Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
DETROIT, Dec. 3, 2013 -- Emergency Manager Kevyn D. Orr today issued the following statement following federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' ruling on the city's eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection:
“We are pleased with Judge Rhodes’ decision today, and we will continue to press ahead with the ongoing revitalization of Detroit. We look forward to working with all our creditors – pension funds, unions and lenders – to achieve a consensual agreement on a restructuring plan that balances their financial recoveries with the very real needs of the 700,000 citizens of Detroit.
“We are making good progress. In addition to today’s important decision, Detroit has transferred its electric operations and customers to DTE Energy and begun a program to improve City lighting. It has announced plans to privatize trash collection that will save $6 million a year while improving services and adding curbside recycling. It has invested in sorely needed equipment for its police, fire and other first responders. The City also has arranged, pending a court hearing later this month, $350 million of post-petition financing to improve its financial condition, lessen some of its debt obligations, and make much-needed investments. The City is also committed to the federal mediation already underway aimed at resolving disputes with its creditors and we fully support U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen’s efforts to find additive solutions, particularly from the philanthropic community, to the City’s financial issues.
“Time is of the essence and we will continue to move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. We plan to submit a Plan of Adjustment in the coming weeks, file a Disclosure Statement early next year and work to exit Chapter 9 protection by the end of September. We hope all parties will work together to help us develop a realistic restructuring plan that improves the financial condition of Detroit and the lives of its 700,000 citizens.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 13:21
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Federal court Judge Steven Rhodes ruled in a historic decision that the city of Detroit is eligible for Bankruptcy.
According to a live blog from Fox 2 News, Rhodes stated:
The City of Detroit is insolvent and bankrupt, and I find that Kevyn Orr and Governor Rick Snyder has successfully filed petition for Bankruptcy.
Several comment and statements are being made on the official judicial ruling.
Mayor Dave Bing made the following statement:
With the crisis we had this was inevitable, I don't think anyone wanted to go in this direction, but now that we are here, we need to work together...It's very important that we respect the fact that the emergency manager has the key to the city at this time. We don't agree on everything, but we do it in a very respectful way.
There will be alot of negotiations yet to come, I don't think we have final conclusion to what all the elements will be in this process. But we have to take care, because there is going to be pain for alot of people.
But in the long run, I think the future of the city will be bright.
Mayor-elect Mike Duggan made the following statement:
This is a day in Detroit's history that none of us wanted to see. Now that Judge Rhodes has ruled the city eligible for bankruptcy, we are about to move into the Plan of Adjustment phase that is likely to define our city government for years to come.
I'm going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of Detroit's future in this process. We need to make sure the retirees are treated fairly on the pensions they earned and we need to make certain we come out of bankruptcy in a way we can afford to provide the quality of city services the people of Detroit deserve."
Although the 140-page ruling by Judge Rhodes was very detailed, speculation of several appeals from retirees and creditors are expected.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:09
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
Washington (CNN) -- Battered by two months of bad publicity over the Obamacare website, the White House is going on the offensive to tout what it sees as the good news about the President's signature health care reforms.
President Barack Obama will launch a three-week campaign intended to highlight the benefits of the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a White House event at 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, a White House official told CNN.
The event comes a day after the problem-plagued Obamacare website handled more than 1 million visitors with no major problems, according to administration officials, who provided no other details such as how many of the users were able to fully enroll.
After the botched website launch on October 1, the administration hopes the ability of HealthCare.gov to handle heavier than average volume signaled a major step forward in getting people to sign up for health coverage now required by law under the reforms.
However, officials warn glitches will persist and describe the website as an ever-evolving work in progress. In addition, insurance companies say some "back-end" aspects of the HealthCare.gov system continued to malfunction.
In particular, insurers say there are problems with applications from people who signed up through the website, including erroneous or missing information.
Critics led by conservative Republicans trying to dismantle the health care reforms known as Obamacare say the website problems foreshadow deeper failings of the law that passed with no GOP support.
"It's not just a broken website; this bill is fundamentally flawed," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday, later adding that "when you look at Obamacare, what you see is a government-centered health care delivery system."
