Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teachers need resources to "teach" ~ not guns

To arm teachers with guns is an idea that gets an "F" grade from a Pensacola Florida resident. A letter to the editor by Tim Walters writer explains about why arming teachers with guns is a failed response to gun violence in schools.
Mass shooting definition ~ One strict definition used in the past by the federal government says at least four victims must be killed.
From the Pensacola News Journal

Arming teachers is a bad idea.

What do I know? I'll tell you. I'm a parent of a 3-year-old who will be entering the school system next year thanks to VPK (volunteer pre-kindergarden), and my wife is a middle school teacher.

I'm incredibly against teachers having guns in school.

I know not everyone agrees with me. 

But most, if not all the people I’ve debated on this subject are

• not teachers
• don’t have kids in school
• not teachers and don't have kids in school

The legislation being proposed by the Florida State Senate says a voluntary Florida Sheriff’s Marshall Program will be put in place, and teachers “may carry concealed, approved firearms on campus. The firearms must be specifically purchased and issued for the sole purpose of the program. Only concealed carry safety holsters and firearms approved by the sheriff may be used under the program.”

Is this really what we want instead of more security and improvements to secure entry to schools?

I understand that the process to vet these teachers is going to be extensive, but that’s not what worries me.

One scenario

Let's say a shooter walks into a school and starts firing. The armed teacher then unholsters their gun in front of the class. He or she ventures out into the halls, leaving their class unattended.

The teacher then spots the shooter through a sea of frantic students running everywhere.

The shooter is firing into that mass of students. Does the teacher fire back?

If so, we'd have a crossfire that now has the teacher potentially killing students accidentally while firing at the gunman.

This isn’t Hollywood. Liam Neeson isn’t going to calmly walk out of a classroom and kill a gunman with one pull of the trigger.
If a teacher decides not to engage because of student safety, is he later labeled a coward by the national media because he didn't discharge his weapon?

And when the police arrive, they don’t know who the armed teacher is. What happens if an officer accidentally kills the teacher, thinking he/she is the gunman?

No, the idea of making teachers provide weaponized protection in schools sounds worse the more I hear it.

What needs to happen

Make schools safer. Hire more security. But don't make the teachers the basis for defense. They don't get paid enough, and it's not a good idea.

I also have to wonder who our future educators will be. Think about it, they already get paid so little. Now they have to be armed protection. I think a lot of talented potential educators will find a different path in life. Then, who does that leave to teach our children?

While many debate it, and politicians filibuster rather than answer tough questions, I have some ideas on how to start fixing things:

• You’d need funds to secure schools. Let’s make firearm owners pay for a license with a yearly renewal, just like drivers, boaters, hunters, fishers and bars must have, and use that yearly revenue to harden schools or hire more security.
• For those who don’t know, you don’t need a license to own a gun. Let’s start requiring that. Then we can track who owns which guns. Wouldn’t that make sense?
• For even more funds to enhance school security, let’s make a percentage of each gun sale go to that same fund. I suggest 10 percent. Cigarettes and alcohol are taxed, why not guns?
• I’d adopt regulations like sports stadiums: only see-through bags or no backpacks allowed in schools. We live in the digital age. It’s time to do away with heavy books and have all materials available online. Then backpacks become less needed.
• We should ensure there’s only one point of entry at a school. In many schools, the front office is the only way in, and all other doors are locked. But many schools aren’t there yet. We need to get there.
• If a student is expelled from any level of school, they can’t purchase a gun until after their 25th birthday, and even then, they must pass a mental health check before being allowed to purchase a gun. In fact, personally, I think all people who want guns should have to pass a mental health background test.

If we start taking these steps, we can get to a point where schools will be safer.

I’d rather live in a world where we take steps to make the schools safer, and give teachers the best resources to teach, rather than hearing our politicians and police officials essentially say, “there’s nothing we can do to stop a shooter, so let’s arm teachers.”

We’re better than that.

Tim Walters is a columnist at Florida Today, a member of the USA Today Florida Network. He can be contacted at

MaineWriter ~ In my opinion, teachers need resources to teach. Instead of paying for more guns, the National Rifle Association (NRA) should be required to pay for the safety upgrades necessary to protect every child and school staff in all American schools.

Jamelle Bouie ~ Reporting in SLATE- For all of the killing, though, it’s striking how little Americans have actually seen of the violence. We are shown the aftermath, and sometimes—as with Parkland—we see victims hiding or escaping. But we don’t see what the bullets actually do. We don’t see the crumpled bodies or the bloody hallways, the mutilation that results when a medium-caliber round leaves a high-powered rifle and strikes a living person, tearing flesh, destroying bone, and leaving them either dead or gravely wounded. 

Sadly, for the public, mass shootings are bloodless.

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General McMaster and tensions with Donald Trump

McMaster could leave White House after months of tension with Trump ~ CNN Dan Merica, Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins

General H.R. McMaster

Washington (CNN) ~ With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.
Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.

This is not the first time McMaster has faced speculation that his job may be in jeopardy and sources with knowledge of McMaster's standing in the White House have repeatedly said that he has been on thin ice for months.

There was discussion in the West Wing about replacing him last fall, but he ultimately survived because officials, including the President himself, were skeptical about the optics of appointing a third national security adviser in less than a year, several sources told CNN. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned amid controversy over his contact with Russian officials within a month of taking the job.

