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Established 1973 — Last updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 8:45 AM
Aggregated news of who we are and might become
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

UN children’s agency report highlights toll on youngsters by 2030 unless world leaders turn rhetoric into reality on fighting poverty

Less than a year after the world promised to leave no one behind by signing up to an ambitious 15-year blueprint to end inequality, the UN children’s agency says that 69 million children will die from mostly preventable causes by 2030, and 167 million will be living in extreme poverty, unless world leaders turn rhetoric into reality.

In its latest State of the World’s Children report, Unicef also says 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030, the date by which the sustainable development goals to tackle poverty and secure the planet’s future are supposed to have been achieved.

Nearly half of the 69 million children whose deaths the report foresees will be in sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 247 million children – two in every three – are deprived of what they need to survive and develop.

Clár Ní Chonghaile | The Guardian
Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto to announce new ‘aggressive but achievable’ goal at ‘Three Amigos’ summit in Ottawa
Reuters | The Guardian
The Thames estuary is home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm – a model for exploiting the potential of Britain’s gusty coastlines

While the UK ranks comparatively low in the European renewable energy rankings, in wind power it is flourishing, having overtaken France as the sixth largest global generator of wind power, and boasting the largest offshore capacity in the world.

Offshore wind is not only clean and increasingly cheap, it is also among the most popular energy sources in Britain, exploiting the wealth of a well-buffeted coastline without impacting on local landscapes. “When you compare it to other technologies, it’s a fairly sure bet,” says Duffy. “It’s a mature technology and it’s a very effective way of installing new power on to the grid.”

Kit Buchan | The Guardian

Who knew that the Windy City has become so green? As Co.Exist reported, Chicago is quietly becoming the country’s urban agriculture capital with 821 growing sites across the city, from small community gardens to multimillion dollar indoor farms, according to the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project. Even O’Hare’s Terminal 3 is home to the world’s first airport aeroponic garden.

Chicago’s “urban farming renaissance” has been led by a burgeoning indoor farm market, Co.Exist writes. This includes FarmedHere, a 90,000-square-foot space in Bedford Park that is not only the first organically-certified indoor vertical aquaponic farm in Illinois, it’s also the largest indoor farm in North America. FarmedHere’s two-story farming facility currently sits on the site of a formerly abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of Chicago.

Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch
Energy authority says governments must take responsibility, and investment would pay for itself in health benefits
Fiona Harvey | The Guardian
New pain drug being developed at University of Maryland could offer relief without addiction [a non-addicting, legally prescribed opioid drug would greatly reduce crime and and improve public health]

Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore have developed a new drug that promises a possible breakthrough by offering strong pain relief while lowering the risk of addiction.

The drug, a synthetic opioid called UMB425 for now, is in the early stages of development — years away from human testing — and some experts cautioned that a number of complications could prevent it from ever coming to market. But there are high hopes for the drug as the nation looks for solutions to the opioid addiction epidemic.

"It's one of the biggest health care crises we have in the United States right now," said Andrew Coop, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy who is developing the drug. "There are people who suffer daily from the side effects of the opioid."

Carrie Wells | The Baltimore Sun

The retirement of coal and nuclear generation in New England has opened the door for more natural gas-fired and renewable generation.

Regional capacity auctions have successfully replaced EquiPower Resources Corp.’s Brayton Point 1-3 coal-fired units and Brayton Point 4 oil-fired unit, as well as Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear station, both in eastern Massachusetts. Brayton Point, which is ultimately owned by Dynegy Inc., is slated to shut in June 2017, and Pilgrim is expected to shutter operations in June 2019.

Coalition revived proposals after companies said last week they would push ahead with projects

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which blasts a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas, will be banned.

Only a handful of projects for scientific or non-commercial purposes are likely to meet the conditions.

Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
From the ‘red-tape’ slashing desires of the Brexiters to the judgment of green professionals, all indications are for weaker environmental protections
Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Trees are dying at an ‘unprecedented’ rate due to drought, warmer weather and a bark beetle epidemic, prompting the US agriculture secretary’s warning
Cities are huge carbon emitters but are ideally placed to tackle climate change. Michael Bloomberg on how the Global Covenant can give them the tools to do so

hen it comes to confronting climate change, the world’s cities are proving that there’s strength in unity. The historic climate agreement reached in Paris in December, which was approved by nearly all of the world’s nations, was made possible in part by the progress that cities have made by working together.

