Mr. George Williams

Mr. George Williams

Mr. George Williams

Mr. George Williams of 1306 North Mayo Street, Americus, Georgia died Monday, March 14, 2016 at the Phoebe-Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Georgia.

The funeral service will be held Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 3:30 p. m. in the sanctuary of the Big Bethel Baptist Church, 1330 North Jackson Street, Americus, Georgia.  The burial will follow at the Eastview Cemetery in Americus, Georgia.

Mr. George Williams was born in Plains, Georgia on July 19, 1947. He was born to the parentage of the late Mr. John   Williams and Mrs. Louise Stewart Williams.

Georgia was educated in the public schools of Sumter County. He was employed by Davidson Rubber Company of Americus, Georgia.

On Monday, March 14, 2016, while a patient at Phoebe-Sumter Medical Center, he peacefully slipped away. George is preceded in death by his brothers, Mr. Jeffery Williams, Mr. Johnny Williams and Mr. Willie James Williams.

He leaves to cherished memories to his beloved wife of 47 years, Mrs. Barbara Ann Laster Williams of Americus,     Georgia; two daughters, Ms. Barbara Jean Brown and Ms. LaTarsha Williams both of Americus, Georgia; one son, Mr. George Williams, Jr. of Americus, Georgia; one granddaughter, Kayla Janay Watts of Americus, Georgia; his brothers, Mr. Frank Williams and Mr. Norman Williams both of Plains, Georgia; his sisters, Ms. Emma Louise Williams, Ms. Annie Ruth Thomas, and Mrs. Betty Jean Protho all of Plains,   Georgia; his aunts, Ms. Ruby Bush and Ms. Queen Thurston both of Deerfield, Florida; his uncles, Mr. Charles Stewart of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mr. James Stewart of Pompano Beach, Florida, and Mr. Melvin Burton of New Jersey; his   devoted mother-in-law, Mrs. Essie Mae Laster; his sisters-in-law, Mrs. Willie Mae Hawkins, Mrs. Betty Carter, and Mrs. Essie (McArthur) Sims all of Americus, Georgia; his brother-in-law, Mr. Willie James Laster of Americus, Georgia; one son-in-law, Mr. Farley Watts of Atlanta, Georgia; a devoted nephew, Mr. Michael Jones; his devoted friends, Mrs. Wanda Thomas, Mrs. Lashanta Terry, Mrs. Bernice Ingram, Mr. Jeff Smith. Mr. Sylvester Perkins, Mr. Henry Patterson, Mr. Jack Lane, and Ms. Mary Alice Bush; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives sorrowing friends.

Mrs. Minnie Perry Glass

Mrs. Minnie Perry Glass

Mrs. Minnie Perry Glass

Graveside services for Mrs. Minnie Lee Perry Glass of Horton Drive Americus, GA will held on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 11:00 A.M. at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery in Ellaville, GA.

Mrs. Minnie Lee Perry Glass was born in Ellaville, GA on June 9, 1940 to the late Willie O. Perry and the late Albert Perry. She graduated from John Lewis High School, Ellaville GA in 1958. Minnie was an industrious worker her entire adult life, working her way up in many jobs but most recently at Scott Bedding, Manhattan Shirt Factory, Sumter County Extension Office, and the Administrator of Meals on Wheels for Sumter County Middle Flint Council of Aging. In her earlier years, she was active as a Secretary of the Sunday School at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Minnie was married to the late Ossie Glass. She lived the remainder of her years in retirement at her home in Americus, GA.

She is preceded in death by a sister, Arabella Perry and her brothers, Albert Perry Jr. Simmie H. Perry, Arthur W. Perry and sisters-in-law, Josephine Perry, Margaret Perry and Alma Perry Minnie passed away after a brief illness on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at the Phoebe-Sumter Medical Center. Minnie was a driven, hard-working but kind-hearted woman. She lived a quiet, unassuming life in her retirement years. She will be sorely missed by family and friends. She is survived by a son, Otis Ray Glass, a grandson, Rodrick Denorris Glass Sr., a great grandson, Rodrick Glass Jr., two great granddaughters: Megan Glass Kateria Deame Glass, and their mother, Lukeshia Denmark; a sister, Annie Belle Howard, two brothers: Phillip C. Perry and Freddie B. Perry; sisters-in-law, Mary Perry, LaVerne Perry and Gretha Young. Minnie is survived on her husband’s side by: Euguene and Bridget Brown and family, John and Toni Brown and family and Willie Brown all of Americus GA, Elijah Murray of Dallas, TX, Emogene Jackson of St. Petersburg, FL and Marcellus and Lovie Jane Owens of Ellaville, GA. A devoted friend Janie Carter and a host of nieces and nephews.

Senator Sanders’ Young Supporters Missed the Peace and Prosperity of the Bill Clinton Years

We are shocked to see so many young people supporting the unknown Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and are rejecting the well-known former New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. If you didn’t live in the
1990’s during the Clinton’s administration, you missed some of the best days in America. When President Clinton left office, he had a national budget surplus, had the lowest poverty level, created 23 million jobs, and kept the nation at peace.

Our young people ages from 18 to 30 years old did not live during those great times in our nation. When President George W Bush took office after Clinton, we witnessed one of the greatest declines in the economy since the Great Depression under Republican Herbert Hoover. And by the time President Barack Obama was elected, the economy was worse than the Great Depression.

What our young millennials need to focus on are their real enemies, the Republicans, and who has the best chances of defeating them in the Nov. election. Many of the policies that President Obama and the Democrats have tried to enact were obstructed by the Republicans. Sanders and Clinton supported Obama but the Republicans kept blocking his programs.

Now we have Bernie Sanders struggling to defeat Hillary Clinton with so many young people supporting him, who expect him to deliver on his promises. Unfortunately, he was asked by a reporter at a New York newspaper how was he going to reform Wall Street, and how would he break up the banks. He appeared unprepared for the questions and gave an unintelligent response.

Hillary Clinton was asked about Sanders’ unpreparedness and said, “After talking about Wall Street and the banks for more than a year, he did not have a plan to present to the newspaper.”

Senator Sanders is promising to provide free education to college students and Medicare for all citizens of the United States. Several respectable economists do not agree with this plan as it would run the deficit to over $20 trillion. The tax rate will increase from 35% to nearly 70%. The hopeful young people are rallying behind Bernie Sanders but they have not researched the facts and the realities of such promises. Do Senator Sanders youthful followers perceive him as Santa Claus coming early with all his campaign promises?

We wish the young voters will support Hillary Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee. Many of the older voters who lived through the successes of President Clinton’s period are supporting Hillary. It is difficult for the established voters to support Sanders who is not a Democrat and not well known. Hillary has been known for over 40 years, and she has been brutalized by Republicans most of her adult life.

Even though the Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton, he still managed to end his presidency with the best economy we have ever seen in recent times. Hillary Clinton was a partner with Bill in the White House eight years. She was trusted by President Obama who named her Secretary of State. The older Americans have decided to support Hillary and we pray the young people will do their homework and see what a great president she will
make.

Finally, the Crime Bill and the Welfare Bill during the Clinton era were bills that the Clintons are not proud of and
have apologized for them. As Black citizens, we know how rampant the drugs and killings were in our community in the 1990’s. Many police chiefs, Black and White elected officials, and even Bernie Sanders voted for that Crime Bill. The Republicans would not let it pass unless the sentences were expanded and even the death penalty was included.

We have never seen a perfect administration and the Clinton period is no exception. But we must thank God for a period of peace and prosperity under Bill and Hillary Clinton.

MILTON RAVEN

MILTON RAVEN

MILTON RAVEN

On Tuesday night the thirty-first of March, 2015, the true and living God said, “Servant of God well done…. enter into the joy of your master”.

Mr. Milton A. Raven Sr., was born on July 2, 1931 to the late Johnnie L. Raven, Sr. and Lillie Hightower Raven in Plains, Georgia.  He was the fifth of five children. Three brothers, Clinton, Floyd and Sammie Lee preceded him in death.

He began his education at the Johnson Home Industrial College and he completed elementary school at Saint Mark A.M.E. Church.  He attended Junior High school at the Rosenwald School in Plains, GA and completed his high education at A. S. Staley High school in Americus, GA. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Albany State College in Albany, GA.  He also earned a Master Degree from Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA.

Mr. Raven worked in public education for 32 years.  During his tenure, he was a teacher and also served as the Principal in the Webster County school system.  He was the president of COLAM Enterprises which was a job training center, helping young people prepare for and obtain meaning employment.  He was the owner of a senior citizens complex along with other housing properties in which he sought to provide decent affordable housing to those in need. He was founder and co-owner of Mimmie’s Diner in Plains, GA.

Mr. Raven served on various boards and organizations including the Americus City Board of Education, Board of Trustees of Georgia Southwestern State University, the local board of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. He was also a member of the Plains Historical Preservation Trust, Inc., the Kiwanis Club of Americus, the American Legion Post #558 and the Masons. He was appointed to the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission, representing the Second Congressional District.  He was also a veteran and served in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict.

Mr. Raven was a member of St. Mark A.M.E Church, Archery Community.  There he served faithfully on the Trustee and Steward Boards; served church treasurer and as the Church School Superintendent for 40+ years.  He loved St. Mark and included many historical facts about the church and the Archery community in his book entitled; “Archery – A Historic African American Community Southwest of Plains, Georgia.

He was united in holy matrimony to Miss Willie Bell Graham on October 31, 1953.  To this union was born four sons.  He is preceded in death by one son Charles E. Raven

He leaves to cherish his memory a loving wife Willie Bell Graham Raven, his three sons: Milton A. Raven, Jr., Americus, GA, Rev. Arthur L. Raven (Sonia), Taylors, SC and Dexter E. Raven (Cheryl), Americus, GA.; seven grandchildren: Christopher A. Raven (Daisy), Dexter E. Raven, Jr. (Sabrina) , Arthur L. Raven, Jr. (Ciera), Kristen N. Raven, Terrell S. Raven (Casey), Althea L. Raven and Amber M. Raven,  six great-grandchildren: Candace, Kingston, L. Jalen, Ayaden, Aliyah, Kensley and Desmond, one brother: Elder Johnnie L. Raven, Jr. (Velma), Americus, GA, two sisters-in-law: Louise Thomas, Richland, GA, and Betty Jean Thomas, Cocoa Beach FL.; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, other relatives and friends also survive.

JOE CLAYTON

JOE CLAYTON

JOE CLAYTON

Mr. Joe Cleveland Clayton was born in Sumter County, Georgia on July 1, 1961, to the parents of the late Mr. Cleveland Patrick and the late Mrs. Dollie Mae Clayton. He received his education in the public schools of Sumter County. He was a faithful member of the Friendship Baptist Church. He was employed for many years with Cana, Inc. He was married to the late Mrs. Mary Alice Mack Clayton.

He leaves to mourn his passing: a son, Mr. Arthur Mack, Americus, GA; two daughters, Ms. Melissa Mack and Ms. Angela Mack, Americus, GA; five brothers: Mr. Jessie Clayton, Mr. Sammy Lee Clayton, Mr. Lorenzo Clayton, Mr. Jerome (Debra) Clayton and Mr. Clarence (Barbara) Burts, all of Americus, GA; three sisters: Ms. Jacqueline (Randolph) Johnson, Ms. Margaret (Kevin) Pines and Ms. Sebrina Davis all of Americus, GA; one brother-in-law, Mr. Willie Rembert, Jr. of Florida; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and friends, including a devoted friend, Ms. Tomeka Hunter, Americus, GA also survive.

