Gaza: Another View

My “progressive” news sources continue to fall all over themselves to decry Israel’s part in the Gaza conflict. They ignore the fact that instead of building homes, schools, hospitals with the construction materials that were allowed into Gaza, Hamas diverted those materials to build a sophisticated and elaborate underground tunnel structure under many residential areas which end with hundreds of tunnels under the border into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping, and terrorizing Israelis. The extent of this tunnel system has amazed foreign observers. (And embarrassed Israeli intelligence and military who, while knowing about some tunnels, had no idea of the extent of the construction.)

This article from the New York Times provides a more balanced perspective including the political gains for which Hamas was aiming in starting this conflict. (Oh, you didn’t know that Hamas started it when they stepped up their missile and rocket attacks to over 100 a day and sent them even beyond southern Israel? You didn’t hear about the three Israeli teenagers abducted and killed by Hamas? You heard about the Palestinian child who was murdered and burned. Did you hear about the arrest and prosecution of the Israelis who perpetrated this crime?)

Hamas Gambled on War as Its Woes Grew in Gaza

GAZA CITY — When war between Israel and Hamas broke out two weeks ago, the Palestinian militant group was so hamstrung, politically, economically and diplomatically, that its leaders appeared to feel they had nothing to lose.

Hamas took what some here call “option zero,” gambling that it could shift the balance with its trump cards: its arms and militants.

Now, this conflict has demonstrated that while Hamas governed over 1.7 million people mired in poverty, its leaders were pouring resources into its military and expanding its ability to fight Israel. If it can turn that improved military prowess into concessions, like opening the border with Egypt, that may boost its standing among the people of Gaza — although at an extraordinarily high cost in deaths and destruction.

“There were low expectations in terms of its performance against the recent round of Israeli incursions. It’s been exceeding all expectations,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar who is currently in Washington. “And it’s likely to come out in a far better position than in the last three years, and maybe the last decade.”

Photo

 

Smoke trails rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel on Tuesday. Credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Hamas had been struggling. The turmoil in the region meant it lost one of its main sponsors, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom it broke with over his brutal fight against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency, and weakened its alliance with Iran. It lost support in Egypt when the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted and replaced with a military-backed government hostile to Hamas.

Unemployment in Gaza is around 50 percent, having risen steeply since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and severely tightened border restrictions.

Hamas appeared powerless to end the near-blockade of its border by Israel and more recently Egypt. It could not even pay its 40,000 government workers their salaries.

The group was so handicapped that it agreed to enter into a pact with its rival party, Fatah, to form a new government. But that seemed only to make matters worse, sowing division within its own ranks, with some in the military wing angry at the concession, while providing none of the economic relief Hamas had hoped for.

Photo

 

A woman, center, was comforted after the missile attack in Yahud. Credit Dan Balilty/Associated Press

When Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel, simmering hostilities, and back and forth strikes, erupted into war.

At first, when Hamas rockets were being intercepted mainly by Israel’s Iron Dome system as Israel hit Gaza with devastating force, the group strove to persuade its supporters that it was having enough impact on Israel to wrest concessions: Its radio stations blared fictional reports about Israeli casualties.

But as it wore on, the conflict revealed that Hamas’s secret tunnel network leading into Israel was far more extensive, and sophisticated, than previously known. It also was able to inflict some pain on Israel, allowing Hamas to declare success even as it drew a devastating and crushing response. Its fighters were able to infiltrate Israel multiple times during an intensive Israeli ground invasion. Its militants have killed at least 27 Israeli soldiers and claim to have captured an Israeli soldier who was reported missing in battle, a potentially key bargaining chip.

And on Tuesday its rockets struck a blow to Israel — psychological and economic — by forcing a halt in international flights. Hamas once again looks strong in the eyes of its supporters, and has shown an increasingly hostile region that it remains a force to be reckoned with.

Behind the Escalations in Gaza

 

Hamas, Mr. Arian said, has demonstrated that “as a movement, it is simply not going anywhere.”

But Hamas’s gains could be short-lived if it does not deliver Gazans a better life. Israel says its severe restrictions on what can be brought into Gaza, such as construction materials, are needed because Hamas poses a serious security threat, and the discovery of the tunnels has served only to validate that concern.

