Monday, July 8, 2019


By Cash Michaels

            In contrast to a decade ago, not much is reported these days about the high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) across North Carolina, particularly in communities of color.
            But that doesn’t mean that those rates have changed much, especially in the African American community, which continue lead in virtually all identified categories when it comes Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and AIDS infections.
            Historically, what has been most alarming about the high rate of HIV/STD infections in the African American community is the high number of young people denoted, usually because of transmission of viruses either through illicit sexual activity, or use of illegal drug implements. 
            While there are treatments, there is no cure for AIDS, or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
            The North Carolina HIV/STD First Quarterly Surveillance Report for 2019, issued by the Communicable Disease Branch of Epidemiology Section of the Division of Public Health, NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, is based on reporting by local county health departments across the state. 
            From January to March 2019 there were 1,490 newly diagnosed cases of Chlamydia among black/African American males in North Carolina, along with 3,138 cases for black/African American females.
            That compared to just 607 cases for white/Caucasian males, and 1,827 white/Caucasian females.
            The only other group to list the highest among American Indian/Alaska native, Hispanic/Latino, and Multiple Race per both genders was Unknown with 2,119 and 3,863 respectively.
            Chlamydia, which can only be detected through screening, can cause infertility in females if not treated early.
            From January to March, 2019, there were 1,343 black make cases of gonorrhea, and 1,083 black female cases reported in North Carolina (the highest among all known ethic groups), compared to just 370 white male and 517 white female cases. 
            Gonorrhea, if not detected early, can cause infertility and sterility.
            Per early syphilis from January to March 2019, while black males comprised 258 cases statewide, white males were only 86 cases. Black females were 48 cases, but their white counterparts only comprised 10 cases during that same period.
            Interestingly, the “Unknown” category only listed just five cases of syphilis male, and zero cases female.
            When it comes to newly reported cases of HIV/AIDS, the report for the first quarter of 2019 list the total number cases by county.
            Per HIV infection in North Carolina from January – March 2019, by far Mecklenburg County led the six major counties with 65 cases, followed Wake with a reported 31; Guilford with 25; Durham with 1; New Hanover with 11 and Buncombe County with just 4.
            Per AIDS cases in North Carolina from January – March 2019, again, Mecklenburg county led the six major counties in the state with 15; followed by Guilford with 13; Wake with 9; Durham with 4; Buncombe with 2 and New Hanover with 0.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Last week, in a disappointing ruling for many, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4  in Rucho v. Common Causenot to weigh in on the “extreme” partisan Republican gerrymandering of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts, saying effectively that federal courts should have no role in what are essentially politically decisions.
            But on July 15th, the N.C. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s legislative districts. And Democrats who are still licking their wounds from last week’s disheartening federal decision are hoping for, if not expecting, a more positive outcome.
            If partisan legislative districts in the NC House and Senate are struck down because they violate the NC Constitution, new districts could be in force for the 2020 elections, giving Democrats hope of reclaiming the majority in the NC General Assembly.
            Republicans have been able to maintain a majority in the NC legislature since 2011 because of the way voting districts were drawn. Common Cause v. Lewis, the case before the state Supreme Court where the nonpartisan Common Cause NC is suing NC Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), the architect of North Carolina redistricting, challenges that.
“Now the fight against extreme partisan gerrymandering that undermines democracy moves to state courts and the ballot box,” said Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in a statement. “The battle is far from over.”
Nothing bars the North Carolina Supreme Court from banning blatant partisan gerrymandering from our state elections,” says Rick Glazier, executive director of the NC Justice Center. “Ongoing litigation challenging partisan gerrymandering of our state’s voting maps should proceed with deliberate speed to finally, firmly end gerrymandering in North Carolina.”
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are, understandably, a bit nervous, The North Carolina Supreme Court is comprised of six Democrats – three of whom are black - and one Republican. So unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, where Republicans enjoy a 5-4 majority, partisan advantage for the GOP in Common Cause v. Lewis, is virtually out the window.
            So last week, filled with glee that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandered GOP-leaning congressional to remain (10 out of 13 are Republican), Lewis told reporters that Democrats needed to stop going to court litigating against voting districts they can’t win.
            Rep. Lewis even urged Common Cause to drop its pending lawsuit in the state Supreme Court, in consideration of his considering nonpartisan redistricting reform in terms of a nonpartisan commission.
            On Monday morning, a week before the case is scheduled to be heard, Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, issued a press release effectively saying dropping the suit was a possibility….but at a high price.
            “If Rep. Lewis is sincere about pursuing redistricting reform, he can start with the 2009 ‘Horton Independent Redistricting Commission’ bill, which he, along with now Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, sponsored at the time,” Phillips said in the release. “That bill called for adoption of a state constitutional amendment creating an independent citizens commission to draw North Carolina’s legislative and congressional districts free from partisan politics, with full transparency and robust public input. That was their proposal, which we supported.”
            Phillips continued, “So, we call upon Rep. Lewis and his fellow Republican legislative leaders to enact a true citizens redistricting commission now, and only after passing into law a gold-standard model of reform would we consider his request.”
            Lewis, however, seemed unmoved.
            In a tweet later Monday, Rep. Lewis replied, ‘“The only commission bill filed in the House would let Democrats pick roughly 2/3 of the commission,” he wrote. “Not a good basis for a conversation and far from a ‘gold-standard.'”
            The case, Common Cause v. Lewis, is heard Monday in State Supreme Court.


            [DURHAM] U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield joined hundreds of thousands of mourners across the nation Tuesday, in paying tribute to Durham architect Phillip Freelon, 66, who died of complications from ALS. 
            “I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of a man of great vision and talent, North Carolina’s own, Phil Freelon,” Butterfield said in a statement. “Well-known for his architectural genius, creating projects across the country with a targeted focus on the story-telling of the African American experience; he was able to culminate some of his greatest work as he thoughtfully and solemnly crowned the expanse of the black experience through his vision and execution of the widely popular Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.”
 “A celebrated architect, artist, husband and father, Phil Freelon will forever be immortalized by his incredible contributions to the state of North Carolina, his indelible mark left throughout the city of Durham and his monumental impact that continues its far and wide reach. Phil Freelon was a true treasure who will be dearly missed, but never forgotten.” 

            [RALEIGH] After seven black Democrats helped to pass the Republican-led legislature’s $24 billion budget last week, only to have Gov. Cooper veto it because it had no funding for Medicaid expansion, the House GOP ha been trying since Monday to override Cooper’s veto, but has failed to muster up enough Democrats to help. The governor met with Republican legislative leaders Tuesday morning in hopes of a compromise, but both sides agreed to disagree. The House worked Wednesday to pass a budget stopgap measure to keep state government in operation. Democrats are confident they will be able to hold the line not to help override Cooper’s veto.



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