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December 18, 2021 29 mins

Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring Dr. Rachel Villanueva, an OBGYN and clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She’s also president of the national medical association, and she joined the show to discuss the pandemic, including what we know about the Omicron variant. Also, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra Torres-Cone checked in to discuss the process of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I Heart Radio Communities, a public affair special
focusing on the biggest issues impacting you. This week, here's
Ryan Gorman. Thanks for joining us here on I Hear
Radio Communities. I'm Ryan Gorman, and we have some important
conversations lined up for you coming up. In a moment.
I'll talk to the president of the National Medical Association
about the pandemic and the new O macron variants. Then

we're gonna check in with the FBI Supervisory Special Agent
Santra torres Cone will join me to discuss hate crimes,
including how they're both investigated and prosecuted. Right now, to
get things started, I'm joined by Dr Rachel Villanueva and O. B. G.
Y N and clinical assistant professor at the n y
U Grossman's School of Medicine. She's also president of the

National Medical Association. Dr Villaneueva, thanks so much for coming
on the show. And first of all, the rise in
COVID cases we're beginning to see across the country. What
do you think is contributing to that? Oh, well, thanks
so much for having me back again. Um, I think
you know, obviously, there are a couple of reasons. Uh.
One of the main reasons is that not everyone is vaccinated,

so we only have in the United States about the
population is vaccinated, and so it just gives the virus
opportunity and people to infect and mutate and then um
just to infect more people. So so that's one of
our problems. The other problem is we know as the
winter months, um common it gets colder, they're more people

going inside, and um just exposure will be increased by
being inside in the colder months. UM. I think people
are getting also just so honestly a little tired of
wearing masks and social distancing, and I think I think
we've probably been a little more lax about that because, um,
we just are tired of It's, you know, almost two

years into the pandemic and we're still we're still very
much in it. And I think that's just, you know,
very honestly, we're we're human, and UM, it's it's it's tiring.
So hopefully hopefully we can get more people vaccinated and
get a better hold on the virus itself. On the
actual spread of COVID nineteen. This is a question I

get asked a lot. Does getting vaccinated help slow the
spread of the virus or is it mainly just something
that prevents you from getting severely ill from COVID nineteen.
Vaccination obviously is a primary UM prevention strategy for us,
along with the other things that we do, handwashing and

social distancing, but really vaccination is primary UM. You know. Unfortunately,
when the vaccines were developed, they were developed against the
alpha variant, the very first variant of COVID nineteen, and
so UM this new delta variant, which is really the
variant that is predominates in the United States right now,

it's a little um it's a little smarter than the
alpha variant, so it works a little bit better against
our vaccines UM. And so you can still transmit um
UH the virus even though you're vaccinated, but at a
much lower rate. So it is really still very important
to get vaccinated. It's important because it will help prevent

you from transmitting it more so than if you were
not vaccinated. I think it's like five times as much.
And UM also prevents you from getting sick, and preventing
prevents you from getting other people sick. So it is
still nothing is perfect, and we understand that, but it
is our best line of defense, and it is a

first line of defense against the virus. And what about
those who have been infected with COVID nineteen previously. There's
always a question about whether or not they're protected through
some form of natural immunity, and if they have been
infected before, do they need to get the vaccine to

be detected from COVID nineteen. What can you tell us
about that. Yeah, that's such a great question, and I
get that from patients a lot. And yes, obviously you
have some natural immunity from from getting infected UH with
COVID nineteen. But unfortunately, similarly to the way the the
immunity from the vaccines can can wane and lower as

time goes on, so does your natural immunity, so you're
not immune forever with UM you know, having been infected.
So it is still really important to get vaccinated because
it just boosts your immunity and makes you less likely
to get reinfected, which can happen. We have. I've had plenty.
I've had patients who have who have been infected twice

with COVID nineteen already during this pandemic, so it's not unusual.
And so the more you can UM improve your immunity
against the virus the better. So that means getting fully vaccinated,
getting those two doses of the m R and A
or the one US of Johnson and Johnson, and when
it's time, getting that booster as well. And we see

that that is also a very important part of staying
fully protected. Now, and let's talk a little bit more
about those booster shots. Who should be getting them, Why
exactly are they necessary? You kind of alluded to it
just there, And there's also this this narrative going around
because boosters are needed that the vaccines aren't that effective.

