Boasts ring hollow


POLITICS/OPINION

Staff & Wire Reports



President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West and former football player Jim Brown in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West and former football player Jim Brown in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


Trump’s boasts ring hollow in some black communities

By ERRIN HAINES WHACK

AP National Writer

Friday, October 12

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — It’s one of President Donald Trump’s favorite talking points in promoting his administration’s success: the record low rate of black unemployment. But on a recent sunny afternoon in Vernon Park in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood, that victory seemed hollow.

As children laughed on the playground, several black men — some out of work, others homeless — sat or slept on benches nearby. Similar scenes play out across America and are backed by data that counter the positive picture Trump often paints in campaign-style rallies before largely white audiences.

When asked what he makes of Trump’s claim that black Americans are faring better under his administration, construction company owner and Germantown resident Carlton Washington replied, “Where at? Calabasas?”

The retort was a reference to controversial rapper Kanye West, who had lunch with Trump at the White House on Thursday afternoon. Over roasted chicken, fingerling potatoes and sauteed asparagus, the two discussed crime in Chicago, more possible presidential pardons, job creation and the black unemployment rate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans in September was 6 percent. That’s down from a high of 21.2 percent in January 1983, but is still nearly double the overall national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. The unemployment rate belies the on-the-ground reality for many African-Americans, according to experts.

“The rates are improving. There’s a question of whether his policies created that improvement,” said Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution, whose research focuses on black communities. “My question is: What kind of jobs are people working in?”

While black employment may have improved, that hasn’t translated into broader economic gains.

That’s partly because African-Americans are still disproportionately toiling in lower-quality jobs. Black people make up roughly one-fifth of those working in temporary jobs, a figure that hasn’t changed much in the past five years, even as the economy has improved. Just 12 percent of all Americans are black.

And last year, Trump’s first in office, the income gap between whites and blacks widened slightly. The typical African-American household earned $40,258, down 0.2 percent from a year earlier, while white households saw an income gain of 2.6 percent, to $68,145.

The racial wealth gap has also worsened even as unemployment rates have come down. The median net worth of a white household was 10 times that of a black household in 2016, the latest data available. That’s up from seven times in 2004.

Perry noted that the national unemployment rate doesn’t take into account underperforming geographic regions or demographic groups.

“What does full employment mean to a black man in Baltimore? To youth in Chicago?” Perry said. “What are you doing to bring opportunities to black neighborhoods, to create wealth? I don’t see those signs of the economy.”

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, whose district includes Germantown, remembers shopping with her family as a child along the neighborhood’s then-main economic corridor, where residents could buy food, get their hair done and find a pair of sneakers or a new outfit all within a few blocks during the 1970s and 1980s.

The area is much different today, with less activity and fewer businesses and the jobs that came with them.

“I don’t know what he’s claiming credit for,” said Bass, looking toward Germantown and Chelten avenues. “His numbers are fake news, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bass said Trump’s continued assertion that black America is recovering is an insult.

“People are struggling, and to not give any sort of recognition of that, and to say that everything’s OK, everybody’s working, everybody’s doing well, is just not true. When you look at our communities, you see something completely different. When was the last time he’s been to any neighborhood that is even similar to a Germantown?”

In Germantown, a neighborhood that is 80 percent black, the median income is $28,046, less than half the national average, according to the census. The poverty rate is 34 percent, nearly three times the national rate of 12.7 percent. More than 20 percent of residents make less than $10,000, and 60 percent of families live on less than $50,000.

That number obscures those who have dropped out of the labor market, who are doing cash-only jobs or who have gone underground. Carlton Washington sees many of them in his business and teen mentoring program.

The 36-year-old lifelong Philadelphian learned construction from his mentor and tries to help those he can. In addition to his regular crew of about 10 workers, he has a list of about 50 unemployed or underemployed men who could help out at job sites.

“If they’re not available, I just go throughout the neighborhood and try to find guys to put a little money in their pocket for the day,” Washington said, adding that a day’s work might earn $50 to $60 for tasks ranging from demolition to more skilled labor like electrical work, plumbing or carpentry.

