Donald Trump campaign and violence in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

20 June 2016


From The Philadelphia Inquirer in the USA:

Cities Hosting Trump Campaign Rallies Saw Uptick In Assaults, Study Finds

March 16, 2018

Rita Giordano

PHILADELPHIA—Could political rhetoric be hazardous to public health? Quite possibly, according to a new University of Pennsylvania analysis of the last presidential campaign.

During the 2016 campaign, cities that hosted rallies experienced 2.3 more assaults than average on the days that Donald Trump held campaign events there, according to the study, published Friday in the journal Epidemiology.

The researchers noted that news reports cited violent incidents at some Trump campaign rallies, along with language that could be described as colorful. Some of the rally comments attributed to Trump in the study include anti-protester utterances like “I’ll beat the crap out of you“, “I’d like to punch him in the face“, and “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

By comparison, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s rallies were not found to be linked to any increase in assaults. In the months preceding the Nov. 8 presidential election, media accounts of Clinton’s campaign on numerous occasions included the word boring, an adjective that was not known to be applied to her opponent.

While the increased number of altercations in the cities on the days of Trump rallies was not proved to be a direct result of his comments, the researchers believe that the difference in language between the candidates may have had an effect on public behavior.

“The language of our leaders matters”, said lead study author Christopher Morrison, a postdoctoral fellow in Penn’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “We have an association between a candidate who was openly promoting violence at events and increases of violence on days of the events. It’s a very clear indication that the language our leaders use can affect the mood of the nation and affect people’s behavior.”

Epidemiologists explore the causes of health problems, including threats to public safety, injury, and disease. The Penn researchers said they believe their study — an effort to understand some of the causes and motivations of violent behavior — to be the first of its kind: “We know of no other empirical studies that investigated violence at a population level associated with previous U.S. presidential rallies”, the article states. The study did not require outside funding.

The researchers focused on cities with more than 200,000 people where criminal incident data were available online. Through online searches, they identified data for 31 Trump rallies in 22 cities and 38 Clinton rallies in 21 cities. They counted the incidents for those days, as well as other days for the cities. Since weather can be a factor in crime rates, the researchers considered temperature and precipitation in preparing the study.

In the case of Trump rallies, the additional assaults may have occurred at or around campaign events or elsewhere in the cities, but the authors said they were likely the result of “emotional states” transmitted through news reports or social media.

No additional assaults were associated with the days and locations of Clinton campaign events. That included some rallies in Philadelphia.

The effect of political speech on a populace is worthy of additional study, the authors said.

“Given the ongoing reports of violence at political gatherings in the U.S. (e.g. March 4, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif., where pro- and anti-Trump protesters clashed)”, they wrote, “whether and how political rhetoric that normalizes or promotes violence affects violence at the population level appears to be an important area for further research.”

See, eg, violence against Somali Americans after a Trump rally. And look at what happened to a Somali Dutch woman after xenophobic politician Geert Wilders campaigned in Emmen.


Turkish air force killing Syrian hospital patients

This video says about itself:

Italy: Thousands protest Turkish military operations in Afrin

17 February 2018

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Rome on Saturday to rally against the ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin and call for the release of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Several protesters deemed the military campaign as an act of terror, with one saying, “We’re here to stop the fascist and terrorist attack of Turkey on Afrin.”

The march also took a stance against rising fascism and anti-migrant terror in Italy as one protester said, “Staying with this resistance means resisting this system that is killing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and is creating a climate of terror.”

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In an air strike by Turkish forces at the only major hospital in the Syrian city of Afrin, nine people were killed. That is what the Kurdish militia YPG and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report …

That England-based Observatory is usually pro-NATO; NATO, of which the Turkish Erdogan regime is a member and which gives the green light for that regime attacking Syria.

According to the UN, 48,000 people have fled the war in the Afrin region in recent days. According to the Observatory, the death toll has risen to 27 in the last 24 hours. There are seven children among the dead. The organization fears that the death toll will rise even further because many people have been seriously injured during the attacks.

