Michigan Health Insurance Companies Use Near-Monopolies to Set Prices


A new study by the Health Care for America Now coalition criticizes the consolidation of the private health insurance industry, saying that it is creating skyrocketing premiums for both patients and employers. The study says that the majority of metropolitan areas–over 94%–are “highly concentrated” according to the Department of Justice. This means that insurers are essentially free to raise premiums or reduce services with impunity.

In Michigan, premiums increased 78% from 2000 to 2007 according to an analysis of private health insurance companies in the state. Wages have increased by only 5%, meaning that insurance premiums have risen 17 times faster than wages. Most areas in the state are “highly concentrated” and there is no real competition to the major private insurance companies. In fact, the state’s biggest health insurer–Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan–controls 65% of the state market. Here in Grand Rapids, Blue Cross and Blue Shield controls 46% of the market while the number two insurer, Priority Health, controls 46%. This gives the two companies 92% market share.

In order to increase competition and effectiveness of the insurance market, the group advocates increased regulation of private insurance companies and the development of a public health insurance plan.

Headlines: Healthcare Reform Discussed; Obama to Revive Military Commissions

Democracy Now Headlines: Healthcare Reform Discussed; Obama to Revive Military Commissions

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Health Industry Says Obama Overstated Pledge to Cut Costs

Health care industry leaders are now claiming President Obama substantially overstated their pledge this week to reduce costs. On Monday, President Obama stood by a group of executives and lobbyists from hospitals, insurance companies and drug manufacturers at the White House and said they’d agreed to cut health care costs by 1.5% per year, or $2 trillion over the next decade. But on Thursday, the companies said they never agreed to specific yearly cuts, but only vague, voluntary goals. According to the New York Times, the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, initially said Obama had “misspoke” in announcing the pledge. But one hour later she reversed herself and said Obama accurately summarized the industry groups’ commitment. The meeting was held as part of industry efforts to stave off a single-payer universal health care system. It’s widely acknowledged a single-payer system would put insurance companies out of business because they wouldn’t be able to compete with its cheaper costs.

Obama Questioned on Single-Payer

At a town hall-style event in Rio Rancho, New Mexico Thursday, local resident Linda Allison asked President Obama why the White House and the Democratic-led Congress have ruled out single-payer.

Linda Allison: “My question is, so many people go bankrupt using their credit cards to pay for health care. Why have they taken single-payer off the plate? (Applause.) And why is Senator Baucus on the Finance Committee discussing health care when he has received so much money from the pharmaceutical companies? Isn’t it a conflict of interest?”

President Obama: “If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense. That’s the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world. The only problem is that we’re not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their employers and you’ve got this system that’s already in place. We don’t want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we’re trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.”

Obama did not address the second part of Linda Allison’s question about Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who has excluded single-payer advocates from Senate Finance Committee hearings. Allison says she was partly inspired to ask the question after viewing Democracy Now!’s coverage on Wednesday of single-payer advocates who disrupted Baucus’ hearing.

House Dems Propose Government-Run Health Plan

In other health care news, House Democrats have drafted a proposal that would require all Americans to buy health insurance and provide government subsidies for premiums to families with household incomes of up to $88,000 dollars. Employers would be forced to offer health coverage to employees or help fund it through a payroll tax. The proposal also calls for the creation of a new government insurance plan to compete with private companies. The proposed government plan would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

House Passes $97B War Funding Bill

The House has approved a nearly $97 billion dollar spending bill funding the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure includes $1 billion dollars in military and economic assistance to Pakistan. Lawmakers stripped a provision that would have granted $80 million dollars towards the closure the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The final vote was 368 to 60, with a bloc of 51 anti-war Democrats voting in opposition. The Senate Appropriations Committee meanwhile has approved a $93 billion dollar version of the bill that includes the Guantanamo funding but bars the transfer of any prisoners to U.S. soil.

Obama to Revive Military Comissions

President Obama is expected to announce today plans to revive the military tribunal system for a small number of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Obama shut down the military trials shortly after taking office as part of his repudiation of Bush administration policies in the so-called war on terror. According to the Associated Press, Obama will unveil new legal protections for prisoners in the renewed system. These include bans on hearsay evidence and evidence obtained through torture, as well as giving prisoners more leeway in selecting their military counsel. As a Senator, Obama supported an earlier proposal for establishing the military commissions but later opposed the final version approved by Congress. Human rights groups are criticizing Obama’s reversal. Jonathan Hafetz of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “There’s no detainee at Guantanamo who cannot be tried and shouldn’t be tried in the regular federal courts system… This is perpetuating the Bush administration’s misguided detention policy.”

Pelosi Accuses CIA of Misleading Congress on Torture

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is accusing the CIA of deliberately misleading Congress about the torture of foreign prisoners. Pelosi made the charge Thursday in acknowledging she first learnt of the waterboarding of CIA prisoners in 2003. Republicans have pointed to Pelosi’s involvement in torture briefings to deflect scrutiny of Bush administration officials. This week the CIA released documents showing Pelosi was briefed on CIA waterboarding in September 2002. But Pelosi insisted she was told waterboarding wasn’t being used then and said secrecy rules forced her to remain silent when she learnt more details several months later.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “The CIA briefed me only once on enhanced interrogation techniques in September 2002, in my capacity as ranking member of the intelligence committee. I was informed then that the Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques were legal. The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.”

Pelosi has called on the CIA to release detailed records of her 2002 briefing. The CIA meanwhile has denied a request from former Vice President Dick Cheney to release full records of prisoner interrogations to prove Bush administration torture tactics yielded valuable intelligence. Critics have dismissed Cheney’s call as political posturing because of the likelihood the CIA would reject his request.

