New Universal Health Care Bill Introduced in Congress
SCHAKOWSKY, CONYERS INTRODUCE BILL CALLING ON CONGRESS TO PASS UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE BILL BY 2004 LEGISLATION IS FIRST ACTION OF NEWLY CREATED CONGRESSIONAL UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE
April 17, 2001
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) today announced that she has been named a Co-chair of the newly created Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force.
The Task Force, which has 44 members, is committed to making sure that every person has access to comprehensive, affordable and high quality health care. Representative John Conyers chairs the Task Force. Representatives John Tierney, Donna Christensen and Barbara Lee are also co-chairs.
In its first action, the Task Force introduced the Conyers-Schakowsky bill, which directs Congress to enact universal health care legislation by October 2004. In the meantime, the Task Force will work for improvements in health care that move toward that goal. Representative Schakowsky's statement follows:
"I am proud to join with my colleagues in the launch of the Universal Health Care Task Force and to reaffirm my commitment to providing every person with access to comprehensive, affordable and high quality health care. Our nation continues to lead the world in the amount of money we spend on health care, but we continue to lag behind much of the rest of the world in meeting the health needs of our people.
"During one of the most prosperous times in our history, 43 million Americans, including 10 million children, are uninsured. Millions of others are poorly insured. Over 13 million "insured" senior citizens lack prescription drug benefits. HMO enrollees are not guaranteed that they will get the medical care prescribed by their doctors. Persons with disabilities often are denied the very treatments that they need, and discrimination against mental health services remains widespread. High cost-sharing requirements create insurmountable financial barriers to needed care. Disparities in access to care continue to plague communities of color, as well as underserved rural and urban neighborhoods.
"Unfortunately, the Bush Administration appears to be moving in exactly the wrong direction. Reports are that the President's budget will virtually wipe out community access programs that provide care to the uninsured, slashing $140 million in funding to $20 million. At the same time that people living with HIV and AIDS are seeing cutbacks in benefits, the Bush budget fails to increase resources for state-based programs. Instead of proposing a Medicare drug benefit available to all beneficiaries, the President's budget would leave out 10 million senior citizens and persons with disabilities. At a time when millions of Americans lack access to care, the Bush budget places a higher priority on giving tax breaks to the richest one percent than on meeting our critical health care needs.
"We have a different vision for our country as we enter the new century, one that guarantees that every person enjoys health security. We can join the rest of the industrialized world in making health care a right and improving care for all. With the support of consumers, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, health care workers and professionals and others, we will create the grassroots momentum needed to get the job done."
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Shamed and humiliated - the drugs firms back down
Special report: Aids
By Chris McGreal in Pretoria
Thursday April 19, 2001
The Guardian - UK
The world's largest drug companies are today expected to
make a humiliating climbdown and abandon their legal
action against South African laws aimed at getting cheaper
medicines to the poor.
The suit by 39 pharmaceutical companies in the Pretoria
high court, which argued that the South African
legislation infringed their patent rights, has ultimately
achieved the very thing it tried to prevent - encouraging
governments across the developing world to use the law to
obtain more affordable drugs.
But the withdrawal of the drugs firms from the case,
described by one government official as "unconditional
surrender", will stave off another public relations
disaster. The companies faced having to reveal some of
their most closely guarded business secrets, including
pricing policies, profit levels and the source of funding
for research into key anti-Aids drugs.
The trial was scheduled to resume yesterday after a six-
week recess. During that time a groundswell of public and
government opposition to the legal action caused some of
the largest firms to rethink their strategy. Protesters
across the globe accused them of putting profits ahead of
lives and Germany, France, Holland and the European
parliament called for the suit to be dropped.
Last-minute talks between five big firms - including the
world's largest pharmaceutical company, Britain's
GlaxoSmithKline - and the South African government dragged
on through Wednesday, causing the court to postpone the
hearing until today.
The drug companies have now accepted virtually all of the
legislation - including the South African government's
right to import generic drugs at a fraction of the cost of
brand names - but they are pressing the health ministry to
rewrite a key section of the law to clarify and limit the
circumstances in which it can grant compulsory licences
for third parties to manufacture patented medicines at a
It is not clear if the South Africans will give ground on
this issue but the government has already said that its
primary interest is not in copying patented drugs but in
importing generics from other countries or manufacturing
However, what is certain is that the big drug companies
have lost all heart for the fight. Although some smaller
firms could technically pursue the case, lawyers said it
was highly unlikely that they will.
Mark Heywood, a legal strategist for the Aids pressure
group, the Treatment Action Campaign, which played a key
role in forcing the drug companies to drop the case, said:
"The case was doing significant damage to the
multinationals' image and investor confidence in them. The
case was also forcing out of the woodwork certain aspects
of their business practices they did not want exposed in
court and aired before the world's media. They had no
A split has developed between some of the larger drug
companies and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association
of South Africa (PMA), which headed the legal action.
Some drug firms are now saying the case should never have
been pursued. They were also disturbed at the content of
some submissions by PMA lawyers, which were a PR disaster.
At yesterday's hearing, several drug firms sent in their
own legal teams.
One submission, which was particularly heavily criticised
in South Africa, argued that unless there were financial
returns there was little incentive for drugs companies to
develop new Aids treatments.
While international opinion was clearly an important
factor in the firms' withdrawal, they had also realised
they were on shaky legal ground.
The PMA effectively abandoned its argument that the South
African law breached international patent protection
agreements before the court case opened, after the World
Trade Organisation and several governments said Pretoria's
legislation was legitimate. Instead, the drug companies
argued in court that the laws breached South Africa's own
constitution by giving too much power to cabinet ministers
to decide when to override patents and because they failed
to define what "unaffordable" meant in a medical context.
The government recognised that some of the legislation was
poorly worded and was preparing itself for a judgment that
would uphold its right to introduce such laws but require
that this one be rewritten with greater clarity.
As the first phase of the trial progressed, prospects of
success steadily dimmed while the cost to the drug
companies' reputations was huge.
"They might have thought all this shit was worth taking if
they were going to win, but they knew they weren't," said
one lawyer working on the case against the drug firms.
"The best they could hope to do was hold up the
implementation of the law a little longer during the
appeals and maybe scare a few other governments off of
following South Africa's lead."
South African health officials say they are ready to put
the new law into practice within weeks once the legal
challenge is finally dropped.
But despite international public opinion rallying around
the South Africans over access to anti-Aids drugs, the
government has no intention of importing anti-retrovirals
in the near future even though one in nine of the
population - 4.7m - is HIV-positive.
It will instead seek medicines to combat opportunistic
infections brought on by Aids and drugs to deal with other
diseases such as malaria.
Africa: the deadly toll
• 25.3m Africans were living with HIV or Aids in 2000 and
2.4m people died of HIV-related causes
• Africa is home to nearly 70% of adults and 80% of
children with HIV in the world
• In South Africa and Zimbabwe, Aids could claim the lives
of around half of all 15-year-olds
• South Africa has more people living with HIV and Aids
than any other country. Pretoria estimates that 4.7m
people are carrying HIV. Experts warn the number may rise
to 7m by 2010
• South Africa's neighbour Botswana has the highest rate
of HIV infection, with an estimated 35.8% of all adults
living with the disease. Life expectancy in Botswana has
been cut to 44 years
• HIV patients occupy nearly 40% of the beds in the
Kenyatta national hospital in Nairobi and 70% of the beds
in the Prince Regent hospital in Burundi
• Aids deaths in South Africa are expected to rise from
around 120,000 last year to an annual 635,000 in 2010
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"City Cousins" get taste of farming
by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu’min Muhammad
April 20, 2001
Visitors from the Southern Region of the Nation of Islam came to Muhammad Farms on Saturday, April 14, 2001. Represented was Muhammad Mosque No. 15, the Columbus Ga. Study Group, Augusta, Ga. Study Group and Huntsville, Al. Study Group. They were given a tour of our 1600 acre farm AFTER they did some farm work so that they would fully appreciate the tour.
