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« September 2021 | Main

October 24, 2021

Welcome To The ER. Private Equity Will See You Now.

The emergency room. You go there for help when you're really in trouble or have no place else to turn. But who decides what happens to you there? If you think the answer is doctors, think again. Large corporations are increasingly taking over these centers of life and death, and they are focused far less on your health than squeezing as much profit from your situation as possible.

That's why a growing chorus of physicians, advocates and patients is sounding the alarm on what they say is a corporate-fueled catastrophe in the making. The pandemic, they warn, has amplified problems rampant in a healthcare system managed not for the benefit of human lives but for the corporations and elite executives who control it. This path, they warn, is both unsustainable and dangerous.

Ground zero for the newest form of greed-driven medicine is hospital emergency rooms.

ER, Wall Street-Style

In normal times, 1 in 5 U.S. adults finds themselves in the ER each year for urgent problems like chest pains, severe injuries and acute infections, as well as mental health issues and substance overdoses (the number went down in the pandemic, but it's ticking back up). Some end up there because they lack affordable options for addressing less serious problems.

Everyone has a good chance of spending time in the ER at some point, but most Americans would be shocked to learn just how far the tentacles of financialized corporations have reached into trauma centers and triage stations.

You would think doctors would be making the call on whether you get a breathing tube, but executives who control medical staffing contracts have ways of exerting pressure on physicians to do things their way. They can even decide who gets to see a doctor at all. On corporate spreadsheets, your body becomes little more than a source of profits, and medical staff so many tools for extracting it.

Corporate-influenced medicine has been around for a while. There are insurance companies, of course, but since the 1990s, businesses called "contract management groups" (CMGs) have increasingly taken control of staffing hospitals. CMGs originated in doctor-owned companies trying to address a legitimate issue - the headache of ensuring that hospitals are properly staffed 24/7. But the role of these companies soon expanded to things like coding and billing services. The doctors who ran them found out they could make piles of money through these contracts, and it wasn't long before Big Business saw a pot of gold and came knocking.

Half of all ER doctors are now employed by CMGs. Physicians they employ say they have lost autonomy and can no longer ensure proper patient care.

The first private staffing contractor for an emergency room was EmCare, launched in 1972 in Dallas to staff Baylor Hospital. By 2005, EmCare was the largest ER outsourcer in the U.S. - and that same year, a private equity firm took it over and bundled it with an ambulance outsourcer. The new company eventually went public in 2013 as Envision Healthcare. Fast forward to 2018, and you find private equity giant KKR buying Envision for nearly $10 billion.

Envision is a corporation that draws vehement criticism, coming under fire for abuses like surprise billing and reducing the quality of patient care. Famed short-seller Jim Chanos described the company to Forbes as a "scam" built on a model of "deception or aggressive use of reimbursement."

Envision's main competitor is TeamHealth, which was taken over by the private equity behemoth Blackstone for over $6 billion in 2017. Blackstone is owned by Stephen Schwarzman, who seems to have stepped right out of the movie Wall Street - a poster boy for the "greed is good" mentality. Schwarzman, when he's not boosting Donald Trump and throwing elaborate parties for himself, once described attempts to raise taxes on firms like his to Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland in WWII. (He later apologized after an outcry.)

Sometimes CMGs have a couple of actual physicians at the top (greedy ones making hefty profits, critics say), but their presence is largely a scheme for corporations to get around laws in many states prohibiting business entities from practicing medicine, or owning, investing in, or controlling professional medical practices.

In states without such laws, there is often a lay owner calling the shots at CMGs. The worst-case scenario, say critics, is when a private equity firm takes over.

Private equity firms buy companies hoping to sell them later at a profit - "flipping" them to another buyer. Lately, these corporate entities have been on a spree snapping up healthcare companies, many of which faced have challenges during the pandemic as profits have decreased. Private equity firms are taking over CMGs, nursing homes, physician's practices and even hospitals themselves. They're also gobbling up health care billing management and debt collection systems, just to ensure not a dollar slips away.

The data is still coming in because the phenomenon is new, but research on nursing homes taken over by private equity firms shows that patient care takes a nosedive.

Financial titans like Blackstone, The Carlyle Group and KKR are committed to one thing: ginning up large returns for shareholders. They do so under what economist William Lazonick has criticized as a perverse idea which holds that the sole purpose of corporations is to enrich shareholders - never mind providing anything of value to society, treating workers fairly or keeping the public safe. Lazonick says that the shareholder value ethos has spread "like a contagion" since the 1980s when it took hold at Harvard Business School. Private equity firms take this destructive ethos to the max, looking for massive returns and almost any cost. "Nobody is protected," says Lazonick. "The private equity firms are about making money out of money and looking around for any asset, often tearing the asset down."

Bent on extracting profits from doctors, staff and patients, private equity executives don't mind if you're Democrat or Republican, young or old, rich or poor. They simply want your health issues to translate into money. The tricks they play to make this happen include hiding billing and payments from doctors, pushing medical staff out-of-network so that bills can be inflated, replacing doctors with cheaper non-physician providers, and making sure that medical staff contracts allow the corporation to fire physicians who complain without cause.

A "Seismic Shift" In Medicine

As NBC News reported last year, the private equity phenomenon represents a "seismic shift" in medicine. At the time of their report, Blackstone-owned TeamHealth and KKR-owned Envision Healthcare were already providing staffing for about a third of the country's emergency rooms. NBC noted that during the pandemic, hospitals associated with these financial giants got busy finding ways to cut pay and benefits for medical workers because profits were declining.

Dr. Robert McNamara, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, is on a crusade against this corporate-driven system, warning that emergency rooms at its mercy are harming patients, abusing medical staff and exploiting doctors to the point that many are simply quitting the profession. He spoke recently at TakeEMBack, a two-day virtual conference of physicians, researchers and other analysts aimed at combating the growing influence of profit-hungry corporations on the profession he loves.

According to McNamara, the motives of medicine and the motives of for-profit business are simply incompatible. In his view, when a for-profit business controls the doctor's contract, professional codes of ethics are swept aside. Doctors are prevented from advocating for patients and fired if they dare speak up, without any due process.

Dr. Ming Lin found this out the hard way. He was sacked by Blackstone-backed TeamHealth, which staffed the hospital in Washington where he worked during the pandemic. When Lin complained about inadequate COVID-19 safety measures through internal channels, and later on social media when improvements didn't come, he was fired. As a physician, Lin thought his mission was to keep patients and staff safe. TeamHealth thought otherwise. He is now suing.

Physicians working under the corporate model are also routinely prevented from knowing what is billed and collected in their name. When you go to the emergency room, says McNamara, "it's not a doctor deciding what you are charged. It's Steve Schwarzman."

Psychiatrist Wendy Dean, also a participant in the TakeEMBack conference and an expert in workforce stress, said that ER doctors, already stressed long before COVID, are now breaking down. It's not about individual frailty, she said, but a reaction to an increasingly corporate environment in healthcare that demands that doctors "shift allegiance away from patients."

She describes the stress they endure from the conflict between their duty to patients and what corporations demand as "moral injury," similar to what soldiers experience when they are asked to do things in opposition to their values. No amount of self-care can fix this: "The only way to solve it is to confront the conflicts of interest," says Dean.

What To Do?

If McNamara could make one change right now, it would be to ensure that information on everything billed out or paid on behalf of doctors would be provided without the physician having to make a request to his or her employer. This would allow doctors to know what patients are being charged and whether these charges are fair. As ProPublica has revealed, Blackstone's TeamHealth "charges multiples more than the cost of ER care" and the excess money goes to it, not the doctors treating patients.

McNamara says that transparency would also eliminate unethical practices like fee-splitting - the splitting of a physician's fee with another person or entity, like the manager of a staffing company. Many doctors, he says, have no idea that they are losing 25 to 30% of their fees to business concerns.

McNamara and his colleagues say that Congress and state legislative bodies need to act to wrest control of medicine from corporations. Enforcement of current laws prohibiting doctors from working for laypeople or corporations is needed, along with new regulations in places where they don't exist. Other strategies to forge a better, safer path forward include unionization, a return to transparent and locally-owned medical groups, informing the public about what's happening, and coalition-building.

Nineteenth-century thinker John Ruskin famously said, "There is no wealth but life." In his view, true wealth is human well-being. Emergency rooms, the places we turn to for life and health, are increasingly under the influence of what Ruskin called "illth" - economic forces that breed illness and despair. Private equity and corporate-controlled medicine illustrate that from the standpoint of unregulated capitalists, life has little intrinsic value.

Since all of our lives are a stake, maybe it's time to fight them.

Lynn Parramore is senior research analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

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Previously in private equity:

* Private Equity Comes For Janesville.

* Private Equity Destroyed My Job.

* When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:25 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2021

Madonna vs. Moderna

Madonna: Once married to Guy Ritchie.
Moderna: Once made some guy rich.

*

Madonna: Celebrated by postmodern theorists.
Moderna: Celebrated by viral epidemiologists.

*

Madonna: Good in small doses.
Moderna: Good in small doses.

*

Madonna: MDNA
Moderna: MRNA

*

Moderna: Jab in arm.
Madonna: Jab in ear.

*

Madonna: Like a virgin.
Moderna: Like a vaccine.

*

Madonna: Like a prayer.
Moderna: Better than prayer.

*

Madonna: Vision Quest.
Moderna: Warp Speed.

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Madonna: Into the Groove.
Moderna: Into the arm.

*

Madonna: Erotica.
Moderna: As sexy as Erotica.

*

Madonna: Live to Tell.
Moderna: Live to Tell.

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Previously from the Vs. Affairs Desk:

* Sweet Home Alabama vs. Sweet Home Chicago

* The Kennedy Curse vs. The Cubs Curse

* Oprah vs. Obama

* Lincoln vs. Obama

* The Ryder Cup vs. NATO

* Chicago 2016 vs. Baghdad 2016

* Tank vs. Troutman

* James Brown vs. Gerald Ford

* Hester vs. Hastert

* Cubs vs. Hawks

* Quinn vs. Quade

* Alexi vs. Everyday People

* BP vs. Big Z

* McCain vs. McRib

* Subway vs. McDonald's

* IPRA vs. Oprah

* Marlon Byrd vs. Robert Byrd

* Lilo vs. Blago

* Rahm vs. Rob

* Chicago vs. Wisconsin.

* ICEE vs. ICE

* Bari Weiss vs. Barry White.

* Dalton vs. Andy Dalton.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:03 AM | Permalink

IDOC Still Violating Constitution

More than two years after the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) promised a federal court that it would improve health care for those detained in their facilities, the department has failed the fundamental task of creating a plan for making necessary changes. That is the finding contained in a report last week by a court-appointed expert with the federal court.

Dr. John Raba, who serves as the independent, court-appointed monitor in Lippert v. Jeffreys, made the point in the report, writing, "IDOC does not yet have a comprehensive plan to address this Consent Decree; instead, it seems to primarily respond to crises and threats of legal action."

The report is the latest development in the case that was settled in January 2019.

"While the IDOC bureaucrats delay, people are experiencing unnecessary and unconstitutional pain and suffering, sometimes with permanent damage, even death," said Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center, one of the lawyers in the case.

In addition to failing to produce a basic plan for improving conditions in their facilities, the report identified a number of other IDOC deficiencies:

* IDOC is required to install an electronic medical record system to replace its antiquated paper record-keeping system; they were supposed to have a contract in place by Fall 2019 but cancelled the contract they had and have not replaced it;

* The individual who serves as the Communicable and Infectious Disease Coordinator has no training in infection control and a mere eight months of work experience - in the midst of a global pandemic which has infected up to a third of the population under IDOC control;

* IDOC still has not developed a policy for conducting mortality reviews, and is not performing them, and,

* IDOC has not done an analysis of what staff is necessary to address the problems identified in the settlement agreement, and has failed to hire the hundreds of new staff members needed to provide its 27,000-plus population with decent health care.

"The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to obfuscate, delay and ignore their promise to deliver decent healthcare," said Harold Hirshman of Dentons, another of the lawyers working to improve the system. "Enough. It's well past time to stop resisting and start doing."

The report offers little optimism for quick improvement. IDOC signed an agreement to work with Southern Illinois University to improve health care for people in prison. However, neither IDOC or SIU have permitted the monitor - a nationally recognized expert in prison health care - to attend meetings.

"This report card is an embarrassment to IDOC," added Camille Bennett, director of the corrections reform project at the ACLU of Illinois. "Simple assignments - that could be accomplished with little effort - have not been completed."

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Previously:

* May 2017: Federal Court Certifies Lawsuit Charging Unconstitutional Illinois Prison Healthcare.

* May 2018: Mentally Ill Prisoners Win Injunction; Judge Declares IDOC's Failure To Provide Mental Health Care An "Emergency Situation."

* October 2018: Judge: "Deliberate Indifference" Of IDOC Mental Health Care Requires Federal Oversight.

* December 2018: Federal Judge To IDOC: Get Your Unconstitutional Shit Together.

* January 2019: Overhauling Illinois' Unconstitutional Prisons.

* March 2021: Illinois Prisoners' Health Care Still Unconstitutional.

* June 2021: Judge Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against IDOC.

* August 2021: IDOC Mental Health Care Still Unconstitutional After 5 Years.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex

As U.S. troops finally made their exit from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, the Sunday shows - which have always aimed to set Washington agendas - were filled with guests who had direct ties to the military-industrial complex.

