Aggregated news of what corporate media minimizes for profit.
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Though the plan is morally shocking, politically it is not.
....Both the House & Senate Republican plans will be catastrophic for Americans in all states—including the tens of millions who live in states represented by Republicans. McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and others have brushed off concerns from constituents who say that Obamacare has saved their lives by claiming that the program has already “collapsed.” This is not true; the exchanges are under pressure, largely because of the uncertainties that the Republicans have introduced, but the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has fallen from sixteen per cent to nine per cent. The rate of personal bankruptcy, often attributable to medical costs, has also fallen.
Both Republican plans claim to protect people who have preëxisting conditions, another of the major advances of Obamacare. In the case of the House bill, that claim is plainly false: it does call for insurance companies to offer such plans, but it also allows them to make those plans prohibitively expensive, via state waivers. The Senate bill, in turn, professes to include price protection, but it presents insurers with other loopholes. And there are hints that even those protections might be traded away if McConnell needs to placate senators on the right in order to get the bill passed by next week, which is his goal. (The plan is to force it through with a simple majority, by the process known as reconciliation.)
There are fifty-two Republicans in the Senate, so McConnell can afford to lose the support of only two. Within hours of the plan’s release, however, four senators—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson—said that it was not conservative enough. This faction may take some comfort from the nearly one trillion dollars in tax cuts that come with the bill, most of them benefitting wealthier Americans. On Friday, Dean Heller, of Nevada, a state that Hillary Clinton won last year, signalled that he, too, would not support the bill as it stands, and other moderates may also defect.
McConnell hasn’t even pretended to include the Democrats in the process, and much of the criticism of the Senate bill, like much of the criticism of the Trump Presidency, has centered on the idea that norms are being violated, and standards abandoned. But, though the plans are morally shocking, politically they are not. After all, nineteen Republican state legislatures or governors refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion. And even some of the senators who complained most loudly about the process, John McCain among them, are expected to vote for the bill. That pattern, of expressed dismay followed by opportunistic accession, was on display in the Party’s surrender to Trump during the Presidential campaign. But the gutting of health care isn’t something that congressional Republicans can pin on Trump. It’s all on them, and they are the ones who will have to answer for it.
Leaders from more than 250 cities unanimously back a resolution to reach clean energy goal at the US Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach
A bipartisan group of mayors from across the country has unanimously backed an ambitious commitment for US cities to run entirely on renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2035.
As the US Conference of Mayors wrapped up in Miami Beach on Monday, leaders from more than 250 cities voted on symbolic resolutions pushing back against Donald Trump on climate change and immigration.
Climate Institute survey points to overwhelming frustration with government’s inaction and lack of leadership on clean energy
Although there’s some uncertainty in the distribution among Earth’s ocean basins, there’s no question that the ocean is heating rapidly
Global warming will not affect everyone equally. Here we look at seven key regions to see how each is tackling the consequences of climate change
Deforestation in the Amazon is increasing amid cuts to protection, putting Norway’s financial aid in jeopardy, says minister
....The oil-rich Scandinavian nation has provided $1.1bn to Brazil’s Amazon fund since 2008, tied to reductions in the rate of deforestation in the world’s greatest rainforest. The destruction of forests by timber and farming industries is a major contributor to the carbon emissions that drive climate change and Norway views protecting the Amazon as vital for the whole world.
The rate of deforestation in the Amazon fell steadily from 2008 to 2014, an “impressive achievement” which had a “very positive impact” on Brazil and the world, according to Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister.
But in a forthright letter to Brazil’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho, seen by the Guardian, Helgesen said: “In 2015 and 2016 deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon saw a worrying upward trend.” He warned that this had already reduced Norway’s contributions and added: “Even a fairly modest further increase would take this number to zero.”
Six new vehicles including Land Rover and Suzuki are adding to air pollution crisis, despite stricter rules coming in months
The updated Equa Index, produced by the testing firm Emissions Analytics, shows that 86% of all diesel models put on to the British market since the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal failed to meet the official limit on the road, with 15% producing at least eight times more NOx emissions.
Levels of NOx, emitted mostly by diesel vehicles, have been illegally high in 90% of the UK’s urban areas since 2010. The toxic fumes are estimated to cause 23,500 early deaths a year and the problem has been called a public health emergency by a cross-party committee of MPs.
More and more people in the US are able to identify a friend, relative or neighbor who has succumbed to opioid addiction as it increasingly damages the nation.
It’s a frightening reality, but there are options available for people hoping to gain control of their condition and live a life that isn’t dictated by these potent drugs.
What are the routes to recovery from addiction? The Guardian explored that question and more as part of a series of pieces this week looking at survivors of addiction and how to tackle it.
Can opioid addiction be cured?
There is no cure for addiction, but the disease can be managed just like other chronic medical conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.
That’s one of the reasons people who are no longer addicted to drugs or alcohol might describe themselves as being “in recovery”. Recovery means different things to different people but generally describes someone who is able to live life without it being disrupted by addiction.