Unfortunately, many of our "city cousins" think that food grows in the grocery store. Now that ‘mad cows’, hoof and mouth disease, and "StarLink" corn have awakened the need for safe food, many want "organically" grown food but have no idea of difference between "gardening" a 100’ by 50’ plot and 1600 acres. An acre is 3/4ths of a football field.
The visitors picked spinach and cabbage and some had the experience of picking cotton buds left over from the previous year. Even though our two acres of cabbage had been severely stunted by a cold snap on December of last year, there was more cabbage than the visitors could take home with them.
They also pulled weeds out of our organically grown wheat, which we intend to mill into whole wheat flour, and they also hoed weeds in our carrots. It was quite humorous to watch our novices struggle to determine the weeds from the carrot plants, because of the weeds’ ability to mimic the carrot tops. The carrots should be ready by the beginning of May along with wheat from last year that we milled into flour.
After weeks of continuous rain, the ground is beginning to dry enough to plant our spring and summer crops of navy beans, okra, tomatoes, bell peppers, egg plants, zucchini and yellow squash, sweet corn, green beans and watermelons. These are the vegetable crops that will be grown at Muhammad Farms. However, we are working with other Black farmers in both Georgia and Alabama which will allow us to expand the variety of crops that we can offer our customers.
Information on the crops and pictures as they grow will be available on our web site, www.MuhammadFarms.com .
See Pictures at: Visitors to Muhammad Farms for 2001
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Subject: [menshealth] The Effect of Fathers on Children's Health
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2001 14:29:44 -0000
Warren Farrell has recently published a book on "Father and Child
Reunion" (published by Putnam in 2001). The book is filled with
information on the important role that fathers play in their children's
lives, including the effects on children's health.
These are some of the findings that can be found in this excellent
resource (references to the original research in parentheses):
1. Effects of Father Visits on the Health of Premature Infants:
• An Israeli study found that the more frequently a father visited the
hospital of an infant who is prematurely born, the more rapidly the
infant gained weight and the more quickly the infant was able to leave
the hospital, and the better was the infant's social development and
its ability to adapt (Levy-Shiff R, Hoffman MA, Mogilner S et al.
Fathers' hospital visits to their preterm infants as a predictor of
father-infant relationship and infant development. Pediatrics 1990; 86:
2. Effects of Father Absence on Child Health
Compared to children who live with both parents, children who live with
their mother only are :
• Three times as likely to need treatment for emotional or behavioral
• One-half more likely to have frequent headaches or chronic asthma
• One-third more likely to have one or more indicators of
hyperactivity, or to stammer or have other speech defect
• One-fourth more likely to have chronic bed-wetting, or to have one or
more indicators of anxiety or depression
(National Center for Health Statistics: Family Structure and Children's
Health, United States, 1988. Vital and Health Statistics. Hyattsville,
MD: NCHS, 1991, Series 10, No. 178)
3. Effects of the Father-Child Relationship on Drug Use among Youth
• Positive father sentiment (closeness) accounted for 10% of variance
in predicting drug use among youth. Only age accounted for more
variance (17%) (Coombs RH, Landsverk J. Parenting styles and substance
use during childhood and adolescence. J Marr Fam 1988; 50: 479)
4. Effects of Father Absence on Childrens' Psychiatric Hospitalizations
• 80% of pre-school children admitted as psychiatric patients in two
New Orleans hospitals came from homes without fathers (Dalton R et al.
Psychiatric hospitalization of pre-school children: Admission factors
and discharge implications. J Am Acad Child Adoles Psychiatr 1987; 26:
5. Effects of Father Absence on Childrens' Suicide Rates
• Father absence is associated with higher suicide rates in children
(Warren LW, Tomlinson-Keasey C. The context of suicide. Am J
Orthopsychiatr 1987; 57: 42; Velez CN, Cohen P. Suicidal behavior and
ideation in a community sample of children: Maternal and child health
reports. J Am Acad Child Adoles Psychiatr 1988; 273: 349-356)
The book also contains information on the health of fathers themselves:
1. Fertility Behavior
• About one-third of contraceptives in the US are used by men (Amory
JK, Bremner WJ. Newer agents for hormonal contraception in the male.
Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 2000; 11: 61.)
2. Effects of Divorce on the Man's Health
• Divorce increases a man's suicide risk to 9.9 times greater than a
divorced woman (Kposowa AJ Marital status and suicide in the National
Longitudinal Mortality Study. J Epidemiol Comm Health 2000; 54: 256.)
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June 17-23 - Florida A&M University
Our time has come.
It is not enough to rebel against the lack of justice; we must also
rebel against the lack of imagination.
-- Roberto Unger & Cornel West
Remember the Florida election? Butterfly ballots, hanging chads,
roadblocks, recounts … and the sinking feeling in the stomachs of the
American people that this is not the way democracy is supposed to work?
Now is the time to rise up and demand change. Even Congress is suddenly
tackling campaign finance reform, and several states are considering
re-enfranchising ex-felons. Everybody knows: until Washington ceases to
be a white boys' network of power lunches and backroom deals,
progressive change will be impossible.
Democracy Summer 2001 is an historic gathering of a multi-ethnic and
cross-generational alliance of organizations and individuals committed
to building a pro-democracy movement. First, the Democracy Institute, a
week-long training on electoral reform and organizing skills, will take
place June 17-23 at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida's
state capital (the scene of the crime). After that week, participants
will be placed in activist-internships around the country according to
their interest and availability.
This Pro-Democracy Campaign has been developing ever since the Florida
election scandal hit, and over 100 organizations have endorsed a
10-point Voters' Bill of Rights:
1) Strict Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act
2) Abolition of the Electoral College
3) Clean Money Elections
4) Instant Runoff Voting
5) Proportional Representation
6) Voting Rights for Former Prisoners
7) Making Voting Easier and More Reliable
8) Easier Candidate Access to the Ballot, Media, and Debates
9) Independent and Non-Partisan Election Bodies
10) Statehood for the District of Columbia
(for the full text go to www.votersbillofrights.org)
At the Democracy Institute, we will learn, organize, and brainstorm
- alternatives to money-driven, winner-take-all politics
- local organizing for electoral reform,
- the student-led voting rights movement of the 1960s,
- coalition-building, direct action & organizing skills
Democracy Summer is our opportunity to build a movement in our own
image. Let's get this party started! For more information, contact Tanya
or Sekou at Democracy Summer, 202-234-9382, or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit our website at
Sponsoring Organizations: Black Youth Vote, Democracy Matters, Fannie
Lou Hamer Project, Global Exchange, Independent Progressive Politics
Network (IPPN), Institute for Policy Studies/Progressive Challenge,
NAACP Youth and College Division, National Coalition on Black Civic
Participation, and Rock the Vote. See www.democracysummer.org for a
complete list of endorsers.
University or Organizational Affiliation (optional)
Do you want to be matched with an internship as a field organizer
following the Institute? (Note that most internships are unpaid. They
will last one week to eight, depending on your availability)
Answer in 1-2 paragraphs:
1) What are your particular interests relating to electoral reform and
the Voters' Bill of Rights?
2) What do you hope to get out of Democracy Summer?
Fees and Scholarships:
Registration fee is $300 including full room and board. We are
committed to making sure that nobody is turned away due to lack of
funds. Please contact us or see our website for information on
scholarships and fundraising. Internship placement and support is free
April 30 is the target deadline, but we will accept applications on a
rolling basis after that based on space available. Once you receive a
letter of confirmation from Democracy Summer, we will require a deposit
to secure your space.
