Nel's New Day

February 29, 2020

Covid-19 Not a ‘Hoax’

The spread of the coronavirus covid-19 around the globe overshadowed other major events such as primaries in 14 states on Tuesday—including California and Texas—and signing of a peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban. Earlier this week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) spent days in India schmoozing with autocratic leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi while violent protests against restrictions on Muslim citizenship in the country killed people and the stock markets began serious declines, the worst week since the recession in 2008.

DDT found himself caught in the middle of the covid-19 crisis with his attempts to minimize its spread in the U.S. while the experts explain how easily it is spread and the possibility of death. His followers claim the virus is a “hoax” to bring down DDT was followed by  acting chief-in-staff Mick Mulvaney telling the lie to his conservative CPAC audience. Last night at his campaign rally, DDT repeated the falsehood that “the Democrats are politicizing” the virus, which is “their new hoax,” but today he had to face questions about his statements during a press conference. His political solution for problems with the virus is to instigate more tax cuts and against lower the interest rate

[Left: DDT’s vision of covid-19.] The first death from covid-19 in King County (WA) was close to the northern border with Canada, and DDT’s solution is to close the southern border to Mexico. Canada has five times the number of virus cases as Mexico. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to answer questions about minimizing the danger when he testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee for a brief two hours before he ran off to attend the CPAC. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded covid-19’s global risk to the top level of “very high.” Over 60 countries have reported cases, and people in Iran’s healthcare system reported that statistics for illnesses and deaths are much higher than the government indicates—thousands of people attacked by covid-19. At least 86,000 people in the world have been infected, and about 3,000 have died.

Surprising HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DDT made VP Mike Pence the point person for the health crisis. DDT said that an outbreak was not inevitable although the CDC’s director of immunization and respiratory diseases stated that “it’s not a question of if, but rather a question of when and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” During Pence’s first day solving the covid-19 crisis he attended the CPAC, met with Fox’s Sean Hannity and farther-right Sinclair’s Eric Bolling, and put DDT’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow on his “team.” This week, Kudlow claimed that covid-19 was already contained in the U.S.; back in 2007/08, he said that there was no chance of a recession, a message that he’s again repeating. Pence fundraised in Florida the next day.

Pence did take time to meet with his task force to tell them that all statements and public appearances about the virus will go through him. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had said “we are dealing with a serious virus” which may have a higher mortality rate than influenza and “has adapted extremely well to human species.” He said he was told not to say anything else without clearance bu today claimed that he had not been “muzzled.” Pence also appointed Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, as the coronavirus response coordinator, but DDT said, “Mike will report back to me.” In a confusion of leadership, Azar claimed to be the chairman of the task force, making him the third leader. DDT failed to follow the “clearance” policy by announcing false statistics, reassurances, and accusations at his campaign rally.

The Food and Drug Administration took action in speeding up hospitals’ abilities to test for covid-19 by allowing labs to develop and use coronavirus diagnostic tests before the agency reviews them. The lack of testing in the U.S. has been a disaster: fewer than 500 people were tested at the same time that China tested 320,000 people. The shortage of tests was so severe that a woman in California waited for five days to get CDC permission for testing because she didn’t fit restrictive federal criteria such as travel to China.

The DOD canceled a military exercise with South Korea, restricted access to Army public areas in Italy, ordered ships visiting Pacific region countries to stay at sea for 14 days, and stopped all non-essential travel in the Persian Gulf region.  

Today, DDT bragged about the quick response and preparedness to stop covid-19 from spreading in the U.S. Yet a whistleblower faces retaliation for reporting how the government didn’t provide proper training and protective gear for people required to work with quarantined people. Employees for HHS Administration for Children and Families were ordered to help quarantined people flown in from overseas, some of them having contracted the virus. DDT had already overridden CDC’s recommendation to not return them back to the U.S.

When the group was taken to two Air Force bases in California, staff members were not provided safety-protocol training until five days into their assignment. Exposed staff members went around and off the bases; at least one person stayed at a nearby hotel and left California on a commercial flight. When the whistleblower expressed concerns relayed to her from staff members, she was reassigned. None of the workers was monitored after they worked with the sick returnees. One of the bases, Travis Air Force Base, is ten miles away from Vacaville where a woman contracted covid-19 without travel or known contact with someone testing positive for covid-19.  

