Archive for April, 2017

Mooks with Nukes

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Nuclear War with tags , , , on April 20, 2017 by playthell

Trump and National Security Advisor HR McMaster

They Lost the Fleet at Sea? Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid!

No matter how they try to spin it the alarming fact is that the Commander-In-Chief lost track of a nuclear armed carrier fleet on the high seas!  It is a blunder unprecedented in US history, and the attempt to pass it off as Trump being “unpredictable” is unconvincing and does not pass the smell test.  Yet even if it were true, that would-be madness since it created the most dangerous possibility of a nuclear exchange since the Cuban missile crisis – an event that nearly destroyed our civilization!

Accompanied by the reckless rhetoric of Donald Trump bragging about the firepower of his magnificent Armada, while threatening an assault on North Korea after bombing Afghanistan and Syria, the North Korean Ambassador to the UN announced that any attack on his nation by the US would be met with the full force of their military…including nukes!  Listening to the news this morning I find an attempt to play down the magnitude of this blunder, and it is disconcerting.

There are vital lessons to be learned here and it would behoove us to learn them quickly.  The most important of these lessons is that the US Armed Forces, which has the power to wipe out the world, has a chain of command which is in disarray because the Commander-In-Chief is an incompetent ignoramus, and mistakes can be made in the deployment of nuclear weapons; therefore an accidental nuclear war is quite possible. I have repeatedly warned of this grim possibility in several essays.

In listening to people discuss the possibility of nuclear war I find that they are in deep denial.  Unable to contemplate the horror of it all, they take refuge in the assumption that no leader of a nuclear armed country would dare order an attack on another nuclear armed country because of the certain consequences to themselves.  In military strategy this is known as the MAD doctrine i.e. “Mutual Assured Destruction.”

It is this policy that has thus far prevented a war between nuclear powers, although we came within one wrong decision by Kennedy or Krushev from blwing up the world during the Cubam Missile Crisis of 1962.  Yet we should take no comfort in the fact that the MAD doctrine has worked in the past, for new dangers have arisen that threaten to make this policy obsolete.

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The main danger lay in the development of the Internet and the advent of cyber-warfare.  This makes threats, and loose talk about the possible use of nukes in a first strike, a destabilizing factor that was not a part of the security regime in the past.  And thus it ushers in new scenarios as to how an accidental nuclear war could start, and I have never believed a war between nuclear powers would ensue other than by accident.   But when you have the President of the USA, who commands the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal, saying things like he won’t take “the nuclear option off the table” at the same time that he is telling the world that he wants to be “unpredictable” the preconditions for catastrophe are laid.

Nukes

If we don’t destroy these doomsday weapons…they will destroy us!

There are over a million attempts a day to hack into the US strategic command computers, from whence the orders to launch a nuclear missile would be given, and I am certain there are many attempts to penetrate the Russian system.  It is reasonable to assume that the experience hackers are gaining from their attempts to penetrate these highly-sophisticated systems will help equip them to invade less complex systems such as that of North Korea.  For a fanatical Muslim Jihadist equally pissed off at the “Great Satan” America, and the Godless Communist in Korea and China, provoking a nuclear exchange between them could be viewed as a carrying out the will of Allah.    It is beyond hubris and into the realm of delusion to believe that no one will ever succeed in crashing these nuclear command systems.

Of course, given the cluelessness of Trump, an accidental nuclear exchange could occur without the help of Jihadist.  The ignorance of the man who controls the Doomsday US nuclear arsenal is shocking.  In a recent interview in which Trump was asked about the possibility of a thermo-nuclear war with Korea, he sounded dangerously confused – as if he had refused to read his copious briefing notebooks and slept throug the briefing sessions with the National Security Advisor.  An alarm went off in my head as I listened to Trump recount how American Presidents from Clinton to Obama had been “played” by “the gentleman” from Pyongyang, and assured us that things would be different now that the wily Korean would be dealing with him!

The problem with his analysis is that Trump was actually talking about three different people: Kim ill Sung, Kim Jung Ill and Kim Jong Un. Verbose, intellectually lazy ignoramus that he is, Trump had no clue that the present leader of north Korea, Kim Jong UN – was a toddler when Clinton did his deal with Kim ill Sung.  Alas, a day hardly passes that Donnie Dimwit does not do something that embarrasses the nation.

