Policy, Practice & Analysis
By some estimates, the price of oil already has dropped below what investors in Keystone would need to break even, and some analysts believe further drops are in store.
....Matt Badiali, an oil industry analyst at Baltimore-based Stransberry Research, said he suspects the pipeline ultimately will get built. But he said he is confounded by the continued hype around Keystone, which he said would do nothing to help keep down the price of energy in the U.S.
This is an act of colossal irresponsibility where, for the sake of an agreement, not one solution has been found. The “big idea” is to leave to every country the task of deciding its own cuts in pollution according to its own criteria.
Kids exposed to the highest levels of two common phthalates in the womb had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at the lowest levels.
Africa is experiencing a revolution towards cleaner energy through renewable energy but the story has hardly been told to the world, says Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Steiner, who had been advocating for renewable energy at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, said Africa is on the right path toward a low carbon footprint by tapping into its plentiful renewable resources – hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.
China has promised to diversify its energy production with a “staggering” increase in gas, renewables and nuclear energy generation expected before 2030, the IEA’s annual medium-term coal market report
Even so, Beijing is still expected to account for 60% of growth in the global coal industry by 2019 and, along with India, and other countries in south and east Asia, will be “one of the main engines of growth in coal consumption.”
The United States has painted itself into an Obamacare corner. Obamacare has enough good elements that repealing it would harm millions of people. Keeping it in its present form will harm additional millions and inflict serious economic damage. But it is impossible to reform Obamacare, since Republican politicians won't support changes that prolong its longevity.
To escape this mess we need a magician who can pull a political rabbit out of their hat, and the best person to do this may be Hillary Rodham Clinton.
[Reducing per capita healthcare costs by $thousands annually would greatly boost GDP by making US exports competitive again, and it would reduce the offshoring of jobs.
For years, the U.S. intelligence community has questioned how vulnerable oil and gas pipelines are to a destructive cyberattack.
They got an answer when hackers targeted an oil pipeline in Turkey. Majority-owned by BP, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was built to be one of the most secure in the world. But it was no match for the digital intruders who injected malicious software into the control network, allowing them to tamper with the system and cause an explosion that sent flames 150 feet into the air.
The incident in 2008 -- but only coming to light now -- becomes one of the earliest known examples of a cyberattack used to destroy critical infrastructure. And it has security experts and officials worried about the implications for the U.S. There are 182,000 miles of pipelines that carry oil, chemicals and other hazardous liquids, 325,000 miles of pipelines that transmit natural gas in bulk between states, and 2.2 million miles of pipelines that distribute natural gas to homes and businesses, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
[More reason to get off fossil fuels fast!
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
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
Dr. Peter Bach: Medicare has to pay exactly what the drug company charges. Whatever that number is.
Lesley Stahl: Wait a minute, this is a law?
Dr. Peter Bach: Yes.
Lesley Stahl: And there's no negotiating whatsoever with Medicare?
Dr. Peter Bach: No.[All other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug costs]
The National Research Council via YouTube
A.C. THOMPSON and JONATHAN JONES in ProPublica
Looking at real bills for real patients cuts through the ideological debate over health care policy.
the USA ranks first in the world in health care spending, but only 45th in life expectancy....
Climate change inaction is a leading global cause of death.
If we had the per-person costs of any other OECD country, America’s deficits would vanish....
How Industry Money Reaches (aka 'bribes') Physicians
To remove your appendix in one California hospital costs $180,000, at a different facility the bill is $1,500. [Who has time to shop?
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We in the United States are so averse to the idea of cost effectiveness that when the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the body specifically set up to do comparative effectiveness research, was founded, the law explicitly prohibited it from funding any cost-effectiveness research at all. As it says on its website, “We don’t consider cost effectiveness to be an outcome of direct importance to patients.”
As a physician, a health services researcher and a patient, I have to disagree. I think understanding how much bang for the buck I, my patients and the public are getting from our health care spending is of great importance. [We're sure that business interests paid politicians to protect their higher profits, and it's well past time for this to change!]
Consumer prices around the world are pulling back so rapidly, along with the collapse of oil prices, that official measures of inflation have yet to capture the magnitude of the decline. But the Billion Prices Project, which scrapes the Internet daily to capture changing prices online, is recording a significant and broadening plunge in consumer prices.
