Category Archives: American Thought

Iran Has Biden’s Nuclear Number

Biden’s team has even less backbone than Obama’s, which was spineless. After all the Trump accomplished in terms of promoting the US agenda (and Trump’s team wasn’t perfect, I know). mrossol

WSJ  11/29/2021  by the Editorial Board

The Iran nuclear talks resume on Monday in Austria, and pessimism seems to be the order of the day. Iran refuses to make concessions, while the U.S. is signaling that its patience may be limited. But don’t underestimate the Biden Administration’s desire for a deal—any deal.

 

For months the U.S. has been all but begging Iran to return to the table, though the U.S. won’t literally even be at the table in Vienna. Iran refuses to talk to the U.S. directly, so American negotiators must work through European intermediaries. The U.S. seems undeterred by this intentional humiliation.

Since Iran walked away from talks earlier this year, Tehran has elevated an even more hardline president and accelerated its enrichment of nuclear fuel. Iran has also continued to restrict international inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites. Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported last week that talks about verification have “proved inconclusive”—diplomatic-speak for they failed.

Uranium particles found at three locations that Iran hasn’t declared to the agency are cause for alarm. Mr. Grossi said this “is a clear indication that nuclear material and/or equipment contaminated by nuclear material has been present at these locations.” The U.S. and its European allies have declined to censure Iran for refusing to cooperate.

 

They’re hoping the talks will yield concessions, perhaps with the inducement of more U.S. sanctions relief. Iranian diplomats are demanding that any deal will remain in force beyond President Biden’s tenure. And they won’t commit to anything beyond a return to the 2015 deal struck by President Obama. That deal allowed Iran sufficient leeway to advance on the path to a weapon with limited inspections, which is why Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

The latest reports are that the U.S. has floated the idea of an interim accord that would give more time to negotiate a larger deal. The interim accord would offer sanctions relief to Iran in return for some restraint on Iranian enrichment on nuclear fuel. This sounds like what Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies calls a “less for more” deal—that is, less restraint on Iran than in the 2015 deal in return for more sanctions relief.

The signs are that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and new President Ebrahim Raisi have no intention of slowing their march to the brink of a bomb. They may offer token concessions for sanctions relief, but they will continue to hide their nuclear development from inspectors. China is now openly buying Iranian oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions, and the U.S. doesn’t seem to care.

Tehran is also escalating support for terror attacks in the region. U.S. officials say Iran was responsible for a drone attack on a U.S. base in Syria last month, and Iraqi officials believe an Iran-backed militia was behind the attempt to kill Iraq’s prime minister this month.

All of which suggests that all of Team Biden’s entreaties have merely made Iran more determined to demand a deal that is even weaker than Mr. Obama’s. Such an agreement will reassure no one beyond the spreaders of revolution in Tehran.

Appeared in the November 29, 2021, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-has-biden-nuclear-number-antony-blinken-robert-malley-jake-sullivan-bomb-jcpoa-deal-11636487314?mod=hp_opin_pos_5#cxrecs_s

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A California Attempt to Repair the Crumbling Pillar of U.S. Education

The “teacher’s unions” have probably caused more damage to our country than about anything I can think of. The negative, life-long, impact the the poor educational system has had on America’s youth is off the chart. But I guess, 80 million Americans keep voting them in?? mrossol

WSJ 11/28/2021, by Andy Kessler

Public-school education has gone from bad to worse. In the Chicago Public Schools, only 26% of 11th-graders were at grade level in reading and math in 2019. Remarkably, the school system had a record-high graduation rate of nearly 84% in 2021. Those students must have had strong senior years! This is why over half of first-year community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial course in reading or math. In the U.S., 43 million adults are illiterate. This is a disgrace.

 

In pre-pandemic California, only 32% of fourth-graders were at or above proficient for their grade in reading. Only 19% of eighth-grade Hispanics read at grade level, and only 10% of eighth-grade blacks did. Those who find disparate impact everywhere should be screaming from the rooftops that public education is racist. Instead, silence.

