision near the corner of Sewell Mill Road and Monte Drive stands Ana Marie Morales, an expressionistic artist. It is 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but Morales, sporting a woolen scarf and warm jacket, does not seem to mind the elements.

Looking nothing like Michelangelo on scaffolding under the dome of the Sistine Chapel, Morales and her cans of concrete stains are shielded by a black, makeshift, plastic tent while the sun shines on her masterpieces.

"My company, Art by Ana, can do murals, portraits, interior and exterior painting as well as faux cabinet work, " she said. The only thing she refrains from doing is painting on tile. Her major project today, though, is redoing fine art on cement previously painted on boards bolted to concrete surfaces. She's also redoing paintings ruined by tagger vandals and is replacing her portrait of Mona Lisa with a tranquil scene from Italy which will be overlaid by a graffiti-proof glaze.

Do not use without permission.

Morales found it hard to select her favorite piece on the street, but leaned toward the fountain scene. She refrains from cutting corners when it comes to perfection and believes artists, even those who are starving, are led by passion.

"I'm hopeful that I will not have to do these over again," Morales said. Her project was delayed once when the subdivision owners had her remove a painting of five women which they said had too much of a religious theme. Homes in the subdivision start at $1 million.

A 1988 graduate of SCAD in Savannah, Morales said her parents are from Puerto Rico, and she grew up in New York. Divorced and raising three kids, she said her favorite artists are Picasso, Cezanne, and Frida Kahlo. She said her surrealism style is evident in her work. Her favorite art teacher was from Czechoslovakia.

Timid about posing for photographs herself, Morales does promote her work and said her strengths are draftsmanship and drawing. She is a graduate of Sprayberry High School and has lived 30 years in Cobb County, Ga.

Morales has to pause several times a day from working on her murals to chat with drivers who constantly stop to ask for her card and to examine her portfolio which is near her at all times.

Do not use without permission.

Thomas Levine (l) stopped by to criticize taggers who ruined some of her pieces earlier this year and said he is going to hire her for an airbrushing project. "Her hand is so intricate," Levine said. "Many local residents have been admiring her work and will be commissioning her art."

Morales is her own business woman but has a network of artistic friends to call on to help her on major projects. "My profession is difficult sometimes, but I believe that you must do something you love everyday to get closer to your goal.

Do not use without permission.

"Keep creating," she recommends. "You may have to take another job to make ends meet sometimes, but keep doing that art!"

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What I remember about Joe Paterno

Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks. Joe Paterno's quote from the book "Get Motivated: Daily Psche-Ups" by Karen Farley and Sheila M. Curry

Didn't former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno grace the same stage as Colin Powell, Rudy Guilliani, Laura Bush, Steve Forbes, Bill Cosby, and Zig Ziglar when they appeared in ATL last year?

There was a big two-day event downtown that I attended called "Get Motivated" Business Seminar ---I wish I could find my notes --- but I remember that Paterno was one of the speakers. I remember because of his age, big glasses, and the fact that the person sitting next to me went to Penn State where he said Paterno was a stupendous role model. Funny how history comes back to bite you.

The seminar was a big deal, well attended, and I walked five blocks to attend because traffic was so bad. When I called the seminar's 800 number, a telephone representative told me, "The lineup of speakers changes from city to city, and no one is here after-hours who can confirm that Paterno was with the tour in Atlanta." Paterno's name is not on the list of speakers today, one day after he was fired as Penn State's head coach over a sex scandal.

I was impressed with Paterno's speech but unimpressed with the seminar, for it turned out to be a sales gimmick for stock buying software. I remember that Paterno used a newspaper as part of his skit. I am searching for my notes at this moment because I want to share what Paterno said as an attempt to spur others to excel.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Small town politics: Spotlight on Cobb Cty., Ga., Dist. 3, USA and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell

Inger Eberhart (c), Birrell's assistant, stood listening at the meeting.

Town hall meetings give a snapshot of citizen input, political responses, promises made, dashed hopes, and limited outcomes. Investigating how a county commissioner manages her constituent's concerns provides a glimpse into the power play and public relations involved in small town politics. I attended a town hall meeting at Piedmont Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. on November 3, 2011 and witnessed how politics is played in small town USA.

