Maine Writer

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

Monday, December 31, 2018

Good news in 2018 - to end the year on a high note: Opinion in the Washington Post

This is a nice New Year editorial published in The Washington Post

The top 18 in 2018 are...
Editorial- WE IN the media are often accused of dwelling on the bad and giving short shrift to positive developments. 
At the end of last year, as a modest corrective, we published a list of 17 good things that happened in 2017.

Many readers expressed appreciation, and some wrote in to suggest other good pieces of news.

So here we go again: 18 good things that happened in 2018.

It has occurred to us that, in establishing this as an annual tradition, we may be setting ourselves up for failure. We can’t promise that we’ll deliver 48 good things in 2048, or 58 in 2058, though we’re hopeful our children and grandchildren will be doing a better job running the world than we’re managing now.

And, of course, news that cheers some may distress others. But we’re an editorial page — we’re allowed to have opinions. In our opinion, and in no particular order, here are 18 good things that happened in 2018:

1. All 12 Thai boys who were marooned deep in a cave were saved in an operation that needed 100 rescuers inside the cave, 1,000 Thai soldiers in support, and thousands of volunteers furnishing meals, transportation and other help. One retired Thai SEAL died in the effort, but many had feared all the boys would be lost.

2. India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual gay sex. In the United States, the LGBT community increasingly has stepped out of the closet and vindicated its right to live free of bigotry. But many gays and lesbians elsewhere still live in fear. This decision in the world’s second-most-populous country, after years of activist struggle, offered a major step away from such fear.

3. In the United States, the economy continued to grow, wages increased, and unemployment fell to its lowest level (3.7 percent ) since 1969. Unemployment among black Americans hit the lowest it has been since the government started tracking it in 1972, and the gap with unemployment among whites was the smallest it has ever been.

4. Voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections was the highest in a century — 49.3 percent of the voting-eligible population, compared with 36.7 percent in 2014.

5. Those voters sent an unusually diverse group to Congress. More than 100 women were elected to the House, easily breaking a record, and they included two Native Americans, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and immigrants and children of immigrants.

6. Oh, and a majority of the House winners were Democrats. Obviously not all of our readers welcomed that, and we’re sure we won’t approve of everything the House majority does in the next two years. But, as we mentioned, we’re entitled to our view; and our view, as we said right after the election, is that we should celebrate the restoration of checks and balances in Washington.

7. For only the eighth time, a spacecraft landed safely on Mars. The InSight lander touched down on Nov. 26 and sent the first photograph back shortly thereafter. It will collect and transmit all kinds of data for the next two years.

8. Those voters sent an unusually diverse group to Congress. More than 100 women were elected to the House, easily breaking a record, and they included two Native Americans, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and immigrants and children of immigrants.

9. Oh, and a majority of the House winners were Democrats. Obviously not all of our readers welcomed that, and we’re sure we won’t approve of everything the House majority does in the next two years. But, as we mentioned, we’re entitled to our view; and our view, as we said right after the election, is that we should celebrate the restoration of checks and balances in Washington — and the rejection of President Trump’s campaign appeal to “fear of immigrants [and] his depiction of his opposition as dangerous enemies.”

10. For only the eighth time, a spacecraft landed safely on Mars. The InSight lander touched down on Nov. 26 and sent the first photograph back shortly thereafter. It will collect and transmit all kinds of data for the next two years.

12. Less momentously: The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Granted, this wasn’t good news for fans of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, but even many non-Caps fans rejoiced to see one of the all-time greats, the ever-engaging Alex Ovechkin, finally bring home the trophy.

13. In more good news for the capital area, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed to provide long-term funding for Metro, and service on the mass transit system began to improve under the leadership of General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld.

14. The Virginia legislature voted to expand Medicaid, as did voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska. Based on election results, Maine, Wisconsin and Kansas may follow. Health-care coverage remains vulnerable thanks to Republican challenges in court, but these results mean hundreds of thousands of Americans will be newly protected.

15. The impunity of powerful men to harass and assault women continued to be challenged by the #MeToo movement. CBS chief Les Moonves lost his job and, we hope, his severance payment. Bill Cosby was sentenced to prison. So was the repugnant sports physician Larry Nassar, after preying on hundreds of girls, in what should presage a cleanup of the corrupt and obtuse U.S. Olympic leadership.

16. Also in the category of better-late-than-never: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report that, after an 18-month investigation, revealed more than 300 Catholic priests who had abused children over seven decades. The revelations prompted resignations, sparked other states to undertake their own inquiries and raised hopes that the Catholic Church might finally face its history and reform.

17. While the impending departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was unfortunate, his dignified and eloquent letter of resignation personified public service at its best. He expressed his differences with President Trump without resorting to childish insults, and he laid out principles worth fighting for: standing with allied democracies and standing up to authoritarian rivals.

18. The U.S. judiciary defended the rule of law. When the executive branch attempted to rewrite statutes — to separate children and parents at the border, to expel a reporter from the White House, to defund sanctuary cities, to block asylum requests — judges, whether appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents, said no.

Undoubtedly, they will be called upon again in 2019; and, undoubtedly, the year will bring many other challenges besides. Nonetheless — we wish all of you a happy New Year in which the good news outweighs the bad. 

And we pledge to find 19 things to cheer for a year from now.


An Army officer's oath- must uphold the Constitution: Oklahoma opinion

Our US Constitution is not a political document. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. 

For the purpose of Donald Trump and the other illiterates who can't read, but who only follow his tyrannical Tweets, the Constitution was written for "we the people". No formal political parties existed in 1789, when the Constitution was signed. In the preamble it says:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Therefore, the writer of this opinion letter published in the Tulsa World newspaper, is of particular importance because the author draws attention to the purpose of defending "we the people".

Defending the Constitution
To the Editor:  I recently attended a college graduation and witnessed the commissioning of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army as part of the graduation ceremony.

All U.S. military officers are college graduates. This young man recited the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office:

“I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”*
The new college graduate did not swear allegiance or loyalty to a particular person. He swore to defend to our Constitution, from both foreign and domestic enemies.

This young man swore to defend us and the country “we the people” created.

He obligated himself to be led and also to lead. He obligated himself to oppose unethical and immoral and illegal orders and actions.

I depend on his and his colleagues’ preparedness and actions in pursuit of their sworn obligation.

I thank everyone, especially those younger and those much younger than me, who steps up for the common good by defending, embracing and understanding the Constitution of the United States and each of us.

