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Poverty’s most insidious damage is to a child’s brain July 22, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Children, Health, Science and Technology.
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Roger’s note: Do we really need scientific studies to tell us that poverty is danger to the health of children?  I post this article not to belabor the obvious, but rather to show how otherwise intelligent and accomplished academics and scientists will posit clearly inadequate solutions to enormous problems, while at the same time failing to understand (or wanting to understand?) to root cause of the problem and the solution implied by such.  To address the deleterious effects of poverty on children’s brains, Dr. Luby suggests “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children,” and “teaching nurturing skills to parents.”  These are solutions that, while of some benefit IF implemented, would not begin to make a dent in the problem.  I guess that Dr. Luby believes she has done enough and does not feel responsible for addressing the structural problem of poverty.  Fair enough.  But if science is to ultimately benefit human society, then as long as it ignores the elephant in the living room (capitalism), its service to human kind is severely truncated.  Bottom line: poverty kills, unless we understand and work to eliminate the root cause of poverty, efforts at amelioration have little meaning in the long run.


July 20, 2015
Washington University in St. Louis (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150720115142.htm)


Low-income children have irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Credit: © Phils Photography / Fotolia

An alarming 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty, which can have long-lasting negative consequences on brain development, emotional health and academic achievement. A new study, published July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain.

In an accompanying editorial, child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writes that “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.”

In her own research in young children living in poverty, Luby and her colleagues have identified changes in the brain’s architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.

However, her work also shows that parents who are nurturing can offset some of the negative effects on brain anatomy seen in poor children. The findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents — particularly those who live below the poverty line — may provide a lifetime of benefit for children.

“Our research has shown that the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses experienced by the children,” said Luby, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry and director of Washington University’s Early Emotional Development Program.

The study in JAMA Pediatrics, by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that low-income children had irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

“In developmental science and medicine, it is not often that the cause and solution of a public health problem become so clearly elucidated,” Luby wrote in the editorial. “It is even less common that feasible and cost-effective solutions to such problems are discovered and within reach.”

Based on this new research and what already is known about the damaging effects of poverty on brain development in children, as well as the benefits of nurturing during early childhood, “we have a rare roadmap to preserving and supporting our society’s most important legacy, the developing brain,” Luby writes. “This unassailable body of evidence taken as a whole is now actionable for public policy.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal References:

  1. Seth D. Pollak, PhD et al. Poverty’s most insidious damage: The developing brain. JAMA Pediatrics, July 2015 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475
  2. Joan L. Luby, MD. Poverty’s Most Insidious Damage: The Developing Brain. JAMA Pediatrics, July 2015 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1

Four Activists to Stand Trial on July 7, 2015 for Protest inside the Salvadoran Embassy, in Solidarity with 17 Salvadoran Women who are Unjustly Imprisoned in El Salvador for Miscarriages July 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Health, Latin America, Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: The “radical” pope drew a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, that is nearly 10% of Ecuador’s population.  Following this article on the persecution of women in El Salvador I have posted a critique of the hypocritical plea to end poverty at the same time as defending the Church’s misogynist ideology.  My take on the RC Church, this anonymous quote: “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2015


Washington DC – Four activists will stand trial on July 7, 2015 at 9:30 am in front of Judge Susan Holmes-Winfield (Case# 2015CMD005708) on the charge of unlawful entry, which carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison. The four were arrested on April 24, 2015 at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit-in to call attention to a group of Salvadoran women currently serving extreme 30-year prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of the Raging Grannies. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.

“The 17,” as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Cristina Quintanilla, sentenced to 30 years after she had a miscarriage, was released in 2014 by a court, which commuted her sentence to three years, amounting to time served. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines earlier this year as one of the 17 to be released. (El Salvador and ‘Las 17’, New York Times).

Mirian, Martiza, Marina, Salvadora, Ena,Teodora, Guadalupe, Mariana, Mirna, Cinthia, Verónica, Alba, Johana, Evelyn, Teresa, and María make up the remainder of The 17. Many are mothers of young children, and all have many more years to serve under their current sentences.

“This is a grave injustice. Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” said Father Roy Bourgeois. “For that reason, we were at the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC, to express our solidarity with these women.” The group invited the embassy staff to join the call for the release of the 15 women who remain incarcerated.

The extreme abortion laws in El Salvador were passed under the ultra-right wing Arena government in 1997. Embassy staff were concerned about the issues raised and informed protesters that the Supreme Court has the authority to review these cases.

Some of the protesters were part of a recent US Human Rights Delegation to El Salvador that visited five of the women in prison who are serving 30-year sentences for having a miscarriage. They have 22 more years to go before they are released.

The Radical Pope’s Reactionary Vision for Women

Pope Francis this week embarked on a seven-day “homecoming” tour of Latin America in his unstoppable quest to defend the planet and the poor.

