The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without universal healthcare. Instead, Americans are forced to rely on a mixture of profit and nonprofit private and public healthcare insurers and providers. The United States federal government provides healthcare coverage through Medicare to individuals ages 65 years and older, and to some individuals with disabilities, military veterans, and children through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Around 26 million Americans, about 8% of the population, including just under 2% of children, have no health insurance coverage at all. Low-income families are more likely to be uninsured, with the high cost of health insurance cited as the main factor as to why people remain uninsured in the US. The lack of coverage significantly worsens Americans’ access to health care and many face unaffordable out-of-pocket medical bills if they do seek care.
Demonstrations and strikes began in France on Thursday, January 19, as President Macron pursues his bill to raise the legal retirement age to 64 years. Trade unionists estimate that by noon local time, approximately one million people across the country had taken to the street to oppose the bill. By the end of the day, almost two million people participated in protests in different cities, with 400,000 marching in Paris alone, according to approximations from the General Confederation of Labour (CGT). Macron’s proposal is part of an attempt to adapt the Social Security Finance Bill, a discussion that the French Parliament will tackle from January 29 until March 26. In case the government does not back down from its plan, mobilizations are certain to expand and continue throughout the duration of the parliamentary debate. The next strike has already been announced for January 31.
The Navy has convinced the public that its ships are protected against catastrophic fires because they are all outfitted with extremely sophisticated firefighting sprinkler systems equipped with aqueous film-forming foam known as AFFF, or “A triple F.” In the case of the tiniest flame, the sensitive system was designed to automatically douse a fire in just a few seconds, so we were led to believe. Since 2015 or so, the Navy had become very aggressive in its public posturing in defense of the highly carcinogenic foams because of increasing public concerns regarding the health of servicemembers, civilians in close-by communities, and the environment. Hundreds of Navy photos are still publicly available showing the activation of these foam-generating systems on dozens of ships deployed around the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday that the average life expectancy in the U.S. today is only 76.4 years, which is lower than it has been since 1996. The U.S. national public health agency said such a drop was seen last year, noting that in 2020 the average American was expected to live 77 years. The average has dropped by 2.4 years since 2019, according to the CDC. In this regard, the agency said that in 2021 the U.S. recorded sharp increases in mortality rates for the second consecutive year. The CDC attributed this turn of events in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared a WHO public health emergency of international concern in 2020. According to the CDC, case fatality rates increased last year for eight of the ten leading causes of death.
An Okinawan group of activists and physicians known as the Liaison to Protect the Lives of Citizens Against PFAS Contamination has taken the extraordinary step of collecting and analyzing blood samples from 387 residents of the tiny island who live near several U.S. military installations. The results confirm the worst fears of Okinawans regarding the military’s reckless use of PFAS over the last 50 years. Average blood levels for three PFAS compounds: PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS, were about 25 nanograms per milliliter, (ng/mL), or parts per billion, for those tested from the cities of Ginowan, Kin Town, and Chatan. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is located in Ginowan.
Did the Great Depression of 1929 have an impact on people’s genetics? This sounds an enthralling question and scientists have now found more information on this issue. In research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it was reported that the economic recession impacted how people would age, even before they are born. The findings suggest that the cells of those conceived during the Great Depression show signs of faster ageing. The question arises as to how the scientists map the genes of people conceived almost a century ago and how did they come to this conclusion? The answer lies in a field of genetics known as Epigenetics. This refers to how the environment shapes genetic expression.
Four months have passed since the publication of Guidance on PFAS Testing and Health Outcomes, a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, (National Academies). The National Academies are the premier American institutions created by President Lincoln in 1863 to investigate issues in science for the U.S. government. The National Academies recommends blood tests and medical monitoring for people likely to have high exposure to the toxic chemicals known as per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances, (PFAS). The National Academies specifically addresses the urgent need to reach those who are exposed through occupational routes, particularly firefighters.
At lunchtime, the boats started arriving just off the water of the Golden Nugget, the conference venue. Then more boats — there were, in the end, at least 17 vessels on the water protesting pollution and the intrusion of gas exports into communities and ecosystems. The vessels circled the water and displayed banners. There were shrimpers, oystermen and activists all on the water. The chatter onshore was myopic. “I bet they’re using gasoline in their boats!” The point isn’t the fact that we can’t avoid that we still have fossil fuels in use everywhere in our lives. The point is that we need to transition AWAY from fossil fuels, not toward them as the LNG industry is pushing for.
