Injured US Civilians In Iraq Face Denied Claims

The LA Times has uncovered a pattern of civilians returning from Iraq with mental illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that are being systematically denied for insurance claims to cover their treatment.

Bloomberg's Green Apple

In recent weeks, New York City's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has put forth some astoundingly progressive proposals seeking to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.

Congress Sends Stem Cell Bill To Certain Veto

Highlighting deep philosophical differences between the Bush Administration and the majority of Americans, Congress has passed another bill expanding stem cell research. The bill faces a certain veto from president Bush.

Surgeon General Nominee Considers Gays Unnatural

Dr James Holsinger, president Bush's nominee for Surgeon General, has an established track record, including writings, stating a belief that gays are unnatural and that gay sex is unhealthy.

Obama Promises Health Care For All

First-Term Senator and Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama, is promising to sign a law granting universal health care into law by the end of his first term has president. The estimated annual cost of $50-65 billion would come mostly from allowing some of Bush's tax cuts to expire and repealing some other tax cuts put in place by the Republican congress.

Penicillin Immune Bugs Spreading Amongst Poor

In America's urban centers, there has been a sharp rise in the infection rate of people carrying methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Oil Companies Ask Employees To Bike To Work

Yes, you read that right. In Houston, the big oil companies are pushing their employees to bike to work to help ease congestion, clean up the air, and improve fitness.

Project Censored: 25 Stories Kept Out Of The News

Project Censored is a news site that reports stories that have been kept out of the news for whatever reason.

Headlines (5/22/2007)

Relief for the most needy among us. This past week, Congressman Tim Ryan participated in the Food Stamp Challenge. The Challenge is to live on $3 a day for a week. That amount is what the average food stamp recipient receives.

NYPD surveillance prior to the 2004 GOP convention: a list. In NYC during the GOP convention and wonder whether the police were spying on you. Chances are, they were. Just disclosed documents detail who they where keeping an eye on.

Mental Health Problems Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Casualty statistics should be more than a body count. Consider the lives ruined by mental illness as a result of combat.

Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq.

Headlines (5/21/2007)

Inside the Digital Dump. Poor Chinese are poisoning themselves trying to strike it rich mining discard electronics for copper and gold.

New process generates hydrogen from aluminum alloy to run engines, fuel cells. If I read this right, we could be looking at using water to fuel hydrogen powered vehicles.

For 2008, Who Isn't a Flip-Flopper?. The Washington Post calls the '08 candidates onto the carpet for Flip-Flopping on both sides of the aisle.

Prewar intelligence foretold Iraq upheaval. Still believe Cheney when he says that we could not have foretold the situation that has developed in Iraq. Our own intelligence people did.

Senators to debate immigration policy.

China Plans Online Gaming Curfew Of Sorts

Fearing that children are spending too much time playing online games, the Chinese government has given software vendors in China three months to place curbs on gaming by underage players.

For games that allow players to accumulate points, the games would be required to stop giving players points after three hours of play in a given day.

This policy assumes, of course, that these kids play only one game online.

This does remind me a bit of the policies built into World of Warcraft that encourage players to take a break from the game. In WOW, players who rest get a 100% to experience accumulation proportionate to the time spent not playing. I suspect that Blizzard Entertainment, makers of World of Warcraft, are more concerned about server load than the health of their players, but the policy does achieve the same goal.

One has to wonder if such 'nanny state' kind of policies where the state substitutes its judgment for the judgment of the parents are a good idea. Libertarians would argue that such regulation is unnecessary and would point at Blizzard's initiative as a sign that the market can handle the problem on its own.

House Votes In The Face Of Guaranteed Vetoes

This past week, the house passed two pieces of legislation in the face of vetoes promised by president George W Bush.

The first bill, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, is geared toward expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The bill fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto with 253-174 tally that included 37 Republicans voting for it and 16 Democrats voting against it.

It is unclear at this time when the bill will be considered in the Senate. The bill is favored by the majority of Americans so Senate Republicans may attempt to prevent the bill from being voted on at all to save the president from having to veto the bill.