Send your application back to:
c/o Institute for Policy Studies
733 15th Street NW, Suite 1020
Washington, DC 20005
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ALERT! Canada Turning Away Activists
by Chris Strohm and Eric Laursen 1:15am
Tue Apr 17 '01 (Modified on 1:53pm Tue Apr 17 '01)
Canadian police search people at border, deny crossings (english) by Chris
Strohm and Eric Laursen 1:15am Tue Apr 17 '01 (Modified on 2:47am Tue Apr
17 '01) Stay posted to the IMC for updated coverage.
Canadian police are cracking down at the border, searching people and
photocopying items, and denying activists entry into the country.
Canadian police are searching people and cars at the border and denying
some people entry into the country merely because of the way they look,
according to reports.
People have been denied entry into Canada when trying to cross the border
by car and train from Buffalo, NY, to Richmond, VT -- in some cases with
no reason given by the authorities.
Police are searching everything from cars and luggage to wallets and
diaries and questioning people about whether they are heading into Canada
to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec City,
Several activists have been denied entry in the last 48 hours; about 100
have been turned away since January, an activist said.
There are no reports of items being confiscated or people being arrested,
and many activists are converging in Burlington, VT after being denied at
However, authorities are photocopying items they search and asking people
to provide documentation of any previous arrests, activists said.
Activists with prior arrests at political demonstrations are being denied
One activist said border officers told her, "We can turn you away just
because of a feeling." She was kept at the border for two and a half hours
while her car and belongings, including a diary, were searched by police.
At the same time, she witnessed police let a man who was driving a humvee
and had a riffle pass with hardly a delay. The man showed his gun to
police, paid $50 and was permitted to cross the border, she said.
Ultimately, she was permitted to cross but her friend was not because he
had a prior arrest.
Two activists traveling from New York City to Quebec City were removed
from a passenger train after being told, "You're not getting into Canada."
Other passengers appeared to have been taken off the train as well, and
the entire train "seemed to be swarming with immigration agents and
police." The activists were taken to an immigration office, where they
were interrogated for more than an hour and photographed, and all
documents in their possession were photographed as well.
Canadian immigration's practice appears in many cases to be to detain
people for 48 hours in a detention facility before letting them see
someone. In this case, however, the activists were released on the
American side after just a few hours with immigration.
Another activist, named Issac, said he and his friend were kept at the
border for an hour and a half while police searched his possessions and
photocopied phone numbers, receipts, bank statements and books.
The police asked the two men repeated questions about whether they were
going to protest the FTAA. They said they were not going to protest.
The authorities eventually found what they called three "questionable
objects" -- a business card from a Seattle nonprofit, an old license plate
frame with the phrase "Animal Liberation," and a little firecracker that
was left in the bottom of a bag for years. Finally, the police denied
Isaac's friend entry because he had a previous arrest, saying he needs to
provide documentation that he was not convicted.
Issac said the odd thing was that his 62-year-old uncle tried to cross the
border days later and was also denied, even though he is a Quebec native.
Also, within the last 48 hours a medic was turned away at the border.
She was denied entry after she told police she was going to Quebec City to
be a street medic. She had contacts with the Quebec Red Cross and no
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April 9, 2001
Slavery, Racist Violence, and Apartheid:
The Case for Reparations
By Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua <email@example.com>
I may state to all our friends, and to all our enemies, that
we has a right to the land where we are located. For why? I
tell you. Our wives, our children, our husbands, has been
sold over and over again to purchase the lands we now locate
upon; for that reason we have a divine right to the land.
And den didn't we clear the lands and raise the crops of
corn, ob cotton, ob tobacco, ob rice, ob sugar, ob
everything? And den didn't the large cities in de North grow
up on de cotton and de sugars and de rice dat we made? . . .
I say they have grown rich, and my people is poor.
--Bayley Wyatt, a freedman from Yorktown, Virginia in Roy
Finkenbine (ed.), Sources of the African-American Past
(London: Longman, 1993), p. 88.
Neoconservative activist David Horowitz's anti-reparations
advertisement has provoked a storm of controversy on college
campus from Maine to California. In the wake of multiracial
student protests, many university newspapers have rightfully
refused to run Horowitz's factually challenged ad. Despite
his intentions, David Horowitz has helped move the issue of
reparations for African Americans into the headlines and the
consciousness of the American public. Although mainstream
talk shows have merely provided Horowitz with a friendly
forum in which to reiterate his simplistic and contradictory
rant, his ad and appearances have reenergized student
Ten Reasons why African Americans Deserve Reparations
To understand what's at stake requires we contextualize and
thoroughly analyze Horowitz's "Ten Reasons Why Reparations
for Blacks Are a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too." It
was first published as part of The Death of the Civil Rights
Movement (Los Angeles: Center for the Study of Popular
Culture, 2000). Death is a diatribe against Rev. Al
Sharpton's "Redeem the Dream" March to end racial profiling.
Consequently, Death is a vociferous attack on Black
activists and a fevered defense of racial profiling. For
instance, Horowitz interprets Attorney Johnnie Cochran's
encouraging Blacks to join juries, as racist. Horowitz
snidely sums up Cochran's point as "Get it, Whitey?" (P. 9).
Knowing his audience facilitates unmasking his motivations.
Horowitz's purpose is to spark racial hostility, to mobilize
opposition to the elimination of discriminatory policies and
practices. Thus, "Ten Reasons" first appeared as part of a
pro-racial profiling pamphlet.
Horowitz's real purpose is to promote the notion that race,
by which he means racism is dead. From this perverted
position, he logically concludes that contemporary Black
activism is unnecessary. Therefore, he portrays activists as
self-serving con artists and the African American people as
their dupes. In Horowitz's color-blind perspective, group
parity is irrelevant, because race is a fiction. He wants
the public to believe that because race is an unscientific
concept that it is also a non-existent social reality.
Horowitz is the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing. He is the
prototypical color-blind liberal or neoconservative who
would abolish the race concept, that is all racial
classification; but would maintain the system and social
relations produced by racial oppression.
As important, if not more so, is the moment during which
Horowitz escalated his anti-reparations assault. Over the
past few years, activists have pushed reparations to the
center of discourse in the African American community.
Moreover, it has recently burst into traditional politics.
Several city councils, including Chicago, Dallas, and
Detroit have passed pro-reparation resolutions. According to
Horowitz, he launched his latest salvo because reparations
"is fast becoming the next big `civil rights' thing" (p.
Horowitz frames his anti-reparations argument in the form of
questions or assertions and responses. His opinions are
devoid of data and deficient in historical evidence. Because
they lack validity, his responses never rise to the level of
"answers." What are Horowitz's specific arguments against
African American reparations? The titles in the
advertisement often differ from those in Death. Whereas the
pamphlet targeted the racist right, the ad aimed for a mass
audience; thus, Horowitz sanitized it of its more explicitly
inflammatory titles. Consequently, because the titles in
Death are generally more revealing of his racist motivations
I have chosen to use them. Nevertheless, I engage his
responses in both Death and the advertisement.
1. Who Owes the Debt?
Horowitz claims "There is no single group clearly
responsible for the crime of slavery" because of African and
Arab involvement in the slave trade and 3,000 African
American slaveholders. The problems with his presentation
here pervades the rest of his discussion. This time his
information is generally accurate but stripped from its
socio-historical and legal context, and the power relations
of the slave(ry) trade its trivia, at best, and duplicitous,
at worst. That is, without the context we do not know what
this information means and when contextualized it generally
does not mean what Horowitz implies. Scholars of the slave
trade generally acknowledge the role of power relations as a
coercive factor stimulating African participation. As Walter
Rodney pointed out in his classic text, How Europe
Underdeveloped Africa, Europeans controlled the
international slave trade. Without excusing the role of
kings and other African elites, their involvement must be
understood in the context of actual power relations.
