Last updated: Saturday, September 22, 2018, 8:44 AM
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Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type,
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated total health care spending compared with the 2016 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"
2016 US total per capita health care spending was $9892 – $5292 more per person than in France
Al Gore Is Still Optimistic [24:06 video; rather than future Frankenstein governments, how can we better ensure having brilliantly efficient & competent governments?]
At the Global Action Climate Summit, the former U.S. vice president talks to Bloomberg Businessweek Editor Joel Weber about the sustainability revolution.

BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: What are the most ambitious goals you’d like us to see accomplish within your lifetime?

AL GORE: I’d like to see us solve the climate crisis and build a healthier, more prosperous, fairer, more just society and economy in the process. There are only three questions remaining about the climate process: Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?

We’re still treating the atmosphere as an open sewer. We’re putting 110 million tons every day of man-made, heat-trapping pollution into the sky. And it lingers there for a long time. The cumulative amount now traps as much extra heat as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class bombs exploding every day.

It’s a big planet, but that’s a lot of energy, and that’s why it gets hotter every year. That’s why the oceans are getting so hot. That’s why Hurricane Florence intensified so rapidly. That’s why this supertyphoon that’s even larger was headed toward southeast China. That’s why the worst fire in the history of California was one month ago in Mendocino and why the fire season here in the West is 105 days per year longer than it used to be. That’s why the drought in the Southwest is as intense as it is. That’s why there are fish from the ocean swimming in the streets of Miami at high tide—because of the melting ice and sea level rise.

The scientists were spot on in warning us about all of those consequences. Now the evening news every night is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelations. We should pay more attention to what the scientific community is telling us will happen in the future if we continue using the sky as an open sewer. ...

How do Medicare-for-all skeptics propose to pay for the unaffordable status quo?

....It's often lost in the discussion, but half the point of Medicare-for-all is to bring the ludicrous expense of the American health-care system under control. Americans spend outrageously more than other rich nations on health care, for no health benefit whatsoever — because we are ripped off by some providers and drug companies, and because our irrational, complicated, and fragmented system means wasting vast sums on pointless administrative complexity.

So how much would Medicare-for-all save over the unaffordable status quo? It's hard to say complete certainty, but let's walk through an estimate.

Under my sketched proposal, I presume Medicare-for-all would account for all health spending, since it would be so generous. (There might, in fact, be some private spending, but for the purposes of a rough estimate, they would be negligible.) Let's say cost control measures succeed in cutting health spending down to an initial 13.9 percent of GDP, or $2.7 trillion in 2017. (This figure is different than my previous one, because I originally used GDP estimates from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, not the CMS.)

Next, let's conservatively presume that spending continues to grow at the same 5.5 percent per year as the CMS estimate. (If other countries are any guide, it should be far lower, but let's not cut Medicare-for-all any breaks here.) Starting with an initial cost of $2.7 trillion, that means an increase to $4.17 trillion by 2026, for a total cost of $33.8 trillion over 10 years.

So that means an aggressive Medicare-for-all program could save something like $11.2 trillion in total national health expenditures over the decade starting in 2017, relative to the projected status quo. And very likely it could be a lot more than that if policymakers decided to really crack down on abusive provider pricing schemes.

This is the background one must keep in mind whenever the very serious fact checker brigade starts harrumphing into their Beef Wellington about the costs of socialism. Under the status quo, the United States will dump something like $11 trillion over a decade directly into the garbage disposal because we don't have enough socialism in the health-care sector. That $11 trillion could easily fund a generous paid leave scheme, top up Social Security and disability benefits, and pay for a solid green infrastructure program, with a lot left over.

To get that money, we'll have to drastically restructure the health-care system and pay a bit more in taxes. But make no mistake, the national savings would be tremendous.

Automotive industry risks blowing its carbon budget within 10 years without drastic change, analysis shows

New petrol and diesel car sales in Europe must be phased out before 2030 if the auto sector is to play its part in holding global warming to the Paris agreement’s 1.5C goal, a new analysis has found.

