Putting America’s security at risk: the gutting of the U.S. Department of State

department-of-state-dos-emblem-over-us-flag-serge-averbukh

The U.S. Department of State, the front line in America’s foreign policy, is under seige.

The number of vacancies and people in “Acting” positions under the Obama and Trump administrations have grown so great that the country’s security is at risk.

“Chronic vacancies increase Foreign Service staff workloads, raise stress, and lower morale,” said a March 9, 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. “Without identifying and addressing persistent vacancies, the work and security of overseas personnel suffer.”

Most Americans likely know that the Secretary of State, currently Mike Pompeo, sits at the top of the State Department, but few probably know of the extensive network of dedicated senior people who serve under him.

Senior officials at the top include the Deputy Secretary, John J. Sullivan, who serves as the principal deputy and adviser to the Secretary of State. There’s also the:

  • Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources: Vacant
  • Under Secretary for Political Affairs: David Hale
  • Under Secretary for Management: Vacant
  • Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (Acting): Heather Nauert
  • Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security: Andrea L. Thompson
  • Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights: Vacant
  • Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment: (Acting): Manisha Singh
  • Counselor of the Department: T. Ulrich Brechbuhl

As the above list shows, more than two years into Donald Trump’s term as president, three of the nine senior positions are Vacant and two are Acting.

Then there are 104 Assistant Secretaries and other Senior Officials. Of those positions, 31 (30%) are vacant, according to the Department of State’s website. The extensive vacancies include positions handling:

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • Civil Society and Emerging democracies
  • Closure of Guantanamo
  • Cyber Issues
  • Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  • Global Criminal Justice
  • Global Food Security
  • Global Women’s Issues
  • International Disability Rights
  • International Labor Affairs
  • Iran Nuclear Implementation
  • Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
  • Muslim Communities
  • North Korean Human Rights Issues
  • Nuclear Nonproliferation
  • Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Organization of Islamic Cooperation
  • TheQuadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR):
  • Sanctions Policy
  • Tibetan Issues
  • Sudan and South Sudan
  • Human Rights of LGBTI Persons
  • Environment and Water Resources
  • Religion and Global Affairs
  • Somalia
  • The Arctic
  • Threat Reduction Programs
  • UN Human Rights Council

The Department of State also staffs Foreign Service employees to more than 270 embassies and consulates around the world to maintain and advance U.S. foreign policy and economic interests.

USembassyLondon

The American Embassy in London

“State’s data…show persistent Foreign Service vacancies at overseas posts with State’s highest foreign policy priorities and in regions with security risks that could threaten U.S. foreign policy interests,” the GAO report said.

One area with high vacancies is Ambassadioial posts. The appalling number of countries where the U.S. Ambassador position is vacant, according to the Department of State, include:

  • Republic of Albania
  • Commonwealth of the Bahamas
  • Republic of Balarus
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Republic of Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • The Republic of Cote D’ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • The Gabonese Republic
  • Georgia
  • Honduras
  • Iceland
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • The Republic of Kiribati
  • Libya
  • Malta
  • The Republic of North Macedonia
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Sweden
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Tonga
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Mexico
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela
  • Representative of the United
  • Representative of the United States of America to the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations
  • Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
  • S. Representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • United States of America Representative to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe
  • United States of America Representative to the UN Human Rights Council
  • United States of America Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
  • United States of America Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador
  • Representative
  • of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador
  • Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations.

According to the GAO report, staff at the State Department’s overseas posts told GAO investigators  that vacancies increase workloads, contributing to low morale and higher stress for Foreign Service staff and that vacancies in Political and Economic positions—20 percent and 16 percent, respectively—limit the reporting on political and economic issues that posts are able to provide to State headquarters.

Embassy and consulate officials also said vacancies in specialist positions may heighten security risks at overseas posts and disrupt post operations. For example, some overseas post staff said that vacancies in Information Management positions had increased the vulnerability of posts’ computer networks to potential cybersecurity attacks and other malicious threats.

The GAO report noted that the staffing problems at the Department of State are not unique to the Trump era. There have been persistent Foreign Service vacancies at overseas posts since 2008. As of March 2018, 13 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were vacant, similar to the percentages for 2008 and 2012, when 14 percent of these positions were vacant.

Of particular concern, GAO said, is that data also show persistent Foreign Service vacancies at overseas posts with State’s highest foreign policy priorities and in regions with security risks that could threaten U.S. foreign policy interests.

After the first Congress established a Department of Foreign Affairs in 1789, John Jay, originally appointed as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation, continued in the post until February 1790. Thomas Jefferson was nominated by President George Washington to be the nation’s first U.S. Secretary of State. He began his work on March 22, 1790.

