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Sunday, January 20, 2019

But Mexico was supposed to pay for Donald Trump's stupid border wall! An Idaho echo

Where do we build a border wall?  Hello?  Mexico we are waiting for you to pay for it!
Tragically, Donald Trump shut down the federal government because Congress didn't approve $5.7 billion in funding for his expensive and stupid U.S.-Mexico border wall project.

Trump’s (stupid!) border wall- an echo opinion letter published in the Idaho Statesman newspaper:

Trump campaigned that he would build a wall along the Mexican border, and Mexico would pay for it

For some crazy reason Mexico, hasn’t stepped up to the plate. 

Seeing that wasn’t going to happen, Trump pushed for American taxpayers to pay for the wall, but Mexico would pay through a redone trade deal (yet to be fully approved). 

Now, Congress isn’t on board to pay for the wall, so Trump wants to declare a state of emergency (! OMG), and take money for the wall from emergency disaster funding. 

The only state of emergency in this country is that it is being run by a lying, corrupt narcissist, and no one in the Republican Party has the nerve, or love for this country, to stand up to Trump. In the meantime the government is shut down. Government workers are not getting paid for “essential” work, or furloughed, until further notice. As for the wall, it’s gone from concrete to steel. No actual plans have surfaced showing how it would be built. We are all for border security. Let’s work on border security, better processes at the border, and remember what this country stands for. This isn’t America.

From Michael Voloshen, Boise Idaho

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Idaho Statesamn- an opinion about Propaganda


An echo opinion letter published in the Idaho Statesman newspaper
Many still wonder how the citizens of a civilized, intellectual society like Germany’s (Nazi party) could degenerate into a nation of such ruthless, sadistic monsters in World War II. 
World War II German propaganda
Historians agree that Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was most influential. “Propaganda is the conscious manipulation of the masses.”

Goebbels had little problem manipulating German citizens because the Nazi party seized control of the media. Recent events in America have revealed a similar media coup. Partisan operatives coined the phrase “fake news,” falsely convincing millions that only Fox News is “real.” Many Americans misled by this scheme are now paranoid of all other news sources. 

Citizens held captive by a single news source (aka FoxNews!) are easily manipulated (Germany, North Korea, Cuba).

Fox News thrives on fear-mongering, half-truths and demonizing political opponents. Half-truths are more destructive than lies.

Since there’s safety in numbers, multiple mainstream news sources (“freedom of the press”) have always been America’s greatest defense against sleazy propaganda thugs bent on manipulating voters and government.

Unfortunately, citizens often mistake party affiliation for patriotism ... which makes Americans more vulnerable to the toxic partisan propaganda that’s poisoning our democracy.
Get informed!

Only fully informed voters can “Keep America Great.”

Michael Howard, from Boise Idaho

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U.S. Coast Guard among the hard working American citizens who are working without paychecks

For First Time in Recent History, a US Military Service Is Working Without Pay Echo report from the news | By Hope Hodge Seck

MaineWriter- It's time for Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stop the shutdown!
Editor's note: Many readers have taken issue with the assertion that this is the first time that U.S. service members have not been paid due to an appropriations lapse. We did some historical digging of our own. While this is the 21st government shutdown since 1976, most have been very short, and others, such as the shutdown in 1995-1996 and the shutdown in 2013, were accompanied by legislation that protected military pay. 

However, there was a period in 1877 when the U.S. Army went unpaid after Congress adjourned without passing an appropriations bill. So we've added the word "recent" to the headline.

As Coast Guard paychecks went undelivered Tuesday as the result of an ongoing partial government shutdown, the service's top officer urged its members to stay the course.

In a public letter published Tuesday afternoon on his social media pages, Admiral Karl Schultz said the day's missed paycheck, to his knowledge, marked the first time in the history of the nation "that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations."

The Coast Guard, the only military service to fall under the Department of Homeland Security, is also the only service with payroll affected by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22. 

Although, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to issue final paychecks for the year, further pay cannot be dispersed until a budget deal is reached or another appropriation agreement is made.

In all, some 55,000 Coast Guard active-duty, reserve and civilian members are going without pay; the number includes 42,000 active-duty service members.

Coast Guard civilians have been on furlough or working without pay since the shutdown began.

While some government employees affected by the shutdown have been furloughed, the Coast Guard continues to conduct operations around the world.

"Your senior leadership, including [DHS] Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments," Schultz said in his letter. "I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf."

Schultz added that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the service's official military relief society, received a $15 million donation from USAA to support those in need. The American Red Cross will help distribute the funds, he said.

The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Board is also offering increased interest-free loans to junior employees and junior enlisted service members.

"I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women," Schultz said. "It is a direct reflection of the American public's sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country."

The Coast Guard, Schultz said, had already many times proven the ability to rise above adversity.

"Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride," he wrote. "You are not, and will not, be forgotten."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Echo- North American Hispanics have historical precedence in the United States

“before we came to America, America came to us!” 

MaineWriter opinion - Our American Hispanic neighbors were populating our continent's southern regions for centuries, long before there were international borders.

First Nations peoples of the Americas:  Hispanics have precedence and treaties too. A scholarly opinion published in the San Antonio Express News by Julio Noboa

The Hispanic presence in the United States is inextricably linked to pivotal events in our nation’s history. Last year, 2018, marked two important events that forever changed the destiny of Mexico and Puerto Rico, the homelands of the two largest Hispanic groups in our nation. These events resulted in millions of Latinx people being absorbed into this territorial and cultural expanse we call America.

