Monday, February 25, 2013

ANS -- Two Articles about Food: Dear Mr. Adams, there are things we don't talk about in the natural products industry… and The Bogus Case Against Junk Food

Here are two articles about food.  the first is from someone into "natural food" who is shocked to learn that "organic" food products from China aren't really organic.  the second is a snarky article from the other side -- funny, but condescendingly making fun of people who care about what's in our food.  I thought the contrast between the two was interesting.  At least scan the two of them if you don't want to read the whole articles -- the snarky one is pretty short (not much real info). 
Find them here:   
and here:  

Dear Mr. Adams, there are things we don't talk about in the natural products industry…

[] Friday, February 22, 2013
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of (See all articles...)
4,074 34
[]   [] []
(NaturalNews) "Dear Mr. Adams, there are things we don't talk about in the natural products industry..." Such began a message sent to me by the founder of a nutritional products company. It was sent in reaction to my posting of my " organic China fraud" article that questioned the legitimacy of organic certification for foods and superfoods grown in China.

This article has sent shockwaves through the natural products industry, an industry that has its own "dirty little secrets" that no one dare talk about.

For over a decade, I passionately promoted this industry, advocating superfoods like chlorella and spirulina, all while companies selling the products raked in hundreds of millions dollars in profit off the publicity we helped generate here at Natural News. I helped educate tens of millions of people about superfoods, micro-algae, nutritional supplements and natural cures, and all the while, I never made a single dollar on this editorial promotion of the industry. (And I was happy with that. This was never about profit.)

Natural News helped make millionaires by promoting their products and publicizing their names. We helped publicize companies that were later sold off for tens of millions of dollars. And we did it gladly, happily, believing that we were advocating the healthiest, cleanest foods on Earth for our readers.

And then something appeared on my radar. In late 2012, I oversaw the process of getting organically certified for packing and handling organic food. I helped source organic raw materials to be offered in the Natural News Store. And in this process, I was shocked to discover that organic standards utterly lack any limits on heavy metals contamination of "organic" products.

It's true: A product can be USDA certified organic and still be heavily contaminated with mercury. Don't believe me? Check around. It's the truth. (Virtually no one knows this, and nobody talks about it. Even I didn't know this until recently.)

But the real kicker is when I learned that a huge portion of "organic" foods, superfoods and raw materials are sourced from China. Why does this matter? Because as we showed in our previous article, China is arguably the worst-polluted country on the planet that's producing a large quantity of "organic" products.

And as we found out in laboratory tests on one particular superfood (chlorella), the "organic" product coming out of China that we tested had nearly ten times the contamination of the "organic" product from Taiwan. And the cleanest product we tested wasn't certified organic at all.

Hidden GMO flow agents in conventional products from China

In the process of sourcing raw materials such as freeze-dried fruit powders, we also learned -- shockingly -- that the vast majority of conventional fruit and vegetable powders coming out of China are cut with hidden flow agents which aren't even listed on the label. The No. 1 flow agent? Maltodextrin derived from genetically modified corn.

Some people are telling me that I shouldn't be talking about these things publicly. These "secrets" of the industry are what allow everybody to make money, and if I want to make money, I was told, I should essentially "shut up" and play along with the rest of the industry. Keep selling "organic" products grown in China and laced with heavy metals. Don't talk about hidden flow agents from GM corn. Don't talk about the fact that the USDA organic certification process allows essentially unlimited levels of mercury contamination. I'm supposed to shut up and stop making waves.

Well shame on the rest of you for knowing all this and covering it up. The public has a right to know the truth about what they're eating. Wasn't that the whole point of the GMO labeling campaign in California? We have the right to know?

I think we have the right to know what's in certified organic products.

I believe we have the right to know. And if that makes me unpopular across certain segments of the natural products industry, then so be it. If it means I don't make much money because I can't buy super-cheap "organic" products from China and mark them up 600% at retail, then so be it. I'd much rather tell the truth and raise awareness than play along with a insider secrets that only serve the industry, not the customer. I'd rather sell NOTHING than sell something containing unacceptably high levels of metals and other contaminants.

(And, for the record, EVERYTHING is contaminated at some level. Everything has at least part per billion of mercury in it. Nearly all food contains aluminum, even up to 190ppm. There is no such thing as 100% free of all contaminants. This is a question of the LEVELS of contaminants. How can we minimize these things?)

I'm in good company with these concerns, by the way: other companies like Nature's Path are far more concerned with integrity and quality than pure profit. That's the category we're in here at Natural News: If we can't offer something that's the cleanest available, I won't offer it at all.

And when I see deception in the industry, YES, I'm going to write about it. I'm not covering up for other people's dirty laundry. I'm not "playing ball" with a big cover-up. If I see something fishy in the industry, I'm going to write about it. More importantly (see below), I'm going to push for the industry to clean up its act and improve its transparency so that customers know what they're eating. If I don't do it, it's only a matter of time before the mainstream media covers it in a far more destructive investigative report.

Organic from China hurts U.S. and Canadian organic farmers

Another big angle on all this that nobody seems to want to acknowledge is that North American organic growers have been economically decimated by cheap, frequently-contaminated "organic" food production in China.

A typical U.S. farmer is buried under regulatory compliance. They have to fill out seemingly endless piles of paperwork for the FDA and the EPA. They can't simply bribe their way out of this like you can in China. In the USA and Canada, you actually have to comply.

For those reasons, organic foods, superfoods and supplements grown in the USA are 300% - 400% more expensive than those produced in China. When natural produce formulators in the USA buy raw ingredients from China instead of from U.S. farmers, they shift agricultural jobs to China and hurt U.S. and Canadian farmers by putting them out of business.

No wonder I received so many words of thanks from U.S. organic farmers after they read my previous article. One of them said, "We hope your article encourages more people to consider sourcing organic materials domestically." And that's exactly the point. While the USA isn't perfect and still has its own environmental pollution problems, it is orders of magnitude cleaner than China, where the environment has been turned into a national toilet where all the factories flush their chemicals, pesticides and metals. Remember: Rivers in China are so polluted that you would DIE if you swam in them.

Environmental regulations are far more strictly enforced in the USA, Canada and across most of Europe. Plus, corruption is much more difficult in these countries: You can't easily bribe regulators to ignore your pollution. But in China, bribing regulators is routine. It's a cultural habit. That's how big polluters keep on polluting. It's why 90% of the groundwater in China's cities is toxic, and it's why 40% of the country's rivers are "seriously polluted."

So an organic product produced on a farm in the USA, or Canada, or France is consistently going to be far cleaner than an organic product produced in China. While there may be rare exceptions to this rule, the truth of this observation is undeniable. Nobody has told me I was wrong in my facts on all this. They old told me to stop talking about it.