At today’s press conference, Pence tried to downplay his part in the Indiana healthcare crisis while he was governor. He cut public health spending and delayed needle exchanges because of his belief that it leads to drug abuse. It doesn’t. After the state’s worst outbreak of HIV, he had to back off and allow needle exchanges—for 30 days until Indiana changed the law. Pence also doesn’t believe in a connection between tobacco use and cancer; he wrote, “Smoking doesn’t kill.” He also said, “Condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.” Pence’s decisions are based on his evangelical Christian beliefs.

Although DDT announced the first covid-19 death in the U.S. as a “wonderful woman,” the death was that of a man in his 50s. The other two new presumptive cases in the state, meaning not yet verified by testing, include a health care worker and a resident at a long-term care facility in Kirkland (WA). The facility now has 52 people suspected of covid-19, and Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in Washington.

At least 28 million people in the U.S. are uninsured, and millions more are underinsured with high deductibles. Many employers don’t provide sick leave, and wages can be so low that people can’t stay home if they are sick. Children go to school because parents cannot afford child care. Some of DDT’s promised $2.5 billion for the healthcare crisis comes from other domestic funding, including that for low-income people such as the home-heating program, and $535 million from the program to avoid Ebola, an epidemic that can come to the U.S.

Development of a vaccine to block covid-19’s rapid spread could take a year or longer. While testifying before the House this week, Azar refused to guarantee that a vaccine or treatment developed with taxpayer money would be affordable. He told Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) that “we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.” Schakowsky protested that “he’s giving Big Pharma a blank check to monopolize them instead.” While CEO of Elly Lilly, Azar doubled the price of insulin. Under the Affordable Care Act, however, the vaccine would be free for all insured people, like all federally-recommended vaccines. 

Polling among Democrats, independents, and undecideds shows them more anxious about paying for healthcare than for housing, food, and transportation. Two-thirds worry about paying unexpected medical bills, almost 50 percent are concerned about affording insurance deductibles, and 45 percent worried about paying for necessary prescription drugs. Another 40 percent worry about affording insurance premiums. The poll was taken from February 13-18, before anxiety was ramped up by the incidence of covid-19 in the U.S. and the administration’s mixed messages.

July 14, 2018

HHS Makes Excuses for Failure to Reunite Migrant Families

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed its deadline to reunite all 102 children under the age of five with their parents. Officials supposedly succeeded in only 38 cases by the deadline although that number cannot be confirmed. The government now maintains that half of the separated children under five years of age should not be reunited with their parents.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar claimed that the children are not being reunited because the adults are not their parents, but immigration lawyer Barbara Hines reported that many parents who have birth certificates and other documents proving parentage are denied their children. A dozen children were not united because their parents were voluntarily deported, but the parents have said that they were told they would get their children back if they signed papers to leave the country. One father said he didn’t understand the paperwork he signed to leave his child in the United States. Reports indicate that HHS is not searching for deported parents.

The next deadline is July 26—two weeks from now—when the remainder of the approximately 3,000 youth, many of them as young as five years old, must be returned to their parents. Judge Dana Sabraw repeated that her deadlines are firm—“not aspirational goals.” She has asked the ACLU to “submit a proposal for possible punishment.” Officials are facing an almost impossible task: they admitted that they didn’t set up any systems to reunify parents with children.

Azar said that the U.S. is acting “generously” toward these children torn from their parents with only a few returned after a court order. He said:

“It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.”

He explained that “we could put children back with individuals who are murderers, kidnappers, rapists or are not their parents” and added that he “could release all of the kids by 10:55 p.m., but I don’t think you want that.” Azar ignored the fact that the government doesn’t know how to find many of the parents.

Politico is painting Azar as the victim in the fiasco by saying that the man who lacks records for parents of 3,000 separated children was “pilloried on cable TV” while “he’s working through a thicket of court orders and red tape.” Author Dan Diamond criticizes the debacle for taking Azar’s time “from other priorities, such as lowering drug costs and helping solve the opioid epidemic.” An HHS official said about Azar, “He didn’t want the job.” Diamond described Azar as “a proven problem-solver … at drug giant Eli Lilly.” At this time, Azar is escaping much criticism from the mercurial DDT because publicity has focused on DDT’s vendetta against Europe, but failure to return the rest of the children within the next few days will bring the subject back to the media forefront.

