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Friday, February 12, 2016

Republican broken clock awards - candidate kudos

As far as I'm concerned, Donald Trump "the Chump" has one redeeming quality as a US presidential candidate. In fact, he's justifiably calling out Senator "Ted" Cruz for not proving his qualifications to be President of the United States, because he was born in Canada.  
This issue must be resolved!  Image result for broken clock graphic
                                                                        Broken clock awards!

As a matter of fact, a few "persons on the street" interviews, where voters were asked why they support Senator Cruz, received a response about how he's a Constitutional expert! Well, okay, if Cruz is such a Constutitonal expert, why do challenges continue to raise red flags about his Canadian birth? Does Canadian birth disqualify Cruz to run for President? Honestly, it doesn't bother me one bit about where Senator Cruz was born. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, he could've been born on the moon, as long as he's an American citizen. But, the US Constitution may not be so forgiving. Here's the stats: Senator Raphael "Ted" Cruz was born on December 22, 1970,  in Canada. It's certainly odd to read his Wikepedia biography, where there's no name for the location of his birth. This lack of transparency is another reason I believe Senator Cruz is a total hypocrite. Every other Wikepedia biography has a place of birth named in biographies, but I can't find this simple and factual information on Senator Cruz's page.

Therefore, the political broken clock award goes to Donald Trump for raising the "birther" issue as a potential disqualificatoin for the Cruz presidential campaign.

Another broken clock award goes to Governor Chris Christie, for pointing out how inept Florida's Senator Marco Rubio is to be considered for the office of President of the United States. Governor Christie reminded smitten Republican voters about the lack of Rubio's Presidential qualifications. "We're not electing a high school student council president," warned Christie. 

Indeed, Senator Rubio is running for president because he used his Cuban heritage to his advantage in Florida to win elections and gain ethnic support. Nevertheless, Senator Rubio fails whenever he's thrust into the spotlight, given the opportunity to show a "Kennedy-esque" moment. It never happens.

It's unbelievable, but the Republicans are wasting invaluable political time by exposing each others hypocritical positions. Moreover, the Senator Cruz birthplace in Canada might be contrary to the US Constitutional qualfiications to be elected US president.

In my opnion, it's unconcionalbe for Senator Cruz to run for President when the Cosntitutional issue about his birthplace has not been compleely resolved.  

Therefore, Donald Trump "the Chump" deserves credit for raising the Cruz "birther" issue before it reaches the Supreme Court.  

As for Governor Christie's broken clock award, the nation can only say "thank you", because Senator Marco Rubio simply isn't qualified to be President of the United States. 

Republican kudos to Donald Trump and Governor Chris Christie.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Axis of Evil Refresher - North Korea is still in the trio

It was President George W. Bush (43) who created the "Axis of Evil", label by trying to awaken Americans to the dangers posed by the triumverate nations and their leaders in Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Since Bush identified this trio, Iraq has been invaded and is re-occupied by some US troops and Iran has become a lukewarm ally. Therefore, the Evil Axis trio must be refreshed. Tragically, the triumvirate today is even worse than the trio Bush described.

Image result for Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un is the epitomy of the Axis of evil, using sheer terror to rule like a diabolic maniac over North Korea
Kim Jong-un was born January 8, 1983- (his death is to be determined).

Today's Axis of evil is led by Kim Jong-un, the lunatic president of North Korea. He's a monster of an man who is has become as close to being a weirwolf as any human has ever known. 
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President al-Assad is the second angle in the evil triangle.
Assad was born September 11, 1965- (his death is to be determined)
North Korea's bizzare leader rules by using sheer terror over his own people. Equalled with the weirwolf is Bashar al-Assad, the evil president of Syria. This diabolic man has caused tens of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes because of the carnage, death and destruction Assad showered on his own people, without justifiable reason. 

Completing the Axis triangle is Vladimir Putin, who is president and perhaps the newest Czar of Russia. There's little doubt about Putin's ambitions to somehow rule the world according to him. In my opinion, if Putin's Russia had the money to do it, he would sign Kim Jong-un and al-Asssad to a blood pact to conspire for world dominance. He'd bribe both of them until he didn't need them anymore in which case they would likely be fed tea tainted with plutonium.
Image result for Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is the king-pin of the Axis of Evil. If Russia's currency could sustain his evil ambitions, it's likely Putin would engage in even more international agression.
Putin was born on October 7, 1952- (his death is yet to be determined)

Probably, the curret low cost of world oil is further tanking the worthless Russian ruble (just like it's hitting hard at the stock market). 

Possibly, if the long term purpose of the world's current oil glut is to take down Russia's economy, then the sacrifices made by small Wall Street investors might be the price we all pay to pull the rug out from Putin's evil expansionist ambitions.

Syrian humanitarian genocide by Assad over his own people is now estimated to have taken 470,000 lives or 11.5 percent of the nation's people.  The Guardian reports from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, that human development in Syria has been ruined after 45% of the nation's population has been displaced.

Syria’s national wealth, infrastructure and institutions have been “almost obliterated” by the “catastrophic impact” of nearly five years of conflict, a new report has found. Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) – a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago.

In all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255bn (£175bn).

A devastating and stark account of the Syria's war’s toll came as warnings multiplied about Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is in danger of being cut off by a government advance aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian militiamen. The Syrian opposition is demanding urgent action to relieve the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians.

