Friday, April 20, 2018

Congratulations to President Diaz Canel

The National Network On Cuba congratulates the people of Cuba on the just concluded electoral process.  We offer warm greetings of solidarity to the new President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and to the returning and newly elected members of the National Assembly and Council of State.  We also join the Cuban people and many people throughout the world in recognizing and thanking Fidel and Raúl Castro for their struggle, leadership, and inspiration that has enabled many to truly experience that another world; a more just and dignified world, is possible.  We again thank the Cuban people and their government for providing education, health care, and solidarity to the peoples of the world and to do so as their duty to humanity.

We take these examples and values as lessons to us as we pledge to continuing working in the United States to end the economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba and for the respect of Cuban sovereignty.

As the next generation assumes leadership, we are confident that they will uphold the dignity and principles of the Revolution as they have demonstrated throughout their years of service to Cuba. In the face of the challenges facing the world from Latin America to the Middle East, we express our confidence in your leadership and again send our solidarity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

TO: All National and International Trade Unions Organizations

PyongyangApril 10, 2018

On the significant occasion of the 106th birthday (Day of the Sun - April 15, 1912) of the  President Kim Il Sungall the Koreanpeople and workers have looked back upon his life and immortal services rendered to the times and history most humblyupholdingthe banner of independence for his whole life.
Having embarked on the road of struggle for the country and people in his early teens, he authored the Juche idea, the gist of which is that the masses of the people are the masters and the driving force of the revolution and construction; in other words, it means that man is the master of his own destiny and has the strength with which to carve out his destiny.
Since then the Korean revolution has vigorously advanced along the road of independence. 
In the period of the armed struggle to liberate Korea from the Japanese military occupation, he ensured that the guerrillas kept the strong conviction that they should fight the Japanese by making themselves weapons and grenades instead of looking forward to aids from others.
The guerrillas waged the arduous armed struggle for over 15 ears, holding high the slogan of winning back the country by themselves, and achieved the countrys liberation.
After liberation he made sure that Korea took the road of Korean-style democracy, not adopting other countries styles, and vigorously led the struggle to reunify the country divided by foreign forces.
In the grim days of the Korean War (1950-1953) to repel the aggression of the United States he ensured that the service personnel of the Korean Peoples Army employed unique tactical methods such as building tunnels and bringing direct-firing guns up to the heights, thus winning victory in the war.
After the war he put forward a unique line of economic construction to give priority to the development of heavy industry and simultaneously develop light industry and agriculture, and led his people to get rid of flunkeyism and dogmatism and take the road of independence.
When other socialist countries persistently forced Korea to join the CEMA, insisting on the integrated economy within them, he never vacillated in the slightest nor deviated an iota from the line of building the independent national economy.
In the mid-1990s the trend of reform and openness was sweeping the socialist countries, but he firmly maintained the independent stand and held up higher the red flag, thus defending the socialist system of Korea reliably even though others abandoned socialism.
Kim Il Sung paid great attention to realize the cause of making the world independent throughout his life.
He gave clear answers to the matters of principle arising in realizing the cause of global independence such as those on maintaining independence in the struggle for peace and fighting against the imperialist forces of aggression with the united efforts of all the peace-loving forces of the world, and on struggling while uniting and vice versa and he assisted heart and soul other countries in accomplishing their cause of anti-imperialist independence.

He also gave energetic and disinterested support and aid to the peoples of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia in their struggle against colonialism and racism, the Latin American peoples struggle against the US imperialists and pro-US dictatorship, Arabians struggle against the US imperialists and Israeli Zionists, as well as the Cuban, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian peoples' struggle against the aggression of the US imperialists, thus greatly inspiring them to bring about historic victories.

The banner of independence upheld by President Kim Il Sung is a great power of strength and encouragement to the Korean people who are achieving eye-opening successes in the socialist construction with a firm stand of independence and also to the progressive peoples of the world who are struggling for the realization of global independence.

This banner of independence upheld by President Kim Il Sung throughout his whole life has been brilliant as a unique Songun politics by Leader Kim Jong Il and today it has been firmly taken over by the respected supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

Moreover, today when moves of the imperialist forces of aggression who are attempting to wreck global peace and security and make mankind suffer a nuclear holocaust have been more severe, all the Korean workers and people keenly sense in their hearts that the banner of independence is an ever-victorious banner and immortal one to safeguard our supreme dignity and sovereignty of the country and accomplish the cause of anti-imperialist independent.

