Aggregated News & Analyses Today’s posts in bigger type, Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
Health Care & Environment PROBLEMS: Corporate influence enables life-threatening pollution & highest-profit health care.
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"
"With polls showing increasing support for Medicare for all, and new signs every day of a system that is out of control, the formation of this congressional caucus could not be more timely."
Adding to the rapidly growing wave of support for Medicare for All at the grassroots and on Capitol Hill, more than 60 House Democrats are forming an official Medicare for All Caucus with the goal of closely examining specific policy components of single-payer and seriously discussing the steps necessary to implement it in the United States.
"This is another sign that we are winning the fight for Medicare for All! And it wouldn't be possible without the hard work of grassroots activists that door-knock, phone-bank, and table in their communities every day." —Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United
"This is a sea change from just four or five years ago and people are more likely to see healthcare as a right," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Vice News, which first reported on the formation of the caucus on Wednesday.
Jayapal will join Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), National Nurses United (NNU), and other progressive groups to officially launch the caucus with an announcement Thursday morning. While just over 60 Democrats will be part of the caucus on day one, that number is expected to grow quickly over the next several weeks.
"This is another sign that we are winning the fight for Medicare for All!" NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo declared in a tweet on Wednesday. "And it wouldn't be possible without the hard work of grassroots activists that door-knock, phone-bank and table in their communities every day. This fight, like many others, will be won in our own neighborhoods."
"Every day more Americans are rallying behind the need for fundamental reform of our flawed and fragmented healthcare system that denies care to millions of our neighbors and family members," NNU co-president Deborah Burger, RN, added in a statement. "With polls showing increasing support for Medicare for all, and new signs every day of a system that is out of control, the formation of this congressional caucus could not be more timely."...
The oceans cover 72 percent of the planet - but are all but ignored in discussions about reducing levels of atmospheric carbon to preindustrial levels. In this interview with Nick Breeze, ocean ecologist Russ George explains how ocean restoration will lower greenhouse gases and bring back fish stocks to levels not seen for generations
....Currently - and it is no secret - the oceans are in a terminal decline, acidifying, heating, losing their biomass and, the worse bit, flipping from carbon sink to carbon source. Fish stocks are also depleted, as ocean ecosystems fall under the sad blanket of degradation. But Russ George poses that, by a process of biomimicry, we could reverse these processes and restore life in the oceans.
Nick Breeze (NB): In the context of climate change and carbon sinks, can we talk a little bit about the role the oceans play in photosynthesis?
Russ George (RG): This blue planet is 28 percent land, of which half is rock and ice. So 14 percent of this planet has soil that might sustain green plants, but 72 percent of this planet is the ocean, all of which can sustain green photosynthesis.
So the green photosynthetic productivity in the ocean is down by 40-50 percent. That is the conservative data backed numbers for the collapse of phytoplankton in the worlds ocean. We are terrestrial beings so we think about forests. So everybody on the planet knows about the plight of the Amazon rainforest, and it is a global cause celeb. Tens of millions of dollars are being focussed on trying to save the remaining rainforests because 20 percent of the rainforest has been cut down.
But in every five year period of time since 1950, there has been a loss of green plant life equal to an entire Amazon in the worlds oceans. So here we are. A dozen Amazons have gone missing from the world.NB: That is absolutely enormous in terms of scale. What state are they in, I mean how much of this impact can they absorb?RG: Well, we know that since 1950 if we have lost 12 entire Amazon’s worth of biomass in the oceans, if we merely restore it to that state, we’ll capture that much sustainable living biomass in the oceans.That is more forestry potential than exists than in all the lands on the planet. So we can grow plants in the ocean that will harvest many times the amount of CO2 than if we were to reforest all available land on the planet....
North America’s first electric double-decker transit bus is pulling up to Southern California in 2019. These two-tiered buses will cross between the San Gabriel Valley and the city of Los Angeles, with the intent of alleviating the region’s infamous traffic by doubling passenger capacity with a lighter environmental footprint.
