Aggregated News & Analyses Today’s posts in bigger type, Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
Health Care & Environment PROBLEMS: Corporate influence enables life-threatening pollution & highest-profit health care.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated total 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"
India and Saudi Arabia are the other two nations set to be hit hardest, new report says
....The Trump administration has been active in scrapping various environmental regulations, including pulling the US out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. The president did so in large part because of claims about the economy, including suggestions that global warming is a hoax created by China to punish the US.
The new study shows that the US economy in fact stands to lose considerably from climate change, despite repeated suggestions from politicians that the opposite is true.
"Our analysis demonstrates that the argument that the primary beneficiaries of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would be other countries is a total myth," said lead author and University of California San Diego assistant professor Kate Ricke. "We consistently find, through hundreds of uncertainty scenarios, that the US always has one of the highest country-level SCCs.
"It makes a lot of sense because the larger your economy is, the more you have to lose. Still, it's surprising just how consistently the US is one of the biggest losers, even when compared to other large economies."
Previous analysis has largely looked at the global cost of carbon emissions. That is more easy to calculate, because carbon dioxide affects the whole world.
But the new study combines results from a series of studies and models to work out how the increase in carbon would affect individual countries. The results should serve as a warning to those countries most affected that they must do more to act together and mitigate climate change, the authors wrote.
Countries in the European Union, for instance, have been among those keenest and most active in addressing climate change, but are relatively unaffected according to the new study. Those that the study found to be most affected by carbon emissions – including India and China alongside the US – have also been less proactive in promoting new regulations to combat them, the authors noted.
Human cognitive ability is being damaged not just by CO2 and lead, but the way social media feeds us information, making us shockingly ill-equipped to clean up the air we breathe
In Mike Judge’s 2006 comedy, Idiocracy, the participants in an ill-fated cryogenics experiment awake 500 years in the future to discover that due to dysgenic mutation, anti-intellectualism and corporate capitalism the intelligence of the population has fallen to dangerous levels. The president is sponsored by fast-food chain Carl’s Jr., and crops are failing because the fields are irrigated with energy drinks. The film was abandoned by its studio and largely ignored at the box office, but its subsequent cult status might be in danger once again, this time from the overbearing reality of present events.
Researchers from Beijing University and Yale School of Health published research last month showing that people who live in major cities – which is, today, most of us – are not only suffering from increases in respiratory illnesses and other chronic conditions due to air pollution, but are losing our cognitive functions. The study showed that high pollution levels lead to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the impact on some participants equivalent to losing several years of education. Other studies have shown that high air pollution is linked to premature birth, low birth weight, mental illness in children and dementia in the elderly.
We’re only just beginning to understand how the air we breathe affects not just our physical environment, but our mental capacity as well. And the air we breathe is changing in the long term, as well as the short. Rising carbon dioxide levels – the main driver of climate change – aren’t just a hazard to the earth and other living creatures, they’re also affecting our thinking. At higher levels, CO2 clouds the mind: it makes us slower and less likely to develop new ideas, it degrades our ability to take in new information, change our minds, or formulate complex thoughts.
Recycling is an easy cop-out for governments and large corporations, but the truth is that we have to take very different action if we want to stop irreversibly poisoning the planet
....Plastic – unlike glass or metal – cannot be recycled infinitely, and after a handful of times it will be discarded, where it will take centuries to degrade. One single water bottle will remain on the planet in some form for a minimum of 450 years. ...
By the end of this century, sea level rises alone could displace 13m people. Many states will have to grapple with hordes of residents seeking dry ground. But, as one expert says, ‘No state is unaffected by this’
....By the end of this century, sea level rise alone could displace 13 million people, according to one study, including 6 million in Florida. States including Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey will also have to grapple with hordes of residents seeking dry ground. ...
News Media Matters PROBLEM: Biased news increases ignorance and hate. All viewpoints are not equal. We need news stories to cogently report reality to support understanding through logical, ethical reasoning.