The decision was also driven by the White House's challenge attracting top talent for jobs in the administration due to Trump's "blacklist" of individuals who have criticized the President, his personality and the Russia investigation, according to a senior Republican source.

However, those familiar with the President's thinking don't believe McMaster's job is any safer now. "He is safe until he's not," the senior Republican with knowledge of the White House added.
On Thursday, the Pentagon referred all questions about McMaster's future to the White House.

"General McMaster works for President Trump. Any decision with regards to staff, the White House will make those determinations," chief spokesperson Dana White said.

The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that Trump "still has confidence in General McMaster."

Tension with TrumpTensions between Trump and McMaster have been playing out for months and were on full display this weekend after Trump (stupid Donald Trump!) publicly chided him over remarks he made regarding Russian interference in the election.

"General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems," Trump tweeted. "Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!"
The criticism laid bare the strained relationship between the two men and left some wondering how much longer McMaster has left in the administration.

For months, Trump has privately expressed irritation with McMaster stemming from differences in "personality and style," the senior Republican source said.

The two have never gotten along, and Trump continues to chafe at McMaster's demeanor when he briefs him, feeling that he is gruff and condescending, according to a source who is familiar with his thinking.

He prefers the briefing style of someone like CIA Director Mike Pompeo or Defense Secretary James Mattis, who patiently answer his questions, regardless of the premise.

McMaster, meanwhile, is the person who delivers the news that Trump doesn't want to hear on a daily basis, according to the senior Republican source.

The issue is not political but mostly stylistic, as McMaster and Mattis tend to discuss information before it is presented to the President, the same source added.

CNN previously reported that McMaster has been at odds with the President and other cabinet officials over the last year.
He has also been undercut by others in Trump's orbit like former chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to congressional and administration officials.

A source familiar with the situation said Trump's perception of McMaster is still influenced by the legacy of Bannon who maintained a tense relationship with McMaster after McMaster removed him from the National Security Council.
"He paid McMaster back by spreading rumors and whispering in Trump's ear," the senior Republican source said, adding that "Bannon poisoned the well."

What's next for McMaster?Officials could not yet confirm what job McMaster might be nominated for if he were to leave the White House.

The current commander of US forces in South Korea, General Vincent Brooks, is expected to leave his post on a scheduled rotation in the coming months but his successor has already been earmarked within the Army but not yet made public, several officials said.

Another possible option would be to name McMaster as the replacement for Gen. John Nicholson who has served as commander of the coalition in Afghanistan since 2016.

Some officials have told CNN that the Pentagon may be looking to identify a slot that is not too high profile, because McMaster would be transitioning back to the military from a White House position akin to a political appointee.

If moved back into a military role that involves testifying before Congress, McMaster might be viewed as simply supporting the White House rather than providing lawmakers with his best military advice, one defense official said.

Lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee would likely have questions about McMaster's time in the White House should he be nominated for a military role but an aide to one senior Republican member told CNN that there do not appear to be any obvious red flags at the outset that would inherently prevent his confirmation.

A second defense official said McMaster is well aware of those political sensitivities.

However, one top Pentagon official said McMaster's role in the administration should not prevent him from earning his fourth star, comparing his transition to other military officers like Colin Powell who have gone back and forth between the Pentagon and the White House.

McMaster would also have the option of retiring from active duty at any time if he chose to do so.

But officials told CNN that the White House's wish is to find McMaster a four-star job that is seen as acknowledging his service.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Hard working Americans struggle without health care

Americans must make real change at the ballot box! Vote for health care for all.....

Health care shouldn't come down to the size of your wallet

At age 61, my dad is one of the roughly 6 million self-employed Americans without health insurance with no foreseeable light at the end of the hospital halls.

He has atrial fibrillation, or in layman’s terms, a bum heart. It can be mitigated, but it isn't cheap.

My uncle died recently of cancer. He was self-employed and uninsured at his diagnosis. They're just two of the legions who work hard to make ends meet and achieve success with little wiggle room in a health care system that isn't there for them when they need it.

That's not the American Dream.

Everything is an uphill battle. The cost of vital medications and hospital visits competes with bills, groceries and keeping the power on. Do you sell the house, the boat and the land — tangible equity for the future — or tough it out to inevitably end up back in the ER?

There are a lot of decision makers who use health care as a political chess piece. Meanwhile, they remain shamefully blind to the reality that the current set-up doesn't work for too many Americans. This isn't a game to be won for one party or another. It's not every man for himself. Lives are at stake.

The Legislature is bandying about ideas that would put cities on the hook if a felled tree takes down transmission power lines. They’re looking to get the whole state on Daylight Saving Time year-round and arguing over whether a statue of Walt Disney or Mary McLeod Bethune better represents Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. government has shut down twice this year. It's only February.

But what we’re not hearing is substantive discussion on how to help people with the realest problem of all: their health.

The old adage remains: You don't need insurance until you need it. Not having a roof over your head is fine until it rains.

Canada, although not perfect, figured out how to do it decades ago. Most Europeans don’t bat an eye at hospital visits.

In the U.S., people make decisions about whether to even visit a doctor based on whether they’re able to pay for it. They, like my father, don’t take medications prescribed to them because they cost too much. The out-of-pocket expenditures for lifesaving treatments and specialists is exorbitant and out of reach for most working people.