Even since then, the Department of State has had a long and storied history. If it is to maintain its prominent role in American foreign policy, the hollowing out is has endured must end and its exceptional workforce must be restored.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulating a newly sworn in Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State,

 

 

 

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Ripoff Central: Fred Meyer is now as bad as a payday lender

Have poor credit? Not to worry. Some Portland-area retailers will help you get what you want by leasing it. And they’ll do it with a smile, while setting you up for a potentially exorbitant bill.

It’s a blatant contradiction of some businesses’ efforts to portray themselves as socially conscious community partners. “Supporting the communities we work in is central to how we do business at Freddy’s,” says Fred Meyer. “Being a trusted partner in our communities is a top priority.,” says Kroger, Fred Meyer’s parent company.

But, contrary to such platitudes, Fred Meyer Jewelers and other retailers, including BigLots!, Aaron’s, Cricket Wireless, Best Buy, Overstock.com, and Kay Jewelers trap customers with the leasing program.

The program is offered by Progressive Leasing, which is owned by Aaron’s Inc. (NYSE:AAN). Aaron’s describes itself as “the leading lease-to-own specialty retailer that offers flexible payment options for credit-challenged individuals.”  Aaron’s acquired Progressive in 2014, when it was known as Progressive Finance Holdings, LLC.

progressive-leasing-banner

Progressive Leasing says it offers: easy regular payments; a 12 month maximum lease program; a 90 day payment option; and an early buyout after 90 days. Applying for a lease plan is as “easy as one, two three,” says Progressive. “Start your lease and take home what you need today for a small up front cost.”

leaseFreds

But sign up and you could be in big trouble.

A Fred Meyer Jewelers salesperson in the Tigard store on SW Pacific Hwy explained to me how the program works.

Let’s say you want to get a $500 bracelet for your girlfriend. But you have poor or no credit and can’t qualify for one of Fred Meyer Jewelers’ regular credit cards. The salesperson may then offer you the lease option. “You will not own the leased merchandise or acquire ownership rights unless you make payments for the full term of the lease or exercise an early purchase option,” says Fred Meyer Jewelers’ website.

Under the lease option, you would have to make a $79 payment and then pay off the $500 with twice-a-month payments over 12 months. Sounds simple enough. But there’s a catch. If you don’t pay off the entire balance within 90 days, you will owe double the total amount you financed. That’s right double.

In other words, if you don’t pay off the total balance on the $500 bracelet within 90 days, but stick with a 12-month plan, you will have paid $1079 for that bracelet when you’re done. And the extra cost won’t be considered  interest because the program technically isn’t offering loans.

What’s particularly egregious is that customers may not be made aware of the 90-day penalty until long after they have completed their purchase. Fred Meyer Jewelers’ website says:

“PROGRESSIVE LEASING OFFERS:

  • Easy Regular Payments
  • 12 month maximum lease program
  • 90 day payment option available
  • Early buyout after 90 days”

But it doesn’t explain that if you don’t pay off the balance in 90 days the cost of the item doubles. So the people who can probably least afford it get screwed.

Based on online reviews by Progressive Leasing’s customers, an awful lot of them have been blindsided by misleading, incomplete or false information from a retailer or Progressive:

“Leasing Furniture – WOW!!! WHAT A SCAM!!!,” wrote one online reviewer. “I bought a couch on sale for $600 and two $100 bar stools. They are taking $69 out of my account bimonthly. After 5 months I called to see what my balance was. $972!!! More than the furniture was to begin with. I WILL NEVER GO IN THERE AGAIN.”

“I purchased a mattress set from the Mattress Firm,” another online reviewer wrote. ” I was told they used Progressive Leasing. However I was never informed about the interest rate. The total cost was $800. But after making 6 payments of $157 they told me that I still owed $1200…DO NOT BORROW FROM THEM!”

“This company elaborate a contracts to trap a consumer in high interest % – 100% in 12 months loan,’ wrote another reviewer. “This is Legal????”

Fred Meyer Jewelers’ promotion of the leasing option says “It’s a beautiful thing.” Clearly, that’s not always the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just another drug dealer: Universal Men’s Clinic and the “low T” testosterone hustle

“You can dress up greed, but you can’t stop the stench.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

Predatory medical hucksters have always been with us.

During the Roaring Twenties and the depression, John Romulus Brinkley became famous and rich performing procedures in which, for $750 (about $11,000 in current value) he grafted goat testicles into men’s bodies, purportedly to cure sexual dysfunction, impotence, and infertility.

Brinkley 1

The operating room of John Romulus Brinkley, the “goat gland doctor”.

Brinkley’s self-promotion was legendary. He commissioned a biography about himself, The Life of a Man, and there was even a 2016 documentary made about him, Nuts!, based on the biography.

Predictably, the book said that for Brinkley “…money is not an aim, or an end in itself, but a means of enlarging the central idea of his life-work.”