For Mexican-Americans, Feb. 2, 2018, marked 170 years since the signing in 1848 of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican American War. The U.S. expanded to include almost half of Mexico’s territory, bringing into the nation vast regions of the West, including California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

Another important but unrecognized result was the birth of the Mexican-American people, many of whom still identify as Chicanos — constituting a whole new ethnic identity within the American cultural and political landscape. 

Nevertheless, in violation of the treaty’s promises and assurances, Chicanos’ rights to their language and culture were soon threatened and abrogated, and much of their properties and lands were lost through duplicity, intimidation and outright violence. 

Mexican-Americans are still struggling to gain their legitimate claim to a host of human rights, and classroom history books continue to exclude their cultural, economic and military contributions to this nation.

For Puerto Ricans, particularly most of us who identify as Boricuas, July 25, marked 120 years since General Nelson Miles’ troops landed on the southern shores of our island, in the final chapter of the Spanish American War.

Claiming to bring the blessings of American civilization, Miles disbanded a democratically elected council of Puerto Rican deputies and replaced them with a military government. Nearly two decades later, the Jones Act of 1917 granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. Boricuas were not permitted to vote on this most crucial decision.

Following a period of imperial neglect, U.S. corporations came, conquered and gained control of most of the arable land, turning it into a sugar cane cash crop. While our labor was being exploited and our resources extracted, the colonial government instituted an English-only policy in public education, decimating our native language and culture. For decades it was only the U.S. president — for whom Boricuas could not vote — who appointed the governor of the island.

Last year marked 70 years since Puerto Ricans were finally permitted in 1948 to elect their own governor, Luis Muñoz Marin. However, the empire obligated him to suppress the legitimate movement for Puerto Rican independence to the point that during the repression, it was a crime to sing the national anthem or simply fly the Puerto Rican flag. Still, mounting economic pressures forced millions of Boricuas, beginning in the 1950s, to leave their homeland in search of employment in the cold industrialized cities of the North.

Both the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and Miles’ landing in Puerto Rico were culminating events of two wars: the Mexican American War and the Spanish American War. The concept of Manifest Destiny — so often invoked during the 19th century to justify conquest, genocide and domination — made these wars seem inevitable.

The Manifest Destiny of this nation was in the past two centuries — and even as conceived today — to be one of expansion, domination and hemispheric hegemony. Yet, for many Hispanic Americans, our cultural destiny revolves around affirmation of our culture and language, preservation of our identity and hemispheric cooperation.

Among the most essential, pivotal issues for Boricuas and Chicanos are those that were initiated and defined by those two wars of conquest. Mexican-Americans are more concerned about immigration and citizenship issues and Puerto Ricans are more focused on the complex conundrum of their island’s political status. 

Yet in both cases they can legitimately proclaim that “before we came to America, America came to us!”

It is not enough to simply know history, we should become aware of the relationship historical events have to the problems of today. 

As a multicultural nation of immigrants and natives, we need to understand well the lessons of history and commit to utilizing peaceful cooperation, rather than violent domination, for resolving the problems of diversity that await.

Julio Noboa is a recently retired assistant professor of social studies at the University of Texas at El Paso and, in the past, a frequent contributor to the Express-News opinion pages.

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An Oklahoma point of view- vote Republicans out of office!

Congresswoman Kendra Horn is a Democrat who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, from Oklahoma
Letter to the editor published in Tulsa World news Oklahoma

Not happy with Republican Party by Howard Gordineer, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

I am proud of the Congressional District 5 folks who bravely voted in Kendra Horn* over Steve Russell. Oklahoma Republican officials are going to keep us poor, as Gov. Mary Fallin did for eight years. And, they will keep our state to lower or at the lowest level of being poor in the whole country.

The state Republicans are still failing to show their support for our state schools and teachers.

At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (MaineWriter opinion- he's being subject to some kind of kompromat!) could not say no or disagree with stupid Donald Trump on anything. Maybe because McConnell's wife is sitting in Trump's cabinet, as the (IMO often looking hypnotized) U.S. secretary of transportation.

It's still unbelievable and disgusting that so many Oklahomans voted to elect Republican federal and state officials last November.

We Americans better start getting rid of Republicans by voting in November 2020. Period!

*Kendra Suzanne Horn (born June 9, 1976) is an American attorney, politician, and activist representing Oklahoma's 5th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, since 2019. She is the first Democrat to be elected to the 5th district seat in 44 years, the first Democrat to be elected as a Member of the House of Representatives from Oklahoma in 8 years, the first Democratic woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma, and the third woman elected as a Member of the House of Representatives from Oklahoma.

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Immoral cost of insulin- an echo opinion by Dr. Ofri in The New York Times

By Danielle Ofri

Maine Writer- the cost charged for insulin by pharmaceutical companies is price gouging and immoral. Insulin does not cost a lot of money to manufacture. Insulin has been manufactured for nearly a century!

Dr. Ofri practices at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

How insurance companies farm out their dirty work to doctors and patients.

CreditCreditIllustration by Joan Wong; Photographs by Westend61/Getty Images and malerapaso/Getty Images
“Doctor, could you please redo my insulin prescription? The one you gave me is wrong.” My patient’s frustration was obvious over the phone. She was standing at the pharmacy, unable to get her diabetes medication.

