Gore and Obama: Amazing insights on Global Warming

May 24, 2006 marks the release of the documentary film, Inconvenient Truth. The film documented Al Gore’s decades long campaign to increase awareness on global warming. It was appropriately titled. Climate change or global warming wasn’t the headline news at least in 2006. See link below on the film.

Al Gore is an unabashed environmental activist since he was elected to Congress at the age of 28. At age 73, Gore is still hard at work raising awareness and pro-actively supporting cooperation. Being pro-active, meaning heeding clear warning signs of impending disasters and taking appropriate actions. Some should take note of the recent Surfside condominium collapse of a good example of the cost of inaction until disaster comes.

“No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” is from Obama’s State of the Union address in 2015. The statement was immediately ridiculed on Fox News. CNN reported, “His statement was met with scattered, muted applause.” President Barack Obama described as the greatest threat to future generations was neither terrorism nor ISIS. It wasn’t nuclear weapons in rogue states either.

Nobody needs to convince the residents of California or Oregon that climate change effects can be life threatening as temperatures soared above 100 degrees. Bloomberg reports: “In the past week alone, 380,000 people have been evacuated due to floods in China’s Henan province, 30 villages in Uganda were affected as rivers overflowed and 25 people died in landslides after Mumbai was hit by big storms that also inundated regions surrounding the megacity. Temperatures in Turkey and North Africa approached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), while South Africa and Brazil froze. Siberia is battling wildfires again.”

“The global climate is out of balance” as stated in the Bloomberg link below. It will take enormous international cooperation to bring down global carbon emissions. We have finally a president who will work with world leaders on cutting emissions. But unfortunately, Congress is less committed, and they hold the purse strings.

Even worse, is the defiant President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who seems in locked in the mentality of last century, where there was zero appreciation of the impact of carbon emissions our climate, and complete deference to industrial development. See the last link of this blog, where the federal government is accelerating the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, for profit.

Yes, Gore got it right from the get go, so did Obama. Biden is on the right track. China. India and the EU will work with the international groups. Brazil? Some really get it.

See links below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Al Gore

Environmental Activism of Al Gore

Obama: No greater threat to future than climate change

Why the weather is so weird (Bloomberg Green)

(Note the events cited are just in the last week)

The Amazon Is Fast Approaching a Point of No Return
Brazil’s rainforest is being stolen and cleared at an accelerating pace, and the Bolsonaro government is fanning the flames.

Bloomberg Green

No 6-3 decisions – Update

Perhaps I spoke to soon. Two important cases were just decided with all six conservatives in the majority as follows:

Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta

The Court struck down California’s requirement that charities and nonprofits operating in the state provide the state attorney general’s office with the names and addresses of their largest donors. (From Scotusblog.com)

Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee

By a vote of 6-3, the justices upheld two Arizona voting provisions that Democrats and civil rights groups challenged as disproportionately burdening minority voters. In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the majority outlined what it described as “guideposts” for future challenges to voting laws under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination in election practices. The court’s three liberal justices dissented, with Justice Elena Kagan complaining that Thursday’s decision “undermines Section 2 and the right it provides.” (From Scotusblog.com)

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Scotusblog.com

No 6-3 Supreme Court Decisions?

Justices Thomas and Breyer

“When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function and the results in our cases do not suggest otherwise,” said Roberts before hundreds in attendance at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in Manhattan.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Sept 2019.

There are 3 liberal Supreme Court justices: Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer. As shown above, Justice Breyer is seated to the right of Justice Thomas. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a long standing conservative justice. Other conservatives on the bench are: Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Roberts. So, the balance of the court is 6-3, in favor of conservatives.

However, the idea that conservatives now control the court has no legs to stand on in the 2020 term. As the Economist article states, as of June 23, of the 50 cases decided in the current term, there have been only four cases of a 6-3 decisions split over ideological lines. There were 24 unanimous decisions.

The 2020 term is coming to an end. I believe there are just 5 more decisions before the court takes their summer break. The more contentious case often come at the end of the term. The HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining case was decided on June 26, and it clearly supports what Roberts said, that the justices will decide based on the law and precedent, and not which political party supported their nomination. The case was decided 6-3 but the majority opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch, a conservative, and the dissent was written by Justice Barrett, another conservative. Joining Justice Gorsuch was Justice Breyer, a rock solid liberal on the court. Joining Justice Barrett, were liberal judges, Sotomayor and Kagan.

A New Yorker article entitled, “The Supreme Court surprising term” as published yesterday, states, “the Justices repeatedly defied expectations, with conservatives and liberals together forming majorities in high-profile cases in order to avoid or defer the fighting of deeper wars.” I’m not so sure that was the motivation. They recognize the immediate impact their decisions have on every court in the country and this supersedes politics.

The conservatives and liberals have different philosophies on interpreting the law. I don’t think any of the justices has really altered their general philosophy. Conservatives adhere more to the Constitution as written, and are less willing to take an expansive interpretation of the constitution. They can still arrive at the outcome, but with different reasoning. Judgement and and dissents of the court are much more powerful, when supported by both conservatives and liberals.

