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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Affordable Care Act in Maine - fighting to expand coverage for uninsured

It's hard to believe, but here I am, again, sitting in Augusta, at a public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services room, in Maine's State House, to advocate for the Affordable Care Act. If Maine would accept the funds, the coverage would provide thousands of people with health care coverage as well as provide people with jobs in the human services sector. These are not mutually exclusive points. As Maine looses population, it is essential for the state to keep the workforce healthy  and to create jobs to attract qualified workers.

Our state is among the poorest in America, but has not yet accepted the expanded funding offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), like 29 other states.  

Eloquent speakers are providing compelling testimony, made even more meaningful with data from states like Arkansas, and Kentucky and others that have accepted the available funds.

My testimony is supporting the American Nurses Association of Maine (ANA-Maine) in keeping with the association's mission of Nursing advancing our profession to advance health care for all.


LD 633:  An Act to Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and the Economy of Maine by Providing Affordable Market-based Coverage Options to Low-income Uninsured Citizens. Senator Saviello, Franklin
LD 854:  An Act to Increase Access to Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People. Representative Sanborn of Gorham
LD 808:  An Act to Decrease Uncompensated Care, Reduce Medical Debt and Improve Health Outcomes. Senator Haskell of Cumberland

ANA Maine membership includes over 353 nurses who work throughout the spectrum of Maine’s health care delivery systems. 

ANA member nurses work in Universities, colleges, public health agencies, community health agencies, home care, hospice, mental health, acute care, long term care, and all other health care organizations.

We support the expansion of health care benefits to include all Maine people regardless of their socio economic status or their pre-existing health conditions. These three bills: LD 854 sponsored by Representative Sanborn, or LD 808 sponsored by Senator Haskell and LD 633 sponsored by Senator Saviello, include the provision to meet the criteria of helping as many Maine people to access health care coverage as possible. 

This is the fifth time legislation has been proposed and supported by the people of Maine to expand health care coverage for about 70,000 people under the Affordable Care Act.  Although a majority of the Maine legislators have supported these expansions, the political climate has rebuffed the legislations. 

Maine people elect representatives and executive officials to support their best humanitarian interests.  Repeatedly, the Maine legislators have supported the will of the people and passed the health care reform initiatives, but they were blocked from being enacted by political, rather than humanitarian, interests.
Maine loses important resources to help our most vulnerable citizens when our legislators are blocked from enacting health care reforms. 

Moreover, the health reforms in these three LD’s are reasonable, they have public support and, most important, they will continue to be heard in public hearings until, Maine joins the other New England states, that already have reform initiatives in place.

ANA- Maine urges you to vote to support these bills or, if you can, to create a legislative initiative whereby the intentions of these LDs are passed and implemented.  ANA Maine would be honored to participate in any efforts to expand health coverage for all Maine citizens.
Thank you committee members.
Senator Eric Brakey, Chair
Senator Anne Haskell 
 Senator Earle McCormick
Representative Andrew Gattine 
Representative Christine Burstein 
Representative Scott Hamann
Representative Frances Head
Representative Patricia Hymanson
Representative Richard Malaby
Representative Matthew Peterson
Representative Deborah Sanderson
Representative Deborah Sanderson 
Representative Peter Stuckey 
Representative Karen Vachon
Testimony in support of:  LD 808 and LD 865 and LD 633

Juliana L’Heureux, BS, MHSA, RN
ANA Maine

Juliana@mainewriter.com 

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Governor Larry Hogan hides in emergency shelter shows up in crises at 5 AM

Governor Larry Hogan says he'll moves his office into Baltimore after the city's April 2015, race riots. In this visible location, he'll have to answer a lot of questions about how his administration intends to build a better city.  

I grew up in Baltimore. It's a city with all the attributes of a world class community. Unfortunately, in my lifetime, I haven't seen Baltimore rise to its potential. Now, the citizens have a chance to create a new Baltimore.  They have the resources, but do they have the willpower to do so?

Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan has never held public office. Well he's up to his ears in challenges now that Maryland's largest city is on the brink of a second incendiary historic episode since 1968, this time under his Republican political leadership.

Governor Hogan waited until Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called him for help, before responding to the growing race riots after Freddie Grey's funeral. Protocol may require the mayor to call for the Governor to act. Nevertheless, the fact is, Hogan didn't demonstrate compassion when he played a "you call me before I call you" game, especially when such humanitarian need was waiting for his leadership.  Moreover, he issued his order while inside the security of an emergency shelter rather than standing alongside the Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Now, Governor Hogan says he'll open an office in Baltimore.  

This is a very good idea. But the office move will be an empty gesture if Hogan's doesn't communicate with the Mayor, in City Hall.  

(I'm wondering if the political environment in the Annapolis State House is so toxic that Hogan prefers to work in the burned out streets of West Baltimore,  rather than stay in his office.)

What I know for sure is that Governor Hogan's lack of elected political experience is clearly not helping Baltimore. He's faced with a racial crises, after Freddie Grey's death, yet he's treating it like a high school principal issuing a school wide detention policy. He issued his emergency order for the National Guard intervention while speaking from an emergency shelter.  His visit to Baltimore, to view the race riot carnage, took place at 5 AM, when there was nobody around to speak to him about what he saw or what he intended to do about the destruction.

Fox News reports:  
Maryland governor promises to protect Baltimore as new looting is reported

(CNN) Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan -- an upstart politician who has never held public office -- is confronting one of the most serious challenges his state has endured in decades.

Just three months into the job (Julie's note - Governor Hogan made sure the public knew he'd only been in office for 90 days when he issued his emergency order....!), the Republican governor is playing a key role in regaining control of Baltimore, his state's largest city, which has been gripped by violence in the wake of the death of a 25-year-old black man in police custody earlier this month. 


Other governors, including Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, have stumbled in responding to similar violence in their states. Hogan seems determined to avoid a similar fate but the riots exposed tension between the governor and Baltimore's Democratic mayor -- a relationship that will be crucial in the days ahead.

"This is not the Baltimore we know and love," Hogan said during a press conference Tuesday.

Hogan signed an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency in Baltimore, deploying the National Guard and 5,000 state and local law enforcement officers to the city. The governor had the order ready as early as Saturday when the first signs of unrest began, Hogan's office told CNN.  (Julie's note- this report makes no sense to me. Where's the proof? The Governor can say anything he feels like, but if he really had an executive order ready to use, then he should've called the Baltimore Mayor with this information.)

In an interview with CNN late Monday night, Hogan said he was waiting for a request from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake before declaring the state of emergency and activating the National Guard.

"We've been standing by in preparation just in case the violence escalated—which it did. When the mayor called, we activated," 


When pressed on why he waited to sign the order during an earlier press conference, Hogan suggested that Rawlings-Blake was initially unresponsive to his office's request for action.

