Trump’s Angels

The way I learn most computer programs is by setting myself a challenge. The challenge I set myself was to do a political parody of the Charlie’s Angels TV show but with Donald Trump and three of the oddest legislators of all time.

The video was created using Adobe Premiere Pro.

2022-03-29T23:38:32+00:0024 March 2022|USA, Video|

PFCD Political Adverts

The Washington DC-based organization Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) has been churning out political ads on MSNBC and elsewhere, who are they?

From their Twitter account, PFCD seems like a legitimate organization but that is until you see their advertising then you really question what they are up to. PFCD is a 501c4, nonprofit, not tax-exempt but more political in nature than a 501c3.

The Advert

I don’t want to embed their whole advert on my blog to help promote it but it can be viewed here.

Obviously, it’s very scripted using the same language that a for-profit company or right-wing politician would use, it’s most likely written by a pharmaceutical. The advert links the price of medication to health care wait times; there is no linkage, and this is why their ad is very misleading. Like many similar ads, its aim is to obtain an emotional reaction and is very loose on facts.

Like typical pharmaceutical adverts, it doesn’t give the full person name, so just an actress.
dorothy

PFCD says it was the “experience of a cancer patient” but there is no evidence that is the truth. The actress is senior which is the target audience they might be considering. They use the “crossed arms” body language for a reason.

It provides a phone number but doesn’t actually say what you are supposed to do with it. Is that the PFCD number? No, it’s the US Capitol switchboard. People could phone their representative to encourage them to do the opposite to what the advert suggests.

Strangely, none of the adverts appears on PFCD Twitter or Facebook feeds. However, people are communicating their displeasure with the organization across Twitter, and some on Facebook, which PFCD has not responded to.

It is typical behaviour of for-profit health care companies, pharmaceuticals and Republican politicians to lie about overseas health care systems in order to stoke fear about a similar being implemented in the US. The US runs a profit before people health care system so they are desperate that universal coverage should not happen there, can’t have all those billionaires losing so much money.

More About PFCD

This article by Rollcall outlines more about PFCD and the controversy around the advert, I got the following points from it:

  • PFCD shared an address with large Pharmaceutical companies
  • Lobbyists for PFCD also lobby for pharmaceuticals
  • The nonprofit does not disclose its funding
  • The adverts cost at least $5.3m [where did it get this funding from?]
  • Pharmaceuticals have spent $2.7m on similar advertising
  • Pharmaceuticals help launch PFCD [to create a nonprofit front for themselves?]
  • Many groups have distanced themselves from the PFCD ads
  • Pharmaceutical employees are listed on PFCD’s tax returns
  • PFCD has never reported any fundraising costs, does that suggest they are all funded by pharmaceuticals?

Nonprofits Working With For-Profits

Many nonprofits in the US have come under extreme scrutiny when they collaborate with for-profit health care companies and pharmaceuticals. It means they could lose their independent thinking and will kowtow to those they receive funding from. I experienced a similar incident in my career when an organization worked with a for-profit to produce scientific articles. There were calls for the nonprofit representative to resign also suggesting he should never work in the health care sector again. For-profits will write the outcomes before the research even starts.

Viewing the political adverts they are putting out, and given what Rollcall has outlined in its article, is PFCD compromised by pharmaceuticals? Has it been working for/with them all along? Has everything the organization communicated been written, influenced or paid for by pharmaceuticals? Can we trust anything that is sent out by this organization?

The Chairman of PFCD is Kenneth Thorpe, he is also listed as working for Emory University in Georgia and on the Board of Directors at Sanara MedTech, I understand he is a shareholder. He was previously working with the Clinton administration. Since he could be influenced by pharmaceuticals at PFCD how is this affecting what he does, researches and teaches at the university?

Summary

If it wasn’t for their political and misleading advert I would never have heard of PFCD. I have many questions regarding this organization and wonder how many similar ones exist in the US allegedly doing the bidding of for-profits? Do members of the public believe these ads? Do they research to find out the real facts?