Steve Heifner, Tulsa Oklahoma

Postscript:  *Others of note, who took this same oath as military academy graduates, are:

President Ulysses S. Grant
President Dwight D. Eisehnower
President Jimmy Carter
Senator John McCain

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Oklahoma military spouse opinion- Stay the course in Syria

"Donald Trump ignores our allies, some of whom are there fighting with us."  - Kathy Larsen

An echo opinion published in the Oklahoma newspaper Tulsa World. 
No Syria withdrawal

To the Editor: About the alarming events regarding our withdrawal from Syria, President Trump says we won and our troops are coming home.

I don’t think that he and his supporters have any idea what could happen if we withdraw.

We are a military family, and my husband served with distinction for 20 years including three tours in Korea and Vietnam. I would have been ecstatic if he had been able to come home early, but that was not his mission.

We were forced out of Vietnam because our troops were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. Vietnam is now communist, supported by China, which is not our friend.

We were able to contain the communists with China helping in North Korea. Think about what that peninsula would be like if they had prevailed.

We are still there and will be for the foreseeable future — to keep the peace.

Trump ignores our allies, some of whom are there fighting with us. If he does this regardless of our allies’ support, he further isolates us, giving enemies an opportunity to move in and undo everything we tried to do.

It also devalues the extreme sacrifice our dead and injured made there. If we have another 9/11 who would support us? I wonder if that is the point.

We are becoming more isolated. If that were to happen, we would be standing alone. People need to look at the wider picture and consider the future.

This president serves at this country’s peril.

From Kathy Larsen, Collinsville, Oklahoma

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America needs a compassionate policy towards refugees - look to the spirit of the Nansen passports

This essay is an excellent history lesson. It certainly creates an opportunity to study how the American immigration service (ICE) could develop a compassionate policy for asylum seekers who are being cruelly incarcerated on the US southern border.

"....over 450,000 displaced persons received Nansen Passports...."

Image result for Nansen passport clip art
Google Doodle recognzed the 156 birthday of Fridtjof Nansen

In 1922, Nansen created an innovative solution that garnered international support for stateless Russians and Armenians. 

Learning from the First Modern Refugee Crisis

Currently over 65 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes and that number is on the rise. Wars in the Middle East, political unrest in Latin America, and violence in Africa are contributing to this modern refugee crisis. Against this disaster, the world is hardening its heart. American President Donald Trump capped the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. in 2019 at a record low. The European Union is increasing patrols to stop rafts of refugees from Africa and Turkey reaching European shores. 

In the search for answers to this depressing reality, one perspective is to look back at the 20th century’s first refugee crisis at the end of World War I and the Nansen Passports that became the solution.

At the End of the Great War

The idea of restrictions on freedom of movement extends back to ancient times. Even the Bible includes references to permission to travel internally and internationally. However, without firm borders or modern technology, it was difficult to actually enforce restrictions on the movement of peoples for any place larger than a walled city. It was only in the late 19th century that countries had the technological ability to impose and actually enforce strict immigration restrictions.

This ability and the realities of war came to a head following World War I. With millions of displaced persons in Europe and the Middle East, the newly formed League of Nations had to take action. It was particularly concerned about those who were now stateless following the reshuffling of borders and regimes following World War I. Chief among those, and the one that perhaps elicited the most sympathy as the former ally of the victors of World War I, were the White Russians.

Russians Without a State

The Russian Civil War fractured the Russian Empire. When Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik forces had all but triumphed by the end of 1921, over 800,000 anti-Bolshevik White Russians, whose constituents included both tsarists and republicans, had already fled the country. Lenin then revoked Russian citizenship from anyone who had fled Russia during the civil war. Nearly a million people, already destitute, were now left without even a state to their name.

Yet neighboring countries recoiled at the thought of taking in thousands of poor Russian refugees. 

After all, these countries were still recovering from the ravages of World War I and some had even fought against Russia during that war. On the other hand, if they sent the Russian expatriates back, they would likely be persecuted or executed by the Bolsheviks. Especially considering that the White Russians were former allies with Great Britain and France, it would be a permanent stain on the victors of World War I to not assist them.

The Solution of the Nansen Passports
Fridtjof Nansen
Enter Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen was a Norwegian arctic explorer turned diplomat turned human rights advocate who contributed to the founding of the League of Nations. 

The League now placed him in charge of assisting those displaced by conflict through the High Commission for Refugees. Nansen initially tried to repatriate the White Russians, but the obvious consequences of going back to a state controlled by their bitter enemies rendered this a nonstarter. He then tried to broker individual deals with countries to take groups of stateless persons, but the sheer amount of stateless persons required a more macroscopic effort.

To this end, Nansen proposed an international passport for stateless persons to the Council of the League of Nations in March 1922. The “Nansen Passport” did not grant citizenship, but it did give holders basic rights, including the ability to cross borders to find work and protection from deportation. Its basic purpose was facilitating onward movement. By 1923, 39 countries had recognized it, with more to follow in the next decade. 

Meanwhile, many of the White Russians had retreated to the Black Sea coast under the protection of General Pyotr Wrangel, but with the Red Army approaching and all hope lost, they had to abandon their possessions in the ports and hurriedly set sail to save their lives. 

Wrangel’s large flotilla of refugees made for Istanbul, which, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, was an international zone under Allied occupation.

Allied protection established a safe space for this largest single group of Russian expatriates to begin to reestablish their lives. Istanbul played host to over 150,000 Russians, who established camps in the Beyoğlu neighborhood and acquired jobs as entertainers, restaurateurs, and laborers in the cosmopolitan city. In response, Nansen established a refugee office in Istanbul, which was ideally placed to assist Russian refugees with Nansen Passports, especially after the Bolshevik-friendly Turkish government of Kemal Atatürk took over the city. In the end, thousands of Nansen Passports were issued to Russians in Istanbul.

Expansion of the Nansen Passports
After assisting Russians in Istanbul, the Nansen Passport was further expanded into the Middle East. Although the original mandate of the High Commissioner was just to cover Russian refugees, it was later expanded to include Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans. These groups had been subjected to genocide by the late Ottoman government. The Ottomans had killed hundreds of thousands, leaving shattered and orphaned communities in their wake. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the acrimonious war between Atatürk and Greece had also displaced large numbers of people and left them without state protection. The Nansen Passport once again provided some protection to those who were left without a state. 

Lessons for Today

In total, over 450,000 displaced persons received Nansen Passports, including writer Vladimir Nabokov and composer Igor Stravinsky. As contemporary journalist Dorothy Thompson put it, “the Nansen certificate is the greatest thing that has happened for the individual refugee . . . it returned his lost identity.”

