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Reposted from james321 by Wee Mama

Some outstanding news from Albany.

Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried who has regularly introduced a Medicare-for-all single-payer bill since 1992 has reason to smile today. The Albany Times Union has the breaking details.

The state Assembly approved on Wednesday evening a bill that would create a single-payer health system in New York.

The bill passed 89-47.

As my colleague Claire Hughes reported this morning, the vote is the first to occur on the proposal, which Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried has introduced annually for years, since 1992.

“New Yorkers deserve better,” Gottfried said in a statement. “We should be able to go to the doctor when we need to, without worrying whether we can afford it. We should choose our doctors and hospitals without worrying about network restrictions. We deserve health coverage for all of us, paid for based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear. I’m proud the Assembly has passed the New York Health Act, and I look forward to working with a great community of advocates including medical professionals, medical students, organized labor, and Senate sponsor Bill Perkins, to enact it into law.”

There's a lot to celebrate here. Many single-payer advocates were dispirited following the death of Vermont's much-anticipated single-payer plan. So, seeing this kind of progress in another state is a big deal. And seeing this kind of progress in a big state is an even bigger deal.

Why? Well, health insurers today don't do much insuring of health risk, but they do a lot of administrating of employer health benefits. A small state like Vermont wouldn't have taken a big chunk of, say, Aetna's business away from them. However, a large state like New York "going single-payer" would put a massive dent in not only the marginally-profitable individual insurance business (i.e. Affordable Care Act plans and those purchased outside the state exchange), but also in the extremely lucrative -- and highly-profitable -- business of administering benefits for medium- and large-sized businesses that self-insure (i.e. they pay the medical bills, but outsource claims administration to Aetna or Cigna or Anthem) and that, were a state-plan passed into law, might be very keen to let their employees trade Aetna for the single-payer plan. If a few large states in America were to cut out the parasitical middle-men that are private insurers, it would be tough for them to sustain their business model in Mississippi and Wyoming -- in other words, they might take their ball and go home.

Look at how the health insurance lobby responded to the threat of this bill. (Note their laughable attempt to claim they engage in the work of "providing care.")

The Health Plan Association, which represents insurance companies, has opposed it; its CEO, Paul Macielak, said at an Assembly hearing in January that the act would dissolve the current private health care industry, which has a proven record for providing care.
But, wait a second, don't get too excited, folks. The sad news is that the "New York Health Act" is unlikely to pass New York's GOP-dominated Senate. Or, even if it did, could you imagine "Democrat" Andrew Cuomo signing it into law? (Health care policy wonks may remember that super-progressive Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy killed his state's public option -- SustiNet -- following nasty threats from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.)

Nevertheless, the fact that this single-payer bill got as far as it did is strong testimony to the evolving health care policy landscape in the United States. Progressive leaders know that the Affordable Care Act is a highly-problematic health care "starter home" and we must continue pushing for true universal health care.

The success of this single-payer bill is also a reminder that Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders' pledge to implement a Medicare-for-all single-payer system is hardly a radical proposition. Indeed, it is a very serious one worthy of our attention, as this exciting news from New York's State Assembly so clearly demonstrates.

Reposted from StarbucksGirl51 by Wee Mama

The 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals struck down Arkansas's 12-week abortion ban.  

The doctors that brought the suit said:

"By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the Act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability"
The judges struck down the law, saying they were bound by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right to choose an abortion before viability and that Arkansas made no attempt to refute assertions the doctors’ lawyers made.

A Spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said “The Attorney General is reviewing the opinion from the 8th Circuit and will evaluate how to proceed”

In other words, do we file a taxpayer dollar-wasting appeal with SCOTUS, or actually let the rule stand since we already have a 20-week ban?

Will be interesting to see if this helps with tossing the North Dakota 6-week abortion ban case.


Wed May 27, 2015 at 02:25 PM PDT

Nebraska abolishes the death penalty

by Wee Mama

Reposted from Wee Thoughts by Wee Mama

The legislature overrode the governor's veto.

Nebraska became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday when lawmakers boldly voted 30-19 to override the governor's veto.

There are 10 inmates on Nebraska's death row — the 11th died this week — but the state has not executed anyone since 1997 and only recently ordered the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection. It's the 19th state to abolish capital punishment.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum came together to pass a repeal bill three times. Gov. Pete Ricketts then vetoed the legislation on Tuesday and an override vote was quickly scheduled. Thirty votes were needed to push the repeal through. The vote was preceded by hours of debate — with opponents and proponents quoting Bible passages and reading emails from constituents to support their position.

…Nebraska is the first Republican controlled state in the U.S. to abolish capital punishment since North Dakota did so in 1973.

ABC News: Money on death drugs wasted, and the lesson to never, never, never give up!
Ricketts announced this month that the state has purchased two of the drugs that the state now lacks, but opponents have said they still aren't convinced Nebraska will be able to resume executions. On Tuesday, Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson implored lawmakers to give state officials more time to prepare.

The repeal bill was introduced by independent Sen. Ernie Chambers, who has fought for nearly four decades to repeal the death penalty.

