Sunday, November 29, 2009

Down the Memory Hole


Looks like the eggheads took a page out of the ACORN book. That is, they pulled a data dump. Seems like ACORN did just that last week out in California. So, they dumped the raw data (for 150 years) that forms the basis of their predictions for globull warming. How convenient.

Still, expect the media here in the US to continue to ignore the whole thing. The Messiah heads to the land of socialists to get his medal and make his promises for emissions reductions.

Climate change data dumped

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data.

In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us’. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science,” he said.

Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. The lost material was used to build the databases that have been his life’s work, showing how the world has warmed by 0.8C over the past 157 years.

He and his colleagues say this temperature rise is “unequivocally” linked to greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans. Their findings are one of the main pieces of evidence used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says global warming is a threat to humanity.

Worst Scientific Scandal of the Century!!!!


Climate gate is still at the top of the news cycle in Europe. And why not? They've bought into (or been forced into!) drinking the AGW kool aid. Think they're starting to regret all the climate based laws and restrictions? How about the pols? Starting to sweat no doubt.

And a the bottom of it all are the egg heads. Rigging the data, marginalizing those who disagree, conspiring to advance a political agenda. This story has it all. Of course its being suppressed in the US by the MSM. The current administration is ignoring the whole thing. The One is even going to Copenhagen to make some climate commitments. I'd be worried except he never keeps any of his promises. Why should this be any different?

Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation

Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash, says Christopher Booker.

Who's to blame for Climategate?
CO2 emissions will be on top of the agenda at the Copenhagen summit in December Photo: Getty

A week after my colleague James Delingpole, on his Telegraph blog, coined the term "Climategate" to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Google was showing that the word now appears across the internet more than nine million times. But in all these acres of electronic coverage, one hugely relevant point about these thousands of documents has largely been missed.

The reason why even the Guardian's George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics. Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Philip Jones, the CRU's director, is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports. Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC's key scientific contributors, his global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely – not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it.

Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history.

Given star billing by the IPCC, not least for the way it appeared to eliminate the long-accepted Mediaeval Warm Period when temperatures were higher they are today, the graph became the central icon of the entire man-made global warming movement.

Since 2003, however, when the statistical methods used to create the "hockey stick" were first exposed as fundamentally flawed by an expert Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, an increasingly heated battle has been raging between Mann's supporters, calling themselves "the Hockey Team", and McIntyre and his own allies, as they have ever more devastatingly called into question the entire statistical basis on which the IPCC and CRU construct their case.

The senders and recipients of the leaked CRU emails constitute a cast list of the IPCC's scientific elite, including not just the "Hockey Team", such as Dr Mann himself, Dr Jones and his CRU colleague Keith Briffa, but Ben Santer, responsible for a highly controversial rewriting of key passages in the IPCC's 1995 report; Kevin Trenberth, who similarly controversially pushed the IPCC into scaremongering over hurricane activity; and Gavin Schmidt, right-hand man to Al Gore's ally Dr James Hansen, whose own GISS record of surface temperature data is second in importance only to that of the CRU itself.

There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world. Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre's blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt's blog Watts Up With That), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

This in itself has become a major scandal, not least Dr Jones's refusal to release the basic data from which the CRU derives its hugely influential temperature record, which culminated last summer in his startling claim that much of the data from all over the world had simply got "lost". Most incriminating of all are the emails in which scientists are advised to delete large chunks of data, which, when this is done after receipt of a freedom of information request, is a criminal offence.

But the question which inevitably arises from this systematic refusal to release their data is – what is it that these scientists seem so anxious to hide? The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction – to lower past temperatures and to "adjust" recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming. This comes up so often (not least in the documents relating to computer data in the Harry Read Me file) that it becomes the most disturbing single element of the entire story. This is what Mr McIntyre caught Dr Hansen doing with his GISS temperature record last year (after which Hansen was forced to revise his record), and two further shocking examples have now come to light from Australia and New Zealand.

In each of these countries it has been possible for local scientists to compare the official temperature record with the original data on which it was supposedly based. In each case it is clear that the same trick has been played – to turn an essentially flat temperature chart into a graph which shows temperatures steadily rising. And in each case this manipulation was carried out under the influence of the CRU.

What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results.

The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods – not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics' work. It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.

Back in 2006, when the eminent US statistician Professor Edward Wegman produced an expert report for the US Congress vindicating Steve McIntyre's demolition of the "hockey stick", he excoriated the way in which this same "tightly knit group" of academics seemed only too keen to collaborate with each other and to "peer review" each other's papers in order to dominate the findings of those IPCC reports on which much of the future of the US and world economy may hang. In light of the latest revelations, it now seems even more evident that these men have been failing to uphold those principles which lie at the heart of genuine scientific enquiry and debate. Already one respected US climate scientist, Dr Eduardo Zorita, has called for Dr Mann and Dr Jones to be barred from any further participation in the IPCC. Even our own George Monbiot, horrified at finding how he has been betrayed by the supposed experts he has been revering and citing for so long, has called for Dr Jones to step down as head of the CRU.

The former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, last week launching his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rightly called for a proper independent inquiry into the maze of skulduggery revealed by the CRU leaks. But the inquiry mooted on Friday, possibly to be chaired by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society – itself long a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause – is far from being what Lord Lawson had in mind. Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age.

Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History? (Continuum, £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £14.99 plus £1.25 p & p.

Crap & Tax, Crash & Burn?


Once again we go overseas for coverage of climate gate since the MSM here continue to act as though nothing has happened. This from the UK Telegraph. The smart money is on crap & tax failing in the senate. You wouldn't know that if you listen to the network news or read the major papers in the US. Talk radio and FNC are covering it. I heard that CNN mentioned it but only to minimize its impact.

Climategate e-mails sweep America, may scuttle Barack Obama's Cap and Trade laws

Just a few considerations in addition to previous remarks about the explosion of the East Anglia Climategate e-mails in America. The reaction is growing exponentially there. Fox News, Barack Obama’s Nemesis, is now on the case, trampling all over Al Gore’s organic vegetable patch and breaking the White House windows. It has extracted some of the juiciest quotes from the e-mails and displayed them on-screen, with commentaries. Joe Public, coast-to-coast, now knows, thanks to the clowns at East Anglia’s CRU, just how royally he has been screwed.

