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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Assault rifles are weapons of mass destruction

Assault rifles are not worth innocent lives

Opinion echos- Two letters published in The Jackson Sun - Tennessee 

LEXINGTON- I’m 72 years old, having owned guns since I was 12; I raised my sons with a gun in one hand and a rod and reel in the other. Yes, I own an assault rifle.

My right to own that AK47 is not worth the life of one young innocent student. We must stop the mass slaughter of our people. We all need prayer; however, thoughts and prayers cannot stop the mass shootings nor can it bring back young lives. Gun owners must speak out — something must be done.

We gun owners must support the necessary laws to stop the mass killing of our youth, and others. Personally, I haven’t any objection to giving up the right to own assault rifles, but that doesn’t resonate with all gun owners, so somehow we must reach middle ground.

Let’s start by implementing the following restrictions concerning assault weapons:

1. Minimum age to own: 30

2. $200 background check fee

3. 30-day waiting period to give adequate background check

4. Any prior arrest, mental problems prohibits ownership.

5. Strict regulations as to storage, possession.

6. All sales, transfers, trades, possessions subject to these regulations.

7. Conviction of any crime forfeits ownership rights.

We gun owners must be willing to do our part to protect our schools and society. Our young students deserve the right to attend school without the fear of being killed, while seeking their education; America owes them that.

Bobby Cogdell  Lexington  Tennessee

School shootings: Who’s to blame?

School shootings: Who’s to blame?

JACKSON- I am a 70-something man and have been teaching at Jackson State Community College for the past few years. I retired this semester. One of the things I never could get used to were the active shooter drills. I had never seen anything like that in my years working in the defense industry, and my children had never seen this happen until they were school teachers.

I have grandchildren who are required to now have the drills, and my four great-grandchildren will have to have these drills.

Everyone is trying to figure out who to blame for these mass shootings. People say it is just the way the world is today. Who is responsible for the state of the world today and these mass shootings? Look in the mirror. All of us who have watched this epidemic and done nothing are to blame.

The students in Florida are correct, we adults have done nothing to stop this epidemic, and it is obvious that our federal and state legislators will “offer their prayers and condolences” and then go back to business as usual. I wonder what they would do if one of their children or grandchildren were killed at their school. We all need to look in the mirror and decide what we can do to keep our children safe.

James Marple  Jackson Tennessee

MaineWriter - Assault rifles are weapons of mass destruction and must be licensed. Moreover, the ammunition required to fire the assault weapons must be regulated and highly taxed.  

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Baltimore Sun echo - Narcan editorial

A pharmacy with compassion to spare* ~ Echo opinion published in The Baltimore Sun

In the Klein's ShopRite's decision to offer free, life-saving opioid-reversing Narcan, the pharmacy is being compassionate and courageous in many ways ("Some pharmacies in Harford offer free Narcan doses," Feb. 15).

First, from a health care, addiction treatment perspective, Narcan, also known as naloxone, provides another opportunity to help an overdose victim to stay alive, get treatment and start a life of sober recovery. If a loved one with substance use disorder — the most severe level of drug abuse — dies from an overdose, it is a tragedy that cannot be reversed.

Second, Klein’s ShopRite's action is a real-world example of how the business sector can take positive action to address the opioid epidemic that is truly ravaging Maryland and our nation. 

By strengthening its partnering with the Harford County Health Department, these pharmacies add an important component to how our overall community of public, private, faith-based agencies, and civic groups can work together to save lives and help families.

Every business, every church and synagogue, every community-based organization can take specific steps to reverse and reduce the scourge of opioid and other drug addiction. 

Many already do so and deserve our thanks and appreciation. 

Yet, the escalating number of overdoses and the spread of substance abuse to more neighborhoods, more families, more hospital emergency departments demands that all of us need to redouble our efforts.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace
The writer is president of Addiction Connections Resource in Harford County, Maryland. 

*Four Klein's ShopRite pharmacies in Harford offering free doses of Narcan until July 1~ Erika Butler
Four of the Klein’s ShopRite stores pharmacies in Harford County are offering free doses of Narcan nasal spray beginning Wednesday through July 1, or as long as supplies last.  Participating pharmacies are Klein’s ShopRite of Main Street, Klein's ShopRite of Forest Hill, Klein's ShopRite of Aberdeen and Klein’s ShopRite at Festival of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Maine physicians on National Public Radio - Pharma and opioids

"They're 20 years late to the game," says Dr. Noah Nesin, a family physician and vice president of medical affairs at Penobscot Community Health Care.

Doctors In Maine Say Halt In OxyContin Marketing Comes '20 Years Late' by Patty Wight

MAINE- The maker of OxyContin, one of the most prescribed and aggressively marketed opioid painkillers, will no longer tout the drug or any other opioids to doctors.

The announcement, made Saturday, came as drugmaker Purdue Pharma faces lawsuits for deceptive marketing brought by cities and counties across the U.S., including several in Maine. The company said it's cutting its U.S. sales force by more than half.

Just how important are these steps against the backdrop of a raging opioid epidemic that took the lives of more than 300 Maine residents in 2016, and accounted for more than 42,000 deaths nationwide?