Another example of how decontextualization distorts history
is his discussion of Black slaveholders. First, according to
census of 1830 there 3,777 Black slave owners, not 3,000 as
Horowitz states (Christian, 1999, p. 100). Amazingly, his
facts are wrong, even when they bolster his position!
Nevertheless, the existence of 3,777 Black slaveholders is
meaningless without knowing the total number of
slaveholders. In 1850 there were 348,000 slave holding
families (the Census Bureau collected the data on families,
not individuals). Thus, the three thousand seventy-seven
Black slaveholders comprised only about one percent of
slaveholding families! Second, African American slave owners
were a statistical reality that tells us nothing about
actual relationships. Although many Black slave owners held
others in bondage, that is they asserted rights of ownership
and exploited slave labor, most did not. Most so-called
Black slave owners are a statistical phenomenon. They were
people of some means who purchased family and friends from
bondage, but never imposed master-slave relationships.
Even given the role of Africans, Arabs, and African
Americans Horowitz's conclusion is deceptive. He offers a
negative conclusion, "no single group is responsible"; yet,
this scenario cries out for a positive one, i.e., that
several groups were responsible. Moreover, the participation
of multiple ethnicities does not mean that all participated
or benefited equally. Furthermore, African Americans seek
recompense from the only governmental entity still in
existence the United States, their government.
2. African Americans Have also Benefited from Slavery
Horowitz makes two comparative claims here. First, he argues
that if the present wealth of the United States resulted
from slavery, than African Americans as well as whites are
beneficiaries of enslavement. Second, he offers an estimate
of the difference between African Americans' and Africans'
per capita incomes as evidence that African Americans
benefited from slavery.
First, he proceeds as if wealth accumulation produces
positive impacts across society. This illogical argument
suggests that slaves of wealthy masters were better off than
the slaves of poor ones. Relationships of domination and
exploitation are parasitic, not mutually beneficial. That
is, the slave trade and slavery enriched European nation-
states and the U.S. (particularly the class of slaveholders,
slave trading merchants and manufacturers) but impoverished
Africans and African Americans. Horowitz can only make this
argument in the abstract. Actual data reveals that African
Americas' percentage of U.S. wealth has stayed roughly the
same, about one percent since the ante-bellum period.
Furthermore, he limits his discussion of "benefits" to a
narrow economic argument. Thus, he circumvents discussing
the effects of racial oppression, particularly racist
violence in producing stressors that undermine Blacks'
physical and psychological health.
His second assertion is also ahistorical and represents a
false comparison. It is ahistorical because he ignores the
role of five centuries of slave trading and colonialism in
producing contemporary African poverty. Secondly, comparing
the per capita income of African Americans to various
African nationalities is spurious because of the vast
differences in the gross national product of African
nation-states and the U.S. This difference is largely the
consequence of the slave trade and colonialism.
3. What About the Descendants of Union Soldiers Who Gave
Their Lives To Free the Slaves?
Here Horowitz makes three assertions. First, he contends
only a minority of whites nationally owned slaves. Second,
he claims only one in five whites in the ante- bellum South
was a slaveholder. Third, he posits that 350,000 Union
soldiers "died in the war that freed the slaves" (p. 35).
His first claim is correct; nationally, only a minority of
U.S. families owned slaves. In 1790 23 percent of the U.S.
families owned slaves and only 10 percent in 1850. However,
his second claim is a blatant lie. In 1790 72 percent of
southern families owned slaves. In 1850, in the South
Atlantic and the East Central sub regions, 31 and 32 percent
of families owned slaves (Census Bureau, 1979, p. 12)
In his third declaration, Horowitz deliberately misleads the
reader by blurring the issue. Three hundred fifty thousand
Union soldiers died in the Civil War and the war did
precipitate slavery's abolition, but it was not fought to
abolish slavery. The North fought to preserve the Union. It
only became a war to end slavery when Lincoln realized that
victory necessitated destroying the Confederacy's capacity
to wage war, that is removing its most productive resource,
4. Most Whites Have No Connection to Slavery
Horowitz's main contention is that most contemporary U.S.
citizens do not have a "lineal connection to slavery" (p.
35). His argument here is quite devious. First, he uses the
ambiguity inherent in term "lineal" to manipulate the
reader. Second, he cynically attempts to pit African
Americans against recent immigrants of color and other
oppressed ethnicities. Although Horowitz means a straight
line for many readers lineal suggests a heredity
relationship. Of course, most Americans are not biological
descendants of slaveholders, but all white Americans have
benefited from the legacy of racial oppression -- white
privilege and Black exploitation, exclusion and
subordination. Planters, small slaveholders, and capitalist
manufacturers, exporters, investors, and insurers of slave
produced products benefited from the exploitation of slave
labor. During the century from 1865 to 1965 the same groups,
plus industrial capitalists benefited from the
superexploitation of Black labor.
Third, he limits reparations to compensation for slavery. It
is on this basis that he argues post-slavery immigrants are
not liable for reparations. Although post slavery European
immigrants were brutally exploited and endured ethnic
discrimination, like the Irish and Germans before them they
expressed their rage by replicating their treatment on
Blacks. Even so, by World War II the Italians, Hungarians
Greeks, and Poles had become "white" and have since enjoyed
the full benefits of whiteness in a white supremacist
country. Whether native or immigrant the vast majority of
white middle and working class Americans, have benefited
from the exclusion of Blacks from professional and civil
service jobs, unions, and governmental programs. For
instance, African Americans were denied the opportunity to
participate in the 1962 Homestead Act that transferred
hundreds of millions of acres to white citizens and European
immigrants. Additionally, Blacks were practically excluded
from the 1935 Social Security Act because almost all worked
as farm laborers or domestics. Furthermore, from the 1940s
to the early 1960s white homebuyers obtained low interest
Federal Housing Authority loans, a program from which Blacks
were excluded. Finally, as governmental data indicates
whites continue to benefit from racial discrimination in
employment, loans, housing, and healthcare. Consequently,
activists demand reparations not just for enslavement, but
for exclusion, discrimination, and the racial violence that
characterized the era of segregation as well for
Finally, his argument here implicitly his contradicts the
position presented in point two. There he argues that if the
United States' wealth was partly created by slave labor,
than African Americans, as inheritors of U.S. wealth, are
also beneficiaries of slave- produced wealth. If he were
right, wouldn't this situation also apply to all persons
living in the U.S., including white Americans?
5. The Cases of Jewish and Japanese Reparations Are Not
Comparable And Therefore Do Not Provide Precedents
Horowitz dismisses African Americans' reparation claims
because unlike Jews and Japanese-Americans, he contends
Blacks are not survivors of the wrongs for which they seek
retribution. He frames his argument in what legal scholar
Eric K. Yamamoto calls "traditional remedies law," which
seeks to identify specific individual victims and abusers
(Yamamoto, 1998, p. 488). However, Black demands for
reparations are based on group, not individual rights.
>From about 1641 to 1965, federal and state law classified
individuals by race and distinguished rights and
opportunities on that basis. Group membership, not
individual merit, determined one's role, position, and
status in the economy, polity, and civil society.
Individuals assigned to the African category were treated as
a separate and subordinate group.
Moreover, since the establishment of the Indian Claims
Commission in 1946, the U.S. federal government and numerous
state governments have paid reparations to persons other
than survivors or their immediate descendants. During the
1980s several Native American nations have received
reparations in form of money and land for actions a century
or more ago. For instance, in 1986 the Ottawas of Michigan
received $32 million based on an 1836 Treaty.
6. What About Successful Blacks? What Is Their Economic
Horowitz's major assertion is that slavery and subsequent
racial discrimination were either non-existent or have been
insufficient barriers to success. He make this point by
contrasting the Black middle class, which he claims composes
the majority of African Americans, and West Indian
immigrants to the so-called "underclass." Except the
disparities between African Americans' and West Indians'
incomes, his assertions are unsupported. Moreover, his logic
and conclusions are absurd.