Senator James Inhofe’s Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has written to all the relevant US Government agencies, acquainting them with the nature of the e-mails. But the real car crash for Obama is on Capitol Hill where it is now confidently believed his Cap and Trade climate legislation is toast. It was always problematic; but with a growing awakening to the scale of the scientific imposture sweeping the world, as far as the Antipodes, the clever money is on Cap and Trade laws failing to pass, with many legislators sceptical and the mid-term elections looming ever closer.

At the more domestic level, the proposed ban on incandescent light bulbs, so supinely accepted in this servile state of Britain, is now provoking a huge backlash in America. US citizens do not like the government coming into their houses and putting their lights out. Voters may not understand the cut and thrust of climate debate at the technical level, but they know when the Man from Washington has crossed their threshold uninvited.

The term that Fox News is now applying to the Climategate e-mails is “game-changer”. For the first time, Anthropogenic Global Warming cranks are on the defensive, losing their cool and uttering desperate mantras such as “You can be sceptical, not denial.” Gee, thanks, guys. In fact we shall be whatever we want to be, without asking your permission.

At this rate, Copenhagen is going to turn into a comedy convention with the real world laughing at these liars. Now is the time to mount massive resistance to the petty tyrants and hit them where it hurts – in the wallet. Further down the line there may be, in many countries, a question of criminal prosecution of anybody who has falsified data to secure funds and impose potentially disastrous fiscal restraints on the world in deference to a massive hoax. It’s a new world out there, Al, and, as you may have noticed, the climate is very cold indeed.

Oh The Humanity!!!


How about this? George Monbiot is a true believer. Even he is dismayed by the deceit and scheming of the AGW Gore slaves. See what he has to say below. How agonizing it must be for poor George. I am almost ready to sympathize with him. Not.

Pretending the climate email leak isn't a crisis won't make it go away

Climate sceptics have lied, obscured and cheated for years. That's why we climate rationalists must uphold the highest standards of science


• Climate email hackers had access for more than a month

ice drill peru

Research and rationalism: ice core drilling on the summit of Quelccaya ice cap, Peru. Photograph: Peter Essick/Getty

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can't possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people's denial. Pretending that this isn't a real crisis isn't going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We'll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

One of these papers which was published in the journal Climate Research turned out to be so badly flawed that the scandal resulted in the resignation of the editor-in-chief. Jones knew that any incorrect papers by sceptical scientists would be picked up and amplified by climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry, who often – as I documented in my book Heat – use all sorts of dirty tricks to advance their cause.

Even so, his message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren't going to follow or understand them. Jones's statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.

In this case you could argue that technically he has done nothing wrong. But a fat lot of good that will do. Think of the MPs' expenses scandal: complaints about stolen data, denials and huffy responses achieved nothing at all. Most of the MPs could demonstrate that technically they were innocent: their expenses had been approved by the Commons office. It didn't change public perceptions one jot. The only responses that have helped to restore public trust in Parliament are humility, openness and promises of reform.

When it comes to his handling of Freedom of Information requests, Professor Jones might struggle even to use a technical defence. If you take the wording literally, in one case he appears to be suggesting that emails subject to a request be deleted, which means that he seems to be advocating potentially criminal activity. Even if no other message had been hacked, this would be sufficient to ensure his resignation as head of the unit.

I feel desperately sorry for him: he must be walking through hell. But there is no helping it; he has to go, and the longer he leaves it, the worse it will get. He has a few days left in which to make an honourable exit. Otherwise, like the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, he will linger on until his remaining credibility vanishes, inflicting continuing damage to climate science.

Some people say that I am romanticising science, that it is never as open and honest as the Popperian ideal. Perhaps. But I know that opaqueness and secrecy are the enemies of science. There is a word for the apparent repeated attempts to prevent disclosure revealed in these emails: unscientific.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the university's handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond. RealClimate reports that "We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day." In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.

When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU's opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped "no comment" and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean "guilty as charged". When I got hold of him on Saturday, his answer was to send me a pdf called "WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 1999". Had I a couple of hours to spare I might have been able to work out what the heck this had to do with the current crisis, but he offered no explanation.

By then he should have been touring the TV studios for the past 36 hours, confronting his critics, making his case and apologising for his mistakes. Instead, he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. Now, far too late, he has given an interview to the Press Association, which has done nothing to change the story.

The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they're up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

The greatest tragedy here is that despite many years of outright fabrication, fraud and deceit on the part of the climate change denial industry, documented in James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore's brilliant new book Climate Cover-up, it is now the climate scientists who look bad. By comparison to his opponents, Phil Jones is pure as the driven snow. Hoggan and Littlemore have shown how fossil fuel industries have employed "experts" to lie, cheat and manipulate on their behalf. The revelations in their book (as well as in Heat and in Ross Gelbspan's book The Heat Is On) are 100 times graver than anything contained in these emails.

But the deniers' campaign of lies, grotesque as it is, does not justify secrecy and suppression on the part of climate scientists. Far from it: it means that they must distinguish themselves from their opponents in every way. No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science. We should be the first to demand that it is unimpeachable, not the last.

Proof of Fraud All Along

Courtesy of PJM. This says it all. Vince Gray has been involved with the whole debate for years. This just confirms what he's said all along.

Vincent Gray on Climategate: ‘There Was Proof of Fraud All Along’ (PJM Exclusive)

IPCC expert reviewer Gray — whose 1,898 comments critical of the 2007 report were ignored — recently found that proof of the fraud was public for years.

November 27, 2009 - by Vincent Gray
Page 1 of 2 Next ->

Nothing about the revelations surprises me. I have maintained email correspondence with most of these scientists for many years, and I know several personally. I long ago realized that they were faking the whole exercise.