2021-11-25T22:17:30+00:0025 November 2021|USA|

World Trade Center

It’s been 20 years since terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City. At the time I was living in Denver, Colorado and everything stopped as this incident was happening. I remember an acquaintance whose daughter was born during the incident.

In remembrance of that day, I thought I would share some pictures of my visits to the building.

2021-09-12T05:59:29+00:0012 September 2021|USA|

State Department Website – What Happened?

Since the majority of my work in centered around WordPress I was very interested in seeing developments around the State Department’s website, some of the issues below have now been fixed, or in the process of being fixed….slowly.

Part One

News started to come in about an odd change to Donald Trump’s biography on the State Department website. As far as I can tell Christopher Miller, who is a journalist with BuzzFeedNews, reported this first over Twitter:

News of this spread quickly and over international media channels. It was reported that a disgruntled employee was to blame. It was yet another reason to laugh at the Trump administration.

Part Two

I went to the website, like many others, and confirmed that the Trump biography page had been edited to say his term finished on the 11th January 2020. However, the time display that the term ended kept changing, so I am guessing the whole date was a field that updated itself, maybe a javascript code.

State Dept Error 1

Part Three

The State Department then created, what looked like, a temporary 404 Page Not Found page as follows (maybe putting a 301 redirect from the Trump bio to this page):

State Dept Error 2

Now, this was implemented pretty badly, because:

  1. WordPress has version control and should have been easy to go back to a previous one with little difficulty. Maybe they had stopped version control?
  2. It was very poorly designed with a broken image link to the State Department logo and no reference ID assuming one was supposed to be on there.
  3. All 404 Page Not Found errors redirected to that page, not the usual page template. 404’s are like a portal to help visitors find what they are looking for on a website, this functionality was lost for some considerable time.

I am thinking they implemented this without thinking through the ramifications. Did someone with bad skills in WordPress have to deal with this?

Part Four

State Department took down the above 404 Page Not Found page and placed a 301 redirect from Trump’s bio page, I am assuming, to the home page. The regular Page Not Found page returned as it should.

Will they reinstate the Trump biography?  Who knows.

If you go to the URL state.gov/kittens you can see it does indeed go to a regular 404 error.

Part Five

When a visitor searched on Donald J Trump the results page still showed that his term as ended, as follows:

State Dept Error 4

This has been fixed and no longer showing in the results, as far as I can see.

Part Six

All search fields had an auto-fill on them with some embarrassing results.

This one was fairly “tame”:

State Dept Error 3

However, this one is particularly offensive:

State Dept Error 5

This appears to have been fixed. However, the damage was done as many netizens had already discovered the above.

Summary

As I said, I am quite surprised it took so long to fix the above with them not even bothering to reinstate the Donald Trump biography. Maybe they plan to later on. Maybe it’s not worth it since they will be placing Biden’s bio up there soon. I’m not even sure what the value add is, why repeat what is already on the White House website. Like the UK the US government should consider having a more joined-up approach for its web assets. I wonder if they have devolved web editing and an approval process for publishing? We’ll probably never know.

Either way, this was an interesting, if not amusing, little episode.

2021-01-13T00:13:45+00:0013 January 2021|USA, WordPress|

Unrest in the USA – A Commentary

I wanted to spend some time sharing my personal thoughts relating to recent events in the US. Even though I no longer reside there I am still concerned as I have in-laws and friends living there whose daily routines have become quite stressful over the past few years.

From The Beginning

There has always been this underbelly of hate groups in the US, for example white supremacists, Nazi’s and those who abuse religion for financial gain. This hate and division came to the forefront due to one man, Donald Trump, a catalyst that has bought out the worst in society. Trump’s interference goes back as far as his racist commentary on President Obama, the birther conspiracy, which might have contributed to Republican’s refusal to deal with a black head of state, it seemed they would have rather of destroyed the country than agree on any law. The past four years, 2016-2020, has seen the deterioration of society norms and the breakdown of civil discussion as Trump would instigate hate across the nation and globe.