Yet that is not the worst of it: the combination of ignorance, arrogance and pugnacousness that are the pillars of his personality makes him dangerous to America and the world.  Alas, when Trump’s mindless impulsive use of America’s vast military power is spurred on by an ignorant electorate who want to “make America great again,” applauded by a jingoistic press and encouraged by old warmongers in the Senate such as Lindsay Graham and John McCain – two reckless old farts with one foot in the grave who appear to want to take everybody else with them – we should be afraid…very afraid

VIDEOS!
Click on link to see the lost carrier fleet at sea
https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/04/18/the-trump-admin-said-this-aircraft-carrier-was-on-her-way-to-north-korea-it-was-sailing-the-other-way.html
Watch Rober S. McNamara’s Extrodinary Witness
For a first hand account of how nuclear war almost destroyed civilization
Click on Link and Watch Robert S. Macnamara’s film: “The Fog of War.”
https://freedocumentaries.org/documentary/the-fog-of-war#watch-film

Note:  Robert S. McNamara, the subject of this film, was the Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the US and Russia almost destroyed the world in a nuclear war.  His testimony about how close both side came to launching their nuclear missiles is the most chilling revelation you will ever hear. And his reflections on war and weapons of mass destruction, which traces the growth in the destructive power of those weapons offer vitals lessons that could save us from a war of extinction.  PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO VIEW THIS FILM, AND DEMAND THAT YOUR CONGRESSMAN PUT FORTH A BILL THAT WILL END DONALD TRUMP’S BOYCOTT OF THE UN CONFERENCE TO BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS!   

 It is the height of hypocrisy for Trump to emphasize the ban on nerve gas, and become so worked up by its alleged use by the Syrian government that he bombed the country, while at the same time refusing to even enter into a discussion about banning nuclear weapons – the destructive power of which makes nerve gas seem like a minor issue.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 4, 2017
 

Was Sarin Gas Used in Syrian Attack?

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on April 18, 2017 by playthell
  At the Scene of reported Sarin Gas Attack
 A Brief Clinical and Epidemiologic Comparison with the Japan Attacks

The June 27, 1994 sarin terrorist attacks in Matsumoto, Japan, and on March 20, 1995, in the Tokyo subway, provide the most through epidemiologic and pathologic case reports currently available for the evaluation of mass poisonings with this extremely toxic gas. The facts regarding the Japanese attacks are as follows.

  • In Matsumoto members of the Aum Shinrikyo group released sarin in a residential area. It was a) an attempt to murder magistrates deliberating a real estate dispute; and b) an assessment of the poison’s efficiency for mass murder. The logistics of the crime included a refurbished refrigerator truck containing a heater for vaporization of twelve liters of liquid sarin, and powerful fans to diffuse a thick cloud of gas near the residencies of the involved judges. The sarin was 70 percent pure.
  • Over six hundred residents and rescuers were poisoned, fifty-eight were hospitalized, and seven were killed. The calculated mortality-morbidity ratio was approximately 1.16 percent (7/600). (“Sarin Poisoning in Matsumoto, Japan, The Lancet 7/29/1995)
  • On March 20, 1995, during the peak of morning rush hour a second sarin attack disrupted several Tokyo subway lines. This attack was focused on the stations close to the Tokyo National Police Agency and other central government centers. Aum Shinrikyo members punctured plastic bags of liquid sarin in subway cars jammed with workers headed to government offices. The liquid sarin was 30 percent pure.
  • More than six thousand passengers and rescue workers were injured—eight hundred required hospital treatment or evaluation and twelve died. The mortality/morbidity ratio was 0.18 percent. (Yanagisawa, N. “Sarin Experiences in Japan,” Journal of Neurologic Science.
Sarin Victims in Tokyo Subway

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II – On April 4th, helicopters or airplanes of the Syrian Arab Army dropped airborne ordnance over the village of Khan Sheikhun, Idlib Provence, Syria. The village was under the supervision of several groups currently in armed opposition to the government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Mr. Assad’s government has secured the support of the Russian armed forces, the Lebanese Hezbullah, and Iranian forces under the command of the Iranian revolutionary guard.

  • Casualty reports were extremely variable. Injury numbers ranged from three hundred to more than five hundred, and reported deaths ranged from early accounts of fifty-eight to eighty-seven. Later sources reported fatalities in excess of one hundred, with children’s deaths ranging from ten to twenty-seven. Many of the major world journals, such as the New York Times have reported mortalities in the ranges above.
  • Thus the reported mortality-morbidity would range from approx 72/500 to 100/300. This gives a range of 14.4 percent and 33 percent. Expressed in percentages, this represents an increase between 1,241 percent and 16,666 percent. The purity was not reported. However, earlier studies of weaponized sarin, in this region, particularly in the Iran-Iraqi War, had a purity in the 30-60 percent range.

Discussion:

The reported Iblid mortality-morbidity ratios are incompatible with sarin use as the etiological agent in the attacks of April 4, 2017 Khan Sheikhoun, Iblid Provence, Syria.

This could be due to several reasons:

  1. Another unidentified chemical agent was used.

2- Differing mortality-morbidity due to the differing mechanisms of gas dissemination. However, the two Japanese poisonings had, markedly, more intensive, prolonged exposures, which should have produced higher mortality-morbidity rates.

3-The differing availability of treatment and evacuation? While the Japanese civil defense was better equipped overall, the organizations involved in Syrian rescue operations had basic response preparations for the gas attacks and were able to evacuate injured patients to better-equipped Turkish medical facilities.

4- The casualty count was exaggerated.

5- The 1994-95 Japanese studies were unreliable.

 

Conclusion:

Currently no credible evidence exists confirming sarin as the etiologic agent responsible. Hence the claim that sarin was the etiologic agent is highly unlikely.

