Aggregated news that corporate media willfully ignores
Today's posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Operator says it has seen what may be fuel debris beneath badly damaged No 2 reactor, destroyed six years ago in triple meltdown
An underwater robot has captured images of what is believed to be suspected debris of melted nuclear fuel inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Locating and analysing the fuel debris is crucial for decommissioning the plant, which was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Source: REUTERS)
....If Tepco can confirm that the black mass comprises melted fuel, it would represent a significant breakthrough in a recovery effort that has been hit by mishaps, the buildup of huge quantities of contaminated water, and soaring costs.
“This is a big step forward as we have got some precious data for the decommissioning process, including removing the fuel debris,” a Tepco official said.
Though Trump is historically unpopular for a president at this moment in his presidency, the opposition is not benefiting from this obvious opportunity
A day after the Republican party’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act crumbled, Al Gore spoke at a community college in Manhattan, NY, about his new climate change movie. Completely unrelated to the documentary, however, Gore expressed his support for a single-payer healthcare system.
The Huffington Post first reported Gore’s comments during Tuesday’s event. Breaking with ranking Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gore told the audience that private health insurance has failed to provide accessible coverage for all Americans.
“The private sector has not shown any ability to provide good, affordable health care for all. I believe we ought to have single-payer health care,” Gore said at the event hosted by The New York Times.
As the GOP struggles — despite its Senate and House majority — to come to a consensus on an adequate bill to replace the ACA, some Democrats have gradually moved left and embraced a “Medicare for All” solution. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigned on the platform and said he would introduce a single-payer bill when the GOP failed to repeal the ACA (he said this in early July).
Sanders’s push is gaining traction. A House Bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers predicated on a single-payer healthcare system now has the majority of House Democrats’ support. The bill has 115 cosponsors, including single-payer advocate and DNC Deputy Chair Rep. Keith Ellison.
Democratic Senators are also joining Sanders in endorsing single-payer. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “the next step” was single-payer in June. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand has expressed support for single-payer and Sen. Kamala Harris offered a measured backing of the solution.
If the ACA does fail, as President Trump so hopes it does, the Democrats might have a viable option with single-payer — and a third of Americans back it according to a Pew Research Center study released in June (52% of registered Democrats support single-payer, too). It’s such a viable solution, in fact, that Republican Sen. Jerry Moran warned single-payer might happen if the GOP can’t find another way to repeal the ACA; he even said it was probable.
As part of President Trump’s campaign against President Obama’s environmental regulations, Trump’s EPA has rejected a proposed rule banning a brain-damaging pesticide.
The decision by President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency to rebuff the advice of its own scientists to ban the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos has prompted protests from California’s farm worker communities, now demanding an immediate statewide ban of the dangerous chemical.
A delegation delivered more than 167,000 petition signatures along with a letter signed by 75 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Californians. The petition was also co-signed by Care2, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, and Pesticide Action Network.
EPA scientists have documented that chlorpyrifos can cause serious and profound neurological and respiratory damage, as well as developmental delays, autism and IQ loss for children — even in very small doses, say the activists.
They maintain that the use of chlorpyrifos is particularly problematic in California, “where more than one million pounds of the neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide are used each year, much of it in close proximity to schools and residences. Accounting for roughly 10% of the nationwide total, this chemical is applied on dozens of crops in the state. In the Monterey Bay Area, chlorpyrifos is most heavily used on wine grapes, Brussels sprouts, and apple orchards. In 2016, the air monitor at the Salinas Airport registered average air levels of chlorpyrifos three times higher than the EPA’s target risk level.”
Cap-and-trade system, which aims to help state cut greenhouse gases 40% by 2030, stands against Trump policies: ‘That’s what good government looks like’
....In a rare show of bipartisan agreement on climate change, eight Republicans joined with Democrats in California’s two legislative houses to extend the cap-and-trade emissions system a further 10 years until 2030.
The emissions-lowering scheme, the second-largest of its kind in the world, aims to help the state reach its target of cutting planet-warming gases 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
“Tonight, California stood tall and once again, boldly confronted the existential threat of our time,” said Jerry Brown, California’s governor. “Republicans and Democrats set aside their differences, came together and took courageous action. That’s what good government looks like.”