Assault on Congress

On Wednesday 6 January Trump supporters led an attack on Congress as instigated by the President himself. Supporters broke into the building causing havoc as legislators and their staff ran for cover in safe spaces. This assault was most likely to stop the proceedings in confirming Biden as the next President so Trump could continue on in office for the next four years. It was an attempted coup. However, the people who infiltrated the building were a rag tag bunch of protesters who quite clearly didn’t have a strategy given the chaotic yet uncoordinated effort into the building. They did cause a lot of damage, four people were killed, but at the end of the day it would not have been successful.

Clearly, the authorities were unprepared for this event and took the police and national guard hours to reach the building and this was after they had to be requested by leaders in the building. There was no excuse for the inadequacies of the authorities, there was plenty of chatter such an event would happen but no security forces were ready for this.

Republican Legislators

Over the past four years the Democrats have been calling out Trump for his vile behaviour however most Republicans refused to do so and it felt they were complicit in the Presidents actions. Some Republicans were co-instigators of the assault on Congress it seems. Obviously, these legislators should resign but they most likely won’t.

There are many Republican lawmakers around the country who have quietly lobbied and welcomed Trump’s support in their election campaigns as though getting his endorsement is the only route to success. So, they have literately got in bed with the devil to get into office, anything for power. An example of one such legislator is Claudia Tenney of NY22 who, a day after the assault on Congress, still hadn’t called out Trump for instigating the violence, she would rather condemn local community journalists than a demagogue. Ms Tenney is not alone as there are many other Republicans who also haven’t called him out although they did condemn the violence.

I can understand and appreciate why people would want to vote for Republicans, but their party has seen a significant deterioration since the days of the “Tea Party” and now Trumpism. Let’s be clear, Trump is a monster, the party has to evolve and can do better than it is now.  The further apart both the Republicans and Democrats are the less likely they are to agree or compromise on anything.

Social Media

For 4+ years netizens have been submitting their case for Trump’s removal from social media platforms, he breaks their rules on a daily basis, where others are locked out or suspended for much lighter reasons. The day of the assault Twitter and Facebook decide the time is up on him and have taken appropriate action. Given that Twitter is Trump’s main conduit of hate it would have been preferable to take down his account before now and as a result the assault may not have happened or at the least not such an impact as we saw. Continued scrutiny of these companies really need to be escalated in the coming months and years. As soon as Trump is no longer a President hopefully all social media will permanently ban him.

Going Forward

The US obviously made the right choice in electing Biden and Harris, this will set a new way forward. However, because Trump failed on so many levels, their portfolio of issues is huge, I don’t envy them. Some of those issues are:

  • COVID19 pandemic
  • Climate Change
  • Health Care
  • Uniting the country
  • Repairing broken diplomatic relations
  • Rejoining organizations like WHO
  • Civil Rights ie equality for Black people, LGBTQ, women, Asian community etc
  • Immigration

Even within the COVID19 project there are many sub-projects such as convincing people to wear masks, ensuring health care facilities have all the resources they need, ensuring a quick vaccine rollout, convincing deniers the vaccine is safe.

The worst of the US has been on display over the past four years, everybody should realize what the issues are, ensure it doesn’t happen again, learn many hard lessons and pave the way for a better future ensuring this disaster never happens again. Oh, ensure Trump and associates are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, this is the only way to stop it from happening again, no one is above the law and actions = consequences.

Last Thought

I would really welcome a day of mourning to show respect to the victims of the pandemic.  Too many have been lost. I am still pleased I left the US, very pleased, even if Biden is President that might be good in the short term however what will happen after that? Another person like Trump? I hope not but I couldn’t take the risk in staying there and going through that again.

2021-01-07T22:48:43+00:007 January 2021|USA|

The End of Trump

The vulgar Donald Trump has finally been beaten in the US 2020 election by Joe Biden, and here is a personal perspective on the matter.

Why We Left The USA

Trump was the catalyst that made us leave the US. There was a whole bunch of reasons more specifically around access to health care. Even under the Obama era the Affordable Health Care Act workflow of buying insurance was completely insane and then having access to reasonably priced treatment was near impossible. Then incompetent companies like Kaiser compounded by homophobic doctors and a broken administrative system, I had enough. Health care I knew would become less accessible and more expensive under Trump.

