Obesity, Hunger: Two Sides of Same Coin in Black Food Deserts

ObesityAmerica is in the midst of an obesity crisis.  The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that nearly 40 percent of American adults and 20 percent of American children are obese.

As with some other illnesses within the United States, race shapes the contours of the obesity epidemic. Obesity disproportionately affects African-Americans. According to the CDC, the rate of obesity in African-American adults is nearly 1.5 times that of whites. The same pattern holds for children.

These graphics created by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health illustrate the racial disparity in the obesity epidemic. Source: DHHS Office of Minority Health, https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=25

Because the African-American community struggles with obesity, it might be shocking to learn that the African-American community also struggles with hunger, or more accurately, food insecurity. According to Feeding America, a nonprofit that fights hunger, “Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.”

Hunger is a concern for many African-Americans. According to a Feeding America report, 9 percent of white households are food insecure, while 23 percent of African-American households are.  The same report reported that the number of African-American children in food-insecure homes is double that of white children.  Strikingly, the report found that although there are only 105 counties in America that are majority Black, more than nine out of every 10 of these majority-Black counties are in the top 10 percent of all counties for food insecurity. How can African-Americans suffer from obesity and hunger at the same time? Although this seems paradoxical, the problems share some common causes.


The poverty rate in the African-American community is twice that of the white community. Poverty promotes both obesity and hunger.

One surprising connection between poverty and food is transportation. Because supermarkets are not always located in African-American neighborhoods, according to the Food Research & Action Center, “vehicle access is perhaps the most important determinant of whether or not a family can access affordable and nutritious food.” However, poor families often lack personal transportation, depriving them of the ability to travel for healthy food.

When a family is poor, buying the most food for the least money is a critical survival skill. However, research shows that healthy food can be prohibitively expensive for poor families. As a result, to stretch dollars, poor families choose less expensive options.  Though this is an economically rational choice, it is horrible for health because the less expensive “junk foods” are loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Of course, foods with these qualities contribute to obesity.

The Food Environment

Obesity and hunger are both influenced by the food environment.  The food environment — the grocery stores, bodegas, and restaurants that are in a neighborhood — influences the ability of neighborhood residents to eat healthy food.

Unfortunately, many Black neighborhoods are “food deserts.” Food deserts are areas that do not have ready access to healthy foods such as fresh produce because they lack supermarkets or grocery stores. Because there are no major stores, those in food deserts rely heavily on convenience stores and fast-food restaurants for food. However, these places feature food that is rarely fresh and often processed and unhealthy.

The connection between obesity and food deserts is clear: people without healthy food options will eat whatever is easily available.  The connection between hunger and food deserts is not as obvious but is still present. According to FRAC, many people in food-insecure households are in a constant “feast or famine” situation. Because they cannot always afford food, many poor people overeat when food is available. But, because the food in these neighborhoods is often unhealthy, the “feast” part of the cycle can lead to obesity.

These maps show the overlap between food deserts and obesity. Map 1 (upper left) shows the prevalence of food deserts. Map 2 (bottom right) shows the rate of Black obesity. Note the overlap between the two, particularly in the Southern states.
Source for Map 1: http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts
Source for Map 2:

The Neighborhood Environment and Exercise

According to research compiled by FRAC, poor neighborhoods lack many of the amenities that encourage people to exercise, such as parks and recreational facilities.  These areas may also have unkempt sidewalks — or no sidewalks — such that even walking is made more difficult. Safety is another issue. Neighborhoods that are poor may have crime, traffic, blight, or other safety issues that make physical activity unwise even when it is possible. With such obstacles, it is not surprising that some residents forgo exercise altogether.

Here again, there is a connection between hunger, obesity, and poverty. FRAC’s research notes that one side effect of food insecurity is a lack of physical activity. Logically, since one needs food to fuel the body, a person that is not eating a healthy diet — or not eating at all — frequently will lack the energy to exercise.

Racism-Induced Stress

Stress plays a role in both food insecurity and obesity. Food insecurity and stress are closely tied. Research shows that food insecurity causes stress, which in turn inhibits weight loss. Although obesity is commonly thought of as caused by a lack of willpower, more recent research has found that stress is one of the many factors contributing to obesity. Even those that are actively trying to lose weight may find their progress stalled in times of high stress.

For African-Americans, racism makes every day a day of high stress. The American Psychological Association notes that there are many types of stress. Nearly everyone will experience acute stress, which is the type of stress that occurs when a person experiences a major life change, such as moving. This stress is high at the time, but it eventually subsides. Chronic stress, by contrast, lasts for long periods of time, even years.

