Colorlines - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 17:44
Northwestern University's football team made history on Wednesday when its players won the right to unionize. It's the first time that a big-time college football program has won such a right, and the ruling could upend the world of collegiate athletics, where amateur athletes bring in millions of dollars to universities without being compensated for their work.
Peter Ohr, a regional National Labor Relations Board director, issued a 24-page ruling that essentially demolished the idea of the student athlete, which holds that college players need only to have their educations paid for in exchange for their work on the athletic field.
From the New York Times:
He ruled that Northwestern's scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Mr. Ohr deemed a contract for compensation.
"It cannot be said that the employer's scholarship players are 'primarily students,' " the decision said.
The ruling comes at a time when the N.C.A.A. and its largest conferences are generating billions of dollars, primarily from football and men's basketball. The television contract for the new college football playoff system is worth $7.3 billion over 10 years, and the current deal to broadcast the men's basketball tournament is worth $10.8 billion over 14 years.
Both parties, the university and its football players, have until April 9 to file a review of the decision with the NLRB board in Washington, DC.
Colorlines - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 17:03
Acclaimed novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy used the release spoke at New York City's New School on Wednesday night about her new book, "Capitalism: A Ghost Story." The work, which will be released in April by Haymarket books, examines the "dark side of Democracy in India," according to its publisher.
Roy's debut novel, "The God of Small Things," won the esteemed Booker prize in 1997, and she's since established herself as one of the world's important political activists.
The New School talk was a conversation with Indian author Siddharta Deb and was livestreamed in front of a sold out audience.
Colorlines - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 16:59
Here's what I've been reading up on this morning:
- Amnesty's annual death penalty report is out; the US remains the only country in the Americas that executes people, and is fourth on the worldwide executors list.
- Meanwhile, Japan frees the world's longest held death-row inmate.
- 90 people are still missing as a result of the Washington mud slide.
- Not sure I can take Nate Silver seriously anymore after reading this.
- The GDP expands higher than expected to 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
- And jobless claims fall lower than expected.
- Preparing for its IPO, cloud computing is thinking outside of the, um, Box.
- C.R.E.A.M., get the money. Wu Tang will sell one copy of its new album that you can pay to listen to at a museum.
- Live better, play union. The NLRB confirms that college football players can unionize.
- Thanks to federal public funding, Chad Trujillo observes a planet on the edges of our solar system--80 AU away in the Oort cloud.
New America Media - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:50
Above: Richmond resident Melvin Willis / photo: David Meza RICHMOND, Calif. -- Last week, the Richmond City Council voted in favor of an ordinance that would increase the city's minimum wage from $8 to $12.30 an hour by 2017. If the... Malcolm Marshall http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=56
New America Media - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:05
Photo by Mitchell Nguyen McCormack / KoreAmAs Daniel Chae tells it, he and his bandmates often liked to jam inside their cars while on their way somewhere. They all lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles, meaning these could be... Steve Han http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 03:00
A group of 14 U.S. Latino activists traveled today to the Vatican to request the intercession of Pope Francis to halt deportations, which increased under the office of President Barack Obama.Juan José Gutiérrez, leader of the U.S. Latino Movement in... Prensa Latina http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 00:26
Mary Virginia Jones, 74, walked out of a Calif. prison late Monday evening after serving 32 years for a murder she did not commit. Her son Robert who has a felony was not allowed to visit her prison. As a result, according to the LA Times, Monday is the first day he'd seen his mother in 30 years. Jones' story reads like those of so many incarcerated women. It includes a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse from parents and boyfriends, rape, and grief from the loss of a 4-year-old daughter.
Jones, who used a magnifying glass in court to help her see, was convicted in 1982 of first-degree murder, kidnapping to commit robbery and robbery. She always maintained that she did not willingly participate in the crime that led to a man's murder. Jones' boyfriend, the shooter, died in 1988 while on death row.
None of Jones' initial and subsequent trials had taken into account her history as a battered victim, said attorney Heidi Rummel of USC Law School's Post-Conviction Justice Project.
