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Friday, May 31, 2019

Leadership without values

Related imageLast week, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of testimony by Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to Donald Trump and current guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In it, Cohen describes how one of his tasks as an employee of the future president was to stiff people who had done work for the Trump Organization, on his boss’ personal instruction.

“Some of the things that I did was reach out to individuals, whether it's law firms or small businesses, and renegotiate contracts after the job was already done, or basically tell them that we just weren't paying at all, or make them offers of, say, 20 cents on the dollar,” he said.

Cohen expressed remorse for his involvement in this combination of scam and strongarming, saying that as a result of Trump’s refusal to pay people who didn’t have the wherewithal to fight a wealthy developer, “many of these folks, you know, lost everything.”

That Trump did business this way is not a new story; in 2016, USA Today found hundreds of businesses who said Trump had refused to pay for work they had done and products they sold him.

But Cohen’s testimony is another reminder of the kind of person the president of the United States is, at a moment when his character—and the way that character has spread through his party—is shaping the political crisis in which we find ourselves.

If you asked Trump about attacking and even destroying the livelihoods of all those small businesspeople just so he could make a few more dollars, he’s probably say what he did when Hillary Clinton suggested that he was hiding his tax returns because they’d show that he pays no taxes: “That makes me smart.”

Smart, to Trump, is only partly about what he perceives as intelligence. Much more, it’s about a willingness to simply decide that the rules don’t apply to you, then act accordingly. 

Mitch's abortion alternatives

For more cartoons by Brian McFadden, CLICK HERE.

Food Bank reports RI seniors face hunger risk at highest rate in the US

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Senior receiving food
RI Has High Rate of
Seniors Facing Hunger
According to a new report from Feeding America on senior hunger, Rhode Island is among the ten states with the highest rates of food insecurity among adults 60 and older. And the percentage of seniors who face the most severe levels of food insecurity is the highest in the country at 5.4%.
Join Us
Rhode to Health Podcast
Podcast: Healthy Habits Program
Addresses Childhood Obesity
Our very own Melissa Martland-Kile is featured on the new Rhode to Health podcast from Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI. Listen to Melissa speak with Carolyn Belisle about our Healthy Habits program which recently received funding from BCBSRI to address childhood obesity in the communities we serve.
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Donate Your Vehicle
and Drive Out Hunger
Are you upgrading to a new car or truck and undecided about what to do with the old one? In just a few easy steps, you can use your old vehicle to help neighbors in need by donating it to the Food Bank.
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Donate Now
© 2019 Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Avenue
Providence, RI 02907
Phone: (401) 942‑MEAL (6325)

What Losing 1 Million Species Means for the Planet — and Humanity

Image result for United nations report on one million extinctionsThe United Nations just released a powerful report on the state of nature around the planet. Among its disheartening conclusions, the report — by hundreds of experts from 50 countries — estimates that a staggering 1 million species are at risk of extinction in the next few decades due to human-related causes.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

The report bases its estimate on the number of known species on the planet — about 8 million — and what we know about how many of those species are already at risk of extinction.

For example, more than 40 percent of the planet’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction, along with about a third of the shark family and a third of marine mammals. The report also estimates that about 10 percent of insect species are at risk, a fact highlighted by all of the recent news about the impending “insect apocalypse.”

That’s all bad enough, of course, but there’s something the UN report doesn’t discuss: In all likelihood the number of species on the planet is actually much higher than 8 million, meaning that even more species are probably at risk.

Would you like fries in your face?

National Employment Law Project

In January, a 16-year-old working the drive-thru window of a McDonald’s in Camden, South Carolina had hot coffee thrown in her face by a customer who was angry about waiting too long for an order of fries.

That same month, a customer in Phoenix, Arizona threatened a McDonald’s employee with a shotgun when he did not receive hot sauce with his order. 

In April, a 19-year-old McDonald’s worker in Des Moines stepped out for a break and was stabbed by two customers angry over an $11 order.