While anyone can experience stress, stress is not distributed equally among races. Compared to whites, the APA notes that African-Americans and other non-whites experience high levels of chronic stress, much of it due to racism. In fact, psychologists coined the term “acculturative stress” to describe the special stress that comes from knowing that one is not part of the dominant culture and trying to navigate that reality.

What Can Be Done?

No matter the causes, one thing is certain: obesity and food insecurity cause major problems for the health of the African-American community. Obesity is related to hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other severe ailments. The African-American community suffers from these diseases at rates higher than their white counterparts. Until our community is healthy, these diseases will continue to impact our health and life expectancy.

While obesity and hunger in the Black community are large problems, they are not unsolvable. Several campaigns have taken steps to improve the food environment in cities across the nation. Support of such campaigns and other efforts to bring supermarkets, farmers markets and other fresh options to neighborhoods in need is a good start. Moreover, cities can be lobbied to improve the physical environments of their neighborhoods to make them more conducive for exercise.

The poverty and racism that underlie much of the food issues in the Black community are more difficult to address. Although poverty will not end soon, programs that help to alleviate food insecurity for the poor such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) should receive support at all levels of government to address the “feast/famine” cycle experienced by so many. And although African-Americans did not cause racism and are not responsible for ending it, a community committed to engaging in a regimen of healthy self-care to deal with racism might help reduce racism-induced stress.

Source: Black info

Somalia’s Terrorist Attack Death Toll Rises to 358

Somalia Terrorist Attack
Thousands of Somalis gather to pray at the site of the country’s deadliest attack and to mourn the hundreds of victims, at the site of the attack in Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. More than 300 people were killed and nearly 400 wounded in Saturday’s truck bombing, with scores missing. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Thousands of anguished Somalis gathered to pray Friday at the site of the country’s deadliest attack, while the toll rose again to 358 and dozens remained missing.

The U.S. military said it had resumed its fight against extremist group al-Shabab, which has been blamed for the attack, with a drone strike.

Somalia’s information minister Abdirahman Osman announced late Friday that 56 were people still missing from Saturday’s truck bombing on a busy street in Mogadishu. Another 228 people were wounded, and 122 had been airlifted for treatment in Turkey, Sudan and Kenya.

“This pain will last for years,” said a sheikh leading the prayers, as long lines of mourners stood in front of flattened or tangled buildings.

The U.S. drone strike occurred Monday about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of the capital, the U.S. Africa Command told The Associated Press. It said it was still assessing the results.

Al-Shabab has been blamed but has not commented on the bombing, which Somali intelligence officials say was meant to target Mogadishu’s heavily fortified international airport. Several countries have embassies there.

The U.S. has stepped up military involvement in the long-fractured Horn of Africa nation since President Donald Trump approved expanded operations against the group early this year. The U.S. has carried out at least 19 drone strikes in Somalia since January, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Earlier this week, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States has about 400 troops in Somalia and “we’re not going to speculate” about sending more.

In April, the U.S. announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the country in roughly two decades. The U.S. said it was for logistics training of Somalia’s army and that about 40 troops were taking part.

Weeks later, a service member was killed during an operation against al-Shabab. He was the first American to die in combat in Somalia since 1993.

Source: Black info

Marketing Expert Says LaMelo Ball Can Disrupt NCAA Regulations with Signature Sneaker

lamelo ball ncaa
LaMelo Ball left California high school to be homeschooled. (Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions)

In a world where young athletes are unable to profit from their likeness, a marketing maven says LaMelo Ball may be the catalyst for change. The youngest of Lavar Ball’s sons is a 16-year-old point guard, but he already committed to UCLA at 13. While he’s set to follow in his older brother Lonzo Ball’s footsteps, LaMelo will have a new challenge to take on.

The youngest Ball appeared in an advertisement for his signature sneaker under the family’s Big Baller Brand, the Melo Ball 1. The ad for the MB1s, which go for $395, could put him in violation of the NCAA’s rule prohibiting athletes from profiting from their likeness.

“An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual (a) uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport;” Article 12 of the NCAA Division I Manual reads per Sports Illustrated. “[Or] (b) accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation.”

But according to Sonny Vaccaro, a former sports marketing executive known for signing Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal, the Balls can sue the NCAA if they deem the former Chino Hills High School student ineligible.

