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Bottom line on this merger frenzy -- it's all about giving health care organizations and facilities even more ability to grow their patient base and increase their profits.Bottom line on this merger frenzy -- it's all about giving health care organizations and facilities even more ability to grow their patient base and increase their profits. (Photo: Traci Lawson)JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The days of having your own doctor and a stable way to access care are rapidly disappearing as the drive to increase corporate mergers of health care giants gains further momentum. Under the guise of bringing patients more convenience in accessing care, we are seeing instead increasing fragmentation of health care as merging giants get even bigger and more profitable.

Here are some recent examples of this fast-moving trend:

UnitedHealth Group

As the largest health insurer in the U. S. by market share and the largest health care company in the world by revenue, UnitedHealth Group has been moving aggressively into the direct delivery of health care by buying up doctors' groups and clinics across the country. UnitedHealth already had a roster of some 30,000 physicians across more than 230 urgent care centers and 200 surgery centers as well as its pharmacy benefit manager serving 65 million people. Within its broader goal of building a larger ambulatory care business, it recently bought the DaVita Medical Group for about $4.9 billion. That purchase added about 280 clinics offering primary and specialist care, together with 35 urgent care centers and 6 outpatient surgery centers. Its longer-term goal is to provide primary care and ambulatory services in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the U. S. population. (Mathews, AW. UnitedHealth to Buy Large Doctor Group for $4.9 Billion. Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2017: B3)

What could we wish for Ta'iz? Surely, we wouldn't wish the terror plague of aerial bombardment to cause death, mutilation, destruction and multiple traumas.What could we wish for Ta'iz? Surely, we wouldn't wish the terror plague of aerial bombardment to cause death, mutilation, destruction and multiple traumas. (Photo: Hiro Otake)KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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People living now in Yemen's third largest city, Ta'iz, have endured unimaginable circumstances for the past three years. Civilians fear to go outside lest they be shot by a sniper or step on a land mine. Both sides of a worsening civil war use Howitzers, Kaytushas, mortars and other missiles to shell the city. Residents say no neighborhood is safer than another, and human rights groups report appalling violations, including torture of captives. Two days ago, a Saudi-led coalition bomber killed 54 people in a crowded market place.

Before the civil war developed, the city was regarded as the official cultural capital of Yemen, a place where authors and academics, artists and poets chose to live. Ta'iz was home to a vibrant, creative youth movement during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Young men and women organized massive demonstrations to protest the enrichment of entrenched elites as ordinary people struggled to survive.

The young people were exposing the roots of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Rothbard 0108wrp optRothbard the t-shirt. (Photo: James LeVeque / Flickr)The name may not ring a bell, but Murray Rothbard may be one the most influential figures in the modern history of right-wing populism, the alt-right, and Trumpism itself. Although relatively unknown, John Ganz, in an essay in The Baffler titled "The Forgotten Man," writes, "you will find [Rothbard's name] scrawled on the seamy underbelly of the web, in the message boards of the alt-right, where fewer voices are more in the air than Rothbard's."

Rothbard was born in the Bronx to immigrant Jewish parents from Eastern Europe. He was an economist, philosopher, political theorist, and historian who joyfully went to war against the elite conservative establishment. He helped establish libertarianism as a viable political entity, and convinced Charles Koch to pony up money to establish the Cato Institute, the nation's premier libertarian think tank.

He was "contemptuous and hostile" of the civil rights and women's suffrage movement, according to Michael O'Malley, Associate Professor of History at George Mason University. He called for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the overturning of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He was an advocate of unleashing the police to "clear the streets of bums and vagrants," and "allow [the police] to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error." And, he repeatedly expressed admiration for David Duke, Roy Cohn and Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Monday, 08 January 2018 06:39

How Inequality Is Killing Off Humanity

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 0108wrp opt(Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! / Flickr)That's not hyperbole. There is ample evidence for a growing inability of people around the world to maintain the basic human needs of physical health and mental stability and a living wage and a desire to live in peace. 

Most of us recognize the need for some semblance of equality in our relationships with others. But a smallish group of shockingly wealthy households around the world -- especially in America -- is gaining more and more power along with their wealth. They're making it nearly impossible to reverse the deadly effects of an unnaturally unequal society, in part because they're no longer connected to the world beyond their estates. They police us, they starve our public institutions, they abhor any form of social cooperation, they blame the poor for being poor. The means to restore some balance is steadily slipping away. 

The Richest .01% Are Wealth-Obese

In the United States, where wealth inequality is extreme and getting worse (see analysis here):

-- The richest 12,600 households (the .01%) have an average of over $800,000,000 in wealth (mostly financial) 
-- The poorest 63,000,000 households (the bottom 50%) have an average of about $16,000 in wealth (mostly housing)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FastFood 0105wrp opt(Photo: Andy / Flickr)Inequality doesn't just come out of the blue; it's intentionally created by decisions that elites make — usually behind closed doors, so those knocked down don't know what (or who) hit them.

Take America's 4 million fast-food workers, whose average pay hovers around a miserly $300 a week before taxes.

With the labor market tightening, why don't they just hop down the street to another franchise offering a better deal? Many try that, only to be rejected again and again, unaware that most fast-food chains have hidden within their franchising contracts "no-hire agreements," prohibiting one franchisee from hiring another's employees.