When you enter into a debate with any of them, they always stop cold when you ask an awkward question. This applies even when you write to a government department or a member of Parliament. I and many of my friends have grown accustomed to our failure to publish and to lecture, and to the rejection of our comments submitted prior to every IPCC report.

But only recently did I realize that I had evidence of their fraud in my possession almost from the birth of my interest in the subject.

I had copies of these two papers in 1990:

Jones, P. D., P. Ya. Groisman, M. Coughlan, N. Plummer, W. C. Wang & T. R. Karl 1990. Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land, Nature 347 169- 172.

Wang, W-C, Z. Zeng, T. R Karl, 1990. Urban Heat Islands in China. Geophys. Res. Lett. 17, 2377-2380.

The first paper has been the major evidence presented by Jones in all of the IPCC reports to dismiss the influence of urban change on the temperature measurements, and also has been used as an excuse for the failure to mention most of the unequivocal evidence that such urban effects exist. The paper was even dragged out again for the 2007 IPCC report.

The second paper, which shared authors Wang and Karl from the first paper, used the very same data from China which the first paper used to demonstrate the absence of urban influence — yet instead concluded that same data to be proof of the existence of urban influence.

In 2007, the following paper exposed the whole business:

Keenan, D.”The Fraud Allegation Against Some Climatic Research of Wei-Chyug Wang. Energy and Environment, 18, 985-995.

The author Keenan obtained the original Chinese data and found the claim that the data referred to a continuous series was unfounded. He accused Wang of fraud — and it is interesting to read that Tom Wigley (of the CRU emails) agrees with him.

Wigley fails to say, however, that his colleagues Jones and Karl are guilty of much worse than Wang — as they continued to use their fraudulent paper to boost their constant and sometimes daily assertion that recent global temperatures are unprecedented.

Wang was cleared of fraud by his university. But what about Jones and Karl?

In 1999, I had a stroke of luck. I asked one of the IPCC officials for the data from which one of their maps was compiled, and I received it. I wrote a paper analyzing the results and submitted it to Geophysical Research Letters. They just sat on it. I instead published it on John Daly’s website. Today, it is still the only paper recognized by Google on “Regional Temperature Change.”

I now know my paper was not critical enough, since we have proof that the basic data and its processing is far more dubious than I had envisaged.

I tried to update my paper and resubmit it. Nothing doing. Since the small group — revealed within the CRU emails — control most of the peer reviewers, very few peer reviewed papers which criticize that group are allowed to appear in the most prominent published literature which dominates the academic establishment.

I have only been able to find a place to release my criticisms on the internet, now the only realm where unfettered scientific discussion is possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Obama administration: Cap and trade could cost families $1,761 a year



How would you like to support the Goracle (Al Gore) and his various eco related business schemes with what amounts to a 15% tax hike. Read the article below from CNET.

Obama administration: Cap and trade could cost families $1,761 a year

by Declan McCullagh

The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.

A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration's estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.

A second memorandum, which was prepared for Obama's transition team after the November election, says this about climate change policies: "Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1 percent of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation."

The documents (PDF) were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute and released on Tuesday.

These disclosures will probably not aid the political prospects of the Democrats' cap and trade bill. The House of Representatives approved it by a remarkably narrow margin in June--the bill would have failed if only six House members had switched their votes to "no"--and it faces significant opposition in the Senate.

Cap and trade--or emissions trading--is an approach to reducing pollutants by offering companies financial incentives to clean up their acts. The current bill focuses specifically on reducing greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

One reason the bill faces an uncertain future is concern about its cost. House Republican Leader John Boehner has estimated the additional tax bill would be at $366 billion a year, or $3,100 a year per family. Democrats have pointed to estimates from MIT's John Reilly, who put the cost (PDF) at $800 a year per family and noted that tax credits to low income households could offset part of the bite. The Heritage Foundation says that, by 2035, "the typical family of four will see its direct energy costs rise by over $1,500 per year."

One difference is that while Heritage's numbers are talking about 26 years in the future, the Treasury Department's figures don't have a time limit.

"Heritage is saying publicly what the administration is saying to itself privately," says Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who filed the FOIA request. "It's nice to see they're not spinning each other behind closed doors."

"They're not telling you the cost--they're not telling you the benefit," says Horner, who wrote the Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming. "If they don't tell you the cost, and they don't tell you the benefit, what are they telling you? They're just talking about global salvation."

The FOIA'd document written by Judson Jaffe, who joined the Treasury Department's Office of Environment and Energy in January 2009, says: "Given the administration's proposal to auction all emission allowances, a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 (billion) to $200 billion annually." (Obviously, any final cap-and-trade system may be different from what Obama had proposed, and could yield higher or lower taxes.)

Because personal income tax revenues bring in around $1.37 trillion a year, a $200 billion additional tax would be the equivalent of a 15 percent increase a year. A $100 billion additional tax would represent a 7 percent or 8 percent increase a year.

One odd point: The document written by Jaffee includes this line: "It will raise energy prices and impose annual costs on the order of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX." The Treasury Department redacted the rest of the sentence with a thick black line.

The Freedom of Information Act, of course, contains no this-might-embarrass-the-president exemption (nor, for that matter, should federal agencies be in the business of possibly suppressing dissenting climate change voices). You'd hope the presidential administration that boasts of being the "most open and transparent in history" would be more forthcoming than this.

Update 9/16/2009: The Environmental Defense Fund has responded to the documents' release with a statement saying, in part:

Even if a 100 percent auction was a live legislative proposal, which it's not, that math ignores the redistribution of revenue back to consumers. It only looks at one side of the balance sheet. It would only be true if you think the Administration was going to pile all the cash on the White House lawn and set it on fire. The bill passed by the House sends the value of pollution permits to consumers, and it contains robust cost-containment provisions. Every credible and independent economic analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (such as those done by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Energy Information Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency) says the costs will be small and affordable -- and that the U.S. economy will grow with a cap on carbon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

NOAA: Summer Temperature Below Average for U.S.