In the last three years, more than 700 incidents of workplace violence at McDonald’s restaurants were reported by the news media. They are just the tip of the iceberg.

Trump and the McCain Mutiny

Laura Clawson, Daily Kos Staff

Related imageThe Trump administration can’t seem to get its story straight on what happened with the White House asking the Navy to hide the USS Sen. John McCain from Donald Trump’s view during his visit to Japan. 

Trump himself denies knowledge of the request, and Navy officials claim it wasn’t carried out anyway—that pictures of the McCain covered with a tarp were taken on a different day and that the tarp was there for legitimate preservation purposes. 

But Trump’s plausible lack of knowledge may make the whole situation even more embarrassing.

Whatever happened with the tarp or a barge that may or may not have been positioned to hide the name of the McCain, the Navy and the White House have not yet had an answer for reports that sailors from the McCain were excluded from Trump’s speech. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

If Facebook had existed in the past

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.


Pic of the Moment

Get Ready

Getting ready for hurricane season: key points
Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation

Related imageThe official Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, even as many communities are still recovering from a destructive year in 2018. 

Hurricane Florence swamped much of the Carolinas in September, followed by Hurricane Michael, which battered the Florida Panhandle less than a month later. 

Together, these two storms killed at least 113 people and caused billions of dollars in damages.

For 2019, federal forecasters are predicting a “near-normal” hurricane season, with 9 to 15 named storms expected to form and 2 to 4 of them developing into major hurricanes. 

But as weather experts warn, it only takes one storm making landfall to make it an active season for people in harm’s way. Here are five expert takes on preparing for whatever the 2019 hurricane season brings.

This explains the CCA

People in higher social class believe they are better than others
American Psychological Association

Related imagePeople who see themselves as being in a higher social class may tend to have an exaggerated belief that they are more adept than their equally capable lower-class counterparts.

That overconfidence can often be misinterpreted by others as greater competence in important situations, such as job interviews, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Advantages beget advantages. Those who are born in upper-class echelons are likely to remain in the upper class, and high-earning entrepreneurs disproportionately originate from highly educated, well-to-do families," said Peter Belmi, PhD, of the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. 

"Our research suggests that social class shapes the attitudes that people hold about their abilities and that, in turn, has important implications for how class hierarchies perpetuate from one generation to the next."

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Protecting our power supply

Electricity grid cybersecurity will be expensive – who will pay, and how much?
Dominic Saebeler, University of Illinois at Springfield and Manimaran Govindarasu, Iowa State University

Image result for power grid cyber attackRecently, a neighbor asked one of us whether Russia, China, North Korea and Iran really are capable of hacking into the computers that control the U.S. electricity grid. 

The answer, based on available evidence, is “Yes.” The follow-up question was, “How expensive will it be to prevent, and who will end up paying for it?”

The answers are: Likely tens of billions of dollars, and probably us, the electricity customers. This is a major – and, in our view, vital – investment in community and national security. 

But as scholars of grid cybersecurity, we understand it’s not very clear what consumers will be getting for their money, nor whether utility companies themselves should bear some share of the cost.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Help a Sister Out Period

Campaign delivers 62,000 menstrual items to Rhode Island Food Bank

RI CLUW President Maureen Martin who is also Secretary-Treasurer of the RI AFL-CIO
The Rhode Island Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) lead an effort, Help a Sister Out Period, that resulted in a donation of 62,000 menstrual products being delivered to the Rhode Island Food Bank.

“These items will be distributed through our network of about 158 member agencies across the state, which includes food pantries, meal sites, shelters and of course women’s shelters,” said Lisa Roth Blackman, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Rhode Island Food Bank.

“Here at the Food Bank, we know that many children and adults lack regular access to healthy, nutritious food. Without those meals they may miss out on many activities that we all take for granted. The same is true of menstrual products. Without them, young girls miss school and women miss work.”

CLUW had the help of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Teamsters Local 251NEARIUFCWIBEW, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and others in their efforts.

