Minister in Russia’s Caucasus shot dead

Minister in Russia’s Caucasus shot dead

Posted: 12 August 2009 1614 hrs


MOSCOW : The minister of construction in Russia’s turbulent Ingushetia region, Ruslan Amerkhanov, was shot dead Wednesday inside his ministerial office, officials said.

“The construction minister has been shot dead in his office,” Madina Khadziyeva, spokeswoman for Ingushetia’s interior ministry, told AFP.

Russian news agencies said Amerkhanov was shot dead at point-blank range when a group of armed men burst into his office in Ingushetia’s capital of Magas.

Overwhelmingly Muslim Ingushetia and other regions in Russia’s northern Caucasus are battling Islamist militants who are waging a low-level but increasingly deadly insurgency against the pro-Kremlin local authorities.

Obama slams healthcare “scare” tactics

[SEE: Obama’s Main Man Has a Cold Heart]

Obama slams healthcare “scare” tactics

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned the wild “scare tactics” peddled by foes of his healthcare reform plan in a passionate defence of his signature domestic priority.

Obama thrust himself into the fierce public debate over his plans to bring health coverage in reach of all Americans in a campaign-style town hall meeting in New Hampshire meant to mobilise grass roots support for his plan.

“The way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks, and they’ll create bogeymen out there that just aren’t real,” Obama said.

With a series of events this week, the president is attempting to wrest back control of the acrimonious debate from Republicans who claim his programme is too expensive and represents a government seizure of the private health system.

The showdown over healthcare, raging through normally sleepy August, has much wider implications than just the medical treatment offered to Americans.

A legislative defeat would deal a devastating political blow to Obama and likely severely curtail his political capital and chances of enacting the rest of his hugely ambitious plan to force through sweeping change.

“Let’s disagree over things that are real – not these wild representations that bear no resemblance to anything that has actually been proposed,” Obama said in the question-and-answer session.

Foes of Obama’s reform drive accuse him of plotting a government takeover of the US private healthcare system, and lawmakers who back his plans have faced a furious backlash from conservatives in their own town hall meetings.

Critics also claim Obama will raise taxes to pay for a plan they say would result in government dictating healthcare choices for Americans and lower the standard of coverage for those who do have insurance.

But Obama, hoping to offer healthcare to the 46 million Americans who currently have no insurance, attempted to cool the boiling rhetoric being blasted across cable news channels and conservative talks radio every day.

“For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary – what is truly risky – is if we do nothing.”

Obama also rejected the notion that his plan would frame a bureaucratic “death panel” to make end-of-life choices, in an apparent reference to a Facebook post by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on Grandma because we’ve decided that it’s too expensive to let her live anymore.”

“Somehow, it has gotten spun into this idea of death panels, I am not in favour of that, I want to clear the air here.”

The president said that the confusion had arisen out of an initiative in the House of Representatives to allow elderly patients to be reimbursed from a federal health plan for consultations about hospice and end-of-life care.

Obama’s healthcare meeting was conducted in good humour, and with even those who disagreed with him showing deference habitually given to a president.

But the mood was uglier for other lawmakers who found themselves shouted down and targeted by angry audiences at townhall meetings elsewhere.

In Lebanon, Pennyslvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party, was harangued by an emotional woman who charged the government was trying to hijack private healthcare.

“I’m a Republican, it isn’t about the health care system, it’s about turning the country into Russia, into a socialist country,” she said.

“When are you going to restore this country back like the fathers founded it according to the constitution?”

Obama had hoped that Congress would vote on healthcare reform before its current summer break, but the initiative got bogged down in the ferocious political struggle, with his opponents dictating the terms of debate.

There are currently three bills being framed in various committees of the House of Representatives and two others being written in the Senate, setting up a period of fierce horse trading before any legislation can come to a vote.

Many Democrats fear they could be living through a repeat of former president Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful healthcare reform drive, which never even came to a vote in Congress and severely wounded his first-term administration.

– AFP/yb

Obama’s Main Man Has a Cold Heart

emanuel.jpg

[Emanuel (Rahm’s brother) is special advisor to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy.  The excerpt below explicitly spells-out his beliefs that budgetary considerations create a need to draw a line between those who merit life support and life-enhancing medical treatment and those who don’t.  The determining criteria is political, those who can be made into functioning citizens, capable of adding to the political dialogue, and those who cannot.  Dementia (Alzheimer’s is “senile dementia”) patients should not be guaranteed basic health care.]