Ivana Grahovac, one of three people in recovery from opioid addiction profiled by the Guardian, said she knew she was in recovery when she woke up and “started to have thoughts of hope, excitement, of joy, ambition and to help others”.
Former US vice-president says green revolution is bigger than industrial revolution and happening at faster pace than digital revolution
World-first climate and health framework from 30 health and medical groups calls for recognition of citizens’ ‘right to health’
To save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, Australia should rapidly phase out coal power stations and establish strong emissions reduction targets, according to a coalition of 30 major health and medical groups.
A world-first National Climate and Health Strategy framework launched after 12 months of consultation and development by the Public Health Association of Australia, the Royal Australian College of General Practice and the Australian College of Nursing, today launched their framework, which they say is needed to avert a health emergency which threatens to undermine 50 years of gains in development and health.
Many of the policy recommendations made by the coalition are “win-win”, which both reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as reducing the social and economic costs of sickness.
Move to block EU ban comes despite environment secretary Michael Gove saying, ‘I don’t want to water down’ EU protections
Conservative politicians are trying to stop a complete EU ban on bee-harming pesticides, despite the new environment secretary Michael Gove’s statement earlier this week, in which he said “I absolutely don’t want to water down” EU environmental protections.
Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides but have been banned on flowering crops in the EU since 2013. However, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) found in 2016 that use of the pesticides on all crops poses a high risk to bees. As a result, the European commission has proposed a ban on all uses outside greenhouses, first revealed by the Guardian in March.
Analysis of world’s lenders reveals many claim green credentials while still financing fuels like tar sands, oil and coal
Some of the world’s top banks are continuing to lend tens of billions for extracting the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels, according to a report of top lenders.
Finance provided for these fossil fuels – tar sands and other unconventional oil and gas, as well as coal and liquefied natural gas – amounted to $87bn for the top 37 banks in 2016. That represented a slump of more than a fifth compared with the $111bn raised the previous year, and was also down on 2014’s total of $92bn.
However, the analysis, carried out by a group of NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network and Sierra Club, showed that multinational banks around the globe, including many household names, were trumpeting their green credentials while continuing to pour money into the dirtiest fuels.
The report, entitled Banking on Climate Change 2017, scored the institutions from A to F on their practices, including the banks’ policies, the nature of the investments, the size and type of transactions, and the impact on climate change.
In the wake of Trump’s Paris withdrawal, California is taking the lead to fight emissions – and it’s rethinking how to get more out of its cap-and-trade program
California has one of the world’s most sophisticated and ambitious cap-and-trade programs, which are designed to provide financial incentives to big polluters, such as electricity providers and oil refineries, to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
The complex program, which began only in 2013, is a signature component of California’s plan to cut emissions in the midst of a controversial makeover by state policymakers, after they passed a landmark bill last year that created one of the world’s most aggressive climate change goals: to lower carbon emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels by 2030.
- Oil giants among numerous firms to support conservative group’s plan
- But Greenpeace says: ‘A PR exercise is no cure for decades of deception’
Oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total are among a group of large corporations supporting a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions in order to address climate change.
The companies have revealed their support for the Climate Leadership Council, a group of senior Republican figures that in February proposed a $40 fee on each ton of CO2 emitted as part of a “free-market, limited government” response to climate change.
The fossil fuel companies announced their backing for the plan alongside other major firms including Unilever, PepsiCo, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson.
In a full-page newspaper ad on Tuesday, the companies called for a “consensus climate solution that bridges partisan divides, strengthens our economy and protects our shared environment”. Exxon and the others were listed as founding members of the plan, alongside the green groups Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy.
“Climate change is already impacting our communities, our economy and our environment and those impacts will continue to grow and become worse if we don’t act now,” said Mark Tercek, chief executive of the Nature Conservancy. “We can’t afford to wait to have these conversations.”
However, other green groups dismissed the plan as a stunt designed to insulate fossil fuel companies that have sought to undermine or dismiss the science of global warming.
“ExxonMobil will try to dress this up as climate activism, but its key agenda is protecting executives from legal accountability for climate pollution and fraud,” said Naomi Ages, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “A nicely worded public relations exercise is no cure for decades of deception.”
Rising temperatures and southerly winds expected to bring toxic air to large parts of England and Wales on Wednesday
Experts warn that anyone with lung or heart problems should avoid or reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors. Older people or those with asthma should take particular care. They say the worst air quality in the capital is likely to coincide with temperatures of 34ºC (93ºF) in late afternoon.
Researchers took a detailed look at the risks as sea level rises. Their conclusion? Get ready now.
....In a new study published Wednesday, researchers from Princeton and Rutgers universities warn that the current flooding predictions, including those widely used by policy makers, don't accurately reflect the frequency and types of floods that are likely to challenge American cities in the coming decades as global temperatures and sea levels rise.
Their research found that major coastal flooding—expected to occur only once every 100 years—will inundate coastal cities an average of 40 times more often by 2050, likely overwhelming the cities' abilities to protect themselves.
