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Established 1973 — Last updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 10:49 AM
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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 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

Sanders’s campaign website states: "The only long-term solution to America's health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program." Many Americans — by no means all of them Sanders voters — seem to agree. Just this week, Gallup released a poll indicating that "58% of U.S. adults favor the idea of replacing [the Affordable Care Act] with a federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans." Politico Magazine reports that Sanders’s health plan "is the most popular of the three remaining candidates."

Critics have noted many shortcomings and gaps in Sanders’s specific plan. Still, the public’s appetite for single-payer suggests that policymakers should take the idea seriously. Though Sanders has thought through some specifics of how to implement his plan, the newly awakened single-payer constituency will have to answer some hard questions about how America might implement a sound single-payer plan.

Harold Pollack | Vox

Water levels at Lake Mead fell to 1,074 feet last week, down from an average of 1,084 feet in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The lake is currently at 37% of capacity, according to Bureau spokesperson Rose Davis. The region has suffered from a drought that has lasted more than a decade and the snowpacks that feed the lake—created during the Depression era—remain low. Recent images of the lake show just how far water levels have dropped with “bathtub ring” markings indicating the higher height of the reservoir.

The manmade lake—located in Nevada and formed by the Hoover Dam—provides crucial water to parts of Arizona, Nevada and California, including the Los Angeles region. The federal government could implement emergency measures if the water level remains at 1,075 feet or below at the end of the year. Those measures would require reductions in water delivery to Nevada and Arizona, Davis says. California and Mexico would be exempt.

Justin Worland | Time Mag.
Arctic would warm by as much as 20C by 2300 with disastrous impacts if action is not taken on climate change, warns new study

The carbon already emitted by burning fossil fuels has driven significant global warming, with 2016 near certain to succeed 2015 as the hottest year ever recorded, which itself beat a record year in 2014. Other recent studies have shown that extreme heatwaves could push the climate beyond human endurance in parts of the world such as the Gulf, making them uninhabitable.

The new work, published in Nature Climate Change, considers the impact of emitting 5tn tonnes of carbon emissions. This is the lower-end estimate of burning all fossil fuels currently known about, though not including future finds or those made available by new extraction technologies.

Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Report accuses UK public health bodies of colluding with food industry and calls for overhaul of dietary guidelines

In a damning report that accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration call for a “major overhaul” of current dietary guidelines. They say the focus on low-fat diets is failing to address Britain’s obesity crisis, while snacking between meals is making people fat.

Instead, they call for a return to “whole foods” such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat, healthy foods including avocados, arguing: “Eating fat does not make you fat.”

The report – which has caused a huge backlash among the scientific community – also argues that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while full-fat dairy, including milk, yoghurt and cheese, can actually protect the heart.

Processed foods labelled “low fat”, “lite”, “low cholesterol” or “proven to lower cholesterol” should be avoided at all costs, and people with type 2 diabetes should eat a fat-rich diet rather than one based on carbohydrates.

Press Association | The Guardian
In this week's episode of BITE, we talk to foodborne illness attorney Bill Marler.

Listeria in frozen foods. E. coli at Chipotle. Salmonella-laced pistachios. Practically every week there's a new tainted food to avoid—and as a result, foodborne illness sickens 1 in 6 Americans, hospitalizes 128,000, and kills 3,000. The problem of bugs in food has stumped government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

KIERA BUTLER | Mother Jones
Most shootings with four deaths or injuries are invisible outside their communities. And most of the lives they scar are black.
A rendering from Kyocera of the solar panels on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan. If construction goes as planned, 50,904 panels will float atop the reservoir, generating enough electricity to power almost 5,000 homes. Credit Kyocera
A rendering from Kyocera of the solar panels on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan. If construction goes as planned, 50,904 panels will float atop the reservoir, generating enough electricity to power almost 5,000 homes. Credit Kyocera

Floating solar arrays — they are often referred to as “floatovoltaics,” a term trademarked by one company — also have advantages over solar plants on land, their proponents say. Renting or buying land is more expensive, and there are fewer regulations for structures built on reservoirs, water treatment ponds and other bodies of water not used for recreation.

Unlike most land-based solar plants, floating arrays can also be hidden from public view, a factor in the nonprofit Sonoma Clean Power Company’s decision to pursue the technology.

The floating arrays have other assets. They help keep water from evaporating, making the technology attractive in drought-plagued areas, and restrict algae blooms. And they are more efficient than land-based panels, because water cools the panels.