Today, the two biggest coalitions of cities in the world – the EU-based Covenant of Mayors and the UN-backed Compact of Mayors – are forming an alliance to link more than 600 million city dwellers in the fight against climate change.

Cities are key to solving the climate change challenge. They account for most of the world’s carbon emissions, and mayors often have control over the largest sources. Just as importantly, mayors have strong incentives to attack those sources because steps that reduce carbon also improve public health and strengthen local economies.

Clean air is increasingly a factor business leaders weigh when deciding where to invest. Cities can also act quickly to confront climate change, without the political and bureaucratic hurdles that often hold back national governments.

By sharing smart strategies, cities of all sizes have led the way in addressing climate change, and as a result, the UN has given cities an official role in international climate diplomacy for the first time. In the European Union as well, cities are increasingly seen as crucial allies in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Our new alliance, now called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, will provide unprecedented support for city efforts and accelerate progress against climate change in a number of ways, including:

Michael Bloomberg and Maros Sefcovic | The Guardian
‘Historic’ agreement between the state’s largest utility company and environmental groups follows safety debates over proximity to seismic faults
Jason Burke | The Guardian
The House GOP’s health-care proposal would expand savings accounts, provide tax credits for buying insurance, and allow people to purchase coverage across state lines. Just don’t ask how much it costs.

The plan is more like an Impressionist painting: The closer you look, the fuzzier it appears. There’s no estimate for how much it would cost, how generous the tax credits would be, how many people it would cover, or how many people would be forced off of Medicaid or their Obamacare exchange policies. “It is a framework,” a House GOP leadership aide told reporters on a background conference call held to preview the plan on Tuesday. All of those questions, the aide said, would be “litigated” by the committees that actually translate the framework into legislation next year. “We would expect healthy job growth. We would expect premiums to drop,” the aide said, without being more specific.

As men in agriculture grow older and die without male successors, their wives and daughters are learning to run the business.
ALANA SEMUELS | The Atlantic


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

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref. | 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.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
As one of Bernie’s delegates, I’m disappointed so far. But we’re still fighting hard.

I’ve had a front-row seat to the first round of the process, as 1 of 5 delegates Sanders named to draft the platform. (The Clinton campaign named six, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, added four more.) We spent two weeks listening to powerful testimony from citizens around the country, and then on Friday in St. Louis we started taking votes.

And it was there that the essential dynamic quickly emerged. The Clinton campaign was ready to acknowledge serious problems: We need fair trade policy, inequality is a horrible problem, and unchecked climate change will wreck the planet. But when it came to specific policy changes, they often balked. Amendments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and backing Medicare for all failed, with all the Clinton delegates voting against.

At which point we got (about 11 p.m., in a half-deserted hotel ballroom) to the climate section of the platform, and that’s where things got particularly obvious. We all agreed that America should be operating on 100 percent clean energy by 2050, but then I proposed, in one amendment after another, a series of ways we might actually get there. A carbon tax? Voted down 7-6 (one of the DNC delegates voted with each side). A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6. An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6. A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6. Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6. (We did, however, reach unanimous consent on more bike paths!)

In other words, the Clinton campaign is at this point rhetorically committed to taking on our worst problems, but not willing to say how. Which is the slightly cynical way politicians have addressed issues for too long—and just the kind of slickness that the straightforward Sanders campaign rejected.

The GOP nominee has yet to mount an actual campaign. How much longer can our pundits pretend this is a horse race?

It’s not just Trump’s finances. It seems with every important campaign measurement — staffing, get out the vote, communications, etc. — Trump not only languishes; he barely competes.

It’s certainly possible, given Trump’s history and lack of political experience, that his campaign’s problems stem largely from basic incompetence. But something else might be in play here.

Republicans have been staging modern White House campaigns for decades. Sometimes they’re successful and sometimes they’re not, but the party always manages to build an apparatus and support system that’s designed to compete on the national stage. So why would that formula suddenly elude Trump? Why would this nominee not to be able to pull off Campaign 101 as the calendar readies its flip to July?