The International Red Cross said on Wednesday that 50,000 people had fled the upsurge in fighting in the north, requiring urgent deliveries of food and water. Obviously, Russia is supporting Assad under the cover of providing relief for the Syrian people but the alternative motive is to control the outcome of the war. This humanitarian carnage won't likely be resolved in any of our lifetimes, because generations of misplaced and murdered people will eventually have their horror stories revealed with demands for justified reparations.

Kim Jung-up in North Korea is causing his own unimaginable carnage. In fact, rumors of a coup by the North Korean army against Jung-un was reported, especially since a senior North Korean military leader was executed for "factionalism, misuse of authority and corruption," reports CNN, from a South Korean government official with knowledge of North Korean affairs.

The official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, declined to give further details on how or when General Ri Yong-gil, chief of the North Korean Army's general staff, was executed.

What does this Axis of Evil mean for Americans? Well, to me it looks like the future of civilization as we know it is at a crossroad.

Therefore, as the US Presidential 2016, campaign advances, it seems like Americans are "whistling past the graveyard", trying to remain aloof, by ignoring the "Axis of Evil" refresher.  

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Senator Bernie Sanders and Medicare

Will Senator Bernie Sanders plan for health coverage really raise taxes?  No- but people must learn to understand how his health care coverage is supposed to work. 
Bernie Sanders "Medicare for All" leaving no one behind.
Medicare for All
Sanders policies are not tax dependent if his plan supports "Medicare for All"

If the Sanders plan is "Medicare for All", the methodology is already in place for his plan to work without increasing any taxes. On the other hand, Universal Health Care would certainly increase taxes, because this methodology involves blanket coverage with little actuarial ovesight; whereas, Medicare requires beneficiary plus employer contributions to cover the health care costs.

Americans need to understand how Medicare works. It's not rocket science. Rather, Medicare is a single payer health insurance where beneficiaries earn the coverage by contributing to the Social Security/Medicare trust fund for 40 quarters of their employment years - in other words, for 10 years. Yet, the beneficiaries who pay the 40 quarters with employee matched contributions must wait until they are 65 years old to receive the benefits.

In my opinion, "Medicare for All" should include everybody who contributes the 40 quarters towards the qualifications for benefits but should not be held back until the beneficiaries are 65 years old. Why not receive the benefits when the 40 quarters are achieved?  Moreover, paying into the Medicare trust fund doesn't stop after the 40 quarters are paid. In fact, the Medicare trust fund continues to grow for as long as employees and their employers pay into the benefit. Therefore, after the 40 quarters are paid by each qualified beneficiary, the contributions will continue; but under "Medicare for all", the beneficiary can receive coverage as soon as the qualifications are met. "Medicare for all" is not universall health care and it isn't "welfare". Instead, "Medicare for all" is a mandated contributions paid health insurance plan where the federal government becomes the single payer and absorbs the risk when a beneficiary has exceeded the actuarial evaluation, meaning, beneficiaries rates don't increase if health costs exceed premiums. 

In The New Yorker, Amy Davidson reports in "Talk of the Town" commentary about how Chelsea Clinton responded to a query about Senator Sanders and his position on health care coverage for all.
"...Chelsea Clinton, campaigning for her mother in New Hampshire, took a question from a teacher at Miss Porter's School (Jacqueline Bouvier's alma mater), whos pro-Clinton students were in need of a talking point to counter their "Bern-feeling" contemporaries.  "Senator Sanders wants to dismatle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare", Chelease said."That could strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health  insurance."

Yikes, that's just not fact! In my opinion, "Medicare for All" doesn't strip anybody of their current health coverage but will exapand access to beneficiaries who pay into the trust fund.

As for the Childrens Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), this program could benefit from expanding the risk pool of those who are covered by including more children when parents or guardians can pay for the benefits. Right now, only income qualified beneficiaries receive the limited benefits. But, people who don't now qualify for the CHIP coveage could pay to receive it, like a graduated payment insurance plan. Children who need coverage provided by the CHIP plan could have their premiums adjusted, according to income.

Senator Sanders is a Medicare beneficiary. Given his credentials as a liberal democratic socialist, it's extremely unlikely he will dismantle Medicare. In fact, his intention are to expand and improve Medicare coverage, but to do so with the benficiaries premiums, not expanded taxes.  

Americans aren't willing to pay for health insurance like Universal Health Care, with tax money, because, frankly, the business of selling coverage is just too lucrative for the capitalistic system to forgo. As a matter of fact, Senator Sanders says he's running a campaign against the Wall Street controllers of our nation's economy, but he should look over his shoulder at how major insurance companies are positioned to dismantle any attempt to change their profit margins. has an excellent artlcle about this topic.

Why Americans Can’t Have Universal Healthcare Like Europeans  By Rmuse on Wed, Feb 10th, 2016

Americans aren't interested in paying significantly higher income taxes to have ‘government-provided' healthcare.

“If Europeans can do it, why can’t Americans?” After all, America the greatest nation on Earth and should be able to do everything Europeans do, only better.

That may be true, except Americans are unwilling to pay to do much of anything better, much less catch up with Europe and offer universal healthcare. 

After briefly perusing some tax statistics in America and England, it became immediately apparent that although a single payer, or universal healthcare system is a dream come true, the cost to the people all but ensures single payer is not in the near future; and no political revolution is going to change that fact.

Americans aren't interested in paying significantly higher income taxes to have ‘government-provided’ healthcare. National health insurance, or single payer, is a dream for many Americans, but if they actually comprehended what it will cost them, and the rest of the taxpayers, they may pause and reconsider.

