leroymoore

Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Why Single-Payer Health Care Saves Money

In Cost, Democracy, Human rights, Politics, Public Health on July 10, 2017 at 12:38 am

By Robert H. Frank, New York Times, July 7, 2017

Lingering uncertainty about the fate of the Affordable Care Act has spurred the California legislature to consider adoption of a statewide single-payer health care system.

Sometimes described as Medicare for all, single-payer is a system in which a public agency handles health care financing while the delivery of care remains largely in private hands.

Discussions of the California measure have stalled, however, in the wake of preliminary estimates pegging the cost of the program as greater than the entire state government budget. Similar cost concerns derailed single-payer proposals in Colorado and Vermont.

Voters need to understand that this cost objection is specious. That’s because, as experience in many countries has demonstrated, the total cost of providing health coverage under the single-payer approach is actually substantially lower than under the current system in the United States. It is a bedrock economic principle that if we can find a way to do something more efficiently, it’s possible for everyone to come out ahead.
By analogy, suppose that your state’s government took over road maintenance from the county governments within it, in the process reducing total maintenance costs by 30 percent. Your state taxes would obviously have to go up under this arrangement.

But if roads would be as well maintained as before, would that be a reason to oppose the move? Clearly not, since the resulting cost savings would reduce your county taxes by more than your state taxes went up. Likewise, it makes no sense to oppose single-payer on the grounds that it would require additional tax revenue. In each case, the resulting gains in efficiency would leave you with greater effective purchasing power than before.

Total costs are lower under single-payer systems for several reasons. One is that administrative costs average only about 2 percent of total expenses under a single-payer program like Medicare, less than one-sixth the corresponding percentage for many private insurers. Single-payer systems also spend virtually nothing on competitive advertising, which can account for more than 15 percent of total expenses for private insurers.

The most important source of cost savings under single-payer is that large government entities are able to negotiate much more favorable terms with service providers. In 2012, for example, the average cost of coronary bypass surgery was more than $73,000 in the United States but less than $23,000 in France.

Despite this evidence, respected commentators continue to cite costs as a reason to doubt that single-payer can succeed in the United States. A recent Washington Post editorial, for example, ominously predicted that budget realities would dampen enthusiasm for single-payer, noting that the per capita expenditures under existing single-payer programs in the United States were much higher than those in other countries.

But this comparison is misleading. In most other countries, single-payer covers the whole population, most of which has only minimal health needs. In contrast, single-payer components of the United States system disproportionately cover population subgroups with the heaviest medical needs: older people (Medicare), the poor and disabled (Medicaid) and returned service personnel (Department of Veterans Affairs).
In short, the evidence is clear that single-payer delivers quality care at significantly lower cost than the current American hybrid system. It thus makes no sense to reject single-payer on the grounds that it would require higher tax revenues. That’s true, of course, but it’s an irrelevant objection.

In addition to being far cheaper, single-payer would also defuse the powerful political objections to the Affordable Care Act’s participation mandate. Polls consistently show that large majorities want people with pre-existing conditions to be able to obtain health coverage at affordable rates. But that goal cannot be achieved unless healthy people are required to join the insured pool. Officials in the Obama administration tried, largely in vain, to explain why the program’s insurance exchanges would collapse in the absence of the participation mandate.

But the logic of the underlying argument is actually very simple. Most people seem able to grasp it if you ask them what would happen if the government required companies to sell fire insurance at affordable rates to people whose houses had already burned down.

No home insurer could remain in business if each policy it sold required it to replace a house costing several hundred thousand dollars. Similarly, no health insurer could remain in business if each of its policy holders generated many thousands of dollars in health care reimbursements each month.

That’s why the lack of a mandate in the alternative plans under consideration means that millions of people with pre-existing conditions will become uninsurable if repeal efforts are successful. An underappreciated advantage of the single-payer approach is that it sidesteps the mandate objection by paying to cover everyone out of tax revenue.

Of course, having to pay taxes is itself a mandate of a sort, but it’s one the electorate has largely come to terms with. Apart from fringe groups that denounce all taxation as theft, most people understand that our entire system would collapse if tax payments were purely voluntary.

The Affordable Care Act is an inefficient system that was adopted only because its architects believed, plausibly, that the more efficient single-payer approach would not be politically achievable in 2009. But single-payer now enjoys significantly higher support than it did then, and is actually strongly favored by voters in some states.

Solid majorities nationwide now favor expansion of the existing single-payer elements of our current system, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid cuts proposed in Congress have been roundly criticized. Perhaps it’s time to go further: Individual states and, eventually, the entire country, can save money and improve services by embracing single-payer health care.

Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Follow him on Twitter at @econnaturalist.

