News Releases

Affordable Care Act: “Imploding and Beyond Repair”


obamacare_020515gettyMcClatchy reports: “Insurers are raising the 2017 premiums for a popular and significant group of health plans sold through by an average of 25 percent, more than triple the increase for this year, according to new government figures.

JOHN P. GEYMAN,  jgeyman[at], @PNHP;
Also via Mark Almberg, mark[at]

Geyman is author of the book The Human Face of ObamaCare: Promises vs. Reality and What Comes NextOn FridayThe Hill published his piece “Affordable Care Act: imploding and beyond repair.”

Geyman, who is professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said today: “Premium increases for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act are being reported in a number of states (e.g. 59 percent in Minnesota up to 119 percent in Arizona), typically associated with reduced choice of health plans as more insurers exit the market. The costs of health insurance and health care already exceed $25,000 a year for a family of four on an average employer-sponsored plan as these increases become unaffordable and unsustainable for a growing part of our population.”

Geyman’s recent piece lists a host of problems with the ACA, as well as proposals by Hillary Clinton and Republicans. He writes: “Multiple studies have demonstrated that in the U.S. we could save about $500 billion a year by enacting a nonprofit single-payer national health program that streamlines administration. Those savings would be sufficient to guarantee everyone high-quality care, with no cost sharing, on a sustainable basis. The system could also negotiate lower drug prices.
    “Studies over the past two decades have shown 3 of 5 Americans supporting an improved version of Medicare for all. Support for single payer is also growing among doctors and other health care professionals. Yet the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676 (Rep. John Conyers’ bill), with 62 co-sponsors, sits neglected in a House committee.”

Geyman’s previous books include How Obamacare is Unsustainable. He is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program, Almberg is communications director for PNHP.

Iceland: Pirate Party Victory?

The Washington Post is reporting in “Iceland, a land of Vikings, braces for a Pirate Party takeover” that: “The party that could be on the cusp of winning Iceland’s national elections on Saturday didn’t exist four years ago.”

PAUL FONTAINE, paul [at], @rvkgrapevine, Skype: pauldfontaine
Fontaine is news editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine. Two pieces he posted today are: “Unions Gearing Up For A Stormy 2017″ and Iceland’s Next Government Could Be Taking Shape Right Now.” Also, see his overview piece from last month: “Decision ‘16: Iceland’s Looming Political Shitstorm.”

Fontaine said today: “This time around, we have a party dominating the polls that is touting itself as a genuine alternative to the old order, and the international press has been quick to run with this narrative. If you read the platform of the Pirate Party, there definitely is a lot about it that pushes against the grain; in particular, their emphasis on government transparency, direct democracy and increased democratic participation, and finishing up that new constitution already. This is very encouraging, because there is absolutely no reason why a country, especially of 330,000 people, needs a government as byzantine, bureaucratic, and straight-up antiquated as Iceland’s. I would in fact put forward that we would do much better for ourselves by going even farther than any party has been proposing.

“By going farther, I mean that we need an actual transparent, consensus-based form of direct democracy. Representational democracy, like elsewhere in the world, has failed in Iceland. I think that’s why we’re seeing alternate parties rising in support; people know we need something different, but most are not yet at the point of being able to see an alternative to the current system.”

AT&T&Time&Warner vs Democracy

book_coverVICTOR PICKARD, vpickard[at], @VWPickard
Pickard is associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of the book America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform. He also recently wrote the piece “Media and Politics in the Age of Trump.”

