Soap Box

Shadow
07/18/2019

It follows slightly to the side and behind
like a lost disciple,
hungry for love.
It tags along
resigned,
attached to countless parallels.
It dreams of a lost
axis of freedom
in detailed perpendiculars.
It hums under the dark
for some mischief in your longing,
hoping for
that “someday”
when it can finally break loose
and dance farther ahead,
leaving all that you were
behind.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Myth busting Medicare For All
07/18/2019

To the editor,

After listening to the Democratic debates, it’s clear that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are acting like fog machines at a rock concert. They’re obscuring the truth and confusing the public about improved Medicare For All, using media manipulation and well-placed legislators.

When asking candidates about Medicare for All, moderator Lester Holt’s words reflected industry bias: “Who here would abolish their private insurance in favor of a government-run plan?”

Would Holt have referred to public schools as “government-run education?” By saying “private health insurance” instead of “corporate-profiteering plans,” Holt perpetuates the intentionally misleading terminology. Under National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA), our government would NOT be providing health-care delivery.

NIMA would use a government-funded single-payer model. Health care would be managed by independent hospitals and physicians using standardized rates. A single public agency would provide the financing, (Medicare model), private physicians and hospitals will deliver the care – not the government.

Holt doubled down on his bias later in the debate, claiming Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill “would put essentially everybody on Medicare, then eliminate private plans that offer similar coverage.”

In fact, Sanders’ bill provides everyone with comprehensive health-care coverage, including dental, hearing, vision and home-based long-term care – all without copayments or deductibles. You don’t find this kind of blanket coverage in private plans today.

NIMA would eliminate confusing “in and out of network” providers. Americans would have complete freedom to choose doctors, hospitals and specialists throughout the country.

– Jan Phillips, Durango

The Ministry of No Information
07/18/2019

To the editor,

The Trump administration has halted, without explanation, the routine practice of reporting the current number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, the AP and United Press International report. The new secrecy will make it nearly impossible to estimate the true cost of nuclear weapons, to show adherence to arms control treaties or to pressure other nuclear weapons states to disclose the size of their arsenals.

The secrecy decision was revealed in an April 5 letter from the Department of Energy’s Office of Classification to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Hans M. Kristensen, director of the group’s Nuclear Information Project, said the FAS regularly asks for the information and that it’s been made public for decades.

“The decision walks back nearly a decade of U.S. nuclear weapons transparency policy – in fact, longer if including stockpile transparency initiatives in the late 1990s,” Kristensen wrote in an April 17 memo, according to the AP.

There is no national security rationale for keeping the number secret, Kristensen told the AP, adding that it is “unnecessary and counterproductive.”

“This is curious,” he reportedly said, “since the Trump administration had repeatedly complained about secrecy in the Russian and Chinese arsenals. Instead, it now appears to endorse their secrecy.”

In April, the Pentagon halted its public disclosure of how much of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, adding to a long list of progress reports from the war that are now being kept secret.

John Sopko, U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told the New York Times, “We’re troubled by it.” Keeping Sopko’s reports secret means, “The only people who don’t know what’s going on and how good or bad a job we’re doing are the people paying for it,” he said. Sopko and some in Congress have access to some of the information.

The new restrictions on public information about the 18-year-long occupation of Afghanistan are in addition to the October 2017 halt to disclosing Afghan military casualties, its performance assessments and anti-corruption efforts by the Afghan Ministry of Interior, David Zucchino reported May 1 for the Times. Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the paper, “There is no reliable way to know who is ‘winning’ or the level of stalemate.”

Today’s increased military secrecy follows the March 2018 announcement by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that it would no longer post the public calendar of upcoming missile tests and will keep the testing classified. The schedule will only be made available to Congress, the Seattle Times reported. Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the agency, which spans 14 time zones and employs more than 9,000, reportedly said his test results will be made available after launches.

Expanding military control of information continues a pattern. Since June 8, 2002, the Pentagon has been allowed to keep secret all key missile defense test results. The military’s blanket classification of performance data was imposed following the disclosure of scientific evidence of a string of failed, faked and fabricated results, and after the FBI began an investigation into fraud and cover-ups inside the program. Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also waived all procurement oversight rules for the agency, laws designed to keep federal programs on budget.

