(ANTIMEDIA) Earlier this year, Anti-Media reported on Costa Rica’s efforts to become independent of fossil fuels and power itself entirely from renewable energy. The country’s plans included utilizing the region’s plentiful rainfall to power impressive new hydroelectric infrastructure. They also planned to use geothermal sources, wind, biomass, and solar energy.
Costa Rica reached the 99 percent renewable energy mark with the aforementioned mixture of hydroelectric plants, which provide 80 percent of the country’s energy, with wind, biomass, and solar power. The country’s large river system and heavy rainfall also aided the efforts, in spite of the fact 2015 was a particularly dry year.
Costa Rica still has huge goals beyond just aiming for a 100 percent carbon neutral status by the year 2021. Ultimately, according to ICE, Costa Rica wants to shift its transportation industry away from fossil fuels, and officials also want to add new geothermal sources, which currently provide15 percent of the nation’s energy.
ICE electricity division chief, Luis Pacheco, said,
“[Costa Rica is] closing 2015 with renewable electricity milestones that have put us in the global spotlight.”
Like Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, and many other Latin American countries, Costa Rica continues to lead the way in hydroelectric and renewable energy. Elsewhere, countries like Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, and Finland are showing a wide variety of strategies can be employed to wean industrialized nations off fossil fuels, which continue to pollute the environment with carbon emissions and waste.
DENVER — At a U.S. District Court session Monday, Judge R. Brooke Jackson heard arguments related to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, drug money, and narcoterrorism. But he wasn’t presiding over a drug-trafficking or distribution case. He was listening to oral arguments in a banking lawsuit.
While banking usually isn’t the most exciting of legal topics — at one point during the hearing, Mark Mason, attorney for the plaintiffs, admitted to the judge that banking is “boring as hell” — this particular lawsuit is a high-stakes, carefully watched affair. “This transcript is going to be read around the world and your decision will have an effect around the United States in a major, major way,” Mason said during his argument.
That’s because the people behind the suit are the founders of the Fourth Corner Credit Union, which aims to become the world’s first bank focused on the marijuana industry, and they’re suing the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank for the right to do so. But there’s more at stake than simply the fate of a new credit union: The results of the case could have far-reaching consequences for a nascent cannabis industry that experts of all political stripes agree is dangerously lacking in proper financial services.
“This isn’t something that is going away,” said Mason during his impassioned oral arguments for the credit union, whose founders include several members of his immediate family. “This is something that is going to be a part of the next generation and the future, and we need to get it right. And if we are not going to have banking … and have millions and millions of dollars on the streets where bad things can happen, that is not responsible.”
Banking has been one of the greatest obstacles facing the cannabis movement since Colorado became the first place in the world to launch a recreational marijuana industry in 2014. That’s because no other wrinkle in the piecemeal U.S. legalization efforts better illustrates the clash between state and federal marijuana laws. Because marijuana is still a Schedule I narcotic, banks risk being prosecuting for aiding and abetting drug traffickers, or for money laundering, if they work with medical or recreational marijuana businesses, even in jurisdictions where those businesses are legal.
Last November, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) provided some guidance on the matter, noting that financial institutions that provide services to marijuana enterprises should carefully track the businesses and file suspicious activity reports about their conduct. While some financial institutions have used the guidance to create innovative banking solutions for cannabis enterprises, the memo was far from a ringing national legal endorsement for marijuana banking, said Christian Sederberg, a partner at the Denver marijuana law firm Vicente Sederberg.
“We have moved from a situation where this can’t be done to a situation where we have received guidance from the federal government, but with each progression, we still have technical and fundamental difficulties,” Sederberg said. His clients face monthly banking fees ranging from $500 to $5,000 per account to cover the extra diligence required by the FinCEN guidance, he added. All risk having their accounts shut down without notice.
And those are the marijuana businesses lucky enough to have banking services at all. According to FinCEN, roughly 100 banks currently serve the marijuana industry and just a dozen of them are in Colorado, whose marijuana market is estimated to generate nearly a $1 billion this year. According to a recent Marijuana Business Daily poll, 60 percent of marijuana companies nationwide don’t have bank accounts. That means the country’s largest growing industry is largely a cash-only affair.
In addition, few dispensaries and marijuana shops accept credit cards. Business owners pay employees in supermarket money orders and trade stories of opening — and then losing — dozens of bank accounts. Armed security companies ferry marijuana cash from one location to another amid scattered reports of armed robberies, and in Aspen, Colorado, sheriff’s deputies double as security escorts for those in the industry making large financial deliveries.
“The federal government has taken a non-enforcement position for businesses that are operating under state and local law, but they have to look at federal enforcement priorities like making sure money laundering and crime is not involved,” Sederberg said. “The irony of the interpretation is that they are requiring a largely all-cash industry, which entirely undermines the intent of the law.”
