Greene County Commission recognizes Michael Williams for service

Shown L to R: Commissioners Allen Turner, Jr., Michael Williams and Tennyson Smith

 

At its regular monthly meeting held Tuesday, October 9, 2018, the Greene County Commission acknowledged the dedicated work of out-going Commissioner Michael Williams, representing District 5. Williams was presented a plaque recognizing his four-year term in office. In his brief remarks, Commissioner Williams thanked the community for entrusting him with the duty of representing District 5 and the whole of Greene County. “ I am a native of Greene County who had relocated for a few years, but I came back with a desire to serve our county.

I thank you for giving me that opportunity. I will continue to contribute to the growth of Greene County,” he stated. The commission considered two separate recommendations to fill the expired seat on the county’s Water Authority Board. Commissioner Allen Turner recommended J.B. Washington, but his motion died for lack of a second. That was followed by a motion by Commissioner Williams to appoint James Williams, which failed for lack of a second. The expired seat was held by Mr. Levi Morrow. In other business the commission approved the request from County Engineer, Willie Branch, to purchase three 2019 Mack Dump Trucks. The trucks are scheduled for delivery in September 2019. The commission also took action on the following. * Approved 2019 Severe Weather Resolution giving commission chairman authorization to sign all necessary documents. * Approved engineer’s request to award yearly bids. * Approved finance report, payment of claims and budget amendments as presented by CFO Paula Bird. In her report, CSFO Bird indicated the following bank totals as of September 18, 2018: Citizen Trust Bank – $2,356,329.29; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $4,591,959.38; Bank of New York – $358,093.75; CD Investments – $919,806.21. The commission did not go into executive session since only three commissioners were present.

Newsier : . Nobel Peace Prize shared by two who help rape survivors in the midst of war

Dr. Denis Mukwege

Oct. 8, 2018 (GIN) – “For 15 years I have witnessed mass atrocities committed against women’s bodies and I cannot remain with my arms folded because our common humanity calls on us to care for each other.” Those were the words of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a physician working in one of the most dangerous regions of the world. Now, Dr. Mukwege, founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi survivor of sexual violence, are this year’s co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Known as the rape surgeon, Dr. Mukwege has helped care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence even as he himself is at risk and attacks against women are on the upswing. “I’m sorry to say that three years ago the situation was better but now many armed groups are growing again and the number of women who are raped is increasing again,” Dr. Mukwege told the BBC. The 63-year-old Congolese gynecologist set up the Panzi hospital nearly 20 years ago, shortly after his first experience treating a woman who had been raped and mutilated by armed men. His crusading work has seen him honored on many occasions, receiving the Olof Palme Prize in 2009, the Sakharov Prize five years later, and the Seoul Peace Prize in 2016. He has been nominated for the Nobel award on numerous previous occasions. He has also been recognized by the United Nations, which he addressed in 2012, criticizing the Congolese government and neighboring countries for pursuing “an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.” Panzi hospital now cares for more than 3,500 women a year. Sometimes Dr. Mukwege performs as many as 10 operations a day. It has grown to be a major health facility in eastern DR Congo with over 300 doctors, nurses and support staff. U.S. playwright Eve Ensler wrote: “He has not only saved lives, he has also travelled the world to bring attention to these women’s fate, everywhere from the UN to the European parliament to Washington DC. He – together with women survivors – has woken the world to the use of rape as a tactic of war and armed conflict in DRC and elsewhere.” “City of Joy,” a documentary which spotlights the survivors and Dr. Mukwege’s work, is available on Netflix.

