All-Star to Tech Star: Why Black Athletes Need to Get in the Startup Game

image-xexnqyAthletes-turned-startup founders call for a transition from the stadium to the Valley

The privilege of lifting the Lombardi trophy has always been reserved for a small group of men each year, and the Super Bowl proved to be no different. The same goes for the ranks of investors that fund a majority of today’s tech startups. However, the latter is changing and we’d like to see more African-American National Football League players, and minority athletes, get off the sideline and into the investing game.

Both rapper-turned-actor Will Smith and music mogul Jay-Z are leveraging their capital and celebrity to back BlackJet, which enables clients to book seats on luxury jets via a mobile app. Black Eyed Peas frontman is not only a serial investor, but he’s learning to write code so he can develop his own websites. Athletes can follow the example of Ronnie Lott, a four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers; Lott recently raised a fund, with other African Americans, and has already invested is several successful startups. His son (who is one of the article’s authors) co-founded StraightCast Media after retiring from the NFL.

Diversifying your portfolio can also save you money. All of these investors benefit from what is known as the carried interest loophole. We’ll break it down: while you likely pay 39.6% on income derived from salary towards taxes, your investments face a maximum of 15-20% in capital gains taxes. This is why billionaire investor Warren Buffett reportedly still pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. As one notable angel investor recently explained, “income is a sucker’s game. Carried interest rocks.”

Recent initiatives aimed at encouraging a more diverse pool of startup investors have already increased the number of women who are empowered to be more visible and vocal. Websites like FundersClub, with only a few clicks, enables its members, who are accredited investors (with a networth of over $1 million or yearly earnings more than $200,000), to invest as little as $1,000 in venture funds that go on to finance some of the world’s top startups in exchange for equity. The process of connecting founders with funding is becoming more efficient and transparent than ever before, making it easier for those outside Silicon Valley to get involved.

Investors should continue backing the technologies and teams that excite them. However, an increase in the diversity of investors could influence investing habits over-all. At present, just 1% of all venture-backed startups in Silicon Valley have an African-American founder.

First hand, we’re seeing the situation improve. A handful of African-American investors contributed over 25% of the $2 million dollar seed round closed by one of our startups, SendHub, in April 2012. Kenneth Chenault, CEO and Chairman
of American Express, is backing a startup called Urban Compass, which is led by an African- American founder and months ago announced an $8 million seed round. We are convinced that the best strategy for positioning minority communities to benefit from the wealth and jobs created by the innovation economy is to bring more diverse investors to the table.

This is exactly what FundersClub and others are doing. To date, the website has funded six companies two of which are led by African American CEOs. This is an encouraging trend which suggests that a rising tide of investors may lift more startup
boats, including those led by minority founders.

Professional athletes who want to learn more about the startup game, within a controlled and low-pressure environment, might consider attending an upcoming Demo Day put on by YCombinator or 500 Startups in Mountain View, California. Ashton Kutcher and MC Hammer are regulars. Demo Day is almost equivalent to the NFL Scouting Combine except, the room is filled with less anatomically impressive people and everyone is talking about user traction, instead of forty yard dash times.

Ronnie Lott, who has demonstrated a remarkable level of deft throughout his career—on and off the field—captures our sentiments best. He noted, “Just like Jackie Robinson explored the possibilities of playing in the big leagues, we also need to explore the possibilities of playing where innovation and economics collide to transform the future. We cannot afford to miss this game!”

The Birthers of Fracking

Josh Fox, director of the documentary GasLand. (photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Josh Fox, director of the documentary GasLand. (photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, a group of House Republicans were treated to a screening of FrackNation – a KickStarter’d documentary that aims to debunk the Oscar-nominated, fracking-skeptical GasLand. I reported a bit on the screening (which ended with free DVDs for attendees) and reviewed the movie, paying notice to how filmmaker Phelim McAleer appeared to frazzle GasLand director Josh Fox. Early in the film, McAleer shows up at a Q&A with Fox and asks him why his movie didn’t explain that methane has been in some water supplies for years, and that shocking video of water being lit on fire wasn’t as shocking as it looked. Fox asks for McAleer’s credentials and calls the question “irrelevent.” McAleer, duly inspired, makes a movie.

It’s a bit much, says Fox. “I gave the guy, not knowing who he was, a long, academic answer,” he explains. “I’d just gotten off the plane, and I just found out somebody robbed my house! I wasn’t thinking about it in a media context, and unfortunately there was nobody else in the room taping. So they pulled a kind of Shirley Sherrod thing where they completely represented the Q&A session.”

Since making GasLand, Fox has become a sought-after speaker and activist for the anti-fracking movement. With that comes criticism, and with that occasional, judicious push back against the allegation that the water-on-fire scene is misleading. “I’d been asked the same questions before, and answered them before,” says Fox. “I’ve been part of something like 250 debates around US and world. At almost every one, some oil and gas shill says something like this. They’re the birthers of fracking. This argument about biogemic and thermogenic gas is one of the things that the oil and the gas industry brings up as a distraction. Both biogenic and thermogenic gas can be released by drilling, and the industry says so.”

I tried to get this across in my review. FrackNation doesn’t debunk every question you’ve ever had about fracking. It introduces us to plenty of people who benefit from fracking, and exposes some fraudsters who claimed damage before being caught out. “I wouldn’t blame a person for leasing if he’s one mortgage payment away from foreclosure, and the lease can fix that,” says Fox. “But these companies are exploitative. The government’s not helping by providing a way out. These same people could lease their land for solar, we’re one line change away in the solar power laws, to allow this. Instead, they’re turning PA into Nigeria as we speak.”

Meaning: The fracking business is expanding faster than its affects can be studied. “The impacts of fracking go far beyond methane migration,” says Fox. “Chemical migration has been confirmed by the industry. That’s not surprising – we’re talking about wells up to three miles deep, with one inch of cement keeping the chemicals inside. We’ve seen industry documents saying 5% of wells fail immediately, and 50% to 60% fail over a 30-year period.

And they have known about this problem for decades. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did the same thing, they had video of cracking cement. they didn’t publish for 16 months until Rendell said, you should do something.”

The tension between agencies and communities – studies inconsistently analyzing the possible threats – is probably the most compelling part of FrackNation. McAleer drives to Dimock, Pa. (where he’s conducted other interviews) to talk to a family whose claims suffered after the EPA rated their water safe. A family member drives to meet and berate McAleer; he plays footage of the family reacting angrily to an EPA administrator. That, says Fox, is much more complicated than the ugly snapshot would indicate.

“I remember when that EPA report came out about the ‘water being fine,'” he says. “They didn’t release the tests to the media, but the media ran with their press release. Meanwhile, I was driving three hours to Dimock, getting the test results from people: They found explosive levels of methane. I had a meeting with EPA. And in the meeting, they told me, oh, we never said Dimock’s water was safe! So why did they come out and say methane was not a contaminant?”

TD Bank and Popular Franchises Offer Special Financing Options for Veterans

image-z1b3qyDunkin Donuts, Domino s Pizza and Baskin-Robbins already enrolled

In an attempt to help U.S. military veterans become business owners, TD Bank today announced its joined with the International Franchise Association (IFA) and a pilot group of well known franchises, in a program to streamline the road to business ownership.

Franchises such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Domino’s Pizza, Baskin-Robbins and Papa Murphy’s will now be able to offer a simplified loan application process, a packaging fee waiver and lower interest rates from T.D. Bank, specifically for U.S. Military veterans. Franchises enrolled in the program will be able to offer veterans special information and rates available only thru TD Bank’s.

“A military background provides veterans with important skills and traits that we see in small business owners,” said  Rich Bradshaw, head of Small Business Administration (SBA) Lending at TD Bank, who is also a retired Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer. ”TD Bank knows that veterans are strong candidates for franchising, and we are pleased to work with the IFA and our franchise partners to help veterans achieve their business dreams.”

“Papa Murphy’s, a pizza franchise that’s already enrolled in the program, has already added twelve new veterans to their franchise family,” said Dick Larsen, VP of Development and Finance for Papa Murphy’s. “Papa Murphy’s International is honored to partner with TD Bank on this financing initiative for our veterans and their spouses.”

The IFA hopes this initiative will help accelerate the number of veteran-owned franchise businesses.

“Veterans have a proven track record in franchising, and with more than 1 million troops returning to the civilian workforce in the coming years, we continue to work hard each and every day to extend career opportunities to our nation’s veterans,” said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira.

Farrakhan to blacks: Pool pennies to build wealth, train gangbangers to protect it

Minister Louis Farrakhan

Minister Louis Farrakhan


The Chicago-Sun-Times featured a front page report today covering Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam’s  NOI) “Savior’s Day” annual meeting. The Chicago-based NOI leader issued a call to action urging black people nationwide
to pool “pennies, nickels and dimes” to build wealth. He also said that we must organize “gangbangers” to pro-tect that wealth and property.

“You are the natural warriors to defend,” Farrakhan said at the University of Illinois Chicago Pavilion. “And the science of war must be taught to us, so that we will protect whatever God allows us to buy or to build. We have to protect what is ours from any thief or robber.”

Farrakhan was speaking at the annual NOI’s Savior’s Day commemoration of its founding in the 1930s. The political, cultural, social and economic philosophy of Black Nationalism, together with the practice of self-reliance, have from the outset constituted the foundation and cornerstones of the organization. The convention Sunday drew thousands from every corner of this nation-state.

Farrakhan put a black Chicago twist on the current national gun control debate, noting that black Chicago has become ground zero in that fight, yet black people are rarely mentioned in the white-owned and controlled media except as perpetrators or victims of gun violence.

“That’s where the Second Amendment comes in for us,” he said.

The constitutional right to bear arms is irrelevant in the black community, he said, because of the ongoing presence of illegal weapons. Still, surprisingly, Farrakhan appeared to channel the National Rifle Association’s stance. He said that he respects the Second Amendment’s value in keeping the government from overreaching and tyrannizing the citizenry.

“What they don’t want is an organized black community, and they do not want leaders that organize young black men.”

Again, the gist of his hours-long speech was a renewed call for the black community to pool fractions of its income — 35 cents from each wage-earner every week — into a national treasury where the money could be used to buy farms and other

“America is for sale,” Farrakhan said. “But we are not owning it. We helped build this. Our sweat and blood was used to protect it. Shouldn’t we be co-owners of it?

You’ve got to think like that now. I don’t want to walk streets that we don’t own.”

And then he took the black community itself to task. He particularly chastised our spending habits as wasteful and counterproductive: $3.3 billion a year on tobacco, $3 billion on whiskey, wine and beer, $2.8 billion on non-alcoholic beverages and $19 billion a year on telephone services.

“No wonder the FBI knows everything about you,” Farrakhan shouted.

The human body, he noted, is like the economy. Every organ — or every person — gets exactly what it needs and nothing more. Is this a form of socialism, he asked the crowd? No, he answered himself. He considers himself a prophet who is merely passing on what God has revealed to him, what we must do as a people in order to be redeemed.