With secret test data, secret schedules, and an unaccounted, bottomless budget, the MDA’s mission impossible – “hitting a bullet with a bullet” – has wasted over $200 billion since 1983. Other military impossibilities, like victory in Afghanistan or winning at nuclear deterrence, have cost trillions. They appear guaranteed to gobble up billions more as long as Pentagon censorship is allowed to hide the facts.

– John LaForge, Co-Director of Nukewatch, writing for PeaceVoices

Drug prices are out of this world
07/11/2019

To the editor,

Republicans and Democrats can all agree that our health-care system needs an overhaul. North Korea and Iran may be threats to our country, but there is no bigger threat to our survival than our pathetic attempt to provide health care for our citizens.

Even if you are lucky enough to have adequate health care, you most likely have friends or family who do not. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand so that we do not have to look at the ugly truth. American citizens are not receiving adequate care for everything from diabetes to heart disease. Our politicians tell us it is a complicated issue that cannot seem to be solved. We made it to the moon why can’t we care for the precious lives of our citizens?

My 20-year-old daughter is suffering from our broken system. She has an extremely unpleasant illness that should have an easy and inexpensive solution. She lost her insurance because her father changed jobs. I am so grateful that she does not have a life-threatening illness like cancer but what is happening to her is very disturbing.

My daughter has an infestation of round and pin worms and the medication for this is $4,000 in the U.S. The same medication is under $50 in Canada and Mexico. A digestive doctor in Durango recommended to me the Canadian website mapleleafmeds.com. If my dog were affected by these same parasites the medicine would be $22. The insurance companies and big pharma are our parasites stealing our money, health and quality of life.

I hope this information will help someone or even save someone’s life. Pharmaceutical companies are not powerful in our neighboring countries. On average a drug that costs $1,000 in the U.S. is as low as $10 in Canada and Mexico. I am so angry and frustrated, we are allowing companies to make huge profits off our suffering. No company should make ridiculous profit from someone who is sick or dying.

I am no longer going to support our pharmaceutical companies. I am going to order all of my medicines from Canada. Canada offers the exact same medicine from the same manufacturers. I often ask myself, “Why would these companies want to find a cure for cancer, MS or Alzheimers?” The answer is they have no incentive to do so.

I am moderate politically and have been against more government involvement into our lives. However, I will no longer support a candidate who doesn’t feel as passionately as I do regarding our health-care system.

Preventive medicine and lowering drug costs are just one part of the solution. A nonprofit “insurance” is another solution. Amazon and Walmart have talked about making this happen. Keeping the government out of the solution would be ideal. Mega rich people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and the Walmart family are just a few examples of those who could help make this happen. A third option would be to incentivize doctors and medical researchers to keep people well instead of profiting from illness. Let’s put Mars on hold until we cure cancer, stop preventable diseases and provide health care for all Americans.

– Jennifer McCoy, Durango

Help educate tomorrow's leaders
07/11/2019

To the editor,

International Student Exchange (ISE), a nonprofit organization, is looking for volunteer families to host international high school students in the coming academic year. Host families can expect to gain a new family member, experience a new culture, create lifelong friendships and make a positive impact locally and globally. High school classes will start soon and interested parties must apply immediately.

ISE is looking for host families in the Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and surrounding Four Corner areas. Host families are responsible for three meals a day and providing a bed. A student may share a room with a same-sex sibling that is within four years of age. The family should welcome the student and treat them as a member of the family. The students are not just guests and are expected to help with household chores just as your own kids would.

The international exchange students are between the ages of 15 and 18 and come from countries such as Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Brazil, Italy, Norway and others. “The exchange program focuses on bringing the people of the world closer together while educating the leaders of tomorrow through student exchange,” Wayne Brewer, CEO of International Student Exchange, says. American teenagers can also study abroad through International Student Exchange.

The deadline to match students with families is Aug. 31 and families can select an international student based on shared interests, hobbies, gender, etc. Family screening includes a background check, an in-home interview and verification of personal references. The international students are English-speaking and have their own spending money. Americans provide the caring environment, room and daily meals.

For more information about hosting, please contact Chris Talleri, your ISE local area representative at (970) 759-0325 or email at christalleri@gmail.com. If you are ready to apply or for more information about the agency you may go directly to fourcorners.iseusa.org.

– Michele Blunt, ISE regional manager, via email