Americans don't want that, the Ohio Republican insisted, declaring they instead they "want to be able to pick their own type of health insurance, they want to be able to pick their own doctor and they want to be able to pick their own hospital."
At the White House, the focus is on emphasizing how Obamacare has helped people in the three years since it became law.
"While work continues on the website, we think it is important that proponents of health reform undertake a renewed effort to refocus the public on the benefits of the law that have already been implemented," said the White House official who spoke on condition of not being identified.
Obama's remarks Tuesday "to discuss the health care law's benefits already in place for millions of Americans and make the case for why we need to move forward to make sure the law is a success" is the first wave in a tsunami of information the administration plans to unleash.
Daily events will occur December 23 as the administration tries to shift attention away from the website woes of the past two months to take on Republican foes attacking the law.
Over the weekend, officials announced they had met their self-imposed November 30 deadline for getting the site working for the "vast majority" of users, saying response times and error rates had been slashed while capacity increased.
Jeffrey Zients, a former administration official brought in to oversee the website fixes after its launch, compared the hardware upgrades so far to widening a highway on-ramp from two lanes to four.
That means chronic breakdowns, error messages and delays users experienced two months ago when the website went live have mostly disappeared, he said, noting the average response time was less than 1 second and the system's "uptime" -- a measure of system stability -- was consistently surpassing 90%.
It all means that HealthCare.gov can now handle its original intended volume of 50,000 concurrent users for a total of 800,000 visitors a day, according to Zients.
A new component that put users in a waiting queue during periods of high volume provided a better-managed delay than the site freezes and error messages of October.
Three CNN journalists who attempted to sign on Monday ended up in the new queue around midday and then two hours later. Their wait lasted a few minutes before they received a prompt on their screen to proceed with enrollment.
Later in the day, users proceeded directly to enrollment without waiting, indicating reduced volume at the end of the afternoon, as officials had predicted.
White House spokesman Jay Carney noted any major website has periodic problems that must be addressed.
"It does not mean that there will be no problems with the website going forward," he said Monday when asked by reporters if HealthCare.gov was truly fixed or merely functioning at a minimal level.
Vocal throughout the launch of the program and the successive problems, the GOP stayed vigilant with its critique.
"President Obama and his administration repeatedly claimed the Obamacare website would be fully functioning by the end of November, but this has proven to be just another broken promise," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "The Obama administration had over three years to build HealthCare.gov, and all they've produced is a non-functioning website, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."
In October, the first month of a six-month enrollment period, just over 106,000 people signed up for Obamacare. Less than 27,000 of them did so through the HealthCare.gov website, which was supposed to be the main enrollment portal.
An administration official familiar with the matter told CNN that about 100,000 people signed up for coverage last month on the site. The official cautioned the number was preliminary and final numbers would be released in mid-December.
Joanne Peters, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman, said enrollment through alternate channels and successful exchanges in 14 states would help bolster November figures.
Marilyn Tavenner, the official charged with implementing Obamacare as director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional hearing last month that the administration initially hoped to enroll 800,000 people by the end of November. The overall enrollment target by the March 31 deadline for 2014 is 7 million.
A properly functioning HealthCare.gov is crucial to implementing the most vital provisions of the health law that require people to have health coverage.
The coming months will show if it was successful.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 11:31
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by News One
If Attorneys Mark O’Mara and Don West have anything to say about it, getting away with the murder of Trayvon Martin is going to cost George Zimmerman $2.5 million dollars.
And to paraphrase a JG Wentworth commercial: It’s their blood money and they want it now.
Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in Martin’s shooting death, even though he got out of his vehicle, followed and ultimately shot the unarmed teen through the heart after a scuffle on Feb. 26, 2012.
O’Mara and West took on the case in April 2012 — after Zimmerman’s first legal team quit — and each attorney has billed Zimmerman about 3,000 hours.
See how it all adds up via The Orlando Sentinel:
O’Mara took on the case in April 2012, saying he would represent Zimmerman at no charge. Then he discovered that Zimmerman and his family were raising funds via a website and that money was pouring in, at least initially.
Throughout the case, even after the trial, O’Mara said he and West had not been paid a dime, although they hoped to be someday.
In an interview this week, O’Mara said Zimmerman paid them “a minute amount” after the trial.
