African-American Med students find life-raft in CUBA


About seven years ago I first heard of a program that seemed too good to be true!  Simply, the country of Cuba had a program where students could gain their medical education, training and degree at no cost to them.  Med school cost are crippling for most and range from $140,000 – $175,000 and that is just tuition.  When you factor in room & board, meals, supplies and other things the cost can easily skyrocket to nearly $500,000.

My treks started in 2014 and due to needing laser-focus energy on my two topics; Race in Cuba and the Old Negro Leagues in Cuba, I forgot about the program.

 

Fiction or Non-Fiction

Just like you I love entertainment.  The problem I have is limited time so when it comes to reading or viewing screenings, as a historian I tend to focus on non-fiction or real-life issues.  Maybe that is the reason I prefer documentaries?  The Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) kicked off its 27th year last Thursday.

Lo and behold one of their features is “Dare to Dream.”  It is a riveting documentary that chronicles med students earning their credentials in Cuba.

(courtesy of Pomona Valley Med Center) Completing his residency at Pomona Valley Medical Center. Resident Year: 2019 Undergraduate School: The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma Medical School: Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina

In 2000, a delegation representing the Congressional Black Caucus had the courage to visit Cuba and meet with Fidel Castro.  Part of their discussion was the pathetic health care African-Americans and other minorities had to deal with.  Later that year members of the Cuban Health ministry visited the group in New York and announced Castro was creating a program for the population affected to complete their studies in Cuba and the cous de gras was there was absolutely no cost.

Approximately half of the initial scholarships were targeted for African-American students.  The remainder were for Latino and other ethnic minorities who came from underserved communities.

 

The Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Médicas (ELAM) program initially offered 500 scholarships total for US students.  Thus far nearly 200 US students have graduated and nearly 30,000 students from over 100 countries worldwide have benefitted.  IFCO is the organization which identifies and places students in the program.

 

As for those from the United States, they are placed in hospitals all over, including Pomona Valley Medical Center.

 

The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors graduated on August 20, 2005, with 112 from other Cuban medical schools: 28 other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States were represented by the graduates. The ceremony was led by Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Reportedly attending were Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & BarbudaPrime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of DominicaPrime Minister Keith Mitchell of GrenadaPresident Martín Torrijos of PanamaPrime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadinesas well as high-ranking government representatives of The BahamasBarbadosBelize, the Dominican Republic, EcuadorGrenadaGuatemalaGuyanaJamaicaSt. LuciaSuriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

 

The documentary has two more screenings before PAFF ends.  To be informed and see for yourself this remarkable program I would encourage you to attend PAFF or purchase the video.

  • Friday – Feb. 15th 4:30pm
  • Saturday – Feb. 16th 6:30pm

 

Here is the trailer

Dare to Dream: Cuba’s Latin American Medical School from Jennifer Wager on Vimeo.

 

 

January jobs report a positive mark for the Trump administration


“Reporters anti-Trump bias has spiraled out of control.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders


Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its jobs report reflecting data compiled for January 2019. Great news for the 304,000 who are now employed. The report was also a positive shot in the arm for the Trump administration.

During the two-years the administration has been operating, they have accused the media of only focusing on negative news about the antics that Donald Trump belts out on almost a daily basis. Unfortunately, that is not true as over that period there is plenty of positive news the administration should be proud of.

The jobs report is just one marker. Eyebrows get raised when Trump and those who support him focus their retort primarily on African-American employment data as if they are some primitive group or the only group mentioned in the report. It is silly and many wonder why they don’t simply communicate an argument that includes everybody?

News such as the jobs report would lead media on a more frequent basis, if not for the self-inflicted wounds the administration consistently makes. Their blunders dampen the positive news they create resulting in them communicating a false narrative that “everybody is out to get them.’

The effects of the Government shutdown

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 28: Despite Friday’s end to the longest-ever partial government shutdown, federal employees continue to line up outside outside the World Central Kitchen for free food and coffee January 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. Founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. The kitchen has been providing meals, non-perishable food and other services to workers affected by the shutdown since January 16. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The January report is positive news. However, in a more thorough analysis you will see the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.0 percent. Again, that is not alarming as it merely is a data point. It must also be noted the number of unemployed persons rose to 6.5 million. Among those, 175,000 are in the “temporary layout” category.

