Looking Under the Hood: 14 Years Photographing White Power

Courtesy Anthony Karen

On June 10, 1966, three Klansmen murdered Ben Chester White, a 67-year-old African American farmhand, in Homochitto National Forest, southwestern Mississippi. They had kidnapped White from the nearby town of Natchez, shot him at least 18 times, and thrown his body off of a bridge into the creek below. The FBI believed that the wanton killing was part of a plot to attract Martin Luther King Jr. to Natchez, where the Klan hoped to assassinate him too.

Almost 50 years later, photographer Anthony Karen was standing on the bridge in Homochitto. FBI documents that he had obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests corroborated that this was indeed the site of White’s murder, though Karen could not be certain which bank of the 10-foot-wide creek his body had washed up on to be discovered by a picnicking family in 1966. But there was one cruel lead: the carcass of a poached deer, caught on the right bank.

The 53-year-old Karen’s journey to Homochitto was part of his larger collection of work on the white power movement. Since 2005, he has been photographing hate groups across the United States, from Klansmen in Kentucky to Nazis in Pennsylvania. Unwilling to be cast as a propagandist, he has further investigated the causes and consequences of hate groups, such as in projects documenting the history of a Nazi who discovers that he has Jewish heritage and following the trail of Ku Klux Klan-related crimes during the Civil Rights era, including the murder of Ben Chester White.

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Robin Hood To Rescue Of Rural Hospitals? New Math Promised On Medicare Payments

As rural hospital closures roil the country, some states are banking on a Trump administration proposal to change the way hospital payments are calculated to rescue them.

The goal of the proposal, unveiled by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma last month, is to bump up Medicare’s reimbursements to rural hospitals, some of which receive the lowest rates in the nation.

For example, Alabama’s hospitals — most of which are rural — stand to gain an additional $ 43 million from Medicare next year if the federal agency makes this adjustment.

“We’re hopeful,” said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association. “It’s as much about the rural hospitals as rural communities being able to survive.”

The proposed tweak, as wonky as it is, comes with considerable controversy.

By law, any proposed changes in the calculation of Medicare payments must be budget-neutral; in other words, the federal government can’t spend more money than previously allocated. That would mean any change would have a Robin Hood-like effect: increasing payments to some hospitals and decreasing them to others.

“There is a real political tension,” said Mark Holmes, director of the University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. Changing the factors in Medicare’s calculations that help hospitals in rural communities generally would mean that urban hospitals get less money.

The federal proposal targets a long-standing and contentious regulation known in Washington simply as the “wage index.” The index, created in the 1980s as a way to ensure federal Medicare reimbursements were equitable for hospitals nationwide, attempts to adjust for local market prices, said Allen Dobson, president of the consulting firm Dobson, DaVanzo & Associates.

That means under the current index a rural community hospital could receive a Medicare payment of about $ 4,000 to treat someone with pneumonia compared with an urban hospital receiving nearly $ 6,000 for the same case, according to CMS.

“The idea was to give urban a bit more and rural areas a bit less because their labor costs are a bit less,” said Dobson, who was the research director for Medicare in the 1980s when the index was created. “There’s probably no exact true way to do it. I think everybody agrees if you are in a high-wage area you ought to get paid more for your higher wages.”

For decades, hospitals have questioned the fairness of that adjustment.

Rural hospitals nationwide have a median wage index that is consistently lower than that of urban hospitals, according to a recent brief by the Sheps Center. The gap is most acute in the South, where 14 of the 20 states account for the lowest median wage indices.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General found that the index may not accurately reflect local labor prices and, therefore, Medicare payments to some hospitals “may not be appropriately” adjusted for local labor prices. More plainly, in some cases, the payments are too low.

In an emailed statement to KHN, Verma said the current wage index system “has partly contributed to disparities in reimbursement across the country.”

CMS’ current proposal would increase Medicare payments to the mostly rural hospitals in the lowest 25th percentile and decrease the payments to those in the highest 75th percentile. The agency is also proposing a 5% cap on any hospital’s decrease in the final wage index in 2020 compared with 2019. This would effectively limit the loss in payments some would experience.

Dobson, a former Medicare research director, said he expects “enormous resistance.” (The CMS proposal is open for public comment until June 24.)

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, foreshadowing how difficult a change could be, said during a May 10 Senate budget hearing that the wage index is “one of the more vexing issues in Medicare.” It’s problematic, agreed Tom Nickels, an AHA executive vice president, noting in an emailed statement that there are other ways “to provide needed relief to low-wage areas without penalizing high-wage areas.”