ERICA GOODE | The New York Times
Simon Stevens points to dangers of economic ‘tailspin’ for NHS funding and reliance on staff from other EU countries
Anushka Asthana | The Guardian
A report from NBC News:
Ninety-six aboveground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry's spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned. Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy.
Source: NBC, etc. | SlashDot

As many as 20 nuclear plants in the United States could shut down over the next decade, and their closure could dramatically increase emissions of greenhouse gases. That was the alarming conclusion of a Department of Energy conference on the future of nuclear power yesterday in Washington, D.C.

"We are supposed to be adding zero carbon sources, not subtracting (them),” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in his remarks at the meeting.

The average age of the U.S. nuclear fleet is 35 years, and many of those plants are nearing the end of their operating licenses. Many will renew their licenses, but some will close due to economic reasons and environmental concerns. Replacing those plants with natural gas plants will add millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Richard Martin | MIT Technology Review
NO ONE IN THE MID-OHIO VALLEY EVER WANTED TO SUE DUPONT.

....But as livestock started dying and thousands of residents contracted unexplained illnesses, evidence pointed to pollution from DuPont manufacturing as the cause – pitting the community's health against the area's already struggling economy.

Shell, Total, Statoil, even Exxon - they’re all at it. But are the recent moves into solar and wind power lip service, fashion, or a real shift away from fossil fuels?
Terry Macalister | The Guardian
Zero emission milestone reached as country is powered by just wind, solar and hydro-generated electricity for 107 hours
Arthur Neslen | The Guardian

Reference:

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

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

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

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

Morley Safer, who was a correspondent on CBS’s 60 Minutes from 1970 until just last week, died Thursday at age 84.

There will be hundreds of obituaries about Safer, but at least so far, there’s been no mention of what I think was one of the most important stories he ever told.

In 1965, for example, Safer was sent to Vietnam by CBS to cover the escalating U.S. war there. That August he filed a famous report showing American soldiers burning down a Vietnamese village with Zippo lighters and flamethrowers as children and elderly women and men cowered nearby....

Jon Schwarz | The Intercept
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
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The sense derived from all this is that half of America is severely financially burdened, at risk of falling deeper into debt. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The sense derived from all this is that half of America is severely financially burdened, at risk of falling deeper into debt. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As often noted in the passionate writings of Henry Giroux, poor Americans are becoming increasingly 'disposable' in our winner-take-all society. After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

The evidence keeps accumulating: income and wealth -- and health -- are declining for middle-class America. As wealth at the top grows, the super-rich feel they have little need for the rest of society.

Paul Buchheit | CommonDreams
As a whole, women support Clinton over Trump and Sanders, but 49% of women from across the political spectrum give her an unfavorable rating

Anoa Changa is a feminist who isn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Last July, when the 34-year-old Atlanta-based attorney began volunteering with the grassroots organization Women for Bernie Sanders, she received immediate pushback from other women. Over social media, they accused her and other Sanders volunteers of betraying their gender, and of being fake feminists. Even former professors and friends questioned how she could support the Vermont senator over the secretary of state.

“Some women I encounter act as if I’ve betrayed some kind of secret society,” says Changa. “I reject this brand of feminism. I’m not only voting for my gender, I’m voting for other issues.”

Changa doesn’t identify with Clinton or believe her victory would create a clearer path to Washington for black girls whose parents can’t afford college tuition. “Access to opportunity in politics is often limited to people who are white or upper middle class,” she says. “When we look at issues as gender only, it overshadows so many other ways that women are shut out of the process.”

Angelina Chapin | The Guardian

Top Bernie Sanders supporters Dr. Cornell West and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will be among those on the Democratic Party's important Platform Drafting Committee after the Vermont senator won a key concession as he looks to leave his mark on the party's platform.

The roster of the drafting committee, released by the Democratic National Committee on Monday, reflects the party's agreement that Sanders would have five supporters on the committee, compared to six for Hillary Clinton.

Sanders previously panned DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who appoints all of the committee members, for failing to include enough of his supporters on an initial list. But the latest statement notes that Wasserman Schultz allocated the campaign's seats "proportionally according to the current vote tally."

Along with West and Ellison, Sanders supporters on the committee are author Bill McKibben, Arab American Institute head James Zogby and Native American activist Deborah Parker.

Clinton loyalists on the committee are Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former Clinton staffer and current Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden, Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece, environmentalist Carol Browner, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez and union head Paul Booth.