FAIR analyzed three weeks of ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday and NBC's Meet the Press during the Afghanistan withdrawal. We recorded 36 featured guest appearances and 33 roundtable participant appearances. Those who appeared on more than one show were counted every time they appeared; there were 24 unique featured guests and 32 unique panelists.

Of the 24 unique featured guests, only two were not from the U.S.: Roya Rahmani, the former ambassador to the U.S. from Afghanistan, and Yasmeen Hassan, the Pakistani director of the NGO Equality Now. The two were interviewed jointly in one CNN segment - the only segment in the study to center on the situation of Afghan women.

MIC Ties

Twenty of the 22 unique featured guests from the United States had ties to the military-industrial complex. These MIC associates accounted for 28 of U.S. guests' 34 appearances. They included 13 appearances by elected officials who are recipients of military industry PAC money, 12 appearances by current or former government officials who serve or have served as consultants or advisors to the military industry, and eight appearances by former members of the military. (Some guests had multiple ties.)

The two exceptions were National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who appeared five times, and career diplomat and former ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker. Even these exceptions didn't stray far from the MIC orbit: Crocker was cozy enough to the military to be named an honorary Marine in 2012, and Sullivan was a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a somewhat misleadingly named think tank that regularly takes five- and six-figure donations from various tentacles of the military-industrial complex.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.27.31 PM.png

No elected officials without military-industrial complex ties were invited on to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the three weeks studied. Nor were any scholars, activists or civil society leaders aside from Hassan.

Though roundtable panelists are predominantly journalists, one - Council on Foreign Relations fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - also had MIC ties.

Skewed Against Withdrawal

The arguments expressed in these Afghanistan segments skewed against withdrawal, despite the fact that a majority of the public has consistently supported withdrawal. In a Quinnipiac poll, respondents supported Biden's decision to withdraw 54% to 41%; Monmouth found 63% in support of withdrawal regardless of how it was versus only 27% opposed. When offered the option of approving of withdrawal while disapproving of Biden's handling of it, an ABC/Washington Post poll found a total of 78% in favor of withdrawal.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.28.23 PM.png

The format of the Sunday shows for the three weeks studied typically featured a Biden administration guest questioned about Afghanistan as the headliner, followed by a Republican guest offering a counterpoint. Featured guests on other topics (often the COVID-19 pandemic) sometimes followed, wrapped up with a roundtable of three or four panelists analyzing the week's news. (CBS and CNN did not have roundtables.)

Hosts tended to ask questions of the administration guests that predominantly - sometimes exclusively - concerned the process of withdrawal, rather than the wisdom of it. For instance, in four of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's seven appearances, and three of National Security Adviser Sullivan's five appearances, they were only asked process questions, and made no statements in support of the decision to withdraw.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.29.09 PM.png

But the Republicans brought on to offer "balance" - such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Liz Cheney - were frequently introduced as opponents of withdrawal, not just critics of the process, and given ample opportunity to discuss that opposition.

As a result, the shows tilted toward anti-withdrawal voices. Of the 16 appearances by featured guests with Democratic affiliations, only eight voiced support for withdrawal; of the 17 appearances by Republicans, 11 expressed opposition to withdrawal itself, not just how it was handled. (One opposition voice, Crocker, served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and was therefore counted in both groups.)

Three other pro-Trump Republicans - Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Rep. Steve Scalise - expressed support for the general idea of withdrawal, but opposition to Biden's withdrawal. Haley argued: "President Trump very much wanted to see soldiers come out of Afghanistan. So it's not about soldiers coming out." But she also argued that Biden should have kept troops in under the circumstances: "This was a complete and total surrender and an embarrassing failure. The Biden administration needs to go back and extend that August 31 deadline."

Of the roundtable panelists, 11 presented arguments opposed to withdrawal, while seven presented arguments in favor; 15 did not voice an argument on either side.

Pro-Occupation Journalists

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.30.00 PM.png

Many of those panelists offering pro-war arguments were - perhaps unsurprisingly to regular FAIR readers - journalists. New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker parroted talking points popular among Republican guests:

There's a relatively minor investment of national resources in the last few years, right? . . .

In one day, we'll have six times as many people die of COVID in America as we've had combat casualties in five years. So we were not actually sustaining a big war effort. Very few troops there in the scheme of things. Much less than we have in South Korea, much less than we have in Germany, for an outsized impact, right? We've had a stable, if not very satisfying, situation in Afghanistan. I think Anne [Gearan, Washington Post White House correspondent] is right. The conclusion is we can't make it better. But we now see in the last few days, we can make it worse . . .

And it's a dark day. It's a dark day for America. It's going to be the end of a 20-year experiment, 20 years of epic failure. And it's a dark day, especially, for the Afghan people, 38 million people who are now going to be returned to the tender mercies of the Taliban.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.31.00 PM.png

ABC reporter Jonathan Karl offered this analysis as a panelist on ABC's This Week:

Now the big question is, does Afghanistan once again become a safe haven for terrorist attacks on U.S. interests around the world or at home? . . . You know, maybe part of the reason why Afghanistan had not been such, is that it was a military presence in Afghanistan. But now we will have this over-the-horizon capability, but the bottom line is the terror threat has increased, and our ability to combat it has decreased . . .

President Biden has portrayed this as, he has two choices. Basically, go back in, be in the middle of a revived civil war. Send in more troops, or leave as quickly as possible. Those were, I think, not the two choices, and the bottom line is that the intelligence that he was receiving, and the advice from his military, was not on the dangers of staying a little while longer. It was on the dangers of leaving too quickly.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.31.36 PM.png

Similarly, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper argued on NBC's Meet the Press:

The one thing that I feel like this whole conversation on Afghanistan constantly doesn't reckon with is what some people in the military would call the original sin. And that is the decision that President Biden made that withdrawing 3,500 troops from Afghanistan, rejecting the advice of his Defense Secretary and his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to leave 3,000 to 4,500 people there, was not going to lead to the insane chaos that we are seeing now . . .

What I find so interesting about all this is for 20 years, Joe Biden has believed that he knew more about Afghanistan, and he was the only realistic skeptic in a roomful of people who had pipe dreams about this . . . That's exactly the problem, because he came in and he was not going to listen. He believed the Pentagon had rolled a successive number of administrations for 20 years. And he was going to stand up to them.

Such trust in the military for policy decisions, not just tactical ones, extended to questions from Sunday hosts, as when NBC's Chuck Todd pressed the National Security Council's Sullivan:

So you followed the military advice on closing Bagram. But the same military advisers were telling you to keep a force on the ground. They told you not to pursue this withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, correct?

Parity: Partisan, Not Gender

The Sunday shows clearly made an effort to prioritize partisan parity: 17 guests were Republican elected officials or were affiliated with Republican administrations, while 16 guests had similar Democratic affiliations. (Four guests had no partisan affiliations.) The panels had a similar breakdown, with five having Republican affiliations and four tied to Democrats.

The programs showed no similar concern for gender parity among their interview guests. Of the 36 featured guest appearances, only six were women. Fox featured no women as guests in the three-week study period, and no outlet had more than two. The roundtable guests were essentially balanced by gender, with 17 women and 16 men.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.32.14 PM.png

While they made no efforts for gender parity among interview guests, women did appear frequently as talking points against the withdrawal. Fox News's Chris Wallace - one of the network's few remaining journalists to not wear their partisanship on their sleeve - offered his frank assessment of Biden's choice:

It seems to me that we learned a lot about Joe Biden this week. That for all of the talk about his empathy, that, in fact, he has made a pretty cold calculation that, for instance, the plight of Afghan women - and there';s every reason to believe their lives are going to get a lot worse now with the Taliban in charge - is not a matter of national security.

ABC's Karl, in a question to Blinken, likewise emphasized Afghan girls:

So what does all this mean for America's image in the world, and for what President Biden has spoken so forcefully about, the need to fight on behalf of democracy and democratic values? To see us leaving, and an extremist group coming in and taking power that wants to close down the right of girls to go to school, that is executing surrendering soldiers, that is anything but representative of those democratic values that President Biden has said that the United States must stand for.

CNN, however, was the only outlet to actually feature an Afghan woman as an interview guest.

Screen Shot 2021-10-23 at 4.22.34 PM.png(ENLARGE)

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Research assistance: Dorothy Poucher, Jasmine Watson, Adam Weintraub

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:33 AM | Permalink

Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer

Stats Perform Integrity and Starlizard Integrity Services have released their fourth annual Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report. The report aims to provide fellow stakeholders in the sports integrity community with a significant and informative overview of current trends in suspicious football betting.

Detailed analysis was conducted on betting markets offered on 61,296 soccer matches played throughout the world in 2020. While this is down 23% on the 80,939 matches analyzed the previous year - primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing the cancellation of so many fixtures - it is comparable to the 62,250 matches analyzed two years ago.

Key findings of the 2021 Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report:

* Despite concerns around the short-term risks in soccer being increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 217 (0.35%) matches in 2020 were identified as suspicious, a reduction in both real and percentage terms from the 456 (0.56%) matches in last year's report.

* This is the third successive year that the proportion of suspicious matches identified has reduced, and it is now over 50% less than our inaugural report from 2018 when 0.73% of matches were identified as suspicious.

* The proportion of suspicious matches in 2020 peaked in the spring when betting focus was concentrated on friendly matches and lower profile competitions. However, in the autumn months, as fixture calendars returned to relative normality, proportions dropped to well below those of previous years.

* 42% of all suspicious matches were at the highest level of domestic soccer in the country in which they took place. 36% of suspicious matches took place at the second highest level of domestic soccer.

* As with previous editions of the report, friendly matches continue to pose significant issues for soccer authorities. 1.19% of analyzed friendlies were suspicious, which is an increase from 0.67% in last year's report. Concerns around friendly matches are heightened when they take place in countries with a historically increased risk of suspicious competitive matches.

* Suspicious matches in women's soccer continue to be rare, with only one identified amongst more than 3,700 matches analyzed.

* A number of case studies have been identified where interventions by soccer authorities and law enforcement have preceded significant reductions in suspicious matches.

The Stats Perform Integrity and Starlizard Integrity Services teams worked together, each using their own advanced in-house systems and analytical capabilities to examine the betting markets on every single match within the study.

The results are an in-depth analysis of key betting markets (Asian Handicap, 1X2 and Total Goals markets) on soccer matches, including domestic and international competitions, across 112 countries and six continents. Betting markets for all of the matches were heavily scrutinized, in real-time and retrospectively, in order to identify any suspicious betting. The outcome of the analysis identified betting markets associated with 217 matches to be suspicious.

This report provides a detailed breakdown of where and when suspicious matches took place and compares the findings to those of previous years. It looks at locations, timings, tiers, and levels of competition, and whether the suspicious betting occurred across youth, international, friendly or women's matches. The report also notes the effects of law enforcement action on match-fixing.

Now in its fourth year, the Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report has become an eagerly awaited publication for integrity stakeholders and seeks to provide valuable insight into the match-fixing risk facing the sport.

"After four years of publishing this report it is great to see that the analysis continues to generate objective and fact-based insights for [soccer's] governing bodies, integrity stakeholders, and fans alike," said Jake Marsh, Global Head of Integrity for Stats Perform. "2020 was an exceptional year for football in how it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will no doubt be understanding the long-term effects and risks to the sport for several years. Despite the reduction in fixtures in 2020 there was still a very high number of matches that we identified as suspicious and potentially linked to manipulation. There are cautious signs for optimism in some areas, but the report shows the risk of match-fixing is ever present in [soccer], and it is paramount that those protecting the sport are properly equipped to protect the beautiful game."

Starlizard Head of Integrity Affy Sheikh said that "The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of [soccer] fixtures and the suspension of leagues around the world, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of games played during 2020. Worryingly, we have still identified over 200 games that are suspicious in terms of potential match manipulation, and that, we feel, warrant further investigation. Despite the more limited availability of matches due to the pandemic, this suggests that criminals have found new ways and new targets in their attempts to manipulate matches and the betting markets. It is imperative that all [soccer] stakeholders remain vigilant to the threat of match-fixing at all times and make adequate resources available to keep the sport clean, free from corrupt influence, and to ensure that [soccer] fans can enjoy watching an honest and fair game."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

October 22, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #379: Sky High

Chicago's champions. Plus: Bears Money Is Stupid; The Cheaters vs. The Tomahawkers; Yasmanknee Grandal; Cubs Have It Their Way; Bielema Dilemma; Bulls Reportedly Trying To Be Suns; Bowman's Blackhawks Bombing; and Red Stars Reach For Sky.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #379: Skytober

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SHOW NOTES

* 379.

* Zumbach, Tribune: Fans Search In Vain For Chicago Sky Merchandise.

* Soniak, Mental Floss: What Happens To The Losing Team's Pre-Printed Championship Shirts?

* Champions.

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26:58: Bears Money Is Stupid.

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46:56: Pending: The Cheaters vs. The Tomahawkers.

* Rosenthal, The Athletic: After Questionable Decisions In Games 4 And 5, Alex Cora's Postseason Mystique Has Taken A Hit.

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53:52: Yasmanknee Grandal.

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57:50: Cubs Have It Their Way.

* No special sauce.

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59:21: Bielema Dilemma.

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1:02:52: Bulls Reportedly Trying To Be Suns.

* Herring, SI: How Chicago Became The NBA's Most Intriguing Team.

