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The bill provides quality affordable health care for all Americans and controls health care cost growth. Key provisions of the bill being released this week include:
COVERAGE AND CHOICE
PREVENTION AND WELLNESS
I. COVERAGE AND CHOICE The bill builds on what works in today’s health care system and fixes the parts that are broken. It protects current coverage – allowing individuals to keep the insurance they have if they like it – and preserves choice of doctors, hospitals, and health plans. It achieves these reforms through:
A Health Insurance Exchange. The new Health Insurance Exchange creates a transparent and functional marketplace for individuals and small employers to comparison shop among private and public insurers. It works with state insurance departments to set and enforce insurance reforms and consumer protections, facilitates enrollment, and administers affordability credits to help low‐ and middle‐income individuals and families purchase insurance. Over time, the Exchange will be opened to additional employers as another choice for covering their employees. States may opt to operate the Exchange in lieu of the national Exchange provided they follow the federal rules.
A public health insurance option. One of the many choices of health insurance within the health insurance Exchange is a public health insurance option. It will be a new choice in many areas of our country dominated by just one or two private insurers today. The public option will operate on a level playing field. It will be subject to the same market reforms and consumer protections as other private plans in the Exchange and it will be self‐sustaining – financed only by its premiums.
Guaranteed coverage and insurance market reforms. Insurance companies will no longer be able to engage in discriminatory practices that enable them to refuse to sell or renew policies today due to an individual’s health status. In addition, they can no longer exclude coverage of treatments for pre‐existing health conditions. The bill also protects consumers by prohibiting lifetime and annual limits on benefits. It also limits the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates due to health status, gender, or other factors. Under the proposal, premiums can vary based only on age (no more than 2:1), geography and family size.
Essential benefits. A new independent Advisory Committee with practicing providers and other health care experts, chaired by the Surgeon General, will recommend a benefit package based on standards set in the law. This new essential benefit package will serve as the basic benefit package
for coverage in the Exchange and over time will become the minimum quality standard for employer plans. The basic package will include preventive services with no cost‐sharing, mental health services, oral health and vision for children, and caps the amount of money a person or family spends on covered services in a year.
II. AFFORDABILITY To ensure that all Americans have affordable health coverage the bill:
Provides sliding scale affordability credits. The affordability credits will be available to low‐ and moderate‐ income individuals and families. The credits are most generous for those who are just above the proposed new Medicaid eligibility levels; the credits decline with income (and so premium and cost‐sharing support is more limited as your income increases) and are completely phased out when income reaches 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four). The affordability credits will not only make insurance premiums affordable, they will also reduce cost‐sharing to levels that ensure access to care. The Exchange administers the affordability credits with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and state Medicaid agencies.
Caps annual out‐of‐pocket spending. All new policies will cap annual out‐of‐pocket spending to prevent bankruptcies from medical expenses.
Increased competition: The creation of the Health Insurance Exchange and the inclusion of a public health insurance option will make health insurance more affordable by opening many market areas in our country to new competition, spurring efficiency and transparency.
Expands Medicaid. Individuals and families with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for an expanded and improved Medicaid program. Recognizing the budget challenges in many states, this expansion will be fully federally financed. To improve provider participation in this vital safety net – particularly for low‐income children, individuals with disabilities and people with mental illnesses – reimbursement rates for primary care services will be increased with new federal funding.
Improves Medicare. Senior citizens and people with disabilities will benefit from provisions that fill the donut hole over time in the Part D drug program, eliminate cost‐sharing for preventive services, improve the low‐income subsidy programs in Medicare, fix physician payments, and make other program improvements. The bill will also address future fiscal challenges by improving payment accuracy, encouraging delivery system reforms and extending solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund.
III. SHARED RESPONSIBILITY The bill creates shared responsibility among individuals, employers and government to ensure that all Americans have affordable coverage of essential health benefits.
Individual responsibility. Except in cases of hardship, once market reforms and affordability credits are in effect, individuals will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining health insurance coverage. Those who choose to not obtain coverage will pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of modified adjusted gross income above a specified level.
Employer responsibility. The proposal builds on the employer‐sponsored coverage that exists today. Employers will have the option of providing health insurance coverage for their workers or contributing funds on their behalf. Employers that choose to contribute will pay an amount based on eight percent of their payroll. Employers that choose to offer coverage must meet minimum benefit and contribution requirements specified in the proposal.