Rallied around the respected supreme leader Kim Jong Un, we shall advance forward vigorously for ultimate victory of building a socialist powerful nation, upholding the banner of independence more aloft.

 On the occasion of Day of the Sun, various political and cultural events including the 31st April Spring Friendship Art Festival which involves artists and art troupes all over the world and across the country, and the 20th Kimilsungia (Kim Il Sung Flower) Festival are staged in our country. Also in many other countries, too, the preparatory committees for celebrating the birth anniversary of Comrade Kim Il Sung organized and grandiose events such as seminars, photo exhibition and film shows are being held in order to celebrate the Day of the Sun as a common holiday of progressive humankind.

We hope you to celebrate the meaningful Day of the Sun with Korean people and workers together.
Central Committee
General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Statement of the Central Committee of the AUCPB in connection with the destruction of the monument of V.I. Lenin

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The All-Union Communist Party of the Bolsheviks (AUCPB) expresses a strong protest to the President and Government of the Republic of India in connection with the events in the state of Tripura, where the hooligan elements destroyed the monument to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, the leader of the world proletariat in Beloniy.
V.I. Lenin throughout his life expressed deep sympathy for the Indian people, who fought for liberation from English colonial rule. The Soviet state, founded by Lenin, provided all possible support to national liberation movements throughout the world, including India, and established friendly relations with an independent Indian state. The slaughter of the monument to Lenin in India is an affront not only to the Russian workers, but also to the people of India and to all progressive mankind.
The AUCPB demands the punishment of the criminals who destroyed the monument of V.I. Lenin.
The AUCPB urges the restoration of the monument to V.I. Lenin. The authorities' refusal to restore the monument can be regarded as an act of direct hostility to the Russian working people and the world proletariat.

Central Committee of the AUCPB
General Secretary of the AUCPB
N.A. Andreeva

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

D. Koutsoumpas: the “interest” of the USA-NATO-EU in the Balkans is dangerous for the peoples


The working people of the Greek part of Macedonia declared their decision to escalate the struggle against the imperialist plans and dangers that they are bringing for the peoples of our country and the wider region, defying the rain and participating in mass and combative way in the large rally of the Central Macedonia Party Organization of the KKE in Thessalonica (6/3/2018). The central speaker at the rally was the GS of the CC of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumpas, who presented the positions of the party on the developments in the Balkans, the Middle East, Greco-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue, after the escalation of the aggressiveness of Turkey.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

GOP’s proposed Medicare voucher program would lead to demise of the system

The Hill
March 5, 2018
GOP’s proposed Medicare voucher program would lead to demise of the system
By Max Richtman

A request for public comment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has caught the eye of a group of Democratic Senators, alarmed about its implications for the future of Medicare. 

In February, 15 Senators sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma expressing concern over a Fall, 2017 Request for Information (RFI) regarding a “new direction” for Medicare’s Innovation Center — and the agency’s subsequent failure to make public the more than 1,000 comments it received.

At the heart of the Senator’s concerns is ambiguous language in the RFI that suggests a shift toward converting Medicare into a voucher program, which would, “fundamentally restructure the guaranteed benefit traditional Medicare provides to older adults and people with disabilities.”  

The Senator’s concerns are well-founded, since Republicans in Congress (most prominently, Speaker Paul Ryan) have long-dreamed of privatizing Medicare by turning it into a voucher system — something that we and other senior organizations adamantly oppose. 

Under the GOP’s voucher system, private plans could tailor their benefits to attract the youngest and healthiest seniors, leaving traditional Medicare with older and sicker beneficiaries. 

Their higher health care costs would lead to higher premiums that seniors would be unable or unwilling to pay, resulting in a death spiral for traditional Medicare.  

This latest action is part of an ideological tilt to the right by CMS under Verma’s leadership — with subversion of traditional Medicare as one of the apparent aims. 

The agency has demonstrated a bias toward private Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare.

In the case of the implicit shift toward privatizing Medicare, the 15 Senators suggest that CMS may be breaking the law. 