So they go without.

There is a move afoot in the Florida Legislature to adopt a Medicare-for-all system that would extend health care and prescription drug coverage as a right, not a privilege linked to the size of your wallet.

My dad’s lack of insurance came up in the car ride on the way to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare last week. He was hesitant to even go, but without a primary care doctor, it was the only option with the immediacy that comes with heart palpitations.

Nurses asked about insurance. Every doctor asked about it when discussing treatment options. They reassured us they would do everything they could regardless.

It was a dark subject at time when relief was the only thing on everyone’s mind. It was hard not to turn sour and vitriolic about the health care system.

Two years ago, 45 percent of uninsured adults said they didn't seek coverage because the cost was too high, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For some, figuring out how to stretch finances to pay for a serious medical treatment is the cloth nightmares are cut from.

I'm healthy and insured. Not everyone has that comfort, even my own father. I wish I could just hand mine off. I'd relinquish it to someone in dire need in a fraction of a second.

We can do better. As an educated society, don't tune it out. 

Make real changes at the ballot box.

Karl Etters can be reached at or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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North Carolina honors Coast Guard former slave

During the current toxic political environment where idiological polarization includes invoking racism to fuel radicalism, this particular historic report published in Military Times is a ray of American hope for pushing back on this dark side of humanity.
Perhaps this is a sign of progressive healing.
United States Coast Guard Pea Island Life Saving Station Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge~ honors former slave
The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge nameboard is seen Feb. 23, 2013, and was donated from the structure of the Etheridge family homestead in Manteo, N.C. Capt. Etheridge was the first African-American keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station located on the northern half of Hatteras Island off the North Carolina coast where treacherous waters churn in the -Graveyard of the Atlantic. (Petty Officer 1st Class Krystyna Hannum/Coast Guard)

Reported by Associated Press

RODANTHE, N.C. — The state Transportation Department has dedicated a bridge along the Outer Banks to a U.S. Coast Guard captain who went from being a slave to the first African-American to command a life-saving station.
The state dedicated the Pea Island Interim Bridge as the Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge in a ceremony Tuesday at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building.

The bridge replaced the temporary metal bridge that spanned a breach opened during Hurricane Irene in 2011 along N.C. Highway 12.

Pea Island Life-Saving Station was a life-saving station on Pea Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was the first life-saving station in the country to have an all-black crew, and it was the first in the nation to have a black man, Richard Etheridge (pictured left), as commanding officer

Etheridge became the leader of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, an all African-American unit credited with saving many lives. 

The Coast Guard awarded Etheridge and his crew a medal for the rescue of those aboard the E.S. Newman during a hurricane in 1896.

Etheridge died in 1900.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Politics fueled by too much money - echo from Las Vegas Review-Journal


5 Years After Citizens United, Secret Money Floods Into U.S. Politics  

  • Why can’t we reduce the number and lethality of guns in our society?
  • Why can’t we eliminate or reduce the use of highly polluting forms of energy and turn to renewable sources? 
  • Why can’t we eliminate nuclear weapons before we destroy the world?
  • Why can’t we eliminate or reduce the use of illegal drugs in our society? 
  • Why are legal drugs so expensive in our country? 
  • Why can’t we have health care for everyone? 
  • Why can’t we get rid of old white guys in elective office and make the system more representative of the population as a whole?
The list of whys goes on and on. But the answer to all those whys is the same. $$$ Our system of funding elections is the reason. Allowing people to give money to candidates sets up the framework for enticing and/or intimidating politicians to do the bidding of those who can afford the best lobbyist.

We should revise our election laws to set aside a reasonable amount of public money to fund elections, and we should limit the campaign season to just one month. These simple changes would result in a more responsive and reasonable political class. 

To accomplish this, all Americans need to get on board because most of those currently in office will oppose this plan. Make your voices heard at the ballot box.  Elect Democrats who will promise to overturn "Citizens United", the law upheld by the Supreme Court, whereby corporations are considered "people" and therefore have free speech rights to donate unlimited sums of money to politicians.

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Op - echo from The New York Times - Marine veteran professor refuses classroom guns

Anthony Swofford opinion published in The New York Times
I was a Marine- I don't want a gun in my classroom by Anthony Swofford

Before the united States Marine Corpos allowed me to carry a live M-16 assault rifle, I went through hundreds of hours of firearms training. Classroom sessions devoted to nomenclature, maintenance and basic operation accounted for mre than two weeks of study before I even set eyes on ammunition.

For weeks, I carried an M-16 without a magazine - a dummy weapon, basically. I secured it with a padlock overnight while I slept in teh barracks and unlocked it each morning before chow.

Only at the shooting range was I allowed to check out magazines and ammo from the armory. The first day at the range, I spend 12 hours disassembling, cleaning and reassembling the weapon. I had to do this blindfolded. I had to do this while a drill instructor hurried me, yelling that enemies were at the gate. I had to do this while fellow Marines wept nearby from doing hundreds of burpees as punishment for not being able to reassemble their weapons fast enough.

The military issue M-16 is the model for the AR-15 assault rifle that the accused shooter used to kill 17 people on February 14, 2018, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland , Florida. The shooter bought the weapon lawfully. He received zero hours of mandated training. There is no reason that any civilian of any age should possess this rifle.

