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Proposed Classification Framework for Atopic Dermatitis Unveiled

The heterogeneous clinical course of atopic dermatitis (AD) and its differing signs, symptoms, burden, and response to treatment can pose a quandary for physicians.



Dr Jonathan Silverberg

This is behind a new classification framework called DESCRIBE-AD, proposed by Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, not only as a way to standardize the assessment of AD in clinical practice – but also to improve the classification of AD in clinical practice and clinical trials, facilitate tailoring of therapy to individual patient characteristics, and better identify therapeutically relevant disease subsets.

Silverberg, director of clinical research in the division of dermatology at George Washington University, Washington, debuted DESCRIBE-AD during the Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis symposium. The “D” in the mnemonic stands for dermatitis morphology and phenotype, the “E” for evolution of disease, the “S” for symptom severity, the “C” for comorbid health disorders, the “R” for response to therapy, the “I” for intensity of lesions, the “B” for burden of disease, and the “E” for extent of lesions.

At the meeting, he discussed the concepts behind each letter of the mnemonic.

Dermatitis Morphology and Phenotype

In the dermatitis morphology and phenotype component of DESCRIBE-AD, “there’s a lot to consider,” he said. “There are chronic signs like lichenification and prurigo nodules, which have treatment ramifications,” such as the length of time patients may need to be treated, and possibly “the use of more potent, targeted options to go after some of these lesions.”

Recent studies suggest that nummular lesions have a different underlying pathogenesis suggesting an overlap between Th2 and Th17 cell–mediated lesions. “How does that impact response to targeted therapies?” he asked. “We have no idea. We need to learn that.” He noted that psoriasiform lesions are not limited to Asian patients, but also appear in elderly patients with AD. “They look different [in elderly patients] and they may respond differently; they have more psoriasiform lesions and it’s not exactly clear why.”

Other morphologic variants of AD to be aware of include follicular eczema, xerosis, and the itch-dominant form, which Silverberg and colleagues addressed in a recently published study. “There are some patients who have milder-looking lesions, but their itch is just out of control,” he said. “This is a pattern that we need to recognize.”

Evolution of Disease, Symptom Severity

Factors to consider for the evolution of disease component of the proposed classification include age of AD onset or disease recurrence, frequency and duration of flares, disease activity between flares, periods of disease clearance, and the overall disease trajectory. “We do get patients who say that every year their disease seems to get worse over time, for reasons that are not always clear,” Silverberg said.

Assessment tools he recommends for the symptom severity component of DESCRIBE-AD include the patient-reported global AD severity, numerical rating scale (NRS) worst or average itch in the past 7 days, the Skin Pain NRS, and the Sleep Quality NRS, which each take fewer than 30 seconds to complete. “You can have your nurses do this or can you have the patients fill out the form in the waiting area before they see you,” Silverberg said.

He also advises asking patients about the number of nights they experience sleep disturbance and if they have difficulty falling asleep or have nighttime awakenings because of their AD. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be assessed with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Patient-Health Questionnaire–9, which each take 2-3 minutes to complete.

Recommended assessment tools for other symptoms – such as bleeding, oozing, and xerosis – include the Patient-Oriented Eczema Measure, which takes 2-3 minutes to complete, and the Atopic Dermatitis Control Tool or the Recap of Atopic Eczema, which each take 2-3 minutes to complete.

Comorbid Health Disorders

Comorbid health disorders linked to AD are varied and include atopic comorbidities such as asthma or wheeze, hay fever or oculonasal symptoms, food allergy, recurrent infections such as herpes simplex virus, mental health disorders, alopecia areata, Th1-mediated comorbidities, and adverse events to medication such as venous thromboembolism, hypertension, and impaired renal or liver function. “All of these are important because if the patients have these at baseline, they may not be good candidates for some therapies that cause these types of side effects,” Silverberg said.

Response to Therapy, Intensity of Lesions

As for response to therapy, clinicians can ask patients, “How do you feel you’re improving?” But it’s also important to assess the signs, symptoms, frequency of flares, and comorbidities as part of that response to therapy, “and of course the adverse events and treatment burden,” he said.

For the intensity of lesions component of DESCRIBE-AD, Silverberg said that the Investigator’s Global Assessment–AD is an effective tool for clinical use. “You can also use tools like the Eczema Area and Severity Index or the Scoring AD, but recognize these are challenging,” and can be difficult to use if not well trained to use them, he said. “At the very least, do an Investigator’s Global Assessment and do a body surface area measurement.”

