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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Speaker John Boehner is responsible for this action he should've brought forth the Senate bipartisan bill

President Obama transcript on executive action on immigration reform.

"Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character." President Obama

November 20 at 8:33 PM

A transcript of President Obama’s remarks on immigration.

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight I’d like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations.

OBAMA: (Immigration) It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities. 

People not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their wages good wages benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.

Today we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half.

Although this summer there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years.

Overall the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president, the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight I’m announcing those actions.

OBAMA: First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already had live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous.

That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law e enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally.

And let’s be honest, tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans.

After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard often in tough, low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of the kids are American born or spent spent most of their lives here. And their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it, they are a part of American life.

Now here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. 

Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our (American) character.

What I’m describing is accountability. A common sense middle- ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

OBAMA: Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That’s not how our Democracy works, and Congress shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this.

Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs right now is a common purpose, a higher purpose. Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight, but I understand with the disagreements held by many of you at home.

Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time they already feel they’ve gotten a raw deal for over a decade. I hear those concerns, but that’s not what these steps would do.

Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back and forth in Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are a country and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us, or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America? That’s what this debate is all about.

We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. I know the politics of this issue are tough, but let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past years I’ve seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who except for the circumstances of their birth are as American as Malia or Sasha, students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.

These people, our neighbors, our classmates, our friends, they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study and serve in our military. And, above all, contribute to American success.

Now tomorrow I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was 4 years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS. And then she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant. So she applied behind their back and got in.

Still, she mostly lived in the shadows until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her. And today Astrid Silva a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid?

OBAMA: Or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too. (Editor comment: In this statement, I believe President Obama is referring to the Bible: 
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.)

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.


Editor's cliff notes edition of this Executive Action by President Obama is this:  "Pass a bill...."

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Poem - When I was a little Cuban boy

Immigrant poem by Richard Blanco:
President Obama will speak about immigration policy to a national television audience.  

Yet, in the 1950s, our American parents and grandparents took our immigration status for granted. Immigration was never so vitriolic, back when Lucy loved Desi and we seemed to live in the glow of everyone getting along.  Hispanic immigrants, in particular, will relate to this poetic sentiment.

T A K E H E A R T

A Conversation in Poetry

Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Poet Richard Blanco of Bethel describes his dream of America as a boy living in Cuba. (Poet Blanco blends nostalgia with a touch of cynicism but reminds us of how one of the most popular television shows of all time included an immigrant.)


When I was a Little Cuban Boy

by Richard Blanco

O José can you see…that’s how I sang it, when I was

a cubanito in Miami, and América was some country

in the glossy pages of my history book, someplace

way north, everyone white, cold, perfect. This Land

is my Land, so why didn’t I live there, in a brick house

with a fireplace, a chimney with curlicues of smoke.

I wanted to wear breeches and stockings to my chins,

those black pilgrim shoes with shiny gold buckles.

I wanted to eat yams with the Indians, shake hands

with los negros, and dash through snow I’d never seen

in a one-horse hope-n-say? I wanted to speak in British,

say really smart stuff like fours core and seven years ago

or one country under God, in the visible. I wanted to see

that land with no palm trees, only the strange sounds

of flowers like petunias, peonies, impatience, waiting

to walk through a door someday, somewhere in God

Bless America and say, Lucy, I’m home, honey. I’m home.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2005 Richard Blanco. Reprinted from Directions to the Beach of the Dead, The University of Arizona Press, 2005, by permission of Richard Blanco. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.




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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISIS rains bloodshed with evil bravado but the Muslim world doesn't protest enough

Yasmine Bahrani writes on Washingtonpost.com about how people in the world often march in opposition to many apparent injustices, but Islam isn't rising up against the evil deeds conducted by the radica Islamic State - ISIS.

By Yasmine Bahrani Special to The Washington Post:
"...Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets..." Bahrani.

This summer, many Muslims marched in the streets of London, Paris and other cities to condemn the deaths of Gazans at the hands of Israel. Of course it makes sense to protest the bombing of schools and residential buildings. I marched in the streets against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon when I was a student, and I marched against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But, inexplicably, there have been no similarly large-scale demonstrations against the Islamic State for its horrific acts against Christians, Yazidis and even its fellow Muslims in Iraq and Syria. And there certainly haven’t been any marches protesting the beheading of innocents. It’s not hard to organize a march. So where are the demonstrations?

This is not the first time this question has occurred to me. For years, I have wondered about this absence of public outrage. When I asked about the murder of Iraqi civilians by Sunni and Shiite gangs, my fellow Muslims dodged my questions: “Why did the United States invade Iraq in the first place?” Yes, the U.S. invasion was a mistake. But why is it so hard to take a stand against the killing of women and children? I never got a straight answer.

