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Last updated: Friday, August 18, 2017, 9:54 AM
Aggregated news that corporate media willfully ignores
Today's posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
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 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451 – $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

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

MIT researchers have found a way to block HCAC2, a key enzyme that causes Alzheimer's disease, without affecting other enzymes critical to organ function. This appears to reverse the disease in mice, and may one day mean a cure for humans.

New research from a team at MIT indicates symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affecting patient’s memories may be reversible. AD causes memory loss by setting up genetic “blockades” formed when the enzyme HCAC2 condenses the genes of the brain responsible for memory. Eventually, those genes become useless; unexpressed, the genes are unable to cause the formation of new memories or retrieval of existing ones.

Clearly, blocking HCAC2 in the brain is an obvious fix; however, it has to date been impossible, in that all prior attempts have negatively affected the internal organs which require other enzymes in the histone deacetylase (HDAC) family for normal function. Researchers at MIT have now found something they hope might be the answer: LED lights which they use to prevent HCAC2 alone from binding with Sp3, its genetic blockade formation partner in crime (and Alzheimer’s).

This research was spurred by the 2007 discovery that blocking HDAC activity in mice reversed memory loss. Human cells contain around one dozen forms of HDAC, and the team found later that it is HDAC2 that causes the memory-linked gene blockade, and that HDAC2 levels are elevated in Alzheimer’s patients.

Finding The Right Match

The trick was determining a way to target HDAC2 specifically without affecting HDAC1 levels and hurting white blood cell production as a result. To do this, the team analyzed postmortem brain samples of both healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s disease, assessing gene expression data. They found that there were more than 2,000 genes at levels that nearly matched HDAC2 levels. They then needed to test the best candidates; doing this allowed them to isolate the Sp3 gene.

“This is exciting because for the first time we have found a specific mechanism by which HDAC2 regulates synaptic gene expression,” Director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and study lead author Li-Huei Tsai explained to MIT News. “If we can remove the blockade by inhibiting HDAC2 activity or reducing HDAC2 levels, then we can restore expression of all these genes necessary for learning and memory.”

This AD research is in the early stages yet, having only been conducted with mice. No usable remedy for humans will be forthcoming for some time, but even so, this is one of the most promising semblances of a cure for Alzheimer’s to date, with the potential to help more than 5.5 million Americans and almost 44 million worldwide.

Karla Lant | Futurism Mag.
Researchers from UCLA have found a way to successfully reactivate stem cells in dormant hair follicles to promote hair growth in mice. Through this research, they've developed two drugs that could help millions of people worldwide treat conditions that lead to abnormal hair growth and retention.

Researchers have already explored ways to use stem cells to treat everything from diabetes to aging, and now, a team from UCLA thinks they could potentially offer some relief for people suffering from baldness.

During their study, which has been published in Nature, the researchers noticed that stem cells found in hair follicles undergo a different metabolic process than normal skin cells. After turning glucose into a molecule known as pyruvate, these hair follicle cells then do one of two things: send the pyruvate to the cell’s mitochondria to be used as energy or convert it into another metabolite known as lactate.

Based on these findings, the researchers decided to see if inactive hair follicles behaved differently depending on the path of the pyruvate.

To that end, the UCLA team compared mice that had been genetically engineered so that they wouldn’t produce lactate with mice that had been engineered to produce more lactate than normal. Obstructing lactate production stopped the stem cells in the follicles from being activated, while more hair growth was observed on the animals who were producing more of the metabolite.

“No one knew that increasing or decreasing the lactate would have an effect on hair follicle stem cells,” co-lead on the study and professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology William Lowry explained in a UCLA press release. “Once we saw how altering lactate production in the mice influenced hair growth, it led us to look for potential drugs that could be applied to the skin and have the same effect.”

Potential for Growth

Based on their study, the researchers were able to discover two different drugs that could potentially help humans jumpstart the stem cells in their hair follicles to increase lactate production.

