Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Not many people sing about harvesting sugar cane
But Mary Gauthier does not sing like many people.
Even Santa Claus
Still a lot of work to do
After all the years leading up to implementation and all the press about the start of the ACA, up to one third of Americans still don't know what it can do for them.
Among more than 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 64 who answered an online questionnaire about the Affordable Care Act in November 2013, 31 percent of those who didn’t have health insurance had never heard of the health insurance marketplaces, according to the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, a Los Angeles-based health care non-profit organization.And with all the smoke and mirrors and outright lies being spread, these people may not find out how they benefit for a long time.
That’s compared with 15 percent of those surveyed overall who weren’t aware of the health insurance exchanges launched on Oct. 1, where those who don’t have insurance coverage through their jobs can buy individual or family plans that kick in on Jan. 1.
The findings echo a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation which found that among more than 1,500 adults interviewed in September — just weeks before the exchanges were set to open — only 12 percent of uninsured people and 15 percent overall were able to correctly answer that the health-insurance marketplaces open Oct. 1.
There is no single terrism watch center
And because of this, there is no single set of rules concerning the gathering and exploitation of information, about you and everybody else.
There is little if any independent oversight of or consistency in information-gathering procedures at some of the nation’s largest police departments, joint terrorism task forces and fusion centers, according to a new report published Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice.Good luck getting that genie back in the bottle.
The report, compiled from the findings from numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, reveals that there are large gaps in the local-federal intelligence-sharing systems that, the center says, pose a significant threat to national security and civil liberties.
“It’s organized chaos. That is the state of things at the moment,” said Michael Price, legal counsel at the Brennan Center and author of the report. “First is the lack of clear and consistent rules. Everyone has their own perception of what is suspicious, and what often happens is officers rely on their own biases and preconceptions.”
“The other half of it is, there’s nobody monitoring what these fusion centers are doing at the state and federal level,” he said.
The Brennan Center calls for more oversight and a clear set of standards that all the agencies can follow. Price says having an inspector general oversee the fusion centers could be a step in the right direction.
“Strong independent oversight has got to be a part of that,” he told Al Jazeera. “To the extent that police departments and local governments can create independent monitors, there need to be officials that can peer behind the curtain and see that the rules are being followed and then report back to the public. Reports about compliance, audits, are standard things that are at the heart of transparency.”
Volcker Rule finally passed
And the question is just how big are the loopholes for the banksters and how quickly will they begin exploiting them?
The so-called Volcker Rule, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law and a symbol of the Obama administration’s efforts to rein in risk-taking after the financial crisis, received approval from all five regulatory agencies writing the rule: the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Comptroller of the Currency. The trading commission, though, voted in private because of inclement weather in the Washington area.It would be much better to separate the community bankers from the risk taking investment banksters, but if this proves to be a step forward, it will be good.
The votes on the rule represent a turning point in financial reform. Although it is only one of 400 rules under Dodd-Frank – and nearly two-thirds of the regulations remain unfinished – the Volcker Rule became synonymous with the law itself. And with regulators easing other rules under Dodd-Frank, the Volcker Rule became a barometer for the overall strength of the law.
In some crucial areas, regulators adopted a harder line than Wall Street had hoped. Under the rule, which bars banks from trading for their own gain and limits their ability to invest in hedge funds, the regulation includes new wording aimed at the sort of risk-taking responsible for a $6 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase last year. The rule also requires banks to shape compensation packages so that they do not reward “prohibited proprietary trading.”
In addition, it requires chief executives to attest to regulators every year that the bank “has in place processes to establish, maintain, enforce, review, test and modify the compliance program,” a provision that did not appear in an October 2011 draft of the rule.
But the rule, which aims to draw a line between everyday banking and risky Wall Street activities, has its limits. For example, the regulation leaves it largely up to the banks to monitor their own trading. Some critics of Wall Street also wanted chief executives to attest that their bank was actually in compliance with the rule, not just that it was taking steps to comply.
And in another concession to Wall Street, regulators will delay the effective date of the rule to July 2015. Until then, bank lawyers are expected to scour the rule for loopholes and to consider bringing lawsuits against the regulators.
US President shakes hands with Cuban President
And the picture of President Barack Obama shaking hands with President Raul Castro is supposedly fraught with symbolism, or is it?
President Obama shook hands with President Raúl Castro of Cuba on Tuesday, offering a friendly gesture freighted with symbolism to one of America’s most enduring Cold War foes.As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Until then we can expect multiple head assplosions from the tighty righties and we can hope something of value does come from it.
The brief handshake was delivered with the world watching as Mr. Obama greeted leaders assembled to make remarks at the memorial service here for Nelson Mandela. But the image — captured by photographers and television cameras — instantly raised questions about its deeper meaning.
