How Profit Deals With Protest: Disappearance Of Argentinian Activist Santiago Maldonado

Top photo | Demonstrators hold photos of missing activist Santiago Maldonado, during a protest at Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (AP/Natacha Pisarenko)

By Ramona Wadi for Mint Press News – The Maldonado case has exposed state repression of Mapuche resistance and activism. Digging deeper, we find linkage of the activist’s disappearance to capitalist exploitation — and to the clothing company, Benetton, which owns the largest share of territory allocated to a foreign company in Latin America. Over 40 days have passed since the forced disappearance of Argentinian activist Santiago Maldonado. President Mauricio Macri’s government appears to be more preoccupied with protecting the impunity of the Argentine Military Police, also known as the gendarmerie, than with listening to the demands for Maldonado’s release — or at least for information on his whereabouts and condition — being made by a mobilized populace. Maldonado was detained and disappeared on August 1 while participating in a protest in Chubut calling for the release of Mapuche leader of the Ancestral Mapuche Resistance(RAM), Facundo Jones Huala. Jones had been detained upon extradition requests by Chile. Both Argentina and Chile have labeled Jones a terrorist, on account of his resistance activities against capitalist exploitation of ancestral Mapuche territory.

For Profit Insurers Fueling Opioid Epidemic

Alisa Erkes, who has Behcet’s disease, now takes extended-release morphine and hydrocodone after her insurance company stopped covering the painkilling skin patch Butrans that had been effective for her chronic pain. (Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times)

By Katie Thomas for The New York Times and Charles Ornstein for ProPublica – At a time when the United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, many insurers are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications. The reason, experts say: Opioid drugs are generally cheap while safer alternatives are often more expensive. Drugmakers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and doctors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, but the role that insurers — and the pharmacy benefit managers that run their drug plans — have played in the opioid crisis has received less attention. That may be changing, however. The New York state attorney general’s office sent letters last week to the three largest pharmacy benefit managers — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx — asking how they were addressing the crisis. ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year. Only one-third of the people covered, for example, had any access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch that contains a less-risky opioid, buprenorphine.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are A Staggering $5 Tn Per Year

In this photo taken on November 19, 2015, smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China’s northern Shanxi province. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

By John Abraham for The Guardian – Fossil fuels have two major problems that paint a dim picture for their future energy dominance. These problems are inter-related but still should be discussed separately. First, they cause climate change. We know that, we’ve known it for decades, and we know that continued use of fossil fuels will cause enormous worldwide economic and social consequences. Second, fossil fuels are expensive. Much of their costs are hidden, however, as subsidies. If people knew how large their subsidies were, there would be a backlash against them from so-called financial conservatives. A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly.

Insurance Issue Pushing More Expensive Drugs, Not Generics

From Scott Dalton

By Charles Ornstein for ProPublica and Katie Thomas for The New York Times – It’s standard advice for consumers: If you are prescribed a medicine, always ask if there is a cheaper generic. Nathan Taylor, a 3-D animator who lives outside Houston, has tried to do that with all his medications. But when he fills his monthly prescription for Adderall XR to treat his attention-deficit disorder, his insurance company refuses to cover the generic. Instead, he must make a co-payment of $90 a month for the brand-name version. By comparison, he pays $10 or less each month for the five generic medications he also takes. “It just befuddles me that they would do that,” said Taylor, 41. A spokesman for his insurer, Humana, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment. With each visit to the pharmacy, Taylor enters the upside-down world of prescription drugs, where conventional wisdom about how to lower drug costs is often wrong. Consumers have grown accustomed to being told by insurers — and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers — that they must give up their brand-name drugs in favor of cheaper generics.

Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up And Top-down

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By Staff of The Nader Page – The unraveling of a society’s institutions, stability and reasonable order does not sound alarms to forewarn the citizenry, apart from economic yardsticks measuring poverty, jobs, wages, health, savings, profits and other matters economic. However, we do have some signs that we should not allow ourselves to ignore. Maliciousness, profiteering and willful ignorance on the part of our political and corporate rulers undoubtedly contribute to worsening injustice. Let’s consider some ways that we as citizens, far too often, collectively allow this to happen. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power, whether by not voting, not thinking critically about important issues, not showing up for civic activities or allowing emotional false appeals and flattery by candidates and parties to sway them on important issues. Without an informed and motivated citizenry, the society starts to splinter. If people do not do their homework before Election Day and know what to expect of candidates and of themselves, the political TV ads and the plutocrats’ campaign cash will take control of what is on the table and what is off the table. This leads to the most important changes a majority of Americans want ending up on the floor.

Biomass Industry’s Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed

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By Adam Macon and Sasha Stashwick for AlterNet – If we want clean air and a livable planet, cutting down trees for fuel is one of the most counterproductive things we can do. Standing forests are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting trees down to use as fuel in energy production—known as biomass energy or bioenergy—is one of the most counterproductive things we can do if our goal is clean air and a livable planet. Despite this reality, policymakers around the world have invested heavily in bioenergy. Nowhere is this more true than in the European Union, where bioenergy policies in the U.K. and other member states enable billions in subsidies each year to flow to the balance sheets of large utility companies, padding their profits and financing the conversion of old coal-fired power plants to burn wood. Meanwhile, the evidence of the climate and ecological harm wrought by the biomass industry continues to mount. Yet too many policymakers remain unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of bioenergy and adequately limit its growth. They argue that the industry’s impacts on the climate, forests, and people are still uncertain, that we need more studies, more “proof.”