After 2050, the picture looks worse. Major flooding could slosh through the streets of New York City every other month by the end of the century, while major floods could sweep into Seattle nearly every week.
Recent years have seen outbreaks of preventable diseases once thought controlled, what is this backlash against vaccination all about?
....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe 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.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, whichbuild up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annualoutput
A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connectingneurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair 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 toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe cleaner air.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world percapita, 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[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug &medical procedure costs]
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
Japan has found a way to write off nearly half its national debt without creating inflation. We could do that too.
....While the US government is busy driving up its "sovereign" debt and the interest owed on it, Japan has been canceling its debt at the rate of $720 billion (¥80 trillion) per year. How? By selling the debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government. While most central banks have ended their quantitative easing programs and are planning to sell their federal securities, the Bank of Japan continues to aggressively buy its government's debt. An interest-free debt owed to oneself that is rolled over from year to year is effectively void - a debt "jubilee." As noted by fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article:
The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40%). BoJ holdings are part of the consolidated government balance sheet. So its holdings are in fact the accounting equivalent of a debt cancellation. If I buy back my own mortgage, I don't have a mortgage.
If the Federal Reserve followed the same policy and bought 40% of the US national debt, the Fed would be holding $8 trillion in federal securities, three times its current holdings from its quantitative easing programs.
Eight trillion dollars in money created on a computer screen! Monetarists would be aghast. Surely that would trigger runaway hyperinflation!
But if Japan’s experience is any indication, it wouldn’t. Japan has a record low inflation rate of .02 percent. That’s not 2 percent, the Fed’s target inflation rate, but 1/100th of 2 percent – almost zero. Japan also has an unemployment rate that is at a 22-year low of 2.8%, and the yen was up nearly 6% for the year against the dollar as of April 2017.
Selling the government’s debt to its own central bank has not succeeded in driving up Japanese prices, even though that was the BoJ’s expressed intent. Meanwhile, the economy is doing well. In a February 2017 article in Mother Jones titled “The Enduring Mystery of Japan’s Economy,” Kevin Drum notes that over the past two decades, Japan’s gross domestic product per capita has grown steadily and is up by 20 percent.
One government insurer would be “more effective” at controlling costs, the billionaire says.
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has expressed his support of a single-payer health care system. Credit: J. KEMPIN VIA GETTY IMAGES
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett expressed support for adopting a single-payer health care system on Monday, arguing that it would likely do a better job of controlling runaway costs.
In an interview on“PBS NewsHour,” host Judy Woodruff asked Buffett, a longtime Democratic donor, how the United States should address the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Buffett qualified his comments by claiming that health care policy was“way outside [his] circle of competence.” “With my limited knowledge, I think that [single payer] probably is the best system,” Buffett said.
Buffett’s support for a single-payer health care system, in which one government insurer covers the entire country, was based on the current system’s failure to keep rising health care costs in check. He noted that health care costs have risen exponentially as a share of the economy in the past four decades, holding back the competitiveness of U.S. businesses far more than taxes have.
“In almost every field of American business, it pays to bring down costs,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of people involved in the medical, the whole — just the way the ecosystem works — that there is now no incentive to bring down costs.”
A single-payer system would likely “be more effective” at reducing those costs, he concluded.
There is abundant evidence to back up Buffett’s argument. Medicare, a single-payer system for America’s seniors and disabled workers, has a far better record of containing costs than do private insurers. Among other reasons, that’s because Medicare does not need a fund a marketing budget or compensate shareholders and executives.
The United States, virtually alone among developed nations without a universal single-payer system, has by far the world’s highest per-person health care costs — and based on many key criteria, it nonetheless has worse outcomes.
“The progressive agenda is America’s agenda."
Senator Elizabeth Warren is traveling to pro-Trump areas of Massachusetts this week, pushing the progressive agenda. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/Flickr/cc)
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is calling on Democrats to embrace a single-payer healthcare system in order to win back Congress and the White House in upcoming elections.
Warren argued that simply blocking the Republican rollback of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, is not enough to distinguish Democrats from their GOP counterparts in the minds of voters.
"It's time for the next step. And the next step is single payer." —Sen. Elizabeth Warren
"President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage," Warren said, "by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts. Now it's time for the next step. And the next step is single payer."
While putting pressure on her Democratic colleagues, Warren is also traveling this week to communities that supported Trump in the last election—connecting with working- and middle-class voters as the president's party attempts to push through the new Senate healthcare bill which would end health coverage for 22 million Americans by 2026. Speaking to a crowd of about 500—including some who traveled from New Hampshire—in the economically distressed city of Lowell, Massachusetts, Warren said,
"We talk about how the middle class has just taken one punch after another for nearly 40 years now. Understand that Donald Trump and these Republican majorities are poised to deliver the knockout blow."
