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Monday, May 22, 2017

Lt. General Flynn betrayed the United States

:"Lock Him Up!"  Those prophetic words were wrongly directed towards Secretary Hillary Clinton but now they are rightly being used to demand accountability from Lt. General Flynn, for his unpatriotic behavior and Russian collusion 

Democrats: New documents show Lt General Flynn lied to investigators about Russian trips

CNN-A new letter from the leading Democrat on the House oversight committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, reveals new information about former national security adviser, Michael Flynn and what he told investigators about his ties to foreign governments when he was interviewed about his security clearance.

According to the Report of Investigation, which Cummings refers to in his letter to committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Flynn made false statements to investigators about who funded his foreign trips, including a 2015 trip to Russia where Flynn was paid roughly $45,000 to speak at an event in Moscow. According to the letter released Monday by Democrats on the committee, Flynn claimed that his trips were funded by "US companies."

The report stated that Flynn said he "had not received any benefit from a foreign country."

Flynn also claimed to investigators he had no substantial contacts with foreign government officials, saying he only had "insubstantial contact." Flynn was shown sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2015 dinner.

The committee Democrats say Chaffetz must subpoena documents from the White House to determine what the White House was told about these foreign contacts and trips.

"We need to know what the President, Vice President, White House Counsel, and other top officials knew about General Flynn ---- and when they knew it," Cummings writes in the letter.

The request comes after a blockbuster New York Times report that Flynn's lawyer had informed the Trump transition team weeks ahead of the inauguration that Flynn was under investigation for allegedly working for the Turkish government during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The letter also comes the same day that Flynn said he would not comply with a Senate intelligence committee subpoena for information and will invoke the Fifth Amendment.

In the letter, Cummings accuses Chaffetz of defying the interests of the investigation by not subpoenaing the records. Time is ticking as Chaffetz is expected to step down as a member of Congress on June 30.

"In refusing our requests for a subpoena, you have made the same argument as President Trump -- that you believe the White House bears no responsibility for vetting General Flynn for the position of National Security Advisor because he received his latest security clearance renewal under the Obama Administration in early 2016," the letter goes on.

The oversight committee had previously sent a bipartisan request to the White House that it wanted any information into how the Trump transition team vetted Flynn as well as any communication White House officials may have had about Flynn's alleged connects to foreign nationals.

It's impossible to understand how Lt. General Flynn could have made the decision to communicate with Russia after he studied US Army intelligence. His unpatriotic action seems to have been directed.  In myopinion, Flynn was following orders from the Tump campaign to communication with Russia. 

As a result, it's high time to lock him up! #Seriously!

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Scientists revolt- use real data to count people

When it comes to counting the number of people in a crowd, it's always a good idea to start with the number of persons at "1" and continue with additional digits, until all are included in the final tally. In reality, it makes no sense to claim a crowd size, without the verification of having somebody who does a "count". Obviously, some crowds are too large to count; but other attendance indicators can be counted, like checking to see if all parking lots are full to capacity or by issuing numbered tickets to events.  
Empty seats at inauguration of Donald Trump January 20, 2017- evidence of low crowd size.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump made up the numbers about his inaugural crowd size. Among his first executive orders as POTUS was to randomly declare that his inauguration crowds were huge. Nevertheless, even people who can't count have the ability to see when the event photographs showed empty seats. Rather than admit to the pictures of empty seats, Donald Trump ordered the Park Service to remove the evidence from social media. 

In other words, the first executive order Donald Trump gave after his inauguration was to tamper with evidence.  There's no way he serendipitously made up that kind of judgement. In fact, it's probably so routine for Trump to change facts in his favor, that he didn't even consider how he might be wrong. Moreover, in his selfish corporate world, nobody dared to tell Trump otherwise, until the media forced the issue. (Classic, "Emperor has no clothes".)

Thankfully, scientists are rightly obsessed about speaking "facts to power", in spite of protracted efforts by revisionist Donald Trump and right wing extremists.

Scientists, reported in "Mother Jones" evaluated the
Anti-Trump "Science Protesters". They finally released their thoroughly fact-checked crowd estimates. (By Rebecca Leber)

When protesters descended on Washington, DC, last month for the March for Science, they carried signs that were straight-to-the point: "What do we want? Evidence-based science. When do we want it? After Peer Review." And unlike the Donald Trump administration they were protesting, organizers were careful to apply scientific rigor to how they calculated the number of people who participated in the march.

As a result, it took organizers an unusually long time—three weeks—to come up with their estimate for how many people took part in the April 22 marches in Washington and 600 other cities worldwide. In a blog post published Monday, organizers approximated that nearly 1.1 million people had protested around the world, with the largest marches taking place in DC (100,000), San Francisco (50,000), Los Angeles (50,000), Chicago (60,000), and Boston (70,000).

Their patience was a marked contrast to how President Donald Trump handled his inauguration crowd size. Trump spent his first weekend as president insisting that far more people attended his swearing-in than were actually there and attacking anyone who disagreed. Trump told the CIA on that Saturday that he drew "a million-and-a-half people." In his first address to reporters as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer angrily claimed, "That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period." Photographs proved these assertions to be untrue, but the White House didn't budge. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway even coined the term "alternative facts"—a phrase widely derided by the pro-science marchers—when she was defending the White House's claim that Trump drew a larger crowd than President Barack Obama had in 2009.

