Saturday, December 26, 2009
Baxter Bulletin, AR - Authorities have arrested the stepson of a local doctor who was found stabbed to death in his home 3 1/2 years ago.
Gary Wayne Parks, 39, of Germantown, Tenn., is charged with capital murder in Dr. David Millstein's death, Mountain Home Police Chief Carry Manuel announced.
Millstein, 62, was found dead June 18, 2006, after a police officer went to his home to check on his well-being. He was a urologist with his own practice and worked at Baxter Regional Medical Center.
Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Monday, police went to Parks' home in Germantown, a Memphis suburb, and arrested him without incident, Manuel said. . .
Authorities are releasing few details about the case, including a possible motive, saying the investigation is ongoing. Police would not say if there are additional suspects in the case.
"There's not a lot we can say," Manuel said. "What we can't say has got to do with case integrity.". . .
"I hope people didn't think we weren't working on the case," Manuel sad. "Quite to the contrary, we were. We've reached an important milestone in the case but still have a lot of work to do."
Police say Parks has a lengthy criminal record but could not release the information because it was from a national criminal database available only to law enforcement. According to the Pulaski County's Circuit Clerk's Office in Little Rock, Parks was convicted of drug possession in 2005 and theft by receiving in 2002.
Millstein was married to Lois Parks, who had lived in the Little Rock area at the time of his death. She also is the widow of Jerry Parks, who was killed in 1993 and whose death remains unsolved. . .
Arkansas State Police, the Germantown, Tenn., Police Department, the Little Rock and North Little Rock police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also assisted in the investigation.
THE BACK STORY
Progressive Review, August 2006 - In September 1993, just two months after the death of Vince Foster, Clinton campaign security operative Jerry Parks was shot and killed in Little Rock in a gang style slaying. The story received virtually no attention save for a few journals including the Progressive Review. The murder remains unsolved.
Now word comes that the man whom Park's widow, Lois Jane Parks, later married - Dr David Millstein - has also been murdered by an assailant with a knife and police are investigating.
One might easily jump to certain obvious hypotheses but nothing about this matter is clear cut. For example:
- The local Arkansas police have called in not only the state police but the FBI. They speak of an extensive investigation.
- The children of Jerry Parks are in violent and public disagreement over their father's death. One stepdaughter, for example, believes vehemently that her stepmother and brother Gary are not to be trusted.
- The local police seem to be treating this as something more than a simple homicide. . .
Ambrose Evans-Prichard, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton 1997 - "I'm a dead man," whispered Jerry Parks, pale with shock, as he looked up at the television screen. It was a news bulletin on the local station in Little Rock. Vincent Foster, a childhood friend of the President, had been found dead in a park outside Washington. Apparent suicide.
He never explained to his son Gary what he meant by that remark, but for the next two months the beefy 6' 3" security executive was in a state of permanent fear. He would pack a pistol to fetch the mail. On the way to his offices at American Contract Services in Little Rock he would double back or take strange routes to "dry-clean" the cars that he thought were following him. At night he kept tearing anxiously at his eyebrows, and raiding the valium pills of his wife, Jane, who was battling multiple sclerosis. Once he muttered darkly that Bill Clinton's people were "cleaning house," and he was "next on the list."
Two months later, in September 1993, Jerry and Jane went on a Caribbean cruise. He seemed calmer. At one of the islands he went to take care of some business at a bank. She believed it was Grand Cayman. They returned to their home in the rural suburbs of Little Rock on September 25. The next day Jane was in one of her "down" periods, so Jerry went off on his own for the regular Sunday afternoon supper at El Chico Mexican Restaurant.
On the way back, at about 6:30 PM, a white Chevrolet Caprice pulled up beside him on the Chenal Parkway. Before Parks had time to reach for his .38 caliber "detective special" that he kept tucked between the seats, an assassin let off a volley of semi-automatic fire into his hulking 320 pound frame.
Parks skidded to a halt in the intersection of Highway 10. The stocky middle-aged killer jumped out and finished him off with a 9 mm handgun-- two more shots into the chest at point blank range. Several witnesses watched with astonishment as the nonchalant gunman joined his accomplice in the waiting car and sped away. . .
Gary then said that his father had been collecting files on Bill Clinton. "Working on his infidelities," he said, grinning. . .
At some point in 1988, when he was about 17, he had accompanied Jerry on four or five nocturnal missions. Armed with long range surveillance cameras, they would stake out the haunts of the Governor until the early hours of the morning. Quapaw Towers was one of them, he remembered. That was where Gennifer Flowers lived.
It was a contract job, Gary believed, but he did not know who was paying for the product. Some of the material was kept in two files, stored in the bottom drawer of the dresser in his parents' bedroom. He had sneaked in one day, terrified that his father might catch him, and flicked through the papers just long enough to see photos of women coming and going with Governor Clinton, and pages of notes in his father's handwriting. . .
In late July 1993 the family house on Barrett Road was burgled in a sophisticated operation that involved cutting the telephone lines and disarming the electronic alarm system. The files were stolen. Gary suspected that this was somehow tied to his father's death two months later. . .
[Jane Parks] revealed that Jerry Parks had carried out sensitive assignments for the Clinton circle for almost a decade, and the person who gave him his instructions was Vince Foster. It did not come as a total shock. I already knew that there was some kind of tie between the two men. Foster's brother-in-law, Lee Bowman, told me long ago that Vince had recommended Jerry Parks for security work in the mid-1980s. "I was struck by how insistent he was that Parks was a 'man who could be trusted,'" said Bowman, a wealthy Little Rock stockbroker. . .