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1:05:52: Bowman's Blackhawks Bombing.

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1:08:21: Red Stars Reach For Sky.

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STOPPAGE: 10:43

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:24 PM | Permalink

October 15, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #378: Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More!

It's not that Tony La Rusta was outmanaged by Dusty Baker, it's that he outmanaged himself. Plus: Steve Stone's Suckage; Bears On The Run; Eyes On The Sky; Cubs Can Finally Afford A GM Again; Boo Blackhawks; Red Stars Rising and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #378: Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More

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SHOW NOTES

* 378.

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:42: Tony La Rusta Returning.

* Rhodes: "It's not that he was outmanaged by Dusty Baker - Dusty didn't do a damn thing. He outmanaged himself."

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9:49: Steve Stone's Suckage.

* Benetti tells on his partner.

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15:43: Tonyball.

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20:50: Costly Kimbrel.

Screen Shot 2021-10-15 at 1.33.33 PM.png

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25:50: The Unfantastic Four.

* Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves.

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30:44: Cubs Can Finally Afford A GM Again.

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41:21: Bears On The Run.

* Rhodes: The Bears just acquired their identity from the Raiders.

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1:01:52: Eyes On The Sky.

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1:03:33: Boo Blackhawks.

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1:05:52: Red Stars Rising.

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STOPPAGE: 7:03

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:37 PM | Permalink

October 14, 2021

Sweden Should Press China To Release Swedish Book Publisher

This week marks the sixth anniversary since Chinese authorities abducted Gui Minhai, a Swedish book publisher, from his home in Thailand in 2015.

After enduring a forced confession on state media and a sham trial, Gui was briefly freed in 2017, before being rearrested. In 2020, a court handed down a 10-year sentence on questionable charges, and the authorities have provided no information on his whereabouts ever since, forcibly disappearing him. He is feared to be in poor health.

Beijing's recent release of two U.S. citizens who had been arbitrarily prohibited from leaving China, and two Canadians held as diplomatic hostages in exchange for an indicted Huawei executive, is both very welcome news and a cause for profound concern. It confirms Beijing's willingness to use human beings as pawns, and reminds us of those who remain wrongfully detained, like Gui Minhai.

Screen Shot 2021-10-14 at 12.02.39 PM.pngProtesters stick photos of Gui Minhai, left, and other missing booksellers outside the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong on January 3, 2016/Vincent Yu, AP

Sweden's efforts to free Gui appear tepid. It has not launched a major public effort to secure his release, and if it has done so in private, those efforts are evidently not working. The country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instead become embroiled in other diplomatic issues with China, including over a Chinese ambassador in Stockholm, and Sweden's unsuccessful prosecution of its former ambassador to China for her mishandling of Gui's case.

In January, the Swedish Parliament called for a government-appointed commission to investigate cases of Swedes arbitrarily detained abroad and report by the end of March 2022. But the government has recently increased confidentiality surrounding the commission's work, which could conveniently shield the government from further embarrassment.

COVID-19 may well have put a pall on some diplomatic interactions. But throughout the pandemic, the European Parliament and European Union called consistently for Gui's release, placing human rights concerns closer to the center of EU-China relations.

Standard diplomatic interventions to free citizens wrongfully detained by the Chinese government have largely proven ineffective. The Swedish government should make Gui Minhai's release a priority in its relations with China. Stockholm should also be working with its European allies, who have been increasingly willing to criticize Beijing, to press harder for his freedom.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:52 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2021

When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park

For the last 20 years, I have lived and thrived in a mobile home community. I loved where I live - right up until Wall Street bought the park and threatened the well-being of myself, my neighbors, and my family.

Mobile homes are a vital source of affordable housing for around 3 million households across 45,000 communities in the United States. These households have a median income of about $36,000, and include vulnerable populations like seniors, the disabled and immigrants.

Our mobile home community was the sort of place where every neighbor helped everybody. If my grass wasn't cut, the neighbor across the street would cut it. If their grass didn't get cut that week, I would take care of it. That's just how we were.

But things started to get harder in 2012, when RHP Properties - a corporation entwined with Brookfield Asset Management, a Toronto-based private equity firm - took ownership of our mobile home community in Spring Valley, New York.

Mobile home communities exist in part to give disadvantaged, lower income or retired people like me the opportunity to have their own space. It's your own yard, with your own driveway.

But RHP properties saw only a profit opportunity. Soon after they took over, the money we were required to pay to have our home in the community, called the land fee or lot rent, started going up.

Way up. My land fee alone reached nearly $1,400. But that wasn't all.

RHP also started charging for services that were once included in the rent, like water. Meanwhile the services we pay for got skimpier and skimpier. Potholes started developing in driveways and on roads, trees were collapsing across people's yards, and garbage began to pile up. Maintenance requests now go unanswered for months.

The situation has been developing for some time. According to a report by Americans for Financial Reform and MH Action, an organization I work with, Wall Street's involvement in mobile home parks is a national phenomenon.

Corporate and private equity acquisitions of mobile home communities have left residents across the United States helpless. In some cases, they have jacked up prices by up to 60 percent, layering on school taxes, trash fees, and administrative charges on top of the rent - all new costs that weren't charged before.

Many also kicked out residents during the pandemic, despite federal rules against evictions.

We need change and we needed it yesterday.

At the state level, we can protect mobile home residents with laws to guard against excessive rent increases, and lay the legal groundwork for community-friendly ownership models that help residents preserve the family-like atmosphere that made my house a home.

At the national level, we need Congress to begin a fundamental restructuring of the predatory private equity industry by passing the Stop Wall Street Looting Act. The law would make private equity executives personally liable if they cause damage and close tax and regulatory loopholes that benefit wealthy executives.

These reforms would benefit far more than just mobile home residents. Across the country, private equity firms are price gouging people for many forms of housing, as well as shortening life expectancy in nursing homes, destroying retail jobs, and devastating local newspapers with ruthless cost-cutting.

The private equity industry, in short, is responsible for some of the most harmful business practices in the United States.

My neighbors and I love where we live, and we refuse to back down and abandon our homes. It's time for our elected officials to act.

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See also from the New Yorker: What Happens When Investment Firms Acquire Trailer Parks

And:

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Previously:
* Sam Zell, Evil Mobile Home Landlord.

* Postcard From Thermal: Oasis Mobile Home Park.

* Private Equity Comes For Janesville.

* Private Equity Destroyed My Job.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:02 PM | Permalink

Sad Sacks

As the Houston Astros were idled Monday by the rain that delayed Game 4 of the ALDS, we can assume that Dusty Baker and his charges couldn't have been seen at Navy Pier or the Art Institute. Looking for them at other tourist attractions like the Shedd or the Museum of Science and Industry would have proved fruitless.

What we can assume is that wherever those athletes spent the day, the words about "sketchy stuff" uttered by Sox reliever Ryan Tepera were ringing in their ears. The profanity-laden chants aimed at José Altuve by thousands of Sox diehards throughout Sunday's rousing 12-6 White Sox triumph were still echoing in their heads.

As if the visitors needed any additional motivation.

Even with Tuesday's outcome assured late in the game, the Astros' embarrassment of the White Sox wasn't complete. After Michael Brantley's one-out RBI single, making the score 7-1, in the top of the eighth inning, the 34-year-old veteran stole second base. The thievery matched the total number of swipes that Brantley recorded for the entire season. In fact, he's stolen just six bases in the past three years.

Brantley wasn't even a member of the Astros when they won the World Series in 2017, thanks, in part, to their sign-stealing scheme. It would be two years until his arrival in Houston. He's known as a "good-in-the-clubhouse" kind of guy, a mensch in every sense. He clearly isn't "sketchy," but his feathers certainly could have been ruffled by Tepera's analysis and the treatment of not only Altuve, but of the entire Houston roster.

So the mild-mannered but highly-competitive Brantley rubbed it in, and Tony "Old School" La Russa seethed in the Sox dugout. Just like slamming a 3-0 lob into the left field seats in a blowout game, you just don't do that, according to the Sox skipper. And when Kendall Graveman's full count 94.3 mph fastball connected with José Abreu's oft-smitten left elbow with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the eighth, La Russa simply lost it.

Instead of focusing on the shortcomings of his ballclub and the merits of his conquerers, La Russa's post-game comments accused the Astros of "character shortage" and dishonesty. He was angry, an emotion that could have hindered Baker's outfit had his men chosen to get mad.

However, their response to the words and treatment of the past few days in Chicago created intense dedication to winning and additional inspiration.

Take Altuve, for instance. Was he involved in the cheating in 2017? Without question. Did he experience any heightened passion from the Sox fans' invective. Again, without question.

Altuve is an elite player, the longest-tenured Astro, having debuted in 2011. He was an MVP in 2017. In various seasons, he's led the league in at-bats, hits (four times), stolen bases (twice), and batting average (three seasons). He's a seven-time All-Star and plays second base with skill and range, as he exhibited in this series. In 11 seasons, Altuve's WAR is 41.4. Astro Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, another talented second baseman, amassed a WAR of 65.4 in 20 seasons. Barring injury, Altuve will pass Biggio in that category before he's finished.

Altuve added the final insult on Tuesday by smashing a ninth-inning, three-run homer off Liam Hendriks to complete the scoring. Oh, to have access to what his thoughts were as he slowly rounded the bases.

If fans at The Grate thought they were doing the Sox a favor with their taunting of Altuve, I suggest that those barbs had just the opposite effect. The haters were out in force. No need to come out of the woodwork. Like in most aspects of American life, they've assumed a place at the dining room table and on the couch in living rooms throughout the land, and The Grate is no exception.

In just about all aspects during this series, the Sox were woefully inadequate, perhaps most egregiously when it came to starting pitching. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón pitched a total of an anemic 12⅓ innings, allowing 12 earned runs. The quartet fanned 13 Astros, but they also walked 12 and hit one batter. Of those 13 free passes, eight morphed into runs. This from a staff that ranked third in strikeouts and eighth lowest in walks among the 30 teams this season.

Perhaps Giolito's performance was most baffling since he walked five batters before exiting with one out in the fifth inning of Game 2. In 31 starts this season, Giolito walked as many as five hitters in just one game. Furthermore, back on July 17 he recorded his only complete game of the year in a 10-1 rout (sound familiar?) of these very same Astros. In that game, Lucas fanned eight without walking anyone.

Obviously when it most counted, Giolito stumbled. You can't chalk it up to experience because Lucas tossed a beauty in last season's first playoff game against Oakland, when he went seven innings in a 4-1 triumph. He'll rebound because he is a talented young pitcher with a varied repertoire. He simply wasn't very good last week in Houston.

On paper the Sox hit .291 for the series, and the quintet of Abreu, Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson and Yóan Moncada combined for 28 hits and a .346 mark. Had you disclosed before the series began that these would be the final tabulations, you'd assume that the Sox would prevail.

Of course, a perusal between the lines shows that none of those 28 hits were for extra bases. Hard to believe, but true. The first 20 hits the Sox collected over two-plus games were all singles. Not until Yasmani Grandal homered in the third inning of Game 3 on Sunday did the Sox record an extra-base hit. Leury Garcia also homered with two men on in the same inning on Sunday, giving the Sox a 6-5 lead after they had fallen behind 5-1. This turned out to be the zenith of the four games as the South Siders eventually won 12-6.

While Cease was gone in the second inning on Sunday, the relief corps showed that the Astro bats could be silenced. (Note: They were shut out six times during the regular season.) After Michael Kopech got roughed up a bit over 2⅓ innings, Tepera, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel and Hendricks covered the last four frames, holding Houston hitless, walking none and fanning nine. Sox pitchers on Sunday struck out 16 Astros - the team that was the hardest to strike out during the 162-game grind.

Defense was another area where the Astros displayed their superiority. Strength up the middle usually characterizes winning teams, and the combination of catcher Martín Maldonado, Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, and centerfielder Jake Meyers extinguished potential rallies. Right fielder Kyle Tucker also made a few fine running catches to end White Sox threats.

Meanwhile, the Sox had no remedy for stopping the running game as the Astros attempted five stolen bases and were successful on all of them. La Russa opted not to run because Maldonado is a superb catcher who blocks low pitches as well as anyone and has a strong arm. Robert was thrown out at second in the first game, and that was the extent of the Sox running game.

In addition to Brantley's larceny on Tuesday, Tucker, who had singled to lead off the top of the fourth, stole second and third on consecutive pitches with Kopech on the mound. He scored on Maldonado's single to center, giving the Astros a 3-1 lead.

To state the obvious, a single turned into a triple which then produced a run in what was still a close game. This, my friends, is the mark of a bad ballclub. You can't let the opposition run at will, and teams have been doing this to the White Sox all season. The opposition stole 119 bases against the Sox and were thrown out just 24 times, a 17 percent mark.

And then there is La Russa, who absorbed much of the vitriol of Sox fandom. His handling of his pitching staff was most commonly mentioned. He stayed with his starters too long, according to the critics. He misused Kopech, keeping him inactive in the first two games and then having him throw 47 pitches in Game 3 before bringing him back in the final contest.

In my view, the move most open to controversy was pinch hitting for Adam Engel with Cesar Hernandez in the top of the seventh in Game 2 with the score tied at 4. I'm not sure I'd have Hernandez hit for, say, Seby Zavala, let alone a player like Engel, a very capable outfielder in a post-season tie game.