"We were trying to get in touch with the mayor for some time," Hogan said. "We are glad she finally called us."

The governor said he had moved his top staff and cabinet from the state capital Annapolis to Baltimore Tuesday in order to direct operations from there.

Prior to the riots, Hogan worked with Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore officials on an economic revitalization program, but has proposed reducing the city's reliance on state aid.

Hogan, 58, vowed to make Baltimore a centerpiece of his economic agenda after his election, telling the Baltimore Sun that he wanted the city to become a "driver of the whole state."

"The city's declining rather than improving," Hogan told the Sun. "We're going to try to turn that around. ... We're basically going to have to find a way to incentivize people to move into Baltimore City."

One of just two Republican governors to be elected in the state since 1969, Hogan enjoyed a surprise electoral victory last November in the traditionally Democratic stronghold, besting Democrat Anthony Brown by 3.8 percentage points.

Hogan, a businessman who led a fiscal policy increase group called "Change Maryland," stunned political circles in deep blue Maryland with his success in last year's mid-term elections. His opponent outspent him four-fold, and Democrats enjoy a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

While his campaign for the governor's post was Hogan's first foray into elected office, he grew up surrounded by politics. His father, Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., represented Maryland's fifth congressional district for three terms and was county executive of Prince George's County until 1982. The governor's younger brother, Patrick N. Hogan, is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. (Julie's note - this Fox News article summary makes no sense. It's like saying 'I might not be a doctor but my father was one'.)


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Monday, April 27, 2015

Sad comment on my native Baltimore Maryland - Freddie Gray rips open another racial wound

Freddie Gray's mother makes a magnificent show of peace:

"Gray's mother, opened a heart-shaped white basket to release a white dove that soared into a cloudy sky, circled and flew away."
Chaos in Baltimore today is the incendiary tinder box remains of 1968, a smolder that was never completely extinguished.  

Yet, it's remarkable to know how the victim of Baltimore police department violence, Freddie Gray's, family has called for peace.

In fact, Baltimore, sadly, was a segregated city when I grew up there. 

At the time, there was hope for a better future when school integration was supported by the US Supreme Court in Brown vs The Board of Education.  Instead, the Baltimore tensions increased with the growth of school integration.  

In 1968 the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King caused Baltimore to become a match box of riot destruction. In my opinion, not much has changed since those riots.  Although the Inner Harbor was rebuilt after the destruction caused by the race riots, the fact is, the development didn't expand beyond the National Aquarium and the rebuilt Inner Harbor.

The Baltimore Sun reports: Friends, family bid farewell 
to Freddie Gray.

In a funeral service that was both personal and political, family, friends and strangers alike said farewell on Monday to Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose death from injuries sustained in police custody has sparked a national furor.

"With everything that we've been through, ain't no way you can sit here and be silent in the face of injustice," the Rev. Jamal H. Bryant exhorted in an impassioned eulogy at New Shiloh Baptist Church on the city's west side.


Among the thousands who packed the church were celebrated activist Dick Gregory and family members of Trayvon Martin. Also in attendance were politicians: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, who drew rousing applause from the crowd; Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and John Sarbanes and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume; and several representatives from the Obama administration, including Broderick Johnson, the Baltimore native who heads the president's My Brother's Keeper initiative to empower black youth.

But it was Gray's family — his mother, father, stepfather, grandmother and sisters — whom much of the crowd came to embrace, figuratively and literally. Attendees caused something of a bottleneck, filing into the church, spending a solemn or emotional moment in front of Gray's casket, and waiting to offer a hug or a few words to the grieving relatives.

Masherra Hunt, 24, of Windsor Mill brought her 1-year-old daughter, Harmony, to the service.

"I'm here to support Freddie Gray and his family," she said. "And hoping we get justice."

The speakers drew both cheers and tears, while soloists and a choir provided a heartfelt soundtrack.

"The eyes of the country are all on us," former judge and Gray family attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy told the crowd. "They want to see if we have the stuff to get this right."

Murphy denounced a police culture that he said protects officers from accountability. Without witnesses, he said, police would not be under scrutiny for their actions during Gray's arrest.

"Let's don't kid ourselves. We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for video cameras," he said. "Instead of one coverup behind that blue wall after another coverup behind that blue wall … and one lie after another lie, now we see the truth as never before. It's not a pretty picture."

Gray, 25, arrested April 12 near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore, emerged from a ride in a police van with what turned out to be a severed spinal cord and crushed voicebox. He died a week later.

Protesters have taken to the streets to demand more information on how he was injured in police custody. Despite appeals from Gray's family for peace, demonstrations gave way to incidents of vandalism on Saturday night, and more serious violence on Monday afternoon, after the funeral. But Murphy challenged the media for focusing on the "half of a percent of people who don't know how to act."

Cummings called for "oceans of justice" and "rivers of fairness," saying it's what Gray would have wanted.

"I've often said that our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see," he said. "But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see. "There's something wrong with that picture."

His voice quavering, Cummings said he put his own nephew "in the grave four years ago … blasted away, still don't know who did it."

"For me, I am in the twilight years, but I am telling you we will not rest, we will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done," he said.

He turned to Gray's mother, Gloria Darden.

"It's our watch," he said. "We will not fail you."

Amid a succession of fiery speakers, the crowd fell silent to listen as Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, quietly read a poem he said the family wrote for their lost loved one.

"You're still here in my heart and mind," he read. "I feel you, and this gives me strength and courage. The tears I've cried for you could flood the earth, and know you have wiped each one away."

Two hours before the service, dozens of people were lined up at the door of the church in the Mondawmin Mall neighborhood of West Baltimore, waiting to be let in to pay respects to Gray. 

On entering, they passed a half-dozen white-clad (in white uniforms- a tradition at Baltimore funerals) women holding out boxes of tissues.

As mourners filed in solemnly, video screens alternated the message "BLACK LIVES MATTER" and "& ALL LIVES MATTER."

An hour before the start of the service, about 75 members of Gray's extended family came in together, escorted by ushers in dark suits and white gloves. They stopped at Gray's casket, pausing to show their respect, and then began filling row after row of the center section reserved for them.

By the time they were all seated, a 36-member choir on the stage had begun a rousing version of the gospel hymn "Do Not Pass Me By," turning the mood from solemnity to celebration.

Some of Baltimore's most prominent ministers formed a semicircle behind Gray's casket, the Rev. Harold A. Carter Jr. of New Shiloh, the Rev. Frank Reid III of Bethel AME, and Bryant among them, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jackson told reporters before the service there are "two Baltimores:" the one that includes the Inner Harborand other tourist areas, and the Baltimore that features 16,000 vacant lots and thousands of lives often deemed "expendable."