Later, at a White House meeting, Donald Trump suggested that if a football coach at the high school, Mr. Aaron Feis, had been armed, he would have saved even more lives than he did, perhaps even his own, because rather than simply shielding students from gunfire, he could have drawn his weapon, fired and killed the assailant - putting a tidy end to the rampage.

This is absurd. More likely, had Mr. Feis been armed, he should not have been able to draw his weapon (a side arm, presumably) quickly enough to stop the shooter, who with an AR-15, would have had the coach outgunned.

Even if the coach had been able to draw his weapon, from where? from his athletic shorts?- any shots he managed to fire would have risked being errant, possibly injuring or killing additonal students. As some studies have shown, even police officers have missed their targets more than 50 percent of the time.

In firing a weapon, Mr. Feis would have only added to the carnage and confusion.

What if a history teacher had also been armed? And an English teacher, and a math teacher, and the janitorial staff members? In this National Rifle Association fever dream, a high school would concentrate so much firepower in the hands of its employees that no deranged individual with a weapon would dare enter the premises.

This sort of thinking also has no grounding in reality. People attack heavily armed institutions all to often, as with the mass shootings in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas and in 2013 at the Washington Navy Yard. Assailants in such cases aren't typically worried about losing their lives in the process. Usually, losing their lives is part of the plan.

A few days ago, the lunacy of the suggestion to arm teachers was driven home to me as I prepared to teach my undergraduate creative writing class. I arrived uncharacteristically early and sat down with a few students to banter about this and that. Suddenly, there was a loud bang outside. Everyone froze, until we realized it was a campus utility truck backing up to a loading dock. Then, the students relaxed again.

But, I spent the next few minutes before class thinking about whether the windows opened fully and would enable 20 kids to escape an acrtive shooter. I checked: They did not open at all. I noticed to my dismay that the door to the classroom opened out, not in, which thwarted my plan to throw my heavy table up against the door in case a shooter blasted his way down the hall. Even after class began, I found myself fantasizing about inventing a bullet proof Kevlar curtain that I could have at the ready to affix to the door frame if the need arose.

Here is something I didn't think about: I did not think about arming myself to protect my students. Nevertheless, Donald Trump specified that he wants only certain - "highly adept people, people that understand weaponry" - to be armed with guns.

I will immodestly state that among professors in teh United states, I am almost certainly one of the best shooters. But, I would never bring a weapon into a classroom. In fact, the presence of a firearm (a gun) is always an invitation to violence. Weapons, guns, have no place in a learning environment.

West Virginia, where my university is located, introduced the "Campus Self-Defense Act". This would prohibit colleges and universities from designating their campuses as gun free zones. If this act become law, I will resign my professorship. I will not work in an environment where professors and students pack heat.

When I was a young Marine, I had to learn how to use many weapons. It was part of my mission to "support and defend the Constitution of the United Statees". My mission tehse days is to write books and teach literature and creative writing. It's a noble calling, too. But no one should be asked to put his life on the line for it.

Anthony Swofford is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at West Virginia University and the author of "Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Stories."

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Mensch~ Donald Trump and Republican failures

Even those who have long since accepted the premise that Donald Trump is corrupt, self-centered and dishonest seem a bit shocked by his tirades over the Presidents Day weekend. 
MENSCH - Bilder mit Wörtern aus dem Bereich Rassismus, Wort, Bild, Illustration
Using the Parkland, Florida, school massacre as an excuse to attack the FBI for investigating Russian election intervention on his behalf — while lying about his own past denials that such intervention took place — took vileness to a new level, which is truly impressive given Trump’s previous record.

Yet if you step back a bit and think about it, Trump’s latest Twitter outbursts were very much in character — and I don’t just mean his personal character. When did you last see a member of the Trump administration, or for that matter any prominent Republican, admit error or accept responsibility for problems? (MaineWriter ~ treasonous problems!)

Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are. On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions — what my parents called being a mensch — used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general. 

And in this as in so many things, there’s a huge asymmetry between the parties. Of course, not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the GOP willing to take responsibility for, well, anything.

Consider a few non-Trump examples of the lack of character that pervades this administration.

At the trivial but still telling end of the scale, we have the tale of Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who keeps flying first class at taxpayers’ expense. The revealing thing is the supposed reason he needs to fly premium — you see, ordinary coach passengers have been known to say critical things to his face.

Remember this story the next time someone talks about liberal “snowflakes.”

More seriously, consider the behavior of John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, whose record of slandering critics and refusing to admit error is starting to rival his boss’s. Remember when Kelly made false accusations about Rep. Frederica Wilson and refused to retract those accusations even after video showed they were false?

So it’s not just Trump. And it didn’t start with Trump. In fact, way back in 2006 I wrote about the “mensch gap” in the Bush administration — the unwillingness of top officials to accept responsibility for the botched occupation of Iraq, the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, and more.

Being wrong is one thing — it happens to everyone, myself very much included. Refusing to admit and learn from error is something different.

And let’s be clear: Personal responsibility isn’t dead everywhere. You can ask, for example, whether Hillary Clinton apologized sufficiently for her initial support of the Iraq War or her missteps in 2016 — but she did admit to making mistakes, which nobody on the other side ever seems to do.