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 22:56
In the March 31 edition of the New Yorker there's a great profile of Kobe Bryant by Ben McGrath. In it, Bryant talks about aging out of his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and how he thinks his fame is "pretty fucking cool" for a kid who grew up in Italy and moved to suburban Philly as a teenager.
Throughout his career, Bryant's been talking about as an outsider, specifically when it comes to being the most famous in the world in a sport that's overwhelmingly black. It's given him a politically moderate stance on things, which was on display when McGrath brought up the subject of LeBron James posting a photo online of the Heat players dressed in hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
I won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm an African-American," he said. "That argument doesn't make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, we've progressed as a society, then don't jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won't assert myself."
The profile goes on to quote former NFL running back Jim Brown, who at one point said, "[Kobe] is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country." Bryant then defended himself on Twitter, writing, "A 'Global' African American is an inferior shade to 'American' African American?? #hmmm. that doesn't sound very #Mandela or #DrKing sir."
Setting aside a minute the fact that Bryant doesn't seem know much about the Trayvon Martin case, what strikes me about this exchange is his insistence on questioning what it means to be black in America, particularly from the perspective of someone who grew up elsewhere. In this vein I think of Zade Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie's recent discussion at the Schomburg, where Adichie talked at length about coming to the United States from Nigeria and learning how deeply embedded race is in American culture. What sets Bryant apart is his stingy insistence on clinging to a "post-racial" identity, this very old, conservative notion that black people should not be treated differently in this country -- despite all of the evidence, like Martin's death, that they are. People didn't stand up for Trayvon Martin just because he was a black boy, they did it because his death so sharply illustrated the dangers of being a black boy in America.
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 22:17
Today, the FBI arrested Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Patrick Cannon, accusing him of taking bribes as an elected official, reports the Charlotte Observer. He's also been charged with wire fraud and extortion. He had been under investigation since 2010 when the FBI were tipped off that he might soliciting and accepting cash rewards for favors, both as a city councilor and as mayor.
According to this press release from the U.S. Attorney's office in the Western District of North Carolina:
The complaint and law enforcement affidavit allege that Cannon accepted the bribes from the undercover FBI agents on five separate occasions. On the last occasion, on February 21, 2014, Cannon allegedly accepted $20,000 in cash in the Mayor's office. According to the complaint and the affidavit, between January 2013 and February 2014, Cannon allegedly accepted from the undercover agents over $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and use of a luxury apartment in exchange for the use of his official position.
Cannon was just elected mayor last November. He succeeded former mayor Anthony Foxx, who Obama tapped to become Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation last year, and Patsy Kinsey who served out the remainder of Foxx's term. If convicted, Cannon faces a maximum ten years in prison and $250,000 fine for the bribery charge, 20 years and a $1 million fine for the wire fraud charge and another 20 years and $250,000 fine for the extortion charge.
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 21:41
President Obama is extending the March 31 healthcare insurance enrollment deadline for those who've already started signing up via the Affordable Care Act's market exchange but haven't completed the process. This means that if you began purchasing a healthcare plan on Healthcare.gov, or through other offline mechanisms via Navigator groups, but the transaction has not been completed, you will not be penalized.
As Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services explained it on a press call this afternoon, "Just like on Election Day, if you were in line when the polls closed, you still were able to vote. The same applies here if you were already in line for health insurance when the deadline came."
Bataille stressed that the deadline technically is still five days from now, but that this extension is owed in part to the malfunctioning Healthcare.gov website and also the expected surge of people who will begin signing up at the last minute. If you take advantage of the extension, the federal government will take you on your word that you began the transaction, as it does not have an actual verification system for this.
There is precedent for this. Back in 2006, when President George W. Bush was pushing his new Medicare prescription drug benefit plan, he extended the deadline for signing up for the program for low-income elderly users.
According to the Washington Post, people who qualify in that "special enrollment" group will have until mid-April to close out on a a plan -- just in time to pay taxes. But after that, if you are not an official enrollee and are not insured elsewhere (through your parents if under 26 or employer), you will be assigned a penalty on your taxes and will not have another chance to enroll until 2015, with few exceptions.