The definition of a refugee was expanded beyond just stateless persons during and after World War II, becoming crystalized in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Instead of focusing on the group of stateless persons, the new refugee definition focuses on individual considerations about whether a person will face a well-founded fear of being persecuted if they return to their country. But while the refugee definition has advanced, the story of the Nansen Passports provides a valuable lesson for the refugee crisis in 2018. In fact, 1922 and 2018 share several parallels: both refugee crises were triggered by Western war efforts destabilizing other countries, a significant number of the refugees are in Turkey, and countries were initially reluctant to accept the refugees.

In 1922, Nansen created an innovative solution that garnered international support for stateless Russians and Armenians. 

Today, countries are still shutting their doors against refugees. Although the Nansen Passport itself is not necessarily a solution, the spirit of international cooperation and dedication to protecting displaced persons that it embodied most certainly is desired in 2018.

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Battle of the Bulge remembered in an Iowa opinion

"Flamboyant General Patton was controversial, for harsh discipline and extreme language. Yet, he immediately, instinctively recognized the great threat of the Ardennes attack, and Third Army troops performed with monumental ability, moving rapidly over difficult terrain in terrible winter weather."

Sadly, the Christmas season is also the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in the history of the United States.

On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched an enormous offensive through the quiet, thinly defended Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Adolf Hitler and planners in Berlin achieved total surprise; initially German forces rapidly gained ground.
General George Patton (1885-1945)
For Europeans among the Allies, the attack was eerily reminiscent of the 1940 German drive that overran France and secured Nazi domination of the continent. Among General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s comrades at Supreme Allied Headquarters, fear was visible along with alarm.

The tide of the battle did not clearly turn until General George S. Patton’s Third Army broke through to the 101st Airborne Division, surrounded by the Wehrmacht in the crossroads town of Bastogne, on the day after Christmas.

Brutal fighting continued through January. 

Nevertheless, the Nazi hopes of breaking the Western Front, and Anglo-American alliance, were defeated.

Other battles in U.S. history were in certain respects more costly or complicated. During the Civil War, Gettysburg and other engagements resulted in a higher percentage of casualties among combatants. During World War II, such enormous amphibious invasions as Normandy, Iwo Jima and Leyte Gulf in the Philippines were inherently more complex in logistical terms than the Bulge. In the European theater, the scale of the war on the eastern front was much greater than in the west.

Nonetheless, in American history the Battle of the Bulge remains our biggest single land engagement. Approximately a quarter of a million United States troops were pitted against a comparable number of German forces.

Basic lessons of the Bulge include personnel and matériel. Eisenhower’s skills include remarkable capacity to get difficult personalities to work together, plus constant attention to logistics. Casualties on both sides were enormous, in both men and supplies The Allies could replace them; the Germans at that point could not.

Flamboyant Patton was controversial, for harsh discipline and extreme language. Yet he immediately, instinctively recognized the great threat of the Ardennes attack, and Third Army troops performed with monumental ability, moving rapidly over difficult terrain in terrible winter weather.

African-American soldiers, generally prohibited from serving in combat, operated the Red Ball Express, a gigantic truck convoy system that supplied the front. Under the enormous pressures generated by the Bulge, they were offered the opportunity to serve in combat units but had to sacrifice earned military seniority.
Thousands volunteered on these terms, and were vital to Allied victory. At the tactical level, Corporal Henry F. Warner near Dom Butgenbach Belgium knocked out two German tanks, and then his 57-mm anti-tank gun jammed. 

He was firing a pistol at a third approaching tank, when the German driver backed up and withdrew.

One of Warner’s shots had killed the commander, and the crew was unable to proceed, a characteristic reaction among German troops. 

American, British and other Allied soldiers were much more likely to improvise and continue fighting after their officers were hit. Warner, later killed in action, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

When the Nazi Reich surrendered, Eisenhower commented the war had not yet been won. True victory would require Germany to embrace democracy and stability.

Admirable and effective, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was selected as 2015 “Person of the Year” by TIME magazine. The Allies have won the war, undeniably.

Honor Chancellor Merkel, and honor Ike and associates, who got the job done.

Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press and Macmillan). Contact him at


Trump makes noise so he can block reality - like atrocities in Yemen

This echo opinion was published in the Yale Daily News the nation's oldest university daily newspaper.

MaineWriter:  When Donald Trump spews his Twitter storms he is deliberately blocking out the reality news like the humanitarian disasters in Yemen and Syria (and the disaster at the incarceration camps on the US southern border).

Break the silence on Yemen- by Meidi Baqri and Daud Shad

...starting a campaign of students to advocate for congressional action and humanitarian efforts to support the people of Yemen. Let’s come together to develop a broader political consciousness and prevent our country from escalating bloodshed abroad

These two deaths, separated by a thousand miles, exposed the American public to the brutality of the Saudi regime and its war in Yemen. 
Yemenis dig graves for children

More than that, they expose the dark role played by our apathy.

It’s easy to ignore foreign atrocities. 

But to ignore the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen, when our US taxpayer money helps fund it, is to be complicit. Years of unrestrained violence, destruction and disease have distressed millions of innocent Yemenis in what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has declared the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia, bolstered by a coalition of Arab states has carried out an aggressive military campaign in Yemen’s civil war against allegedly Iran-associated Houthi rebels

Western powers support the coalition. Saudi airstrikes caused almost two-thirds of civilian deaths in 2015 alone. The U.S. has conducted its own drone strikes in Yemen, directed at an Al-Qaeda faction, at least a third of which have killed civilians.
Because of Saudi blockades, limits placed on journalists in the field and regular airstrikes, it’s difficult to accurately assess the scope of the damage. But estimates paint a horrific scene: At least 22 million are in dire need of assistance and protection, 15 million have no access to health care services, 14.5 million lack clean water, 14 million face imminent starvation and 3 million have fled their homes. Yemen has had the worst cholera outbreak in history

Every ten minutes, a child dies of preventable causes.

Until recently, the crisis faced a media and diplomatic blackout. In all of 2017, MSNBC ran only one segment on U.S. support for Saudi-coalition airstrikes. 

It was corporate neglect of humanity, the failure of a free press to inform citizens their government’s involvement in foreign conflict. But this past August, images of bloodied UNICEF backpacks and broken corpses finally made it onto CNN. A Lockheed Martin-made bomb blew up a school bus, killing 40 school children. Other Geneva Conventions-violating, Saudi-coalition strike targets were finally brought to the public eye, including weddings and funerals — most of which were hit with U.S.-manufactured arms.