"They're 20 years late to the game," says Dr. Noah Nesin, a family physician and vice president of medical affairs at Penobscot Community Health Care.

Nesin says even after Purdue Pharma paid $600 million in fines about a decade ago for misleading doctors and regulators about the risks opioids posed for addiction and abuse, it continued marketing them.

"I think it's similar to the tobacco industry learning they could sell tobacco without spending a lot of money on advertising. My guess is this decision is in their self-interest," he says.

A nationwide lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for deceptive marketing continues to grow. Seven cities in Maine have joined, including Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, along with five counties, to recoup some of the costs of addressing the addiction crisis.

A spokesman for Purdue Pharma said in an email that the decision to stop marketing to prescribers is voluntary and independent of any litigation.

Nesin says that at the very least, the company's decision to refrain from promoting opioids to doctors reinforces the need for caution when prescribing the drugs.

Maine Medical Association President Dr. Robert Schlager agrees that Purdue Phama's move is a good, if small, step to fight the opioid epidemic. "I wouldn't expect it to have a very large role in limiting opioids further," he says. "Because most of us, as prescribers, do limit our information exchange with the drug representatives who have been marketing opioids."

Since 2016, doctors in Maine have also adhered to prescribing limits enacted by the Legislature. As of December 2017, legislatures in 17 states had enacted prescribing limits and nine others had authorized other state entities to enact them.

Schlager says Purdue Pharma should go further and suspend opioid marketing worldwide. "It seems a little bit not honest to just limit it here in the United States," he says.

In an email, Purdue Pharma's spokesman says that the company operates only in the United States, and that an associated company, Mundipharma, has not marketed opioids in Europe since 2013.

A Los Angeles Times investigation in 2016 found that the family that owns Purdue Pharma has a network of international companies that employ the same kinds of marketing practices that made OxyContin a blockbuster seller in the U.S.

This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, Maine Public Radio and Kaiser Health News.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Echo - newspaper opinion letters to the editor: Stop Gun Violence

Echos - Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois and Kansas City Star in Missouri ~ "...they just want to get through their teen years without having to worry about being gunned down in the classroom or the school cafeteria." Melinda Henneberger
Peoria Illinois

Stop the Gun Violence! Journal Star - Illinois "Echo" ~ Peoria, Il

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2108, for so many students in Parkland, Florida, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High Shool, involved running as fast as they could out of school so they weren’t killed by a nutcase shooter!

Those who escaped were the lucky ones. Many of their friends were being wheeled into ambulances as parents rushed to see if their child had been killed.

Every time there is a shooting of innocent children, we hear the cry that something needs to be done. And nothing is ever done!

Please don’t continue to say: Our prayers are with the families. Do something to stop this insanity! Bring back mental health facilities, tighten the control of gun sales, speak up if you know someone who is demonstrating uncontrolled rage.

Since we will never have the ability to take away guns, like a few countries have done, it is up to each one of us to contact our politicians to say we have had enough. It’s time for our children to be safe!

Mary O’Russa, Peoria IL 
Letter to the editor from Melinda Henneberger 
Child Soldiers are fighting the war on gunsDear Donald Trump, So...You want crowd size?

Don’t look now, Donald Trump, but marchers more numerous than all the pink hats ever knit and more impressive than all those sharp-looking tanks rolling down the Champs on Bastille Day are headed your way.

When America’s children march on Washington and in cities around the country next month, you who have refused to protect them from gun violence might want to take cover under a nice sturdy Resolute desk.

Or maybe instead of watching TV, as Nixon claimed to have done as somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people marched outside his window against the war in Vietnam in November of 1969, you’ll slip off to a golf course where you can’t hear them at all.

No matter. Because even as you try to make the massacre of 17 Florida teenagers all about you.... (indeed)  (Trump) must know that these particular young demonstrators will be impossible to write off as partisans.

Our nations' kids are not political adversaries looking for any excuse to erase the Second Amendment. 

They are speaking truth to power.

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Clarion Calls from gun violence victims

Not One More ~ Simple but powerful words have become the rallying cry for Americans who refuse to accept the toll gun violence.

Sandy Hook Promise ~ Mission is to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child. We will achieve this by educating and empowering parents, schools and communities on mental health & wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals and gun safety practices that ensure that firearms are kept safe and secure.

SHP Action Fund’s mission is to enact sensible gun violence prevention laws, policy and regulations at a state and federal level, in the areas of mental health & wellness and gun safety that result in the reduction of gun-related death and injury. We will achieve this by engaging, organizing and mobilizing our national base of Promise Makers and Leaders at a state and federal level.

Florida shooting: 'Enough is enough'

Busloads of students from the Florida high school in Broward County that saw a mass shooting on February 14, 2018, arrived in Florida's capital, Tallahassee, to lobby for tighter gun control measures.  It is the first planned rally for their new movement, NeverAgain.

This isn't about Democrats. This isn't about Republicans. This is about us demanding change, and this is about the fact that we have already won, it's just a matter of when," yelled a student standing atop a car, firing up the group before they hit the road.

(Shamefully perpetrating the evil of supporting guns rather than the lives of children.....),,,,,But just as the students started rolling north on their journey for justice, the stupid Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee voted down a measure to ban purchases of murderous assault rifles, like the one 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used in his attack that killed 17 students and school staff members in Parkland.