These pie graphs below, released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, show that roughly six in 10 people are unaware there was a deadline to begin with.
Read more on what we've learned thus far on Obamacare from Kai Wright's news feature today.
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 21:34
What's it like to be an actress of color in Hollywood? Probably not that great, considering the limited roles that are written for women of color. Actress Tess Paras pokes fun at this sorry state of affairs in this video parody set to Lorde's "Royals."
(h/t Angry Asian Man)
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 20:08
Donald Williams, an 18-year-old black freshman, has filed a $5 million lawsuit against San Jose State University in California. The claim alleges that the university failed to protect Williams from racial bullying and investigate last fall's incidents sooner.
Between last September and October 2013, according to police reports, e-mails and court documents, four white suitemates racially harassed Williams, then 17. The incidents include: flying the Confederate flag and displaying Nazi imagery in the dorm; calling Williams "three-fifths" and "fraction;" and wrestling Williams to the ground and fastening a bicycle lock around his neck among others.
"Three-fifths" refers to the pre-Civil War constitutional compromise, in which the U.S. counted enslaved persons as three-fifths of a human being. SJSU is the alma mater of track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos who famously struck the Black Power salute at the '68 Olympics. SJSU honors their protest with a statue on campus.
(h/t University Herald)
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 18:57
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with several immigrant rights group's representatives Tuesday, following President Obama's call for a review to conduct enforcement "more humanely." While some groups remain hopeful that the Obama administration's detention and deportation record may change under Secretary Johnson, others are skeptical.
Among those that attended was Tania Unzueta, who works with the National Day Labor Organizing Network. Unzueta, who was the only undocumented person present at the meeting, says she's unsure whether the meeting was called to truly change immigration enforcement practices, or to prevent changes from happening.
Unzueta has temporary relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and would like to see that policy extended to more undocumented immigrants (DACA is now limited according to age and other restrictions). She's also part of a group of 25 undocumented people who have formed a commission and is now demanding a meeting with Obama. "Instead of participating in the pageantry of the meeting, I asked for a conversation with the President on behalf of the Blue Ribbon Commission of undocumented leaders that formed in response to his review," says Unzueta.
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 18:38
Rebecca Walker got a pretty good endorsement for her first published piece of fiction, "Adé: A Love Story."
Madonna has announced plans to adapt the novella into a feature film. She'll serve as director, while the project will be produced by Bruce Cohen, who shared a Best Picture Oscar for "American Beauty" and more recently worked on the Harvey Milk biopic "Milk."
The novella is about a young American college student whose plans to marry a Swahili man in Kenya fall apart when the region is engulfed in civil war.
Up until now, Walker has primarily been known for her non-fiction, including a New York Times best-selling memoir about growing up as Alice Walker's daughter called, "Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self." She's also written a memoir about motherhood called "Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence" and edited a collection of essays called "Black Cool."
Colorlines - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 16:59
Here's what I'm reading about this morning:
- More than 120 objects are spotted in the search for flight MH370.
- North Korea fires two medium-range ballistic missiles.
- Two secret service agents are dismissed for drinking.
- The Washington mud slide death toll is at 16, and it's unclear how many are still missing.
- For February, US-made durable goods orders are up 2.2 percent, although core capital goods orders fall 1.3 percent.
- Like father, like sons: Murdoch promotes his kids at News Corp and 21st Century Fox.
- Geordi La Forge, anyone? Facebook acquires virtual reality hardware maker Oculus for $2 billion.
- Lollapalooza reveals its 2014 line-up at Grant Park, which includes Nas, Outcast, Chance the Rapper, and Rich Homie Quan.
- Lakers guard Nick Young wins 103-94 against the Orlando Magic, only to find about $100,000 worth of goods stolen from his home.
- Hep C drug Sovaldi eliminates the disease in most people--but a round of treatment costs $84,000, or about $1,000 a pill, in the US.