The cap-and-trade program, established in 2006 under then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, sets a limit on emissions and requires polluters to either reduce their output or purchase permits from those who have. As the limit steadily becomes stricter, it nudges businesses to take the more financially attractive option of cutting their pollution.
California, the sixth-largest economy in the world, is in stark opposition to Trump’s administration. The president has said he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement and has set about dismantling federal policies that lower emissions.
Brown has positioned himself as a countervailing force to Trump, visiting China to talk to its leaders about climate change and promising to build and launch weather-monitoring satellites should federal budget cuts endanger programs handled by Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA).
The life of our reef is intimately linked to the health of our politics and the future of our communities. Coal has no role to play
Ten years ago, David Simon’s iconic TV series The Wire portrayed contemporary Baltimore as wracked by illegal drug use, violent crime and failing institutions. But underneath the symptoms were the structures of political economy. As the show’s tagline had it, “everything is connected”. Simons explained that the show was intended to depict “a world in which capital has triumphed completely, labour has been marginalised and moneyed interests have purchased enough political infrastructure to prevent reform.”
A world away and the idea that everything is connected through a malformed political economy is also central to Anna Krien’s recent Quarterly Essay, The Long Goodbye. Coal, Coral and Australia’s Climate Deadlock. In Krien’s Australia, it is the power of the coal industry that is the fundamental problem.
Journeying across Australia, Krien visits proposed mine sites, coastal and inland towns, and snorkels the Great Barrier Reef. Everywhere she goes, there is evidence of the coal industry’s malign influence, distorting civic debate with dodgy jobs figures, marginalising other voices, corrupting politics, thwarting urgent reform for the common good, and driving the carbon pollution that is killing our reef.
With an evocative eye for human detail, Krien shows that in addition to being unsustainable in environmental terms, the coal industry is also terrible for the health of our democracy. The revolving door of elites is “a harmonious shifting of bodies in and out of politics, fossil fuel industry groups, energy and mining companies”. The access enjoyed by coal mining lobbyists (“always happy to see you”) is contrasted with the eminent scientist who can’t get a meeting with the minister.
Regulations are written to suit big coal – not the fresh water, farmland, wildlife or people they are notionally intended to protect. When someone is plucky enough to take the big companies on – a farmer, an Indigenous group, an environmental group – the coal mining companies get into fits of temper about the rules, and politicians are inclined to reward the tantrums by making things even easier.
The wall of Republican climate denial is starting to crack; who will be the Neo that accelerates the process?
Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wants to hold televised ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ climate science ‘debates.’ The idea is that a ‘Red Team’ of scientists will challenge the mainstream findings of ‘Blue Team’ scientists. That may sound familiar, because it’s exactly how the peer-review process works. But climate deniers have lost the debate in the peer-reviewed literature, with over 97% of peer-reviewed studies endorsing the consensus on human-caused global warming, and the few contrarian papers being flawed and failing to withstand scientific scrutiny.
So Scott Pruitt is trying to put his thumb on the scale, giving the less than 3% of contrarian scientists equal footing on a ‘Red Team.’ John Oliver showed how to do a statistically representative televised climate debate (so brilliantly that it’s been viewed 7.4 million times), but it’s probably not what Pruitt had in mind:
Recent years have seen outbreaks of preventable diseases once thought controlled, what is this backlash against vaccination all about?
....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, whichbuild up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annualoutput
A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe cleaner air.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world percapita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug &medical procedure costs]
Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
Education Secretary promotes school vouchers in her keynote address to state legislators
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was met by hundreds of protesters in Denver on Thursday, where she spoke at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
Demonstrations outside the Hyatt Regency included teachers and parents who disapprove of DeVos's agenda, particularly voucher programs (also known by the innocuous-sounding term "school choice"), a pet cause of ALEC, as well as for-profit education companies.
School voucher programs take money that would otherwise go to public schools and distribute it to parents who want their children to go to private or parochial schools.
The party is promising a “A Better Deal.” Will voters be convinced?
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Aaron Bernstein / Reuters)
“A Better Deal” makes clear that congressional Democrats believe that in 2017 the party must deliver an unequivocal message opposing corporate monopolies. The agenda calls for blocking mergers that “harm consumers, workers, and competition,” regulatory scrutiny of completed mergers to maintain free-market competition, and the creation of what the agenda describes as “a 21st century ‘Trust Buster’ to stop abusive corporate conduct and the exploitation of market power.”
