Last updated: Saturday, December 15, 2018, 9:01 AM
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Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type.
Prior 2-3 days in smaller type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated total health care spending compared with the 2016 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"
2016 US total per capita health care spending was $9892 – $5292 more per person than in France
And colleague says "global warming" no longer strong enough term. "Global heating is technically more correct because we are talking about changes in the energy balance of the planet."

Declaring that after three decades of studying the climate he's "never been as worried" about the future of the planet as he is today, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber—founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany—warned that even as extreme weather wreaks havoc across the globe and experts issue one terrifying prediction after another, political leaders are still refusing to confront the climate crisis with the necessary urgency.

"Global heating is technically more correct because we are talking about changes in the energy balance of the planet. The risks are compounding all the time. It stands to reason that the sooner we can take action, the quicker we can rein them in."
—Richard Betts, University of Exeter

"I've worked on this for 30 years and I've never been as worried as I am today," Schellnhuber declared during the COP24 climate summit in Poland, arguing that even the language commonly used to describe the changing state of the climate doesn't sufficiently convey the enormity of the crisis.

"Global warming doesn't capture the scale of destruction. Speaking of hothouse Earth is legitimate," added Schellnhuber, who co-authored a "terrifying" study warning that humanity may be just 1°C away from irreversible planetary catastrophe....

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams

You, too, are in denial.

We all are, nearly every single one of us as individuals, even those of us who are following the bad news that suggests “the climate change problem is starting to look too big to solve”; every nation, almost none of them meeting their climate commitments and most (not just the United States) publicly downplaying the threat; and even many of the alliances and organizations, like the IPCC, endeavoring to solve the crisis. At the moment, negotiations at that organization’s COP24 conference, meant to formalize the commitments made in the Paris accords two years ago are “a huge mess,” perhaps poised to collapse. Last month, scientists warned that we had only about 12 years to cut global emissions in half, and that doing so would require a worldwide mobilization on the scale of that for World War II. The U.N.’s secretary general has warned that we have only about a year to get started. Instead, on Election Day, voters in deep-blue Washington rejected a modest carbon tax and those in crunchy Colorado rejected a slowdown of oil and gas projects. In France — conservative America’s cartoon of unchecked left-wing-ism — the worst protests in 50 years were provoked by a proposal to increase the gasoline tax. If communities like these won’t take action on climate, who, in the next dozen years, will?...

David Wallace-Wells | NY Mag. Intelligencer
"Science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming," the young climate activist says in calling for day of action on Friday

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist, on Wednesday called for a global climate strike. The day of action is set for Friday at "your school" or "anywhere you feel called."

Thunberg, who's made headlines for her now-weekly school strikes to urge her home country to take bold climate action, made the call from Katowice, Poland, where she's attending the COP24 climate talks, now in their second week.

Unfortunately, she said in her video announcing the strike, "as of now, there are no signs of commitment to climate action."

"Our emissions are still increasing. At the same time... the science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming," she continued. "Whoever you are, wherever you are, we need you now to stand outside your parliament or local government office to let them know that we demand climate action."...

Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams
"Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Trump is handing over our country to corporate polluters and other industrial interests at the expense of our future."

Sixty percent of U.S. waterways will be at risk for pollution from corporate giants, critics say, following the Trump administration's announcement Tuesday that it will roll back an Obama-era water rule meant to protect Americans' drinking water and all the waterways that flow into it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Obama administration's 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS) rule would be redefined and no longer protect many of the nation's streams and wetlands.

"This is an early Christmas gift to polluters and a lump of coal for everyone else," said Bob Irvin, president of the national advocacy group American Rivers. "Too many people are living with unsafe drinking water. Low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and communities of color are hit hardest by pollution and river degradation."

Under the Trump administration's proposal, which Common Dreams reported as imminent last week, streams that flow only after rainfall or snowfall will no longer be protected from pollution by developers, agricultural companies, and the fossil fuel industry. Wetlands that are not connected to larger waterways will also not be protected, with developers potentially able to pave over those water bodies.

"The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward polluting industries and endanger our most treasured resources."
—Jon Devine, NRDC

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler suggested that WOTUS had created unfair roadblocks for industries, farmers, and ranchers who wanted to build and work near the nation's waterways and were kept from doing so because of the potential for water pollution.

But green groups slammed the EPA for once again putting the interests of businesses ahead of the families which rely on the rule that keeps at least 60 percent of the nation's drinking water sources safe from pollution while also protecting wildlife and ecosystems which thrive in wetlands across the country....

