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Established 1973 — Last updated: Monday, May 22, 2017, 3:58 PM
Aggregated news for a better world – we raise awareness of what corporate media ignores and suppresses
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S.exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451, $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

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

New legislation streamlines the more than two dozen requirements previously needed to launch facilities, which offer supervision and sterileequipment

....“Solid evidence shows that, when properly set up and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives, and they do it without increasing drug use or crime in the neighbourhood,” Jane Philpott, Canada’s health minister, told parliament this week.

The law builds on Canada’s previous success in this field. In 2003, health authorities in Vancouver launched Insite– the first supervised injection facility in North America – to address an epidemic of HIV and hepatitis C in the city’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

By 2015, Insite had logged more than 3 million visits and had safely treated nearly 5,000 overdoses – without one death. It had earned accolades around the world for the critical role it plays in saving lives and preventing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C, while research suggested those who visited the clinic were more likely to pursue detox programs.

But the program clashed with the then-federal Conservative government and their tough-on-crime approach. After losing a bid at the Supreme Court to close Insite, the Conservatives hit back withlegislation – described by one health authority as “unduly onerous”– aimed at muddying the process of opening safe injection sites.

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian
Kanai First Nation, one of Canada’s largest, takes action to keepout drugs such as fentanyl as community grapples with overdoses: ‘This is about saving lives’

One of Canada’s largest First Nations communities has passed a bylaw forbidding non-members from entering the reserve without a permit, in hopes of gaining control overa street drug that has ravaged the community.

The past few years have seen fentanyl – an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin – tighten its grip on the reserve, said Rick Tailfeathers, a spokesperson for the Kainai First Nation located in southern Alberta. “We’ve lost a lot of people in the past two years. And it’s totally preventable.”

Home to some 13,000 people, the First Nation declared a state of emergency in March 2015. Distraught leaders said 20 people had died and another 60 overdoses had been treated in the six months prior.

Police on the reserve sprung into action, launching a tip line to report traffickers and forming a special unit aimed at curbing the sale of the pills. Two years later, the drug continues its hold on some in the community, said Tailfeathers. “It’sall over Vancouver, Alberta, but somehow it got to our reserve first.”

In April of 2016 – one year after fentanyl-linked drugs began to take a deadly toll on the Kainai First Nation – the province of British Colombia echoed the First Nation’s concern, declaring the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency. Across the province, the number of overdoses had soared from 80 in 1990 to 922 in2016.

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian
'Having a strong economy does not guarantee good healthcare'

Americans are dying at a shockingly high rate from preventable causes, found a first-of-its-kind global health study published late Thursday.

The new research demonstrates that despite the fact that the U.S. has the largesteconomy in the world, healthcare for many of its residents is woefully inadequate. The U.S. was tied with Estonia and Montenegro, far below other wealthy nations such as Norway, Canada, and Australia, in the study's ranking of 195 countries.

"America's ranking is an embarrassment, especially considering the U.S. spends more than $9,000 per person on healthcare annually, more than any other country," said Dr. Christopher Murray, senior author of the study and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. "Anyone with a stake in the current healthcare debate, including elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels, should take a look at where the U.S. is falling short."

Progressives have long pointed out that the U.S. is one of the only wealthy nationsnot to provide some form of government-mandated healthcare, exacerbating inequality in health care outcomes.

The study published in the Lancet created a Healthcare Access and Quality(HAQ) Index, "a summary measure based on 32 causes, that in the presence of high-quality healthcare, should not result in death," the researchers wrote.

"Using deaths that could be avoided as a measure of the quality of a health system is not new but what makes this study so important is its scope, drawing on the vast dataresources assembled by the Global Burden of Disease team to go beyond earlier work in rich countries to cover the entire world in great detail, as well as the development of ameans to assess what a country should be able to achieve," said Professor Martin McKee ofthe London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who participated in the study.

Nika Knight, staff writer | CommonDreams
Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline construction spill mucks up Ohio wetlands

Ohioans are experiencing a little taste of Standing Rock, right at home. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Texas company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project in North Dakota, has spilled about two million of gallons of drilling materials in two separate accidents into two of Ohio’s few remaining wetlands in a rush to complete its Rover natural gas pipeline.

The accidents occurred on April 13 and 14 as workers employed the same drilling technique used to bore beneath the Missouri River to place pipeline for the DAPL. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the spill covered about 500,000square feet and was caused by pressure during drilling. Incidents such as these are whatfuel pipeline resistance, as environmentalists and tribal members pointed out.