“I’m advocating what God has set up,” Farrakhan said, “that makes every cell comfortable.”


Several things stand out here.

First, the fact that the Chicago Sun-Times (and other “mainstream” media outlets) even report on the Nation of Islam, “Savior’s Day” and Minister Farrakhan as a “straight” news story is remarkable. Chicago’s dominant, white-owned media generally relegate Farrakhan and the NOI to the fringes of political discourse and debate unless he says or does something they consider outrageous – “anti-Semitic” or “racist.” And then, of course, the media assumes its default position of disparaging the Nation of Islam generally and Farrakhan particularly.

Further, in every single black neighborhood in Chicago, without exception, and in most every other so-called “urban” enclave nationwide, “other people” now own and run most of the stores, shops, and small “mom-and-pop” businesses.  These people seem to shift in terms of ethnicity every few years as they gain financial independence, make their money and
then get out — escape.

One More Trophy for Panther Math Team

image-o174qyAmericus-Sumter High School Panther Varsity Math Team Placed 2nd out of 26 teams and the Junior Varsity placed 4th out of 28 teams at the Annual Math Tournament held at Chattahoochee Community College in Alabama on February 13th 2013. Di Qi was overall high scorer for the varsity and Jesse Collier for the junior varsity. Congratulations to all participants. The coaches, Dr. Ndaayezwi and Mr. Ballarapu, and the entire Panther community are honored and proud of these young mathematicians.

SCES Panther Cub Garden Club Makes Recycled Bird Houses

Sumter County Elementary School Panther Cub Garden Club members have been studying recycling, conservaion, and ecosystems. Students created bird habitats by making a bird house out of empty milk jugs and other household items. Students were very excited to take home their bird houses and see the birds feast on the seeds inside! The SCES Panther Cub Garden Club is sponsored by Mrs. Billi Faust and Ms. Kristen Whittle.

SMS Honors February Students of the Month

Counselor Daphne Williams congratulates Raymond Brown-Fields on being chosen Student of the Month.

Counselor Daphne Williams congratulates Raymond Brown-Fields on being chosen Student of the Month.

Staley Middle School held its February “Student of the Month Breakfast” on February 27, 2013. Approximately 27 students and their parents and guardians were invited to the ceremony in which a full breakfast of grits, eggs, bacon, sausage, and biscuits was served. During the breakfast, each student was honored with a certificate and special treats while the positive comments from their nominating teachers were read aloud by Principal Victoria Harris, Counselor Daphne Williams, and
Academic Coach Sabrina Stephens.

My Place Contest at SCES

SUBMITTED PHOTO Left Front - DeAnna Martinez, Alex Salazar Left Back - Kamiya Bush , Kera Holt Right Front and Back - Robin Elder, McKinsey Davis, Jaylynne Ruckman, Grace Gilbert Back Row-Mrs. Alethea Mitchell, art teacher and Mrs. Sharron Marcus, Principal


Left Front – DeAnna Martinez, Alex Salazar Left Back – Kamiya Bush , Kera Holt Right Front and Back – Robin Elder, McKinsey Davis, Jaylynne Ruckman, Grace Gilbert Back Row-Mrs. Alethea Mitchell, art teacher and Mrs. Sharron Marcus, Principal

Sumter County Elementary School students participated in the “National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia Patriotic Services Project” contest. Under the direction of the art teacher, Mrs. Alethea Mitchell, students decorated a chair for the “My Place” contest.

The seat of the chair represents Sumter County. There you will find a replica of a student, peanuts, Charles Lindberg, and an airplane. The state of Georgia is the on the back rest of the chair. It has several things that signify our state. There you will see a peach, peanuts, and black sunglasses symbolizing Ray Charles contribution of “Georgia on My Mind”. Also represented are our country’s flag, stars, and eagle. . The back side of the chair and the base makes up the world. The world base has chair replicas from different.

Michael Jordan files for paternity lawsuit to be dismissed in Georgia

In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan looks on after practice at NBA basketball training camp in Asheville, N.C. An Atlanta woman has filed a lawsuit saying basketball Hall of Famer and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is the father of her teenage son. The law- suit was filed Feb. 6 by Pamela Smith in Fulton County Superior Court. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan looks on after practice at NBA basketball training camp in Asheville, N.C. An Atlanta woman has filed a lawsuit saying basketball Hall of Famer and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is the father of her teenage son. The lawsuit was filed Feb. 6 by Pamela Smith in Fulton County Superior Court. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Michael Jordan has asked a Georgia court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by a woman who says the NBA hall of famer is the father of her 16-year-old son.

Jordan’s lawyer John Mayoue said in the document filed Monday in Fulton County Superior Court that the six-time NBA champion is not the father of Pamela Y. Smith’s son. Jordan accused her of making false claims against him.

The NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats majority owner said the paternity of the teen has already been “conclusively established” in divorce filings between Smith and her ex-husband.

Jordan, 50, released a statement to The Associated Press on Monday through his spokes-woman Estee Portnoy saying, “Public records show that the paternity of the child was established in a prior case in this same court many years ago and that Michael Jordan is not the father. He also filed a counterclaim seeking sanctions for the false claims made against him. It is unfortunate that well-known figures are the target of these kind of claims. Michael Jordan will vigorously defend himself and his reputation.”

Jordan’s response to Smith’s Feb. 6 lawsuit said her suit is a “shameless, bad faith attempt to abuse the legal system.”

Smith’s lawsuit requests Jordan take a paternity test and pay child support. She also requested the boy’s last name be changed to Jordan, and for a judge to order the Georgia Department of Vital Records to issue him a new birth certificate.

The lawsuit requests that any hearing or trial be conducted in closed court to protect the teen’s privacy.

However, Smith’s publicist acknowledged that the teen posted a video to YouTube on Dec. 25, saying Jordan is his father and that he wants him to play a larger role in his life.

“Pamela had no choice but to support her son and his desire to forge a relationship with his father,” Smith’s publicist, April Love, said in a statement Friday. “That’s why she is now speaking out and prompting Michael to do the right thing.”

Love said Smith, 48, and Jordan met in Chicago in the late 1980s.

According to court documents, Smith does not have an attorney. A court date is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12.

Jordan remains one of the most recognized sports figures in the world nearly 10 years after his retirement from the NBA. He was a 14-time NBA all-star and won six championships with the Chicago Bulls and was named the finals MVP six times.

On March 17, 2010, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved Jordan’s purchase of the Bobcats, making him the first former NBA player ever to become the majority owner of a league franchise.

Bobby Rogers, founder of Motown group The Miracles, dies

FILE - This 2009 file photo, shows Bobby Rogers, a founding member of the Miracles, in Detroit.

FILE – This 2009 file photo, shows Bobby Rogers, a founding member of the Miracles, in Detroit.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) — Bobby Rogers, a founding member of Motown group The Miracles and a songwriting collaborator with Smokey Robinson, died Sunday at his suburban Detroit home. He was 73.

Motown Museum board member Allen Rawls said Rogers died about 6 a.m. in Southfield. Rogers had been ill for several years.

Rogers formed the group in 1956 with cousin Claudette Rogers, Pete Moore, Ronnie White and Robinson. Their hits included “Shop Around,” ”You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” ”The Tracks of My Tears,” ”Going to a Go-Go,” ”I Second That Emotion” and “The Tears of a Clown.”

“Another soldier in my life has fallen. Bobby Rogers was my brother and a really good friend,” Robinson said Sunday in a statement. “He and I were born on the exact same day in the same hospital in Detroit. I am really going to miss him. I loved him very much.”

Roger’s cousin Claudette told the Detroit Free Press that everyone was drawn to his personality.

“People always commented on the tall one with the glasses,” she said. “He was personable, approachable and he loved talking to the women, loved talking to the guys, loved to dance, loved to sing, loved to perform. That was the joy of his life.”

His voice can be heard on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” with Rogers saying, “It’s just a groovy party, man, I can dig it.” Mary Wilson of the Supremes said that captured his essence.

“If people want to remember him, they should put that record on and listen to Bobby,” Wilson told the newspaper. “That’s who he was.”

Rogers and The Miracles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. He was too ill to attend the ceremony.

He shared songwriting credits with Robinson on The Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” The Contours’ “First I Look at the Purse” and The Miracles’ “Going to a Go-Go.”

Funeral arrangements through James H. Cole Home for Funerals in Detroit were incomplete Sunday afternoon.


New Orleans rapper Mr. Magic and wife die in car accident

Courtesy Mia X Instagram

Courtesy Mia X Instagram

New Orleans rapper Awood “Mr. Magic” Johnson and his wife of 13 years, Chastity Johnson, were killed in a fatal car accident in Mississippi.

The former No Limit Records artist had a successful debut album, Sky’s the Limit, in 1998, which reached number 3 on the hip-hop/R&B albums chart, according to the Times-Picayune.

Johnson’s most recent success was with the group Body Head Bangerz in 2004, and their single “I Smoke, I Drank.”

Several industry professionals tweeted condolences to Mr. Magic and his family over the weekend.

AllHipHop News reportes that rapper Mystikal took to his Twitter account to post: “RIP TO MY BROTHER. MR MAGIC & HIS WIFE! GOD BLESS THEIR FAMILIES.”

“Prayers goes to the Family and Friends of Mr. Magic. him and Wife died in car accident last night..,” tweeted another rapper, Silkk The Shocker.

Johnson was scheduled to perform this past weekend with rapper Mia X. “I looked forward to performing and laughing wit you on Friday but God chose you to be with him,” Mia X wrote on her Instagram account. “Chasity was the LOVE of your life so God decided that she should join you. I know yall are in a better place but all of us who loved yall are shocked and hurt.”

Johnson was 37 years old. The couple’s 12-year-old daughter, Twila Wise Johnson, survived the crash.

Why Terrence Howard might quit acting to grow diamonds

Terrence Howard and Colin Farrell in FilmDistrict’s ’Dead Man Down.’

Terrence Howard and Colin Farrell in FilmDistrict’s ’Dead Man Down.’

In his films, Terrence Howard has portrayed the hierarchy of power’s incarnations: a hustler and pimp; a World War II colonel; Cassius Clay and Nelson Mandela. What people may not know about the Dead Man Down star, however, is that in real life he’s actually an influential scientist.

In fact, Howard’s passion for scientific exploration may soon overtake his interest in the movie business altogether.

“I have greater things I can contribute to the world of science than an actor,” the 43-year-old tells theGrio. “I had a conversation with Sidney Poitier. I asked him, ‘Why aren’t you going to do another movie?’ And he said, ‘I’m not going to do another impersonation of myself. I might have ten years left in my life, and I don’t want to waste it doing something I’ve already done before.’ If I can’t learn from a character, if I’m just going in and taking from a bag of tricks and choices for a character, I don’t want to do it. It’s pointless for me because I have to grow as a human being, and I don’t want the safe road.”

