Driving after marijuana use common among older teens

By: CHRISTINE KILGORE,

WASHINGTON – Driving after marijuana use was common among college students at two large public universities who were randomly selected for phone interviews.

“Driving after marijuana use was significantly more common than driving under the influence of alcohol in college-age students, and males were much more likely … which is consistent with a lot of the data on injury risk,” reported Jennifer Whitehill, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Among current marijuana users – defined as those who had used marijuana in the past 28 days – 31% said they drove after using it and 45% rode with a driver who had used it. The prevalence rates were 44% and 51%, respectively, among males and 9% and 35% among females, she reported at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

The findings are especially important given new legislation that is likely to increase marijuana availability and further influence teens’ perception of risk.

The University of Washington, one of the two universities where the study took place, resides in one of two states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012. The study was conducted prior to passage of the law; continued research will provide “a good, natural longitudinal look” at attitudes and practices in light of the legislation, Dr. Whitehill said.

The literature thus far suggests a two- to threefold increase in crash risk for driving under the influence of marijuana, Dr. Whitehill said after the meeting.

One recent meta-analysis of information from nine prior studies showed that the risk of a crash was almost 2.7 times higher among marijuana users than nonusers (Epidemiol. Rev. 2012;34:65-72). Another review found an overall twofold increased risk, with risk estimates higher in studies of fatal collisions (BMJ 2012;344:e536).

However, the contribution of marijuana to the risk of crashes “can be a tricky thing to study and to isolate,” she said, and research is attempting to determine the degree to which marijuana intoxication deteriorates driving performance.

Of 315 students who had just completed their freshman year, alcohol use was much more prevalent than marijuana use, as was expected – 65% said they had used alcohol in the past 28 days, compared with 21% who reported having used marijuana. Alcohol users were less likely to drive under the influence, however: 12% of males and 3% of females said they drove after drinking. More of the students – 21% of males and 12% of females – reported riding with a driver who had just consumed alcohol.

Researchers attempted to identify possible predictors and risk factors for impaired driving. They found that students who drove after marijuana use were 5.2 times as likely to have also been a passenger of a marijuana-using driver, and 2.5 times as likely to have also driven after alcohol use, as students who did not drive after using marijuana.

A younger age at the first use of marijuana was associated with a lower risk of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Students also were asked about their nonmedical use of stimulants and other prescription drugs. Four percent –a “relatively rare” prevalence – reported recent nonmedical prescription drug use, of which 11% said they drove after use, Dr. Whitehill reported.

The study did not measure the time between substance use and driving, she noted.

Dr. Whitehill reported that she had no relevant financial disclosures.

New test beats PSA in predicting significant prostate Cancer

By: DOUG BRUNK,

SAN DIEGO – A blood test that detects the –2proPSA isoform of prostate-specific antigen may provide a way to reduce the number of unneeded prostate biopsies, results from a multicenter study showed.

Using a Prostate Health Index (phi) level of 27 as a threshold for selecting men for prostate cancer could eliminate unnecessary biopsies in 26% of men when total PSA is 4-10 ng/mL, said Dr. Martin G. Sanda, chief of urology at Emory University in Atlanta, during a press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

“This is a substantial portion of the population who may undergo PSA testing. [The index] would allow the ability to detect aggressive prostate cancer while having an acceptable false-negative rate. The Prostate Health Index has the potential to mitigate harms of overdetection/overtreatment of indolent cancers while retaining benefits of detecting aggressive prostate cancer which warrants treatment,” he said.

The Prostate Health Index (phi), developed by Beckman Coulter and granted premarket approval from the Food and Drug Administration in June 2012, is a simple, noninvasive blood test that is 2.5 times more specific in detecting prostate cancer than PSA in patients with PSA values in the 4- to 10-ng/mL range and is shown to reduce the number of prostate biopsies.

“The Achilles’ heel of PSA detection in its current form is the overdetection and subsequently the downstream overtreatment of indolent prostate cancers,” Dr. Sanda said. “The phi is a manner of reporting the detection of the –2proPSA isoform of PSA. This is a small subset of the PSA molecules, as opposed to the routine total PSA test that we are familiar with.”

For the current study Dr. Sanda and his associates investigated whether the use of phi, compared with total PSA and the ratio of free to total PSA (%fPSA), could reduce unnecessary biopsies and overdetection of indolent prostate cancer while improving the detection of aggressive prostate cancer. He reported results from 658 men whose PSA was 4-10 ng/mL. Of these 658 men, 324 had prostate cancer. Among these 324 cancers, 160 were aggressive (meaning a Gleason score of 7 or greater) and 164 were indolent cancers.

Dr. Sanda reported that at 90% sensitivity, the specificity of phi was 31.1%, compared with 19.8% for %fPSA (= .024) and 10.8% for PSA (P less than .001). When the phi ranged from 0 to 26.9, the probability of significant prostate cancer was 3.9% and rose sequentially with increasing range of phi. Specifically, the probability of significant prostate cancer was 8.5% for those with a phi of 27.0-35.9, 14.4% for those in the range of 36.0-54.9, and 28.9% for those with a phi level of 55 or higher.

“When phi is less than 27, the probability of one of these cancers being a Gleason score of 7 or higher was under 4%,” said Dr. Sanda, who also directs the university’s Prostate Cancer Center. “With that particular threshold, we would be able to retain the benefits of being able to detect aggressive cancers in patients who had a biopsy when their phi was higher than 27 while avoiding unnecessary [biopsies] in about 26% of the men, substantially reducing the number of indolent cancers diagnosed and the number of unnecessary biopsies performed.”

The false-positive rate was “in an acceptable range,” he added. Only 4 out of 109 Gleason 3 + 4 cancers were missed (3.7%), and only 1 out of 35 Gleason 4 + 3 cancers was missed (2.9%).

“Because this is a straightforward serum assay, phi does have the potential to have a favorable cost profile relative to some of the genetic marker testing that’s coming down the pipeline,” Dr. Sanda commented. “The next step is to validate these findings in a larger and separate cohort.” That effort is currently underway with the Early Detection Research Network, a cohort study funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The study was funded by Beckman Coulter. Dr. Sanda disclosed that he is an investigator for the company. He also reported affiliations with Medicametrix, Accuray, and other companies.

Texas Will Deny Health Coverage to 1.5 Million Low-Income Residents

By Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress,

1.5 million low-income Texans may go without health care coverage after lawmakers in the state voted against expanding Medicaid using $100 billion in federal funds offered under President Obama’s health care law. The decision comes almost a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot require states to enroll more Medicaid beneficiaries.

The proposal, sent to Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Sunday, says state health officials “may only provide medical assistance to a person who would have been otherwise eligible for medical assistance or for whom federal matching funds were available under the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in effect on December 31, 2013.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government fully funds Medicaid expansion until 2016 and gradually reduces its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and subsequent years. Texas — which has the highest percentage of uninsured residents — would never pay more than 7 percent of the cost of providing coverage to Texans, but Texas Republicans argued that “even $1 in the name of ‘Obamacare’ was a dollar too much.”

“Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into this fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system,” Perry said. The decision means a loss of approximately $7 billion for Texas hospitals, which comes on top of the $700 million a year reduction in Medicaid payments from state budget shortfalls and cuts under sequestration.

Low-income Texans will also continue to struggle to afford coverage, since the law does not offer federal tax credits to purchase private health insurance coverage for most people below the poverty line. People living in the 26 states that have refused to expand Medicaid and have incomes “from the poverty level up to four times that amount ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for an individual)can get federal tax credits.”

Tom Banning, chief executive officer of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, told NPR that failing to expand Medicaid will only shift costs throughout the health care system.

“These people don’t choose to get sick. When they do, they’re going to access our health care system at the most inefficient and expensive point, which is the emergency room,” Banning says. “And it’s going to cost the taxpayers, and it’s going to cost employers a lot of money to care for them. And we’re going to be forgoing billions of dollars that the feds have set aside for the state to pay for and provide this care.”

As a result of the state’s decision, Texas will continue paying for the taxes that pay for Medicaid expansion but wil be sending those dollars (and benefits) to other states.

Fact Check: Michael Douglas On HPV And Throat Cancer

The Huffington Post | By Meredith Melnick,

A Michael Douglas interview in The Guardian caused waves when the publication reported that the “Behind the Candelabra” star revealed HPV, the human papilloma virus, to be the cause of his stage-4 throat cancer diagnosis in 2010.

“Without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus,” Douglas allegedly told The Guardian.

Douglas, through his publicist, has said that the statement was misinterpreted: He wasn’t saying that his cancer was caused by the sexually transmitted disease — merely that many cancers like his are HPV-positive. As The Daily Beast points out, there is scant research evidence to directly link the act of cunnilingus with HPV infection. But regardless of the details of his own cancer, the actor is right about one thing: A growing majority of oral cancer cases are caused by HPV.

While most strains of HPV clear up on their own, the sexually transmitted disease is responsible for an array of cancers. As Douglas describes, it’s true that oral sex is an avenue through which a person can contract HPV and especially the strains, HPV-18 and HPV-16, the latter of which is responsible for half of oral cancer cases, according to the National Cancer Institute. HPV-16, HPV-18 and some less-common strains can also cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus and penis.