Investigators eventually discovered that Brinkley had no formal medical training and his medical credentials were meaningless documents from a “diploma mill”.  The legitimate medical community also thoroughly discredited his work.

Medical hucksterism lives on

But Brinkley’s success as a medical huckster promoting sexual vitality lives on.  Too many men persist in seeking rejuvenation through miracle devices, creams, pills and serums and hustlers with chutzpah stand ready to exploit them.

Today, the Internet is crowded with advertisements for products that claim they will maintain or restore youth and sexual performance.

Mid adult male consumer checking information on mobile phone while holding product in pharmacy

One controversial anti-aging idea currently being promoted is transfusions of blood plasma from young people (so-called “young blood”). The treatment is gaining wider acceptance even while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is issuing warnings that not only is its value unproven, but its use could be harmful.

On Feb. 19, 2009, the FDA issued a statement cautioning consumers and providers about businesses transfusing blood plasma from young donors into older patients.

“The FDA has recently become aware of reports of establishments in several states that are offering infusions of plasma from young donors to purportedly treat the effects of a variety of conditions,” the statement said. “There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product…the reported uses of these products should not be assumed to be safe or effective.”

The most widely hawked anti-aging youth restoration product today, however, is testosterone, a steroid hormone often associated with masculinity.

Dr. Steven Woloshin, co-director of the Center for Medicine and Media at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, has called low testosterone, often promoted as “low T “, treatment “the mother of all disease mongering.”

testosterone plus ad

The hormone is involved in the development of male sex organs before birth and the development of secondary sex characteristics at puberty. It also plays a role in sex drive, sperm production and maintenance of muscle strength, according to the Mayo Clinic. Testosterone levels peak during adolescence and early adulthood and then gradually decline with age.

Testosterone replacement therapy is approved by the FDA to treat low testosterone, but it is too often prescribed unnecessarily and may do more harm than good.

Men unwilling to embrace successful aging all too often take what the Harvard Medical School calls “a medicinal shortcut” and become willing targets of testosterone promoters.

Michael J. Dimitrion, a doctor in Honolulu, HI, is one person who years ago likely saw the opportunity in marketing testosterone treatments.  Over the past eight years he has been relentless in aggressively exploiting testosterone’s appeal, raking in money by peddling misinformation to susceptible and insecure men.

michael dimitrion

Dr. Michael J. Dimitrion

Dimitrion’s license on file with the Oregon Medical Board says he graduated in 1973 from Far Eastern University – Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation in Quezon City, the Philippines.

Specializing in internal medicine, Dimitrion has reported that he completed an internship at St. Francis Medical Center in Honolulu, HI in 1975 and his residency at University of Hawaii School of Medicine, also in Honolulu, in 1977. He entered private practice as an Internal Medicine Specialist in Honolulu in 1977.

In 2011, he opened the privately-owned Hawaii Male Medical Clinic, focusing on treating men for conditions such as low testosterone and erectile dysfunction, even though he had not specialized in urology or endocrinology.

.“Little was known about andropause, the male equivalent to menopause in women, and few understood the dangers of low testosterone,” Dimitrion said in 2013. “Even fewer believed there were proven erectile dysfunction treatments beyond the little blue pills. Realizing there was a need to address this issue and bring it to the forefront of medical care, and because of new men’s health care developments, I started (the) Clinic with an emphasis on good, evidence-based medical care.”

In 2012, the Clinic’s Director, Terry Harmon, said in an interview for a Hawaiian blog  on healthy living that testosterone treatment is appropriate now because people are living longer.

Two-hundred years ago people lived to be only 40 or 45, he said, so it didn’t matter much that somebody had low testosterone at that point because they were approaching death. Now, however, men have years to live at 45, but have low testosterone a.

“Testosterone replacement therapy is putting back in what nature, unfortunately, took out,” Harmon said.

In 2013, Dimitrion expanded his operations to the mainland, opening a clinic at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and changing the name of his business to Universal Men’s Clinic.

Like an aggressive disease spreading across the landscape, Universal Men’s Clinics have since opened in Portland, OR and eight more U.S. cities (Oklahoma City, OK; Tulsa, OK; Tucson, AZ; Murray, UT; Austin, TX; San Antonio, TX; Sacramento, CA; Las Vegas, NV).

You may have seen the clinic’s ads on local television evangelizing for testosterone treatments for men with an appetite for chemical rejuvenation.

Such ads “smack of profitmaking opportunism,” wrote Lisa Schwartz, M.D., and Steven Woloshin, M.D., co-directors of the Dartmouth College Center for Medicine and the Media.

“Whether the campaign is motivated by a sincere desire to help men or simply by greed, we should recognize it for what it is: a mass, uncontrolled experiment that invites men to expose themselves to the harms of a treatment unlikely to fix problems that may be wholly unrelated to testosterone levels,” they wrote in a JAMA Internal Medicine editorial.

