PACE NEWS: National Action Network LA and NAACP Victor Valley Tells Rancho Motors, a GM Dealership, “No Justice, No Peace” During Protest Rally In Victorville

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Race For the Cure: Including Black Women In Breast Cancer Research

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New AHA Guidelines May Help Doctors Identify Risk Of Cardiac Arrest Deaths

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Buying a car with add-on products and services seldom a good deal for consumers

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Items filtered by date: Thursday, 02 November 2017 - The San Bernardino American News

Get Covered: Enroll in Health Care Today

No one plans to get sick or hurt, but most people need medical care at some point in their lives. Health insurance, which is available to everyone today, covers these unexpected costs and offers many other important benefits that are vital to overall long term health.

Despite what you may have heard happening in other states or on the national level, Covered California’s open-enrollment period starts on Nov. 1, 2017 and continues through Jan. 31, 2018. If you, your family members, or friends need health insurance, this is the time to sign up.

In California – unlike other states – legislators, advocates, and non-profits have done everything possible to make sure the Affordable Care Act works for folks who would be burdened the most with expensive medical costs. We expanded Medicaid, we set up a well-functioning health care exchange, and we pushed for more outreach and enrollment assistance into the communities that need it the most, including the African-American community.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act and the creation of Covered California the number of Californians signing up for health insurance has significantly increased – with most receiving financial help. Unfortunately many friends and family in our community are currently uninsured, remaining unprotected against any unforeseen medical emergencies and lacking any attention to their long term health.

Data from Covered California shows that enrollment among subsidy-eligible African-Americans during open enrollment is consistently at 4 percent, while African-Americans constitute five percent of the state’s subsidy-eligible population

The good news is that getting covered – and receiving financial assistance to cover the premiums – is easier than ever. In fact, 90 percent of Covered California enrollees receive federal subsidies to help cover their premiums. Covered California is the only place where eligible consumers can get financial assistance to help pay for their health insurance.

Financial help means that in 2018, nearly 60 percent of subsidy-eligible enrollees will have access to Silver coverage for less than $100 per month — the same as it was in 2017 — and 74 percent can purchase Bronze coverage for less than $10 per month.

Thankfully we are already seeing the positive impact of Covered California in improving the overall health of Californians. Californian’s enrollment numbers continue to increase, making it a national leader. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as a result of coverage expansions through both Covered California and Medi-Cal, California’s uninsured rate is down to 7.4 percent. That’s a big drop from 17.2 percent in 2013 and makes our rate of uninsured the lowest in state history.

If you, your family members or friends need health coverage, they can get free, confidential assistance from one of the more than 20,000 certified agents and enrollers throughout California who are ready to help them enroll. You can find confidential in-person help from a Certified Insurance Agent, Certified Enrollment Counselor or a county eligibility worker at You can also sign up by calling Covered California’s Service Center at (800) 300-1506, applying online at, or have a certified enroller contact them through the “Help on Demand” feature.

Assemblymember Chris Holden represents the 41st Assembly District that stretches from Pasadena in the West to Upland in the East and includes the communities of Altadena, Claremont, La Verne, Monrovia, Rancho Cucamonga, San Dimas, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena. He also serves as chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus and Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy.


Race For the Cure: Including Black Women In Breast Cancer Research

“As a Black woman, I definitely advocate for other Black women to become a part cancer research, and here is why,” says Bridgette Hempstead, a Black woman with metastatic breast cancer. “Medications are developed and they are mainly developed for middle-aged White women, because the research for Black women is not there.”

Hempstead is founder of Cierra Sisters, a support organization for African-American breast cancer survivors, and knows well the barriers for African-American women to engage in breast cancer research and the consequences if they are not included.

The Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Project at the Broad Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute are working to break down these barriers and give black women a seat at the breast cancer research table. According to the MBC Project website, it is a nationwide movement of patients, doctors, and scientists seeking to recruit women with metastatic breast cancer and, with their permission, access their tissue samples from the hospitals that care for them. The goal is to use those samples to transform their understanding of metastatic breast cancer to aid in the development of future therapies.

“We initially knew that we would probably skew young and White just based on who we had reach to in social media,” said Dr. Corrie Painter, associate director of operations and scientific outreach for the MBC Project.

But when they realized that less than three percent of their participants were from Black women – even though Black women are estimated to account for more than 20 percent of metastatic breast cancer cases in the United States under the age of 50 – they knew they had to actively work to engage Black women in their research. Dr. Painter knew that her team needed to learn about the barriers to participate in research and address them in their study.

