Remembering the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin
This week, I noted the passing of Memphis native and "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, paying my R-E-S-P-E-C-Ts at her birthplace on Lucy Street in South Memphis. I also condemned the vindictive revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearances, commended newspaper editorial pages for defending our First Amendment and standing up to the President’s relentless attacks on a free press, wrote to HUD Secretary Ben Carson regarding my concerns about chronic and ongoing health and safety risks related to poor management at some federally subsidized housing facilities in Memphis, recognized the 83rd anniversary of Social Security and provided information about a baby diaper shortage. Keep reading to learn more about my week and follow me on Twitter and Facebook to see more updates as they happen.
Remembering the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin
Defending Former CIA Director John Brennan
Standing Up for a Free Press
Writing to HUD Secretary Ben Carson with Concerns
Holding "Congress On Your Corner" This Thursday Evening
Recognizing the 83rd Anniversary of Social Security
Signing Up for "Congress On Your Corner" and this e-Newsletter
Weekly Health Tip
Quotes of the Week
The world lost a great artist on Thursday. I was saddened to learn of the passing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who thrilled millions with her renditions of gospel, Motown, R & B, jazz and pop classics. I went to her Memphis birthplace at 406 Lucy Street in South Memphis Thursday afternoon to pay my R-E-S-P-E-C-Ts and saw many of her fans there for the same purpose. Aretha Franklin taught the world what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means. From her humble origins to her consistent place atop the Billboard charts, Aretha Franklin was truly the “Queen of Soul.” What a voice and what a passion she brought to her songs. Detroit, Memphis and the whole world have lost a very bright star.
Shortly after the President revoked the security clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan, I put out a statement defending the man who helped capture Osama bin Laden and has long been combatting Russian attempts to interfere with our our democracy. Brennan knows a lot about the ongoing investigation of Trump’s campaign and Russian interference in our 2016 elections. It’s crystal clear that the revocation of the clearances is punishment for Brennan speaking the truth. The President continues to dishonor his high office and the American people with these petty, vindictive attacks. I stand with Brennan and suggest the next president restore this fine public servant’s ability to lend his wisdom to our men and women in the intelligence community.
After The Boston Globe suggested that newspapers all across the country write editorials defending a free press on Thursday, I was pleased to see The Memphis Flyer and Commercial Appeal columnist David Waters taking that principled stand. Journalists, generally, but their readers, too, are genuinely fearful of what the President has unleashed with his accusations that reporters are the “enemies of the people” and that accurate, factual news he doesn’t like is “fake news.” Most serious journalists work hard to write accurate stories with adequate context and, when they fall short, correct errors immediately. Unlike many of the President’s favorite outlets, the mainstream media does not fabricate false “news” intended to mislead. I’m pleased the nation’s newspapers are making it clear that the only way a true democracy can function is with citizens having access to accurate news and commentary.
This week I wrote to U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson with concerns about persistent health and safety risks present at HUD-subsidized housing units in Memphis resulting in low inspection scores. Earlier this Congress, I introduced the Housing Accountability Act with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to strengthen federal oversight of the inspection process for federally subsidized affordable housing in an effort to address and prevent these safety violations.
The recent low inspection scores indicate ongoing issues of failed maintenance and questionable federal oversight practices despite changes to the law and the media spotlight on the poor management of facilities like those formerly owned by the Global Ministries Foundation. In the letter, I asked HUD Secretary Carson what he is doing to get these properties into compliance with federal standards. I will report on his response when I receive it. See the letter here.
On Thursday everning, my office will hold our monthly "Congress On Your Corner" event at the Whitehaven Branch Library, 4120 Millbranch Road, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. My staff will be on hand to help with Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and military service issues, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and services, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) home loans, federal grant applications, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues, visas, passports and more. While "Congress On Your Corner" hours have typically been during the day, we are adding some evening events to expand outreach to those whose schedules do not permit daytime attendance.
On Tuesday, I noted the 83rd anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Social Security Act into law, creating old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. Critics at the time, including many Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Bar Association, called it “socialism.” Eighty-three years later, it is the cornerstone of our country’s commitment to seeing that our senior citizens and those who cannot work are able to live out their retirements in dignity and secure financial confidence.
In recent years, we have defeated efforts to erode Social Security benefits or privatize hard-earned investments in our future, but aggressive efforts to push these risky ideas are still circulating and we must remain vigilant. I am committed to making Social Security -- the backbone of the safety net for our senior citizens and families -- as well as Medicare and Medicaid, stronger and to assuring their permanence.
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Each week, I share a health tip in the hope of promoting a healthy lifestyle for residents of the 9thCongressional District. As always, it is best to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, exercise routine or lifestyle.
Last week, I held a symposium at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on infant and maternal health with a variety of medical and other advocates and experts. During our discussion, the unaffordability of basic necessities, including clean diapers, was raised, and so was a proposed solution. In Memphis, 44 percent of children under 3 live in poverty and one in three mothers report running out of diapers each month. As a result, seldom discussed diaper rash is a serious problem in our community. The University of Memphis’ Institute for Interdisciplinary Memphis Partnerships to Advance Community Transformation (iIMPACT), the Coordinated Effort to Enhance Development (CEED), the Urban Child Institute and other partners are working to create a Shelby County Diaper Bank. The “Bundles for Babies” initiative is an excellent response to this critical need.
On Thursday, as noted above, the nation’s newspapers defended themselves and the First Amendment constitutional right of a free press in hundreds of editorials. Here is a sampling:
“As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1982: ‘The people must know before they can act and there is no educator to compare with the press.’” – Falls City(Nebraska) Journal.
“The danger is that over time. Mr. Trump’s antics and the incivility he encourages could lead to the arrest of journalists or violence against them, and it could also erode the public’s faith in the First Amendment, which is the foundation of all our liberties.” – The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal.
“Trump is inflicting massive, and perhaps irreparable, damage to democracy with these attacks.” The St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch.
“That 44 percent of Republicans polled recently said Trump should have the autocrat’s power to shut down news outlets shows how successful his efforts have already been.” – The Kansas City(Missouri) Star.
As always, I remain,
Member of Congress