Nel's New Day

December 31, 2017

DDT: Week Forty-nine – Tomorrow a New Year

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may have declared that “Obamacare” is dead, but enrollment was only slightly down from last year as of three years before the end of the time on December—despite DDT’s efforts to kill it with a vastly shortened enrollment time and removal of funds to publicize and help people with enrolling. Also not counted are special extensions that will bring in more people. DDT is primarily hurting his on supporters: 80 percent of the enrollees are from states that voted for him with 40 percent coming from only four states.

A new report on DDT’s meeting with top officials about immigrants last June highlighted his racism when he said that all 15,000 Haitians “have AIDS” and Afghanistan is a “terrorist haven.” The 40,000 Nigerians who received U.S. visas for 2017 would never “go back to their huts” in Africa once they had visited the United States, DDT allegedly said. DDT’s advisor Stephan Miller and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, blamed Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson for the foreigners’ visits. Tillerson told Kelly that he could stop issuing visas. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary, said that everyone at the meeting denied the harsh words.

A federal judge blocked DDT’s separation of families in immigration and partially lifted a ban on refugees from 11 mostly Muslim countries, including those who have a relationship with people or groups in the U.S. including resettlement agencies or humanitarian organizations.

A D.C. federal judge ordered DDT’s commission investigating voter fraud to give the Democratic members equal access to the panel’s records that Republican members have. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap was denied documents in deliberations of the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity including location, speakers, and content of last September’s meeting. Several committee members say that the group has been dormant for the past few months.

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to give low-income families greater access to housing in more affluent neighborhoods, according to a rule from the former administration. The current system concentrates families with public rental assistance in heavily segregated, high-poverty communities. HUD Secretary Ben Carson had delayed implementing the rule.

A federal court ruled that a California school district cannot force a high school football player to stand during the national anthem before football games.

Apppointments:

In his confirmation hearing, Dr. Dean Winslow, appointed to be the Pentagon’s top health official, made the mistake of saying that it’s “insane” 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.” He has now withdrawn his name from consideration because the Senate Armed Services Committee put his appointment on indefinite hold because he does not “support the unrestricted ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons by civilians.”

Trump Tweets:

DDT celebrated Christmas Eve by retweeting an image of himself having stepped on CNN and leaving a bloody spatter. His tweets are official records of the presidency. [visual] Even ultra conservative Joe Walsh criticized him: “Grow up sir. Have you no sense of decency? Go spend time with your family.”

The day after Christmas, DDT shouted his anger at Fox, not even able to spell “frlends”: “WOW, @foxandfrlends “Dossier is bogus. Clinton Campaign, DNC funded Dossier. FBI CANNOT (after all of this time) VERIFY CLAIMS IN DOSSIER OF RUSSIA/TRUMP COLLUSION. FBI TAINTED.” And they used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!”

DDT is angry with AG Jeff Sessions for leaving the Senate to take the position for which DDT nominated him.

DDT plans to massively increase the flawed homeland missile defense system despite government reports that upgrades may not succeed. The idea to destroy incoming ballistic missiles above the atmosphere will cost another $10 billion in addition to the existing payments of $40 billion. The plan is also to make the new radar operational in three years before any testing and the installation the next year with only one test. DDT says the program has a 97-percent success rate; the Pentagon cites 50 percent of the time. Over three-fourths of the existing interceptors have circuit boards susceptible to electrical shorting. No correction was taken. There is also no way to know if the interceptors hit a missile or just a decoy or debris. The radar operates in the “S-band” radio frequency which may not be able to identify long-range missiles. The missile agency chose this frequency over X-band, three times as accurate, because it was cheaper. Boeing has thus far been awarded “performance” bonuses of $2 billion for the 50-percent failure rate.

DDT has heavily criticized China for providing oil to North Korea but said nothing about Russia’s also breaking the UN sanctions by making several ship-to-ship transfers of oil to North Korean vessels this past year.

In his ignorance about the growing HIV/AIDS crisis, DDT sent letters by FedEx to the remaining members of his HIV/AIDS council, informing them that they were fired. Six other members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) had resigned earlier this year because of the lack of strategy and input from experts for developing policy while a push for legislation to hurt people with HIV and reverse gains in eradicating the disease. The change may be to rewrite the PACHA charter to focus on abstinence and non-evidence-based religious beliefs. DDT’s goal may be to return to the epidemic of the 1980s during Ronald Reagan’s term as reflected in David Frances’ How to Survive a Plague.