Doctors For Assange sent a letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland and the United Kingdom Home Secretary Suella Braverman yet again expressing their concern about the deteriorating health of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The coalition of over 300 doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other medical professionals have repeatedly called for Assange’s release from Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London and protested “health injustices” that have occurred as a result of the extradition case against him. Worsening matters, as Doctors for Assange notes, is the fact that Assange tested positive for COVID-19 on October 8. “Given his chronic lung ailment, Mr. Assange may be at increased risk of serious illness resulting from COVID infection,” the doctors write.
Many military and civilian families living on military bases around Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i have been outspoken that they felt ill before the November 2021 massive Red Hill jet fuel leak…and they were right! Recently released data shows that their water was contaminated by jet fuel in the summer of 2021 and they were feeling effects of poisoning long before November 2021. Interviews with ten families published in an extensive December 21, 2021 Washington Post article “Military families say they were ill months before jet-fuel leak brought scrutiny to Pearl Harbor’s tap water,” record that family members shared physicians’ notes, emails and visual records documenting symptoms that, in some cases, dated back to late spring, 2021.
Nearly 240 factory workers at the world’s biggest independent bottler, Refresco, in Wharton, New Jersey, have been fighting for years to improve working conditions and win recognition of their union after voting twice to unionize their workplace. Now, after winning their second election, Refresco workers are finally starting negotiations with the company. Refresco filed numerous appeals and stalled the bargaining process for as long as possible by claiming the election had been improperly run. The National Labor Relations Board did, in fact, overturn workers’ first union victory in June 2021. The reason? An agency staffer conducting the election was five minutes late to the proceedings and the resulting number of workers who didn’t vote due to the delay exceeded the margin of victory for the union.
When it comes to environmental toxins, many of us conjure images of industrial smokestacks, but unfortunately, they aren’t in just the most obvious places, but they’re everywhere in our daily lives – in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use on our body, in our homes and our gardens. These toxins with enough concentration can wreak havoc on our health with major threats that include cancer-causing carcinogens, and other substances that upend cardiovascular, endocrine, and respiratory functions, as well as, lead to chronic illness. As scientists and healthcare workers are understanding more and more about the effects of these toxins and not only how they affect us, but how they may trigger other problems within our bodies, the need for us to figure out how to limit our exposure is becoming more important.
Sandra Arzola was relaxing in her West Chicago home one weekend in 1995, when she heard a knock at the door. Recently married, she shared the gray duplex with her husband, mom and sister, and family members were constantly coming and going. But when Sandra answered the door that day, what she learned would change how she looked at her home and suburban community forever. At the door was a woman representing Envirocon, an environmental cleanup company. There was thorium on the family’s property, the woman said, and if it was OK with them, workers were coming to remove it. It was the first time Sandra had heard of thorium. “It took me by left field,” she said. “But [the representative] made it sound like everything was going to be fine.”
July 30 will be the 57th anniversary of the passage of Medicare, widely celebrated as Medicare's birthday. People are taking action across the country this week in support of a National Improved Medicare for All single payer healthcare system culminating in a national march and rally in Washington, DC on Saturday (find info at M4M4All.org). Clearing the FOG speaks with Dr. Ana Malinow, a leader of the group National Single Payer, about the growing privatization and corporatization of the US healthcare system and how people are organizing to fight back and win a system in which everyone in the US will have the care they need without fear of financial ruin. She also discusses how American Exceptionalism is an obstacle to changing the system.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will dole out $3.5 billion to clean up the most hazardous contaminated sites in the country, but so far, no Arizona sites are set to receive funding. And some of the most polluted locations in the state, the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Indigenous lands, are likely ineligible for the money. The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed last November and is considered the Biden administration’s top legislative achievement. The first round of money will allocate $1 billion to clear the backlog of so-called orphaned sites on the National Priorities List. That list, part of the Superfund program, includes what the U.S. government considers the most contaminated sites in the country. The sites are nicknamed orphans because they haven't received any money for cleanup yet.