“We believe you are violating statutory requirements to safeguard older adults and people with disabilities from paying onerous out-of-pocket costs and going without needed health care,” says their letter to Verma.

Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Innovation Center New Direction

Through this informal Request for Information (RFI) the CMS Innovation Center (Innovation Center) is seeking your feedback on a new direction to promote patient-centered care and test market-driven reforms that empower beneficiaries as consumers, provide price transparency, increase choices and competition to drive quality, reduce costs, and improve outcomes.

II. Provisions of this RFI

  B. Potential Models

    2. Consumer-Directed Care & Market-Based Innovation Models

      CMS believes beneficiaries should be empowered as consumers to drive change in the health system through their choices. Consumer-directed care models could empower Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP beneficiaries to make choices from among competitors in a market-driven healthcare system. To better inform consumers about the cost and quality implications of different choices, CMS may develop models to facilitate and encourage price and quality transparency, including the compilation, analysis, and release of cost data and quality metrics that inform beneficiaries about their choices. CMS will consider new options for beneficiaries to promote consumerism and transparency. For example, beneficiaries could choose to participate in arrangements that would allow them to keep some of the savings when they choose a lower-cost option, or that incentivize them to achieve better health. Models that we are considering testing include allowing Medicare beneficiaries to contract directly with healthcare providers, having providers propose prices to inform beneficiary choices and transparency, offering bundled payments for full episodes of care with groups of providers bidding on the payment amount, and launching preferred provider networks.

    5. Medicare Advantage (MA) Innovation Models

      CMS wants to work with Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to drive innovation, better quality and outcomes, and lower costs. CMS seeks to provide MA plans the flexibility to innovate and achieve better outcomes. CMS is currently implementing an MA plan model, the Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model, that provides benefit design flexibility to incentivize beneficiaries to choose high-value services; but this model could be modified to provide more flexibility to MA plans and potentially add additional states. More generally, CMS is interested in more models in the MA plan space and regulatory flexibility as necessary for purposes of testing such models. CMS is potentially interested in a demonstration in Medicare Advantage that incentivizes MA plans to compete for beneficiaries, including those beneficiaries currently in Medicare fee-for-service (FFS), based on quality and cost in a transparent manner. CMS is also interested in what additional flexibilities are needed regarding supplemental benefits that could be included to increase choice, improve care quality, and reduce cost. Additionally, CMS seeks comments on what options might exist beyond FFS and MA for paying for care delivery that incorporate price sensitivity and a consumer driven or directed focus and might be tested as alternatives to FFS and MA.


United States Senate
February 22, 2018
Letter to Ms. Seema Verma, Administrator, CMS


We are writing to express our continued opposition to the concepts unveiled and the process used in a Request for Information (RFI) regarding "a new direction" for Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center). ...we continue to urge you to provide clarity on the specific model types under consideration.

In the RFI, CMS appeared to seek input on a possible model to restructure Medicare through a premium support or voucher program. We interpreted the RFI to mean that CMS is considering models that would fundamentally restructure the guaranteed benefit traditional Medicare provides to older adults and people with disabilities. Other Members of Congress, select journalists as well as patient and consumer advocates have expressed a similar interpretation and voiced concerns about the Innovation Center's intentions.

While we understand that the RFI does not explicitly mention the terms 'premium support' or 'voucher,' the ambiguity of the proposal allows for a variety of interpretations... Absent further clarification, we do not believe Members of Congress, diverse stakeholders in the health community, and the public were provided a sufficient opportunity to comment on the model concepts outlined in the RFI.

Our concern is compounded by the fact that the proposals under consideration may not allow for Medicare beneficiaries to maintain choice and that beneficiaries may not have the ability to opt out of Innovation Center models.

Additionally, we remain troubled by the Innovation Center's plans to develop and implement the payment model described as "...allowing Medicare beneficiaries to contract directly with healthcare providers." We believe you are violating statutory requirements to safeguard older adults and people with disabilities from paying onerous out-of-pocket costs and going without needed care.

Again, we urge you to publicly post RFI comments instead of obfuscating regular process in order to withhold unfavorable comments from public view or decide against responding to certain comments.