Sources:

“At Least 58 Killed in Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria.” April 4, 2017.www.independent.co.uk, accessed April 4, 2017

Khaddar, Kareem, Schams Elwazer, et al. “Suspected Gas Attack in Syria Reportedly Kills Dozens.” CNN. April 7, 2017.

“Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U. S. Blames Assad.” April 4, 2017. New York Times.

Seto, Yasuo. “The Sarin Gas Attack in Japan and the Related Forensic Investigation.”www.opcw.org, accessed April 11, 2017.

“Scores Reported Killed in Gas Attack on Syrian Rebel Area.” April 4, 2017. Reuters.

Yanagisawa, N. “Sarin Experiences in Japan: Acute Toxicity and Long-term Effects.” Journal of Neurologic Science. November 1, 2006.

——. “Sarin Poisoning in Matsumoto, Japan” The Lancet, July 29, 1995.

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By: Dr. Joseph Harris, MD
April, 2017
Harlem, New York
Note: Dr. Harris has worked as a physician in Rawanda and other war zones. he was participant at Doctor’s Without Borders when the were awarded  the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

The Most Dangerous Nation on Earth!

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On Nuclear War, Playthell on politics with tags on April 17, 2017 by playthell
American Nuclear Armed  Fleet Steaming for Korea: An Invincible Armada?

How Trump’s Policies Can Lead to Human Extinction

Recently I had a conversation with a professor of physics in Berkley about climate change; from his pained facial expressions and the resignation in his body language, I could tell this was not his favorite subject.  As it turns out the warming of our planet is something he had thought about quite a lot, and I would soon learn that physicist of all schools everywhere in the world are thinking about it.   And it soon became clear that not nearly enough people outside of the scientific community are thinking about the crisis seriously.

I knew the feeling.  For over half a century I have been trying to warn my fellow citizens, anybody who would listen really, that we are living in the absurd situation where our entire civilization…and all life on this planet, could be extinguished in a ball of radioactive fire hotter than the sun within an hour from now by nuclear weapons.  To my knowledge, I am the only pundit who writes about the looming catastrophe of nuclear war on a regular basis.  Most either don’t understand it, or are too depressed about its consequences to ponder the problem; it is too ghastly to contemplate.

In an important regard the Physicist and I shared a similar burden: having an intimate and sure knowledge of how the extinction of our species could occur.  He as a result of his profession, me because of my service on a Strategic Air Command base stationed at the DEW – Distance Early Warning – line in Glasgow Montana, a remote location in the Great Plains near the Canadian border.

Our mission was the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union.  The fact that I enjoyed a Top-Secret security clearance and was in a unit tasked with the security of the planes and their nuclear payloads, as well as the war fighting plans, provided me a birds eye view of the results of a nuclear war.  It was terrifying, but it is much more dangerous now! The physicist also understands the devastating affect of  nuclear weapons, but he has no idea of the probability of its use; the scenarios whereby such an unspeakable event could happen.

However, when it comes to climate change his great fear is not simply that it is happening, but that it may already too late for any human action to reverse this calamity, this ticking ecological time bomb set in motion by the sustained human assault on mother nature.  He told me the ice caps at Earth’s poles are melting, and this will make life nearly unbearable in many parts of the world that are at, or below, sea level. Islands in the pacific, as well as American cities like Miami and New Orleans will disappear, low lying sections in Manhattan and Brooklyn will also be under water.

The planet will also experience highly destructive weather events that will make the worst hurricanes we have seen look like relatively mundane events.  And they will occur with far greater frequency.  But that was not the worst of it; he also said that there are vast quantities of methane gas stored under the icecaps sufficient to poison the air and make it unbreathable!  By the time he was through painting a vivid portrait of the horrors looming over the future of our planet, the reason for his pessimism became palpable.

An Inconvient Truth….

Although Trump Denies it…The Ice Caps are Melting!

Alas, I could feel his pain.   For we must live with the horror of knowing that it is a man-made disaster, and that this disaster is the creation of a hand full of arrogant, cold-blooded, know-it-all politicians, scientist and militarist.  This is but a small fraction of humanity, and in a democratic political system they can be stopped if it is the will of the majority.

Our only hope is to come together in a concerted action to stop them.  That’s why I write essays like this and post them on the internet for free; getting the word out is far more important than money. The fate of the earth is at stake.  Never was the political axiom truer: “In a popular democracy the people eventually get the kind of government they deserve!”

As I put the finish touch on this essay it is Easter Sunday morning, and the famous presidential historian David McCullough is being interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning.  He is quoting a past president who said: “Only men who are honest and wise should occupy this office.”  The crux of our problem is that we now have a man in office who is anthesis of wisdom or honesty!

And despite the pro-Trump, rah! Rah! America blather, I am listening to from Joe Scarborough this monday morning – who is supposedly the “thinking man’s conservative” – and an expert from the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, at present Trump is doing some dumb and dangerous things.  at present he has ordered the nuclear armed US Navy to cruise off the coast of North Korea, whose government has issued a warning that if they believe they are about to be attack they will launch a preemptive strike with all their might…including nuclear weapons.  When this warning is considered in light of an impulsive belligerent Donald Trump’s announcement that his approach to international crisis is to be “unpredictable,” we have the perfect scenario for a catastrophe!