Was Mr. Obama trying to signal a new effort by the American government to reach an accommodation with Cuba 50 years after the Communist revolution that put Fidel Castro, Raúl’s brother, in power? Or was Mr. Obama simply trying to avoid delivering a diplomatic snub at a memorial dedicated to forgiveness?
The president’s aides would have known in advance which world leaders would be at the podium when the president approached for his own remarks. But White House officials declined to offer any explanation of the handshake or confirm that there had been a discussion about whether to offer one.
Still, Mr. Obama’s own remarks, delivered just moments afterward, offer tantalizing possibilities about what was going through the president’s mind when he approached Mr. Castro.
Mr. Obama talked about the need for trust and reconciliation and forgiveness. He was talking about Mr. Mandela — widely known by his clan name, Madiba — but his remarks might also apply to the diplomatically frozen relationship between the United States and Cuba.
Monday, December 09, 2013
A Kentucky bred singer-songwriter
Who ended up mostly writing songs, Matraca Berg shows here that she can still sing and write very well.
At this time of the year
Everybody has a wish list of what they want. Tom Tomorrow shows us what our Christian caring Republican overlords want.
Minimum wage explained
Congratulations to Joe Torre
And Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa. They have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for their managerial skillz.
Krugman explains sadistic Republican austerity policies
And if you think it is just because they are evil heartless bastards who cream their jeans at the thought of the pain they cause, well that is just a starting point.
Here’s the world as many Republicans see it: Unemployment insurance, which generally pays eligible workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous pay, reduces the incentive to search for a new job. As a result, the story goes, workers stay unemployed longer. In particular, it’s claimed that the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which lets workers collect benefits beyond the usual limit of 26 weeks, explains why there are four million long-term unemployed workers in America today, up from just one million in 2007.It all comes down to the favorite quote of the bloody sports minded, No Pain, No Gain. And the evidence that the Pain works to prevent the Gain is just an inconvenient fact.
Correspondingly, the G.O.P. answer to the problem of long-term unemployment is to increase the pain of the long-term unemployed: Cut off their benefits, and they’ll go out and find jobs. How, exactly, will they find jobs when there are three times as many job-seekers as job vacancies? Details, details...
The point is that employment in today’s American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren’t failing to hire because they can’t find willing workers; they’re failing to hire because they can’t find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits — which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending — would just make the situation worse.
Still, don’t expect prominent Republicans to change their views, except maybe to come up with additional reasons to punish the unemployed. For example, Senator Rand Paul recently cited research suggesting that the long-term unemployed have a hard time re-entering the work force as a reason to, you guessed it, cut off long-term unemployment benefits. You see, those benefits are actually a “disservice” to the unemployed.
Hagel moves on to Pakistan
After his efforts to get someone to sign the SOFA in Shitholeistan, he has traveled to our best and most trustworthy ally in the region, Pakistan. On his arrival, he tried to get the PM to stop worrying and learn to love the drones.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday as Washington sought to defuse tensions over the controversial U.S. drone program and Islamabad's role in Afghanistan, a week after the United States halted ground shipments across NATO supply routes.Some friction the man says. The blockade of NATO supplies makes the Imperial occupation of Shitholeistan very, very expensive and could endanger our Imperial outposts. Unless we get jiggy with Iran.
In the first visit by a U.S. defense secretary in nearly four years, Hagel flew from Kabul to Islamabad to meet the premier and the country's new army chief, General Raheel Sharif.
U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt as well as security along the Afghan border have strained ties between Washington and Islamabad. Protests by anti-drone activists prompted the U.S. to suspend ground shipments of NATO cargo leaving Afghanistan via Pakistan last week.
Prime Minister Sharif "conveyed Pakistan's deep concern over continuing U.S. drone strikes, stressing that drone strikes were counterproductive to our efforts to combat terrorism."
President Barack Obama has defended the drone strikes as an effective and lawful tool used with restraint to target suspected Al-Qaeda militants.
But human rights groups and Pakistani politicians say the missile attacks have killed innocent civilians and must stop.
Hagel was in Pakistan "in recognition of the tremendous support that Pakistan has provided in the war on terror," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters.
Hagel wanted to affirm continued U.S. military assistance to the country, the official said. "There is some friction in the relationship," and Hagel wished to tackle that "head on," he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Central Information Secretary, Shireen Mazari, said in a press release Monday that it was Islamabad's "unflinching position on drones" and the stoppage of the NATO supply activities that had led to the U.S. visit.
Mortgage problems would be easier to fix without the servicers.
