Reference Library – USA – New York
Last Updated Feb 19, 2017 12:53 AM EST
HONOLULU — A man in his 40s died Saturday morning after breaching a TSA security checkpoint at the Honolulu International Airport, CBS affiliate KGMB reports. Department of Transportation officials said the suspect forced his way through the exit lane of the security checkpoint and gained access to an area where ticketed passengers were waiting to board. The incident occurred around 5:45 a.m.
All of a sudden this man, a very large man, ran through the terminal and started ramming himself through the doors, reported Hawaii News Now s Mahealani Richardson. She was at the airport with her son waiting to board their plane to Molokai. He looked like he was trying to get out to the runway where the planes are. The suspect managed to make it outside to the Airport Operations Area, before he was placed in custody.
Even after he was detained, there was still a struggle and the suspect remained combative and at that point is when he became unresponsive, said Tim Sakahara, DOT spokesperson.
Sakahara told the The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that efforts to revive him were made by the Honolulu Fire Department, EMS and Airport Rescue Fire Fighters. The newspaper says the man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Sakahara says one law enforcement officer with the Securitas firm was injured and has been taken to the hospital for treatment.
Honolulu police detectives are investigating the incident.
CRITTERS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Liberal in a Red State writes WTF? Republicans just passed a law so assholes can shoot and trap hibernating bears and wolves: First off, what kind of piece of shit person do you have to be to kill bears and wolves (along with other animals) for sport and pleasure? They want to allow people on federal lands to hunt and track the last of the remaining endangered wildlife with high powered rifles, insidious traps (that are indiscriminate in what they trap and torture), shoot from helicopters, kill from ATVs and snow mobiles. And now, thanks to the GOP House vote today, these assholes can go into the dens of hibernating mother bears and mother wolves and their babies and shoot and trap them all. WHAT. THE. F*CK. I am serious. Really, what kind of piece of shit, heartless, soulless person gets their thrills killing sleeping mothers and their babies even if they are just animals. […] We have to put pressure on the Senate to stop this. I held my nose and called my two Georgia GOP Senators offices. And complained politely but passionately for this cause and several others. For Isakson I left a voicemail. For Perdue, I talked to a staffer, who was very polite, looked up the number of the bill and seemed to take down my complaints.
OceanDiver writes The Daily Bucket – very early spring color: No blooms here yet in the PNW islands. I ve been sighing over flowers and bright colors from other parts of the country lately, so I sought out what we have in the way of color up here right now, mid-February. Here s a little snapshot of what I m seeing that s colorful. Some are seasonal, while others are always around but show up more against the winter grays and dull greens of our maritime Northwest, like the madrona tree above.
Walter Einenkel writes Republicans pass bill through House repealing wildlife regulations that ended bear cub killing: Taking a page out of the grizzly-paranoid Education secretary Betsy DeVos mind, Alaska s Republican Senator Dan Sullivan and Representative Don Young have pushed for a bill that would repeal rules finalized this past summer by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Those rules include: Same day airborne hunting of bears, wolves, and wolverines; Use of traps, snares, and nets for killing bears; Killing of wolves and coyotes from May 1 to August 9; Killing of bear cubs or mothers with cubs (except for subsistence hunts where this is traditional); and Use of bait to kill brown bears. Yesterday, Rep. Young was able to get disapproval of the rule through the House and next up is the Senate. […] This is on public land, mind you, and is all a part of the Republican movement to take control over those lands in order to privatize them under the guise of doing the bidding of gun-toting Americans everywhere.
Walter Einenkel writes Republican government pulls down animal abuse database and gets shamed into doing the right thing: If you are writing a story for a film or a television show or a cartoon there are a few rules about how to quickly establish good guys and bad guys. One of the more famous rules of thumb is if you introduce a character who is nice to a puppy the audience will instantly know that that character is good. One of the other rules is never have your protagonist do something so heinous that the audience will never trust them again for example, hurting an animal. A little over a week ago, the Republican Party and the Trump administration tested this tried and true theory. A leading U.S. animal advocacy group on Monday threatened to sue the federal government after the Agriculture Department suddenly pulled “invaluable” information from its website regarding animal welfare at thousands of facilities across the country. The Humane Society of the United States sent a letter to the Justice Department, saying the group would pursue legal action if the Agriculture Department did not reverse its recent decision to discontinue a search tool that made inspection records and violations at animal facilities publicly accessible.