Platypus milk saving human lives

This video from Australia says about itself:

Scientists discover unique protein in platypus milk that could save lives

14 March 2018

CSIRO molecular biologists working with Deakin University researchers have isolated the monotreme lactation protein structure for the first time, identifying a novel three-dimensional fold that the researchers say could lead to the creation of a new type of antibiotics.

From CSIRO Australia:

Saving lives with platypus milk

March 15, 2018

A breakthrough by Australian scientists has brought the introduction of an unlikely hero in the global fight against antibiotic resistance a step closer; the humble platypus.

Due to its unique features — duck-billed, egg-laying, beaver-tailed and venomous- the platypus has long exerted a powerful appeal to scientists, making it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology.

In 2010 scientists discovered that platypus milk contained unique antibacterial properties that could be used to fight superbugs.

Now a team of researchers at Australia’s national research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Oganisation (CSIRO), and Deakin University have solved a puzzle that helps explain why platypus milk is so potent — bringing it one step closer to being used to save lives.

The discovery was made by replicating a special protein contained in platypus milk in a laboratory setting.

Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry”, CSIRO scientist and lead author on the research published in Structural Biology Communications, Dr Janet Newman said.

“The platypus belongs to the monotreme family, a small group of mammals that lay eggs and produce milk to feed their young. By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

As platypus don’t have teats, they express milk onto their belly for the young to suckle, exposing the mother’s highly nutritious milk to the environment, leaving babies susceptible to the perils of bacteria.

Deakin University’s Dr Julie Sharp said researchers believed this was why the platypus milk contained a protein with rather unusual and protective antibacterial characteristics.

“We were interested to examine the protein’s structure and characteristics to find out exactly what part of the protein was doing what”, she said.

Employing the marvels of molecular biology, the Synchrotron, and CSIRO’s state of the art Collaborative Crystallisation Centre (C3), the team successfully made the protein, then deciphered its structure to get a better look at it.

What they found was a unique, never-before-seen 3D fold.

Due to its ringlet-like formation, the researchers have dubbed the newly discovered protein fold the ‘Shirley Temple‘, in tribute to the former child-actor’s distinctive curly hair.

Dr Newman said finding the new protein fold was pretty special.

“Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general, and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the Centre”, she said.

In 2014 the World Health Organisation released a report highlighting the scale of the global threat posed by antibiotic resistance, pleading for urgent action to avoid a “post-antibiotic era,” where common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.

The scientists are seeking collaborators to take the potentially life-saving platypus research to the next stage.


Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria that were once responsive to antimicrobial treatments like antibiotics build up a resistance and then pass that resistance on to their next generation. This leads to ineffective treatments and more persistent infections, caused by these resistant ‘Superbugs‘.


British Conservative government’s war on disabled people

This 2016 video from Britain says about itself:

Top 5 Most Appalling Sanctions

A sanction is when the job centre stops you from claiming social security. Sanctions have existed since social security was first introduced in 1911.

However they were considerably harshened by [Conservative] Peter Lilley (Secretary of State for Social Security 1992-1997) when he introduced the Job Seekers Act in 1995. People claiming the new Job Seekers Allowance, could be sanctioned for up to 26 weeks. Hardship payments were available during the sanction period. Hardship payments were a reduced level of benefit.

Sanctions continued under his successors (in particular skyrocketing under [Blairite Labourite] John Hutton). Hutton also laid the groundwork for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to replace Incapacity Benefit. ESA is divided into two groups; the unconditional Support Group and the conditional Work-Related Activity Group. Consequently for the first time, job centres were able to sanction people who are too ill to work.

Sanctions exploded following the appointment of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Sectetrary in 2010. His draconian Welfare Reform Act (2012) increased the length of sanctions to 156 weeks and converted hardship payments (60% of the usual rate of social security) to repayable loans. The number of sanctions imposed from 2010-2014 was more than double the amount imposed in the previous 13 years.