Just another form of parasitic middlemen, mortgage servicers accept the payments and track all the requirements of the mortgage in return for a piece of the action. Some are good at it and some are the devil's own butt wipes.
Technically, though, it still is George “Kenny” Mitchell’s primary residence. He resides at the home in Rialto, east of Los Angeles near San Bernardino, in an urn. His cremated remains are part of an altar that Biggs, 65, keeps in memory of the trucking-company manager. Many mementos from their marriage surround his smiling photo.Somebody didn't read the manual.
Biggs faces a Dec. 16 sale date, a holiday spoiler. It’s a property in which she’s built up more than $100,000 in equity and where she’s lived for 13 years, making payments on time. Her issue is back taxes, but more on that later.
“I’m getting ready to get tossed out. Whoever buys the property could toss me out,” she said.
The struggles of the career nurse who spent a lifetime helping others underscore this key point: Despite high-profile legal settlements in recent years that have resulted in large banks such as Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase paying billions of dollars for past sins, the foreclosure process remains a mess.
“It’s just a continuing misalignment of incentives: that a (mortgage) servicer doesn’t get paid for figuring this stuff out, but they get paid for foreclosure,” said Michael Calhoun, the president of the Durham, N.C.-based Center for Responsible Lending, which has fought to hold servicers accountable. “Even today, the servicers are understaffed and overwhelmed. If this were your local community bank, they of course would be working with you.”
Servicers are essentially mortgage-payment collectors for investors who bought slices of complex mortgage bonds, composed of thousands of mortgages that combine to provide the investor an income stream through the monthly payments made by Biggs and millions of other American homeowners.
The company that collects Biggs’ mortgage is Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., a Utah-based company that services many of the poorly underwritten subprime mortgages that helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis and a collapse in home prices. On its website, the company lists a P.O. Box in Salt Lake City for an address, offers no information on corporate officers and gives only toll-free phone numbers that feed to automated call centers.
The company became a sub-servicer last year for Bank of America, which purchased disgraced subprime lender Countrywide Financial and its loan portfolio during the financial crisis.
Paperwork that McClatchy obtained shows that Select Portfolio Servicing initially worked with Biggs to find a solution, including a potential mortgage modification through the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program.
But in a Nov. 13 letter addressed not to Biggs – who’s on the deed to the property, though not on the loan – but to her late husband, who’d been dead for a decade, the servicer did an about-face.
“We are unable to offer you a HAMP modification because the property is not your primary residence,” the letter said, saying there’d be no foreclosure for at least 30 days. There now is a foreclosure date that’s three days after the 30-day window expires.
The problem of surviving spouses not being on loans is big enough that the Treasury Department, which devised a series of incentives for servicers to modify mortgages, has an entire section of a manual devoted to it.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Some things are certain in life
Death, taxes and if Brandi Carlile is singing you want to listen.
Amazon continues to push the envelope
The gift that keeps on giving
That would be our gift of freedoms from George W Bush and company to the Iraqi people.
A series of attacks on Sunday against markets, shopping areas and auto repair shops in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at least 45 people and wounded dozens more, the police and medical officials said.Don't all the best gifts come as a surprise?
Iraq is experiencing a protracted wave of sectarian violence that has increased since the American military withdrawal in 2011, a level of strife not seen since 2006 and 2007. More than 8,000 Iraqis have been killed so far this year, according to the United Nations.
The first bombing on Sunday hit the Amil neighborhood in western Baghdad around 7:30 a.m. in a crowded shopping district near a bus stop, killing at least six people and wounding 19 others.
Later, a car bomb exploded on a street filled with factories and car repair shops in Baya, a neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 20, the police said.
“I got in a car accident and I came here to fix my car, but now my car is more damaged and I am wounded,” said Saad al-Temimi, who was being treated for injuries suffered in the Baya explosion. “Now I need to fix myself and the car. I hate Sundays, and I hate myself being here!”
Other bombings struck markets in the largely Shiite neighborhoods of Karada, Ghadir, Husseiniya, Sadr City, Sab al-Bor and Al Ameen al-Thaniya, killing 26 people and wounding more than 59, the police and medical workers said.
A bomb exploded on a main road in Radhwaniya, a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing two people and wounding eight, the police said.
On Sunday afternoon, a roadside bomb went off on the main road in Taji, in northern Baghdad, that links the capital to Iraq’s northern provinces. The bomb exploded near a car repair shop, killing four people and wounding dozens.
Asian pissing match gets another dick
The disagreement over some worthless islands and airspace between China and Japan now includes another player, South Korea, and the US is helping.
South Korea on Sunday announced an expansion of its air defense identification zone following China's move to establish a similar zone that has been criticized by Beijing's neighbors.It is a comfort that they are still being polite as they trample each others toes. Still, all it takes is one cementhead having a bad day.
