Friday, October 31, 2014
Maine Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere gave nurse Kaci Hickox an OK, with restraints, to go wherever she pleases, handing state officials a partial defeat Friday in their bid to restrict her movements as a precaution against Ebola. Chief Judge LaVerdiere ruled that Hickox must continue daily monitoring but said there's no need to isolate her or restrict her movements because she's not showing symptoms of Ebola. The ruling instructs Hickox to submit to daily health monitoring, coordinate her travel with public health authorities, and notify officials if she develops any symptoms of the deadly virus. The Judge warned Hickox : "The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational." But, he wrote that the fear is nonetheless "present and it is real." He called on Hickox to respect this reality and "guide herself accordingly." The order by Judge LaVerdiere eased his earlier, temporary ruling that ordered Hickox to stay in Fort Kent, avoid public places and remain more than three feet away from other people. Judge La Verdiere said that the state had failed to make its case for an outright quarantine. He quoted from an affidavit by the director of the Maine CDC that emphasized that a person without Ebola symptoms cannot spread the disease. and will remain in effect until there is a hearing on the state's bid for an outright quarantine for Hickox, who recently treated Ebola patients in West Africa. ~~~~~ Hickox described as a "good compromise" the judge's ruling that rejected state efforts to quarantine the nurse in her home but does require her to submit to daily monitoring for the Ebola virus. Hickox said : "I am very satisfied with the decision. The three points that he is still recommending that I abide by are the three points that I believe are part of this good compromise that we can make." Maine had sought a quarantine through November 10, which would mark the end of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola. Hickox said her "thoughts, prayers and gratitude" remain with those who are still battling Ebola in West Africa, where Hickox treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. ~~~~~ Governor Paul LePage said that despite the state's best efforts, Hickox had refused to cooperate. The Governor said he had done everything he could to protect Mainers : "The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling and I believe it is unfortunate. However, the state will abide by the law," LePage said. After the decision, a state trooper car that had been parked in front of her home to movements left, and she and her boyfriend stepped outside to thank the judge. She has contended that confinement at her home in northern Maine violated her rights. She twice violated the state's voluntary quarantine by going outside her home - once to go on a bike ride and once to talk to the media and shake a reporter's hand. When asked if the state would request a hearing on the judge's ruling, a spokesman for the Governor said he didn't yet know. "She has broken every promise she has made so far, so I can't trust her. And I don't trust that we know enough about this disease to be so callous. ~~~~~ In his ruling, the judge took the unusual opportunity to thank Hickox for her service in Africa : "We would not be here today unless (Hickox) generously, kindly and with compassion, lent her skills to aid, comfort and care for individuals stricken with the terrible disease. We need to remember as we go through this matter that we owe her and all professions who give of themselves in this way a debt of gratitude." The judge also acknowledged the gravity of restricting someone's constitutional rights without solid science to back it up. "I am well aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola," he wrote. ~~~~~ Hickox, 33, stepped into the media glare when she returned from Sierra Leone to become subject to a mandatory quarantine in New Jersey. After being released from a hospital there, she returned to this small town, where she was placed under what Maine authorities called a voluntary quarantine. In a court filing, the Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention had already backed away from the state's original request for an in-home quarantine and called for restrictions that fall in line with federal guidelines. In the filing, Maine CDC Director, Dr. Sheila Pinette, had said she would seek a public health order for mandatory direct active monitoring and restrictions on movement as soon as possible and until the end of the incubation period ... to protect the public health and safety." ~~~~~ Under Maine law, there has to be an “actual or threatened epidemic” to impose a quarantine. Paul Millus, a civil rights attorney who is not representing Hickox, told The Washington Post the state could have a hard time proving that, since Hickox hasn’t shown symptoms. “Moreover, it is not quite clear that they would be able, medically speaking, to produce clear and convincing evidence that would require Ms. Hickox to be quarantined,” he said. Hickox’s lawyer, Norman Siegel, told the Bangor Daily News : “The conditions that the state of Maine is now requiring Kaci to comply with are unconstitutional and illegal and there is no justification for the state of Maine to infringe on her liberty.” Siegel previously described New Jersey’s policy, which is similar to Maine’s, as “overly broad." Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor who heads the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, told the Wall Street Journal that this is the first time he can recall the government imposing a quarantine on a class of people - doctors exposed to Ebola - rather than on a case-by-case basis depending on symptoms. “That pushes the envelope more than I’ve seen it in my lifetime,” he said. “We are basically depriving individuals of liberty for 21 days just because they have traveled from a particular part of the world. That seems to me wrong legally and ethically and is against science.” If a court agrees Maine is depriving Hickox of her liberty in violation of the Constitution, it could strike the state’s quarantine law down for being too broad. However, some legal experts are skeptical this argument will succeed. Writing for the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Kontorovich pointed out that courts most often defer to state health officials in public health emergencies. Quarantines are rare and there are few relevant cases. But Kontorovich claims the few cases on the books don’t bode well for Hickox : “A brief review of the cases suggests it is extremely difficult to challenge such an action without a clear showing of medical unreasonableness, or discriminatory application. Indeed, I found no cases in which a quarantine has been lifted on due process grounds (though there have been some successful challenges to conditions of quarantine).” In addition, he noted modern quarantine cases dealt with tuberculosis or small pox, both diseases less deadly than Ebola, which could be another point in the state's favor. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is clear that, putting aside his personal opinions about those treating Ebola patients in West Africa, Judge LaVerdiere was trying in his ruling to impose the compromise that Hickox and Maine couldn't reach on their own. He left Maine's quzrantine law intact. He imposed limits on Hickox's freedom of movement and made her monitoring subject to his judicial oversight. He recignized thzt oublic fear over a new disease should be respected but balanced that with Hickox's right to as much personal freedom as possible in the novel circumstance. What is more puzzling is Judge LeVerdiere's - and everyone else from President Obama on down - use of the phrase 'based on science.' Normally, courts rely on science when it is settled. The science surrounding Ebola -- its origin, transmissibility mechanisms, incubation period, infectious state indications -- are not at all settled. So, we are witnessing the White House, CDC, and now the first judge, treat the little we actually know - and extrapolate from the little we know - as a settled set of scientific facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Seat-of-the-pants science is a dis-service to America and the world.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Bloomberg reported yesterday about the White House's defense of its commitment to Israel as it sought to calm the controversy over an anonymous comment attributed to a top Obama administration official. The comment appeared in an October 28 article in The Atlantic magazine. An unidentified senior US official is quoted by columnist Jeffrey Goldberg as calling Netanyahu a “chickensh- t” who’s afraid to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or sunni Arab states. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a former commando, responded to the distasteful comment while he was at a memorial ceremony in parliament for a cabinet minister assassinated by a Palestinian : “I risked my life for my country, and I am not willing to make concessions that will endanger our country. Our paramount interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not important to those same anonymous sources who attack us and me, personally. I am being attacked personally only because I am defending the state of Israel." ~~~~~ The latest Obama-Netanyahu exchange threatened to worsen already tense relations between the two men, feeding a feud between Israel and the US over Israeli construction in contested east Jerusalem. Republicans said the episode portrays Obama as insufficiently committed to supporting Israel, a sensitive political issue for many Jewish and evangelical Christian voters. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the comments in the article “do not reflect the views of the President,”adding that the US is “as committed as it ever has been to the security of Israel.” The two leaders “consult closely and frequently,” according to Earnest, who said that Obama has met with Netanyahu more than any other foreign leader. He said he doesn’t know who made the slur and doesn’t know whether Obama does. “I would be surprised if he did,” he said. Both Susan Rice, Obama's National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State John Kerry apologized today for the comment. ~~~~~ It is not just the very undiplomatic comment about Netanyahu in The Atlantic that is agitating Israel-US relations. The two administrations disagreed again this week over Israeli plans to speed up construction of 1,000 homes in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem, the sector of the Holy City that the Palestinians claim for a future capital. The US State Department called the plan “incompatible with the pursuit of peace.” Israel captured east Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank, from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it that year in a move that isn’t internationally recognized. It has since ringed the Arab neighborhoods of the eastern sector with Jewish areas where about 300,000 Israelis live alongside a similar number of Palestinians, who argue that Netanyahu's goal is to settle east Jerusalem with so many Israelis that it will be impossible for Palestine to take it as their capital. The Israeli government denies this. ~~~~~ As if these disagreements were not enough, Obama and Netanyahu have also had heated exchanges over the nuclear talks with Iran. Netanyahu has warned world powers led by the US against signing a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran that would not ensure it couldn’t build bombs. In The Atlantic piece, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that the Obama administration thinks Netanyahu is bluffing with his threats to attack Iran’s nuclear program to keep it from developing the capability to produce weapons. Iran, which denies it seeks to build atomic arms, is trying to reach a deal with world powers under which it would curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for a continued and expanding lifting of international sanctions. The negotiating parties face a late November deadline to reach the next level of agreement. ~~~~~ And while juggling all these items, Prime Minister Netanyahu is also dealing with an assassination attempt on a controversial rabbi by a lone Palestinian. Following the shooting, tensions between Palestinians and Israelis were raised when Israel closed access to the Temple Mount ysterday, a move Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas exaggeratedly called a "declaration of war." Abbas presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told CNN that the decision to close off the site, which includes the revered al-Aqsa Mosque, was a "brazen challenge" and "grave behavior" that would lead to "further tensions and instability." Israeli police said they closed the Temple Mount "to prevent disturbances" after the drive-by shooting of controversial activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick on Wednesday night. Glick was shot three times outside Jerusalem’s Begin Center following a conference about the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Police have not yet found the unidentified assailant who was wearing a helmet and was said to have fled the scene on a motorcycle. Glick had finished a speech at the Begin Center when, according to eyewitnesses, a man with an Arabic accent approached Glick and asked him for his identity. The man then shot the rabbi, got on the motorcycle and fled, suggesting this was an assassination attempt on Glick. A message on a jihadist Palestinian website about the conference, which included details on the time, location and attendees, was being looked into by police, according to TV reports. The jihadist post also called on Palestinians to prevent the meeting, according to the report. ~~~~~ And, last but by no means least, Sweden's new left-leaning government on Thursday recognized a Palestinian state. Sweden became the third country to recognize Palestine as a state, following Malta and Cyprus, reflecting growing international impatience with the lack of progress in peace negotiations. Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said Sweden, fulfilling a promise it had made when the Social Democratic-led government took office earlier this month, made the move because Palestine had met the international law criteria required for such recognition. "There is a territory, a people and a government," she said. Israel quickly condemned the move, and Israeli Foreign Minister Abigdor Lieberman called it "a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism." Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the move as "a principled and courageous decision." Israel says Palestine can achieve independence only through peace negotiations, and that recognition of Palestine at the UN or by individual countries undermines the negotiating process. Palestinians say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn't serious about the peace negotiations. The last round of peace talks collapsed in April and while the EU and the US have not recognized Palestine, they have hinted that Israel's tough negotiating stance hurt the talks. Netanyahu continues to settle Israelis in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, even though they are claimed by Palestinians as part of a future state. The 28-nation European Union has urged that negotiations to achieve a two-state solution resume as soon as possible. And the Obama administratipn has urged Israel to stop building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is always extremely stressful to be right about the principles involved in an argument and yet to be losing ground to those who are wrong. We have all experienced this many times during our lives. We can only imagine the frustration felt by Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu over principles so important that they could cost Israel its very future. Palestine has, by repeating the same false litany for decades, managed to convince many that it is right about Israel -- that Israel doesn't want peace, that it will never agree to adjust its borders, that it does not want Palestine to become a state. All lies and propaganda being swallowed by a gullible world. Israel has said that if Palestine will recognize its right to exist, all else will be negotiable. Palestine's stock answer is always to demand that Israel give up its annexed part of east Jerusalem and the West Bank and retreat to its unprotected pre-war 1967 borders AS A CONDITION for peace negotiations to begin. But, to look deeper at reality, Israel under Ariel Sharon gave the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian government. What happened? Hamas overthrew the Gaza government, ruined the Israel-developed economy and has ever since used Gaza to fire rockets at Israel, killing military and civilians with the stated goal of destroying Israel. Why would Israel return any more territory to Palestine without ironclad guarantees for Israel's future? Would you?
