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Last updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018, 9:28 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.
Guernsey’s bill to allow terminally ill people the right to medical help to die shows Westminster the way

Guernsey is an unlikely pioneer, but it might be the first place to break Britain’s last great taboo – the right to die peacefully at a time of your own choosing. The island’s parliament votes in May on an assisted dying bill, allowing terminally ill people the right to medical help to die, so long as they have only six months to live and are mentally competent. This may succeed, with the support of the island’s chief minister, Gavin St Pier.

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK under the Suicide Act of 1961, punishable with a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Attempts to change the law at Westminster have been thwarted despite overwhelming public support, 82% in the latest poll. But religious objectors have blocked it time and again, with both Houses curiously packed with a disproportionate number of believers in this mostly atheistic country.

....Anti-right to die campaigners claim that families would intimidate inconvenient old folk into signing their own death warrants to save nursing home fees. But cost is inevitably a part of the reason why we need this law: people receiving a diagnosis of dementia not only fear for themselves, but fear their savings will be wasted on nursing home fees to pointlessly prolong their lives.

Hard truths will not be faced. How do we pay for the massive increase in care for those with dementia?

Dementia is now the leading cause of death, the first time it has caused more deaths than heart disease. That stark fact should frighten us all, as the worst possible death is now the most likely. St Joseph, patron saint of the “good death”, who died of natural causes with Jesus and Mary at his side, will be working overtime: tradition does not record if he still had all his marbles. But the good death is what everyone wants: the right to choose it is as basic as all the other hard-earned freedoms we have over our own bodies.

A new study says that even in the ‘unrealistic’ event of a total halt to the flow of agricultural chemicals the damage will persist for 30 years

The enormous “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico will take decades to recover even if the flow of farming chemicals that is causing the damage is completely halted, new research has warned.

Intensive agriculture near the Mississippi has led to fertilizers leeching into the river, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico, via soils and waterways. This has resulted in a huge oxygen-deprived dead zone in the Gulf that is now at its largest ever extent, covering an area greater than the state of New Jersey.

A new study has found that even if runoff of nitrogen, a fertilizer chemical, was fully stemmed, the Gulf would take about 30 years to recover. Even this scenario is “not only considered unrealistic, but also inherently unsustainable”, researchers stated in the work, published in Science.

Mining for lignite - or brown coal - in Greece is a huge industry. Together with Germany and Poland, the country accounts for more than one-third of the world’s coal production. But for residents of villages in the extraction areas of West Macedonia, it has many impacts, from displacement to health problems.

....Greece, along with Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic accounts for over a third of the world’s coal production. However, coal is among the worst sources of toxic air pollutants globally. In 2012 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 7 million people died as a result of exposure to air pollution. In Europe, each death attributable to such exposure occurs prematurely by an estimated 11 years.

In a letter to the Greek Ministry of Heath, the deputy regional health manager wrote that seven out of 10 deaths in Ptolemaida are related to cancer or thromboembolic disease (stroke, stroke, pulmonary embolism). Cancer cases have risen by 16% since 1950, and the number currently stands at 30.5%. Life expectancy in the region has been falling.

Photographs and research by Anna Pantelia | The Guardian
EU’s subsidy system, that benefits big farming rather than sustainability, needs to change to prevent ongoing collapse in birds and insect numbers, warn green groups

Europe’s crisis of collapsing bird and insect numbers will worsen further over the next decade because the EU is in a “state of denial” over destructive farming practices, environmental groups are warning.

European agriculture ministers are pushing for a new common agriculture policy from 2021 to 2028 which maintains generous subsidies for big farmers and ineffectual or even “fake” environmental or “greening” measures, they say.

In a week when two new studies revealed drastic declines in French farmland birds – a pattern repeated across Europe – the EU presidency claimed that the CAP continued to provide safe food while defending farmers and “protecting the environment”.

“The whole system is in a state of denial,” said Ariel Brunner, head of policy at Birdlife Europe. “Most agriculture ministers across Europe are just pushing for business as usual. The message is, keep the subsidies flowing.”

Farm subsidies devour 38% of the EU budget and 80% of the subsidies go to just 20% of farmers, via “basic payments” which hand European landowners £39bn each year.

Because these payments are simply related to land area, big farmers receive more, can invest in more efficient food production – removing hedgerows to enlarge fields for instance – and put smaller, less intensive farmers out of business. France lost a quarter of its farm labourers in the first decade of the 20th century, while its average farm size continues to rise.