Buying from China isn't buying local

We all talk about "buying local", so then why do so many companies source their raw materials from China? That's the other side of the planet. How more non-local can you possibly get?

Sure, for some superfoods like goji berries, China has the best product and there's really nowhere else that compares. (For the record, there are several different "grades" of goji berries grown in China. The ones grown at high altitude in clean environments have very low levels of pesticides and are more expensive. The cheaper, low-grade goji berries, on the other hand, tend to be more contaminated.) If you want the best cacao, you have to go to South America. There's no way around that. But for things like pomegranate powder, why aren't more companies buying that in the USA? The same is true for broccoli powder, barley grass powder, oat grass powder, brown rice extracts and so on.

The answer is because it's often only about PRICE. China is cheaper, and that's all that matters. So they buy from China, and often it gets "certified" organic by a certifier in China, and we all just blindly believe that because it's certified, it must be free of metals, chemicals and pharmaceutical residues. But that's a lie. It's the BIG LIE of the natural products industry, in fact. And it's a lie that I refuse to cover for.

Another dirty little secret, by the way, is that some products are grown in the USA, then shipped to china and processed with toxic chemical solvents, then shipped back to the USA. I'll write more about that little scam in a future article...

We need to clean up our industry

I've already received word that several superfood formulators, after reading my article, are re-formulating to exclude all ingredients from China. They are actively sourcing materials from the USA, Canada, South America and Europe. And when they're done reformulating, they will be able to claim "100% China-free" on their labels.

I am committing right now to publicizing those products that are China-free. I have no financial interest in doing so, and I will list them here on Natural News for free, in a feature article, even if we don't carry those products in our store.

I want to help promote products that support clean organics; that are made from ingredients sourced in North America, Europe, Taiwan and other countries with far better environmental standards.

And so that's my promise. I will need to see the C of A's on these products, but if I receive those and they check out, I will gladly offer those products and those companies free publicity on Natural News as part of an article listing all the "China-free" products in the industyr.

This is a big deal. The article I published on organics out of China caused far more of a stir than I expected it would. Consumers are calling their suppliers and asking about the country of origin of the primary ingredients. This is a good thing. Consumers have a right to know. Supplement formulators have a responsibility to know what they're selling. They have a responsibility to conduct their own lab tests on materials from China and to publicize those lab tests. And even though some of those companies are angry at myself and Natural News right now, this is actually a very important conversation for the natural products industry to have.

Because, God forbid, can you imagine somebody like CBS News or TIME Magazine getting a hold of this story first? I can just see the cover of TIME Magazine: "ORGANIC DISCREDITED" and then feature a column by Dr. Oz (who already attacked organics in a previous issue) saying that lab tests show "organic" products are contaminated with heavy metals -- but without explaining that they selected only "organic" products from China to conduct the tests.

They would exploit this information to discredit the entire industry. And that would be a huge mistake because the organic industry is the best thing going for all of us who want clean, healthy food. That's why I'm pushing for this industry to clean up its act. Disclose the country of origin for your ingredients. If you buy from China, publish lab tests that test your raw materials for metals. Honor your customers by disclosing this information!

We are funding ongoing lab tests for ALL our raw materials, even if sourced from the USA. Our tests will show levels of aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic. The results will be posted publicly as they are available. My goal is to have full transparency with our customers, so that they know as accurately as possible what's in the things they're buying from us. Personally, I think that should be a common industry practice. Honest labeling. But the reason it isn't done very often is because formulators and retailers don't want the public to know!

Does that sound familiar? It's the Monsanto strategy. And yes, the Monsanto strategy of "keep customers ignorant" is alive and well in the natural products industry right now. And it's got to stop. Natural News is going to continue to bring pressure to the entire industry to disclose the lab test results of their products.

How are we doing that? We are buying and testing popular nutritional products, and we are going to publicize the results. Some results will be good; others will be bad. We're going to publicize them all and let the numbers speak for themselves. I do NOT intend to name brand names, as it is not my intention to embarrass any particular brand. Instead, my intention is to motivate the industry to clean up its act by publishing trends and observations of what's out there.

Threats of lawsuits against Natural News for blowing the whistle will be met with us publicizing all such threats and naming names, however. Anyone who tries to silence Natural News in this research for the public good will be exposed as attempting to do so.

ACTION items for organic product consumers

• ASK your product suppliers whether they use raw materials from China.

• If they do, ASK for U.S. laboratory testing of their raw materials, and ask to see the results.

• SEEK to buy from formulators who avoid using raw materials from China, where possible.

• CHECK the country of origin of everything you buy. It matters.

ACTION items for organic product formulators

• If you do source ingredients from China, test them for common contaminants, then publicize your test results so your customers can see them.

• If you don't source any ingredients from China. Let your customers know! Publicize "100% China-free" on your website or label. Or say, "No ingredients sourced from China."

• If you are 100% China-free, let Natural News know! We would like to start listing those brands and companies that are consciously avoiding materials sourced from China.

Learn more:


The Bogus Case Against Junk Food

Anti-food nannies launch their latest attack.

A. Barton Hinkle | February 25, 2013
A recent cover story in The New York Times Magazine offers a shocking exposé of Big Food. In granular detail it relates the food conglomerates' "hyper-engineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for 'stomach share.'" If you don't have the time to slog through the nearly 10,000 words, though, here's the big news in this shocking, horrifying, and incredibly alarming story.



You might want to sit down for this.

All set?

Here it is: Food companies work very, very hard to find out what will give you, the consumer, the most pleasure for your money­and then the diabolical fiends actually give it to you!

Seriously, you are supposed to be absolutely horrified by this. You can tell by the ominous language the author, Michael Moss, employs to describe how "food engineers alter a litany of variables with the sole intent of"­brace yourself­"finding the most perfect version" of a product. The most perfect version, of course, is the one that will "be most attractive to consumers." (The horror.) The piece even quotes one food-company executive who describes the strategy: "Discover what consumers want to buy and give it to them with both barrels."

This is hardly a new theme in the progressive press. You can read dozens of variations on it, if you care to. "How the Food Industry Is Enabling the United States' Obesity Epidemic" (ThinkProgress); "Snacks for a Fat Planet" (The New Yorker); "Can Big Food Kick Its Obesity Habit? Does It Really Want To?" (NPR); "How the Food Makers Capture Our Brains" (The New York Times, again).