Besame writes Daily Bucket: rescuing endangered bunnies from a flood: Heavy winter rains in California are a welcome respite from drought, but also troublesome. Leaking reservoir threats, landslides, and flooded roadways throughout the state are severe enough to be declared a federal disaster. The intense rainfall has even affected bunnies who live only in riparian habitat. Riparian bush rabbits are flooded out of their homes in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (SJRNWR) in the southern portion of California s Central Valley. And the refuge staff is busy finding and rescuing the endangered bush rabbits stranded amidst the flood.The small cottontail rabbit lives in riparian oak forests with a dense understory of wild roses, grapes and blackberries. They stay within a few feet of cover in their small home ranges. A decade ago, refuge staff built up high refugia bunny mounds within the floodplain and planted shrubs on high levees for rabbits to wait out floods. The SJRNWR has 35 mounds and 8 miles of vegetated levees but still some bunnies are trapped by flood waters and unable to reach high grounds. Spotting the rabbits isn t easy.
ban nock writes New York Times Goes Trophy Sheep Hunting: Last week the New York Times had a long form article by an award winning sports writer on Bighorn Sheep Hunting. The NYT is an unusual place to read an unbiased account of such a thing. As with many other forms of hunting, sheep hunting is directly responsible for the conservation of the various wild sheep of North America. There are few wild sheep, even after years of conservation, all that s needed to kill a carefully nurtured herd if for a sheep rancher to keep sheep in close proximity to their wild cousins and disease often decimates the wild herd down to extirpation. […] Sheep habitat is in rocky steep terrain with good visibility. They like to see predators a long way off and have places where they can easily escape. There are many such places in the western United States, unfortunately it s hard to establish new sheep populations in areas of good habitat. Sheep need to be captured and relocated. That s where obsessed sheep hunters come in.
6412093 writes The Daily Bucket–Emergency Repairs Open Damaged Spillway, Avert Flooding of Frog Mitigation Area: The heavy rains continued in Northwest Oregon. The golf course where I work was closed 3 weeks already this year. It never closed before, in 20 years. I m trying to pave a path in my backyard. But the paver stones interrupt the stormwater flows and the flooding water backs up towards my house. I built an underdrain beneath the pavers, and the water flowed rapidly through it, but not rapidly enough.
John Crapper writes Rethinking the Daily Kos Focus – Open Letter to Kos: The stated overall goal of this site as defined by you Markos is to elect more and better Democrats. That is a laudable goal but I m going to argue it s time for a rethinking and adjustment. There is a crisis afoot in the world that needs our focus and attention. It is not incompatible with the current goal of this site. That crisis is climate change. With the election results we just had in 2016 it is more imperative than ever to give this issue the attention it deserves. I m going to argue in this post it is time to adjust the Daily Kos overall mission to that of electing more and better Democratic Climate Hawks. Personally I d prefer removing the Democratic label and just say Daily Kos is about electing more and better Climate Hawks, after all climate change is a bipartisan issue, but that is probably asking too much.
JC78 writes Will geoengineering be necessary? [W]hile I am heartened by the increasing utilization of renewables, I am somewhat fearful to the apparent increasing rate of climate change occurring. So a question to well-read environmental Kossacks out there: given the factors already mentioned, as well as the pace of cultural acceptance that there is a problem, and the speed of legislative acknowledgment of it, do you think that we will need to use geoengineering to avoid the worst effects? And does that answer change depending on the type of geoengineering employed? Note that for the various factors, I m thinking globally, not just the US.
DarkSyde writes Polar ice reaching alarming low levels at both ends of the Earth: Sea and land ice at both poles crept toward alarming seasonal lows this week. Freak heat waves in the high Arctic have kept ice from forming at the usual winter rate, and now summer down under is taking its toll on the world s largest ice sheets: Sea ice in the Antarctic is at its lowest level since records began while the Arctic is on track for another historic new low. According to figures from the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), sea ice in the Antarctic covered just 2.3 million square kilometres on 12 February compared to the average between 1981 and 2010 of more than three million on that day. Warmer temperatures do more than directly melt the ice and feed runaway polar amplification of global warming. More energy in the surface troposphere, the part of the atmosphere we and just about everything else lives in, means more wind, faster evaporations and sublimation, leading to bigger weather systems and storms. The precise activity that further stirs and helps break up icy formations, especially tongues and large shelves of ice floating on top sea of polar seas.
jkozma writes Complexity, conspiracy and climate change: While searching for an online copy of Dr. Lucky’s column, I came across another recent article from IEEE Spectrum, interesting albeit disheartening, Congress to Curtail Methane Monitoring. It may be a stretch, but I see a connection with the above discussion: Global warming… is not a moving issue for Republican leaders or President Donald Trump, who reject the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. What moves them are complaints from industries that burdensome regulations unnecessarily hinder job growth and in the case of methane rules domestic oil and gas output. Regulations can be harmful or helpful, and their effect on jobs shouldn’t be the only measure of their value, but if simplicity is your only guide, deregulation wins every time. Even if Trump himself does not, many in his base believe unequivocally his assertion that global warming is a hoax.