With a 71-36 vote,  Republican Florida lawmakers defeated the assault-rifle bill that would have also banned the purchases of large-capacity magazines statewide.

Father James Martin, Jesuit editor of America Magazine:
"The well-funded resistance to the sensible regulation of handguns, the easy availability of semi-automatic weapons and the resistance to preventing people with mental health issues from obtaining them, is a clear participation in evil. This is a life issue."

"Gun control is about the defense of life. Those who consider themselves religious or pro-life must see that the desire to prevent gun-related deaths is part of the religious defense of the dignity of all life."

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Donald Trump - failed in year one

Nearly everyday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders morphs into the Baghdad Bob of the failed Donald Trump administration. Her job as the White House press secretary has become one of creating ongoing lies and misinformation. She is an irritating clamor of incredulous un-credibility.

It's difficult to understand how the White House has turned into the "lie house" in the time since Donald Trump assumed leadership. Michael Nelson offers some perspective about Donald Trump's political ineptness ~ published in the History News Network.
Michael Nelson, published in his book "Trump's First Year"

"Many.... Donald Trump actions have been perceived as failures or even threats to a safe, functional democracy, from immigration policies defied by state and local governments and volatile dealings with North Korea to unsuccessful attempts to pass major legislation and the inability to fill government positions or maintain consistent White House staff."

In the cutthroat world of real estate development, deal-making is extremely fluid and walking away from a bargain with a contractor, developer, or lender is tolerable. But a president cannot walk away when negotiations break down with Congress and find another legislature to deal with. And in politics a reputation for standing by one’s word is the coin of the realm.

Trump’s experience prior to becoming president was limited not just to business, but to privately owned business. Never having dealt with an independent board of directors, he never learned the arts of shared governance.

Not realizing that the Constitution created a system of separated institutions sharing powers was just a start for Trump. He also seems not to realize much about the Constitution at all. At a July meeting with House Republicans, he professed his devotion to the document he had taken the oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” by declaring, “I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII—go down the list.” There are seven articles in the Constitution, not twelve, much less a longer “list.”

It’s one thing not to understand the challenges of a new position because of lack of experience. It’s another not to learn. Every one of Trump’s elected predecessors became more surefooted in the job by doing it. They got better because they crammed during the post-election transition period, surrounded themselves (sometimes sooner, but always later) with advisors experienced in government, and learned from their mistakes.

In contrast, Trump took office avowing that he had nothing to learn. Claiming that he makes great decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability,” Trump added: “I could actually run my business and run the government at the same time.”

During the months that followed Trump’s election, he first blew any chance for even a short honeymoon with a dark, campaign-style inaugural address focused on “American carnage.” 

Then, failing to take advantage of a unified Republican government, he saw just one important piece of legislation that he supported enacted: a tax cut bill, the near-inevitable consequence of electing a Republican Congress.

This lack of achievement is remarkable considering that Trump took office under unusually favorable circumstances. Although the world had its share of problems, they were ongoing, not new or urgent. The domestic economy had been growing, slowly but steadily, for ninety consecutive months. The inflation rate was about 2 percent and unemployment had dipped below 5 percent. The percentage of Americans who regard themselves as middle- or upper-class had reached 62 percent, a greater share than before the 2008-2009 economic meltdown. The stock market was booming, having tripled from its modern low in March 2009.

Trump was elected by attacking the federal government, not by advancing a positive agenda. He has been insensitive toward anyone, in government or out, who disagrees with him. And he has been unwilling to reach out, as most presidents do at least symbolically, to the unconverted.

From the resistance that has emerged in Congress, the courts, the bureaucracy, the states and cities, the media, and the opposition party, Trump has been taught the hard way what most of the country has rejoiced in for more than two centuries: that the American constitutional system is well designed “to counteract ambition” when ambition aspires to roam directionless and unrestrained. Equally important, the Constitution countenances deal-making among officials chosen to represent the American people in all their variety. But has he been listening?

(MaineWriter~ "Hope springs eternal".)

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Donald Trump Tweet Rants

Opinion in The Washington Post by David Von Drehle 

Robert Mueller is circling the Donald Trump campaign's connections with Vladimir Putin and Russia ~ a potentially treasonous affiliation.  If Donald Trump were innocent of illegal behavior, he'd have already been vindicated.

Unbelievably, Donald Trump's erratic Tweeting increases the appearance of his guilt in Russian compliance in his illegal election. If Donald Trump were innocent of invoking Russian interference in the American government, the fact is, he'd have already been vindicated. It's impossible to believe that Donald Trump is innocent of obstruction of justice and conspiring with Russia to illegally influence the 2016 American election. If Donald Trump were innocent, he would've been vindicated before now. Instead, the circle of conspiratorial and treasonous guilt continues to tighten around his administration.

Donald Trump! If you're innocent, why do you act so guilty?

Donald Trump protests his innocence with intensity worthy of Alfred Dreyfus (Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer whose trial and conviction in 1894, on charges of treason, became one of the most tense political dramas in modern French history with a wide echo in all Europe.)

