Newswire: Black Americans are being vaccinated at far lower rates

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Black woman being vaccinated

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two new vaccines to combat the coronavirus, the initial concern was whether African Americans would accept vaccination.
The rollout of the medicine from Pfizer and Moderna featured heavy promotion.
High-profile African Americans like former President Barack Obama, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Coronavirus Task Force Member Dr. Ebony Hilton, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson received their shots publicly.
An African American nurse in New York earned distinction as the first person in the country to receive a vaccination, and Meharry Medical College President Dr. James Hildreth, a Black man, sat on the FDA board that approved the vaccines.
Now, concern has shifted from whether African Americans will accept the vaccine.
Many now wonder whether doses would be available to the Black community.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation report has revealed that African Americans are getting vaccinated at much lower rates than whites. The report, released on Saturday, Jan. 16, shows that in 16 U.S. states where the vaccine is available, white residents are being vaccinated by as much as three times higher than African Americans.
One example is Pennsylvania, where 1.2 percent of white residents had been vaccinated, compared with just 0.3 percent of African Americans in the Keystone State.
Kaiser Family Foundation researchers noted that vaccine distribution is supposed to align with healthcare and frontline workers’ demographics, presumably making the vaccine equally available to all races.
Some have hinted the lack of vaccine access is rooted in racism – not an unwillingness of minorities to get vaccinated.
Dr. Taison Bell, of the University of Virginia, told NBC News that he was “horrified to discover that members of environmental services — the janitorial staff — did not have access to hospital email. ”Hospital staff receives its vaccination information via email, Dr. Bell stated.
“That’s what structural racism looks like,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told NBC. “Those groups were seen and not heard — nobody thought about it.”
As of Jan. 25, the U.S. had surpassed more than 25 million total cases and 413,000 deaths due to the pandemic, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are dying from COVID-19 nearly three times the rate of white people. “With the country’s coronavirus pandemic continuing unabated as cases and deaths increase, and a more contagious variant of the virus spreads, there is a greater focus on vaccine distribution troubles,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman wrote.
The covid-19 vaccine distribution effort is in trouble, Altman demurred. According to federal data, only 15 million of the more than 40 million doses distributed nationwide have been given to people. “Hundreds of different distribution programs are being organized across states and counties for frontline health workers, residents of long-term care facilities, the elderly and others that states are prioritizing in different sequences,” Altman continued.
“The country needs a distribution strategy that our fragmented, multilayered healthcare system can effectively implement. This will require more federal direction, a simpler priority structure, and a different role for the states.”

Newswire : Cigars and Whiskey – America’s oldest veteran, Richard Arvin Overton, dies at 112

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton, with Earlene Love-Karo, in the Blue Room of the White House, Nov. 11, 2013.

     Born on May 11, 1906, Richard Arvin Overton, a member of what is often called America’s “Greatest Generation,” died on December 27th in Austin, Texas. At 112 years and 230 days, Overton was believed to be the oldest living man in the United States as well as America’s oldest veteran.
     He enlisted into the Army on September 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Overton then fought in World War II, serving in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He fought in the South Pacific from 1940 through 1945, a time which included battle in Iwo Jima. He retired from the U.S. Army in October of 1945 as a technician fifth grade. He then worked at a furniture store and then took a job at the Texas Department of the Treasury.
    “He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God said former President Barack Obama in 2013 during a Veterans Day ceremony honoring Overton at Arlington National Cemetery.
     The second World War was the deadliest conflict in modern military history as over 70 million people lost their lives and the U.S. suffered over 407,000 deaths in battle.
     As the years went by Overton became a local and then national celebrity. In 2013, at the age of 107, Overton won widespread media attention after telling Fox News he would spend Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.” He was later invited to the White House.
     Overton had been hospitalized with pneumonia but was released from the hospital on December 24, Christmas Eve according to family member Shirley Overton. He had become known in his community for driving others to church well after turning 100 years old.
     “With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement on December 27 after hearing the news of Overton’s death.
     The Governor added that Overton was, “an American icon and Texas legend. Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
     Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Newswire : Pelosi assails Trump’s ‘Make America White Again’ agenda as some CBC members boycott his State of the Union Address