Far too often, Black women are underrepresented in clinical trials and medical research, including research that has led to new treatments. This fact contributes to higher rates of death and poorer outcomes in Black women with breast cancer. In one major study showing the efficacy of using a drug called Herceptin after surgery and chemotherapy in women with HER2-positive breast cancer, of 3,387 women only 20 were Black women—that is less than one percent of the study participants.

Factors That Contribute to Blacks Not Participating In Trials

The MBC Project is determined not to contribute to this problem in breast cancer research. They aim to engage Black women in the hopes of finding new treatments. The MBC project is interested in more than just their samples, they are interested in hearing their voices. To lead this effort, they enlisted Shawn Johnson, a researcher at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and now first-year student at Harvard Medical School.

When Johnson joined the project, he was keen on diving deeper into the barriers to participation in medical research. He began by inviting five Black women that are metastatic breast cancer advocates to the Broad Institute to begin a dialogue.

He wanted to address the well-documented history of abuse of Black bodies in medical research. Whether it was the Tuskegee syphilis study or gynecologic surgeries practiced on Black women without anesthesia by the man known as the father of gynecology, James Marion Sims, the history of abuse and lack of faith in medical researchers’ motives has been passed down from generation to generation in Black families.

“If you told people the history of this abuse and exploitation, would this be liberating and build trust between the people that are asking them to participate and themselves?” Johnson asked. He found that it did just that.

A study by the Komen Tissue Bank on the perspectives of African-American women in donating healthy breast tissue also found…this to be true. Some participants in the study echoed Johnson’s thoughts. One participant commented on the need to “be honest about the bad history surrounding their past ‘participation’ in research to dispel the myths, be honest about the truths, and explain the differences.”

In addition to this history that might prevent participation, another study reviewed factors that influence African-Americans participation in cancer clinical trials. That study confirmed that part of the challenge is the lack of knowledge about these trials. When clinical trials are run out of major academic hospitals and not in the community, awareness is only one challenge. The financial burden of traveling, missing work and finding childcare in order to participate may limit who can become involved.

Dr. Karen Winkfield, a radiation oncologist and former chair of the health disparities committee for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, adds that physician bias can play a role in underrepresentation of breast cancer research. She has studied perceptions of cancer and clinical trials in the black community and some women have shared that, “if they were asked, they would consider participation.” If physicians are not asking black women, then this is another hindrance to participation.

But even if African-American women are approached to enroll and are willing to participate, Dr. Winkfield laments that, “comorbidities like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension may restrict access to clinical trials.”

Dr. Winkfield says that what she appreciates about the MBC Project is that “it does not make a difference who you are, where you come from, or what your health issues are, you can participate.”


MBC’s Approach to Inclusion


The MBC Project is taking a different approach. The project’s direct-to-patient strategy allows researchers to…circumvent a system that may be fraught with bias by reaching out directly to potential participants through social media.

To continue giving Black women a voice in their research efforts and outreach, Johnson recruited three Black women who attend Howard University to collaborate with the MBC Project. These women have enlisted a team of students at Howard to raise awareness on their campus and get students to sign up to post, share and like information about the MBC Project and be social media amplifiers to get the message out through their social networks.

It is estimated that there are more than 150,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States. The MBC Project is working to use social media to find those women and be sure that black women are not left behind in research efforts yet again.

Dr. Painter was elated to report that the MBC Project just surpassed 4,000 enrollees since they begin their work in October of 2015. She also shared their plans to prioritize communities that have been underrepresented in research. Any samples that they receive from African-American men or women, or Latino men or women will be prioritized for sequencing.


Participants will find that it only takes three steps.


Step 1. Tell them about yourself. Click “Count Me In” and complete a simple online form to tell them about yourself and your cancer.


Step 2. Give them permission to collect your samples and data. After you fill out the online survey, they will ask you to fill out an online consent form that requests your permission to obtain copies of your medical records and some of your stored tumor tissue. They’ll also send you a simple kit to collect a saliva sample. They will do the rest.


Step 3. Learn with them along the way. Throughout the project, they will provide you with regular updates about the status of the project and share any discoveries that you have enabled them to make.


Mary Tate is an MD/MPH candidate at Harvard. She is deeply invested in improving the health of women and children. Following completion of her medical school training in 2018, she will be pursuing obstetrics and gynecology residency.


CDPH Warns Consumers about Risks of Wearing Decorative Contact Lenses

SACRAMENTO – California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today warned consumers about the risks associated with wearing decorative contact lenses.