So far, at least 620 Palestinians have died, around 75 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations, including more than 100 children. Gazans did not get a vote when Hamas chose to escalate conflict, nor did they when Hamas selected areas near their homes, schools and mosques to fire rockets from the densely populated strip. At the family house of four boys killed last week by an Israeli strike while playing on a beach, some wailing women cursed Hamas along with Israel.

“It comes at an exceptionally high price,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. “When the bombs stop and the dust settles, people might have different calculations about cost-benefit.”

Photo

 

A home that was destroyed by a Hamas missile near Ben Gurion International Airport in Yahud, near Tel Aviv. Credit Gideon Markowicz/European Pressphoto Agency

It is also unclear whether, when the fighting ends, Hamas will have the same kind of foreign support it has had in the past to rebuild its arsenal or its infrastructure; Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has destroyed hundreds of the tunnels that were used to bring in arms, money and supplies, and has kept the proper border crossing mostly closed. There are also some diplomatic efforts underway seeking to force Hamas to surrender its weapons in exchange for a cease-fire, a demand it is not likely to accept.

Omar Shaban, an economist and political independent, sat in his walled garden in the southern Gaza town of Deir al-Balah as shells crackled nearby and said he fervently hoped, but also doubted, that both Hamas and Israel’s government would reach for a substantive deal.

“This war will end tomorrow or after tomorrow, we will have another cease-fire, we will have another siege and Hamas will continue to run the scene,” he said.

“Gaza is a big problem for everybody, for Hamas, for Fatah, for Israel,” he added, ticking off the list: shortages of water, housing and medicine, a population explosion, growing extremism.

Graphic

The Toll in Gaza and Israel, Day by Day

The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

OPEN Graphic

In exchange for a cease-fire, Hamas is demanding Israel and Egypt open their borders to end the restrictions on the movement of people and goods — the most immediate issue for ordinary Gazans. It is also asking for the release of prisoners — but avoiding the deeper political issues of the conflict.

Mr. Shaban said that Hamas, confronted in recent years with the often conflicting requirements of its roles as an armed resistance group and a governing party, for once was “being clever enough to demand conditions that are in touch with the people. The people are realistic.”

Bassem Naim, a member of Hamas’s political wing and a former health minister in Gaza, acknowledged that relations have soured with Iran and the Arab world, but said that it could survive.

“I can’t deny the difficulty,” he said in a recent interview. “But Hamas was active and operating here inside the country before the Muslim Brotherhood was in the presidential palace” in Egypt.

Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, but an international boycott prevented it from governing. It returned to power in Gaza in 2007 after ousting the Fatah-led government by force.

Hamas overreached, Mr. Shaban said, more than doubling Gaza’s administrative budget to more than $800 million — not including the financing of the militant Izzedine al-Qassam brigades.

But as the recent fight with Israel has revealed, Hamas was importing tons of cement — desperately needed for Gazan schools and houses and construction jobs — to reinforce the tunnels it built to infiltrate Israel and hide its weapons.

“They have different priorities,” Mr. Shaban said of the military wing. “Don’t send rockets while we don’t have milk for our children.”

But, he added, “do we stop struggling with Israel? I believe in peace, a two-state solution, I never liked conflict. But Israel did not leave us anything. What Hamas is doing is partially supported by the people.”

Kareem Fahim contributed reporting from Cairo, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

(This article is copyrighted material distributed under the “Fair Use Doctrine”, permissible because of the small number of readers of this blog. Any reference should include credit and links to the original article in The New York Times.)

Wealthy Hamas Leaders Skim Donations

I found this information originally in a news source friendly to Israel, so I was skeptical. But after several hours of checking many other sites, here it is again on The Inquisitr, a member of a coalition of progressive news outlets including The Huffington Post. And on several other legitimate news venues.

Of course, why would we be surprised. Whenever there is some group claiming to be fighting a protracted war on behalf of the downtrodden, it is common for there to be those who are making money from the war.  In fact, every war seems to add to the wealth of some group; the “Drug War” has enriched the coffers of high-tech military manufacturers as well as police departments; the War on Terror has brought billions to military contractors.

Let me add,  this is not an excuse for the expansion of the Settlements in the West Bank. It is not an excuse for the real ill treatment of innocent civilian Palestinians. It is not an excuse for the “Christian Zionist” funding of the settlements.