18 States And D.C. Sue Betsy DeVos Over For-Profit College Loan Rules

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By Lydia O’Connor for The Huffington Post – Eighteen states and the District of Columbia are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend a rule that helps student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit colleges. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal district court in Washington, D.C., was led by Massachusetts and joined by 18 other attorneys general. It takes aim at DeVos’ decision to freeze an Obama-era rule known as the “borrower defense to repayment,” which helped forgive student loan debt for people whose for-profit colleges closed amid fraud accusations, leaving students without degrees and with piles of debt. “Across the US, students and families are drowning in unaffordable student loan debt while predatory, for-profit schools rake it in,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted.

These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like A Prison’

From propublica.org

By Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley for Pro Publica and Slate – An alternative school for sixth- through 12th-graders with behavioral or academic problems, Paramount occupied a low-slung, brick and concrete building on a dead-end road in hard-luck Reading, Pennsylvania, a city whose streets are littered with signs advertising bail bondsmen, pay-day lenders, and pawn shops. Camelot Education, the for-profit company that ran Paramount under a contract with the Reading school district, maintained a set of strict protocols: No jewelry, book bags, or using the water fountain or bathroom without permission. Just as it still does at dozens of schools, the company deployed a small platoon of “behavioral specialists” and “team leaders”…

Profit Making Colleges That Loaded Students With Debt, Now In Government

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By Annie Waldman for Pro Publication – Taylor Hansen lobbied to weaken regulation of for-profit colleges. Since he joined the Education Department, it’s started doing just that. Until June 2016, Taylor Hansen lobbied for the largest trade group of for-profit colleges. At the forefront of its agenda: eliminating a rule known as “gainful employment,” which can take away federal funding from for-profit colleges if their graduates fail to earn enough to repay student loans. Last week, that goal started to become a reality. The U.S. Department of Education delayed the deadline for colleges to comply with certain provisions of gainful employment, saying it plans to review the rule.

Going After The Pain Profiteers

Newly leaked TPP text "is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry," writes Dr. Deborah Gleeson in her analysis. (Photo: ep_jhu/flickr/cc)

By Sarah Anderson for Inequality.org – A labor leader whose son was a victim of the opioid epidemic has inspired a campaign to crack down on irresponsible drug industry CEOs. Travis Bornstein never told his friends about his son Tyler’s drug problem. He was too embarrassed. Then, on September 28, 2014, Tyler’s body was found in a vacant lot in Akron, Ohio. The 23-year-old had become addicted to opioid pain killers after several sports-related injuries and surgeries. Unable to afford long-term treatment, he ultimately turned to a cheaper drug — the heroin that killed him. “Now I have no choice but to speak out,” the elder Bornstein, president of Teamsters Local 24 in Akron…

Within 4 Years, 4 Nonprofit Hospitals In NJ Pocketed $1.7 Billion In Profits

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By Lynn Petrovich for End The Illusion – Cumulative surplus for these four nonprofit entities totaled over $2.2 Billion, cash in the bank and/or Wall Street investments/brokerage firms. In addition to the above, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (EID #22-6029397), whose mission includes “promoting the health and health care of New Jerseyans and to support research, evaluation, learning and communication efforts that can improve the nation’s health” reported almost $10 Billion in surplus funds as of 12/31/14. In 2012, Barnabas Health, NJ’s largest nonprofit conglomerate, paid its outgoing CEO, Ronald Del Mauro (he was mentioned in my May 2011 request to Monmouth Medical Center), a precedent setting severance package of $21.6 million.

Legal Marijuana Systems Do Not Have To Be For Profit

(Photo: Ryan Kang, AP)

By Beau Kilmer for USA Today – As of last week, voters in California and seven other states have passed ballot initiatives to allow for-profit companies to produce, distribute and sell non-medical marijuana. With more than 65 million peopleliving in states that have passed marijuana legalization, and a Gallup poll showing that 60% of the country supports legalizing marijuana use, national legalization may seem inevitable. As goes California, so goes the nation, right? Not necessarily. Consider what happened with medical marijuana. California was the first state to allow medical marijuana, starting nearly 20 years ago.

Corporate Profits Are Way Up, Corporate Taxes Are Way Down

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By Hunter Blair for EPI – Since 1952, corporate profits as a share of the economy have risen dramatically (from 5.5 percent to 8.5 percent), while corporate tax revenues as a share of the economy have plummeted (from 5.9 percent to just 1.9 percent). This trend has worsened since the end of the Great Recession. Between 2010 and 2015, corporate profits averaged 9.2 percent of gross domestic product, while corporate income tax revenue averaged just 1.6 percent.

Getting Immigrants Out Of Detention Is Very Profitable

Edmon de Haro

By Steve Fisher for Mother Jones – Sofía was 19 when she fled El Salvador after receiving threats from a drug cartel. In late 2014, she was caught near San Diego by the US Border Patrol and sent to an immigration detention center in Eloy, Arizona. Following eight months in detention, she was desperate to reunite with her mother, who lives in Northern California. Like many detainees, Sofía was eligible for release on bond while awaiting her immigration court proceedings. But her bond, set at $15,000, was far more than she could afford.

Stop Suing Ex-Prisoners For Room And Board

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill with the potential to reduce prison recidivism. (Hans Neleman / Getty Images)

By Alan Mills and David M. Shapiro for Chicago Tribune – Illinois prisons are in crisis. They are among the most overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded in the nation — but Gov. Bruce Rauner has established himself as a barrier to serious reform. The governor recently vetoed a bill with the potential to reduce recidivism. It would end the state’s practice of destroying the finances of former prisoners by going after their assets to recover the costs of incarcerating them. The bill had passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Even the Department of Corrections had no objection to it.