Douglas’ experience follows trends in cancer diagnosis, according to a January report from the American Cancer Society, which found a rise in oral cancer caused by HPV in both women and men. As the report said, as of 2004, 72 percent of oral cancer tumors were HPV-positive — up from 16 percent of tumors in data collected between 1984 and 1989.

Previously, excessive drinking and tobacco use were the most common causes of the throat cancer Douglas developed, but HPV has replaced tobacco as the leading cause of throat cancers. HPV’s rise as the leading cause of oral cancer is not just the result of growing rates of the virus — it is also explained by drops in smoking, thanks to public health campaigns that describe the dangers of cigarette use.

HPV-16 and 18 are targeted by the vaccine Cervarix and are two of the four strains targeted by Gardasil, the other of the two approved vaccines against HPV. Gardasil is currently recommended for boys between the ages of 13 and 21 and both Cervarix and Gardasil are recommended for girls, aged 13 to 26, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV-6 and HPV-11, both of which the Gardasil vaccine immunizes against, cause about 90 percent of genital warts cases.

Despite the growing rates of oral cancer, cases like Douglas’ are still relatively rare, with about 7,100 new cases each year, reported USA Today. But that doesn’t mean oral HPV infection is rare: According to a 2012 study of Americans, aged 14 to 69, about 10 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women currently have an oral HPV infection.

According to the CDC, there is no screening test to determine overall HPV status. While women are screened for HPV-associated cervical cancer via a Pap-smear test, other HPV-associated cancers don’t have a specific screening test. Despite the fact that there are no uniform screening techniques for oral cancer, the prognosis for the disease is good, with an 80 to 90 percent survival rate, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.

Shortage of Black dentists means more than just fewer smiles

BY NISA ISLAM MUHAMMAD,

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – When it comes to health care, your dentist may be the last person you think about, if you think about her at all. But the profession has alarmingly low numbers of Blacks entering dental school.

“We need more Black dentists,” said Dr. Jeanne Sinkford, associate executive director of the American Dental Education Association. “Dental schools are only graduating 300 Black dentists out of 5,000 each year.”

Dr. Sinkford delivered remarks at the Howard University Symposium on United States Health Care April 10.

“There are only 65 dental schools and they are a safety net for communities without access to dental care.  Most patients we see in dental schools come from underserved communities but some states don’t have dental schools,” she explained.

“We have to understand the importance of Howard University Dental School and Meharry Dental School.  Thirty-one percent of African American dentists come from Howard and Meharry. Black dentists treat 61.8 percent of Black patients, White dentists only treat 10.5 percent, Hispanics treat 9.8 and Asian dentists only treat 11.5 percent.”

The need for more Blacks in health professions has reached critical levels.  Four new medical schools opened in 2009 in response to the call for an expanded physician workforce.

But, “of the four new medical schools that opened only four African American students were admitted,” said Dr. Marc Nivet of the Association of American Medical Colleges.  “These are urgent issues that we face. We must hold institutions accountable for finding the talent available.”

The challenge to recruit dental students is even more critical.  Studies show that 50 million Americans live in areas where they can’t easily visit a dentist.

“We now have an opportunity (with the Affordable Care Act ACA) to improve access to dental health services,” said former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher at a conference last year. “But how do we put in place a health care system that meets the needs of all? Can we, in fact, increase the supply of oral health care providers by expanding the opportunity for people to serve? What the ACA said is that people should be able to practice to the full extent of their potential.”

“We now have an opportunity to dramatically increase coverage,” Dr. Satcher said. “But adding dental benefits will not translate into access to care if we do not have providers in place to offer treatment.”

dentist_gr1Dr. Satcher expressed concern about the ability of the current dental workforce to meet demand. As part of provisions enacted under the Affordable Care Act, more than 5 million additional children will be entitled to dental health benefits.

There are not enough providers to meet the need. Currently, just 20 percent of all practicing dentists accept Medicaid patients. In addition, the federal Health Resources Services Administration estimates a current shortage of approximately 10,000 dentists.

Dr. Laura Muhammad graduated from Howard University Dental School.  She serves patients in the D.C. Metro area. “The appearance of dentistry is not that attractive.  People rarely want to get into a profession that hurts people and that’s what many people associate with dentistry.  They see it as a stress filled profession and we have to please people.  It’s very difficult at the end of the day,” she said.

“But it’s also very rewarding at the end of the day. We help people and are often the first ones to inform them of other health issues. Lack of oral care has an effect on heart disease and diabetes. The stuff between your gum line is an infection. Your body doesn’t do well fighting an infection. Bleeding gums and pusy infections can cause blood clots.”

Lauren Gordon is from Atlanta and enthusiastic about being a student at Howard University Dental School.  She’s excited about entering a profession that is so critical to overall health.

“I see how important oral health care is and how people overlook it,” she told The Final Call. “I had a lot of dental problems and I saw how oral health is connected to overall health. Teeth are a source of pride or embarrassment. Clean teeth and bad breath can affect a person’s self-confidence. I want to help people. With dentistry unlike other medical professions you can have patients for life. I want that.”

Blacks still majority of the wrongfully convicted

‘According to the report, Blacks account for nearly half (47 percent) of all known exonerees in 1989, and Whites made up nearly 39 percent of all known exonerees. When the updated exoneration report was released in April, 57 percent of the known cases that occurred in 2012 involved Blacks.’

‘According to the report, Blacks account for nearly half (47 percent) of all known exonerees in 1989, and Whites made up nearly 39 percent of all known exonerees. When the updated exoneration report was released in April, 57 percent of the known cases that occurred in 2012 involved Blacks.’

By Freddie Allen NNPA Washington Correspondent,

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When a Baltimore grocery store employee fingered 26-year-old Michael Austin for the murder of a security guard in the spring of 1974, Austin didn’t even match the police sketch. The wanted suspect was less 6 feet tall and Austin was the size of a small forward in the NBA. The only other evidence linking him to the crime was a business card with the name of an alleged accomplice, a man who was never found.

The store owner, who was positive Austin wasn’t the shooter, was never called to testify during the original trial and Austin’s defense attorney never called a single witness to back up Austin’s alibi that he was at work across town when the crimes were committed. A year later, Austin was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery and sentenced to life in prison on the eyewitness account of the grocery store employee, a college student, according to the prosecution, and a drug addict and high school dropout.

Austin spent half of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, only gaining freedom through a New Jersey-based lawyers’ group that works to free the wrongfully convicted. The grocery store employee died of an overdose in 1997, but not before he told family members that he lied about what he saw during the murder and sent an innocent man to prison. In December 2001, Austin was granted his freedom. Three years later, Austin won a $1.4 million settlement from the state of Maryland.

Michael Austin’s story was chronicled in The National Registry of Exonerations, a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan law school at Ann Arbor and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the School of Law at Northwestern University in Chicago. An updated registry of features stories of the wrongfully convicted and was recently released.

According to the report, Blacks account for nearly half (47 percent) of all known exonerees in 1989, and Whites made up nearly 39 percent of all known exonerees. When the updated exoneration report was released in April, 57 percent of the known cases that occurred in 2012 involved Blacks.

Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the editor of The National Registry of Exonerations said the 10 percent increase for Blacks was striking, but it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions. Gross said that he continues to learn about new cases that occurred in 2012. In last year’s report released in June 2012, the registry found that 50 percent of the all known exonerees were Black.

“It’s striking and if it stands up and it repeats in another year or two it will be an important trend,” said Gross.

According to the registry report, 52 percent of the wrongful conviction cases involved perjury or false accusation, 43 percent involved official misconduct and 41 percent involved mistaken eyewitness identification.

The majority (57 percent) of all known exonerations were in homicide cases and 47 percent of those cases involved Black defendants and 37 percent involved Whites. Blacks accounted for 63 percent and Whites 18 percent of those wrongfully convicted of committed robberies.

“Homicide and robbery, sadly to say, are crimes that African Americans are heavily overrepresented in the prison population,” said Gross.

The report found that “African Americans constitute 25% of prisoners incarcerated for rape, but 62% of those exonerated for such crimes.”

Faulty eyewitness identification continues to drive the high rate of Blacks involved in adult sexual assault exoneration cases. Gross said that this is likely because of problems associated with cross-racial identification.

“White people don’t have the type of experience living with and distinguishing members of other races as minorities do,” said Gross. “There is also a long terrible history of racial discrimination in the prosecution of African Americans for rape when they are accused of raping White women and that may be a factor here, too.”

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a majority of the cases (52 percent) involve witness making a false accusation or committing perjury. Forty-one percent of the cases involve faulty eyewitness identification.

“As a group, the defendants had spent nearly 11,000 years in prison for crimes for which they should not have been convicted – an average of more than 10 years each,” stated a report by The National Registry of Exonerations released in April.

These are often the most productive years of a person’s life and the reason why many criminal justice advocates say that seeking compensation for wrongful convictions is the only chance that exonerees have in regaining a foothold in a world that is often much different than how they left it.