South Korea earlier requested that China redraw its air identification zone because it partly overlaps with South Korea's, but Beijing refused. The U.S., Japan and other countries have also protested the Chinese zone.
Beijing said last month that all aircraft entering the vast area must identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions.The U.S., Japan and South Korea have flown military reconnaissance flights in the area without notifying China in defiance of Beijing's announcement.
The new South Korean zone covers a submerged reef that South Korea controls but that China also claims, and it also will include parts of airspace in the zone that China has drawn. The new South Korean zone also overlaps with parts of the Japanese air identification zone.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters that South Korea will discuss with neighboring countries steps to prevent accidental clashes within the South Korean zone. He said that South Korea's zone did not infringe upon any country's airspace and that Seoul had sufficiently explained its action to its neighbors before the announcement.
The U.S. State Department supported South Korea, saying its approach "avoids confusion for, or threats to, civilian airlines."
Warmongers pushing hard for Imperial permission slip
For without a legally signed and sealed Status of Forces Agreement, after 2014, our continued military presence in Shitholeistan becomes an act of war against the country. And a whole lot of brass that can't win a war there become superfluous.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted Saturday that the absence of a meeting between him Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his visit to Kabul didn't signal a falling-out over Karzai's delay in signing an accord on the two nations' relations after next years' planned completion of the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.No one ever wins in Shitholeistan, but some make lots of money from the trying. We have spent enough time and money making them rich.
While downplaying possible tensions, Hagel made it clear that time is running short for Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement and said the deal's approval last month by an assembly of Afghan elders called the Loya Jirga means the people of Afghanistan have spoken in support.
After meeting with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, Hagel said he'd told his Afghan counterpart that continued delay in signing the accord would create difficulties for Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO allies.
"The longer the bilateral security agreement goes without being signed, that affects confidence in every dimension of how the Afghan people, their army, their leaders go forward post-2014," Hagel told reporters in Kabul. "It directly affects our (International Security Assistance Force) partners, our planning, our support for them."
Saturday, December 07, 2013
You can't beat Dolly, Emmylou & Linda
But Red Molly does justice to this Dolly tune, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind".
Ooops! JPM put it on paper
In the continuing probe of all frauds JPM Chase, documents have surfaced relevant to the hiring of family members of high Chinese government officials for business gain.
Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.Smoke meet gun. Now all we need is a real prosecutor to take it to the finish.
The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.
The hiring practices seemed to have been an open secret at the bank’s headquarters in Hong Kong, according to the documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times. In the email citing the “existing and potential business opportunities,” a senior JPMorgan executive in Hong Kong emphasized that the father of a job candidate was the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate. The executive also extolled the broader benefits of the hiring program, telling colleagues in another email: “You all know I have always been a big believer of the Sons and Daughters program — it almost has a linear relationship” with winning assignments to advise Chinese companies. Until now, the indications of a connection between the hires and business deals have not been so explicit.
Hagel flies to Kabul to save SOFA
But he is not meeting with the one man standing in the way of agreement on the plan to keep US troops in Afghanistan for another 10 years, at least.
Flying aboard a nondescript Air Force cargo plane under the cloak of secrecy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in the Afghan capital on Saturday, where he met with top security officials but was not scheduled to meet President Hamid Karzai, whose decision to delay signing a security agreement with the United States has left the future of the American military mission here in doubt.Is Hagel playing the role of Henry Cabot Lodge for PBO? Should Karzai of the Afghans worry about a general's coup? How desperate is the Pentagon to keep us in Shitholeistan forever?
Mr. Hagel met with Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and the deputy interior minister, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, and a senior Pentagon official said he pressed for finalizing the security agreement.
But in a significant break in routine for visits by defense secretaries in the capital, Mr. Hagel was not scheduled to meet with Mr. Karzai, whose delay in signing the pact has raised the possibility of a complete pullout of American troops when the NATO combat mission here officially ends in December 2014.
Mr. Hagel said there was never a plan to meet with the Afghan president during this trip, and questioned the utility of such a meeting.
“I never asked for a meeting with President Karzai,” Mr. Hagel said. “I never received an invitation to meet with him. I didn’t expect a meeting with him. This trip is about the troops.”
He added, “I don’t think pressure coming from the United States, or more pressure, is going to be helpful in persuading President Karzai to sign a bilateral security agreement.”
UPDATE: The Shitholeistan defense minister says the Imperial permission slip will be signed in a timely manner. No details on exactly when the General's coup will occur. Probably right after the next scheduled cash dump.