“It’s not much . by the time you drive to the job site and get back, that’s probably spent on a couple of groceries for dinner that night and gas,” Washington said. “All of them have families, are married, have multiple children. As much as you want to help them, it’s really no help.”

Washington said he would like to see Trump visit a neighborhood like his the next time he holds a rally in a state with a major city, to see what he sees on the ground, every day.

“Sitting in this park, we’re talking about the middle of the day, and about 20 people are sitting here unemployed, drinking, drowning their misery,” Washington said. “He’s not coming to these areas, so to even speak on the black unemployment rate . it’s almost like an NFL player speaking on something going on in baseball. You don’t play baseball.”

Associated Press Economics Writer Chris Rugaber contributed to this report.

Whack is The Associated Press’ national writer on race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous

Opinion: A Workable Plan to Fight Medicare Scams

By Bill Kahn

InsideSources.com

Crooks are continually attacking government systems to siphon off money.

Unfortunately, Medicare makes an attractive target; it’s big, has lots of money and safeguards are not the best. In December 2010, I saw a “60 Minutes” program about how the FBI was trying to stop crooks from using a medical equipment scam to steal from Medicare; by their own admission they weren’t too effective in catching them.

For the crooks, it was simple, bill Medicare for high-ticket equipment using a bogus Equipment Supply Company. That meant setting-up a legitimate looking business, obtain corporate papers from the state, buy stationery, rent a storefront office and P.O. box, all the normal trappings without having to outlay much of an investment.

Although there are lots of high-ticket equipment items, we’ll use the same example the FBI did, “Prosthetic Arms.” Their value ranged from $3,000 to $50,000, making it a great “mark” for crooks. Next, they needed to find an unsuspecting victim. That’s the easy part — use the internet to acquire Social Security numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, and they’re all set. Wait, they needed one more item, prescription pads with a doctor’s signature, forged or not.

With all the tools in place, all they had to do was submit phony claims. The Medicare loophole to exploit, turn-around time from submission to payment, it was short. With the correct paperwork, money flowed to the crooks within days of submission. Couple this with their scam philosophy, don’t spend a lot of time at one location. Run the scam, close-up shop and get-on to the next phony location to repeat the process. It worked. By the time the feds realized a scam had taken place, everything was gone. The problem to solve, how can the thieves be caught before they disappear?

To do this before time runs out requires the scam be identified in real-time, before the government pays. I had an idea of how this could be done, but first checked out the concept with some doctor friends. They all agreed it was a realistic approach and would work. Before I talk about details, here’s a simple concept example. Assume you want to get your child into a public school. It requires they have a birth and immunization certificate; simply stated, have a history. One can’t just show up with a kid and say they’re ready for school.

When a doctor bills for services, rather than write descriptions they use shorthand medical codes, i.e. 62323 to identify a spinal injection. These codes, in effect, establish a history of diagnoses, treatments and medications.

In the FBI prosthetic arm example, the crooks acquired a man’s Social Security number, and pertinent information needed to submit the claim. During the “60 Minutes” program, the man held up his two good arms to show he didn’t need a prosthetic arm; therefore he wouldn’t have any related history.

I harp on history since this is the key to catch a thief. If there’s no history to back up a request for equipment, the claim should be flagged as bogus or at least investigated. It’s necessary to assemble a code history for each piece of equipment of interest. The Medicare database would have to be scanned, locate the applicable hardware codes and collect its related history. For the prosthetic arm, what happened before the arm was required: amputation, birth defect, fitting of the arm, procedures and treatment. Multiple groupings would be needed to assemble a history database.

From a practical standpoint, there would be a code list of all the equipment the FBI thinks is being attacked. As Medicare entries are made, the system would scan the list for a match of suspect equipment. When one is found, the system would use the associated Social Security number to see if there is an applicable history. If none is found, it’s probably a bogus submission. But now the system has the name of the Medical Supply Company, address, telephone number, doctor who prescribed it, all in a few seconds.

I went down to the local FBI office and spoke with an agent. After he grasped the concept, he said he would forward my information to the right people, and they would contact me. The government never responded, so I sent an information letter to the Miami office where the “60 Minutes” program was filmed. I’m still waiting for a response; it has been only eight years!

