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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaamedicareforallProfit-driven health insurance companies drive up the cost of care and drive down the provision of needed medical services. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

 

With the just-announced pending acquisition of Cigna Insurance by Anthem, the US will be left with three giant health insurance companies. This is unlikely to be a good development for consumers, to say the least. Market consolidation most often leads to fewer consumer choices, higher prices and more corporate profit. Any savings are rarely passed onto consumers.

What's worse for individual health insurance policy holders is that deductibles, copays and maximum out-of-pocket expenses will inevitably rise. Why? Because there will be fewer health insurance vendors to choose from, so the market becomes captive to health insurance companies that are "too big to fail."

The Associated Press (AP) reports about the massiveness of the acquisition of Cigna by Anthem:

The deal announced Friday is valued at $54.2 billion including debt. Shareholders of Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, will receive $103.40 per share in cash and 0.5152 shares of Anthem stock for each of their shares. The companies put the total value at $188 per share.

AP notes that this announcement comes on the heels of "Aetna's $35 billion bid for Humana Inc. on July 3," and observes that "the landscape of U.S. health care has been altered in a buyout frenzy." 

2015.23.7 BF McCarthy(Photo: DonkeyHotey)KYLE MCCARTHY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Recently, Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell held a conference call discussing the Department's plans for debt relief for Corinthian College students as well as to discuss holding other predatory schools accountable.

Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education. They prey on the most vulnerable students, and leave them with debt that they too often can't repay. We must have accountability to protect both students and taxpayers.

Duncan is absolutely right. Many for-profit colleges promote themselves as career colleges, when in reality, they often leave students deep in debt, and without a degree. Corinthian is one example, but hardly the only culprit of this.

Just look at Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business (MSB). These two schools make up the bulk of the Globe Education Network, a family-owned chain of more than 30 for-profit colleges, which are often branded as "premier, family-managed system of career colleges, universities and training centers." Though they are marketed as being premiere, statistics paint a very different picture and often leave students worse off than before they enrolled. Both Globe University and MSB have high tuition, sky-high average student debt, high student loan default rates, poor graduation rates, and face numerous accusations of deception and high-pressure recruiting tactics.

2015.23.7 BF KOEHLER2(Photo: Jayel Aheram)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“. . . no real security, just powers of retaliation.”

This was Norman Mailer, four-plus decades ago, writing in Miami and the Siege of Chicago about the obsessive security measures – “helicopters riding overhead like roller coasters, state troopers with magnums on their hip and crash helmets, squad cars, motorcycles” – at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, which . . . uh, didn’t actually provide security, but sure allowed us to get even afterwards.

This is still the unnoticed insanity haunting the American news cycle, whether the story being reported is domestic or international. As a society, we’re armed and dangerous – and always at war, both collectively and individually. We’re endlessly declaring bad guys (officially and unofficially) and endlessly protecting ourselves from them, in the process guaranteeing that the violence continues. And the parallels between “them” and “us” are unnerving.

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Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire at a naval reserve training facility in Chattanooga and killed five people. He was suffering from depression and possibly radicalized by ISIS. Fox News headlined the story: “Tennessee gunman was armed to the teeth and ready for war with America.” The story pointed out that he was a naturalized American citizen born in Kuwait.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaawilsonbirthYes, President Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, said this and worse. This quotation appeared in The Birth of a Nation. (Image: elycefeliz)

Blatant racism and the notion of inherent white superiority have often been justified by their proponents as divinely mandated in the name of Christ.

Take, for instance, how the justification of white supremacy plays itself out in one of the first-ever box office smashes, the explicitly racist silent film The Birth of a Nation.