O’Mara is still hopeful, he said, that there might someday be money he and West can collect.
In truth, they have already benefited financially from Zimmerman’s legal-defense fund. Several months ago, O’Mara reported spending $52,550 on “law firm support and infrastructure.”
O’Mara and his spokesman never provided a detailed accounting as to what that included, but they said it was such things as more computers, upgraded software, new phones and improved office security.
West and O’Mara also formed a private partnership, Timber Run Enterprises LLC, and bought the building next door to O’Mara’s Concord Street office in downtown Orlando. That building, like O’Mara’s office, is a former single-family home for which the lawyers paid $270,000.
[Zimmerman] contributors gave more than $400,000 to his legal-defense fund, money that went toward case expenses and supporting Zimmerman and his wife — not paying O’Mara and West for the hours they were working.
O’Mara charges $400 an hour, West $350 an hour, rates that area attorneys describe as reasonable, given their years of experience and skill.
Though Orlando criminal-defense attorney Richard Hornsby said $2.5 million in legal fees is “mind-numbing,” NewsOne contributor, Attorney and Legal Analyst Eric L. Guster believes the bill is appropriate:
“I totally understand why the bill is so expensive. Being that this was a high profile case, they had to totally shut down their law practices in order to defend Zimmerman. They had a full team of investigators, lawyers and paralegals working on his case around the clock.
“With Zimmerman having potential book deals, NRA endorsement, websites raising money for him among other things, he can afford to pay something, for sure.
“Freedom ain’t free; it costs money.”,
Wherever one falls on the issue, one thing is clear: To the Sanford Police Department and a jury of 6 women — 5 of them White — Trayvon’s life wasn’t worth one day in jail. But to O’Mara and West, Zimmerman’s freedom is allegedly worth $2.5 million.
That’s American justice math.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 15:57
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by News One
Instead of finally offering an alternative plan to the Affordable Health Care Act versus fruitless attempts at repealing it, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, pictured) has continued to make a spectacle over the debate on how to best help the tens of millions of Americans that live without health insurance. His most-recent act of foolishness is signing himself up for Obamacare — while snapping shots to the press — in order to get the last laugh at how expensive and complicated the ordeal is. Maybe that sounded like a good idea to him in theory, but like many of his past attempts at mocking President Barack Obama, reality smacked him upside the head.
Speaker Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, has confirmed to CNN that the Republican leader will take thousands of dollars in government support to help with the costs of the new healthcare program. But, but, but…what about the nanny state? Government sugar daddy? All those pestering poor folks looking for “government handouts?”
Steel told CNN that “Washington Democrats chose not to make that change.” However, as the news organization points out there are “several other members of Congress who chose to return their premium support to the Treasury.” So why not you, Mr. Speaker?
Nonetheless, Boehner described the process as “pretty frustrating,” but all and all he got a better deal for an individual plan that mirrored the Blue Cross Blue Shield one he currently has as a part of the federal employees health package.
On the differences:
The current cost for Boehner and his wife? They “pay a monthly premium of $433,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
The new plan for the two of them?
It “would cost $802 per month in premiums,” Buck said.
That is an 85 percent leap. But, Boehner’s wife is about to go on Medicare, so he will get an individual plan. That cost? $449 a month.
Boehner’s office notes he will now be paying more for one person in the Obamacare exchange than he was for two people in the federal employees plan. Deductibles for the Boehners will jump from $700 to about $2,000.
Boehner’s age along with being a smoker is being cited as a reason for the higher costs, though there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to his jump in premium.
Salon’s Brian Beutler writes that “these numbers actually prove the law is working very well in Washington, D.C. — but that reality is obscured by the fact that Boehner has been benefiting from a hidden, expiring government entitlement for the past several years.”
Boehner does not provide intel on what plan he chose on the site, but Beutler did a generic profile based on his age and income (without noting he was a smoker) and found that Boehner was eligible for a “bronze” plan with a $6,000 annual deductible for $372.14 a month. That is, as the Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Hiltzik notes, only 2 percent of Boehner’s wages. Moreover, ”A gold-level plan including dental coverage and no deductible would set Boehner back about $700 a month, or 3.8 percent of Boehner’s wages.”
