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Established 1973 — Last updated: Saturday, July 23, 2016, 9:45 AM
Aggregated news of who we are and might become
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Clarity requires effort
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 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

With hydrogen tipped to become an important clean energy fuel, a new process may be the solution to powering electric vehicles and heating buildings
A new process for converting natural gas into hydrogen could be the solution for powering electric vehicles Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
A new process for converting natural gas into hydrogen could be the solution for powering electric vehicles Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

An Australian company is using “cheap as dirt” iron ore to convert methane in natural gas into hydrogen. Importantly, their process generates near-zero emissions, as the carbon content of the gas is captured in the form of high-quality graphite.

As a clean-burning fuel, hydrogen could play a key role in future energy markets, but production methods are still too energy-intensive and costly.

Hazer Group is a Perth-based company, spun out of the University of Western Australia, which plans to halve the cost of hydrogen production. It is currently scaling-up its patented process, based on “methane cracking”.

“The chemistry is remarkably simple,” says Geoff Pocock, the managing director of the ASX-listed company, which raised A$5m at its initial public offering in September 2015. “You can think of it as a self-sequestering energy production system.”

As natural gas passes through the heated iron ore catalyst, methane in the gas breaks down into its constituent elements: hydrogen and carbon. But instead of carbon dioxide, would-be emissions are captured in the form of solid graphite.

Some of the hydrogen is used to power the system, and in the surplus “you’ve got a hydrogen source, which hasn’t got a CO2 footprint,” he says.

Myles Gough | The Guardian
As Air Resources Board meets to consider it, proposal lauded as example for EPA & other states

Sacramento, July 21 -- Today the California Air Resources Board first meets to publicly consider its proposed rule to limit methane and associated toxic pollution from oil and gas facilities. While CARB still has the opportunity to strengthen the rule in a few key ways, environmental groups from around the state and the country lauded the rule as an example to follow for other states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

 
The CARB proposal:
  • Applies to new and existing oil and gas facilities. In this way it goes beyond the recently finalized U.S. EPA rules, which only apply to new and modified facilities
  • Applies to a broad suite of on and offshore facilities including well sites, compressor stations, gas processing plants, and natural gas underground storage facilities
  • Applies to many of the leading sources of leaks and venting and requires operators to use modern leak detection and capture equipment to ensure more natural gas is routed to pipelines or used onsite rather than vented, leaked to the atmosphere, or combusted
Earthworks and methane partners | EarthWorks
"To save coral reefs, we need to reduce our overreliance on fossil fuels.... Local management alone won't cut it."
Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams
Senator from Massachusetts derides congressional attempt to 'intimidate' state Attorney General Maura Healey

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) turned up the heat on ExxonMobil and its congressional accomplices on Wednesday, publicly and passionately coming to the defense of her state's attorney general, Maura Healey, in her ongoing fight to hold Big Oil accountable for climate crimes.

Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with eight environmental organizations, were issued subpoenas last week by the head of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), seeking information and documents related to their ExxonKnew investigations.

As Inside Climate News reports:

The subpoena to the nongovernmental organizations seeks documents and communications related to dealings with any attorneys general or eight advocacy organizations. It specifically seeks records "relating to the investigation, subpoenas duces tecum, or potential prosecution of companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists, or other individuals related to the issue of climate change."

Smith's subpoena to the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general demands similar information but goes deeper by seeking records related to any interaction with various federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Executive Office of the President.

The move was decried immediately as an oil-soaked "abuse of power," with green groups pointing to campaign contributions from fossil fuel corporations to members of the committee, and Healey explicitly stating she would not comply.

Deirdre Fulton | Common Dreams
More than 800,000 volunteers planted saplings in public spaces in the state of Uttar Pradesh hoping to reduce greenhouse gases and reforest the countryside
Jason Daley | Smithsonian Mag.

The frigid plains of northern Siberia are becoming a hotspot for mysterious geological phenomena. Over the past couple of years, sudden craters have been exploding from the permafrost-laden ground. Last month, we reported on a giant chasm in the Sakha Republic that looms so wide and deep, locals refer to it as a “gateway to the underworld.”

Now, the frozen tundra on Siberia’s remote Belyy Island is home to the region’s newest aberration: eerie, rippling, underground bubbles.