Bus manufacturing company Alexander Dennis will pair its towering Enviro500 model with Proterra’s record-breaking E2 battery: Last September, the company set the world record for driving the longest distance, over 1,100 miles, on a single charge of an electric vehicle. For day-to-day use, the double-decker will be able to drive between 160 and 200 miles per charge. Electric single-deck buses can typically drive between 200 and 350 miles per charge.
“Electrifying city buses and school buses as well as other diesel applications is one of the best paybacks we can get from an environmental investment,” said Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra. “The operator will probably save 80 cents a mile on fuel if they're going from diesel to electric."
Foothill Transit purchased two buses, costing $1.6 million each. They’re partially funded by a $1.4 million Metro Express Lanes Toll Revenue Capital Grant received earlier this year. The agency is planning to deploy them along a 35-mile route between downtown Los Angeles and Claremont, California. Previously, 60-foot articulated buses served 50 customers along this route, but the extra length made it difficult to find longer bus stops downtown. Comparatively, the double-deckers have better maneuverability and serve 80 customers....
News Media Matters PROBLEM: Biased news increases ignorance and hate. All viewpoints are not equal. We need news stories to cogently report reality to support understanding through logical, ethical reasoning.
Chairman Ajit Pai introduced an order that would require the merger applicants to participate in an administrative review process often seen as a "deal-killer"
"The pressure is working!" declared the advocacy group Free Press, a critic of media consolidation, in response to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai's remarks on Monday that he has "serious concerns" about right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media.
In a statement (pdf) announcing a draft order that would require merger applicants to attend a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, Pai said Monday: "Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction. The evidence we've received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law."
"This is a giant win for the public, and a huge setback for Sinclair's mega-merger plans." —Matt Wood, Free Press
Reutersreported that the FCC has the three votes needed to approve Pai's proposal, and the draft order—which has not been publicly released—notes that "Sinclair's actions here potentially involve deception" and possible "misconduct."
"This is a giant win for the public, and a huge setback for Sinclair's mega-merger plans," responded Free Press policy director Matt Wood.
"Public outcry has been building over Sinclair's takeover of local television for months. Just last week, Common Cause and its allies delivered over 600,000 signatures to the FCC urging the agency to block Sinclair's merger," noted Michael Copps, Common Cause special adviser and a former FCC commissioner. "The message is loud and clear: local news should reflect the concerns and interests of the communities they serve, not the will of a wealthy, powerful few. Sinclair's merger would make it too large and too powerful."
....Wood added that perhaps "the most interesting part of Pai's announcement is his recognition that several of the divestitures Sinclair proposed are a sham that would leave the company in control of stations it purportedly sells off to relatives and cronies of Sinclair executives."
WORLD PROBLEM: Greed destroys humanity and life on earth. OUR SOLUTION? Make the greedy HELP life on earth. Allow tax-free income and wealth up to reasonable levels (caps), then tax excess income and wealth (above caps) @ up to a 90% tax-rate to fairly and quickly fund life remediation.
....the most tangible thing to come out of Helsinki was fresh fodder for the growing community of Americans convinced Trump is literally an asset of the Russian government. Of course, they hardly needed it to run wild: Earlier this month, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait stitched together news reports and other bits of (sometimes flimsy) evidence percolating in the ether to argue, relatively coherently if not convincingly, that Trump might have been turned by the Russians as far back as 1987.
But is Trump really behaving the way an asset of a foreign government—and Russia's in particular—would be expected to? How does Moscow tend to run its spies and assets in the post-Cold War era? How much is Putin likely to be personally involved in all of that? And if Trump is in fact some kind of Russian pawn, how are they working him, or manipulating him?
Getting catcalled and groped is just a daily experience for millions of cis women, as well as trans and non-binary folks. And as much as we'd love to channel our inner Jessica Jones and slam a street harasser's sorry ass into the pavement, most of us are forced to suffer in silence—retaliating is not an option when it could jeopardize safety. And there is very little recourse in a society that doesn't regularly pay attention to these offenses, much less record them.
But last month, justice was served in Savannah, Georgia, when a Florida man was arrested for groping a waitress who was just trying to do her damn job. In a video posted to Reddit, 21-year-old Emelia Holden retaliated against the creep, pulling his shirt and slamming him to the ground just moments after he grabs her.