Activists say moving prairie dogs to Rocky Flats could unearth plutonium

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Politics, Public Health on July 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

BY ANICA PADILLA AND TAMMY VIGIL, Fox 31, Denver, July 6;, 2017

BOULDER, Colo. — Activists are threatening to sue over a proposal to relocate a colony of more than 200 prairie dogs from Longmont to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson County.

In June, activists hoping to prevent the extermination of the colony told the Longmont Times the refuge was available as a receiving site.

Then, on Thursday, attorney Randall Weiner issued a statement saying the burrowing animals could bring plutonium buried underground to the surface and spread radioactive waste to surrounding areas.

Weiner stated that radioactive components were buried eight feet below the surface, well within range of prairie dogs.

“Prairie dogs and other burrowing animals can dig as far as 18 feet into the ground… and build surface mounds by accumulating dirt from below ground,” Weiner stated.

“There also are no barriers to prevent the prairie dogs from migrating back and forth between the Refuge and the Central Operable Unit, and then later leaving the site altogether,” Weiner continued.

Several groups have already filed a federal lawsuit to block construction of trails and a visitor’s center at the refuge because of environmental risks.

They are threatening more litigation if federal investigators don’t do an environmental assessment on the impacts of moving 200 prairie dogs to the site..

“Even the smallest speck is a huge danger to public health,” says Longmont resident and lawsuit plaintiff Jon Lipsky.

From 1952 to 1994, the Rocky Flats Plant produced nuclear and nonnuclear weapons, including plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.

During that time, plutonium was leaked into the air, soil and water.

“Workplace accidents, spills, fires, emissions, leaking storage containers and day-to-day operations allowed plutonium and chemicals to be released from the plant site,” according to the State of Colorado website.

“In the middle of the refuge is a 1,300 acre Super Fund site. There are subsurface infrastructures, buildings, tunnels, pits, two open landfills,” says Lipsky, who headed the FBI raid on Rocky Flats in 1989 that led to its eventual closure.

Cleanup of contamination at the site began in the 1990s but concern about the long-term impacts on residents nearby remained.

In 2016, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Rocky Flats Downwinders conducted a health study that found people living downwind of the nuclear weapons plant faced more health problems.

Colorado’s Department of Health responded on behalf of U.S. Fish and Wildlife by saying: “…the lands that became the refuge were suitable for any and all uses. The extensive and expensive cleanup had reduced contaminant concentrations to well below levels of concern.”

The state says it also considered the potential disturbance from burrowing animals in its risk assessments.

But critics of the project don’t buy it.

“Nothing was treated below three feet. If I’m a fear-monger by bringing up the facts, then I’m being a fact-monger,” Lipsky said.

“They are ignoring the public and violating their health and safety when they do something like this,” said Weiner.

The Department of Justice hasn’t yet responded for a comment to the letter.

The Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge is set to open to the public in summer 2018.

Popular Resistance Newsletter

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race, War on July 3, 2017 at 12:39 am

The United States has perfected the art of regime change operations. The US is the largest empire in world history with more than 1,000 military bases and troops operating throughout the world. In addition to military force, the US uses the soft power of regime change, often through ‘Color Revolutions.’ The US has been building its empire since the Civil War era, but it has been in the post-World War II period that it has perfected regime change operations.US military presence around the world

Have the people of the United States been the victims of regime change operations at home? Have the wealthiest and the security state created a government that serves them, rather than the people? To answer these questions, we begin by examining how regime change works and then look at whether those ingredients are being used domestically.

Almost from the start, the CIA’s role has been more than intelligence gathering. It has been a key player in putting in place governments friendly to the United States and conducting other operations, e.g. the CIA is currently involved in drone strikes.
One of the first regime change operations of the CIA was Operation Ajax conducted in Iran, and led by Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, who was president when the US solidified its global empire ambitions. The CIA was founded in 1947 and the regime change coup in Iran was 1953. Greg Maybury writes in “Another Splendid Little Coup“: “Placing to one side an early dress rehearsal in Syria in 1949, the Iran coup was the first post-War exercise in regime change upon the part of Anglo-American alliance…” Just this month the US government released documents showing the CIA and State Department’s planning and implementation of the coup against the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. This release supplements one from 2013 that did not reveal the full role of the US in the coup.

