Friday, January 4

The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad presents


The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad interviews Elner Clark, sister of the late Black Panther Party organizer for downstate Illinois, Mark Clark, who along with Fred Hampton, was assassinated on December 4, 1969 by a Chicago police task force under J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and the abusive COINTELPRO program, designed to discredit, disrupt and otherwise neutralize Black American Leadership, Black American organizations and Black American individuals who resisted racism, racial injustice and the discriminatory practices of the American government. 

Tuesday, November 19

From The Final Call Newspaper

Riveting testimonies, partisan bickering mark impeachment hearings

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor

WASHINGTON—Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is now only the fourth president in U.S. history to face public impeachment hearings. As the hearings continue, the contentiousness and bitter partisan politics have been on full display before the country and the world.

For hours and hours, three witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee Nov. 13 and Nov. 15: George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state; William Taylor, a former ambassador and the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. More witnesses are scheduled as the proceedings unfold.

Mr. Kent and Mr. Taylor both said President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Ms. Yovanovitch revealed a shocking account of her ouster and condemned foreign policy in the Trump era, while Mr. Trump attempted to intimidate her and other potential witnesses, condemning her on Twitter, even as she sat testifying in the relative security of the U.S. Capitol.

The first testimony “corroborated evidence of bribery” by President Trump in his dealings with Ukraine, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her use of the term “bribery”—one of the crimes the Constitution cites as an impeachable offense—suggests that Democrats have in mind a specific set of charges that could be codified in articles of impeachment.

After countless scandals from the day Mr. Trump was elected—including the convictions and resignations of more than a dozen top White House officials—what’s at issue now is whether or not Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of Congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine in order to force that country’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce a corruption investigation into the business dealings in Ukraine of former Vice President Biden’s son Hunter.

That conduct came to light after a CIA whistleblower complained of improper attempted coercion of Mr. Zelensky by Mr. Trump in a July 25 telephone call.

“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calfi.) told reporters, “must we simply get over it? Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Mr. Schiff began the hearing itself with a somber note in his opening statement. “The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.

“These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment. If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), dismissed the entire impeachment process. In his opening statement he was blunt. “We should not hold any hearings at all until we get answers to three crucial questions the Democrats are determined to avoid asking. First, what is the full extent of the Democrats’ prior coordination with the whistleblower, and who else did the whistleblower coordinate this effort with?

“Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling against the Trump campaign? And third, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, and what did he do for them, and did his position affect any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration? These questions will remain outstanding, because Republicans were denied the right to call witnesses that know these answers. What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats,” said Mr. Nunes.

Republicans want the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry to testify and be publicly identified, claiming that he was compromised because of his contact with the staff of Rep. Schiff, and because he did not hear the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president firsthand. Mr. Trump’s allies have said the president should be able to face his “accuser,” despite the whistle-blower’s entitlement to anonymity.

Rather than defend the president’s innocence of the charges, the Republican strategy is to discredit the impeachment process itself. They “are going after the whistle blower,” one New York City news analyst named Ms. Taylor said in an interview with WPFW-FM in Washington during a hearing break. “They are defining this process and calling it a coup and treating it as such and avoiding compliance with it in every way they can.

“And then when they are participating, it’s this: de-legitimize it. So, number one, I think that there is no reason to believe and expect that they will play by the rules, and it is an extraordinary and unlikely situation where (Mr. Trump would be) voted to be found guilty in the Senate.

“Number two, it is unlikely. I think that the Senate, the Republicans are not going to vote to convict absent something that’s been missing up until now, which is a third force, the masses of people in the streets in a different way,” Ms. Taylor continued.

Absent a “third force” protesting against Mr. Trump’s government in the streets she said, the mounting evidence presented in these hearings appears to many observers to be extremely unflattering, but not necessarily destructive of the Trump presidency.

“What the Democrats have done that’s really smart through all the smoke and bluster is that they made it very simple that the president of the United States tried to get a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 elections on his behalf. And that is a very, fundamental takeaway I think that they want to present,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, professor of international relations and former chair of the political science department at Howard University told WPFW.

