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Last updated: Sunday, February 25, 2018, 9:00 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 2013 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
US health worker pay is NOT the problem.
The late Thursday ruling "once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry"

A court has once again rejected the Trump administration's effort to suspend an Obama-era rule aimed at reducing releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal land.

"The decision," writes Meleah Geertsma, a senior attorney with NRDC, "once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry, at the expense of Americans' health and the environment."

The latest rebuke to the attempt to derail the Bureau of Land Management's Waste Prevention Rule was delivered late Thursday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California in response to suits filed by a number of environmental groups, as well as the states of California and New Mexico over the rule suspension.

"The BLM's reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule, and so plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits," Judge William Orrick wrote in his ruling (pdf). "They have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts."

Orrick granted a preliminary injunction requiring the Interior Department to enforce the regulation, eliciting praise from environmental groups.

Potential for floating windfarms is huge, as many countries have windy sites close to shore

Floating windfarms are likely to be the next large-scale development in renewable energy. The first Hywind Scotland, developed by the Norwegian state oil giant, Statoil, has proved a greater success than its designers hoped. The five giant six-megawatt turbines, 25 miles east of Peterhead, produced more power than expected in the first three months and withstood hurricane-force winds and giant waves.

The potential for this technology is hard to overstate. Few countries have shallow continental shelves like the UK to build offshore windfarms on the sea bed, but many have windy sites close to shore where floating windfarms could be anchored to provide power for coastal cities.

In 2017, 13 federal agencies expressed high confidence that “more than 92 percent of the observed rise in global average temperatures since 1950 is the direct result of human activity.” But the Trump administration wants to debunk its own findings. First, Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. As you might imagine, the TPPF is basically a front for utility companies and the oil and gas industry.

[... pathetic Trump appointees are reviewed...]

The polluters, using manufactured climate skeptics, captured the GOP as soon as John McCain lost his bid for the presidency. A lot of people who aren’t Republicans put their trust in Donald Trump precisely because he wasn’t in lockstep with conservative positions on everything. On climate, though, there has been absolutely no daylight. For whatever reason, Trump is fully on board with pushing climate skepticism. If Donald van der Vaart isn’t confirmed, the next nominee will be no different. The polluters can feel confident that Trump will feed their nominees into the system until one can make it through the process and win confirmation.

And this is across the board: at the EPA, at the Energy Department, and even in the courts, the polluters are ascendant and can justifiably expect to get everything they want from this administration.

A call for continued efforts to protect our water and our Earth

One year after the closing of the camp at the Standing Rock Reservation, Standing Rock is everywhere. Our collective water has been assaulted for many generations to the possible point of no return.

Our Elders foretold of a Black Snake and how the Water of Life — “Mni Woc’oni,” which is our first medicine — would be affected if we did not stop this oncoming disaster. Mni Woc’oni is part of our creation story, and the same story that exists in many creation stories around Mother Earth.

....Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.

In the protection of Mni Woc’oni, it is more than oil pipelines threatening the well-being and future of our water. Near the native territory of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, concentrated animal feeding operations or “CAFOs” are draining and degrading the land and water. As a result, the air is toxic, swamps have dried up, and aquifers, to which the people are supposed to have water rights, are being drained. Residents have mortgaged their homes to fight these threats in court and lost. In other places — in mining spills across South America and Africa and at Fukushima — man has gone too far.

Water is a source of life, not a resource.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse | The Guardian
Red Cloud’s Revolution: Oglalla Sioux Freeing Themselves From Fossil Fuel [making an "engine for good" that creates good jobs & products enabling the tribe to cut or eliminate polluting fossil-power utility bills]
“People don’t like being on the grid here,” Red Cloud says, “because they’ve been coexisting with the earth – the sun, the wind – for most of their history.”
  • Henry Red Cloud, like so many Oglalla Sioux young men, left the reservation to work in construction. When he returned home in 2002, he needed a job, and also wanted to make a difference. He attended a solar energy workshop and saw the future.
  • Today, Red Cloud runs Lakota Solar and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which have become catalysts for an innovative new economic network – one that employs locals and connects tribes, while building greater energy independence among First Nations.
  • The company is building and installing alternative energy systems, and training others to do the same, throughout remote areas of U.S. reservations, thus allowing the Sioux and others to leap past outdated fossil fuel technology altogether.
  • Henry Red Cloud’s company has another more radical purpose: it helps provide energy to remote Water Protector camps, like the one at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Solar power and other alternative energy sources are vital at such remote sites, as they power up cellphones, connecting resistors to the media and outside world.
Newborn survival rates in US only slightly better than in Sri Lanka [caused by highest-profit, non-universal healthcare and the political war against Planned Parenthood pre-natal care by willfully ignorant Republicans]
Unicef expresses alarm over figures that show five newborn babies a minute die from preventable causes worlwide
Many women must travel an hour or longer to find a hospital where they can deliver their babies

....The disappearing maternal care problem is common across rural America. Only about 6 percent of the nation’s ob–gyns work in rural areas, according to the latest survey numbers from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Yet 15 percent of the country’s population, or 46 million people, live in rural America. As a result, fewer than half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric services. Only about 88 percent of women in rural towns live within a 60-minute drive, and in the most isolated areas that number is 79 percent.