"Hello, I'm JoAnn," was the personal introduction I received from JoAnn Birrell (R), Commissioner for District 3. This seemingly low key, humble, down home politician has park development as one of her pet projects.

First Term Commissioner Birrell, however, is no novice when it comes to trying to have all her ducks in order. She has a positive demeanor despite her county facing hard economic times and personnel layoffs. When asked what she would do to improve Cobb County, she answered, "I think our county is the best. I feel that we are the best; there again, there's always room for improvement in anything. I would like to see us run more efficient for the taxpayer's money."

Even though Birrell deems Cobb County (2010 population 688,078) the best place to live in the country, on this rainy November night in Georgia, citizens had many gripes and questions. Some items on the list of complaints included mismanagement of road construction on Canton Road, the need for more 3-way stops and continuous sidewalks in neighborhoods, median mowing delays, non-synchronization of traffic lights, over mulching of tree roots on right-of-ways, SPLOST proposals leading to higher taxes, and public library hours being reduced from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Where accountability was concerned, she came packing with all the county's heavy hitters. Those in attendance who were ready to answer questions included the county manager and many department directors as well as concerned citizens from volunteer community organizations.

"When you're a large urban area, you're going to have issues," said County Manager David Hankerson. "To me, it's how you respond to them. We have to do what the community expects...We've got to listen to citizens. We don't know all the answers. Open dialogue, communications, reacting and being responsive - that's what makes ours a good community."

Hankerson (r) talked to district residents before the meeting.

None of Birrell's staff or county department heads seemed to be taking notes, however, which led me to believe that nothing promised would be acted on unless everyone there in a responsible position had perfect memories. When asked to solve a problem, the leaders said they would look into complaints although there was no written guarantee that anything would be done.

Before the Q & A session began, Birrell methodically informed her constituents of the following concerns:

* Redistricting: lines will be redrawn in January by the State's General Assembly. Remedy given: None

* Economic development: Walmart will be opening a 40,000 square foot grocery store near Canton Road, and Chick-fil-A is planning a new store at Shallowford and Sandy Plains. Kroger will also add five fuel pumps. "Keep it in Cobb" business initiative is seeking new vendors. Many purchase orders for projects under $2,000 will be granted through a no bid process. Remedy given: Make sure people know that new job openings and congestion will result, and inform local businesses that an entrepreneurship initiative is in place.

* Beautification projects: The county is looking for individuals, businesses or groups to adopt a mile or corners to help maintain roadways. Remedy given: increase volunteerism.

* Crime: auto and residential burglaries are up, with arrests being made of neighborhood teenagers looking to support drug habits. Copper water pipes and wire in vacant homes are being targeted. Remedies given: remove valuables from your car and lock your doors. Keep an eye out for your neighbors.

Several policemen attended the meeting.

Police Chief John Houser said that he does not foresee any violence erupting in Cobb due to the Occupy protest movement. "We have not had that issue here. We understand people have the right to make their stance and let local governments know their positions on different issues."

Houser said Occupy Atlanta has been protesting in parks surrounded by residential areas, and that the police have the responsibility to protect citizen's free speech while also protecting homeowners. "It comes to a point where a government does have to take a stance and if need be, enforce laws," Houser concluded. He said there are no plans to implement additional curfews in Cobb.

While she was running for the position, The Political Vine, a website focused on political news, satire, rants, and rumors, made the following comments about Birrell. "The third candidate is not a 'regular person.' Though she is a nice person, the fact is that JoAnn Birrell works for Waste Management, Inc. as their 'community relations specialist.'" Waste Management, Inc. is one of 28 garbage collection services in the area.

Although Birrell is not a "good ole boy", she appeared to be surrounded by them, and most seemed to be conservatives. One thing is certain: Birrell did not come off as a high profile, political entertainer. The meeting ended with her folksy message, "Expect the best. We are the best!" Sounded like a high school cheer after halftime. Unfortunately, this is a Republican stronghold. Fortunately, more people are becoming Independent.
©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

AKA's message to Deltas

Although there has been some rivalry over the years between the members of two African American Greek sororities - Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the leader of the AKA's has penned the the following message to the Delta's leader as a response to the recent rapes of Deltas in Texas.