“Unfortunately, many of our clients have been in jail for decades and often these were the best years of their life; the years where you can go to school and get an education, years where you can build a career and learn how to do a job,” said Paul Cates, communications director for the Innocence Project. “When they get out after 15 or 20 or 25 years, it’s very difficult to enter the job market without an education and without any marginal skills.”

Cates said that, when the government confines someone for those lengths of time, they definitely deserve to be compensated. Cates added: “It’s particularly true when you consider that they have no way of making a living once they’ve been released.”

Despite the proliferation of crime shows depicting the use of DNA in solving murders and proving innocence or guilt of a suspect, DNA testing is becoming less of a factor in wrongful conviction cases, because it is often initiated before cases go to trial.

“DNA evidence can be very persuasive to courts and to judges and to prosecutors, because it’s a very definitive proof of innocence,” said Cates. “But in all these other cases where this evidence is not available, it’s really hard to prove when someone has been wrongfully convicted and the court system doesn’t make that easy.”

That could be changing. According to the registry report, for the first time, law enforcement officials cooperated in the majority of the known cases that freed the wrongfully convicted in 2012.

Revisions to state policies involving post-conviction DNA testing, greater oversight of convictions in prosecutorial offices, and the evolution of law enforcement practices could have contributed to the increase, according to the study.

“It’s pretty clear that we make mistakes as you would expect from any human system and we should acknowledge that and that’s becoming more widely understood and accepted,” said Gross. “The more realistic we are in understanding that we do mistakes the better we’ll be at identifying them and preventing them.”

Red states rejecting Obamacare Medicaid expansion need it most

by Jon Perr,

From the beginning, the defining irony of the never-ending debate over Obamacare is this: health care is worst in those states where Republicans poll best. The map of the states with the worst health care systems largely mirrors GOP strongholds in the electoral college. Red state residents are generally the unhealthiest and more likely than their blue state cousins to be uninsured. Nevertheless, the New York Times reminded readers on Friday, Republican governors and legislators are rejecting the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid that could bring health insurance to millions more of their residents.

As Robert Pear reported, “The refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance.” The cruel ironies don’t end there:

Starting next month, the administration and its allies will conduct a nationwide campaign encouraging Americans to take advantage of new high-quality affordable insurance options. But those options will be unavailable to some of the neediest people in states like Texas, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, which are refusing to expand Medicaid.More than half of all people without health insurance live in states that are not planning to expand Medicaid.

As you’ll see below, the impact of that rejection is staggering.

The Urban Institute estimates that 5.7 million uninsured adults with incomes below the poverty level would gain coverage except that they live in states that are not expanding Medicaid. That includes almost 1 million Floridians and another 1.5 million in Texas, people who will be forced to go without health insurance despite the fact that Washington would pick up the bill for their states through 2017 and 90 percent of it after that. Despite leading a state with the 46th ranked health care system and 30 percent of those ages 18 to 64 uninsured, Governor Rick Perry declared the Lone Star State would have nothing to do with Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. As Politico recounted the scene in April:

“Texas will not be held hostage to the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into this fool’s errand,” he said, flanked by Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess.

Of course, the real hostages are the millions of uninsured in states governed by Republicans. As Roy S. Mitchell, the executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program lamented, “”there’s going to be a huge void” as many uninsured poor people find that they are not eligible for Medicaid or insurance subsidies. “There will be an outcry.”

Especially when those lower-income red staters find out about the final, cruel irony of their Republican leaders’ rejection of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. In keeping with thepersistent dynamic of red state socialism, blue state taxpayers would have helped pay for it.

The NFL Is A Tax-Exempt Organization — But One Senator Wants To Change That

NFLtaxexemptBy Travis Waldron,

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) today introduced an amendment to the Marketplace Fairness Act that would end the practice of allowing professional sports leagues to qualify as tax-exempt organizations, a move that would hit leagues like the National Football League, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour, and the National Hockey League, among others.

Since 1966, the tax code has allowed leagues to classify as 501(c)(6) charitable organizations — a classification used by trade and industry organizations — under the assumption that the leagues were promoting the general value of their sports. But Coburn’s amendment asserts that the leagues are not non-profits engaged in the promotion of their sports but instead are businesses interested solely in the promotion of their business; that is, the NFL isn’t so much concerned about promoting the general sport of football as it is concerned with promoting NFL football, because it is the NFL brand and the NFL teams and logos and products that make it a profitable business. The NFL, for instance, didn’t seem interested in promoting the general spread of football when a competitor league, the United States Football League, was formed in 1983. Likewise, the PGA Tour, NHL, and other sports leagues serve to promote their brand of their sports, not the sport as a whole.

Further, the leagues hardly pay their executives as if they are non-profits. The NFL paid $51.5 million to just eight executives in 2010, according to Coburn, and other leagues are similar — PGA commissioner Tim Finchem made $5.2 million that year, while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took home $4.3 million.

In his 2012 Waste Book that chronicled government waste, Coburn said that taxpayers were losing as much as $91 million a year subsidizing professional sports leagues because of their non-profit status:

The National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) classify themselves as non-profit organizations to exempt themselves from federal income taxes on earnings. Smaller sports leagues, such as the National Lacrosse League, are also using the tax status. Taxpayers may be losing at least $91 million subsidizing these tax loopholes for professional sports leagues that generate billions of dollars annually in profits.Taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize sports organizations already benefiting widely from willing fans and turning a profit, while claiming to be non-profit organizations.

The 501(c)(6) provision, specifically amended in 1966 to add “professional football leagues,” states that “[n]o part of a business league’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual and it may not be organized for profit to engage in an activity ordinarily carried on for profit.” That would seem a hard standard for most professional leagues to meet, given the amount of revenue they make and the benefits they provide to the people involved. Individual team owners, in fact, benefit substantially from the league’s structure and even its classification as a non-profit organization.

NFL teams pay membership dues totaling roughly $6 million per team, but they are allowed to write those off for tax purposes. As Andrew Delaney explainedin the Vermont Law Review in 2010, the NFL, which collected $192 million in revenue largely through membership dues in 2009, then pours much of that money back into a stadium fund that allows owners to access interest-free loans as long as they secure taxpayer financing for either new stadiums or improvements to existing facilities. The NFL’s dues, then, go almost solely toward the enrichment of its franchise owners even as they are exempt from federal taxation (and often from state and local taxation as well). Taxpayers get hit on two fronts: not only do they lose out on federal tax revenues, they also end up footing the bill for new stadiums and stadium improvements (most recently in Atlanta and Minnesota, with ongoing efforts in Miami and other cities). But all of the benefit, much of which comes from the tax-exempt status, goes to owners and the NFL, as Delaney explained:

Technically, the city owns the stadium. Personal seat licenses or PSLs are sold through a public agency, tax-free. Profits are then used to pay down the owner’s share of the NFL loan. The money from the PSLs never goes directly to the teams, though the teams save millions of dollars in taxes and the loan from the NFL is paid down significantly, providing a very significant benefit to the owners.

Removing the tax-exempt status would force the leagues to acknowledge the reality that they are businesses, and they would be taxed as such. For the NFL, that would mean that membership dues and assessments would no longer be tax exempt, according to Delaney, and the profits run through the NFL’s or PGA’s tax-exempt organizations no longer would be either (the NFL runs multiple for-profit organizations, such as NFL Films, in addition to its non-profit partner). Instead, the leagues would be taxed much like corporations, and a wide range of tax write-offs would be available just as they are to other corporations. They would still be able to operate the charitable organizations they already have as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charities.

It’s unclear how much of a benefit ending the tax-exempt status of professional sports leagues would bring directly to taxpayers, largely because the complexity of how the leagues have structured their businesses makes it hard to know how much they benefit directly from being tax-exempt (Major League Baseball claims that giving up its tax-exempt status in 2007 had no effect on its annual taxes, but there’s no way to know for sure). And it’s unlikely we will find out soon, since Coburn’s amendment isn’t likely to receive a vote when the Senate finally takes up the Marketplace Fairness Act sometime this week.

That’s a shame though, because a vote and legitimate debate about Coburn’s amendment would benefit the public, which often doesn’t get the full picturefrom sports leagues, owners, and lawmakers about how much of their money goes to subsidizing the sports we watch. Taxpayers in the past have been outraged when they find out how much subsidies for new stadiums are going to ultimately cost them, but by then, it’s almost always too late. And while the leagues we subsidize — either directly or indirectly — are popular among fans, whether those same fans are willing to shell out their tax dollars to help wealthy owners and franchises become even wealthier is impossible to know, since we almost never receive robust and honest debate about those subsidies. Coburn’s amendment is a chance to at least throw that into the national conversation about tax reform — and it’s a chance lawmakers shouldn’t be so hesitant to take.