The continent—the most unequal region in the world, and the Argentine pontiff’s home turf—will likely provide fertile ground for more of his legendary sermons on poverty and inequality. After addressing a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Monday, Francis is scheduled to attend a meeting of grass-roots political activists and visit one of the continent’s largest prisons, in Bolivia, as well as a slum and a children’s hospital in Paraguay.

While he advocates for South America’s impoverished and disenfranchised, its prisoners, its indigenous peoples and its children, one group is unlikely to feature in Francis’ apparently radical agenda: its women.

Despite his efforts to champion his constituency—the world’s poor, of which the vast majority are women—the pope tends to overlook the feminized nature of poverty and inequality.

Like the rest of the world -and  the Vatican – Latin America is built on gender inequality. Important progress has been made in the region over recent decades, and the percentage of its overall population living in poverty had decreased significantly. But the feminization of poverty (an increase in the levels of poverty among women or female-headed households relative to the levels of men or male-headed households) increased from 109 percent in 1994 to almost 117 percent in 2013, according to the United Nations.

Women’s labor participation in the region remains more than a quarter less than that of men, at 52.9 percent, compared with 79.6 percent, as recorded in 2010 statistics. And while the wage gap has shrunk, women still earn a staggering 68 percent less than their male colleagues. South American women are also twice as likely as men to be unpaid workers.

As a public figure who frequently invokes “dignity” in appealing to the hearts and minds of his followers, the Catholic leader would do well to address the results of a recent poll in which Latin Americans were found to be the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to describe women in their countries as treated with respect and dignity. A median of 35 percent of adults across 22 Latin American countries said their women are treated this way—about half the percentages in any other region of the world.

Of the little research that exists, the statistics on violence against women in Latin America are gruesome. A recent U.N. report published in the Economist found that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. It states that in Colombia, “attacks in which acid is thrown at women’s faces, disfiguring them, nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.” Moreover, of the 25 countries in the world that are high or very high in the U.N.’s ranking for femicides (killings of women that seem to be related to their sex), more than half are in the region.

Research shows that when women have access to contraception and are educated to make responsible choices, their income, employment and education levels rise, as do their children’s. As women’s choices expand, they have fewer unassisted labors and backstreet abortions, meaning maternal mortality is reduced, and, depending on the type of contraception used, life-limiting sexually transmitted diseases are contained.

But because the Vatican considers women second-class citizens, it goes without saying that the pope will not mention abortion or contraception during his South American tour.

Figures show that of the 4.4 million abortions performed in Latin America in 2008, 95 percent were unsafe, and about 1 million women are hospitalized annually for treatment of complications from such procedures. In this context, it should be noted that the pope has described the abortion-rights movement as a “culture of death” and has opposed Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to distribute free contraceptives.

Francis has shown himself capable of influencing policy (he was most recently hailed as instrumental in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba), but as Jemima Thackray writes in The Telegraph, “the Catholic Church’s growth is coming from non-European countries where the so-called ‘liberal’ issues of sexual equality are considered less important.”

As much as he has advocated “rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world,” Francis has repeatedly embraced the traditional Catholic view that a woman’s role is in the home. Extolling the role of women specifically as mothers by declaring “the presence of women in a domestic setting” as crucial to “the very transmission of the faith,” Francis has said, “I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” Although women may have lives outside the home, Francis has urged us not to “forget the irreplaceable role of the woman in a family.”

Given the pope’s outspoken views, we’ve been hoping he’d get around to addressing gender inequality eventually. But lest we forget, the Vatican is—and always will be—a patriarchal institution based on sexual hierarchy. Asked on two occasions about the possibility of admitting women to the ranks of the clergy, Francis has given a firm no. “That door,” he said in 2013, “is closed.” As Thackray explains, “this is not about having a Western liberal agenda for equality for its own sake, but about acknowledging that in allowing women into positions of influence in the church, this would raise their general status, reducing their vulnerability and poverty. Perhaps,” she continues, “it would also help shake up some of the closed male-dominated systems which have caused some of the other worst abuses by the Catholic Church.”

It would be no violation of doctrine to recognize women as equally and intrinsically valuable, regardless of their familial role or fertility. Until the pope’s vision of equality includes this, it’s incomplete.

A version of this article originally appeared in Truthdig.

Roísín Davis, originally from Northern Ireland, is a journalist with a background in social research and community work. She is an assistant editor at Truthdig. She now lives in Los Angeles.

Obama’s Fast Track Attack on Women June 30, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Labor, Trade Agreements, Women.
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Roger’s note: this article was published before the traitorous right wing Republican president Obama and the right wing Republican Congress aided by some twenty odd traitorous Democrats gave Obama the authority to fast track the traitorous Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  If you are observant you will have noticed my repetition of the word “traitorous.”  However, if you somehow failed to notice this, let me repeat that Obama and the Republican and Democratic Party members of Congress who voted fast track are nothing less than traitors to American women and other working people as well as the environment and what little is left of democratic institutions in the country.