Some of this is simply good, old-fashioned muckraking. Progressives love nothing better than to uncover a diabolical plot by corporate fat cats seeking to further engorge themselves by destroying the lives of the helpless and unsuspecting­preferably children, or perhaps simple but cinematically attractive small-town folk with hearts of gold. (Packaged food isn't the only industry with a formula.)

What makes it funny in the food case is the root of the objection: the voluntary relationship between the supplier and the consumer. Customers want certain things, and companies do their utmost to provide them. The Times Magazine piece feebly tries to suggest something much darker is going on, by repeating the word "addiction" (even though it's not warranted) and by noting "the body's fragile controls on overeating." Not to mention the "savage" marketing. (Go ahead and laugh, it's OK.)

But mostly it's about how food companies do a lot of research on things such as the perfect break point for a potato chip: Like Goldilocks and her preference for mattresses, people want chips that are not too hard and not too soft.

Somehow, progressives have concluded that striving to satisfy consumer preferences is a sneaky, underhanded thing to do, and therefore wrong. Private corporations, many progressives seem to believe, should not be trying to entice you to buy their commercial products by making those products extremely attractive.

Which, when you think about it, is hilarious.

Why? Because progressives have no compunction whatsoever about using the coercive power of the state to make you buy a commercial product whether you want it or not. Just eight months ago, progressives were whooping and high-fiving over the Supreme Court's ruling that the federal government can force you to buy health insurance. Now they're going to war again over the government's power to make religious institutions buy contraception coverage. Indeed, the principal progressive project for the past several decades has been to supplant the voluntary and consensual arrangements of the free market with involuntary and coercive arrangements imposed by government.

One possible comeback, of course, is that people who choose freely often choose things that are bad for them (e.g., potato chips and cola), whereas progressives only want what's best for people. That seems to be New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's justification for banning large sodas, for instance. But using force to impose things that are good for people is wrong, most progressives say­at least when it comes to foreign policy.

Throughout the Bush years, large numbers of progressives railed against the use of coercive military power to achieve desirable ends, such as the spread of democracy. It was the height of imperialist arrogance, they said, to try to force American values on the rest of the world. In a 2008 piece in The Nation about Barack Obama's foreign policy, Robert Dreyfuss observed that "U.S. involvement abroad, even when well-intentioned, is perceived on the receiving end as heavy-handed meddling." (U.S. involvement at home is often perceived the same way.) Piece after piece on the left lamented American "bullying" and advocated instead "soft power"­trying to persuade those abroad to see things our way through diplomacy and attraction.

Yet when it comes to ordering the American public about, hard-power bullying apparently is not only perfectly fine, it is considerably more preferable than soft-power techniques such as, oh, making food taste good­which is just plain wrong. To paraphrase a certain businessman, many progressives seem to believe it is better to decide what consumers would want, if they weren't such drooling idiots­and then give it to them with both barrels.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

ANS -- Can We Revolutionize Agriculture Without 'Science'?

this is about some method of intensive gardening.  Apparently it works, but the "scientific" community thinks it doesn't.  What's going on?  I suspect the "scientific" community is the one that makes money off of GMOs and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 
Find it here:   

Beth Hoffman  

Beth Hoffman, Contributor

I write about the changing food system.

2/22/2013 @ 10:59AM |1,360 views

Can We Revolutionize Agriculture Without 'Science'?

Beth Hoffman
3 comments, 1 called-out
Comment Now


Farmers in Orissa, India created a play about the benefits of SRI and perform it for neighboring villages. Photo by author.

Henri de Laulanie arrived in Madagascar from France in 1961 as a 40 year old Jesuit priest assigned to the local mission. There he found one of the poorest populations on earth, and an environment quickly degrading as hungry farmers tried desperately to cultivate rice in the eroding soil.

Armed with a degree in agriculture, he spent the next 30+ years of his life working with farmers to establish a series of protocols for growing rice. And in the process, Fr. de Laulanie set in motion possibly one of the most important, and most controversial, advances in modern agriculture.

As its name implies, a System of Rice Intensification is a "system" – a set of practices which include using less seed, water and fertilizer to grow more rice with less inputs and, therefore, cost.

Yet the controversy, and arguably the strength, of SRI is in its lack of "science." The International Rice Research Institute  (IRRI) and prominent rice scientists say it is at best a "methodology" with some of the individual practices long promoted by researchers.  Other parts of the "system," they say, run directly counter to well established scientifically proven best practices.  Little peer reviewed evidence exists regarding SRI, opponents say, and researchers have had difficulty replicating the results found in the field.

In fact, Thomas Sinclair, a plant physiologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, dismissed SRI completely in 2004 in an article he wrote in Rice Today.

Discussion of the system of rice intensification (SRI) is unfortunate because it implies SRI merits serious consideration. SRI does not deserve such attention.

But even without the help of the most powerful players in rice, SRI has spread around the world like a long, slow burning fire.  For years, farmers watched local test fields or pioneering neighbors use the strange methods before adopting SRI themselves.  And slowly, as they saw yields rise and costs diminish, they adopted the practices themselves. Today, an estimated 4 to 5 million farmers in 51 countries around the world use it in whole or part, and are seeing yield increases of up to 200 percent.

In fact, farmers in Bihar, India recently broke records for the world's highest rice yields using SRI techniques ( recently reported on by John Vidal of the Guardian), and others in the village used the same principles to grow record amounts of wheat and potatoes.  Farmers in Goa last year found they spent 70 percent less on seed with SRI to grow up to twice as much rice.   And because less water is used in to grow rice with SRI, studies now show both the land and the rice grown with SRI has less incidence of arsenic contamination and paddies release less methane – two huge issues in rice cultivation world wide.

So the question is: "science" or no science, with 70 percent of poor people in developing countries dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, and nearly half the world's population eating rice as a daily staple, shouldn't we promote environmentally friendly, inexpensive options for higher yields?  Why is the focus of "science" on the more expensive, product-based outcomes like genetically modified seeds and chemical pesticides?


Saturday, February 23, 2013

ANS -- Healthcare Isn't A Free Market, It's A Giant Economic Scam

this is an article about an article.  If, like me, you don't want to read the really long, scholarly, article -- read this one.  It's about health care economic abuses that are common in our current system.
Find it here:    
One of our readers posted it to Facebook.


by Mike Masnick

Fri, Feb 22nd 2013 10:58am

Filed Under:
billing, charities, economics, free market, healthcare, hospitals, non-profits


Healthcare Isn't A Free Market, It's A Giant Economic Scam

from the destroying-us-all dept

Not long ago, someone I know who had no medical insurance, but who had some serious medical issues, ended up in the hospital for a few weeks. Some procedures needed to be done, but nothing that most people would consider too "drastic." Eventually, the bills showed up, and they were in the range of half a million dollars, for someone who did not have anything close to that. You hear stories about crazy medical bills, but what very few people realize is that the reality of hospital bills can often be orders of magnitude more crazy than what most people expect. Just last week, a friend of mine posted the following image to Facebook, noting that when his normal medical insurance billing statement has room for seven digits (i.e., millions of dollars) something is clearly screwed up.
A few years back, the folks at Planet Money tried to dig in and demystify some of the secrets of medical bills, but that only scratched the surface.

