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06.19 Can planting billions of trees save the planet?

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06.19 We’ll Never Solve Immigration If We Don’t Solve Climate Change [Why is our President so willfully stupid?]

06.19 Scientists shocked by Arctic permafrost thawing 70 years sooner than predicted

06.18 Photograph lays bare reality of melting Greenland sea ice ice sheet

06.18 Because 'This Is a Public Health Crisis,' Pennsylvania Gov. Urged to Investigate Link Between Fracking and Childhood Cancers

06.18 The Worst Patients in the World [Is THIS the dumbest thing we can do? Then let's do it!]

06.18 Navy Contaminates Local Groundwater and Sewer System in Maryland [Is THIS the dumbest thing we can do? Then let's do it!]

06.18 Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage [Is THIS the dumbest thing we can do? Then let's do it!]

06.18 Call to arms: how can Australia avoid a slow and painful decline?

06.18 Soaring Temperatures Speed Up Spring Thaw on Greenland’s Ice Sheet

06.17 Hopes for climate progress falter with coal still king across Asia [Governments must subsidize very rapid installation of renewable energy to displace all fossil energy—aka DEATH ENERGY—power plants that must be made illegal ASAP]

06.17 Oil companies double down on plastics as public outcry grows [Obscene!]

06.17 Ocasio-Cortez: "We’re Going to Fight to Repeal the Hyde Amendment"

06.15 'The Changes Are Really Accelerating': Alaska at Record Warm While Greenland Sees Major Ice Melt

06.15 So much plastic is being made that "recycling has no impact" [Non-recyclable plastic must be made illegal to manufacture, use]

06.15 Climate crisis: aviation industry hears clamour for electric planes

06.15 We must transform our lives and values to save this burning planet [Increased ice melt in polar latitudes has been disguising reality in the middle latitudes. This effect will soon be replaced by record heat as ice volume and seasonal melting increasingly declines.]

06.15 This all-male council in Texas just voted to ban abortion [1:59 video; Bad assumptions foment ignorant actions...]

06.14 The Trans Mountain pipeline is a disaster – but Trudeau can make it right

06.14 The Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than Portugal, study finds

06.14 Climate crisis: Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating

06.13 Chemical companies at centre of Guardian's Cancer Town series face state legal action [7:56 video]

06.12 'This is not a "what if" story': Tokyo braces for the earthquake of a century

06.12 Plant Species Have Been Disappearing 500 Times Faster Than Normal, Thanks to Humans

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06.12 Politics as Usual and Planetary Destruction

06.12 Most 'meat' in 2040 will not come from dead animals, says report

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06.19 America has never gone this long without hiking the federal minimum wage [The poor would spend every penny and help the economy and decrease health costs. Only dummies don't understand the costly effects of penury.]

06.19 When migrants arrived in droves, this poor New Mexico city opened its arms [A good example for us all: This is the way we must respond to human suffering]

06.18 It's A Horrible Idea To Privatize The Tennessee Valley Authority And Other Public Energy Assets [Is THIS the dumbest thing we can do? Then let's do it!]

06.18 The secret to Elizabeth Warren's surge? Ideas

06.18 Tobacco's 'Special Friend': What Internal Documents Say About Mitch McConnell [His immorality is in complete control]

06.17 Climate change leadership would create a new 'American century' [We must incentivize the strategic good, again, before it's too late.]

06.17 Jon Stewart takes aim at McConnell in continued fight for 9/11 victim compensation fund [2:56 C-SPAN video]

06.17 Drug Cop Worth $400 Million After Bets on Brooklyn Real Estate [A better role-model than Trump or Kushner!]

06.15 Hard Times in the Imperial Valley

06.15 Ro Khanna Forces Beltway Bandit to Refund Millions From Price Gouging

06.15 White House physicist sought aid of rightwing thinktank to challenge climate science [When your President is a quack he naturally surrounds himself with sycophants]

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06.19 'Credible evidence' Saudi crown prince liable for Khashoggi killing – UN report

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06.18 As promised, Trump slashes aid to Central America over migrants [Is THIS the cruelest thing we can do? Then let's do it!]

06.18 ‘The Saudis couldn’t do it without us’: the UK’s true role in Yemen’s deadly war [If you act psychopathic you are psychopathic; 3:40 Video: Where have all the flowers (and morals and young men) gone, long time passing, sung by Marlene Dietreich]

06.17 'Blatant Theft': Netanyahu Unveils Illegal Settlement Named 'Trump Heights' in Occupied Syrian Territory [Great deal: the U.S. gives Israel $Billions every year, and they name an illegal settlement—to be built on Palestinian land—after Trump]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

06.15 'Eye-Popping': Analysis Shows Top 1% Gained $21 Trillion in Wealth Since 1989 While Bottom Half Lost $900 Billion [More equality or bring back the guillotines!]