So, ironically, as our political parties seem to become more polarized, with opposing views on just about every issue, the Supreme Court is finding common ground and this is good. Yes, Republicans nominate conservatives and Democrats nominate liberals. The very good aspect of the approval process, is that we have a Supreme Court, with some of the top legal minds in the country, through their education and experience.

Conservatives and liberal justices joined in the denial of the challenge to Obamacare, probably the case with the greatest immediate impact and highly controversial between Republicans and Democrats. The majority ruled the merits of the case should not be considered, because there was lack of standing, based on no showing of real harm to the States. Justice Alito wrote a strong dissent to the majority.

What keeps the Court out of politics? The Court has nine independent justices, and each gets one vote, including the Chief Justice. In the case of eight justices, the Chief Justice does not break the tie. A tie means the lower court decision holds. So, I believe giving the Chief Justice no special privileges has been one way the court has kept out of partisan politics. The President might call up the Speaker of the House, when the Republicans were in the majority and say he wants certain legislation passed. Doesn’t work at the Supreme Court. Our founding fathers wrote in the Constitution that the Supreme Court judges would have lifetime appointments, so this keeps them out of the political fray.

I think it is also a tribute to John Roberts and other members that has resulted in conservatives agreeing with liberals and vice-versa. Yes, conservatives tend to agree more often with each other than with liberal members. But, this agreement isn’t consistent enough to predict cases.

Which justices cross over and join with the other side? I think this term, the answer is pretty clear. Every single one of them! Breyer joining with Barrett on one case, Sotomayor and Kagan joining with a dissent written by Thomas in another case (TransUnion Credit Case). How nice!

Links:

Economist: The 3-3-3 court: America’s Supreme Court is less one-sided than liberals feared

The Supreme Court’s Surprising Term

Scotus Blog

Brazil firm to produce Covid-19 vaccine for export

Hospitals in Brazil and India are filled to capacity. In Brazil, the number of new cases is about 61,000 (7-day rolling average). It is the last place you would expect vaccines to be produced for export to other countries. So, I would say the Covid-19 crisis in Brazil is terrible and a bit bizarre.

Brazil’s Anvisa agency rejected the Sputnik V vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute. Anvisa in Brazil is like the FDA in the US, as it must approve all vaccines. Brazil was expected to receive 30 million doses.

Yahoo news reports, “União Quimica’s facility in São Paulo has been certified by Anvisa for good production practices and the Gamaleya vaccine will be made for export to countries that have approved it, said CEO and founder Fernando Marques.” I suspect the vaccine will be shipped to Mexico and Argentina. It is approved in India, and I’m sure they can’t wait to receive additional shipments.

The vaccine is claimed to be 91% effective. The Russian vaccine has been approved in 62 countries. The vaccine was really the first one to be approved, in August 2020, beating out Moderna and Pfizer. Russia was criticized for giving approval without sufficient Phase III trials, where the effectiveness could be reviewed by scientists around the world.

The European Medicines Agency is currently inspecting the manufacture of the Russian vaccine in Europe. I believe the Agency will give approval shortly, and this will make it easy for all European countries to approve.

The Russian vaccine is an Adenovirus vector vaccine, as are other approved vaccines: J&J, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Cansino. In the manufacture of the vaccine, the DNA of another virus (not Covid) so it can not replicate, but is capable of eliciting an immune response. The link below describes the vaccine as containing viral particles, which invades the cells and passes on specific instructions to the cells to build spike proteins. So these cells have enough in common with Covid, to get the immune system to defend against Covid. Very clever these scientists.

Anvisa rejection seems based more on the manufacturing of the vaccine, rather the science behind it. They claim that the batches of vaccine they examined contained replication-competent adenovirus. I’m stopping right here, because the scientists can battle this one out. It may be that some people getting the vaccine will have a mild cold, but they will nevertheless be protected from Covid.

The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. In Latin America, Mexico and Argentina have administered about 7 million doses, while over 12 million people in Russia have received the shot (see link from Wall Street Journal).

Anvisa was forced by a Supreme Court decision to rule on the requests of 10 states in Brazil for the vaccine. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the right wing politics of President Bolsonaro is a real element with this regulatory agency. They have no problem with approving toxic agricultural chemicals, which are banned in Europe.

Bolsonaro claims to be doing everything in his power to combat Covid-19. The solution is not with hydroxychloroquine or even worse ivermectin, but effective vaccines.

It is an appalling contradiction when millions of doses of Gameleya’s vaccine are made in the populous city of São Paulo (11 million residents) and shipped to other countries, when there is a dire need for more vaccines at home. The question remains- has Anvisa dug themselves a hole too deep for themselves get out of? I hope not.

This is a continuing story and I’ll update it as information is available.