It’s sheer folly to hope that the country is destabilised and Vladimir Putin overthrown. We’ve no idea what the outcome would beIt has long been my contention that we should deal with the causes of Putin’s aggressive behaviour, not the symptoms. There is a way to bring him back into the fold (always assuming that anyone actually wishes to do so any more), but it will require fresh ideas that are utterly unappealing to most of the west’s leaders. It will take bold and imaginative thinking, not kneejerk reactions and the false logic of piling on ever tougher sanctions. [Repeatedly wounding a bear won't end well.]
The ruble is plunging, for reasons that have roots in the falling price of oil. Yet the trouble now runs deeper than that, so the ruble's problems will continue even when the price of oil recovers a bit. As our own Leonid Bershidsky explains, markets are no longer just worried about oil prices, but also about the Russian Central Bank's apparent decision to bail out a suffering oil company by printing money:
Lawyers and law students in Los Angeles stage a die-in demonstration on Tuesday in protest against recent grand jury decisions not to indict white officers who killed unarmed black men. Despite rain, over 250 people took part in the protest in front of the Stanley Mosk courthouse in LA on Tuesday
Prominent apologists for harsh CIA interrogations keep invoking a scenario that everyone agrees never happened.Prominent conservative commentators have responded to the torture report and the harsh criticism of the CIA interrogation program with time-bomb hypotheticals. One side in the debate is saying, "Wow, the CIA torture program we actually had was depraved and indefensible," while the other side is responding, "Don't pretend you wouldn't torture if there was a ticking time-bomb in L.A."
It's a blatant non-sequitur.
Her fans don't want to talk about it, and that has some progressives nervous.On the issues alone, Warren is hardly the only pol in lockstep with progressives—but Warren has a singular appeal to her wing of the party because they say she's uniquely talented at articulating their issues, and supporters are hesitant to even name another pol who could or should step up if she chooses not to. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has said he's likely to run as a Democrat in the race, would seem like a good fit and is a strong supporter of many top progressive issues. Or there's Sherrod Brown, another senator who's been a vocal critic of Wall Street and also happens to hail from the general-election swing state of Ohio. Brown is getting no buzz among progressives at all and has not expressed interest in running; Sanders comes in as progressives' distant second when compared with Warren.
At the U.N.'s latest climate talks, indigenous tribes showed again that they're frontline allies in the climate fight. So why aren't we protecting them?On the morning of December 5th, a dark piece of news began circulating at the U.N. climate talks in Lima: The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world's rainforests and underappreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.
The outlines of Antún's murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don't often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon. News of José Antún's death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group's slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.
The Democratic revolt in Congress soon wilted under White House pressure but Elizabeth Warren’s fiery advocacy has given the Progressives of the party a boost
“I’m walking out of this meeting feeling very proud of my caucus because there was moral clarity, there was conviction”, said freshman California congressman Jared Huffman
at the height of the great Democratic revolt of 2014. “I had the feeling a few moments ago that we stood for something. I hope it holds.”
....Warren has long made a name for herself opposing the banking industry in Washington. What differed this time was the growing agreement of more moderate Democrats that something was deeply wrong, not just with the budget process but the whole way their party has approached compromise in Washington in recent years.
I fear for the future of this country.
....Should people accused of stealing be held accountable? Definitely. But the justice system entangles the most vulnerable so effectively that even the innocent often find it easier to just plead guilty. Meanwhile the capable, and sometimes the stealthiest and most damaging, are slapped on the wrist and given a pass.
In this post I want to rectify that mysterious silence, and take a look at the truly nauseating Kline-Miller amendment, passed by the House, and part of the Senate bill forwarded to Obama for his signature. David Dayen summarizes:
Under the bill, trustees would be enabled to cut pension benefits to current retirees, reversing a 40-year bond with workers who earned their retirement packages.
Under ERISA, the 1974 law governing pensions in the private sector, benefits already earned by a worker can’t be cut.
Now they can. That’s right. Even if you’re retired and vested in a private pension plan, your benefits could be cut. Congress retraded the deal (if I have the finance jargon right). That’s nauseating even for today’s official Washington. And the bill was passed in a thoroughly bipartisan fashion
: Kline is a Minnesota Republican, and Miller is a “liberal” California Democrat. [Reach me that bucket, wouldja?]
The divisions that were on full display during the debate over a $1 trillion spending bill may become the norm in 2015.
THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.
You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.
[Thanks to stupid/corrupt Supreme Court rulings, the U.S. Government has become two mafia families vying to "lead" the country. The 'system' for each is to rake in more money to doctor legislation so their rich become richer. (Yes, a minority of representatives in Washington do care about the public foremost, but—with less campaign funding—they end up losing in future elections.)
How the spending deal got done.
Ultimately, this odd, bipartisan coalition — Hoyer, Reid, Boehner and Obama — outflanked, outwhipped and outmatched Pelosi, liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and progressive House Democrats. Despite the deep Democratic reservations about changes to Wall Street regulations and GOP concerns about allowing Obama to unilaterally change the enforcement of immigration laws, the legislation passed 219 to 206 at 9:37 p.m. Thursday night.
JAKE SHERMAN and JOHN BRESNAHAN | Politico
In a letter to Mr. Obama
on Friday, advocates of stricter campaign limits said the proposed changes amounted to “the most corrupting campaign finance provisions ever enacted” and urged him to veto the bill. “In a ‘bipartisan’ unholy alliance, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell joined with House Speaker John Boehner to secretly insert into the Omnibus bill the destructive campaign finance provisions, which were unknown to the public and members of Congress until the day the bill was filed in the House,” the letter stated.
Progressive activists haven’t agreed on what to call the movement urging Elizabeth Warren to run for president, but they largely concur on this: with every recent anti-establishment move the Massachusetts senator grows more attractive as a 2016 candidate, both in her own right and as a progressive foil for Hillary Clinton.
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- Taliban gunmen have attacked an army-run school in Peshawar
- Death toll has risen to 126, says official
- Attackers and hostages still believed to be inside
- Read the latest summary
Far-right group Pegida holds ‘Islamisation’ protest, using slogan from 1989 campaign against East German government
A survey shows which countries matter more to U.S. policymakers—and which matter less
"We did the right thing," Cheney told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press
. But for more than a decade now, Cheney has been peddling false information to the American public: Saddam was amassing WMDs to use against the United States, Iraq had obtained aluminum tubes so it could create a nuclear weapon, a 9/11 ringleader met with an Iraqi intelligence officer. And now: Torture wasn't torture, and it worked. After all that—though he's still afforded elder statesman status by much of the media—he probably deserves derision more than rebuttal.
The criminal gang that struck on 9/11 had no second strike capability. Bush’s gigantic over-reaction, blowing apart whole countries and societies year after year, has only enormously spread the Al-Qaeda forces into a dozen countries through affiliates and offshoots such as ISIS.
Fighting stateless terrorism with massive state terrorism and torture that strengthens the former creates a deadly boomerang. It destroys our priorities, mutes the waging of peace and corrodes our democracy with its purported rule of law. It also obscures the history of the West intervening violently in the East’s backyard for a century, carving up its colonies, backing local, brutal dictatorships with U.S. arms, money and diplomatic cover.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s first step should arouse Congress to its constitutional duties and stop the destruction of the separation of powers by an overweening White House executive. Certainly the Left-Right in the Congress should agree on that principle. It helps if we the people, who pay the price, give them constant nudges in that direction.
Confessions are four times more likely when interrogators adopt a respectful stance toward detainees and build rapport, a study finds.
Suddenly there is a chance – a remote chance, but a chance nevertheless – for the Left to regain power.
WHY? WHAT has happened?
The easiest explanation is that people just got fed up with “Bibi”. Netanyahu is a person it is easy to get fed up with. In fact, it has happened to him before. His wife, Sarah’le, who is universally disliked, does not help.
How are universities working to curb the prevalence of harassment against researchers?
When she was a graduate student, geobiologist A. Hope Jahren planned to study a little-understood body of water under southwestern Turkey. “I dreamed of an ocean of hot water underneath Denizli Province, an ocean that occasionally sloshes out onto the surface to form ice-blue thermal springs,” she wrote in a September op-ed published in the New York Times. Jahren was a promising graduate student, she noted, and diligently went to scope out the region before committing completely to a life of researching it.
But then she was sexually assaulted. “It was broad daylight when I began walking back to the hotel, and a stranger pulled me into a stairwell—and then did some other things. Perhaps an hour later I staggered out with his blood under my fingernails,” she wrote. She still doesn’t know exactly what happened, but she knows she will never return to that region of Turkey. Instead, she now studies plants in a lab in Hawaii. “I still love rocks and I still dream of the ancient Aegean seas, but for the better part of my career I’ve sealed myself into a locked laboratory, a small well-lit world that I can control.”