Jerry, in turn, "respected Vince Foster more than anybody else in the world." It was a strange, clandestine relationship. Foster called the Parks home more than a hundred times, identifying himself with the code name, "The Congressman." . . .
By the late 1980s Vince trusted Parks enough to ask him to perform discreet surveillance on the Governor. "Jerry asked him why he needed this stuff on Clinton. He said he needed it for Hillary," recalled Jane. . .
Later, during the early stages of the presidential campaign, Parks made at least two trips to the town of Mena, in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. Mena had come up in conversations before. Jane told me that Parks had been a friend of Barry Seal, a legendary cocaine smuggler and undercover U.S. operative who had established a base of operations at Mena airport. Parks had even attended Seal's funeral in Baton Rouge after Seal was assassinated by Colombian pistoleros in February 1986.
One of the trips was in 1991, she thought, although it could have been 1992. The morning after Jerry got back from Mena she borrowed his Lincoln to go to the grocery store and discovered what must have been hundreds of thousands of dollars in the trunk. "It was all in $100 bills, wrapped in string, layer after layer. It was so full I had to sit on the trunk to get it shut again," she said.
"I took a handful of money and threw it in his lap and said, 'Are you running drugs?' Jerry said Vince had paid him $1000 cash for each trip. He didn't know what they were doing, and he didn't want to know either, and nor should I. He told me to forget what I'd seen.". . .
Contact with Foster was rare after he moved to the White House. But he telephoned in mid-July 1993, about a week before his death. He explained that Hillary had worked herself into a state about "the files," worried that there might be something in them that could cause real damage to Bill or herself. The conversation was brief and inconclusive. Jerry told Vince Foster that there was indeed "plenty to hurt both of them. But you can't give her those files, that was the agreement." Jerry did not seem too perturbed at the time.
A few days later Foster called again. . .
"You're not going to use those files!" said Jerry angrily. Foster tried to soothe him. He said he was going to meet Hillary at "the flat" and he was going to give her the files. "You can't do that," said Parks. "My name's all over this stuff. You can't give Hillary those files. You can't! Remember what she did, what you told me she did. She's capable of doing anything!"
"We can trust Hil. Don't worry," said Foster. . .
The rambler-style home of the Parks family was swarming with federal agents on the day after Jerry's assassination. Jane remembers men flashing credentials from the FBI, the Secret Service, the IRS, and, she thought, the CIA. Although the CIA made no sense. Nothing made any sense. The federal government had no jurisdiction over a homicide case, and to this day the FBI denies that it ever set foot in her house.
But the FBI was there, she insisted, with portable X-ray machines and other fancy devices. An IRS computer expert was flown in from Miami to go through Jerry's computers. Some of them stayed until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. The men never spoke to Jane or tried to comfort her. The only conversation was a peremptory request for coffee. . .
With the help of the Little Rock Police Department the FBI ransacked the place, confiscating files, records, and 130 tapes of telephone conversations--without giving a receipt. "I've asked them to give it all back, but the police refuse to relinquish anything. They told me there's nothing they can do about the case as long as Bill Clinton is in office.". . .
I do not pretend to understand why Jerry Parks was murdered. But the indications that the Parks case is somehow intertwined with the death of Vincent Foster is surely compelling enough to warrant a proper investigation. Instead, nobody cares to learn what Mrs. Parks has to say.
Philip Weiss, Mondo Weiss - In Little Rock in 1996, for the New York Times Magazine, I interviewed a Clinton hater named Gary Parks. Parks was a former auto salesman and something of a troubled youth. He'd kicked around, he'd had physical injury. His dad had been murdered: Luther "Jerry" Parks, a former state cop, who had been head of security for the Clinton headquarters in Little Rock during the presidential campaign in 1992, had been murdered less than a year after the election. This is incredible and true: Two months after Vince Foster dies, Jerry Parks, Clinton's former security aide, is slain gangland style, with a semiautomatic handgun, his car shot up in West Little Rock. The media didn't touch it, and they were allowed to drop it. . .
It was [Gary] Parks' assertion that his late father and Vince Foster had once investigated Clinton's affairs at Hillary's behest. He said that Vince Foster had called up his father, who was working as a private investigator, to look into Clinton's romantic life in about 1980, after Bill Clinton had lost the governor's office following his first term. Parks said Hillary wanted a divorce. It looked like maybe the juggernaut she'd believed in, and married, was over. . . In the early 80s, Parks said, Hillary asked her law partner Vince Foster to prepare a divorce case and Foster called Parks, who compiled a dossier of women's statements. Parks said that Hillary later decided against a divorce, but that his father held on to the dossier. Then in 1993, Parks said, after Vince Foster went to Washington, he demanded the return of the file, and even called Jerry Parks in the days before his, Foster's, death, to demand it. And that two months later his father was murdered, because, Parks said, he had held out on returning the file. . .
Myself, I think I might forgive Hillary her connection to these events. They were so long ago, she was hitched to Bill's horse. She's done a lot on her own since. She's been gutsy and strong on her own two feet. She has great presence. But I don't think we know all the facts about this case, and people are going to bring it up and ask about it. Real baggage.
Christopher Ruddy, Newsmax, 1998 - The following is the verbatim grand jury testimony of Linda Tripp from her July 28 appearance before the grand jury. . .
Juror: But do you have any examples of violence being done by the administration to people who were a threat to them that allowed you to come to the conclusion that that would happen to you as well?
Tripp: I can go - if you want a specific, a personal specific, the behavior in the West Wing with senior staff to the President during the time the Jerry Parks [death] came over the fax frightened me.
Juror: Excuse me, Jerry Parks?