Insurance Firms to Receive Billions in Taxpayer Aid

The Treasury Department has confirmed six major insurance companies are poised to receive billions of dollars in new taxpayer aid. The Treasury has given preliminary approval for granting assistance to Hartford Financial Services Group, Prudential Financial, Lincoln National, Allstate, Ameriprise and Principal Financial Group. Hartford says it could receive up to $3.4 billion.

Foreclosure Notices Hit Record in April

New figures show a record number of homes faced foreclosure last month. According to RealtyTrac, 342,000 homes received foreclosure notices in April, a one percent increase from March. Nearly 64,000 homes were repossessed, bringing the total number to more than 1.3 million since August 2007.

Chrysler, GM to Close Dealerships Nationwide

The auto giant Chrysler has announced plans to close nearly 800 dealerships across the country, or one quarter of its retail chain. General Motors is expected to follow suit today with the announcement of 1,000 dealerships it plans to fold. Taken together, the announcements could affect an estimated 89,000 workers.

Palestinians Mark 61st Anniversary of Al-Nakba

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinians marked the 61st anniversary of Al-Nahba Thursday, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians maintain their national aspirations despite more than six decades of dispossession and occupation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “We are clinging to our national beliefs, to establish our own independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of return for refugees in the framework of a just and agreed solution, based on U.N. resolution 194.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile is set to meet with President Obama at the White House on Monday.

Suu Kyi Faces Trial, Loss of Home

In Burma, the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to go on trial Monday for an uninvited visit by a US citizen who swam across a lake to reach her home. The Burmese junta says John Yettaw spent two days in Suu Kyi’s home before he was captured as he made his way out. Suu Kyi’s attorneys say Yettaw ignored her pleas to leave and spent a night sleeping on a ground floor. On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the charges.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We oppose the regime’s efforts to use this incident as a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her. Therefore we call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally along with her doctor and the more than 2100 political prisoners.”

The trial appears to come as part of an effort by the junta to force Suu Kyi to give up her home. She has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest.

Houston Spiritual Leader Freed on Bail

Back in the United States, the Houston-based spiritual leader Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi has been released on bond after four months in a private immigration jail. Imam Zoubir has lived in the U.S. for the past eleven years. He was jailed in December after U.S. immigration rescinded his green card approval and rejected his application for permanent residency status as a religious minister. Immigration officials arrested him at his home and led him away in handcuffs in front of his wife and four children. I interviewed Imam Zoubir last month after he called in from the private jail.

Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi: “I strongly believe that I am targeted because of my political views, especially I was against the war in Iraq, against bombing innocent civilians in Lebanon in 2006, and for my clear stance that I am pro-democracy and values that this country was founded on. And they don’t want for somebody who is free-minded and outspoken.”

Imam Zoubir’s release follows a grassroots campaign to pressure immigration officials to set him free. He is out on a $20,000 dollar bond.

N.H. Governor to Sign Gay Marriage Bill

And in New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch has vowed to sign a bill legalizing gay marriage. State lawmakers passed the measure earlier this month. Lynch says he’ll endorse it after legislators make changes to protect churches from lawsuits if they decline to officiate over gay marriages.

Headlines: New US. Commander in Afghanistan; Health Providers Offer to Cut Costs but Give Few Specifics

Democracy Now Headlines: New US. Commander in Afghanistan; Health Providers Offer to Cut Costs but Give Few Specifics

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Gates Removes Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan has been forced out and replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. McKiernan is reportedly the first general to be dismissed from command of a theater of combat since Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

New Commander Tied To Secret Assassination Team

The new commander, Stanley McChystal, is viewed as an expert on counterinsurgency and guerilla warfare. As head of Special Operations, McChrystal oversaw a secretive program to hunt down and assassinate suspected terrorists around the globe. According to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh the Joint Special Operations Command carried out assassinations in a dozen countries. Last year lawmakers delayed Stanley McChrystal’s nomination for a key position because of questions about prisoner abuse by forces under his command. At least 64 service personnel assigned or attached to Special Operations units were disciplined for prisoner abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the change yesterday and said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez will take responsibility for the day-to-day management of the war in Afghanistan.

Robert Gates: “The way I look at this is as McChrystal and and Rodriguez as a team. They each bring tremendous skills in a variety of areas that are very pertinent to the kind of fight that we have Afghanistan. And it is their combined skill set that I think gives us some fresh opportunities looking forward.”

Lt. Gen. McChrystal ran special operations under General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq. Fred Kaplan of Slate writes “McKiernan’s ouster signals a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan. And it means that the war is now, unequivocally, ‘Obama’s war.'”

Taliban Fighters Attack Gov’t Buildings in Khost

Earlier today in Afghanistan about 30 Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests attacked government buildings in the Afghan city of Khost. At least six people died in the attacks.

Afghan Lawmakers Protest Civilian Deaths

Afghan lawmakers walked out of parliament Monday to protest the latest civilian casualties at the hands of US-led forces. Lawmakers are demanding legal restrictions be placed on U.S. and coalition forces to prevent further civilian deaths.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Eight In Pakistan

In Pakistan, at least eight people have died after a U.S. drone blew up a house in the South Waziristan district, near the Afghan border.

US Soldier in Iraq Kills 5 Comrades at Stress Clinic

Five U.S. soldiers died in Iraq Monday after a fellow soldier opened fire at a stress clinic at a U.S. military base in Baghdad. The killings appear to be the single deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence among U.S. forces since the United States invaded Iraq six years ago.