“Energy Transfer Partners has dumped millions of gallons of amilkshake-like substance into pristine wetlands,” said Jenn Miller, director of the Sierra Club of Ohio. “This will have massive impacts on the plant, fish and amphibian species there.”

One-third of Ohio’s endangered species rely on wetlands for habitat and survival, Miller said.

Mary Annette Pember | Indian Country Today
No seeds were lost but the ability of the rock vault to provide fail safe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change

....It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s mostprecious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter,sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a millionpackets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008,the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide“failsafe”protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

Damian Carrington | TheGuardian
China claims break through in mining 'flammable ice' [might greater release of methane to our atmosphere become a larger problem?]
China has for the first time extracted gas from an ice-like substanceunder the South China Sea considered key to future global energy supply.

Chinese authorities have described the success as a major breakthrough.

Methane hydrates, also called "flammable ice", hold vast reserves of natural gas.

Many countries including the US and Japan are working on how to tap those reserves, but mining and extracting are extremely difficult.

staff | BBC News
Ships belch out most of their sulphurous toxins far from land, but they could still be responsible for 60,000 deaths each year

In all the controversy over toxic air pollution from diesel cars, little is heard of a worse source of pollution– shipping. Large ocean-going ships tend to use bunker fuel, the world’s dirtiest diesel fuel – a toxic, tar-like sludge that usually contains 3,500 times more sulphur than the diesel used for cars. And it’s also cheap.

Shipping accounts for 13% of annual sulphur oxide emissions worldwide. A few countries, including the UK, insist that ships in their national waters use more costlylow-sulphur fuel. And although new global rules for shipping to cut sulphur pollution are due to come into force in 2020, the sulphur content of shipping fuel will still be 500 times more than road diesel.

Shipping also makes 15% of global NOx emissions,and 3% of CO2 emissions, which are expected to increase considerably in the next 30years. That pollution largely goes unnoticed because it largely happens far out at sea, but ships in seaports have become major pollution hazards on land. In fact, particulates emitted from ships were estimated to cause 60,000 deaths each year worldwide, according to a study in 2007.

Shipping is the only sector in the world not subject to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and was left out of the UN’s Paris accord on this pollution. When the EUParliament recently outlined plans to tackle shipping greenhouse gases in Europe Union waters, the shipping industry wasnot keen on any change.

The industry says no worldwide targets should be set until they have done more monitoring of emissions – which means no action is likely to be taken before2023.

Jeremy Plester | The Guardian
Recent innovations in hydrogen generation, storage, transport and usecould transform it into the ultimate source of clean energy

Nearly a century ago, British scientist JBHaldane saw an energy future in which wind power would be used to generate hydrogen; a fuel he described as, weight-for-weight, the most efficient known method of storing energy.

He thought this future was four hundred years away, but the so-called “hydrogen economy” may arrive a lot sooner thanks to a recent burst of innovations in hydrogen generation, storage, transport and use. And it could open a new energy export market for Australia.

Hydrogen itself isn’t actually a fuel – it’s an energy carrier.

The gas is produced by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by the electricity-driven process electrolysis. That hydrogen is then condensed under pressure and at very low temperatures into a liquid, which can be used in much the same way aspetrol and diesel, or it can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity.

The conversion of that solar, wind or water energy into liquid hydrogen also enablesit to be transported to where it is needed, which in most countries in the world is a reasonable distance away from where the energy is generated in the first place.

Hydrogen’s greatest asset is its potential to be the ultimate source of clean energy.

“The ability of hydrogen is it does not emit carbon dioxide when it is burned,” says Prof Dongke Zhang, director of the University of Western Australia’s energy centre. Therefore, if hydrogen can be produced using only energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, or hydro, then we don’t have to worry about carbon dioxide production at all.

Bianca Nogrady | The Guardian
'The pill mill of America': where drugs mean there are no good choices, only less awful ones [governments must unleash research hospitals and pharmeceuticalcompanies to design and manufacture safer and non-addictive recreational drugs tostop illegal drug health, prison and social costs]
For six days in Portsmouth, Ohio, I keep trying to fool myself.Eventually, I am unable to just watch and listen

Portsmouth, Ohio, once known for making things (steel, shoes, bricks), is now known for drugs, and labeled by some as the “pillmill of America”. The city peaked at 40,000 people in 1940, and as it emptied of factories and jobs – some made obsolete, some moved away – it also emptied of people and hope.