Our government has especially turned a blind eye to the slaughter of innocent children with American weapons — as it has done for years. Since 2015, the U.S. has supplied the Saudi military with missiles, aircraft, tanks, arms, logistical guidance, intelligence, aerial refueling and training. Our country is the largest weapons exporter in the worldand, unsurprisingly, Riyadh is the world’s largest importer of U.S. weapons. Most recently, President Trump has promised $110 billion in future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Sadly, “war is still a racket.”

Even after Khashoggi’s murder, Trump blatantly expressed gratitude to the Saudi Crown Prince for lowering our oil prices, fighting Iran—an overstated appreciation—and buying U.S. weapons. The U.S. position on Yemen is something we’re all too familiar with: a military-industrial complex that allows contractors and foreign lobbyists to swing our policy and sponsor breaches of human rights.

Though it must approve all weapons sales, Congress has done little to stop arms from reaching Yemen. Currently, the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018 is the only comprehensive bill to hold Saudi Arabia accountable. Just last week, a bipartisan war powers resolution to end US military involvement in Yemen advanced with a 63 to 37 vote — it had been tabled back in March. But the necessary corresponding resolution failed in the House two weeks ago, as did an effort to stop arms sales to Saudi-allied Bahrain.

Given these congressional efforts, the lack of student activism against our country’s role in Yemen is disappointing. As students, we need to protest, pressure policymakers, raise awareness, fundraise and say enough is enough. Now that Congress is heeding Yemen’s cries, we must continue to push for ending U.S. military involvement in Yemen, faithfully promoting peace talks and increasing our government’s humanitarian aid. We must also call for an independent U.N. inquiry to hold Saudi Arabia, ourselves and all other parties accountable for the atrocities committed in Yemen over the past three years.

Americans would be happier today if our taxpayer money went toward public education and domestic infrastructure instead of arming coalitions that bomb school buses and weddings in the poorest country in the Middle East. Government spending should not be bloodstained; speaking out against our country’s role in foreign atrocities is a responsibility for every citizen.

Breaking our silence is the first step. We’re starting a campaign of students to advocate for congressional action and humanitarian efforts to support the people of Yemen. Let’s come together to develop a broader political consciousness and prevent our country from escalating bloodshed abroad. Email us if you’d like to join.

Mehdi Baqri is a sophomore in Saybrook College. 

Daud Shad is a sophomore in Berkeley College. 

Contact them at and .

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Women in international leadership- echo opinion in the Toronto Star

Progress on women’s rights is making the world better for everyone

It’s easy to feel hopeless when, year after year, progress on women’s rights and equality is seemingly measured in inches, not miles.

Yes, only 11 out of 192 heads of government are women. Yes, the faces of heads of industry are overwhelmingly male. And, yes, there’s even some evidence that the number of women who make it to the top rung is actually decreasing.

In June 2017 International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau launched Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy. (PATRICK DOYLE / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

But in 2018 there was reason to celebrate, if one looked at more basic measures of equality than who makes it into a political or corporate corner office (though that’s important, too).

Indeed, there has been steady, if not massive, progress on rights affecting millions of girls and women around the world on important fronts such as access to education and clean water, elimination of the practice of female genital mutilation, and the banning of child marriages.

The reason? An increasing number of countries are focusing more of their aid on projects targeted at helping girls and women.

On that front, Canada is sensibly leading the way. In 2017, the Trudeau government launched its “Feminist International Assistance Policy,” which promotes sustainable development through a “gender-equality lens.”

This is not just political hokum. It works to improve the world, not just for girls and women, but for boys and men, too.

Indeed, almost two decades ago, the World Bank found that simply educating girls was the No. 1 way to improve family health, increase economic output, and reduce government corruption.

Since then, studies from world organizations have only backed up the importance of bettering girls’ lives to improve the lot of the world.

A 2018 report from the World Bank, for example, found that limiting girls’ education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. Another suggested that promoting girls’ education can even help fight climate change.

Happily, then, UNESCO reports that the gap between girls’ and boys’ access to education is steadily closing.

Still, there’s a long way to go. The UN agency estimates 130 million girls between the 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age — half of them in sub-Saharan Africa — will never enter a classroom.

Why would that be? Sometimes it’s something as commonplace as a lack of access to clean water.

Instead of going to school, girls must work as community water carriers, sometimes making multiple trips to ponds many hours away. As well, a lack of sanitation facilities at schools can inhibit girls from going to classes when they are menstruating.

That’s where aid programs, such as Global Affairs Canada’s $4.4 million over four years to help get clean water and sanitation to Tanzanian mothers and children, come in.

Another barrier to girls attending school is the practice of marrying them off as children. That also poses a threat to maternal and infant survival rates because of the increased risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth among young mothers.

Progress is being made on that issue, too. According to the UN, 25 million child marriages were prevented in the last decade. In 2000 one in three women between 20 and 24 reported they had been married as children, if not sold off as brides (sometimes on Facebook) for the dowries they bring to their families. By 2018 that number was down to around one in five.

Perhaps one of the biggest successes in the fight for girls’ and women’s rights is the downturn in the practice of female genital mutilation.

The procedure — which the World Health Organization describes as the “partial or total removal of external female genitalia” — can lead to painful sex, problems with urination and menstruation, difficulties in childbirth, chronic kidney infections and even death.

The bad news is it has been inflicted upon at least 200 million women and girls.

The good news is that more countries are banning the practice, leading to dramatic declines in some parts of the world where it once was commonplace.

In fact, in 2018, BMJ Global Health reported the rate of FGM among girls aged 14 and under in east Africa had dropped from 71.4 per cent in 1995 to just 8 per cent in 2016.

In other words, when countries focus their aid programs on a problem, it can be solved.

And those numbers could drop much further as more and more girls become educated and have a say in banning a practice that most don’t support.

As heartening as that is, the UN Population Fund warns that the number of women predicted to be mutilated each year could rise to 4.6 million by 2030, despite the bans, because of population growth in communities that practice it.

That’s one of the many reasons why countries can’t afford to turn away from aid projects that promote the rights of girls and women. They should do so not only on these issues, but on efforts to stem sexual assaults, domestic violence, spousal rape and closing the world-wide gender pay gap.

As study after study shows, promoting girls’ rights is a sure path to a healthier and more prosperous world for all. That is a cause worthy, then, for all governments’ support. 