Women protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership during an international day of action in Seattle on Friday, January 31, 2015. “(Photos courtesy of Alex Garland Photography/cc/flickr)

The President is asking for “fast track” authority to let the White House be the sole negotiator on the Trans Pacific Partnership, a giant twelve-nation trade agreement between the U.S. and Pacific Rim nations. Fast track passed the Senate in May, and could come up for a House vote as early as this week.

Trouble is, the provisions are secret, and the Obama administration won’t tell Congress or the people what’s in it. But thanks to a few chapters released by Wikileaks online last year, we already know it’s a disaster for U.S. workers—especially women.

According to the Washington Post, around 600 corporations and a couple of labor unions have seen a draft. A few members of Congress have seen parts of it in a “secure soundproof reading room,” where cellphones and note-taking are not allowed. The majority of congressmembers and the public have not, and those members who have been given that extremely limited access are forbidden to discuss it with the public.

The so-called partnership is an insult to all U.S. workers, with many provisions that will hurt women the most. The Communications Workers of America says it will steal majority-female jobs from low wage workplaces like call centers, as well as higher wage sectors such as human resources. And according to Doctors Without Borders, the agreement may well cut off access to generic drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS—now predominately women and kids.

At the same time supporters in the Senate were beating their chests when they passed fast track for TPP claiming it will create jobs, they also passed a companion measure called the TAA –Trade Adjustment Assistance. And what would that do? Give assistance to U.S. workers displaced by free trade agreements. Huh? Didn’t they say the TPP would create jobs? Yeah, but they forgot to mention those much touted new jobs will be in low wage countries paying pennies per hour.

And then there’s the collateral damage. The TAA will be paid for by benefit cuts in Medicare, a program women depend on more than men do. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cuts will amount to $700 million. So add health care providers to the list of those against this rotten deal.

The final insult? Under rules, businesses incorporated in Trans Pacific Partnership countries would be guaranteed equal treatment with U.S. firms when bidding on government contracts. That means our tax dollars would be underwriting countries like Brunei, which imprisons unmarried women for getting pregnant and allows stoning of gays and lesbians.

If the President and Congress really want to help U.S. workers, why not start with something guaranteed to work quickly right here at home – like a higher minimum wage. But the Trans Pacific Partnership? Throw it overboard.

Martha Burk is a political psychologist, women’s issues expert, and director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO).

Newly Leaked TTIP Draft Reveals Far-Reaching Assault on US/EU Democracy April 20, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Health, Imperialism, Labor, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: There is nothing “sexy” about free trade agreements.  They are generally negotiated in secreted and ignored by the mainstream media.  For the TTIP as with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) — note the Orwellian/Goebbels use in both of the misleading word “partnership,” and of course we have “free trade,” which is anything but free — the  implications and the consequences are enormous; another giant step toward corporate control of governments, in other words, fascism.


Protesters against the TTIP march in London on December 7, 2014. (Photo: Global Justice Now/flickr/cc)

A freshly-leaked chapter from the highly secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, currently under negotiation between the United States and European Union, reveals that the so-called “free trade” deal poses an even greater threat to environmental and human rights protections—and democracy itself—than previously known, civil society organizations warn.

The revelation comes on the heels of global protests against the mammoth deal over the weekend and coincides with the reconvening of negotiations between the parties on Monday in New York.

The European Commission’s latest proposed chapter (pdf) on “regulatory cooperation” was first leaked to Friends of the Earth and dates to the month of March. It follows previous leaks of the chapter, and experts say the most recent iteration is even worse.

“The Commission proposal introduces a system that puts every new environmental, health, and labor standard at European and member state level at risk. It creates a labyrinth of red tape for regulators, to be paid by the tax payer, that undermines their appetite to adopt legislation in the public interest,” said Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe in a press statement released Monday.

Regulatory cooperation refers to the “harmonization of regulatory frameworks between the E.U. and the U.S. once the TTIP negotiations are done,” ostensibly to ensure such regulations do not pose barriers to trade, the Corporate Europe Observatory explained earlier this month.

However, analysts have repeatedly warned that, euphemisms aside, “cooperation,” in fact, allows corporate power to trample democratic protections, from labor to public health to climate regulations, while encouraging a race to the lowest possible standards.

The newest version of the regulatory cooperation chapter reveals that the European Commission is angling to impose even more barriers to regulations.

The chapter includes a “regulatory exchange” proposal, which will “force laws drafted by democratically-elected politicians through an extensive screening process,” according to an analysis from CIEL.

“Laws will be evaluated on whether or not they are compatible with the economic interests of major companies,” the organization explains. “Responsibility for this screening will lie with the ‘Regulatory cooperation body,’ a permanent, undemocratic, and unaccountable conclave of European and American technocrats.”

David Azoulay, managing attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law, told Common Dreams over the phone from Geneva that this red tape would apply to new and upcoming regulations, as well as existing ones. “What we are looking at here is potentially endless procedures at every step of the regulatory process, including once the legislation has been adopted,” he said.