“Advertised as color, cosmetic, fashion and theatrical contact lenses, decorative contact lenses are especially popular around Halloween.” said Dr. Smith. “Wearing any kind of contact lens, including decorative lenses, without proper consultation of an eye care professional can cause serious injury.”

The sale of contact lenses without a prescription is illegal. Only Board of Optometry licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists are authorized to prescribe and dispense prescription contact lenses. Medical Board of California registered opticians and optical shops are authorized to fill contact lens prescriptions.

Decorative contact lenses are intended to temporarily change the appearance of the eye, but do not correct vision. “The risks include infection, ulcers, decreased vision, cuts or scratches to the surface of the eye, itchiness or redness. If these conditions are left untreated, the injuries can progress rapidly. In severe cases, blindness and eye loss can occur,” said Dr. Smith.

Decorative contact lenses are typically sold at beauty supply and novelty stores. Consumers who have experienced any injury or illness with decorative contact lenses should contact their health care provider. Consumers can report the illegal sale of decorative contact lenses without a prescription to CDPH’s Food and Drug Branch Hotline at (800) 495-3232 to initiate an investigation.

For more information on healthy contact lens wear and care, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Watch this video for more on the dangers of decorative contact lenses and more on what CDPH is doing to protect consumers.


Riverside University Health System Bringing Clinics Design Innovation to Patient-Centered Care in the Cities of Corona and Jurupa Valley

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Ca. – Two state-of-the-art medical clinics opening next year in the cities of Corona and Jurupa Valley will significantly expand access to patient-centered, team-based healthcare in western Riverside County, representatives of the projects announced this week.

“A team-based approach allows us to treat the whole individual, to improve patient outcomes and ensure there is no gap in services. Whether its diabetes management or depression, our patients will find their providers under one roof working as a team on their behalf,” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, medical director of Ambulatory Care for Riverside University Health System, which operates Riverside County’s health, public health and behavioral health systems.

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Tavaglione represents nearly a half-million people in Riverside County’s Second District, which includes the cities of Corona and Jurupa Valley. Tavaglione said the comprehensive clinics are part of the county’s thrust to improve access to quality, affordable services through a vibrant and integrated regional healthcare system.

“These clinics are gateways to a brighter future for thousands of Inland households who have struggled in the past to get good healthcare close to home,” Tavaglione said. “They are investments into the future of our local communities and our region as a whole.”

The Riverside County Economic Development Agency contracted premiere medical office developer Boureston | Sudweeks Companies to design and build the projects. Boureston | Sudweeks Companies was represented by Brett Larson and Eugene Hill of Coldwell Banker Commercial SC's Health Care Real Estate Group.” Combined, the two RUHS projects will add 85,000 square-ft. of new medical office space to Western Riverside County.

The contemporary complexes will replace smaller, aging RUHS clinics. Project managers say each facet is being built with RUHS’s model of team-based healthcare delivery in mind.

“We are creating innovative and patient-centered designs,” said Anthony Pings, lead architect for the projects. Pings said the concepts are inspired by innovations in patient care at the Veterans Administration known as PACT (Patient Aligned Care Team).

“These designs are five years ahead of most others in today’s healthcare industry,” Pings said.

The 45,000 square-foot Corona Medical Arts Plaza is on track to open in the first quarter 2018. The two-story complex at 2813 Main Street will include 42 exam suites, laboratory and imaging centers, family medicine and specialty care for infants to seniors as well as behavioral health services and an onsite pharmacy. The 40,000 square-foot single story Jurupa Valley Medical Plaza at the corner of Pedley and Mission avenues is expected to be completed by late next year.


New AHA Guidelines May Help Doctors Identify Risk Of Cardiac Arrest Deaths

It’s hard to predict sudden cardiac arrest. For people whose heart unexpectedly stops beating, roughly half didn’t have any earlier symptoms.

New guidelines issued Monday by the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and Heart Rhythm Society may help doctors better identify people at risk for having and dying from cardiac arrest.

Cardiac electrophysiologist Sana M. Al-Khatib, M.D., chair of the group that wrote the guidelines, said the new recommendations give doctors a blueprint for how to diagnose and treat people at increased risk for cardiac arrest due to ventricular arrhythmias — abnormal heart rhythms that occur in the lower chambers of the heart.

“It is critically important to identify patients at an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest and to promptly offer them highly effective therapies to reduce that risk,” said Al-Khatib, co-director of the Duke Center for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Ventricular arrhythmias can result from heart muscle damage from a heart attack or cardiomyopathy, or can occur in patients with hearts that appear structurally normal.

