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Established 1973 — Last updated: Monday, November 24, 2014, 8:30 AM
Policy, Practice & Analysis
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.]
The Republicans are not interested in improving any provisions of the Affordable Care Act. They are bent on its destruction.
THE EDITORIAL BOARD | The New York Times
I participated in the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week and learned a new phrase: “a black elephant.” A black elephant, explained the London-based investor and environmentalist Adam Sweidan, is a cross between “a black swan” (an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications) and the “elephant in the room” (a problem that is visible to everyone, yet no one still wants to address it) even though we know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences.

“Currently,” said Sweidan, “there are a herd of environmental black elephants gathering out there” — global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, mass extinction and massive fresh water pollution. “When they hit, we’ll claim they were black swans no one could have predicted, but, in fact, they are black elephants, very visible right now.” We’re just not dealing with them at the scale necessary. If they all stampede at once, watch out.

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN's OP-ED | The New York Times
NRG, which built a leading electricity business from coal and other conventional power plants, is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, the company said on Thursday.

“The power industry is the biggest part of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has the potential to be an even bigger part of the solution,” Mr. Crane, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview before the announcement.

DIANE CARDWELL | The New York Times
The Nature and Wellbeing Act could do for the natural world what the Climate Change Act did for curbing emissions – provide a crucial safeguard against attacks by industries and corporate politicians on environmental regulations
George Monbiot | The Guardian
‘Negative emissions’ are needed globally by second half of century to stave off dangerous climate change, say UN scientists
By 2100, all greenhouse gas emissions – including methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, as well as CO2 – must fall to zero, the United Nationals Environment Programme (Unep) report says, or the world will face what Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists have described as “severe, widespread and irreversible” effects from climate change.
Arthur Neslen | The Guardian
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, said that the recent agreement of EU leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 provided a chance to reject the politics of division. He said: “In the UK, we may be experiencing the politics of division – whether from the Scottish Nationalists or Ukip. And our TV screens may be full of conflicts from Syria to Ukraine. Yet, remarkably, climate politics is experiencing a quiet but steady recognition of our common goals and shared interests.
Damian Carrington and Nicholas Watt | The Guardian

Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | The Atlantic | Ref.
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.
["We're dismayed he isn't making a $Million/yr." —Baltimore Chronicle]
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
  • Equipment form St Louis Police Department's stash was revealed
  • Police force was involved in controlling demonstrations in Ferguson
  • Gear included grenade launchers and military-style helicopters
  • Also had armored vehicles, riot shields and conventional firearms
KIERAN CORCORAN | Mail Online
It’s difficult for me to judge the legality of Obama’s executive action, because I’m not an expert on legal issues like prosecutorial discretion. But neither are critics furious at Obama. We have a broken, byzantine immigration system — anybody who deals with it is staggered by the chaos — because politicians are too craven to reform it. At least Obama is attempting to modernize it.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF's OP-ED | The New York Times
The United States of Thanksgiving [Interactive: click '+' sign for full recipes]
We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours.
Demonstrations in nearly 100 cities will follow Officer Darren Wilson's grand jury announcement.
ADAM CHANDLER | The Atlantic
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure through a cyber attack, the head of the National Security Agency told a Congressional panel Thursday. [Don't worry its just infrastructure, so Republicans won't do anything for the usual irrational reasons]
Jamie Crawford | CNN
Senators, mostly Republicans warning of leaving the country exposed to terrorist threat, voted to beat back the USA Freedom Act
Spencer Ackerman | The Guardian
Coalition of Republicans and Democrats fell just one vote short of 60 needed for controversial bill to pass, despite GOP pledge to take up legislation in January
Dan Roberts | The Guardian
So who's #1? Not us. We came in second to Italy. But that's not too bad! We're pretty damn ignorant, and with a little less effort we might take the top spot next year. Still, even though Germans and Swedes may feel smug about their knowledge of demographic facts, can they launch pointless wars in the Middle East whenever they feel like it? No they can't. So there.
Kevin Drum | Mother Jones
Watching the battle between Obama and a Republican Congress for two years may shake Americans' faith in the Framers.
GARRETT EPPS | The Atlantic
The cautious Clinton of 2008 is back—and that shows why it's so essential she face a Democratic challenger in 2016.
PETER BEINART | The Atlantic




Letters to the Editor
Readers | Ongoing

Many of our traits and decisions are shaped by our ancestors, author says.
In her early 20s, Christine Kenneally discovered something about her Australian forebears that upended her sense of identity and family history. In her new book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures, she explores the power of DNA to reveal secrets in our past and predict our future.
Simon Worrall | National Geographic
If there’s one way to summarize Zephyr Teachout’s extraordinary book Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United, it is that today we are living in Benjamin Franklin’s dystopia.
Matt Stoller | Naked Capitalism
Most far-reaching aspect of executive action involves giving undocumented migrants who are parents of US citizens the chance to come out of the shadows
Paul Lewis | The Guardian
The report points out that the estimated 1.38 million Syrians who live outside the government-run refugee camps struggle to secure a minimum of social and economic rights, such as education, housing and healthcare. Many families live in abject poverty, often in unsanitary, even dangerous, housing conditions. According to the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), only 15% of refugees outside of camps receive humanitarian aid.
Damian Carrington and Nicholas Watt | The Guardian
Most murders don't even make the front page in Mexico anymore. But the recent abduction of 43 students has infuriated the country. The story has exposed the tight relationship between politics, law enforcement and organized crime. And it shows how weak the state has become.
Marian Blasberg and Jens Glüsing | Der Spiegel
Chaos, disillusionment and oppression provide the perfect conditions for Islamic State. Currently, the Islamist extremists are expanding from Syria and Iraq into North Africa. Several local groups have pledged their allegiance.
Mirco Keilberth, Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Christoph Reuter | Der Spiegel
Berlin has begun to see Moscow as an adversary rather than as a potential partner. The German government is concerned about efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase his influence in the Balkans. Stopping him, however, could prove difficult.
In the course of this coming civil war in the West Bank, Israeli squatter organizations would seek to repeat the Stern Gang’s achievements in 1947-48 of making the Palestinian population flee its homes for Jordan.
Juan Cole | Informed Comment