Related: Ball Family News

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“This has the potential to change the landscape of amateurism, but I hope it’s resolved before the Ball kid gets to the NCAA,” Vaccaro told Bleacher Report Thursday, Oct. 19. “This is an obscene rule where they discriminately have control over individuals that they shouldn’t have control over in earning a living. This would create more turmoil in the right to earn, and is the ideal setup for what I believe athletes should have — the freedom to earn money off their God-given ability.”

According to Sports Illustrated, Ball’s suit can claim the non-profit regulatory organization and member schools have banded together “in an anti-competitive arrangement to prevent him and other players from being able to license their identity rights or ‘brand.’” Such an arrangement would break the federal antitrust law, he could argue.

Still, Ball may circumvent the issue altogether if dad LaVar sticks to his statements made in September.

“When it comes to basketball and you’re good, you just better be ready for training camp … Who cares?” LaVar said on ESPN’s “First Take” in September. “He won’t go to the NCAA. ‘Oh, he better go overseas.’ Why? All he gotta do is be faster and stronger. And when it’s time to prepare, we could sit out for as long as we want.”

Source: Black info

Ex-Deputy Who Shot Unarmed Black Man Released, Serving Less Than Half of His Four-Year Sentence

ex-deputy shoots black man
Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff’s deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect in 2015, i(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A white former Oklahoma reserve deputy who fatally shot an unarmed black man in 2015 when he mistook his firearm for a stun gun was released from prison Thursday after serving less than half of his four-year sentence.

Family members of the slain man, Eric Harris, said they hope Robert Bates’ release will bring new attention to a federal civil rights lawsuit they filed alleging the ex-Tulsa County volunteer deputy was improperly trained and supervised.

“Now that Mr. Bates is out of prison, it is our expectation that the civil rights suit filed against him and former Sheriff (Stanley) Glanz will finally begin to intensify,” they said in a statement their attorneys released.

The 76-year-old Bates was released Thursday morning from the North Fork Correctional Center in Sayre in western Oklahoma after serving 497 days — just over 16 months — of his four-year sentence, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott. Bates will serve probation for the remainder of his sentence, Elliott said.

He said Bates was released early because he earned credits for good behavior and not because his case was given precedence over others.

“He’s still serving his entire sentence because he’s going on probation supervision, and he’ll have to check in just like any other released inmate,” Elliott said.

Bates’ attorney, Clark Brewster, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the April 2015 shooting death of the 44-year-old Harris.

Family members of Harris said in their statement that Bates will now be free to enjoy the upcoming holiday season with his family but that “he has not been released from the clasp of justice.”

Harris’ family filed the civil rights lawsuit in January 2016 in Tulsa. Among other things, it alleges that Bates was improperly trained and supervised and that Glanz, the former Tulsa County sheriff, turned a “blind eye to these dangers.”

Laurie Phillips, the attorney for We The People Oklahoma, a grass-roots organization that launched a petition that led to a grand jury investigation of Harris’ fatal shooting, said she believes the lawsuit’s demand for financial damages for the death will force changes in the way the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office operates and trains its reserve deputies.

“The only thing that changes anything, unfortunately, is through the pocketbook,” Phillips said. “A lot of things, in my opinion, have not changed.”

Glanz resigned after being indicted by the grand jury. He was sentenced last year to a one-year suspended term on misdemeanor charges stemming from the indictment.

The case prompted interest from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s office when she asked a member of her legal staff to look into Bates’ case as a favor for her sister-in-law who is a friend of Bates’ daughter, according to emails released by Fallin’s office. Fallin’s then-deputy general counsel later emailed Bates’ daughter and said the governor could not intervene in the case but that her father could have recourse regarding medical care and treatment under federal laws.

Source: Black info

Oxford Accused of ‘Social Apartheid’ After Data Shows It Failed to Admit Any Qualified Black Students

The University of Oxford said Black and other minority students made up 15.9 percent of its student intake last year. (Image courtesy of DIliff)

Former UK education minister David Lammy is blasting the University of Oxford after nearly one in three of its colleges failed to admit a single Black British A-level student in 2015.

According to recent data published by the British university, 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges didn’t award a place at their institutions to Black pupils with Advanced Levels, or A–levels, a secondary school qualification in the UK.

Oriel College, a constituent college of Oxford, has only offered one place to a Black A-level student in six years, The Guardian reported. The University of Cambridge was also lacking in admittance of advanced-level Black students, revealing in its own recent report that six of its colleges had failed to admit advanced Black students there.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain,” Lammy said, blasting the universities’ admissions practices and lack of effort to increase diversity.