....Promises to confront monopoly power are only one part of the wide-ranging platform the new Democratic agenda sets out. At the core of the agenda is a pledge that the party will create jobs, raise wages and income, while lowering the cost of living, for American workers and families.
“A Better Deal” is the product of months of meetings and deliberation between party leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, other House and Senate Democrats, and policy experts representing the full spectrum of liberal ideology.
In CAR-T therapy, a patient’s T cells are reprogrammed in the laboratory to create modified T cells that are genetically coded to recognize and fight the patient’s cancer. (Photo credit: Brent Stirton/Novartis)
The approval of gene therapy for leukemia, expected in the next few months, will open the door to a radically new class of cancer treatments.
Companies and universities are racing to develop these new therapies, which re-engineer and turbocharge millions of a patient’s own immune cells, turning them into cancer killers that researchers call a “living drug.” One of the big goals now is to get them to work for many other cancers, including those of the breast, prostate, ovary, lung and pancreas.
“This has been utterly transformative in blood cancers,” said Dr. Stephan Grupp, director of the cancer immunotherapy program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader of major studies. “If it can start to work in solid tumors, it will be utterly transformative for the whole field.”
But it will take time to find that out, he said, at least five years.
This type of treatment is now also being studied in glioblastoma, the aggressive brain tumor that Senator John McCain was found to have this week. Results of a study at the University of Pennsylvania, published Wednesday, were mixed. In the first 10 patients treated there, one has lived more than 18 months with what the researchers called “stable disease.” Two other survivors have cancer that has progressed, and the rest have died.
Studies are forging ahead on many fronts. Researchers plan to try giving the cell treatment to children with earlier stages of leukemia than in the past, combining it with other treatments and developing new types of cell therapy. One new version, with human trials just starting, uses immune cells extracted not from the patient, but from samples of umbilical-cord blood donated by mothers when they give birth.
The products closest to approval so far have a limited focus — to treat blood cancers like leukemia (for which an F.D.A. advisory panel recommended approval of the first treatment last week) and lymphoma, as opposed to the solid tumors that form in organs like the breasts and lungs and cause many more deaths. About 80,000 people a year have the kinds of blood cancers that the first round of new treatments can fight, out of the 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed annually in the United States.
The new treatments are expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they come with risks. Patients in the earliest studies nearly died from side effects like raging fever, low blood pressure and lung congestion. Doctors have learned how to control those reactions, but experts also have concerns about possible long-term effects like second cancers that could in theory be caused by the disabled viruses used in genetic engineering. No such cancers have been seen so far, but it is too soon to rule them out.
Robert Mueller. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Trump is furious with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. The president is so angry, in fact, that he’s hinted at a willingness to fire Mueller if he looks too closely at Trump’s personal finances.
Such an investigation, Trump told the New York Times, would cross a “red line” — the consequences of which are left open to the reader’s imaginations.
The rest of the White House seems to be on the same page. Reports in both the Times and the Washington Post have confirmed that the White House is actively looking for dirt on Mueller and his team that could discredit the investigation, or even serve as a pretext to fire Mueller himself.
All of this makes one thing very clear: The Trump team is deeply worried about Mueller’s probe. In the wake of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails — in which he says, “if it’s what you say I love it” in response to an offer of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton — they probably should be. The latest, and most damning, evidence suggests that the probe will keep going for a while, and that the ramifications could be very serious.
Mueller, a former FBI director, has the power to subpoena documents from the Trump team, file criminal charges against Trump’s family members, follow up on a just-settled money laundering case with a weird connection to the Trump Jr. meeting, and even reveal evidence that could be used in impeachment proceedings against the president himself.
So what follows is a clear guide to the biggest, most pressing issues about the investigation into Trump: how it works, what Mueller and his team are looking into, what we know about the Russia scandal so far, why it all matters, and what could happen next:
Zack Beauchamp and Andrew Prokop | Vox
Donald Trump’s son-in-law bought part of old New York Times building from Soviet-born tycoon, Guardian investigation into Russian money in NYC property market finds
Jared Kushner, seen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump, who acts as his senior White House adviser, secured a multimillion-dollar Manhattan real estate deal with a Soviet-born oligarch whose company was cited in a major New York money laundering case now being probed by members of Congress.