Assistance for small employers. Recognizing the special needs of small businesses, the smallest businesses (payroll that does not exceed $250,000) are exempt from the employer responsibility requirement. The payroll penalty would then phase in starting at 2% for firms with annual payrolls over $250,000 rising to the full 8 percent penalty for firms with annual payrolls above $400,000. In addition, a new small business tax credit will be available for those firms who want to provide health coverage to their workers. In addition to the targeted assistance, the Exchange and market reforms provide a long‐sought opportunity for small businesses to benefit from a more organized, efficient marketplace in which to purchase coverage.
Government responsibility. The government is responsible for ensuring that every American can afford quality health insurance, through the new affordability credits, insurance reforms, consumer protections, and improvements to Medicare and Medicaid.
IV. PREVENTION AND WELLNESS Prevention and wellness measures of the bill include:
Expansion of Community Health Centers;
Prohibition of cost‐sharing for preventive services;
Creation of community‐based programs to deliver prevention and wellness services;
A focus on community‐based programs and new data collection efforts to better identify and address racial, ethnic, regional and other health disparities;
Funds to strengthen state, local, tribal and territorial public health departments and programs.
V. WORKFORCE INVESTMENTS The bill expands the health care workforce through:
Increased funding for the National Health Service Corp;
More training of primary care doctors and an expansion of the pipeline of individuals going into health professions, including primary care, nursing and public health;
Greater support for workforce diversity;
Expansion of scholarships and loans for individuals in needed professions and shortage areas;
Encouragement of training of primary care physicians by taking steps to increase physician training outside the hospital, where most primary care is delivered, and redistributes unfilled graduate medical education residency slots for purposes of training more primary care physicians. The proposal also improves accountability for graduate medical education funding to ensure that physicians are trained with the skills needed to practice health care in the 21st century.
VI. CONTROLLING COSTS The bill will reduce the growth in health care spending in a numerous ways. Investing in health care through stronger prevention and wellness measures, increasing access to primary care, health care delivery system reform, the Health Insurance Exchange and the public health insurance option, improvements in payment accuracy and reforms to Medicare and Medicaid will all help slow the growth of health care costs over time. These savings will accrue to families, employers, and taxpayers.
Modernization and improvement of Medicare. The bill implements major delivery system reform in Medicare to reward efficient provision of health care, rolling out innovative concepts such as accountable care organizations, medical homes, and bundling of acute and post‐acute provider payments. New payment incentives aim to decrease preventable hospital readmissions, expanding this policy over time to recognize that physicians and post‐acute providers also play an important role in avoiding readmissions. The bill improves the Medicare Part D program by creating new consumer protections for Medicare Advantage Plans, eliminating the “donut hole” and improving
low‐income subsidy programs, so that Medicare is affordable for all seniors and other eligible individuals. A centerpiece of the proposal is a complete reform of the flawed physician payment mechanism in Medicare (the so‐called sustainable growth rate or “SGR” formula), with an update that wipes away accumulated deficits, provides for a fresh start, and rewards primary care services, care coordination and efficiency.
Innovation and delivery reform through the public health insurance option. The public health insurance option will be empowered to implement innovative delivery reform initiatives so that it is a nimble purchaser of health care and gets more value for each health care dollar. It will expand upon the experiments put forth in Medicare and be provided the flexibility to implement value‐based purchasing, accountable care organizations, medical homes, and bundled payments. These features will ensure the public option is a leader in efficient delivery of quality care, spurring competition with private plans.
Improving payment accuracy and eliminating overpayments. The bill eliminates overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans and improves payment accuracy for numerous other providers, following recommendations by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the President. These steps will extend Medicare Trust Fund solvency, and put Medicare on stronger financial footing for the future.
Preventing waste, fraud and abuse. New tools will be provided to combat waste, fraud and abuse within the entire health care system. Within Medicare, new authorities allow for pre‐enrollment screening of providers and suppliers, permit designation of certain areas as being at elevated risk of fraud to implement enhanced oversight, and require compliance programs of providers and suppliers. The new public health insurance option and Health Insurance Exchange will build upon the safeguards and best practices gleaned from experience in other areas.
Administrative simplification. The bill will simplify the paperwork burden that adds tremendous costs and hassles for patients, providers, and businesses today.