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, the Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all and give women full equal rights, pay and opportunities

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

THE BATTLE FOR PARADISE [renewable energy is obviously essential for rebuilding]
Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island
California judge William Alsup put out a list of questions for a climate change ‘tutorial’ in a global warming case
Group of campaigners arrested after spray painting mayor’s offices as part of a series of direct action protests over of the capital’s illegal air pollution
Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, because insects they feed on have been poisoned
Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
More than a million viewers watch online as Sanders joins likes of Michael Moore and Elizabeth Warren to talk poverty
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


After the massacre at our high school, our lives have changed forever – so we’re proposing these changes to halt mass shootings
The editorial staff of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Eagle Eye | The Guardian
Crooked Together: Two Equally Corrupt Parties Bent In Different Directions [the Sanders-Warren progressives are the standout exceptions]

....Where Republicans use tax policies and privatization to stab us in the heart, Democrats leverage monetary policies and bilateral/multilateral treaties to stick a shiv in our spines—the end result is the death of the American dream. Both parties are bleeding our resources and suffocating our hopes. Instead of realizing this reality and rising up to reclaim our government, we keep falling for the bamboozle of the politico-media complex. Politicians, pundits and media personalities alike have us fighting among each other and conditioning us like Pavlov’s dog to bark the minute they throw red meat at us. It is at once comical and maddening to see otherwise rational people turn themselves into human pretzels in order to stay true to their political ideologies.

Voltaire once said that it is hard to free fools from the chains they adore. But even he could not have imagined a day where liberals who were once peaceniks are now parroting Joseph McCarthy and demanding a confrontation with Russia that could lead to a nuclear war. Likewise, conservatives who once made a show of their piety and espoused morality are now prostrating themselves before a man who was twice divorced, makes weird sexual comments about his own daughter and cheated on his current wife less than a year after she had his son. The hardest thing to do in this world is to admit you were wrong; this is why liberals and conservatives alike would rather adore their chains instead of saying they got duped.

"We need a healthcare system that puts patients first—not insurance companies."

Acknowledging that Medicare for All must be the end goal for an ultra-wealthy nation in which tens of thousands die each year due to lack of health insurance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at making immediate fixes to the current system to protect consumers from the "nasty tricks" of the private insurance industry, lower prescription drug costs, and shield low-income families from premium hikes.

"We need Medicare for All—and until we get it, there's no reason private insurers can't provide coverage that lives up to the high standards of our public health care programs."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren"

So long as private health insurance exists, there is no reason to allow our health care to be held hostage by insurance companies that refuse to do better," Warren said in a statement unveiled alongside her legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). "Our bill will hold them accountable while significantly improving access to healthcare for millions of Americans."

Warren summarized the main objectives of her bill—titled the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act (pdf)—in a video published on Twitter Wednesday:

Mulvaney’s decision allowed the Department of Labor to knowingly omit data that would harm tip-based workers

In a move that threatens to take hundreds of millions of dollars from American workers who rely on tips to make a living, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney sided with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and overruled the White House regulatory affairs chief by releasing a contentious rule about tip-pooling and knowingly withholding accurate data.

The rule, which has been pushed by the Department of Labor in recent months, would legally allow employers to profit off workers' tips — collectively pocketing an estimated $640 million more for employers — so long as the workers are at least paid the federal minimum wage. The Economic Policy institute, a progressive think tank, estimated that the real total employers could pocket could be as high as $5.8 billion.

"This is dangerous news for the country and the world. I hear the drumbeats of war."
Theresa May’s transition deal hints at the best option: remaining in the single market – plus the customs union

....The smart money in Brussels was always on the Norway option. The so-called European Economic Area was a simple “off-the-shelf” basis for a bespoke deal with the UK. The challenge lay not in negotiating it but in overcoming Theresa May’s belief that her fate depended on some 50 backbench leavers and the editors of the Sun and the Daily Mail. She was terrified of them.

Even so, the assumption was that, as the March 2019 deadline approached and the impossibility of a “frictionless” hard Brexit became ever clearer, Theresa May would be forced into a series of tactical retreats. The tough Lancaster House and Florence speeches, and Chequers last month, were dollops of fudge to keep hard Brexiteers on board. But this week’s transition deal would mark a parting of the ways. So it has appeared. The sight of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and assorted friends shuffling miserably into line, whimpering over dead fish, was heart-warming. So in a sense has been May’s and Johnson’s distraction over Russian poison, hysterically comparing Vladimir Putin to Stalin and Hitler.

