President-elect Trump on Disabilities, what now?

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What does the election of Donald Trump mean for people with disabilities such as multiple sclerosis?

Yes, two days ago the people of the U.S.A. decided who they wanted as their next President. They were faced with a difficult choice between a candidate with no experience of holding an elected public office and one who had served as a senator and Secretary of State. Ok, they could have ignored the two main candidates and voted for another candidate but, realistically, it was a choice between Trump and Clinton.

Now, before I go any further, it is essential to point out that I am not American and so am commenting from the position of an observer.

So, let’s take a look at what President-elect Donald Trump said about disabilities and social security payments.

Back in 2013, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, Trump said: “As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen.”

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President-elect Donald Trump.

In Time to Get Tough he said; “Social Security faces a problem: 77 million baby boomers set to retire. Now I know there are some Republicans who would be just fine with allowing these programs to wither and die on the vine. The way they see it, Social Security and Medicare are wasteful ‘entitlement programs’.

“But people who think this way need to rethink their position. It’s not unreasonable for people who paid into a system for decades to expect to get their money’s worth – that’s not an ‘entitlement’, that’s honoring a deal. We, as a society, must also make an ironclad commitment to providing a safety net for those who can’t make one for themselves.

“Social Security is here to stay. To be sure, we must reform it, root out the fraud, make it more efficient, and ensure that the program is solvent.

“Same goes for Medicare. Again, people have lived up to their end of the bargain and paid into the program in good faith. Of course, they believe they’re ‘entitled’ to receive the benefits they paid for – they are!”

Tackling the issue of fraud itself, in Time to Get Tough, he said: “The top estimates are $2,340,000,000 in Medicare fraud over a decade – or 16% of America’s entire national debt!

“Then there’s the disability racket. Did you know that one out of every 20 people in America now claims disability? That adds up to $170 billion a year in disability checks. Between 2005 and 2009, it is estimated that $25 billion were eaten up in fraudulent Social Security Disability Insurance filings. On and on, scam after scam it goes; as always, taxpayers are the ones getting stiffed.”

What next, I wonder?

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Obama and Hillary both urge UK to stay in EU

obama uk hillary euPresident Obama and, possibly next US president, Hillary Clinton want the UK to remain in the EU.

No sooner had pro-Brexit campaigners labelled US President Barack Obama’s warning against the UK leaving Europe as the views of a ‘lame duck’ president than Democratic front-runner, and possibly next president, Hillary Clinton added her opinion. And she made it clear that if she enters the White House she will want the UK to be fully engaged, and leading the debate, within the EU.

Obama had warned that it could take up to 10 years for the UK to negotiate trade deals with the US if it leaves the EU. In a BBC interview, the US president said: “It could be five years from now, 10 years from now before we were able to actually get something done.”

Asked to explain, Obama said: “The UK would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU. We wouldn’t abandon our efforts to negotiate a trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market.”

Britain would also have less influence globally if it left, he added.

This brought about an angry response from the Leave campaign.

“This is really about a lame duck US president about to move off the stage doing an old British friend a favour,” said Justice Minister Dominic Raab.

And while it may be fairly safe to discount the views of any president in his last nine months in office, it may be unwise to ignore those of someone leading the chase to succeed him – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a statement to the Observer, her senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: “Hillary Clinton believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential, and that cooperation is strongest when Europe is united. She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU.”

It has also been reported, apparently according to ‘sources close to the former secretary of state’s campaign’, that she stands fully behind Obama’s opposition to Brexit, which the president said on Friday would not only undermine the international institutions, including the EU, that had bound nations closer together since 1945, but would also mean the UK being at ‘the back of the queue’ when negotiating new trade deals.

British Euro vote campaign officially gets under way as US presidential hopefuls face New York primary

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As electoral campaigns go, the official 10-weeks allowed for the UK public to decide which way to vote in the referendum on Europe is nothing when compared to how long it takes for the USA to choose a president.

The four main contenders for the two party nominations for president announced their candidacies from March to June 2015 – that’s as long as 20 months before the eventual November 2016 polling day. Of course, that includes the campaigns leading up to the two party conventions in July – but that still leaves a final party versus party campaign of some 15 weeks.

In comparison, UK general elections that choose the government, and so the prime minister, have a final campaign time of less than six weeks.

So, as the presidential candidates prepare for their New York state primaries on Tuesday (19), the British referendum about Europe officially began yesterday, Friday April 15.