Despite these poor results, spending per student goes up each year. New York spent $25,139 per student in fiscal 2019. In California, it’s over $20,000. So why haven’t outcomes improved? Parents know why. Bad teachers don’t get fired. Because of tenure, even some capable teachers mail it in. Bad school districts don’t get fixed. Caps on charter schools, even those with proven records, limit their ability to put pressure on public schools. Teachers unions are all-powerful.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Welch is trying to improve California’s education system. He tells me we need “accountability of quality education.” You may recall the 2014 Vergara v. California decision, a suit Mr. Welch and others funded. Filed on behalf of nine public-school students, the ruling found that five California statutes related to teacher tenure, firing bad teachers and layoff policy violated the state’s Constitution. In his ruling, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu noted, “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

No matter. The California Court of Appeal reversed Vergara in 2016 stating: “With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes.” In the court’s view, the California Constitution guarantees merely a free public education.

So Mr. Welch was back where he started, with, he says, an “educational system that doesn’t prioritize its actions to educate the children to a degree necessary to function in our society.” Bad teachers are constitutionally protected.

But with his background as a logically thinking Cornell-educated engineer, he set out to prove bad teaching was “a constitutional violation.” In the Democrat-controlled California Legislature, that was going to be a tough sell. Teachers were the fourth-largest campaign contributors to California’s legislative races in 2020 behind energy, prison guards and healthcare. “The Legislature won’t listen to the people,” Mr. Welch grumbles.

Fortunately, Californians can change their constitution through ballot initiatives. And voilà, a group named Kids First including Mr. Welch filed the Constitutional Right to a High-Quality Public Education Act. Here’s the key provision: “And law, regulation, or policy, or any official action affecting students generally, which does not put the interest of the students first, shall be deemed to deny this right.”

Critics will focus on the lack of a definition for “high-quality public education.” Mr. Welch explains, “The metric for existing or any future legislation, and every school board decision, is ‘Does it make students better or worse?’ ” Pretty simple, yet I suspect it would be deadly effective. This would, by necessity, launch many lawsuits to challenge the status quo of tenure, of the inability to fire bad teachers and of everything else. It would become the guiding principle for any new legislation: Does it put kids first? “The corollary to this right is the existence of a high-quality teaching profession,” Mr. Welch says.

And then there is this provision: “The remedies for this right shall not include new mandates for taxes or spending.” It’s smart for two reasons. It will help the initiative pass, and history has shown that throwing money at the problem doesn’t work.

The cost? Around $8 a signature—they need a million to get on the ballot—plus the cost of the inevitable TV-ad battle with the California Teachers Association and its 310,000 members. That could get expensive.

I asked Mr. Welch why he wants to spend his time and hard-earned capital on this. “What we’re doing to our kids is horrific,” he says. “I can’t think of a greater loss of potential than the poor quality of education of our children. And all the other societal problems that come with it. The prison system uses educational outcomes—fourth-grade reading levels—to determine what size correctional facilities they’ll need.” Scary.

I think a successful Kids First ballot initiative would do more for “equity” than any government program. “The best way in making a productive functioning society is making sure everyone lives up to their potential,” Mr. Welch says. “Education is one of the basic pillars of American democracy.” That pillar is crumbling.

Write to kessler@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-crumbling-pillar-of-education-california-dave-welch-vergara-school-choice-charter-11638115242?mod=hp_opin_pos_2#cxrecs_s

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Brazen Shoplifting and Traumatized Staff Impacting Company Profits

So Dems don’t want to prosecute shoplifting.. Hmm. mrossol

The Epoch Times, 11/24/2021

November 24, 2021 Updated: November 24, 2021
biggersmaller

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said Tuesday that theft is a growing problem in the company’s stores, and the aggressive behavior displayed by shoplifters is “traumatizing” staff members, which has led to retention issues in the otherwise tight labor market.

Barry told Wall Street analysts on a conference call to discuss earnings that criminals often carry in weapons like guns or crowbars and threaten employees and customers. Consumer electronics have reported an increase in organized crime, according to the CEO.

The company has begun locking up products and hiring more security when possible. The safety of individuals will be prioritized over products, said the CEO. Locking up creates a delay in the customer experience as an employee is required to open up an enclosure each time for the customer.

“This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable,” Barry said on the call. “We are doing everything we can to try to create [an] as-safe-as-possible environment.”

A common tactic is a loosely-formed gang of criminals who burst into the store and make off with an entire shelf’s worth of high-value goods, which they then resell. Barry said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that the crime surge has begun to hit the company’s bottom line and its ability to retain staff.

 

Best Buy has reported fourth-quarterly earnings below expectations although shares have gained nearly 40 percent this year despite the supply chain crisis and resulting shortages.

It’s not just Best Buy that has been affected. Other retailers like CVS Health, Neiman Marcus, Kroger, and Walgreens are also facing similar issues, with Walgreens recently closing down five stores in San Francisco because of aggressive shoplifting.