Canada is showing the way..

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Mental health and addictions treatments obstructed by paperwork - a New Mexico echo

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) alcohol poisoning kills six people daily! 


The group with the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people is American Indians and Alaska Natives – 49.1 per 1 million. More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol-use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of receive treatment.

Treating addiction is not a simple process. The common 90-day detox programs work if you have thousands of beds, staff and funds. The actual treatment behind the addiction is also lacking. It’s a time-consuming process requiring individual diagnosis, driven by PDFs, and trial and error.

Meanwhile synthetic drug addictions are catching up with, if not surpassing, alcoholism. Last year 104 people died from drug and alcohol abuse in McKinley County while the state suffered 1,952 deaths, the 13th highest in the U.S.

One of the state’s epicenters of addiction is Gallup where 22,000 addicts await a behavioral health care fix. Behavioral health does not receive the same level of attention as physical health, despite mental, behavioral and physical health being inextricably linked, as the World Health Organization notes. 

At New Mexico’s 59 hospitals, behavioral health services operate on and are updated with paper records, leaving challenges around efficiency, communication and the ability to scale treatment.

Physical health issues can require visits to a primary care physician, specialists and possibly x-ray technicians along with the corresponding paper records. Treatment of behavioral health is more complex. Before checking into a behavioral health center, a substance abuse patient needs a physical and mental exam. An intake coordinator begins that process, the patient sees a nurse, then a counselor. But the patient also has depression and needs to see a psychiatrist before visiting the detox center. Chances are they also have social problems to worry about such as child support, perhaps a bankruptcy case or a jail sentence.

Behavioral treatment centers may also have operational differences such as the number of treatment phases and the ability to track, monitor and anticipate recidivism. There are also differing manual processes and documentation tracking, job training and aftercare phase along with monitoring, tracking, reporting and progress improvement or non-progress on treatment programs.

However, this phase is cumbersome due to the lack of an electronic recording system for behavioral health as most records are stored as PDFs in EHR systems. There is also lack of support to track progress or non-progress on patient outcomes. There are also additional data categories such as chemical dependency assessment, a treatment plan, social service related data, a training program and related data and mental health assessments.

When considering all this additional data versus data requirements for physical care, it seems like a process that is almost designed to be slow and cumbersome. If the parameters of treatment can’t be changed to accommodate the surge in addicts, the other consideration is the treatment process itself.

To treat the addicts in need of care, RMCHCS is implementing an app from Zoeticx that monitors and tracks patient’s behavioral health, overcoming these traditional barriers. The preventative app monitors the healthcare needs of those suffering from addiction, dementia and other behavioral health diseases using mobile devices generating topic-based reports that can quickly be compiled. Providers can track, identify and manage behavioral health by symptoms, ethnicity, substances and other data points. This capability can also identify patient symptom commonalities, facilitating patient treatment and avoid resource consuming individual patient research.

Collaboration among care providers and patients are critical for successful treatment outcomes. The current paper record approach limits collaboration and efficiency of the BHS treatment center operation. Join me in making 2019 the year of the highest rates of addiction treatment success!

Conejo is also CEO of the New Mexico Rural Hospital Association and a New Mexico Hospital Association board member.

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Temporary jobs in the White House

MaineWriter wants to know? What is the commission paid to the temporary hiring agencies that place their clients in "acting" White House positions? Haha.....

These days in Washington, inquiring minds want to know: 
A USAToday editorial echo

Trump's next chief of staff will be a "pretend chief of staff".

Who in his or her right mind would want to be President Donald Trump’s next chief of staff?

The job, available because of John Kelly's announced departure, is proving tougher than usual to fill. 

Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was once seen as the leading candidate, but he took himself out of the running. 

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina is also out. And few of the remaining names are top shelf.

Why would one of the most powerful and desirable jobs in the world be so hard to fill? Let us count the ways.

Start with the fact there really isn’t an opening for chief of staff. There is an opening for pretend chief of staff. 

To the extent that a White House as chaotic as Trump’s could have a chief of staff, the position is already taken by presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are said to have backed Kelly’s ouster and are involved in the search for a replacement. (In fact, Kushner was considered to be one of the five finalists that Trump said he is down to.)

Add to this the lack of job security. The next chief would be the third in less than two years and would be part of an administration that goes through staffers like kids go through peanut M&M's.

Finally, there are issues common to all senior staff positions in this West Wing.

Who, for instance, would want a job that comes with a substantial likelihood that the boss will pelt you with sophomoric and demeaning insults? (Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, once a captain of industry, is "dumb as a rock" and "lazy as hell," the president who hired him tweeted last week.)

Who would want to jump into a presidential sandbox that is looking more like legal quicksand as the president maneuvers to stay ahead of the law?

And who would want a job with so little payoff? For all of the abuse and legal peril of this job, association with the Trump administration is unlikely to lead to a plum position atop a corporation, trade association or university.

The difficulty Trump has had in replacing Kelly (a retired Marine general who ironically was brought in to restore order to a chaotic White House) is an apt symbol for an administration that is not only legally compromised but also grossly incompetent.

Trump has considerable political skills and a keen grasp of what plays with his base, but he is clueless about the managerial aspects of being a president.

Rather than establishing clear lines of authority, delegating secondary matters, and establishing protocols to make decisions and implement policies, Trump acts like he is running a reality TV show.

If he wants to, say, open a new front in the trade war or take a new tack in negotiations with Congress, he announces his intention by tweet or live television. His staff finds out when everyone else does and is left to adapt on the fly.

There is more to this than the careers of Washington’s elite. Presidents need high-quality, committed aides to deal with Congress, negotiate with foreign governments, and deliver unwelcome news.

Trump apparently doesn’t get any of this. The only adviser he really listens to is himself.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff.

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Remembering the Christmas story today

MaineWriter: God Bless and condolences to families of Jakelin Caal age 7, who died December 8, 2018, El Paso, TX and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the 8-year-old migrant, who died in US custody, in New Mexico, on Christmas Eve 2018.

No room at the inn. An echo opinion published in the Texas newspaper the Corpus Christie Caller Times.
Dear editor:  As we celebrate the holidays, we surely must pause to remember the holy story about Christmas. 

We must remember, Mary and Joseph, who found refuge in the stable on a cold winter’s night, where Mary gave birth to the child of God. 

After having journeyed to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were told “no room . . . in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and soon after Jesus’s birth found themselves fleeing for their lives.