Hamas Leaders Worth Millions Of Dollars From Allegedly Skimming Donations And Extortion: Is Anyone Surprised?

KHALED-MESHAAL-GAZA-
Update July 22

The website, ynet news.com has published another article detailing the luxurious five-star lifestyle of the Hamas leadership as exemplified in this photo of Ismail Haniyeh and his entourage traveling by private jet:

Haniyeh private jet

Original Story

While the Palestinian media endeavors to paint the blackest possible picture about conditions in Gaza by referring to such things as population density, unemployment rates, and generally poor living conditions of the population, it studiously avoids talking about the wealth of the Hamas leaders.

And it certainly doesn’t — and dare not — intimate how that wealth was acquired.

Roron Peskin, writing on the Ynetnews website, throws some light on the subject. Firstly, he wonders about the rapid growth in the financial fortunes of former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Prior to Hamas winning the election of 2006, 51-year-old Haniyeh was not regarded as a senior member of the Hamas hierarchy. Now he is a millionaire, which is very surprising considering that he was born to a refugee family in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

By 2010, Haniyeh was able to buy a piece of land in an upmarket beachfront neighborhood for $4 million, according to a report in the Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yusuf. In order to hide what he was doing from the scrutiny of the media and his own voters, he employed the age-old trick of registering the purchase in the name of his son-in-law.

Since then, it has been reported that he has purchased several other properties in Gaza in the names of his children. He should soon be able to amass a sizable property portfolio — he has 13 of them!

Gaza_City

In the past, Haniyeh’s son was arrested by the Egyptians for trying to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing point with millions of dollars in cash — which he claimed was for Hamas.

Gaza sources allege that Haniyeh, together with other members of the Hamas “Mafia,” personally benefited from the 20 percent levy they demanded on all goods smuggled through the hundreds of tunnels which Hamas and other groups had built. In more enlightened societies, that is called “extortion.”

Things really took off for Haniyeh and his cronies when former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted by the Muslim Brotherhood — the sister organization of Hamas.

Then, the Hamas leadership was not afraid to display its ostentatious wealth. There was a property boom for villas costing $1 million and more. A Gazan resident commented wryly about a member of Hamas who he knew had recently bought one of these villas saying, “Two years ago, he couldn’t afford a packet of cigarettes.”

With President Morsi in control, Khairat a-Shater, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — who was also personally wealthy — transferred tens of millions in cash to senior administration officials in Gaza, as well as to some of its military commanders.

Many Hamas members kept their assets outside Gaza, and one of the founder members of the group, Ayman Taha, ensured that they received all their dividends in cash. In 2011, he bought himself a villa in Gaza for $700,000.

Another scam employed by the Hamas leaders for generating cash was to re-sell the highly subsidized fuel received from Egypt for eight times the real price.

Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt claims that Hamas has some 1,200 millionaires among its members, but is unwilling to reveal his sources.

Khaled Mashal, the leader of the so-called “Political Wing” of Hamas, resides in luxury in Doha, Qatar. It was reported by a Jordanian website in 2012 that he controlled $2.6 billion of Hamas funds. Hamas has invested in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Dubai.

According to reports, Mashal did not always separate Hamas money and his own. Companies linked to Mashal in Qatar are registered in the names of his wife and daughter. A considerable amount of real estate development in Qatar, including a 10,000 meter shopping mall, is being undertaken by his companies.

A World Bank report in November 2013 said that the Gaza Strip ranked third in the Arab region in terms of poverty; only Sudan and Yemen were lower. It also stated that the poverty rate in Gaza is 38 percent. Gaza was the 44th poorest out of 144 countries surveyed.

Obviously, Gaza is in need of some hefty wealth re-distribution. However, it’s unlikely that the Hamas leadership will agree.

Without getting into politics, or what is currently taking place in Gaza, it would appear that the actions of the Israeli military has somewhat diminished the value of certain properties belonging to the leadership.

Gaza City after

But they are not worried. They’ll just have to skim off their percentage of the money which be donated by the world for “humanitarian purposes” when the dust has settled — literally!

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1359383/hamas-leaders-worth-millions-of-dollars-from-allegedly-skimming-donations-and-extortion-is-anyone-surprised-update/#7gKeDHuyQBb4MZZ8.99

Hamas got rich as Gaza was plunged into poverty

With multi-million-dollar land deals, luxury villas and black market fuel from Egypt, Gaza’s rulers made billions while the rest of the population struggled with 38-percent poverty and 40-percent unemployment.