None of the major parties oppose sanctions in principle. Both Labour and Conservative governments have harshened sanctions. However in recent years they have been imposed for the most trivial and spurious reasons. The successful appeal rate is 58% – therefore an alarmingly high volume of sanctions are imposed illegally.

The SNP, the Green’s sole MP and various Labour MPs are concerned about the rise of sanctions. This video features testimonies from Lisa Nandy, Caroline Lucas, Anne McLaughlin, Debbie Abraham and Hugh Bayley (who retired in 2015).

By Dennis Moore in Britain:

UK: More than a million welfare benefit sanctions imposed against disabled people

13 March 2018

New data reveals the relentless attack on disabled benefit claimants in the last decade. The study found that more than 900,000 Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants, who reported a disability, have been financially sanctioned since May 2010.

Also sanctioned were 110,000 claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit paid to someone who is sick, and placed in the “work related activity group” (WRAG). A further 140,000 sanctions were applied, but later cancelled.

A sanction is applied to someone’s benefit when a claimant is deemed not to have met part of the stated “conditionality” for claiming that benefit. This can include missing an appointment, or not applying for enough jobs in a given time scale.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) own estimates, the state spends up to £50 million a year applying sanctions, and £200 million a year monitoring whether claimants meet the conditions for receiving payments. In 2015, the DWP withheld £132 million from claimants in the form of sanctions.

The report was a collaboration between Ben Baumberg Geiger, senior lecturer at the University of Kent, and the Demos think tank. The four-year study included polling 2,000 members of the public, front line assessors, as well as desk research and interviews with experts across nine countries.

It found that unemployed disabled people were up to 53 percent more likely to be given a sanction than other claimants. It concluded that conditionality has little or no effect on improving employment chances for disabled people.

The government intends to push a million more disabled people back into work over the next decade, leading to many more disabled people being treated unfairly and burdened with enormous hardship. It has consistently defended the system of sanctions as a way of encouraging people to find work, and falsely claims the public supports the idea of sanctions.

Despite decades of government-led media hysteria denouncing welfare “scroungers”, the public is more concerned that disabled people are being unfairly denied benefits. More, 45 percent versus 22 percent, thought it was more important to support benefit claimants than to root out fraud, and those who did support sanctions felt that they should be weaker than those the government use at present.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive at the Scope charity, said, “Punitive sanctions can be extremely harmful to disabled people, who already face the financial penalty of higher living costs. There is no clear evidence that cutting disabled people’s benefits supports them to get into, and stay in work.”

Conditionality and sanctions are increasingly being linked to deteriorating physical and mental health in claimants with disabilities. Many are left worrying how they will survive once sanctioned, and in some tragic cases, this has led to death.

Jodey Whiting, a 42-year-old disabled mother of nine children from Teesside, died last year after taking her own life when her benefits were stopped. When concerns were raised, police broke into her home, where she was found dead with a suicide note.

Whiting was a shop worker before ill health forced her to retire. She had problems with ongoing pain leading to her having to taking up to 23 tablets a day, including the powerful painkiller morphine. She had been plagued by physical and mental health problems throughout her life, including a brain cyst and a curved spine. At times, this meant she could barely make it through the front door.

As part of meeting conditionality for ESA, Whiting was expected to attend the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Under the sanctions system, if a claimant does not attend, benefits stop. Jody had missed a routine ESA assessment, as she had not seen the letter informing her that she had to attend the meeting and was therefore unaware of the assessment.

Following her death, Whiting’s family received another letter from the DWP confirming the benefit cut, despite the family having already told staff at the DWP that she had died. At the inquest, the family accused the DWP’s actions of being the trigger that led to Whiting taking a fatal drugs overdose. The inquest heard she had overdosed before, but the “extreme stress” inflicted by the DWP pushed her over the edge. Grieving mother, Joy Dove, spoke out after her death, saying, “I blame the DWP for her death. They have blood on their hands over my Jodey”.