Well, here's another stunner. The midwest has its 6th coolest summer. No surprise to anyone in the region (I'm in the Chicago area). We've had only a couple of 90 degree days all summer. I've had to wear a jacket for the morning commute more days than I can remember. Oh but wait. I forgot about the glowbull warming thing. I must be imagining the year without a summer. Whatever, this cooling must be caused by AGW. At least that's the claim I expect to hear as a rebuttal to this report.

NOAA: Summer Temperature Below Average for U.S.

September 10, 2009

The average June-August 2009 summer temperature for the contiguous United States was below average – the 34th coolest on record, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. August was also below the long-term average. The analysis is based on records dating back to 1895.

U.S. Temperature Highlights – Summer

June-August 2009 statewide temperature ranks.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

  • For the 2009 summer, the average temperature of 71.7 degrees F was 0.4 degree F below the 20th Century average. The 2008 average summer temperature was 72.7 degrees F.
  • A recurring upper level trough held the June-August temperatures down in the central states, where Michigan experienced its fifth, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota their seventh, Nebraska its eighth, and Iowa its ninth coolest summer. By contrast, Florida had its fourth warmest summer, while Washington and Texas experienced their eighth and ninth warmest, respectively.
  • The Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota region experienced its sixth coolest summer on record. Only the Northwest averaged above normal temperatures.

U.S. Temperature Highlights – August

August 2009 statewide temperature ranks.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

  • The average 2009 August temperature of 72.2 degrees F was 0.6 degree F below the 20th Century average. Last year’s August temperature was 73.2 degrees F.
  • Temperatures were below normal in the Midwest, Plains, and parts of the south. Above-normal temperatures dominated the eastern seaboard, areas in the southwest, and in the extreme northwest.
  • Several northeastern states were much above normal for August, including Delaware and New Jersey (eighth warmest), Maine (ninth), and Rhode Island and Connecticut (10th). In contrast, below-normal temperatures were recorded for Missouri and Kansas.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights – Summer

June-August 2009 statewide Precipitation ranks.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

  • The Northeast region had its eighth wettest June-August summer on record. By contrast, the South, Southeast and Southwest regions, were drier than average. Arizona had its third driest summer, while both South Carolina and Georgia had their sixth driest.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights – August

  • In August, precipitation across the contiguous United States averaged 2.34 inches, which is 0.26 inch below the 1901-2000 average.
  • Above-normal averages were generally recorded across the northern U.S., west of the Great Lakes. The South and Southeast regions experienced below-normal precipitation.
  • Precipitation across the Southwest region averaged 0.85 inches, which is 1.10 inches below normal and ranks as the 4th driest August on record. Arizona had its fourth driest, New Mexico its fifth, and it was the eighth driest August on record for Colorado, Utah and Texas.

    August 2009 statewide precipitation ranks.

    High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

  • By the end of August, moderate-to-exceptional drought covered 14 percent of the contiguous United States, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought intensified in parts of the Pacific Northwest and new drought areas emerged in Arizona and the Carolinas. Montana, Wisconsin and Oklahoma saw minor improvements in their drought conditions.
  • About 27 percent of the contiguous United States had moderately-to-extremely wet conditions at the end of August, according to the Palmer Index (a well-known index that measures both drought intensity and wet spell intensity).

Other Highlights

  • There were more than 300 low temperature records (counting daily highs and lows) set across states in the Midwest during the last two days of August.
  • A total of 7,975 fires burned 1,646,363 acres in August, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. August 2009 ranked fifth for the number of fires and sixth for acres burned in August this decade. From January through August, 64,682 fires have burned 5.2 million acres across the nation.

NCDC’s preliminary reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200


So, what's the deal with HR 3200 (better known as Obamacare or Kennedy's legacy)? There have been many claims by both sides that are misleading or just plain false. I personally want only 3 things from a healthcare overhaul. 1: Coverage for pre-existing conditions. 2: No denial of coverage. 3: Tort reform. Oh, and no coverage for illegal immigrants. Anyway, check out the fact check below from FactCheck.org. It lays out the facts on healthcare reform and sets the record straight on misleading and false claims made by someone on the internet (conservative?). Its a helluva long read but slog through it if you can.

Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200

A notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false and the rest mostly misleading. Only four are true.

August 28, 2009

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Summary

Our inbox has been overrun with messages asking us to weigh in on a mammoth list of claims about the House health care bill. The chain e-mail purports to give "a few highlights" from the first half of the bill, but the list of 48 assertions is filled with falsehoods, exaggerations and misinterpretations. We examined each of the e-mail’s claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate. A few of our "highlights":

  • The e-mail claims that page 30 of the bill says that "a government committee will decide what treatments … you get," but that page refers to a "private-public advisory committee" that would "recommend" what minimum benefits would be included in basic, enhanced and premium insurance plans.
  • The e-mail says that "non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services" but points to a provision that prohibits discrimination in health care based on "personal characteristics." Another provision explicity forbids "federal payment for undocumented aliens."
  • It says "[g]overnment will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals." This provision isn’t about children with learning disabilities; instead, it pertains to restricted enrollment in "special needs" plans, a category of Medicare Advantage plans. Enrollment is already restricted. The bill extends the ability to do that.
  • It claims that a section about "Community-based Home Medical Services" means "more payoffs for ACORN." ACORN does not provide medical home services. The e-mail interprets any reference to the word "community" to be some kind of payoff for ACORN. That’s nonsense.

Analysis

This chain e-mail claims to give a run-down of what’s in the House health care bill, H.R. 3200. Instead, it shows evidence of a reading comprehension problem on the part of the author. Some of our more enterprising readers have even taken it upon themselves to debunk a few of the assertions, sending us their notes and encouraging us to write about it. We applaud your fact-checking skills and your skepticism. And skepticism is warranted.

