Lax Oversight, Political Clout, No Enforcement and Covid-19 – A Nursing Home Disaster in the Making [Opinion]

A resident at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington.
Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

Nursing Homes Were a Disaster Waiting to Happen

It was clear almost from the outset that the elderly and frail were in the greatest danger from Covid-19. And it was clear to anyone familiar with American nursing homes that these facilities would not be up to the task of protecting their older and infirm residents.

As of Thursday, Covid-19 has killed over 10,000 residents and staff members in long-term-care facilities in 23 states that report fatality data, about 27 percent of the Covid-19 deaths in those states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The weaknesses in patient care and oversight at nursing homes that made those deaths more likely were longstanding, widespread and well known.

One-third of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to nursing homes suffer harm within about two weeks of entering the facility, according to a 2014 report from the federal Office of Inspector General. These are the short-term residents for whom facilities are paid the most and who are typically most able to articulate their concerns if something is wrong. Where does that leave a majority of residents who are in the facility long-term, most of whom are older, frail and cognitively impaired?

These existing problems intensify the risk that residents will suffer and die not only from Covid-19 but also from the erosion of care the pandemic is causing, increasing neglect and abuse in a system that on a good day too often failed to fulfill its duties.

Despite the absence of federal reporting requirements, we are seeing that residents and families are being devastated by Covid-19. In New Jersey, an anonymous tip led authorities to a nursing home that was storing corpses in a shed. At least 29 of its residents have died from Covid-19 and many more residents and staff members have been infected. Unsurprisingly, this for-profit nursing home has a history of seriously low staffing and citations for substandard infection control.

In a Houston-area nursing home, more than 80 residents and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus. This facility also has seriously low staffing and close to four times the number of substantiated claims than the national average.

The tragedy is that government standards of safety and care at homes certified under Medicaid or Medicare (a large majority) are strong. If enforcement of those standards had not been so lax, the devastation we have seen in nursing homes could have been mitigated.

Those standards were developed in response to reports of horrific conditions in the 1970s and 1980s. The federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, and the regulations and guidance through which the law is carried out, most recently revised in 2016, require effective infection control and prevention including hand hygiene and the use of personal protection equipment.

Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one million to three million serious infections occur every year in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, and as many as 380,000 people die of those infections every year.

The most important precautions against infection are inexpensive and simple, and the most common violations involve simple sanitation and hygiene practices, like hand washing. Nevertheless, infection control and prevention problems were the most frequently cited violation in nursing homes last year.

In New York, inspectors observed an aide cleaning an incontinent resident with a soiled washcloth then, without washing his hands, “proceeded to transport the resident to the common area.”

Such poor care persists because regulators let the nursing home industry treat standards of care as goals rather than actual requirements. The nursing home industry wields enormous influence in Washington and state capitals through multimillion-dollar trade associations, powerful law firms and generous contributions to politicians and political action committees. As a result, nursing homes, rather than nursing home residents, are often viewed by policymakers as the constituency whose interests merit protection. After President Trump was elected, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started openly referring to the nursing home industry as its “customer.”

To continue reading the complete OPINION in The New York Times, click here.

Call for National Guard to be Deployed in Lakewood – Trump Appointee and Choice of Words, Covid-19

NJ Republican Calls on Governor to Deploy Troops to “Uncivilized” and “Selfish” Jewish Enclave of Lakewood to Stop Spread of COVID-19

JACKSON, NJ -Jackson Township Councilman Barry Calogero, who also works as a politically appointed executive director of the administration of President Donald J. Trump, USDA said what has been on the minds of many in towns surrounding the Jewish enclave of Lakewood Township during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Township of Lakewood has been under scrutiny by area residents, politicians and police after a string of incidents were published in the media depicting people in that community disobeying Governor Murphy’s executive orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 infection rate in Lakewood has exceeded nearby towns by nearly two to one, according to figures released by the Ocean County Health Department.   Calogero put out a public plea on Tuesday to deploy the Army National Guard to his town and towns surrounding Lakewood to put an end to it and to use the military power to enforce Governor Murphy’s quarantine.

Calogero first thanked the community in Jackson for adhering to the guidelines and staying home.

How in God’s name can civilized people disrespect their neighbors?

“Unfortunately, not everyone is following the law of the land, unfortunately, there are groups of people who hide behind cultures and religious beliefs who put themselves, our first responders and quite honestly all of Jackson and all of the bordering towns at risk.  For their selfishness, irresponsibility, and inability to follow the law put in place by President Trump and Governor Murphy,” he said. “How in God’s name can civilized people disrespect their neighbors the President and the Governor’s orders.  It is with a sad heart I implore governor murphy to set aside politics and use your power and authority to call out the national guard to enforce the law and protect Ocean County from those who cannot seem to follow our laws.”