We had gone through this just the week before. 

I’d prescribed her the insulin she’d been on, at the correct dosage, but when she showed up at her pharmacy she learned that her insurance company no longer covered that brand. 

After a series of phone messages back and forth, I’d redone the prescription with what I’d thought was the correct insulin, but I was apparently wrong. Again.

Between 2002 and 2013, prices tripled for some insulins. Many cost around $300 a vial, without any viable generic alternative. Most patients use two or three vials a month, but others need the equivalent of four. Self-rationing has become common as patients struggle to keep up. In the short term, fluctuating blood sugar levels can lead to confusion, dehydration, coma, even death. In the long term, poorly controlled 
diabetes is associated with heart attacks, strokes, blindness, amputation and the need for dialysis.

The exorbitant prices confound patients and doctors alike, since insulin is nearly a century old now. The pricing is all the more infuriating when one considers that the discoverers of insulin sold the patent for $1 each to ensure that the medication would be affordable. Today the three main manufacturers of insulin are facing a lawsuit, accusing them of deceptive pricing schemes, but it could be years before this yields any changes.

There are several reasons that insulin is so expensive. It is a biologic drug, meaning that it’s produced in living cells, which is a difficult manufacturing process. The bigger issue, however, is that companies tweak their formulations, so they can get new patents, instead of working to create cheaper generic versions. This keeps insulin firmly in brand-name territory, with prices to match.

But the real ignominy (and the meat of the lawsuit) is the dealings between the drug manufacturers and the insurance companies. Insurers use pharmacy benefit managers, called P.B.M.s, to negotiate prices with manufacturers. 

Insurance programs represent huge markets, so manufacturers compete to offer good deals. How to offer a good deal? Jack up the list price, and then offer the P.B.M.s a “discount.”

This pricing is, of course, hidden from most patients, except those without insurance, who have to pay full freight. 

Patients with insurance live with the repercussions of constantly changing coverage, as P.B.M.s chase better discounts from different manufacturers.

All insurance companies periodically change which medications they cover, but insulin is in a whirlwind class by itself because of the staggering sums of money involved. “Short-acting” is supposed to be a category of insulin, but now it appears to be its category of insurance coverage. My patient’s “preferred insulin” changed three times in a year, so each time she went to the pharmacy, her prescription was rejected.

On the doctor's end, it’s an endless game of catch-up. Lantus was covered, but now it’s Basaglar: rewrite all the prescriptions for all your patients. Oops, now it’s Levemir: rewrite them all again. NovoLog was covered, then it was Humalog, but now it’s Admelog. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Tresiba.

It’s a colossal time-waster, as patients, pharmacists and doctors log hours upon hours calling, faxing, texting and emailing to keep up with whichever insulin is trending. It’s also dangerous, as patients can end up without a critical medication for days, sometimes weeks, waiting for these bureaucratic kinks to get ironed out.

Lost in this communal migraine is that this whole process is corrosive to the doctor-patient relationship. I knew that my patient wasn’t angry at me personally, but her ire came readily through the phone. No doubt this reflected desperation — she’d run out of insulin before and didn’t want to end in the emergency room on IV fluids, as she had the last time. Frankly, I was pretty peeved myself. By this point I’d already written enough insulin prescriptions on her account to fill a sixth Book of Moses. I’d already called her insurance company and gotten tangled in phone trees of biblical proportions.

This time, I called her pharmacy. A sympathetic pharmacist was willing to work with me, and I stayed on the phone with her as we painstakingly submitted one insulin prescription after another. 

The first wasn’t covered. The second wasn’t covered. The third was. But before we could sing the requisite hosannas, the pharmacist informed me that while the insulin was indeed covered, it was not a “preferred” medication. That meant there was a $72-per-month co-payment, something that my patient would struggle to afford on her fixed income.

“So just tell me which is the preferred insulin,” I told the pharmacist briskly.

There was a pause before she replied. “There isn’t one.”

This was a new low — an insurance company now had no insulins on its top tier. Breaking the news to my patient was devastating. We had a painful conversation about how she would have to reconfigure her life in order to afford this critical medication.

It suddenly struck me that insurance companies and drug manufacturers had come upon an ingenious business plan: They could farm out their dirty work to the doctors and the patients. 

Astoundingly, let the doctors be the ones to navigate the bureaucratic hoops and then deliver the disappointing news to our patients. Let patients be the ones to figure out how to ration their medications or do without.

Congress and the Food and Drug Administration need to tame the Wild West of drug pricing. When there’s an E. coli outbreak that causes illness and death, we rightly expect our regulatory bodies to step in. The outbreak of insulin greed is no different.

It is hard to know where to direct my rage. Should I be furious at the drug manufacturers that refuse to develop generics? 

Should I be angry at the P.B.M.s and insurance companies that juggle prices and formularies to maximize profits, passing along huge co-payments if they don’t get a good enough deal? 

Should I be indignant at our elected officials who seem content to let our health care system be run by for-profit entities that will always put money before patients?

The answer is all of the above. But what’s most enraging is that drug manufacturers, P.B.M.s and insurance companies don’t have to pick up the pieces from the real-world consequences of their policies. That falls to the patients.

Danielle Ofri is a physician at Bellevue Hospital and the author of “What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear.”

