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Established 1973 — Last updated: Thursday, December 8, 2016, 10:20 AM
Aggregated news for a better world
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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.

Tribes and their members could potentially reap vast wealth from more easily tapping resources beneath reservations. The Council of Energy Resource Tribes, a tribal energy consortium, estimated in 2009 that Indian energy resources are worth about $1.5 trillion. In 2008, the Bureau of Indian Affairs testified before Congress that reservations contained about 20 percent of untapped oil and gas reserves in the U.S.

Deregulation could also benefit private oil drillers including Devon Energy Corp, Occidental Petroleum, BP and others that have sought to develop leases on reservations through deals with tribal governments. Those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump's transition team commissioned the 27-member Native American Affairs Coalition to draw up a list of proposals to guide his Indian policy on issues ranging from energy to health care and education.

Valerie Volcovici | REUTERS
There’s a much better way to create jobs and rebuild our country’s crumbling infrastructure.

Trump wants private investors to basically direct $1 trillion in infrastructure projects nationwide through a “revenue neutral” financing plan, which banks on financing from private investors, allegedly to control deficit spending (which the GOP generally deems wasteful, while promoting tax breaks as a wiser redistribution of public funds into corporate coffers). To draw some $167 billion to jumpstart the $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan, Washington would grant a giant tax break “equal to 82 percent of the equity amount.” The goal isn’t fixing bridges so much as fixing the corporate tax codes to promote privatization and unregulated construction with virtually no public input. Moreover, whereas effective stimulus plans aim to fill infrastructure gaps that big business has ignored, Mike Konzcal observes in The Washington Post, that the developers Trump is courting would follow the money and “back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway.”

Dave Dayen calls the program a “privatization fire sale” that ensured that private, not common, interests determine where funding is focused.

Trump is further sweetening the pot by promising drastic deregulation that would “provide maximum flexibility to the states” and “streamline permitting and approvals.”

Activists now fear that Trump’s job plan will yield relatively substandard jobs by mowing down longstanding regulatory protections, including environmental review process (a critical tool activists use to challenge developments that involve public-health threats) and prevailing wage regulations. While private business partnerships on federal construction projects are routine, Trump’s camp is distinctly poised to launder corporate money through federal coffers at workers’ and taxpayers’ expense.

Michelle Chen | The Nation
Last year, Google consumed as much energy as the city of San Francisco. Next year, it said, all of that energy will come from wind farms and solar panels.

....“We are the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world,” said Joe Kava, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure. “It’s good for the economy, good for business and good for our shareholders.”

Unlike carbon-based power, Mr. Kava said, wind supply prices do not fluctuate, enabling Google to plan better. In addition, the more renewable energy it buys, the cheaper those sources get. In some places, like Chile, Google said, renewables have at times become cheaper than fossil fuels.

QUENTIN HARDY | The New York Times
A global campaign to promote 100% renewable energy use in the business world means more Silicon Valley giants are now investing in solar and wind electricity
Alison Moodie | The Guardian
Trump wants to bring back millions of coal jobs, but a technology that could help has struggled to become affordable
Carol J Clouse | The Guardian
Campaigners hail announcement that funding for air quality measures will rise to £875m over the next five years

London is one of the most polluted of dozens of cities in the UK that breach EU standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas caused by diesel vehicles. Air pollution has been linked to nearly 9,500 premature deaths in the city each year.

Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast to block imports from oil companies and traders of diesel with sulphur levels many times European limit
Alice Ross | The Guardian
Huge flock of migratory birds landed on acidic waters of an open pit mine where employees attempted to scare them off
Associated Press | The Guardian
'For the first time in Native American history, they heard our voices.'

In a long-awaited victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, tribal leadership announced late Sunday.

“This is something that will go down in history and is a blessing for all indigenous people.”
—Dave Archambault II,
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The tribe says the agency will not allow the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a reservoir near the tribal reservation, without a full environmental impact assessment that examines alternative routes for the pipeline.