Donald Trump says he's the victim of a “hoax,” a “fraud,” a “witch hunt.” After the Justice Department announced the indictment of 13 Russians, including an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, for meddling in Trump’s favor during the 2016 election, he nearly melted his phone as he furiously published an epic of self-exonerating tweets.

You or I might do exactly the same thing if we found ourselves targets of an unjust investigation. Few experiences are more maddening than to be wrongfully accused, whether the alleged offense is taking money from your brother’s sock drawer, flirting with a stranger at the Christmas party, cheating on a test or cooperating with foreign agents to improve your chances of winning the White House.
But as Queen Gertrude observed to Hamlet, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Surprising as this is in a veteran of showbiz, Trump seems not to understand how a close-up magnifies every gesture. His jumpiness around the subject of Russia; his hand-wringing over ways to end the investigation; his rhetorical flop-sweat at the mention of the letters F, B and I — all these and more have his audience thinking: Gee, for an innocent man he sure does act guilty.

In the classic film “Rope,” Alfred Hitchcock has a pair of clever young men serve drinks to their professor over a trunk stuffed with their murder victim’s corpse. The tension comes from the professor’s slow discovery of their crime. A remake with Trump in the leading role would open with him tweeting: “There’s NOTHING in the TRUNK!”

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Puerto Rico re-visited: Return of a native

An Arkansas resident described the devastation he saw after visiting his native Puerto Rico, published in the Arkansas The Baxter Bulletin:

Congress is indifferent to Puerto Rico's tragedy ~ Joe Guzzardi

Hurricane Maria was a category 5 storm
After an absence of more than 50 years, I returned to Puerto Rico this month to view firsthand the September 2017, Hurricane Maria's devastation. (Regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico.)

In fact, I spent most of my formative years growing up in Puerto Rico, attended a local high school, and took my first post-college job on the island. My emotional ties to Puerto Rico are strong; my son, a true borinqueno, and one of my sisters were born in San Juan.

Over the years, I had thought often of going back to visit old haunts, but never did. I knew that decades of booming tourism had spawned rampant development along miles of unspoiled Atlantic Beach coastline, forever changing Puerto Rico's landscape. From Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again," "Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same." But things only remain the same in a person's mind if he never goes back.

Some sections of Puerto Rico are slowly returning to normal. Tourism is slow, but the hotels and restaurants that serve visitors are up and running. Most advertise: "We have electricity," a reminder that even in Puerto Rico's biggest cities, residents were without power for weeks.

Outside of the major municipalities, however, much of the island is still coping and wondering when full power will be restored, and end the longest and largest outage in U.S. history. Trees, traffic lights and bridges are down, and store fronts, closed. 

Nearly four months ago, Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello promised that 95 percent of electricity delivery would be functional by Dec. 15. But in a December study, local experts estimated that roughly 50 percent of the island's 3.3 million people were still without power. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that all Puerto Rico won't be fully electrified until May.

In addition to the daily physical challenges that being without power present, Puerto Ricans have endured an emotional roller coaster of Washington, D.C. follies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on January 29 that it would discontinue its food and water distribution to the island effective January 31. The responsibility would be turned over to the Puerto Rican government, a prospect that terrified residents, especially the elderly and poor. Two days later, FEMA walked back its original statement, and assured Puerto Ricans that it would continue its assistance.

Then, a scam of unprecedented magnitude victimized Puerto Ricans. FEMA awarded a $156 billion contract to the one-person Tribute Contracting LLC to provide 30 million meals to hungry Puerto Ricans. Only 50,000 were delivered. Because of previous questionable dealings, the federal government had barred Tribute from government work until 2019. An investigation is underway, too little, too late.

Hurricane Maria's death toll was originally estimated at about 65; however, more than 1,000 perished. Despite the far-reaching extent of the Puerto Rico disaster which came on top of the island's bankruptcy because of its combined bond and pension debt that totals about $120 billion, Congress has shown little interest in extending a helping hand to its fellow U.S. citizens. About half of Americans don't know Puerto Ricans are citizens, status granted a century ago during Woodrow Wilson's administration.

Ahead of the brief government shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that his top priorities are passing a two-year budget deal.

But Ryan said nothing about Puerto Rico, and the ongoing suffering that tens of thousands of Americans still endure while Congress and Donald Trump prioritizes legalizing illegal immigrants.

For anguished Puerto Ricans, being shunted by Donald Trump is a bitter pill to swallow. Americans are suffering in Puerto Rico.  

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Billings Montana "echo" opinion - stop accusing the mentally ill!

Another mass shooting in the United States -  17 people were killed at a high school Parkland, Florida ~ BBC News

"gun-nut narcissists" ~ James Nelson opinion

Mentally ill are not responsible for gun violence ~ (Judge)  James Nelson, published in the Billings Gazette, Montana

BILLINGS, Montana- I am sick and tired of politicians’ knee-jerk, go-to excuse for mass murders — i.e. that the perpetrator is “mentally ill” or “mentally disturbed.”

The people who commit the redundant massacres in America’s schools, workplaces, and entertainment venues have, time and time again, proven to be, fundamentally, gun-nut narcissists, often, evidencing white-supremacist beliefs. 