Tripp: He was one of the - if not the head of his [Clinton's] campaign security detail in Arkansas, then somewhere in the hierarchy of the security arrangements in Arkansas during the '92 campaign. And based on the flurry of activity and the flurry of phone calls and the secrecy, I felt this was somewhat alarming.
Juror: I don't understand.
Tripp: I don't know what else to say.
Juror: Meaning that you were alarmed at his death or at what people [in the White House] said? Or did you have knowledge that he had been killed or -
Tripp: He had been killed. I didn't even at this point remember how but it was the reaction at the White House that caused me concern, as did Vince Foster's suicide. None of the behavior following Vince Foster's suicide computed to just people mourning Mr. Foster. It was far more ominous than that and it was extremely questionable behavior on the parts of those who were immediately involved in the aftermath of his death. So - I mean I don't know how much more I can be specific except to say I am telling you under oath today that I felt endangered and I was angry and I resented it and I still do. . .
Juror: I'm sorry. We were talking the incident that happened and how the people were acting at the White House and you said they were acting strange. Can you give us some examples of what you saw to draw that conclusion? What are some of the examples? You said they were not acting as if someone had just passed or whatever, something was strange. What were the strange things?
Tripp: It replicated [referring to the Parks murder, apparently] in my mind some of the behavior following the death of Vince Foster. A fax came across the fax machine in the counsel's office from someone within the White House, and I think it was from Skip Rutherford, who was working in the Chief of Staff's office at the time [September 1994]. At the same time the fax was coming, phone calls were coming up to Bernie Nussbaum which precipitated back and forth meetings behind closed doors, all with - you know, we have to have copies of this fax and it was - an article, it came over the wire, I think, I can't remember now, but I think we actually have that somewhere, of this death, this murder or whatever it was [referring to the Parks death]. And it created a stir, shall we say, in the counsel's office which brought up some senior staff from the Chief of Staff's office up to the counsel's office where they, from all appearances, went into a meeting to discuss this. It was something that they chose not to speak about.
12/22/2009 | Comments
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.
This will raise questions about crime's influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. "In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor," he said.
Some of the evidence put before his office indicated that gang money was used to save some banks from collapse when lending seized up, he said.
"Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities...There were signs that some banks were rescued that way." Costa declined to identify countries or banks that may have received any drugs money, saying that would be inappropriate because his office is supposed to address the problem, not apportion blame. But he said the money is now a part of the official system and had been effectively laundered.
The IMF estimated that large US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets and from bad loans from January 2007 to September 2009 and more than 200 mortgage lenders went bankrupt. Many major institutions either failed, were acquired under duress, or were subject to government takeover.
Gangs are now believed to make most of their profits from the drug trade and are estimated to be worth 352bn pounds, the UN says. They have traditionally kept proceeds in cash or moved it offshore to hide it from the authorities. It is understood that evidence that drug money has flowed into banks came from officials in Britain, Switzerland, Italy and the US.
Labels: DRUGS, FISCAL CRISIS
12/23/2009 | Comments
. . . Up until World War I, the archetypal manufacturing CEO was production oriented-usually an engineer or inventor of some kind. Even as late as the 1930s, business school curriculums focused mostly on production. Khurana notes that many schools during this era had mini-factories on campus to train future managers.
After World War II, large corporations went on acquisition binges and turned themselves into massive conglomerates. In their landmark Harvard Business Review article from 1980, "Managing Our Way to Economic Decline," Robert Hayes and William Abernathy pointed out that the conglomerate structure forced managers to think of their firms as a collection of financial assets, where the goal was to allocate capital efficiently, rather than as makers of specific products, where the goal was to maximize quality and long-term market share.
By the 1980s, the conglomerate boom was reversing itself. Investors began seizing control of overgrown public companies and breaking them up. But this task was, if anything, even more dependent on fluency in financial abstractions. The leveraged-buyout boom produced a whole generation of finance tycoons-the Michael Milkens of the world-whose ability to value corporate assets was far more important than their ability to run them.
The new managerial class tended to neglect process innovation because it was hard to justify in a quarterly earnings report, where metrics like "return on investment" reigned supreme. "In an era of management by the numbers, many American managers . . . are reluctant to invest heavily in the development of new manufacturing processes," Hayes and Abernathy wrote. "Many of them have effectively forsworn long-term technological superiority as a competitive weapon." By contrast, European and Japanese manufacturers, who lived and died on the strength of their exports, innovated relentlessly
The country's business schools tended to reflect and reinforce these trends. By the late 1970s, top business schools began admitting much higher-caliber students than they had in previous decades. This might seem like a good thing. The problem is that these students tended to be overachiever types motivated primarily by salary rather than some lifelong ambition to run a steel mill. . .
Labels: BUSINESS SCHOOLS, MONEY
12/23/2009 | Comments
The study, published in the December 9th edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, is the first to investigate whether microbial exposures early in life affect inflammatory processes related to diseases in adulthood. Remarkably, the Northwestern study suggests exposure to infectious microbes in childhood may actually protect youngsters from developing serious illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, when they grow into adults.
"Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases," Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, said in a statement to the media. McDade is associate professor of anthropology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research.
He added that humans have only recently lived in super clean environments and it could well be time to put down the antibacterial soap. That's because the new research suggests that inflammatory systems need a reasonably high level of exposure to common everyday germs and other microbes to develop and work properly in the body.
"In other words, inflammatory networks may need the same type of microbial exposures early in life that have been part of the human environment for all of our evolutionary history to function optimally in adulthood," stated McDade.