A marijuana-focused credit union could offer a solution, realized 25-year-old Alex Mason, who moved to Colorado in 2012 to pursue wilderness emergency medical services training. While it would be bound by the same rules as other banks, by incorporating cannabis into its mission statement the credit union would assure its clients that it would weather the bureaucratic difficulties that have led other financial institutions to cut ties with the burgeoning industry. “Regular banks can do this, but it’s a matter of the risks versus reward,” said Mark Goldfogel, Fourth Corner’s executive vice president. “Our member base effectively agrees to the risk and reward scheme necessary to follow the guidelines as they’re written today and as they continue to change.”
The state of Colorado liked the idea, granting Fourth Corner a state charter last year. “Both the governor and I thought it was a pretty good short-term solution to getting cash off the streets and bringing some measure of financial accountability to the marijuana industry,” noted Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s marijuana policy coordinator. “Secondly, as we talked to banks, a lot of them feel like they are getting yellow blinking lights when it comes to marijuana. The existence of a marijuana credit union would give more faith to other banks and credit unions that they are able to bank marijuana.”
Alex’s father Mark, a South Carolina attorney, and several other family members signed on to help. And with major players like Denver City Council member Chris Nevitt and the families behind the famous “Charlotte’s Web” medical marijuana strain tapped as board members, Fourth Corner appeared destined for success. It even leased a prominent location across the street from the Denver Justice Center, one that boasts a sign out front reading: “The Fourth Corner Credit Union — Coming Soon.”
But that sign has been hanging there for months. And there’s no telling when, if ever, the bank will open.
In November 2014, Fourth Corner applied to the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, for a master account, which would allow it to deposit and transfer funds to other banks. Usually, Goldfogel said, the Federal Reserve grants the account in a matter of days, and he can’t find any instances of a state-sanctioned bank being deprived of one. But after an eight-month delay, the Federal Reserve denied the master account after the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) informed Fourth Corner it could not provide it with deposit insurance.
In response, the Fourth Corner sued both the Federal Reserve and the NCUA. While deposit insurance through the NCUA likely isn’t essential for the credit union — Goldfogel said the enterprise can obtain private deposit insurance — Fourth Corner can’t operate without access to a master account. And while some new financial institutions do so by creating a relationship with an existing bank that already has such an account, Goldfogel said Fourth Corner didn’t want to do that: “We didn’t want anybody else’s liability on the hook,” he said. “We wanted to support this industry with our own member contributions.”
According to Mark Mason’s arguments in federal court Monday, Fourth Corner doesn’t need to partner with another bank. Until now, he notes, obtaining a master account has simply been a formality for state-certified banks. To deny one to Fourth Corner because of its association with marijuana means the Federal Reserve is refusing rights to a social movement that has already been afforded to major banks around the country currently providing financial services to cannabis businesses, he argued. The State of Colorado banks with Wells Fargo, for example, meaning the nearly $100 million the state has collected in marijuana tax revenue this year is already in the Federal Reserve-backed system.
“The Federal Reserve is not the enforcer of drug laws,” Mason said, noting that his case was bolstered by aJustice Department brief earlier this month urging the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma to invalidate Colorado’s marijuana program. “This is the United States telling the Supreme Court that they aren’t even sure [Colorado’s marijuana regulations] are in positive conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act,” he said.
Judge Jackson empathized with Mason, saying, “I think there’s a certain unfairness to allowing these big banks to serve this business and keeping you out.” He also noted he “wasn’t too impressed” with the Federal Reserve’s other stated reasons for denying Fourth Corner a master account, such as its lack of deposit insurance and absence of a relationship with an established bank. But he suggested that his decision in the case — which he hinted might be issued fairly quickly — could hinge on the fact that marijuana is still prohibited in the eyes of federal law. (Jackson, clearly enjoying the novelty of the legal arguments at play, twice wrote off the FinCEN guidance’s ability to solve the problem by calling it a “nothingburger.”)
“The issue for me to decide is, do I force the Federal Reserve Bank to give you a master account?” the judge told Mason. “The problem I have with that is I would be forcing the Federal Reserve Bank to give a master account to an institution that has stated it will participate in an illegal activity.”
Following that line of reasoning, Jackson wondered if the Federal Reserve would also have to issue master accounts to banks serving methamphetamine dealers or doing trade with North Korea if a state deemed these activities legal.
Jackson could end up siding with Scott Barker, attorney for the Federal Reserve, who argued, “The solution to this clash between what Mr. Mason has indicated is a social movement and hidebound federal law that doesn’t even recognize medical marijuana is found in the halls of Congress.”
Bipartisan efforts are already afoot to pass such a federal bill. In the meantime, Jackson suggested he might grant Fourth Corner its master account, but with the requirement that the company doesn’t serve any marijuana businesses until Congress or the federal government provides further clarifying guidance on the matter.
Depending on how such a decision is interpreted, that sort of stipulation could have major ramifications for banks currently doing business with marijuana companies. But even Mason conceded such a development could have a silver lining: “Perhaps there would then be a focus on the serious issue with the [FinCEN] guidance and it would put the federal government in a position to give better guidance,” he said.