Stay tuned,

Dave

,

Links:

Yahoo News: European Medicines Agency experts beginning Sputnik V manufacturing inspections: Official

Science Magazine Blog: Brazil Rejects the Gamaleya Vaccine

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Defends Decision to Reject Russia’s Covid-19 Vaccine, Citing Safety and Efficacy

Brasilwire: With 400,000 Dead, Brazil Regulator Slammed For “Political” Veto Of Russian Vaccine

Bolsonaro advocates freedom (forget lockdowns and social distancing- and still promotes hydroxychloroquine!)

Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19 from US FDA.

Tucker Suckers

Tucker Carlson, Fox News Commentator

We are in a global war against the Covid-19 Pandemic. The safety and effectiveness of the vaccines at this point has been clearly been proven. It is a fact that those countries who have be able to acquire and distribute the vaccines to a high percentage of their populations are seeing the new incidences go dramatically down. It is also a fact that there have been extremely few severe reactions, on the order of one in a million. Over a billion vaccines have been administered worldwide. Medical workers and doctors got first in line with when the shots were available. Every living current and past president have been vaccinated.

Tucker Carlson. with Fox News, is not a journalist. He is a showman. Tucker Carlson promotes doubt rather than fact. This lets Fox News make more money. When he raises a long series of questions, it’s like a cliff hanger- tune in tomorrow as only Tucker can dig down and finally uncover the truth. It’s show biz!

He went way too far with several broadcasts on the vaccines in support those hesitant to be vaccinate. He claimed many more people are have severe reactions or die after taking the vaccine than reported in the mainstream media. Actually, as pointed out by the excellent reporting in the Washington Post, his statistics are just plain wrong because he is using a database, where anyone can report adverse reactions, and the connection to the vaccine is not verified.

This should not be political. Operation Warp Speed was responsible for the rapid development and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines under the Trump administration. Two Covid-19 vaccines were approved for Emergency Use by the FDA under the Trump administration. Trump and his family were vaccinated in January 2021, soon after the vaccines were approved.

Carlson speaks with great conviction. His facts are wrong. And those who watch and believe him, and don’t get vaccinated, may help in the continued spread of the disease. This followers should know better. I call them Tucker suckers, but perhaps Tucker victims is a better term, as some will get Covid-19, end up in the hospital, with very dire consequences, including death.

I know commentators want to impress their audience with “Breaking News,” not heard on other cable news stations. Well there is a reason in this case. Tucker facts are misleading or wrong. Others including commentators on Fox News, have recognized how extreme and reckless his broadcasts have become.

See further support in the links below. I know links from Washington Post may require a subscription, but they frequently allow some free views. CNN response is excellent.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Washington Post More than 3,283,000 people have died from the coronavirus worldwide

Washington Post, Tucker Carlson’s worst vaccine segment yet

CNN, Tucker Carlson’s Fox News colleagues call out his dangerous anti-vaccination rhetoric

John Oliver on HBO, Humorous as always, but I think he’s right on the mark May 3, 2021, but didn’t stop Tucker Carlson, with more broadcasts.

May 3 broadcast

Why You Should Get Vaccinated

Covid-19 is a worldwide killer and vaccines are the answer, if everyone does their part. Let me tell you why.

The Covid-19 vaccination program began in December 2020 with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The supply was very scarce and the demand was very great. There are a lot of people in great health who have died of Covid-19. They ate well, took care of themselves and have no idea where they got the virus. Frontline medical professionals have died from Covid-19. In some cases, their immune system went into overdrive, and they didn’t pull through.

I’ve heard plenty of people feeling the after effects of Covid-19, including weeks without being able to taste food and respiratory problems.

Worldwide we just past the 1 billion doses of vaccines being administered. We still have a long ways to go. In the US and other countries, health professionals are monitoring the effectiveness of the vaccine. They don’t work for the drug companies. They have found that the vaccines are working, even against the various new strains. However, for the 2 shot vaccines, the second shot is really necessary to get the full benefit of the vaccine.

I’ve heard now, a few reasons why not to get vaccinated. The first is that it might actually cause you to get coronavirus, as they are injecting a weaken virus into your system. This is totally false. They are injecting strands of DNA which generate anti-body cells to defend the body against Covid. Second, the vaccines are not 100% effective. This one is true, but I’d say, 95% effective is pretty good to me. There will never be a perfect vaccine.

I heard a commentator state that the elderly are dying from Covid and the youth are spreading it. Well, yes and no. A third of the elderly population is unvaccinated, and they certainly can be spreading it. And within the US, there are 2,300 young adults (under age of 30) who died of Covid-19. It is sad, but now it is also preventable.

Covid-19 is a worldwide killer and vaccines are the answer, if everyone does their part. End of sermon.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Press Briefing with Dr. Fauci

I’ll see you in court

Trump didn’t like the election results. After 62 lawsuits, not one single vote changed. But, this was pure Trump. A barrage of lawsuits. Now the tables have turned, and he’s the one in the firing range, without much to fire back.