It’s this split that appears to be dictating the range of reactions.

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association’s Michael Sroczynski, who oversees its government lobbying, questioned in an emailed statement whether the wage index is the correct mechanism for providing relief to struggling hospitals. The state’s hospitals have historically been at the higher end of the wage index.

In contrast, Tennessee Hospital Association CEO Craig Becker applauded the proposed change and said the Trump administration is recognizing the “longstanding unfairness” of the index. Tennessee has been among the hardest hit with hospital closures, counting 10 since 2012.

In Alabama, where four rural hospitals have closed since 2012, Howard said that without the change she “could see a dozen or more of our hospitals not being able to survive the next year.” Indeed, Howard said, hospitals in more than 20 states could gain Medicare dollars if the proposal passes and “only a small number actually get hurt.”

Kaiser Health News asked the Missouri Hospital Association, in a state where most hospitals do not stand to gain or lose significantly from the rule change, to calculate the exact differences in hospital payments under the current wage index formula. Under the complex formula, a hospital in Santa Cruz, Calif., an area at the top end of the range, received a Medicare payment rate of $ 10,951.30 — or 70% more — for treating a concussion with major complications in 2010, compared with a rural Alabama hospital, at the bottom end, which received $ 6,441.76 to provide the same care.

Even more, MHA’s data analysis showed that the lower payments to Alabama hospitals have compounded over time. In 2019, Medicare increased its pay to the hospitals in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area for the same concussion care. It now stands at $ 13,503.37 — a nearly 23% increase above the 2010 payment. In contrast, rural Alabama hospitals recorded a 3% payment increase,  to $ 6,646.80, for the same care.

For Alabama, addressing the calculation disparity could be “the lifeline that we’ve been praying for,” Howard said.

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Remembering the Legacy of Legendary Director John Singleton and his Classic Film “Boyz n the Hood”

Update: 4:45 p.m. EST

According to CNN, John Singleton died on April 29 at 51 years old. His family released the following statement:

“We are sad to relay that John Singleton has died. John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends. We want to thank the amazing doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for their expert care and kindness and we again want thank all of John’s fans, friends and colleagues for all of the love and support they showed him during this difficult time.”


Hollywood trailblazer John Singleton, who suffered from a stroke and fell into a coma earlier this month, made history when he was just 24 years old with his iconic 1991 film Boyz n the Hood. The groundbreaking movie explored the plight of childhood friends growing up in an inner-city neighborhood stricken by gang violence in South Los Angeles. The film received two Academy Award nominations in 1992, making Singleton both the first African American and youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Director. It also received the nod for Best Original Screenplay. In addition, the film also helped launch the careers of stars like Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

At the 2015 American Black Film Festival, Singleton revealed that he had hired a predominantly black crew to make the film as well as a mix of actors and non-actors, some from South LA. “Everyone from the neighborhood was invested in the film. The crew was 97% black,” said the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate. He described making the film — which was inspired by his real-life friends and the challenges that they experienced in South Central — as “cathartic.” “I wanted to make a film that was quintessentially black American. I think we’ve gotten away from that as filmmakers. We’re too concerned with what others think, not about what’s culturally astute.”

Today, Boyz n the Hood is recognized as one of the most definitive movies of the 90s and an urban classic that continues to resonate with audiences almost 30 years later. “Everything that we dealt with in Boyz n the Hood is still relevant today,” Singleton said. “Black men still feel like they have to prove their masculinity. There’s so much pressure black women and men have to deal with. We’ve become time bombs.” Boyz n the Hood was added to the United States Library of Congress in 2002.

The screenwriter went on to direct a number of other notable films and television series throughout his career, including Poetic JusticeBaby Boy, 2 Fast 2 Furious, the FX crime drama Snowfall, and several episodes of Empire.

Back in 2011, Singleton told BLACK ENTERPRISE that there are fewer opportunities for black directors today to make big-picture films than there were at the start of his career. “I think there is less opportunity now in making big mainstream pictures [for] black filmmakers making films for black audiences,” he said. “It’s harder for us to get a movie made in that vein because they kind of compartmentalized and made it open for just a few people to make pictures.”

Tragically, Singleton suffered from a stroke on April 17 and was placed in intensive care. His mother and business manager, Shelia Ward, filed papers in court requesting conservatorship, stating that Singleton was “unable to provide for his personal needs” or “manage his financial resources,” according to The Associated Press. The court papers also claim that at the time of his stroke, Singleton was “engaged in several business deals” and in the process of signing “a lucrative settlement agreement.” Ward’s claims, however, were publicly refuted by Singleton’s daughter, Cleopatra Singleton, who also opposed the idea of giving her grandmother control over her father’s estate.

