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Established 1973 — Last updated: Friday, August 1, 2014, 10:04 AM
Policy & Practice News by 10am
Permanent Editorial?
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending as compared with the 2011 OECD per capita average, which becomes extra overhead on everything U.S. workers make—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's adopt more efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
2011 US per capita health care spending was $4390 more per person than in France (acclaimed as having the best healthcare) and $5169 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

[Sorry I didn't date this, which has been updated over time, my anger unrelenting. It was posted in early 2010. A similar editorial re. triple-play communication services is also much deserved, since all OECD countries pay much less.]
From action in China and the US to falling solar costs and rising electric car sales, there is cause to be hopeful
Karl Mathiesen in The Guardian
Two new reports that focus on the global electricity water nexus have just been published. Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand. Behind the research is a group of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US.

In most countries, electricity is the biggest source of because the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function. The only energy systems that do not require cooling cycles are wind and solar systems, and therefore one of the primary recommendations issued by these researchers is to replace old power systems with more sustainable wind and solar systems. [If generator cooling water lost as steam why not use it for additional power generation AND distill to get water back?]

Study says Southern Alps mountain range has lost 34% of permanent snow and ice since 1977
[A new dam would be a good idea for cheap electricity and/or water]
Oliver Milman in The Guardian
A new study shows the enormous effect that the EPA's brownfield remediation program has on real estate values in cities. [It's an opportunity, not a problem]
Food giant General Mills now has some pretty sweet eco-bragging rights.
Oxfam spokesman Grossman-Cohen believes that his group's campaign helped motivate General Mills to make the changes. "It is in General Mills' business interest to address climate change," he wrote in an email. "But there's no doubt that the public outcry helps ensure that the company's efforts are as robust as they can be."
President's council of economic advisers sounds warning over delaying EPA power plant rules in face of industry lobbying
In addition to a report on the economic cost of delay, the White House is poised to launch two new initiatives on Tuesday dealing with fast-rising methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and buffering food security against future climate change.
Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian
Seattle scientists say rising carbon dioxide will alter ocean pH and reduce seafood, affecting areas where people rely on the sea for their food and livelihood. [Mercury pollution from coal power plants and gold mining have also made seafood dangerous to eat]
Sandi Doughton in The Seattle Times
More and more it’s looking like Obama’s global warming and climate change “initiative” is just a legacy play. He says the right words, then does the wrong deeds.

I can’t think of another way to describe what we’re watching. Would a man who believed these words do those deeds? Let’s look at each, the words and the deeds.

Gaius Publius in America Blog
They prevent $7 billion in health costs every year by filtering air pollution—not to mention their psychological effects. New research says the closer you can live to trees, the better off you are. [What kinds of trees (and plants) sequester the most pollutants, CO2 in particular?]
JAMES HAMBLIN in The Atlantic
Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast. [Building new infrastructure for a different system of energy w/ pollution fouling air and water is NOT the answer.]
Emily Gosden, and Ben Marlow in The Telegraph
Mammoth companies are trying to collect water that all life needs and charge for it as they would for other natural resources
[Assuming governments can always be bribed to sacrifice or give away public resources, this is a good business plan]
Suzanne McGee in The Guardian
Sometimes you can fight fire with fire, but the evidence suggests that this isn’t one of those times.  Under current conditions, the increased availability and decreased price of natural gas are likely to lead to an increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  Preliminary data from 2013 suggest that that is already occurring. And global emissions are, of course, continuing to increase as well.
Naomi Oreskes via Naked Capitalism
A Texas Empowerment report released by Choose Energy shows that about one in three Texans choose renewably sourced energy options. That's 100 percent more than any other state, Levente McCrary, spokeswoman for Choose Energy [Cool!]
Warren Buffett is one of the largest renewable energy investors in the world, but he doesn't invest in the space because it's clean, he invests because he can make money. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) has spent $15 billion building and buying wind and solar farms because they'll pay him consistent cash flows over years, much like a bond.
Travis Hoium in Motley Fool