Stephen Brill has a very long, but absolutely gripping, detailed analysis of the insanity of medical billing for Time Magazine. It's a truly astounding piece, that hopefully will open many people's eyes. It will take a while, but find some time to read it, just to get a sense of how totally screwed up the entire system is. I've been working on some other stories about some really sketchy activity on the pharmaceutical side of things, but this article really shines a light on the disgusting underbelly of the healthcare system. As Brill notes, so much of the debate about healthcare is really focused on "but who will pay for these things." But what it tends to ignore is why are the prices absolutely insane.
When medical care becomes a matter of life and death, the money demanded by the health care ecosystem reaches a wholly different order of magnitude, churning out reams of bills to people who can't focus on them, let alone pay them. Soon after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2011, a patient whom I will call Steven D. and his wife Alice knew that they were only buying time. The crushing question was, How much is time really worth? As Alice, who makes about $40,000 a year running a child-care center in her home, explained, "[Steven] kept saying he wanted every last minute he could get, no matter what. But I had to be thinking about the cost and how all this debt would leave me and my daughter." By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family's first bill ­ for $348,000 ­ which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton's facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work. Alice responded to my question about the obvious overcharges on the bill for items like the diabetes-test strips or the gauze pads much as Mrs. Lincoln, according to the famous joke, might have had she been asked what she thought of the play. "Are you kidding?" she said. "I'm dealing with a husband who had just been told he has Stage IV cancer. That's all I can focus on … You think I looked at the items on the bills? I just looked at the total."

If we want a real fix to the mounting costs of healthcare (which are a massive drain on the economy), we need to start there. Unfortunately, those who are making out like bandits from this system have tremendous political clout, and they have no interest in letting the easy money go away.

Throughout the piece, Brill repeatedly discusses the "chargemaster," which is basically the internal price list at every hospital, which has no basis in reality whatsoever, but which the poorest patients, and those without insurance, or with limited insurance, are often hit over the head with. Throughout the article, Brill details over and over and over again how hospital administrators and spokespeople all refused to address the chargemaster at all, constantly blowing it off as no big deal, because so few people actually pay the list price. But they completely ignore a bunch of points, including that some patients are charged upfront for these things, and no one is ever told that the prices are negotiable, even though they all are.

What you see is a system where supposedly "non-profit" and "charitable" institutions are raking in massive profits -- while still begging the public for donations, and suggesting that any effort to reign in costs would put people at risk by cutting back on necessary hospital services. At times, these statements are so obviously bullshit, that it's really sickening.
In December, when the New York Times ran a story about how a deficit deal might threaten hospital payments, Steven Safyer, chief executive of Montefiore Medical Center, a large nonprofit hospital system in the Bronx, complained, "There is no such thing as a cut to a provider that isn't a cut to a beneficiary … This is not crying wolf."

Actually, Safyer seems to be crying wolf to the tune of about $196.8 million, according to the hospital's latest publicly available tax return. That was his hospital's operating profit, according to its 2010 return. With $2.586 billion in revenue ­ of which 99.4% came from patient bills and 0.6% from fundraising events and other charitable contributions ­ Safyer's business is more than six times as large as that of the Bronx's most famous enterprise, the New York Yankees. Surely, without cutting services to beneficiaries, Safyer could cut what have to be some of the Bronx's better non-Yankee salaries: his own, which was $4,065,000, or those of his chief financial officer ($3,243,000), his executive vice president ($2,220,000) or the head of his dental department ($1,798,000).

Sometimes these stories make you wonder if some of these "charitable" organizations deserve to be called charities at all:
Mercy Hospital is owned by an organization under the umbrella of the Catholic Church called Sisters of Mercy. Its mission, as described in its latest filing with the IRS as a tax-exempt charity, is "to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus by promoting health and wellness.".... The overall chain had $4.28 billion in revenue that year. Its hospital in Springfield, Mo. (pop. 160,660), had $880.7 million in revenue and an operating profit of $319 million, according to its federal filing. The incomes of the parent company's executives appear on other IRS filings covering various interlocking Mercy nonprofit corporate entities. Mercy president and CEO Lynn Britton made $1,930,000, and an executive vice president, Myra Aubuchon, was paid $3.7 million, according to the Mercy filing. In all, seven Mercy Health executives were paid more than $1 million each. A note at the end of an Ernst & Young audit that is attached to Mercy's IRS filing reported that the chain provided charity care worth 3.2% of its revenue in the previous year. However, the auditors state that the value of that care is based on the charges on all the bills, not the actual cost to Mercy of providing those services ­ in other words, the chargemaster value. Assuming that Mercy's actual costs are a tenth of these chargemaster values ­ they're probably less ­ all of this charity care actually cost Mercy about three-tenths of 1% of its revenue, or about $13 million out of $4.28 billion.

While I actually think it's a bit of a cheap shot to repeatedly show CEO salaries, the real issue is how these hospitals can ratchet up the prices with no basis in reality, simply because they know they can do so. Even if they recognize most people don't pay those fees, they still send such bills out there, which creates a tremendous amount of stress.

The stories of obvious overcharging fill the piece and demonstrate a key point in all of this. For all the talk about "free market" healthcare, nothing in our healthcare system is anything resembling a free market. You have truly "captive" customers with almost no price elasticity, combined with a system whereby it's rare for the buyers to actually be the ones "paying." If you were to design the most fucked up economic experiment ever, this might be it. And you can see the results.
Steve H.'s bill for his day at Mercy contained all the usual and customary overcharges. One item was "MARKER SKIN REG TIP RULER" for $3. That's the marking pen, presumably reusable, that marked the place on Steve H.'s back where the incision was to go. Six lines down, there was "STRAP OR TABLE 8X27 IN" for $31. That's the strap used to hold Steve H. onto the operating table. Just below that was "BLNKT WARM UPPER BDY 42268" for $32. That's a blanket used to keep surgery patients warm. It is, of course, reusable, and it's available new on eBay for $13. Four lines down there's "GOWN SURG ULTRA XLG 95121" for $39, which is the gown the surgeon wore. Thirty of them can be bought online for $180. Neither Medicare nor any large insurance company would pay a hospital separately for those straps or the surgeon's gown; that's all supposed to come with the facility fee paid to the hospital, which in this case was $6,289.

