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George Curry

Dr. Ben Carson: 'Gifted Hands,' Foot in Mouth

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(NNPA) Dr. Ben Carson became the darling of conservatives earlier this year by stridently attacking the Affordable Care Act with President Obama sitting just a few feet away. Carson, who was serving as the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, said,

“Here’s my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed – pretax – from the time you’re born ’til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you’re 85 years old and you got six diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and there’s nobody talking about death panels.

“Number one. And also, for the people who were indigent who don’t have any money we can make contributions to their HSA [Health Savings Account] each month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some bureaucracy, let’s put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care.”

Predictably, the Right wing rushed to embrace him. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the crew at Fox News were ecstatic that a prominent Black neurosurgeon shared their world view. Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the Right-wing National Review, compared Carson to racial apologist Booker T. Washington. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, called him Herman Cain without the “personal skeletons.” And the conservative Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed under the headline, “Ben Carson for President.”

Carson became a paid contributor to Fox News, was hired to write a weekly column for the Right-wing Washington Times, and became in demand as a speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and any national event that attracts more than three conservatives.

Professionally, Carson is no dumb man. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his M.D. from the University of Michigan. At the age of 33, he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the youngest major division director in the school’s history.

In 1987, he led a 70-member surgical ream that separated twins who had been joined at the back of the head. After the successful 22-hour surgery, Carson gained national recognition. His autobiography, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, was published in 1992. The book recounts how his mother, Sonya, reared him and his older brother, Curtis, after she and her husband, Robert, divorced when Ben was 8 years old. In 2009, TNT released a television movie with the same title as his book, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Ben Carson. In 2008, George W. Bush presented Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Carson has made several controversial remarks after his appearance at the White House. In March, he said on Fox TV: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”

Under pressure, Carson withdrew as commencement speaker for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He also apologized for “not the best choice of words,” called his critics racist, and then apologized again.

Of all of his outrageous comments, his latest one ranks among the most egregious.

Speaking at a Voter Values Summit, Carson said, “I have to tell you that Obamacare is, really, I think, the worst thing that’s happened to this nation since slavery. It was never about healthcare, it was about control.”

First, the Affordable Care Act does what its proper title implies – it makes health care affordable to millions of people, including the uninsured. If making insurance more affordable, not allowing insurance companies to reject people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26 years old isn’t about healthcare, the esteemed neurosurgeon doesn’t know the definition of healthcare.

Second, any idiot knows that having access to healthcare is not worse than slavery.

Enslaved Africans had no rights, as the Supreme Court ruled in its 1857 Dred Scott decision, “which the white man was bound to respect.” They were brutalized, degraded, whipped, killed, and raped at the whim of the slave master. Marriage was not recognized and the slave codes in various states made it illegal to teach Blacks to read or write.

The Affordable Health Care Act is worse than that?

It’s a ridiculous comparison. At the rate he is going, Carson’s photograph will be slapped on boxes of rice. Dr. Ben will be more appropriately known as Uncle Ben.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Yes, Mental Illness Affects 'Us'

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(NNPA) On Monday, Sept. 16 the news was shocking: A contract employee who worked at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., later identified as Aaron Alexis, killed 12 innocent people in the facility before he was killed by police.

For many African Americans, our first thought was: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

On Oct. 3, there was another disturbing incident in the nation’s capital: An unarmed woman with her 1-year-old child in the car, drove her vehicle into barriers outside the White House and on Capitol Hill before being shot to death by police.

Again, we thought: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

And the next day brought additional bad news from Washington: A man poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire on the National Mall. He died the next day.

Once again: “I hope it wasn’t one of us.”

In each case, it was one of us. Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard gunman, was Black. Miriam Carey, the 34-year old dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. was an African American. And the unidentified man who burned himself to death on the Mall was also Black.

More important than their race, Aaron Alexis, Miriam Carey and possibly the man who set himself on fire suffered from a mental disorder. And that’s something we have been reluctant to discuss. But it’s time for that to change.