Welcome to New York City, Mr. Trump. There is no hometown advantage here. This is where he was sued for fraud in the Trump University ($25 million) and Trump charities ($3 million).

There are a lot of cases chasing Donald Trump, but I’m keeping my eye on the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance case, because it is a criminal case, and has a good chance of finally going forward after 3 years. It began in 2018, when Trump could claim protection to his records as president. And yes, it is all about defrauding the government on taxes.

Vance has the treasure trove of the Trump’s organization tax records, courtesy of a Supreme Court ruling. Michael Cohen, Trump’s all important fixer, is helping him. Be careful of the enemies you make when you are going up, they may be the same ones you see going down. The focus with the Vance case is the legitimacy of a 46 million dollar tax break in real estate transactions. See Washington Post article for details.

A second case is spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and yes, more real estate transaction. But this one is a civil suit, so I think it could be settled out of court. Again, the Washington Post has the details.

Now, in reference to these cases, remember those that know, don’t talk, and those that talk don’t know. Or they speculate. Vance and James can’t share tax information.

Trump can pay some of the legal fees from his PAC money, reported as “over 31 million dollars.” Sorry, these are unbelievable suckers to think “Saving America” and bailing out a billionaire with tax fraud problems are some how compatible.

If successful, Michael Cohen will likely be pleased. Likely he learned from his former boss – Revenge is sweet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Washington Post, Lawsuits against Trump

Human health v Politics

Trump’s EPA was frighteningly bad from top to bottom. EPA Administrators Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler sought to weaken the agency, as they had done their entire careers in support of the fossil fuels industries. As administrators, they put lawyers who had battled against regulations in charge of departments.

The really bad chemicals sometimes avoid scrutiny because their presence are found in very select locations, and the affect on human life is subtle at first, and takes years to cause harm. Perfect case is the burial of chemicals containing highly volatile chemicals including benzene and dioxin in Love Canal, New York, by Occidental Petroleum in the 1950’s did not become recognized as an enormous health hazard, until 1977.

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a chemical used to sterilize equipment in the health and agricultural industries. In medical applications, it is used in place of steam for instruments sensitive to moisture. In the agricultural industry, it can be used as a fumigant.

The EPA website states the following:

“Studies show that breathing air containing elevated ethylene oxide levels over many years increases the risk of some types of cancers, including cancers of the white blood cells (such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and lymphocytic leukemia); and breast cancer in females.”

If you think this is bad, it gets worse. From the EPA website, on the effects on children, “EtO is mutagenic (i.e., it can change the DNA in a cell). Children may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of mutagenic substances.” Translation, children may be more at risk of the various types of cancer. There is nothing more sad than this.

Deputy director Andrew Wheeler ran the EPA beginning in July 2018 after Scott Pruitt quit amid 14 investigations of misconduct in 2018. It was Scott Pruitt who appointed Bill Wehrum, to be in charge of air quality. Like Pruitt, he was forced to resign after 19 months for ethic violations. There was nothing in Wehrum’s history, to indicate he would defend and enforce air quality regulations. Prior to his role at the EPA, he was a partner and the head of the administrative law group at Hunton & Williams, where he lobbied on behalf on major industrial companies and advocated for looser environmental regulations. See his bio from Wikipedia.

Willowbrook near Lake Michigan, Illinois is a nice sounding name. One can picture weeping willows along side of a brook, perfect for family outings. But this is the location of one of the Sterigenics facilities, and over time, their emissions of ethylene oxides and other chemicals were polluting the air, and increasing the risk of cancer and lymphomas.

Health issues are personal, as reported by CBS news in February 2019 (see link below):

“Matt Haller, 45, lived about a mile from the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook and now has stage-four stomach cancer. The married father of a four-year old has lost 75 pounds, as the cancer ravaged his body. He was healthy and active, and enjoyed playing hockey. He loved his career at ESPN in sales. “I had a future that had success written on it, and now I have no future,” he told CBS 2.

All this sounds familiar and very sad. For decades, the residents of Love Canal were in the dark about the toxic gases seeping from their backyards. The land on which an elementary school was built, also had the slow release of toxic gases. A snow blizzard hit in Buffalo, New York and Grand Island, NY in the winter of 1977. I know, I was working on Grand Island at the time. As the snow melted, the groundwater levels rose, and residents could smell the gases. This was the formative period of the EPA. Just six years earlier, EPA administrator, William Ruckelshaus announced national standards for six common pollutants, as mandated by the Clean Air Act, signed into law by President Nixon.

Back to ethylene oxide. The Inspector General’s report issued last week states the following:

“Region 5 personnel orally communicated to one state agency and one local agency that OAR headquarters directed Region 5 to not inspect ethylene oxide facilities unless invited by a state.”

OAR headquarters is the Office of Air and Radiation, which was the responsibility of Bill Wehrum. He is not specifically named in the report.

So, the IG report makes it clear that the EPA is not carrying out its mission, at least in terms of protecting the health of residents in Michigan.

