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Last updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 12:20 PM
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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.

We are destroying the world’s biodiversity. Yet debate has erupted over just what this means for the planet – and us.

....Even as the Permian-Triassic extinction event shows the fragility of life, it also proves its resilience in the long-term. The lessons of such mass extinctions – five to date and arguably a sixth happening as I write – inform science today. Given that extinction levels are currently 1,000 (some even say 10,000) times the background rate, researchers have long worried about our current destruction of biodiversity – and what that may mean for our future Earth and ourselves.

In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

A paper last year in Trends in Ecology & Evolution scathingly attacked the idea the idea of any global biodiversity boundary.

....Yes, life itself survived the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event – but most species did not. Believe me, humans probably wouldn’t have survived the tens-of-millions of years that followed the Great Dying: oxygen levels were dangerously low, food would have been scarce, and the world would have looked largely barren and wasted even as some species and ecosystems managed to survive. Outside the moral dilemma of extinction, there is no question that if humans push more-and-more species into oblivion there will be impacts on our society – and they could become catastrophic.

Humans evolved 248 million years later in an Earth that was far more biodiverse and rich, a kind of Eden of abundance and diversity. But our current actions risk all that – and perhaps ourselves.

Retailer outlines five-year aim to replace all plastic packaging with trays made of paper and pulp

....As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, “there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment”, Walker added.

Iceland has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges in the next few months will use paper-based food trays.

The move, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, called the announcement a “bold pledge” and that it was “now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge”.

Campaigners say London mayor has fudged a similar manifesto promise to divest the city’s remaining pension funds from fossil fuels
Campaigners say London mayor has fudged a similar manifesto promise to divest the city’s remaining pension funds from fossil fuels

Chickens for sale in Britain’s supermarkets are showing record levels of superbugs resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics, new research from the government has found.

The results are concerning because resistance to antibiotics among livestock can easily affect resistance among humans, rendering vital medicines ineffective against serious diseases.

The Food Standards Agency, which tested a large sample of fresh whole chickens from retailers, reported “significantly higher proportions” in the last 10 years in instances of campylobacter, a harmful pathogen, that were found to be resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it.

The agency warned: “This survey provides evidence that AMR [anti-microbial resistant] campylobacter are to be found on whole fresh chickens sold at retail in the UK. It is therefore important to handle chicken hygienically and cook thoroughly to reduce the risk to public health.

Doctors say new Medicaid rules 'like asking people to work with an anchor on their back' [instead of universal and more efficient single-payer @ half current per-capita cost, Republicans cleverly found a way to increase crime, street begging and early deaths]
Administration’s policy allows states to impose work requirements for people on Medicaid, meaning sick or injured Americans ‘have to go to work, no matter what’

....This week, the Trump administration announced a new policy that allows states to require Medicaid patients to work.

Six in 10 already do.

“I work with Appalachian, salt-of-the-earth, ‘Rah! Rah! America’ individuals,” Leroy said. “To have them clumped into – ‘Well, these people just don’t want to work’ – well, of course they want to work. I have all these working poor people that are making minimum wages.”

....The politics of welfare are complex. In the 1990s, under Bill Clinton, reforms transformed “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” from an ethos to a matter of public policy. Now, the 10 states looking to implement work requirements for Medicaid coverage are all led by Republican governors or legislatures.

The changes allow states to require Medicaid recipients who are not children, elderly, disabled or pregnant to either work or perform “community engagement”, which can include going to school, looking for a job, volunteering or caregiving.

As many as 6.3 million people could lose Medicaid benefits as a result, an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress found. About two-thirds of those individuals are believed to be students or caregivers who may not meet the strict requirements.

Jessica Glenza | The Guardian
Michael Hiltzik | Los Angeles Times
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY
In postindustrial Baltimore, low-income residents are treated as expendable — and public services are slashed accordingly.

....Since political officials, city planners, and economic elites began developing Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in the 1970s — kicking off the modern wave of downtown tourist development — at least $3.7 billion in public money (in the form of direct subsidies, tax write-offs, PILOTS or payments in lieu of taxes, and TIFs or tax increment financing) has been used for downtown development. More than Baltimore’s entire 2017 budget ($2.8 billion), this figure includes the recent decision to give Under Armour $600 million in TIFs, but also the construction of Camden Yards (home to the Orioles), M&T Bank Stadium (home to the Ravens), Harbor East, and dozens of other developments.