To be sure, many Muslims have spoken out against the Islamic State, and some clerics have condemned this gang of terrorists; Qatar-based Islamic scholar Yusuf Qaradawi, for instance, said the Islamic State violates sharia law and declared “null and void” the group’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But their words merely echoed those of non-Muslims who have called for an end to the violence. Surely we can do better.

Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris. Mainstream Muslims must express our rejection of extremism in clear terms, while doing whatever we can to stop young people from radicalizing.

The common refrain is: “That’s not Islam.” Of course it isn’t. Muslims know that, but we need to understand that others do not. And here’s the problem: To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community.

Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives. And as long as our condemnations remain tepid, we give the impression that we accept the crimes of murderers whose savvy YouTube productions reach far and wide. Like it or not, the Islamic State is winning the public relations war.

Sadly, mainstream Muslims have no choice but to come to terms with the fact that groups of people are car-bombing, shooting, starving, kidnapping and beheading people in the name of Islam — not to mention blowing up churches and mosques. Where is the anger?

Is it possible that the marches in support of Palestinians are well-attended because Muslims hate Israel more than we hate criminal gangs who have hijacked the narrative of our religion?

The decision before the community is this: Either we reject the Islamic State and groups like it in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Muslims. When we say “It’s not Islam,” we are dismissing the criminals as someone else’s problem. The truth is, nobody else is going to deal with them.

It might seem easier to evade this responsibility, but the price of doing so will be heavy. Because, to the rest of the world, that horrific picture is what Muslims have become. If we don’t do something now, that image will be the world’s perception of us for years to come.

Yasmine Bahrani is a professor of journalism at the American University in Dubai. She wrote this for The Washington Post.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tax money to sue President of the United States must be made Consitutioally illegal

Do the lawyers who are paid huge money to sue President Obama on behalf of Speaker Boehner understand the purpose of the government's system of "checks and balances"?  A lawsuit undermines this Constitutional system.

Moreover, are tax dollars being used to pay for a challenge to executive authority?

I can't understand how Americans, regardless of their personal political affiliations, can approve of having hard earned tax money used to sue the President of the United States.  

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) is unhappy with President Obama. What's new? Therefore, Boehner should use his personal resources to launch a liability claim, rather thann waste tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.

Unfortunately, Boehner found somebody with enough money to throw at a lawyer who's willing to take on the responsibility of launching a lawsuit against President Obama.  

Meanwhile, it makes no sense to sue the president, because the actions on the claims won't be determined until 2016, when Mr. Obama's term as President is complete. Even more ridiculous is the precedence Speaker Boehner sets for future presidents. Surely Americans realize how Boehner's litigious  actions will open this avenue of reproach for future presidents, thereby incapacitating our system of checks and balances.  

If Speaker Boehner wants to take legal action against President Obama he should take one of two actions: (a) initiate impeachment, but on what grounds?; or (b) pay for a lawsuit with his own money.

If each of the US government's three branches of government have equal authority to push back on the other two, then President Obama has the authority to provide an executive order when the legislative branch is incapable of taking action. 

Nevertheless, the Republicans finally found an attorney willing to accept the money needed to launch a challenge to American's long standing Constitutional system of checks and balances.  

House Republicans have hired their third attorney since August to pursue their lawsuit against President Barack Obama for allegedly overstepping his authority, tapping George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, according to House Speaker John Boehner’s office. (Who is paying Turley?)

A Boehner law suit puts executive Constitutional authority at risk. Boehner's outrageous action will undoubtedly be turfed to the third branch of government, the judicial branch. Court action to support the lawsuit,, or not, must be applied to all future Presidents.  

When the Legislative branch is allowed to sue the Executive branch, the system of checks and balances will be undermined.  

In other words, the President of the United States will be incapacitated.  

Veto will be the only power allowed and this will take a simple 2/3 vote to override.  Otherwise, Presidents will be unable to act.  

To the American voter, the Republicans must be put out of office. These ambitious group of right wing politicians are determined to undermine the US Constitution so they can rule like dictators.

Unfortunately, Americans haven't seen through the GOP political smoke and mirrors, whereby Republicans use fear to mask their nefarious political power ambitions.  

Nevertheless, Republicans like Speaker Boehner and his lock step followers should not be allowed to use American tax money to sue President Obama.  I want to know how Boehner will pay the expenses for Jonathan Turley? Not with my tax money!!


