By: MARY ELLEN SCHNEIDER, Family Practice News
The federal insurance website, HealthCare.gov, is now faster and more reliable, but more work still needs to be done, according to an assessment by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
About 80% of users are now able to complete the online application and enrollment process, meeting the goal set by the agency to get the website running smoothly for the majority of users by the end of November, Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications at CMS, said at a Dec. 1 press briefing.
CMS officials reported that they have improved the website’s response times, decreased the per-page error rate, and improved system stability and capacity. The improved performance is a “night and day” difference from how the site operated during October, according to Jeff Zients, a consultant brought in to improve the website.
Response time to user requests has been reduced from about 8 seconds in late October to 1 second on Nov. 30, Ms. Bataille reported. Similar reductions have been made to the error rate (percentage of per page system time outs and failures). In early October, the error rate was more than 6%; on Nov. 30, it was less than 1%.
Site stability also has improved, Ms. Bataille said, meaning that HealthCare.gov is “up” more than 90% of the time now – excluding scheduled maintenance – in comparison to 42.9% of the time in early November.
Federal officials said they are hopeful that the site will be able to handle a surge in users in December as the enrollment deadline approaches for consumers who want insurance coverage on Jan. 1. They have increased capacity on the site to about 50,000 simultaneous users and more than 800,000 users per day.
Mr. Zients said that, even with the improvements, the website may not have enough capacity to handle some peak user loads. As a result, CMS has put in place a queuing system that will serve users in order. The system will e-mail those users who could not get through and invite them back to the site when it’s not as busy.
Mr. Zients said that he expects consumers will continue to encounter glitches. However, the issues should be resolved much quicker now that they will have a rapid response team monitoring and responding to problems 24 hours a day.
By: MARY ELLEN SCHNEIDER, Family Practice News Digital Network,
Starting in 2015, primary care physicians will get paid for some of the chronic care management work they do outside of office visits.
As part of the 2014 Medicare physician fee schedule final rule, officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized plans to begin paying physicians separately for services such as development and revision of a care plan, communication with other treating providers, review of lab results, and adjustment of medications.
The agency established a new G-code that physicians can use to bill for non-face-to-face care management services for Medicare patients with two or more significant chronic conditions. The code, which will apply to 20 minutes or more of chronic care management services during a 30-day period, takes effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
Physicians who wish to use the new code will have to meet a series of requirements laid out by the CMS, including providing 24-7 access, coordination with home- and community-based service providers, and patient access to the practice through secure messaging or patient portals.
The new codes are part of a recent move by Medicare officials to emphasize primary care and to pay for services that happen outside of the traditional office visit. In 2012, the CMS established codes for transitional care management services for patients moving from a hospital or skilled nursing facility to home. Those codes, which took effect this year, included payment for some non-face-to-face activities.
The news was greeted as a step in the right direction by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Elderly and disabled patients have complex, multiple, and chronic health conditions that require the whole-person medical attention available only through primary care physicians,” Dr. Reid Blackwelder, AAFP president, said in a statement. “Placing appropriate value on the primary care services these patients require and establishing codes for chronic care management are important steps in meeting their needs.”
The final fee schedule rule also provides a new estimate for how deep the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula cut will be in 2014. The across-the-board cut, which will take effect on Jan. 1 unless Congress takes action to avert it, will be 20.1%, down from an earlier estimate of 24.4%.
The somewhat smaller cut was not seen as good news by physician groups, which are increasingly fed up with the SGR formula.
The American Medical Association urged Congress to act quickly, not on a temporary patch, but on a permanent repeal of the SGR formula.
“The clock is ticking,” Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, AMA president, said in a statement. “At stake are innovations that would make Medicare more cost effective for current and future generations of seniors. These innovations are not possible if physicians are worried about drastic cuts to Medicare rates that have remained almost flat since 2001, while the cost of caring for patients has gone up by 25 percent.”
The 2014 fee schedule also continues to phase in the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier program. The program links Medicare payments to performance on cost and quality of care. The first payment adjustments will come in January 2015 for practices of 100 or more providers. In January 2016, the program will extend to groups with 10 or more eligible professionals. The CMS estimates that nearly 60% of physicians will be paid under the value-based payment modifier program in 2016. The remainder of physicians will be included in the program starting in January 2017.
But the CMS urged physicians to plan ahead. While payments won’t be affected until those dates, the performance measurement will occur earlier. For instance, for small group practices that will enter the program in 2017, the performance year is 2015. Physicians in small practices should use 2014 as a “practice year” and report to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) program so that they will be ready in 2015, according to the CMS.
The fee schedule will be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 10. The deadline for public comments on the rule is Jan. 27, 2014.
By: BRUCE JANCIN, Clinical Endocrinology News Digital Network,
DALLAS – Women who embraced a healthy diet after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had significantly lower rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than did those with a bad diet, in a large observational study with up to 26 years of followup.
“It’s never too late to improve your diet,” Dr. Hyun Joon Shin said in presenting his analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.
The prospective observational Nurses’ Health Study began in 1976. It included 121,700 female American nurses aged 30-55 upon enrollment. Dr. Shin’s analysis included 8,354 women with no baseline cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during 1984-2006 and followed to June 2010.
During follow-up, there were 1,183 deaths in the cohort diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, including 491 deaths due to cardiovascular disease and 514 due to cancer.
Mortality risks were evaluated in relation to the extent to which the nurses adhered to a healthy, highquality diet following their diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The yardstick employed in evaluating eating patterns was the Alternative Healthy Eating Index–2010 (AHEI). The index, developed by researchers at Harvard University, scores patients’ consumption of various foods and nutrients known to be predictive of chronic disease risk, explained Dr. Shin of Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas.
There were 14.4 deaths per 1,000 persons per year in the top quintile in terms of adherence to the AHEI. A dose-response relationship was evident: The mortality rate was 28.8/1,000 persons per year among those in the bottom quintile,
23.1/1,000 in the second quintile, 19.3 in the third, and 20.7 in the fourth.
In a multivariate analysis adjusted for numerous potential confounders, AHEI score, the diabetic nurses in the top quintile in terms of healthy eating had a 52% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality compared with those in the lowest AHEI quintile. The healthiest eaters also had a 49% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. However, their more modest 28% reduction in the risk of cancer-related death fell just short of statistical significance.
The AHEI, updated in 2010, awards points for increased consumption of whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits, fish or fish oil, and moderate alcohol intake. The index penalizes for consumption of red meat, processed meat products, trans fats, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fruit juices (J. Nutr. 2012;142:1009-18).
In examining the study findings more closely in terms of the impact of individual dietary components of the AHEI, Dr. Shin found nearly all of them had significant effects in multivariate analyses. For example, subjects in the top quintile for whole grain consumption had a 41% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality compared with those in the bottom quintile, as well as a 33% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular mortality. Participants who drank the least amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had reductions in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality of 26% and 37%, compared with these rates for the quintile of biggest quaffers.
ALBANY, GA – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) highlighted recent data that shows that there would be 478,000 fewer uninsured Georgians by 2016 if Georgia takes advantage of the Medicaid expansion opportunity provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Due to provisions within the health care law, states are given the option to expand their Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes below 133% of the national poverty level (around $32,000 for a family of four). If Georgia accepts the Medicaid funding, the state can receive 100% of federal funding to cover costs for the first three years and no less than 90% federal support for those costs in subsequent years. So far, Georgia has opted not to participate.