Howard’s interest in science sparked in his youth, and he went on to study chemical engineering at Pratt Institute in New York. The actor says he has since received his doctorate, and recently started a diamond-growing venture for which he has filed for about 23 patents over the past several years. Subsequently, he furthered the mark of a world icon along the way.

“I finished Einstein’s equation, which only works in infinite space. It does not work in confined space, which we live within in the physical factor,” Howard explains. “I found the connection between light and its colors; sight and its sounds; and matter and its shape.”

With real life so stimulating, Howard insists he has made it a point to keep his priorities in check by only taking on acting roles that offer him the chance to learn about humanity. In his new film Dead Man Down, in theaters this Friday, he portrays the role of Alphonse, a Corleone-esque mob boss caught in the crossfire of his own missteps. Early on in the movie, Alphonse finds himself the target of an assassination plot, and must retrace his dark past in order to safeguard his questionable future.

Though first impressions suggest Alphonse is inherently evil, Howard says he has a lot in common with his character, a biracial man simply trying to his place in society.

“He was part of a disenfranchised social group as a young black man,” the actor remarks. “Being a light-skinned black man growing up in the 70’s, black people didn’t appreciate him, white people didn’t appreciate him. When I was a kid I was called a ‘no nation motherf*****’ primarily because I couldn’t hang out with black people; I couldn’t hang out with white people. My character just wants to be accepted. He wants to respected.”

And, like his character, Howard says he faced the same scrutiny growing up in Cleveland that can lead one down an ominous path.

“As a child, I was always told to turn the other cheek, but turning the other cheek was cowardice,” he remembers. “I realized I wasn’t turning the other cheek out of strength and love for my brother, I was turning the other cheek because I didn’t want to get hit again. You make those compromises and sooner or later, those hits build up until you have a ton of animosity that you want to throw out. And when you finally let go of that animosity, you find that the world is beautiful.”


Why youths aren’t getting tested for HIV

Masonia Traylor

Masonia Traylor

(CNN) — Masonia Traylor doesn’t look sick.

The 25-year-old mother of two is poised. Sitting in a boardroom at AID Atlanta, an HIV outreach facility in Atlanta where she volunteers, she exudes confidence.

But Traylor is HIV positive.

According to the CDC, 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year, and 25% of those are between the ages of 13 and 24.

Sixty percent of youth with HIV don’t know they have it, despite recommendations from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

A faceless disease

Masonia Traylor has become an advocate for HIV awareness.Traylor got her first HIV test as a teenager when someone living with the disease gave a presentation at her high school. She was about 16 and already a teen mother at the time. She knew she had been having unprotected sex and wanted to stay healthy for her young son.

At the time, Traylor was in what she believed was a monogamous relationship. During her annual doctor’s visit, she was disturbed to realize she had to ask specifically for an HIV test on top of a standard STD panel. She insisted on taking the test even though her doctor told her — as a heterosexual woman involved in a monogamous relationship — that she was low risk.

Later Traylor broke up with her boyfriend and began a new committed relationship. That was the year her life changed. Despite vigilance in testing,

Traylor wasn’t prepared for what she found out at her doctor’s visit that year: She was HIV positive. Two weeks later she learned she was pregnant with her second child.

“It was very difficult — a lot of screaming in my head, a lot of tears — as if I was going to a funeral every day,” she said.

The father of Traylor’s baby tested negative for HIV and she was able to give birth to a healthy daughter. Traylor believes she contracted the disease from an ex-boyfriend who has not been tested.

Over the past two years, Traylor has come to a place of acceptance, and she takes personal responsibility for taking a chance with her health by having unprotected sex. But in hindsight, she realizes that even though she knew about HIV, she didn’t fully understand her risk of contracting it.

“At home we didn’t talk about HIV because it just didn’t exist in my world,” she said. “I was aware it was out there, but I didn’t know what it looked like.”

HIV doesn’t have a face, and someone who is infected doesn’t necessarily exhibit any physical signs.

“You think that you would see signs that a person is sick,” she said, but since that isn’t always the case, teens and young adults can feel a false sense of security. They may think, regarding their partner, “we talk all the time, I trust them, so I don’t need to go get tested,” she said.

Traylor wasn’t always open with her status, but now she dedicates much of her time and energy to raising HIV awareness because she considers the often imperceptible nature of the disease a factor in its continued transmission.

Love, sex and stigma

on Diggs, a prevention specialist and counselor for The Evolution Project, an Atlanta-based center that offers HIV and STD prevention, treatment, and counseling, calls teens’ underestimation of risk part of the “invisible syndrome.”

Diggs works primarily with black gay, bisexual and transgendered men, a community that is disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2010, the CDC estimated that 72% of new HIV infections in young people were transmitted through same-sex, male sexual activity. Fifty-seven percent of estimated new infections in this age group were in African-Americans.

Michael Kaplan, president and CEO of AIDS United, which supports more than 400 grassroots organizations annually, said that as a young gayman he found it difficult to talk to his doctor about HIV testing.

Despite seeing a doctor regularly for diabetes, Kaplan, now 44, said his doctor never offered him an HIV test and made assumptions about his

sexual orientation.

Baby Born With HIV Apparently Cured, Say Scientists

Dr. Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV

Dr. Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV

WASHINGTON — A baby born with the AIDS virus appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who’s now 2 1/2 and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection.

There’s no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated testing uncovered just traces of the virus’ genetic material still lingering. If so, it would mark only the world’s second reported cure.

Specialists say Sunday’s announcement, at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta, offers promising clues for efforts to eliminate HIV infection in children, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where too many babies are born with the virus.

“You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we’ve seen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who is familiar with the findings, told The Associated Press.

A doctor gave this baby faster and stronger treatment than is usual, starting a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. That was before tests confirmed the infant was infected and not just at risk from a mother whose HIV wasn’t diagnosed until she was in labor.

“I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot,” Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi, said in an interview.

That fast action apparently knocked out HIV in the baby’s blood before it could form hideouts in the body. Those so-called reservoirs of dormant cells usually rapidly reinfect anyone who stops medication, said Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. She led the investigation that deemed the child “functionally cured,” meaning in long-term remission even if all traces of the virus haven’t been completely eradicated.

Next, Persaud’s team is planning a study to try to prove that, with more aggressive treatment of other high-risk babies. “Maybe we’ll be able to block this reservoir seeding,” Persaud said.

No one should stop anti-AIDS drugs as a result of this case, Fauci cautioned.

But “it opens up a lot of doors” to research if other children can be helped, he said. “It makes perfect sense what happened.”

Better than treatment is to prevent babies from being born with HIV in the first place.

About 300,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60 percent of infected pregnant women get treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their babies. In the U.S., such births are very rare because HIV testing and treatment long have been part of prenatal care.

“We can’t promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during every pregnancy,” Gay stressed.

The only other person considered cured of the AIDS virus underwent a very different and risky kind of treatment – a bone marrow transplant from a special donor, one of the rare people who is naturally resistant to HIV. Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco has not needed HIV medications in the five years since that transplant.

The Mississippi case shows “there may be different cures for different populations of HIV-infected people,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. That group funded Persaud’s team to explore possible cases of pediatric cures.

It also suggests that scientists should look back at other children who’ve been treated since shortly after birth, including some reports of possible cures in the late 1990s that were dismissed at the time, said Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco, who also has seen the findings.

“This will likely inspire the field, make people more optimistic that this is possible,” he said.

In the Mississippi case, the mother had had no prenatal care when she came to a rural emergency room in advanced labor. A rapid test detected HIV. In such cases, doctors typically give the newborn low-dose medication in hopes of preventing HIV from taking root. But the small hospital didn’t have the proper liquid kind, and sent the infant to Gay’s medical center. She gave the baby higher treatment-level doses.

The child responded well through age 18 months, when the family temporarily quit returning and stopped treatment, researchers said. When they returned several months later, remarkably, Gay’s standard tests detected no virus in the child’s blood.

TV content affects children’s behavior over time

image-iglrqyBoth the quantity and the content of television viewing by children may affect social behaviors long term, with effects that may last into adulthood, the results of two studies have shown.

In one randomized, controlled trial involving 565 preschool-aged children in the United States, coaching parents to reduce viewing of violence on the screen and to increase exposure to prosocial programming resulted in significantly less aggression and more prosocial behavior in the children after 6 months compared with the control group, effects that mostly
were maintained at 12 months, Dr. Dmitri A. Christakis and his associates reported.

A separate longitudinal study from New Zealand followed 1,037 people from birth to age 26 years and found a significantly increased risk for antisocial outcomes in adults who had watched the most TV as children. Every extra hour of weeknight TV watching as children was associated with a 30% increase in the likelihood of having a criminal conviction by age 26, reported Lindsay A. Robertson and her associates.

Previous studies have shown that children imitate what they see on the screen and that reducing TV watching reduced aggression in 9-year-olds. Few studies have looked at preschoolers or at interventions aimed at content, Dr. Christakis said.

His study found that children fed a “media diet” deemphasizing violent programs and promoting viewing of programs that focus on sharing, caring, and education had Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation (SCBE) scores at 6 months that were 2 points better than in the control group, a significant difference that continued at 12 months (Pediatrics 2013;131:431-8).

The study did not try to change the amount of screen viewing, and both groups increased TV watching during the study, which often happens as children grow older. The likelihood of adults watching TV with their children did not differ between groups and remained stable throughout the study, despite efforts to promote coviewing, said Dr. Christakis, director of the center for child health, behavior, and development at Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, Seattle. He also is on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ executive committee on children and media.

“The central point is to not just talk about turning off the TV. It’s about changing the channel. The message to turn off the TV, frankly, falls on deaf ears,” he said in an interview.

He likened the intervention to harm reduction, such as programs that distribute clean hypodermic needles to injection drug us rs in order to reduce the transmission of HIV.

The study randomized 820 children aged 3-5 years who were recruited from community pediatric practices and analyzed outcomes data on 276 in the intervention group and 289 in the control group. One of three case man agers worked with parents in the intervention group to discuss the child’s media use and set goals (involving anything with a screen – TVs, DVDs, videos, and computers, for example). Every month for a year, the parents received phone calls for coaching, mailings of customized TVprogram guides geared toward the family’s available channels with recommended programs, a newsletter with tips and reinforcing messages, and in the first 6 months, DVDs with preview clips of suggested programs to pique the children’s interest.


Why Cooking Can Save Your Life

hn_bb_05_easycooking_prores_739-img_1280x720-jpgThe cure for what ails us—both in our bodies and in our nation—can be found in the kitchen. It is a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, enrich and nourish our bodies and our souls.

Yet, in the twenty-first century, our kitchens (and our taste buds) have been hijacked by the food industry. In 1900 only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home; today that number is over 50 percent.

The food like substances proffered by the industrial food system trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure. But our biology rejects the junk forced on our genes and on our hormonal and biochemical pathways.

Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot handle these foods, and the result is the disaster we have in America today—70 percent of us are overweight, and obesity rates are expected to top 42 percent by the end of the next decade (up from only 13 percent in 1960).

Today one in two Americans has either pre-diabetes or diabetes. In less than a decade the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent.


Almost one in four kids has pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes?

Yes, and, perhaps even more shocking, 37 percent of kids at a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, because even though factory food doesn’t necessarily make you fat, it does make you sick! The food industry taxes our health and mortgages our children’s futures. Obese children will earn less, suffer more, and die younger.

It is time to take back our kitchens and our homes. Transforming the food industry seems like a gigantic undertaking, but it is in fact an easy fix. The solution is in our shopping carts, our refrigerators, and our cupboards—and on our dining room tables. This is where the power is. It is the hundreds of small choices you make every day, choices that will topple the monolithic food industry.

We need a revolution. Cooking real food is a revolutionary act.* We have lost the means to care for ourselves. We have now raised the second generation of Americans who don’t know how to cook. The average child in America doesn’t know how to identify even the most basic vegetables and fruit; our kids don’t know where their food comes from or even that it grows on a farm. Cooking means microwaving. Food “grows” in boxes, plastic bags, and cans. Reading labels is supremely unhelpful in identifying the source of most foods—the ingredients are mostly factory-made science projects with a remote and unrecognizable lineage to real food.

We are brainwashed into thinking that cooking real food costs too much, is too hard, and takes too long. Hence, we rely on inexpensive convenience foods. But these aren’t so convenient when we become dependent on hundreds of dollars of medication a month, when we can’t work because we are sick and fat and sluggish, or when we feel so bad we can’t enjoy life anymore.

The average American spends eight hours a day in front of a screen (mostly the television) and spends more time watching cooking shows than actually cooking.

Convenience is killing us.

In fact, real food can be inexpensive. Choosing simple ingredients, cooking from scratch, shopping at discount club stores, and getting produce from community supported agriculture associations (CSAs), community gardens, or co-ops all build health and community and save money. Europeans spend nearly 20 percent of their income on food, Americans only about 9 percent. Food is the best investment in your health.

I believe in the power of collective intelligence. Within my community are hundreds, if not thousands, of unheralded chefs experimenting with food and creating extraordinary meals and recipes. Within our individual and our national communities is the cure for what ails us. We are the answer. We are the revolutionaries who will change the face of food in America and around the world.

The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook is the product of this collective intelligence. Truly, the community is the cure!

Yes, we need to change policy in order to change the food we grow and to subsidize real food instead of the walls of processed fat, sugar, flour, and trans fats that line our grocery and convenience stores. Yes, we need to end food marketing to children. We need to make schools safe zones for kids with only those products and activities that support healthy minds and bodies. There is no room for junk food or factory foods in schools. Period.

Yes, we need all that and more to take back our kitchens and our health. But each of us can start at home with a kitchen makeover. Three simple actions can change everything:

Do a fridge makeover.
Do a pantry makeover.
Do a shopping cart makeover.
The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook gives you advice on what to keep and what to discard from your fridge, pantry and shopping cart.  It also provides recipes—gathered from our own community of health and cooking revolutionaries—to delight your palate, stimulate your senses, and nourish your body and soul.

The recipes are designed to be made, shared, and enjoyed with friends and family. Think of this book as a roadmap to pleasure and health.

Once you have taken back your kitchen, then you can start something really revolutionary.

Find eight (or so) people you would love to know better or spend more time with. Invite them to start a supper club—once a week or once a month. Rotate dinners at one another’s houses. Share the cooking by creating a potluck, or take turns choosing some favorite recipes from this cookbook and preparing a feast for all. At each dinner pick a topic—about food, health, or community—to discuss. Then let the juices flow. The stew of food and friendship will nourish you deeply.

In this way—one by one, kitchen by kitchen, community by community—we will take back our health together!

Get started today!  Get your copy of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook  today.  When you purchase this book from this link you will gain access to these exclusive bonuses:

  • $20 discount in The Blood Sugar Solution Store with your order over $100. It’s like getting the book for free!
  • Online access to the bestselling UltraMetabolism DVD
  • 10-Day Detox Diet—exclusive preview webinar
  • 10 Myths Sabotaging Your Waistline (and Your Health): an eGuide

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption Linked With Type 2 Diabetes Prevalence

download30Researchers have found an association between consumption of high fructose corn syrup and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Global Public Health.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Southern California found, specifically, that the Type 2 diabetes prevalence was 20 percent higher in countries where the food supplies contained HFCS.

Type 2 diabetes prevalence in countries where the food supply included more HFCS was 8 percent, while it was 6.7 percent in countries where HFCS is not included in the food supply.

High-fructose corn syrup is a kind of sugar, and is used as a sweetener in many foods including soda and candy. (For more on what high fructose corn syrup is, and its potential health effects, click here.)

“The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar,” study researcher Michael I. Goran, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, said in a statement. Goran is also the director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center and the co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at USC.

However, Marion Nestle, an expert in food policy and a professor at New York University, cautioned that the study doesn’t show that diabetes is caused by consumption of high-fructose corn syrup. She told the New York Times that “I think it’s a stretch to say the study shows high-fructose corn syrup has anything special to do with diabetes,” and that “diabetes is a function of development. The more cars, more TVs, more cellphones, more sugar, more meat, more fat, more calories, more obesity, the more diabetes you have.”

The Corn Refiners Association has also released a statement, saying: There is broad scientific consensus that table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent. It is, therefore, highly dubious of Dr. Goran — without any human studies demonstrating a meaningful nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar–to point an accusatory finger at one and not the other.

Researchers found the association between diabetes and HFCS by examining the amounts of HFCS consumed in 42 different countries. The highest-consuming country? The United States, with each person taking in an average of 55 pounds of HFCS each year.

The country that consumed the second-highest amount of HFCS was Hungary, where researchers found each person has, on average, 46 pounds of HFCS. Following Hungary in HFCS consumption are Slovakia, Canada, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the countries with low HFCS consumption included Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, the United Kingdom, Australia, China and Indonesia. And countries where HFCS consumption was less than 0.5 kilograms each year, per person, were India, Slovenia, Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Denmark.

“Most populations have an almost insatiable appetite for sweet foods, but regrettably our metabolism has not evolved sufficiently to be able to process the fructose from high fructose corn syrup in the quantities that some people are consuming it,” study researcher Stanley Ulijaszek, the director of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

“Although this syrup can be found in many of our processed foods and country to country,” he added.

Alabama police chief apologizes to Freedom Rider Congressman for 1961 beating by Ku Klux Klan

Georgia Representative John Lewis (left) was handed the badge of Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy (right) on Saturday Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Georgia Representative John Lewis (left) was handed the badge of Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy (right) on Saturday

Famed civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis has received an apology from the police chief of the Alabama city where he was beaten by the Ku Klux Klan in 1961 during a race protest.

Part of the Freedom Riders travels across the country testing the segregation laws in the South, Lewis broke down in tears on Saturday as Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy handed him his badge out of respect.

Lewis and his fellow activists were unprotected by the Montgomery police on May 20th, 1961, and were set upon by a baying white mob armed with baseball bats and iron pipes.

At an emotional ceremony at First Baptist Church, Murphy told the longtime Georgia congressman that Montgomery police had ‘enforced unjust laws’ when they failed in their duty to protect the Freedom Riders over five decades ago.

The 73-year-old, who was arrested as he made his way across the nation in Greyhound buses to protest unjust segregation laws, said it was the first time that a police chief in the south had apologized.

‘It means a great deal,’ said Lewis. ‘I teared up. I tried to keep from crying,’ said Lewis to NBC News who was taking part in the 13th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama, a three-day event that also included trips to Selma, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

On his part, Murphy said that the decision to say sorry was very easy.

‘For me, freedom and the right to live in peace is a cornerstone of our society and that was something that Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Congressman Lewis were trying to achieve’ said Murphy.

‘I think what I did today should have been done a long time ago. It needed to be done. It needed to be spoken because we have to live with the truth and it is the truth.’

Interviewed arm in arm with Lewis, Murphy said that, ‘There’s still a lot of work to do, we know that. We, the police department, needs to make the first move to build that trust back in our community that was once lost because we enforced unjust laws.

Those unjust laws were immoral and wrong. But you know what? It’s a new day. And there’s a new police department and a new Montgomery here and now and on the horizon.’

Murphy said the voice of the Montgomery Police Department ‘needs to be heard in a different light than what history has recorded in years past.’

Lewis recalled the specific event that Murphy was apologizing for.

Speaking about the white mob who beat Freedom Riders as their bus arrived at the Greyhound station on South Court Street, Lewis said the Police Department made the decision not to be on the scene.
‘In effect, they failed to protect us,’ said Lewis.

Vice president Joe Biden and black leaders commemorating a famous civil rights march on Sunday said efforts to diminish the impact of African-Americans’ votes haven’t stopped in the years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act added millions to Southern voter rolls.

More than 5,000 people followed Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma’s annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

The event commemorates the “Bloody Sunday” beating of voting rights marchers – including a young Lewis – by state troopers as they began a march to Montgomery in March 1965.

The 50-mile march prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act that struck down impediments to voting by African-Americans and ended all-white rule in the South.

Biden, the first sitting vice president to participate in the annual re-enactment, said nothing shaped his consciousness more than watching TV footage of the beatings.

‘We saw in stark relief the rank hatred, discrimination and violence that still existed in large parts of the nation,’ he said.

Biden said marchers ‘broke the back of the forces of evil,’ but that challenges to voting rights continue today with restrictions on early voting and voter registration drives and enactment of voter ID laws where no voter fraud has been shown.

‘We will never give up or give in,’ Lewis told marchers.

Jesse Jackson said Sunday’s event had a sense of urgency because the U.S. Supreme Court heard a request Wednesday by a mostly white Alabama county to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.

‘We’ve had the right to vote for 48 years, but they’ve never stopped trying to diminish the impact of the votes,’ Jackson said.

Referring to the Voting Rights act, the Rev. Al Sharpton said: ‘We are not here for a commemoration. We are here for a continuation.’

The Supreme Court is weighing Shelby County’s challenge to a portion of the law that requires states with a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the Deep South, to get approval from the Justice Department before implementing any changes in election laws. That includes everything from new voting districts to voter ID laws.

Attorneys for Shelby County argued that the pre-clearance requirement is outdated in a state where one-fourth of the Legislature is black. But Jackson predicted the South will return to gerrymandering and more at-large elections if the Supreme Court voids part of the law.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the defendant in Shelby County’s suit, told marchers that the South is far different than it was in 1965 but is not yet at the point where the most important part of the voting rights act can be dismissed as unnecessary.

Martin Luther King III, whose father led the march when it resumed after Bloody Sunday, said: ‘We come here not to just celebrate and observe but to recommit.