ANNIE L. BULLARD

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ANNIE L. BULLARD

Mrs. Annie Lou Bullard was born in Sumter County, Georgia on September 20, 1949 to the parents of Mr. Ulysses Timmons and the late Ms. Mary Lee King. A son, Mr. Russell Scott Bullard and a sister, Ms. Christine White precede her in death.

She leaves to cherish her memories: two sons, Mr. Raymond (Tracy) Bullard, Desoto, GA and Mr. Patrick Bullard and Ms. Yashica McCoy, Americus, GA; two brothers, Mr. Ronald Johnson, Desoto, GA and Mr. Mark Burris, Albany, GA; three sisters, Ms. Shirley Johnson, Americus, GA, Ms. Sharon Brown, Desoto, GA and Ms. Annette (Ed) Allen, Leesburg, GA; five grandchildren, Jamarious “aka, Cookie / Rell” Bullard. Taylor R. Bullard, Adashia Bullard, Elijah Bullard and Michaela Baisden; six great grandchildren, Jamarious Bullard, Jr., Jamaria Bullard, Jamiya Bullard, Jaydien K. Jones, Mackenize E. Bullard and Jakiya Bullard; one sister-in-law, Ms. Linda Jones, Cobb, GA; a god-daughter, Ms. Kaneesha Green; her caregiver, Ms. Valerie Hollomon; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins other relatives and friends, including devoted family friends, Ms. Marsha Robinson and Ms. Oceaunna D. Polk also survive.

EDDIE MAE JONES

EDDIE MAE JONES

EDDIE MAE JONES

Mrs. Eddie Mae Jordan Jones was the eldest child born August 9, 1909 in Sumter County, Georgia to the parentage of the late Mr. Eddie Jordan and the late Mrs. Lula Mae Scott Jordan Martin. She was educated in the public schools of Sumter County, McKay Hill School. At an early age, she joined the Welcome Baptist Church. Later, she moved her membership to the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of the late Rev. C. W. Woodall. She was a dedicated member of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where she served in many capacities: Pastor Aid Ministry, Vineyard Worker’s Ministry, Primary Class Sunday School Teacher, Mission Ministry and the Senior Choir. She was marred to the late Mr. Perry Jones and to their union three children were born. Her daughter, Ms. Annie Lois Jones and two sons, Mr. Perry Jones, Jr. and Mr. Sammie Jones have all preceded her in death.

She leaves to mourn her passing, her niece, Mrs. Louise B. Ferguson of Maryland; two nephews, Dr. Johnny Bannister, Montgomery, AL and Mr. Lawrence Bannister, Denton, TX; several cousins, including, Ms. Lucille Daniels, Ms. Carolyn Foster, Ms. Annie Ruth Jackson, Mr. Jessie Foster and Mr. Charlie Foster; a devoted caregiver and god-daughter, Ms. Leola Carter; several devoted friends, including, Ms. Thelma Seay, Ms. Tiny Davis, Judge George & Mrs. Ann Peagler, Ms. Jewel Josey, Mrs. Martha Durham, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Boone, the Welcome Baptist Church and Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church families also survive.

BETTY G. PERRY

BETTY G. PERRY

BETTY G. PERRY

Mrs. Betty Ruth Perry was born in Sumter County, Georgia on March 9, 1952 to the parentage of the late Mr. Willie Gordon and the late Mrs. Annie Mae Merritt Gordon. Affectionately called “Bet” by her family and friends, she received her education in the public schools of Sumter County. Betty joined the Antioch Baptist Church at an early age. While there she served as an active member and usher until her health failed. Betty worked at the Varsity Restaurant and a former employee of Metalux/Cooper Lighting for many years. Betty was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt and loved entertaining her family and friends. She is preceded in death by four siblings, Mr. Norman Gordon, Mr. Willie Gordon, Mr. Johnny Gordon and Ms. Doris Louis.

She leaves to cherish her memories a devoted husband, Mr. Benny Perry, Americus, GA; two daughters, Ms. Latosha Evans and fiancé’ Frankie Laster, Jr. and Ms. Kimberly Evans, Americus, GA; four step children, Ms. Patricia Williams, Mrs. Carla (David) Banks, Mr. Richard Perry and Ms. Kanasha Perry all of Plains, GA; two grandchildren, Kierra Symone Battle and Ke’Darrious J. Evans of Americus, GA; two sisters, Ms. Rosa Hicks and Mrs. Martha (Charlie) Harvey, Americus, GA; three brothers, Mr. Jimmy (Tracy) Gordon, Mr. Rodney Gordon and Mr. James (Helen) Gordon of Americus, GA; three brothers-in-law, Mr. Bobby Louis, Mr. William Perry, Americus, GA and Mr. Parish (Patsy) Mitchell, Newark, DE; two sisters-in-law, Ms. Peggy Perry and Ms. Virginia Wallace, Plains, GA; one uncle, Mr. Eddie Dean Lawson, Americus, GA; one aunt, Ms. Carrie Brown, St. Petersburg, FL; and a host of nieces, including a devoted niece, Ms. Soretha Gordon, nephews, cousins other relatives and sorrowing friends, including devoted friends, Mrs. Linda Gardner, Mrs. Julia Pearl Sims, Ms. Tatena Butts, Mrs. Diane Terry, Ms. Ella R. Ferguson, Americus, GA, Mrs. Patricia Stewart Kearse, Columbia, SC, Mrs. Bessie Carr Tookes, Oglethorpe, GA and Ms. Anne Mary Harold, Preston, GA also survive.

ELIJAH “ELI” FRENCH

ELIJAH “ELI” FRENCH

ELIJAH “ELI” FRENCH

Mr. Elijah “Eli” French was born in Lee County, Georgia on December 7, 1952 to the parentage of the late Mr. Ruben French, Sr. and the late Mrs. Willie Pearl Floyd French. He received his education in the Lee County Training System. At an early age, he confessed his life to Jesus Christ at Mt. Able Baptist Church, where he song in the choir. Later, he moved his membership to the Jerusalem Grove Baptist Church, Smithville, Georgia. He was united in Holy Matrimony for 27 years to Mrs. Mildred Harris French and to their union two children were born. He was employed with Chervon for eight years.

Eli departed this earthly vessel on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.

In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by two sisters, Mrs. Rosa F. Majors and Ms. Shuyrine Johnson; one brother, Mr. George Edward French.

He leaves his love and commitment to his wife of 27 years, Mrs. Mildred Harris French, Americus, GA; his dedication as a father to his three handsome sons, Mr. Torrin Terrell “Spanky” (Tracy) French, Hiram, GA, Mr. Elijah French, Jr. and Tamekia Johnson, Americus, GA and Mr. Brandon Jerome (Ashley) French, Jacksonville, FL; one lovely daughter, Ms. PaTina (Jimmie) Brown, Powder Springs, GA; his grandchildren, Imani French, Kennesaw, GA, Stephan and Trevon French, Hirman, GA and Camille Brown, Powder Springs, GA; eleven sisters, Ms. Bobbie Lee Young, Ms. Annie Ruth (Rody) Minter, Mrs. Ruby (Johnny) Hawkins, Ms. Brenda French and Drze, Ms. Beverly (Curtis) Walton of Smithville, GA, Ms. Nellie Harris, Ms. Linda Smith, Ms. Dorine (John) Reagan, Americus, GA, Ms. Valirie (Patrick) Hughes Mrs. TyRhonda (Robert) Tolbert and Ms. Elaine (Marvin) Mann, Warner Robins, GA; five brothers, Mr. Ruben (Cynthia) French, Jr., Mr. Joseph (Natasha) French, Sr., Smithville, GA, Mr. Willie (Lisa) French, Parrot, GA, Mr. Archie Johnson and Mr. Dewey Johnson, Albany, GA; his mother-in-law, Ms. Emma Lee Harris, Americus, GA; four brothers-in-law, Mr. George (Darlene) Harris, Mr. Jimmy Harris, Mr. Alvin (Liz) Harris and Mr. Willie Harris of Americus, GA; three sisters-in-law, Ms. Brenda Walters, Ms. Debra Myers, and Ms. Gwen Thomas, Americus, GA; six aunts, Ms. Mary Prince, Ms. Gloria Riley, Plains, GA, Ms. Lucille Clayton, Jacksonville, FL, Ms. Gladys Floyd, Detroit, MI, Ms. Mary French, Smithville, GA and Ms. Rena Floyd, Syracuse, NY; one uncle, Mr. James Floyd, Detroit, MI; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, including devoted cousins, Mr. David Jenkins and Mr. Doc French, III other relatives and friends including devoted friends, Ms. Bernice Ingram & family and Mr. Fred Young, devoted co-worker, Mrs. Margaret Sims Harvey also survive.

INFANT TALEYAH SIMS

image8588Infant Taleyah Kaidence Sims was born on March 17, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. to the parentage of Mr. Timothy Sims, Jr. and Mrs. Nardaesha Draper Sims.  She is preceded in death by her great grandparents, the late John L. Green, Sr, the late Archie Bell Green, and the late William Jackson.

In addition to her parents, she leaves to mourn her passing, a brother, Zaylen Watkins, Avondale, AZ; her grandparents, Ms. Lavern Jackson, Phoenix, AZ, Mr. Kyle Draper, Sacramento, CA, Mr. Timothy Sims and Mrs. Levon Sims both of Americus, GA; her great grandparents, Mrs. Thelma Sims, Mr. Henry (Doris) Sims, all of Americus, GA, Ms. Margret Jackson, Ms. Georgia Yancey and Mr. John Draper, all of Fresno, CA.; her uncles, Mr. Courtney (Mijan) Green, Riverdale, GA, Mr. DaQuaiven Draper, Mr. Kyle Draper , Mr. Mikyah Draper and Mr. Kaiden Draper, all of Fresno, CA;  her aunts, Ms. Kylelashay Draper, Phoenix, AZ, Ms. Kyleisha Draper, Pittsburg, CA, Ms. Ashley Price, Ms. Latoya Price, Ms. Symphony Draper, Ms. Georgia Draper and Ms. Simeere Draper, all of Fresno, CA;  a host of great aunts, great uncles, cousins other relatives and friends, also survive.

LEE “YANT” BANKS

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Mr. Lee Anthony Banks

Mr. Lee Anthony Banks was born in Americus, Sumter County, Georgia on May 12, 1963 to the parentage of the late Mr. Edward Williams and the late Mrs. Alma Baisden Banks. He received his education in the public schools of Sumter County. He began his work journey with the Sumter County School System and Magnolia Manor Nursing Home.

Lee will be remembered for his DJ skills, out going personality and being the life of the party.

He leaves to cherish his memories, his son, Mr. Dantavious King, Americus, GA; his siblings, Mr. Zachary (Sharon) Draines, Mr. Jerome Draines, Ms. Elizabeth Banks, Mr. James (Norma) Banks and Mr. Leon (Stephanie) Banks all of Americus, GA, Ms. Marilyn Smith, Fort Valley, GA and Ms. Peggy Brown, Atlanta, GA, and Mr. Randolph (Mary) Williams, Fort Valley, GA; his aunts & uncles, Ms. Nettie Ruth Jackson, Tampa, FL, Ms. Rosie Mae Jackson, Orlando, FL, Ms. Louise Jackson, Ms. Martha Black and Mr. Bobby Jackson all of Ellaville, GA; his extended family, Ms. Lou Ann Williams, Ms. Kathy Williams, Ms. Hazel Morgan, Ms. Melanie Anthony, Ms. Katie Jenkins and Ms. Diane Trice; and a host of nieces, including devoted nieces, Mrs. Teressa (Alfred) Degroat, Ms. Niteshia Wilkerson, Ms. Ashley Sims, Ms. LaQuandra Johnson, Ms. Janice Tucker and Ms. Cherie Baisden, nephews, including devoted nephews, Mr. Conquett (Shanita) Banks, Mr. Cameron (LaJasmine) Wilkerson, Mr. Travis Johnson, Mr. Kerry Champion and Mr. Erin Sims, cousins other relatives and friends , including devoted friends, Mr. Anthony (Cookie) Westbrook and Mr. Clarence Smith also survive.