Now it is a town half the size, filled with despair and filling with drugs.

On my first night in town, a beat-up car parks next to me, positioned in the darkness cast by my van. The passenger, a middle-aged woman, injects the driver in the neck. He stays still, head tilted to expose a vein, as she works the needle in, while two youngboys play in the back seat.

Done, they pull away as I try to fool myself into thinking I didn’t see what Isaw.

Chris Arnade | The Guardian
The effect is small, but it points to older doctors losing their edge.
BETH MOLE | ars technica
Trump Wants to Cut Energy Dept's Renewables Budget. Big Time. [“Stupid is as stupid does.” – Forrest Gump.]
Draft 2018 budget proposal obtained by Axios reveals a 70-percent cut
Andrea Germanos, staff writer | TheGuardian
Pesticide that Trump's EPA refused to ban blamed for sickening farm workers[alternative-fact based emotional government can have very high costs.this is a warning to change conduct before its too late.]
Nearly 50 farm workers experienced nausea and vomiting apparently caused by a pesticide whose scheduled ban was overturned by the Trump administration
Oliver Milman | The Guardian
A chat with Paul Hawken about his ambitious new effort to “map,measure, and model” global warming solutions.

....For all the hand-wringing on climate change over the years, discussion ofsolutions remains puzzlingly anemic and fractured. A few high-profile approaches, mainlyaround renewable energy and electric cars, dominate discussion and modeling. Butthere’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors.

At least until now.

It seems Paul Hawken got tired of waiting.

....A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team ofseveral dozen research fellows setout to “map, measure, and model” the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research.

Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.

It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heatpumps to ride-sharing.

The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and familyplanning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050—more than on- and offshore wind powercombined (99 GT).

David Roberts | Vox
Recycling Association chief cites crisp brand as one of worst examplesof multiple materials being used in single product

Product designers need to retreat from “the Pringles factor” in order to make their packaging more recyclable, an environmental expert has said.

Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association, which represents recyclers, pointed to the snack tube as a prime example of the failure to consider recycling in design – and listed a range of other offenders from Lucozade Sportdrinks to whisky packaging.

At a conference, he said the biggest problems came when multiple materials were usedin the same packaging. In the case of Pringles, Ellin said: “What idiot designed this in terms of recyclability? We’ve got a cardboard tube, a metal bottom, a plastic lid.

“The Pringles factor – right at the design stage, we’ve got to get that right. What we’re putting in our recycling bins has got to be recyclable.We’ve got to get away from the Pringles factor.”

Ellin was also critical of Lucozade Sport and bottles with a similar design, where a recyclable bottle is enclosed in a sleeve made from a different type of plastic. He called the design the “No 2 villain.”

“This bottle is so confusing to computer scanners that it has to be picked by hand off the recycling conveyor,” he said. “Then it often just gets chucked away.”

Damien Gayle and agencies | TheGuardian

dryriver | SlashDot

....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.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
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
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | ClimateProgress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annualoutput
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian |Ref.

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.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones| Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world percapita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug &medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New YorkTimes | Ref.


Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY

State Democrats’ three-day convention had a raucous start Friday, as liberal activists booed and heckled Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after marching from the state Capitol to promote a universal heath care program.

The leader of the nurses’ union that opposed Perez’s recent election hadjust warned California Democrats that they would put up primary election challengers against lawmakers if they don’t support a bill to create public-funded, universal healthcare.

“They cannot be in denial anymore that this is a movement that can primary them,” RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, told hundreds of nurses and health care advocates gathered for a rally at the Capitol.

“Vote them out,” the crowd chanted back, referring to Democrats in theLegislature wavering on whether to support their cause.

....The showdown over health care exposed deep rifts within the party that may havescabbed over, but have not healed, since last year’s primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a favorite of the nurses union, which also backed Perez’s opponent in the chair’s race, Rep. Keith Ellison.

Sanders has called for a national single-payer system, and earlier this month called on Californians to adopt the model at a speech in Los Angeles.

DeMoro argued the Republican health care bill that passed the House has generated anger and fear among people from across the political spectrum, and many have turned their attention to the issue of health care because they fear losing coverage. Law makers have expressed skepticism over its projected steep cost.

“There’s been a seismic shift because of Donald Trump,” she said in an interview.