Pickard said today: “AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner would create a media behemoth with dangerous concentrations of political and economic power. With one corporation controlling so much production and distribution of news and entertainment media, this vertical integration poses significant potential hazards for millions of consumers and could harm the health of our democratic discourse. AT&T is already one of the nation’s largest internet and phone providers, as well as the largest pay-TV operator with its recent acquisition of DirecTV. By acquiring Time Warner’s media empire, which includes CNN, HBO, and Warner Bros, AT&T can privilege its own programs over competitors’ and prevent other internet and cable companies from having access to them. Such a merger deserves close regulatory scrutiny from the Justice Department. It raises serious antitrust concerns, especially since the lack of competition resulting from such mega-mergers can lead to higher costs and fewer choices for consumers. Much of the American media system is already plagued by prohibitive costs and poor services and this merger would not make things better — indeed, it could make things considerably worse. It could also spur a new wave of mergers between other content and distribution companies, encouraging an already highly concentrated media system to become more consolidated. In the coming weeks and months, we will no doubt hear from industry representatives that such a merger would provide many public benefits. But historically this has rarely been the case. Moreover, there’s growing pressure from antitrust circles — as well as activists and leading politicians — to reverse the trend toward vertically-integrated oligopolies. This proposed deal may provide a crucial test case for whether the era of new media monopolies has begun to recede.”

Pickard is also co-editor, with Robert McChesney, of the book Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done To Fix It.

On the Stealing of U.S. Elections

the_right_to_voteVICTOR WALLIS, zendive[at]
Wallis is managing editor of the journal Socialism and Democracy and just wrote the piece “On the Stealing of U.S. Elections,” which states: “The theft of elections is typically thought of as referring to corruption of the voting process. This is indeed a major issue, but it is only the culmination of a much broader set of restrictions on the power of citizens to choose their leaders.

“An extraordinary feature of the U.S. electoral process is that the two dominant parties collude to dictate — via their own bipartisan ‘commission’ — who is allowed to participate in the officially recognized presidential debates. Needless to say, the two parties set impossible barriers to the participation of any candidates other than their own. Most potential voters are thereby prevented from acquainting themselves with alternatives to the dominant consensus.

“This practice has taken on glaring proportions in the 2016 campaign, which has been marked by justified public distrust of both the dominant-party tickets. Preventing election-theft would initially require breaking up the bipartisan stranglehold over who can access the tens of millions of voters.

“Another distinctive U.S. trait is the absence of any constitutional guarantee of the right to vote. Instead, a multiplicity of state laws govern voter-eligibility, as well as ballot-access. A few states set ballot-access requirements so high as to effectively disqualify their residents from supporting otherwise viable national candidacies. As for voter-eligibility, it is deliberately narrowed through the time-honored practice of using ‘states’ rights’ to impose racist agendas. Most states deny voting rights to ex-convicts, a practice that currently disenfranchises some six million citizens, disproportionately from communities of color. More recently, targeting the same constituencies, many states have passed onerous and unnecessary voter-ID laws.

“The role of money in filtering out viable candidacies is well known. It was reinforced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010, which opened the gate to unlimited corporate contributions.”

Clinton’s “Incredibly Dangerous” Nuclear Brinkmanship


While many have argued that Donald Trump is unstable and therefore unsuitable to be responsible for making decisions about nuclear war, analysts point to a series of Hillary Clinton policies that risk all out nuclear war.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan[at], @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She said today: “Clinton is engaging in incredibly dangerous brinkmanship with a nuclear superpower but at the same time, trying to lull the public into complacency about the danger she intends to place them in. Last night, she again pledged she would, after being elected, institute a ‘no-fly zone’ and ‘safe zones’ over Syria but she evaded answering the debate moderator’s direct question as to whether she would give the order to shoot down Russian aircraft over Syria. Her evasive response was directly at odds with the recent assessment of General Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in testimony to Congress (as well as earlier assessments from former Chief Martin Dempsey and other top generals) that establishing a ‘no-fly zone’ would almost certainly mean war with Syria (and Russia).

“In addition, Clinton mischaracterized what the intelligence agencies are saying about the emails to/from her campaign chief of staff, John Podesta, that are being put out by WikiLeaks. She claimed they have come from ‘the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly, from Putin himself, in an effort, as 17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election.’