 

Another View Based On the Evidence

We “liberals” and “progressives” are rightly appalled at the devastation being brought to Gaza and its people. As the bodies pile up, we want Israel and Hamas to stand down. We want Israel to stop its attacks and we want Hamas to stop sending hundreds of missiles and rockets each day into Israel. We want Hamas to stop using hospitals and schools to store its rockets and missiles, making children and the wounded into human shields.

Israel, as the side which has the most tanks and heavy armament bears the burden of world opinion. Combined with a wide-spread anti-Judaism sentiment world-wide. It also bears the the worst press.  And no, that’s not fair, but it is true.

However, there is another side. Written into the founding documents of Hamas is the statement that they will not be satisfied until all Jews, anywhere in the world, are killed and Israel pushed into the sea. Hamas has been sending hundreds of rockets a day into Israel, and not just since the incursion. This has been going on for years, but was stepped up just before this war.

(On a personal note: I have had a client, an Israeli psychologist, who had been treating children in Sderot [southern Israel] where over 25% of young children suffer from PTSD from the rockets which have kept them running to shelters all their lives. After years of service helping them, he just finally burned out and had to quit.)

This article, which came from Huffington Post, provides another viewpoint that we rarely hear.

The Disgustingly Predictable Death Game of Hamas

Posted: 07/20/2014 8:14 pm EDT

The saddest part is the predictability of it all. The death stench is a deja vu of a deja vu that made you physically ill the first time around. At some point, children always pay the price with their innocent lives. By now, you would think everyone would understand this horrific routine and stop, but somehow it still works. Everyone keeps playing their part.

If you’ve been lucky enough to miss the previous episodes, Hamas started the current conflict by firing at Israel, and has refused all cease-fire attempts, including ones called for humanity relief of the Gazans, because this is exactly what it wants. In the past year or so, Hamas has become secluded: it was rejected by Egypt and its fund sources dwindled, Abbas has become the legitimate leader of the Palestinians in the world, and Hamas was cornered. It needed war and death around it, otherwise it would become irrelevant and lose its place.

The tactic of Hamas is quite simple, since terrorists have come to know how to seep through the cracks in the strength of the free world. Hamas knows that if it will fire hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians IDF would have to retaliate, and from there – the situation will only escalate, while the Palestinian people are no more than pawns in the Hamas deadly game.

Why has Hamas threatened Gazans not to evacuate their homes despite repetitious warnings by the IDF? Because it uses residential neighborhoods as fronts, while underneath it hides headquarters, weapons and a sophisticated network of terror tunnels. If the Gazan human shields live, it is because their presence puts the IDF in a moral dilemma and Hamas is protected. If they die, their bodies become gory photos that are used against Israel as poisonous propaganda so Hamas can gain some legitimacy and continue the game.

As an Israeli, I already know this vicious circle by heart. Personally, I do not like Netanyahu and didn’t vote for him, but in this case – he did everything he could to stay out of a violent war. He couldn’t simply let Hamas bombard Israeli civilians every day and not respond. Netanyahu is far from perfect, but he did not want this bloody conflict. Hamas did.

The hatred towards Israel and towards Jews around the world is horrifying, because this is how the terror of Hamas gets its way. Most people outside of the region do not know the difference between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is a murderous terror regime which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and even worse – cruelly exploits the desperation of its own people, the Palestinians that it’s supposed to lead and protect.
For nine years Hamas has been using the deprived Palestinian society in Gaza in order to raise funds. This money was not invested in building an infrastructure of an independent country, but in the purchase of arms and in an infrastructure of tunnels underneath the city for its terror regime.

The terrible truth is that Hamas thrives on Palestinian misery, while its corrupted top officials have become rich men of means.

Why don’t the Palestinian people say anything against Hamas? Because Hamas is not someone you want to mess with, unless you’re willing to risk being slaughtered. It’s as simple as that. The Palestinians are their captives, prisoners with no hope and no way to win.

On the surface there are only two sides to this conflict, but reality is a bit more complex than what Hamas wants the world to think. The Palestinian people and Hamas are not one and the same. One pays dearly with its children’s lives so the other can keep terror alive once it’s managed to duck the blame.

