Category Archives: Blumbers

Weekly Commentary

May 17, 2020 Blumbers

 

Written Testimony
House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health

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Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response

Statement of

Rick Bright, Ph.D

For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 am
May 14, 2020

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Good morning Chairwoman, Eshoo, Ranking Member Burgess and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me to testify today.

I am Dr. Rick Bright, a career public servant and a scientist who has spent 25 years of my career focused on addressing pandemic outbreaks. I received my bachelor’s degree with honors in both biology and physical sciences from Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. I earned my PhD in Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis from Emory University in Georgia My dissertation was focused on pandemic avian influenza. I have spent my entire career leading teams of scientists in drugs, diagnostics and vaccine development — in the government with CDC and BARDA, for a global non-profit organization and also in the biotechnology industry. Regardless of my position, my job and my entire professional focus has been on saving lives. My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this – to confront and defeat a deadly virus like COVID-19 that threatens Americans and people around the globe.

I joined the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in 2010 and from November of 2016 until April 21 of this year, I had the privilege of serving our country as its Director. During the time I was Director of BARDA we successfully partnered with private industry to achieve an unprecedented number of FDA approvals for medical countermeasures against a wide variety of national health security threats. This was a major and unprecedented accomplishment and one that I and the conscientious employees of BARDA take great pride in.

On April 21, 2020, I was removed from my positions as the Director of BARDA and HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response by HHS leadership and involuntarily transferred to a more limited and less impactful position at the National Institutes of Health. I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest funding allocated to BARDA by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. While my intention in testifying today is to be forward looking, I spoke out then and I am testifying today because science – not politics or cronyism – must lead the way to combat this deadly virus.

The world is confronting a great public health emergency which has the potential to eclipse the devastation wrought by the 1918 influenza which globally claimed over 50 million lives. We face a highly-transmissible and deadly virus which not only claims lives but is also disrupting the very foundations of our societies. The American health-care system is being taxed to the limit, our economy is spiraling downward — leading to mass unemployment — and our population is being paralyzed by fear stemming from the lack of a coordinated response and a dearth of accurate, clear communication about the path forward. Americans yearn to get back to work, to open their businesses and provide for their families. I get that. We need a national coordinated strategy to look at all of these pieces and to ensure that they fit well together. To conceive and implement this strategy, our government must draw on the guidance of the best scientific minds.

In my position as BARDA Director, I led portions of a coordinated response; development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. In January of this year, I pushed for our government to obtain virus samples from China and to secure more funding for BARDA to be able to get started quickly on the development of critical medical countermeasures. HHS leadership was dismissive about

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my dire predictions about what I assumed would be a broader outbreak and the pressing need to act, and were therefore unwilling to act with the urgency that the situation required. Understanding that the United States had a critical shortage of necessary supplies and PPE to deal with a pandemic, in January, February and March, 2020, I pushed HHS to ramp up US production of masks, respirators and other critical supplies, such as medicine, syringes and swabs. Again, my urgency was dismissed and I was cut out of key high-level meetings to combat COVID-19. When I was nevertheless able to convey these urgent concerns by speaking directly with a senior White House advisor and with members of Congress who better understood the urgency to act, I faced hostility and marginalization from HHS officials. And finally, when I resisted efforts to promote and enable broad access to an unproven drug, chloroquine, to the American people without transparent information on the potential health risks, I was removed from BARDA.

While I am unfortunately no longer leading BARDA, I am an expert in these areas and fully understand the grave risks we are facing. I continue to believe that we must act urgently to effectively combat this deadly disease. Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. While it is terrifying to acknowledge the extent of the challenge that we currently confront, the undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.

First and foremost, we need to be truthful with the American people. They want the truth. They can handle the truth. Truth, no matter how unpleasant, decreases the fear generated by uncertainty. The truth must be based on scientific evidence – and not filtered for political reasons. We must know and appreciate what we are up against. We have the world’s greatest scientists – they must be permitted to lead. Let them speak truthfully without fear of retribution. We must listen so that the government can then take the most powerful steps to save lives.