Or how about this one:
His bill ­ which included not only the aggressively marked-up charge of $13,702 for the Rituxan cancer drug but also the usual array of chargemaster fees for basics like generic Tylenol, blood tests and simple supplies ­ had one item not found on any other bill I examined: MD Anderson's charge of $7 each for "ALCOHOL PREP PAD." This is a little square of cotton used to apply alcohol to an injection. A box of 200 can be bought online for $1.91.

The article is chock full of these kinds of stories. They're not anomalies, nor are they extreme outlier cases. They happen quite frequently. It's standard operating procedure. And, contrary to what most people think, these things don't just apply to those who are without insurance. While insurance may protect against some of these situations, often people discover that their insurance doesn't cover nearly as much as they expected (in part because they never think that bills could possibly be so high. And, while some hospitals are more open to forgiving massive debt for those who are poor, when those who thought they were comfortably in the middle class suddenly realize they may owe hundreds of thousands of dollars unexpectedly, the hospitals are a lot less sympathetic.

Not surprisingly, nearly every hospital that Brill tried to speak to about all this refused to talk about it. Sometimes they gave completely bogus excuses, such as claiming that it's "against the law" to discuss why they charge massive markups on basic items:
Wright said the hospital's lawyers had decided that discussing Steve H.'s bill would violate the federal HIPAA law protecting the privacy of patient medical records. I pointed out that I wanted to ask questions only about the hospital's charges for standard items ­ such as surgical gowns, basic blood tests, blanket warmers and even medical devices ­ that had nothing to do with individual patients. "Everything is particular to an individual patient's needs," she replied. Even a surgical gown? "Yes, even a surgical gown. We cannot discuss this with you. It's against the law." She declined to put me in touch with the hospital's lawyers to discuss their legal analysis.

In one case where he finally got an administrator to speak about the chargemaster rates, the answers were astounding, and either completely mendacious or disconnected from reality (I'm not sure which one is scarier).
"We think the chargemaster is totally fair," says William Gedge, senior vice president of payer relations at Yale New Haven Health System. "It's fair because everyone gets the same bill. Even Medicare gets exactly the same charges that this patient got. Of course, we will have different arrangements for how Medicare or an insurance company will not pay some of the charges or discount the charges, but everyone starts from the same place." Asked how the chargemaster charge for an item like the troponin test was calculated, Gedge said he "didn't know exactly" but would try to find out. He subsequently reported back that "it's an historical charge, which takes into account all of our costs for running the hospital."

It's fair because we charge absolutely everyone insane amounts that have no basis in reality, and which we mark up ridiculously -- and then we offer discounts to many, but certainly not all patients. This answer is bullshit. Not everyone starts from the same place, but even if we grant that ridiculous claim, having everyone start at insane prices doesn't make it fair. It still makes it a giant scam.

And, of course, the hospitals know they're getting away with all sorts of crap here. Even when they're talking about things like Medicare, where the government is the "buyer," the situation is crazy. While the hospitals, pharma companies and others complain that government supported healthcare artificially deflates revenue and limits their ability to provide patient care, the article goes into a fair bit of detail about how that's hogwash, and the hospitals (and doctors) are massively profiting off of the taxpayer -- sometimes in completely cynical ways.
"One of the benefits attending physicians get from many hospitals is the opportunity to cruise the halls and go into a Medicare patient's room and rack up a few dollars," says a doctor who has worked at several hospitals across the country. "In some places it's a Monday-morning tradition. You go see the people who came in over the weekend. There's always an ostensible reason, but there's also a lot of abuse."

If you know even the slightest bit about basic economics, the deeper you look at this system, the more and more you realize how insane it is. Nearly every single incentive is skewed, often dangerously so. The system is more or less designed to be abused, while making it increasingly difficult for people to get reasonable care. I'd argue that it may be worse than if you asked a bunch of economists to design the worst possible system of incentives.

And we're more or less stuck with it. For all the debate and the fight over reform, the reform package we got really did next to nothing to address any of these kinds of underlying issues. And this has nothing to do with silly claims of whether or not it's "socialist". The entire healthcare system, before and after the recent health reform, does not resemble anything even remotely close to a free market system. And, while there are some who argue that healthcare itself shouldn't be subjected to free market forces, but rather towards what provides the best care, it's not like the system is designed to match up with that belief either.

The system is completely broken. In researching other aspects of the system, I'd already come to the conclusion that it should be scrapped entirely, with something completely different put in its place, but this article just helps take that belief to another level. And, the scary thing is that the chances of that happening are basically zero. We're stuck with this system, in part because the economic incentives are screwed up so much that it's ripe for widespread abuse. And when you have so many billions of dollars flowing, with a small group of folks profiting massively from that, there's simply no chance they'll allow for any real changes.

And, the really scary thing is that the bits I've talked about here really only scratch the surface of Brill's overall article. And, his article really only touches on one part of the problem. It is a key part of the problem, but it's still just one part. And each of the other parts tend to look equally insane when you start digging deeper. We are in the middle of the most horrifying economic experiment ever constructed with our healthcare system, and it's only impacting almost everyone's lives. Oh yeah, and there's no real interest in taking on the actual problems.

ANS -- Inequality Is Much Worse Than You Think

here's a really good explanation of what happens in economies when you unregulate.  It's stuff we mostly already knew, but it explains it really well.  Read it.  It's fairly short. 
the article was found by one of our readers. 
Find it here:  

Les Leopold

Les Leopold

Author, "How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour" (Wiley 2013)

Inequality Is Much Worse Than You Think

Posted: 02/07/2013 12:06 pm

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•In 2010, the top hedge fund manager earned as much in one HOUR as the average (median) family earned in 47 YEARS.

•The top 25 hedge fund managers in 2010 earned as much as 658,000 entry level teachers.

•In 1970 the top 100 CEOs made $40 for every dollar earned by the average worker. By 2006, the CEOs received $1,723 for every worker dollar.

As the administration and Congress argue over cuts in social programs, inequality in America grows more extreme each day. Even the great financial crash didn't derail this trend. The richest 400 Americans, for example, increased their wealth by 54 percent between 2005 and 2010, while the median middle-class family saw its wealth decline by 35 percent.

None of this is accidental.

It's not the result of mysterious global forces, or technology, or China, or structural problems concerning the skills and education of our workforce. Rather, it is the direct result of policy choices made by Democrats and Republicans alike. Together, they swallowed the Kool-Aid of unregulated market mania, and now we are paying the price.

