Last updated: Friday, July 20, 2018, 9:43 AM
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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
"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."...

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
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....
Nick Breeze | The Ecologist
IEA warns of 'worrying trend' as global investment in renewables falls [Trump and Republicans immoral prostitution for fossil energy governments and Billionaires is succeeding at a high cost to life on Earth—this must be stopped]
Fossil fuels increased share of energy supply investment last year – the first time since 2014
Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
They’re not just for sightseeing anymore.

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....

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

Reuters reported 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."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


"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."
Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
California Democrats' Dianne Feinstein snub sends a strong signal to liberal candidates nationwide [studiously avoids mention of neoliberal corruption from corporate 'donation' bribes]
Democrats are overdue for a generational changing of the guard, but so far party leadership has refused to step aside.
Miles Howard | NBC News' THINK
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.
Ben Knight | Deutsche Welle
Trump's trip to Europe was a catastrophe, but will anything actually change so long as Republicans continue to bow and normalize Trump?
Jon Queally, staff writer | Common Dreams
How the poor became an alien population

....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?....

Kim Phillips-Fein | The Baffler
"We urge Congressman Coffman's Republican colleagues to follow his lead and sign the discharge petition to restore net neutrality. It's the right thing to do."
Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
Israel adopts controversial Jewish 'nation state' law [instead of making the one-state solution better they made it worse]
Law stipulates Jewish people have ‘exclusive right to national self-determination’ in Israel

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....

Reuters in Jerusalem | The Guardian
Israel has been occupying the West Bank since 1967 Middle East war, according to UN
Harriet Agerholm | Independent
From Europe to Asia, Trump is destroying alliances with democracies, while making friends with authoritarian leaders
16 July 2021 –

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....

Michael H Fuchs | The Guardian

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
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."...

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
Business chiefs moan about vacant jobs going unfilled and how it threatens the economy – so why don’t they just pay more?

....Blame for the labour shortage is sprayed all over the US map: opioids are said to be the problem. And welfare, and inadequate parking spaces, and a falling birthrate, and mass incarceration, and – above all – the Trump administration’s immigration policies. But no one really knows for sure.

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...

Thomas Frank | The Guardian
Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announces that 12 individuals have been charged as part of the investigation into Russian interference
Jon Swaine and Andrew Roth | The Guardian

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