Where civic republicanism and deliberative democracy meet

Ezekiel J. Emanuel  – Hastings Center Report

“a need for citizens who are independent and responsibile and for public forums that present citizens with opportunities to enter into public deliberations on social policies. ..

the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be

socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic.

Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsycho-logical services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.”

Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

[Would they have called it “racism” if the Congressman had been white?  Maybe all those Congressmen of every color and political persuasion who support this death/big money bill should be made aware that the people are waking-up?]


By John Bazemore, APThe staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.

Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and police were investigating after a swastika was painted outside Rep. David Scott‘s district office in Georgia, an act the suburban Atlanta Democrat said reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care and should remind people to tone down their rhetoric.

Scott’s staff arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday morning to find the Nazi graffiti emblazoned on a sign bearing the lawmaker’s name. The vandalism occurred roughly a week after Scott was involved in a confrontational argument over health care at a community meeting.

Scott said his office immediately notified authorities, including the U.S. Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over health care reform. An FBI spokesman said the bureau is investigating along with Capitol Police and the Smyrna Police Department.

The congressman’s office is located in a bank building and Scott said he was optimistic that surveillance cameras captured the vandalism.

Scott, who is black, said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Obama as a Marxist.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “There’s so much hatred out there for President (Barack) Obama.”

A moderate Democrat who represents a majority-white district near Atlanta, Scott said he thinks the racism is isolated but can’t be ignored. He said the swastika probably was intended as a warning. He hopes it instead persuades reasonable people to maintain a more substantive debate over health care changes.

“We must not allow it to intimidate us,” he said.

At an Aug. 1 community meeting in Douglasville, Ga., Scott raised his voice at protesters who pummeled him with questions and complaints about Democratic health care proposals. He has said he was upset that they interrupted a meeting that was supposed to be about plans for a new highway in the area.


Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

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The staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.
By John Bazemore, AP
The staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and police were investigating after a swastika was painted outside Rep. David Scott‘s district office in Georgia, an act the suburban Atlanta Democrat said reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care and should remind people to tone down their rhetoric.

Scott’s staff arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday morning to find the Nazi graffiti emblazoned on a sign bearing the lawmaker’s name. The vandalism occurred roughly a week after Scott was involved in a confrontational argument over health care at a community meeting.

Scott said his office immediately notified authorities, including the U.S. Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over health care reform. An FBI spokesman said the bureau is investigating along with Capitol Police and the Smyrna Police Department.

The congressman’s office is located in a bank building and Scott said he was optimistic that surveillance cameras captured the vandalism.

Scott, who is black, said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Obama as a Marxist.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “There’s so much hatred out there for President (Barack) Obama.”

A moderate Democrat who represents a majority-white district near Atlanta, Scott said he thinks the racism is isolated but can’t be ignored. He said the swastika probably was intended as a warning. He hopes it instead persuades reasonable people to maintain a more substantive debate over health care changes.

“We must not allow it to intimidate us,” he said.

At an Aug. 1 community meeting in Douglasville, Ga., Scott raised his voice at protesters who pummeled him with questions and complaints about Democratic health care proposals. He has said he was upset that they interrupted a meeting that was supposed to be about plans for a new highway in the area.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jihadis thrice attacked Pakistan nuclear sites

Jihadis thrice attacked Pakistan nuclear sites

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s nuclear facilities have already been attacked at least thrice by its home-grown extremists and terrorists in little

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reported incidents over the last two years, even as the world remains divided over the safety and security of the nuclear weapons in the troubled country, according to western analysts.

The incidents, tracked by Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University in UK, include an attack on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha on November 1, 2007, an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear airbase at Kamra by a suicide bomber on December 10, 2007, and perhaps most significantly the August 20, 2008 attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly.

These attacks have occurred even as Pakistan has taken several steps to secure and fortify its nuclear weapons against potential attacks, particularly by the United States and India, says Gregory.

In fact, the attacks have received so little attention that Peter Bergen, the eminent terrorism expert who reviewed Gregory’s paper first published in West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center Sentinel, said “he (Gregory) points out something that was news to me (and shouldn’t have been) which is that a series of attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facilities have already happened.”

Pakistan insists that its nuclear weapons are fully secured and there is no chance of them falling into the hands of the extremists or terrorists.