Julia Conley, staff writer | Common Dreams
While NOAA's annual report shows the Arctic has lost 95 percent of its oldest, thickest ice, NASA researchers have observed ice retreat in East Antarctica—a region they'd believed was stable
Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
In the 1980s, roughly 4.5 million monarchs wintered in California, but at last count, there may be as few as 30,000
Gabrielle Canon | The Guardian
When lobsters are life, environmental change affects livelihoods, and warming waters will ultimately bust the lobster industry
Josh Wood | The Guardian
Indigenous and youth groups disrupted a US-sponsored event at the UN climate talks in Poland. Wells Griffith, a Trump administration adviser speaking on a panel, said the US would continue extracting fossil fuels and warned against ‘alarmism’ over climate change. Climate expert Andrew Light, from the World Resources Institute, said the panel’s discussion would have no impact on the outcome of the COP24 climate talks and it only proved that ‘once again the United States is isolated with respect to the global community on this critically important issue’
Source: AP | The Guardian
While the world’s leaders fiddle at the UN climate summit, the world outside is giving some reason for hope
John Vidal  | The Guardian
Bad journalists are 'hounded'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY

The Education Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit college chains, announced last week it was immediately closing more than 70 campuses in 21 states. Between fifteen and twenty thousand students are now in the unenviable position of being thousands of dollars in debt with no completed degrees or certifications and, reportedly, little prospect of being able to transfer their academic credits to different schools....

Joshua Alvarez | Washington Monthly
Arts & Education Events:

Sure, Democrats are lining up behind Medicare-for-all. But what exactly does that mean?

This year, dozens of Democratic candidates ran — and won — on a promise to fight to give all Americans access to government-run health care. A new Medicare-for-all Caucus in the House already has 77 members. All the likely 2020 Democratic nominees support the idea, too.

“Medicare-for-all” has become a rallying cry on the left, but the term doesn’t capture the full scope of options Democrats are considering to insure all (or at least a lot more) Americans. Case in point: There are half a dozen proposals in Congress that envision very different health care systems....

Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott | Vox
It’s a bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

....The resolution, which passed 56 to 41, is a rare bipartisan rebuke to the White House over its policies toward Saudi Arabia. The measure, which had failed in the Senate in March, was revived and reinvigorated in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) co-sponsored the resolution to stop US involvement in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The nearly four-year conflict has killed an estimated 50,000 people and put nearly 12 million on the brink of famine.

The war in Yemen — and US support for the Saudi-led effort — actually began during the Obama administration. But President Trump has moved the US even closer to Saudi Arabia as part of his administration’s broader Middle East policy, which largely focuses on countering Iran.

The horrific assassination of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has put the US-Saudi relationship under a microscope, particularly after the CIA concluded that the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

The Senate resolution is a major step toward holding the administration accountable and wresting back some control of war powers from the executive branch. Yet it’s still a long way away from actually ending US support for the Saudis in Yemen, or finding a resolution to the conflict altogether.

The White House in particular has pushed back against the Senate’s measure, and if it were to end up on Trump’s desk, it would almost certainly face a presidential veto. Additionally, the House approved a rule on Wednesday that blocks the chamber from taking up any Yemen resolutions before the end of the year, meaning the Senate resolution won’t advance.

Still, the Senate’s passage of the resolution shows that lawmakers are seriously scrutinizing the Trump administration’s Saudi policy and, more broadly, the value and purpose of US military activities abroad....

Sarah Kliff and Jen Kirby | Vox
"Let me translate this for you: Trump wants to deport Vietnamese grannies who have been living here for more than 40 years."
Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
"We spoke loud and clear in November, and the sore loser Republicans are now shamelessly passing bill after bill to trample on the people and protect their 'power.'"
Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
The micro-scandals alleging that Bernie Sanders doesn’t take racism seriously won't end any time soon. We should call them what they are: cynical attacks on a politician whose commitment to racial justice is intertwined with fighting economic inequality.

....It’s worth reviewing the Racial Justice Plan, because it’s been Sanders’s official policy platform on racial equality since 2015, and if he runs in 2020 his platform will be similar. The document breaks racial injustice into five categories: physical violence, political violence, legal violence, economic violence, and environmental violence.....

MEAGAN DAY | Jacobin
It is time to think anew. The United States needs dramatic changes in its policies and the institutions that enforce them.
Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Nation
"What the hell is the point of Congress? Why are we starving children?" asked the outraged cable news anchor. "Someone make some affirmative argument for the policy, if you think it's so important to continue killing children. But to kill the possibility of a vote in the rules committee? Cowards."
Jon Queally, staff writer | Common Dreams
All progress made during the first week of climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland was overshadowed by the deportation of at least 12 civil society representatives and the no-holds-barred promotion of the coal industry at the official conference venue

....Representatives of United States President Donald Trump himself also made a presentation about the benefits of coal, natural gas and nuclear power. As icing on the cake, it was also extremely disappointing to hear how the US, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia, furthered their anti-science agenda by blocking nearly 200 nations in “welcoming” the IPCC 1.5 report—which highlights the urgency of the climate crisis by concluding we have more or less 12 years to keep warming at 1.5—by suggesting the conference merely take “note” of its conclusions.

