As Medicare Turns 50, It’s Time to Grow the Program

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It’s As American As Apple Pie

By Doug Porter

On July 30, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating the Medicare program. After more than five decades of failed attempts dating back to President Theodore Roosevelt, at least some Americans were eligible for coverage under a federal health insurance program.

Today more than 54 million people are covered by Medicare. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternatives being proposed by the GOP. In fact, many of the problems facing medicare can be addressed by e x p a n d i n g the program, an idea gaining currency nationally.

Registered nurses are leading the way, with actions in over 25 U.S. cities July 30th to honor Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th anniversary with a National Day of Action celebrating the theme, “Medicare is as American as Apple Pie.” (The nearest local action is in LA)  They’re calling on policy makers to protect, improve, and expand Medicare to cover all Americans with a single standard of quality care not based on ability to pay.   [Read more…]

Dreams and Nightmares on Medi-Cal

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It has been my dream, since my husband and I first started dating, to go with him to visit the ancient Maya sites that I wrote about 25 years ago in my novel, Place of Mirrors. Though we planned the trip several times, including for our honeymoon, one thing after another has caused us to postpone it.

A few months ago I got an email about an upcoming rafting expedition down the Usumacinta River that would stop at all of the sites I wanted to visit. We had met the guide for that trip, Rocky Contos, two years earlier, before I broke my leg.

He had suggested that we could get a reduced rate if we would work the trip – I could do cooking and my husband could do translating and assist with various chores. If we got some others to join us, it would cost almost nothing.   [Read more…]

Lies & More Lies: Planned Parenthood as the New ACORN

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By Doug Porter

The Republicans appear to have settled on their wedge issue for 2016. You know, the thing that drives fear and/or disgust in a certain class of voters so they’ll ignore all those pesky economic policies they’re likely to get screwed by.

In 2008 a loosely organized entity named ACORN fit the bill. Manufactured imagery of  brown people doing something wrong was perfect for an election where the leading candidate was a person of color. Most people still don’t realize the charges brought against the community organizing group turned out to have been false.

The Donald has been busy co-opting the GOP’s immigration issues and Gays have kicking ass in the courts (both legal and popular opinion). Black people have been fighting back lately and there just aren’t enough Muslims to go around. And besides, the lone wolf mostly male libertarians constituting the party’s future are scared to death of female empowerment.   [Read more…]

The Complicated World of Having Your Boss Decide What Kind of Birth Control You Can Use

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By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

Too bad Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to wait until this session to not be insane about Obamacare. Not only did their Hobby Lobby decision make it okay for bosses to deny their employees health insurance plans that cover birth control (because that has everything to do with your job), they opened up the floodgates for all sorts of “religious freedom” claims in which people declare they won’t do something that their job requires them to do and they think is icky because God. But back to the birth control part, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful explainer of the newly complicated world of trying to plan your family with health insurance.   [Read more…]

After EPA Ignored Environmental Racism for Decades, Communities Fight Back

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On behalf of communities across the United States, Earthjustice files suit for government violation of civil rights laws

By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

The Environmental Protection Agency has been ignoring complaints about environmental racism across the United States for up to 20 years, repeatedly failing to investigate evidence that incinerators, power plants, and hazardous waste dumps are disproportionally harming the health of low-income communities of color, a new lawsuit charges.

Filed Wednesday by environmental advocacy organization Earthjustice on behalf of communities across the country, the lawsuit argues that the EPA failed to take adequate action in response to complaints that states were violating civil rights laws by granting permits to hazardous polluters primarily in poor and working-class Black and Latino neighborhoods.   [Read more…]

Anti-LGBT Strategies a Big Part of Skyline Church’s ‘Future Conference’

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By Doug Porter

Media Matters for America has posted an insiders account of presentations by the country’s most prominent anti-LGBT activists during a recent conference at San Diego’s Skyline Church.

