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AFRICAN AMERICAN (H)

Health Care Rally in San Francisco Almost Turns Deadly

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SAN FRANCISCO – A peaceful rally to ensure the health care of U.S. residents almost turned deadly earlier today when a motorcyclist tried to plow into participants staging a so-called “die-in” in front of the federal building.

Some 50 protestors were lying down on 7th Street pretending to be dead from a lack of health care, in a protest against the imminent Senate vote on Trumpcare. About two dozen others held up signs and a banner. Protesters scattered out of the path of the speeding motorcyclist, who kept revving his engine as he rode through the group.

Police quickly stopped the man as he turned onto Mission Street. They forced him off his motorcycle at gunpoint and arrested him.

No one was injured, and the rally continued without incident for another half hour.

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The motorcyclist was arrested at the scene, as tweeted by photographer Justin Sullivan.

Today’s protest was part of the National Day of Action to prevent Republicans from dismantling the 2010 Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a bill that would likely cause some 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) has already passed the House, and the Senate is expected to vote on it next week.

Representatives of the SEIU, California Alliance of Retired Americans, and Senior and Disability Action showed up, along with doctors and health care advocates. Some held signs on cardboard headstones that warned of what’s in store for Americans if Trumpcare passes. “RIP Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions,” said one sign. “RIP 23 Million Losing Coverage,” said another.

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“The people who are elected are elected as public servants, but they are acting as if they don’t care a damn about us,” said 75-year-old Bay Area resident Hene Kelly, who spoke at the rally. She said politicians in Washington, D.C. are turning the United States into a “Fourth World country.”

“They are doing this in secret,” said Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior and Disability Action.

Lehman was referring to Republican senators who have been working behind closed doors in recent weeks crafting their version of Trumpcare. The bill has not been released and senators have refused to answer questions from reporters on its content.

Dr. Jessica Wang, a resident physician at San Francisco General, said she and her colleagues cannot simply “stand by” when health care is being taken away from millions of people. She spoke about some of her patients whose lives could have fallen apart but for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people.

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“In California, 5 million people could lose health care coverage, including 3.6 million who are on Medi-Cal,” said Wang.

Maria Garcia said having in-home support services, now likely to go on the chopping block under AHCA, has kept people like her from feeling isolated and allowed them to continue to be active in their community.

A father from East Oakland, who didn’t want to identity himself, said he was at the rally to show his support for Obamacare.

“I have kids and I worry about their future,” he said.

One young man from the Chinese Progressive Association who spoke at the rally after the motorcycle incident said the attack convinced him how important it was to have health care.

“I am going to work harder than ever,” he said, “to prevent Congress from repealing ACA.”

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Photo credits: Honora Montano



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The Need to Fundamentally Recast the Healthcare Debate?

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The debate over the Republican Party’s campaign to repeal Obamacare has focused mostly on the vote counting and less on the specifics of the proposed legislation. One reason for this is that the politics side of it is more exciting and the policy side a bit convoluted and dull. The policy side is complicated because commentators have been trying to describe the details of a conservative policy logic that are entirely theoretical and deliberately obtuse regarding health and tax policies and based on a broader and somewhat veiled agenda of redistributing and concentrating wealth upwards. It is evident now that Trump’s campaign promises to come up with a better and cheaper health insurance plan to replace Obamacare were completely hollow.

For Latinos, the stakes in this debate are very high. While 18 percent of Whites report having no usual source of health care, the figure for Latinos is 29 percent. Despite Obamacare, 23 percent of Latinos under 65 years of age are without health insurance, and 21 percent depend on Medicaid. Of those Latinos 65 and over, 28 percent are on Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Then there are the millions who are undocumented whose access to the health system is more problematic. These are gross numbers that do not convey adequately the daily cumulative health problems facing the Latino community, many of whom may not even be aware of their actual health status and are largely marginalized politically to boot.

In light of these Latino realities, the debate, I would argue, needs to be recast in terms of health care as a basic human right and not merely a commodity. Within this context, no healthcare policies are being developed by the Republicans that can seriously address the health needs of the majority of the American people. The issue ultimately should no longer be how many people are or are not insured, or the costs when nothing is being done to contain them. Rather, despite the red-baiting from the Right, it should be how to promote the movement for universal healthcare. The proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders of "Medicare for all," for example, makes a lot of sense, especially for a Latino community with so many working and low-income people.

