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Health Care Ruling Puts Reform on Front Burner

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Chief Justice Roberts – praised and denounced

Chris Levister

When Wendell and Thomasena Andes of Redlands sprang from their bed at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, June 28 to hear the most anticipated Supreme Court ruling in years, they never suspected conservative-leaning Supreme Court Justice John Roberts would make their day. “We were all but certain the court would throw ‘Obamacare’ out,” said Thomasena, an unemployed chemist who says she was rejected by her insurance company after she developed complications from a pre-existing rare blood disease known as Fanconi anemia (FA) “We were praying the Roberts’ court would put politics aside for the good of all Americans,” said Wendell.

In a landmark ruling that will impact the November election and the lives of every American, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the controversial health care law championed by President Barack Obama. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling. The decision was a victory for Obama but also will serve as a rallying issue for Republicans calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats in 2010. “When we heard the words ‘upheld’ – we danced around the room hugging each other, thanking God, the President and Chief Justice Roberts,” said Thomasena. Obama called the ruling “a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law.”

“I'm as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we will be better off because we had the courage to pass this law, and keep moving forward,” said Obama. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who previously pledged to issue waivers to states if the health care law was upheld, pledged last week that if elected, he would work to repeal the law.

“Obamacare' was bad policy yesterday. It is bad policy today. It will be bad policy tomorrow,” said Romney as congressional allies scheduled a symbolic repeal vote for July 11. At this urgent care clinic in Moreno Valley, reaction to the ruling ranged from arm waving victory to finger pointing outrage.

“It means we won’t have to beg for care,” said Caprice Adams as she kept an eye on her 8-year-old son Jamie who suffers from chronic asthma. “We can’t afford to buy health insurance,” said Caprice’s husband Wynford. “A routine doctor’s visit is too expensive,” said Caprice. “So we come here with our hand out.” Seated next to Wynford, Barry Fidler had harsh words for the ruling and its chief architect – Justice John Roberts.

“It’s a sucker punch. This law is gonna put a whole lot more people in the poor house,” he said. “Obama and Congress fed us a pack of lies now Roberts has caved in to the liberal rhetoric,” said Hicks, an unemployed building contractor. As the government writes the regulations and sets the policies that will bring the law to life, cheering and jeering Americans alike are asking, “what does it mean for our pocketbooks? The law requires nearly all U.S. citizens and legal residents to buy health insurance. Penalties would be phased in over three years starting in 2014, with steadily increasing amounts applied. For example, in 2014 it would be $95 or 0.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. By 2016, the penalty would be either $750 to $2,250 a year per family or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

While the health care law will benefit all Americans, health experts say it will be especially helpful for African Americans who suffered the most under the nation’s ruptured health care system. Here are eight ways the health care law will help African Americans: 1. It will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions under all new plans. 2. It will prohibit insurance companies from dropping sick patients from their rolls. 3. It will give tax credits to small businesses for health insurance and allow small businesses to shop for plans that fit their needs. 4. It will prohibit insurance companies from placing annual and lifetime limits on coverage. 5. It will require insurance plans to cover screenings and vaccines without any deductibles or co-pays under any new insurance plans. 6. It will allow a child to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26. 7. It will require insurance plans to cover prescription drugs for seniors or close the so-called donut hole, meaning that the elderly will no longer have to cover the cost for prescription drugs when their benefits run out. 8. It will expand funding for community health centers.

Amid the cheering in many quarters over the Supreme Court's decision, experts say a sobering fact remains: California's ailing healthcare system won't be easy to fix. Millions of Californians will still lack insurance even after a massive coverage expansion. Medical costs and premiums are expected to keep rising, at least in the short run. And many of those who do gain coverage could have a tough time finding a doctor to treat them.

The court ruling does provide enormous benefits to a state where 7 million residents are uninsured. Starting in 2014, California will receive as much as $15 billion a year to expand Medi-Cal coverage for the poor and to provide federal subsidies to people buying policies in a state-run exchange. About 4 million Californians are expected to gain coverage. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said covering even a portion of the state's uninsured should sharply reduce the amount of uncompensated medical care that's driving up the price of health insurance.