Even the Arab world has already washed its hands from these endless manipulations, and its support for Hamas is the lowest it’s ever been. If the free world really wants to help heal the Palestinians’ pain, it needs to help free them from Hamas. Israel has been off Gaza land for nine years. Hamas is the one captivating and ruthlessly exploiting them.

 

Where is Religion Going?

I’ve been a part of organized mainstream religion for over 50 years. This article is not wrong–though also not very sophisticated. Religion is a very broad category. It ranges from uneducated, self-ordained preachers who gather 10 or 12 people in a home somewhere and preach a literal reading of the bible, all the way to very well-considered communities like the Unitarian-Universalists, Quakers and Unity. It also includes Sufis, and a variety of forms of Buddhism.

Despite that wide range, the majority of Americans fall into two camps, both claiming the name “Christian”. No matter their official denomination, on the one hand are the evangelicals and fundamentalists, who tend to rigidity, reading the bible as though it had been written in English rather than translated from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, read it as a rule book rather than the metaphoric expression of ancient spirituality. For them, religion is an escape from reality, a magic source of rescue. This is something that they have in common with other cults whether Christian, Buddhist, Pagan or Muslim or Atheist.

(I must say that I do have great sympathy for them. Whether in Brazil where conservative religion is flourishing or in the US bible belt, it is the poor who are set upon by economic forces decreed by the wealthy.)

On the other hand, there are those who use their religion as a locus to search for the purpose of their life, as a community of support and as a community of caring for the world. They eschew doctrine and dogma, but have a sense of a deeper reality within them that connects them with all that is.

While this article is on point about the religion and the ideas of god which are from the first camp. It does not adequately take into account the many who do find themselves in the religions of the second.  We see this division within the denomination of which I am a part, the Presbyterians. At the recent General Assembly, the assembly voted 61% to authorize gay marriages. The Progressives have become a dominant force in the denomination. It is not because they are growing greatly in numbers, though there is some growth, it is because the Conservatives have been diminishing. It is almost beyond debate that the Presbyterians are breaking in schism. We already see many congregations walking away from the denomination. This is true in most denominations.

The local congregation where I go most weekends, is non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal, very progressive. It is flourishing and increasing its membership month-by-month as young, upwardly mobile, well-educated individuals and couples make the choice to join.

My conclusion is that while education and youth are the forces which are behind the overall decline in religion, they are also the forces that are feeding the growth of progressive religion. Progressive Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism are not “Scared” by this trend, but the conservative Evangelical right is and should be. In the conflict between ignorant conservatism and liberal, progressive ideas, Progressivism is winning in secular and religious arenas.

By Amanda Marcotte [2]

Lifelong Monogamy? No Thanks.

From Alternet. Actually originally from Cleis Press.

 

Senior Sex

I’ve had two women say that sex is over at about 50. These were not women in their 50s but in their 40s. That was one common trait. The second was that both of them were from Spanish-speaking Central American countries. Because of this, and in their honor, I am also using Google’s translator to translate this story into Spanish. It will be a less than perfect translation,  but worth reading.

This was taken from Alternet.

 

By Walker Thornton [2]

Putrifying Police Presence

From the mind of Jim Hightower and published on Alternet.

 

Police Militarization and It’s Consequences

The militarization of police forces all over the US is taking a toll on our civil society. Justified in part by the war on drugs, in part by the war on terror, in part by the sales figures of the suppliers, it is having terrible effects on individuals–as with this story–and on the democracy we claim for ourselves.

The article is from Salon.com

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son (UPDATE)

That’s right: Officers threw a flashbang grenade in my son’s crib — and left a hole in his chest. It gets worse

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son (UPDATE)Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh(Credit: The Phonesavanh Family)

After our house burned down in Wisconsin a few months ago, my husband and I packed our four young kids and all our belongings into a gold minivan and drove to my sister-in-law’s place, just outside of Atlanta. On the back windshield, we pasted six stick figures: a dad, a mom, three young girls, and one baby boy.

That minivan was sitting in the front driveway of my sister-in-law’s place the night a SWAT team broke in, looking for a small amount of drugs they thought my husband’s nephew had. Some of my kids’ toys were in the front yard, but the officers claimed they had no way of knowing children might be present. Our whole family was sleeping in the same room, one bed for us, one for the girls, and a crib.