“We understood that there were women who didn’t go to work because even women who have jobs, who are low wage workers, cannot afford the products they need if it comes upon you suddenly,” said Maureen Martin, President of CLUW and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.

Music video: "Just Impeach Him"

Watch this video on YouTube:


Pic of the Moment

We can recycle more if we just follow the rules

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

The rules to recycling in Rhode Island are simple and help keep contamination to a minimum. (RIRRC)

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can recycle your electronic waste this Saturday, June 1, at the Charlestown Mini-Mart from 9 AM to 12 noon. We are lucky to have Charlestown-based Indie-cycle doing this with the Mini-Mart on a regular basis. CLICK HERE for Indie-Cycle's schedule for Charlestown and other towns across the state. And CLICK HERE for my article about Indie-Cycle.   -Will Collette.

The impacts of climate change in the form of water from frequent and heavy rains has found its way into curbside recycling bins, but that’s not the biggest threat to the materials’ marketability.

Another human activity — the inability to follow rules — is cause for greater concern. It’s hampering Rhode Island’s ability to get the most, both economically and environmentally, out of these collected materials.

The rules to recycling in Rhode Island are simple and straightforward, but because of polar-opposite actions — not giving a damn or caring too much — 17 percent to 20 percent of the state’s collected recyclables are contaminated and have to buried in the ever-crowding Central Landfill.

The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) manages the state’s waste and recycling streams. The state’s mixed recycling program accepts — either in curbside bins or at municipal transfer stations — four categories of materials:

Fiber: paper, cardboard, and cartons. Paper and cardboard should be mostly clean and dry — a little grease on a pizza box, for example, is fine — and be flattened. Cartons must be empty, and rinsed whenever possible. No shredded paper, napkins, tissues, or paper towels.

Metal: cans, lids, and foil. Containers must be empty, and rinsed whenever possible. Foil should be clean and bunched up. No other metals — i.e., frying pans, chains, or engine blocks — should be placed in a recycling cart.

Glass: bottles and jars. Containers must be empty, and rinsed whenever possible. Remove metal tops from glass bottles and jars and recycle separately. No other glass — i.e., drinking glasses, glass paperweights, glass windowpanes, or eye glasses — should be placed in a recycling bin.

Plastic: bottles, jugs, and containers, including flower pots. Containers must be empty, and rinsed whenever possible. Place plastic tops back on to containers prior to recycling. No other plastic — i.e., clothes hangers, hoses, or pipes — should be placed in a recycling bin. 

In fact, much of what is plastic isn’t recyclable under the mixed recycling program. 

Heavily processed foods cause overeating and weight gain, study finds

Small-scale trial is the first randomized, controlled research of its kind
NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Image result for trump and junk foodPeople eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet, according to results from a National Institutes of Health study. 

The difference occurred even though meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients. The results were published in Cell Metabolism.

The secret money behind the push to ban abortion

An index on the dark money behind the campaign to reverse Roe V. Wade

Image result for Judicial Crisis NetworkRank of Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court among the reasons there's a new push to ban abortion in state legislatures across the South and elsewhere: 1

In the fiscal year before it spearheaded Kavanaugh's confirmation, amount the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) — a secret-money 501(c)(4) "social welfare" nonprofit that promotes conservative judges — received in anonymous donations, according to a tax return recently obtained by campaign finance watchdogs: $22 million

Size of a single anonymous donation JCN got during the period between July 2017 and June 2018, when abortion rights-protecting Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned, opening the door to Kavanaugh, who was backed by anti-abortion groups: $17 million

Number of other anonymous donations JCN got that year, all of them at least six-figure: 9

JCN's spending in 2017 to support the confirmation of President Trump's other Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who has also shown hostility to the Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion: $10 million

Year in which Carrie Severino — a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and spouse of Catholic anti-abortion lawyer Roger Severino, who now runs the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights and opposes contraceptive access under the Affordable Care Act — took the helm of JCN: 2014

Among JCN's top funders, rank of the Wellspring Committee, a secretive nonprofit that serves as a conduit for anonymous contributions to conservative causes and is led by hard-line Opus Dei Catholic Ann Corkery and her husband, Neil Corkery, who has served as JCN's treasurer: 1
Amount Wellspring funneled to JCN between 2010 and 2018: more than $54.2 million

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Trump Wags The Dog at Iran

Looks like Trump needs a war to distract from his high crimes and misdemeanors
By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

Related imageHere we go.