Hiltzik goes on to make the important note:
Obamacare rules typically allow for a premium to cost no more than 9.5 percent of household income for lesser “silver” plans. That limit comes from premium subsidies granted to households earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line. In other words, Boehner would be way ahead of most Americans.
So Boehner is not getting a bad deal in the least, and if anything, only further proves that he and his fellow Republicans share a large share of the blame of their own “nightmares” about the program. After all, it’s Senate GOP members that called on legislators and their staffs get their insurance from the individual exchanges in the first place. The move was an attempt to undermine passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. It didn’t work, and now the end result is Boehner is going from one great health care plan to another…with subsidies.
As for those website headaches Boehner complained about, again, look at your party. Those are the people responsible for purposely sabotaging the rollout of the site. It’s not their entire fault, but they were a huge impediment all the same.
Now that we’ve gotten another publicity stunt out of the way, can we finally move to something more substantive, Mr. Speaker?
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 15:44
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
According to reports from WSJ, Detroiters will find out on Tuesday, Dec.3rd if Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy:
If Judge Rhodes decides the city is eligible for bankruptcy protection, Detroit officials are expected to present a plan by mid-December for cutting Detroit's debt and reinvesting in depleted municipal services.
Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history in July, citing roughly $18 billion in debt. The bankruptcy filing was made by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 09:39
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
Washington (CNN) -- There is a "night and day" difference between HealthCare.gov on October 1 and the same site on December 1, Jeff Zients, the top administration official responsible for improving the problem-plagued Obamacare enrollment site, said Sunday on a conference call with reporters.
Deadline Day: Will Obamacare site work?
Zients and Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the federal agency charged with developing and operating HealthCare.gov, said the website now works "smoothly for the vast majority of users." The administration said the site can now handle 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 consumer visits a day -- two capacity goals for the portal that date back to its launch two months ago. And Bataille said the site was now allowing "in the zone of 80%" of users to successfully complete a health care enrollment.
In short, after a concerted effort to improve HealthCare.gov, the administration said Sunday that the online Obamacare enrollment portal now essentially meets all of the previously stated goals for the website.
Obamacare site fix: 5 things to look for
Brazile: Health care website improving Can President right the Obamacare ship?
A day after the administration's self-imposed deadline for improving the website, Zients detailed the turnaround efforts he's been leading. Work has fallen into three broad categories: creating a new management structure for the site to improve decision-making and accountability; putting in place hardware upgrades to increase the system's "redundancy, reliability, and scale"; and compiling a prioritized "punch list" of bugs and software improvements -- 400 of which had been completed by Sunday.
Prior to the turnaround effort, Zients said, management of the enrollment site had been plagued by slow decision-making and a lack of accountability. These issues were addressed by creating a new management structure led by general contractor QSSI, which was tapped to oversee the site's operations, and the creation of a 24-hour, rapid response team that constantly monitors the site and the experience users are having on it.
These management changes were intended, Zients said, to give the government-run website "the velocity and discipline of a high-performance private sector company."
Upgrades, trouble-shooting, and old pizza
On the hardware front, Zients said improvements have been made to the registration database, which plays a part in the front-end experience consumers have using the site; new servers and upgraded memory have been added; additional "application environments" are now online; and the system's firewall has been upgraded.
Obamacare deadline Expert: Obamacare is fixable by deadline
These changes have made "the underlying infrastructure of HealthCare.gov much stronger today," Zients said, adding that some of the critical upgrades were completed as late as Friday evening, when the site was down for 11 hours for maintenance as this weekend's deadline approached.
Zients likened the effect of the hardware upgrades to widening a highway's on-ramp, effectively taking the site from two lanes to four.
On the software front, Zients said 50 of the bug fixes completed during the turnaround effort had been done "just last night" during another period of maintenance. Going forward, Zients anticipates there will still be other bugs and software fixes for the rapid response to handle.
All these changes have made a noticeable difference in HealthCare.gov's operating metrics, Zients said.
The site's average response time -- the average time it takes for the system to respond to an action by a user -- is down from eight seconds to under one second in the past three weeks, said Zients. The site's average error rate is also down, according to Zients, with the system hitting a rate of 0.75% on Friday. And the system's "uptime," a measure of system stability, is consistently surpassing 90%.