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Cardinal Sean leading compassion for our immigrant friends

Right to Life advocates have a moral leader in Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. His leadership for pro-life humanitarianism was evident when he celebrated Mass on the US-Mexico border at Nogales Arizona.    
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bishops-seek-immigration-reform-during-border-trip#



NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) — Roman Catholic leaders made a rare visit to the border and celebrated Mass (Tuesday, April 1, 2014) in the shadow of the fence separating the U.S. and Mexico, offering Holy Communion through the steel barrier to people on the Mexican side as they sought to bring attention to the plight of immigrants.


Unfortunately, many pro-life zealots who block access to women who need health care because they're poor, but might be desperately seeking pregnancy termination (aka "abortion"), aren't necessarily in line with extending compassion to people who are immigrants.  Abortion is always an act of desperation or sometimes a medically necessary procedure. On the other hand, treating immigrants like they're criminals, in my mind, is like aborting them from society. Abortion of a fetus is just as moral an issue as aborting immigrants. Abortion of immigrants means denying them health care, deporting them and, worst of all, separating them from their families.

Of course, I apologize in advance to Cardinal Sean for blending the concept of compassion for immigrants with protecting a woman's access to reproductive health.  I'm a registered nurse, therefore, comfortable making the correlation.

My exemplary admiration for Cardinal Sean's extension of compassion to the immigrants who gathered along the horrible wall in Nogales, in Arizona and Mexico is meteoric. 

In September 2015, Pope Francis will visit the US to celebrate at a family conference in Philadelphia. Among the people who will be invited to meet and greet Pope Francis will, no doubt, be many immigrant families of diverse religious affiliations.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

New York — Pope Francis, the first pontiff ever to hail from the Western hemisphere, will be making his first official visit to the United States at a critical time for his progressive pastoral agenda, which has included promoting a more inclusive ministerial tone for divorced and gay Catholics.

“Pope Francis's upcoming visit to the US is of crucial importance for his papacy,” says Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “It’ll be interesting to see how much further he can move with his agenda on US soil, given that so many of the primary conservative opponents have been housed with the US bishops.”

During a speech on family values at the Vatican Monday morning, the pope announced that he planned to attend the 8th World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Philadelphia next September. The conference, first established by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to provide a forum for the challenges contemporary families face, was last held in Milan in 2012.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Another physician victim of Ebola - tremendous loss to humanitarian efforts

When a physician or nurse dies of Ebola, as a result of treating people with the virus, thier loss is magnified by the number of desperate people who are impacted by the decline in numbers of medical caregivers, those who are qualified to provide treatment.

Medscape article:

Sierra Leone surgeon Martin Salia, MD, died of Ebola this morning November 16, 2014, after being airlifted to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on November 15 for treatment, the hospital announced.

"Dr Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren't able to save him," said Phil Smith, MD, director of the center's biocontainment unit, in a news release. Dr Salia was already experiencing kidney and respiratory failure on arrival.

The hospital said Dr Salia was placed on dialysis and a ventilator. He received a dose of convalescent plasma andZMapp (Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc) therapy.


"We used every possible treatment available to give Dr Salia every possible opportunity for survival," said Dr Smith. "As we have learned, early treatment for these patients is essential. In Dr Salia's case, his disease was already extremely advanced by the time he came here for treatment."

The 44-year-old Dr Salia was the chief medical officer at United Methodist Church Kissy General Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He also treated patients at other medical facilities in Freetown, according to the church's news agency. United Methodist News said it was not clear where and how Dr. Salia contracted the Ebola virus.

A legal permanent resident of the United States, Dr Salia leaves behind a wife, Isatu Salia, and two children.

Nebraska Medical Center is one of four US hospitals with special biocontainment units designed for deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola. Two other patients with Ebola have been treated there and discharged virus-free.
******
Tragically, the world has lost another physician who had the capacity to heal thousands of other people. God Bless his efforts.

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Bird influenza virus is obviously mutating but the source is known

Culling birds where the influenza virus H1N1 and it's genetic mutations has helped to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

While the US is obsessed with a few people who have been unfortunate enough to contract the dangerous Ebola virus, the world is still being vigiliant about the potential for a bird flu influenza outbreak. Nevertheless, the etiology of bird flu can be "culled". We must find the same solution for Ebola.

Public health researchers could consider how to cull the source of the Ebola virus, but not enough is known about the disease's origins.  I've heard some physicians claim the virus began with infected fruit bats near the Ebola River in Africa. It seems impossible to cull bat populations, especially because these flying mammals probably eat Anopheles mosquitoes that carry malaria.

Therefore, epidemiologists, those who study the sources of disease outbreaks, must figure out how fruit bats carry the Ebola virus.  Right now, of course, the focus has been on preventing an even worse epedimic than currently exists in Western Africa, especially with thousands at risk in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Meanwhile, the world health monitoring organizations including the United Nations must be very diligent about another outbreak of deadly influenza, as reported in The Guardian.  