Despite the shutdown, the January report is good news and some political leaders can’t fathom why Donald Trump doesn’t spend more energy on building on positive reports instead of being obsessed with watching cable television or trying to figure out ways to continue to hold the taxpayers hostage on a wall he proudly stated and his supporters echoed that “Mexico would pay for?”

Special Report – THE DEVALUATION OF ASSETS IN BLACK NEIGHBORHOODS


Above photo The Brookings Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that analyzes public policies and publishes its findings in relation to scholarship and public policy. (Photo by © Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)

[Washington, DC]  This special report is provided courtesy of the Brookings Institute and explores the case of residential properties.

Presented by the following authors:

  • Andre Perry
  • Jonathan Rothwell
  • David Harshbarger

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

2018.11_Brookings-Metro_Devaluation-Assets-Black-Neighborhoods_final

Conforming Loan Limits increased


above photo Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), from left, Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, and Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), listen during a Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) meeting at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Powell said at the meeting he is worried about a spillover from hard Brexit, but stocks and Treasuries showed little reaction. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Today, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced conforming loan limits would increase from $453,100 to $484,350.  For higher cost areas (see map below) the new limit will be $726,525.  FHFA was created as the umbrella agency for the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).

Fannie Mae Headquarters, Washington, DC (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Freddie Mac Headquarters, McLean, VA (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

They purchase home loans from a network of lenders across the nation.  The lenders originate the loans from consumers who are seeking to finance their home purchase or to refinance their existing mortgage.  The lenders also work with mortgage brokers, credit unions and other organizations who have direct contact with consumers.

Once the loans are funded, they are packaged and sent to respective investors (i.e., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and sold as securities, which are backed or collateralized from the property.

 

The Impact

Nationally the average loan amount is $229,000.  The new guidelines take effect for mortgages that originate starting January 1, 2019.  The increase will help those who see home prices continue to rise.

Conforming loans are those where the loan amount is $484,350 OR LESS.  Any loan amount in excess of that loan is defined as a “Non-Conforming” loan.  For borrowers the impact is typically ½ point or 50 basis points on the interest rate.

 

As an example based on current limits

Loan Amount Rate Payment Mo. Difference
$453,100.00 4.81% $1,816.00 -$188.00
$453,101.00 5.31% $2,004.00

The bottom line difference could be approximately $190 each month.  So, while the monthly payment is crucial, the move also provides those with higher loan amounts an additional $31,250 to deal higher prices, while being able to obtain more affordable interest rates.

 

Positive Jobs Report.  Can that save Trump from being snakebit?


Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its jobs report which surpassed expectations.  250,000 new jobs were reported for October.  In the political world that is good news.  You would think with employment, the economy and other measures Donald Trump and the GOP (Republican party) brag about, they would be hard pressed for both houses of the chamber (Congress) to be in jeopardy?

 

A woman walks to cast her vote while other people fill out ballots during early voting October 25, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland, two weeks ahead of the key US midterm polls. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The mid-term vote is just days away.  Surely you would think the positive jobs report might be the fuel needed to keep the chamber.  Unfortunately, Trump has communicated very little  to voters about the economy.  Perhaps in doing so and if they are honest, he and his supporters feel they would have to credit the Obama administration with establishing a positive foundation for them being able to reap the benefits they are achieving?   In the world of Trump, that is a no…no.

 

The snakebite effect

Instead of the economy, Trump feels he must feed his base one dish; Immigration.  He feels that subject will be enough for his base to out vote the Democrats and opposition voters to keep the chamber.  Some in the GOP aisle are frustrated that he has blown the opportunity gained in 2016 and feel he has been snakebit. They point to his antics and bombastic behavior that will lead many voters to insist a change is the best option to end the polarization he has created.

 

As it stands right now, despite the jobs report and other economic news, when Trump wakes up next Wednesday the Democrats, who need 23 seats to claim control of the House of Representatives, might wind up with approximately 35.  The Senate is expected to remain in GOP control.  The result will be voters have recognized that a check or balance on the Executive is needed versus having one party controlling all three branches?  At the same time, it must be noted Trump and his supporters are hoping for the same “shocking” result they achieved in 2016, when they faced long odds of winning, yet came out ahead.

