Afghanistan Progress Report

Apparently the military issues a progress report on Afghanistan twice a year.  (First I’ve heard of this, but whatever.)  The latest progress report was issued a few days ago and is available online: (3 megs, PDF)

I’m still downloading it (dialup), but my understanding is that it is somewhat pessimistic.

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Qliance company ditches health insurance and offers direct affordable (conventional) care to patients

Bezos, Dell, Carey want health insurance dead
Unlikely trio pour $6 million into startup that eliminates insurance companies from primary care.

Technology trends and news by Matt Bowman
April 28, 2010 | Comments (0)
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Laughter may be the best medicine, but comedian Drew Carey is also offering cold hard cash to help solve the country’s medical woes. The host of the Price is Right has formed an unlikely triumverate with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, all of whom contributed to a $6 million funding round for Qliance Medical Management, a Seattle-based startup that hopes to disrupt the healthcare industry by taking insurance companies out of the equation for primary care. This round brings the three-year-old startup’s total funding to $13.5 million.

The company charges patients a monthly fee–$44 for minors to $84 to senior–for basic primary care that includes check ups, vaccinations, x-rays, women’s health exams and other services, according to TechFlash. No copays, no insurance premiums, no health care statements.The money goes straight to the three clinics Qliance operates in Washington State. Time that the 13 doctors and nurse practitioners on staff would normally dedicate to insurance paperwork can instead go to patients.

Members will still want insurance for catastrophic events–anything that could require surgery or other specialist care, for example, but on the whole they save money, according to Qliance. CEO Norm Wu says that about 40% of the primary care costs at traditional healthcare providers go to processing insurance claims.

About 70 employers in Washington state have signed up since the company started accepting payments directly from business and self-insured plans that couple Qliance’s offering with insurance for catastrophic events. Wu says these corporate customers achieve 20 to 50% savings.

Bezos, Carey and Dell all came in contact with the company through connections to Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist who was an early backer of Amazon. There involvement should help garner attention for the 60-person company.

One of Qliance’s clinics in downtown Seattle is operating at a profit, according to Wu, who plans to tap the buesiness acument of his new investors to help replicate that success elsewhere.

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Greece, Portugal, Spain, Euro, etc.

Greece’s debt has caused a major crisis. The stability of the euro, indeed of the EU, is being questioned, and other debt-ridden countries such as Spain and Portugal are feeling the repercussions.

Spain’s credit rating, for example, has been driven down a notch. Driven down, it is important to say, by a private firm (S&P).

Meanwhile, France and Germany (and the IMF) are putting together bailout packages for Greece. The packages will have many strings attached, probably including an old neoliberal objective – the reduction of social programs. This can be interpreted as a direct attack on one of Europe’s greatest elements.

Germany, for various reasons, is dragging its feet.

Those reasons are:
1. Angela is facing elections soon and bailing out Greece is not exactly a vote-winner.
2. Germany is primarily an export-driven economy. A weak euro is in its own best interest.
3. Angela is a neoliberal conservative, against the very concept of bailouts (unless it is for a German car company, for example).

Germany will eventually pay. But meanwhile Greece must ask for credit at increasingly expensive rates. The same will happen to the other S. European countries.

What is happening behind the scenes is making me nauseous. Much money is being made by the usual suspects – through debt speculation.

Private firms are driving up credit costs through their own, self-interested actions. Our old friends at Goldman Sachs were behind part of Greece’s original problems (GS helped Greece to fudge its books to maintain its credit rating). S. Europe’s debt crisis was largely generated under right-wing governments – parties that don’t dare to openly take away social gains, but would love to find a way to remove them because of “economic necessity”.
RW govenments, I might add, that have always been eurosceptics to a greater or lesser degree.

This is quite plainly a conspiracy, or a number of conspiracies:
1. To make lots of cash.
2. To begin, and take advantage of, the likely chain of privatizations that will be forced on S. Europe by the likes of the IMF, Sarkozy and Angela.
3. To politically weaken the EU concept.