El Cenizo is battling a ‘show me your papers’ law that banssanctuary cities and empowers police officers to ask the immigration status of anyonethey detain

When Texas passed a law this month banning so-called sanctuary cities and empowering police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain, protests rippled throughthe state’s major cities. Politicians and activists vowed legal action.

The first place to sue was not liberal Austin, the hub of the fightback, but tiny ElCenizo, a city of 3,800 that nestles along a bend in the Rio Grande and faces Mexico tothe north, west and south.

Here, where 99% of residents are Hispanic and 15% to 20% are undocumented, a“safe haven” ordinance has been in place since 1999, forbidding local authorities from making immigration inquiries. When the new state law goes into effect in September, the failure of Texas officials to cooperate with immigration authorities will become a criminal offence also punishable byfines.

The lawsuit argues that the Texas bill, known as SB4, unconstitutionally inserts the state into the federal government’s job of immigration enforcement. SB4 is the mosthard-line immigration law passed by a state since Arizona introduced SB 1070, a ruledubbed “show me your papers” by detractors that has largely been neutered bylitigation from civil rights groups.

While the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, claims SB4 promotes law and orderand keeping dangerous criminals off the streets, it was opposed by sheriffs and police chiefs in the state’s major cities, who worry that it will erode community trustand discourage the reporting of crimes. Critics of the law also worry that giving individual officers the option to pose immigration questions invites racial profiling and will turn routine traffic stops into preludes to deportation.

El Cenizo is now back in the national news, 18 years after a flurry of attention when it decided tomake life easier for most of its residents by holding city meetings inSpanish, generating criticism from conservative groups who felt that not using English was unAmerican.

The timing is unfortunate for the 33-year-old mayor, Raul Reyes. In the week of 8 May,when the suit was filed, he was studying for his finals for a master’s degree in public administration. He also runs two businesses; being mayor pays only $100 amonth.

Tom Dart | The Guardian
Ex-FBI chief to tell Senate committee about campaign inquiry role, aspresident reportedly described him to Russians as ‘nut job’

....Comey, who was sacked by Trump on 9 May in the midst of an investigation into thepresident’s links to Russia, is to giveevidence in an open hearing of the Senate intelligence committee at some point after US Memorial Day on 29 May, the committee announced on Friday.

The announcement came as the Washington Post reported that a White House official had been identified as a “significant person of interest” by the law enforcement investigation into links between Russia and the Trump election campaign.

The New York Times, quoting a US official, reported that Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, as he labelled the former FBI chief a “real nut job”. The president’s spokesman did not deny the report, but said Comey had made it harder for the US to engage with Russia.

Julia Carrie Wong and Jamie Grierson | The Guardian
Some on the left say the vice president would do more damage than Trump. But a post-impeachment Republican Party would erupt in civil war.

....“If Trump were impeached and convicted, Vice President Mike Pence, a right-wing, evangelical ideologue, would be a much more reliable and competent rubberstamp for the conservative policy agenda,” wrote Jeff Alson at In These Times. Megan Carpentier, writing at Dame, argued that “Pence may not tweet like a Ritalin-addicted teenager with an impulse-control problem, a deep sense of entitlement, and something to prove, and he probably has the good sense not to yell at other world leaders and constantly publicly praise the most murderous ones ... but in terms of actual, actionable policy decisions, the idea that Mike Pence would somehow be preferable to the man who is enacting every policy Mike Pence would himself enact is, and always was, the product of a fevered imagination.”

But Cliston Brown, a columnist at the Observer (which is owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser), offered the most apocalyptic take on a Pence presidency. “While Pence clearly has more self-control and self-awareness than Trump, that’s exactly what makes him more dangerous. He has all the same ideas and goals as Trump—and, as an added bonus, a religious-right agenda that’s even worse—and a much better chance of actually implementing them,” Brown wrote. Trump’s presidency will continue to be a smoldering ruin, allowing Democrats to retake the House in 2018 and the White House in 2020 and putting the party “in a position to control the country for a decade.” By contrast, Brown argued, President Pence would win broad approval, cementing Republican control of government until 2024— at which point the Republicans could have a 7-2 Supreme Court majority that would cast a reactionary shadow for the next half-century.

There’s no question that Pence, a creature of the religious right, would be a terrible president, although in ways different than Trump. As I argued in mid-November,when this meme first took hold on the left, “A Pence presidency would be one particular nightmare, the rule of Trump another one entirely. To use the language of Dungeons and Dragons: Pence is Lawful Evil and Trump is Chaotic Evil.” Trump is more likely to blunder into a nuclear war, while Pence is more likely to push America down the road to a rigid theocracy. The worst-case scenario under Trump is the world of Mad Max, while under Pence it would be The Handmaid’s Tale.