March for Science organizers decided to take their time tabulating their crowds after volunteer Kate Gage suggested that they should "science the shit out of the numbers"—which Gage said was meant neither as a reference to Trump's crowds debate nor to Matt Damon's character in the movie The Martian

"We really wanted to emphasize that it was a march about science and data and evidence," explained Gage, a former policy adviser in the White House's International Science and Technology office during the Obama administration. Scientific rigor was critical, she said, because the march "was organized by scientists, in a way and a scale we haven't seen before."

Crowd counting is an inexact science, and the volunteers who organized the marches acknowledge the shortcomings of their methodological choices. The DC march was particularly challenging, said Kishore Hari, the DC march coordinator (and a co-host of our Inquiring Minds podcast), because the National Park Service doesn't release crowd estimates and the rainy weather that day prevented the use of satellite imagery. In the end, comparing crowd density to the area's known capacity, they estimated 100,000 attendees.

While the DC march count had its limitations, the other marches used a variety of methods. Most marches used hand counts, but for larger, moving groups, hand counts can be prone to error, so organizers had to rely on other methods. Rufus Cochran, an engineer and co-chair of the Indianapolis march, spent a few nights reading about different methodologies. Here's the approach they settled on in Indianapolis, as described in a blog post on the March for Science's website:

At the beginning of their event, pictures of the square were taken with reference landmarks visible. Using this and other pictures, the organizers estimated a fairly consistent density across the square. The organizers then drew an outline of the area using and combined that with state crowd density still data from Professor Keith Still, a crowd estimation scientist. They settled on a likely density of 2 and 3 people per m2 resulting in an attendance calculation of just under 10,000. Given that more people arrived after this picture was taken and there were people at the periphery beyond the borders of area, this estimate is likely conservative.

"Researching and building on existing technologies is very important," Cochran told me. "A lot of the methodology is people making best-educated guesses." He said his aim was to use "a methodology that is transparent and repeatable."

Keith Still, a crowd size scientist who provided estimates for the Inauguration and Women's March, says that the methods used by the March for Science organizers were acceptable. "Crowd counting has been around for a long time, we don't use a static process as it is fraught with inaccuracies," he said in an email, noting that some methods for determining density are crude and highly variable. "Without images, it would be difficult to assess the accuracy of the crowd count in the March for Science, but the information on the blog is reasonable. By that I mean, the figures are typical of this sort of event (and not over inflated)."

(MaineWriter:  I can predict this. When Donald Trump is impeached, the crowd size and the television ratings for the vote will exceed all the numbers thrown around about the inauguration.)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Salem Witches object - they own copyright to Witch Hunt

Salem Witch Trails of 1692-93

Donald Trump has violated yet another law. His claim about being the victim of a "Witch Hunt" is now challenged by the Salem Massachusetts Congressman, who represents the place where the original atrocities occured.  In other words, Donald Trump had no license to use the copyrighted term "Witch Hunt". In fact, Trump isn't the subject of a Witch Hunt, because the practice of hunting witches ended in about 1693, and current witches don't take kindly to infringment on their copyrighted era.

Salem MA Congressman Representative Seth Moulton has taken issue with Donald Trump's claim that he is the victim of the single greatest witch hunt in American history.

Moreover, Donald Trump was insensitive to the original victims when he declared himself the victim of a Witch Hunt. He should have checked with the surviving families of the original victims before infringing on their intellectual property rights. May the original victims, all of them unjustly executed without objective due process, rest in peace.

This is a list of people associated with the Salem witch trials,
a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, most of them women (one man is on this unfortunate list):

Bridget Bishop (née Playfer; executed June 10, 1692)
Rebecca Nurse (née Towne; July 19, 1692)
Sarah Good (formerly Poole, née Solart; July 19, 1692)
Elizabeth Howe (née Jackson; July 19, 1692)
Susannah Martin (née North; July 19, 1692)
Sarah Wildes (née Averill; July 19, 1692)
George Burroughs (August 19, 1692)
George Jacobs, Sr. (August 19, 1692)
Martha Carrier (née Allen; August 19, 1692)
John Proctor (August 19, 1692)
John Willard (August 19, 1692)
Martha Corey (September 22, 1692; wife of Giles Corey)
Mary Eastey (née Towne; September 22, 1692)
Mary Parker (née Ayer; September 22, 1692)
Alice Parker (September 22, 1692)
Ann Pudeator (September 22, 1692)
Wilmot Redd (September 22, 1692)
Margaret Scott (September 22, 1692)
Samuel Wardwell, Sr. (September 22, 1692)

Donald Trump said at a news conference, whining about the Russian investigation, "The entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign - but I can always speak for myself - and the Russians. Zero," he told the news conference. (HELLO?  Donald Trump also speaks for the Russians?  OMG!)  Regardless of what Donald Trump claims about being the victim of a Witch Hunt, he obviously has not given credit to those who made this copyright claim possible.  

