Last week, the state of California claimed that its version of Obamacare’s health insurance exchange would actually reduce premiums. “These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard,” boasted Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange. But the data that Lee released tells a different story: Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.
One of the most serious flaws with Obamacare is that its blizzard of regulations and mandates drives up the cost of insurance for people who buy it on their own.
Lee’s claims that there won’t be rate shock in California were repeated uncritically in some quarters. “Despite the political naysayers,” writes my Forbes colleague Rick Ungar, “the healthcare exchange concept appears to be working very well indeed in states like California.” A bit more analysis would have prevented Rick from falling for California’s sleight-of-hand.
Here’s what happened. Last week, Covered California—the name for the state’s Obamacare-compatible insurance exchange—released the rates that Californians will have to pay to enroll in the exchange.
“The rates submitted to Covered California for the 2014 individual market,” the state said in a press release, “ranged from two percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans in California’s most populous regions.”
That’s the sentence that led to all of the triumphant commentary from the left. “This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,” exulted Peter Lee.
Except that Lee was making a misleading comparison. He was comparing apples—the plans that Californians buy today for themselves in a robust individual market—and oranges—the highly regulated plans that small employers purchase for their workers as a group. The difference is critical.
Obamacare to double individual-market premiums
If you’re a 25 year old male non-smoker, buying insurance for yourself, the cheapest plan on Obamacare’s exchanges is the catastrophic plan, which costs an average of $184 a month. (By “average,” I mean the median monthly premium across California’s 19 insurance rating regions.)
The next cheapest plan, the “bronze” comprehensive plan, costs $205 a month. But in 2013, on ehealthinsurance.com (NASDAQ:EHTH), the median cost of the five cheapest plans was only $92.
In other words, for the typical 25-year-old male non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent.
Egypt’s highest court ruled on Sunday that the nation’s interim parliament was illegally elected, though it stopped short of dissolving the chamber immediately, in a decision likely to fuel the tensions between the ruling Islamists and the judiciary.
The Supreme Constitutional Court also ruled that a 100-member panel that drafted the new constitution was illegally elected.
The immediate impact of the ruling is limited. The Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, called the Shura Council, will remain in place until elections are held for a lower house, likely early next year. The constitution, which was ratified in a nationwide referendum in December with a relatively low turnout of around 35 percent, will also remain in effect.
Still, the opposition said the verdict shows how Islamists’ victories at the ballot box are tainted. They argued that the ruling further challenges the legitimacy of the disputed constitution, which was pushed through the panel by Islamists allied to President Mohammed Morsi.
The two sides are squaring off for what may be a major confrontation on the streets by the end of this month.
Little is known about the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, but more than half of the reported cases have been fatal.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) continues to spread.
Health officials in Saudi Arabia have confirmed that three more people had died from the virus, ABC News reported. At least 38 cases have been reported in the country, and 24 of them have been fatal.
On Saturday, three new infections were confirmed in Italy.
MERS had already been reported in Europe, but a 45-year-old man who recently traveled to Jordan was Italy’s first resident sickened by the virus. A two-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman, both of whom were in close contact with the man, also fell ill. All three were in stable condition as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization.
Little is known about the rapidly-spreading viral respiratory illness, which first appeared in 2012. Before the recent Saudi cases, WHO was notified of at least 50 people instances of MERS, 30 of which were fatal.
In addition to the recent one in Italy, clusters have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s four biggest cities on Sunday and clashed with riot police firing tear gas on the third day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years.
The din of car horns and residents banging pots and pans from balconies in support of the protests resonated across neighborhoods in Istanbul and Ankara late into the night, as hundreds of demonstrators skirmished with riot police.
Roads around Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Istanbul were sealed off as police fired tear gas to push back protesters, and police raided a shopping complex in the centre of the capital Ankara where they believed demonstrators were sheltering, detaining several hundred.
Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds, whom he called “a few looters”, and said the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said there had been more than 200 demonstrations in 67 cities around the country, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
The unrest erupted on Friday when trees were torn down at a park in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square under government plans to redevelop the area, but widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
China has condemned the Philippines over a Navy warship grounded on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), noting that the illegal grounding of the vessel on the Ayungin Shoal (Ren’ai Reef) is a “serious encroachment of territorial sovereignty.”
It also warned the Philippine government not to stir up the situation in the South China Sea any further.
Observers said Beijing acted in response to an attempt by the Philippines to assert territorial claims by keeping its warship stranded on the reef since 1999.
The Navy is maintaining troops in the area with grounded BRP Sierra Madre as barracks.
“China’s resolution and will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty is unswerving,” Xinhua quoted Geng Yansheng, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, as saying.
He branded as groundless the Philippines claim that Chinese vessels have threatened to cut off supplies of water and food to its military staff at the reef.
“Chinese naval patrols in the area are justifiable,” he added.
After the warship was grounded on the reef, Beijing repeatedly asked Manila to retrieve it, but the Philippines ignored the request despite having promised to tow the ship away.
Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “The Philippine’s logic is ludicrous in calling its grounded ship a symbol of occupation while it is in China’s inherent territory.”
The shoal and the lives of the troops guarding it were thrust into the global spotlight this week after the Philippines said a Chinese warship was “illegally and provocatively” circling the area.
