Weekly Pulse: Paul Ryan’s Medicare Swindle

 


By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Robert Parry in In These Times examines how Paul Ryan’s budget test would turn healthcare for the elderly into one big free-market death panel.

Ryan’s plan privatizes Medicare, replacing it with premium support for insurance companies. That means the government would kick in a fixed amount of money towards insurance premiums for Americans over age 65. Ryan also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions. Ryan’s plan doesn’t guarantee that Americans over 65 could get insurance in the first place. Even if they could find an insurer willing to take them, there is no reason to believe that premium support would cover more than part of the cost.

Maybe the plan is to save money by pricing most seniors out of health insurance entirely. If you can’t get insurance in the first place, you don’t qualify for premium support.

Mitt Romney and health care

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney kicked off the exploratory phase of his campaign this week, Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. Ironically, this prospective frontrunner is best known for bringing Obama-style health care reform to Massachusetts.

Aswini Anburajan of TAPPED wonders whether Romney’s record on health care will hurt him in the primary. Repealing health care reform is one of the major themes for the Republican Party, and Romney is the architect of a similar system. However, Anburajan notes, campaigning to all but abolish Medicare hasn’t hurt GOP Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s political status, even though seniors are a big part of the GOP base..

Part of the reason why Ryan hasn’t felt a backlash from seniors is that his plan preserves Medicare for people who are currently over 55 and will only decimate the program for younger people.

Demonizing pregnant users

At RH Reality Check, Lynn Paltrow takes the New York Times to task for a sensationalized story about children born to women who are dependent upon prescription painkillers. Paltrow notes that the same alarmist language was used to hype a non-existent epidemic of crack babies in the 1980s. The evidence suggests that the impact of drug use during pregnancy on the developing fetus is relatively minor compared to the effects of other factors that are correlated with drug use, such as poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of prenatal care.

If we assume there’s a clear causal relationships between using drugs and hurting babies, it’s easier to lay all the blame on the mother. The truth, Paltrow argues, is much more complicated. Drug use is just part of a constellation of unhealthy factors that conspire to give the children of poor and marginalized women a worse start in life.

Positing a distinct syndrome caused by drug abuse is often a first step towards stigmatizing, and even criminalizing, poor women who give birth to sick children.

Hungry women and children

Speaking of threats to the health of poor women and their children, the new budget deal slashes $500 million from nutrition programs, with the Women Infants and Children (WIC) food support program at the USDA taking the hardest hit, Tom Laskawy reports for Grist.

If you get your meals through an umbilical cord, the Republicans want to protect you; but if you have to eat groceries, you’re on your own.

Big Pharma hikes HIV drug prices

Elizabeth Lombino at Change.org reports that more than 8,000 people nationwide are on the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a government program that helps poor people living with HIV/AIDS pay for medications. Lombino notes that even as the ranks of patients who can’t cover their drugs continues to swell, pharmaceutical companies continue to raise their prices. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is calling upon pharmaceutical companies to lower prices to help grapple with what has come to be known as the ADAP crisis. So far, it’s been to little effect.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

In the Fight Against the Spread of HIV/AIDS, There is no Silver Bullet

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

In the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, there is no silver bullet.

And as we travel throughout sub-Saharan Africa we are seeing dozens of innovative ways that organizations, governments, and individuals are working to fight the disease.

One of the organizations that stands out, thanks to their variety of innovative strategies and approaches to combating the spread of the disease, is the Solidarity Center , an AFL-CIO affiliated non-profit organization that assists workers around the world who are struggling to build democratic and independent trade unions.

We want to share with you three different ways they are making an impact on the ground as we visit projects across the continent.

1) Changing Behavior with Worksite Education and Testing

Johnson Matthey in Germiston , South Africa , just outside of Johannesburg , sees 600 workers pass through its doors every day, heading to work on an assembly lines to make catalytic converters that are inserted in cars to reduce pollution, complying with South Africa 's auto environmental emissions standards.