The Iran coup was crude compared to more modern efforts but had the ingredients that have become common – civil society protests against the government, media reports supporting the protests, agents within the government supporting the coup and replacement of the government with a US-friendly regime. The Iran coup may have been the most costly mistake in US foreign policy because it undermined a secular democratic government in Iran that could have been the example for the region. Instead the US installed the brutal Shah of Iran, whose rule ended in the 1979 revolution, in which, as Maybury reports, the US was also implicated because it felt the Shah had overstayed his welcome.
The Iran coup was perceived as a great CIA success, so it was copied in other Middle Eastern countries as well as countries in Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Regime change is still a major tool of US foreign policy. There is a long-term ongoing coup campaign in Venezuela, with its most recent episode last week in which a helicopter attack on the Supreme Court was tied to the US DEA and CIA. The US has allied with oligarchs, supported violent protests and provided funds for the opposition, which has also worked to undermine the Venezuelan economy — a tactic the US has used in other coups, e.g. the coup of Allende in Chile.

The coup in Ukraine, which the media falsely calls a ‘democratic revolution,’ was, as the head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor says, “the most blatant coup in history.” The CIA and State Department played the lead roles.

Victoria Nuland, an assistant secretary of state under Clinton, bragged that the US spent $5 billion to build civil society opposition against a government that leaned toward Russia. The government funded civil society opposition through US AID, which is the open vehicle for what the CIA used to do covertly, along with the National Endowment for Democracy. This funding was used to build oppositiona civil society groups and create destabilization. They focused on the issue of corruption, which exists in every government, and built it up to a centerpiece for regime change. The US allied with extremist right-wing groups in Ukraine.

The US picked the new leaders of Ukraine. This included Petro Poroshenko, whom U.S. officials refer to as “Our Ukraine (OU) insider Petro Poroshenko” in a classified diplomatic cable from 2006 . The selected Prime Minister was Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Before the coup, Victoria Nuland told the US Ambassador to Ukraine that ‘Yats’ should be the prime minister. And, the Finance Minister was Natalia Jaresko, a long-time State Department official who moved to Ukraine after the US-inspired coup, the Orange Revolution, to become a conduit for US funding of civil society through her hedge fund. She was a US citizen whom Poroshenko made a Ukrainian on the day she was appointed Finance Minister. To top it off, fmr. Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and fmr. Secretary of State John Kerry’s longtime financial ally, Devon Archer, were put on the board of the largest private gas corporation in the Ukraine. Yet, the US media refuses to call this complete take over of the country by the United States a coup and instead describes Russia as the aggressor.

The US has perfected regime change operations from the 1950s up through today. The standard method of operation is finding an issue to cause dissent, building opposition in a well funded civil society ‘movement’, manipulating the media, putting in place US friendly leaders and blaming US opposition for the coup to hide US involvement. This approach is consistent no matter which party is in power in the US.

Let’s apply the lessons from around the world to the United States. There is no question the US is an oligarchy. We say no question because recent political studies have proven it in multiple ways.

One difference in the US is that money plays an outsized influence in US elections. The wealthy can buy the government they want through campaign donations and by anonymous spending but the tools of color revolutions are still needed to legitimize the government. Legitimacy is getting harder to buy. Many realize we live in a mirage democracy. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs reported in 2016 the extent of the loss of legitimacy of US government:

“Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.”

Jimmy Carter has pointed to the “unlimited bribery” of government as turning the US into an oligarchy. The government needs to use the tools of regime change at home in order to create an veneer of legitimate government.Trump Putin RussiaGate

The Donald Trump presidency, which we regularly criticize, brings a lot of these tools to the forefront because Trump beat the system and defeated the elites of both parties. As a result, Democratic Party propaganda is being used to undermine Trump not only based on his policies but also through manufactured crises such as RussiaGate. The corporate media consistently hammers home RussiaGate, despite the lack of evidenceto support it. Unlike the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals, there is no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to get elected. And, the security state – the FBI and the agencies that conduct regime change operations around the world – is working to undermine Trump in a still unfolding domestic coup.

Civil society also has a strong role. John Stauber writes that:

“The professional Progressive Movement that we see reflected in the pages of The Nation magazine, in the online marketing and campaigning of MoveOn and in the speeches of Van Jones, is primarily a political public relations creation of America’s richest corporate elite, the so-called 1%, who happen to bleed Blue because they have some degree of social and environmental consciousness, and don’t bleed Red. But they are just as committed as the right to the overall corporate status quo, the maintenance of the American Empire, and the monopoly of the rich over the political process that serves their economic interests.”Nonprofit industrial complex

Civil society groups created or aligned with the Democratic Party are defining the new form of false-resistance as electing Democrats. The Democrats, as they have done throughout history as the oldest political party, know how to control movements and lead them into ineffectiveness to support the Democratic Party agenda. We described, in “Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History,” how this was done skillfully during the health reform process in 2009. This new resistance is just another tool to empower the elites, not resistance to the oligarchic-kleptocrats that control both parties. In fact, a major problem in progressive advocacy is the funding ties between large non-profits and corporate interests. The corruption of money is seen in organizations that advocate for corporate-friendly policies in education, health care, energy and climate, labor, and other issues.