They, like many on and just outside our southern border, were refugees. Warned by an angel that Herod had commanded that all male children in Bethlehem at or below the age of two be slaughtered, Mary and Joseph, with their babe fled to Egypt.

As we hold our families close to us this Christmas, shed a tear for the families and children, fleeing the savagery of gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. 

According to the Houston Chronicle (Nov. 24, 2018), 14,000 children have been detained in the United States, 5,600 in Texas. 

In addition to these unfortunates, many families are living in camps just across the border, our government having cruelly slowed to a trickle the entry process for those wishing to apply for asylum. This is an artful trick to frustrate and exhaust the travelers, thus warning others not to come to us for sanctuary. Tear gas has been used on mothers and children and two children in the past month have died of dehydration and exposure. It is not enough to say, “Well, it is, after all, a dangerous trip. Parents should know better than to risk their children’s lives.”

The human cost of our callousness is unknowable. We must ask, “What would Jesus want us to do about the suffering on our doorstep?” Would he not say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?” (Matt. 25:40). We must in the weeks and months ahead insist that our government come to terms with our grievous immigration problems, and, while securing our borders, treat our “brethren” with humanity and compassion.

When the man, Jesus corrected his disciples for rebuking those who had brought their children to him for his blessing, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14). Jesus blessed the children; yet we block them, confine them, and without evidence say, “they are diseased and will harm our country. They know no English, and will pull us down.” How many times have you heard the complaint, “we cannot take care of everyone.” The truth is that many of us secretly object that they are not European; they are not white.

As we hold our families close to us this Christmas, shed a tear for the families and children, fleeing the savagery of gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala

According to the Houston Chronicle (Nov. 24, 2018), 14,000 children have been detained in the United States, 5,600 in Texas. In addition to these unfortunates, many families are living in camps just across the border, our government having cruelly slowed to a trickle the entry process for those wishing to apply for asylum. This is an artful trick to frustrate and exhaust the travelers, thus warning others not to come to us for sanctuary. Tear gas has been used on mothers and children and two children in the past month have died of dehydration and exposure. It is not enough to say, “Well, it is, after all, a dangerous trip. Parents should know better than to risk their children’s lives.”

The human cost of our callousness is unknowable. We must ask, “What would Jesus want us to do about the suffering on our doorstep?” Would he not say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?” (Matt. 25:40). We must in the weeks and months ahead insist that our government come to terms with our grievous immigration problems, and, while securing our borders, treat our “brethren” with humanity and compassion.

Catherine Cox, Corpus Christi

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Second child Felipe Alonzo-Gomez dies in US custody

Customs and Border Protection announces changes after second child dies in custody

The final days of Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the 8-year-old migrant who died in US custody

An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died of unknown causes in custody minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve in New Mexico, the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

After the 8-year-old boy’s death, the agency said in a statement late Tuesday that Border Patrol would now conduct “secondary medical checks” on all children in custody, with a focus on children under the age of 10. It was not clear from the statement how and where those checks would be conducted.

It is considering requesting additional medical assistance from other agencies — including Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense — and coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the numbers of children in custody, the statement said.

The agency said it is also reviewing how it holds immigrants in custody so it can relieve problems with capacity in its centers in the El Paso, Texas, area.

With border crossings surging, CBP processes thousands of children — both alone and with their parents — every month.

The federal government is currently partially shut down because of a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over his demand for a border wall. 

Sadly, cruel Trump dug in on the issue Tuesday, telling reporters that the U.S. must have "a wall, a fence, whatever they'd like to call it."

He also insisted that the wall — through renovations and new contracts — is actually already scheduled to be built and refurbished*. He claimed that 115 miles of wall was set to be constructed in Texas, and that he would visit the border at the end of January for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, identified the boy who died on Christmas Eve as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez. 

He was first taken into custody with his father 3 miles outside of El Paso on Dec. 18, according to the CBP (US Customs and Border Patrol) statement, which included a timeline of the child’s last day in custody.

Castro, the incoming chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, credited CBP for its timely public notification but also blamed the Trump administration's broader immigration policy for putting migrants in harm's way.

"The Administration’s policy of turning people away from legal ports of entry, otherwise known as metering, is putting families and children in great danger," Castro said in a statement.

*Any contractor who works on this wall is stupid, without having the Congressional approval for funding of the construction.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

White House officials confirm Donald Trump's incompetence but they must go "on the record"

A blog published in Daily KOS asks for White House officials to go on the record when they are disclosing Donald Trump's growing incompetence and his reluctance to accept expert advice. 

As Donald Trump continues to fire those in his cabinet who are experts, he is causing enormous anxiety about his mental competence. Moreover, the people who he appoints to fill "temporary positions", vacated by his repeated firings of experts, are largely inexperienced and thereby unqualified to do their jobs.

White House staffers must speak publicly about Donald Trumps incompetence.
George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway, has certainly gone on the record. 

Obviously, Mr. Conway is receiving information via his wife Kellyanne Conway.  This is certainly a convoluted arrangement but Mr. Conway's credibility has not been questioned, regardless of how caustic he has been with the criticism of his wife's boss, as in this CNN headline:

Kellyanne Conway's husband calls Trump administration 'a s***show in a dumpster fire*

George Conway said his views of the administration further soured with the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and the ensuing Russia-related probe by special counsel Robert Mueller (Reported in the Washington Examiner)
Obviously, Donald Trump is a failed human being and a terrible political leader  So, why won't his White House staff call our the flawed Trumpeter for "having no cloths". In other words, who is going to finally go on record to reveal the truth?

As reported in the Daily KOS blog by voidstuff (not subject to review by Daily Kos staff):

A senior administration official told CNN’s Jim Sciutto that national security decision-making has “basically stopped working” and decisions are “made on a whim on phone calls.” The official added the Syria withdrawal was “a complete reversal” and it was done “without deliberation, no consideration of risks.”

American allies and partners are “shocked and totally bewildered” and the Syrian Democratic Forces “don’t believe this is happening,” the official said.

There are a couple of things here. 

First, the obvious one, of course, is that Trump is a danger to the US and the world. As if we didn’t already know that. But when it comes from a senior Trump official, that makes it all the more worrisome.

The other thing is — WTF is wrong with these anonymous senior White House officials? If things are as bad as they are saying, why are they remaining anonymous instead of coming right out and urging either invoking the 25th Amendment and/or impeachment? By passing the word to CNN anonymously, instead of choosing a course of action that could actually help fix the problem, this person and others like him/her are betraying the country. This brings spinelessness to a new level.