So what happened to the character of the GOP? I’m pretty sure that in

this case the personal is, ultimately, political. The modern GOP is, to an extent never before seen in American history, a party built around bad faith, around pretending that its concerns and goals are very different from what they really are.

In any case, let’s be clear: America in 2018 is not a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable, where there are good people and good ideas on both sides, or whatever other bipartisan homily you want to recite. We are, instead, living in a kakistocracy, a nation ruled by the worst, and we need to face up to that unpleasant reality.

Paul Krugman Writes for The New York Times.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ohio letters challenge automatic weapons - echoes from ordinary people

Published in ~ two echoes from letters to the editor
The latest mass shooting of high school students and their faculty, in Parkland, Florida, only serves to emphasize what a disastrous situation this country is in, with no leadership in place to grapple with the issue of gun control. 

Effectively dealing with mental-health issues is only part of the problem. My question is, why does anyone who is not in the military or law enforcement have a need to access and carry an automatic or semi-automatic weapon? The issue of gun control must be addressed immediately and decisively for the safety of our children and the future of our country. Sr. Regina Fierman,
Broadview Heights

Assault weapons should not be available to citizens

When our nation's forefathers ratified the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms*, in 1791, would they have approved of having private citizens own automatic assault weapons? (Maine Writer- when the second amendment was written, the most deadly gun was a musket that could only fire one round at a time.

After the major tragedies involving assault weapon guns, how can the leadership of the NRA, its members, the Congress and Donald Trump, in good conscience, continue supporting the use of this murderous gun?  Ed Oberndorf, Cleveland

The right to bear arms: what does the second amendment really mean? ~ Published in The Guardian: The amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”  But, the law does not automatically give people the unlimited right to own and use rapid fire assault weapons. In other words, the safety of the public can and should be protected against the unregulated use of deadly weapons of mass destruction.

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Donald Trump filed bankruptcy many times - budget busts US deficit

Josh Boak economics journalist

WASHINGTON - Associated Press >> One clear principle runs through President Donald Trump’s emerging economic policy: Debt is good. (*not*!)

When defending a tax plan or laying out his budget, the man who once called himself “the king of debt” is trying to persuade Americans there’s no price to pay for running trillion dollar budget deficits over the next few years. Stronger economic growth will permanently follow the borrowing spree, officials argue, even as many economists and investors already warn about what could happen when the debt becomes due.

The White House budget plan is the latest example of the Trump principle. The budget proposal not only envisions soaring deficits through 2020, but it also outlines an infrastructure plan that would encourage state and local government to borrow heavily. The result, the plan suggests, would be exceptional growth that would then cause deficits to fall. The proposal assumes economic growth will climb above 3 percent and eventually settle into a solid 2.8 percent groove.

The plan amounts to a gamble that nothing can slow a high-flying U.S. economy and force a reckoning over the debt. Not higher interest rates. Not rising inflation. Not a foreign crisis. Not an aging U.S. population. Not even — based on the budget plan’s own estimates — an increase in the unemployment rate. Should the economy stumble, the risk is that the gravitational pull of the debt would worsen as the government would likely borrow more to stop a downturn.

“They’re assuming that the expansion lasts forever, basically,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “You have to ask what will ultimately happen when we do go into a recession.”

O’Sullivan expects that ratings agencies could downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating. He cites the $1.5 trillion higher debt after Trump signed tax cuts into law last year and the bipartisan deal reached last week to fund the government through 2019, which puts the U.S. on track to hit trillion-dollar deficits next year.

Trump’s willingness to embrace debt is in direct contradiction to years of Republican rhetoric on the dangers of deficits and breaks his campaign promises. As a candidate, Trump vowed not just to balance the budget but pay down the entire national debt, which is currently $20.5 trillion.

But as a businessman, Trump was anything but debt averse. Several of his companies filed for bankruptcy protection after being unable to service debt, leaving investors and contractors with losses. Trump portrayed this experience during the campaign as proof of his financial shrewdness.

“I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me,” he told CBS News in 2016, adding if he was unable to fully honor any obligations that he would tell investors that “the economy just crashed” and renegotiate the terms. But Trump has cautioned that he likes debt for his companies but not the country, saying that the government was “sitting on a time bomb” with its yearly deficits.

For now, the Trump administration is saying that the U.S. economic landscape has been overhauled over the past year. With the passage of the tax cuts, the economy is now set for a long-term acceleration, rather than a quick gain followed by a slowdown.

“It’s not a sugar high,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News on Sunday. “We have fundamentally changed the structure of the American economy to where we think we can change the long-term trends of our growth possibilities.”

But investors are unconvinced. They’re already starting to charge the government higher interest rates in anticipation of rising deficits. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury climbed as high as 2.89 percent on Monday, up from a recent low of 2.06 percent in September.

Many forecasters assume that any economic upswing is temporary, but the Trump budget sees no end in sight.

Trump’s budget overlaps with the mass retirement of baby boomers, whose use of programs such as Medicare and Social Security will likely cause government expenditures and the debt to keep increasing. Indeed, the government is borrowing more at a moment when unemployment is already at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, a time when many economists say it should be repairing its balance sheet by borrowing less.