What can you tell us about that? So boosters do
not mean that the vaccine is not effective. The vaccine
is still very effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization
and death. Um. But the booster just gives us extra protection,
which we see because these new variants are developing that

we need as much protection as we can get. So
the boosters are very actually important, especially as we go
into the winter months. Um So, really both boosters are
recommended for anybody who's over the age of sixteen who
has been vac fully vaccinated to two doses of UH

their vaccine if it's with m R and A. Then
if they're over eighteen, then the Johnson and Johnson they
have gotten one dose UM, they should get boosted as well.
So it's UM, I know, it's I think the one
thing we need to keep in mind is that we're
continuing to learn more and more about this virus as

a pandemic is going and so it is not unusual.
Many of our vaccinations require three doses UM that we
you know, that we use for childhood immunizations. So the
fact that we're using this booster dose is not means
nothing about the effective you know, the effectiveness of the vaccine.
It really just gives us the it's been shown to

give us that extra protection so we can fight off
this variant and whatever else is going to come our way.
And on the topic of this macron variant, and I'm
joined right now by Dr Rachel Villeneueva and O. B. G.
Y n and Clinical Assistant professor at the n y
U Grossman's School of Medicine. She's also president of the
National Medical Association. What do we know about the transmissibility

of this new variant, the severity of it, and whether
or not these vaccines are going to be effective in
combating it so UM. You know, the O macron variant
was really just identified really weeks ago and UM, so
we're still gathering information. What the early data does. UM

does give us information that it is more transmissible, but
fortunately we have also seen that the severity is probably
lower for a macron. Now this is very very early data,
so it's still being gathered, but so far it looks
like UM causing severe disease or hospitalization. UM is probably less,

but it can't. It's transmissibility maybe a little bit higher,
so just easier to get it again. Another reason why
full of vaccination and booster is going to be so
important going into these winter months. Going back to the
vaccination rates, we're seeing low COVID nineteen vaccination rates among

pregnant women, and it's even worse for pregnant black women.
Can you explain why pregnant women, especially pregnant women of color,
have been hesitant to get vaccinated and and why they
should what some of the benefits are for them to
get vaccinated. Yeah, definitely. So I am an ol B
T I N So this is very This this is

sort of my area of what I deal with every
every single day, seeing pregnant women UM. So yes, I
think I think pregnant women in general have been have
had a lot of hesitancy around the vaccine UM one
because I think when women are pregnant, they are pregnant
people want to do the best thing possible for their

growing baby and don't want to give them anything that
could potentially harm their fetus and so UM. We know
that that pregnant women were not included in the initial studies,
but fortunately we have excellent real world data. We have
you know, over now a year's worth of people getting

vaccinated who were early in their pregnancy, mid pregnancy, trying
to conceive, so we know that the vaccines are are
safe and effective for this population of people. Also important
is that we know that UH, pregnant women and women
who are immediately postpartum and breastfeeding UM are at higher

risk for severe disease, severe illness, UM and adverse pregnancy
outcomes so preterm birth and still birth. So it is
really important for for this group of people to get
vaccinated UM. I think so pregnant women in general are
a little hesitant. I think people of color we have
also seen have been hesitant because of historical UM issues.

For for UM structural racism and biased that's in our
health care system that has been experienced by people of color,
and so when you put that together, pregnant black women
are one of the lowest rates of individuals getting vaccinated.
I think the latest numbers were like have been fully vaccinated,

and it's just so important to be able to protect
pregnant moms and their babies because they are a higher risk.
We also know the vaccine that when women get it
while they're um pregnant, gives the baby some immunity. Babies
are born with antibodies and also UH antibodies are transferred
in breast milk, So it's so important for this population

of people to get um to get vaccinated. I'm Ryan Gorman,
joined right now by Dr rachel A Villanueva and O. B. G.
Y N and clinical assistant professor at the n y
U Grossman's School of Medicine. She's also president of the
National Medical Association. Another question that comes up a lot
among parents who are trying to decide whether or not
to get their kids vaccinated, the long term implications of

