The fix

Taibbi on the Libor scandal:

When the rest of this scandal comes out, and it turns out that up to 15 more of the world’s biggest banks (including Chase, Bank of America, and Citi) were doing the same thing as Barclays, our regulators better start “inflecting their eyebrows” pretty damn vigorously. Because if it comes out that these other banks were all involved with this scandal (and it will come out that way, almost for sure), and their CEOs and COOs get to keep their jobs, that’ll be a sure sign that the fix is in. Let’s hope Ben Bernanke, Eric Holder, and Tim Geithner are listening.

Black lung is back

I kind of think this says something bad about our nation:

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. — Donald Marcum knew he was at least a passive participant in something that was against the rules, maybe even criminal. Every couple of months, his bosses had to submit to the Mine Safety and Health Administration five samples showing they were keeping dust levels under control. When he ran a continuous mining machine, which chews through coal and rock and generates clouds of dust, he was supposed to wear a pump to collect dust for eight hours.

That almost never happened. Most of the time, said Marcum, 51, who spent nearly 25 years in the mines of eastern Kentucky and suffers from the most severe form of black lung, the foreman or someone else would take the pump and hang it in cleaner air near the mine’s entrance.

“We just done what we was told because we needed to feed our families and really didn’t look at what it might be doing to our health,” he said.

In recent interviews, retired miners in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia — some of whom had worked as recently as 2008 — described similar tricks. Dust pumps ended up in lunchboxes or mine offices. Mine officials stalled regulators who had shown up for a surprise inspection and radioed to the men underground, who fixed the ventilation and cleaned up the work site.

“I don’t know if any [manipulation of dust samples] is going on today,” said Bruce Watzman, the National Mining Association’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs. “I hope not. We encourage our members to fulfill their obligations under the law.”

More than 40 years ago, Congress promised that the government would force mining companies to control levels of the dust that causes black lung. Instead, rampant cheating and exploitation of legal loopholes have become part of mining culture, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR has found.

After decades of decline, black lung is back, with more cases of the fastest-progressing form of the disease robbing younger miners of their breath. As researchers struggle to explain this resurgence, there is widespread agreement that the samples used by regulators to assess dust levels in a mine bear little resemblance to the conditions miners typically face.</blockquote>

Train wreck coming on Medicaid

I really don’t understand why more people aren’t raising a stink about this. In case you didn’t know, Medicaid is the insurer of last resort for the elderly. That means if your elderly parent has tapped out all their savings and needs to go into a nursing home, Medicaid is what pays for that. Think that has some implications for most people? Why are they all so quiet?

Some cash-strapped states have seized on a section of the Supreme Court’s health-law decision to pare their existing Medicaid programs, saying the ruling lifts the March 2010 law’s ban on such cuts.

The court, which upheld most of the law, struck down penalties for states choosing not to expand Medicaid. A few states are also trying to go farther, arguing that the ruling justifies cuts to their existing programs.

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 28, lawyers in the Maine attorney general’s office began preparing a legal argument to allow health officials to strike more than 20,000 Medicaid recipients from the state’s rolls—including 19- and 20-year-olds—beginning in October to save $10 million by next July.

“We think we’re on solid legal ground,” Attorney General William Schneider said in an interview. “We’re going to reduce eligibility back to the base levels in a couple of areas,” he said. Maine, like some other states eyeing cuts, earlier expanded its Medicaid program beyond national requirements.

Other states, including Wisconsin and Alabama, are expected to follow Maine’s lead, though there is disagreement over whether the high court gave the states such leeway. That could lead to battles between states and the federal government that could drag the health law back to the courts. New Jersey and Indiana also said they were evaluating the decision and did not rule out challenging the requirements.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services is still examining the court’s ruling and its implications for eligibility rules, an official said.

TB coverup in Florida

See, this is why you simply can’t run government like a business. It’s not a business. You can’t just walk away from a non-profitable division when it’s your job to look out for the public’s health and well-being. I know that Republicans and their hard-core enablers like to tell themselves these fairy tales, but it just doesn’t work. (Are you listening, Gov. Scott?) Via Raw Story:

The state of Florida has been struggling for months with what the Centers for Disease Control describe as the worst tuberculosis outbreak in the United States in twenty years.

Although a CDC report went out to state health officials in April encouraging them to take concerted action, the warning went largely unnoticed and nothing has been done. The public did not even learn of the outbreak until June, after a man with an active case of TB was spotted in a Jacksonville soup kitchen.

The Palm Beach Post has managed to obtain records on the outbreak and the CDC report, though only after weeks of repeated requests. These documents should have been freely available under Florida’s Sunshine Law.

According to the Post, the coverup began as early as last February, “when Duval County Health Department officials felt so overwhelmed by the sudden spike in tuberculosis that they asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to become involved. Believing the outbreak affected only their underclass, the health officials made a conscious decision not to not tell the public, repeating a decision they had made in 2008, when the same strain had appeared in an assisted living home for people with schizophrenia.”

That decision now appears to have gone terribly awry, partly because the disease appears 0 but also because just nine days before the CDC warning was issued, Florida Governor Rick Scott had signed a bill downsizing the state’s Department of Health and closing the A.G. Holley State Hospital that had treated the most difficult tuberculosis cases for over 60 years.

With health officials preoccupied by the challenge of restructuring, the CDC report went unseen, and an order even went out for the hospital to be closed immediately, six months ahead of schedule.

According to the Post, by April the outbreak had been linked to thirteen deaths, with 99 individuals infected, including six children. Most of those affected were poor black men, ten of whom simply wasted away from the disease before getting treatment or were not treated in time to stop its progression.

Now it is estimated that as many as 3000 people may have been exposed to the strain over the past two years, mainly in Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, jails, and a mental health clinic. Only 253 of those have been found, of whom one-third have tested positive for TB exposure.

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