Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain.

MSNBC

August 23, 2019

WATCH: Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain. http://nbcnews.to/2zdzs6y

Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain

WATCH: Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain. http://nbcnews.to/2zdzs6y

Posted by MSNBC on Friday, August 23, 2019

NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won’t Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore

The Breakdown posted an episode of a Show.  

August 22, 2019

[WATCH] NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won’t Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore.

Watch NRA Lobbyist Make The WORST Argument Ever.

[WATCH] NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won't Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore.

Posted by The Breakdown on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline!

Bold Nebraska was live. Follow

August 23, 2019

Bold Nebraska‘s Jane Fleming Kleeb gives an update on today’s Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and our collective next steps. #NoKXL

Add your name to the #NoKXLpledgebit.ly/nokxlpledge

Bold Nebraska's Jane Fleming Kleeb gives an update on today's Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and our collective next steps. #NoKXLAdd your name to the #NoKXLpledge: bit.ly/nokxlpledge

Posted by Bold Nebraska on Friday, August 23, 2019

Hong Kong knows how to protest. Hey trump, this is a real crowd!

Attack on the Middle Class

August 22, 2019

Hong Kong knows how to protest! 😲

Someone created this timelapse of the 6.16 protest in Hong Kong and it shows you the immensity of the crowds that showed up.

Posted by Shanghaiist on Sunday, June 16, 2019

Student debt has reached an all-time high of $1.4 trillion!!

The Daily Show

August 22, 2019

Student debt has reached an all-time high of $1.4 trillion across America, or roughly one dollar for every Democratic presidential candidate.

Student Debt in the U.S. Reaches an All-Time High

Student debt has reached an all-time high of $1.4 trillion across America, or roughly one dollar for every Democratic presidential candidate.

Posted by The Daily Show on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Earths Lungs Are Burning!!!

The Breakdown posted an episode of a show. 

The Earths Lungs Are Burning. Where’s The Outrage?

August 22, 2019

Earth’s Lungs Are ON FIRE + Nobody Gives A Sh*t.

The Earths Lungs Are Burning. Where’s The Outrage?

Earth's Lungs Are ON FIRE + Nobody Gives A Sh*t.

Posted by The Breakdown on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Political Status Quo Is No Match for Climate Change

Intellegencer

Life After Warming

The Political Status Quo Is No Match for Climate Change

Is hope for tackling climate change going up in smoke?
Is hope for tackling climate change going up in smoke? Photo: Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images

There are foreboding climate coincidences every few days now — that is what happens when there is so much bad news emerging, so regularly, that the horrors stack one on top of the next.

Sometimes the horrors are natural disasters, one after the other — as when 500 tornadoes in 30 spring days swept through the Midwest, a region already devastated by months of flooding, or when heat waves were compounded by droughts and water shortages and cyclones in India, each successive event a reminder that, by the end of the century, parts of the planet could be hit by six climate-driven natural disasters at once. Sometimes they’re new studies or reports — global emissions reaching new heights, for instance, powered in part by increased energy demand from air-conditioning to counteract all the additional hot days, each study a reminder that even the most alarming reports about climate change have, over the past few decades, almost invariably underestimated the amount of damage already done.

Other times, they are political, as was the case this week, when it was reported that, in Brazil, forest fires ignited intentionally in the Amazon had resulted in 85 percent more wildfire than had burned through the region just last year, on the very same day that, in the United States, the most powerful country in the world lost its one candidate for president who viewed the climate crisis with anything approaching the urgency the world’s scientific community agrees, universally, is necessary.