It is politics. The EPA ordered a webpage removed, which identified the elevated cancer risks in the Lake Michigan area. Bad news could hurt the incumbent president re-election campaign.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: William Wehrum

Chicago CBS Local News, February 2019, Sterigenics Allegedly Covered Up Toxic Emissions, Operated Secret Plants, Former Workers Say

Chicago Tribune report, April 16, 2021: Trump appointees blocked EPA from investigating ethylene oxide polluters and prevented staff from warning Americans about the cancer-causing gas, [Inspector General] report says

Top EPA official resigns amid scrutiny over possible ethics violations

Covid-19, Brazil and the World

In Brazil, the daily deaths due to Covid-19 made an all time record, of 2,286 on March 10, 2021.  These are people who did not make it out of the hospital.  This is four times as many people as four month ago.  This is real and it is scary.      Brazilian hospitals are overrun with new cases.  When hospitals run short of equipment such as ventilators,  more people die.

Deaths from Covid-19 in the world are trending down.  Only  about 1%  of the world is fully vaccinated.   The US is far head with 10% fully vaccinated.  Brazil has fully vaccinated only 1.4%. of its 211 million residents.   Note that reports of a 4% level of vaccination for Brazil is based on “one or more” vaccinations rather than the required two shots.

The progress in the world is likely a combination of vaccines plus stricter restrictions on travel and social gatherings in clubs, bars, restaurants, weddings, church sermons and  family re-unions.  Enforcement of mask wearing rules and social distancing I am certain helped reduce Covid-19 worldwide.

Brazil is going the wrong way in general, with the new record high.  I predict by May, they will be averaging 2500 daily deaths, with fewer than 5% of the population fully vaccinated.  Brazil accounts for 18% of all deaths from Covid-19 worldwide and may climb to 40% by May, 2021 (2500 in Brazil verses 6000 worldwide).

There is competition in the purchase of vaccines.  Brazil is now looking at ways to increase the supply of vaccines from China (see links below), while three months ago, it was hostile to the idea of testing of Chinese vaccines in Brazil in return for additional supplies. The efficacy of Sinovac vaccine (Coronavac) was reported to be only 50%, but it was 70% in preventing moderate to severe cases, which is very good.   The severe cases can result in death, particularly among my group (older males).    From everything I’ve read, Brazilians are ready to take the vaccine, but the supply is extremely limited.

Because vaccines are never 100% effective, the wearing of masks and social distancing are still required.  As long as there is a high rate of new infections, restrictions must stay in effect.   Biden last night delivered a powerful speech, in asking the American public to take precautionary measures to prevent a new surge in new infections.  Brazil needs to look on how it can best reverse course.

We will get rid of Covid-19 only by everyone’s action in every country in the world.  There is no magic pill.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-vaccine-idUSKBN2B21Y8

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/biweekly-covid-deaths

(The bi-weekly data chart helps smooth out the data noise).

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-56342303

Trump’s Pardons – A gift to organized crime and a kick in the teeth for prosecutors

On Friday, January 22, 2021 New York Times headline, “In the End, Trump Undid Years of Prosecutions.”  Prosecuting people for fraud is tough, because the criminals are often  millionaires, and can hire the best defense lawyers in the country.    In a similar story, they called it a kick in the teeth for prosecutors.  

One pardon went to Philip Esformes, a former nursing home executive who orchestrated one of the biggest Medicare frauds in the United States. He served four years of a 20 year sentence and was commuted by Trump.   Esformes criminal activities were summarized by Wikipedia:

In April 2019, Federal officials charged Philip Esformes of paying and receiving kickbacks and bribes in the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. The largest case of fraud brought to the Department of Justice took place between 2007 until 2016. Philip Esformes, 48, owner of more than 20 assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes was the leader of the ring. Former Director of the Outreach Program at Larkin Hospital in South Miami, Odette Barcha, 50, was Esformes’ accomplice along with Arnaldo Carmouze, 57, a physical assistant in the Palmetto Bay Area.

These three constructed a team of corrupt physicians, hospitals, and private practices in South Florida. The scheme worked as follows: bribes and kickbacks where paid to physicians, hospitals, and practices to refer patients to the facilities owned and controlled by Esformes. The assisted living and skilled nursing facilities would admit the patients and bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary, fabricated and sometimes harmful procedures. In addition to that, some of the charges to Medicare and Medicaid include prescription narcotics prescribed to patients addicted to opioids to entice the patients to stay at the facility in order for the bill to increase. Another technique used by the dream team was to move patients in and out of facilities when the patients have reached the maximum number of days allowed by Medicare and Medicaid. This was accomplished by using one of the corrupt physicians to see the patients and coordinate for readmission in the same or a different facility owned by Esformes. Per Medicare and Medicaid guidelines, a patient is allowed 100 days at a skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay. The patient is given an additional 100 days if the he/she spends 6 days outside of a facility or is readmitted to a hospital for 3 additional days.

