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Established 1973 — Last updated: Friday, April 29, 2016, 8:41 AM
Aggregated news of who we are and might become
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 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"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

The European Commission has shelved a legal opinion confirming that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) produced through gene-editing and other new techniques fall under EU GMO law, following pressure from the US government. A series of internal Commission documents obtained under freedom of information rules reveal intense lobbying by US representatives for the EU to disregard its GMO rules, which require safety testing and labelling.

The documents show that US pressure is focussed on potential barriers to trade from the application of EU GMO law. They suggest that the EU should ignore health and environmental safeguards on GMOs to pave the way for a transatlantic trade agreement.

This briefing exposes lobbying by the US government during a crucial period, at the end of 2015, as revealed in pre-meeting briefings and correspondence released by the Commission.

No wonder why Obama took a clear position in favor of TTIP prior to the beginning of the next round of TTIP negotiations on 25 April 2016 in New York. From PressTV:

President Barack Obama says the United States and the European Union (EU) need to press ahead with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) despite widespread opposition.
 
Angela and I agree that the United States and the European Union need to keep moving forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations,” Obama said Sunday [24/4] after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 
Speaking in a joint press conference with Merkel in the German city of Hannover, Obama added that the controversial trade pact’s benefits for the US economy were “indisputable.”
Corporate Europe Observatory | Failed Evolution

Even small amounts of air pollution may lead pregnant women to give birth prematurely, leaving their newborns at risk for life-long neurological and respiratory disorders, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins University.

Meredith Cohn | The Baltimore Sun
Oscar winner cooks up cake-themed sortie on land leased by energy firm Cuadrilla – sparking a farmer’s retaliatory dirty protest of his own
‘I’ve been aware of this issue for a while with my work with Greenpeace’ ... Emma Thompson during a peaceful protest this week. Photograph: John Cobb/Greenpeace/PA
‘I’ve been aware of this issue for a while with my work with Greenpeace’ ... Emma Thompson during a peaceful protest this week. Photograph: John Cobb/Greenpeace/PA

“I’ve been aware of this issue for a while with my work with Greenpeace, and it came to a head for me when David Cameron went to the Paris climate conference and signed on to the protocol and then on the sly at Christmas, when nobody was looking, gave the nod to 200 fracking sites in Britain,” the actor said. “It proved to me our Government is saying one thing and doing the opposite.”

Emma and her sister Sophie baked energy-themed cakes in a marquee created by Greenpeace and have released a series of videos detailing their work. A full episode of the show they have created will be released later today, 28 April.

The farmer who leases the land, at Preston New Road on the Fylde, near Blackpool, drove a muck spreader past the makeshift studio – hitting many of the crew with liquid manure. Police arrived but made no arrests.

Benjamin Lee | The Guardian
Dong, biggest single investor in UK offshore wind, says profits from its renewables overtaking oil and gas receipts
Dong Energy’s Mersey windfarm, Burbo Bank, which can generate up to 90MW of electricity. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Dong Energy’s Mersey windfarm, Burbo Bank, which can generate up to 90MW of electricity. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Dong, the biggest single investor in UK offshore wind projects, including the huge London Array windfarm off Kent, reported first-quarter profits of Kr 8bn (£836m), a sum that was up 35% on the same period last year.

Henrik Poulsen, Dong’s chief executive, said the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy was gathering speed with no more spending planned for new oil projects not already begun.