On Friday, the parliamentarian accused both colleges of “trying to make journalists change their stories” rather than address their poor recruitment of qualified Black students across England and Wales. Lammy first requested the schools’ ethnicity data back in 2016, which Oxford finally handed over Thursday, Oct. 19. Cambridge provided theirs immediately.

Aside from a largely white student body with just 1.5 percent of offers going to Black A-level students, the data from both universities also revealed a stark regional and socio-economic disparity in their student intake. Some critics have accused the institutions of being “elitist,” as four-fifths of students accepted at “Oxbridge” between 2015 and 2016 came from families in Britain’s top two social classes, according to the data. More offers were also made to students in Home Counties (the seven counties surrounding London) than in all of northern England.

All in all, only three Oxford colleges and six Cambridge colleges made at least one offer to a Black British A-level student in each of the years between 2010 and 2015, The Guardian reported. As for Black students who did not have A-levels, about 3.5 were awarded places at Oxford each year during the same time span.

“Difficult questions have to be asked, including whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds,” Lammy, the first Black British to attend Harvard Law school said.

He also pointed out that “there are almost 400 Black students getting three A’s at A-level or better every year,” yet still, very few of them are encouraged to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.

An Oxford spokesman responded to the parliamentarian’s concerns, saying the racial and regional disparities in its student intake may require a “huge, joined-up effort across society” to rectify.

The university said students from Black and minority ethnic background’s comprised 15.9 percent of its UK undergraduate intake last year, a slight increase from 14.5 percent back in 2015. It also said its offers to Black students have nearly doubled since 2010.

“We are also working with organisations such as Target Oxbridge and the newly formed Oxford Black alumni network, to show talented young Black people that they can fit in and thrive at a university like Oxford,” a spokesman told The Guardian. “All of this shows real progress and is something we want to improve on further.”

As for Cambridge, a spokesman there said its admissions decisions were based on academic considerations alone, as it spent 5 million pounds (a little over 6 million U.S. dollars) on measures aimed at working with Black and other minority students.

Lammy still doesn’t think the universities have done enough, however.

“I just don’t think the universities fully understand what they’re doing,” he said during an appearance on BBC Radio’s 4 Today show Friday. “Oxford spent £10m on this, and what we’ve seen over the last decade … is we’ve gone backwards on social class, we’ve made no progress on north/south divide and we’ve made little progress on race.”

Source: Black info

US Tourist Claims He Was a Victim of Same Cuba Espionage That Hit American Diplomats

Cuba Illness diplomats
This image provided by Chris Allen shows the view in Havana, Cuba, from his hotel room – room 1414 – at Hotel Capri in April 2014. Allen’s phone started buzzing as word broke of invisible attacks hitting a U.S. government worker at Havana’s Hotel Capri. (Chris Allen via AP)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Chris Allen’s phone started buzzing as word broke that invisible attacks in Cuba had hit a U.S. government worker at Havana’s Hotel Capri. Allen’s friends and family had heard an eerily similar story from him before.

The tourist from South Carolina had cut short his trip to Cuba two years earlier after numbness spread through all four of his limbs within minutes of climbing into bed at the same hotel where the American government workers were housed. Those weren’t the only parallels. Convinced the incidents must be related, Allen joined a growing list of private U.S. citizens asking the same alarming but unanswerable question: Were we victims, too?

It may be that Allen’s unexplained illness, which lingered for months and bewildered a half-dozen neurologists in the United States, bears no connection to whatever has harmed at least 22 American diplomats, intelligence agents and their spouses over the last year. But for Cuba and the U.S., it matters all the same.

It’s cases like Allen’s that illustrate the essential paradox of Havana’s mystery: If you can’t say what the attacks are, how can you say what they’re not?

With no answers about the weapon, culprit or motive, the U.S. and Cuba have been unable to prevent the attacks from becoming a runaway crisis. As the United States warns its citizens to stay away from Cuba, there are signs that spring breakers, adventure-seekers and retirees already are reconsidering trips to the island. After years of cautious progress, U.S.-Cuban relations are now at risk of collapsing entirely.

That delicate rapprochement hadn’t even started to take hold in April 2014 when Allen felt numbness overtake his body on his first night in the Havana hotel.

“It was so noticeable and it happened so quickly that it was all I could focus on and it really, really frightened me,” said Allen, a 37-year-old who works in finance.

