Cartoon of the Week


To Be Equal

Guest Editorials

Super Bowl Rematch Needed—Tackling The Noise Before (And After) The Big Game

“Every setback has a major comeback. #GreaterIsComing.” —Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Quarterback, via Twitter (@DangeRussWilson)

Far be it from me to join the legions of Monday morning quarterbacks for a game that has been, and will be, dissected for days, weeks and years to come. But whatever one may think of the outcome of the Seattle Seahawks’ decision to have QB Russell Wilson throw from the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX’s nail-biting, final seconds, it accomplished something more than sealing the fates of two championship teams. It shifted our attention from “DeflateGate” and pre-game sniffles to Wilson—where arguably much of the focus before the big game should have been considering that this 26-year-old from Richmond, Virginia stood on the precipice of both NFL and American history.

Initially tapped by the Seahawks as a 2012 third round draft pick, Wilson, with the presumed limitation of his 5-foot-11 inch frame, was an underrated prospect and an undervalued entity. However, he emerged from his first season as the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year—with his 26 touchdown passes tying the NFL’s single season record by a rookie set in 1998 by Peyton Manning and the Seahawks 8-0 record at home making Wilson the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to an undefeated home record. By the 2013-14 season—only his second in the NFL, Wilson had led the Seahawks to the team’s first-ever Super Bowl victory, making him only the second African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl (Doug Williams was the first in 1988) and cementing his standing as a new force in the NFL.

So, with a media landscape as vast and varied as ours, why was this story drowned out by so much less-worthy noise in the days leading to the Super Bowl?

Whether you prefer to call it “DeflateGate” or “Ballghazi,” the allegation of underinflated balls is a serious one for the NFL to investigate. The act itself strikes at the very heart of the game and its obligation to fairness. But for a nation known for its love of feel-good, inspirational stories, putting a spotlight on Wilson’s history-making rise could have been a reminder that cheating allegations do not define the pastime—and that “nice guys” are champions too. However, as many media chose to not focus on this angle, in the few words that I have here, I will.

Of course, there is more to Wilson than his prowess on the field. Last year, he launched “Pass the Peace,” an initiative to raise awareness and money for victims of domestic violence through his “Why Not You Foundation.” In an environment where the NFL remains under a cloud of scandal after a number of high-profile abuse cases, the story of Wilson’s effort to help combat this insidious problem should be able to generate as much press interest as Marshawn Lynch’s media stand-off or Patriots’ QB Tom Brady’s pre-Super Bowl cold.

If history had been on the side of the Seahawks, the national conversation the morning after the NFL’s biggest game would have been about Wilson being the youngest starting quarterback ever to win two Super Bowls, the only one to win two Super Bowls in his first three seasons and the only Black quarterback to have more than one Super Bowl ring. Instead, many people are discussing an ill-fated pass that Wilson refuses to become his lasting legacy. Making his feelings clear on his Twitter account, he responded that “At 26 years old I won't allow 1 play or 1 moment define my career. I will keep evolving. #Motivation.” When Wilson was a teenager, his father, who died in 2010 from diabetes complications, would conduct mock interviews with him, asking him how he prepared for an imaginary Super Bowl in the future. This wasn’t his first Super Bowl run—and I have a strong feeling it will not be his last. I believe Wilson will rise above the noise of the NFL and the media’s silence both on-and-off-the-field and continue to make history.

The final-minute interception snatched a hard-fought victory from the Seahawks, but if Wilson’s story speaks to us in volumes about anything, it tells us that defeat will never have the last word in his game called life.

Marc H. Morial is ?president and CEO of the ?National Urban League.


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Exchanges Fail To Protect Colon Cancer Patients

BY JASMINE GREENAMYER

Colon cancer will claim more than 50,000 American lives this year. One in 20 people will be diagnosed at some point in their lives.

Thanks to better screening and new treatments, the death rate from colon cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. But even the best screening and treatment can't help those unable to afford health care.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to help make sure patients could receive the care they need. But it's failing America's most vulnerable patients. Congress must make sure the Affordable Care Act lives up to its name and enables people to access the health coverage they need.

When Congress passed healthcare reform, one key protection for patients was a requirement that insurers cover a minimum set of "essential" benefits. Another protection banned insurers from discriminating based on health status. Despite these protections, many of the insurers offering plans on the new insurance exchanges are shifting the cost burden of medications to patients.

Put simply, Congressional intent is being ignored.