First, the minority of African Americans who attained middle
class position, have generally done so by taking advantage
of the fleeting opportunities available in the aftermath of
successful collective Black struggles. Members of those
classes best positioned previously have made the most
advances. Moreover, that members of the Black middle and
capitalist classes suffer racial discrimination is widely
documented in past and current employment, housing, and loan
discrimination suits. Horowitz's attempt to use Oprah
Winfrey and the few wealthy Blacks to shift attention from
racism to class is dishonest and malevolent. He alleges that
contemporary Black-white income disparities are the
consequence of "individual character" (p. 39). To blame most
Blacks for not surmounting racism is analogous to
questioning the character of victims of the holocaust
because a few Jews managed to escape! In addition to his
racism, Horowitz's central problem is his refusal to
recognize that social groups (racial, ethnic, gender, class,
etc.) are the organizing principle of human societies.
If the question is historic group-based disparities, why
rely on income rather than wealth? The wealth index measures
accumulated assets over a lifetime, instead of one year's
monetary returns. Currently, the median net wealth of Black
households is about 12% that of whites; but only 1% if home
equity is deducted. This is extremely important since Blacks
were initially excluded from government sponsored
homeownership programs. Furthermore, that much of this
discrepancy is due to inheritance underlines the historic
accumulative nature of African American poverty.
On the surface, his comparison between West Indian
immigrants and African Americans seems to have merit. Yet, a
closer analysis reveals the spuriousness of this comparison.
Horowitz's discussion is ahistorical and superficial. He
implicitly treats all slave systems the same. West Indian
immigrants are the descendants of slaves, but they come
slave systems that differed markedly from U.S. slavery.
Because African slaves greatly outnumbered whites in the
West Indies, the white working and yeoman farming classes
were minute; therefore a large number of slave acquired
valuable skills. More important, most contemporary Caribbean
immigrants are the products of independent countries and
were socialized in societies controlled by people of African
7. Reparations Will Increase Victim Mentalities, Negative
Attitudes and Alienation Within the Black Community
First, Horowitz has it backwards. The Black struggle for
justice, freedom, and self-determination, including
reparations is empowering. Participation it the struggle
produces cognitive liberation, self-esteem, and a sense of
efficacy. Do all reparations create a "victim mentality, or
just reparations to African Americans? What is a victim
mentality? Is it recognition that Blacks have been and
continue to be victimized by racial oppression? Recognition
is the first step toward resolution. The problem is not that
Blacks possess a negative victim mentality, but that
Horowitz has a "blame-the-victim" mentality. He is unwilling
to honestly acknowledge the centuries of racial oppression
to which African Americans have been subjected by white
8. What About the Reparations That Have Already Been Paid?
Horowitz's contention that inclusion in Great Society social
programs should count as reparations is absurd. He simply
ignores the multiple roles social programs play in U.S.
society. On the one hand, Great Society initiated programs
were ostensibly designed to abolish poverty. Programs, such
as AFDC and food stamps, were class- determined minimum
subsistence programs. Whites have made up the overwhelming
majority of aid recipients, and the proportion of African
Americans has been disproportionate. Nevertheless,
Horowitz's discussion rips them from their broader public
policy context. Great Society programs were part of
Keynesian economics, the country's policy of using
governmental spending to stimulate economic growth --
employment and consumption. In addition to increasing levels
of purchasing, these programs also created well paying
government jobs for a predominately white middle class. On
the other hand, some programs were designed specifically to
address discrimination, racial, gender, ethnic, and
religious. No government program has sought to solely
benefit Blacks. Moreover, white women and white men over
fifty-five, not Blacks, have been the major beneficiaries of
9. What About The Debt Blacks Owe To America?
He continues to falsify history, here by distorting the
history of the abolition movement, in both the U.S. and
Britain. Two points are important: (1) his denial of Black
agency; and (2) his crude one-sided interpretation of
abolitionism, particularly in Britain. African slaves and
quasi-free Blacks initiated the abolition movement. Horowitz
omits any discussion of Black self-activity because his goal
is to present African Americans as indebted, ungrateful
children. Therefore, he mentions 3,000 Black slaveholders,
but omits thousands of Black abolitionists, 186,000 Black
Union soldiers, and numerous slave revolts for his account.
Continuing his manichaean view of history, he presents the
British Anti-Slavery Movement as simply an exercise in
humanism. He simply extends his argument concerning Union
soldiers and Christian abolitionists in the U.S. to Britain.
In reality, the British anti-slavery movement was a mixture
of humanitarians and imperialists. More important, British
abolitionism drew its impetus from a complex mixture of
humanist sentiments, economic motivations, and fear of slave
rebellions. Horowitz misses these nuances because his
purpose is to exaggerate white humanitarianism and deny
Black agency. Thus, he denigrates the life and death
struggle waged by African Americans throughout U.S. history
by calling hard-won rights gifts. In sum, this argument
approximates those who called for compensation for the
10. Blacks are Virtually the Oldest Americans, Why Not
Embrace Their American Destiny
His last assertions are as duplicitous and dumb as those
that precede them. Essentially, he reiterates the tired
assimilationist position. Consequently, he charges that
pursuing reparations will only further isolate American
Americans. First, as always he blames the oppressed for
conditions created by the oppressor. Black isolation,
geographically, socially, and politically is a consequence
of white capitalist created ghettoization, ostracism, and
Horowitz's one-sided analysis obscures the potentially
positive aspects of reparations. Beginning with Presidential
and congressional apologies (Congress apologized to
Japanese-Americans in 1988 and to Hawaiians in 1993) the
U.S. government and white Americans can initiate a sincere
conversation on racial oppression. Finally, the payment of
several hundred billion dollars in reparations would
ultimately benefit all Americans. Reparations would enable
the rebuilding of Black civil society, the transformation of
inner city ghettoes, the rebuilding of urban infrastructure,
and go along way toward eliminating poverty. Reparations
represent a way to repair the past, a means "to rebuild
relationships through attitudinal changes and institutional
restructuring" (Yamamoto, p. 521). Conclusion
Horowitz's argument is redundant, racist, ahistorical, and
manipulative. In his zeal to discipline Blacks for
challenging U.S. reality and for rejecting the hypocritical
America dream, Horowitz fails to consider the debt America
owes Blacks. Beyond apologies and the transfer of billions
of resources for past and present oppression, the U.S.,
especially white Americans owe African Americans for forcing
it toward its noblest ideals. The Black Freedom Movement has
been at the crux of every progressive social change in the
nation's history. African Americans have been the most
thorough and determined fighters in the struggle to expand
democracy and socioeconomic security beyond white male
elites. The Black Freedom Movement has served as the
inspiration and model for the new social movements that are
challenging the nightmare. Horowitz wants to bury this
legacy and possibility. Yet, ironically his actions have
produced the opposite effect. His diatribe has energized a
nascent Black student movement and transformed college
campuses into sites of struggle. Furthermore, his ad has
forced the mainstream media to remove the shroud covering
the struggle for reparations, thus making audible the claims
of our ancestors.
Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua is an Associate Professor of Historical
Studies at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and a
member of the National Council of the Black Radical Congress.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Marcellus Andrews, Political Economy Of Hope And Fear:
Capitalism And The Black Condition In America (New York: New
York University Press, 1999),
Ronald Bailey, "The Slave(ry) Trade. "Journal of Social
Science History, 14: 3 (Fall 1990), pp. 373-414.
Roy L. Brooks (ed.), When Sorry Isn't Enough: The
Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human
Injustice (New York: New York University Press, 1999).
Bureau of the Census, The Special and Economic Status of the
Black Population in the United States: An Historical View,
1790-1978 (Washington, D.C., Department of Commerce, 1979).
Charles M. Christian, Black saga: The African American
Experience (A Chronology) Washington, D.C.: Civitas, 1999).