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
America Needs Republicans, Libertarians and Independents to Vote Together on Tuesday to Bring Obama Under Constitutional Control
For a change, the GOP can take comfort in what the Washington Post has to say -- "Republicans entered the final week of the midterm campaign holding higher ground than Democrats, aided by public dissatisfaction with President Obama’s leadership, the direction of the country and the federal government’s ability to deal with major problems," said the Post today, quoting the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Voter attitudes have been shaped by a pervasive sense of a nation in trouble. Overwhelming majorities say the country is badly off track and give the economy negative ratings. Economic expectations are little better today than they were at this time four years ago, with 60% saying they cannot trust the government in Washington to do what is right - the same as a year ago in the aftermath of the government shutdown and the botched rollout of the federal Web site for Obamacare. The Post poll shows that the multiple crises confronting the country - including the spread of Ebola in West Africa and cases here at home, as well as threats from ISIS militants - has led a majority to say that the government’s ability to deal with big problems has declined in the past few years. Among those who say this, many more - by 3 to 1 - blame Obama and the Democrats than blame Republicans in Congress. The poll shows that the general dissatisfaction appears to be affecting public interest in the 2014 campaign, which has been marked by an unprecedented amount of money spent by candidates and outside groups. Voters in states with competitive Senate races have been barraged with negative ads that began running early this year and now submerge local newscasts. The survey highlights that there is less interest in this midterm campaign than there was in the 2010 and 2006 elections — 67% say they are closely following the election this year, compared with 75% who were doing the same in 2010. Just 22% of voters say they have been contacted by an individual or organization regarding the congressional campaign, 12 percentage points lower than at this time four years ago. Among those who say they are certain to vote, Republicans appear to have more enthusiasm about voting. And more people who voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 say they are closely following the midterms, compared with those who say they voted for Obama. The Post says Democrats will try to counter that enthusiasm gap with a get-out-the-vote operation that is aimed at persuading sporadic voters to cast ballots. It will require a huge Democratic effort because when asked whether they will vote for the Democrat or the Republican in their House districts, 50% of likely voters say the Republican and 44% say the Democrat. Among the larger universe of registered voters, Democrats have an edge - 47% to 44%. The Post says that this swing of nine points between registered and likely voters is identical to the difference recorded at this point in 2010, when the Republican advantage translated into a GOP gain of 63 House seats. This year, expectations for GOP pickups are more modest, largely because there are far fewer competitive districts and fewer opportunities for the GOP. Still, the latest poll shows that in many respects the potential 2014 electorate looks a lot like that of 2010, based on a comparison with exit polls from four years ago. Among Democrats and Republicans, more than 9 in 10 again say they plan to vote for the House candidate of their party next week. Among independents, Republicans hold a sizable advantage, as they did four years ago. Men favor Republicans by double digits, while women favor Democrats by mid-single digits. But the real battle is over control of the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to become the majority party in the upper chamber. At this point, they are heavily favored to pick up three of those six, with good opportunities to win seven Democratic-held seats - in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina. But Republicans are fighting to hold on to three seats of their own, in Georgia, Kansas and possibly Kentucky. The new Post-ABC News poll gives only general clues about the Senate races in those states, many of which tilt toward Republicans in presidential elections. The poll shows that in nine states with competitive Senate races, 57% of voters express a preference for Republicans in the House elections, compared with 39% for Democrats. The poll concludes that there's more confidence today than in September that Republicans will win enough seats to claim the Senate majority, although this is not a certainty. Nearly 70% of Republicans say a GOP majority would be a good thing, while half of Democrats say it would be a bad thing. In many of the states with competitive Senate races, the Post says that other public polls have found that Obama’s approval is below his national numbers, creating a drag on Democratic candidates. The new Post-ABC survey puts Obama’s overall national approval rating at 43%, up a statistically insignificant three points from two weeks ago. His disapproval rating remains unchanged, at 51%. The view of his handling of the economy is 42% positive, 52% negative, about the same as it has been throughout this fall. Obama has begun to campaign on behalf of gubernatorial candidates but he has avoided appearances in states with genuinely competitive Senate races. In those states, the candidates are seeking to put distance between themselves and the President, despite the fact that their voting records strongly support Obama. More than half of voters say that the President will not be a factor in their vote. But among those who say he will be, the percentage who say they will use their vote to express opposition to the President is 10 points higher than the share who say they want to send a message of support for him. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Republican Party is within shouting distance of taking control of the Senate and forming a cohesive Congress that will offer positive alternatives to the negative Obama agenda that is destroying America at home and abroad. BUT -- it is absolutely imperative that we stay the course and get out the vote. Republicans of all persuasions, as well as independents, must vote and help others who share their principles and values to vote, too. And we should make a real effort to bring our libertarian friends with us. Ask them to make their vote count by voting Republican. This is not the time to let the small differences among us divide us. Our fundamental battle is with the big-government big-spending anti-Constitution anti-individual-liberties Democratic Party. We have them on the ropes. Do not let them get away. Do not waste even one vote. America needs us.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
After being fiercely criticized by the ACLU, the CDC and even the United Nations Secretary General over his new 21-day mandatory quarantine policy for all healthcare workers exposed to Ebola, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has received a very welcome vote of support from a worldwide star in the medical community : Nobel Prize-winning doctor and medical rsearcher Dr. Bruce Beutler, an American who won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for his work researching the cellular subsystem of the body’s overall immune system -- the part of it that defends the body frosm infection by other organisms, like Ebola. He is currently the Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas - the first US city to treat an Ebola patient and also the first to watch one die from the virus. ~~~~~ In an exclusive interview with NJ Advance Media, Dr. Beutler reviewed Christie’s new policy of mandatory quarantine for all health care workers exposed to Ebola, and declared : “I favor it,” and added that it may not go far enough. ~~~~~ But, while the doctor’s support provides much-needed credibility for Christie as he threatens to quarantine more healthcare workers returning from the Ebola fight in West Africa, it also comes with some chilling words from Dr. Beuhtler : “I favor it, because it’s not entirely clear that they can’t transmit the disease,” Beutler said, referring to asymptomatic healthcare workers like Kaci Hickox, the Doctors Without Borders nurse returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, who was quarantined in New Jersey for 65 hours before being transported to her home state of Maine Monday afternoon, where she was placed in a 21-day quarantine. Dr. Beutler explained : “It may not be absolutely true that those without symptoms can’t transmit the disease, because we don’t have the numbers to back that up...It could be people develop significant viremia [where viruses enter the bloodstream and gain access to the rest of the body], and become able to transmit the disease before they have a fever, even. People may have said that without symptoms you can’t transmit Ebola. I’m not sure about that being 100 percent true. There’s a lot of variation with viruses.” In fact, in a study published online in late September by the New England Journal of Medicine (1) and backed by the World Health Organization, 3,343 confirmed and 667 probable cases of Ebola were analyzed, and nearly 13% of the time, those infected with Ebola exhibited no fever at all. Why, then, does he think the CDC would so emphasize Ebola is not communicable in patients without symptoms? “There’s some imperative to prevent panic among the public,” says Dr. Beutler, “But to be honest, people have not examined that with transmissibility in mind. I don’t completely trust people who’d say that as dogma.” ~~~~~ Permitting home confinement and monitoring for medical workers exposed to Ebola but currently without symptoms was, as Beutler put it in engineering jargon, “a move away from goodness.’” However, undeterred, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday again changed direction, issuing new guidelines that call for voluntary home quarantine for workers with the highest risk for Ebola infection. The new guidelines also specify that most medical personnel returning from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea would not need to be kept in isolation, as Hickox had been ever since she arrived at Newark International Airport on Friday up until being transported to Maine on Monday. Dr. Beutler does not agree. “Even if someone is asymptomatic, you cannot rely on people to report themselves if they get a fever,” according to Dr. Beutler, who added, “You can’t just depend on the goodwill of people to confine the disease like that - even healthcare workers. They behave very irresponsibly.” ~~~~~ In defending his mandatory quarantine policy, Christie has repeatedly pointed to the fact that NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, after returning from Ebola besieged West Africa, was spotted violating her voluntary quarantine to get takeout from a Princeton eatery last week. And, despite her forced detainment by the New Jersey health department, Hickox insisted hat she was “feeling physically healthy” and except for a single, non-contact thermometer reading that registered her as having a 101 Fahrenheit fever, has had normal 98.6 F temperatures ever since her quarantine began. ~~~~~ “These are no arguments at all,” said Beutler. “Anyone could say that about any disease. It doesn’t matter that she was afebrile - she should be quarantined for 21 days.” In addition, Hickox has complained that “her basic human rights were violated” and has since retained a civil rights attorney, but Beutner says he is puzzled by the argument. “These people act like they are returning as conquering heroes - and they should be treated as conquering heroes, but part of being a conquering hero means making sure no one gets infected by you. Just look at the the foolish quarantine where astronauts came back from the moon [where there were no germs] and in this case, we know there is an infection.” Dr. Beutler says that from a global perspective, it’s unlikely that the virus will take hold as an epidemic in the US, but in Africa, Beutler says it already “has gone ballistic - way, way beyond the past epidemics. One could project that maybe millions could be infected. It may be that it won’t spread like wildfire in the United States but even if one or two more people die, it will be too many.” ~~~~~ When asked if Governor Christie has it right, Dr. Beutler said : “I’d be a little bit more strict than he is being....I realize this would be inconvenient, but I don’t think it would prevent treating the disease." Dr. Beutler says “the ideal scenario is where a patient is isolated from all family members,” preferably in a specialized hospital ward, not in a home. The thought of an afebrile parent passing Ebola on to a child - as ostensibly can happen 13 percent of the time, would disturb me. The point of quarantine of is to make sure they [Ebola viruses] are not carried elsewhere. It’s a little bit frustrating. Some of the things that are being done are not completely motivated by safety. For some reason, there’s an imperative to maintain open borders no matter what - to err on the side of total individual freedom rather than on the side of public health,” he said, adding, “If you really want to isolate a disease, then you have to isolate the people who carry it.” ~~~~~ At least one country, other than the 32 countries in Africa long since imposing a quarantine for the Ebola-affected countries, has taken the step of halting visas for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announced today a total ban on visas for the three countries. "These measures include temporarily suspending our immigration program, including our humanitarian program from Ebola-affected countries, and this means we are not processing any application from these affected countries." All non-permanent or temporary visas are being cancelled and permanent visa holders who have not yet arrived in Australia will be required to submit to a 21-day quarantine period, he added. ~~~~~ As for Governor Christie -- he has a short message for nurse Kaci Hickox if she decides to sue the state for being detained for more than 65 hours. “Whatever. Get in line,” Christie said during a campaign event today, according to NBC News. “I’ve been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I’m happy to take it on.