A.C. THOMPSON and JONATHAN JONES in ProPublica | Ref.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us [long, print & study; 3:38 video]
Looking at real bills for real patients cuts through the ideological debate over health care policy.
STEVEN BRILL in Time Magazine | Ref.
Econ4 on Health Care [10:00 video]
the USA ranks first in the world in health care spending, but only 45th in life expectancy....
YVES SMITH comments in Naked Capitalism | Ref.
Climate change inaction is a leading global cause of death.
DARA | Ref.
If we had the per-person costs of any other OECD country, America’s deficits would vanish....
EZRA KLEIN in the Washington Post | Ref.
How Industry Money Reaches (aka 'bribes') Physicians
Special Report in Pro Publica | Ref.
To remove your appendix in one California hospital costs $180,000, at a different facility the bill is $1,500. [Who has time to 'shop'?]
RYAN FLINN in Bloomberg | Ref.
SOURCE: Public Broadcasting System & ABC News | Ref.
SOURCE: The White House | Ref.
SOURCE: Slate Mag. | Ref.
SOURCE: The American Medical Student Association | Ref.
SOURCE: Readers | Ref.
Lots of government officials have found ways to monetize public service in the private sector, but none more audaciously than the former head of the NSA.
The former director of the NSA stoked astonishment when reports surfaced that he would ask from $600,000 to as much as $1 million per month as a cyber-security consultant.
The No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act (yes, that's really the name), would bar contracts from going to companies that reincorporate, are at least 50 percent owned by American shareholders and have no substantial business in the foreign country where they are incorporated.
Danielle Douglas in Wonkblog
The National Security Agency spying scandal will cost the US technology and telecommunications industries billions of dollars in coming years if potential clients—including corporations and governments—take their business elsewhere following revelations of rampant US surveillance, according to a new study.
SAM GUSTIN in Motherboard
It's not the 1990s anymore. Any real proposal has to deal with a post-recession world where personal responsibility isn't enough to get Americans on their feet.
DAVID FRUM in The Atlantic
While her policy reversals now position Clinton as closer to Warren on some issues than her previous record would suggest, that does not mean that they now agree on every issue. Additionally, as then-Sen. Barack Obama’s criticism of Clinton on these issues proved in 2008, Clinton's retrospective apologies and admissions do not necessarily wipe the record clean for Democratic voters with long memories.
An attorney who represents parents whose kids are being taken by child protective services observes that bureaucrats and judges are often out of touch with poverty's challenges.
A former Clinton aide on how Democrats lost their way chasing Wall Street cash, and new populism the party needs
If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.
Why did the New York Times back down again and again and hold important stories? The reasons are infuriating
Abramson identifies three moments in the years that followed [9/11/2001] that made the press look especially bad and sad. Each one flowed from that uncomplicated agreement the media made with Fleischer years earlier:
  • The WMD farce prior to the war that deposed Saddam Hussein and now leaves Iraq in smithereens. Judy Miller was the infamous culprit here but merely the worst of many. Every Times editor with a hand in her firing behaved hypocritically.
  • The Abu Ghraib prison tortures in 2003 and 2004. As the American Journalism Review put it in a postmortem, “For a variety of reasons, the media were awfully slow to unearth a scandal that ultimately caused international embarrassment for the United States and cast a shadow over the war in Iraq.” A variety of reasons, maybe. One more than any other, surely.
  • Then the 2004 decision at the Times to hold James Risen’s piece on the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping for a year. I have always admired Risen not only for getting the story and writing it, but also for defending it in the face of the paper’s unconscionable resistance and finally forcing the Times’ hand by publishing it in his book. Again, hypocrisy in action when the Times then published Risen’s work weeks before the book arrived, striking its customary speak-truth-to-power pose, just years too late.
Unprofessional journalists are critiqued.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY

Letters to the Editor
Readers | Ongoing

Preventing a people from providing for themselves is a way of sabotaging their ability to live autonomously. That is how we should understand Israel’s assaults on forty-six of Gaza’s fishing boats or its attacks on Day Sixteen of Protective Edge against agricultural sites in the Northern Gaza Strip, Gaza City, the Central Gaza Strip, Khan Yunis, and Rafah. That is how we should understand Israel rendering two-thirds of Gaza’s wheat mills inoperative and the need of 3,000 of Gaza’s herders for animal feed (to say nothing of the value of animal life itself). That is how we should understand this intensification of what Harvard’s Dr. Sara Roy describes as the long-running deliberate destruction and de-development of the Gaza Strip’s economy that, unless funding for UNRWA is increased, could cause mass starvation.
Greg Shupak in Jacobin Mag.
In the days after the Libyan revolution, the country was charged with hope. Now we are staring at the abyss of civil war.
HISHAM MATAR in The New Yorker
Fleeing violence back home, tens of thousands of children and youth are fleeing Central America for the United States, many unaccompanied by a parent. The influx has bent US asylum policy to the breaking point.
Markus Feldenkirchen and Jens Glüsing in Der Spiegel
There's an eerie silence at the MH 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, even as a civil war and propaganda battles rage around it. Few here seem concerned that the investigation into the tragedy could influence future ties with Europe.
Christian Neef in Der Spiegel
Vegetables for all and collection bags for second-hand treasures: Smart design doesn't just look good -- it also seeks to do good. That's why we're launching the Orange Social Design Award, to be bestowed on ideas that look great and improve life in the city.
Marianne Wellershoff in Der Spiegel
Assessing the similarities and differences between 1914 and 2014
In this centennial of what participants named the “Great War,” many have recalled Mark Twain’s observation that while history never repeats itself, it does sometimes rhyme.
GRAHAM ALLISON in The Atlantic
Officials say more than 40 people died as Israel continued heaviest bombing of 23-day campaign
  • European capital markets to be closed to Russian banks
  • Sanctions intended to stop supply of arms to Ukraine rebels
  • Downing St to push for harsher sanctions if no change
Julian Borger, Paul Lewis and Rowena Mason in The Guardian
Yuli Novak, former Israeli air force officer in The Guardian
This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.
Jesse Rosenfeld in The Daily Beast
Like all former US Presidents, President Obama will protect Israel from any United Nations accountability by wielding his veto.