The Jackie Robinson Republicans

Jackie Robinson in 1954. (Photo by Bob Sandberg, Look photographer, via Library of Congress)

Jackie Robinson in 1954. (Photo by Bob Sandberg, Look photographer, via Library of Congress)

That Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey were Republicans when they shattered baseball’s color barrier in 1947 is only surprising if you consider the changed GOP – after its Southern Strategy and unsubtle appeals to racism, leading to demonizing the first black president. But there was this other principled GOP, says Independent Institute’s Jonathan Bean. 

By Jonathan Bean

If history were written without bias, we would mark the beginning of the U.S. civil rights movement as 1947: the year Jackie Robinson, the subject of the popular new movie, 42, broke major league baseball’s “color barrier.”

Filmed under the working title, “Mr. Rickey and Mr. Robinson,” 42tells the story of two highly religious Republicans, one white and one black, who had the courage to change American society. Unfortunately, the movie ignores both the religious convictions and political views of baseball owner Branch Rickey, a white lawyer from Ohio, and Brooklyn Dodgers first-baseman Jackie Robinson, a black athlete from Cairo, Ga. Yet, their religious and political beliefs are crucial to the story.

Remember, the year was 1947: the year before President Harry Truman ordered the military desegregated; seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision; eight years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., public transit bus; 10 years before President Dwight Eisenhower utilized the 101st Airborne to enable the Little Rock Nine to attend Central High School; 16 years before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his memorable I Have A Dreamspeech at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington; and nearly two decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were adopted.

The times were not yet “a changing,” and Rickey and Robinson had little more than their beliefs to sustain them.

Rickey’s story begins in 1903 when, as a 22-year-old head coach, he took his Ohio Wesleyan University baseball team to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame. When the team arrived at the old Oliver Hotel to check in, the hotel manager reportedly told Rickey, “I have rooms for all of you except for him”—pointing to catcher Charles Thomas, who was black.

“Why don’t you have a room for him?” Rickey asked.

“Because our policy is whites only,” the manager replied.

After some back-and-forth, the hotel manager agreed to let Thomas stay there: in Rickey’s room.

Rickey sent his players to their rooms. When he got to his room, Thomas was sitting on a chair sobbing, pulling at his hands.

“He looked at me and said, ‘It’s my skin. If I could just tear it off, I’d be like everybody else. It’s my skin, it’s my skin, Mr. Rickey!”’

Thomas later became a successful dentist. He never forgot his coach and Rickey never forgot that experience.

Despite this early trauma, Rickey never saw politics as a cure for racial hatred and discrimination. In fact, with Jim Crow laws still in place throughout the South—and more subtle forms of discrimination institutionalized in many northern cities—politics was part of the problem, not the solution.

The solution, Rickey believed, had two components: the heart and the wallet, religion and free enterprise.

After a long run as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, whose home city was largely still segregated, Rickey left for New York, where he became part owner of the Dodgers. As an owner he had the power to do as he pleased. And what he pleased was to right the wrong that had been inflicted on Charles Thomas and so many other talented blacks over the years.

He was joined in this effort by another highly religious Republican: Jack Roosevelt (“Jackie”) Robinson, who had competed in four sports at UCLA before World War II interrupted things, and was then playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the segregated Negro Leagues. This was a time when many blacks were Republicans.

An independent-minded, life-long Republican, Robinson explained his political views in a chapter, titled “On Being Black Among the Republicans,” in his autobiography, I Never Had It Made.

In short, Robinson supported those Republicans, such as Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits, who championed civil rights, and opposed those in the GOP who ignored black concerns. Thus, in 1960 Robinson campaigned for Richard Nixon in his losing race against John F. Kennedy, citing Nixon’s support for the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which Kennedy and many other Democrats opposed. And in 1964, Robinson served as deputy national director of the Rockefeller for President campaign, as he had earlier served in Rockefeller’s gubernatorial races. When Barry Goldwater won the nomination—and ignored Robinson—he became a political independent.

This should have served as an early lesson for the GOP. When a staunch Republican like Jackie Robinson loses faith, it should have raised a red flag about their relationship with the black community. Today’s GOP, which continues to be perceived as an enemy of civil rights, would do well to recall the Robinson story.

But Robinson and Rickey had more faith in free economics than fair-weather politicians of either party. By hiring Robinson, Rickey engaged in the essence of capitalism: “creative destruction.” In this case, the creation of color-blind sports and the destruction of segregated baseball.

Our cynical age thinks that religious motives are “cheesy,” as one reviewer put it, and that capitalism is evil. But Rickey and Robinson—devout Methodists both—didn’t think so.

They believed that people should be judged on their merits, as God intended, not by the color of their skin. They also believed that capitalism, not government, held the key to equal opportunity. And together they practiced what they preached.

Source of Anti-Government Extremism

donttreadonmeflagExclusive: The Right’s hostility to “guv-mint” is not new. It traces back to the South’s fears that any activism by the national government, whether building roads or providing disaster relief, would risk federal intervention against slavery and later against segregation, perhaps even the end of white supremacy, reports Robert Parry. 

By Robert Parry

One reasonable way of looking at democratic governance is that it carries out the collective will of a society, especially in areas where the private sector can’t do the job or needs regulation to prevent it from doing harm. Of course, there are always many variables and points of disagreement, from the need to protect individual rights to the wisdom of each decision.

But something extreme has surfaced in modern American politics: an ideological hatred of government. From the Tea Party to libertarianism, there is a “principled” rejection – at least rhetorically – of almost everything that government does (outside of national security), and those views are no longer simply “fringe.” By and large, they have been embraced by the national Republican Party.

There has also been an effort to anchor these angry anti-government positions in the traditions of U.S. history. The Tea Party consciously adopted imagery and symbols from the Revolutionary War era to create an illusion that this contempt of government fits with the First Principles.

However, this right-wing revision of U.S. history is wildly askew if not upside-down. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution – and even many of their “anti-federalist” critics – were not hostile to an American government. They understood the difference between an English monarchy that denied them representation in Parliament and their own Republic.

Indeed, the key Framers – James Madison, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton – might be called pragmatic nationalists, eager to use the new Constitution, which centralized power at the national level, to build the young country and protect its fragile independence.

While these Framers later split over precise applications of the Constitution – Madison opposed Hamilton’s national bank, for instance – they accepted the need for a strong and effective federal government, unlike the weak, states’-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation.

More generally, the Founders recognized the need for order if their experiment in self-governance was to work. Even some of the more radical Founders, the likes of Sam Adams, supported the suppression of domestic disorders, such as Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. The logic of Adams and his cohorts was that an uprising against a distant monarch was one thing, but taking up arms against your own republican government was something else.

But the Tea Partiers are not entirely wrong when they insist that their hatred of “guv-mint” has its roots in the Founding era. There was an American tradition that involved resisting a strong and effective national government. It was, however, not anchored in the principles of “liberty,” but rather in the practice of slavery.

Southern Fears

The battle against the Constitution and later against an energetic federal government — the sort of nation-building especially envisioned by Washington and Hamilton – emanated from the fears of many Southern plantation owners that eventually the national political system would move to outlaw slavery and thus negate their massive investment in human bondage.

Their thinking was that the stronger the federal government became the more likely it would act to impose a national judgment against the South’s brutal institution of slavery. So, while the Southern argument was often couched in the rhetoric of “liberty,” i.e. the rights of states to set their own rules, the underlying point was the maintenance of slavery.

This dollars-and-cents reality was reflected in the debate at Virginia’s 1788 convention to ratify the Constitution. Two of Virginia’s most noted advocates for “liberty” and “rights” – Patrick Henry and George Mason – tried to rally opposition to the proposed Constitution by stoking the fears of white plantation owners.

Historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg recount the debate in their 2010 book, Madison and Jefferson, noting that the chief argument advanced by Henry and Mason was that “slavery, the source of Virginia’s tremendous wealth, lay politically unprotected” and that this danger was exacerbated by the Constitution’s granting the President, as commander in chief, the power to “federalize” state militias.

“Mason repeated what he had said during the Constitutional Convention: that the new government failed to provide for ‘domestic safety’ if there was no explicit protection for Virginians’ slave property,” Burstein and Isenberg wrote. “Henry called up the by-now-ingrained fear of slave insurrections – the direct result, he believed, of Virginia’s loss of authority over its own militia.”

Henry floated conspiracy theories about possible subterfuges that the federal government might employ to take away black slaves from white Virginians. Describing this fear-mongering, Burstein and Isenberg wrote:

“Congress, if it wished, could draft every slave into the military and liberate them at the end of their service. If troop quotas were determined by population, and Virginia had over 200,000 slaves, Congress might say: ‘Every black man must fight.’ For that matter, a northern-controlled Congress might tax slavery out of existence.

“Mason and Henry both ignored the fact that the Constitution protected slavery on the strength of the three-fifths clause, the fugitive slave clause, and the slave trade clause. Their rationale was that none of this mattered if the North should have its way.”

Madison, a principal architect of the new governing structure and a slave-owner himself, sought to finesse the Mason/Henry arguments by insisting that “the central government had no power to order emancipation, and that Congress would never ‘alienate the affections five-thirteenths of the Union’ by stripping southerners of their property. ‘Such an idea never entered into any American breast,’ he said indignantly, ‘nor do I believe it ever will.’ …

“Yet Mason struck a chord in his insistence that northerners could never understand slavery; and Henry roused the crowd with his refusal to trust ‘any man on earth’ with his rights. Virginians were hearing that their sovereignty was in jeopardy.”