Just as importantly, why is Trump’s campaign pouring so much money into paying Trump’s own companies for goods and services?

Appointees by Clinton and Wasserman Schulz resoundingly reject numerous proposals put forth by Sanders surrogates
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams
Secret spending on the local level rose from 24 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2014

While the outsized influence that Big Money is having on federal elections is well-documented, the local impact of the Supreme Court's 2011 Citizens United ruling has not been fully realized—until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law on Sunday published a landmark report (pdf) documenting how secret donations have corroded democracy at the state level, where it is "arguably most damaging."

"Mining companies secretly targeting a legislator who opposed permits. Food companies battling a ballot measure to add labeling requirements. Payday lenders supporting an attorney general who promised to shield them from regulation," writes Brennan Center president Michael Waldman, listing the ways that outside money has corrupted local politics.

Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams
Alan Yuhas | The Guardian
Guns and wall-to-wall star-spangled patriotism are the National Rifle Association’s way of projecting a rugged image of strength to its members, but they also point to the steady current of hysteria throughout American history
Ben Fountain | The Guardian
Recently passed measures blocking same day voter registration or requiring certain forms of voter ID are having clear impact on largely Democratic voting blocs.
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams

The leave campaign has opened up a Pandora’s box of resentment and suspicion – and it’s only going to get worse when Brexit fails to deliver on its promises

On chaos of the kind Britain now faces, history is clear: some people always get hurt more than others. Just which groups stand to suffer most this time round is already becoming worryingly clear. Take a look at the hate reports that have come pouring in over the past few days.

In Huntingdon, Polish-origin schoolkids get cards calling them “vermin”, who must “leave the EU”. They come with a Polish translation, thoughtfully enough. From Barnsley, a TV correspondent notes that within five minutes three different people shout, “Send them home.” On Facebook, a friend in east London tells how, while trying to sleep on a hot night, he hears a man bellowing outside his open window: “We’ve got our country back and next I’ll blow that fucking mosque up.”

None of this is coincidental. It’s what happens when cabinet ministers, party leaders and prime-ministerial wannabes sprinkle arguments with racist poison. When intolerance is not only tolerated, but indulged and encouraged. For months leading up to last week’s vote, politicians poured a British blend of Donald Trumpism into Westminster china. They told 350m little lies. They made cast-iron promises that, Iain Duncan Smith now admits, were only ever “possibilities”. And the Brexit brigade flirted over and over again with racism.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson peddled their fiction about Turkey joining the EU. One didn’t need especially keen hearing to pick that up as code for 80 million Muslims entering Christendom. Foregoing any subtlety, Nigel Farage said allowing Syrian refugees into the UK would put British women at risk of sexual assault. In order to further their campaign and their careers, these professional politicians added bigotry to their armoury of political weapons.

Aditya Chakrabortty | The Guardian
Family rifts over Brexit: ‘I can barely look at my parents’ [since the EU break-up–'said' by vote–won't actually occur for 2 years, why not have a make-up EU vote to reverse the horrible consequences?]
The EU referendum result has thrown many thousands of people, particularly young adults, into bitter conflict with the closest members of their families – divisions that ‘won’t heal any time soon’
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett | The Guardian
In an attempt to keep news of troop deaths quiet, government arrests reporters circulating information online
Ismail Einashe for Index on Censorship | The Guardian
Carlos Antonio Lozada, supreme urban commander of Colombia’s Farc rebels, is poised to lead his organisation into politics. In this exclusive interview he speaks about war, making peace and meeting victims
Interview by John Mulholland and Ed Vulliamy | The Guardian
Today’s politicians lack the intellectual heft and stature of our bygone leaders

Britain’s self-harming Brexit crisis, its unsettling outcome made worse by the feeble incoherence of the political class’s response, again highlights a wider problem for us all. What has gone wrong with quality control on the production lines of leadership in public life?

It’s not just our problem, of course, any more than aggressive populism tinged with nationalism is unique to Brexit, though parochial Brexiters may think so. There are people like them, thinking the same, in every country, that’s the point. Our national mood, angry and resentful, is part of a bigger malaise. Let’s call it Trumpery.