12/23/2009 | Comments
The problem is that the bill is copiously dishonest, designed to delay and deceive, so that whatever benefits it offers will be achieved at uncertain but extensive fiscal and moral expense. It symbolizes politics in the adhocracy that has arisen following the fall of the First American Republic.
Here are some of the important unresolved issues:
The Hill - Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, says the Senate bill would charge seniors higher premiums, would fail to nix health insurers' antitrust exemption and would not go far enough in extending coverage to people in the U.S. "Supporters of the weak Senate bill say 'just pass it - any bill is better than no bill,' " Slaughter wrote. "I strongly disagree - a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills. . . It's time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board," she said. "The American people deserve at least that."
Jonathan Cohn, Kaiser Health News - It's certainly true that, under the terms of the Senate bill, insurance would cost more and cover less than many of us would prefer. But would it really produce little social progress? Is it really worse than nothing?
One way to answer this question is by comparing how a typical family would fare with reform and without. At my request, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber produced a set of figures, based on official Congressional Budget Office estimates. The results tell a pretty compelling story, particularly when put in human terms.
Let's imagine it's 2016 and you are an administrative assistant, a garage mechanic or perhaps trying your hand at consulting for the first time. You're married, just turned 40 and have two kids to feed on a household income of around $50,000. You want to buy health insurance, but can't get it through an employer. How much will it cost? And how much--or how little--protection will it provide?
If reform doesn't pass, according to Gruber's figures, the average premium for the non-group market--that is, the market for people buying coverage on their own--will be around $12,000 a year. Right off the bat, you're spending a fifth of your income on health insurance.
But what does it cover? Policies in the non-group market are notoriously spotty and unreliable. And benefit requirements vary enormously depending on the state. Many allow considerable, sometimes unlimited, out-of-pocket expenses. For the sake of comparison, though, let's assume you have a policy with a deductible no higher than that allowed for a Health Savings Account. According to Gruber's projections, that would mean you're on the hook for--wait for it--another $12,000, plus a few hundred in change.
Put it altogether and that's a total liability of around nearly $25,000--about half of your income.
That may actually be a best-case scenario in one sense. If you're going to hit that high deductible, chances are pretty good that someone in your family has a chronic medical condition. And if you or your family member has had that condition all along, insurers might not even sell you a policy. Maybe you have diabetes. Or you're married to a cancer survivor. Maybe one of your kids has asthma. Whatever the case, chances are you can't get health insurance at all. Your total risk of loss would be, well, every single penny you have.
So what happens if reform does pass? For starters--and this is no small thing--the insurance company will have to sell you a policy, no matter what pre-existing conditions your family brings to the table. And you'll know from the start that the policy will cover basic services because the government will be defining a basic benefits package. That package is going to include a broader range of services than the typical non-group policy would without reform. So when your doctor recommends a standard test or procedure, you won't have to panic it falls into some hidden policy loophole.
But what will that coverage cost? The basic premium is roughly the same, according to Gruber's calculations that he extrapolated from official Congressional Budget Office estimates. But that $50,000 income means you're also eligible for federal subsidies. Large federal subsidies. In fact, the government will cover about two-thirds of the price, so that you're left owing just $3,600.
Now, you could end up spending a lot more on medical care if you or someone in your family gets sick. But here, too, the federal government would step in to help. Under the reforms, the government would limit out-of-pocket spending to around $6,000 per year. Combined with the premium, you'r on the hook for around $10,000 total, or about a fifth of your income.
That's not pocket change, for sure. A family making $50,000 will have to make serious sacrifices to find $10,000. But it's better--light years better--than finding $25,000 or more. It's potentially the difference between having to give up your home, get an extra job or declare bankruptcy. Just knowing the bills that could come will be the difference between getting care you need--and skipping it, at grave risk to your health. . .
Washington Post - A Senate plan to cut Medicare to pay for an overhaul of the health system would threaten the profitability of roughly one in five hospitals and nursing homes over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the government official responsible for monitoring the popular health program.
Rick Foster, chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, questioned the sustainability of many of the proposed cuts, the major source of funding in a plan to extend insurance to more than 30 million additional Americans.
The proposal to reduce payments to hospitals and other providers, to force them to adopt more efficient practices, could prove particularly problematic for institutions that serve large numbers of Medicare patients, Foster wrote. He warned that many institutions might drop Medicare, "possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries."
Moreover, he wrote, simulations by his office suggest that 20 percent of institutional medical providers would become unprofitable within a decade.
Sam Smith, Progressive Review - The pending healthcare bill greatly increases the chances of bankruptcy in two ways:
- By mandating purchase of health insurance by many currently uncovered Americans, which the legislation's authors think they can afford, but which their checking account may say they can't.
- By subsidizing to an inadequate degree private health insurance plans - with the same effect. . .
And while there have been pieces about the potential loss of coverage under Medicare, many of these have been disingenuously dismissive. This is a serious question, all the more so because of the strong effort on the part of some Democratic senators and the nefarious Peterson Foundation to undermine both Medicare and Social Security. . .
There is no doubt that the pending legislation is one of the greatest subsidies ever granted to a private industry. There is no doubt that much of the legislation is indefensible both morally and pragmatically. There is no doubt that some people will be helped and others hurt, but no seems interested in determining how many of each and in what ways. . .
Still, just as there are strong arguments for handing your wallet to a robber, so there are strong arguments for voting for this measure. If it saves tens of thousands of lives, the fact that it also subsidizes the health insurance industry is a problem we may want to put on hold.