Organized by Skyline Pastor Jim Garlow, the 2015 Future Conference was called in response to “the thorniest and most challenging issues in the current cultural landscape.”

While the four day gathering featured presentations covering a range of issues, the alleged rise of Christian persecution stemming from the growing acceptance of LGBT people was the unifying theme.   [Read more…]

Why Suburbanites Contribute More to Climate Change

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By Sarah “Steve” Mosko / Boogie Green

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for their personal contribution to global climate change by driving fuel efficient cars, insulating their homes and switching to energy efficient lighting and household appliances.

However, even someone that’s gone to the extremes of traveling only on foot or bicycle and forsaking home heating, cooling, lighting, food refrigeration and cooking will likely shrink their carbon footprint by only about a third.  That’s because roughly two-thirds of Americans’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are embedded instead in consumption of other goods and services, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Global Development (CGD), a non-profit policy research organization.

Most of us attribute our GHG footprint to the easily discerned energy we consume for personal transportation and home utilities.  Yet these so-called “direct” emissions account for just 36% of the average American’s annual GHG emissions which are equivalent to 21.8 tons of CO2.   [Read more…]

Damning New Analysis Reveals Deadly Lack of Police Training on Mental Illness

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‘On average, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours in the first six months of this year,’ reveals Washington Post

By Deidre Fulton / Common Dreams

One quarter of the men and women shot and killed by police in the first six months of 2015 were “in the throes of mental or emotional crisis,” according to a new analysis published by the Washington Post on Tuesday, suggesting that law enforcement officers lack training on how to deal with the mentally ill.   [Read more…]

Anti-Vaxxers’ Tactics Fail to Sway Legislature

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By Doug Porter

Gov. Jerry Brown signed off yesterday on legislation giving California one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation. Religious and personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren will be phased out, starting next year.

Getting this bill passed turned out to be a major political battle. The combination of paranoia about government (on the right) and corporate greed (on the left) mixed with a solid dash of unfounded health concerns ended up being a recipe for political passion rarely seen on the legislative floor.

The anti-vaxxers, as they are popularly called, viewed this legislation as a battle for the lives of their children and the liberties of the nation. They’ve indicated that litigation will be their next step.   [Read more…]

Paid Sick Leave for California Workers Starts This Week

Assemblywoman Gonzalez with Paid Sick Leave supporters at rally  Photo by Rich Kacmar

By Francine Busby / San Diego Democratic Party

We’ve all been sick. I have been flattened by illnesses that have rendered me completely useless. I have had to miss work to stay home with a sick child when they can barely get out of bed, let alone function in a classroom. I have received those dreaded phone calls informing me of a family member with a medical emergency. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and our health or the health of our families has to take priority.

When we think of man’s inhumanity to man, we don’t usually think of employees who risk losing wages or even a job if they are too sick to go work or if they need to care for a sick child. At the moment, 40 million workers (38% of the American workforce) lack any paid sick leave, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. The United States is the only developed country in the world without laws requiring access to paid sick leave.

But we’re making progress. On July 1, California will join the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts in guaranteeing paid sick leave.   [Read more…]

A Homeless Food Fight in San Diego

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By Jeeni Criscenzo del Rio

A recent post on the Facebook page for Homeless News San Diego showed a letter from the Rock Church regarding a change in policy for feeding homeless people. Part of one sentence was highlighted: refrain from feeding homeless people on the streets, as well as distributing items such as clothing and blankets. The post indicates there were 107 shares and 206 comments!