“Expanding Medicaid is a smart choice for Georgia,” said Congressman Bishop. “It would mean almost half a million fewer uninsured Georgians, greater access to the services and support folks need to stay healthy, and a net savings for
the state budget and for consumers.”
A recent report by the Commonwealth Fund finds that by not expanding Medicaid, Georgia will forgo $4.9 billion in federal funding in 2022. Accounting for factors that reduce costs, the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that states as a whole are likely to see net savings from expanding Medicaid. Combining Medicaid costs with a conservative estimate of $18 billion in state and local non-Medicaid savings on uncompensated care, the Medicaid expansion would save states a total of $10 billion over 2013-2022.
“Time is running out,” concluded Bishop. “I urge Georgia to reconsider its decision not to expand Medicaid coverage for our state and accept the federal benefits ready to assist the most vulnerable and at-risk Georgians.”
So far, 26 States and the District of Columbia have accepted this Medicaid expansion opportunity, giving millions of Americans access to affordable health care. In fact, thanks to these states and the opening of the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, six in ten currently uninsured Americans will have access to health coverage for $100 per month or less next year. That number will rise to eight in ten if states that have previously decided not to expand Medicaid coverage –
including Georgia – choose to accept the option to extend coverage to the most vulnerable within their state.
By: ALICIA AULT, Family Practice News Digital Network,
The Food and Drug Administration has approved sofosbuvir, a first-in-its-class antiviral, to treat chronic hepatitis C infection.
Sofosbuvir is a nucleotide analogue inhibitor of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5B polymerase enzyme, which plays an important role in HCV replication. It is taken orally once a day at a 400-mg dose. It will be marketed as Sovaldi by Gilead Sciences.
The drug is approved for two chronic hepatitis C indications: In combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin for treatment-naïve adults with genotype 1 and 4 infections, and in combination with ribavirin for adults with genotypes 2 and 3 infection.
The second indication is the first approval of an interferon-free regimen for the treatment for chronic hepatitis C.
“Today’s approval represents a significant shift in the treatment paradigm for some patients with chronic hepatitis C,” Dr. Edward Cox, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in astatement.
This is “truly a historic moment,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, medical director of the HIV program at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, said at an FDA advisory committee meeting on the drug held Oct. 25. “I can’t wait to get this drug into the clinic. We are all excited,” he added. The Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee voted unanimously that day to recommend approval for sofosbuvir.
Sofosbuvir was approved based on data from six clinical trials consisting of 1,947 patients – both treatment-naïve and treatment experienced – some of whom were also HIV positive.
The most common side effects reported in clinical study participants treated with sofosbuvir and ribavirin were fatigue and headache. In participants treated with sofosbuvir, ribavirin, and peginterferon-alfa, the most common side effects reported were fatigue, headache, nausea, insomnia, and anemia, according to the FDA.
According to Gilead, sofosbuvir is also on the verge of receiving marketing approval in the European Union. Sofosbuvir is the second drug approved by the FDA in the past two weeks to treat chronic HCV infection. Simeprevir was approved Nov. 22.
If you’ve never heard of North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, then just give it time. Barber is quickly becoming one of the most prominent advocates for working class people in the country
and he’s doing it by
directly taking on moneyed interests who extract resources from poor communities but don’t offer anything in return.
On Monday Rev. Barber confronted Art Pope, a man who Barber says extracts wealth from a working class community only to turn around and promote policies that handicap poor people.
Businessman Art Pope attempted to defend himself at a press conference where activists announced a boycott of his stores, but Rev. Barber challenged Pope about his position on poverty. Pope said he had different ideas on how to end poverty than the activists, but didn’t offer any real defense of the way he has used his wealth to support right wing candidates and put in place even more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Barber explained to The Raw Story why he believes people like Pope are so dangerous.
“It represents the kind of new sinister and cynical abuse of wealth and power,” Barber said. “When you publicly and intentionally let be known that you are placing your business efforts in poor communities and communities where the median income is $40,000 or less and 25 percent or more African-American, and then you pay people low wages and you sell your goods to people who are poor, and then you turn around and use the wealth generated by those low-wage workers and those poor people to support promote and push policies that are diametrically opposed to their social uplift and to their community uplift, that is just cynical and sinister in many ways.”
“People need to know that,” Barber explained. “They need to know that he is one person that’s spent $50 million the last decade on extreme right-wing ideologue candidates.”
Barber observed that Pope seems to want people to remain content with being paid poverty wages and watching the money they spend in Pope’s stores be redirected to aid the wealthy.
“It’s an illogical kind of argument that I can give you a low-paying job — that is in some ways poverty wages — and I can extract money from your community and you should just be content even though I’m using your work to actually support programs that are detrimental to you, your community and your future,” Barber argued.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon,
“…it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which first refused to retroactively reduce the unfair crack cocaine sentences under the law the president signed and the attorney general praised…”
Are establishment black “civil rights organizations” like the NAACP, the National Action Network and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund really opposed to mass incarceration and the prison state?
I got an email yesterday from the NAACP LDF, the outfit founded by none other than Thurgood Marshall, who litigated Brown V Board of Education back in the 1950s. The email said that the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had just ruled that the so-called Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reducing the racist laws fixing the penalties for crack cocaine at 100 times those for powder cocaine to a somewhat less unfair ratio of 18 to 1 would not be applied retroactively to the thousands of people still serving obscenely long prison sentences from the quarter century those laws were enforced.
The press release went on to say that they are heartened that 7 judges did favor the release of the prisoners suffering these unfair sentences, and that “…Their powerful dissents encourage us to remain steadfast in our effort to win the release of those held under draconian and discriminatory sentences.”
The NAACP LDF which represented the families of prisoners serving these unjust sentences knows very well that this is a political issue and a political struggle.
So why did the NAACP LDF fail to mention that their legal opponents in this case were President Barack Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, which opposed in court the application of the very law which the president signed and the attorney general lauded.
Let me say that again… First, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which first refused to retroactively reduce the unfair crack cocaine sentences under the law the president signed and the attorney general praised Secondly, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which went to court to keep those people in prison. They lost when the trial judge ruled they should be released. And third, the same Justice Department run by the same first black attorney general under the first black president appealed the order to reduce those sentences, instead seeking and obtaining yesterday’s ruling by the 6th circuit court of appeals.
“their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite”
But you wouldn’t know any of this from the NAACP-LDF’s press release. Or NAN’s or any of the rest of the corporate-funded black “civil rights’ establishment. You could have read it in Black Agenda Report
On mass incarceration in general and the reduction of these unfair, unjust sentences, our first black president and attorney general are howling hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Their hypocrisy is enabled by traditional black civil rights organizations like the NAACP-LDF, who refuse to make a political issue out of Obama’s and Holder’s hypocrisy. The “civil rights” establishment is in a bind. They claim to oppose mass incarceration and the prison state, although they’ve only just learned the phrase “mass incarceration” and cannot fix their lips to say “prison state.”
But since their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite, who we affectionately call our black misleadership class, they are unable to call the devil in charge of mass incarceration by his name, if that devil has a black face.
For Black Agenda Report, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
By Juan Cole,
The attempt to make Nelson Mandela respectable is an ongoing effort of Western government spokesmen and the Western media.
He wasn’t respectable in the business circles of twentieth-century New York or Atlanta, or inside the Beltway of Washington, D.C. He wasn’t respectable for many of the allies of the United States in the Cold War, including Britain and Israel.
I visited Soweto in 2012 and went to Mandela’s old house. It was a moving experience. I don’t want him to be reduced to a commercialized icon on this day of all days.