Perhaps Donald Trump will apologize to the real Witch Hunt victims families and give a reparations to the Salem Witch Museum

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Psychiatric assessment essential - King Lear syndrome

King Lear Syndrome

Donald Trump and his descent into madness.

It makes no sense for Donald Trump to exhibit erratic behavior and mental illness symptoms of paranoia (I've been treated badly!), without demanding an evaluation from a psychiatrist.

Shakespeare was a magnificent writer, poet and playright. In light of 21st century news, he is now a prophet. 

President Trump’s King Lear Moment- by Anna North published in The New York Times

Donald Trump is looking a bit like King Lear these days.

In the wake of reports that he shared classified intelligence with Russian officials and allegations that he asked James Comey to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn, the president’s mood “has become sour and dark, and he has turned against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — describing them in a fury as ‘incompetent,’” Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman reported at The Times.

On Wednesday, he told United States Coast Guard Academy graduates, “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” (MaineWriter- "paranoia!)

It’s not hard to imagine President Trump railing against the heavens, orange pate standing in for Lear’s “white head,” proclaiming himself “a man more sinn’d against than sinning.” 

Even the language of news reports has a Learian feel: “President Donald Trump, amid his own swirling controversies”; “the maelstrom raged around the staff”; “the tempest in Washington.”

Of course, Mr. Trump’s storm, unlike Lear’s, is of his own creation. And he doesn’t have Lear’s way with words — or, perhaps, he has a different one.

On Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community,” then trailed off with an ominous ellipsis. His only tweets since then have been anodyne (?) (MaineWriter- Oh, please Ann, use words people understand! "anodyne" IOW, 
not likely to provoke dissent or offense); 

Recent Tweets appear to be inoffensive, often deliberately so.or at least anodyne for President Trump: a link to a story about industrial production and a video of his speech welcoming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

His aides must be relieved. “We are hoping the president doesn’t tweet,” one told Politico on Tuesday night. “Fingers crossed.”

During their break from doing Twitter damage control, Mr. Trump’s staff has been busy 
preparing him for his first trip official abroad. They are giving him lots of charts, graphs and photos and inserting his name at regular intervals in briefing materials “because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,” according to a Reuters report.

Meanwhile, NATO is telling heads of state to keep their remarks at a May 25 summit under four minutes to accommodate the president’s attention span, according to Foreign Policy. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” a source with a short attention span 
and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” a source with knowledge of the preparations told Foreign Policy.

At this point, regardless of what happens with Mr. Comey, the Russians and anything else that comes out of the White House in the next few days, it’s hard to see how Mr. Trump can function as the president. Reports cast him as someone who cannot be trusted to perform the core duties of his office. 

Before the Inauguration, some speculated that Mr. Trump might operate as a head of state, flying around the world and meeting dignitaries while leaving the day-to-day workings of government to his vice president. It now appears he cannot even manage that: Mr. Thrush and Ms. Haberman report that some of his advisers “fear leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn.”

Calls for impeachment have begun, but they will only gain traction if enough Republicans decide to back them. In the meantime, what does the country do with a president who can’t do his job?

The president is unlike King Lear in many respects, but in this perhaps most of all: He seems to lack a Cordelia who will speak to him honestly. (MaineWriter: Poor Cordelia paid a price for her honesty.) 

Instead, Mr. Trump has been Regan and Goneriled all the way to the presidency, flattered and coddled by his advisers, the Republican establishment and his family to the point where flattery and coddling are useless and no amount of careful management can keep him from revealing state secrets and then bragging about it on Twitter.

It’s not clear whether someone who refuses to lie, flatter or curry favor would have much influence with Mr. Trump, so surrounded is he by people willing to do all of those things. But someone like that, especially from within the Republican Party, could have a great influence on the country right now. Without such voices, we’re all at the mercy of the storm.
Anna North (@annanorthtweets) is a writer and editor in The Times opinion section.

Donald Trump may have created a new psychiatric diagnosis, first described by William Shakespeare, called "King Lear Syndrome".

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Maternal and Child Health in Maine a growing mortality rate

When I started working as a nurse in community health programs, Maine's Maternal and Child mortality and morbidity rates were among the healthiest in the nation. Obviously, serial cuts to the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) grants have taken a toll on care, are as evidenced in public data. Now, the Bangor Daily News reports what appears to be a supression of this concerning data.

Data about Maine's rising Maternal and Child Health mortality and morbidity data was part of the public hearing testimony given at a legislative hearing in support of a bill to protect Public Health Nursing positions in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Bangor Daily News: MAINE FOCUS 

By Erin Rhoda, BDN Staff

DHHS fired a public records coordinator — for releasing a public record

Judy Gopaul worked at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for six years, most of them as the local health officer coordinator. She became the Freedom of Access Act coordinator February 1, 2016, and was responsible for reviewing requests for public information from members of the public, determining how to respond and following through. She was fired in December 2016 for releasing a public report to the Bangor Daily News, that had already been published, without first running it by her superiors.

Maine’s top disease control office fired the person responsible for coordinating the release of public information after she permitted a public report to be sent to the Bangor Daily News in August.