Defense takes on added importance, and the ball uncannily tends to find the weakest defenders, as it did in the bottom of the inning when Correa's drive to right field escaped the grasp of García, who had moved from second base to replace Engel. Poor Leury, who had been having problems in the outfield the last few weeks of the season, turned the wrong way, and before he made a correction the ball sailed over his head.

A difficult play to be sure, but one that Engel most probably would have made for the third out. Had that been the case, the Sox would have trailed just 5-4. As it was, Kimbrel gave up a home run to the next hitter, Tucker, to complete the scoring in a 9-4 rout.

And so ends this stage of what was once known as The Rebuild. The result was much the same as a year ago, with the exception of a division title which many critics discount because of the quality of the competition.

I don't quite see it that way because of the talent the Sox possess. Young, strong, developing talent with players like Robert, Jiménez, Moncada, Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn, Cease, Kopech, and even Giolito, who have just scratched the surface of their big league careers.

Maybe the Astros of all people can be the source of future dreams for the local crew. After three seasons (2011-13) of a total of 324 losses, they recorded 70 wins in 2014 before making the post-season a year later. Despite winning 84 games the next year, the Astros took a step back, missing the playoffs. The World Series championship, however tainted, followed four years ago, and the team has now reached the ALCS five straight years.

The path is uneven. There are steps forward and back. Whether you think La Russa is the right man to guide them is irrelevant because he's not going anywhere, at least not now. The team that takes the field next spring will be different. There will be new faces, and some of the old ones will be missing. Optimism will be pervasive. So will disappointment if the result next October is eerily similar to the present.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:10 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2021

16 Million Americans Learned To Play Guitar In The Last Two Years

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) released the results of a study, "Fender's New Guitar Player Landscape Analysis," commissioned alongside YouGov®, which revealed that an incredible 7% of the U.S. population ages 13-64 (approx. 16 million people) started to learn guitar in the last two years, with 62% citing COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns as a major motivator.

Anticipating the growing need for individual, healthy and positive hobbies during a time of isolation, in April of 2020 Fender offered three complimentary months of Fender Play®, their complete online learning app for guitar, bass and ukulele. This resulted in one million new signups, amidst soaring guitar sales. To continue to best support this growing community, Fender partnered with YouGov® to commission a 10,000-person survey with the goal of identifying and understanding this new community's needs.

Fenderwho.jpg

Learning from the data gathered, Fender will launch the Beginner's Hub, a network of online resources which includes every tool a new player needs to start, stick with and eventually master their guitar, bass or ukulele.

Among the respondents to the survey, which was structured to ensure natural fallout of guitar beginners and related target audiences from a demographically representative sample of the age 13-64 U.S. population, 62% of beginner guitarists said that the COVID-19 pandemic was an important, driving factor in beginning their guitar journey.

Seventy-seven percent of those polled reported that they found themselves with additional free time during this period, which they used to play and practice.

While this group viewed the pandemic as a shared experience, the survey results revealed their motivations, life experiences and levels of dedication to be exceedingly varied.

The following insights emerged from Fender's New Guitar Player Landscape Analysis:

* The New Face of Guitar: 72% of new players are between the ages of 13 and 34, ushering in the next generation of artists that will be transforming the guitar and music industries. These new players are not music novices, with the majority having played or attempted to play another instrument prior to guitar, with piano/keyboard and bass being the most popular.

* GuitarTok: 58% of beginners use TikTok weekly or more frequently. Additionally, 67% of beginners seek out and consume guitar content at least weekly if not daily (19% daily, 48% weekly).

* Music's In The Family: 33% of current beginner guitar players and 33% of aspiring guitar players (those who have not yet learned/play guitar but indicated high interest/likelihood to do so in the next 12 months), have a family member who has owned a guitar, so having the guitar in the home may be a factor for beginner players.

* Motivations To Learn To Play Guitar Have Shifted: 67% of new players have full-time careers, with the majority considering guitar as a hobby rather than a passion. Outside of guitar, video games are one of their top hobbies - indicating a growing opportunity to connect with players in virtual spaces. Other hobbies include cooking, health & wellness, reading and traveling. Research shows women, teens, adults aged 40+ and black beginning players are especially likely to classify themselves as self-improvers when it comes to their current guitar playing.

* Genre-bending: Hip-hop is popular among today's beginners. However, they are less likely to associate it with guitar. Tapping into this genre may help drive interest and engagement with players.

* Latine Guitarists: In the last two years, 38% of the 16 million new players identify as Latine, emphasizing the need for Fender and the industry at large to support and ensure players from all backgrounds have a barrier-free experience to learning guitar. Of the 38%, Hispanic players are much more likely to seek out guitar for the purpose of creating music and performing.

* Leveling Up: 53% of beginners spend two hours or less practicing a week, but on average, they believe practicing four hours a week for 1-2 years is what it will take to "get good" at guitar.

* Starting is Hard: Those who aspire to play guitar list significantly more barriers than those who have already begun playing, indicating that the act of starting itself may be the hardest part of picking up guitar. Once they've gotten started, respondents reported that one of the greatest struggles is not learning/progressing quickly enough. So much so that 17% of beginners attest that a reward opportunity would help them continue to learn.

* Sticking With It: Out of the 16 million new players that emerged in the last two years, one in four have stagnated in their progress, proving that starting is hard but continuing might be harder, so ongoing learning support is crucial to sustaining players.

Utilizing this data, Fender intends to refine its existing programs to support these 16 million new players, adapting to the ever-changing needs of the many demographics that compose this group.

"The pandemic rapidly accelerated the already healthy growth in beginner guitar players and we accelerated our investment in tools to support them," said Andy Mooney, CEO Fender. "Our suite of Beginner Tools enables new players to enjoy the process of learning to play music they love and perhaps go on to create music we all will love."

Recognizing both the renewed interest in guitar among young people and the lifelong benefits of youth music education, the Fender Play Foundation™ has been working with Los Angeles Unified, the 2nd largest school district in the U.S since 2020 to expand music education programming in their schools and hopes to expand to school districts across the nation in the coming years. The younger demographic also discovers their music and hobbies digitally, requiring a more significant investment in social media. Prior to Fender joining TikTok last month, #Fender had been viewed over 157M times and "#GuitarTok" has racked up 1B+ views and counting.

Guitar transcends genres and music spans all borders, demographics, and cultures. It requires internal and external investment to make the industry equally accessible to every artist, and Fender is committed to robust action to remove any barriers to entry. With tools like the Beginner's Hub, Fender aims to eliminate the guesswork that can come from starting guitar and demystifying what can be an intimidating new hobby.

But Fender has a deeper commitment to players than simply selling them the right guitar; it's also developed robust tools to keep players committed to practicing and developing a lifelong skill. With this goal in mind, the Beginner's Hub will provide users with access to Fender Play®, Fender's complete online learning app for guitar, bass and ukulele.

With song tabs, bite-sized lessons, trackable progress, and a song-based curriculum with video lessons straight from the songwriters themselves, Fender Play is designed to help players overcome difficulties and experience the joy that comes from mastering guitar.

To inspire further dedication, Fender will tap first person insight from top artists like Brother's Osborn, Brad Paisley, Larkin Poe and Jim Root. The legendary guitarists will walk new players through their unique "My First Fender" experiences via video, providing a fan-to-artist connection that demystifies the beginner to the recording star pipeline.

Additionally, the Hub will take the guesswork out of starting by including the Find Your Fender quiz - which after a series of questions matches each user's musical taste, aesthetic preferences and price range with the perfect guitar, or bass or ukulele for them.

Find Your Fender also recommends the ideal amplifier to accompany an instrument, helping players have everything they need from the outset of their guitar journey. Whether a new player is looking to learn guitar as a tool for self-improvement or for creative expression, Find Your Fender can determine exactly the setup needed to fulfill the goal.

Find Your Fender will make the gear selection process with a quiz and consequent personalized guitar, bass and ukulele recommendations. For those that don't want to take the quiz, Fender also has curated bundles for electric/acoustic guitars, bass guitar and ukulele on a section of the Beginner Hub, and all are organized by level starting with Basic and then getting more premium with Beginner and Beginner+ for more familiar players.

From the instrument and amps to accessories, these bundles have everything for beginners to get started, and there are kid options for younger learners, as well.

Fender also recognizes the shift in motivations to learning to play, and is adapting tools that cater to various entry points, including a brand new chatbot integrated into Fender.com. This bot will help navigate beginners to the right content and recommendations, filtering them in from Articles and Tuner pages at launch and will help determine what they want to do (learn to play, learn about guitars, or buy).

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Previously in guitars:
* Gibson Guitars: The Sound Of Rock.

* Global Electric Guitar Growth.

* He Built A Guitar Out Of 1,200 Colored Pencils.

* Fender Reports Record-Breaking Guitar Sales.

* The Guitar Industry's Hidden Environmental Problem.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:48 PM | Permalink

The Flesh Between Us

In The Flesh Between Us, the speaker explores our connections to each other, whether they be lovely or painful, static or constantly shifting, or, above all, unavoidable and necessary.

Intensely and unapologetically homoerotic in content and theme, The Flesh Between Us sensuously conducts the meetings between strangers, between lovers, between friends and family, between eater and eaten, between the soul and the body that contains it.

Pushing the boundaries of what has been traditionally acceptable for gay and erotic content and themes, the poems adapt persona, Greek mythology, Judaism, and classic poetic forms to interrogate the speaker's relationship to god and faith, to love and sex, to mother and father.

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Stark and mythical, the imagery draws from the language of animals and nature. Episodes of kink tangle with creatures of forests and lore. In this tumult, the lines of poetry keep a sense of boundary and distance by the seeming incompatibility of their subjects: daybreak and dissection, human and insect, worship and reality. The touch of irreconcilable bodies, in Adkisson's language, intimates the precise moment of love.

The idea of love moves viscerally through rib, lung, throat, and mouth. The poems show how flesh opens in so many ways, in prayers, in bleeds, in ruts. The flesh, opened, begins to swell. If there is guilt in this, Adkisson's poems refuse the placid satisfaction of confession. Whatever attachments the reader dares to draw must be made with blade or tongue. The reader must commit to the potential violence narrated by these poems.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:40 PM | Permalink

"Let 'Em Have It, Boys, Let 'Em Have It. Fuck These People."

From Minneapolis, a too-common tale of racist, brutal, corrupt policing in America. On the night of May 30, 2020, five days after George Floyd's public execution, with the city under curfew and BLM protests raging, a heavily armed SWAT team of Minneapolis cops in helmets and tactical vests set out in an unmarked, unlit, white van with up to 20 police cars trailing behind them; a SWAT member later likened the van to "the tip of a spear."

In the words of a police report, the team was "patrolling" to "control the crowds that were causing severe property damage" in the wake of Floyd's murder. In English, that translated into slowly creeping down a largely quiet street to terrorize random pedestrians, Taliban-like, by shooting them without warning with rubber bullets or 40mm launchers from the van's open sliding door; they also sometimes yelled, "Go home!"

In later court testimony, they acknowledged the shootings as "pain compliance;" in later body-cam footage, their ugly mood was clear. In the van, Sgt. Andrew Bittell orders his team, "You see a group, call it out. Fuck 'em up, gas 'em, fuck 'em up . . . The first fuckers we see, we're just hammering 'em with 40s."

A cop fires on a small group with, "Gotcha!," followed by laughter, a fist bump and "Good hit, buddy." Another cop does Elmer Fudd: "Be vewwy, vewwy quiet! We're hunting activists!" Heading toward a group in front of a Stop-N-Shop gas station, Bittell tells the unit, "Let 'em have it boys, let 'em have it . . . Right there, get 'em, get 'em, get 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em!"

It turns out they shot the gas station owner and his relatives who were guarding the station from looting; also shot was a Vice News reporter who had his hands in the air holding his press card; a SWAT member pushed him to the ground as another pepper-sprayed him in the face.

Still, Cmdr. Bruce Folkens urged them on: "You guys are out hunting people now and it's just a nice change of tempo. Fuck these people."

About an hour later, three blocks to the west, they opened their van door and began firing at a small group of people in a parking lot at 14th Ave. Jaleel Stallings, 29, a black St. Paul truck driver and U.S. Army veteran, was there with three friends for the third night of protests; they were trying to decide what to do when someone came running down the street yelling, "They're shooting! They're shooting!"

Stallings, thinking of Gov. Tim Walz's earlier warning that white supremacists were roaming the city looking for trouble, turned to get into his pick-up as the van appeared; he heard a pop, his chest "felt like it was on fire," and he thought he'd been shot with bullets and was bleeding out. When another cop hit the side of his truck, Stallings' military training kicked in; with his pistol, for which he had a permit, he fired three rounds, aiming low toward the front of the van and hitting nobody. The SWAT team leapt out of the van yelling "Shots fired!' and Stallings, realizing they were police, swiftly dropped his gun and lay face down on the ground.

Video shows Bittell and Officer Justin Stetson lunging for him already prone on the ground as they hysterically scream "Get down!" "Hands up!" and "You fucking piece of shit!" as they punch and kick him in the head, chest, back and stomach; Stallings repeatedly yells, "I'm trying, sir!" and "Listen, listen sir!" Handcuffed, he is eventually pulled to a sitting position, bloodied and dazed; later, it was found the attack fractured his eye socket.

In the fantastical police report, Stallings "stepped out" from behind his truck, "walked toward" police, and crouched "as if to pick up something" when they fired; he fired several shots, "narrowly missing them," "quickly ran away," and was handcuffed "after a struggle."