“In fact, a carefully crafted statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (James Clapper) was far less definitive, stating: ‘The recent disclosures … are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.’ It’s also worth noting that this was not the conclusion of a National Intelligence Estimate, merely a statement from the ODNI and Department of Homeland Security.” [Note: Because of an editing error by IPA staff, this news release originally quoted the line from the ODNI statement: “However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.” But that sentence was referring to “scanning and probing of … election-related systems” — not to the recent WikiLeaks disclosures. IPA regrets the error.]

ELIZABETH MURRAY, emurray404[at], @elizabethmurra
Murray served as deputy national intelligence officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. See her page at Consortium News, including “How U.S. Propaganda Fuels New Cold War” and “Seeking a Debate on ‘Regime Change’ Wars.”

She said today: “With the news that China will be joining Russia’s air strike campaign in Syria to defend the Syrian government against ISIS and U.S.-trained terrorist proxies, the next U.S. president will be playing a deadly game if he or she continues the present dangerous trajectory toward military confrontation with Russia. Hillary Clinton is calling for a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria — which basically gives the U.S. carte blanche to shoot down any aircraft over Syrian airspace. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that ‘Right now … for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” See video.

“In other words, [Hillary Clinton] … will drag the United States into a war with Russia over Syria (and which now could possibly involve China) — and with 2,000 nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert, the conflict could easily escalate into nuclear war. Russia is already test-firing nuclear-capable cruise missiles and conducting civil defense drills as the warlike posturing heats up on both sides.

“What is needed is a de-escalation of the current crisis through diplomacy and a standown of the U.S. presence in Syria. Instead of a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria, what is needed is a ‘no-die zone’ — the killing must stop. For that to happen, the U.S. must immediately halt the flow of arms into the country. The U.S. should rein in its allies in the region including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Israel which have fed the conflict through a constant stream of military, financial and logistical aid to terrorist militias and proxies. …

“If Hillary Clinton is elected president we can expect a replay of the then-Secretary of State’s chilling reaction to the violent overthrow and murder of President Mu’ammar Qadhafi: ‘We came, we saw, he died‘.”

Mosul and the “Shadow Wars”


CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON, cmd [at], @dr_davidson
Davidson teaches politics at Durham University in England. He has written several books on the Mideast, focusing on the Gulf monarchies. His latest is the just-released Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

Davidson said today: “With significant advance warning, the ISIS leadership in Mosul will likely now be long gone, having moved across into northern Syria to strengthen forces in and around Raqqa and thus help accelerate the fragmentation of what remains of the nation state of Syria.

“From the perspective of the U.S.’s key allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the various other private backers of the hard-line Sunni militias and jihadist factions fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the liberation of Iraq’s second biggest city will not cause too much disappointment, as the convergence of Iraqi government forces, Shia militias, Kurds, and the Turkish army on Mosul — all under the watchful eye of the U.S.-led coalition’s air cover — will mean that the city and the surrounding oil rich region can no longer be easily controlled solely by Baghdad and — by extension — influenced by Baghdad’s key partners such as the Iranian government.

“ISIS’s presence (and imminent legacy) in north-western Iraq has already succeeded in dealing a strong blow to the concept of a strong Iraqi nation state capable of charting its own foreign policy and maintaining control over all natural resources in its territory. It has been allowed to survive and, until recently, prosper, as the U.S. has been running a ‘contain and react’ strategy since 2014, which has effectively given ISIS ‘red lines’, preventing it from reaching key territory belonging to the U.S.’s Kurdish clients, but has more or less allowed it to move freely across vast tracts of open terrain so as to fight against and claim territory from the Syrian and Iraqi governments.”

See video summarizing findings of Davidson’s latest book.

Did the U.S. Assist the Disastrous Bombing of a Funeral in Yemen?

AP reports: “The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire that will take effect shortly before midnightWednesday, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen said.’