Azar is now allowing his agency’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to funnel funding into the reunification project from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which is intended to provide “a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.” He also took more from social services, medical assistance, and English language instructions for refugee resettlement. ORR, which had a $1.3 billion for the entire year is asking for an additional $1.3 billion for the last three months of 2018. The average stay of migrant minors in federal custody is now 55 days, with longer stays anticipated as ORR shifts away from its mission for short-term care to keeping children for much longer times.

Separating migrant children from their parents is great business for DDT’s donors who make $1 billion annually. Grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children rose from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. Over 11,800 children from a few months old to 17 years are kept in almost 90 facilities in 17 states. HHS requested bids in May of over $500 million for beds, foster and therapeutic care, and “secure care” (aka guards). which means employing guards. More contracts are expected to come up for bids in October.

The latest attack on immigrants is in the military that is discharging legal immigrants with no justification. For example, Panshu Zhao finished a graduate degree and is working on a doctorate in geography at Texas A&M. He joined the military under a special program promising a faster path to citizenship. After waiting for years to be cleared for duty and accepted, he like many others, has been declared ineligible to serve. While the Army has a shortage of recruits and farmers need workers, DDT is throwing out some of the best, keeping workers for himself. He’s getting another 78 immigrant workers for Mar-a-Lago. At three DDT properties in New York, only one of 144 jobs went to a U.S. worker; the remainder went to foreign guest workers.

Infants and toddlers must appear in immigration court to defend themselves. A one-year-old boy in federal custody whose father has already been returned to Honduras appeared in an Arizona court without parents. He drank from a bottle and “cried hysterically” before he left the courtroom before a judge overrode federal officials to send the baby back to his father. Officials argued that they shouldn’t be required to reunite children with deported parents. Judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed to ask” the baby if he understood the proceedings, a DOJ requirement. Another boy held up five fingers when he was asked his age. These children cannot even see over the defense tables, and their feet don’t touch the floor.

Children have had to appear in courts located in California, Arizona, Texas, and Washington, D.C. The government is not required to provide legal representation to undocumented children and adults. A National Review column accused Michael Moore of lying about the situation when he said that these toddlers “cannot” have a lawyer. They “can” have a lawyer or adult; they are even permitted to ask for someone from a list of legal services organizations. Just imagine a three-year-old being given this list and then calling one of them.

In 2016, senior Department of Justice immigration Judge Jack Weil insisted in a federal court deposition that he can teach three- and four-year-olds to be knowledgeable about immigration law and represent themselves in court. He said,

“You can do a fair hearing. It’s going to take you a lot of time.”

[Employees throughout the nation are complaining that they cannot find trained workers. Weil might be able to teach three- and four-year-olds to fill these slots.]

Unable to reunite many of the kidnapped migrant children with their parents, DDT’s administration is threatening to resume the separation if parents in detention don’t waive their children’s right to release. A judge told DDT he couldn’t indefinitely detain children with parents awaiting deportation proceedings, because of the 1997 Flores legal settlement permitting children to be detained for no longer than 20 days. ICE doesn’t want to release families so they may continue to blackmail parents with the threat of separating them from their children if they don’t waive the child’s right for release. Separated children would then be classified as apprehended without their parents and put in HHS custody.

Paula White, chair of DDT’s Evangelical Advisory Board, has been excoriating the “law-breaking” immigrants while defending Jesus, who she says never broke the law. She said:

“Yes, he did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years, but it was not illegal. If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.”

Jesus was crucified because he broke the law by claiming to be the son of God, resting on the Sabbath, and driving money changers out of the Temple with “a whip of cords,” among other actions. White called the separated children’s experiences in the camps as “life-changing”:

“Not just three square meals, psychiatric care, clinician, medical care, chapel, events, schooling, language, and love.”