By Hazel Trice Edney

                                          Nancy Pelosi and Fredrika Wilson – U. S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has assailed President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, saying they are part of a hateful scheme to “make America White again.”
Pelosi, known for her fiery remarks, was perhaps at her most passionate last week in the midst of public and legislative debate concerning the “DREAMers” and following Trump’s “S***hole” description of El Salvador, Haiti and African countries while expressing the desire to bring more people from Poland, which is vastly White.
“The Administration’s anti-immigrant framework is an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the DREAMers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme,” she said in a statement released to the media. She also made the statements verbally. “The 50 percent cut to legal immigration in the framework and the recent announcements to end Temporary Protected Status for Central Americans and Haitians are both part of the same cruel agenda. They are part of the Trump Administration’s unmistakable campaign to make America White again.”
The description underscored the level of political acrimony in Washington as the nation prepared to hear Trump’s first State of the Union Address. It was speculated that he would speak of unity – which he did at his inauguration. But those words were quickly undermined by hateful remarks, including his equating White supremacist Neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan marchers to people protesting them in Charlottesville last August.
The context of Pelosi’s remarks were in response to debate over whether Trump would support the DREAMers.
The word “DREAMers” is an acronym that stands for “The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act”. It was first introduced in 2001 as a bipartisan bill in the Senate. The goal was to open opportunities for undocumented immigrants brought to the U. S. illegally as children to have a pathway to permanent legal status as long as they – in a nutshell – go to college, remain in the U.S. for a certain number of years; have good moral character; and not have violated other immigration laws.
Individuals who would have qualified under the DREAM Act are often referred to as “DREAMers.” The term has been used to define individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture and have been educated by U.S. school systems.
Because the DREAM Act never passed, a substitute program was established in 2012 by Homeland Security under President Barack Obama. It is called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and is often viewed as synonymous with the DREAM Act since it is meant to provide relief for the Dreamers until legislation is passed.
“It is often said that America is great because America is good. We are a great country that has been blessed and reinvigorated with the faith and family values of generations of immigrants,” Pelosi said. “That is why so many faith leaders, even those who support the President, have recognized that immigration strengthens our families, our churches and our communities. The DREAMers will not be ransomed for a hateful agenda that betrays our sacred American values.”
The debate over the President’s apparent “White only” perspective continued this week as members of the Congressional Black Caucus announced various ways that they would protest his perceived agenda, including boycotts of Trump’s first State of the Union Address.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) have announced they will boycott the State of the Union.
Wilson said in a CNN interview, “to go would be to honor the President and I don’t think he deserves to be honored at this time, after being so hateful towards Black people and then black countries, Haiti and the whole continent of Africa.”

Newswire : Obamacare Sign-ups at High Levels Despite Trump Saying It’s ‘Imploding’