Darcy Burner, Open Left - There are four key questions we can use to evaluate the proposed reforms:
If we look at the current Senate proposal, the scorecard is not promising:
- Affordable coverage for everyone: FAIL. The latest CBO estimates for the Senate bill say that a family of four with a household income of $54,000/year should expect to pay 17% of their gross income on healthcare - about $9,000/year. (And that was when there was a public option to hold down costs) That's more than they'll spend on federal taxes. That's more than they'll spend on food. I'm guessing if you took a poll, very few Americans would consider that affordable. And because of the way they've approached this, there's no effective cost cap on premiums and nothing providing downward pressure, so this is a problem that would get worse rather than better over time.
- Value: FAIL. In January 2007, the McKinsey Global Institute released a study showing that the United States spends twice as much on healthcare as the rest of the industrialized world. It costs our economy a extra $480 billion per year -- roughly $1,600 for every man, woman and child in the country. It's not because we get more effective care: we have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality. Our results are worse, even though we're spending twice as much.
- Fixing insurance company injustices: PASS. The biggest areas of insurance company abuse -- denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, canceling policies retroactively after people get sick, discriminating in rates on the basis of gender - appear to be addressed by the bill. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here.
- Trajectory: FAIL. Finally, the question is not only whether the bill improves each of the three areas in the short term, but whether they will improve in five years or ten years or twenty years. What the Senate is currently discussing will make healthcare more expensive for individuals, families, and businesses, with no check on the insurance companies and none of the systemic reforms that might fix the incentive problems. They're on track to make the problems worse over time rather than better.
Kaus Files - David Leonhardt, complaining that the House health care bill doesn't do enough to control costs, touts a particular model for imposing parsimonious changes on the nation's health care delivery system:
"Twice a year, an outside advisory board sends Congress a list of suggestions for Medicare payment rates, based on the available evidence. Congress generally ignores them, in deference to the various industry groups that oppose any cuts to their payments."We already have a wonderful model for how to avoid such interference. It's called the Federal Reserve. The Fed is charged with setting interest rates based on economic conditions, not politics. The Senate bill would create such a commission for Medicare."
But does the Senate bill really have a cost-cutting commission that's like the Fed? The Fed is a highly independent agency whose actions take effect without approval from Congress. Maybe Congress could overturn a Fed action, but it would require a new piece of legislation, passed by both houses and signed by the president. In contrast, the current cost-cutting "MedPAC" panel submits proposals that then have to be passed as new laws by Congress or else they don't take effect (which, as Leonhardt notes, is usually what happens).
The logical middle ground would be to have an independent panel whose recommendations take effect unless they are somehow vetoed by Congress without presidential involvement, or whose recommendations must be affirmatively passed by Congress but get the benefit of a streamlined, limited-amendment up-or-down fast-track "base closing" type of legislative process. . .
As far as I can see, it's actually a whole lot closer to Leonhardt's Fed model than I'd thought. In general, there is an independent panel, and if Congress does nothing, its cost-cutting rules take effect. What's more, the "fast track" process described by Klein would not allow Congress to simply stop the board's rules, only to substitute its own plan to save the same amount of money. This would be a very powerful unelected board. . . .
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel - Americans will feel the pain before the gain from the health care overhaul Democrats are close to pushing through Congress.
Proposed taxes and fees on upper-income earners, insurers, even tanning parlors, take effect quickly. So would Medicare cuts.
Benefits, such as subsidies for lower middle-income households, consumer protections for all, eliminating the prescription coverage gap for seniors, come gradually.
"There's going to be an expectations gap, no question about that," said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "People are going to see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs go up before the tangible benefits kick in."
Most of the 30 million uninsured helped by the bill won't get coverage until 2013 at the earliest, well after the next presidential election.
More than two-thirds of Americans get their coverage through large employer plans and their premiums won't go up because of the legislation, according to number crunchers at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
But Congress can't abolish medical inflation, so don't hold your breath waiting for premiums to drop.
For people who buy their own insurance policies -- about one of every six Americans -- premiums will go up. But that's for better benefits prescribed under the legislation. And about half of them would get tax credits to substantially lower their costs. . .
The final package could end up looking like the Medicare prescription drug benefit, delivered through private insurance companies, but subsidized and regulated by the government.
Just like seniors now pick their drug coverage from a range of private plans, Americans who were previously uninsured would select brand-name coverage through a new kind of insurance supermarket called an exchange. Like seniors today, they would have to pay part of the cost themselves. Most people with employer coverage wouldn't need to go to the exchange.
The exchanges could be national, regional, or state-based. They'd be up and running in 2013 under the House bill, a year later in the Senate version. Around that same time, other major changes would snap into place:
- Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage to people with health problems, or charging them more.
- For the first time, Americans would be required to carry health insurance, either through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid, or by buying it themselves. Refusal would bring fines, except in cases of financial hardship.
- Federal subsidies would start flowing to individuals and small businesses buying coverage in the exchange, helping them afford the premiums.
- Most employers would be required to offer coverage or pay a tax under the House bill. In the Senate version, employers would get a bill if any of their workers got subsidized coverage in the exchange.
- Medicaid coverage would be expanded to pick up millions more living near the poverty line.
Debated since President Harry Truman's administration, health care overhaul would finally be in place. An estimated 94-96 percent of Americans, not counting illegal immigrants, would have coverage.
But there's a catch.
Cost is the Achilles heel of the whole complicated undertaking. To keep the cost of the bill at around $1 trillion over 10 years, lawmakers had to limit subsidies for people seeking coverage through the exchange.
The aid tapers off dramatically for households with solid middle-class incomes. A family of four making $66,000 a year would still have to spend about 10 percent of its income on premiums -- less than a mortgage but more than a car payment. And that's without counting co=payments and deductible. Several million otherwise eligible Americans could still be priced out.