Even before the tax cuts and two-year spending deal, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that publicly held debt would equal more than 90 percent of the U.S. economy in 2027. The Trump budget assumes savings that would put the debt at less than 75 percent of the economy.

Trump achieves some of his debt savings by slashing Medicare by $554 billion over the next decade among other substantial cuts to programs at the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere. But he also assumes that the entire economy will be $3.1 trillion bigger than previously forecast because of his policies.

Some of that growth would potentially come from new roadways and upgraded airports. But states appear to be increasingly hesitant to borrow more than they otherwise would for infrastructure projects, despite the financial incentives being introduced by Trump.

State budgets are already being squeezed as costs for education and programs such as Medicaid are rising faster than tax revenues, said Gabriel Petek, a managing director at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings.

“The plan doesn’t appear to fundamentally alter existing incentives at the state level,” Petek said. “The states we have been talking to are not eager to take on more debt.”

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Echo in Oklahoma news Tulsa World - enough is enough guns

Oklahoma opinion:
Americans must do something about gun control

- Isn't it time we valued our children more than we value our guns? Politicians and the NRA (National Rifle Association) keep saying no laws would have prevented this or that massacre and event. Maybe not, but we could have made it less likely to happen. There are proposed laws out there that would not prevent law-abiding citizens from getting guns but would make it more difficult for guns to get into the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable.

Let's contact our politicians and get gun control laws passed. You've heard the saying that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. We've been doing nothing too long already. Come on, good men and women, do something!

Letter to the Tulsa World from Sandra Baranet, Broken Arrow OK

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Guns: echo view from Indiana - now is past the time

Past time to get serious about gun violence

By Harold E. Brueseke, lives in South Bend, Indiana, is a retired magistrate of St. Joseph Probate Court.

SOUTH BEND, IN- After the latest gun violence tragedy at Parkland, Fla., our nation and its leaders at all levels of government need to get serious, and immediately and effectively deal with the gun control and mental health issues that daily affect us all and rob too many families of their loved ones.

It is past time for the elected representatives in both houses of Congress to recognize that they are representatives of the entire nation and not just the parochial interests of their own districts/states. 

When they swear an oath to support the Constitution they have more than just a duty to make sure that they get re-elected. They certainly have taken advantage of the decision in Citizens United (558 U.S. 310 (2010)) which grants corporations a right to make broad financial contributions to candidates.

If a representative or senator only has the goal of assuring their her own re-election then they act selfishly.

If our teachers, first responders, or military can take risks when called upon to provide protection, then Congress needs to be willing to do the same. They should take the risk of making decisions that might be unpopular to their financial backers or those clamoring for them to do otherwise.

It is past time for Congress to act in a bipartisan manner and:

1. Defeat any attempt that would allow the use of a concealed carry permit issued in one state to legally justify concealed carry in any other state.

2. Tighten up the ability to purchase lethal weapons by requiring detailed background checks and a waiting period even at so-called gun shows.

3. Outlaw the manufacture, sale and possession of so-called automatic rifles (AR-15-style rifles) and large magazines that have been used with the rifles in school and other mass casualty shootings our nation has lived through since Columbine.

4. Provide national funding for mental health services for all individuals younger than 25 by the imposition of a minimal federal tax assessed against everyone without exemption. I can say from personal experience over almost 40 years exercising jurisdiction over juvenile offenders in St. Joseph County, that Indiana is at best sub-substandard if not totally lacking in this area.

The growth of such mass shootings is a national problem so there should be an effective national response that requires the sharing the expense by all of us. The funds derived from the tax could be distributed to the states in the form of block grants that could allow for local variations within federal standards in how the mental health services are provided.

It is past time to realize that we need not worry about “prying” weapons from the cold dead hands of owners of automatic rifles or other easily obtainable weapons. They are neither dead nor cold, rather it is our children, teachers, first responders and the public at large, who have been killed, who fit that description every time another mass shooting tragedy occurs.

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Florida shooting - letters call for grass roots reforms

Three echoes from The Seattle Times letters to the editor
Maine Writer "echoes", blogged from letters published in the opinion pages of randomly read newspapers. Many thanks to these and the many dozens of eloquent opinion writers.

Readers weighed in:

Children shall lead us

We are witnessing a remarkable political role reversal. The adults — the president and every legislator suckling at the National Rifle Association teat — have acted like children, incapable of action. These elected “children” voice nothing so strongly as their can’t-do attitude when they insist that “it’s too soon to talk about gun legislation.”

In contrast, the children — the high school students so brutally stung by the shooting deaths of their friends and teachers in Parkland, Florida — have acted like the adults. Determined, focused and full of purpose, they are transforming their grief into their Never Again network and staring into the television lens with a can-do attitude that is remarkably refreshing. Their friends shall not have died in vain.  ~ John R. Scannell, Sammamish

Grass-roots advocacy to oppose the National Rifle Association

Even teenagers in our community know resistance to change in our gun laws comes from the powerful and well-funded NRA.

In the 2016 general election, the NRA spent more than $50 million supporting certain Republicans and opposing certain Democrats.*

How do you overcome such a powerful lobby? Perhaps the anger after the Parkland, Florida, tragedy will be funneled into a grass-roots campaign against the NRA similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  ~ Raymond Wilson, Bellevue

Pray for action against gun violence

Kudos to Timothy Egan for his candid opinion in “Thoughts and prayers and lies” [Feb. 18, Opinion].