Hence instead of worrying about the “irrational North Korean leader with the funny haircut,” as one American commentator pompously put the problem; I think we should be terrified of the irrational American leader with the funny hairdo!  For so long as The Donald – a vain, ignorant, pugnacious, megalomaniacal charlatan –  remains in the Oval office with the power to remove the US from the international climate control treaty, and launch nuclear weapons, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS THE MOST DANGEROUS NATION ON EARTH!

God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign….

……No more Water, the Fire Next Time!

 

The USS Vincet leads the Fleet Steamimg Toward Korean Waters
http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/04/11/us-warships-north-korea-uss-carl-vinson-sje-orig.cnn
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 17th, 2017

Geezers Going Wild!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , on April 12, 2017 by playthell

John McCain and John Lindsay

On the Mad Mutterings of Murderous Old Men

True to his campaign promises, Donald Trump is proving “unpredictable” in foreign relations; especially in the deployment of US armed forces.  The covert movement of troops into the Mid-East region and the sudden attack on Syria, which contradicts other often stated positions by Trump decrying US military intervention in that country and the Middle-East generally, is the essence of unpredictability.

From the outset these actions seemed unconnected to any stated policy or discernable strategy.  Now we have been told by Donnie’s Son Eric that his father decided to bomb Syria after daddy’s girl  Ivanka expressed her outrage at Assad.   The fact that this attack may have been ordered up by a clueless Barbie from the rag trade is shocking!  It leaves no doubt that the attack on Syria was an impulsive action whose consequences were not thought through, and thus it could well turn out to be a fool’s errand.

Nevertheless, Trumps assault on Syria is being enthusiastically applauded on both sides of the aisle. The leading ladies of the Democratic Party – Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi – who normally find The Donald unfit for polite company, were dancing in the alise over Donnie’s demonstration of his manly prowess by going upside Assad’s head with a missile smack down.

Yet none of this hoopla has been more enthusiastic than the ringing endorsement from those two pillars of the Senate Republican establishment: John McCain and Lindsay Graham, both former military officers.  As the Senators from Arizona and South Carolina they represent gun totin constituencies for whom military conflict represents a kind of pornography that beguiles them the way sexual pornography bewitches the sex fiend.  These people seem bored with even the possibility of a protracted peace.

Right after the bombing of a Syrian airfield was made public the two Senators released a public statement clearly stating their support.  It begins with the declaration “We salute the skill and professionalism of the U.S. Armed Forces who carried out tonight’s strikes in Syria. Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs”

To the careful observer there is much to be alarmed about in this paragraph, especially the passage praising Trump for sending “an important message” that “The United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia” slaughters the Syrian people. The obvious question is what do they mean by this? Is it all blow and no go; or does this signal a radical change of policy where the US will now take on an active military role in the Syrian Civil War?

While what Trump is thinking on the matter remains a deep mystery, since he has chosen to be unpredictable, the Senators are clear on what direction they think American policy in Syria should take.

“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people. Building on tonight’s credible first step, we must finally learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress. That means following through with a new, comprehensive strategy in coordination with our allies and partners to end the conflict in Syria. The first measure in such a strategy must be to take Assad’s air force—which is responsible not just for the latest chemical weapons attack, but countless atrocities against the Syrian people—completely out of the fight.”

Reading this, the thoughtful observer of international relations and the laws that govern them, is forced to wonder by what rights does the US justify such acts of war against a nation that has committed no act of aggression against the US?  From all appearances one gets the impression that this would be a divinely ordained mission in which God has chosen America to set things aright.   This will be the second time a Republican President has decided to attack a Muslim country that has done us no harm, and there is abundant reason to believe that the conflict in Syria could turn out to be worse mess than Iraq, in terms of further inflaming and destabilizing the Middle-East by stimulating the militant jihadist movement.

Hence an expanding American military involvement in Syria could prove a bottomless sinkhole for American blood and treasure.  Yet despite their admonition that we should “learn from the lessons of history,” based on their policy proposals they appear to be ignoring them.  For instance, they propose that the US government “must also bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition and establish safe zones to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. As we do, we can and must continue the campaign to achieve ISIS’s lasting defeat.”

While this may sound good, these proposals are not supported by the lessons of US history in the Middle East.  Since John McCain has long advocated arming something called “The Free Syrian Army” – a motley collection of Syrians that oppose the Assad regime, and could well contain as many potential villains as heroes – we can reasonably assume that is what they are alluding to when they say we “must bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition.”

Yet if there is any lasting lesson history teaches us about intervening in Middle-East conflicts, it is that there is no reliable method of “vetting” forces engaged in these armed conflicts.  And that is because we are interlopers widely despised by militants from all sides. Look at what happened in Afghanistan, where we armed and trained both the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their fight against Russia, only to end up with them using those weapons and training against us.  It was from this very country that the devastating 9/11 attack was organized and launched!