In his opinion, four key signs that should be assessed in clinical trials are erythema, edema/papulation, excoriation, and lichenification/prurigo nodules.

Burden of Disease

In terms of assessing AD disease burden, guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology don’t give a specific tool to use, but recommend asking open-ended questions, Silverberg said. “I would not recommend that, because when you ask an open-ended question, the flood gates open up because most patients are suffering miserably with this disease when it’s uncontrolled.

“That’s why it’s valuable to use structured, validated tools like the Dermatology Life Quality Index and the Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System. They don’t take a lot of time to complete, and you can look at the score and determine how burdensome their disease is, even in a busy clinical practice. They’re not going to slow you down; they’re going to speed you up and make you better at your therapeutic decision-making. I can guarantee you that most patients will love you for it. Sometimes patients say to me, ‘you’re the first doctor to ask these questions.’ “

Extent of Disease

Finally, for the extent of disease component of DESCRIBE-AD, he emphasized the importance of doing a full-body exam to appreciate the affected body surface area, flexural versus extensor distribution, and involvement and severity of disease on special sites such as the face, hands, feet, genitals, and scalp.

Silverberg reported that he is a consultant to and/or an advisory board member for several pharmaceutical companies. He is also a speaker for Regeneron and Sanofi and has received a grant from Galderma.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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This post originally posted here Medscape Medical News

Michael Jackson proposed to Brooke Shields – but he was turned down

Throughout his life, Michael Jackson was married twice. The first time the King of Pop married Lisa Marie Presley in 1994 but eventually divorced her in 1996. Later that same year, Michael married Debbie Rowe – the mother of his first two children, Prince Jackson and Paris Jackson – however, this marriage only lasted three years before they split up in 1999. Before either of these relationships, Michael tried to get together with Brooke.

Brooke is an American actress and model who rose to fame when she was just 12-years-old for her performance in the film Pretty Baby.

The American star spoke candidly about her close relationship with Michael after the singer had died in 2009.

She recalled the King of Pop asked her to marry him at some point in the 1980s.

She said: “I would say: ‘You have me for the rest of your life, you don’t need to marry me.’

‘I’m going to go on and do my own life and have my own marriage and my own kids, and you’ll always have me.'”

READ MORE: Michael Jackson promised a close friend he would name daughter Paris

Brooke went on: “I think it made him relax. He didn’t want to lose things that meant something to him.”

The star went on to say the innocent nature of her relationship with Michael was unbroken as they grew up.

Because of this, Brooke told Rolling Stone, Michael became “more asexual” to her.

What do you think?

Should Michael Jackson have married Brooke Shields?

Join the debate in the comments section here

Brooke said: “What first base was, what second base was, and it sounded very odd to the outside I can imagine, but to the inside, to someone who’s never really left his bubble, you can understand how he would be curious.”

In her 2014 memoir – There Was a Little Girl – Brooke said: “We were like two little kids. From the day we met, we saw something of ourselves in each other.”

She added: “Of course we loved each other, but nothing happened romantically.

“I would be like: ‘Oh please, knock it off.’ He was like this kid who would ask you [about dating and romance].”

Brooke said she thought Michael was “terrified” of dating and romance.

She went on: “I think there was an arrested development, but he wanted us to never not be with each other.”

SOURCE

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This post originally posted here Daily Express

Elvis Presley proposed to his girlfriend just before he met Priscilla Presley

Elvis Presley was drafted into the United States Military in March 1958. The star had to put his music career on hold and move to Friedberg, Germany to go and be of service to his country. The singer and actor had already amassed quite a following at the time after already releasing five huge albums, and had starred in four Hollywood films. Before he left for Europe, Elvis was madly in love with his girlfriend Anita Wood.

Anita was in some ways a lot like Elvis. She was brought up in Memphis after moving there from a rural area of Tennessee and placed a lot of importance on family.

This aspect of Anita was shown by her strong relationship with Elvis’ mother, Gladys Presley. Gladys was quoted as saying she wanted the pair to get married.

Elvis maintained his relationship with Anita from 1957 to 1962. Throughout his time in Germany from 1958 to 1960, the star frequently sent her heartfelt love letters telling her about his time in Europe.

