Newswire: $17.5 Billion returned to 200 Million defrauded consumers

By Charlene Crowell

( – This year marks the 12th anniversary of an important consumer protection that sprang as a response to millions of foreclosures and the resulting Great Recession. Today, just as then, all consumers need assurances that whether purchasing goods or services, they pay a fair price. For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal agency’s sole role became dedicated to consumers’ financial protection.  
Since its creation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has honored its mission by returning a cumulative total of $17.5 billion to 200 million consumers who have been harmed by violations of federal consumer financial protection law. Its Victim Relief Fund, administers the return of hard-earned monies to consumers as cancelled debts, reduced principal, and other illegal transactions.    
A second use of this same fund underwrites costs for consumer education and financial literacy outreach with two distinct constituencies: economically vulnerable consumers who want to improve their approach to money management, and recent veterans who are transitioning from service member to veteran life, as well as military widows and widowers.  
One-on-one financial coaching helps consumers learn how to manage their money more effectively and achieve their financial goals. While gaining key insights on ways to distinguish between useful financial products and frauds, consumers of different cultural, ethnic, racial, and other backgrounds become alert to scams targeted to urban and rural communities.  
Each day the CFPB receives an average of 3,000 complaints. Additionally, the agency reports that 50 million consumers have accessed its web-based database for answers to hundreds of common financial questions.  
But despite these measurable and successful efforts, many of the same organizations that opposed CFPB’s creation over a decade ago have since shifted their goals to weakening the agency in a variety of ways. Recent court filings continue to question whether the agency meets constitutional muster, while others seek to change the agency’s current independent financial status to annual Congressional appropriations. Opponents also want to change the agency’s leadership from a single director to a multi-member commission, curtail the number of businesses subject to its scrutiny, and more.  
In response to these renewed anti-consumer efforts, an 84-member coalition representing civil rights, unions, consumer advocates, antitrust and general public interest groups at the local, state and national levels sent a strong statement of support for CFPB to key committee leaders in the U.S. House and the Senate.   
“Americans see an agency responsibly undertaking the job given to it by Congress: making consumer financial markets fairer and more transparent, putting money back in the pockets of wronged consumers, and policing rules of the road that make the financial system work better for responsible businesses and consumers alike”, wrote the advocates.  
“It has required lenders who break the law to return billions of dollars directly to individuals trying to make ends meet; it is establishing a more level playing field in crucial areas of the market; and it is doing so in an accountable and transparent fashion,” the advocates continued.  
One emerging area of concern for consumers and CFPB is medical debt that impacts over 100 million Americans – accounting for a staggering $433.2 billion of out-of-pocket expenses, according to CFPB.  
“Poor medical billing and collection practices can result in patients delaying or declining needed medical care while they struggle to cope with the financial consequences of the debt burden placed upon them, even when that debt burden derives from predatory pricing, faulty, inaccurate billing, or insurance company runarounds,” noted Rohit Chopra, CFPB’s Director in a July 11 hearing on Capitol Hill. “In fact, consumers report that errors in medical billing and insurance payment are common. Among those with medical debt, more than four in ten say they received an inaccurate bill, and nearly seven in ten say they were asked to pay a bill that should have been covered by insurance.”  
“While medical payment products can offer an enticing promise of cost savings, convenient payment plans and administrative ease for medical providers, our research indicates that in many cases, patients who use these products end up worse off…Our research shows that these payment products have less favorable terms than other general credit products and can land patients with significant amounts of deferred interest. Indeed, over a three-year period, patients paid $1 billion in deferred interest on medical credit cards. This deferred interest isn’t something that’s fair or transparent — people can find themselves hit with large and unexpected interest costs even when they’ve been making payments on the bill all along,” added Chopra.  
For the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), a nonprofit, non-partisan research and policy advocacy organization that called for CFPB’s creation, and continues to defend the embattled agency, the key difference between the CFPB and its opposition is akin to the difference between right and wrong.  
“The Bureau curbs worst practices, punishes repeat offenders, and creates a stable regulatory environment for consumer finance,” wrote CRL to a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee. “Inversely, those who stand to benefit from neutering the CFPB peddle in worst practices, break the law repeatedly, and seek to exploit an inconsistent regulatory environment with unsafe products and services.”  
Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at  

