newspaper logo
Last updated: Sunday, March 18, 2018, 11:19 AM
Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated 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
US health worker pay is NOT the problem.
"This is insane. If EPA rules are not based on science, what are they based on?"

A deeply unpopular plan by one of the Republican Party's most fervent climate deniers to restrict the use of scientific research in government rule-making isn't even advancing in the GOP-controlled Congress, but EPA chief Scott Pruitt appears to be moving to adopt it as official agency policy.

"It's just another excuse for Pruitt to really abrogate EPA's responsibility to protect human health and the environment."
—Yogin Kothari, Union of Concerned Scientists

As E&E News reported on Friday, Pruitt announced a push for "additional science reform" at the EPA during a closed-door meeting at the right-wing Heritage Foundation this week.

According to attendees and others who spoke to E&E News, this "reform" effort is expected to resemble Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) legislative attempt to prohibit the EPA from using scientific data that isn't fully available to the public and "reproducible" in developing policy.

"The proposal may sound reasonable enough at first," explained The Intercept's Sharon Lerner in a summary of Smith's bill. "But because health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share, the bill would prevent the EPA from using many of the best scientific studies. It would also prohibit using studies of one-time events, such as the Gulf oil spill or the effect of a partial ban of chlorpyrifos on children...because these events—and thus the studies of them—can't be repeated."

And while Smith's bill would restrict the EPA's ability to use certain kinds of crucial scientific research, it would "allow industry to keep much of its own inner workings and skewed research secret from the public, while delegitimizing studies done by researchers with no vested interest in their outcome."

Global energy giants forced to adapt to rise of renewables [the Middle-East's wars may be stupid given looming drop in oil and gas prices]
Companies face world where falling cost of solar and wind power pushes down prices

....If China sustains these reductions, Greenstone finds that residents would see their lifespans extended by 2.4 years on average. The roughly 20 million residents in Beijing would live 3.3 years longer, while those in Shijiazhuang and Baoding would add 5.3 years and 4.5 years onto their lives, respectively. These improvements in life expectancy would be experienced by people of all ages, not just the young and old.

Staff? | PHYS.ORG
Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable
With the arrival of energy optimisation technologies, governments and industry must find a way to deliver efficient energy to everyone

....Australia has significant inequities in its pricing structures that often see vulnerable customers, particularly those in Indigenous communities, endure a drastically different service quality. These customers often have higher barriers to accessing energy efficient appliances and renewable technologies.

Under current pricing structures, lower income households spend a higher proportion of their income on electricity. So the challenge for policy makers, regulators and utility companies is to figure out how to provide affordable, reliable and clean electricity to all consumers.

The good news is there are innovative technological solutions on the way that will optimise our use of energy. These technologies will generate clean and renewable energy, provide ways to store it and, perhaps most importantly for households struggling with bills, automate its use in the most efficient and affordable way.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has willed the ends to tackle air pollution but he’s unable to will the means

Britain needs to do more to clean up its dirty air as it is a “major public health scandal”. So says the environment secretary Michael Gove. He’s right. The UK has been unlawfully breaching nitrogen dioxide limits since 2010. The government has been taken to court and lost three times. Finally a minister is committing to a clean air strategy that restricts diesel use “to ensure our air is properly breathable”. These words won’t be easy to walk back from. Neither should they be. Pollution cuts short an estimated 40,000 UK lives each year, and affects neurodevelopment and foetal growth.

Until Thursday the cabinet minister appeared unwilling to do much about it. Mr Gove was unmoved by the admonitions of the UN when it said Britain was flouting its duty to protect citizens from pollution. Mr Gove, a Brexiter, no doubt did not care that the European Union is preparing legal action against Britain for breaching air-quality laws. It was under the European acquis that the high court said the government’s clean air plan was “unlawful”. In Mr Gove’s view, foreign courts should not hold ministers of the crown to account and their influence should end at our shores. In Brexit Britain it will not be judges but voters, whose lives are being shortened by breathing in filth, who will hold ministers to account.

This spectacle of moral pusillanimity, political ineptitude and Brexit confusion could not continue. MPs on the select committees cannot be faulted for portraying diesel vehicles as the main villains. Carmakers were exposed for playing with people’s lives by cheating emissions tests. Diesels are much more polluting than petrol cars, and the biggest proportion of pollution in UK cities does come from road transport. Scolding ministers for their timidity, MPs are right to say the government has to be much more ambitious and bring forward the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from the current 2040 deadline. Many European cities want to ban diesel by 2025. Mr Gove’s a big thinker. He should be bolder.