PREPARED BY THE HOUSE COMMITTEES ON WAYS AND MEANS, ENERGY AND COMMERCE, AND EDUCATION AND LABOR JULY 14, 2009
AAHCA-BILLSUMMARY-071409.pdf (application/pdf Object)
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AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA - The Conservative Underground: "AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Dear President Obama:
You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me. Change Management
You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.
You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.
You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.
You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.
You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core..
You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.
You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.
You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.
You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.
You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.
You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.
You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.
You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.
You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.
You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.
You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.
You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.
You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.
You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.
Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years."
Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America 's acclaimed Right Wing authors. Pritchett started as a soap salesman and became Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for Procter and Gamble.
Media Matters - The Limbaugh Wire for 04/14/2009: "Hour 2: Limbaugh: Obama wouldn't have given order to shoot if he'd known 'the three Somali community organizers were actually young, black Muslim teenagers'
Published Tue, Apr 14, 2009 2:44pm ET
This hour of the Limbaugh Wire brought to you by Rush's tortured take on 24's environmentalism
By Simon Maloy
Rush got the second hour rolling by pointing out that we learned just today that the Somali pirates that held Captain Phillips hostage were teenagers. Based on this, Rush said: 'Now, just imaging the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered added the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas.' We weren't sure exactly what he was getting at here, but Rush continued in this vein, noting that on Fox News' Special Report last night, Mort Kondracke said that Obama did the right thing with regard to the pirates, and that he was in church with the president on Sunday, who looked 'preoccupied.' Rush said the reason Obama looked 'preoccupied' was that 'he was worried about the order he had given to wipe out three teenagers on the high seas. Black Muslim teenagers.' Rush also added that Obama might have been 'confused about why there was nobody screaming about how evil America was.'
Coming back from the break, Rush helpfully explained his comments from the top of the hour -- if George W. Bush had ordered pirates shot, that evil mainstream media would have reported that Bush ordered the killing of three black teenagers on the high seas. That seems perfectly likely to us. Rush then suspected that pirates had already infiltrated the U.S., reading from a story about how two men died in a sword fight in Indiana. But it turned out that the sword used was from World War II-era Japan, so Rush's theory went out the window."
Is America Weighed Down By 'Dead Ideas'?
Matt Miller is a columnist for Fortune and the host of the radio program Left, Right and Center.
The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
By Matt Miller
Hardcover, 282 pages
List Price: $25
Read an excerpt.
Morning Edition, February 9, 2009 · If an entire culture can be said to be hung up on the past, then author Matt Miller might be the nation's therapist. His message to America: Just let go.
"The problem we're in now as an economy is that we're trapped in old ways of thinking," Miller tells Morning Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer.
In his new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Miller writes that while many of our current notions of economic and social well-being made sense when they first gained traction 50 years ago, they don't hold much water today. On the list of outmoded beliefs: the ideas that our children will earn more than we do; that free trade is good; that financial markets can regulate themselves; that taxes are bad; and that the company we work for should provide us with health care and pensions.
"Unless we explode the dead ideas I'm talking about in the book, we won't find our way back to a durable prosperity," warns Miller.
Take health care: Miller argues that the current employer-based health care system hurts businesses and leaves too many people uninsured or under-insured. Instead, he believes government should share more of the cost of health care.
"We're the only country that does things this way," he says, referring to the employer-based health care system. "We're going to need to revisit the role of the government versus the role of private corporations in assuring the kind of prosperity we want."
Miller admits that increased government involvement in health care and other services will require a hike in taxes. But, he says, as the baby boom generation retires, taxes are likely to go up anyway. And so now may be the time to "tax ourselves more smartly ... [by] cutting taxes on things like payrolls, which hurt lower-income workers and kill jobs, and raising taxes on dirty energy, which we want to cut back on because of our environmental goals."
While raising taxes is never a popular idea, Miller says the time is right: "People are ready for a more honest conversation on this because they know now how serious the stakes are."
While current thinking about the American economy is hardly monolithic, the individuals who occupy its most influential positions subscribe to certain key premises:
- our children will earn more than we do
- free trade is "good" no matter how many people it hurts
- employers should play a central role in the provision of health coverage
- taxes hurt the economy
- "local control" of schools is essential
- people tend to end up, in economic terms, where they deserve to
The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending - ProPublica: "The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending
by Michael Grabell and Christopher Weaver, ProPublica - February 13, 2009 10:24 am EST"
Ashley Judd slams Sarah Palin for 'promoting aerial killing of wolves' | Top News
Washington, Feb 03 : Ashley Judd has teamed-up with Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund to launch a Web-based campaign targeting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's `anti-conservation agenda' and `attack on wolves and bears'.