Journalist Roxana Saberi Released From Iranian Jail

The Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was released from an Iranian jail Monday and has been reunited with her family. Her father Reza Saberi spoke to reporters after her release.

Reza Saberi: “Roxana is well and is staying at a relative’s home tonight. We are preparing to go. The exact date of our departure is not clear but we should get ready for our trip to America.”

Roxana Saberi had been held since January.

U.S. Continues to Imprison Reuters Photographer in Iraq

The United States is continuing to imprison at least one journalist without charge. Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, has been held in Iraq since September despite objections from the Iraqi government, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders and Reuters. Unlike Saberi’s case, Jassam’s imprisonment has received little news attention in the United States.

Prisoner Who Tied Iraq to Al-Qaeda Found Dead in Libyan Jail

A Libyan man whose fabricated testimony about al Qaeda was used by the United States to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq has reportedly killed himself in his Libyan jail cell. Human rights groups are demanding an immediate investigation into the death of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi. After his capture in Afghanistan in 2001. U.S. forces sent him to a prison in Egypt where he was tortured. After being beaten and subjected to a “mock burial” by his Egyptian interrogators, Libi made up the false claim that Iraq had provided training in chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda operatives. The Bush administration used Libi’s false testimony to make the case for invading Iraq. Al-Libi was later held in a secret overseas CIA prison.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, “He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war.”

Former friends of Libi have cast doubt on his reported suicide, arguing that the former mosque preacher knew suicide was prohibited by Islam.

Guantanamo Prisoner Attempts Suicide

Meanwhile a prisoner at Guantanamo tried to commit suicide on Sunday during a meeting with his attorney. The Yemeni man, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, used a piece of a table to cut a vein in his wrist. The prisoner then hurled blood at his attorney. Latif has been held at Guantanamo without charge since January 2002.

Health Providers Offer Few Details On Plan to Cut Costs By $2 Trillion

In Washington President Obama met with a coalition of U.S. health groups Monday after the groups pledged to cut rising health costs by $2 trillion over the next decade. The coalition representing doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers, insurers and laborers had agreed to help reduce the rise in healthcare costs by 1.5 percentage points per year for 10 years. None of the groups offered detailed specifics on how they would pare down costs. Single payer advocate Kevin Zeese criticized the plan. He said “The voluntary plan is a promise that can’t be enforced, and they’re talking about a 20 percent decrease in the expansion. That still means projected increases of nearly $2 trillion over the next ten years.” Zeece was arrested last week at a Senate Finance Committee hearing while protesting the committee’s exclusion of any advocates for single payer or Medicare-for-all. The Senate Finance Committee will hold another hearing on healthcare reform today. Committee chair Max Baucus has not invited any single-payer advocates to testify.

Federal Deficit to Reach Record $1.8 Trillion

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating the federal deficit will reach a record $1.8 trillion this year. This means the government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends.

Goldman Sachs Pays $60 Million to Settle Predatory Lending Case

In other economic news, Goldman Sachs has agreed to a $60 million settlement to resolve claims by a Massachusetts regulator that it participated in predatory lending practices involving subprime mortgages.

Pope Visits Sacred Jewish and Muslim Sites In Jerusalem

On his second day of his Holy Land Tour, Pope Benedict XVI called for Israelis and Palestinians to engage in a “a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace.” The Pope made the comment as he was visiting the most contentious site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the adjacent Western Wall, the last remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

On Monday a senior Palestinian Muslim cleric fiercely denounced Israeli policies in Jerusalem in the presence of Pope Benedict and appealed to the pope to help end what he called the “crimes” of Israel. Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the chief judge of the Muslim religious courts in the Palestinian territories, spoke at a meeting between the pope and Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy.

Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi: “Your holiness the pope, I call on you in the name of the one God, to condemn these crimes and exert pressure on the Israeli government so it can stop it’s aggression against the Palestinian people and release thousands of prisoners from the occupation cells, and demolish the racist separation wall, remove the settlements and return the confiscated land to its owners, and to stop the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, and the eviction of it’s people in order to form a just peace which would return the rights to it’s people.”

Anniversary of Immigration Raids Marked in Postville, Iowa

And one year ago today federal immigration agents raided a Kosher slaughterhouse in Postville Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrant workers in what at the time was the largest immigration raid in U.S. history. The raid devastated the town of Postville. The slaughterhouse owned by Agriprocessors has since closed down taking with it hundreds of jobs. The number of vacant rental homes in Postville has soared. Half of the town’s population has left. The town’s mayor resigned earlier this year. Nearly all of the male workers arrested last year were deported. Many of the female workers have been allowed to stay to care for their children but are unable to legally work.

In the time of swine flu you can still die of an opiate overdose

Clean Works

by Stephen Alsum

According to data from the Kent County Medical Examiner, drug overdoses are the second leading cause of accidental death of all people under the age of sixty-five in Kent County, Michigan. The only thing that causes more accidental deaths of people under the age of sixty-five than drug overdoses in Kent County is automobile accidents.

This data is confirmed by the Center for Disease Control. In 2005, almost five times as many people died from narcotic (opiate) overdoses in Kent County as died by drowning or submersion in water. More than fifteen times as many people died from narcotic overdose than by exposure to smoke, fire and/or flames. More people died from narcotic overdose than from all different types of assault combined. Kent County has a problem. It is not a problem we hear about very often, but it is a problem nonetheless. Kent County has a problem with people overdosing and dying from drugs, specifically opiates.