We should remember that for much of the West in the Cold War, South Africa’s thriving capitalist economy was what was important. Its resources were important. Its government, solely staffed by Afrikaners and solely for Afrikaners, was seen as a counter-weight to Soviet and Communist influence in Africa. Washington in the 1980s obsessed about Cuba’s relationship to Angola (yes).
That the Afrikaners treated black Africans like dirt and discriminated against them viciously, denying them the franchise or any hint of equality, was considered in Western capitals at most an unfortunate idiosyncrasy that could not be allowed to interfere with the West’s dependence on Pretoria in fighting the international Left.
The African National Congress had attempted nonviolent protest in the 1950s, but the white Afrikaaner government outlawed all those techniques and replied with deadly force. In the early 1960s when Nelson Mandela turned to sabotage, the United States was a nakedly capitalist country engaged in an attempt to ensure that peasants and workers did not come to power. It was a deeply racist society that practiced Apartheid, a.k.a. Jim Crow in its own South.
The US considered the African National Congress to be a form of Communism, and sided with the racist Prime Ministers Hendrik Verwoerd and P.W. Botha against Mandela.
Decades later, in the 1980s, the United States was still supporting the white Apartheid government of South Africa, where a tiny minority of Afrikaaners dominated the economy and refused to allow black Africans to shop in their shops or fraternize with them, though they were happy to employ them in the mines. Ronald Reagan declared Nelson Mandela, then still in jail, a terrorist, and the US did not get around to removing him from the list until 2008! Reagan, while delivering pro forma denunciations of Apartheid or enforced black separation and subjugation, nevertheless opposed sanctions with teeth on Pretoria. Reagan let the racist authoritarian P.W. Botha come to Washington and met with him.
Likewise British PM Margaret Thatcher befriended Botha and castigated Mandela’s ANC as terrorists. As if the Afrikaners weren’t terrorizing the black majority! She may have suggested to Botha that he release Mandela for PR purposes, but there is not any doubt on whose side she stood.
The Israeli government had extremely warm relations with Apartheid South Africa, to the point where Tel Aviv offered the Afrikaners a nuclear weapon(presumably for brandishing at the leftist states of black Africa). That the Israelis accuse Iran of being a nuclear proliferator is actually hilarious if you know the history. Iran doesn’t appear ever to have attempted to construct a nuclear weapon, whereas Israel has hundreds and seems entirely willing to share.
In the US, the vehemently anti-Palestinian Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco spied on American anti-Apartheid activists on behalf of the Apartheid state. If the ADL ever calls you a racist, you can revel in the irony.
Ronald Reagan imagined that there were “moderates” in the Botha government. There weren’t. He wanted “constructive engagement” with them. It failed. The Afrikaners imposed martial law. Reagan tried to veto Congressional sanctions on Pretoria in 1986 but Congress over-rode him.
Nelson Mandela was a socialist who believed in the ideal of economic equality or at least of a decent life for everyone in society. He was also a believer in parliamentary government. So, he was a democratic socialist.
The current Republican Party is implementing Apartheid policies of making it difficult for minorities to exercise their right to vote. And they are changing tax laws to throw ever more of society’s wealth to the top 1%. And they just threw millions of Americans off food stamps, including children and Veterans. The US House of Representatives still stands against everything Mandela stood for.
President Obama first became interested in politics at Occidental College in California and attended anti-Apartheid demonstrations. It was then that fellow activists informed him that Barack would be a better name for such an activist than “Barry.” In many ways Mandela’s cause started Obama on his path to the White House.
In the meantime the UK also has a right wing government that is punishing students and the poor on behalf of the rich. And the Likud Foreign Minister in Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, wants to take away the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis (20% of the population) just as the Afrikaners took citizenship away from blacks and pushed them into Bantustans. Mandela said, ““We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
The world will celebrate Nelson Mandela. But for most of those global leaders, it is only lip service. With the partial exception of President Obama, they don’t share his actual ideals and wouldn’t approve of him when he was at his most active, in the early 1960s, trying to figure out how to sabotage the Afrikaner establishment. (I say partial in Obama’s case because obviously he admires the struggle against Apartheid, but on economic issues he is an Eisenhower Republican and Mandela wouldn’t approve). In the 1990s on his release from prison Mandela did stand out for his belief in peace and reconciliation. But that was only because the Afrikaners had lost and he could afford to be magnanimous in victory. He was not a pacifist. He did not believe in taking lives as part of his struggle, but he was willing to resort to violence. He was not a capitalist. He wanted uplift for the workers. He could not overlook racism the way Reagan, Thatcher and Shamir did.
South Africa itself, for all its economic and social dynamism, has also not fully attained Mandela’s ideals. Its poor are becoming worse off. Labor relations are roiled. And the ANC leadership is in disarray.
Mandela is not a birthday cake to be celebrated. The funeral with its hypocritical heads of state won’t honor him. He is a pioneer to be emulated. We honor him by standing up for justice even in the face of enormous opposition from the rich and powerful, by taking risks for high ideals. We won’t meet his standards. But if all of us tried, we’d make the world better. As he did.
Three African-American students who were waiting for a school bus in Rochester, New York were arrested on Wednesday morning when police officer told them to “disperse,” even though witnesses said they did nothing wrong.
According to WROC, basketball coach Jacob Scott had arranged for a school bus to pick up the boys to take them to a scrimmage on a day when school was closed.
A police report claimed that the boys were blocking “pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk…preventing free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store…Your complainant gave several lawful clear and concise orders for the group to disperse and leave the area without complaince [sic].”
But the students and the coach dispute the police version of events.
“We didn’t do nothing,” student Raliek Redd explained. “We was just trying to go to our scrimmage.”
“We was just waiting for our bus and he started arrested us,” student Wan’Tauhjs Weathers added.
Daequon Carelock, who was also arrested, lamented that anyone could be “just downtown, minding your own business, and next thing you know, anything can happen.”
Coach Scott arrived just as the boys were being handcuffed and was also threatened with arrest.
“He goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,’” Scott recalled. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?’”
“One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown,” he noted.
Scott called the incident a “catastrophe” for the boys and witnesses who were traumatized by the arrest.
“These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do and still they get arrested,” Scott remarked. “I’m speaking to the officers with dignity…and still and yet – they see me get treated like nothing.”
Rochester school board member Mary Adams expressed her outrage at the arraignment last week.
“I think the charges should be immediately dropped and I think the district attorney’s office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters,” she said.
“I’m very concerned about a pattern of young people being abused by police authority,” Adams told WHEC. “To me, this seems like a really clear case, part of a pattern.”
A trial for the three students is scheduled for December 11.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may be guilty of abusing its tax status, which has created even bigger problems.
According to reporting in Britain’s Guardiannewspaper ALEC has lost 400 state legislative members and may have lost one third of its biggest funders, because it has promoted Florida’s “stand your ground law” as model legislation. That was the law, which George Zimmerman famously used in his defense for shooting an unarmed African-American teenager named Trayvon Martin.
According to The Guardian: “An influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years following criticism of its policy on gun laws.”
As reported in The Guardian, “ALEC has formed a sister organization called ‘the Jeffersonian Project’ amid concerns about POSSIBLE GOVERNMENT INQUIRIES INTO WHETHER ITS ACTIVITIES CONSTITUTE LOBBYING – WHICH WOULD THREATEN ITS TAX EXEMPT STATUS.”
