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Established 1973 — Last updated: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 3:55 PM
 Important Policy and Practice News
Permanent Editorial?
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending as compared with the 2011 OECD per capita average, which becomes extra overhead on everything U.S. workers make—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's adopt more efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
2011 US per capita health care spending was $4390 more per person than in France (acclaimed as having the best healthcare) and $5169 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

[Sorry I didn't date this, which has been updated over time, my anger unrelenting. It was posted in early 2010. A similar editorial re. triple-play communication services is also much deserved, since all OECD countries pay much less.]
Medical team regrow cells of patient’s severed spine in breakthrough that offers hope to millions with disability
Ben Quinn and agencies | The Guardian
BU scientists have found lesions in the anterior temporal lobe of many retired football players’ brains, Dr. Ann McKee tells HBO’s “Real Sports” in a segment that will first air on Tuesday. That part of the brain is responsible for emotions and self-control. McKee said damage to that part of the brain may cause concussion victims to lose control over anger and other emotions. [Is there a link with violent criminals, generally? In which case, a medical procedure (implanting stem cells?) should be performed instead of imprisonment.]
MICHAEL O'KEEFFE | NY Daily News
Having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.
EDITORIAL | The New York Times
How genomics research can help contain the outbreak.
RICHARD PRESTON | The New Yorker
Data indicates 190% rise in land clearance in August and September compared with same period last year
Jonathan Watts | The Guardian
The west African outbreak has broken through the barriers of isolation and into the general population, both in the countryside and the cities, and it was up and running before public-health personnel cottoned on. There is no reason to expect it to subside of its own accord, nor to expect it to come under control in the absence of a far larger effort to stop it. Obama’s lead climate negotiator, Todd Stern, has given the clearest indication to date that America is pushing for an agreement with some elements of a full-scale, legally binding international treaty. But other key components of a global agreement would be more in line with a handshake deal among leaders.

The combo deal would allow America to join other countries in cutting carbon dioxide emissions but avoid having to obtain Senate ratification, which is generally acknowledged as politically impossible.

Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian
Britain and the US say inadequate international response to outbreak has allowed it to continue and worsen
Campaign organisers Market Forces and 350.org claim that the major banks have already lost $250m worth of business from customers in the past year due to their continued financing of fossil fuel projects. They estimate a further $200m will be stripped away on Saturday, deriving the figure from total assets including loans and insurance.
Oliver Milman | The Guardian
Boyan Slat is a 20-year-old on a mission - to rid the world's oceans of floating plastic. He has dedicated his teenage years to finding a way of collecting it. But can the system really work - and is there any point when so much new plastic waste is still flowing into the sea every day?
Vibeke Venema | BBC News

The cost of cancer drugs [13:52 60 Minutes' video]
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs

Dr. Peter Bach: Medicare has to pay exactly what the drug company charges. Whatever that number is.

Lesley Stahl: Wait a minute, this is a law?

Dr. Peter Bach: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: And there's no negotiating whatsoever with Medicare?

Dr. Peter Bach: No.

[All other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times | Ref.
Climate Change: Lines of Evidence [play chapters or all 28 minutes]
The National Research Council via YouTube | Ref.
A.C. THOMPSON and JONATHAN JONES in ProPublica | Ref.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us [long, print & study; 3:38 video]
Looking at real bills for real patients cuts through the ideological debate over health care policy.
STEVEN BRILL in Time Magazine | Ref.
Econ4 on Health Care [10:00 video]
the USA ranks first in the world in health care spending, but only 45th in life expectancy....
YVES SMITH comments in Naked Capitalism | Ref.
Climate change inaction is a leading global cause of death.
DARA | Ref.
If we had the per-person costs of any other OECD country, America’s deficits would vanish....
EZRA KLEIN in the Washington Post | Ref.
How Industry Money Reaches (aka 'bribes') Physicians
Special Report in Pro Publica | Ref.
To remove your appendix in one California hospital costs $180,000, at a different facility the bill is $1,500. [Who has time to shop?]
RYAN FLINN in Bloomberg | Ref.
SOURCE: Public Broadcasting System & ABC News | Ref.
SOURCE: The White House | Ref.
SOURCE: Slate Mag. | Ref.
SOURCE: The American Medical Student Association | Ref.
SOURCE: Readers | Ref.