One of the NAACP attorneys who argued the case, Debo Adegbile, said when Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it understood that the act makes sure minority inclusion is considered up front.

‘It reminds us to think consciously about how we can include all our citizens in democracy. That is as important today as it was in 1965,’ he said.

Adegbile said the continued need for the law was shown in 2011 when undercover recordings from a bribery investigation at the Alabama Legislature included one white legislator referring to blacks as ‘aborigines’ and other white legislators laughing.

‘This was 2011. This was not 1965,’ he said.

Thank Republicans for the Sequester Showdown

Cohen: 'There is one constant in the repeated failure to reach agreement: GOP obstinacy over tax increases.' (photo: unknown)

Cohen: ‘There is one constant in the repeated failure to reach agreement: GOP obstinacy over tax increases.’ (photo: unknown)

Today the United States economy will undergo the first stages of shock therapy – $85 billion in across the board spending cuts to defense and other domestic spending programs that will have devastating consequences in the US economy. By some estimates the cuts will cause a half-point decline in GDP and will cost the economy a million jobs over the next two years. There is a very simple reason why this is happening: Republicans don’t want to raise taxes.

Seriously, that’s the reason. If we go back to the beginning of the manufactured fiscal and budgetary crises that have dominated American politics since Republicans took over Congress in January 2011, there is one constant in the repeated failure to reach agreement: GOP obstinacy over tax increases. It has become line in the sand issue for modern Republicans – not deficit reduction; not reducing government size. Those are talking points. It is taxes – above all – that gets Republican blood pumping.

While the country narrowly avoided a government shutdown in the spring of 2011, our current dilemma really begins with the debt limit crisis of the same year. Republicans declared their intention to hold the country’s debt limit hostage – and raise the possibility of debt default – in return for massive deficit reduction from the Obama White House.

President Obama, perhaps wrongly, agreed to meet them halfway. He proposed cuts in domestic spending and even endorsed the controversial notion of increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. In return, he demanded that Republicans meet him not even halfway with an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts, but rather a third of the way with a proposal for $3bn in spending cuts and $1bn in revenue hikes.

But the so-called Grand Bargain failed not because Obama didn’t go far enough, but because Republicans simply wouldn’t budge on tax increases. As John Boehner said at the time about debt limit talks, “These conversations could continue if they take the tax hikes out of the conversation.” According to House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, “There is not support in the House for a tax increase.”

Simply put, as long as Obama demanded tax increases – even minimal ones – there would be no opportunity for a deal. Not surprisingly the so-called Super Committee, assembled to avoid sequestration, could not reach a deal because of continued GOP intransigence on taxes. The rigid dogmatism of the GOP position was placed in even sharper relief in August 2011, when candidates were asked at a Republican presidential debate in Iowa to raise their hand if they would accept a deal that cut ten dollars from the deficit in spending for every one dollar in tax increases. None raised their hand.

This uncompromising position on taxes didn’t win Republicans the White House, but that still had little impact on Republican officeholders. Only when faced with the possibility of a far larger tax increase with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts were 85 Republicans in the House willing to swallow the reality of higher taxes (Senate Republicans were far more amenable). Although it should be noted that the GOP fought tooth and nail for a deal, not that reduced the deficit (a key stated goal of Republicans) or cut spending (an ideological touchstone for conservatives), but rather ensured that couples making between $250,000 and $450,000 a year were protected from a slight increase in their tax rate. The fact that the final fiscal cliff deal actually increased the deficit by $4tn was of less concern.

Now we have the latest showdown. A key demand of Republicans is that the president puts spending cuts, particularly those to social insurance programs, on the table. He’s done this. Indeed, the president’s current proposal, which is available on the White House website, has about $930bn in new spending reduction – approximately $400bn of that to Medicare and Medicaid, and more controversially, $130bn in reduction to Social Security benefits.

The catch, of course, is what is also being demanded – $580bn in tax increases. These aren’t even rates hikes, but rather reducing deductions utilized by wealthier Americans – the sort of tax reform measure that Republicans have long said they support.

Even though such a balanced approach is supported by three-quarters of all Americans; even though Americans will, if polls are correct, hold the GOP responsible for the impact of sequestration; even though Obama’s strategy would reduce the deficit; even though cuts to social insurance programs would inflame the president’s liberal supporters; even though Obama’s plan would stop defense cuts (which Republicans hate); even though it would prevent widespread damage to the economy, which has the potential to boomerang against GOP incumbents on the ballot in 2014 … Republicans are not interested.

It is perhaps the most remarkable example of political folly, combined with political delusion and a healthy dose of political surrealism, that Washington has seen in quite some time – and that is truly saying something. Obama’s proposed plan is, considering the circumstances, not a good deal for Republicans, but IT’S A GREAT DEAL. It is highly unlikely that they can do much better than this if sequestration happens, and, in fact, they are far more likely to find themselves under pressure to make a worse deal once the effect of billions in spending cuts go into effect. But anti-tax dogmatism drives all.

Honestly, it sometimes feels like the zealots at Masada were more open to compromise than House Republicans. And while the zealots fought for god, Republicans are staking their ground on more temporal ground – namely ensuring rich people do not pay a penny in additional taxes. The only story that one needs to understand about the sequestration is that it will happen because Republicans won’t raise taxes. End stop. Period.

Yet this simple message is not getting through to the pundit class, who appear to be searching for every reason other than GOP anti-tax inflexibility to explain the failure to reach a deal avoiding sequestration. The fairy of political equivalence and “bothsidesaretoblame” punditry necessitates that responsibility for budgetary crises must not be affixed. For example, David Brooks denied President Obama even had a proposal for replacing the sequester (a position he later backtracked on –ish). It’s right here. The Washington Post editorial page also accused Obama of not having a serious negotiating strategy. Again it’s right here – and features elements that the Post has long supported. Indeed, the Post criticized Democrats for being “increasingly intransigent on entitlement reform” – even though they have put forward approximately $500bn in proposed entitlement cuts, which is about $500bn more than Republicans have proposed.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal, who has become the poster child for policy agnostic, “bothsidesaretoblame” centrism argues that Republicans “aren’t telling the truth” when they say there is no possibility of compromise. “Even in this era of stubborn partisanship, both Obama and the GOP-controlled House have incentive to bend,” says Fournier, even though every piece of evidence suggests the opposite is true. According to Fournier, “it is not leadership to merely blame the GOP and attack the media.” Actually, he’s right. It’s not leadership – it’s a fact that Republicans don’t appear to have any interest in reaching a deal.

The reality is that whether one likes Obama or thinks he is the Antichrist, facts are facts: he has offered Republicans a Grand Bargain compromise repeatedly over the past 18 months. He has made concessions on key liberal priorities, like Medicare eligibility and Social Security benefits. He signed into law huge cuts in domestic spending without matching revenue hikes. And in return, all he has asked of Republicans is to support rather tepid increases in taxes. They have refused; and they have refused for the same reason every time.

Why is this so hard to understand?

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking

 A group of Jewish women at the entrance to the Brody ghetto in Eastern Galicia, 1942. The sign is written in German, Ukrainian and Polish. Credit United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Collection of Eugenia Hochberg Lanceter

A group of Jewish women at the entrance to the Brody ghetto in Eastern Galicia, 1942. The sign is written in German, Ukrainian and Polish. Credit United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Collection of Eugenia Hochberg Lanceter

THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.

The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions.

The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia. (The Holocaust museum has published the first two, with five more planned by 2025.)

The existence of many individual camps and ghettos was previously known only on a fragmented, region-by-region basis. But the researchers, using data from some 400 contributors, have been documenting the entire scale for the first time, studying where they were located, how they were run, and what their purpose was.

The brutal experience of Henry Greenbaum, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives outside Washington, typifies the wide range of Nazi sites.

When Mr. Greenbaum, a volunteer at the Holocaust museum, tells visitors today about his wartime odyssey, listeners inevitably focus on his confinement of months at Auschwitz, the most notorious of all the camps.

But the images of the other camps where the Nazis imprisoned him are ingrained in his memory as deeply as the concentration camp number — A188991 — tattooed on his left forearm.

In an interview, he ticked off the locations in rapid fire, the details still vivid.

First came the Starachowice ghetto in his hometown in Poland, where the Germans herded his family and other local Jews in 1940, when he was just 12.

Next came a slave labor camp with six-foot-high fences outside the town, where he and a sister were moved while the rest of the family was sent to die at Treblinka. After his regular work shift at a factory, the Germans would force him and other prisoners to dig trenches that were used for dumping the bodies of victims. He was sent to Auschwitz, then removed to work at a chemical manufacturing plant in Poland known as Buna Monowitz, where he and some 50 other prisoners who had been held at the main camp at Auschwitz were taken to manufacture rubber and synthetic oil. And last was another slave labor camp at Flossenbürg, near the Czech border, where food was so scarce that the weight on his 5-foot-8-inch frame fell away to less than 100 pounds.

By the age of 17, Mr. Greenbaum had been enslaved in five camps in five years, and was on his way to a sixth, when American soldiers freed him in 1945. “Nobody even knows about these places,” Mr. Greenbaum said. “Everything should be documented. That’s very important. We try to tell the youngsters so that they know, and they’ll remember.”

The research could have legal implications as well by helping a small number of survivors document their continuing claims over unpaid insurance policies, looted property, seized land and other financial matters.

“HOW many claims have been rejected because the victims were in a camp that we didn’t even know about?” asked Sam Dubbin, a Florida lawyer who represents a group of survivors who are seeking to bring claims against European insurance companies.

Dr. Megargee, the lead researcher, said the project was changing the understanding among Holocaust scholars of how the camps and ghettos evolved.

As early as 1933, at the start of Hitler’s reign, the Third Reich established about 110 camps specifically designed to imprison some 10,000 political opponents and others, the researchers found. As Germany invaded and began occupying European neighbors, the use of camps and ghettos was expanded to confine and sometimes kill not only Jews but also homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and many other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. The camps and ghettos varied enormously in their mission, organization and size, depending on the Nazis’ needs, the researchers have found.

The biggest site identified is the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, which held about 500,000 people at its height. But as few as a dozen prisoners worked at one of the smallest camps, the München-Schwabing site in Germany. Small groups of prisoners were sent there from the Dachau concentration camp under armed guard. They were reportedly whipped and ordered to do manual labor at the home of a fervent Nazi patron known as “Sister Pia,” cleaning her house, tending her garden and even building children’s toys for her.

When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing — first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.

The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.

In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.

Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.

“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”

Boehner Halts Talks on Cuts, and House G.O.P. Cheers

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times John A. Boehner, second from left, on his way to speak to reporters in Washington on Thursday about the spending cuts.

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times


John A. Boehner, second from left, on his way to speak to reporters in Washington on Thursday about the spending cuts.


WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner, the man who spent significant portions of the last Congress shuttling to and from the White House for fiscal talks with President Obama that ultimately failed twice to produce a grand bargain, has come around to the idea that the best negotiations are no negotiations.