Labels: HEALTH INSURANCE
12/23/2009 | Comments
In the movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela proposes the outrageous notion that one of the best ways to deal with ethnic conflict is to get both sides doing something they mutually find more important than disliking each other. This is not a popular idea among liberals, black or white, too many of whom prefer to scold, outlaw or regulate, as if all respect, decency and friendship required was enough frowns or the proper legal terminology.
Nelson Mandela knew better and used rugby, rather than rules, as an early tool for remaking South Africa. In doing so, he had to overcome not only the resistance of whites but of blacks who saw rugby as an evil symbol of the land under apartheid. Mandela managed, nonetheless, to turn the game into pride that was mutually shared.
Although we seldom notice it, we have more than a little evidence in this country that Mandela's approach works. Consider that sports teams are among the most integrated institutions in the land or that a shared search for goods at a shopping mall does a better job of bringing ethnicities together than many law firms or the US Senate have managed. Or how we take cross cultural experience for granted when eating at an ethnic restaurant.
But as with so many things these days, when we think about such matters we tend to impose institutional and regulatory solutions even though the conflict is based on beliefs and assumptions as personal as one can find.
Mandela's approach was subversive of prevailing values but not unique. After all, Saul Alinsky's organizing efforts were based in part on bringing normally separated or antagonistic groups together to take on the establishment. Earl Long's power in Louisiana was based in part on his success in getting blacks registered in one of the most segregated states in the union. And Martin Luther King Jr. said that "Something must happen so as to touch the hearts and souls of men that they will come together, not because the law says it, but because it is natural and right." He told his colleagues that among their dreams should be that someday their enemies would be their friends.
Two years after the riots in DC, when the gap between blacks and whites in the city was enormous, a small biracial group of us formed the DC Statehood Party. It was years before I realized how strange that was because, at the time, we thought nothing of it. Political equality just seemed far more important than ethnic divisions. Besides, our leader had shown us how. Julius Hobson lived a life beyond such divisions. As a Marxist he knew he knew money was the driving cultural force. And he was a black man married to a white woman who was also a mentor to black nationalist Stokley Carmichael. Like Mandela, he refused to live by the cliches.
Mandela was subversive in another way. He was an existentialist. While even intellectuals tend to trivialize existentialism as simply an obsession with angst and despair, that is gross misreading.
Existentialism is the idea, as Sartre put it, that one's existence precedes and defines one's essence. We are what we do. This is the obverse of predestination and original sin with their presumption of an innate essence. It is also at greatly at odds with the assumption of ethnic or cultural impermeability.
In fact, some existentialists argue that we are not fully us until we die because until that moment we are still making decisions and taking actions that define ourselves. Even the condemned person, one said, has a choice of how to approach the gallows.
Wrote Sartre: "Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism . . . Man is condemned to be free. . . From the moment he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does."
In a world dominated by dichotomies, debate, definition and deconstruction, existentialism suggests not a result but a way, not a solution but an approach, not goal but a far and misty horizon. It is, says Robert Solomon, "a sensibility . . . an attitude towards oneself, an attitude towards one's world, an attitude towards one's behavior."
Mississippi writer Tom Lowe put it this way, "The truth lies neither in the left or the right or in some middle-of-the-road position that borrows from both sides. The truth is that we are responsible for everything we do and for everyone and everything our behavior affects, and that responsibility extends to our collective, as well as our individual, behavior. Responsibility is like a seamless web -- we are all connected with each other and ultimately with the entire world. It encompasses the choices we make in our capacity as spouses, as parents, as voters, as stockholders, as corporate officers, as employers, as public officials, and as purchasers of goods, but it extends to the entire planet."
This sense of being individually responsible yet part of a seamless web of others produces neither certainty nor excuses. One can, one must, be responsible without the comfort of being sure. Camus once admitted that he would be unwilling to die for his beliefs. He was asked why. "What if I'm wrong?" And when he spoke of rebellion, like Mandela, he also spoke of moderation:
"There does exist for man, therefore, a way of acting and thinking which is possible on the level of moderation which he belongs. Every undertaking that is more ambitious than this proves to be contradictory. The absolute is not attained nor, above all, created through history . . . Finally, it is those who know how to rebel, at the appropriate moment, against history who really advance its interests. . . The words that reverberate for us at the confines of this long adventure of rebellion are not formulas of optimism, for which we have no possible use in the extremities of our unhappiness, but words of courage and intelligence which, on the shores of the eternal seas, even have the qualities of virtue."
This existential combination of what Alfie Rohl described as "both affirmation and rebellion" goes to the heart what Mandela was about.
As the poem Invictus was being recited in the film, I found myself mouthing the words to myself. I was suddenly taken back to the table where, as a young boy, my father used to make us recite poems at Sunday lunch. Invictus had been one of my favorites.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The same poem Mandela gave rugby team captain Francois Pienaar, my father had given me. And I suddenly realized why I had always liked Mandela. It was not just for what he had done but because of a poem we had both read that had helped us grasp the still subversive idea that the best way to overcome overbearing negative cultural forces is by the personal witness of individuals demonstrating another way.
Labels: ACTIVISM, IDEA MILL
Friday, December 25, 2009
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!!!!!......from my family to yours..........2009 has been a rough year for all of us........may 2010 bestow upon you the gifts of Health, Happiness and Prosperity!!!!!!!!!!!!...........Thank you for your support of this blog.........Scott
1914 : The Christmas Truce
Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols. At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out "Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. In 1915, the bloody conflict of World War I erupted in all its technological fury, and the concept of another Christmas Truce became unthinkable.