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, Governor Christie says he will be on the winning side of the Ebola mandatory quarantine issue. So far, Illinois, Florida, 32 African countries, Colombia, Australia and the US Army agree with him. Those who disagree -- President Obama, the CDC, the UN and public health advocates -- consistently refuse to accept a mandatory quarantine for those returning from West Africa for only one reason - it would reduce the number of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers volunteering to go to Ebola hotspots. The medical volunteers are largely silent on the question, except for one nurse who seems bent on being the star of a get-Christie campaign. More powerful groups have tried...and failed. It is time for sanity from the US public health leadership and Barack Obama. Impose a national mandatory quarantine. If it proves unnecessary, it can be lifted. But once unleashed in America, the Ebola virus will never be put back in the bottle. Do it now. (1). Here is the cite to the New England Journal of Medicine article. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1411100#abstract
Monday, October 27, 2014
Three Governors and the US Army Got It Right - Quarantine Those Returning from West Africa Ebola Areas
If you think President Obama's ISIS policy is vague -- try his Ebola policy, which is rapidly causing dissension as it forces states to act. ~~~~~ The New York Times reported today that New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, "facing fierce resistance from the White House and medical experts to a strict new mandatory quarantine policy...said on Sunday night that medical workers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa but did not show symptoms of the disease would be allowed to remain at home and would receive compensation for lost income." The controversial quarantine policy was adopted Friday for healthcare workers returning from Ebola-stricken nations, but lasted only until Sunday when it was revised to comply more with CDC guidelines. Cuomo said New York would help alleviate burdens posed by the 21-day home quarantine for health-care workers returning from West Africa, adding that persons losing pay because of the quarantine will be compensated and state officials will talk to employers if necessary. People who had no direct contact with Ebola patients, and who arrive with no symptoms, will not face home quarantine.Cuomo announced the changes at a news conference late Sunday with New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My personal preference is to err on the side of caution,” Cuomo said, saying he and de Blasio will call on New York medical experts to encourage hospital staff to volunteer for Ebola work in West Africa. “I understand that some people believe the 21-day home quarantine is a burden. I would ask for their cooperation and understanding and remember what we are trying to balance.” ~~~~~ New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie and Cuomo had agreed to and announced their quarantine orders Friday after aid worker Craig Spencer was diagnosed with the virus earlier in the week and it was learned he had been to a bowling alley, used the NYC subway and visited a restaurant. Spencer is now being treated in isolation at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Center. But New York’s quarantine process has now split away from New Jersey's, also severely criticized after the weekend retention of nurse Kaci Hickox, who had no Ebola symptoms when she returned from Sierra Leone after working with Doctors Without Borders. Hickox has been held in isolation at a site attached to a New Jersey hospital. Christie said on Fox News Sunday : “I don’t believe when you’re dealing with something as serious as this that we can count on a voluntary system. The government’s job is to protect [the] safety and health of our citizens. And so we’ve taken this action, and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it.” The Governors of Illinois and Florida followed New York and New Jersey with stronger mandates to monitor returning airline passengers who have been in contact with Ebola patients in West African nations. The measures go beyond federal guidelines and the advice of infectious-disease experts. ~~~~~ The New York changes come after a top federal health official and medical experts earlier Sunday sharply criticized New York and New Jersey’s mandatory quarantines, saying they could hamper the overall efforts to combat the deadly virus at its African epicenters. Already hundreds of volunteers have deployed and hundreds more American healthcare workers, military service members and humanitarian workers are expected to join them in coming weeks, as the United States takes a leading role in fighting Ebola in West Africa while also trying to ease growing fears about the potential spread of the disease in America. An unnamed Obama administration said Sunday : “We have let the Governors of New York, New Jersey and other states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences...policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa.” On several Sunday news talk shows, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, strongly objected to the quarantine policies. He said sending American volunteers to countries such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is vital to efforts to contain the virus there, warning that : “The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those healthcare workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go,” recommending voluntary monitoring, not isolation, for returning healthcare workers, stressing that Ebola cannot be spread unless symptoms appear. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the White House says it will announce new guidelines for returning healthcare workers to help prevent imported cases of Ebola, while also encouraging volunteers to serve in Africa, adding that it would consult with states on new federal policies. On Sunday, President Obama's top health and security advisers were with him, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who advised the President on considerations for new measures for returning healthcare workers. But, Obama apparently forgot to consilt with Defense Secretary Hagel -- because today the Army decided that troops returning from deployments to Liberia should be quarantined so they can be monitored for possible exposure to the Ebola virus. General Darryl Williams was among the first people affected, since he was one of up to a dozen soldiers who returned to their home base in Italy from Liberia and were isolated for monitoring. So, while the White House emphasizes its humanitarian effort and federal epidemiologists at the CDC and NIH continue their litany -- that Ebola can be spread only through contact with bodily fluids and only once symptoms appear -- the military has sided with three Governors taking the only sane position. Quarantine anyone returning from West Africa who has had possible contact with active Ebola virus for the 21-day incubation period. The US military continues to be the only arm of the federal government we can trust and believe in.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
The Guardian reports that Kurds battling ISIS militants for control of Kobani fear the extremists may have used an unidentified chemical weapon, according to officials and one of the few doctors still working in the besieged Syrian town. Patients came to a clinic with blisters after a blast was heard on Tuesday evening, Dr. Walat Omar said. He said that the symptoms were not normal and he could not identify their cause, but suspected a chemical weapon : “After a loud explosion, we received some patients with abnormal symptoms. They reported a bad smell which produced some kind of allergic reaction,” the doctor said in a telephone interview with the Guardian. Dr. Omar said : “Some had red patches and blisters on their skins, others had difficulties breathing and others were vomiting, with painful throats, and others with burning eyes and noses. There was one patient, all his body was covered in red patches and blisters.” ~~~~~ ISIS may have obtained stocks of ageing but usable chemical weapons when it seized Iraqi army bases where they were stored, according to a New York Times report earlier this month. The NYT reported that in June, ISIS took control of the Al-Muthanna State Establishment that had been the center of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program, and that there may also have been chemical weapons buried or abandoned elsewhere, that were not destroyed by US forces or the Iraqi military. The Guardian explained that chemical stocks manufactured before 1991 are dirty, corroded and not always easy to identify or use, but can still cause serious injury. Dr. Omar told the Guardian he feared eight civilians had been injured by some kind of chemical attack, but the intense fighting has made it impossible to supply doctors with the equipment they need for definitive tests for the use of chemical weapons. Dr. Omar described their symptoms as being distinct from anything else he had treated in weeks of heavy battles. He said he had ruled out chlorine gas or biological weapons, based on his medical training, but thought the injuries were caused by a chemical : “This is the first time we have seen this kind of condition....I have seen other strange conditions but nothing like this before.” The Guardian said that opinions of chemical weapons experts it consulted were divided after seening a series of pictures provided by Omar of a young man with large skin blisters and a severely swollen lip. The pictures did not have any metadata to confirm the time and place they were taken, but had not been published on the internet before Omar provided them to a Kurdish journalist. One expert with personal experience of treating mustard gas victims said that, although the blisters were not typical, the symptoms overall were consistent with a possible sulphur mustard poisoning, which could only be confirmed with a urine or blood test. Other experts said that while the symptoms could be consistent with exposure to a chemical agent, they were somewhat unusual and other medical conditions, such as a severe allergic reaction, would need to be ruled out. Senior Kurdish politicians said they feared a chemical attack, and had asked for testing kits to seek confirmation : “Many people were injured…and showed symptoms of chemical weapons use: choking, breathing difficulties, bleeding eyes, burning skin etc,” said Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister of the Kobani administration. “Some of the doctors say that it might be phosphorus or poison gas of some kind, but the investigation is ongoing, we don’t know for sure.” The Guardian suggested thar it is possible that ISIS fighters could mistake some chemical munitions for ordinary weapons and use them without being aware of what they are handling. It could also be harder to evaluate the impact of attacks using partially degraded weapons, one expert said. Jean-Pascal Zanders, a former analyst with the chemical and biological warfare project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said : “Various factors might contribute to far milder symptoms than those normally