And then, once the banking conundrum is solved, “At least then we are there,” Mason added. “We are at the table to serve the industry.”
In an interview with NPR this week, President Obama complained that the media is oversaturated with coverage of terrorism. “If you’ve been watching television for the last month, all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you,” Obama said.
The president’s remarks led to quick condemnation from the right-wing press, but the facts support what he is saying. The Intercept analyzed network news coverage of various topics, using Internet Archive’s TV News Archive search of television captions, and found that terrorism did dominate news.
For example, a search of CNN coverage between November 21 and December 21 of this year yielded 427 hits (instances where an individual show mentioned the word at least once) for the search phrase “terrorism” and 404 hits for “ISIS”; the same search for “poverty” yielded only 34 hits. Here are the terrorism search strings compared to the other topics in chart form (note that the anti-privacy CISA legislation, directly related to terrorism, was not mentioned at all):
SEATTLE — Less than a year ago, Nevada’s largest paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was sold as part of a group of seven regional newspapers for $100 million. This week, the reporters at the paper discovered it had been sold again.
But the latest sale was exceedingly unusual. The Review-Journal was not part of a package deal. It was sold as a stand-alone property for $140 million. Strangest of all, the new buyer was not an individual or even a company, but a limited liability company, News + Media Capital Group LLC.
Though LLCs have legitimate purposes in business, they are often used to conceal the identity of controversial buyers or to shield them from legal disputes or accountability. The New York Times published two exposes this year on the use of such corporate legal stratagems to shield corrupt politicians and oligarchs from review of massive luxury real estate purchases in New York and Los Angeles.
The actual owner is Adelson’s son-in-law, Patrick Dumont, an executive with the Sands holding company. Sivan Ochshorn Dumont, Patrick’s wife and Adelson’s stepdaughter, is listed as the owner of the billionaire’s Israeli media properties.
The journalists at the Review-Journal, who have the most to lose in this transaction, did the shoe-leather work to penetrate the web of secrecy surrounding the deal. They discovered that the only individual’s name listed on the LLC incorporation agreement was a New England newspaper publisher, Michael Schroeder, who is listed as the manager of News + Media. In buying his current stable of media properties, Schroeder used the same secret process, refusing to name his fellow investors.
Coincidentally, Schroeder was also in Las Vegas the night of the most recent Republican presidential debate. He stayed at the site of the debate, Adelson’s Sands Hotel.
Schroeder was born on Long Island and honed his early newspapering skills at Newsday, the region’s major paper. Later, he went into business with Russel Pergament, a New York publishing executive. In 2007, they founded a chain of neighborhood papers, BostonNOW, with the support of investors from Iceland, just as that country’s economy was tanking. The investment tanked, too and the chain folded almost exactly a year later. Together, they also founded am New York, a free commuter-oriented publication which was sold to Cablevision in 2008.
Since we know so little about Schroeder aside from his newspaper experience, and since we know so much about Adelson’s political views, it’s worthwhile to explore the former’s relationship with Pergament. Though it’s not known whether Pergament will play a role in the Review-Journal, his politics closely mirror those of Adelson. Also, his latest media venture, JNS (Jewish News Service), is a pro-Israel “newswire,” which has a deal to distribute articles from Israel HaYom (Israel Today), that country’s largest newspaper, which is also owned by Adelson.
Israel HaYom: Adelson’s $40M annual subsidy
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that he could not have been elected without the support of Israel HaYom, which is consequently called, somewhat derisively, Bibiton (“Bibipaper”) in Hebrew. It was founded by Adelson to support one major cause: Netanyahu. Of course, it has journalists who report on other stories. But by far the most important stories advance Netanyahu and his political enterprise. It loses money every year — nearly $40 million, according to Israeli media reports. But this is a small price to pay for propping up Adelson’s political protege, Netanyahu.
Israel has never seen such a media enterprise before. In fact, some competitors call it an “anti-newspaper” because it breaks virtually all the conventional rules about how media outlets operate. Prior to Adelson, newspapers either supported a specific political party or were founded by family dynasties. They reflected a political ideology, but always attempted to maintain some semblance of balance. Israel HaYom has thrown all this to the winds. It has also pummeled the remaining Israeli papers in commercial competition. Since it doesn’t worry about deficits or profits, it is a free paper. Every other media property has to worry about these factors and maintains a subscription model. Consumers, when faced with the option to pay or read a free paper, will often choose what’s free.
At least one Israeli paper, Maariv, was driven into bankruptcy. Adelson scooped up its online subsidiary, NRG. He also owns another paper he rescued from insolvency, Makor Rishon, whose constituency is the Orthodox religious right wing. He stands above the deluge, watching as Israel’s remaining serious papers flail about, keeping their heads barely above water. Yediot Achronot is drowning in red ink. If it weren’t for the deep pockets of Israeli oligarch Leonid Nevzlin and a German investor, Haaretz would be in imminent danger as well.