Edward Countryman, Americans: A Collision of Histories (New
York: Hill and Wang, 1997).
Seymour Drescher, Capitalism and Anti-Slavery: British
Mobilization in Comparative Perspective (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1987).
John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., From Slavery to
Freedom: A History of African Americans, 8th ed. (New York:
Roy Finkenbine (ed.), Sources of the African-American Past
(London: Longman, 1997).
C.L.R. James, "The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: Some
Interpretations of their Significance in the Development of
the United States and the Western World," in C.L.R. James,
The Future in the Present: Selected Writings (Westport, CN:
Lawrence Hill & Co., 1977), pp. 235-64.
Edward Magdol, A Right to the Land: Essays on the Freedman's
Community (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977),
Bernard Makhosezwe Magubane, "The Political Economy of the
Black World: Origins of the Present Crisis," in African
Sociology-Towards a Critical Perspective: The Collected
essays of Bernard Makhosezwe Magubane (Trenton, NJ: Africa
World Press, 2000), pp. 405-21.
Benjamin Quarles, Black Abolitionists (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1969).
Roger L. Ransom, Conflict and Compromise: The Political
Economy of Slavery, Emancipation, and the American Civil War
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, rev. ed.
(Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1981).
Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response (Amherst:
University of Massachusetts Press, 1988).
Robert Westley, "Many Billions Gone: Is It Time to
Reconsider the Case for Black Reparations," Boston College
Law Review 40 (December 1998), pp. 429-76.
Eric K. Yamamoto, "Racial Reparations: Japanese Americans
Redress and African American Claims," Boston College Law
Review 40 (December 1998), pp. 477-523.
Copyright (c) 2001 Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua. All Rights Reserved.
Back to Main News Page
[Below is the lead editorial from The Nation magazine, April 30 issue.
The editorial is not available on the web, only in the print version
of The Nation for more information: http://www.thenation.com/ Other
articles mentioned in the Nation editorial can be found on The
Nation's web site. - Moderator]
As John Lantigua recounts on page 11, the Florida election travesty
looks even seamier in retrospect than it did at the time. Worse yet,
as secretaries of state from across the country tell us, the crisis is
national. The recent review by the Chicago Tribune of Illinois
undervotes reminds us that the dark side of democracy exposed in
Florida was just business as usual across America on Election Day.
What would Martin Luther King Jr. think if he heard that the Voting
Rights Act had not guaranteed access to the polls for all Americans-
that barriers and outright intimidation continues to deny the vote to
millions? Would he agree with those who say we should move on to other
legislative issues? Or would he reaffirm the centrality of the vote in
a democracy and call for renewed voting-rights drives, condemning-as
he did in 1963-those who prefer "a negative peace, which is the
absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of
Although the intensive coverage of the Florida debacle touched off a
spate of articles on reform and vows of change among the political
class, Congress has thus far displayed little stomach for effective
action-witness the abandonment of plans in the House to form a
bipartisan commission on election reform after Republicans insisted on
controlling it. The presidential silence on electoral reform has been
deafening, though hardly surprising. The Administration would prefer
the reform talk to go away, because it raises rude reminders of Bush's
lack of a mandate for the hard-right direction in which he's taking
Beyond the political considerations of the moment, the GOP
traditionally favors a "closed" electorate, with disproportionate
numbers of upper- income and ideologically motivated conservatives
favorable to its candidates. (Unlike in Europe, voting is still a
class act in this country: Two-thirds of voters with incomes above
$50,000 exercise their franchise, compared with only one-third of
those making less than $10,000.) The Democrats offer little comfort in
this regard, though they stand to benefit the most when the
dispossessed augment the voting rolls. Democratic National Committee
chairman Terry McAuliffe promised he would make voting rights a
priority, but so far we've seen little action beyond a few
fundraisers. Where is the full-court press from Democratic
Congressional leaders for hearings, legislation and voting- machine
upgrades? Where is the pressure on Attorney General Ashcroft to
enforce the spirit of the Voting Rights Act by Senate Democrats who
voted to confirm him?
Some green shoots of reform are breaking through the cracks outside
Washington. Bills calling for instant-runoff voting have been
introduced in a dozen states. Proportional voting bills are in the
hopper in Alabama, Illinois and Georgia. New Mexico's legislature has
restored ex- felons' right to vote.
A host of organizations with direct interest in electoral reform are
forming coalitions for change but none of them will get very far
unless they're backed by a public outcry raucous enough to be heard
inside the Beltway. Voting is too important to be left to the
politicians; it must combust at the grass roots into a prairie fire.
To this end, more efforts at education-like the National Commission on
Electoral Reform, headed by Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, which is
currently holding hearings at presidential libraries around the
country- are important. But education without an activist base
demanding and demonstrating will remain a Socratic seminar. Instilling
in the young the same idealism that inspired the voter drives of the
sixties is one approach being tried by Democracy Summer. This program
aims to enlist and train young volunteers to work with voting-rights
organizations this summer (see www.democracysummer.org)
The Nation/Institute for Policy Studies' Progressive Challenge lays
out a useful checklist of objectives for any electoral reform effort,
including strict enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to end
disenfranchisement, instant-runoff voting, proportional
representation, voting rights for former prisoners, elimination of
bureaucratic hurdles that discourage participation, nonpartisan state
election commissions and the abolition of the Electoral College (see
When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 he said, "The
vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking
down injustice and destroying the terrible walls that imprison men
because they are different from other men." Those walls still stand. A
nation in which only 40 percent of the electorate votes is not even
half free. Our overriding goal must be-ever more democracy.
Reprinted from The Nation, April 30, 2001; pages 3-4.
Back to Main News Page
US Medicine: Shortchanges Women & Minorities
1. U.S. practices a system of medicine that shortchanges minorities
and women - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - April 16, 2001
2. HEALTH TRUMPS TAXES - ABC News - April 12, 2001
SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL: U.S. practices a system of medicine that
shortchanges minorities and women
By NEIL D. ROSENBERG of the Journal Sentinel staff (Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel - April 16, 2001)
April 15, 2001
It is American medicine's dirty little secret. A two-tiered system of
care, based not on whether you are rich or poor, but on the color of
your skin, or your gender.
In America in the year 2001, if you are a minority or a woman,
statistics show you have greatly reduced the odds of receiving
competent, timely, aggressive, rock-solid medical care. For Vilma
Stein, the medical dice came up snake eyes. Diagnosed in 1992 with
breast cancer, the Puerto Rican-born American learned five years later
that it had spread and become terminal, a change she was convinced
could have been avoided.
Before she died last year at 61, she said in an interview she felt
strongly that a less than aggressive medical approach by her
physicians had contributed, at least in part, to the disease
reasserting itself. "It is very sad," Stein, of Princeton, N.J., said
in the interview. "It makes me angry to realize that if I had a better
background in medicine I would have known to have had better follow-
up. Not once had my doctors suggested a bone scan" in the five years
after she was diagnosed. But when she began to suffer unremitting
pain, she received a scan and doctors found that her cancer had
Would it have been different if she'd been tested earlier? "Maybe that
may have changed things," she said. It's impossible to say if she was
right. Still, study after study has shown that women and people of
color tend to get less cancer care.
In fact, statistical studies show that women and minorities are more
likely than white males to have their legs amputated when they have
complications from diabetes; less likely to get adequate treatment for
pain; and routinely wait longer for organ transplants.
The end result of this neglect: Each year thousands of African-
Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and women either die
prematurely, end up unnecessarily disabled, or simply are consigned to
a diminished quality of life.
What's going on
Why these disparities exist is subject to debate.
Kenneth Baldwin, deputy administrator for the Wisconsin Division of
Public Health, said they result for "social and economic reasons" and
often "have to do with access to quality health care." "There is a
disproportionate share of poverty among minorities," Baldwin said.