SARAH EMERSON | Motherboard
Partnership for Responsible Growth and other groups launch campaigns to urge Republicans and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire to accept climate change
Oliver Milman | The Guardian
US agencies Nasa and Noaa say last month was 0.9C hotter than the 20th century average and the hottest June since records began in 1880
Michael Slezak | The Guardian
The $650m, 96-turnbine Dundonnell project is expected to save 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year
Australian Associated Press | The Guardian

Reference:

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the 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.
Tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref.
Phys.org | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air 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 to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe 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 per capita, 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 York Times | Ref.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
"Is this guy running for president or dictator?" asks Bernie Sanders

A complete draft of the speech, obtained and published by Politico ahead of its delivery, follows:

By the time Trump took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena, at about 10:20 P.M., there was little mystery about what he would say. The speech had been leaked to Politico and other news organizations hours earlier, and it made for grim reading. “Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” Trump was slated to say in his opening. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.” As a cure-all for these ills, and the many others he detailed in the draft, he was to present a simple and straightforward solution: his election to the Oval Office. “I have a message for all of you,” the text read. “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”

John Cassidy | The New Yorker
The Republican National Convention was a parade of fear and loathing.
DAVID CORN | Mother Jones
Several delegates to the platform drafting committee have deep financial ties to conservative industries.
BRANKO MARCETIC | Moyers & company

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, considered a leading contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, has spent this week signaling to the financial industry that he’ll go to bat for them.

On Monday, Kaine signed onto two letters, one to federal banking regulators and the other to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging them to loosen regulations on certain financial players. The timing of the letters, sent while Kaine is being vetted for the top of the ticket, could show potential financial industry donors that he is willing to serve as an ally on their regulatory issues.

In the letters, Kaine is offering to support community banks, credit unions, and even large regional banks. While separate from the Wall Street mega-banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, these financial institutions often partner with the larger industry to fight regulations and can be hostile to government efforts to safeguard the public, especially if it crimps their profits.

They also represent a key source of donor funds, one that has trended away from Democrats. The Independent Community Bankers of America have given 74 percent of their $873,949 in donations this cycle to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Regional banks like PNC Financial Services, SunTrust Bank, and First Republic Bank, have given even higher percentages to the Republicans.

David Dayen | The Intercept
Five things to know about USDA chief Tom Vilsack, who's emerged at the top of HRC's Veep shortlist.
  1. He's no stranger to agribiz
  2. But he's also a champion of alternative food systems
  3. He loves GMOs
  4. He especially loves crops genetically engineered to tolerate weed killers
  5. He pissed off people who protect the rights of poultry workers
TOM PHILPOTT | Mother Jones
"Treason is punishable by death. It's in our Constitution."

I wanted to find out how deep the sentiment to jail Hillary—or do worse—ran among die-hard Trump supporters gathering at events outside the convention hall. So I took to the streets to produce the video above.

For some, execution was on the table. "She's extremely corrupt, she's extremely dangerous," said Rhonda Welsch, a 55-year-old food and beverage worker at a Hawaii resort. "I think that's what she deserves: the death penalty."

This is the third video in our series about Trump voters in Cleveland. Check out the video where I asked Trump voters, "When did America stop being great?" and the video recording their reactions to Melania Trump's plagiarism scandal.

JAMES WEST | Mother Jones
The GOP crowd ate up Carson's Satan talk whether they believed it or not, much like they cheer for Trump's wall
BOB CESCA | Salon
In working-class America, an élite-resenting identity politics has emerged in which whiteness spells dispossession.

Away from these predominantly liberal arenas, white identity has found a more potent form of salience. For poor and working-class whites, skin color no longer feels like an implicit guarantor of privilege. There is a sense that others, thanks to affirmative action or lax immigration policies, have nudged ahead of them on the ladder of social ascent. Their whiteness is, in fact, the very reason they suspect that they are under siege. Marginalized by a black President, as they imagine, and alienated by urbane élites of every hue, they have begun to understand themselves in terms of identity politics. It almost doesn’t matter whether their suspicions are true in a strictly material sense. The accident of white skin still brings with it economic and social advantages, but resentment is a powerful engine, particularly when the view from below feels unprecedented.

Hua Hsu | The New Yorker




In a plebiscite this year, Colombians will accept or reject a peace deal between the government and Farc guerrillas to end more than half a century of war
Hundreds of people march during an event to support ‘yes’ in the referendum promoted by the government to ratify peace agreements with the Farc, in Cali, Colombia. Photograph: Christian Escobar Mora/EPA
Hundreds of people march during an event to support ‘yes’ in the referendum promoted by the government to ratify peace agreements with the Farc, in Cali, Colombia. Photograph: Christian Escobar Mora/EPA

Like the EU referendum in Britain, it’s a risky proposition: a simple yes/no vote over a complicated deal which is broadly supported by the international community, but which provokes visceral rancour among many ordinary voters.

Most Colombians who plan to vote say they would approve the accords, but some analysts warn that widespread hostility to the Farc could lead to a surprise outcome.

In the latest Gallup poll, of the 40% of respondents who said they would definitely vote in the plebiscite, 70% said they would support the agreements between the Farc and government.