Newspaper articles refute White’s rosy view of the happy life in these camps. Reports show neglect and sexual and physical abuse in facilities for separated and unaccompanied children that are run by private companies with deficiencies and citations in the hundreds. Southwest Key, which took in almost $1 billion in three years, had 246 violations that include lack of medical attention and “inappropriate contact” between children and staff. In early 2017, when DDT was inaugurated, Southwest Keys facilities had laid off workers and closed some shelters because they were under capacity. Now their 16 Texas shelters receive variances to hold up to 150 percent of their licensed capacity. Juan Sanchez, the company’s CEO and president, makes at least $1.5 million which puts him one of the top five highest-paid nonprofit CEOs in the U.S., despite the company’s 246 violations in three years.

In some places, children have died after the staff restrained them. Only one of the facilities was closed after the deaths which were ruled homicides. Children are also controlled through psychotropic drugs. In a faith-based nonprofit home, a court-ordered guardian reported that “caregivers sometimes have sex with each other while on duty.” Some foster homes have unsupervised firearms lying around. Some cited facilities merely change their names to get more grants. The grim stories continue in “shelters” where federal officials continue to send children after they know about the citations.

The DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has changed its mission: gone are the words “providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship.”

Such are the new “family values” of the Grand Oil Party.

November 25, 2017

DDT’s Appointment Bring Black Future

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is known for retail sales and crowded stores, the day in the year that retailers start to declare a profit. Yesterday, Black Friday, also represents the future if Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) succeeds in transforming the United States into a dark nation through his male, conservative appointments. The grim backgrounds for DDT’s nominees would read like satire from the Onion of Andy Borowitz’s column in the New York Times if they weren’t real.

Thomas Brunell, DDT’s frontrunner for deputy director of the Census Bureau, may be the greatest stretch since non-scientist Sam Clovis took his name out of the running for top scientist at FDA. The country was saved from Clovis after he got caught up in the Robert Mueller special investigation of Russian collusion.

The decennial census, next scheduled for 2020, is the basis of elections and federal funding. Because the Census Director is in the Commerce Department, Brunell doesn’t need to be confirmed; he can just be named to rig elections. Why DDT would choose Brunell:

  • He testified a number of times in favor of GOP’s gerrymandering congressional districts.
  • He authored the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America. [Note that the subtitle shows the man who opposes competitive elections would be assigned to facilitating fair elections.]
  • He has no background in statistics. [DDT prefers people with no experience.]
  • He lacks any experience in managing a big organization.
  • He argued against expanded early voting because it “takes away from Election Day as a civic event.”

Alex Azar, nominated as a replacement for former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, comes from the U.S. branch of Eli Lilly, accused of colluding with other drug companies to control high prices for the life-saving drug insulin. In his campaign, DDT said, “The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder.” He has now appointed one of the killers to commit more slaughter. This statement might be taken literally. Azar was lobbyist for Lilly when they did not divulge that their painkiller Darvon was seriously addictive, its arthritis medication Oraflex caused at least 29 deaths in Europe, and the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa was not approved as an anti-dementia drug. Azar hates the Affordable Care Act and wants to gut Medicaid with block grants.

Kathleen Harnett White has had her hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. As a climate skeptic and fossil fuel champion, she has said that coal help end slavery. She led Texas to attempt to hide data on how much radiation was in drinking water. Her hearing last week didn’t go well. Asked whether heat makes water expand, she said, “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues.”

Mitchell “Mick” Zais, nominated as deputy secretary of education, discounts the effectiveness of early education programs despite research showing their successes and wants to slash education budgets.

Rev. Jamie Johnson, appointed last April as head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships in DDT’s DHS, is responsible for helping people aid needy populations. Johnson’s statements show that he hates the community he is assigned to serve:

  • He said that the black community has turned cities into “slums.”
  • He argued that Islam’s only contribution to society was “oil and dead bodies.”
  • He said that black people are anti-Semitic because they are jealous of Jewish people. According to Johnson, Jewish people are rich because they work, and black people are poor because they don’t.

Robert Phalen is one of Scott Pruitt’s new appointees to the EPA Scientific Advisory Board, which helps develop environmental policy. Pollution is not a problem for health, according to the man who also complained about modern air being too clean for health. He joins 16 other nominees include people from the oil industry and a chemical industry trade association. Phelan might find Hargin (Heilongjiang Province, China) to be better breathing for him.