One treatment option proposed in the new guidelines is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a battery-powered device placed under the skin that tracks the heart rhythm and delivers an electric shock when it detects a dangerously fast heart rhythm. Medications such as antiarrhythmic drugs can help control abnormal heart rhythms.

Each year, more than 350,000 Americans have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital. Only about one in 10 survives.

A patient’s genetic data might also be valuable, according to the guidelines. Since the last set of guidelines were issued in 2006, there’s been a growing interest in genetic testing and what it can tell doctors about a person’s predisposition to certain conditions, including sudden cardiac death.

According to the guidelines,… …genetic testing may be especially important for people younger than 40 without structural heart damage who experience an unexplained sudden cardiac arrest, a near-drowning event or fainting related to exertion.

But genetic testing can be expensive and isn’t appropriate for all patients with ventricular arrhythmias.

In general, genetic testing is most useful if the results would play a role in determining the best treatment for a patient, said Mark Link, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Depending on the results, a patient’s children may also be tested for the gene variant, said Link, who was not involved in writing the new guidelines.

Yet even when there is no treatment for a particular condition, Link said genetic testing may still make it possible to prevent sudden cardiac death. For example, people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may choose to have their children tested because sports activities may need to be limited, Link said.

But overall, he said, “genetic testing doesn’t offer much for risk stratification and treatment guidance for most diseases, with the exception of long QT syndrome.”

Patients interested in genetic testing should first undergo genetic counseling to discuss the health, financial and emotional implications of the tests and their potential results, Al-Khatib said.

AHA guidelines offer best practices for health care providers across the nation, based on the latest scientific evidence. The new guidelines for ventricular arrhythmias appear in the journal Circulation.


San Bernardino mayor holds town hall meeting at CSUSB about the state of the city

San Bernardino Mayor Carey R. Davis said the city is in a much better state since coming out of bankruptcy, pointing to a number of steps that include streamlining operations, adopting a new city charter, focusing more attention on public safety, and staying fiscally solvent.

Back in 2012 we were sitting at about a $45 million general fund deficit, significant problems with liquidity. In 2016, our last fiscal year that we completed in autumn, we now have approximately a $33 million dollar reserve,” Davis said. “We made a huge swing in helping to create not only political stability but financial stability in the city’s governing structure.”

Davis, a CSUSB alumnus (’97 MBA) now in his third year in leading the city, made his comments during a town hall meeting held at the CSUSB Santos Manuel Student Union Events Center on Oct. 26.

The audience of about 75 people consisted of CSUSB students, faculty and staff as well as city residents there to meet with Davis, to discuss issues in the city that are of interest to them.

Accompanied by City Manager Andrea Miller, Assistant City Manager Teri Baker and Assistant Police Chief Eric McBride, Davis and his staff talked the state of the city before the bankruptcy and afterward.

Davis said the city has increased its police budget over three years from $54 million to $72 million had hired enabling the department to hire about 40 new sworn officers.

Other areas of discussion included the city’s ongoing need to recruit and hire capable and talented young people to fill a number of vacancies in various departments left open by departing city staffers, the city’s proposal to become the second corporate headquarters for online retailer Amazon’s and the various programs to reduce crime in the city.

Davis started the town halls in 2015 to meet with residents. The forums have been held at all of city’s seven wards.

The CSUSB town hall was sponsored by the Latino Business Association and the CSUSB Student Ambassador Society in conjunction with the San Bernardino Mayor’s Office.

Davis is the 28th mayor of the city of San Bernardino and was elected mayor in February 2014. Born in the city, Davis is a third generation resident and lives with his wife, Johnetta, in the 7th Ward. He graduated from Pacific High School and received his master’s in business administration from CSUSB. His bachelor’s degree was obtained from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

For more information on San Bernardino Mayor Carey R. Davis, call the mayor’s office at (909) 384-5133 and visit the mayor’s webpage at


Buying a car with add-on products and services seldom a good deal for consumers

It's that time of year again when auto dealers try to make room in their showrooms and lots for next year’s models. The seasonal clearance sales that come right before the holidays are just as tempting as ever, beckoning consumers to get that proverbial ‘new car fever’.

But don’t let those shiny new cars blind you from the facts of a major consumer purchase. After mortgages and student loans, auto sales take a big bite out of your pocket and available credit.

A new analysis of car sales data reveals that many consumers are being charged triple-digit mark-ups on purchases that include a lot of questionable add-on products that cost consumers a bundle and reap major profits for dealers.

A new policy analysis by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), examined sales and financing practices widely used by car dealers. Aggressive sales of add-on products were frequently offered at inflated prices. Additionally, these same products and services are usually available for consumers to purchase more cheaply on their own. When these items are added to the financing of the vehicle, consumers end up padding the costs of finance, making the debt more costly than necessary.