“We are concerned about this new version, because it would take power away from legislators and regulators and give it to this group of technocrats that is not elected and operates in secrecy,” Azoulay continued. “Secondly, this would burden lawmakers with extremely heavy procedures, create red tape, and force legislators at the local, state, and federal levels to spend large amounts of time answering questions about regulations.”

The regulatory cooperation plan was already widely opposed by civil society groups. Over 170 organizations denounced regulatory cooperation in a statement released in February: “The Commission proposals for regulatory cooperation carry the threat of lowering standards in the long and short term, on both sides of the Atlantic, at the state and member state/European levels. They constrain democratic decision-making by strengthening the influence of big business over regulation.”

The potential implications of this latest proposal are vast, as the TTIP is slated to be the largest such deal in history. Taken together, the U.S. and E.U. together account for nearly half of the world’s GDP. The Obama administration is negotiating the accord alongside two other secret trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement.

Analysts warn that the TTIP alone is poised to dramatically expand corporate power.

“Both the [E.U.] Commission and US authorities will be able to exert undue pressure on governments and politicians under this measure as these powerful players are parachuted into national legislative procedures,” warned Kenneth Haar of Corporate Europe Observatory in a press statement. “The two are also very likely to share the same agenda: upholding the interests of multinationals.”

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Again this further proof.

To all those that continue to maintain that all this descent into madness for the sake of profits is due to an apathetic population.

The powers that be KNOW this can not pass the smell test with the electorate . They KNOW the vast majority of people would be opposed were the full details known.

Yet they persist in trying to make this into law.

They do so because the monied interests have instructed them to do so. The very fact such negotiations ongoing and done in secret is enough to condemn them and the SYSTEM which has nothing to do with what the 99 percent need and everything to do with the one percents greed.

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John Oliver “Smokes” Philip Morris February 27, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Health.
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Roger’s note: this is really good.  John Oliver does a great job of in depth investigative journalism, spiced with humor to satisfy a main steam audience.  Here he takes on the giant Cancer Factory, Phillip Morris, with a vengeance.  Enjoy. 

And remember, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement which is being fast tracked as we speak, will give more clout to corporations to take governments successfully to court to overturn public health, safety, labor protection and environmental protection legislation.

Water Shutoffs Robbing Detroit Residents of ‘Dignified’ Life: UN Investigators October 21, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Detroit, Health, Human Rights, Poverty, Race, Racism, Water.
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Roger’s note: few things, if any, are more necessary for human survival than water.  The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world.  It is a nation replete with millionaires and billionaires, and it is a nation that spends trillions of dollars on warfare.  It is also a nation that operates within the dictates of capitalist economy where people who cannot “afford” to pay their water bill are cut off without this fundamental necessity.  There is something very wrong with this picture.


Published on

Following two-day inquiry, UN experts release strongly worded warning condemning city’s human rights violations


Detroit residents have organized direct actions, mass marches, and creative emergency responses to confront the water shut-off crisis. (Photo: Detroit Water Brigade)

Detroit’s “unprecedented” shutoff of water utilities to city homes condemns residents to “lives without dignity,” violates human rights on a large scale, and disproportionately impacts African-Americans, United Nations investigators declared Monday following a two-day inquiry.

“Denial of access to sufficient quantity of water threatens the rights to adequate housing, life, health, adequate food, integrity of the family,” wrote UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Leilani Farha and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, in a joint statement. “It exacerbates inequalities, stigmatizes people and renders the most vulnerable even more helpless. Lack of access to water and hygiene is also a real threat to public health as certain diseases could widely spread.”

The officials visited the city following appeals in June from organizations concerned with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s (DWSD) escalation of water shut-offs to accounts that have fallen behind on their bills, amounting to up to 3,000 disconnections a week. The increase touched off organizing efforts by residents who charge they’re part of a larger plan, in keeping with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s bankruptcy push, to displace African-Americans and privatize water and public services.

During their investigation, the UN experts held interviews and meetings with local residents, as well as with city officials. On Sunday, hundreds of people crowded into a town hall meeting with the officials. “Once again, the international spotlight was on Detroiters trying to carve out dignified lives while being denied basic necessities of life,” said Maureen Taylor, spokesperson for the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Detroit People’s Water Board, at the town hall meeting.

DeMeeko Williams, coordinator for the Detroit Water Brigade, told Common Dreams that it is absurd that people in the city have to appeal to the United Nations for support. “You can’t get help from the city government, the state government is the main culprit, and the U.S. government is not doing anything, so what else is there to do? Who do we turn to?” he asked.

Despite a grassroots push for the Water Affordability Plan, the city has increased water rates 8.7 percent at a time of massive unemployment and poverty. Detroit is effectively passing “the increased costs of leakages due to an aging infrastructure” onto residents who can’t afford it, the investigators charge.

The rapporteurs document the heavy toll the shut-offs have taken.