He called for special prosecutors who can devote all their energies to cases such as Gray's, and more programs that produce training for jobs helping to cure inner-city ills such as lead paint in older buildings. Gray and his siblings filed a lawsuit in 2008, saying they had been poisoned in one of their childhood homes.

Also at the news conference were people whose relatives had been killed by police, representing a group called Families United 4 Justice.

Erica Garner, 24, whose father, Eric Garner, died in an encounter with police in Staten Island, said his death "turned me into an activist overnight."

She said she felt a connection to Gray's family. "I want to stand with other families like mine," she said.

Constance Malcolm also came down from New York. Her 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, was killed by New York City police in June 2012. "This opens up old wounds," she said. "And no matter how hard you try not to be angry, it makes you angry.

"We're being harmed by the people who are supposed to protect us. We can't even tell our children to run to the police when they're in trouble because we're afraid the cops might shoot them."

Garner said her 6-foot-3, 350-pound father was "a teddy bear," but police, in their instinctive "fear" of black men, didn't take the time to look past his size.

Malcolm said her son was not the gang member police believed him to be.

"Why hire officers who are basically afraid of the communities they're serving in?" she asked, tearfully.

Gregory, 82, received warm applause. He told The Baltimore Sun Gray's death could prove to be a turning point.

"This is something that happens every day," he said. "But I think this could be the one that breaks it open. "There's something in the air."

After the service, Gregory surveyed the crush of people at the doorway to watch Gray's casket begin its journey to Woodlawn Cemetery.

"This," Gregory said, "helps heal."

Four members of two city motorcycle clubs, Forever Kyngz and Twist of Fate, sat on a bench outside the church during the funeral, wearing dark vests emblazoned with patches and waiting to provide the funeral cortege a noisy escort to the cemetery.


They didn't know Freddie Gray, but they knew many people who grew up in similar neighborhoods having similar contact with police officers, said Timothy Henderson.

"This is too familiar," he said. "We're supporting our own."

Earl and Cheryl Solomon of Baltimore stood on a curb and watched the crush of photographers surrounding Gray's hearse and other funeral vehicles.

Neither knew Freddie Gray, Earl Solomon said, but they live only a few blocks away from Sandtown, and came to "show condolences and give our respect to the family."

"We feel as though the community needs to come together, to work with city officials and the police so everyone can find a way to get along," he said. "It's a tragedy that it takes something like this to bring us all together."

"We're not asking for a perfect world," Cheryl Solomon said. "We're just asking for basic respect."


An hour after the funeral ended, about 150 mourners assembled below a grassy slope at Woodlawn Cemetery, where an elaborate wreath of white roses sat atop Gray's casket.

Darden, Gray's mother, opened a heart-shaped white basket to release a white dove that soared into a cloudy sky, circled and flew away.

Motorcycle engines revved in the background and friends cried "Pepper! Pepper!" — Gray's nickname — as the casket was lowered into the ground.

Darden leaned over and somberly gazed in.

"He's smiling down there," she said.

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

Although many brave people are trying to bring calm to US cities like Baltimore, where police violence has become epidemic, the fact is, the Freddie Gray death rips open a wound that has been festering since the 1968 race riots, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

American "putt-putt" trains need upgrading American Jobs Act

Superstorm Sandy most vividly demonstrated the need for resilient and redundant (Northeast Corridor) infrastructure. Tunnel flooding under the Hudson and East Rivers caused hundreds of millions of $$$ dollars in damage. Without additional capacity between New York and New Jersey, future closures for those repairs could reduce capacity by as much as 75%. The Plan accounts for fixing damaged assets while building to protect assets at risk. These projects will improve reliability, reduce the severity of service impacts during emergencies, and reduce the costs of recovering from future disasters.

Although I'm not an expert on President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act, I'm pretty sure there's appropriations included to improve our deteriorating US train system.  

As a matter of fact, anything, at all, would improve our nation's putt-putt trains.  Here's an interesting article from The National Journal about projects in the wings.  Maybe Apple stock holders can create a futures account, for the purpose of investing invest in American train systems.  

Honestly? If I had the capital, it's where my money would be looking, to bring about a solid return on investment. Obviously, however, my mythical investment will need to wait until Republicans, who are blocking mass transportation projects with their stupid sequester, are eventually thrown out of office.

Eight Critical Rail Projects from The National Journal

A major rail advisory commission presents a sobering new wish list for the Northeast Corridor over the next five years.
BY ERIC JAFFE, CITYLAB

April 22, 2015 There's a new report out from the Northeast Corridor advisory commission, established by Congress to help improve the most critical stretch of rail in the United States, and it isn't pretty. The commission—made up of officials from states, the U.S. Transportation Department, Amtrak, and commuter-rail agencies—has outlined a "first-of-its-kind" coordinated five-year plan for major projects between Washington and Boston via New York. It's effectively a construction wish list for 2016-2020:

The Northeast Corridor is at an historic turning point. 

The decades since the NEC was placed in public hands have been marked by record-breaking ridership growth — and insufficient capital investment. However, unprecedented collaboration is underway to take responsibility for this vital asset and position the country for a globally competitive economic future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a united strategy to reverse decades of deterioration and rebuild the nation’s busiest passenger railroad.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan – if fully funded – would stabilize a national asset that carries 750,000 trips per day. Decades of federal under-investment mean many assets operate today beyond their useful life – everything from rail and power lines to bridges and tunnels – increasing costly service unreliability every day. The loss of service on the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion and lost productivity.

Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. That proportion may grow as billions of dollars of real estate development projects have recently been completed or are under construction within walking distance of stations like Washington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and Boston. (Julie's note- this investment would improve Maine's economy too, at least in Southern Maine, where many commuters would likely move if there was reliable train service into northern Massachusetts, especially to Boston.)

Much of the NEC we know today was built by private railroads before the 20th century and passengers rely on 100+ year old infrastructure. The largest and most critical of these assets make up the major project backlog: ten movable bridges, two sets of tunnels, and other major structures that date back as far as 1873. These assets will continue to malfunction and cause delays throughout the NEC until they are replaced.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a first-of-its-kind joint effort among eight states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, eight commuter rail agencies, and other stakeholders to integrate the infrastructure investments required over the next five years to reverse decades of deterioration and modernize our shared national asset for future economic growth.

The individual plans of four infrastructure owners and nine passenger rail operators are the basis of the NEC Five-Year Capital Plan. It integrates all types of capital investment, from swapping old rail ties for new, to replacing vital bridges and tunnels. This first-ever region-wide plan reflects unprecedented collaboration in setting mutual goals, sharing information, and coordinating investment.