After analyzing data on the sale of three million add-on products sold on 1.8 million vehicles from September 2009 through June 2015, these add-on costs were both unreasonably high and varied at the discretion of the dealership as to the price levels that would be charged.

Our analysis demonstrates the negative consequences of opaque and inconsistent pricing of auto add-on products and the urgent need to bring transparency and consistency to this market,” said John W. Van Alst, the report’s primary author and director of NCLC’s Working Cars for Working Families Project.

Here’s how the unfair pricing and add-ons occur:

After a consumer settles on a price of a vehicle, he or she is then told to see the finance and insurance (F&I) representative to review terms and sign the purchase. What few consumers know, is that many dealers pay its F&I personnel on a commission basis. Hence, the more costs added to the vehicle purchase, the more these employees earn. Other dealers, according to NCLC, pay a higher percentage commission as the F&I profits increase per vehicle sold. Sometimes car sales representatives receive a commission on the cars sold and additionally, a portion of the add-ons, sometimes known as “back-end” products.

If consumers accept all the options offered by F&I, the likelihood is that they will eventually pay far more than the vehicle is actually worth. Not only that, the amount of mark-up that boosts the dealership’s profits would be far cheaper and affordable if the consumer secured them independently. To make these products and services appear affordable, the length of the auto loan is often extended to 72 or 84 months -- or even longer. The longer the auto loan, the more likely that the consumer is getting a bad deal.

NCLC also cites previous research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) that determined car buyers who financed vehicles at the dealership in 2009 paid $25.8 billion in interest rate mark-ups. That same study also found that more than half of Black car purchasers – 54 percent - were also charged loan kickbacks, compared to only 31 percent of whites.

In 2014, a CRL consumer survey also found that Black and Latino car buyers purchased more add-on products than other consumers after being told that the additional items were required to finalize the deal. As a result, although consumers of color reported trying more than other consumers to negotiate a fair car deal, they still wound up paying more for their purchases than similarly-situated white consumers.

Here are two of the most- costly add-on costs that NCLC found to be the most expensive for consumers:

Window etching is marketed by dealers as a deterrent to theft or making it easier to identify and recover a stolen vehicle. Usually, a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) already appears in multiple places on the vehicle coming out of manufacturing.

Similarly, Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) is almost a certain sign of having paid too much for the vehicle. Should a vehicle be stolen or wrecked, the consumer’s collision or comprehensive insurance coverage is usually limited to the market value of the car and not the amount still owed. Consumers, however, are still held liable for the vehicle’s negative equity. GAP products are sold to hold the consumer harmless between the differing amounts. Unfortunately, few consumers ever receive what was promised with these products. Some do not cover the deductible on the consumer’s collision or theft coverage.

Taken together, the combined average markup on GAP and etch products was 170 percent. By comparison and according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, new car sales in 2015 had an average markup of 3.4 percent.

For many Americans, affordable car ownership is not a luxury, but a necessity,” noted Delvin Davis, a senior researcher with CRL. “People need reliable transportation for employment, personal business, health care and more. Making car more expensive with marked-up add-ons deepens the debt incurred while increasing the likelihood that they really paid too much.”


The United States and North Korea Are Edging Into Increasingly Dangerous Territory

US and South Korean destroyer ships travel in the western Pacific Ocean in May of 2017. (Reuters / Courtesy of the US Navy)

“There’s battle lines being drawn,” Stephen Stills sang in the 1960s about the war in Vietnam. Today those same words can be applied to the escalating confrontation between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear-weapons and missile programs.

That conflict will be front and center when President Donald Trump pays his first state visits to Japan and South Korea in November. In Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—Trump’s closest friend in the region—just won a smashing reelection victory, Trump will be honored with an audience with the country’s aging emperor and his usual golf game with the hawkish Abe.

But in Korea, where there is far more ambivalence about Trump’s policies, antiwar groups and unions—many of which backed President Moon Jae-in’s election campaign last spring—are planning major rallies to greet him. As a precursor to what’s to come, South Korean activists this week in the southern port of Pusan handed out leaflets reading “US Troops Go Home!” to US soldiers arriving for another round of military exercises with the South Korean military.

They have good reason to be concerned. Listening carefully to the Trump administration and the government of Kim Jong-un over the last week, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the two sides are trying to signal the limits of their policies—and their patience. Nobody is sure whether these statements are a prelude to the diplomacy long promised by Trump’s national-security team, or the opening salvos of what will be a bloody and destructive war if the situation explodes.

