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Last updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 9:20 AM
Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2016 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
2016 US total per capita health care spending was $9892 – $5292 more per person than in France
Hit by record droughts and rainfall and wildfires, California leads the way in tackling global warming
....California’s global warming solutions

In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act into law, whose most significant component was a carbon cap and trade system. The bill required California to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, and the state is on track to meet that goal despite a growing population and thriving economy with an $8.8bn surplus. California has proved that an economy can thrive with a price on carbon pollution in place.

In 2016, California passed an update to the California Global Warming Solutions Act requiring a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 on the way to the target 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. California’s annual per capita emissions (11.5 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per person) are currently on par with those of Germany and Japan, and 40% lower than the US average.

California is investing in climate change solutions, like pilot projects using farms to sequester carbon. More than half of the state’s electricity is generated by carbon-free sources (21% hydroelectric, 12% solar, 9% nuclear, 6% wind, 6% geothermal), and another 43% comes from natural gas. While California can take steps to further reduce the greenhouse gas pollution from its electric power (for example, it just became the first state to require solar panels on new homes), electricity now comprises less than 20% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation is the biggest culprit, now accounting for 37%.

That’s why California’s war with the EPA over vehicle fuel efficiency standards is so important. With its low-carbon power grid mix, California can achieve significant transportation emissions cuts by transitioning to electric cars. So far they comprise about 4.5% of the state’s vehicle fleet (340,000 electric cars), well above the national average of 1.1%, but with a long way to go yet. The state’s goal is to have 1.5m electric cars on the road by 2025 and 5m by 2030, with a $2.5bn initiative to install another quarter million charging stations in California to meet the growing electric vehicle infrastructure needs.

America should follow California’s lead

California has become a leader both in experiencing climate change impacts and taking action to mitigate them. The state has provided a perfect example that contrary to current Republican Party beliefs, climate change has serious economic and human costs, whereas economies can thrive after putting a price on carbon pollution. America needs leaders with the foresight of California’s.

"We don't have the deep pockets of the insurance industry or the pharmaceutical industry, but we are determined to get the facts about single-payer out in Sacramento and across the country."

As momentum in the fight for Medicare for All continues to grow nationwide thanks to persistent grassroots organizing by nurses, democratic socialists, and progressive activists, a group of California doctors placed an unprecedented eight-page ad in a major Sacremento newspaper on Thursday in an effort to combat corporate lies about single-payer and provide "patients and physicians with the tools they need to be effective advocates for a system that provides high quality care, but doesn't bankrupt the sick or the U.S. economy."

"There's a lack of informative, accurate coverage of single payer in the mainstream media."
—Dr. Bill Bronston, Physicians for a National Health Program

"We don't have the deep pockets of the insurance industry or the pharmaceutical industry, which Californians may recall spent $109 million two years ago to defeat a ballot measure to reduce drug prices, but we are determined to get the facts about single-payer out in Sacramento and across the country," Dr. Paul Song, a radiation oncologist and president of the California chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), said in a statement.

The full eight-page publication—which features articles from doctors explaining how a single-payer system would be more cost-effective and provide far better care than the for-profit status quo—can be read here.

Gore says pipeline expansion in Canada ‘would be a step backward in our efforts to solve the climate crisis’

....“The Kinder Morgan pipeline carrying dirty tar sands oil would be a step backward in our efforts to solve the climate crisis,” Gore tweeted on Thursday.

He went on to say that he stands with John Horgan, the premier of British Columbia and Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, as well as, “all of the Canadians – including the First Nations – who are fighting to stop this destructive pipeline.”

For months, Alberta and British Columbia have been locked in a standoff over plans, spearheaded by Texas-based Kinder Morgan, to expand an existing pipeline and lay nearly 1,000km of new pipe from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific coast.

The $7.4bn project, which still needs to obtain numerous local permits and approvals, would nearly triple the flow of Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to the west coast.

It has been bitterly opposed by some in British Columbia, who point to the impact that a dramatic rise in tanker traffic could have on the region’s southern resident killer whales, a population already on the knife-edge of extinction, as well as the province’s multibillion dollar tourism industry.