The Associated Press reviewed more than 30 pages of Allen’s medical records, lab results, travel agency records and contemporaneous emails, some sent from Havana. They tell the story of an American tourist who fell ill under baffling circumstances in the Cuban capital, left abruptly, then spent months and thousands of dollars undergoing medical tests as his symptoms continued to recur.

One troubling fact is true for tourists and embassy workers alike: There’s no test to definitively say who was attacked with a mysterious, unseen weapon and whose symptoms might be entirely unrelated. The United States hasn’t disclosed what criteria prove its assertion that 22 embassy workers and their spouses are “medically confirmed” victims.

So it’s no surprise that even the U.S. government has struggled to sort through confusing signs of possible attacks, odd symptoms, and incidents that could easily be interpreted as coincidences.

The AP has learned that an FBI agent sent down to Cuba this year was alarmed enough by an unexplained sound in his hotel that he sought medical testing to see whether he was the latest victim of what some U.S. officials suspect are “sonic attacks.” Whether the FBI agent was really affected is disputed.

But there’s no dispute that a U.S. government doctor was hit in Havana, half a dozen U.S. officials said.

Dispatched to the island earlier this year to test and treat Americans at the embassy, the physician became the latest victim himself. How badly he was hurt varies from telling to telling. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the sensitive investigation. The FBI and the State Department declined to comment.

While the U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone for perpetrating the attacks, President Donald Trump said this week he holds Cuba “responsible.”

Cuba’s government, which declined to comment for this story, vehemently denies involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s first vice president and presumably its next leader, last week called the allegations “bizarre nonsense without the slightest evidence, with the perverse intention of discrediting Cuba’s impeccable behavior.”

When Allen visited Havana three years ago, the sicknesses and political drama were all still in the distant future.

After spending his first day walking the city, he checked into room 1414 of the recently refurbished Hotel Capri. Within minutes of going to bed, he started losing feeling.

The tingling originated in his toes, like that prickly feeling when your foot falls asleep. It spread into his ankles and calves, then to his fingertips. He got up to investigate, and the sensation went away. He got back in bed. The tingling returned, reaching his hands, forearms, ears, cheek and neck.

Allen assumed he’d never identify the cause of all his trouble. Then in September, the AP revealed the hotel where he stayed was the site of other puzzling events — later declared “attacks” by U.S. officials — that left embassy staffers with their own set of varying and seemingly inscrutable symptoms.

“I wanted to wave a flag and be like, I know this, I know what it is like to stay there and have something weird happen to your body and not be able to explain it,” Allen said in an hour-long interview in his office in Charleston.

While the State Department says it’s not aware of any tourists being attacked, it has given credence to the notion that the unidentifiable danger could potentially ensnare any American who sets foot on the island. Its extraordinary warnings last month noted that assaults have occurred at popular tourist hotels, including the Capri, and that the U.S. is no position to guarantee anyone’s safety.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve thronged to Cuba in recent years, Allen isn’t the only tourist who believes he was attacked.

The State Department has received reports of several citizens who visited Cuba and say they’ve developed symptoms similar to what embassy victims experienced. The government says it can’t verify their accounts, but hasn’t indicated it’s trying hard to do so. Asked if anyone is investigating such reports, the State Department said its advice to concerned tourists is to “consult a medical professional.”

Since the AP began reporting on the Cuba attacks, roughly three dozen American citizens have contacted the news agency to say they believe they may have been affected by the same or related phenomena. The AP has not published those accounts because closer examination gave ample reason to doubt their situations were connected.

Allen’s case is different.

He stayed on the 14th floor of the same Havana hotel where U.S. government workers have been attacked, including on an upper floor. He described sudden-onset symptoms that began in his hotel bed, but disappeared in other parts of the room — similar to accounts given by U.S. government workers who described attacks narrowly confined to just parts of rooms. They also spoke of being hit at night, in bed.

And medical records show Allen conveyed consistent, detailed descriptions of what he experienced to at least six physicians — almost two years before the public knew anything about the attacks.

Still, other parts of Allen’s story don’t neatly align with what embassy workers have reported.

The U.S. has said the attacks started in 2016, two years after Allen’s Cuba visit.

His primary complaints of numbness and tingling aren’t known to have been reported by the government victims, though their symptoms, too, have varied widely and included many neurological problems.

Allen also didn’t recount hearing the blaring, agonizing sound — a recording of which the AP published last week — that led investigators to suspect a sonic weapon. Then again, neither did many of the 22 “medically confirmed” government victims.