In an interview last year on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” Dr. William Lawson, professor of psychiatry and chairman of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine, discussed some of the factors in our refusal to seek help for mental problems.

“Many African Americans have a lot of negative feelings about or not even aware of mental health services,” he said. “They are not aware of the symptoms of many mental disorders, or they may believe that to be mentally ill is a sign of weakness or a sign of character fault.”

That attitude permeates Black America, regardless of income level.

“In places like Los Angeles and New York, everyone and their pet has a therapist, yet even among the wealthy and elite, many African Americans continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.” Monnica Williams wrote in Psychology Today.

“For example, a qualitative study by Alvidrez et al., (2008) found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles. Talking about problems with an outsider (i.e., therapist) may be viewed as airing one’s ‘dirty laundry,’ and even more telling is the fact that over a quarter of those consumers felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.”

Williams observed, “African Americans share the same mental health issues as the rest of the population, with arguably even greater stressors due to racism, prejudice, and economic disparities. Meanwhile, many wonder why African Americans shy away from psychotherapy as a potential solution to challenges such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, marriage problems, and parenting issues. As a Black psychologist, it is troublesome that so many African Americans are reluctant to make use of psychology’s solutions to emotional hurdles.”

And when Blacks do seek help to get over those emotional hurdles, they tend to do so later, when treatment might not be as effective as it may have been if they had sought help earlier.

In addition to our antiquated attitude toward mental health, medical professionals also share part of the blame.

A fact sheet by the National Alliance on Mental Health notes:

* African Americans in the United States are less likely to receive accurate diagnoses than their Caucasian counterparts. Schizophrenia, for instance has been shown to be over diagnosed in the African American population;

* Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural understanding; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African Americans; and

* Overall sensitivity to African American cultural differences, such as differences in medication metabolization rates, unique views of mental illness and propensity towards experiencing certain mental illnesses, can improve African Americans’ treatment experiences and increase utilization of mental health care services.

Dr. Sarah Vinson, who created website BlackMentalHealthNet.com, said mental illness takes a high toll on African Americans.

In an Emory University posting, she said: “Untreated, mental illness can cause strained relationships, social dysfunction, and numerous other problems that can end up in divorce, unemployment, and suicide.”

(In addition to Dr. Vinson’s website, further information on mental illness can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.)

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

The Truth about 'Obamacare'

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(NNPA) Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect on Tuesday and, like all new programs, there was a certain amount of uncertainty and confusion. But making things worse are the deliberate lies that have been told by what some call Obamacare.

To shift through the various charges, I turned to our friends at FactCheck.org for an independent, nonpartisan analysis. Here, in their words, is what they found:

Claim: 8.2 million Americans can’t find full-time work partly due to Obamacare.
FactCheck.org says: False.

This assertion from the Republican National Committee echoes other conservative claims that the law is hindering part-timers from finding full-time jobs. But the RNC’s 8.2 million figure was the total number in June of part-time workers in the U.S. seeking full-time work — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls ‘part-time for economic reasons’ — and there’s no evidence from BLS numbers that the law has had an impact on such workers. There were more in this “part-time for economic reasons” category in March 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law (9.1 million). The latest figure, from August, is 7.9 million.

Claim: The law is a job-killer.
FactCheck.org says: Overblown.

It’s true nonpartisan economic analyses have estimated a “small” loss of mainly low-wage jobs because of the law. But as one expert told us, there hasn’t been much analysis of this impact of the law because, he believes, economists think the impact will be minimal. Still, Republicans have continued to push the idea that the law will have a significant effect on jobs. This claim made our “Whoppers of 2011” list, and it has continued to be pushed in various forms — with the latest being the claims about part-time work.

Claim: Premiums are going up because of the law. Premiums are going down because of the law.
FactCheck.org says: It depends.

Our short answer — “it depends” — may be unsatisfactory to readers, but whether you’ll pay more or less than you would have without the law depends on your circumstances. Are you uninsured and have a preexisting condition? You’ll likely pay less than you would have otherwise. Are you uninsured but young and healthy? You’ll likely pay more (without accounting for any subsidies you may receive). Are you insured through your employer? You likely won’t see much change either way.