Adelson exerts his share of fear and intimidation within Israeli media as well. He carefully follows how he is portrayed. When a reporter crosses a red line, his stable of lawyers stand ready to respond aggressively. In 2011, Israel’s Channel 10 aired an unflattering profile of the gambling tycoon’s litigious nature, which Adelson responded to with–what else?– threats of a libel lawsuit (Israeli libel laws are much more favorable to accusers than in the U.S.). That resulted in an abject, on-air apology, which drove the two leading news executives to resign in anger at management’s capitulation to Adelson’s ego.
Though the GOP megadonor understands that the U.S. is not the same as Israel, he will likely seek to transform the political climate into one that is closer to Israel’s. He will transform the Review-Journal from an independent news outlet to one completely dedicated to the GOP agenda. It will closely track Adelson’s business interests and publish news that flatters and advances them. It will ruthlessly attack anyone who stands in the billionaire’s way, whether it’s a federal prosecutor, a senator or even a president.
Adelson’s history with Israeli media is important because it offers a model for what could happen in Las Vegas. The Review-Journal purchase is even more consequential than his Israel holdings because it offers him a stakehold in American media. With it, he will be able to exert tremendous influence not just in state politics, but the national debate as well. It’s no accident that the most recent GOP debate was held at his Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
The Review-Journal as an extension of Adelson’s national political ambitions
Nevada is an early primary state, which increases its impact on the national stage. Though a typically Western, mostly rural blue state (except for Las Vegas), it elects Democrats regularly to national office, including one Adelson would dearly love to take out, Sen. Harry Reid. Adelson’s goal would be to turn the state completely red with a Senate and House contingent that is all-GOP.
But the biggest prize of all is the presidency. Adelson spent at least $150 million in 2012 trying to get Mitt Romney elected — and Mitt wasn’t even his preferred candidate. That was Newt Gingrich, whose flailing campaign, at one point, was single-handedly kept afloat by the mega donor’s cash. The Las Vegas billionaire will certainly spend more, probably far more, in the 2016 cycle. It would shock few political observers if Adelson shelled out anywhere from $250-500 million this time around.
During this cycle, Adelson is backing Sen. Marco Rubio, though he also met with Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, for an hour before the latest debate. That meeting could become quite important if Trump wins the nomination. Despite his wealth, even Trump could not afford the $1-2 billion necessary for a presidential general election campaign. Adelson’s support could be critical to him in that event.
Though Adelson has several interests politically, he’s essentially a one-issue donor: Israel. Yes, he hates online gambling as a threat to his worldwide casino empire, but Israel is where his heart lies. Adelson wants U.S. Mideast policy to move much further to the right than it currently is. He wants Washington to be an overseas outpost of the Likud Party. If he could, he’d like to see Israel’s leader and America’s as co-presidents, co-equal partners in a joint enterprise.
Even the Israel Lobby is sometimes too moderate for him. A 2008 New Yorker profile noted that he intensely dislikes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, because he believes it’s too moderate. The fact that the largest Israel lobby group makes a point of being bipartisan (at least in name) would also rankle Adelson, who has no use for Democrats. The group and its donors raise huge sums, both for Democratic and Republican candidates.
Returning to the Review-Journal, it’s worth speculating on whether there may be a role for Russel Pergament in the new venture. Michael Schroeder clearly is intended to be the business operations manager. While Pergament has expertise in this side of newspapering, he would also bring the requisite pro-Israel political messaging to the paper.
For a sense of where he stands, the Jewish Press, a Kahanist New York publication interviewed Pergament in 2014, where he spoke about his views:
“Media coverage of Israel around the world is not merely unfriendly but reflexively hostile. There almost is a conspiracy in the media to somehow delegitimize Israel and make it hesitant and ashamed to use its legitimate means of self-defense. In some ways, it’s like liberal media are trying to impose an externally imposed unilateral disarmament on Israel. That troubled me a lot.
Even more troubling is that in newspaper coverage there’s very little context provided. Israel is the size of New Jersey, the armistice lines are only eight miles from Tel Aviv, it’s been invaded four times by seven Arab armies, the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and there are six million Jews in Israel versus 370 million Arabs around the world. When people understand that, it’s much harder to envision Israel as a monolithic Nazi-like war machine.
We weave all these educational, irrefutable, simple core facts material into a lot of our coverage to kind of fortify our readership with some reality basing.”
This sort of view is music to Adelson’s ears. In fact, Pergament spoke on a panel about media Israel-bashing at the 2014 Israeli-American Council conference. The group was founded largely with Adelson funding to be an Israeli counterpart to AIPAC in the U.S. Its mission is to lobby on behalf of the as many as 500,000 Israelis living in this country and act as a counterweight to any moderate elements in the Israel lobby.
Given Adelson’s past media history and strident pro-Israel views, it seems clear that either Pergament or someone very similar to him will infuse the pages of the Review-Journal with the fervor demanded by t]he wealthy pro-Israel patriot, who has expressed regret that he served in the U.S. Army rather than the Israeli Defense Forces.
Do Adelson’s media ambitions pose any danger to American Jews?
