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Established 1973 — Last updated: Sunday, October 19, 2014, 8:36 AM
 Important Policy and Practice News
Permanent Editorial?
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending as compared with the 2011 OECD per capita average, which becomes extra overhead on everything U.S. workers make—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's adopt more efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
2011 US per capita health care spending was $4390 more per person than in France (acclaimed as having the best healthcare) and $5169 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

[Sorry I didn't date this, which has been updated over time, my anger unrelenting. It was posted in early 2010. A similar editorial re. triple-play communication services is also much deserved, since all OECD countries pay much less.]
Boyan Slat is a 20-year-old on a mission - to rid the world's oceans of floating plastic. He has dedicated his teenage years to finding a way of collecting it. But can the system really work - and is there any point when so much new plastic waste is still flowing into the sea every day?
Vibeke Venema | BBC News
In a statement, the company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years.
Reuters via | The Guardian
Scientists analysing more than three decades of weather data for the northern Alaskan outpost of Barrow have linked 7C rise to the decline in Arctic sea ice, reports Climate News Network

The study, published in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, traces what has happened to average annual and monthly temperatures in Barrow from 1979 to 2012.

In that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the November increase was far higher – more than six degrees. And October was the most striking of all, with the month's average temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.

Alex Kirby | The Guardian
According to, Kratom leaves can be chewed fresh or dry, powdered, or brewed into a tea. It is not usually smoked, because the “amount of leaf that constitutes a typical dose is too much to be smoked easily.” It's most commonly sold in powder form in packets, both online and in kava bars—alcohol-free bars where people can consume tea made from the legal, Polynesian kava root— and head shops. An ounce costs between $20 and $30, which is enough Kratom for one very strong dose, or several more mild doses.
April M. Short | AlterNet
New technologies are only beginning to unlock the possibilities of hemp.
Get ready for an entire hemp market sector that will be included in the top-of-the-hour business wraps. The reality of hemp on the ground as its first federally authorized crop in the 21st century is harvested has exceeded even my most sanguine expectations.
Doug Fine | AlterNet
When a 70-year-old man walked the length of the United States in 1909, he sparked a conversation that ultimately changed medicine's ideas about the value of exercise in old age.
WAYNE CURTIS | The Atlantic
A new study of fitness and lifespan suggests that a person’s so-called fitness age – determined primarily by a measure of cardiovascular endurance – is a better predictor of longevity than chronological age. The good news is that unlike your actual age, your fitness age can decrease.
Fewer birds, including nightingales and cuckoos, are migrating between Europe and Africa due to combined factors of habitat loss, hunting and climate change
Adam Vaughan | The Guardian

