Tax Returns Could Trump Trump’s Philanthropy Claims

Donald Trump often speaks of all the donations he makes to various charities.  In January, Trump held a fundraiser for at least 40 veterans-focused nonprofits, which raised $4.5, $5.5, $5.6 or $6 million, depended on which member of his staff you ask and when you ask them.  Some of this money was donated by Trump himself, with the majority of the money coming from fundraiser attendees.  The Bob Woodruff Foundation received a check for $75,000, which Woodruff said, “We can put it to very good use to help our vets and their families.” Also, in May, “[Trump] gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.”

Recently, The Wall Street Journal looked into the history of donations from the self-proclaimed philanthropist to all charities throughout the years.  The title of the article that followed this investigation is “Trump promised millions to charity.  We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.”  (I think the title of this story explains the findings of the Journal, although it can neither be proven nor repudiated without Trump’s tax returns.)

Money or Safety: Who Wins?

Mixed Martial Arts combines the skills needed in wresting, kickboxing and jiu-jitsu into one violent sport.  In this century, MMA has gained popularity and consequently been legalized in most of America.  This past week, the New York legislature, Governor Cuomo and the State Athletic Commission entered the cage.

While MMA matches have been going on in New York for some years, legalization means that there will be regulations.  Specifically, these regulations include classifying 31 Acts that constitute a foul in the arena and would result in “disqualification from a mixed martial arts contest or exhibition… as determined by the referee.”  Five of these fouls specifically involve violence to the brain: Butting with the head, striking to… the back of the head, kicking the head of a grounded opponent, kneeing the head of a grounded opponent, and spiking an opponent to the floor surface on his head or neck.  Other rules are not specifically directed to the head, but could easily result in head trauma, such as “attacking an opponent on or during a break”.  Additionally, “New York [is] to Require $1 Million Brain-Injury Coverage for Mixed Martial Artist,” to be provided by the promoters.

However, the safety of the athletes was not directly the reason of the legalization… it was the money.  It is estimated that legalizing MMA will bring $140 million to New York in economic growth.

In covering this story, Forbes magazine notes that, “insurance doesn’t provide for fighter safety.  It provides compensation after fighter safety has failed.”  (On the other hand, the NYS Athletic Commission says it, “has taken another step toward ensuring the health, safety and integrity of its athletes and event.”)  Some people still want the sport banned.  Currently, the State is seeking comments from the public on this issue.  The proposed legislation can be found on this link and comments can be submitted for review until August 27, 2016.

Conventions Are Staged, Too


DaPresident Dana White delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is not an athlete, but he works in athletics.  He is not involved in politics, but yesterday he spoke at the Republican National Convention.  And Dana White doesn’t have a brain injury, but he makes sure other people do… And it’s with the help of Donald Trump that he can do this all.

In a 4 minute speech, White used the knowledge he acquired from acting as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promoter, to promote Trump for President.  He describes Trump as his friend, noting that, “Just for the record [he] has nothing to do with my business.”  (To counter that statement, know that the first 2 UFC fights were fought at the Trump Taj Majal, and Trump continues to host UFC events at his Atlantic City casino.)  He then goes into Trump’s three characteristics that will make him a great President.*

When UFC fighting first came out, in 1993, it was considered a blood-sport.  The description of the sport is not simply rhetoric, as, after time in the ring, fighters drip with blood.  Last year, Wanderlei Silva, a former fighter, claimed that the UFC fixes its games.  (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. admits to fixing their games.)  However, if we accept the games as being fixed, that doesn’t make them any safer.  For example, the comparatively tamer World Wrestling Entertainment is being sued by more than 50 former fighters for the brain trauma they suffered in the sport.  Since the sport is essentially “fake”, being scripted and choreographed, the WWE is “directly responsible for wrestlers’ injuries”, according to the lawsuit.

According to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, about one-third of professional MMA matches end in knockout, indicating a higher incidence of brain trauma than boxing or other martial arts.  “The researchers [of this study] at the University of Toronto proposed introducing rules like in boxing where a fighter gets a 10-second count and evaluated after a knockdown. They also proposed more training to help referees to identify fighters who are defenseless or have lost consciousness so they can stop fights more quickly.”  This year, the UFC extended its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic in the “Professional Fighters Brain Health Study”.

Yes, the UFC is trying to better its sport, to prevent head injury thereby allowing athletes to stay in the sport longer.  Technically, Trump is supporting this investigation.  However, do you think that the man who likes to see head collisions in football wants to make the UFC safer?  Will the sport continue to be as popular if its rings are not filled with blood after a fight, thereby decreasing his game sales?  Assuming the UFC is here to stay, Trump needs to think about his point of view.  It’s one thing to except that a sport is going to happen, it’s a whole other thing to give it a place to happen.

