fresh voices from the front lines of change








Lindsay Koshgarian

Medicare For All, Or Endless War? It’s Our Choice

If you’re following the presidential race, you’ve heard plenty of sniping about Medicare for All and whether we can afford it. But when it comes to endless war or endless profits for Pentagon contractors, we’re told we simply must afford it — no questions asked. According to one study, even if universal health insurance didn’t bring health care prices down — an unlikely worst-case scenario — we’d need an extra $300 billion a year beyond our current spending to provide full insurance for everyone. Where can we find it? In a giant pot of money that’s already rampant with waste and abuse: the Pentagon. Right now, only about one quarter of the $738 billion Pentagon budget goes to our troops. The rest is mainly three things: the cost of maintaining 800 military installations all over the world; lucrative Pentagon contracts, which account for nearly half of the entire Pentagon budget; and, of course, our never-ending wars in the Middle East. Today, military spending is higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War. Even with a $350 billion cut, it would simply return to levels from the late 1990s. Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All. Which would make us safer: Medicare for All or endless wars? The choice is ours.

World Nears 'Point Of No Return' On Climate Change

U.N. chief warns “point of no return” cn Climate change “is in sight.” Slate: "U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres isn’t mincing words when it comes to issuing a dire warning about the global climate crisis, saying that the effort to stop climate change has been “utterly inadequate.” Speaking on the eve of a two-week international climate conference in Madrid, Guterres warned that the effects of climate change were already being felt. “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” Guterres said. 'It is in sight and hurtling toward us.' Although there is enough expertise and knowledge to limit global warming, 'what is lacking is political will,' Guterres said. In order to combat the crisis, 'Our war against nature must stop,' he added. And that involves changing the old ways of doing things. 'We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,' he said. Delegates from around the world will be meeting in Madrid until Dec. 13 to try to agree on rules for implementing the 2015 Paris climate accord. So far the cuts in emissions that have been agreed to are not enough to meet the goal of limiting temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Even though some 70 countries have agreed to stop emitting greenhouse gases by 2050, there is a lack of commitment form some of the biggest offenders. 'We also see clearly that the world’s largest emitters are not pulling their weight. And without them, our goal is unreachable,' he said."

Impeachment Moves Forward

Judiciary Takes Up Impeachment As House intelligence panel prepares to release report. NPR: "House Democrats are moving closer to impeaching President Trump with two big developments this week — the release of the House Intelligence Committee's report summarizing their investigation and the Judiciary Committee holding its first hearing. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said public hearings are over for his panel. He and his staff worked over the Thanksgiving recess to pull together the committee's findings and recommendations. In a letter to lawmakers before the holiday, Schiff noted that the open hearings included testimony from 12 witnesses, and those were supplemented with 17 closed-door interviews conducted with two other panels — the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. The release of the report and the Judiciary hearing, timed with the return of lawmakers this week, indicate that top leaders are still aiming to wrap up House action on impeachment before the Christmas holiday break."

SCOTUS Takes Up Gun Rights

Supreme Court hears biggest Second Amendment case in a decade. CNN: "After nearly a decade of silence, the Supreme Court is poised Monday to consider a case concerning the scope of an individual's right to keep and bear arms in a dispute concerning a New York City gun regulation. Gun rights advocates and the Trump administration want the newly solidified conservative majority to take the opportunity to broaden gun rights. The controversy also comes as the country is still reeling from mass shootings over the summer and the political branches are bickering over proposed fixes. Although the case marks the first time since 2010 that the court has heard a major Second Amendment case, it's unclear whether the justices will ultimately issue an opinion. In 2008, the late Justice Antonin Scalia's wrote a landmark opinion in DC v. Heller holding for the first time that an individual has a right to keep a handgun at home for self-protection. Two years later, the court issued a follow up opinion. Since then, the court has largely avoided taking up a follow on case. Supporters of gun rights believe lower courts have been thumbing their noses at Heller and are eager for a newly solidified 5-4 conservative majority to take up the issue again."

U.S. Opens New Trade Wars

Trump will reimpose steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, opening new trade war fronts. WaPo: "President Trump announced tariffs, effective immediately, on all steel and aluminum shipped into the United States from Brazil and Argentina. The surprise announcement came after it appeared as though the White House was preparing to dial back its adversarial trade approach in the lead up to next year’s election. The administration appeared close to a deal with House Democrats to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement, and tensions with China had eased in recent weeks. The tariffs took aim at one of the most vital industries in Brazil at a particularly vulnerable economic time. Unemployment is above 10 percent and the economy has stalled. The steel industry, long one of the country’s economic engines, has been looking increasingly wobbly as well, slashing growth projections earlier this year."

Why Are Drug Prices So High?

Why are drug prices rising so much? Pharma exec admits "no other rationale" but profit-making. Common Dreams: "Corporations' quest for profits is what "is driving up drug prices and nothing more.' That's according to Dennis Bourdette, M.D., chair of neurology in the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine, who co-authored a study published Monday that sought to find out companies' rationale for the escalating prices on medications for patients with multiple sclerosis. Prices for those drugs, an accompanying press release notes, have jumped up by 10% to 15% every year for the past decade. The study by a team of researchers at OHSU and the OHSU/Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, which appears in the journal Neurology this month, was based on interviews with four current and former pharmaceutical industry executives who had direct involvement in the pricing or marketing of MS drugs. The executives, who were not named, laid bare the motivating factor for the surges. 'I would say the rationales for the price increases are purely what can maximize profit,' sad one executive. 'There's no other rationale for it, because costs [of producing the drug] have not gone up by 10% or 15%; you know, the costs have probably gone down.' Such statements, said the researchers, counter the industry's narrative that the high drug prices are an effort to recoup their research and development costs. 'The industry executive said the quiet part out loud,' said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher with Public Citizen's Access to Medicines project, in a statement to Common Dreams. 'Price-gouging is central to the industry business model.'"

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