The remaining four members were chosen by Wasserman Schultz.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has endorsed Clinton, will lead the committee and called Sanders's outsized role on the platform "pretty unusual" for a candidate that likely will not be the party's nominee during a Monday interview on MSNBC.

Ben Kamisar | The Hill

Back in April, just before the New York primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign aired a commercial on upstate television stations touting her work as secretary of state forcing “China, India, some of the world’s worst polluters” to make “real change.” She promised to “stand firm with New Yorkers opposing fracking, giving communities the right to say ‘no.'”

The television spot, which was not announced and does not appear on the official campaign YouTube page with most of Clinton’s other ads, implied a history of opposition to fracking, here and abroad. But emails obtained by The Intercept from the Department of State reveal new details of behind-the-scenes efforts by Clinton and her close aides to export American-style hydraulic fracturing — the horizontal drilling technique best known as fracking — to countries all over the world.

Far from challenging fossil fuel companies, the emails obtained by The Intercept show that State Department officials worked closely with private sector oil and gas companies, pressed other agencies within the Obama administration to commit federal government resources including technical assistance for locating shale reserves, and distributed agreements with partner nations pledging to help secure investments for new fracking projects.

Lee Fang and Steve Horn | The Intercept
Most shootings with four deaths or injuries are invisible outside their communities. And most of the lives they scar are black.
SHARON LAFRANIERE, DANIELA PORAT and AGUSTIN ARMENDARIZ | The New York Times
Proponents of stricter gun laws are building on a new strategy to defeat the NRA.
MADISON PAULY | Mother Jones
US President Barack Obama has said that Edward Snowden should have used official channels instead of taking NSA spying public. Now, a former high-ranking US government official has revealed how the Pentagon retaliates against internal critics.
Mark Hertsgaard, Felix Kasten, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark | Der Spiegel




Political scientists and law experts flee to America as Beijing’s grip on freedoms in China intensifies under President Xi Jinping
Since arriving in the US Teng Biao has remained active on Twitter and kept in touch with a global network of human rights lawyers, officials, politicians and campaigners. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Since arriving in the US Teng Biao has remained active on Twitter and kept in touch with a global network of human rights lawyers, officials, politicians and campaigners. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As Chinese activist and scholar Teng Biao sat at home on the east coast of America, more than 13,000km (8,000 miles) away his wife and nine-year-old daughter were preparing to embark on the most dangerous journey of their lives.

Jerry Cohen, a veteran China expert who has offered help to many of the new arrivals, said he had seen a significant spike in the number of Chinese scholars such as Teng seeking refuge in the US last year.

Until about 12 months ago China’s top universities “remained islands of relative freedom”, said Cohen, who has studied the Asian country for nearly six decades.

“[Now] I think there is much more attention to what you teach, what materials you use, what you say in class, what you can write and publish, whom you can contact, where you get your support. I think a lot of people are just getting disillusioned and feel at least for a few years they’d better ride out the Xi Jinping storm [overseas].”

Cohen likened the influx of intellectuals – mostly political scientists or international relations and law experts who have sought permanent or temporary positions at US universities – to previous waves of refugee scholars who fled the Nazis during the 1930s and 40s, and China following the Tiananmen crackdown.

Tom Phillips and Ed Pilkington | The Guardian
Shia state and hardline Sunni group have proved themselves willing to cooperate despite deep ideological antipathy

....More recently Tehran has seen the Taliban as a useful foil to Islamic State, the Syria-based militant group that has been trying to gain a foothold in Afghanistan at the expense of the Taliban.

Jon Boone and Saeed Kamali Dehghan | The Guardian
A second year without rain threatens to bring catastrophe for some of the poorest people in the world. Donor countries, in the grip of wars and refugee crises, have been slow to pledge funds. But by the time they do, it could be too late
John Vidal | The Guardian
From Angola to Zimbabwe, food prices are soaring and malnutrition is on the rise as the latest El Niño weather event takes a brutal toll
John Vidal | The Guardian
The House of Cards star is embracing activism, fighting for equal pay in Hollywood and highlighting the role of ‘conflict minerals’ in wars in central Africa
Edward Helmore | The Guardian
Women of reproductive age are 14 times more likely to die than men in a crisis. We are calling on the world humanitarian summit to prioritise reproductive healthcare

On Monday global thinkers, activists and politicians will come together for the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul to tackle some of these issues. It’s time for them and us to act as the world faces the largest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Tewodros Melesse | The Guardian
Opinium/Observer poll shows 48% of Tory voters want to stay, up from 39%, while remain now has a four-point overall lead
Toby Helm | The Guardian
Since the end of the Vietnam War, in 1975, more than forty thousand Vietnamese have been killed by unexploded ordnance.
George Black | The New Yorker
There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.
Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner | ProPublica
The current ruffle over AirBnB shows civil rights laws and court victories haven’t fully flushed Jim Crow blood from America’s veins.