A Guardian investigation has established a series of overlapping ties and relationships involving alleged Russian money laundering, New York real estate deals and members of Trump’s inner circle. They include a 2015 sale of part of the old New York Times building in Manhattan involving Kushner and a billionaire real estate tycoon and diamond mogul, Lev Leviev.
The ties between Trump family real estate deals and Russian money interests are attracting growing interest from the justice department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, as he seeks to determine whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to distort the outcome of the 2016 race. Mueller has reportedly expanded his inquiry to look at real estate deals involving the Trump Organization, as well as Kushner’s financing.
Kushner will go before the US Senate intelligence committee on Monday in a closed session of the panel’s inquiry into Russian interference in the election in what could be a pivotal hearing into the affair.
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
Chris McGrath / Getty
....Japan’s problems... have implications for the United States, where temporary jobs are common, and where union power is getting weaker with every year. As I’ve written before, men are struggling in many regions of the country because of the decline of manufacturing and the opioid epidemic. And studies have shown that as men’s economic prospects decline, so do their chances of marrying. The U.S.’s fertility rate is already at historic lows—and worsening economic conditions for men could further depress it.
Illinois is teetering on bankruptcy and other states are not far behind, largely due to unfunded pension liabilities; but there are solutions. The Federal Reserve could do a round of “QE for Munis.” Or the state could turn its sizable pension fund into a self-sustaining public bank.
....Scott Baker, a senior advisor to the Public Banking Institute and economics editor at OpEdNews, has another idea. He argues that the states are far from broke. They may not be able to balance their budgets with taxes, but a search through their Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) shows that they have massive surplus funds and rainy day funds tucked away around the state, most of them earning minimal returns. (Recall the 1.5% made by the pension funds collectively last year.)
The 2016 CAFR for Illinois shows $94.6 billion in its pension fund alone, and well over $100 billion if other funds are included. To say it is broke is like saying a retired couple with a million dollars in savings is broke because they can earn only 1.5% on their savings and cannot live on $15,000 a year. What they need to do is to spend some of their savings to meet their budget and invest the rest in something safe but more lucrative.
So here is Baker’s idea for Illinois:
- Make an iron-clad pledge by law, even in the State Constitution if they can get quick agreement, to provide for pension payouts at the current level and adjusted for inflation in the future.
- Liquidate the current pension fund and maybe some of the other liquid funds too to pay off all current debts.
- This will leave them with a great credit rating . . . .
- Put the remaining tens of billions into a new State Bank, partnering with the beleaguered small and community banks . . . . Use that money to finance state and local businesses and individuals instead of Wall Street schemes and high fund manager fees that will no longer be necessary or advisable, saving the state hundreds of millions a year.
The Public Bank could be built roughly on the model of the hugely successful Bank of North Dakota example, one of the country’s greatest banks, measured by Return on Equity, and scandal-free since its founding in 1919.
The Bank of North Dakota (BND), the nation’s only state-owned bank, has had record profits every year for the last 13 years, with a return on equity in 2016 of 16.6%, twice the national average. Its chief depositor is the state itself, and its mandate is to support the local economy, partnering rather than competing with local banks. Its commercial loans range from 2.4% to 7.5%. The BND makes cheaper loans as well, drawing on loan funds for special programs including infrastructure, startup businesses and affordable housing. Its loan income after deducting allowances for loan losses was $175 million in 2016 on a loan portfolio of $4.7 billion. (2016 BND CAFR, pages 28-29.)That puts the net return on loans at 3.7%.
Illinois could follow North Dakota’s lead.
In this episode of the Bernie Sanders Show, Sanders talks to Al Gore about his new film, An Inconvenient Sequel. Below is an abridged transcript of their conversation.
Most people in our country understand that climate change is not a hoax. Most people want to see us move to sustainable energy. Yet we are seeing all kinds of opposition, from the Republican party. What role does the fossil fuel industry play in that?
Fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel burning utilities have actually taken the playbook from the tobacco companies. There is a great book called The Merchants of Doubt that documents this thoroughly. They’ve hired the same PR firms. They’ve tried to deliberately confuse people.