Furthermore, the attack was ordered by a Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi Arabian civil engineer who was trained in terrorist tactics by the CIA, and carried out by citizens of Saudi Arabi and Egypt, America’s closest “allies” in the Arab world.  And the weapons that ISIS – which was created by the ill-fated and unnecessary American invasion of Iraq – uses to wreak havoc were originally given to “friendly forces” of the Iraqi government.  While these truths should be self-evident to any reasonably intelligent person who has been paying attention, it escapes members of Congress from both parties.

John Delaney, a democratic Congressman from Maryland, is a poignant example of this refusal to learn the lessons that history can teach us.  In an interview on MSNBC on Saturday morning he was asked about the statement by Tulsi Gabbard – a Congresswoman from Hawaii and former combat officer in Afghanistan – warning that expanded American military involvement in Syria could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.  To my shock and dismay, Congressman Delaney argued that establishing American “leadership” in the Syrian quagmire is worth the risk of a military conflict with Russia.

Amaingly, this kind of jingoistic nonsense has been echoed throughout the broadcast press,with FOX “News” being the worst.  Listening to the fawning fiddle faddle of their commentators creaming in their jeans over Donnie’s derring-doo in Syria, I am reminded that the ranks of American journalism are to be found saints and charlatans. However my response is that either this Congressman is a madman obsessed with the dangerous delusion of “American Exceptionalism,” or an ignoramus with no real understanding of the danger a nuclear war with Russia poses to the survival of mankind.  Nothing that could happen in Syria would justify a war with Russia!

Since Delaney is balding, I suspect that he came of age at the apex of the American empire which after the fall of the Russian Communist Party, the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pack – a military alliance among communist countries that served as a counter weight to NATO – resembled something akin to a Pax-America, where the US was the sole super power in a unipolar world.  This kind of thinking reflects a 21st century version of what the late Senator William Fulbright aptly called “The Arrogance of Power.”

It is a view of the world largely promulgated by deluded old heads like McCain, Lindsay and Trump: intellectually  pugnacious Geezers gone wild that could get us all killed as we follow their lead into a mass grave.  Which will be a short walk if Trump heeds Lindsay Graham’s advice to set up a no-fly one in Syria and if Russian planes fly into that space we should “shoot them down!”

Alas, giving a clueless, megalomaniacal, pugnacious, impulsive old man like Trump the idea that it is okay for him to attack other countries that have committed no offense against us, and pushing him to become more aggressive against a nuclear superpower like Russia, is the first step down that dangerous road to doomsday.

This is where we are headed….

……If we don’t change course

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 8, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PA Prisons Gave Mumia Cirrhosis

Posted in On Mumia Abu Jamal with tags , on April 9, 2017 by playthell
Mumia Abu Jamaland Dr.Joseph Harris

 And This is How He Will Survive It

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky

I first saw Mumia Abu-Jamal in July 2015 in the Mahanoy Correctional Facility’s visiting room, in Frackville, Pennsylvania. His defense committee worked to get me placed on the list as a “regular visit,” because he was gravely ill, and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) would not allow an outside physician to examine him. I couldn’t take anything with me into the visiting area—no stethoscope, no penlight, no blood-pressure cuff. Nothing.

To prepare for my visit, I studied every Internet image of Mumia that showed the severity of his illness and skin condition. It seemed familiar. Where had I seen this before? Was it the Fonn Hospital in Dakar, Senegal? Was it at the clinic I ran, while volunteering with Doctors without Borders in Junta, Valle de Cauca, Colombia? Then it hit me. It was in Mugonero, a one-goat town, in Rwanda, where I saw a patient covered with extensive hyper-pigmented scales similar to the ones on Mumia’s skin.

His attorney sent me his medical records, and I pored over each and every page of the hundreds of pages. One blood-work test result lit up all the lights in my mental hard drive—the lab report read, hepatitis C antibody: reactive. His exposure most likely happened through a blood transfusion in 1981, after the Philadelphia police shot him. In the 1980s, hepatitis C (hep C) had not been discovered, so there was no real testing for it. The terminology then was “non-A, non-B hepatitis,” and its prognosis was unknown.

Despite the fact that I had seen recent pictures of him ill, over the decades of his incarceration I had become accustomed to seeing the many images that show Mumia as tall, strapping, and strong, with a vibrant life force. As I stood waiting in the visiting room, a drawn, dark, aged man rolled toward me in a wheelchair. He appeared physically and spiritually broken. He was weak and his feet were painfully edematous. Suddenly, I realized that this man was Mumia.

We exchanged greetings and I pushed him in his wheelchair to a relatively quiet section of the room, which was also filled with prisoners and their visitors. When I first saw him he couldn’t stop scratching. I examined the skin lesions, listened to his heart and lungs, by pressing my ear to his chest and back. Since I didn’t have a pencil and paper, I quietly assessed him, taking detailed mental notes that I would transcribe later.

