September 20th, 2009, by

These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 60

City of residence: Hayward, CA

How long have you been uninsured? 16 months

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 2.5 years ago and required to undergo 7 months of chemotherapy. During that time, I was too sick to work. I had a senior level position with a Fortune 500 company. They informed me that, due to needs of the business, they could not hold my job for me until I got well enough to return. Consequently, I lost my group insurance plan that I had for 24 years. I received Cobra coverage (which was $600/month). But, I had to have it, so I paid that premium for 2 months. Then, my payment was one day late. It was Memorial Day weekend of last year and I didn’t plan accordingly and get the payment to the post office in time. They dropped me.

And, they did so retroactively. So, one of the CT scans I had been given to monitor potential cancer reoccurrence was re-billed to me (that’s how I found out I was cancelled). I called and wrote to the Cobra administrator to ask that they reconsider and reinstate me. I was denied. Then, because of the downturn in the economy and my industry, I have been unable to find a new job. I have tried to find a private insurer but have been turned down due to my pre-existing condition (cancer). So, I find myself with no job, no income and no medical insurance.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

It is a great source of stress for me. I am in a situation now that, if I did have a cancer reoccurrence, I would be put in a position to take the rest of the money out of my savings. Also, I have not been to a doctor since. There are a few minor things that I’m concerned about with my health.

But, I don’t go to the doctor because I can’t afford it. So, I am not getting the preventative care that I should get and always have until now.

How do you obtain routine care?

I don’t.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

I did have to go to the emergency hospital 3 weeks ago. I was there for 2 hours and received a bill for $3000. I have had to work out a payment plan with the hospital. Otherwise, I would not be able to pay it at all.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

It’s scary. You feel helpless and just hope that your luck will hold out.

It’s not fair. I have worked hard all my life, paid my bills and took care of myself. And, now I feel pitiful and embarrassed to be in this situation.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

I feel estranged. I don’t feel like a valued citizen anymore. I am afraid for my health and my financial security. That is not the way I expected to feel at this point in my life after so many years of productivity and contribution.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

September 18th, 2009, by

If you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us. To be part of our “Faces of the Uninsured” project, please e-mail the following to

  1. A photo of yourself.*
  2. Name
  3. Age
  4. City of residence
  5. Reason that you are uninsured.

*By submitting your photo you are granting us permission to use it on and saying that you have the rights to do so. We can give photo credit if you supply us with the name of the person who took it. Please send as large a file as possible.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

September 11th, 2009, by ROSA CLEMENTE

Over the Labor Day weekend, Van Jones, a member of the hip-hop generation and special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, tendered his resignation, and it was accepted by the Obama administration. I will be the first to say that I never found Van Jones to be a radical, a Black Nationalist or a communist as Fox News suggested.

Although I appreciate his book The Green Collar Economy, I never believed that a green economy would save working people. I felt that the book gave solutions on how to save the current capitalist system. And fundamentally that presents a problem, as many in this country are suffering because of capitalism and its failures.

No matter my political differences with Jones, I will never discount his work, energy, community organizing skills and progressive tendencies, which have reconnected urban youth with Mother Earth and have inspired many in my generation to create space in the predominately white liberal “green” movement.

And as the former Green Party vice-presidential candidate who campaigned against the Obama administration, I am not surprised that Jones turned out to be a high-profile casualty of an administration that started at the center and continues to move to the right.

But what has surprised me is that people are not calling out the Obama administration for its role in the matter. Do not be fooled. There is no doubt that the Obama administration knew about Jones’ so-called “radical” past. I am not willing to believe that they never did a Google search on Jones or looked at his past comments, speeches or actions.

By accepting Jones’ resignation, the Obama administration essentially gave a victory to the very racist Glenn Beck and the most vile “news” station in modern time. By accepting Jones’ resignation, they have put a target on all of us who would be deemed “activists” or “radicals.” Accepting Jones’ resignation is a slap in the face to all of us.

So for those who voted for Obama, when will you let him know that you will not accept Van Jones as a casualty of an administration capitulating to the right?

And for those who are still not convinced, Dead Prez said it best:

“Everywhere we go, everyday on TV, they be talking about who you gonna vote for,
Got a Black man running but I wonder if he get in, who he gonna open up the door for
I don’t want to discourage my folks I believe in hope I just want us to want more
Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there’s gotta be more that we can hope for
democrats and republicans just two sides of the same coin, either way it’s still white power, it’s the same system just changed form,
You wanna vote, please do, cast your ballot, let your voice be heard
But what I do wanna say is after the election you’ll see, mark my word
It’s Politricks time again.”

Where do we go from here?

First, I caution people, do not make Jones into a martyr. I am urging people to go back to the grassroots, go back to the local community to organize and support progressives and third-party candidates in local elections.