Democratic congressional candidate the Midterm elections, Ilhan Omar, speaks to a group of volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. – Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)


**MORE HISTORIC VOTING NEWS**

Political history is being made in Harris County as a record 19 Black women are running for judge in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. It also marks the first time in history that 19 Black women are running for judicial seats in one county, which happens to be the third largest county in the United States. Courtesy of Defender.com

Mortgage rates jump to near 5%


COVER PHOTO.  Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on October 10, 2018 in New York. - Wall Street stocks plunged Wednesday, with major indices losing more than three percent in a selloff prompted by the sudden jump in US interest rates. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had lost 3.1 percent or 830 points to finish at 25,613.35, in the biggest fall since February. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Mortgage rates jumped to 4.90% which is a number not seen in nearly seven years based on Freddie Mac’s weekly rate survey.  Although an increase was expected the jump of nineteen basis points caught some by surprise.  As strong as the economy is purchasing a home continues to be an illusive transaction for many.  The rise in rates buffeted by the increase in home prices have left many reconsidering their plans as evidenced by the drop in mortgage applications.

Remember that tax break earlier in the year?

Last December president Trump and the GOP controlled congress touted the tax cut as a “cure-all” and justification of their leadership prowess.  Indeed, a good chunk of working people did receive benefits from the tax cut and a few were lucky enough to get bonuses.  The average cut was about $1,600.


For those who were positioning to buy a home or refinance their existing mortgage the recent mortgage rate hike has wiped out that savings.

Time Rate Payment Annual
Oct. 2018 4.90% $1,252
Oct. 2017 3.90% $1,113
Diff $139 $1,668
**based on average mortgage of $239,000

Cyclical

Most understand rates and economic metrics are cyclical.  In other words when you have an improved economy, you will also see a rise in consumer goods.  Also, recently the Feds increased the discount rate.  This was done as a preventative measure to thwart inflation.  Normally political leaders stay out of the Fed’s business but Donald Trump has continued to intimate their move has contributed to rate increases claiming they will result in a negative impact.

“I think the Fed is making a mistake. They are so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy,” President Donald Trump 

Tariffs

Another pressure-point for the economy is the recent drop in the DOW Jones and financial markets.  Business leaders, especially those in the real estate sector attribute the decline to the uncertainty of the Trump imposed tariffs and other measures.  They feel recent gains may be wiped out.

“These tariffs will translate into higher costs for consumers and U.S. businesses that use these products, including home builders,” Randy Noel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders 

Here is a snapshot of this week’s rate survey

October 11, 2018

30-Yr FRM 15-Yr FRM 5/1-Yr ARM
Average Rates 4.9 % 4.29 % 4.07 %
Fees & Points 0.5 0.5 0.3
Margin N/A N/A 2.77
Freddie Mac produces the weekly rate survey.  It is the industry standard for consumers and mortgage professionals to gauge consumer mortgage rates.

 

Unemployment numbers dip to 3.7%


 

US President Barack Obama shakes hands as Republican President-elect Donald Trump thanked him for creating a positive economy. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Publishing numbers not seen since 1969, yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its October jobs report.  The numbers reflect data compiled for the month of September as unemployment dipped to 3.7%, with new jobs pegged at 134,000.  That is good news for the Trump administration as it validates their message of a strong economy.  The news was expected and comes at a good time for them as even though they inherited the foundation of a good economy from the Obama administration, they have been mired in a string of self-inflicted blunders ever since taking over the reins. 

They view those blunders as attacks from those who are upset they won the 2016 election.  Others view them as leaders who are inexperienced at managing a government, fraught with suspicious characters linked to criminal behavior.