The Amazon fires are, as Vox’s David Roberts put it, ”some genuinely apocalyptic shit,” blanketing half of the enormous country in smoke and darkening São Paulo, far from the heart of the rain forest basin, at noon. A new fire is started every minute, many of them coordinated by local ranchers to demonstrate support for Jair Bolsanaro, the country’s grotesque far-right president, who campaigned in part on a promise to open the Amazon up to development — a plan Brazilian scientists forecast would add as much additional carbon to the atmosphere as adding a second China, the world’s biggest emitter, to the problem. “Could one man single-handedly ruin the planet?” I wondered about Bolsanaro’s plan last October, a plan which promised to destroy the ecosystem often described as the planet’s lungs, since the Amazon currently produces about a fifth of the world’s oxygen and absorbs as much as a quarter of all carbon stored by all the planet’s forests. Stored until it is released, that is, whenever trees burn or are cut down and decay. And even before this sudden rash of wintertime fires, the Amazon was being deforested, one recent estimate suggested, as fast as five football fields a minute, or a Manhattan every day. If the rainforest as a whole shrunk by only one-fifth, some scientists believe, it could produce a cascading effect known as dieback, whereby basically the whole ecosystem would collapse, faster than any human effort to replenish it could manage.

In the context of the climate crisis we all see now each day in our newspapers and our television screens, this is unthinkable policy — and yet it is not just being thought but enacted in Brazil. The spectacle has meant that a lot of previous unthinkable responses are now being considered, as well: that the U.S. should declare Brazilian deforestation a national security threatthat the country’s trading partners consider imposing sanctions, and international cooperations consider boycotts; that, rather than Greenland, Trump should consider buying the Amazon. If you squint your eyes hopefully, you can even begin to think it might be possible that a grouping of the world’s countries effectively buy some large portion of the Amazon from Brazil — that is, paying them a very lot of money to protect it as a natural refuge.

These approaches are far enough outside what used to be considered mainstream American policy that just a year or two ago they might’ve passed for jokes or fringe exercises in Overton-window shifting. Which suggests, as almost everything having to do with climate does, that we need a genuinely new kind of politics to hope for meaningfully mitigating the global suffering imposed by warming. In a perverse sense, Bolsanaro’s gambit points the way — that he is doing that much damage to the planet through policy initiative means, in theory at least, policy can do that much or more to move the needle in the opposite direction, if policy-makers only had the courage demanded by science.

Yet Inslee’s failed campaign is a sign that too many of us, even many who consider themselves climate activists, accept the terms of a status quo politics that dramatically limits what kind of action is possible. On Twitter, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver got a fair amount of shit from environmental activists for suggesting that Inslee’s failed candidacy was a sign that, no matter what they said, Democratic voters didn’t really care that much about policy. Silver’s critics are right that Inslee, for all his integrity and seriousness, is not a pure and ideal test case, perhaps an imperfect vessel for climate mobilization, and that, of course, there are many structural reasons his single-minded candidacy couldn’t get off the ground — many of which he talked about with me in an exit interview yesterday. But Silver is also, in a way, right. It is simply the case that those voters who told pollsters they wanted action on climate could not manage to also tell them they’d vote for the one contender who really promised it. Not even enough of them to get him onto the stage in the forums actually devoted to climate — his issue.

Part of this, of course, is a sign of just what a monster lives in the White House today — for liberals of all kinds, but perhaps especially those of us who care particularly about climate. There is a certain logic to focusing on electability when you think the entire republic and the possibility of future liberal progress hangs in the balance. And yet, while he is too often as an object lesson in a “new” politics, given how much random chance helped put him in office, that monster is nevertheless also a reminder that the old rules are sometimes just illusions held in place by ritual. There were plenty of structural obstacles standing in Trump’s way, as well, in 2015. But voters cared enough to overcome them — carrying him at first past thresholds of plausibility, then plurality, and ultimately to the support of nearly half the country’s electorate. At which point, he tried to govern as though he’d been elected by acclamation — which is to say, like a dictator. At the moment, more than 70 percent of Americans are concerned about climate change and Democratic voters in early-primary states say it’s a top priority; even a majority of Republicans who want “aggressive” American action to combat it. But the climate candidate couldn’t even break 2 percent in the primary polling. It’s just sad. And maddening. And distressing. And dispiriting, in a way.