Now the tools the US uses for regime change around the world are being used at home to funnel activist energy and efforts into the Democratic party and electoral activities. In order to resist this new “resistance” we need to be aware of it and how it operates. We need to see through propaganda, such as RussiaGate, and attempts to manipulate the masses through scripted events that are portrayed as organic, such as the recent “sit in” by Rep. John Lewis and Sen. Cory Booker on the Capitol steps, or through highly emotional cultural content that portrays the plutocratic parties as parties of the people. We have to remember that the root issue is plutocracy and the US has two plutocratic parties, often referred to as “The Duopoly.”

We must continue to focus on the issues that are in crisis such as the economy, health care, education, housing, racism, inequality and militarization at home and abroad. We must fight for these issues independent of political party. We must be clear and uncompromising in our demands so that we are not taken off track. And we must have a clear vision of the future that we want to see.

Popular Resistance is a co-convener of the People’s Congress of Resistance. The People’s Congress will bring people together from around the US to meet in Washington, DC this September to outline a vision from the grassroots. A draft of that vision will be circulated over the next few months so that many people will provide input.

It’s Time To Ban Nuclear Weapons For Good

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, War on June 27, 2017 at 3:07 am

By Helen Szoke, Claire Mallionson and Tillman Ruff, Hyffington Post Australia. June 26, 2017

 

First the ground started shaking, and then a black mist rolled into the camp from the south. Then came skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea and blindness. People so weak they couldn’t make it down to the waterhole and they died of thirst.

Yami Lester was 10-years-old when he saw this black mist roll in from the desert and engulf his family’s camp in the Yankunytjatjara homelands near Marla in South Australia. As men, women and children in his community fell ill, Yami himself became sick and started to lose his eyesight. The black mist that Yami saw in 1956 was the fallout from British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia. The effects of these tests are still being felt today.

Yami’s community is not the only one to suffer the effects of nuclear weapons. Yami’s daughter, Karina Lester, has been at the United Nations (UN) in New York for historic negotiations to develop a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. She read, to the conference, a statement by 30 Indigenous organisations from the Pacific, North America, Europe and Australia about the harm suffered by Indigenous peoples from nuclear weapons tests. Survivors from the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia are also sharing their experiences with the assembly.

This final round of UN negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons is history in the making. Since the shocking 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have known that whole cities can be violently destroyed by these weapons. Numerous times since then, it has been sheer luck or the courage of just one person that has stopped nuclear weapons being used. But, the risk of nuclear war still exists between NATO and Russia, India and Pakistan and in the Korean peninsula.

We know that the only way to prevent the unimaginable human suffering and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons is their elimination and tight international controls on the fissile materials that can be used to make them.
While nuclear weapons exist, so does the utterly unacceptable danger of their use. The world has made substantial progress in reducing the risks posed by other types of weapons that have inhumane and indiscriminate effects. Treaties are in force that prohibit and provide for the elimination of biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.

These weapons are being progressively eliminated, and the relevant treaties have changed the game, even for those states that have not joined them. In each case, the first step has been stigmatising the weapons as unacceptable for anyone to possess and codifying this in law. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.”

Yet the glaring anomaly remains that nuclear weapons, by far the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate of all, remain the only weapon of mass destruction not comprehensively banned under international law. This has been unfinished business for far too long.

The very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in January 1946 was to establish a commission to draw up a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons”. But progress since then has been far too slow, until now.

The negotiations now underway in New York were mandated in December 2016 by the UN General Assembly by a majority of over three to one. The conference was charged with negotiating “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. Alarmingly, none of the states possessing nuclear weapons or those that claim dependence on U.S. nuclear weapons — the 28 members of NATO, Australia, Japan and South Korea — are participating constructively in the negotiations.

A nuclear ban treaty will delegitimise these weapons and the policies that threaten their use, including nuclear deterrence, and will affect even states that don’t sign the treaty. Disappointingly, Australia has been one of the most active states in opposing such a treaty, claiming that nuclear weapons should only be prohibited once they’ve been eliminated, and refusing to say that they should never be used again under any circumstances.

The current negotiations are the first UN nuclear disarmament negotiations in over 20 years. Sadly, this is the first time that Australia has ever boycotted multilateral disarmament negotiations. It is commendable that Australia is a signatory to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, and the Arms Trade Treaty. On some of these, Australia has been a leader.

Our Government must move to the right side of history regarding nuclear weapons, the only weapons that pose an existential threat to all humankind. We know that the only way to prevent the unimaginable human suffering and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons is their elimination and tight international controls on the fissile materials that can be used to make them.