Signed, Senators Casey, Nelson, Brown, Whitehouse, Gillibrand, Market, Donnelly, Shaheen, Reed, Warren, Blumenthal, King, Cardin, Menendez, and Smith


Comment by Don McCanne

Without waiting for Congress to act, the Trump administration is moving forward with policies to shift government health programs to the private sector. The conservatives have long desired to privatize Medicare through premium support (vouchers), and it appears that they have devised a deceptive means of sneaking it in through this Request for Information. We need to watch this process closely, even though it is taking place behind closed doors, lest we find that it is published in the Federal Register and becomes the regulatory law of the land by administrative fiat.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Protecting our communities means keeping our unions strong

The rights of working people to join together in strong unions have strengthened their voice for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces and communities. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, big corporations and CEOs have conducted well-funded attacks, and the newest attempt is before the Supreme Court.
Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is a case designed to dramatically reduce union dues and starve the very entities that are representing workers at the bargaining table. If the lower court ruling against Mark Janus, a public-sector workerwho doesn’t want to pay fees to the labor union that represents him, were overturned, this would effectively mean all public employees have the so-called “right to work.”
This is a big problem, and here’s why.
Right now, the gap between rich and poor is larger than ever. Those pushing Janus are doing so because the freedom to form and join a union is one of the few tools workers have at their disposal to level the playing field with big corporations. As union membership has declined, the income gap has risen dramatically,with those at the top getting richer, while leaving the rest of us behind. Dramatically weakening labor unions will only make things worse.
The efforts to weaken and destroy unions ensure everyone loses. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that wages in those so-called “right-to-work” states are 3.1 percent lower than in states that don’t put those limitations on collective bargaining. EPI also found that, on average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2 percent more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector.
Unions are also part of a broader movement to build a strong economy that works for all of us. Unions have allied themselves with other progressive organizations to protect Americans’ basic rights and to address the threat of climate change and other environmental challenges. Unions invest in training workers. Union workers can and do collectively bargain to make their workplaces, communities, and the environment safer and healthier. They have the ability to blow the whistle when they see dangers to themselves, their co-workers, the community around their workplace, and the environment because they know their union is in their corner to help protect them.
Finally, under this scenario, labor unions would represent workers even if they don’t pay dues into the union, which is unfair to the people that do pay union dues because workers are not just bargaining for their own wages — they are raising wages, improving benefits, and making workplaces safer and healthier for all workers in the marketplace. Collective bargaining by teachers in Philadelphia, for instance, ensured that school water systems are getting tested for lead, stopped class size increases for students, and ensured that each school has at least one nurse and counselor.
More people are realizing the danger we face and are speaking out against it. Working people and their allies will be joining together in 10 cities across the country Saturday, February 24, for Working People’s Day of Action to fight for the right to form strong unions, equal pay, affordable health care, quality schools, and a secure future for us all. Then, on Monday, February 26, union members from around the country will rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court and at 300 cities across the country as the court prepares to hear the case.
To protect our economy, environment, and communities, we need to keep unions strong. Together, we can help ensure workers have a voice on the job and an opportunity to make all of our lives better, as well.
Kim Glas is the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, which unites labor unions and environmental organizations to solve today’s environmental challenges in ways that build a stronger, fairer economy. Glas previously held senior leadership positions in the Obama administration — as the deputy assistant secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce — and the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow Glas and the BlueGreen Alliance on Twitter @BGAlliance.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Black lung disease on the rise: 5 questions answered