“We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America’s prosperity,” they state. “Without water, people cannot live a life with dignity—they have no water for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and keeping their clothes and houses clean. Despite the fact that water is essential for survival, the city has no data on how many people have been and are living without tap water, let alone information on age, disabilities, chronic illness, race or income level of the affected population.”

Despite the lack of data provided by the city, information obtained by the investigators suggests the city’s vulnerable and dispossessed are bearing the brunt of the crisis. “About 80 percent of the population of Detroit is African American. According to data from 2013, 40.7 percent of Detroit’s population lives below the poverty level, 99 percent of the poor are African American,” they write. “Twenty percent of the population is living on 800 USD or less per month, while the average monthly water bill is currently 70.67 USD.”

Furthermore, they note, “thousands of households are living in fear that their water may be shut off at any time without due notice, that they may have to leave their homes and that children may be taken by child protection services as houses without water are deemed uninhabitable for children. In many cases, unpaid water bills are being attached to property taxes increasing the risk of foreclosure.”

The investigators continue, “It was touching to witness mothers’ courage to strive to keep their children at home, and the support people were providing to each other to live in these unbearable circumstances. And it was heartbreaking to hear of the stigmatization associated with the shut-offs—in particular the public humiliation of having a blue mark imprinted on the sidewalk in front of homes when their water was shut off due to unpaid bills.”

Meanwhile, the shut-offs continue. “There is still a high number of people going without water,” said Williams. “The Detroit Water Brigade is on the front-lines trying to help people get back to self-sufficiency. We need more support. The situation is not just going to go away.”

Ebola Didn’t Have to Kill Thomas Eric Duncan, Nephew Says; Statement by RN’s at Texas Health Presbyterian October 18, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Health, Racism.
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Roger’s note: Is it ebola that we need to worry about or is it our racism and capitalist health care system?

Thomas_Eric_DuncanThomas Eric Duncan, photo credit: Facebook image,



Josephus Weeks; National Nurses United

October 15, 2014
The Dallas Morning News

On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.

Two days later, he returned to the hospital in an ambulance. Two days after that, he was finally diagnosed with Ebola. Eight days later, he died alone in a hospital room.

Now, Dallas suffers. Our country is concerned. Greatly. About the lack of answers and transparency coming from a hospital whose ignorance, incompetence and indecency has yet to be explained. I write this on behalf of my family because we want to set the record straight about what happened and ensure that Thomas Eric did not die in vain. So, here’s the truth about my uncle and his battle with Ebola.

Thomas Eric Duncan was cautious. Among the most offensive errors in the media during my uncle’s illness are the accusations that he knew he was exposed to Ebola – that is just not true. Eric lived in a careful manner, as he understood the dangers of living in Liberia amid this outbreak. He limited guests in his home, he did not share drinking cups or eating utensils.

And while the stories of my uncle helping a pregnant woman with Ebola are courageous, Thomas Eric personally told me that never happened. Like hundreds of thousands of West Africans, carefully avoiding Ebola was part of my uncle’s daily life.

And I can tell you with 100 percent certainty: Thomas Eric would have never knowingly exposed anyone to this illness.

Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system. The biggest unanswered question about my uncle’s death is why the hospital would send home a patient with a 103-degree fever and stomach pains who had recently been in Liberia – and he told them he had just returned from Liberia explicitly due to the Ebola threat.

Some speculate that this was a failure of the internal communications systems. Others have speculated that antibiotics and Tylenol are the standard protocol for a patient without insurance.

The hospital is not talking. Until then, we are all left to wonder. What we do know is that their error affects all of society. Their bad judgment or misjudgment sent my uncle back into the community for days with a highly contagious case of Ebola. And now, officials suspect that a breach of protocol by the hospital is responsible for a new Ebola case, and that all health care workers who care for my uncle could potentially be exposed.

Their error set the wheels in motion for my uncle’s death and additional Ebola cases, and their ignorance, incompetence or indecency has created a national security threat for our country.

Thomas Eric Duncan could have been saved. Finally, what is most difficult for us – Thomas Eric’s mother, children and those closest to him – to accept is the fact that our loved one could have been saved. From his botched release from the emergency room to his delayed testing and delayed treatment and the denial of experimental drugs that have been available to every other case of Ebola treated in the U.S., the hospital invited death every step of the way.

When my uncle was first admitted, the hospital told us that an Ebola test would take three to seven days. Miraculously, the deputy who was feared to have Ebola just last week was tested and had results within 24 hours.

The fact is, nine days passed between my uncle’s first ER visit and the day the hospital asked our consent to give him an experimental drug – but despite the hospital’s request they were never able to access these drugs for my uncle. (Editor’s note: Hospital officials have said they started giving Duncan the drug Brincidofovir on October 4.) He died alone. His only medication was a saline drip.