Our organisations have worked to regulate the trade in conventional arms, to prohibit and eliminate landmines and cluster munitions. We call on every government, including the Australian Government, to seize this historic opportunity to ban nuclear weapons.

New South Korean president vows to end use of nuclear power

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Politics, Public Health on June 20, 2017 at 9:44 am

Moon Jae-in said he would lead country
towards a ‘nuclear-free era’ following
fears of a Fukushima-style meltdown

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian, Monday 19 June 2017
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/new-south-korean-president-vows-to-end-use-of-nuclear-power
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to phase out the country’s dependence on nuclear power, warning of “unimaginable consequences” from a Fukushima-style meltdown.
Moon, a left-leaning liberal who won last month’s presidential election by a landslide following the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye, said he would increase the role of renewable energy and lead South Korea towards a “nuclear-free era”.
Speaking at an event to mark the closure of the country’s oldest nuclear plant, Kori-1, he said: “So far, South Korea’s energy policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. “Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a back seat. But it’s time for a change.
“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era. We will completely scrap construction plans for new nuclear reactors that are currently under way.”
Moon added that he would not extend the operation of ageing reactors, many of which will come to the end of their lifespans between 2020 and 2030.
Weaning South Korea off nuclear power, however, could take decades, and there is expected to be opposition from construction companies, which have increased technology exports under Moon’s nuclear-friendly predecessors.
The country was the fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy last year, according to the World Nuclear Association, with its 25 reactors generating about a third of its electricity.
The former president Lee Myung-bak saw nuclear as an important source of clean energy, while Park wanted to increase the number of reactors to 36 by 2029.
Moon recognised the role of nuclear power in South Korea’s rapid economic development, but added that Japan’s Fukushima disaster – which prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of people – had convinced him that his country must look to new sources of energy.
“The country’s economic status has changed, our awareness on the importance of the environment has changed. The notion that the safety and lives of people are more important than anything else has become a firm social consensus,” he said.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have long warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of a meltdown at a nuclear plant in South Korea, where many reactors are close to densely populated areas.
The public’s support for nuclear power has weakened since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown and a 2013 corruption scandal over fake safety certificates for reactor parts.
“The Fukushima nuclear accident has clearly proved that nuclear reactors are neither safe, economical nor environmentally friendly,” Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as saying.
“South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquakes, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact.”
He also plans to close at least 10 ageing coal-fired power plants before his term ends in 2022 and to boost renewables’ share of the energy mix to 20% by 2030.

Planetary Boundaries

In Climate change, Environment, Politics, Public Health on June 20, 2017 at 12:20 am

By Tom Mayer

Every rational person knows that our planet is under ecological stress, and that human survival on planet Earth over the next several centuries is not assured. What constitutes a sustainable environment for human civilization on planet Earth? Geologists call the last 10,000 years – since well before the start of agriculture – the Holocene epoch. This period was characterized by much warmer temperatures and far less thermal variability than the other 400 thousand years about which we have reliable information. These unusually mild and stable environmental conditions may be necessary for the survival of human civilizations.

Eight years ago twenty-nine eminent environmental scholars (led by Johan Rockström of Stockholm University and Will Steffen of Australian National University) proposed nine quantitative planetary boundaries that, if not violated, would enable indefinite continuation of Holocene like conditions (www.stockholmresilience.org). These nine planetary boundaries defined what these scholars called “a safe operating space for humanity”. The nine planetary boundaries concern these environmental conditions: (1) climate change, (2) biosphere integrity (e.g. species extinction and genetic diversity), (3) land-system change (e.g. destruction of tropical, temperate, and boreal forests), (4) freshwater use, (5) biogeochemical flows (e.g. phosphorus and nitrogen pollution), (6) ocean acidification, (7) atmospheric aerosol loading (particles suspended in the atmosphere), (8) stratospheric ozone depletion, and (9) introduction of novel entities that have undesirable physical or biological effects (e.g. excessive plastic, heavy metals, chlorofluorocarbons).

The environmental scholars defined three risk zones for each of these nine environmental conditions: a safe operating zone, a zone of uncertainty associated with increasing environmental risk, and a crisis zone characterized by high risk and serious danger to the functioning of the Earth System. The nine planetary boundaries were located on the borders between the safe operating zones and the zones of uncertainty. Information about these planetary boundaries was updated three years ago and published in the February 2015 issue of the prestigious journal Science.

According to the 2015 information, three of the nine ecological domains have not yet exceeded their respective planetary boundaries and are thus within safe operating zones: (4) freshwater use, (6) ocean acidification, and (8) stratospheric ozone depletion. On the other hand, four of the nine domains have already surpassed their planetary boundaries: (1) climate change, (2) biosphere integrity, (3) land-system change, and (5) biogeochemical flows. Climate change and land-system change still function within the zone of uncertainty, but biosphere integrity and biochemical flows are now within their hazardous crisis zones. Information about (7) atmospheric aerosol loading and (9) novel entities is currently insufficient to assign reliable global measures, but regional data about these conditions are troublesome.