For example, Britain has a relatively well-regarded universal healthcare system that every citizen pays for through national income tax. The tax rate for income tax and National Health Insurance in the United Kingdom (England) in 2015-16 for all citizens earning between zero and £31,785, considered basic-rate (flat rate) taxpayers, is a whopping 20 percent of their entire income. It is a full 15 percent more than America’s middle class tax rate and would entail a 20 percent tax hike for 45 percent of Americans who pay nothing now.

If a British citizen earns just one pence over that “basic threshold,” their income tax rate jumps to 40 percent up to £150,000. For income over that number the rate is 45 percent; all to cover the National Health plan administered solely by the government with a form of rationing.

For a comparison, and one reason why many Democrats are reticent to go all-in to support enactment of single-payer in America, in 2015, 45 percent of Americans with earned income paid zero income tax. One cannot comprehend how nearly half of the population living in poverty and barely making it and then saddled with a 20 percent tax bill will embrace being poorer to have basic healthcare when they will be unable to eat or pay rent.

Many of those “45-percenters” are in poor Republican states and already complain they are “taxed enough already;” it is just one reason they reliably vote for Republicans pledging to cut taxes, get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, and get government out of the healthcare business.

For middle class Americans, the federal income tax rate stands at about 5.3 percent for tax year 2015. It is as laughable that Americans paying nothing in income taxes will support a 20 percent increase as it is the middle class supporting a 34.7 percent tax hike for universal healthcare; not when they already have healthcare insurance or can buy a “Cadillac” policy and still have money to eat, pay rent, take a vacation, and still afford their 5.3 percent federal income tax bill.

For the richest one-percent of income earners, the average effective federal income tax rate is just 24.7 percent. That group is still screaming bloody murder over the slight 2.9 percent tax increase at the end of 2012. Imagine, without laughing, their outrage at paying 45 percent of their annual incomes, about a 20 percent increase, so all Americans can have universal healthcare.

Even more laughable is imagining a Democrat, any Democrat, submitting a bill in any House or Senate committee to raise taxes on the poor by 20 percent, raise middle class taxes by 35 percent, and saddle the wealthy elite with a 20 percent tax hike. 

Now imagine the Republican majority House laughing like banshees at whichever Democrat proposes epic tax hikes on all Americans; especially when Republicans pledge to cut taxes as is their base’s demand.

The grand Republican plan is a two-tiered “flat tax,” rate schedule with about a 10 percent flat tax on all Americans up to what most consider a very-upper middle class income; effectively a tax hike on every American who is not in the “wealthy” class. The highest rate for the wealthy elite is proposed at around 20 percent that does not account for the special deductions and breaks only the wealthy get. Their effective rate will be approximately 5 to 8 percent; a decrease of about 15 percent and less than the poorest American paying 10 percent.

Now, some argue that to account for outrageously higher taxes and a much-desired single payer, Democrats will use charm and a “political revolution” to mesmerize Koch Republicans in Congress to raise the minimum wage to make up for monumental tax hikes on the poor and middle class. Keep in mind, the same Koch Republicans who want to get rid of Medicare, Obamacare, and any kind of healthcare also want to abolish the minimum wage; not raise it. If they were inclined to do right by American workers, they would have passed a minimum wage hike seven years ago when President Obama started begging them to help American workers.

It is curious that few Americans wonder why Republicans are pouring no small amount of super PAC money into ads attacking Hillary Clinton using rhetoric lifted directly from the Sander’s campaign. They want an election pitting a Republican, almost any Republican, against a candidate pledging to raise taxes substantially on everyone. Despite what many pundits say, the candidate that terrifies Republicans is Mrs. Clinton. If that were not the case, the Kochs and Karl Rove would be using their resources now to attack the candidate promising to raise taxes.

Americans are not Europeans; they are “rugged individualists” and not interested in paying higher taxes for the good of the nation, much less their fellow Americans. It is not that Europeans are any better than Americans, they just care about their fellow citizens and comprehend that being taxed at higher rates benefits the entire population.

Remember, this is America and the people have been programmed to hate the federal government for over three decades. Add in the past seven years of Republican conditioning that being selfish and greedy is an American Christian virtue, and the idea of paying higher taxes so every American has basic healthcare is, although working out well in Europe, a pipe dream in America no matter who proposes it.

On the other hand, "Medicare for All" need doesn't require tax increases to be successful, because the program works efficiently just the way it's currently administered.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Republicans have a counting problem

It makes no sense to me how Republicans called their Iowa caucuses a victory when three of the candidaates earned less than 30 percent of the party's support. In my mind Cruz-28 %, Trump = 24% and Rubio claiming 23% were medicore results. Nevertheless, "Cruz to loose" the junior Senator Ted Cruz from Texas was popping champagne because he led the pack of 20 percenters. Makes no sense to me. Of course, post the FITN New Hampshire primary (first in the nation= FITN) there is now another famous front runner. Donald Trump received 99,839 votes, or 35 percent of the Republican support. 
It made for a pretty pie chart picture....Senator Bernie Sanders took a huge chunk of the "pie chart" in the New Hampshire primary.

At 35 percent, Trump hardly received whole hearted GOP endorsement for his presidential candidacy; yet, his win was a significant margin over the second place John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, whose campaign stump speech was about "being nice". Kasich received 44,595 votes, or 16 percent of the Republican vote. Hmmmm, I don't see 16 percent as anything to get excited about and it's not likely to carry him into Cleveland's national convention hall.

In fact, if counting "counts" in an election, the winner of the FITN New Hampshire primary election was unquestionably Senator Bernie Sanders!