While the conditions in the Mahanoy visiting room were not “Third World,” they were not optimal for examining a patient with extensive skin lesions. The room was crowded with inmates wearing burgundy-and-yellow jumpsuits, with DOC, written in white on the back; and their friends and families. Children ran up and down. There was a din of conversations in English, Spanish, French, Garifuna, Arabic, and Russian. Corrections officers blasted instructions and announcements over the loudspeaker. There were rows of seats, with small tables interspersed throughout, where families played board games or cards, ate, or smooched on the Q-T. Peering around the room that reminded me of a high school auditorium, I was apprehensive. Would I be able to help this man out of his misery? Would my diagnosis be correct?

After my examination and after seeing and feeling the condition of his skin, I patted his face and said, “I got you. You have NAE.” As I explained this affliction to him, he became relieved because he finally knew that he could be cured. NAE or Necrolytic Acrial Erythemia is a skin disorder of hep C, and I was certain that NAE was the cause of Mumia’s skin condition. As I described this disease, I saw an instantaneous improvement in his countenance: His eyes brightened, he became more talkative, excited even.

A huge part of how patients heal from health challenges is frequently, “in the head,” as many doctors and other healthcare professionals will tell you. It was obvious that he felt better, because he finally knew what was going on. As I was leaving, I said to him, “If you don’t have hep C, I’m going to put on my hat and coat and say it’s beyond my clinical capacities and I’ll see you later.    A few months later, Mumia said, “I’ll never forget the tremendous sense of relief that I finally had something that none of the doctors, either in the prison infirmary or at Geisinger Medical Center could provide—a diagnosis.”

In the early part of 2015, Mumia developed severe fatigue, syncopy (loss of consciousness), and was hyperglycemic and nearly comatose. He was admitted to Geisinger, where he was shackled to the bed and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). The initial diagnoses included new-onset Type 2 diabetes; some infectious process; possible ketoacidosis; and severe psoriasis. Before being admitted to the hospital, for more than a year, he experienced an extensive, intermittent— but worsening—pruritic skin rash, which caused open lesions on many parts of his body including his hands, forearms, and feet.

His skin was scaly. The pruritis was maddening and kept him awake at night, making it nearly impossible for him to carry out his work as a journalist and broadcast commentator. Most of the treatments prescribed for him by the DOC physicians had minimal response: High-potency corticosteroids, cyclosporin, oral prednisone, ultraviolet light therapy, and tar soaps were ineffective. Petroleum-gauze wraps afforded some relief. (The nurses affectionately called him “Mumia the Mummy.”)

The DOC’s prolonged refusal to treat Mumia, for hepatitis C, is medically indefensible, and is one of the clearest cases of malpractice that I have encountered or studied in my entire medical career. In addition, hundreds if not thousands of prisoners with hep C, who developed cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver), while incarcerated by the DOC can now sue for medical malpractice, and will likely achieve success.

Another delay was caused when one of his “supporters” prevented me from visiting him for three months. The supporter decided that I was not qualified, so my evaluation of Mumia was hindered. This caused a delay in the medical-legal filing process, and, likely, contributed to the ultimate development of cirrhosis. Additionally, three days before the December 2015 hearing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the supporter suggested I be replaced as an expert witness by a physician who works for Big Pharma: This would have caused even further delays.

Big Pharma is guilty of profit mongering. The cure for hep C is anywhere from $50K to $90K, in the United States, for a ninety-day course of treatment. This, coupled with the DOC medical system’s astonishing stupidity, cruelty, corruption, perjury, and cost-saving measures are directly responsible for the onset of Mumia’s cirrhosis. A private outfit, Corizon, runs the DOC’s healthcare “service.” The privatization of medical care in correctional settings is driven by profit hunger, which causes companies like Corizon to neglect the fundamental tenet of Hippocrates Oath, to “Do no harm.” It is through these behaviors that one arrives at an idea of the “degree of civilization” outside of the prison walls, and inside the corporate boardrooms.

Mumia is lucky. He’ll start treatment this week, but, because he now has cirrhosis, his life expectancy is markedly shortened, and he is at risk for other conditions in the future. However, his strength and revolutionary spirit, along with the love expressed for him by people from all over the world, cannot be underestimated in his ongoing fight for survival, justice, and freedom.

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By: Joseph Harris, MD
Harlem, New York
April 9,2017

 About Dr. Joseph Harris

Joseph Harris, MD is a diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine, and an American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) HIV Specialist. He received his medical education at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and completed his residency in Social Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. Additionally, he completed one year in General Surgery at Harlem Hospital. He also received training in Tropical Disease at Fon Hospital in Dakar, Senegal, and Cochin in Paris, France. He was a member of Doctors without Borders the year the internationally regarded organization won the Nobel Prize. He is currently at work on a memoir.

 

April Fools?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , on April 7, 2017 by playthell

Dumb and Dumber

Trump Strikes Syria!