Newswire : White Jacksonville gunman targets historically Black community, killing three

 Jacksonville Dollar General store

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

A white man, described as being in his early twenties, went on a shooting spree in Jacksonville, targeting African Americans in a historically Black community and killing three people. The racially motivated shooting inside a Dollar General Store on Saturday, Aug. 26, was reminiscent of the Buffalo Tops Supermarket Shooting in May 2022, where a racist white man murdered ten Black shoppers and injured three others.
As of Monday, authorities identified the shooter as Ryan Christopher Palmeter (21). They said that before the incident, the man had encountered resistance at Edward Waters University, an HBCU blocks from the crime scene. The school reported that the individual, who had been denied entry to the campus, subsequently left without incident. Despite the encounter’s peaceful resolution, the shooter’s intentions soon turned deadly.
Following his expulsion from the university premises, the suspect armed himself with a bulletproof vest and mask before proceeding to the nearby Dollar General store. With an AR-15-style rifle and handgun, he unleashed a barrage of gunfire, first outside the store and then inside, before taking his own life.
Palmeter killed Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29, and Amto Joseph Laguerre, Jr., 19, before turning the gun on himself. He murdered Carr in her automobile and Lagueer as he attempted to flee. Gallion was shot as he entered the store. After the shooting, Ju’ Coby Pittman, a Jacksonville City Council Member, wailed that Black people are no longer safe walking down the sidewalk or going into stores.

Law enforcement officials declared the attack racially motivated, as evidence emerged indicating the shooter’s disturbing ideology of hate. There were swastica’s engraved on the AR-15 rifle that the shooter used and he wore a patch from the racist Rhodesian Army , before Rhodesia became Zimbabwe
He left behind written messages that espoused his abhorrent beliefs and utilized racial slurs, revealing a profoundly ingrained hatred against Black individuals. While investigators said they are still trying to comprehend the shooter’s motives and past interactions with law enforcement, it remains evident that this attack was targeted at Black people. “This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said during a hastily called news conference after the shooting.
The tragedy reverberated beyond Jacksonville’s city limits, capturing the attention of both local and federal authorities on the same day that civil rights leaders commemorated the 60th anniversary of the iconic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The FBI initiated a federal civil rights investigation into the incident, classifying it as a hate crime. Sherri Onks, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, emphasized to reporters the agency’s continued commitment to addressing and preventing racially motivated violence.
The shooting adds to what has been another tragic year of mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been at least 472 mass shootings in the country in 2023. Many have said this has further highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive gun control measures. The pervasive presence of gun violence in everyday settings underscores the necessity of addressing this issue nationally. “This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history,” Waters remarked. “Any loss of life is tragic, but the hate that motivated the shooter’s killing spree adds an additional layer to the heartbreak.”

Newswire: After changing the way medicine is practiced, Henrietta Lacks’ family finally got their money

