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Last updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018, 12:13 PM
News & analyses that matters
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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.

How America's 'childcare deserts' are driving women out of the workforce [no, the answer is not to deny a livable minimum wage for childcare workers or anyone else!]
Rising daycare costs have put the spotlight on Washington state in a country offering little support for parents seeking childcare

....In most other advanced economies, parents don’t pay for childcare by themselves but share the cost with the government, their employers, or labor unions. That’s usually not the case in the US, where in 2011, a typical two-income family paid more than twice their share of income toward childcare compared with families in other countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

While some state and federal programs subsidize daycare, they have failed to keep childcare costs low for a majority of US families, Malik said. Existing policies, such as the childcare tax credit and flex spending accounts for day care, disproportionately benefit parents who can afford childcare up front and pay substantial taxes. Proposals to extend help to more families have repeatedly died in Congress.

....On 1 January, the minimum wage rose again in Washington, to $11.50 an hour, and in 2020, it will make its last scheduled increase, to $13.50. Perry wonders how many families aren’t going to be able to afford the resulting costs without any additional help.

New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas [sloppy Fracking by low-bid contractors and unconscionable tar sands processing?]

Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America's electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.

But new peer-reviewed research adds to the growing evidence that the shift from coal to gas isn't necessarily good news for the climate.

A team led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the oil and gas industry is responsible for the largest share of the world's rising methane emissions, which are a major factor in climate change—and in the process the researchers resolved one of the mysteries that has plagued climate scientists over the past several years.

Sharon Kelly| EcoWatch
Brussels targets single-use plastics in an urgent clean-up plan that aims to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030

The EU is waging war against plastic waste as part of an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.

Following China’s decision to ban imports of foreign recyclable material, Brussels on Tuesday launched a plastics strategy designed to change minds in Europe, potentially tax damaging behaviour, and modernise plastics production and collection by investing €350m (#310m) in research.

Speaking to the Guardian and four other European newspapers, the vice-president of the commission, Frans Timmermans, said Brussels’ priority was to clamp down on “single-use plastics that take five seconds to produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again”.

In the EU’s sights, Timmermans said, were throw-away items such as drinking straws, “lively coloured” bottles that do not degrade, coffee cups, lids and stirrers, cutlery and takeaway packaging.

The former Dutch diplomat told the Guardian: “If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans ... we have all the seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms.

We are destroying the world’s biodiversity. Yet debate has erupted over just what this means for the planet – and us.

....Even as the Permian-Triassic extinction event shows the fragility of life, it also proves its resilience in the long-term. The lessons of such mass extinctions – five to date and arguably a sixth happening as I write – inform science today. Given that extinction levels are currently 1,000 (some even say 10,000) times the background rate, researchers have long worried about our current destruction of biodiversity – and what that may mean for our future Earth and ourselves.

In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

A paper last year in Trends in Ecology & Evolution scathingly attacked the idea the idea of any global biodiversity boundary.

....Yes, life itself survived the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event – but most species did not. Believe me, humans probably wouldn’t have survived the tens-of-millions of years that followed the Great Dying: oxygen levels were dangerously low, food would have been scarce, and the world would have looked largely barren and wasted even as some species and ecosystems managed to survive. Outside the moral dilemma of extinction, there is no question that if humans push more-and-more species into oblivion there will be impacts on our society – and they could become catastrophic.

Humans evolved 248 million years later in an Earth that was far more biodiverse and rich, a kind of Eden of abundance and diversity. But our current actions risk all that – and perhaps ourselves.

Retailer outlines five-year aim to replace all plastic packaging with trays made of paper and pulp

....As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, “there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment”, Walker added.

Iceland has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges in the next few months will use paper-based food trays.

The move, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, called the announcement a “bold pledge” and that it was “now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge”.

Campaigners say London mayor has fudged a similar manifesto promise to divest the city’s remaining pension funds from fossil fuels
Campaigners say London mayor has fudged a similar manifesto promise to divest the city’s remaining pension funds from fossil fuels

Chickens for sale in Britain’s supermarkets are showing record levels of superbugs resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics, new research from the government has found.

The results are concerning because resistance to antibiotics among livestock can easily affect resistance among humans, rendering vital medicines ineffective against serious diseases.

The Food Standards Agency, which tested a large sample of fresh whole chickens from retailers, reported “significantly higher proportions” in the last 10 years in instances of campylobacter, a harmful pathogen, that were found to be resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it.

The agency warned: “This survey provides evidence that AMR [anti-microbial resistant] campylobacter are to be found on whole fresh chickens sold at retail in the UK. It is therefore important to handle chicken hygienically and cook thoroughly to reduce the risk to public health.

Doctors say new Medicaid rules 'like asking people to work with an anchor on their back' [instead of universal and more efficient single-payer @ half current per-capita cost, Republicans cleverly found a way to increase crime, street begging and early deaths]
Administration’s policy allows states to impose work requirements for people on Medicaid, meaning sick or injured Americans ‘have to go to work, no matter what’

....This week, the Trump administration announced a new policy that allows states to require Medicaid patients to work.