This raises another important issue: dual loyalty. Adelson clearly views the interests of Israel and the U.S. as one. There can be no distinction. What’s good for Israel is good for America. If pressed, however, Adelson would likely say if there ever were a case in which the two sets of interests diverged, he would choose Israel’s interests.
So what impact will an ambitious Adelson media venture have on American Jews? He will be touting an editorial line that is stridently pro-Likud, while the Jewish community here is certainly not. The problem is that the American Jewish leadership is relatively weak and easily co-opted when it comes to Israel. It’s certainly possible that Adelson’s billions and his pugilistic political stance will cow anyone standing in his way. He will avow to speak for all American Jews. He will attempt to set the community’s pro-Israel agenda. Who will say different?
If Jews do not oppose his attempts at co-optation, we run the risk of being accused of favoring Israel’s interests over America’s. With a monomaniac like Adelson at the helm, this will be far more likely and lead to uncomfortable outcomes. It will be so much easier for demagogues to subsume their anti-Semitism into “anti-Israelism.” Though the two issues are not the same, there are many on the far right (both Jews and non-Jews) who prefer “Jew” and “Israel” to be one and the same. Such confusion poses great danger for American Jews.
Finally, this new Adelson media venture only makes sense if there is a national component to it. It’s well and good to own Nevada’s major newspaper and exert significant influence in the political life of the state, but Adelson’s ambitions don’t stop at the state line. He desperately wants to see a Republican in the White House, and he’ll stop at almost nothing to achieve this ambition. It makes perfect sense for him to envision a similar strategy to the one used by Israel HaYom to dominate the national political media debate and get a Republican elected president.
To do this, he will have to either expand the Review-Journal’s ambitions from its regional base, or he will have to develop a brand that incorporates the Nevada paper and extends it to the national stage.
There are many mysterious, unfathomable aspects to Adelson’s thinking and decision-making, but one thing is certain: The future will not be boring.
(TFC)Baghdad, Iraq – An Islamic State commander was killed in Salahuddin province and his body was searched. A cell phone retrieved from the corpse revealed messages from Turkish intelligence services proving the NATO country was providing security for ISIS militants when they traveled between Turkey and Iraq. This is the second NATO country implicated in assisting the Islamic State’s troops. The first was Canada.
The IS commander was killed by Hashd al-Shaabi, a loyalist volunteer force. Jabbar al-Ma’mouri, a leader within the force made the announcement. He said, “The mobile phone also contains other important information which cannot be disclosed now, and it has been delivered to the specialized security groups for further scrutiny.”
Turkey and the Islamic State share two enemies: President Assad of Syria and the Kurdish people. This incident comes on the heels of the Turkish Air Force shooting down a Russian plane engaged in operations against the Islamic State. Ten days ago, Turkey invaded Iraq briefly. It sent its troops to within a few hundred miles of where the phone was recovered. Turkish artillery has also rained shells down on the Kurdish community of Kobane.
While the western media seems to be overlooking and downplaying NATO support for the Islamic State, some senior US officials are speaking out. Former US Department of State senior adviser David Phillips said, “Turkey’s role has not been ambiguous — it has overtly supported the ISIL. It has provided logistical support, money, weapons, transport and healthcare to wounded warriors.”
Across the border in Syria, President Assad blasted western adventurism in Syria and cast the NATO powers as an obstacle to peace. He said, “There are only a few countries ready for this. No one dares to establish contact with Syria to resolve the situation as long as it does not appear on the agenda of the United States.”
On a brisk morning in Denver recently, an ambulance pulled up in front of a downtown office tower. “I think the patient is going to make it,” Dr. Irene Aguilar said as a team rolled out the gurney.
This wasn’t a medical emergency but rather a bit of political theater. The gurney held several big boxes of signed petitions to be delivered to the Colorado secretary of state’s office. The group ColoradoCareYES gathered enough signatures—more than 100,000—to put a single-payer health system on the ballot next fall.
Under the plan, Coloradans would still pick their own providers, but the new system would pick up all the bills. There would be no deductibles and fewer and smaller copays.
“Our current system gouges us financially,” says Ken Connell, a volunteer with ColoradoCareYES. “Too many don’t have access until they’re too far along the sick path.”
Connell says he’s been advocating for changes to the U.S. system of health care insurance for more than a decade—ever since his 33-year-old son took his own life. Connell says better access to mental health care could have made a difference for his son.
“We could not get him care,” Connell says. “It’s a human right. We should be taking care of each other, as long as we can, and we certainly have the resources in this country.”
Aguilar, the doctor who accompanied the box-filled gurney, is also a Colorado state senator and a Democrat. She led the rally at Denver’s Civic Center the day the signatures were delivered.
“This is not going to be an easy fight,” Aguilar says. Obamacare has been a good start, she says. It has sliced Colorado’s uninsured rate in half. But many people are still uninsured, and others struggle to pay their premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
The idea behind ColoradoCare, Aguilar says, is “to have everybody paying in, but everybody having access to health care that will keep them healthy, keep them working, keep them contributing to our society.”
