Mendocino County Today: October 28, 2013
by AVA News Service, October 27, 2013
Mendocino County defense attorney
was found in the kitchen
of his home Saturday
by his wife Deborah.
JULIAN VILLALPANDO, 8, and his mother, Esmeralda Villalpando, 38, suffered major injuries Saturday afternoon when Mrs. Villapando's eastbound Acura Integra left Highway 20 on a sharp turn and slammed into a redwood. Mother and child had to be extracted, with some difficulty, by firefighters and a passerby. The boy was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Oakland with life-threatening injuries; his mother was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries. "Both victims were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash," the CHP said.
MENDO UNDERWHELMED BY OBAMACARE APPLICATIONS
CEO Report, October 21, 2013: “The County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has continued to work diligently to process all health insurance applications through the Affordable Care Act, and specifically through Covered California’s insurance marketplace. So far, call centers for Mendocino County residents have logged 11 calls. There have been 36 contacts with the public where information or forms were provided, but no activity was initiated on Covered California’s online system known as the California Healthcare, Eligibility, Enrollment and Retention System (CalHEERS) — which is the enrollment system. There have been two cases where information or forms were provided in addition to initiating activity with those applicants into the CalHEERS system. So we really don’t have a lot of activity right now.”
Supervisor John Pinches commented: “After three weeks of the California Covered insurance which is commonly called Obamacare and after the last three weeks of it being in the national news about the shutdown and everything, it’s kind of really shocking to me that we’ve only received 11 calls on this Covered California and ‘no activity.’ I guess that means that not one person has signed up so far in Mendocino County.”
CEO Angelo: “No.”
Board Chair Dan Hamburg: “I don’t know what that means at all.”
Angelo: “It basically refers to giving out information which we anticipated — part of our goal in working with the state is to provide as much information and education to the public and here you can see that there’s not a lot of interest or we are still not getting the word out as to who to call, where to call, what to do.”
Hamburg: “Also they could be getting information from other sources besides the County.”
Angelo: “Yes, they could be.”
Hamburg: “There’s hundreds and hundreds of people going to private healthcare consultants like the one I know in Gualala, Ignacio Health Services, they’re handling hundreds and hundreds of applications under the Act so the County is not the only source of information on the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t like the Affordable Care Act, Johnny. I’m not defending the Act. I’m just saying that this is not a number that shows what the activity is in people signing up.”
Pinches: “That brings up my next question. If there’s all these hundreds of places where they can go…”
Hamburg: “I didn’t say there’s hundreds of places.”
Pinches: “Well, all these other places, so why is the County doing all this?”
Supervisor Dan Gjerde: “The County is enrolling people in Medi-Cal and, say at the Coast Clinics or other groups like that, the Clinics and even some private health insurance carriers — in Fort Bragg for example I know there’s one insurance sales agent who is trained and can enroll people in the Affordable Care Act, so I think that’s what Supervisor Hamburg is talking about. There are a number of people throughout the County that are actually enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act insurance and guiding them through to pick out the correct insurance for them. But the County is responsible for enrolling people in Medi-Cal.”
Brown: “And if they do not get enrolled it becomes a cost to us.”
Angelo: “And really when we began talking about the Affordable Care Act we were looking at the impact on Health and Human Services and our staff and we’ve actually been staffing up for the Affordable Care Act so this just speaks to workload basically as well as what’s happening in the Agency. And certainly we could get a report maybe from the Agency at first quarter.”
Pinches: “We’ve been staffing up for it but we’ve only had eleven calls?”
Angelo: (Smiles; shakes head) “They’re coming, Johnny.” (Laughs).
Hamburg: “Yeah. They will. But I think what Supervisor Brown raises is an interesting point. We were anticipating as many as 5,000 new Medi-Cal recipients as a result of the ACA and how are we going to find all those people? Or are we waiting for them to find us? I’m sure we’re doing some outreach, but there’s a lot of people out there who we’ve anticipated will be in Medi-Cal.”
