Non-profit Private-run Health Plan Must Never Deny Coverage

Democrats in the United States Senate, in hopes of reaching a compromise on health reform legislation, are reported to be considering a plan that would scrap the so-called “public option” for low-cost, full-coverage health insurance, in favor of a non-profit plan that would be run by the private insurers themselves, but regulated through the Office of Personnel Management. Calls to Sen. Reid and Sen.

Lieberman’s offices suggest the plan is little more than a framework proposal and is not yet written into any specific legislative language. Sen. Reid (D-NV) offers no comment on whether he favors this plan, and Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) continues to refuse to say whether he will support healthcare reform legislation, even with this compromise included. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is said to be considering the plan, her support being necessary to get at least one Republican vote.

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Malaria Kills Millions Every Year in Africa

Malaria is one of the 21st century’s great plagues. It is responsible for anywhere from 1 to 3 million deaths per year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to eradicate the disease are mounting: in the year 2000, just 3% of children under 5, in sub-Saharan Africa, slept with mosquito nets; by 2008, that figure had risen to 56%. Aid groups now project that aggressive preventive measures can protect 100% of the population by the end of 2010 and reduce the number of deaths to near zero by 2015.

Doing so requires an aggressive and coordinated effort by governments across the region, in concert with world health experts, the UN’s WHO, aid organizations and local communities. Malaria, originally named “the bad air” because it was thought to be airborne, is actually a water and blood-borne disease, transmitted by a particular variety of mosquito. The scarcity of safe drinking water across much of the region leads to ill-advised practices like leaving whatever standing water one can find at hand for human consumption.

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Medvedev Calls for Sweeping Democratic Change in Russia

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has called for sweeping political and economic reforms, designed to make Russia a modern, advanced democratic society. In his state of the nation address, Pres. Medvedev said Russia needs to evolve from being a “primitive” economy based on raw materials and natural resources to an advanced economy based on unique innovative human knowledge.

He also said the new Russia needs to be one of “intelligent, free and responsible people”, not one where political bosses dictate policy. He said Russia’s very survival required overcoming a “humiliating dependence on oil and gas”, leaving behind the authoritarian infrastructure of Soviet-era industry and power.

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Health Reform Bill DOES NOT Dictate Treatment

One of the smears Republican opponents of heathcare reform have been pushing is the idea that the reforms passed by the House and under consideration in the Senate would “allow government bureaucrats to get between you and your doctor”, and make decisions about what treatment you can receive. In fact, this is an outright lie, put forth by interests that already do interfere with your doctor’s discretion and deny you care, for profit, and they’re pushing the lie because they don’t want people to know the bill bans any insurance provider—including the government—from dictating treatment options.

The proposed health insurance reforms DO NOT allow government bureaucrats to interfere with or scale back your care. Quite the contrary, the reforms would help ensure no one but patients and doctors make decisions about the course of treatment. In the United States, the average citizen now has far less ease of direct access to routine health treatment than in other industrialized democracies, due to insurers’ having built their business model around denial of care.

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MSF Says DR Congo Military Killed Civilians at Vaccination Clinics

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors without Borders) is accusing the military of the Democratic Republic of Congo of firing on civilians at vaccination clinics it was running. MSF goes as far as to allege it was “used” as a means of luring large numbers of civilians to 7 different locations where Congolese troops allegedly fired into the crowds, in what appears to be an attempted assault on the rebel militia Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), operating in northeastern DR Congo.

The Nobel Prize-winning charity that despatches doctors and medical staff to some of the world’s most dangerous and remote places does not lightly make such allegations, so it’s worth repeating the charge: MSF alleges the Congolese government gave it permission to provide vaccination to children at 7 different locations in order to mass civilians at those locations then deploy the military to attack the crowds.