The scholars who advance the planetary boundaries perspective resolutely maintain scientific objectivity and avoid unprofessional alarmism. Nevertheless they emphasize that their nine environmental conditions are by no means independent and interact strongly with each other. These interactions could produce an unanticipated non-linear (e.g. exponential) response that might propel planet Earth far beyond the Holocene conditions that made human civilization possible. The scholars express particular apprehension about interactions involving climate change and biosphere integrity, which could each have truly disastrous consequences.

Two papers to improve the UN Treaty that Bans Nuclear Weapons

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on June 9, 2017 at 8:46 am

Hi all
>
> I wanted to alert you to the release of two new briefing papers about victim assistance and environmental remediation in the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Co-published by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Article 36, the papers examine the need for including comprehensive and detailed provisions on these topics in the new treaty and lay out specific recommendations for what such provisions should contain.
>
> The papers are available at: http://www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/va-er-harvard-papers/
>
> Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing many of you in New York later this month!
>
> Best,
> Bonnie
>
>
> Bonnie Docherty
> Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection
> Lecturer on Law
> International Human Rights Clinic
> Harvard Law School
>

Viking Economics: Review

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race, War on June 8, 2017 at 9:17 am

Review of George Lakey’s Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too (2016)

By LeRoy Moore, June 2017

In  January 1979 I met George Lakey at a two-week nonviolence workshop of the Movement for a New Society in Philadelphia. Lakey is a Quaker who for many years taught at Swarthmore College. Author of many books, the latest is Viking Economics. He writes on this topic because we in the U.S. can learn much from the Scandinavian countries about revamping our economy, strengthening democracy, abolishing poverty and creating a society which is fair and just for all.

At the turn of the 20th century the Scandinavian countries were marked by economic hardship, lack of jobs, low wages, long working hours, no security, no health care and education only for those who could pay for it. In the 1970s, when Lakey visited Norway, he found full employment, scant poverty, an efficient infrastructure, plus free health care, education and retirement benefits for all its citizens. His book is a history of what happened, with pointers on how the U.S. might follow their example.

The biggest recent change in the economy of the U.S. and Britain was the 1980s move of Reagan and Thatcher to free corporations to make money that purportedly would trickle down to benefit everyone. This “neoliberal gospel” rapidly spread across the world. By the end of the 20th century it was practiced in the U.S. not only by virtually all Republicans but also by many Democrats, like Bill Clinton. “Too often,” Lakey says, “governments have implemented support measures without charging those responsible for the problems properly,” resulting in “privatization of profits and socialization of costs.”

After the global economic collapse of 2008 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged austerity, “bailing out the owning class at the expense of the majority of the people.” Iceland countered this with its own strategy: “Increase taxes on the rich, reduce taxes on the working class, force banks to write off mortgages for households under water.” The IMF, referring to health care as a “luxury good,” urged the Icelandic government to cut its health-care funding. Challenging the IMF, ordinary Icelanders refused “to accept responsibility for the frenzied behavior of their bankers.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, said, “Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net.” Iceland was the hero of the 2008 economic crisis. It survived better than any other nation.

Norway’s story is quite distinct. Late in the 19th century its workers union created the Labor Party that admitted only union members. They rejected the Marxist idea of collectivizing agriculture in favor of protecting family farms. After the Russian revolution of 1917, they joined the Communist International at Lenin’s invitation. By the 1930s the country was highly polarized, as evidenced by Vidkun Quisling’s founding a pro-Nazi political party with a uniformed paramilitary wing that attacked striking workers for their employers. This spurred an increase of conscientious objection which in time led to the Labor Party’s “completely socialist society” that laid the foundation for what Lakey found in Norway in the 1970s. A U.S. economist wrote, “The three things we Americans worry about – education, retirement and medical expenses – are things the Norwegians don’t worry about.”

Researcher Markus Jantti wondered about the chance for upward mobility for young people. How could those from families in the bottom fifth of earners leap to the top fifth. He found that both males and females in Norway, Denmark and Sweden had a much better chance of making this leap than their counterparts in the UK and USA. In Lakey’s words, “It turns out that freedom (shown by mobility and innovation) and equality are not necessarily opposed. In fact, . . .equality supports freedom.” In the Nordic economic design, “the more equality, the more freedom.”