In addition to the Mueller investigation, they are dealing with a majority of the public not in support of their United States Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.  Earlier today Kavanaugh squeaked by with a 50-48 vote.  While there is jubilation from those who support Trump and Kavanaugh, the untold cost may not be realized until the mid-term vote slated for November 6th.   Some fear this and other moves by the administration might cost the GOP control of congress.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D, Mass.) speaks to protestors gathered at the steps of the US Supreme Court as the Nation waits for the expected confirmation Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in Washington, D.C., on October 6, 2018.
(Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

 

Trump understands the media dynamic

As September numbers are a positive sign, Trump no doubt will use the data to proclaim the numbers reflect the lowest, specifically among African-Americans and other minority groups.  While the numbers are real and give great justification to those who support Trump, it must be noted he is a master manipulator of the spoken-word and you really have to ponder how serious he is about the claim?  Or, is he appeasing to the conscious of those who have very little knowledge of the historic perspective of employment gaps between whites and minority groups?  Oftentimes they view any news spouted from Trump as near-gospel, certainly not worthy of understanding the overall context of such statements. 

 

Understanding media, Trump has woven unemployment data into his rallies and other talking-points.  The issue for some regarding this sentiment is whether Trump is genuine, as his tone appears to mock the point which is a very serious issue for African-American’s who have been systemically unemployed at a rate at least twice that of whites.  This has been lingering problem presidents have been dealing with ever since the notion of race entered the American nomenclature.  It was created to divide people and groups.  While the numbers in fact have declined, the real gap is a constant historical fact; a key metric providing evidence to the wealth gap that highlights the polarization of our nation. 

In attempting to proclaim his support for the African-American community, who can forget this quote Trump made while on the campaign trail?

“Oh look at my African-American over here,” Mr. Trump said. “Are you the greatest? Do you know what I’m talking about?”

 

 

OMAHA, NE – MAY 4:
Isaiah Hall, 21, responds to a question from Crystal Sauser, a public relations manager, during a job interview at AirLite Plastics in North Omaha on Friday, May 4, 2018, in Omaha, NE. “We’re going to offer you the position,” Sauser said, and the stoic face Isaiah began to melt into a smile. Isaiah finally had a job.
Only seven of the overall 13 students (one student started a day after the initial 12 students) would make it through the training and to this morning of job interviews.
Over the past decade, concentrated efforts by various organizations in Omaha have helped drastically drive down the unemployment rate among African Americans, particularly in North Omaha, which is majority Black. While Donald Trump brags about how he has helped lower the national unemployment rate among Blacks, the city of Omaha has shown how a small group doing targeted employment bootcamps and workshops can help boost statistics with minimal help from the local, state, or federal government.
(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Indeed, unemployment numbers are down but a nagging question remains which is why is there a disparity with white workers versus other ethnic groups?

 

“Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for Whites
(3.3 percent) declined in September.  Blacks (6.0 percent), Asians (3.5 percent), and Hispanics (4.5 percent)stagnation”  Bureau of Labor Statistics (October 2018)


The jobs report will continue to boast consumer confidence.  However, the issue for many is keeping pace with rising consumer cost.  The Fed’s recent rate hike is the reality of a cyclical economy.  Some things go up and others go down.  As an example, housing prices continues to soar resulting in many who are employed to delay buying a home, simply because the percentage needed from their paycheck to handle the monthly payment has increased year over year.

Here is an example of 1969:2018 –   Wages & percentage of income needed for monthly payment.

Monthly Income Home Price Int. Rate P & I Pct. Of Income needed
1969 $492 $24,400 8.42% $186 38%
2018 $4,326 $539,000 4.75% $2,811 65%
Averages based on California

Feds raise discount rate to 2.250%


Above caption.  Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell Holds A News Conference Following Federal Open Market Committee Meeting
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The US Federal Reserve raised the short-term interest rates by a quarter percentage point on Wednesday, the third increase of the year, and signaled two more hikes were coming in 2018 and four in 2019. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 26: Traders monitor offers in the S&P options pit at the Cboe Global Markets exchange shortly after the Federal Reserve announced it was raising interest rates on September 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Fed agreed to increase the federal funds rate a quarter percentage point, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

[Washington, DC]   In a move that was forecast several weeks ago, this afternoon Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve raised the discount rate to 2.250%.  This move occurred to the chagrin of his boss and the person who appointed him Donald Trump,  as since June of this year he has been quite vocal that Powell should not raise rates.

The Feds are non-partisan and to effectively operate are independent of political interference.  As customary,  president’s and those in leadership refrain from making comments about monetary policy.  That is most, except Trump who once again has demonstrated his lack of understanding  regarding political protocol.