It was the latest in a series of aggressive steps by China in recent years to assert its claim over the South China Sea that have rattled Manila, with others including the Chinese occupation of another Filipino-claimed shoal.
China says it has sovereign rights over nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters far away from its main landmass and approaching the coasts of Southeast Asian countries.
Riot police pulled out from Taksim’s Gezi Park on Saturday afternoon, taking away barricades and allowing in tens of thousands of protesters in an apparent move to end tensions from two days of anti-government protests.
Some protesters hurled objects at withdrawing officers and police vehicles, prompting officers to fire several rounds of tear gas to push back the crowds and resumed pulling out of Taksim Square.
The state-run Anatolia Agency said the protesters threw fireworks at police.
Earlier, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on demonstrators to end their protest, but remained defiant. He said the government would press ahead with the redevelopment plans at Taksim that sparked the demonstrations.
Tensions were still high until afternoon as police deployed tear gas and pressurized water against groups of protesters trying to reach the central İstanbul square early on Saturday.
The protest grew out of anger at police’s heavy-handed tactics to break up a peaceful sit-in to protect a park in Taksim Square on Friday. It turned into a wider protest and spread to other Turkish cities. Dozens have been injured in the scuffles.
A US judge has ruled that Google Inc must comply with the FBI’s warrantless demands for customer data, rejecting the company’s argument that the government’s practice of issuing such requests to telecommunication companies, Internet service providers, banks and others is unconstitutional and unnecessary.
FBI counter-terrorism agents began issuing the secret, so-called national security letters, which don’t require a judge’s approval, after Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The letters are used to collect unlimited kinds of sensitive, private information such as financial and phone records, and they have prompted complaints of government privacy violations in the name of national security.
US District Court Judge Susan Illston on Tuesday ordered Google to comply with the demands, even though she found the letters unconstitutional in March in a separate case filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In that case, she found that the FBI’s demand that recipients refrain from telling anyone — including customers — that they had received the letters was a violation of free speech rights.
The order in the Google case obtained by The Associated Press on Friday
2 of 11 Victims in Mexico Mass Abduction Were Sons of Drug Traffickers
The mothers of two of the 11 young people kidnapped from a Mexico City bar in a shocking, daylight abduction acknowledged Friday that the youths’ fathers are serving prison sentences for drug-related crimes.
Authorities have been searching desperately for motives in the abductions early Sunday at a bar just off the city’s leafy, skyscraper-lined main boulevard, blocks from police headquarters and the U.S. Embassy. It followed the May 9 beating death of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of the late Malcolm X, in a fight over a bill at another rough Mexico City bar. Two waiters have been arrested in that killing.
People who worked near the bar involved in Sunday’s abductions long suspected it was connected to drug traffickers or criminals because of the shady characters, street disputes and flashy cars that were frequently seen outside.
But the mothers of those abducted said Friday that authorities may be too eager to look for a possible drug connection because of the fathers and the fact that the youths are from the rough-and-tumble Tepito neighborhood, known for decades as Mexico City’s main contraband market.
For more than 60 years, most Americans have thought of nuclear weapons as an all-or-nothing game. The only way to win is not to play at all, we believed, because any use of nukes will lead to Armageddon. That may no longer be the game our opposition is playing. As nuclear weapons proliferate to places that might not share our reluctance to use them in small numbers, however, the US military may face a “second nuclear age” of retail Armageddon for which it is utterly unprepared.
Outside the US, both established and emerging nuclear powers increasingly see nuclear weapons as weapons that can be used in a controlled, limited, and strategically useful fashion, said Barry Watts, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, arguably the Pentagon’s favorite thinktank. The Cold War “firebreaks” between conventional and nuclear conflict are breaking down, he wrote in a recent report. Russia has not only developed new, relatively low-yield tactical nukes but also routinely wargamed their use to stop both NATO and Chinese conventional forces should they overrun Moscow’s feeble post-Soviet military, Watts said this morning at the headquarters of the Air Force Association. Pakistan is likewise developing tactical nukes to stop India’s much larger military. Iran seeks nuclear weapons not only to offset Israel’s but to deter and, in the last resort, fend off an American attempt to perform “regime change” in Tehran the way we did in Baghdad. The US Air Force and Navy concept of “AirSea Battle” in the Western Pacific could entail strikes on the Chinese mainland that might provoke a nuclear response.
It’s precisely because US conventional power is so overwhelming that the temptation to turn to nuclear weapons to redress the balance is so irresistible.
Climate change could be the final blow for many of California’s native fish species, pushing them to extinction with extended drought, warmer water temperatures and altered stream flow.
The authors of a new study published online in the journal PLOS ONE used 20 metrics — including species population trends, physiological tolerance to temperature increase and ability to disperse — to gauge the vulnerability of native fishes to climate change.
The results: 82% of 121 native species were deemed highly vulnerable.
“Almost all of those fishes are in decline already and climate change is going to accelerate the decline,” said Peter Moyle, a UC Davis professor of fish biology and lead author of the paper.
“Disappearing fish will include not only obscure species of minnows, suckers and pupfishes, but also coho salmon, most runs of steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, and Sacramento perch,” he said.
Generally speaking, Moyle said, native fish in California and the Southwest are more likely to suffer from the effects of a warming climate than natives in other parts of the country because they are already in competition with humans for water in an arid region.