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The 411 Last Updated: May 5th, 2010 - 11:30:50


The SeeingBlack.com 411
By the Red-Eye Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from DemocracyNow.org
Mar 22, 2010, 11:49

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House OKs Landmark Healthcare Reform Bill
House majority whip James Clyburn of South Carolina (middle) stands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after historic health care vote.
In a major victory for President Obama and congressional Democrats, the House has approved a landmark measure that would expand healthcare to over 30 million uninsured Americans while forcing millions to purchase health insurance. The 219-to-212 vote late Sunday night came nearly three months after the Senate’s approval of the bill on Christmas Eve. No Republicans voted with the Democratic majority. The House later approved another package of changes that will now face a testy Senate vote before reaching Obama’s desk. Although the measure marks the largest expansion of health insurance since the founding of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s, it’s been criticized for further entrenching the for-profit healthcare system that rations care based on wealth. In a national address, Obama acknowledged the bill falls short of radical reform but said it marked a “victory” for the American people.

President Obama: “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our healthcare system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like. In the end, what this day represents is another stone laid firmly in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge; we overcame it.”

The passage followed weeks of intense negotiations to secure the needed votes. Democratic leaders obtained the backing of progressive lawmakers despite excluding a public option. And several anti-abortion lawmakers signed on after President Obama agreed to issue an executive order reasserting that no federal money in the bill would be used to fund abortions. In a statement, Terry O’Neill of the National Organization for Women said, “The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate healthcare on the backs of women, and we couldn’t disagree more.”


House Backs Student Aid Overhaul
In another victory for the White House, the House also approved an education measure that would bring about a major overhaul of student aid. The bill would end government payments to banks that have provided student loans at exorbitant rates. Instead, the government would expand direct student loans and award an additional $36 billion in Pell Grants over ten years.


Racial, Homophobic Epithets Shouted at Right-Wing Protest
The day before the healthcare vote, hundreds of right-wing activists gathered outside the Capitol in a protest against the healthcare reform bill.

Protester: “Do these politicians know that we weren’t bussed in, we weren’t carried here, we weren’t organized by some group? We have no JumboTrons, and we have no big electronic systems here. These are the grassroots people in this country. This is Joe and Mary America that have come out here.”

Several crowd members reportedly shouted discriminatory slurs at Democratic Congress members as they entered the Capitol. Congress member John Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they were called the N-word by a group of protesters. And Congress member Barney Frank, an openly gay member of Congress, was also yelled at with a homophobic slur.


University of Florida Students Protest Police Shooting of African Graduate Student
In Florida, hundreds of students rallied at the University of Florida on last week over the shooting of an African graduate student by campus police. The student, Kofi Adu-Brempong, has been hospitalized in critical condition after he was shot in the face by an officer in a raid on his home earlier this month. Police say they were called to the home after neighbors reported the student to be visibly distraught. According to police, Adu-Brempong tried to attack officers with a knife and a metal rod. But supporters and family members have rejected the allegations and say the rod was actually a walking cane used by Abu-Brempong as a result of a childhood bout with polio. On Tuesday, a crowd of over 300 students marched on the University of Florida’s Board of Trustees.

UF Student Fernando Figueroa: “We’re demanding that all charges be dropped against Kofi, because they’re trying to do, you know, kind of something what’s called extortion. Like they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’ll drop the charges if you don’t file a lawsuit.’ And so, we’re demanding that all the charges be dropped and that more severe action be taken against the offending officer, Keith Smith.”

The officer who shot Kofi Adu-Brempong has been identified as Keith Smith. He has previously been reprimanded for an incident in which he allegedly harassed and threw eggs at African Americans while off-duty.


Ban: Haiti in “Race Against Time” Before Rainy Season
In Haiti, aid workers are rushing to move hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the January earthquake from vulnerable areas before the rainy season begins next month. The intensified rainfall could lead to flooding and the spread of water-borne diseases. On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Haitians face a “race against time” to move to safer locations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “So far, we have distributed tents and tarpaulins to nearly 700,000 people among 1.3 million displaced persons. We will reach the rest by the end of next month. We have also identified five alternative sites around the capital, where we can move IDPs and where they will be safer and better cared for. But let me be clear, we are in a race against time.”

Of the 700,000 Haitians believed to be displaced, around 250,000 are estimated to be children.


New York Homelessness Soars 34%
And here in New York, city officials have disclosed the number of homeless increased a staggering 34 percent last year. More than 3,100 people lived on the streets in 2009, in addition to the near-record 38,000 listed as living in shelters.


Up to 500,000 March for Immigration Reform in DC
As the healthcare vote gripped the Capitol, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Washington in a major rally for immigration reform. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 200,000 to as much as 500,000. Organizers held the “March for America” under the slogan of “immigration reform for new American families, economic justice for all American families.” Democratic Congress member Nydia Velázquez, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called on Congress and President Obama to back immigration reform.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez: “We stand here to say to the Republican leadership in the Senate, to the Democrats in the Senate and also in the House, and the President Barack Obama, we want immigration reform now.”


Up to 500,000 March for Immigration Reform in DC
The immigration rally came one day after antiwar activists held a protest to mark the seven-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Organizers say around 10,000 people took part, making it the largest antiwar protest since President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan last year.

Protester: “This is a disgrace that this country, seven years after the invasion of Iraq, is still in that country and is upping things in Afghanistan. It is wrong. Innocent people die.”

At least eight people were arrested after laying coffins at a White House fence. Among them was the peace activist Cindy Sheehan, whose group Peace of the Action helped organize the march. Rallies were also held in several other cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.


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