Although Secretary Hillary Clinton received an impressive 94,770, usually enough votes to carry a winner in a New Hampshire primary, her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Senator Sanders, wolloped everybody with 150, 403 vote count.

In summary, the Republicans have a counting problem.  It was Senator Sanders who won the FITN New Hampshire primary. All the other candidates came in behind hs amazing tally!

As for Trump's 35 percent....he has yet to claim even close to 50 perecent of the Republicans' support.  Certainly, he's not a national candidate until he can bring in votes the way he claims to fill stadiums for his Trumponian rallies. 

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New Hampshire's Republican Chaos #FITN = RIP GOP

Here's a "Twitter style" formula, following the New Hampshire primary election.  FITN = RIP >GOP. 

New Hampshire's primary election motto goes something like this: "Iowa picks corn, but New Hampshire picks candidates".  

With the First in the Nation (FITN) primary finally over, the truth in New Hampshire's motto is now fact. Yes, New Hampshire voted for presidential candidates and Republicans are still recovering.
Image result for New Hampshire flag picture
New Hampshire's primary picks candidates!

On the Democratic side, nothing changed, except Senator Sanders soundly defeated Secretary Clinton, although no "nail biting" finish, like the end game in the corn picking Iowa caucuses. 

On the other hand, the Republcian side of the primary process was like a candidates roulette wheel. Senator Ted Cruz had been crowing about "winning" in Iowa with a paltry 28% of the Republican vote. Well, guess what? "Cruz to loose" can now eat crow, because in New Hampshire, the right wing extremist, who can't resolve his qualificatioins under the US Constitution to run for President because he was born in Canada, tallied 12 percent of the vote (less than half of what he claimed with the use of "dirty tricks" targeting Dr. Ben Carson, than what he "popped campagne" about in Iowa).  

Neither of the Democratic candidates lost the New Hampshire primary. Senator Sanders defeated Secretary Clinton, but it means one came in first and the other was second.  In fact, Senator Sanders won more votes than any other candidate in the FITN primary and Secretary Clinton received more votes than her second place rivals.

Republicans, of course, must now figure out what happened to their line up. Apparantly, Governor Christie, Dr. Carson and perhaps "Blinkie bottle" Senator Rubio will drop  out of the race. Surely Carly Fiorina will not only drop, but resign from politics. Obviously, Governor Christie didn't listen to Maine Writer, when advised to "watch his friends", because he campaigned around New Hampshire with the unpopular Maine Governor Paul LePage at his side like a guide dog. Governor LePage certainly didn't help Governor Christie to win any votes. Dr. Ben Carson has no political experience, he never should've run for President. Instead, Dr. Carson might've been teacher of neurosurgery, where he has demonstrated expertise. Senator Rubio was never qualified to run for President of the United States. Indeed, it's difficult to understand what amount of ego inflated his candidacy because he never did reach a "Kennedy-esque" moment, where he might've inspired lasting political loyalty. Instead, Rubio flopped in the last of the New Hampshire "line up" of candidates debates. It which was a mistep from which Rubio many never politically recover. Those who saw through the facade of youth and Cuban ancestry should give credit to Governor Christie for pointing out the ineptness of Senator Rubio so bluntly, during the New Hampshrie debate.
Image result for roulette wheel picture
Republican roulette wheel stopped on Donald Trump

As the Republican roulette wheel of candidates spun, it was evident how Donald Trump became the person where party faithful considered "placing all bets".  Giving Donald Trump his due credit, since he declared his independence from taking campaign contributions, he can decide on his own "winner friends", without the influnce of money being a major consideration- at least, as far as we know. It's possible "Trump the Chump" will become the new "decider in chief", picking and choosing his political friends.

Congratulations to Ohio's governor John Kasich for winning second place in the Republican FITN primary, but he only received 44, 595 votes.

Nevertheless, New Hampshire's primary has the Republican party in "front runner chaos". 

In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Clinton, together, received more votes than Donald Trump, because Republicans spread their support for 6 candidates.  

Donald Trump received a lot of votes, but not enough to win a general election. Clearly, Senator Sanders is the candidate who won the New Hampshire primary election.

Donald Trump -    99, 839 total votes

Senator Sanders - 150, 403
Secretary Clinton    94,770

Total                     245,173

Perhaps, establishment Republicans can hold their political noses while getting behind Donald Trump's potential nomination, regardless of his brash and racist comments; but his supporters won't produce enough voters to win the general election. 

Although the Republican roulette wheel stopped on Donald Trump's number, gambling on his eventual victory is as random a chance pay out as winning big in a casino.  In fact, the Republican party, the conservatives of the "Grand Old Party", have passed away with the results of the FITN primary, and their remains are in New Hampshire. Leadership of the Republican Party is now in chaos. Like the progeny of a newly deceased monarch, those left groveling after Trump may wind at the dinner table, eating crow with Ted Cruz.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Admiration for Secretary Hillary Clinton in face of Republican smears

Congraatulaations to Secretary Hillary Clinton, for standing up to the partisan critics who unsuccessfully tried to create a vortex of negativity about her qualifications to be the president of the United States.