In each of these cases, supporters argued that the public would reap the benefits through job growth and consumer spending. Rarely (if ever) did these trickle-down effects appear. Baltimore schoolchildren in particular suffered (or will suffer) in three main ways. First, money that went to these projects could not, by definition, go to Baltimore schools. Second, it may decrease state aid to Baltimore schools because the new developments (which pay little to no taxes) are now worth millions. Third, we know that poor funding is one of the drivers of the “school to prison pipeline.”

In addition to using public funds for private purposes, the city has moved to privatize a range of public services. Again this has hit young residents especially hard. Over the past fifteen years Baltimore has transferred over two dozen recreation centers into private hands, and has outsourced much of its parks and recreation services to a nonprofit foundation. The successful push a few years ago by a coterie of activist teachers, parents, students, and residents to boost state spending on public school infrastructure has been the anomaly. Seemingly everywhere else there’s been decreased support for public goods and, on top of that, scant attention to accountability mechanisms and transparency — a phenomenon that partially explains charges of corruption in school spending....

LESTER SPENCE | Jacobin

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King’s slide in popularity coincided with his activism taking a turn from what Americans largely know him for — his campaign for civil rights in the American South — to a much more radical one aimed at the war in Vietnam and poverty.

....For years, King had been troubled by the war in Vietnam and raised it privately in conversations with the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. As the conflict dragged on, King felt he had no choice but to publicly denounce the war.

In an April 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, the civil rights leader publicly denounced American involvement in Indochina.

....The Liberal Backlash

The backlash from a liberal establishment that had once praised King for his civil rights campaign came as hard and fast as his allies had feared.

The New York Times editorial board lambasted King for linking the war in Vietnam to the struggles of civil rights and poverty alleviation in the United States, saying it was “too facile a connection” and that he was doing a “disservice” to both causes. It concluded that there “are no simple answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial injustice in this country.” The Washington Post editorial board said King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country and his people.”

Zaid Jilani | The Intercept
Voters "want us to be on the side of ordinary people, not with the big special interests," said Sen. Ed Markey, who introduced the legislation

Open internet defenders are calling on Americans to continue "melting the phonelines" of their representatives following news on Monday that a bill aimed at overruling the Republican-controlled FCC's order to kill net neutrality is just one Republican vote shy of the 51 needed for passage.

"Your calls are working. Your pressure is working. Keep it up!"
—Craig Aaron, Free Press

Introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in December, the legislation looks to make use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to pass a "resolution of disapproval" to nullify new regulations.

As Common Dreams has reported, more than a dozen Senate Democrats were slow to co-sponsor the legislation, but they ultimately signed on in the face of immense public pressure. Organizers are urging constituent voters nationwide to keep up the calls, letters, and emails urging members of Congress to support Markey's bill and take a stand against the FCC's attack on the open internet.

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams

....Cardin has remarkably few achievements for being in Congress for so many years. One of his few distinctions is that he has become one of the Senate’s most reliable and loyal supporters of AIPAC’s agenda and the Israeli government, if not the single most loyal. In 2015, he joined with Lindsey Graham in kicking off the annual AIPAC conference, causing neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin to gush about how identical they sounded.

But Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel – a bill that was such a profound assault on basic First Amendment freedoms that the ACLU instantly denounced it and multiple Senators who had co-sponsored Cardin’s bill (such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand) announced that they were withdrawing their support.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, establishment (a.k.a. neoliberal) Democrats wasted no time in mocking and denouncing Chelsea Manning’s bid to become the first ever trans woman in the Senate, instead quickly lining up in support behind the straight white male who has wielded power for decades. To demean Manning, many of these establishment Democrats invoked the primary tactic they now reflexively use against anyone they view as a political adversary: they depicted her as a tool of the Kremlin, whose candidacy is really just a disguised plot engineered by Moscow.

Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept
The US retail industry is hemorrhaging jobs – and it's hitting women hardest [don't worry, our Republican government is working on this problem]
As the retail landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation, analysis finds 129,000 women lost jobs last year while men actually gained positions
Dominic Rushe | The Guardian
The undeniable collapse of integrity, honesty and decency in our public and private life has fueled racial hatred and contempt
Cornel West | The Guardian
We need to address the questions raised by rapid automation, and find new ways to redistribute power

....So what might the progressive politics of the 2020s and 2030s look like? Clearly, our most glaring inequalities call for action that only a powerful central state can carry out. We should start, at long last, to move tax policy towards concentrations of wealth and assets, not least land and property. The line should be redrawn between what ought to be considered public services and utilities, and things best left to the private sector, a point underlined by the nightmarish collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion. Investment needs to be forcibly pushed into places long deprived of it.