Scandinavian countries had powerful trade unions at just the time unions were being weakened and destroyed in the U.S., England and other countries. They also had far more cooperatives, including banks. “Co-op banks,” says Lakey, “are financially more stable and less likely to fail than shareholder-owned institutions, . . . since they aren’t driven by a need to make profits for investors and huge bonuses for managers.” There are co-ops in all realms: industry, agriculture, dairy, housing, utilities, as well as wholesale and retail operations, and more.

The Nordic countries have virtually wiped out poverty. How did they do this? When it comes to work and poverty, these countries are refreshingly different. In Norway, “jobs, free training and support are available, and working is important for self-respect and the economic productivity of the country. In short, the government’s policy is full employment.” Single parents are encouraged “to hold jobs by having free or affordable childcare available at the work site or near the home.” In addition, “all babies can be born in birth centers and hospitals without regard to income, and all moms and dads can take time off from work with pay to care for the young ones. All parents have access to day care. All parents, whatever their means, get a family allowance for children below the age of 18. . . . Education is free for all. . . . Public transportation is subsidized for all.”

Scandinavians rejected the welfare state and replaced it with “universal services” – “a cooperative system for meeting needs that most people have at various points in their lives.” Instead of regarding the poor as needy, they treat everyone as equal. All work, and all benefit. How they treat crime is important. Rather than punish those who have done wrong, they rehabilitate them, so they can rejoin the community and become taxpayers as soon as possible. The best way to eliminate crime is to give the criminal a job. A study showed “a high association between employment and staying out of trouble.”

Getting everyone to work actually reduces the hours that an individual works. Norwegians work the least number of hours of all the countries of Europe. They are entitled to 25 vacation days every year. There is gender equity. Fathers get a paid leave to care for children. Parents receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave with full pay. A new mother “has the right to two hours of break time each day to permit breast-feeding.” Also, “either parent has the right to stay home with sick children at least twenty days per year.”

Health care is available to everyone, paid for by the community, not the individual. Lakey says the “so-called ‘market efficiency’” of the U.S. “is actually ‘market wastefulness’ So wasteful in fact that despite the Affordable Care Act (so-called ‘Obama Care’) tens of millions of Americans don’t get covered at all, and countless others who are insured still don’t get the treatment they need.”

Of course, quality health care, free education, good housing, convenient transportation, etc. are expensive. Taxes are high in the Nordic countries. But for them “it’s a truism that paying high taxes results in getting high value.” They seek equality by reducing taxes of the working and middle classes and increasing taxes on the rich – the opposite of what the IMF recommends and what often happens in the U.S. British researchers found that “inequality highly correlates with negative statistics in physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, violence, teenage pregnancy, and child well-being.”

To again consider violence, Norway experienced a terrorist attack in 2011, when Anders Breivik massacred 69 young people of the Workers’ Youth League and injured 110 more. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in a speech the next day, said “the proper response to the violence was ‘more democracy, more openness.’” At the memorial service he quoted a girl in the Youth League: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.”

Lakey’s final chapter focuses on the U.S. He thinks the reason we don’t have universal health care is “because special interests prevented the majority from getting what it was ready for.” He says so much of the U.S. government is out of touch with ordinary citizens. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United decision . . . opened the floodgates for billions of dollars to enter the electoral system.” But the problem is deeper. An AARP study found that where there are differences “the economic elite – and not the majority—almost always got their way. . . . (T)he majority does not rule – at least in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“It is obvious,” Lakey says, “that the United States is falling in international ratings of equality and freedom and that the policies of both parties are dominated by the economic elite.” But he sees hope in our history of social change by nonviolent means, our growing experience with worker-owned cooperatives, our increased positive appraisal of socialism, and our increasing awareness of the Nordic alternative (to which his book contributes much).

“Change,” he says, “requires hard work. . . . Movements need organizers, communicators, advocates, funders, nurturers, musicians and artists, nonviolent warriors, and ‘foot soldiers,’ as well as visionary designers. All those were present in the Nordic movements that challenged a thousand years of poverty and oppression, took the offensive, and built democracy.”

WHY THE MILITARY IS STILL ALLOWED TO USE OPEN BURNING AND DETONATION TO DESTROY HAZARDOUS WASTE EXPLOSIVES IN THE U.S.

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health on June 6, 2017 at 7:22 am

By Dan Ross, Newsweek, 5-16-17

Two years ago, after Erin Card moved within two miles of the Radford Army
Ammunition Plant in southwest Virginia, she began noticing threads of smoke
that occasionally rose above the heavily wooded site. She started asking
about the source, and was stunned by what she learned: Toxic explosives were
being burned in the open air. ³It just seems crazy to me,² says Card, 36.