When Allen traveled to Havana for a long weekend of sightseeing, Americans were still prohibited from visiting under U.S. travel restrictions that were later eased. He booked flights through Mexico using a Canadian travel company that specifically recommended he stay at Capri, travel records show.

Whatever happened on his first night in Havana, it came back the next evening. Again the numbness set in within minutes of getting into bed, this time stronger and in more parts of his body. It didn’t go away.

So the next morning Allen rushed to the airport and took the first available flight off the island.

But the numbness stayed with him to varying degrees for six months. In that time, he saw an urgent care doctor, then his family physician, and then one neurologist after another at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Every time the numbness seemed to ease, it would return without explanation. Specialists performed nerve conduction tests, full blood workups, exams to check muscle function, a CT of the head, an MRI of the spine, a sonogram of the heart. Doctors considered infections, tumors, the temporarily paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome, poisoning from heavy metal contamination and even ciguatoxin, contained in some Caribbean fish.

“When you have these vague symptoms, sometimes all you can do is prove what it’s not,” said Dr. George Durst, Allen’s longtime physician. “No one’s smart enough to figure out what it was.”

Durst said Allen was right to be worried and didn’t imagine his symptoms. He said Allen’s loss of sensation on both sides of the body ruled out peripheral nerve damage, suggesting the problem was in his central nervous system instead.

Outside medical experts say it’s difficult if not impossible to determine whether different symptoms experienced by different individuals in Cuba are causally connected. The U.S. has declined to say what criteria separate the medically confirmed victims from others who’ve reported concerns or symptoms.

“I am sure that between April 2014 and October 2017 there must have been a very large number of people who were in Cuba and who were affected by various symptoms. But that’s not unusual,” said Mario Svirsky, who teaches neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.

If Allen was targeted by anyone, it’s not clear why.

He would have been one of the first Americans to come through Hotel Capri after a major renovation. The iconic high-rise, known as a flashy mobster hangout before Cuba’s 1959 revolution, had re-opened a few months earlier under a partnership between Cuba’s state-run tourism company and a Spanish hotel chain. Hotel spokespeople declined to comment for this story.

To an outsider, Allen could have looked like a U.S. government agent, potentially even a spy.

A clean-cut 33-year-old at the time, he had worked for years in Republican politics, including on former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign. He also performed “advance” work in George W. Bush’s administration that involved setting up logistics for official trips, a contract job that meant he briefly had an official passport.

Allen approached the AP after it reported on the Capri attacks to ask how he could contact investigators to volunteer information. He agreed to tell his story publicly once it became clear the U.S. government was not actively looking into cases of potentially affected tourists. Allen said he was uninterested in publicity, and declined AP’s requests to be photographed and to tell his story on camera.

The harrowing symptoms aside, Allen said he doesn’t regret visiting Cuba. Eight months after his trip, as former President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would restore diplomatic relations, Allen took to Instagram to reflect on “a few wonderful days wandering the streets and photographing the people of Havana.”

“If the latest news makes it easier for you to visit, I encourage all of you to do so sooner than later,” he wrote.

Source: Black info

Lupita Nyong’o Vowed ‘Never Ever’ to Work with ‘Pushy’ Harvey Weinstein After Sexual Harassment Incident 

Lupita Weinstein
Lupita Nyong’o met Harvey Weinstein in 2011. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Harvey Weinstein reportedly found Sophie Okonedo “unf—able,” but he seemed to have a thing for Lupita Nyong’o. The Oscar-winning actress detailed her account of sexual harassment by the ousted film mogul in a stunning article for The New York Times. According to Nyong’o, Weinstein was a “pushy” man who could be really “charming” in group settings. He was also, as she was assured before her career took off, someone who was good to know in Tinseltown.

Leading up to the incident, Nyong’o had been invited to Weinstein’s home for a film screening with his family. But her viewing was interrupted.

“Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage,” Nyong’o wrote in the Thursday, Oct. 19 piece, which also acknowledged he offered her alcohol on two separate, earlier occasions to her refusal. “I thought he was joking at first. He was not. For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe. I panicked a little and thought quickly to offer to give him one instead — it would allow me to be in control physically, to know exactly where his hands were at all times.”

The actress explained that her film classes at Yale included using massage techniques, so she felt she could make sense of her giving him one For Nygong’o, she wanted to “keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance.”

“I began to massage his back to buy myself time to figure out how to extricate myself from this undesirable situation,” she wrote. “Before long he said he wanted to take off his pants. I told him not to do that and informed him that it would make me extremely uncomfortable. He got up anyway to do so and I headed for the door, saying that I was not at all comfortable with that. ‘If we’re not going to watch the film, I really should head back to school.’”

