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Established 1973 — Last updated: Saturday, October 25, 2014, 12:11 PM
 Important Policy and Practice News
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.]
Preliminary results from the study show that children with autism spectrum disorders were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers’ pregnancies and their first two years of life compared with children without the condition, according to the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health investigation. The minimal research that has been done on this correlation all came within the past decade.
Andrew Goldstein | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Prenatal exposure to traffic-related air pollution increases the risk for respiratory disease in otherwise healthy children, according to a new report published online October 20 in Thorax.
Diana Phillips | Medscape
European Union leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and set renewable energy targets.
Source: AFP | Al Jazeera
As David Cameron prepares to join EU leaders to set new targets for emissions, energy savings and renewables, we look at the data and what it means for the UK
Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
Details given of two vaccines being fast-tracked for trial on 20,000 health workers and antibody serum planned for Liberia
Staff and agencies | The Guardian
The latest Ebola outbreak is the largest the world has ever seen, with more than 4,500 confirmed deaths in west Africa. Patients are often killed not by the virus itself, but by the overreaction of their immune system to the infection. Here, Ian Sample explains how Ebola is transmitted, the organs it disrupts, the symptoms of infection and the chances of survival
Contact tracing—tracking down an Ebola patient’s immediate circle—is doable in the West. But in West Africa, with limited transportation, fuel, and health workers, it’s daunting.
Abby Haglage and Kent Sepkowitz | The Daily Beast

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 | The Atlantic | Ref.
The cost of cancer drugs [13:52 60 Minutes' video]
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs

Dr. Peter Bach: Medicare has to pay exactly what the drug company charges. Whatever that number is.

Lesley Stahl: Wait a minute, this is a law?

Dr. Peter Bach: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: And there's no negotiating whatsoever with Medicare?

Dr. Peter Bach: No.

[All other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times | Ref.
Climate Change: Lines of Evidence [play chapters or all 28 minutes]
The National Research Council via YouTube | Ref.
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.

Letters to the Editor
Readers | Ongoing

The largest metros would have seen a 24 percent bump in economic growth in 2012 if racial employment disparities didn't exist.
An exclusive Truthout investigation - released today on a day of national protest against police brutality - reveals that the City of Chicago fails to recognize, let alone sanction, police guilty of repeated episodes of violence, including the shooting deaths of unarmed civilians.
Sarah Macaraeg and Alison Flowers | TruthOut
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, head of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), hasn't shown up in Massachusetts to campaign for the GOP candidate there, but he's still become an issue in the race. In a televised Massachusetts gubernatorial debate Tuesday night, Democratic nominee Martha Coakley, who currently serves as the commonwealth's attorney general, said that Republican nominee Charlie Baker was potentially “in violation of the law” when he made a $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican Party months before Gov. Christie’s officials gave Baker’s firm a state contract.
Independent presidential bids, a third party, and other big changes may be just over the midterm horizon.
RON FOURNIER | National Journalr
Bilderbergers, the Iraq invasion, Alex Jones—the GOP senator has routinely flirted with America's paranoid fringe.
David Corn | Mother Jones
From dark money to a mysterious super PAC donor, here are a few of the best investigations of money in politics since the last elections.
....This reality, when my wife and I shared it with black Londoners, just shocked them. They have their own beefs and concerns with police, but this idea of trembling in fear when pulled over for going 65 mph in a 55-mph zone was just foreign to them. In fact, after visiting the United States for the very first time in 2012, my wife’s hairstylist in London, Teresa, said she felt so unsafe she wasn't looking forward to going back. [Avoid U.S. Red States and urban ghettos, tourists]
Shaun King | Daily Kos

Warren chose the first-in-the-nation nominating caucus state to deliver what The Des Moines Register called a "passion-filled liberal[?] stemwinder."

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. "Here's the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely worked."

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to "fire the cops on Wall Street."

"They called it deregulation," Warren said, "but what it really meant was: Have at 'em, boys. They were saying, in effect, to the biggest financial institutions, any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits."

She went on to say that "Republicans, man, they ought to be wearing a T-shirt. ... The T-shirt should say, 'I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.'"

The core issue in all the Senate races, she said, is this: "Who does the government work for? Does it work just for millionaires, just for the billionaires, just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for the people?"