JEET HEER | New Republic
By stacking his inner circle with blindly loyal neophytes and assuming he knows far more than he does, Trump guarantees daily chaos

....The degree of paranoia, self-sabotage and incompetence endemic to this Trump WhiteHouse is staggering. By stacking his inner circle with blindly loyal neophytes and assuming he knows far more than he does, Trump guarantees daily chaos. Consider the decision to suddenly fire Comey: how could this make strategic sense, given that any FBI director knows how to leak secrets to the press? Was Trump aware doing so would only raise suspicions that he’s taking part in a vast, Watergate-level cover-up?

We don’t know yet what Trump is really hiding or if he’s hiding anything at all. Mueller, the special counsel, will provide those answers in the months or years to come. What we do know is that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was driven in part by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser with a portfolio that seems to include everything pertaining to planet Earth. Kushner, a 36-year-old real estate developer, has no prior experience in government. He was born into privilege and power, and married well. (Disclosure: I once worked at the newspaper he published, the New York Observer.)

For all the media’s obsession with palace intrigue, with reporters giddily crafting sweeping portraits of Trump’s generals and court jesters, the fundamental truth had little to do with whether Steve Bannon was Darth Vader incarnate or Kellyanne Conway was an Orwellian propagandist or Kushner and his wife Ivanka could really tug volcanic Donald to the center. The truth lay instead in what united them all: their profound inexperience and terrifying ignorance. They are, without question, the most overmatched clan of White House insiders in more than a half century, and their boss is even more incapable.

Ross Barkan | The Guardian
The plan by the secretary of education represents the Trump administration’s multi-part assault on public education and the non-rich

When Donald Trump appointed Betsy DeVos secretary of education, America’s school-going people worried it was only a matter of time before she brought back debtors’ prison for student loan defaulters and subcontracted out K-12 education to Nickelodeon.

Now Donald and Betsy are one step closer to making that vision a reality, with $10.6bn in cuts to crucial education programs, including a student loan forgiveness program first implemented by a Republican administration.

According to budget documents obtained by the Washington Post, the Trump administration plans to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which more than 400,000 people are counting on as part of their financial future.

Signed into law in 2007 by George W Bush as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, the program offers those whose jobs benefit society – government and non-profit employees – the chance to have their student loans forgiven after 10 years of on-time, income-based payments. The amount of money this would cost the government would presumably not exceed what it would have cost to simply pay these workers more.

In an effort to make taxpayers foot the bill for their depraved lives of leisure, more than 400,000 aspiring teachers, social workers, public defenders, and others took the government up on its offer. It might not be the only reason they chose these lines ofwork, but it certainly factored into the decisions of many. The first loans were –and as of now, still are – set to be wiped away in October, a date the program’s first participants have no doubt been counting down to for nearly a decade.

Unfortunately for these poor saps, two rich kids who have never taken out a student loan in their lives and only entered “public service” after years of fortune-building in the private sector are now in charge of the federal education system. And they don’t care if they attract people to the public and non-profit sectors. They’re not even convinced these sectors should exist. It’s also possible DeVos’s own experiences in government have taught her public service is something you pay for the privilege of doing, not the other way around.

Jamie Peck | The Guardian

Various | Google News
THE LIGHTS ARE GOING OUT IN THE MIDDLE EAST [we suggest enticing a solar panel and battery manufacturers to locate in your countries to diversify economies and create jobs. Use solar to empower yourselves...]

....Six months ago, I was in the National Museum in Beirut, marvelling at twoPhoenician sarcophagi among the treasures from ancient Middle Eastern civilizations, whenthe lights suddenly went out. A few days later, I was in the Bekaa Valley, whose townshadn’t had power for half the day, as on many days. More recently, I was in oil-rich Iraq, where electricity was intermittent, at best. “One day we’ll have twelve hours. The next day no power at all,” Aras Maman, a journalist, told me, after the power went off in the restaurant where we were waiting for lunch. In Egypt, the government has appealed to the public to cut back on the use of light bulbs and appliances and to turn off air-conditioning even in sweltering heat to prevent wider outages. Parts of Libya, which has the largest oil reserves in Africa, have gone weeks without power this year. In the Gaza Strip, two million Palestinians get only two to four hours of electricity a day, after yet another cutback in April.