Caregivers are protesting legislation that would deliver a tax-cut windfall to the wealthy and devastate a fast-growing workforce and the millions of elderly and disabled Americans who rely on homecare services
Instead of investing in this critical industry, the new Senate bill spells disaster for those who provide care and those who need it most. (Photo: Fuerza del Valle)
The Senate Republicans’ “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would slash resources needed for Medicaid to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. The homecare workforce, one of the country’s fastest-growing, would be extremely hard hit by the plan. The passage of this bill would not only kill homecare jobs, but make homecare workers sicker, while permanently destabilizing the homecare industry.
The number of homecare workers in the country is conservatively estimated to be two million, and it has been growing by about 7 percent per year. Every day, these workers, who are primarily women, provide critical care for seniors, people who are sick, and persons living with disabilities. Homecare workers meet the needs of seniors who want to stay at home as they get older and people of all ages who have disabilities and want to live independently. The daily assistance of homecare workers makes it possible for millions of people across the country to live in their communities.
Yet instead of investing in this critical industry, the new Senate bill spells disaster for those who provide care and those who need it most. Priscilla Smith, from Fayetteville, North Carolina, has been a homecare worker for seven years. She says she’s most concerned that the people in the facility where she works won’t get the care they need. “Medicaid is what pays for workers like me to provide care,” Smith said. “And many elderly people can’t afford private insurance.”
The bill ends Medicaid expansion and introduces per capita caps and block grants. Combined, these changes spell the end of Medicaid in its current status as a successful, responsive program. For decades, Medicaid has allowed seniors and adults and children living with disabilities to get the homecare they need to live at home and in their communities.
At the same time, the bill includes multiple tax breaks for the wealthy, including retroactive tax breaks for high-income households.
The exact number of people who would lose Medicaid is not yet known due to the furtive and hasty way in which the bill was created, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has announced that by the year 2026, 22 million people would lose insurance under the bill and cuts to Medicaid would reach $772 billion. The CBO also predicts that few people who lose their Medicaid eligibility would be able to purchase insurance “because of the expense for premiums and the high deductibles” for individual market plans.
....The Ossoff loss isn’t the clearest illustration of the Democrats’ addiction to centrism and neoliberalism—one could argue his brand of politics, like it or not, was a close fit for the center-right district. Still, what happened in Georgia is yet another blaring signal of the party’s endemic refusal to embrace progressive populism. It’s not that the Democratic Party can’t “wake up” to Americans’ surging support for a bold challenge to the corporate stranglehold over our economy and politics. It’s that it won’t.
The Democratic Party leadership remains hopelessly bound to corporate power and profits. This fatal yet indefatigable marriage goes beyond the most obvious layer of corporate PACs and lobbyists—it spans the neoliberal agenda itself.
To become a true “party of the people” that stands courageously and consistently for workers, unions, low-income communities of all colors, and our ecological future, the Democratic Party must divorce itself not only from corporate cash, but from its deeper enmeshment with corporate power.
The dynamics that propelled the Trump nightmare and that plague a Democratic Party revival are deep-seated. When Trump stumbled his way into the White House, many commentators pronounced the death of neoliberalism and the corporate centrism that defined Hillary Clinton. Yet under Trump, corporate interests and the evisceration of the public sector are of course powering on full-throttle, deepening the alienated anger and dispossession—and the racism, immigrant-scapegoating and xenophobia—that helped enable Trump.
As Cornel West assessed shortly after the November 8 election, “This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic Party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of U.S. democracy.”
From Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, the Democrats have helped pave the path for their own demise by failing to challenge the corporate power interests. These interests, along with Republican corporate allegiances, preclude the kind of change that workers, low-income people, immigrants and communities of color urgently need.
....There are promising signs of a resurgent democratic socialism, particularly among millennials. Groups like the Democratic Socialists of America have soared in the months since the election. And the array of anti-Trump efforts, even if scattered, at least evidences a sizable mass of people ready to fight, and keep fighting.
It goes far beyond Donald Trump. He's just simple-mindedly exacerbating a trend. Clear signs of deterioration have been building in our nation, some of them old and some more recent, all of them related to arrogance and greed at the highest levels.
....There is an obvious way to reverse the deadly demise of our nation. While tolerating (but regulating!) capitalism, add a healthy share of socialism to care for children, the elderly, the disabled, the health-impaired, the jobless, the underemployed. Choose a compromise between capitalism and socialism. Accept the fact that 40 years of "winner-take-all" philosophy only works for the advantaged few, and that a working society needs cooperation among its members. Poverty and crime won't be resolved with more policing. Job opportunities are needed. A well-supported public education system is needed. An end to tax subsidies for the rich is needed.
But this will happen only if progressives can convince their fellow Americans that they have been cheated by neoliberalism....and that 'social' is not a dirty word.
The White House and Senate GOP leaders have nearly $200 billion "in savings" to divvy up among senators’ priorities to secure votes for the imperiled bill.
Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have been looking to wipe out as much of Obamacare as possible and replace it with health savings accounts, group plans and selling insurance across state lines, | Getty
A Congressional Budget Office score that projected 22 million fewer Americans would have insurance under the plan sent some members fleeing Monday and left the bill in jeopardy of failing to have enough votes to even be called to the Senate floor this week.
But Republicans in the White House and in Congress were pleasantly surprised that the bill included more savings than they expected — and are trying to figure out if they can dole it out for votes.
The Senate has about $188 billion to play with.
Among the possible changes: More spending for health savings accounts [which are totally unhelpful to the poor] to appease conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, according to three people familiar with the matter, and some additional Medicaid and opioid spending for moderates.
"We are still working with leadership to change the base bill," a Lee aide said.
Lee, Cruz and others on the right have been looking to wipe out as much of Obamacare as possible and replace it with health savings accounts, group plans and selling insurance across state lines, among other ideas. It’s not clear whether the Senate parliamentarian would allow all of those proposals through under strict reconciliation rules. And Lee will likely require far more dramatic changes to be won over.
JOSH DAWSEY and BURGESS EVERETT | Politico
Environmental Protection Agency and army propose ending clean water rule to hold ‘substantive re-evaluation’ of which bodies of water should be protected
The Mitchell power station, built on the Monongahela river, south-west of Pittsburgh. Green groups said Pruitt’s proposal pandered to fossil fuel and farming interests. Photograph: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to dismantle the federal clean water rule, which protects waterways that provide drinking water for about a third of the US population.
The EPA, with the US army, has proposed scrapping the rule in order to conduct a “substantive re-evaluation” of which rivers, streams, wetlands and other bodies of water should be protected by the federal government.
“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA.
Pruitt said the EPA would swiftly redefine clean water regulations in a “thoughtful, transparent and collaborative” way with other agencies and the public.
Green groups, however, said the move pandered to fossil fuel and farming interests and was part of an agenda to weaken clean water protections.
“Once again, the Trump administration has agreed to do the bidding of the worst polluters in our country, and once again it’s putting the health of American families and communities at risk,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “We will fight this and every other attempt by polluters and the Trump administration to destroy our water resources.”
The planned rollback follows an executive order penned by Donald Trump in February which called for a review of the regulation, also known as the waters of the United States rule, that was introduced by the Obama administration in 2015.
The rule was meant to end years of confusion over which waterways were federally protected from pollution, with the clean water rule simply designating “navigable” waters for safeguards. The Obama administration widened this definition to include the drinking water of about 117 million Americans.
Multimember districts and ranked-choice voting? Virginia congressman thinks it could actually happen — someday
....Fierce partisan divisions have done a job on our democracy. Most voters — at least 85 percent of them — are now locked into a congressional district that’s so safe for one party or the other that you can predict the winner two years out by looking at partisan data alone.
Some people blame gerrymandering, while others cite geography or rage against dark money. All are corrupting factors. All act as accelerants on the underlying issue: Our winner-take-all system of districting that gives all the seats to the side with 50 percent plus one vote and no representation to the other 49.9 percent. We could end gerrymandering tomorrow and it wouldn’t help the unrepresented Republicans in Connecticut, or Democrats in Kansas, feel like they had a voice in Congress.
A Virginia congressman wants to change this. Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat, introduced something called the Fair Representation Act this week. Beyer aims to wipe out today’s map of safe red and blue seats and replace them with larger, multimember districts (drawn by nonpartisan commissions) of three, four or five representatives. Smaller states would elect all members at large. All members would then be elected with ranked-choice voting. That would ensure that as many voters as possible elect a candidate of their choice: In a multimember district with five seats, for example, a candidate could potentially win with one-sixth of the vote.
This is how you fix democracy. The larger districts would help slay the gerrymander. A ranked-choice system would eliminate our zero-sum, winner-take-all politics. Leadership of the House would belong to the side with the most votes — unlike in 2012, for example, when Democratic House candidates received 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, but the GOP maintained a 33-seat majority. No wasted votes and no spoilers, bridge builders in Congress, and (at least in theory) less negative campaigning as politicians vied to be someone’s second choice if not their first. There’s a lot to like here.
Beyer knows it’s a heavy lift and that comprehensive reform like this could take time and make some people uncomfortable at first. But he is eager to start a national conversation about reforms that could help vacuum the toxicity and dysfunction from our politics. It’s a conversation well worth having. We spoke last week by phone while he was in Washington:
Environmental Protection Agency and army propose ending clean water rule to hold ‘substantive re-evaluation’ of which bodies of water should be protected
ABC News/Dave Maguire
The Earth is rapidly losing its forests at a rate much faster than humans can replant. Exact figures vary, but according to Scientific American, “most analysts attribute upwards of 15 percent [of global carbon emissions] to deforestation.” This means that by clearing or burning the Earth’s forests, we are directly contributing to the rapidly increasing rate of climate change.
One Australian engineer is enlisting technology to fight the battle against deforestation. Dr. Susan Graham has helped develop a pair of drones that can help mitigate some of the damage by planting trees at a rate that far outpaces what is possible to do by hand.