The organisation has launched the campaign with a new Website, EyeonPalin. org.
In a video, the actress condemns Palin for allegedly promoting the aerial killing of wolves in Alaska, and goes so far as to accuse Palin of proposing bounties for severed forelegs of killed wolves.
"It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery," Politico. com quoted Judd, as stating in the ad.
While the launching the anti-Palin campaign, Judd said she is `outraged by Sarah Palin''s promotion of this cruel, unscientific and senseless practice which has no place in modern America.'
"Because she is apparently determined to continue and expand this horrific program, I am grateful that Defenders will aggressively fight to stop her. I am proud to be a part of that effort," Judd said.
This isn't the first time Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, a progressive environmental organization, has taken aim at Palin over the aerial killings.
During the presidential campaign, Defenders launched a national television ad campaign focused on the topic. (ANI)
Darwin's twin track: 'Evolution and emancipation'
What drove Charles Darwin to his extraordinary ideas on evolution and human origins? Adrian Desmond, with co-author James Moore, argue in a new book that the great scientist had a "sacred cause": the abolition of slavery.
Not much outraged the gentle recluse, but the horrors of slavery could cost him a night's sleep.He was thinking of the whipped house boy and the thumbscrews used by old ladies in South America, atrocities he had witnessed on the Beagle voyage.The screams stayed with him for life, but how much did they influence his life's work?Today you can still read of Darwin's "eureka" moment when he saw the Galapagos finches.Alas, his conversion to evolution wasn't so simple, but it was much more interesting. It didn't occur in the Galapagos, but probably on his arrival home.
And new evidence suggests that Darwin's unique approach to evolution - relating all races and species by "common descent" - could have been fostered by his anti-slavery beliefs.
He refrained from publishing a word on evolution until 1858 - not even a brief, priority-grabbing paper, as was his way with other projects. His hesitance is understandable. Evolution was execrable to his Cambridge friends.
One naturalist called it "abominable trash vomited" out by revolutionaries; and radicals did, indeed, deploy a self-sustaining evolution to undermine the creationist miracles on which Anglican power rested.
Darwin's gouty Cambridge professor, Adam Sedgwick, used "contempt, scorn, and ridicule" to trash one "filthy" evolution book in 1844. Darwin, sensitive about his reputation, wisely laid low.
So why devise such a beastly theory in the first place, if it threatened ignominy? Was there some integral moral gain?
Consider another question. Why was Darwin's evolution uniquely defined by common descent, the joining of races and species through shared ancestry? Darwin's common descent image is so obvious today that we forget to question where it came from.
'Man and brother'
Common descent in Darwin's younger day was ubiquitous in anti-slavery tracts. Consider the words of the famous cameo, depicting a kneeling slave asking "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" That cameo was in fact the brainchild of the pottery-dynasty founder, Josiah Wedgwood, Darwin's grandfather.
New evidence shows how indebted Darwin was to this anti-slavery heritage.
Darwin's uncle Jos Wedgwood sold the firm's London showroom, and ploughed the proceeds into an anti-slavery society, and in the 1850s (with American slavery still flourishing) the Wedgwoods continued using labels showing the slave under Britannia's banner, which read "God Hath Made of One Blood All Nations of Men".
The anti-slavery agitator Thomas Clarkson - the man who rode 35,000 miles collecting statistics in the sea ports on the evil trade - was another bankrolled by Josiah Wedgwood.
With a Wedgwood wife and mother, Darwin saw abolition as a "sacred cause" too, and in his culminating work, the Descent of Man (1871), he placed Clarkson at the moral apex of humanity and called slavery a "great sin".
Such family feelings explain why, as a 16-year-old at Edinburgh University in 1826 (in a period often dismissed by historians), Darwin could spend 40 extra-curricular hours with a freed slave from Guyana studying taxidermy and become his "intimate" friend.
And this when many visiting Americans saw any black/white friendship as "revolting".
Darwin witnessed slavery everywhere in South America. The Beagle's own supply ship on her previous trip had originally been a slaver, and, once sold, it reverted to slaving. While Darwin was on the continent, it was again disgorging chained Africans.
Darwin's journal of the voyage (1845) gives a damning account of the tortures he saw or heard of; but of all the "heart-sickening atrocities", the worst for him were the stories of masters threatening to sell the children of disobedient slaves.