Gout Increases Risk of Vascular Disease, Especially ForWomen

BY KARI OAKES in Cardiology on April 2nd, 2015

FROM ANNALS OF THE RHEUMATIC DISEASES

Gout’s association with a host of vascular events was confirmed in a new study that explored the links between the inflammatory condition and coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, and cerebrovascular events.

Though both men and women with gout were at increased risk for vascular events overall, the association appeared strongest for women. Dr. Lorna Clarson of Keele (England) University and her associates drew these conclusions from a retrospective cohort study of men and women with an incident diagnosis of gout ( Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2015;74:642-7 ).

Gout, caused by the deposition of uric acid crystals in joints, is characterized by acute flares of intensely painful and inflamed joints. However, the state of hyperuricemia that predisposes patients to acute attacks of gout may precede the first attack by years, and may persist between flares. The proinflammatory course of the natural history of gout has increasingly been recognized as a potential contributor to vascular disease.

The precise mechanism by which gout may increase vascular risk has not been identified. Dr. Clarson and associates noted that in addition to the acute and chronic inflammation associated with gout and hyperuricemia, serum uric acid may have a more direct effect on vascular health, as urate crystal deposition on vessel walls may promote vascular damage.

To clarify gout’s impact on vascular risk, Dr. Clarson and her associates used the Clinical Practice Datalink, a large United Kingdom health database, to compare 8,366 patients with gout to 39,766 age- and sex-matched controls. None of those studied had a baseline history of vascular disease, and all were aged 50 or older.

Careful accounting for covariates was accomplished by multivariate analysis that took into account sex, age, body mass index, tobacco and alcohol consumption, statin or aspirin use, and any history of hypertension, dyslipidemia, or chronic kidney disease. In addition, the study employed the composite Charlson Comorbidity Index, which weights 19 comorbid conditions – including diabetes – to arrive at a single score that captures many risk factors. Patients in the cohort were tracked until their first vascular event, or until death or loss to follow-up. Patient data collection was censored at 10 years from baseline or at the end of study data collection, whichever came first.

To assess the incidence of vascular events, the study noted the first recording in the medical record of any events signaling vascular disease. These included angina or myocardial infarction, transient ischemic attack and stroke, and a range of diagnoses associated with peripheral vascular disease.

Final analysis after accounting for the many covariates tracked in the study showed increased risk for vascular events for those with gout, with a definite difference between the sexes. For men, gout predicted an increased risk of any vascular event (hazard ratio, 1.06; 95% confidence interval, 1.01–1.12) and of coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. For women, gout predicted an increased risk of all vascular events (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.15-1.35) except myocardial infarction and cerebrovascular disease overall. Further, the degree of increased risk of vascular events was greater for women than for men with gout (P< .001 for intersex difference).

Dr. Clarson and her associates proposed that the higher risk for vascular events among women with gout may arise from the longer exposure to elevated serum uric acid, since women have a longer prodrome before first gout attack, though they recommend further study to elucidate the mechanism.

Noting that “clinical management of gout in primary care is suboptimal,” Dr. Clarson and her colleagues urged greater attention to screening for vascular risk in those diagnosed with gout; these individuals comprise a significant population of over 8 million people in the United States. International guidelines recommend screening for cardiovascular risk when gout is diagnosed, but only one in four gout patients are so evaluated.

Regarding the sex differences unearthed in their study, Dr. Clarson and her associates observed that “both gout and vascular disease have historically been considered diseases of men … [M]ore attention should be paid to prompt and reliable diagnosis of gout, followed by optimal management in female patients, including serious consideration of vascular risk reduction.”

The United Kingdom’s National School for Primary Research funded the study. The authors reported no relevant disclosures.

rhnews@frontlinemedcom.com

Over a Million Mentally Ill People Denied Access to Affordable Care in Non-Medicaid Expansion States

179377LOGOALEXANDRIA, Va., April 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —

ALEXANDRIA, Va.April 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new groundbreaking study from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) shows that nearly 570,000 people diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, would have received affordable, needed treatments, but were denied access to services because several states refused to participate in the new Medicaid Expansion Program. The federal government would have paid 100 percent of the treatment costs; the monies were already included in the federal budget. The comprehensive study also highlights that 458,000 fewer people would have avoided a depressive disorder mainly by securing health insurance through the Medicaid Expansion Program.

The study, entitled “Access Denied: Non-Medicaid Expansion States Blocked Uninsured People with Serious Mental Illness from Receiving Affordable, Needed Treatments” shows that on a state-by-state basis, thousands of uninsured people who had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition on January 1, 2014, and residing in the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, were denied affordable, needed care throughout the year.

Many of the eligible individuals in the 24 non-Medicaid Expansion states had severe mental health conditions and did not have any health insurance coverage through public or private health plans.  But they were denied the opportunity to obtain affordable coverage and treatments in those states due to ideological differences with the Obama Administration.

The 26 states (and DC) that did participate in the expansion in 2014 helped 351,000 people with mental illness obtain affordable, needed services, and another 348,000 people did not develop a depressive disorder due to securing health insurance coverage.

“If several states continue to opt out of the new Medicaid Expansion Program, thousands of state residents with a mental illness will see their hopes of a healthier and better life denied since they cannot obtain affordable health insurance and needed treatments due to political ideology. That is a very high price that seriously ill and vulnerable people have to pay for political differences,” said Dr.Steve Giunta, President of AMHCA.

“The burden of mental illness in the U.S. is incredibly high due to increasing numbers of uninsured people with mental health conditions. The lack of health insurance coverage keeps people with mental illness from obtaining needed services, treatments, and follow-up care.  Timely, continuous treatments lead to achieving long-term recovery and improves their quality of life, and saves money in the long run,” Dr. Giunta noted.

“Health insurance is the passkey to timely, quality and consistent health care services, and state policy makers are locking people with mental illness out of the system in several states,” said Joel E. Miller, Executive Director and CEO of AMHCA.

“Untreated mental illness, or conditions that would have been prevented, lead to more emergency department visits, hospitalizations, school failure, incarcerations and suicides and increase overall health care costs. The proof is in the pudding: states that expanded Medicaid in 2014 helped thousands of previously uninsured people with a mental illness receive affordable, needed treatments,” Miller said.

“States expanding Medicaid will have enhanced capacity to meet the needs of millions of previously uninsured people with mental illness. Those states that do expand Medicaid will see an influx of new federal monies to shore up their mental health systems,” saidJames K. Finley, Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy at AMHCA and co-author of the report. The clinical mental health counseling profession stands ready to provide needed services to people with serious mental health conditions whether an individual resides in an expansion or non-expansion state, and we will promote that goal during Mental Health Counseling Week later this month,” Finley stated.

US Heroin Epidemic: Growing Rates Of Addiction And Overdose Reported In New Jersey, Kentucky, Indiana

States including Indiana, New Jersey and Kentucky are battling raging heroin epidemics. Above, a mural at a park in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, depicts heroin addicts, Aug. 22, 2008. Reuters/Tomas Bravo

States including Indiana, New Jersey and Kentucky are battling raging heroin epidemics. Above, a mural at a park in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, depicts heroin addicts, Aug. 22, 2008. Reuters/Tomas Bravo

By Elizabeth Whitman International Business Times

A growing heroin epidemic is impacting states across the U.S. as local and federal health officials in Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey report rising levels of addiction to the drug. In the areas hardest hit by the epidemic, crime rates are rising, and lives and families are being torn apart. Heroin is used by people from all socioeconomic levels, these officials say, and many of them initially become addicted to drugs through prescription pain medication.

The heroin epidemic is so severe in northern Kentucky that the new director for national drug control policy, Michael Botticelli, paid a visit to the region Thursday to promote awareness. The number of heroin overdoses has tripled there in the last three years alone, and Botticelli blamed the high numbers of heroin addiction on the overprescription of pain medications. Overall, the state has the third-highestrate of death from drug overdoses, primarily from prescription drugs.

Indiana has been battling a heroin epidemic for at least a year, though the seriousness of the epidemic varies from area to area. In some cities, health officials say the heroin epidemic has only worsened since first responders began raising the issue about two years ago. Children call 911 because parents have overdosed, the Indianapolis Star reported, and one person was found comatose in the restroom of a fast-food restaurant in Indianapolis shortly after buying heroin. These kinds of events occur every day, local paramedics told the Star.

“They’ll almost always tell you the problem started out with pain pills,” Kevin Lloyd, a paramedic in Castleton, Indiana, said. He said overdoses have grown in frequency in the past few years and that the drug is also more powerful than it used to be.

In New Jersey, heroin overdoses killed 557 people in 2013 — nearly twice as many as in 2010. Arrests also occur seemingly daily, if not more often. On Wednesday, New Jersey police arrested four people in Lacey after seeing what they suspected were drug deals and later finding 36 bags of heroin stashed in a child’s safety seat in a car, Patch New Jersey reported. The ages of people arrested ranged from 24 to 31. The same day, about 70 miles away in Roselle Park, New Jersey, police arrested two people after finding heroin, needles and other drug paraphernalia on them, the Independent Press reported.

Fact-checkers agree: ACAmay have prevented 50,000 deaths

President Barack Obama speaks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. SUSAN WALSH AP

President Barack Obama speaks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. SUSAN WALSH AP

BY ANN DOSS HELMSTHE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Tallying people who didn’t die is tricky business, so people asked questions when President Obama proclaimed, at the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, that his signature bill had prevented 50,000 deaths.

But fact-checkers from The Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times’PolitiFact.com agree: That’s a reasonable claim.

It stems, they say, from a federal report on a program called Partnership for Patients, created by the ACA to get 3,700 hospitals and other health-care providers to reduce such potentially deadly ailments as pressure ulcers and adverse drug reactions. The study found 1.3 million fewer preventable hospital-acquired conditions from 2010-13 and used mortality rates to extrapolate that about 50,000 lives were saved.

That number “seemed rather extraordinary, even given the size of the United States,” the Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote. But he discovered that “the numbers might seem large, but the research seems solid, according to experts we consulted, and it is based on a review of an extensive database.”

The Post’s Fack Checker awards one to four Pinocchios for statements that range from shading of facts to outright whoppers. “The president’s claim appears worthy of the elusive Geppetto Checkmark,” Kessler concluded.

PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson did a similar analysis, with similar results. Both noted that the number is an estimate, not a firm count, and that preventable hospital deaths were declining before the ACA was approved.

“Independent experts … added that it’s reasonable to credit the health care law’s Partnership for Patients program with accelerating the gains, even if the improvements were already under way at the time the law was passed,” Jacobson wrote. “The statement is accurate but needs clarification, so we rate it Mostly True.

That’s the second-best rating on the PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter, which goes from Pants on Fire to True.