As we arrived there last January, Percy Nhlapo, a trainer with the Solidarity Center , was leading a discussion with a group of workers, correcting misconceptions about contracting HIV and urging participants to get tested. The Solidarity Center is working in partnership with the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), an industrial affiliate of the country's largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), to provide free HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to several thousand manufacturing workers a year (literally going from plant to plant providing trainings).

Following the HIV/AIDS education session, more than 200 workers voluntarily agreed to be tested. At the testing area, we spoke with registered nurse Dorothy Majola, who said that before workers are tested they are given private counseling, and then she administers two separate tests - both with 99.99 percent accuracy - to ensure correct results.

Within ten minutes of being tested, workers receive their results. The companies work in coordination with NUMSA and the Solidarity Center , agreeing to host the HIV/AIDS outreach, allowing workers to attend and get tested at the beginning and end of their work shifts. Before each outreach, shop stewards mobilize their co-workers to participate in the HIV/AIDS activities at their workplace.

2) Curbing the Spread of AIDS Along Transportation Routes

When we arrived at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna , Uganda , about 20 long-haul truck drivers were sitting on chairs  and intently watching a match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a small television while they waited for their vehicles to be cleared by customs before entering Rwanda .

But just eight months ago, instead of television, billiards, and camaraderie among workers, the easiest diversion for truckers was sex. Katuna is one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor-a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa , Kenya through Uganda , Rwanda , Burundi , Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti .

In the past, the truckers were often delayed for days on the border, giving them little to do. Boredom--and drinking--often led to unsafe sex with commercial sex workers at the truck stops along the highway. As a result, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa . Unfortunately, the virus doesn't stop with them, and is often spread to their spouses.

Now, thanks to the work of the Solidarity Center and Uganda 's Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU), the amount of time truckers spend on the border has been reduced from days to just hours. The union has worked with the government to reduce the amount of time it takes their paperwork to go through, which reduced the amount of free time they have on the border.  When they don't have as much free time waiting for clearance, they're not as likely to engage in unsafe sex.

Additionally, the Katuna resource center, like many others dotted along the transport corridor, offers HIV/AIDS education, and free testing to truck drivers and local community members (directly impacting more than 150,000 workers so far). The Solidarity Center has similar programs in Kenya , Tanzania , Rwanda and Burundi .

3) Helping Orphans who Lost Their Parents to AIDS, by Putting Them Through School

Outside of Harare, Zimbabwe, we visited an orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDS-related illnesses that the Solidarity Center 's partner, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), an associate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), is helping to support.

In addition to providing HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to workers, ZCIEA is also providing a way to immediately help the children of parents who've died from the disease.

As we arrived, a hundred children were singing, clapping, and rushing to offer us hugs and high fives. The orphanage provides them not only with a place to learn and go to school, but also gives them a family in a nurturing environment. More than providing meals and a roof, the orphanage is built around the community, and the children are well-supported.

The teachers and caretakers who work there are mostly volunteers from local communities and you can see that they share a deep commitment and passion for the future of these kids. None of this would be possible without the support and efforts of the Zimbabwean labor movement in providing funding and helping to secure outside funding through grants.

Music Without Borders: Senegal
This is a weekly series where we recommend an artist, song, or compilation of songs, from a country in Africa, brought to you by our awesome friends at Awesome Tapes From Africa. Today's selection is from Senegal:

Mbalax is a local musical genre in Senegal; most people have heard of Youssou N'Dour, who is a major artist in that world. Here is another mbalax great, Thione Seck.

 

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts -- we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates--Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going--If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

 

 

1,000 Words About Uganda

 

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

When we arrived by bus at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna, Uganda (the border between Rwanda and Uganda), twenty men were intently watching a match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a small television. Along with the pool table, board games, and additional television downstairs, soccer games provide a much needed distraction for the long-distance truckers who have to wait for their vehicles to be cleared by customs before entering Rwanda.

But just eight months ago, instead of television and camaraderie among workers, the easiest diversion for truckers was sex. Katuna is one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor—a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa, Kenya through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti.