Robin Wright | The New Yorker
The Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranianhas won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold

....So the man who signed Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States, whostruggled (often vainly, it has to be said) to reap the economic rewards of this nuclear bomb “truce” with the West, who believed in a civil society not unlike that of former president Mohamed Khatami – who supported him in the election – won with 57 per cent of the vote, backed by 23½ million of the 41 million who cast their ballot. The corrupt and censorious old men of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and thebazaaris and the rural poor – the cannon fodder of the Iran-Iraq war as they oftenare in elections – have been told they no longer belong to the future.

But what a contrast this election has been to the vast congress of dictators andcut-throat autocrats greeting Donald Trump in Riyadh – just as the Iranian election results were announced. Save for Lebanon and Tunisia and Pakistan, almost every Muslim leader gathered in Saudi Arabia treats democracy as a joke or a farce – hence the96 per cent victories of their leaders – or an irrelevancy. They are there to encourage Sunni Saudi Arabia’s thirst for war against Shia Iran and its allies.Which is why the Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranian has won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold.

Robert Fisk | Independent
The Italian is one of the finest chefs in the world. But his greatest achievement is Food for Soul, his project to feed the poor and cut food waste, now about to open in London

Massimo Bottura is running late. You imagine this is probably a perennial condition.In the previous week, as I know from various emails, the man who was in 2016 voted the number one chef in the world, has been in Tokyo, Melbourne and London,returning between each trip to cook at Osteria Francescana, his three Michelin-starred restaurant in the northern Italian city of Modena.

Today, we are due to meet at the site of another of his other culinary projects: Refettorio Ambrosiano, in Milan, but texts and phone calls inform me that the chef is held up in traffic on the autostrada through Emilia-Romagna. He will be here in an hour or so. The delay gives me the chance to mooch around the site of Refettorio, which is in Greco, one of the poorest quarters of the city.

Refettorio began as a pop-up concept for the Milan World Expo in 2015. As theresident genius of north Italian food, Bottura, 54, had been invited to cook for various official functions, including the grand opening. Instead he decided to make a different kind of gesture about Italy’s greatest export, its hospitality. The original planwas to create a kitchen at Milan’s central station, in which some of theworld’s greatest chefs would be invited to cook alongside him for the city’s homeless, using food deemed unsuitable for sale in supermarkets, making a statement aboutwaste, and about taste. At the time, the station was overflowing with refugees journeying north from the southern ports. It was, by Bottura’s account, the Pope who changed his mind about the venue.

Through the Catholic charity Caritas, Bottura’s idea reached the Vatican. Pope Francis wondered if it might become a more sustainable gesture. Why not site Refettorioin one of the blighted quarters on the city’s periphery? He put Bottura in touch with the parish priest in Greco, Don Giuliano, who suggested a derelict theatre next to his church as a venue, and an unlikely partnership was born – one which has led toa full-time commitment to serve Greco’s homeless and refugee population every day.Bottura has also set up a foundation – Food for Soul– to seed the concept in other cities; he began with the creation of aRefettorio in Rio for the Olympics, which continues to thrive. His next stop, nextmonth, is a Refettorio in London. In the week before Easter, the week I was in Milan, Food for Soul received an initial grant of$650,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation to bring at least two Refettorios to the US.

....The inspiration for Food for Soul, he suggests, also passes down the maternal line. “This reflects the way I grew up, the values that my mum and my grandma gave me,” he says. “I come from a place, Emilia-Romagna, that is extremely social, and that expresses itself in food. We know that by ourselves we cannot make it. That spirit is in the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, hundreds of small-scale cheesemakers whosee the power of working together with a single voice. Or if you think about Modena and balsamic vinegar, with that collective spirit the vinegar has become a world icon. I come from a place that is devoted to sharing quality ingredients and to ideas.”

Tim Adams | The Guardian
Budget analysis shows some Australian women hit with effective marginal tax rates of100% ["conservatives" are cruel to the poor and desperateeverywhere, to protect themselves from higher taxes]
Exclusive: Medicare levy increase, freezing of family tax benefits and student loan repayments ‘particularly harsh for women’

....A study of budget initiatives by the NationalFoundation for Australian Women, to be released on Monday, says a combination of an increase in the Medicare levy, the freezing of family tax benefit rates and earlier repayment requirements for student loans “are particularly harsh for women”.