Regardless of the outcome of the New Hampshire primary 2016, where Mrs. Clinton's election outcome will be infinitely better than any of the Republicans (who must divide their support at least 6 ways) the fact is, Mrs. Clinton is an exceptional presidential candidate- and her experience shows. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton has remaind focused and spoken intelligently throughout the turmoil created by the Republicans' in their chaotic campaigns against her and towards each other, both at the same time.
James Carville 1.jpg
James Carvelle is an American political commentator and media personality who is a prominent figure in the Democratic Party
James Carvelle, a Clinton supporter and political consultant, is quoted in Newsmax about the brouhaha created over the bogus email controversy (anyone who ever handled top secret information knows this is a stupid and invented campaign against her):

Carville: 'Patently Ludicrous' to Say Hillary's Emails a Crime

Hillary Clinton's email investigation "is in no way like a crime," former Clinton adviser James Carville said Sunday on "The Cats Roundtable" on AM 970 in New York.

Republicans are constantly looking for "something else" to smear the former secretary of state with, Carville told host John Catsimatidis.

"Now they find out [Republican secretaries of state] Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice had stuff sent to them that was later deemed classified," Carville said. "This is no way like a crime. Remember Benghazi? Remember, we had seven congressional hearings on Benghazi? They found nothing. And this is going to be nothing, too."  Still, Carville said, "It's never going to go away."

"The idea that there’s some kind of a criminality involved in here I think is patently ludicrous," he said.

Carville also compared Clinton to her Democratic presidential rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying Sanders is an idealist while Clinton is more pragmatic.

"It's emerging that there's a clear distinction between the two of them," he said. Sanders "envisions this 100 percent progressive party that is the party of some ideal where everybody gets free health insurance and free college," while what Clinton "envisions is a pragmatic party that tries to get things done, that helps people and moves at a pace toward progress."

In Maine Writer's opinion, Americans are fortunate to have Mrs. Clinton running for the office of President of the United States. Rather than criticizing her about invented situations, we should be examining her excellent qualifications, because she's definitely capable to be elected the Leader of the Free World and the first woman to occupy the Oval Office.  

None of the Republican candidates can even approach Mrs. Clinton's qualifications to be the nation's leader.  

Although New Hampshire voters will make an important contribution to the selection of the 2016 presidential nominee, the fact is, Mrs. Clinton will receive a substantial number of votes. Obviously I don't count New Hampshire ballots, but I can make a prediction that will hold up in the vote count. My prediction is this- Mrs. Clinton will receive more votes in the New Hampshire primary than Carley Fiorina (Firoina-lie-or-ina). Perhaps, her vote tally may even exceed the numbers to be cast for the bottom tier Republicans combined - likely Firona, Bush and Cruz.  

I'm honored to support Mrs. Hillary Clinton's candidacy to be President of the United States. Hats off, of course, to Senator Bernie Sanders, who breathed life into the Democratic base and ignited this 2016 primary season with his vision of a "revolution".  Nevertheless, the Republicans are afraid...very afraid...of Mrs. Clinton because she is the Democrat who has the qualifications all of them lack and, moreover, the proven stamina to win the presidential election.

Outcomes in the New Hampshire primary will not determine who will eventually become the presidential party national nominees. Yet, it's an absolute given, based on past history. that the candidate who takes second place in Newe Hampshire, is usually the one who wins the national nomination. Mrs. Clinton can only win or come in second in New Hamshire.  She has my admiration and my vote in November!

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Zika virus detective work - essential to prevent the spread

To prevent the spread of Zika virus, it's essential to destroy the disease carrying mosquitoes. This isn't as overwhelming a challenge as it once was. In the past, destroying the mosquitoes involved impacting the environment. Today, genetic engineering is effective in neurtralizing the mosquito. Neverhteless, if the cause of the Zika virus hadn't  been detected, the source of the disease would've spread faster than humans could've kept ahead of it, especially if reports about  sexual transmission are accurate.

In fact, there's ongoing research about what causes Zika because, after reading The New York Times detective article about how the virus was tracked, the cause and effect of the disease may not be as clear as reported. Nonetheless, the epedemic of microcephaly (small heads) in newbors, attributed to  the Zika virus, cannot be reversed. 
Image result for brazil pictures
Brazil is not the "ground zero" for Zika virus, but the World Soccer Cup may have been how the virus spread because so many travelers came through the country.  Now, with the Olympics coming to Rio de Janerio, the fear about the mosquito carrying mosquito is spreading. Nevertheless, technology is available to reduce the risk of the Zika virus from being carried by mosquitoes, if the breeding of the vectors are neutralized.

A terrific source of informaton about the Dengue (and therefore the Zika) virus carrying mosquitos is reported in The Mosquito Solution in the July 9, 2012 edition of The New Yorker.

A detective story about how the virus was correlated with microcephaly and the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome is published in The New York Times:
How a Medical Mystery in Brazil Led Doctors to Zika

A sudden, sharp increase in babies with “no foreheads and very
strange heads” was baffling doctors in Brazil. 

That set off a search for answers that led to a little-known pathogen, the Zika virus.

Something strange was happening last August in the maternity wards of Recife, a seaside city perched on Brazil’s easternmost tip, where the country juts into the Atlantic.

“Doctors, pediatricians, neurologists, they started finding this thing we never had seen,” said Dr. Celina M. Turchi, an infectious diseases researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a prominent scientific institute in Brazil.

“Children with normal faces up to the eyebrows, and then you have no foreheads and very strange heads,” she recalled, referring to the condition known as microcephaly. “The doctors were saying, ‘Well, I saw four today,’ and, ‘Oh that’s strange, because I saw two.’”  Aside from their alarming appearance, many of the babies seemed healthy.

“They cried,” Dr. Turchi said. “They breast-fed well. They just didn’t seem to be ill.” Doctors were stumped.