"I'm not willing to say or place racism as a reason for health
disparity. I think it would be naive to say that, when there is no one
answer to the problem."
Still, the U.S. surgeon general uses the term "institutionalized
racism" when he discusses the disparities in health care.
And some studies suggest that attitudes within the health care system
itself are indeed to blame - and that there's more at work here than
A study reported in 1999 at the American Heart Association's annual
scientific sessions showed bias at the very beginning of doctors'
In that study, medical residents viewed a video of a white male and
black female patient - who unknowingly to the residents were actors.
Each identically described symptoms of chest pain indicative of heart
disease. More students believed the white male had heart disease than
the black female (74% vs. 46%), leading the researchers to conclude
that "race and gender influence students' evaluations of patient
symptoms. . . ."
Are results like that likely to get better? Only slowly, if it depends
on increasing minority enrollments at American medical schools. In
2000, underrepresented minority students (blacks, American Indians,
Mexican-Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans) increased for the first
time since 1996, albeit very modestly. And the number of freshmen
The statistical evidence of unequal care spreads across the U.S.
health care system, but cancer, like Stein's, is as good a place as
any to start the story. Fewer blacks than whites - 64% of blacks, 77%
of whites, in a study of 11,000 Medicare patients - receive
potentially curative treatment for early stage lung cancer. And to no
great surprise, blacks end up with lower survival rates - with 34% of
whites and just 26% of blacks still alive five years after cancer
surgery. The national cancer death rate for blacks, in the years 1990
to 1996, was 33% higher than that for whites: 223 per 100,000
population, compared with 167 for whites.
Then there is the sorry state of pain control in this country. While
it has been a chronic problem for all types of patients, it's even
worse for those not in the white, male mainstream. When Nathaniel G.
Shaw II, one of 100,000 African-American sufferers of sickle cell
anemia, develops an excruciatingly painful sickle crisis, he needs 100
milligrams of the powerful narcotic painkiller Demerol to bring
relief. But when he ends up in an emergency room, "sometimes the
doctors won't give me anything at all."
Shaw, of Bronx, N.Y., tells a story often repeated by sickle cell
patients. "The majority of doctors who see an African-American in the
emergency room seeking pain relief naturally think we are junkies. The
black man is automatically put down in their eyes. They are judging
you by the color of your skin and they don't know anything about you."
But the problem is not just a black one. If you are a Hispanic in Los
Angeles and break your leg and end up in an emergency room, you are
twice as likely as an identical white patient to receive no pain
medication whatsoever - not even a Tylenol, according to a UCLA study.
"We are pharmacological Calvinists," when it comes to the chronic
under-medication of patients for pain, said Steven Hyman, director of
the National Institute of Mental Health.
Problems of the heart
And then there is the number one killer in America - heart disease.
Since the 1980s, study after study has demonstrated that blacks and
women who arrive at hospitals in the throes of a heart attack do not
get potentially life-saving or heart-muscle-sparing therapies such as
clot dissolvers or angioplasty at nearly the rate as do white men. For
example, just 4% of blacks patients in one study in the journal Stroke
were likely to be recommended for heart surgery, compared with 18% of
In another study in the New England Journal of Medicine, blacks were
32% less likely to undergo bypass and 13% less likely to undergo
angioplasty than whites.
Women are half as likely as men to receive aspirin, beta-blocking
drugs, clot-dissolving drugs, acute cardiac catheterization,
angioplasty or bypass surgery, said Nanette K. Wenger, one of the
nation's leading female cardiologists, who heads up cardiology at
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Part of the explanation: Women
have different cardiac symptoms than men, less sweating and chest pain
but more nausea, hyperventilating, extreme fatigue and shoulder pain.
But too many male physicians, unaware or unappreciative of these
differences, end up ignoring such symptoms. "Shortness of breath and
extreme fatigue (frequent heart attack symptoms in women) will not get
you an urgent rapid triage through most emergency rooms," said Wenger.
But even when symptoms are identical to a male's, prompt attention is
not always forthcoming. "When a man complains of symptoms associated
with a heart attack, a red alert goes into effect in any hospital,"
said Marianne Legato, a physician who is director of the Partnership
for Women's Health at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in
New York City. "But when a woman appears with identical symptoms, she
is apt to receive casual treatment until her condition becomes
critical." The result: premature death. A national study that followed
heart attack victims for four years found that African- American women
had almost a 50% mortality rate, compared with about 23% mortality
rate in white women, 15% in black men and 13% in white men.
Amputations more likely
There is one example in which African-Americans receive more
aggressive medical care than any other population group in America -
and it may be the most horrific example of all in the disparity of
medical care given blacks, women and seniors. According to the federal
government's own statistics, African- Americans 65 or older have their
limbs amputated at a rate 352% higher than all other groups of
seniors. Women and Asian-Americans wait longest for liver transplants;
blacks and women are less likely to receive kidney transplants than
whites and men; and blacks, on average, wait longest of all for any
kind of transplant compared to all other groups.
The frustration and anger over all these long-simmering problems
boiled over at a conference in Washington, D.C., on the topic
sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. After hours of
reports on the problem, Reed V. Tuckson, a physician and black man who
at the time was senior vice president for professional standards for
the American Medical Association said, "What I am left with, what I am
normally left with is this: I am (angry)."
No single villain
There is not a single villain to blame. Dozens and dozens of
physicians, health policy wonks, patient advocates and government
officials interviewed over the course of a year offer up a litany of
factors, some benign, some more malevolent, which continue to
contribute to this two-tiered health care system. "Institutionalized
racism," U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher intoned more than once
when discussing disparity in medical care to racial groups. As a young
child, he nearly died when he became acutely and critically ill and no
white doctor in his hometown would treat him. Using that exact same
phrase, John Eisenberg, administrator of the federal government's
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, recalled how, long after
segregation ended in the nation's hospitals, a clerk at famed Barnes
Hospital in St. Louis continued to admit black patients to a formerly
segregated ward, and staff physicians never asked why. The practice
subsequently stopped when top physicians at the hospital learned of
"Why are we making decisions that are inequitable in this country?" he
asked. "It is that institutionalized racism still exists in this
In some cases the racism may be more personal and insidious. When
Leiyu Shi, associate professor of health policy and management at
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, published an article that
reported that the quality of primary care received by blacks, Asian-
Americans and Hispanics was inferior to whites, he received anonymous
hate e-mail. "Maybe these minorities should stop producing, if they
can not afford to provide adequate health coverage for their
families," one e-mail said.
Another missive stated: "They have no right to expect to live off the
work of real Americans. Better yet they should stay in their own
countries instead of coming here, instead of living off of us."
The American Heart Association study that showed medical residents
believing a white patient more readily than a black one suggests bias
rears its head early in the education process. But there are other
indications that suggest it lingers past that. In a real life
incident, Gary C. Dennis, president of the National Medical
Association, a national association of black doctors, tells the story
of a colleague's wife, like himself an African-American, complaining
of chest pain, who was taken to the emergency room in rural, upstate
New York. She was dressed in extremely casual clothes and was quite
anxious when she arrived at the hospital. "The doctors thought she was
a crack user or welfare mother, that she was either crazy or using
drugs," he recounted. "They actually strapped her down and started
treating her like she was on cocaine, which made her anxiety even
It was only when they learned her husband was a physician that their
attitude changed and she had a proper medical work-up.
"The same thing happens to my wife when she shops at Nieman Marcus,"
he said. "Unless she is dressed to kill, people follow her around the
store as if she is involved in shoplifting."
One subject in which that education is needed, say others in the
medical system, is in an area called "cultural competence."