As hard as it may be, some still fight age discrimination
Thanks to Republican supported ALEC templates, age discrimination is damn near impossible to prove despite the fact that everyone can see it happening all around us. Consider these people seeking redress for being fired for age (though no one says so).
If there is one thing older workers fear in this economy, it’s losing their jobs as they approach retirement. But that is exactly what happened in March to Richard L. White, who was the director of career services at Rutgers University for 22 years.The geezers really don't stand a chance because Jackson can claim his action was based on any number of legal reasons, even if they are all lies, because the cause is practically impossible to prove unless the idiot wrote something on paper.
Mr. White, 63, had received positive annual reviews from 1990 to 2011. In 2009, the supervising administrator wrote that his work was “conducted at the highest possible level!”
He was considered a leader in the field, winning a Fulbright grant in 2005, the first year it was offered for career services directors. Rutgers, the biggest public university in New Jersey, was ranked 21st nationally in 2010 by The Wall Street Journal for placing undergraduates; in 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the business school 33rd in the nation for M.B.A. pay.
But none of this information was included when Gregory S. Jackson, now the university president’s chief of staff, wrote Mr. White’s performance appraisal for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Jackson, who had recently taken oversight of career services, wrote that Mr. White had failed to meet standards in every category.
Soon after, Mr. White was removed as director; within a year, he was fired.
In January, shortly before leaving, Mr. White filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Rutgers. Three other longtime administrators who were also terminated joined the lawsuit, bringing into the open an increasingly contentious workplace issue.
Age discrimination claims are on the rise as members of the post-World War II baby boom enter their 60s. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, compared with 16,548 in 2006.
Mr. White, as well as two other career services administrators fired from Rutgers — Dorothy Kerr, 60, and Chrystal McArthur, 64 — had received positive job reviews until Mr. Jackson became involved in 2012. (The fourth who sued, Ms. Kerr’s husband, Mark, 58, did not receive formal appraisals because he was not a supervisor.)
According to Ms. Kerr, who had spent more than 40 years at Rutgers, Mr. Jackson “kept asking us when we were going to retire.”
In the view of the fired administrators, Mr. Jackson wanted to bring in his own people, most of whom were younger, and instead of offering them other positions, dismissed them without cause.
In some ways President Obama has it easy
He does not have to put his neck on the line to get acceptance of his agreement with Iran, unlike Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the other side of it.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended an interim nuclear deal that eases some of the international community's crippling economic sanctions in return for a freeze on part of the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment activities, saying Saturday that improving the economy is as important as maintaining a peaceful nuclear program.Rouhani has to prove the agreement is a good idea to a bunch of conservative cementheads, altogether as intransigent as the Republican/Likudniks in Congress, without the safeguards to his position.
Since Iran signed the interim agreement last month with the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, Rouhani has been trying to convince skeptics and hard-liners at home that Iran is not compromising on key issues of national sovereignty.
The task will likely become more difficult for Rouhani as Tehran moves toward a final accord six months from now.
"Nuclear technology and uranium enrichment is our definite right," Rouhani said in a speech to university students that was broadcast live on state TV. "But progress, better living conditions and welfare for the people is also our definite right. Breaking and dismantling the architecture of the ominous and oppressive sanctions is also our definite right."
Sanctions leveled by Western powers on Iran over its disputed nuclear program have taken an immense toll on the nation's economy, and Rouhani was elected in a landslide earlier this year with the expectation that he would quickly fix the economic malaise. At times, he has tried to frame the debate over the nuclear deal in economic terms, stressing the boost it would give the economy.
"Centrifuges should spin. But the life of people and the economy also need to spin," he added. "Without economic might, our national might won't be enhanced."
Friday, December 06, 2013
She has sung a boatload of songs over the years
And in 2006 Maria Muldaur did a fine job on this Bob Dylan tune forty years after she began singing.
Working hard for all Americans
Never should have let them foreigners in
Now we have the spectacle of the president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim speaking out on what he thinks is necessary for economic growth.
Ensuring greater access to affordable health care is a crucial factor in alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Friday while announcing ambitious targets for preventing and treating chronic illnesses in developing countries.Sure it works in those poor countries, but our richers are too rich to pay for health insurance for commoners. How un-American would that be?
About 100 million people are impoverished by medical expenses each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Bank and WHO aim by 2020 to reduce this number by half each year and by 2030 to eliminate it.
The consensus among many familiar with development and poverty alleviation is that providing universal health coverage is vital for economic development, said officials attending a conference in Tokyo.
Government ministers from developing nations around the world were invited to the one-day conference in Tokyo, hosted jointly by the World Bank and the Japanese government.
The gathering was aimed at spreading the adoption of universal health care to developing nations, emphasizing how it could boost growth.