I can’t recall ever seeing an issue evoke such passionate responses from so many people with opposing, yet reasonable points of view. I read all of them, looking for something to convince me one way or the other, because this is something that has been troubling me since I attended at Downtown Fellowship of Churches and Ministries meeting about it two years ago. Not being a church-goer, I felt a little out of my element at the meeting, but I appreciated their plans for what would become Doing It Better Together  to coordinate services provided to homeless people on the streets.   [Read more…]

Trade Deal Passes Key Test in Senate as Thirteen Democrats Defect (UPDATED)

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By Doug Porter

On Tuesday morning the US Senate passed a procedural measure effectively granting Fast Track Authority for the executive branch on trade pacts. The vote was 60-37, exactly the number of yes votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

Proponents of the legislation say the trade pacts it will likely enable are needed for US companies to be competitive in the world marketplace. Opponents point to the reality that the only “winners” from past deals have been stockholders as hundreds of thousands of domestic jobs have simply vanished. The President promised to negotiate a better deal.

Republican leaders, according to the New York Times, found a parliamentary maneuver allowing them to separate a companion law defeated in the House of Representatives that threatened to block passage of the bill.   [Read more…]

In-Home Care Recipients Cautiously Applaud New Budget

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By Steven Mikulan / Capital & Main

The 467,000 Californians who receive assistance from the state’s In-Home Supportive Services are breathing a little better, if not easier, now that a new budget has restored care cuts to the agency. The program typically assists elderly, blind and disabled people on low incomes with housework, meal preparation, personal hygiene and other services; by paying individuals through the state to perform these tasks, the care recipients are able to remain in their homes and avoid being institutionalized – which also saves taxpayers millions of dollars.   [Read more…]

Showdown! Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track Authority Vote Set for Friday

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Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have set a Friday deadline for a vote on a bill giving the President fast-track authority on commercial treaties currently being negotiated.

The legislation would allow the executive branch to submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments was passed by the Senate last month. President Obama has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure.

House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reportedly agreed to replace a plan, opposed by Democrats, that would have funded some trade programs with about $700 million in Medicare cuts.   [Read more…]

Adam Smith vs. Ayn Rand

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By David Morris / Common Dreams

In a 2011 CNN/Tea Party Express Republican Debate moderator Wolf Blitzer famously asked prominent libertarian Representative Ron Paul a “hypothetical question” about the soon-to-be-operational Obamacare: What should be done when a 30-year old man decides not to buy health insurance and then requires significant medical intervention that he cannot afford? Paul predictably responded. He should “assume responsibility for himself…That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks…”

Blitzer followed up by asking Paul if he meant, “society should just let him die?” Members of the audience yelled, “Yeah”. It was a Tea Party meeting after all. Paul waffled. He conceded intervention might be necessary but insisted the cost should be borne voluntarily by “(o)ur neighbors, our friends, our churches.”   [Read more…]

Auto Emissions: More Deadly Than Auto Accidents

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By Bill Adams / UrbDeZine

A nearby roadway may be putting your household’s health at risk. The same is true of workplaces, schools, and other places where people spend significant time. This health risk is from the elevated auto emissions near high traffic roadways. It’s a health risk separate and in addition to the regional air pollution from auto emissions.

We have come to draw a false sense of security from our collective sharing of regional air pollution and, perhaps, the belief that regulatory agencies protect us. However, research continues to show that air pollution, particularly from auto emissions, has profound effects on health. Moreover, such impacts are unequally distributed among local populations, largely based on nearness to major roadways.   [Read more…]

If You Google “Pint of Science…”

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By Mukul Khurana

Pint of Science is not the kind of event one thinks of when looking for things to do around town. But San Diego is changing. Not only has the cultural and art scene been steadily changing for the better in the past decade or two, but even the content is getting “meatier.” Cleverly, one of the first events locally was titled: “Science of San Diego: Beer, Brains, and Beaches.”

That describes San Diego pretty well and it also shows that the organizers have a sense of humor. The idea of pairing beer and science makes sense as a way of making the average San Diegan interact with science on a casual basis. Not all of us are involved in PhDs.   [Read more…]

Notorious Repeat Offender Behind Oil Spill ‘Nightmare’ in California

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State of Emergency declared as oil-soaked pelicans die on shore

By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams

As an investigation into an oil spill along the California coast continued on Thursday, environmentalists described a “nightmare” scenario in the area and new details emerged about the pipeline operator’s long history of generating similar disasters.   [Read more…]

Suppressing Science For Monsanto?