With the vast majority of doctors white, and an increasing number of
their patients in ethnic minorities, too many physicians simply do not
understand the culture, the spirit - even the idiom - of the patients
That problem is not getting any better.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the
percentage of underrepresented minority applicants to medical school
fell last year 7% to 4,176, the lowest number since 1992. The number
of blacks, American Indians, Mexican-Americans and mainland Puerto
Ricans who were accepted to medical school in 2000 was 1,729, a figure
smaller than in the previous three years. The latest number represents
less than 11% of the total medical school first-year enrollment. The
situation is equally out of balance among medical faculty. Only 2.7%
of faculty members are black. All underrepresented minorities -
Hispanic, blacks, American Indians - account for just 6% of all
faculty members as of 1999, the most recent statistics available.
But even those percentages are misleading. If you were to remove the
predominantly black medical schools, such as Howard University in
Washington and Morehouse College in Atlanta, and medical schools in
Puerto Rico, the percentage of Hispanic and black faculty in all the
other medical schools would drop dramatically.
The end result: Only 3% of physicians in the United States are black;
only 2.5% of dentists are black; and only 3.6% of pharmacists are
Add to that the fact that most physicians cannot speak fluently with
patients for whom English is not their first language, and that
stereotypical opinions continue to prevail (e.g., women tend to be
hysterical, blacks have low compliance rates, too much pain medication
will kill an elderly patient). Put it together and you have all the
pieces in place for separate and unequal care for millions of
Americans, according to health policy specialists in the area like
Marian Gornick, of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.
"The disparities are growing," Gornick says. "They are greater today
than when they were when Medicare started" in the 1960s.
Fixing the problems
There are movements afoot to do more than examine the problem. Some
medical schools - Cornell, Mount Sinai, Harvard, for example - are
instituting specific programs to train students how to become more
culturally competent and knowledgeable about all patients.
There is now a national service - albeit for profit - that can provide
any medical provider, any medical institution with an interpreter over
the telephone in virtually any language at a moment's notice. And
President Clinton in 1996 put in motion a program through federal
health care agencies that provides advice and training and coordinates
research to combat the disparities in medical care that dog different
But impatience is growing for more action, more money to close the gap
between the competent, top-shelf medical care more often received by
whites and men and the lower-shelf brand of medical care too often
received by everyone else.
"It is not enough any more to just measure the problem" said Eisenberg
of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. "We have to get
beyond the 'Gee Whiz, isn't that a shame that blacks get less service
than whites.' We have to convert it to changing our practice."
"This is nothing short of a national medical emergency," said Beverly
Coleman-Miller, editor of the Harvard School of Public Health's
Minority Health Today. "When are we going to stop talking about it and
start doing something about it?"
One woman's struggle
Some are. Like Vilma Stein. Even as she fought a cancer that continued
to take over her body, she was doing something about it. For several
years she headed the Latino Services division of the Princeton YMCA
Breast Cancer Resource Center.
She counseled Latino women, urging them "to take decisions into their
own hands," which goes against the longtime culture of letting others,
husbands and male doctors, make the decisions. She told them not to
stoically accept their fate, which can potentially delay critical
treatment or tests. "I have known people who literally just waited to
die without doing very much because they feel this is their
punishment," she said.
When she learned nearly two years ago that her cancer had spread, her
physician told her she had perhaps a month to live, maybe somewhat
longer. Talking later about that prognosis, she shrugged her
shoulders. So what if she might not live very long? In the end, she
said, all she asked is that for some others she may have made a
So she fought on to help close the gap between the haves and the have-
nots in the American medical care system. The courage with which she
fought lasted until her dying moment, said her daughter, Sandra Stein,
in an interview following her mother's death.
"She refused to die until my brother and I shed our fear of her
death," she said. And so she finally passed on with her children at
her side, ready to carry on her message of better cancer care for all.
Sources for the graphic information with these stories include the
American Heart Association, the Archives of Internal Medicine, the
Annals of Internal Medicine, the Archives of Surgery, the American
Journal of Public Health, Medical Care, Maternal and Child Health
Journal and the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on April 16, 2001.
HEALTH TRUMPS TAXES
ABC News - April 12, 2001
Most Americans would prefer to have the federal government spend more
on health care for the uninsured than to see it cut their own income
taxes, another sign of the relatively low priority the public gives to
In an ABCNEWS.com poll, 52 percent say they'd rather have the
government spend more on health care for the uninsured than see it cut
their taxes. And only 10 percent favor reducing these health services
in order to pay for a tax cut.
Don't cut taxes, Cut taxes, Cut taxes,
spend more on keep health cut health
health services spending the same spending 4/8/01
President Bush's budget, released today, would cut a $125 million
grant program that coordinates the development of community health
centers for the uninsured. At the same time, it would create a $2,000
per-year tax credit to help uninsured people buy health insurance.
Even those who don't pay taxes would be eligible.
The budget calls for a 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut. Polling
consistently has show that, while cutting taxes is not unpopular,
many people have other priorities for federal spending, as well as
suspicions about the fairness and impact of a big tax cut.
Share the Wealth
There's some altruism in this poll's result, since only about 15
percent of adults lack health insurance. But there's also some self-
interest: Spending more on health care for the uninsured is most
popular by far among low-income people, who are more likely to be
uninsured and less likely to get a big tax cut. And it's least
popular in top-income households, whose tax cut would be the
Spend more on health care for the uninsured,
rather than cutting my taxes
Annual family income:
Less than $25,000 67%
More than $100,000 37
There are similar big differences by race, with blacks much more
likely than whites to favor more spending on health care for the
This ABCNEWS.com survey was conducted by telephone April 4-8 among a
random national sample of 1,021 adults. The results have a three-
point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done
by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.
ABCNEWS polls can be found on the Internet in our Poll Vault.
Copyright © 2001 ABC News Internet Ventures.
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USA: USDA scientist warns of foot and mouth in US
18 Apr 2001
Source: just-food.com editorial team
A director of the USDA’s laboratory that studies and tests for foot and mouth disease has warned that the chances of a US outbreak of the highly contagious livestock virus is ‘quite great’.
David Huxsoll, director of the Plum Island laboratory in New York state said that given the amount of people travelling between the US and Britain it is surprising that a case has not been discovered in the US.
"It's only through the diligence of the people at the various ports of entry that we've been able to keep it out. I'll have to add also luck," he said.
The USDA immediately banned all imports of livestock and raw meat from the European Union once cases were discovered in the UK in February. The government also took action to increase inspections of incoming airline passengers.
Huxsoll said, if the virus had reached the US already, signs of the disease would appear quickly – within 24 to 48 hours.
Last week, representatives of various US departments and agencies, which also included the Federal Emergency Management Agency, conducted a tabletop exercise to test their ability to respond to a worst-case scenario in which the disease broke out in Iowa and spread to three other states. It was concluded that an outbreak would have required 50,000 people, including military personnel, to contain the disease.
The last case of foot and mouth in the US was discovered in 1929.
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GHANA: New "miracle rice" set to be promoted amongst African farmers
17 Apr 2001
Source: just-food.com editorial team
The development of new "miracle" rice has been welcomed by African farmers, who can now increase their yields by up
to 50% without using fertiliser. The major breakthrough, a result of three years' development work by the West African
Rice Development Association (WARDA) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other
partners, is expected to save developing countries millions of dollars in rice imports and alleviate poverty.
Known as NERICA (New Rice for Africa), the rice "has a great potential to become the second miracle rice in Africa,"
explained Ken Fujimura, senior advisor at UNDP's Special Unit for Technical Cooperation among Developing
Richer in protein, NERICA is more nutritious, and is also more resistant to pests, disease, acidic soils and drought.
Furthermore, it out-grows weeds and matures between 30 and 50 days earlier than the rice varieties currently grown.
NERICA was developed by crossing African and Asian rice species, offering as UNDP official Peter Matlon explains, "an
excellent example of how science can be put to work for poverty reduction." He continued: "It is already having a real
impact on improving poor farmers’ incomes and increasing their food security."
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