But Gregory, while detailing the steps Islamabad has taken to protect them against Indian and US attacks, asks if the geographical location of Pakistan’s principle nuclear weapons infrastructure, which is mainly in areas dominated by al-Qaida and Taliban, makes it more vulnerable to internal attacks.

Gregory points out that when Pakistan was developing its nuclear weapons infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s, its
principal concern was the risk that India would overrun its nuclear weapons facilities in an armored offensive if the
facilities were placed close to the long Pakistan-India border.

As a result, Pakistan, with a few exceptions, chose to locate much of its nuclear weapons infrastructure to the
north and west of the country and to the region around Islamabad and Rawalpindi – sites such as Wah, Fatehjang,
Golra Sharif, Kahuta, Sihala, Isa Khel Charma, Tarwanah, and Taxila. The concern, however, is that most of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are close to or even within areas dominated by Pakistani Taliban militants and home to al-Qaida.

Detailing the actions taken by Islamabad to safeguard its nuclear assets from external attacks, Gregory writes that
Pakistan has established a “robust set of measures to assure the security of its nuclear weapons.” These have
been based on copying US practices, procedures and technologies, and comprise: a) physical security; b)
personnel reliability programs; c) technical and procedural safeguards; and d) deception and secrecy.

In terms of physical security, Pakistan operates a layered concept of concentric tiers of armed forces personnel to
guard nuclear weapons facilities, the use of physical barriers and intrusion detectors to secure nuclear weapons
facilities, the physical separation of warhead cores from their detonation components, and the storage of the
components in protected underground sites.

With respect to personnel reliability, Gregory says the Pakistan Army conducts a tight selection process drawing
almost exclusively on officers from Punjab Province who are considered to have fewer links with religious extremism (now increasingly a questionable premise) or with the Pashtun areas of Pakistan from which groups such as the Pakistani Taliban mainly garner their support.

Pakistan operates an analog to the US Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) that screens individuals for Islamist sympathies, personality problems, drug use, inappropriate external affiliations, and sexual deviancy.

The army uses staff rotation and also operates a “two-person” rule under which no action, decision, or
activity involving a nuclear weapon can be undertaken by fewer than two persons. In total, between 8,000 and 10,000 individuals from the SPD’s security division and from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau agencies are involved in the security clearance and monitoring of those with nuclear weapons duties.

Gregory says despite formal command authority structures that cede a role to Pakistan’s civilian leadership, in
practice the Pakistan Army has complete control over the country’s nuclear weapons.

It imposes its executive authority over the weapons through the use of an authenticating code system down through the command chains that is deployment sites, aspects of the nuclear command and control arrangements, and many aspects of the arrangements for nuclear safety and security (such as the numbers of those removed under personnel reliability programs, the reasons for their removal, and how often authenticating and enabling (PAL-type) codes are changed).

In addition, Pakistan uses deception – such as dummy missiles – to complicate the calculus of adversaries and is
likely to have extended this practice to its nuclear weapons infrastructure.

Taken together, these measures provide confidence that the Pakistan Army can fully protect its nuclear weapons against the internal terrorist threat, against its main adversary India, and against the suggestion that its nuclear weapons could be either spirited out of the country by a third party (posited to be the United States) or destroyed in the event of a deteriorating situation or a state collapse in Pakistan, says Gregory.

However, at another point, he says “despite these elaborate safeguards, empirical evidence points to a clear
set of weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security arrangements.”

Hostile crowds confront Democrats at healthcare sessions

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Hostile crowds confront Democrats at healthcare sessions

Reception reflects challenge facing party’s priority

Senator Arlen Specter listened to a critic of the healthcare proposal yesterday at a forum in Lebanon, Pa. One shouting participant left the room after security guards approached him. Senator Arlen Specter listened to a critic of the healthcare proposal yesterday at a forum in Lebanon, Pa. One shouting participant left the room after security guards approached him. (Bradley C Bower/Associated Press)
By Erica Werner Associated Press / August 12, 2009

LEBANON, Pa. – Jeers and taunts drowned out Democrats calling for a healthcare overhaul at town halls yesterday, and one lawmaker said a swastika was spray-painted at his office as debate turned to noisy confrontation over President Obama’s plan.

“One day God will stand before you and judge you!’’ one man shouted at Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania before security guards approached and he left the room.