The cost of cancer drugs [13:52 60 Minutes' video]
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]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times | Ref.
Climate Change: Lines of Evidence [play chapters or all 28 minutes]
The National Research Council via YouTube | Ref.
A.C. THOMPSON and JONATHAN JONES in ProPublica | Ref.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us [long, print & study; 3:38 video]
Looking at real bills for real patients cuts through the ideological debate over health care policy.
STEVEN BRILL in Time Magazine | Ref.
Econ4 on Health Care [10:00 video]
the USA ranks first in the world in health care spending, but only 45th in life expectancy....
YVES SMITH comments in Naked Capitalism | Ref.
Climate change inaction is a leading global cause of death.
DARA | Ref.
If we had the per-person costs of any other OECD country, America’s deficits would vanish....
EZRA KLEIN in the Washington Post | Ref.
How Industry Money Reaches (aka 'bribes') Physicians
Special Report in Pro Publica | Ref.
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?]
RYAN FLINN in Bloomberg | Ref.
SOURCE: Public Broadcasting System & ABC News | Ref.
SOURCE: The White House | Ref.
SOURCE: Slate Mag. | Ref.
SOURCE: The American Medical Student Association | Ref.
SOURCE: Readers | Ref.
Of all the negative campaign messages that Democrats have used this midterm election, the most effective one is a time-tested line of attack: hitting Republican businessmen for being exorbitantly wealthy while outsourcing jobs overseas and laying off employees.
A progressive icon rallies Democrats to support incumbent Mark Udall's struggling Senate campaign.
BY SCOTT BLAND | National Journal
The CDC's Thomas Frieden told Republicans on Capitol Hill it wouldn't work. They didn't believe him.
Even if the government gets around the legal and administrative hurdles, imposing the ban may make fighting Ebola harder—or even trigger a stock-market panic.
KAVEH WADDELL | National Journal
Let's play simple answers to to naive questions: "Will the Ebola crisis play a role in the fall's elections?" When have Republicans ever, ever resisted the opportunity to fearmonger? When have they ever resisted Terruth!!!! Case in point, Thursday's hearing about Ebola panic, during which a prevalent theme emerged from Republicans: Travel bans! And why hasn't President Obama closed our borders?!
Joan McCarter | Daily Kos
Michigan Republican Rick Snyder finds himself in an unexpectedly tough reelection campaign thanks to a backlash against his economic policies.
MOLLY BALL | The Atlantic
Why are Democrats keeping it close in five key Senate races? Look at changing demographics.
ROBERT P. JONES | The Atlantic
Jon Stewart once again hits the nail on the head. Most importantly he got to the core of the government dysfunction and the genesis of this iteration that started just before President Obama's inauguration.
Egberto Willies | Daily Kos
And: Why claims in the media that mass shootings aren't increasing are wrong.
Amy P. Cohen, Deborah Azrael, and Matthew Miller | Mother Jones
Erika Eichelberger | Mother Jones
Raising the federal minimum wage would save the government billions and have sweeping benefits for low-income families, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on labor issues.

EPI's report found that if the minimum wage were boosted from its current level of $7.25 per hour to $10.10, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2014, more than 1.7 million Americans would no longer have to rely on public assistance programs.

Kevin Short | Huffington Post
Multilingualism has a whole slew of incredible side effects: Multi-linguals tend to score better on standardized tests, especially in math, reading, and vocabulary; they are better at remembering lists or sequences, likely from learning grammatical rules and vocabulary; they are more perceptive to their surroundings and therefore better at focusing in on important information while weeding out misleading information (it’s no surprise Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are skilled polyglots). And there’s certainly something to be said for the cultural pleasure of reading The Odyssey in ancient Greek or Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in French.
The first thing you notice about German apprenticeships: The employer and the employee still respect practical work. German firms don’t view dual training [both classroom and hands-on instruction] as something for struggling students or at-risk youth. “This has nothing to do with corporate social responsibility,” an HR manager at Deutsche Bank told the group I was with, organized by an offshoot of the Goethe Institute. “I do this because I need talent.” So too at Bosch.
TAMAR JACOBY | The Atlantic
Unprofessional journalists are critiqued.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY

Letters to the Editor
Readers | Ongoing

According to reports, U.S.-led airstrikes are tipping the balance against ISIS in the battle for the Syrian border town
ADAM CHANDLER | The Atlantic
Islamic State car bombs hit Shia districts of Iraqi capital, with one attack killing 36 and wounding 98 within two hours
Catherine James and Luke Harding | The Guardian
A violent confrontation with local police, alleged cartel involvement, and mass graves: Welcome to Mexico's latest tragedy.
AJ Vicens | Mother Jones
We owe the Yazidis and the Kurds, at the very least, the chance to save themselves.
GEORGE PACKER | The New Yorker
When Islamic State fighters conquered the border region between Iraq and Syria, the Yazidi village of Kocho also fell into their hands. Twenty-year-old Nadia was among dozens of young women who were abducted and abused. This is the story of her ordeal.
Ralf Hoppe | Der Spiegel
Islamic State has no qualms about killing Kurds in Syria. Yet the organization has still managed to attract Kurdish supporters in Europe. In Hamburg, a number of families are struggling to cope with their sons' decisions to answer the call of jihad.
Maximilian Popp | Der Spiegel
The latest indicators suggest Germany's once buzzing economy is beginning to stall. The development has created a serious dilemma for Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Critics say spurring growth is more important than his goal of a balanced budget.
Horand Knaup and Christian Reiermann | Der Spiegel
The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.
C. J. CHIVERS | The New York Times
Stand-your-ground statutes benefit whites more than blacks, are unnecessary and cause minority men to live in fear, several experts said Friday to the US civil rights commission as it evaluates racial disparities in the laws.
Associated Press via | The Guardian
With a brief unsigned order on Tuesday, the Supreme Court acted to prevent Texas from enforcing two key parts of the state’s 2013 package of extreme new abortion restrictions. While the legal battle over the provisions continues, and is very likely to land back at the court before long, the order was a significant victory for women in Texas. The important result is that it will allow more clinics offering safe and legal abortion care to continue operating pending a final court resolution.
EDITORIAL | The New York Times
The evolution of Posner's attitude toward "voter ID" requirements and the oft-cited trope of "voter fraud" demonstrates a stunning turnaround for the author of the Crawford decision.  As Brad Friedman, writing for Salon puts it:
If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.
Posner distills the essence of these noxious statutes as motivated solely by the intent by the Republican Party to suppress Americans' right to vote. As Hiltzik summarizes the opinion:
"There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud," [Posner] writes, "and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens." More specifically, he observes, photo ID laws are "highly correlated with a state's having a Republican governor and Republican control of the legislature and appear to be aimed at limiting voting by minorities, particularly blacks."
Dartagnan | DAILY KOS
Meaningful progress in reducing the backlog would require resolve and money. Congress needs to finish work on an appropriations bill for the Justice Department and other agencies containing $41 million for a new federal grant program — proposed by President Obama, and approved by the House — dedicated solely to processing untested rape kits, investigating leads and conducting prosecutions. Eradicating the entire national backlog would take a much larger federal investment, but the $41 million would be a meaningful start.
EDITORIAL | The New York Times
No other politician is more cozy with K Street than Mitch.
Andy Kroll and Katie Rose Quandt | Mother Jones
Over the last year, New Jersey politics has been roiled by revelations that state contracts have been given to firms whose employees have made major contributions to Republican groups backing Governor Christie's election campaigns. That has included contributions from employees of Wall Street firms hired by Christie's State Investment Council to manage pension money. It has also included contributions from employees of firms receiving tax subsidies from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is run by Christie appointees.

The legislation that passed the State Senate's Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation committee Thursday was sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat. It would prohibit a corporation and its executives from making campaign contributions to any public official or candidate if that corporation is receiving more than $25,000 worth of tax subsidies from New Jersey. Violators of the proposed law could be made to pay a penalty up to the total value of the subsidies they are receiving.

Amazon’s ambitions are monopolistic, and they’ve already gone a long way towards achieving that ambition in a large number of markets. They regularly engage in predatory pricing to crush competitors and gain market share. Their dominant position then allows them to chose how to extract more profit, which is usually a combination of squeezing suppliers and raising prices.

Antitrust has become close to a dead letter in the US. Amazon makes for a worthy object for reviving it.

—Yves Smith    
As much as readers may already have an intuitive grasp of the story told in this post, data can help define its contours better. Here we see that the rising tide of global growth has not lifted all boats. The gains of the once-poor in China and India have come at the expense of the what used to be the middle class in more developed countries. Reducing poverty has not been a zero sum game. This post also omits another key piece: the rise and rise of an uber-wealthy class.
—Yves Smith    
Leith van Onselen | Naked Capitalism
As things go from bad to worse in the eurozone the putative adults have begun to fight openly in front of the kids. The putative adults, of course, have refused to act like adults for six years and instead have lived in a fantasy world in which austerity – bleeding the patient – is the optimal response to a recession. As many of us have been warning for six years, this is a great way to create gratuitous recessions and even the Great Depression levels of unemployment in three nations of the periphery with 100 million citizens.
Bill Black | Naked Capitalism

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.
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