WORLD PROBLEM: Greed destroys humanity and life on earth. OUR SOLUTION? Make the greedy HELP life on earth. Allow tax-free income and wealth up to reasonable levels (caps), then tax excess income and wealth (above caps) @ up to a 90% tax-rate to fairly and quickly fund life remediation.
He insisted he was “OK” with the mirthful reaction to his claims of historic achievements, but he was clearly not OK. Trump is said never to forgive or forget those who laugh at him, so this second outing at the UN podium is unlikely to end well for his administration’s already ambivalent relations with the global body.
Trump made an entrance – nearly half an hour later than his allotted time – determined to trash everything the UN stands for. The president explicitly rejected “the ideology of globalism” in globalism’s high temple and proposed in its place the “doctrine of patriotism”.
While most leaders have used their time on the UN stage to list the agreements they have made, the protocols agreed and treaties signed, Trump clearly delighted in telling the world how many such pieces of paper he had ripped up.
The lead writer of the speech was reportedly Stephen Miller, now the primary bridge between the White House and the American far right. It showed. The address was a manifesto for nativism.
Any remaining pretense of altruism was stripped away from this vision of US foreign policy, and in its place was a strong tinge of resentment and self-pity.
European diplomats hope the proposed measure – known as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) – will help persuade an increasingly reluctant Iran to stay inside the deal in the hope of rescuing its economy.
Speaking on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York, Federica Mogherini, the EU external affairs chief, said the SPV was designed to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports – including oil – and imports, so long as the firms involved were carrying out legitimate business under EU law.
The aim is to make the SPV available not just to EU firms but to others, she added.
In his address to the United Nations general assembly, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, stressed Tehran’s continued commitment to the deal and accused the US of pressurising other countries into violating the nuclear agreement.
“Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength,” he said. “Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world.”
Americans for Prosperity is a little-known, billionaire-funded organization that has pushed US politics to the right. How did it happen?
Koch brothers and their influence on American politics. To be used in connection with the US ‘big money’ series only. Illustration: Joe Magee
....The transformation of Wisconsin from the birthplace of public-sector unionization to a conservative stronghold with a battered labor movement is remarkable on its own terms. But even more remarkable is how the same story is playing out across dozens of other states. To be sure, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has not enjoyed the same success in every state as in Wisconsin and has endured some high-profile losses, too – most notably the re-election of Barack Obama to the White House in 2012.
But all told the Koch network has racked up important victories across many policy areas, like stymieing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (and especially the expansion of Medicaid to poor uninsured adults) in states like Missouri and Tennessee, rolling back state efforts to address climate change (for instance, in Kansas and West Virginia), and passing massive tax cuts for wealthy individuals and companies (as in Kansas and Oklahoma).
Undoubtedly, however, AFP’s biggest accomplishment has been the passage of new anti-labor bills, like Act 10, that will permanently weaken unions and the left’s political power. “We fight these battles on taxes and regulations, but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles,” one top AFP staffer has explained about his group’s thinking.
With key anti-labor victories in states like Wisconsin, it makes sense why the Kochs are able to look past their squabbles with a unruly Trump presidency. Regardless of what happens in Washington, AFP and the Koch network has already succeeded in shifting the political terrain of Wisconsin – and the nation from the states on up.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Caroline Tervo, Theda Skocpol | The Guardian
A Nobel Prize-winning economist and the second-most-famous democratic socialist in America sit down together
New Yorkers crowded into historic Riverside Church on Monday evening where Anya Schiffrin of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs joined New York’s 14th Congressional District candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Columbia Business School Professor Joseph Stiglitz, who is Schiffrin’s spouse, to discuss the country’s political and economic trajectories.
The 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist, recently sent shock waves through the Democratic Party when she snatched a primary victory from powerful incumbent Joe Crowley. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winner and author of several books, including The Price of Inequality, has been sharply critical of policies that exacerbate the divide between the rich and the rest.