Newswire :  Center for Responsible Lending calls for firing of fair lending official who used N-Word

By Charlene Crowell ( TriceEdneyWire.com) – Recent and stunning disclosures of racially-offensive writings by a high-ranking official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has unleashed an escalating barrage of criticisms, including calls for the official to be fired and more probing questions regarding the agency’s commitment to fair lending. Since a September 28 Washington Post article first reported how Eric Blankenstein, CFPB’s Policy Director for Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending, used a pen name in blogs dating as far back as 2004, a spate of fury has been unleashed. Disguising his authorship, Blankenstein claimed that the use of the N-word was not racist, and further alleged that most hate crimes were hoaxes. A subsequent New York Times article alleged that people who perpetuated the Obama birther conspiracy are not racist either, and noted that as late as 2016, Blankenstein’s personal Twitter account posted racially charged comments. Keep in mind that Blankenstein was hand-picked by CFPB head Mick Mulvaney. Patrice A. Ficklin, a CFPB career staff member and Director of its Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity reports to Blankenstein and is quoted in the Post article. Ficklin said, “And while he has been collegial, thoughtful and meticulous, I have had experiences that have raised concerns that are now quite alarming in light of the content of his blog posts — experiences that call into question Eric’s ability and intent to carry out his and his Acting Director’s repeated yet unsubstantiated commitment to a continued strong fair lending program under governing legal precedent.” By October 1, Anthony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union, advised CFPB of its dissatisfaction with the Blankenstein blogs. “There should be zero tolerance for comments that Blankenstein has admitted authoring and nothing less than swift and decisive action is called for,” said Reardon. “That someone with a history of racially derogatory and offensive comments has a leadership position at CFPB reflects poorly on CFPB management and your commitment to fulfilling the mandate of the agency to ensure that discriminatory and predatory lending practices are stopped.” Two days later, on October 3, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) publicly called for Blankenstein to be fired. “Mr. Blankenstein must be removed from his post and this must be combined with a demonstrable commitment by CFPB head Mick Mulvaney to fair lending,” said Yana Miles, CRL’s Senior Legislative Counsel. “Thus far, the Mulvaney approach has been worse than inaction – it has been an appalling retreat from enforcing anti-discrimination laws…. The enduring legacy and present-day experience of financial discrimination is the key driver of the racial wealth gap. Vigorously addressing this is a legal and moral imperative.” A second civil rights organization agreed with CRL’s call for Blankenstein’s termination. “Eric Blankenstein’s racist and sexist remarks show that he is not fit to lead the CFPB Office of Fair Lending,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our nation’s history of financial discrimination is the key factor in the growing racial wealth gap.” “Entrusting Blankenstein given his history of racially derogatory remarks will undermine progress for fair lending efforts to close the gap,” continued Gupta. “If the CFPB is serious about eradicating discrimination, it must immediately remove Blankenstein, and must ensure that it is led by a person with a demonstrated commitment to civil rights enforcement. His writings make clear that Mr. Blankenstein is not that person.” The same day, another pivotal development occurred. A letter signed by 13 U.S. Senators representing 11 states wrote Mulvaney, demanding answers to a series of questions no later than October 22. The questions span Mulvaney’s personal awareness of the writings, the guidelines and procedures used to fill the position, whether a Member of Congress, or an executive branch employee recommended his hiring, what action he intends to take as Acting Director and more. In part, the Senators’ letter states, “We are deeply concerned that you have placed a person with a history of racist writing at a senior position within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…Mr. Blankenstein was not hired through the competitive service process like most CFPB employers; he is one of your hand-selected political appointees. Further, you have specifically tasked him with overseeing the CFPB’s fair lending supervision and enforcement work at a time when you have decided to restructure the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity.” The letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington State), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI) Mark Warner (D-VA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Even before the Blankenstein scandal, Mulvaney’s actions and inactions at the CFPB have brought a series of concerns by civil rights and consumer advocates alike. Particularly noteworthy among their stated concerns under Mulvaney include: CFPB has yet to issue any violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act; The Bureau declared an intent to ignore the Disparate Impact standard, a long-standing legal test that holds the effects of discrimination, not the intent are legal violations; Personally praised the repeal of anti-discrimination auto lending guidance; Sided with payday lenders in their challenge of the Bureau’s payday rule promulgated under the previous director; Announced the Bureau’s fair lending office would be stripped of its supervisory and enforcement powers; and Relegated the development of regulation on fair lending for minority and women-owned businesses to a low-level concern. It took decades of vigilant struggle for civil rights, fair lending, and consumer protection to be codified in federal laws. It is time to remind the CFPB and all federal agencies that they have a duty to uphold the nation’s fair lending laws – regardless of personal beliefs. Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Newswire :  Investigation into accusations by Rep. Ellison’s ex-girlfriend finds charges “unsubstantiated”