ALEC’s attorney in a letter to its board “makes clear that MAJOR POTENTIAL DONORS ARE HOLDING BACK BECAUSE OF CONCERNS ABOUT ALEC’s TAX STATUS.”
ALEC has created and pushed state legislative initiatives to undermine and undercut voting rights, workers rights, healthcare, and other state laws.
ALEC exists to draft and promote, push and influence major right-wing state policy. Their priorities have been made clear with similar anti-democratic and anti-people copycat or legislative templates in as many as 19 states.
It has focused major energy these last two years on state legislation designed to weaken the voting power of traditionally Democratic and progressive constituencies including unions, our elders, people of color and students.
The Guardian reports that as many as 60 corporations have quit donating to ALEC including giant global corporations like Coca-Cola, WALMART, General Electric, and McDonald’s.
Clearly, ALEC is more concerned about potential lobbying and tax issues than many of its progressive critics have thought or have understood.
December 2, 2013
The greatest crisis facing our country today is the obscene level of wealth and income economic inequality we now see. This is a moral issue, an economic issue, and a political issue.
While the very rich get richer, the middle class continues to disappear and we now have more people living in poverty than ever before. Despite huge increases in technology and productivity, tens of millions of workers are finding it harder to feed their families, pay for health care, send their kids to college or put aside savings for retirement.
While large corporations are earning record-breaking profits, real unemployment is close to 14%, and youth unemployment is at 20%. An entire generation of young people is struggling to find a place in the economy and repay their college loans.
In recent years, with 95% of all new income going to the top 1%, we have seen a huge increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires. One family, the Walton family of WalMart, now owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans. Meanwhile, we continue to have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world.
While the average American is increasingly alienated from the political process, billionaire families like the Koch brothers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who support their extreme right-wing views.
During the last week a new and important ally has arisen in the struggle against unfettered capitalism and wealth and income inequality. In his recently published Exhortation, Pope Francis warns the world against the idolatry of money and the false promise of trickle-down economics.
Clearly, not everyone shares Francis’ religion, and many of us have deep differences with a number of positions taken by the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, we can all, I think, share his commitment to economic justice and learn from his wise assessment of how modern civilization, in its relentless pursuit of profit and its dependence on “the market” to make final valuations of what is good, has lost touch with the ethical imperatives that should guide our society. I appeal to other religious leaders to focus on matters of economic justice and to speak out from the context of their own respective traditions.
These are tough times for our country. Let’s go forward together. Thanks for your continued support.
To God be the glory for His awesome healing power!
As we begin a new week, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank each of you for the tremendous support that you have given over the last few months since my diagnosis and treatments for cancer. While all of us have experienced high levels of anxiety, you have been able to continue the high level of Congressional Service that has always set our team apart from other offices by working together to always put our constituents first, even under the current fiscal challenges requiring our staff to do more with fewer resources. You have done an exceptional job and Vivian and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
As you are probably aware, I started Chemotherapy on September 24th at George Washington University Hospital and completed it on November 4th. I had 3 infusions of chemotherapy drugs designed to dissolve and kill the cancer cells so that the surgery to follow would require the removal of significantly less tissue from my neck and throat. During this process, thanks to great cooperation among my medical team at the Attending Physician’s Office at the Capitol, the George Washington University Hospital medical team and our great staff this was accomplished without my having to miss a single vote and without any major event for the office going uncovered! The Congressional Military Family Summit was without question one of the best we have had and we were able to move up the chemo from The scheduled November 6th date to November 4th so that I could get a necessary day-after shot on November 5th and get back to the Chamber Reception at The Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus that evening and participate in the Summit on November 6th.
My surgery was scheduled for November 26th, two days before Thanksgiving, in order to minimize the inevitable down time from the hospitalization. Even the Team Bishop Alumni have weighed in with thoughts and prayers and we had
some very special inside help from our former colleague, Martina Morgan who is now Executive Assistant to the Dean of the Health Sciences Department at George Washington University. She and her boss were awesome, so when you speak with her please let her know how much we appreciate her efforts.
Vivian and I flew up from Columbus on the evening of Sunday, November 24th. Her sister Jackie flew up from Atlanta on Monday.
Vivian, Jackie and I, went to the hospital at 6:00am on November 26th, and I went under anesthesia around 7:00am and began what my surgeon joked would be just a very long nap. He told me not to worry that they would take care of the heavy lifting while I just got a nap. The surgery lasted until almost 3:30pm (eight and a half hours), I was moved to Recovery and at about 7:00pm I heard my Surgeon, Dr. Nadir Sadeghi, speaking to me saying that the surgery was absolutely successful, without any complications and that I was being moved to The Intensive Care Unit for close monitoring and observation. He removed the primary tumor from the back of my mouth, and removed 51 lymph nodes from
my right jaw and 40 from my left jaw.
The next afternoon at 2:00pm, with tubes in both sides of my neck, both hands, a catheter and a feeding tube running down my nose to my stomach, Physical Therapy showed up in ICU to conduct a physical assessment consisting of exercises from which the Therapists decided that I would not require any physical therapy. At 3:00pm, Occupational Therapy showed up in ICU to assess whether I would need therapy for personal hygiene, dressing myself etc. and they
too decided I was not in need of that. About 6:00pm I was moved to a private corner room overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue with a wonderful view largely due to Martina’s efforts. I had plenty of room for the beautiful gigantic Peace Lily that arrived 20 minutes after I got there followed within 5 minutes by guess who–Martina! Fortunately, the very beautiful plant from Team Bishop arrived on Thanksgiving Day and was much more easily placed.
Instructions from Dr. Sadeghi when I got to ICU were to be out of bed by 8:00am or anytime I wanted, sit in the chair next to the bed, and to walk as much as possible. Needless to say I found walking around ICU and then around the Ward throughout the day and night better than just sitting and managing pain! He was amazed at the speed of my recovery and began removing tubes– catheter, drainage tubes from my neck and the feeding tube from my nose by Friday.
Swallowing was extremely painful and pain medication was constant. But in order to recover I had to avoid any infections, avoid dehydration (which I was receiving by IV up to that point) and consume sufficient nutrition (which came through the feeding tube). The goal was at least 6 eight ounce bottles of water and 6 bottles of Ensure. But I was only able to down one bottle of water and Ensure in 5 or 6 hours. And to do that I had to do it while walking! So you can imagine my concern when he suggested sending me home on Saturday, only four days after the surgery! Told him I was afraid I would not be able to get enough nutrition nor water. So he agreed to allow me to extend till Sunday.
I was discharged on Sunday morning to recuperate at the DC apartment. From Sunday to Thursday I struggled with the Ensure and the walking–back and forth down the hallway, walking in place and managing the pain with very powerful drugs. My follow up visit with Dr. Sadeghi was scheduled for Thursday by which time he hoped to have the pathology report from the tissue removed during surgery. That was to determine whether the chemotherapy had been able to kill all the cancer cells in the affected area or whether more chemotherapy or radiation would be required. During his morning telephone consultation at 8:30am he expected the report by COB on Wednesday. But at 9:00am he called back to say that the report was on his computer when he hung up with me. He described an excellent report with no detectable cancer cells. He was confident that they got it all and that no further treatment would be required! Only periodic monitoring on a declining basis over the next 5 years! Cancer free! Praise The Lord!
On Thursday, I had my follow up visit and was released to come home to Georgia at noon that day. Went to church at Mount Zion in Albany on Sunday and had a truly Blessed day!