Also of concern, some the online “patient” testimonials are by people affiliated with the clinic.

Frank Grigg, a Mixed martial arts fighter, who endorses the clinic on its websites and  has appeared at promotional events, says on his resume he has done “commercial” work for the clinic. Similarly, Tom Harmon, who’s testimonial is on clinic websites, failed to mention that he was a clinic employee.

But testosterone marketing by Universal Men’s Clinic and other promoters and pharmaceutical companies appears to be working. Gross U.S. sales of testosterone in 2018 were projected  to reach $3.8 billion, up from  $2.4 billion in 2013.

The “sell” at the clinic

After doing research and reviewing online patient reviews* of Universal Men’s Clinic, which are overwhelmingly negative, I decided to take a closer look.

I had my first appointment at the Portland Universal Men’s Clinic on the 6th floor of the Portland Medical Center building at 511 S.W. 10th Avenue on March 13, 2019.

clinicdoor

Entering a cramped waiting room, I was handed a sheaf of papers to fill out.

An extensive questionnaire asked for identification information, my medical and surgery history, history of injuries, recreational activities, family history and allergies.

One page asked 10 questions associated with what it said was “Androgen deficiency in the Aging Male,” such as:

  • Have you had a decrease in sex drive?
  • Falling asleep after dinner?
  • Have you noticed problems sleeping?
  • Have you had a lack of energy?

I figured I should say something, so I said I was having problems sleeping and identified my “Main Complaint(s) Today” as “Just less zip”.

Included in the paperwork was an Informed Consent form that said at the top:

“You will be attended to by a state licensed physician who will examine you, check your general medical condition, ask about any medications you are presently taking, and discuss with you the specific problem for which you have come to the medical clinic. PLEASE BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR RESPONSES. OUR PHYSICIANS NEED ACCURATE INFORMATION IN ORDER TO ENSURE SAFE RECOMMENDATIONS IN YOUR MEDICATIONS” (Emphasis in original)

After a short period, clinic staff directed me to an examination room.

From that point forward, contrary to the assertion in the Consent Form that I would be attended to by a state licensed physician, I was not.

My first encounter was with Walt Coxeff, a “Patient Coordinator” who said he wasn’t a physician, but “the middle person between patients and the doctors.”

Coxeff , who said the Portland clinic sees about 50 clients a day,  told me right off that I had to agree to pay $199 for the consultation. He added that private insurance and Medicare typically don’t cover the clinic’s treatments.

Then Ronald King came in.

Like some others at the Portland clinic, King is identified as a Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C), not a physician, on the clinic’s website.

RonaldKing

“I’ve been on it (testosterone) for four and a half years; our 72 year-old doctor’s been on it for 20 years.” Ronald King

Despite the fact that I had left substantial portions of the paperwork blank, and did not sign the Consent Form, neither Coxeff nor King asked that I fill out the missing information or add my signature.

King did suggest, however, that even though some men have no symptoms of low-T, he’ll endorse testosterone treatments for them to make their energy, moods, etc. even better.

King said medical schools don’t teach about testosterone. Instead, they teach about anti-depressants, sleep aids, Viagra, losing weight, quitting smoking, or going to the gym, he  said.

King also assured me that testosterone is safe and doesn’t cause heart attacks, strokes or cancer.

According to the FDA, “Testosterone products are FDA-approved only for use in men who lack or have low testosterone levels in conjunction with an associated medical condition. Examples of these conditions include failure of the testicles to produce testosterone because of reasons such as genetic problems or chemotherapy.”

Ryan C. Petering, M.D. and Nathan A. Brooks, MD, MPH, Oregon Health & Science University, wrote in Testosterone Therapy: Review of Clinical Applications“Physicians should not measure testosterone levels unless a patient has signs and symptoms of hypogonadism, such as loss of body hair, sexual dysfunction, hot flashes, or gynecomastia.”

Although I had no clear medical condition associated with low testosterone and no signs or symptoms of hypogonadism, and was not examined for them, the clinic gave me a blood test to measure my testosterone levels. King said the blood test results would likely be available within a day,

Back at the clinic again

When the test results didn’t show up, I went back to the clinic six days later on March 19, 2019.

At that visit, I was handed one page of blood test results and again ushered into an examination room, this time by an employee who identified himself as Mark, an employee in training.

Mark said the blood test showed my testosterone level was “a little bit on the low end,” with the clinic considering 800-1000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) as “optimum.”

That meant I was a good candidate for testosterone replacement therapy, he said.

This conclusion came despite the clinic having given me just one blood test, contrary to medical recommendations that testosterone therapy should be initiated only after two morning total serum testosterone measurements show decreased levels.