Japan, which extended universal coverage to its entire population in 1961, benefited enormously from that investment, as strong public health supported the expansion of a highly productive middle class, Kim said.
"The fact is that Japan committed to universal health coverage when its per capita income was not at the highest levels, and many people thought it could not afford it," said Kim, a physician.
Under the Japanese public health system, a patient pays up to 30 percent of their medical bills, with the remaining costs paid from a social insurance scheme and general taxation.
Open-access health care is "one of the best things you can do to spur immediate and long-term economic growth ... and one way of reducing inequality (which can) slow economic growth," Kim told the meeting.
They were useful, once
But now, with the budget requiring choices, homeless vets will likely be cast aside to insure the military has enough excess tanks and jets that can't perform their mission.
Since 2010, homelessness among veterans has fallen by 24 percent across the country, according to a point-in-time report that the Department of Housing and Urban Development released late last month. The assessment measures homelessness on a single night in January each year.We no longer need them when we are building ships that rust and crack without any effective purpose.
In HUD’s most recent assessment, 57,849 veterans were homeless nationwide.
According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the recent reductions are notable because they broke previous patterns of increased homelessness during difficult economic times.
“It’s a remarkable reversal of what is traditionally the trend line,” he said during a roundtable discussion with reporters last month.
In late November, though, HUD said the budget for its existing homelessness-assistance programs would be cut by 5 percent, partly because of flat funding from Congress and the impact of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board federal spending reductions that began last spring.
Though these cuts don’t affect the VA’s operating budget, officials are concerned about the impact they’ll have on veterans.
Vince Kane, the director of the VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, said his office partnered closely with HUD and the community programs it supported across the country.
The reduction in funds “will have a dramatic impact on us,” Kane said. ”If programs get cut by HUD and others, that impacts our ability to care for the entire family.”
The VA contributes grants to nonprofit programs designed to help low-income veteran families, through programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families.
Republicans willing to fuck farmer allies
In their continuing quest to starve as many Americans as they possibly can. As a result, the renewal of this years Farm Bill is still in reconciliation.
The bill is full of all kinds of programs that have an impact on North Carolina’s diverse agriculture, the state’s top industry. There are economic development programs spread across a state where 85 of its 100 counties are considered rural.As bad as it would be, they can not even agree on the middle. These fuckers aren't going to get anything done.
Crop insurance is a key part. Other sections fund research at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University on finding better ways to grow everything from Christmas trees to tomatoes, melons and pecans.
But about 80 percent of the bill is spending for nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.
The Senate passed a $955 billion five-year bill in June with bipartisan support. It cut $4 billion from SNAP. The House of Representatives passed legislation that reduced SNAP by $39 billion.
“We’ve been hoping and hoping for months that a farm bill would come out that we could live with,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “We’re fairly close.”
It’s the difference in cuts to SNAP in the House and Senate that have “held the farm bill hostage,” he said.
Daniel Haley, a lobbyist for farming interests, said most of the specialty crop programs in the bill aren’t in jeopardy of being cut in the final version. The big issues holding up the bill were differences over the makeup of crop and livestock insurance programs and cuts to SNAP.
Haley said one idea under consideration was setting spending on the nutrition program somewhere between the House and Senate levels, but no one is certain what House Republicans will support.
“They could kill the farm bill again over that issue,” he said.
It’s also possible that Senate Democrats would rebel over a bigger SNAP reduction.
Last summer, the House voted down a version of the farm bill that cut food stamps by $20 billion. Democrats voted against it because they argued that cut was too big. Many Republicans voted against it because the cuts weren’t big enough. A separate bill later pegged the food stamp reduction at $39 billion.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
She's been from Ottawa to Austin, LA to Nashville
And along the way she has sung a lot, wrote a lot and learned a lot. Lynn Miles does "Three Cords and the Truth"
A smart thief knows what he is stealing
Unlike these poor dumb bastards who are probably glowing their way to oblivion. From the Washington Post.
The day after a load of stolen radioactive material was found in a field, Mexican authorities had formed a perimeter around the area and were measuring for contamination as they planned the recovery process Thursday, according to Mexican news reports.Will they get glowing obituaries?
Federal police and soldiers formed a cordon of several hundred yards around the highly radioactive container of cobalt-60, stolen earlier in the week in a carjacking as the material was being moved from a public hospital n the border town of Tijuana to a storage facility in central Mexico, news reports said.
The carjackers, who set off international alarm bells by absconding with the material, most likely had no idea what they were stealing and will probably die soon from exposure, Mexican authorities said at the end of a brief national scare.
R.I.P. Joseph Richard Dodd
Famous for one song, but what a song!
Holy Shit! The House actually passed a bill!