Terry Macalister | The Guardian
Air purifying technology may be a sticking plaster for China’s pollution but is it better than nothing for the country’s chronic problem?
Beijing’s chronic pollution problem has spurred companies to develop hi-tech products for the market. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Beijing’s chronic pollution problem has spurred companies to develop hi-tech products for the market. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Jamie Fullerton | The Guardian
Major UN report warns heat stress suffered by factory and field workers will devastate health and reduce productivity
Road markings appear distorted during a heatwave in New Delhi, India, May 2015. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA
Road markings appear distorted during a heatwave in New Delhi, India, May 2015. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA
Arthur Neslen | The Guardian
A disused office in The Hague has been revamped as a sprawling rooftop greenhouse, with a fish farm operating on the floor below. Are we entering a new age of urban agriculture?
‘It’s sometimes said that city children think tomatoes grow in the supermarket’ ... the UrbanFarmers greenhouse atop an abandoned Philips office building in The Hague.
‘It’s sometimes said that city children think tomatoes grow in the supermarket’ ... the UrbanFarmers greenhouse atop an abandoned Philips office building in The Hague.
‘It’s sometimes said that city children think tomatoes grow in the supermarket’ ... the UrbanFarmers greenhouse atop an abandoned Philips office building in The Hague.
UrbanFarmers’ greenhouse is ‘an example of cities reconnecting with food’, says Jan Willem van der Schans. Photograph: space & matter
Senay Boztas | The Guardian
With only 10% of Chinese firms carrying out sustainability initiatives, the country’s business sector will need to act quickly if China is to meet its emissions target
A young woman stands amid heavy smog in Tiananmen Square, after the city issued its first ever “red alert” for air pollution in December, 2015. Severe air and water pollution in China is being linked to an increase in cases of cancer and other serious health problems. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
A young woman stands amid heavy smog in Tiananmen Square, after the city issued its first ever “red alert” for air pollution in December, 2015. Severe air and water pollution in China is being linked to an increase in cases of cancer and other serious health problems. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Ralph Jennings | The Guardian
  • 30 years since Chernobyl may seem like a long time, but it’s really just the start
  • Below reactor’s ruins is a 2,000-ton radioactive mass that can’t be removed
  • How do you protect a site for as long a time as Western civilization has existed?
The bumper cars were scheduled to be turned on May 1, 1986, for the Soviet May Day celebrations in Pripyat, Ukraine. That was, however, about a week after the Chernobyl disaster and evacuation of the community. Photo credit: Claudia Himmelreich / McClatchy
The bumper cars were scheduled to be turned on May 1, 1986, for the Soviet May Day celebrations in Pripyat, Ukraine. That was, however, about a week after the Chernobyl disaster and evacuation of the community. Photo credit: Claudia Himmelreich / McClatchy
MATTHEW SCHOFIELD | Miami Herald

Reference:

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref.
Phys.org | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
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 | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | 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 ignored news and opinion.
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Battle lines appear drawn for general election as Republican frontrunner says Democrat has nothing going for her except ‘the woman’s card’

Speaking at Trump Tower in New York, he said witheringly: “I think the only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is women don’t like her, OK?”

Mary Pat Christie, the wife of former Republican candidate Chris Christie, who was standing behind Trump as he mocked Clinton, appeared to roll her eyes. Her seemingly disdainful reaction immediately went viral on social media.

Trump, who less than a year ago had no experience in politics, continued one of the most astounding campaigns of modern times by sweeping five states in the north-east. Clinton, bidding to become America’s first female president, won the contests in Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with rival Bernie Sanders picking up only Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union.

David Smith, Lauren Gambino, Ben Jacobs and Sabrina Siddiqui | The Guardian
Americans line up behind Democrats and Republicans so the race doesn’t end up decided by Congress. With a few policy tweaks, we could have a lot more options
James Nevius | The Guardian
It’s not just about pipes. And not just about a city in Michigan.

Flint's water crisis has become a symbol that resonates across America—but a symbol of what? Of working-class decline? Disregard for a majority-black population? Bloated government? The push to cut and privatize public services? Even as Flint became front-page news and federal water safety protocols were exposed to be laughable, the Obama administration proposed slashing a quarter of a billion dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency's testing budget to help meet spending cuts imposed by Congress. Experts warn there are many other cities—Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Newark, New Jersey, for instance—with water that is as bad or worse.

Is Flint an outlier or a harbinger of a Mad Max future of crumbling roads, joblessness, and poisoned water? One thing is for sure: The rage felt by the residents of Flint is little different from the rage felt in other quarters of America—the feeling that you're losing ground, that the deck is stacked against you and the people on top don't give a damn.

"I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything," Hernandez says. "But it makes me wonder if it's not intentional. This community, we don't have a voice. Nobody listens to the poor people that are, you know, barely making it."

Charlie LeDuff; Photographs by Zackary Canepari | Mother Jones
How Can the U.S. End Homelessness? [Make use of abandoned houses using eminent domain to provide the homeless with fixed addresses, greater safety and health]
Giving people access to support services and a place to stay can reduce the number of those living on the streets. But can that be done affordably?
ALANA SEMUELS | The Atlantic
Critics of a $15 min. wage say that it will increase prices & put companies out of business. Only one problem...
DAVID DAYEN | Salon
Entering the workforce during an economic downturn, millennials make about 20% less than the generation before them and might never make up that gap
Jana Kasperkevic | The Guardian

....Sanders’s dominance among young voters has been almost complete: He has carried those younger than 30 in 20 of the 22 states with exit polls, faltering only in Alabama and Mississippi. Though it hasn’t received as much notice, Clinton has been equally dominant among older voters. She’s carried seniors 65 and older in every state with an exit poll except Vermont. And she’s won those aged 45-64 in 20 of the 22 states, losing them just in Vermont and New Hampshire. Measured by age, the most deeply divided group is those between age 30-44, who have mostly voted along geographical lines. They voted for Clinton in 12 states, all in the South, except for New York and Massachusetts; and voted for Sanders in 10 states, all of them outside the South.

