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Established 1973 — Last updated: Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 8:50 AM
Aggregated news of who we are and might become
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
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"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

Who knew that the Windy City has become so green? As Co.Exist reported, Chicago is quietly becoming the country’s urban agriculture capital with 821 growing sites across the city, from small community gardens to multimillion dollar indoor farms, according to the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project. Even O’Hare’s Terminal 3 is home to the world’s first airport aeroponic garden.

Chicago’s “urban farming renaissance” has been led by a burgeoning indoor farm market, Co.Exist writes. This includes FarmedHere, a 90,000-square-foot space in Bedford Park that is not only the first organically-certified indoor vertical aquaponic farm in Illinois, it’s also the largest indoor farm in North America. FarmedHere’s two-story farming facility currently sits on the site of a formerly abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of Chicago.

Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch
Energy authority says governments must take responsibility, and investment would pay for itself in health benefits
Fiona Harvey | The Guardian
New pain drug being developed at University of Maryland could offer relief without addiction [a non-addicting, legally prescribed opioid drug would greatly reduce crime and and improve public health]

Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore have developed a new drug that promises a possible breakthrough by offering strong pain relief while lowering the risk of addiction.

The drug, a synthetic opioid called UMB425 for now, is in the early stages of development — years away from human testing — and some experts cautioned that a number of complications could prevent it from ever coming to market. But there are high hopes for the drug as the nation looks for solutions to the opioid addiction epidemic.

"It's one of the biggest health care crises we have in the United States right now," said Andrew Coop, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy who is developing the drug. "There are people who suffer daily from the side effects of the opioid."

Carrie Wells | The Baltimore Sun

The retirement of coal and nuclear generation in New England has opened the door for more natural gas-fired and renewable generation.

Regional capacity auctions have successfully replaced EquiPower Resources Corp.’s Brayton Point 1-3 coal-fired units and Brayton Point 4 oil-fired unit, as well as Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear station, both in eastern Massachusetts. Brayton Point, which is ultimately owned by Dynegy Inc., is slated to shut in June 2017, and Pilgrim is expected to shutter operations in June 2019.

Coalition revived proposals after companies said last week they would push ahead with projects

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which blasts a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas, will be banned.

Only a handful of projects for scientific or non-commercial purposes are likely to meet the conditions.

Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
From the ‘red-tape’ slashing desires of the Brexiters to the judgment of green professionals, all indications are for weaker environmental protections
Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Trees are dying at an ‘unprecedented’ rate due to drought, warmer weather and a bark beetle epidemic, prompting the US agriculture secretary’s warning
ASSOCIATED PRESS | The Guardian
Cities are huge carbon emitters but are ideally placed to tackle climate change. Michael Bloomberg on how the Global Covenant can give them the tools to do so

hen it comes to confronting climate change, the world’s cities are proving that there’s strength in unity. The historic climate agreement reached in Paris in December, which was approved by nearly all of the world’s nations, was made possible in part by the progress that cities have made by working together.

Today, the two biggest coalitions of cities in the world – the EU-based Covenant of Mayors and the UN-backed Compact of Mayors – are forming an alliance to link more than 600 million city dwellers in the fight against climate change.

Cities are key to solving the climate change challenge. They account for most of the world’s carbon emissions, and mayors often have control over the largest sources. Just as importantly, mayors have strong incentives to attack those sources because steps that reduce carbon also improve public health and strengthen local economies.

Clean air is increasingly a factor business leaders weigh when deciding where to invest. Cities can also act quickly to confront climate change, without the political and bureaucratic hurdles that often hold back national governments.

By sharing smart strategies, cities of all sizes have led the way in addressing climate change, and as a result, the UN has given cities an official role in international climate diplomacy for the first time. In the European Union as well, cities are increasingly seen as crucial allies in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Our new alliance, now called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, will provide unprecedented support for city efforts and accelerate progress against climate change in a number of ways, including:

Michael Bloomberg and Maros Sefcovic | The Guardian
‘Historic’ agreement between the state’s largest utility company and environmental groups follows safety debates over proximity to seismic faults
Jason Burke | The Guardian
The House GOP’s health-care proposal would expand savings accounts, provide tax credits for buying insurance, and allow people to purchase coverage across state lines. Just don’t ask how much it costs.