Particle pollution increases as the wind slows down and chilly weather prompts the lighting of more wood fires
Gary Fuller with David Green and Timothy Baker | The Guardian
The death of a Brazilian community leader followed concerns about contaminated water around the aluminium plant but its Norwegian owners deny responsibility
Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water
Sky-high prices of everything make US healthcare the world's most expensive [legal-corruption of government Makes America Less Great Again, and more of a mafia-state]
America spends twice as much on health as 10 other rich countries, due to the high cost of everything from prescriptions to doctors
From the Amazon to Africa, WWF report predicts catastrophic losses of as much as 60% of plants and 50% of animals by the end of the century
We need to hear from struggling Americans whose stories are rarely told in newspapers or television. Until they are, we must tell these stories elsewhere

The rapid rise of oligarchy and wealth and income inequality is the great moral, economic, and political issue of our time. Yet, it gets almost no coverage from the corporate media.

How often do network newscasts report on the 40 million Americans living in poverty, or that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major nation on earth? How often does the media discuss the reality that our society today is more unequal than at any time since the 1920s with the top 0.1% now owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%? How often have you heard the media report the stories of millions of people who today are working longer hours for lower wages than was the case some 40 years ago?

How often has ABC, CBS or NBC discussed the role that the Koch brothers and other billionaires play in creating a political system which allows the rich and the powerful to significantly control elections and the legislative process in Congress?

Sadly, the answer to these questions is: almost never. The corporate media has failed to let the American people fully understand the economic forces shaping their lives and causing many of them to work two or three jobs, while CEOs make hundreds of times more than they do. Instead, day after day, 24/7, we’re inundated with the relentless dramas of the Trump White House, Stormy Daniels, and the latest piece of political gossip.

We urgently need to discuss the reality of today’s economy and political system, and fight to create an economy [more like Finland] that works for everyone and not just the one percent...

Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


....There are many reasons for our servility to the aristocracy; we are conditioned from childbirth to respect authority and to defer to people who have status. This form of brainwashing starts in elementary school and continues throughout adulthood. As technology evolves, the more we devolve into the shackles of serfdom and dependency. Social media and corporate propaganda that is passed off as a free press steadily feed us a diet of insufficiency and meekness. The end result is breathtaking; our inherent strength as individuals is sucked out and replaced with collective docility. To say that humans are sheep is an insult to ewes and rams alike; the way opinion leaders are able to incite the public through manufactured outrage and galvanize counterfeit movements is astonishing!

I’m not writing this from a place of piety; if I realize how indoctrinated we are as a people, it’s only because a rude awakening sponsored by indigence woke me up to the deception of our politics. After all, I’m the same guy who not too long ago was a most devoted follower of Obama and broke my back to get the “first black president” elected. I used to see everything through a political lens, including calling myself the base of the Democratic party. I look back now in utter disbelief at how much I let political idol worshiping warp my mind. I once traveled to sixteen states as an unpaid volunteer to “turn Congress blue” while donating thousands of dollars to Obama for America.

....The definition of insanity is to do the same thing continuously only to keep hoping for change. However, I must demure on this front; to call our politics crazy is to be unkind to the insane. We have become a bipolar society where we swing erratically from left to right each time one party kneecaps the public with their malicious policies. Eight years after Bush lied us into two wars and led us over the economic cliff, we were convinced a new day had arrived by way of a historical candidacy only for Barack to out-Bush W. Obama’s audacity was boundless; he saved the criminals on Wall Street while giving empty speeches and meaningless gestures to the victims of the banking mafia. Eight years after the First Bank President gave tens of trillions of dollars to the oligarchy and cratered the earning power of the poor, working and middle-class, we pivoted to a reality talk show clown to be our new political savior.

....We live in a country where the poor who steal driven by hunger are jailed in and the rich who commit mass theft motivated by greed are bailed out. Instead of focusing on these malfeasance and iniquities that are bleeding our planet, we would rather take each other to the woodshed. So busy focused on what we are, we have forgotten who we are and the commonality of pains and the common hopes that bind all of us as one. Tragically, we let identities and ideologies get in the way of our common humanity. As the upper strata of society thrive through our disunion, we keep suffering apart.

....It’s high time we stop being the stepping stones of these two equally bankrupt political parties. As I noted in the “Break the Duopoly“, we must find a way to disband both parties—who are really parasites feeding on our Republic and feasting on our hopes—and empower our communities instead. More importantly, we must stop letting the rich and wealthy impose their ideologies on us and labeling us as if we are their pets. There is a reason I disavow the word black and African after all; I know the origins of these words and the intentions behind why they were given to us. In the same light, perhaps now is the time to stop finding identity through labels. As Bob Marley once said, we must free our minds of mental slavery—we are not the base of anybody! #WeAreNotTheirBase

McCabe, who stepped down in January and planned to retire Sunday, suggested dismissal is part of effort to undermine Russia inquiry
Robert Mueller has issued a subpoena for documents from the Trump Organization, where Ivanka Trump has played a leading role
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.