As an outsider, he was "powerless as a child even to remonstrate". But within weeks of the Beagle's return, he developed a science which undercut the slave-master's notions.
Many plantation owners considered slaves a separate species, an animal to be exploited as such. Blacks and whites shared no joint ancestry.
Yet the Darwin-Wedgwood maxim made the slave a "Man and a Brother". Darwin opened his first evolution notebook in 1837, damned slave-holders for their separate species view, then pushed common parentage to the zoological limit.
Since species were only extended races, they too must share an ancestry. He moved from talking of the common "father" of mankind to an "opossum"-like fossil as the father of all mammals.
Human genealogy became the model for his famous "tree of life".
None of this minimizes the importance of Darwin's Galapagos and Pampas observations. The giant tortoises, mockingbirds and finches varied from island to island, and this became clearer to Darwin after London Zoo's bird expert John Gould analysed his finches in January 1837.
Then Richard Owen (the man shortly to give the world the "dinosaurs") diagnosed Darwin's fossils. Darwin thought that some were "rhinos" (Old World mammals), yet Owen showed that they were indigenous giant armadillos, sloths and anteaters.
So extinct animals were being succeeded by related living types. This evidence remains crucial, but it was the way Darwin marshalled it that concerns us. Assuming the tacit truth of racial "brotherhood" allowed him to join the bloodlines into a common descent configuration.
And he did so in 1837-8, just as the West Indies slaves were being released (technically freed in 1833, they were forced to serve an "apprenticeship" which effectively kept them in bondage till 1838).
This freedom filled Darwin with a sense of pride and he declared that "we... have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin". He certainly had.
All too clear
His common descent imagery was unknown elsewhere in natural history, beyond racially unifying works such as James Cowles Prichard's Researches into the Physical History of Mankind. That book traced animal races to common ancestors in order to prove that all humans could have descended from Adam.
Darwin, preparing to write the Origin of Species, scribbled inside his copy of Prichard: "How like my Book all this will be". It wasn't so. He remained a worried man and in the later 1850s dropped humans from his publishing plans because the subject was "so surrounded with prejudices".
But even though the Origin of Species (1859) skirted people, no one doubted that they remained at its core.
Darwin's "bulldog" T.H. Huxley, who took over the fight for human evolution, said that when it came to uniting black and white ancestries, he "was pleased to be able to show that Mr Darwin was for once on the side of orthodoxy".
Darwin could have wished for no more.
Adrian Desmond is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Biology Department at University College London. He is co-author with James Moore of Darwin's Sacred Cause (Allen Lane)
Coal is a highly polluting energy source. It emits much more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and natural gas. CO2 represents the major portion of greenhouse gases. It is, therefore, one of the leading contributors to climate change. From mine to sky, from extraction to combustion -- coal pollutes every step of the way. The huge environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive option for developing countries. From acid drainage from coal mines, polluting rivers and streams, to the release of mercury and other toxins when it is burned, as well as climate-destroying gases and fine particulates that wreak havoc on human health, COAL is unquestionably, a DIRTY BUSINESS.
It is a major contributor to climate change – the biggest environmental threat we face. It is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, emitting 29% more than oil, 80% more carbon dioxide (the main driver of climate change) per unit of energy than gas.
Mercury is a particular problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), mercury and its compounds are highly toxic and pose a ‘global environmental threat to humans and wildlife.’ Coal-fired power and heat production are the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. There are no commercially available technologies to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“Clean coal” is the industry’s attempt to “clean up” its dirty image – the industry’s greenwash buzzword. It is not a new type of coal.
“Clean coal” methods only move pollutants from one waste stream to another which are then still released into the environment. Any time coal is burnt, contaminants are released and they have to go somewhere. They can be released via the fly ash, the gaseous air emissions, water outflow or the ash left at the bottom after burning. Ultimately, they still end up polluting the environment.
“Clean coal” methods only move pollutants from one waste stream to another.
Communities after communities have lamented the hosting of coal-fired plants. They are often ignored due to governments' preference for polluting power plants yet they often bear the burden of adversely altered lives.
Despite over 10 years of research and $5.2 billion of investment in the US alone , scientists are still unable to make coal clean. The Australian government spends A$0.5 million annually to promote Australia’s ‘clean coal’ to the Asia Pacific region. “Clean coal” technologies are expensive and do nothing to mitigate the environmental effects of coal mining or the devastating effects of global warming. Furthermore, clean coal research risks diverting investment away from renewable energy, which is available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now.