So what can we do about this? In order to reduce fatality from automobile accidents, these things called seat belts were invented. When we get in the car hopefully we wear them, thereby reducing potential harm that may befall us. When we swim there is often a lifeguard present; someone to help us if we begin to falter. To protect against fatality by fire or smoke inhalation, we have the fire department and they do a good job of putting out fires once they’ve started. So what about fatality from opiate overdoses, how can we reduce that?

One way to reduce fatality from opiate overdoses, if you are going to use opiates, is much like wearing a seat belt if you are going to drive in a car. It is a preventative measure: know what it is that you are using, and if you don’t, test it out first. Be careful though, lots of people die from illegal opiates in Kent County, but lots of people overdose on prescription opiates such as methadone too. Another way to prevent fatality from overdose is to always make sure someone else is present when you use. It is safer to swim with a lifeguard present; it is safer to use drugs when another person is there. If no one is present when you use, there will be no one there to call 911, and there will be no one to intervene if you should happen to overdose. Finally, much like the fire department puts out fires once they’ve started, get trained in how to recognize and intervene in opiate overdoses.

The Clean Works Harm Reduction Program in downtown Grand Rapids has recently started training people who actively use drugs in preventing, recognizing and intervening in opiate overdoses. Overdose is the second leading cause of accidental death of all people aged zero to sixty-five in Kent County; obviously training solely in the hands of paramedics and emergency room personnel has not worked. Sometimes the paramedics do not arrive in time, and sometimes they are never called. Clean Works is training the true first responders, people who use drugs, in how to prevent, recognize and intervene in opiate overdoses. Come to Clean Works and we can train you. If you have friends who could take advantage of one of the many services we offer, send them in. Besides for overdose prevention and intervention trainings, in the interest of public health we offer free confidential syringe exchange and a variety of safer sex supplies to help prevent the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis-C and other blood borne viruses.

For more information, contact Clean Works:

Clean Works

54 S. Division

Monday & Thursday, 6-8pm

(616) 456-9063

Headlines: Dozens of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings; Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

Democracy Now Headlines: Dozens of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings; Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Dozens of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings

Dozens of civilians were killed Tuesday in a U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Witnesses say U.S. warplanes bombed scores of homes during clashes with Taliban fighters in the Western province of Farah. Villagers reportedly brought truckloads of bodies to their provincial governor’s office. The Red Cross says dozens of civilians were killed, including many women and children. Estimates of the dead range from thirty to as many as one-hundred-and fifty. The attack comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington for his first White House meeting sine President Obama took office. On Tuesday, Karzai said U.S.-Afghan relations are strong despite tensions over the bombing of Afghan civilians.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “We’ve had ups and downs, especially in the past year and a half in our relations with America. There were difficult moments over civilian casualties, there were tense moments over aid distribution and corruption and all that. But ladies and gentlemen, through this forum, I would like to inform the American people that the fundamentals of this relationship are very, very strong.”

Karzai says he’ll discuss the latest mass-killing of Afghan civilians when he meets Obama later today. The Obama administration has increasingly criticized Karzai since he began vocally condemning U.S. airstrikes and calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Justice Dept. Torture Memo Probe Rules Out Prosecution

Prospects are dimming for the prosecution of Bush administration lawyers who authorized the torture of foreign prisoners. In a draft report, Justice Department investigators say the lawyers–John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury–shouldn’t face criminal charges for authoring memos that backed a range of abuses including waterboarding and physical assault. The report however does say they showed serious lapses in judgment, and recommends referring Yoo and Bybee to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary action, including disbarment. Bybee is an appeals court judge while Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

Report: Torture Backers Lobby to Sway Investigation

The leaked details of the Justice Department probe come amidst reports Yoo and Bybee have launched an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to water it down. According to the Washington Post, Yoo and Bybee have encouraged former Bush administration colleagues to warn current Justice Department officials against recommending criminal prosecution.

U.S.: Bank of America Needs $34B

In financial news, a government assessment of the nation’s top banks has found Bank of America needs an additional $34 billion in capital. The amount is triple previous estimates of what the government’s ‘stress test’ was expected to recommend. The finding could result in U.S. taxpayers becoming Bank of America’s largest shareholder. Bank of America could raise the needed capital by taking the government’s existing $45 billion in non-voting preferred shares under the Wall Street bailout and converting it into common stock. Government officials are also expected to instruct the bailed out financial giant Citigroup to raise an additional $5 to $10 billion in capital. The full stress test results will be announced on Thursday.

AIG Bonuses Higher Than Previously Disclosed

The bailed-out insurance giant AIG has revealed its controversial bonus payouts were higher than previously disclosed. New figures show AIG paid out more than $454 million in bonuses last year–nearly four times the amount it reported in March.

Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

On Capital Hill, a group of doctors and activists directly challenged Democratic Senators Tuesday for their refusal to discuss single-payer health care. The action came at a Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care reform. None of the fifteen witnesses called to testify support single-payer, and the committee chair’s, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, has dismissed single-payer as “off the table.” One by one, eight single-payer advocates stood up to challenge Baucus and call for single-payer.

All eight single-payer advocates were arrested. The action was organized by the groups Single Payer Action and Health Care Now!

Biden Criticizes Israeli Settlements, Checkpoints at AIPAC Meeting

The Obama administration has offered some rare public criticism of Israeli government policies. Speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said Israel should freeze settlement activity.

Vice President Joe Biden: “Israel has to work toward a two-state solution. You’re not going to like my saying this but: not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement based on their first actions, access to economic opportunity and increased security responsibility. This is a show-me deal. Not based on faith. Show me!”