Thank you for being Team Bishop and thanks to Ed Helton and the Cunningham Center for helping to mold us into an effective team! It is still a work in progress, but we have come a long way together. I love you all!
Gov. Nathan Deal is no stranger to ethics investigations.
In fact, he’s earned the nickname “Teflon Deal” for his ability to duck responsibility for his unethical conduct as a Congressman and as Governor.
But Gov. Nathan Deal’s ethics problems just got much, much more serious.
New reports reveal the FBI and a federal grand jury want to examine documents and witnesses related to Gov. Deal’s ethics violations and an alleged cover-up at the state ethics commission.
Make no mistake; this is no longer an ethics investigation.
This is a criminal investigation.
The governor and his team want you to believe this is nothing more than an intra-office skirmish. They want you to believe that because Gov. Deal paid a small fine this is now a “closed” investigation. They want you to believe there’s nothing more to discover.
But we’re not fooled.
We know the governor has financial documents he’s worked hard to keep hidden for the past three years.
We know current and former ethics commission employees have accused Gov. Deal’s hand-picked ethics chief of ordering documents removed from the governor’s ethics file while an ethics probe was ongoing.
- Deal recruited new ethics chief as probe of his campaign heated up
- Gov. Deal denies tampering in ethics probe
- FBI questions ethics lawyer at center of Deal complaint
- Ethics commission calls for special investigation
- Ethics commission votes — again — for investigation
- FBI subpoenas at least 5 current and former state ethics officials
The FBI and federal grand juries have far more important things to do than worry about disagreements among office employees.
No, the FBI and federal grand juries investigate criminal activity. Period.
It’s insulting for the governor to claim that an investigation sparked by his own campaign mistakes has nothing to do with him.
Georgians simply don’t believe Gov. Deal’s lies any more.
If there is nothing to hide, Gov. Deal could have shared these documents months ago.
Or, he could share the documents today.
Instead of fighting every single attempt at an independent investigation, Gov. Deal could simply come clean.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has garnered national attention for his comparison of pre-existing medical conditionsto a car wreck that is “your fault,” but his spokesman revealed today that Hudgens himself is among the millions of Americans with a pre-existing condition.
Hudgens is a prostate cancer survivor. He had surgery to remove the cancer 11 years ago when he was 60 and still gets checked regularly.
“He fully understands why it’s not somebody’s fault (he or she) has a pre-existing condition because he has one,” said Hudgens spokesman Glenn Allen.
The revelation comes amid a walk-back by the commissioner of the statement last month at a GOP luncheon. He told us Wednesday that he used a “really poor analogy” and “nothing could be further from the truth. … It’s not the person’s fault they have a pre-existing condition.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must not discriminate against customers — via higher premiums or cancellations — based on pre-existing conditions. Hudgens was lamenting the fact that insurance companies say this will double the cost of insurance.
But even in a non-Obamacare world, Hudgens would not be at risk. He was under the state employees’ plan, as a state senator, when he had the surgery and he remains so today. If he were to switch coverage after leaving public life, he would be eligible for Medicare.
On a conference all organized by the liberal Washington-based group Americans United for Change to take umbrage with Hudgens’ comments, state Rep. Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain, said Hudgens’ cancer surgery revelation “supports the need for insurance under the Affordable Care Act” for people in similar situations to his.
Among those on the press call was Keisha Kuma, a Georgian who has multiple sclerosis and has struggled to get coverage since her husband changed jobs in 2010 and the family had to change plans.
Hudgens’ comments have been picked up by left-leaning national media outlets, including Mother Jones, Salon, Esquire and the Huffington Post. The outcry has fired up Democrats to challenge Hudgens for re-election in 2014, said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, on the press conference call:
“He’s doing a mighty good job at drumming up opposition when he seeks to run again for insurance commissioner next year. Because the outrage we’re hearing across the state from his continued shenanigans indicates people are appalled an insurance commissioner would conduct himself in this way and the insurance commissioner would be such a staunch opponent of efforts that are going to expand health care access to huge numbers of Georgians. That’s what I think he can just about count on, is there’s going to be a spirited debate about what the appropriate r0le is of an insurance commissioner and who should be elected in the next election.”
Six years have passed since the United States economy entered the Great Recession, four and a half since it officially began to recover, but long-term unemployment remains disastrously high. And Republicans have a theory about why this is happening. Their theory is, as it happens, completely wrong. But they’re sticking to it — and as a result, 1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.
Now, the G.O.P.’s desire to punish the unemployed doesn’t arise solely from bad economics; it’s part of a general pattern of afflicting the afflicted while comforting the comfortable (no to food stamps, yes to farm subsidies). But ideas do matter — as John Maynard Keynes famouslywrote, they are “dangerous for good or evil.” And the case of unemployment benefits is an especially clear example of superficially plausible but wrong economic ideas being dangerous for evil.
Here’s the world as many Republicans see it: Unemployment insurance, which generally pays eligible workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous pay, reduces the incentive to search for a new job. As a result, the story goes, workers stay unemployed longer. In particular, it’s claimed that the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which lets workers collect benefits beyond the usual limit of 26 weeks, explains why there arefour million long-term unemployed workers in America today, up from just one million in 2007.
Correspondingly, the G.O.P. answer to the problem of long-term unemployment is to increase the pain of the long-term unemployed: Cut off their benefits, and they’ll go out and find jobs. How, exactly, will they find jobs when there arethree times as many job-seekers as job vacancies? Details, details.
Proponents of this story like to cite academic research — some of it from Democratic-leaning economists — that seemingly confirms the idea that unemployment insurance causes unemployment. They’re not equally fond of pointing out that this research is two or more decades old, has not stood the test of time, and is irrelevant in any case given our current economic situation.
The view of most labor economists now is that unemployment benefits have only a modest negative effect on job search — and in today’s economy have no negative effect at all on overall employment. On the contrary, unemployment benefits help create jobs, and cutting those benefits would depress the economy as a whole.
Ask yourself how, exactly, ending unemployment benefits would create more jobs. It’s true that some of the currently unemployed, finding themselves even more desperate than before, might manage to snatch jobs away from those who currently have them. But what would give businesses a reason to employ more workers as opposed to replacing existing workers?
You might be tempted to argue that more intense competition among workers would lead to lower wages, and that cheap labor would encourage hiring. But that argument involves a fallacy of composition. Cut the wages of some workers relative to those of other workers, and those accepting the wage cuts may gain a competitive edge. Cut everyone’s wages, however, and nobody gains an edge. All that happens is a general fall in income — which, among other things, increases the burden of household debt, and is therefore a net negative for overall employment.
The point is that employment in today’s American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren’t failing to hire because they can’t find willing workers; they’re failing to hire because they can’t find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits — which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending — would just make the situation worse.
Still, don’t expect prominent Republicans to change their views, except maybe to come up with additional reasons to punish the unemployed. For example, Senator Rand Paul recently cited research suggesting that the long-term unemployed have a hard time re-entering the work force as a reason to, you guessed it, cut off long-term unemployment benefits. You see, those benefits are actually a “disservice” to the unemployed.
The good news, such as it is, is that the White House and Senate Democrats are trying to make an issue of expiring unemployment benefits. The bad news is that they don’t sound willing to make extending benefits a precondition for a budget deal, which means that they aren’t really willing to make a stand.
So the odds, I’m sorry to say, are that the long-term unemployed will be cut off, thanks to a perfect marriage of callousness — a complete lack of empathy for the unfortunate — with bad economics. But then, hasn’t that been the story of just about everything lately?