Maternal mortality is also significantly higher in rural areas. Scientific American analyzed public mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found that in 2015 the maternal mortality rate in large central metropolitan areas was 18.2 per 100,000 live births—but in the most rural areas it was 29.4. Exactly why this happens is unclear. Underlying health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes could be factors, alongside poor prenatal care and geographic access. But the numbers are troubling, and the same trend holds true for infant mortality rates, according to the analysis of CDC figures.

Study highlights urgent need to adapt urban areas to cope with floods, droughts and heatwaves

....All 571 cities studied saw a worsening in heatwaves and the high-impact scenario predicted southern Europe experiencing droughts 14 times worse than today.

The lead author, Selma Guerreiro, said: “Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point.

Tom White | The Guardian
MPs cast doubt on whether energy efficiency gains can keep offsetting rising power demand
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY
From highways carved through thriving ‘ghettoes’ to walls segregating black and white areas, US city development has a long and divisive history

....West Baltimore is an exceptionally bleak area in an exceptionally poor, overwhelmingly black American city. The city recorded 343 homicides in 2017, the highest murder rate per capita in the country. It’s almost double that of Chicago, and 18 times higher than New York City. Racial divisions run deep here, a segregation of opportunity, class and even life expectancy.

Johnny Miller | The Guardian

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"Mick Mulvaney is putting the interests of predatory lending companies and fraudulent banks ahead of the interests of consumers."

....Now Americans are getting a chance to voice their opposition to Mulvaney's changes to a bureau that, under its previous leadership, was broadly popular. The comment period ends April 13. Click here to tell Mulvaney what you think about the CFPB under his leadership.

What follows is just a small sample of the more than 70 comments that have been submitted, some of which were compiled by Splinter's Libby Watson, who observed that "the public comments so far have been almost exclusively in favor of the CFPB continuing to levy fines against banks."

"We need a political movement that fights to take back our government from those who have corrupted and subverted it."

Arguing that only a positive and truly transformative economic agenda will be sufficient to overcome the Republican congressional majority and President Donald Trump, scores of progressive leaders this week endorsed a bold 11-point platform that calls for Medicare for All, tough Wall Street regulation, and a ban on corporate money in elections.

"If the Democrats don't start talking about a fundamental restructuring of the economy, either they will lose, or when they win, they will fail."
—Roger Hickey, Campaign for America's Future

"We will resist Trump. But resistance is not enough," reads the introduction to the platform, unveiled by Campaign for America's Future (CAF). "We therefore pledge that: We will fight for good jobs, sustainable prosperity, and economic justice. We will work to build a movement that can make that agenda a reality."

In introducing the ambitious platform—which has already earned the backing of more than 70 prominent progressives, including author Naomi Klein and Our Revolution president Nina Turner—CAF is looking to chart a path that reaches far beyond the centrist and incrementalist approach favored by the current Democratic leadership.

"The elites have failed us," the platform reads. "We need a political movement that fights to take back our government from those who have corrupted and subverted it."

Roger Hickey, co-director of CAF and one of the architects of the platform, said in an interview with the Huffington Post that this objective cannot be achieved by those who are merely anti-Trump.

Supreme court hears arguments in case that could strip unions of major source of income – amid worries that the unions will lose
There’s a clear path to rebuilding a House majority that supports restrictive measures. It runs through America’s suburbs.
More agri-business employers in California's ag-dependent Central Valley are getting served with immigration audits causing "a chilling, damaging effect."
The inequality gap is widening across the globe – but Europe restricts the damage better than anywhere else

....It’s hard to exaggerate the difference between western Europe and the USA when it comes to inequality. In 1980, these blocs of similar population and average income were also similar in income inequality: the top 1% captured around 10% of national income, while the poorest 50% took around 20%.

Things have changed dramatically since then. Today, the top 1% in Europe take 12% of income (in the US, 20%) while the bottom 50% have 22% (in the US, 10%).

It’s often said that globalisation and digitalisation explain the surge in global inequality, but that’s not a very convincing narrative. Since the 1980s, Europe and the US have had similar exposure to global markets and new technologies. But they have differed in policies and institutional direction. To date, Europe has shown that it’s much better at keeping inequality in check.

Put bluntly, the EU has resisted the notion of turning its market economy into a market society. It has partly rejected the thinking of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, in which market forces, in the absence of any regulation, provide the best of all worlds in areas such as education, health and wages. There are large differences within Europe, though: the UK and Ireland have followed the American path more closely than continental Europe has. Nor can it be said that recent policy changes all go in the right direction. France’s recent reforms are strikingly similar to Donald Trump’s in how they favour the rich.