“Had there been a second armed teacher in the classroom to shoot the first armed teacher, this regrettable incident would never have occurred,” Wayne LaPierre said. “The only thing that stops a bad teacher with a gun is a good teacher with a gun.”

The N.R.A. executive vice-president said, “In a perfect world, you would have a third armed teacher, in case the second one messes up, but right now I’d settle for two.”

He blamed anti-gun activists for blocking measures that would allow multiple teachers with guns to shoot at one another and thus keep the nation’s classrooms safe. “It’s time to stop the madness,” he said.

Reported order is first time special counsel has asked for documents directly related to Trump’s businesses in course of investigation
Cash in: the rich guys in Trump's cabinet who can't resist public money [morals and rules for behavior are for little people]
The revelations over Ben Carson’s furniture have shone a light on Trump’s people – and their fondness for first-class travel and military jets

....Here’s what I know and what makes living in this country so damn exhausting: If the victims were white and the suspects were known to be Muslims, the president of the United States would care. In these cases, however, with no profile of the attacker available and a trail of black and brown victims, it seems like this square peg doesn’t fit into the round hole of Trump’s agenda.

Moscow also shuts down all activities of British Council in retaliatory move after expulsion of Russian diplomats
Turkey claims to have encircled Afrin, besieging up to 200,000 [Kurds are the new Armenians. Is ethnic purity—that DNA testing cannot discern—so important that Turkey and Syria must kill minority ethnic populations?]
Inhabitants of majority Kurdish Syrian city fear a blockade and bombardment are imminent
Paul Henry Dean guilty of ‘unnatural sex’ with young boys and men at orphanage
Since consolidating his power in rigged elections at the start of the decade, the Russian leader has pioneered a politics of fictional threats and invented enemies.

....No doubt the Russian state can still be maintained, for a time, by elective emergency and selective war. The very anxiety created by the lack of a succession principle can be projected abroad, creating real hostility and thus starting the whole process anew. In 2013, Russia began to seduce or bully its European neighbours into abandoning their own institutions and histories. If Russia could not become the west, let the west become Russia. If the flaws of American democracy could be exploited to elect a Russian client, then Putin could prove that the world outside is no better than Russia. Were the EU or the US to disintegrate during Putin’s lifetime, he could cultivate an illusion of eternity.

Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’ [Are all conservative economic theories based on anecdotal gossip of ill-informed, often-biased people? There does seem to be a pattern...]
Cash assistance isn’t just a moral imperative that raises living standards. It’s also a critical investment in the health and future careers of low-income kids.
Nordic nations take top four places in happiness rankings, with annual study also charting the decline of the US

The 2018 World Happiness Report reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

....“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report’s authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.

The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.

The UN placing is the latest accolade for Finland, a country of 5.5 million people that only 150 years ago suffered Europe’s last naturally caused famine. The country has been ranked the most stable, the safest and best governed country in the world. It is also among the least corrupt and the most socially progressive. Its police are the world’s most trusted and its banks the soundest.

“That Finland is the top scorer is remarkable,” said Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. “GDP per capita in Finland is lower than its neighbouring Nordic countries and is much lower than that of the US. The Finns are good at converting wealth into wellbeing.

“In the Nordic countries in general, we pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but there is wide public support for that because people see them as investments in quality of life for all. Free healthcare and university education goes a long way when it comes to happiness. In the Nordic countries, Bernie Sanders is not viewed as progressive – he is just common sense,” added Wiking, referring to the leftwing US politician who galvanised the Democrat primaries in the 2016 presidential election.

When fixing items is actively discouraged by manufacturers, recycling becomes a political act, say Repair Cafe volunteers

....This is the Reading Repair Cafe, part of a burgeoning international network aimed at confronting a world of stuff, of white goods littering dumps in west Africa and trash swilling through the oceans in huge gyres.

....Since it opened in 2012, the Remakery (another repair cafe) has diverted 205 tonnes of waste that would have ended up in landfill. But the Remakery is unique in that, unlike much of the repair movement, which is volunteer-led, it is a viable business, employing 11 staff and 10 freelancers. Last year the shop had an income of £236,000 – 30% from grants, 70% generated through sales of furniture and electronics, workshops and repair appointments.

The financial viability of the shop makes it attractive as a model. In the last year, Sophie Unwin, the co-founder of the Remakery in Brixton and the founder of Edinburgh Remakery is setting up the Remakery network to replicate the work internationally.

She has had 53 inquiries from groups interested in setting up similar enterprises in the US, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Australia and elsewhere in the UK.