Trump, who appears to have stopped tweeting about Kim, is leaving the policy pronouncements to H.R. McMaster, his national-security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, his CIA director.

Both men have been warning for weeks about the possibility of a risky “preventive” war that would theoretically destroy North Korea’s nuclear and missile capability and—in a strategy known as “decapitation”—take out Kim and his military leadership team in Pyongyang. (As if to underscore that threat, a team from the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, which assassinated Osama bin Laden, was aboard the nuclear submarine USS Michigan as it participated in recent bilateral maritime drills with South Korea.)

Last week, in separate appearances before the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, McMaster and Pompeo made clear that Trump’s endgame is the termination of the North’s nuclear program, by any means necessary. Trump “is not going to accept this regime threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon,” McMaster told the organization, which has supplanted the American Enterprise Institute as the spiritual home of the neocons.

McMaster also ruled out the suggestion, made by some former US officials, that Trump should accept the North as a nuclear power, like Pakistan and Israel, and build a system of deterrence similar to the containment policies of the Cold War.

“Well, accept and deter is unacceptable,” said McMaster, who first gained his fame as a counterinsurgency innovator in Iraq during the Bush “surge” of 2008. “And so, this puts us in a situation where we are in a race to resolve this short of military action.” He repeated his bottom line twice: “The only acceptable objective is denuclearization.”

Pompeo signaled that US intelligence has concluded that the North is closer than ever to building a capability to place a nuclear weapon on an ICBM and lob it great distances. “I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, absent a global effort to push back against them,” he said, adding that “from a US policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective.”

He also argued that the United States viewed North Korea as a dangerous threat even if its rockets can’t reach the continental United States. “There are enormous US interests in South Korea and Japan and in Asia, as well,” he said, speaking of the vast string of US Navy, Air Force, and Marine bases that ring North Korea.

But, in an odd aside for a man threatening war, he added that “Intelligence isn’t perfect, especially in a place like North Korea,” making it possible that the United States could be “off by months or a couple of years in our understanding.” (“Hell of a thing for anyone in this [administration] to be considering a first strike on North Korea while the CIA director notes intel ‘isn’t perfect,’” Ankit Panda, a senior editor at The Diplomat, tweeted in response.)

The intense focus by McMaster and Pompeo on military action has led many observers to wonder whether Trump has decided to abandon the negotiations promised since the beginning of the crisis by his top officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson.

In August, they co-authored a highly unusual op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which they essentially offered to open negotiations with Kim without preconditions, including the North’s immediate abandonment of nuclear weapons. Talks were possible, they said, if Kim would “signal his desire to negotiate in good faith” by ceasing North Korea’s tests and missile launches for a period of time. However, it’s unclear that such an offer is on the table any longer, even as both Mattis and Tillerson continue to insist that diplomacy is their chosen route.

For its part, the North, which has recently taken to calling Trump “mentally deranged,” has rejected the idea of total denuclearization and instead argued that the United States should make the “right choice” by recognizing it as a nuclear state. That would lead to a “way out” of the current standoff, Choe Son-hui, the director-general of the North American department of North Korea’s foreign ministry, told a recent conference in Moscow attended by several Americans.

South Korean officials who were there told the Yonhap wire service that Choe stated that the North “will never give up its nuclear weapons as long as the US’ hostile policy, including military activities, sanctions and pressure, continue.” Further details of her speech were broadcast on the Russian-state media outlet RT.

“Our weapons are designed for the protection of our homeland from the constant nuclear threat from the US,” Choe said, adding that her government “won’t supply nuclear weapons to third parties, notwithstanding its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).” Moreover, “despite quitting NPT, we are committed to the idea of non-proliferation of our nuclear weapons.”

Choe’s emphasis on the United States’ “hostile policy” offers a ray of hope, says Suzanne DiMaggio, a former United Nations official and a senior fellow at New America who spoke on the same Moscow panel as Choe. In a long string of tweets on October 23, DiMaggio wrote that “there is a ‘way out.’ The US needs to abandon its hostile policies” and “[s]top provocative military exercises & nuclear threats.”

The United States’ priority, DiMaggio added, should be to get talks underway by first engaging in bilateral “talks about talks,” without preconditions, so both sides can “clarify positions” and “explore what’s possible.” And “while not abandoning denuclearization as [an] end goal,” the United States “should set it aside” because “it’s currently outside realm of possibility.”

Instead, she urged that the Trump administration focus on “achievable” goals, such as deterrence and non-proliferation, and then “pursue talks to address” the policies the North considers hostile. While “this would be a longer, arduous discussion,” involving a peace agreement and security guarantees, it’s better than the alternative, she offered.