In exploring this story for my new book, How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America's Wealth , it became clear that New Deal policy makers shared a deep fear that democratic capitalism could not function unless Wall Street was tightly controlled. After all, Europe was sinking into the fascist camp while the new Soviet Union seemed invulnerable to the global depression. As a result, to put it crudely, the New Dealers quickly regulated the hell out of high finance through a myriad of programs including the formation of the S.E.C and Glass-Steagall. The goal was to turn Wall Street into a sleepy place to work, rather than an adrenalin-fueled arena of stock manipulation and fraud. At the same time income tax rates on the wealthy sky-rocketed with top marginal rates reaching over 90 percent. The results were nothing short of stupendous.

•For more than a quarter of a century there were no financial crises anywhere in the globe (except Brazil in 1964).

•The average wage in the financial sector collapsed so that its compensation was similar to the average wage of non-financial jobs.

•Inequality fell rapidly -- the top one percent accounted for more than 23 percent of all income in 1928. By the 1970s it had fallen to less than 9 percent.

These policies gave birth to middle-class America, as the average income of working families grew steadily during the WWII period. This was the new America that would out-compete world communism for the support of working people all over the world.

Then we forgot.

After a series of economic mishaps, (largely due, but not limited, to the excessive costs of the Vietnam War and the Cold War), both inflation and unemployment rose simultaneously. This led many economists and policy makers to believe that Keynesian economics no longer applied (meaning that you could not successfully use government spending to combat rising unemployment without triggering excessive inflation.) Neo-liberal economists, led by Milton Friedman, filled the breach by arguing that less government and more free enterprise were desperately needed. In fact, they claimed that the determined pursuit of profit invariable created the most wealth (and freedom) for all.

The message was well received, especially by the Reagan administration. Taxes were slashed for the super-rich, (with the blessing of the Democrats, as well.) Unions were suppressed. Regulations, especially on Wall Street, vanished. A boom was to follow to make all boats rise.

It didn't happen as planned.

The income of the average worker stalled and the top 1 percent flourished. Inequality rose as financial gambling became a way of life. (In fact, after accounting for inflation, real average weekly wages in 1977 were higher than they are today.)

Wall Street, however, sprung to life. As deregulation increased, so did Wall Street incomes compared to the rest of the economy.

With the financial sector leading the charge, non-financial CEOs climbed on board. If 30-year-old traders could make tens of millions of dollars playing financial roulette with other people's money, then why shouldn't CEOs get paid more... and more... and more? "Greed is good" became more than a memorable phrase from a movie. It became a badge of honor -- a sign of recognition among the highest-paid players who knew precisely how to game the system.

And then we paid the price with another crash. Not quite as bad as 1929, but close. But this post-crash period is remarkably different. Rather than constraining inequality, the bailouts resurrected high finance and the inequality it inevitably spawns. Instead of putting our foot back on the neck of finance, we're talking about slashing social programs. Rather than dramatically increasing taxes on the super-rich through a wealth tax, we're debating how to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Are Americans Socialists?

One reason our priorities are so favorable to inequality is because most Americans have no idea how skewed our income distribution really is. As Michael Norton and Dan Ariely have demonstrated through their research, over 90 percent of Americans prefer to live in a country with an income distribution like Sweden's. That doesn't mean, of course, that Americans are closet social democrats. Rather, it reflects that they believe America is much more egalitarian than it really is.

The Norton/Ariely study builds from an idea developed by philosopher John Rawls in his book, A Theory of Justice. Rawls argues that to create the principles for a fair and just social order we need to take part in a rational but imaginary exercise. We need to imagine ourselves coming together as free and equal individuals to form a compact to create a society. But to engage in our imaginary negotiations, we must do so behind a "veil of ignorance" -- we must have no idea where we would end up in the new society we would be creating. We have to make our choices about the principles of social justice without knowing our individual talents or health or financial resources. So given that "veil of ignorance," what would be our principles of justice? Rawls argues convincingly that we would select two. First, we would only agree to enter a new society if it protected as many of our basic freedoms as possible. And second, we would only permit inequality if it also benefited those with the least incomes and resources in society.

For the last generation, our free market ideologues have argued that inequality would trickle down and, in effect, fulfill Rawls' second condition for justice. However their real-time experiment failed. Increasing inequality has not increased the well-being of the poor, or even the middle class. It is by and for the well-to-do. In short, we are unlikely to find a rational or moral justification for increasing inequality.

For a brief moment, Occupy Wall Street changed the national discourse away from the insanity of belt-tightening and towards inequality and Wall Street. If we care about justice, we need to find ways to do so again.

Les Leopold is the Executive Director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America's Wealth , (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).

Been to Occupy Wall Street?
If you've been to an Occupy Wall Street event anywhere in the country, we'd like to hear from you. Send OfftheBus your photos, links to videos or first-hand accounts of what you've seen for possible inclusion in The Huffington Posts's coverage.

Friday, February 22, 2013

ANS -- Scientists Pass The Hat For Research Funding

Crowdfunding comes to Science!   Why does crowdfunding work?  We are voting with our money for what we want to see in the world: voting for science is good. 
Find it here:  

Scientists Pass The Hat For Research Funding

by Joe Palca
February 14, 2013 8:40 AM
Car commercial? Nope. Jessica Richman, Zachary Apte (center) an   Enlarge image

Car commercial? Nope. Jessica Richman, Zachary Apte (center) and William Ludington are looking to the crowd for money to fund uBiome, which will sequence the genetic code of microbes that live on and inside humans.
Courtesy of uBiome

When the X-ray was invented, people clamored to get one. Not for any medical reason, but just to see what was typically hidden inside their bodies.

Something like that seems to be happening with DNA sequencing technology. First it was companies offering to sequence people's genomes. Now it's learning all about your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living on and in your body.

People's fascination with their inner workings may provide a new way for scientists to raise money for basic research. Just ask the folks at uBiome and American Gut.

February 14, 2013

Scientist Gets Research Donations From Crowd Funding

Both are basic science projects aimed at understanding how microbiomes influence health. And in return for funding from individuals, both will provide donors with an analysis of the bacteria in their very own digestive track.

Using the Internet to crowd fund, the uBiome and American Gut projects have together raised more than $600,000.

Crowd funding, in case you're unfamiliar it, is accomplished by posting a project on a website like Kickstarter, setting a fundraising target, and asking people to donate.

Let's say you're an electronic band from New York, and you need money to make a new album ­ you could crowd fund. Or you have a bakery and you need some dough to buy a new oven ­ you could crowd fund.

Crowd funding for those kinds of projects has been going on for several years. Crowd funding for science, though, is fairly new.