Although the Obama administration has called for freezing the expansion of exisiting Israeli settlements, it’s yet to call for their dismantlement and Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

Hamas Leader Renews Acceptance of Palestinian State in ’67 Borders, Says Rocket Attacks Ceased

As Biden chided Israel, Hamas’ political leader renewed his acceptance of a Palestinian state within the Occupied Territories. In an interview with the New York Times, Khaled Meshal said: “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” Meshal also said Hamas fighters in Gaza have completely ceased firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns.

UN Asks Israel for Reparations in Gaza Attacks

A United Nations investigation has found the Israeli military was “negligent or reckless” toward UN facilities, personnel and other civilians during its three-week attack on the Gaza Strip ending in January. Israel attacked at least eight UN sites during its assault on Gaza, including a school where up to forty civilians were killed and a warehouse storing desperately-needed supplies. The report found Israel intentionally fired on a UN-run elementary school, killing three youths seeking refuge inside. The UN says it’s asked the Israeli government to formally acknowledge its claims of Palestinian militants firing from the sites were untrue. The report also calls on Israel to compensate the families of the UN workers killed or injured in the attacks. But in what critics are calling a major capitulation, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has explicitly rejected the report’s call for a further investigation into whether Israel violated international law. In a cover letter attached to the report, Ban praises Israel for its alleged cooperation in the probe and says: “I do not plan any further enquiries.” Ban was questioned about his stance at a news conference on Tuesday.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon: “I have no authority to edit or change or alter any recommendation and conclusions of this board of inquiry’s judgement. However, because it contains some very sensitive information, then I decided to summarize, respecting the integrity of these reported conclusions.”

40,000 Flee Swat as Pakistani Leaders Arrive in U.S.

In Pakistan, more than 40,000 people have reportedly fled the Swat Valley following clashes between Pakistani and Taliban forces. Both sides are blaming the other for the breakdown of a truce in the region. Despite the fighting, Pakistani officials say they’ve rescinded an evacuation order because they don’t plan to launch a new military offensive. Pakistani troops have been battling Taliban fighters in two districts bordering Swat. The unrest comes as Pakistani leaders are in Washington for meetings at the White House. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is set to meet President Obama later today. Testifying before Congress, Obama’s special envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, said the U.S. is fully backing Zardari.

Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: “Pakistan as such is of immense importance to the United States strategically–that our goal must be unambiguously to support and help stabilize a democratic Pakistan, headed by its elected President Asif Ali Zardari. We do not think Pakistan is a failed state. We think it is a state under extreme test from the enemies who are also our enemies and we have, Mr. Chairman, the same common enemy.”

Iran Reviews Saberi Conviction After Family Drops Attorneys

In Iran, government officials have apparently forced the jailed Iranian American reporter Roxana Saberi to drop a group of prominent lawyers including the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Saberi was sentenced last month to eight years in prison after being convicted of spying for the United States. Her father says she’s ended a two-week hunger strike protesting her imprisonment. On Tuesday, the Iranian judiciary said it would review Saberi’s conviction shortly after her family announced it won’t retain Ebadi and the other attorneys.

Mexican Journalist Killed After Warning of Threats

In Mexico, a journalist who warned of threats on his life by government officials has been shot to death. Fifty-two-year old Carlos Ortega Samper was killed one day after his warnings were published. He was shot three times by unidentified assailants in the

northern state of Durango.

Obama Proposes $63B for Global Health

President Obama has unveiled a $63 billion dollar proposal for new global health spending over the next six years. Obama says he’ll expand on U.S. funding for AIDS programs to also focus on tropical diseases and other treatable and preventable illnesses.

Several AIDS advocacy groups are criticizing the proposal, saying Obama has backtracked on a pledge to increase AIDS funding by $1 billion a year.

Supreme Court Ruling Prompts Calls for Dropping Postville Charges

The national bar association for immigration lawyers is calling on the Justice Department to drop charges against undocumented workers swept up in a raid on an Iowa meatpacking plant last year. Nearly 400 workers were detained at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, making it one of the largest raids in U.S. history. On Tuesday, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the charges should be dropped following this week’s Supreme Court ruling on identify theft. On Monday, the court ruled prosecutors must prove an undocumented worker knew false identity papers belonged to another real person.

Maine, D.C. Near Gay Marriage Approval

Maine has moved a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the Maine House voted 89 to 57 to allow gay marriage in the state, following a similar vote by the state Senate last week. Both chambers will each hold one more vote on the bill before sending it to Democratic Governor John Baldacci. Baldacci has previously opposed gay marriage but isn’t expected to issue a veto. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the city council has again voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states following a similar vote last month. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is expected to sign the measure, setting up a likely showdown with Congress, which approves D.C.’s laws under Home Rule.

Pentagon Withdraws Exoneration of Iraq War Propaganda Program

The Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office has withdrawn a report that exonerated military leaders for a propaganda program ahead of the Iraq war. Beginning in 2002, the Pentagon recruited more than seventy-five retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as so-called military analysts to portray Iraq as an urgent threat. In January, the Pentagon’s inspector general dismissed allegations the program violated laws barring propaganda and rejected reports showing the analysts used their Pentagon access to win government contracts for defense companies. On Tuesday, the Pentagon admitted the report was flawed and even removed it from its website.

Globe, Union Reach Deal

And the Boston Globe has reached an tentative agreement with its largest union amidst threats of the newspaper’s closure. The New York Times Company had threatened to close the Globe within sixty days if workers did not agree to a series of major financial and contract concessions. The Newspaper Guild says the deal will ensure the Globe’s continued publication. Meanwhile on Capital Hill, Senator John Kerry is set to hold a hearing today on the future of newspapers.