- Spanish researchers develop a vacuum chamber that simulates conditions on Mars.
New America Media - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 11:05
As spring break and summer approach, many people in the community will be looking to vacation or travel overseas. But some of them might not be able to board an airplane with dignity or even get on one at all,... AAN Editorial Staff http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 10:05
Photo: Alaska Native Marian DeWitt, 92. (Joaqlin Estus/KNBA) ANCHORAGE -- Alaska’s population is young, the third youngest in the nation after Texas and Utah. But that’s changing, with Alaska’s population aging more dramatically here than in any other part... Joaqlin Estus http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 23:51
There was a time, way back in 2009, when health care reform was about something rather straightforward. For 47 million United States residents, the health insurance market simply wasn't working. The products cost too much or the providers turned away customers or people just didn't have space to sort it all out in between two part-time jobs. So lopsided majorities of people agreed in poll after poll: There needed to be at least one publicly run option, a simple and affordable choice for those who wanted it. We've traveled a long, winding road from that consensus, passing through death panels and individual mandates and a spectacular failure of a website launch. And now, the big question of the moment is this: Has the journey actually taken us someplace new?
The first set of data toward answering that question is just about all in, and it's ominous, if not conclusive. On March 31, the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act will close. People can continue signing up for Medicaid all year long, in accordance with their state's rules. But anyone who hasn't purchased an insurance plan on the new exchanges by March 31 will have to wait until 2015 to get coverage. It's a significant milestone for the law. After six intense months of cajoling people to sign up and arguing over the mistakes and scrutinizing crumbs of data, there will be a final tally of how many uninsured Americans have found the new insurance market more viable than the old one.
One of the challenges of truly measuring the law's success--and that of our health care system more broadly--is that we continue to discuss "the uninsured" in vague terms, as a monolith of consumers who've shrugged off risk and chosen to spend their money on something else. That notion has become more ingrained in recent months as everyone from the White House to the news media has focused intensely on the number of young, presumably healthy people who have signed up for Obamacare. Their participation is crucial to bringing down overall costs, and they've been slow to join. At month's end, this is the number everyone will be eager to hear; it is the agreed upon measuring stick for the law's success or failure.
But there's another, less discussed measure of the Affordable Care Act's success, one that more directly addresses the actual problem the law needs to solve. That is the number of working poor people who have gotten insurance because of Obamacare. It's important to understand whom we're talking about when we refer to "the uninsured." Three out of four uninsured people had jobs in 2013; three out of four made less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level in those jobs; and more than half were people of color, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A map of where those people live renders the United States as a layer cake. They're most densely clumped in a band stretching all the way across the South; then with a little less density across the middle of the country, from the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic; then most loosely at the top, from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast. The map would also serve fairly well as a breakdown of states that have and have not grown their public health insurance programs over the past 20 years. And it'd offer a pretty good reflection of the states that have refused to join Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid. Seventeen states had uninsurance rates over 18 percent in 2012; two-thirds of them have opted out of Medicaid expansion. So in the places where the actual problem is most acute--namely, the working poor being unable to buy insurance--the law's most direct fix isn't even in play.
But even where Medicaid is expanding, it doesn't take a huge paycheck to miss out. A retail worker making $17,000 a year and living in Newark, N.J., wouldn't qualify, for instance. She would, however, qualify for a subsidy to purchase one of at least 26 insurance plans for sale on the state's exchange. Problem is, the evidence thus far suggests people like her are still finding the product too expensive and too complicated for their lives.
"A lot of people, they voice to me that they like the idea of the Affordable Care Act," says Gabrielle Terry, who's been working since October as a "navigator" trying to enroll people in Newark. "What's happening to them is, you put your income into this portal, and they give you numbers for what they think you can afford," she says, explaining the enrollment process. "But they don't really know your expenses. So they think you can afford a $300 premium because you're getting paid this amount of money, but they don't know about your other kids, or if you're taking care of your niece who--" she stops, frustrated by trying to explain the gap between real lives and the qualification formulas applied to them. "Whatever. They don't know about that."