....Hijacking the negotiations to put one industry or one country’s interests before the world’s is irresponsible and absurd considering climate change is a global problem that requires a global approach. The full participation of civil society as observers who keep our leaders in check in these multilateral processes is as much of a non-negotiable as shunning those who put power and profit before a just, sustainable world.

Beatrice Tulagan | Common Dreams
Among the migrants amassed at the southern border are thousands of victims of the 2009 Honduran coup — a coup legitimized and shored up by the United States.

Nearly ten years after a military coup d’état ousted a democratically elected Honduran president, thousands of Honduran families gather at the US-Mexico border. They will likely mark that somber anniversary a few months from now in the improvised shelters and tent cities where they currently wait to present their asylum claims to US immigration authorities.

In her new book, The Long Honduran Night, UCSC Professor Emerita Dana Frank describes the crisis that has gripped the Central American nation in the wake of the 2009 coup, and offers a fierce indictment of US policy in Honduras. The timely publication brings much-needed political context to a US audience, an antidote to the vacuous partisan posturing that dominates the current media discourse. (For Spanish speakers, I highly recommend the new volume on Honduras from CLACSO.)...

UN chief Antonio Guterres announced Thursday a series of breakthroughs in talks with rivals in the Yemen conflict, including a ceasefire for a vital port.
Source: News Wires | France 24
An interview with Kristen Ghodsee on her provocative thesis.

....According to Ghodsee, it’s about social safety nets. If, she argues, you build a society that supports women and doesn’t punish them for having children or devalue their labor, it turns out they’ll be happier and have better sex....

Sean Illing | Vox
David Shimer | The New Yorker
Move shocks delegates at UN conference as ministers fly in for final week of climate talks
Jonathan Watts and  Ben Doherty | The Guardian

Virtual Nations could replace nation-states, enabling everyone to be agents for a better world
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
The president has yet another investigation to worry about.

....Investigators are said to be interested in the inaugural committee’s spending, and into potential corruption involving favors for its donors. The Journal team reports that the criminal probe stems at least in part from material found during the FBI’s raids on Michael Cohen’s residence and office in April....

Andrew Prokop | Vox
The inequality gap on a planet growing more extreme

....The financial crisis of 2008 initially fostered a policy of bailing out banks with cheap money that went not into Main Street economies but into markets enriching the few. As a result, large numbers of people increasingly felt that they were being left behind and so turned against their leaders and sometimes each other as well.

This situation was then exploited by a set of self-appointed politicians of the people, including a billionaire TV personality who capitalized on an increasingly widespread fear of a future at risk. Their promises of economic prosperity were wrapped in populist platitudes, normally (but not always) of a right-wing sort. Lost in this shift away from previously dominant political parties and the systems that went with them was a true form of populism, which would genuinely put the needs of the majority of people over the elite few, build real things including infrastructure, foster organic wealth distribution, and stabilize economies above financial markets.

In the meantime, what we have is, of course, a recipe for an increasingly unstable and vicious world.

Nomi Prins | Common Dreams
UN summit urged to end all coal burning and introduce substantial taxes on emissions

Global investors managing $32tn issued a stark warning to governments at the UN climate summit on Monday, demanding urgent cuts in carbon emissions and the phasing out of all coal burning. Without these, the world faces a financial crash several times worse than the 2008 crisis, they said.

The investors include some of the world’s biggest pension funds, insurers and asset managers and marks the largest such intervention to date. They say fossil fuel subsidies must end and substantial taxes on carbon be introduced.

Ministers arrive at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, on Monday for its crucial second week, when the negotiations on turning the vision of the Paris agreement into reality reach a critical point, with finance for fighting global warming a key area of dispute.

“The long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, of IFM Investors which manages $80bn and is one of the 415 groups that has signed the Global Investor Statement. “This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”

Investment firm Schroders said there could be $23tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: “Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.”...

Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Manifesto by progressive Europeans calls for €800bn of levies to tackle inequality, disillusionment, climate change and migration

A group of progressive Europeans led by the economist and author Thomas Piketty has drawn up a bold new blueprint for a fairer Europe to address the division, disenchantment, inequality and rightwing populism sweeping the continent.

The plan, crafted by more than 50 economists, historians and former politicians from half a dozen countries, includes huge levies on multinationals, millionaires and carbon emissions to generate funds to tackle the most urgent issues of the day, including poverty, migration, climate change and the EU’s so-called democratic deficit. ...

Jennifer Rankin | The Guardian
Employers do the reporting for their employees; brokerage firms do it for stock market capital gains; let’s turn to banks to do the job for current self-reporters.
Gerald E. Scorse | The Baltimore Chronicle

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