By ROBERT PEAR, New York Times
Obamacare protest

 People protesting for Obamacare

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday that 8.8 million people had signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace, a surprisingly large number only slightly lower than the total in the last open enrollment period, which was twice as long and heavily advertised.
The numbers essentially defied President Trump’s assertion that “Obamacare is imploding.” They suggested that consumers want and need the coverage and subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act, even though political battles over the law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, are sure to continue in Congress and in next year’s midterm election campaigns.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reported the total in a Twitter post on Thursday. She said her agency had done a great job to “make this the smoothest experience for consumers to date.”
The number of people who signed up this year was 96 percent of the 9.2 million who selected health plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the federal marketplace in the last sign-up season.
“It’s a very, very strong number,” said Joshua Peck, who was the chief marketing officer for in the Obama administration. “It implies that the final week of open enrollment this year was very big.”
Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act this year had an unintended effect: They heightened public awareness of the law and, according to opinion polls, galvanized support for it among consumers who feared that it might be taken away.
“It’s incredible how many people signed up for coverage this year,” said Lori Lodes, an Obama administration official and a founder of Get America Covered, a nonprofit group.
But the strong demand for insurance through the Affordable Care Act could set off new efforts to dismantle the law.
The tax cut that Mr. Trump will soon sign repeals the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalties for most Americans who go without insurance, starting in 2019. The president said Wednesday that with elimination of the individual mandate, the health law is being effectively repealed, a statement that is untrue given the law’s expansion of Medicaid, the continued guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the subsidies still available to millions of people with low or moderate income.
The sign-up numbers seemed to indicate that despite all the politics, millions need the insurance. Nearly half of all plan selections this year — 4.1 million of the 8.8 million — occurred in the last week of open enrollment. More than one-fourth of the people who signed up this year — 2.4 million — were new customers, and 6.4 million people returned to to select plans or were automatically re-enrolled.
Those large numbers came in the face of big challenges. Before the enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, many insurers announced big rate increases for 2018. The Trump administration cut the budget for advertising to promote enrollment and greatly reduced grants to insurance counselors, known as navigators, who help people sign up for coverage.
In the first nine months of this year, Republicans tried repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, continually criticized it and asserted that health insurance markets were collapsing. Mr. Trump highlighted huge increases in premiums without noting that many consumers were eligible for federal subsidies that help cover the extra cost.
The report Thursday shows sign-ups by people in 39 states that use It does not include activity in 11 states that operate their own insurance exchanges and are also reporting strong enrollment. In some of those states, consumers have more time to sign up. The deadline is Jan. 14 in Minnesota, Jan. 15 in Washington State and Jan. 31 in California and New York.
In addition, people losing coverage because their insurer withdrew from the marketplace may qualify for a special enrollment period providing 60 additional days to sign up for a health plan.
More than 80 percent of people buying insurance through the marketplace qualify for subsidies to help pay premiums. The Trump administration said in October that the average subsidy in states using the federal marketplace would be $555 a month next year, up 45 percent from this year.
Among states using the federal exchange, the largest numbers of sign-ups this year were in Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.1 million), North Carolina (524,000), Georgia (483,000), Virginia (403,000), Pennsylvania (397,000) and Illinois (340,000).
Federal officials reported a huge surge of activity near the end of open enrollment. In Florida, more than 700,000 people selected plans or were automatically enrolled in the final week, and in Texas, the number was more than 550,000.
Ms. Verma tried over the summer to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but on Thursday, she boasted about how well the law’s insurance marketplace — under new management — was meeting the needs of consumers.
The Trump administration, she said, spent only $10 million on marketing and outreach to consumers, or just over $1 for each person who signed up. By contrast, she said, the Obama administration spent a total of $100 million last year, or nearly $11 for each person who signed up.
Moreover, Ms. Verma said, the Trump administration “took a more cost-effective approach” that emphasized the use of digital advertising and email to reach consumers.
While cutting the budget for navigator groups, the Trump administration encouraged the use of insurance agents and brokers, saying it wanted to “shift away from the government selling a private product.”

U.S. judge finds Texas voter ID law was intended to discriminate

By Ian Simpson. Reuters

Vote Here sign

A Texas law that requires voters to show identification before casting ballots was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, a U.S. federal judge ruled on Monday.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos came after an appeals court last year said the 2011 law had an outsized impact on minority voters. The court sent the case back to Ramos to determine if lawmakers intentionally wrote the legislation to be discriminatory.
Ramos said in a 10-page decision that evidence “establishes that a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage” of the measure.
“The terms of the bill were unduly strict,” she added.
Spokesmen for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Jr. and Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans, could not be reached for comment.
In January, after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, Paxton said it was a common sense law to prevent voter fraud.
The ruling on voter ID comes about a month after two federal judges ruled that Texas lawmakers drew up three U.S. congressional districts to undermine the influence of Hispanic voters.
The measure requires voters to present photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport or military ID card.
Plaintiffs have argued the law hits elderly and poorer voters, including minorities, hardest because they are less likely to have identification. They contend the measure is used by Republicans to suppress voters who typically align with Democrats.
The legislation has been in effect since 2011 despite the legal challenges.
Ramos said the law had met criteria set by the U.S. Supreme Court to show intent that included its discriminatory impact, a pattern not explainable on other than racial grounds, Texas’ history of discriminatory practices and the law’s unusually swift passage.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the plaintiffs, said the ruling showed other states that discriminatory laws would not stand up to legal scrutiny.
“This is a good ruling that confirms what we have long known, that Texas’ voter ID law stands as one of the most discriminatory voting restrictions of its kind,” she said.
In a shift from its stance under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. Justice Department dropped a discrimination claim against the law in February. The department said that the state legislature was considering changing the law in ways that might correct shortcomings.