Not a time for politics!

To continue reading at the Shore News Network click link here.

Epstein and Acosta… Acosta Resigns, Epstein’s Victims Still Entitled to Justice

Trump speaks after Labor Secretary Acosta resigns

Jeff Ballabon – The Dangers to Secular Jews When those Secular Jews Agree that non-Orthodox are Not Really Jews, Trump

Trump’s Orthodox Whisperer

DURING A FOX BUSINESS INTERVIEW IN MARCH, Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor Jeff Ballabon called Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar “filth.” When host Stuart Varney suggested that, perhaps, “filth” might have been too strong a word for the Muslim congresswoman and Somali refugee, Ballabon doubled down. “She is a filthy disgusting hater,” he spat. It had been over a month since the start of the media fracas over Omar’s tweets criticizing the pro-Israel lobby, for which she faced calls to resign as well as death threats. By April, a 55-year-old Trump supporter was calling the congresswoman’s office and threatening to “put a bullet in her fucking skull.”

At first glance, Ballabon’s Fox appearance might seem like just another iteration of what has become a sad, dangerous routine in American politics—another Trump surrogate spewing invective and riling up the base on daytime TV. But Jeff Ballabon is not just another Trump surrogate.

A former media executive—he once headed communications for CBS News—and a veteran Republican operative, Ballabon has worked for roughly two decades to turn Orthodox Jewry into a mature political force allied with the Republican Party. Now, under Trump, that alliance has begun to pay big dividends—not only on Israel, long a focus of Orthodox politics, but on domestic issues as well. Indeed, never before has Orthodox Jewry, and the Jewish right more broadly, had such access to a president. 

With this increased power and influence has also come a change in political style—one that Ballabon’s comments in March, as well as his Twitter feed at all times, exemplify. Angry, vitriolic, even vulgar, contemptuous of “political correctness” and unafraid to traffic in racist tropes, this is Jewish politics in a new key—and Ballabon wants to be a leading composer. His transformation from behind-the-scenes campaigner to aspiring movement leader reflects the emergence of an assertive, aggressive Orthodox Jewish right that has already reshaped American politics—as well as intra-communal Jewish politics—and could continue to for years to come.

Ballabon’s path from political fixer to Trump proxy maps the Republican Party’s trajectory from the “compassionate conservatism” of the George W. Bush era to the gleeful cruelty of Trump. He began his career not on the fringes of the right but at its center—as legislative counsel for Missouri Sen. John Danforth, who by today’s standards would be considered a moderate. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ballabon cultivated close ties with the Christian Right, then at the apex of its power, which he identified as both a potential model for a new Jewish politics and a more natural partner for Orthodox Jewry than liberals in the Democratic Party, which was (and remains) the political home for the majority of American Jews.

After Bush’s victory in 2000, Ballabon became, as the right-wing Jewish paper The Algemeiner put it, the administration’s “unofficial liaison to Orthodox Jews.” In 2004, he worked on the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, during which he devised a strategy to turn the Orthodox into reliable Republican voters. He succeeded. In Long Island’s heavily Orthodox “Five Towns,” for instance, support for Bush jumped from less than 30% in 2000 to more than 60% in 2004; in the ultra-Orthodox Rockland County enclave of New Square, which went for Al Gore in 2000, Bush won in 2004 with roughly 98% of the vote. The Orthodox communities that shifted to the right in 2004 have, for the most part, heavily favored Republicans ever since

Having made his name as the keeper of the keys to the Jewish vote—Ballabon was the subject of a fawning 2005 New York Observer profile by Ben Smith, now the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News—he would go on to work for several Republican campaigns, among them Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.

Today, Ballabon has become one of President Trump’s most prominent Jewish surrogates, making regular appearances on various Fox News shows and weighing in on Jewish-related matters as an authentic, kippah-wearing spokesman. (Ballabon comes from a non-hasidic Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community.) He has appeared on the America First radio show hosted by Sebastian Gorka—a member of the Viteszi Rend, a racist Hungarian nationalist order founded by Hungary’s antisemitic, Nazi-collaborationist leader, Admiral Miklos Horthy—and he has defended Gorka from charges of antisemitism. While Instagram grifter Elizabeth Pipko has played the face of the bungled “Jexodus” initiative—which claims to be leading American Jews out of a Democratic Party turned irrevocably antisemitic—it is Ballabon who has led the astroturf movement from behind.