[Arabs have chronic cultural problems....
The country still needs a lot more investment to really change the life trajectory of young kids being raised by poor, single moms. [Might I suggest "enlightened boarding schools"? We could repurpose vacant, old schools...]
Staff selections from a year of reading
Conventional wisdom among banking experts is that Wall Street’s successful fight last week to get a pet provision into the must-pass budget bill (or in political junkies’ shorthand, Cromnibus) as more a demonstration of power and a test for gutting Dodd Frank than a fight that mattered to them. But the provision they got in, which was to undo a portion of Dodd Frank that barred them from having taxpayer-backstopped deposits fund derivative positions, may prove to be more important than it seemed as the collateral damage from the 40% fall in oil prices hits investors and intermediaries.
This week, Bill speaks with outspoken veteran journalist John R. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine
, about the problems with TPP, which is being negotiated in secret, behind closed doors. MacArthur says that the “free trade” agreement will take jobs away from Americans: “I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs [abroad], particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia.”
Billionaires David and Charles Koch are suing to stop the backlash they'd face if forced to disclose donors to their Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Staking out a much narrower view than previous courts, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that unless the government could prove that the tipper expected some valuable benefit in exchange for the tip, there would be no violation of federal insider trading proscriptions. Giving away information with no expectation of anything in return is apparently now permissible.
....Insider trading is perhaps our most symbolic white-collar crime. Our ban on the practice expresses our deep social commitment to equality of opportunity; it embodies that peculiarly American revulsion for any special privileges that might be thought to accrue to the wealthy or to the political and social elite. As Preet Bharara, the United States attorney who spearheaded the most recent spate of prosecutions, explained, insider trading tells everybody “that everything is rigged and only people who have a billion dollars and have access to and are best friends with people who are on the boards of directors of major companies ... can make a true buck.”
Allowing executives to give away information to whomever they choose so long as they get nothing in return simply makes no sense.
House Democrats, under the thought leadership
of Elizabeth Warren, waged a monumental yet ultimately unsuccessful fight against two dangerous provisions in the so-called “CRomnibus
” year-end spending package. But regardless of whether or not the budget bill included a rollback of derivatives reforms
, or a nearly ten-fold increase
in the donation limits for party committees, the battle on Thursday illuminated how the next two years in Washington will play out, and it doesn’t bode well for anyone who doesn’t employ a personal registered lobbyist.
In fact, the high-profile measures obscured how the CRomnibus boosts special interests at the expense of ordinary people in a host of other ways. Nobody in the Democratic coalition objected as vociferously to these other giveaways to right-wing hobby horses and corporate wish lists. And given how the White House basically turned on its own party, all too happy to accept the roll-backs of liberal priorities, it’s clear that this kind of legislative sausage-making will be the norm, not the exception, come 2015.
On December 11, 2014, the US House passed a bill
repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out
, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks. And if the G20’s new “bail-in” rules are formalized, depositors and pensioners could be on the hook.
The new bail-in rules were discussed in my last post here. They are edicts of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an unelected body of central bankers and finance ministers headquartered in the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. Where did the FSB get these sweeping powers, and is its mandate legally enforceable?
The former vice president's defense of brutal CIA interrogations is falling apart under scrutiny.
When Cheney tries to associate everyone tortured by the CIA with the people who perpetrated 9/11, he's using the same cheap misdirection that allowed him to respond to that attack by calling for America to wage war against Saddam Hussein.
Cheney is a capable bullshitter.
But the more we find out about the torture program, the more he is reduced to increasingly naked expressions of his actual "argument": terrorism 9/11 9/11!!!! Take the moment in the Fox News interview when Baier brings up Senator Mark Udall's statement about former CIA Director Leon Panetta's review of CIA torture, and the fact that it reaches some of the same conclusions as the Senate report.
Here is Cheney's actual retort: "Well, I don't know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn't in the bunker." Baier seemed stunned that Cheney doesn't have any substantive rebuttal. I'm not. Many of Cheney's positions on this subject have no basis in fact.
It's nice to see a Fox News anchor help to expose that.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.