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The AMC Filmsite, edited by Tom Dirks, notes of The Birth of a Nation:

The domestic melodrama/epic originally premiered with the title The Clansman in February, 1915 in Los Angeles, California, but three months later was retitled with the present title at its world premiere in New York, to emphasize the birthing process of the US. The film was based on former North Carolina Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr.'s anti-black, 1905 bigoted melodramatic staged play [and novel], The Clansman, the second volume in a trilogy:

    • The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden, 1865-1900

    • The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan

    • The Traitor

Evidencing the reverence paid to the KKK - even by many Northerners - it should be noted that The Birth of a Nation was the first film screened inside the White House. In this case, it was shown for the "pleasure" of President Woodrow Wilson.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaacfpb(Photo: Mike Licht)

In a July 21 entry in her blog, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) warns that the Congressional Republicans are trying to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) by literally inflicting a thousand cuts in the budgetary process. Then she makes an argument for why that shouldn't be allowed to happen:

And the fight was worth it. The agency went operational four years ago today, and it has handled 650,000 complaints since it opened its doors – some with money back and some with an apology. Mortgages have gotten clearer and easier to read. Work on credit cards, student loans, checking accounts, small-dollar loans, and other products is headed in the right direction. And in that four years, the consumer agency has forced the biggest banks in this country to return more than $10 billion directly to people they cheated.

Obviously, Warren has a personal interest in the fate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Against all odds, she formulated its goals, its structure and its responsibilities. Then she had to fight to see its passage through Congress, with sometimes only tepid White House support.

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaatrumpsterBigoted draft dodger and scurrilous self-promoter who inherited his wealth.(Image: Donald Trump)

For all those bemoaning the lack of noise in the Republican presidential sweepstakes it’s time to get down on our knees and give thanks to Donald Trump because whatever that man touches turns to loud. He’s the gift that keeps on blaring. Has all the delicate innuendo of concrete curtain rods. Not just a loose cannon, more like a  loose aircraft carrier.
 
To say the campaign of the self-appointed captain of the S.S. Birther got off to a rocky start is like intimating that transatlantic telecommunications cables make substandard dental floss. Critics derided the guy who tried to trademark the phrase “you’re fired!” for hiring extras to pretend to be supporters at his announcement, but another way of looking at it is… he’s already creating jobs.
 
At the beginning of a diatribe where the word “I,” or “I’ve” or “I’m” was used 244 times and that doesn’t include “me,” or “we” or “us,” the billionaire real estate developer trotted out some bizarre illegal immigrant harangue, accusing the Mexican government of sending drug- crazed rapists across the border. Demonstrating why veteran politicians often employ scriptwriters and utilize teleprompters: so they don’t stick their foot so deep into their mouths they can tickle their spleen with their shoelaces.
 
And the price The Donald paid for his bout of verbal incontinence was shooting straight to the top of Republican polls. Sure, he and some of his brands were dropped by a couple of lily-livered corporations like Univision, Farouk Systems, NASCAR, Serta, the PGA, Televisa, NBC Universal & Macy’s. But not all is lost; rumors abound that both Animal Planet and SyFy are interested in producing a mini-series about his hair.
 
Conservative conspiracy theorists accuse Trump of being a Democratic mole whose subversive goal is to make them look like intolerant cretins. But they’re the ones who spent the last 45 years crocheting the ass hat; can’t be surprised when some idiot picks it off the shelf and waltzes around in it.

2015.21.7 BF Spear(Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The Arctic has been in the news a lot lately since President Obama gave conditional approval to Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the northernmost part of the Earth. Shell could begin exploratory drilling as early as next week, risking devastating oil spills and ensuring more carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere, undermining the goals set by the US in its fight against climate change.

To bring greater awareness to these dire concerns, Golden Globe-winner Keri Russell, Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune along with veterans advocates Genevieve Chase and BriGette McCoy, and author Rebecca Solnit just visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They saw firsthand why millions of Americans want the Arctic permanently protected.

“Going to Alaska was a lifelong dream,” said Russell. “I’m amazed by the incredible beauty and serenity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Having the chance to camp and raft the Kongakut River and completely immerse myself in nature was a life changing experience and an important reminder that we need to protect these lands for future generations.”