Most Americans want the same thing – a return to normal. The normal of 2019 is not going to return, but we all have an opportunity to shape the new normal of 2020 and beyond. With the participation and cooperation of every American, this can be achieved. We have a long history of uniting in response to adversity. Each of us can and must do our part now. However, it is critical to get this right. As my colleague Dr. Anthony Fauci testified on May 12, 2020, we must not rush blindly, or act too quickly, in returning to our daily lives. If we ignore the science, we stand a dramatically increased risk of worsening the spread of the virus in the coming months. This could lead to more widespread outbreaks and to many more lives lost throughout the remainder of this year.

To do our part, we need to hear one message in a voice that is clear, consistent, trustworthy, and backed by the best science available. In previous outbreaks, Americans listened to our public health experts at the CDC. They were the daily face and the voice guiding Americans during prior outbreaks including Ebola, Zika, and the H1N1 influenza pandemic. As an example, in 2009, the CDC, along with Elmo, taught Americans how to sneeze in a way that minimizes risk of contagion. Today, we need clear and simple messages to teach us how wear a face cover, when and how to safely go outside or back to work or back to school. It’s that simple.

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While waiting for a cure (which, I believe, will come), there is much we MUST do. With clear leadership, honest communication, and data-driven solutions. We must:

  • Increase public education regarding the basics — handwashing, social distancing, appropriate face covering, self- and dependent monitoring, and frankly, our leaders must lead by modeling the behavior.

    o These simple measures reduce the number of people exposed and can buy us valuable time.

  • Ramp up production of essential equipment and supplies, including raw materials and critical components.

o Shortages of critical supplies and protective gear increase the risk to our frontline healthcare workers; they deserve the necessary equipment to protect themselves while treating their patients. First responders must also be given protective equipment. And we now see a courageous segment of our workforce – essential workers who keep food on our tables and keep our society running. They too deserve our appreciation and support.

  • Facilitate equitable distribution of essential equipment and supplies – eliminate the state vs. state competition. Establishing a national standard of procurement and distribution increases efficiency and reduces costs.

  • Finally, we need a national testing strategy. The virus is out there, it’s everywhere. We need to be able to find it, to isolate it and to stop it from infecting more people. We need tests that are accurate, rapid, easy to use, low cost, and available to everyone who needs them. We need be able to trust the results so that we can trace contacts, isolate and quarantine appropriately while striving to develop a cure.

    As I reflect on the past few months of this outbreak, it is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook. There will be plenty of time to identify gaps for improvement. For now, we need to focus on getting things right going forward. We need to ensure that we have a plan to recovery and that everyone knows the plan and everyone participates in the plan. Congress has taken important steps to support the response; and we have more to do. We need your help to get us through the crisis.

    We Americans, working cooperatively with our global friends, can and will succeed in finding a cure for COVID19, but that success depends on what we do today. We must unite and use all available tools and measures we have to stem the damage this virus has wrought.

    We will either be remembered for what we did or for what we failed to do to address this crisis. I call on all of us to act – to ensure the health, safety, and prosperity of all Americans. You can count on me to continue to do my part.

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May 10, 2020 Blumbers

Believe It

On May 6, 2020 NPR’s Jim Zarroli reported “3.2 Million More Are Out Of Work As Jobless Claims Keep Piling Up”. Over a million Americans are infected with Covid-19.  Over 70, 000 are dead, with thousands dying everyday. Over 33 million people are out of work, with a mind boggling unemployment rate of 14.7 percent. People are not getting the help they need to feed and shelter their families. They cannot get the medical care they need stay alive and no cure in sight. Competent leadership makes a difference. If someone had told you all this bad news on Election Day 2016, you would not have believed it. Will you believe it on Election Day 2020? Vote.