A cull is being carried out at a duck farm in Yorkshire England, after avian flu found there, but officials stress ‘very low’ risk to public health.


There were two confirmed outbreaks in western Europe on Sunday, first at a poultry farm in the Netherlands, then at duck breeders in northern England. The Dutch authorities have started slaughtering 150,000 chickens at the farm in central Netherlands where the disease was detected. 


Later, in the UK, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed at least one case of the virus at the farm in the Driffield area of East Yorkshire. It insisted the risk to public health was “very low”, and said it was culling all poultry at the farm. 

What are the most dangerous strains?

The H5N1 form has been the cause of most concern in recent years. The strain detected in the Netherlands was identified as H5N8. This strain has never been detected in humans. Defra confirmed that the outbreak in Yorkshire was H5, but not H5N1. Three versions of the milder H7 form have also spread to humans. Both H5N1 and H7 are referred to as “highly pathogenic”, which means they are extremely contagious among birds. The disease spreads both by air and contact with bird droppings. 


Where has it appeared?


An outbreak of the H5N8 strain in South Korea earlier this year meant millions of farm birds had to be slaughtered to contain the outbreak. Cases have also been reported in China and Japan. The strain was first reported in Europe on a German farm in early November. In September, Russia reported the first cases of H5N1 in nearly two years.

If it just affects birds, why the panic?

World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show that from 2003 to October 2014, there were 668 confirmed cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Of these cases, 393 people died.

So far, most of the human deaths have been in Asia, in communities in which people live in close proximity to poultry. Although it does not easily infect humans, every time it does it increases the chance that the virus could mutate into a form that could be passed from one infected human to another. The WHO says that would probably be how a flu pandemic would start. Pandemics have occurred every 20 to 30 years, but it has been almost 40 years since the last one happened. The most severe occurred in 1918-1919, and is estimated to have killed around 50 million people worldwide.

How does it spread?

WHO scientists believe it is likely that the virus is carried by migrating birds. Others, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Birdlife International, argue that there is strong evidence to suggest the poultry trade plays a large role in the spread of bird flu.

How do you catch bird flu?

It is very unlikely to catch the virus unless you have been in close contact with infected birds or someone with confirmed or suspected bird flu. The virus is found in secretions from the eyes and respiratory tract, and droppings of infected birds. Humans can catch the virus by inhaling droplets sneezed by infected birds or the dust from their bedding or droppings.

In my opinion, it appears the H1N1 virus has already mutated.  Consequently, it's doubtful humans will ever be completely ahead of the risk for a bird flu epidemic. Unfortunately, because the Ebola virus was not attacked with the same ferocity as H1N1, the world still can't destroy the source of this deadly disease, while it continues to spread.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Post election 2014 debrief - Democrats who did not vote just suck it up

Although I haven't checked Rod Harmon's sources, I'm nevertheless entertained by his imagery. "Thomas Jefferson’s campaign accused opponent John Adams of being a hermaphrodite*. Adams’ camp responded by saying Jefferson was 'the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father'."

"From the Editor" article by Harmon titled "Time to end the wailing and gnashing of teeth", published on November 13, 2014, in Maine's The Coastal Journal. I forced myself to read the article because I instinctively knew, as an American voter, I had to realize the truth of the message. (column below)

Democrats who didn't vote in the 2014 election, including young people, are responsible for the Republican barrage of media claiming their mandate to push forth wasteful policy and greed seeking agendas. At the top of the money wasting list is yet another call to repeal the Health Care Reform  (ACA) i.e., Obamacare.

Obviously, there's nothing a Democratic voter can do but suck up this Republican moment and just move on.  It's somewhat helpful to realize how this Republican year didn't have to happen.  

In fact, Chuck Todd reported on his Sunday November 16 Meet the Press about how Senate elections in Colorado and North Carolina would've turned to Democratic victories if the young voters from 2012, had only gone to the polls in the same numbers as in 2014.

So Democrats are in the post election dumps knowing it didn't have to turn out like it did. Republicans, on the other hand, are screeching about having a mandate.  

Here's what Rod Harmon says:
Time to end the wailing and gnashing of teeth

In the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson’s campaign accused opponent John Adams of being a hermaphrodite. Adams’ camp responded by saying Jefferson was “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

When he was a member of the Illinois Legislature in 1840, Abraham Lincoln jumped out a second-story window because he didn’t like a bill and wanted to deny the opposing party a quorum.

At the Old State House in Boston, you can view the cane that South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks used in 1856 to beat abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner nearly to death – in the Senate chambers. Brooks resigned, but was immediately re-elected by his constituency.