He emphasizes that this expression of condolence is meaningless without the offering of a remedy to stop the slaughter of Americans young and old.

Like Donald Trump, our legislators have turned a blind eye to ensuring the safety and security of our fellow citizens in numerous environments. Sadly, they are influenced by the millions of dollars paid to them by the powerful National Rifle Association to protect its selfish interests.

The time to mandate restricting the purchase of rifles like the AR-15 is long overdue. Each and every state must enforce background checks by all sellers for anyone regardless of age seeking any type of weapon.

Until our Congressional representatives man up to their sworn duties, this slaughter will continue. Perhaps the prayers they mention should be for them to do what they were elected to do.
~Liz Pribble, Tacoma
Ban Assault Weapons

Our children are being slaughtered while we numbly stand by and do nothing. Enough is enough. Assault rifles are weapons of mass destruction. Mass destruction of our children and our fellow citizens. It’s long past time to completely and permanently ban assault rifles. It’s time for men to grow up, be responsible and caring fathers and admit that their shiny toys are butchering our children.

I understand the fascination with assault rifles. I bought an AR-15 back in 1979, kept it for a few years and then sold it. But it was a different time, a different era. I realize most assault-rifle owners are responsible, but it only takes a few who aren’t.

And lastly, to my fellow Americans who are Republicans: You have the blood of our children and fellow citizens on your hands. Your politicians are the lap dogs for the NRA and refuse to consider gun-control laws. Why has Congress not outlawed bump stocks? They talk about mental illness but refuse to fund mental-health programs, instead busting the deficit with tax cuts for the rich.

To err is human, to forgive divine. Amid the blood, carnage and anguish, I cannot forgive. ~ Larry Bundy, Everett

*MaineWriter ~ It makes sense for the NRA to put their blood money into much more constructive ways for preventing gun violence.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

American tragedy - lynching victims memorialized in Jackson Tennessee

A memorial for all lynching victims, was held on Friday, February 23, 2018, at the Jackson State Community College. 

Ironically, I happened to find this history and the story about the memorial while reading the Jackson Tennessee "The Jackson Sun". In my opinion, more media coverage must be given to this history. 

I am so very sorry for Ms. Eliza Wood, who was lynched on August 19, 1886, in Jackson, Tennessee, without cause.

"Eliza declared her innocence to the last and swore she did not poison Mrs. Woolen."
Eliza Woods, a black woman, was dragged into the street by an angry mob of Jackson, Tennessee residents who robbed her of due process and fairness. Accused of committing a crime for which she never had an opportunity to stand trial, she was beaten, hanged and shot in front of the courthouse downtown.

Eliza Woods was an African-American woman who was lynched on 19 August 1886 in Jackson, Tennessee, after being accused of poisoning and killing her employer, Jessie Woolen.

Woods had been Woolen's cook. When it was found that Woolen's stomach contained arsenic and that Woods had a box of rat poison at home, it was concluded that she was responsible for the death.

She was one of three documented lynchings of African Americans in Madison County, Tennessee. John Brown died in 1891, and Frank Ballard died 1894, all murdered because of the color of their skin. Between 1877 and 1950, there were 233 documented lynchings in Tennessee and more than 4,000 throughout the South.
A crowd of 1,000 was reportedly present when Woods was dragged from the jail and hanged naked in front of the courthouse. Bullets were then shot into her body. This lynching was notable both for the gender of the victim and the bi-racial participation of the crowd. Three years later, in 1889, Woolen's husband confessed that he had killed his wife

She was one of three documented lynchings of African Americans in Madison County. John Brown died in 1891, and Frank Ballard died in 1894, all murdered because of the color of their skin. Between 1877 and 1950, there were 233 documented lynchings in Tennessee, and more than 4,000 throughout the South.
To honor the victims and remember the past, Jackson State Community College is serving as an anchor institution for the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit advocate of racial justice. 

Jackson State Community College (JSCC) will host a public ceremony with community leaders from different backgrounds to memorialize the victims at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 in Ayers Auditorium.

Sponsors include the Madison County Chapter of the NAACP, the Lane College Chapter of the NAACP and the Equal Justice Initiative. Bob Raines, Jackson State Professor of Psychology and co-organizer for the event, added that Madison County NAACP President Harrell Carter and Lane College Historian Ameera Graves were great partners to work with while planning the ceremony.

We need to take an honest, unflinching look at a disturbing and painful part of our history,” Raines said in a press release. “This history shapes our present; it is our cultural inheritance. I just don’t think as a society that we have ever fully owned the anguish, humiliation and damage caused by institutionalized racism.”

Similar ceremonies have been held in Brownsville, Alamo and cities throughout the South. They are opportunities for communities to heal and rally around shared values of equality and justice. 

Raines attended the event in Alamo, which was organized by attorney Jim Emison and served as a catalyst for Jackson’s ceremony, and he said it was a powerful moment that brought everyone to tears.

“While the purpose of the ceremony was to expose and face a horrific act of violence and injustice, its ultimate impact, I think, was positive and hopeful,” Raines said in the release. “I witnessed first-hand the potential healing power of people coming together to openly confront this kind of injustice. During that brief moment in time, racial, political and ideological differences between the people in that space seemed to melt away.”