For our family, the most humiliating part of this ordeal was the treatment we received from the hospital. For the 10 days he was in the hospital, they not only refused to help us communicate with Thomas Eric, but they also acted as an impediment. The day Thomas Eric died, we learned about it from the news media, not his doctors.

Our nation will never mourn the loss of my uncle, who was in this country for the first time to visit his son, as my family has. But our nation and our family can agree that what happened at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas must never happen to another family.

In time, we may learn why my uncle’s initial visit to the hospital was met with such incompetence and insensitivity. Until that day comes, our family will fight for transparency, accountability and answers, for my uncle and for the safety of the country we love.

[Josephus Weeks, a U.S. Army and Iraq War veteran who lives in North Carolina, wrote this piece exclusively for The Dallas Morning News. Reach him at josephusweeks@yahoo.com. ]


Photo credit: National Nurses United

Statement by RN’s at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital as provided to National Nurses United

October 15, 2014
National Nurses United

This is an inside story from some registered nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who have familiarity with what occurred at the hospital following the positive Ebola infection of first the late Thomas Eric Duncan and then a registered nurse who cared for him Nina Pham.

The RNs contacted National Nurses United out of frustration with a lack of training and preparation. They are choosing to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.

The RNs who have spoken to us from Texas Health Presbyterian are listening in on this call and this is their report based on their experiences and what other nurses are sharing with them. When we have finished with our statement, we will have time for several questions. The nurses will have the opportunity to respond to your questions via email that they will send to us, that we will read to you.

We are not identifying the nurses for their protection, but they work at Texas Health Presbyterian and have knowledge of what occurred at the hospital.

They feel a duty to speak out about the concerns that they say are shared by many in the hospital who are concerned about the protocols that were followed and what they view were confusion and frequently changing policies and protocols that are of concern to them, and to our organization as well.

When Thomas Eric Duncan first came into the hospital, he arrived with an elevated temperature, but was sent home.

On his return visit to the hospital, he was brought in by ambulance under the suspicion from him and family members that he may have Ebola.

Mr. Duncan was left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present.

No one knew what the protocols were or were able to verify what kind of personal protective equipment should be worn and there was no training.

Subsequently a nurse supervisor arrived and demanded that he be moved to an isolation unit- yet faced resistance from other hospital authorities.

Lab specimens from Mr. Duncan were sent through the hospital tube system without being specially sealed and hand delivered. The result is that the entire tube system by which all lab specimens are sent was potentially contaminated.

There was no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient, there was no protocol, there was no system. The nurses were asked to call the Infectious Disease Department.  The Infectious Disease Department did not have clear policies to provide either.

Initial nurses who interacted with Mr. Duncan nurses wore a non-impermeable gown front and back, three pairs of gloves, with no taping around wrists, surgical masks, with the option of N-95s, and face shields.  Some supervisors said that even the N-95 masks were not necessary.

The suits they were given still exposed their necks, the part closest to their face and mouth.  They had suits with booties and hoods, three pairs of gloves, no tape.

For their necks, nurses had to use medical tape, that is not impermeable and has permeable seams, to wrap around their necks in order to protect themselves, and had to put on the tape and take it off on their own.

Nurses had to interact with Mr. Duncan with whatever protective equipment was available, at a time when he had copious amounts of diarrhea and vomiting which produces a lot of contagious fluids.

Hospital officials allowed nurses who had interacted with Mr. Duncan to then continue normal patient care duties, taking care of other patients, even though they had not had the proper personal protective equipment while caring for Mr. Duncan.

Patients who may have been exposed were one day kept in strict isolation units. On the next day were ordered to be transferred out of strict isolation into areas where there were other patients, even those with low-grade fevers who could potentially be contagious.

Were protocols breached? The nurses say there were no protocols.

Some hospital personnel were coming in and out of those isolation areas in the Emergency Department without having worn the proper protective equipment.

CDC officials who are in the hospital and Infectious Disease personnel have not kept hallways clean; they were going back and forth between the Isolation Pod and back into the hallways that were not properly cleaned, even after CDC, infectious control personnel, and doctors who exited into those hallways after being in the isolation pods.

Advance preparation

Advance preparation that had been done by the hospital primarily consisted of emailing us about one optional lecture/seminar on Ebola. There was no mandate for nurses to attend trainings, or what nurses had to do in the event of the arrival of a patient with Ebola-like symptoms.

This is a very large hospital. To be effective, any classes would have to offered repeatedly, covering all times when nurses work; instead this was treated like the hundreds of other seminars that are routinely offered to staff.

There was no advance hands-on training on the use of personal protective equipment for Ebola. No training on what symptoms to look for. No training on what questions to ask.

Even when some trainings did occur, after Mr. Duncan had tested positive for Ebola, they were limited, and they did not include having every nurse in the training practicing the proper way to don and doff, put on and take off, the appropriate personal protective equipment to assure that they would not be infected or spread an infection to anyone else.

Guidelines have now been changed, but it is not clear what version Nina Pham had available.