associated with mustard agent exposure under combat conditions. These could include impure or degraded agent, short-term exposure, or exposure to a limited volume of agent.” The bomb believed to have caused the injuries treated by Omar exploded at about 10pm Tuesday in west Kobani, near a hospital. Omar said he thought ISIS may have targeted the medical centre to try to undermine morale, although it was not being used and none of the forces defending the city were in the area. Byt, Omar said he treated fighters who were further away for watering and burning eyes, and pain in their nose.” Dr. Omar estimated that around 20 of them were affected but needed only basic first aid. Regarding civilians who were closer to the blast, Omar said he was treating affected patients with oxygen, the steroid cortisone and other drugs until about 2.30am, as well as fielding calls from people who did not want to leave their homes. The three most seriously injured patients, who ranged in age from 17 to over 40, stayed in the clinic overnight for observation and Omar was trying to arrange for their evacuation to Turkey for further treatment. ~~~~~ In a related matter, Iraqi officials said 11 police officers were poisoned by chlorine gas last month, when ISIS fighters used it to attack the Iraqi town of Duluiya. All the officers survived. The Russian Times reported today that the Iraq Defense Ministry and doctors recently confirmed that the gas was chlorine. This marks the first officially documented ISIS attack with the chemical. The ISIS militants’ chlorine gas attack occurred on September 15, in the town of Duluiyah, located north of the capital, according to the Washington Post. The blast followed an exchange of fire between the militants and the members of the sunni Jabbour tribe, who were guarding the town’s borders. The RT quoted doctors and a survivor : “It was a strange explosion. We saw yellow smoke in the sky,....The victims talked of the fog that hung close to the ground - a possible indication that it was chlorine, which is heavier than air." The treating physicians also confirmed that their diagnosis was poisoning by chlorine gas. “They were panicked; we were panicked,” said Kasim Hatim, director of the hospital in the nearby city of Balad, where the officers were taken. “We initially thought it might be a more serious gas, a nerve gas or an organophosphate.” ~~~~~ An Associated Press report confirms that Iraqi officials say Islamic State militants used chlorine gas during fighting with Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen last month north of Baghdad. A senior security official, a local official from the town of Duluiya and an official from the town of Balad say ISIS used bombs with chlorine-filled cylinders during September clashes. They told the AP on Friday that about 40 troops and militiamen were slightly affected by the chlorine and showed symptoms consistent with chlorine poisoning, such as difficulty in breathing and coughing. They were treated in hospital and quickly recovered. ~~~~~ Dear readers, these reports are extremely disturbing. We have been told that all chemical weapon stockpiles in Syria have been destroyed. But chemical stockpiles were obviously left behind when the Saddam Hussein regime fell. Their existence was denied in sharply negative commentary suggesting that President George W. Bush and his administration were lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, as an excuse to invade Iraq. But, ISIS seems to have found chemical WMD somewhere -- more likely in Iraq than in Syria. And we know that Saddam used chemical WMD on his own people during his war with Iran. Bush-hating critics said the lives of over 4,000 US troops were wasted, in addition to the money supposedly squandered in the Iraq War. But, the New York Times has published a 10,000-word, eight-part story called “The Secret Casualties Of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons,” which says WMD were in Iraq : “In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.” And, the soldiers were told to keep quiet about the WMD. “Troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. ‘Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,’ said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent warheads. Of course, the Left and Democrats are saying these WMD were old and don't count. Ask Kobani Kurds. ~~~ The New York Times and Democrats ought to apologize to President Bush. But they won't. So, why don't we just vote all of them out on November 4?
Friday, October 24, 2014
Karl Rove reported yesterday on the return of Obamacare as another election albatross around the necks of Democrat candidates. The policy cancellations and price increases caused by Obamacare are arriving just in time for Election Day. Earlier this year, Democrats thought that having enacted and supported Obamacare would be a political advantage by Election Day 2014. North Carolina Democrat Senator Kay Hagan, in a fight for survival on November 4, said last February that she wanted to show Obamacare “is something whose time is come.” Later, Colorado Democrat Senator Mark Udall, in a fight for survival on November 4, said : “we did the right thing” in passing the law and told voters he “would do it again,” a vow repeated by incumbent Democrat Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, in a fight for survival on November 4, and Louisiana Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu, in a fight for survival on November 4. ~~~~~ But, an October 2 Gallup poll shows that 54% of Americans say Obamacare has hurt them and their families, while only 27% say it has helped them. There is no clarion call from President Obama or his White House insiders about the upcoming open-enrollment period when Americans can sign up for Obamacare health coverage -- maybe because an estimated 10% of last year’s 8 million enrollees have never fully enrolled by paying their premiums. Or maybe it's because on November 1, just three days before Election Day, Americans will receive the bad news that their Obamacare premiums will increase next year. Rove said that according to a recent Manhattan Institute report, premiums for a 40-year-old man are rising in 10 of the 12 states with Democratic-held Senate seats at risk. For a 40-year-old woman, premiums will increase in nine of the 12 states. And then there are the cancellations. In Senator Udall's Colorado,the insurance commissioner recently announced that 29,000 people covered by 22,000 policies will lose their insurance on December 31, in addition to 8,200 policies already canceled or flagged for cancellation. Together with last year’s terminations, this means thar 340,000 Coloradans have lost or will lose their plan -- even if they liked it, they can't keep it. What is happening in Colorado is also happening in New Hampshire and other states, as Americans are being shifted from their plan to a different one and insurers are withdrawing from some states, reducing their choices under Obamacare. Rove thinks Obamacare may also influence the outcomes in the November 4 election by demonstrating that the federal government is too big and trying to do too much. Asked in a September 7 Gallup survey if “government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses” or if “government should do more to solve our country’s problems,” 54% of Americans said that the government doing too much and only 41% said government is doing too little. In the September poll, when Americans were asked “how much trust and confidence” they have in our federal government to handle domestic problems, 42% answered “not very much” and 17% said “none at all” -- 47% is a record high for this question, which Gallup began asking in May 1972. ~~~~~ Dear readers, when November 4 arrives, in addition to Ebola (now on New York City), the economy (an estimated 3/4 of new jobs are now part-time, often because of Obamacare), ISIS ($500 million already spent on an Obama airstrike 'strategy' that has produced very few positive results), and national security (non-secured southern border and the threat of an Obama green card executive order to regularize up to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the US) -- think about Obamacare. It is not too late to repeal and replace it with a sensible program to cover uninsured American citizens, to control costs and tort law excesses and to implement interstate insurance pools. This is all doable. But it requires a Republican Congress to enact legislation and to fight against President Obama's veto threats and government by executive order. A 51 GOP - 49 Democrat Senate is a start. A 53 GOP - 47 Democrat Senate would be even better.Think about it. It is doable.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
A new Politico poll of US House and Senate districts found a strong majority - 64% - of likely voters says the US is "out of control right now" when asked how they feel about their country. In comparison, only 36% of respondents in the survey agreed with the statement : "I'm confident that the US is in a good position to meet its economic and national security challenges." Multiple challenges were cited by Politico poll respondents -- the economy, ISIS, Ebola and national security. ~~~~~ These concerns are generally like those found in the new Associated Press-GfK poll of likely midterm election voters. But in the AP-GfK poll, most Americans also say they dislike both the Republicans and the Democrats, but more of them now say they would like the GOP to control Congress than they would the Democrats. This is partly because, on major issues including the economy and protecting the country, Republicans have gained an edge as the party more trusted among likely voters. There are four issues that are shaping the contests in the November 4 midterm elections. ~~~~~ THE ECONOMY. Most Americans continue to be deeply concerned about the direction of the economy, and the GOP is in a position to take advantage of that concern -- 61% of Americans describe the economy as poor, while only 38% say that it is good. Nine in 10 likely voters call the economy an extremely or very important issue, topping all other issues tested in the poll by more than 10 percentage points. Among those most likely to cast a ballot in November, Republicans have the edge, 39% to 31% over Democrats. The Republican advantage on the economy is more pronounced among men (14 points) than among women (3 points). ~~~~~ TERRORISM AND ISIS. Fears of terrorism, as well as the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, also continue to be top issues for Americans, and Republicans have an edge on handling both issues. Likely voters trust Republicans by a large margin over Democrats to protect the country, 42% to 20%, and on handling international crises, 35% to 25%. Republicans also hold a lead on handling the US image abroad, 33% to 27% for Democrats. The percentage of likely voters saying the threat posed by ISIS is an extremely or very important issue fell 6 points but is still high at 73%, while the share calling terrorism (76%) or the US role in world affairs (66%) important issues held steady. ~~~~~ EBOLA. Ebola is on voters' minds as Election Day approaches, with 74% saying it is a very or extremely important issue. And likely voters aren't happy with the administration's response, as 56% say they disapprove of Obama's handling of the US response to the Ebola outbreak. But they are almost equally split over which party will take advantage of Ebola fears on November 4. More than half of likely voters say either that they trust both parties equally (29%) or that they trust neither party (24%) to address public health issues like Ebola. Respondents who do have a favored party on the issue are about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, 25% to 22%. Among those likely voters who call the issue "extremely important," Republicans do have an edge, 31% to 19%, yet 49% decline to choose one party over the other. If we zoom out to look at the AP-GfK overall poll results on Ebola, just 20% of Americans approve of the CDC's work on Ebola so far, and only 30% say they trust that public health officials are sharing complete and accurate information about the virus. Only 18% have deep confidence that local hospitals could safely treat a patient with Ebola. Nine out of 10 also think it's necessary to tighten screening of people entering the US from the outbreak zone, including 69% who say that it is definitely needed. Another 29% say it's probably necessary to do so. More than 80% favor sending medical aid to the African countries most hit by Ebola and increasing government funding to develop vaccines and treatments. ~~~~~ THE NOVEMBER 4 ELECTION. Most likely voters now say they think the Republican Party will capture control of Congress, putting the voting public largely in line with the most prominent election forecasters. Combining a question about which