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Maine advocates are working to improve vaccination rates

Maine has the nation's 7th-highest rate of non-medical opt-outs and high rates of infectious diseases like whooping cough.

by Joe Lawlor

A bill that would end non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations will go before the Legislature this year, and public health advocates are optimistic about the measure’s prospects.

Maine has one of the worst vaccination rates for children entering kindergarten in the nation, and the country’s highest rate of pertussis, a vaccine-preventable disease also known as whooping cough.

If approved, Maine would be the fourth state – following California, Mississippi and West Virginia – to ban all non-medical exemptions that allow parents to forgo school-required vaccines for their children.

In Maine, current state law permits parents to skip vaccines for their children by signing a form opting out on philosophic and religious grounds. In the 2017-18 school year, 5 percent of Maine children entering kindergarten – about 600 children statewide – had non-medical exemptions for immunizations, state statistics show.

Thirty-one public elementary schools were reporting 15 percent or higher rates of unvaccinated kindergarten students, putting those schools and the surrounding community at greater risk for the return of preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox and pertussis.

Dr. Linda Sanborn, a family physician and a Democratic state senator from Gorham, said advocates are focused on protecting children from infectious diseases such as measles. 

New York City is now experiencing a measles outbreak that started among unvaccinated children, with more than 180 cases in an Orthodox Jewish community, according to news reports. 

In 2014-15, a measles outbreak in California that started at Disneyland sickened hundreds.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report Thursday that said “vaccine hesitancy” has become a global health threat.

“We should be doing all we can for these children. Their safety is so important,” said Sanborn, a co-sponsor of a bill with Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono.

Tipping said the birth of his daughter a year ago spurred him to think about public policy in different ways.

“When you have a child, it opens your eyes to a lot of issues that should be changed in this world to make it a better place for your kid and all children,” Tipping said. “Schools and day cares should be a safe place for children to attend.”

A bill to make it more difficult to opt out of vaccines – by requiring a medical professional to consult with parents and sign off on the exemption – died in the Legislature in 2015, after lawmakers upheld a veto by then-Gov. Paul LePage.

Gov. Janet Mills, the newly elected Maine governor, has not stated a position on the bill, but pro-vaccine advocates are confident and made the measure more strict by eliminating all non-medical exemptions rather than requiring another step to opt out, as the 2015 bill would have done.

Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said the governor will examine the merits of the bill.

“Governor Mills will carefully review any legislation to modify current state vaccination policy, and she encourages all parents to have their children vaccinated,” Ogden said in a statement. “As a general matter, she believes that vaccinations are critical to protecting the health and welfare of Maine people.”

Maine's opt-out rate is among the highest

Medical opt-outs in Maine are extremely rare – only 0.3 percent of all vaccine opt-outs were for medical reasons, such as a child with leukemia, according to state statistics.

Maine experienced an increase in pertussis cases in 2018, from 410 in 2017 to 446, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Several schools reported outbreaks this fall, including in Scarborough, Biddeford and Kennebunk, and the Middle School of the Kennebunks canceled its annual community Thanksgiving dinner in response to pertussis outbreaks.

Maine’s pertussis rate of 27.7 cases per 100,000 population was the worst in the nation in 2017 – the latest year for state-by-state comparisons – and more than five times the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Peter Michaud, a nurse and attorney for the Maine Medical Association, said children who for medical reasons can’t be vaccinated, such as those with leukemia, are especially vulnerable to hospitalization or dying if they catch a vaccine-preventable disease.

Michaud said people are opting out of vaccines not because they have a philosophic or religious exemption, but because they incorrectly fear that the vaccines are unsafe.

“People are not getting the vaccines because of a misunderstanding of the science,” he said. “Children keep getting sick, avoidably.”

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Essay about decision making learned from St. Ignatius of Loyola

What a 16th-century mystic can teach us about making good decisions - "Ignatian discernment"

An essay published in The Conversation by Annmarie Cano, Professor of Psychology and Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Success, Wayne State University

Decision-making is a complex process. 

As individuals, working through our daily lives, we often take a number of shortcuts that may not always serve us well

For example, we make impulsive decisions when stressed or allow others to make them for us, at times with disappointing or disastrous consequences.

But most of us can do better. Among the many decision-making methods for life’s big decisions, one that stands out is from an early 16th-century soldier-turned-mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

As a clinical psychologist, I first became acquainted with Ignatian discernment during an internship program in spirituality and have found it useful to incorporate it in my research on mindfulness and other reflective practices.

St Ignatius at Boston College
Ignatius uses the language of faith, but, I believe, anyone can apply his method to make more informed decisions.
Who was Ignatius?

Ignatius, baptized Iñigo, was born into a noble family in the Basque area of Spain in 1493. After suffering a grievous leg wound during a battle with the French that affected his health for the rest of his life, Ignatius lay in bed for months reading and reflecting on his situation.

He realized that pursuing worldly honor was not as fulfilling as doing the work of God. During the next year and half of reflection and prayer, he experienced a profound spiritual conversion with spiritual insights that would form the basis of “Spiritual Exercises,” a program of prayerful self-examination aimed at developing a deeper relationship with God.

He decided to serve God by becoming a priest and with two of his University of Paris colleagues, was given approval by the Vatican in 1540 to found the Society of Jesus also known as the Jesuits. 