The hospital later said that their guidelines had changed and that the nurses needed to adhere to them.  What has caused confusion is that the guidelines were constantly changing.  It was later asked which guidelines should we follow? The message to the nurses was it’s up to you.

It is not up to the nurses to be setting the policy, nurses say, in the face of such a virulent disease. They needed to be trained optimally and correctly in how to deal with Ebola and the proper PPE doffing, as well as how to dispose of the waste.

In summary, the nurses state there have been no policies in cleaning or bleaching the premises without housekeeping services. There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling. They did not have access to proper supplies and observed the Infectious Disease Department and CDC themselves violate basic principles of infection control, including cross contaminating between patients. In the end, the nurses strongly feel unsupported, unprepared, lied to, and deserted to handle the situation on their own.

We want our facility to be recognized as a leader in responding to this crisis. We also want to recognize the other nurses as heroes who put their lives on the line for their patients every day when they walk in the door.

National Nurses United Urges You to Take Action Now!

Sign the Petition and Tell President Obama – Protect Our Nurses!

Nurse Refuses Navy’s Force-Feeding of Gitmo Prisoners July 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights.
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Roger’s note: The principle that states that one has the right to refuse an illegal order becomes null and void when, as is the case here, war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed at the highest level of government, i.e. the presidency.  It takes a brave individual to resist under these conditions.  Severest example: Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is condemned to 35 years in prison for exposing Bush/Obama war crimes in Iraq.


“This is a historic stand by this nurse, who recognized the basic humanity of the detainees and the inhumanity of what he was being asked to do.”

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Guantanamo force feeding paraphernalia. (Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)



A nurse in the U.S. Navy has refused to participate in the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees in what is the first widely-reported act of defiance on ethical grounds by a U.S. military service member at this offshore prison.

“This is a historic stand by this nurse, who recognized the basic humanity of the detainees and the inhumanity of what he was being asked to do,” said Cori Crider, a lawyer for UK-based charity Reprieve—which refers to the refusal as ‘conscientious objection.’ Crider learned of the act of refusal in a July 10 phone call with Abu Wa’el Dhiab—a Syrian man currently detained in Guantánamo Bay—and the news broke to the media on Tuesday.

The unidentified nurse told Dhiab, “I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act,” according to a press statement from Reprieve. “Before we came here, we were told a different story,” the nurse added. “The story we were told was completely the opposite of what I saw.”

Journalist Carol Rosenberg received confirmation from Navy Capt. Tom Gresback that “there was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry out the enteral feeding of a detainee.”

It is not clear what repurcussions await the nurse, who is described by Dhiab as an approximately 40 year-old Latino man who may be a captain, according to Rosenberg. Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for the command that oversees Guantánamo, also confirmed the refusal to the Guardian, stating, “It’s being handled administratively.” Dhiab says he has not seen the nurse since the act of refusal.

According to Dhiab, the Navy nurse is not alone: numerous other medical professionals have stated their ethical objections to the force feedings but express fear of retaliation and punishment if they refuse.

Maggie Martin, an organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, told Common Dreams, “People have been standing up as conscientious objectors throughout history including the current conflicts, but unfortunately I never heard those stories while I was in the military.”

She added, “It is heartening to see a service member refuse immoral orders.”

Mass hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay have been met with force-feedings, which have been condemned as torture and a violation of international law by the United Nations human rights office and denounced as unethical by medical ethicists. The painful insertion of tubes and pumping of food, as well as threat of stomach damage and asphyxiation, has been comparedto water-boarding, itself a form of torture.

Mr. Dhiab, who remains detained despite being cleared for release in 2010, is currently challenging the practice of force-feedings in the courts and recently won the disclosure of videotapes recording the practice.

Currently 149 men remain detained at Guantánamo Bay, despite the fact that the vast majority of them have been cleared for release. It is not known how many of them are currently on hunger strike or face force feedings after the U.S. imposed a media blackout on reports of the peaceful protests late last year.


General Shinseki’s Resignation Will Solve Nothing: The Real Problem is a Decade of War May 30, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Mental Health, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: this is a press release issued by Veterans for Peace.  These former soldiers know from first hand experience what are the real costs of war, i.e. precious human life.  They refuse to see themselves as pawns, but rather as thinking and caring human beings, capable of understanding the dynamics of warfare and who profits by it.


Saint Louis. General Eric Shinseki has resigned from his position as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now what? When will we start the real debate the nation must have about turning away from war?

The resignation of General Eric Shinseki is not the answer to the challenges facing the Veterans Administration. Yes the department has serious problems of mismanagement, incompetence, indifference and fraud. All these issues must be fixed immediately. Someone must be held accountable and apparently that someone is Eric Shinseki. But we must get to the root of the problem.

Why is the VA overwhelmed by greater numbers of wounded veterans that it can effectively serve? The answer is more than a decade of war. “War is the real culprit in this crisis,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. “We must stop war mongers and corporate profiteers from controlling our foreign policy.”