Now the government may consider this concept too difficult or impossible to perform, which is interesting. A few years ago, I asked my city if it would put a light on a power pole on a corner where schoolchildren waited in the dark for the bus. The city said the power company indicated it would be impossible to do. That was interesting since the power company was petitioning the state to build a nuclear reactor.

I called a friend at the newspaper and suggested he contact the power company and ask what’s wrong with this picture, you want to build a nuclear reactor but can’t put up a light on one of your own power poles? The next day it took 15 minutes, to achieve the impossible!

ABOUT THE WRITER

Bill Kahn of Maitland, Fla., has lectured on automation and electronic communications at hundreds of academic and other venues. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

ON SENATE FLOOR, BROWN RECOGNIZES 16 OHIO SCHOOLS GIVEN ‘BLUE RIBBON’ DISTINCTION

National Blue Ribbon School Award Recognizes Hard Work of Students, Teachers and Parents in Communities across Ohio

WASHINGTON, DC – On the Senate floor this week, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recognized and congratulated the 16 Ohio schools that were awarded with the ‘Blue Ribbon School’ distinction by the U.S. Department of Education. This year, the 16 Ohio schools awarded the Blue Ribbon distinction were among the 349 schools across the country that received this award. This honor recognizes the hard work of students, teachers and parents in communities across Ohio working to make these schools a success.

Ohio schools honored as ‘Blue Ribbon Schools’ include: Bath Elementary School, Bluffton Elementary School, Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School, Central Elementary School, Hazel Harvey Elementary School, Indian Riffle Elementary School, John Foster Dulles Elementary School, Mansfield Spanish Immersion School, Maplewood Elementary School, Mariemont Elementary School, Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School, Oakwood Elementary School, Saint Andrew-Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School, Stadium Drive Elementary School, and Twin Oak Elementary School.

Brown’s floor statement, as prepared for delivery, is below:

Floor Statement for Senator Sherrod Brown – Blue Ribbon Schools

October 11, 2018

Mr./Madame President,

Each year, the Department of Education honors schools around the country that have a clear record of serving students of all backgrounds, and helping all students excel.

This year, 16 Ohio schools were among the 349 National Blue Ribbon Schools, honoring the hard work of students, teachers, parents, and everyone in the community who works to make these schools a success.

These schools represent the great diversity in our state – rural and small-town schools, urban and suburban schools were all designated as “Exemplary High Performing Schools.”

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the names of these 16 outstanding Ohio schools be entered into the record.

One school that was honored this year is particularly close to my heart – Mansfield Spanish Immersion School, which sits on Euclid Avenue, at the site of my old primary school, Brinkerhoff Elementary.

The school reopened as a public magnet school a decade ago, with a class of 11 kindergarteners, under the leadership of Jody Nash.

Over the past ten years, under Principal Nash and now under current Principal Gabe Costa, the school has grown to more than 250 students across nine grades – last year, the school expanded to add 7th and 8th grade for the first time, and added a third section of kindergarteners.

Core subjects are taught in Spanish, helping Richland County students learn a second language from a young age.

And these students don’t just excel at Spanish – the school is consistently ranked a top school in the state, and has gotten high marks for serving students from diverse backgrounds.

Two years ago, it was one of just two schools in Ohio and 100 across the country to receive a National Title 1 Distinguished School Award, for making progress in closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.

Awards like this mean so much to a community, and they’re a reminder that academic excellence isn’t limited to exclusive private schools or wealthy communities on the coasts.

Too many people in this town want to call us the Rust Belt – that outdated, offensive term that demeans our workers and devalues our work.

And it devalues the incredible work schools like these are doing in our state, preparing our students for the global economy of the future. These schools aren’t rusty – they’re thriving.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Ohio Blue Ribbon Schools.

You are all examples to our state and to the country, and you have so much to be proud of.

Travelers falling for Mansfield, Ohio foliage views

Massive pumpkin glow, hay rides and unforgettable autumn experiences welcome visitors

MANSFIELD, OH – Fall’s cooler temperatures have made their way to Ohio; and with them come miles and miles of colorful foliage. A weekend away to Mansfield, Ohio, in the north central part of the state, immerses travelers in some of the nation’s finest autumn beauty. Reds, yellows, oranges, greens and browns splash across the undulating countryside that surrounds this little city of 46,000, which oozes with small-town charm and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Peak foliage has made its way to Richland County in mid-October and goes through mid-November. State Routes 97, 603 and 39, along with Pleasant Valley and Possum Run Roads, are favorites for scenic autumn drives, allowing travelers to experience gorgeous scenery from the car, but also plenty of spots to pull over for Instagram-worthy views.