“If they don’t let us vent our frustrations out, they will have a revolution,’’ Mary Ann Fieser of Hillsboro, Mo., told Senator Claire McCaskill at her Missouri forum.

McCaskill admonished the rowdy crowd of about 1,500. “I don’t understand this rudeness,’’ she said. “I honestly don’t get it.’’

The bitter sessions underscored the challenge for the administration as it tries to win over an increasingly skeptical public on the costly and far-reaching task of revamping the nation’s healthcare system.

Specter, a longtime Republican who turned Democrat this spring, faced hostile questions, taunts, and jeers as he gamely tried to explain his positions. At a crowded community college, speaker after speaker accused him of trampling on their constitutional rights, adding to the federal deficit, or allowing government bureaucrats to take over healthcare.

Specter explained repeatedly that there is no single Senate bill yet for him to talk about, because the Finance Committee hasn’t finished writing one. That explanation was usually met by boos from the crowd. Many had read portions of a bill passed by three committees in the House and tried to get Specter to respond to that.

One woman tried to make it personal for Specter, who has been treated for cancer, alleging that the Democrats’ plan would not provide care to a man in his 70s with cancer. “You’re here because of the plan we have now,’’ she said.

Specter showed some heat at that. “Well, you’re just not right,’’ he said. He called her claim a “vicious, malicious’’ rumor.

Specter said that in a long life in politics he had not seen anything like what he witnessed yesterday and at a town hall last weekend that turned even uglier. “There is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember,’’ he said.

Many in the crowd said they came of their own accord, and several told Specter they objected to Democrats characterizing them as mobs or organized opposition shipped in by lobbyists or the Republican Party. National conservative groups are encouraging people to attend town halls, but liberal groups are doing the same – with less apparent success. Several in the crowd wore T-shirts proclaiming: “Proud Member of the Mob.’’

In Georgia yesterday morning, staffers found a large, spray-painted swastika on a sign outside the office of a congressman who was involved in a contentious argument over healthcare at a recent community meeting.

Democrat David Scott, who is black, said the swastika is the latest example of what he believes is an increasingly hateful and racist debate over reforming healthcare. The Atlanta lawmaker said he also has received mail in recent days that used the N-word.

Scott said local police were notified along with the FBI, the Secret Service, and US Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over healthcare reform.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,’’ Scott said in a telephone interview. “That’s what is bubbling up with all of this. There’s so much hatred out there for President Obama.’’

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

The Man With the Plan for Bananastan

The Man With the Plan for Bananastan

Tuesday, 11 August 2009 00:00 Jeff Huber
McChrystal
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2009.

The Bananastans, the banana republic-style tar pits in Central Asia that we’ve stumbled into, have rapidly become a bigger cluster bomb than Iraq ever was.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the “measure of effectiveness” in Afghanistan “will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.”

Shortly after his confirmation, the New York Times reported that McChrystal had been given “carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates” as he carries out “an ambitious new strategy” of “stepped-up attacks on Taliban fighters and narcotics networks.”

McChrystal then re-reversed himself and announced that he would restrict the use of air strikes in Afghanistan in order to avoid civilian casualties. He said that if an air strike was intended “just to defeat the enemy, then we are not going to do it.” Throughout my decades as an air operations planner and in all my studies of air power history, I never heard of such a thing as an air strike that wasn’t intended to defeat the enemy.

Days after his announcement, an air strike in Kandahar killed four civilians. Since then, air strikes have killed and wounded civilians time and time and time and time again. Over in Pakistan, U.S. officials think a drone air strike”probably” killed Baitullah Mehsud, a senior Taliban leader. That’s according to the best intelligence the U.S. officials have, which in that part of the world amounts to bribing or beating people into telling us what we want to hear or believing the lies that Pakistani intelligence tells us.

Even if it’s true that Mehsud is dead, so what? We’ve killed senior evildoers before, and evil still exists and the global war on it continues. For every senior evildoer we kill, 10 junior evil doers scramble to take his place and 20 new evildoers rise up to avenge the deaths of their mothers and sisters and brothers that we caused in the course of killing the senior evildoer.

Soon after assuming command, McChrystal ordered the Marines to conduct a major offensive to clear Taliban havens in south Afghanistan. The Marines met less resistance than expected, but the Taliban executed effective strikes in other parts of the country. McChrystal said he was surprised by that turn of events.