The first is called RCGD423, and it works by establishing a JAK/STAT signalling pathway between the exterior of a cell and its nucleus. This puts the stems cells in an active state and contributes to lactate production, encouraging hair growth.

The other drug, UK5099, takes the opposite approach. It stops pyruvate from being converted into energy by the cells’ mitochondria, which leaves the molecules with no choice but to take the alternate path of creating lactate, which, in turn, promotes hair growth.

Both of the drugs have yet to be tested on humans, but hopes are high that if tests are successful, they could provide relief for the estimated 56 million people in the U.S. alone suffering from a range of conditions that affect normal hair growth and retention, including alopecia, hormone imbalances, stress-related hair loss, and even old age.

However, as undoubtedly pleased as many of those people would be to stimulate their hair growth, the potential relevance of this research stretches far beyond hair loss. The new knowledge gained regarding stem cells, specifically their relation to the metabolism of the human body, provides a very promising basis for future study in other realms.

“I think we’ve only just begun to understand the critical role metabolism plays in hair growth and stem cells in general,” noted Aimee Flores, first author of the study and a predoctoral trainee in Lowry’s lab. “I’m looking forward to the potential application of these new findings for hair loss and beyond.”

Brad Jones | Futurism Mag.

Air pollution is driving a global public health crisis. It is responsible for one in nine deaths worldwide, and touches everyone given 92% of the human race live in places that do not meet World Health Organisation guidelines. As it is also driving a climate crisis – with increasingly heavy health implications – doctors, nurses, public health practitioners and other healthcare professionals are coming together to call for practical solutions to cut pollution levels in cities and deal with both.

In a new global initiative called Unmask My City, these health groups are using air quality monitors, smartphones, and innovative LED light masks that change colour according to pollution levels to highlight the preventable and direct impacts of air pollution.

These include asthma attacks, increased risks of heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes, and climate change-related heatstroke, tropical disease spread, and more. The sources of and solutions to air pollution are clear. It is up to authorities to make better choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get our cities into the World Health Organization’s green “healthy” air zone by 2030.

Air pollution is responsible for 6.5 million premature deaths per year. Doctors are at the front lines, and see the increasing impact air pollution has on patient mortality and morbidity. They are now speaking out globally, like they did with cigarette smoking, to demand action from decision makers on this absolutely preventable threat to public health.

Air pollution is not just a problem for China or India. The world is becoming increasingly urban, and as it does our urban environments are becoming more and more polluted. In 1800, only three percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Today, more than half do, and by 2050 two-thirds will. Thousands of cities around the world already consistently breach air pollution limits, and this problem will worsen without concerted action.

Eliminating air pollution is a health, climate, and economic imperative. Improving air quality and ‘unmasking’ our cities will save millions of lives, improve the health of billions, reduce health costs, drive new economic opportunities, and address the challenge of global climate change. Solutions to reduce urban air pollution are some of the most effective ways to tackle climate change in the near term. Turning around the global trend of increasing climate pollution by 2020 with the intent on reaching World Health Organization guidelines for healthy air by 2030 is critical.

Contributors / The Tree | Informed Comment
Environmental Justice Australia report says Australian coal-fired power plants regularly exceed lax limits imposed on them

Pollution from coal power plants kills hundreds of people each year in Australia. In Sydney alone, about 130 premature deaths are thought to be caused each year by coal-fired power stations, with worse impacts in regions near the stations.

Nationally, the health effects from the pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants are estimated to cost $2.6bn – a figure that would amount to $13.20 a megawatt hour if it were added to power costs.

Researchers at EJA collected the individual pollution limits allowed for 10 of Australia’s 17 commercially operating coal-fired power stations, chosen for their high levels of pollution and proximity to populated areas.

Standardising the limits for comparison and collating them with regulations in the US, Europe and China, they found that in almost all cases Australian coal power plants were allowed to emit more toxic pollution.

Mercury emissions compared particularly badly. Coal-fired power is the second biggest Australian source of mercury, which accumulates in the environment, causing significant harm to people.