Others point to the existing pipeline’s track record; since 1961, the Trans Mountain pipeline has reported approximately 82 spills, with around 30% of those spills occurring along the pipeline’s route.

Development could transform how one of the world’s most common materials is made

....On Thursday the Canadian government and two of the world’s biggest aluminium producers, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, hailed a “breakthrough” technology that they said would remove carbon dioxide from the smelting process. Executives from the companies said it was “the most significant development in aluminium in a century”.

The companies said the change would reduce carbon dioxide production by 6.5bn tonnes a year in Canada alone, where it is first being rolled out. That is equivalent to taking about 1.8m vehicles off the road. The technology would also reduce operating costs by about 15%, the executives said.

....Alcoa and Rio Tinto’s new process involves the use of a proprietary material they invented and developed over a decade that can be used in place of carbon. When used in smelting, it releases oxygen instead.

The new process will not reduce the need for vast quantities of energy in the smelting process, but if it comes from renewable sources it will in effect mean the aluminium produced is carbon-free.

....Products using the new technology are not expected to become commercially available until about 2024.

Analysis: 490,000 Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Sprayed on National Wildlife Refuges [why are non-organic, poisonous chemicals allowed in wildlife refuges?]
Pesticide Use on Crops Grown in Refuges Spikes in California, Oregon, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland
Contact: Hannah Connor, (202) 681-1676 | Biological
Talk of the transportation future is focused on the next shiny thing. But one old technology is central to real transformation.

....[But] it turns out that when rubber-tired fleets are treated as a mighty social good, people willingly hop on. See the Minneapolis “A Line,” where buses are essentially held to the standards of rail service: They get first-go at traffic lights, accept boardings at every door, and stop every half mile, rather than every block. Look at all of the cities following the example of Houston, which overhauled its bus route network in 2015 and saw a 15 percent Saturday ridership spike in the first year; Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City are all taking their cues. And look, perhaps most of all, at San Francisco, Phoenix, and Seattle, the only major cities where bus ridership meaningfully ticked up last year. All have city-wide plans to fund and improve service. What’s been missing in most cities is this type of attention.

That’s why CityLab is launching Bus to the Future, an ongoing series that puts public coaches at the center of the transportation future. Most of all, we plan to look at what’s working on bus systems in the U.S., with the belief that there is no inherent reason that buses cannot be great. Which cities are winning the battles to prioritize road space? Where is the gold standard for frequent, fast, and reliable transit being set by buses? And how might that change local visions for the future of transportation?

"When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate...that we've removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation."

In his first speech as Costa Rica's new president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced this week a plan to make the country the world's first carbon-free society in just a few short years.

Alvarado called the goal "titanic" but expressed confidence that the forward-thinking country could eliminate the use of fossil fuels in its transportation system by 2021.

"Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first," Alvarado told a crowd of thousands at his inauguration.

The nation of 4.8 million people already derives 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including hydropower and wind.

Costa Rica's rapidly-growing automobile market is the next hurdle in ending the country's use of fossil fuels. About two-thirds of the country's energy-related fossil fuel emissions come from transportation....

Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


[ Taking a vacation. Next postings will be on May 30th. ]
Ex-New York mayor: democracy at risk from ‘endless barrage of lies’

Americans are facing an “epidemic of dishonesty” in Washington that is more dangerous than terrorism or communism, according to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In a commencement speech on Saturday at Rice University in Houston, the billionaire said “an endless barrage of lies” and a trend toward “alternate realities” in national politics pose a dire threat to US democracy.

The 76-year-old, who flirted with an independent presidential run in 2016, did not call out any politicians by name. Although he derided Donald Trump as “a con” and a “dangerous demagogue” before his election, in an interview before the speech at Rice Bloomberg refused to comment specifically on the president. Fact checkers have determined that Trump has made hundreds of false and misleading statements since entering the Oval Office.

Associated Press | The Guardian
Democrats, Nader argues, must "crack down on corporate crime" and fight for a living wage and Medicare for All if they hope to defeat GOP in 2018 and beyond

If Democrats are wondering why they lost to reality television star Donald Trump and the deeply unpopular GOP in the 2016 elections—and why their advantage in 2018 polling continues to slip—longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader argues the party must stop searching for scapegoats and start fighting for a bold and progressive agenda.