these vaccines, especially when it comes to something like fertility.
What do we know about that issue? You know obviously
that the data is really limited on this information. There
has been no in the all of the UH. There
are three vaccine registries that have um been established to

document any adverse outcomes and for patients to put in
symptoms and things like that. We haven't had no reports
of any issues with fertility, any issues with miscarriages, any
adverse outcomes as far as that's concerned. The way the
vaccine has been developed, the type of vaccine that it is,

it's very eight so we have no reason to think
that those are going to be issues moving forward. But
that's obviously data that we're continuing continuing to gather. And
one final question for you, and this has to do
with those sites where people are reporting potential adverse effects
from the vaccines. I think a lot of people are
checking some of those sites out or they're seeing some

of that reported and they're automatically thinking, well, that's verifiable,
it's confirmed, those are side effects of the vaccines. Is
what's happening to people? Can you talk a little bit
more about that reporting process and what's out there on
the internet so people fully understand what's going on. UM Well,
I think to just keep in mind UM any time

that anybody takes any type of medication, we have to
report any adverse outcomes, whether it's one out of a
million UH people, that those outcomes have to be reported.
So I think it's a very it's we have to
do this, and I think it's so important to understand
and to continue to monitor. So I think it should

really put people's minds at ease that we're continuing to
make sure that the vaccines are safe and effective and
that we are not seeing any rise in UM adverse
outcomes as time goes on. But but really the safety
and effectiveness has been well documented and is supported by

the data that we're continuing to collect from the millions
and billions of people who have gotten vaccinated. I think,
you know, we should just also keep in mind that
so many billions of people in the United States have
been vaccinated and have been doing well without adverse outcomes
UM and so I think it's it's it's just should
reassure people that were while we're continuing to monitor these

um UH for anything, we have not seen any reports
or um increases in adverse outcome. I mean, we should
understand that any time you get vaccinated, which makes your
immune system sort of rev up and have a response
that you are may get some like fatigue or headache

or chills. You know, those aren't side effects of the vaccine.
That just means your immune system is working. So those
things shouldn't really be seen as a negative. Um. Those
are really just meaning that your body is producing those
anti bodies that are going to help you fight off
the virus in the end. Dr Rachel Villan a wave
and O B. G. Y n and Clinical Assistant professor
at the n y U Grossman's School of Medicine with

us here on Radio Communities. Dr villan Auava, thanks so
much for coming on and sharing all that insight. We
appreciate it. Thanks for having me, all right, and finally
let's turn to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra torres Cone
with me to talk about hate crimes. Thank you so
much for coming on the show to talk about this
important topic. And let's begin with really basic question what

constitutes a hate crime? Right? Well, thank you for having me,
and yes, a hate crime is essentially a traditional offense
like in a halt or vandalism or or our sin,
let's say, but the added element is a bias. So
we have to show that the perpetrator was motivated by
a bias against a person due to their race, ethnicity, religion,

national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Those
are the protected groups. And how does the FBI learn
of potential hate crimes. There's a variety of ways that
we will find out about potential hate crimes. Most are
the victim or loved one of the victims who comes

to us UM. But sometimes it's a variety of ways.
You know, it's a community groups like civil rights organizations.
The end of a CP for example, might refer something
to us UM. If citizens contact their government representatives, and
we might get referrals through these congressional inquiries and such UM.
Even the media if we hear about it in the news. Um,

that might be the first time we hear about it.
But we will look into it if we think there's
potentially a federal hate crime violation. So once you come
across a potential hate crime, can you explain the process
of how they're investigated and eventually prosecuted. Sure, so you
know off the bat, if there appears to be a

credible allegation, we will open an investigation. And it's we
have varying levels of investigations based on that level of predication,
so to speak, that the evidence that we have of
a hate crime having occurred. Once we determine that predication
exists and we open the case, we will develop an
investigative plan with our partnership with their prosecutors at the

local U. S. Attorney's office as well as the Department
of Justice Civil Rights Division, And that's how we can
move forward in terms of investigating and potentially prosecuting the
hate crimes at the federal level. I'm Ryan Gorman joined
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra torres Cone. Going back to