People who are flexible, original thinkers show signature forms of connectivity in their brains, study shows

....One of the barriers to creative thinking is the ease with which common, unoriginal thoughts swamp the mind. Some people in the study could not get past these. For example, when asked for creative uses for a sock, soap and chewing gum wrapper, less creative people gave answers such as “covering the feet”, “making bubbles” and “containing gum” respectively. For the same items, more original thinkers suggested a water filtration system, a seal for envelopes, and an antenna wire.

Reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found distinct patterns of brain activity in the most and least creative people. In the highly original thinkers, the scientists saw strong connectivity between three networks of the brain. One, known as the default mode network, is linked to spontaneous thinking and mind wandering, while a second, the executive control network, is engaged when people focus in on their thoughts. The third, called the salience network, helps to work out what best deserves our attention.

The first two of these three brain networks tend to work against one another, Beaty said, each dampening the other down. But the scans suggest that more creative people can better engage [the 2nd and 3rd networks] at once. “It might be easier for creative thinkers to bring these resources to bear simultaneously,” he said.

  • Billionaire George Soros hit back against nationalist critics in an interview with the Financial Times.
  • Soros said criticism and smear campaigns would not stop his Open Society Foundation's work promoting a liberal agenda.
  • He said he believed Putin was behind many of the attacks against him.
Camilla Hodgson | Business Insider
The conflict has killed at least ten thousand civilians, and the country faces famine. Why are we still involved?
Without foreign assistance, it would be very difficult for the Saudis to wage war.

....Since the war began, at least ten thousand Yemeni civilians have been killed, though the number is potentially much higher, because few organizations on the ground have the resources to count the dead. Some three million people have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands have left the country. Before the war, Yemen was the Middle East’s poorest state, relying on imports to feed the population. Now, after effectively being blockaded by the Saudi coalition for more than two and a half years, it faces famine. More than a million people have cholera, and thousands have died from the disease. unicef, the World Food Program, and the World Health Organization have called the situation in Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Nicolas Niarchos | New Yorker
Turkey plans assault on Kurdish enclave in Syria [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
President Erdogan urges US to support operation against Afrin enclave, which is intended to ‘purge terror’ from border
Source: Associated Press | The Guardian

Reference:
Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
Republican tax cut will widen the trade and current-account deficits, the opposite of what was promised

....No matter how you look at it, the Republican tax cut, by widening the budget deficit, will fuel growth in the US current-account deficit. It’s the early 1980s all over again [when Reagan's tax-cuts tripled the national debt]. But it’s not morning in America.

If we stand together against powerful special interests we can eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and tackle climate change

....A new and international progressive movement must commit itself to tackling structural inequality both between and within nations. Such a movement must overcome “the cult of money” and “survival of the fittest” mentalities that the pope warned against. It must support national and international policies aimed at raising standards of living for poor and working-class people – from full employment and a living wage to universal higher education, healthcare and fair trade agreements. In addition, we must rein in corporate power and prevent the environmental destruction of our planet as a result of climate change.

Here is just one example of what we have to do. Just a few years ago, the Tax Justice Network estimated that the wealthiest people and largest corporations throughout the world have been stashing at least $21tn-$32tn in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. If we work together to eliminate offshore tax abuse, the new revenue that would be generated could put an end to global hunger, create hundreds of millions of new jobs, and substantially reduce extreme income and wealth inequality. It could be used to move us aggressively toward sustainable agriculture and to accelerate the transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of power.

Taking on the greed of Wall Street, the power of gigantic multinational corporations and the influence of the global billionaire class is not only the moral thing to do – it is a strategic geopolitical imperative. Research by the United Nations development programme has shown that citizens’ perceptions of inequality, corruption and exclusion are among the most consistent predictors of whether communities will support rightwing extremism and violent groups. When people feel that the cards are stacked against them and see no way forward for legitimate recourse, they are more likely to turn to damaging solutions that only exacerbate the problem.

This is a pivotal moment in world history. With the explosion in advanced technology and the breakthroughs this has brought, we now have the capability to substantially increase global wealth fairly. The means are at our disposal to eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and create an inexpensive and non-polluting global energy system.

This is what we can do...

Student Debt Slavery II: Time to Level the Playing Field [This is the second in a two-part article on the debt burden America’s students face. Read Part 1 here.]
The lending business is heavily stacked against student borrowers. Bigger players can borrow for almost nothing, and if their investments don’t work out, they can put their corporate shells through bankruptcy and walk away. Not so with students. Their loan rates are high and if they cannot pay, their debts are not normally dischargeable in bankruptcy. Rather, the debts compound and can dog them for life, compromising not only their own futures but the economy itself.
Ellen Brown | Global Research


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