Angelo: “That may be a question that could be better answered by the Department, but there are a lot of activities out there. Our goal is education and information. We do anticipate that there still will be a few thousand people who will not be enrolled and what we’re doing to mitigate that I can’t really answer that today but I can get that answer for you.”
Brown: “It would probably be a good idea since our board meetings are broadcasted, I believe we should have an update and an informational session at an upcoming board meeting to help get the word out.”
Hamburg: “Sure. We’ll arrange that. We’ll do that.”
Angelo: “We can do that before the end of the calendar year.”
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: “PG&E is spending tens of thousands of dollars hiring PR firms to plant the lie: ‘Solar is unfair to the rest of us.’ It's not true. 1. For about $11,000 you can have a 16-panel system. (Meaning, you don't have to be rich.) 2. PG&E's current gripe is net metering, where it credits homeowners with the retail value of the electricity. PG&E says that the solar homeowner isn't paying their fair share of the grid. Actually, they are, since PG&E sells that extra daytime production to the house next door, and charges that neighbor the complete transmission and distribution fee for the kilowatt-hours that traveled 50 feet. So PG&E's still doing fine. And making money from the solar company with extra production.”
STOP THE PRESSES! This headline appeared in Friday's edition of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “Sonoma Man found with meth in Lake County.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: As all you sports fans know, the 49ers played in London Sunday — “London, England,” as we were constantly reminded by announcers Heckle and Jeckle just in case we thought the game was being played in London, Baluchistan. The respective renditions of national anthems was the second reminder that the game was being played in England. The guy who sang it for US got off a jazzy version common now at the ballpark. Any time now I expect to hear “the guest artist” insert “Ooooo baby baby ooooo” right about at “the rockets red glare.” By way of contrast, the Brits gave us an opera singer who belted out a stirring God Save The Queen with the passionate brio a national song ought to get, especially our national song when it's being sung fer furriners. It was an uninteresting game, so I'd tuned out by half time which, I'm sure, was the usual oooo baby baby oooo extravaganza.
GYPSIES. They're much in the news in a context that again reminds us how close we are to full return to the tom-toms and rattling of chicken bones to whammy our enemies. A little blonde girl, about 4, was removed by authorities from a Gypsy family living in Greece because, it was blandly stated, no possible spin of the genetic wheel could possibly land a white child with dark parents. It turns out the Greek Gypsies purchased the child from her Romanian mother who, it also developed, was unable to provide for her. Two fair-skinned children in Ireland were grabbed from their Gypsy parents for DNA tests that established the children were indeed the children of their parents. The media hummed for a week with stories pegged to the medieval and, apparently, still prevalent myth that Gypsies steal babies.
AS A KID of twenty or so, I rented a room in a grungy sro hotel at 5th and Brannan. Gypsies rented the ground floor. They called me “Boss” and were always trying to sell me stuff, including car transmissions that they had laying around their store front and said were “brand new.” At night, their wives and daughters sold corsages down at Fisherman's Wharf. By day the older women told fortunes. I had to go to an encyclopedia to get a handle on who they were, and right about that time I heard the pioneer comic Lenny Bruce tell a joke about a census taker that went something like this: The census guy knocks on the door. He starts through his list of questions beginning with race. “We are gypsies,” the respondent says. “Bullshit,” the census taker exclaims. “There's no such thing. I'll put you down as Hawaiians.”
WHY OBAMACARE WILL FAIL
by Dr. Margaret Flowers
In what is perhaps the greatest corporate scam ever, not only did the health insurance corporations write the federal health law, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to enhance their profits, but now they also have the government and non-profit groups doing the work of marketing their shoddy products. The foundation of the ACA, the mandate that uninsured individuals purchase private insurance if they do not qualify for public insurance, begins in 2014 and the state health insurance exchanges where people can purchase that insurance opened on October 1. A new non-profit organization called Enroll America was created to organize and train grassroots activists to seek out the uninsured (they even provide maps) and assist them in using the exchanges.