The Past Four Years

The Trump administration has been surrounded by scandal and corruption even when putting aside the man’s bullying narcissistic attitude. His attitude and laziness have done untold damage to the US and the world even when you look at just a few subjects:

  1. COVID19 Pandemic
  2. Climate Change
  3. Immigration
  4. Unemployment
  5. Economy for the Rich
  6. Racism/Black Lives Matter/Equality/LGBTQ

He had promised to be an LGBTQ-friendly President, of course, I wasn’t fooled but many were.  The Human Rights Campaign listed some of the legislative attacks on our community. Many were worried about how far he would have gone in his second term such as banning same-sex marriage now he has Yes people working for him in the Supreme Court.

This has been a very stressful and trying time for our friends and family in the US, each day you never know what Trump is going to do next to take their human rights or opportunities away and back to a medieval era.

Trump is claiming that there were many illegal votes in the election and he has won, not Biden, but his attempts to take that through the court has failed, he has nothing to back those claims up as usual. He will torture people until the moment he has gone but it’s not long now, maybe this is a good opportunity to push for the criminal justice system to process him after January 20th, he must have his days in court to face his criminal activities. I wouldn’t be surprised when Biden and Harris take office they will discover some scary trails to what he has been up to.

Trump Vest

Best Things About Trump

Making fun of him including the artwork people have created to attack him. If you ignore Trump he has won, he will walk all over people, best is to continue to undermine his every move. It seems that countries have learned to make fun of him too, including China of all places. He is larger than life buffoon that harms so many peoples lives, all you can do is attack him.

Characters like the Baby Trump balloon will never be forgotten. He’s association with Prep H, spray tanning his face, tiny hands, word salad, having to hold a bottle with two hands and more will go down in history as much as his failures and totally bonkers attitude. One of my caricatures of Trump to the right.

Summary

What a sad and horrible person Trump is but everyone has to look forward to better days ahead and the focus on fixing what he has broken but also take themselves forward into a better chapter of the American dream (not a nightmare). My biggest concern is Climate Change, being next door to someone who doesn’t believe it exists is extremely dangerous, I hope Biden and Harris have an extremely aggressive strategy to save the planet.

2020-11-18T00:29:54+00:0018 November 2020|USA|

How To Avoid US Election Silly Season

Unfortunately, it’s pretty impossible to avoid US election silly season no matter where you are in the world but there are ways of filtering it out a little.

They say that election campaigning actually being the day of or day after their inauguration, while I’m not sure that this has been true in the past it certainly feels like since 2016. I really have more important things to do than being sucked into US chaos.

So, here is how I am avoiding the US right now.

News

It’s important to know what’s going on in the news but that doesn’t have to be US focused all the time, there are more things happening than what that supposed “superpower” is doing.

The main way I see news is through RSS feeds. Many news websites still have them even though they don’t advertise them. Often you can paste a URL into an RSS reader and it will self-discover the feeds.  I have feeds set up for the BBC, Canadian newspapers and TV news, local news from the UK and so much more.  Some RSS readers have options to display just the headline or the first two lines of the articles as well.

So, which RSS reader do I choose? Actually I switch between a couple but here is a list of ones which are pretty good:

News Blur has a limit until you have to move to a subscription model but it does have apps. I prefer the interface and multiple view options that Netvibes offers.

This is a brilliant video by Chris Were on News Blur:

Television News

It’s not so easy to avoid the US watching television news, where ever you are in the world channels seem to have a blind fascination with the country. There are ways to trim that content down though.

First, don’t watch US cable TV news channels like CNN, Fox and MSNBC, much of their content isn’t really news but editorials with a never-ending supply of so-called experts interspersed with adverts to cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Secondly, avoid international stations that target the US market. I am thinking of BBC World News and Russia Today, both of which package their content with US news as a priority. I do enjoy BBC World News but I really want to hear more news from home, the UK, or at an international level.

Thirdly, consider watching TV news that broadcasts live online from channels outside the US, such as:

There are also many other news streaming services within and outside of YouTube.