The move by Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention to terminate Judy Gopaul, a six-year employee, highlights how Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s office has asserted increased control over the release of public information within the past year.

In addition, a BDN review of documents and emails related to Gopaul’s termination reveals an excessively complicated process, occasionally verging on farcical, for making decisions about how to respond to even the most minor questions from the public.

The act that prompted Gopaul’s firing, which became official last December, was giving the approval to a colleague to send a 2010 report on the state’s maternal and child health spending to a reporter on the BDN’s Maine Focus team, according to Gopaul and the findings of an investigation by state human resource officers.

“There wasn’t anything that was confidential or proprietary in the report. It was already in the public domain,” Gopaul said.

The department, however, argued Gopaul acted outside the scope of her position by not getting permission from the department’s top lawyer and its media relations manager before sending the report to the BDN. As the Freedom of Access Act coordinator at the CDC, her job was to review requests for public information from members of the public, determine how to respond and follow through as outlined under the department’s policies.

Gopaul agreed that she technically skipped a step in the written policies by not securing the approval of people who work closely with Mayhew before allowing the report to be sent to the BDN. But instructions from superiors on her specific duties often changed and at times even contradicted what the department’s formal, written policies stated, according to work emails and documents she retained.

And to be fired over it?

“It seems like an over-broad reaction that has the potential to have a chilling effect upon freedom of access across the state, and the state should be embarrassed,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C. that champions open government.

“If this is a trend, it’s one that Maine lawmakers need to take immediate action to hold hearings on and to ensure that the rights of Maine’s public to know how their government is spending their money are not being abrogated on the whims of bureaucrats.”

Gopaul is contesting the firing through the state employees’ union.
Consolidated control

Major changes to DHHS’ process for releasing public information came toward the end of August, according to a review of staff members’ emails kept by Gopaul, after the BDN published a number of stories that revealed unpublicized details about the department’s operations:

— On June 23, 2016, the BDN’s Maine Focus team published a story about how DHHS had unlawfully spent at least $7.8 million in federal funding.

— On Aug. 9, it described how DHHS had cut in half the number of public health nurses who respond to outbreaks and care for drug-affected babies.

— On Aug. 11, it published a story about DHHS handing off financial oversight of a $23-million program for infants with no competitive bidding process and providing insufficient justification for doing so.

— On Aug. 15, it published a story about DHHS failing to achieve its goal of expanding home visiting services as set out in a special $5.7-million federal grant.

— Finally, on Aug. 17, it wrote about a panel under DHHS’ supervision failing to look into the reasons behind a rising infant mortality rate.

The stories resulted in DHHS quietly reversing its unlawful spending and a rare audit finding that confirmed the department had in fact misspent more than $13 million. They prompted legislation that’s pending this spring to force DHHS to hire more public health nurses, and two pieces of legislation — one developed by DHHS — to make it easier for the infant mortality review panel to do its job.

Gopaul’s firing sends a message that DHHS leaders will punish people they can get away with punishing “because their status may not be valued, and therefore they’re the easiest ones to go after,” Gopaul said. “Even though [leaders] make mistakes, they spend money from other sources that they’re not supposed to, they get away with it.”

She decided to speak publicly now, she said, because “the citizens of Maine need to know that this treatment of the staff is because the leadership is afraid of what might come out or what might be said.”

Samantha Edwards, DHHS’ manager of media relations, did not reply to emailed questions about Gopaul’s case, whether the department has fired other employees who released public information, or why it ultimately decided to have all requests for public information approved by the commissioner’s office.

Under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, referred to as FOAA, anyone can request public documents. Government entities typically have rules regarding which employees handle the inquiries, and some are more flexible than others.

DHHS, whose budget accounts for more than a third of state spending, receives the most FOAA requests of any state agency: In 2015, it logged 330 requests, according to Maine’s public access ombudsman.

The department has become increasingly strict within the past year about which staff members it allows to communicate with members of the public and journalists, and Mayhew’s office has gradually taken control of almost the entire process of responding to public requests for information. At times, it hasn’t responded to queries at all.

“Layering on a top-down bureaucracy makes it harder to share [information] with those who requested it and certainly goes against the spirit of [FOAA] legislation,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at the national consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen.

“The system is meant to be open. That’s the only way we can know if the system works,” said Al Tompkins, senior faculty at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalism in Florida.

Here’s how DHHS’ protocols for handling public information requests changed in 2016:

Who needs to sign off. In April 2016, DHHS’ General Counsel Kevin Wells emailed a number of DHHS employees, including Gopaul, with a “FOAA procedure update.” FOAA requests from attorneys, requests regarding legal matters and requests for records that might contain confidential information were to be fulfilled only with his approval, he wrote.

Meanwhile, requests from the media or requests regarding topics that were likely to have media interest were to be approved by Edwards, DHHS’ manager of media relations.

Gopaul was later fired for not getting final approval from both Wells and Edwards before sending out the public report to the BDN, according to Gopaul and her human resources investigation report.

A change within CDC. But soon after Wells’ April email, in early May, Ken Albert, then the CDC’s director and chief operating officer, changed procedures for handling FOAA requests within the CDC. The CDC is one of six offices within DHHS that administer state programs and services.