OCEANS, WATER, DROUGHT
Dan Bacher writes Trump administration exempts three CA oil fields from water protection rule at Jerry Brown’s request: As soon as I heard on election night that Donald Trump was going to be the next President, I predicted on Twitter, Facebook and in conversations with friends that Governor Jerry Brown, in spite of his gree image, would try to make a deal with Trump to build his legacy project, the environmentally destructive Delta Tunnels, and expand fracking and other oil drilling in California. Sure enough, Jerry Brown has been working hard since the election to pressure Trump to support the Delta Tunnels, going so far as to praise Trump s infrastructure plans in his state of the state. Departing from his prepared remarks, Brown remarked, I say, Amen to that, Brother! in reference to Trump s focus on new infrastructure. (www.dailykos.com/…) Then this week, we discovered that the administration of Brown s so-called Brother, Donald Trump, has granted requests from Brown s regulators to exempt three aquifers near the Fruitvale, Round Mountain and Tejon oilfields in California s Kern County from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Dan Bacher writes Disaster Declaration for Hoopa Valley Tribe Approved, Tribes Win Legal Victory for Salmon: On February 14, President Donald Trump declared a major disaster exists for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, located on the Trinity River in Northern California, and ordered Federal aid to supplement the Tribe s recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe winter storm from January 3 to January 5, 2017. […] The disaster declaration comes in the wake of major legal victory against the federal government by the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen s Associations (PCFFA), Institute for Fisheries Resources, and the Klamath Riverkeeper. On February 8, a U.S. District Court judge ordered federal agencies to immediately take steps to protect juvenile coho salmon after several years of deadly disease outbreaks in the Klamath River. Klamath River coho salmon are listed as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. These fish are central to the cultural identity and survival of Tribes along the river, and commercial fishermen rely on California s second largest salmon producer for their livelihoods.
CANDIDATES, STATE AND DC ECO-RELATED POLITICS
Mark Sumner writes Democrats scramble to delay Pruitt vote … as McConnell quashes every effort: A judge in Oklahoma has ordered that thousands of letters between EPA nominee Scott Pruitt and fossil fuel companies, letters long hidden by Pruitt s office, be made public starting next Tuesday. The Senate is in recess next week, so delaying the Friday vote on Pruitt until the following Monday would literally take nothing from the Senate s calendar. But it s not going to happen. Republicans are pushing Pruitt s vote through on Friday, so that it can be held before any of the letters are available. In the Senate chamber on Friday morning, Sen. Jeff Merkley rose to request that the vote be delayed until all the letters were released. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made sure he was present in the nearly empty Senate chamber, and the Kentucky Republican objected to the request. Sen. Merkley then asked to move the vote to the next morning that the Senate is in session. Literally the only difference this would make would be allowing senators to see some of the letters from Pruitt s time as Oklahoma attorney general before they vote. McConnell objected.
Mark Sumner writes EPA employees put jobs on the line as Republicans try to force Pruitt vote in advance of evidence: Almost from the moment that Scott Pruitt was named as Trump s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, employees of the EPA have been risking their careers to object. Nearly 450 former Environmental Protection Agency employees Monday urged Congress to reject President Trump s nominee to run the agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, even as current employees in Chicago sent the same message during a noon rally.
And with Pruitt s vote scheduled for Friday evening, they re still at it.
Meteor Blades writes Executive orders come Friday as EPA braces for impact: Reuters reports that staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency were told in a Tuesday meeting to prepare for a few executive orders Friday from Pr*sident Trump, who seeks to reshape the agency. A senior EPA official who briefed employees said to expect two to five such orders. No specific topics were mentioned. A range of possibilities exists from modest to draconian. For instance, one is likely to forbid the EPA from overruling federal and state regulatory/permit decisions unless in clear violation of established law. At best, the orders will weaken or attempt to weaken the agency s rule-making and enforcement powers. […] The orders are dedicated to wounding or wrecking the 47-year-old agency, but in addition to these orders, a panoply of other approaches is also underway, either to demolish or profoundly damage the EPA.
Michael Brune writes Unfit to Serve at EPA: The news this week was full of reports about how former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied to his bosses, his colleagues, and the American people. In his resignation letter, Flynn wrote that he had provided incomplete information about his dealings with Russia. Then, in his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Flynn was asked to resign due to eroding trust in his ability to do the job. Incomplete information and eroding trust are perfect descriptors of another one of this president s picks: the just-confirmed new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt. […] During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt misled, failed to answer, and stonewalled Congress about his political fundraising practices and refused to disclose just how cozy he is with the oil and gas industry. When asked during his confirmation hearing whether he had ever solicited funds from fossil fuel companies, Pruitt claimed he was unable to remember. Sure enough, though, plenty of correspondence proves that he did exactly that.
Mary Anne Hitt writes We Will Resist Scott Pruitt and Keep Fighting for Clean Air and Water: Scott Pruitt is the most controversial and dangerous EPA chief ever. He will start work next week with a dark cloud of opposition and contention over his head. So now what? We continue the resistance! We hold accountable those senators who voted for Pruitt s confirmation. We fight back in court. We talk to our friends and get them involved when Pruitt attempts to rollback our bedrock air, water, and climate protections. Here are some specific things you can do right away: 1. Show up a the town hall meetings your Members of Congress are holding next week during the Congressional recess, February 20 – 24, and demand they push the EPA and Pruitt to not bow to the coal, oil, and gas industry. You can find the town hall meetings near you in this spreadsheet created by the Town Hall Project 2018. […[
Colby A writes An Ode to Black-Hearted Scott Pruitt, like a Dark Tone Poem: I m new, and know I’m supposed to talk up the good stuff, like Michael Brune and Bill McKibben and the Millions in Marches that have been #resisting. And I do. But Is there a more carnival-barker looking rat-faced con man anywhere to be found? This guy has the looks and the mien of a guy who couldn’t even pass muster as a bad used-car salesman. Pruitt resists freedom of information requests and is a sock-puppet for the fossil fuel industry. He scampered around his confirmation hearings with the guilty, furtive glances and carriage of a man who doesn’t want anyone to look into his briefcase or his soul — for fear of being jailed immediately for what is revealed. This guy is emblematic of this administration’s favored dark, black-hearted enabler trampling on the public good for his own and his destructive special-interested financiers’ own best interests.