I’ll admit, that my first reaction to these stories has always been a feeling of vindication to hear that even insiders are admitting what’s been obvious to me and the rest of us for a long time. But really, enough is enough. It’s time for these people to grow a spine and to step up. When the very security of this nation is on the line, we’re beyond the limit. 

This madness cannot be allowed to continue.

*Conway is a frequent critic of the administration in which his wife is a prominent figure. Moreover, he said his caustic views on the administration were tested when he was under consideration to lead the Department of Justice's civil division last year. But he ultimately withdrew.

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Donald Trump history of not paying employees

By Steve Reilly June 9, 2016:  Reminds me of the proverb, "The best predictor of the future is to evaluate and understand the past".
Trump has a litany of workers who were not paid as a result of his selfish hiring practices

Contributing: John Kelly, Nick Penzenstadler, Karen Yi, David McKay Wilson

During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah's at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.

Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.

Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will "protect your job." But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.

Litigator in chief

In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic’s liens — filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work — since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

Trump and his daughter Ivanka, in an interview with USA TODAY, shrugged off the lawsuits and other claims of non-payment. If a company or worker he hires isn’t paid fully, the Trumps said, it’s because The Trump Organization was unhappy with the work.

“Let’s say that they do a job that’s not good, or a job that they didn’t finish, or a job that was way late. I’ll deduct from their contract, absolutely,” Trump said. “That’s what the country should be doing.”

Chapter 1- 'Visibly Winced'

To be sure, Trump and his companies have prevailed in many legal disputes over missing payments, or reached settlements that cloud the terms reached by the parties.

However, the consistent circumstances laid out in those lawsuits and other non-payment claims raise questions about Trump’s judgment as a businessman, and as a potential commander- in- chief. The number of companies and others alleging he hasn’t paid suggests that either his companies have a poor track record hiring workers and assessing contractors, or that Trump businesses renege on contracts, refuse to pay, or consistently attempt to change payment terms after work is complete as is alleged in dozens of court cases.

In the interview, Trump repeatedly said the cases were “a long time ago.” However, even as he campaigns for the presidency, new cases are continuing. Just last month, Trump Miami Resort Management LLC settled with 48 servers at his Miami golf resort over failing to pay overtime for a special event. The settlements averaged about $800 for each worker and as high as $3,000 for one, according to court records. Some workers put in 20-hour days over the 10-day Passover event at Trump National Doral Miami, the lawsuit contends. Trump’s team initially argued a contractor hired the workers, and he wasn’t responsible, and counter-sued the contractor demanding payment.

“Trump could have settled it right off the bat, but they wanted to fight it out, that’s their M.O.” said Rod Hannah, of Plantation, Fla., the lawyer who represented the workers, who he said are forbidden from talking about the case in public. “They’re known for their aggressiveness, and if you have the money, why not?”

Similar cases have cropped up with Trump’s facilities in California and New York, where hourly workers, bartenders and wait staff have sued with a range of allegations from not letting workers take breaks to not passing along tips to servers. Trump's company settled the California case, and the New York case is pending.

Trump's Doral golf resort also has been embroiled in recent non-payment claims by two different paint firms, with one case settled and the other pending. Last month, his company’s refusal to pay one Florida painter more than $30,000 for work at Doral led the judge in the case to order foreclosure of the resort if the contractor isn’t paid.

Juan Carlos Enriquez, owner of The Paint Spot, in South Florida, has been waiting more than two years to get paid for his work at the Doral. The Paint Spot first filed a lien against Trump’s course, then filed a lawsuit asking a Florida judge to intervene.

In courtroom testimony, the manager of the general contractor for the Doral renovation admitted that a decision was made not to pay The Paint Spot because Trump “already paid enough.” As the construction manager spoke, “Trump’s trial attorneys visibly winced, began breathing heavily, and attempted to make eye contact” with the witness, the judge noted in his ruling.

That, and other evidence, convinced the judge The Paint Spot’s claim was credible. He ordered last month that the Doral resort be foreclosed on, sold, and the proceeds used to pay Enriquez the money he was owed. Trump’s attorneys have since filed a motion to delay the sale, and the contest continued.

Enriquez still hasn’t been paid.  (In 2017 this issue was resolved but it took several years.

Chapter 2- Unpaid Hourly Workers

Trump frequently boasts that he will bring jobs back to America, including Tuesday in a primary-election night victory speech at his golf club in suburban New York City. “No matter who you are, we're going to protect your job,” Trump said Tuesday. “Because let me tell you, our jobs are being stripped from our country like we're babies.”

But the lawsuits show Trump’s organization wages Goliath vs David legal battles over small amounts of money that are negligible to the billionaire and his executives — but devastating to his much-smaller foes.

In 2007, for instance, dishwasher Guy Dorcinvil filed a federal lawsuit against Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Fla., alleging the club failed to pay time-and-a-half for overtime he worked over three years and the company failed to keep proper time records for employees.

Mar-a-Lago LLC agreed to pay Dorcinvil $7,500 to settle the case in 2008. The terms of the settlement agreement includes a standard statement that Mar-a-Lago does not admit fault and forbids Dorcinvil or his lawyers from talking about the case, according to court records.

Developers with histories of not paying contractors are a very small minority of the industry, said Colette Nelson, chief advocacy officer of the American Subcontractors Association. But late or missing payments can be devastating for small businesses and their employees.

“Real estate is a tough and aggressive business, but most business people don’t set out to make their money by breaking the companies that they do business with,” she said, stressing she couldn’t speak directly to the specifics of cases in Trump’s record. “But there are a few.”

In the interview, Trump said that complaints represent a tiny fraction of his business empire and dealings with contractors and employees, insisting all are paid fairly. “We pay everybody what they’re supposed to be paid, and we pay everybody on time,” he said. “And we employ thousands and thousands of people. OK?”

Chapter 3- The Slot-Machine Cabinets
Despite the Trumps’ assertion that his their companies only refuse payment to contractors “when somebody does a bad job,” he has sometimes offered to hire those same contractors again. It’s a puzzling turn of events, since most people who have a poor experience with a contractor, and who refuse to pay and even fight the contractor in court, aren’t likely to offer to rehire them.

Nevertheless, such was the case for the Friels. After submitting the final bill for the Plaza casino cabinet-building in 1984, Paul Friel said he got a call asking that his father, Edward, come to the Trump family’s offices at the casino for a meeting. There Edward, and some other contractors, were called in one by one to meet with Donald Trump and his brother, Robert Trump.