 

The Red State Solution On Medicaid: Georgia’s Not Part Of It

March 17, 2015 Little Rock, AR - Jennifer Hill, MD, performs ultrasound scan at the UAMS Emergency Department in Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government couldn't force states to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, Republican leaders across the country reveled in victory - staunchly refusing to grow the health program for poor Americans. But as Georgia and most of its conservative Southern-state brethren doubled down on their rejection of Medicaid expansion, a small group of Republican lawmakers in Arkansas saw opportunity. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

March 17, 2015 Little Rock, AR – Jennifer Hill, MD, performs ultrasound scan at the UAMS Emergency Department in Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, Republican leaders across the country reveled in victory – staunchly refusing to grow the health program for poor Americans. But as Georgia and most of its conservative Southern-state brethren doubled down on their rejection of Medicaid expansion, a small group of Republican lawmakers in Arkansas saw opportunity. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

By Misty Williams, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Medicaid expansion would have brought $35 billion in federal dollars into Georgia over 10 years. But Gov. Nathan Deal said no: Medicaid is broken, and the last thing we should do is make it even bigger.

The promise of those federal billions, however, has proven irresistible to many states, even some that are just as conservative as Georgia. Arkansas leaders, for example, took a look at all the poor and unhealthy people in their state, and then they took a look at the boatloads of federal money that would flow in to pay for Medicaid expansion.

But leaders in Little Rock added a free-market twist: send us the money for Medicaid expansion, they told the feds, and we’ll give it to the poor for health care. But they won’t get Medicaid coverage. They’ll get private health insurance on the Obamacare website and have the same coverage as everybody else.

AJC staff writer Misty Williams, who specializes in health care policy and the Affordable Care Act, went to Arkansas to see how – or whether – the so-called private option is working. She also wanted to find out what Georgia could learn from Arkansas’ experience. This is the first of three articles arising from that reporting.

Rand Paul: America’s hungry seniors should turn to charity

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

by Joan McCarter

It’s a seriously fucked up new world in Washington, DC.

A Senate subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, held a hearing Tuesday on the “human toll and budget consequences” of senior hunger. Panelists shared tales of woe from older Americans unable to get enough food, and urged increased funding for nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act of 1965.This might have been non-controversial a few years ago, but not with the Tea Party in town. The hearing produced a fierce debate between Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and Sen. Rand Paul, the prototypical Tea Partier, about whether the government should even perform simple tasks like feeding hungry senior citizens….

Mary Jane Koren, a geriatrician and vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund, noted that seniors often suffer health problems and are put in nursing homes after falling down. Poor nutrition leads to decreased muscle strength, meaning a higher chance of falling—and weaker seniors are more likely to be gravely injured in such a fall. Koren noted that by 2020, the annual cost of medical care for seniors who fall is expected to reach $54.9 billion—many magnitudes more than the approximately $2 billion per year the federal government spends on nutrition assistance for senior citizens.

Sen. Paul, however, explicitly rejected this logic. “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.”  Instead, Paul touted the “nobility of private charity” as opposed to government-funded “transfer programs.” He suggested privatizing Meals on Wheels and other government assistance for hungry seniors.

Sanders had none of this. “Senator Paul has suggested that only in Washington can people believe that spending money actually saves money. And I think that’s the kind of philosophy that results in us spending about twice as much per person on health care as any other country on earth,” Sanders said. “We have millions of millions of Americans who can’t get to a doctor on time. Some of them die, some of them become very, very ill and end up in the emergency room or end up in the hospital at great cost.

“Maybe it’s the same reason why we have more people in jail than any other country on earth including China, tied to the fact that we have the highest poverty rate among children among many other major countries on earth,” Sanders continued. “I happen to believe that intelligently investing in the needs of our people does in fact save substantial sums of money.”

In providing this explanation of how social investment works, and the consequences of not making it, Sen. Sanders is making the mistake of thinking that Sen. Paul a) has the capacity to understand what his talking about, and b) gives a shit that there are people dying because they don’t have health care, or have to chose between it and starving. It highlights the great divide between the Republican party of 2011 and the rest of us, a distinction elected Democrats need to be calling out loudly and repeatedly. But in the new austerity-driven policy world, good luck with that.

Missouri Republicans to poor people: Steak and seafood are too good for you

5693265008_5028bfee1e_bbyLaura Clawson

If you needed another piece of evidence that Republicans just hate poor people and want them to be miserable, here you go. From Missouri:

The bill being proposed would ban the purchase with food stamps of “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.””The intention of the bill is to get the food stamp program back to it’s original intent, which is nutrition assistance,” said Rick Brattin, the representative who is sponsoring the proposed legislation.

Seafood and steak don’t contain nutrition? No, it’s just that Brattin sees them as luxury foods, so he doesn’t think Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients deserve them. As Jeanine Grant Lister writes:

If the bill becomes law, a Missourian can’t buy a can of tuna with an EBT card. Tortilla chips to go with salsa? Nope. Flank steak — tough, stringy and the only cut of beef I can afford — is off-limits, too. Who are these people, and what makes them think that what we eat is their business? And given that the average food stamp allotment in my state in 2013 came out to just $1.41 per person per meal, I wonder if they understand that recipients couldn’t buy lobster if they wanted to.

It seems like the bill’s sponsor may be removed enough from cheap eating to have forgotten a few details like canned tuna:

Brattin admits that the language might need some tweaking. “My intention wasn’t to get rid of canned tuna and fish sticks,” he said.

Didn’t really think it through, did you? Just went into a hating-the-poor frenzy and said “BAN IT ALL” and then wrote it into a bill. Brattin continues to insist his cause is a righteous one, though:

“I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards,” he said. “When I can’t afford it on my pay, I don’t want people on the taxpayer’s dime to afford those kinds of foods either.”

Dude, as a state legislator, you, too, are on the taxpayer’s dime. But where do these people shop who are always claiming to see people buying filet mignon on EBT cards? I can only remember one time even noticing a person using an EBT card, and that was because she had to check her balance. Is there some grocery store in Missouri where everyone who ever wanted to blow their entire monthly SNAP allotment on steak and crab go, and that happens to be where Brattin shops? Or is he just making shit up? Also, back to that entire monthly SNAP allotment thing. It’s not like there’s some filet mignon and crab leg exception, and if you buy those things, you get infinite SNAP dollars. No, whatever foods people choose to buy, they are buying them with a budget of around $6.50 per person per day, maximum. Maximum. And if someone wants to go hungry one day so they can eat a damn steak on their birthday, what the hell business of Rick Brattin’s is that?

Oh, I forgot. We’re talking about a Republican legislator. He thinks everything in our private lives is his business. I guess we should be grateful he’s not trying to pass a law requiring food stamp recipients to get transvaginal ultrasounds just because.

Video Shows Officer Michael Slager Shooting Unarmed Black Man In The Back In South Carolina

A white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday after video showed him fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back.

North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager, 33, can be seen shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott after a confrontation on Saturday, according to The Post and Courier. Slager chases Scott and shoots at him eight times in the video recorded by a passerby and obtained by The New York Times.

Scott died there, though it wasn’t clear if he died immediately.

The graphic video raises questions about Slager’s original assertion that he used his gun because he felt endangered.

The confrontation started when Slager had reportedly pulled over Scott because of a broken taillight. It escalated into a foot chase as Scott allegedly fled because there were family court-issued warrants for his arrest. Slager pursued Scott into a grassy lot and claimed that he fired his Taser to subdue him.

Moments later, Slager reported on his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” according to the Times.

Earlier this week, an attorney for Slager said the cop felt threatened after Scott tried to overpower him and take his Taser. Today that attorney told The Post and Courier that he’s “no longer involved” in the case.

But first images in the video are of Slager shooting at Scott as he runs away from him. It also appears that Slager drops the Taser near Scott after he was gunned down, according to The New York Times.

Police reports also say that responding officers performed CPR and delivered medical aid to Scott, but the video shows Scott face down in handcuffs for several minutes after the shooting. Another officer shows up and appears to give Scott aid, but never performs CPR.

The Post and Courier reports:

Police Chief Eddie Driggers said Tuesday that Slager had been arrested.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that FBI investigators would work with the State Law Enforcement Division, which typically investigates officer-involved shootings in South Carolina, and the state’s attorney general to investigate any civil rights violations in Scott’s death. Mayor Keith Summey added during a news conference that as a result of the video and Slager’s “bad decision,” the officer would be charged with murder.

Scott had been arrested about 10 times in the past, mostly for failing to pay child support or show up for hearings, according to the paper.

“He has four children, he doesn’t have some type of big violent past or arrest record. He had a job, he was engaged,” a lawyer for Scott’s family told the Times. “He had back child support and didn’t want to go to jail for back child support.”

In a statement released Tuesday night, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) said, “What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina.” Senator Tim Scott (R) said “The senseless shooting and taking of Walter Scott’s life was absolutely unnecessary and avoidable,” adding that he would be watching the case closely.

The shooting in North Charleston comes on the heels of several high-profile cases of police officers using deadly force against unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland and New York. This is one of the few times the offending officer has been charged with murder.

“What if there was no video? What if there was no witness? Where would we be without that video,” Justin Bamberg said at a presser with the family on Tuesday night. Bamburg is one of the Scotts’ family attorneys and also represents South Carolina’s House District 90.

Family attorney L. Chris Stewart called the witness who recorded the video a “hero,” saying that video evidence disproved initial reports that Scott reached for the Slager’s Taser. Stewart added that the witness is working with investigators and may eventually come forward.

Bamberg told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that the witness contacted the family following the shooting. They were the first to watch the video.

“If there was no video, I do not believe that officer would be in jail,” Bamberg said. “From what the video shows, I think that provides the necessary ammunition to hold this officer accountable.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, a state agency also known as SLED, was later contacted and promptly launched an investigation.

“I don’t think anybody can see that and not see that what that officer did was murder Mr. Scott in cold blood,” Bamberg said. “What would have happened if this witness did not have the courage to stand up and do the right thing and decide that what he witnessed was wrong? I’m glad we don’t have to ponder that.”

Stewart also said that they will file a civil lawsuit. The family urged the public to fight for justice legally instead of through violence.

“We can’t get my brother back,” Scott’s brother Anthony said. “I don’t think all police officers are bad cops, but there are some bad ones out there.”

“I had two brothers, now I have one,” he said tearing up. He recalled his brother as an outgoing man who served in the Coast Guard and was a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

Obama Has Turned the Economy Around

Dow Starts Week Off With Sharp Gains, Closing Over 250 Points HigherBy Barbra Streisand, Reader Supported News

In the wake of the financial crisis, President Obama took the helm of a sinking economic ship and help to right it. The unemployment rate is now once again at pre-recession levels — the lowest in seven years (5.5%).

President Obama’s Administration, with only opposition from the Republicans, has steadily helped put more than 11 million Americans back to work in the private sector. In the strongest period of American manufacturing job growth since the 1990s, the sector has added more than 750,000 jobs since February 2010. As New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman notes, the economy is “now adding jobs at a rate not seen since the Clinton years.” The dollar is on its fastest rise in 40 years; its value has increased 14% in this first quarter alone and it’s the strongest it’s been in 12 years compared to the Euro.

Maybe most important, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 1.1 million. Why are the Republicans so silent about the good news? They claim to be the party of “jobs.” Perhaps they knew their history.

PBS pointed out a study from the “strictly non-partisan National Bureau for Economic Research” that shows “under Democratic presidents, per capita GDP has been higher; job creation has been stronger; decreases in unemployment have been greater; the S&P 500 stock index has been higher; corporate profits have been bigger; and real wages and labor productivity have increased.”

As Brad Plumer also noted in the Washington Post, “Since World War II, there’s been a strikingly consistent pattern in American politics: The economy does much better when a Democrat is in the White House… the U.S. economy has grown at an average real rate of 4.35 percent under Democratic presidents and just 2.54 percent under Republicans.” If one drops the Eisenhower years, it is far worse for the GOP.