No clues yet as to Trump’s Policy for Africa, but theories abound

Young African Leaders in (YALI) DC, an Obama program on the chopping block.

( Information Network) – If U.S. President Donald Trump has an Africa policy in the works, he’s keeping the details close to his chest. So far, there is neither an assistant secretary of state for Africa nor an ambassador. The incumbent secretary, Linda Thomas Greenfield, retires on March 10.
Peter Pham, vice-president and Africa director of the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. Is reportedly seeking a position. In a strategy paper prepared for the Trump administration, Pham proposed an initiative he calls “earned engagement.”
The US, he says, should grant diplomatic recognition only to governments with legitimate sovereign control over their countries. Somalia, for example, would not be among those countries having had 15 transitional governments following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. None of these were recognized by Republican or Democratic administrations.
Recognition might also be withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo if President Joseph Kabila fails to honor his commitment to retire this year after elections.
More resources would be channeled into Africom, according to Pham, not only to address insecurity directly, but also to continue to beef up African militaries.
Other clues as to the President’s Africa plans appeared last month in a New York Times article which revealed a retreat from development and humanitarian goals while pushing business opportunities across the continent.
New executive orders are reportedly being prepared with drastic funding cuts to U.N. peacekeeping operations – now almost a third of which are funded by the US – the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Population Fund, which oversees maternal and reproductive health programs.
Anton du Plessis, head of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies fears that Trump will “securitize” US policy, funding and engagement in Africa, focusing heavily on security problems such as Boko Haram, while ignoring efforts to create stability in the long term through democracy, good governance and sustainable development.
Among such efforts would be one of former President Barack Obama’s most successful programs – the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which brings several hundred young African professionals and entrepreneurs to the US for six weeks each summer.
“It is possible that Trump’s term in office will surprise us on Africa,” observed former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. “Republican administrations have outperformed on this front before. President Bush certainly did, and his two landmark initiatives – PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation – remain extremely popular.”
But given the absence of any serious White House interest in Africa, Secretary Rex Tillerson, with limited knowledge of Africa having dealt mainly with corrupt and authoritarian leaders as head of ExxonMobil, may become the key American player on Africa.

Obama cuts sentences of hundreds of drug offenders


By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer


President Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 reduced or eliminated the sentences for hundreds more non-violent drug offenders.

The move brings Obama well beyond his most recent predecessors, who used their commutation powers more sparingly. He’s now reduced sentences for 1,385 individuals, the vast majority of whom are serving time for crimes related to distribution or production of narcotics.


Many of those whose punishments he’s reduced were incarcerated for crimes involving crack cocaine, which came with mandatory sentences that were longer than those for the powdered version of the drug. The discrepancy — a facet of a decades-long war on drugs — overwhelmingly affected African-Americans.


Obama had hoped for legislation to permanently end the disparities in sentencing laws. While an unlikely group of activists have pushed in Congress for a bill that would alter mandatory minimums and reform the prison system, a rancorous political climate during last year’s presidential campaign prevented progress.


Instead, Obama encouraged Americans serving lengthy terms to apply for clemency, prompting a flood of applications to his Justice Department. A group of legal aid groups established the Clemency Project to help screen applicants and complete the required paperwork.


An onslaught of requests required Obama’s aides to establish a process for vetting applications, which began backing up in the Pardon Attorney’s office.

At the beginning of 2017, 13,568 petitions for clemency were still pending. The Obama administration has received more than 30,000 petitions over eight years.


The power to grant pardons and commutations is written into the US constitution as one of the president’s clearest unilateral prerogatives. With large batches often coming in the final weeks of an administration, an act of clemency cannot be challenged in court or overturned by Congress.


President George W. Bush granted 189 pardons and 11 commutations, including reducing the prison term for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators in the probe of the leak of the name of a CIA operative.