Zients said the creation of the rapid response team means necessary fixes can now usually be made within an hour instead of the hours it used to take.
"We've doubled the system's capacity and the site can now handle its intended capacity," explained Zients, summing up the net effect of the turnaround effort he has led.
This means that two months after it originally launched, HealthCare.gov can now handle 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 consumer visits a day.
If more than 50,000 people attempt to use the site at any one time, the site now has a queueing feature that will e-mail users with tips about when to return to the site at a less congested time and a link that will take them to the front of the line. "Nothing like this (was) in place" in October, Zients said Sunday.
With all the recent improvements, administration officials conceded Sunday that there is still work to be done.
"As with any website, the team will continue to address bugs and glitches," Zients said.
Insurers fear more Obamacare trouble Obamacare delayed for small businesses Boehner signs up for Obamacare
In addition, work on the back end of the site, which is of critical importance to insurance companies issuing policies to consumers, still needs to be completed.
The administration is still working with insurers on the "834" transaction forms generated by the system, said Bataille. "We're working with issuers on a daily basis and will continue those conversations," she said, adding that the site's management team would have more information about this issue with the data generated by the system on upcoming weekdays.
"There are still a number of problems with the back-end systems," Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for health insurance industry trade association group America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement to CNN. "Insurers are still getting enrollment files that are duplicative and have missing or inaccurate information. In some cases they are not getting the enrollments at all."
Insurers: Site glitches persist
As the administration's self-imposed deadline for improving the troubled site has come and gone over the weekend, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been unusually quiet, after months of frequent criticism of HealthCare.gov and of broader changes to the health insurance market taking effect because of Obamacare.
Website progress garners muted reaction from Congress
Top House Republicans took issue Sunday primarily with Obamacare's changes to the insurance market rather than with the enrollment site's troubled history.
GOP Obamacare playbook: Spread negative perception
"This isn't just about a broken website, it's about a fundamentally-flawed law," Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. "Whether or not Americans can logon to Healthcare.gov, they are losing the health plans they like, the doctors they've always relied on, and -- to add insult to injury -- facing higher costs as well."
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had a similar message.
"Millions of Americans being informed that the health care plans they liked are being canceled -- despite the President's repeated assurances otherwise -- and being forced to pay higher premiums, deductibles, or both, are a much greater priority than a broken website," Cantor Deputy Chief of Staff Doug Heye told CNN.
"Besides," added Heye, "based on past performance, it would be prudent to wait before determining that the website truly is fixed."
Comments from Steel and Heye echoed those of Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, just a day earlier.
Thune, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, argued Saturday that Americans will continue to face problems with Obamacare's reforms "(r)egardless of whether the website is fixed by the administration's revised deadline."
"These are problems that no IT specialist working through the Thanksgiving holiday can fix," he added.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 09:18
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
(CNN) -- How eager are retailers to boost sales this holiday season? It's no longer enough for them to offer one special day of discounts to online shoppers -- they're stretching the deals out over an entire week.
While retailers are still trumpeting deals for this Monday after Thanksgiving, many such as Amazon, Target and Walmart are now promoting some version of "Cyber Week" and extending Web-only deals through next weekend. The online discounts apply to all types of items, from appliances to clothes to consumer electronics.
Walmart, for example, says it will offer 200 deals on its website each day through Friday, plus free shipping on all orders over $35. Not to be outdone, Amazon is promising new deals as often as every 10 minutes through Saturday, along with free shipping on "eligible orders" of $35 and over (it's not clear how they define "eligible.")
In fact, if you're not getting free shipping on your online purchases this week, you may want to shop elsewhere.
Navigating Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Clothing chains such as H&M, Gap and Banana Republic also are offering storewide Cyber Monday discounts of 40%.
It's not always clear whether Cyber Monday discounts are much greater than what retailers offer online during other sale events. Also, supplies may be limited.