Next, we need to support our progressive media. Malkia Cyril, the Executive Director of The Center for Media Justice says, “We need to create an echo chamber of progressive media to counter the echo created by the right.”

And finally, we need to learn from this experience. The Van Jones takedown has revealed our own frustrations and inability to build and sustain a powerful multi-faceted, multi-racial movement.

I hope that people take one lesson that I learned from Van Jones’ book: Stop fighting against something and start fighting for something.

Maybe our fighting for something began Labor Day Weekend. If that is the case, we should all thank Van Jones for leaving the manicured green lawns of the White House.

Rosa Alicia Clemente is a community organizer, hip-hop activist, journalist and the Green Party 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate. Rosa resides with her husband and daughter in the South Bronx and is currently on her speaking tour, “It’s Bigger than Black and White,” and is writing her first book, When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name. She can be reached at

September 9th, 2009, by

President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress Wednesday night in an attempt to create movement on the healthcare overhaul.

He laid out the details of his plan for healthcare and did not back down on the public option.

Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. delivered the Republican rebuttal.

And what do you have to say? Share your thoughts with us.

Also see full text of the speech here and a video excerpt below.

And, for more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm ET for a 90-minute report. NOW on PBS, Tavis Smiley and The Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

September 4th, 2009, by

The Associated Press released a photo Friday of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, moments after he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 14, in Afghanistan. Bernard later died from his wounds.

Some newspapers published the photo with the accompanying AP story, but the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, The New York Times and The Washington Post did not include the photo with the story.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called the AP’s decision “appalling.”

But the AP defends its decision, saying that “journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is.”

What do you think?

Was the AP wrong to publish the photo of a dying soldier? Was the news agency being insensitive to the soldier’s family?

Or does Secretary Gates have it wrong? Do the American people need to see the harsh realities of war? Are American papers too sanitized?

Share your thoughts.

August 26th, 2009, by

Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer Tuesday. His Senate career spanned nearly 50 years, and he is credited with continuing a legacy begun by his brothers John and Robert.

The outpouring of messages from both Republicans and Democrats speaks to Kennedy’s negotiating skills and knack for bipartisan coalition-building—expertise that Republican Sen. John McCain said are missing on the current healthcare overhaul.

Watch Vice President Joe Biden’s heartfelt words about his friend and colleague, and share your thoughts on Kennedy’s life and legacy.


August 21st, 2009, by
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Florida and the Gulf Coast, breached New Orleans’ levees in multiple locations and flooded 80% of the city. More than 1,800 people lost their lives in the hurricane and floods, and damage estimates hover around $80 billion, making it one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

Four years later rebuilding continues.

1) On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the federal government’s latest pledge of $32 million to replace four buildings at New Orleans’ Southern University. The pledge is part of a larger pot of infrastructure funds that the Obama administration has set aside for Louisiana.

2) On Thursday, FEMA urged New Orleans residents, particularly those still living in temporary trailers, to prepare a family disaster plan for the current hurricane season.

(Yes, nearly 1,800 temporary trailers remain in Louisiana four years after Hurricane Katrina.)

3) On Thursday and Friday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) held the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity’s hearings on “access to and maintenance of quality housing in New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina.”

During the hearings, Waters said: “It is high time to get serious and get beyond just talking about doing something to help these people: four years after Hurricane Katrina we still have individuals living in trailers, seeking additional benefits, dispersed throughout the country in unfamiliar cities, and disconnected from their families, friends, and their hometown.”

Waters’ remarks and the government’s recent actions raise an important question: Have we done enough to help the Gulf Coast region and New Orleans rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina?

Share your thoughts with us below. Check out Tavis’ conversations with journalist Dan Baum, who chronicled New Orleans’ response to Hurricane Katrina for The New Yorker, and with Alden McDonald, the president of a New Orleans bank damaged by the storm. And visit our post-Katrina special feature page, “Right to Return.”

August 13th, 2009, by

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks they should.

When California high school students return to school this month they will have access to free digital science and math textbooks that meet state standards as part of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Digital Textbooks Initiative.

Ten online textbooks meet state standards, and proponents say California school districts will save money by using the state-approved digital books. Critics say that switching to online textbooks will require additional training and resources. The plan is to expand the program to include all grades.

Are digital textbooks a step in the right direction? Share your thoughts.

August 8th, 2009, by

Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in as the U.S. Supreme Court’s 111th justice on Saturday. It’s the first time that the ceremony has been televised. Share your thoughts on the court’s first Latina and third woman justice.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

August 6th, 2009, by

The U.S. Supreme Court has its first Hispanic (and third woman) justice. In a 68-31 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the lifetime appointment. She will be sworn in on Saturday, in a ceremony that will be televised for the first time in the court’s history.

Share your thoughts on Sotomayor’s confirmation below.

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