Report: 2.5 Million Michigan Residents Uninsured in 2007-2008

2.5 Million Uninsured in Michigan

A new report from the health care advocacy group Families USA found that 2.5 million Michigan residents were uninsured at some point in 2007-2008. Of those 2.5 million, 1.7 million were uninsured for six months or more.

The report provides the following statistics about those without insurance in Michigan:

  • Three-quarters of Michigan’s uninsured, or 76 percent, were in working families, working full- or part-time.
  • Almost half, or 47.6 percent, of those individuals and families in Michigan with incomes below twice the poverty level–$42,400 of annual income for a family of four in 2008–went without health insurance at some point in 2007-2008.
  • In addition, one out of five, or 21.2 percent, of those individuals and families in Michigan with incomes at or above twice the poverty level–$42,400 of annual income for a family of four in 2008–went without health insurance at some point in 2007-2008.
  • While whites accounted for the largest number of uninsured in Michigan, Hispanics/Latinos and African Americans were much more likely to be uninsured than whites: 50.7 percent of Hispanics/Latinos and 39.7 percent of African Americans went without health insurance in 2007-2008, compared to 25.4 percent of whites.

Nationwide, 86.7 million Americans–or one out of three people–were uninsured at some point in 2007-2008.

There really isn’t much else to say. This adds even more weight to the argument for a national single payer health care system that provides universal coverage for everyone living in the United States.

Headlines: 1 in 5 Workers Uninsured; Israel Behind Sudan Bombing

Democracy Now Headlines: 1 in 5 Workers Uninsured; Israel Behind Sudan Bombing

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Admin Unveils Wall Street Regulatory Overhaul

The Obama administration has unveiled plans to radically boost government authority over the financial system. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined proposals including expanding federal regulation for the first time to cover financial derivatives trading, large hedge funds and insurers such as AIG. Regulators would also impose uniform standards to limit the range of functions of major financial firms, including banks. Speaking before the House Financial Services Committee, Geithner said the changes were prompted by the failure of the economic system to regulate excess and greed.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “Our system failed in basic fundamental ways. Compensation practices rewarded short-term profits over long-term return. Pervasive failures in consumer protection left many Americans with obligations they did not understand and could not sustain. The huge apparent returns to financial activity attracted fraud on a dramatic scale. Market discipline failed to constrain dangerous levels of risk-taking throughout the system.”

The new rules come on top of previously announced proposals for government authority to seize troubled non-banking financial firms. President Obama is expected to promote the plan in meetings with top Wall Street bankers later today.

AIG Questioned on Billions in Bank Payouts

The insurance giant AIG is facing new congressional and legal scrutiny over how it funneled tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money to banks facing huge losses that AIG had insured. In what some have called the “backdoor bailout,” AIG gave nearly $13 billion to Goldman Sachs and tens of billions more to other firms, including Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and several foreign banks. On Thursday, twenty-six House Democrats signed a letter by Congress member Elijah Cummings asking the bailout program’s inspector general to investigate the payments. Meanwhile, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed AIG for information related to the derivatives payments funneled to the banks.

Obama to Order Additional 4,000 Troops to Afghanistan

President Obama is expected to unveil today a major expansion of US military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Following a two-month review, Obama will reportedly order an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan on top of the 17,000 new combat troops authorized last month. The Washington Post reports Obama’s plan will require a 60 percent increase to the $2 billion in monthly US military costs in Afghanistan. Administration officials also say they’ll impose new “benchmarks” on their allies in the Afghan and Pakistani governments. The plan will also reportedly include reconciliation efforts aimed at low-level Taliban fighters while shunning top leaders. On Thursday, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair estimated some two-thirds of pro-Taliban groups are motivated by basic concerns such as inadequate water supplies or access to education.

48 Killed in Suicide Attack on Pakistan Mosque

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, at least forty-eight people were killed and dozens more wounded in a suicide attack on a mosque earlier today. The bombing came in the town of Jamrud near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

16 Die in Iraq Car Bombing Attack

In Iraq, sixteen people were killed and another forty-five wounded Thursday in a car bombing in northeast Baghdad. It was the fifth major bombing attack to hit Iraq this month.

US Says Israel Carried Out Sudan Bombing

US officials have confirmed that Israel was behind a deadly air strike that killed dozens of people in Sudan this past January. The US says Israel attacked a convoy of seventeen trucks suspected of carrying weapons intended for smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Estimates of the death toll range from thirty-nine to more than 100. In Israel, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declined to comment on the specific attack but said Israel can “operate near and far.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “We are taking action wherever we can strike terror infrastructure, in places that are nearby and not that close. We are hitting them, and in a way that strengthens deterrence and the image of deterrence.”

US officials say they believe the alleged weapons could have come from Iran but haven’t offered evidence. Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Osama al-Muzaini denied receiving outside weaponry.

Osama al-Muzaini: “Hamas does not receive weapons from any country or any other side. To have convoys driving weapons to Hamas is a false statement and comes under the mockery and censorship which Israel always tries to execute. We affirm that Hamas has their own means, which are far from the official and international means, to get weapons.”

Supporters of Palestinian rights have long criticized Israeli and US indignation at Palestinian efforts to arm themselves, when most of Israel’s military arsenal is funded and supplied by the United States.

Israel Minimizes Civilian Toll in Gaza Attack

The Israeli government has released an investigation downplaying the number of civilian deaths in its attack on the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, the Israeli military gave a death toll of 1,166 and said most of the dead were combatants. In Gaza, Khalil Abu Shammala of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights dismissed the Israeli claims.