He was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, and three other charges that could have given him a near-lifetime behind bars.

In his July jury trial, Stallings claimed self-defense; bravely, he had earlier rejected a plea deal from prosecutors that included an almost 13-year prison term. The prosecution called several SWAT team members to testify; the defense, led by St. Paul attorney Eric Rice, called only Stallings. The case had already prompted a Change.org petition and multiple headlines, especially after the Minnesota Freedom Fund helped bail out Stallings, who had no criminal record, and Trump War Room ranted that the Biden campaign had donated to help free "a would-be cop killer."

Even before the trial, enough slimy evidence of police misconduct had leaked that in his pre-trial order, Judge William Koch was politely critical: "While the court recognizes there can be appropriate bravado to support colleagues 'going into battle' . . . it is not too much to expect those in leadership positions to know the proper way to motivate and support their officers without inciting them to inappropriate behavior toward the public they serve . . . Citizens would hope, and should expect, (police) would show more discretion (before) firing 40mm launchers."

But it was really police body-cam footage unveiled by defense attorney Eric Rice, after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman lost his battle to keep it under wraps, that turned the righteous tide - the SWAT team's mindless shooting, brutal beating of Stalling, gleeful talk of "hunting," and egregiously racist asides like assuming groups of white people weren't looting and Stallings' labored breathing was due to "probable narcotics use."

After five days, a Hennepin County jury - in a rare win for justice - acquitted Stallings of all charges.

Since the trial ended, Rice has released more body-cam videos, each more damning than the last, with the most recent last Tuesday.

The evidence of yet more atrocities by Minneapolis police - who still face multiple lawsuits from activists and journalists who suffered serious injuries during the BLM protests - comes weeks before voters consider a ballot initiative to replace a long-toxic police department in the city charter with a new Department of Public Safety offering a "comprehensive public health approach to safety."

The movement for change under the "Yes 4 Minneapolis" banner began shortly after Floyd's murder, with over 30 local groups gathering twice as many signatures as needed to get the measure on the November ballot.

Under the rubric of "fighting the roots of violence" and the "historical pain" ignited by Floyd's murder, says one activist, "We made the decision that what we knew as public safety - the police right now, the only option we have - was unacceptable."

The new department would include licensed police officers "if necessary," with the city council creating the rest from scratch.

While it's supported by the council, it's opposed by Mayor Jacob Frey, who is facing 16 challengers running to replace him and who was blasted last week for calling the latest body-cam revelations of police abuses from the Stallings case "galling."

From City Council President Lisa Bender: "Also galling is spending the last year sweeping this violent behavior under the rug, disciplining zero officers, carrying water for the Police Federation" and blocking the city council's work to create a "more resilient, less violent safety system."

Stallings, meanwhile, is said to be considering further legal action. To date, no police officers have been disciplined, never mind charged, for their actions.

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Previously by Abby Zimet:

* When John Prine Gets To Heaven.

* The Taste Of Subservience.

* When You Win, You're English. When You Lose, You're Black.

* We Are The Least Trustworthy People On The Planet.

* Mayberry Redux: A Reality That Never Was.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:55 AM | Permalink

'Just Let Me Play Sports'

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas - Adelyn Vigil sometimes dreams of volleyball.

The 13-year-old imagines the arm movements, the sound of the ball hitting her hand. Not an aspiring star, Adelyn has enjoyed volleying the ball, informally, but doesn't really know how to play the game. But her friends do, and she simply would like to be part of a team.

"Whenever people play sports, it looks so fun," said Adelyn. "It looks like they are just enjoying themselves."

She is not sure playing on a sports team will ever happen for her, though. A trans girl living along the Mexican border in Texas's Rio Grande Valley, Adelyn once participated in school-based extracurricular activities, like cheerleading and poetry club. But she dropped them when she was told by school administrators that she could not use restrooms or locker rooms that corresponded with her gender identity.

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 2.59.45 PM.pngAdelyn Vigil/Verónica G. Cárdenas for The Hechinger Report

Though officials eventually reversed their stance, the stress and humiliation have taken their toll.

"We pretty much walk on eggshells every school year, just waiting to see how they are going to be reacting or what's going to change this year," said Adamalis Vigil, Adelyn's mother.

To protect her privacy, The Hechinger Report is not naming Adelyn's school district or the city where she lives. When contacted, the school district said that it addressed problems immediately and in accordance with federal and state law, and that neither Adelyn's family nor her legal counsel have offered any additional concerns.

"In anticipation of a new school year, the district still remains prepared to meet a consecutive time with the student's legal guardian and counsel to ensure all parties involved continue to be treated equally and fairly under local, state and federal laws," the district said, in a statement.

But state law may be about to change. As Adelyn started eighth grade this year, Texas lawmakers were considering shutting the door to sports participation for trans students at all grade levels.

Currently, state policy says that birth certificates are the official determinant of a student-athlete's gender. However, the state permits its citizens to amend birth certificates, as Adelyn has. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would forbid the body that oversees extracurricular activities in the state from considering amended birth certificates.

In June, Adelyn said she was not getting her hopes up that she would be able to play in the upcoming school year. She's been crushed too many times in the past, she said.

"Just let me play sports," said Adelyn, rolling her eyes. "I've been wanting to play volleyball for forever . . . Come on, it's not hurting anyone."

The bill did not pass during the legislature's regular session or in two special sessions called by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. Currently, the proposal is under consideration during a third special session, but as the debate has ground on, Adelyn decided not to participate in volleyball no matter what the legislature decides. The anxiety and fear were too much to take on, her mother explained.

"Her privacy was completely disregarded," Vigil said, referring to the way Adelyn was treated by the district in the past. "She's scared that other parents are going to complain and make a big deal of it, and she will be embarrassed."

And playing on boys' teams is out of the question.

"Well, I'm not a boy," Adelyn explained, dumbfounded by the very idea. "Not only would I not like it and get very uncomfortable, but I would get very bullied. Very bullied."

Plus, she added, a lot of men in the Rio Grande Valley think they're better than women and wouldn't let her play with them, anyway.

"I don't know what goes on in their little pea brains," she said with an annoyed sigh.

For Adelyn and other trans students, the trauma goes beyond debates in the state capital over bills that put their basic rights at risk. Over her time in school, she's been kept out of girls' locker rooms and bathrooms. When she was in sixth grade, she was told she could not take physical education, and school staff shifted her to a dance class - Adelyn wore her dance leggings under her clothes to avoid the locker room. School personnel eventually relented, and removed these restrictions, but unlike most other students, Adelyn has been denied or steered away from her right to play at any level by Texas law.

"At the end of the day, we might be able to defeat this bill," said Ricardo Martinez, the chief executive officer of Equality Texas. "But the wreckage will remain."

Trans people represent an estimated 0.6 percent of the U.S. population. Middle or high school students who participate in sports make up a tiny portion of this group, and trans girls like Adelyn make up an even smaller segment. Yet trans student participation in sports has recently become a conservative political obsession.

Supporters of bills barring trans students - especially trans girls - from sports say they are needed to protect girls from unfair competition.

Bills that restrict trans students from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity have been introduced in 36 states in 2021 and have passed in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the legislative tracker run by the advocacy group Freedom For All Americans.

The avalanche of bills has been so overwhelming that many trans students who play or wish to play sports have opted not to voice their objections, fearing the publicity and censure that would follow.

But there has been some legal opposition. In 2020, Idaho was the first state to enact a ban on trans girls and women from participating on teams that correspond to their gender identity. But in August of that year, a judge temporarily stopped the state from enforcing the ban until its constitutionality could be determined.

And in late July 2021, a federal judge temporarily halted the implementation of a trans student sports ban in West Virginia. Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old trans girl in Bridgeport, West Virginia, challenged the law, saying that it was keeping her from trying out for her middle school's cross-country team with other girls.

The experience has caused the family a lot of stress, anxiety and "a deeper sadness," said Becky's mother, Heather Jackson.

"It just breaks your heart to have to tell your child that they can't do what they want to do just because of who they are. It's absolutely devastating," Jackson said. "My child deserves to live and flourish in our community, and I have to be the one to tell her that she's not allowed to."

Adelyn, a native of the Rio Grande Valley region, is the second of three children born to Vigil, and Antonio Jr. Adelyn's older brother, Antonio III, 17, a high school student, plays baseball, but her younger brother, Allek, 9, does not play any organized sports. Her large extended family lives nearby.

Adelyn declared to her mother at age 3 that she was a girl. When playing, she would wrap her superhero cape around herself like a dress. But it wasn't until she was 7, when she told her mom that she prayed to God that she would return as a girl after she died, that Vigil embraced her daughter's gender identity.

Her older brother and relatives adapted quickly, except for one of her grandfathers. But a few months after Adelyn transitioned, he yelled at her to bring him a beer - using her name, "Adelyn."

"I went and took the beer to him and ran to my mom, 'Mom! Grandpa used my name!" Adelyn said. It was among the happiest moments of her life, she said.

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 3.03.39 PM.png

In those early days, the school transition also seemed to go smoothly. Adelyn was allowed to use the girls restroom without issue.

The next year, when Adelyn was in third grade, she joined the school's cheerleading team and the competitive Spanish poetry team. But problems arose when she entered fourth grade after a new principal arrived, said Vigil. The school district told her Adelyn couldn't use the girls restrooms, the girls locker room, or the water fountain located inside. Instead, according to Adelyn, she would have to go to the nurse's office to use the restroom or to the cafeteria on the other side of the building to get water.

Adelyn decided to quit all after-school activities following the decision by school administrators. At cheerleading, she wouldn't have been allowed to change with all the other girls. At poetry club, she wouldn't have been allowed to use the restroom at district-wide competitions against other schools.

"Not being allowed to use your correct bathroom . . . that's just so embarrassing and humiliating," Adelyn said.

This type of conflict is common for trans children and youth. Sixty-one percent of trans and nonbinary youth reported being discouraged or prevented from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in a 2020 Trevor Project survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ youth and young adults.

Adelyn's school reversed course months later, after pressure from Vigil and the ACLU of Texas. But by that point, she was afraid to rejoin the poetry or cheerleading teams out of fear that her school would change its decision. She suddenly hated school.

The same battle she had fought and won in elementary school came up again when Adelyn started middle school in 2019-20. She was again restricted from using the girls restroom. Vigil said she was never given an explanation.

Adelyn often risked punishment from the school by using the girls restroom during the two minutes between classes when there was chaos in the hallways and before hall monitors began looking out for kids skipping class. She was never caught, but middle school marked the beginning of frequent panic attacks.

And while Adelyn was fighting battles at school, she was also among those squaring off against Texas Republican lawmakers, who were increasingly focusing on restrictions against transgender people. Like other legislators across the country, Texas Republicans are targeting trans people with proposed laws that reach beyond sports. Bills that would restrict the ability of trans people to access medical care have been introduced in 22 states. Other proposals would allow people to use religious objections to deny services to LGBTQ people.

At one April committee meeting that ran late into the night, Adelyn testified against a bill that would punish doctors who prescribed trans youth hormone therapy and puberty suppression treatments or who performed gender-confirmation surgery.

"My family drove five hours to inform you how life-threatening this bill can be," Adelyn told the committee, her mother at her side. "Not only to me, but to many trans people. As a trans person I believe I should have access to health care I need. I'm sure you can imagine how hard my family works to support me and make sure I have the things me and my siblings need. My health care is private, and I should not have to come here to explain to you that even if you don't understand it, it is important."

Adelyn and her mother left the session and immediately headed north to Dallas, where Adelyn receives trans-related medical care. But on the long drive home, Adelyn started crying hysterically, in the grip of another panic attack. Vigil had to slap her across the face to get her out of it.

On that occasion, Adelyn was worried that she would no longer be able to receive the medical treatments needed to support her transition. Vigil said she shared those fears.

"As a mother, that's the worst feeling ever because I'm supposed to protect my child and I felt like a failure," Vigil said. "More than anything, I felt powerless because I had the same fears as my child and just like her, I felt hopeless too."

While Republican lawmakers push for laws banning trans students from sports, hardly any are able to cite examples of trans athletes causing a problem in their states.

The most often-cited example comes from Connecticut. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative advocacy group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of four cisgender women in that state zeroing in on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Miller and Yearwood had both won several high school state track titles, though one of the cisgender plaintiffs beat Miller in a championship race just two days after the suit was filed.

A federal judge dismissed the case on procedural grounds in April 2021 because both Miller and Yearwood had graduated from high school. But, the ADF argues, the case shows that trans girls have an "insurmountable advantage" over cisgender girls and would destroy fair competition in women's sports.

However, the question of whether trans women hold advantages over cisgender woman at elite levels of sport is a matter still under intense debate and research. One recent study found that trans women in the U.S. Air Force after two years on hormones had slightly faster running speeds compared to their cis peers, but indistinguishable muscle strength. The authors of the study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine added that more research is needed to determine the athletic impact on trans teens who take puberty blockers and estrogen or testosterone.

Regardless, most high school athletes - which the Texas bill targets - join sports teams for social and health reasons, with far fewer motivated by winning championships or earning college scholarships, said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit dedicated to realizing an equitable society.

Organized sports can help young children develop and improve their cognitive skills and achieve academically with better concentration, attention, classroom behavior, grades, and standardized test scores, according to the Aspen Institute. High school athletes are more likely to attend a four-year college and earn degrees than non-athletes, the Institute found.