In fact, the Jesuits are known for their work in education, with a network of schools and colleges, and for running guided retreats.

Perhaps lesser known is the fact that Ignatius also developed a method of discernment or decision-making that is still relevant today and that can be applied by people of all faiths and adapted to those who are not religious.

1. Rely on reason and feelings

Ignatius advises creating a list, but also takes it a step further by urging people to listen to their feelings as they consider the pros and cons for each option.
Emotions act as compass points to one’s deepest desires. So, he asks individuals to consider: Do some pros or cons stand out because they bring you a sense of peace, joy or hope? Or feelings of dread, anxiety or despair?

He advises probing the origin of the feelings to find out if they come, for example, from desires for power or greed, fear of what others may think, a desire to do good or to be selfless.

Ignatius teaches that freedom from attachment to a particular choice or outcome is essential. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step, even if you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Ignatius also advises that individuals share their deliberations with a confidant, advice that he followed when making his own decisions. Modern psychological science too has found that the process of sharing emotions with others helps make sense of our thoughts and feelings.

He also urged people to make decisions for the “greater glory of God.” How can non-religious people use this advice? I argue they can consider how their decisions will affect the vulnerable, the poorest and the most marginalized.

2. Imaginative reflection

Ignatius offers three imaginative exercises if no clear choice emerges:

Imagine that a friend comes to you with the same situation. They describe their choices, pros and cons, and their thoughts and feelings about these proposals. What would you advise them?

Imagine that you are on your deathbed. Looking back at your life, and assuming you made the decision in question, how do you view it from that perspective?

Imagine a conversation with the divine. Those who do not believe in a God could have an imaginary conversation with someone they loved and trusted and who has passed away. What does this person say to you about your options? Would they be pleased, disappointed or neutral about your decision?

Imaginative reflections like these offer clarity to decision-making by providing another perspective to the decision at hand.

3. Seek confirmation
Ignatius advises individuals to act on reason, feeling confident that they have invested their time and energy to make a good choice. But he also says that people should seek out additional information to see if reason confirms the choice. The emotions they feel following a decision, such as peace, freedom, joy, love or compassion, might give an indication if it is the right choice.

In today’s hurried world, a 16th-century Catholic mystics’ advice may seem quaint or his process tedious. 

Yet, many modern psychological approaches confirm the value of such reflective practices.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Echo opinion published in the Missoulian- NRA and Russia

Image result for NRA is Russian clip art

America is in serious trouble with the continuing shutdown by a "president" who cares not about the people, who was born with a silver spoon, who appears to have conspired with the Russians and Saudi Arabs against our democracy.

The wall issue isn't important to Donald Trump; he didn't even want to go look at the border.

Do we remember that when people in the United States were slaughtered in mass shootings here, there was no mention of any of the many shootings, because of his connection with the NRA? He would say nothing. 

The NRA, which now has members who are Russian oligarchs and even Russian spies.

We have more to fear from this dictatorial president and the overreach of the Russians, Saudis and an organization such as the NRA.

We used to belong to the NRA,because we respected the organization and what they stood for. They are no longer this organization for the American people who have guns and like to hunt; they are supporters of a foreign threat to our democracy and corruption in our country.

Joseph Gervais,
Corvallis, Montana

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Leadership in health care policy - support a state Surgeon General
How a Surgeon General could help improve health care in California

Buried in the flurry of recent policy and leadership ideas from our new governor was a proposal to create a surgeon general for the state of California.

As a health foundation executive committed to improving health and wellness for vulnerable communities, I think it’s a terrific idea. A state surgeon general could be more than another figurehead in the morass of state government, using the position to push for a system that promotes health instead of managing sickness.

California is a unique state, with the world’s fifth largest economy and a larger population than Canada. We are home to genius in tech innovation, creative brilliance in the cinematic arts and 144 billionaires live here, more than in any other state. However, we also have the highest poverty rate, according to the US Census. While some California counties have among the longest life expectancies in the US, others are equivalent to Ecuador in this regard.

A state surgeon general could help tailor local solutions to some of the U.S. health care system’s biggest quandaries. The first person to fill the role should start with three objectives.

First: Boost prevention. California has led the nation in crafting policies that encourage disease prevention, including comprehensive tobacco control, removing soda from schools and taxing it, improving student physical education and incorporating health in city and county general plans. But the health policy debate continues to be dominated by themes of costs and insurance coverage. We spend more than any other country in the world on health care yet we have poorer health outcomes.

The leading causes of death, disability and sickness -- including cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and suicide -- are tied to environment and behavior. 

Treating these conditions costs hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Yet the data tell us that for every dollar spent on treatment, three cents or less is invested in community prevention.

We have proven we can’t spend our way to improved health. A California surgeon general could generate the drumbeat of prevention, refocusing health reform discussions around a longer-term vision.

Second: In addition to encouraging disease prevention, we should target community characteristics that contribute to poor health. When it comes to health, zip code matters more than genetic code. The quality of a neighborhood affects the quality of air, water and housing along with economic opportunity and the availability of healthy food and places to exercise.

Thanks to a Kaiser Permanente study more than a decade ago, we better understand the relationship between adversity in the lives of children and their health status decades later. The study found that the more emotional trauma a child sustains at a young age, the more likely he or she will be to smoke, abuse alcohol or drugs and be depressed or incarcerated years later.