At the time of publishing, Singleton was reportedly still on life support and scheduled to be taken off April 29. In a statement, a family spokesperson revealed he had suffered from hypertension. “Like many African Americans, Singleton quietly struggled with hypertension. More than 40% of African American men and women have high blood pressure, which also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe.”

The post Remembering the Legacy of Legendary Director John Singleton and his Classic Film “Boyz n the Hood” appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood Was Just the Start of a Fearless, Trailblazing Career

The Oscars So White debacle of 2015 opened a galvanizing conversation about how filmmakers of color might carve out greater opportunity in Hollywood. But John Singleton, who died Monday at age 51 following a stroke, was at the forefront of that battle long before we had a hashtag for it, ushering in a new era of creativity and boldness among black filmmakers. He showed through his work just how boundless the possibilities were.

Singleton’s 1991 debut Boyz n the Hood—starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube as young men coming of age in South Central Los Angeles, where Singleton himself grew up—dealt frankly with inner-city violence, facing the prevalence of guns and drugs head-on. But to say the movie is “about” violence is to grossly oversimplify it. Singleton, barely into his 20s when he wrote and directed the film, told a story about the tragedy of black men killing one another—but even that was only a small story within a bigger story. Boyz n the Hood is also about parents who strive to raise their kids with sturdy values, about neighborhoods where lawns are kept impeccably tidy as a point of pride. About young people who want to do what’s right, even when circumstances threaten to pull them in another direction. Although Boyz n the Hood is set in a specific time and place, it’s a story that’s universal—and so beautifully and astutely made that it still feels fresh nearly 30 years later.

Pool ARNAL/GARCIA/PICOT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesActor and rapper Ice Cube with John Singleton, director of ‘Boyz N the Hood’ at Cannes in May 1991 in France.

Boyz n the Hood screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 1991, where it received a 20-minute standing ovation. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for screenplay and one for direction. Singleton was the youngest person to be nominated for Best Director, and also the first African-American. As an emerging black filmmaker dealing with societal issues in the early 1990s, Singleton was hardly alone: Mario Van Peebles, Matty Rich, and Albert and Allen Hughes—among others—hit the scene at the same time, and Spike Lee had already broken through with his 1986 She’s Gotta Have It. But Singleton, unlike some of those other filmmakers (Lee one of the obvious exceptions), forged a long-lasting and varied career for himself as a director, writer and producer, both in film and, more recently, in television. He was one of the creators of Snowfall, set in the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

He forged a career out of taking chances. In 2000 he mounted a remake of the blaxploitation favorite Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson, reworking the material into a brutal but effective vigilante story in which a spoiled white rich kid (Christian Bale) struts around thinking he can get away with murdering a black man, until the hero puts him straight. Singleton’s Shaft was a rough breath of fresh air in Rudy Giuliani’s New York—not a picture that pitted black against white, but a revenge fantasy that, in its blunt vision, showed how violence serves no one, and looking for one place (or one race) on which to lay blame is no solution at all.

John Singleton
Nick Ut—APDirector John Singleton touches his new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003.

Singleton was just as fearless as a producer of other filmmakers’ work, like Craig Brewer’s atmospheric 2005 love letter to Memphis, Hustle & Flow, starring Terrence Howard as a complex and not always likable small-time drug dealer and pimp. In 2007 Singleton went on to produce Brewer’s even more daring Black Snake Moan, in which Jackson plays a disillusioned, God-fearing juke-joint bluesman who sets out to redeem a sort of fallen angel, played by Christina Ricci. At one point, Jackson’s character chains Ricci’s to a radiator, as part of an effort to rid her of the demons that he believes plague her. That’s a pulpy, sensationalistic image, but once we’re lured in, we see the movie’s soul: This is really a fable about damaged people helping one another to become their best selves.

Singleton saw that kind of complexity everywhere. That’s because it was more important for him to see people than to just tackle issues. In an extraordinary scene from Boyz n the Hood, Laurence Fishburne’s Furious Styles, the father of Gooding’s character, Tre, drives Tre and his friend out to Compton and points out a billboard advertising “cash for your home.” Other young people from the neighborhood, and one old man, gather round as Furious—a veteran who’s now a businessman—uses the billboard to craft a lesson about gentrification and the importance of keeping black neighborhoods alive with black-owned businesses. He also explains how the white power structure distorts the reality of black communities to its benefit.