Chain e-mail: Subject: A few highlights from the first 500 pages of the Healthcare bill in congress Contact your Representatives and let them know how you feel about this. We, as a country, cannot afford another 1000 page bill to go through congress without being read. Another 500 pages to go. I have highlighted a few of the items that are down right unconstitutional. ⬐ Click to expand/collapse the full text ⬏

A few readers alerted us to the fact that a state representative in North Carolina, Rep. Curtis Blackwood, published a version of the e-mail in a newsletter to constituents, telling them that while going through e-mail, he came across "some interesting information on the Democrats’ big health care bill, H.R. 3200. … While this is federal legislation and not state, the topic is of enough significance that I thought many of you would be interested in reading it." We’d refer Rep. Blackwood to our special report on viral messages titled, "That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously."

We can trace the origins of this collection of claims to a conservative blogger who issued his instant and mostly mistaken analyses as brief "tweets" sent via Twitter as he was paging through the 1,017-page bill. The claims have been embraced as true and posted on hundreds of Web sites, and forwarded in the form of chain e-mails countless times. But there’s hardly any truth in them. We’ll go through each of the claims in this message:

Claim: Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!

False: This section merely requires a study of “the large group insured and self-insured employer health care markets.” There’s no mention of auditing employers, only of studying “markets.” The purpose of the study is to produce “recommendations” to make sure the new law “does not provide incentives for small and mid-size employers to self-insure.”

Claim: Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!

False: This section says nothing whatsoever about “rationing” or anything of the sort. Actually, it’s favorable to families and individuals, placing an annual cap on what they could pay out of pocket if covered by a basic, “essential benefits package.” The limits would be $5,000 for an individual, $10,000 for a family.

Claim: Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)

False: Actually, the section starting on page 30 sets up a “private-public advisory committee” headed by the U.S. surgeon general and made up of mostly private sector “medical and other experts” selected by the president and the comptroller general. The advisory committee would have only the power “to recommend” what benefits are included in basic, enhanced and premium insurance plans. It would have no power to decide what treatments anybody will get. Its recommendations on benefits might or might not be adopted.

Claim: Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.

False: The new Health Choices Commissioner will oversee a variety of choices to be offered through new insurance exchanges. The bill itself specifies the “minimum services to be covered” in a basic plan, including prescription drugs, mental health services, maternity and well-baby care and certain vaccines and preventive services (pages 27-28). We find nothing in the bill that prevents insurance companies from offering benefits that exceed the minimums. In fact, the legislation allows (page 84) any company that offers an approved basic plan to offer also an “enhanced” plan, a “premium” plan and even a “premium plus” plan that could include vision and dental benefits.

Claim: Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.

False. That’s simply not what the bill says at all. This page includes "SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE," which says that "[e]xcept as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." However, the bill does explicitly say that illegal immigrants can’t get any government money to pay for health care. Page 143 states: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." And as we’ve said before, current law prohibits illegal immigrants from participating in government health care programs.

Claim: Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.

False. There is no mention of any “National ID Healthcard” anywhere in the bill. Page 58 says that government standards for electronic medical transactions "may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card,” to show eligibility for services. Insurance companies typically issue such cards already, but if such a standard were issued the cards would need to be in a standard form readable by computers. The word “may” is used to permit such a standard, but it does not require one.

Claim: Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.

False. This section aims to simplify electronic payments for health services, the same sort of electronic payments that already are common for such things as utility bills or mortgage payments. The bill calls for the secretary of Health and Human Services to set standards for electronic administrative transactions that would "enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with the related health care payment and remittance advice." There is no mention of "individual bank accounts" nor of any new government authority over them. Also, the section does not say that electronic payments from consumers is required.

Claim: Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (read: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)

Misleading. Page 65 is the start of a section (SEC. 164. REINSURANCE PROGRAM FOR RETIREES) that would set up a new federal reinsurance plan to benefit retirees and spouses covered by any employer plan, not just those run by labor unions or nonprofit groups. Specifically, it covers “retirees and . . . spouses, surviving spouses and dependents of such retirees” who are covered by “employment-based plans” that provide health benefits. It’s open to any “group health benefits plan that . . . is maintained by one or more employers, former employers or employee associations,” as well as voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations (page 66). Furthermore, the aim of the fund is to cut premiums, copays and deductibles for the retirees. Payment “shall not be used to reduce the costs of an employer.”

Claim: Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.

True. This page begins a section setting up a new, national Health Insurance Exchange through which individuals and employers may choose from a variety of private insurance plans, much like the system that now covers millions of federal workers. Any private insurance plans offered through this exchange must meet new federal standards. For example, such plans can’t deny coverage for preexisting medical conditions (page 19).

Claim: Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Health care Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)

Partly true. Nothing like this appears on page 84. No insurance company is required to sell plans through the exchange if it doesn’t want to. Any employer may choose to buy coverage elsewhere. In fact, the vast majority of employers will still be buying private plans through the normal marketplace, because only employers with 10 or fewer employees are even allowed to buy through the exchange in the first year. The limit rises to 20 employees in the second year. However, new plans sold directly to individuals will only be sold through the exchange. Individuals who currently buy their own coverage can keep those plans if they wish, and if the insurance company continues to offer them.

Claim: Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens

Misleading. It’s true that page 91 says that insurance companies selling plans through the new exchange “shall provide for culturally and linguistically appropriate communication and health services.” The author’s “translation,” however, assumes that anyone speaking a foreign language or from another culture is an illegal immigrant, which is false.

Claim: Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.

False: This page is the start of “SEC. 205. OUTREACH AND ENROLLMENT OF EXCHANGE-ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUALS AND EMPLOYERS IN EXCHANGE-PARTICIPATING HEALTH BENEFITS PLAN.” It says a newly established Health Choices Commissioner “shall conduct outreach activities” to get people covered by private or government health insurance plans. The section says on page 97 that the Commissioner “may work with other appropriate entities to facilitate … provision of information.” But there is no authorization anywhere in the entire section for the Commissioner to pay money to any group to engage in outreach.

Claim: Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.

Partly true. Page 102 says certain Medicaid-eligible persons will be “automatically enrolled” in Medicaid (which is the state-federal program to provide insurance to low-income workers and families) IF they are not already covered by private insurance. That would happen only if they had “not elected to enroll” in one of the private plans offered through the new insurance exchanges, however. So on paper at least, they would have a choice. Also, it’s estimated that one in four persons who lacks health insurance is already eligible for Medicaid or its offshoot, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, but simply haven’t signed up or been enrolled by their parents.