By Alex Lazar,
“I am not an expert in health care, or Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or however you choose to describe it, but I do know this: I have benefited from that kind of universal health care in my 55 years of public life,” Powell said, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, last week at an annual “survivors celebration breakfast” in Seattle for those who, like Powell, have battled prostate cancer. “And I don’t see why we can’t do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing.”
Europe, Canada and Korea all have a “single-payer” system, in which the government pays for the costs of health care.
Some Democrats who strongly advocated for, and failed to get, a single-payer system in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, still believe the current law doesn’t go far enough to reform the US health system.
A retired four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell told the audience about a woman named Anne, who as his firewood supplier, faced a healthcare scare of her own. Anne asked Powell to help pay for her healthcare bills, as her insurance didn’t cover an MRI she needed as a prerequisite to being treated for a growth in her brain. In addition, Powell’s wife Alma recently suffered from three aneurysms and an artery blockage. ”After these two events, of Alma and Anne, I’ve been thinking, why is it like this?” said Powell.
“We are a wealthy enough country with the capacity to make sure that every one of our fellow citizens has access to quality health care,” Powell. “(Let’s show) the rest of the world what our democratic system is all about and how we take care of all of our citizens.”
Powell, who has taken heat from Republicans for twice endorsing President Obama’s election and reelection bids, said he hopes universal healthcare can one day become a reality in the U.S. ”I think universal health care is one of the things we should really be focused on, and I hope that will happen,” said Powell. ”Whether it’s Obamacare, or son of Obamacare, I don’t care. As long as we get it done.”
By ROBERT REICH,
It’s charity time, and not just because the holiday season reminds us to be charitable. As the tax year draws to a close, the charitable tax deduction beckons.
America’s wealthy are its largest beneficiaries. According to theCongressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year’s $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion’s share.
The generosity of the super-rich is sometimes proffered as evidence they’re contributing as much to the nation’s well-being as they did decades ago when they paid a much larger share of their earnings in taxes. Think again.
Undoubtedly, super-rich family foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are doing a lot of good. Wealthy philanthropic giving is on the rise, paralleling the rise in super-rich giving that characterized the late nineteenth century, when magnates (some called them “robber barons”) like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller established philanthropic institutions that survive today.
But a large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters – where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors.
Another portion is for contributions to the elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend. (Such institutions typically give preference in admissions, a kind of affirmative action, to applicants and “legacies” whose parents have been notably generous.)
Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the rest of the Ivy League are worthy institutions, to be sure, but they’re not known for educating large numbers of poor young people. (The University of California at Berkeley, where I teach, has more poor students eligible for Pell Grants than the entire Ivy League put together.) And they’re less likely to graduate aspiring social workers and legal defense attorneys than aspiring investment bankers and corporate lawyers.
I’m all in favor of supporting fancy museums and elite schools, but face it: These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term. They’re often investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well. Increasingly, being rich in America means not having to come across anyone who’s not.
They’re also investments in prestige – especially if they result in the family name engraved on a new wing of an art museum, symphony hall, or ivied dorm.
It’s their business how they donate their money, of course. But not entirely. As with all tax deductions, the government has to match the charitable deduction with additional tax revenues or spending cuts; otherwise, the budget deficit widens.
In economic terms, a tax deduction is exactly the same as government spending. Which means the government will, in effect, hand out $40 billion this year for “charity” that’s going largely to wealthy people who use much of it to enhance their lifestyles.
To put this in perspective, $40 billion is more than the federal government will spend this year on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (what’s left of welfare), school lunches for poor kids, and Head Start, put together.
Which raises the question of what the adjective “charitable” should mean. I can see why a taxpayer’s contribution to, say, the Salvation Army should be eligible for a charitable tax deduction. But why, exactly, should a contribution to the Guggenheim Museum or to Harvard Business School?
A while ago, New York’s Lincoln Center held a fund-raising galasupported by the charitable contributions of hedge fund industry leaders, some of whom take home $1 billion a year. I may be missing something but this doesn’t strike me as charity, either. Poor New Yorkers rarely attend concerts at Lincoln Center.
What portion of charitable giving actually goes to the poor? The Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews looked into this, and the best he could come up with was a 2005 analysis by Google and Indiana University’s Center for Philanthropy showing that even under the most generous assumptions only about a third of “charitable” donations were targeted to helping the poor.
At a time in our nation’s history when the number of poor Americans continues to rise, when government doesn’t have the money to do what’s needed, and when America’s very rich are richer than ever, this doesn’t seem right.
If Congress ever gets around to revising the tax code, it might consider limiting the charitable deduction to real charities.
by the Nation of Islam Research Group,
(FinalCall.com) – The enemies of the rise of Black people are ruthless in attacking anyone who attempts to advance the independent economic development of Black people. In October of 2013, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan launched a nationwide economic-development plan based on the Economic Blueprint of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Since there is nothing in the Economic Blueprint that the enemies of Black people could attack without exposing their blatant racism and hatred for Black people, hatchet man Glenn Beck’s website went after the character of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan in an article written by Becket Adams and posted on TheBlaze.com December 9, 2013, titled “Wait Until You Hear How Many Farm Subsidies Are Going to Groups in…the City of Chicago—Including One Associated with Louis Farrakhan.” A portion of this article reads:
“A total of 930 entities in the Chicago area received farm subsidies between 2008 and 2011. And as for the Louis Farrakhan group: Three Year Economic Savings, Inc., which is listed at his home address, received approximately $103,529 between 2008 and 2011, making it the 12th highest farm subsidy recipient in the Chicago area.”
First of all, Adams & Beck do not define what “Chicago area” means. Is it a zip code area, city planning district area, police precinct area or just a narrowly defined “area” that suits their purpose?
The innuendo here is that Minister Farrakhan is personally getting $103,529 from the government. If you do not understand farming, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm programs, or the history of the relationship between the USDA and Black farmers, you can be taken aback by such “large subsidies going to a Black farmer.” Oh, did I tell you that Minister Farrakhan has been a farmer since 1995? Now, since Minister Farrakhan has stated that we are going after land and farming, let us bring you up to date on the history of this struggle to get and retain land.
By 1910, Blacks owned 16 million acres of land, in spite of the mass violence called “lynching”—premeditated murder that was not even illegal according to federal law. Up until the 1930s, there was no federal law against lynching a Black person.
However, the Whites who owned land needed labor, which they no longer had or could depend on (as a result of Blacks leaving the South en masse). The U.S. government through research developed at the USDA and at colleges funded by USDA research grants invented labor-saving equipment and chemicals to replace labor. To pay for this equipment and increased production costs, the government made low-interest loans available to White farmers and not Black farmers. Over time the Whites developed a competitive advantage that drove many more Black farmers off their land and their children into the cities.
This depopulation of the countryside and reduction of Black wealth were not happening fast enough. So in 1962 the business mogul-dominated Committee for Economic Development (CED), a government-sponsored think tank, outlined what they called “An Adaptive Approach,” in which they stated: “Net migration out of agriculture has been going on for 40 years, and at a rapid rate. Nevertheless, the movement of people from agriculture has not been fast enough…” The CED’s “adaptive approach” recommended that (1) Vocational agriculture courses in rural areas be scrapped, (2) Agricultural prices be substantially lowered, and (3) Temporary income programs be instituted to protect the most “suited for survival.”
Of course, the farmers “suited for survival” were mostly White. But now even the White farmers were finding it hard to stay on the land as the costs for their inputs kept going up, while the prices for their outputs remained constant or even sometimes dropped.