May Flour Baking Bad

Note: A friend sent me 25 pounds of flour in one large bag. I tried to carefully put it into five large plastic bags but flour still got everywhere. The kitchen table looked like something from Scarface or Breaking bad.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

May 3, 2020 Blumbers

Covid-19 News

On May 1, 2020 NPR’s Jeremy Hobson reported two disturbing bits of news. The CDC said over 50,000 citizens have died from Covid-19. The US Dept. of Labor said over 30 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits. We have to stop tying health insurance to employment. Nurses should not have to waste time asking about health insurance coverage while trying get your truly vital signs. National health screening would be a great network to communicate when a new disease appears.

Turkey Traffic

There is not a lot of traffic these days and wildlife is returning everywhere. Last week I got stuck in a traffic jam. I tried to see down the road and saw six turkeys wandering slowly through the cars like sheep on a country road. I had this happen with Canadian geese too. 

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline all rights reserved.

Apr. 26, 2020 Blumbers

Citizenship

Before the coronavirus quarantine, I carried out my responsibilities as a citizen. I appeared for jury duty,  filed my taxes and even filled out my census forms. The most important thing I did was vote. It is the most important thing you can do as a citizen. It should be federal holiday that you get the day off. You should be able to vote by mail. It should easy. With all that is going on, please vote. Elections do make a difference. 

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Apr. 19, 2020 Blumbers

Wall of Soldiers

The coronavirus has infected the crew of the US Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in Guam. The US Army is closing boot camps across the country. These are two clear examples of how not having universal health care can affect our nation’s defense. It protects those who protect us. In ancient Greece, a visitor to Sparta asked a local why Sparta had no walls. He said that Sparta was guarded by a wall of soldiers. A country is only as strong as the people who defend it. If we can fight disease, we can fight anything.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Apr. 12, 2020 Blumbers

Yippy-Ay-Yo

Funny how much has the coronavirus changed things. Yesterday I walked into a bank wearing a broad-rimmed hat and bandana for a mask. I looked like Tom Mix robbing a stagecoach. Two months ago the tellers would have hit the alarm. Of course, if you want to rob a bank, own one.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Apr. 5, 2020 Blumbers

State Of Emergency

Many governments have declared a state of emergency in light of the coronavirus pandemic. They are doing things they should have been already doing. Instead, people had to keep working so they kept spreading the virus. Conservatives complain about how much government programs cost, but not having Medicare For All, universal sick leave, affordable housing, and free education led to an economic crash making even wealthy corporations vulnerable.   Billions of dollars of prevention is still cheaper than trillions of dollars of cure.

If we can have these essential services during an emergency, why not have them to prevent the next emergency?

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 29, 2020 Blumbers

Panicdemic

I am seeing some odd behavior with coronavirus outbreak. I was walking down a street and a woman wearing a red baseball hat approached me and asked if I wanted to buy the car or RV in front of her house. The house was on sale too. She wanted cash. 

On another street at 9:00 PM, someone was mowing their lawn in the rain wearing a headlamp like a coal miner. There was a for sale sign on the lawn and an open house the next morning. Once again not interested.

Stores are blocking entrances and exits with lines of shopping carts or stacks of empty wooden palettes. This could be dangerous in an emergency. If there is a fire or earthquake, people will need to get out quickly. Blocking makes it more difficult for disabled and the elderly to get out. Yellow tape and orange traffic cones are safer. If you think you need  barriers you might want to close the store altogether.

One store insisted I use a shopping cart. Rather than touching one I went elsewhere.

A homeless man riding a bicycle down a street had a Bluetooth speaker blaring Kenny G light jazz. It was rather calming to hear elevator music during a pandemic.

One store had a man in front with an accordion playing the tango from the film Twelve Monkeys. Super eerie.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 22, 2020 Blumbers

My Corona

The end of the world always happens at the worst possible time. I meet and photograph thousands of people every year. Astoundingly,  I do not have symptoms yet. I carry a couple of cameras and I am usually more than six feet away. There is no time to  shake hands. Last week, every event I was supposed to cover was cancelled. It was time to take a break.

The first sign that things had changed was no toilet paper at the grocery store. People should know the coronavirus affects the lungs and  not the digestive system.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved. 