“All Motion is Not Progress” observed Mao Tse Tung, a revolutionary philosopher and leader of the great Chinese Revolution.  Americans who are applauding the strike on Syria with 59 Cruise missiles, at a cost of nearly 30 million dollars for the missiles alone, should take a pause and consider the implications of this action by our government.  The paramount questions that begs an answer is: what is the strategic objective of US policy in Syria, and what role does this strike play in achieving that goal?

Based upon the public pronouncements of Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, and his surrogates the answers to these questions are elusive.  This is because we have a President for whom the complexities of international relations are at best a mystery, as is the art and science of governing in general.  Hence for years he has been an ardent opponent of the US taking any action against the Assad government.  The comments of this tweeting twit on Twitter are prolific on this question.

Yet when a chemical weapon was dropped on a group of Syrian civilians, some reports claim in was the deadly Sarin gas, Trump was quick to blame it on President Obama’s weakness in failing to act in 2013, when somebody launched a gas attack in Syria. The criticism of President Obama’s failure to take military action is based on the fact that he had drawn a “Red Line” in the sand that would prompt an American military response if Assad crossed it.

However, President Obama’s reluctance to act militarily in this case was based on several factors: Uncertainty as to who employed the gas; the fact that he had pledged to voters that he would end America’s protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and keep us out of new wars in the Middle-East, and failure of the US Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria which he requested.  Many people who voted for Obama did so based upon his promise of pursuing peace, I know I did.

Hence in my view, President Obama’s management of the Syrian situation displayed Solomonic wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue that this was characteristic of his approach to foreign policy in a turbulent time that witnessed the revolutionary outburst of mass movements collectively called the “Arab Spring,” the conflict in the Ukraine which could have thrown us into a military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, and the rise of the militant Islamic Caliphate called ISIS, which arose from the ashes of the misbegotten US attack on Iraq.  How fortunate we would be if only Trump were only half as wise.

All objective observers of US foreign policy during the Obama administration agree that his actions were well thought out and based on a strategic vision of international relations; he sought to build effective alliances with concerned parties in troubled areas of the world, and acted deliberately not impulsively.   None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has no strategic vision because he does not appear to have ever thought deeply about anything beyond his next real estate or branding deal.  His abdominal ignorance of the problems that he must now address is exemplified by his recent observation “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” and his sudden discovery that there are atrocities being committed against children in Syria.

Trump’s ignorance and indifference to the enormity and complexity of the Syrian conflict was exemplified in the policy statement by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “The fate of President Assad will be determined by the Syrian people.”  To begin with, this was a repudiation of the Obama doctrine that the pre-condition for a permanent settlement which could bring peace to Syria was the removal of Assad from office. Tillerson’s announcement was no fluke; it was a restatement of a long-held belief of his boss, whose views on the matter are widely documented in the public record.

Hence Trump’s attempt to blame President Obama for the recent gas attack is the acme of hypocrisy! It is the pronouncement of a shameless charlatan and pathological liar. At the time, while others condemned Obama for his restraint in Syria, “The Donald” praised it!   His attempt to cast blame on Obama now is a transparent attempt to shift the blame from his ill-conceived policy of support for Assad expressed by Tillerson: Which is the real cause of the chemical attack. Since both Trump and Tillerson are novices at politics and foreign affairs, they failed to recognize that their statement was viewed by Assad as a green light to do whatever he wanted!

Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s attack on Syria must be seen as a smoke screen designed to deflect his responsibility for the horrendous gas attack on Syrian civilians; which the whole world viewed with stunned horror.  Hence, like the clueless scatter brain that he is, Trump acted on impulse and attacked Syria.  This is not part of any strategic plan because he has none.  This is verified by the fact that just a few days ago he had no problem with Assad’s leadership – as Tillerson’s policy statement nad Trump’s long record of support for the Syrian butcher will testify.

All observable evidence suggest that Trump gave no more thought to this assault on a sovereign country – with no attempt to get the support of the United Nations, the Arab League, the US Congress, or any of the regional powers – than his pre-dawn Twitter attacks.  It is an erratic, irrational, temper tantrum with no thought about its consequences.  And as the dawn of a new day approaches – Alas, I am writing this in the wee hours because the gravitas of the questions raised by this latest American military assault invades my dreams and destroys any attempt to sleep – we can only wonder what new dramas it will bring.

Just as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with the spectacular bombing spree labeled “Shock and Awe,” millions of Americans are applauding this attack on Syria by American military forces.  I titled my essay on Bush’s attack “March Madness,” and I warned of its unintended consequences;which verily came to pass pretty much as I predicted.  I am titling this essay “April Fools?”  The title reflects my contention that this strike is not well thought out and the unintended consequences could prove disastrous.

Aside from the fact that we might have injured or killed some Russian military personnel, which would throw us into a crisis with a nuclear armed Russia that can reduce every city in the United States to a pile of radio-active rubble in a half hour from now, this attack on Syria is as illegal under international law as was the invasion of Iraq.  Yet after all is said and done, the most alarming thing about this attack is the real possibility that Trump launched it to improve his popularity in the opinion polls, where his approval rating is at a historic low.