While some observers say it may only end up being a temporary pause in pipeline construction, many see it as an incredible victory for the water protectors, who have faced water cannons, mace, rubber bullets, mass arrests, and more in their months-long struggle to protect their drinking water and treaty land.

Nika Knight | Common Dreams
The government in Berlin fears that German automobile companies are lagging behind as electric cars pick up speed around the world. Faced with immense challenges and the potential loss of tens of thousands of jobs, the industry is still pushing its gas guzzlers.

It just looked like an inconspicuous entry about a draft law on the Chinese Industry Ministry's website. No one in Berlin noticed it until an attentive diplomat at the German Embassy in Beijing came across it and rang the alarm. Luckily, the person best positioned to address the matter was already on a plane to China.

German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel was on his way to the country to discuss German-Chinese trade with the China's leaders, but after news of the draft law made the rounds of the minister's delegation, they couldn't stop wondering: Could this really be true? Would every seventh automobile sold in China soon be required to be electric -- and as if that weren't enough, would it also have to be manufactured primarily by companies owned by Chinese citizens? And what would that mean for German manufacturers? Would they be driven out of their most important market? "This is like a bomb dropping," groaned one German industry representative.

The questions raised by the ministry website remain unanswered today, but the shockwaves it triggered are still being felt. With the German automobile industry's record sales and manufacturing figures, and its artful engineering of everything from turbochargers to 4-wheel drives, politicians and business leaders here had maintained the illusion that others would be incapable of catching up.

Horand Knaup, Michael Sauga and Gerald Traufetter | Der Spiegel

dryriver | SlashDot

....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.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, 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. | 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.

....The PISA reveals brutal truths about America’s education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children’s future earnings, continues to be the United States’ weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability — the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world.

And affluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America’s most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.

The good news is that a handful of places, including Estonia, Canada, Denmark and Hong Kong, are proving that it is possible to do much better. These places now educate virtually all their children to higher levels of critical thinking in math, reading and science — and do so more equitably than Americans do.

As we drift toward a world in which more good jobs will require Americans to think critically — and to repeatedly prove their abilities before and after they are hired — it is hard to imagine a more pressing national problem. “Your president-elect has promised to make America great again,” Mr. Schleicher said. But he warned, “He won’t be able to do that without fixing education.”

Amanda Ripley | The New York Times

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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Ritchie Torres is a rising star who represents a Bronx district on the New York City Council. His job is about to get a lot harder.
Jennifer Gonnerman | The New Yorker
It’s time to clean house.

....Since at least President Bill Clinton, many Democrats have traded in their progressive principles for neoliberal ones. They have sold out their concern for social justice, labor and equity in favor of slavish devotion to the same market-driven principles that used to characterize the other side.

Bill Clinton approved NAFTA. He deregulated Wall Street paving the way for the economic implosion. He expanded the failing war on drugs, increased the use of the death penalty, used the Lincoln bedroom as a fundraising condo, ignored the genocide in Rwanda while escalating conflicts abroad in Russia and the middle east. He dramatically and unfairly increased the prison population. He pushed poor families off welfare and into permanent minimum wage jobs. And when people had clearly had enough of it and wanted a change, we gave them Al Gore a.k.a. Bill Clinton part 2.

That's why an idiot like George W. Bush won in 2000. It wasn’t because of Green Party challenger Ralph Nader. It was because people were sick of the Democrats not being real progressives.

Steven Singer | Common Dreams
President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

The long-running Republican war against the right to vote has now gone national at the instigation of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promoted the lie that millions of illegal votes were cast in the presidential election.

....This is how voter suppression efforts start. First come the unverified tales of fraud; then come the urgent calls to tighten voter registration rules and increase “ballot security,” which translate into laws that disenfranchise tens or hundreds of thousands of qualified voters in state after state.