Claim: All of the uninsured will pay less on the exchanges than they could now on the individual market, even without federal subsidies.
FactCheck.org says: False.

President Obama made this claim at an Aug. 9 press conference, saying that beginning Oct. 1, the 15 percent of the population that’s uninsured would be able to “sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market.” Obama went on to emphasize that that was before including federal subsidies. “And if even with lower premiums they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it,” he added. But even Obama’s secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has acknowledged that young persons would likely pay more and older Americans would likely pay less on the insurance exchanges.

Claim: You won’t be able to choose your own doctor.
Claim: The government will be between you and your doctor.
FactCheck.org says: False.

These claims are variations on the fear that the government will be taking over health care — choosing your doctor, telling him or her what treatment to administer, etc. But the law doesn’t create a government-run system, as we’ve said many times. It actually greatly expands business for private insurance, by about 12 million new customers, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And individuals will choose their own doctors, just as they do now.

Claim: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
FactCheck.org: Misleading.

Obama has repeatedly made this claim, and the White House continues to use the line on its website. The law doesn’t force Americans to pick new plans or new doctors, but the president simply can’t make this promise to everyone. There’s no guarantee that your employer won’t switch plans, just as companies could have done before the law. And if you switch jobs, your new work-based coverage might not have your doctor as an in-network provider, either.

Claim: Congress is exempt from the law.
FactCheck.org says: False.

Congress isn’t exempt from the law. In fact, members and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t. Beginning in 2014, they can no longer get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as they and other federal employees have done. Instead, they are required to get insurance through the insurance exchanges.

For the complete report, go to: http://www.factcheck.org/2013/09/obamacare-myths/

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Selling Out Black College Football to Make a Buck

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(NNPA) I cringed as the scores came in over the weekend. Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0. Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6. Miami 77, Savannah State 7. Our HBCUs have traded their proud, rich football heritage for money. And I don’t think it’s worth it.

There’s only one reason our HBCUs schedule games against schools whose head coaches make more than their entire athletic budgets: they earn a big payday, even if that means being publicly humiliated along the way.

The irony is that the SEC wouldn’t continue to have a lock on national football championships were it not for their Black players. And it wasn’t all that long ago that Blacks were as unwelcomed in the SEC as they were at KKK rallies. But when Sam Cunningham ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in 1970 when the University of Southern California routed Alabama 42-21 in Birmingham, the conference got the message that they couldn’t win without Black talent.

Until then, if Black athletes wanted to play in the South, they had to attend HBCUs. It was never a question of talent. More than 1,200 players from Black colleges have played in the NFL, including 150 who have made it to the Super Bowl. NFL stars from HBCUs include: Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley), Michael Strayhan (Texas Southern), Walter Payton (Jackson State), Art Snell (University of Maryland Eastern Shore), Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Richard Dent (Tennessee State), Bob Hayes and Willie Galimore (Florida A&M), Donald Driver and Steve McNair (Alcorn State), Deacon Jones and Harry Carson (South Carolina State), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Mel Blount (Southern), Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman), Rayfield Wright (Fort Valley State), and L.C. Greenwood (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff).

Grambling’s Paul “Tank” Younger went to the L.A. Rams and became the first HBCU player to make it in the NFL. Grambling has four players in the NFL Hall of Fame: Willie Davis, Junious “Buck” Buchanan, Willie Brown and Charlie Joiner. Eddie Robinson coached Jim Harris, the first Black quarterback to start in the NFL and be named MVP of the Pro Bowl, and Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start in, win and become MVP of a Super Bowl.

Football has always been a part of my life. I played quarterback at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., was quarterback and co-captain of my football team at Knoxville College in Tenn., landed my first job in journalism at Sports Illustrated and wrote my first book about Jake Gaither, the legendary football coach at Florida A&M who won 85 percent of his games over 25 years and never had a losing season.

I still love the game and have deep respect for Gaither, Robinson and John Merritt at Tennessee State, the giants of a bygone era.