NEC infrastructure is the beneficiary of investment from many different federal, state, and local sources. However, aggregate funding levels from these traditional sources are far below those required to stabilize infrastructure conditions and prepare the Corridor for the future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan identifies these funding gaps and defines how additional resources would build a stronger railroad.

If fully funded, the NEC five year capital plan would create jobs across the country while rebuilding the nation’s most important passenger railroad to promote economic development, grow ridership, and increase resiliency to extreme weather events. (In fact, 35,500 jobs per year, reports the National Journal.)


The NEC carries a workforce that contributes $50 billion each year to the United States gross domestic product. Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. The Plan will support these key economic markets with infrastructure, service, and station facility upgrades while putting thousands of people to work.

The NEC is a more than century-old railroad, still hand-operated in places with levers and cranks. The backlog of assets operating well beyond their useful life is staggering and infrastructure components are failing at increasing rates. Loss of the NEC for even just a day would cost nearly $100 million in congestion and productivity losses. The Plan will make progress toward reducing this backlog over five years.

The investment required just to preserve today’s NEC service is immense; but the NEC must also prepare for the future. Recent history demonstrates the need to anticipate extreme weather events and growth in ridership. The Plan addresses these trends with infrastructure projects that will reduce vulnerability to changes in temperature, protect against flooding, and add capacity where needed to maintain and grow service.

(Julie's note- the only fathomable reason why the NEC projects are underfunded, in my opinion, is because there's not enough graft and corruption for Republicans to spread around, in states outside of New England, to attract their votes in support of the funding.)

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

American news media have not reported events in Syria - Assad must be looking for refuge

It's difficult to understand why American news media continue to under report or ignore news. Now that Syrian rebels are showing some success, the only coverage is in The Christian Science Monitor and Al Jeezera America.

"..rebel fighters, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured the northwestern Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour on Saturday, for the first time in the four-year-old conflict."

Hmmmmm, This Al Qaeda connection is concerning.....will Al Qaeda have gained a nation after Assad is defeated?

(President Assad must be looking for refuge knowing this is a sea turn.....)

Syrian rebels seize key government-held city
Government forces redeploy to Jisr al-Shughour after rebel alliance overruns strategic city  April 25, 2015 

Syrian rebel fighters, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured the northwestern Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour on Saturday, for the first time in the four-year-old conflict.

Syrian state media said the army had redeployed to the city's surroundings "to avoid civilian casualties." They said the army was battling "a large number of terrorists coming from the Turkish border."

The capture of the strategic city is the latest in a series of setbacks for government forces in the south and north.

Opposition fighters and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the city, on a road between the coastal city of Latakia and city of Aleppo, was now fully controlled by rebels.

"All of Jisr al-Shughour is now liberated, there is no more regime there," Ahmad of the media office of the armed group Ahrar Al-Sham, which is taking part in the battle, told Reuters.

After seizing the city, rebels continued their assault with the aim of pushing the army from the few remaining government areas in the province of Idlib.

Advance on coast


Last month armed groups seized the city of Idlib, the capital of the province of Idlib near Turkey, after forming an alliance which includes Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, but not Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), their rival.

The alliance calls itself Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the seventh century.

The allied groups agreed to unite in the battle for Jisr al-Shughour under the name "Battle for Victory." The formation of alliances by groups before major battles is one of the factors behind the advances, sources say.

By taking Jisr al-Shughour, the rebels have edged closer to the coastal province of Latakia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's stronghold, and are now less than 5 miles from villages loyal to the government near the coast.

"Jisr al-Shughour is more important than Idlib itself, it is very close to the coastal area which is a regime area, the coast now is within our fire reach," Ahmad from Ahrar Al-Sham said.

Syrian forces captured the city of Jisr al-Shughour in June 2011, when what the government described as armed gangs killed more than 120 security personnel in the city after large anti-government demonstrations there.

A rebellion in Jisr al-Shughour, home to 50,000 residents, in 1980 against President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, was crushed with scores of deaths.

Reuters

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Armenian genocideof 1915 remembered in Maine

Facebook friend Alan Manoian posted this message about the experience of his grandmother, who was a victim and survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915.  



My grandmother, Agavni (Amboian) Manoian, born in 1904, witnessed the killing & massacre of her mother, sisters, her entire extended family and entire village in 1915 at the age of 11. 

In the midst of the mass slaughter someone grabbed her and hid her in the indented corner of a house, placed a barrel in front of her and told her to be quiet; the Turkish soldiers missed her. She arose after the massacre and alone walked off in the "death march" through the high desert. She amazingly survived. Seven years later in Lowell, Massachusetts someone tells her uncle Nazar Garabedian that they have seen Agavni Amboian in an orphanage in Aleppo, Syria. Uncle Nazar responds "No, it can't be, they are all dead". He seeks and finds her in the Aleppo orphanage and brings her to Lowell, Massachusetts, where she is met by and wed to Arakiel Manoian, (both the Amboians and Manoians were from the same ancestor town in Armenia). They go forward to live at 33 Basset St. in Back Central Lowell, have three strong sons and live their American dream. Agavni lived strong until the age of 97 years. She was determined to survive.


Obama should say “genocide” when he talks about what happened to Armenians

In Maine, the Armenian genocide is remembered at an exhibit at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) on the campus of the University of Maine Augusta (UMA) in Augusta.

http://www.centralmaine.com/2015/04/13/hhrc-exhibit-to-focus-on-maines-armenian-community/

AUGUSTA — The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine joins the Armenian Cultural Association of Maine to present “Nor Ashkhar: Maine Armenians in the Century After Genocide” opening Thursday, April 16, and running through May 29, at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, according to a news release from the center.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Russia can't save Assad - Americans must keep up pressure to save Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can't hold out forever.  
Looks like Russians can't prop him up for much longer.

Even if Assad is forced to negotiate a compromise cease fire to finally end the killing, the fact is, the millions of refugees living in camps, as a result of Assad's war, will petition for reparations.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting (meanwhile, main stream US media isn't reporting this story, yet, thanks CSM)
:
Can Syria's Assad withstand latest battlefield setbacks?

A sudden uptick in coordination among Assad's regional rivals and signs of discord in his own ranks are raising anew the question of whether he will be forced to compromise to stay in power.

BEIRUT, LEBANON — Having clung to power for four years amid an armed uprising, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is being buffeted by a series of battlefield setbacks that could place fresh strains on its internal cohesion.

While there are no indications yet that Mr. Assad plans to drop his hard-line strategy against the armed opposition, a recent flurry of reports of suspicious deaths and disappearances point to possible tensions developing within the regime.