ClimateDenierRoundup writes Senate Debates and Likely Confirms Pruitt for EPA Admin. Next Up, Red Queen for Head of Neurology: A little over two months after the Walrus nominated the Carpenter to disassemble the EPA, it looks like finally, the time has come. Barring something truly frabjous, the Senate will confirm Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the agency he has sued 14 times. His nom comes despite the fact that he appears to have lied under oath about his (lack of) action as Oklahoma Attorney General to fight pollution. Suffice to say that the oysters of the EPA, generally happy as clams to fight pollution, are none too pleased about new leadership. Nearly 800 former EPA employees signed a letter to the Senate in opposition to Pruitt and are otherwise protesting and calling their senators. In addition to rolling back regulations to safeguard the sea becoming boiling hot (okay maybe not literally boiling, but perhaps oxygen-less ), what else are they worried about?
pauciscerebri writes The First of Many Massive Environmental Rollbacks Under Trump-Ryan-McConnell Is Now Complete: Today Trump signed into law a fasted-tracked legislative disapproval of a Clean Water Act regulation called the Stream Protection Rule intended to limit harm to waterways and water quality from activities like inundating streams with rock and gravel debris from mountaintop removal mining. From Bloomberg s story about today s signing. The Interior Department, which spent seven years crafting the rule, had said the regulation, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, primarily in Appalachia. It is meant to stop the practice of dumping mining waste in streams and valleys during mountaintop mining. They estimated compliance with the regulation would cost $81 million a year, or 0.1 percent or less of aggregate annual industry revenues, it said.
Joieau writes Fukushima #2 Kills the Scorpion: Ongoing efforts to find what’s left of the missing core of unit-2 at the Daiichi nuclear facility have been making some news this month on remote control and robotic approaches to the round inner-containment pedestal ‘room’ directly beneath the vessel, that houses the control rod drives. In our last installment, the RC “cleaner” robot tasked with chipping off enough hardened corium lava from the metal grate catwalk to the CRD entry to allow the IRID robot ‘Scorpion’ to get much closer to a 2-meter diameter melt hole in the grating in order to get accurate radiation readings and photos of what’s underneath and how far down it is. Useful information in the lingering questions about where, exactly, the bulk of corium resulting from total meltdowns of units 1, 2 and 3 at the facility in 2011 went. Overnight Wednesday Scorpion made its entry. It relayed some images and video, and apparently made it as far as the hole, and was able to confirm the same kind of damage to the inside-the-pedestal CRD grating as well. Which makes entry to the pedestal proper at the CRD level impossible with robots that can’t fly. TEPCO did not report how long Scorpion was able to function in the unfriendly containment environment before it met its untimely end.
Pipelines & Other Oil and Gas Transport
rebel ga writes Feb. 15 – Standing Rock Sioux vs. Energy Transfer in House Committee Hearing: It s fascinating to watch respective witnesses, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Councilman getting 6 minutes and STEM-teacher/mom getting abruptly cut-off after 6 minutes, in their opening statements to House Energy & Commerce Committee (Subcmte. On Energy) Hearing Wednesday this week (slide forward video to 2:53:50 run to 3:05:50) No, the pipeline is not finished, the water protectors are not beaten. Yes, the Practical fight and Prayerful fight at Standing rock continues in full vigor. In the video (5:03:00 thru 5:13:39) you can see how for-real the fight is in the terse 10 minutes of exchanges between Congressman Markwayne Mullin [R-OK-2], the Witness Councilman and Congressman Raul Ruiz [D-CA-36].
AGRICULTURE , FOOD & GARDENING
AngryChihuahua writes The Seeds of Resistance: We are experiencing the birth of The Resistance, continuing the struggle of the freedom fighters and revolutionaries that came before us. We have a legacy to protect. We are tending the garden of democracy’s history. Planting our own seedlings while nurturing those we inherited. Protecting those in bloom when the elements turn hostile. There stands the tree of liberty first watered with tea brewed in Boston harbor and the blood of patriots. Rugged and weathered the trunk scarred from attacks with bullets and blades, blistered by fire, losing branches in violent storms, enduring the rare brutal winter when it seemed the sun would never return and still it’s roots push deeper and spread farther. Walk through the old grove of the abolitionists tended carefully and often in secret until it could no longer be contained. Mahogany and ebony are thick here along with Douglas firs and a garrison of beech trees. White pines and poplars with branches from which once hung strange fruit. These are rough, knotty and gnarled, pocked from cannon ball and musket shot.