Henrietta Lacks

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from BlackMansStreet.Today

( – The descendants of Henrietta Lacks on Tuesday said they reached an agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, a company that sold HeLa Cells, taken from Lacks’ body, that was cloned and sold in aggregate for billions of dollars.
The settlement’s details remain confidential, but Lacks’ grandchildren, who were part of the suit, seemed pleased with the agreement. The settlement was announced on what would have been Lacks’ 103rd birthday. She was born on August 2, 1920, and died on October 4, 1951. Lacks was initially buried in an unmarked grave.
“There couldn’t have been a more fitting day for her to have justice, for her family to have relief,” her grandson Alfred Lacks Carter Jr. said. “It was a long fight — over 70 years — and Henrietta Lacks gets her day.”
The settlement was reached after daylong negotiations in a federal court in Baltimore. The lawsuit stems from the Lacks family’s allegations that the cells collected from Lacks’ body following her death were taken and used for medical research without her permission. Astonishingly, her cells are still in use for research purposes today.
The family claimed HeLa Cells were used by Thermo Fisher to enrich their profits. Last year, the company reported second-quarter earnings of $10.60 billion.
The Lacks family sued Thermo Fisher in 2021 for profiting from what they called a racist medical system.
The cells taken from Lacks became the HeLa cell line, the first human cells to be successfully cloned. They represented a critical development in medical research.
HeLa cells went on to become a cornerstone of modern medicine, enabling countless scientific and medical innovations, including the development of the polio vaccine, genetic mapping, HIV AIDS medications, treatment of cancer, and COVID-19 vaccines. About 55 million tons of the cells have been used in over 75,000 scientific studies worldwide.
Lacks or her family never knew about HeLa cells, and they were never compensated. At the time the cells were first collected in 1951, no permission was required to take the cells.
“The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks represents the unfortunately common struggle experienced by Black people throughout history,” the complaint from her descendants read. “Too often, the history of medical experimentation in the United States has been the history of medical racism.”T
Another incident of medical exploitation occurred in the Tuskegee Study which examined untreated syphilis among Black men between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 400 Black men were relegated to control groups in the study and suffered from the ravages of syphilis although an effective treatment for the disease became available.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented the Lacks family during the lawsuit, said Lacks was racked with pain until the end of her life as a repercussion of the procedures employed by John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He blasted Johns Hopkins for using Lacks – and other Black women – as ‘lab rats,’ and said the experience was something many Black Americans could relate to. 
Though Johns Hopkins has never profited from HeLa cells, according to Crump Thermo Fisher knowingly sought the rights to products that use Lacks’ cells despite her never giving consent for the cells to be taken.
Thermo Fisher attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed when it was filed, arguing the statute of limitations had expired, but the family countered that the company has been profiting from the cells all this time.
Lacks’ story gained attention in 2010 when Rebecca Skloot published “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” In 2017, Oprah Winfrey starred in an HBO movie of the same name based on the book.

Newswire: They integrated Little Rock’s schools — now they’re slamming Arkansas’ restrictions on AP African American Studies

Terrence Roberts and Elizabeth Eckford were among the students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. (Getty Images; AP)

By Bracey Harris, NBC News

Several surviving members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of students who in 1957 integrated Little Rock Central High School under threats of violence from white segregationists, are denouncing the Arkansas Department of Education’s restrictions on an Advanced Placement African American Studies course.
The state is not barring students from taking the class but has cautioned that the coursework may not count toward the state’s high school graduation requirements. The Arkansas Department of Education has argued that since the course is still being piloted, it’s unclear whether it runs afoul of a state law signed by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in March banning the teaching of “critical race theory.”  
“I think the attempts to erase history is working for the Republican Party,” said Elizabeth Eckford, who joined eight other Black teenagers in desegregating Little Rock Central High School nearly 66 years ago. “They have some boogeymen that are really popular with their supporters.”
The Arkansas Department of Education defended its decision, saying in a statement that, “Until it’s determined whether it violates state law and teaches or trains teachers in CRT and indoctrination, the state will not move forward. The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination.” The state already offers an African American history course, the department noted. 
A spokesperson for Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When asked about the course on Fox News Thursday, Sanders responded by saying that she wants to focus on improving students’ performance rather than pushing a “propaganda leftist agenda.” 