After DDT gave lumps of coal to the poor and middle class with his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, over 500 people—almost ten percent of coal employees in the state—are being laid off in the next few months. The bankrupt Armstrong Coat in Madisonville is laying off all 427 employees at all their facilities, and Thoroughfare Mining is permanently laying off all 99 employees at its Survant Mine in Central City. The layoffs are a national trend: a Bastrop County (TX) power plant/mine will shut down with almost 400 jobs lost. More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi. Luminant Generation will a power plant with 135 employees and another one with 255 jobs. The Kemper power plant in Dekalb (MS) will lay off 250 workers and another 75 workers at its mine. The list keeps going on as companies switch to natural gas and renewable energy despite DDT’s campaign promises. The two biggest coal producers in the nation—West Virginia and Wyoming—are dead last in population growth because of its resource dependence.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is no longer to protect; the mission statement is now to search for “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations.” As a U.S. representative, the bureau’s acting director, Mick Mulvaney, stated that the agency should be erased.

Thanks to DDT, the Presidential Challenge Coin, given to members of the service to commemorate special achievements and milestones as well as put on veterans’ graves in Arlington, reflects DDT’s narcissism. Among other changes, both sides of the coin feature “Make America Great Again” instead of the national motto “E pluribus unum” meaning “Out of many, one.”

Over seven years ago, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 workers, released millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and cost millions of dollars of damage in the Gulf and along its coast. DDT is now recalling rules to prevent a recurrence, including one certifying that safety devices are working.

Not all men are created equal, a cornerstone for the Declaration of Independence and democracy, according to DDT in 2009 during an interview with Deborah Solomon of The New York Times. DDT said about people being created equal:

“It’s not true. Some people are born very smart, some people are born not so smart. Some people are born very beautiful and some people are not so you can’t say that’re all created equal.”

For the tenth year in a row, President Obama is Gallup’s most admired man in the United States. Only Dwight Eisenhower exceeds this record as 12 times.  Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman for 16 consecutive years. DDT is the only elected president to not receive this honor in his first year in office.

Nothing may demonstrate DDT’s ridiculous lies and behavior more than his vacation and golf habits, more obvious because he vigorously criticized President Obama for doing either. DDT is so thin-skinned that his aides are forced to lie about how much time he’s spent this year—one-third of the days—by leaving schedules blank or using outright lies. Last week, DDT even made a box truck move with him on the golf court to avoid any photos at his own club. Once DDT spotted the photographers, he ordered trees planted to make his activities more opaque.

December 1, 2016

The Plague Returns

It has been exactly 25 years since the identified beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Initially it was called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), but the name morphed into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the last stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV). Originally thought to be non-existent until 1981, research now shows that its development may have come for the harsh colonial practices in French Equatorial Africa of forced labor, unsafe injections and vaccinations with unsterilized needles, and the use of “bushmeat” for food during the beginning of the 20th century.

A false sense of morality kept conservatives from stopping the onslaught of the disease during Ronald Reagan’s reign because they thought that AIDS was limited to gay men despite the fact that half those infected were non-gay. As president, Ronald Reagan didn’t even use the term “AIDS” in public for almost five years in spite of the thousands of people dying from the disease, and he failed to give a speech on the epidemic for another two years. Federal laws even kept people with AIDS from being permitted to fly on commercial airplanes.

In the past 25 years, 650,000 people in the United States died of AIDS and hundreds of thousands more were stigmatized. More people might have died if AIDS activists had not taken to the streets to force research on drugs, awareness policies, and help from the government. A new book from David France, How to Survive a Plague, chronicles the pain, frustration, anger, and work from activists over the 15 years in which the government fought them from saving lives following his Oscar-nominated documentary film four years ago.

Andrew Sullivan writes in The New York Times:  

“Here again are the manifestations of terror: the purple cancerous lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, fatal when they migrated to your lungs; toxoplasmosis — a brain disease that turned 20-somethings into end-stage Alzheimer’s patients; pneumocystis carinii, which flooded your lungs until you drowned; cytomegalovirus, which led to blindness, so that young men in AIDS wards were ‘hugging walls and scraping the air to find their nurses’; molluscum contagiosum, covering the body in ‘small, barnacle-like papules’ that oozed pus; peripheral neuropathy, with which a mere brush of a sheet against your skin felt like an electric shock; and cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that took over people’s gastrointestinal tract, slowly starving them to death. It’s been over a decade since those Latin nouns were household words in gay life, and reading them still traumatizes.”