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
Walter Einenkel writes About 56,000 bridges in the United States are ‘structurally deficient’: Almost 56,000 bridges are structurally deficient, says American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%. Democrats have called Donald Trump and his Republican Party s bluff about infrastructure projects, offering up a serious 10-year trillion-dollar plan.
- ^ WTF? Republicans just passed a law so assholes can shoot and trap hibernating bears and wolves (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ The Daily Bucket – very early spring color (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Republicans pass bill through House repealing wildlife regulations that ended bear cub killing (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ grizzly-paranoid Education secretary (wildernesswatch.salsalabs.org)
- ^ Those rules include: (wildernesswatch.salsalabs.org)
- ^ Republican movement to take control over those lands in order to privatize t (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Republican government pulls down animal abuse database and gets shamed into doing the right thing (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Republican Party and the Trump administration tested this tried and true theory (time.com)
- ^ suddenly pulled (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Humane Society of the United States (blog.humanesociety.org)
- ^ Daily Bucket: rescuing endangered bunnies from a flood (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ declared a federal disaster (www.latimes.com)
- ^ endangered bush rabbits (www.fws.gov)
- ^ New York Times Goes Trophy Sheep Hunting (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Bighorn Sheep Hunting (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ The Daily Bucket–Emergency Repairs Open Damaged Spillway, Avert Flooding of Frog Mitigation Area (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Rethinking the Daily Kos Focus – Open Letter to Kos (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Will geoengineering be necessary? (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Polar ice reaching alarming low levels at both ends of the Earth (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ have kept ice (weather.com)
- ^ world s largest ice sheets (www.independent.co.uk)
- ^ runaway polar amplification (thinkprogress.org)
- ^ Complexity, conspiracy and climate change (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Congress to Curtail Methane Monitoring (spectrum.ieee.org)
- ^ harmful or helpful (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ shouldn’t be the only measure of their value (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Trump himself does not (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Trump administration exempts three CA oil fields from water protection rule at Jerry Brown’s request (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ www.dailykos.com/… (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Disaster Declaration for Hoopa Valley Tribe Approved, Tribes Win Legal Victory for Salmon (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Democrats scramble to delay Pruitt vote … as McConnell quashes every effort (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ EPA employees put jobs on the line as Republicans try to force Pruitt vote in advance of evidence (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ object. (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ still at it. (mobile.nytimes.com)
- ^ Executive orders come Friday as EPA braces for impact (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ reports (www.reuters.com)
- ^ Unfit to Serve at EPA (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ We Will Resist Scott Pruitt and Keep Fighting for Clean Air and Water (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Town Hall Project 2018 (docs.google.com)
- ^ An Ode to Black-Hearted Scott Pruitt, like a Dark Tone Poem (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Senate Debates and Likely Confirms Pruitt for EPA Admin. Next Up, Red Queen for Head of Neurology (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ frabjous (theweek.com)
- ^ appears to have lied under oath (fusion.net)
- ^ clams to fight pollution (www.capecodtimes.com)
- ^ Nearly 800 former EPA employees (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ otherwise protesting (insideclimatenews.org)
- ^ calling their senators (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ perhaps oxygen-less (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ The First of Many Massive Environmental Rollbacks Under Trump-Ryan-McConnell Is Now Complete (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Bloomberg s story (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ Fukushima #2 Kills the Scorpion (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ In our last installment (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Scorpion made its entry (www.fukuleaks.org)
- ^ it met its untimely end (www.fukuleaks.org)
- ^ Feb. 15 – Standing Rock Sioux vs. Energy Transfer in House Committee Hearing (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ video to 2:53:50 (democrats-energycommerce.house.gov)
- ^ Mullin [R-OK-2], the Witness Councilman and Congressman Raul Ruiz [D-CA-36]. (democrats-energycommerce.house.gov)
- ^ The Seeds of Resistance (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ Saturday Morning Garden Blog: February 2009-2016 (www.dailykos.com)
- ^ About 56,000 bridges in the United States are ‘structurally deficient’ (About%2056,000%20bridges%20in%20the%20United%20States%20are%20’structurally%20deficient’)
- ^ American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). (www.usatoday.com)
- ^ 10-year trillion-dollar plan (www.dailykos.com)
THOUSAND OAKS, California Maryann Hammers is likely to die from ovarian cancer someday. But she hopes someday won t come anytime soon.
Hammers, 61, received the diagnosis in late 2013, and doctors told her that it was stage 3-C, which meant that she could live for many years with the right treatment and a little luck. So far, she s had both. She s in remission for the second time, and her last course of chemotherapy ended a year and a half ago. But recent blood tests detected elevated levels of a protein associated with tumors, she explained when we met a few weeks ago. Maybe it s a fluke, she said. I hope so. I kinda feel like the clock is ticking.