KEN KLIPPENSTEIN, kenneth.klippenstein[at]
Klippenstein is a U.S. journalist who recently co-wrote the piece “Did the U.S. Assist the Disastrous Bombing of a Funeral in Yemen?” for AlterNet, which states: “Did the U.S. directly assist the Saudi-led coalition aerial bombing of a funeral in Sanaa, Yemen … reported to have killed over 140 people and injured as many as 600? A renowned combat aircraft engineer and former Pentagon official, Pierre Sprey, says the evidence suggests the U.S. did exactly that. …

“As Sprey explained to AlterNet, ‘If that Saudi fighter was based at the main Saudi base near Riyadh, Prince Sultan airbase, then it was almost certainly refueled by USAF [U.S. Air Force] tankers.’ Though there is an airbase located close enough to Yemen to not require refueling, King Khaled airbase, Sprey told AlterNet, ‘I doubt they are stationing very many fighters there these days, given that the Houthis [rebel group that overthrew Yemen’s government in 2014-2015 following protests against a deeply unpopular fuel subsidy cut] have successfully hit that base with Scud missiles on at least one occasion (and could readily overrun it on the ground, given the dismal performance of Saudi ground units).’ …

“When AlterNet asked U.S. Air Force spokesman Shane Huff, he conceded that the U.S. refueled coalition fighters the weekend of the bombing — including the day after the bombing — but denied that USAF fueled any aircraft on the day of the bombing. When asked why the U.S., which typically refuels coalition aircraft, would provide fuel that weekend but not the day of the bombing, Huff replied, ‘I do not know the answer to that question.’

“Asked if the aircraft involved in the Sanaa funeral bombing launched from an airbase bordering Yemen, Huff told AlterNet, ‘I must refer you to the Saudi Defense Forces on that question.’ …

“The U.S.’ role in the bombing may even go beyond refueling: a photo has emerged allegedly showing the ordnance dropped on the funeral, a Mark 82 bomb (the label printed in English). The U.S. announced a contract for the production of this ordnance for Saudi Arabia, just weeks before the bombing. Even Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, later tweeted the potentially incriminating photo; this may come as a surprise given HRW’s well-documented congeniality to Washington. …

“Following the funeral bombing, the U.N. Secretary-General has called for an independent investigation into rights abuses and other crimes in Yemen. With about half of Yemen’s population going hungry according to U.N. figures, this conflict threatens to turn Yemen into an irrevocable humanitarian catastrophe.”

The “Second-Most Important Vote” On Election Day

The Portland Press-Herald just published an editorial: “Ranked-choice voting is right for Maine,” which states: “we support Question 5, a proposal to introduce ranked-choice voting in primaries and general elections for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor and members of the Maine Legislature.

“This reform represents a bold change, but it’s a change that would bring back something we’ve lost — consensus politics in a time of political fragmentation.”
Also, see: “The Second-Most Important Vote On Election Day,” by Larry Diamond.
MICHELLE WHITTAKER, mwhittaker[at], @fairvote
Communications director for FairVote, Whittaker said today: “FairVote applauds the tireless work of thousands of grassroots supporters and volunteers to bring ranked choice voting to Maine. Question 5 gives voters a stronger voice and ensures that the will of the people is heard in Maine. In our current system, the way we choose our leaders is failing. As a nonpartisan group, FairVote advocates for proven solutions to make elections better. Voters should have the freedom to vote for the candidate they like the best without fear that their vote will help the candidate they like the least. Studies show that campaigns are less negative in cities that use ranked choice voting. Rewarding candidates who seek to earn every voter’s support is a win for the people of Maine and American democracy as a whole. Ranked choice voting is a nonpartisan reform supported by Republicans, Democrats, and independents. We all recognize the need to make our country a better place for future generations. It begins with how we elect and hold our leaders accountable.