In the past, the truckers were often delayed for days on the border, giving them little to do. Boredom—and drinking—often led to unsafe sex with prostitutes at the truck stops along the highway. As a result, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t stop with them, and is often spread to their spouses.

Now, thanks to the work of the Solidarity Center, a non-profit launched by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organziations (AFL-CIO) to empower workers around the world by helping them form unions, and Uganda’s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU), which has about 3,500 members in


Uganda, the amount of time truckers spend on the border has been reduced from days to just hours. The union has worked through bargaining with the government to reduce the amount of time it takes their paper to go through which reduced the amount of free time they have on the border.  When they don’t have as much free time, they’re not as likely to engage in unsafe sex. 

The Katuna resource center, like many others dotted along the transport corridor, offers training and education to truckers and sex workers, and provides reading materials like pocket guides explaining sexually transmitted infections and the dangers of letting them go untreated. More than 150,000 truck drivers and community members have received prevention services, care and support information through one-on-one or community group outreach. The Center also provides free testing for truck drivers, already more than 5,000 of them to date.

As we continued along into Kampala, you can’t help but immediately feel the pulse and energy of the bustling city. In fact, we love this country so much we have no doubt we'll be back sometime in the future.



People here are also very laid back -- We've even gone three days without a cup of coffee here and didn't seem to mind.

You hear the words "Hakuna Matata" everywhere. Literally.

Internet services down nationwide all day? Hakuna Matata...

Flights cancelled? Hakuna Matata...

Two hours in wall-to-wall rush hours in Kampala? Hakuna Matata...

We spent a lot of time letting go and reversing any stereotypical American traveler latte-induced behavior…

Right after arriving, we visited the Mukono District, about an hour outside of Kampala, Uganda, where we met up with Edward Mukiibi and Roger Serunjogi, coordinators of the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project. Edward, 23, and Roger, 22 started the project in 2006 as a way to improve nutrition, environmental awareness, and food traditions and culture in Mukono by establishing school gardens at 15 preschool, day and boarding schools. And over the last year, DISC has received global attention for its work—DISC is now partly funded by Slow Food International.

They started with Sunrise School, a preschool taking care of children between the ages of 3 and 6. By teaching these kids early about growing, preparing, and eating food they hope to cultivate the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda’s culinary traditions. In addition to teaching the children about planting indigenous and traditional vegetables and fruit trees, DISC puts a big emphasis on food preparation and processing. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” says Edward. The kids at Sunrise—and the other schools working with DISC—know how to grow, how to prepare, and how to eat food, as well as its nutritional content.

As a result, these students grow up with more respect—and excitement—about farming. At Sirapollo Kaggwass Secondary School, we met 19 year-old Mary Naku, who is learning farming skills from DISC. This was her school’s first year with the project and Mary has gained leadership and farming skills. “As youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables,” she says, “to support our lives.”



Thanks to DISC, students no longer see agriculture as an option of last resort, but rather as a way to make money, help their communities, and preserve biodiversity.

We were so impressed with project DISC and urge you to check out this opinion-editorial we wrote about them for the Des Moines Register.

With 1,000 words nearly coming to an end…

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions.

While everyone we met in Uganda was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to assist us when we needed directions, a Wifi hotspot, or a place to find vegetarian food, the country also has some of the most restrictive laws against human rights on the continent. While we were there, the "Bahati Bill" was introduced in parliament.  The Bahati called for life in prison -- and in some case the death penalty -- for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity.

As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it's hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS. The Bahati bill also punishes anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others with up to three years in jail, and a prison sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, due to mounting pressure from governments such as the United States, across Europe, and in Canada, said that he opposes the measure, and would attempt to try and soften the bill. Yet, even the possibility that a watered-down version of the proposed law could be passed, is an alarming sign of a dangerous trend of prejudice all over Africa. In Blantyre, Malawi, for example, a gay couple was arrested a few months ago after having a traditional engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Malawi

Other things we want to quickly note

Where we stayed: overall, the Aponye Hotel in Kampala, Uganda is a very good budget option in the heart of the bustling city center. It is in walking distance from restaurants, markets, ATMs, the bus station and more. Approximately $35/night, the room was very simple, clean, with air-conditioning and hot showers, and Wifi in the lobby.