That's why lawmakers must step in to make sure the Department of Health and Human Services updates its essential health benefits rule. Congress must also call on HHS to provide guidance to states that are being asked to assess whether exchange plans are discriminating against certain patients.

All exchange plans are required by law to cover prescription drugs. Each insurer maintains a list of prescription drugs -- a formulary -- that specifies the drugs it will cover. But most formularies have four or more "tiers" of coverage that place increasing cost-sharing obligations on patients. The surprise comes when you develop a condition whose medications fall into the top tier.

The first tier, usually for the most commonly prescribed medications, might include a modest copay of, say $20. But the highest tier typically involves co-insurance, in which the patient is responsible for a fixed percentage of the cost of a drug. The coinsurance percentage can run to 40 percent or more for drugs that can costs thousands of dollars.

This means that patients can get stuck with huge bills. The impact falls disproportionately on patients with serious conditions that require expensive medications, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Indeed, a recent study by Avalere Health analyzed 123 mid-level exchange plans and found that more than 60 percent place all medication for cancer and other life-threatening conditions on the highest cost-sharing tier.

These formularies seem discriminatory, but HHS hasn't stepped in to crack down on insurers. Congress must call on federal officials to make clear that discriminatory coverage is prohibited.

Such high out-of-pocket drug costs threaten to put necessary treatments out of reach for the patients who need them most. Patients are left with little choice but to deplete their savings or retirement funds, declare bankruptcy, or skip or refuse treatments.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center surveyed cancer patients to learn how they coped with these costs. Nearly half described the financial burden as "significant" or "catastrophic." Forty-six percent had to cut back on basic needs such as groceries.

The greater the cost-sharing, the more likely a patient will postpone or forgo medication. According to a study by University of North Carolina researchers, patients with higher co-payments were 70 percent more likely to stop taking their cancer treatment and 42 percent more likely to skip doses.

This is a serious, life-threatening problem. Skipping treatments significantly increases the risk of relapse. Missing even just 15 percent of a prescribed dose can lead to a recurrence of the cancer.

Getting a colon cancer diagnosis is bad enough without adding exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for treatment. If the new health law is to live up to its promise of affordable care, Congress must create a solution and help people get the care they need and deserve.

Jasmine Greenamyer is the Chief Operating Officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance.


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Why Are So Many Black Girls Suspended?

BY DR. JAWANZA KUNJUFU

We all know about the plight of Black males being suspended. Twenty-four percent of Black males are suspended. Did you know 12% of Black females are suspended? Have Black girls been overlooked? Is the Black community comfortable and okay with 12 percent? I am not.

There are many reasons why Black girls are suspended. Sometimes, they are suspended because they chose to wear their hair in puffs, braids, or twists. Other times, they said God bless you after someone sneezed. Oftentimes, they rolled their eyes, rotated their neck, put their hands on their hips and said "whatever". Some teachers are intimidated and afraid of Black girls. Some teachers feel Black girls are too loud and have too much attitude. Do you think that some teachers want Black girls to act like White girls and tone it down?

Can you imagine your five-year-old daughter was being disruptive and rather than the school calling you they called the police? They handcuffed her, put her in the police car and drove her by herself to the police station and then they called the parents!

Two girls, one White and one Black are caught chewing gum, dress code violation or possession of a mobile device. The White girl receives a warning and the Black girl receives a 5 day suspension.

Two girls, one White and the other Black are involved in a fight with each other. They both are suspended and sent to an alternative school. The White girl is allowed to return to her regular school after 90 days. The Black girl who had the same behavior as the White girl in the alternative school remains the entire year. She returns back to her regular school one year behind her peers.

A Black girl was asked to read a biography about Frederick Douglass. She was so mesmerized over his desire to become literate. She thought about the fact that almost two hundred years later only 10 percent of her school is proficient in reading. She was suspended for making this analogy.

Many Black girls are suspended because they are bullied and when they tell authorities no protection is provided. Many Black girls believe they are trapped between a rock and a hard place.

Another Black girl was suspended over her science project. She was excited about science and wanted to become an engineer, inventor or doctor. Unfortunately, her science project blew up in class, she was suspended, expelled, given a felony and was labeled a terrorist!

A school wanted to catch a boy who had been sexually taking advantage of girls in the restroom. The principal decided to use a Black girl as bait. The girl was raped. The principal denied any involvement and the girl's family has taken the case to the Justice Department.

Our girls deserve better. Our girls have been overlooked. They deserve a safe place to learn. They deserve teachers who are fair and honest.

Excerpt from both Educating Black Girls and Raising Black Girls.