“Well, what I think it will do, and I think one of the objectives of the Democrats broadly, is just to get it on the record and help hold this president accountable because he’s basically existed his entire life and certainly for his tenure as president in a way (where he’s) not been held accountable because he’s been protected by Republicans in Congress and by a Justice Department that refuses to acknowledge what he’s done. So, this is really the only opportunity to really hold him accountable.

“I think it lays the groundwork then for what they would do in the Senate as they bring (an impeachment) trial into reality. And Trump cannot escape that. I doubt that there are 20 Republicans who are willing to cross the line and vote against the president. I just don’t see it,” Dr. Lusane continued.

“And I think this, to go back to your original question about the interest of the people and how many different kinds of crimes against the people, against the environment, against immigrants, against women and LGBTQ; the White supremacy that’s been whipped up, all of this that goes along with the Trump/Pence regime that has not found a home in these impeachment hearing,” said Ms. Taylor.

“All of that gets expressed only if the people act independent of the impeachment hearings. The opening for (the removal of the President from office) to go forward, what could change the hand of those Republicans in the Senate? What could tip the balance of them and others, is whether people themselves act.

“So, with the impeachment, it’s high stakes. It’s very damning,” she continued. “There’s every ground in what we’ve heard so far for the man to be removed from office. But whether that goes forward or not, it does depend on whether people get rendered as spectators to this (as) cheerleaders; to this feeling that the job is being done, or whether people see this as an opening to act and to take history into our own hands and seize on this fight at the top to move in a way that the interests of the people do get asserted.

“So, I feel it’s unwritten, and the main factor that could swing the hand is still too much sitting on the sidelines,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s election and controversial presidency and subsequent impeachment has continued to divide a country already split among party and racial lines. The president still enjoys overwhelming support among Republicans and bitter opposition among Democrats.

Seventy percent of Americans think President Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds. “A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely,” the poll notes.

“In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that he should either be impeached by the House but not removed from office, or be neither impeached by the House nor convicted by the Senate. The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong,” continued the poll which surveyed 506 adults Nov. 16-17.

“The unfolding political drama between congressional Democrats and the White House reveals a polarized populace, with Democrats more united in their belief that Trump should be impeached and convicted than Republicans are in their belief that the president has committed no wrongdoing: 85% and 65%, respectively,” ABC News/Ipsos concluded.

As the hearings moved into the second week of public testimony—heading perhaps for a full House vote on an impeachment resolution possible by Dec. 15, another new witness emerged—a State Department official in Kiev named Suriya Jayanti—who will be able to describe the overheard phone call that Mr. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified about.

On that call, the President and Gordon Sondland, the Oregon hotel magnate and mega-donor whom the President made the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, discussed the political investigations Mr. Trump sought from Ukraine. Mr. Sondland is also set to testify publicly. (Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, November 12

From The Final Call Newspaper

Life, death and doctors: How, why race still matters when it comes to your health

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent-


LOS ANGELES—Blacks still struggle to get proper medical care and are paying a heavy price, sometimes financially and other times with their lives.

The problem has surfaced even with artificial intelligence alongside a consistent lack of culturally competent doctors and other health professionals, access to treatment, and some say, a lack of self-care.

“Studies have shown that when you factor out variables such as income, employment status or level of education, Blacks still have the worse health outcomes. This demonstrates that the issue in this country is race and racism,” said Dr. Oliver Brooks, president of the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians and their patients in the United States.

“For example, studies have demonstrated that Black women are three to four times more likely to die within one year of giving birth, known as maternal mortality, regardless of these other factors. Racism still exists in America; and it has a direct effect on Black lives,” Dr. Brooks, chief medical officer of Watts HealthCare Corporation in Los Angeles, told The Final Call.

In addition, Blacks tend to live in areas where environmental toxins such as lead and air pollution are at higher levels, stated Dr. Brooks.