The events are part of a greater effort by the Equal Justice Initiative to remember the past via the Memorial to Lynching Victims in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial is collecting soil samples in jars from the location of each lynching as a profound display of the violence and injustice that thrived long after slavery ended.

“We are all burdened by this history,” Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in the release. “Lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America. You can’t have reconciliation without empathy, and you can’t have empathy unless people learn, know and understand the past pain that informs our present and hobbles our future.”

Raines said parts of the history of Madison County are antithetical to some of the community’s core principles, such as equality, liberty, fairness, honesty and justice. As coordinator of Jackson State’s Honors Program, he reached out to the Equal Justice Initiative to invite a representative to campus to speak about the history of lynchings. The organization responded by asking Jackson State to become an anchor institution and co-sponsor a ceremony.

“Our ceremony will be an opportunity to reassert our commitment to these values as a community,” Raines said in the release. “In spite of the reason for the ceremony, we think it will be a positive, healing experience and hopefully inspire a greater sense of community.”

Community Remembrance: A Memorial for the Lynching Victims of Madison County will include speakers such as Carter, Attorney General Jody Pickens, and various historians, professors and pastors. James Mayo composed a piece of original music for the event, which he will perform on guitar, and Esther Gray-Lemus will direct Innovation, Jackson State’s choral ensemble. James Cherry will also read a poem that he wrote specifically for the event.

“We hope to create a space for honest dialogue,” Raines said in the release. “It is through ceremonies like these that we can acknowledge and tell the whole truth about our social and cultural inheritance and honor the memory of people who were victims of injustice. The three victims from Madison County – Eliza Woods, John Brown and Frank Ballard – deserve a time and space for sober reflection, where we state unequivocally that what happened to them was wrong.”

For more information about the Equal Justice Initiative, visit


Russians are here! Americans must pay attention to CI - echo from Westminster MD

This opinion published in the Carroll County Times, a Maryland newspaper, is apparently written by a person who has experience in what is going on regarding the 2016 (and ongoing) Russian invasion of American democracy and why the Mueller investigation is important. ~ By Robert Wack in "Other Voices"

WESTMINSTER, MD - Regardless of your political affiliation or interests, in coming months it will be impossible to avoid hearing about the Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in U.S. affairs and the 2016 American election. 

Komrompat is blackmail, done the Russian way
Understanding how and why the Russians interfere requires a quick overview of the world of counterintelligence operations. This information is drawn from the published work of retired intelligence professionals from the CIA, National Security Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Counterintelligence, or CI, put simply is spying on the spies to impair their ability to spy on us. It is hard, dirty, complicated work and usually occurs almost exclusively in the shadows. But, the only time you hear about it is when there are failures. American CI professionals monitor all other intelligence services to keep track of their activities, and actively work against them.

Russian counterintelligence activities are considered to be some of the best in the business. One small example of current Russian operations involves their clever use of social media.

University of Washington computer science researchers Leo G. Stewart, Ahmer Arif and Kate Starbird, in a recently published paper, analyzed social media traffic patterns and found that Russian accounts generated a significant portion of traffic from both BlackLivesMatter and BlueLivesMatter accounts. The apparent goal was to amplify disagreements and provoke fighting between partisans on both sides.

This is an example of the technique of provokatsiya, or provocation. These are activities that sow discord, distract from real problems and divert resources, time and energy.

Kompromat, or compromising material (like "blackmail"), leverages embarrassing information to influence or control behavior or decisions. The material is usually something damaging, associated with what Catholics know as the Seven Deadly Sins, the usual ways humans succumb to basic impulses in humiliating ways. The diabolical thing about kompromat is that it doesn’t have to actually exist to be effective. The mere suspicion of its possible existence, or the possible threat of its exposure, is often enough to compel the desired behavior from the targeted individual.

Dezinformatsiya, or disinformation, is also abbreviated deza. This is the original fake news, false information disseminated and promoted to confuse and bewilder. It is usually a clever blend of facts and lies to provoke curiosity and feed pre-existing narratives, to create confusion, distraction and mistrust. At its most effective, it lures people into a “forest of mirrors” by sowing doubts about the truth of anything, fostering mistrust, paranoia and paralyzing decision-making because no one can agree on what is true.

Aktivniyye meropriyatiya, or active measures, are just that: proactive efforts to interfere. The hacking of email accounts, funneling money through intermediaries, and manipulating advocacy groups to further specific political goals are all examples.

The Russians will smile as the finger pointing and blame casting escalate even further.

Tribalism is a basic element of human nature, and our country has always had political and social factions, but now enemies of the U.S. are turning that tribal instinct against us to weaken our country. We are at war, whether we acknowledge it or not.

The point of all this is that the media must ensure the quality and accuracy of published information, and social media must also adapt. As consumers of media and citizens of a democracy, we must become smarter and more discerning. Otherwise, our enemies will continue playing us against each other while they undermine democratic institutions and weaken our country to damage our interests, and further their own, around the planet.

(MaineWriter~ And Donald Trump must end his salient support for all things Russian! Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign 2016, is protecting American democracy by routing out the targets of kompromat.)

Robert Wack writes from Westminster, Maryland where he serves on the Common Council. He can be reached at

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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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