One of the letters the singer penned to his then-girlfriend – whom he affectionately nicknamed Little – included him promising to marry her when he returned from his service.

He wrote in 1958: “Also, I guarantee that when I marry, it will be to Miss Little Presley Wood.”

READ MORE: Elvis Presley: LA concert banned King’s ‘sexy’ dance after toy use

Elvis went on to add that their marriage may not happen soon, however.

He said: “There is a lot you have to understand though. Only God knows when the time will be right. So you have got to consider this and love me, trust me and keep yourself clean and wholesome because that is the big thing that can determine our lives and happiness together.

“If you believe me and trust me you will wait for me and our future will be filled with happiness. With God’s help it will work itself out and you will understand and be patient. I worked so hard to build up my career and everything, and if you truly love me you would not want anything to happen to it and cause me to be unhappy.”

Elvis then spoke about wanting to have a son with Anita after they were married.

What do you think? Should Elvis Presley have stayed with Anita Wood? Join the debate in the comments section here

Another letter addressed to Anita from Elvis included lines about their sex life. One passage read: “I can’t explain to you how I crave you and desire your lips and your body under me darling.

“I can feel it now. The things we did and the desire we had for each other’s body!!!”

Of course, just a year later in 1959, Elvis met someone who would grab his attention: Priscilla Presley.

After Elvis started a relationship with Priscilla, he moved back to the USA in 1960 once his military career ended.

Elvis kept the relationship with Priscilla relatively secret until 1962 when Anita found out about his two-timing.

When she found out Anita left the King, and was then begged by the star not to reveal his relationship with the 14-year-old Priscilla.

She later said: “He kept calling and I remember when he got me on the phone: ‘Little, please don’t tell anybody about this. This girl, again, she’s just a child. She’s just a fourteen-year-old child it means absolutely nothing.

“‘She just wants to visit, it means nothing. And if you told anybody, I’d get in a lot of trouble, she’s so young.’ He just begged me: ‘Little, Little, Little.'”

SOURCE / SOURCE

Author: Callum Crumlish
Read more here >>> Daily Express

Republicans Rip Joe Manchin’s Proposed Voting ‘Compromise’

Republicans Rip Joe Manchin

Senate Republicans made clear on Thursday they oppose all Democratic ideas aiming to overhaul the nation’s voting systems ― even those proposed by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Their hard-line stance against any federal voting legislation underscores that there is very little chance for a bipartisan outcome on the matter, which Manchin has been insisting on.

Manchin on Wednesday outlined the voting provisions he would support in the For the People Act, a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms. His “compromise” list ― which is designed to unite Democrats together more than anything ― includes things like expanding early voting, mandating automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, and other measures intended to expand access to the ballot. It does not include other, more expansive things supported by his fellow Democrats, such as public financing of elections.

But if there was any chance of getting Republicans on board with a more narrow bill, those hopes were quickly dashed on Thursday. Appearing at a press conference with a dozen other GOP senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Manchin’s ideas “no compromise.”

“All Republicans will oppose that as well,” he said of Manchin’s narrower list of voting reforms.

In a statement issued prior to the press conference, McConnell said Manchin’s proposal “subverts the First Amendment to supercharge cancel culture and the left’s name-and-shame campaign model.”

Republicans were also quick to note that Democratic former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had endorsed Manchin’s list of proposed voting changes, a way to dismiss the proposals as not actually bipartisan.

“When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams’ substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.

Republicans have now functionally killed both of Manchin’s ideas on voting ― the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a narrow measure that would restore the ability of the Justice Department to oversee state election law changes, and his latest “compromise” offer on the For the People Act.

But when asked about McConnell’s stance on Thursday, Manchin seemed undeterred.

“McConnell has a right to do whatever he thinks he can do. I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, fair, open election,” Manchin said, repeating a version of something he said before Republicans ultimately filibustered legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He expressed hope that bipartisan relationships forged in the Senate on other issues would ultimately help convince enough Republicans to support a voting bill.

“They’ll use those same connections and same relationships when we get into challenging areas right now with voting. I’m thinking they could reach out and help a little bit,” Manchin said.

Manchin has repeatedly vowed never to support eliminating the Senate filibuster, which stands in the way of passing legislation on voting rights, gun control, immigration, climate and a whole host of other priorities for Democrats. He’s shown no willingness to bend on the matter even as Republicans have rejected his efforts to forge bipartisan compromise.