I really don’t mean to be finger-wagging — honestly, I don’t have the standing to, since I can’t even say I behaved much differently myself. Despite spending a good chunk of the last year urging people to reorient their politics around this one preeminent, overarching, existential issue, I also tended to reply, when asked about the Democratic primaries, “On the thing I care most about, Inslee is far and away the best, but among the realistic candidates, I like Warren.”

I do like Warren, a lot. But today I find myself wondering how much I’ve been tyrannized by my own sense of political realism into pretending that we needn’t push climate action at the scale beyond what conventional politics allows. Among Warren’s dozens of admirable and technocratic plans, her relatively modest climate proposals almost get lost. Before dropping out, Inslee released six — each more ambitious than the last, and, as he pointed out to me yesterday, not just a bullet-point list of platitudes but a plug-and-play “governing document,” which could theoretically, at least, be put into action by anyone taking the White House in January 2021.

That’s the “good” news in Inslee’s exit — that any of the candidates can now draw on this policy work themselves. But the glass-half-empty perspective is that, as ambitious as they are, Inslee’s plans may still be inadequate to the challenge. The U.N. says that, to safely avoid catastrophic warming, the planet as a whole would need to halve its carbon emissions by 2030, which would require a global, World War II–scale mobilization against climate change. The secretary-general has said that the mobilization would have to begin this year, 2019. Presumably nations like the U.S. and the U.K. — farther along their development arcs than countries like China or India or Nigeria — would have to move even faster, to buy time for the developing nations of the world to move more comfortably. Inslee’s proposals were of a different scale, more New Deal than World War II — when whole industries were nationalized, factories redirected on a dime, the working-age male population drafted unprecedentedly into warfare and the working-age female population unprecedentedly into labor. It’s very hard to imagine that kind of transformation today, even though that is exactly what the world’s scientists say we must do.

Maybe a New Deal approach will turn out to be enough. It’s one of the compelling claims of the Green New Deal framework that it could be, and that investments of that scale could iron out a whole lot of other kinks in the American political economy besides. The climate system and its human inputs are all so dynamic it’s hard to feel confident in any particular projection, and there are reasons to think given the right pushes in the right directions both private markets and public policy could move quite quickly to stabilize things. It might be especially the case if the U.S. and China both really lean into decarbonization over the next few years — a bit of wishful thinking, perhaps, given that China has approved six times as much new coal production in the first six months of 2019 as it did in all of 2018. But Inslee’s plans also feature an approach to that problem, the international one, proposing an integrated American foreign policy built around the principle of climate change and deployed to lead the rest of the world much more ambitiously than it ever has before.

Of course, those projections could be off in the other direction, too — in other words, we could need a lot more than a global World War II–scale mobilization to avoid catastrophic warming. And as much progress has been made over the last year — politically, with the climate strikes and other protest movements, and policy-wise, with Denmark and the U.K. setting ambitious emissions reductions targets — it’s hard not to watch footage of the Amazon burning as Inslee bows out and not lose a little hope. We simply don’t have time to wait much longer.

Thankfully, we didn’t need to wait very long to get a new climate candidate. On Thursday, barely 12 hours after Inslee exited the race, Bernie Sanders unveiled his own climate plan — which, at least judged by the size of its budget, is considerably more ambitious than Inslee’s. Honestly, I’m not sure how plausible Sanders’s path to the nomination is, either, nor how eager American voters will be for a climate bill five times the cost of Trump’s tax cuts — even if Sanders promises the spending will create 20 million jobs along the way. And since the plan has just been released, it’s too early to judge on the merits, and in detail. In the meantime, I’m just glad someone else has taken the baton.

Bill Maher Has No Tears For David Koch:

Israel rejects a key value of Jewish life

Chicago Sun Times

Israel rejects a key value of Jewish life

Keeping two American congresswomen out of the country because of their beliefs is contrary to both American and Jewish ideals.

U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) left, and Ilhan Omar (D-MIN) at a news conference in July.
U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) left, and Ilhan Omar (D-MIN) at a news conference in July. Both were barred Thursday from visiting Israel.  Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images.