The first CCT programs were set up in the late 1980s in response to concerns over acid rain. The programs focused on reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX), the primary causes of acid rain. Now the elusive promise of “clean coal” technology is being used to promote coal as an energy source.
A price worth paying?
Many of the ‘clean coal’ technologies being promoted by the coal industry are still in the development stage and will take hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars and many more years before they are commercially available. “Clean coal” technologies are also extremely expensive in terms of day to day running costs. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the capital costs of a typical IGCC plant (an experimental low-emission coal power station) to be US$1,383/kW, $2,088/kW with carbon sequestration. This compares with US$1,015/kW for a typical wind farm.
“Clean coal” is an attempt by the coal industry to try and make itself relevant in the age of renewables. Existing CCTs do nothing to mitigate the environmental effects of coal mining or the devastating effects of global warming. Coal is the dirtiest fuel there is and belongs in the past. Much higher emission cuts can be made using currently available natural gas, wind and modern biomass that are already in widespread use. Clean, inexpensive. This is where investment should be directed, rather than squandering valuable resources on a dirty dinosaur.
Visit the links below to read more about 'clean coal':
of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of
misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our
liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper
meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with
our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may
prosper together. " --, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
The Theory of the Moral Sentiments
The poor man's son, whom heaven in its anger has visited with ambition, when he begins to look around him, admires the condition of the rich. He finds the cottage of his father too small for his accommodation, and fancies he should be lodged more at his ease in a palace. He is displeased with being obliged to walk a-foot, or to endure the fatigue of riding on horseback. He sees his superiors carried about in machines, and imagines that in one of these he could travel with less inconveniency. He feels himself naturally indolent, and willing to serve himself with his own hands as little as possible; and judges, that a numerous retinue of servants would save him from a great deal of trouble. He thinks if he had attained all these, he would sit still contentedly, and be quiet, enjoying himself in the thought of the happiness and tranquillity of his situation. He is enchanted with the distant idea of this felicity. It appears in his fancy like the life of some superior rank of beings, and, in order to arrive at it, he devotes himself for ever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness. To obtain the conveniencies which these afford, he submits in the first year, nay in the first month of his application, to more fatigue of body and more uneasiness of mind than he could have suffered through the whole of his life from the want of them. He studies to distinguish himself in some laborious profession. With the most unrelenting industry he labours night and day to acquire talents superior to all his competitors. He endeavours next to bring those talents into public view, and with equal assiduity solicits every opportunity of employment. For this purpose he makes his court to all mankind; he serves those whom he hates, and is obsequious to those whom he despises. Through the whole of his life he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquillity that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the extremity of old age he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no respect preferable to that humble security and contentment which he had abandoned for it. It is then, in the last dregs of life, his body wasted with toil and diseases, his mind galled and ruffled by the memory of a thousand injuries and disappointments which he imagines he has met with from the injustice of his enemies, or from the perfidy and ingratitude of his friends, that he begins at last to find that wealth and greatness are mere trinkets of frivolous utility, no more adapted for procuring ease of body or tranquillity of mind than the tweezer-cases of the lover of toys; and like them too, more troublesome to the person who carries them about with him than all the advantages they can afford him are commodious. There is no other real difference between them, except that the conveniencies of the one are somewhat more observable than those of the other. The palaces, the gardens, the equipage, the retinue of the great, are objects of which the obvious conveniency strikes every body. They do not require that their masters should point out to us wherein consists their utility. Of our own accord we readily enter into it, and by sympathy enjoy and thereby applaud the satisfaction which they are fitted to afford him. But the curiosity of a tooth-pick, of an ear-picker, of a machine for cutting the nails, or of any other trinket of the same kind, is not so obvious Their conveniency may perhaps be equally great, but it is not so striking, and we do not so readily enter into the satisfaction of the man who possesses them. They are therefore less reasonable subjects of vanity than the magnificence of wealth and greatness; and in this consists the sole advantage of these last. They more effectually gratify that love of distinction so natural to man. To one who was to live alone in a desolate island it might be a matter of doubt, perhaps, whether a palace, or a collection of such small conveniencies as are commonly contained in a tweezer-case, would