The facilities not only fabricated medical documents to show treatment was done to a patient, they also hiked up the prices to equipment and medications that were never consumed or used. The role of Barcha as the Director of the Outreach program was to expand the group of corrupt physicians and practices. She would advise the community physicians and hospitals to refer patients to the facilities owned by Esformes and they will receive monetary gifts. The group would refer patient to the facilities and receive kickbacks. The law against kickbacks is called the Anti-Kickback Statute or Stark Law. This law makes it illegal for medical providers to refer patient to a facility owned by the physician or a family member for services billable to Medicare and Medicaid. It also prohibits providers to receive bribes for patient referrals. The involvement of Carmouze in the grand scheme was to prescribe unnecessary prescription drug to patients who may or may not have needed the medications. He also facilitated community physicians to visit the patient in the assisted living facilities owned by Esformes in order for the physician to bill Medicare and Medicaid and Esformes received kickbacks. Carmouze also assisted in falsifying medical documentation to represent proof of medical necessity for many of the medications, procedures, visits, and equipment charged to the government.

Esformes has been detained since 2016. In 2019, he was convicted for charges that add up to 20 years in prison. His sentence was commuted by Donald Trump on December 22, 2020.

As reported, “Just days after being granted clemency by President Donald J. Trump and released after serving four years of his 20-year sentence, Mr. Esformes was under a disco ball celebrating his daughter’s wedding.”   Oddete Barcha  pleaded guilty, and got only 15 months.  Kind of makes you sick, to think of the nursing home patients being used as pons, and getting them addicted to opioids so they would stay longer at the facility. 

Why in the world would Philip Esformes qualify for a Trump pardon?  Donald Trump pardon his friends, like Manafort, Gates and Flynn, convicted of  lying to the FBI, tax fraud, money laundering (Manafort and Gates), and bank fraud (Manafort).   Esformes crimes had real victims,  elderly people in nursing homes in South Florida.  Philip Esformes was in the process of challenging his conviction through the appellate court. A friends of the court brief (Amicus curiae) was filed,  arguing that the charges should be dismissed because prosecutors unjustifiably seized hundreds of privileged materials, allowed prosecutors and case agents to review and use privileged materials for months.   Those supporting the  brief  included heavy hitters such as Ken Starr,  and former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft.  

But what I believe won the Trump’s heart was that Esformes cohorts in the Medicare rip off business , Gabriel and Guillermo Delgado turned on Philip Esformes and for the brothers’  help with authorities, got lighter sentences.   You can see the parallels between Michael Cohen helping prosecutors in New York and the Delgado brothers helping South Florida prosecutors.   I liked this comment in the Miami-Herald:

“Bruce Udolf, a former federal corruption prosecutor and prominent defense attorney in South Florida, said that Trump’s rationale for his clemency decisions may be based on “criminal justice reform.” But Udolf said the president’s pardons and commutations were really about taking care of “moneyed and privileged” political cronies and white-collar criminals — including Trump’s former advisers Stephen Bannon, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — rather than “more deserving people languishing in prison” with draconian sentences for drug offenses.”

Prosecutors may decide to try Esformes again, on charges that the jury in the first trial could not decide on.  (See Miami-Herald story) 

Another pardon went to Judith Negron who stole hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare payments. She was sentenced to 35 years, but her sentence was commuted after serving 8 years. She was relieved of any remaining obligation to pay her share of the 87 million in restitution.

I’ll stop here.  There is still a lot to unpack in all these pardons. 

Links:

For Prosecutors, Trump’s Clemency Decisions Were a ‘Kick in the Teeth’

Miami Herald: Trump’s clemency freed Esformes, but he still faces pending Medicare fraud charges

Amicus curiae on the Esformes appeal

 

 

Impeachment II

There is no lack of opinions on this topic. I’ll be brief. I am against the second impeachment. The Senate will not get the 66 votes needed, so acquittal is inevitable. Can they strip Donald Trump of his right to run again? A number of constitutional scholars have said no.

So, the “can” part is shaky. The question of whether Trump’s actions merit impeachment, I contend, is also very weak. To encourage people to fight for what they believe in, is not the same as to incite a riot. Trump did not tell the people to go to the Capital and break in. He said to his followers that he knew they had plans to march on the Capital. He said a lot of things in support of their protest of the election results. It makes no difference if it was the truth or lies. You can not convict an elected official because they lie, particularly in off-hand comments to a group of protesters. And absolutely you can not convict an elected official for supporting a protest rally, which is exactly how this began.

Further, more evidence is coming to light that the break-in of Congress was in many ways planned in advanced. The organizers brought rope, and ladders to break-in. No one will be able to show Trump caused the attack on the Capital to occur. His defenders will point clearly to two sentences in his tirade in front of protesters on January 6:

“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. Today we will see whether Republicans stand strong for integrity of our elections, but whether or not they stand strong for our country, our country. “

Trump message was very simple – that he won the election honestly, and the Democrats rigged the election to show that he lost it. That was his narrative. The villains of the day included Mike Pence who he wanted to act in an illegal manner to refuse certification. Rudy Giuliani probably was more guilty than Trump of inciting violence, but I think he’s got a number of legal problems going forward.