Forecourt plug-in hybrids will also have to disappear by 2035 at the latest, according to analysis by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), commissioned by Greenpeace. ...

Arthur Neslen | The Guardian
Pig waste pits and toxic coal ash pose threat to rivers and homes in North and South Carolina

As residents in the Carolinas continued to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Florence, fears have grown over the storm’s longer-term pollution risks – from pig excrement and toxic coal ash potentially seeping into rivers and into people’s homes. ...

There are 3,300 such lagoons in North Carolina, which is the second largest hog-farming state in the US. But the lagoons, many of which are close to rivers and low-lying land currently swamped by Florence, are now posing a threat to residents and the environment. During Hurricane Floyd, in 1999, tons of hog excrement seeped into rivers in the state, wiping out fish. ...

Adam Gabbatt | The Guardian
Shell and Exxon's secret 1980s climate change warnings [that capitalists suppressed this for continuing profit is the most unforgivable crime ever]
Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products.
Benjamin Franta | The Guardian
Trump administration rolls back methane pollution rule despite harmful health impacts [continuing in the tradition of stupid capitalism at all costs]
Advocates said retracting the regulation would cause more smog-forming pollution that can cause heart and lung illnesses
Emily Holden | The Guardian
Risk in over-50s increases by 40% where highest nitrogen oxide levels exist, study shows

Air pollution may increase the chance of developing dementia, a study has suggested, in fresh evidence that the health of people of all ages is at risk from breathing dirty air.

People over 50 in areas with the highest levels of nitrogen oxide in the air showed a 40% greater risk of developing dementia than those with the least NOx pollution, according to the research, based on data from London.

The observational study, published in the BMJ Open journal on Wednesday, cannot establish that air pollution was a direct cause of the dementia cases. However, the authors said the link between higher pollution and higher levels of dementia diagnosis could not be explained by other factors known to raise risks of the disease. ...

Fiona Harvey | The Guardian

Headteacher Gwen Lee had not expected the results to be good but had been unprepared for what the air pollution engineer found.

Levels of dangerous particulate pollution exceeded WHO guidelines in every classroom of the school – and two were more than three times over the limit.

....The measurements were taken by Swedish company BlueAir after it had been contacted by one of the parents at the school who used the company’s purifiers at home to help their child who suffers from asthma.

The school had already been trialling one air purifier and parents had been trying – unsuccessfully – to raise enough money to get more. But when the scale of the problem was flagged up to Blue Air the company agreed to donate nine units, sending an engineer over in August to test the particulate levels inside the classroom before they were fitted....

Matthew Taylor | The Guardian
Those living large in temperate zones across the Global North might like to think that a warming planet is an inconvenient, costly, but ultimately manageable problem that need not affect their current standard of living. Yet, to believe that, one must be prepared to write off the rest of humanity.
J. BRADFORD DELONG | Project Syndicate
Ideology of think tanks sources on Morning Edition (2–7/18)
In going after Jeff Bezos, Bernie Sanders tries to shame the press into seeing a problem hiding in plain sight
MATT TAIBBI | The Guardian
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


Last weekend, Americans weathered a “once in a lifetime” storm for the fourth time in 13 months. After a summer of unprecedented wildfires in the West, hurricane season has (once again) brought “unprecedented” devastation to communities on the East Coast. Faced with such ecological upheaval, our primeval ancestors would be scrambling to discern what they’d done to provoke nature’s wrath.

We modern humans are a bit less confused, but much more complacent. We don’t need to ask a shaman why monsters like Florence are paying us such frequent visits. We don’t need burn a witch to find out what’s bringing heat waves to the Arctic. Everyone who (earnestly) wishes to know why this is happening knows the three-word answer: manmade climate change.

And we know what we have to do to fix it. We don’t lack the technological capability and industrial capacity to build a sustainable economy. If America’s finest minds could figure out how to split the atom in the 1940s — and put men on the moon by the end of ’60s — they can work out how to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century.