After the SWAT team broke down the door, they threw a flashbang grenade inside. It landed in my son’s crib.

Flashbang grenades were created for soldiers to use during battle. When they explode, the noise is so loud and the flash is so bright that anyone close by is temporarily blinded and deafened. It’s been three weeks since the flashbang exploded next to my sleeping baby, and he’s still covered in burns.

There’s still a hole in his chest that exposes his ribs. At least that’s what I’ve been told; I’m afraid to look.

My husband’s nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn’t there. He doesn’t even live in that house. After breaking down the door, throwing my husband to the ground, and screaming at my children, the officers – armed with M16s – filed through the house like they were playing war. They searched for drugs and never found any.

I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.

For the last three weeks, my husband and I have been sleeping at the hospital. We tell our son that we love him and we’ll never leave him behind. His car seat is still in the minivan, right where it’s always been, and we whisper to him that soon we’ll be taking him home with us.



Every morning, I have to face the reality that my son is fighting for his life. It’s not clear whether he’ll live or die. All of this to find a small amount of drugs?

The only silver lining I can possibly see is that my baby Bou Bou’s story might make us angry enough that we stop accepting brutal SWAT raids as a normal way to fight the “war on drugs.” I know that this has happened to other families, here in Georgia and across the country. I know that SWAT teams are breaking into homes in the middle of the night, more often than not just to serve search warrants in drug cases. I know that too many local cops have stockpiled weapons that were made for soldiers to take to war. And as is usually the case with aggressive policing, I know that people of color and poor people are more likely to be targeted.  I know these things because of the American Civil Liberties Union’s new report, and because I’m working with them to push for restraints on the use of SWAT.

A few nights ago, my 8-year-old woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “No, don’t kill him! You’re hurting my brother! Don’t kill him.” How can I ever make that go away? I used to tell my kids that if they were ever in trouble, they should go to the police for help. Now my kids don’t want to go to sleep at night because they’re afraid the cops will kill them or their family. It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them.

I pray every minute that I’ll get to hear my son’s laugh again, that I’ll get to watch him eat French fries or hear him sing his favorite song from “Frozen.” I’d give anything to watch him chase after his sisters again. I want justice for my baby, and that means making sure no other family ever has to feel this horrible pain.

Update: As of the afternoon of 6/24/2014, Baby Bou Bou has been taken out of the medically induced coma and transferred to a new hospital to begin rehabilitation. The hole in his chest has yet to heal, and doctors are still not able to fully assess lasting brain damage.

Alecia Phonesavanh is the mother of Bounkham Phonesavanh, nicknamed “Baby Bou Bou.” She and her family live in Atlanta. For more information about Bou Bou, go to www.justiceforbabyboubou.com.

For Profit Hospice

I hesitated to republish this article for fear of tainting some wonderful hospice providers. Yet the “for profiting” of many services from prisons to schools has demonstrated  consistent decline in quality as companies provide fewer services, over-bill for those they do provide, hire unqualified staff because they are available at lower wages.  All this in service of a bigger bottom-line.

Again, there are many decent non-profit hospices which provide a wonderful service. Here in Marin we have Hospice By the Bay, for example. But you will notice that in the SF Bay area, the same Vitas Hospice written about in this article operates several facilities whose sole purpose is to extract the most money from Medicare while providing the least service.

This long article, from Huffington Post, is a major research by several people, with many facts and figures, graphs and photos. I will not publish the whole article, but hope that you will follow the link to read the rest. It is enlightening.

How Dying Became A Multibillion-Dollar Industry

Development and data reporting by Shane Shifflett.
Additional reporting by Chris Kirkham.
Design by Hilary Fung.

Evelyn Maples’ last day as a hospice patient wasn’t anything like her family imagined when the nurse from Vitas Healthcare first pitched the service two months before.

On the morning of Dec. 31, 2011, Maples’ daughter, Kathleen Spry, found her mom unconscious and gasping for breath, with her eyes rolled back in her head. Maples was at a Vitas inpatient facility on Merritt Island, 30 miles from the home the two women shared on Florida’s east coast. No one from Vitas had called to warn the family that the woman everyone called “granny” was in sharp decline, Spry said. No one from Vitas had sought treatment for the blood infection that had made her severely ill, despite the family’s standing request that she receive life-saving care in the event of a crisis.