The conclusion was also contrary to guidance from the Endocrine Society, which focuses on advancing hormone research and clinical practice. “In the absence of symptoms in men ages 65 and older, low testosterone levels alone shouldn’t routinely lead to prescribing testosterone therapy,” the Society says.

The clinic gives men an opportunity to increase their testosterone levels so they can  feel more energetic and stronger, Mark said.

The clinic’s “medical provider” recommended, he said, that I start with a 200-milligram injection of testosterone or daily application of a 300-milligram cream.

I began to feel passed around like a rumor when Mark then shifted me to Thomas Pierce for information on the treatment cost. An employee identified Pierce as the clinic’s Area Director; on Linkedin he’s described as Regional Operations Manager.

As with the other people I met with at the clinic, Pierce is not a physician. His Linkedin account says he attended Kaplan College-San Diego during 2009-2010 (the college shut down in Dec. 2018), where he obtained a Technical Certification as a Medical/Clinical Assistant.

Pierce said the testosterone treatment plan at Universal Men’s Clinic is 18 months long and costs $3402, or $189 per month, with a minimum down-payment of $378. The cost is fully inclusive, he said, covering medications, consultations and other items. “It’s kind of a concierge medicine model,” he said.

The treatment goal, Pierce said, would be to raise my testosterone to the 800-1000 level and the clinic has a 90 percent success rate, Pierce said.

Would the treatment end if I reached the goal? “No,” Pierce said. Treatment would continue indefinitely to maintain the right testosterone level.

In other words, once you start the testosterone treatment, Universal Men’s Clinic stands to have a permanent paying customer.

What the evidence shows

injectingtestosterone2

There is evidence that testosterone replacement therapy can have merit in certain circumstances. However, treating symptoms of aging with testosterone can also lead men to avoid pursuing preferred alternatives that can enhance a man’s well-being with less risk, such as leading a healthier lifestyle, losing excessive weight or drinking less.

“You’re better off exercising than putting some silly compound in your armpit,” says Nortin Hadler, M.D., now Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the author of Rethinking Aging.

Or, as Dr. Robert Alan Clare put it, “I’m not surprised that men with lots of health problems have low testosterone levels, but it’s a big stretch to think that supplementing this hormone will cure any of them. There is good evidence that the real culprit for low testosterone is inactivity.”

And, according to American Family Physician, a journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, “No consistent relationship has been proven between testosterone levels and symptoms purportedly associated with Low T. Testosterone may increase libido, but testosterone levels do not correlate with sexual function.”

Testosterone also does not reverse or postpone age. “FDA has become aware that testosterone is being used extensively in attempts to relieve symptoms in men who have low testosterone for no apparent reason other than aging.,” the FDA  has cautioned. “The benefits and safety of this use have not been established.”

The fact is, low testosterone is real for only a slim percentage of men. A male aging study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that only 0.1 percent of men in their forties, 0.6 percent in their fifties, 3.2 percent in their sixties, and 5.1 percent of men in their seventies would meet the criteria for the diagnosis.

Then there are the warnings that testosterone  treatments can be fraught with danger.

The FDA requires that manufacturers include information on testosterone labeling about a possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients taking testosterone. Unnecessary testosterone therapy can also increase the risk of mood swings and aggression.

FDA-approved testosterone formulations include a transdermal patch, buccal system (applied to upper gum or inner cheek), injection and a topical gel. Each has its own potential concerns.

If the gel rubs off on a child, for example, the child may develop signs of early puberty; if it smears onto a woman’s skin, it can interrupt menstruation, make her anxious and irritable and she could experience changes in body hair or acne.

The gel can even harm pets if it rubs off on them, causing such affects as lethargy, fever, bleeding, pale gums and hair loss.

exogenous-estrogen-toxicityPETS

What to do?

Medical hucksters aren’t going to go away. The testosterone pushers will continue to exploit men who fear getting old, losing their sexual vitality and having a less thrilling life.

But men can best avoid the hucksters by refusing to be a mark or willing target. Consult with primary care doctors first, not operations focused just on pedaling testosterone treatments.

Government regulators can also be more aggressive and tighten up on the rules on testosterone treatments by unscrupulous profiteers. Research on the safety, efficacy and effects of testosterone treatments can also be accelerated.

Promotional materials by pharmaceutical companies and testosterone providers can be more closely monitored to prevent the spread of misleading and unsubstantiated claims.

And men have a choice. They don’t have to fall for “low T” hucksters run amok. They don’t have to treat getting older as a disease that miracle drugs can cure.

As Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers, said, “Old age is not a disease—it’s a triumph.”

 

 

*A sampling of online reviews of Universal Men’s Clinics

“Very terrible company, avoid like the plague. – Overpriced. Medication/non-effective – Rude employees – They don’t spend the proper time to understand the patient’s needs and concerns – Completely sales driven, they try to lock you into high monthly payments.” Review of Honolulu, HI clinic.