A detailed analysis of the Norway option in last month’s Economist was unequivocally favourable. Norway in 1994 went through the same referendum debate as Britain, with the same drift towards compromise. The country remained in the European Free Trade Association (Efta). It stayed open to a single European market in goods, capital and labour, but it held aloof from the common fisheries and agriculture policies. Norway also stayed outside the EU customs union, to secure its own trade deals elsewhere. It is hard to see what substantive argument a Brexiter could have against this.

Norway fiercely denies it is a “vassal state”. It is rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the “most democratic” in the world. It must abide by EU rules on trade in goods within the EU. But so must EU members, who can be overruled by majority voting. On matters of joint concern, such as energy, Norway is consulted and heard. Its lobbying office next to the Berlaymont building is more effective than any council vote. As for the European court, the Efta court liaises with it and is rarely in conflict.

The evil genius of Cambridge Analytica was to exploit those we trust most [the sociopathic modus operandi of The Trump Organization and Cambridge Analytica are suspiciously identical]
We trust our friends far more than any institution – a vulnerability Cambridge Analytica exploited via Facebook. But we won’t be so trusting again

....As the now-suspended CEO, Alexander Nix, put it so well: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”

In his snooty British accent, Nix is only saying – and converting into highly effective digital marketing – what Trump has long believed: lies don’t matter as long as they’re believed.

So while it might seem grandiose for Nix to boast that he played a central role in getting Trump elected, he also identifies several key truths that Trump supporters may refuse to believe.

First, the use of posts from fake activist groups that blur the lines between a campaign and outside groups. “This stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable,” Nix helpfully explained to undercover reporters.

Election laws will surely change as a result of Nix’s bragging and Facebook’s arrogant and inept response to this snowballing scandal. Nobody could get away with such brazenly political manipulation in TV ads. Why should they do so on Facebook or any other part of the web?

Michael Isikoff and David Corn lay bare the evidence that Trump and Putin have been striving to collaborate for years
If even oil companies accept human-caused global warming, why doesn’t everybody?
Deniers still want to debate the science of climate change

Deniers filed briefs in support of the defense, but they contradicted Chevron’s tutorial. For example, one brief filed by a group led by Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon began by stating, “The “consensus” about global warming is 0.3%, not 97%” (this is obviously incorrect). Another brief filed by William Happer, Steve Koonin, and Richard Lindzen argued that “It is not possible to tell how much of the modest recent warming can be ascribed to human influences.” Chevron and the IPCC disagree.

While it’s normal for climate deniers to deny the 97% expert consensus that humans are driving global warming, those submitting briefs on behalf of Big Oil were clearly not on the same page as its lawyer. Perhaps the oil companies should have sent the deniers a memo to stay out of this case. Clearly these groups are accustomed to denying climate science on the oil industry’s behalf.

Two-faced oil companies

The judge mandated that those submitting briefs detail their funding sources, and they listed a litany of oil companies and fossil fuel-funded think tanks. Among those listed by Monckton and Soon’s group were ExxonMobil, the Heartland Institute, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation. Among those listed by Happer, Koonin, and Lindzen were the Heritage Foundation, Peabody Coal, the Cato Institute, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

It’s a perfect example of the oil industry’s two-faced behavior. For decades their own scientists quietly published peer-reviewed research concluding that humans are causing global warming. That was the face we saw from Chevron’s lawyer. But at the same time, oil companies were funding contrarian scientists and think tanks to spread denial and doubt about that same science. That was the face revealed in the denier briefs.

The rights group said selling weapons to Saudis had a devastating effect on civilians in Yemen. Germany announced it would not backtrack on the sale of patrol boats to Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International (AI) slammed the United States and Britain on Friday for their continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been militarily engaged in neighboring Yemen's three-year civil war.

The rights group said the arms sales have been an "enormous harm to Yemeni civilians" over the course of the war, adding that all of the warring factions, including the Houthi rebels backed by Iran, have violated international law.

The Houthis have been battling the internationally recognized government that is allied with the Saudi-led military coalition. Shortly after the Houthis seized control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, the Saudi-led coalition began an aerial bombing campaign against the rebel forces.

"Three years on, Yemen's conflict shows no real signs of abating, and all sides continue to inflict horrific suffering on the civilian population," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East research director. "Schools and hospitals lie in ruins, thousands have lost their lives and millions are displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid.

"But this has not deterred the USA, the UK and other states, including France, Spain and Italy, from continuing transfers of billions of dollars' worth of such arms," Maalouf added. "As well as devastating civilian lives, this makes a mockery of the global Arms Trade Treaty."

bik/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa) | Deutsche Welle

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