In a landmark study this year, two prominent labor economists at Princeton found that these secret bans on wage competition are used by more than 70,000 chain restaurants, including Burger King, Carl's Jr., Domino's and Pizza Hut.. By colluding to prevent millions of Americans from switching jobs to increase their incomes and opportunities, these giants have artificially kept the pay of fast-food workers and many other franchise employees stuck at poverty levels. That's one place inequality comes from — and it's downright un-American.

JAMES BAIER, MICHAEL MUSHARBASH AND AUTUMN VOGEL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Youth 0104wrp opt(Photo: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr)The abolition of nuclear weapons is a progressive issue we need to take seriously.

As American medical students, we attended the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 2017. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won this year's prize for raising global awareness on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons. In 2017, ICAN's coalition of civil society organizations across 100 countries successfully pressured governments to adopt the first-ever UN treaty that categorically bans nuclear weapons. International treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals have been in existence for decades, so why did the Nobel Prize Committee choose to honor ICAN? The organization's efforts are unique because the campaign reframes nuclear disarmament as a humanitarian issue. Seeing how these outdated, dangerous weapons impact people and the environment underlines the imperative to abolish them entirely, so that regional conflicts can no longer threaten the survival of the entire species. This global movement is largely driven by ordinary citizens who care about health, human rights and the environment. Many in this international movement are members of the "millennial" generation, who traveled to Oslo from multiple continents across the globe.

Thursday, 04 January 2018 06:48

The Button, the Wall and the Myth of Nations

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Button 0104wrp opt(Photo: patrick dax / Flickr)"Mr. Kim may be partly motivated by an intense need to roll back sanctions that, by all accounts, have begun to bite."

Whoa and ouch. This was my wakeup paragraph. I was sitting at Starbucks, reading the New York Times, feeling confusing old emotions wash over me on the first day of the New Year, when suddenly these words hit me like a sucker punch: The sanctions against North Korea "have begun to bite"?

Compare this throw-away fragment of international news with a brief analysis of the effect of U.S. and global sanctions against North Korea by the Council on Foreign Relations: "Sanctions are often felt most by ordinary families, not the power elites who are the intended targets. . . . Sanctions and extended periods of drought have left many of North Korea's twenty-five million people malnourished and impoverished."

The wakeup bite for me wasn't that the New York Times was wrong, simply that, as it presented the latest bit of international news to its global audience, the context of its reporting wasn't factual data but 21st century mythology.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SportsPolitics 0103wrp opt(Photo: StickerGiant / Flickr)Who would have thought that in a season where he was locked out by NFL owners, didn't take a single snap, or play a single down, former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the playing of the national anthem in 2016, in protest over police brutality and social injustice, would continue to resonate this year? Who would have thought that Gregg Popovich, the highly esteemed coach of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, would become one of the most outspoken voices against the calumnies of President Donald Trump? Who could have imagined that the most resonant anti-Trump tweet of the year would come from LeBron James, the world's best and most recognized basketball player?

Those are some of the remarkable developments that marked the year in sports; a watershed year in which athletes' political activism grew exponentially. Their actions garnered pushback from the NFL's conservative billionaire owners, a Pizza magnate, conservative columnists and fans, and, from the president himself.

When LeBron James tweeted at President Trump: "U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!", James was calling out the president for being shallow, petty, and spiteful.

Wednesday, 03 January 2018 07:02

Time for Truth-Telling on Immigration

ANDREW MOSS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Immigration 0103wrp opt(Photo: Victoria Pickering / Flickr)As we enter a new year, 800,000 Dreamers await news of their fate in this country.  Thwarted by a president who will soon terminate the only program giving them temporary reprieve from harassment or deportation, stood up by a Congress that couldn't muster the will last year to grant them a pathway to permanent residency, they wait.

But not all are simply standing by.  On New Year's Day I scan the internet, seeking photos and stories of Dreamers willing to share something of their lives and their contributions to America.  On a USA Today site, I read about Ellie, whose DACA status enabled her to attend community college fulltime, earn an associate's degree, and eventually become the first person in her family to attend a four-year university.  I learn about Julio, for whom DACA meant the opportunity to become a mortgage loan officer and a tax-paying, contributing member of his community.  There is Carla, who started a digital marketing business, and there, too, is Reyna, who founded an organization that advocates for migrant youth. 

These are only a few of the many Dreamers who have not been deterred from speaking out and sharing their stories.  When Donald Trump announced last September that he would terminate the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Program by March, 2018, many Dreamers began protesting in Washington and other cities for a just resolution of the crisis, seeking to galvanize public support.  They have persisted in telling their truths in an era of official distortions and betrayals.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wolf 1229wrp opt(Photo: Arne von Brill / Flickr)The Republican-controlled 115th Congress has introduced at least 63 separate pieces of legislation that would strip federal protections for specific threatened species or undermine the U.S. Endangered Species Act, according to a new analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity. That's one such bill every six days in 2017 alone.

The majority of these bills were introduced by Republicans, the Center for Biological Diversity noted. Gray wolves, greater sage grouse and elephants were targeted the most.

“Republicans in Congress continue to attack the Endangered Species Act despite overwhelming support from Americans of all political stripes for this landmark conservation law," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These attacks are designed to reward special interests that would plunder our natural resources even if it causes wildlife to go extinct."

Unfortunately, with President Trump in the White House, "these types of attacks are more likely to become law, severely harming our nation's imperiled wildlife," the Center for Biological Diversity warned.

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