The signature warfare style of guerilla insurgents is to refuse battle with superior forces and to strike weaker forces unexpectedly. During McChrystal’s confirmation period, the Pentagon hyped him as a “counterinsurgency expert.” It’s funny how a counterinsurgency expert could be surprised when the insurgents he’s fighting behave the way they’re supposed to.

Why am I finding it easier and easier to believe that McChrystal just eats one meal a day and only sleeps a few hours a night?

The latest member of the dream team McChrystal has been given carte blanche to handpick is counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, who is now head of U.S. Central Command and McChrystal’s boss. In a recent appearance at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Kilcullen predicted that the U.S. will see about two more years of heavy fighting then either turn things over to Afghan forces or “lose and go home.” He outlined a “best-case scenario” for a decade of further U.S. and NATO entanglement in Afghanistan. These counterinsurgency wonks have an odd sense of time. Maybe that’s why counterinsurgencies go on forever. The people in charge of them start having so much fun that they lose track.

Kilcullen also has an odd sense of why Afghanistan is worth a 10-year commitment. We have “compelling reasons” to continue the fight, he says, but counterterrorism isn’t “at the top of my list.” To the casual observer, it would seem that counterterrorism is the only reason to be in Afghanistan, but Kilcullen is a cut above “casual.”

One of his main reasons for staying the course in Afghanistan is that it may be the only way to preserve the NATO alliance. See, NATO was formed to fight a different kind of war than the one in Afghanistan against a different kind of enemy than the Taliban or al-Qaeda, but that war and that enemy doesn’t exist anymore. NATO needs a new kind of war and enemy to fight, and if Afghanistan and the Taliban aren’t it, then there’s no reason for NATO to exist anymore. If maintaining NATO’s meaningless existence isn’t enough to justify a war, we revert to our double-secret fallback position, which is that the U.S. Army needs a phony baloney job to justify its existence.

In March 2009, the Washington Post said that Kilcullen’s “theories are revolutionizing military thinking throughout the West.” Yeah. He’s revolutionizing military thinking the way the Hindenburg revolutionized the dirigible.

McChrystal is putting together what aides describe as a “blunt summing up” of the situation in the Bananastans. The report is due out in a couple of weeks and will probably ask for yet another troop escalation.

The Associated Press reports that in anticipation of the assessment, the Pentagon has set up a new command center in an “ultra-secure war room” where people from different services and disciplines can “sit together.”

In a separate effort, the Obama administration is developing new measures of success in the Bananastans, something it promised Congress months ago. It’s bad enough that we sent additional troops over there without telling them what they needed to do to be successful. What’s worse is that in order to have accurate measures of success you need to have coherent objectives, and we have nothing of the sort. The “realistic and achievable” objectives baked up by the White House strategy team in March are certifiable. We’ll never create stable governments in the Bananastans or train reliable Afghan and Pakistani security forces, and according to Kilcullen, the only reason to have “international community” involvement is to resurrect an extinct military alliance. Disrupting terror networks in the Bananastans won’t “degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.” With handheld access to the information highway, terrorists can conduct business from the gallery of the Knesset chamber if they feel like it.

Ah! So that’s why Kilcullen doesn’t think counterterrorism is an important reason to be in the Bananastans.

It all makes sense now. For a minute there I thought we were just spinning our wheels like a battalion of Chinese fire trucks.

Source: Antiwar.com

Why Won’t Universal Healthcare Be Provided?

[The following report answers the question, “will America get universal healthcare?” with a resounding “NO”!  As long as profits are more important than meeting the health care needs of real people, there will be no improvement or change in the system, and it will remain the primary cause of bankruptcies in this country.  The same can be said about Obama’s military policies–as long as profits remain the driving factor in the war of terror, there will be no chance for peace in this world.  All programs in this country share this common problem, they are profit-driven.  People must replace profit in all that government does.]

It becomes easier each day to realize that many members of Congress are, typically, in collusion with big business to stymie any meaningful improvements in our health care system.  Despite the fact that many other countries can offer guidance from their superbly successful models of universal coverage, these alternatives will not even be superficially evaluated.  The heath-care debate is not about care at all. Instead, it’s about the amount of profits that government, HMO and pharmaceutical leaders are personally willing to give up. Accordingly, it’s clear that many Congressional representatives have no interest in evaluating even a few of the successful models of universal coverage that numerous other countries can provide. Instead, they are, typically, in collusion with big business to stymie any meaningful reforms.