Claim: Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.

Half true. It’s true that page 124 forbids any review by the courts of rates the government would pay to doctors and hospitals under the new “public option” insurance plan. But there’s no mention of “price fixing” in the bill; that’s the e-mail author’s phrase. It also remains to be seen if the “public option” plan would grow to become a “government monopoly,” as the author predicts.

Claim: Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.

Misleading. Nothing in the bill would “set wages” for doctors in general. Page 127 says the government would ask doctors to accept below-market rates set by the government for their patients who are covered by a new “public health insurance option,” just as they now are asked to do so for patients covered by Medicare. Physicians would still be free to charge what they wish for other patients, and free not to accept patients covered by the new program just as they are now free to refuse Medicare patients. That’s not a choice many doctors make, however, so as a practical matter the government would be setting rates (not “wages”) for many patients. On the other hand, the new “public” plan is aimed mainly at covering people who have no insurance now and can afford to pay doctors little if anything.

Claim: Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.

False. It’s true that employers would be required to sign up their workers for coverage automatically, but it doesn’t have to be the “public plan.” It would be the employer-offered plan “with the lowest applicable employee premium” (pages 147- 148). This would only be the "public option" if the employer was eligible to buy coverage through the Health Insurance Exchange (not likely, at least during the first two years when only small businesses would have access), and the "public option" was the cheapest plan (which would be likely). Furthermore, while the employer isn’t given an alternative, the workers are. They may reject auto-enrollment under an opt-out provision (page 148).

Claim: Page 146: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.

Half true. There’s nothing in this section about part-time employees’ families, but this provision does call for employers to contribute toward part-time employees’ health insurance. The bill says that “for an employee who is not a full-time employee … the amount of the minimum employer contribution” will be a proportion of the minimum contribution for full-time employees. This proportion will depend on the average weekly hours of part-time employees compared with the minimum weekly hours required to be a full-time employee, as specified by the Health Choices Commissioner. (For a point of reference: The minimum contribution for individual plans of full-time employees is not less than 72.5 percent of the premium of the cheapest plan the employer offers.)

Claim: Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll Claim: Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll.

Both Partly True. The bill requires employers either to offer private health insurance coverage or pay a percentage of their payroll expenses to help finance a public plan. The 8 percent payment would indeed apply to employers with payrolls over $400,000 in the previous year, and lesser amounts would apply to smaller firms. Those with payrolls of $250,000 or less would pay nothing. But the penalty isn’t incurred if an employer "does not offer the public option," as the e-mail claims. Rather, it’s a penalty for not offering health insurance to employees.

Claim: Page 167: Any individual who doesn’t have acceptable health care (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income.

True. This is the mechanism in the bill to enforce the individual mandate requiring everyone to have insurance. A person who doesn’t have insurance that meets minimum benefit standards (or other acceptable coverage, such as a plan that was grandfathered in) would pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of modified adjusted gross income for the year. The total penalty can’t exceed a national average premium for individual coverage, or family coverage if applicable.

Claim: Page 170: Any NON-RESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes (Americans will pay for them).

False. “Non-resident aliens” are generally those who have spent less than 31 days in the U.S. during the year. The claim that “Americans will pay for them” assumes that such visitors would somehow be getting federal benefits that would cost taxpayers money. In any case, they are not “exempt from individual taxes” at all. Under current law, the Internal Revenue Service says: “If you are a nonresident alien, you must file Form 1040NR (PDF) or Form 1040NR-EZ (PDF) if you are engaged in a trade or business in the United States, or have any other U.S. source income on which the tax was not fully paid by the amount withheld.” All that page 170 says is that non-resident aliens who don’t obtain health coverage don’t have to pay an additional 2.5 percent federal tax that would apply to U.S. workers who fail to get coverage, or to immigrants who are working here legally under green cards and who fail to obtain coverage. The tax is spelled out in subsection (a) starting on page 167.

Claim: Page 195: Officers and employees of Government Health care Bureaucracy will have access to ALL American financial and personal records.

False. This section of the bill discusses “Disclosures To Carry Out Health Insurance Exchange Subsidies.” It says that government employees of the health insurance exchange will have access to federal tax information for purposes of determining eligibility for affordability credits available for low- and moderate-income Americans. In other words, in order to qualify for a government subsidy to purchase health insurance, the government needs to confirm your income. And, no surprise, the government already has access to your federal tax information. The bill also says nothing about “ALL … financial and personal records.” Instead it says “Such return information shall be limited to—(i) taxpayer identity information with respect to such taxpayer, (ii) the filing status of such taxpayer, (iii) the modified adjusted gross income of such taxpayer (as defined in section 59B(e)(5)), (iv) the number of dependents of the taxpayer, (v) such other information as is prescribed by the Secretary by regulation as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible for such affordability credits (and the amount thereof).” The bill goes on to limit use of this information “only for the purposes of, and to the extent necessary in, establishing and verifying the appropriate amount of any affordability credit … and providing for the repayment of any such credit which was in excess of such appropriate amount.”

Claim: Page 203: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it really says that.

Misleading. What this actually says is: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax imposed by this chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter or for purposes of section 55,” which deals with the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would limit the ripple effects of the new taxes the bill would impose on individuals making over $350,000 a year.

Claim: Page 239: Bill will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors and the poor most affected. Claim: Page 241: Doctors: no matter what specialty you have, you’ll all be paid the same (thanks, AMA!)

Both False. Both of these claims pertain to Section 1121, which updates the physician fee schedule for 2010 for Medicare. It doesn’t "reduce physician services for Medicaid" (which wouldn’t pertain to seniors anyway); instead it modifies a section of the Social Security Act that defines physicians’ services. The section also doesn’t say that doctors will be paid the same “no matter what specialty you have.” Instead it sets up two categories of physician services with different growth rates for fees under those categories. As the Kaiser Family Foundation says of this section of the bill: "Allows the revised formula to be updated by the gross domestic product (GDP) plus 2% for evaluation and management services and GDP plus 1% for all other services." The measure will cost $228.5 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation.