In words that sound remarkably like the build-up to the war in Iraq, Pentagon officials were finishing plans for presentation to the White House this morning seeking a presidential decision to send up to 10,000 troops to the Middle East to stymie any ill plans, this time by Iran.

As widely reported in the news media, the plans were extremely fuzzy, as has the explanation for what exactly the need is, what has constituted provocation from Iran.

According to the Associated Press, the military will present plans for up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased equipment to monitor Iran. 

No decision has been made, and, of course, with as mercurial a president as Donald Trump, it is unclear whether any or all of the requests will be approved.

As recently as Tuesday, Trump said he did not want war with Iran. Then he told a rally that any provocation would be the “end” of Iran. You decide.


Trump tariffs are a national sales tax on US

Related image

What hummingbirds can teach us

Understanding Hummingbird Behaviour and Evolution
By Joseph Mathieu

nectar hummingbirds GIFHummingbirds are so fast they’re often not seen, only heard.

But observed in controlled environments, the birds that can weigh less than a nickel and turn on a dime have a lot to show.

Especially to Carleton University’s Roslyn Dakin, who wants to understand how hummingbirds evolved to solve their problems.
“I was always fascinated by evolution,” says Dakin.

“It just seemed like this mind-blowing thing that species could change and that we could understand that process.”

Dakin specializes in behavioural data and analyzing the movements of birds to understand how they control their movement. As she sets up her lab in Carleton’s Department of Biology, she will begin teaching the first-year course Biological Methods, Analysis and Interpretation this fall.

“I’m really excited to teach that to the next generation of biologists,” she says. “If it wasn’t for that foundation of quantitative skills, I wouldn’t be able to address the biological questions that I’m interested in.”

Why is McDonald’s collecting your personal data?

To know what you want before you do
Related image
Maybe they can get us his tax returns
The great thing about corporate giants is that they’re such amazing business innovators.

For example, in the category of “wheel-spinning” innovation — i.e., trying to change a corporation’s course without actually changing anything — it’s hard to top McDonald’s.

For several years, the fast-food chain has been losing customers to younger chains with healthier, more stylish offerings. So CEO Steve Easterbrook has tried to recoup the losses with PR tricks, such as calling the menu “healthy” and “fresh.”

Clean Water at Risk

Trump Administration again Ignores Science
Related imageWhen lawmakers passed the Clean Water Act of 1972, they agreed the federal government needed stronger regulations to protect the waterways that we rely on for drinking, fishing, recreation and supporting a healthy environment.

But our watersheds are more than just major rivers — there are wetlands, ponds and small streams, some of which only contain water part of the year. And it’s in these waterways that an ongoing, unseen conversation happens between surface and groundwater.

Exactly which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act has been a source of continued litigation. Scientists say keeping our drinking water clean means protecting this vast network, but special-interest groups like developers and farmers have fought for a narrower definition.

So the Obama administration went through a long scientific review and rulemaking process to clarify the issue. The result, known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule (or the Clean Water Rule), passed in 2015 and immediately faced opposition from farmers, industry groups and some states. Two years later it became a target of the Trump administration, which has been working to repeal and replace the rule to protect fewer waters.

We talked to Dr. Ellen Wohl, a professor of geosciences at Colorado State University and an expert in river systems, about what the Trump administration’s proposed rule change would mean for the health of our waterways.

Monday, May 27, 2019

More immigrants actually leads to LESS crime, not more

The report knocks down one of Trump's most popular xenophobic talking points.
A growth in the undocumented immigrant population is not associated with an increase in local crime, according to a new study from The Marshall Project. 

The findings directly contradict one of the president’s favorite talking points about immigrants and crime.