On average, California families pay an extra $1,400 each in annual premiums to cover medical bills for the uninsured, according to the California Endowment.

Rodney King remembered as ‘symbol of forgiveness’

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Beating victim eulogized during public memorial service

Chris Levister Rodney King, whose beating by police in 1992 sparked one of the worst urban riots in US history, has been laid to rest in Los Angeles. The Reverend Al Sharpton who delivered the eulogy called King a "symbol of forgiveness” ahead of his funeral on Sunday at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills cemetery, north of the city. "People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them," Reverend Sharpton said.

"Rodney had risen above his mistakes; he never mocked anyone, not the police, not the justice system, not anyone."

One of King's daughters, 28-year-old Laura Dene King, called her father a "gentle giant". "I will remember his smile, his unconditional love ... He was a great father, a great friend, he loved everyone," she said.

"People will just have to smile when they think of him." Several donors helped defray the funeral costs including a reception that followed the service. Television producer Anthony Zulker, creator of the CSI series donated $10,000. “We lost a symbol, they lost a loved one,” he said in support of the King family. King was found unresponsive at the bottom of his swimming pool in Rialto, in the early hours of June 17, by his fiancee Cynthia Kelley. A preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play, while a full autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending.

Video footage of King being beaten by four white police officers in 1991 sparked deadly riots in Los Angeles and prompted a national debate about police brutality and race relations. Police struck him more than 50 times with their wooden batons and used a stun gun following a high-speed car chase.

The officers went on trial for use of excessive force but were acquitted on April 29, 1992, triggering days of riots that left more than 50 people dead and caused around $1 billion in damage. As Los Angeles was ripped apart by crowds who looted businesses, torched buildings and attacked one another, King made a personal plea for peace. "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?" he asked on the third day of rioting, going off script from the statement planned by his lawyers. Two of the officers were later convicted on federal charges of violating King's civil rights and were sentenced to prison.

At Saturday's funeral, the words "Can We All Just Get Along" could be seen embroidered on the open lid of his coffin during a pre-funeral service. Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the riots this year, King said racism still has to be challenged.

He published a memoir, The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption, to mark the anniversary.

"There's always going to be some type of racism. But it's up to us as individuals in this country to look back and see all the accomplishments that we have gotten to this far," he told CNN.

Overcoming Obstacles with Excellence

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A San Bernardino church held a basketball camp for area youth this past weekend. “This camp is more then improving your basketball skills,” said camp coordinator Angelia Watts. “We want to teach them the value of making wise decisions, that’s why we called it Pastor’s Basketball Camp.”

This is Life Changing Ministries inaugural Pastor’s Basketball Camp. Mentors included former ABA player Ron Richardson and former NBA player Corey Benjamin and members of Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball team. Youth ranged from ages 10 to 16. Many of the 50 boys were from single parent homes, foster homes, group homes, or in child protective services. Youth who were unable to pay for the camp were granted scholarships. Some boys were playing with shoes two sizes too small.

Area businesses including Goodsports and Arrowhead provided water, food, basketballs, shoes, and jerseys. “Some of their stories are heart wrenching...to know we have kids who have real needs, spiritually, mentally, physically, socially,” said Watts. “We want to address some of those needs.” The camp included basketball skills but also had workshops for mentors to speak with youth about making good decisions and going to college. “This camp lets them know there’s people in the community who will come out and help them,” said Benjamin. “I will never say no to help a kid with something the Lord has given me...I’m here to direct the kids.”

“Don’t give up,” that is what 13-year-old Cameron Sandeoo of San Bernardino said he learned in basketball and in life. “We want them to take something more with them and use it for life,” said Watts. “Within them lies the person that can overcome.”