Why Won’t Universal Healthcare Be Provided?

By Emily Spence
Upon receipt of a B. S. degree in biology, an acquaintance of mine — let’s call her Linda — decided to spend the summer in Asia working at a small medical clinic that had a staffing shortage. The clinic was near a major river on whose banks were crowded thousands of families living in small densely packed hovels whose heaped together mass stretched as far as the eye could see.
Meanwhile, the shacks, tents and slapdash dwellings did not have access to electricity, indoor plumbing, nor cooking facilities. Consequently, hoards of people spent countless hours every day trekking to locate semi-private spots to undertake their toileting and find materials that could be burned for outdoor pit cooking. They, also, spent an inordinate amount of time trekking to and from the river to collect water for food preparation, cleaning and baths, as well as for any livestock and small gardens that a minority of the households maintained.
In addition, many people would become unwell from drinking the river water, particularly because lots of fecal waste, garbage and trash inevitably wound up in its currents. Especially young children whose immune systems were not fully functional and elders became stricken with intestinal infections, and would, doubled over with cramps, drag themselves to the clinic, a claustrophobic closet-like facility, for any sort of cure.
However, there was such a shortage of medicine that nothing of real value could be offered and, certainly, no one could suggest that avoidance of the river water was a necessity in order to make the illness, whichever type it was, permanently go away. As such, only sympathy could be offered, along with any other needed treatments that actually were available.
These included antiseptic ointment and gauze for wounds, splints made from slender tree branches for broken limbs, several other items and suggestions for bed rest, the latter of which was often an impossibility since one needed to move about to get the river water, fuel (primarily animal dung and small scraps of brush) and food from hawkers that included river fish and eels for meal preparation. On account, many people’s health further deteriorated to the point that they prematurely died and, then, another problem arose.
This additional difficulty concerned a way to dispose of the bodies since the majority of the deceased persons’ kinfolk did not have sufficient funds to carry out burials or cremations. As such, the waterway served another function, which was corpse recipient, and Linda noted that, nearly every day, bloated water-logged remains could be seen quietly gliding downstream.
A compassionate person, she found the sight disturbing and, while she enjoyed aiding individuals as best as she could at the treatment center, she felt largely helpless during her experience there. On account, she came to realize that, while she was grateful for the small remedies that she could provide in some instances, she really could not change much in the quality of life for the often desperate mobs, who patiently sorted themselves out so as to line up every day in a continual stream seeking help that, more often than not, couldn’t be rendered.
Meanwhile, her realizing her limits was simultaneously sad, humbling and vexing. After all, it is demoralizing to have great hopes to help the world improve and learn that certain troubles are so great in magnitude that one will always feel insufficient unless he chooses to focus on the few small successes that he does occasionally manage to pull off. With such a conflicted understanding, she was relieved upon coming back to the USA after her summer job abroad was over.
At the same time, she felt grateful for the medical care, reasonable homes, clean water, indoor plumbing and food stores available in America. In a flash, she came to realize the reason that so many legal and illegal migrants want to come to first world nations even if those countries have job shortages.
It’s really quite simple in the end. The alternatives seem dreadful.
Especially they would be so, she surmised, when their rivers and other water sources dry up after the glaciers that feed them disappear on account of climate change factors. She wondered about what they would do then.
Considering that the 18,000-year-old Bolivian Chacaltaya glacier, on which 77 million people rely for water, recently disappeared shocked her. She didn’t wish to imagine that the many people who she’d met in Asia would, eventually, face the same plight.
Where would they all move? How would they eek out a living? Who would feed them and provide a new source of water? Where would they find homes and a sufficient number of healthcare clinics? She couldn’t imagine any realistic answers to her questions.
==
At the time that Linda was embarking for Asia, another woman, who’ll be called Anne, had just received her undergraduate degree in philosophy from a different college than Linda’s. She, too, entertained an idea to engage in social service volunteerism for the upcoming summer months. Yet instead of Asia, her plans inevitably took her to Africa where it had been arranged that she would work with the one doctor available in a region that covered roughly a hundred square miles.
In the territory, various interconnected tribes lived in small communities. Therefore, the doctor’s job was to make the rounds and visit one site after another each month after which he would repeat his tour unless an emergency, like a major fire at one of the locations, were to immediately redirect him.
At the same time, each village had at least one paraprofessional health care worker, generally a woman, who delivered babies and provided a modicum of aid in the doctor’s absence. So she would be the first person with whom he would consult upon arrival to each tribal compound so as to get an overview about what he was to do next.
Meanwhile, the American lived with one of the health workers near the doctor’s hut so that she could learn further about medical intervention from the assistant. As a result, she learned many details about therapeutic care.
Likewise, she learned about its limits. For example, there was in this region, as there was in the area that Linda visited, a dire shortage of medical supplies. Therefore, they had to be doled out very sparingly and only to the recipients who best qualified (i.e., the ones who had the best chances of showing improvement upon receipt of intervention).
This choice naturally precluded people who were either too sick to get well or who were otherwise rejected, as were very old and very injured people. Moreover, the villagers all had a policy that, if someone were somehow grossly defective, he would be left to his own devises and shunned as there simply were not enough food and other supplies to give any to anyone who was severely impaired.
With such a custom in place, it was regretful that approximately a decade earlier a mother, who noted that her child had infrequent seizures, was forced to place him in the dump near to her settlement and he,  despite being thought of as doomed to die, managed to stay alive by eating garbage, small grubs, worms, bugs and other discovered fare. So he somehow coped year after year in the trash, outgrew his early childhood convulsions and was, nonetheless, an outcast due to his prior history.