And that is one of the reasons for the mess in the Mideast. The Israeli leadership is completely fearless because it knows that the US will protect it no matter what it does, up to and including calling high American officials terrorist sympathizers.

The truth is that Mr. Obama could end the madness fairly easily. He could just abstain when the UNSC votes sanctions on Israel for its violations of international law.

The European Union has forwarded the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the US, as an American sphere of influence. The US congress and government more generally, in turn, has been bought and paid for by the Israel lobbies, including the “Christian Zionists.” Unless and until counter-lobbies are formed that effectively contest with AIPAC for influence over US representatives, the problems in the Mideast are unsolvable.

Juan Cole in Informed Comment
Once there was widespread Israeli outrage over the bombing of homes in Gaza. Now there is just indifference
Yuli Novak, former Israeli air force officer in The Guardian
Foreign governments have looked on powerless as anarchy sweeps across the North African oil producer. Western countries have urged their nationals to leave, shut their embassies and pulled diplomats out, after two weeks of clashes among rival factions of former rebels killed nearly 160 people in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.
The Department of Defense has provided the ANSF with 747,000 weapons since 2004 for approximately $626 million, and cannot account for all of their whereabouts due to poor recordkeeping.
Luke Johnson in Informed Comment
It took the shooting down of a Boeing jet carrying almost 300 people before the EU agreed on the first true economic sanctions against Russia. The Americans want further action, but it is impossible to know if punitive measures can sway Vladimir Putin.
  • UN condemns IDF attack on sleeping children as violation of international law
  • Strike on crowded market in Shujai'iya during ceasefire kills 17
  • Death toll now more than 1,300 after three weeks of fighting
[Israel's barbaric conduct is sowing the seeds of wider war and its own destruction]
Harriet Sherwood and Hazem Balousha in The Guardian
Israel is an apartheid state which wants to pretend it doesn’t rule its Bantustans while at the same time slowly strangling them to death, and in the case of the West Bank, continuing to settle them.

This is an unsustainable position.  Israel needs to either become a secular state with equal citizenship for all residents regardless of religion or ethnicity; or the logic of situation will require them to remove the Palestinians once and for all.

As a bleeding ulcer, Israel does not work. More and more diaspora Jews are turning away from it. At some point the foreign aid it requires to exist will go away.

Lip-service aside, western governments support the siege of Gaza, the building of settlements and therefore Israel’s periodic massacres. The impunity granted to Israel is completely at odds with the democratic will of the people, as the current international outpouring of solidarity with Gaza shows.

If governments refuse to act, then the vast international support that Israel enjoys must be tackled by international grassroots civil society, using the methods that isolated South Africa during apartheid.

Rafeef Ziadah in The Guardian
The pockmarked track record of companies like KBR and CACI has prompted U.S. congressional officials to introduce legislation seeking to increase accountability over private contractors. They argue that the issue only becomes more important with time, because as the U.S. military pulls out of the Middle East, the number of U.S. contractors in the region is scheduled to increase.

Actors from all sides of the debate, including human rights groups, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Obama administration, and even some contractors have all expressed support for increased accountability mechanisms.

Danielle Marie Mackey in Le Monde diplomatique
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.
ANNA BERNASEK in The New York Times
Despite obscene profits from monopoly power, government officials ignore evidence and squash challenges
Here‘s a question to ask your senators and representatives: Where are the congressional investigations into FERC-approved price gouging?
David Cay Johnston for Al Jazeera
The whistle-blower says it is urgent that the SEC set clear rules and take action now. “The SEC cannot build confidence in the markets,” the complaint said, “if it allows major, well-funded, politically connected industries like private equity to evade enforcement for widespread, systematic and flagrant violations of the securities laws.”
GRETCHEN MORGENSON for the AP via Columbus CEO

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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