“Some of this can be traced back to redlining policies that have had us living in specified neighborhoods. Higher levels of these environmental toxins have led to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and lead exposure leads to delayed development in our children. Racism or a lack of cultural sensitivity also leads to Blacks not being offered life saving treatments such as heart surgery or other procedures related to vascular disease, or as stated more advanced cancer treatments,” continued Dr. Brooks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racism has been linked to low birth weight, high blood pressure, and poor health status. Further, Blacks received worse care than Whites for about 40 percent of quality measures such as person-centered care, patient safety, healthy living, effective treatment, care coordination and affordability, according to the 2018 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report.

The death rate for Blacks is generally higher than Whites for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health.

Railroad to death?

Race and its impact can even surface in seemingly unlikely places, such as data driven programs. New York state is investigating UnitedHealth Group, Inc., for using a data analytics program that significantly underestimated health needs of Black patients.

Between 2013 and 2015 flawed algorithms, or calculations, used by the program Impact Pro “ranked healthier white patients as equally at risk for future health problems—and therefore in need of more intensive healthcare intervention—as black patients who suffered from far more chronic illnesses,” said state officials late last month. They cited a study of the system published Oct. 25 in the journal Science.

Based on the algorithms, which were marketed to health insurers and healthcare providers, Black patients’ health concerns were deemed less significant than White patients, the officials told UnitedHealth in a letter.

Linda Lacewell of the New York State Department of Financial Services and Dr. Howard Zucker, a commissioner with the New York State Department of Health, chided UnitedHealth. Discriminatory results, whether intentional or not, are unacceptable and unlawful in the state, they said.

Citing America’s long, troubled history of racism in healthcare, the officials called on the company to immediately investigate and show the algorithm is not racially discriminatory or stop using Impact Pro or any other data analytics program if UnitedHealth could not prove it doesn’t rely on racial biases or perpetuate racially disparate impacts.

It’s well documented that Blacks endure longer wait times than Whites when seeking treatment, and Black claims of pain are taken less seriously than Whites, so Black medical histories are less likely to reflect their true medical needs than Whites who have historically been given greater medical attention, observed Ms. Lacewell and Dr. Zucker.

“New York will not allow racial bias, especially where it results in discriminatory effects that could mean the difference between life and death for an individual patient and the overall health of an already-underserved community,” they said.

Ill, ignored and misunderstood?

Another recent study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Texas Southwestern found racial disparities in culturally competent cancer care.

Non-White cancer survivors are less likely than Whites to be seen by cancer specialists who share or understand their culture, and the disparity is likely due in part to a low representation of minority physicians in cancer subspecialties, said the study’s authors.

One of the first nationally representative studies to examine patient-reported preference for, access to, and quality of provider cultural competency among cancer survivors, the study published Oct. 31 in JAMA Oncology.

Almost half of non-Whites—49.6 percent—said it was somewhat or very important to be treated by doctors who understand their culture. Non-White patients were also less likely than Whites to receive treatment from health providers who understood their culture, by a difference of 65.3 percent to 79.9 percent.

And 12.6 percent of minority patients said they were never able to see physicians who shared or understood their culture—compared with four percent of Whites, according to the study.

“To us, it was definitely a little shocking. The numbers are pretty clear. The numbers almost flipped between disparities between how important it is to minority cancer survivors to have this care and their inability to,” said report author Santino Butler of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

“The most shocking thing was also that when these people were asked how are their providers doing on a specific basis—such as how often do they get respect, easily understandable information, asked about their opinions—all those didn’t show any disparities between racial minorities and non-Hispanic White cancer survivors, so that was also pretty surprising, because that’s the discrepancy,” said Mr. Butler.

“You’d think that if minority cancer survivors are 15 percent less likely to see these providers, that maybe these providers are less likely to provide certain types of care, but that wasn’t the case. That’s not what we saw,” he said.

Mr. Butler told The Final Call one explanation might be that those three factors aren’t all-encompassing or capturing all that it takes to be a “culturally competent” provider.