party voters think will win the Senate witha question on who they think will win the House, half of likely voters (50%) predict the Republicans will both capture the Senate and retain the House, while 22% think things will stay just as they are. ~~~~~ Larry Sabato, at the prestigious Center for Politics think tank at the University of Virginia, has published his latest midterm election analysis. It shows at least 213 House seats leaning Republican and 189 leaning Democrat, with 15 toss-ups. Sabato predicts that the GOP will win all 213 of their current seats and most of the toss-ups, thus widening their House majority. Sabato says the Senate outcome will be much closer. He sees the Republicans winning 49 Senate seats and the Democrats 47, with 4 toss-ups. Sabato sees the GOP winning two of the toss-ups, which would give the Republcans a Senate majority with 51 seats -- not veto proof but sufficient to stop Obama and the current Democrat Senate majority from packing lower federal courts with liberal judges who have often ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and against voter ID cards. ~~~~~ Dear readers, this is good news for Republicans and GOP-leaning Independent voters. But, this should not make you relax. Winning on Novembet 4 will require working right up to election day --- Reminding family and friends to vote. Offering rides to the polls. Calmly discussing with undecided voters the advantages of voting for Republicans. Here are our talking points. *Getting Americans back to work. *Lowering the tax burden and revising the tax code to make it understandable and fair. *Controlling the federal budget and the national debt. *Improving national security, with a real plan for dealing with ISIS. *Halting the bleeding of the military's budget. *Controlling America's exposure to Ebola. *Repealing and replacing Obamacare. *Getting the Canadian-American oil pipeline project underway. *Returning America to constitutional government. All these major agenda items can be started in January with a Republican Congress. And in 2016, with the addition of a Republican President, America can fully return to its rightful place as the world's economic., technological and democratic leader.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
President Obama's approach to governing - talk a lot and do very little - has caught up with him on a hot-button issue that may cost Democrats some of the votes they had counted on for the November 4 midterm election. Embattled Democrats are facing a "fierce voter backlash from disillusioned Latinos," The Los Angeles Times reports. Democratic candidates hope that Latinos, whose voting impact is rapidly growing, will come out in force on November 4 as party leaders cling to the fading hope of continuing to control the Senate, while at least maintaining the minority of seats they now hold in the House -- and thus prevent a GOP sweep in two weeks. But the Times notes that Latino voters don't come out full force for midterm elections, which could be compounded by the disappointment they feel over President Obama's policies, particularly on immigration. "Obama promised too much and never delivered," Jose Trujillo, 44, told the LA Times outside a church in Georgia, which has one of the tightest Senate races in the country. Clara Puerta, publisher of a Spanish-language newspaper, El Nuevo Georgia, also slammed the President, who was dubbed the "deporter in chief" by the National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia earlier this year. "Obama has not responded to our community," said Puerta, who volunteers for Georgia's Democratic Party. "He promised us a lot of things and has not followed through. A lot of people are upset and they don't want to vote." ~~~~~ What could be the impact if Latino voters stay home? In the 2012 presidential election, California, Nevada, and Colorado turned from red (GOP) to blue (Democrat), when Latinos voted for Obama in record numbers. Since then, however, Obama has angered Latinos by failing to carry through on his repeated vow to push through a comprehensive immigration package. "All the air has been let out," according to Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist who takes major polls on US Latinos. He told the LA Times that his surveys show that Latinos could swing the vote in nearly 40 races, including House elections in San Diego and Sacramento, Senate contests in Colorado and Georgia, and gubernatorial races in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois -- depending on whether or not large numbers of Latinos go to the polls to vote for Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, Republicans are taking advantage of the Latino dissatisfaction with Obama by building an outreach program centered on 10 states, including California, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, where GOP operatives hope to secure the votes of Latino groups, especially social conservatives and small-business owners, according to the Times. ~~~~~ And Latinos aren't the only Americans angry wirh President Obama. Some lawmakers predict a sweeping executive order on immigration from President Obama after the November 4 elections, and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is already planning to hire a vendor to produce up to 34 million blank green cards to accommodate an expected surge in immigrants in 2016. The USCIS has published a draft solicitation for a contractor capable of producing 4 million cards a year for five years - and 9 million in the early stages - that would allow immigrants to live and work in the US, Breitbart reports. One estimate is that 34 million cards will be printed. Hedging, an official from USCIS told MailOnline on Monday that a plan was developed "in case the President makes the move we think he will," even though the agency's Document Management Division isn't yet committing to buying the materials. Another official said that the plan is only a "contingency" in case immigration reform legislation passes in Congress, stressing that it wasn't in anticipation of an Obama executive order. The President, whose plan was rebuffed by Congress, has vowed to do as much as he can by executive order. Republicans have called the Obama plan an "amnesty" for millions of illegal immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors who poured into the United States through the southern border with Mexico this summer, and who continue to flood across America's southern border, with an estimated 90,000 due to arrive by year end. ~~~~~ The executive order timetable has been shifted until after the crucial midterm elections. The latest draft solicitation "seems to indicate that the President is contemplating an enormous executive action that is even more expansive than the plan that Congress rejected," according to Jessica Vaughn, an immigration expert at the Center for Immigration Studies, who told Breitbart the green cards - officially known as Permanent Residency Cards and Employment Authorization Documentation cards - are used for participants in Obama's controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as "DREAMers," the program's participants came to the United States illegally as children. A total of 862,000 people have been approved for such documentation by USCIS through June. But according to the draft solicitation, "the guaranteed minimum for each ordering period is 4,000,000 cards, with the estimated maximum for the entire contract set at 34,000,000 cards." Last July, Newsmax reported about a proposal supported by some Democratic Senators that would expand Obama's plan to include immigrants who are parents of US citizens, which would mean protecting 4.4 million adults from deportation, according to a January report by the National Foundation for American Policy, a Virginia-based immigration research group. Another proposal would also include the parents of immigrants who arrived as children. New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, has called for a halt to deportations for a larger group of immigrants, covering all those who would be allowed to stay under the Obama-backed immigration legislation that the Senate passed last year. That measure, opposed by House Republican leaders, would create a path to citizenship for many of the 12 million undocumented workers in the US. ~~~~~ Dear readers, on CNN "Inside Politics" Monday, moderator John King said the unilateral executive action promised by Obama after the midterm elections will result in confrontation, not compromise, from Republicans angry and frustrated. King commented :"Well, if you believed perhaps there would be room and motivation for a deal after the 2014 midterms - think again. I was so struck by conversations in Colorado, in Kansas and Iowa - just pure frustration; a belief among conservative Republicans that this problem is getting worse. What does that tell you? It tells you there is no prospect for any compromise legislation during the final two years of the Obama presidency," King said, adding : "If the President uses his executive power, Republicans will be pushing for confrontation, not compromise." So, since there is little doubt that Obama is determined to take action and is bent on granting as many green cards as possible, and with Republicans demanding that their leaders stand firm against compromise, the future seems to hold a major confrontation on the immigration issue after November 4 as America heads into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
American media is talking about President Obama's evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage -- how he now believes that the US Constitution requires states to allow same-sex couples to marry : "Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all 50 states," Obama told the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, referring to 14th Amendment language requiring that states have valid reasons for discriminating between citizens. The President's remark is probably the Obama endgame on the topic of same-sex marriage. Last March, Obama stopped short of endorsing such a right, while saying that there was a "strong basis" for the Supreme Court to make such a finding : "I used to teach constitutional law and I think that there’s certainly a strong basis for determining that in fact in this age, given what we now know, given the changes that have been taking place in states around the country, that you know, same sex couples should be treated fairly and have the same rights to benefits and to being able to transfer property...all the rights and recognition that I think heterosexual couples do." The most dramatic shift in Obama's public views on the issue, which he described as "evolving" back in 2010, came in 2012 when he said he favored giving same-sex couples all the rights of marriage : "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," he told ABC about six months before his re-election. Obama's 2012 statement was in part an attempt to catch up to Vice President Biden's statement that same-sex marriage should be allowed -- note that Obama's endorsement today of a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage also comes in the lead-up to a crucial election, in this case just three weeks before a midterm in which turning out the Democratic base will be critical to containing the party's likely losses in Congress. ~~~~~ Despite Obama's changing views, the Obama administration has never explicitly advocated a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. When the Supreme Court considered the issue of California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage last year, the US Justice Department argued that the state could not take away rights it had already granted, but the DOJ did not ask the Court to recognize a 50-state right to gay marriage. Obama also complicated the issue in many of his public remarks in recent years by seeming to favor a state-by-state approach that appeared to be at odds with the notion of a federal constitutional right. In the New Yorker Toobin interview, Obama analyzed the Supreme Court's recent decisions not to decide the same-sex marriage question - at least not in the cases from five states presented for review this past summer : "The decision that was just handed down to not do anything about what states are doing on same-sex marriage may end up being as consequential - from my perspective, a positive sense - as anything that’s been done....Because I think it really signals that although the Court was not quite ready - it didn’t have sufficient votes to follow Loving v. Virginia and go ahead and indicate an equal-protection right across the board - it was a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up with.” While the Justice Department has not yet filed a legal brief formally asserting the existence of a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview with Yahoo News last month that he believes such a right exists. ~~~~~ The Fourteenth Amendment is the most litigated part of the US Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause is the most litigated part of the Fourteenth Amendment -- so let's look briefly at what the Equal Protection Clause says and how it has been interpreted by tbe US Supreme Court. Wkipedia gives a good history of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments after the Civil War. The Amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws, and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves. The Amendment was bitterly contested, particularly by southern Cobfederacy states, which were forced to ratify it in order for them to regain representation in Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, forms the basis for landmark decisions such as Roe v. Wade (1973), regarding abortion, and Bush v. Gore (2000), regarding the 2000 presidential election. It limits the actions of all state and local officials or those acting on their behalf. The second, third, and fourth sections of the amendment are seldom litigated. The Amendment's first section includes several clauses: the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause that we will focus on, which requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision that precipitated the end of racial segregation, and for many other decisions rejecting irrational or unnecessary discrimination against people belonging to various groups. ~~~~~ Text : AMENDMENT XIV. Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ~~~~~ The Republicans who wrote the legislation for the Fourteenth Amendment and guided it through Congress in 1866 were satisfied that they had secured civil rights for Blacks, but were disappointed that the Amendment would not also secure their political rights, in particular the right to vote. The Equal Protection Clause itself was created in response to the lack of equal protection provided by law in states with Black Codes, where blacks could not sue, give evidence, or be witnesses. They also were punished more harshly than whites. The Supreme Court in Strauder v. West Virginia stated that the Equal Protection Clause was designed to assure to the "colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that under the law are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government, in that enjoyment, whenever it should be denied by the States." However, federal constitutional rights are limited to those situations where there is “state action,” meaning action of government officials who are exercising their governmental power. In Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S 339 (1880), the Supreme Court found that the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment "have reference to actions of the political body denominated by a State, by whatever instruments or in whatever modes that action may be taken. A State acts by its legislative, its executive, or its judicial authorities. It can act in no other way. The constitutional provision, therefore, must mean that no agency of the State or of the officers or agents by whom its powers are exerted, shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Whoever, by virtue of public position under a State government, deprives another of property, life, or liberty, without due process of law, or denies or takes away the equal protection of the laws, violates the constitutional inhibition and as he acts in the name and for the State, and is clothed with the State's power, his act is that of the State." ~~~~~ Dear readers, while the Fourteenth Amendment's legislative history clearly shows that it was written to grant to Black Americans the rights and protections of the Constitution against attempts by various states to ignore those rights and protections, the language of the Amendment does not include any delimiting words -- "No State shall....deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." So while President Obama may be speaking for a minority of Americans in supporting a federal constitutional eight to same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court will most likely finally agree -- unless it decides that the Constitution protects only civil rights, which everyone is entitled to, but not religious rights protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. This reasoning would protect pastors, priests and churches whose beliefs do not accept same-sex marriage. But it would mean that same-sex couples with a valid state marriage license could demand that a federal judge marry them. The only other choice -- repeal or amend the Fourteenth Amendment - a nearly impossible task in today's America.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Reuters filed a long report today, saying that Turkey agreed on Monday to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian border town of Kobani. This followed the first United States airdrop of arms to help the defenders resist an ISIS assault. In a brief statement, the US Central Command said US Air Force C-130 planes "delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL's attempts to overtake Kobani." Washington said the air-dropped arms had been supplied by Iraqi Kurdish authorities and had been dropped near Kobani, which came under ISIS attack in September and is now besieged to the east, west and south, and bordered to the north by Turkey, which stationed tanks on hills overlooking Kobani a week ago but refused to help the Kurdish militia on the ground until agreeing on a broader deal with its NATO allies on intervening in the Syrian civil war, saying action should also be taken against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference that Turkey was facilitating the passage of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, which also fought ISIS when the militants attacked the Kurds' autonomous region in Iraq over the summer. He gave no details about Turkey's refusal to intervene against ISIS, which has seized large areas of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The Turkish refusal has led to growing frustration in the United States. The policy has also provoked deadly riots in southeastern Turkey by Kurds furious at Ankara's refusal to help Kobani or at least open a land corridor for volunteer fighters and reinforcements to go there. The AP reported today that the US airdrops angered Turkey, which has said it would oppose any US arms transfers to the Kurdish rebels in Syria because Turkey views the main Kurdish group in Syria as an extension of the Turkish Kurd group known as the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terror group by the US and by NATO. ~~~~~ Earlier, the US Central Command said it had delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to allow the Kurds to continue their resistance in Kobani. The main Syrian Kurdish armed group, the YPG, said it had received "a large quantity" of ammunition and weapons. Reuters reported that Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the YPG, said the weapons dropped overnight would have a "positive impact" on the battle and the morale of fighters who have been out-gunned by ISIS. But Xelil added : "Certainly it will not be enough to decide the battle. We do not think the battle of Kobani will end that quickly. The forces of [Islamic State] are still heavily present and determined to occupy Kobani. In addition, there is resolve [from the YPG] to repel this attack," he told Reuters in an interview conducted via Skype. He declined to give more details on the shipments. ~~~~~ The United States military began carrying out air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in August. In early September, they started bombing ISIS in neighboring Syria. However, last night's airdrop resupply of Kurdish fighters is an escalation in the US effort to help local forces beat back ISIS in Syria, marking the growing US military support for the Syrian Kurdish group previously held at arms' length by the West, due partly to the concerns of Turkey, a NATO member. Washington has pressed Ankara to let it use bases in Turkey to stage the airstrikes, but a Turkish foreign ministry official said the country's airspace had not been used during the drops on Kobani. Escalating US airstrikes on ISIS in and around Kobani have helped slow its progress in the past week. The Kurds say the US military has been coordinating the airstrikes with them, helping to make them more effective. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that tracks the Syrian civil war using sources on the ground, said there had been two new US airstrikes on ISIS positions after midnight last night. The US Central Command confirmed 135 US air strikes near Kobani in recent days, combined with continued resistance on the ground, saying they had slowed ISIS' advances into the town and killed hundreds of its fighters. The Central Command statement added : "...the security situation in Koban remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist." ~~~~~ Obama gave advance notice to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of the plans to deliver arms to the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish presidency said Obama and Erdogan had discussed Syria, including measures that could be taken to stop ISIS' advances in and around Kobani. In a statement published on Sunday, it also said Turkish assistance to over 1.5 million Syrians, including around 180,000 from Kobani, was noted in the conversation. In comments published in the Turkish media on Monday, Erdogan said the main Syrian Kurdish political group, the PYD, is allied with the PKK, describing both as terrorist organizations, saying : "It will be very wrong for America with whom we are allied and who we are together with in NATO to expect us to say 'yes' [to supporting the PYD] after openly announcing such support for a terrorist organization." Kobani is one of three areas near the border with Turkey where Syrian Kurds have established their own government since the country descended into civil war in 2011. ~~~~~ US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking today in Jakarta, said it would have been "irresponsible" and "very difficult morally" not to aid the Kurds in this "particular" hour. Kerry told reporters in the Indonesian capital that the Obama administration understood ally Turkey's concerns about supplying the Kurds, who are linked to a Kurdish group that Ankara fiercely opposes. But, he said the situation is such in the besieged town of Kobani that the resupplies were deemed absolutely necessary in a "crisis moment." Kerry addressed comments to Turkey : "Let me say very respectfully to our allies the Turks that we understand fully the fundamentals of their opposition and ours to any kind of terrorist group and particularly obviously the challenges they face with respect to the PKK. But we have undertaken a coalition effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, and ISIL is presenting itself in major numbers in this place called Kobani." ~~~~~ Dear readers, in an about-face reported by the New York Times, Turkey’s foreign minister said later on Monday that the country would facilitate the movement of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces to the embattled Syrian town of Kobani to join the fighting there. At a news conference in Ankara, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that his government was “helping the peshmerga cross over to Kobani,” an apparent shift from Turkey’s previous refusal to allow any military assistance to Kurdish fighters in the town. ~~~ It seems that when President Obama wants to get something done in the Iraq-Syria ISIS crisis, he succeeds -- as it did last night in delivering arms, ammunition and medical supplies to the Kurdish peshmerga. Even Turkey, the most independent of the so-called coalition - caved in to the inevitable. We must ask why President Obama was not equally as insistent - in a much less difficult situation - on arming the Kurds in northern Iraq as they stood alone against ISIS this summer. The White House said then that all Kurdish supplies must pass through Baghdad, which like Turkey is fearful of the Kurds becoming too strong. We might also ask why President Obama did not "persuade" Iraq to let the US supply the Kurds directly. The US military has been strongly supporting the need for a ground army to secure the gains made by the US airstrikes. It is clear that neither the Iraqi army nor the Free Syrian Army of the moderate opponents of al-Assad will be ready to assume that role any time soon. The Kurdish peshmerga are ready and are now serving as the only ground force assisting in securing areas of Iraq and Syria softened up by US airstrikes. Where is the Obama resolve to bend the coalition - if it exists - to the obvious solution of using the Kurdish peshmerga as its ground force. What Obama agenda prevents this decision?
