While 2,200 doctors from the American Medical Association welcomed President Barack Obama’s suggestions including ideas on storing medical records electronically at the AMA’s annual conference this past week, Obama received a chilly response from the audience when he rejected placing caps on medical malpractice lawsuits. Obama was the first president to address the AMA since Ronald Reagan in 1983.
Calling caps “unfair” to patients who are “wrongfully harmed,” Obama did a balancing act and said on the other hand, he recognizes how doctors feel when they constantly have to look over their shoulders for fear of being sued. He added any health overhaul will be hard to accomplish without changing problems associated with caps.
Dr. Nancy Nielsen, AMA’s outgoing president, said Obama’s comments on malpractice cap awards weren’t surprising since he has voiced opposition to them in the past. But Nielson praised the president for hearing doctors’ concerns about practicing “defensive medicine” such as ordering medical tests to avoid lawsuits.
“We’re talking about serious injuries that prevent people from functioning normally,” Atty. Chester Slaughter, owner of Chester Slaughter and Associates said. Praising Obama for speaking out against caps he said, “If you damage someone very, very seriously as a result of what happened in the hospital, I think you should be entitled to whatever the judge or jury says,” Slaughter said.
The U.S. spends more than $2 trillion annually on healthcare, although 15 percent of the U.S. population does not have medical insurance. In a released statement, Dr. James L. Milam, president of the Illinois State Medical Association, said liability costs make up one percent of all health care spending. While it may not seem like a big deal, Milan pointed out that “a mere one percent equal tens of billions of dollars out of the trillions of dollars spent annually on health care.” He questioned whether that money would be better spent covering the insured rather than enriching personal injury lawyers.
In his speech, Obama announced that $313 billion will be saved to help reform healthcare. He said the savings by cutting waste in the Medicare program and Medicaid would “rein in unnecessary spending and increase efficiency and the quality of care.” The president proposed a 10-year reform program estimated to cost $1 trillion that would make healthcare available to all Americans and compared the U.S. with the country’s ailing car industry. “A big part of what led General Motors and Chrysler into trouble were the huge costs they racked up providing healthcare for their workers—costs that made them less profitable and less competitive with automakers around the world. “If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM—paying more, getting less, and going broke,” Obama added. Under his health insurance exchange plan, Americans would be allowed to choose between private plans and a public option that will “inject competition into the health care market,” which would also force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest. The money comes on top of the $635 billion down payment on reform detailed in the budget proposal submitted to Congress this year.
(NNPA) – Immediately after the election of President Barack Obama, many felt the country was going in the right direction in terms of racial relations, but attacks of terror and hatred have only intensified.
Within 24 hours of his election, Nov. 5, 2008, Benjamin Haskell, Michael F. Jacques Jr. and Thomas Gleason Jr., all of whom are white, set fire to the Macedonia Church of God In Christ, which is located in Springfield, Mass. According to the Boston Globe, Haskell was asked by an associate why they set fire to the church. Haskell replied, “Because it was a Black church.”
A CNN report stated that on the day of the election of President Obama, a 55- year-old man by the name of Don Black, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, stated that more than 2000 people joined his website. Statistics suggest KKK and other hate groups are gaining strength because of the election of President Barack Obama.
The statistics are, in fact, alarming. It appears that, as President Obama continues to reach across political, socio-economic and racial divides in the U.S., as well as around the world, the KKK and other hate groups are mobilizing across the United States.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the annual “Year in Hate” issue of its magazine, Intelligence Report, the number of active hate groups in the United States has risen 54% since 2000 not only because of the election of the first African-American president, but also because of continual increases in immigration and the economic recession.
Recent acts of domestic terrorism, including the bombing of a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City, the assassination of a doctor inside a Kansas church, the arrest of four men allegedly plotting to blow up synagogues and shoot down planes, the shooting of two soldiers at an Army center in Arkansas and the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum, have placed greater visibility on the issue of domestic terrorism cases.