She left and Weinstein pursued her for roles following the incident, which Nyong’o said she reasoned “had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual.” She decided she wouldn’t be found in any private spaces with the producer again and routinely declined his movie offers. When she made her big screen debut in “12 Years A Slave,” Weinstein, who had doubted her, apologized for his actions, which Nyong’o accepted.

“But I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein.”

More on Lupita Nyong’o

That Epic Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o Movie Is Really Happening

Lupita Nyong’o Talks Being Fortunate, Fame, and Why ‘Katwe’ Doesn’t Have a White Savior

Lupita Nyong’o Stuns on Latest Vogue Cover, Interview Earns Praise


Online, many were furious about the 65-year-old’s encounter with Nyong’o.

Women identified with her struggle.

And folks applauded her for speaking out.

Source: Black info

Barack Obama Tells Democrats to Reject Trump Politics, Without Naming Him

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama, left, laughs with Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam during a rally in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama called on fellow Democrats to reject politics of “division” and “fear” while rallying on Thursday with party’s candidates for governors in Virginia and New Jersey.

“Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other, and be cruel to each other and put each other down? That’s not who we are,” Obama said at the Virginia rally in front of several thousand supporters.

Stepping back into the political spotlight for the first time since leaving the White House in January, Obama did not mention President Donald Trump in his speeches at Richmond’s convention center or at a Newark hotel. But he did tell crowds at both events that they could send a message to the rest of the country in the upcoming elections.

“Our democracy’s at stake and it’s at stake right here in Virginia,” Obama said.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states electing new governors this year and those Nov. 7 races will be considered a bellwether of Democrats’ strength in the face of Trump’s victory last year.

New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy, Obama’s former ambassador to Germany, is facing Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is running against Republican Ed Gillespie.

Obama’s remarks came on the same day as Former President George W. Bush denounced bigotry in Trump-era American politics, warning that the rise of “nativism,” isolationism and conspiracy theories have clouded the nation’s true identity.

Obama bemoaned the rise of racial politics.

“Some of the politics we see now we thought we put that to bed,” Obama said. “That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”

The first black president offered himself as proof that the country could move forward, telling the crowd in Richmond, the former Capitol of the Confederacy, that he is a distant relative to Confederate President Jefferson Davis on his mother’s side.

“Think about that,” Obama said. “I’ll bet he’s spinning in his grave.”

Obama praised Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as a candidate who would well represent Virginia and accused Gillespie of running a fear-based campaign. A Gillespie said Obama’s comments were not a “surprise” coming at a rally for Northam.

Guadagno’s spokesman, Ricky Diaz, suggested it’s Murphy and not Republicans who are divisive.

“Phil Murphy is the one who will divide New Jersey by raising taxes so high that only the über rich like him will be able to afford to live here,” he said.

Obama’s popularity is still undeniable. In an August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 51 percent of Americans said they have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 35 percent had a negative opinion. In the same poll, 36 percent said they had a positive opinion of Trump and 52 percent had a negative opinion.

Obama never completely disappeared from public life, in part because of Trump’s constant criticism and efforts to undo much of Obama’s legacy after eight years in office. He has publicly defended his policies that Trump and the GOP-led Congress have set out to dismantle: the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to be temporarily shielded from deportation.

Obama was forced to return “pretty quickly,” presidential historian Julian Zelizer of Princeton University said.

“The current president has changed all the conventional assumptions about what to do,” Zelizer said. “There is a sense of urgency that makes this moment different than others and former President Obama has continued to be directly in Trump’s line of fire — both his policies and his legacy.”

Richmonder Les Kenney said Obama’s speech was inspiring.

“It was great to see him again, he’s an energizer,” he said.

Source: Black info

Texts Uncover Sheriff and Lawmaker’s Push to Stop Cheerleader Protest

Shlondra Young, Tommia Dean, Kennedy Town
Kennesaw State University cheerleaders, from left to right, Shlondra Young, Tommia Dean and Kennedy Town stand outside the student center on the school’s campus in Kennesaw, Ga.,  (AP Photo/Jeff Martin)

ATLANTA (AP) — A powerful lawmaker texted a Georgia sheriff and recounted with pride how the two pressured a university president to take action after black cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem at a football game.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the text messages under Georgia’s open records act.