He requested that Gopaul run requests from the media by John Martins, then the public health information officer within the CDC. Albert told her not to run them by spokeswoman Edwards, according to emails provided by Gopaul. He didn’t say why.

The practice remained in place after Albert resigned and Sheryl Peavey became the CDC’s chief operating officer. Minutes from a CDC senior management team meeting June 23 confirm that staff contacted by the media were supposed to follow “the established communication protocol” of notifying Martins, while copying Peavey.

Commissioner control. At 6:18 a.m., on Aug. 17, the BDN published a story on how a panel overseen by the CDC had been unable to do its work to track and analyze infant deaths. As part of researching the issue, the BDN had inquired about reports on maternal and child health services, and Gopaul had granted approval to a colleague to release the materials.

At 10:13 a.m. that day, Wells emailed staff with a major change to FOAA procedure. All responses to FOAAs, including “five-day letters,” would be handled by Mayhew’s office. A “five-day letter” is a notice a government agency must send to acknowledge a public records request within five working days of receiving it.

The next day, Gopaul received an email from a colleague who said she had just spoken to Wells, who had made another change to the FOAA process. Gopaul had to stop processing any pending records requests. If they got documents, “we are to forward everything over to the Commissioner’s Office,” the colleague wrote.

In large part, the commissioner’s office was taking over Gopaul’s job.

Reiteration. Wells, DHHS’ chief counsel, followed up with an email blast to staff on Aug. 25, reiterating the commissioner’s control over FOAA matters. Staff couldn’t search for or compile records until directed to do so by the commissioner’s office, Wells noted in his email.

A few days later, on Aug. 29, Peavey, the CDC’s chief operating officer, seemed to relieve Gopaul of her duties without explicitly stating so.

“The Department is in the process of developing a more centralized and streamlined response to FOAA requests,” she wrote on Aug. 29 to several CDC employees, including Gopaul. Effective immediately, any FOAA requests received by the CDC were to go directly to two specific people, Elaine Lovejoy and Tammy Steuber, rather than Gopaul.

Uncertainty. The changes created some confusion among staff, including how to identify an actual FOAA request versus a simple question from the public. “I just want to be able to do the job right,” an office manager wrote to Wells.

Wells clarified on Aug. 30 that “we are still finalizing the operational details of this new process,” but a request that did not reference FOAA did not need to be reviewed by the commissioner’s office. In that case, a program director could review it, he said.

As it turned out, the BDN did not make a formal FOAA request, at first.

Getting a public document

In fact, the events that led to Gopaul’s firing initially didn’t involve Gopaul.

Reporter Adanya Lustig, who was working at the BDN for six months as part of Northeastern University’s cooperative education program, first emailed Valerie Ricker in the CDC at 12:05 p.m. on Aug. 3. Ricker was responsible for the administration of Maine’s federally funded Maternal and Child Health Services Title V Block Grant Program, which helps fund efforts to reduce infant deaths and increase access to prenatal care for women.

Lustig asked for copies of the state’s application for funding and any available annual reports for that grant since she, and this author, were putting together a piece on Maine’s rising infant mortality rate.

The state’s fiscal year 2014 report was already published to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, but Lustig wanted previous reports as well.

“Are those available somewhere online, or could you send them to me?” Lustig asked Ricker.

Her question prompted a debate among DHHS staff about how to release the information. Their email thread, retained by Gopaul, ultimately involved eight people, including DHHS general counsel, all over a report that Ricker had at her fingertips:

— At first the conversation revolved around whether to treat the reporter’s email as an official FOAA request. Ricker wrote to Gopaul, saying she assumed she should. It was not presented as one, however. Formal FOAA requests typically reference Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. Lustig had simply emailed to ask a question.

By that point on Aug. 4, Ricker had already alerted Gopaul by email to the fact that she had found an electronic maternal and child health services report, and she believed there were hard copies of the reports from other years. But Ricker didn’t reply to the BDN.

— Gopaul, in turn, drafted a five-day letter to acknowledge receipt of the BDN’s request, but she wanted permission from Martins, who directed public and internal communications for the CDC, to send it to the BDN. Gopaul told him it was her last day in the office before her vacation, and she was leaving at 3 p.m. At that point it was 12:45 p.m. She included five colleagues, including Martins, on the email.

— Martins then got Wells, general counsel for DHHS, and Peavey, the CDC’s chief operating officer, involved on the email thread. Martins raised the question of whether it was necessary to follow official FOAA protocol.

“I want to be sure that we are right in assuming that this is a FOAA request. There’s no reference to FOAA in it and typically, I do not treat a media ask for information as a FOAA unless they submit a request under FOAA. Kevin [Wells] — your thoughts?” Martins wrote.

— Since the BDN hadn’t yet heard back from the CDC, and had become accustomed to not receiving responses to simple requests for information, Lustig submitted an official FOAA request to Wells at 10:59 a.m. that day, Aug. 4.

Wells told Martins and Gopaul at 1:30 p.m. that the BDN “has now officially made it a FOAA request. I will forward that to you seperately (sic).”