But in a separate poll by Ipsos, 84% said they believed Farc leaders should pay for their crimes in prison, although the accords reached in Havana specify that guerrillas who confess would be eligible to alternative sentences and do no jail time at all. More than 70% say the leaders should not be allowed to participate in politics, which the accords would allow.

Sibylla Brodzinsky | The Guardian

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s firing of some 50,000 people, including educators, bureaucrats, police and military personnel, in the wake of the failed July 15 coup against him, provoked sharp criticism in Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries that have an adversarial attitude toward the Religious Right such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdogan has typically been an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, and this secular/ religious politics split seems to account for the differences in how his actions are seen in various Arab countries.

Juan Cole | Informed Comment

The UK is losing ground to Germany and other countries when it comes to using economic growth to improve the wellbeing of its citizens.

The sustainable economic development assessment (Seda) by the Boston Consulting Group measures the wellbeing of citizens across 160 countries. Using measures other than just GDP, such as employment rates, economic stability, income equality and environment, it gives countries an overall score and a recent progress score, and compares their ability to convert wealth and growth into wellbeing.

This year’s report found that the UK was losing ground in key areas linked to sustainable economic development such as income, health and education.

Pamela Duncan | The Guardian
A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began. [why are muslim men fearful of losing self-control around women?]

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — For most of his adult life, Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi worked among the bearded enforcers of Saudi Arabia. He was a dedicated employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — known abroad as the religious police — serving with the front-line troops protecting the Islamic kingdom from Westernization, secularism and anything but the most conservative Islamic practices.

Some of that resembled ordinary police work: busting drug dealers and bootleggers in a country that bans alcohol. But the men of “the Commission,” as Saudis call it, spent most of their time maintaining the puritanical public norms that set Saudi Arabia apart not only from the West, but from most of the Muslim world.

A key offense was ikhtilat, or unauthorized mixing between men and women. The kingdom’s clerics warn that it could lead to fornication, adultery, broken homes, children born of unmarried couples and full-blown societal collapse.

For years, Mr. Ghamdi stuck with the program and was eventually put in charge of the Commission for the region of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Then he had a reckoning and began to question the rules. So he turned to the Quran and the stories of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, considered the exemplars of Islamic conduct. What he found was striking and life altering: There had been plenty of mixing among the first generation of Muslims, and no one had seemed to mind.

So he spoke out. In articles and television appearances, he argued that much of what Saudis practiced as religion was in fact Arabian cultural practices that had been mixed up with their faith.

There was no need to close shops for prayer, he said, nor to bar women from driving, as Saudi Arabia does. At the time of the Prophet, women rode around on camels, which he said was far more provocative than veiled women piloting S.U.V.s.

He even said that while women should conceal their bodies, they needed to cover their faces only if they chose to do so. And to demonstrate the depth of his own conviction, Mr. Ghamdi went on television with his wife, Jawahir, who smiled to the camera, her face bare and adorned with a dusting of makeup.

It was like a bomb inside the kingdom’s religious establishment, threatening the social order that granted prominence to the sheikhs and made them the arbiters of right and wrong in all aspects of life. He threatened their control.

Mr. Ghamdi’s colleagues at work refused to speak to him. Angry calls poured into his cellphone and anonymous death threats hit him on Twitter. Prominent sheikhs took to the airwaves to denounce him as an ignorant upstart who should be punished, tried — and even tortured.

BEN HUBBARD | The New York Times
Turkey sacks 15,000 education workers in purge after failed coup [If secularism is rooted out, what is left? Are Kurds now more endangered?]
More than 1,500 university deans asked to resign and 257 PM’s office staff dismissed, with 35,000 public servants now affected

The scale of the arrests and firings led to fears that Erdogan is using the situation to settle scores with anyone perceived to pose any kind of threat to the government, whether or not they were involved in the coup.

Patrick Kingsley | The Guardian
Mark Johnson and a colleague allegedly defrauded clients and ‘manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank’
“The defendants allegedly betrayed their client’s confidence, and corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank,” said the US assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell. “This case demonstrates the [US Department of Justice’s] criminal division’s commitment to hold corporate executives, including at the world’s largest and most sophisticated institutions, responsible for their crimes.”
Rupert Neate and Jill Treanor | The Guardian
It’s time to pour our creative energies into imagining a new global economy. Infinite growth is a dangerous illusion
Jason Hickel OPED | The Guardian

Listen up, because you are about to get another object lesson in how brazen the private equity industry is in defending its dubious looting, um, fee extraction practices. We will also see captured public pension funds, in this case CalSTRS, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the private equity industry and against the interests of its beneficiaries and California taxpayers.

Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism

As the letter below shows, eight prominent Senators cleared their throats and asked the SEC why it has yet to produce an investor bulletin on private equity, which they observe is puzzling given that the agency has uncovered plenty of gambling in Casablanca.

Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism

Reference:

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 of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
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