If the trend of rebel successes continues – placing ever more pressure on an already exhausted and overstretched Syrian Army – those reported internal stresses might squeeze the regime into finally considering a negotiated settlement, some observers say.

The calculation, says Robert Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and US ambassador to Syria between 2010 and 2014, is a matter of cutting losses and holding on to a core region that supports the regime.

“The progression of events will lead over … a period of months to different elements in the regime beginning to calculate whether or not it makes sense to continue being ground down or to begin to negotiate some kind of deal in the regime’s favor while they still have some relative advantages in terms of holding some populated areas and air power,” Mr. Ford says.

In the past month, rebel factions – fueled in part by the stepped-up coordination and support of Assad’s regional rivals – have won a string of victories, seizing the ancient town of Bosra ash-Sham in southern Syria, capturing the long-sought prize of Idlib, a provincial capital in the north, and then grabbing the Nasib border post, the last functioning crossing on the Syria-Jordan border. Furthermore, regime offensives launched in the southern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra and Aleppo in the north have proved unsuccessful.

“The last few weeks have been very tough for them,” says a United Nations diplomat. “It’s difficult to tell how they will react in the coming months, but the [hard-line] mindset hasn’t changed yet.”

'Diminishing cohesion' in ruling circles

Still, the setbacks coincide with the rumors about internal feuding within Assad’s circles. Last month, Mohammed Assad, a relative of the president, was shot dead in the regime stronghold of Qardaha, reportedly over a dispute about money and influence. Last week, another Assad cousin, Monzer al-Assad, was arrested on the direct orders of the president for “illegal activities.” It remains unclear whether that alludes to common criminal practices or plotting against the regime.

Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of the president and a key hardliner who headed the powerful General Security Directorate in Damascus, was reported last September to have been dismissed from his post, and later left the country for Belarus or Russia, where his father, Mohammed, lives. Official Syrian media said Mr. Makhlouf was subject to a routine personnel change to reflect a promotion.

Another incident that spurred intense speculation involves Rustom Ghazale, the head of Syrian political intelligence, who was alleged to have been badly beaten in February following a heated argument with Rafik Shehadeh, the head of military intelligence.  The source of the argument is said to have been differences over Iran's increasingly influential role in helping prop up the Assad regime.

Syrian media said Mr. Ghazale had been wounded in fighting with rebels in the south and was recovering in the hospital. Accounts from other sources have varied, claiming he subsequently died from his injuries or remains on life support. It was widely reported, including in media supportive of the Assad regime, that the Syrian president had dismissed both Ghazale and Mr. Shehadeh from their posts because of the fracas.

“There are more and more signs of diminishing cohesion within the ruling circles in Damascus,” says Ford.
Regional coordination

Still, there has been no shortage of predictions about Assad’s imminent fall or reports of the deaths or defections of senior regime figures that ultimately turned out to be false. The impenetrability of the Assad regime has long been a source of frustration to world leaders, diplomats, politicians, and analysts seeking to understand the thinking in Damascus. So far, Assad has defied forecasts of pundits who predicted that his regime would collapse soon after protests broke out in March 2011, instead surviving a brutal conflict that has spawned extremist Islamic groups and left some 220,000 people dead.

The regime’s recent setbacks in Idlib and the south are due in part to Assad’s regional enemies – including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan – agreeing on the need to unite rebel factions to oust Assad, according to analysts and regional diplomats.

“Before you had four forces fighting each other – [Al Qaeda-affiliated] Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State, moderate rebels, and the regime,” says a Western diplomat based in the Middle East. “But now everyone is ganging up on the regime, and that has changed the whole dynamic. It has been extremely sudden.”

The Assad regime insists it is fighting “terrorists” and has shown little willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the opposition. The opposition demands that any negotiations must include an acceptance that Assad can no longer stay in power, a condition unacceptable to the regime.

“The regime’s negotiating position is extremely rigid,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “So I think people are thinking that we have to work on changing Bashar’s calculus.”

If the rebel forces in the north and south are able to build on their recent gains and advance toward Damascus, the regime will come under tremendous pressure to find an alternative not only to its hard-line policies, but perhaps an alternative to Assad himself. The coming months will tell, but there are plenty of skeptics.

“The regime is not capable of changing.… It is so barren of initiative that it cannot come up with any creative thinking,” says a former Syrian official speaking on condition of anonymity. “They don’t want to negotiate under duress because they think it is a sign of weakness. But when they feel strong, they don’t want to negotiate because they don’t feel they need to.”

Another incident that spurred intense speculation involves Rustom Ghazale, the head of Syrian political intelligence, who was alleged to have been badly beaten in February following a heated argument with Rafik Shehadeh, the head of military intelligence. The source of the argument is said to have been differences over Iran's increasingly influential role in helping prop up the Assad regime.

Syrian media said Mr. Ghazale had been wounded in fighting with rebels in the south and was recovering in the hospital. Accounts from other sources have varied, claiming he subsequently died from his injuries or remains on life support. It was widely reported, including in media supportive of the Assad regime, that the Syrian president had dismissed both Ghazale and Mr. Shehadeh from their posts because of the fracas.

“There are more and more signs of diminishing cohesion within the ruling circles in Damascus,” says Ford.

Regional coordination



Still, there has been no shortage of predictions about Assad’s imminent fall or reports of the deaths or defections of senior regime figures that ultimately turned out to be false. The impenetrability of the Assad regime has long been a source of frustration to world leaders, diplomats, politicians, and analysts seeking to understand the thinking in Damascus. So far, Assad has defied forecasts of pundits who predicted that his regime would collapse soon after protests broke out in March 2011, instead surviving a brutal conflict that has spawned extremist Islamic groups and left some 220,000 people dead.

The regime’s recent setbacks in Idlib and the south are due in part to Assad’s regional enemies – including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan – agreeing on the need to unite rebel factions to oust Assad, according to analysts and regional diplomats.

“Before you had four forces fighting each other – [Al Qaeda-affiliated] Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State, moderate rebels, and the regime,” says a Western diplomat based in the Middle East. “But now everyone is ganging up on the regime, and that has changed the whole dynamic. It has been extremely sudden.”

The Assad regime insists it is fighting “terrorists” and has shown little willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the opposition. The opposition demands that any negotiations must include an acceptance that Assad can no longer stay in power, a condition unacceptable to the regime.

“The regime’s negotiating position is extremely rigid,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “So I think people are thinking that we have to work on changing Bashar’s calculus.”

If the rebel forces in the north and south are able to build on their recent gains and advance toward Damascus, the regime will come under tremendous pressure to find an alternative not only to its hard-line policies, but perhaps an alternative to Assad himself

The coming months will tell, but there are plenty of skeptics.