— After Martins gave her the approval, Gopaul emailed the five-day letter to the BDN at 1:56 p.m. The letter acknowledged that DHHS had received the BDN’s request for information and would provide a good faith, non-binding estimate of the time and cost of complying with the request within two weeks, even though Gopaul knew the CDC had an electronically available report.

— At 2:28 p.m., Gopaul forwarded the five-day letter to her supervisor, Christine Zukas, and the CDC’s chief operating officer, Peavey, to keep them in the loop.

Next, Gopaul made a decision that would ultimately cost her her job. She told Ricker over the phone to inform the BDN how much it would cost to put together the requested documents, she said. She told Ricker she could send the documents to the BDN if there was no proprietary information in them.

Gopaul figured it would be OK since she was leaving for a week, she said, and Ricker had already found a published report, which would take little effort to attach to an email.

“I was trying to finish up all my work,” Gopaul said. “If we have to send everything to Edwards then, yes, it was a mistake.” But, she pointed out, she had never run materials by Edwards in the past, since she worked closely with Martins, and no one had threatened her employment over the matter before.

Ricker followed Gopaul’s instructions. She emailed Lustig at the BDN to let her know it would cost $161 for copies of the documents from 2000, 2004 and 2008, but she had an electronic version of the 2012 application, and 2010 report, that she could send via email for free.

Lustig opted to take the free, quickly available, electronic report.

Unaware that the BDN had already received the report, Edwards, the media relations manager, emailed the BDN another five-day letter on Aug. 8, while Gopaul was on vacation.

“The Department will strive to make public records available to you as soon as possible,” she wrote, without providing an estimated timeframe for providing the documents.

Lustig let her know that the issue had already been settled, prompting Edwards to inform Peavey.

According to the subsequent human resources investigation report, “Ms. Edwards stated that FOAA media requests for DHHS need to go through her as media relations so that the Commissioner’s Office could ensure that information requested wouldn’t harm the Department.”

After her vacation, Gopaul returned to the CDC on Aug. 15 and assumed she was to continue her work. But her superiors stripped away most of her duties over the next few weeks, giving them to Mayhew’s office and other colleagues, she said.

“I was supposed to come to work every day and do nothing,” she said. She tried to stay busy by getting permission to redact some material, she said, and she decided to prepare a handbook on freedom of access best practices. But she was given no records requests to process, she said.

On Sept. 19, she received official notification that the department was conducting an investigation into her actions. The investigation raised more questions about the basis for her eventual dismissal.

In attorney Wells’ interview with a human resources investigator, he said there was no reason for him to get involved in the BDN’s request for information.

“Ms. Gopaul did not need to go through him on the matter in question and the protocol at the time required Ms. Gopaul to go through Samantha Edwards, Media Relations Specialist for DHHS, for requests received from the media,” according to a summary of Wells’ interview prepared by the state’s human resources office. Though Gopaul should have first discussed the matter with Edwards, “Ms. Gopaul did nothing wrong concerning him.”

Gopaul looked up the policies applicable at the time of her employment and gave them to the BDN. DHHS’ FOAA policy states that employees can’t directly respond to any request without the permission of the general counsel. And investigators told Gopaul, and wrote in their findings, that she should have contacted both Wells and Edwards.

The investigation report did not mention that Gopaul had been instructed by higher-ups to run materials by Martins at the CDC, not Edwards at DHHS.

On Dec. 5, human resources informed Gopaul that DHHS was recommending she be terminated: “[W]e have reached the determination that you acted outside the scope of your position by authorizing the release of FOAA information without proper approval as required by the DHHS FOAA policy and CDC Administrative Policy.”

It also cited a prior punishment that didn’t arise in the investigation interview: a suspension for also “acting beyond the scope” of her job. That one-week suspension in 2012 came after DHHS accused her of giving legal advice to a tenant as part of her prior job as the local health officer coordinator with the CDC, she said. 

Gopaul, who has a law degree and a master’s in public policy and management, still refutes the claim.

“I knew that they would have to find something to get rid of me,” Gopaul said. “I just looked at it as a lack of leadership.”

After working in a position to facilitate the flow of public information, she said she couldn’t let being terminated for allowing the release of a public report go unchallenged: “Somebody has to set the record straight.”

Gopaul’s termination became official on Dec. 16, according to a letter signed by Peavey, about a week before Christmas.

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Failed leadership compromised security - call on 25th amendment

Donald Trump is using Twitter to defend his sharing of classified information with the Russians. "Lock him up!"

Trump says he wanted to share with Russia ‘‘facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety." He said that as president, he has an "absolute right’’ to do this.  (It's sad when the POTUS must go to Twitter to defend what is clearly indefensible behavior!)

In conversations with the Russian officials, Trump appeared to be boasting about his knowledge of the looming threats, telling them he was briefed on "great intel every day," an official with knowledge of the exchange said, according to The Washington Post.

Obviously, Donald Trump is incapable of leading. He is unmanageable,  unable to be educated and dangerously unpredictable.

Trump is just too obsessed with his own power and can't be trusted. After the revelation by former Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates, who disclosed how Lt. Gen. Flynn had been "compromised" by Russia, Donald Trump turned the news into an "in your face" making intelligence information available to Russian diplomats. 