Barry mentioned that San Francisco and other parts of California were “hot spots” for criminal activity but there were problematic areas in other parts of the country as well.

Organized Shoplifting

The Best Buy CEO’s comments come days after a dramatic criminal attack on a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek, California. On Saturday, a gang of 80 thugs pulled up to the store, blockaded the entry, and ransacked the luxury store. Employees were assaulted in the raid, which was over within a minute.

Then there was another incident with a Nordstrom store in The Grove retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles where a group of thieves smashed windows, triggering a police pursuit. Three people have been taken into custody.

The thefts are reportedly part of organized crime networks that recruit mostly young men for $500 to $1,000 to steal high-value store merchandise. The goods are then shipped to other parts of the country or resold online. The number of crimes has seen an increase during the holiday season, according to law enforcement officials.

“Crew bosses organize them, they’ll give him the crowbars, and in some cases even rent them cars, or provide them with escape routes or a list of products to actually go out and steal. It looks very chaotic but it’s actually very well organized,” Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, said to ABC News.

Retail security guards are not equipped to handle such aggressive criminal behavior. They’re not trained to subdue suspects or pursue them, but instead, to simply “observe and report,” according to mall security expert David Levenberg.

“The value of the merchandise is not worth somebody being injured or killed,” he told ABC News.

Levenberg added that cities with progressive prosecutors like Los Angeles and San Francisco are the hardest hit. “The consequences are minimal and the profits are substantial,” said Levenberg.

Many do not consider the recent spate of thefts in places like San Francisco as “shoplifting” because the term denotes an effort to conceal the crime.

One of the reasons behind this increase in criminal behavior is that, according to California state law, stealing merchandise worth $950 or less is just a misdemeanor, which means police won’t bother to go after the criminals. In cases when they do, and capture the perpetrator, prosecutors will let it go.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a new law in which he made shoplifting, even below $950, a crime but only when an organized syndicate is behind it and they plan to resell the stolen goods.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/

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New Federal Pandemic Policy Could Be Based on Personalized Medicine

The Epoch Times,  11/23/2021  by  Joel S. Hirschhorn

Sometimes there’s a simple, commonsense way to refine public policy. Surely there’s need for a better public health policy to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to let medical evidence overcome stubbornness by public health agencies and disagreements among physicians. It’s time to give Americans medical choice without sacrificing public health.

Here I use long-used personalized medicine principles to define a two-part pandemic policy that most Americans can understand and support, and that could bring together parts of society in conflict with each other over COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Part One: Individuals decide either on their own or with the advice of their personal physician to be vaccinated for COVID-19. And to accept what government officials have decided are the best COVID-19 medical solutions.

Part Two: Individuals choose a preferred medical professional who, on the basis of their education, training, experience, and successful clinical results, offers alternatives to vaccination and government promoted medical solutions for outpatients and inpatients. The medical professional uses the patient’s medical history, biologic and genetic conditions, and unique personal circumstances to reach the best personalized medical solution.

This flexible policy has the potential to bridge the ugly gap between pro-vaccine and anti-mandate camps.

In terms of medical science, this two-part policy recognizes that there’s a huge array of reactions to both SARS-CoV-2 infections and vaccines based on diverse biology, genetics, and medical conditions of individuals. Missing from current government policy is recognition of fundamental differences among people.

Medical history tells us the wisdom of making the medicine fit the person. This is the cornerstone of personalized or individualized medicine. Good physicians also find the combination of drugs to best address an illness or disease that’s best for the individual patient.

These medical truths contrast with mass use of off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all drugs and vaccines.

The medical literature and government databases tell us that there are myriad different responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and to COVID-19 vaccines. The differences are indisputable and extreme. Most people who get infected either have no symptoms or only minor ones. Others get terribly ill, require hospitalization, and sometimes die.

Many who get vaccine shots feel a slight discomfort for a few hours or days; others are falling ill with a broad range of blood and neurological problems and sometimes die despite having been very healthy.

When people are profoundly different in their biological makeup, when reactions to SARS-CoV-2 infection are remarkably different, and when a broad range of adverse vaccine impacts are acknowledged, then one thing is crystal clear.

There can’t be one pandemic “solution” pushed by the government that makes common sense. By not respecting all the differences, the inevitable result is what we’re seeing in our society: division, conflicts, and anger among millions of people who want more choice, more medical freedom.