“This place is a total scam. When you go for your initial consultation they charge you $199.00 then try to sell you a testosterone replacement therapy for $3,000.00 or a ED program for $2,000.00. But they won’t tell you that until your consultation. What a bunch of BS. If you are smart you will just run away and save your money!”  Review of Honolulu, HI clinic.

“Everything was good at first until we started feeling like we were (at) a used cars sales lot. The patient counselor kept hounding us to pay over $3,000 upfront for all of the medication and then they put us in a contract that we cannot get out of unless my husband has medical issues… I would not recommend this to my worst enemy. Don’t get caught up in their scam.”  Review of Murray, Utah clinic.

“Go see your primary care provider and don’t waste your money. They only want to get you on a monthly payment program. They don’t care about your past medical history, family history, or current medical history.”  Review of Oklahoma City, OK clinic.

“There are other, much better, much cheaper options for LowT in the Tulsa area. Do your research – Don’t go to UMC in Tulsa.”  Review of Tulsa, OK clinic

“Stay away from this clinic. Everything they offer has drastic effects to your body. Save your liver and stay away from this place. You’ll have better luck in Mexico with your health.”  Review of Tucson, AZ clinic.

“Stay away it’s a scam. They don’t do your blood work before guessing a prescription and putting you on a payment plan. When there done guessing and got you bank info. They then send someone in to draw blood, but you will never hear back about the blood work. They are prescribing medication that could do you long term harm if they don’t check your blood first to see if you need it and won’t die/harm you permanently. Go to a real doctor to get checked out if you feel you need this kind of help save your money and you health.” Review of Tucson, AZ clinic.

“BEWARE – this clinic engages in lies and manipulation to get you to sign up for an expensive long-term contract.” Review of Tucson, AZ clinic.

“This clinic is a scam to get ppl in the door and rob them of their money. They lie about test results and get u to go with their service with overpriced meds. They even gave me a shot b4 my blood results came in saying I needed it.” Review of Sacramento, CA clinic.

“If you are looking for natural men’s health strategies or a real doctor, keep looking.  This is a drug pushing factory. I found better advice searching on line.  Getting better sleep, working out, reducing stress and healthier eating are better places to start.”  Review of Sacramento, CA clinic.

 “Deceptive high pressure up selling.  They lure you in with a big promise.  For only $199 they say blood work, consultation, and follow ups are included…Treatment plan was $200 per month for 18 months.” Review of Austin, TX clinic.

 “A prime example of junk science run amuck in the marketplace. Do not waste your time and money with scams like these. Do the research.” Review of Austin, TX clinic.

“Unethical business practices…Hard pressure sales, lies, inconsistent medication, micromanaged, no medical background management.” Former clinic employee on Glassdoor.com

“They say you are a Patient Care Coordinator but you are nothing but a sleazy salesman. This company is so micromanaged and all they care about is getting people to sign up for overpriced “treatment.” Former clinic employee on Glassdoor.com

“What a ripoff… When I went in for my appointment, they first send a gentleman in to get you started on the paperwork. Then the Doctor came in and immediately diagnosed me with low T, (before they even drew any blood to test) and E.D. (erectile dysfunction).” Review of Tucson, AZ clinic.

“They charge $200 for your initial consult fee.  THEN they want you to agree to the $2988.00 fee for the 18 month treatment.  My husband felt scammed and said the pressure was the same as when the car dealers want you to get the undercoat on your new car.  Extremely shady!” Review of Seattle, WA clinic.

 

 

Teaching the Holocaust: a good idea, a bad bill

holocaust

Who would want to be accused of voting against teaching kids about the Holocaust?

Obviously not the members of the Oregon Senate. On March 12 they voted unanimously  for Senate Bill 664, which would require all of Oregon’s school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The bill is now in the House.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounds so simple and straightforward, but Senate Bill 664 is, in fact, an expansive progressive monstrosity that only a bureaucrat or lawyer could love. Like anti-terrorism laws, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

The 1338-word bill goes far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. It declares, instead, that the instruction must address: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest, and; the value of restorative justice.

Specifically, the bill says the instruction must be designed to:

(a) Prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events;

(b) Develop students’ respect for cultural diversity and help students gain insight into the importance of the protection of international human rights for all people;

(c) Promote students’ understanding of how the Holocaust contributed to the need for the term “genocide” and led to international legislation that recognized genocide as a crime;

(d) Stimulate students’ reflection on the roles and responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies to combat misinformation, indifference and discrimination through tools of resistance such as protest, reform and celebration;

(e) Provide students with opportunities to contextualize and analyze patterns of human behavior by individuals and groups who belong in one or more categories, including perpetrator, collaborator, bystander, victim and rescuer;

(f) Enable students to understand the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping;

(g) Preserve the memories of survivors of genocide and provide opportunities for students to discuss and honor survivors’ cultural legacies;

(h) Provide students with a foundation for examining the history of discrimination in this state; and

(i) Explore the various mechanisms of transitional and restorative justice that help humanity move forward in the aftermath of genocide.