“The regime is not capable of changing.… It is so barren of initiative that it cannot come up with any creative thinking,” says a former Syrian official speaking on condition of anonymity. 

“They don’t want to negotiate under duress because they think it is a sign of weakness. But when they feel strong, they don’t want to negotiate because they don’t feel they need to.”

Julie's note - It appears that providing US military assistance to Syrian rebels may have had an impact, but the Syrian people still need enormous help to regain their lost homeland.  (When Assad eventually falls, will Russia take in him and his family?)

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Drone strikes are more effective than carpet bombing in a war!

War is horribly terrible. Why do human engage in it?
Death is the outcome for millions of people caught in the horror of wars. As Americans are defending against the expansion of world terrorism by Islamic extremists, the use of drone warfare is now, tragically, routine. Obviously, innocent people die as a result of any war. Terrorists know this, so they deliberately put innocents in harms way as a futile response to protect against drone attacks. Well, Americans simply can't take the chance of protecting hostages when an opportunity to use drones will exterminate Islamic extremist leaders. Collateral damage is the worst tragedy of horrible war......but, sadly, we can't stop now. We are at war.

I'm old enough to remember what happened every time President Lyndon Johnson stopped bombing North Vietnam, because there was the outcry about killing innocent civilians. What happened in Vietnam?  Americans lost thousands of military lives, the lull in bombing didn't save any lives and millions of people suffered when South Vietnam fell on April 30, 1975.

Washington Post journalists Craig Whitlock, Missy Ryan, Greg Miller report how a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) drone strike in January, that was aimed at a suspected gathering of al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, accidentally killed two hostages, including a kidnapped American, U.S. officials acknowledged.

Obviously, innocent lives lost are tragic. Unfortunately, the American military involvement in the Middle East requires a ruthless offensive, even when innocent people die.  

Drones are more effective than carpet bombing.  

The best way to avoid innocents being accidentally killed by drones is to end the wars on terrorism. I can't understand why Islamic extremists like evil ISIS are obsessed with destroying humanity, but the deaths of innocent hostages are the result of terrorism. Americans can't be responsible for innocent people killed by drones when the evil extremists and Islamic terrorists are the cause of the aggression.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Loretta Lynch is a black white litmus test for racist Representatives and Senators

Congratulations Attorney General Loretta Lynch!

Senators and Congressmen who vote against the appointment of qualified Loretta Lynch for US Attorney General better have a reason why they oppose her appointment. Otherwise, without a valid reason, the "nay" votes will be rooted in racism. In other words, those who oppose Ms. Lynch are racists, unless they can confirm a viable reason why they oppose her appointment to the position of Attorney General.

Republicans are in  a quandary over the vote on Loretta Lynch because there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to oppose her appointment. Obstinate Republicans give the reason for their reticence is because of Lynch's support of President Obama's executive immigration actions. That's a petty excuse to oppose her appointment.  It seems to me, if Republicans are holding back their Lynch "yeah" votes because of the President's immigration actions, they're missing a golden opportunity to gain favor with newly Americanized immigrant voters.

By CARL HULSE reports in The New York Times
April 17, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans do not want to be held responsible for rejecting the historic nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the first African-American woman picked to be attorney general. But they also are in no hurry to see her confirmed because of her defense of President Obama’s immigration policies.

That contradiction showed signs of being self defeating on Friday, when a visibly emotional Mr. Obama elevated the issue at a news conference by saying “Enough! Enough!” about the record delay, after a call the day before from Jeb Bush, one of the top Republican presidential prospects, to confirm Ms. Lynch.


Ms. Lynch is nearing six months in a state of suspended Senate animation, her nomination moving neither forward nor backward but instead becoming a bargaining chip in an unrelated battle, a calculation that carries no small irony given that no Republicans have challenged her credentials, and almost all of them had expressed their enmity for the man she would replace, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The inert situation shows just how Republican anger and resentment over the president’s immigration actions color issues ranging from Ms. Lynch’s status, to trade negotiations, to the nuclear talks with Iran. Republicans’ central rationale, remains that they cannot trust the president.

After months of simmering over the very slow walk of Ms. Lynch’s nomination by the new Republican majority, Democrats unloaded this week.

The White House spokesman accused a leading Republican senator of duplicity over the treatment of Ms. Lynch. Democrats threatened procedural tactics that would force Republicans to block a vote on bringing up her nomination, stirring additional political repercussions.

So far, though, Senate Republicans have adopted the position of their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that he would not bring Ms. Lynch’s nomination for a vote until senators had passed a human trafficking bill. That bill contains some abortion provisions that Democrats find untenable.

Mr. Obama on Friday called the Republican refusal to set a vote on Ms. Lynch an “embarrassing” example of partisanship by the Republican majority. “There are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. “This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough! Enough! 


Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job.”

Senator McConnell sought to quiet the growing furor over the Lynch stalemate, telling his colleagues the Senate would get to her next week, just as he had always planned.  (?? says Julie?)

“I have indicated, gosh, (oh paaaleeze!)  at least for six weeks now, we are going to deal with the Lynch nomination right after we finish trafficking,” Mr. McConnell said on the floor Thursday.

Just the fact that Mr. McConnell, by his own admission, has been talking about it for at least six weeks is galling to Democrats, who think she should have been confirmed months ago. 


They see the Lynch nomination as a prime case of Republican partisan mischief and ill-treatment of woman with a distinguished career as a prosecutor.

While some difficulties were always expected with Ms. Lynch, given the traditional political sensitivities of the post of attorney general, no one anticipated after her nomination on Nov. 8 that a vote would still be pending in late April.

As the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Lynch had a formidable reputation as a prosecutor and administrator and had the strong backing of law enforcement and civil rights groups. Some of the most conservative Republicans were expected to oppose her, but her ultimate approval never seemed in doubt.


But at her confirmation hearing on Jan. 28, Ms. Lynch said she found it reasonable that the Justice Department had concluded that Mr. Obama was acting within the limits of his power when he decided to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation against millions of undocumented immigrants. 

That quickly cost her backing among Republicans, who said they could not vote for Ms. Lynch if she was willing to side with the president on his immigration actions.

It is unclear what the Republicans thought she should say, since she could hardly be expected to use her confirmation hearing to denounce the actions of the man who had picked her for the post, or assert that he had broken the law and would be held accountable once she became the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Republicans certainly realized this. 

But, their rush to declare opposition made it clear that they did not want to be viewed as endorsing the president’s immigration policy, even through an association as tangential as voting for a nominee, who had nothing to do with shaping the policy, but simply refused to condemn it. 

Ms. Lynch has won public backing from five Republicans, just enough to secure her confirmation when a vote takes place.