The plan is more like an Impressionist painting: The closer you look, the fuzzier it appears. There’s no estimate for how much it would cost, how generous the tax credits would be, how many people it would cover, or how many people would be forced off of Medicaid or their Obamacare exchange policies. “It is a framework,” a House GOP leadership aide told reporters on a background conference call held to preview the plan on Tuesday. All of those questions, the aide said, would be “litigated” by the committees that actually translate the framework into legislation next year. “We would expect healthy job growth. We would expect premiums to drop,” the aide said, without being more specific.

RUSSELL BERMAN | The Atlantic
As men in agriculture grow older and die without male successors, their wives and daughters are learning to run the business.
ALANA SEMUELS | The Atlantic

Reference:

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref.
Phys.org | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | Ref.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
Appointees by Clinton and Wasserman Schulz resoundingly reject numerous proposals put forth by Sanders surrogates

Despite its claims to want to unify voters ahead of November's election, the Democratic party appears to be pushing for an agenda that critics say ignores basic progressive policies, "staying true" to their Corporate donors above all else.

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC's platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

In a statement, Sanders said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.

Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams
Secret spending on the local level rose from 24 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2014

While the outsized influence that Big Money is having on federal elections is well-documented, the local impact of the Supreme Court's 2011 Citizens United ruling has not been fully realized—until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law on Sunday published a landmark report (pdf) documenting how secret donations have corroded democracy at the state level, where it is "arguably most damaging."

"Mining companies secretly targeting a legislator who opposed permits. Food companies battling a ballot measure to add labeling requirements. Payday lenders supporting an attorney general who promised to shield them from regulation," writes Brennan Center president Michael Waldman, listing the ways that outside money has corrupted local politics.

Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams
Alan Yuhas | The Guardian
Guns and wall-to-wall star-spangled patriotism are the National Rifle Association’s way of projecting a rugged image of strength to its members, but they also point to the steady current of hysteria throughout American history
Ben Fountain | The Guardian
Recently passed measures blocking same day voter registration or requiring certain forms of voter ID are having clear impact on largely Democratic voting blocs.
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams

The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress.

"We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward."

Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza.

KEN THOMAS | AP's The Big Story
Sunday marks one year since a huge victory for marriage equality. But over that year, discriminatory legislation has exploded across the U.S.
KRISTON CAPPS | CityLab




Today’s politicians lack the intellectual heft and stature of our bygone leaders

Britain’s self-harming Brexit crisis, its unsettling outcome made worse by the feeble incoherence of the political class’s response, again highlights a wider problem for us all. What has gone wrong with quality control on the production lines of leadership in public life?

It’s not just our problem, of course, any more than aggressive populism tinged with nationalism is unique to Brexit, though parochial Brexiters may think so. There are people like them, thinking the same, in every country, that’s the point. Our national mood, angry and resentful, is part of a bigger malaise. Let’s call it Trumpery.

Michael White | The Guardian
President Ashraf Ghani is an expert on failed states. Can he save his country from collapse?
Ghani is Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter—a visionary technocrat who has alienated potential allies and has no feel for politics. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM FERGUSON FOR THE NEW YORKER
Ghani is Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter—a visionary technocrat who has alienated potential allies and has no feel for politics. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM FERGUSON FOR THE NEW YORKER

In 2006, Ghani and his longtime collaborator, a British human-rights lawyer named Clare Lockhart, started a consultancy, the Institute for State Effectiveness, in Washington, D.C. Two years later, they published “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.” It describes the core functions of a state and suggests such measures as tapping the expertise of citizens in building institutions. By then, the theme was no longer a technical subject. The chaos in Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan threatened global security.