Central High offered the pilot version of the course last school year. It will continue to do so this school year, a representative said, as will several other Arkansas high schools. 
The interdisciplinary course stretches from the African diaspora to the present and includes topics like slavery, the Black Power Movement and Reconstruction. The course framework mentions a protest song, “Fables of Faubus,” about the unrest that exploded around the Little Rock Nine push, as an example in a unit about the Civil Rights Movement.
A photograph of a 15-year-old Eckford wearing sunglasses as a white teenage girl harasses her is one of the most recognizable images of the abuse inflicted on Black children during the racist resistance to school desegregation. In the fall of 1957, Arkansas’ defiance of a court order that prevented Eckford and her peers from entering the high school culminated in President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervening by having federal troops escort the group.
Terrence Roberts, 81, another member of the Little Rock Nine, reflected on how the federal government’s show of force wasn’t always enough to protect Black children crossing the color barrier.
“All nine of us suffered physically and emotionally,” he said of the first Black students attending Central High. One of the worst moments for Roberts was when a white student wielding a baseball bat called him the N-word, and said, “If you weren’t so small,” before dropping the weapon and backing off.
“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, salvation by stature,’” he said. 
Roberts knows that there are those who don’t want to confront that history. At some commemorations of the Little Rock Nine, he said, there have been people who don’t want old photographs of angry crowds shown. Roberts suspects that those who once harangued them as children don’t want the evidence displayed.
But the truth of those turbulent times is one he’s adamant that students need to know. At a “bare minimum,” he said, there shouldn’t be “laws restricting their ability to learn, or what they could learn.”
Roberts said he wasn’t surprised at the state’s pushback to the AP African American Studies course. He’s watched the spread of laws across the country limiting the ways race is brought up in the classroom and called bans on critical race theory “ridiculous.”
He welcomed the news that Central High School was continuing with the course, but acknowledged more battles lie ahead. “I know there are voices pushing back,” he said. “The question is, will they be successful?”
Ivory Toldson, the director of Education Innovation and Research at the NAACP, said officials censoring what can be taught are channeling their energy into the wrong battles.
Civil rights advocates and education policy experts have long highlighted racial disparities in AP course participation and access. Black children, Toldson said, often don’t have the opportunity to sign up for the rigorous offerings, which can earn students college credits while they’re still in high school.
“These are the larger issues I wish they would talk about as they go on defense about this issue,” he said. “They really should be setting forth the plan to make sure all Black students in Arkansas have equal access to a quality education.”
Toldson, who spoke this week with five members of the Little Rock Nine, said that they see the criticism of the AP course “as a broader attack on Black history.”
Melba Beals, who participated in the call, also shared a reflection with the NAACP vowing that future generations would take up “the banner” for civil rights that the Little Rock Nine helped carry.  “​​Keep kicking,” she wrote. “See how many more heroines and heroes you can buy.

Newswire: Six decades after King’s historic speech,report shows Black Economic Equality is ‘Still a Dream’

Dr. King speaking at the 1963 March on Washington

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Sixty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a groundbreaking new report has laid bare the stark truth of ongoing black economic inequality in the United States.
Titled “STILL A DREAM: Over 500 Years to Black Economic Equality,” the report, co-authored by prominent experts Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chuck Collins, Omar Ocampo, and Sally Sim, and published by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), underscores the enduring disparities faced by Black Americans and highlights the pressing need for concerted action to address these disparities.
“Sixty years ago, Dr. King observed that America has defaulted on this promissory note to Black citizens,” stated Chuck Collins, an IPS senior scholar who directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good in Washington, DC.
“Six decades later, despite incremental progress on some fronts, the check of opportunity has still come back with insufficient funds.”
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chief of Race, Wealth, and Community for NCRC, lamented, “It is deeply troubling that, sixty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Black economic equality remains nothing more than a dream for most Black Americans.”
“The revelation that it would take more than 500 additional years to close the economic gap for black Americans is a stark reminder of the systemic inequities that persist,” Asante-Muhammad asserted.
Sally Sim, a senior organizer, and project specialist at NCRC, emphasized the urgency of the situation.
“The sobering projection and findings of our report sixty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom reinforce that the dream for economic equality for Black Americans remains unfulfilled,” Sim stated.
“On this historic anniversary, let us turn this report into a catalyst for meaningful action towards comprehensive solutions and public support for policies and initiatives that promote black economic equality.”
Some key findings from the comprehensive report were that, despite modest advancements made by African Americans since the 1960s, including reduced poverty rates, increased high school attainment, and lower unemployment rates, income disparities between Black and white Americans have only slightly improved.
The report exposes that in 2021, African Americans earn 62 cents to every dollar earned by white families.
The report’s authors said, at this rate, achieving income parity would take an astonishing 513 years.
Further, the wealth gap between Black and non-Black Americans has experienced only marginal growth, with African Americans possessing 18 cents for every dollar of non-Black wealth in 2019.
If this pace continues, it will take approximately 780 years for Black wealth to match non-Black wealth.
Median household income for African Americans has shown minimal growth, growing just 0.36% since the turn of the century.
Strikingly, it remained lower than white median family income in 1963.
Even after over six decades, the Black-white homeownership divide persists.
Black homeownership has grown from 38% in 1960 to 44% in 2021, while white homeownership surged from 64% in 1960 to 74% in 2021.
The report outlined a series of recommendations to combat black economic inequality:
1. Advocate for full employment and guaranteed jobs to ensure equal economic opportunities for all.
2. Enact a substantial land and homeownership program to address the enduring homeownership gap between Black and white Americans.
3. Commit to individual asset building, including financial education, asset matching programs, and supportive policies, to facilitate access to wealth-building opportunities for Black Americans.
4. Implement policies to reduce dynastic concentrations of wealth and power, tackling the structural barriers that impede economic progress for Black Americans.
5. Explore targeted reparations to address historical injustices and provide meaningful redress for the economic disparities Black Americans face.
The authors noted that, as the nation reflects on King’s enduring vision for equality and justice, the report serves as a sobering reminder that pursuing Black economic equality remains an unmet challenge in America.