Jessica Richman, one of the co-founders of uBiome, says she and her colleagues chose to crowd fund their project rather than use more traditional types of fundraising because they wanted to engage the public in the project.

"There's something magical that happens with crowd funding where you start getting 500 emails from people telling you, 'well, does it do this?' Or, 'what about that?' Or, 'why doesn't it do that?' And that really helps you refine what you're doing and understand better what people's questions and needs are," Richman says.

Before uBiome and American Gut, most of the scientists who've tried crowd funding haven't raised anything close to $250,000. Previous takes were closer to just $5,000.

"People say, you know, what can they do with $5,000? I'm an ecologist. You can do a lot of things for $5,000," says Jai Ranganathan. He's with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California, and he also co-founded the SciFund Challenge, an effort to encourage scientists to crowd fund.

He says for an ecologist, $5,000 would pay for several months of field work. "Not all science is, you know, sending a rocket to Mars," Ranganathan says.

Critics of crowd funding worry that it will turn science into a popularity contest. They say, " 'Only the panda bear research is going to get funded. My very serious research will never get funded this way.' That's the worry," says Ranganathan. "And, in fact, it's dead wrong."

Even esoteric projects can raise money, Ranganathan says. "We had a microbiologist in New Zealand who was studying the evolution of E. coli in mouse guts. Wow, nothing very particularly sexy about that, but she was such a gifted communicator and [could explain] 'Hey, this is why it's exciting.' "

Ranganathan says scientists ought to get better at selling their science. "My goal is to change the culture of science to one where scientists are reaching out to the public," he says.

But some scientists need to be persuaded that reaching out to the public is a good thing. "Some do, and many do a fantastic job. But generally, do scientists reach out? No, they don't. We need a new argument. How about money? Money seems to be a good argument sometimes," he says.

The idea of being financially rewarded for being a good science communicator seems to me to be a worthy goal.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

ANS -- The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

This is an article about a couple of differences in conservatives and liberals -- in their brains.  Apparently, though, the difference goes both ways: the brain influences the political opinions, but the opinions also shape the brain.  Duh. 
It's from Mother Jones. 
Find it here:   

Politics, Science, Top Stories

The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

Two new studies further support the theory that our political decision making could have a neurological basis.

­By Chris Mooney
| Fri Feb. 15, 2013 3:01 AM PST
[]   fixer00/Shutterstock

It is still considered highly uncool to ascribe a person's political beliefs, even in part, to that person's biology: hormones, physiological responses, even brain structures and genes. And no wonder: Doing so raises all kinds of thorny, non-PC issues involving free will, determinism, toleration, and much else.

There's just one problem: Published scientific research keeps going there, with ever increasing audacity (not to mention growing stacks of data).

The past two weeks have seen not one but two studies published in scientific journals on the biological underpinnings of political ideology. And these studies go straight at the role of genes and the brain in shaping our views, and even our votes.

Advertise on

First, in the American Journal of Political Science, a team of researchers including Peter Hatemi of Penn State University and Rose McDermott of Brown University studied the relationship between our deep-seated tendencies to experience fear­tendencies that vary from person to person, partly for reasons that seem rooted in our genes­and our political beliefs. What they found is that people who have more fearful disposition also tend to be more politically conservative, and less tolerant of immigrants and people of races different from their own. As McDermott carefully emphasizes, that does not mean that every conservative has a high fear disposition. "It's not that conservative people are more fearful, it's that fearful people are more conservative," as she puts it.

I interviewed the paper's lead author, Peter Hatemi, about his research for my 2012 book The Republican Brain. Hatemi is both a political scientist and also a microbiologist, and as he stressed to me, "nothing is all genes, or all environment." These forces combine to make us who we are, in incredibly intricate ways.

And if Hatemi's and McDermott's research blows your mind, get this: Darren Schreiber, a political neuroscientist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, first performed brain scans on 82 people participating in a risky gambling task, one in which holding out for more money increases your possible rewards, but also your possible losses. Later, cross-referencing the findings with the participants' publicly available political party registration information, Schreiber noticed something astonishing: Republicans, when they took the same gambling risk, were activating a different part of the brain than Democrats.

Republicans were using the right amygdala, the center of the brain's threat response system. Democrats, in contrast, were using the insula, involved in internal monitoring of one's feelings. Amazingly, Schreiber and his colleagues write that this test predicted 82.9 percent of the study subjects' political party choices­considerably better, they note, than a simple model that predicts your political party affiliation based on the affiliation of your parents.

I also interviewed Schreiber for The Republican Brain. He's a scientist who was once quite cautious about the relevance of brain studies to people's politics. As he put it to me: "If you had called me four years ago and said, 'What is your view on whether Republicans and Democrats have different brains?' I would have said no." Now, his own published research suggests otherwise.
The current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences your brain.

One again, though, there's a critical nuance here. Schreiber thinks the current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences and changes your brain. The causal arrow seems likely to run in both directions­which would make sense in light of what we know about the plasticity of the brain. Simply by living our lives, we change our brains. Our political affiliations, and the lifestyles that go along with them, probably condition many such changes.

The two new studies described here are likely connected: It is hard not to infer that fear of outsiders or those different from you­along with greater fear dispositions in general­may be related to the role of amygdala, a brain structure that has been dubbed the " heart and soul of the fear system." The amygdala has been repeatedly implicated in politics. Indeed, Schreiber's research builds on prior brain studies: In a group of University College of London students, for instance, conservatives showed more gray matter in the right amygdala.

So what's the upshot? How about this: We need a much broader and more thoughtful discussion about what it means if political ideology turns out to be nothing like what we actually thought it was. Scientists working in this new field tend towards the conclusion that the new research should make us more tolerant, not less, of political difference­not to mention a whole lot more humble about our own deeply held beliefs.
171 []

Chris Mooney

Contributing Writer

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster, and the host of Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science.

Friday, February 15, 2013

ANS -- How To Do Electric-Car Chargers Right: New Target Store In CA

they're learning stuff about how to handle electric cars and chargers.  That's good.  this is about learning where to put the chargers in a big parking lot. 
Find it here:   


How To Do Electric-Car Chargers Right: New Target Store In CA

By John Voelcker John Voelcker
1,067 views Feb 14, 2013
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Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Wilson F. via ChargePoint Network]
HI-RES GALLERY11: Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Wilson F. via ChargePoint Network]
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  
  • Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo  

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Electric-car drivers know the problem all too well. It's called " getting ICEd"--when a gasoline car parks in the spot for reserved for electric cars to use a public charging station.