Claim: Page 253: Government sets value of doctors’ time, their professional judgment, etc.

Misleading. It’s true that page 253 refers to “relative value units” to be used when determining payment rates for doctor’s services, and that such RVUs would weigh factors “such as time, mental effort and professional judgment, technical skill and physical effort, and stress due to risk.” But this is nothing new; the government already uses RVUs when setting rates it will pay under Medicare. For example, the RVUs assigned to a colonoscopy are currently double the RVUs assigned to an intermediate office visit. In fact, page 253 is part of a section (Sec. 1122) that sets up a process for correcting existing but “potentially misvalued” rates.

Claim: Page 265: Government mandates and controls productivity for private healthcare industries.

Misleading. This claim doesn’t even make sense. How can anyone "mandate” that somebody else be productive, or “control” how productive they are? The author has simply misunderstood what this controversial item would do. In fact, page 265 is the start of a section (Sec. 1131) that is among several designed to slow future growth of Medicare payments to help offset the cost of the bill. It would require that “productivity improvements” be taken into account when setting annual “market basket” updates to Medicare rates for hospital-based services. The hospital industry has estimated this would translate into a 1.3 percent cut next year and a total of $150 billion in reduced payments over 10 years, and is opposed to it.

Claim: Page 268: Government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs.

Misleading. What page 268 does is to stop Medicare for paying for “mobility scooters,” which have been widely marketed as a Medicare-financed benefit, leading to ballooning costs to the program. They would no longer qualify as a “power-driven wheelchair.” Only a "complex rehabilitative power-driven wheel chair recognized by the Secretary” would be covered. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this will save the government $800 million over 10 years (see page 2).

Claim: Page 272: Cancer patients: welcome to the wonderful world of rationing!

False. This page merely calls for a study of whether a certain class of hospitals incur higher costs than some others for the cancer care they deliver. It also says the secretary of HHS “shall provide for an appropriate adjustment” in payments “to reflect those higher costs.” It’s hardly “rationing” to pay hospitals more to compensate for higher costs.

Claim: Page 280: Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions.

True: This does say that “the Secretary shall reduce the payments” to hospitals with too many “potentially preventable” readmissions of patients that they previously had discharged.

Claim: Page 298: Doctors: if you treat a patient during an initial admission that results in a readmission, you will be penalized by the government.

False. That section is part of a list of potential physician-centered approaches to reducing excess hospital readmissions. The bill states that the secretary of Health and Human Services will conduct a study on the best ways to enforce readmissions policies with physicians. One of the approaches the secretary must consider is the option to reduce payments to physicians whose treatment results in a hospital readmission. Another is the option to increase payments to physicians who check up on recently released patients. Neither of these approaches is mandated in the bill – what’s mandated is that the secretary consider them, among others.

Claim: Page 317: Doctors: you are now prohibited for owning and investing in healthcare companies!

False. It’s already illegal, with certain exceptions, for doctors to refer Medicare patients to hospitals, labs, medical imaging facilities or other such medical businesses in which they hold a financial interest. Page 317 would modify an exception to that “self-referral prohibition” for rural providers, and says doctors can’t increase their stake in an exempt hospital after the bill becomes law.

Claim: Page 318: Prohibition on hospital expansion. Hospitals cannot expand without government approval.

False. Expansion is forbidden only for rural, doctor-owned hospitals that have been given a waiver from the general prohibition on self-referral. It does not apply to hospitals in general. The bill provides for exceptions to even this limited expansion ban (page 321).

Claim: Page 321: Hospital expansion hinges on “community” input: in other words, yet another payoff for ACORN.

False. Page 321 says rural, doctor-owned hospitals that are exempt from the Medicaid self-referral prohibition can ask to be allowed to expand under rules that must allow “input” from “persons or entities in the community.” Under that language, anybody in the community could offer their opinion, but nobody – not ACORN or anybody else – would be paid for it.

Claim: Page 335: Government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures: i.e., rationing.

Misleading. This section does deal with establishing quality measures for Medicare. It does not make any recommendations for treatment, or empower anyone to make treatment recommendations based on those measures. The only effect of these outcome-based measures established in the bill would be ranking and potential disqualification of underperforming Medicare Advantage plans – that’s disqualification of the plans, not of any medical procedures.

Claim: Page 341: Government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans, HMOs, etc.

True. The bill allows for the possibility of disqualifying underperforming Medicare Advantage plans, which include Medicare HMOs. Medicare Advantage plans are private health plans that provide Medicare benefits. Under the bill, the secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority to disallow plans that are providing low-quality care under the new quality measures (which include evaluations of patient health, mortality, safety and quality of life). If a plan is disqualified, this will not leave seniors without care. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that “virtually all” Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least two Medicare Advantage plans, and most have access to three or more. In 2008, 82 percent of beneficiaries had access to six or more private fee-for-service plans, one type of Medicare Advantage plan (along with HMOs, PPOs and medical spending accounts). Beneficiaries are also always free to return to the regular Medicare fee-for-service program.

Claim: Page 354: Government will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals.

Misleading. Insurance companies already restrict enrollment in so-called “special needs” plans, a special category of Medicare Advantage plans that were created in 2003. Page 354 merely extends the authority to do that beyond the end of next year, when it was set to expire. Furthermore, what’s being restricted isn’t the number of patients, but the type of patients. Plans can be restricted to accepting only those patients who fall into in one or more special categories. These include those who are institutionalized (think, nursing homes), those who qualify both for Medicare and Medicaid (think, both low-income and over age 65) and those with severe or disabling chronic conditions such as diabetes, emphysema, chronic heart failure or dementia. And of course, this has nothing to do with children with learning problems.

Claim: Page 379: More bureaucracy: Telehealth Advisory Committee (healthcare by phone).