Over the 28-year period from 1969 to 1997, the cost of fertilizer per acre had jumped from about $10 per acre to over $30 per acre. Petroleum costs had gone up from about $8 per acre to over $20 per acre. Chemical costs had skyrocketed from about $4 per acre to over $24 per acre. And land rent had gone up from $12 per acre to almost $50 per acre. While the cost of farm inputs had exploded, the price that the farmer receives for grain crops had stayed basically constant, hovering between $3 and $4 per bushel. So the plan that the Committee for Economic Development put forward has been put into full effect. Farmers have faced a tremendous cost squeeze, even as they have been more productive on a per acre basis.
The government stepped in to give farm subsidies to selected farmers, ranging from as low as $5 per acre to almost $140 per acre. Yield information was distorted at the USDA local offices to ensure that Black farmers did not get government subsidies or insurance payments. On average, from 1982 to 1992, White farmers received $1,023 per acre in farm subsidies, while Black farmers received only $274 per acre. Since farmland prices in the 1980s ran about $1,000 per acre, the USDA essentially helped White farmers to buy another acre for each acre they already had. And of course the land that they bought was the acreage of distressed Black farmers. So now Black farmers own less than 4 million acres of land, a mere one-fourth of what they were able to amass by 1910, 45 years after slavery.
The mechanism used to discriminate against Black farmers was, and is, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency County Committee. This “Committee” of just three White farmers in Terrell County, Ga., determines how federal USDA funds are disbursed in Terrell County. This process takes place in every county of the United States. Now, TheBlaze.com’s article talks about the Nation of Islam’s Three Year Economic Savings, Inc., which owns and operates the 1556-acre Muhammad Farm in Terrell County, Ga. Even though Mr. Beck would prefer to focus our attention on Chicago, the real comparisons should be made in Terrell County, where the Nation’s farm resides. This almost sixteen hundred-acre farm is large by Black farm standards, but very small compared with the White farms in Terrell County and Southwest Georgia.
Very often we wonder what some of the great minds would’ve have thought of our current events. What would MLK have thought of this? And what would Malcolm X have believed about that? But among some of our most prescient and muscularly intellectual thinkers, there is no need to guess. They made chillingly relevant predictions during while they were living.
Here are a few of James Baldwin’s thoughts on the inhumanity of oppression and its potential outgrowth in South Africa:
“For many generations the natives of the Belgian Congo, for example, endured the most unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the Belgians, at the hands of Europe. Their suffering occurred in silence. This suffering was not indignantly reported in the Western press, as the suffering of white men would have been. The suffering of this native was considered necessary, alas, for European, Christian dominance. And, since the world at large knew virtually nothing concerning the suffering of this native, when he rose he was not hailed as a hero fighting for his land, but condemned as a savage, hungry for white flesh. The Christian world considered Belgium to be a civilized country; but there was not only no reason for the Congolese to feel that way about Belgium; there was no possibility that they could.
“What will the Christian world, which is so uneasily silent now, say on that day which is coming when the black native of South Africa begins to massacre the masters who have massacred him so long? It is true that two wrongs don’t make a right, as we love to point out to the people we have wronged. But one wrong doesnít make a right, either. People who have been wronged will attempt to right the wrong; they would not be people if they didn’t. They can rarely afford to be scrupulous about the means they will use. They will use such means as come to hand. Neither, in the main, will they distinguish one oppressor from another, nor see through to the root principle of their oppression.”
New Leadership at GA State Conference
God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP), and its board of directors and President Matt K. Wright, Jr. agreed to bring the Sumter County Branch NAACP back to Sumter County. A formal announcement will be made in January 2014.
GAAAP was established in 2012 because of irreconcilable financial differences and poor leadership issues with the past GA State Conference President Edward Dubose of Columbus, GA. The GA NAACP Conference has a new president, Attorney Francys Johnson. Dubose was willing to close down the Sumter County Branch, one of the state’s strongest branches, when he used trumped up charges that the Branch owe assessment monies that he claimed were in arrears. He threatened Wright to suspend the branch by not permitting an election of Sumter County Branch’s officers the 2012 election. Dubose had suspended other strong and many struggling branches very publicly. He went to the local White newspapers and exposed all the dirty laundry of the branches. In order to avoid the same fate and spectacle as the other branches endured, the Sumter County Branch executive committee voted to dissolve the branch and created GAAAP.
Since President’s Johnson’s election, GAAAP is extremely optimistic about the State Conference’s future now that Johnson is at its helm. Johnson, who practices law in Statesboro, GA, is the pastor of two churches. He has taught at Savannah State University and GA. Southern University. GAAAP will be given permission to return to the GA State Conference NAACP family when President Johnson lays out the reinstatement plan.
Dr. John D. Marshall, the publisher of the Observer, has been recruited by Dr. Johnson to serve as co-chair of the GA State Conference Health Committee. Marshall served with Johnson when Johnson was the executive director of the GA State Conference of the NAACP. “We both left the State Conference,” Marshall said. Marshall continued, “I was impressed with Attorney Johnson’s leadership as executive director, and I am impressed with his organizational skills during his first few weeks in office.” Marshall did not give the reason why he or Johnson left.
been recruited by Dr. Johnson to serve as co-chair of the GA State Conference Health Committee. Marshall served with Johnson when Johnson was the executive director of the GA State Conference of the NAACP. “We both left the
State Conference,” Marshall said. Marshall continued, “I was impressed with Attorney Johnson’s leadership as executive director, and I am impressed with his organizational skills during his first few weeks in office.” Marshall did not give the reason why he or Johnson left.
As president Wright will continue a high level of activism in Sumter County once GAAAP is reinstated back in NAACP. Even during GAAAP’s short life span, GAAAP has produced many victories on behalf of our citizens who have been discriminated against in the work place, schools, law enforcement, and the courts. Just recently, Wright assisted a citizen who was wrongly terminated by Pizza Hut. The citizen went to court with an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) right to sue and won a judgment for $154,000.
But, many loyal citizens who have been NAACP members for as many as 40 years have asked us to bring the NAACP back to Sumter. The election of Attorney Johnson made our decision so much easier to “go back home”, Marshall said. Continuing, Marshall said, “our community will be much better served with the NAACP’s brand name.” And it was also noted that it is easier to recruit dynamic Freedom Fund Banquet speakers and solicit new members. We will not dissolve GAAAP, but we will see how it can be salvaged. [aren’t you contradicting the article’s intent….it reads as if GAAAP is going away, e.g., read the first sentence in the above para and the last sentence in para three.
GAAAP will honor current members, in good standing; when we transition back to the GA State Conference NAACP. As always, we welcome new members. Call our office at 229 924 0880 or write us at P O Box 1755 Americus, GA 31709, should you have questions.
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Company ReaderSupportNews
This grim anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., killings, with 28 dead, reminded us of that moment back in 2000 when Charlton Heston made his defiant boast at the NRA convention that gun control advocates would have to pry his rifle from his “cold, dead hands.” You would have thought he had returned to that fantasy world of Hollywood where, in a previous incarnation, he portrayed those famous Indian killers Andrew Jackson and Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West, as Cody marketed it, still courses through the bloodstream of American mythology.