Now a new Target store, sited in a conventional suburban mall in Fremont, California, offers an example of how to minimize that problem.

"There are six stations in the middle of the lot, meaning no good or bad spots," according to BMW ActiveE driver Robert Olson.

"Then there is one station in the next aisle by itself, and another one up front at of the handicapped spaces."

The result?

"I've only ever seen the charging stations ICEd once," Oldson said, "and that was by some [person] with a GMC Yukon Hybrid--who must have thought it was for hybrids too."

Middle of the lot

In other words, the secret is to install multiple charging stations, and to put most of them in the middle of the lot--not in the most desirable spaces closest to the doors.

When charging stations are added to existing stores, the engineers often take the path of least resistance, and put them as close as possible to the store building.

That minimizes the costs of trenching and cabling to get electricity to a location that didn't previously have it.

But it also means that that space is correspondingly that much more alluring to every single shopper.

Add to that requirements in some jurisdictions that at least one charging station be available to handicapped shoppers--meaning it's both a handicapped spot AND a charging station--and you end up with a very high likelihood that the car next to the charger won't be electric at all.


Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo

Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Jack Brown]

More important than you think

Charging-station placement is actually more important than many people think, says electric-car advocate and restauranteur Tom Moloughney.

"People who don't drive electric cars resent  that the spaces are usually in the prime locations," he says. "It adds to their belief that we think we deserve special treatment."

When installing a pair of charging stations in the parking lot at Nauna's Bella Casa, his restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, Moloughney "actually gave placement a lot of thought."

"I decided to install one in a prime location, to attract conversation and 'electric car awareness'," he said, "and the second one in the least-desirable spot in the lot."
Very, very popular

The ChargePoint Network has also featured the new Target location as its "Charging Station of the Day."

That photo, however, was taken a couple of weeks after the store opened.

Today, according to BMW ActiveE driver Robert Olson, it's always full of electric cars recharging.

That's because, he says, "It's a main charging post for Nissan Leaf drivers to get from San Jose to the upper East Bay."

So, if you're planning to push your workplace (or anywhere else) to put in electric-car charging infrastructure-- here's how--keep in mind that putting it in the right place may be the difference between using it and having it ICEd.

[Our thanks to several members of the BMW ActiveE group, especially Jack Brown for providing photographs]


Monday, February 11, 2013

ANS -- Weekly Update: Unity Increases our Effectiveness

No, Occupy is not dead or dormant.  The media just doesn't report on it.  Here is this week's weekly report. 
Find it here:  


Weekly Update: Unity Increases our Effectiveness

Monday, 04 February 2013 11:28 By Margaret Flowers, Occupy Washington | Op-Ed

Don't let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Getting to the Next Level of Constructing a New Society

Once again the corporate mass media got the story wrong. The headlines across the country were that occupiers in New York came from households with incomes of over $100,000. The movement writer for The Nation, Allison Kilkenny, interviewed one of the researchers who points out that a lot of these were young people earning under $15,000 per year who were still in school and living with their parents.

The most important takeaway from the researcher's point of view:

"The takeaway for me is that this is part of an arch of social movement activity that built on previous work, and is building into continuing work."
That struck us because we are working with political activists and occupiers across the country to develop a strategy to reach a more effective level of advocacy for transformation to a peaceful, just and sustainable society.

An article from Yes! Magazine, Occupy 2.0: The Great Turning, resonated with us making some important points.  The article points out that there are thousands of people working in movements around the world and uniting them would create an unstoppable force. How do we unite in a way where we keep the diversity of multiple movements but still work together in solidarity?  The answer in part is a common broad vision and strategic framework. The author, Michael Nagler of the Metta Center, puts forward a strategy they have been developing which they call "The Roadmap." (The article links to a webinar on this approach.)

Their approach recommends a two track strategy similar to one we have emphasized from the beginning, Stop the Machine, Create a New World or a resistance program of direct action and constructive program of building what we want. This approach dates back to Gandhi and has been used in many transformative movements. In an article about the hidden history of economic democracy and how it relates to major social transformations throughout U.S. history, we summarized these two tracks by writing:

"History reinforces the idea that to achieve transformational change, we must proceed on twin tracks: protesting and building. Mahatma Gandhi changed his emphasis in the mid-1930s, a dozen years before independence from the British Empire, to work focused on building economically self-reliant communities from below (sardovaya, or social uplift for all). This became an adjunct to the strategy he is most known for, satyagraha (noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws). Gandhian economics meant thousands of self-sufficient small communities with self-rule and the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level joined together in a cooperative federation of village republics. This is bookended by the Gandhian social ideal of dignity of labor, equitable distribution of wealth, communal self-sufficiency and individual freedom."

There is incredible work going on throughout the United States on both these tracks. Economic democracy is gaining a foothold in the U.S. putting in place the kind of economy we want. And resistance is strong too. In the last week we have reported on the following protests:

That is just in the past ten days! And, we have no doubt we are not reporting anywhere near all the protests that are occurring.  As we found out when we were organizing the Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza, Americans have been in revolt for a long time, the media just does not report it.

For a while Occupy began to bring a lot of movements together under the broad anti-Wall Street goal of economic fairness and justice; that was one reason the movement was not ignored.  But now greater solidarity is needed, in order to show that there is a mass movement that people should be part of, a movement that can succeed in shifting power from concentrated wealth to the people.

One thing needed to bring the movement for social justice to the next level is unity.  It will take many working together to achieve effective solidarity. At OccupyWashingtonDC/Ocober2011, we are considering what we can do to advance solidarity. We ask for your thoughts, write us at" target="_blank" style="padding:0px;margin:0px;color:rgb(84, 19, 111);text-decoration:underline;font-weight:normal"> Of course, unity is not all that is needed, but it is one step.

In the meantime, realize that Americans are awakening and getting more active. Whether they are helping to build cooperatives, community or public banks, community supported agriculture and farmers markets or other more democratic economic institutions; or whether they are protesting the mistaken direction of the U.S. economy and government – a lot of good work is being done and we should rejoice that so many are working to create a new world.

Some upcoming events:
  • February 6, 2013: Flood the NY Federal Courthouse on in opposition to the NDAA, see here and here.
  • February 9, 2013: Anti-Drone Protest at the CIA Headquarters, information here

Activities that are asking for support: This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Margaret Flowers

Margaret Flowers, co-director of Its Our Economy, is a Maryland pediatrician. After graduation from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1990 and completion of pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Flowers worked first as a hospitalist and then in private practice. She left practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for a single payer health care system at both the state and national levels. co-hosts, Clearing the FOG radio which airs on We Act Radio, 1480 AM. Her twitter is @MFlowers8.