Billions of public dollars and tremendous efforts are being spent to create new health insurance markets, advertise them, subsidize their products and actively solicit buyers for them. But the United States, as the only industrialized nation to use a market-based health care system, has already proven over the past 40 years, that this system doesn’t work. It is the most expensive, leaves the most out and leads to poor health outcomes. It means that people only receive the health care they can afford, not what they need.
Market competition does not improve health outcomes because it consists of health insurance corporations competing for profit by selling policies to those who are the healthiest and denying and restricting payment for care. And regulation of insurers doesn’t work either. Although rules in the ACA give the appearance of changing insurance company behavior, insurers are already working around them.
Defense of the ACA ignores the long history of private insurance influence and domination and is based on the hope that this time things will be different. But the ACA has not changed the fact that private insurance companies view their plans as products and have no more allegiance to human health than does Big Energy which will stop at nothing to drill, frack and blow-up the planet for profits.
Experience at the state level with previous similar reforms and a look at current health trends show that the ACA will leave tens of millions without insurance, will increase the percentage of people who are underinsured, will increase financial barriers to necessary care and will further privatize health care. Cutting out the multitudes of insurers and creating a single publicly-financed universal health care system, Medicare for all, is the only way to solve our health care crisis.
The ACA Fails to Solve Our Health Care Crisis
• The ACA leaves tens of millions without coverage. There are currently 48 million uninsured people in the US. At its best, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the ACA will leave 31 million people without health insurance when it is completely rolled out. And even that estimate may be too low. Experience at the state level showed that none of the similar plans hailed as comprehensive met their coverage goals before they failed due to costs. Without effective cost controls, care remains unaffordable.
• The ACA lowers the bar on what is considered to be acceptable insurance coverage. Plans sold through the new health insurance exchanges will pay for as little as 60 to 70 percent of covered services and carry high out-of-pocket costs. Because subsidies towards the purchase of insurance are inadequate, most people who are currently uninsured will be forced into the low coverage plans.
• The ACA continues the problem of financial barriers to care. Considering that 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck without significant savings, the money simply isn’t there to pay the out-of-pocket costs for visits to the doctor, tests or prescriptions. A health survey by the Commonwealth Fund last year found that 80 million people reported not getting care due to cost, 75 million were having difficulty paying medical bills and 4 million (over 2 years) went into bankruptcy as a result.
• The ACA will circumvent the requirement to cover people with pre-existing conditions. One way that insurance companies are doing this is by restricting their networks to avoid places where sick people go such as large medical centers and public hospitals and by limiting the number of providers. This will push people to use out-of-network providers and bear more or all of the cost. Another method will be to raise premiums or stop selling insurance plans in areas where they do not make a profit. Insurers can’t charge more for policies because of pre-existing conditions, but they can charge more based on age and location.
• The ACA allows insurers to receive waivers from provisions in the law. Since the ACA was passed in 2010, insurers and others have received thousands of waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to exempt them from requirements. One of the most recent was to waive the cap on out-of-pocket spending because insurers claimed that their computer systems were not ready to handle the caps. We will watch and see what insurers do over the coming years. We can expect them to justify charging higher premiums and to push for lower levels of coverage or fewer required services. And we can expect that HHS and state insurance commissioners will be compliant, as they have been.
• The ACA moves our health system towards greater privatization. The ACA lacks provisions to stop the consolidation of ownership of health facilities by large for-profit entities, something that large insurers are doing more. It also cuts funding to safety net hospitals and shifts those funds to subsidize private insurance. In Massachusetts where a similar health law was passed in 2006, the need for safety net programs has not fallen as people, even with insurance, face financial barriers to necessary care.
• Under the ACA, public insurances are being privatized. More states are moving their Medicaid patients into managed care organizations (MCOs). MCOS are for-profit administrators that compete with each other to cover the healthiest patients and are incentivized to cut care. Currently 75 percent of Medicaid patients are in MCOs and that number is expected to increase further under the ACA. And one of the early goals of the ACA was to cut back on Medicare Advantage plans which are essentially private insurance plans paid for through Medicare. The Advantage plans primarily insure the healthiest seniors and cost more than traditional Medicare. Instead of cutting back, the Obama Administration boosted payment to the Advantage plans. And enrollment in the plans has increased by 30 percent since 2010.