As the president and Congressional Democrats have tried to force Mr. Boehner back to the table for talks to head off the automatic budget cuts set to take effect on Friday, Mr. Boehner has instead dug in deeper, refusing to even discuss an increase in revenue and insisting in his typical colorful language that it was time for the Senate to produce a measure aimed at the cuts.

“The revenue issue is now closed,” Mr. Boehner said Thursday, before the House left town for the weekend without acting on the cuts and a Senate attempt to avert them died. Mr. Boehner said the dispute with Democrats amounted to a question of “how much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government.”

“I’m for no more,” he said.

While the frustrations of Congressional Democrats and Mr. Obama with Mr. Boehner are reaching a fever pitch, House Republicans could not be more pleased with their leader.

“We asked him to commit to us that when the cuts actually came on March 1, that he would stand firm and not give in, and he’s holding to that,” said Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “I think Friday will be an important day that shows we’re finally willing to stand and fight for conservative principles and force Washington to start living within its means. And that will be a big victory.”

Representative Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican who was elected on the 2010 Tea Party wave and has had his differences with the speaker, was similarly complimentary toward Mr. Boehner.

“He’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do, and I think it’s working to our favor and to his,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I get the feeling that our party is probably more unified right now than it has been at any time in the last several months.”

Mr. Boehner, in some ways, finds himself the leader of the House Republicans with nowhere to actually lead.

Among those who placed him in his post and could conceivably remove him, the test of his leadership seems to be how little action he takes. In a closed-door meeting and subsequent news conference this week, Mr. Boehner said the House was done negotiating over spending cuts until the Senate “begins to do something.”

Mr. Boehner began the new Congress on shaky footing, a seemingly chastened man. Speculation swirled that he might not be able to hold on to his speakership (he did), and he was forced to pass two major pieces of legislation — a last-minute New Year’s Eve deal to avert automatic tax increases, and a Hurricane Sandy relief bill — without the support of the majority of his conference through the help of Democratic votes. On Thursday, Mr. Boehner again moved a piece of legislation through the House without majority support from his rank and file — the Violence Against Women Act.

The result showed that conservatives seem willing to give him some running room on social issues as long as he holds firm on the fiscal front.

Amid clamoring from his more conservative members, Mr. Boehner eventually reaffirmed his own conservative principles, abandoning even the pretense of reaching a bipartisan solution on the spending cuts. He argued that the president had gotten his desired tax increases in the earlier showdown. And he promised no more one-on-one negotiating sessions meetings with Mr. Obama, whose political fortitude he questioned publicly and privately.

Mr. Boehner was set to meet Friday at the White House with the president and bipartisan Congressional leadership but made clear Thursday that the ball for now was solely in the Senate’s court.

The stalemate was foreshadowed at the Republican retreat in Williamsburg, Va., in January, where Mr. Boehner and his leadership team promised that in exchange for passing a short-term debt ceiling extension, they would force the Senate to pass a budget, as well as allow the spending cuts to go into effect.

“I think he realized the president of the United States was using him as a tool for his own benefit and was not actually in a partnership with him, and he also realized that we in the House were not happy with what was coming out of those negotiations,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “We were pretty blunt with him and the entire leadership team that we have to feel like we have a plan and a vision, and we’re following up on that plan and that vision.”

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said that on the whole, he thought the spending cuts were a welcome development for which Mr. Boehner deserves credit.

“If, in fact, we’re going to scale back discretionary spending by $85 billion, tell me when that’s ever happened before,” Mr. Jordan said. “Certainly not in the time I’ve been in Congress. So even though we’d have preferred it be done a little different and we’re open to flexibility, we want that savings, and we’re going to achieve it.”

Republican aides say privately that Mr. Boehner sees no need to negotiate; Republicans are in a good place, they argue, because they want spending cuts and those cuts are happening. But Mr. Boehner’s tough-guy stance has also opened him to criticism that he has negotiated himself into a position from which he can no longer effectively negotiate.

“John Boehner consistently paints himself into a corner and traps himself on cliffs, and that’s been the story of the speakership,” said Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Though Mr. Obama’s public events in recent days have seemed intended to highlight what he says will be the impact of the spending cuts and to shame Republicans into negotiating a deal, House Republicans have stood their ground, saying they are done negotiating until the Senate passes its own spending cut legislation. (House Republicans have passed two alternative spending cut bills, though both were in the last Congress).

For Mr. Boehner, the consequences of allowing the sequester to take effect could be less damaging than the consequences of going back on his promise not to allow any new tax revenues.

“I don’t quite honestly think that Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that happens,” Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, told Fox News recently.

But for now Mr. Boehner seems not only to have engendered the good will of his conference but also to have locked in place the spending cuts Republicans have been fighting for.

“That’s a big win, to finally stand firm on cutting spending,” Mr. Scalise said.

The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.)

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.)

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched?  Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.

Tea Party Republicans are crowing about the “sequestration” cuts beginning today (Friday). “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington,” says Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), a Tea Partier who was first elected in 2010.

Sequestration is only the start. What they set out to do was not simply change Washington but eviscerate the U.S. government – “drown it in the bathtub,” in the words of their guru Grover Norquist – slashing Social Security and Medicare, ending worker protections we’ve had since the 1930s, eroding civil rights and voting rights, terminating programs that have helped the poor for generations, and making it impossible for the government to invest in our future.

Sequestration grew out of a strategy hatched soon after they took over the House in 2011, to achieve their goals by holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States – notwithstanding the Constitution’s instruction that the public debt of the United States “not be questioned.”

To avoid default on the public debt, the White House and House Republicans agreed to harsh and arbitrary “sequestered” spending cuts if they couldn’t come up with a more reasonable deal in the interim. But the Tea Partiers had no intention of agreeing to anything more reasonable. They knew the only way to dismember the federal government was through large spending cuts without tax increases.

Nor do they seem to mind the higher unemployment their strategy will almost certainly bring about. Sequestration combined with January’s fiscal cliff deal is expected to slow economic growth by 1.5 percentage points this year – dangerous for an economy now crawling at about 2 percent. It will be even worse if the Tea Partiers  refuse to extend the government’s spending authority, which expires March 27.

A conspiracy theorist might think they welcome more joblessness because they want Americans to be even more fearful and angry. Tea Partiers use fear and anger in their war against the government – blaming the anemic recovery on government deficits and the government’s size, and selling a poisonous snake-oil of austerity economics and trickle-down economics as the remedy.

They likewise use the disruption and paralysis they’ve sown in Washington to persuade Americans government is necessarily dysfunctional, and politics inherently bad. Their continuing showdowns and standoffs are, in this sense, part of the plot.

What is the President’s response? He still wants a so-called “grand bargain” of “balanced” spending cuts (including cuts in the projected growth of Social Security and Medicare) combined with tax increases on the wealthy. So far, though, he has agreed to a gross imbalance – $1.5 trillion in cuts to Republicans’ $600 billion in tax increases on the rich.

The President apparently believes Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, when in fact the Tea Partiers now running the GOP are serious only about dismembering the government.

And he seems to accept that the budget deficit is the largest economic problem facing the nation, when in reality the largest problem is continuing high unemployment (some 20 million Americans unemployed or under-employed), declining real wages, and widening inequality. Deficit reduction now or in the near-term will only make these worse.

Besides, the deficit is now down to about 5 percent of GDP – where it was when Bill Clinton took office. It is projected to mushroom in later years mainly because healthcare costs are expected to rise faster than the economy is expected to grow, and the American population is aging. These trends have little or nothing to do with government programs. In fact, Medicare is far more efficient than private health insurance.

I suggest the President forget about a “grand bargain.” In fact, he should stop talking about the budget deficit and start talking about jobs and wages, and widening inequality – as he did in the campaign. And he should give up all hope of making a deal with the Tea Partiers who now run the Republican Party.

Instead, the President should let the public see the Tea Partiers for who they are – a small, radical minority intent on dismantling the government of the United States. As long as they are allowed to dictate the terms of public debate they will continue to hold the rest of us hostage to their extremism.

Arizona Immigration Law Ruling May Mean Boon For Private Prison Business

Leonida Martinez, of Phoenix, demonstrates in front of the Supreme Court in April during arguments on Arizona’s immi- gration law.

Leonida Martinez, of Phoenix, demonstrates in front of the Supreme Court in April during arguments on Arizona’s immigration law.

As the Supreme Court upheld a central provision of Arizona’s controversial immigration law on Monday -– a requirement for law enforcement to check the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants — a powerful corporate lobby may stand to benefit: the private prison industry.

For-profit prison companies including Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group Inc. have capitalized on the immigration crackdown over the past decade, now controlling nearly half of the nation’s vast immigrant detention system. Both companies have more than doubled revenues from the business of detaining immigrants since 2005, collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Some immigration reform advocates and lawyers have argued that the upholding of the so-called “show me your papers” portion of Arizona’s SB 1070 may bring more undocumented immigrants into the web of federal immigration enforcement, resulting in increased detentions and deportations.

“This is really the pointy end of the sword of SB 1070,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrants’ rights group. “It provides a real boon, a real growth opportunity for the private prison industry in the State of Arizona.”

A Corrections Corporation of America spokesman said that “under longstanding policy, CCA does not and has not ever taken positions on or promoted any sentencing or detention legislation.” A spokesman for the GEO Group did not respond to questions. In the past, CCA officials have stressed that the federal government, not local law enforcement, makes the ultimate decision on which undocumented immigrants should be detained.

Federal officials attempted to assert their authority in Arizona on Monday by rescinding previous agreements with state law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law at a local level. A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement has formally told agents in Arizona to prioritize only the most serious violations referred by local law enforcement. Those include potential undocumented immigrants with a criminal history and repeat border crossers.

“We will not allow a state to set our enforcement priorities,” the senior administration official said.

Yet legal observers argue that the federal government’s talk of prioritizing certain immigrants is at odds with the recent drive of President Barack Obama’s administration to appear tough on immigration enforcement. The administration has deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants, approaching nearly 400,000 each of the last two years, and critics have said the increased Arizona enforcement could bring more opportunities for detention and deportation.

“The main issue here is that there continues to be a focus on deporting a lot of people,” said Nancy Morawetz, a professor at the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University’s School of Law. “There’s a sort of pride in the number of people, and a pride in the number of people who happen to come in through an arrest, no matter what the arrest was.”

The potential of future litigation remains likely. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who signed Arizona’s immigration law in 2010, noted in a statement Monday: “Our critics are already preparing new litigation tactics in response to their loss at the Supreme Court, and undoubtedly will allege inequities in the implementation of the law.”

Corrections Corporation of America has strong ties in Arizona, operating three detention centers housing nearly 2,000 undocumented immigrants in the state. Dennis DeConcini, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Arizona, sits on CCA’s board of directors. And several CCA lobbyists in Phoenix have worked for or consulted with Brewer.