contribute most to his happiness and enjoyment. If he is to live in society, indeed, there can be no comparison, because in this, as in all other cases, we constantly pay more regard to the sentiments of the spectator, than to those of the person principally concerned, and consider rather how his situation will appear to other people, than how it will appear to himself. If we examine, however, why the spectator distinguishes with such admiration the condition of the rich and the great, we shall find that it is not so much upon account of the superior ease or pleasure which they are supposed to enjoy, as of the numberless artificial and elegant contrivances for promoting this ease or pleasure. He does not even imagine that they are really happier than other people: but he imagines that they possess more means of happiness. And it is the ingenious and artful adjustment of those means to the end for which they were intended, that is the principal source of his admiration. But in the languor of disease and the weariness of old age, the pleasures of the vain and empty distinctions of greatness disappear. To one, in this situation, they are no longer capable of recommending those toilsome pursuits in which they had formerly engaged him. In his heart he curses ambition, and vainly regrets the ease and the indolence of youth, pleasures which are fled for ever, and which he has foolishly sacrificed for what, when he has got it, can afford him no real satisfaction. In this miserable aspect does greatness appear to every man when reduced either by spleen or disease to observe with attention his own situation, and to consider what it is that is really wanting to his happiness. Power and riches appear then to be, what they are, enormous and operose machines contrived to produce a few trifling conveniencies to the body, consisting of springs the most nice and delicate, which must be kept in order with the most anxious attention, and which in spite of all our care are ready every moment to burst into pieces, and to crush in their ruins their unfortunate possessor. They are immense fabrics, which it requires the labour of a life to raise, which threaten every moment to overwhelm the person that dwells in them, and which while they stand, though they may save him from some smaller inconveniencies, can protect him from none of the severer inclemencies of the season. They keep off the summer shower, not the winter storm, but leave him always as much, and sometimes more exposed than before, to anxiety, to fear, and to sorrow; to diseases, to danger, and to death.
A Play About Shells for Gaza Children
GAZA — The boys clapped and sang to pulsating music. They played games and shouted. It could have been a group activity at any school in any place, but this was the middle school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, near where the United Nations says some 40 people were killed by Israeli mortar fire earlier this month.
Saturday was the first day of school since before the war, and 1,000 homeless people had been removed from the building so that classes could begin.
Even then, normal schoolwork had to wait. A team trained in trauma and group activities was running the assembly, and after the singing and clapping, there was a play devoted to how to handle dangerous materials, like shell parts, still in or near homes. Later, each pupil described what had happened to him and to his friends and family in Israel's 23-day war aimed at stopping Hamas's rockets.
"They are not ready to learn yet," said Asem Bajah, an English teacher, as he watched the singing. "And I am not ready to teach."
One week after the war with Israel and Hamas stopped — each side declaring a unilateral cease-fire — Gaza remains in a kind of stupor. There are numbers, of course, to describe its misery — 4,000 homes destroyed, 21,000 badly damaged, 100,000 people homeless, according to several aid agencies — but they do not tell the full story.
full article here: A Play About Shells for Gaza Children - NYTimes.com
"'To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto..."
By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - There is evidence that Israel committed war crimes during its 22-day campaign in the Gaza Strip and there should be an independent inquiry, U.N. investigator Richard Falk said on Thursday.
The mental anguish of the civilians who suffered the assault is so great that the entire population of Gaza could be seen as casualties, said Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Falk, speaking by phone from his home in California, said compelling evidence that Israel's actions in Gaza violated international humanitarian law required an independent investigation into whether they amounted to war crimes.
"I believe that there is the prima facie case for reaching that conclusion," he told a Geneva news conference.
Falk said Israel had made no effort to allow civilians to escape the fighting.
"'To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sieges that occur unintentionally during a period of wartime,' Falk, who is Jewish, said, referring to the starvation and murder of Warsaw's Jews by Nazi Germany in World War Two."
Ron Reagan: Chinese Officials Gag Obama
China kept a close eye on Barack Obama's inauguration speech on Tuesday. As the translated version of his speech aired, the audio cut out when President Obama mentioned communism and fascism. CCTV cut to an anchor, unbeknownst to her at first, to ask an analyst questions as Obama was speaking.
for National Geographic News
January 21, 2009
Temperatures are warming throughout Antarctica, especially in winter and spring, according to new weather station and satellite data.
The evidence contradicts studies showing that only the Antarctic Peninsula was warming while the rest of the continent has cooled.
The previous data has, in a least one case, fueled skepticism about global warming.