QUIET DESPERATION: Free SB Health Clinic Draws Thousands

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Health reform's human stories

Chris Levister

It was a scene that could have been playing out in a Third World country or post-hurricane New Orleans, except that it wasn't. It was unfolding in San Bernardino Friday, and the hundreds who showed up weren't refugees of a disaster or a civil war, instead most were ordinary working people without health insurance. Louise Banks, 49 has had a lump in her breast for months. Wesley Emerson, 32, his dental insurance won’t cover the tab for a root canal, Ruby Davis, 56 can no longer drive because her eyesight has deteriorated. Eva Gomez, 68 suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and constant hip pain. She hasn’t seen a doctor in years. Such stories were typical among the thousands of people screened during the three-day Care 4 a Healthy I.E. event at the National Orange Show Events Center. Molina Healthcare, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit medical care provider, teamed with Buddhist foundation Tzu Chi to offer people free dental, health screenings, vision, acupuncture, vaccines, well child exams and primary care for free. Hours before opening to the public the healthcare clinic was jumping with the energy of hundreds of smiling volunteer doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, nurses and other professionals. Patients began arriving before dawn on a chilly Friday morning, people of all ages lining up by the hundreds, some jobless, some in wheelchairs, others hobbling on crutches, many of them missing teeth, all of them seeking the same thing: free medical and dental care. James Gillett hadn't seen a doctor in two years, not since the 47-year-old machinist lost his job and insurance when his employer went broke. Eugena Hopkins arrived at 5:30 a.m. 10 hours before the gates opened. “I brought my camping gear and my cat. I am just so grateful to be here,” said Hopkins. Hopkins who lives in Perris says she was turned away from the massive free clinic held in Los Angeles in October 2011.

“My older sister died of ovarian cancer. I lost my job in February. I can’t afford to get tested,” she said. 73-year-old Coleman Chandler suffers from early dementia, arthritis and deteriorating eyesight. “The world around me is a blur. I just want to be able to see my 1-year-old grandson,” he said fighting back tears. Dennis Pham is bipolar and needs glasses. The out-of-work forklift driver last saw a doctor in 2008.

Once inside the cavernous Orange Show event center Pham and others got their eyes and teeth checked but it was here behind the curtains of a makeshift exam room that he experienced something different. “The doctor treated me with dignity. He took time to examine me and answered my questions. He set me up for free future testing and medications,” said Pham. “It’s been a long time since I felt like someone really cared.” Pham praised Molina after seeing Los Angeles, San Diego and other California cities host high profile clinics. “We are poor and overlooked,” he said referring to San Bernardino’s distinction by the U.S. Census Bureau as the country’s second most impoverished city. Molina Healthcare of California President Richard Chambers said San Bernardino’s low income status was a driving force behind the area’s largest free health clinic to date. “We got really excited after we saw the response to the free clinics held in Los Angeles County the last couple of years. We believe the people of San Bernardino County deserve to have access to these services.”

“The need is really great. So many of the people suffer from multiple conditions,” said Debra Boudreaux CEO of Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation. “There’s a lot of unemployment and desperation. We see a lot of stress. That can lead to more serious problems like heart disease and stroke.” Yolanda Wilburn of Highland waited more than two hours with her two sons DeShaun, 7 and Matthew Sayson 2.

DeShaun has health insurance. Yolanda and Matthew don’t because she can’t pay for it,” said Wilburn. “I brought Matthew here for a well child exam after learning it would cost $300-$400 out of pocket. The healthcare system is really broken. We need more clinics like this.” “What you're seeing is a lot of Middle America here,” said Molina nurse practitioner Michael Conrad.

“As volunteers we not only contribute to our community by assisting those in need, we also receive a great deal in return. From making new friends to learning new skills to recognizing that our contribution is making a difference,” said Conrad. Some patients would need follow-up care, so before letting them out of the building, volunteers were writing referrals to free clinics around the area.

“To be associated with so many wonderful volunteers, sharing a common desire to reach out and help, provides me with a great sense of belonging…” said Pediatrician Bobbi Underhill, D.O., gesturing toward a crowd of more than 400 people waiting to receive medical and dental care. “Receiving a thank you after helping someone is a rewarding feeling,” said American Medical Student Association (Cal State University San Bernardino chapter) president, Ricardo L. Juarez. “Volunteering has been challenging and stimulating as new scenarios are constantly encountered, keeping it fresh and interesting,” the pre-med student said.