The second bill, designated to allow the Federal Government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, passed on a 255-170 vote with 24 Republicans joining a united Democratic caucus. This bill as well is facing a certain presidential veto.

A previously reported, the Republican argument basically boils down to the law not having any effect so why pass it. However, the bill is really a repeal of a specific clause in Medicare Part D that prohibits the government from negotiating. This raises an interesting question. If such negotiations will have no effect, why work so hard to resist them?

110th Congress First Hundred Hours Summary

When the 110th Congress begins its session today, incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has an agenda for the first 100 hours of the session. Over the next two weeks, a broad range of issues of importance to the majority of Americans will be acted upon. Below is a summary, with links to more in-depth analysis from earlier articles.

  • Draining The Swamp - a catch phrase for an agenda to improve congressional ethics. Highlights include: a ban on privately funded travel, loss of floor access to past members who are now lobbyists, 24 hours waiting period on all bills and 3 days for bills containing earmarks or limited tax benefits.
  • Minimum Wage Increase - Congress will seek to raise the minimum wage to $7.25. Analysis shows that this should increase the GDP and help save social security.
  • The 9/11 Commission - Pelosi claims that Congress will implement "all the recommendations" of the 9/11 commission. The truth here is that most things have been implemented except the calls for more direct oversight by Congress. It's no surprise Pelosi wants to implement that.
  • Medicaid Prescription Drug Program - as it stands now, the federal government is prohibited from negotiating with drug companies to get lower prices for drugs available through this program. Congress will seek to lift that restriction. Whether or not such negotiations will secure lower prices than the current system is a matter of much debate.
  • Student Loan Rates - Congress will seek to cut student loan rates in half (from 6.8% to 3.4% for Stafford loans.) The impact of such a change can be far reaching as college education can be a factor in unemployment, entitlement use and likelihood to vote.
  • Big Oil - Congress will seek to reverse one of the biggest blunders of the Clinton Administration by compelling Oil companies to pay mandated royalties on off-shore drilling revenue. The law allowing the drilling required the government to secure royalty agreements for the leases, but Clinton Administration ineptly left that requirement out of the leases. The blunder, if not fixed, will cost tax payers over 10 billion in revenue over the next 5 years.
  • Social Security - The administration's bluster about the insolvency of the Social Security trust fund is a boondoggle to justify their desire to see the money put into the stock market to jack the value of wealthy portfolios. Congress is promising to head off any efforts toward privatization on part of the administration.

100 Hours: Medicaid Prescription Drug Program

As we wait for the opening of the 110th Congress on January 4th, here is another of Nancy Pelosi's "100 Hours" Proposals: Allow Medicaid to negotiate lower prices with drug companies.

It sounds almost ridiculous, doesn't it. The fact that Medicaid isn't permitted to negotiate prices as part of the plan borders on criminal waste. That said, let's take a closer look.

Shortly after the legislation that created the drug program passed, Senator Frist, the then Majority Leader, asked the Congressional Budget Office to examine what the price effects would be if the section that prohibits the governments direct involvement in the negotiations were removed. The C.B.O. estimated that the effects would be "negligible":

We estimate that striking that provision would have a negligible effect on federal spending because CBO estimates that substantial savings will be obtained by the private plans and that the Secretary would not be able to negotiate prices that further reduce federal spending to a significant degree. Because they will be at substantial financial risk, private plans will have strong incentives to negotiate price discounts, both to control their own costs in providing the drug benefit and to attract enrollees with low premiums and cost-sharing requirements.

Democrats To Move To Cut Medicare Waste

When the Democrats take office in January, another priority will be the removal of the so-called Medicare Advantage program that puts the dispersal of Medicare funds into the hands of insurance companies.

The idea behind Medicare Advantage was to have people's use of Medicare managed in an effort to be more preventative and ultimately reduce costs; however, a recent study by the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Panel has shown that patients treated through the program cost an average of 11% more than those treated through the traditional program.

[The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission] recommended lowering the reimbursement levels for managed care so that the rates would be the same as the fee-for-service program. Many Democrats want to act on that recommendation, which would save about $18 billion over five years.

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