They didn't know it, but they were seeing the first swell of a horrifying wave. A little-known pathogen — the Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes — had been circulating in Brazil for at least a year. It would later become the chief suspect in the hunt to work out what had happened to those newborns. Since then, those tiny babies have led the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency. They prompted warnings to pregnant women to avoid countries where the virus is circulating, even to refrain from unprotected sex with men who visited those countries, following a report of sexual transmission of the virus in Dallas last week.

They have led health ministers of five countries to say something so unthinkable that none had ever uttered it before: Women, please delay having children.

The virus now threatens the economies of fragile nations (not to mention the birth rates) and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It has opened a new front in the debate in heavily Roman Catholic countries about a woman’s right to birth control and abortion.

And the children stricken with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, have doctors everywhere asking: What is this virus? 

How could it have been around for almost 70 years without us realizing its power? What do we tell our patients about a bug that can hide in a mosquito’s proboscis and a man’s semen, even in human saliva or urine? What do we tell young women who ask if their unborn babies are safe?

“This epidemic is an unfolding story,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“As with Ebola, this virus is something that could exist for years under the radar, and we don’t know until we get thousands of cases what it really does.”

“With Zika, we’re seeing new twists and turns every week.”

To doctors in Recife, whatever was striking the babies seemed to have fallen like a bolt from the blue.

In reality, it had been building for months. It had even been frequently discussed among clinicians — but no one had realized what was on the horizon.

A year earlier, doctors say, the first patients had started trickling into public hospitals in Natal, capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, about 200 miles up the coast from Recife.

It was a few weeks after the 2014 World Cup, and Natal had been one of the host cities of the soccer championship, which draws fans from all over the world.

Many patients lived on the city’s margins, others in settlements dotted across the sertão, northeast Brazil’s arid hinterland.

Almost all had the same symptoms: a flat pinkish rash, bloodshot eyes,fever, joint pain and headaches. 

None were desperately ill, but the similarities were striking.

“That scared some patients and doctors, and my team,” said Aline Bezerra, a nurse and the municipal epidemiologist. “We knew nothing other than that it might be some kind of light dengue.

Tests ruled that out, along with other common viruses, but the patients kept coming. One day in January 2015, 100 showed up at the state’s hospitals.

“We alerted the federal authorities that we were dealing with something urgent and new,” said Dr. Kleber Luz, an infectious diseases specialist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte. “But their reaction was sluggish.”

By last March, the spread of a “doença misteriosa” — the mystery disease — had become impossible to ignore. It appeared in two more states nearby. Then it reached Salvador, a city of 2.5 million.

Doctors speculated that it was an allergy; that it was roseola, a childhood illness; that it was a new variant of Fifth Disease, a facial rash that gives children a “slapped-cheek” look.

“People were claiming it was polluted water,” said Dr. Gúbio Soares, a virologist at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador. “I began thinking it was something transmitted by mosquitoes.”

Working in his modest lab with a colleague, Dr. Silvia Sardi, Dr. Soares kept testing blood samples.

Other doctors were doing the same. Over 6,800 samples were tested, according to news reports, from victims ranging from 4 months to 98 years old. Parvovirus, dengue, chikungunya and other suspects were all ruled out.

Finally, in April, Dr. Soares and Dr. Sardi were sure: It was Zika.

“I actually felt a sense of relief,” Dr. Soares said. “The literature said it was much less aggressive than viruses we already deal with in Brazil.”

In the capital, Brasília, the health minister at the time, Dr. Arthur Chioro, felt the same way.

“Zika virus doesn’t worry us,” he told reporters in May, after the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation had confirmed Dr. Soares’s findings. “It’s a benign disease.” Dengue hemorrhagic fever, on the other hand, killed hundreds of Brazilians each year.

But on ProMED Mail, an online service run by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, the reaction was not so sanguine.

“The arrival of Zika virus in Brazil is not good news,” wrote Thomas M. Yuill, an emeritus professor of veterinary science and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Not only did Brazil have “abundant mosquitoes and a large population of susceptible people,” he wrote, but so did much of the Americas.

Two weeks earlier, an American mosquito disease expert working in Rio de Janeiro had scoffed on ProMED about an unconfirmed report that it was Zika. The virus fit the symptoms, he wrote, but it was circulating only in Africa and Asia, and in the South Pacific, half a world away, in a different half a world away, in a different ocean.  He was right about where the virus had been, but not about where it was going or where it is now.

An Island-Hopping Virus
For years, virus hunters on ProMED and other outbreak alert networks had been watching, fascinated, as Zika made long, slow and erratic progress eastward across the Pacific, island-hopping as American forces had done during World War II, albeit in reverse.

In 2007, it hit Yap Island, in Micronesia, east of the Philippines and north of Australia. It could have come to Yap from anywhere in Asia.

The first case of Zika infection detected in New York City was found in December 2013 — six months before the virus is thought to have reached Brazil — in a 48-year-old traveler who lives near Central Park but has asked to remain unidentified.

When he walked into Traveler’s Medical Service on Madison Avenue, he had just returned from a long trek through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Easter Island and Hawaii, with a stopover in French Polynesia.

Dyan J. Summers, the nurse practitioner who first saw him, said he pulled his shirt out of his bluejeans and peeled it off, exposing a pinkish rash he said he had had for 11 days.

“I took one look and said, ‘Dengue fever,’” she recalled in an interview last week. “He said, ‘I’m not so sure. I think it’s Zika.’”

Ms. Summers was startled: “I’d heard of Zika, but nobody was thinking about Zika.”