International & Futurism

06.19 Trump Enabled an ‘Act of Organized Crime’ in Guatemala [Trump and other mafia-dons cause refugees and migrants as much as global warming]

06.19 Ireland to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030

06.19 Madrid’s new rightwing council suspends low-emissions zone [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

06.19 UK firms told they face 'deliberate disruption' to hit zero carbon goal

06.19 Donald Trump’s reckless Iran policy casts doubt on the US as global leader [America's reputation has plummeted more speedily since Trump's dubious election, with professionals willfully replaced with less competent appointees or left unfilled in many federal government agencies]

06.19 Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores

06.19 UK climate plan unclear, says European commission

06.18 'If This Is True, They Are Even Bigger Lunatics Than We Realized': UN Officials Reportedly Believe Trump Planning 'Massive' Bombing Campaign in Iran [Never underestimate the stupidity of the Trump Administration]

06.18 The United States Should Welcome a Strong, United Latin America

06.18 Solidarity With Glenn Greenwald

06.18 Theresa May could yet give us the ultimate parting gift: a Brexit referendum

06.18 The Trump administration's dangerous fever dream about Iran

06.18 Iran will not wage war against any nation, says Hassan Rouhani [Economic sanctions are cruel punishment to innocent civilians causing hate for generations. We will reap what Trump sows.]

06.17 Saudi Arabia May Execute Teenager for His Protests — Including When He Was 10 [America's “best ally” is psychopathically insane]

06.17 Why Venezuela Is the Vietnam of Our Time [Powerful, clear writing!]

06.17 US Attacks Russia’s Power Grid; Trump Kept in Dark

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  Some Federal Workers Can't Afford Their ''Model'' Health Care Plan
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COMMENTARY:

Some Federal Workers Can’t Afford Their “Model” Health Care Plan

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation on 30 September 2009

Like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.

Now that the Senate Finance Committee has driven a stake through the public option, there’s likely to be renewed talk about the Federal Employees Health Benefits program (FEHB). Throughout the contentious health care debate, the federal workers health plan has been often hailed as the model everyone can live with. It’s even been described by some as the basis for an alternative “public option,” under which the unisured could either buy into the FEHB or, more likely, into a program modeled on it. Members of Congress just love to talk about offering Americans the “same health care” they themselves enjoy, and Obama has said much the same thing.

Too bad there really isn’t anything public at all about the FEHB, as I (and others) have written before. It’s simply a system that allows federal workers to sort through dozens of different private insurance plans, and pick one they want. (This supposed model for a public option doesn’t even include a public option itself.) Their employer, the government, then picks up the majority of the cost of the premiums, with the workers paying the rest. They have a wide range of choices among private plans and access to group rates, which is better than what a lot of Americans have. But like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are expensive–so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.

Now the FEHB’s premiums–like everyone else’s–are getting a lot more expensive. As Joe Davidson reports today in the Washington Post:

Federal government employees can expect a big jump in their health-care costs in 2010, officials said Tuesday.

Employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will pay an average 8.8 percent more in health-care costs, according to figures released by the Office of Personnel Management....The increase compares with a 7.9 percent jump in 2009 and a 2.9 percent increase in 2008, according to the OPM.

The rates for FEHB Blue Cross Blue Shield, a popular choice because of its comprehensive coverage and wide choice of providers, will increase far more–15 percent for individuals, and 12 percent for families.

These rate hikes will likely present no problem for members of Congress, who earn $174,000 a year (and have expense accounts). But Davidson cites responses from unions representing rank-and-file federal workers:

“This is an enormous increase that erodes federal employees’ standard of living,” Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. “Affordable health care is essential in attracting and retaining a stable, high-quality workforce.”

The American Federation of Government Employees expressed “grave concern” at the news. “FEHBP is getting more and more unaffordable for more people,” said Jacqueline Simon, AFGE public policy director.

Most telling of all is the statement given to reporters by Nancy Kichak, an associate director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: “An 8.8 percent increase is not an increase that we feel comfortable with,” Kichak said. “It’s not one that we would like to see our enrollees bear, but unfortunately we’re a victim of the market.”

A “victim of the market.” Sounds like the same thing that’s wrong with the whole U.S. health care system (with the exception of original Medicare, which Congress could look to as a model for a public option, if only they had the political will).

But as we know, in the market there are always winners as well as losers: Witness the jump in health insurance company stocks on Tuesday afternoon, following the Finance Committee’s defeat of two proposed public option amendments.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on October 2, 2009.
 

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