This pattern holds true under President Obama. The conservative Wall Street Journalhad to admit, “American families have made major progress cutting their debt burdens, putting them in a stronger position to drive spending and growth. Total U.S. household debt was about 107% of disposable income in the fourth quarter, down from 108% in the previous quarter and well over 130% before the recession.” Under President Obama, the deficit continues to fall even more since being cut in half by 2013 from 2009. In his first term, the president also cut taxes by $3,600 for the average middle-class family.

The frustration now is the lack of wage increases — an obstacle that must be overcome both by raising the minimum wage and our corporations rewarding the increase in productivity among our workers. Of course there’s not been an encouraging word from the GOP, which opposes any increase in the federal minimum wage. In fact, their 2016 frontrunner, Jeb Bush, does not think there should be a federal minimum wage.

The GOP does not care to understand the late Senator Paul Wellstone’s maxim, “We all do better when we all do better.” Increasing wages means more economic demand for more goods and services, and boosts the economy. Somehow, Republicans remain intent on cutting taxes for the already rich and devastating domestic spending.

The House once again just proposed the “Ryan” budget full of unexplained and mysterious trillions of dollars in savings while cutting revenue, savaging domestic spending and proposing vouchers to purchase insurance instead of traditional Medicare. As Krugman writes, if it “were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.” With the budget deficit radically dropping under President Obama and the increasingly better jobs reports, why would we believe these GOP austerity measures would help average families? We don’t because they won’t. Krugman again: “The simplest way to understand [the GOP budget proposals] is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.”

They’re also intent on misrepresenting the economic facts of the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the ACA, 16. 4 million previously uninsured adults now have health care coverage under the ACA. The Brookings Institution pointed out in March that “more than 4.2 million households, or 7.5 million people, are likely to qualify for both the [Earned Income Tax Credit] and [ACA’s] premium tax credit” – – this in addition to improved, comprehensive health care coverage. Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office projected the ACA will actually cost $109 billion lessthan previously anticipated. And last year, the LA Times reported, “Insurance premiums are lower than anticipated, the Affordable Care Act will cost $9 billion less than previously estimated and the provision designed to buffer insurance companies from risk will actually raise revenue, not function as any sort of federal government bailout.”

The Republican response to how the ACA is helping Americans and heath care costs is to try to repeal it (56 times as of February) and attempt to hobble it with litigation. GOP presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, who this week vowed to “repeal every word of Obamacare,” hypocritically receives health insurance for his family through the Federal “Obamacare” exchange.

Are Republicans who control both houses of Congress interested in governing or will they remain stuck in their ideological corner? Their current approval rating of 11% does not seem to faze them, so the signs are not encouraging. In an unprecedented move, 47 Senate Republicans just signed a letter deliberately undermining both our President and important allies’ in the negotiation to halt nuclear arms proliferation by Iran.

So it looks like the facts be damned, the GOP has decided that the ideological corner is where they will remain. The voters will have a chance next year to change this.

2 women sentenced in the hate killing of Mississippi black man

by Jeff Amy, Associated Press | theGrio.com

james-craig-andersonJACKSON, Miss. (AP) — In a hearing that lasted more than five hours Thursday, a federal judge sentenced two women to the maximum prison terms for their roles in the 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, the last of a series of white-on-black attacks.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate went out of his way to show relatives and supporters of the two women that their presence in the truck that ran over Anderson in a Jackson parking lot was not an isolated accident but the result of a pattern of racist behavior.

“I just wonder whether the hatred is just engrained for some particular reason,” said Wingate, who in 1984 became the first African-American federal judge in Mississippi. “Then again, that’s what race hatred is all about: whites who hate blacks and blacks who hate whites. It’s just automatic.”

Wingate sentenced 21-year-old Shelbie Brooke Richards of Pearl to eight years in prison after her guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and one count of concealing the crime by lying to Jackson police. He sentenced 22-year-old Sarah Adelia Graves of Crystal Springs to five years in prison after her guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime.

Those were the maximum sentences available under the women’s plea agreements. But Wingate said he wished he could send the women away for longer prison terms.

“I feel this defendant, as well as the other one, could have been charged with a much more serious count than the one that they are pleading guilty to,” Wingate said after rejecting a call from Richards’ attorney to sentence her to only the five years that Graves received.

Both women were riding in a truck that ran over James Craig Anderson in June 2011. Anderson died after being beaten and run over. Both apologized to Anderson’s family Thursday.

“If I had one chance to change everything, that would be to give Mr. Anderson’s life back,” Richards said. “The decision to go on this mortifying trip was the worst decision of my life.”

Six white men, sentenced earlier by a different judge, received prison terms ranging from four to 50 years for Anderson’s death. Two more men await sentencing by Wingate.

Richards and Graves have acknowledged that they helped recruit people at a drunken birthday party to take part in the venture that eventually led to Anderson’s death. Richards admitted that she encouraged Deryl Paul Dedmon to assault Anderson when they arrived in a hotel parking lot before dawn June 26, and then yelled a racial slur and encouraged Dedmon to run over Anderson when Dedmon returned to the truck. Prosecutors said Graves did the same, although she denied Thursday using a slur.

Hotel surveillance video obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets shows a Ford truck back up and then lunge forward at 5:05 a.m. Anderson’s shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb.

Richards also acknowledged that she lied to Jackson police detectives about the incident and her participation.

During the hearing, Wingate repeatedly objected to letters he received from supporters of the two women portraying their presence as an accident or one-time incident.

Both women, in their pleas, acknowledged they took part in one of the other racially motivated attacks that the group conducted, a foray into Jackson that led to the assault of a man who tried to sell the suburbanites drugs.

Assaults admitted by others include the beating of a black man near a Jackson golf course, attacks on pedestrians using beer bottles and a slingshot, and an attempt to run down another black man.

Prosecutors said the suspects usually sought out people who were homeless or drunk. Other than Anderson, the black people who were assaulted have not been identified.

America Is Criminalizing Black Teachers: Atlanta’s Cheating Scandal And The Racist Underbelly Of Education Reform

Our educational system stacks the deck against Black children — now we’re throwing their teachers in jail

Eighty percent of children in Atlanta Public Schools are Black. Eleven percent are white and 3 percent are Latino. However, only 50 percent of children in Atlanta’s Gifted and Talented programs are Black, whereas 40 percent are white. More disturbingly, 98 percent of all students expelled from Atlanta public schools during the 2009-2010 academic school year were Black. These numbers taken together paint an abysmal picture of students who are disproportionately poor, over-disciplined, and systematically “tracked” out of high-performing classrooms. And yet we expect teachers to work magic in conditions that are set up for failure. Lest you think this is merely an Atlanta problem, over at the Crunk Feminist Collective, Susana Morris tells a similar story of attending a predominantly Black high school in Florida with advanced classes that were overwhelmingly white. Her story mirrors my own. In Louisiana in the 1980s and 1990s, students took two standardized tests. One (the LEAP test) measured basic proficiency and the other (the California Achievement Test) measured more advanced proficiencies. In the third grade, I scored 100 percent on the LEAP test, the only student in my overwhelmingly white class to do so. The teacher Mrs. Callender called me up to the front of the room and bragged about me to all the other students. That same year, on the CAT Test, I scored in the 89 percent percentile. Meanwhile, I noticed one day during class that several of my white classmates, among them my best friend Amanda, were all mysteriously led out of class and then returned later, with no explanation. When I asked Amanda where she’d been, she said school officials had made her take a test, but she wasn’t clear what for. She never mentioned it again. The next year, fourth grade, I walked into a classroom and met Beatrice Gaulden, one of only three Black academic teachers I would ever have. With her neon green and yellow Hammer-pants, her penchant for drinking eight tall glasses of water a day, and her strict instructions each morning  – we were not to approach her desk, but rather to wait until she moved to a stool in the front of the room for open discussion time — she was a wonder. Mrs. Gaulden is a character in most of my childhood stories of transformation because she was so pivotal to my own sense of self-worth as an outspoken, bossy, loquacious, bespectacled, ponytailed Black girl in a predominantly white classroom. Because of Mrs. Gaulden’s instruction, my test scores leaped from the 89th percentile to the 99th percentile within one year of instruction. She never taught to the test. She simply taught. That year, the Louisiana Gifted and Talented Program came calling for me, as they had called for my friends the year before. I took the battery of tests they offered, no doubt because Mrs. Gaulden had asked them to look at my case. They came back to her (she would tell me years later) and told her that I had not passed the tests. She implored them to rescore my assessment. They came back to her and reported an error in their scoring. (As if.) And so I became a “gifted and talented” student, with even smaller classes, more specialized instruction, early opportunities to take the ACT and SAT, and to travel. I soared with the additional resources provided by the G/T program. But my educational access was due to one magical Black teacher who saw a spark in me and nurtured it. Mrs. Gaulden nurtured, taught and challenged all her students regardless of race, but she saw in me a Black girl who needed extra guidance, and a little push, and she willingly gave it. * * * Over the past generation, we have watched the GOP, helped along by an impotent Democratic Party, systematically dismantle funding for public education, underpay teachers, and allow local school systems to institute punitive disciplinary measures that have turned our schools into a prison pipeline. At exactly the same moment, these reformers and their political counterparts George W. Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Barack Obama (Race to the Top) have instituted high-stakes testing, tied to financial incentives for teachers, as the solution to the structural risks overwhelmingly facing children of color. Meanwhile, test-cheating scandals have proliferated in locales across the country. In other urban locales like Baltimore, Houston and Philadelphia principals and teachers were fired and/or stripped of their licenses to teach. This is a punishment that fits the crime. Then there’s Michelle Rhee, the famed former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools who was accused of creating the very same culture of fear about test scores that Superintendent Beverly Hall has been accused of creating in Atlanta. Hall was charged with racketeering. So why was Rhee not subject to prosecution when test-score irregularities emerged in the District? (Bruce Dixon was already asking as much two years ago over at Black Agenda Report.) Not only has Rhee not been prosecuted, but she maintains a fairly high level of bipartisan support from conservatives and political centrists for her views on education reform. Hall’s trial was indefinitely postponed last year due to stage IV breast cancer. She died last month at 68 years old. Locking up Black women under the guise of caring about Black children is an unbelievable move in an educational environment that systematically denies both care and opportunity to Black children. Locking up Black women for racketeering when the system couldn’t be bothered to lock up even one of the bankers who gave disproportionate amounts of terrible home loans to Black women leading to a national economic crash and a disproportionate amount of home foreclosures among Black women in 2008 is patently unjust. Given that public schools are largely funded through property taxes and that Black children are overwhelming reared by Black single mothers, the failure to vigorously prosecute the financial institutions and lenders that gutted Black neighborhoods means that the system co-signed corporate acts of institutional violence against Black mothers and children, and against neighborhood schools in Black communities. But now we are expected to believe that prosecuting these teachers as racketeers is an act of justice. Nothing is just about making Black women sacrificial lambs of an educational system hellbent on throwing Black children away. The images of their handcuffed Black bodies being led in shame from the courtroom gives Black parents angry about the miseducation of their children a convenient target for their angst and outrage over a failing system. Meanwhile, the real racket – privatization and defunding of public schools, diversion of taxpayer resources away from education, and increasing political clout and payouts for school reformers proselytizing the false gospel of high stakes testing – gets obscured. And white children still get educated well, either in private schools or in suburban schools funded through a solid property tax base. Everything I am today, I owe to my mother and to a Black teacher who saw a spark in me and nurtured it. For so many exceptionally achieving Black people, a providential encounter with a Black teacher is the singular thing that made the difference. No other group of people systematically and structurally love and care about Black children more than Black mothers and Black (usually female) teachers. They have been the ones holding aloft the banner emblazoned with the revolutionary idea that Black Lives Matter, before it was ever a slogan upon which to build a movement. An attack on Black teachers is an attack on Black children, Black families, and Black communities. We should stand in solidarity with these teachers and these students and say, “Not on our watch.”