Mar. 15, 2020 Blumbers

Corona Virus Covid-19

On December 21, 2018 seventeen-year-old Avi Schiffmann in Seattle started a site about the coronavirus in China called nCoV2019.live. The site tracked deaths and numbers of cases locally and globally. It talked about the number of people who have recovered. “I basically just wrote a script that every minute or so just goes to those websites and downloads the latest information.”

On January 10, 2020 NPR’s Pien Huang reported “CDC to Screen For New Strain Of Coronavirus”. Originally called 2019-nCoV, it was spreading in the Hubei province city of Wuhan. More than forty people were diagnosed with mysterious viral lung infections since early December. It may have originally spread from bats to an unknown animal and then to humans. Experts think the infection probably came from a seafood and live animal market with people touching or eating animals that carry the virus. These individuals then developed viral symptoms including fever, breathing issues and lesions on their lungs. Approximately two percent of mainly older humans die from it.

The coronavirus family includes six other strains known to infect humans. Four of those strains cause common colds, and two (SARS and MERS) have caused major pandemics. All share a signature look under a strong microscope: a circle with spikes coming off the surface, ending with small blobs — hence the “corona.” “Kind of looks like the peaks of a crown,” says Carolyn Machamer, a virologist and cell biologist at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

On January 24, 2020 NPR’s Emily Vaughan reported “Coronavirus 101: What We Do — And Don’t — Know About The Outbreak Of COVID-19” The corona virus called 2019 novel coronavirus was renamed COVID-19 by the United Nations World Health Organization. 

The virus can spread from human to human. Early symptoms include fever and dry cough. Some people also experience fatigue, headaches and, less frequently, diarrhea. Shortness of breath can develop in about 5 days. Symptoms in severe cases include pneumonia (which makes it harder to breathe) and kidney failure. People over age 40 who died had significant underlying conditions” like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some eighty percent of cases were mild with twenty percent of more severe cases requiring hospitalization. Two percent could be fatal.

Chinese government officials temporarily shut down transportation to and from Wuhan by bus, subway, ferry, airplane and train, according to Chinese state media. At least twelve other Chinese cities have limited travel as well. The travel ban came just days before the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year. Despite that COVID-19 spread from China to  the U.S., Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. 

On Mar. 4, 2020 NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith reported “The Corona Bump” “Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the global economy and on businesses, disrupting manufacturing all over the world.”

That same day NPR’s Bill Chappell reported “Coronavirus Deaths In Washington State And California, Where Gov. Declares Emergency” The most recent death is connected to a cruise ship that traveled from the U.S. to Mexico. Officials in Placer County, Calif., announced that an elderly resident has become the first person to die from the illness in California. The patient, who was not identified, had underlying health conditions, according to the county. The patient tested positive for the coronavirus illness on March 3, 2020 and “was likely exposed during international travel from Feb. 11-21 on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico.”

On Mar. 6, 2020 NPR’s Martin Kaste reported “U.S. Hospitals Prepare For A COVID-19 Wave” The  World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “We’re concerned that some countries have either not taken this seriously enough or have decided there is nothing they can do. … This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.” 

Large numbers of people may overwhelm hospitals. The American Hospital Association says the total number of Intensive Care Unit beds is about 65,000. Richard Waldhorn is a pulmonary critical care physician who’s studied hospital preparedness for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He says government planning assumptions based on past flu pandemics suggest a surge in demand for intensive care that could range somewhere between 200,000 thousand and 2.9 million patients.

Around the world, people suspected of being infected were being quarantined on ships, military bases and their own homes for at least two weeks. The public was advised to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart.  Sporting events and other large gatherings like conventions are being cancelled and hurting local economies. People are losing their jobs and causing a downturn.

Mar. 6, 2020 NPR Kelsey Snell, Domenico Montanaro, Scott Horsley, and Asma Khalid reported “Stock Market Slide Could Reshape Election; Biden Faces Test In South Carolina Primary” the stock markets around the world began to fall thousands of points because of disruption by COVID-19.