“But this is a very, very bright guy,” she continued. “He travels a lot, he knows about safe water and safe altitudes for malaria. He was right on the money, that guy. In Polynesia, he had read articles in the local paper about Zika.”

She took blood immediately and again 20 days later, and sent both samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Their tests showed that he had antibodies to dengue, West Nile and Zika, but the count of Zika antibodies had shot up.

In researching Zika, Ms. Summers said, her very bright patient had found an article about a scientist in Colorado who had infected his wife with the virus after returning from Africa.

“Because of that paper, I advised him not to have unprotected sex with his common-law wife,” she said.

“What’s weirder,” she added. “He knew there were cases of Guillain-Barré connected to it.”  Their exchange was strangely prescient.

At the time, Polynesian and French doctors were just beginning to diagnose Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of temporary paralysis that starts in the hands and feet. Along with infant microcephaly, the syndrome has turned out to be one of the Zika epidemic’s chief fears.

It is an autoimmune attack on nerve cells that can be triggered by several viruses or bacteria. It is usually temporary, though it can last for weeks; but if the paralysis reaches the muscles powering the lungs, and the patient is not quickly put on a respirator, it can kill.

Ms. Summers’s caution was right: Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave similar advice about unprotected sex to all Americans.

In October 2013, the Zika virus raced through the many islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti and Bora Bora. In early 2014, it bounced to the Cook Islands, just to the west, and New Caledonia, close to Australia.

It also leapt to Easter Island, home of the giant stone heads, its official arrival in the Western Hemisphere.

It is still island-hopping. American Samoa and Tonga are having outbreaks now.

Scott C. Weaver, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, wrote an article in 2009 warning that Zika was approaching the Americas. The virus was so obscure that, trying to be helpful in an interview, he explained: “Its closest relative is Spondweni” — a virus named for a place in South Africa that is no longer even on maps.

But, the Zika Forest in Uganda still is; the virus was discovered there in a monkey in 1947. Since then, the Zika virus had been considered mild compared to its killer cousins: yellow fever, dengue, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis. 

Until 2013, there was no evidence Zika had ever hospitalized anyone.

Tracking Its Path to Brazil

Back in Brazil, on May 14, it was definite. The mysterious outbreaks — by then in cities all over Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro — had all been caused by Zika.

Who had brought the virus to Brazil? There are two theories.

The first, offered by Brazilian scientists who analyzed airline flight patterns, was that it arrived in the crowds of soccer fans who had flocked to the 12 host cities in the 2014 World Cup. If the Natal outbreak was truly the first, that theory has credence.

A second, proposed by French scientists connected to the Pasteur Institutein Paris who had investigated the outbreak in Polynesia, was that it arrived a few weeks later, during the Va’a World Sprint, a canoe race in Rio that attracted teams from several Polynesian islands.

Since the virus is believed to persist in the blood for up to 10 days, it presumably came from an island then having an outbreak. But in a world as interconnected as ours has become, it may be spread not by a foreigner from faraway lands, but by any international traveler.

The same thing was happening elsewhere. The hospital where her mother was a pediatric neurologist suddenly had seven cases.

“That’s when I thought, ‘Something is terribly wrong,’ ” Dr. van der Linden said.

She soon learned that several of the mothers remembered having the “mystery disease” — the Zika rash — early in their pregnancies.

But tests of the infants for the Zika infection were all negative. Their mothers had been ill months earlier, and in adults the virus usually disappears in 10 days or less. It is still unclear how long it persists in a fetus.

In early October, the national health ministry asked Dr. Turchi, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation epidemiologist, to investigate. She went to hospitals, including those in Recife. Doctors were running tests for various viruses, but they were all coming up blank.

“The pediatricians were saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this,’ ” she said. “These kids are different. This is something new.”

Young Mothers in Shock

Dr. Kátia Petribu, a hospital psychiatrist in Recife, remembers the mothers. They were ghosts — mute, expressionless figures in corridors holding babies whose foreheads seemed to have vanished.

Many of the mothers were young, one just 14. “They were in a state of shock,” she said. “They were unable to talk.”

Dr. Petribu had trouble sleeping. She could not get them out of her mind.

Normally, she worked with patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. But she decided to refocus on these women, who so clearly needed help.

“They come with nothing,” she said. “No food. They travel by bus for hours, arrive at 7 a.m., and wait for hours to be seen.”

Many were young rural women with no understanding of why their children looked so different. A 16-year-old showed up with her own mother, who was worried about missing a perfect day to sell cold drinks on the beach.

Dr. Mauricio L. Nogueira, a doctor from southern Brazil who had seen no cases in his region, which is as far from the tropical north as Quebec is from Miami, remembers visiting a hospital in the northern city of Salvador. He is still haunted by what he saw: 25 microcephalic children, all born in the previous 10 days.

That was “really shocking for me,” he said. “Until then, I was just reading reports.”

One mother, he said, looked up at him and asked, “Hey, doctor, his head is going to grow, right?”

“It was really painful,” he said.

Frustration was growing, too, for Dr. Turchi, the epidemiologist. “If we had known what was going on, that would have been one thing,” she said. “But there was no book to follow. We had no map.”

She shelved her work on the dengue virus and skipped Christmas with her mother.

“I couldn’t sleep for several weeks,” she said. “It was the most important thing I have seen in my entire career. It was a tragedy, but it was like we were seeing history in front of us, day by day. It was a living history, and we were part of it.”