The issue will come to a head next week when the Senate holds an initial vote to formally open debate on a voting bill. Democratic leaders have not said what kinds of changes, if any, they’ll make to the For the People Act, but it’s likely they will look something like what Manchin outlined this week. They’ll need his support to advance anything to the floor, and he indicated on Thursday that he would vote to proceed and at least start debate on the matter.

“I think we all want to do that,” Manchin said.

Even if Democrats ultimately win over Manchin, however, the bill is almost certainly going to be filibustered by Republicans.

Author:
This post originally appeared on HuffPost – Breaking News, U.S. and World News

Elvis proposed to co-star Debra Paget 'Never got over her': Priscilla even looked like her

Like Elvis, Debra was deeply religious but also had a wilder side – which would be exposed three years later in one of the most provocative scenes ever seen on screen at that time. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH 

From the start, Elvis thought she was “the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.”

In 1997 Debra revealed: “Following the film, he did ask me to marry him but my parents objected to my getting married. I cared about Elvis, but being one not to disobey my parents, that did not take place.”

In fact, she was actually already engaged in a two-year affair with the billionaire industralist and film producer Howard Hughes – a man far more rich, famous and powerful than Elvis.

But Debra always spoke highly of Elvis in the following years, saying: “He was a precious, humble, lovely person. Elvis had a lot of talent; there was a lot of depth they never used. He could have been a fine actor.”

Author:
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Entertainment Feed

IR35 changes: Umbrella industry amendments proposed to avoid 'disastrous' tax consequences

Dave continued by reflecting on the importance of these changes: “These amendments give the Government a year to either ‘curb or kill’ the unregulated umbrella market. In an unregulated industry, non-compliance in the umbrella sector is reportedly rife and ranges from difficult to spot aggressive tax avoidance schemes to self-proclaimed ‘compliant’ firms who skim monies from contractors’ wages by leveraging a lack of transparency and ignorance on the part of the worker. Moreover, it is estimated that around £4.5bn a year is lost through unpaid taxes and monies withheld from the Treasury and contractors.

“The worse the level of malpractice, the greater the rewards for the mischief, and the greater the kickbacks for agencies, all helping to promote a self-fulfilling downward spiral, funded by pickpocketing both the Treasury and hard-working people’s pay packets, without their knowledge.

“There are umbrella companies that run a vanilla compliant operation, with no reward schemes for agencies, and which treat workers fairly with reasonable charges, but they find it harder to access the market, because they lack the financial firepower to purchase space on an agencies Preferred Suppliers List – for which six-figure sums can be exchanged.

“Often, where the contractor does spot malpractice and complains, the umbrella first attempts to dismiss the claim. If the worker seeks justice via legal means, then the umbrella agrees to a ‘negotiated settlement’ (a COT3 agreement) which includes a gagging clause – which is essentially blackmailing the worker with their own money to stay silent and not reveal their bad practice.

“The malpractice needs to stop and we would urge MPs to vote on the chosen amendment so that the sector moves towards one where the cowboys are driven out, allowing the compliant parts of the sector to get on with their jobs to support the contracting sector.

“Any amendment will be voted on at the Report Stage on May 24 2021 and could solve many of the issues and help to avoid a repeat of a disastrous Loan Charge type tax that may be required if action is not taken now.”

Author:
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Finance Feed

Europe’s Proposed Limits on AI Would Have Global Consequences

The European Union proposed rules that would restrict or ban some uses of artificial intelligence within its borders, including by tech giants based in the US and China.

The rules are the most significant international effort to regulate AI to date, covering facial recognition, autonomous driving, and the algorithms that drive online advertising, automated hiring, and credit scoring. The proposed rules could help shape global norms and regulations around a promising but contentious technology.

“There’s a very important message globally that certain applications of AI are not permissible in a society founded on democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights,” says Daniel Leufer, Europe policy analyst with Access Now, a European digital rights nonprofit. Leufer says the proposed rules are vague, but represent a significant step toward checking potentially harmful uses of the technology.

Read More: XiaoIce robotic users are now in treatment for fall inTheir Artificial Intelligence is a loveable gift

The debate is likely to be watched closely abroad. The rules would apply to any company selling products or services in the EU.