Now here is something you don't see every day, Chauncey. The Boner Bunch in the House actually passed a bill that on the face of it will do some public good.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reining in "patent trolls," companies that buy or license patents from others, then extract licensing fees after filing infringement lawsuits viewed by many as frivolous.Admittedly the details might make it worthless, but the very idea of it leaves one gobsmacked.
The House passed the bill overwhelmingly by a vote of 325 to 91. The Senate is considering a similar measure and could act before the end of the year.
The White House has expressed support for the bill. Sponsored by Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, it targets much-criticized patent assertion entities, for behavior like sending large numbers of licensing demands to small businesses without determining if they actually use infringing technology.
If you are near a strike
Drive up to whichever fast food joint it is and express your solidarity and congratulate the workers then drive away.
Workers walked off their jobs at fast-food restaurants across the country as part of a national protest against low wages, a day after President Barack Obama renewed his call for a minimum wage hike in a speech Wednesday.And if you are hungry, eat at a real diner and don't forget to tip your server.
The action is part of a growing movement against what workers say are sub-standard working conditions and wages too low to make ends meet. Thousands of labor activists and workers, who were scheduled to start their shifts early Thursday morning, did not show at work and chose to protest instead.
Workers and their supporters are expected to strike at the nation's major national fast-food restaurants, organizers said, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. Protesters in cities such as Charleston, S.C., Providence, R.I. and Pittsburgh, Pa., will join the action for the first time, along with clergy, elected officials and community supporters.
Dozens of sign-carrying McDonald's employees and others marched in front of a Detroit restaurant during the pre-dawn rally Thursday, shouting familiar phrases: "Raise the minimum wage" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, $7.40 has got to go."
Death By 1000 Cuts; How Many In The New Budget Plan?
The Republicans have always made a big show of trying to make huge cuts in M-I-C funding but they have always done their worst in the thousand little cuts they get the Democrats to agree to. With no "Grand Fucking Bargain" coming from the current House?Senate negotiations, we have to wonder what array of new small cuts they will win.
The goal is to avoid a train wreck like the one that caused the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. The shutdown ended when lawmakers agreed to a stopgap measure to fund the government for three months. That funding measure expires Jan. 15, the same day that $109.3 billion in sequestration cuts are due to kick in.Whatever cuts are agreed to, we can rest assured that our grossly bloated military budget will not be harmed.
Those close to the talks caution that nothing is final yet – and everything could blow apart at any moment.
But so far, there’s cautious optimism. Negotiators are considering a 2014 budget for discretionary items – those under Congress’ control – that would spend at an annual rate of about $1 trillion, more than the $967 billion that conservative Republicans want but less than the $1.058 trillion Senate Democrats endorsed.
The budget leaders are crafting a plan to soften the blow of sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts by finding savings in other areas of the budget and by generating revenue through increasing some user fees. The federal government attaches these small fees on things that range from airline tickets to national parks usage.
That would allow the two parties to claim that their sacred cows were untouched: Democrats who balk at cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Republicans who won’t accept tax increases.
They do generally agree that they want to spend more than the sequester would allow. Many in Congress maintain that the cuts are harming military preparedness and social programs.
Take That! Hobby Lobby
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Brother and sister play well together
Even if this is listed as Sara Watkins only, she has her brother Sean on the guitar and harmonies.
5 Billion a day
That's how many cellphones the NSA tracks each day. And they save it and can go back and find someone of interest and track back all the points of contact.
The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.So it's no longer enough to not do anything wrong, as the sheep say. Now you have to hope that none of your phone contacts do anything wrong, as well.
80 years ago you could once again get a legal drink
Prohibition was ended this day eighty years ago. Those uptight whities who wanted to do something about those funny speaking immigrants had to admit failure and let the liquor flow again.
Many Americans this week will toast the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, a 14-year ban on the sale and production of alcoholic beverages that turned booze-smuggling thugs into celebrities and otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.But one other prohibition aimed at "those others" since remains.
Among the many reasons for the popularity of banning alcohol in the US then were the concern of industrialists such as Henry Ford for the creation of a sober, industrious working class. Prohibition was in part intended to regiment and control working people and ensure they were productive, generating profits of which the corporations captured the lion’s share. Prejudice against German-Americans and their beer-making, in the wake of WW I, played a role, as well. The massive wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean (including Italians, Poles Jews and Lebanese/Syrians) also induced fears of rowdy foreign immigrants among the middle class Protestant women of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The Ku Klux Klan was implicated in the anti-saloon movement and helped enforce prohibition, becoming a major force in states like Indiana (which it took over politically) and in the then Democratic Party. That is, Prohibition was about race and class in some large part.It's time for the US to grow up.