The veg options were great: We ate fresh avocado, a local staple called posho (or maize flower), matooke (or banana), rice, and cassava. Served with the meal was a dipping sauce made of ground nuts and tomatoes cooked in a covered box sauce pan. Most of the vegetarian food is served in Uganda is steamed -- usually using banana leaves on the bottom.

A must do: Go whitewater rafting at the base of the Nile (just a short ride from Kampala). Don’t worry it’s safe and you will have a lot of fun.

Another must do: Go swimming in Lake Victoria -- no need for a fancy hotel, most will let you on the property to swim and use their facilities for a nominal fee.

The overland bus company we recommend: Starways (and trust us -- because we traveled on all of them)


Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

1. Comment on our daily posts -- we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates--Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

 

 

1,000 Words About Uganda

 

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

When we arrived by bus at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna, Uganda (the border between Rwanda and Uganda), twenty men were intently watching a match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a small television. Along with the pool table, board games, and additional television downstairs, soccer games provide a much needed distraction for the long-distance truckers who have to wait for their vehicles to be cleared by customs before entering Rwanda.

But just eight months ago, instead of television and camaraderie among workers, the easiest diversion for truckers was sex. Katuna is one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor—a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa, Kenya through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti.

In the past, the truckers were often delayed for days on the border, giving them little to do. Boredom—and drinking—often led to unsafe sex with prostitutes at the truck stops along the highway. As a result, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t stop with them, and is often spread to their spouses.

Now, thanks to the work of the Solidarity Center, a non-profit launched by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organziations (AFL-CIO) to empower workers around the world by helping them form unions, and Uganda’s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU), which has about 3,500 members in


Uganda, the amount of time truckers spend on the border has been reduced from days to just hours. The union has worked through bargaining with the government to reduce the amount of time it takes their paper to go through which reduced the amount of free time they have on the border.  When they don’t have as much free time, they’re not as likely to engage in unsafe sex. 

The Katuna resource center, like many others dotted along the transport corridor, offers training and education to truckers and sex workers, and provides reading materials like pocket guides explaining sexually transmitted infections and the dangers of letting them go untreated. More than 150,000 truck drivers and community members have received prevention services, care and support information through one-on-one or community group outreach. The Center also provides free testing for truck drivers, already more than 5,000 of them to date.

As we continued along into Kampala, you can’t help but immediately feel the pulse and energy of the bustling city. In fact, we love this country so much we have no doubt we'll be back sometime in the future.



People here are also very laid back -- We've even gone three days without a cup of coffee here and didn't seem to mind.

You hear the words "Hakuna Matata" everywhere. Literally.

Internet services down nationwide all day? Hakuna Matata...

Flights cancelled? Hakuna Matata...

Two hours in wall-to-wall rush hours in Kampala? Hakuna Matata...

We spent a lot of time letting go and reversing any stereotypical American traveler latte-induced behavior…

Right after arriving, we visited the Mukono District, about an hour outside of Kampala, Uganda, where we met up with Edward Mukiibi and Roger Serunjogi, coordinators of the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project. Edward, 23, and Roger, 22 started the project in 2006 as a way to improve nutrition, environmental awareness, and food traditions and culture in Mukono by establishing school gardens at 15 preschool, day and boarding schools. And over the last year, DISC has received global attention for its work—DISC is now partly funded by Slow Food International.

They started with Sunrise School, a preschool taking care of children between the ages of 3 and 6. By teaching these kids early about growing, preparing, and eating food they hope to cultivate the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda’s culinary traditions. In addition to teaching the children about planting indigenous and traditional vegetables and fruit trees, DISC puts a big emphasis on food preparation and processing. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” says Edward. The kids at Sunrise—and the other schools working with DISC—know how to grow, how to prepare, and how to eat food, as well as its nutritional content.