But how do the experts define terrorism? And does the violence have to be perpetrated against groups with varying political and racial backgrounds in order to be considered domestic terrorism cases? The definition of who a domestic terrorist is seems to vary among local and national leaders alike. According to the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, non-political terrorism is defined as: “Terrorism that is not aimed at political purposes but which exhibits a ‘conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective.’” But a 2003 study by JeffreyRecord for the U.S. Army actually quoted a source (Schmid and Jongman 1988) that counted 109 different definitions of terrorism and covered a total of 22 definitional elements, making terrorism and who falls in that category, seemingly hard to define.
If the rising problem of gang violence on city streets goes unchecked, eventually gangbangers could be classified as domestic terrorists, one local activist said. Comparing the recent incidents of domestic terrorist cases with gang violence and Black-on-Black crime in urban neighborhoods, Rhonda Richmond, program coordinator of the Roseland CeaseFire, said that while terrorists usually don’t have a specific target when they shoot people, gang members have a specific target. But since the gangs can’t “shoot straight,” as she puts it, gangbangers end up missing their target—-costing the life of some innocent bystander just like in other terrorist cases. Recently Ceasefire, held a Community Peace March and Bar-B-Que highlighting the need to end random acts of violence including the recent shooting of 30-year-old Odis Matthews, the father of five children, who was shot and killed two houses down from his mother’s home. The group works with other communitybased organizations to promote services that reduce gun violence.
Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of Saint Sabina Church, said although violence from so called domestic terrorist cases and terror brought on by gangbangers are rooted in the same evil, defining gangbangers as “terrorists,” really doesn’t help solve the problem. Getting to the cause of the problem is a better approach, he said.
In affluent neighborhoods, gun violence is not as prevalent because there are systems in place where quality education, health care and better job opportunities are more readily available, he said. In underserved communities, it’s the complete opposite,” Pfleger commented. “No one wants to change the neglect of the infrastructure in poor, inner-city neighborhoods. When you create bad conditions and throw guns around, you’re going to see more violence,” he added. “Until we become a country where every life lost is of equal value and [when we] address this gun proliferation and violent culture in America, we’re going to see things like this happen in our urban cities,” he said.
Lesley R. Chinn contributed to this story.
Posted on 17. Jun, 2009 by admin in Uncategorized
The following is the first of a threepart series on the impact of corruption on taxpayers in Illinois and in Chicago as Americans face tough economic times. This week, the Citizen focuses on how minority communities suffer when corruption occurs, particularly as it relates to social programs that help strengthen communities. In part two, we’ll examine corruption in higher education and focus on what happens when minority applicants are shut out of the admissions process when getting accepted into a college or university is based on power and clout. Finally, an analysis of political corruption and the price local communities pay in urban areas will encompass part three of this report.
Instead of using funds appropriated by the state to pay for important social programs that help build communities, taxpayers are paying millions of dollars annually for the price of corruption.
A recent Chicago Sun-Times article pointed out that $2.7 million was reportedly wasted in state grants that could have gone towards helping communities with social programs including job training services for homeless men, youth services for African-Americans and literacy training for others.
While a Chicago Coalition for the Homeless report recently noted that Illinois should invest $2 million in transitional jobs programs with a therapy focus for people living in supportive housing facilities to help them move out of poverty and homelessness, Thomas J. Gradel, the coresearcher of a study entitled, Curing Corruption in Illinois: Anti-Corruption Report at the University of Illinois said, “You’re not only ripping off the taxpayers, but the homeless people that could have got the training. The people who were supposed to get the training, [didn’t receive] access to a job. The businesses would have benefited from the trained employees. So there’s a whole ripple effect caused by taking money to provide training and not providing it,” Gradel said. According to the Coalition’s report, less than one percent of the $270 million spent on workforce development in Chicago in 2004 targeted the homeless. The report pointed to another UIC study in 2001 on homelessness in the city and stated that of the 1,300 homeless adults in the collar counties, 19 percent were military veterans; 31.4 percent had been incarcerated, 46.3 percent were substance abusers and 13.8 percent were mentally ill.