That said, social healthcare systems in most European countries still guarantee universal protection for all – hardly the case in the US. Many of those countries offer free access to university. Indeed, when policymakers in Bavaria attempted to introduce university fees in 2007, a referendum later overturned the decision. A young European’s hopes of receiving higher education depend much less on his or her parents’ income than their American counterpart’s.

Netherlands becoming a narco-state, warn Dutch police [instead of a totally criminal solution, why not develop safer, non-addictive prescription drugs to put dangerous narcotics gangs out of business]
Officers say many victims do not report incidents and organised gangs have a free rein

....Official figures suggest crime is on a downward trend but officers say many victims have stopped reporting incidents while organised crime syndicates have been given a free rein.

“Only one in nine criminal groups can be tackled with the current people and resources,” the report given to the De Telegraaf newspaper says. “Detectives see that small criminals develop into wealthy entrepreneurs who establish themselves in the hospitality industry, housing market, middle class, travel agencies.”

The paper from the Dutch police union, based on interviews with 400 detectives, adds: “The Netherlands fulfils many characteristics of a narco-state. Detectives see a parallel economy emerge.”

Critics of the Dutch gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) towards the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, and the legal status of prostitution in the country, claim the Netherlands has been inadvertently promoted as a major hub for the trafficking of drugs and people.

A large majority of ecstasy taken in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs involved in the production of cannabis. Half of the €5.7bn a year of cocaine taken in Europe comes through the port of Rotterdam, according to Europol.

The Dutch police association wants an extra 2,000 officers to be recruited, and its hard-hitting claim about the rise of organised crime will be seen by critics as an attempt to squeeze more money from central government.

Israeli media report that Shlomo Filber has made a deal to testify after being arrested

One of Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants has turned state witness and agreed to incriminate the prime minister in corruption allegations, Israeli media have reported.

Police would not confirm whether Shlomo Filber would testify against Netanyahu, but all major Israeli media outlets said a deal to do so had been reached.

Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, was arrested on suspicion of promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the telecommunications company Bezeq. In return, Bezeq’s news website Walla! allegedly provided favourable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

The reports came shortly after an allegation that a different longtime confidant tried to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu’s wife.

....Senior cabinet ministers from his ruling Likud party, who until recently dutifully defended him, have largely remained silent. Netanyahu appeared ashen in video released late on Tuesday, when he described the the claims as “total madness”.

Associated Press | The Guardian
The public-private partnerships Trump proposes are a sick neoliberal joke.

....a ‘joke’ because the beneficiaries of all this public largesse have been laughing all the way to the bank as stupid public officials continue to fall prey to their lobbying as they joyfully hand over the keys to the public purse. Trump is simply perpetuating the trend of allowing governments to continue to abrogate their true responsibilities to pursue and safeguard public purpose. Governments should never have become agents of private profit. But under PPPs [Public-Private Partnerships] of the sort proposed in Trump’s infrastructure deal, public purpose disappears and governments simply become underwriters of private profit, while assuming any contingent losses. Society gets more expensive toll roads, toll bridges, more sprawl, more cars, more rake-offs and in the end, more financial trouble and more bail-outs. The fact that governments have become active facilitators of this process gives another reason why our huge global economic and social crisis shows no end of respite.

Plundering the Planet: Coca-Cola And Nestlé To Privatize The Largest Reserve Of Water In South America [When the public is ignored for profits, THIS is what could go wrong]
Amanda Froelich / source: Truth Theory | Defend Democracy
The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

....The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.

After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.

“Manafort and Gates fraudulently secured more than twenty million dollars in loans by falsely inflating Manafort’s and his company’s income and by failing to disclose existing debt in order to qualify for the loans,” the special prosecutor indictment said.

The loans came from a Trump adviser’s bank that specialized in affordable mortgages for military veterans.
Andrew Prokop | Vox
Medical crisis in east Ghouta as hospitals 'systematically targeted' [war crimes continue – why are the UN and ICC so ineffective in stopping this and similar horrors?]
UN security council to vote on draft resolution demanding 30-day truce in Syria, as government and allies accused of destroying healthcare

The medical system in eastern Ghouta is near collapse, medics and doctors say, after nearly a week of airstrikes that have hit 22 hospitals and clinics and led to widespread claims that civilian healthcare in the besieged area is being systematically annihilated.

Medics inside Ghouta claimed only three medical facilities remained fully operational and all were overwhelmed with mass casualties that continued to arrive throughout Thursday – the fifth day of a blitz by Russian and Syrian jets across the opposition enclave. Médecins Sans Frontières said 13 hospitals it supported had been destroyed or damaged in the past three days alone.

As the damage and death toll from the strikes continued to mount, international organisations that monitor the Syria crisis alleged there was clear evidence that hospitals were deliberately targeted.

“The unspeakable suffering we are witnessing was deliberately planned and meticulously implemented over time,” said Susannah Sirkin, the director of international policy at Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO. “The current situation is the lethal result of a conscious strategy of besiegement, blocking of aid and, ultimately, the illegal destruction of civilian targets with bombs – a tactic the Syrian government and its allies initiated in Aleppo, and are now repeating with brutality in eastern Ghouta.”



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