And during the 1920s in Maine, long known as a “progressive” state, the Ku Klux Klan was a major political influence on both state and local politics.

I think about such things w h e n eve r there’s an election cycle and people unhappy with how things turned out bemoan the “good old days” when the Founding Fathers were perfect, big money didn’t play a key role in politics and everyone worked together for the common good.

Of course, that’s all a bunch of bahooey. Politics is, and always has been, a dirty business.

But that doesn’t mean We the People have to be dirty too.
The day after last week’s election, the cries of both jubilation and despair were inescapable. They filled morning radio drive-time, made talking heads even more talky on television, provided newspapers and magazines enough ink to stain fingers black, and burned up every aspect of the Internet as people traded barbed tirades at each other via story comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instragram memes and YouTube videos. If we had the ability to send each other holographic messages a la Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” I believe we would have done that too. (It’s coming.)
It had all the makings of a playground argument: “Your party sucks!” “No, YOURS does!” “Nu-uh! “Uh-huh!” Etc.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about who gets elected, what bills pass and fail, what the agenda of the government is going to be for the next four years or other issues of consequence. On the contrary, I have very opinionated views on numerous “hot button” political issues, on every level.

But, as disappointed as I sometimes am, as delighted as I sometimes am, as bewildered as I sometimes am, I hope that I discuss these issues with someone of an opposing view with at least a modicum of civility. That, even if I do not agree with, and am not persuaded by, another person’s point of view, that we can at least discuss it like reasonable adults using not emotions but knowledge as the basis of our arguments.

I used to think that journalists as a whole thought the same way, because it’s our job to report the facts and be unbiased in our reporting; thus, we’re trained to listen to different points of view without throwing a tantrum. Alas, I can no longer say that, as 24-hour news and political talk shows have given rise to a profession ridden roughshod by red-faced commentators spitting all over the microphone as they try to yell over other commentators piled on the air in a “Brady Bunch”-style manner. In their world, he who yells loudest wins.

So maybe it’s not that politics have gotten dirtier, but that the voices of the loudest, brattiest, most obnoxious people have become more accessible. What was once relegated to street pamphlets and back-of-the-building meetings can now be instantly splashed worldwide via blogs, social media and guest spots on biased “news” broadcasts.

And the more calm, logical, concerned voices of reason get drowned out in the din.

But I haven’t given up hope. I still think that the majority of Americans value civility over conflict, believe that actions should be based on a gathering of facts from all viewpoints and not something they heard on the radio while driving to work, and who think that the minority of people with power are beholden to the majority comprised of working men and women who put them in office and make the economy churn.

It’s never un-American to speak out for what you believe in. It is un-American to say someone doesn’t deserve to express those rights, or that they’re un-American if their views don’t go hand in hand with yours.

It’s our duty – our responsibility – to demand that politicians play nicely together so that common good can prevail.

Yes, it’s a paradox. Yes, it seems like an impossible dream. But I believe it can happen.

So, the election’s over. It’s time to move on. Time to stop the name-calling, the blustering, the presentation of fiction as facts, and work together to make the next four years productive.

I ended my pre-election column with this line, and I like it so much, I’m going to repeat it now. Heck, I may end every column with it from now on, because I think it’s important to remember:

Take care of yourselves, and be kind to each other. rharmon@coastaljournal.com  

*By the way "hermaphrodite" (www.dictionary.com):  a person who has the reproductive sex organs of both a male and a female

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Russian President Putin like a lost tourist with useless rubles


"Vladimir Putin first to leave G20 summit, pleading lack of sleep
Russian president says the atmosphere was constructive and media reports of conflict with Western leaders were exaggerated." 

The Guardian - Putin had to feel the big chill. Based on limited experience in Asia during travels a few years ago, the Russians then weren't the most popular tourists. Now, with the airliner MH17 tragedy and the Ukraine illegal invasion, the Russian president is the face of unpopularity.  Economic sanctions notwithstanding, Putin must've felt like he was at risk for infectious disease because his meeting with the world leaders was covered by negativity.

A tired Vladimir Putin has left Brisbane’s G20 praising the summit’s “constructive atmosphere” and saying the reported fallout between him and leaders of Western countries were exaggerated by the media.

Putin was the first world leader to leave Australia, his jet taking off shortly after 2pm local time.

The Russian president told reporters from his own country he was the first to go because he had to get back to Moscow to work, and he needed “four or five hours sleep”. (LOL!)

But Putin remained defiant over Russian interests in Ukraine, saying Kiev’s economic blockade of the separatist east was “a big mistake”, though “not fatal”.

“I don’t understand why Kiev authorities are cutting off those territories with their own hands. Well one can understand – to save money. But it’s not the time or the case to save money on,” he said.