When the sun sets, the beautiful fall views continue at Kingwood Center Gardens, with its award-winning Great Pumpkin Glow. Kingwood’s expansive grounds ignite on the evenings of Oct. 20-21 with thousands of meticulously-carved pumpkins glowing in dazzling displays.

Malabar Farm is a must see for leaf peepers. The 900-acre estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter and conservationist, Louis Bromfield, now an Ohio State Park that’s also a working farm has pioneered and educated on crop rotation and sustainable farming since Bromfield bought it in 1939. Stop first at Mt. Jeeze, so named because that’s the response elicited from every visitor who takes in its spectacular views of seven Ohio counties. As road trippers wind up the switchback road that takes them up to Mt. Jeeze, they’ll see a tapestry of color visible only from one of the highest spots in the Buckeye State. Down below, visitors can survey the beauty on a hay wagon tour of the farm. A Big House tour is also a must, as visitors hear fascinating tales of Hollywood’s elite visiting in the 1940s and 50s, including Humphry Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s clandestine farm wedding, how Jimmy Cagney sold produce at the farm stand or visits by George Burns, Gracie Allen, Shirley Temple and others. Autumn barn dances, hikes, hearthside cooking workshops and Halloween haunts add to the many reasons to visit Malabar Farm.

When it’s time to refuel, travelers can head across the road for an unforgettable homemade meal at Malabar Farm Restaurant, featuring local ingredients. Homegrown seasonal produce, maple syrup and sugar and all-natural meats from the farm are sold at the Roadside Farm Market and the Malabar Farm Gift Shop.

For a classic fall afternoon, [applehillorchards.com]Apple Hill Orchards offers hayrides, pick-your-own apples and pumpkins, a petting zoo, scavenger hunt hayrides, costumed characters, face painting, pony rides, balloon man, food trucks and more. Visitors can take part in cider pressing as well. Of course, a stop at Apple Hill isn’t complete without a cup of fresh-pressed cider and a famous apple donut.

The Gorman Nature Center is another great stop for nature lovers seeking autumn hues. The park offers more than five miles of public hiking, with weekly programs ranging from naturalist-led hikes, field trips and lectures to hands-on wildlife workshops and the popular night sky program.

A destination unlike any other, Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio offers unusual travel adventures and experiences, such as spending the night in a haunted former state prison where Hollywood blockbuster movies are shot, world-class motorsports, skiing, hiking, biking, golf and loads of other outdoor adventures attract families and visitors of all ages. Complete visitor information and free visitor guides are available at DestinationMansfield.com or by calling 800.642.8282.

The Conversation

‘Fortnite’ teaches the wrong lessons

October 12, 2018

Author

Nicholas Tampio

Associate Professor of Political Science, Fordham University

Disclosure statement

Nicholas Tampio does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

In recognition of the fact that “Fortnite” has quickly become one of the most popular video games in the world – one played by more than 125 million players – I decided to play the game myself in an attempt to understand its widespread appeal.

As a parent and as a political theorist who focuses on education and its impact on democratic society, I couldn’t help but notice how much the game seems to teach children the wrong lessons about how to function as an adult and interact with others. I came away from my “Fortnite” experience thinking that the game is raising young people to be self-centered, not good citizens.

Some may question why a political theorist wishes to weigh in on the impact of a video game. But political philosophers – going back as far as Plato – have long recognized the influence that games have on the body politic. In the 18th century, for instance, Swiss political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted that games establish habits and attachments that will shape what kind of political actors children become.

For that reason and others, I believe it pays to seriously examine the influence that “Fortnite” might have on how children come to view society and the world.

A ‘Fortnite’ education

But first, a little background on the game itself. In the most popular version of “Fortnite,” Battle Royale, your character drops from a floating bus onto an island with other players where the goal is to be the last survivor. You run through forests, urban landscapes and fields, collect weapons and health potions, kill other players, build structures and dance.

