The following cartoons from the Arab press are highly critical of Israel, Kerry, Obama and the framework of the Iran deal or the descriptions leaked of the plan. In countries where freedom of the press barely exists, this kind of opinion is usually only allowed when approved by their government.
Once again, there is more vicious distortion of news about Israel. The 100-year-old Gray Lady, The New York Times, published this headline in its April 16 online edition :
“Palestinian Driver Suspected of Deliberately Hitting Jerusalem Bus Stop”
In this shallow information world, a headline is about all it takes to quench one’s interest in maniacs attacking bus stops. If it was another 8,000 rockets landing on Jews in Israel, that would be somewhat quixotic to NYT’s latte-slurpers, but transit molestation is always dull, even when announced by an old gray mare.
The first paragraph in this report by Isabel Kershner, unlike the headline, is truthful, once again demonstrating that headline writers and reporters can live in different worlds:
JERUSALEM — A preliminary investigation of a Palestinian driver who crashed into a bus stop in Jerusalem late Wednesday night, killing an Israeli man and injuring an Israeli woman, reinforced suspicions that he had rammed his car into the pedestrians intentionally, the Israeli police said Thursday.
Behind the headlines calling for private accounts and trumpeting tax increases and benefits cuts for Social Security recipients, there lurk good intentions, political dogmas, past decisions by committee-think, and grotesque pandering to young and old.
How can this be explained in simplest terms, the media seems to wonder? How can we sell our root philosophy, the politicians ponder? Meanwhile, millions are being spent to “educate” you by calling on your emotions, clouding your reason, and confusing you over what is common sense by turning United States social security benefits and retirement discussion into double-talk and half-truths about voluntary, private accounts, and constant reference to “entitlements,” as though decades 0f contributions to Social Security equal some form of welfare..
The stakes are incredible. Continue reading “Social Security is owed, not an entitlement”
The usual self-centered politicians and their masters at Fix the Debt, Libertarian Caucus, Tea Party and Fox News, along with a pack of pitiful former government officials like Ed Rendell, this week bemoaned the so-called “doc fix”, which brings Medicare payments to providers up to miserable levels, instead of a 21% cut.
That reduction in doctor payments would increase the number of physicians who refuse to treat Medicare patients. The Wall Street Journal explains in 2012:
…the proportion of family doctors who accepted new Medicare patients last year, 81%, was down from 83% in 2010, according to a survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians of 800 members. The same study found that 4% of family physicians are now in cash-only or concierge practices, where patients pay a monthly or yearly fee for special access to doctors, up from 3% in 2010.
Using the example of a September 2014 visit to a cardiologist (without the 21% reduction) in Philadelphia suburban Montgomery County, the doctor charged $168 for a 20-minute exam (time he was present with patient), and was allowed only the Medicare approved amount of $114.07, and Medicare paid only $89.43, while the patient paid $22.81. An EKG was performed by a physician assistant and the provider charge was $90, including analysis by the doctor. Medicare allowed only a payment of $18 – $14.11 by Medicare and $3.60 by the patient.
Is it any wonder that doctors are refusing to treat Medicare patients, even without more cuts in payments?
If you have completed your income tax (deadline tomorrow), and are a senior forced to be only on Medicare – versus far cheaper Obamacare – the costs you pay would astound the self-centered public masters and financial pundits in both political parties.
Here is a real life examination of Medicare expenses paid in 2014 by one average couple, Harry and Sylvia Schmendrich, both retired and on Social Security. Their adjusted gross income (AGI) was $30,309. Sylvia is 67. Harry is 73 and was required to withdraw a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from his IRA of some $8,400, subject to regular income tax rates. The IRS determines how much you must take out of such retirement funds each year, which increases your AGI.
No matter how you toss it, $30,309 AGI isn’t outstanding, so you would expect that Medicare benefits would offset low income with a great healthcare benefit. Wrong!
The Schmendrich’s medical expenses are typical of a couple, where one has had some sort of heart incident and is on the usual blend of cholesterol and blood thinner drugs, the wife is not on any major meds, and Harry spent one night in the hospital in 2014 after a fainting spell for observation.
Medicare Part A is included in Medicare at no premium charge, but it only covers hospital visits. Medicare B, to cover doctor visits, for average folks like the Schmendrichs, cost the couple $2,516 a year in premiums to the government. They also have an additional AARP plan which reduces co-payments for Part B by about 50%. That costs $2,487 for the couple annually. In addition they have premiums for Medicare D (drugs) which total $164 a year, and only cover some drugs, some of the time.