"Democratic Party: stop scapegoating, look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you cannot landslide the worst, the most ignorant, the most corporate indentured, the cruelest Republican Party in history."
—Ralph Nader

With a rare invitation to appear on cable news, Nader told MSNBC host Ari Melber, Nader said that instead of blaming third party candidates like himself and other external factors for losses that resulted from their own incompetence and inability to articulate an inspiring platform, Democrats must embrace widely popular ideas like Medicare for All and a living wage if they are to oust the "corporate indentured" Republican Party.

"I think the Democratic Party should take the third party agenda away from it. They should have a living wage, crack down on corporate crime, full Medicare for All," Nader toldMelber. "Democratic Party: stop scapegoating, look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you cannot landslide the worst, the most ignorant, the most corporate indentured, the cruelest Republican Party in history. Look in the mirror."


"After a year of the Mueller investigation, Pence says it's time to wrap it up. After a year of the Watergate investigation, Nixon said the same thing."

"Why write original material when Nixon can write it for you?" remarked cable television host Joe Scarborough on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday.

After Vice President Mike Pence called for an end to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Trump campaign and administration in an interview with NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, "Morning Joe" pointed out the striking similarities between his remarks and those of former President Richard Nixon in the midst of the infamous Watergate investigation....

In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, a local law enforcement race became a referendum on immigration.

....[in response to looming harsh 287(g) DACA enforcement,] an immigrants’ rights organization called Comunidad Colectiva arranged a Charlotte-area “Day Without Immigrants” as a part of the national movement. Some 8,000 Charlotte immigrants and their supporters marched uptown in peaceful protest, flooding the streets and halting vehicular traffic. An estimated 250 Latino businesses also closed that day in solidarity. Community organizers asked city leaders to do more for the immigrant community.

....For the opponents of 287(g) in Charlotte, electing a new sheriff seemed like the only way to rid the county of the program: While Carmichael embraced it, both of his challengers—McFadden and Antoine Ensley—vowed to end it. And although the election was technically the Democratic primary, there was no Republican challenger, so McFadden has become the new sheriff. In all, only 20 percent of the vote went to Carmichael, suggesting widespread opposition to his policies. The other 28 percent went to Ensley.

“It's important for the immigrant communities in Mecklenburg County, who ends up being sheriff,” Stageman said. “It may not be quite as important as who's in the White House, but it's not unimportant.”

....Trump’s most senior foreign policy aides signalled that the US would continue pressuring allies to follow Washington in backing out of the pact, which gave Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for halting its nuclear programme.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union whether that meant the Trump administration would impose sanctions against those firms, Bolton said: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”

US sanctions on Iran reimposed following Trump’s withdrawal not only block American firms from doing business in the country, but also bar foreign firms that do business there from accessing the entire US banking and financial system.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, said on Sunday wealth created in Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal “drove Iranian malign activity” in the region. He declined to rule out sanctions against European firms.

“The sanctions regime that is in place now is very clear on what the requirements are,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday.

Trump’s decision to scrap the nuclear deal was sharply criticised by European leaders, who have pledged to uphold their side of the agreement.

Alarm has been particularly high in France, whose energy giant Total last year signed a $5bn deal to extract Iranian natural gas. Airbus, the French-based plane manufacturer, has already begun delivering jets to Iran Air under a multi-billion dollar contract.

Volkswagen, the German automaker, has resumed exporting cars to Iran. Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Berlin, warned this week in a tweet: “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

Some European leaders have called for measures to nullify the US sanctions. Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said last week: “We have to work among ourselves in Europe to defend our European economic sovereignty.”

Ayman al-Zawahiri says ‘appeasement’ has failed Palestinians and Trump has revealed ‘the true face of the modern Crusade’
Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
At least 28 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured during clashes with Israeli forces along the Gaza border. Israel says Hamas militants plan to storm the frontier on Monday in opposition to the US Embassy.
Staff and agencies | Deutsche Welle
We Gazans may be penned in like animals – but on Nakba day we will show the world our humanity is unbroken
Experts rebut terrorists’ religious justification for beheading and kidnapping
In this world, women are marketed as toys and trophies. Are we surprised when some men take things literally?
Senior politician says Europe will consider countermeasures to keep trading with Iran
How has a country of under five million people become a world leader in developing holistic policies that promote democratic, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth? The answer lies in its people's belief that focusing on the welfare of all citizens not only enhances wellbeing, but also increases productivity.