On March 9, 2020 MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported “Trump struggles to explain why he disbanded his global health team”. “It was two years ago when Trump ordered the shutdown of the White House National Security Council’s entire global health security unit. NBC News had a good report on this recently, noting that the president’s decision “to downsize the White House national security staff — and eliminate jobs addressing global pandemics — is likely to hamper the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus.”

On March 11, 2020 NPR’s Jason Beaubien reported COVID-19 Is Officially A Pandemic, Declares World Health Organization. The head of the WHO Tedros, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today he said that the WHO is making this designation because they expect that things are going to get worse.

On Mar. 13, 2020 NPR’s Avie Schneider reported US President Donald Trump belatedly declared a state emergency. Stock markets fell around the world. Trading was halted as the Dow plunged 2300 points. The bull market became a bear market. “Just on Monday, the stock market had its worst drop since 2008 amid fears that the growing spread of coronavirus would push the global economy into recession.”

On Mar. 14, 2020 NPR’s Maria Godoy reported “Flattening A Pandemic’s Curve: Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives”. As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., more and more businesses are sending employees off to work from home. Public schools are closing, universities are holding classes online, major events are getting canceled and cultural institutions are shutting their doors. Even Disney World and Disneyland closed. The disruption of daily life for many Americans is real and significant — but so are the potential life-saving benefits of isolation.

It’s all part of an effort to do what epidemiologists call flattening the curve of the pandemic. The idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don’t get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators for everyone who needs them, and the U.S. hospital system would be overwhelmed. That’s already happening in Italy.

Hope all this helps figure out what happened.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 8, 2020 Blumbers

Tightrope

On January 14, 2020 Michael Schaub of the New York Times reviewed Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about the destruction of the working poor. “Kristof and WuDunn, a married couple, follow several of Kristof’s ex-schoolmates with whom he grew up near Yamhill, Ore. “About one-fourth of the kids who rode with Nick on the bus are dead from drugs, suicide, alcohol, obesity, reckless accidents and other pathologies,” they write, saying the fates of Kristof’s friends led them to examine “how our country could have let tens of millions of people suffer an excruciating loss of jobs, dignity, lives, hopes and children, and how we can recover.” “They examine a host of issues, including unemployment, health care, substance use disorder and the prison system. The authors offer a host of proposed solutions, including the expansion of social programs, treatment instead of prison for drug offenders, universal health care and more early-childhood programs. The book ends, helpfully, with an appendix listing suggestions for how people can make a difference in their own communities: volunteering at a homeless shelter, for example, and boycotting companies that don’t pay their employees a living wage.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 1, 2020 Blumbers

The Ideas Of March

On March 3, 2020 California will hold a presidential primary. There are so many candidates the ballot looks like a phone book. Many have already dropped out. Sitting at my desk, I am very carefully filling out my mail-in ballot. There is a lot at stake, so there cannot be any mistakes. All the research. Covering all the events. Going from door to door. Finally it comes down to one person voting . You. Send the message, the idea. The ideas of March and become reality in November.

Gwendolyn Brooks said “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Feb. 16, 2020 Blumbers

Courting Disaster

I was once told to never whisper anything that I would not say in open court. Can you back it up and confront someone in a court of law with witnesses and evidence? If not, you do not have a case.

I was recently in a courthouse with other people called for jury duty. We need to make it easier for more people to be jurors. It is as important as voting. The waiting room had a large television showing the impeachment trial. It had a hundred senators as jurors but offered no witnesses or evidence. Any county judge would toss a case that did not have basics of of a trial. Why even have jurors? Why make people go to law school and study to pass the bar? Democracy is about getting a second opinion. If it is all arbitrary, we are courting disaster.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Jan. 19, 2020 Blumbers

Second Hottest Year

On January 15, 2020 NPR’s Rebecca Hersher reported “2019 Was The 2nd-Hottest Year On Record, According To NASA And NOAA” Hersher wrote:

 
“Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
 
It’s the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated.”
 
Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said “The warming up until now since the 1970s has been quite close to linear,” he explains, so “you’d imagine we’d cross 1.5 [degrees Celsius] in around 2035. But of course that depends on what we do with emissions, and we’re not able to tell you looking at the past how society will react.” 
 
By 2035? We do not have much time. Time to vote.
 
Note: Robots delete all comments, unread.
 
Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 29, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Transportation

After decades of getting easier, getting around is getting harder. Flying is slow, crowded and uncomfortable, unless you are on a private jet. Trains do not go everywhere you want.

Cars get stuck in traffic, but they have great sound systems. There was a guy listening to opera music in the next lane. Wouldn’t it be great if we all sang along? I got a car rental and was given no keys. I just turned on my phone and pressed a start button. The car steered its way through the parking lot and I took it from there. I still have to drive so I turned off the radio.

At the bottom of the transportation scale, urban streets resemble suburban cul de sacs from the 1950s. Grown adults are rolling around on skateboards, scooters and bicycles.  I expect to see coffee shops to turn into lemonade stands.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 22, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Affordable Housing and Manger Danger

The term “affordable housing” should bother you. The only kind of housing we should be building is affordable. Ask homeless veterans about their needs and they will say homes. Not socks. Not coats. Homes.

On Dec 11, 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported “Official: Cruise ship could house 1000 Oakland homeless” 

“OAKLAND, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area city official wants to explore the possibility of using a cruise ship to house up to 1,000 homeless people amid a high cost of living and a shortage of housing.  Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan told a council meeting Tuesday that the ship would be brought to the Port of Oakland, but port officials said Wednesday the move would be “untenable.”

“We respect President Kaplan’s desire to address homelessness but Port of Oakland docks are designed to work cargo ships, there isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship,” port spokesman Mike Zampa said.  The port is among the 10 busiest in the nation and safety and security issues in the federally regulated facilities “would make residential uses untenable,” Zampa said.  Kaplan didn’t immediately return a request for further comment from The Associated Press.

Kaplan said she has been contacted by cruise ship companies about providing a ship for emergency housing, and that the companies were reaching out to the Port of Oakland about what options exist to park a ship at the port, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She didn’t provide further details on those companies.  
 
Kaplan said she plans to present a proposal to the council in January that will be “no or low” cost to the city because residents of the cruise ship would pay for rooms based on their income. The city would not buy the cruise ship.  
 
Homelessness has spiked in Oakland in the past two years with the number of unsheltered people increasing from 1,900 to more than 3,000 people.  
 
“It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly,” Kaplan told The Chronicle. “Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics.”  
 
Kaplan compared her vision for an Oakland cruise ship to something like the Queen Mary in Long Beach in Southern California. The 1936 ocean liner is now a floating hotel with 347 rooms. A room with two twin beds rents for $141 a night and $146 a night for a full-size bed.  
 
“It could be like that,” Kaplan said. “But as affordable housing instead of hotel.”
 
This raises other solutions for the housing crisis. First, there all the homes not rented because the rent is too high. There are empty shopping malls and office parks all over the country that could be renovated. If you support a sports team, ask if they could turn over their government subsidized stadiums and parking lots. Divert their tax breaks for housing.
 
Homeless people are trying to find their own solutions. Yesterday in the Bay Area I saw someone pitch a tent in a suburban driveway of their former boss. Homeless people are moving into public parks next to monster mansions in Portland. One woman complained they were ruining her view from the solarium. The homeless vet complained she was ruining his view of compassionate behavior.
 
At some point a young homeless couple hiding from the authorities will have a baby in a shed…
 
Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 15, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Gig Economics

Most people can see growing inequality right in front of them. Everybody may have a job, or several jobs, but they are underpaid. The gig economy businesses that survive do so on the margins. AirBnB survives because people cannot afford a hotel room. Uber survives because people cannot afford a car. There are also very good reasons to regulate economic activity. There is a reason you want a licensed cab driver. There is a reason you want to stay at a licensed hotel. Insurance and inspections are good if there is an accident or fire. If your business model cannot afford theses precautions then you should work toward creating a society where you can. 