Western leaders have queued up at G20 to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, in particular supporting and arming separatist rebels, and for Russia’s perceived complicity in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

In his closing remarks, the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, told reporters he had had “a very candid and robust discussion” with Putin at Apec in Beijing, and that he suspected several leaders had had similar talks with the Russian leader at the G20.

“I have some differences with the Russian government, obviously,” Abbott said. “I don’t agree, in fact I utterly deplore, what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. I demand Russia fully cooperates with the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17.”


Putin heard, in ear screeching stereo, from the world leaders. "We don't like you." 

So, like a spoiled child who can't be the team's quarterback, he took his worthless Russian rubles with him and simply went home.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Evil ISIS Baghdadi - a volcanic leader who must eventually implode

"Al-Baghdadi has the megalomaniacal aim of restoring the long-expired caliphate, the original Muslim kingdom that existed under the successors of the Prophet Mohammed and at one point extended from modern-day Spain to Central Asia. "Caliph," or khalifa, means "successor" in Arabic, and by taking the title, al-Baghdadi has declared himself the chief imam and political and military leader of all Muslims."  The Week


(Maybe caliph's are all supposed to be ugly, but Baghdadi certainly gives the fashion color of black a bad name.)

Nearly all geologically caused destructions eventually become victim to their own energy forces. They're something like imploding stars, where black holes engulf their masses like astrological packmen. Surely, the radical Islamic leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is as meteroic as a fire ball star and just as likely to, eventually, self destruct into a black hole. But when?

Recent reports speculated about the evil ISIS leader Baghdadi being wounded in one of the US led air attacks now targeting the extremists group's aggression in Iraq and Syria. Although nothing has been seen of this self proclaimed Islamic caliph since the injury reports surfaced, his apparently strong voice was subsequently heard calling for ISIS and all of Islam to erupt jihad (war) like erupting volcanoes.  Of course, Baghadadi could find himself in the path of the volcanic lava flows he calls for, because his aggressive brutality is pushing him towards his own eternal meeting with Allah.

Who is Baghadi and why did he become so powerful?  The Week gives this summary in a September 19, 2014 briefing:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: The man who would be caliph
The ISIS leader is a shrewd strategist and vicious killer. 

Here's what you should know about him. By The Week staff.

Who is al-Baghdadi?

He's an Islamic scholar, poet, and Sunni extremist who is as much as an enigma to his followers as he is to his enemies. Born Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 43, is believed to have started his career as a preacher of Salafism, a hard-line form of Sunni Islam, and to have a degree in history and a doctorate in sharia law. 

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, he led a Sunni militant group that fought against American troops. 

Captured by U.S. forces in 2005, he was held for four years at Camp Bucca, a U.S. military prison. There, he met several al Qaeda commanders. In 2009, the U.S. turned al-Baghdadi over to Iraqi authorities as part of a Bush administration agreement with the Iraqis. Col. Ken King, who oversaw Camp Bucca, recalls al-Baghdadi taunting his American captors at the time, "I'll see you guys in New York." 

He was quickly released by the Iraqis and used his prison contacts to take over an al Qaeda–aligned militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq. Shortly after, he began an offensive to seize territory.

What is his goal?

Al-Baghdadi has the megalomaniacal aim of restoring the long-expired caliphate, the original Muslim kingdom that existed under the successors of the Prophet Mohammed and at one point extended from modern-day Spain to Central Asia. "Caliph," or khalifa, means "successor" in Arabic, and by taking the title, al-Baghdadi has declared himself the chief imam and political and military leader of all Muslims. The last caliphate ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, and establishing a state to be the home of the faithful has been the dream of Islamic fundamentalists for more than half a century. Al-Baghdadi claims to trace his lineage to the Prophet Mohammed's Quraysh tribe, and his nom de guerre recalls the first caliph: Abu Bakr, father-in-law and close adviser of Mohammed. In July, he addressed the world's Muslims in a sermon. "I am the wali [leader] who presides over you," al-Baghdadi said at the Grand Mosque in Mosul, Iraq. "Obey me as long as I obey God in you."

What kind of state does he want?

At its height 1,000 years ago, the Islamic caliphate was the world's center of science and art, a beacon of tolerance during Europe's Dark Ages. Al-Baghdadi, by contrast, draws inspiration from the earliest form of the caliphate, when the first four successors of Mohammed spread Islam by sword in the 7th century. He also admires the Abbasids, the dynasty of caliphs who founded Baghdad in the 8th century. He models his justice system after theirs — using beheadings, stonings, and crucifixions. "Terrorism is to refuse humiliation, subjugation, and subordination [to infidels]," al-Baghdadi said in July. "Terrorism is for the Muslim to live as a Muslim."

