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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug5 hospitalsWhy aren't hospital charges required to be posted online? (Photo: Michael Kappel)

Most people in the US cannot compare the costs of hospital medical procedures online, according to a recent study by the advocacy group Public Citizen. That is because in 44 states, there is no requirement to disclose the listed fee for hospital surgeries and diagnostic tests on the web. Official hospital prices vary widely -- even within a local area -- because often the "sticker price" for a colonoscopy, for example, is not established based on the inherent costs of the procedure. Instead, it is set high as a price from which to bargain down with insurance providers.

Veejay Das, health care policy advocate for Public Citizen, who conducted the analysis, said in a Public Citizen news release:

Shopping for health care prices in the United States is like trying to find a light switch in the dark. If you know where you should be looking – and it’s actually there for you to find – you might have a chance, but otherwise you’ll blindly search in vain.

For anyone who doesn't have insurance and must pay a full, inflated price for hospital-based care, comparative pricing is essential to reduce extreme costs. Yet, in most of the United States, that is an extremely difficult task to undertake.

Furthermore, Public Citizen notes:

Out-of-pocket health care costs for patients are soaring in the United States. Since 2010, insurance deductibles for workers have risen three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages and inflation, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

That means it is necessary to know which hospitals are less expensive -- and to check with your insurance company for their negotiated rates for a given procedure with a hospital -- in order to plan for the financial repercussions of a medical bill.

plastic waste from the ocean(Photo: Bo Eide)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

England has cut its plastic bag use by 85 percent ever since a 5 pence (7 cent) charge was introduced last October, according to government figures.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that 6 billion fewer plastic bags were taken home by shoppers in England. The levy also resulted in a £29 million ($38 million) donated to charity and other good causes thanks to the charge.

"This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans," DEFRA said about the eliminated bags.

To arrive at the 6 billion figure, officials calculated that the seven main retailers in England (Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) passed out 7.6 billion bags in 2014. However, after the 5 pence charge was enacted, the retailers handed out just over half a billion bags in the first six months.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016aug4 gmolabelingOn July 29, President Obama signed a bill that is a setback for our right to know about GMOs in food. (Photo: David Goehring)

You may have read that President Obama signed a so-called GMO "labeling" law on July 29. Media outlets like ABC News reported that the bill "mandate[es] GMO labeling."

However, the reality of the new legislation is what Rick North, writing on the progressive commentary forum BlueOregon, calls a "sham":

It’s a major victory for Monsanto, the biotech industry and Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, all of whom know labeling could diminish their profits.

Most polls found about 90% of respondents wanted on-the-package GMO labeling, an almost-unheard-of support level for any issue. True public advocates, like the Organic Consumers Association, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Cornucopia Institute, Food Democracy Now, etc., exposed the bill for the charade it was.

All to no avail.

Why does North consider calling the so-called "GMO labeling" bill a misnomer? North cites one reason, among others:

This is a labeling law that doesn’t require labeling. It allows toll-free numbers and QR codes requiring smart phones to read. Any corporation trying to hide its use of GMO’s (i.e. most of them) will employ the QR codes.

Trump vs. Hillary caricature(Photo: DonkeyHotey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What would it take to cause Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the newly launched bombing campaign in Libya? Or call for a congressional debate on it? Or suggest the obvious: that the war on terror isn't working?

Of course it won't happen. But the fact that it sounds so absurd -- almost as fanciful as the notion of movie characters stepping off the screen into real life -- indicates how illusory, how unglued from reality, American democracy is at the presidential level. It's a spectator sport -- mud wrestling, say -- doled out to us as entertainment by the media in sound bites and poll numbers.

Public input couldn't be less relevant to what we actually do as a nation, and as an empire.

And mostly what we do is wage war. Now more than ever. Since 9/11, war has become, in essence, self-authorizing, thanks to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gives the Executive Branch free rein to fight the war on terror without congressional approval. Thus, according to the New York Times: "By linking the Libya action to the authorization for force, the administration will not have to officially notify Congress. That means that the campaign in Libya can continue indefinitely, or until the administration concludes that the airstrikes have accomplished their objective."

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 0803wrp opt(Photo: Genusfotografen)What an amazing Democratic primary season it was! And we now have this happy result: WE WON!

"We" being the millions of young people, mad-as-hell working stiffs, independents, deep-rooted progressives, and other "outsiders" who felt The Bern and forged a new, game-changing, populist force of, by, and for grassroots Americans. True, this progressive-populist coalition did not win the White House on its first go 'round behind the feisty Sanders insurgency (which the the smug political establishment had literally laughed at when he began his run). But they are not laughing now, for even they can see the outsider revolt against the power elites won something even more momentous than the 2016 election: The future.