This week marks the 120th and 62nd anniversaries of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board U.S. Supreme Court decisions, respectively.

Plessy legalized the racial “separate but equal” policy on May 18, 1896. Brown reversed that decision on May 17, 1954, finding that anything separate is inherently unequal, especially given America’s unique history of racial discrimination. What the U.S. learned about itself in those six decades between those two rulings was supposed to guide policymaking in the post-Brown era. The full accommodation and integration of African Americans into all institutions and living venues of U.S. society is Brown’s ultimate goal.

Clearly, we’re not there yet. But if anything should have signaled a promising turn towards unlocking that achievement, it’s the emerging sharing economy. People offering up their homes, offices, and cars to the public seems like a decent path toward affirmatively furthering fair-living practices. At the very least, it improves on service deliveries where older, existing industries have failed—some African Americans have found it easier to grab an Uber than hail a cab.

But things are shaking out unevenly across the sharing economy galaxy. A group of Harvard researchers found in a January 2016 study that black people have been rejected by Airbnb hosts at much higher rates than white ones. The study reads:

Overall, we find widespread discrimination against African-American guests. Specifically, African-American guests received a positive response roughly 42% of the time, compared to roughly 50% for White guests. This 8 percentage point (roughly 16%) penalty for African-American guests is particularly noteworthy when compared to the discrimination-free setting of competing short-term accommodation platforms such as Expedia. The penalty is consistent with the racial gap found in contexts ranging from labor markets to online lending to classified ads to taxicabs.

BRENTIN MOCK | CityLab
Fund’s debt assessment calls for ‘upfront and unconditional’ debt relief for Athens or it will refuse to part-fund latest bailout

The International Monetary Fund has called for “upfront” and “unconditional” debt relief for Greece as it warned that without immediate action the financial plight of the recession-ravaged country would deteriorate dramatically over the coming decades.

In a strongly worded assessment, the IMF said that there was no prospect of Greece meeting the draconian terms of its current bailout plan and that interest payments on the soaring national debt would eat up 60% of the budget by 2060 in the absence of debt forgiveness.

The debt sustainability analysis by the Washington-based Fund said Greece should have longer to pay, have the interest rate on its loans fixed at 1.5%, and that its creditors should make debt relief automatic once the bailout programme ends in 2018.

“The implementation of debt relief should be completed by the end of the programme period”, the IMF said. “Providing an upfront, unconditional component to debt relief is critical to provide a strong and credible signal to markets about the commitment of official creditors to ensuring debt sustainability, which in itself could contribute to lowering market financing costs. An upfront component can also help garner more ownership for reforms.”

Larry Elliott | The Guardian

Foreign investors, we were told, from Brazil and elsewhere view Miami as a legitimate and safe place to invest. While this might be true to an extent, the recent release of the Panama Papers confirms some things haven’t changed: Miami’s booming high-end real estate market is at least partially used to launder money and a majority of units purchased are through offshore shell companies that hide true ownership and serve as a legal way to evade taxes.

Yet developers keep building at a fast pace, rents continue to increase beyond any local’s affordability, all while small businesses close one after another.

And there is no end in sight.

J.J. Colagrande | Huffington Post

Reference:

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

1971 household income in 2014 dollars  (% of adults)
Click to enlarge
Household income in 2014 dollars (% of adults)
Click to enlarge
YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
Proponents of stricter gun laws are building on a new strategy to defeat the NRA.
A Doctors Without Borders employee inside the charred remains of the organization's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after it was hit by a US airstrike Najim Rahim/AP
A Doctors Without Borders employee inside the charred remains of the organization's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after it was hit by a US airstrike Najim Rahim/AP

While a United States AC-130 gunship blasted a MÈdecins Sans FrontiËres( hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, with howitzer and incendiary rounds early on the morning of October 3, 2015, MSF staff phoned and texted American and Afghan authorities more than a dozen times trying desperately to stop the attack. Medical staff and patients were shot as they fled the building. Others burned to death as they lay in their beds. By the time the half-hour airstrike was over, 42 people—including doctors, nurses, and patients—were dead. The Pentagon later carried out an investigation and determined that while errors were made, no one will face criminal charges.

BRYAN SCHATZ | Mother Jones
 
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