Besides the obstacle of the Republican free market ideology, there is an enormous medical-industrial complex that also needs to be taken on. This includes the insurance companies, private and nonprofit hospitals, the pharmaceutical corproations, surgical equipment companies, individual and group practice doctors, nurses and health workers unions, their lobbyists and on and on. A Medicare for all system would require, in addition, a significant transformation of this vast and complex sector, something which very few seem to be even discussing and apparently no one is taking on.

We see news reports every day of heartbreaking abuses by these health providers that includes malpractice and price gouging, among other outrages. But as we see increased dread over the Republican proposals to replace Obamacare, it is these same providers who come forth as the experts and champions of those opposing these draconian Republican plans. This medical-industrial complex then ironically emerges in the media as the good guys defending the poor. But are they really?

As there are calculations about how many people will be losing health insurance coverage, the medical-industrial complex is basically calculating its bottom line in terms of profits. The problems experienced by Obamacare are the result of being a program overlaid on a largely dysfunctional health insurance system that the Democrats have failed to fix. As the Democrats now belatedly come out in a tepid support of Obamacare, they need to also assume much of the blame for providing a rationale to the Right for its repeal.

But the big question is how do we decommodify healthcare? One way not to do so is to ignore this issue and engage in the weeds of the pros and cons of an essentially anti-health Republican program logic. By doing so, some think that you can actually improve the GOP proposal. In fact, there has been so much media coverage of the politics that many think the Republican plan has already been adopted! The idea that there is a need for more fundamental changes in the country’s health system is simply not on very many people’s radar.

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Here there is a role for Latino leadership to play. While most national Latino groups are involved to a lesser or greater extent on campaigns to resist the Trump agenda on health care and support Obamacare, their voices are not emerging as significant in the current debate. Part of the problem is the media’s stereotyping of Latino concerns as being solely on immigration issues. This has also been the result of the low profile that Latino advocacy organizations have assumed in framing their advocacy and lobbying in traditional terms that may no longer apply under Trump. The current crisis can potentially be an opportunity for Latinos to play a leadership role in this health debate in ways that can move it in directions more relevant to Latino community realities.

Latinos should be advocating the idea that health, unlike a wedding ring, lawn furniture or other commodities, is a life-and-death service. They should be advocating that it should be recognized in this society as a basic human right, as we have defined education, work, civil rights, public safety and national defense needs. And it needs to be promoted more intensely and widely as such. As long as we keep seeing health care as merely a certain percentage of the GNP, no different than a toaster oven and narrowly as simply something that is done by a profit-driven medical profession, we will continue to perpetuate a health system that undermines the health of most Americans. This, by the way, is the case, whether or not the Republicans get their way emasculating Obamacare.

Does this sound socialistic? Maybe. But keep in mind that we already have a very successful federal government-run Medicare program that has, as far as I know, failed to make all of our seniors into Marxist-Leninists. Its expansion would, however, make most Americans healthier and economically more secure.

Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be reached at [email protected]



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McCain’s Health Battle Casts Ugly Glare on GOP Healthcare Assault

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Arizona Senator John McCain will get and deserves the best medical care he can get in his battle against brain cancer. Millions rightly will be pulling for his healthful recovery. But McCain’s health battle also casts an ugly glare on the hypocrisy and contradiction in the GOP’s relentless war against Obamacare. It starts with McCain. In August 2016, he was in a mildly tough fight for re-election to his sixth Senate term. The issue that McCain went after was healthcare, specifically, Obamacare. He bluntly told a Fox Business interviewer that Obamacare was “collapsing like a house of cards.”

This was not simply another case of a GOP senator taking a straight, hardline stance against the Affordable Care Act. McCain made it plain before he lashed out at Obamacare on Fox that healthcare should be mostly left to the free market. He ticked off a checklist of ways healthcare should function. It included such things as: risk pools, greater interstate insurance availability, and letting people opt out of healthcare completely. Said McCain, we must go back to “square one” with healthcare and take a “capitalistic approach to it.” 

McCain has been as good as his word and belief about what healthcare should be about and the limited role government should play in it. Between 1996 and 2007, he voted against every federal measure to either expand or strengthen healthcare coverage. This includes: funding for the State Children Health Insurance Program by increasing the tobacco tax, increases for AIDS prevention drug assistance, tax credits for long term and chronic healthcare needs, credits to small business owners for employee health insurance coverage, and the extension of healthcare coverage to mental illness.

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In every case when a proposal was made to increase funding or expand a vital healthcare program, McCain could be counted on to oppose it. In contrast, the government will pay the bulk of the costs of McCain’s care. He is also eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol. And, since he is a military veteran, he can be treated free of charge at Washington, D.C. area hospitals, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. Again, all costs for his care will be paid by the government.