 

Nothing shows strength like the ability to listen. To not merely tolerate, but consider those who disagree with you. That’s a mark of confidence.

To hear contrasting opinions, weigh what merit those arguments might have, and even be open to the possibility that it is you, yourself, who could be wrong.

Despots never get this. They’re too fraudulent, too terrified of losing their slippery grip on unmerited authority. So of course Donald Trump, that most hollow of puffed-up would-be strongmen, would fail to understand this, completely.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Reps. Omar and Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted on Thursday, of the pending visit to Israel of two American members of Congress. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, are not a disgrace. Nor anti-Semitic. They articulate concerns that many — maybe even most — American Jews feel over the path Israel is taking — its growing nationalism, its catering to ultra-Orthodox fanaticism, its general neglect of the fate of four million Palestinians under its semi-control.

Yes, the two also encourage the BDS movement — the belief that Israeli businesses should be boycotted, investments in Israel should be divested, and sanctions placed until Israel … well, does whatever it is the Palestinians want it to do: the Jews vanish, march into the Mediterranean Sea and let Palestinians have their country, I suppose.

I don’t agree with the congresswomen here. But then again, given that the BDS movement, like all boycotts, has scant actual impact, beyond giving college sophomores something harmless to feel passionate about, I don’t see how support of this chimera is a pickaxe at the foundation of Israel either.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feels differently. Not an hour after Trump’s tweet, the pair were barred from Israel. Blocking their visit is a defeat, another blunder by a nation that, when I was growing up, strode from success to success.

Condemnation of Israel can certainly be a form of anti-Semitism; that doesn’t put Israel’s policies beyond critique. Here, the remedy is worse than the ailment.

Judaism is clear about disagreement.

“The Talmud says that divergent views can both be seen as the words of the living G‑d,” writes Rabbi Levi Brackman, the dash representing the Chassidic practice of not spelling out the ineffable name of the creator. “As long as we are taught to appreciate that divinity is also found within the view of people who disagree with us, then respect and dignity will be paid to intellectual opponents.”

 

“Healthy and balanced political debate does not seem to exist in the United States,” Brackman writes. “Instead, both sides of the political spectrum seem to have their own media outlets where they vent their incredibly polarized and uncontested political views—often with the aim of discrediting the opinions of their ideological opponents.”

Ya think? Debate is the heart of Jewish identity, or used to be. Rabbis from antiquity to today sat long into the night, arguing the law. It is also the heart of American identity, or used to be. The reason we have a First Amendment is so that all opinions can be uttered, and citizens are trusted to sort them out.

Yes, it allows Nazis and various other haters to spew language that European nations stifle by law. But up to now openness has kept us on the right track, roughly, and European anti-hate statutes aren’t preventing their own ugly rise of anti-Semitism.

Whenever anyone refers to that Norman Rockwell “Freedom of Speech” painting showing a man at a New England town meeting standing, delivering his frank opinion, I repeat a remark made by a docent at the excellent Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

“Notice all the ears in the painting,” he said. “Rockwell deliberately painted them slightly larger than life. Because freedom of speech is meaningless if nobody listens.”

Bingo. Covering your ears, refusing to listen to disagreement, is both un-American and a betrayal of Jewish values.

Millions of Americans with employer health care are still spending a fortune

Yahoo Finance

Millions of Americans with employer health care are still spending a fortune

Adriana Belmonte, Associate Editor           August 18, 2019

As Americans continue grappling with rising health care costs, research indicates that a sizable group of people with employer health care are still spending a ton on their medical bills.

According to the Commonwealth Fund (TCF), “employer plan premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs, like those for prescription drugs, are eating up an increasing portion of household budgets.”

An estimated 23.6 million Americans with employer coverage had high premium contributions, high out-of-pocket costs, or both, according to the report.

“It’s very arresting to me just to think about 24 million people with employer coverage who are living in households that spend a large share of their income on health care costs,” Sara Collins, vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, told Yahoo Finance. “When just thinking about … those human beings, that’s pretty striking. … Some households spend almost nothing and some are spending thousands of dollars per year.”