Here's a sampling of some online deals being advertised for Cyber Monday (and in many cases, the rest of the week):
-- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet with 16GB of storage: $399, down from $499 (Amazon)
-- Canon Powershot A3500 16MP digital camera with 5x optical zoom (red model only): $99, down from $199 (Target)
-- HTC One 32GB smartphone: 1 cent (it's normally $199), with two-year contract from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint (Amazon)
-- 46-inch Samsung LED TV: $478, marked down from $949 (Walmart)
-- Kindle Fire HD 16 GB tablet: $119, down from $169 (Amazon)
-- Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth rechargeable portable speaker: $69, down from $199 (eBay)
-- HP Pavilion 15-N066US 15-inch laptop: $459, down from $649 (Staples)
-- Motorola Moto X smartphone: $349 without a contract, down from $499. The discount is available for all carriers and for both 16GB and 32GB models, although Motorola says supplies will be limited.
-- Dyson DC41 Multifloor Bagless Upright Vacuum: $399, down from $549 (Best Buy)
-- Select coats from Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein, DKNY and London Fog: 50% off, plus free shipping on online purchases of $75 or more (Macy's)
-- Half off select men's and women's clothes and accessories (Target)
The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by a division of the National Retail Federation with the thinking that shoppers, after browsing in stores over Thanksgiving weekend, would wait to make online purchases Monday from their offices, where they had faster Internet connections.
That notion is somewhat outdated now because 70% of Americans have high-speed broadband Internet service at home, not to mention on their phones and tablets.
But since 2010, Cyber Monday actually has been the biggest online-shopping day of the year -- and retailers are trying to capitalize.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 09:10
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
For many Americans, China, officially the People’s Republic of China, represents an enigmatic country that is viewed in a multiplicity of ways. On one hand, some Americans equate China with the deadly 1989 pro-democratic protests involving thousands of students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square which ultimately resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent Chinese civilians
But other Americans recognize China’s quantum leap in human rights, as well as its political and economic evolution over the past few decades that has transformed the country into the world’s most populous nation (more than 1.35 billion people), the world’s fastest growing major economy, the globe’s largest exporter and importer of goods, and host of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
For Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Detroit-based Real Times Media, China represented a country of mystique that offered more complex questions than answers about its government, people, culture, education system and religious beliefs. Further intrigued by the growing world status of China, Jackson embarked on a media, business and cultural fact-finding trip to the East Asia country several months ago to experience the People’s Republic of China up close and personal.
“I have always been interested in learning more about China’s long history, people and culture,” said Jackson, whose company publishes the Michigan Chronicle, Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier and Atlanta Daily World, as well as annual Who’s Who publications that salute African-American achievements in 25 U.S. markets. “Therefore, I was excited by the opportunity to travel to China on a business and cultural mission.”
Jackson was one of several Black media professionals to make the trip. He was chosen because of his executive acumen in overseeing the massive reach of his company’s print and electronic media platforms to African-Americans throughout the United States.
Other members of the delegation traveling with Jackson, under the banner of the African-American Media Leadership Visit to China, included Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., delegation leader and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Warren Ballentine III, former host of “The Warren Ballentine Show,” a nationally syndicated radio program; George E. Curry, editor-in-chief, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service; Kierna Mayo, editorial director, Ebony Magazine (digital); and Elizabeth Ragland, chief photographer, George Curry Media, LLC.
The China trip was organized and coordinated by Julia A. Wilson through her Washington, DC-based company, Wilson Global Communications. Wilson, an international social entrepreneur who also made the trip, served as the liaison between the China travelers and sponsor and host, China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a China-based organization dedicated to strengthening and improving relationships between China and the United States. Tung Chee Hwa is CUSEF’s founding chairman.
The other sponsor and host was the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA), a Chinese organization founded 64 years ago by the late Premier Zhou Enlai. The organization was created to study world issues and facilitate exchanges with statesmen, scholars and other noted individuals representing various countries in order to better understand each other and form friendships. Yang Wenchang serves as the organization’s president.
After several months of planning, the media delegation visited three cities in China: Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.
Beijing (four days)
Following a long flight from Chicago, Jackson and the delegation landed in Beijing, which is located in the northeast sector of China.
The city is home to approximately 19 million people. To put the 3,000-year-old city in perspective, its population is twice that of New York, America’s most populated city.