"I didn’t even think, I just reacted," she told PEOPLE. "I don’t know how I reacted the way I did. I’ve never done that before."
The entire smackdown was captured on security cameras, and Reddit users chimed in with their support, heavily up-voting the comment "So she’s a server.... of justice." As for the words Holden can be seen telling the guy while he's down on the ground: "I looked at him and I said, 'You don’t touch me, motherfucker!'" Holden told PEOPLE.
According to Buzzfeed News, Ryan Cherwinski, 31, was taken into custody on June 30 and charged with sexual battery after the incident, but was released from jail a few days later on a $2,500 bond. The fact that he was arrested is an important win—thanks to the cameras, this woman was able to defend herself and see that this foul man was apprehended.
"The guy claimed that he was just trying to push me out of the way and, 'Oh, I barely touched you.' Once the police saw the video, they immediately arrested him. There was no doubt that he did it," Holden told PEOPLE.
In a world where harassment is routine, it is satisfying to see men like Cherwinski face the consequences of their actions. And thanks to the virality of the video, hopefully those who may have somehow considered harassment acceptable may be forced to consider whether their idiotic behavior warrants a run in with the authorities. Or maybe they could just start seeing women as people?...
When a literal reading of the law makes it harder to regulate corporations, judges like Kavanaugh stick to a literal reading. When it doesn't, they get creative
"Kavanaugh’s record on environmental issues is appalling."(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh isn’t just a likely vote against Roe, or an enabler of brash executive authority. He’s also a vocal supporter of a conservative legal “philosophy” that’s designed to block action on climate change.
Kavanaugh’s record on environmental issues is appalling.
As a D.C. appeals court judge, he argued against the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and wrote the majority opinion striking down the EPA’s attempt to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent climate pollutants used in cooling applications. He even wrote a majority opinion overturning EPA regulation of air pollution that crosses state lines.
While focusing on these particulars is important, it’s vital not to lose sight of the underlying pattern.
It’s precisely judicial decisions such as Citizens United that have opened the floodgates for corporate money, including from fossil fuel interests, to corrupt our political system and prevent congressional action on climate change.
Kavanaugh says he opposes EPA regulation of greenhouse gases because the literal language of the Clean Air Act doesn’t authorize the EPA to do so. Only a specific mandate from Congress to curb carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants can do that, he claims.
This is very convenient for the fossil fuel industry and other climate polluters, which have the political clout to ensure that such a directive will never happen under the present Congress.
With Congress unwilling to pass legislation curbing greenhouse gases, and courts unwilling to allow regulators to take action on climate change absent such legislation, U.S. inaction on climate becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy....
Everybody’s talking about democratic socialism these days. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Bernie Sanders supporters in New York City at a campaign rally in 2016. Spencer Platt / Getty Images
For a Better World
Some commentators have tried to invent differences between the kind of society “democratic socialists” fight for and the kind envisioned by so-called “traditional socialists.” On MSNBC, Stephanie Ruhle confidently declared that democratic socialists make “no call for communal ownership of production.”
According to Ruhle, the excitement around the emerging socialist movement is much ado about nothing: democratic socialists want good things like free college and public libraries — and that’s pretty much it.
While we definitely support good library systems, democratic socialists’ vision of a better society and how to achieve it goes much further.
The world we live in now is called a democracy; the United States is the wealthiest country in all of human history, and we all learn about how important of an American value “freedom” is. But the United States today is defined not by freedom and abundance, but exploitation and oppression.
A tiny number of rich and powerful families lives off of the profits they make from trashing the environment and underpaying, overworking, and cheating the vast majority of society — the working class. They get richer precisely because the poor and working class get poorer.
This capitalist class turns workplaces into mini-authoritarian regimes, where bosses have the power to harass and abuse workers. And they protect their power in all corners of society by fanning the flames of racial, national, and gender conflict and prejudice in order to divide working people and stop us from organizing.
Democratic socialists want to end all of that.
Like many progressives, we want to build a world where everyone has a right to food, healthcare, a good home, an enriching education, and a union job that pays well. We think this kind of economic security is necessary for people to live rich and creative lives — and to be truly free.