Right to Bear Arms

Despite the impassioned arguments of Henry and Mason – and after Madison gave assurances that he would propose amendments to address some of these concerns – Virginia’s delegates narrowly approved the Constitution on a 89-79 vote.

The key constitutional revision to allay the fears of Southern plantation owners was the Second Amendment, which recognized that “a well-regulated Militia [was] necessary to the security of a free State,” echoing Mason’s language about “domestic safety” as in the protection against slave revolts.

The rest of the Second Amendment – that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – was meant by definitions of the day to ensure the right to “bear Arms” as part of a “well-regulated Militia.” Only in modern times has that meaning been distorted – by the American Right – to apply to individual Americans carrying whatever gun they might want.

But the double-talk about the Second Amendment didn’t begin in recent years. It was there from the beginning when the First Congress acted with no apparent sense of irony in using the wording, “a free State,” to actually mean “a slave State.” And, of course, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” didn’t apply to black people.

The Second Congress enacted the Militia Acts, which mandated that military-age “white” men must obtain muskets and other supplies to participate in bearing arms for their state militias. Thus, the South was guaranteed its militias for “domestic safety.”

Yet, the South still faced the broader political imperative of constraining the power of the federal government so it would never get so strong that it could end slavery. So, during the early decades of the Republic, leading Southern politicians tried to sabotage many of the federal plans for strengthening the United States.

For instance, when James Madison pressed ahead with his long-treasured plan to use the Commerce Clause to justify federal road-building – and thus improve national transportation – he was mocked by Thomas Jefferson for his excessive support of government, as Burstein and Isenberg noted in their book.

In the years after the ratification of the Constitution, Madison gradually pulled out of the Washington-Hamilton orbit and was drawn into Jefferson’s. The key gravitational pull on Madison was Jefferson’s opposition to federal initiatives grounded in the agrarian interests of the slave-owning South.

Madison’s realignment with his Virginia neighbor, Jefferson, bitterly disappointed Washington and Hamilton. However, after Jefferson gained the presidency in 1801, he and Madison joined in one of the biggest federal power overreaches in U.S. history by negotiating the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France – despite the absence of any “enumerated power” in the Constitution that envisioned such an act by the central government.  [For more on the politics of the Founding era, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Racism and the American Right.”]

March toward War

As the national divisions over slavery sharpened, the South escalated its resistance to federal activism, even over non-controversial matters like disaster relief. As University of Virginia historian Brian Balogh noted in his book, A Government Out of Sight, Southerners asserted an extreme version of states’ rights in the period from 1840 to 1860 that included preventing aid to disaster victims.

Balogh wrote that the South feared that “extending federal power” – even to help fellow Americans in desperate need – “might establish a precedent for national intervention in the slavery question,” as Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted in a May 22 column.

As it turned out, the fears of Patrick Henry, George Mason and like-minded Southerners proved prescient. The federal government would become the enemy of slavery. As the United States grew in economic strength, the barbaric practice became a drag on U.S. global influence.

With the election of Abraham Lincoln from the anti-slavery Republican Party, Southern states saw the writing on the wall. Defense of their beloved institution of owning other human beings required extreme action, which manifested itself in the secession of 11 Southern states and the enactment of a Confederate constitution explicitly enshrining slavery.

The South’s defeat in the Civil War forced the Confederate states back into the Union and enabled the Northern states to finally bring an end to slavery. However, the South continued to resist the North’s attempts to reconstruct the region in a more race-neutral way. The South’s old aristocracy reasserted itself through Ku Klux Klan terror and via political organization within the Democratic Party, reestablishing white supremacy – and oppression of blacks – under the banner of “states’ rights.”

There were, of course, other American power centers opposed to the intrusion of the federal government on behalf of the broader public. For instance, the Robber Barons of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries used their money and their political influence inside the Republican Party to assert laissez-faire economics, all the better to steal the country blind.

That power center, however, was shaken by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Recognizing the abject failure of the “free market” to serve the nation’s broader interests, the voters elected Franklin Roosevelt who dealt a New Deal that stimulated the economy, imposed securities regulations and took a variety of steps to lift citizens out of poverty.

In the post-World War II era with the United States asserting global leadership, the South’s practice of racial segregation became another eyesore that the federal government haltingly began to address under pressure from Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. By the 1960s, the South had lost again, with federal laws prohibiting racial segregation.

The momentum from these two government initiatives – intervention to create a more just economy and racial integration – helped build the Great American Middle Class and finally fulfilled some of the grand principles of equality and justice espoused at the Founding. However, the energy behind those reforms began to fade in the 1970s as right-wing resentment built.

Finally, in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the combined backlash against Roosevelt’s New Deal and King’s new day prevailed. Too many whites had forgotten the lessons of the Great Depression and had grown angry over what they viewed as “political correctness.” Over the last several decades, the Right also built an imposing vertically integrated media machine that meshes the written word in newspapers, magazines and books with the spoken (or shouted) word on TV and talk radio.

This giant echo chamber, resonating with sophisticated propaganda including revisionist (or neo-Confederate) history, has convinced millions of poorly informed Americans that the Framers of the Constitution hated a strong central government and were all for “states’ rights” – when nearly the opposite was true as Madison, Washington and Hamilton rejected the Articles of Confederation and drafted the Constitution to enhance federal power.

Further, the Right’s hijacking of Revolutionary War symbols, like yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, confuses the Tea Party rank-and-file by equating the Founding era’s resistance against an overseas monarchy to today’s hatred of an elected U.S. government.

Amid this muck of muddled history, the biggest secret withheld from the American people is that today’s Right is actually promoting a set of anti-government positions that originally arose to justify and protect the South’s institution of slavery. The calls of “liberty” then covered the cries of suffering from human bondage, just as today’s shouts of outrage reflect resentment over the first African-American president.

Russia Warns Obama: Monsanto

By 

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The shocking minutes relating to President Putin’s meeting this past week with US Secretary of State John Kerry reveal the Russian leaders “extreme outrage” over the Obama regimes continued protection of global seed and plant bio-genetic giants Syngenta and Monsanto in the face of a growing “bee apocalypse” that the Kremlin warns “will most certainly” lead to world war.

According to these minutes, released in the Kremlin today by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation (MNRE), Putin was so incensed over the Obama regimes refusal to discuss this grave matter that he refused for three hours to even meet with Kerry, who had traveled to Moscow on a scheduled diplomatic mission, but then relented so as to not cause an even greater rift between these two nations.

At the center of this dispute between Russia and the US, this MNRE report says, is the “undisputed evidence” that a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine, known asneonicotinoids, are destroying our planets bee population, and which if left unchecked could destroy our world’s ability to grow enough food to feed its population.

So grave has this situation become, the MNRE reports, the full European Commission (EC) this past week instituted a two-year precautionary ban (set to begin on 1 December 2013) on these “bee killing” pesticides following the lead of Switzerland, France, Italy, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine, all of whom had previously banned these most dangerous of genetically altered organisms from being used on the continent.

Two of the most feared neonicotinoids being banned are Actara and Cruiser made by the Swiss global bio-tech seed and pesticide giant Syngenta AG which employs over 26,000 people in over 90 countries and ranks third in total global sales in the commercial agricultural seeds market.

Important to note, this report says, is that Syngenta, along with bio-tech giants Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and DuPont, now control nearly 100% of the global market for genetically modified pesticides, plants and seeds.

Also to note about Syngenta, this report continues, is that in 2012 it was criminally charged in Germany for concealing the fact that its genetically modified corn killed cattle, and settled a class-action lawsuit in the US for $105 million after it was discovered they had contaminated the drinking supply of some 52 million Americans in more than 2,000 water districts with its “gender-bending” herbicide Atrazine.

To how staggeringly frightful this situation is, the MNRE says, can be seen in the report issued this past March by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) wherein they warned our whole planet is in danger, and as we can, in part, read:

“As part of a study on impacts from the world’s most widely used class of insecticides, nicotine-like chemicals called neonicotinoids, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called for a ban on their use as seed treatments and for the suspension of all applications pending an independent review of the products’ effects on birds, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife.

“It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains. The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns,” said Cynthia Palmer, co-author of the report and Pesticides Program Manager for ABC, one of the nation’s leading bird conservation organizations.

ABC commissioned world renowned environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct the research. The 100-page report, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds,” reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

“A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a songbird,” Palmer said. “Even a tiny grain of wheat or canola treated with the oldest neonicotinoid — called imidacloprid — can fatally poison a bird. And as little as 1/10th of a neonicotinoid-coated corn seed per day during egg-laying season is all that is needed to affect reproduction.”

The new report concludes that neonicotinoid contamination levels in both surface- and ground water in the United States and around the world are already beyond the threshold found to kill many aquatic invertebrates.”