JILL WARD, jmward23[at], @lwvme
Ward is president of the Augusta-based League of Women Voters of Maine. She wrote the piece “Ranked-choice voting passes every test of true democracy.”
She said today: “The League of Women Voters of Maine supports Question 5 on this year’s ballot to bring ranked choice voting to Maine because we believe that better governance comes when candidates, of any party, are elected by a majority of Maine voters. Our current voting system, plurality voting, works well when there are only two candidates because one of them is guaranteed to win with majority support. But three and four-way races among competitive candidates are common in Maine and can lead to results where the winner fails to receive a majority of the votes cast (50 percent + 1). When that happens — when high office is controlled by winners who represent a minority view — it’s a recipe for stalemate in the best case, unpopular public policy in the worst case, and public cynicism toward government in either case. Ranked choice voting will put more power in the hands of voters and move us toward the fairer, more honest democracy so many of us desire.”

Gorbachev’s Warning about U.S.-Russia Relations

Voice of America reports in “Gorbachev Warns U.S.-Russia Tensions Are at ‘Dangerous Point’” that: “His comments followed a series of issues that have strained relations between Washington and Moscow. Among them are the war in Syria and U.S. accusations that Russia is involved in cyber attacks aimed at disrupting U.S. elections next month.

“‘I think the world has reached a dangerous point,’ Gorbachev told RIA Novosti, Russia’s state news agency. … ‘But I do want to say that this needs to stop,’ he said. ‘We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake.'”

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation magazine. She said today: “It is not pro-Putin or pro-Trump but rather sober realism to argue that the U.S. needs to partner with Russia to resolve the Syrian crisis, combat terrorism, tackle nuclear proliferation and global warming. Alarmist and still unsubstantiated allegations about cyberattacks are designed to squelch an urgently needed debate about U.S.-Russian relations — before this dangerous new Cold War deepens.”

GILBERT DOCTOROW, [currently in Slovenia, starting Tuesday in Brussels] gdoctorow [at], skype: gilbert.doctorow
Doctorow is a journalist and European coordinator of the American Committee for East West Accord. His latest book is Does Russia Have a Future?

He just wrote “The Warnings of a New World War” for Consortium News, which argues: “The U.S.-Russia confrontation over Ukraine and now Syria is far more dangerous than is understood by mainstream U.S. analysts as Russia lays down clear warnings that are mostly being ignored.”

He also recently wrote the piece “Applying Tolstoy to Today’s Rush to War.”

Climate Disinformation: Ken Bone, Clinton, Trump


STEVE HORN,  stevep[at], @SteveAHorn

   Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for He recently wrote the piece “Ken Bone, Internet Sensation from Presidential Debate, Works for Coal Company Opposed to Climate Regulations.”

   He said today: “The new emails released by WikiLeaks via the Podesta files further call Hillary Clinton’s commitment to tackling the enormity of the issue that is the climate change crisis into question.

   “They show her boasting [about] what is now well-documented elsewhere: that she sold fracking around the world. They show her inner circle trying to smear her primary opponent Bernie Sanders as out of touch and not realistic for opposing fracking. They show careful political calculus for when to come out against Keystone XL, which the science of climate change shows was a no-brainer, to nix it. And they show her saying “You need to have a public position and a private position on policy,” calling almost everything she says for public consumption, including her most recent speech in Florida where she stood alongside Al Gore, into question.

     “Meanwhile, her opponent has called climate change akin to a Chinese hoax and has a climate and energy policy and transition team which includes an industry-funded think tank climate change denier, an oil/gas/coal industry lobbyist and the founder and CEO of one of the largest fracking companies in the U.S. in the form of Continental Resources’ Harold Hamm with a business stake in the hotly-contested Dakota Access Pipeline. Trump also has personal investments in Dakota Access.

   “‘Troubling’ to describe such a state of electoral affairs would be to put it far too mildly, as the lethal Hurricane Matthew ripped its way through the Caribbean and southeast U.S. and as climate change-induced record monthly global temperatures continue to pile up.”

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