As cynical as this sounds, when we consider the fact that Trump closed America’s doors to the children of war torn Syria seeking refuge in America, despite pictures every bit as horrible as those from the gassing, a thoughtful person cannot help but view his present concern for their welfare with a jaundiced eye, a cynical attempt to benefit from their tragedy.  As depraved as this seems, it is typical behavior for a “con man” with “no moral center;” which is how Donald J. Trump was routinely described by his fellow Republicans…..before he won the election, moved into the Oval Office, and promised to make all their right-wing dreams come true.

One of the most troubling questions raised by this attack is, if Trump can so quickly turn on a Head of State whom he has supported for years, what effect will this have on other nations at whom Trump has directed a steady stream of threats and invective such as North Korea, Iran and even China.

As I write the Chinese leader is visiting with Trump at his palatial estate in Florida, where he spends almost as much time as he spends in Washington, at great expense to American tax payers.  Although his home town, New York City, is much closer: he dare not come here.   In fact, Trump is so dispised in this city he may never be able to come home again!  It will be interesting to hear what Chinese President, Xi Jinpin, has to say about the attack on Syria.  Being a disciplined political actor skilled at the art of diplomacy I suspect his remarks will be restrained, respectful of the norms that mediate relations between nations.

Xi Jinping is here on a mission to improve relations with the US, China’s main trading partner.  As the leader of a nation with 20% of the world’s population, the Chinese are very careful to avoid military conflicts despite their formidable armed forces.  It is a policy that serves them well; it has allowed them to modernize at a rapid pace and grow the second largest economy in the world, which is predicted to surpass the US in GDP by 2050.

The paramount principle that guides Chinese foreign policy is non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries.  And they stick to this policy without significant deviation.  They have the largest army in the world but no foreign bases or troop deployments.  On the other hand, the US, with a fraction of China’s population have bases and soldiers all over the world and are fighting in multiple wars that seem unending.

The amount of blood and treasure we expend on foreign military adventures – along with the failure of the plutocrats to pay their fair share of taxes – is the principal reason why we cannot afford to rebuild our aging crumbling infrastructure, which is essential to our prosperity.  The Chinese see this all to clearly, and they are determined not to follow our example of meddling in everyone’s affairs as if the Gods gave America a mandate to rule the world.

This is why I am convinced that the Chinese will not play the role of disciplining North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program that the US has assigned them. And given the US attack on Syria, the North Koreans are probably going on a war footing for real, imperiling the future of South Korea, which would be devastated if a war broke out on the Korean peninsula.

However listening to the pundits and the politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they raise their voices in something resembling victory cheers, I dispair for the prospects of peace.  The danger of perpetual war is real and is reflected in the comment of that old warmongering chameleon John McCain: “This is not the beginning of the end….but the end of the beginning.”  

History will judge Trump and his belicose confederates with unrelenting candor…and their deadly devious deeds will be duly noted.  But, alas, dealing with the unintended consequences of the Twittering Twit’s impulsive bombing of Syria, remains the burden of all Americans at this moment.

It’s On!

The US War on Syria has begun!
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Dissents

Tellin it like it is!

There is an avalanche of opinions now being expressed on Trump’s attack on Syria, but none is more compelling than that of Congresswonam Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic Representative from Hawaii.   Congresswoman Gabbard’s remarks are especially important because she is a former combat officer from the Afghan war,  Her experience in combat there has made he a passionate non-interventionists who is hostile to “Chicken Hawks” who promote wars for other’s to fight.  Like Donnie Trump . a notorious Vietnam era draft dodger, who avoided the war not for principled philosophical or religious reasons. but because he was a rich, entitled, cowardly party boy.  The great columnist and native New Yorker, who also hailed from Queens like Donnie, had this to say of his Homie: “Trump is a fake tough guy who couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot!!!”
Athough celebrated corporate pudits such as Thomas Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist at the New York Times, Joined by David Ignacious and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, are gushing over the reckless bravado of Donald Trump,  I remain highly skeptical about the mission’s motive, utility and consequences.
Yet because he is such a pompous know-it-all the contrarian in my soul cannot resist pointing out that Tommy Friedman was grieveously mistaken about the Iraq War; he went so far off the beam in supporting Bush’s war of choice with spurious ahistorical arguments that he was forced to write a column apologizng to his readers for having led them astray  by “not asking the right questions.”  On the other hand my essay, written on the eve of the invasion, has withstood the test of time and been confirmed by history.   Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” it reads as if it were written by Nostradamus, and can be read on this site under the heading “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.”
What Friedman and other “major” corporate  mooks of both of both political pursuasions had to say on that subject is analyzed in my essay “How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank.”   The fun part of this essay is when their views about the Iraq War is compared to mine!   Alas, what these same pundits had  to say on Trump’s bombing of Syria last night sounds like pompous American exceptionalist bullshit when compared to what  Tulsi Gabbad had this to say about the fake President’s military adventure:
 “It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States’ attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”
A Decorated Combat Officer

For more on this remarkable woman search her name on this site.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 7, 2017