Former Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Atlanta. (Credit: AP/Kent D. Johnson)

By Brittney Cooper, SALO

Former Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Atlanta. (Credit: AP/Kent D. Johnson)

Last week, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers and school administrators of racketeering in a system-wide cheating scandal. Yes, you read that correctly. Teachers and administrators inflating student scores on standardized tests is now considered “organized crime” in this country, and is punishable by more 20 years in prison, in these cases.

I am an educator. I am a Black woman who may someday mother a Black child. I have taught other Black mothers’ children. Much of my educational success in elementary school is directly attributable to high performance on standardized tests that caused my white teachers to notice me and intervene on my behalf to get me “tracked” into higher-achieving classrooms. I believe all children deserve access to a good, high-quality,public education.

Therefore, I don’t have to condone cheating in any form (and I don’t) to assert that what has happened in Atlanta to these teachers is a travesty. The pictures that emerged last week of handcuffed Black schoolteachers being led out of Southern courtrooms in one of the country’s largest urban Black school systems were absolutely heartbreaking.

Scapegoating Black teachers for failing in a system that is designed for Black children, in particular, not to succeed is the real corruption here. Since the early 1990s, we have watched the deprofessionalization of teaching, achieved through the proliferation of “teacher fellow” programs and the massive conservative-led effort to defund public education in major urban areas throughout the country. There is no longer a consensus that a good public education — a hallmark of American democracy — should be considered a public good.

Black children have for generations been the primary victims of this continuing social mendacity about the national value of education. More than 51 percent of children who attend public schools live in poverty. In Georgia, the percentage of Black children living in poverty hovers right around 39 percent. For Latino children, the number is consistently over 40 percent. Nationally, the number for Black children is 39 percent, according to most recent data, and 33 percent for Latino youth.

Eighty percent of children in Atlanta Public Schools are Black. Eleven percent are white and 3 percent are Latino. However, only 50 percent of children in Atlanta’s Gifted and Talented programs are Black, whereas 40 percent are white. More disturbingly, 98 percent of all students expelled from Atlanta public schools during the 2009-2010 academic school year were Black.

These numbers taken together paint an abysmal picture of students who are disproportionately poor, over-disciplined, and systematically “tracked” out of high-performing classrooms. And yet we expect teachers to work magic in conditions that are set up for failure.

Lest you think this is merely an Atlanta problem, over at the Crunk Feminist Collective, Susana Morris tells a similar story of attending a predominantly Black high school in Florida with advanced classes that were overwhelmingly white.

Her story mirrors my own. In Louisiana in the 1980s and 1990s, students took two standardized tests. One (the LEAP test) measured basic proficiency and the other (the California Achievement Test) measured more advanced proficiencies. In the third grade, I scored 100 percent on the LEAP test, the only student in my overwhelmingly white class to do so. The teacher Mrs. Callender called me up to the front of the room and bragged about me to all the other students. That same year, on the CAT Test, I scored in the 89 percent percentile.

Meanwhile, I noticed one day during class that several of my white classmates, among them my best friend Amanda, were all mysteriously led out of class and then returned later, with no explanation. When I asked Amanda where she’d been, she said school officials had made her take a test, but she wasn’t clear what for. She never mentioned it again.

The next year, fourth grade, I walked into a classroom and met Beatrice Gaulden, one of only three Black academic teachers I would ever have. With her neon green and yellow Hammer-pants, her penchant for drinking eight tall glasses of water a day, and her strict instructions each morning  – we were not to approach her desk, but rather to wait until she moved to a stool in the front of the room for open discussion time — she was a wonder. Mrs. Gaulden is a character in most of my childhood stories of transformation because she was so pivotal to my own sense of self-worth as an outspoken, bossy, loquacious, bespectacled, ponytailed Black girl in a predominantly white classroom.

Because of Mrs. Gaulden’s instruction, my test scores leaped from the 89th percentile to the 99th percentile within one year of instruction. She never taught to the test. She simply taught.

That year, the Louisiana Gifted and Talented Program came calling for me, as they had called for my friends the year before. I took the battery of tests they offered, no doubt because Mrs. Gaulden had asked them to look at my case. They came back to her (she would tell me years later) and told her that I had not passed the tests. She implored them to rescore my assessment. They came back to her and reported an error in their scoring. (As if.) And so I became a “gifted and talented” student, with even smaller classes, more specialized instruction, early opportunities to take the ACT and SAT, and to travel. I soared with the additional resources provided by the G/T program.

But my educational access was due to one magical Black teacher who saw a spark in me and nurtured it. Mrs. Gaulden nurtured, taught and challenged all her students regardless of race, but she saw in me a Black girl who needed extra guidance, and a little push, and she willingly gave it.

* * *

Over the past generation, we have watched the GOP, helped along by an impotent Democratic Party, systematically dismantle funding for public education, underpay teachers, and allow local school systems to institute punitive disciplinary measures that have turned our schools into a prison pipeline. At exactly the same moment, these reformers and their political counterparts George W. Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Barack Obama (Race to the Top) have instituted high-stakes testing, tied to financial incentives for teachers, as the solution to the structural risks overwhelmingly facing children of color.

Meanwhile, test-cheating scandals have proliferated in locales across the country. In other urban locales like Baltimore, Houston and Philadelphia principals and teachers were fired and/or stripped of their licenses to teach. This is a punishment that fits the crime.

Then there’s Michelle Rhee, the famed former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools who was accused of creating the very same culture of fear about test scores that Superintendent Beverly Hall has been accused of creating in Atlanta. Hall was charged with racketeering. So why was Rhee not subject to prosecution when test-score irregularities emerged in the District? (Bruce Dixon was already asking as much two years ago over at Black Agenda Report.) Not only has Rhee not been prosecuted, but she maintains a fairly high level of bipartisan support from conservatives and political centrists for her views on education reform.

Hall’s trial was indefinitely postponed last year due to stage IV breast cancer. She diedlast month at 68 years old.

Locking up Black women under the guise of caring about Black children is an unbelievable move in an educational environment that systematically denies both care and opportunity to Black children. Locking up Black women for racketeering when the system couldn’t be bothered to lock up even one of the bankers who gave disproportionate amounts of terrible home loans to Black women leading to a national economic crash and a disproportionate amount of home foreclosures among Black women in 2008 is patently unjust.

Given that public schools are largely funded through property taxes and that Black children are overwhelming reared by Black single mothers, the failure to vigorously prosecute the financial institutions and lenders that gutted Black neighborhoods means that the system co-signed corporate acts of institutional violence against Black mothers and children, and against neighborhood schools in Black communities.

But now we are expected to believe that prosecuting these teachers as racketeers is an act of justice. Nothing is just about making Black women sacrificial lambs of an educational system hellbent on throwing Black children away. The images of their handcuffed Black bodies being led in shame from the courtroom gives Black parents angry about the miseducation of their children a convenient target for their angst and outrage over a failing system. Meanwhile, the real racket – privatization and defunding of public schools, diversion of taxpayer resources away from education, and increasing political clout and payouts for school reformers proselytizing the false gospel of high stakes testing – gets obscured. And white children still get educated well, either in private schools or in suburban schools funded through a solid property tax base.

Everything I am today, I owe to my mother and to a Black teacher who saw a spark in me and nurtured it. For so many exceptionally achieving Black people, a providential encounter with a Black teacher is the singular thing that made the difference. No other group of people systematically and structurally love and care about Black children more than Black mothers and Black (usually female) teachers. They have been the ones holding aloft the banner emblazoned with the revolutionary idea that Black Lives Matter, before it was ever a slogan upon which to build a movement. An attack on Black teachers is an attack on Black children, Black families, and Black communities. We should stand in solidarity with these teachers and these students and say, “Not on our watch.”

AMERICUS-SUMTER STUDENTS EXCEL CREATIVELY

Sarah Cobb Odyssey of the Mind Team pictured (Left to right):Treasure Shelton, Kyra Volley, Madison Raybon, Brooklyn Hinton, Devon Dowdell, and Jordan Brown.

Sarah Cobb Odyssey of the Mind Team pictured (Left to right):Treasure Shelton, Kyra Volley, Madison Raybon, Brooklyn Hinton, Devon Dowdell, and Jordan Brown.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

We have all seen the second grade science project that looks like it came out of the laboratories at Georgia Tech: a sevenyear-old’s demonstration of nuclear fusion or perhaps a skeletal reproduction of a dinosaur from the Triassic Period. Often, when young students are asked to strike out on their own and make something, their success is directly proportionate to the amount of time their parents or teachers put in to helping them.

But with the Odyssey of the Mind theater competition, not the parents, nor the teachers, nor even the coaches of the teams can tell or even suggest to students what to do. A group of seven students has to write, stage, and create all aspects of an eight minute play, including writing the play, directing the play, designing and sewing costumes, creating props, and building the set-in addition to learning their lines and acting
in the show.

“The children in these productions learn about tools, develop communication skills, public speaking skills, learn creative design, execute engineering and electronics tasks they even build circuits,” said Michael Pepito, the father of Teigan Pepito, who has competed in the competition for three consecutive years now.

While Mr. Pepito has been drawn to the competition and has volunteered support, he says it has been a different kind of parent/child learning experience.

“This time, you’re not doing it for them or helping them. Instead, you are watching them do it,” he said.

Sumter County Schools have been very successful in this year’s competitions, with a team from Sumter Elementary School advancing to the State finals, a team from Sara Cobb winning in a particular award category for cake design, while another team from Sumter Elementary School and one from Sumter Middle Schools showed well in the regional competitions. Also, one coach from Sumter Elementary School, Science Lab Teacher Laura Gerlach, was named to the Odyssey of the Mind Hall of Fame.

Teams are given a set of problems to solve in their play which offers a kind of guideline for what they are to create. They are then judged in areas from the creative use of materials in constructing the set or costumes, to the style and presentation of different aspects of the performance.

For the team coaches-the teachers who are in the business of showing students how to do things-it is often a challenge to see what comes flying out of the imaginations of their students.

“You stand back and you bite your tongue and put your hands behind your back if they don’t do what you think they should,” said Deborah Johnson, the coach from Sara Cobb who is also the Gifted Teacher from that school. “But then, they never disappoint you.

“It’s hard not to help out,” Ms. Johnson continued. “You want to put your hand in. Instead I tell them to look at their brain and imagine their
brainpower, then put six more teammates with that. When they put all of that together they come up with great things.”

English Teacher Dana Adams, who led the Sumter County Middle School team to competition, used the themes tied into their particular play to teach a broader historic lessons. Their team’s challenge was to create a play that was inspired by the Greek Myth of Pandora’s Box.

“So much of our culture has been influenced by the Greeks, I wanted them to know about it,” said Ms. Adams.

As part of their research, the class read about Greek mythology and about different interpretations of myths. Ms. Adams noted that the experience of making everything on stage will heighten the students’ understanding of all that goes into creating theater.

“Hopefully they will appreciate drama now when they see it onstage and understand how much goes into planning it and making it do what it is supposed to do,” she said.