“We must stop throwing our children, and the children of the world into the meat grinder of war. Every soldier and every victim of war is someone’s child.”

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans and troops by both Democrats and Republicans, who have systematically underfunded healthcare in their war budgets. These same problems plagued the agency long before Shinseki.

We must acknowledge that U.S. service members are facing dire stress as reflected in historically high rates of suicide, sexual assault and rape in the military. Military personnel are exhausted and depleted, with many of them having deployed more than five times, and some as many as ten.

These war policies are killing innocent people who are not a threat and will never be a threat to U.S. security or legitimate interests. For many service members, this is the most debilitating aspect of their sacrifice. Many thousands of our soldiers and veterans are suffering from “moral injury,” produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, as exemplified by indiscriminate killing, indefinite detention, targeted assassinations and torture.

Moreover, the Bush and Obama Administration’s war policies have failed. Afghanistan is far from secure. Violent deaths are a daily occurrence. Women are severely oppressed by Taliban and U.S.-backed warlords alike. Iraq is in utter turmoil, with sectarian violence killing scores of people on an almost daily basis. As outlined in the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism, a decade of war has failed to end or reduce terrorism. The State Department report, released in April, showed that worldwide terrorism increased by 43% in 2013.

“Why does President Obama want to keep 9,800 U.S. troops and untold numbers of contractors in Afghanistan?” asked Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “Continuing this failed policy is another grave disservice to our soldiers. If we really want to ‘Support the Troops,’ we should bring them all home now and give them the care they need and deserve.”

As Vietnam veteran John Kerry said while testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

We keep asking our service members to be the last person to die in Afghanistan. The ones who make it back home are neglected. Bring Them Home Now and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.


Friday, May 30, 2014

For more information:

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, 314-725-6005, mcphearson@veteransforpeace.org

Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace Vice President, 206-499-1220, projectsafehaven@hotmail.com

Camilo Mejia, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 786-302-8842, black65d@aol.com(Spanish Interpreter)

Sam Feldman, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 305-632-0036, SAMFELDMAN@THE-BEACH.NET(Spanish Interpreter)

The CIA Aided Polio’s Comeback, But Media Have Forgotten the Story May 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Media, Pakistan.
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Roger’s note: just another example of how the US taxpayers’ dollars are used to spread misery around the globe.

A Pakistani police officer stands guard as a health worker marks a child after giving her the polio vaccine in Lahore. (Photo: ARIF ALI / AFP/GETTY)

Polio had been battled to near-extinction after decades of effort, but this year the WHO confirmed 68 new cases and declared it an international public health emergency. Nearly 80 percent of those cases are in Pakistan.

Why is this? According to the New York Times‘ Donald McNeil Jr. (5/6/14), “Polio has never been eliminated there, Taliban factions have forbidden vaccinations in North Waziristan for years, and those elsewhere have murdered vaccine teams.” McNeil also quotes a WHO spokesperson towards the top of the piece: “So we’re saying to the Pakistanis, the Syrians and the Cameroonians, ‘You’ve really got to get your acts together.”‘

The Times underlined the emergency today in an editorial, explaining that Pakistan has such high numbers “largely because Taliban factions have forbidden vaccinations in conservative tribal areas and attacked healthcare workers elsewhere.”

There’s a crucial piece of information missing here—one that these outlets know full well. In 2011, the British Guardian (7/11/11) reported that the CIA used a fake vaccination drive led by Pakistani Dr. Shakil Afridi to gain entry to bin Laden’s compound and gather DNA to confirm his presence there. As McNeil himself reported in 2012 (7/9/12), that revelation led to suspicion and banning of vaccination teams in the tribal areas of Pakistan. At the time, the WHO argued that, while it was a “setback…unless it spreads or is a very longtime affair, the program is not going to be seriously affected.”

Then the killings started; the Times reported several times on killings of polio vaccination workers in Pakistan, noting in June 2013 that these attacks “escalated” after the revelation of the CIA plot. And the following month, McNeil reported that after Dr. Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison for treason, “Anger deepened when American lawmakers called Dr. Afridi a hero and threatened to cut off aid if he was not released.”

Fast forward to this week, and CBS Evening News (5/5/14) likewise avoided the CIA connection in reporting the most recent story, as anchor Scott Pelley noted: “Most cases are in Pakistan, where vaccine workers have been murdered on suspicion that they’re spying for the United States.”

The PBS NewsHour (5/6/14) was one of the only outlets that mentioned the CIA issue, in a report by correspondent Jeffrey Brown:

BROWN: Dr. Anita Zaidi, a pediatrician, cited a fake vaccination campaign that the CIA used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

 ZAIDI: Which has hugely damaged public health programs, not only in Pakistan, but in many, many countries, because people ask all kinds of questions. They now think that they might—the vaccine programs might be actually spy operations.

This story was well-reported in the past, particularly by the Times; why the silence now that the problem has been declared an international emergency?


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