We want to guarantee all of this while stopping climate change and building an economy that’s ecologically sustainable. We want to build a world without war, where people in other countries are free from the fear of US military intervention and economic exploitation. And we want to end mass incarceration and police brutality, gender violence, intolerance towards queer people, job and housing discrimination, deportations, and all other forms of oppression.
Unlike many progressives however, we’ve come to the conclusion that to build this better world it’s going to take a lot more work than winning an election and passing incremental reforms....
(TeleSur) In 2012 the United Nations published a report claiming the Gaza Strip would be unliveable by the year 2020. Five years later, after the summer 2014 full-on Israeli military assault against the Palestinian terrirtory, the U.N. published another report arguing Gaza had reached the point of un-liveability citing deteriorating infrastructure, alarming economic indicators and worsening social services.
However, these numbers do not explain the surge in suicides that has taken over the Strip. Testimony of Palestinians who have committed suicide, even against their religious beliefs, reveal that occupation breeds powerlessness and hopelessness, making Gaza an unlivable place.
The most devastating effect of Israel’s crimes is a generation of isolated men and women who can find no hope in the future....
People march against modern slavery through London wearing face masks representing the silence of modern slaves in forced labour and sexual exploitation on 14 October 2017 in London. Photograph: Mathew Chattle / Barcroft Images
More than 400,000 people could be living in “modern slavery” in the US, a condition of servitude broadly defined in a new study as forced and state-imposed labor, sexual servitude and forced marriage.
The Global Slavery Index, published on Thursday by Walk Free Foundation, describes modern slavery as a complex and often hidden crime that crosses borders, sectors and jurisdictions. The US number, the study estimates, is almost one hundredth of the estimated 40.3 million global total number of people it defines as being enslaved.
....The report estimates most victims of modern slavery live in Asia. North Korea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery globally, with one in 10 of the population, or 2.6 million people, victims of modern slavery.
A third, or 15 million, of victims of modern slavery enter through forced marriage, an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls. “Overall, the cultural practice of forced marriage places women at greater risk of exploitation, and the potential subjection to a life of servitude, financial bondage and sexual exploitation that comes with modern slavery,” the report said....
If Interior Department's proposals are approved, "Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary"
....Under the newly proposed guidelines, the Interior Department would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to take economic impacts into consideration when deciding whether to protect species—potentially allowing corporations to move ahead with projects that would otherwise be prohibited.
The department also proposed that it should stop extending similar levels of protection to animals and plants regardless of whether they are listed as "endangered" or "threatened," and would remove protections for "take"—the harming or killing of species—for animals that have been newly added to the "threatened" list.
If approved by the administration, critics said, the rollback of the law—which has the approval of 90 percent of Americans—will solidify the Trump administration's legacy as one which put the interests of corporations ahead of the well-being of wildlife.
"These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they're finalized now, Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary."....
"Recent self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and attacks on the rule of law have dragged our country to a new low, but the roots of today's corruption extend well beyond any one president or Congress."
Federal spending on America’s children is heading down, and the drop in funding could be dramatic.
Raise the banners and strike up the band, because the “War on Poverty” is won. Mission accomplished! And that means it’s time to hack down the safety net that saved the nation’s poor.
That was the head-turning takeaway from a report last week from the White House Council of Economic Advisors that declared the War on Poverty “largely over and a success.” The report diverged sharply from what even other Republicans say about poverty, to say nothing of economists. (“Do these people ever visit the real world?” Paul Krugman asked.)
But while the language marked a rhetorical reversal of the usual conservative efforts to undo Johnson-era programs designed to aid low-income Americans—which hinge on the conceit that federal aid is wasteful, not that it nailed it—the intent is largely the same. This was an argument for work requirements in welfare, one of the Trump administration’s top domestic priorities.
The Trump administration’s declaration might also come as a surprise to the millions of American children (still) living in what looks and feels a lot like poverty. Kids are major beneficiaries of most safety-net programs for food, housing, and healthcare. Some 44 percent of the people who receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are children, for example. Cutting spending on poverty means cutting spending on kids—a downward trend that is already happening....