The first drone scans an area of land, searching for an ideal plot to plant. This drone helps to make a 3D map of the area and then special algorithms are employed to find the best places to plant. The second drone then takes that map and its payload of up to 150 seed pods and gets to work shooting the seeds into the ground. Lauren Fletcher, the CEO of BioCarbon Engineering, said: “We’re firing at one a second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day — 60 teams like this will get us to a billion trees a year.”
SpaceX made some significant upgrades to the rockets involved in their latest launch. The upgrades performed better than expected and will help to continue to cut the cost of launches.
Never mind the singularity; artificial intelligence could eliminate countless jobs, and perhaps reshape global politics in the process.
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma.
China has seen incredible economic and social changes over the past few decades. But could the impact of artificial intelligence take the country by surprise?
I recently spent a few weeks in the country, talking to researchers and entrepreneurs developing cutting-edge AI technologies and products.
What stuck with me—beyond the growing ambition of China’s researchers and the overall vibrancy of its tech scene—is how much people are starting to talk about the potential for AI to eliminate jobs across the country. Just a few years ago this seemed like much less of a concern. Now the issue of jobs comes up regularly during Q&A sessions and panel discussions at industry conferences.
This is perhaps partly a reflection of the country’s economic slowdown after years of spectacular rise. But I think it also reflects a growing realization among some of the world’s smartest entrepreneurs and innovators that the economic and social impact of AI is likely to be profound.
The sentiment can certainly be detected among some of China’s most prominent and influential technologists...
Superstar companies are dominating the economy by exploiting a growing gap in digital competencies.
Our economy is increasingly ruled by a few dominant firms. We see them everywhere, from established giants Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Walmart to fast-growing newcomers like Airbnb, Tesla, and Uber. There have always been large companies and outright monopolies, but there’s something distinctive about this new generation of what some economists call superstar companies. They appear across a broad range of business sectors and have gained their power at least in part by adeptly anticipating and using digital technologies that foster conditions where a few winners essentially take all.
Our annual list of the 50 Smartest Companies includes many of these firms, but it’s not merely a list of today’s biggest or most profitable players. It highlights technologically innovative companies whose business models allow them to exploit these advances. The list is our best guess as to which firms will be the dominant companies of the future. Amazon and Facebook and Google are on it, but so are plenty of newcomers. Though they might be unfamiliar to you today, we believe they have an inside track to take advantage of the technologies, such as artificial intelligence, that will define business in the coming years. Being smart about innovation won’t guarantee that these firms become superstars. But it does, at least, give them the potential to create and dominate new markets in an increasingly competitive business environment.
Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal Jay Sekulow approved plans to push people to give to his Christian nonprofit, which then paid big sums to his family
More than 15,000 Americans were losing their jobs each day in June 2009, as the US struggled to climb out of a painful recession following its worst financial crisis in decades.
But Jay Sekulow, who is now an attorney to Donald Trump, had a private jet to finance. His law firm was expecting a $3m payday. And six-figure contracts for members of his family needed to be taken care of.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show Sekulow that month approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses.
Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a “sacrificial gift”.
Republicans’ draft bill improves slightly on projections over next decade compared to similar legislation passed by House counterparts
The bill is the Senate’s version of a healthcare bill passed by the House of Representatives in May, which the CBO found would cost 23 million people healthcare coverage and increase the federal budget deficit by $119bn over a 10-year period.
The CBO score comes after Republicans amended the draft Senate bill they released last week to require those who have gone without health coverage for more than two months to wait an additional six months if they want health insurance coverage.
The intent of the proposal is to provide a disincentive for healthy people to purchase health insurance coverage in lieu of the individual mandate required by the Affordable Care Act.
Top Senate Republicans have insisted on holding a vote this week. On Twitter, Senate majority whip John Cornyn of Texas stated of the impending vote: “I am closing the door. We need to do it this week before double-digit premium increases are announced for next year.”
This scheduling has met skepticism from fellow Senate Republicans. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a conservative who is opposed the current draft bill but hopes to support a final version, said Senate GOP leadership was “trying to jam this thing through” on Monday. In an interview with conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt, Johnson insisted: “You don’t have to do it this week.”
White House allies are taking steps though to pressure skeptics like Johnson. America First Policies, a Super Pac that supports Trump and includes former top White House staffer Katie Walsh in its leadership, announced a $1m ad campaign against Nevada Republican Dean Heller.
Heller, who announced his opposition to the current draft bill, is facing re-election in 2018 in his Democratic-leaning home state and is considered the most vulnerable Senate Republican in the midterm elections.
The bill has also faced new opposition from the American Medical Association, the trade group of American doctors. The letter stated that the current proposal violates the Hippocratic oath taken by all doctors to “do no harm”.
Sanders talked to the Guardian while on a tour to speak out unsparingly against the bill: ‘the most anti-working class legislation in the modern history of’ the US
....As a healthcare vote looms in the Senate this week, Sanders and his supporters are looking forward to the next step of the fight – moving for a universal single-payer system. Sanders is expected to introduce “Medicare for all” legislation soon and he expects to have several co-sponsors. He had none when he introduced a version in 2011.
