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AIDS Institute Leader Condemns Sterling's Rants

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling publicly stumbled when he attacked NBA Fall of Famer and entrepreneur Ervin “Magic” Johnson and other people living with HIV/AIDS, during a May 12 interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Sterling was then taken to task by the leader of the Black AIDS Institute of Los Angeles.

Sterling, 80, said, in essence, that Johnson – who contracted the virus that causes AIDS during his years as a professional basketball player, is a not a role model for children because of his former sexual promiscuity.

“I think he should be ashamed of himself,” Sterling said. “I think he should go into the background.”

Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, said Sterling’s comments “are shocking and appalling.”

“We are not going back to the dark ages when people living with HIV/AIDS were categorized as promiscuous sexual predators, who should hide and be ashamed,” Wilson said. “Mr. Sterling would have us go back to the days of keeping children out of school, and denying people with HIV housing.”

Wilson said that his organization has worked with the Magic Johnson Foundation and the National Basketball Association “to fight stigma, increase knowledge and awareness about the facts of HIV and end the type of misinformation that Mr. Sterling tried to disseminate to deflect attention away from his own bigotry.

“Instead of demonizing people with HIV/AIDS and alienating them from care, we should be taking advantage of the opportunity that currently exists to end the AIDS epidemic so that our children can grow up in an AIDS-free generation,” Wilson said.

Congressional Black Caucus Fights to Preserve Voting Rights

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By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Voting rights continues to be the most pressing issue facing the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have ramped up efforts to craft legislation that would restore key components of a 1965 bill which the Supreme Court struck down last year.

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia Fudge, (D-Ohio), met with civil rights leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union on May 2 to discuss strategies to push new legislation forward.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), also attended the summit in which officials discussed legislation introduced by State Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and State Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), which would require that any state with past voting violations be subject to federal approval before being allowed a change in their election laws.

“If you think about our voting rights, they are under vicious attack and you have legislators passing laws that are supposed to be anti-fraud, but we know that there is no fraud to speak of,” said Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, a veteran of the House of Representatives for more than 32 years and a CBC member.

Cummings said voting rights laws must be restored and the CBC has urged Republicans to help craft and pass a satisfactory bill before the congressional legislative session ends next month.

“Our values are expressed through our votes and if you cut off our voice, we have no way to express what our values are,” said Cummings, 63.

“I do believe that we are in a revolutionary period in this country where there is a tremendous effort to turn back the clock 100 years and I think we all have to be on guard.”

Since 2011, nearly 180 restrictive pieces of legislation regarding voting laws have been proposed in 41 different states and more than a dozen have passed bills that are detrimental to the rights of African Americans and other minorities, Cummings said.

At least 12 states have new requirements for voters to show proof of citizenship and, at least 13 states have laws limiting voter registration mobilization efforts and other opportunities, trends that trouble the CBC, he said.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The provision, found in Section 5 of the law, provided a formula by which to identify states requiring federal oversight because of a history of discrimination against blacks and minorities.

In their 5-4 decision, the justices declared the rules supervising the original law to be outdated. The court suggested that Congress draft new provisions, but lawmakers have so far failed to act on that recommendation.

“We’re in the most intense national struggle over voting since the 1960s,” said Wendy R. Weiser, a program director for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

The New York Times reported that nearly every new and reputable study shows that voter identification requirements disproportionately affect black and Latino voters, college students and the disabled – groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

T&T Government to Acquire New Helicopters, Drones

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

(CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will spend nearly TT$600 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) to purchase six helicopters and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) for the National Operations Centre (NOC).

National Security Minister Gary Griffith told reporters that the UAVs will be of significant value to add to national security apparatus for remote sensing, reconnaissance, surveillance, deterrence and early warning purposes.

Griffith said the UAVs will be the first of its kind in this country and “we are moving with the times” noting that in the past there were “blimps, defective radar, defective fast patrol vessels, defective offshore patrol vessels, defective interceptors they will now have UAVs, ensuring no blind spots in the radar system, effective 50-metre patrol vessels, effective long range patrol vessels and high tech interceptors.

“So with the use of the UAVs it is going to play a phenomenal role in ensuring real time information, intelligence gathering, monitoring what is happening and being able to assist as well in our border protection,” he said.

He added that the four aircraft now in operation in Trinidad had been provided by three different manufacturers and the new helicopters will be provided by a single manufacturer.

AARP Board Unanimously Selects Jo Ann Jenkins as New CEO

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The Board of Directors for the AARP, one of the nation’s largest and most powerful nonprofit advocacy groups, has unanimously selected Jo Ann Jenkins as its new chief executive officer.

Jenkins, who replaces longtime CEO A. Barry Rand, assumes her new post on Sept. 1.