Saturday, October 18, 2014
TODAY IN HISTORY. On October 18, 1767, the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania was agreed upon. It was called the Mason-Dixon Line because it was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in order to resolve a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland when they were still British colonies in Colonial America. The Line is still a demarcation line among four US states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia, which in 1767 was still part of Virginia. ~~~~~ After Pennsylvania abolished slavery, the Mason–Dixon Line became a demarcation line for the legality of slavery. But the demarcation did not extend beyond Pennsylvania because Delaware, then a slave state, extended north and east of the boundary. Also lying north and east of the boundary was New Jersey, where slavery was formally abolished in 1846, but former slaves continued to be "apprenticed" to their masters until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865. ~~~~~ In the late 1700s, the states south of the Mason-Dixon line would begin arguing for the perpetuation of slavery, while the north hoped to phase out the ownership of human chattel. This period, which historians consider the era of "The New Republic," ended with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, another line drawn to extend the Mason-Dixon Line west. The Compromise accepted the states south of the line as slave-holding and those north of the line as free. The Compromise, along with those that followed it, eventually failed. ~~~~~ Delaware's position along the Mason-Dixon Line made it a key in the battle between abolitionists and slaveholding states. Its 1776 state constitution had banned the importation of slaves, and state legislation in 1797 effectively stopped the export of slaves by declaring exported slaves automatically free. The state’s population in the 1790 census was 15% black, but only 30% of these were free blacks. By the 1820 census, 78% of Delaware’s blacks were free. By 1840, 87% were free. Both escaped slaves and legally free blacks living anywhere near the line were vulnerable to kidnapping by slave-catchers operating out of Maryland. One of the most famous kidnappers was Patty Cannon, a notoriously violent woman who, with her son-in-law Joe Johnson, ran a tavern on the Delaware-Maryland line near the Nanticoke River. The Cannon-Johnson gang seized blacks as far north as Philadelphia and transported them south for sale. In 1829, Cannon and Johnson were arrested and charged with kidnapping, and Cannon was charged with several murders. Johnson was flogged, and Cannon died in jail before trial, reportedly a suicide by poison. Her skull is kept in a hatbox at the Dover Public Library. For free blacks in Delaware, freedom was quite restricted. Blacks could not vote, or testify in court against whites. After Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion in Virginia triggered rumors and panic about a black insurrection, the Delaware legislature banned blacks from owning weapons, or meeting in groups larger than twelve. ~~~~~ Because the Missouri Compromise of 1820 designated Mason and Dixon’s west line as the national divide between the "free" and "slave" states east of the Ohio River, the line suddenly acquired new significance. Through the first half of the 19th century, the Mason-Dixon Line represented the line of freedom for tens of thousands of blacks escaping slavery in the south. The Underground Railroad provided food and temporary shelter at secret way-stations, and guided or sometimes transported northbound slaves across the Line. The spirituals sung by these slaves included coded references to guide escaping slaves : the song "Follow the drinking gourd" referred to the Big Dipper from which runaways could sight the North Star; the River Jordan was the Mason-Dixon Line; Pennsylvania was the Promised Land. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed slave owners to pursue their escaped slaves into the north, the line of freedom became the Canadian border, "Canaan" in the spirituals, and abolitionists created Underground Railroad stops all the way to Canada. Thomas Garrett, a member of Wilmington Delaware’s Quaker community, was one of the most prominent conductors on the Underground Railroad. In 1813, while Garrett was still living in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a free black employee of his family’s was kidnapped and taken into Maryland. Garrett succeeded in rescuing her, but the experience reportedly made him a committed abolitionist, and he dedicated the next fifty years of his life to helping others escape slavery. Garrett moved to Wilmington in 1822. He befriended and helped Harriet Tubman as she brought group after group of escaping slaves over the line; his house was the final step to freedom. Garrett was caught in 1848, prosecuted and convicted, forthrightly telling the court he had helped over 1,400 slaves escape. Judge Roger Taney ordered Garrett to reimburse the owners of slaves he was known to have helped, and it bankrupted him, but he continued in his work, assisting approximately 1,300 more slaves to freedom by 1864. Taney went on to become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and wrote the majority decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), declaring that no blacks, slave or free, could ever be US citizens, and striking down the Missouri Compromise. In the buildup to the Civil War, Delaware was a microcosm of the country, sharply split between abolitionists and pro-slavery. Like other Union border states, Delaware remained a slave state during the war, although its slave population had fallen to only a few hundred. President Abraham Lincoln offered a federal reimbursement of $500 per slave to Delaware slave-owners if Delaware would abolish slavery, but the state legislature stubbornly refused. Lincoln’s January 1,1863, Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the Confederate states, but not in the Union border states. After the Civil War, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas outlawed slavery on or before their individual ratifications of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. So as the Thirteenth Amendment neared ratification by 27 of the 36 states on December 6, 1865, America’s last two remaining slave states were Kentucky and Delaware. Delaware didn’t ratify the Thirteenth, Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments until 1901. ~~~~~ In the mid-20th century, the Mason-Dixon Line was the backdrop for one of the five school desegregation cases that were eventually consolidated into the US Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. ~~~~~ In popular usage, the Mason–Dixon Line symbolizes a cultural boundary between the North and the South, popularly called "Dixie." One hundred years after Mason and Dixon began their effort to chart the Pennsylvania-Maryland boundary, soldiers from opposite sides of the line left their blood on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the Southern states' final and fatal attempt to breach the Mason-Dixon Line during the Civil War. One hundred and one years after the Britons completed their line, the United States finally admitted men of any complexion born within the nation to the rights of citizenship with the ratification of the 14th Amendment. ~~~~~ When the Mason–Dixon Line was drawn in 1767, it was marked by stones every mile and "crownstones" every five miles, using stone shipped from England. Most of the stones still exist. The Maryland side of each stone says (M) and the Delaware and Pennsylvania sides say (P) because Delaware was dependent on Pennsylvania at the time. Crownstones include the two coats-of-arms -- the side facing north bear William Penn's arms and the side facing south bear the arms of the Calvert family that founded Maryland. Today, while a number of the original stones are missing or buried, many are still visible, resting on public land and protected by iron cages. ~~~~~ Dear readers, sometimes we take history for granted. Every American has used the Mason-Dixon Line in conversation to denote the Old South - 'south of the Mason-Dixon.' The mere mention of the Mason-Dixon Line conjures up the fight against slavery and the Civil War. But like all phrases that have become commonplace, the historical significance of the Mason-Dixon Line has been blurred by time. Wherever you live -- whatever country or American region -- look around you and you will find important names and places in history. Take some time to learn about them and consider their significance because they are the building blocks of today and tomorrow.