In the space of a week, the US president has attacked NATO and cozied up to Vladimir Putin. Retired US Army General Ben Hodges told DW that Trump alienating US allies "worries every military professional" he knows.
....Are you getting food stamps? Selling your plasma to make ends meet can count as a “program violation” that leads to losing the benefit, if you fail to report the income. Do you call 911 once too often to report an abusive boyfriend or spouse? Your landlord has the power to evict you. Sleeping in a public space? In many cities, that’s a crime—you can go to jail, and then get billed for your stay. In one case, a homeless man in Sacramento, California, living under a bridge received 190 citations from police (almost all related to sleeping outside and camping) and wound up being assessed $104,000 in unpayable fines. When he died of cancer in 2016, there were thirty-seven warrants out for his arrest. Whose definition of public safety does any of this serve?....
Israel has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, a move described by members of the Arab minority as racist and verging on apartheid.
The “nation state” law, backed by the rightwing government, passed by a vote of 62-55 and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument. Some Arab MPs shouted and ripped up papers after the vote.
“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Knesset after the vote.
Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.
The bill strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.
There are 1.8 million Arabs in Israel, about 20% of the 9 million population....
Vladivostok, Russia – Emboldened by re-election, US president Donald Trump landed in Russia today for the first meeting of the newly formed Group of 3 (G3) with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China to carve up spheres of influence in Europe and Asia.
Meanwhile, Nato limped along as a shell of its former self, with the US only still technically a member because Congress will not allow Trump to withdraw. Japan had recently announced its nuclear weapons program in the wake of the United States withdrawing from the Korean peninsula after a peace treaty was signed to end the Korean war, even though North Korea maintained its nuclear weapons. The rest of Asia raced to secure the best terms possible with China, the new regional hegemon.
It was a series of summits in June and July 2018 – the G7, Nato and Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Putin – that began the great unraveling of global stability and America’s position in the world.
If you think that this hypothetical future news story is hyperbolic, then that’s because America and the world must wake up to the dangerous events happening right before our eyes....
The billionaire's pitch comes as the White House is reportedly "preparing for a government-wide appraisal" of the war strategy
....Prince also delved into his master plan in an op-ed for RealClearPolitics and an exclusive interview with The Independent. His privatization pitch—he prefers the euphemisms "rationalizing and restructuring"—is not new. As the newspaper noted, "It was a strategy he put forward once before to the White House, where it received the backing of Steve Bannon, then Mr. Trump's chief strategist, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner."...
So the labour shortage runs on, frightening and out of control, with journalists trying to build it into some kind of nightmare scenario. There is a “crab crisis” in the Chesapeake Bay region. There’s no one to harvest the strawberries in Ohio. A beloved bakery outside Denver has closed. Plans for a retirement community near Tucson, Arizona, have been cancelled. Managers and officials alike demand that the government furnish them with the cheap workforce to which they are accustomed.
The textbook solution to the labour shortage problem – paying workers more – rarely merits more than a line or two, if it’s mentioned at all. So unwilling are business leaders to talk about or consider this obvious answer that Neel Kashkari, the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, scolded them last year: “If you’re not raising wages, then it just sounds like whining.”
When the necessity of higher wages is acknowledged, however, it only seems to crank the whining to a higher pitch. Take for instance the Washington Post’s front-page panic attack: “Trucker shortage poses economic threat”. Here the problem of trucks sitting idle for lack of drivers is compounded by the even more infernal possibility that those drivers, when they finally do show up, might be in a position to bargain for better pay, a prospect described as “perilous” because it could drive up prices “so quickly that the country faces uncontrolled inflation, which can easily lead to a recession”.
The left-leaning economist Dean Baker immediately pointed out what an outrageous exaggeration this is: even if truckers were to win a huge pay increase it would only amount to a tiny fraction of US GDP – and guess what, they’re not getting such a windfall. Adjusted for inflation, trucker wages are still well below their peak. Still, it is hard to miss the point of the labour-shortage panic: affluent America is terrified by the prospect of increased bargaining power for working people...
Justice Matters PROBLEMS: Political Judges and States Attorneys, too little enforcement of anti-trust laws and white-collar crimes, over-prosecution of the poor OPED: Commute death sentences and allow assisted suicide.