“After an extensive, thoughtful and deliberative national search, the AARP Board unanimously selected Jo Ann Jenkins as our new chief executive officer,” said Gail Aldrich, chair of the AARP Board of Directors. “Jo Ann is a seasoned leader and innovator. She has an obvious passion for AARP and she fully embraces the social mission. Jo Ann is an inspirational leader who proactively engages at all levels of the organization and is comfortable operating in the public eye.”

Jenkins, who came to the AARP in March 2013, from a longtime post she held at the Library of Congress, currently serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer of AARP.

In this position she has streamlined the organization’s strategic planning, technology and digital operations to enable AARP to devote greater resources to its core mission. She has led the development of the new enterprise-wide strategy that includes defining and facilitating operational priorities, as well as maximizing AARP’s mission.

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Jenkins earned her B.A. degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile. She is also a 1998 graduate of the Stanford Executive Program, offered by the university’s Graduate School of Business.

Jenkins, who will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree on Saturday, May 17 when she addresses graduates at Washington College’s 231st commencement, said she’s grateful to have been selected for her new job at AARP.

“I truly believe that for every member of our society, age and experience can expand your possibilities in life,” said Jenkins. “I feel a great deal of responsibility for ensuring that AARP is here as a trusted ally for people 50+ and their families and that we protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Insufficient Vitamin D Linked to Prostrate Cancer in Blacks

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) — The relationship between melanin and vitamin D—the nutrient that sunlight provides—may explain why African American, Caribbean, and men of African ancestry have the highest rates of prostate cancer than anyone in the world, according to a new study.

The study by a team of researchers at Northwestern University, which appears in this month’s issue of Clinical Cancer Research, finds that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of diagnosis among Black men—but not among White men.

“Our report is the first to describe the association of vitamin D deficiency and outcomes of prostate biopsies in high-risk men with an abnormal [blood test or clinical exam],” the study states. “If vitamin D is involved in prostate cancer initiation or progression, it would provide a modifiable risk factor for primary prevention and secondary prevention to limit progression, especially in the highest risk group of African American men.”

Among American men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. One in seven American men will develop it in their lifetime. However, Black men are 60 percent more likely than Whites to be affected, according to the American Cancer Society. Although the mortality rate is among the lowest of all cancers, it is more than twice as high for Black men than White men. (The incidence of prostate cancer is low among Latino and Asian men).

It’s especially a concern for men over 50, as the risk of onset rises steadily over time; cancer (in general) is the number one cause of death for Black men age 65 to 84 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study tested the vitamin D levels of nearly 700 men in the Chicago area undergoing their first prostate biopsies, which is the usual recommendation after an abnormal test result or clinical exam. Researchers found that while severely low vitamin D levels were associated with more aggressive tumors, across race, African American men with even moderately low vitamin D levels had higher odds of being diagnosed after that initial biopsy. There was no similar link among the White men studied.

Vitamin D primarily allows the body to absorb calcium, but it also plays a role in regulating cell growth and creation.Although the nutrient can be found in a handful of foods—most significantly in fatty seafood, such as wild-caught salmon—the body primarily creates its own vitamin D by absorbing sunlight. Melanin, which naturally blocks the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, alters this process.

“The darker the color of the skin, the less effective sunlight is in producing vitamin D in skin,” says Dr. Donald Trump, president and CEO of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the first cancer center in the nation. (Trump was not involved in this particular study). “An African American person is more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D than a European person, because the same amount of sun exposure doesn’t generate the same amount of vitamin D for darker skin as it does for lighter skin.”

Additionally, people who are overweight are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. According to 2011 data from the Office of Minority Health, 70 percent of African American men 20 years and older are overweight or obese.The National Cancer Institute asserts that studies have shown obese men to be at greater risk for aggressive prostate cancer than men at a healthy weight.

“The fatter I get, the lower my vitamin D level goes, because it gets absorbed into body fat instead of my blood. That could be one possible explanation for the [racial] disparities in data,” Trump said. “So maybe vitamin D is just a surrogate or marker for obesity. You see a few of these confounding factors in the vitamin D literature.”

Although the association between vitamin D and cancer has already been discovered and is still being explored, this study takes a targeted look at how this link manifests differently between Blacks and Whites. There is still controversy in the medical community regarding how significant this link is, or if it has real-world treatment orprevention implications. Further complicating matters, a study released last year in the New England Journal of Medicine asserts that Black people generally do have sufficient vitamin D levels—it’s just a different, more readily-available form than the one measured by the standard test.

“We know a lot about the fact that in a lab test tube or animal, the active form of vitamin D can moderate, slow, or stop prostate tumor cells, and at high doses can even kill them. We don’t know yet whether treating people with vitamin D will reduce the chance of getting [cancer],” Trump said. He recommends a vitamin D-level test for his patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer. In his experience, at least 70 percent diagnosed men are deficient, and he does prescribe supplements.

“We don’t know for sure that it makes a difference, but I believe it does” Trump said. “I think there is a distinct possibility that low vitamin D levels might contribute to the severity of prostate cancer in African American men—but we don’t have proof of that at the moment.”

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