You remember when the scientific and medical consensus linked cigarettes to lung cancer and other diseases? The tobacco industry hired actors and dressed them up as doctors and put them in front of cameras to reassure people that there were no health consequences.
Well, the carbon polluters are doing the same thing. They’ve funded a major cottage industry of climate change deniers and pseudo-scientists trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
We are the only country in the world that has a major conservative party that is wedded to provable idiocy on climate. It is now beginning to give way because more people are seeing through the ruse.
What is their response? My Republican friends say if we move away from fossil fuel, the cost of electricity will become much more expensive for manufacturing and that we’re going to lose jobs. What’s your answer to that view?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an answer. Solar jobs are growing 17 times faster in the US than all other jobs. They predict that for the next 10 years the single fastest growing job is wind turbine technician.
All over the world, the brightest spot for economic renewal and dynamism is the sustainability and renewable energy revolution. That’s why China is closing hundreds of coal-burning plants. Their emissions have come down three years in a row. They are trying to create most of the jobs in China.
And India announced last month, that within 13 years all of their cars and trucks will have to be electric vehicles.
When developing countries are moving faster than we are, and harvesting the economic growth and jobs, it just highlights how we are hurting ourselves by letting carbon polluters decide public policy.
Solar and wind costs are plummeting. Leaders in the industry expect that, without any subsidies whatsoever, solar will be far less expensive to produce electricity from than fossil fuel. What is your expectation of what will be happening in the future?
The cost is coming down dramatically. There is a scene in this movie, Senator, where I go to one of the most conservative cities in the country – Georgetown, Texas – in the heart of oil country in Texas. There, a conservative Republican mayor has committed to completely switching to renewable energy, 100%. Their utility bills are going down. They’re getting more jobs as a result.
And he’s not doing it because he is a big-time environmentalist. He’s doing it because he’s saving money for the community.
There are several utilities in Texas right now, that have a new rate plan from 9pm at night to 6am the next morning, where you can use all the [renewable] electricity you want for free. Because it costs them more money to turn off the turbines at night. The concept is zero marginal costs. It’s changing the economics of energy all over the world.
And recently Chile negotiated a contract that will allow for the cheapest electricity energy on the planet from solar, is that correct?
That is correct. It’s 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than half of what the electricity of coal costs.
Support from Bernie Sanders and Danny Glover helped provide momentum to a campaign ‘about overcoming the effects of slavery’
Bernie Sanders lent his support to the ‘March on Mississippi’ on behalf of unionization. Photograph: Rogelio V. Solis/AP
“I’ve never seen a labor campaign of this size,” says the civil rights movement veteran Frank Figgers. “This is a historic struggle about overcoming the effects of slavery in Mississippi.”
Figgers is attending a meeting of 100 Nissan workers at a church preparing for the last push ahead of a historic union election for 4,000 Nissan workers set to take place on 2-3 August in Canton, Mississippi.
The vote is the culmination of 14-year campaign to organize the Nissan plant, 80% of whose employees are African American, and a major test for unions who have struggled to make inroads in the southern states as manufacturing jobs have migrated south.
For years, many workers have doubted that they would get enough support to be able to call for an election at all. But after more than 5,000 people, including the former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and the actor Danny Glover, took part in the “March on Mississippi” in support of unionization at Nissan in the spring, the drive took on a new sense of momentum. If the union vote is successful, it would be the largest union victory in Mississippi in more than a generation. A win in Canton would send a bolt of energy into the growing labor movement across the south.
However, the workers in Canton face staunch opposition from Nissan and a long history of defeats for union votes in the south at plants including Boeing in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this year, and at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2014. (The United Automobile Workers (UAW) later won an election for a much smaller unit of 160 maintenance workers.)
To show the workers that they are not alone, the UAW, in conjunction with the NAACP, community groups, and over 300 Mississippi clergy members, have formed a community campaign under the banner of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, which Figgers co-chairs.
....Nissan has been running videos throughout the plant warning workers against the dangers of the union and pushed workers to attend meetings raising concerns about unionizing.
“They tell us that we are gonna lose our benefits, it’s put a lot of fear into our co-workers,” says Betty Jones, a 12-year Nissan employee.