Sports have been linked to helping women who hold corporate executive positions achieve success and can improve long-term mental health outcomes of children who have experienced trauma such as sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or parental alcohol abuse.

But sports are also, simply, an important social outlet.

Laura Crossley, a 38-year-old trans woman from Kelowna, Canada, said she decided to play in a local high-level adult women's ice hockey league in 2019 after moving to the area from Vancouver because she is more comfortable around women than she is around men. She has never really fit in around men, she said.

Crossley, who has been taking hormones since 2016 and started socially transitioning in 2019, has been playing ice hockey since she was 5 years old.

"When I started my formal social transition, I was living in a new community and one of the ways to meet people and get outside my comfort zone was to get back into hockey," she said.

Crossley understands the benefits that participating on a sports team can have on a young person's mental health. But while trans people have existed in all cultures throughout history, there has been a recent awakening around their existence over the past decade.

"People don't want to understand it, don't want to accept it," said Crossley. "Instead of having a discussion with the other side, they just put in all these laws."

Those laws and policies have left children like Adelyn without an important social outlet and have forced many to become advocates about deeply personal issues. Adelyn was left briefly speechless when asked about an assertion from President Trump that women's sports "will die" if trans women are allowed to participate.

After a brief pause, she finally said: "Since when has he cared about women's sports and women? Oh my God. I can't with stupid people."

After an interview at her home, Adelyn snuggled in her bed with her cousin Aylette, debating whether to get Boba tea or frozen yogurt. Adelyn and Aylette hang out a lot. During sleepovers, they throw on Vigil's high heels, plug in Christmas lights, and turn Adelyn's room into a club, dancing to Cardi B and Bad Bunny.

Adelyn is "funny, loving, kind, and a bit crazy," Aylette said, laughing.

Adelyn sees a future in astronomy, possibly studying the moons, stars and planets - or as a civil rights attorney or a politician.

"I want to make a change," said Adelyn. "Nobody is going to fight for me. I'm fighting for myself."

This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:49 AM | Permalink

All The Styles

* Bold Style

* Cold Style

* Fold Style

* Gold Style

* Hold Style

* LOLd Style

* Mold Style

* Sold Style

* Told Style

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #377: A Match-Up Of Managerial Malpractice

Dusty and Tony meet again, and we can't stand either of 'em. Plus: Scrubbie Culture; Matt Nagy Is Now PC2; Sky Eclipses Sun; Preseasoning; and Red Stars React.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #377: A Match-Up Of Managerial Malpractice

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SHOW NOTES

* 377.

* Dusty's gloves ensemble.

* Cristina Foods.

* Rocket Plumbing.

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40:02: Scrubbie Culture.

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43:53: Bill Lazor Is Now PC1; Matt Nagy PC2.

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52:06: Sky Eclipses Sun.

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56:11: Preseasoning.

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58:32: Red Stars React.

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STOPPAGE: 2:58

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:20 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2021

It Turns Out "One America News" Is AT&T

One America News (OAN) is a television news channel that embraces the QAnon cult, spreads Mike Lindell's discredited conspiracy theories, and believes Trump won the 2020 election.

In court filings, OAN CEO Robert Herring Sr. said AT&T paid OAN about $57 million over five years. But AT&T doesn't really want to talk about it.

From Popular Information:

A lawyer for OAN, Patrick Nellies, testified in court that if OAN "was to lose or not be renewed on [AT&T's] DirecTV, the company would go out of business tomorrow."

In February, Popular Information asked AT&T if it would continue to carry OAN on its platforms. AT&T provided the following response:

When it comes to the channels we carry for customers, we do not exercise control over their editorial content. We review our contract terms continually and, in the meantime, if customers have questions about a provider's content, they should contact the individual channel provider. AT&T did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

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See also: Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: Trump's Favorite Channel, One America News, Was Never 'News' At All.

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Previously: Meet One America News Network's New Chief White House Correspondent.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:45 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2021

The Defiance Of Women's Soccer In Nigeria

Not too long ago, Desire Oparanozie, then captain of the Nigerian women's soccer team, again demanded equal pay for female Nigerian players. In Nigeria, female players are paid woefully less than their male counterparts in comparable international roles and her call had come after her team's sit-in over unpaid bonuses and allowances for the 2019 World Cup.

Women's soccer is increasingly popular in Africa, with the national federation recently introducing a continent-wide competition for women at club level. And Nigeria's national women's soccer team - The Falcons - have long dominated soccer in Afrida. They've won 11 of 13 championships including the inaugural one in 1991 and the latest edition in 2018. Yet despite this domination and fame, they are not treated as equal to the men's team that has not dominated its African opponents.

In our research, we chronicle the struggle of these women - and their spirit of resistance in demanding human rights and visibility. It's a spirit that can be traced back to the beginning of the women's game in Nigeria.

Screen Shot 2021-10-03 at 4.21.09 PM.pngNigeria's Falcons/Pius Utomi EkPei, AFP via Getty Images

A History Of Protest

The story goes back to colonial Nigeria when the lives of both females and males were upstaged by colonial Britain.

Nigerian gender scholar Oyeronke Oyewumi and anthropologist Ifi Amadiume refer to genderless cultures that guided life in the pre-colonial territories that later became Nigeria. They describe a society where roles were not strictly prescribed according to a person's gender.

However, British colonization introduced a division of labor based on gender. The result was the 1929 women's protest across southern Nigeria. Women stood up against an attempt by the British to tax them while excluding them from the colony's labor force.

Protest against what women considered unfair practice continued throughout Nigeria's colonial period. This protest remains alive today and it has an impact on Nigerian women soccer players.

Soccer was introduced to Nigeria by the colonists in the late 1800s. Women were recorded playing the sport by the early 1930s. However, British administrators frowned on women's adoption of the sport. In 1950, the Nigerian Dailytimes reported that the colonists threatened to forbid any playing ground that allowed women to play.

Nigerian women resisted this edict and continued to play soccer, on grounds outside the control of the national association. This meant playing on school grounds or wherever there was space. It was a decision that grew the game, increasingly allowing more women to participate.

By the 1970s, women soccer clubs began to emerge in Nigeria and, by the 1980s, the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria organized a national cup competition for women soccer players.

Eventually the Nigeria Football Association (now the Nigeria Football Federation) recognized women's soccer by organizing its first national competition for women in order to raise a national team for the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup of 1991.

Protest Today

As our chapter in the book Sports in Africa outlines, the recognition of the right of Nigerian women to play soccer ended only one phase of the struggle. Nigeria's women's soccer now has participation, but continues to face other obstacles. Among them is unequal pay. As star player Oparanozie said, "We are the most successful female team in Africa, yet we have the largest disparities between men's and women's pay."

Oparanozie's stance ultimately led to her being stripped of her captaincy and left off the team in recent preparations. Her comment at the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2019 reflects the resistance captured in the history of women's soccer in Nigeria. As do the strategies she and her team employed in their 2019 protest: sit-ins or stand-offs, denying renegotiation, boycotts and co-opting media publicity.

The sit-ins or stand-offs hark back to the women's protests against colonists in the early 1900s. The sit-in, translated more accurately from the local Igbo language, means "sitting on" or "making war on." It is a feared strategy used by women protesters across Igboland (Southeastern Nigeria) which many of the Nigerian women soccer players call home.

The denial of renegotiated contracts in 2016 was critical because the women, already paid less than their male counterparts, were informed they would be receiving smaller increases than agreed with officials. The women refused to renegotiate.

They then boycotted training sessions and threatened to skip official games. Although the team did not carry out the threat, their training boycotts signaled significant resistance. The co-opting of the media was the key strategy in their protest because it ensured that their plight was heard beyond the audience of team officials. It not only publicized their struggle, it also embarrassed the government and ensured that the women's goal of remuneration was achieved.

While each strategy led to a measure of success, the players have failed to publicly protest against other poor treatment, for example the lingering homophobia expressed by Nigerian sports officials and media towards women soccer players. Given the criminalizing of homosexuality in Nigeria, however, there is significant risk for anyone who dares to resist the law.

In conclusion, our research analyzes a history of Nigerian women's protests and links it to a lengthy period of resistance in the country's women's soccer. Not only does the ongoing resistance point to the struggle and fighting spirit of Nigerian women, but it points to their resolve to achieve against odds.

Chuka Onwumechili is a communications professor at Howard University. Jasmin Goodman is also a professor at Howard. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:33 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2021

Astros Opening

According to FiveThirtyEight, the White Sox' 24 losses in 42 games decided by one run this season threaten to sideline our South Side ballclub in its post-season quest even before it begins Thursday in Houston. The prognostication website gives the Sox just an eight percent chance of flying a World Series championship banner for 2021 at The Grate. That's like 25 tries and two successes.

Meanwhile, the Astros are given a 12 percent rating to go all the way. Is Houston really four percentage points better than Tony La Russa's talented outfit? This requires further examination.

Let's begin with that one-run deficit which would indicate that the Sox aren't good at winning the close ones. You might think that after 62 years the bitter taste created by the failure of a team that could win the close ones would be gone by now. Unfortunately, those synapses remain intact.

You see, in 1959, the pennant-winning White Sox were 35-15 in one-run outcomes. Yet in the World Series against the relocated Los Angeles Dodgers, three games were decided by a single run, and the Dodgers won two of them. In another 5-3 contest, LA also emerged as the victor, which explains how the Sox were disposed of in six games.

If nothing else, this tidbit of Sox lore indicates that the post-season is a rebirth where you can't rely on the outcomes of the past 162 games to necessarily predict the October results. There are surprises galore. Fringe players can become heroes. The smallest of miscues can turn around an entire series. The unpredictability is why we watch.

What sometimes can dictate the outcome in these short series is a talented bullpen, as in getting a slim lead and turning the game over to the relievers - or starters pitching in relief roles - to protect that edge.

For instance, look at the two championship series' and the World Series from a year ago. A total of 20 games were played with, obviously, 40 starting pitchers of whom 29 pitched less than six innings. Only one, Lance McCullers, Jr. of the Astros, whom the Sox will face Thursday, completed seven innings of work.

We can't negate the work of the starting pitchers in a short series, but the performance of the entire staff is what wins or loses these encounters.

According to Monday's Sun-Times, manager Tony La Russa and his coaches are considering putting as many as 15 pitchers on his 26-player playoff roster. His top seven relief pitchers of Liam Hendriks, Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Ryan Burr, Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera have a combined ERA of 3.13 this season. It's a formidable group with Crochet and Bummer being lefthanders.

Houston's bullpen's ERA this season is 4.06, although their top five relievers have posted a 3.38 mark. The Sox appear to have a tad more depth in their bullpen, but the Astros still can trot out hard-throwing, effective relief pitching along with veterans like Jake Odorizzi and Zack Greinke, who has been activated after being idled with a sore neck. Depending on his condition, Greinke also could wind up starting a fourth game.

In the starting pitching department, McCullers will face Lance Lynn on Thursday - unless La Russa flip flops Lynn with Lucas Giolito - in a match-up of very similar righthanders who rely on sweeping sliders as their best pitch. McCullers has spent his entire six-year career with Houston, posting a 13-6 record this season with a 3.16 ERA (3.52 FIP). He's pitched in eight post-season series' so he's no stranger to playoff baseball. Nor is Lynn. who has appeared in a dozen series with the Cardinals and Yankees. Thursday's game figures to be a tight, low-scoring game where every play contributes to the outcome.

La Russa in all probability will use Dylan Cease to round out his Top Three. Houston's probable starters after McCullers figure to be Framber Valdez and Luis García, not exactly household names in these environs. Like McCullers, both Valdez and García have pitched only for Houston at the major league level. Valdez is the lone lefthander, and the Sox played .595 ball (25-17) against lefty starting pitching this season. However, in three starts against the Sox in his career, Valdez has split two decisions while posting a somewhat respectable 1.25 WHIP.

In games this season in which Lynn, Giolito and Cease have started, the Sox are 51-40. When McCullers, Valdez and García take the ball for Houston, the 'Stros are 46-34. Like so much about this series, neither team appears to have a noteworthy edge.

With the Central Division locked up the final two months of the season, much of the conversation has been focused on getting home-field advantage for the Sox in the playoffs. Of course, it didn't happen as the Astros, aside from owning the tiebreaker thanks to a 5-2 season's advantage, beat out the locals by a couple of games.

Since the All-Star Game, Houston's record is 40-31, thanks to a mark of 22-11 at home compared to 18-20 on the road. The Sox numbers in the same period are 39-34 and 22-14 at home and 17-20 in away games.

We'd like to forget the four-game sweep La Russa's guys suffered in Houston on June 17-20. The Sox were dominated by a 27-8 count, and three of the games were started by Cease, Lynn and Dallas Keuchel. Forget the fact that Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert were idled by injuries. The Sox played bad baseball.

When the Astros came to The Grate immediately after the All-Star break, the Sox competed again without Jiménez and Robert but also were missing Yasmani Grandal. Yet they took the final two games of the three-game series, outscoring Houston 14-1 behind Giolito and Carlos Rodón.

The optimists among us tend to dwell on those two most recent contests rather than the earlier games between this week's foes. The lone surety is that the White Sox will have to win at least one game in Houston, a clear challenge but stranger things have happened.