As a result, these students grow up with more respect—and excitement—about farming. At Sirapollo Kaggwass Secondary School, we met 19 year-old Mary Naku, who is learning farming skills from DISC. This was her school’s first year with the project and Mary has gained leadership and farming skills. “As youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables,” she says, “to support our lives.”



Thanks to DISC, students no longer see agriculture as an option of last resort, but rather as a way to make money, help their communities, and preserve biodiversity.

We were so impressed with project DISC and urge you to check out this opinion-editorial we wrote about them for the Des Moines Register.

With 1,000 words nearly coming to an end…

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions.

While everyone we met in Uganda was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to assist us when we needed directions, a Wifi hotspot, or a place to find vegetarian food, the country also has some of the most restrictive laws against human rights on the continent. While we were there, the "Bahati Bill" was introduced in parliament.  The Bahati called for life in prison -- and in some case the death penalty -- for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity.

As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it's hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS. The Bahati bill also punishes anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others with up to three years in jail, and a prison sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, due to mounting pressure from governments such as the United States, across Europe, and in Canada, said that he opposes the measure, and would attempt to try and soften the bill. Yet, even the possibility that a watered-down version of the proposed law could be passed, is an alarming sign of a dangerous trend of prejudice all over Africa. In Blantyre, Malawi, for example, a gay couple was arrested a few months ago after having a traditional engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Malawi

Other things we want to quickly note

Where we stayed: overall, the Aponye Hotel in Kampala, Uganda is a very good budget option in the heart of the bustling city center. It is in walking distance from restaurants, markets, ATMs, the bus station and more. Approximately $35/night, the room was very simple, clean, with air-conditioning and hot showers, and Wifi in the lobby.

The veg options were great: We ate fresh avocado, a local staple called posho (or maize flower), matooke (or banana), rice, and cassava. Served with the meal was a dipping sauce made of ground nuts and tomatoes cooked in a covered box sauce pan. Most of the vegetarian food is served in Uganda is steamed -- usually using banana leaves on the bottom.

A must do: Go whitewater rafting at the base of the Nile (just a short ride from Kampala). Don’t worry it’s safe and you will have a lot of fun.

Another must do: Go swimming in Lake Victoria -- no need for a fancy hotel, most will let you on the property to swim and use their facilities for a nominal fee.

The overland bus company we recommend: Starways (and trust us -- because we traveled on all of them)


Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

1. Comment on our daily posts -- we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates--Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

 

 

Human Rights Battle in Uganda Hits Close to Home

Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions.

While everyone we met in Uganda was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to assist us when we needed directions, a Wifi hotspot, or a place to find vegetarian food, the country also has some of the most restrictive laws against human rights on the continent. While we were there, the "Bahati Bill" was introduced in parliament.  The Bahati called for life in prison -- and in some case the death penalty -- for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity.

As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it's hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS. The Bahati bill also punishes anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others with up to three years in jail, and a prison sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, due to mounting pressure from governments such as the United States, across Europe, and in Canada, said that he opposes the measure, and would attempt to try and soften the bill. According to a recent story in Reuters, “the president has been quoted in local media saying homosexuality is a Western import, joining continental religious leaders who believe it is un-African.” With a national election looming in 2012, politicians seem to be using hatred against gays as a scapegoat for rising corruption and the weakening of civil liberties and freedom of the press.

Yet, even the possibility that a watered-down version of the proposed law could be passed, is an alarming sign of a dangerous trend of prejudice all over Africa. In Blantyre, Malawi, for example, a gay couple was arrested last week after having a traditional engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Malawi

However, human rights advocates continue to fight. In Latin America, they hope that the success of legalized marriage in Mexico City will spread to Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and other places. Uruguay permits gay parents to adopt and Columbia grants social security rights to same sex couples.

In the United States, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender rights is one of the most import civil and human rights battles we currently face. Despite recent setbacks in California, New York, and Maine -- recent success in places like Iowa, DC, and New Hampshire -- means that during next decade the battlefield for LGBT rights is not only in Africa but also right here at home.

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