If the cancer is back, Hammers said, she may need surgery similar to her two previous operations gigantic surgeries, gutted like a fish and hospitalized for many days. Chemotherapy would likely come next, plus medication, hospitalization, and home care. But Hammers considers herself lucky because she s been able to get treatment at City of Hope, a highly respected Southern California cancer research and treatment center, and luckier still that she s been able to pay for the treatment with insurance an Anthem Blue Cross policy she bought through Covered California, the exchange her state created under the Affordable Care Act.
To hear President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans tell it, Obamacare has been a disaster, even for those who obtained coverage through the law. Hammers has a very different perspective. She s a freelance writer and editor, which means she has no employer-provided insurance. In the old days, if she d gone shopping for a policy with her cancer diagnosis, she would have struggled to find a carrier willing to sell her one.
I’m terrified. … Do you know how easy it is to use a million dollars when you’re getting cancer treatment? Maryann Hammers, Thousand Oaks, California
And it s not just the pre-existing condition guarantee, which even critics like Trump say they support, that Hammers has found so valuable. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover a wide range of services and treatments which, in her case, has included multiple shots of Neulasta, a medication that boosts white blood cell counts and typically costs several thousand dollars per injection. The law also prohibits annual or lifetime limits on benefits, which, as a long-term cancer patient, she would be a prime candidate to exceed.
Policies with such robust coverage inevitably cost thousands of dollars a year, more than Hammers could afford on her own particularly since battling the disease has cut into her work hours. But the law s generous tax credits discount the premiums and help with the out-of-pocket costs, too. Without the Affordable Care Act, I honestly do not know what I would have done, she said.
The coverage Hammers has today still isn t as good as what she had years ago, when she worked for a company that provided benefits. But it s better than what she had in the years right before the cancer diagnosis, when she was buying insurance on her own. The latter plan covered fewer services and came with out-of-pocket costs high enough to discourage her from getting checkups. Obamacare s introduction of free preventive screenings led her to schedule a long-overdue colonoscopy. During routine preparation for that procedure, a physician first felt a lump in her abdomen.
Sometimes Hammers wonders whether, with less sporadic doctor visits, the cancer might have been caught a little sooner. But I couldn t afford a fat doctor s bill. And I thought I was super healthy.
These days, something else looms even larger in her mind the possibility that Trump and the Republican Congress will repeal the health care law without an adequate replacement, or maybe with no replacement at all.
I m terrified isn t that crazy? Hammers said. My biggest source of stress right now isn t the fact that I have incurable cancer. It s the prospect of losing my insurance.
What American Health Care Used To Look Like
To appreciate the significance of stories like Hammers and what they say about the Affordable Care Act, it helps to remember what used to happen to people like her before the law took effect. By 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, roughly 1 in 6 Americans had no health care insurance, and even the insured could still face crippling medical bills. As a reporter covering health care during those years, I met these people. Some of their stories stand out, even now, because they capture the old system at its callous, capricious worst.
Gary Rotzler, a quality engineer at a defense contractor in upstate New York, lost his family coverage in the early 1990s when he lost his job. He ended up uninsured for two years, while he juggled stints as an independent contractor. His wife, Betsy, made do without doctor visits even after she started feeling some strange pains. By the time she got a checkup, she had advanced breast cancer. Desperate efforts at treatment failed. After she died, Gary, a father of three, had to declare bankruptcy because of all the unpaid medical bills.
Jacqueline Ruess, a widow in south Florida, thought she was insured. But then she needed expensive tests when her physicians suspected she had cancer. Although the tests were negative, the insurer refused to pay the bills because, it said, a brief episode of a routine gynecological problem in her past qualified as a pre-existing condition.
And Russ Doren, a schoolteacher in a Denver suburb, believed he had good insurance until the bills for his wife s inpatient treatment at a psychiatric hospital hit the limit for mental health coverage. The hospital released her, despite worries that she was not ready. A few days later, she took her own life.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was an effort to address these kinds of problems to carry on the crusade for universal coverage that Harry Truman had launched some 60 years before. But precisely because Obama and his allies were determined to succeed where predecessors had failed, they made a series of concessions that necessarily limited the law s ambition.
They expanded Medicaid and regulated private insurance rather than start a whole new government-run program. They dialed back demands for lower prices from drugmakers, hospitals and other health care industries. And they agreed to tight budget constraints for the program as a whole, rather than risk a revolt among more conservative Democrats. These decisions meant that health insurance would ultimately be more expensive and the new system s financial assistance would be less generous.
Still, projections showed that the law would bring coverage to millions while giving policymakers tools they could use to reduce medical costs over time. When the Senate passed its version of the legislation in December 2009, then-Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) described the program as a starter home with a solid foundation and room for expansion.
Where Obamacare Failed And Where It Succeeded
Seven years later, Trump and the Affordable Care Act s other critics insist that the program has been a boondoggle that the Obamacare starter home needs demolition. Some of their objections are philosophical, and some, like the persistent belief that the law set up death panels, are fantastical. But others focus on the law s actual consequences.