Six in 10 already do.

“I work with Appalachian, salt-of-the-earth, ‘Rah! Rah! America’ individuals,” Leroy said. “To have them clumped into – ‘Well, these people just don’t want to work’ – well, of course they want to work. I have all these working poor people that are making minimum wages.”

....The politics of welfare are complex. In the 1990s, under Bill Clinton, reforms transformed “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” from an ethos to a matter of public policy. Now, the 10 states looking to implement work requirements for Medicaid coverage are all led by Republican governors or legislatures.

The changes allow states to require Medicaid recipients who are not children, elderly, disabled or pregnant to either work or perform “community engagement”, which can include going to school, looking for a job, volunteering or caregiving.

As many as 6.3 million people could lose Medicaid benefits as a result, an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress found. About two-thirds of those individuals are believed to be students or caregivers who may not meet the strict requirements.

Jessica Glenza | The Guardian
Michael Hiltzik | Los Angeles Times
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY

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King’s slide in popularity coincided with his activism taking a turn from what Americans largely know him for — his campaign for civil rights in the American South — to a much more radical one aimed at the war in Vietnam and poverty.

....For years, King had been troubled by the war in Vietnam and raised it privately in conversations with the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. As the conflict dragged on, King felt he had no choice but to publicly denounce the war.

In an April 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, the civil rights leader publicly denounced American involvement in Indochina.

....The Liberal Backlash

The backlash from a liberal establishment that had once praised King for his civil rights campaign came as hard and fast as his allies had feared.

The New York Times editorial board lambasted King for linking the war in Vietnam to the struggles of civil rights and poverty alleviation in the United States, saying it was “too facile a connection” and that he was doing a “disservice” to both causes. It concluded that there “are no simple answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial injustice in this country.” The Washington Post editorial board said King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country and his people.”

Zaid Jilani | The Intercept
Voters "want us to be on the side of ordinary people, not with the big special interests," said Sen. Ed Markey, who introduced the legislation

Open internet defenders are calling on Americans to continue "melting the phonelines" of their representatives following news on Monday that a bill aimed at overruling the Republican-controlled FCC's order to kill net neutrality is just one Republican vote shy of the 51 needed for passage.

"Your calls are working. Your pressure is working. Keep it up!"
—Craig Aaron, Free Press

Introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in December, the legislation looks to make use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to pass a "resolution of disapproval" to nullify new regulations.

As Common Dreams has reported, more than a dozen Senate Democrats were slow to co-sponsor the legislation, but they ultimately signed on in the face of immense public pressure. Organizers are urging constituent voters nationwide to keep up the calls, letters, and emails urging members of Congress to support Markey's bill and take a stand against the FCC's attack on the open internet.

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams

....Cardin has remarkably few achievements for being in Congress for so many years. One of his few distinctions is that he has become one of the Senate’s most reliable and loyal supporters of AIPAC’s agenda and the Israeli government, if not the single most loyal. In 2015, he joined with Lindsey Graham in kicking off the annual AIPAC conference, causing neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin to gush about how identical they sounded.

But Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel – a bill that was such a profound assault on basic First Amendment freedoms that the ACLU instantly denounced it and multiple Senators who had co-sponsored Cardin’s bill (such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand) announced that they were withdrawing their support.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, establishment (a.k.a. neoliberal) Democrats wasted no time in mocking and denouncing Chelsea Manning’s bid to become the first ever trans woman in the Senate, instead quickly lining up in support behind the straight white male who has wielded power for decades. To demean Manning, many of these establishment Democrats invoked the primary tactic they now reflexively use against anyone they view as a political adversary: they depicted her as a tool of the Kremlin, whose candidacy is really just a disguised plot engineered by Moscow.

Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept
The US retail industry is hemorrhaging jobs – and it's hitting women hardest [don't worry, our Republican government is working on this problem]
As the retail landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation, analysis finds 129,000 women lost jobs last year while men actually gained positions
Dominic Rushe | The Guardian
The undeniable collapse of integrity, honesty and decency in our public and private life has fueled racial hatred and contempt
Cornel West | The Guardian
Black students are 1.5 times more likely to drop out than their white and Asian counterparts. Understanding why is vital

....Speaking to the Guardian in 2016, Britain’s first black studies professor, Kehinde Andrews, said he believed universities entrench racism rather than challenge it. “Are universities producing knowledge that challenges racism?” he asked. “I would argue they are not.

....Understanding how and why race and ethnicity play a role in what the Social Market Foundation terms the higher education “completion gap” is as important for the UK’s economy as it is for reducing society’s ingrained structural inequalities. But while the SMF’s report calls for the government to create an “innovation challenge fund” to help improve retention of students from ethnic backgrounds, its recommendations for how the institutions themselves can help eradicate their own internal prejudices are less clear cut.