the criteria that determines if a suspect is charged with
a hate crime, can you give us an example or
some examples that illustrate pretty clear evidence that that's the case. Sure. So,
for example, um, we might have a person who was
assaulted and there's no sign of another motivation. Let's say

the person was assaulted while using racial slurs, for example,
and the person you know didn't rob the victim or
know the victim personally, like a you know, friendship gone
bad type of thing. So if there's if the primary
motivation appears to be simply because of that victim's race

or religion or any of the other characteristics I described.
Then now we're looking at okay, it looks like the
motivation was primarily just an animous a bias, a personal
bias against that person or who they are, what they
look like, who's you know, etcetera. So so that's one example.
And you know, if it doesn't rise to the level

of our federal statutes of a hate crime, there's always
the possibility of it being charged at the state level
as well, because most almost all states now have hate
crimes hate crime laws as well. When you say these
kinds of cases are difficult to prosecute or what do
you say, more often than not the evidence is is
pretty overwhelming that it was a hate crime that was committed,

I would say, have the farmer is a little bit
more probable or common. They are hard to make, these
federal cases. And I mentioned we have four federal statutes
for the most by those are the main for hate
crime statutes that we have to work with. Kind of
the tools in the toolbox. Each one has it's very
particular um legal elements that we have to meet. Sometimes

if you just don't have each of those legal elements
very easy to prove. Then yeah, it doesn't. It's it's
hard to to prosecute those, but you know, sometimes they
are very egregious and blatant, then those are easier to do.
If not, like I said, there's always um the traditional
crime laws assault ursin vandalism, which at the state levels

are usually easier to make, and there is some sort
of remedy, legal remedy. If it's not through us, it
might be through the states for local level. I'm Ryan Gorman,
joined by FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra torres Cone. So
it's my understanding. There are four different statutes that are
used when it comes to hate crimes. Can you step

us through them and explain what each one of them
means and does? Sure? So, two of them were actually
passed after the Civil Rights Act of nineteen sixty four
and they were passed in nine So the first one
is UM Federally Protected activities, So the person is protected

due to raised, religion, national origin, color, but not UM.
But they have to have been participating in one of
these enumerated federal activities, meaning they have to have been
participated in you know, whether it's in employment, use of
a public facility, etcetera. So that has some limitations, but

the good thing is that covers threat so it doesn't
have to be actual bodily injury, could just be the
threat of and that helps us get there usually with
that statute. Another older statute is the Fair Housing Act,
so criminal interference with fair housing would be you know,

back in the sixties when there was perhaps cross burnings
and people's yards um or people being denied homes or
rentals because of a raised um. That was another one
that we still use today. UM. And then fast forward
we saw Church arsen Prevention Act in response to churches,

mainly black churches in the South being burned down. And
then fess forward to two thousand nine when President Obama
signed the most recent of the four hate federal hate
crime statutes. It's called the UM Matthew Sheppard and James

Bird Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and that was the
first time in history that the LGBTQ community is now
protected at the federal level for hate crimes. UM. The
downside is it doesn't cover threats. It would actually have
to be physical bodily injury or attempts thereof. But it

does expand the groups of people that are now protected.
I'm joined right now by FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra
torrest Cone. We're talking about hate crimes. Does the FBI
work with local police on these types of cases. Absolutely.
I think that's one of our biggest partners because sometimes well,

local law enforcement is who's the first responders. So when
something happens, they're there and they make the report, and
they oftentimes contact us if they think there was that
bias of a hate motivation. So we will then work
part you know, jointly with them, and if we decide, hey,

it's gonna have a better chance of being charged at
the state level because of your state laws hate hate laws,
then that's one option, or it could be taken both
state and federal. It just depends case by case. But
the state and locals really help us out in terms of, um,
you know, initially getting notified of incident so that we

can start investigating in the timely manner. People might hear
about incidents reported in the news and learned that the
FBI doesn't have a hate crime case open for that
particular incident, even though it seems like it could potentially
be a fit. Why why would that be the case, right,
that might happen for a variety of reasons as well.