Not only must Oregon schools tackle all this, but the State Board of Education, in consultation with a local organization that has the primary purpose of providing education about the Holocaust, is required to develop academic content standards for Holocaust and genocide studies that comply with the requirements of this section.

The bill is currently with the House Committee on Education which, hopefully will take a thorough look at it and narrow its mandate .

I doubt that Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed teachers will welcome the addition of one more labor-intensive, complicated instructional mandate, no matter how well-intentioned.

And it’s hard to believe all this is what Claire Sarnowski had in mind.

 

 

 

 

The college admission fraud: and the beat goes on

fraud

It looks like there are a lot more people who should be charged in the college admission scandal.

William Singer, who used his Key Worldwide Foundation to help wealthy parents fraudulently get their children into top colleges. said in recorded calls in 2018 that he had helped 760 students in the previous school year get into college by what he described as “the side door”, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In  other words, there’s  a slew of parents and students not yet disclosed who participated in the college admission scheme. Federal prosecutors have so far identified only  50 defendants across six states.

Any parents who funneled money through the fraudulent Key Worldwide Foundation to get their kids into colleges could also be targeted if they deducted the payments on their taxes as charitable contributions.

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Then there’s Dawud Raamuh, John Peter Byrne Jr. and Steve Masera.

Never heard of them?

Raamuh is the Secretary of the Key Worldwide Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit that William Singer used to help wealthy parents fraudulently get their children into top colleges. Byrne serves as Director of the Foundation and Masera as Treasurer. They all should be held responsible for this fiasco.

A deeper look into the activities of Singer, who’s the Foundation’s President and CEO, is warranted, too. He may have used the Foundation to reinforce his own son’s attendance at DePaul University. Forms filed with the IRS by the Foundation show it donated $150,000 to the school in 2014, 2015 and 2016 while his son was a student there until graduating in 2017.

Form 990 IRS reports non-profits are required top file annually say the Foundation received $7,065,675 in contributions and spent close to $4,953,630 during 2013-2016. Shouldn’t the Foundation’s personnel be held responsible for the Foundation’s malfeasance?

The Foundation reported to the IRS that in 2016 it received $3,736,160 in Gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees and made $860,112 in cash grants and other assistance to domestic organizations, including:

$150,000 to Chapman University, Orange, CA

$11,000 to Community Donations, Sacramento, CA

$50,000 to DePaul University, Chicago, Il

$18,550 to Friends of Cambodia, Palo, Alto, CA

$10,000 to the Ladylike Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

$39,900 to Loyola High School, Los Angeles, CA

$83,181 to NYU Athletics, New York, NY

$100,000 to Princeville Enterprises, Los Angeles, CA

$60,000 to University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

$252,500 to University of Texas Athletics, Austin, TX

$25,000 to the USC Soccer Program, Los Angeles, CA

$50,000 to USC Women’s Athletics Board, Los Angeles, CA

There are questions, however, about whether even the listed donations occurred or were legitimate.

For example, NBC Bay Area  TV spoke with Elia and Halimah Van Tuyl, who run Friends of Cambodia. They said they’d never heard of the Key Worldwide Foundation and had never received any money from it in 2016 (or 2015, when the Foundation’s Form 990 reported it donated $18,550 to Friends of Cambodia).

In another case, it looks like the $100,000 listed as a donation to Princeville Enterprises in Los Angeles, CA went to the same address as the home of UCLA soccer coach, Jorge Salcedo.

Salcedo was indicted on Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for conspiracy to commit racketeering in the college admissions fraud case. He is accused of taking $200,000 to help admit one female and one male applicant to UCLA under the pretense they were soccer recruits when they didn’t even play competitive soccer.

Donations to the USC Women’s Athletics Board look suspicious, too. According to the federal indictment, Singer’s clients sent more than $1.3 million in bribes to USC accounts controlled by Donna Heinel, USC’s former senior associate athletic director. Many of the payments sent during 2014 – 2018 went to the USC Women’s Athletic Board.

With these cases in question, others probably deserve scrutiny, too.

 

 

 

Is Pete Buttigieg really a bold new choice?

A Feb. 19-20, 2019 national survey of U.S. likely voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that 62% of likely Democratic voters believed Democrats should look for a fresh face to run for president in 2020.