If technical expertise isn’t a barrier to radical action on climate, money certainly isn’t an issue. If our aim is to maximize Charles Koch’s prosperity during his last few years on Earth, then there might a tension between reducing carbon emissions and achieving our economic goals. But if we wish to maximize human prosperity during our children’s lifetimes, no such trade-off exists. The costs of inaction on climate change are exorbitant; the return on investment in sustainability, massive. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley estimate that every degree of Celsius warming will cost the global economy, on average, 1.2 percent of GDP. On the other hand, a recent report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that a global shift to sustainable development would net humanity an extra $26 trillion by 2030.

On its face, the choice confronting humanity shouldn’t be a difficult one: We can either mobilize against climate change as we once did for world wars, and, thereby, safeguard the long-term survival of human life on planet Earth while making our civilization immensely wealthier — or, we can sit back and watch cable news coverage of this month’s “1,000-year storm” until our coastal cities sink into the sea.

Alas, by all appearances, we Americans are opting for door No. 2. And if the world’s most powerful nation (and prolific per-capita carbon emitter) fails to take radical action on climate, the prospects of other countries doing so will be slim. ...

"Believe them when they say they are coming after Medicare and Social Security."

As the GOP plows ahead with another round of budget-exploding tax cuts for the rich just before the crucial 2018 midterms, President Donald Trump's top economic adviser and former television personality Larry Kudlow confirmed on Monday that the White House will push for cuts to life-saving safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security if the GOP retains control of Congress in November.

"Believe them when they say they are coming after Medicare and Social Security. This election is the last chance to stop them."
—Topher Spiro, Center for American Progress

"We have to be tougher on spending," Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, declared in remarks to the Economic Club of New York.

Asked when Social Security and Medicare will be targeted for "reforms"—which, as one advocacy group noted, is "code for massive cuts"—Kudlow said, "Everyone will look at that—probably next year."

"Believe them when they say they are coming after Medicare and Social Security," Topher Spiro, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote on Twitter in response to Kudlow's comments. "This election is the last chance to stop them." ...

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams

....According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 32 percent of Americans think Trump is honest — that's 104.2 million people who are deranged, duped, dishonest, or dumb. You see what I just did? I just smeared millions of strangers with alliteration, which was cheap, unlike all of those non-disclosure agreements Trump signed with women he slept with.

I shouldn't be so haughty. Not liking con artists, molesters, money launderers, serial liars, and white supremacists does not make you a virtuous person. It makes you a normal person, which is a good start. In the Trump era, all you have to do to be good is to avoid being bad. "To flee vice is the beginning of virtue," Horace said, "and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom." To flee men who grab women by their genitals without their consent and then brag about it is, indeed, the beginning of virtue.

....We're addicted to outrage, and Trump is our dealer. Without him, how will we get our fix? We'll need someone else to look down upon, someone bad enough for us to disparage but not bad enough to blow up the world.

Fortunately, Trump has kids.

Windsor Mann | The Week
Racist rioting in Chemnitz has reopened Germany’s east-west split [We are all mixed-race after 10,000 generations. Helping suffering people makes us feel good, so become their friends instead.]
Having lived in peace for 70 years we’ve turned against each other – and it’s in the rise of the AfD where that is most visible

It’s hard to overstate the shock felt by democratic, liberal Germany as it witnessed the racist rioting in Chemnitz at the end of August. The country has been caught off guard entirely. Our sense of civility is now threatened by hatred and contempt.

In recent years we’d already encountered street violence involving militant rightwing extremists. They had their sympathisers – but very few in mainstream German society. Yet in Chemnitz ordinary locals sided openly with the perpetrators of racist aggression. This marked a shift. Political vitriol was pouring on to the streets, accompanied by physical assaults.

In the heart of Saxony, something that had been smouldering suddenly erupted in flames.

In the Saxon city, something that had been smouldering suddenly erupted in flames

Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has done little to distance itself from these events. It excuses and trivialises extremism on the right while exaggerating it on the left, seizing on criminal offences committed by migrants to confirm xenophobic prejudice. ...