DDT may get into hot water with his firing of Richard Cordray for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and appointing Mick Mulvaney for its director. When Cordray resigned, he named Leandra English, the agency’s chief of staff, as deputy director, leaving her in charge. DDT claims that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 allows him to designate a Senate-confirmed official to perform the functions of a vacant position until a nominee can be confirmed to the office. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act creating the CFPB provides a line of succession, with the bureau’s deputy serving as acting director in the “absence or unavailability of the Director.” At other agencies—such as Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration—Congress also provides that the deputy takes over a vacant leadership post. Former Rep. Barney Frank, co-creator of the Dodd-Frank Act, said the law was written to stop a president from naming an interim director. The Federal Housing Finance Agency already established a precedent to blocking a president from appointing an interim director of the CFPB.

Appointees to federal agencies can be dumped with a different administration, but judges are forever, and the election losses last month has caused the GOP to move forward even faster to confirm unqualified judges.

DDT is most likely getting names for his appointed judges from the Federalist Society because a majority of them have ties to the ultra conservative group with donors such as the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Recently, the Senate approved Steven Engel 51-47 as Assistant AG for the Office of Legal Counsel. The Human Rights Watch opposed Engel because he supported torture under George W. Bush. The only Republican to vote against Engel, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had promised to vote against any nominee who is in favor of torture.

GOP panic from elections earlier this month are a catalyst to move forward even faster to confirm unqualified judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee accepted both Greg Katsas for the DC Court of Appeals and Brett Talley for the Middle District of Alabama. They have supported the oppression of voting rights, and Katsas, who has been opposed by over 200 civil rights groups, stated that he “worked on the White House’s response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election” and several other DDT issues such as DACA.

Talley, labeled unqualified by the American Bar Association, was a pro-DDT commentator, opposed gun safety laws, supports the dismantling of protection regulations, and expressed hostility toward civil rights laws. He is also a ghost hunter with a cult following for his paranormal writings. The fourth judicial nominee judged “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, Talley has never tried a case so he fits DDT’s requirement of “no experience,” but he referred to a former presidential candidate on his public Twitter account as “Hillary Rotten Clinton.” In addition, he supports armed revolution against government and pledge his total support to the NRA immediately following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In his opening statement before the committee, Talley said that he probably wouldn’t be there except for his wife. He’s right although he didn’t explain, even when asked if any family members might pose a conflict of interest. His wife, Ann Donaldson, is the chief of staff to Don McGahn, White House Counsel. She also appeared as a witness to the investigation of whether DDT obstructed justice.

During President Obama’s last two years in office, Republicans refused to consider his nominations, leaving vacant not only one Supreme Court position but also 103 other judicial openings. In the next year, DDT may add 650 lifetime members to the federal judiciary—twice as many as President Obama did in eight years. By next year, one in eight cases in federal court will be heard by a DDT-picked judge, and some of these will last another 30 years.

In their desperation for control and lack of concern for Senate rules, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is ignoring the “blue slip” rule allowing home-state senators to object to the worst nominees. Grassley had promised the former committee chair, Pat Leahy (D-VT), that he would honor the rule just as Leahy had for Republicans, even if their only reason was partisan. Leahy said about Grassley, “I trust him to keep his word.” Now Grassley says he will keep his word for district court nominees, but evidently not for appellate court nominees.

In addition to highly conservative, unqualified choices, DDT has displayed a remarkable lack of racial and gender diversity in his choices. Of the 58 DDT nominees for lifetime positions, 53 are white, three are Asian American, one is Hispanic, and one is black. Forty-seven are men, and eleven are women. The future of a multi-cultural society will be judged and ruled by white conservative males who are open bigots and misogynists, many of them with little experience, who oppose women, minorities, and LGBTQ people. Their contempt for the legal process matches DDT’s contempt for the presidency.

More appointments here. And here.

DDT did slip up on one nominee who sounded rational in his confirmation hearing. Dr. Dean Winslow, appointed as the Pentagon’s top health official, answered a question by saying how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy … a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used [in Texas].” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain quickly covered for DDT and muzzled Winslow by saying to the experienced medical professional about a position as a health official, “Dr. Winslow, I don’t think that’s in your area of responsibility or expertise.” Winslow’s position on the relationship between guns and public health may be enough to disqualify him among Republicans.

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