While most would conclude that any person who would commit such a crime must be crazy, these murderers have shown themselves to be cold, calculating, architects of violence and mayhem. They plan their crime; they buy their guns; they execute their plan — and their intended victims; and they do it for the thrill of the kill, the publicity and the glory. Blaming this conduct on mental health issues is a cowardly, sanctimonious, and hypocritical way out.

If our elected officials — from the president on down — sincerely believe that mental health problems are at the root of this epidemic of bloodshed, then they would surely devote whatever resources and money are necessary to excise this societal cancer. But they don’t.  Rather, actual mental health problems are kicked to the curb and down the road along with homelessness, hunger, poverty, and inadequate health care — as just so much social detritus.

Indeed, if this country’s elected and appointed public officers and jurists truly want to do something positive and effective to stanch the recurrent slaughter of innocent children and other citizens, they would name the problem, they would own it, and they would act, instead of pontificate.

To begin with they would agree that the Second Amendment was never intended to be absolute. And, they would recognize that the First Amendment was not written to guarantee an absolute right of free political free speech grounded in the fallacy that money and speech are one and the same. They would accept that the President and the Congress are in the pockets of the 1/10th of 1 percent of super-wealthy. They would attest to the fact that not a single one of them has the guts to stand up to the NRA. They would acknowledge that they are ovine, partisan sycophants, who talk the talk, but refuse to walk the walk.

Then these politicians and jurists would approve and adopt effective laws and procedures to keep weapons of mass destruction and military-grade weapons designed only to kill people out the market. They would quit groveling before the altar of the NRA and big money. They would spend what is necessary to make our society and its institutions secure and safe from the glory-seeking gun nuts that kill for the fun of it. And, they would spend what is required to adequately fund mental health programs and start to cure the multitude of other real ills of our society. If our “leaders” were truly serious about this carnage, they would start acting, instead of just blabbering self-righteous drivel

And, if they don’t (they won’t), then we the voters must act and kick them to the curb.

Jim Nelson, of Helena, is retired after serving as a Montana Supreme Court justice.

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Texas and influenza: Money as the root cause of mortality and morbidity

While cruising through randomly selected Texas newspapers, I found a trend among some readers who complained about "flu shots", the immunizations for influenza, being given to immigrants.  
This criticism is dangerously ignorant.

Reporter Bud Kennedy reports how saving money by not giving immunizations to immigrants, or to the poor, are short sighted.

"Sometimes we save money, but look silly doing it. This is one of those times. Everybody should get a flu shot," wrote Kennedy, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In fact, everyone should receive the maximum amount of immunity to influenza, from a flu shot. It's called developing "herd immunity", meaning, the more people who are immunized to an infections disease, increases the likelihood that the public can benefit from the collateral resistance. Herd immunity - the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results, if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination. "the level of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity varies by disease but ranges from 83 to 94 percent"

Texas health departments have been reporting a high incidence of influenza, all the while some are wrongly complaining about immigrants receiving free immunization.

Immigrants get the flu, too~ a letter to the editor "echo" published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dear Editor- "A letter writer has a real problem with unauthorized immigrants getting free flu shots while he has to pay $25. He seems to miss the point: more flu shots, the less flu bugs that are being spread around." ~ Frank L. Matthews, Fort Worth TX

And in another sadly related story:

Texas teacher dies after opting out of Tamiflu because of costly $116 copay
Heather Holland a second grade teacher in Texas died from complications of influenza, because the cost and copay for the Tamiflu medication was too expensive ~ she died because of pharmaceutical company greed, when the price of the drug was unaffordable

WEATHERFORD, Texas - A Texas woman died from flu complications after deciding not to take flu medication because her copay was too expensive.

Second-grade teacher Heather Holland, 38, was prescribed Tamiflu earlier this month after coming down with the flu. Her husband, Frank, told the Weatherford Democrat that she was going to pick the prescription, but thought the $116 copay was too expensive.

"She thought it cost too much, so she didn't get it," said Frank. "I ended up getting it for her Thursday."

Frank told WFAA last Monday that his wife became septic after being rushed to the emergency room on Feb. 2. Dialysis treatment didn't work.

"I was with her for more than half of my life," Frank said in a brief interview.

Pastor Clark Bosher described a teacher, mother of two and wife that was heavily involved in Willow Park Baptist Church.

"She was beloved," said Bosher. "Frank sent me a text saying 'Man, she's gone.' I couldn't believe it."

Counselors were at the school Monday to assist students, staff and parents.

Heather's own two children, 7 and 10, attend Ikard, as well.

Frank said his wife was an otherwise healthy woman.

Flu activity has been widespread in Texas for more than a month. This season, more than 2,300 flu-related deaths have been reported in the state.

The flu outbreak has caused several North Texas school districts to shut down for several days, including Sunnyvale, Bonham and Gunter, as workers there cleaned campuses.

And even more BREAKING News reported in the Houston Chronicle 

Harris County (Texas), a child dies of flu; first local pediatric case this season.