If enacted, the bill would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history
....Do you want me to go through the history of the decline and decadence of the Democratic Party? I’m going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones.
The first big one was in 1979. Tony Coelho, who was a congressman from California, and who ran the House Democratic Campaign treasure chest, convinced the Democrats that they should bid for corporate money, corporate PACs, that they could raise a lot of money. Why leave it up to Republicans and simply rely on the dwindling labor union base for money, when you had a huge honeypot in the corporate area?
And they did. And I could see the difference almost immediately. First of all, they lost the election to Reagan. And then they started getting weaker in the Congress. At that time, 1980, some of our big allies were defeated in the so-called Reagan landslide against Carter, we lost Senator [Gaylord] Nelson, Senator [Warren] Magnuson, Senator [Frank] Church. We had more trouble getting congressional hearings investigating corporate malfeasance by the Democrat [congressional committee] chairs. When the Democrats regained the White House [in 1992] you could see the difference in appointments to regulatory agencies, the difficulty in getting them to upgrade health and safety regulations.
....There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. What’s happened in the last twenty years? They’ve gotten more entrenched. Get rid of Pelosi, you get Steny Hoyer. You get rid of Harry Reid, you get [Charles] Schumer. Good luck.
Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.
End of lecture.
Last week’s defeat in a high-profile congressional contest sparked a tough fight over the heart of the Democratic party. Heather Cox Richardson, Jean Hannah Edelstein and Michael Cohen look at what the future might hold
Heather Cox Richardson, Michael Cohen and Jean Hannah Edelstein | The Guardian
Some are concerned that the proposed privatization of some public park services would drive up costs for visitors and fail to raise enough for repairs
- 81-year-old judge moves 30-year clerks reunion up a year, sparking talk
- Retirement would hand Trump chance to give conservatives firm control
- Mitch Landrieu says cities will lead as federal government is ‘paralysed’
- NYC’s de Blasio backs push as Miami Beach shows anti-sea rise work
"With daily reminders of millions of patients already priced out of access to care, and subjected to the callous practices and care denials of the insurance industry there could hardly be a more heartless response to the Senate bill than Speaker Rendon's Friday night announcement."
- Support for US president now below that of George Bush following Iraq invasion
- Israel and Russia have faith in Trump – not so European allies
In many countries, support for the US president is now below that of George Bush in 2004, following the Iraq invasion. Globally, two-thirds of respondents describe Trump as “arrogant and dangerous”.
The research conducted across 37 countries shows a median of 22% have some or a great deal of confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. Almost three-quarters (74%) have little to no confidence in the Republican leader.
By contrast, in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.
The polling also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49 % expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.
For the first time in Pew research history, most Canadians no longer regard America as a force for good in the world.
Just 43% of Canadians have a positive view of their neighbour.
The two major countries expressing faith in Trump’s ability to be a force for good are Israel and Russia.
Temer is accused of accepting bribes – but any move towards trial would have to pass congress by a two-thirds majority
Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes, a stinging blow to the unpopular leader and to political stability in Latin America’s largest country.
Rodrigo Janot submitted the charge to the supreme court, saying Temer “fooled Brazilian citizens” and owed the nation millions in compensation for accepting bribes.
Under Brazilian law, the lower house of Congress must now vote on whether to allow the top tribunal to try the conservative leader, who replaced Dilma Rousseff just over a year ago when she was impeached.
Lawmakers within Temer’s coalition are confident they have the votes to block the two-thirds majority required to proceed with a trial. But they warn that support may wane if congressmen are forced to vote several times to protect Temer – whose popularity is languishing in the single-digits – from trial.
Unemployment crisis will ravage the continent if it doesn’t opt for market-based development, according to report by Tony Blair’s Institute
The report predicted a shortfall of 50 million jobs, which should serve as a “wake up call” for governments across much of the continent, as well as international donors and agencies. According to the analysis by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, based on world bank data, the labour force in sub-saharan Africa will be 823 million by 2040, up from 395 million in 2015. However, total number of jobs is only expected to hit 773 million, it said, leaving 50 million people in Africa unemployed.
The report looks at why some African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with great economic potential, have struggled to transform and generate growth that is inclusive for all their citizens.
International donors pursuing “piecemeal, uncoordinated interventions” are aggravating matters, it said. Jim Murphy, former cabinet minister, now of the institute, said: “Unless action is taken, Africa is facing a shortfall of 50 million jobs by 2040. This should serve as a serious wake up call for all. This daunting figure will not only have profound consequences for the whole of Africa and its people, but the impact on the global economy could be catastrophic.”
“International donors need to take a more coordinated approach, taking into account each countries individual needs, helping them to grow their economies and create jobs. Likewise, donor agencies are failing to adequately address the challenges facing the continent in order to prioritise economic growth.