As one who spent several weeks playing the game, I can attest that the game speeds up your heart rate, makes you laugh, enables you to communicate with other people and teaches you strategy – all within the realm of a fantasy world.

A teacher told Education Week that “all my kids talk about is Fortnite” and that the game is “uniquely distracting” because other kids want to watch you play. Some parents even hire tutors to help their children become better at “Fortnite.”

People play on the most sophisticated gaming platforms as well as their home computers and cellphones. I myself played on a cellphone.

One popular “Fortnite” gamer, Richard Tyler Blevins, also known as “Ninja,” recently appeared on the cover of ESPN. Hundreds of thousands of people watch him and others play on the live video-streaming platform Twitch, enabling him to amass a fortune of US $500,000 a month.

A time-consuming habit

Students play or watch “Fortnite” in the evenings, on the weekends, at the library, and even in class. According to a survey by financial education company Lendedu, the average player spends between six and 10 hours per week playing the game, with 7 percent of the respondents saying that they play more than 21 hours per week. The average player also spends about $85 on the game, according to Lendedu.

The New York Times published an article with advice on “parenting the Fortnite addict.” The advice included using the game as “a carrot adults can use to their advantage.” The deeper question, however, is what are the long-term consequences of raising a generation of “Fortnite” addicts?

Ill effects and individualism

Society should also think about the health consequences of having children play violent video games for long stretches of time. In 2011, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine performed an analysis of the brains of a group of men with low past exposure to violent video games. Half the group then played a shooting video game for 10 hours in a week, while the control group did not. When the researchers did a brain analysis after two weeks, they discovered that the group that played violent video games showed less activation in the parts of the brain that control emotion and aggressive behavior. According to the lead researcher, Yang Wang, “These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning.”

People who play violent video games for long stretches of time tend to develop depression, anxiety, and dissociation from reality. In “Glow Kids,” Nicholas Kardaras explains that when a player achieves a “kill shot” in a shooter game, their brain releases a pleasure-causing chemical called dopamine. This in turn makes video games highly addictive.

Married couples around the world are already blaming “Fortnite” and other video games for their divorce.

Alternative views

One should not be quick to blame video games for acts of violence; most children who play “Fortnite,” of course, will not re-enact the game in real life. Defenders have noted that “Fortnite” is more “cartoony” than other shooter games such as “Call of Duty” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.” That said, “Fortnite” still involves hacking other people with an axe or pointing your gun at them and trying to kill them. At a minimum, the game is not teaching young people to settle disputes with words.

Finally, and most problematic, “Fortnite” trains children to think primarily of themselves and maybe a small circle of friends.

When people play “Fortnite,” they enter their own little world. For maximum enjoyment, players wear headsets and keep their hands glued to their keyboard and mouse. Sometimes, players text or talk with other people or do Playground mode, which is closer to “Minecraft” than a shooting game. More frequently, people play by themselves in the Battle Royale version of the game where the goal is to be the last survivor in a war of all against all.

Threat to democracy

An op-ed in Education Week argued that playing “Fortnite” “is very similar to playing army men in the woods and building forts.” This is, in my view, false. Playing with your friends in a forest building real things and using your imagination is one thing. Playing by yourself in front of a screen, building virtual things and manipulating ready-made images is another. You don’t have to care about, cooperate with, or talk with other people to play “Fortnite.”

In “Democracy in America,” the French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville warned that the greatest threat to democracy is “individualism,” a disposition to isolate oneself from everyone other than a small circle of like-minded people.

In “Fortnite,” the combat zone contracts as the storm pushes you into closer proximity to other players. That is an apt metaphor for the game. “Fortnite” shrinks your world so that you only think about the survival of yourself and maybe a few members of your squad.

“Fortnite” may not be the only violent video game that emphasizes individualism and survival. But given its current popularity and appeal on the planet, it pays to examine its effect on the individuals who will make up society as a whole.

President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West and former football player Jim Brown in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121555029-e0c89da869fb4a1bbb2a7833d2f26150.jpgPresident Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West and former football player Jim Brown in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
POLITICS/OPINION

Staff & Wire Reports