Team effort makes Mantua Storm Shelter accessible

Shown above are  L to R : Fred Hughes of the Mantua Volunteer Fire Department and County Commissioner (District 1), Garria Spencer reviewing the construction that solved the problem of a ditch hindering access to the storm shelter.

Materials and labor for the project were provided by the Greene County Commission, Mantua Volunteer Fire Department and Greene County Sheriff, Jonathan Benison.

A conduit pipe was placed in the ditch and a road way concreted over the ditch. “Now our shelter is wheelchair accessible and that,’ solved our greatest concern,” stated Hughes.

Commission extends rental agreement with Greene County Entertainment, Inc.

The Greene County Commission met in regular session Monday, August 14, 2023. In the absence of the Chairperson, Commissioner Corey Cockrell, the meeting was called to order by Commissioner Garria Spencer, Vice Chairperson. Cockrell arrived when the body was in executive session.
Prior to the agenda being approved, Commissioner Allen Turner noted that there was nothing on the agenda regarding the rental extension request form Greene County Entertainment Inc. The commission approved amending the agenda to include request from Greene County Entertainment Inc. to adjust the company’s payment plan with the county.
Following the executive session, the commission approved an extension for Greene Entertainment, Inc. to October 2, 2023.
In a special session held April 7, 2023, the County Commission approved a four year agreement with Greene County Entertainment Inc. for use of the facilities previously occupied by Greenetrack, Inc. The county holds one half ownership of the said property. The initial agreement called for Greene County Entertainment Inc. to pay the county approximately $260,000 annually, through monthly disbursements of approximately $21,000, beginning in May 2023. The lease agreement also called for an advance payment of one month’s rent.
Sources indicate that Greene County Entertainment, which opened its doors to the public on May 4, 2023, has not been in a position to remit any rental payments to the county.
The commission authorized hiring a full time laborer in Solid Waste. The position will be advertised. The commission also approved hiring a General Superintendent at the Highway Department. This selection will be in-house, following appropriate postings of the position.
Other actions of the commission include the following:
Approved re-appointment of Reginald Spencer and re-appointment of James Darden to E-911 Board, District 2.
Approved soliciting annual bids
Approved 2024 Rebuild America County transportation Plan
Approved request for engineer to attend annual Alabama Road safety Conference
Approved long-term detention subsidy contract.
Approved paying three commissioners difference in air fare and mileage for trip to Austin, TX.
Tabled consideration of change in Policy and Procedure regarding travel.
In his financial report, CFO Macaroy Underwood shared the following information. Bank balances as of July 23, 2023 included Citizen Trust Bank – unrestricted $2,500,743.84; restricted $4,617,689.62; Merchants & Farmers Bank – unrestricted $2,903,783.57; restricted, $1,085,256.65; Total Bond Sinking Funds Investment – $886,302.19. Accounts payable totaled $257,615.26. Payroll Transfer totaled $239,308.59. Fiduciary totaled $62,428.23. Electronic claims said totaled $88,252.35.