 By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor I

Rep. Keith Ellison

Ellison An investigation regarding alleged abuse claims by the ex-girlfriend of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who is now running to be Minnesota’s Attorney General, have been found to be “unsubstantiated.” Attorney Susan Ellingstad conducted the investigation into the claims. Ellingstad is a partner at the same Minnesota law firm as Charlie Nauen, the lead lawyer for Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. “Addressing this allegation has been especially challenging given the important national moment we are in. I believe women who come forward must be heard, and to have their allegations fully investigated,” Rep. Ellison said in a statement. Shortly after the accusations by his ex-girlfriend were made public, Ellison said in a statement that, “Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being.” A draft report investigating the claims of Karen Monahan, who dated Ellison for three years, was obtained by The Associated Press. Monahan’s claims first surfaced on August 11 via her son, Austin Aslim Monahan, on Facebook shortly before Ellison appeared on the ballot in the Minnesota primary on August 14. Ellison won the primary by a sizable margin. Ellison’s case has become a political football as right-wing media has been quick to amplify the story. In 2007, Ellison became the first member of the Muslim faith ever elected to the U.S. Congress. In 2017 he became Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee after losing a close race for Chair to former Obama DOJ official Tom Perez. Austin Monahan, followed by his mother Karen, asserted that video footage of the alleged incident in which he claimed his mother was dragged her off a bed by her feet by Ellison existed. To date, no video of such an incident has been made public. For various reasons since August 12, Karen Monahan has refused to provide the video to reporters after repeated requests. Ellison stated in August soon after the accusations were first made that no video would be found because no such incident ever took place. During an interview on a local TV show, Karen Monahan talks to host Ahmed Tharwat about the #MeToo movement but no physical abuse at the hands of anyone. The video has an upload date of December 2017 and Monahan currently has the video pinned to the top of her twitter account.

Polls conducted for the Attorney General’s race show that Ellison is holding a slim lead.

Newswire : White Chicago cop convicted of shooting to death, Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, shooting was captured on police dash cam video

 By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet.Today

 

 Laquan McDonald

Last week, a jury today found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The shooting was captured on police dashcam video and showed that police and city officials initially engaged in a coverup. Van Dyke sat motionless as the jury fore person repeated “guilty” 16 times for aggravated battery, and once for second-degree murder. The jury found him not guilty of official misconduct and first-degree murder. Before the jury issued its verdict, Leighton Criminal Court Building employees and employees of businesses in downtown Chicago were told to go home early should trouble erupt if the jury found Van Dyke not guilty. CLTV in Chicago televised the entire trial. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as he lay on the ground, posing no threat to him. McDonald was carrying a pocket knife, but the other police officers on the scene did not pull out their guns because they did not consider the teenager a threat. The deadly shooting occurred on October 20, 2014. Van Dyke whispered to his lawyer, Dan Herbert, after the jury completed reading the verdict and left the courtroom. Herbert patted his client on the shoulder. Van Dyke then stood up with his hands behind his back as though he had been handcuffed. He hadn’t been. He walked out of the courtroom flanked and followed by Cook County Sheriff’s Deputies. Outside the courthouse, a small crowd chanted “Justice for Laquan.” Some members of the crowd carried placards that read, “Black Panther Party” and “Stop Killings by Racist Cops.” Motorists driving by the criminal court’s building honked their car horns to show their support for the verdict. Otherwise, both the crowd and courtroom relatively quiet. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who attended at least one of the court sessions, said “a measure of justice has been rendered.” Others said they hoped the jury would have found Van Dyke, 40, guilty of first-degree murder. Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors charged Van Dyke with murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct. Van Dyke is the first on-duty police officer in 40 years to be charged with murder and convicted. Initially, Van Dyke claimed McDonald threatened him and other police officers with a pocket knife, but the case took a dramatic turn when a freelance journalist and a community activist learned of the video that showed the entire shooting. An unnamed whistle-blower told the two about the video. The police dash-cam video showed that McDonald walking away from Van Dyke when he shot him. The repercussions from the deadly shooting claimed the career of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who unexpectedly announced last month that he would not seek a third four-year term. Mayor Emanuel lost support among Chicago’s black voters when his office withheld the dash-cam video, leading to allegations of a coverup. Before the video’s release, police ruled the shooting was justified. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter, telling the police department it could not withhold the video, On November 19, 2015, Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the video to be released to the public no later than November 25, 2015. The city did not appeal the judge’s decision. On November 24, 2015, after a press conference, the video was released that showed Van Dyke fatally shooting McDonald as he walked away. The video sparked a series of major demonstrations throughout the city, including along posh North Michigan Avenue, with protestors chanting “16 shots and a coverup.” The video’s release also claimed the career of Cook County States’ Attorney Anita Alvarez who supported withholding the video. Alvarez lost her bid for re-election in March 2016 to Kim Foxx, who became the first black woman elected Cook County State’s Attorney. Alavrez won only 26 percent of the vote. Mayor Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy, who stripped Van Dyke of his police powers, but was prevented from firing him because of the city’s contract with the police union. Van Dyke is no longer a police officer. McCarthy is now a candidate for Chicago mayor. The trial lasted three weeks. The 12-person jury deliberated five hours Thursday and three hours today before reaching a verdict. Van Dyke could be sentenced to life in prison. This is the second recent conviction of a white cop for murdering a black teenager. In August, Roy Oliver, a former officer employed by the Balch Springs Police Department, near Dallas, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury convicted him of murder in the 2017 shooting death of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed passenger in a car.