Some coal-fired power plants in New South Wales were allowed to emit 666 times what would be allowed in the US, and 33 times what is allowed in the EU and China.

Fine particle pollution, which causes hundreds of premature deaths each year, also compared very badly. Every coal power station in Victoria is allowed to emit more particulate pollution than power stations in any of the other three jurisdictions examined, and all in NSW were allowed to emit more than the Chinese limit.

Michael Slezak | The Guardian

On Egypt's Mediterranean coast, August should be prime tourist season. But the seaside restaurants in Alexandria are almost empty. Worries over security are keeping a lot of foreign tourists away. But there's a much bigger worry looming: that hotter weather and a disappearing shoreline could make Egypt's prospects even worse.

Scientists generally agree that human-made climate change – the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from things like cars and factories – is making the sea level higher and its waters warmer.

Rising sea levels are affecting the Nile River delta, the triangle where the Nile spreads out and drains into the sea. It's where Egypt grows most of its crops. According to the World Bank, Egypt — with its already high poverty rates and rapidly growing population — is one of the countries that will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

"Silly Trump wants to use tax dollars to build on floodplains as sea level rises. Damp!"

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that reportedly eliminates flood-risk standards for federally funded public infrastructure projects—in a purported effort to expedite the approval process for projects such as highways and bridges, as part of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan that's been criticized for its reliance on private developers.

"This is yet another outrageous example of Trump's insistence on putting corporate interests ahead of people's health and safety."
—Alex Taurel, League of Conservation Voters

Although details of Trump's order were not immediately made public, at a press conference this afternoon, the president called U.S. infrastructure a "massive self-inflicted wound on our country," and said there would no longer be "one job-killing delay after another."

Reuters, New York Times, and the Washington Post reported that Trump's order "revoked an Obama-era executive order that required strict building standards for government-funded projects to reduce exposure to increased flooding from sea level rise and other consequences of climate change."

The Obama-era risk-management standards "required that builders factor in scientific projections for increased flooding and ensure projects can withstand rising sea levels and stronger downpours," Reuters reported.

When Obama signed the order in 2015, he said the goal was to "improve the resilience of communities and federal assets against the impacts of flooding," which are "anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats."

Just last month, "scientists released findings that up to 668 U.S. communities could face chronic flooding from rising sea levels by the end of the century," Common Dreams reported. More than 90 U.S. communities are already grappling "unmanageable" flooding that is disrupting "people's routines, livelihoods, homes, and communities."

Obama's order required all federal agencies to apply risk-management standards to public infrastructure projects, but did not regulate private development. It allowed federal agencies to select from three options, as the Times explained:

  • They could use the best available climate change science;
  • They could require that standard projects like roads and railways be built two feet above the national 100-year flood elevation standard and critical buildings like hospitals be built three feet higher;
  • They could require infrastructure be built to at least the 500-year floodplain.

Even though a White House official told the Post Trump's order will not prevent "state and local agencies from using a more stringent standard if they choose," environmentalists swiftly condemned Trump's decision to revoke the flood risk provisions.

"This order will put people throughout the country at risk by allowing developers to ignore potential hazards while muzzling the public's ability to weigh in on potentially harmful projects near their homes," Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, told Bloomberg. "This is yet another outrageous example of Trump's insistence on putting corporate interests ahead of people's health and safety."

"Eliminating this requirement is self-defeating; we can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods. And it will," Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA who worked on the Obama-era order, told Reuters. Trump is undoing "the most significant action taken in a generation" to safeguard U.S. infrastructure, Lemaitre added.