President Bill Clinton issued a flurry of pardons on his final day in office, including for financier Marc Rich and the president’s half-brother Roger Clinton. In sum, Clinton ordered 396 pardons and 61 commutations.


No recent commander-in-chief, however, has used the powers as liberally as Obama to enact a criminal justice reform agenda. Writing in the Harvard Law Review earlier this month, Obama said his push toward eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and offering clemency to non-violent drug offenders was informed by his own history.


“This is an effort that has touched me personally, and not just because I could have been caught up in the system myself had I not gotten some breaks as a kid,” Obama wrote, recalling meetings at the White House with recipients of his clemency grants who had turned their life around.


“By shifting the narrative to the way clemency can be used to correct injustices in the system — and reminding people of the value of second chances — I worked to reinvigorate the clemency power and to set a precedent that will make it easier for future presidents, governors and other public officials to use it for good,” Obama wrote.


While President-elect Donald Trump has yet to detail his planned use of clemency powers, there’s little optimism about criminal justice reform advocates that he’ll continue Obama’s efforts. Trump ran on a “law and order” platform, though rarely addressed issues of clemency or sentencing on the campaign trail.


“I’m looking at various predictors to try and decide where he might go. He wants to make America safe again. We know based on data that locking up low-level offenders won’t make America safe,” said Jessica Jackson Sloan, the national director and co-founder of #cut50, a group committed to reducing the US prison population by half. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be surprised,” Sloan said.


Obama offers optimism — and warnings – in farewell address


By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer


 President Barack Obama


Chicago (CNN) Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, declaring during his farewell address that he hasn’t abandoned his vision of progressive change but warning that it now comes with a new set of caveats.

His voice at moments catching with emotion, Obama recounted a presidency that saw setbacks as well as successes. Admitting candidly that political discourse has soured under his watch, Obama demanded that Americans renew efforts at reconciliation.

“Democracy does not require uniformity,” Obama said. “Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”

In a concession that, for now, his brand of progressive politics is stalled in Washington, Obama admitted “for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”

He implored his backers to be vigilant in protecting basic American values he warned could come under siege. “Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,” he said. “So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”

And he warned against turning inward, telling Democrats that only by involving themselves in a real political discourse could they hope to renew the hopeful vision he brought to the White House eight years ago. “After eight years as your President, I still believe that,” he went on. “And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.”


Obama’s speech is the capstone of a months-long farewell tour, manifested in extended magazine interviews, lengthy television sit-downs, and the White House’s own efforts to document the President’s waning administration. Through it all, Obama has sought to highlight the achievements of his presidency using statistics showing the country better off now than eight years ago.


As he spoke before a rowdy crowd of supporters, Obama was interrupted often with screams of “I Love you Obama.” When a protester holding a “Pardon All of Us” sign, chants of “four more years” drowned out the shouts.

Obama sought to corral his crowd, listing the accomplishments of the last eight years ranging from health care to marriage equality, all while insisting that his work isn’t finished.

He recognized his successor Donald Trump, saying he was committed to a peaceful transition of power. But he warned that going forward Democrats shouldn’t fall in line with their commander-in-chief.

Obama, who has addressed race with varying degrees of force during his time in office, used his farewell to insist Americans work harder to understand each other’s struggles. After presiding over eight years that saw race relations enter a fraught new era, Obama demanded that differences be identified and reconciled.

“Brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce” in the years ahead, Obama proclaimed, calling for better rules that will help the children of immigrants succeed.

He warned that “laws alone won’t be enough” in resolving persistent differences between Americans. “Hearts must change,” he said. He called on African-Americans and minorities to view with empathy “the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.”

And he urged whites to regard the protests of minorities as a fight “not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.”

“Regardless of the station we occupy, we have to try harder,” Obama said. “To start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”

In coming to Chicago, Obama hoped to capitalize on a well of goodwill that’s expanded in the final year of his tenure. He discarded the staid Oval Office or East Room for his last formal set of remarks, choosing instead the city where his political rise began and where he declared victory in 2008 and 2012.

Inside a vast convention hall packed with more than 20,000 of his most ardent supporters and former staffers, the mood was wistful. Ahead of his address, aides described the normally unsentimental commander in chief as nostalgic.