(Currently, in combat sports, there is a call from some for fighters to toss away their gloves and fight bare-handed.  That call sounds awful and horribly unsafe, and would increase hand injuries.  For the head, bare-handed fighting is actually safer (safer, not safe).)

*First, White says that Trump has excellent business instincts, presumably talking about his instincts with the UFC – even though, as White said, “[Trump] has nothing to do with it.”  Second, Trump is a hard worker.  Third, Trump is a loyal, supportive friend.  Being a good friend is a great feature, but I’m not sure how it applies to the presidency, though there was talk about Trump buddying up with Putin.

PTSD = Police Trauma Stress Disorder?

My thoughts are with the Baton Rouge police today, 3 of whom were shot and killed and 3 others injured. With this, and the events in Dallas last week, I understand that many police officers, especially the survivors of these attacks, may be experiencing some form of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As President Obama said today, “Attacks on police are an attack on all of us.”  My best goes out to the families of those who lost their lives protecting this country and to all police officers.  I hope all Americans soon realize the good work that police officers, in general, do and that officers are given the respect that they deserve.

America’s Pastime Hopes to Make Concussions a Problem of the Past

He ran for the ball, knocking head-first into a concrete wall in a game versus the Washington Senators at Washington’s Griffith Stadium.  He then lay on the ground, unconscious, for five minutes.  Eventually, he arose, shook off the trauma and returned to play.

Such a story as the one above seems unfathomable in current athletics.  Now, if a player is hit on the head and falls unconscious, he would never be permitted to return to play immediately and, most likely, would be taken to the hospital for neurological testing.  However, this is what happened to America’s famed baseball player for the New York Yankees, Babe Ruth, in 1924.

Compared to many other sports, baseball does not have a high concussion rate.  Between ten to twenty players are put on the disabled list yearly because of concussions.  However, even one concussion is one too many.  Most prone to concussions are outfielders and catchers.

Recently, this was brought to my attention because of the story, Ex-Met Josh Satin explains why retiring is ‘the right thing’ after suffering head injuries.  Specifically, while playing for the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, Satin collided with his team’s third baseman, as both were going for a pop fly.  After being unconscious for five long seconds, Satin says he had a “weird feeling” and later was “never the same”.  He further stated that his depth perception, once his best skill, never fully recovered.  “The ball was always in a different spot than I thought.”  (Officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Satin sat out most of last season.)

Similarly, in December 2012, Toronto Blue Jays’ utility player Ryan Freel, the first pro-baseball player diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) who had to retire from playing the sport because of his injuries, committed suicide.  In 2013, Freel’s family donated some of his brain tissue to Boston University for study.  Though Freel’s behavior after his accident pointed towards CTE, he was not officially diagnosed until this postmortem study.

Dr. Robert Stern, co-founder of the Center of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, said, “I cringe [whenever] I see two guys going after the same ball.”  The MLB has said, “[it] will remain proactive on concussion and head injuries.”  Home plate collisions are no longer allowed and, in 2013, the MLB said it was instituting educational programs and rule changes to protect from concussions.  The prior year, the MLB mandated that any player who suffers a concussion must be put on the “disabled list” for at least 7 days.

This year, Major League Baseball established a lobbying office in the District of Columbia.  Lobbying is not new for the MLB, as they have always spent time and money lobbying, most notably in the 1998 – 1999 seasons when they spent $1.6 million on it.  (In comparison, last year the MLB spent about $320,000 lobbying.)  The office is run by Josh Alkin, a lawyer who, before the appointment as Vice President of Government Relations in this office, had been handling issues relating to the MLB for 15 years at the firm BakerHostetler.  In 2013, the MLB also stated that it aims, “to remain proactive on concussions and head injuries.”

I don’t think there is a way to entirely eliminate concussions from baseball but the MLB has instituted mandatory educational programs and certain changes to the rules to minimize these injuries. It is a good sign that the MLB, as of this year, has a lobbying office in the country’s capital to address a wide range of key government-facing issues including player safety.  With these steps, the MLB hopes to eliminate some concussions, but still keep the excitement of watching a game of America’s pastime.