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Roger Stone and Allegations Regarding the Russia Probe – Where Does He Fit in With Jewish Geography Still a Mystery?

According to the indictment from Robert Mueller’s office, Roger Stone was an active participant in attempts by WikiLeaks to cause chaos in the 2016 Presidential election.
Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux

Robert Mueller Got Roger Stone

On Friday morning, Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime political adviser and ally, who has been a fixture in Republican politics since the Nixon Administration, was arrested by the F.B.I. The office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, issued a seven-count indictment, which charges Stone with obstruction of an official proceeding, false statements, and witness tampering. It also makes the case that Stone acted as a conduit of information between the Trump campaign and Julian Assange as Assange’s organization, WikiLeaks, released e-mails that the Russian government had stolen from the Democratic Party and members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in an effort to help Trump win the Presidential election.

The charges stem not from the original acts themselves but from Stone’s alleged lies about them. In September, 2017, Stone testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he had “no e-mails, no texts, no documents whatsoever” or any other materials that discussed hacked documents or conversations about Assange. As in the case of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager (and Stone’s former business partner), and that of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, we see that it is not wise to lie when asked, under oath, if you have any specific e-mails and texts. Once again, the government had all the incriminating receipts.

Perhaps the most surprising detail of the indictment is that Stone, a famous braggart, often downplayed the significance of his role as a conduit between the Trump campaign and Assange. He was not, as he has previously said, simply guessing and making vague predictions about the actions WikiLeaks was likely to take; he was an active participant in its attempts to cause chaos in the 2016 Presidential election. In texts sent on or about October 2, 2016, Stone expressed confusion that WikiLeaks had not released e-mails related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as he had expected. That same day, he sent an e-mail to a friend, who is identified in the indictment as Person 2 and appears to be the radio host Randy Credico, with the subject line “WTF?,” in which he asked why Assange had cancelled a press conference.

The first week of October, 2016, was a crucial one for the Trump campaign and for the country. Trump was trailing Clinton by about four points in the polls, and the conventional wisdom was that he had no chance of winning the Presidency. In the e-mails quoted in the indictment, Stone began that week by complaining that a high-ranking official on Trump’s campaign wouldn’t return his calls. By October 4th, the official—who has been identified by CNBC and in previous reporting by the Times as SteveBannon, who was the head of Trump’s campaign at the time—had contacted Stone directly, asking when Assange planned his next e-mail release. Stone reassured him that Assange would release “a load every week going forward.” On October 7th—shortly after the Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women—Assange began releasing e-mails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta. An unnamed associate of Bannon wrote, in a text to Stone, “well done.”

Nearly a year later, in September, 2017, Stone not only lied to the House Intelligence Committee about these communications but also sent messages to others who had been asked to testify before the committee, encouraging them to lie as well. To Person 2, he wrote, “Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ . . . Richard Nixon.” In other exchanges, according to the indictment, Stone “told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ before HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting Stone’s testimony,” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II,” who had planned to testify against the Corleone family but was pressured to deny any recollection of key events.

In 2008, Stone, a proudly self-described “dirty trickster,” described his political “rules” to Jeffrey Toobin, one of which was “Lay low, play dumb, keep moving.” For decades, Stone has alternately played a clownish buffoon and serious political insider. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy, forcing the public to wonder if a man who says so many wild things and behaves so flamboyantly can also be a potent force, shifting the world according to his will. A frequent guest on InfoWars and other fringe conspiracy-media outlets, Stone has presented himself as somewhat desperately trying to foster communication between Trump and Assange. But the e-mails in the indictment show that Stone may have played a crucial role in the election, intervening with both the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to influence the timing of key events.

From Stone’s indictment and other documents released by the special counsel’s office, including Manafort’s indictment and Cohen’s sentencing memo, we now see that, from at least November, 2015, through October, 2016, key figures in the Trump campaign and on the business side of the Trump Organization were in regular contact with a variety of actors close to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. The figures on Trump’s side were often falling in or out of his favor. Stone was close to Trump until August, 2015, and then was forced to fight for relevance. Trump’s business associates Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were intensely engaged in developing a Trump Tower Moscow project until, by June, 2016, they, too, seemed to step away. Manafort ran Trump’s campaign from June to August, 2016, while also communicating with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, before he, too, was tossed from Trump’s inner circle.

Were these contacts largely disorganized, or could they have been coördinated by someone within Trump’s orbit? 

To read the article in its entirety in THE NEW YORKER, click here.