Critics have questioned CCA’s ties to Arizona’s law. As written, the law in part mirrors draft model legislation on immigration enforcement developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of conservative state legislators and business representatives tied to the drafting of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.

Until 2010, a CCA senior director, Laurie Shanblum, sat on the ALEC executive task force for public safety and elections, along with state Sen. Russell Pearce (R), who introduced SB 1070. Parts of the Arizona law, including the section upheld by the Supreme Court, are word-for-word the same as the ALEC public safety task force’s model legislation, according to a review of documents posted online by the Center for Media and Democracy, a left-leaning advocacy group.

Machak, the CCA spokesman, said that “any suggested connection between our company and Arizona’s immigration law is baseless.”
Though model language developed by ALEC is similar to the language in SB 1070, others have taken credit for helping to draft the law, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who worked as an immigration advisor to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft during the George W. Bush presidency. Kobach has advised other states and towns in developing immigration-related legislation, including Alabama.

GEO Group executives in the past have not disputed that enforcement efforts like Arizona’s immigration law may have positive impacts on their business. In a 2010 GEO Group earnings call after Brewer signed the Arizona law, an analyst asked executives whether the new legislation might affect business.

Wayne Calabrese, then the company’s chief operating officer, said the law “certainly indicates a level of frustration by the public,” according to a transcript of the call. He added: “I can only believe that the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what’s happening. … That to me at least suggests there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”

“Private prison companies are very explicit that they think the growth area for them is federal detention, and that means primarily immigration detention,” said Emily Tucker, director of policy and advocacy for Detention Watch Network, an immigrants’ rights group. “They’re hoping this will mean more contracts for more detention beds.”

LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY ® Keep Silence-God Has Already Spoken For You




“…a time to keep silence…” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b).

This month, the encouragement continues regarding the value of silence. As previously noted, silence is not just about being quiet. Silence also carries the Biblical meaning of keeping still, remaining at peace, and being at rest. Therefore, silence isn’t a place of weakness or timidity. It’s quite the contrary. Silence is a valuable commodity in the kingdom of God. In fact, it’s a
warfare tactic that can be the key to your success.

One example of success in silence was when Jesus passed the test of temptation administered by the devil himself. In Matthew 4, Jesus was severely attacked by satan. He tried to get Him to use His power for personal gain: food, power, and tempting God. It is interesting to note that Jesus responded with the Word alone. Eventually, he so defeated satan that he immediately left Jesus alone. But what’s interesting is the prompt for the attack in the first place. It was something that God had said in Matthew 3. That was satan’s real issue with Him.

Before the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus had been baptized by John in obedience to God. Afterwards, God blessed Him by speaking over Him. He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” And the very first accusation raised by satan? In Matthew 4:3, satan challenges, “If thou be the Son of God…”

So you see, the real issue was not about this or that. The real issue was about Jesus believing the Word of God that was spoken him. Notice, although Jesus responded to all of the other inquiries of satan, the one thing He didn’t waste time validating was His identity. He knew that He was the Son of God. And so did satan. That’s why satan attacked in the first place. Jesus was not one to waste time stating the obvious.

Another example is the trials of Job recorded in Job 1. I can’t think of many others in the Bible that encountered more of a concentrated demonic attack than him. In one day, he lost his children and all of his wealth. It was so devastating that Job regretted the day he had been born. But what Job didn’t know was that God had already limited satan’s ability to operate in his life. Before the first fateful event, God had restrained satan. He had already declared that He was pleased with Job. And
although Job may have felt utterly cast down, God had already secured his victory even before the battle. What was the real issue? It was getting Job to curse God and die. Since God had bound satan from hurting Job, satan wanted him to speak his own defeat. The attacks on his children and his wealth was just the vehicle to accomplish his goal. But those words were never uttered out of Job’s mouth. Although he expressed his grief, one thing He “kept silence” about was when He refused to curse God.

The last example comes from the life of Jacob. At a point in his life, Jacob was abused as an employee of his father-in-law Laban. He constantly changed his wages and deceived him incessantly. Finally fed up, Jacob stole away without even telling Laban. In fact, he was escaping for his life. In response, Laban followed after him with a band of men. But before he
caught up with him, God spoke to Laban in a dream. The message: “Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad (Genesis 31:24).” Now when Laban overtook Jacob, he claimed that he could have done him harm. But he had to admit in the same breath that God had already warned him to tread carefully. Although there was an exchange about other things, one thing that Jacob never has to address was the threat against his life. Why? Because God had already taken care of it.

Why? Because God had already taken care of it.

Child of God, know that God will fight your battles. And whether you know it or not, the battle has already been won. Just as in the cases of Jesus, Job, and Laban, God has already spoken for you. Nothing that the enemy does can undo what God has already said. Before Jesus endured temptation from the devil himself and was later crucified, God had already spoken His victory. He is at the right hand of God with a Name higher than any other Name. There is power in the Name of Jesus. Before Job had one life-altering occurrence, God had already bound satan’s ability. Job was restored double-fold for every loss. Before Laban could catch up with Jacob, God had warned Laban not to go too far. Jacob safely returned home. He was even delivered from potential harm by his brother, Esau.

So go forward.. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. I believe the Word which declares that God will never give us more than we can endure. If you feel as if you can’t take any more, just remember Who you have on your side. And if God is for you, who can be against you. Your victory is already won. Now walk it out.

Continue in blessings…Continue the work…Continue in faith…

MEDITATATION: Exodus 14: 13, 2 Chronicles 20:17, Isaiah 54:14-17, Romans 8:28-39, and Isaiah 30:15.

Min. Louis Farrakhan Says Black People Must Begin to Invest their Money.

Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tweet ( This week, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spoke to thousands on the annual “Savior’s Day” in Chicago. The storied leader, who is now 79-years old, talked about the state and direction of black America, and what must be done for the black community to prosper. Much of the conversation centered around investing, borrowing, lending, saving and all the other things that make a capitalist society tick.

Louis Farrakhan also spoke about the elephant in the room, Barack Obama, in a way that was both honest and diplomatic:

“Even though one of our own has reached the highest pinnacle of the American political system, his presence has not, cannot and will not solve our problems,” Farrakhan said.

The minister spoke to the importance of economic self-sufficiency as a necessity for dealing with the dismal economic climate being faced by the African American community. The black unemployment rate is nearly double that of whites, and black family wealth has been absolutely obliterated by the recession. Nearly every other group has recovered from the recession, except for the black community. Corporations recovered within months and white unemployment isn’t all that bad, but black unemployment is atrocious, and black men are in the middle of a persistent version of the Great Depression.

Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (NOI) control a great deal of farmland in various parts of the country and have also served as a powerful model of economic empowerment. I doubt that the black unemployment rate has heavily impacted the NOI, since they are very good at making their own money. The freedom one feels when he/she is able to find their own resources is indescribable, and it’s easier to sleep at night when you’re not worried about trying to convince your oppressors to pay your bills.

I met with Minister Louis Farrakhan two months ago in a private conversation that lasted for three hours. One of the themes that came up was the importance of embracing economic empowerment and access to resources as a way to short-circuit the violence occurring in Chicago. The young men killing each other in the street are not animals. Many of them simply need opportunities. A man who has nothing to live for quickly becomes a danger to us all.

Additionally, Louis Farrakhan and I spoke about how even highly-educated African Americans (i.e. scholars like myself) find ourselves frustrated, abused, marginalized and controlled by institutions that were not designed with our best interests at heart. When I came to Syracuse University, my department hadn’t hired or promoted a black person in 100 years of operating history (perhaps they felt that every black person on earth was unqualified for the job). So, there I was, with no mentorship, no support, and a group of colleagues who were openly hostile and disrespectful toward my advocacy in the black community. I felt surrounded, frustrated and at risk of seeing my years of hard work go to waste.

The only salvation I had in the midst of such dire circumstances was to learn to start my own business. I invested nearly all of my money into things that would free me from the economic plantation. I built an entrepreneurial dream that would allow my academic talents to be harnessed and channeled toward my community, instead of allowing them to be hijacked and sold to the highest bidder. Once I achieved economic self-sufficiency, I began to know what it means to be truly free. That is also when I learned what it means to be a scholar.

My point here is that we need a REVOLUTION. This has to be a revolution of the mind as it pertains to what we do with the trillion-plus dollars in purchasing power controlled by the African American community. Every black person must learn how to start their own business as a matter of economic survival, even if you are not a full-time entrepreneur. Rather than teaching our children to be borrowers, spenders and consumers, we must teach them to become investors, savers and producers. This is the only way to overcome the massive black unemployment problem in America, and it is the only path
to true spiritual freedom in a society where money will always be king.

The civil rights movement was political, with many of these gains being rolled back on a second’s notice. The next step of this movement must be almost entirely economic, where we both embrace the power of money, but also seek to understand how this power can be used to generate meaningful change. Wealth doesn’t exist so you can buy extra jewelry, new cars and silly material items (although some of that is OK). It exists so you can build communities, strengthen families and elevate future generations.

For those who don’t agree with everything Farrakhan says, I encourage you to remember that we all agree that we must provide for our families. Most of us also agree that something has got to change with regard to how we respond to black economic challenges. This month, Min. Louis Farrakhan and I are going to gather for a public event at The University of Illinois at Chicago forum (Saturday, 3/30 at 5 pm CST) to further discuss these matters. Everyone is invited and it’s free to the public.

New paradigms must be embraced and we must begin to fully understand the power of economic literacy, financial empowerment and various forms of self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily walking away from integration….it only means that you’re renegotiating the terms.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) issued remarks to the Congressional Record regarding the dangers of the impending sequestration, or across-the-board budget cuts, which are due to go into effect on March 1, 2013. Below you will find the text of the statement submitted for the Congressional Record.

“Mr. Speaker, throughout my twenty years representing Middle and Southwest Georgia in Congress, I have always done my dead level best to work with all of my colleagues across the aisle to find reasonable solutions for the nation’s issues.

“Today, I come before Congress to appeal to reason. Without a doubt, the across-the-board spending cuts we call sequester will undermine our economy and hurt job creation. My district, home to Fort Benning in Columbus, the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, the area outside of Robins Air Force Base, and thousands of service members, veterans, families, and supporting businesses cannot sustain the cuts proposed by Sequestration.

“Furthermore, schools and teachers, law enforcement and crime prevention, public health and Head Start will be negatively impacted. The Second Congressional District of Georgia relies on these services, as do many of your districts.

“Mr. Speaker, I ask for a balanced proposal.

“We may be in the 11th hour, but we must act. We owe it to our constituents, we owe it to our districts, and we owe it to our nation.”

Over the weekend, the White House released state-by-state reports on the devastating impact that sequestration will have on jobs and middle class families across the country. The report found that:

Military Readiness : In Georgia, approximately 37,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $190 million.

  • Army : Base operation funding would be cut by about $233 million in Georgia.
  • Air Force : Funding for Air Force operations in Georgia would be cut by about $5 million.