Every American knows that Russia can't be trusted. Even the Russians know their own people can't be trusted.

After the Oval Office meeting with Donald Trump, Lavrov and Kislyak were likely on the security phone having a good time with the Vladimir Putin debrief of the confersation

I suspect the Russian diplomat Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak were howling all the way back to the Russian embassy in Washington DC, after their very productive meeting with Donald Trump. They stole the photo-ops of the year and obtained classified intelligence, revealed during their discussion in the Oval Office.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump divulged highly classified ‘‘code-word’’ information that could enable the Russians to trace the source of the intelligence.

The Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution was passed in order to clarify what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President or Vice President and how the Presidency is temporarily filled if the President becomes disabled and cannot fulfill his responsibilities.
Twenty-fifth Amendment, amendment (1967) to the Constitution of the United States set forth succession rules relating to vacancies and disabilities of the office of the president and of the vice president. It was proposed by the U.S. Congress on July 6, 1965, and it was ratified on Feb. 10, 1967.

Congress is abdicating its duty to the American people by continuing to allow Donald Trump to make a mockery of our democracy. Clearly, Donald Trump doesn't care about America, because he is obviously conspiring with Russia and Vladimir Putin's band of spies.  

Speaker Paul Ryan must fulfill his Constitutional responsibility to lead impeachment hearings, for the purpose of removing the clear and present danger of Donald Trump, as called for in the 25th amendment. Otherwise, this downward spiral of unbridled Trump ineptness will suck all Republicans into a vortex, from which they may never be able to recover.  In other words, "Lock him up!"
Donald Trump has committed a "felonious" (as per Rep. Trey Gowdy R-SC)  breach of his responsibility and must be removed from office.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

How will we know when ISIS is defeated?

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

I'm not sure how allied defensive operations will know when ISIS, the evil self declared califate, is finally defeated. Yet, allied operations are now sending out propaganda messages with indications that victory is just around the corner. (Similar to how Bagdhad Bob proclaimed victory over Americans during Operation Desert Storm.)

America has been formally engaged with fighting terrorism and, subsequently ISIS, ever since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the New York City Twin Towers and the Pentagon, in Washington DC. During these attacks, another airliner United flight 93, destined to attack Washington DC, was deliberately downed by brave passengers, and crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Unlike conventional wars, how will allied forces know when ISIS and terrorist groups are defeated? There are no surrender ceremonies with signed documents, because the enemy is not organized.

Nevertheless, this is what MilitaryTimes is reporting:

'Noose Around the Neck of ISIS' as Carrier Airstrikes Move South

Flight deck of the George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf

Article by Hope Hodge Seck

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf -- The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.

When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren't being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious "distinguished visitor" berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve -- the coalition anti-ISIS fight -- and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS's urban strongholds continue, the carrier's fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

"Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end," Whitesell told "As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley."

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

"We're not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable," Pennington said.
The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing's sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

"There were more targets and less complicated aerials," Pennington said. "Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful ... that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement."

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It's not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group's economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. "Now we get it before it comes out of the ground."
Whitesell contrasts today's operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

"ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back," he said. "Fast-forward three years to where we are. We've got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS."

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining "on call," to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

While pilots' assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day's mission set by the time they're walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. "Butters" Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the "Ragin' Bulls." The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.
Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

It's a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it's landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention," he said. "There's a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it's still moving very quickly ... it's definitely a very intense moment."

At that point, a pilot's day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

"It's a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what's going on down on the ground," Welles said. "So I would say it's a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we're complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we're talking with are still there in the fight."

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FBI director was fired just because you can: But to hire is not so easy

Rose Mary Woods was a secretary and gatekeeper to President Richard Nixon. She made a "horrible mistake" by accidentally erasing 18 plus minutes of President Nixon's recorded conversations with his aide Halderman. Now, Donald Trump is also alluding to having oval office tape recordings. Obviously, Donald Trump has learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. Who knew? Perhaps the ghost of Mrs. Woods (1917-2005) is still lurking to help him out?

There's an old vaudeville joke about how easy it is to die.  

"Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard!"

In fact, firing an FBI director, like Donald Trump did when he embarrassed James Comey with his rude and unprofessional dismissal of a competent leader, was the easy part of the equation.  Now, hiring somebody to replace James Comey will be much more difficult.

Donald Trump must learn what it's like to be public humilated for the way he dismissed FBI Director James Comey. Now, the FBI director is in a position to return the humiliation. He has requested to be interviewed by the Congressional committees that oversee his former jurisdiction but to do so in public. In response, Donald Trump has threatened to release audio tapes of their communications. It's a laughable response. Indeed, if Donald Trump has audio tapes recorded from his conversations with James Comey, as he inferes through veiled Twitter threats, then these are subject to subpoena. Brng them all on just like Watergate. (Where is Nixon's secretary Rose Mary Woods when Trump might need her secretarial transcription services? Unfortunately, the lady died in 2005, in Ohio. God Rest Her Soul.)

Firing the FBI director James Comey was easy.  Humiliating him was despicable.  But, hiring somebody to replace him will be difficult to do.