Fear and Manipulation – Michael Cohen’s Predicament

TRUMP MADE COHEN AFRAID FOR HIS COUNTRY AND FAMILY, WOULDN’T ACCEPT A PARDON, LAWYER SAYS

 

Michael Cohen has taken “ownership” of his illegal actions because “he feared for his country and his family,” attorney Lanny Davis said on Sunday.

Speaking on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Davis, who represented President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, highlighted the motivation behind his client’s guilty plea. Cohen’s attorney said that the former Trump lawyer had cooperated with investigators due to a “genuine transformation.”

“Michael Cohen is now taking ownership in his statement to the court of his personal responsibility for his behavior when he worked for Donald Trump,” Davis explained. “Now that he saw Donald Trump as president, he underwent a genuine transformation because he feared for his country and his family,” he said.

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Former Attorney to Michael Cohen @LannyDavis says Cohen “wouldn’t take a pardon from Donald Trump if it was handed to him.”

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Davis also said that his client had authorized him on several occasions to refuse any pardon from Trump, if it was offered. The attorney also pushed back against the president’s and his legal teams’ attacks against Cohen, often attempts to paint his client as a liar.

“Let’s remember that Michael Cohen has corroborating evidence for everything that he has said,” David pointed out. “Mr. [Robert] Mueller [who is leading the special investigation in Trump and his associates] certainly does,” he added.

On Wednesday, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including lying to Congress.

“Today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. The irony is that today I get my freedom back,” Cohen said during his sentencing hearing. “Blind loyalty to this man [Trump] led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” he added.

A sentencing memo for Trump’s ex-lawyer implicated the president in leading a criminal conspiracy, which involved paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal using campaign funds. Analysts have also speculated that evidence provided by Cohen could reveal new details that link Trump or members of his campaign team to collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

GettyImages-1066359714Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, exits federal court on November 29 in New York City DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Dozens of individuals and several companies have been indicted by Mueller’s team in the ongoing probe. None have been charged for colluding with Russia, but various other crimes have been uncovered. Mueller’s final report is expected soon, and the most recent conviction of Cohen has led many politicians to suggest the president could be impeached, or even criminally indicted and jailed.

With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in January, they are expected to ramp up pressure on the White House. Republican leaders of the current House Judiciary Committee had appeared reluctant to push for a thorough investigation into the president’s alleged crimes, but that’s all expected to change with new leadership.

Michael Cohen and the Credit he Deserves – Not to be Beholden

Inline image

Lanny Davis and Michael Cohen. (Photos: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images – Mary Altaffer/AP)

Michael Cohen would refuse a pardon from Trump, his former lawyer says

Veteran political consultant and attorney Lanny Davis said that his embattled advisee Michael Cohen is taking personal responsibility for his bad behavior and would refuse any pardon offered by President Trump.

Davis was Cohen’s attorney last summer when he pleaded guilty to fraud and violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney for many years, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday.

On “Face the Nation” Sunday, Davis was asked what he thought of Trump calling Cohen a “Rat” earlier that morning for cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“That’s the language of a mobster, not of the president,” Davis replied. “But Michael Cohen took ownership and personal responsibility for lying and he’s going to jail as a consequence and he authorized me, several times, to say he wouldn’t take a pardon from Donald Trump if it was handed to him,” Davis said.

Davis told the show’s moderator, Margaret Brennan, that they never discussed the possibility of taking a presidential pardon. He said that Cohen has corroborating evidence for everything he disclosed to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election.

“So, Michael Cohen is now taking ownership in his statement to the court of his personal responsibility for his behavior when he worked for Donald Trump,” he continued. “Now that he saw Donald Trump as president he underwent a genuine transformation because he feared for his country and his family when Donald Trump was president.”

Davis also took issue with Trump’s claim that federal agents had broken into Cohen’s office and residences in New York in April. He said Cohen consented to the search and even thanked the federal agents for their courtesy as they left. Cohen later described the agents to CNN as “extremely professional, courteous, and respectful.”

“You have a president denouncing the FBI, lying about a warrant in a legal search, and he’s the top law enforcement officer of the country and who does he praise? He praises his people who have lied and refused to cooperate. The opposite of what a president should do,” he said.

Davis said there are some questions he cannot answer publicly as Cohen’s former lawyer and current adviser because he does not want to “get in front of Mr. Mueller’s findings.” He urged the public to exercise patience so that Mueller’s investigation isn’t compromised or hindered.

However, he did point out that the sentencing memo by Mueller described the information provided by Cohen as important to the investigation, as it relates to Trump’s attempts to build a large project in Moscow, and contacts with Russian officials.

“There’s a lot in the Mueller memo that tells you how forthcoming, for 70 hours in seven meetings, Michael Cohen was with Mr. Mueller.”