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Health, Science & Environment

Passenger Trains: Our Hope for a More Sustainable Future

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  • President Obama's proposal to spend $50 billion on transportation infrastructure—including 4,000 miles of rail lines—couldn't be a better expenditure of our federal tax dollars.
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  • American-made streetcars: Portland company rebuilds lost industry
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Olga Bonfiglio, Common Dreams

President Obama's proposal to spend $50 billion on transportation infrastructure—including 4,000 miles of rail lines—couldn't be a better expenditure of our federal tax dollars.

After spending two days on the Empire Builder, the long-haul Amtrak line from Chicago to Seattle/Portland, I quickly realized that our investment in trains should be readily and heartily embraced.  And, if more Americans were to take such trips, I’m sure they, too, would choose trains as an alternative mode of travel.

Amtrak staff was courteous and responsive to passengers, a bit quirky as train people can be, but absolutely delightful while we all traveled the miles and hours together across the country. Riding the train, especially on an overnight, was romantic and adventurous and we kept to our schedule despite the numerous times we had to yield to freight trains.

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American-made streetcars: Portland company rebuilds lost industry, Jacob Wheeler, People's World

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  • More than 65 U.S. cities are currently looking into implementing streetcars. Portland, though, is leading the way in public transportation.
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  • Minneapolis City Council keeps streetcars on track
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Experts question BP's take on Gulf oil spill

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  • BP's lead investigator acknowledged that the company's probe had limitations.
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  • Regret, apology not part of BP's oil spill report
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Dina Cappiello, Associated Press/MSNBC

Engineering experts probing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill exposed holes in BP's internal investigation as the company was questioned Sunday for the first time in public about its findings.

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BP's lead investigator acknowledged that the company's probe had limitations.

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Mark Bly, head of safety and operations for BP PLC, told a National Academy of Engineering committee that a lack of physical evidence and interviews with employees from other companies limited BP's study.

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The internal team only looked at the immediate cause of the April disaster, which killed 11 workers and unleashed 206 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

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"It is clear that you could go further into the analysis," said Bly, who said the investigation was geared to discovering things that BP could address in the short term. "This does not represent a complete penetration into potentially deeper issues."

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Regret, apology not part of BP's oil spill report, Dina Cappiello, Associated Press

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  • But it does provide an early look at the company's probable legal strategy — spreading the blame among itself, rig owner Transocean, and cement contractor Halliburton — as it deals with hundreds of lawsuits, billions of dollars in claims and possible criminal charges in the coming months and years.
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  • Regulatory Capture Of Oil Drilling Agency Exposed In Report
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Health Care: The Disquieting Truth

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  • Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest to Understand Health Care 
by John E. Wennberg
Oxford University Press, 319 pp., $29.95
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  • Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it
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Arnold Relman, New York Review of Books

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Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Will Shapira

Joely Richardson and Dylan Walsh in the television series Nip/Tuck Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection

Most experts agree that the central problem with the US health care system is its high cost. We can’t afford universal coverage unless there is much better control of medical expenditures, which are now reaching over $2.5 trillion per year. What’s more, without effective control of health costs the federal budget deficit and the national debt will continue to increase.

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Nevertheless, our political leaders have decided to expand and improve insurance coverage first, while deferring any serious attention to costs. Moreover, as I will discuss in the second part of this review, the book by John E. Wennberg demonstrates that in many parts of the US, costs are driven up by an excessive supply of medical services.

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In March, after more than a year of bitterly partisan congressional debate, a narrow majority of exclusively Democratic lawmakers passed the most extensive health care reform since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted forty-five years ago. As described by Jonathan Oberlander and Theodore Marmor in these pages, the main thrust of this extensive legislation is to provide federal aid for mandatory expansion of coverage by Medicaid and by private insurance plans, and to expand benefits under Medicare. It has also been promoted by its sponsors as a measure to control costs, but it is not. Oberlander and Marmor make very clear that there is little reason to expect it will do much in the near future to control the relentless rise in health expenditures—a task that must wait for future reforms.

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Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it, E. Thomas McClanahan, Kansas City Star | KS

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  • Threat from Sebelius defies economic reality
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  • Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance
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Summary: Health Care Reform: Week of September 26

4 New Items including:

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  • 10 Major New Health Reform Benefits Take Effect Today (Sep 23)
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  • Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it
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David Culver, ed., Evergreene Digest

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Leroy Wright

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5 key health reforms you need to know, Constance Gustke, Bankrate.com
Highlights
•    Changes that do away with limits on lifetime caps can prevent bankruptcy.
•    There are welcome reform changes for kids with pre-existing conditions.
•    Some price increases are likely: Free preventive care can increase costs.

10 Major New Health Reform Benefits Take Effect Today (Sep 23), Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT), Huffington Post

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  • Major new health reform benefits take effect today to help keep health insurance companies accountable, lower health care costs, guarantee more health care choices, and enhance the quality of health care for all Americans.
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  • Starting today, insurers will be required to:
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Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it, E. Thomas McClanahan, Kansas City Star | KS

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  • Threat from Sebelius defies economic reality
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  • Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance
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Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance, Carol M. Ostrom, Seattle Times | WA
Double-digit rate increases are hitting most individual health-insurance plans in Washington state, hurting jobless workers and worrying insurance regulators.

The Corporate Fascists Are Coming For Our Food Supply And They Must Be Stopped

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S. 510, the so-called Food Safety Modernization Act, is very bad news and must be stopped.
Stop S. 510 Action Page

The Pen

In the aftermath of the massive recent Salmonella in eggs recall it is clear that 100 percent of the real problems with our food safety are the giant factory farms, where animals spend their entire wretched lives wallowing in their own filth in claustrophobic conditions. These CAFOs (we call them Concentrated Animal Filth Operations) are just mega breeding grounds for bacteria and deadly new viruses that end up not just in animal products but spread to
vegetable fields and even our water supply.

We need a scalpel, and a large one, to cut to the heart of these problems, but not a huge blunderbuss of a shotgun loaded with random bird shot. We need to keep onerous new bureaucratic regulation from driving out of business the small operations that are the bed rock of our real food supply safety. And most of all we don't need another
food czar who is just a corporate crony to wave through a massive invasion of genetically modified crops and animals and call it food safety modernization.

S. 510 is just a huge corporate takeover of our entire food supply, to our health detriment, and must be stopped at all costs.

This is just another example of why we need to break the death grip that corporate special interests now have around the throats of our wise public policy.

Stop S. 510 Action Page

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Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

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