1914 : The Christmas Truce
6 BC: Christ is born?
REMEMBER THIS AT CHRISTMAS TIME
I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUSI remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me."No Santa Claus?" she snorted... "Ridiculous! Don't believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad! Now, put on your coat, and let's go.""Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun."Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days."Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat.I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that."Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down."Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care...and may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!
Click here for the new animation.
Firesign update: Xmas from Phil Austin
There's a Christmas Story here, in case you haven't read it: http://austin.weblogger.com/?p=130
Actually two stories if you also click on "Putting the X back in Xmas."
Blog of the Unknown here http://austin.weblogger.com/
Vague sort of report on the Barnsdall FST shows included therein.
And Merry Everything to Everyone out there!
Tonight, as countless kids across the world dream of Santa and his flying reindeer clattering across their roof, unfortunately real reindeer face a more dismal reality: population decline. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2009 "Arctic Report Card," 18 of the Arctic's 23 largest migrating reindeer herds are dwindling, and another study found that global populations have shrunk by 57 percent in 20 years. Many point to global warming as the culprit -- it's likely that, like polar bears, Arctic reindeer are negatively affected by warming temperatures melting their icy habitat. Sub-Arctic reindeer -- like their cousins the woodland caribou, in Idaho and Washington -- are harmed by habitat fragmentation due to logging, road building, oil and gas development, and other human activities.
But instead of letting it get you down this holiday season, remember there are things we can all do to help the reindeer. We can start by fighting global warming to make sure they have white Christmases -- and icy winters -- for a long time to come.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Holiday Hit: The Five Lies of Congress
by Pat LaMarche
Some folks think I’m tough on the president. They think the president has done a bang up job and the war’s escalation and health care’s sellout should have been expected. ’Cause it’s really about what Congress is doing and not about the actions of one man, even if that man is the most powerful human being in the world.
The only person who should be surprised by the implosion of the so-called left is Hillary Clinton. Heck, she campaigned promising more and bigger wars as well as virtually guaranteeing the sellout of health care reform. She’s got to be wondering why someone else delivered on those promises and she isn’t president!
Still, I can agree with those who blame Congress for this mess, so I wrote this ditty for them to sing. It’s the same tune as “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It goes like this:
The first lie of Congress my senator told to me was that all the bad guys are in the pokey. According to a study published by Del Mar University only about 5 percent of white-collar criminals end up in jail. The Del Mar report lists white-collar crime as “companies or individuals knowingly using substandard building material, marketing untested drugs, or knowingly and illegally polluting the environment. Neglect of worker safety requirements may also be considered white-collar crime.” Additionally they point out, “91 percent of those convicted of bank robberies go to jail while only 17 percent of those convicted of embezzlement of bank funds go to jail.” So much for Congress being tough on crime!
The second lie of Congress my senator told to me was that they would’ve voted as doves. According to an ABC News survey, “33 out of the original 77 senators” who voted in favor of the Iraq War, “indicated they would vote differently knowing then what they know now.” If that’s true then the majority of the Senate now believes the war is wrong and always has been, so why are they still funding it?
The third lie of Congress my senator told to me was socialism was bad for all men. Unless those men work on Wall Street: In October of 2008 the Senate approved the government refinance of our death-spiraling stock market. For those who feel this still gives me the opportunity to scold the president who, as a senator, cast a pro-bailout vote — so did his so-called opposition Sen. John McCain.
The fourth lie of Congress my Senator told to me was mountain top removal companies would eat their words. If the Senate would call the Appalachia Restoration Act for a vote the lying would show. Their inaction on this critical environmental and human rights issue proves that while they claim to advocate clean air and clean water; they actually support big coal and job loss. Further information on the degradation of West Virginia’s air and streams is available at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Web site.
The fifth lie of Congress my Senator told to me: five red herrings!
Here are my favorite:
They love our soldiers — that’s why privatized armies make four times the salary! And there are plenty of them; the Department of Defense says the number of contractors in Afghanistan is 73,968.
Privatized prisons making prisoners into commodities isn’t dangerous to our liberty: The Wall Street Journal says that the three biggest companies, Corrections Corp. of America, Geo Group and Cornell are trading “at 12 to 18 times what each is expected to earn in 2010.”
Repeated deployments aren’t hurting our forces. Web search “troop fatigue” and see the truth.
Passing defense of marriage legislation will defend marriage; preserving the institution for guys like Tiger Woods and Eliot Spitzer.
And my favorite: electing a Democrat instead of a Republican will change our policies substantially. Like last month’s debate over abortion services in insurance policies, The Center for Responsive Politics found that “Democrats who supported this amendment that added restrictions to abortion-related health insurance benefits received considerably more campaign contributions from anti-abortion interests than Democrats who opposed the amendment.” It isn’t about the party, it’s about the money.
I’m out of space, but keep singing on your own. By now the “Lies of Congress” should be a familiar tune.
Pat LaMarche lives in Yarmouth, Maine and is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."
Six Reasons Why Earth Won't Cope for Long
by John Gibbons
Hansen voiced publicly what environmental scientists and campaigners have murmured all year. A political fudge that ducks science is the likeliest outcome at Copenhagen. Earlier this week, for instance, EU fisheries ministers agreed a deal that pleased our Government and our fishermen. However, it does little to arrest the progressive annihilation of a common resource that, like our atmosphere, is owned by no one – and so exploited by all.