The national media have found that fresh face. No, I’m not talking about Beto O’Rourke. It’s Pete Buttigieg (pronounced “Buddha-judge”), the 37-year-old Democratic mayor of South Bend, IN. He has launched an exploratory committee, but hasn’t formally declared he’s a candidate.

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Pete Buttigieg

I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton in 2016 and can’t imagine myself voting for Trump in 2020, so I’m open to a moderate alternative. I’ve listened to Buttigieg on television and radio and came away impressed. He’s extremely well-spoken (though he can be a bit long-winded) and comes across as thoughtful and good-natured.

“I’m definitely the only left-handed, Maltese-American, Episcopalian, millennial, gay mayor in the race. So I’ve got that lane all to myself,” he told CNN.

Calling himself a “millennial Mayor” who’s offering “a bold vision for our future,” Buttigieg’s well-educated (A Rhodes Scholar, he graduated from Oxford University and Harvard), has military credentials (Served as an officer in U.S. Navy Reserve 2009-17, deployed to Afghanistan in 2014) and is openly gay (Married Chasten Glezman on June 16, 2018).

In contrast to Trump’s bombast, Buttigieg offers calm deliberation. (He calls the other Democratic candidates “competitors, not opponents”) and says he’s considering a presidential race because, “Our democracy needs a tune-up.”

Like I said, he was intriguing and I found myself thinking, “Maybe he really is different and worth considering.”

Then I looked more closely, read about him, listened to his TV and radio interviews.

Talk about disappointment! He may sound calming and creative, but he’s essentially a carbon copy of the rest of the Democratic pack,. He supports:

  • Giving statehood and political representation to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
  • Abolishing the electoral college in favor of relying on the popular vote
  • Expanding the Supreme Court (to 15 members) “What we need to do is stop the Supreme Court from sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution.”
  • Treating healthcare as a fundamental human right.
  • Offering “Medicare for all who want it.”
  • Ensuring wide reproductive freedom. “The last thing (a woman) needs is a male politician like me imposing boundaries that might even be politically motivated on her healthcare choices.”
  • Initiating stronger controls over access to guns, including universal background checks and banning some weapons. “Not every common-sense rule amounts to an infringement of second amendment rights.”
  • Backing off from a border wall as a priority for border security.
  • Implementing the Green New Deal. “The Green New Deal gets it right that this truly is a national emergency.”
  • Aggressively confronting climate change.
  • Raising K-12 teacher pay “so teachers are treated commensurate with other highly valued professionals.”
  • Regulating the financial industry more aggressively.
  • Restoring the influence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “We Need to be more assertive in insuring that the public interest is met through regulation.”

And on and on.

In other words, Buttigieg isn’t so bold and different from the rest of pack after all. They’re all pretty much uber-progressive peas in a pod.

Peas in a pod

Rent control: and the beat goes on

rentcontroldemonstration

In early January, I argued that Oregon’s enactment of a statewide rent control law would be just the beginning (Rent control: another bad idea out of Salem). Pressure would build quickly to reduce the law’s annual rent increase limit of 7 percent plus inflation, currently totaling about 10 percent, I said.

No surprise, the push for tougher rules has already begun.

It began with a Feb. 1, 2019 editorial in Street Roots, a weekly street newspaper published in Portland that’s sold by members of the local homeless community.

“The profit motive has been allowed to triumph over the fact that housing is a fundamental human need to survive,” the editorial said. “For too many decades, the marketplace has been allowed to skew sharply toward money over humanity, and Oregon is just too attractive of a market to pass up. It’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.”

The editorial highlighted the need for the prohibition on rent control action by local governments to be lifted and noted that rent increase limits elsewhere are much lower.

“Rent stabilization elsewhere in the country comes in at much lower percentage,” the editorial said. “Take Berkeley, where a different calculation regulates rent increases to no more than 3 or so percent. In New York, it’s approximately 1.5 percent.”

Mary King, a professor of economics emerita at Portland State University, followed up with a March 1, 2019 Street Roots commentary also arguing that the rent increase limit is too high.

Oregon’s new rent control law was “…designed to stop only extreme rent gouging and limit no-cause evictions” and prohibits cities from passing their own, stronger rent stabilization policies, King said.

Ten percent is just too high a limit, particularly when compared with some tighter limits set elsewhere, King wrote. “Capping annual increases at 10 percent would have only slightly limited the unaffordable growth in rents in Portland over the past five years,” she added.

Oregon’s rent control law represented only “…progress against the worst excesses,” King said. “However, if the state would allow it, Portland could pass a much stronger, more effective rent stabilization policy without harming the supply of housing. Our best next step would be to pass a second bill to lift pre-emption on cities hoping to set their own course – and get to work in Portland.”

The Legislature’s rent control bill was essential because it would establish a “better baseline,” the Street Roots editorial said, “but we expect them to keep fighting. We will too.”

Hang on landlords and tenants. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.