The pity is that it will be the people of S. Europe that will suffer – a people that already were hit by a net loss in their wealth by the hidden inflation that the euro caused:

– Salaries remained the same as prices increased to EU standards.
– There was a “rounding” effect – a beer that cost 100 pesetas suddenly cost 1€ (1€=166 pesetas).
– The euro removed governments’ capacity to fine-tune their economies through monetary policy (for example, devaluating their currency).

In the end Europe might turn into another US as far as cut-throat laissez faire without a safety net is concerned.

Very troubling indeed.

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So I’ve been thinking about this whole AZ thing…

I see people calling for boycotts of AZ. Even a misguided call to boycott AZ Iced Tea, which is based in NY state. I hear complaints about racial profiling. Racial profiling is, BTW, illegal. It’s also done every day. Has been, and will probably continue, and not just in AZ. Of course there are the inevitable claims that this will hurt “this or that” party politically. Or be used to suppress the vote. Etc.

But what I haven’t really seen is anyone complaining about this:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I’ve begun to wonder if anyone actually understands what the bill of rights is for, or why those 10 amendments were included almost immediately after the constitution was signed.

Some of the framers wanted to spell out, specifically, what rights no government could touch. Ever. Under any circumstances.

The only real opposition to the idea of including specific individual rights (yes, even the 2nd), BTW, was from those who didn’t want to “limit” our rights to “just those”. The thought was that by spelling them out it could be inferred that others weren’t protected, or weren’t as important.

The framers were real big on not being told what to do.

BTW, the “tenthers” are dead wrong. States can’t over-ride the constitution. AZ, specifically, can’t over-ride the 4th no matter how “urgent” it is.

In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to the states by way of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court has also ruled that certain searches and seizures violated the Fourth Amendment even when a warrant was properly granted.

Is the 4th amendment well and truly dead, in America?

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All-Night Votes Planned For Wall Street Reform

Senate Majority Leader Harry (D-Nev.) on Wednesday upped the pressure on Republicans who are blocking debate on Wall Street reform from going forward. Shortly before the third vote this week to break a filibuster, Reid charged that it was “anti-American” to attempt to alter the bill through closed-door negotiations rather than hashing it out on the Senate floor.


“We’re rolling out the cots,” a senior Democratic leadership aide added, noting that the sergeant at arms will be instructed to require the presence of senators on the floor for “live quorum calls.” Democrats will also continuously ask for unanimous consent to move to debate on the Wall Street bill, forcing the GOP to object at all hours of the night.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

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Nation’s first offshore wind farm approved for Nantucket Sound

(CNN) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, signing off on a project that has bitterly divided Cape Cod over the last nine years.

The 130 turbines are to be located several miles from the Massachusetts shore in the iconic waters of Nantucket Sound. The interior secretary said Cape Wind, as the project is known, is the start of a “new energy frontier.”

Now if we could just walk back that off-shore drilling idea we might be onto something, here.

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Anti-Supplement Measure Slips into “Reform” Bill Passed by the House;

Anti-Supplement Measure Slips into “Reform” Bill Passed by the House; Please Take Action to Prevent Same in the Senate

Please use form letter on website to send to congress

Anti-Supplement Measure Slips into “Reform” Bill Passed by the House; Please Take Action to Prevent Same in the Senate
The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173), recently passed in the House of Representatives, includes language going far beyond finance inserted by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). This language could be used for an end run around the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the legislation that governs dietary supplement regulation by the FDA.

ANH-USA has been on alert to see how Waxman would use his chairmanship of the Energy and Commerace Committee to strike at DSHEA. He is clever tactician and we knew a covert attack was a possibility. In this case, Waxman has left DSHEA alone, and has instead inserted language in the Wall St “reform” bill that gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) important new powers that could be used to circumvent key supplement protections in DSHEA.

Specifically, the Waxman provision would return to the FTC powers that Congress had stripped away in the 1980’s because of abuses, powers to create new regulations without prior Congressional approval. We know that the FTC would like to use such powers to impose new and crippling requirements on supplement companies. For more on the FTC’s thinking on this, and why the Agency is likely to turn any new legislative authority against supplements, see our full report.

Please tell your senators not to support any amendments that give FTC unchecked power to over-regulate areas they don’t understand, including dietary supplements.

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