Other advocates say there are too many loopholes in the EU proposals to protect citizens from many misuses of AI. “The fact that there are some sort of prohibitions is positive,” says Ella Jakubowska, policy and campaigns officer at European Digital Rights (EDRi), based in Brussels. But she says certain provisions would allow companies and government authorities to keep using AI in dubious ways.

The proposed regulations suggest, for example, prohibiting “high risk” applications of AI, including law enforcement use of AI for facial recognition—but only when the technology is used to spot people in real time in public spaces. This provision also suggests potential exceptions when police are investigating a crime that could carry a sentence of at least three years.

So Jakubowska notes that the technology could still be used retrospectively in schools, businesses, or shopping malls, and in a range of police inquiries. “There’s a lot that doesn’t go anywhere near far enough when it comes to fundamental digital rights,” she says. “We wanted them to take a bolder stance.”

Facial recognition, which has become far more effective due to recent advances in AI, is highly contentious. It is widely used in China and by many law enforcement officers in the US, via commercial tools such as Clearview AI; some US cities have banned police from using the technology in response to public outcry.

The proposed EU rules would also prohibit “AI-based social scoring for general purposes done by public authorities,” as well as AI systems that target “specific vulnerable groups” in ways that would “materially distort their behavior” to cause “psychological or physical harm.” That could potentially restrict use of AI for credit scoring, hiring, or some forms of surveillance advertising, for example if an algorithm placed ads for betting sites in front of people with a gambling addiction.

Read More: AI-trained to detect breast cancer Disease

The EU regulations would require companies using AI for high-risk applications to provide risk assessments to regulators that demonstrate their safety. Those that fail to comply with the rules could be fined up to 6 percent of global sales.

The proposed rules would require companies to inform users when trying to use AI to detect people’s emotion, or to classify people according to biometric features such as sex, age, race, or sexual orientation or political orientation—applications that are also technically dubious.

Leufer, the digital rights analyst, says rules could discourage certain areas of investment, shaping the course that the AI industry takes in the EU and elsewhere. “There’s a narrative that there’s an AI race on, and that’s nonsense,” Leufer says. “We should not compete with China for forms of artificial intelligence that enable mass surveillance.”

A draft version of the regulations, created in January, was leaked last week. The final version contains notable changes, for example removing a section that would prohibit high-risk AI systems that might cause people to “behave, form an opinion, or take a decision to their detriment that they would not have taken otherwise”.

Author Will Knight
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Texas Republicans say proposed voting restrictions are color blind

Two nights of voting in Houston, eight months apart, each occurring as midnight slipped by, lay bare the fault line cutting through Texas’ ongoing debate about voter suppression.

First, the March 3, 2020 presidential primary. On the campus of Texas Southern University, a historically Black college, hundreds waited in a line that wrapped through a campus library and out into a courtyard for four hours, then five, then six after polls were supposed to close at 7 p.m. — the result of an unexpected surge of Democratic voters and a mismanagement of voting machines.

Then in November, Houston residents — most of them people of color — were again voting after hours in the general election, but this time it was intentional. Harris County had set up a day of 24-hour voting to make it easier for voters, like shift workers, who face difficulty getting to the polls during traditional hours.

The first scene was one of frustration and disenfranchisement[2], not unusual in a state with some of the strictest voting rules in the nation. The second felt celebratory, a moment when it seemed democracy went right and people were welcomed to the voting booth.

It is the second scene that pushed Texas’ Republican leaders to act.

Outlawing 24-hour voting is one part of Senate Bill 7, priority legislation backed by Gov. Greg Abbott[3], Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick[4] and likely most Republicans in the ongoing legislative session. The bill would enact other sweeping changes to voting, including making it illegal for local election officials to proactively send applications for mail-in ballots to voters, even if they qualify, and restricting the distribution of polling places and voting machines in diverse, urban counties.

Their intent, GOP leaders say, is to protect the “integrity” and standardization of Texas elections from local efforts like those Harris County devised in November to expand voting access. But the pushback from local leaders, Democrats, big business and voting rights advocates has been intense, centering on concerns that the legislation’s effect will almost certainly make voting harder for groups Texas’ voting rules have long marginalized — voters of color, voters with disabilities, low-income voters and voters with limited English proficiency — and who are the most likely to be shut out when voting procedures are tightened.