Democrats initially thought Mr. McConnell held back on scheduling a vote to demonstrate that he was in charge and was not about to hurry things along for the president.

As the weeks passed with no movement, Democrats became more concerned. Then there was the abortion-related blowup on the sex trafficking bill and Mr. McConnell declared he would not move forward with Ms. Lynch until that fight was resolved.

Mr. McConnell has been clear that he would eventually allow a vote and he most likely will at some point. He and his fellow Republicans might not be thrilled with Ms. Lynch, but they will almost certainly allow her to be confirmed.

With the prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee next year,  and given the party’s struggle with minority voters, the Senate’s new Republican majority does not want to be remembered for killing the high-profile nomination of a highly qualified black woman.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Russia's Putin might be going going going - but the resulting vortex drains into a dangerous void

"..the intrusions (from Russia) have become so probing, that Russian hackers have even gained 'carte blanche access' to portions of the White House and State Department servers, including portions of the White House and State Department servers including 'access to the president's private schedule'."

Although I'm not any kind of an authority on, or about, Russia, my father's ancestry, coupled with common sense, tells me there's serious trouble brewing for Putin.  But he won't be done in without causing horrible turmoil.

Nevertheless, Putin is still capable of causing enormous discord, even as his leadership is pulled into an international vortex, leading to the black hole of his extinction.

Meanwhile, Russia's impending leadership implosion is terrible news for the world.

Here's what we know:

1. Russians are living under Putin's authoritarian rule. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov's assassination was a warning shot for the entire nation. Don't oppose Putin. If you do, prepare to be as dead as the assassinated Nemtsov or poisioned with nuclear toxins like Alexander Litvinenko.

2.  Russia's ruble is worthless. Although some oligarchs prop up the Russian national currency, the bottom line is, the currency is useless. As global oil prices plummet, the ruble becomes buried in the lost revenues.

3.  Meanwhile, the US is engaged in a secret war with Russia, reports Ben Branstetter in DailyDot.com.  "...the latest in a long chain of attacks by Russia against the United States, a problem so severe President Barack Obama issued an executive order giving the Treasury Department official capacity to sanction any participator in such an attack, a similar punishment currently being levied against North Korea after their suspected involvement in the notorious hack against Sony Pictures last fall.

Despite constant threats from China, North Korea, and a myriad of other nations and private groups, breaches by Russia or Russian interests of American institutions of power is a common enough and serious enough concern that it should be treated, not as the vague capabilities of a former enemy, but as direct attacks by a current enemy, a cyberwar in the most literal sense of the term.


The U.S. is the top target of cyberattacks in the world and faces a variety of enemies, but the regularity with which massive piles of sensitive data are leaked onto Russian black markets speaks not to the devotion of a criminal element but to the apathy of the Russian government. The threats coming from within Putin’s country are far from rare—in fact, they are ongoing. The sanctity of everything from government communications to the financial markets is at stake and it is well past time to take it seriously.

"American's secret war with Russian has already started", writes Branstetter.  "It may not make the news most of the time, but 'vital components of the U.S. government and the national economy' are now under daily attack from Russian cyber criminals who enjoy the Kremlin's tacit support." 

In the midst of this uncertainty, President Putin must be feeling the pressure of Washington DC retaliation and his own internal insecurities. After all, in spite of Putin's delusional Napoleonic ambitions, he's just another power hungry human being who's as mortal as all who came before him.  

Unfortunately, just like all who came before him, like Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini, Putin will cause an enormous amount of destruction before he falls into the black hole leadership vortex towards his extinction.

Meanwhile, the world is at the brink of a Middle East World War, while Russia works behind the scenes, engaging in power games and assaulting the US with dangerous cyber security attacks.  

It's hard to decide how to deal with Russia, when Putin uses cat and mouse diplomacy and cyber wars are assaulting US security. America must put in place an international alliance of leaders who are of one mind about how to protect the world against Putin, who will likely become unstable as he enters the demise of his mortal vortex.  

Moscow Times has reported, in the past, how Russia was potentially headed toward another Revolution, as a result of Putin's aggressive leadership. Well, the uncertainty of the value of the Russian ruble, plus Putin's desperation, might push the people to eventually remove him from power.  Maybe.  Maybe not. 

Nevertheless, Putin's mortality is the only given in the choices of how to deal with the growing war with Russia.  

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Hillary Clinton has a brilliantly colored logo: She now can charge Republicans royalties

There's a lot of buzz about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign logo. Regardless of how people feel about the campaign logo, the fact is, the image is copyrighted.  

In my opinion, Mrs Clinton's name is a trademark.  


In as much as she has branded her name, in the "H" logo, Mrs. Clinton has earned the right to claim her name, like any other celebrity's name, as her copyright. 

Consequently, every time Republicans use her name, they owe her royalty payments. That's what I think.

Democrats could accuse the Republican candidates of copyright infringement when they obsess about Hillary Clinton's name.  

It's totally boring to hear the line up of male candidates using Hillary Clinton's name in vain. At the very least, it's very ungentlemanly and plagiarism, at worst.

Paying royalties, every time Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned by a GOP candidate, will deter Republicans from their one note messaging, while they're campaigning for the presidential nomination (without ideas to promote).

Frankly, Mrs. Clinton can raise money for her political campaign by charging royalty fees to Republicans who use her name.  Maybe, by earning money from her copyright name, Mrs. Clinton can challenge the line up of male Republican presidential candidates, to talk about ideas, rather than just name dropping.  

I say, Mrs. Clinton's campaign logo is a copyright and Republicans must pay up every time they use her name.  I suspect a good lawyer could make this case, very effectively.  

Let me think about this. Copyright infringement charges against Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee would create quite a campaign chest for all Democrats....because, after all, Hillary might consider sharing the wealth.  Of course, the alternative to a copyright infringement for use of Hillary Clinton's name is for the Republicans to talk about their no cost, worthless, ideas.  Yawn.


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Forecaster Report: Maine Governor LePage in Saco prefers Vasoline to guns

Maine's Mid-Coast Forecaster news opinion by Marian McCue reported how the state's Republican governor LePage is okay with having Vasoline thrown at him during a town hall meeting he led in Saco, "as long as it's not guns"

Of course, I agree. I pray for the safety of all people to be protected from preventable gun violence.  

Nevertheless, Governor Paul LePage is a huge Second Amendment gun rights advocate. I assumed it would be okay with him to have people with concealed weapons permits to attend his public town hall meetings. Obviously, however, Governor LePage isn't at all okay with having people with guns attending his public meetings. It's certainly understandable. I agree with the Governor about "no guns". Nevertheless, Governor LePage is an advocate of gun owners rights.  How can Governor LePage support gun owners rights, including concealed weapons permits, but worry about people with guns attending his public meetings?