Jobs won’t entirely disappear; many will simply be redefined. But people will likely lack new skillsets required for new roles and be out of work anyway
The robots are coming, the robots are coming!
Regular reports warn us that an automation apocalypse is nigh. In January, a McKinsey & Company study found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerized and last year, the Bank of England’s chief economist said that 80m US and 15m UK jobs might be taken over by robots.
....Today’s technological revolution is an entirely different beast from the industrial revolution. The pace of change is exponentially faster and far wider in scope. As Stanford University academic Jerry Kaplan writes in Humans Need Not Apply: today, automation is “blind to the color of your collar.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re a factory worker, a financial advisor or a professional flute-player: automation is coming for you.
Which professions are at greatest risk?
Martin Ford, futurist and author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, explains the jobs that are most at risk are those which “are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable”.
Telemarketing, for example, which is highly routine, has a 99% probability of automation. according to The Future of Employment report; you may have already noticed an increase in irritating robocalls. Tax preparation, which involves systematically processing large amounts of predictable data, also faces a 99% chance of being automated. Indeed, technology has already started doing our taxes: H&R Block, one of America’s largest tax preparation providers, is now using Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence platform.
Robots will also take over the more repetitive tasks in professions such as law, with paralegals and legal assistants facing a 94% probability of having their jobs computerized. According to a recent report by Deloitte, more than 100,000 jobs in the legal sector have a high chance of being automated in the next 20 years.
Fast food cooks also face an 81% probability of having their jobs replaced by robots like Flippy, an AI-powered kitchen assistant which is already flipping burgers in a number of CaliBurger restaurants.
Wait! What jobs will be safe from robots?
Ford, the futurist, classifies resilient jobs in three areas.
The first is jobs that involve “genuine creativity, such as being an artist, being a scientist, developing a new business strategy”. Ford notes: “For now, humans are still best at creativity but there’s a caveat there. I can’t guarantee you that in 20 years a computer won’t be the most creative entity on the planet. There are already computers that can paint original works of art. So, in 20 years who knows how far it’s going to go?”
The second area is occupations that involve building complex relationships with people: nurses, for example, or a business role that requires you to build close relationships with clients.
The third area is jobs that are highly unpredictable – for example, if you’re a plumber who is called out to emergencies in different locations.
You can see these parameters at play in the jobs The Future of Employment identifies as least at risk of automation, which include recreational therapists, first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, repairers, occupational therapists and healthcare social workers.
Koch officials said that the network’s midterm budget for policy and politics is between $300m and $400m, but donors are demanding legislative progress
At a weekend donor retreat attended by at least 18 elected officials, the Koch brothers warned that time is running out to push their agenda, most notably healthcare and tax reform, through Congress.
One Texas-based donor warned Republican lawmakers that his “Dallas piggy bank” was now closed, until he saw legislative progress.
“Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed,” said Doug Deason. “Get it done and we’ll open it back up.”
Nonetheless, Koch officials said that the network’s midterm budget for policy and politics is between $300m and $400m.
The Senate will this week seek to pass its version of healthcare reform – at present it does not have enough Republican support to overcome blanket Democratic opposition.
“There is urgency,” said Tim Phillips, who leads Koch network’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity, at the industrialist brothers’ retreat in Colorado Springs. “We believe we have a window of about 12 months to get as much of it accomplished as possible before the 2018 elections grind policy to a halt.”
The window for action may be even smaller, some Koch allies warned at the weekend retreat that drew roughly 400 participants to the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The price for admission for most was a pledge to give at least $100,000 this year to the Kochs’ broad policy and political network.
There were also at least 18 elected officials on hand. Some hosted private policy discussions with donors while others simply mingled.
In between meetings, Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican representative, predicted dire consequences in next year’s midterm elections should his party fail to deliver on its repeated promises.
A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments, a Reuters examination has found.
The seven sites, operated out of Europe, purport to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, maps, gift wrap, mechanical tape, pin badges and flags. In fact, they are fake outlets, part of a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry, which is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states.
The findings raise questions about how e-commerce is policed worldwide. They also underline a strategy which fraud specialists say regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on.
How to Hide$400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes enabling vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.
When Mary Cholil sought food and shelter after her village was torched, her three-year-old daughter died. In a country ravaged by hunger and conflict, such tragedies have become all too familiar
....Last week the UN said South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, was facing its “highest ever level of food insecurity”. About 7.5 million people, almost two-thirds of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. In some areas half the population are malnourished. An appeal by the UN for more money has faltered, with less than half of the $1.64bn (£1.2bn) budget requested for 2017 so far funded.
As elsewhere in Africa where mass starvation threatens, the crisis in South Sudan has been caused by war, not climatic catastrophe. The country has substantial revenues from oil and swaths of fertile agricultural land. But corruption and mismanagement have led to economic collapse, while widespread violence means empty fields, looted seed stocks, displaced farmers and disrupted transport. Pibor, which depends on the road to Juba for all supplies, has been cut off for months.
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