2015.21.7 BF Phillips(Photo: Chris Goldberg)PETER PHILLIPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

July 18th 2015 was the first day of this year’s summer camp for the world’s business and political aristocracy and their invited guests. 2,000 to 3,000 men, mostly from the wealthiest global one percent, gather at Bohemian Grove, 70 miles north of San Francisco in California’s Sonoma County—to sit around the campfire and chew the fat—off-the-record—with ex-presidents, corporate leaders and global financiers.

Speakers this year giving “Lakeside Chats” include past Secretary of Defense and the CIA Leon Panetta, Paul Volcker Jr. former Federal Reserve Chairman, retired Admiral Mike Mullen former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NYU Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, producer Norman Lear, the founder of AOL Steve Case, and Christopher Hill former US Ambassador to Iraq.

The Bohemian Grove summer encampments have become one of the most famous private men's retreats in the world. Club members and several hundred world-class guests gather annually in the last weeks of July to recreate what has been called "the greatest men's party on earth." Spanning three weekends, the outdoors event includes lectures, rituals, theater, camp parties, golf, swimming, skeet shooting, politics, sideline business meetings and feasts of food and alcohol.

One might imagine modern-day aristocrats like Henry Kissinger, the Koch brothers, and Donald Rumsfeld amid a circle of friends sipping cognac and discussing how the "unqualified" masses cannot be trusted to carry out policy, and how elites must set values that can be translated into "standards of authority."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaachiquitaIn Spanish, the image above commemorates the ongoing battle for unionism in Colombia against paramilitary and government killings. In 1928, up to 3000 banana worker activists for a union were massacred by the Columbian military. The assassinations have continued by right wing militias beyond 2008. (Photo: Antonio Tobón Restrepo)

During his time as attorney general, Eric Holder appointed attorneys from his former law firm - the top DC white-collar defense firm of Covington & Burling - to senior positions in the Department of Justice (DOJ). In fact, at the beginning of Holder's term, the top three positions in the DOJ (the head of the DOJ civil division, the head of the criminal division and, of course, the position of attorney general) were held by Covington & Burling "revolving door" lawyers.

If one wants to understand why the DOJ was so lenient with big banks, it is instructive to look back at the infamous Chiquita Banana defense, headed by Holder when he was at Covington & Burling, shortly before he was appointed attorney general.

winter 2008 article in the Guardian provides the context for Holder's defense of Chiquita's indefensible, deadly corporate conduct. 

2015.20.7 BF Quigley(Photo: Culture:Subculture)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans. Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again. The population of New Orleans is noticeably smaller and noticeably whiter. While tens of billions poured into Louisiana, the impact on poor and working people in New Orleans has been minimal. Many of the elderly and the poor, especially poor families with children, never made it back to New Orleans. The poverty rate for children who did made it back remains at disturbingly high pre-Katrina levels, especially for Black children. Rents are high and taking a higher percentage of people’s income. The pre-Katrina school system fired all it teachers and professionals and turned itself into the charter experiment capital of the US even while the number of children in public schools has dropped dramatically. Since Katrina, white incomes, which were over twice that of Blacks, have risen three times as much as Blacks. While not all the numbers below are bad, they do illustrate who has been left behind in the ten years since Katrina hit.

33        Rent in New Orleans is up 33 percent for one bedroom apartments and 41 percent for two bedroom apartments since Katrina hit.   This is very tough because in New Orleans, 55 percent of residents rent.   The national average is 35 percent. In 2005, one bedroom was $578 and two was $676. In 2015, it is $767 for one and $950 for two. CNN/Money recently named New Orleans as one of the worst cities in the US for renters.   Before Katrina the average renter spent 19 percent of its income on rent. The Data Center, a terrific resource for information on the region, reports 37 percent of renters in New Orleans now spend more than 50 percent of their income to rent. Rental apartments are mostly substandard as well with 78 percent, nearly 50,000 apartments, in the city needing major repairs.

38        In 2005, 38 percent of the children in New Orleans lived in poverty, 17 percentage points higher than the US as a whole. The most recent numbers show 39 percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty, still 17 percentage points higher than the national average. 82 percent of these families have someone working in the family so the primary cause is low wages.

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