“Beijing was everything that I thought it was and nothing like I thought it would be,” said Jackson with a laugh. “You see a lot of Eestern images as soon as you land in Beijing. You see billboards for General Motors, the largest importer of cars to China. You also see fast-food establishments that are recognizable, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and KFC.”
The group’s first stop in Beijing was to the office of China Daily, the nation’s premier newspaper that is printed in English. The publication reaches more than 400,000 readers worldwide. The group was welcomed by the publication’s Mr. Qu, deputy chief editor, as well as Mr. Zhu, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief.
Over the ensuing days in Beijing, the delegation was immersed with tours and visits in their quest to learn more about the city and China. The group visited the China International Cooperation Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They also visited the Translation and Compilation Bureau, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, where they had lunch and was welcomed by Director He and Director Wang.
No trip to Beijing would be complete without seeing and walking the Great Wall of China.
“The wall is incredible,” said Jackson. “It’s very difficult to describe just how massive the wall really is. It is thousands of miles long. It was built to keep China’s enemies out.”
The delegation’s stay in Beijing was highlighted during a luncheon hosted by Tung Chee Hwa, founding chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and former chief executive of Hong Kong. He currently serves as vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“I admire his wisdom to start the China-United States Exchange Foundation,” said Jackson. “He saw a tremendous need for the people of China and the people of the United States to build and maintain better relationships by having a better understanding of each other.”
The group later attended a dinner hosted by Alex Tzang, special advisor to the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
Xi’an (one day)
After a two-hour flight from Beijing, the delegation landed in Xi’an, a city of about nine million people. Located in central-northwest China, Xi’an is one of the original birthplaces of ancient Chinese civilization. The city is more than 3,000 years old.
“I was amazed by Xi’an’s historic heritage,” said Jackson. “I really enjoyed touring a community in Xia Yang County where we visited the homes of several Chinese people. We were well received by everyone.”
While Jackson saw many fascinating sites in this ancient city, he was most impressed by his visit to the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum where he saw the original underground sites of more than 7,000 life-sized pottery figures of the Terracotta army warriors and horses.
The figures were buried more than 2,100 years ago, but were unearthed in 1974 by peasants digging a well.
“I was told that the clay pottery figures of soldiers, archers and horses were made and buried to protect the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who at the age of only 13 ruled ancient China more than 2,100 years ago,” said Jackson.
“Each soldier is holding a weapon, ready to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. It’s amazing how detailed the figures are after being made and buried more than 2,100 years ago.”
Shanghai (two days)
Flying from Xi’an to Shanghai, a two-hour flight, Jackson and the group continued their cultural excursion. Jackson was spellbound by Shanghai and learned that it is China’s largest city and has a strong economic, commercial and financial core.
“Shanghai is like New York City on steroids,” said Jackson. “It is very futuristic, very contemporary and very metropolitan, yet it has a great blend of cultures and features of modern and traditional China, with some Western influences. The city has some of the most breathtaking skyscrapers that I have ever seen.”
While in Shanghai the delegation visited the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, an elite education center for top Chinese leaders to gain needed skills to compete in the 21st Century.
The group also visited Huawei Showroom, a company that provides next-generation telecommunications network solutions. The day concluded with a cruise on the Huang Pu River, which gave the delegation an incredible view of Shanghai’s stunning downtown skyline.
Jackson has gained a new perspective of the People’s Republic of China. He was appreciative of Julia A. Wilson and her company, Wilson Global Communications, for the outstanding planning and coordination of the seven-day trip.
“We would have never accessed China on the high level that we did without Julia,” said Jackson. “She made sure that even before we traveled to China that we were educated in Chinese culture, protocol and etiquette.
“She is an incredible, intelligent and internationally astute African-American woman who has been doing these types of international tours and cultural exchange trips with China and other countries around the world for almost 20 years.
“The main reason for the trip to China was to help remove the stereotypes that many Americans have about the country,” said Wilson, who has led several other African-American groups on cultural, business, and educational trips to the People’s Republic of China.
“I believe the best way to remove the stereotypes of China is to go there and see it for yourself.”
For Jackson, Wilson’s advice paid off.
“My impression of China before the trip was that it was a closed, almost monolithic society with limited political freedom,” Jackson said.