McCain’s proposals to replace Obamacare is simply another variation of what the GOP has plopped on the table. They are just as dreadful.

They include scaled down subsidies, tax credits, the expansion of high risk pools, health savings accounts, give insurers the right to peddle insurance in any state they choose, and create Association Health Plans to small businesses and risk pools. The subsidies would scrap the income based measure that Obamacare imposes and substitute instead age as the basis for the subsidy. The subsidy to the poorest and neediest was the linchpin of Obamacare. This made it possible for millions who couldn’t afford insurance at any price to purchase it for the first time. To get the tax credits a low wage worker would still have to come up with the cash to purchase insurance. For many that would be problematic.

The high-risk pools that McCain touts supposedly would move thousands of medically indigent persons in pools to ensure low cost, access to coverage. In fact it would do just the opposite. The bulk of those in the pool would be the sickest and most in need of continuous medical treatment. They would pay more, not less for that coverage. To cover the high cost of maintaining these pools, states would have to pony up more tax dollars or impose premium assessments on insurers who in turn would simply hike their prices to cover the assessments. It would be a never-ending cost increase cycle with absolutely no guarantee that the sickest and neediest in the pool would get the coverage they need.

Under the plan that McCain and other GOP senators had proposed, a staggering 30 million Americans would have been plucked from the healthcare rolls in the next decade. This according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office on the impact that ending Obamacare would have on the nation. Millions, of course, either had no insurance or went without coverage for a period during the course of a year or years before Obamacare kicked in. Many others that got coverage also lost that coverage, almost always because they couldn’t pay for it, or the insurer dropped them because of a medical condition that the insurer considered too costly to pay for. The state of American healthcare was worse than abysmal for millions.

McCain’s claim that Obamacare is collapsing, and that the private market will take care of all health needs has no basis in fact. The high quality of care he’ll get in his fight against cancer almost entirely at government expense proves that. McCain is the best argument that all should receive the same quality of care.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, The Trump Challenge to Black America (Middle Passage Press) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.



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Blind Senate: Healthcare Vote Minus A Draft, Public Hearings, Or Common Sense

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Here we go again. Another week and the United States Senate is ready to vote on legislation to remake the entire healthcare system, including Indian health. The Senate will do this without a draft circulated for debate, public hearings, or common sense.

So what does the replacement bill look like at this point? I have no clue. Neither do the 100 senators who will make that call. As Sen. John Cornyn (one of the managers for the bill) put it: Knowing the healthcare plan ahead of the vote is a “luxury we don’t have.”

Here is what President Donald J. Trump tweeted over the weekend: “The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!”

So there will be a vote on legislation to at least repeal the Affordable Care Act. “We have decided to hold the vote to open debate on Obamacare repeal early next week. The Obamacare repeal legislation will ensure a stable, two-year transition period, which will allow us to wipe the slate clean and start over with real patient-centered healthcare reform. This is the same legislation that a majority of the Senate voted to send to the president in 2015. Now, we thankfully have a president in office who will sign it. So we should send it to him,” said Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

But a straight repeal is complicated by Senate rules. The Senate Majority Leader is relying on the process of reconciliation (essentially matching the legislation to an existing budget) because that only requires a majority, or 50 votes. Most bills need 60 votes to stop a filibuster. Last week the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, said that defunding of Planned Parenthood, abortion coverage, and restrictions on insurance coverage does not meet that test and still required 60 voters. Same thing for the Alaska or rural exception, it’s a no go. But Senate Republicans were quick to say that any draft language (which is still missing from action) could be rewritten. Or Republicans could overrule the parliamentarian on the floor which would cause all sorts of future problems governing.

The Senate’s parliamentarian is a great example of the institutions of Congress pushing back on the Republican proposals. I don’t think it’s ideology; it’s incompetence. (As I have written before there is a conservative approach to healthcare reform, but we have not seen that yet.) The Congressional Budget Office said last week that the big ticket in this debate is Medicaid. Remember the proposals in the House and Senate go far beyond just repealing the Affordable Care Act because the proposals would fundamentally restructure Medicaid.