For sure, Heston wasn’t channeling his most famous role, as Moses in The Ten Commandments, striding down from Mount Sinai with a stone tablet on which had been chiseled God’s blueprint for a civilized society, including, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”
But the Good Lord seems not to have anticipated the National Rifle Association, its delegates lustily cheering Heston as his demagoguery brought them to their feet. Started after the Civil War by two former officers of the Union army who were disconsolate that their troops had shown such poor marksmanship in battle, its purpose was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” Now, its conscience as cold and dead as Charlton Heston’s grip on his gun, the NRA has become the armed bully of American politics, the enabler of the “gunfighter nation,” as cultural historian Richard Slotkin calls it, whose exceptionalism of which so many patriots fervently boast, includes a high tolerance for the slaughter of the innocent.
There has been a lot of killing in America since Newtown a year ago, perhaps more than 30,000 gun deaths since that fatal day. And gun purchases are way up. The biggest publicly traded firearms manufacture in the United States, Sturm Ruger, had more than half a billion dollars in sales for the first nine months of this year, 45 percent higher than two years ago, with a 67 percent profit rise over the same period. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that for the first eleven months of 2013, FBI background checks for gun purchases rose to more than 19 million, up from less than 9 million in 2005: “Not every background check leads to a firearms sale, but the direction of the statistics is compellingly clear.”
Mother Jones has counted 194 children shot to death since Newtown a year ago; probably more by the time you read this. Average age: 6. The magazine’s Mark Follman writes that after Newtown, “The National Rifle Association and its
allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders.” But what Mother Jones discovered is a “stark rejoinder to that view” – 127 of the children died in their own homes and dozens more in the homes of family, friends and neighbors, not strangers. Seventy-two pulled the trigger themselves or were shot by another youngster (only four adults have been found liable in those cases). At least 52 of the deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.
Texas leads the country in the number of young ones killed by guns. While 11 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws making it tougher to own guns since Newtown, Texas passed 10 new laws against sane restrictions on guns. Which is partly why last month, four women had lunch at a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, just outside Dallas. It was a planning meeting for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group started after the Newtown slayings that describes itself as “the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of gun reform.” The founder of Moms Demand Action told a reporter, “We’re not anti-gun. We’re not against the Second Amendment. We just believe in common sense to end the growing epidemic of gun violence in America.”
Nevertheless, as the four women ate and talked, about 40 members of a pro-gun group called Open Carry Texas – champions of guns anywhere and everywhere: church, school, shopping mall – gathered outside the restaurant, many of them with their firearms. They said they were there not to intimidate but to make a point. Sure, as if real men need guns to make a point.
“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” but if you do, hide behind the Second Amendment – made holier and more sacrosanct by the NRA than God’s own commandment.
A Sumter County disabled resident is one of thousands in the United States who said she is more than satisfied with Obamacare.
Deborah King said after years of not having insurance, she was able to get Blue Cross Blue Shield through Obamacare.
“This is going to help out a lot,” King said.
The 50-year-old King has been unable to find steady work due to seizures, a herniated disk in her neck and at least one stroke and other medical conditions. She said things didn’t continue to work out with a Phoebe Care insurance plan and church programs could only help out so much.
She added her disability check was not big enough because her prescriptions alone cost her $300 to $500 a month, not including her copayments for each doctor visit.
“I really needed the help,” she said.
Americans United for Change, a progressive advocacy group, has advocated Obamacare and has even distributed the video of people who successfully signed up for health insurance coverage. However, Republicans have bashed Obamacare health coverage plan. King said despite all the criticism of Obamacare and the difficulty in signing up for it, she had no problems with the online application at HealthCare.gov that was launched in October.
“I was able to get on and sign up without any problem,” King said.
King added her application process is not complete but she expects to have Blue Cross insurance through Obamacare by January.
Former Principal Valerie Duff’s Son, Matthew Patrick Duff Jr., Accused of Beating James Dodson
The Americus Police Department is investigating the severe beating of a disabled Black man who was allegedly abducted by three White men while cleaning car windows for a monetary donation. -He would ask to clean the windshields while vehicles parked at a convenience store on South Lee Street..
At least one man was arrested in the incident, Brett Coleman Scoggins, according to the Sumter County organization, God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP) which is investigating the beating.
This incident occurred at Flash Foods convenience store on South Lee Street in Americus on Nov. 17 and the victim was James Edward Dodson, a black male.
According to the GAAAP and a police report in the reckless conduct and false imprisonment investigation, Dodson told officers he was washing vehicle windows at Flash Foods when at least three white males drove up in a truck.
Scoggins was allegedly driving. Dodson was offered $5 to wash some of the windows of the truck. At some point Dodson was asked to clean the inside back window of the vehicle which required him to get inside the truck.
Dodson told police while cleaning the back window; the truck drove off with him inside. The men refused to stop and let him out, despite Dodson repeatedly knocking on the sides of the vehicle and they even sped up at one point.
Dodson told police thethree men took him to a secluded area, where they beat him and left him with injuries that included a fractured ankle. Police reported that Dodson identified Matthew Patrick Duff, Gregory James Odom, and Brett Coleman Scoggins as the three men who beat him. There were two other passengers who did not assault Dodson and they are Lee Goodman and a female passenger, Brittany Lewis.
The police report adds that a clerk at the store confirmed Dodson was in the truck when the vehicle sped off with Dodson knocking. Police also seized surveillance video from the business from the night of the incident and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
A former Pizza Hut assistant manager has won a six-figure civil settlement after demonstrating racial discrimination in a hostile work environment.
Shirley Cook said she was more than satisfied after years of trying to get the Americus GA restaurant to do right.
“I’m so happy, I was about to give up,” Cook said.
According to courthouse documents, Cook was working at the Pizza Hut in September of 2006 as an assistant manager.
She was demoted to shift manager and was told by the “Regional Coach” it was due to slow sales and the demotion resulted in a decrease in the number of hours she worked.
The documents add that in October of 2007 a white store manager was hired for a position that wasn’t posted. She expressed concerns of discrimination existed even though all of the employees of the business were black except for the new manager.
She said she was surprised of the white district manager’s answer.
“He told her the business needed a face lift and they wanted to clean house,” she said in a phone interview.
According to court documents, Cook said after she trained the white manager, her hours were “reduced drastically, and the black employees were “subjected to a very hostile environment. She added if blacks complained they were threatened with termination or a reduction in hours. By April 2008 all of the black employees who were working at the restaurant when the white manager was hired were no longer there.
However, Cook’s hours were reduced which she said was cut to a couple hours a day and her pay was cut from $10 an hour to $2.65 an hour.
“And that was on the few days that I worked,” Cook said.
She eventually filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and after she could no longer handle the “hostile” work environment, she was forced to submit her resignation letter on Dec. 17 of 2007.
“I felt it was so unfair,” Cook said.
Cook said medical problems included her blood pressure left her disabled and unable to work another job. She eventually lost her car after she couldn’t keep up with the payments.
“It was terrible, my children had to help me, said Cook, a mother of two sons 29- and 19-years-old.
She eventually filed a lawsuit. But she said without a lawyer, the case stalled in court until she was able to get help from Matt Wright, president of the Sumter GAAAP, God’s Army for the Advancement of All People. Mr. Wright asked Attorney Natalie Rowland of Atlanta, GA to take the case. At court time, Pizza Hut did not appear or send anything in writing.
The case was heard in front of Sumter Superior Court Judge James Sizemore, who Cook and Wright said ruled in Cook’s favor. She credits Wright and God for the win.
“What was meant for bad, God turned it around for my good,” she said… Ms. Cook is a member of Restoration Church of Americus; Rev George Edge is her pastor.
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