Lifting up unhealthy neighborhoods and the children who live in them will require cooperation among leaders in education, business, criminal justice, land use and other sectors. A surgeon general could organize and align these efforts. 

Finally, a California surgeon general could promote health equity. California continues to be plagued by savage disparities in health status. Communities of color (including Native American
communities), rural, and LGBTQ communities remain at higher risk for poorer health status, and our state needs a “people’s doctor” accountable to and wholly invested in shaping strategic approaches to improving health for all, by focusing on populations suffering the most.

We are Californians. We don’t follow, we lead. Kudos to Gov. Gavin Newsom for executing on the idea of a state surgeon general. Prevention must take center-stage in future health policy discussions, and our state needs a champion whose day job and leadership focuses on nothing but that.

Dr. Robert K. Ross is the president and CEO of The California Endowment, a private foundation that works to improve the state of health in California. He can be contacted at

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Lasting impact of trauma after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre

Echo editorial Published in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle by Iris Valanti
"Many people who experience horrific, traumatic events do not immediately feel ready to talk about what happened; this is a completely normal response. But trauma comes from the Greek word meaning wound, and much of what we know about how to heal physical wounds also informs our understanding of what the human brain needs in order to heal from emotional trauma."

Follow up to the October 27, 2019, Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting. The sole suspect, 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers, was arrested and charged with 29 federal crimes and 36 state crimes.

Looking back on the recently completed year, no event of 2018 has made more of a lasting mark on this (Pittsburgh) community than the tragic shooting of 11 friends and neighbors, in late October.

In the months since, many opportunities for counseling and healing have been offered, including drop-in counseling, individual therapy and support groups, coordinated by Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS).

One counselor, EMDR trauma therapy expert Dr. Jamie Marich, came from Ohio to help staff the drop-in counseling sessions at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, and led several trauma therapy workshops to help even those in the counseling business understand the deep effects of trauma on individuals and the community.

Marich and JFCS Counseling Services offers this advice to those who are struggling in the aftermath of the shooting and who have not yet received any counseling: Do it now.

Many people who experience horrific, traumatic events do not immediately feel ready to talk about what happened; this is a completely normal response. But trauma comes from the Greek word meaning wound, and much of what we know about how to heal physical wounds also informs our understanding of what the human brain needs in order to heal from emotional trauma.
“With physical wounds and with emotional wounds, we know that the sooner medical care is administered, the lower the chances of long-term complications,” says Marich. “When we go through a traumatic experience, the area of the brain that puts us on alert and keeps us protected during the experience — the limbic brain — goes into a panic mode.

For many survivors of trauma, this panic button of protection doesn’t reset. This can result in long-term complications including post-traumatic stress, adjustment disorders, depression, anxiety and a variety of other emotional difficulties. The likelihood of such problems increases significantly if treatment is not received within the first 1-3 months after the traumatic experience.”

In short, survivors’ symptoms can grow worse the longer they wait to receive care, and the impact of these symptoms may be felt strongly by those they love, continuing the cycle of harm.

The good news? Many approaches to healing from trauma do not require survivors to talk specifically about what happened during the event. There are a variety of techniques and strategies that can help to both cope more effectively with the new reality as well as to shift how traumatic memories are stored in the brain. When we learn to live less in “limbic activation,” the impact of what happened may just remain a bad memory as opposed to a hot, charged and volatile memory that controls our lives.

While it is certainly possible for people to heal old traumatic memories, we know that the earlier a person begins the healing process, the better the chances of long-term health and recovery. Human beings have many resilient characteristics that help us endure and get through horrible experiences one way or another. Helping professionals recognize that peoples’ internal strength has helped them get through the initial recovery from this horrible tragedy. And they can work with these same qualities to help transform the impact of the traumatic experience in as healthy a manner as possible.

To learn more about the idea of “trauma as wound,” visit the TEDx talk by Dr. Jamie Marich, as well as other trauma resources at

JFCS can answer any questions and refer people to an appropriately trained trauma treatment professional in the Pittsburgh area. Call them at 412-422-7200. PJC

Iris Valanti works for Jewish Family and Community Services.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tribalism and Trumpzism - echo opnion in the Reno Gazette-Journal

There are many reasons to be optimistic about 2019. But.....

Trump isn’t one of them. 

Toxic politics, tribalistic idiots, climate change and #me-me-me’ers are killing us. But there are millions of good people worldwide. We have a beautiful country to live in, if we don’t destroy it first.

There are two kinds of economists; those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know. Predictions are accurate for one news cycle, then circumstances repeatedly change. Trump’s actions continually and radically alter paradigms, causing worldwide angst and fear.

When Trump was elected, 84 percent of allied populations were hopeful. Now it’s 16 percent and difficult to see how it’ll improve. Predicting economic peril in the Age of Trump isn’t difficult. For example, an unexpectedly severe El Nino and widespread drought will result in diminished food production across much of the world. With trade patterns already disrupted by a tariff war, hunger will spread; refugees will start moving.

We’ll need three times the amount of food to feed the populace by 2030. If past is prologue, we know how our leaders will respond. Putin will opt to keep his wheat off the global market, using wheat as a political weapon. Trump must decide whether to open markets or bar exports as part of an “America First’’ food policy. Trump will use wheat as a financial weapon.

The past week exemplifies Trump’s destructive effect on competent government and it should give all Americans pause. Our political system is in chaos and we have no control on either side. It’ll take strong leadership to guide us through these crises; crises born from unforced errors and comical pratfalls.