In an angry press conference Tuesday, yelling at times, Patrick objected to suggestions that Republicans are deliberately targeting voters of color in Democratic strongholds.

“Senate Bill 7 is about voter security, not about voter suppression, and I’m tired of the lies and the nest of liars who continue to repeat them,” Patrick said, focusing much of his ire on Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Harris County leaders who spoke up against the bill.

He continued: “You’re questioning my integrity and the integrity of the governor and the integrity of the 18 Republicans who voted for this when you suggest that we’re trying to suppress the vote. You are in essence, between the lines, calling us racist, and that will not stand.”

As they successfully shepherded SB 7 through the Senate[5] over the last two weeks, Republicans argued that it is a race neutral bill, not designed to discriminate, in part because the state’s voter rolls are “color blind” and voters don’t list their race or ethnicity when they register.

But to critics, especially those familiar with past election restrictions that Texas has passed that made it harder for already marginalized voters to participate, “neutrality” is a false flag. The legislation passed the Senate with zero support from Democrats, including every senator of color in the chamber, who over seven hours of debate on the Senate floor listed concerns about the harmful effects the bill could have on voters of color.

“I’m in disbelief that our esteemed body would consider legislation we consider detrimental to countless persons of color. We urge you to hear our voice and public testimony,” state Sen. Judith Zaffirini[6], D-Laredo, said just before the Senate advanced SB 7, noting that senators had not been provided with evidence that showed the 2020 election was anything other than “honestly run, fairly adjudicated and somewhat better attended.”

“What we did hear however were numerous pleas from our fellow Texans not to do this,” Zaffirini said. “We heard from men and women of color who interpret Senate Bill 7 as yet another sign that those who control their state do not welcome their participation.”

The legislation is part of a broader Republican push to make changes to voting laws[7] in a state with already restrictive rules. It echoes national efforts by Republicans in state legislatures across the country — largely built on claims of widespread voter fraud for which there is little to no evidence — to rework voting rules after voters of color helped flip key states to Democratic control.

SB 7 targets Harris County initiatives like extended early voting hours and drive-thru voting, which were disproportionately used by voters of color in November. The bill also singles out voters receiving assistance inside the polling place, including in filling out their ballot, by allowing poll watchers to record them if the poll watcher “reasonably believes” that the assistance is “unlawful.” That provision has drawn particular concerns about the policing of voters with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency — most of whom are Hispanic and historical targets of voter intimidation in Texas — who would be among those most likely to receive help to vote.

Hours after SB 7 cleared the Senate, American Airlines became the first corporate giant to come out against the bill, citing provisions “that limit access to voting” and the need to break down barriers “to diversity, equity and inclusion in our society” instead of creating them. That opposition teed up a series of broader statements from other corporations calling for equal access to voting and came ahead of Major League Baseball’s decision to pull its All-Star Game from Georgia in response to new voting restrictions there.

The pressure on corporate America to lend its weight against Republican proposals has continued to swell this week as voting rights advocates worked to frame the fight as one rooted in the civil rights movement and meant to protect the right to vote, especially for Black and Hispanic voters whose access to the ballot box has been historically undermined.

Over the weekend, Black leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News calling on local corporate leaders to work against the provisions of SB 7 they called “unfair, unequitable and immoral” that make it easy for some Texans to vote while creating obstacles for others using a “familiar strategy.” Its signatories included former Dallas Mayor and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell and Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall.

“Texas continues to engage in the same kinds of practices that produced the oppression that this great cloud of witnesses had to overcome,” Rev. Frederick Haynes III, a pastor at the Friendship-West Baptist Church of Dallas and a signatory on the ad, said Wednesday while standing with other faith leaders in front of the Texas African American History Memorial monument on the Capitol grounds. “Because unfortunately we have those in leadership in Texas government who have in their ideological DNA the same mindset … of those individuals who upheld Jim and Jane Crow segregation. Gov. Abbott and his Republican cronies have decided to dress up Jim and Jane Crow in a tuxedo of what they call voter integrity.”

In response to the corporate blowback, Abbott — who declared “election integrity” a priority for the 2021 legislative session — announced he would no longer throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opening game and would boycott any other Major League Baseball events over “false political narratives” he claimed the league was pushing.