"This is just another example of this administration trying to undo everything the Obama administration did, whether it makes any sense or not," William Robert Irvin, president the conservation group American Rivers, told the Post. "Directing federal agencies to ignore the impact of flooding in spending federal dollars is just a complete waste of taxpayer money and continues this administration's head-in-the-sand approach to the perils of climate change, which is resulting in increased flooding."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
Company refutes legal analysis of documents suggesting it ignored risk to human health and environment long after pollutants’ lethal effects were known
Arthur Neslen | The Guardian
Neonicotinoid drastically cuts egg-laying by queens, affecting their ability to start new colonies and increasing chances of local extinction, say scientists
Press Association | The Guardian
Morgues overwhelmed after mud engulfs at least a hundred houses near the capital, Freetown, with 270 bodies recovered so far
Rebecca Ratcliffe and Cooper Inveen | The Guardian
Climate change, dams and diversion bring Iberian peninsula’s longest river, on which millions depend, to brink of collapse
Stephen Burgen | The Guardian

Recent years have seen outbreaks of preventable diseases once thought controlled, what is this backlash against vaccination all about?
dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe 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.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, whichbuild up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | ClimateProgress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly 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 thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair 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 toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe 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 percapita, 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 YorkTimes | Ref.
As lawmakers put pressure on FCC chairman, Times releases major report detailing how the agency's "deregulatory blitz" benefits the conservative TV company
Jessica Corbett, staff writer | CommonDreams
unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


Stranding CEOs Too Slow To Quit, Trump Disbands His Own Business Councils [could a wider boycott accomplish resignations or positive change?]
"Trump aides: History is pounding its knuckles on the White House door and shouting that it's time to leave."
Julia Conley, staff writer | Common Dreams
We have a president who can’t even muster a lucid response to the most obvious forms of abject hatred

In case it wasn’t already evident, by now it seems clear that we’re living in a moment when the lunatics have taken over the asylum. If you’re still not convinced, consider that the specter of plunging the world into the “fire and fury” of nuclear war wasn’t even the worst thing that happened in the last week or so. Instead, while political tensions and environmental conditions threaten to boil over everywhere, we have a president who can’t even muster a lucid response to the most obvious forms of abject hatred. As Senator Warren succinctly wrote following yet another perverse presidential performance, “This is sick.

Many have speculated why this President cannot straightforwardly condemn the evil in our midst, with perhaps the most frequent word associated with his overall demeanor being “unhinged.” For instance, we know that he often admires strongmen-type leaders, including Putin. A big part of his political base is either directly or indirectly connected to the supremacist and nationalist factions that are steadily pushing further out into the public sphere. Revelations that his father was connected to racist practices appear in the news queue, suggesting a deeper personal bent. He often denigrates those in the margins.

"We are in a moment where the next steps will determine whether this is the last gasp of a dying creed, or the full flowering of a new reign of homegrown horror."

The list goes on and any one of these in itself would be troubling, let alone all of them in concert. To view this through a lens of immanent fascism is becoming a mainstream position in the discourse here, and the global community has been processing it on these terms for a longer while now. Still, despite personal and political baggage that would have sunk any other national figure in recent memory, we’re continually subjected to indecorous displays, asinine rants, nonsensical tweets, and aberrant behavior. Whatever debates we may have about policy and ideology, basic levels of comportment are expected.

All of which suggests that this may be a product of madness more so than the calculations of method. We needn’t engage in pop psychology diagnoses that can undermine genuine struggles with mental illness, nor is it necessary to be clinical about this in terms of drawing conclusions from public personas that may evince multiple motivations. Rather, if we’re searching for ways to contest this incipient “hostile takeover” of the nation, it behooves us to consider how these patterns may evolve in the near term, as conditions are exacerbated and any remaining vestiges of collegial restraint are fully eroded.

This mindset shows itself in myriad related ways. It entails the displacement of blame and a refusal to accept any responsibility, even while claiming the rightful exercise of power and gloating over perceived accomplishments. It will go on the offensive whenever challenged, use threats to preempt contestation, and twist reality to its ends. It strives to cut off access to information and undermine the formation of alliances that could mount against it. It imposes severe consequences for disloyalty and tepid rewards for acquiescence. It shows no empathy or compassion, and draws false equivalencies to justify behavior.