High premium contributions were defined as such by TCF “if the total annual amount they pay for their employer plan premiums equals 10% of more of annual household income.” Americans were considered to be paying high out-of-pocket costs if “the total annual amount they pay out of pocket for medical expenditures not covered by their employer plan … is 10% or more of annual household income, or 5% or more for families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level.”

A woman gets blood drawn by a phlebotomist in Boston, 2015. (Photo: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)A woman gets blood drawn by a phlebotomist in Boston, 2015. (Photo: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images).

The report goes against the notion that employer health plans mean lower health care costs.

“What we’ve seen over the last few years is a steady growth in the percentage of people who are insured all year but have high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income and deductibles” to the point that “they’re considered under-insured,” Collins said. “The biggest growth in that trend is occurring among people who have employer plans.”

‘We’ve seen steady growth in premiums over time’

The rising premiums, along with increasing out-of-pocket costs, are being driven by the overall increase in health care costs in the U.S. Collins noted that people’s incomes aren’t “growing very much” while the rate of growth in health care costs are growing faster than median income.

“What’s really important for people to understand is that the principal driver of premium growth [and] the principal driver of out-of-pocket costs is the overall rate of growth in health care costs in the economy,’ Collins said.

Collins added that the percent that employees have to contribute to their premiums, and while it’s stayed relatively stable over time, “when the overall size of the premium goes up, the dollar amount that the employees have to spend on their premiums also goes up.”

Health care spending has drastically increased since 1970. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)Health care spending has drastically increased since 1970. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance).

In 2017, U.S. health care spending grew 3.9%, reaching $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per person, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). That accounts for about 17.9% of the nation’s GDP.

“We can look at policy fixes, changes in benefit design, giving people subsidies to help them offset their out-of-pocket costs,” Collins said, “but we’re also going to have to look really hard at the drivers of overall health care costs in order to lower the rate of growth in premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

‘Pretty striking’ disparities

The report found that the median annual household spending on employer insurance premium contributions ranged from $500 to $3,400 between 2016 and 2017. And in 11 states, “households in the top 10% of spending on premium contributions paid $9,000 or more.”

Hawaii had the lowest median employer insurance premium contributions at $500 in 2016-2017. South Dakota’s median had the highest at $3,400. The highest median premium contributions were mostly in the New England area as Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were all among the top 10.

South Dakota has the highest median annual spending on premium contributions. (Photo: The Commonwealth Fund)

South Dakota has the highest median annual spending on premium contributions. (Photo: The Commonwealth Fund).

For out-of-pocket costs, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and South Dakota had the highest medians. At the bottom of the list are states like Hawaii, California, Florida, New York, and West Virginia.

Nebraska spends the most on out-of-pocket costs. (Photo: The Commonwealth Fund)

Nebraska spends the most on out-of-pocket costs. (Photo: The Commonwealth Fund).

Combining these two categories, the most expensive states were South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Nebraska, while the least-costly states were Hawaii, New York, and D.C.

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. 

Related:

The Washington Times

Kirsten Gillibrand releases plan aimed at boosting mental health care

– The Washington Times          August 20, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks at the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday released a plan intended to boost mental health care services in the U.S., as the subject gets renewed attention in the wake of the recent shootings in Texas and Ohio.

She called for an expansion of community health centers that provide mental and behavioral health care, and said she would work to combat “implicit biases” in mental health care that disadvantage people of color and other “harmed” communities.

“If we truly believe that health care is a right and not a privilege, then access to quality mental health treatments cannot be up for debate,” the New York Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate said in a Medium post. “It’s time for mental health to be taken as seriously as physical health.”

Ms. Gillibrand vowed to expand school-based mental health care treatment, expand access to mental and behavioral health care for rural Americans, and invest further in suicide prevention efforts for young people and the LGBTQ community.

The senator also said she would work to ensure proper reimbursement rates for “non-traditional” treatment and prevention methods, like connecting people seeking treatment with a peer familiar with their background.

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