GEAR UP Alabama Kick-Off

by Marva Smith

Shown Above: Mr. Erwin Dudley, former UA basketball player, GCH Assistant Principal Andrea Perry and Marva Smith, Site Facilitator, with GEAR UP students. and Mr. Erwin Dudley, Motivational Speaker, shares his coming-of-age story with GEAR UP students

The Greene County School District kicked off its fourth year of participation in GEAR UP Alabama. GEAR UP Alabama is a federally funded initiative through the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The program had its beginning at Carver Middle School and Paramount Jr. High School during the 2015-2016 academic year when the current tenth and eleventh grade students were in the seventh and eighth grades. The program will follow the students through high school graduation and into post-secondary institutions. September 23-29, 2018 is National GEAR UP Kick-Off Week. This year’s theme is “Super Heroes” which denotes that there is a super hero inside each of them…just waiting to be discovered. The week kicked off with a program in the gymnasium at Greene County High School. The program included a welcome and greetings by Mr. Willie Simmons, principal and Dr. James Carter, Superintendent; respectively. The high school choir under the directorship of Mr. Siegfried Williams rendered two melodious selections that were sung to perfection. The highlight of the program was a speech by Mr. Erwin Dudley. Mr. Dudley played basketball during early 2000s at the University of Alabama. While at the Capstone, he consistently made a name for himself. During his college basketball career, he was named All-American by the Associated Press, a consensus SEC 2002 Player-of-the-Year and an unanimous All-SEC First Team Pick. Dudley led the SEC in rebounding for three consecutive seasons, becoming the first to do so since Shaquille O’Neal. He also holds the University of Alabama school record with 129 career starts, ranks seventh all-time in scoring (1,764 points) and fourth in rebounding (1,184). Dudley recorded 43 double-doubles, giving him the nickname “E-Double-Double”. The message he drove home to the students in his closing remarks was that you can accomplish your goal if you put God first, be committed and work hard. He has had many hardships and obstacles in life but didn’t let that hinder him. His achievements have been abundant during his basketball career. He played thirteen years in an overseas basketball league in Turkey and is currently semi-retired. The National Kick-Off Week Celebration continued with “Teachers Tell Their Stories” of their college experiences on Tuesday, Graduation Commitment Day on Wednesday where students signed a poster committing to graduating from high school with their cohorts. On Super Hero Day Thursday, students dressed as Super Heroes and completed the phrase, “I will be a Super Hero by…”. On Friday, students dressed in that favorite college gear or Fresh Start or GEAR UP tees. Students will culminate their GEAR UP Kick-Off Week activities by attending the Future Proof Let Us Make Man Conference at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) on Saturday. GEAR UP Alabama objective is to cause the students’ hopes, dreams, and possibilities be a reality.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council tangle over bills and budget