Fascism is pathology writ large. It is dangerous both because of its cold calculations and mercurial machinations alike, being immune to reason and incapable of being swayed by appeals to justice. It tries to defeat others by either intimidating them into submission or goading them into more desperate responses, which can then in turn be used to justify the need for further incursions. It tries to make you like it (through incessant propaganda and blatant lies), but if it can’t then it will at least try to make you be like it. It seeks to operate at the level of interpersonal relationships and political realities all at once.

Fascism is a form of collective insanity that devolves upon brutality and hatred to maintain its power. We have seen it too many times in this world; indeed, the mantra of “never again” was supposed to reflect not only a remembrance of history but a warning about the clear and present dangers to the future if these patterns go unchecked. In a country with deeply rooted unresolved issues of oppression and exploitation, a kernel of fascism has always existed alongside overtures to democracy and tolerance. Exposing it to sunlight might eradicate it for good, unless it’s given fertile soil and conducive conditions.

We are in a moment where the next steps will determine whether this is the last gasp of a dying creed, or the full flowering of a new reign of homegrown horror....

Randall Amster | Common Dreams

NEW YORK – The US is in the midst of a political meltdown, unable to manage a domestic economic agenda or a coherent foreign policy. The White House is in turmoil; Congress is paralyzed; and the world is looking on in astonishment and dread. If we are to survive and overcome this collapse, we must understand its sources.

There are two power centers in Washington, DC: the White House and the Capitol. Both are in disarray, but for different reasons.

....Between Trump’s narcissism and the Koch brothers’ money, the US government has become a shambles. Washington is still filled with many smart and talented people of both parties, but America’s political institutions and formal processes are diminished. The federal government is hemorrhaging scientific expertise, as researchers leave or are purged, and as agency budgets are targeted for deep cuts. Seasoned diplomats are flooding out of the State Department. Lobbyists, meanwhile, are installing cronies and hacks throughout the government.

Through the din, new drumbeats of war can be heard, most ominously against Iran and North Korea. Is it posturing or real? Nobody knows. Trump’s foreign and military policies are now announced in early-morning tweets, without the foreknowledge of the White House staff or senior officials. The situation is dangerous and deteriorating.

I suggest three immediate steps, and a fourth longer-term step.

The first step is to take Trump off Twitter. The US – and the world – needs public policy by consultation and deliberation, not one man’s worsening pathology. The American people, by a large margin, concur that Trump’s tweets are hurting national security and the presidency.

Second, congressional leaders should agree, on a bipartisan basis, to constrain Trump’s belligerent proclivities. Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution vests the authority to declare war with Congress, and Congress needs to reassert that authority now, before it’s too late.

Third, the world’s major powers – most urgently, America’s NATO allies, China, and Russia – should make clear that any unilateral US attack on Iran or North Korea would constitute a grave and illegal violation of the peace, and that matters of war and peace must be agreed within the UN Security Council. If the US had heeded the UN Security Council’s collective wisdom in the recent past, it would have avoided several ongoing disasters, including the chaos in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and saved trillions of dollars and many hundreds of thousands of lives.

The fourth, longer-term step is constitutional reform to move away the US away from its volatile presidential system to a parliamentary system, or at least to a mixed presidential-parliamentary system, as in France. The power of the president – and therefore the danger of a runaway presidency – is far too great.

Much more needs to be done to restore democratic legitimacy in the US, including introduction of stricter limits on campaign financing and lobbying. First and foremost, however, we must survive the dangerous Trump presidency by preserving the peace.

Jeffrey Sachs | Project Syndicate
No previous US president of modern times would have failed to condemn his country’s white nationalists. This one did
Editorial | The Guardian
"He's allowed fascism, he's allowed the KKK, he's allowed Nazis to show their ugly face, and we're here to remind him there's a cost for that."
Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
Reactions to president’s controversial press conference split party into those willing to condemn Trump by name and those who would not
Ben Jacobs | The Guardian
It's time to stop pretending that the same people fighting white supremacists are somehow exactly like them.

There’s far too much to say about an event like Charlottesville....