Notwithstanding the shutdown, Trump’s Deep State is intentionally understaffed. Sure many government employees are overly officious and we often feel oppressed, but destroying the system is the wrong approach. Repair it; don’t destroy it. By design and neglect, Trump is tearing apart the very order that keeps this railroad moving. We don’t need to tear it down; we need better leadership.

There are those who benefit personally, thus continue to support him. And there are those who believe he’s going to radically improve their lives. This has been the formula for all false prophets and autocrats throughout history. Trump is no exception.

Our social fabric cannot stand the tribalism, extremism and seething resentment on both sides. And when the social fabric falters, the economy fails. Tearing down the world order may seem politically advantageous to some, but the short- and long-term effects will be devastating.

We don’t like being the policeman of the world, but we are because it keeps us safe. Leading the world is not our goal; keeping us safe is. Trump’s presidency is not keeping us safe.

Mark Nissenbaum is an international economist.

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Humanity has no borders- innocent immigrants and their inspiration to overcome adversity is admirable

Every time is see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I am reminded to pray for the many thousands of immigrants who are seeking to improve their quality of live by finding work in America.  Surely, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is inspiring the desperate immigrants, motivating them to persevere, in the same way as it has for hundreds of years. Her image embellished on tilma inspires me to pray for the people who are making their spiritual petitions, as they seek asylum from the dangers they, and their families are facing in their homes and communities.
Asylum seekers persevere because of the sheer faith they have about finding a better life in America
Fortunately, some inspired civic leaders are thanking those who are helping these immigrants who are seeking asylum.

This opinion was published in the San Diego Union Tribune written by Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox

Asylum-seeking families and individuals entering the United States through San Diego need, and deserve, our support. Humanity should have no borders.

An influx of Central American families applying for asylum from the deadly violence in their countries has overwhelmed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). To make room for more asylum applicants, ICE has been releasing asylum seekers who have legal permission to stay in the U.S. while their applications are processed.

Unfortunately, the federal government is releasing these families onto the streets with no plan to safeguard their public health and more importantly no plan to connect them with their family sponsors who will house and shelter them. Some have arrived at temporary shelters, but others, like those featured in recent news reports, are left to fend for themselves on San Diego’s streets.

Over the holiday, we visited the temporary shelter operated by the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN). We witnessed firsthand the outstanding work that’s been happening by the two dozen-plus nonprofits who have selflessly volunteered their time and leveraged their resources and relationships to help families seeking asylum.

It is important for people to understand that asylum seekers are law-abiding. They are following federal immigration laws.

The majority of families only need 24-48 hours of assistance until they are reunited with relatives who in most cases reside outside San Diego County. The problem is that federal agencies are overwhelmed. San Diego County and other local groups — without adequate support at the federal and state levels — are trying to fill the gap, even though immigration activities do not fall under local authority.

SDRRN has been doing benevolent work, but it’s not sustainable without support from others.

San Diego County stepped up last month with vaccines, nurses and other health-care professionals, and social workers to address immediate needs. But after seeing the issue up close and knowing the existing shelter will soon close, we determined more needed to be done.

So earlier this week we introduced legislative solutions — that were approved by our colleagues — to help asylum seekers, prevent a health crisis and ensure this issue doesn’t exacerbate our already-overloaded homeless shelters.

As part of the new legislation, we will co-chair a subcommittee to establish a regional working group comprised of federal, state, county and local elected officials and stakeholders to work on short-term and long-term solutions for the migrant crisis. It is time everyone starts working together.

With the new legislation, the county will also:
Identify county property for a potential temporary shelter that the state or another entity could operate to shelter asylum-seeking families.
Work with federal and state delegations on legislative policy, including funding resources, to reimburse the county for providing health services and support to asylum-seeking families, since immigration regulations are not under local authority.
Continue to pursue armories or other state properties with the governor’s office for assistance in sheltering this population.

These are the first steps of a more collaborative effort to assist asylum seekers.

We look forward to having federal and state leaders join us in addressing this situation.

Fletcher and Cox are members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Fletcher, a Democrat, was elected to the board in November. Cox, a Republican, joined the board in 1995

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Trump's ugly border wall and what will happen when innocents are impaled?

If you're an ardent Trump supporter, the president is not making things easy for you.  Published in The American Prospect by Paul Waldman 

Trump's hideous border wall
MaineWriter- has anybody considered the pictures of innocent immigrants who will undoubtedly be impaled by this ugly medieval structure?

Defending the indefensible: This is particularly true when it comes to his "big, beautiful wall" that was supposed to stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, not just a physical barrier to immigrants but a symbol of all the hopes you poured into Trump's candidacy. Two years into his presidency it still hasn't risen out of the desert, it doesn't look like it's getting closer, and all the president offers you for his failure to deliver on his promise is excuses and misdirection.

For a brief moment last week, it appeared that some sense would prevail in Donald Trump's White House. Just as he had on multiple occasions before, the president threatened to veto the spending bill necessary to keep the government open unless he got funding earmarked for his border wall. But in the past Trump has always backed down, persuaded that it wasn't worth shutting down the government. That looked like what would happen this time as well: a temporary bill to keep the government open for a while, putting off the argument over the wall for another day. Without the votes to make it happen, he appeared to have no other choice.