Zika’s connection to microcephaly was suspected but very difficult to confirm. Dr. Turchi set up a quick “case control” study, the epidemiologist’s classic tool, comparing babies born with the condition and those without it.

Dr. David L. Heymann, chairman of the World Health Organization committee that recommended the declaration of the public health emergency, said in an interview last week that very tool — a case control study following two sets of pregnant women, some who had Zika and some who did not — was what his committee needed to prove whether Zika causes microcephaly, and whether it does so alone or requires a cofactor like a prior infection with dengue.

“Sorting out a rare event will take a lot of women,” he said, and they must be followed for months.
At Last, ‘a Road to Follow’

But Dr. Turchi did not have months.

She called every scientist she knew, and they came from all over Brazil. One flew in from London. Dr. Turchi gave the group a name: MERG, the Microcephaly Epidemic Research Group.

“It was like a house on fire — everyone grabs a bucket and does what they can,” she said. Some scientists stayed in her apartment, talking late into the night. “It’s like when you like something and you have people who like the same thing, you can talk for hours without feeling tired,” she said. “It’s like discussing football. You never stop talking. It’s an obsession.”

A turning point came in early November: Dr. Adriana Melo in Paraíba State, just north of Recife, had drawn amniotic fluid from a pregnant woman and found Zika virus in it. Then brain tissue from two stillbirths was tested. Again, Zika.

“At last we had a road to follow,” Dr. Turchi said. “A map.”

One of those who flew in to help in the detective work was Dr. Laura C. Rodrigues, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on contract to the Pan American Health Organization.

“It was the kind of call where you dropped everything,” she said. “There had never been a congenital malformation by mosquito before, not ever. It was totally outside our experience.”

With the discovery of Zika in malformed fetuses, Dr. Turchi’s team has been able to turn to the kind of task Dr. Heymann described. They have recruited about 1,000 pregnant women with Zika symptoms, and are following healthy and microcephalic newborns in the same areas. They work nights and weekends, eating sandwiches from the institute’s shop or meals of rice, beans and chicken provided by a research assistant’s mother.

There are now so many reported cases of microcephaly that a new problem has arisen: too many false alarms.

Anxious obstetricians across Brazil have reported babies who merely have small heads, or babies whose mothers had other problems, like severe alcoholism or family histories of malformations, conditions that should have excluded them from the research.

Brazil has already changed its definition of a small head, to 32 centimeters around from 33 centimeters, and may revise it again soon.

Dr. Turchi defends those decisions, saying a broad net had to be cast at first because so little was known.

“We didn’t want to get just the severe cases; we wanted to look at the broadest possible spectrum of the disease,” she said. “Then we can narrow it later.”

‘Perfect Epidemic Curve’Loosed on a continent where no one is immune, Zika has the potential to infect tens of millions of people. It's now being transmitted in 33 countries with about 600 million inhabitants, the W.H.O. (World Health Organization) says. Health officials in Brazil are investigating thousands of reported cases of microcephaly that may be linked to the virus.

Now a bright spot has appeared.

In Recife, and Pernambuco State around it, microcephaly cases have been declining for about three weeks. It is unclear exactly why, but researchers are starting to wonder if the epidemic has peaked.

“It looks like a perfect epidemic curve,” Dr. Turchi said. “You see where it started, then went up, and now it’s going down.”

But that decline, and the general sigh of relief it portends, is occurring only in the one spot in the hemisphere where transmission of the virus hit earliest and was most intense.

Zika was just getting started there a year before the microcephaly cases began. And now the virus is virtually everywhere south of Florida and Texas.

And Guillain-Barré, the harbinger of microcephaly, is being spotted farther from the epidemic’s epicenter in Brazil.

Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname and El Salvador, where mosquitoes thrive year-round, all have reported Guillain-Barré cases. Colombia has “an explosion” of them, its health minister said, with three deaths.

There have also been dozens of confirmed Zika rashes and fevers in the United States, all so far in returning travelers, except for the person infected through sex in Texas by a traveler returning from Venezuela.

Air travel maps show the United States’ potential to be a kind of viral pincushion; Zika may arrive from anywhere. Since four out of five victims never have any symptoms, there is no way to spot it at the border.

The C.D.C. thinks it is all but inevitable that there will be at least small outbreaks here. But how far they spread will depend on how aggressively mosquitoes are killed.

Now that the world is alert to the danger and is fighting back, and women are even contemplating delaying pregnancies, scientists say it is unlikely that Brazil’s national nightmare will be repeated elsewhere on such a scale.

In Recife, Dr. Turchi was hopeful.

“I’m more comfortable now,” she said. “I see so many people working as a team and so much international concern. Now it has become clear to the whole world.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the location of Yap Island, in Micronesia. It is east of the Philippines, not west. (An earlier version of this correction repeated the error.)

Although the Zika virus and Dengue fever are carried by the same mosquito, the fact is, this dangerous vector can be prevented from creating offspring when they are genetically crossed with a neutralizing mosquito. This "so called" neutering technology has been available for at least a decade, but it's obviously costly to implement and it requires the cooperaton of the population to allow for genetic modificaiton of local mosquitoes. Certainly, it's tragic to realize how, in retrospect, the Zika virus could have been prevented; but it's urgent to put it into place, as soon as possible to prevent an entire generaton of babies from being born with micrcephaly. What's worse, the fear of the virus will definitely prevent many young women from having any babies, at all.
Donald G. McNeil Jr. reported from New York; Simon Romero from Recife, Brazil; and Sabrina Tavernise from Washington.

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