Misleading. The advisory committee would not be a “bureaucracy” or have any administrative functions, but instead would bring together experts from the private sector to give advice on how Medicare and Medicaid should treat the practice of medicine via telecommunication, something used in rural hospitals and such places as cruise ships, battlefield settings and even on NASA space missions. Pages 380-381 call for the committee to consist of five “practicing physicians,” two “practicing non-physician health care workers” and two “administrators of telehealth programs.”

Claim: Page 425: More bureaucracy: Advance Care Planning Consult: Senior Citizens, assisted suicide, euthanasia? Claim: Page 425: Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. Mandatory. Appears to lock in estate taxes ahead of time. Claim: Page 425: Government provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death Claim: Page 427: Government mandates program that orders end-of-life treatment; government dictates how your life ends. Claim: Page 429: Advance Care Planning Consult will be used to dictate treatment as patient’s health deteriorates. This can include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. An ORDER from the GOVERNMENT. Claim: Page 430: Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at end-of-life.

All False. These six claims are a twisted interpretation of a provision in the bill that says Medicare will cover voluntary counseling sessions between seniors and their doctors to discuss end-of-life care. Medicare doesn’t pay for such sessions now; it would under the bill. End-of-life care discussions include talking about a living will, hospice care, designating a health care proxy and making decisions on what care you want to receive at the end of your life. Doctors do the consulting, not the "government" or a "bureaucracy." The e-mail author’s assertion that the bill calls for "an ORDER from the GOVERNMENT" for end-of-life plans rests on language about a patient drawing up such an order stipulating their wishes, and having that order signed by a physician. There’s nothing about "an order from the government." The bill defines an order for life-sustaining treatment as a document that "is signed and dated by a physician …[and] effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment." See our article "False Euthanasia Claims" for more on such assertions.

Claim: Page 469: Community-based Home Medical Services: more payoffs for ACORN.

False. This section defines the term "community-based medical home" as a "nonprofit community-based or State-based organization" that "provides beneficiaries with medical home services." ACORN does not provide medical home services. The section goes on to say such a medical service is one that "employs community health workers, including nurses or other non-physician practitioners, lay health workers, or other persons as determined appropriate by the Secretary, that assist the primary or principal care physician or nurse practitioner in chronic care management activities." The only thing ACORN has in common with that description is the word "community." It’s a community organization that offers services such as free tax preparation help and first-time home buyer counseling for low- and moderate-income people. It also works to register people to vote, and a few of its canvassers have been investigated for registration fraud, a point of concern during the presidential campaign.

Claim: Page 472: Payments to Community-based organizations: more payoffs for ACORN.

False. This section is referring to community-based medical homes.

Claim: Page 489: Government will cover marriage and family therapy. Government intervenes in your marriage.

Half true. It’s true that pages 489 and 490 make state-licensed “marriage and family therapist” services a covered expense “for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.” But the therapists wouldn’t be employed by the government, and there’s no requirement for anybody to receive their help. So the claim that this would mean that “government intervenes in your marriage” is false.

Claim: Page 494: Government will cover mental health services: defining, creating and rationing those services.

Misleading. The provision amends Section 1861 of the Social Security Act laying out what services Medicare will cover. It expands coverage for mental health services, stipulating that a "mental health counselor" who can perform mental health counseling is someone with a master’s or doctorate degree, a state license, and two years of practice as a counselor. Is this the government "defining" mental health services? Well, it’s certainly the government defining what government programs will cover.

– by Brooks Jackson, Lori Robertson and Jess Henig, with D’Angelo Gore

Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age


Oh, this is too good to be true. The Gray Lady (NYT) has an article dated 9/3/09 in the science section about glowbull warming. One has to wonder how this ever snuck in. Be that as it may, the Times is to be congratulated on running this as it offers a perspective on the issue seldom seen in the MSM. Kudos to the NYT.

Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age

The human-driven buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere appears to have ended a slide, many millenniums in the making, toward cooler summer temperatures in the Arctic, the authors of a new study report.

Scientists familiar with the work, to be published Friday in the journal Science, said it provided fresh evidence that human activity is not only warming the globe, particularly the Arctic, but could also even fend off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age over the next few dozen millenniums.

The reversal of the slow cooling trend in the Arctic, recorded in samples of layered lakebed mud, glacial ice and tree rings from Alaska to Siberia, has been swift and pronounced, the team writes.

Earlier studies have also shown that the Arctic, more than the planet as a whole, has seen unusual warming in recent decades. But the new analysis provides decade-by-decade detail on temperature trends going back 2,000 years — five times further than previous work at that detailed a scale.

Several climate scientists said the new study was most significant for showing just how powerfully the Arctic climate appears to be responding to a greenhouse-gas buildup that is having more complex and subtle mix of effects elsewhere around the globe.

Darrell S. Kaufman, the lead author and a climate specialist at Northern Arizona University, said the biggest surprise was the strength of the shift from cooling to warming, which started in 1900 and intensified after 1950.

“The slow cooling trend is trivial compared to the warming that’s been happening and that’s in the pipeline,” Dr. Kaufman said.

Several scientists who were not involved with the study concurred that the pace of the temperature reversal far exceeded the natural variability in Arctic temperatures, supporting the idea that the warm-up is human-caused and potentially disruptive.

According to the study, after a slow cooling of less than half a degree Fahrenheit per millennium, driven by a cyclical change in the orientation of the North Pole and the Sun, the region warmed 2.2 degrees just since 1900, with the decade from 1998 to 2008 the warmest in 2,000 years.

In theory, summer temperatures in the Arctic region would be expected to cool for at least 4,000 more years, given the growing distance between the Sun and the North Pole during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the study says.

But Jonathan T. Overpeck, a study author and climate specialist at the University of Arizona, said the rising concentration of long-lived greenhouse gases guaranteed warming at a pace that could stress ecosystems and cause rapid melting of Greenland’s great ice sheet.

“The fast rate of recent warming is the scary part,” Dr. Overpeck said. “It means that major impacts on Arctic ecosystems and global sea level might not be that far off unless we act fast to slow global warming.”

In the very long term, the ability to artificially warm the climate, particularly the Arctic, could be seen as a boon as the planet’s shifting orientation to the Sun enters a phase that could initiate the next ice age.