Kennesaw State University cheerleaders were told they’d be kept off the field in a stadium tunnel at future pregame activities after five of them knelt to protest racial injustice at the game Sept. 30.

In the texts, state Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren thanked each other for their patriotism. Ehrhart said Kennesaw State President Sam Olens had to be pressed to act.

“He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” Ehrhart wrote to the sheriff.

University officials have said moving the cheerleaders before kickoff was one of several changes designed to enhance the game-day atmosphere.

After the Sept. 30 game, athletic department officials informed Olens they were making changes to pregame activities, which involved the cheerleading squad, the president said in a statement late Wednesday.

“This was the only conversation I had about any changes involving the cheerleaders and mascot,” Olens said. “The call I received from Sheriff Warren came after I was notified of the department’s decision.”

The unfolding drama prompted a hastily called meeting of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on Wednesday afternoon to discuss “recent developments in a personnel matter.” Afterward, the university system announced, “a special review to look into recent allegations raised about athletic processes at Kennesaw State University.” No details were released.

The sheriff has said that his wife Penny became tearful when they attended the game and saw the cheerleaders kneel. In the text messages, the sheriff said he was “pissed” when Olens initially told Penny he didn’t have the authority to do anything.

In one text which included misspellings, the sheriff wrote to Ehrhart: “Thanks for always standing up to these liberal that hate the USA.”

Ehrhart chairs a panel that allocates funds to Georgia’s public universities, including Kennesaw State, northwest of Atlanta. With 35,000 students, Kennesaw State is Georgia’s third-largest university and one of the nation’s 50 largest public institutions.

Ehrhart said Wednesday he understands “the constitutional right to protest the flag and our national anthem.”

“But that doesn’t make it right, especially if protesters represent a state institution on taxpayer-funded restricted venues,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“My private comments with Sheriff Warren regarding the cheerleader protest at Kennesaw State expressed my personal feelings. I stand by them,” he added. “I urge President Olens to stand firm against any student publicly disrespecting our flag at a football game or any college event. I say that as a private citizen.”

The Atlanta newspaper last week asked Olens whether there were “any pressure or demands from any individuals and organizations to change the policy regarding cheerleaders at sporting events.”

“No,” Olens replied.

Warren’s spokesman said Wednesday the sheriff wouldn’t comment.

On Thursday, Olens is to be officially installed as president in a campus ceremony. He was Georgia’s attorney general before being named university president last November.

The so-called Kennesaw Five are vowing to kneel in the stadium tunnel Saturday — even though they will be outside of public view — before the school’s homecoming game.

The cheerleaders said they adopted the protest after watching the national debate on NFL players kneeling during the anthem. The NFL has been embroiled in controversy over players using the anthem to protest racial inequality, protests that have spread at times to college and high school sporting venues.

Source: Black info

Court Refuses to Revive Defamation Suit Against Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A federal appeals court refused Wednesday to revive a defamation lawsuit filed against Bill Cosby by a woman who said he raped her decades ago.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court ruling dismissing Kathrine McKee’s lawsuit against Cosby.

The former actress said Cosby defamed her in a letter that his lawyer sent to the New York Daily News demanding a retraction of a 2014 story about McKee’s rape allegations. The judge who dismissed McKee’s case said the letter was protected by the First Amendment.

McKee, who said Cosby raped her in a Detroit hotel room in 1974, was among dozens of women who came forward with allegations against the actor once known as “America’s Dad” for his TV role as Dr. Cliff Huxtable. Cosby has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

Alan Greenberg, an attorney for Cosby, said in an email that they are pleased with the appeals court’s “well-reasoned decision confirming that there was no defamation.”

An attorney for McKee did not immediately respond to an email on Wednesday.

McKee’s lawyer argued earlier this month that McKee does not have to prove actual malice because she is not a public figure. To show actual malice, she would have to prove Cosby knew statements in the letter were false or entertained serious doubts as to whether they might be true.

But the appeals court said McKee became a public figure when she went public with the rape allegations in the newspaper.

“McKee took concerted steps meant to influence the public’s perception of whether Cosby was, in fact, a sexual predator,” Judge Sandra Lynch wrote for the panel.

A separate defamation lawsuit filed by seven other women also is pending in Massachusetts, where Cosby owns a home. The 80-year-old has filed a counter lawsuit accusing those women of defamation.

The only criminal case against Cosby ended in a mistrial in Pennsylvania in June. Cosby is expected to be re-tried in April on charges that he drugged and molested an employee of Temple University, his alma mater. Cosby insists their encounter was consensual.

Source: Black info

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