When I spoke to Terry in early March, she had still not seen a single person go all the way through the enrollment process and actually buy insurance. In fact, none of the navigators I interviewed in Newark had seen it happen. Federal data suggest navigators around the country are finding similar results. As of March 1, fewer than 15 percent of uninsured people who would qualify to enroll had done so, according to Kaiser.
There could be all kinds of reasons for this relatively low rate, starting with insufficient resources for outreach to those people in many states. It's also important to note that Medicaid enrollment appears to be going quite well. But the relatively low rate of people buying insurance, even with the help of a subsidy, suggests the testimony I've heard from Newark navigators is true widely--that the working poor are doing the math and deciding the insurance market still fails them.
The new insurance exchanges are built to make things easier by leveraging market forces. They create a set of rules that, ideally, make it easier for consumers to shop around, by diversifying the number of providers and making their products easier to understand. Plans are divided into tiers based on the cost of the monthly premium and uniformly categorized by Olympian names--bronze being the cheapest, platinum the most expensive. Still, the navigators I spoke with said people remain overwhelmed by the effort to be savvy consumers of a product with such grave consequences.
"It scares them. They're scared," says Khalilah Jackson, another Newark-area navigator. "And I can totally understand." If a subscriber chooses a cheaper plan to stretch a just-above-minimum-wage paycheck, will he be able to actually use the insurance when faced with large co-pays and deductibles and other cost-sharing rules down the line? Many are simply saying screw it, and choose to take the relatively modest tax penalty next year rather than fuss with the no-win calculus of the marketplace.
So Obamacare's two efforts to get coverage for the working poor--who account for the vast majority of the uninsured--is off to a difficult start. The states in which Medicaid could do the most good have rejected it. The people whom the exchanges are supposed to attract are opting out. All of that before acknowledging that no immigrant who is undocumented or who has been in the country less than five years can qualify for either Medicaid or a purchasing subsidy.
Ultimately, these enrollment challenges beg larger questions about the whole enterprise. Given who the uninsured really are, can a rejiggered, market-driven system actually serve them? Even if they buy insurance on the exchanges, will care providers be able to meet the needs of their complex lives while remaining profitable? Are there enough doctors who even accept Medicaid, given the low payments they receive for those patients? Time will tell. But if the past six months are a fair measure--and given the toxic political climate in which the system has operated, perhaps they are not--Obamacare will not be the final word on the nation's health care crisis.
Hyphen Blog - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 20:12
Fashion statement. Political manifesto.
Colorlines - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 19:54
Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington, D.C. NFL team and staunch defender of that organization's racist name, has announced that he's starting a group called the "Original Americans Foundation" to assist the Native American tribes that he claims his team name honors.
''It's not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans,'' Snyder said in a letter to the team's fans. ''We must do more.''
In the letter, Snyder wrote that the new foundation will ''provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities'' for Native Americans, but didn't give financial details, including whether or not he would personally donate any money.
Will Snyder's latest move calm the controversy around his team's name? Not likely.
Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee advocate and leading figure in two federal trademark lawsuits against the NFL organization over the past two decades, told the Associated Press that Snyder's announcement was "somewhere between a PR assault and bribery."
Snyder wrote in his letter that he and his staff members have visited 26 reservations over the past four months and that those experiences have opened his eyes to the problems facing Native communities, including poverty, drug abuse and a lack of basic infrastructure. "I've listened. I've learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching," the letter said.
Harjo isn't impressed. "I'm glad that he's had a realization that Native Americans have it tough in the United States," Harjo told the AP. "All sorts of people could have told him that, and have been trying to tell him that for a long time."
Harjo continued, "Will (the foundation) do much of anything? No. But it probably won't hurt," Harjo said, ''except that it will continue the cycle of negative imaging of Native American people in the public arena."
Snyder's move seems especially suspect given that the federal patent office just rejected his organization's attempt to trademark "redskin potatoes," in part because the term could be seen as derogatory to Native Americans. Snyder's out to make money, period.
(h/t Yahoo Sports)
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