How did he become so powerful?

By exploiting the Syrian civil war. When al-Baghdadi took over the Islamic State of Iraq, he came into conflict with al Qaeda's central leadership, which chastised it for fighting Shiites instead of Westerners. Al-Baghdadi defiantly sent his fighters into Syria to seize land and renamed his group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (i.e. ISIS)— a power grab that caused al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to disown him. 

By then, al-Baghdadi had tapped into al Qaeda's primary funding sources in the Persian Gulf, and when his army seized oil fields in Syria, ISIS became a juggernaut.

What does al-Baghdadi control?

ISIS is now an extraordinarily well-armed and well-funded militant group. Once al-Baghdadi's fighters entered Syria, he rallied other jihadists to his banner and captured large chunks of territory. At least 10,000 militants are now loyal to him, and more flock to his cause every week. The group is headquartered in the city of Raqqa, Syria, from which it governs a Massachusetts-size territory that straddles parts of Syria and Iraq. ISIS funds its expansion by selling oil, collecting taxes, looting banks, and selling antiquities; it is believed to control some $2 billion in cash and assets, and has amassed vast quantities of weaponry, including hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of U.S.-supplied artillery and armored vehicles captured from fleeing Iraqi forces.

What is life under ISIS like?

It is medieval. ISIS has imposed the most brutal form of sharia law throughout its territory, destroying Shiite mosques and tombs; slaughtering those it deems infidels; and banning music, drinking, and smoking. Women must wear a face veil, and all residents must attend prayers five times a day. Thieves have their hands amputated, while women suspected of adultery or immodesty are flogged. Thousands of minority Christians and Yazidis have been slaughtered. The U.S. has put a $10 million bounty on al-Baghdadi's head, and he's believed to be on the official "kill list" for drone attacks. "Now that he has claimed the caliphate," said Charlie Cooper, a British counterterrorism analyst, "he has effectively positioned himself as the standard-bearer of jihadism the world over."

Sowing terror via Twitter

ISIS is by far the most media-savvy militant group to emerge in the Middle East. Its social-media director is believed to be an American: Ahmad Abousamra, 33, a dual U.S.-Syrian citizen who was born in France and raised in the Boston area. Fluent in Arabic and English, he studied computer science at Northeastern University, where he made the dean's list. Under his influence, ISIS fighters are encouraged to use Twitter and Facebook to promote jihad, and many of them have posted photos and videos of themselves holding up severed heads or executing prisoners

"ISIS understands very well that in order for an act of terrorism to be effective, it needs to actually terrorize people," says Peter Neumann of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization. "The act of communication that follows the act of violence is almost as important as the act of violence itself."
+++++

Seems to me if evil ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghadadi is alive and well, his megalomaniacal personality wouldn't be able to hide under the dome of his call for volcanic jihad.  

Of course, being a woman writing this blog that's calling for Baghadadi to meet up with Allah, sooner rather than later, doesn't stroke the terrorist's ego enough to bring him out into the open. 

Nevertheless, even the caliph's own evil executioners will eventually want to see his disgusting face. Therefore, it's just a matter of time before we know if the "kill order" drones must finish off their targets, and where....and how soon?



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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ebola and Repubicans - fear trumps science again

Excellent article by Michael Specter in the October 20, 2014 The New Yorker about "The Fear Equation".  It boils down to fear trumps science, absolutely, especially during an election year.  

It's beyond tragic and, frankly, stupid, (to quote Governor Jindal of Louisiana) for Republicans to leverage fear for votes, but it apparently works - grrrugh :(....!  

In fact, science doesn't support the fear when evaluating the public response to several past infectious disease outbreaks.

Illustraton by Tom Batchtell
 
Now, the contagious Ebola virus is among the list of anti-science beliefs in the queue of subjects Republicans adopted in their crusade to create fear in Americans.  Ebola joins Creationism, women's reproductive physiology and global warming on the Republicans short list of "don't need to know anything" issues, but the longer list is even scarier.  For example, Republicans don't believe hydraulic fracking for oil causes earthquakes, even though everyplace where this technology is used experiences a rise in seismic activity. 

Specter's article describes what is known from empirical evidence about infectious disease monitoring, including the current panic about the few cases in the US where people have been diagnosed with the Ebola virus:
 
In early March of 2003, when the infectious SARS swept into Hong Kong from Southern China, the streets of one of the world’s most densely populated areas were practically deserted. 

Venders in kiosks sold face masks and hand sanitizer to anyone brave, or foolish, enough to leave home. The fear of a new highly contagious disease is understandable, and, with no effective treatment or vaccine for SARS, it was difficult to know what to do. The World Health Organization recommended that officials in the countries most affected warn people with a fever to stay off international flights. 