A girl in Harris County has died of flu-related causes, the area's first such death this season, public health officials said Monday.
County health officials said she died this month, but provided no other details, citing confidentiality laws and respect for the privacy of the family.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Privacy reported Friday there have been 84 pediatric flu-related deaths thus far this season, considered the worst in a decade. Seven of those deaths had occurred in Texas.
MaineWriter- It's a totally ignorant point of view for anybody to object to the public receiving influenza immunizations; and it's especially important for vulnerable and under served populations to receive free access to this important prevention.  The cost of preventing influenza is recovered in the protection of the public from hospitalizations, impaired worker productivity and the unnecessary deaths caused by the virus.
Texas has enough money to give everybody a flu shot.

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Senator John Cornyn ~ request from a Texas constituent to protect Dreamers

Let the Dreamers~ the DACA immigrants~ stay in the US with a path to American citizenship. An echo opinion, letter to the editor, published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Texas.

Senator John Cornyn R-Texas
FORT WORTH, Tx- Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas,, has been a strong supporter of the Dreamers, the American immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Moreover, he has also supported an acceptable solution to Donald Trump’s abrupt and cruel cancellation of DACA. 

Senator Cornyn knows that the Dreamers are hard workers; some are students; all are nonviolent; all are working toward a better future for themselves and our country. From education to research to the service industries, they contribute a great deal to our daily life

With the arbitrary DACA deadline Trump imposed, Cornyn nust stand up to Republicans and keep his word. He must fight for these people who know no other country and have no place to “go back to.”

Call Sen. Cornyn’s office and tell him how the lives of around 700,000 peaceful American people, who work and contribute to our economic well being,  are in his hands. ~ Judy Alter, Fort Worth

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DREAMERS are Americans - Echo from San Antonio Express News

Dreamers are *Americans* just like us ~ (MaineWriter: They deserve safety and protection from deportation.)
Re: “Senators back ‘Dreamers bill’~ Echo letter to the editor published in the San Antonio News @mySA
It’s true Dreamers are undocumented, but the larger truth, the whole truth, is that Dreamers are undocumented Americans.
Dreamers are people like us, people who have grown up in America. They talk like us; they walk like us; they act like us; they think like us. We are one and the same.
Dreamers, culturally, are Americans, and they dream of staying in America, their home, sweet home. To deport them would be turning our backs on our own — inhumane and fundamentally un-American. Make the law and justice one.
Document the Dreamers!

Darrel Young, Hunt

An estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as children — are Americans too.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

America has one General who performs at his senior officer rank

Maybe, General McMaster, the head of the National Security Council (NSC) will save America by speaking truth to power.  Americans need to see White House leadership.

General McMaster is the head of the National Security Council. He is behaving like a senior officer by defining the Russia interference in the 2016 election.
On the other hand, former General John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, is behaving like he's become a victim of the Donald Trump "Stockholm Syndrome". Rather than showing leadership, Kelly appears to be following the stupid directives, indiscriminately blurted in Tweets, by the erratic, and unbalanced president. But, there might still be hope for General McMaster, to act like a leader. 

Donald Trump is clearly incapable of responding to the Russian invasion of the 2016 election. Yet, he is the person who said, "Russia if you're listening", because, in fact, he knew that they were helping his campaign. Otherwise, Donald Trump would be denouncing Russian interference in the 2016 election. Instead, he looks for embarrassing ways to discredit US intelligence. 

McMaster: Evidence is 'incontrovertible' that Russia interfered in 2016 election ~ reported in The Hill by Brandon Carter

White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said a new round of indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation show “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, McMaster said “with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” that Russia interfered in the election, according to The Associated Press.

The consensus of the U.S. intelligence community is that Russians did seek to influence the 2016 presidential election, although the investigation has yet to reach a conclusion on whether Russia influenced the outcome.
McMaster also reportedly dismissed a question about future U.S. cooperation with Russia on cybersecurity.
“We would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage,” McMaster said.

McMaster spoke at the conference immediately after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said the new Mueller indictments were “just blabber,” the AP reported, according to a translation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the slew of indictments at a press briefing Friday. Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups were charged with multiple counts of attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.

The indictment alleges the goal of the Russians was to support then-candidate Donald Trump and hurt Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Some of the Russians allegedly posed as U.S. people and communicated with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”

Rosenstein noted that there is no allegation in the indictment that Americans had any knowledge of the operation.

Trump has (MaineWriter ~ Donald Trump has lied) repeatedly, to cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election, calling it a “hoax” crafted by Democrats. 

He’s also falsely labeled Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”

In a tweet following the release of the indictments, Trump claimed the indictment showed his campaign “did nothing wrong” and that there was “no collusion” with Russia.

General McMaster reported what he knows to be true! In so doing, he is trying to demonstrate confidence and leadership while Donald Trump is wasting his time by trying to re-define the truth about Russia.  (Donald Trump continues to defend Russia, even in the face of his National Security Advisor.

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Physician echo - universally available quality care: from Naples Florida

This is a brilliantly written opinion from Dr. Allen Weiss, published in the Naples Daily News, in Florida.  Echo! "
Transparent, objective and trustworthy quality metrics will drive America’s journey to universally excellent care and good health." ~ Allen Weiss M.D. 
Allen Weiss M.D. "Quality Care"

NAPLES, Fl - Quality matters. Better health for everyone should be America’s goal. Yet presently, where one lives and where one receives health care services can make a difference in outcomes.