Ocasio-Cortez spoke of the frustration she had witnessed of working class Americans sliding into poverty. She criticized the Democratic Party for not being more responsive to the problem of economic inequality and observed that many “reluctant” Trump voters shared anger with her supporters over the country’s economic divide.
“There’s consensus that the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer,” she said. The candidate noted that the party and the people have been parting ways too often, observing, for example, that 70% of all Americans and 84% of Democrats currently support an improved and expanded Medicare for all.
“So why aren’t 84% of Democratic members of Congress cosponsoring this legislation right now?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. She also called upon the party to develop “a more comprehensive and intersectional argument for working people.”
Among the topics discussed were climate change and fate of Puerto Rico, which suffered devastation from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The candidate blasted politicians and financiers whom she said were trying to drive Puerto Ricans away so that they could turn the island into a resort, adding that what was needed instead was a “new Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico” and a future-based program of 100% renewable energy. (See Martin Guzman: “Puerto Rico is Getting Squeezed).”
The issue of racism threaded many of the evening’s discussions. Ocasio-Cortez accused President Trump of opening racial wounds in order to distract from “runaway income inequality.” During an exchange on Mexico, the candidate said that Trump had opened “Pandora’s Box” of racial tension. When Stiglitz asked for her view of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), she did not mince words.
“We know that NAFTA really set up the slide of the Democratic Party for thirty years,” she said, faulting the policy for creating environmental imbalances and exacerbating economic inequality. “Gains of trade should be enjoyed by all workers who helped create those gains,” she insisted.
Both Stiglitz and Ocasio-Cortez emphasized that issues of race, the economy, and the environment were intertwined. The candidate cited Hurricane Katrina, which battered New Orleans in 2005, as “disaster capitalism at its finest.” She decried a situation in which a city was allowed to be ravaged by a storm, neglected in recovery, and its people left worse off than they were before. She criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for focusing on rebuilding what was there before the storm instead of looking for sustainable solutions and a “just transition” that focused on people’s needs and updating infrastructure.
On racial and economic justice, Stiglitz added, “Martin Luther King put it very strongly that those two are really two sides of the same coin.”
Schiffrin observed that programs like Medicare for all and free college tuition would not be possible in a world in which companies refuse to pay taxes. Stiglitz added that the Republicans’ 2017 tax bill, when fully implemented, would raise taxes on the majority of people in the middle class “to finance a tax cut for the corporations and the billionaires.” He said that the same people who resisted a stimulus in 2009-10, citing fears of the deficit, were now fine with adding trillions to the deficit to finance a tax cut for the rich.
Ocasio-Cortez, calling the tax bill a “wealth transfer” from working people to the very rich, asked why it is that this type of transfer was “business as usual” when any wealth transfer in the reverse would be deemed inconceivable.
Stiglitz touched upon the problem of student debt, noting that it has ballooned to one-and-a-half trillion dollars. “What’s striking over the last five to ten years,” he said, “is that there has been almost no new lending. It’s mostly just compound interest” on the debt that had already accumulated. Ocasio-Cortez expressed outrage that “an entire generation was delaying the milestones of getting a house, getting married, or buying a car” and that student debt was having “a profound dragging effect on economic activity.”
Stiglitz emphasized that other countries with fewer resources were able to give young people greater access to education, noting such investment was a matter of choice. “It’s not that we can’t afford it,” he said. “We’ve been making some very bad choices which are putting into jeopardy our future economy and the wellbeing of large portions of our country.”
When asked about what she could do in Congress to address the problems discussed, Ocasio-Cortez observed that much depended on the outcome of the midterm elections and the future composition of the House and Senate. But solutions, she noted, had to come from the “mass mobilization of organizing.” Women in Congress, she noted, were not leading the MeToo movement, but rather acting as part of it in response to the mobilization and protesting of constituents. That why people needed to stay, as she put it, “loud and active.” ...
Extra 259GW capacity from coal in pipeline despite Beijing’s restrictions on plants
Huadian Nanxiong coal-fired power plant in Guangdong province, China. Photograph: Planet Labs Inc
Chinese coal-fired power plants, thought to have been cancelled because of government edicts, are still being built and are threatening to “seriously undermine” global climate goals, researchers have warned.