I felt the House should have passed a motion of censure, which they could have gained the support of many Republicans. Trump’s speech on January 6 did encourage violence, and censure would have been appropriate.

It is what it is, my good friend says. Get ready for a lot of speeches in February, calling the impeachment unconstitutional and defending Trump and his right to free speech. Legal experts will testify that Trump can’t be impeached, and this whole Senate trial is a sham. And they will focus on one word he said on January 6 “peacefully” as proof that the impeachment is without merit.

Stay tuned,

Dave

There are so many links on the internet, including the transcript of Trump’s Jan 6 speech to the protesters. I use the word protesters or Trump’s supporters so I don’t characterize everyone assembled in front of the White House as participating in the attack on the Capital.

Covid-19 Vaccinations in Florida – January 16

I got my first dose of the vaccination on January 14, 2021. I live in Miami, Florida. The big challenge was getting an appointment. It means one has to type very fast the moment appointments open up. Every second counts. I used the portal set up by Miami-Dade County.  I knew when the appointment portal was going to be open based on my online subscription to the Miami Herald.

The appointment went very well. There were just 10 people waiting in front of the clinic when it open. I was asked if I had any allergies. I filled out the consent sheet, and soon after, a nurse gave me the Moderna vaccine. Very importantly, I was told to wait at least 15 minutes after the injection, before leaving the clinic in case there were any side effects. I felt some slight side effects including dryness in my mouth. This is standard operating procedure at all vaccination sites based on CDC guidelines.

Now, I am concerned about my second dose. I was given a card that stated I needed to take the second dose on February 11, exactly 28 days after this first dose. They said they will contact me by email and tell me at what time to return.

Although they already had my email address through the first reservation, they asked me to write it down again. This isn’t good because transcription errors (from handwriting to the computer) can result. When I I made the first appointment, the email address is typed in and  then repeated back in the confirmation notice. Most likely, the first appointment scheduling system makes some quick checks on the address validity. It appears that the scheduling system for the first and second appointments are not well linked together.

The Washington Post reported last night there was no reserved stockpiles for second doses. It looks bad. Data from the Florida Department of Health, based on the entire state are not encouraging:

So, right now 66% of all first dose people made it back to their second dose on time and 34% so far have not.   The 61,151 vacinees (those who got vaccinated)  who were on time for their final shot on Jan 12, would have been injected on December 22, 2020, with the Pfizer vaccine with a 3 week interval.  Unlikely, it was Moderna, because the EUA approval for this vaccine came on December 18.   

I believe the overdue percent is rising, because people aren’t receiving timely appointments to return to the clinics.  If the supply isn’t enough to cover both new and returning residents, who do you chose to vaccinate?  It looks right now, it’s about 9:1 on the new rather than returning, in rough numbers. so, around 50,000 to 70,00 new doses, and to the 7,000 to 9,000 second doses.   In terms of who is getting the second doses right now, it’s mostly in the age group between 16 to 64 years old (around 25% complete), rather than the 64 years old plus group (1 to 2% complete).  I think this is due to the fact that when the Pfizer vaccine first came out, it went to many medical professionals and first responders.   

Supply is the problem, and deciding who to give priority to is a very vexing question.   Our governor pitched a “Seniors First” program, and the Food and Drug Administration decided not to stockpile additional vaccines for the second doses.  There are approximately 500,000 people over 65 years of age, who in the next four weeks or less, will need their second shot, based on the latest DOH statistics.  Adding a lot of locations where one can be receive injections, doesn’t help when the supply is the limiting factor.  We need to add new refrain to the old song, “Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today” which goes, “Yes, we have no bananas, and yes, we have many more fruit stands today.”

How much risk is there if they don’t get the second shot?   Without a second dose, people do not have maximum protection from the vaccine.  The second shot is added insurance that there is s sufficient immune response.    I suspect there is a tendency for people to engage in more risky activities – like travel, get social events and go out to eat once they have the first shot.  And that can worsen the spread. 

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Vaccine reserve was exhausted when Trump administration vowed to release it, dashing hopes of expanded access

Washington Post article of January 15 – I hope non-subscribers can open it although the title pretty much summaries the article.

FL DOH  Covid-19 Vaccine Report

This link will only provide the most recent link.    Everyday, the DOH overwrites the prior report with a new one.  We will maintain copies of all reports. I will be adding a new page with all Florida reports. 

 

Going Forward

Thirteen days to go. Time to fix windows and doors and get the Capital ready for January 20, 2021 inauguration day. I want no impeachment inquiry or silly talk of removing Trump by the 25th Amendment. The future of our country is with good leaders from both the Republican and Democrat parties, and this kind of talk is divisive and unproductive.

Some fine Republicans made excellent speeches of how it was high time to acknowledge the winner of the 2020 election because the people had chosen. Mitt Romney rose to the occasion with the simple words of “Let’s tell the people the truth.”