Companies Linked To Mike Pence Seek An Upper Hand In Infrastructure Policy [our Public Infrastructure is at risk of being transformed into Private Infrastructure with tolls ad infinitum]
DAVID SIROTA and LYDIA O'NEAL | International Business Times

The nation of Germany gazed with helpless horror at Trump’s disastrous Tuesday press conference, in which he tried to make a false equivalency between the neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters.

Even before Trump’s wretched performance this week, only 11 percent of Germans said they trusted him to do the right thing. About 25 percent of Germans said that they trust Russian president Vladimir Putin to do the right thing!

That is worth repeating. Germany is one of America’s closest allies, but Germans are twice as likely to trust Putin as to trust Trump. Germans don’t have much confidence either leader, but they have a special distrust of Trump.

German Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said that comparing the two sides at the protests instead of clearly distancing himself from the potential for Nazism that had clearly been shown there “was a giant mistake and is also wrong.”

Minister Gabriel added that the violence in Charlottesville demonstrated what happens when you let extremist elements “run free,” and said it should be a wake up call for Europe, as well.

Gabriel concluded that it “just shows how intertwined some of Trump’s base is with the right-radical scene in the United States. His chief ideologist (Steve) Bannon is close to them.”

Gabriel is a leader of the Social Democratic Party, which is in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. He has however been critical of her, saying she is overly deferential to Donald Trump.

The German minister of justice, Jeff Sessions’ counterpart, Heiko Maas, said it was “unbearable” for Trump to gloss over the violence that occurred during the march of a “right wing horde” on Charlottesville.

Juan Cole | Informed Comment
Investment Bank Report Predicts the Cost of Electric Vehicles Will Match Regular Cars by 2018 [pressure is building for electric utilities to become 100% renewable or we'll die]
A report published in May by investment bank UBS predicts that the cost of electric vehicles will match that of regular combustion-engine cars by 2018. The cost of making EVs could become cheaper too, which can increase profit for car makers.
Driving Down the Price

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a surge in electric vehicle development. Apart from Tesla, there are now over a dozen other startups working on their own electric car concept. Even veteran car makers have jumped on EV trend: Swedish car manufacturer Volvo ditching petrol-fueled cars starting in 2019, and luxury car maker Porsche has promised that half of its new vehicles will be electric by 2023.

Undoubtedly, EVs are starting to take over the automobile market. International investment bank UBS thinks the first step in market dominance of EVs would be in terms of costs. In a report published on May, analysts from the bank’s “evidence lab” predicted that EV prices will soon match those of combustion-engine cars.

According to The Telegraph, the UBS report predicts that the “total cost of consumer [EV] ownership can reach parity with combustion engines from 2018”, a trend which would likely begin in Europe. “This will create an inflection point for demand. We raise our 2025 forecast for EV sales by 50% to 14.2 million — 14% of global car sales.” UBS reached this conclusion after tinkering with a Chevrolet Bolt EV, which it described as “the world’s first mass-market EV, with a range of more than 200 miles.”

Competitive Advantage

The UBS prediction somewhat matches a report by Dutch bank ING, which expects electric cars to dominate European roads by 2035. Indeed, both said that a major factor would be a decrease in costs; a trend that’s already begun. With newer models coming out, the price of older EVs has dropped, with some even getting discounts of up to $20,000.

Speaking of new vehicles, the recently launched Tesla Model 3 is expected to boost mass adoption of EVs with its relatively affordable price. While it’s currently the cheapest EV out there, Nissan’s 2018 Leaf promises to cost some $5,000 less than the Model 3. This doesn’t mean, however, that electric cars aren’t going to be profitable. “Once total cost of ownership parity is reached, mass-brand EVs should also turn profitable,” the report said.

The UBS report also noted that manufacturing EVs is cheaper than they previously thought — and there’s still more room for cost reduction through strategies like developing cheaper batteries and building more charging infrastructure. These measures will be important, since more and more countries are now opting for EVs. France will ban selling petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while all cars sold in India will be electric by 2030.