State of Alabama purchases Greenetrack land at auction

The Alabama Department of Revenue held an auction, Monday August 14, 2023 at Noon, of seven parcels of land, totaling 212 aces, seized from Greenetrack as payment on a multi-million dollar sales tax debt owed by the gaming facility.
The State bid $693,767 for the property, based on their appraisal and study of comparable land sales (average $3,272 per acre) and no one at the auction offered any higher amount. Several bidders were grumbling because they wanted to purchase individual tracts offered in the newspaper ad, but the parcels were not sold separately.
The actual former Greenetrack facility, which is partially owned (50%) by the Greene County Commission was not a part of the sale. Land surrounding the facility was the subject of the sale.
Greenetrack was basically forced out of business by the state sales tax levy that they dispute. The Greene County Entertainment Inc. is now operating historic horse racing machines and simulcast dog and horse racing at other tracks, at the former Greenetrack facility.
Per state law, a taxpayer is allowed a one-year period to redeem property seized and then sold under the seizure procedures. If the property is not redeemed, the state can attempt to sell it in order to pay off the outstanding debt.
The state officials at the auction said the land would be soon offered for sale to the public on the ADR website.

Newswire: Covid makes a comeback, but new vaccines are around the corner

CDC Photo of vaccination for COVID

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Ethnic Media Services

By Sunita Sohrabji

( – The US is experiencing a summer swell of infections, though hospitalization rates remain relatively stable. Three eminent experts conclude that Covid-19 will continue to pose a health threat over many years, as it continues its evolution. But updated vaccines are expected to mitigate the severity of infections.
Covid-19 cases are rising once again, possibly fueled by the emergence of the EG.5 variant. Hospitalization rates jumped by 12.5% nationwide in July, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This uptick comes even as the public health emergency has ended, taking with it free testing and therapeutics. And Covid fatigue has set in. People no longer wear masks in public, and a study has determined that the majority of Americans will forego new boosters, which will be available this fall.
At an Aug. 11 panel discussion organized by Ethnic Media Services, three eminent Covid experts examined the rise in cases, the new variant, and the new monovalent vaccine which will be available this fall.
Panelists included:
● Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, Associate Dean for Regional Campuses, University of California, San Francisco and Medical Educator, specializing in treating infectious diseases
● Dr. Benjamin Neuman, Professor of Biology and Chief Virologist, Global Health Research Complex, Texas A&M University
● Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
What are the origins of the EG.5 variant? Does it differ substantially from its predecessors?
Dr. Neuman: EG.5 is one of the variants that’s spreading the fastest right now. It is a child of a thing called XBB 1.9. Basically, it’s another version of Omicron. And everything that is circulating in the world right now has about 100 to 110 differences from the original version.
This variant is spreading because it has a lot of changes at the receptor binding site that is the target of most of the vaccines and of some of the most useful parts of the immune system.
Will the new vaccines recognize the new variant and be effective against it?
Dr. Neuman: When the target changes, you have to change your aim. It has been over a year since we have had an updated version of the vaccine. It’s coming slowly, but uptake has not been great. The total uptake in the US for the bivalent vaccine is only 17%.
The formulation of the new booster is supposed to be a monovalent against the XBB variant. From the studies that we have now, it looks like new variants like EG.5 are close enough that a vaccine against XBB seems to work against it pretty well. So I think it’s a good move, and I wish they’d hurry up to release it.
Hospitalization rates remain relatively stable despite the summer surge of infections. Do you expect that hospitalization rates are going to rise at some point?
Dr. Chin-Hong: There has been a slight uptick in hospitalizations, not a tsunami, not even a surge. The way I think about it is a swell. It’s kind of like a general wave coming. It doesn’t overwhelm you. You don’t get submerged into it, but you kind of ride it until it goes to the shore.
So if you look at California, for example, one year ago, we had about 4700 people hospitalized at one point. And right now we have about 890 people hospitalized. So in perspective, it’s nothing compared to even one year ago when it was 4700.
Paxlovid and Remdesivir are currently the only therapeutics we have in our arsenal to battle. But they are problematic.
Dr. Schaffner: We know that if you administer Paxlovid — particularly to people at high risk — very shortly after they are infected, we can reduce their risk of developing severe disease. But Paxlovid has limitations, as any therapy does. There are drug interactions. So if you’re taking certain medications, you have to be careful about taking Paxlovid. Or you may not be able to get it if you have kidney failure.
Remdesivir we now use very quickly once the patient is admitted to the hospital. But wouldn’t it be better if we had more therapeutic agents aimed at keeping people out of the hospital?
Minority populations and low-income communities have always been at a higher risk for hospitalization and death from Covid. With the end of the Public Health Emergency, how can we ensure that everyone gets the tests, vaccines, and therapeutics they need to stay healthy?
Dr. Chin-Hong: Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of disparities, including and particularly amongst the African American communities, both in terms of who is dying first of all and who is being hospitalized.
But then we began to address some of the root causes, which were related to access to testing and related to probably a lot of structural racism. Of course, politics played a role, but even after the new administration, those disparities still persisted.
I think one silver lining was that vaccinations increased uptake in all communities, probably given the advocacy of a lot of grassroots organizations and community-based organizations.
So what is still free, after the Public Health Emergency ended May 11?
Vaccines are still free. There’s a bridge program that’s going to probably come into effect nationally that allows people — without demonstrating ability to pay — to get them at least until the end of the year in California, and probably extended with a national bridge program.
And then if you have insurance or MediCal or MediCare, people are obligated to give you the vaccine for free without a copay because of the Affordable Care Act.