Hong Kong went further, using infrared scanners and thermometers to take the temperature of more than thirty-six million passengers as they arrived. Nineteen hundred and twenty-one of them had a fever, and forty were admitted to the hospital. None developed SARS. (Canada and Singapore also scanned arriving passengers. Neither country found anyone with sars.)

Last week, the Obama Administration announced that, at five major U.S. airports, passengers arriving from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone will be checked for fever. That measure isn’t likely to be any more effective at detecting the Ebola virus than it was at finding SARS. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to receive a diagnosis of Ebola in the United States, died last Wednesday, in Dallas. 

But before he left Liberia, as part of a routine scan at the Monrovia airport, a technician who had been trained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took his temperature with a type of infrared thermometer that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Duncan had no fever, which isn’t surprising, as it can take as long as three weeks for Ebola to cause symptoms (and until people develop symptoms they are not contagious). Still, on Wednesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, of New York, said, “Taking temperatures and learning more about passengers coming here from West Africa will provide another necessary line of defense against this epidemic. When it comes to Ebola, you can’t be too careful. As we saw in Dallas, all it takes is one case to discombobulate an entire city.”

Actually, all it takes to discombobulate a city is a few irrational decisions and some irresponsible statements. Several politicians, like Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, have turned the epidemic into fodder for their campaign to halt immigration. Jindal, and others, have suggested that we ought to simply close our borders to people coming from West Africa. That would only increase the isolation of countries that have already been devastated and make it harder to deliver essential aid there. As Bruce Aylward, the assistant director general of the W.H.O., has pointed out, travel bans make the world sicker, not safer. He said recently, “The more difficulty you have with travel and trade, the harder it is to have an appropriate response.” He added, “which means this disease is getting more and more ahead of us.”

Fear is not a weakness; it’s how people respond to danger. Unless it is calibrated properly, however, fear quickly turns into panic, and panic moves faster than any virus. Diseases that get the most attention and cause the greatest anxiety are rarely those which claim the most lives. Malaria, tuberculosis, and H.I.V. have killed hundreds of thousands of people this year. Fewer than a thousand people died in the 2003 SARS epidemic, but a report by the National Academy of Sciences notes that its cost to the global economy—not only in medical expenditures but in lost trade, productivity, and investment—was almost forty billion dollars.

At least four thousand people have already died of Ebola, the economic impact of the epidemic has been calamitous, and every day the numbers get worse. But we need to stop acting as if the tragedy unfolding in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone could happen here on anything like the same scale. There will be more cases of Ebola in the United States, but unless something remarkably unlikely develops, such as a mutation that makes it easier for the virus to spread, the epidemic can be stopped. Ebola is difficult to contract, and although viruses mutate constantly, once they are established in humans they do not generally alter their mode of transmission.

That message is not getting through. According to a Harris poll taken just before Duncan’s diagnosis, forty per cent of Americans believed that Ebola represented a major or a moderate threat to public health in the United States. Thirty-seven per cent thought that the H1N1 influenza epidemic of 2009 posed a similar threat. The two outbreaks are not comparable. H1N1 infected about twenty per cent of the world’s population, including sixty million Americans. A catastrophe was averted owing solely to a biological fluke: the death rate of those infected was unusually low—there were more than twelve thousand fatalities in the U.S., but that is far fewer than die from the flu in most years.

Our response to pandemics—whether SARS, avian influenza, MERS, or Ebola—has become predictable. First, there is the panic. Then, as the pandemic ebbs, we forget. We can’t afford to do either. This epidemic won’t be over soon, but that is even more reason to focus on what works. Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone all need more money, more health-care workers, and more troops to help coördinate relief efforts. In the short term, the only way to halt the epidemic is with better infection-control measures. In Senegal and Nigeria, two countries where poverty and health problems are pervasive, the most basic such measures—contact tracing, quarantine, and proper protections for health workers—seem to have had a positive effect. (Part of the success in Nigeria is also due to the fact that officials made an enormous effort to keep the virus out of Lagos, a city of twenty million people.)

We also need to take better advantage of our scientific tools. Advances in molecular and synthetic biology have begun to provide a sophisticated understanding of the genetic composition of viruses. We are increasingly able to make vaccines by assembling synthetic proteins as if they were molecular Legos. Rob Carlson, the author of “Biology Is Technology,” who has written widely about genetic engineering and vaccine development, says, “We could have pushed the development of a synthetic Ebola vaccine a decade ago. We had the skills, but we chose not to pursue it. Why? Because we weren’t the people getting sick.” 


One day, a virus that matches our sense of doom may come along. Until then, we will need to rely on data and evidence—not theatrics or fear. ♦







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