Here are some key features of the proposal: Seniors would stay in the Medicare system, and those in Tricare, the military health system, could keep that insurance. And anybody would be free to buy private coverage from a private insurer though such people would still have to pay for ColoradoCare. It would work like a single-payer plan, in the sense that everybody pays in, and everybody would be automatically covered, one way or another.
To finance the project, Colorado employers would pay nearly 7 percent in a payroll tax. Employees would pay 3 percent or more of their gross pay toward the health plan. The self-employed would need to pony up 10 percent of their annual net income (to cover the employee’s contribution plus the employer’s contribution—analogous to the formula used to calculate federal self-employment tax). All in all, supporters say, these proposed tax hikes would raise around $25 billion, and save residents money in the long run.
But the tax hike could be a concern for many voters according to Michele Lueck, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. “The price tag is just enormous, right?” she says. At $25 billion, “it rivals the state budget.”
For years, Coloradans have shot down tax increases. “I don’t think that there have been many if any, times when Colorado has bit off something that big,” Lueck says.
Other than taxes on marijuana or tobacco, Colorado voters haven’t passed a statewide tax hike for more than two decades.
Some people worry the price tag of such a program would make Colorado less attractive to businesses and millennials.
“If you think it’s expensive now, it’s going to get even more expensive,” says Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, a free-market advocacy group. “Really, I think the biggest part of this is that it’s an unrestrained tax hike.”
That also scares health economist Linda Gorman, with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank.
“The finances don’t work,” she says, citing the case of Vermont, whose legislature passed a universal health care bill a few years ago. The Vermont governor soon thereafter pulled the plug on the plan he’d previously championed, after ballooning cost estimates forced him to admit the state couldn’t afford the program. Gorman says she worries the Colorado proposal would vest too much power in a 21-member governing board; it would have taxing authority, she says, but no controls to ensure transparency.
“These people have way too much unaccountable power in this initiative,” she says.
The proposed system would also put 4,000 brokers out of work and lead to longer waits for care, according to Tammy Niederman, representative of a trade group for health insurance brokers.
“This will inevitably ration care,” Niederman says. “There’s no way to put in a universal system that doesn’t do that.”
Colorado’s insurers and its hospital association haven’t yet taken a position on the measure. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is also reserving judgment.
“A lot of people say it’ll cost a lot more,” Hickenlooper says. “A lot of people say it’s going to be the salvation and lower the costs. Let’s find out what the numbers say.”
Meanwhile, all agree that the total numbers in political advertising dollars spent for and against the measure are sure to be big.
ColoradoCareYes, the single-payer advocacy group raised, nearly $330,000 in contributions in 2015, according to filings made with the Colorado secretary of state’s office. That put the organization’s donations in the top 10 among groups advocating for Colorado issues this year.
And other forces opposed to the single-payer ballot initiative have started to mobilize. A group called Committee to Stop Colorado Care, based in Parker, Colorado, registered with the state in November.
(TRUTHINMEDIA) 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed for The New York Times on Wednesday calling for the Federal Reserve to be audited independently by the Government Accountability Office on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a historic Jan. 12 vote, on a bill, colloquially referred to as “Audit the Fed,” which was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The bill would authorize the GAO to perform full audits of the Federal Reserve System.
“To rein in Wall Street, we should begin by reforming the Federal Reserve, which oversees financial institutions and which uses monetary policy to maintain price stability and full employment. Unfortunately, an institution that was created to serve all Americans has been hijacked by the very bankers it regulates,” wrote Sen. Sanders.
He added, “What went wrong at the Fed? The chief executives of some of the largest banks in America are allowed to serve on its boards. During the Wall Street crisis of 2007, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, served on the New York Fed’s board of directors while his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Next year, four of the 12 presidents at the regional Federal Reserve Banks will be former executives from one firm: Goldman Sachs.”
Sanders called for the Glass-Steagall Act to be reinstated, a Depression-era banking regulation that created a wall of separation between consumer and investment banks prior to its repeal by former President Bill Clinton. He also suggested that the Fed should be prevented from providing incentives to encourage banks to sit on cash reserves.
“As a condition of receiving financial assistance from the Fed,” said Sanders, “large banks must commit to increasing lending to creditworthy small businesses and consumers, reducing credit card interest rates and fees, and providing help to underwater and struggling homeowners.”
Sanders argued that the Federal Reserve suffers from a lack of transparency. “In 2010, I inserted an amendment in Dodd-Frank to audit the emergency lending by the Fed during the financial crisis. We need to go further and require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full and independent audit of the Fed each and every year,” he said.
Audit the Fed legislation first became a hot political topic as a result of the sudden, meteoric 2008 rise to popularity of libertarian icon and former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), who made the push for Fed transparency a central focus of his entire political career.
Rock Hill Judge Ray Long worked Christmas Day, handling bonds for those arrested Christmas Eve
Long showed ‘mercy’ in several bonds so that defendants could go home for Christmas
BY ANDREW DYS
ROCK HILL, S.C.