At their regular Eutaw City Council meeting on September 25, 2018, Mayor Raymond Steele and City Council members once again questioned each other over outstanding bills and the need for a budget for the operations of the city. When asked by City Council members how he was determining which outstanding bills to pay, the Mayor said, “We use our best judgment and pay the most pressing bills which the Council has approved for payment. We have had no increase in our tax base in twenty or more years so we do not have enough tax and business revenue coming in to pay all of our bills.” Councilwoman Sheila Smith pressed the Mayor on the Waste Management garbage bills, “People in the city pay $15 a month on their water bills for garbage collection, yet we are three months behind ($48,000) in our payments to Waste Management for these services. Who is deciding how to use the monies paid for garbage collection to pay for other things?” inquired Smith. Councilman Latasha Johnson asked, “Why don’t we have a budget. The City of Eutaw needs a budget. The Council is in charge of the City’s finances but without information and a budget, we really don’t know how we are operating.” Mayor Steele responded, “The City has not had a budget since 2012 because of the problem with our revenue streams. “Our equipment is old and in need of constant replacement and repairs. I have been talking to the Sheriff about more bingo funds. I hope the Loves Travel Center will bring in new gas and sales tax revenues. We are doing our best to handle this difficult situation.” Councilwoman Johnson suggested that, “We should do a budget anyway to see where we are and agree on some priorities for spending our city funds.” Mayor Steele presented a contract for $448,500 from Central Asphalt Company of Tuscaloosa to repave the streets in Branch Heights with 1 and ½ inches of asphalt. “This is not a permanent solution to the problems of Branch Heights roads and streets but it will help, he said.” The Mayor asked that the Council, City Attorney and Engineer study the proposal so it can be adopted at the next meeting. Steele said the funds for the contract would come from gas tax funds, which can only be used for road improvements.

The Council approved naming four more persons to the Eutaw Airport Authority Board: Reginald Cheatem, Derrick Coleman, Collin McCray and Joe Lee Powell. The Council previously named Danny Cooper and Billy Mingus to the Board. The Eutaw Airport Authority Board will work to maintain and improve the City’s airport for use in transportation and economic development. Mayor Steele asked the Council for permission to seek cost estimates to repave West End Avenue, which was approved. The Council also approved the use of Eutaw Civic Center, formerly the National Guard Armory, for a Ducks Unlimited annual event on November 9. Darlene Robinson said that she was going to place pink ribbons around the Courthouse Square for “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” and presented a plaque to the City. John Darden asked the Council if they had a strategic plan for flooding in view of the disaster of Hurricane in the Carolinas. He also raised the problems of failing culverts and lighting on Springfield Avenue, where he lives. Police Chief Coleman introduced retired Sheriff’s deputy Tommy Johnson Sr. who has been retained as a part-time city police officer. Several people in the audience thanked the police for their life saving and crime fighting efforts.

Status Conference held in State AG lawsuit against bingo operations in Greene County

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Friday, September 28, 2018 there was a legal status conference in Eutaw on a lawsuit filed in October 2017 by Alabama Attorney General, Steve Marshall, against all electronic bingo operators in Greene County. The State of Alabama seeks to end the “public nuisance of unlawful gambling in Greene County by ending the use of slot machines and other gaming devices at five ‘casinos’ in the county”. State Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed similar lawsuits against electronic bingo in Houston, Montgomery, Lowndes and other counties, which like Greene, have passed Constitutional amendments to permit bingo. “This lawsuit is a clear and profound threat to economy, health and welfare of the people of Greene County,” said Attorney Michael Trucks of Fairfield who represents The Center for Rural Family Development, Inc. DBA Green Charity, one of the defendants in the case. Trucks pointed out in his interview with the Democrat that Greene County voters passed Constitutional Amendment 743, which permits “bingo and electronic forms of bingo to operate in Greene County”. He also indicated that Greene County’s Amendment 743 is the only one that specifically permits “electronic forms of bingo”, which the State of Alabama argues are illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette, Alabama, is hearing the case since local Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway had to recuse himself from the case. At Friday’s hearing, Judge Moore asked all of the plaintiffs and defendants in the case, the operators and charities connected to the five bingo establishments, to attend the legal conference to discuss the status and scheduling of the case. John L. Kachelman III, Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of Steve Marshall, Attorney General, represented the State of Alabama. Lawyers representing Greenetrack asked that the three main charities supporting its operations, E-911, Woman to Woman, Inc. and Greene County Association of Volunteer Firefighters be added as defendant to the lawsuit. Other lawyers asked to add the main beneficiaries of bingo fees through the Greene County Sheriff’s office including the Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Health System, Greene County municipalities and others, who receive monthly support from the bingo operations, as defendant in the lawsuit, so they could speak to the damages to their constituents and services from ending electronic bingo in the county.