Everyone — patients, families, physicians, non-physician practitioners, hospitals, health care systems and payers — should have access to the same objective information about the quality of health care services in their communities.

Accessible, transparent and comparative metrics will help move the country forward in addressing the perils of variability, consequently improving quality while lowering costs. According to the Dartmouth Atlas, a more than twofold variation in Medicare spending per capita in different regions of the country doesn’t necessarily equate with better quality or improved outcomes.

Objective comparison tools, although far from perfect, provide helpful information. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare tool and its star-ratings system have been available since 2005. The easy-to-use website facilitates comparisons among hospitals based on nearly five dozen well-defined metrics.

This tool has dual benefits: assisting patients in choosing health care options and accelerating performance improvement because all can share best practices to improve health care delivery. While Hospital Compare has drawn criticism over its methodology and findings, over time CMS has responded with revisions. Such tools have value, even with their limitations.

CMS’ most recent hospital star ratings are based on seven major measures (mortality, safety, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and imaging) and 57 subcategories. Fair, transparent, timely and relevant scores easily understandable for patients, caregivers and payers are essential as our nation’s health care system strives to improve.

Health care is America’s largest industry, consuming 17.8 percent of gross domestic product at $3.2 trillion in 2016 and growing. U.S. health care perennially spends the most per capita yet also consistently ranks toward the bottom in outcomes among the 11 most-developed nations.

Better performance equates to fewer complications, decreased waste and lower costs. These attributes contribute to a healthier America.

Hospitals and health systems living off their past reputation and perceived greatness, embellished and polished by extensive marketing, no longer represent a rational, effective or even ethical business model.

Transparent objective metrics now make some of the most venerable institutions in the nation the most vulnerable.

Shopping for some services in health care is desirable given our consumer-centric society. But when people are sick and don’t have the luxury to check a hospital’s quality scores or prices, they shouldn’t have to worry about potentially receiving better care at the hospital across town.

Even more important, today’s hospitals and health systems should no longer see their core business as a health “repair shop.” 

Instead, we must look outside the four walls of our institutions, promoting wellness and prevention by focusing more on health rather than care.

Sadly, life expectancy has decreased for the second consecutive year, a first since 1963. Health care systems are viewed by the communities they serve as stewards of public health; we should be employing resources for socio-economic problems such as inequities of care, homelessness, hunger, violence, addiction, mental health and other maladies.

All members of the health care community have an obligation to be more responsive to customers. Sharing best practices among ourselves, just as we now share statistically accurate knowledge, will help everyone achieve better performance and outcomes.

Although the process may be uncomfortable initially, in the long run, having transparency as a stimulus for improvement will benefit every stakeholder. We can decrease the percentage of GDP devoted to sickness and hospitalization as we increase wellness and prevention.

Where one receives care matters greatly today. But let’s work to change that. Transparent, objective and trustworthy quality metrics will drive America’s journey to universally excellent care and good health.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tennessean - echo letter to the editor: America in debt

"GOP budget deal that is projected to add $1 trillion to our current $20 trillion national debt" ~ Donald Griffin

Plunging America into debt - Echo letter published in the Tennessean

Plunging America deeper in debt

On Feb. 13, Sen. Lamar Alexander sent an email that included the following:

“Congress passed and Donald Trump signed a 2-year budget agreement into law that sets priorities for our nation: fighting the opioid crisis, ending sequestration funding restrictions on our military, and improving our nation’s roads, bridges, locks and dams. It also extends funding for the community health centers that nearly 400,000 Tennesseans rely on for their health care, and extends funding for Cover Kids, which provides health insurance to nearly 74,000 Tennessee children and pregnant women.”

My response was as follows:

Sen. Alexander: You forgot to mention in your comments on the two-year budget deal that it is projected to add $1 trillion to our current $20 trillion national debt. This will become more of an issue as interest rates rise, resulting in debt service taking a larger and larger portion of the federal budget.

Also, exacerbating this problem was the removal of the debt ceiling, which will allow Congress to continue adding more debt without any meaningful debate.

Your decision to vote with the Senate Republican leadership for political purposes will encumber future generations of Americans with the burden of dealing with this massive debt.

Donald A. Griffin, Franklin 

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Holocaust diligence ~ Polish history

Poland flag was officially adopted on August 1, 1919. Red and white have long been associated with Poland and its coat of arms.
Tragically, history continues to challenge our human memory, about how to accurately report and chronicle the Jewish Holocaust. 

The Holocaust, also referred to as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered six million European Jews.
Jewish Holocaust ~ Nazi extermination camp
Unbelievably, in Poland, a new law was signed, now seventy years after the horrible events happened, to revise the history about the Polish participation in this genocidal collaboration.

New ‘Holocaust law’ highlights crisis in Polish identity

By Geneviève Zubrzycki Professor of Sociology, Director of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, University of Michigan

On Jan. 26, the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Polish parliament voted in favor of a bill making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in Nazi crimes.

This caused immediate outrage around the world and nowhere more so than in a country that has been, until now, a close ally of Poland: Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the bill as “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.

And yet, 10 days later, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, signed the bill into law retorting that “the historic truth is that there was no systematic institutionalized participation among Poles [in the Holocaust].”

What is happening? Why, over 70 years since the end of the Second World War, is this argument taking place?