Christmas Day broke outside the Rock Hill Law Center Friday morning and shortly afterward the holiday began with bond court. Santa Claus sat on the bench.
Longtime Municipal Judge Ray Long, a Baptist preacher, held court Christmas Day wearing a red sweater. He has white hair and a white beard and is stout. Yes – Judge Long looks like Santa Claus.
Friday, Christmas Day in Rock Hill even for those who had been in jail, the judge who looks like Santa did more than look the part.
People accused of crimes from drunken driving to domestic violence to being drunk in public to shoplifting appeared in the tiny courtroom via video monitoring from the jail in the building. Rock Hill Police Department officer Michael Long – no relation to the judge – was there and court clerk Nadine Agurs was there, and a lady worked in the jail with the accused.
Long used the word “mercy” several times. He accepted a guilty plea from the first guy who had been in jail for four days for shoplifting.
“Go home and be with your family for Christmas,” Judge Long said.
The next guy had four kids and claimed that he stole from Walmart on Christmas Eve for presents for the kids. The man was on probation for other crimes. Long told him, and others, that there is no reason to shoplift. That charities will help anyone get Christmas toys for children.
The next man accused of public intoxication was sent home by the judge who admonished the man, saying “drinking – alcohol – caused this.”
Long grew up a stone’s throw from the police station literally on the other side of the railroad tracks, the son of an alcoholic father. One Christmas as a child, the judge said his father choked him during a drunken rage.
Long said he has never taken a drink and has counseled thousands who have taken armloads of drinks and ended up in jail.
The judge cried as a woman shook in court as she tried to sign court forms, admitting she was an alcoholic and that’s why she was in jail.
Judge Long cried for her.
Another woman came in, crying, saying she stole toys from the Newport Walmart so her two kids would have gifts. Long told her as he told others about not having to steal.
Long told her to go hug that family that had made sure the kids had toys and he gave the woman a personal recognizance bond. The woman cried and thanked Judge Long. She wore a Clemson shirt because “They are number one,” the woman said.
“Go home and be number one to your kids,” Long told her.
Another woman came in after being arrested late on Christmas Eve for shoplifting – again from Walmart. The woman told Judge Long that she had enough money to buy one toy for her son.
“I tried to not pay for the second toy,” she said in court.
Long again spoke about help available for the poor from so many places.
“If you had come to this police department and told somebody you needed Christmas for your children, somebody would have gotten your children Christmas,” Long said.
The judge asked how many toys the child was set to receive on Friday, Christmas, with his mother in jail.
“One toy,” the woman said.
Long asked how old the child was.
“He’s 7,” the woman said.
The woman spoke of her father watching the son while she was jailed, and how the father has liver cancer. The woman then said words that caused the quiet little courtroom to be even more quiet.
“My son is disabled – special needs – and he can’t talk,” the woman said. “He likes things that spin. Things with wheels.”
The judge wiped his eyes and wiped his nose. The cop, also named Long, sat in silence and tried not to cry. The clerk was silent. She tried not to cry.
Long counseled the woman and told her she would get a personal recognizance bond and be out soon.
Then he pulled out his wallet.
Judge Long, a father, and grandfather, a husband, the son of an alcoholic father, pulled out his own money and gave it to the police officer. It was a big bill.
“Run by Walgreen’s – they are open today,” Long said. “I saw it on my way in.”
Judge Long cried as he sat there.
The police officer had already pulled out his wallet to make the toy run and others including the lady working the jail who heard this in this tiny law center on Christmas Day had reached for money, too.
The officer, who works in a job where so many in America say cops and courts are heartless, left to go get toys for a silent child who cannot speak whose mother was jailed on Christmas.
(ANTIMEDIA) A previously unreleased set of Food and Drug Administration documents related to genetically engineered (GE or GMO) foods alleges the agency was aware of possible risks to humans as far back as 1991.
The documents were released through a lawsuit filed by Steven Druker, a public interest attorney and executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity (ABI). Druker obtained a reported 44,000 pages of messages, memos, and reports from the FDA. Twenty-four of the most damaging documents are highlighted on ABI’s website and in Druker’s recent book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.
Within the documents are several key pieces of information. First, in the FDA’s “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties,” dated May 29, 1992, the agency stated it was “not aware of any information” showing these products differ “in any meaningful way” from other food, despite memos showing researchers did, indeed, still have questions about the safety of GE foods.
One FDA compliance officer wrote that the agency “was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole … [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices.” She then stated that “The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”
In one letter from 1991, the FDA’s biotech coordinator, Dr. James Maryanski, stated there was not a general consensus in the scientific community that GE foods were safe. This statement contradicts other official proclamations made by the FDA and GE enthusiasts.
At a recent hearing on GMO safety, Susan Mayne, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, continued to state that the agency is not aware of any information showing GE foods differ from traditional foods in any meaningful way.
This is not the first time the U.S government has faced scrutiny for policies surrounding GE foods. Earlier this year, Anti-Media reported that the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for failure to adequately respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to GE crops. This marks the fourth time the CFS has sued APHIS to force the release of records.