Quickly following this damning report, the MRNE says, a large group of group of American beekeepers and environmentalists sued the Obama regime over the continued use of these neonicotinoids stating: “We are taking the EPA to court for its failure to protect bees from pesticides. Despite our best efforts to warn the agency about the problems posed by neonicotinoids, the EPA continued to ignore the clear warning signs of an agricultural system in trouble.”

And to how bad the world’s agricultural system has really become due to these genetically modified plants, pesticides and seeds, this report continues, can be seen by the EC’s proposal this past week, following their ban on neonicotinoids, in which they plan to criminalize nearly all seeds and plants not registered with the European Union, and as we can, in part, read:

“Europe is rushing towards the good ol days circa 1939, 40… A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the “EU Plant Variety Agency.”

It’s called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.”

This MRNE report points out that even though this EC action may appear draconian, it is nevertheless necessary in order to purge the continent from continued contamination of these genetically bred “seed monstrosities.”

Most perplexing in all of this, the MRNE says, and which led to Putin’s anger at the US, has been the Obama regimes efforts to protect pesticide-producer profits over the catastrophic damaging being done to the environment, and as the Guardian News Service detailed in their 2 May article titled “US rejects EU claim of insecticide as prime reason for bee colony collapse” and which, in part, says:

“The European Union voted this week for a two-year ban on a class of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, that has been associated with the bees’ collapse. The US government report, in contrast, found multiple causes for the collapse of the honeybees.”

To the “truer” reason for the Obama regimes protection of these bio-tech giants destroying our world, the MRNE says, can be viewed in the report titled “How did Barack Obama become Monsanto’s man in Washington?” and which, in part, says:

“After his victory in the 2008 election, Obama filled key posts with Monsanto people, in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, the USDA and the FDA: At the USDA, as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center. As deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, the infamous Michael Taylor, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.”

Even worse, after Russia suspended the import and use of an Monsanto genetically modified cornfollowing a study suggesting a link to breast cancer and organ damage this past September, the Russia Today News Service reported on the Obama regimes response:

“The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week – including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.

The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.

The provision, also decried as a “biotech rider,” should have gone through the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees for review. Instead, no hearings were held, and the piece was evidently unknown to most Democrats (who hold the majority in the Senate) prior to its approval as part of HR 993, the short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.”

On 26 March, Obama quietly signed this “Monsanto Protection Act” into law thus ensuring the American people have no recourse against this bio-tech giant as they fall ill by the tens of millions, and many millions will surely end up dying in what this MRNE report calls the greatest agricultural apocalypse in human history as over 90% of feral (wild) bee population in the US has already died out, and up to 80% of domestic bees have died out too.

A Congratulation Long Overdue

By Supporters of ages 7/8 Braves team,

To the citizens, leaders, & visitors of Sumter County, you missed a great baseball season for the youth. If you were in attendance of any of the SCPRD baseball games, you would totally understand. All the youth put forth great effort and learned a lot. Overall, most had a great season. With that being said, I, along with supportive parents, family, & friends feel one team wasn’t acknowledged properly. Even though they were overlooked and totally disrespected, the 7/8 year old Braves team displayed what the SCPRD is supposed to be all about: displaying good sportsmanship, teamwork, & learning the concept/technique that is supposed to be taught by the volunteer coaches. This group of kids fought hard and enjoyed every minute of it! They learned the game and it showed every time they stepped on the field as they went on to win the championship with a 14-3 record.

All the odds were against them but “no weapon formed against you shall prosper!” Why is it a question that the team was predominantly a
minority group? Did all the other coaches have an opportunity to choose the same kids? Yes, so why didn’t those coaches draft them? Has anyone questioned why there were few minorities on the teams in prior years? Credit should be given where it is due, and since the department head(s) of the baseball department, did not properly congratulate these young children and the coaches, supporters of this
great team would like to genuinely congratulate each of you on a job well done! We tip our hats to you, not because of a win, not because of the color of your skin, but because of who you are as an individual and the dedication, determination, and joy you brought to the table. To the
coaches, keep up the good work and do what is right for the kids for when God is for you, who can be against you? In conclusion, thank you to the SCPRD for giving the youth an opportunity to participate in various sports and for giving the paying citizens, parents, supporters, and
volunteers reason to look to Him for whence cometh our help for all our help cometh from the Lord.

What Do the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Al-Qaeda Have in Common?

Up to 75 homes, a large apartment complex, a middle school and a nursing home suffered major damage in West, Texas. (photo: NBC36TV/Twitter)

Up to 75 homes, a large apartment complex, a middle school and a nursing home suffered major damage in West, Texas. (photo: NBC36TV/Twitter)

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News,

In 2009, Congress considered a bill that would have strengthened safety standards at fertilizer plants like the one that recently exploded in West, Texas, killing dozens of first responders and leveling a nearby middle school and a nursing home 500 yards away. The 2009 safety regulations were staunchly opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce, multinational corporations’ lobbying arm in Washington. The lobby spent millions to defeat it and labeled it a “key vote” that year. Even though it passed the House, the bill died in the Senate before even getting a vote.

Had those new regulations passed, the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, could have been prevented. But even though the plant dealt in highly-explosive materials like ammonium nitrate, it was only inspected once in its entire history, in 1985. Corporate lobbies like the US Chamber of Commerce prioritize profits and stock prices above safety of the surrounding community, and vehemently oppose environmental and safety regulations in all instances by spending millions of dollars to influence Congressand support candidates who promise to deregulate anything and everything.

The only problem with deregulating environmental and safety laws for corporations is that it opens the floodgates for environmental disasters and fatal catastrophes. Corporations successfully lobbied to deregulate offshore oil drilling in 2002 and 2003, successfully gaining an exemption from the Bush administration on having to install acoustic switches that would activate blowout preventers on oil rigs. Oil companies have to abide by that law in every country where they drill, except for the United States. The acoustic switch shuts off oil blowouts at the source, plugging the well before the blowout becomes too large to contain.

Even though it would only cost an additional $500,000 to install, business groups opposed the idea of oil companies posting record profits that year having to pay an extra cost for even such a basic safety measure. Yet after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf Coast, BP has had to pay out billions of dollars in fines and settlements. Clearly, the business model of hyper-deregulation is costlier not only in terms of dollars spent, but in lives lost, habitats ruined, and entire economies upended.

The explosion in Boston was defined as a terrorist attack, as Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s actions were done with malicious intent and claimed 3 lives while seriously injuring hundreds of others. The two men selfishly chose to end the live of others to make whatever petty point they wanted to make. But the explosion in West, Texas, was also done with malicious intent.

Anyone with half a brain knows that it’s incredibly dangerous for a place that manufactures explosive materials to operate under safety standards that are decades out of date. The wanton deregulation that inevitably led to that explosion was also done with selfish intent, as the US Chamber of Commerce chose to allow corporations to make more money rather than keep the community safe from harm. By that definition the explosion in West, Texas, was also a terrorist attack.

Corporate terrorists should be pursued just as much as religious extremists who commit terrorist acts. And since the US Chamber of Commerce hasn’t released a statement apologizing to the community of West for their reckless behavior that led to the deaths of dozens, it can be said that they will continue to commit acts of terror for selfish economic gain until they’re indicted for their complicity in manslaughter, if not murder.

Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey & Jack Kingston Play Politics As House Republicans Take Up Health Care Repeal For 37th Time

DSCC,

***Similar statements will be sent today targeting House Republicans potentially running for Senate in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and West Virginia ***

Broun, Gingrey, Kingston & DC Extremists Playing Partisan Games, Wasting Taxpayer Resources Instead Of Helping Georgia Families

National Republicans Poised To Vote Once Again To Allow Insurance Companies To Deny Coverage For Those Who Need It, Kick Children Off Their Parents’ Health Insurance

Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston will put partisan politics ahead of Georgia’s middle class families when House Republicans vote for the 37th  time to repeal health care reform. The Republican House voted  36 times in the last Congress to repeal health care reform and it went nowhere— it’s clear the House GOP caucus is more interested in trying to score political points than creating jobs, making quality health care more affordable, or ending Washington gridlock.

Despite the terrible record of House Republicans in Senate races and the wildly unpopular policies they’re pushing, more than a dozen House Republicans are considering Senate bids in 2014. In 2012, the GOP nominated seven current or former Republican House members for the Senate and six of them lost. Republicans and conservative outside groups spent hundreds of millions attacking Democratic Senators and Senate candidates on healthcare reform last cycle. Republicans not only failed to take back the Senate, but they lost seats.

“Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston are far more interested in scoring partisan political points than helping middle class Georgians, and voting for the 37th time to repeal health care reform proves it,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Georgia voters want their representatives in Congress working on common sense reforms to our health care system, not wasting the country’s time with meaningless stunts designed to score political points. Broun, Gingrey, and Kingston’s reckless waste of taxpayers’ time and resources only threatens to take us back to the time when insurance companies could discriminate and deny coverage for people with preexisting conditions, drop you from your plan when you get sick, and kick children off their parents’ health care before they turn 26.”