Khalil Abu Shammala: “All of the international human rights organizations emphasized that Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinians. Israel will try to deceive the people, will try to deceive the international public opinion, in order to show that they did not kill this huge number of the civilians during the last aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinians say Israel killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

Estimate of Chronically Hungry Passes 1B

A top UN official says the global economic crisis has pushed the number of chronically hungry people past the one billion mark for the first time. Food and Agriculture Organization head Jacques Diouf disclosed the figure to the Financial Times. Last year the FAO estimated about 960 million people were chronically hungry worldwide.

Obama Questioned on Marijuana Legalization in Online Town Hall

President Obama fielded questions from internet users nationwide Thursday in the White House’s first-ever online town hall. Obama said he expects more job losses during the current recession.

President Obama: “We’re going to have to be patient and persistent about job creation, because I don’t think that we’ve lost all the jobs we’re going to lose in this recession. We’re still going to be in a difficult time for much of this year.”

The questions were selected following an online vote. The most popular question asked Obama to comment on whether he thinks legalizing marijuana could help boost the economy. Obama answered no, but didn’t rule out legalization outright. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, however, later said Obama opposes legalization.

North Dakota Braces for Flooding as Red River Rises

In North Dakota, the town of Fargo is bracing for a potential major flood as the Red River continues to rise. The river currently stands at nearly forty feet, with predictions it could hit forty-three feet by Saturday. Hundreds of volunteers have turned out to help sandbag dikes around the city, which are now as high as forty-three feet. Evacuations have already taken place in nearby towns hit by flooding and frozen temperatures.

Pennsylvania Youth Sentences Overturned

In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court has overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions handed down by two corrupt judges who took bribes in return for placing the youths in privately owned jails. Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are said to have received $2.6 million for ensuring that juvenile suspects were sent to private prisons. Some of the young people were jailed over the objections of their probation officers. The judges pleaded guilty to fraud last month and face up to seven years in prison. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania court ruled Ciavarella violated the constitutional rights of youth suspects in his courtroom from 2003 to 2008.

Student Loan Defaults Rise

New figures show the economic downturn has led to an increase in defaults on student loans. The US Department of Education says the student loan default rate last year rose to 6.9 percent from 5.2 percent a year earlier. An estimated half-trillion dollars in federal student loan debt is now outstanding.

Sen. Sanders Introduces Single-Payer Healthcare Act

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced a measure to establish a single-payer healthcare system. The American Health Security Act of 2009 would establish a single government program to guarantee healthcare to all Americans, including the 46 million currently uninsured. Advocates say the proposal would save some $400 billion by eliminating the bureaucratic costs of the current privately run system. The measure is similar to bills introduced by Democratic Congress members Jim McDermott of Washington and John Conyers of Michigan in the House.

Study: Nearly 1 in 5 Workers Uninsured

In other healthcare news, a new study shows nearly one in five US workers are uninsured. The figure marks an increase over the mid-1990s, when fewer than one in seven workers were uninsured. That translates to around six million more uninsured workers over the last decade.

House Expands Wilderness Protection

The House has approved what’s being called the biggest expansion of wilderness protection in fifteen years. The bill would extend federal protection to two million acres across nine states and launch a river restoration program in western states. The Senate passed its version of the measure last week. With his expected signature, President Obama will make the bill the first major conservation effort of his presidency.

Sen. Webb Calls for Review of Criminal Justice System

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is calling for a comprehensive review of the nation’s criminal justice system to reduce the growing prison population. Under the proposal, a blue-ribbon panel would conduct a more than year-long investigation and propose reforms on issues including law enforcement, court sentencing, reintegrating prisoners. The proposed commission would also tackle gang violence, drug policy, mental illness, and prison administration.

Canada Stays Deportation Order of US War Resister

And in Canada, a US war resister has been granted a last-minute stay of deportation. The Canadian Federal Court says Kimberly Rivera will be allowed to remain in Canada pending a review of her deportation order. Rivera fled the US in January 2007 along with her husband and two children to avoid returning to Iraq.

Empowered Women’s Health Workshop Explores Alternatives to Traditional Healthcare

An Empowered Women's Health Workshop Hosted by The Bloom Collective Provided Alternatives to Corporate Dominated Healthcare

On Saturday, about 25 people of various ages gathered at the Tanglefoot building for the Empowered Women’s Health Workshop, hosted by The Bloom Collective.

The workshops were varied in topic and in style:

Birthing and Pregnancy

The first workshop, about a woman-sense approaching to birthing and pregnancy, was facilitated by Yolanda Visser, a local lay midwife who has been practicing for 20 years. Visser talked about how giving birth has become “medicalized,” but that there are other aspects to the process. For example, Visser focuses on a spiritual component as well, noting that birth is inherently spiritual as the miracle of life. She also makes sure to care for the mother as well as the child during the birthing process.

Some of the challenges of home birthing were also discussed. For example, in Michigan home births are legal, but in nearby states they are not.

Media and Marketing – “Pink” Products

Following this was a workshop about media and marketing targeting women for profit, facilitated by Julia Mason, asst. professor of Women and Gender Studies at GVSU and Mindy Holohan, a member of Kent County Friends of Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood.

Mason began the discussion by talking about recent campaigns for breast cancer awareness. She stated her opinion that the issue of breast cancer needs to be focused on as a societal issue, rather than individual. On the subject of “pink” consumer products, she noted that it is important to be educated on whether or not the company you buy from will actually do anything concrete with the profits – Mason recommended www.thinkbeforeyoupink.com as a resource to educate yourself on which products are legitimate. She pointed out the contradiction of many of these “pink ribbon” products, noting that many women’s pharmaceuticals contain cancer causing chemicals, but then convince consumers to buy their products in order to fight cancer. The discussion was then led to the problems of a consumerism viewed as a fix for societal problems – most people present were critical of the current cultures which dictates that we all need more stuff to be happy.