And you know, I'm sure you all remember here, you know,
as in the recent past, the Asian American specific Islander
community a p I, they were reporting many, many incidences
of hate crimes, and yet we didn't have that many
hate crime cases open where the target was victim was

a a PI. And what we drilled down and found is,
you know, sometimes the incident did happen and it was
like a robbery of a store in in you know,
an Asian own store for example, but there wasn't evidence
that the store was targeted and the store owner was
targeted because they were Asian. It was more, you know,

a robbery, So we have to have that evidence of
that motivation. And the other thing is, sometimes, unfortunately, freedom
of speech will shield some hate speech hate activity, you know,
and we the FBI are equally charged with upholding the
First Amendment right of individuals, so you know, as as

as as um that is something they sound and hateful,
if it's simply protected speech, we do not open an
investigation on that matter. And then lastly, I would say
a lack of reporting to us, it could be a
lack of trust from the community, So we do want
to encourage everyone to contact us. You know, local law

enforcement is pretty good at notifying us, but we want
the community to come straight to the FBI when they
saying they've witnessed or been a target of a hate crime,
because we want to continue to build that trust with
those communities. Has there been an increase in hate crimes
recently and have we seen an uptick in specific groups

being targeted? We have seen an increase in hate crime incidences. Uh.
I would say over the past five years or so
or maybe six years now about a increase. And that's
according to the Uniform Crime Report that the FBI compiles
from data from agencies all over the country and mirroring that,

we at the FBI do have an increase in case
loads of hate crimes. Uh. In fact, between nine two
twenty we had a sixty four percent increase, So there's
definitely an increase. I would say the three groups that
are consistently on top, the top three groups when it
comes to biased incidences are within the race group it's

African Americans, uh, religious bias is um anti too bias,
and then within the gender or sexual orientation category it's
anti game mail. So that's what we've been dealing with,
and we're really trying to um uh increase resources for this,

UH these types of investigations. I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sandra torres Cone. We're talking about
hate crimes and when it comes to what the FBI
is doing to address hate crimes, especially with the uptick
in these kinds of crimes that we've seen recently, has
there been any change in approach? Have additional resources been

added to address this issue? What can you tell us
about that. The FBI did just last year increase its
priority in terms of how we internally prioritize violations. So
so we are putting more attention to this. We're not
necessarily doing new or different things, but we're trying to
do more of the same aim and that's been community outreach,

getting out there, doing trainings and meetings with you know, UM,
vulnerable communities, the ones that may be getting targeted, or
just anyone really that that requests that we partner with
local and state law enforcement. We're doing more of that.
We're starting civil rights hate crime UH task forces, and

we're also UH launched a campaign a media campaign, So
that would just help raise awareness throughout the country. Some
cities have used wrapping of buses or you know, putting
billboards up or posting town halls, you know, anything that's
going to get to those communities that we feel we

want to connect with and have that trust so that
when and if there is a hate incident, we already
know each other. We're not barely trying to find out
who who we are. UM. So I do want to
say the Civil Rights UH program at FBI prioritizees hate
crimes UH because as its highest priority. Because we know

that when there's a hate crime, it's not just the
victim that is obviously UM traumatized, but it's an entire community.
Anyone who can relate personally to the characteristics of the
victim can be living in fear until that perpetrator is
found and brought to justice. Final question for you, if

someone's the victim of a potential hate crime, how would
they go about reporting it to the FBI. I think
that most straightforward way would be too you know, call
us our phone numbers pretty simple, It's one eight hundred
call FBI or online tips dot FBI dot gov. UM.

You can also walk into one of our offices if
it's close enough, because we do want to know of
these incidences. We don't um you know, we we want
to protect these rights of all persons in the United States,
whether or not they're citizens non citizens. You know, that's
not our concern when it comes to hate crimes. We

want to just know what's happening out there and find,
you know, the perpetrators as as quickly as possible. FBI
Supervisory Special Agent Santra Torres cone with us to talk
about hate crimes. Thank you so much for taking the
time to come on and explain how all of that works.
We really appreciate it absolutely. It's nice pleasure. Thank you,

and that'll do it for this edition of I Hear
Radio Communities. As we wrap things up, want to offer
a big thanks to all of our guests and of
course to all of you for listening. I'm Ryan Gorman.
Will be back, same time, same place next weekend. Stay safe,
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