Rep. Barbara Lee Marks World AIDS Day With Critical Plea to Congressional Colleagues   

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) marked Worlds AIDS Day on Dec. 1, with a critical call-to-action.

The Congressmember, who is running for U.S. Senate, urged her colleagues to pass legislation that will reauthorize the PEPFAR program, a U.S. Government-supported global initiative that provides lifesaving HIV medications to people in the United States and around the world who can’t afford to buy them.   

“World AIDS Day is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible progress we have made toward becoming an AIDS-free generation. In the past two decades we’ve saved 25 million lives, especially among the Black community globally, through transformative programs like PEPFAR,” said Lee statement.

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In 2003, with bipartisan support – and after vocal and extensive advocacy by members of the Congressional Black Caucus — Congress passed the law approving the program. Former President George Bush, who famously championed the program, signed it into law.

On Nov. 30, Dr. Robyn Neblett Fanfair, Acting Division Director in the Division of HIV Prevention at the National Center for HIV and the Centers for Disease Control, said the AIDS crisis is at a crossroads.

“Together with ongoing commitment, we can honor the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to HIV-related illness in the United States and millions worldwide by ensuring that everyone benefits equally from four decades of groundbreaking scientific advances,” Fanfair said in a letter.

The CDC estimates that 1.2 million people in America have HIV, and 1 in 8 carriers don’t know it.”

Since its inception, the U.S. Government has provided over $100 billion to support the PEPFAR program.

“For 20 years, PEPFAR has been one of our nation’s most profound and transformational investments globally. 5.5 million babies have been born HIV-free because of the critical work funded by the program,” Lee continued.

The PEPFAR program is credited with significantly lowering the AIDS death rates in Black communities across the United States, where there are still a disproportionate number of HIV cases and where incidents continue to increase. In Los Angeles County, California’s largest and populous city, for example, there was a 13 % year-over-year increase in new HIV cases between the last two years, according to data compiled by the LA County Department of Health.

PEPFAR is also lauded for turning around the epidemic in Africa, where it was most severe when the initiative was established.

On World AIDS Day, I call upon my colleagues in Congress to reignite the bipartisanship that has been linked to PEPFAR for so long and act swiftly to keep this lifesaving program alive,” said Lee.

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the California State Capitol was illuminated in red light on the evening of Dec. 1.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Courtesy photo)

Gov. Newsom and Gov. DeSantis Go Head-to-Head in Nationally Televised Debate   

In an intense, 95-minute-plus televised faceoff between California Gov.

Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the men traded jabs and putdowns, defended their respective gubernatorial records, disagreed sharply on how to solve the country’s most pressing problems, and expressed clashing views on the performance of the Biden-Harris administration.

Conservative Fox News personality Sean Hannity moderated the duel, during which the TV pundit, more than once, injected his opinion, and appeared to be providing subtle assists to DeSantis.

As the debate progressed, it was clear that opinions about each topic discussed was representative of the philosophical and political chasm that divides liberal and conservative America, and a preview of campaign mudslinging that is bound to intensify as the 2024 presidential campaign ensues.

“I’ll tell you why I’m here,” said Newsom said.  “I’m here to tell the truth about the Biden-Harris record and also compare and contrast Ron DeSantis’ record and the Republican Party’s record” with that of California.”

DeSantis blasted Newsom’s management of the COVID-19 crisis and criticized Newsom for prevalent crime, homelessness and deteriorating social conditions in California cities.

“You have the freedom to defecate in public in California,” DeSantis said. “You have the freedom to pitch a tent on Sunset Boulevard. You have the freedom to create a homeless encampment under a freeway and even light it on fire. They’re not the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned.”

Newsom took a jab at DeSantis presidential candidacy, predicting that the Florida Governor would be endorsing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump soon.

“There’s one thing we have in common,” Newsom said. “Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.

Sen. Alex Padilla (CBM photo)

Sen. Alex Padilla Introduces Legislation to Help Underserved Businesses Compete for Transportation Funding   

The federal government is investing more than $400 billion in projects around the United States through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed by President Biden in 2021.

To assist minority-and-women-owned businesses benefit from the federal investment, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) recently introduced two bills in Congress: The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Expansion Act and the Accelerating Small Business Growth Act.

“Small businesses, particularly those that are minority-and womenowned, hold enormous potential to bolster our economy, but they have historically faced disproportionate barriers to succeed in America,” said Padilla in a statement.

“The unprecedented investment in American infrastructure from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over the next decade provides a major opportunity to create good-paying jobs that uplift disadvantaged communities,” Padilla continued. “These bills would provide the resources to help women and minority entrepreneurs develop selfsufficiency in competing for federal contracts, helping to build

prosperity in communities that have too often been left behind.”

President Biden has committed to increasing the participation of disadvantaged businesses in government contracting by 50% by 2025.

If passed, among other provisions, the bills would increase funding by $15 for a training program that helps minority-owned small business to compete for federal government contracts.

It would “would create a grant program to fund transportation agency programs to help underserved businesses grow and compete on an equal basis for contracts and subcontracts in federally funded transportation projects,” according to a press release from Padilla’s office.