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Berlin Commemorates Fall of Berlin Wall, 20 Years Later

The Berlin Wall separated East and West Berlin, ensuring that capitalist and democratic West Berlin remained surrounded on all sides by the communist German Democratic Republic, where a permanent state of martial law kept millions prisoner for decades. West Germany was forced to move its seat of government to Bonn, to protect against a potential hostile siege from the East German regime, strongly backed by the Soviet Union. But on 9 November 1989, a spreading movement of ground-up resistance and reform climaxed in what seemed like the sudden unraveling of an empire that covered half the continent.

The people of Berlin, on both sides of the wall, converged on the wall along the barrier between East and West Berlin —the wall had come to surround all of West Berlin— and began tearing the wall apart piece by piece. Emotional scenes of families reunited after decades of forced separation quickly spread around the world, and the bloodless revolution against totalitarian communism spread across Europe. Many who had lived in East Berlin, including foreigners who had the privilege of being able to pass through the wall to West Berlin, would later learn how closely and persistently their actions had been monitored by the Stasi, the GDR’s secret police and security forces.

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House Passes Health Bill 220 to 215

At 10:59 pm Saturday evening, a 15-minute vote was called. Members of the House were then to vote yea or nay by electronic device. By 11:01 pm, the vote was 197 to 184 and moving quickly. The vote tally will not be final until the Speaker drops the gavel to close the vote. By 11:03 pm, 36 Democrats had voted against the measure, making the special Saturday vote a case of high legislative drama.

At 11:05, there remained fully 10 Democrats not having cast their vote, with rumors that one or two Republicans might also “defect” and join the Democratic majority in voting for passage. At 11:07 pm EST, the tally of yea votes reached 218, the threshold necessary to pass the comprehensive healthcare reform bill. The voting would remain open for 15 minutes, allowing for the possibility of a change in one or more votes.

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Semenya Case Shows Complex Ethics of Fairness in Sport

Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old track-and-field phenomenon from South Africa, is a woman whose hormonal chemistry is unusual for the average adult female. Test results are reported to show that her body naturally secretes three times the normal female levels of testosterone, the dominant “male” hormone, which some competitors say gives her an “unfair advantage”.

The issue has raised perhaps the most serious challenge to the notion of fairness in sport, and to conventional attitudes about gender. For instance, should Semenya be weaker than she is, if she were “fully” female? Is that idea in itself not demeaning to women? Is there even a specific provision in international sporting regulations that requires women to be notably weaker than or slower than men?

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California Could Build Renewable Resource Export Economy

One solution for California would be the expansion of its efforts across the region and the nation, to spur the creation of a full-scale renewable resource-based power grid, to optimize both generative capacity and distribution. The question is, now that the decision has been made to shift toward renewables, how can California go beyond the 1/3 threshold and build a strong renewable-energy export economy?

Part of California’s renewables build-up process might well be, as Gov. Schwarzenegger suggests, a dynamic market in which renewable resourced energy is imported into the state. But part of California’s goal in doing this, admittedly, is to depend less on the volatility of imported energy. So there will have to be a major shift in the investment of public funds toward renewables infrastructure, within the state.

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Does Anyone Know What Capitalism Is?

Is capitalism legalized greed or an organic model of resource allocation?

Capitalism is “survival of the fittest”… capitalism is rooted in the idea of merit; everyone should be compensated according to his or her contribution (to the common good?)… capitalism is about the movement of capital; the more it moves, the richer everyone gets… capitalism is an upgraded feudalism, where the capitalist is an overseer of an abstract terrain made up of investments, not of arable lands… capitalism is democracy; the free spirit of an open society requires capitalism to support the liberties of individual citizens, and protect against government overreach… capitalism is virtue… or, capitalism is the absence of virtue…

These are just a few commonly held ideas, not all compatible with one another or with reality as we know it. Depending on point of view, we find ourselves favoring or opposing some aspect of something we call capitalism, with sometimes radical swings in the underlying reasoning of our political philosophy — we being Americans, generally. And across the world, the same questions come up time and again: one nation’s democratic marketplace, rising tide that lifts all boats, is seen from a poorer nation as an upgraded feudalism, a new age of empire.

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