To fully appreciate the depth of athletic talent at Black colleges in those days, imagine all of the Black football players at the University of Florida, Florida State and the University of Miami on the same team. That’s exactly what Florida A&M had in the segregation era. When Bob Hayes, FAMU’s double-gold medal winner at the 1964 U.S. Olympics and future Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, joined the team, the only time he got off the bench was when they played the national anthem.

Gaither said that because of segregation, the only way he was able to prove the quality of his players was when they turned pro. That was true until Nov. 29, 1969 when Florida A&M played Tampa University in the first game in the Deep South between a Black college and a predominantly White university. FAMU, the underdog, won 34-28.

Unfortunately, most of our Black youth don’t know about the glory days of Black college football. I tried to help fill the gap in 1977 when I wrote, Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach. Recently, Vern Smith, a screenwriter and former Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek, wrote a screenplay based on my book. We’re in the process of shopping the script, hoping to present the real story about Black college football.

The best known movie about Black college football is “White Tiger,” a made-for-TV movie starring Bruce Jenner as the first White quarterback at previously all-Black Grambling College, now Grambling State University. In the movie, Harry Belafonte plays the role of Coach Eddie Robinson. The fact that a White actor was the star in a movie about Black college football is proof that Hollywood was never serious about telling our story.

According to the Census Bureau, 53 percent of the Black population is under the age of 35. That means that more than half of African Americans were born after 1978. They don’t know anything about Jake Gaither, Eddie Robinson or John Merritt. All they see are the lopsided scores on Saturdays. Vern Smith and I hope to get our movie made if for no other reason than to let them know that it wasn’t always this way.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Black Media Slighted as Spending Power Exceeds $1 Trillion

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although annual Black spending is projected to rise from its current $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion by 2017, advertisers allot only 3 percent of their $2.2 billion yearly budget to media aimed at Black audiences, a new Nielsen report has found.

The study, “Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report,” was released at a news conference Thursday at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend by Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). The findings were released by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice-president, public affairs and government relations for Nielsen, and Cloves Campbell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Arizona Informant.

“Advertising expenditures geared specifically toward Black audiences reflected only three percent of advertising dollars spent,” the report stated. “Advertisers spent $75 billion on television, radio, internet, and magazine ads in 2012, with only $2.24 billion of that spent with media focused on Black audiences.”

The report said if consumption patterns dictated a company’s advertising budget, then spending with the Black media should be:

44 percent higher on education and career websites;
38 percent higher on streaming websites;
37 percent higher on television (with special emphasis on cable) and
15 percent higher on mobile phone advertising.

“The consumer insights this year are some of the most varied yet,” said Pearson-McNeil. “From store brand loyalty, to top watched television networks, which mobile apps are most popular, a deep dive into how Blacks spend their digital time, and how companies can reach 10 million Black consumers by developing a southern regional strategy – this year’s report is really a compelling read for both advertisers and marketers.”

A 2011 study by Burrell Communications showed that 81 percent of Blacks believe that products advertised in Black media are more relevant to them.

Businesses that bypass the Black media, the report said, limit their potential growth.

“Companies mistakenly believe there are no language barriers, that a general market ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy is an effective way to reach African-Americans” the Nielsen study said. “Just the opposite is true.”

The Nielsen study names the companies that do the most advertising with Black media:

Procter & Gamble ($75.32 million)
L’Oreal ($52.34 million)
McDonald’s ($38.24 million)
Unilever ($31.48 million)
U.S. Government ($28.36)
Berkshire/Hathaway ($27.81 million)
Comcast ($27.69) million)
Hershey ($27.01 million)
PepsiCo ($25.07 million)
Walmart ($24.40 million)
Fiat ($23.60 million)
AT&T ($22.49 million)
Verizon Communications ($22.08 million)
Toyota ($21.43 million)
General Motors ($20.81 million)
Sony ($19.88 million)
Johnson & Johnson ($19.59 million)
Ford ($19.11 million)
Allstate ($19.06 million)
National Amusements, Inc. ($18.92 million)

Advertising by the top 20 companies increased by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012. The companies with the largest increases in spending with Black media were: Unilever (40.1 percent), PepsiCo (39.1 percent), Walmart (27.2 percent), the U.S. government (26.4 percent), L’Oreal (19.6 percent), Berkshire Hathaway (15.1 percent) and Comcast (13.2 percent).