Newswire: Explosive revelations spark renewed calls for Justice Thomas’ resignation

Justice Clarence Thomas

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In what activist Sherrilyn Ifill called a crisis in which everyone needs to start treating it as such, more stunning revelations have surfaced over lavish gifts accepted and not previously disclosed by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Now, Democratic lawmakers are taking to social media to demand Thomas step down. The calls for his resignation come after another shocking investigative report by ProPublica.
The exposé, released on Thursday, Aug. 10, delves into undisclosed luxury vacations and gifts Thomas received from affluent individuals.
The revelation has again ignited a firestorm of outrage and ethical concerns.
“Justice Thomas has brought shame upon himself and the United States Supreme Court with his acceptance of massive, repeated, and undisclosed gifts,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted on the social media platform now known as X.
“No government official, elected or unelected, could ethically or legally accept gifts of that scale. He should resign immediately.”
The damning ProPublica report exposed that Justice Thomas received a minimum of 38 destination vacations, 26 private jet flights, numerous VIP passes to sporting events, and two lavish resort stays, all financed by billionaire backers, during his tenure on the bench.
The report argued that Justice Thomas may have violated legal requirements by failing to disclose these extravagant travels and luxury engagements.
ProPublica reported that Thomas, typically “perched in the skybox at sporting events, had at least two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.
“This accounting of Thomas’ travel, revealed for the first time here from an array of previously unavailable information, is the fullest to date of the generosity that has regularly afforded Thomas a lifestyle far beyond what his income could provide. And it is almost certainly an undercount,” the report asserted.
ProPublica continued: “While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure, Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises, and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts.”
Politico noted that at least four other House Democrats also called for Thomas’ resignation, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
“Unprecedented. Stunning. Disgusting. The height of hypocrisy to wear the robes of a #SCOTUS and take undisclosed gifts from billionaires who benefit from your decisions,” Jayapal posted on X. “Resign.”
Democrats in the Senate have attempted to push legislation that would reform the Supreme Court’s ethical guidelines to increase transparency. That bill passed committee but is unlikely to get through a full Senate.
“I said it would get worse; it will keep getting worse,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who helped spearhead the bill, said on X in response to the report. “The latest ProPublica revelation of unreported lavish gifts to Justice Clarence Thomas makes it clear: these are not merely ethical lapses,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin wrote on X.
“This is a shameless lifestyle underwritten for years by a gaggle of fawning billionaires.”
Perhaps even more significant, the pattern exposes consistent violations of judicial norms, experts, including seven current and former federal judges appointed by both parties, told ProPublica.
Earlier this year, ProPublica revealed Texas real estate billionaire Harlan Crow’s generosity toward Thomas, including vacations, private jet flights, gifts, the purchase of his mother’s house in Georgia, and tuition payments.
The new report said the New York Times also noted revelations about wealthy business people Thomas met through the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive nonprofit.