In her campaign appearances, Warren talks about comprehensive immigration reform, support for same-sex marriage, the need to raise the minimum wage, abortion rights and contraception -- a list of red-button issues at which she jabs and pokes with enthusiasm.

The centerpiece, though, is her progressive analysis of how bad decisions in Washington have allowed powerful interests to re-engineer the financial system so that it serves the wealthy and well-connected, not the middle class.

On Sunday, Warren was in Des Moines, Iowa, campaigning for Democrat Bruce Braley, who faces Republican Joni Ernst in another of those tick-tight Senate races. It may be sheer coincidence that Warren chose the first-in-the-nation nominating caucus state to deliver what The Des Moines Register called a "passion-filled liberal[?] stemwinder."

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. "Here's the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely worked."

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to "fire the cops on Wall Street."

"They called it deregulation," Warren said, "but what it really meant was: Have at 'em, boys. They were saying, in effect, to the biggest financial institutions, any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits."

She went on to say that "Republicans, man, they ought to be wearing a T-shirt. ... The T-shirt should say, 'I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.'"

The core issue in all the Senate races, she said, is this: "Who does the government work for? Does it work just for millionaires, just for the billionaires, just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for the people?"

Eugene Robinson | Real Clear Politics
New research from Harvard shows a chilling rise in public mass shootings—and debunks a popular claim that they haven't increased.
Mark Follman | Mother Jones
It takes the perception of a crisis to make policymakers treat public health like a serious issue. Now that’s a tragedy
George Chidi | The Guardian
And the top 0.1 percent owns more than a fifth of all American wealth.
TIM FERNHOLZ | The Atlantic
Between 2010 and 2013, inflation-adjusted median home values fell by 4.6 percent for white households and 18.4 percent for African American households.
VALERIE WILSON | American Prospect
On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld Texas' harsh voter ID law. The state has been on the cutting edge of minority disenfranchisement since emancipation.
Erika Eichelberger | Mother Jones
There are more than 16,000 vacant homes in the city. Are they the solution to the long-standing housing crisis?
ALANA SEMUELS | The Atlantic
The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the race-based social engineering of the mid-20th century.
TA-NEHISI COATES | The Atlantic
Multilingualism has a whole slew of incredible side effects: Multi-linguals tend to score better on standardized tests, especially in math, reading, and vocabulary; they are better at remembering lists or sequences, likely from learning grammatical rules and vocabulary; they are more perceptive to their surroundings and therefore better at focusing in on important information while weeding out misleading information (it’s no surprise Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are skilled polyglots). And there’s certainly something to be said for the cultural pleasure of reading The Odyssey in ancient Greek or Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in French.
CODY C. DELISTRATY | The Atlantic
The first thing you notice about German apprenticeships: The employer and the employee still respect practical work. German firms don’t view dual training [both classroom and hands-on instruction] as something for struggling students or at-risk youth. “This has nothing to do with corporate social responsibility,” an HR manager at Deutsche Bank told the group I was with, organized by an offshoot of the Goethe Institute. “I do this because I need talent.” So too at Bosch.
TAMAR JACOBY | The Atlantic



Letters to the Editor
Readers | Ongoing

Farmers grew ‘unprecedented’ 209,000 hectares of opium poppy despite US spending $7.6bn on counter-narcotics efforts
Reuters | The Guardian
Turkey to facilitate passage of Kurdish peshmerga forces to help defend Syrian border town from Isis fighters
A last defense against genocide in the Central African Republic.
JON LEE ANDERSON | The New Yorker
Germany's foreign intelligence agency says its review of the crash of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukrainian has concluded it was brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk.
Marilynne Robinson’s new book, Lila, has been acclaimed by critics as “unflinching,” “an exquisite novel of spiritual redemption and love,” and “a book whose grandeur is found in its humility.”

She tells Moyers, “Democracy has been meant to remove the artificial constraints, poverty is the huge artificial constraint on human thought and action. In this country, there have been attempts to moderate that entrapment and we’ve abandoned that.”