February 16, 2018 6.41am EST

Editor’s note: An article published Feb. 6, 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health had identified 416 cases of advanced black lung disease among coal miners in central Appalachia. New cases of black lung had been rare until recently, but this study suggests that the incidence is rising. Anna Allen and Carl Werntz, professors of occupational medicine at West Virginia University who treat miners with black lung, explain what causes this disabling disease.
What is black lung disease, and what causes it?
Underground mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Risks include inhaling toxic gases, such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide; being crushed by roof falls or mining equipment; drowning when tunnels fill with water; and injury in fires and explosions. Even if miners survive the workplace, they may suffocate to death years later.
Surface and underground mining is associated with two pneumoconioses, or dust diseases of the lung. Black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, comes from inhaling coal mine dust. The other disease, silicosis, is caused by inhaling silica dust from crushed rocks. Black lung and silicosis often appear together because coal seams are found between rock layers that contain silica.
When miners inhale dust, it deposits along their airways. Their bodies try to remove the dust by sending in special white blood cells called macrophages to engulf and chemically digest it. But the cells are unable to break down the dust, so they die and release enzymes that damage lung tissue. This causes problems that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and fibrosis (scarring). In progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe version of black lung, scarring causes lung volume to shrink, further damaging adjacent lung tissue and making air exchange even worse.
Miners typically work 10 to 12 hours a day and up to seven days a week. This increases their exposure time and decreases the recovery time their bodies need to heal damage from silica and coal dust particles. Traditionally, black lung was associated with miners who had been working for at least 20 years, with symptoms often appearing after retirement. The recent trend is that black lung, including progressive massive fibrosis, is occurring after a shorter time in mining – as little as five years mining underground.
Are you surprised by the large case cluster described in the JAMA article?
The “hot spot” described in the JAMA study is in parts of western Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. This area includes three of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administrationenforcement districts – areas where the agency inspects coal mines and investigates accidents and complaints from miners.
We see patients in Morgantown in north-central West Virginia and Cabin Creek in south-central West Virginia. We have noticed increased severity of disease in patients in the southern part of the state. During our first year, from June 2016 to May 2017, working in Cabin Creek providing federally authorized black lung exams, the incidence was 16 percent for black lung and about 6 percent for progressive massive fibrosis. In contrast, the same exams in our Morgantown clinic found black lung in less than 3 percent of cases, and only a few progressive massive fibrosis cases in four years.
What do you think could be causing more cases of black lung disease?
The increase is likely the result of several factors. Much of the coal in the area of the JAMA study is so-called “low coal,” with seams that are only 20 to 36 inches high. This “low coal” is hard to mine but profitable because it is metallurgical coal, which has high value for steel production.
Manufacturers stopped producing shorter machines designed for mining “low coal” in about 1990 due to quality control problems. Now mines use taller machines designed for seams that are 32 to 36 inches high. As these machines cut coal from the seam, they must remove at least 12 to 16 inches of sandstone adjacent to the coal.
Cutting that much sandstone significantly increases miners’ exposure to silica dust from the crushed rock. Newer machines also cut through coal and rock much more quickly than older models, generating more dust. Generally, what we call black lung is primarily silicosis in a coal miner, so silica exposure is significant to the development and progression of disease.
Working in “low coal” also involves more physical effort than mining “high coal.” Crawling and stooping while carrying mining gear and operating equipment requires more physical effort. Miners breathe more heavily and frequently, which can increase dust exposure. And it is hard to keep air flowing smoothly through these smaller mines, so dust concentrations may be higher in some spots.
What does the coal industry do to prevent black lung?
Screening is available to current miners through the federal government’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, which uses x-rays to detect early changes in the lungs. This information is shared with miners so they can decide whether to continue working in coal mining, but is kept private from their employers.
The main way to prevent black lung is to keep miners from inhaling dust. After 20 years of debate, recent changes in federal law decreased the allowed exposure from 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter of air to 1.5 milligrams. Continuous personal dust sampling has also been implemented so that miners can have real-time data on their exposures. This information is then used to determine whether a mine requires more frequent inspections.
To decrease dust exposure, mine operators can spray water to knock dust out of the air, increase air flow in tunnels to move dust out more quickly, or require miners to wear respirators.
What resources are available for miners who may have black lung?
Black lung diagnosis can be complicated. Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, chronic cough, coughing up phlegm and inability to breathe lying flat. Other diseases can cause similar symptoms, so it is important for miners to talk to their primary care doctors.
Some states have workers compensation programs that offer benefits to workers diagnosed with black lung. The Federal Black Lung Program provides medical coverage for eligible miners with lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis, along with benefits for those who are totally disabled by it, and for families of miners who die of black lung disease.
There is no cure for black lung disease – we can only treat symptoms. Medications, such as inhaled steroids, can help patients breathe more easily. More severe cases can require oxygen and possibly lung transplants. One step patients can take is to stop smoking, which also destroys lung tissue. Smoking does not cause black lung, but it can make the symptoms more severe.