Judge James Moore asked all the parties to recommend additional defendants in 14 days. He will decide which defendant groups to add to the lawsuit and give additional time to serve those entities with the lawsuit and time for them to give a response. Attorney Trucks said that he did not expect this process to be completed until early in the new year of 2019. Commenting on this lawsuit, County Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown of District 1 said, “ I have been warning for a long time that we cannot count on bingo funds forever. There is a simple way to deal with this lawsuit and that is to vote for the Democratic candidates for Governor, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on November 6.” “Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, Joe Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Bob Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court all support Amendment 743 and will not interfere or try to stop electronic bingo operations in Greene County. If they are elected on November 6, this lawsuit will be withdrawn. “Anyone who is concerned about the jobs and livelihoods of Greene County people working in bingo and the many organizations, county agencies and charities serving the people of Greene County, based on bingo funds, need to turnout and vote for the Democratic candidates on November 6. You are crazy if you don’t vote that way,” said Commissioner Brown.

Newswire : ‘Morally Wrong’: former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon condemns US for not having Universal Health Care

 By Amanda Michelle Gomez, ThinkProgress

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon

Failing to provide health care to 29.3 million people is “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong,” said former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an interview with the Guardian. The U.S. is the only wealthy country without universal coverage — and Ban faults “powerful” interest groups within the pharmaceutical, hospitals, and doctors sector. “Here, the political interest groups are so, so powerful,” Ban said. “Even president, Congress, senators and representatives of the House, they cannot do much so they are easily influenced by these special interest groups.” Ban is hardly alone in his disillusionment with the U.S. health care system and is definitely not the first foreign leader to call the United States out. When President Donald Trump attacked Britain’s health system to slam Democrats running on universal health care, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt blasted him back on Twitter, saying no one in his country “wants to live in a system where 28m people have no coverage.” It’s a well-known fact that the U.S. is an outlier in the developed world, as we spend more on health care but have worse health outcomes than other countries. Indeed, health spending is projected to rise 5.5 percent, on average, annually from 2017 to 2026 according to the federal health department. And while health spending is expected to make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy in 2026, the uninsured population is also expected to rise. “It seems with Trump just undoing Obamacare, people were not happy first of all,” said Ban about the Trump administration’s reforms that, so far, have undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Ironically, it might have motivated people to think other ways, and influence their senators, and their Congressman to think the other way.” Ban’s observations hold. A recent poll finds a majority of the public favors single-payer, meaning they’d want to replace the current private-public insurance patchwork system with a single government plan. Support for single payer or Medicare for All became especially pronounced after Republicans tried to repeal and replace the ACA, jeopardizing quality insurance particularly for those with pre-existing conditions. Since Medicare for All garnered critical support from likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, health care industry groups launched a lobbying group against single-payer plans. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future is comprised of major players including America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the American Medical Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals. Ban hopes California and New York will ultimately pass single-payer bills currently stalled in each state’s legislature, sparking a national wake-up call. “It will be either California or New York who will introduce this system,” he told the Guardian. “Then I think there will be many more states who will try to follow suit. I think that’s an encouraging phenomenon we see.” Ban made his comments as a member of The Elders, a peace and human rights organization launched by Nelson Mandela to promote ideas like universal health care. His interview with the Guardian isn’t the first time he’s criticized Trump for undermining coverage and urging states like California to embrace single payer. He recently spoke at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where he also said, “the good news is that at a state level things appear to be changing for the better.”