Bill Moyers' interview | Moyers and company
What the Victorian computing pioneers can teach us about invention – and time travelling
Example: Charles Babbage did have a use for Ada Lovelace’s remarkable head, and their collaboration would lead to one of the founding documents in the history of computing. An Italian engineer had written an essay about Babbage’s machine and Lovelace (Lord Byron's daughter) translated the text into English. With Babbage’s encouragement, she added her own aphoristic commentary, stitched together from extended footnotes attached to the Italian paper.

Those footnotes would ultimately prove to be far more influential than the original text they annotated. They contained a series of elemental instruction sets that could be used to direct the calculations of the Analytical Engine. These are considered to be the first examples of working software ever published.

Steven Johnson | Financial Times
Six years after a forceful rescue of the financial system (and, derivatively, the economy) by two presidents and the Federal Reserve, a megarich individual and a battalion of investment funds are claiming unfair treatment and trying to extract billions in undeserved riches.

Call it by its proper name: extortion.

STEVEN RATTNER OPED | The New York Times
This post by Steven Horn shows that the typical terms of an oil and gas rights lease for American Energy Partners buries the lead, in that Steve needs to give the context of how the lease came to be public before he turns to explaining how the lease rips off the party who signs it. Among other things, it requires the homeowner to have any mortgage made subordinate to the royalty agreement, something no lender will agree to. If the homeowner can’t get the subordination (a given), no royalties will be paid! As you’ll see, there are other “heads I win, tails you lose” terms in these agreement.
—Yves Smith    
Steve Horn | Naked Capitalism
Stand-your-ground statutes benefit whites more than blacks, are unnecessary and cause minority men to live in fear, several experts said Friday to the US civil rights commission as it evaluates racial disparities in the laws.
Associated Press via | The Guardian
Unprofessional journalists are critiqued.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
The EPA's report notes that in recent years, US farmers have been planting on average 76 million acres of soybeans each season. Of those acres, an average 31 percent are planted in seeds treated with neonics—that is, farmers buy treated seeds, which suffuse the soybean plants with the chemical as they grow. So that's about 24 million acres of neonic-treated seeds—an area equal in size to the state of Indiana. Why would farmers pay up for a seed treatment that doesn't do them any good, yet may be doing considerable harm to pollinators and birds? The EPA report has insights: "data from researchers and extension experts ... indicate that some growers currently have some difficulty obtaining untreated seed." The report points to one small poll that found 45 percent of respondents reported finding non-treated seeds "difficult to obtain" or "not available."
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones
A boon for agrichemical sales, but not so great for the environment
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones
No other politician is more cozy with K Street than Mitch.
Andy Kroll and Katie Rose Quandt | Mother Jones
Over the last year, New Jersey politics has been roiled by revelations that state contracts have been given to firms whose employees have made major contributions to Republican groups backing Governor Christie's election campaigns. That has included contributions from employees of Wall Street firms hired by Christie's State Investment Council to manage pension money. It has also included contributions from employees of firms receiving tax subsidies from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is run by Christie appointees.

The legislation that passed the State Senate's Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation committee Thursday was sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat. It would prohibit a corporation and its executives from making campaign contributions to any public official or candidate if that corporation is receiving more than $25,000 worth of tax subsidies from New Jersey. Violators of the proposed law could be made to pay a penalty up to the total value of the subsidies they are receiving.

Amazon’s ambitions are monopolistic, and they’ve already gone a long way towards achieving that ambition in a large number of markets. They regularly engage in predatory pricing to crush competitors and gain market share. Their dominant position then allows them to chose how to extract more profit, which is usually a combination of squeezing suppliers and raising prices.

Antitrust has become close to a dead letter in the US. Amazon makes for a worthy object for reviving it.

—Yves Smith    
As much as readers may already have an intuitive grasp of the story told in this post, data can help define its contours better. Here we see that the rising tide of global growth has not lifted all boats. The gains of the once-poor in China and India have come at the expense of the what used to be the middle class in more developed countries. Reducing poverty has not been a zero sum game. This post also omits another key piece: the rise and rise of an uber-wealthy class.
—Yves Smith    
Leith van Onselen | Naked Capitalism

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.
In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important suppressed news and opinion.
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