The Washington Post: the consilient reasons that conservatives may oppose the death penalty:
Some lawmakers in Nebraska offered a conservative argument for repealing the death penalty there, painting it as an example of government waste.

“I’ve said frequently, if any other program was as inefficient and as costly as this has been, we would’ve gotten rid of it a long time ago,” State Sen. Colby Coash, a Republican who co-sponsored the repeal bill, said after the legislature approved it last week.

The Guardian with a proflie of heroic Ernie Chambers:
“White people, they don’t have a high opinion of me,” says Ernie Chambers, Nebraska’s long-serving legislator. “They thought I was uppity and arrogant – they didn’t like my attitude.”

They may not like Chambers’ attitude in the super-conservative cornhusker state, but they are certainly listening to him now. At his 38th attempt, the state senator this week saw his bill to abolish the death penalty pass the legislature, in a move that should it be enacted would make Nebraska the first dyed-in-the-wool conservative state in the country to scrap the ultimate punishment.

It’s an extraordinary turn of events, spearheaded by an extraordinary politician. For 38 years Chambers, 77, was the only African American member of Nebraska’s uni-chamber legislature (there are now two), and since he was first elected in 1970 to represent the north of Omaha he has been making it his business to take up causes that nobody else would champion.

Chambers has a resolute legislative career.

This map in the Wikipedia article on capital punishment shows how the death penalty is distributed.I am proud that Iowa abolished it decades ago, and look forward to the day that the federal death penalty is abolished.

Reposted from shaunking by Wee Mama
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams speaks to the media as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson looks on at a news conference following the not guilty verdict for Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo on manslaughter charges in Cleveland, Ohio, May 23, 2015. Brelo was found not guilty on Saturday in the shooting deaths of an unarmed black man and a woman after a high-speed car chase in 2012, one in a series of cases that have raised questions over police conduct and race relations in the U.S. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk - RTX1E9CZ
After the U.S. Department of Justice issued one of the most scathing reports ever written on a police department, the Cleveland Police just entered into a binding consent decree with the DOJ.

Calling it an "historic agreement that will transform the way the City of Cleveland will be policed for years and years to come" the Justice Department, which found that Cleveland police have engaged in outrageous patterns and practices of violence and discrimination, is  mandating new layers of oversight and innovation to overhaul how the department operates.

The 105-page decree, soon to be approved by a federal judge, has detailed provisions and policy changes. See the document in full below. We will offer a full analysis soon.

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Reposted from DK GreenRoots by Wee Mama
This week I want to honor some of the most hard-working activists on our Beyond Coal campaign - Team Asheville in North Carolina. After years of rallies, public meetings, educational forums, leadership from the Asheville City council,  letter-writing, and even a visit from TV star Ian Somerhalder, on Tuesday, all that hard work paid off. Duke Energy announced it will retire its filthy Asheville coal plant, the 190th plant to announce retirement during the Beyond Coal campaign.

While Duke is unfortunately ignoring Asheville residents' demands of replacing it entirely with clean energy (Duke plans to replace the plant with natural gas), these tireless activists can still claim a victory to be proud of - winning a reprieve for the French Broad river from coal ash, eliminating the region's biggest source of air and climate pollution, and a making a strong show of grassroots power that held one of the nation’s most powerful companies accountable.  

"Duke's announcement to retire the coal plant came with the unwelcome news of a new gas plant, which of course is not the vision we hold for a clean energy economy here in North Carolina," said Kelly Martin of Asheville Beyond Coal. "We claimed our victory, but stayed honest about the outcome. At least now there is an end in sight to the coal ash pollution, the sulfur dioxide pollution, and the carbon pollution from this plant."

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Reposted from Laura Clawson by Wee Mama
lethal injection, death penalty
Nebraska's legislature has voted to repeal the state's death penalty by what should be a veto-proof margin. The vote was 32 to 15, and 30 votes are needed to overcome the expected veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska legislature is unicameral and officially nonpartisan, though party affiliations aren't exactly a secret. That being the case:

What made this year’s repeal effort different from those in the past was the support from a significant number of Republican senators.

Conservative lawmakers who voted for repeal cited higher costs of carrying out a death sentence versus life in prison. Some mentioned they have come to oppose the death penalty because of religious reasons, while others raised concerns about executing people who were wrongfully convicted.

"I’m pro-life from conception until when God calls somebody home," said Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. "I’m not going to quibble over innocent life versus those who are guilty for what they have done. This is a matter of conscience."

Nebraska has 11 people on death row and its last execution was in 1997.
Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Wee Mama
Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, California May 15, 2014. The march was held as part of an international protest by fast-food workers who planned to go on strikes in 150 c
Los Angeles is becoming the third major American city to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, with the city council approving the increase by a 14 to one vote. Seattle and San Francisco have already passed increases that will raise the wage to $15 over time, but:
The impact is likely to be particularly strong in Los Angeles, where, according to some estimates, more than 40 percent of the city’s work force earns less than $15 an hour. [...]

Tuesday’s vote could set off a wave of minimum wage increases across Southern California, and the groups pressing for the increases say the new pay scales would change the way of life for the region’s vast low-wage work force.