Radio

Remember this: No radio station is local anymore. It used to be the case many, including myself, would buy a Shortwave radio to listen to broadcasts from overseas. Many of the stations were run by governments though which for me put fears of being fed propaganda.

These days many radio stations will stream their service online. For me this has opened up a whole new world of news and cultural entertainment especially as Canadian radio has a typical US style of broadcasting intermixed with hundreds of adverts which doesn’t make them at all listenable.  It would take me forever to list all of my the stations I enjoy listening to but simply doing performing a internet search can find a great selection to suit anybodies interest.

I highly recommend signing up for a free account at TuneIn who pool many radio station feeds on their site.

Twitter

As every Twitter user can testify to there is a flood of politically charged content on this platform right now, the majority of it is angry and offensive. So there are ways to filter out some of the vulgarities but there is no way to make it go away for good.

1. Avoid the platform altogether. I believe there are many who are taking this strategy at least until the election is over. This is most likely not an option for some people as they use Twitter for marketing or even an income source.

2. Place those you follow into lists then view them in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Those in lists may never speak about politics, for example, comic shops or companies.

3. Unfollow users who constantly talk about politics. I know many who do this from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep.

4. Mute accounts until the elections are over. You can still go to their accounts and see their content but it will not cram up your main timeline.

5. Mute words and phrases. You can go to town with this feature and it partly does work although sometimes you will see a placeholder in the timeline where you content doesn’t appear.  See video below on how to achieve this.

TEDx

This TEDx talk is quite good and to quote John Noonan verbatim “people now digest news to validate their own thoughts”. There is so much anger out there it frightens me off contributing to social media platforms but I try to focus on subjects that are either jovial or informative. Unfortunately, everyone wants to say their piece on politics so the less chance there is that people will find my content unless they are specifically interested in that subject.

2020-08-27T21:49:53+00:0027 August 2020|USA|

Salvation TV Series Review

For the past 26 weeks, we’ve been watching the TV series Salvation on Netflix, actually, I quite enjoyed it.

Story line

A rich technology genius, Darius Tanz, joined forces with an MIT graduate, Liam Cole, to try and stop an asteroid that is due to hit the Earth in 60 days time. The intense story line is interspersed with relationships between the central characters.

SalvationAbout The Series

The series ran between 2017 to 2018 over 2 seasons and 26 episodes.  The first season was made in Toronto and the second season in Vancouver.  The series was commissioned by CBS but they cancelled it in November 2018.

Actors

The series had a mix of Canadian and British actors in the series with the odd American thrown in. The main cast over the two seasons were:

  • Santiago Cabrera – known for his role in The Musketeers as Aramis now in Star Trek Picard
  • Jennifer Finnigan – won Emmy’s for her performance in Bold and The Beautiful
  • Charlie Rowe – numerous rolls, born and raised in Islington
  • Jacqueline Byers – fairly new actress with a growing portfolio, guest-starred on Timeless
  • Ian Anthony Dale – known recently for his work on Hawaii Five-0.

Review

The second season was better than the first mainly because it was fast-moving and action-packed from each episode to the next.  They had obviously put a lot of effort into the series with regard to sets, some special effects and a challenging storyline thrown in.

I wouldn’t have classed it as 100% science fiction as it had a general drama, espionage, strange cult and soap opera quality to it as well. There were technology and some special effects on the show but it was more in the background.

Some of the soap opera type content seemed a bit much, who is having an affair with who, whose baby is it, broken relationships that get back together then break up again.

I thought Santiago Cabrera was much better in this series than he is in Star Trek Picard, I guess he is the lead actor in Salvation as he should be at this stage in his career. The only other actor I knew was Ian Anthony Dale who played Adam Noshimuri in Hawaii Five-0 – he was also better in Salvation although both his characters had a certain borderline evil trait about them.

All in all they did a grand job with the series and I would definitely recommend it.

2020-08-21T22:40:31+00:0021 August 2020|Television, USA|

Shreddies vs Shreddies vs Chex

One of my favourite cereals that I must have is Shreddies. Over the years I haven’t noticed a change in the taste, at least since I’ve been eating them which is probably for almost 50 years now.  I only eat Shreddies in hot milk, I know some people like to mix it up with dried fruit and other cereal with cold milk but this isn’t for me.