Operation targeting ‘terror nests’ would risk inflaming tensions between Trump administration and Ankara

Turkish troops and tanks near the Syrian border are making final plans to attack the US military’s Kurdish partners inside northern Syria as tensions between Ankara and Washington near unprecedented levels.

Ahead of a widely expected incursion, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened to “destroy all terror nests”, a reference to Kurdish forces that the US has used as proxies in the fight against Islamic State (Isis) and Turkey views as a subversive threat.

Tensions over the Kurds, which have tested relations between two nominal allies for the past three years, spiked over the weekend, when Washington announced it would raise a border force from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Defence Force, which led the battle against Isis in north-east Syria.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurds as an extension of the Turkish Kurdish PKK, with whom it has fought a four decade insurgency inside its borders. It has vowed not to allow Kurdish groups to dominate its border with Syria.

We need to address the questions raised by rapid automation, and find new ways to redistribute power

....So what might the progressive politics of the 2020s and 2030s look like? Clearly, our most glaring inequalities call for action that only a powerful central state can carry out. We should start, at long last, to move tax policy towards concentrations of wealth and assets, not least land and property. The line should be redrawn between what ought to be considered public services and utilities, and things best left to the private sector, a point underlined by the nightmarish collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion. Investment needs to be forcibly pushed into places long deprived of it.

People who are flexible, original thinkers show signature forms of connectivity in their brains, study shows

....One of the barriers to creative thinking is the ease with which common, unoriginal thoughts swamp the mind. Some people in the study could not get past these. For example, when asked for creative uses for a sock, soap and chewing gum wrapper, less creative people gave answers such as “covering the feet”, “making bubbles” and “containing gum” respectively. For the same items, more original thinkers suggested a water filtration system, a seal for envelopes, and an antenna wire.

Reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found distinct patterns of brain activity in the most and least creative people. In the highly original thinkers, the scientists saw strong connectivity between three networks of the brain. One, known as the default mode network, is linked to spontaneous thinking and mind wandering, while a second, the executive control network, is engaged when people focus in on their thoughts. The third, called the salience network, helps to work out what best deserves our attention.

The first two of these three brain networks tend to work against one another, Beaty said, each dampening the other down. But the scans suggest that more creative people can better engage [the 2nd and 3rd networks] at once. “It might be easier for creative thinkers to bring these resources to bear simultaneously,” he said.


Reference:
Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
Republican tax cut will widen the trade and current-account deficits, the opposite of what was promised

....No matter how you look at it, the Republican tax cut, by widening the budget deficit, will fuel growth in the US current-account deficit. It’s the early 1980s all over again [when Reagan's tax-cuts tripled the national debt]. But it’s not morning in America.

If we stand together against powerful special interests we can eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and tackle climate change

This is a pivotal moment in world history. With the explosion in advanced technology and the breakthroughs this has brought, we now have the capability to substantially increase global wealth fairly. The means are at our disposal to eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and create an inexpensive and non-polluting global energy system.

This is what we can do...

Bernie Sanders | The Guardian
The decisions that these zealots make will affect the lives of millions of women decades from now

....After years of this type of erosion, the Trump administration is now taking big and permanent swings at reproductive rights by nominating extreme anti-choice figures to serve as judges in lifetime positions.

The first attack came in the form of supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch, who has a disturbing record of ruling against women’s rights, but it goes far beyond the high court. For all levels of the federal judiciary, Republicans are pushing through Trump’s staunchly anti-abortion judges at a rapid clip and putting reproductive rights in jeopardy for generations to come.

....Judges need to be fair-minded thinkers able to consider legal questions without bias, not narrow-minded ideologues working to curtail reproductive rights at any price.

Other Trump nominees, including Howard Nielson and Kyle Duncan, have supported laws aimed at shutting down abortion clinics through medically unnecessary regulations. Another, Matthew Kacsmaryk, disputes the reasoning of the Roe decision and uses quotation marks when writing about the “fundamental right” to abortion, presumably to emphasize his disdain for such an outrageous characterization.

For these nominees, the Senate still can, and absolutely should, reject their nominations. But many of Trump’s disturbing picks have already been confirmed by the Senate – a fact that Trump likes to brag about during news conferences. John Bush, a Trump nominee who is now a judge on a powerful appeals court, has compared abortion to slavery, calling them “the two greatest tragedies in our country”.

Steven Grasz, now an appellate court judge, wrote a law review article on “Why There is No Constitutional Right to Kill a Partially-Born Human Being” and has argued that Medicaid coverage should be denied to women seeking abortions after surviving rape. He was confirmed by Republicans for a lifetime position as a federal judge despite being rated unanimously as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Taken together with the Trump nominee who memorably could not answer even the most basic legal questions during his Senate hearing, it’s clear that they are selling out our judicial system with embarrassingly unfit nominees to get the agenda they want...



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