Over the past several weeks, Obama has offered a rational view of Trump’s election and rarely let on to any apprehension about his future as an ex-president.

First lady Michelle Obama has articulated a more candid view in a scaled-back version of her own farewell. She sat for an hour-long interview with Oprah Winfrey, frankly admitting that Democrats were now “feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And she became emotional during her final set of formal remarks at the White House Friday, her voice quaking and eyes welling with tears as she told a crowd of educators: “I hope I made you proud.”

During his speech Tuesday, Obama voice quaked when describing his wife’s service. “You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor,” he said. “You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.”

The President had been planning his speech for months, aides said, formulating the broad themes while on vacation over the holidays in Hawaii and developing drafts starting last week.

He told aides months ago that he preferred to deliver his farewell address in his hometown, a first for a departing President. George W. Bush, unpopular and facing a financial crisis, delivered his final prime-time address in the White House East Room to a crowd of 200 supporters and aides.

Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all used the Oval Office — a setting Obama has long spurned for formal remarks. George H.W. Bush traveled outside of Washington to West Point for a departing address after failing to secure a second term, though he didn’t actually bill it as a farewell.

The tradition extends back to George Washington, who issued warnings against unchecked power and partisan entrenchment in a written address to the nation in 1796.



How a repeal of the Affordable Care Act will affect Blacks

By Glenn Ellis, Health columnist

acasigning President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, members of Congress and guests before the signing of the ACA on March 23, 2010. PHOTO: The White House

( – Racism has historically had a significant, negative impact on the health care of Blacks and other people of color in the United States. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is truly the first time that African-Americans have, collectively, had significant access to health care. It is noteworthy that America’s first African-American president is chiefly responsible for this access.

Improved access to care; Medicaid expansion; prevention medicine; and lifting of barriers for pre-existing conditions, are all aspects of the ACA that have been of great benefit to Blacks. But there is a thick air of uncertainty on the horizon.

In a few weeks, Donald John Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. It is unclear how quickly, or when, Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare will play out. But make no mistake, just like the adage, “when white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia!”, a repeal of the ACA would disproportionately hurt blacks.

Republicans in Congress have put out their plans: to repeal most of the ACA without replacing it; doubling the number of uninsured people – from roughly 29 million to 59 million – and leave the nation with an even higher uninsured rate than before the ACA.

Let me point out a few ways that Blacks have, specifically, benefitted from the ACA, what many now call “Obamacare”. Given the low incomes of uninsured Blacks, nearly all (94 percent) are in the income range to qualify for the Medicaid expansion or premium tax credits. Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of uninsured Blacks have incomes at or below the Medicaid expansion limit, while an additional 31 percent are income-eligible for tax subsidies to help cover the cost of buying health insurance through the exchange marketplaces. Under the new law, insurance companies are banned from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, such as cancer and having been pregnant.

Importantly, for people living with HIV there also new protections in the law that make access to health coverage more equitable including the expansion of Medicaid and in the private market, prohibition on rate setting tied to health status, elimination of preexisting condition exclusions, and an end to lifetime and annual caps. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010 provided new opportunities for expanding health care access, prevention, and treatment services for millions of people in the U.S., including many people with, or at risk for, HIV.

Safety net hospitals play a critical role in the nation’s health care system by serving low-income, uninsured and medically and socially vulnerable patients regardless of their ability to pay. Also, in agreeing to lower payments, hospitals in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the law, have made up that revenue in part through the Medicaid expansion.

These places are critical to the health of Black communities, and in the poorest neighborhoods. They have been among the loudest voices against repeal of the health law, as they could lose billions if the 20 million people lose the insurance they gained under the law. This could bring about widespread layoffs, cuts in outpatient care and services for the mentally ill, and even hospital closings.

Under the ACA, these hospitals have received subsidies (or credits) to provide care based on a patients’ income levels. Should this change, community hospitals may have more difficulty weathering the storm of an increase in the number of uninsured.

Admittedly, there are some real problems with the ACA as we have come to know it; not the least being steady increases in premiums (midrange plans increased 22 percent nationally in 2016, with the average premium set to rise 25 percent in 2017); nearly 70 percent of all ACA plan provider networks are narrower than promised; and the high-deductibles and co-pays. Perhaps the most universal complaint is the “individual mandate”, that requires everyone in the United States to have insurance, or face a financial penalty.