“Hearing” Concussions

Though they are quite different on the surface, soldiers and college athletes both function in roles that can result in physical injury.  Unfortunately, this commonality means that both soldiers and college athletes have a higher likelihood of getting a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as a concussion.  Because of this, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) joined forces in a search to find a better way of detecting mTBI, which may not be immediately recognizable.  The project, known as the “Grand Alliance”, is being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s government-funded Lincoln Laboratory (MIT LL), with the goal of creating “a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared, real-time mild TBI screening app and hardware device which can be used throughout the echelons of care from point of injury to rehabilitation,” said Brian Dacanay, USAMMA product manager.  Essentially, they are in the process of creating “a computer algorithm to identify vocal biomarkers” to be used on a portable smartphone-size device that could help identify when someone needs medical help for a concussion.  MIT LL hopes to have the device ready for FDA approval by 2018.

America’s BRAIN May Increase In 2017

In 2009, President Obama told the press that his administration will “restore science to its rightful place.”  A list of 100 examples of this “restoration”, called the IMPACT REPORT, was published on June 21, 2016 by the White House press office.  Example #45 on this list is the April 2013 launch of the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which was begun in order “to develop neuro-technologies [to] uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.”  This Initiative, funded jointly by the Federal government and private enterprises, was news when it first was started, but since then there have been few stories in the news and few statements from Obama himself discussing the Initiative’s studies or its findings.

Despite the lack of discussion about the program in the media, online you can find the benefits of the Initiative and its recent, but limited, successes.  In March of this year, Obama proposed to increase the “Federal investment in the BRAIN  Initiative from $300 million in fiscal year 2016 to $434 million in fiscal year 2017.”  (In fiscal year 2013, when program started, BRAIN’s budget was $100 million.)  Though the 2016 budget of $300 million seems high already, for the extensive studies the Initiative does, $434 million may be more appropriate.  This funding for BRAIN has been provided by 5 federal agencies, DARPA, NIH, NSF, IARPA, and FDA, who also run the studies.  In 2017, the President plans to increase this to 6 federal agencies, by adding the Department of Energy.

In looking through the National Institute of Mental Health, a subset of the NIH, BRAIN Initiative’s Science News page, I found only 4 press releases for 4 studies completed since 2013.  Presumptively, that is because comprehensive medical studies often take years to complete and/or more completed study results can be found on other government websites.  More financing may mean that the program can start and eventually complete additional studies, perhaps more quickly because it can add more manpower.

The study I found most intriguing was a study funded both by BRAIN and the Human Connectome Project, and completed in 2015, entitled “Our Brain’s Secrets to Success”.  This study examines the cortex of 461 volunteers to see “how the human brain contributed to our success.”

As of July 7, the program has reported the results of one study in 2016, “Ketamine Lifts Depression via a Byproduct of its Metabolism,” with the purpose of finding a new, more effective anti-depressant by using metabolite, a byproduct of ketamine.  (Ketamine is already being used for this purpose in many hospitals.)  The results of this study, published in May, found that ketamine’s use as an antidepressant worked well in rats, but, while human trials with ketamine quickly relieved patient’s depression, it did not have lasting effects.

Patriotic Day Can Traumatize America’s Patriots

Fireworks may be the signature event of the 4th of July, but for those veterans who showed their extreme patriotism by serving on the front line, it may be the most emotionally painful day of the year.  Research findings differ, but up to 20% of the more than 2.5 million veterans and troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to have developed PTSD.  “With PTSD, it’s an invisible wound.  It’s a real physical change in our brain,” says Jeremy Clark, a former technical sergeant for the US Air Force who has both PTSD and TBI. He served in Iraq and was traumatized by the explosions of 14 roadside bombs during his service.  Sam Deeds, a Marine Corps vet, says, “It’s like I’m getting blown up all over again.”  A website (Military with PTSD) requests donations to provide free yard signs to veterans that say “Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.

For non-veterans, fireworks can still be dangerous.  The purchase of fireworks is illegal in some states and, even in states where the purchase of fireworks are legal, they should not be lit without proper knowledge on how to prevent injuries.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 230 people a year “celebrate” Independence Day with a visit to the emergency room because of fireworks-related injuries.  To prevent injury from happening, the non-profit National Council on Fireworks Safety and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission both have instructions on how to use firework as safely as possible.

(In this post, I have talked about the dangers of fireworks.  However, I think most veterans would say that fireworks are both a patriotic and enjoyable way to celebrate Independence Day.  They probably wish they could still enjoy the fireworks on July 4th.  Clark and Deeds have both found ways to prevent the noise and visuals that lead them to an automatic fight-or-flight reaction.  I very much hope that vets with this issue can find ways to enjoy the holiday without exposing themselves to triggers.)