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 8, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Longevity

On December 3, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s David Greene reported “Life Expectancy Study Jolts Assumptions Made About Life In America.” He talked about a Journal of the American Medical Association study  by Dr. Steven Woolf that says U.S. life expectancy is declining, and is not keeping pace with other wealthy countries. He looked at life expectancy, mortality across the United States between 1959 and 2017. Many will not live long enough to retire.

“In fact, our analysis intentionally looked at the data for all 50 states to try to locate where in the country this was happening the most. And what we found was that the increase was largest in the industrial Midwest, central Appalachia and northern New England but particularly in the Ohio Valley. That was like ground zero for this phenomenon. We found, for example, that of all the excess deaths that occur in the United States due to this increase in mortality, one-third of them occurred in four states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana. Those four states accounted for one-third of the excess deaths between 2010 and 2017.”

“But one very attractive explanation is the economy. This is the Rust Belt and the area where – at the time when this decline began, the 1980s and ’90s, is when we saw a major transformation in the economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, coal mines closing, steel mills closing and families and communities exposed to many years of economic stresses. And we think they’re taking their toll on folks’ health.”

Woolf closed by saying “… we need to change our policy priorities in this country and focus more on improving the social and economic conditions for the middle class if we’re going to see a reversal to this trend.”

On December 9, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s Jason Beaubien reported “There’s A New Kind Of Inequality. And It’s Not About Income” about the the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report. “Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, sums up the problem this way: “an increasing number of young people are educated, connected and stuck with no ladder of choices to move up.””

“What people perhaps 30, 40 years ago were led to believe and often saw around them,” Steiner says, “was that if you worked hard, you could escape poverty.” Yet in many countries today, he says upward social mobility is “simply not occurring” anymore.”

“UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, who oversees the Human Development Report, says their research shows that these global inequities are having huge impacts on individual lives.”

“If we look at what happened to a child born in the year 2000 in a low human development country compared to a child born in a very high human development country, there’s a 17% probability that the child [from the low development country] is not alive today, 20 years after she was born,” Conceição says. “While in a very high human development country, there’s only a 1% chance that the child is not alive today.”

Ultimately it is still about money. If you were born in a rich place twenty years ago, you not only get to grow up but go to college. Meanwhile poor people are seventeen times more likely to die. People are demonstrating around the world because they need money for education, housing and food to live.

“Inequalities in human development remain high and widespread,” he notes.

On a similar note, there is a new film called Dark Water starring Mark Ruffalo. It is about the true story of Cincinnati lawyer Robert Bilott who battled DuPont over toxic water pollution in West Virginia.

Let us make life less stressful for each other. People should live long enough to have a future. I guess there is something to that live long and prosper thing after all.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 1, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: News

Every ten years I try to recap what I think is significant for future reference. In the last century we have seen people get their news from the mail to newspapers to radio to television to the internet. There have always been complaints about accuracy and bias. Journalists ask the standard questions of who, what, where, when, why and how. Ideally the story facts can be verified by reliable sources or public record. Frankly citizens have to do their jobs as well. Keep asking questions. Does it makes sense? Is it reasonable? What is the motive of whoever owns or controls the delivery? Can you back it up with facts? If they cannot state the facts, then it is opinion and goes to editorial.

If someone says something, what is their political party or affiliation? Whatever media you are looking at should display the the time and place it was recorded, the person’s full name and title, the political party affiliation, who they are getting funding from and their affiliation. All this information should be displayed every time they are on camera.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 17, 2019 Blumbers

Seasons Greta

On Nov. 13, 2019 NPR’s Laurel Wamsley reported Greta Thunberg’s last  message to America before sailing back to Europe. Thunberg said “We must realize this is a crisis, and we must do what we can now to spread awareness about this and to put pressure on the people in power,” she told The Guardian. “The U.S. has an election coming up soon, and it’s very important that for everyone who can vote, vote.”

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.