One of the White Sox most glaring weaknesses this season has been an inability to stymie the running game of their opponents. In the season-ending series against the Tigers last weekend, Detroit attempted nine stolen bases in the three games and were successful on all of them. The primary culprits are Sox pitchers who must have missed the drills on holding runners close and using a slide step on deliveries to the plate.

The good news is that Houston is not a running team, having stolen only 53 bases all season, good for 27th among all clubs.

Teams that hit like the Astros depend far more on the three-run homer than stealing second base. And this is where many analysts draw the line between the White Sox and Astros. Houston scored more runs this season (863) than anyone. Their OPS of .784 ranked second and their slugging percentage of .444 was third.

The Astros' home, Minute Maid Park - Coca-Cola is paying the ballclub $100 million over 30 years - has earned its nickname, The Juice Box. The distance to the wall down the left-field line is just 315 feet ,while right field measures 326. Most clubs playing 81 games in that park are going to put up some healthy numbers.

However, the White Sox aren't exactly impotent. Their 796 runs ranked 7th in MLB, and the Sox' .336 on-base percentage was third in baseball and just a few ticks behind, ahem, the Astros' .339, which was the top number.

What all this amounts to is that arguments can be made for each of these teams to win this series. And for each one, we have a "Yes, but" to counter.

History tells us that pitching and defense more often than not rule a short series. Pitchers, especially in this age of 100-plus fastballs and out-of-this-world breaking pitches, tend to silence even hitters who have had banner seasons.

History also reveals that a booted ground ball, a misjudged pop-up, a missed cut-off man, a baserunning gaffe, or a passed ball tend to be magnified far more in a best-of-five encounter than over a 162-game schedule. If the Sox are eliminated early next week, chances are a careless mistake will be the culprit.

The match-up of the top six hitters in the Sox lineup - Tim Anderson, Robert, José Abreu, Grandal, Jiménez and Yoan Moncada - compare favorably to Houston's top six. Gavin Sheets, Leury García and Adam Engel all are capable of delivering meaningful contributions. As mentioned, Sox pitching, even with some late season injuries and Rodón's iffy status, doesn't need to take a back seat to the fellows Houston will showcase.

It will be those little nuances and subtleties of the game that will determine who advances. And chances are good it will require all five games to reveal who keeps playing and who goes home.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:57 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2021

How Slavery Infiltrated California

The history of American slavery generally conjures a set of familiar images: sprawling plantations white with cotton, gangs of enslaved African Americans stooped low over the fields, bullwhips cracking in the summer heat. It's a strictly southern story - or so we're told.

But that narrative misses a huge swath of the North American map and a crucial chapter in U.S. history. American slavery wasn't confined to the cotton fields and sugar plantations of the south. By the mid-19th century, it had reached the western end of the continent.

Human bondage had already been outlawed in California for two years when Robert Givens, a gold prospector and rancher, began planning to bring a black slave named Patrick into the state from Kentucky in 1852. Givens understood California's antislavery law, but wasn't concerned. Send Patrick west anyway, he urged his father, a Kentucky slaveholder. "When he gets in," Givens wrote in a letter that resides at the University of California-Berkeley: "I should like to see any one get him out."

Screen Shot 2021-10-02 at 1.59.15 PM.png

Givens' confidence was justified. Perhaps as many as 1,500 enslaved African Americans were forcibly transported to California between 1849 and 1861. Hundreds arrived before the state's constitutional ban on slavery went into effect in 1850, but many others came after. California, as Givens realized, was a free state in name only.

I'm a scholar of slavery in the American far west. My new book, West of Slavery, explains how Southerners, including Givens, transformed California and neighboring territories into an appendage of the plantation states.

Despite excellent earlier works on the subject, the history of slavery in the American West hasn't received the public attention it desperately warrants. Amid the ongoing global dialogue on slavery and its legacies, the American West is often left out of the conversation.

That's partly because myths of the West - as a landscape of freedom and rugged individualism - are rooted deep in popular thinking. And today, Californians tout their reputation for cosmopolitan liberalism and cultural pluralism. Slavery has little place in the stories Americans tell about the West. Scratch beneath the veneer of this mythology, however, and a much darker history emerges.

Legalizing Slavery In A Free State

In America before the Civil War, enslaved people "were moved around like checkers," as the Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison writes in her 1987 novel Beloved. California may have been the far end of the board, but it was still in play.

Black chattel slavery came to California with the Gold Rush in the 1840s, but it persisted long after the rush had passed. Through most of the 1850s, enslaved African Americans could be found working in the gold fields and domestic spaces of California. They toiled alongside thousands of captive Native Americans.

Screen Shot 2021-10-02 at 2.01.02 PM.pngSlave labor gold mining in Spanish Flat, California/California State Library

This was despite the state's constitution, which read: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this state."

That law, however, required active enforcement by antislavery activists. And, as Givens and others discovered, such activists were in short supply, especially in the remote mining districts where slaveholders often clustered and forced their enslaved laborers to dig for gold.

More often than not, California slaveholders had the agents of the law on their side. Five of the seven justices who sat on the California Supreme Court between 1852 and 1857 hailed from the slave states. The chief justice during this period, Hugh C. Murray, was a native of Missouri, known for his fierce pro-slavery views and hair-trigger temper. In San Francisco and Sacramento, he publicly assaulted anti-slavery opponents with canes and Bowie knives.

In dozens of cases, California courts ruled in favor of slaveholders and against the freedom claims of African Americans, as historian Stacey Smith has illustrated. Even previously emancipated Black people were returned to those who claimed them as property.

A lack of antislavery policing allowed a slaveholding colony in San Bernardino to flourish in plain sight in the early 1850s. Mormon migrants, with at least two dozen enslaved African American in tow, built a settlement that rivaled neighboring Los Angeles in size and, by most metrics, surpassed it in agricultural output. Only in 1856 did the settlement's largest slaveholder come to trial, and only because he attempted to leave the state with his 14 enslaved laborers.

Slavery In The Western Territories

The story was much the same in Utah and New Mexico. Enslaved African Americans were among the first settlers of what would become Mormon Utah. They arrived in the late 1840s as the chattel property of a group of Mormons from the Deep South, known as the Mississippi Saints.

In 1852, Utah's territorial legislature passed a slave code to protect the right of fellow Mormons to hold Black people as property.

Seven years later, the territory of New Mexico followed with a slave code of its own. With 31 sections, "An Act to Provide for the Protection of Property in Slaves in this Territory" was far and away the longest bill passed by the legislature that session.

It detailed a litany of punishable offenses for enslaved people and several protections for their enslavers. It also outlawed emancipation within the borders of the territory. According to a U.S. senator from Kentucky, John J Crittenden, New Mexico's law "is as complete on the subject as the law of any state that I know of."

Aspiring slaveholders in New Mexico could also acquire the labor of bound Native Americans, either by purchasing indigenous captives from slave traders or by trapping peasants in inescapable cycles of debt. The enslavement of Native people in New Mexico was so deeply entrenched that the practice survived the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment. Enslaved Native Americans could be found in New Mexican households into the late 19th century.

Slave Country

The history of slavery in the American West is easy to miss. Whereas enslaved people in the South were often concentrated on large plantations, the bound laborers of the West generally worked behind closed doors or in remote mining regions. Some were smuggled illegally and held clandestinely.

Yet their experiences deserve closer scrutiny. Contrary to popular perception and regional mythology, the long arm of slavery reached across the United States in the 19th century. And thousands were caught in its grip.

Kevin Waite is an assistant professor of modern American history at Durham University. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 AM | Permalink

To Boost Black Men In Medicine, Advocates Turn To Sports

Aaron Bolds didn't consider becoming a physician until he tore a ligament in his knee while playing in a basketball tournament when he was 15. His orthopedic surgeon was Black, and they hit it off.

"He was asking me how my grades were, and I told him, 'I'm a straight-A student,' and he was, like, 'Man, this is a great fallback plan if basketball doesn't work out,'" recalls Bolds, who is African American. "He looked like me, and that was even more encouraging."

If not for that chance encounter, Bolds, 34, a doctor at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, might never have gone into medicine, he says. When he was growing up, there were no physicians in his family or extended social network to model that career path. And at the schools he attended, he says, his aptitude for science didn't trigger the kind of guidance young people often receive in more privileged contexts.

What Bolds did get attention for was his athletic ability. He got a full basketball scholarship to Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, where his team won a conference championship. But when he transferred to Bowie State University in Maryland, where he also played basketball, an academic adviser discouraged his pre-med ambitions, Bolds recalls, saying his grades were low and he lacked research experience.

Bolds is not alone in finding in athletics a fraught lever of educational opportunity. Whereas Black players comprise more than half the football and basketball teams at the 65 universities in the top five athletic conferences, and bring in millions of dollars for their schools year after year, the graduation rates for Black male college athletes are significantly lower - 55 percent as compared to 69 percent for college athletes overall - according to a 2018 report from the USC Race and Equity Center. Many Black college athletes end up without either a professional sports contract or a clear career path.

Now some educators and advocates are looking to reverse this trend by connecting sports, an area in which African-American men are overrepresented, and medicine, where the opposite is true. As of 2018, 13 percent of the U.S. population, but just 5 percent of doctors - according to the Association of American Medical Colleges - identified as Black or African American. (The AAMC data notes that an additional 1 percent of doctors identified as multiracial.)

Decades of efforts to increase diversity at medical schools have made progress with other demographics, including Black women - but barely any with Black men.

"No other demographic group is broken down with such a large split between men and women," says Jo Wiederhorn, president and CEO of the Associated Medical Schools of New York. "And none of them have stayed stagnant, like that group has."

According to data the AAMC provided to Undark, the proportion of Black men enrolling in medical school hasn't changed much since 1978 - with only some headway being made in the past few years.

The absence of Black male medical professionals ripples across the health system, experts say, contributing to widespread health disparities. African Americans tend to be diagnosed later than White people with everything from cancer to kidney disease, leading to more advanced disease and earlier deaths.

Meanwhile, a recent study suggests that Black men who see Black male doctors may be more likely to follow medical advice. Other research also suggests that racially concordant care, in which patients and doctors have a shared identity, is associated with better communication and a greater likelihood to use health services.

"We are in a crisis point, nationally," says Reginald Miller, the dean for research operations and infrastructure at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that the health of communities of color are directly proportional to the number of practitioners available to see," he says. "It's just that straightforward."

Last year, the National Medical Association, a professional organization representing African-American physicians, embarked with the AAMC on a joint effort to address the structural barriers to advancement for Black men.

"We need to look at this with a unique lens," says Norma Poll-Hunter, senior director of workforce diversity at the AAMC.

There is no single solution to such an entrenched and multifaceted problem, Poll-Hunter says. According to her, some medical schools have adopted a holistic admissions process that evaluates many personal factors rather than relying on standardized test scores, which can exclude promising Black candidates. In addition, she says, students of color need better access to high-quality K-12 science education, particularly in under-resourced public schools. "There are a lot of barriers that exist early on," she notes, "and that then creates this narrowing of the pathway to medicine."

But the novel strategy of wooing athletes is slowly gaining traction. Advocates point out that high-performing athletes possess many of the skills and attributes that doctors, psychologists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals need - things like focus, a commitment to excellence, time management, and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to take constructive criticism and perform under pressure.

"When you say, 'What's your ideal medical student?' it's not just a kid who's academically gifted. It's a kid who's got resilience, attention to detail, knows how to work on the team," Miller says. "Because science and medicine are team sports."

And by virtue of being athletes, these young men are already attuned to nutrition, fitness, and other aspects of human biology.

Two former NFL players, Nate Hughes and Myron Rolle, recently became physicians. And there is evidence that competitive sports experience contributes to medical success. A 2012 study of doctors training to become ear, nose and throat specialists at Washington University, for example, found that having excelled in a team sport was more predictive of how faculty rated their quality as a clinician than strong letters of recommendation or having attended a highly-ranked medical school. Likewise, a 2011 study found that having an elite skill, such as high-achieving athletics, was more predictive of completing a general surgery residency than medical school grades.

Advocates of the athletics-to-medicine pipeline point out its practicality. Thousands of Black men are already in college, or headed there, on athletic scholarships. It would only take a small percentage of them choosing medical careers to boost the percentage of Black male doctors to better reflect the proportion of African-American men in the general population, they say.

No one thinks it will be easy. One obstacle, advocates say, is a lack of role models. Black sports celebrities are household names, but some young athletes may never encounter a Black medical professional.

"People don't believe they can become what they don't see," says Mark R. Brown, the athletic director at Pace University.

And for the best chance of success, many say, these young men need to form and pursue medical aspirations as young as possible, along with their athletic training.

"Those kids who are able to do both, the rewards at the end are enormous," Miller says.

But the adults in their lives may not believe the dual path is possible.

"The second that a kid says to a science teacher or someone else that he's an athlete," Miller says, "they go into a different category. 'They're not really serious about science and medicine, they're just here, and so I don't expect this kid to really achieve.'"

Rigid course and practice schedules also make it challenging for busy athletes to undertake demanding and time-intensive science majors, observers say. What's needed is "a cultural change, and not just a cultural change with the athletes. It's a cultural change with the whole structure," Miller says. "Everybody's excited about the idea" of the physician athlete, he adds, "because it makes sense. But when the rubber hits the road, it is challenging."

Donovan Roy, the assistant dean for diversity and inclusiveness at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, was one of the first people to envision the potential of directing Black athletes toward medical careers.