Michael White | The Guardian
President Ashraf Ghani is an expert on failed states. Can he save his country from collapse?
Ghani is Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter—a visionary technocrat who has alienated potential allies and has no feel for politics. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM FERGUSON FOR THE NEW YORKER
Ghani is Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter—a visionary technocrat who has alienated potential allies and has no feel for politics. PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM FERGUSON FOR THE NEW YORKER

Theorists are rarely given such a dramatic chance to put their ideas into practice. Afghanistan has been at war ever since the Soviet invasion of 1979, when Ghani was a thirty-year-old doctoral candidate at Columbia University. Most of the country, including several provincial capitals, is threatened by the Taliban, even as the insurgency devolves into a network of narco-criminal enterprises. In sixty per cent of Afghanistan’s three hundred and ninety-eight districts, state control doesn’t exist beyond a lonely government building and a market. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have established a presence in the east. Afghanistan can’t police its borders, and its neighbors give sanctuary and assistance to insurgents. (In May, Mullah Mansour, the Taliban leader, was killed by an American drone strike while driving from Zahedan, Iran, where he reportedly consulted with Iranian officials, to his base, in Quetta, Pakistan, with a fraudulent Pakistani passport.) Afghanistan’s finances depend on foreign aid and opium. Corruption is endemic. After the departure of a hundred and twenty-seven thousand foreign troops, in 2014, the economy collapsed, unemployment soared, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans abandoned the country. Ghani is the elected President of a failed state.

George Packer | The New Yorker
Thousands of Panamanians watch as huge Chinese container vessel is pulled through locks that will double waterway’s capacity

Amid exploding fireworks and waving flags, a Chinese ship carrying more than 9,000 containers entered the newly expanded locks that will double the Panama canal’s capacity.

Associated Press | The Guardian
Ultra-cheap Ringing Bells Freedom 251 Android phone previously thought to be scam will ship in batch of 200,000 – but company will make loss on each handset
Samuel Gibbs | The Guardian
Where Is the Leadership to Help Families, Communities, and Economies Manage the Change?

It is past time for governors and legislators in the Rocky Mountain West to seriously plan for what they are going to do to help mining communities and families hit hard by the coal industry’s collapse.

These leaders—in the six states from the Canadian border to Mexico—have been silent for too long.

The coal-mining sector today in four of those states in particular (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah) is at particular risk of disappearing entirely, producing no coal at all—zero—in the not too distant future.


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.
A woman’s control over her body will be a defining issue for female voters in November, Planned Parenthood says after landmark supreme court ruling
Pro-choice supporters’s emotional celebrations outside the supreme court after the ruling on 27 June 2016. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
Pro-choice supporters’s emotional celebrations outside the supreme court after the ruling on 27 June 2016. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

“By striking down politically motivated restrictions that made it nearly impossible for Texans to exercise their full reproductive rights, the court upheld every woman’s right to safe, legal abortion, no matter where she lives,” the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate said.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who was defeated by Clinton in the Democratic primary, also applauded the decision.

“After all the progress we have made on women’s rights, we cannot go back to the days when women in America did not have the right to control their own bodies,” Sanders said.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said that the opinion would be a “defining issue” for female voters, a group that Trump is struggling to court.

Lauren Gambino | The Guardian
Independent investigators who investigated the disappearance and apparent massacre of 43 Mexican students in 2014 have called for a robust follow-up to resolve the high-profile case and establish the truth.
  • Ask to deepen search related to heroin trafficking as possible motive
  • Military has been accused of killings and torture during war against cartels
REUTERS | The Guardian
The underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it.

In the past five years, the Syrian government has assassinated, bombed, and tortured to death almost seven hundred medical personnel, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical care in war zones. (Non-state actors, including isis, have killed twenty-seven.) Recent headlines announced the death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo, the last cardiologist in Hama. A United Nations commission concluded that “government forces deliberately target medical personnel to gain military advantage,” denying treatment to wounded fighters and civilians “as a matter of policy.”

Ben Taub | The New Yorker
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