That’s already happened in Wisconsin and North Carolina, in Ohio and Texas, where Republican lawmakers pushed through bills requiring voter IDs or proof of citizenship; eliminating early-voting days and same-day registration; and imposing other measures. Virtually all these laws aimed at making voting harder for citizens who happen to be members of groups that tend to support Democrats.

While federal courts have struck down some of these laws, more keep popping up.


Donald Trump: Please think about calling Elon Musk.

President-elect Trump has spent a lot of time talking about how he plans to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector, repeatedly telling the public on the campaign trail, “We are going to bring back jobs that have been stolen from you.”

And yet the group of business luminaries he named on Friday to advise him on “job creation” — which included Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Robert Iger of Disney and Mary Barra of General Motors — was missing a key name: Mr. Musk, the real-life Tony Stark behind Tesla, the electric car company; SolarCity, the solar power provider; and SpaceX, the rocket company.

Mr. Musk, 45, is arguably the one person in the nation more responsible than anyone else for generating a vision for the re-emergence of manufacturing in the United States en masse. And he is revered among most of his peers here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Andrew Ross Sorkin | The New York Times
Don McGahn is a "vociferous defender" of Citizens United, among other things

The attorney named as President-elect Donald Trump's White House counsel, Donald McGahn, has been called "kryptonite to campaign finance reform," "a totally partisan politico," and "notorious for politicizing and crippling enforcement of federal campaign finance laws."

Indeed, journalist Jon Schwarz wrote at The Intercept on Sunday that McGahn "bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America's campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank."

As one of six members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from 2008-2013, McGahn "demonstrated a much stronger interest in expanding the money-in-politics swamp than draining it," Common Cause vice president Paul S. Ryan told Schwarz.

Deirdre Fulton | Common Dreams
At a rally on Wednesday night, the incoming House member stole the show from Elizabeth Warren.
GRAHAM VYSE | The New Republic
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) cloaks its racialized anti-immigrant policy proposals in bland wonkery — and it has Donald Trump's ear

Last week a group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) released a proposal titled “Immigration Priorities for the 2017 Presidential Transition.” At first blush, the document — which is aimed at influencing the immigration policy of Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress — looks like a bland policy proposal document, full of facts and figures and formatted to look sensible and legalistic.

But if you get past the bland presentation and read the actual text, the radical, nativist implications become clear — and terrifying. FAIR wants to end birthright citizenship, institute a policy of mass deportation and make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to gain any kind of legal status.

In addition, the group wants to put draconian caps on legal immigration and further tighten existing immigration law. This isn’t about some abstract commitment to upholding the law. Behind FAIR’s professional, wonkish veneer, it’s hawking a message closely akin to the white nationalism of Trump’s angriest supporters, apparently aimed at keeping the United States a white-dominated nation.

The scariest part is that FAIR, which used to be a fringe organization, has good reason to believe that President Trump and his allies in Congress will listen to its suggestions.

“It’s incredible how much of Donald Trump’s ear they have,” Lizet Ocampo, the director of the Latinos Vote! program for People for the American Way, explained over the phone.

She noted that Trump had appointed Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and a national leader in anti-immigration politics, to his transition team. Kobach has deep ties to FAIR, working as counsel for its legal department, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and helping draft the kind of draconian anti-immigration policies that FAIR advocates in its new proposal.

Voters celebrate after Norbert Hofer is defeated in the country’s presidential elections, but warn that populist forces may yet gain ground
Carmen Fishwick and Guardian readers | The Guardian
With the judgment still some way off, we look at the week’s other Brexit developments and spats, of which there was no shortage
Jon Henley and Peter Walker | The Guardian
Guardian analysis reveals 173 people have been killed by mobs this year in the country as expert describes ‘a hunt for infection’ amid vulnerable people
Cleuci de Oliveira | The Guardian
Renan Calheiros, key ally to Brazilian president Michel Temer, becomes latest politician to fall amid widening investigation into corruption
Reuters | The Guardian
Experts agree the chances of a bitter and messy rupture between China and the US have increased following Trump’s tweets lashing out at Beijing
Tom Phillips | The Guardian
The single currency could sink to US80c, according to analysts, as a vital rebooting of Italy’s fragile banking sector is set be delayed again
Martin Farrer and agencies | The Guardian
Fast new patrol vessel built with Dutch, British and Swedish lottery funds aims to challenge Japan’s defiance of international court ruling on whaling
Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
Illustration: Nicole Xu
Illustration: Nicole Xu