DWP officials are being rewarded with bonus payments for meeting sanctioning targets. At a time when many welfare claimants are being sanctioned, struggling to pay for food and having to resort to the use of food banks, pay roll data published by the DWP for the years April 2016 and March 2017 showed that the department paid out performance-related bonuses to staff totalling £41.3 million. These included payments of £5.3 million on “in month bonuses” and £36 million in end of year bonuses. 240 senior DWP officials pocketed a total of £760,000.

Sanctions are now used much more frequently against welfare claimants across the board, with the severity of sanctions increasing. According to Dr. David Webster at the University of Glasgow, around 350,000 people a year are currently facing sanctions. This is expected to rocket with the introduction of the Universal Credit (UC) system nationally as one million more people in low-paid work will be on the radar for benefit sanctions. “The amounts of money people lose through sanctions are actually larger than the amounts of money people get fined in the magistrates’ courts”, Webster told the BBC.

An example of the extreme harshness of the sanctions regime was cited by a report on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show. Garreth Forrest, from Preston, normally receives a benefits allowance of just £705 a month. For an “offense” he disputes, he was sanctioned with his benefit slashed by £503. The sanction may last four months, and he was left with just over £200 a month, making it impossible to cover all his outgoings, including rent, utilities and food.

Under UC, the use of conditionality is being applied to groups that were once exempt, including the disabled and lone parents. Figures released by the DWP revealed that:

• The percentage of Universal Credit (UC) claimants with a drop in payment due to a sanction was 4.7 percent.

• From August to October 2017, 38 percent of all UC decisions resulted in a sanction.

• 73 percent of UC decisions to apply a sanction in August to October 2017 occurred due to failure to attend or participate in a Work-Focused Interview.

Demos became one of the most influential New Labour think tanks under Labour prime minister Tony Blair. The 1997-2010 Blair/Gordon Brown government adopted a “work first” and “work for all” approach that included the monitoring of JSA claimants’ job searches, backed up by benefit sanctions in cases of non-compliance. In 2008, Labour introduced ESA to replace Incapacity Benefit. ESA contains the Work Capability Assessment medical—a critical instrument used by successive governments for removing people from welfare entitlement.

The Geiger/Demos research is not aimed at ending the inhumane and hated system WCA, but at refurbishing it and tailoring it more towards the requirements of the economy. They propose the government “overhaul the WCA descriptors, so that they transparently reflect the British labour market…” They recommend that “government could collect data on the functional requirements of British jobs—i.e., the specific capabilities that people need to be able to do each job.”


Puerto Rico, post-Maria mental health crisis

This video from the USA says about itself:

Puerto Rico’s mental health crisis is an American disaster

19 December 2017

Around 1 in 4 people affected by a wind- or water-based environmental disaster develops a diagnosable mental disorder. Three months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory is still struggling to recover. As the island works to restore its infrastructure, disaster and mental health experts show growing concerns over a burgeoning mental health crisis. Click play to learn about how “natural disasters” affect the mind.

By Ali Abu Elhassan:

Mental health crisis descends on Puerto Rico’s working class

9 March 2018

As the six-month anniversary of Hurricane María approaches, a deadly mental health crisis has emerged on the island of Puerto Rico. Health officials are reporting endemic levels of trauma related emotional disorders. Many Puerto Ricans are showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), experiencing extreme anxiety and depression for the first time in their lives. The severity of the crisis is most sharply expressed in the rise in suicides, which has seen a disturbing 30 percent spike since the storm made landfall.

The reports of PTSD are a testament to the reality of life for the working class in Puerto Rico as the disorder is most popularly associated with soldiers who experience trauma in war zones. The sudden and long-term loss of access to basic necessities of life such as running water and electricity, homes left destroyed and roofless with residents still occupying the structures, the covering up of a massive death toll, the destruction of public utilities, school buildings, education and jobs, as well as an increase in policing has had a traumatic impact on the island’s population.