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, health care is more available and more affordable for all Americans and repealing it would have an instant impact on seniors and middle class families. Medicare benefits for seniors, including prescription drug coverage, and coverage for preventive-care benefits, like mammograms and free wellness visits, would be cut immediately.

How Big Oil Uses the Republican Party

By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

In a surprise move, the eight Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday blocked a floor vote on President Obama’s nominee, Gina McCarthy, as U.S. EPA Administrator. In doing so the Republican senators broke their earlier promise to move McCarthy’s nomination if she answered an unprecedented 1,079 written questions, a quest she completed. Political observers assume the Republican roadblock is meant to derail or delay the implementation of a new EPA rule, promised by President Obama to finally regulate carbon pollution. The Republican ranking member, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, orchestrated the double cross. Vitter is an unabashed mouthpiece for the petroleum industry and record breaking receptacle for petrodollars having received $1.2 million in oil company largesse during his public service career. With cash gushers of oily money cascading down their open gullets, the Republican leadership’s mercenary devotion to Big Oil shouldn’t shock us. However, the boldness of the party’s most recent assault on the public interest might cause us to ponder how GOP’s honchos’ knee jerk slavishness to petroleum interest has infected its rank and file.

The perversity of the modern conservative mind is displayed in two studies published last week. Those studies illustrate the extent to which the right wing has become the ideological sock puppet of Big Oil and the GOP’s army of right wing Christian fundamentalists oil industry foot soldiers. A peer reviewed National Academy of Sciences report shows that the label “energy efficient” on a product actually makes it less likely that self-identified conservatives will purchase that product. Why? Because morally twisted right wing orthodoxy has taken the “conserve” out of conservatism. Craven hatred of all things environmental has made the labels “clean,” “green” or “efficient” pariah among GOP acolytes. Conversely, dirty energy is patriotic and even “blessed.”

Big Oil’s Orwellian skill at employing the rhetoric of patriotism and emblazoning its enterprises with stars and stripes, has stitched the notion that conservation is synonymous with “anti-American” into the fabric of GOP talking points. In 2006, President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer answered a press query about whether President Bush believed in fuel efficiency standards for automobiles saying, “That’s a big ‘No.’” The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country … Conservation alone is not the answer.”

After a decade of this brand of oily claptrap from the industry’s political toadies and its talking heads on Fox News and hate radio, many conservative Americans now embrace the farcical presumption that buying and burning gas is a patriotic act. In 2008, as the oil industry raked in record profits by raking Americans with record prices at the pump, the party of the petro plutocrats proudly adopted Big Oil’s rallying cry as its mantra “Drill, Baby, Drill.”

By the way, Fleischer’s use of the term “blessed” to describe unconscionable profligacy and immoral waste reflect another GOP orthodoxy—the notion that God wants us to burn oil. A second study published this week by University of Pittsburgh Professor David Barker and Professor David Bearce of the University of Colorado found that a fundamentalist Christian belief in biblical End Times is a significant motivating factor behind Republican voter resistance to curbing climate change. According to Bearce and Barker, 76 percent of self-identified Republicans say they believe in the End Times. “Since the world is going to end at a predestined time anyhow,” their logic goes, “it would be heretical to curb our destructive appetites under the delusion that we can do anything about pushing back God’s ordained date.”

Anointing rapacious behavior with religious gloss is an old strategy for both right wing conservatives and the extraction industry. When a House Oversight Committee summoned Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Interior, James Watt, to explain his caper to sell off American’s public lands, waters and mineral rights to oil, mining and timber companies at what the General Accounting Office called “fire sale prices,” Watt, a former mining and oil company lawyer, retorted, “I don’t know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.” Embracing his party line, along with its hook and sinker, Watt explained that environmentalism was a plot to “weaken America” and dismissed environmentalists as a “left wing cult which seeks to bring down the kind of government I believe in.”

Watt was an early proponent of Dominion Theology, the authoritarian Christian heresy that cites cherry-picked phrases from the book of Genesis to advocate man’s duty to subdue nature. His carbon industry alliances and Apocalyptical Christianity inspired Secretary Watt to set about dismantling his department and distributing its assets to his pals. His disciple and former employee, Gale Norton, another energy industry lawyer and lobbyists, would continue the chicanery when she succeeded Watt as Interior Secretary during George W. Bush’s administration. As Shakespeare observed, “The devil can quote Scripture to serve his own purposes.”

In reality, there is nothing patriotic, moral or religious about Big Oil. A storied history of perfidy and greed has distinguished these companies among the most treasonous and piratical of all American business enterprises. Halliburton’s decision to relocate to the Cayman Islands after fattening itself on $9 billion worth of inherently crooked no-bid, cost-plus contracts during the Iraq War is only one of many examples of their shaky loyalty to our country. Before it vaulted onto the bandwagon of patriotism, Texaco flew not “Old Glory” but the “Jolly Roger” over its Houston headquarters, proudly adopting the pirate flag as the emblem of a pirate industry.

The threats from global climate change and ocean acidification are only the tip of a melting iceberg. Not satiated with simply destroying the planet, the oil industry’s relentless greed has eroded American’s economic independence, imperiled our national security, and ruined our global economic leadership and moral authority.

America’s national security is rooted in a strong economy at home. As Republican oilman T. Boone Pickens has acknowledged, our deadly addition to oil is the principal drag on American capitalism. Our nation is borrowing a billion dollars a day to purchase a billion dollars of foreign oil, much of it from nations that don’t share our values or that are outright hostile to our interests.

Our oil jones has us funding both side of the war against terror! Big Oil has embroiled us in foreign wars supporting petty dictators who despise democracy and who are hated by their own people. The export of $700 billion dollars annually of American wealth has beggared our nation, which, a few short decades ago, owned half the wealth on Earth.

Add to these cataclysmic numbers, the $100 billion annual military cost of protecting oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, trillions spent on various oil wars over the past decade, billions more in economic injury from oil spills in Valdez, the Gulf of Mexico and in American rivers from the Hudson to the Kalamazoo to the Yellowstone, the massive damage done to the coast of Louisiana from local drilling companies which aggravated New Orleans’ destruction by Katrina, not to mention the hundreds of billions annually in externalized health care costs from illnesses caused by the oil industry.

If the oil industry had to pay the true costs of bringing its product to market, gas prices would be upwards of $12 per gallon at the pump, according to economist Amory Lovins, and most Americans would be running to buy electric cars.

With low cost disruptive technologies like cheap, fast and efficient electric vehicles, and solar and wind technologies poised to displace Big Oil, the industry is using its hold on the Republican Party to permanently embed itself in our economy while subverting science, American democracy, free market capitalism and our sacred belief in an ethical God.

America Needs Denmark’s “Solidarity System”

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Today in the United States, unemployment is too high, wages and income are too low, people are struggling to find affordable health care and the wealth and income gap is growing wider. Millions of working families are finding it hard to make ends meet and maintain a dignified standard of living.

In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that provides strong opportunity and security for all citizens. Danes pay high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would envy.

Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. But are there lessons we can learn from the social model in Denmark? If you’re interested in the answer, please attend one of a series of town meetings that I am holding throughout Vermont this weekend with Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen. On Saturday, the ambassador will join me for town meetings at 1 p.m. at Burlington City Hall and at 7 p.m. at the Brattleboro Museum in Brattleboro. On Sunday, join us at 10:30 a.m. at Montpelier High School in Montpelier. Admission is free, questions and comments are encouraged.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular with patient satisfaction much higher than in the United States. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive. They’re free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for low-income workers.

At a time when college education in the United States is becoming increasingly unaffordable and the average Vermont college graduate leaves school more than $28,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.

In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.

It is no secret that in our country many people are living under great stress. They work long hours with relatively little time off. In fact, a growing number of businesses provide no vacation and can force workers to work long and irregular shifts. In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time is considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays.

Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.

Are there lessons that we can learn from the social model in Denmark? You be the judge. Please join us on Saturday in Burlington or Brattleboro, or Sunday morning in Montpelier.

Economic Storm Clouds Ahead

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. But the recent jubilance is enough to make even weather forecasters blush. “Just look at the bull market! Look at home prices! Look at consumer confidence!”

I can understand the jubilation in the narrow sense that we’ve been down so long everything looks up. Plus, professional economists tend to cheerlead because they believe that if consumers and businesses think the future will be great, they’ll buy and invest more – leading to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But prophesies can’t be self-fulfilling if they’re based on wishful thinking.

The reality is we’re still in the doldrums, and the most recent data gives cause for serious worry.

Almost all the forward movement in the economy is now coming from consumers —  whose spending is 70 percent of economic activity. But wages are still going nowhere, which means consumer spending will slow because consumers just don’t have the money to spend.

On Thursday the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 3.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. But the personal savings rate dropped to 2.3 percent — from 5.3 percent in the last quarter of 2012. That’s the lowest level of savings since before the Great Recession. You don’t have to be an economic forecaster, or an astrologer, to see this can’t go on.