“Although much of that does exist, I saw that China was developing and had more freedom than I thought. There’s music, there’s fashion, there’s nightlife in China!
“Before going to China, I wasn’t sure what the Chinese people thought about African-Americans,” he said. “However, I found that Chinese people have a great curiosity about the African-American community.
“While there is a great hunger for China to do business in the United States, the country views African-Americans as possible allies in doing future business in the People’s Republic of China.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 16:39
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson also chosen as local partner
Rock Ventures has announced it has selected SHoP Architects as the architect of record to lead the design process for the two-acre site of the former Hudson’s Department Store in downtown Detroit.
Headquartered in NYC, SHoP will partner with Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA) to create an innovative concept for a signature development on Woodward Avenue in the heart of Detroit’s Central Business District bordered by Gratiot, Grand River and Library Street.
“These two firms, known as premier urban catalysts, were chosen for their innovation and creativity, as well as their track record of committing to community engagement. We believe SHoP and Hamilton Anderson will join a long list of distinguished architects including Yamasaki, Burnham and Kahn who have created landmark buildings in Detroit that stand the test of time,” said Jeff Cohen, founder, Rock Companies, LLC, a member of the Rock Ventures Family of Companies. “From its six-dimensional Building Information Modeling (BIM), to a live construction mobile and web application, SHoP’s well-rounded, entrepreneurial approach is a perfect fit for our culture and for Detroit.”
SHoP is the architect on dozens of world-renowned projects like the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, New York, where the world’s tallest modular housing towers — also designed by SHoP — are currently under construction. The modules are being fabricated in a nearby factory setting with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and point to a promising new frontier for urban manufacturing. Hamilton Anderson’s notable Detroit area projects include the Tech One Building at the TechTown Research and Technology Park, Wayne State University Welcome Center and the award-winning North Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
“SHoP and HAA will be charged with the mission of designing one of the most important sites in downtown Detroit that honors the city’s architectural legacy as well as complements Detroit’s recently-renovated and newer buildings,” Cohen added. The selection of SHoP comes on the heels of a global architectural ideas competition for architects, designers, planners, artists and the public hosted by Rock Ventures in March 2013.
This competition was designed to reengage the community with the Hudson’s site and attract and exhibit ideas for the potential future use of this key location. The competition attracted more than 200 entries from across the globe. To see all of the design ideas, winners and learn more about the competition visit http://hudsons.opportunitydetroit.com. Judging for the Hudson’s site ideas competition took place in June of this year with interviews of several additional architectural firms occurring over the past few months.
“In visiting Detroit, we’ve experienced the zeal and sense of entrepreneurship that underpins a vibrant urban environment. Through our inclusive design process and engagement with academia, we look forward to becoming part of the local culture and conducting a dialogue about the future of downtown,” said William Sharples, SHoP principal.
“The Hudson’s block is historic and full of symbolism for Detroiters everywhere; it is the emotional and physical heart of downtown,” said Kent H. Anderson, principal, Hamilton Anderson Associates. “This project has the capacity to link disparate parts of downtown and become a catalyst for change and development beyond its immediate surroundings. Breathing new life into this site purveys what we have all been waiting for — confirmation that the heart of the Central Business District will beat strong.”
Originally an eight story building constructed in 1891, Hudson’s Department Store was an iconic fixture in downtown Detroit and a shopping destination for millions of Michiganders for nearly a century. With frequent additions, it grew to 25 stories and 2.2 million square feet before closing in 1983. The building was imploded in 1998.
“Blending the talents and expertise of Detroit’s own Hamilton Anderson Associates with a firm of SHoP’s international acclaim is a winning combination for everyone involved,” said George W. Jackson, Jr., President and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). “This is a site that was important to Detroit’s past and is significant to its future. It deserves a design team that can respect downtown’s rich architectural heritage and project its strong steps toward the future.”
In the coming month, SHoP and HAA will meet with local stakeholders to discuss programming and design concepts. In early 2014, the two firms will host a lecture series for the community to learn more about the architects, the Hudson’s site and what it will take to get a project of this magnitude underway.
“Designing a signature architectural project from the ground up in downtown Detroit — or any great city — is an opportunity of a lifetime, and we are committed to getting it right,” said Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:50
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