The two-part policy recommended here would not deny use of COVID-19 vaccines for those who want the shot. But it would see the truth that vaccine mandates for the entire population are not consistent with medical science and the diversity among people. Mandates rub so many people the wrong way because they eliminate sensible choice. They replace medical freedom with medical tyranny.

Interestingly, in the first months of the pandemic there was considerable thinking in the medical and public health community that personalized medicine should be pursued. That soon gave way to vaccine fixation, not just for a small, high-risk part of the population but for everyone.

Here are examples of some early interest in personalized medicine for addressing the pandemic:

The Mayo Center for Individualized Medicine said there was an opportunity for the COVID-19 response.  Their document detailed a number of initiatives Mayo was pursuing to address the pandemic by obtaining medical data that could lead to personalized pandemic solutions. This is what Mayo wanted to do:

“When COVID-19 spread across the U.S. in March 2020, the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine urgently responded to accelerate research, development, translation and implementation of novel tests, lifesaving treatments and diagnostics. Now, collaborative teams of scientists are continuing to unravel the mysteries of the novel virus, including using advanced genetic sequencing technologies to investigate how the virus can infiltrate a person’s immune system and wreak havoc on organs, tissue and blood vessels, leaving some patients with long-term effects.”

A September 2020 article had the intriguing title “How to use precision medicine to personalize COVID-19 treatment according to the patient’s genes.”  Here are excerpts:

“In recent years, a gene-centric approach to precision medicine has been promoted as the future of medicine. … But the imagined future did not include COVID-19. In the rush to find a COVID-19 vaccine and effective therapies, precision medicine has been insignificant. Why is this? … If precision medicine is the future of medicine, then its application to pandemics generally, and COVID-19 in particular, may yet prove to be highly significant. But its role so far has been limited.”

The specialty germane to a personalized pandemic strategy is called pharmacogenomics. It’s the study of the role of the genome in drug response. It combines pharmacology and genomics to discover how the genetic makeup of an individual affects their response to drugs, including vaccines. The central goal is to develop rational means to optimize drug therapy, including vaccination, with respect to the patients’ genotype, to ensure maximum efficiency with minimal adverse effects.

By using pharmacogenomics, the goal is that pharmaceutical drug treatments, including vaccination, can replace or at least complement what is dubbed as the “one-drug-fits-all” approach.

An August 2020 journal article was titled “Pharmacogenomics of COVID-19 therapies.” Here are its optimistic views and findings:

“Pharmacogenomics may allow individualization of these drugs thereby improving efficacy and safety. … Pharmacogenomics may help clinicians to choose proper first-line agents and initial dosing that would be most likely [to] achieve adequate drug exposure among critically ill patients; those who cannot afford a failure of ineffective therapy. It is also important to minimize the risks of toxicity because COVID-19 particularly affects those with comorbidities on other drug therapies.”

A July 2020 NPR show was titled “Research On Personalized Medicine May Help COVID-19 Treatments.” This was deemed newsworthy:

“The nationwide All of Us Research Program aims to tailor medical treatments of all kinds, including treatments that may be developed for the new coronavirus. So far, more than 271,000 people nationwide have signed up to share data with the initiative. …

Said Dr. Elizabeth Burnside, co-principal investigator of All of Us at UW-Madison, and a UW Health physician, ‘This focused initiative could be especially important for members of communities that are often underrepresented in health research and who may question the overall and personal benefit of research participation.’”

In sum, there was legitimate medical interest early in the pandemic to use personalized medicine. It accepts the reality that many people want to use alternatives to vaccines, such as generic medicines widely used in other countries to treat and prevent COVID-19 disease. Many oppose vaccine mandates, not necessarily COVID-19 vaccines. Now is the time for the two-part strategy given here to be the basis for legislation by Congress.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn, author of “Pandemic Blunder” and many articles and podcasts on the pandemic, worked on health issues for decades. As a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he directed a medical research program between the colleges of engineering and medicine. As a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association, he directed major studies on health-related subjects; he testified at over 50 U.S. Senate and House hearings and authored hundreds of articles and op-ed articles in major newspapers. He has served as an executive volunteer at a major hospital for more than 10 years. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and America’s Frontline Doctors.

 https://www.theepochtimes.com/new-federal-pandemic-policy-could-be-based-on-personalized-medicine_4111753.html?utm_source=ai_recommender&utm_medium=a_bottom_above_etv

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