I am a sociologist who has studied controversies around the memory of the Holocaust in Poland.  (Writes 
Geneviève Zubrzycki)

For me, this dispute is more than a crisis in Polish-Jewish relations.

It is, above all, a crisis in Poland’s national identity.

The memory of World War II in Poland

This is not the first time the Poles have legislated against what they see as defamation of Poland’s record in World War II, but it is certainly the most wide-reaching. 

Under this new law, the punishment for people claiming that “the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich” carries a possible prison sentence of up to three years.

The timing of the vote was no accident. 

Indeed, the government used the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a platform to denounce the misnomer “Polish death camps” that some - including former President Barack Obama - have used to refer to Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland.

The Polish government, along with other Polish organizations, has been fighting the use of that expression in foreign media for several years, and with considerable success. 

Most American newspapers and other major media outlets have updated their stylebooks to stop those words being used.

Nevertheless, given the growing controversy, the German minister of foreign affairs took it upon himself to declare that the Germans bore the entire responsibility for the extermination camps. 

But, then he added that “the actions of individual collaborators do not alter that fact.”

And therein lies the rub.
Many Poles find it difficult to accept they could have played a role in the Holocaust. That is because, unlike many other nations, the Polish state did not collaborate with the Nazis. 

Considered an inferior race by the Nazis, the Poles were targeted for cultural extermination to facilitate German expansion to the East. Polish elites were systematically murdered. Tens of thousands of Poles were imprisoned in concentration camps or were forced into slave labor. (MaineWriter ~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish journalist and Franciscan priest who died at Auschwitz, was Polish. St. Maximilian Kolbe was born as Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894, in the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. He was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar and a martyr in the German death Camp of Auschwitz during World War II.)

Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894- August 14, 1941)
Poland’s losses in World War II were enormousApproximately 6 million Polish citizens were killed in the war, over half of whom were Jewish. Warsaw was left in ruins, and its 1944, uprising alone cost the lives of about 150,000 citizens.

The dominant Polish narrative of World War II is, therefore, about victimhood, which fits squarely into its broader national mythology of martyrdom.

Repeatedly invaded by its powerful neighbors, the Polish state disappeared from the European map for over a century – from 1795 to 1918.  Poland’s national bard, the 19th century poet Adam Mickiewicz, described his country as a “Christ among nations.” 

In this telling, the Poles are a chosen people, innocent sufferers at the hands of evil oppressors.

“Revelations” of crimes committed against Jews by Poles tarnish this narrative and shake Polish national identity to its core.

Narrative shock

Nevertheless, historians have shown, crimes committed against Jews by Poles were much more prevalent and widespread than most people realized.

Perhaps the most controversial and impactful research is that of the Polish-born Princeton University professor, Jan T. Gross.

In his 2000 book “Neighbors,” Gross recounts in painful detail the violent murders of Jews by their ethnically Polish neighbors in the small town of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941.

The book marked a watershed in the public debate about Polish-Jewish relations.

On July 10, 2001, roughly a year after the publication of Gross’ book, the Polish government acknowledged the murders and erected a monument at the site where several hundred Jews were forcibly brought to a barn and burned alive. 
Although the monument’s inscription fails to explicitly indicate that it was ethnic Poles and not Germans who committed the crime, the official apology by then-President Aleksander Kwaśniewski was unequivocal. “Here in Jedwabne,” he said, “citizens of the Republic of Poland died at the hands of other citizens of the Republic of Poland.”

Such was the shock the story of Jedwabne caused that it is possible to distinguish between Poland “before and after” the appearance of Gross’ book. As leading Catholic journalist Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska put it: “Facing up to the painful truth of Jedwabne is … the most serious test that we Poles have had to confront in the last decade.”

Law and Justice’s politics of history

It is that test, arguably, that the ruling Law and Justice party is failing.

In the battle over Polish collective memory, the party has been promoting the stories of the Poles who rescued Jews – and who are honored by Israel as the “Righteous Among Nations” – by creating museums and monuments in their name.

Through the new “Holocaust Law,” the government is, in effect, trying to repress knowledge of crimes committed against Jews by Poles. The defense of the law, however, goes one step further. In a remarkable case of what I would describe as manipulating the message, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued a video statement claiming that it is the Poles who are the guardians of historical truth and fighters against hatred.

And yet, the same politicians remain silent when their supporters express anti-Semitic and anti-refugee views. On Feb. 5, for example, demonstrators impatient for President Duda to sign the Holocaust law gathered in front of the Presidential Palace chanting anti-Semitic slogans and demanding that he “remove [his] yarmulke and sign the law!”

The president did sign the law, but he also sent it to the country’s constitutional court for examination.

Those Poles opposed to the law – and there are many, judging by the number of organizations and public figures denouncing it and the number of petitions circulating – hope that it will be deemed unconstitutional because it represses freedom of speech and could significantly curtail academic research.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, however, the government’s politics of history will continue to be waged on many other fronts. What is at stake, in my view, is nothing less than the definition of Polish national identity. 

This is why, for all the international outrage, the controversy about the Holocaust law is hottest inside Poland, among Poles who are now debating what it means to be Polish and where Poland is going.

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