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
The idea that authoritarianism attracts workers harmed by the free market, which emerged when the Nazis were in power, has been making a comeback.

....Today, as in the nineteen-thirties, strongmen are ascendant worldwide, purging civil servants, subverting the judiciary, and bullying the press. In a sweeping, angry new book, “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?” (Norton), the journalist, editor, and Brandeis professor Robert Kuttner champions Polanyi as a neglected prophet. Like Polanyi, he believes that free markets can be crueller than citizens will tolerate, inflicting a distress that he thinks is making us newly vulnerable to the fascist solution. In Kuttner’s description, however, today’s political impasse is different from that of the nineteen-thirties. It is being caused not by a stalemate between leftist governments and a reactionary business sector but by leftists in government who have reneged on their principles. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Kuttner contends, America’s Democrats, Britain’s Labour Party, and many of Europe’s social democrats have consistently tacked rightward, relinquishing concern for ordinary workers and embracing the power of markets; they have sided with corporations and investors so many times that, by now, workers no longer feel represented by them. When strongmen arrived promising jobs and a shared sense of purpose, working-class voters were ready for the message.

....Can we return to an equality in workers’ primary incomes rather than to one brought about by secondary redistribution? In a recent essay for the journal Democracy, the Roosevelt Institute fellow Jennifer Harris recommends reimagining international trade as an engine for this rather than as an obstacle to it. When negotiating trade deals, for instance, governments could make going to bat for multinationals conditional on their agreeing to, say, pay their workers a higher fraction of what they pay executives.

Failing that, we’d be better off with redistributive programs that are universal—parental leave, national health care—rather than targeted. Benefits available to everyone help people without making them feel like charity cases. Kuttner reports great things from Scandinavia, where governments support workers directly—through wage subsidies, retraining sabbaticals, and temporary public jobs—rather than by constraining employers’ power to fire people. “We won’t protect jobs,” Sweden’s labor minister recently told the Times. “But we will protect workers.” Income inequality in Scandinavia is lower than here, and a larger proportion of citizens work. Maybe a government can insure higher pay for its workers by treating them as if they were, in and of themselves, valuable. True, Denmark’s spending on its labor policies has at times risen to as high as 4.5 per cent of its G.D.P., more than the share America spends on defense, and studies show that diverse countries such as ours find it harder to muster social altruism than more racially and culturally homogenous ones do. Nonetheless, programs like Social Security and Medicare, instituted when a communitarian ethic was still strong in American politics, remain popular. Why not try for more? It might make sense even if the numbers don’t add up.

....Autonomous Research issued a report last week that estimated that in the U.S. alone, 2.5 million financial services employees will be “exposed” to AI technologies in the front, middle and back office — 1.2 million working in banking and lending, 460,000 in investment management, and 865,000 in insurance.

“These functions will see 20-40% productivity gains, or unemployment, depending on your vantage point,” the report stated. About $1 trillion in costs will be exposed to AI transformation in financial services sectors by 2030, according to the report; $450 million of this would in banking.

In banking, 70% of front-office jobs will be dislocated by AI, the researchers say: 485,000 tellers, 219,000 customer service representatives, and 174,000 loan interviewers and clerks. They will be replaced by chatbots, voice assistants and automated authentication and biometric technology.

And 96,000 financial managers and 13,000 compliance officers will be laid off as AI-based anti-money-laundering, anti-fraud, compliance and monitoring software fills in. Another 250,000 loan officers will lose their jobs to AI-based credit underwriting and smart contracts technology.

However, Accenture’s study last week of AI’s impact on jobs in financial services presented a rosier job picture. It concluded that there will be a net gain in jobs among companies that deploy AI wisely, of 14%; they will also increase revenues by 34% by 2022.

While global attention is fixed on the Rohingya crisis, another ethnic minority is at risk of being crushed by the military

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