Dear Soror Lorraine,

Delta Sigma Theta members from the Dallas, Texas area have been the target of a series of sexual assaults. In violating four of their members, this “invader” has fomented an atmosphere of terror and fear among members there.The crime has also sounded an alarm nationwide and forced its leadership to issue a call for members to remove any sorority memorabilia from public display.

These acts are reprehensible and Alpha Kappa Alpha is outraged by this violence against women.

Alpha Kappa Alpha extends support and prayers to President Cynthia Butler-McIntyre and to all our sisters of Delta Sigma Theta during this time of heightened concern. Let’s wrap our collective arms around them, embrace them and be a source of uplift to them.

As a sisterhood with a shared mission, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority joins in a show of solidarity with Delta Sigma Theta. We are all women who are bound by a sense of compassion for one another. Their pain is our pain. Their violation is our violation. Their outrage is our outrage We stand strong against these crimes that injure not only members of Delta Sigma Theta, but all women.

Because these types of targeted crimes can sometimes have ripple effects and can spawn copy cat crimes, I urge you to be observant of anyone who appears suspicious. Be mindful of your surroundings and be aware and vigilant of those attempting to invade your space.

Because these crimes have traumatized the sorority and the surrounding community, we urge the authorities to accelerate efforts to apprehend this man and bring him to justice.

Meanwhile, we extend comfort and love to members of Delta Sigma Theta. Alpha Kappa Alpha stands ready and poised to provide any support and resources needed during this period of anxiety.


Carolyn House Stewart
Supreme Basileus

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Cain, Murray, and Frazier have in common...

They are three black men featured as the top newsmakers on November 8, 2011.

Herman Cain for allegedly sexually harassing five women.

Dr. Conrad Murray, convicted of causing the death of Micahel Jackson.

Boxing champion Joe Frazier who died of liver cancer at age 67.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Supplemental poverty measure research to be released

On Monday, Nov. 7, the U.S. Census Bureau will release research on a supplemental poverty measure that complements, but does not replace, the nation’s official poverty measure.

Census Bureau subject matter experts will host a technical webinar Friday, Nov. 4 in advance of the release to provide background into the development of the supplemental measure as well as the methodology used.

The Census Bureau developed the supplemental poverty measure after years of research and collaboration with other organizations including the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Sciences. The supplemental measure is designed to reflect contemporary social and economic realities and further our understanding of economic conditions and trends.

Oakland port appeals to community during Occupy protests

There are only three available jobs listed on the Port of Oakland's website: Port Staff Accountant I, Deputy Executive Director, and Director of Engineering. In the following letter, the Port's executive director states that economic conditions at the Port have forced a 40% reduction in the workforce over the last seven years. Port official executive salaries are not posted on their website, however, other salaries are posted at

(Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar R. Benjamin speaking at an Oakland International Airport press conference with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer)

Open Letter to the Community of Oakland from the Port of Oakland
November 1, 2011

These are challenging times, with high unemployment and tremendous uncertainty in the economy. In such times, open, respectful, honest, and informed communication is essential. That is why we are writing to you today.

We understand that Occupy Oakland has voted for a general strike in Oakland tomorrow, November 2, 2011, and further plans to march to the Port of Oakland at 5 PM. We also understand that there will be participation from people who do not live and work in the City of Oakland, which is understandable given the global nature of the Occupy movement. At the same time, this is our home, and it is our responsibility to respect it and ensure that others do too.

It is our privilege, indeed our right in this country, to peacefully assemble and freely express our grievances to government. And it is our responsibility as Oaklanders to ensure that our city is a safe and peaceful place to live and work. Oakland has a long, honorable, and innovative tradition of social justice action. So it is understandable that the citizens of Oakland want to show solidarity with the worldwide movement for economic and social justice. It is also imperative that any and all expressions of protest be effective without being violent. Every individual on all sides of this event must take personal responsibility to ensure peace. Each one of us at the Port is committed to a peaceful and safe march for all involved.