Middle School student Fernando Carrillo had acted before, but for him, Odyssey of the Mind was a different experience entirely.

“I never knew I could build something I was going to act on,” he said “In the other plays I was in, everything was already made. But when I saw the sets we built and the costumes we made, I almost cried because, along with my team, I had made them! ”

Students who went on to the next round of competition came to see that when it comes to creative work, you are never really finished. Learning from what they did in the regional competition, this group of seven elementary students kept what they liked about their play and
changed everything else. The result was a completely different production than what they had done originally, one that scored even more points in the State finals than their first effort had in the regionals.

“In some ways, changing it made us feel kind of sad because we had put so much work into it the first time,” said Sumter Elementary School
fifth-grade student Jasmine Kilheffer. “But the changes made for a better product.”

The other team from Sumter Elementary School was coached by Fourth Grade Teacher Andrea Hobbs. All four teachers were recognized at the recent Sumter County Board of Education Meeting by School Superintendent Donnie Smith, who praised the many hours these teachers volunteered to allow for this unique educational opportunity.

“Their caring and commitment to the students is what makes Odyssey of The Mind the exciting event that it is for our students,” said Superintendent Donnie Smith. “We appreciate their effort and the talents they bring to our youth.”

 

Georgia Southwestern makes it easier for adults to go back to school

Georgia Southwestern State University will be offering an informational session for adult learners who are interested in going back to school to earn their degrees on April 20 at 11 a.m.

More than one million Georgians have received some level of college education but stopped short of receiving their credential. And by 2025, researchers predict that more than 60 percent of jobs in the state will require a postsecondary degree. Currently, only 42 percent of the workforce is prepared to such a level. To reach 60 percent and remain economically competitive, we must add 250,000 additional graduates beyond
current graduation levels.

Those numbers speak directly to the importance of this informational session and the significance of helping prospective students return to
school and earn degrees.

On April 20, we will share on three main topics:

“Go Back. Move Ahead.”
— a statewide campaign involving a landmark partnership between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia that makes it easier for students to return to school by offering a simpler enrollment process, easier ways to transfer earned credits, more flexible course options and personal academic advisers.

Prior Learning Assessment — a process that allows students to identify areas of learning from their past experiences and possibly be awarded
academic credit, reducing the repetition of course-related material for students with prior learning.

eMajor options — a collaborative program that delivers online degree programs consistent in design and accessibility standards and taught by
University System of Georgia instructors. eMajor programs allow students to obtain access to quality and innovative programs through respected higher education institutions while maintaining a more flexible schedule. Through this program, GSW will begin offering a collaborative degree program with Dalton State in criminal justice in Fall 2015. All courses for this degree program are available online.

Georgia Southwestern is one of 13 campuses in Georgia forming the Adult Learning Consortium, which is designed to assist in improving adult learner-focused services, programs and outreach to adults who are interested in completing college.

The event is open to any prospective student who has some college credit, no college credit or simply has valuable work experience.

The informational session will be held on campus in the Wheatley Administration Building, room 127.

For more information, please contact Stephen Snyder (Stephen.Snyder@gsw.edu) or Dr. Charles Huffman (charles.huffman@gsw.edu).

 

Marching for KJ: Group marches from Atlanta to Valdosta to deliver message

A group that wants to bring awareness to Kendrick Johnson planned a march from Atlanta to Valdosta on Friday, April 3

A group that wants to bring awareness to Kendrick Johnson planned a march from Atlanta to Valdosta on Friday, April 3

On Friday, April 3, an organization led by Mahogany Malkia called ‘The Community” — with the emphasis on unity– led a march from Atlanta to Valdosta in an effort to raise awareness for Kendrick Johnson, a 17 year old Lowndes County High School student who was found upside down in a rolled gym mat on January 11, 2013. From Friday until Monday, the participants plan to march seventeen miles each day to signify the seventeen years Kendrick Johnson was alive.

Malkia told local Atlanta media: “No parent should have to fear sending their child to school where they are supposed to be safe.”

Kendrick Johnson’s legal team –led by Chevene King and Benjamin Crump– contends the 17 year-old was the victim of foul play. U.S. Attorney Michael Moore had first made an inquiry about the case back in May 2013, days before the 2012-2013 school year had ended at Lowndes County High School. Subsequently, in late October 2013, a press conference convened and Moore announced that a full investigation of what happened to Kendrick Johnson would take place.

The case is currently being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Macon by Michael Moore. In March 2014, Moore had said the following about the Kendrick Johnson investigation after the first federal grand jury had convened in Macon: “We’re working methodically, and sometimes we remember we’re running a marathon instead of a sprint. So, we’re working on it. It’s better to get it right than to get it fast. I’m satisfied that the FBI is moving forward at the appropriate speed, and they’re doing a fine job.”

Malkia and her organization want Lowndes County High School to honor Kendrick with a moment of silence and an honorary degree. They also want Johnson’s sister to walk in her brother’s place, since she was unable to participate in her own graduation last year due to the controversy surrounding the case.

For these things to happen it would take action from the Lowndes Board of Education, its Superintendent Wes Taylor and Lowndes’ principal Jay Floyd.

Wes Taylor was appointed Superintendent of the Lowndes County School System by the Lowndes County School Board on July 1, 2012, after being sworn in on June 11, 2012.

Taylor replaced former Lowndes Superintendent Steve Smith, who was became Superintendent of the Bibb County Schools here in Macon. Mr. Taylor was selected by the National Association of Secondary School Principals as the 2011 National High School Principal of the Year. He was also named the 2010 Georgia High School Principal of the Year by the Georgia Association of Secondary Principals.

Taylor supports the conclusions of the final GBI report which was released in May 2013 that suggests Kendrick Johnson’s death was an accident.

Taylor told WCTV-TV in 2013 after Johnson’s autopsy report was released from the State of Georgia: “We were relieved as we learned when the public did yesterday about the release of the final autopsy report and hope that that will help our community as well as the family most especially to begin to mend and to turn the page in this grieving process.”

Lowndes High officials want to get past the Kendrick Johnson matter, but there are still too many questions.

Jaybez “Jay” Frank Floyd was named the new principal of Lowndes High School at a Lowndes County Board of Education meeting a few months before Taylor was appointed in March 2012.

The Rise of the Working Poor and the Non-Working Rich

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

Many believe that poor people deserve to be poor because they’re lazy. As Speaker John Boehner has said, the poor have a notion that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.”

In reality, a large and growing share of the nation’s poor work full time – sometimes sixty or more hours a week – yet still don’t earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

It’s also commonly believed, especially among Republicans, that the rich deserve their wealth because they work harder than others.

In reality, a large and growing portion of the super-rich have never broken a sweat. Their wealth has been handed to them.

The rise of these two groups – the working poor and non-working rich – is relatively new. Both are challenging the core American assumptions that people are paid what they’re worth, and work is justly rewarded.

Why are these two groups growing?

The ranks of the working poor are growing because wages at the bottom have  dropped, adjusted for inflation. With increasing numbers of Americans taking low-paying jobs in retail sales, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, childcare, elder care, and other personal services, the pay of the bottom fifth is falling closer to the minimum wage.

At the same time, the real value of the federal minimum wage is lower today than it was a quarter century ago.

In addition, most recipients of public assistance must now work in order to qualify.

Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 pushed the poor off welfare and into work. Meanwhile, the Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy, has emerged as the nation’s largest anti-poverty program. Here, too, having a job is a prerequisite.

The new work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percentage of Americans in poverty. They’ve just moved poor people from being unemployed and impoverished to being employed and impoverished.

While poverty declined in the early years of welfare reform when the economy boomed and jobs were plentiful, it began growing in 2000. By 2012 it exceeded its level in 1996, when welfare ended.

At the same time, the ranks of the non-working rich have been swelling. America’s legendary “self-made” men and women are fast being replaced by wealthy heirs.

Six of today’s ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.

Americans who became enormously wealthy over the last three decades are now busily transferring that wealth to their children and grand children.

The nation is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. A study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy projects a total of $59 trillion passed down to heirs between 2007 and 2061.

As the French economist Thomas Piketty reminds us, this is the kind of dynastic wealth that’s kept Europe’s aristocracy going for centuries. It’s about to become the major source of income for a new American aristocracy.

The tax code encourages all this by favoring unearned income over earned income.

The top tax rate paid by America’s wealthy on their capital gains  – the major source of income for the non-working rich – has dropped from 33 percent in the late 1980s to 20 percent today, putting it substantially below the top tax rate on ordinary income (36.9 percent).

If the owners of capital assets whose worth increases over their lifetime hold them until death, their heirs pay zero capital gainstaxes on them. Such “unrealized” gains now account for more than half the value of assets held by estates worth more than$100 million.

At the same time, the estate tax has been slashed. Before George W. Bush was president, it applied to assets in excess of $2 million per couple at a rate of 55 percent. Now it kicks in at $10,680,000 per couple, at a 40 percent rate.

Last year only 1.4 out of every 1,000 estates owed any estate tax, and the effective rate they paid was only 17 percent.

Republicans now in control of Congress want to go even further. Last Friday the Senate voted 54-46 in favor of a non-binding resolution to repeal the estate tax altogether. Earlier in the week, the House Ways and Means Committee also voted for a repeal. The House is expected to vote in coming weeks.

Yet the specter of an entire generation doing nothing for their money other than speed-dialing their wealth management advisers is not particularly attractive.

It puts more and more responsibility for investing a substantial portion of the nation’s assets into the hands of people who have never worked.

It also endangers our democracy, as dynastic wealth inevitably and invariably accumulates political influence and power.

Consider the rise of both the working poor and the non-working rich, and the meritocratic ideal on which America’s growing inequality is often justified doesn’t hold up.

That widening inequality – combined with the increasing numbers of people who work full time but are still impoverished and of others who have never worked and are fabulously wealthy –  is undermining the moral foundations of American capitalism.

Are Cell Phones Changing the Narrative on Police Shootings?

 

Officer Michael Slager was caught on cell-phone video shooting Walter Scott eight times.

Officer Michael Slager was caught on cell-phone video shooting Walter Scott eight times.

BY  

Almost everyone’s seen the video. The latest murder of an unarmed African-American man by police was captured in its entirety by a bystander named Feidin Santana, and the footage was so gruesome it basically precluded any controversy.

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager has already been fired and charged for the murder of Walter Scott. Still, one has to wonder: “Would this guy have gotten away with this without the video?”

Nonwhite America has watched police lie compulsively about incidents like this for as long as there have been police. You can open the law books and find cases like the Scott murder in almost any state of the union, in almost every year, going back decades and decades.

The only difference is that in the past, before everyone above the age of 2 had a cell phone, the insultingly lame explanations of the police (“The gun just went off”; “The suspect suddenly took a swing at me”) were almost always swallowed whole, by juries and the media alike.

But even before cell phones became ubiquitous, the presumption that a police officer’s testimony is sacrosanct started to die out. Public defenders in big cities long ago learned to deal with the frustration of police caught lying on the stand who were allowed to continue giving evidence in other cases.

Even judges, increasingly, aren’t always buying the stories police officers give anymore, particularly when it comes to issues like probable cause. Earlier this year, a local defense attorney sent me a long list of cases, mostly here in New York, that involved judges ruling that police had fabricated testimony. It’s clear even magistrates are losing patience.

Take People v. Andrewsfor instance, in which a judge named Steven Knopf threw his figurative hands up in frustration over a police officer’s changing descriptions of a “snowball” of cocaine he claimed to have seen a young black man throw into a Ford Focus. The story changed so many times that the judge had no choice but to toss the case.