In a Fox News television interview Tuesday, Abbott said he was sending a message to Texas-based companies that have “made the very same mistake” of coming out against Republican proposals to change the state’s voting laws.

“What we need to do is have these business leaders realize they don’t need to be responding to tweets or these bogus arguments that were put forth by people like Stacey Abrams and others in Georgia,” Abbott said.

Abrams, a former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia and a prominent voting rights advocate, has denounced restrictions recently signed into law in Georgia where she said Republicans had “outperformed in the category of suppressive laws” by shrinking the window for voters to request absentee ballots, imposing new voter ID requirements for absentee voting and banning the handing out of water and food to people waiting in line to vote, among several other new restrictions. Like in Texas, the new rules were passed under the banner of securing elections.

Even in defending their proposals, Texas Republicans have run into the Legislature’s own history of passing voting laws that were later found to unequally burden voters of color.

The lieutenant governor on Tuesday attempted to characterize the criticism of SB 7 as “race baiting” by those raising concerns about how it could suppress the votes of Texans of color, pointing to similar criticism Republicans faced when they worked to pass one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country in 2011. His defense was based on the increased voter participation the state has seen in recent elections — in part a result of a growing Democratic electorate and the draw of more competitive races. (Patrick cited the large increase in the raw numbers of votes cast, which is generally a reflection of the state’s rapidly growing population and doesn’t accurately capture increases in voter turnout over time.)

But Patrick left out that a federal judge and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals — considered to be among the country’s most conservative appellate courts — ultimately found the state’s voter ID law disproportionately harmed voters of color who were less likely to have one of the seven forms of identification the state required voters to present before they could cast their ballots. The law was blocked for years after it was passed and was eventually eased to match a judge’s suggested rules.

As part of call on corporations to stand against SB 7 and other Republican proposals[8], Texas voting rights advocates and organizers also pointed to the state’s increased turnout, and the voters of color behind it, to identify what they see as the genesis for the changes the Legislature is considering.

Though it topped out at 66% participation, Texas saw the highest turnout in decades in 2020. After the election, Republicans remain in full control of state government, but Democrats have continued to drive up their vote counts as the electorate continues to expand in the state’s urban centers and diversifying suburban communities.

In a virtual press conference Tuesday, those advocates called Republicans out for imposing more restrictions on voting while refusing to consider measures like online voter registration that could open the door to more participation. The state should be building on the progress it made on turnout in 2020 instead of “advancing the path toward voter suppression,” said Devin Branch of the Texas Organizing Project, which advocates for communities of color and low-income Texans.

“Every person who genuinely believes in democracy abhors attempts to undermine it and these bills are harmful to democracy,” Branch said. “This is about those in power seeking to retain power by disempowering and disenfranchising Black and Latino voters. Full stop.”

Disclosure: Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here[9].

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ first scene was one of frustration and disenfranchisement (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ Greg Abbott (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ Dan Patrick (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ shepherded SB 7 through the Senate (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ Judith Zaffirini (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ a broader Republican push to make changes to voting laws (www.texastribune.org)
  8. ^ call on corporations to stand against SB 7 and other Republican proposals (www.facebook.com)
  9. ^ list of them here (www.texastribune.org)

Alexa Ura

Analysis: Texas’ proposed voting restrictions have more to do with 2018 than 2020

In spite of their public anguish over drive-thru voting, expanded early voting and efforts to allow more people to vote by mail, Texas Republicans were happy with the results of the state’s 2020 elections[2].

They held steady in the Texas House, with 83 of 150 seats both before and after the election. They lost a seat in the Texas Senate, one that they were lucky to have won in the first place, but still have the majority there, too. And they won all of the statewide races, continuing a streak that is now more than a quarter of a century long. Donald Trump won in Texas, too; the streak of Republican wins in that category extends all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory. And they did it all with the kind of high turnout they had feared would favor Democratic candidates.

Even so, the party’s legislators are working hard to make voting in Texas more difficult. Legislation approved by Senate Republicans over the unanimous objection of Senate Democrats[3] in the wee, small hours of Thursday morning would prohibit drive-thru voting, make it illegal for election officials to send vote-by-mail applications unless people ask for them and block the kind of 24-hour early voting offered in Harris County last year.[4] It would prohibit voting in tents and other temporary structures. It allows poll watchers — usually people brought in by the political parties — more freedom at polling and vote-counting locations.