The world faces a dangerous convergence of environmental and resource crises, not all directly climate related. All, however, are increasingly difficult to resolve in a rapidly warming world. Taken together, they are not amenable to a business-as-usual political response. Here, in no particular order, are six:
1. Biodiversity: “The world is currently undergoing a very rapid loss of biodiversity comparable with the great mass extinction events that have previously occurred only five or six times in the Earth’s history,” says the World Wildlife Fund. It has tracked an astonishing 30 per cent decline in the Earth’s biodiversity between 1970-2003. Hunting, habitat destruction, deforestation, pollution and the spread of agriculture are leading to as many as 1,000 entire species going extinct every week – that’s a species every 10 minutes. The economic cost of destroying biodiversity is also immense. A 2008 EU study estimated the cost of forest loss alone is running at $2-$5 trillion (€1.3-€3.4 trillion) annually.
2. Ocean acidification: The evidence of the effects of increased CO2 levels on the world’s oceans is unequivocal. Surface ocean acidity has increased by 30 per cent since 1800, with half this increase occurring in just the last three decades. The rate of change in oceanic pH levels is around 100 times faster than any observed natural rate. Increasing acidity is impeding the ability of plankton called foraminifera to produce shells. These creatures form the base of the entire marine food system. The world’s vital reef systems are also in peril from acidification.
3. Population pressure: Broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has witnessed how the natural world is being crushed by humanity. “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder – and ultimately impossible – with more,” he says. The Earth must provide for around 80 million more people than this time last year. It took us almost 10,000 years to reach a billion people. We now add that many every 12 years.
4. Peak oil: This month, the International Energy Agency formally predicted global peak oil by 2020. Today, the world burns the equivalent of 82 million barrels of oil every day. Projected growth in energy demand will see this rise to almost 100 million barrels within a decade, but by then, output from the oilfields currently in production will have plummeted to barely a third of that. A massive energy gap is looming, and with discoveries having peaked in the mid-1960s, we are approaching the bottom of the cheap oil barrel. Non-conventional oil, renewables and nuclear will be nowhere near capable of bridging this energy gap in time. The oil shocks of the coming decade will be intense.
5. Peak food: the global food system is predicated on lashings of cheap oil, fresh water, soil and natural gas. All four are in decline. The food riots of 2008 were an early warning of a global system in crisis. In the US, it is estimated every calorie of food energy requires 10 calories of fossil fuel energy. More food production is now being channelled into fattening animals. Meat is a tasty but entirely inefficient way to use finite food resources. Meanwhile, the UN predicts the collapse of all global commercial marine fisheries by 2048, depriving up to two billion people of food.
6. Peak water: During the 20th century, human water usage increased nine-fold, with irrigation (for agriculture) alone using two-thirds of this total. With almost all major glaciers retreating, many river systems are at risk. Groundwater in aquifers is another key fresh water source. Over-extraction, mostly for agriculture, has caused their levels worldwide to plummet. Pollution, especially from fertiliser overuse, adds to the loss of fresh water. The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported only 17 per cent of Ireland’s rivers are of “high ecological status”.
The 19th century naturalist John Muir famously wrote that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”. As the Copenhagen conference draws to a close, the words of a contemporary of Muir, politician and orator Robert Ingersoll, have never seemed more apt: “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are only consequences.”
Olbermann: Ruined Senate Bill Unsupportable
Maude Barlow on the World Water Crisis
Two-Degree Temperature Rise Could Flood Wide Areas of Planet, Study Says
by Margaret Munro
A team of geophysicists is warning that the massive polar ice sheets are even more vulnerable to global warming than previously believed, and could trigger a sea level rise of six to nine metres.
The scientists from Princeton and Harvard universities say that just two degrees Celsius of global warming, which is now widely expected to occur in coming decades, could be enough to commit the planet to inundation.
"The time to avoid disastrous outcomes may run out sooner than expected," says Princeton's Michael Oppenheimer.
He is co-author of a ominous new report on what happened the last time global temperatures rose a couple of degrees - the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted away so extensively that sea level rose between 6.6 and 9.4 metres.
If emissions of greenhouse gases are not reduced soon, they scientists say the planet could be committed to comparable melting, which might be unstoppable.
They say low-lying regions around the world could be inundated by more than a metre of sea level rise this century, followed by many more metres in coming centuries. Low-lying areas like Bangladesh and Florida would be hard hit, and Canadian communities from Tuktoyaktuk to Vancouver to Charlottetown could all expect to see waters rise. A one-metre rise in sea level would immediately affect 145 million people around the world.
The geophysicists' report in the journal Nature Thursday is a new - and much more "startling," according to a commentary accompanying the report - assessment of what occurred the last time polar temperatures were three to five degrees Celsius warmer than today. The so-called "last interglacial stage" 125,000 years ago is considered an analogue or guide to what might happen if global warming continues on its current path.
The new assessment is based on sea level indicators such as coral and beach records as well as changes to Earth's gravity and surface as massive ice sheets melted away. It concludes that during the last interglacial, global sea level peaked more than 6.6 metres higher than today and may have risen 9.4 metres. That is higher than previous estimates, and indicates much of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melted away.
The "disconcerting message" is that the planet's response to 1.5-2 degree C of global warming could be an increase in sea level of seven to nine metres, Peter Clark at Oregon State University writes in a commentary.
Given current rates of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, Princeton co-author Robert Kopp notes that Earth is on track to have "significantly more warming by the end of century than occurred during the last interglacial."
The researchers caution that it is not clear from their study how long temperatures had to stay high to commit the planet to six to nine metres of sea level rise last time around.
Despite the uncertainties, Oppenheimer says the findings should send a "strong message" to the governments negotiating in Copenhagen about the need to reduce emissions.