Not the reform we need
Looking at the ACA from a distance, it is difficult to see it as anything more than a law designed by and for the health industries that profit from the current health system. The regulations can be circumvented or waived. The insurers can continue to find innovative ways to avoid the sick and paying for care. And overall the system is becoming more privatized, which is the opposite direction from the real solution, Medicare for all.
The United States is already spending more per person each year on health care than any other industrialized nation. We are spending enough to provide lifelong high-quality comprehensive care to every person living in the US. If we see the US market-based health care system as an experiment, it has failed and should be ended for ethical reasons.
If we move immediately to a publicly-funded national Medicare for all, there would be no need for insurance exchanges and the massive increase in bureaucracy that goes with them. Every person would be in the health system. Any person who sought care would be covered without requirements for payment before care. Medicare for all is the most effective, most efficient and fastest way to create a health care system that is about health rather than profit. It is also the most just.
We cannot cross our fingers and hope that the ACA ‘works.’ That attitude means hundreds of thousands will suffer and die from preventable causes and millions of families each year will continue to go bankrupt because of medical illness and costs. The moral imperative is to realize that health care never has been and never will be a commodity and to stop treating it as such by taking it out of the marketplace altogether. We need Medicare for all now.
(Dr. Margaret Flowers serves as Secretary of Health in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.)
FEDS CHARGE FORMER MLPA INITIATIVE SCIENCE OFFICIAL WITH CONSPIRACY TO EMBEZZLE
by Dan Bacher
The US Attorney on October 11 formally charged biologist http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/10/25/1382714465380/Rafiq-ur-Rehman.jpgof Eureka with "conspiracy to commit embezzlement and theft from an Indian Tribal Organization,” the Yurok Tribe.
LeValley, of Mad River Biologists, served as Co-Chair of the Science Advisory Team for the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative on the North Coast during much of the time that the alleged embezzlement occurred.
Federal prosecutors charged LeValley with conspiring with former Yurok Tribe forestry director Roland Raymond to submit false invoices to the tribe for spotted owl surveys and other work that was never done. The invoices totaled nearly $1 million, according to federal documents.
Raymond pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to embezzle from an Indian Tribe and will be sentenced on November 5.
William Kimball, LeValley’s lawyer, declined comment to the Eureka Times-Standard, Associated press and other publications.
In the scandal that has rocked the North Coast, Del Norte District Attorney Jon Alexander on February 23, 2012 arrested LeValley, and fellow Mad River biologist Sean McAllister on $1 million warrants accusing them of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The Del Norte County District Attorney alleged that the two well-known biologists participated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme headed by Raymond that bilked the tribe out of $900,000 that was supposed to fund spotted owl research.
However, the District Attorney later dropped the charges to allow federal authorities to pursue the charges against Raymond and LeValley. Federal charges against McAllister haven’t been filed yet - and it remains unclear if they will.
The document recently filed by federal authorities details how the alleged conspiracy proceeded. The link to the indictment is available at: http://noyonews.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/U.S._v._Ron_LeValley_As_Filed.pdf According to the document, “Beginning on a date unknown, but no later than 2007,” Raymond told LeValley he wanted to pay him, other Mad River Biologists employees, and some tribal forestry and fire crew employees a bonus. Raymond suggested LeValley submit an inflated invoice to the Yurok Tribe for an additional amount to cover the bonuses.
”LeValley agreed to this arrangement, and caused such an invoice to be prepared and submitted to the Yurok Tribe, ” the document states.
At the end of October 2008, Raymond obtained tribal approved for $98,000 worth of Endangered Species Act (ESA) surveys to be conducted by Mad River Biologists.
Raymond told LeValley that the tribe did not have money to pay for fire prevention and other forestry work - and asked him to begin regularly submitting false invoices for work his company hadn't performed, according to the document.