The newly released FDA documents are particularly important at this moment, as Congress debates the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, as it is known to critics. The labeling bill would create a federal voluntary standard for GMO labeling and block mandatory labeling efforts by states.
The DARK Act would also effectively nullify GE labeling measures like the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to go into effect in July of 2016. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not be enacted until bordering states also pass legislation.
Regardless, Druker is confident that if Americans had more information on the FDA’s handling of GE research, they would not stand for it.
“If the American people learned how the FDA has been deceiving them, they would be outraged; and the entire DARK Act would almost surely be doomed,” he told the Huffington Post.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2015, /PRNewswire/ — Thirty-two hospitals in 15 states agreed to pay more than $28 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought by Phillips & Cohen LLP alleging that the hospitals overcharged Medicare for a type of back surgery known as kyphoplasty.
More than 130 hospitals have now reached settlements with the Justice Department totaling $105 million as a part of an investigation spurred by a Phillips & Cohen “qui tam” (whistleblower) lawsuit. In addition, the government had previously settled similar allegations with Medtronic Spine LLC, which purchased Kyphon, the company that produced the balloon device used to perform kyphoplasty, in 2008, for $75 million. That brings the total settlement amount for the cases to approximately $180 million.
Twenty-nine of the 32 hospitals in this round of settlements were named as defendants in that lawsuit.
“This case shows the impact that two individuals can have when they choose to stand up and challenge a Medicare fraud scheme,” said Matthew Smith, a whistleblower attorney for Phillips & Cohen in Washington, DC. “This case has had a wide impact on hospitals and the healthcare industry, reimbursing the taxpayers for close to $180 million in Medicare fraud in over one hundred hospitals across the country.”
The government first learned of the Medicare billing scheme back in 2008 as a result of a False Claims Act lawsuit filed in federal district court by Phillips & Cohen on behalf of clients Craig Patrick and Charles Bates, both former employees of Kyphon.
The lawsuit alleged hospitals submitted false claims to Medicare and other government healthcare programs by billing kyphoplasty as an inpatient, rather than an outpatient, procedure.
” Colin Huntley, Senior Trial Counsel at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, has done phenomenal work on this case,” Smith said. “In addition, Assistant United States Attorney Gretchen Wylegala, USAO investigator Peggy McFarland and Health Care Fraud Auditor Teri Tetlow of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York have pursued this matter with amazing determination.” Hospital settlement amounts:
The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio – $1.74 million
Citrus Memorial Health System, Inverness, Florida – $2.6 million
Cullman Regional Medical Center, Cullman, Alabama – $350,000
Martin Memorial Medical Center, Stuart, Florida – $2 million
MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, Tacoma, Washington – $983,000
Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, Connecticut – $920,000
Princeton Community Hospital Association, Princeton, West Virginia – $1,513,500
Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane, Washington – $906,000
Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota, Florida – $972,000
Spartanburg Regional Health Services District Inc., Spartanburg, South Carolina – $1.725 million
St. Cloud Hospital, St. Cloud, Minnesota – $500,000
Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, Florida – $2 million
Five hospitals (Crestwood Medical Center, Huntsville, Alabama; St. Joseph’s Hospital, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Carolinas Hospital System, Florence, South Carolina; Mary Black Health System, Spartanburg, South Carolina and Trinity Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama) affiliated with Community Health Systems Inc., Franklin, Tennessee – $3.5 million
Five hospitals (East Cooper Medical Center, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; North Fulton Hospital, Roswell, Georgia; Providence Memorial Hospital, El Paso, Texas; St. Francis Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee and Sierra Medical Center, El Paso, Texas) affiliated with Tenet Health Care Corp., Dallas, Texas – $2.2 million
Five hospitals (Biloxi Regional Medical Center, Biloxi, Mississippi; Davis Regional Medical Center, Statesville, North Carolina; Lancaster Regional Medical Center, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Physicians Regional Medical Center, Naples, Florida and Riley Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi) formerly owned and operated by Health Management Associates Inc., Naples, Florida – $2 million
Three hospitals (Winter Haven Hospital, Winter Haven, Florida; St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa, Florida and St. Anthony’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Florida) affiliated with BayCare Health System, Clearwater, Florida – $1.5 million
Two hospitals (Banner Boswell Medical Center, Sun City, Arizona and Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, Glendale, Arizona) affiliated with Banner Health in Phoenix, Arizona- $2.685 million.These include Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, Arizona, and Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Arizona – $2.685 million
About Phillips & Cohen LLP
Phillips & Cohen is the nation’s most successful law firm representing whistleblowers under US reward programs, with recoveries for governments totaling over $11 billion. For its work on whistleblower cases, Phillips & Cohen has been selected numerous times for the National Law Journal’s elite “Plaintiffs’ Hot List,” and its attorneys have been named to Lawdragon’s annual “500 Leading Lawyers in America” list. For more info, see www.phillipsandcohen.com.