The prohibition of marijuana, which had been legal most of American history, was also about race and class, and U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, deployed fear of Mexican immigrant labor to convince Congress to enact the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Fear of African-Americans, white youth and jazz were also drivers of this legislation.
Despite the hysteria about immigrants and the burgeoning blue collar class, the mainstream of America abolished prohibition on December 5, 1933. Among the goals of the anti-dry politicians was to jump-start business in the early years of the Great Depression and to generate tax-revenue. (Restaurants, for instance, are seldom profitable without liquor licenses; when they are successful, they pay taxes. And covert speakeasies paid no taxes because they were illegal. In 1933 they could become legitimate bars and become part of the tax base for an impoverished city, e.g.)
Some 90% of the American population is still in the Great Bush Depression that began in 2008. Only the stockholders have really recovered. The actual unemployment rate is historically high, a fact hidden by the tinkering with the definition of unemployment. Shouldn’t we now be as pragmatic as FDR, and seek to end the Federal prohibition of marijuana, as well? It would be a boon to the economy and to a government burdened by debt. And, shouldn’t we be embarrassed, as a country with a very large and important Latino community, of the racist origins of this Prohibition? And, are we still afraid of youth and jazz?
Numbers are up across the board
Enrollments in Obamacare are up and they are not the only ones. To date the most successful part of the ACA law has been the expansion of Medicaid and CHIP.
The undeniable success story so far of Obamacare is Medicaid expansion. According to a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 1.46 million people were approved for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program in October, alone. Enrollment increases are happening in the 25 states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion plan under Obamacare, but in the other states, as well.Part of the success does come down to that simple fact of increased awareness. And that awareness has increased despite the "best" efforts of Republican governors to stop it. And the most successful part so far is the "single payer" Medicaid.
In states that are not expanding Medicaid, applications to Medicaid and CHIP agencies increased 4.1 percent in October over the previous few months, and the total number of individuals determined to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP was 697,019. In states that are expanding Medicaid, applications jumped 15.5 percent, and 757,991 new eligibility determinations were made. The overall total across all states was an 8.6 percent increase in applications and 1,460,367 new eligibility determinations.
South Carolina, a state that has adamantly refused to expand Medicaid, enrollments are expected to jump 16 percent in the next year and a half, and Utah and Idaho are expected to see similar increases, even though they have refused the expansion. That's just by virtue of people knowing they need to sign up for health insurance, and finding out that they meet the eligibility requirements.
Among the many things left undone by Republican Obstructionism
The long term unemployed are getting screwed again. Extension of federal unemployment benefits beyond the minimum will end at the year end if Congress does nothing and John Boehner is good at making Congress do nothing.
Lillian Humphrey is 62 and has worked for at least 40 of those years. But she had to leave a job at the beginning of the year after she was diagnosed with osteoporosis and could no longer lift the heavy equipment as required by the position. She’s been relying on unemployment benefits to get by since May, “which enables me to know my bills are being paid and I’m not going to lose my house,” she told ThinkProgress. But she and millions of other people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more will be cut off unless Congress acts by the end of the year.No unemployment and no jobs thanks to an economy kept in neutral by a do nothing Congress.
That’s because the federal program, which offers benefits after the typical state cut off of 26 weeks, is set to expire and would have to be reauthorized. Democrats have pushed to extend it as part of the budget conference begun in the wake of the government shutdown, and to that end they will hold a hearing on the long-term unemployed on Thursday. But Republicans are indicating that they aren’t likely to support an extension.
Unemployment benefits “enables me to know my bills are being paid and I’m not going to lose my house,” she said.
For Humphrey, losing the benefits will force a number of tough choices. She is the sole provider for herself – “Nobody helps me pay my bills,” which are few, she said. She’s been “desperately applying for jobs,” putting out more applications than required to receive benefits every week. But she suspects that her age is an impediment to getting a new job. “I’ve been on interviews where people don’t know how old I am or haven’t figured out how old I am, and then you can see the look on their face when they come out to greet me that I’m not something that they would be interested in,” she said. “It hurts, after a couple of times seeing that, it hurts.” Now she puts the year she started working on her résumé and tells people her age when doing phone interviews. “When they see that I’m old, then I don’t hear back from them,” she added.
If the extended benefits disappear at the beginning of the year and she isn’t able to find a job in time, she will likely have to tap into Social Security. But those benefits will be less than unemployment, so even if she goes that route she would at least have to work part time. On top of that, her family has a history of heart problems and she has to watch her high cholesterol, so employer-sponsored health insurance is particularly important to her. “I would prefer to work and get some benefits,” she said. “I don’t want to retire early.”
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