“There’s probably a lot more that goes into that and just because a provider checks off those three check boxes or a couple of check boxes, doesn’t mean that they’re providing the patient-centered care and getting the trust and the other factors that go into their patients considering them doing a good job in terms of being culturally competent,” Mr. Butler explained.

Dr. Brooks offered a once long-held, but difficult to achieve solution: Increase the number of Black doctors and other health professionals.

“A study out of Oakland, Calif., found that when Black men were treated by Black doctors for heart disease, their outcomes were better than when they were treated by others. At present about 1 in 8 Americans are Blacks but only about 1 in 15 doctors are Black,” said Dr. Brooks.

“The second solution is not simple or easy: reduce the systemic racism that is at endemic proportions in America. This can be done by elevating the level of cultural awareness of the majority population and along with implicit bias training. That is a steep climb, but we’ve seen over the mountaintop, and there is always hope ahead, however hope without a plan is folly,” Dr. Brooks added.

Educate and advocate

For Charles Mattocks, award-winning filmmaker, celebrity chef, author and health advocate, the key is to educate and inform. As he went about doing that through a 2013 national RV tour, providing free diabetes testing at major sporting events, shopping malls, churches, and state fairs, he realized people knew nothing about diagnoses they were receiving, especially Black men and women.

“They would just get a prescription, and that was it. They didn’t have any other information. They didn’t have any, per se, real follow up or other experts to go see. They just got a prescription, and was sent home,” Mr. Mattocks told The Final Call.

From Black churches to other Black institutions, education and information about Black health care from prevention to treatment simply was lacking, said Mr. Mattocks, who suffered himself with Type 2 diabetes.

“We seem to be undereducated and under informed, and we also don’t seem to ask many of the questions that we need to ask. We know that White males live approximately seven years longer than African American males, and White women live more than five years longer than Black women,” Mr. Mattocks told The Final Call.

That is due to not just disease prevalence, but also the severity of diseases plaguing Blacks, and some are preventable, experts noted.

Part of the problem is also cultural, Mr. Mattocks observed. His father died from cancer.

“This is a man who had an amazing career as a union welder, so he had all the access to doctors, tests, whatever you want, and he literally died overnight, per se,” said Mr. Mattocks.

According to Mr. Mattocks, his father didn’t go to the doctor, and didn’t get recommended exams for Black men at age 50, such as a prostrate exam or colonoscopy, which tests for abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum.

“He didn’t know he had cancer until literally he got it and then no more than a few weeks later—dead,” said Mr. Mattocks. He urged Blacks to get early and proper testing and an understanding of drugs and healthcare.

“We just seem to be a community that once the doctor gives us some medication, we take it without question and we’re on 4, 5, 6 different medications from blood pressure to cholesterol, diabetes. And we also fail to at times, let’s face it, we fail to take into consideration our diet and our health,” said Mr. Mattocks.

His father’s ordeal and desire to help people have led him to, create a cancer TV reality show “Eight Days with Charles Mattocks.” It takes viewers inside individual cancer patients’ journeys through their treatments and their compelling stories. His aim is to inspire and educate people in their living rooms.

Matthew Knowles, father of singer BeyoncĂ©, is executive producer of the show, which is scheduled to air January 4, 2020 on A&E’s FYI channel.

“He’s dealing with breast cancer, which almost no minority male understands that a Black man or minority can get breast cancer. We really need to check ourselves, to speak up for ourselves,” said Mr. Mattocks.

Sheila Muhammad and her husband Elroy Williams of Houston spoke up when they felt doctors were trying to have him undergo unnecessary chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer.

According to Ms. Muhammad, who retired three years ago as a medical assistant professor at Houston Community College, despite a successful surgery, being in remission for five years and positive results after extensive and expensive tests, doctors insisted on radiation treatment.

“I just think it’s a money thing, because he has insurance, and he is doing fine. The doctor that recommended the test didn’t stay in the room with my husband no more than five minutes. They already had set up his payment plan and everything for chemo, although he told them, ‘I can’t afford this.’ But they had set it all up before he had even agreed,” Ms. Muhammad stated.