LeValley allegedly funneled the money back to Raymond, less a percentage. This was identified in other court documents as 20 percent, according to the Eureka Times-Standard. (http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_24368336/local-biologist-charged-embezzlement-federal-prosecutors-charge-ron)
During 2009 and 2010, as a result of the economic downturn, the price of timber fell significantly and timber harvesting declined dramatically. “The Yurok Tribe did not harvest much timber during those years and had little need for biological assessments,” the document states.
Nonetheless, Mad River Biologists nonetheless billed the tribe for approximately $852,000 worth of surveys. LeValley funneled at least $540,000 of this money back to Raymond, keeping the balance to pay his company's operations.
These expenses included his salary, “not less than $47,000 in total 2009 compensation” and “not less than $9,800 in total 2010 compensation,” the document claims.
PLEASE TELL ME, MR PRESIDENT, WHY A US DRONE ASSASSINATED MY MOTHER
by Rafiq ur Rehman
Momina Bibi was a 67-year-old grandmother and midwife from Waziristan. Yet President Obama tells us drones target terrorists
The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children's clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.
Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.
Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother's house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed — a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.
My three children — 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma — were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the "militants" the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother's children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.
But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.
I care, though. And so does my family and my community. We want to understand why a 67-year-old grandmother posed a threat to one of the most powerful countries in the world. We want to understand how nine children, some playing in the field, some just returned from school, could possibly have threatened the safety of those living a continent and an ocean away.
Most importantly, we want to understand why President Obama, when asked whom drones are killing, says they are killing terrorists. My mother was not a terrorist. My children are not terrorists. Nobody in our family is a terrorist.
My mother was a midwife, the only midwife in our village. She delivered hundreds of babies in our community. Now families have no one to help them.
And my father? He is a retired school principal. He spent his life educating children, something that my community needs far more than bombs. Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breeds more terrorism. But education — education can help a country prosper.
I, too, am a teacher. I was teaching in my local primary school on the day my mother was killed. I came home to find not the joys of Eid, but my children in the hospital and a coffin containing only pieces of my mother.
Our family has not been the same since that drone strike. Our home has turned into hell. The small children scream in the night and cannot sleep. They cry until dawn.
Several of the children have had to have multiple surgeries. This has cost money we no longer have, since the missiles also killed our livestock. We have been forced to borrow from friends; money we cannot repay. We then use the money to pay a doctor, a doctor who removes from the children's bodies the metal gifts the US gave them that day.
Drone strikes are not like other battles where innocent people are accidentally killed. Drone strikes target people before they kill them. The United States decides to kill someone, a person they only know from a video. A person who is not given a chance to say — I am not a terrorist. The US chose to kill my mother.
Several US congressmen invited me to come to Washington, DC to share my story with members of Congress. I hope by telling my story, America may finally begin to understand the true impact of its drone program and who is on the other end of drone strikes.
I want Americans to know about my mother. And I hope, maybe, I might get an answer to just one question: why?
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, OCTOBER 31, 1938
“Hysteria among radio listeners throughout the nation and actual panicky evacuations resulted from a radio broadcast describing a fictitious visitation of strange men from Mars. The broadcast by the Columbia Broadcast System was an adaptation by Orson Welles of H.G. Wells' “War of the Worlds” in which meteors and gas from Mars menace the Earth. New York police were unable to contact the CBS studios by telephone, so swamped was its switchboard, and a radio car was sent there for information. Many New Yorkers seized personal effects and raced from their apartments heading for the wide-open spaces. Five boys at Brevard (N.C.) fainted and panic gripped the campus with many students fighting for telephones to inform their parents to come and get them. A message from Providence, R.I., said: ‘Weeping and hysterical women swamped the switchboard for details of the massacre and destruction at New York and officials of the electric company received scores of calls urging them to turn off all the lights so that the city would be safe from the enemy.’ The phones of newspapers and police stations throughout the San Francisco Bay Region rang almost constantly between 5pm and 6pm. The callers were frantic, indignant or disgusted. They had turned their radios to station KSFO in the course of casual program hunting and were shocked out of their senses to hear that an overwhelming force had invaded New York and was threatening to move westward.”