 

“I’m not thrilled,” Trump said in an interview last month

 


Powell has stood firm and justified the move to control a positive economy.  The discount rate is the cost commercial banks pay for funds.  Their impact does not immediately affect consumers but they typically result in higher borrower costs.

 

You can’t have it both ways

 

In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 2 to 2-1/4 percent.  Jerome Powell, Fed Chairman

 

Ever since the financial meltdown of 2008, systemic changes were adopted to strengthen the economy.  In Trump’s case, even though it is very tough for him to admit he inherited an economy that had all the signs of positive growth, as a practical measure it must be properly managed.  As the economy moves forward, it is the Fed’s who are in control of monetary policy and to manage interest rates so that inflation of other negative factors are mitigated.

The nine member panel of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee voted unanimously to support the increase.

Here is Powell’s full report to the media.

Mortgage rates inch up, as do employment numbers


As expected this week’s mortgage numbers saw a slight increase of two basis points to come in at 4.54% The increase is predicated on economic data which continues to show improvement.  Another key factor to support the notion that rates will continue to climb is the latest jobs report which saw new jobs at 201,000.

 

While rates have risen, the biggest dilemma for those who desire a new mortgage is finding homes that are within their affordability range.  As an example, in a year over year comparison rates have increased nearly seventy-five basis points or three-quarters of a percent.  So, while it is great the economy is moving forward, consumers must deal with the reality that cost of goods and services also increase.

The result is affordability remains a solid metric but the key with mortgage rates is timing and being in a position to qualify and take advantage of mortgage rates based on your budget.

The impact

Average Mortgage Amount – One Year Analysis
Average Sept. 2018 Sept. 2017 Mo Diff
Nationwide $202,000 $1,069 $939 -$130
California $320,000 $1,642 $1,487 -$155

 

While the mortgage of choice remains a 30-year fixed rate based on its amortization to provide more affordable payment, the average mortgage term is approximately seven years (based on data that consumer needs of refinancing).

As mentioned rates have risen, likewise the economy has  also strengthened.  For most consumers it’s a dollars and cents evaluation, so in their mind the rise is rates is of concern or something that impacts their buying power.  As an example, nationwide the difference of $130 each month translates into $1,560 annually or $10,920 based on a seven-year term.  Specifically for those in California the numbers are $155 monthly or $1,860 annually which is $13,020 based on the seven-year term.

The question remains; can your budget handle the increase?  does the touted tax-cut provide enough money back into your budget to mitigate the increase?


A snapshot of this week’s mortgage rates (popular programs)

Weekly Data

September 6, 2018

30-Yr FRM 15-Yr FRM 5/1-Yr ARM
Average Rates 4.54 % 3.99 % 3.93 %
Fees & Points 0.5 0.4 0.3
Margin N/A N/A 2.77

Mortgage rates inch up…..but still are affordable


Mortgage rates inched up this week to land at 4.520%.  The one basis point rise in week over week reporting is not the biggest news.  The rate represents the benchmark thirty-year conventional mortgage.

(Photo by Mannie Garcia/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

Low rates do not mean a thing if you can’t find an affordable home!

 

Affordability index

 

For most homebuyers or even those wishing to take advantage of low rates, the trick is having the credit to quality and having the down payment (or sufficient equity).  Recently, another element has been added to the equation of securing a home; finding an affordable property.  For many the reality of an “average home price” results in sticker shock.  Some parts of the country have the price well over $500,000, and that is for first-timers!

The result of would be buyers remaining on the sidelines is a reduction of mortgage applications.  If the pace continues, expect lenders to trim staffing so their operations are “right-sized.”

 

Rates are cyclical and while many in the public policy arena tout a positive economic environment, for homebuyers that news triggers higher interest rates as well as higher home prices.

 

Here is a snapshot of this week’s rates:

August 30, 2018

30-Yr FRM 15-Yr FRM 5/1-Yr ARM
Average Rates 4.52 % 3.97 % 3.85 %
Fees & Points 0.5 0.5 0.3
Margin N/A N/A 2.77

Freddie Mac is an institutional investor and provider of mortgage funds to local lenders who work with consumers but sell the mortgages to them.  Each week they publish the mortgage market rate survey which is data obtained from a sample of their pool of lenders.