NASA’s Office of Education Minority University Research and Education Program is requesting proposals from institutions that serve minorities, including historically Black colleges and universities, for a cooperative agreement with its Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology (MUST) project. MUST will offer undergraduate students majoring in fields related to NASA’s science and technology interests one-year competitive scholarships that will provide up to half of a student’s tuition and fees (not to exceed $10,000 per academic year) and a stipend to participate in an internship. It will provide tutoring and will assist participants in establishing mentoring relationships. NASA expects to award one cooperative agreement with a maximum annual value of $1.75 million for a total possible performance period of three years. For more information visit http://nspires.nasaprs.com.
Small Business Health Insurance
The U.S Senate is considering legislation aimed at providing health insurance plans for small businesses. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the bill, S.1955, will lower health insurance premiums by double digits for small employers nationwide and provide coverage for significantly more uninsured people. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that small businesses obtaining insurance through Small Business Health Plans will experience premium reductions of 13 percent on average to as much as 25 percent. That’s about $450 to $1,250 saved per covered employee. According to the CONSAD Research Corp., as many as 8.5 million previously uninsured workers would receive coverage if this legislation were enacted into law.
Detroit’s New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, JAT (Turner Tours and Charters) and former National City Bank loan officer Phillip Peake filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against National City Bank of the Midwest, alleging that the bank and its owners—National City Corp.—engage in “racial redlining” by refusing small business and other loan requests in areas of Detroit with high African-American populations. Redlining is a violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The group is asking the court to direct National City Bank to craft Community Reinvestment Act programs to encourage valid business loans in the formerly redlined areas and to provide restitution to parties injured by its polices and practices.
NitroMed Inc., maker of BiDil, a heart-failure drug approved only for use by Blacks, reported a larger than expected first quarter loss and said sales of the 10-month-old drug, BiDil, would fall short of Wall Street’s expectations. The company reported a 50 percent increase in the number of prescriptions for BiDil compared with the previous quarter and said it has made progress in persuading government pharmacy benefit managers to raise reimbursement for the drug and reduce patient co-payments. BiDil is a combination of two drugs that boosts the amounts of nitric oxide in the blood, a substance that is found in lower levels in Blacks and which has several roles in heart health.
Black Men and Cadillacs
Artist Bill Gaskins, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, has embarked on a project to interview Newark, N.J., men about their lives and photograph them with their Cadillacs, particularly men who owned Cadillacs from the late 1940s to the 1970s. The resulting stories and pictures are to be exhibited this fall at the Newark campus of Rutgers University. Scholars of Black culture say Cadillacs in particular were a symbol of freedom and status for Blacks. Surveys by CNW Marketing Research found that while about 12 percent of the U.S. population is Black, Blacks accounted for more than 16 percent of Cadillac sales and 21 percent of Cadillac Escalade truck sales in 2005.
Andy Young & Wal-Mart
Some 60 members of various religious groups across the country signed a letter condemning former civil rights leader Andrew Young for representing Wal-Mart Stores Inc., saying his role with the company contradicts the philosophy of his close friend and comrade Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young has come under fire recently from the civil rights community after his company, GoodWorks International, was hired earlier this year by Working Families for Wal-Mart to promote the world’s largest retailer. Young said it is wrong to blame Wal-Mart for the world’s ills and that the company “has addressed poverty more effectively than any other American institution.” He has said his role in civil rights has changed from marching and protesting to championing economic opportunity.
Researchers at Newcastle University in Australia say pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs. The researchers say firms are putting healthy people at risk by “medicalizing” conditions such as menopause. They criticized attempts in the United States, for example, to convince the public that 43 percent of women live with sexual dysfunction. They also argue that risk factors like high cholesterol and osteoporosis are being presented as diseases, and that rare conditions, such as restless leg condition and mild problems of irritable bowel syndrome, are exaggerated. Richard Ley of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry counters their research was centered on the U.S., where the drug industry has more freedom to promote its products to the public.
NEW PRODUCTS: SIXXFOOTA
SIXXFOOTA (www.sixxfoota.com) is a high-end couture label for men and women five feet nine and taller launched by Brooklyn, N.Y.-born designer Anita Watkins. Watkins, a six-footer herself, started the line because “petite and plus-size women and even Big & Tall men had their needs addressed, but there was nothing fit and fashionable for taller women.” The line is available at Watkins’ just-opened showroom at 167 Madison Avenue, Suite 304, in New York City. It consists of chinchilla, rabbit, fox and raccoon furs; suede; leathers; and perfect-fit denim with a 36-inch and longer inseam, for men and women. The fall 2006 collection includes floor-length reversible shearlings, sheared rabbit and leather bombers, Hollywood glam white or black fox fur jackets, maxi-length coats, classic trousers, ostrich-printed leather blazers, hand-painted and beaded jackets and classic, form-fitting leather pants. The entire line is constructed using top-of-the line Italian and Argentine skins and fabrics. Prices range from $400 to $4,000. Custom orders are available in straight and petite sizes.