The network will provide toolkits and advice to groups who want to recreate what she has done in Edinburgh. Unwin hopes that these resources will allow other groups to do in two years what it has taken eight years of trial and error and extremely hard graft to achieve.

For repairers, fixing things is a way of doing something about an obsession with consumerism that Unwin calls “a kind of sickness in society”.

“This is our little attempt to push a little bit in [a less wasteful] direction,” says Ward. “To say, we can fix this, we can repair things, don’t give up hope.”

US ambassador says Russia behind attack with ‘military-grade nerve agent’, while Moscow’s envoy replies with false-flag conspiracy theory
Donald Trump admits making up 'facts' in trade meeting with Justin Trudeau [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
US president told donors ‘I had no idea’ when he complained to Canada’s prime minister over (non-existent) trade deficit
Swedish labor economist Rudolf Meidner spent his career pushing radical reforms that would shift power from business to workers.

Rudolf Meidner, one of the primary architects of Sweden’s famed social-democratic model, once described private ownership as “a gun pointed at the temple of the labor movement.” He spent his career as a union economist trying to resolve the standoff in labor’s favor.

Meidner’s economic model — given form by an exceptionally strong Social Democratic Party (SAP) and labor movement — delivered sustained material gains to workers in the decades after World War II (and, because of robust growth, private business). Swedish workers enjoyed the fruits of an expanding welfare state while exercising unprecedented influence and control over a developed economy.

....But a wave of wildcat strikes in 1969–1970 and a drop in private investment dramatized the mounting turmoil in the Swedish economy.

It was not enough — the gun remained in place, and by the 1970s, Meidner had concluded, along with the Swedish labor movement, that an alternative model of ownership was needed. “We want to deprive the owners of capital of the power which they wield,” Meidner explained.

“All experience shows that influence and control is not enough — ownership plays a critical part. I refer to Marx and Wigforss: we cannot fundamentally transform society without also fundamentally changing ownership.

The references to both Marx and Ernst Wigforss, a proto-Keynesian finance minister, typified Meidner’s synthetic approach to social change. He was a radical committed to societal transformation — but one who obsessed over the granular details of economic models. His efforts culminated in the so-called “Meidner Plan,” the most impressive attempt in an advanced capitalist economy to shift power decisively from owners of capital to workers.

If Meidner’s gambit had succeeded, private capital could have been disarmed — and labor finally freed from its threats. The plan’s failure — as well as Meidner’s career more broadly — illustrates the promise and hazards of left reformism...

....[In his book “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,”] Ronen Bergman writes, “Since World War II, Israel has assassinated more people than any other country in the Western world.” The figures he cites — 1,000 killed before the Palestinian Second Intifada, 168 successful “liquidations” during that intifada, and 800 “targeted killings” since then — do not approach the record of the United States. In Vietnam alone, America’s Operation Speedy Express and Phoenix Program in Vietnam took the lives of more than 30,000 Viet Cong supporters. U.S.-led death squads in Latin America killed uncounted thousands. Since 9/11, the U.S. has adopted assassination of suspected enemies as a legitimate policy tool, however doubtful its legality. William Blum’s “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” cites more than 50 CIA attempts on the lives of foreign politicians. The CIA tried and failed to kill Zhou Enlai in 1954, Iraqi Gen. Abdel Karim Kassem in 1959, and Fidel Castro, repeatedly. Overshadowing those failures were the agency’s successful participation in the murder of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961, Vietnam’s Diem brothers in 1963, and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. Only in 1976 did President Gerald Ford sign Executive Order 11905 that no longer allowed government employees to “engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” That went out the window in 2011, along with many other protections, as a result of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 mass murders.

At this time, the U.S., Israel, Russia, North Korea, and many other members of the community of nations continue to murder their opponents without having to account for it...

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, runs a significant risk of spending the rest of his life in prison and the evidence against him by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office seems strong, a federal judge declared in an order made public on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is based in Alexandria, Virginia, and is assigned to a newly filed indictment against Manafort dealing with bank fraud and tax evasion, said the veteran lobbyist and political consultant posed “a substantial risk of flight” because of his assets and the gravity of his legal predicament.

“The defendant is a person of great wealth who has the financial means and international connections to flee and remain at large, as well as every incentive to do so,” Ellis wrote in an order setting the terms of what the judge called “home incarceration” for Manafort, 68, who lives in Alexandria but also has homes in Florida and on Long Island.

“Given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,” wrote Ellis, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan.

The order, dated Friday, puts Manafort in a “24-hour-a-day lockdown” at his Alexandria condo, except for medical appointments or emergencies, court appearances and meeting with his defense attorneys. Ellis did not require Manafort to post any assets, but did order that he pay $10 million if he fails to appear in court.


Copyright © 2018 The Baltimore Chronicle and the SENTINEL. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.