High on that list of consequences are the higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs that some people face. The new rules, like coverage of pre-existing conditions, have made policies more expensive, and Obamacare s financial aid frequently doesn t offset the increases. A rate shock wave hit suddenly in the fall of 2013, when insurers unveiled their newly upgraded plans and in many cases canceled old ones infuriating customers who remembered Obama s promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it, while alienating even some of those sympathetic to what Obama and the Democrats were trying to do.
I ve interviewed plenty of these people, too. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Faisuly Scheurer, a real estate agent from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. She and her husband, who works in the restaurant business, were excited about the health care law because they d struggled to find decent, affordable insurance. They make about $60,000 a year, before taxes, with two kids and college tuition looming in the not-distant future, she said.
In late 2013, they checked out their options and learned that, after tax credits, coverage would cost $360 a month. Scheurer said she remembers thinking, OK, that is really tight. But if the benefits are good, we are going to have to skimp on other things to make it work. Then she learned about the out-of-pocket costs, which could reach $13,000 over the course of a year depending on her family s medical needs. My disappointment was indescribable.
The Scheurer family ultimately decided to remain uninsured. They re not the only ones, and that has weakened the system as a whole. The people eschewing coverage tend to be relatively healthy, since they re most willing to take the risk of no coverage. That s created big problems for insurers, which need the premiums from healthy folks to offset the high medical bills of people with serious conditions.
Many insurers have reacted by raising premiums or pulling out of some places entirely, leaving dysfunctional markets in North Carolina and a handful of other states. Just this week, Humana, which had already scaled back its offerings, announced that it was pulling out of the Affordable Care Act exchanges altogether. At least for the moment, 16 counties in Tennessee don t have a single insurer committed to offering coverage in 2018.
Trump, Ryan and other Republicans pounced on the Humana news, citing it as more proof of a failed system and the need for repeal. That s pretty typical of how the political conversation about the Affordable Care Act has proceeded for the last seven years. The focus is on everything that s gone wrong with Obamacare, with scant attention to what s gone right.
And yet the list of what s gone right is long.
In states like California and Michigan, the newly regulated markets appear to be working as the law s architects intended, except for some rural areas that insurers have never served that well. Middle-class people in those states have better, more affordable options.
It looks like more insurers are figuring out how to make their products work and how to successfully compete for business. Customers have turned out to be more price-sensitive than insurers originally anticipated. In general, the carriers that struggle are large national companies without much experience selling directly to consumers, rather than through employers.
Last year s big premium increases followed two years in which average premiums were far below projections, a sign that carriers simply started their pricing too low. Even now, on average, the premiums people pay for exchange insurance are on a par with, or even a bit cheaper than, equivalent employer policies and that s before the tax credits.
The majority of people who are buying insurance on their own or get their coverage through Medicaid are satisfied with it, according to separate surveys by the Commonwealth Fund and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The level of satisfaction with the new coverage still trails that involving employer-provided insurance, and it has declined over time. But it s clearly in positive territory
And then there s the fact that the number of people without health insurance is the lowest that government or private surveys have ever recorded. When confronted with questions about the people who gained coverage because of the law, Republicans often say something about sparing those people from disruption and then argue that even those who obtained insurance through the law are suffering and no better off. This claim is wildly inconsistent with the experience of people like Maryann Hammers and, more important, it s wildly inconsistent with the best available research.
HuffPost Infographic: Alissa Scheller
People are struggling less with medical bills, have easier access to primary care and medication, and report that they re in better health, according to a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015. The number of people forgoing care because of costs or being very worried about paying for a catastrophic medical bill dropped substantially among the newly insured, Kaiser Foundation researchers found last year when they focused on people in California.
A bunch of other studies have turned up similar evidence, All of them concur with a landmark report on the effects of Massachusetts 2006 insurance expansion, which was a prototype for the national legislation. Residents of that state experienced better health outcomes and less financial stress, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Though it s had no shortage of controversies and stumbles, there s really no denying that the ACA has created historic gains in insurance coverage, said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Foundation. With better coverage that has fewer holes, access to health care has improved and many have better protection from crushing medical bills.
What Repeal Would Really Mean
Reasonable people can disagree about whether these achievements justify Obamacare s costs, which include not only higher premiums for the young and healthy but also hefty new taxes on the wealthiest Americans. That s a debate about values and priorities as much as facts.
What s not in dispute, or shouldn t be, is the stark choice on the political agenda right now.
Democratic lawmakers still argue for the principle that Truman laid out in 1948: health security for all, regardless of residence, station, or race. They think the Affordable Care Act means the U.S. is closer to that goal and that the next step should be to bolster the law by using government power to force down the price of drugs, hospital services and other forms of medical care, while providing more generous government assistance to people who still find premiums and out-of-pocket costs too onerous. Basically, they want people like Faisuly Scheurer to end up with the same security that people like Maryann Hammers already have.