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According to CBO: “By 2026, spending for that program would be reduced by 26 percent … About three-quarters of that reduction would result from scaling back the expansion of eligibility enacted in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2026, for people who are made newly eligible under the ACA (certain adults under the age of 65 whose income is less than or equal to 138 percent of the federal poverty level [FPL]), Medicaid spending would be reduced by 87 percent, from $134 billion to $17 billion—mainly because the penalty associated with the individual mandate would be repealed and the enhanced federal matching rate for spending on that group would be phased out. As a result of the reduced matching rate, some states would roll back their expansion of eligibility and others that would have expanded eligibility under current law would choose not to do so. All other federal spending on Medicaid in that year would be reduced by 9 percent, from $490 billion to $447 billion.”

This is what pays for the tax cuts in the Republican plans.

Rolling back Medicaid expansion and the traditional Medicaid program would significantly reduce funding for the Indian Health Service.

Last week the National Indian Health Board, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Council of Urban Indian Health, wrote McConnell because one of the Senate bills, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, would change the formula for funding Indian health patients. The three intertribal organizations call the proposal a “radical departure from over 40 years of federal policy” and it “should not be undertaken without nationwide tribal consultation.” The bill’s language reverses a policy where states get a 100 percent reimbursement for patients who get services from the Indian health system. This change, the intertribal organizations said, would “ take away this unique incentive for states to work with tribes to create Medicaid innovations that best support the Indian health system.” States could create new rules that could ignore Indian health as a partner and create new barriers that would sharply reduce funding.

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, who is chair of the Senate Indian Affairs committee, said the changes would provide “more choice and competition in our health care system, while at the same time insuring that low-income individuals have access to healthcare coverage” via Medicaid or tax credits.

The key thing here: Native Americans could take their insurance (and the state Medicaid dollars) to another provider, reducing funding for IHS. (Competition, you know.)

It would be one more costly strike to an Indian health system that’s already underfunded.

Hoeven said a draft Senate bill also would end the requirement that tribes purchase insurance for employees. Again, the result would be less money for the Indian health system. (And, as the three intertribal organizations point out, this would be done without any tribal consultation.)

Then again the Senate and House bills are designed to strip money from the health system period. And Medicaid is such a rich target. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the total cost to states under the Better Care bill is $519 billion.
 

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Back to the math and this week’s vote. There are 100 members of the Senate. The 48 Democrats are certain to vote no. And of the 52 Republicans, it’s unlikely Sen. John McCain would leave his cancer treatment in Arizona to vote on a motion to proceed (the opening of the debate and the consideration of amendments). That leaves 51 votes. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is a certain no because she objects to the attacks on Medicaid. That reduces the number to 50 (and 49 no votes). There are lots of questions about Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Capito tweeted: “I will only vote to proceed to repeal legislation if I am confident there is a replacement plan that addresses my concerns.” And Portman said he’ll review whatever bill comes up for a vote. Murkowksi told CNN: “I don’t think it’s asking too much to say give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers. And if you say, well, CBO numbers don’t matter, let’s look at the numbers that you don’t think matter. But it really does make a difference. And these numbers that we’re talking about, these are men and women, these are our families that are being impacted. So let’s please get it right.”

Does that sound like three no votes? Right now, I’d only count all three as firm maybes. Then only one needs to be the no.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com



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Brain Health for a Song–Aging and the Arts

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Photo: Shown above, Carnell Rogers, 101, said starting photography and painting enriched her in late life. (Dawn Davis/Caribbean Today)

SAN FRANCISCO–Dementia, or cognitive decline, is not inevitable as we age! So say researchers who have conducted studies that refute that stereotypical notion.

For example, a study in the Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) Journal of Gerontology by Karen Anderson-Ranberg and colleagues is aptly titled “Dementia is Not Inevitable.” It looked at 276 centenarians (people age 100 or more) living in Denmark.

The results of their population-based survey, along with medical examinations, showed 51 percent had mild to severe dementia; 37 percent had no signs of dementia; and 12 percent had diseases that could contribute to a dementia diagnosis.

The researchers concluded, “Dementia is a common, but not inevitable, phenomenon in extremely aged people such as centenarians.”

The good thing is, even when cognitive decline is diagnosed, there are creative ways to help bolster the brain’s functioning and enhance quality of life.

At the recently concluded 21st International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress in San Francisco, about 6,000 members and academic researchers from more than 75 countries gave presentations on the latest findings on aging, an experience that will touch us all sooner or later.

A significant number of symposia and workshops were on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and how to care for older family members living with these conditions.

Perspectives

World Congress participants learned that, although there is no cure or medication to stop or slow the progress of dementia, one light at the end of the tunnel may be reached through the arts. They saw up close and personal how introducing art, music, theater or dance can change a senior’s perspective on aging.