“It looks like the company is being extremely desperate because they will say and do anything,” laughs Nissan worker Morris Mock. “I had a manager tell me: ‘Don’t stand in the same place too long or they are gonna get the wrong idea.’”
Nissan has previously run into trouble in its effort to combat the UAW. In 2015, the National Labor Relations Board charged Nissan and its temporary employee agency provider, Kelly Services, with violating workers’ rights. Although Nissan has said it is defending itself against the charge, the NLRB added new complaints against Nissan and Kelly Services in April this year for threatening to close the plant if workers unionized. The NLRB also charged the company with breaking labor law by having security personnel perform unnecessary security stops on union members.
Give me liberty or give me dragons.
Austin Bragg, Andrew Heaton & Meredith Bragg | REASON
As we’ve written, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the July 20 version of the Senate Republican health bill, which the Senate may consider next week, would cut federal Medicaid spending by $756 billion over ten years and cut Medicaid enrollment by 15 million in 2026, relative to current law. These are similar to CBO’s estimates of an earlier version of the bill, but CBO’s latest analysis is the first to indicate how much of these deep Medicaid cuts are due to the bill’s “per capita cap”: a limit on annual federal funding per beneficiary. Based on CBO’s estimate, we find that about $180 billion — or nearly one-quarter of the bill’s cuts — are federal Medicaid spending cuts affecting non-expansion populations: seniors, people with disabilities, children, parents and other adults. All or nearly all of that $180 billion cut is likely attributable to the cap. In 2026 alone, the cuts attributable to the per capita cap cut would rise to $41 billion, a nearly 9 percent cut to Medicaid spending outside of the expansion, relative to current law (see graph).
If the $41 billion cut in 2026 were to fall proportionately based on each population’s relative share of expected federal spending outside the expansion:
- Seniors would face a $7 billion cut, equivalent to the cost of covering 720,000 seniors;
- People with disabilities would face a $17 billion cut, equivalent to the cost of covering about 990,000 people with disabilities;
- Children would face a $10 billion cut, equivalent to the cost of covering about 3.2 million children; and
- Parents and other non-expansion adults would face a $7 billion cut, equivalent to the cost of covering 1.1 million non-expansion adults.
Moreover, these per capita cap cuts would continue growing over time. As CBO’s June analysis of an earlier version of the Senate bill found, the “gap [between Medicaid spending under current law and under the Senate bill] would continue to widen because of the compounding effect of the differences in spending growth rates” between the per capita cap and states’ actual Medicaid spending needs. As a result, the total federal Medicaid spending cut under the Senate bill would rise from 26 percent in 2026 to 35 percent by 2036.
That would translate to a total federal Medicaid spending cut of $2.6 trillion in the second decade (2027-2036), according to rough estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. CBO’s June analysis thus stated that after 2026, “enrollment in Medicaid would continue to fall relative to what would happen under current law.” Because the July 20 version of the Senate bill had no significant changes to the per capita cap and its provisions that effectively would end the Medicaid expansion, these earlier long-term estimates would be “very similar” for the latest version, CBO’s new analysis explains.
The latest effort by Republicans in the Senate to overhaul the US healthcare system could have an unexpected effect on deductibles: they could get so high they're actually more than the poorest Americans earn.
That's a conclusion of the Congressional Budget Office's latest assessment of the new version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance kicks in. The CBO estimates that by 2026 the second-lowest-priced plans (the silver plans, in the Obamacare marketplace) would have $13,000 deductibles. Under the Affordable Care Act currently, a deductible for the same plan would be $5,000 in 2026.
The deductible would be more than the annual income of someone who is at 75% of the federal poverty level. Even for people who make $56,800, the deductible would make up 25% of their annual income.
For universal healthcare to become a reality, "it's going to take a movement of movements, and it's going to take the American people making it toxic for our elected officials not to get on board."
Donald Trump clashed with Senate Republicans on the healthcare bill and Robert Mueller, in a tumultuous week that ended with Sean Spicer quitting
It was a week full of difficult news for the Trump administration on both the healthcare and Russia fronts, at the end of which White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.