Key Findings

The U.S. hospice industry has quadrupled in size since 2000. Nearly half of all Medicare patients who die now do so as a hospice patient — twice as many as in 2000, government data shows.

 
Since 2006, the U.S. government has accused nearly every major for-profit hospice company of billing fraud.

 
Hospices bill by the day, and stays at for-profits are substantially longer than at nonprofits (105 days versus 69 days).

 
In 2009, for-profit hospices charged Medicare 29 percent more per patient than nonprofits, according to the inspector general for the health service.

 
The average hospice stay has increased dramatically since 2000, regardless of diagnosis, a HuffPost analysis of Medicare data found. This has led to a surge in expenditures: $15 billion in federal dollars in 2013.

 
Despite widespread allegations of fraud and abuse, regulators have consistently rated hospice as a lower priority for inspection than traditional health facilities like hospitals.

 
The average U.S. hospice has not undergone a full inspection in more than 4.5 years, a HuffPost analysis of Medicare data found. HuffPost found 866 hospices that haven’t been inspected in more than 6 years. Nursing home inspections, by contrast, are required by federal law at least every 15 months.

 
Over a recent three-year span, 55 percent of all U.S. hospices were cited for a violation, many care-related, HuffPost found. HuffPost found 20 providers that were cited for more than 70 violations each during that time.

 

Frantic and near tears, Spry called her son, David Dunn, who demanded an ambulance. Maples was taken to a nearby hospital, where she recovered from the infection. But her fragile health was permanently compromised, her family claims. She died a month later.

Hospices exist to provide comfort to people who doctors determine are at the end of their lives, with six months or less to live. The paramount objective, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a trade association, is to make patients comfortable, with a focus “on enhancing the quality of remaining life.”

But Maples’ family claims she never belonged on hospice, and that she was recruited for the purpose of inflating the company’s Medicare billings.

In a complaint letter to the Florida attorney general, Dunn alleges the company enrolled his grandmother “for the sake of billing the government for payment for their own financial gain.” The company misled the family about the purpose of hospice — emphasizing benefits such as at-home nursing care and free medications, without explaining that hospices don’t provide curative treatments, according to Dunn. Once enrolled, Dunn alleges, Vitas gave Maples a powerful cocktail of drugs against the family’s wishes, and repeatedly bumped her up to the most intrusive and expensive levels of care.

The final straw was the apparent confusion over Maples’ “full code” status. It’s a designation rarely seen in hospice, because it means the family wants the kind of life-saving treatment that hospices don’t provide.

When Dunn tried to cancel the service, he was ignored, he says.

“It’s like she was a prisoner in their system.”

David Dunn, Maples’ Grandson

“Once she was on hospice, they did whatever the hell they wanted to do,” Dunn said in an interview. “It’s like she was a prisoner in their system.”

According to Dunn, Vitas’ actions hastened Maples’ death.

Allegations like those leveled by Maples’ family against Vitas have become increasingly common over the past decade as the hospice industry has undergone a titanic shift. What once was a collection of mostly small, religious-affiliated nonprofits is now a booming, $17 billion industry dominated by national chains.

These large companies have proved tremendously effective at expanding hospice’s reach. More than 1 million people die each year while receiving hospice services in the U.S., according to the major hospice trade association. Nearly half of all Medicare patients who die now do so as a hospice patient — twice as many as in 2000, government data shows.

(Read the rest at Huffington Post.)

The DEA is based on the same principle that prohibition was. And it has worked just as well. It has prevented millions from choosing a less dangerous drug than alcohol or tobacco; denied the medical community the use of substances that could have helped millions of sufferers; funneled billions of dollars into the hands of gun manufacturers and producers of surveillance and other oppression paraphernalia.

By now we are all aware that marijuana can contribute to healing and reduction of suffering for many people, victims of various illnesses. But several university medical schools, after negotiating a labyrinth of bureaucratic and idiotic opposition have been able to do research into the use of psilocin and psilocybin, magic mushrooms, demonstrating their use in combating anxiety and depression better than the commercial anti-depressants. (My updated spell-check dictionary marked those two words as errors, but did not contain any correct entry.)

Here is an important article from Alternet. Click the headline/link to go to the original article for sources, citations and to sign up to receive Alternet.


 

 

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