RONALD BROWNSTEIN AND LEAH ASKARINAM | The Atlantic
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could win all five states that vote on Tuesday, including Pennsylvania and Maryland.
RUSSELL BERMAN | The Atlantic
A year after Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with police sparked protest, which vision for the future will win out?
CLARE FORAN | The Atlantic




In effect, the state curates truth. In doling out information, curators working at the behest of the state — a category that includes more than a few journalists — fashion narratives that may not be entirely accurate but that have the compensatory virtue of being expedient. In some instances, the aim of the narrative might be to obfuscate past mistakes, thereby sparing policymakers embarrassment. More commonly, the purpose is to facilitate the exercise of power along certain lines.

....No wonder the foreign policy establishment insists that the 28 pages remain secret; not only might the document challenge the state's preferred Sept. 11 narrative, but the demands for its declassification also call into question the establishment's very authority to control that narrative.

....the boat needs rocking. In the Middle East, the foreign policy establishment has made a hash of things. Indulging that establishment further serves no purpose other than to perpetuate folly. Releasing the 28 pages just might provide a first step toward real change.

Andrew Bacevich | LA Times
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
Syrian city’s last paediatrician among the dead, as UN envoy says ceasefire is now ‘barely alive’

Médecins Sans Frontières said at least 14 patients and staff, including three children, were among the dead. The Civil Defence rescue service put the total death toll at 30.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and pre-war commercial centre. It has been bitterly contested since 2012. Rebel groups control the eastern part but have been boxed in by government forces and are now linked to the surrounding area by a single narrow corridor to the north-west.

The observatory said in the past six days 84 civilians in Aleppo had been killed in government airstrikes and 49 civilians were killed in rebel shelling of government-held areas.

The attacks on both sides came as a two-month ceasefire agreed in February with US and Russian support was on Wednesday described by the UN as “barely alive”.

Ian Black and agencies | The Guardian
Over the years the state crackdown on women’s dress has become more of a show to placate the country’s hardline base. Our correspondent shares stories from her personal repertoire illustrating the point
An Iranian woman adjusts her head scarf while crossing a street in downtown Tehran, Iran. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/AP
An Iranian woman adjusts her head scarf while crossing a street in downtown Tehran, Iran. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/AP
Denise Hassanzade Ajiri | The Guardian
Refuge cities In a city where more than 60% of journeys are made by bike, a local community group is using cycling as a tool to integrate people from immigrant backgrounds into their new nation. Peter Walker pays a visit
A cyclist rides in the rain in Utrecht, where 60% of city centre journeys are made by bike. Photograph: Sait Izmit/Getty Images/Flickr Open
A cyclist rides in the rain in Utrecht, where 60% of city centre journeys are made by bike. Photograph: Sait Izmit/Getty Images/Flickr Open
Peter Walker | The Guardian
Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s [pressures for wider stupid war keep growing]
British MPs have voted down a plan to admit just 600 child refugees a year. With governments across the continent abdicating responsibility, this is an ethical catastrophe of historic proportions
Patrick Kingsley | The Guardian
Peers hope to win over Conservative MPs after voting to set a quota on total unaccompanied children allowed into UK
Anushka Asthana and Karen McVeigh | The Guardian
CEO of Greek yogurt giant, which sold more than $1.6bn worth of products last year, says 2,000 employees will receive shares in the company
Sam Thielman | The Guardian
Can China reboot its manufacturing industry—and the global economy—by replacing millions of workers with machines?

Despite the huge challenges, countless manufacturers in China are planning to transform their production processes using robotics and automation at an unprecedented scale. In some ways, they don’t really have a choice. Human labor in China is no longer as cheap as it once was, especially compared with labor in rival manufacturing hubs growing quickly in Asia.

The results of this effort will be felt globally. Almost a quarter of the world’s products are made in China today. If China can use robots and other advanced technologies to retool types of production never before automated, that might turn the country, now the world’s sweatshop, into a hub of high-tech innovation. Less clear, however, is how that would affect the millions of workers recruited to China’s booming factories.

Will Knight | MIT Technology Review
Venezuela announces two-day week as it battles energy crisis [solar- and wind-power can be a quick solution...]
Public sector staff to work only Mondays and Tuesdays for at least two weeks due to shortage president blames on drought

President Nicolás Maduro announced on Tuesday that the government was slashing working hours for at least two weeks in an attempt to save energy.