So who has the better Shreddies?

Shreddies UKUnited Kingdom

Production of Shreddies in the United Kingdom began in 1953, much later than in Canada. They were first manufactured by Nabisco until they were taken over by Nestle.  This is probably the best of all the Shreddies, as in better quality and flavour profile.  I enjoy two of their products, both Original and Frosted.  I don’t care for the Coco flavour but haven’t had the chance to try their Shreddies Max product. The price of Shreddies is GBP£2.00 for 415g, at least this is the current price from Tesco, the cost is very reasonable. [Shreddies UK]

Shreddies CanadaCanada

Production of Shreddies in Canada began before that of the United Kingdom, in 1939, by Nabisco.  Post Cereal went on to buy them out. This hasn’t got the same taste as the UK version but its pretty close, however, I still enjoy this product very much.  I only like their Original Flavour, they don’t do the Frosted variety in Canada as much as I have lobbied them to introduce it into this market. The price of Shreddies in Canada is around CAD$3.97 for 100g but depends where you buy it from, there are always deals and sales. [Shreddies Canada]

Wheat ChexUnited States

Shreddies isn’t sold in the United States so when I lived there the closest I could find was Wheat Chex, this is manufactured by General Mills. The taste is very different, more bitter, is harder and just not as enjoyable.  I don’t enjoy any of the other Chex products.  I bought Wheat Chex when it was on sale and would eat it occasionally. Some Chex products are available in Canada but not the Wheat brand.  Chex isn’t available in the United Kingdom.  I’m not sure of the price of Chex in the US. [Wheat Chex]

So, who wins in this contest?  Yes, British Shreddies. Canadian Shreddies coming in as a close second. US Chex is third.

2019-02-12T01:16:54+00:0012 February 2019|Canada, Food, United Kingdom, USA|

US Health Care Saving Money

Health care companies in the US are commercial enterprises who want to make money off their patients.  Regular or hidden charges can build up or take you by surprise leaving you feeling ripped off and penniless. So, it’s really a good idea to be an “intelligent customer” to ensure you are getting your money’s worth.

Here are some tips about avoiding larger charges that I have learnt.

  1. Try to get an estimate for the services you are going to use.  There are two reasons for this: a) when your bill comes along and you think you have been overcharged you have a basis to question it, b) you can shop around to other places that will provide the same thing.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to get an estimate from administrative staff so go through your own general practice if you can, they tend to be more helpful/competent.
  2. Stay within the network.  Treatment outside of your insurance network will be much more expensive, obscenely so, ensure that whatever you are going to have done stays in-house.
  3. Always ask the price, whether you have got an estimate or not, prior to your treatment.  I have been caught out thinking the service should be free, as in preventative, when days later I receive a huge bill.
  4. If something looks odd on your invoice then question it with the company. By doing this I found out that some companies don’t charge for a service that is less than $5.
  5. Use telehealth services. Often seeing the doctor face to face can mean a deductible or other charge. Consider using the companies telehealth service, that means to speak to a nurse on the phone or online. Often you can upload pictures so nurses can see the ailment to be checked out. Telehealth services might be free, check with your provider.
  6. When going to a practice observe how many people come to attend to you. It doesn’t take 5 nurses to take your blood pressure. I have always questioned why they provide multiple staff when it’s possible for one person to perform that simple task.
  7. Do you really need to see your doctor? Often a nurse can provide the service you need, this saves the doctor time and lowers your cost, probably.
  8. Question the price of medications. Buying drugs at your local pharmacy with GoodRx coupons could be cheaper than charging it to your insurance.  This has been the case with all my medications. Often independent pharmacies are already linked to the GoodRx system.

I hope you find these tips useful. They may not be relevant for all occasions but when doing business with a company that is providing a service you want to make sure you are getting a fair price for a high standard. Don’t be shy. Question everything. You are the customer.

2018-12-08T21:51:08+00:008 December 2018|Health Care, USA|