The event included a health resource fair, food court, a children’s fun zone, entertainment plus an autograph session with the Inland Empire 66ers.

Immigration Ruling Gives Both Sides Something to Cheer and Fear California lawmakers weigh in

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By Chris Levister 

Democrats and Republicans each found something to cheer in the Supreme Court's ruling Monday on Arizona's controversial immigration law, reflecting the delicate politics surrounding immigration and the court's own mixed decision. The court struck down major parts of Arizona's tough immigration law, but it unanimously upheld the most controversial “show me your papers” requirement – that police making arrests or traffic stops check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being here illegally. Supporters of the law said the ruling recognized the state’s right to enforce immigration laws, while working with federal authorities. Opponents said the ruling clearly indicated that the federal government has the ultimate authority to enforce immigration laws and states cannot pass laws that undermine that authority.

With both parties vying for a larger piece of the Hispanic vote, President Obama quickly praised the ruling while his GOP rival Mitt Romney criticized it, saying he would have preferred that the court give more latitude to Arizona. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the decision a victory for all Americans, saying that the “heart of the bill” could now be enforced and that any officer who violates a person's civil rights will be held accountable.

Brewer said she expected lawsuits to challenge the implementation of the law. “It's certainly not the end of our journey,” she said. The president, who managed to sway two Republican justices to his viewpoint in the Arizona case, said the decision demonstrated the need for immigration reform, which has been bogged down amid partisan bickering on Capitol Hill.

“What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system -– it’s part of the problem,” Obama said. “At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.” Meanwhile, Romney said in a written statement, “The decision underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy.”

California Lawmakers Weigh In California lawmakers called the ruling a mix of victory and disappointment. Rep. Joe Baca, said in a written statement, the decision makes it clear that “immigration should be exclusively the jurisdiction of the federal government.”

“I am disappointed that the Court upheld the discriminatory ‘show me your papers’ provisions of the law. I fear that this misguided provision will inevitably lead to racial profiling. The simple truth is that if this provision is implemented, some Americans will be forced to prove their citizenship based on the color of their skin while others will stand little or no chance of being affected,” Baca said.

“I continue to wear a wrist band in solidarity with the families that may be victimized by this unjust law. Moving forward, I will continue to work with my colleagues to protect civil rights and stop the immoral show me your papers’ provisions of S.B. 1070 from being implemented,” continued Baca.

State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod called the ruling a win “for those of us who want a comprehensive approach to immigration and it serves as a wakeup call to the federal government that more needs to be done. Despite reaffirming the Federal Government’s authority over immigration policy it was disappointing that the court upheld the most divisive aspect of Arizona’s immigration law permitting law enforcement to question an individual’s legal status,” said Senator McLeod. “Border enforcement and security are legitimate concerns, but politicizing the issue creates hostility and animosity within communities and does nothing to solve the problem.”

Assembly Member Tim Donnelly (R-Hesperia), a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, praised part of the court's ruling Monday. “This is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens.”

The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.8 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, marking the second consecutive year of decline and the sharpest decrease in at least three decades, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

California's illegal immigrant population, still the largest in the nation, declined by 250,000 to 2.6 million. The state now accounts for just one-quarter of the nation's total illegal migrant population, compared with 30% in 2000. Meanwhile the mixed decision on Arizona’s immigration crackdown has stoked the public’s growing distain for the Supreme Court. A New York Times CBS Poll shows 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the high court is doing.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, says the decline in popularity may stem in part from Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular. “But it’s just as likely to reflect a sense that the Court is more political, especially after it divided in such partisan ways in the 5-4 decisions Bush v. Gore (which decided the 2000 presidential race) and Citizen’s United (which in 2010 opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending),” said Reich.

With the Supreme Court ruling on health care expected Thursday some are asking, can the American people trust the Court to put politics aside?

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BVN National News Wire