On June 23, British voters are being asked to choose whether or not they wish the country to stay as a member of the European Union. The ballot paper question will read:

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

And voters will be asked to choose between Remain a member of the European Union or Leave the European Union.

Of course, the Remain and Leave campaigners have been making their points of view known for months but, with the official campaign now under way, with the lead campaigns designated as Britain Stronger In Europe and Vote Leave.

However, all is not as it should be with the Leave.EU group claiming it should have been made the lead leave group, that the criteria were not followed correctly and that it is going to seek a judicial review.

If that turns out to be the case, it could mean that the referendum might be delayed by weeks if not months.

And that is not the only problem. There is a separate legal action in the works. Lawyers for expat pensioner Harry Shindler have said his judicial review against the UK’s expat voting ban will be heard in the High Court as planned. His lawsuit is on behalf of all British expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years and so are denied votes by a UK law that David Cameron’s government is committed to repeal – but not in time for the referendum.

An exact date for the hearing has not yet been set, but should the judicial review be successful, the government will be forced to rush through legislation allowing disenfranchised British expats to vote on June 23. According to Richard Stein of law firm Leigh Day, the government has time to change the law and empower long-term expats in the EU to vote on a matter which will seriously affect their chosen lifestyles.

Putting those two legal matters aside, and the time it would take to register all the extra voters if Mr Shindler is successful, former Labour chancellor Alastair Darling has accused Leave campaigners, who are calling on the money spent on EU membership to be pumped into the NHS instead, of “playing with fire” and peddling a “fantasy future”.

Polls suggest the referendum is currently too close to call, although we know that much can change in the next 10 weeks.

 

Trump ‘scary’, Hillary ‘a liar’ – pick your US President

DJT_Headshot_V2_400x400 HCFront runners: Republican Trump and Democrat Clinton.

Presidential hopefuls in the race to become the Republican party’s candidate in the USA presidential election may have been reduced to three but it is quite possible than none of those three may be the eventual nominee as chosen by the party’s convention.

And, if that seems to make a complete nonsense of the whole system of primaries and caucuses … well, yes it does.

However, if no candidate gains an overall majority of pledged delegate votes in time, the convention will become contested and then, it seems, anything can happen. The chosen candidate may, in fact, be none of those involved in the primaries and caucuses.

Does that strike you as crazy?

Over in the Democrat camp, former first lady, former senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has amassed a great deal of delegate support so far but, at the moment, she has not gained enough and rival Senator Bernie Sanders has pulled off some remarkable primary wins to keep up the pressure.

Her biggest problem seems to be her reputation. Because of the controversy surrounding her using her home email server while Secretary of State, she is seen by a large proportion of voters as being untrustworthy. And that is only one of a number of concerns.

Now, as I am British, I don’t feel qualified to comment about the qualities of those currently seeking their own party’s endorsement. However, my wife Lisa was born and raised in New York City, so here are her thoughts:

Republican:

Trump: “I like the fact that he is not a politician but he could and would quickly become one. His arrogance scares me and I think he is a danger to the USA and the world.”

Cruz: “A senator from Texas with a Hispanic name. There never has been a Hispanic president and I don’t believe he is the right guy to break that tradition. He hasn’t got what it takes.”

Kasich: “Who? Oh yes, the Governor of Ohio. His poor results in the primaries show he is not in the running for anything.”

Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders.

Democrat:

Clinton: “I could never, ever vote for Hillary. She may never have been convicted of a crime but I don’t trust her. Added to that, her well-documented flip-flops on various policies on which she claims to have always been ‘consistent’ show she is a liar. While I’d love to see the USA have its first female president, please let it not be her.”

Sanders: “Probably the safest of any of those still in the race for either party’s nomination. Certainly, the least of all evils.”

Looking at the 12 months ahead of us

genelect queen reign HCFrom left: Spanish party leaders seek coalitions, UK’s Queen Elizabeth II will be 90 in April, Hillary Clinton set to win Democratic nomination but President?

January – now. Spain’s national politicians are trying to put together a coalition to form a government after last month’s general election created a hung parliament for the first time since democracy was restored. They have until January 13 to succeed or a new election will be called. (50shades: It seems no-one wants a second election but to avoid that some tough compromises will need to be made).

March 14 – European Space Agency and Roscosmos plan to launch the joint ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter on a mission to Mars following postponement of original planned launch on January 7. (50shades: Good to see some international cooperation, if it goes ahead this time).