So far, the list of potential candidates looks bleak, in my opinion. None of the cafeteria plan presented to the press as possible replacements is of the stature of James Comey.
The Trump administration is looking to fill the job, which requires Senate confirmation, after Trump abruptly fired Director James Comey on Tuesday.

Time Magazine 

Reported that the first candidate to arrive was Alice Fisher, a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration. She left after about an hour and a half inside the building and declined to comment to reporters.

Although I have no tremendous liking or dislike for James Comey, I have always respected his position at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Therefore, I pray he will use his credible stature to bring light to an otherwise dismal series of circumstances that eventually led to his abrupt dismissal.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Loyalty is NOT a gift to share- Donald J. Trump

It's now a matter of loyalty to Donald Trump that puts his cult followers into ecstasy. It's like he's the snake charmer and his followers are waiting to be summoned, to awake from inside his serpentine basket.  It was wrong for Donald Trump to ask the now former FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty.  In fact, Comey followed his instincts and didn't comply with this unethical summons.  Even the harshest critics of James Comey must respect his refusal to express loyalty to Donald Trump's snake oil.  

Here are three important reasons why Donald Trump is not fit to receive the gift of loyalty.  In other words, this blog is a "wake up call" to those who are nesting in the snake basket. "Get out now! Escape while you can!"

Reasons to keep your loyalty; do not share with Donald Trump

1.  Donald Trump is NOT a deity!  He is unworthy of having anybody's loyalty, because he hasn't done anything to earn it.

2.  In fact, Donald Trump is an example of "what goes around comes around".  He hasn't demonstrated particular loyalty to any person, place or thing.  As a matter of fact, he hasn't even been particularly loyal to his three wives.  In fact, he's cheated on all of them. Unfortunately, even the current Mrs. Trump is not completely exempt from his voyeurism. "Cheating" on your wife includes openly bragging, on audio tape, about grabbing a woman by the "pussy".

3.  Praising Russia, our American enemy, as evidenced in House Intelligence hearings, while, at the same time, denigrating heroes like Senator John McCain, is unacceptable behavior for an American president.  Donald Trump isn't even particularly loyal to being a patriotic American. He never served in the military, nor has he ever performed noteworthy public service. There's even evidence to suggest that he doesn't comply with his civic responsibility to pay his fair share of taxes.

Obviously, Donald Trump has the authority to fire any employee he so chooses and to divorce as many women as he finds to be unacceptable wives. Nevertheless, Donald Trump has virtually and literally no authority to ask for loyalty, because, frankly, he is untrustworthy and he will not reciprocate.  

A resource for Christians, like Vice President Mike Pence, to consider when loyalty is requested from Donald Trump, is found in this Biblical narrative:

What does the Bible say about loyalty?  Pay attention to the salient message in this interpretative reference.  The writer explains how God extends his loyalty to us, before we are even aware of how he appreciates receiving ours in return.

"God established the very essence of loyalty through His covenant relationship with His people: 'Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations' (Deuteronomy 7:9). Through His covenant, God’s people are assured of His never-ending love from which no believer can ever be separated (Romans 8:35-39). God is promising His loyalty and commitment to us. Although God’s covenants with man are unilateral—He promises to fulfill them by Himself—there is still an admonition to loyalty on man’s part. For God has made it clear that “if you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 8:19).

The above is an ominous message to those who have mistakenly expressed loyalty to Donald Trump.  Yet, there's still time to "get out now", before the snake charmer locks you inside his serpentine basket.  

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Donald Trump asked the FBI about his risk of investigation?

Just can't imagine why anybody would have the audacity to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director whether or not he was under investigation, unless he (i.e. Donald Trump) was worried about being "under investigation". Nevertheless, journalists have reported and Donald Trump admitted that he, indeed, asked former FBI Director James Comey that very question.  Anybody who is driven to ask such a leading question, must be worried. (As a matter of fact, I flatly don't believe Donald Trump's report to NBC Lester Holt about this conversation.  In my opinion, it's delusional Trump-talk.)

Innocent people have no reason to ask, "Am I under investigation?".  

Although all of this information is reported, as per Donald Trump, without corroborating evidence, the fact of the matter is that an innocent person doesn't ask such a leading question. This is an especially worrisome question when the power over the investigator is in the realm of the President of the United States. This horrible question from the president doesn't lend itself to confidence about the independence of the Russian investigation.

Eye Opener: Questions swirl around firing of James Comey

MAY 11, 2017
Conflicting stories emerge about what led to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin tells CBS News that Moscow had nothing to do with Comey's firing. (This is horrific!) Moreover, Americans certainly don't need any message from evil serial killer Vladimir Putin about how the American FBI Director James Comey was fired by Donald Trump.)

donald trump kislyak
Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak

Image result for Russian ambassador to USA
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak looks like a horrible person

The reason we know about Trump's meeting with a key figure in the Russia probe is because of the Kremlin because the US press were kept out of the room!

Between the "Trump Tweet-storms", the lies, the multiple firings of high level people and Donald Trump's instability in the face of crises, it's essential for Republicans to fire Donald Trump.
Image result for peach clock
Time to impeach Donald Trump!

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