Teachers and Schools : Georgia will lose approximately $28.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 390 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition, about 54,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 80 fewer schools would receive funding.

Head Start : Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,700 children in Georgia reducing access to critical early education.

Job Search Assistance to Help those in Georgia find Employment and Training : Georgia will lose about $873,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, resulting in 33,160 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution : Georgia will lose about $427,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Public Health : Georgia will lose approximately $925,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats. In addition, Georgia will lose about $2.5 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in nearly 2,400 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs.

Nutrition Assistance for Seniors : Georgia would lose approximately $1.3 million in funds that provide meals for seniors.


Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA)

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) joined 166 of his colleagues in co-sponsoring H.R. 12, the Voter Empowerment Act within the House of Representatives. The Voter Empowerment Act helps to ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, modernizes our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and
take steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

As citizens of this great country, we are entrusted with a great responsibility to exercise one of our most sacred constitutional rights, the right to choose our elected officials ,” said Congressman Sanford Bishop “ As seen during the 2012 Presidential election , many states have enacted or proposed strict voting laws that impose unfair restrictions on eligible voters across the country. We cannot let any voter, especially students, the elderly, the disabled, minority, and low-income voters directly affected by these restrictions, be prevented from exercising their right to vote.”

“The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. Too many people in this country had to give their lives to exercise a right already guaranteed them by the Constitution,” said Congressman John Lewis (GA-05).

“Outlawing the poll tax 49 years ago, does not mean we were finished protecting democratic freedom. New challenges to equal access still arise today. To be a credible voice for equal justice abroad, we must be watchful here at home to alleviate every historic and current impediment to the democratic process.”

H.R. 12 makes certain of better access to the ballot by modernizing the voter registration system, ensuring access to online voter registration, guaranteeing military and overseas Americans’ ballots are counted, allowing for same day registration, opening online voter registration access, notifying voters when changes are made, encouraging youth to become voters, assisting voters with disabilities, and restoring rehabilitated citizens’ right to vote.

The Voter Empowerment Act preserves integrity in voting systems by restoring trust in elections officials, providing informed and reliable poll workers, counts all provisional ballots, prohibiting voter caging, and protecting voters from
deceptive practices and intimidation. Additionally, the bill demands accountability in election administration by creating a national voter hotline, ensuring votes are counted correctly, and by reauthorizing the Election Assistance Commission. While this bill would not require states to have stronger voting rights, it provides a blueprint and suggestions for a better national system.


Why Extreme Conservatives Like the Sequester

George Lakoff

George Lakoff

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary.  The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes.  All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business.  They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality.  They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

Their moral sense requires that they do all they can to make the government fail in providing for the common good.  Their idea of liberty is maximal personal responsibility, which they see as maximal privatization — and profitization — of all that we do for each other together, jointly as a unified nation.

They also believe that if people are hurt by government failure, it is their own fault for being “on the take” instead of providing for themselves. People who depend on public provisions should suffer. They should have rely on themselves alone — learn personal responsibility, just as Romney said in his 47 percent speech. In the long run, they believe, the country will be better off if everyone has to depend on personal responsibility alone.

Moreover, ultra-conservatives do not see all the ways in which they, and other ultra-conservatives, rely all day every day on what other Americans have supplied for them. They actually believe that they built it all by themselves.

So for them the sequester is not a “self-inflicted wound.” It is justice. The sequester is not merely about protecting “special interests.”  It is about the good people who pursued their self-interest successfully, got rich, and have acted “morally” in avoiding taxes that pay for public provisions by the government.

They are not merely trying to harm their own constituents just to hurt the president politically. Yes, they think hurting the president politically is moral, and they believe that any constituents they are hurting need to become more personally responsible. They see the sequester as serving that purpose.

In short, the sequester is not just about money and political power for the republicans in the House. It is mostly about what they see as the right direction for the country: maximal elimination of the public sphere.

In short, they have an ideology that partially, but only partially, fits what half of our population believes. Overall, it actually fits what about 20 to 30 percent of the population totally believes. Both total progressives and partial progressives don’t want to see millions of folks hurt and the economy hurt as well. But thanks to Republican gerrymandering at the state level, progressives and partial progressives do not control Congress.

This is the real picture and few people in public life dare to tell it. It is more convenient, and less scary, to think that all that is involved is money and politics as usual. That’s what current Democratic messaging says. Democratic messaging hasn’t gotten to the heart of the problem: the real moral divide in America. Democratic messaging, in blaming Republicans in Congress for the harm to come, just offends Republicans and fails to speak to moral divide at the heart of our public life.

Krugman on Sequester and Deficit Obsession: ‘We’re Having the Wrong Conversation’

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman


Nobel prize winning economist and columnist Paul Krugman sat down the MSNBC’s Ed Schultz this Friday evening to discuss the recent madness we’ve been watching with this budget sequestration, which President Obama signed into law this Friday evening. Once again we find Krugman being one of the few voices of reason who is allowed some air time on our corporate media, discussing the fact that this deficit fetishism we’re seeing from our politicians is exactly the wrong conversation we should be having right now.

What we should be talking about first and foremost is getting Americans back to work. It was also good to hear some push back against the constant chatter we’re hearing from the Villagers in the media who are continually pushing for Chained CPI, and pretending as though cutting Social Security benefits in exchange for “tax reform” — a.k.a. lowering taxes on rich people and corporations — is something anyone should think is acceptable, or “balanced” or that would do a thing to help lower the deficit. It would have been nice to hear either of them say out loud that Social Security does not add to the deficit during this interview, but it was only implied and not clarified for the audience.

Here’s more on Krugman’s conversation with Schultz via Raw Story: Paul Krugman: Sequester ‘was designed to be stupid’:

“This was designed to be stupid,” Krugman said. “The whole point was, this was supposed to be a doomsday device that would force the [Democratic and Republican] parties to reach an agreement. Of course, they didn’t, and here it goes.”

While the effect of the spending cuts would take time to manifest, Krugman told Schultz, they would definitely be felt by late 2013.

“This is exactly what the doctor did not order,” he said.

While the spending cuts were conceived as a fix for the federal deficit, Krugman said, this was not the time to implement that kind of measure. Instead, he said, the government should be taking advantage of low interest rates and a high number of unemployed construction workers to invest in infrastructure and education.

“What kind of spending would it take to keep us on the track that we’re on right now?” Schultz asked, noting a continued pattern of private sector job growth despite Republican resistance to a new jobs bill since the stimulus package of 2009.

“If we would just stop cutting, the growth would probably keep going,” Krugman answered. “If spending had grown as fast in this recovery as it has in past recoveries, we’d be spending something like $200 billion a year — state, local and federal — more, maybe $300 billion a year more. Maybe $300 billion a year more. We’d have about a million and a half more public sector workers than we do right now, because we’ve been laying them off at [an] unprecedented pace. So, I think $300 billion a year of additional spending would be appropriate and would mean, if we did it, that we would be pretty close to full employment at this point.”

Greg Sargent made the same point in his column this week as well: The Morning Plum: Happy Sequester Day! We’re still stuck in the wrong conversation.

Meanwhile, the fact that sequestration is set to hit is a concrete reminder that we’re still stuck with the consequences of that misguided 2011 mindset. Indeed, the continuing argument over how to avert sequestration — whether to replace it with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues, or with just spending cuts — is itself a sign of the continuing power of elite consensus deficit-obsession. After all, the battle is still being fought on deficit/austerity turf, at a time of near-zero growth and mass unemployment, rather than over what government should be doing to boost the economy and alleviate widespread economic suffering. As Atrios has put it, we’re not debating whether to implement more austerity; we’re debating over how much austerity to implement.

It remains to be seen how damaging the sequester will be and how the politics of it will play out. But one can only hope that it will have one positive effect: Perhaps it will persuade people to rethink the relationship between federal spending and their own economic well being. As Brian Beutler has noted, Obama — through sustained and intense public persuasion — has already fixed the broken link in the public mind between the need for higher taxes and the value of sustaining popular government programs. Maybe the sequester will take this one step further and get folks to reconsider the relationship between government spending and economic recovery. Is there any other cure for the 2011 hangover that continues to dominate our policymaking?

Obama and Democrats appear to hope that some sort of eventual “grand bargain” will lock in a long-term consensus over the safety net and the deficit — over the size and nature of the welfare state and who should pay for it — and liberate policymakers to turn to the economy. One can hope. But for now, we remain trapped in the wrong conversation — one that is doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of untold numbers of Americans.

Why Obama Must Meet the Republican Lies Directly



The White House apparently believes the best way to strengthen its hand in the upcoming “sequester” showdown with Republicans is to tell Americans how awful the spending cuts will be, and blame Republicans for them.

It won’t work. These tactical messages are getting in the way of the larger truth, which the President must hammer home: The Republicans’ austerity economics and trickle-down economics are dangerous, bald-faced lies.

Yes, the pending spending cuts will hurt. But even if some Americans begin to feel the pain when the cuts go into effect Friday, most won’t feel it for weeks or months, if ever.

Half are cuts in the military, which will have a huge impact on jobs (the military is America’s only major jobs program), but the cuts will be felt mainly in states with large numbers of military contractors, and then only as those contractors shed employees.

The other half are cuts in domestic discretionary spending, which will largely affect lower-income Americans. There will be sharp reductions in federal aid to poor schools, nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and the like. But here again, most Americans won’t see these cuts or feel them.

Moreover, the blame game can be played both ways, and Republicans are adept at slinging mud. When it comes to high-visibility consequences of the spending cuts – such as a sudden dearth of air-traffic controllers – Republicans will dodge blame by happily giving Obama authority to shift spending and find the cuts himself, thereby making the White House appear even more culpable.

Besides, there’s no end to this. After Friday’s sequester comes the showdown over continuing funding of the government beyond March 27. Then another fight over the debt ceiling.

The White House must directly rebut the two big lies that fuel the Republican assault – and that have fueled it since the showdown over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011.

The first big lie is austerity economics – the claim that the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.

Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession – which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.

The second big lie is trickle-down economics – the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they’re the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.

Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.

As inequality continues to widen, and income and wealth become ever more concentrated at the top, the rest don’t have the purchasing power they need to boost the economy. That’s the underlying reason why the recovery continues to be so anemic.

These two lies – austerity economics and trickle-down economics – are being told over and over by Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News, yell radio, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. They are wrong and there are dangerous.

Yet unless they are rebutted clearly and forcefully, the nation will continue to careen from crisis to crisis, showdown to showdown.

And we will have almost no chance of reversing the larger challenge of widening inequality.

President Obama has the bully pulpit. Americans trust him more than they do congressional Republicans. But he is letting micro-tactics get in the way of the larger truth. And he’s blurring his message with other messages – about gun control, immigration, and the environment. All are important, to be sure. But none has half a chance unless Americans understand how they’re being duped on the really big story.