The new study also reveals that western Antarctica may actually be warming faster than the Antarctic Peninsula, 'the biggest surprise' to study lead author Eric Steig, a climate researcher at the University of Washington.
'We can't say this with confidence, but our results at least hint that that may be the case.'
Previous papers had already hinted at warming in eastern Antarctica, Steig said.
The Antarctic Peninsula, the farthest portion of the continent from the South Pole, has warmed faster than any other place in the world in the past 50 years—by some estimates as much as 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 degrees Celsius).
Such increases have caused dramatic ice shelf collapses.
(Related: 'Antarctica Ice Loss Faster Than Ten Years Ago' [November 4, 2008].)
Steig also emphasized that the huge continent remains a complicated place, with both warming and cooling trends varying with geography and season.
Forest for the Trees
Steig and his team were conducting climate studies from ice cores in western Antarctica and needed up-to-date data for comparison.
With no permanent research stations, the scientists lacked reliable long-term records, Steig said.
'We recognized that to get an idea of what was happening in western Antarctica, we would have to rely on using weather station data from other parts of Antarctica.'
Because weather stations are so sparse, past studies relied weighted averages, for the missing areas that are based on temperatures from surrounding locales.
'In our case, we recognized that there was a better way to [connect data] between weather stations in Antarctica, which was to use satellite data,' said Steig, whose results appear in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
The team combined spotty weather station records and satellite data between 1957 and 2006.
'In retrospect, it is pretty obvious that ignoring the satellite data, as others had done, was really missing the forest for the trees,' Steig said.
The researchers found that the temperature over western Antarctica is rising 0.31 Fahrenheit (0.17 degree Celsius) per decade, with a continental increase of 0.18 Fahrenheit (0.1 degree Celsius).
Worldwide, the temperature has climbed an average of 1.08 Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) over the past 50 years, said study co-author Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science.
A hole in the ozone layer over eastern Antarctica drives winds that help keep temperatures down, but that effect is likely to lessen as the layer heals, leading to still more warming, Shindell added.
In 2002, Peter Doran, an earth and environmental scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, published results that showed more parts of Antarctica than not were cooling.
But Doran wrote a 2007 op-ed in the New York Times lamenting that his earlier study had been cited by global warming skeptics, including the late Michael Crichton in his 2004 novel State of Fear.
(Get fast facts on global warming.)
Doran also wrote that more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data would be needed to demonstrate a clear trend in Antarctica.
This week, Doran called the new Nature paper 'an excellent and thorough study by a top-notch group.'
'First, they have brought in a combination of data sources and added another decade and a half to what we reported on. The argument for an expanded warming in [western] Antarctica based on this seems reasonable.'
Continued satellite measurements, more weather stations, and core samples to reconstruct historic temperatures are all needed to complete the Antarctic climate picture, Steig said.
© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved."
Saturday, January 10, 2009; A02
Millions of tons of toxic coal ash is piling up in power plant ponds in 32 states, a situation the U.S. government has long recognized as a risk to human health and the environment but has done nothing about.
An Associated Press analysis of the most recent Energy Department data found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to one that ruptured last month in Tennessee. Yesterday, a pond at a northeastern Alabama power plant spilled a different material -- water laced with calcium sulfate, a component of a material known as gypsum -- and some lawmakers said the incident was more evidence that Congress needs to overhaul coal waste regulations.
'One disaster convinced me that we ought to subject coal ash impoundments to federal design, construction and inspection requirements,' said Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. 'But two incidents in less than three weeks at a TVA site illustrate that we must act swiftly if we hope to ensure a basic level safety for our communities and the environment.'
The man-made lagoons hold a mixture of the noncombustible ingredients of coal and the ash trapped by equipment designed to reduce air pollution from the power plants.
Over the years, the volume of waste has grown as demand for electricity has increased and the federal government has further restricted emissions from power plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency eight years ago said it wanted to set a national standard for ponds or landfills used to dispose of wastes produced from burning coal. The agency has yet to act.
As a result, coal ash ponds are subject to less regulation than landfills accepting household trash, even though the industry's own estimates show that ash ponds contain tens of thousands of pounds of toxic heavy metals."
President Barack Obama Delivers Inaugural Address at US Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 20, 2009
Full transcript as prepared for delivery of President Barack Obama's inaugural remarks on Jan. 20, 2009, at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.
They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
'Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].'
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
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