“He sat in a room with nine guys,” Paul Friel said. “We found out some of them were carpet guys. Some of them were glass guys. Plumbers. You name it.”

In the meeting, Donald Trump told his father that the company’s work was inferior, Friel said, even though the general contractor on the casino had approved it. The bottom line, Trump told Edward Friel, was the company wouldn't get the final payment. Then, Friel said Trump added something that struck the family as bizarre. Trump told his dad that he could work on other Trump projects in the future.

“Wait a minute,” Paul Friel said, recalling his family's reaction to his dad’s account of the meeting. “Why would the Trump family want a company who they say their work is inferior to work for them in the future?”
Edward Friel, left, and his wife, owned a family cabinetry business that says it was badly harmed by non-payment on a big contract at one of Donald Trump's Atlantic City casinos.
(Photo: Photo courtesy of Friel family)
The Edward J. Friel Co. filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 5, 1989.
Says the founder's grandson: “Trump hits everybody.”
Asked about the meeting, Trump said, “Was the work bad? Was it bad work?” And, then, after being told that the general contractor had approved it, Trump added, “Well, see here’s the thing. You’re talking about, what, 30 years ago?”

Ivanka Trump added that any number of disputes over late or deficient payments that were found over the past few decades pale in comparison to the thousands of checks Trump companies cut each month.

“We have hundreds of millions of dollars of construction projects underway. And we have, for the most part, exceptional contractors on them who get paid, and get paid quickly,” she said, adding that she doubted any contractor complaining in court or in the press would admit they delivered substandard work. “But it would be irresponsible if my father paid contractors who did lousy work. And he doesn’t do that.”

But, the Friels’ story is similar to experiences of hundreds of other contractors over the casino-boom decade in Atlantic City. Legal records, New Jersey Casino Control Commission records and contemporaneous local newspaper stories recounted time and again tales about the Trumps paying late or renegotiating deals for dimes on the dollar.

A half-decade after the Friels’ encounter, in 1990, as Trump neared the opening of his third Atlantic City casino, he was once again attempting to pay contractors less than he owed. In casino commission records of an audit, it was revealed that Trump’s companies owed a total of $69.5 million to 253 subcontractors on the Taj Mahal project. Some already had sued Trump, the state audit said; others were negotiating with Trump to try to recover what they could. The companies and their hundreds of workers had installed walls, chandeliers, plumbing, lighting and even the casino’s trademark minarets.

One of the builders was Marty Rosenberg, vice president of Atlantic Plate Glass Co., who said he was owed about $1.5 million for work at the Taj Mahal. When it became clear Trump was not going to pay in full, Rosenberg took on an informal leadership role, representing about 100 to 150 contractors in negotiations with Trump.
Rosenberg’s mission: with Trump offering as little as 30 cents on the dollar to some of the contractors, Rosenberg wanted to get as much as he could for the small businesses, most staffed by younger tradesmen with modest incomes and often families to support.

“Yes, there were a lot of other companies," he said of those Trump left waiting to get paid. "Yes, some did not survive."

Rosenberg said his company was among the lucky ones. He had to delay paying his own suppliers to the project. The negotiations led to him eventually getting about 70 cents on the dollar for his work, and he was able to pay all of his suppliers in full.

Chapter 4- Unpaid Based on Whimsy

The analysis of Trump lawsuits also found that professionals, such as real estate agents and lawyers, say he's refused to pay them sizable sums of money. Those cases show that even some loyal employees, those selling his properties and fighting for him in court, are only with him until they’re not.

Real estate broker Rana Williams, who said she had sold hundreds of millions of dollars in Manhattan property for Trump International Realty over more than two decades with the company, sued in 2013 alleging Trump shorted her $735,212 in commissions on deals she brokered from 2009 to 2012. Williams, who managed as many as 16 other sales agents for Trump, said the tycoon and his senior deputies decided to pay her less than her contracted commission rate “based on nothing more than whimsy.”

Trump and Williams settled their case in 2015, and the terms of the deal are confidential, as is the case in dozens of other settlements between plaintiffs and Trump companies.

However, Williams' 2014 deposition in the case is not sealed. In her sworn testimony, Williams said the 2013 commission shortage wasn't the only one, and neither was she the only person who didn't get fully paid. “There were instances where a sizable commission would come in and we would be waiting for payment and it wouldn’t come,” she testified. “That was both for myself and for some of the agents.”

Another broker, Jennifer McGovern, filed a similar lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump Mortgage LLC in 2007, citing a six-figure commission on real-estate sales that she said went unpaid. A judge issued a judgment ordering Trump Mortgage to pay McGovern $298,274.

Even Trump’s own attorneys, on several occasions, sued him over claims of unpaid bills.

One law firm that fought contractors over payments and other issues for Trump — New York City’s Morrison Cohen LLP — ended up on the other side of a similar battle with the mogul in 2008. Trump didn’t like that its lawyers were using his name in press releases touting its representation of Trump in a lawsuit against a construction contractor that Trump claimed overcharged him for work on a luxury golf club.

As Trump now turned his ire on his former lawyers, however, Morrison Cohen counter-sued. In court records, the law firm alleged Trump didn’t pay nearly a half million dollars in legal fees. Trump and his ex-lawyers settled their disputes out of court, confidentially, in 2009.

In 2012, Virginia-based law firm Cook, Heyward, Lee, Hopper & Feehan filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization for $94,511 for legal fees and costs. The case was eventually settled out of court. But as the case unfolded, court records detail how Trump's senior deputies attacked the attorneys' quality of work in the local and trade press, leading the firm to make claims of defamation that a judge ultimately rejected on free speech grounds.

Trump claims in his presidential personal financial disclosure to be worth $10 billion as a result of his business acumen. Many of the small contractors and individuals who weren’t paid by him haven’t been as fortunate.

Chapter 5- 'Tons of These Stories Out There'

Edward Friel, of the Philadelphia cabinetry company allegedly shortchanged for the casino work, hired a lawyer to sue for the money, said his son, Paul Friel. But the attorney advised him that the Trumps would drag the case out in court and legal fees would exceed what they’d recover.

The unpaid bill took a huge chunk out of the bottom line of the company that Edward ran to take care of his wife and five kids. “The worst part wasn’t dealing with the Trumps,” Paul Friel said. After standing up to Trump, Friel said the family struggled to get other casino work in Atlantic City. “There’s tons of these stories out there,” he said.

The Edward J. Friel Co. filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 5, 1989.

Says the founder's grandson: “Trump hits everybody.”

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