Harry ended up in the hospital overnight and his Medicare A paid everything except his deductible of $608. If he went twice last year, he would have paid $1,216, and so on. The only other big expense was an eye exam and glasses for Sylvia, which cost the Schmendrichs $903 after Medicare reimbursement of $50. Other doctor office visits during the year added up to $1,066. There was also about $300 for over the counter vitamins and other items
The biggest out of pocket expense was prescription drug co-pays, which totaled $3,341 for the Schmendrichs.
Grand total was $10,490.05 paid by the couple, fully covered by Medicare. If they had any dental expenses, none would be covered by Medicare. Hearing aids are also not covered by Medicare. About one-third of their AGI (before taxes) went to medical expenses.
At least, they had a “nice” deduction for their income taxes, but the politicians knew how to reduce that.
Some 7.5% of their AGI ($2,273) was deducted from medical expenses, leaving them with $8,229.
Medicare is a great deal – if you don’t have the facts and ignore lousy benefits and high prices. The fiscal hawks, who want to raise premiums and cut the current miserly benefits, don’t really care much for Medicare folks with walkers and bad hearts, I suppose because they are usually not physically able to successfully riot for their causes.
General Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard was quoted today on Iran state tv: “With God’s grace, the revolutionary children of Islamic Iran have succeeded in defending the rights of the Iranian nation and the Iranian nation and the Guard appreciate their honest political efforts.”
Meanwhile, on Sunday, an Israeli Channel 10 TV report said informants disclosed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “are preparing for war” in the event that negotiations to turn last week’s framework nuclear verbal deal between the P5+1 world powers and Tehran collapses by the June 30 deadline
The Channel 10 report also said Arab intelligence agencies have warned “France, the U.K. and the U.S. that the Revolutionary Guard fears Iran could face a military strike should the talks break down, and that the Guards are ready to close the Strait of Hormuz and take other unspecified measures.”
Iran’s government was also very happy with the deal.
The Times of Israel reported that Iranian lawmakers (their Congress – hope you see the irony) voiced their approval for the April 2 framework nuclear agreement with world powers in a closed-door parliamentary session Tuesday in Tehran, with one MP calling any concessions made by Iran to world powers “unimportant.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian atomic bureau officials briefed the plenum on the deal’s outline, and what the country will adopt in exchange for easing economic sanctions.
During the meeting, Zarif told lawmakers that Iran is capable of producing an atomic bomb at any given moment, but will refrain from doing so due to religious Islamic injunctions against such a move, Israel Radio reported, but Zarif didn’t mention that the fearless leader can change the state religion rules, whenever convenient.
“We achieved major gains in the talks and made unimportant concessions,” Nozar Shafiei, a parliament member, told the Iranian Republic News Agency Tuesday.
An Israeli source reveals that all is not in agreement between the U.S. and one of its partners in the deal. The use of the more advanced IR-2 and IR-4 centrifuges, according to the French fact sheet, would enable Iran to more rapidly accumulate the highly enriched uranium needed to build nuclear weapons, accelerating its breakout time to the bomb.
The French fact sheet also specifies that Iran will be allowed to continue R&D work on the advanced IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges, the last of which can enrich uranium at 20-times the speed of Iran’s current IR-1 centrifuges, whereas the American parameters are less specific.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Friday issued its own fact sheet, which differs starkly with the official American parameters and with the French fact sheet seen by The Times of Israel.
Six key discrepancies between the US and Iranian documents, some of them at the very heart of the framework agreement announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, last Thursday, were reviewed by Israeli experts on Saturday
On Saturday Foreign Minister Zarif said that, under the deal, Iran has the right to continue working on more of the advanced IR-8 centrifuges: “Some said Iran can have no R&D, but we now have the right to develop IR-8, which has 20 times the output of IR-1.”
The Israeli government on Monday issued a series of demands intended to transform the non-signed framework agreement into a more reasonable deal by the scheduled June 30 deadline, and asked 10 key questions about the terms, several of which related to the emerging discrepancies between the various players’ accounts of what was decided in Lausanne.
Finally, in two interviews with Israel critic Ben Rhodes, a senior adviser to Barack Obama, quashed the notion that the final deal would be markedly more stringent on Iran than the terms of the framework agreement, declaring that the deal as it now stands meets U.S. “core objectives.”
Rhodes, like Obama, Susan Rice, John Forbes Kerry and Valerie Jarrett, has opposed the idea of requiring Iran to acknowledge Israel’s right to even exist – claiming it would “upset” negotiations. He did not comment on Ayatollah Khomeini”s recent calls for “Death to Israel! Death to America!” and why that didn’t “upset” U.S. negotiators.