In addition to groups like the homeless, it’s the children who end up paying the price through school dropouts and incarceration when funds fail to reach the people it was supposed to help, said Marrice Coverson, founder of the Institute for Positive Living, a non-profit organization that helps families solve educational, social and economic problems.
While 63 percent of Black male students in the Chicago Public Schools failed to graduate in 2005-2006 according to a study conducted by the Schott Foundation for Public Education based in Massachusetts, Coverson said, “We’re going to look up and we’re not going to have quality people to run our hospitals or banks.”
But the cost on taxpayers is just as high than it is on society overall. In the report Curing Corruption in Illinois, UIC researchers found that taxpayers have paid an estimated $500 million a year, tallying scandals that have included:
*Gov. Blagojevich’s well-publicized corruption case that lowered the state’s bond rating and cost more than $20 million extra for the last state bond; *Unused hired trucks that cost the city $42 million in the 2004 Hired Truck Scandal;
*Sale of truckers licenses for bribes in the 1994 “License for Bribes Scandal” at a taxpayer cost of almost $5 million and; *Silver Shovel of 1996 cost $5.4 million in taxpayer dollars. The investigation involved public officials misusing their offices by allowing illegal landfills and other environmental abuses to occur.
“The cost of these scandals is not funny and it’s not free,” said Gradel, who added corruption pushes the price of everything up from food and gas to other services while citizens end up paying the price if they want to receive basic services they need just to live in the city. In turn, they receive less of a benefit for their tax dollars than they actually deserve, he said. For the people who are caught up in these corruption cases, “it’s going to cost [them] more than what it’s worth,” Gradel added.
But Coverson said indirectly, other organizations that are trying to do the right thing, also suffer when their organization’s reputations are jeopardized as a result of unethical behavior. “People make a general assumption that the majority of nonprofits are not doing what they are supposed to be doing with the funds and that is not true,” Coverson stated. When non-profits get funding, Coverson suggested that they should be prepared to be monitored and evaluated.
Although Gradel believes that some operators do what they say they are going to do with state grants, it’s also a question of oversight, he said. The city doles out so many grants per ward and no one pays attention to how effectively the programs are being run, he added. Minority communities are susceptible to being, “ripped off,” by operators because the majority community, tends to look at distributing grants in these areas as a way to win favors with the community. So in turn, “There’s no real effort to scrutinize it closely to make sure its working,” he continued.
Accepting the evidence of corruption, Gradel believes will lead to the reality that changes need to be made. Some of those efforts have included the City of Chicago Inspector General and the Office of the U.S. Attorney General investigating cases that have led to the arrests of numerous elected officials. Once citizens become informed about corruption activities, Gradel said that they have to make sure wrongdoers get “caught” and punished for their actions. “As soon as the players realize that it’s going to cost more than it benefits, then the behavior will change,” he said.
Efforts to reduce corruption have been passed by the Illinois legislature that involve a series of ethics reforms including new requirements for quarterly reporting of contracts greater than $25,000; the right for the state to audit programs receiving grants; and the ability to suspend grants for noncompliance. This measure is currently awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.
Additionally, since January 2009, the state has obtained nearly $2 million in wasted grants, according to Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity spokesman Ashley Cross. “Anytime that we learn that taxpayer money wasn’t spent appropriately, we take that seriously and [take] whatever steps [necessary] to get that money back,” Cross said.
John Paul Jones, an Englewood community resident, said that ethics reform is not going to be a “quick fix” because the challenge lies in broadening the communication between elected officials and knowledge about how government works. “Those issues are not discussed in community settings. Until we get to that point where people can be comfortable talking about those things with their state officials without being blackballed, we’re going to have a disconnect of having state reform,” he said.
Lisette Livingston contributed to this story