Yes, home prices are rising. The problem is, they’re beginning to rise above their long-run historical average. (Before the housing crash they were were way, way above the long-run average.) So watch your wallets. We’ve been here before: The Fed is keeping interest rates artificially low, allowing consumers to get low home-equity loans and to borrow against the rising values of their homes. Needless to say, this trend, too, is unsustainable.

What about the stock market? It’s time we stopped assuming that a rising stock market leads to widespread prosperity. Over 90 percent of the value of the stock market — including 401(k)s and IRAs — is held by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population.

Moreover, the main reason stock prices have risen is corporate profits have soared. But that’s largely because corporations have slashed their payrolls and keep them low. Which brings us full circle, back to the fundamental fact that wages that are going nowhere for most people.

Not even fat corporate profits are sustainable if American consumers don’t have enough money in their pockets. Exports can’t make up for the shortfall, given the rotten shape Europe is in and the slowdown in Asia.

So don’t expect those profits to continue. In fact, the new Commerce Department report shows that corporate profits shrank in the first quarter, reversing some of the gains in the second half of 2012.

And, by the way, the full effect of the cuts in government spending hasn’t even been felt yet. The sequester is going to be a large fiscal drag starting next month.  

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade. But any self-respecting weather forecaster would warn you to zipper up and take an umbrella. Don’t be swayed by all the sunny talk. There are too many storm clouds ahead.

Huge Crowd at Americus Sumter High Graduation

To the disappointment of some in the community, the graduating class of 2013 had large turnouts of family members and other well-wishers at this year’s commencement exercises. One high school, the Americus High School’s graduation, was so crowded that some individuals had to be
turned away.

The crowds were large and in a festive mood in spite of the not-so-recent actions of a few selfish, mean-spirited individuals that wanted to close down the entire school system. The Americus Times Recorder, Sumter County’s DA and the three White Sumter County school board members-
Dr. Michael Busman, Michael Mock, and Meda Krenson – did all they could to destroy the public system.

The three board members acted like a bunch of naughty children that cry when they can’t have their way. But the analogy ends there. The Black board members had to deal with a bunch of grown up individuals bent on having their way or destroy the public school system if they didn’t.

Busman, Mock, and Krenson, all were serious enough in their attempts to destroy the school system that they enlisted the help of the racist SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) to take away the school’s accreditation. They convinced the District Attorney (DA), Plez
Hardin, to convene a Grand Jury to discredit the majority Black school board members. The SACS, the Americus Times Recorder, and the DA’s efforts failed and backfired on them, making them appear ignorant and foolish. In the end, our school system was accredited by the GA
Accrediting Committee, a fair and reputable accrediting company. The Americus Times Recorder never reported the school’s accreditation it received from the Accrediting Committee.

Throughout the ordeal of trying to run a school system while being treated in a hateful way by their three White board members, the Black school board members maintained a professional attitude. Continuing that type of demeanor was not easy for the Black members especially
when their colleagues agitated many of the uninformed white citizens in the community. They tried to get several of the Black board members’ employers to terminate them. None of those tactics worked.

Over 250 students graduated this year, a clear indication of the leadership of School Superintendent Mr. Donnie Smith and school board chairman Edith Ann Green.

At the GAAAP (God’s Army for the Advancement of All People) first Banquet last April, 2013, GAAAP President Rev. Matt Wright honored the Black board members for their exemplary work. Board Chairman Edith Ann Green was the recipient of GAAAP’s first President’s Award.
Green and the other black members fought a dignified and courageous battle against those who wanted to see schools under their responsibility lose its accreditation.

Appreciations also go to the school board Attorney Maurice King of Albany, Ga. King assisted the six Black school board members in defeating the redistricting scheme that the previous school board attorney tried to enact. Then board Attorney Jimmy Skipper tried to keep the district that has five seats and two at-large seats, but Ann Green and King exposed this redistricting scheme concocted by Skipper and the three White board members.

Had the scheme not been exposed, Skipper and the three White board members would have ensured a White school board control indefinitely. Instead, the Black majority board members voted for a nine-seat district which has six Blacks and three Whites. The vote outraged the three, especially Busman. And, in addition to the enlisting of SACS and the DA as mentioned, Busman wanted the GA governor
to remove the Black board members. That pipe dream failed too and pointedly showed how inept and inexperienced the three were at the
hearing at the state school board in Atlanta, GA. The Sumter County District Attorney Plez Hardin was present at the same hearing and it was quite obvious that he did not know school board law.

Certainly, the school system is not perfect, but it works well thus far under the leadership of the school’s superintendent and its board chairman.

We, the community, congratulate the Class of 2013! Seek your dreams-go forth and continue to make yourself and your community proud.

Sumter Elementary Student Achieves High Honors

By Staff Reports,

Isaiah Akia Mitchell is a third grade student at Sumter Elementary School in Americus, GA. His school principal is Sharon Marcus and homeroom teacher is Elizabeth Holloway. He is the son of Eden and Rory Edge. He is a member of the Restoration Church of Americus where Reverend George F Edge is the Pastor.

The following is a listing of Isaiah’s many awards and honors:

Parents Award
Third Grade Academic Award
Third Grade Principal’s Award
Perfect Attendance
Physical Education Award
CRCT [Criterion-Reference
Competency Test] scored 30 points
above average
Multiple Honor Rolls
All A’s the entire year
Ranked in the top 7 out of 148 on the
A team at Odyssey of the Mind.

Tystanic: ASuccess Story in Americus

By Staff Reports,

When Daron Tyson was 6-years-old he began to rev up gigantic visions of creating dream vehicles and transportation.

By 14, he was breaking down cars and putting them back together.

“I always had a fascination for cars,” he said.

Those visions to combine first-class service with a superior vehicle made for luxury and style eventually became reality with Tystanic, which several businesses fall under, including Tystanic Custom Paint & Body, Tystanic Travel, Tystanic Customs and more.

“I always wanted to have my own business, now I own a full fledge business,” said Tyson, whose family-run Americus business employs 14 people.

Tystanic Custom Paint & Body offers the best of the best services from hot new custom colors to clean, dependable, elegant and executive styled limousine services.

“We have it all,” Tyson said.

They do everything from custom pin-striping to full frame-off restorations. They also offer a wide range of custom colors. Other services include car, truck and bike lowering or lifting vehicle with full air-ride suspension, vinyl lettering and much more.

“We stand behind everything we do,” Tyson said.

Tystanic Travel offers travel and party buses including the 56 passenger- Setra Motor Coach which has such features as an on-board laboratory system, Wi-FI and more.

Tyson said the travel division has taken customers to locations across the nation, including Atlanta professional sports and Reverend T.D. Jakes’ events.

They have traveled to Florida, upstate New York, Texas, California, and Canada.

“We will take you anywhere you want to go,” Tyson said.

He added football season is approaching and now is the time to get your season passes.

There’s also limousine service where customers can enjoy a fully stocked bar, including champagne, color coordinated decorations, weddings, red carpet treatment, on-time guarantee and a professional chauffeur in a tuxedo.

There’s the 10-passenger Chrysler 300, the only one in the area and comes equipped with a working fireplace.

You could take a whole group of bridesmaids and groomsmen to the wedding.”

Tyson said the service has transported a number of celebrities, but his business keeps those names confidential.

However, he added he doesn’t get star struck by celebrities, and considers kids his favorite customers.

“Kids are our future,” he said.

He added they also show more appreciation.

The company also owns boats and provides rental cars and 12-and 15-passenger vans.

However, Tyson, who owns several vehicles, said his favorite vehicle is his personal pearl blue 2006 Mustang convertible.

“That’s my little toy,” he said.

Tystanic is at 102 U.S. Highway 19 North, Americus. You can reach them at (229) 931-6343 or tystanic.com

Scandal in Mayor Blount’s City Council

Staff Reports,

A total of $271,000.00 grant money authorized by the City of Americus to be used for infrastructure has gone missing. Bernard Kendrick who is over downtown Americus infrastructure was in charge. The problem allegedly is that the City has not seen the grant and there is no copy of the grant provided.

So, what happened to the $271,000.00 of taxpayers’ money? The names that our newspaper received that are implicated in some way with the scandal are: Charlotte Cotton, City Administrator (recently retired); and Suzanne Freeman, Financial Director, and Bernard Kendrick.

Police Chief, Mark Gerbino who recently retired, told our newspaper that he asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the problem with the improper handling of City money. Shortly after he called in the FBI, City Administrator Charlotte Cotton had Chief Gerbino investigated. Gerbino decided to resign after that.

Mayor Barry Blount has many unanswered questions concerning the scandal which is on his watch.

Several city council members are up for reelection in November 2013: Mayor Blount, Lou Chase, Carla Cook, and Lorenzo Johnson.

The Observer asked Matt Wright, President of God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP) for his thoughts on the scandal.
Wright said, “I hope that District Attorney Plez Hardin will intervene and bring the matter before a Grand Jury just as he did with the
Sumter County School Board members.” Wright also stated that, “There are enough facts to convene one ( Grand Jury), which was not the case involving the school board.”

Wright concluded his statement by saying he hopes that the three whites are not the reason preventing Hardin from investigating the missing $271,000.00 dollars.