'Unfathomable Cruelty': Trump Admin Asks Supreme Court to Invalidate Affordable Care Act
In a move that seems particularly cruel in the midst of the growing coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on Thursday, as CNN reported.
If the move is successful, it would wipe out the landmark legislation that provided health insurance for 23 million Americans that would be otherwise unable to afford it, according to The New York Times.
The Trump administration snuck in the request literally at the eleventh hour, filing an 82-page brief with the court just one hour before the midnight deadline. The brief sides with Republican officials in Texas and 17 other states who claim that the 2017 move by a Republican-controlled Congress to zero out the tax penalty for not having insurance has made the law unconstitutional, as The New York Times reported.
The filing made no mention of the coronavirus pandemic. It also came on the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov, as The Associated Press reported.
According to the Thursday report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 487,000 Americans took advantage of the special enrollment period on HealthCare.gov after losing their healthcare plans. The numbers mark a 46 percent increase from enrollments in April and May 2019, as The Washington Post reported.
If the health insurance requirement is invalidated, "then it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall," Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
The administration has taken various stances on which parts of the ACA might be kept, replaced or discarded. However, The Associated Press noted that it has been always determined to overturn provisions that stop insurance companies from discriminating against people because of preexisting conditions.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who would like to see an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, pointed out that some COVID-19 survivors could lose their comprehensive healthcare coverage if the act was overturned.
"Those survivors, having struggled and won the fight of their lives, would have their peace of mind stolen away at the moment they need it most," Biden said, as The Washington Post reported. "They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump's twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health-care protections away from American families."
The justices will not hear the case until next term, though it is unclear if they will hear them prior to the November election. It will be the third time the court has heard a significant challenge to the law. The case places a group of Democratic attorneys general led by California and the House of Representatives, which are defending the law, against the Trump administration and a group of red-state attorneys general led by Texas, as CNN reported.
"Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities," Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California said in a statement on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. "This fight comes at the most crucial time. The death toll from the coronavirus today is greater than the death toll of the Vietnam War."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the administration after the late-night filing.
"President Trump and the Republicans' campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty," she said in a statement Thursday, as CNN reported.
"If President Trump gets his way," she added, "130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.'s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely."
Around 250 healthcare justice activists and supporters rallied with speeches on the U.S. Capitol grounds to protest the impending Senate vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ACA repeal would fail by a vote of 49-51. Republicans John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joined with all of the Senate Democrats to defeat the measure, preserving Obamacare. Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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