Carnell Rogers is indeed the perfect "poster elder" positively impacted by the introduction of the arts in their lives. At age 101, Rogers revealed that painting and photography has brought tremendous richness to her life.

“I had no idea I had this in me. Learning to paint has kept me interested in the world around me,” mused Rogers at the IAGG Age Stage venue setup to highlight programs helping older adults to age with grace and purpose.

Rogers took up art and photography in recent years and has found her artistic voice. In fact, her artwork, has been featured in group exhibitions at a California gallery. Through the Elders Learning Community, in collaboration with LifeLong Medical Care in Berkeley, Rogers and other

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Photography by Carnell Rogers.
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seniors, some with dementia, participate in art therapy that helps stimulate their creativity and build resistance to cognitive decline.

Rogers recounted that when she was told about the art program, she thought they would bring a coloring book and crayons. But, to her surprise she was given water color paints and brushes. She watched the technique of an artist in residence with the program and quickly gained interest.

“It was amazing how I learned to mix the colors. I learned how to color without a coloring book,” she said with delight. “Art has given me something else to think about and look forward to, and it is something different that I haven’t done before.”

Intervention

Strengthening the argument for arts intervention in eldercare was an IAGG symposium that focused on research by Sherry Dupuis and her co-researchers. Through focus groups, video data and interviews from four research projects that looked at visual arts, theater and clowning. They concluded, “The arts create transformative spaces for relational flourishing and prompt the social change needed to reduce the harm and suffering experienced by older adults living with dementia.”

Engaging elders in what one presenter called “interactive musical adventures” has also proven to be positively therapeutic in helping to maintain mental and social balance. The nonprofit Songwriting Works (SW) is helping lead the charge in battling cognitive and emotional health with interactive songwriting.

A winner of the Gilbert Innovations in Alzheimer’s Caregiving Legacy Award, the organization, led by founder/director Judith-Kate Friedman, writes songs in the words and vocal rhythms of the elders it serves.

With its mission to “restore joy, hope, health and community through song,” SW visits nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other communities, and the nonprofit engages older residents to tell their stories, memories and everyday wisdom. Together the musicians and seniors create

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Photo: San Francisco’s Bayview Older Adult Choir performing at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics. (Dawn Davis/Caribbean Today)
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tunes to go with the lyrics that emerge. Friedman and her team of professional songwriters/singers help give voice to these older residents and the result is improved social interaction, blossoming creativity, and increased brain activity.

Having served more than 3,000 participants across the United States and Canada, SW has generated hundreds of original songs, some of which will be featured on a new album, Life’s a Song.

Measurable Results

Invaluable to seniors’ wellbeing overall, Theresa Allison, MD, a geriatric physician at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that SW’s program results are measurable.

“Creating and performing original songs improves quality of life and enables institutionalized elders to remain vibrant and creative,” Allison said.

Older adult choirs are also an example of how music works to develop sharper focus, creativity, and social connectedness. San Francisco’s Community Music Centre Bayview Older Adult Choir rocked the house at IAGG’s Age Stage with jazz, blues, and gospel songs showing the world that ageing is like a song building to a dramatic crescendo.

Dawn Davis wrote this story for the Miami-based Caribbean Today with support from the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program of New America Media and The Gerontological Society of America, through a grant from The Silver Century Foundation.



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BJP to organise poetry recitation programme to honour Vajpayee

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Amit Shah

New Delhi [India], Aug 30 (ANI): Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Thursday announced his party will organise nationwide poetry recitation programme named ‘Kavyanjali’ on September 16 to honour former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Addressing the media, the Shah said, “September 16 will mark the completion of one month death anniversary of late Vajpayee ji. The BJP units across the nation have decided to organise poetry recitation programme named ‘Kavyanjali’ to honour former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The poems written by Atal ji will be recited and the recording of the same will also be played for the people. A ‘Kavi Sammelan’ will also be held and the poems written on Atal ji will be recited.”
Shah further took the occasion to inform that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday week will be observed as ‘Sewa Saptah’.
“Every year, the BJP workers celebrate the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘sewa divas’ (day of service). But this year there will be a week long programme from September 17 to 25. The workers will observe ‘Sewa Saptah’ (Week of Service),” he said.
“During the programme, medical camps will be set up at various places to help people,” Shah stated. He also added that the party workers will also launch a cleanliness drive in their localities.
The BJP president also said that on September 25, which marks the birth anniversary Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) co-founder Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, a week long programme will be launched to spread awareness about the national health protection scheme Ayushman Bhaarat. (ANI)



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