“It is clear to this Court that [the] Police Officer’s multiple descriptions. . .indicates he was unclear about what, if anything, he actually observed in this defendant’s hand,” the judge wrote. “In fact, it is this Court’s belief that [the officer] did not see anything in the defendant’s hand, in spite of his creative descriptive testimony.”

The problem is that this kind of “testilying” is usually only caught when the officer’s fabrications are so absurd and incompetent that judges literally have no choice but to suppress his or her evidence. Judges don’t like showing up cops in court. There are even cases on record when judges admit out loud to being reluctant to discredit the testimony of police, no matter how clumsy their testimony.

“I don’t like to jeopardize their career and all the rest of it,” a federal judge named John Sprizzo said a few years back, after ruling that two cops had “tailored” their testimony to justify an illegal search.

Minus video, a defendant on the wrong side of a police fabrication typically has to hope the arresting officer is so dumb and such a maladroit liar that he leaves a judge no choice but to override his natural inclination to buy the testimony of a sworn officer. Those are pretty long odds.

Getting back to the Scott case, the presence of a cell phone clearly changed the game. Going forward, maybe innovations like body cameras will help change the national narrative about these incidents (although it’s significant that when there is no video, like in the Michael Brown case, white people still tend to reflexively believe the police).

The thornier problem will be what will happen with the thousands of other, smaller incidents that involve questionable car stops or searches, where cases are generated based on police seeing suspects making “furtive movements,” or “leaning” in the direction of an officer’s gun, or suspiciously “loitering,” or smelling the “strong odor of marijuana,” etc. (Not sure what body electronics they can install to check that last sort of probable cause issue).

And there isn’t always video to save the day in other my-word-against-his cases. Look at the recent research on chokehold allegations in New York.

According to a study done by the new chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, New Yorkers made 1,048 allegations of chokeholds against police over a five-year period, between 2009 and 2014.

 

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/are-cell-phones-changing-the-narrative-on-police-shootings-20150409#ixzz3XPd7JAlX
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The Disgraceful Republican Budget

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

The Senate on Friday passed a budget that envisions more than $5 trillion in cuts over the coming decade by slashing health care and other benefits for working families and the middle class while leaving tax breaks in place for the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations. “What they are proposing is to cut programs for some of the most vulnerable people in this country — the elderly, children, sick and low-income people,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. “At the same time they want to give significant tax breaks to the wealthy and the large corporations.” During the week-long debate, Republicans rejected proposals to put Americans back to work, raise the minimum wage, help students afford college, and protect seniors on Social Security and Medicare.

Republican Budget Axe

Sanders led the opposition to the Republican budget proposal during a week-long debate. He summed up the Republican plan during the floor debate. “We’ll make it harder for kids to go to college, we’ll throw people off health insurance, but we will not ask the rich and powerful to pay more in taxes,” he said. “Their intention is to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.”

Rebuild America The Senate earlier in the week blocked another Sanders amendment that would have encouraged a major investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and, in the process, support millions of construction jobs. Fifty-two Senate Republicans voted against that proposal.

Raise the Minimum Wage Senate Republicans blocked a Sanders amendment calling for an increase in the minimum wage. “Since 1968, the real value of the federal minimum wage has fallen by close to 30 percent,” Sanders said before the vote. “Let us stand today with the tens of millions of workers who are struggling to put food on the table, to take care of their families. Let us raise the minimum wage.” Sanders wants the federal minimum wage to go from the current $7.25 an hour to at least $10.10 an hour and eventually to $15 an hour.

No More Credit-Card Wars An amendment from Sen. Marco Rubio would have increased military funding above caps Congress imposed on itself in 2011without offsetting cuts. Sanders told Rubio his measure undermined the Republicans’ avowed desire to reduce the federal budget deficit. “Enough is enough, if you want to go to war, start paying for it,” Sanders said.

Climate Change is Real A Sanders amendment was offered during the debate that would have recognized the reality of global climate change. It said climate change is real and caused by humans. Five Republicans voted for it, but that wasn’t enough to adopt the amendment.

Equal Pay for Women Also falling on similar nearly party-line votes were proposals to protect women in the workplace by ensuring equal pay for equal work.

Help for College Students An amendment that called for reducing student debt by allowing borrowers with existing federal and private student loans to refinance their loans at lower interest rates was rejected by Republicans.

Seniors Republicans defeated an amendment to shield Medicare from attempts to privatize the health care program for seniors and also blocked proposal to thwart Republican efforts to cut Social Security.

Wake Up: For White Folks in Denial About Racism

Rahiel Tesfamariam

Rahiel Tesfamariam

For those who argue that all these reports of police brutality against black men and women are merely about “excessive force” and never about race – I sincerely ask – how is your willful denial and naiveté benefiting you? What would you gain if the world really believed your fantasies of a color-blind society?

Why do you only care about “black on black” violence when black death makes the headlines? Should we speak of white on white violence in relation to white males who kill masses of innocent civilians? People don’t because it would be cruel, tactless and irrelevant.

Why do you think that honoring the lives of black men and women who were brutally murdered by the officers paid to protect them means that invalidates white lives and tragedies? If you really are passionate about “media balance,” please take your concerns to Hollywood, the mainstream press and to all the major cable networks who perpetually privilege the lives, voices, experiences, beauty and success of our white brothers and sisters. Where is your righteous indignation when black folks are disproportionately depicted as criminals, video vixens and savages? Instead, anger swells when innocent African Americans who died brutally are depicted as victims.

What is it about the fear of African Americans being humanized and people being willing to fight on their behalf that draws masses of trolls to the Urban Cusp page? There is no way we can be silent when an unarmed kid is shot 11 times (back turned, hands up and eventually down to his knees), left uncovered in the middle of the street for hours and then tossed into a SUV without so much as a decent police report. And if that wasn’t a human rights crisis within itself, weapons of war deemed unfit for international warfare are used against the people who sought to demand justice for his murder. Your inability to see this as an atrocity speaks to your own racism and inherent fear/hatred of black people. That or even the United Nations is on the race-bating conspiracy.

As a faith-based media outlet, we believe in one human family and that there are ties that bind us all through our shared human experience. But “as for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Calling out racism is more of a Christian act than denying that it exists. If you don’t believe that, what version of the Bible are you reading?

One person even asked us, WWJD (what would Jesus do?) The Jesus I know and love, who was the greatest freedom fighter, healer and community organizer to ever live would do exactly what he did when he was with us on earth – he would honor the humanity of the outcast, challenge us to see ourselves in “the other,” speak out against the empire and resist the status quo. If that’s not your Jesus, then I don’t know nor want to get to know the one you serve.

For those who have in fact been angered enough to the point of action or who have had their consciousness recently raised in the last two years, please do not let anyone shame you into silence. Silence is similar to complicity. By not speaking out, we silently sanction the horrors in our nation and dishonor the lives of the slain.

Time to wake up!

 

For a Political Revolution

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Reader Supported News,

The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.

Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on Earth, and it’s worse now then at any other time since the 1920s. Today, the top one tenth of the top 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

This is what a rigged economic system looks like. At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs — and 14 individuals saw a $157-billion increase in their wealth over a two-year period.

The grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing is not just a moral and economic issue; it is a political issue as well. As a result of the disastrousCitizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the candidates they want. The Koch brothers, an extreme right-wing family, recently announced that they were prepared to spend some $900 million in the next election cycle. This is likely more money than either the Democratic or Republican parties will spend. If you think that it is an accident that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, think again. The Koch brothers’ agenda — ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and all campaign finance limitations — has become the agenda of the Republican candidates they fund.

And, by the way, if you think that the Republican Party’s refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is a severe threat to our planet is not related to how we finance campaigns, you would be sorely mistaken. With the Koch brothers (who make much of their money in the fossil fuel industry) and big energy companies strongly supporting Republican candidates, it should not surprise anyone that my Republican colleagues reject the views of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate issues.

With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, let me briefly touch on some of the battles that I will be helping lead in this extreme right-wing environment. In my view, with so many of our fellow citizens demoralized about the political process, it is absolutely imperative that we establish a strong progressive agenda that Americans can rally around. It must be an agenda that reflects the real needs of the working families of our country. It must be an agenda that engages people in a political struggle that they are prepared to fight for.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The truth is that real unemployment rate in our country is not the “official” and widely reported rate of 5.5 percent. Counting those who are underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, the real unemployment rate is 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent, and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that.

If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class and putting millions of people back to work, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches that can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, rail, water systems and wastewater plants.

In that regard, I have introduced legislation that would invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million well-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.

I will also continue my opposition to our current trade policies and vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent normal trade relations with China have led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly 1 million jobs. The Korean Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.

We have to fundamentally rewrite our trade rules so that American jobs are no longer our number-one export. Corporate America must start investing in this country, not in China.

As we struggle for decently paying jobs, we must also rebuild the trade union movement. Throughout the country, millions of workers want to join unions but are meeting fierce opposition from their employers. We need legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for unions to flourish.

Raising Wages

Today, millions of Americans are working for starvation wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. In fact, the real value of today’s minimum wage has declined by one third since 1968. By raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we can provide an increase in income for those people who need it the most. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty.

We must also bring about pay equity. There is no rational reason that women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared with men who perform the same work.

Furthermore, we have to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. It is absurd that “supervisors” who earn $25,000 a year are currently forced to work 50 or 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 from the absurdly low level of $23,660 a year for overtime will mean increased income for many millions of salaried workers.

Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality

Today the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.

We need real tax reform that makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that in 1952 corporate income taxes provided 32 percent of federal revenue while in 2014 they provided 11 percent. It is scandalous that major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, Citigroup and JP Morgan have, in a given recent year, paid nothing in federal income taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.

Warren Buffett is honest. He has pointed out the unfairness of the fact that he, a multibillionaire, pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. It is disgraceful that millionaire hedge fund managers are able to pay lower effective tax rates than truck drivers or nurses because they take advantage of a variety of loopholes that their lobbyists wrote.

This must end. We need a tax system that is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.

Reversing Climate Change

The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy-efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment but create good-paying jobs.

Health Care for All

The United States remains the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance, and many more are underinsured. Yet we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable

Today the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, 35 million Americans still lack health insurance and millions of seniors and disabled people struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.

The Republican response to the economic pain of so many of our people was to make a bad situation much worse. The recently passed Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off health insurance, cuts Medicare, makes huge cuts to nutrition and makes it harder for working-class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program.

In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps out on the streets. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, but we must expand benefits for those in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation that would increase the solvency of Social Security until 2065 while expanding benefits for those who need them the most.

Making College Affordable for All

We live in a highly competitive global economy. If this country is to do well economically, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Yet today many Americans cannot get a higher education, not because they are unqualified but because they simply cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college or graduate school are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last 10 years and has now reached $1.2 trillion.

The United States must join many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people’s education is investing in the future of our nation. I will soon be introducing legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free and substantially lower interest rates on student loans.

And these are just some of the issues we are dealing with.

Let me conclude this letter by stating the obvious. This country is in serious trouble. Our economic system benefits the rich and large corporations and leaves working families behind. Our political system is dominated by billionaire campaign contributors and their lobbyists and is moving us in the direction of oligarchy. Our media system, owned by the corporate world, spends enormous time and energy diverting our attention away from the most important issues facing us. Climate change threatens the planet, and we have a major political party denying its reality.

Clearly, the struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. But this I know: Despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.

We must stand up and fight back. We must launch a political revolution that engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change. This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.

Please join the grassroots revolution that we desperately need.