Indeed, much of the debate here has centered on the potential regional impact. Many of the low-wage workers who form the backbone of Southern California’s economy live in the suburban cities of Los Angeles. Proponents of the wage increase say they expect that several nearby cities, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Pasadena, would follow Los Angeles’ lead and pass ordinances for higher wages in the coming months.

The minimum wage will go up slowly in Los Angeles, not hitting $15 until 2020 for larger businesses, with businesses employing 25 or fewer people having until 2021 to reach $15. It's ridiculously slow, but it's something to build on.

Slow or not, the fact that the second-largest city in the U.S. is moving toward $15 an hour is another sign of the power of worker organizing. And $15 an hour is not a number that comes from politicians, it's a number that comes from worker organizing, from demands that were seen as outlandishly high when fast food workers first hit the streets in November 2012. But now it's becoming a reality, and Tuesday's city council vote in Los Angeles will help apply pressure to other city and state governments to raise their minimum wage targets.


Tue May 19, 2015 at 09:06 AM PDT

Breakthrough in wind technology

by Cuseology

Reposted from Cuseology by Wee Mama

On the good news front, General Electric will announce today a technological development resulting in a 20% increase in efficiency of wind technology.

"Steve Bolze, the CEO of GE Power & Water, said the new product — called the Digital Wind Farm — has been in development for the past 18 months and combines the company's two-megawatt wind turbines with GE modeling software, sensors and the industrial Internet, which allows machines to exchange data, or "talk" to one another."

In order to fill in the blanks, others with more technical expertise please feel free to supplement this bare bones diary.  Just wanted to get this good news out there.

Reposted from LieparDestin by Wee Mama

This is welcome news and hopefully part of a continuing trend:

In a surprise announcement coming nine months after police in riot gear dispelled racially charged protests, President Obama is banning the federal government from providing some military-style equipment to local departments and putting stricter controls on other weapons and gear distributed to law enforcement.
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Reposted from Animal Nuz by Wee Mama

     (photo credit: Doug Mills, NYT)

From The Guardian:

Barack Obama has secured support from Gulf leaders for his attempt to reach a nuclear deal with Iran as a summit outside Washington concluded on Thursday with the first glimpses of possible rapprochement on an issue that has alarmed many US allies in the region.


“The president spoke about the … agreement with Iran and I am here to say that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) welcomes this agreement and we hope at the same time that this will be a key factor for stability in the region,” said the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as he stood alongside Obama.


“We welcome any deal that stops Iran from having a nuclear capability and this is what we have been assured by the US and by the other P5+1 countries – that all pathways to a bomb will be closed to Iran,” the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told reporters in a separate briefing. The P5+1 is a group of six countries negotiating with Iran on its nuclear programme.
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Reposted from Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. by Wee Mama

Curious hopeful creature that I am, I wanted to learn more about the guy who spoke that insightful sound-bite, last week.

Here is what I found out. I thought maybe, you might find it interesting and hopeful too.

Tesla's Elon Musk Lights Up Social Media With A TED Style Keynote

by Cramine Gallo, -- 5/04/2015

After watching the keynote, I understand why many people are impressed with it. Elon Musk introduces Tesla Energy in a format that resembles more of a TED talk than a traditional product launch. Musk’s keynote offers leaders a blueprint for how to launch a product. Here are four specific reasons why Elon Musk delivered a “a keynote to remember.”

Define the problem and solution. Musk opened his keynote with a one-sentence vision of what he hopes to accomplish: “A fundamental transformation in how energy is delivered across the Earth.” And with that he posed the problem. Alongside a slideshow that showed pictures of smokestacks emitting gases made up largely of carbon dioxide (CO2), Musk said, “This is how it is today. It’s pretty bad. This is real. This is how most power in the world is generated, with fossil fuels.”

Next Musk introduced “the solution” (and he called it “problem” and “solution”). Alongside a slide with a photo of the sun, Musk said, “We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. You don’t have to do anything. It just works. It shows up everyday and produces ridiculous amounts of power.”

Reliable as -- the Sun.

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Reposted from MarineChemist by Wee Mama

Grey Whale being dissected on Wickaninnish Beach April 23, 2015

The purpose of this diary is to report analyses carried out by the InFORM project on muscle and blubber samples from a grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus), that beached near Tofino, BC on April 20, 2015.  The diary is the most recent in a series that aims to communicate results of scientific research into the impact of the Fukushima disaster on the environment. With the cooperation of the Ucluelet Aquarium the InFORM project was able to obtain samples of the whales muscle and blubber which were analyzed for the presence of gamma emitting radioisotopes in Health Canada's laboratories in Ottawa, ON Canada.  The gamma radiation spectra were dominated by naturally occurring radioisotopes, primarily Potassium-40 (40K half life 1.25 billion years), and after 24 hours of counting no Fukushima derived Cesium-134 (134Cs half life ~ 2 years), a fingerprint of the disaster in the environment could be detected.  The unfortunate demise of the grey whale is very unlikely to have been the result of acute or chronic radiation exposure owing to Fukushima derived radionuclides in seawater and the whales food.

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