In addition, no one openly communicated with him except for Anne during which time she discovered that he felt ill. As such, she pleaded with the doctor to briefly visit with the boy, who was now a young teen.
In response, the physician got very angry with her and told her that he could get in trouble with the clan’s rulers if he did so. Yet, she persisted about it and, finally, he, reluctantly, went to the dump and lightly examined the lad after which he gave him a few tablets and told him to take one a day.
After leaving the youth, he told Anne that she should never ask him to do such an act again and that he only gave the teen sugar pills. Why?
He explained that, aside from having to save the “real” medicine for the strongest members of his community, he realized, upon checking the boy, that he had less than two months to live from parasites that were currently in his intestines, but that were slated to move throughout his body. In short, he was bound to die in short order. Moreover, there simply were no pain drugs to spare to help him through that two month crisis period. No, there were none at all.
He further added, “I neither have the time, nor the supplies, to spend on a hopeless case like him. I need to use my energy and treatments for people who I CAN help.”
“Unfortunately, your country and other wealthy ones have lured our doctors and nurses away with promises of high salaries. I am sorry that you have such a scarcity, too, but it makes my time all the more difficult as I have far too many people to tend and not enough money to pay for life saving medication, equipment and  stores of simple things like thermometers.”
“So if you pray, then pray for that boy. It is all that we can offer him.”
==
To make up for shortfalls such as this doctor described, the Cuban government, thankfully, sends medical goods and personnel out of the country every year. “Cuban medical internationalism is the Cuban programme, since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, of sending Cuban medical personnel overseas, particularly to Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Oceania[1], and of bringing medical students and patients to Cuba.”
In 2007, “Cuba has 42,000 workers in international collaborations in 103 different countries, of whom more than 30,000 are health personnel, including no fewer than 19,000 physicians.”[2] Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined,[2] although this comparison does not take into account G8 development aid spent on developing world healthcare. The Cuban missions have had substantial positive local impact on the populations served…”
“In August 2006 the United States under George W. Bush created the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program,[28] specifically targeting Cuban medical personnel and encouraging them to defect when they are working in a country outside of Cuba.[5] Of an estimated 40,000 eligible medical personnel, over 1000 had entered the United States under the program by October 2007, according to the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.[29] However the promised fast-track visa is not always forthcoming, and some applicants are trapped in limbo, unable to enter the US and unable to return to Cuba.[30][1] 
Meanwhile, the plot to entice Cuban medical staff to the USA fits well with the overall vision held by many American officials. As George Kennan, former Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, makes clear: “We have about 60% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its’ population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” – George Kennan, former Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, in Document PPS23
However, George Kennan, when he wrote this commentary, did not realize that American would be involved in a quiet class warfare in which the country would be increasingly divided between the haves and have-not. In other words, the nation is increasingly losing its middle class.
Left in its place are very affluent individuals and a rising number of poverty stricken ones whose homes have been foreclosed, whose jobs have been offshored or simply eliminated and whose medical coverage is nonexistent. What’s more is that the latter group have as little worth to most of the wealthy crowd as do the nearly destitute, sick foreigners from whom the Cuban medical workers were enticed.
Who cares, after all, whether the destitute masses get any healthcare delivery abroad or in the USA? Instead, all’s quite well, according to some politicians, as long as America can stick it to Cuba and pick up some great human resources along the way!
In a similar vein, the American healthcare industry, itself, is doing quite fine despite the economic downturn and loss of some customers who could no longer afford high premiums. A typical example is provided by the UnitedHealth Group with sales of $75.4 billion and a profit margin of $4.7 billion. This largess is particularly lucrative for its CEO, Stephen Hemsley, who received $744,232,068 in unexercised stock options.
If he seems out of the ordinary in terms of personal gain, then consider that prior BCBSMA chairman and CEO William Van Faasen received over $16 million as part of his overall retirement benefits in 2006 while BCBSMA President and CEO Cleve Killingsworth obtained over $3.6 million in payment for 2007. Of course, there’s always plenty to spare for them both as the company produced almost $209 million in net income in 2007.
Even so, greed, itself, often has no boundaries. So when the insurer’s net income dipped 49% a year later, Cleve Killingsworth was expected to have garnered around $4.3 million during 2008 at the same time that board members gained a 33% income increase to $40,000 for being on a few committees and going to occasional meetings.
Further, many health care insurers routinely deny required benefits to their customers. Yet, they managed to come up with more than $1.4 million a day and $40 million to date to lobby on the Hill in addition to coughing up almost $170 million to federal lawmakers in 2007 and 2008.
Like CIGNA’s Edward Hanway, who vacations in a $13 million beach house on the New Jersey shore, they’ll fight like demons to keep their cushy compensations unless absolutely forced to yield up a few grudging concessions. After all, that’s the American way.
As in other similar corporatist plutocracies, you get ahead by taking all that you can get for yourself regardless of the consequences for anyone else. You peddle influence, talk about trickle down effect and patience to placate the opposition, and make out like a crook in the meanwhile.
Indeed, this view correspond well with the positions held by many legislators. Certainly, they, too, are combating medical reforms as they do not want to see their own gargantuan profits shrink.
As Lindsay Renick Mayer states in “Congressional Lawmakers Invest in Their (Financial) Health”:
“In past years, congressional debates over health care may have been shaped, in some instances, by such personal investments, said Charles Silver, a professor of law at the University of Texas . Campaign contributions and the revolving door between the private and public sector also play a role, Silver said.