Marketing Toward Young Children

Mindy Holohan focused on marketing toward young children – she read off some disturbing statistics (the average male sees his first pornographic image at age 11.5, a life size Barbie would have a 16 inch waist), saying “we are a culture in crisis.” To further illustrate her point, she passed around disturbing advertising images of dolls distributed in Happy Meals dressed provocatively and caked with make up, of 4 year old human models dressed in the same manner, and advertising for young males which shows unrealistically muscular men and promotes stereotypes. Holohan called on society’s fathers to step up and learn to be supportive for their young daughters as they navigate through this sea of advertising – “There is no time a girl needs her Dad more than early adolescence, but that’s when they’re pulling away.”

Menstrual Health

The next workshop, “De-Sanitizing Our Menstrual Health,” facilitated by GVSU student Rachel Hamilton and Lori Day, utilized a more hands-on approach. Materials and instructions for everyone present (whether or not they themselves menstruate) were shared to sew their own reusable menstrual pad. While everyone sewed, the facilitators talked about how our culture has made menstruation a taboo topic, and they encouraged everyone to get rid of that stigma and share their own experiences.

During discussion, it came up that many young women are confused when their first cycle occurs, because so little information about menstruation was given to them prior. Discussion continued to the problems of the most commonly used products – disposable pads and tampons. As with any disposable product, these are harmful to the environment, both in their manufacturing process and after being thrown out. They also contain toxins which are harmful to the body, most of which are added during the bleaching process (contradictorily, the only reason these products are bleached is give the illusion of cleanliness.)

Many alternatives were shared: reusable pads, menstrual cups (the Diva Cup and the Keeper were two brands mentioned), sponges and disposable cups, all of which are better for women’s bodies and the environment.


The final workshop of the day, facilitated by Kathy Reider of Intuitive Services, began with an explanation of the benefits of meditation: meditation gives one’s body the chance to everything down, and helps the body heal more quickly. Meditation connects you to the fullness of who you are, allowing you to have better relationships. Reider said, “being grounded is your natural state. Thinking is not.” The group was then led through a meditation technique, which some found beneficial, and others struggled to relax.

For the final twenty minutes, everyone participated in a go-around in which we shared what we do for our own health. Exercise, a healthy diet, using a menstrual cup, and many other ideas were mentioned.

Overall, the workshops represented a variety of opinions and encouraged productive discussion among everyone present.

Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare

The Media Is Not Covering Single Payer Healthcare

In the lead-up to President Barack Obama’s March 5 summit on healthcare, single-payer healthcare was largely excluded from major newspaper, broadcast, and cable news stories discussing the summit and the nation’s healthcare system.

According to a new study to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, single payer healthcare–“a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada’s current system)”–was rarely mentioned, nor were advocates of the system–two of whom attended the summit–cited.

FAIR writes:

“Over the past week, hundreds of stories in major newspapers and on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer mentioned healthcare reform, according to a search of the Nexis database (2/25/09-3/4/09). Yet all but 18 of these stories made no mention of “single-payer” (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as “Medicare for all,” or the proposed single-payer bill, H.R. 676), and only five included the views of advocates of single-payer–none of which appeared on television.

The FAIR study turned up only three mentions of single-payer on the TV outlets surveyed, and two of those references were by TV guests who expressed strong disapproval of it: conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (NewsHour, 2/27/09) and Republican congressman Darrell Issa (MSNBC’s Hardball, 2/26/09).”

The study also found that it is far more common to see single payer healthcare derided as “socialized medicine” or “government-run.”

However, in the absence of actual coverage of the system, this creates a wealth of confusion around the topic, even though it has support. FAIR cited the fact that a single payer bill in Congress has 60 co-sponsors and a recent poll that says the public favors it two-to-one over the current system.

No Coverage in Grand Rapids Press

We also checked The Grand Rapids Press’ over the same period and found no mention of single payer healthcare in its coverage.

Empowered Women’s Health Workshop Saturday

An Empowered Women's Health Workshop will Provide Alternatives to the Corporate Health Care System

On Saturday March 7, the Bloom Collective will be hosting an Empowered Women’s Health Workshop, to be held at the Tanglefoot Building, located at 314 Straight SW, Door M. The workshop will provide information for women interested in avoiding the mainstream system of health care which has been corrupted by corporate capitalism. The focus will be on empowering women in the challenge to live outside of the mainstream, as well as providing education for self-care practices.

Schedule of events:

  • 9:30 A Woman-sense approach to Pregnancy & Birth a presentation by Yolanda Visser, local lay midwife with more than 20 years in practice.
  • 11:45 How Media and Marketing Package Women for Profit, a panel discussion with Julia Mason, asst. professor of Women and Gender Studies, GVSU and Mindy Holohan, Kent County Friends of Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood
  • 1:45 – 2:45 De-sanitizing Our Menstrual Health with Rachael Hamilton, GVSU a presentation/discussion which will include a DIY pad making activity.
  • 3 – 4:30 Sharing Empowered Alternatives, a group sharing experience which includes instruction on meditation for stress relief by Kathy Reider of Intuitive Services.

The workshop is free. As one facilitator said, “The workshop is intentionally free because access to health information, or healthcare for that matter, should not be based on one’s ability to pay.”

A vegan potluck lunch will be included. The Bloom Collective will provide main dishes, attendees are asked to bring a side dish to pass.