There is no proof that the fumes have harmed Card¹s family, which has lived
in the Radford area for more than a decade. Yet her husband has suffered
from cancer (he¹s now in remission), and the eldest of their young boys,
5-year-old Rex, had a cyst by his thyroid removed. “Sometimes,” Card says,
“I feel sick to my stomach with worry.”
The open burning and detonation of hazardous waste explosives is banned in
many countries, including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. And in the
United States, private industry long ago abandoned the primitive disposal
practice, which is blamed for toxic air, soil and water pollution.

But the U.S. military and Department of Energy have been allowed to continue
the open burning and detonation of explosives and, in a few cases, even
radioactive wastes under a 1980 exemption from the Environmental Protection
Agency. The EPA granted the exemption to provide time to develop better
disposal techniques. Yet today, the U.S. allows open burning and detonation
in at least 39 locations, according to federal data. That includes 31
military sites, at least five Department of Energy operations and one
private business that handles wastes for the Department of Defense.

The government also continues the practice in Guam and the Puerto Rican
island of Vieques, where open detonation, practice bombing and weapons
development have fueled controversy for more than 60 years.

“It¹s crazy that in the 21st century, they¹re still allowed to do it,” says
Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, an environmental
watchdog group monitoring the cleanup of an open burn site at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California. Developers hope to
begin construction soon on thousands of homes within a mile of the open burn
site at Lawrence Livermore‹which, Kelley argues will expose residents to a
range of toxic emissions. “It’s an extremely crude technology,” she says.

The latest defense spending bill included an amendment requiring the
National Academy of Sciences to study alternatives to open burning. Senator
Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who helped push through the amendment, has long
championed the cleanup in her home state of Wisconsin at the Badger Army
Ammunition Plant, which used to conduct open burning. “This will ensure that
other sites are not contaminated the way that the Badger site was,” Baldwin
wrote in an email.

But some believe the National Academy’s study (to be completed by June
2018) is mere foot-dragging, since alternatives such as contained
incinerators have long been available, and the Defense Department has faced
calls to use them for decades. As far back as 1991, the EPA told the
Pentagon that “safe alternatives” to open burning and detonation “can and
should be developed.” In 1997, Congress told
<https://www.congress.gov/bill/104th-congress/house-bill/3230&gt; the Defense
Department to move ahead with environmentally clean disposal methods for
munitions, rockets and explosives within five years, but little came of it.

Radioactive Wild Boar Roam Chernobyl and Fukushima Areas

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Public Health on June 5, 2017 at 10:00 pm

31 years after Chernobyl
Half of all wild boars in southwest
Czech Republic are still radioactive —

Associated Press, via Business Insider, January 17, 2017
http://tinyurl.com/hqquj4t

PRAGUE (AP) — An agency in the Czech Republic says about a half of all wild boars in the country’s southwest are radioactive and considered unsafe for consumption due to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The State Veterinary Administration said Tuesday that radioactive boars still roam the Sumava mountain range on the Czech border with Germany.

It says the animals remain contaminated nearly 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster because they feed on an underground mushroom that absorbs radioactivity from the soil.

The nuclear reactor’s explosion sent a radioactive cloud over Europe.

Cesium, the key radioactive material released, has a half-life of some 30 years. It can build up in the body, and high levels are thought to be a risk.

Similar problems with radioactive wild animals were reported in Austria and Germany.
———————————-

Radioactive Wild Boar Roam Fukushima

By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, March 10, 2017
http://tinyurl.com/z5h2byp

With humans long gone, and robots dying off amid the radiation, Fukushima has become home to ‘something else’. When the exclusion zone was set up almost exactly 6 years ago this week – with the surrounding towns population evacuated to a safe distance – The Mirror reports that hundreds of wild boars, which have been known to attack people when enraged, descended from surrounding hills and forests into the deserted streets.

Now they roam the empty streets and overgrown garden’s of Japan’s deserted seaside town of Namie, foraging for food. However, the people of Namie are scheduled to return to the town at the end of the month, which means the bloody-toothed interlopers have to be cleared. “It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars,” said Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town. “If we don’t get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable.”
Reuters reports that more than half of Namie’s former 21,500 residents have decided not to return and face the wild boars, however, a government survey showed last year, citing concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being decommissioned. Wild boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan, but animals slaughtered since the disaster are too contaminated to eat. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some of the boars have shown levels of radioactive element caesium-137 that are 300 times higher than safety standards.
Authorities in the town of Tomioka say they’ve killed 800 so far, but officials there say that’s not enough, according to Japanese media. The latest statistics show that in the three years since 2011, the number of boars killed in hunts has grown to 13,000 from 3,000. But at town meetings earlier this year to prepare for the homecoming, residents had voiced worries about the wild boars. “I’m sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie. “Something must be done.”