It’s one of those scenes that’s potentially deadly: Done wrong, it could be didactic and preachy. But Singleton’s conviction, channeled through Fishburne, is a rippling electric charge, and yet another indication of his fearlessness as a filmmaker. Singleton spoke volumes through his movies, and through the projects of others that he helped bring to life. But he also spoke like a man who knew how to listen—one who knew that listening, not just talking, is the way to keep the conversation going, and the only path to fixing a world that can sometimes feel irreparably broken.


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John Singleton, ‘Boyz N the Hood’ Director, Dies at 51

REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Oscar-nominated director John Singleton, who is best known for such films as Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice, has died at the age of 51, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The director had been in a medically-induced coma at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center since suffering a catastrophic stroke on April 17.

Singleton was the first black filmmaker ever nominated for an Oscar in the best director category—at the age of just 23. He was considered an influential member of a community of black filmmakers who turned the movie industry upside-down in the ’90s along with Spike Lee, Matty Rich, Julie Dash, and F. Gary Gray.

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White Couple Markets Water As 40-Ounce Malt Liquor in the Hood

They’re cheap, pack a high-alcohol content, and are often associated with gangsters, low-income communities, and classic hip-hop. Perhaps, that’s part of the reason why Hollywood actor Theo Rossi and his wife, Meghan, thought it would be a good idea to emulate the image of a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor to sell spring water. They were wrong.

Activists and elected officials in Brooklyn, New York, are calling for the removal of Ounce Water from local stores, arguing that the packaging of the water bottles promotes negative stereotypes about black communities as well as alcoholism. In a tweet, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the marketing scheme “tone-deaf.”


Protesters say the water bottles are directly linked to the history of cheap liquors like Colt 45, Olde English, and Private Stock, which were marketed to black neighborhoods and glorified through rap music. As a result, this led to alcoholism and “a big part of the demise” of working class communities of color, community member Christine Gilliam told Yahoo.

“In a community that has been ravaged by alcohol and drugs, we are confused as to why someone would create a product that so closely resembles a malt liquor bottle,” wrote Breukelen RISE, an activist group that serves at-risk youth and their families, in a letter to the company, according to The New York Daily News.

As a result of the outrage, Ounce Water was forced to pull some of its products from a supermarket in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie last week after NYCHA activists complained about its controversial campaign. However, they were replaced with 20-ounce bottles from the same company.

“They called the store and said we were promoting alcoholism by selling water in that bottle,” said Kevin Chang, the manager of the Food World supermarket, to The New York Daily News. “They said they’d come and protest unless we got rid of them. We called the manufacturer. They came and took the 40s and gave us the 20s. To be quite honest, it does look like an Olde English, but it’s plastic. It’s not glass. It’s just water. It says water on the contents.”

malt liquor

(Instagram/GetOunced)

Founded in 2015, a company spokesperson said Ounce Water’s mission is to keep people hydrated.

“Ounce Water is hydration made easy. Ounce Water is 100% pure natural spring water,” reads a company statement. “We are highly involved in community activities for youth and adults which focus on health and wellness, and further the education of the health benefits of proper hydration.”

However, much like the backlash against luxury brands like Gucci and Prada, which have been accused of marketing racist imagery, critics say 40 Ounce Water is blackface in a bottle. “It’s insulting to our intelligence,” Thora Lashley said. “What’s next, candy corn in a crack vial? Juice in a syringe?

malt liquor

(Instagram/GetOunced)

Lashley, who has lived in Brooklyn’s Breukelen Houses for 50 years, says she saw countless friends succumb to alcoholism growing up in the city housing, some as young as 12 years old. Many of them drank 40s in the hallways, on stoops, and in courtyards, she added.

Derek Perkinson, city field director for the National Action Network, agrees with the protesters. “If it’s a health kick, fine. We’re all for that,” he said. “But the presentation of it in a 40-ounce bottle is bad. We reserve the right to protect our children from being targeted. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

The post White Couple Markets Water As 40-Ounce Malt Liquor in the Hood appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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Eve Hewson on smooching her ‘Robin Hood’ co-star — and becoming the next Tom Cruise

Eve Hewson finds the humor in everything, from her dangerously single status to her prepubescent-boy dress sense. When she’s not poking fun at her personal life, the Irish actress is making light of her on-screen escapades, especially the stunts and smooches. There are plenty of both in her first action flick, director Otto Bathurst’s gritty, reimagined “Robin…
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