Satellite photos taken in 2018 of locations in China reveal cooling towers and new buildings that were not present a year earlier at plants that were meant to stop operations or be postponed by orders from Beijing.
The projects are part of an “approaching tsunami” of coal plants that would boost China’s existing coal capacity by 25%, according to the research group Coalswarm.
Women aren’t just mad – they’re organized and mobilized politically in a way we’ve never quite seen before
....Ever since Donald Trump took the oath of office, the wrath of women has found expression in a remarkable growth of activism and grassroots organizing. When millions of Americans joined the Women’s Marches around the country in January 2017, the outpouring was a harbinger of what was to come: a multi-issue, women-led upsurge of political engagement on an unprecedented scale. Nearly 25,000 protests have taken place since Trump’s inauguration, involving somewhere between 14 and 21 million Americans. These figures greatly exceed levels of protest participation at any prior time in US history, even the height of the Vietnam war. And no matter the issue or focus of the demonstrations, women have consistently been the majority of those taking to the streets. ...
"The stories we're hearing from survivors are chilling. They're all too devastating and all too common. They're why we're here today."
Ahead of a 1pm national walkout on Monday to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez—who have accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault—and demand that lawmakers oppose him, hundreds of critics flooded Capitol Hill to target specific senators such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose responses to the women's claims have outraged advocates for survivors of sexual violence. ...
Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Frederica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, chaired a special session of foreign ministers on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meeting aimed at outmaneuvering Donald Trump on the Iran Deal.
The meeting was attended by the European Union “Big Three,” i.e. Britain, France and Germany (the E3), plus Russia and China. So four of the five members of the UN Security Council participated. The US was conspicuous by its absence.
In my whole 65 years I have never heard about 4 members of the UN Security Council meeting without the US and with the express purpose of outflanking Washington Policy! This is both weird and ominous. ...
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Spain has become the latest country to voice its readiness to recognize the State of Palestine and that it will promote a European Union (EU) move to recognize Palestine as an independent state.
Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, spoke at a conference of EU leaders in Austria, saying that the Spanish government will promote an EU move to recognize Palestine. ...
At the demise of empire, City of London financial interests created a web of secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it in a web of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth is hidden in British jurisdictions and Britain and its dependencies are the largest global players in the world of international finance.
A European Union inquiry into Amazon’s business practices raises the same questions we should be asking in the United States about Amazon’s size and power
....Amazon has far outstripped its role as a digital big-box retailer. It is a digital mall that happens to also be the mall’s biggest tenant. It both sells merchandise and is the landlord of the space other stores use to sell their merchandise. It collects rent from these merchants based on their sales. It also gains knowledge about the customers who use these stores and what they buy. As both mall tenant and mall landlord, it has the power to decide when to aggressively compete against a third-party reseller, taking the whole business for itself rather than just a cut.
That power is magnified by the increasing control that Amazon has over the information people receive about products and sellers as shoppers use that site instead of search engines.
“To talk about Amazon as a retailer really misses the true nature of this company,” Mitchell said. “What Amazon's ambition is, is to really be the underlying infrastructure of the economy. It's ambition is not so much to dominate markets, but to become the market.”
Amazon is a prime symbol of the concentration of economic power across a range of sectors that has in the past two decades led to suppressed wage growth for a majority of workers in America and the narrowing of paths that used to exist to the middle class.
“We think we're this country of entrepreneurs. But, in fact, we're creating new businesses at about one-third the rate that we were in the 1980s; it's really quite dramatic,” Mitchell said. ...
High Crimes Offenses worthy of impeachment or International Criminal Court prosecution
Justice Matters PROBLEMS: Political Judges and States Attorneys, too little enforcement of anti-trust laws and white-collar crimes, over-prosecution of the poor OPED: Commute death sentences and allow assisted suicide.