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Groups Demand Investigation of USDA
‘It is imperative that the USDA maintains scientific integrity and does not allow for harassment, censorship or suppression of findings that counter the interests of industry,’ say farmworker, environmental, and food safety groups

By Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

More than 25 farmworker, environmental, and food safety organizations sent an open letter this week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding that the agency investigate reports that its scientists are facing retaliation and suppression of their research on controversial neonicotinoid insecticides that pose a danger to pollinator and human health.   [Read more…]

Tide Turning Against Plastic Microbeads in Toiletries

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko / Boogie Green

Microbead products and alternativesThere are signs that the era where plastic microbeads from personal care products pollute bodies of water worldwide and aquatic food chains might be drawing to a close.

Microbeads are miniscule spheres of plastic commonly added as abrasives to personal care products like face scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste. They’re designed to wash down the drain, but because of their small size, they escape sewage treatment plants. Once discharged into oceans, rivers or lakes or onto land, they’re virtually impossible to clean up.   [Read more…]

California Vaccination Law Passes Education Committee

By Doug Porter

The California Senate Education Committee has approved a modified version of SB277, a controversial measure making vaccinations a prerequisite for enrollment in both private and public schools throughout the state. 

Medical exemptions for inoculations will be permitted and amendments were added expanding homeschooling options for unvaccinated children. Gone will be the personal-belief and religious exemptions currently exercised by about 10% of parents with school aged children in California. 

The Senate Committee’s action came the day after a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association ruled out the possibility that immunizations could cause autism in a small group of children who were already primed to develop the disorder.    [Read more…]

California Chamber of Commerce Wants to Kick Widows to the Curb

By Doug Porter

It’s the time of year again when the the Golden State’s Chamber of Commerce issues it’s hit list of “job killer” bills being considered in Sacramento. This year there are 17 or so items on the preliminary list; more are expected to be added as the session goes on.

Included in the “Increased Unnecessary Litigation Costs” section is AB244, introduced by  Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D- Stockton). The measure would clarify protections in the California Housing Bill of Rights, specifying that widows and other surviving family members are covered in their dealings with mortgage servicers.

Presently these homeowners can find themselves caught in a “Catch 22” if they seek a loan modification. Servicers inform them that they can’t be considered for a modification until they assume the mortgage. But, they won’t let them assume the mortgage unless they demonstrate that they can afford it. As a result, mortgage payments are missed, fees rack up, and foreclosure can be the unnecessary outcome.   [Read more…]

Californians Won’t Take the Drought Seriously Until Government Takes the Drought Seriously With These 5 Measures

Californians want immediate action from their government

The citizens of California will not take the drought seriously until they see that their government is taking the drought seriously. Until government at all levels – from the state to the smallest township – shows Californians that it is enacting measures to immediately deal with the drought – now in its 4th year – people in this state won’t face up to the drought themselves.

And until government enacts these 5 measures – at a minimum – , government is not taking the drought seriously:

1. Ban All Fracking

California must ban all fracking immediately – the process by which oil companies use to extract oil.   [Read more…]

Nuclear Shutdown News – March, 2015 Edition

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the continuing decline of the US nuclear industry, and highlights efforts of those who are democratically working to bring about a renewable energy future. As nuclear plants in the US are approaching or surpassing their 40 year operating life, their ability to operate properly and safely lessens, creating more and more problems across the nation.

Here’s our March report:

Diablo Canyon – Last Nuke Plant in California

On February 20 a Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC rejected an attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to quash a lawsuit filed by environmental group Friends Of the Earth (FOE).  According to FOE, the suit alleges that the “NRC illegally allowed PG&E to alter Diablo Canyon’s nuclear plant license.” And …   [Read more…]