After the failure of Senate Republicans to push healthcare reform through, Donald Trump said he would “let Obamacare fail”, then changed his mind and demanded that Republicans skip their August recess until they get the bill done. Separately, the president appeared to be on a collision course with special counsel Robert Mueller, whose expansion of his investigation to look at Trump’s finances was announced on the same day that Trump said it would be a “violation” of Mueller’s mandate for him to do that.
Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller at WaPo report from a US intelligence source that former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, told Moscow that he had discussed campaign-related matters with Jeff Sessions twice in the summer of 2016. This revelation directly contradicts Sessions’ testimony before Congress. If the allegation is correct, Sessions is guilty of a crime, perjury, the same crime of which the Republicans in the House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton. Only, like, Sessions may actually have committed, like, a crime.
Me, I’m angry. I’m angry because the US intel community had this information in summer of 2016 and they’re only leaking it now. You mean they could have blown the whistle on the Trump gang over the Russian contacts and they didn’t bother? It is too late now. Getting rid of Sessions won’t change anything. Trump will just appoint another stealth white supremacist.
Now, their bosses are Trump appointees and most of this stuff will be ordered suppressed.
Second, let’s acknowledge the hypocrisy of all the condemnations of Ed Snowden over leaking the *illegal* activities of the National Security Agency, and the acceptance of this leak about Sessions. Nobody is threatening the WaPo journalists with jail for publishing the information on Sessions, and nor should they. But tell me how all this is different from the Snoweden affair in form (Snowden obviously released lots more information).
Observers are pointing out that all the intel community has is Kislyak’s cables back to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, not a transcript of the actual meeting. This is true. But why would Kislyak misrepresent the meetings to his bosses? Moreover, if the NSA didn’t actually record their conversations, after recording millions of innocent Americans, then we want our money back.
....Now we’re screwed, Trump is president and it is too late. We spend like $75 billion a year on those intel agencies. And this is what we get. All the telephone calls in Jamaica are recorded. But a major international conspiracy to undermine US democracy? With that they couldn’t be bothered. Or who knows, maybe they preferred Donald to Hillary. If so, they aren’t actually very, you know, Intelligent.
Though Trump is historically unpopular for a president at this moment in his presidency, the opposition is not benefiting from this obvious opportunity
With one devastating flourish of the presidential pen, worldwide progress on family planning, population growth and reproductive rights was swept away. Now some of the world’s poorest women must count the cost
....Rarely can the presidential pen have been flourished to such devastating effect. The policy it reintroduced will shut health clinics in Uganda and HIV programmes in Mozambique; it will compel women from Nepal to Namibia to seek out deadly back-street abortions.
“It is an unprecedented attack on women’s rights – it goes much deeper than abortion,” said Ulla Müller, president and CEO of EngenderHealth, a leading advocacy organisation.
“Girls are kicked out of school if they get pregnant. They are very often forced to marry the fathers. Very often they have to live in their in-laws’ house, where they have to do unpaid labour. It is a violation of women’s rights. We need to see this as a gender issue and very much as a power issue.”
Tewodros Melesse, director general of the the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which stands to lose as much as $100m, said the US move “seeks to restrict the rights of millions of women. It asks us as a health provider, to stop providing services which are entirely legal in countries through our members – where some of the most poorest women, depend on them.
“The human cost of the gag rule will have a long and fatal legacy.”
Like so many far-reaching American policies, Trump’s executive order is enshrouded in complexity to the point where it seems almost designed to confuse.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Gruesome billboards of a woman in a bloodied and torn bridal gown appeared around Beirut recently, captioned in Arabic: “A white dress doesn’t cover up rape.” This spring, a women’s rights group, Abaad, hung similarly defiled gowns along the city’s famous seaside promenade.
Such provocative public-awareness campaigns are part of a new push in Lebanon and across the Middle East to repeal longstanding laws that allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they marry their victims.
The laws were built around patriarchal attitudes that link a family’s honor directly to a woman’s chastity; the marriage option is aimed at shielding the victim’s family from “the scandal,” as one victim’s brother put it in an interview.
Morocco repealed a provision that allowed convicted rapists to evade punishment by marrying their victims in 2014. Parliamentary votes are expected as early as this summer here in Lebanon and in Jordan after government committees in both places have recommended repealing similar exemptions for both the accused and the convicted.