“‘Obviously, there is a conflict, unless the investment is in a blind trust or similar vehicle so the officeholder is not aware of it,’ Silver said. ‘The conflict may be mild or severe, depending on many factors, such as the nature of the investment, whether the company is publicly traded and, therefore, held by mutual funds, pension funds, and other funds in which large numbers of Americans participate.'”

“After hearing from experts, we talked to some of the lawmakers on the five committees that have been primarily responsible for drafting comprehensive health-related proposals. In 2007, 54 current members of these committees had between $31 million and $57.9 million invested in health companies (including in health sector targeted mutual funds). Here’s how a few of their finances looked in 2008 and 2007, and their thoughts on whether they see any conflict of interest in these investments…” [2]
All in all, then, the US is much like the described locations that the two American volunteers visited. We simply will continue to have a shortage in health-care provision just as much as these other places do in which some receive adequate care while others are completely cast aside as discarded members of society much in the way that the homeless Americans, the street people and the tent-city dwellers, are treated today.
Even as this is the case, the USA differs from those foreign counterparts because their deficit in medical provision derives from real critical shortages in funds, medical personnel and supplies. In contrast, the American lacks arise from avarice, self-interest and corrupt legislative policies aimed to maintain the status quo entirely at the expense of the American public.
In the end, the heath-care debate is not about care at all. Instead, it’s about the amount of money that government, HMO and pharmaceutical leaders are personally willing to give up.
Accordingly, it’s clear that many Congressional representatives have no interest in evaluating even a few of the successful models of universal coverage that numerous other countries can provide. Instead, they are, typically, in collusion with big business to stymie any meaningful reforms.
As Thomas Paine succinctly put it, “Beware the greedy hand of government, thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry.” It’s a far stretching hand with an iron grip that won’t let go of its gains until forced to do so.
Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts.
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