The study notes the proposed increase in the Medicare levy will affect women onincomes greater than $21,644 and, for women who are eligible to receive family tax benefit part A, the rates are frozen for two years.

“Those who pay childcare fees will continue to face high effective marginal tax rates,” the report says.

Katharine Murphy | The Guardian
UK needs more immigrants to 'avoid Brexit catastrophe' [who benefits from bad "conservative" policy?]
Ageing population, labour shortages and low productivity mean UK needsnet inward migration of 200,000 a year, says think tank

The British economy needs a net inward migration flow of 200,000 people a year, double the Conservative target, if it is to avoid the “catastrophic economic consequences” linked to Brexit, a study by an employer-backed thinktank has said.

The Global Future report says the UK’s low productivity, ageing population and shortage oflabour in key areas, such as the NHS, show that net migration of 200,000 will be neededannually.

The report, backed by three employer groups, criticises Labour and the Conservatives for refusing to be honest with the British public about the level of migration the UKrequires. It warns that if the UK refuses to be flexible about its sources of labour, it could face a decade of slow growth similar to that of the Japanese economy.

The Conservatives recommitted themselves to a target of limiting net migration to tens of thousands in their manifesto on Thursday, promising to double the cost to an employer of hiring a skilled worker from overseas.

The net migration target recommended by Global Future is broadly in line with actual levels from 2000 onwards.

Patrick Wintour | The Guardian
Britain’s food production depends on seasonal migrant labour fromthe EU. What will happen to those workers after Brexit? And how will it change the industry?
Jay Rayner | The Guardian
Venezuela: 50th day of protests brings central Caracas to a standstill [who does interventions for countries? could the UN help more?]
Venezuelans take to the streets, furious about shortages, rocketing inflation and human rights crackdowns, demanding President Maduro hold elections
Agencies | The Guardian
Reformist Rouhani wins second term with more than 23 million votes toEbrahim Raisi’s 15.8 million

....More than 41.2 million people voted out of 56 million who were eligible to do so. The two other lesser known candidates, Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, got 478,215 and 215,450 votes respectively.

“Hope prevailed over isolation,” the former president and key Rouhani ally Mohammad Khatami posted on Instagram, along with a photo of Rouhani making a victory sign, Reuters reported. Iran’s state television congratulated Rouhani on his re-election.

The foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said: “We derive stability not from ‘coalitions’, but from our people, who – unlike many – do vote. Iranians must be respected and are ready to engage.”

Emma Graham-Harrison and Saeed Kamali Dehghan | The Guardian

....If we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species, we need to accept that each military act is violence against the earth, and all violence against the earth is violence against every one of us. That said, each act of restoration reverberates through the ecosystem and enhances our collective wealth. What direction do we choose? We certainly don’t want a scenario in which the few of us remaining hover under the shade of the last standing trees, holding out a white flag and lamenting, “Nature, we should have listened to you!” Let’s hand shovels and seedlings to weapons company stockholders so they can reap some meaningful returns. Re-greening the earth is both necessary and within our grasp. It would be great if ecological healing were central to the mission and not just the work of the“resistance”.

Disintermediating nation-states

How can we best avoid dangers of “bad change of government results” from coup d'état, wars, economic crises, elections, etc.: do away with physical nation-states.

Virtual Nations might best be visualized by imagining different colored spice sprinkled upon the earth, the color of each tiny dot representing a person/family designating which virtual nation they are contracting with for administration of citizen services this year. If one switches virtual nation, his/her escrow for Social Security and Medicare must be transfered to their new virtual nation. This obviates the need for national-level politics.

Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
Student loan defaults are a bonanza for the debt collection industry.

The federal government has, in recent years, paid debt collectors close to $1 billion annually to help distressed borrowers climb out of default and scrounge up regular monthly payments. New government figures suggest much of that money may have been wasted.

Nearly half of defaulted student-loan borrowers who worked with debt collectors to return to good standing on their loans defaulted again within three years, according to an analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For their work, debt collectors receive up to $1,710 in payment from the U.S. Department of Education each time a borrower makes good on soured debt through a process known as rehabilitation. They keep those funds even if borrowers subsequently default again, contracts show. The department has earmarked more than $4.2 billion for payments to its debt collectors since the start of the 2013 fiscal year, federal spending data show.

Shahien Nasiripour | Bloomberg

The Mediterranean republic of Malta operates a tax system where companies pay the lowest tax on profits in the EU - only five per cent.