Some Republicans talk as if they share these goals. Trump has probably been the most outspoken on this point, promising to deliver great health care at lower cost and vowing that everybody would be covered. But other Republicans reject the whole concept of health care as a right. Although it s theoretically possible to draw up a conservative health plan that would improve access and affordability, these aren t the kinds of plans that Republicans have in mind.
There s a face to this law, there s a face to people that are going to be affected by it. Angela Eilers, Yorba Linda, California
Their schemes envision substantially less government spending on health care, which would mean lower taxes for the wealthy but also less financial assistance for everybody else. Republicans would make insurance cheaper, but only by allowing it to cover fewer services and saddling beneficiaries with even higher out-of-pocket costs. The result would be some mix of more exposure to medical bills and more people without coverage. If Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it a real possibility, given profound divisions within the GOP over how to craft a plan 32 million more people could go uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That would mean real suffering, primarily among those Americans who benefit most from the law now the ones with serious medical problems, or too little income to pay for insurance on their own, or both.
Jay Stout, a 20-year-old in Wilmington, North Carolina, is one of those people. He was in good health until a head-on car collision nearly severed his arm and landed him in the hospital for more than a month. Surgeries and rehabilitation would have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars that, as a community college student working part-time as a busboy, he could never have paid if not for the Blue Cross plan that his mother had bought through the Affordable Care Act. When we spoke a few weeks ago, he told me the insurance has been irreplaceable and that losing it would be totally devastating.
Meenakshi Bewtra had never had a serious health problem until her first year at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, when she developed severe gastrointestinal problems the kind that forced her into the hospital for two months and drove her to drop out of school. Her insurance lapsed, which meant that her GI issues became a pre-existing condition. She eventually found coverage and today she s a professor of medicine at Penn, where she moonlights as an advocate for universal health insurance.
For the first time, I truly understood what comprehensive health insurance meant, Bewtra said, remembering what it was like to become fully covered. I did not have to worry about how many times I saw a doctor, or how many lab tests I had to get, or having to ration out medications.
Angela Eilers, who lives in Yorba Linda, California, isn t worrying about her own health. It s her daughter Myka who has a congenital heart condition called pulmonary stenosis, which makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood to the lungs. The little girl has required multiple surgeries and will need intensive medical treatment throughout her childhood. In 2012, Angela s husband, Todd, was laid off from his job at an investment firm. Since going without insurance was not an option, they took advantage of COBRA to stay on his old company s health plan. It was expensive, and Eilers recalled panicking over the possibility they might not be able to pay the premiums. I remember sitting at the table, thinking of plans. What would be our plan? One of them was giving up our parents rights to my mom, because she has really good health insurance.
Eventually her husband started his own consulting business, and that gave them the income to keep up with premiums until 2014 when they were able to obtain coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Today they have a gold plan, one of the most generous available, for which they pay around $20,000 a year. Even though they make too much to qualify for financial assistance, they re grateful for the coverage. Seven-year-old Myka has already run up more than a half-million dollars in medical bills. In the old days, before Obamacare, they would have worried about hitting their plan s lifetime limit on benefits.
The family s coverage has become more expensive over the years. They wish the price were lower, but they re also not complaining about that. I m thankful that the letter was a premium hike, rather than Sorry, we are not going to cover your daughter anymore, Angela Eilers said.
When she thinks about the possibility of Obamacare repeal, she wonders if Trump and the Republicans understand what that would really mean. There s a face to this law, there s a face to people that are going to be affected by it, Eilers said. It s not me, it s not him, it s her. She s only 7. And through no fault of her own, why should she suffer? And she s not the only one.
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- ^ Affordable Care Act (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ Donald Trump (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ Paul Ryan (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ Gary Rotzler (www.newsweek.com)
- ^ Jacqueline Ruess (www.self.com)
- ^ Tony Montenegro (www.amazon.com)
- ^ Marijon Binder (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Russ Doren (www.amazon.com)
- ^ Harry Truman (www.trumanlibrary.org)
- ^ starter home (newrepublic.com)
- ^ death panels (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ Humana (www.modernhealthcare.com)
- ^ states (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ California (www.latimes.com)
- ^ Michigan (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ appear to (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ be working (www.huffingtonpost.com)
- ^ figuring out (www.nejm.org)
- ^ their products work (www.cnbc.com)
- ^ too low (www.brookings.edu)
- ^ equivalent employer policies (www.urban.org)
- ^ Commonwealth Fund (www.commonwealthfund.org)
- ^ Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (kff.org)
- ^ lowest (twitter.com)
- ^ confronted with questions (www.latimes.com)
- ^ Journal of the American Medical Association (jamanetwork.com)
- ^ Kaiser Foundation researchers (kff.org)
- ^ bunch (www.commonwealthfund.org)
- ^ other (annals.org)
- ^ studies (www.nber.org)
- ^ turned (jamanetwork.com)
- ^ similar (content.healthaffairs.org)
- ^ evidence (content.healthaffairs.org)
- ^ Annals of Internal Medicine (annals.org)
- ^ Truman laid out (www.trumanlibrary.org)
- ^ Congressional Budget Office (www.cbo.gov)
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