Obviously, our Maine governor understands how guns are the cause of all gun violence. In fact, it's indisputable. Gun violence would be eliminated if guns were regulated or ammunition taxed beyond its affordable value. 

So, let me get this right.  Guns are fine, just as long as the people who carry them are not allowed to be in the same room as our Maine governor.  Agreed.

Yup.  I certainly get that.  

But, Dear Governor LePage: What's good for the governor is also good for the rest of us.  I don't want people with guns to be in the same room as me, or anybody else, either.

Here's an idea.  

Let's put all guns and the ammunition needed to operate them into a big vat of Vasoline, to prevent using the weapons to inflict fear in innocent people, including you and me.

Here's Marian McCue's report:

Capitol Notebook: Maine, the way politics shouldn't be
Marian McCue Monday, April 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

The tone of Maine’s political conversation has reached a new low. A strange incident in Saco last week, and the bizarre reactions to it, paints a bleak picture of our rapidly sinking political dialogue.


(At a forum in Saco ME) Last Thursday, as Gov. Paul LePage spoke at a forum promoting his plan to cut the state income tax, a former legislator and Biddeford mayor began yelling and approached the dais where he was sitting. 

As she was removed by the governor’s police force, she tossed a jar of Vaseline onto the stage.

The reason she chose that particular item has to do with previous comments made by LePage, which are best forgotten.  (Julie's note - the Governor's remarks were profane.)

After the incident, which ended the forum, the jar-thrower, Joanne Twomey, chatted with supporters and videographers outside the Thornton Academy auditorium.

Within minutes, the story lit up Facebook and newspaper web sites ("Former legislator throws a jar of Vaseline") and her behavior was deeply analyzed, for and against (“Joanne you’re a hero, I’ll be right there with you.” “She’s crazier than a loon.”).

While Twomey’s actions were being disowned by some Democratic party officials and many Biddeford residents, comments on websites blamed LePage for the incident and urged people to bring the same projectile Twomey had used to future town hall meetings. The comments attacked Twomey, LePage, and everyone else it seemed. Many comments on the Bangor Daily News website were removed for their offensiveness, failing to meet what seems to be a very low standard.

Republicans, thrilled for a cheap shot, blamed the entire Democratic Party for this solo act of guerrilla theater.

Meanwhile, Twomey was restored to prominence, and remained on the front page of the newspaper two days later. The governor, happiest on the field of battle, any battle, pronounced himself “energized” by the encounter, and vowed to continue his statewide travels touting his income tax cut, and observed that any behavior, civil or uncivil, was fine “as long as they don’t bring guns.”
LePage blamed the incident on the Maine People’s Alliance, which he said had planted people in the audience. And it’s true that before “the incident” several people began shouting questions from the floor, attacking LePage’s plan to tax some nonprofit organizations. LePage engaged in a back-and-forth discussion with the questioners, and acknowledged that the plan to tax nonprofits would not pass the Legislature.

The governor is comfortable with the Twomey style of politics, which mirrors his own aggressive, name-calling style. He recently warned members of his own party that he would “rip them a new one” if they didn’t back his plan for reinforcements for Maine’s drug war. His strategy with the Legislature is to hold bills hostage if they don’t pass unrelated proposals (see Bonds, Land for Maine’s Future). As a result, Republican legislators walk a fine line these days.

His behavior can elicit equivalent reactions. And that’s unfortunate because there are some parts of the budget that merit support, and his town-hall meetings are a good-faith effort to present his proposal. Many of those on the opposing side are unwilling to give him any credit for positive aspects of the budget, like his plan to expand the sales tax. All of it deserves a reasonable discussion – absent the histrionics.

When the income tax was enacted in the early 1970s under Gov. Kenneth Curtis, it was a bipartisan group of legislators who passed it. They put the needs of the state above party politics. The hallmark of Maine politics has always been a reasonable civility; if that has vanished in this angry new world, too bad for us.

In my opinion, Marian McCue missed the lead in her opinion piece. In fact, Maine Governor LePage has sadly injected divisive partisan acrimony into Maine politics. This has created remorse with citizens like Twomey, who are mourning the state's loss of political collegiality.

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Italy and the immigrant shores-impossible to prevent mass migration


There's no way Italy can prevent the humanitarian migrations.

There's a cyclical dynamic of migrations going on in what was once the "old world".  In other words, many Islamic people are leaving their homes in Europe to fight with terrorists in the Middle East. 
At the same time, the desperate people who are displaced by the tragic Middle East wars are fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea, like migrating fish, back into Europe. Untold numbers are dying at sea in the crossings. Yet, the situations are like a circular migration or humanitarian roulette. Where will all of the human tragedies eventually fall - for good or naught? It doesn't take a space satellite photo to figure out how the migrations of refugees from Syria and other Middle East nations are finding their way into Italy to seek refuge.  If the migrants can survive the arduous sea crossings, they can pretty much wash up anyplace on the Italian coast. In so doing, the refugees have escaped from their international aid camps, where there's obviously no future and endless uncertainties. 

In the humanitarian roulette, these refugees put their money down on starting a new life. They're risking whatever it takes to escape the gloom of living their lives as non-citizens of any nation, while surviving in tents and cared for by international aid organizations.

Compounding this humanitarian disaster is the geographic fact that Italy cannot possibly deter the potential for many thousands of refugees washing onto their shores, either alive or dead.  A growing number of refugees are living in exile, displaced primarily from Syria and Libya, but they now have no place to go. 

Nevertheless, they just look at any map, to see where Italy's boot is pretty much of a magnet for migration. Their humanitarian choices are to stay in a refugee camp forever or to escape. Either option is desperate. Consequently, thousands are accepting the challenge of trying to escape, regardless of the consequences.

Obviously, Italy can't afford to care for the numbers of people who are inevitably going to arrive. 

So, here's what I think.  

Italian Americans who have benefited from being welcomed into the United States "melting pot", could organize humanitarian aid to Italy.  We must help the Italians to deal with this crises. Although I have no specific solutions in mind, there are excellent Italian- American cultural groups that can band together to consider how to best support the Italians, as they're becoming overwhelmed by the migrations disaster and for potential worse to come.

Meanwhile, as the disastrous Middle East wars deteriorate ancient civilizations, the Muslims must come up with a solution to their own social survival. Eventually, the roulette wheel of cyclical migration might well become a case of "what goes around comes around". 

Many European Muslims are choosing to leave their homes to go to the aid their Islamic ideologists, in the Middle East. But, the nations they're going into will eventually have to deal with caring for an invasion of outsiders, who might never be welcomed back into Europe.



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