Eugene Robinson | Real Clear Politics
New research from Harvard shows a chilling rise in public mass shootings—and debunks a popular claim that they haven't increased.
Mark Follman | Mother Jones
It takes the perception of a crisis to make policymakers treat public health like a serious issue. Now that’s a tragedy
George Chidi | The Guardian
And the top 0.1 percent owns more than a fifth of all American wealth.
TIM FERNHOLZ | The Atlantic
Between 2010 and 2013, inflation-adjusted median home values fell by 4.6 percent for white households and 18.4 percent for African American households.
VALERIE WILSON | American Prospect
On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld Texas' harsh voter ID law. The state has been on the cutting edge of minority disenfranchisement since emancipation.
Erika Eichelberger | Mother Jones
There are more than 16,000 vacant homes in the city. Are they the solution to the long-standing housing crisis?
ALANA SEMUELS | The Atlantic
The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon
What evidence exists for saying America has a double government?
GLENNON: I was curious why a president such as Barack Obama would embrace the very same national security and counterterrorism policies that he campaigned eloquently against. Why would that president continue those same policies in case after case after case? I initially wrote it [his book] based on my own experience and personal knowledge and conversations with dozens of individuals in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies of our government, as well as, of course, officeholders on Capitol Hill and in the courts. And the documented evidence in the book is substantial—there are 800 footnotes in the book.
Jordan Michael Smith | Boston Globe
Russia had the chance at the end of the Cold War to build a modern, diversified economy, with the enthusiastic help of the West. That chance has been squandered
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard | The Telegraph
Investor says Vladimir Putin’s aggressive nationalism challenges values and principles on which the EU was founded [Response should be an impetous for improving the EU and Euro for the long term]
Julian Borger | The Guardian
As the Ukrainian election approaches, citizens are both hopeful and skeptical about their country's future. But their biggest concern isn't the war in the east or Russian interference -- it's the country's need for a working state.
Christian Neef | Der Spiegel
For weeks now, the world has grown worried as Islamic State jihadists have tried to take the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria. As the US has stepped up airstrikes, Turkey's actions have revealed that it is pursuing its own contradictory political agenda.
Christoph Reuter | Der Spiegel
One year ago, a group of 113 people set off from Niger hoping for a better future in the European Union. A few days later, they were left stranded in the Sahara Desert without vehicles or water. Only 17 survived to tell the tale. [Ask the embarassing question: Why is crossing from southern to northern hemispheres so dangerous?]
Hauke Goos and Bernhard Riedmann | Der Spiegel
TEHRAN — Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of the historic city of Isfahan on Wednesday to protest several acid attacks on women. The attacks had coincided with the passage of a law designed to protect those who correct people deemed to be acting in an “un-Islamic” way.
THOMAS ERDBRINK | The New York Times
How Iraq's displaced people are coping with war and want
ALICE SU | The Atlantic
Commander ‘ready’ to use force in chase for ‘probable’ Russian vessel, while media seize on scraps amid furtive excitement
David Crouch | The Guardian
It can be no accident that the raging fights in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and the Ukraine all coincide with areas rich in energy resources or for which imported energy resources are at risk. There are other conflicts. But these are the ones that are transfixing the eyes of the world, and these are the ones in which major powers are taking sides and mounting major responses.
Kurt Cobb | OilPrice
Farmers grew ‘unprecedented’ 209,000 hectares of opium poppy despite US spending $7.6bn on counter-narcotics efforts
Reuters | The Guardian
Security guards for private US contractor guilty of manslaughter for notorious 2007 incident that left 17 dead in Baghdad
Dan Roberts | The Guardian
Unprofessional journalists are critiqued.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
Latest wage data show continuing stagnation that is contributing to economic doldrums
David Cay Johnston | Al Jazeera

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate non-bank companies that service Americans' mortgages, noting in a letter co-signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that an increasing number of lawsuits has been filed in recent years against these firms—which are not regulated as strictly as banks.

Mortgage servicers, whether they are owned by banks or not, handle mortgages after they've been sold to a customer. That means they take care of administrative business including collecting mortgage payments and dealing with delinquent borrowers. What Warren and Cummings are worried about is that the share of non-banks servicing mortgages has grown astronomically—300 percent between 2011 and 2013—and it appears that the increased workload has led to shoddier service.

The rise of the industry, which typically services lower-income borrowers, "has been accompanied by consumer complaints, lawsuits, and other regulatory actions as the servicers' workload outstrips their processing capacity," according to a recent report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Erika Eichelberger | Mother Jones
It’s important to separate the truth about housing regulations from the industry’s propaganda. Doing so reveals the mortgage industry's effort to strangle the housing market in the short term and cull regulations in the long term.
David Dayen | New Republic
The EPA's report notes that in recent years, US farmers have been planting on average 76 million acres of soybeans each season. Of those acres, an average 31 percent are planted in seeds treated with neonics—that is, farmers buy treated seeds, which suffuse the soybean plants with the chemical as they grow. So that's about 24 million acres of neonic-treated seeds—an area equal in size to the state of Indiana. Why would farmers pay up for a seed treatment that doesn't do them any good, yet may be doing considerable harm to pollinators and birds? The EPA report has insights: "data from researchers and extension experts ... indicate that some growers currently have some difficulty obtaining untreated seed." The report points to one small poll that found 45 percent of respondents reported finding non-treated seeds "difficult to obtain" or "not available."
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones
A boon for agrichemical sales, but not so great for the environment
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones

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.
Obama admistration must justify suppression of never-before-seen photographs depicting US military torture of detainees
Spencer Ackerman | The Guardian
Despite the White House’s public reluctance to get involved in the widely aired spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the report, Denis McDonough’s role suggests that the Oval Office sees the feud as a high-stakes one.
Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim | Huffington Post
[War Crime: America 'secretly' bombed Laos with napalm, Agent Orange and cluster bombs for 5 years]
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