Rights Versus Resources in the Amazon

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Rights Versus Resources in the Amazon

Texaco oil well in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Tar sands, hydraulic fracking, deep water drilling. All are examples that we are living in the age of extreme oil. With most major reserves of traditional crude found or tapped, the industry is encroaching into some of the most geologically-complicated, environmentally-risky and socially-conflictive terrain than ever before. As the price of crude hovers at $100, companies are eager to get at what was once impossible crude, much to the peril of people and the planet.

In some cases, this means pursuing non-conventional sources of oil, once technologically or financially out of reach, but now lucrative, despite being more energy intensive to extract than the final crude produced. In other cases, this means attempting to access “shut in” reserves – oil fields trapped by local resistance or above-ground ecological importance.

There is no greater example of this clash than what is playing out in the forests of Ecuador’s Amazon. There is a new oil boom underway, fuelled by the country’s rising debt, China’s energy demands, Ecuador’s leftist government’s plans to finance its “citizen’s revolution”, and the massive increase in public spending with expanded drilling.

Read the rest on Eye on the Amazon »


9 Million Covered


The Latest Numbers Are In

According to the latest official figures, about 9 MILLION Americans have received health coverage through various provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including:

  • 2.2 MILLION who purchased private health plans through the federal and state marketplaces between October 1 and December 31
  • 3.9 MILLION Americans who were found to be eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • 3 MILLION or so young people who have been able to stay on their parents’ health plans until their 26th birthdays

Other Americans have also purchased plans directly from insurers, but the government doesn’t yet have data on those individuals. It’s also worth remembering that another 4.8 MILLION low-income Americans who could have received Medicaid coverage won’t receive any coverage at all because Republican governors and state legislators are refusing to expand Medicaid.

The other important information we received yesterday was the breakdown of those buying private insurance by age. In order for the system to work properly, the influx of older and sicker people who are now flocking to the system after finding it difficult or impossible to find or afford coverage before need to be balanced out by younger, healthier people.

Right now about 24 percent of the new pool of enrollees is part of the latter group, which is right about where experts believe it has to be in order to avoid sizable premium increases as a result of an unbalanced pool. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation called the figures “encouraging” and the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein declared the end of fears that a so-called “death spiral” would occur in the new marketplaces:

The risk of a “death spiral” is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market’s age distribution freezes at its current level — an extremely unlikely scenario — “overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues.” So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That’s a problem, but it’s nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.

Here are a few reasons to be encouraged by how enrollment is proceeding:

  • The pace of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces is looking very similar to what happened during Massachusetts’ successful rollout in 2007.
  • The problems with HealthCare.gov prevented or deterred many people from enrolling during October and November, but now that the website is working enrollment is surging, particularly among young people.
  • Campaigns to drive enrollment among young people and others had to be put on hold when HealthCare.gov was not working, but now those efforts are getting underway in earnest.
  • By their very nature, young people are procrastinators and are more likely to wait until closer to the March 31 deadline to enroll.

It’s also worth noting that the Affordable Care Act includes built-in mechanisms to stabilize premiums over the first few years if the mix of new enrollees isn’t exactly what insurers anticipate it will be. Naturally, Republicans in Congress are specifically trying to repeal those provisions, which could conveniently result in premium increases that would be announced just before this year’s elections.

For their part, Republicans are once again declaring the law a failure because of the number of young people who have signed up so far. As Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wrote today, the law is doing just fine and it’s probably best just to start ignoring their neverending series of false and misleading attacks:

Republicans are trying to make hay with this, but that’s just Republicans being Republicans. You can safely ignore them. There’s really nothing much to worry about here.

BOTTOM LINE: The Affordable Care Act is here, here to stay and it’s working. While much work remains to be done over the next few months (and years) to fully implement the law, its partisan critics are wrong — as the millions of Americans who now have quality, affordable health coverage thanks to the law can attest.

the Senate ~~ CONGRESS 1/15 ~~ the House

Obama Launches DNC Campaign Tour At Illinois State Capitol

The Senate will convene at 10:00am.

We expect Senator Reid to move to proceed to S.1846, Flood Insurance, during Leader remarks. Following Leader remarks, the time until 12:00 noon will be equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees, with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each. At 12:00 noon, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of H.J.Res.106, the short term continuing resolution. There will be up to 15 minutes for debate equally divided prior to a roll call vote on passage of the joint resolution.

We also expect to begin consideration of the Omnibus Appropriations a bill once it is received from the House.

This morning Senator Reid moved to proceed to S.1846, Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013.

After Leader remarks, Senator Toomey attempted to offer the Coburn amendment #2606 (prohibit unemployment compensation for those whose adjusted gross income is greater than $1 million in the preceding year) to S.1845, the Emergency Unemployment Benefits Act. The Chair ruled that offering an amendment to S.1845 was not in order because the motion to proceed to S.1846 was the pending business.

Senator Toomey then moved to appeal the ruling of the Chair that the amendment is not in order. The motion to appeal is a debatable motion. No vote is scheduled at this time.

Under the previous order, at 12:00 noon, the Senate will turn to the consideration of H.J.Res.106, making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014 (CR). At approximately 12:15pm, the Senate will proceed to a roll call vote on passage of H.J.Res.106.

At 12:17pm, the Senate began a 15 minute roll call vote on passage of H.J.Res.106, making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014 (3-day CR);

Passed: 86-14

The Senate stands in recess subject to the call of the Chair. We expect to receive a message from the House to accompany H.R.3547, the Omnibus Appropriations bill, this evening and begin its consideration.

This evening, Senator Reid filed cloture on the motion to concur in the House message to accompany H.R.3547 and filled the amendment tree.

The filing deadline for first degree amendments to the message to accompany H.R.3547 is 1:00pm on Thursday. Under the rule, the cloture vote would occur Friday morning.  Senator Reid announced his hope to have the vote sooner.


Roll Call Votes

1)      Passage of H.J.Res.106, making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes (3-day continuing resolution); Passed: 86-14

Legislative items

Began the Rule 14 process of S.1931, the Responsible Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. (Heller)

Completed the Rule 14 process of:

–          S.1917, Victims Protection Act of 2014. (McCaskill)

–          S.1926, Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. (Menendez)

No Executive items


Last Floor Action:
7:50:08 P.M. – The House adjourned. The next meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on January 15, 2014.