Electric cars aren’t the only clean energy tech that’s been getting less costly. Renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, continue to be cheaper than their fossil fuel counterparts. The price of solar panels has, for example, dropped over the last few months. The decreasing cost of EVs seems to be part of a greater revolution towards clean energy.

Dom Galeon | Futurism Mag.
Tesla's putting a "Tiny House" on tour today in Australia, as it unveiled a project that would demonstrate its solar roof panels and Powerwall home energy storage batteries. Tesla wants to demonstrate how a sustainable energy home could work.

Australia enjoys a healthy dose of sunshine for most of the year— in fact, it has the highest average solar radiation per square meter than any other continent on Earth, according to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This makes the “Land Down Under” an ideal place for solar energy farms and home solar products.

However, while public demand for renewables are up, the Australian government has kept energy prices low to maintain reliance on coal. This has created a troublesome energy situation throughout most of the continent. Realizing, perhaps, that Australia needs to be more at home with solar energy, Tesla decided to put up what it calls the “Tesla Tiny House” — and it’s going to tour some of the major cities in the continent.

“Tesla is hitting the road across Australia in a tiny house powered by 100% renewable energy,” the company says on its website, as well as in a press release after launching the Tiny House on Sunday. Pulled by a Model X, the house features a Tesla mobile design studio so visitors can check out and learn how to set up their own Tesla solar and energy storage system.


The Tiny House is powered by solar energy using a six-panel 2kW solar system attached to a Powerwall battery, where energy can be stored “throughout the day and night,” Tesla said, according to Electrek. This energy cycle can be controlled and monitored through the Tesla mobile app. Oh, and it’s also built from locally sourced timber that’s chemical free, just to complete that sustainable touch. In short, it’s a renewable ecosystem — on wheels.

This renewable ecosystem is what Tesla hopes to build into homes throughout Australia, where over two million households already have rooftop solar. While Tesla has yet to offer rooftop solar installations, it has already partnered with a local home builder to include the Powerwall as a standard feature. Establishing solar as a standard could provide a sustainable source of clean energy, and would greatly lessen dependence on coal-generated electricity.

Tesla’s also working on large-scale energy projects in Australia, building a Powerpack system for a wind farm in South Australia — which would be the world’s largest and most powerful lithium-ion battery storage system. Tesla’s also installing Powerpacks in various sites in New South Wales.

The Tesla Tiny House, which is parked at the Melbourne’s Federation Square until 15 August, will soon begin a tour of eastern Australian cities, with the option for Australians to actually book it to visit their town.

Dom Galeon | Futurism Mag.
The epidemic is a "man-made disaster driven by national and international politics," said Oxfam's Katy Wright

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced that the number of cholera cases in Yemen had reached 500,000.

"In backing this war with billions of dollars of arms sales and military support, the U.S. and the U.K. are complicit in the suffering of millions of people in Yemen."
—Katy Wright, Oxfam

The WHO also noted that around 5,000 people are being infected with cholera daily, "and nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April."

"Yemen's cholera epidemic, currently the largest in the world, has spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions and disruptions to the water supply across the country," WHO noted in a statement. "Millions of people are cut off from clean water, and waste collection has ceased in major cities."

Jake Johnson, staff writer | CommonDreams

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
Why Are Drug Prices So High? These Politicians Might Have The Answer [especially since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, BIG money corrupts all U.S. governments to the public’s detriment]

Why do Americans continue to pay the highest prices for medicine in the world? The answer lies in the fact that lawmakers have sculpted specific policies, often not found in many other nations, that boost pharmaceutical industry profits. Meanwhile, the drug industry has spent $61 million on state elections and nearly $67 million on federal elections since 2010.

Amid rising public anger over the issue, Republican President Donald Trump campaigned for president on a promise to reduce drug prices — and, as recently as Monday, excoriated Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier, demanding that he “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Democrats, in the meantime, have long depicted themselves as fight-for-the-little-guy populists crusading against pharmaceutical industry fat cats.