Any change would come too late for Basma Mohamad Latifa, who was allegedly raped three years ago in a village in southern Lebanon by a man more than twice her age. Her family did not go to the police, making a deal not to file charges in exchange for a wedding.
Unemployment and social instability threaten unwelcome return to the past in recession-hit country once seen as a model for developing economies
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the most powerful politician in Poland, is the architect of judicial reforms that have drawn massive criticism across Europe. As the Polish government chips away at checks and balances, is it possible the politician could drive the country out of the EU?
In postwar France, two men had a bold, even utopian idea: a peace-loving network of ‘world cities’. Is it time to give mondialism another chance?
....The movement still resonates today. The passports are still being printed in Washington DC by Davis’s old friend and lawyer, David Gallup. Barack Obama owns one. So does Edward Snowden. Some 200,000 people are currently listed as “citizens of the world” on the association’s register in Paris, where its headquarters remain.
But almost forgotten is another project in the postwar effort to eliminate warfare for good – a project that initially seemed even more promising.
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.
But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
Charities claim failure to blacklist Saudi-led coalition over bombings in which children were killed or injured would establish ‘dangerous precedent’
Charities have urged the UN to name and shame the Saudi-led coalition over child rights violations in Yemen after research showed more than 120 children were killed or maimed in airstrikes by the alliance last year.
The vast majority of newly built stations in Indonesia relied on export credits agencies or development banks, says study by Market Forces
....Export credit agencies, which provide subsidised loans to overseas projects to assist export industries in their home countries, were involved in 64% of the deals and provided 45% of the total lending.
The majority of the money was coming from Japan and China, with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) involved in five deals and the Export-Import Bank of China (Cexim) involved in seven deals. All the deals closed between January 2010 and March 2017.
The China Development Bank was the biggest development bank lending to the projects, imparting $3bn, with a further $240m in development funds coming from Korea’s Korea Development Bank.
The lending comes despite the world’s biggest development bank – the World Bank – warning last year that plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet” and overwhelm the deal forged at Paris to fight climate change.
“Right now, several key countries supporting the Paris climate change agreement are actively undermining it by trying to expand the polluting coal-power sector in other countries,” said Julien Vincent, executive director of Market Forces.
James McGill Buchanan’s vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it’s being exported
It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.
The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch.
Her discoveries in that house of horrors reveal how Buchanan, in collaboration with business tycoons and the institutes they founded, developed a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich. The programme is now reshaping politics, and not just in the US.
Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, and the property supremacism of John C Calhoun, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property (including your slaves) however you may wish; any institution that impinges on this right is an agent of oppression, exploiting men of property on behalf of the undeserving masses.
James Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory. He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes were forms of “differential or discriminatory legislation” against the owners of capital.
“Make America Great Again!”
Any clash between “freedom” (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom. In his book The Limits of Liberty, he noted that “despotism may be the only organisational alternative to the political structure that we observe.” Despotism in defence of freedom.
His prescription was a “constitutional revolution”: creating irrevocable restraints to limit democratic choice. Sponsored throughout his working life by wealthy foundations, billionaires and corporations, he developed a theoretical account of what this constitutional revolution would look like, and a strategy for implementing it.
He explained how attempts to desegregate schooling in the American south could be frustrated by setting up a network of state-sponsored private schools. It was he who first proposed privatising universities, and imposing full tuition fees on students: his original purpose was to crush student activism. He urged privatisation of social security and many other functions of the state. He sought to break the links between people and government, and demolish trust in public institutions. He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy.
In 1980, he was able to put the programme into action. He was invited to Chile, where he helped the Pinochet dictatorship write a new constitution, which, partly through the clever devices Buchanan proposed, has proved impossible to reverse entirely. Amid the torture and killings, he advised the government to extend programmes of privatisation, austerity, monetary restraint, deregulation and the destruction of trade unions: a package that helped trigger economic collapse in 1982.
....But his power really began to be felt when Koch, currently the seventh richest man in the US, decided that Buchanan held the key to the transformation he sought. Koch saw even such ideologues as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan as “sellouts”, as they sought to improve the efficiency of government rather than destroy it altogether. But Buchanan took it all the way.
....In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called “economic freedom” and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.
Buchanan’s programme is a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to MacLean’s discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is, know your enemy. We’re getting there.
How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes enabling vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.
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