What’s to worry about? They got the results they wanted.

It’s the 2018 election that alarmed the state’s majority party. The legislation they’re pushing would arguably tilt the table their way in the 2022 elections that are up next.

Those two non-presidential election cycles are when most of the statewide seats in Texas are on the ballot — and where a number of the this-is-supposed-to-be-a-layup contests turned into close calls.

The promoters of the new law say they want to protect “election integrity,” a premise with two problems. First, they haven’t produced evidence of widespread or election-changing voter fraud in Texas elections. Second, though the idea is popular with Republican voters, recent polling finds Texans suspicious about voting practices elsewhere, but not in Texas.

In the February University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll[5], 52% of Texas voters said they think the official U.S. election results are accurate — a number that included 89% of Democrats and just 23% of Republicans. But when asked about Texas elections, 78% said they think the results are accurate, including 88% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans. Only 40% wanted election laws left alone, but the proponents of change were not in agreement: 46% of Republicans think they should be stricter, while 50% of Democrats would make the laws less strict.

Turnout is almost always higher in presidential elections. Months of national attention and advertising and the general din all raise voter engagement. A race for governor or lieutenant governor just doesn’t do that, although the pitched battle between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz[6] and then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke in 2018 raised turnout to near-presidential levels.

The big swing in the 2018 election was down the ballot, where Democrats won a dozen House seats and two Senate seats that had been held by Republicans.

The statewide races all went to the Republicans. But Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick[7], Attorney General Ken Paxton[8] and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller[9] all won close races — each within 5 percentage points of their Democratic foe. Four years earlier, Patrick won by 19.7 percentage points; Paxton and Miller each won by more than 20 percentage points.

Some might attribute the shift to national politics: When a Democratic administration was in power in Washington D.C., Republicans in Texas did well; when a Republican was in the White House, Democrats did better. But turnout was dramatically different in those two elections, too, raising Democratic hopes and Republican fears of a change in the Texas electorate.

In 2014 — the year all of the statewide Republicans were winning so easily — 33.7% of the state’s registered voters turned out. In 2018, when the margins were so thin and Republican legislative strength waned, 53% turned out.

They apparently liked 2014 better.

References

  1. ^ here (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ the results of the state’s 2020 elections (apps.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ Legislation approved by Senate Republicans over the unanimous objection of Senate Democrats (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ offered in Harris County last year. (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ February University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ Ted Cruz (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ Dan Patrick (www.texastribune.org)
  8. ^ Ken Paxton (www.texastribune.org)
  9. ^ Sid Miller (www.texastribune.org)

Ross Ramsey

Business leaders warn of consequences to proposed New York tax hikes

Hundreds of business leaders are voicing concern over proposed tax hikes in New York that they say would jeopardize the state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter[1] to New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoSchumer to recommend three Black lawyers to head US attorney offices in NY New York State Assembly Speaker tests positive for COVID-19 Governor races to test COVID-19 response, Trump influence MORE[3][4][5][6][7][2] (D) and the state’s top Democratic lawmakers, the executives express “alarm” over the possibility the state will “enact the largest spending and tax increases in the state’s history.”

“We believe the current budget proposals will jeopardize New York’s recovery from the economic crisis inflicted by COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote.

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The leaders, who include ViacomCBS CEO Robert Bakish[8], JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman Jamie Diamond[9] and Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman[10], said that members of their workforces have moved out of New York to states with lower taxes and that the proposed tax hikes might make it harder for them to return.

“This is not about companies threatening to leave the state; this is simply about our people voting with their feet,” the business leaders wrote. “Ultimately, these new taxes may trigger a major loss of economic activity and revenues as companies are pressured to relocate operations to where the talent wants to live and work.”

The group urged the state to delay any tax hikes until the pandemic is over.

“A healthy state economy requires a strong partnership between business and government,” they wrote. “We urge you to hold off on major tax and spending changes until the pandemic is behind us and the path to recovery is better defined.”

Lawmakers in New York have proposed tax increases on companies and high-income workers that could reach $ 6 billion per year in an effort to fund social programs and reduce the wealth gap, CNBC notes[11].

The news outlet added that Cuomo’s top budget adviser, Robert Mujica, said that the stimulus along with other tax revenue could allow the state to avoid previously planned budget cuts.

[email protected] (Jordan Williams)