“We are in dangerous territory,” warned DiMaggio, one of a group of former US officials and intelligence officers who met informally with North Korean officials from time to time, in her Twitter analysis. “In Washington policy making circles, talk of kinetic options is increasingly heard,” she continued (kinetic is a term for lethal military operations). “The longer this course persists [or] intensifies, the greater the chances for spiraling into military conflict by design or miscalculation.”

Tim ShorrockTWITTERTim Shorrock is a Washington, DC–based journalist and the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.


Congresswoman Wilson is a long time African affairs expert

Most Americans had not heard of Rep. Frederika Wilson until she accused President Trump of making insensitive remarks in a condolence call to the widow of an American soldier killed in Niger.

But her connection to the military’s often secretive work in work in Niger came as little surprise to intelligence officers who know the Florida Congresswoman as a long-time supporter of U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Africa. Since her election to the House in 2010, Wilson has become one of the staunchest advocates for U.S. support in the fight against the jihadist group Boko Haram.

In an exclusive interview with the Urban News Service days before the attack in Niger, she said she is especially concerned about the threats Boko Haram and other terrorist groups could pose to America’s homeland. “What you are going to see is little black boys in communities that Boko Haram will [target by] sending people in to change the trajectory of what’s happening in our inner cities and they too will become terrorists,” she said.

African security has long been an issue for the congresswoman. Wilson was part of the first congressional delegation to go into another African country, Nigeria, after Boko Haram abducted 276 girls in 2014 from a school in the town of Chibok, stirring international outrage and inspiring the social media hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Boko Haram has released many of the girls, but 113 remain missing.

In a Facebook posting following the death of four Americans soldiers in Niger at the hands of Islamic terrorist on Oct. 3., Wilson framed their losses as part of a larger struggle against Boko Haram and Da’esh (ISIS) in Africa. She also noted that she had sponsored a successful piece of legislation which directs the United States to aid Nigeria and its neighboring countries, including Niger, in developing a five-year strategy to fight Boko Haram.

Although that legislation did not call for a direct role for American troops. She has outlined financial moves and controversial arms sales as moves the Trump administration could take to help Nigeria.

“We have money in our banks that was confiscated from Nigeria - its dirty money and it’s now up to us to return the money to the Nigerian government so they can use the money to help international displaced people,” she said. “There are thousands of them who have been rooted from their homes because of Boko Haram.”

Like insurgencies around the world, Boko Haram’s ability to launch raids in one country and seek safety in another has made the group especially difficult to confront. Wilson stressed that U.S. must make sure “that the Multinational Joint Task Forces that we put in place is working with Chad, Niger and Nigeria and make sure it’s working and make sure they can cross boundary lines to chase Boko Haram.”

The congresswoman has also supported the controversial sale of warplanes to Nigeria a stance that contrasted sharply with some in her own party.

Nigeria has long sought to purchase a dozen Super Tucano A-29 aircraft for its use in its campaign against Boko Haram. The propeller plane is produced by Brazil and the United States and is designed for counter-insurgency operations and aerial reconnaissance.

The Obama administration initially approved a sale of the aircraft to Nigeria, but put it hold in January after the Nigerian air force mistakenly bombed a refugee camp along the Nigerian-Cameroonian frontier that killed 115 people and 100 people injured. The Trump administration approved the sale this summer.

The sale has proved controversy for other reasons. Two Senators Corey Booker (D- New Jersey) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (R-Nigeria) have also opposed over the concerns regarding the Nigerian government’s violent treatment of its Shia Muslim minority.

“We are concerned that the decision to proceed with this sale will empower the government to backtrack even further on its commitments to human rights, accountability, and upholding international humanitarian law,” the two senators wrote in a joint letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in June.

Asked about her sale of the warplanes Wilson put the issue in the context of the corruption in the former administration of President “Goodluck” Jonathan Taylor. He was defeated in 2015 elections by the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military strongman who has made defeating Boko Haram a priority. Wilson expressed confidence that Bukhari had addressed corruption and other concerns that had plagued the sale in the past.

“It takes a while for them to get the planes and it will take a while for Nigerian soldiers to be properly trained,” she said, [but} we should see that very soon in Nigeria.”

Bukhari is potentially open to military assistance from the U.S., which then President Taylor halted in 2014. Nigeria, however, was not listed on a list of countries where U.S. forces are deployed in a letter the Trump Administration sent to congress this summer.