Theorists are rarely given such a dramatic chance to put their ideas into practice. Afghanistan has been at war ever since the Soviet invasion of 1979, when Ghani was a thirty-year-old doctoral candidate at Columbia University. Most of the country, including several provincial capitals, is threatened by the Taliban, even as the insurgency devolves into a network of narco-criminal enterprises. In sixty per cent of Afghanistan’s three hundred and ninety-eight districts, state control doesn’t exist beyond a lonely government building and a market. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have established a presence in the east. Afghanistan can’t police its borders, and its neighbors give sanctuary and assistance to insurgents. (In May, Mullah Mansour, the Taliban leader, was killed by an American drone strike while driving from Zahedan, Iran, where he reportedly consulted with Iranian officials, to his base, in Quetta, Pakistan, with a fraudulent Pakistani passport.) Afghanistan’s finances depend on foreign aid and opium. Corruption is endemic. After the departure of a hundred and twenty-seven thousand foreign troops, in 2014, the economy collapsed, unemployment soared, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans abandoned the country. Ghani is the elected President of a failed state.

George Packer | The New Yorker
Thousands of Panamanians watch as huge Chinese container vessel is pulled through locks that will double waterway’s capacity

Amid exploding fireworks and waving flags, a Chinese ship carrying more than 9,000 containers entered the newly expanded locks that will double the Panama canal’s capacity.

Associated Press | The Guardian
Ultra-cheap Ringing Bells Freedom 251 Android phone previously thought to be scam will ship in batch of 200,000 – but company will make loss on each handset

The $4 Indian phone that some thought might never materialise reportedly does exist, but only because the startup producing it is making a loss on each one.

The Ringing Bells Freedom 251, initially announced at a price of #5, is apparently set to ship this week to customers who preordered the phone in February for – ($3.70 or £2.77). At that price – the one the company originally pledged – it is losing the Indian startup Rs 150 ($2.2 or £1.65) on each smartphone.

Ringing Bells founder and chief executive Mohit Goel told the Indian Express: “We will have a loss, but I am happy that the dream of connecting rural and poor Indians as part of the Digital India and Make in India initiatives has been fulfilled with Freedom 251.”

The 3G Android 5.1 smartphone has a 4in screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 3.2-megapixel selfie camera, a 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, with a microSD card slot for adding more.

Samuel Gibbs | The Guardian
Brexit was one vote, in one peculiar set of circumstances, but it was enough to introduce a flicker of doubt into a matter that had seemed mostly settled.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells | The New Yorker
It might actually be moving to Canada.
FEARGUS O'SULLIVAN | The Atlantic
Where Is the Leadership to Help Families, Communities, and Economies Manage the Change?

It is past time for governors and legislators in the Rocky Mountain West to seriously plan for what they are going to do to help mining communities and families hit hard by the coal industry’s collapse.

These leaders—in the six states from the Canadian border to Mexico—have been silent for too long.

The coal-mining sector today in four of those states in particular (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah) is at particular risk of disappearing entirely, producing no coal at all—zero—in the not too distant future.


Reference:

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
Independent investigators who investigated the disappearance and apparent massacre of 43 Mexican students in 2014 have called for a robust follow-up to resolve the high-profile case and establish the truth.
  • Ask to deepen search related to heroin trafficking as possible motive
  • Military has been accused of killings and torture during war against cartels
REUTERS | The Guardian
The underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it.

In the past five years, the Syrian government has assassinated, bombed, and tortured to death almost seven hundred medical personnel, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical care in war zones. (Non-state actors, including isis, have killed twenty-seven.) Recent headlines announced the death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo, the last cardiologist in Hama. A United Nations commission concluded that “government forces deliberately target medical personnel to gain military advantage,” denying treatment to wounded fighters and civilians “as a matter of policy.”

Ben Taub | The New Yorker
In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
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