Friday, October 17, 2014
The gaffs, confusion and contradictary statements coming from US officials trying to coordinate the Ebola crisis continue. It now seems that, despite what CDC and some military officials, as well as Obama administration spokesmen, have been saying, American medics will, indeed, treat infected healthcare workers in West Africa. US Major General Darryl Williams, who is overseeing the US military response in West Africa, attempted to renew assurances that there are no plans for American troops to treat Liberians infected by Ebola -- BUT a team of 65 doctors and nurses from the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, will staff a 25-bed hospital built by the military. They will actually be involved in the care and feeding of healthcare workers who have been inflicted with the Ebola virus,” Williams said in a teleconference from Liberia. The General’s remarks highlight questionable distinctions and apparent contradictions, or simple confusion, on the part of top defense and health officials. Another General, David Rodriguez, had earlier said that troops would only work with Ebola samples during testing, “clarifying” a statement that a handful American troops would have direct contact with potential Ebola patients. These comments from the military are in contrast to earlier comments made today by the director of the CDC, who said that the Defense Department had told him there were no plans for military personnel to actively treat Ebola patients. Major General Williams’ remarks contradict these statements. He admitted there was risk, saying : “I would not say there’s no risk. But there is risk that can be tampered down if you take the appropriate discipline and use the protocols.” Concerning the handful of specialists who are testing samples, Williams said : “That’s probably the closest it comes [for the US military to be in contact] to the Ebola virus chain.” The apparent distinction Williams makes is that the US medics report to the US Department of Health and Human Services – and not the military, technically, although they are one of America's seven uniformed services whose current leader is a Rear Admiral. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, the Texas health department has taken the lead, ordering any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit grocery stores, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed. The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States and who died on October 8 in the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter. The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules "may be subject to a communicable disease control order." The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring. The new rules were issued in the wake of reports that one of the hospital nurses who treated Duncan -- 29- year-old Amber Vinson -- later flew to Cleveland and then took a return flight Oct. 13 on Frontier Airlines despite having a low-grade fever, indicating the possible onset of Ebola. Until today, workers involved in the Duncan case had only been asked to self-monitor for symptoms of infection after two nurses were diagnosed with the virus The order, signed by David Lakey, commissioner of the state health department, said any of the health-care workers affected can stay at the hospital to facilitate monitoring for the three-week period. Another healthcare worker who had contact with Duncan lab samples was found by tbe CDC on a Carnival Cruise Line ship in tbe Caribbean. This person has been quarantined on the ship, which has been refused permission by Belize to send her to Belize City for evacuation to the US. ~~~~~ The CDC is now contacting all passengers of Frontier Flight 1143 used by Dallas nurse Amber Vinson to return from Cleveland to Dallas after telling her CDC contact that she had a temperature of 99.5°F. ~~~~~ Despite the growing number of Americans who have come in contact with healthcare workers in the Dallas hospital, doctors who are specialists in infectious diseases are trying to calm fears of a spread of the virus. Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, told ABC News : "The issue is with the healthcare workers at the hospital in Dallas who were exposed while caring for a sick individual. The average person does not have to be concerned." This is echoed by Dr. Frieden, CDC director, who acknowledges that there are likely to be further Ebola cases among the health care workers who treated Thomas Duncan, but remains confident that the infection will travel no further : "Ebola is hard to fight, but we know how to fight it and how to beat it. The situation changes every day. We're always going to be open with what we know, share more rather than less. We're going to put in extra measures of safety to protect Americans," he said in a press briefing yesterday. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we are now seeing the negative fallout in America of a federal government and President who have lost the confidence of their citizens. Perhaps Dr. Freiden and the CDC are right. -- perhaps they know how to control the Ebola virus -- perhaps their actions will prevent an epidemic in the US -- perhaps. But many Americans have the feeling that President Obama and the CDC and Dr. Freiden are not in control, that they are disorganized and "behind the curve" when dealing with Ebola. This widespread skepticism can be traced directly back to the skepticism Americans now feel about anything President Obama says. He is mistrusted and his motives and truthfulness are questioned. So, now that Americans need to be reassured, not about political and foreign policy issues, but about a health danger that, even with the most trusted of Presidents, would still be 70/% fatal and with no known medicine to cure it. And, just when Americans are hoping and demanding that someone take charge and use US resources correctly to protect the nation - we get the leaked information that President Obama will in fact appoint an Ebola Czar. But, hope and trust are once more being crushed. The President will appoint Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, to be the new "Ebola czar" to coordinate government response to the medical emergency. Klain is not a doctor, has no healthcare industry experience, has no background as a military logistics officer. He is an ex-politico. Klain is now President of Case Holdings and General Counsel of Revolution, an investment group. He clerked for the US Supreme Court. He headed up Gore's effort during the 2000 Florida recount - so we know he can lose a battle over hanging chads. Klain is highly regarded at the White House - something even Democrats are now running away from - which sees him as a good manager with excellent relationships both in the administration and on Capitol Hill - neither of which are Ebola hotpoints. He supervised the allocation of funds in the stimulus act - a $700 Billion giveaway that most Americans still see as a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. So, once more, we see the "we inside the White House can do everything" approach that has destroyed Barack Obama's credibility with Americans at work on the Ebola crisis. I hope Ron Klain succeeds. But experience tells me that he will be just one more voice in the chaotic cacophony that characterizes the Obama approach to government -- and now to Ebola.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Attorneys for several Houston pastors are challenging the city’s attempts to subpoena their sermons as part of a lawsuit against the recently passed transgender-rights law, also known as the “bathroom bill,” demanding “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker (Houston's first openly lesbian mayor), homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” The controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, approved by the city council in June, was opposed by a citizen petition effort. Following the ordinance’s passage in May, faith leaders decided to collect signatures to get the provision on a November ballot in an effort to strike it down. They ended up with the signatures of 50,000 Houstonians, far more than the 17,269 required. But after the city examined the documentation to see if signatories were Houston residents and had signed relevant pages - requirements for petitioning - they subsequently rejected a substantial number. ~~~~~ After the petitions were rejected, opponents of the ordinance, which forbids businesses open to the public from stopping individuals from using opposite-sex bathrooms if their gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex, filed a lawsuit in August challenging the city attorney’s ruling. The Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Erik Stanley said the pastors subject to the city’s subpoenas are "not party to the lawsuit.“ Attorney Christiana Holcomb, also of ADF, the law firm representing five of the pastors, told Fox News : "The city's subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented. The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions." The motion filed in court was an attempt to try to stop the subpoenas, claiming they are "overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious," and in violation of freedom of speech. Mayor Parker's office has refused to explain why it was requesting the sermons, but an ADF attorney suggested that the city was trying to smear the pastors by searching for evidence that they are bigoted against homosexuals. According to Fox News, ADF attorney Erik Stanley said : "City council members are supposed to be public servants, not 'Big Brother overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge. This is designed to intimidate pastors." ~~~~~ Reaction to the subpoenas was swift and severe. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement he is "simply stunned by the sheer audacity" of the subpoenas," adding that a government "has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights. The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever." The Reverend Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, told Fox News that he believed the city was breaking the law : "We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights. This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority." Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, called on pastors across the country to rally behind the Houston ministers : "The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state. Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I'd like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities - to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons." The pastors told Fox News that they do not intend to comply with the subpoena, although failure to comply could result in a "fine or confinement, or both." Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz blasted the subpoenas, calling the move "shocking and shameful. For far too long, the federal government has led an assault against religious liberty, and now, sadly, my hometown of Houston is joining the fight. This is wrong. It's unbefitting of Texans, and it's un-American. The government has no business asking pastors to turn over their sermons." ~~~~~ And the reaction of Mayor Parker and her office to the criticism has been to backpeddle, news that was first revealed by Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston area US Pastor Council and one of the five pastors who received a subpoena. In what appears to be an effort to escape the anger building up in Houston and across America, Parker and the city are now blaming the subpoenas on the law firm they hired, but Welch told The Christian Post : "This was really initiated by Mayor Annise Parker, who is obviously a noted, kind of poster child for the national gay and lesbian movement, proposing this ordinance back in April that was really a massive overreach to begin with, to basically add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the city's discrimination ordinance and impose those discrimination protections over the private sector in an unprecedented way," he said. Parker went as far as to call the subpoena “overly broad” during a press conference Wednesday. “But I also think there was some deliberate misinterpretation on the other side,” she added. Parker and Feldman also said that the subpoena wording came from pro bono attorneys handling the case and not directly from the mayor’s office, as some have claimed. Both contend that they found out about the subpoenas this week, though the city attorney had been quoted Tuesday defending the court document. Parker said during a press conference : “Let me just say that one word in a very long legal document which I know nothing about and would never have read and I’m vilified coast to coast. It’s a normal day at the office for me.” ~~~~~ TheBlaze reported that Feldman told Houston TV earlier this week that he believed that the gathering of signatures at local churches against the equal rights ordinances makes examining sermons an appropriate response. “If they choose to do this inside the church, choose to do this from the pulpit, then they open the door to the questions being asked,” he said. Feldman also said on a separate occasion, “If someone is speaking from the pulpit and it’s political speech, then it’s not going to be protected.” But on Wednesday, Feldman said that the word “sermons” was a distraction and that he would not have worded the subpoena in the same way if he had composed it, according to the Houston Chronicle. “It’s unfortunate that it has been construed as some effort to infringe upon religious liberty,” he said. Bur hours before the press conference, Parker used her Twitter account to defend the inclusion of sermons in the subpoena, writing, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?” ~~~~~ Dear readers, the First Amendment says : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The rights granted by the First Amendment are among those most sacred to the Founders and most protected by the US Supreme Court. To try to restrict the right of Americans' freedom to believe and practice religion as they choose, and to try to suppress that religious freedom by attacking the other great First Amendment right - freedom of speech - is an affront to every American and a challenge to their most revered rights. That the Houston mayor would use the current "hot button" rights of the gay, lesbian and transgender community in such an attack is an indication of her insensitivity to the opinion of the majority of Americans, who are already uneasy and angered by what they see as a degradation of a fundamental Judeo-Christian moral principle in the rush to grant a constitutional right to gay marriage. This bundle of constitutional-religious-social issues is far too important, and too divisive, to be used to push through one municipality's ordinance granting the unfettered use of public toilets. The issues deserve serious, thoughtful debate. They do not deserve being reduced to who uses which restrooms. And, if Mayor Parker wants to know what the pastors sermons contain, perhaps she should go to church -- visit each one on a Sunday morning. It might be a valuable experience for her.