That is, until this most capricious of presidents heard from the people with the most influence over him: conservative media figures. Trump may be casting off advisers left and right, but he still seeks the counsel of Fox News each and every day ("He spends ever more time in front of a television, often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely," reports The New York Times). And what he saw there changed his mind.

Trump probably thought he had gotten them all used to a cycle: Promise a showdown over the wall, then retreat, but claim victory anyway. This time, however, he made things bad by pledging in front of dozens of cameras in an Oval Office meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security...I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it." That raised expectations on the right too high, and when it appeared he would back off, there was a mini-rebellion. "It was supposed to be a 'big beautiful wall' with a 'big beautiful door.' Now it’s just an open door with no frame. Unreal. #BorderDisorder #GOPFail," tweeted Fox host Laura Ingraham. Trump's most loyal supporters "want their wall and they want it now," said Dan Bongino, guest-hosting for Trump's good friend Sean Hannity. Similar notes were sounded on conservatives talk radio. Trump was watching it all unfold, and realized he had to come through for his base, no matter the cost.

So now the government is shut down, a testament, Trump no doubt hopes, to his commitment to the wall. But one can't help but wonder: Have Trump's supporters noticed how the wall keeps shrinking, to the point where it's a shadow of its former imagined splendor?

First it was supposed to cover the entire border, but not anymore. Then for some reason Trump decided that it's not a wall at all, but "artistically designed steel slats." He even sent out a picture of it on Twitter.  

Ah yes, so beautiful.

And what about the most important part of the entire promise Trump made in 2016, that Mexico would pay for the wall? Make no mistake, that was the very heart of the pledge, making clear that it was not just a physical barrier but a symbol of our restored strength. This is something Trump has always been acutely aware of; in a phone call on January 27, 2017, just a week after he took office, Trump begged then-president Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to stop saying that Mexico wouldn't pay for the wall. 

"If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that," Trump said, explaining that "this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important." Peña Nieto refused to budge, saying that "this is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country."

Peña Nieto was no fool. He knew that paying for the wall would be a national shaming for Mexico, which was precisely the point. Trump promised his supporters that Mexico's humiliation and subjugation would be the vehicle for the restoration of their own dignity and pride.

And what does Trump say now? He can't possibly admit that it was a preposterous idea from the beginning and anyone who believed it had to have been an idiot. So the brain trust at the White House came up with an answer to the inevitable question: Mexico is paying for the wall! How? Because we made some minor adjustments to NAFTA, and if that works out there might be some increased exports to Mexico, and that means they paid for it so he kept his promise. All White House staffers are now required to repeat this bit of laughable nincompoopery.

So the big, beautiful wall across the entire border that Mexico will pay for is now some steel slat fencing in certain places that Mexico is not paying for. Mission accomplished?

But if Trump is wondering whether his base will accept it, he probably doesn't have to worry. Not because they're stupid enough to believe what he's telling them on a rational level, but because emotionally speaking, they have little choice. If you voted for Trump because of things like building a wall and having Mexico pay for it, are you going to now admit that you got swindled by America's most prominent con artist, just like any gullible enrollee of Trump University? That he was obviously lying all along and you were too dumb to see it? What would that make you?

It would make you a sucker, that's what. And nobody wants that. So don't be surprised when the next time your local paper does one of its regular "In Trump Country, Trump Supporters Still Support Trump" dispatches, little has changed.*

*MaineWriter-  I'm sooooooo glad to read this last sentence. In my opinion, the media that reports those ridiculous stories create massive assumptions about the populations being interviewed.  I was particularly angry with NBCToday when they sent a reporter to Kenosha Wisconsin to interview about four "suckers" who supported Donald Trump.  The interviewer made it appear as though there were no people in Kenosha, those who opposed stupid Donald Trump.  Guess what?  There are 100,000 (one hundred thousand) people who live in Kenosha!  Four people do not speak for Kenosha!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Addressing the evil of racism - Catholic Bishops

“The church offers much to embrace in its history of being proactive in race relations, as well as some sad and harmful actions from the past to reject,” Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana., who chairs the committee, told America.

Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism" approved by US Catholic Bishops

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. (It must be eliminated!)

BALTIMORE_MD— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved, during its November 2018, General Assembly, the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism."
The full body of bishops approved it by a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to 3 with 1 abstention.

The USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee, chaired by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio, Texas, spearheaded the letter’s drafting and guided it through the voting process. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, of Houma-Thibodaux, Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Chair of the Sub-committee on African American Affairs within the Cultural Diversity Committee, issued the following statement:

“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. 

Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism was created to address the evil of racism in our society and Church, to address the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions, and to support the implementation of the bishops’ pastoral letter on racism.

Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is a Pastoral Letter from the full body of bishops to the lay faithful and all people of goodwill addressing the evil of racism.

The pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces. The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.

"Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love," is not the first time the U.S. Bishops have spoken as a collectively on race issues in the United States, but it is the first time in almost 40 years.

In 1979, they approved "Brothers and Sisters to Us: A Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day." Among the many things, they discussed was the fact that "Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father." The newly approved “Open Wide Our Hearts” continues the message that “Brothers and Sisters to Us” sought to convey.

The full text, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, will be posted at

Resources will include a bulletin insert, homily help, prayer materials, background information on systemic racism, and activities for primary, secondary, and higher education classroom settings.

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