Thousands of people with preexisting mental health problems have been unable to obtain their needed medications and therapy, causing marked deteriorations in their conditions, especially among the elderly who are particularly vulnerable. Storms and rain produce anxiety and paranoia in children and adults who become worried that there will be more flooding.

Symptoms of PTSD include irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, repeated and vivid memories of the event, which lead to physical reactions, confusion or difficulty making decisions, sleep or eating disorders, fear of the event being repeated, an increase in conflict or a more withdrawn and avoidant personality, and physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and chest pain. These responses can vary widely depending on the individual, the environment, and the event.

The only suicide hotline in Puerto Rico, Linea PAS, has been dealing with a surge in calls, up nearly 70 percent, from people contemplating suicide.

In an interview with Univision Noticias, the director of Linea PAS, Monserrate Allende Santos, relayed that between the months of October and December 2017 the program received 9,000 suicidal phone calls; 6,733 calls were from callers with suicidal thoughts, while 2,206 were from people who had actually attempted suicide.

A member of the hotline’s call-taking staff told the New York Times, “Sometimes I cannot find the words. Because how can I tell someone to keep calm when they don’t have a place to sleep.”

Linea PAS’ staff, many of whom have experienced their own hardships, patiently try to console, reassure, and talk suicidal hurricane survivors who have lost all hope out of ending their lives. Another staff member is heard in a Times video telling a caller, “the situation of not having light in your house, the situation of being dark, of not having resources, this is temporary.” For some, however, it is not certain that this assertion is true.

In an interview with Newsweek, Kenira Thompson, who heads mental health services at the Ponce Health Sciences University, stated that for the people in rural areas, “It’s as if the storm hit last week.”

Mental health issues will not stop”m Thompson explained, “if you think about the next hurricane season will start again [soon]. We will have chaos when the first storm is announced on the news. Hopefully, it’s not another storm like María.”

When María made landfall on the island in September, it descended upon a population already in the grip of extreme poverty and depressed living standards. Having been in recession since 2006, half the population stood below the official poverty rate while the official unemployment rate stood at 16 percent. A staggering 60 percent of eligible workers did not participate in the labor force, instead relying on food stamps or working in the “underground economy.”

In the wake of the hurricane this already precarious situation dramatically worsened. Hundreds of people perished or died in the aftermath from lack of basic necessities. Hundreds of thousands of homes and basic infrastructure have been destroyed, leaving, to this day, 150,000 homes and businesses without electricity and much of the island in ruin.

While it’s common for people to experience stress in the immediate aftermath of such an event, the American Psychological Association (APA) stresses that recovery is dependent on one’s ability to resume functioning as they did prior to the disaster and to engage in healthy behaviors, such as a healthy diet, establishing routines, and seeking getting help from a licensed mental health professional.

Healthy behaviors cannot develop when countless homes remain destroyed, when people are trying to live without roofs or are forced to join relatives in overcrowded, unsafe conditions. The establishment of routines is not a possibility in circumstances where people are chronically living without electricity, are struggling to find food and clean water and are unable to travel on closed roads to frequent, or work, in closed businesses and attend closed schools.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided a paltry $3 million for the mental health division of the Puerto Rican Health Department. The failures and crimes of FEMA, and the US government more generally, against the working class of Puerto Rico are innumerable.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, ports that import about 85 percent of the island’s food supply were shut down under the draconian hundred-year-old Jones Act, which the government only reluctantly lifted weeks later. Another outrageous episode was when Tribute Contracting LLC, awarded a $156 million contract to deliver 30 million meals, only managed to deliver 50,000. The criminality of the US government is best exemplified, however, by the efforts to undermine and ultimately privatize the island’s resources and infrastructure, currently the education system and the public electric power company.

This inadequate provision of social and psychological services by the government has compelled universities to send teams of students, social workers and other volunteers out in a piecemeal effort to meet the needs of the population. These students and workers have made their way to the worst hit areas inland, which have become isolated and hard to reach due to the poor recovery efforts. They go door to door and visit emergency shelters where the newly homeless are crowded in order to conduct physical and psychological screenings and deliver food and water.