He said the water level behind the nation’s largest dam had fallen to near its minimum operating level thanks to a severe drought. Experts say lack of planning and maintenance is also to blame.

The country’s socialist administration gave nearly 3 million public workers Fridays off earlier this month, and on Monday initiated daily four-hour blackouts around the country.

Associated Press | The Guardian
Exclusive: Civilian deaths in Turkey up 7,682% in last year alone, according to report charting ‘steady and terrible increase in harm’
Richard Norton-Taylor | The Guardian
New York girl realised halfway through she was on wrong course but decided to finish anyway, gets medal
Associated Press | The Guardian
Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

THE SECRET TAX-DODGING STRATEGIES of the global elite in China, Russia, Brazil, the U.K., and beyond were exposed in speculator fashion by the recent Panama Papers investigation, fueling a worldwide demand for a crackdown on tax avoidance.

But there is little appetite in Congress for taking on powerful tax dodgers in the U.S., where the practice has become commonplace.

A request for comment about the Panama Papers to the two congressional committees charged with tax policy — House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee — was ignored.

The reluctance by congressional leaders to tackle tax dodging is nothing new, especially given that some of the largest companies paying little to no federal taxes are among the biggest campaign contributors in the country. But there’s another reason to remain skeptical that Congress will move aggressively on tax avoidance: Former tax lobbyists now run the tax-writing committees.

We researched the backgrounds of the people who manage the day-to-day operations of both committees and found that a number of lobbyists who represented world-class tax avoiders now occupy top positions as committee staff. Many have stints in and out of government and the lobbying profession, a phenomenon known as the “reverse revolving door.” In other words, the lobbyists that help special interest groups and wealthy individuals minimize their tax bills are not only everywhere on K Street, they’re literally managing the bodies that create tax law:

Lee Fang | The Intercept

Private-equity firms typically seek to profit by buying, restructuring and selling companies, and are supposed to share the proceeds with "limited partners" -- pension funds, endowments and other investors who provide much of the firms' capital. Problem is, firms' managers have a documented history of devising ways to divert the money to themselves. Among other things, they often misallocate expenses and set up consulting firms through which they charge the companies for various services -- without disclosing such "related-party transactions" to investors.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has exposed these practices and imposed fines on some firms, but the investors have done little to protect their interests -- or, in the case of public pension funds, the interests of the teachers, state workers and other folks on whose behalf they invest. Most of the agreements they sign with private equity firms still require very little disclosure. This suggests that the private equity industry has gained a counterproductive level of influence over the managers of the pension funds.

It thus came as an encouraging development when California State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the boards of giant pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS, called last October for legislation requiring greater disclosure from private equity firms. The relevant bill, introduced in February, required that all new agreements between the firms and California public funds provide for full disclosure of all fees, including compensation received from portfolio companies. It also required the pension funds to make some of this information available to the public at least annually.

Unfortunately, after various iterations, the bill contains some serious shortcomings. For one, there’s no definition of the term "related parties," permitting private equity firms to interpret it in ways that would allow them to continue hiding fees from investors. They could, for example, use the SEC's definition, which would enable them to exclude payments made by portfolio companies to firm employees who double as consultants.

The process has been so opaque that it’s hard to know exactly who is responsible for the bill's failings.

Yves Smith | Bloomberg View
1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington is a nondescript two-storey building yet is home to Apple, American Airlines, Walmart and presidential candidates
Eight days after stepping down as secretary of state in 2013, Hillary Clinton set up ZFS Holdings at CTC’s offices in Wilmington. A spokesman said it was to manage her book and speaking income. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP
Eight days after stepping down as secretary of state in 2013, Hillary Clinton set up ZFS Holdings at CTC’s offices in Wilmington. A spokesman said it was to manage her book and speaking income. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Officially, 1209 North Orange is home to Apple, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Walmart and dozens of other companies in the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies. Being registered in Delaware lets companies take advantage of strict corporate secrecy rules, business-friendly courts and the “Delaware loophole”, which can allow companies to legally shift earnings from other states to Delaware, where they are not taxed on non-physical incomes generated outside of the state.

The loophole is said to have cost other states more than $9bn in lost taxes over the past decade and led to Delaware to be described as “one of the world’s biggest havens for tax avoidance and evasion”.

But it’s not just big corporations that have chosen to make 1209 North Orange their official home.

Both the leading candidates for president – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – have companies registered at 1209 North Orange, and have refused to explain why.

Rupert Neate | The Guardian

Reference:

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

1971 household income in 2014 dollars  (% of adults)
Click to enlarge
Household income in 2014 dollars (% of adults)
Click to enlarge
YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
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.
 
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