....What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

But that isn’t going to happen, partly because, as a nation, we aren’t really that cruel; partly because that kind of crackdown would require something approaching police-state rule; and, largely, I’m sorry to say, because Congress doesn’t want to spend the money that such a plan would require. In practice, undocumented children and the undocumented parents of legal children aren’t going anywhere.

PAUL KRUGMAN's OP-ED | The New York Times
Two of Iceland's most senior former bankers have been jailed for making reckless business loans, following investigations stemming from the collapse of the country's banks in 2008. [Nice to see some countries know how to treat rich crooks in suits.]
Corporations pay low taxes in Luxembourg. As prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker carried partial blame for this policy. Politicians in Brussels have maneuvered to save him from the scandal, but the case has cast light on Europe's tax-dumping problem.
Until recently, Cosby’s nostalgic pull helped relegate sexual assault allegations to the realm of rumour. It was only when men began to speak out that the world took notice
Lindy West | The Guardian
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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Several dozen Americans earn annual incomes of $1 billion or more. But they do not show up in the top 400 reports because Congress does not require them to report their full incomes or pay taxes immediately.
David Cay Johnston | Al Jazeera America
This Elizabeth Warren grilling of New York Fed William Dudley over the revelations in tapes made by ex-New York Fed employee Carmen Segarra, is a bit more Socratic than her normal approach, presumably because she has more than the typical five minutes for questions. Don’t be deceived by her pacing.

Warren goes after a derivatives transaction that Goldman did with Bank Santander to help the bank create the impression it had more capital than it did. What is appalling about the exchange is it revealed that the New York Fed’s general counsel Tom Baxter effectively pulled the supervisory team off the transaction by deeming it to be legal. But he never checked with the intended victim, the European Banking Authority, to see if it was kosher. Worse, Dudley acts as if this is all fine because the deal was public. In fact, the transaction was so complex that even Bloomberg’s house derivatives maven Matt Levine couldn’t puzzle it out.

Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism
“This piece is a well-argued evisceration of not just the New York Times reporting fail, but the far more important dereliction of duty of the New York Fed, and why it therefore needs to be stripped of its bank regulatory powers.”
– Yves Smith     
Bill Black | Naked Capitalism
Every state has laws regulating lobbying, but almost all of those laws apply to lobbying members of state legislatures, not attorneys general. For the most part, states never anticipated that their chief legal officers would be the subject of aggressive pressure from big businesses and special interests.

But that’s all changed now. Politics at all levels has become dominated by those with enough money to spend lavishly on electing public officials and then pushing them for favors. In a recent investigative report, Eric Lipton of The Times revealed that an entire industry has sprung up to lobby state attorneys general on behalf of companies that are under scrutiny, or that need special legal benefits from a state.

THE EDITORIAL BOARD | The New York Times
Elizabeth Warren tore into FHFA director Mel Watt over his failure to develop a program for Fannie and Freddie to provide principal modifications to underwater borrowers at risk of foreclosure. She also got in a dig for his failure to stop the agencies from pursuing deficiency judgments. That means going after former homeowners when the sale of the house they lost didn’t recoup enough to cover the mortgage balance. In the stone ages, when banks kept the mortgage loans they made, they never pursued deficiency judgements. They knew there was no point in trying to get blood from a turnip. Not surprisingly, the sadistic Fannie/Freddie policy has also proven to be spectacularly unproductive in financial terms. An FHFA inspector general study found that recoveries were less than 1/4 of 1% of the amount sought. Moreover, since those mortgage balances were often inflated by junk fees and other dubious costs, and mortgage servicers have done a poor job of maintain properties (they are too often stripped of copper and appliances, or get mold), any deficiency might be significantly or entirely the servicer’s fault.

Like most Warren performances, this one is worth watching, particularly when Mel Watt offers utterly unconvincing responses and Warren will have none of them. Here is a key part of the exchange:

Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism
While 49 state treasuries were submerged in red ink after the 2008 financial crash, one state’s bank outperformed all others and actually launched an economy-shifting new industry. So reports the Wall Street Journal this week, discussing the Bank of North Dakota (BND) and its striking success in the midst of a national financial collapse led by the major banks. Chester Dawson begins his November 16th article:
ELLEN BROWN | Web of Debt

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 a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.'s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

MARK MAZZETTI and CARL HULSE | The New York Times
 
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