....Up to now, the president has reviewed clemency requests on a case-by-case basis. With only weeks left in office, Mr. Obama should consider a bolder approach: blanket commutations for those inmates still serving time under an old law that punished possession or sale of crack cocaine far more harshly than powder cocaine — a meaningless distinction that sent disproportionate numbers of young black and Latino men to prison for decades.

Trump has said that Kushner, who is a married to Ivanka Trump and is an Orthodox Jew, would be “very good” as his Middle East envoy.
Source: Telesur | Informed Comment
The incarceration industry was having a tough time. Then Trump got elected.

....The boom in private prisons in the past two decades was part of a broader privatization trend, fuelled by a belief in the superior efficiency of the private sector. But privatizing prisons makes little economic or political sense. Some studies find private prisons to be less cost-effective than government ones, some more, and further studies suggest that any savings are likely the result of cutting corners. In a study of prisons in nine states, Chris Petrella, a lecturer at Bates College, found that private ones avoid taking sick and elderly inmates, since health care is a huge expense for prisons. They employ a younger, less well trained, and less well paid workforce and have higher inmate-to-guard ratios, all of which saves money but also makes prisons more dangerous. When you consider that the government still spends money monitoring private prisons, and that it’s stuck running the parts of the system that private companies thought were money losers, the case that private prisons save money looks shaky.

....It’s become common to speak of “the prison-industrial complex,” and the analogy to the military-industrial complex is a good one: in both cases, government spending helps fund very profitable businesses, which, in turn, lobby legislators and regulators to keep the funds flowing. Just as we spend billions on weapons systems that we may not need, so, too, we jail more people than we need for longer than necessary, because it keeps someone’s balance sheet healthy. In recent years, an unlikely coalition of conservatives and liberals had made some progress in weakening this system, going after policies like mandatory sentences. Trump’s election will make it much harder to sustain that progress. Private prisons, he said earlier this year, “work a lot better,” and he’ll doubtless look to expand their reach. And he has a simple and grim answer to how many people we should put in prisons and detention centers: More.

James Surowiecki | The New Yorker
Debt-fuelled extravagance was bad for his companies, but it could be good for America’s economy and infrastructure.

....Done right, a big infrastructure spree would boost demand and make travel more efficient. But Trump might easily do it wrong. A couple of weeks before the election, his early pledge to spend more than half a trillion dollars gave way to a formal plan with a very different approach—a system of tax credits to encourage private investors to put up all the money for infrastructure. This is a bad plan. It would lead to underinvestment in most of the things that Trump said he wants to do, like repairing roads, upgrading schools, and improving air-traffic control, which can’t be monetized as easily as, say, building a new highway in a rich community. And it’s a recipe for inefficiency and corruption, with public assets being given away too cheaply to private owners. “There’s nothing wrong with public-private partnerships,” Klein says. “But when you read that proposal it doesn’t make sense. And a lot of the subsidy just gets lost to middlemen.”

If Trump is serious about rebuilding, then, he should go with his original idea and do it on the government’s dime. A traditional infrastructure bill could win the support of congressional Democrats (if they’re willing to do a deal with the Devil), and, while deficit hawks in the G.O.P. will push back, Republicans have a way of being obsessed with debt and deficits only when Democrats are in office. (Both Reagan and George W. Bush enacted huge spending increases as well as big tax cuts.) Liberal economists have been saying for years that in order to boost the economy the U.S. should borrow more. The bitter irony is that it may have taken the election of a reactionary to find out if they were right.

James Surowiecki | The New Yorker

How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes that are enabling vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

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

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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