Republicans are dead set on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Congress will likely pass significant modifications to the Affordable Care Act this month, which will be signed by incoming President Trump. The plans they have proposed so far would leave millions of people without insurance and make it harder for sicker, older Americans to access coverage. No version of a Republican plan would keep the Medicaid expansion as Obamacare envisions it.

Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely puts the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in jeopardy. A full repeal is unlikely, but major changes through the budget reconciliation process (which cannot be filibustered) are nearly certain.

But let me be clear; changes are needed in the ACA, but the idea of dismantling it remains a troubling prospect for Blacks.

Emmett Till bill reauthorized


Will it spur more of an effort to solve civil rights murders than the original legislation

By Frederick Lowe

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from


 Emmett Till

( – President Barack Obama has signed legislation permanently reauthorizing a law that expands prosecution of civil rights-era murders after an earlier version of the law failed miserably to live up to expectations.

The President, Dec. 16, signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Bill of 2007, which expands the authority of the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate and prosecute race-based murders.

The legislation is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was kidnapped and murdered on Aug. 28, 1955,  in Money, Miss., by Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a White woman.

The teenager’s beaten and horribly mutilated body, tied to a heavy industrial fan, floated to the surface of the Tallahatchie River, where it was discovered by two boys swimming in the river.

An all-White male jury found Milam and Bryant not guilty, but the two admitted killing Till in a Jan. 24, 1956 interview with Look magazine for which they were paid. Bryant operated a store and it went out business after blacks launched a boycott.

The current Emmett Till legislation was scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the government’s fiscal year.  The legislation was passed in 2008, after being introduced by Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement. Lewis’ bill limited investigations to violations that occurred before 1970.

The original legislation failed to live up to its promise, according to a U. S. Senate review of the law. There has been only one successful prosecution as result of the bill. The Senate also noted other challenges such as the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy and a pre-1994 five-year statute of limitations on federal criminal civil rights charges.

“Ultimately, a DOJ report stated that it is unlikely that any of the remaining cases would be prosecuted,” the Senate reported. The Cold Case Justice Initiative of the DOJ last year closed 115 of the 126 cases on their list, often without pursuing potential witnesses or victims’ family members, the Senate said.

Last year, civil right activists testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that the DOJ and the FBI have not done enough to solve the murders of civil rights workers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s despite the Emmett Till legislation.

The murders of black men, women and children have been extensive and almost no perpetrators have been brought to justice.

The Equal Justice Initiatve, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., reported that nearly 4,000 black men, black women and black children were lynched between 1877 and 1950. Many lynching were extrajudicial but others were either organized or encouraged by law enforcement officials.

Congress passed the expanded Emmett Till legislation on Dec. 13th. The legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate bill, S. 2854, and House bill, H. R. 5067, require the Department of Justice to reopen and review cases closed without an in-person investigation conducted by the DOJ or the FBI. The DOJ also must establish a task force to conduct a thorough investigation of Emmett Till Act Cases.

“Perhaps most significantly to us is that the FBI will be required to travel to the communities to do their investigative work, not simply read over old files from a desk in Washington and make a couple phone calls,” said Janis McDonald, co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, which is based at Syracuse University.

The DOJ must indicate the number of cases referred by a civil rights organization, an institution of higher education or a state or local law enforcement agency.  The bill also requires the DOJ to report the number of cases that resulted in federal charges, the date charges were filed and whether DOJ declined to prosecute or participate in an investigation of a referred case and any activity on reopened cases.

In addition, the law enforcement agencies must coordinate information sharing, hold accountable perpetrators or accomplices in unsolved civil rights murders and comply with Freedom Information Act requests.

The legislation also allows DOJ to award grants to civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education and other eligible entities for expenses associated with investigating murders under the Emmett Till Act.

One major issue facing this legislation is the extent to which it will be implemented in a U. S. Justice Department headed by Trump Attorney General nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who did not vote for this and other civil rights legislation during his Senatorial career.