As you may be aware, there are multiple layers of security governing our nation's ports, involving our local police department, regional, and federal agencies. Since becoming aware of the proposed march to the Port, we have been engaged with our public safety and security partners at the local, regional, state, and federal levels of government. We are all emphasizing the need for a peaceful and respectful assembly and expression of free speech.

We at the Port of Oakland understand the frustrations and issues at the heart of the Occupy movement:

We have over $1.4 billion in debt and annual debt service payments of over $100 million a year for the foreseeable future, constraining the jobs we can create and investments we can make. Economic conditions at the Port have forced us to reduce our workforce by 40% over the last seven years. Air passenger volume is down over 30% since 2008. We are operating at just over 50% capacity at our seaport, while there is increasing competition from alternative shipping gateways around the country and the world.

Despite these challenges, Port activity generates over 73,000 jobs in the region, and every day we work to create more jobs. From our maintenance staff, to our custodial workers, our truckers, to office workers and dock workers, the Port is where the 99% work. It is essential for the economic development of the City and region that the perception and reality of Oakland is stability, safety, and inclusion.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We hope it will contribute to the civic dialogue that the Occupy movement has initiated. For additional information about the Port, you can also find us on the Internet at, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Omar R. Benjamin, Executive Director
Pamela S. Calloway, President

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vacant housing prices: $137k

The U.S. Department of Commerce has released information today on vacant housing prices. In the third quarter 2011, the median asking sales price for vacant for sale units was $136,700. In 2007, the median asking sales price was $200,000. This represents approximately a 32% decline.

The home ownership rate for households with family incomes greater than or equal to the median family income was lower than the third quarter 2010 rate. The rate for those households with family incomes less than the median family income was also lower than the rate a year ago.

National vacancy rates in the third quarter 2011 were 9.8 percent for rental housing and 2.4 percent for homeowner housing.

In the third quarter 2011, the median asking rent for vacant for rent units was $700.

For more government information on home ownership, go to

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

B of A drops one fee, keeps another...

Bank of America today said it will not charge customers a $5 debit card usage fee scheduled to start in January, but BofA is still penalizing small business owners. It is charging small business customers $15 per billing statement if they do not use the company debit card enough. Go figure...especially while everyone else is trying to promote entrepreneurship!

November marks American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

(Many Blacks living in the U.S. have mixed African and Indian ancestry, as did this reporter's grandfather, Joseph Morris.)

The U.S. Census has put out these facts to mark the celebration of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month:

The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

As of the 2010 Census, the nation’s population of American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 1.7 percent of the total population. Their population is projected to reach 2 percent of the total population by 2050. The population of this group increased by 26.7 percent during this period compared with the overall population growth of 9.7 percent.

States with more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents include California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois.

There were 334 federal and state recognized American Indian reservations in 2010, excluding the Hawaiian Homelands. There are 565 federally-recognized Indian tribes including the Cherokee (819,105), Navajo (332,129), Choctaw (195,764), Mexican American Indian (175,494), Chippewa (170,742), Sioux (170,110), Apache (111,810), and Blackfeet (105,304). Fifty seven percent were married-couple families, including those with children.

(Cherokee boy and girl in costume on reservation in North Carolina. Photographed by John K. Hillers, Jr., June 1939. Public Domain.)

The percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older who had at least a high school diploma, GED or alternative credential is 77%. Also, 13 percent obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison, the overall population had 86 percent with a high school diploma and 28 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Receipts for American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned businesses in 2007 was $34.4 billion, a 28.0 percent increase from 2002. These businesses numbered 236,967, up 17.7 percent from 2002.

The median income of American Indian and Alaska Native households is $35,062. This compares with $50,046 for the nation as a whole. The percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives that were in poverty in 2010 was 28.4%. For the nation as a whole, the corresponding rate was 15.3 percent.

The percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives who lacked health insurance coverage was 29.2%. For the nation as a whole, the corresponding percentage was 15.5 percent.