Roy, 48, who is Black and a former college football player, grew up in the working-class, primarily Black and Latino community of Inglewood, California. Attending an elite private high school on a football scholarship was eye-opening. He vividly remembers the first time he ever saw a walk-in pantry, at a friend's home. "It was stocked like a convenience store," he recalls. "Five different types of Hostess, Ding-Dongs, sodas, every type of snack that you ever wanted."

Equally startling was speaking with another friend's mother, who was a lawyer. "I'd never seen a road map to success in my community," he says.

Roy's athletic talent continued to open doors - at 18 he got a scholarship to the University of Southern California - but poorly prepared by the under-resourced public schools he had attended through ninth grade, he struggled academically, and left both USC and later another university that he also attended on an athletic scholarship.

Eventually Roy found his footing, and when he did, he became a learning specialist. After working through his own academic struggles, he wanted to help others with theirs. Roy took a job as a learning skills counselor at UCLA's medical school. There he helped the students who were struggling with classes like anatomy and genetics. In early 2015, he returned to USC as the director of academic support services at Keck School of Medicine.

Something Roy noticed at both these medical schools stuck with him, though it would take a few years for the observation to crystallize. A certain kind of student sought help despite, by ordinary standards, not needing it. These were the athletes, and many of them were Black or Latino. "They always talked about, 'How can I excel? How can I get better?'" he recalls. They "were getting 90s and they wanted to be 100."

Roy began a doctoral program in education in 2015, the same year the AAMC published a damning report about the lack of Black men entering medical school. This was a crisis Roy understood both personally and professionally. For his dissertation, he decided to interview 16 Black male students at Keck School of Medicine. What was it about them, he wanted to understand, that had gotten them there against all odds?

The answer, he discovered, was what academics call social capital. For medical students from privileged backgrounds, social capital might take the form of a family friend who arranges a summer internship at a biotechnology lab, or a well-funded high school that offers advanced placement science classes. The young men Roy interviewed did not, for the most part, have access to those sorts of resources.

"Growing up, I didn't see a Black male with a college degree until I got to college," medical student Jai Kemp said in a separate interview Roy conducted for a documentary he's making on the topic.

The social capital these young men leveraged to get to medical school took the form of parental support, science enrichment programs and clubs, peer social networks, faculty mentors - and the perks that come with athletics. "For me it was just sports that got me through," Kemp said.

The pieces started to fit together. Roy knew from his own experience all the benefits athletes get, not just entrée to educational institutions, but travel, enrichment, and academic advantages like tutoring and early class registration. Athletes also tend to possess social cachet on campus and, with more exposure to different types of people, may feel comfortable in environments that seem foreign and forbidding to other young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Roy also recalled the drive for academic excellence he had observed in the athletes who came to his tutoring programs.

"I got this epiphany," he says. "Why don't we look at student-athletes in order to increase Black males' representation in medicine, because they have the most social capital and the most network on predominantly White campuses."

But when Roy began talking to his medical school colleagues about recruiting athletes, who according to a report from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, make up 16 percent of Black male college students receiving athletic aid in the Big 12 athletic conference, he says most weren't receptive to the idea. The same thing happened when he got up the nerve to make the suggestion publicly at a 2018 conference in Orlando, Florida. The idea ran against type.

"I think people tend to lump athletes into this box," he says. "They just think that athletes are big meatheads."

Roy knew this truth viscerally, because with his offensive lineman's build of 6-feet-6-inches and 300-plus pounds, he sticks out in academic settings.

"People stare," he says. "They do not expect me to be in the role that I am in."

What Roy didn't know was that the idea was percolating elsewhere, including at the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, says he and Poll-Hunter of the AAMC are in talks with several universities about launching a pilot program to support African-American athletes interested in medical careers.

Meanwhile, in 2018 Miller founded the organization Scholar-Athletes with Academic Goals (a.k.a. SWAG, a name he hopes will resonate with young people). The initiative connects promising athletes with a range of available programs to help them pursue and succeed in science and medicine. Recently, Miller worked closely with leadership at Pace University to create a program, expected to launch next year, to support Black college athletes interested in attending medical school. Pace officials want the initiative to become a magnet for out-of-state athletes and a model for other schools.

"My hope is that two years from now, colleges and universities will call" and ask, "Wow, how did you do this?" says athletic director Brown. "Once we have some success, and proof of concept, then I think it can really grow."

Bolds graduated medical school in 2018 and is now doing his residency at Mount Sinai. His focus is rehabilitation medicine, and he plans to tend to injured athletes and serve as a team physician. He earned a business degree while in medical school, and his long-term goal is to open his own interventional spine and sports medicine practice specializing in preventing and rehabilitating injuries in both athletes and non-athletes, as well as helping serious players enhance their performance.

But there were tough moments along the way, such as the encounter with that academic adviser, which Bolds says only served to motivate him. At the time, he thought, "Wow, this person doesn't believe in me. So let me make them a believer," he recalls. "That was, moving forward, really a turning point for me, honestly. Because I knew that people aren't going to believe in you unless you give them a reason to."

Bolds began to apply an athletic mindset to his pre-med classes.

"That same grind of having to get up, 5 a.m., get to the gym, get shots up before anybody gets there, to put in that extra time - I was doing that with my studies," he says. "I would get to the library before anybody."

Once Bolds turned his grades around, professors began to notice and help him, he says.

Still, his score on the MCAT, an entrance exam required by nearly all U.S. medical schools, was borderline. Instead of giving up, he attended multiple events at Howard University's medical school, where he met people who advocated for him. It was the only medical school he got into.

Whereas Bolds had to bushwhack, he saw other Black students fall off the medical path - and his fellow Black teammates avoided it entirely. Many athletes find themselves enmeshed in a profit-making system that may not prioritize their education. The NCAA has been criticized in recent years for its longstanding policy which prohibits profit-sharing with college athletes - a policy that was only recently reversed under interim guidelines. Others have said Black labor has been especially exploited.

As of 2014, fewer than 2 percent of athletes in the NCAA will go on to play professionally. But for self-serving reasons, critics say, (Clemson University's football team, for example, made $77 million in average annual revenue from 2015 through 2017) universities often direct athletes to "academic paths of least resistance."

Many schools practice "major clustering," in which players are steered to the same relatively undemanding major, such as communications, so they can devote themselves almost entirely to their sport. Major clustering is more pronounced among athletes of color, according to a 2009 study of football teams at 11 universities. At six of those schools, the study found, over three-quarters of the non-White football players were enrolled in just two academic majors, although dozens of majors were offered.

Sheron Mark, an associate professor of science education at the University of Louisville, co-authored a 2019 case study of two young Black men who arrived at college on basketball scholarships, with the intent to pursue respective careers in computer science and engineering. But both found it difficult to balance academics with athletics because of pressure and blandishments from coaches and faculty advisers.

"For so long, they've been sold this message that you don't have many choices, that banking on a professional sports career is one of very few options for you if you want to advance your station in life," says Mark. It's important to have a plan B, she says, since "the odds just aren't in their favor." But coaches can discourage academically demanding majors because they may cut into practice time, and college athletes are not always capable of pushing back, she says, because their financial packages are tied to fulfillment of their team responsibilities.

Many Black college athletes are already strong candidates for medical school, advocates say, but others may need extra academic support to compensate for deficits acquired at under-resourced K-12 schools. They may also need post-graduation training to take science classes they did not have time for while working long hours as athletes - some 20-plus hours a week.

"How are they being mentored and guided and protected in planning for their futures?" Mark asks. "They are high achieving in sports, they want to be high achieving in academics. Why don't we support them?"

When people wonder whether student-athletes can cut it in science and medicine, Mark's response is: "It's on us. It's on us to help them do so. That's how we can grow their representation."

That's what Pace University intends to do. The school already nurtures academic success in its athletes, who collectively had a B+ average last school year, but premedical studies have never been a great fit, in part because afternoon practices can conflict with long lab classes, says athletic director Brown.

As part of the school's new initiative, Pace science departments have pledged to offer flexibility in course section offerings in order to accommodate football commitments.

Athletes of color from any sport will be welcome, but football was prioritized because it is the largest and one of the most diverse teams and has the most complicated schedule, Brown says.

The school also plans to adjust its advising, tutoring and library services to ensure that pre-med athletes won't falter when they struggle with personal issues or tough classes like organic chemistry.

"Rather than saying, 'Oh, chemistry, nobody likes chemistry, you're right, you should just drop that,' instead now it's going to be, 'Yeah, you've got to buckle down. And here's how we're going to do it,'" says Hillary Knepper, the university's associate provost for student success.

Meanwhile, Brown will be directing his coaches to actively recruit Black and Latino high school athletes who are interested in medicine. In the past, Brown says, his coaches were less likely to select such students because of anticipated scheduling challenges. But now Pace is trying to establish a partnership through which a nearby medical school would give preferred consideration to pre-med athletes who have completed the Pace curriculum.

"With our new approach, you're not only going to have the ability to do it," he says, "but you're going to have a support system, to make sure that you follow the path."

Some advocates for the athlete-to-doctor paradigm see this work as part of the larger movement for social justice.

"Look what Jackie Robinson did, right? Look at Muhammad Ali, look at Colin Kaepernick," Roy says. "Athletics has always been the vehicle for social change."

Medical professionals can influence public policy, accumulate wealth and help empower others in their orbit.

"The impacts ramp up really quickly, from just that individual benefiting," Mark says, to "your family, your neighborhood, your social network, and society - people you won't even meet, and across generations."

Studies suggest that African-American doctors are more likely to choose to work in underserved communities. They also may be more attuned to, and motivated to combat, the disparities in health care. A study published last year, for example, suggests that Black newborns are half as likely to die when they are cared for by a Black physician.

Bolds is keenly aware of the health disparities for Black communities, and he jumps at opportunities to mentor other young Black men, to show them that they, too, can become doctors.

"It seems like there's so many steps that just are never-ending," he says. But, he adds, to see someone "that you can connect with that's at that finish line or has already passed that finish line - I think that's very key to their success."

One of the people Bolds has connected with is Darius Ervin, a talented Black basketball player from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who is now a sophomore at Cornell University. The two met when Ervin attended a virtual event late last year, sponsored by SWAG, at which Bolds spoke. Afterwards, the two chatted, and Bolds now checks in periodically with Ervin, who says he appreciates the encouragement.

"Those are people that have once laced up shoes and got on the court and played just like how I did, and now they're in the hospital helping people," he says. "Being able to speak to those people gives me the visual, allows me to see that it's an opportunity and it's definitely possible for me to do."

Emily Laber-Warren directs the health and science reporting program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. This post was originally published on Undark.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:06 AM | Permalink

October 1, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #376: Arlington Hell

Think it through, people. Plus: Sick & Sadistic; The Losing Streak Ahead; White Sox Wait (Almost) Over; Cubs Got Lucky This Year; Toewser; Flight Plan; NWSL's Weekend Cancelled; and Fired.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #376: Arlington Hell

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SHOW NOTES

* 376.

* Rhodes: "The Bears have had a hard-on for Arlington Heights literally - and I'm using that word literally - for 50 years."

* Freishtat, Tribune: Restaurants? Soccer Stadium? With Careful Planning, An Arlington Heights Bears Stadium Could Lure Additional Development. "It could look like a little Wrigleyville."

* Coffman: "There's no one smart left at the Tribune."

Plus:

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24:53: Sick And Sadistic.

* Chambers: "I'm tired of this namby-pamby shit!"

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33:39: The Losing Streak Ahead.

* Bears schedule after the Lions: Raiders, Packers, Bucs, 49ers, Steelers, Ravens, at Lions, Cardinals, Packers, Vikings, Seahawks, Giants at home when they win again.

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41:24: White Sox Waiting Is (Almost) Over.

* Will play Astros in the ALDS.

* The arms of Abreu, Rodon.

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49:38: The Cubs Got Lucky This Year.

* They also got COVID.

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53:53: Toewser.

* Roumeliotis, NBC Sports Chicago:

"For the first time in 407 days, Jonathan Toews played in a hockey game on Wednesday night. But you wouldn't have thought that based on his performance.

"The Blackhawks captain had an assist, three shots on goal, two takeaways, a shootout goal and won 15 of 21 face-offs for a percentage of 71.5 in Chicago's preseason opener at the United Center. It was just like old times again."

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55:55: Flight Plan.

* Sky vs. Sun.

* Voepel, ESPN: "Travel has long been a subject of debate in the WNBA, and Connecticut coach Curt Miller broached the topic after the Sun's 79-68 semifinal victory to even their series 1-1 with the Chicago Sky. Both teams fly to the Windy City on Friday for Sunday's Game 3 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN), but it will take six different commercial flights.

"Miller said the Sun traveling party will be split up among three flights taking off from two airports: in Boston and outside of Hartford, Connecticut. The Sky, meanwhile, will be split up among three flights taking off from three airports: in Boston, outside of Hartford and outside of Providence, Rhode Island.

"The reason, Miller said, was to avoid tall players having to be in middle seats so they have more comfortable flights.

"I want you guys to hear this," Miller said in his postgame news conference at Mohegan Sun Arena. "That's what this league goes through. That's what these amazing women, the best in the world at what they do, go through."

"Chicago coach James Wade said the Sky traveling party would be leaving at 3:30 a.m. Friday to begin journeys to three airports."

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1:03:16: NWSL Weekend Canceled.

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1:05:45: Fired.

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STOPPAGE: 10:08

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:42 PM | Permalink

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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - All The Styles.


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