Observers and health experts have drawn parallels between the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and María: From the physical and social devastation they visited upon New Orleans and Puerto Rico, respectively, to the inadequate governmental response marked by gross negligence and arrogance, the long term physical and psychological trauma their victims are suffering, and the fact that these are both climate-change related catastrophes.

In a report published last year titled, “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance”, psychologists with the APA found that 12 years after Hurricane Katrina, survivors developed mood disorders, saw rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts double, and one in six met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Psychiatrists have since stressed the importance of immediate access to mental health care for the victims of natural disasters to help mitigate these types of outbreaks.

At the 10-year mark of Hurricane Katrina, the WSWS published an analysis of the source of the catastrophe that is no less apt at describing the one facing Puerto Rico today: “The sudden shock of Hurricane Katrina exposed the rot at the heart of American capitalism. Decades of social neglect, the staggering growth of social inequality, the putrefaction of American democracy, and the domination of every facet of social life by a narrow and parasitic layer of financial speculators was laid bare before a shocked American and world public. For millions of people around the world, already horrified by American imperialism’s criminal adventure in Iraq, Katrina demonstrated that the American ruling class was no less hostile towards its own working class.

“This rot has spread geometrically in the years since then. Since the onset of the 2008 recession, the attitude of the ruling elite towards Katrina, which saw it as an opportunity to open up further opportunities for profit, has been replicated in every facet of American life. Instead of responding to the recession with a public works program or other measures to alleviate the distress of the working class, American, and, indeed, world capitalism … has responded with a fundamental restructuring of class relations, aimed at nothing less than the dismantling of every gain made by the working class in over a century of bitter struggle.”


Fukushima radioactive water update

This video says about itself:

Thai authorities face criticism for importing fish from Fukushima

6 March 2018

Authorities have defended Thailand‘s importation of fish from Fukushima, the scene of a major nuclear accident and radioactive leak in 2011.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

£250m ‘ice wall’ doesn’t fully cut off radioactive water at Fukushima, say experts

NUCLEAR experts concluded today that a £250 million ice wall meant to contain radioactive water at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power station is only partially effective and that other measures were urgently needed.

The plant’s private operator Tepco says the ice wall has helped reduce the ever-growing amount of radioactive water by half. The plant also pumps out several times as much groundwater before it reaches the tsunami-damaged reactors.

The groundwater mixes with radioactive water leaking from the damaged reactors. Contaminated water also results from rainwater that comes in contact with tainted soil and structures at the plant.

Fukushima Daiichi suffered meltdowns of three reactors after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 2011 in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Investigators found that Tepco had not met basic safety requirements before the disaster.

The government-commissioned panel said additional measures need to be taken to minimise the inflow of rainwater and groundwater, such as repairing roofs and other damaged parts of buildings.

“We recognise that the ice wall has had an effect, but more work is needed to mitigate rainfall ahead of the typhoon season”, said panel chairman Yuzo Onishi, a Kansai University civil engineering professor.

The mile-long, coolant-filled underground structure was installed around the wrecked reactor buildings to create a frozen soil barrier to keep groundwater from flowing into the heavily radioactive area.

Tepco said today the amount of contaminated water that collects inside the reactor buildings was reduced to 95 tons per day with the ice wall, compared to nearly 200 tons without.

That is part of the 500 tons of contaminated water created every day at the plant, with the other 300 tons pumped out via wells, treated and stored in tanks.

In addition to the £250m construction cost paid by the government, the ice wall needs about £7m a year to be spent on maintenance and operation.

The plant has been struggling with the ever-growing amounts of water — only slightly contaminated after treatment — now totalling 1 million tons and stored in 1,000 tanks, taking up significant space at the complex, where a decades-long decommissioning effort continues.

Officials aim to minimise the contaminated water in the reactor before starting to remove melted fuel in 2021.