April 21- Queen Elizabeth II of the UK will mark her 90th birthday. (50shades: So many years of service to her country).

May 5 – National Assembly for Wales election (where we lived before moving to Spain). (50shades: There is likely to be a new party in the Assembly after the election with UKIP possibly gaining as many as 10 seats. This could herald the end to Labour’s monopoly on power and mean a return to coalition rule. The only question being: Which parties would be in such a coalition? Most likely Labour/Plaid Cymru/Liberal Democrats).

May 9 – A transit of Mercury will occur when the planet comes between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury is seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. Full transit will be visible in South America, Eastern North America, Western Europe, and a partial transit everywhere else except Australia and far eastern Asia. (50shades comment: Nothing to get excited about, fairly frequent most recent one was in 2006).

May 12-15 A special celebration will take place in the grounds of Windsor Castle, UK, in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

June 1 – Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest (35.4 miles) and deepest rail tunnel, is scheduled to be opened in Switzerland. (50shades: The Swiss are good at creating tunnels. This will help trade).

June 10-12 – UK national commemorations to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.

July 4 – America’s NASA Juno spacecraft is expected to arrive at Jupiter. (50shades: Wait for pictures of Jupiter to fill TV screens and newspapers).

July 18-21 – Republican Party National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (50shades: Maybe too close to call but, sticking out neck, it will be Ted Cruz as nominated candidate).

July 25-28 – Democratic Party National Convention at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia. (50shades: Hillary Clinton will win the presidential nomination).

August 5-21 – 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (50shades: Expect thrills and spills aplenty plus a scandal or two. Wow, is it really four years since London Olympics?).

September 3 – NASA plans to launch the OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve a sample from the asteroid Bennu. (50shades: Doubtless it will be a success but what’s the point?)

Sometime in September – China plans to complete the Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope. (50shades: So China wants its own telescope but will it be any better than what we have now?).

November 1 – Sierra Nevada Corporation plans to launch Dream Chaser, a privately built spaceplane on an unmanned debut mission. (50shades: Sounds interesting).

November 8 – USA presidential election (50shades: Republican candidate, whoever he is, will win).

December 31 – The last remaining American, British and Australian troops ‘will’ withdraw from Afghanistan. (50shades: It won’t happen, there will be a reason why they need to remain).

 

 

Outsiders may rock political boats on both sides of the Atlantic

DJT_Headshot_V2_400x400HC labour

Top: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Bottom: Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall.

Politics might not be everyone’s favourite subject but there is just so much going on at the moment, I cannot ignore it.

In the USA, the race to become the presidential candidate for each of the two parties has a clear front runner at this early stage. Republican Donald Trump, who started as an outsider, and Democrat Hillary Clinton are the favourites at this point but what happens if, and it is a big if, they do become the two candidates for what is the world’s most powerful role?

Clinton is an ex-First Lady, an ex-senator and an ex-Secretary of State. So, on the plus side, she has political and diplomatic experience. On the negative side, there are still questions about the details of any involvement she may have had in the Whitewater controversy of a few years ago and, more recently, her use of her private email server to handle sensitive, and even top secret, information during her time as Secretary of State.

For the  other side, Donal Trump is a businessman and TV personality and has no political experience but maybe that’s a major plus as the voters generally don’t like or trust the Washington DC political elite. He admits he is not politically correct and, again, the voters seem to love it. Trump may run out of steam but not out of money. One thing for sure is that he has enlivened the race for the White House.

I just had to ask Lisa about her views. She is American and says she does not like either candidate but that if she had to choose, she would vote against Clinton. Not really for Trump, just against Clinton.

Moving across the pond to Britain, we find that the Labour Party is embroiled in a campaign to elect a new leader. There are four candidates but one has injected the otherwise dour contest with a sense of interest and purpose, not to say controversy. And that is because left-winger Jeremy Corbyn started as a rank outsider but has risen to be the front runner and that is causing many in the party hierarchy to have major meltdowns, saying his victory would make the party unelectable. We’ll have to wait to see how that develops.

The other candidates are Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Turning now to what will be our new home country in November, there is some good news for British expats living in Spain. The UK government’s Votes for Life Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, is to remove the current limit of 15 years for voting in UK general elections. This is due to come into effect before the next general election but not before the European referendum which is a cause of disappointment for long-term expats.

Speaking as a person who is taking advantage of the current European freedom of movement rules to set up home in Spain, I am sure that you will understand that my vote will be a ‘Yes’, in favour of the UK staying an integral part of Europe.