However, key players from both parties have made pivotal decisions at the federal and state levels that have kept drug prices high — and pharmaceutical industry profit margins wide. As part of International Business Times’ ongoing coverage of the fight over drug prices, what follows is a look at six of those individuals, and how their actions have shaped America’s prescription drug market.

DAVID SIROTA, JOSH KEEFE AND LYDIA O'NEAL | International Business Times

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Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

For years, Indiana has been at the center of the national conversation about opioid addiction, which has ravaged the state since the late 1990s. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of drug overdoses skyrocketed 500 percent. There was also a 60 percent increase in emergency visits for non-fatal overdoses between 2011 and 2015. By and large, the medical community argues that treatment is the best solution to the growing problem, and legislators recently introduced a slate of bills to approach opioid use as a public health matter. In May, Governor Eric Holcomb’s Indiana Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Task Force revealed a multi-pronged “Preliminary Action Plan” to tackle the crisis via treatment, strategic law enforcement, and “community-based collaborations.”

But there is one group that thinks the medical approach is inadequate: prosecutors who are hellbent on using the criminal justice system to clamp down on the illicit drugs. On behalf of prosecutors statewide, Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. (AIPA) President Patricia Baldwin recently argued that “[p]enalties for drug possession and dealing are too low” and that the task force’s comprehensive plan will flop “without a comparable and equivalent improvement on the enforcement side.”

Last week, Baldwin penned a statement calling for a more drastic law enforcement approach to solving the opioid crisis and slammed legislators’ decision to reform Indiana’s criminal code in 2014. One of the primary objectives of altering the code was to cut the number of offenders in state prisons and encourage treatment for low and medium-level offenders. Penalties were therefore reduced for drug possession and dealing, to the dismay of law enforcement. Now, Baldwin and her colleagues say the changes curb their ability to address rampant opioid use and believe the task force’s proposal is doomed to fail without their help.

“It is a criminal offense to possess or deliver controlled substances outside of the legitimate medical processes. The aim of the criminal justice system in this area is to discourage participation in the illicit drug industry,” Baldwin wrote. “Since 2014, law enforcement has suffered from a weakened ability to accomplish these two important parts of the equation—holding dealers accountable and encouraging users to get help.” She added that enforcement is one way prosecutors “encourage rehabilitation.”

As the Indiana Lawyer noted, Baldwin also linked the new criminal code to both an increase in murders in two Indiana cities and an uptick in child abuse cases—without providing any evidence to prove causation. “If we excuse or enable an addict to seek opiates through the illicit drug trade, we endorse, then, all of the negative consequences associated with that industry,” Baldwin said. “The less severe the consequences for possession of drugs, the less likely addicts will take corrective action. A robust enforcement effort is absolutely necessary to a functional prevention and treatment effort.”

But the AIPA president also ignored a major historical fact: locking people up for drug crimes doesn’t work.

The War on Drugs was a massive failure that didn’t end drug use or offenses related to the drug trade, but instead led to the criminalization and mass incarceration of poor black men people. Incarcerating opioid users, specifically, has proven ineffective. Not only are they dying in jails but they are ill-equipped to deal with withdrawal once they’re released. Some correctional facilities are devising treatment schemes to better assist opioid users, but such plans are few and far between.

Contrary to Baldwin’s statement, the Preliminary Action Plan proposed in May expands mechanisms for law enforcement to tackle the opioid crisis. It creates new crime teams to concentrate on drug trafficking, enhances surveillance, and encourages agency-wide collaboration to weed out suppliers. In other words, police and prosecutors still have a crucial role to play in the fight against a rapidly-increasing problem.

At its core, Baldwin’s argument represents an outdated way of thinking that prosecutors won’t let go of: that drug use is a vice and must be punished. But this tough-on-crime position won’t solve Indiana’s opioid emergency. Based on history, this stance will only add fuel to the fire.....

Carimah Townes | IN JUSTICE TODAY

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