The brave activists fought for help, and the fight extended survival time from 18 months to 22 months after a long nine years. Deaths geometrically increased as drugs failed and researchers refused to try new ones. Yet the gay men stayed at the center of organizing drug trials and meeting with pharmaceutical executives after they made their point by taking over their offices.

Author France not only writes brilliantly but also exhaustively researches his subject. As a journalist, he was a part of the fight during these 15 years, first at the biweekly New York LGBT newspaper Native and later undercover at the New York Post where he was soon fired after the editor “found out you’re gay.”

Cynthia Carr writes:

“France’s book focuses on the science: the work of early caregiver-researchers like Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and his activist-patient Michael Callen; the search by AIDS patients for illegal—or even homemade—cures; the dithering at agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that were supposedly studying treatments. Ultimately, center stage goes to the small group of activists who created the Treatment Action Group (TAG), an offshoot of ACT UP, and who managed to work their way inside the pharmaceutical industry. By 1996, fifteen years after the first reports of a “gay cancer,” antiretroviral drugs called protease inhibitors were allowing many patients to manage an HIV/AIDS infection. What becomes clear in How to Survive a Plague, above all, is that it needn’t have taken so long—to put it mildly.

plague“Unknown to any doctor or patient, at that point, scientists had already discovered the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Yes, early in 1983, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. I’ve always found this to be one of the most shocking stories to emerge from the plague years, and France is not the first to tell it: how American scientist Dr. Robert Gallo tried to take the credit for this discovery after French scientist Dr. Luc Montagnier sent him samples of what would later be called HIV. Long story short, this delayed both meaningful research and the release of an antibody test.

“Then, when that first antibody test did become available, in 1985, most gay men refused to take it for fear that they would lose their jobs, their housing, and their health insurance. Most cities, including New York, had no gay-rights legislation in place. In fact, gay sex was still illegal in many states. That year, twenty state legislatures debated quarantining people with AIDS, while Republican congressman William Dannemeyer introduced a raft of homophobic legislation, including a bill that would give a long prison term to any gay person who tried to donate blood. There was simply no upside to taking the test. There were no treatments.”

“Say No to Drugs” was the mantra of the 1980s thanks to Nancy Reagan, and just owning syringes was illegal in many states.  Other countries controlled the AIDS epidemic. The German government provided funding to gay community NGOs and invited them to develop their own prevention projects. Britain publicized the problem through a campaign of “AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance.” Western countries created needle-exchange programs, distributed free syringes, and developed opiate-substitution treatment. Germany had needle-vending machines, and England and Wales distributed 25 million free syringes each year by 1997. In the United States, however, where 40,000 people develop HIV annually, the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges remained until 2009 and then was replaced in 2011 after the Tea Party swept over Congress.

With the new Trump/Pence administration, HIV and AIDS cases could soar. People would lose their medications through the disappearance of the “pre-existing condition” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Southern states have had the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses but refused federal Medicaid funding which could provide HIV meds.

When Mike Pence became governor of Indiana, the state experienced its worst HIV outbreak in its history, worsened by Pence’s decision to maintain the state ban on needle exchanges and slash funding for HIV testing facilities. This is the same governor who just gave away $7 million of public taxes to keep 1,000 jobs at Carrier in the state. Pence also tried to defund Planned Parenthood, a key HIV test source. Blamed for the HIV outbreak, Pence prayed about the problem.

Pence campaigned for Congress in 2000 by promising he would take funding away from HIV/AIDS drug research to put into organizations that would prevent LGBT behavior. He wrote, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” His policy is to “cure the gay” and ignore HIV.

If Tom Price is confirmed for health secretary, he would control federal programs responsible for conducting HIV/AIDS research, education, treatment, and prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is tasked with developing policy to combat HIV nationally. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He also wants to erase the ACA, slash Medicaid funding, and privatize Medicare.

When Ebola became a threat in the United States with a very few cases, President Obama took action and stopped it. The first observed case of AIDS in the United States was followed by 15 years of ignoring the issue or joking about it. The new administration, backed up by an ultra-conservative Congress, will most likely cause HIV diagnoses and AIDS deaths to soar.

Today is the 29th annual World Aids Day, always on December 1, dedicated to raising awareness of the disease caused by HIV. You can commemorate the day by reading How to Survive a Plague, because the election of Trump and Pence pretty much guarantees that the epidemic will return.

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