Mounties say opposition to Keystone XL pipeline are terrorists

We knew that the Canadian government wasn’t fond of environmentalists…However now apparently they have got the beloved Mounties to carry their luggage. According to a report obtained by Greenpeace and published in the Globe and Mail, the RCMP wrote last year:

There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels…If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.

Evidently opposition to the development of the tar sands ” runs counter to Canada’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “anti-petroleum movement…”

The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists “claim” that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, and “claim” it is a direct consequence of human activity and is “reportedly” linked to the use of fossil fuels.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used to have such a positive image. It’s remarkable how they have so totally managed to ruin it over the last few years. Now they are protectors of the oil sands and criminalize environmentalists. What a shame.

The RCMP hasn’t matched the movies image for decades. If the government needs strikebreakers, someone to assault activists over any reasonable issue – the Mounties are ready. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for First Nation Rights, civil liberties, opposition to the whole bucket of conservative hogwash – you’re a threat to peace and security. And as a national police force it takes some serious politicking to even question their activities.

WV oil train derailment, explosion, fire — those were the new “safer” tank cars


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Marcus Constantino

The fiery derailment of a train carrying crude oil in West Virginia is one of three in the past year involving tank cars that already meet a higher safety standard than what federal law requires – leading some to suggest even tougher requirements that industry representatives say would be costly.

Costly to who?

Hundreds of families were evacuated and nearby water treatment plants were temporarily shut down after cars derailed from a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude Monday, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning down a house nearby. It was snowing at the time, but it is not yet clear if weather was a factor.

The fire smoldered for a third day Wednesday. State public safety division spokesman Larry Messina said the fire was 85 percent contained.

The train’s tanks were a newer model – the 1232 – designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago. The same model spilled oil and caught fire in Timmins, Ontario on Saturday, and last year in Lynchburg, Virginia.

A series of ruptures and fires have prompted the administration of President Barack Obama to consider requiring upgrades such as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously, rather than slam into each other.

If approved, increased safety requirements now under White House review would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars being used to carry highly flammable liquids.

Between “optimized profits” and bought-and-paid-for elected officials ranging from the state level to the hog trough that is Congress – railroads and oil companies figure they may as well be self-insured instead of making life a little safer for folks who live near the tracks. It’s as simple as that.

Which means it takes pressure from other ordinary folks around the country to get improved safety.

Hospitals buy up doctors’ practices — we get screwed with higher charges

Imagine you’re a Medicare patient, and you go to your doctor for an ultrasound of your heart one month. Medicare pays your doctor’s office $189, and you pay about 20 percent of that bill as a co-payment.

Then, the next month, your doctor’s practice has been bought by the local hospital. You go to the same building and get the same test from the same doctor, but suddenly the price has shot up to $453, as has your share of the bill.

Patients around the country are getting that unpleasant surprise, as more and more doctors’ offices are being bought by hospitals. Medicare, the government health insurance program for those 65 and over or the disabled, pays one price to independent doctors and another to doctors who work for large health systems — even if they are performing the exact same service in the exact same place.

This week, the Obama administration recommended a change to eliminate much of that gap. Despite expected protests from hospitals and doctors, the idea has a chance of being adopted because it would yield huge savings for Medicare and patients.

In the dry language of the annual budget, the White House asks Congress to “encourage efficient care by improving incentives to provide care in the most appropriate ambulatory setting.” In normal English, that means reducing financial incentives that are causing many doctors to sell their practices to hospitals just to take advantage of extra revenue.

The heart doctors are a great example. In 2009, the federal government cut back on what it paid to cardiologists in private practice who offered certain tests to their patients. Medicare determined that the tests, which made up about 30 percent of a typical cardiologist’s revenue, cost more than was justified, and there was evidence that some doctors were overusing them. Suddenly, Medicare paid about a third less than it had before.

But the government didn’t cut what it paid cardiologists who worked for a hospital and provided the same test. It actually paid those doctors more, because the payment systems were completely separate. In general, Medicare assumes that hospital care is by definition more expensive to provide than office-based care.

You can imagine the result: Over the past five years, the number of cardiologists in private practice has plummeted as more and more doctors sold their practices to nearby hospitals that weren’t subject to the new cuts. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of cardiologists working for hospitals more than tripled, according to a survey from the American College of Cardiology, while the percentage working in private practice fell to 36 percent from 59 percent. At the time of the survey, an additional 31 percent of practices were either in the midst of merger talks or considering it. The group’s former chief operating officer once described the shift to me as “like a migration of wildebeests.”

Cardiologists are not the only doctors who have been migrating toward hospital practice. In the last few years, there have been increases in the number of doctors working for hospitals across the specialties. And spreads between fees for office services exist in an array of medical services, down to the basic office visit.

RTFA for more disheartening details. The crux remains, Obama and Congress in those first couple of years managed to get changes through to lower costs for some healthcare. The lawyers, lobbyists and other professional creeps working for the medical-industrial complex figured out a way around the changes – and increased profits to boot. Doctors around the country lined up to join the money parade. Not all of them. There remains a principled class in the corner here and there.

But, who noticed the changes? Who did anything about it? Certainly not Congress. They may be elected to represent the people of America, every state; but, they only listen to the Sound of Money riffling into their bank accounts.

It’s taken Obama till the last half of his second term to stand up and notice the change, propose new legislation to sort the problem. How much of a chance do you think we have of getting regulations through a Congress controlled by greenback conservatives, both Republican and Democrat – and restore a human focus to healthcare and family practice?

A rapidly growing city of Paperholm(s) — by Om Malik

Tumblr is a wonderful place — you just don’t know what you are going to stumble into! A few weeks ago, I ended up on Paperholm, a website where Edinburgh-based architect/artist Charles Young has been sharing photos of miniature homes he has been creating out of paper. Since August 2014, he has shared multiple creations – each intricate, beautiful and nearly perfect. Obsessed with these paper homes, I cold emailed Young wondering what got him started. “The project started as a way of keeping myself making work,” he replied. “By having to produce something every day you’re forced to be creative and productive…”

What made him pick paper as a medium of creation? “The use of paper is really about its material properties,” Young replied in an email. “Using it as a construction material, at this scale, watercolour paper has a balance of delicacy and strength that make it ideal.” Like Young, I too am obsessed with paper — I prefer to write with fountain pens on good quality (Japanese) paper. That act allows me to slow down the brain, think, compose, rethink and ink what is on my mind.

Now for the important question — how long does he expect to be doing this? “Even at this stage I’m not sure how long I will continue with the project. I’d like to complete at least a year of daily models but Paperholm is really more about keeping inventive and developing my own technical skills.”

Charles, as a fan, let’s just say, I am happy for whatever you create. These paper homes are a delightful addition to my life!

I’ve been reading Om longer than I have been blogging. His insight into technology has expanded a dozen different ways; but, especially into style and fashion. In this instance, into the materials and methods used for expression.

During first cuppa in the morning – sometime between 4:30 and 5:15AM – I check my personal blog to make certain nothing screwed up down in Waco, Texas. That’s where the servers are hosting us. Then, I wander over to see what Om has on his mind. He’ll be up and running because we’re on the same servers. And he’s an early riser, too. 🙂

Always worthwhile.