Back in April 2015, when the blunt, democratic socialist from Vermont issued a call for disenchanted voters to join him, not merely in a campaign for the presidency, but in a long-term movement to "revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us," even his more optimistic backers couldn't have dreamed the movement would come so far so quickly. Let's reflect on some fundamental changes this progressive uprising has achieved in the past 15 months:

- It yanked the national debate out of the hands of the Washington and corporate elites: both devoted for more than 30 years to rigging all the rules to further enrich the 1 percenters at the expense of everyone else — and proved that future success requires Democrats to abandon their effete namby-pambyism and embrace the vision, message, and issues of unabashed populism.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Marcmaron 0803wrp opt(Photo: Sowhat12)In the ever-expanding universe of unique, diverse and extraordinary podcasts, “WTF With Marc Maron” – broadcast from Maron’s garage in Southern California -- stands out. In September 2009, Maron started his WTF podcast and it now garners, according to the WTF website, “more than six-million downloads each month.” While Maron, a longtime and notable comedian, who has appeared on numerous television talk shows and still tours the country on a regular basis doing what his website calls “raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy,” usually sticks to interviewing guests from the entertainment industry, probably his most notable and surprising interview occurred last year when President Barack Obama visited Maron’s garage.

Maron usually begins each episode with some housecleaning; could be a story about his cats; could be a report from one of his performances; could be a tribute to someone who recently passed away; could be extending heartfelt condolences to the families of those slaughtered in Orlando. Although once a politics-slinging voice on the late radio enterprise called Air America, these days, Maron generally stays away from directly discussing politics.

However, in the opening to Episode 729 (an interview with Roseanne Barr) Maron gave a unique, passionate and earnest spiel on what he perceives to be the emptiness and despair that many of the people – obviously including his listeners -- who may be voting for Donald Trump seem to be feeling.

Via email, I asked Maron what motivated his remarks. “Elections are emotional times and sometimes you just have to speak your mind,” Maron said. “I don't talk politics publicly that often anymore but I was trying to make some sense, empathetically, of a phenomenon I am trying to understand. I was thinking out loud. Which is what I do.”

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 07:36

Is Trump Eager to Let the Nukes Fly?

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016august3 nuclearwarheadNuclear warhead on Titan missile (Photo: Tommaso Galli)

In just a few days, on August 6, it will be the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was the beginning of the nuclear age: an age in which the US, the Soviet Union and now many other nations have the ability to annihilate the people of the world with nuclear weapons.

The Cold War stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union, with nuclear "mutually assured destruction" (MAD) as an ever-present threat was a key motivating factor in the clamor for nuclear disarmament. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, "No Nukes" was a thriving movement with frequent protests.

Although anti-nuclear-weapons advocacy has dramatically decreased since the Cold War ended, the threat of nuclear conflict is still a looming issue.

According to the Arms Control Association, the United States currently maintains around 7,100 nuclear warheads, while Russia still has 7,300 (although it is in the process of dismantling some of them). Another seven nations are known to have nuclear weapons.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Florida Senator Marco Rubio appears to be building his Senate reelection campaign on Hillary hatred and the underbelly of anti-gay bigotry, as he's been courting some of Florida's and the nation's most bigoted anti-gay organizations and leaders. After running an unsuccessful/lackluster campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, he is back on the campaign trail, this time, seeking re-election to the Senate. His opponent in the Republican primary is Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County developer.

Rubio is on Twitter ranting about Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, and on the campaign trail "Little Marco" -- as he was dubbed by the now GOP standard-bearer Donald Trump -- is heartily endorsing Trump. And while he is undoubtedly salivating over the possibility of receiving wads of Koch brothers' money, over the past few weeks Rubio has been focusing on solidifying the anti-gay vote.

He recently welcomed the endorsement of John Stemberger, the head of Florida Family Action, and one of the state's most well known anti-gay activists.

GMO Wheat(Photo: Susanne Nilsson)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Monsanto's experimental genetically engineered wheat has been found growing in a field in Washington state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed last week.

This discovery not only raises concerns over GMO contamination, it could be another legal headache for Monsanto, as the agritech giant has paid millions to settle recent lawsuits over illegal GMO wheat.

Reuters reported on Friday that a farmer found 22 unapproved GMO wheat plants in a field that has not been planted since 2015. Federal and state officials are now conducting an investigation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016august1 phoenixArid Phoenix doesn't need its piped in water bottled by Nestlé. (Photo: Jerry Ferguson)

 Phoenix is the sixth-largest city in the United States. It draws all of its water from sources that exist far beyond the horizon of the arid desert and craggy mountains that surround it.

Although some city officials claim Phoenix has excess water at the moment, other analysts claim that with the rise in global warming and the battle in the Southwest between municipalities and states over dwindling water supplies, Phoenix will face a water crisis in the not-so-distant future. A 2015 Slate article warns that "as Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst."

This scenario is seen as an opportunity by Nestlé Waters -- the biggest bottled water company in the world -- not as a cause of concern for the survival of Phoenix residents. After all, if you can tip your privatization toe in a dwindling water supply, your product -- necessary to life -- becomes more valuable over time.

A May 13 article in The Arizona Republic states:

Nestlé Waters will spend $35 million to revamp a west Phoenix warehouse into a plant treating city water and selling it as Pure Life brand bottles, city and company officials said.

The plant is projected to fill 264 million half-liter bottles in its first year, or almost 35 million gallons.

That's more than enough water to supply 200 Phoenix households for a year. The plant is expected to create 40-50 jobs.

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