The first three priorities of 2021 must be Covid vaccine, Covid vaccine and Covid vaccine – in that order. Vaccines are the only way out of the health crisis. I live in Florida, and a new virulent strain of Covid-19 is gaining strength. I’ve spend every day searching a place I can make an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine.

In Florida, I should have priority as I am over 70 years old. But I’m finding it impossible to make an appointment for a vaccination.

Miami-Dade County: Registration is currently closed. Please check back periodically as additional vaccines become available.

Jackson Hospital: We have booked more than 12,000 vaccine appointments. Currently all of our COVID-19 vaccination appointment slots have been filled, and we are not taking any new appointments at this time. Please return to this page routinely for ongoing updates as we receive additional vaccines.

I’ve read the same message for over a week. No Appointments!

Remember how we were promised that 20 million doses by the end of December would be administered in the US. The latest numbers from CDC are that of the 17.3 million doses shipped, only 5.3 million doses have received their first shot. I’m really afraid it is about to get worse, as availability of appointments could drop in half as the returnees for the second shots are given priority.

This should be treated as a national emergency. Donald Trump leaves in 13 days, with a disastrous vaccine rollout program. I am glad that Operation Warp Speed contributed 1.3 billion dollars to AstraZeneca, to produce the best vaccine available. We should be moving heaven and earth to get at least some of their vaccine in the US.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Truth matters

Each year, Politifact singles out a lie or false narrative as its lie of the year. The “award” goes to a statement, or a collection of claims, that prove to be of substantive consequence in undermining reality. Truth does matter.

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassinations from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” Robert Maynard

I think this country, the undernourishment is closer to ignorance. Real news and facts are out there in abundance. Nobody has to look far to get the facts. Democracy depends on an informed population.

Donald Trump record of lies far exceeds any past president. In the last 4 years, our president has averaged approximately 50 lies per day. By July 2020, the Washington Post had counted over 20,000 lies from Trump. It was like he was incapable of stating known facts. I am very glad our Liar in Chief will be gone on January 20, 2021.

The 2020 Lie of the Year, as awarded by Politifact, is really a long series of false narratives which Trump has promoted from the January 2020 until today. Trump has downplayed, denied and deceive the public on basic facts of Covid-19. The world has suffered 1.6 million deaths and the US has the highest death toll of 330,000.

Fox News commentary and Facebook posting are part of the problem. Facebook bloggers can target their audience. Trump tried to politicize the epidemic as much as possible, calling it the “China virus” and pulling out of the World Health Organization because he considered this organization to be pro-China.

Hopefully we have elected a new president which will see the real issue is world health. I am so hoping that 2021 is the year the world gets vaccinated.

Truth matters. There is outstanding solid reporting of real problems from the New York Times, Washington Post and others. Politifact and other fact checking websites provide a very valuable service in validating statements of officials.

See links below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Lie of the Year 2020: Coronavirus downplay and denial

People can suggest their favorite lie of 2020 to Politifact

Lie of the Year 2019: Donald Trump’s claim whistleblower got Ukraine call ‘almost completely wrong’

Readers’ poll #1 in 2019: There has never been, ever before, an administration that’s been so open and transparent.” Donald Trump

Texas Election Lawsuit Filing

As I was preparing this blog, the Supreme Court denied the case based on standing. It simply says that Texas can not sue other states for the way they conduct their elections. So, it is much to do about nothing, as have all the other cases on election fraud, filed and dismissed in the past four weeks. Before a claim can be made in the Supreme Court, it must be established that the court is the right place to resolve a dispute.

The only question, I have, is whether Ken Paxton will win a pardon from Donald Trump. Paxton has not been convicted of any crimes, but is currently under federal investigation for allegedly using his office to illegally benefit a wealthy donor. Members of Paxton’s staff made the allegations and called for a probe of their now-former boss. He is been under indictment for felony securities fraud. A pardon will not apply to state charges. Is a lawsuit that lasts 5 days, and is thrown out, with 5 sentences, be enough?

The US Supreme Court is composed of nine justices who have lifelong appointments. This is such a blessing, passed down from our founders, and rooted in our constitution, designed specifically to keep the justices independent from the politics of the time and solely focused on the application of law.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

As FBI moves closer, Texas’ Paxton Denies He is Fishing for a Pardon

The responses are blistering (CNN words) from the reply briefs:

Pennsylvania:

“Let us be clear. Texas invites this court to overthrow the votes of the American people and choose the next President”

Wisconsin:

“Texas proposes an extraordinary intrusion into Wisconsin’s and the other defendant states’ elections, a task that the Constitution leaves to each state, … Wisconsin has conducted its election and its voters have chosen a winning candidate for their state. Texas’s bid to nullify that choice is devoid of a legal foundation or a factual basis.”

Georgia:

“’None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court,
and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution’s design to leave the selection of the
President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere.’ quoting from Bush vs Gore.”