Over the last three months, journalistic network European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) dug into over 150,000 documents that show how international companies take advantage of this system, using Malta as a pirate base for tax avoidance in the EU.

Although benefiting from the advantages of EU membership, Malta also welcomes large companies and wealthy private clients looking to dodge taxes in their home countries.

This has made Malta a target for firms linked to the Italian mafia, Russian loansharks and the highest echelons of the Turkish elite.

This damages the budgets of other EU countries, and reveals a weakness in the union, which allows member states sovereign rights over their taxation.

The research was undertaken by the EIC, which has brought together 12 media and over 40 journalists in 16 countries.

This is how the scheme works:...

European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) | The Black Sea
America's geography of wealth: the shrinking urban middle class visualised [animated bar chart] [tens of millions of families are living in increasing financialstress–Hillary ignored it and Trump made alt-promises]
The economic fates of diverse cities such as San Francisco, New York and Detroit would seem to be vastly different – but they share a common thread

Over the last half-century, the story of America’s cities is a tale of booms and busts. New York and tech hubs like San Francisco – once cities in financial distress – have transformed into economic powerhouses. At the other extreme,one-time prosperous manufacturing cities like Detroit now find themselves in economic turmoil.

Viewed in isolation, the economic fates of these cities would seem to bear little resemblance to each other. However, they all share a common thread: since 1970 these cities, like nearly every other major American city, have experienced a “hollowing out” of the middle class.

The graphic above shows the change in income distribution in 20 major US cities between 1970 and 2015. In 1970, each of these cities exhibits a near-symmetrical, bell-shaped income distribution – a high concentration of households in the middle, with narrow tails of low and high-income households on either end. By 2015, the distributions have grown more polarised – fewer middle-income households, and more households in the low-income and/or high-income extremes.

Max Galka | The Guardian
While campaigning, Donald Trump frequently said he'd support there instatement of Glass-Steagall

Calling his comments and attempted explanations both "bizarre" and "crazy," Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) slammed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing on Thursday for backtracking on repeated promises by the Trump administration that it would support breaking up the big banks by reinstating a new version of the Glass-Steagall Act.

"This is just bizarre... this is crazy." —Sen. ElizabethWarren

The tense exchange came as Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and OneWestbefore being picked by President Donald Trump to lead the Treasury, explained to the Senate Banking Committee the administration policy does not favor breaking up too-big-to-fail banks or separating their commercial banking side from their riskier investment banking operations.

"The president and this administration have said repeatedly that they support a 21stcentury Glass-Steagall," pointed out an incredulous Warren, who introduced a bill bythat name in 2013, in 2015, and again this year, highlighting theadministration's position. "It was in the Republican Partyplatform. Donald Trump said it specifically a few weeks before the election," she said.

Lauren McCauley, staff writer | Common Dreams

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.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

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

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout ofthe 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.

....Donald Trump has long deployed what might be called the chaff approach to evading legal scrutiny in his business dealings. Parts of his labyrinthine business holdings seem to be likely targets of investigation. He was sued for civil fraud over promises made to students of Trump University (a case that was settled after Trump became President). He talked on CNBC about the need to pay bribes when doing business overseas. His Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, was in violation of anti-money-laundering laws when Trump owned it. He has had ties to New York Mafia figures. Yet he has never been indicted nor,f or all we know, did any prosecutor consider pursuing a criminal case. Perhaps this is because the structure of Trump’s business has been, like chaff tossed out of abomber, a remarkably effective defense. There is no one thing to look at when investigating Donald Trump. There’s not one company, there are hundreds, possibly thousands. Every deal he does has its own legal structure, its unique set of participants and business model. Rarely—and less often in the past decade—is Trump theprimary owner and visionary of a project. More typically, he has sold a license to put his name on someone else’s project.

Robert Mueller, who was recently appointed as a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the Presidential election, has the authority to clear up the picture. Mueller was given an expansive brief to investigate any links between “anyone associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and the Russian government as well as, basically, anything fishy he might turn up along the way. It seems reasonable to expect that the investigation will take a careful look at Trump’s business history. During the campaign and over the several years before it, Trump had businessdeals with several figures who are close to the Kremlin. To discover if there was collusion in 2015 and 2016, an investigator would surely want to better understand these earlier business relationships.

Adam Davidson | The New Yorker
The attorney general's latest memo "is like traveling back in time tothe 1980s."


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