Jacqueline Boysen | The Guardian
"The U.S. has a direct moral responsibility to open its doors, given that our own nation is an active combatant in many of the conflicts driving the global refugee crisis."

Launching yet another bigotry-driven attack on those fleeing wars and humanitarian crises in which the U.S. is playing an active and deadly role, the Trump administration announced late Monday that it is reducing America's refugee admission limit for 2019 to a record-low 30,000.

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, called it an "appalling" announcement.

"This must be perceived as an all-out attack against our country's ability to resettle refugees both now and in the future."
—Ryan Mace, Amnesty International USA

"At a time when the world is facing the largest displacement crisis in recorded history, it is unconscionable that the Trump administration would further dismantle the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program by setting a cap of 30,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2019—the lowest resettlement cap in the program's history," Win Without War director Stephen Miles said in a statement slamming the White House's decision.

"What's more," Miles continued, "the U.S. has a direct moral responsibility to open its doors, not slam them shut, given that our own nation is an active combatant in many of the very conflicts and humanitarian crises driving the global refugee crisis."

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
Few topics have been as divisive in Europe as the question of what to do with the flood of migrants arriving on the shores of the Mediterranean. But a moral solution is possible. DER SPIEGEL spoke with experts about how it can be found.
Nicola Abé, Katrin Elger and Fritz Schaap | Der Spiegel

Virtual Nations could replace nation-states, if everyone acts as agents for an ideal world
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.

Donald Trump’s decision to declassify some documents related to the Russia investigation demonstrate that he continues to be obsessed about the Steele dossier. What is becoming increasingly clear is that he should be more worried about what we might call the “Brennan dossier.”

Today the Washington Post published an excerpt from Greg Miller’s book, The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy. Here’s the relevant portion in which he discusses the office at the CIA known as “Russia House.”

In the months leading up to the 2016 election, senior Russia House officials held a series of meetings in a conference room adorned with Stalin-era posters, seeking to make sense of disconcerting reports that Moscow had mounted a covert operation to upend the U.S. presidential race.

By early August, the sense of alarm had become so acute that CIA Director John Brennan called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “I need to get in to see the president,” Brennan said, with unusual urgency in his voice.

Brennan had just spent two days sequestered in his office reviewing a small mountain of material on Russia…There were piles of finished assessments, but Brennan had also ordered up what agency veterans call the “raw stuff” — unprocessed material from informants, listening devices, computer implants and other sources. Clearing his schedule, Brennan pored over all of it, his door closed, staying so late that the glow through his office windows remained visible deep into the night from the darkened driveway that winds past the headquarters building’s main entrance…

Brennan’s review session occurred against the backdrop of these unsettling developments. But his call to the White House was driven by something else — extraordinary intelligence that had surfaced in late July and reached deep inside the Kremlin, showing that Putin was himself directing an “active measures” operation aimed not only at disrupting the U.S. presidential race but electing Trump.

....In summary, we know that while the Steele dossier was languishing in the FBI’s New York field office, CIA Director John Brennan had already informed critical players in the Obama administration that Russia was not only attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, they were doing so in order to elect Donald Trump. We also know what the administration did next.

Brennan convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.

The unit functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community. Those brought in signed new non-disclosure agreements to be granted access to intelligence from all three participating agencies.

They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.

Nancy LeTourneau | The Washington Monthly
'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen [Does America's government have empathy? Does it understand the concept of morality? The Saudi Air Force would be ineffective without U.S. military assistance...]
Save the Children warns of ‘starvation on an unprecedented scale’ as conflict disrupts food supplies
Agence France-Presse | The Guardian
UN investigators publish report detailing evidence for accusation of genocide against Burmese military
Michael Safi | The Guardian
The world is still waiting for U.S. citizens to wake up and put an end to the insidious marriage between war and commerce.
Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J. S. Davies / Independent Media Institute | AlterNet

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