Under Bukhari, the Nigerian military in concert with its regional allies has put Boko Haram on the defensive in Nigeria. Boko Haram first emerged in 2002 amongst disaffected members of the Kanuri tribe. Ironically the place where Boko Haram may have its best chance to regain the initiative is in Niger.

The recent withdrawal of Chadian forces from Niger could mean that Boko Haram could potentially form a tactical alliance. Niger is the only country in Africa where Boko Haram, Da’esh and Al-Qaeda have all launched attacks.

It remains unclear if members of Al-Qaeda, Da’esh (ISIS), or another terrorist group operating in Niger were responsible for the attack.

A Pentagon statement linked the attack to Al-Qaeda. As of press-time, no terrorist group has taken responsibility for the deadly October 4th attack.


National Education Leaders Have Bold Conversation on Racial Equity

ORLANDO, Fla.—On Friday, leaders and members of the Florida Education Association spent part of their statewide Delegate Assembly having a blunt, tough, uncomfortable but courageous conversation about how to address the lingering effects of racism and inequity in the state Florida and throughout country. This bold conversation comes on the heels of recent racial tensions at the University of Florida.

The conversation included remarks from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcìa, NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, and bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi.

“Institutional racism is deeply ingrained in our society, including our school systems. This has increased as the political tide pushes for privatization of education, which escalates the resegregation of schools,” said Joanne McCall, FEA president. “It’s up to all of us to address these issues in our schools and communities to end the divisiveness that has become so pervasive in our country. Our students deserve better, and we must lead the way against bigotry, racism and hate.”

“Since last November, we have seen some of the negative impacts as institutional racism has come out of the shadows and into the open,” said Fedrick Ingram, FEA executive vice president. “And that is why we must continue to be vigilant for future generations.”

The session was kicked off with opening remarks from Kendi, a former FEA member, a best-selling author and an award-winning historian. “I am pleased to steer this critical discussion,” he said. “Racist ideas render racist policies invisible in education, in society. We must see the problem in order to solve it, and I can assure the problem is not students and parents of color. The problem is institutional racism.”

During the discussion, members and leaders of many FEA locals discussed methods and tools to improve the outcomes for students of color and their families, including professional development opportunities, the creation of local committees, collaborating with the community, and working with both new and traditional civil rights organizations.

“As educators and union activists,” said Weingarten, “we help people secure the American dream, which means fighting for economic and educational justice for all. And one of the biggest obstacles we must confront is institutionalized racism, which means showing up and standing up to bigotry, racism and hatred wherever we find it—in schools and on the streets, in courthouse and statehouses. Today’s polarizing and divisive environment makes this work more important than ever.

“Friday’s town hall during the FEA conference was a step in the right direction. As it did Friday, this work starts with a conversation, and with developing trust and understanding, even if it takes us out of our comfort zones. And when we do that and build on the values that bind us, we can transform the communities we serve into more just places.”

Johnson said, “Fighting for equality and justice has always been the work of our union and its members. That is why we participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and that is why we continue to fight back against all forms of bigotry and hatred today. Having courageous conversations about racial equity and improving public education for all students—no matter their race, sexual orientation, immigration status or ZIP code—is our top priority. We will do everything in our power to ensure that black lives matter—and that must start with having honest and uncomfortable conversations about the injustices and inequalities the plague our society.”

“Educators are the greatest drivers of change in our great nation—from seeking funds for the education of free slaves after the Civil War to speaking out against the internment of Japanese-American children during World War II to opposing the segregation of black children in inherently unequal schools,” said Eskelsen Garcia. “Educators are the bridge to the future for the millions of lives they touch on a daily basis.

“Today, we continue to use our collective strength to defend democracy, to fight for equal opportunity, and to create a more just society for our students. Whether we’re standing up against a reckless and irresponsible Trump administration trampling on the rights of transgender students, or fighting to protect and provide certainty to our Dreamers, we will continue to challenge our present to forge a better future for all of us and our nation.”

Pringle said, “Social and racial justice is everyone’s business. It is our business. We all have a responsibility to challenge the system of hierarchy and inequity that is ongoing and reinforcing, where one group is given preferential treatment over another, where power and privilege combine to disproportionately impact people of color. We see racism consistently, in subtle and not so subtle forms, in our institutions of education, healthcare, mass media, law enforcement and business, where systems operate and intersect to create and sustain unfair policies and practices based on race. That’s why a few years ago we embarked on an important quest to address the scourge of racism in America. We are doubling down on our efforts to end the barriers that stand between our nation’s students and their opportunities to realize their full potential, no matter their race, ethnicity or ZIP code.”

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