Top 20 advertisers with the largest decreases were: Johnson & Johnson (30.7 percent), National Amusements (26.2 percent) and Verizon (24.6 percent).

“Until we do a better job as consumers in the choices we make and invest in companies that invest in us, we are not going to have any changes,” said Pearson-McNeil. Campbell said he hopes the data will help develop “conscious consumers.”

Utilizing Black media makes good business sense, the report said.

“By aligning additional marketing support and more focused strategies using media sources such as Black newspapers, Black radio, Black online sites and other media outlets trusted and relied on by Blacks for their unfiltered information, companies can develop more culturally relevant messages….” the report stated.

It noted that Blacks over index in certain categories, including health and beauty aids, unprepared meat, frozen seafood, feminine hygiene, women’s fragrances, and detergents.

“An examination of African-Americans’ overall category uses reveals some notable and perhaps newly discovered behavioral distinctions between Blacks and the Total Market,” the report found. “Blacks spend 44% more time on Education and Career sites and 21 % more time on Family and Lifestyle sites than Total Market consumers, breaking the myth that Blacks are disinterested in education and the family’s well-being. Additionally, African-Americans continue to be resilient in their role as early adopters of technology as 14% are more likely to spend time on Telecom/Internet Services sites.”

Blacks are also likely to spend far more time watching television.

“Blacks are voracious media users and leaders when it comes to setting pop culture trends. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Blacks’ television habits where Blacks watch 37% more television than any other group, spending seven hours and 17 minutes per day viewing TV, compared to five hours and 18 minutes of total viewing for Total Market,” the Nielsen study stated.

It continued, “Black women, especially those 18-49, tend to be heavier viewers than their male counterparts. Not surprisingly, media outlets dedicated to Black audiences have a higher composition of Black viewers, which should be of interest to businesses who incorporate media buys into their marketing strategies.”

Blacks outpace Whites in buying smartphones. The Nielsen report found that 71 percent of Blacks own smartphones, compared to 62 percent of the total population. Most African Americans prefer Androids (73 percent) over iPhones (27 percent).

Although a lot of attention is being placed on the growth of Latinos in the U.S., the Black population, which now stands at 43 million people, grew 64 percent faster than the rest of the country since 2000, the study said. The average age is 35, three years younger than the overall population; 53 percent of Blacks are under the age of 35.

Significantly, 73 percent of Whites and 67 percent of Latinos identified Blacks as the driving force for popular culture.

Fortune 100 companies not ranking in the top 20 advertisers with Black media included: General Electric, Citigroup, IBM, Philip Morris, AIG, Home Depot, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, J.P. Morgan Chase, Kroger, Merck, State Farm Insurance, Hewlett-Packard, Morgan Stanley, Sears Roebuck, Target, Merrill Lynch, Kmart, Freddie Mac, Costco, Safeway, Pfizer, J.C. Penney, MetLife, Dell Computer, Goldman Sachs, UPS, Prudential Financial, Wells Fargo, Sprint, New York Life, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Aetna, Walgreen, Bank One, BellSouth, Honeywell, UnitedHealth Group, Viacom, American Express, Wachovia Corp., CVS, Lowe’s, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Coca-Cola.

“Too often, companies don’t realize the inherent differences of our community, are not aware of the market size impact and have not optimized efforts to develop messages beyond those that coincide with Black History Month,” said Campbell, chairman of the NNPA. “It is our hope that by collaborating with Nielsen, we’ll be able to tell the African-American consumer story in a manner in which businesses will understand and, that this understanding will propel those in the C-Suite to develop stronger, more inclusive strategies that optimize their market growth in Black communities, which would be a win-win for all of us.”

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