This study, which focuses squarely on undocumented immigrants, uses local crime rates published by the FBI and concluded that between 2007 and 2016, almost every type of crime had a flat line trend, suggesting that any increase in undocumented immigrants has had no effect on crime. Areas with higher rates of illegal immigration actually appeared to have a slight drop in the crime rate.

Studies on undocumented immigrants are relatively rare, in part because it’s hard to collect data on them. 

While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, the most recent available data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is from 2016 and puts the population roughly at 10.7 million, down a million and a half from 2007.

Let's hear it from a stable genius

Trump and Memorial Day


Repel invaders

Native plants regenerate on their own after invasive shrubs are removed
Cambridge University Press

Invasive shrubs have become increasingly prevalent in the deciduous forests of eastern North America -- often creating a dense understory that outcompetes native plants. 

Many land managers would like to remove the invaders, but worry about what happens afterwards. 

Will they need to launch a costly remediation program to reestablish native plant communities?

A study featured in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management provides important insights. Researchers manually removed 18 species of invasive shrubs from five plots in a mature, deciduous forest in the Eastern U.S. 

They cut the shrubs off at the base with hand clippers and treated foliage emerging from stumps and roots with herbicides. Any new seedlings were removed each spring.

Research shows homophobic talk increases bullying

Political controversies about marginalized groups increase bullying in youths
University of Texas at Austin

Image result for bullying and homophobiaScientists have uncovered new evidence that heated political discourse over proposed laws involving marginalized groups, such as debates about the rights of LGBT people, can contribute to an increase in bullying linked to students' identity in schools. It is the largest study to date to examine the link.

In a new study out Monday, in the journal Pediatrics, scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University and Texas State University found that in the run-up to a statewide voter referendum to ban gay marriage in California, young people reported significantly more homophobic bullying.

In fact, homophobic bullying peaked that school year and declined after the public debate about the initiative in question, Proposition 8, subsided.

“Made in America”….in China

Trump products are not role models for “Made in America”
Image result for Patriot PuckWhat’s the matter with Donald and The Trumpeteers? Why won’t they stand up for the American workers and business owners who make their products right here in the United States?

Oh, yeah, I know they talk a good game. Trump himself even issued a bold, star-spangled executive order promoting the purchase of “American-made goods” produced by American labor.

We consumers respond positively to that pitch, generally preferring to buy everything from mattresses to hockey pucks that are manufactured here at home.

For example, take Patriot Puck. 

What’s not to like about this corporation, which literally wraps its hockey pucks in American flag packaging and proudly advertises that they are “the only American-made hockey puck”?

Well, sadly, one thing not to like is that the puck-seller’s pitch was a lie. Its product actually turned out to be made in China. Such a deceptive sales scam is not just unethical — it’s a federal crime.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Rethinking the POW-MIA flag

Instead of nursing resentments over wars past, let's take care of our veterans today.
Related imageYou’ve probably seen that black and white POW/MIA flag flying somewhere nearby. The stark banner, dedicated to American prisoners of war and those missing in action, is especially ubiquitous around Memorial Day.

If a new bipartisan bill passes, you may see it more often, year-round.

The bill — backed by Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Kyrsten Sinema and Republicans John Thune and Tom Cotton — would require prominent federal properties to fly that flag all year, as opposed to on specific holidays. 

With its stark image of a war prisoner and the words “you are not forgotten,” it would become the only permanent fixture alongside Old Glory.

I’m a veteran myself. If people choose to fly the POW/MIA flag on private property, that’s their right. However, the controversial history of that flag ought to make us question whether it should be displayed on federal and state properties.

Who decides?

Progressive comic about abortion and impeachment.

How to prevent thousands of deaths: Don't report them

Pic of the Moment

Here are some new ways to lose all your money

How cryptocurrency scams work
Nir Kshetri, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

Image result for cryptocurrency scamsMillions of cryptocurrency investors have been scammed out of massive sums of real money. In 2018, losses from cryptocurrency-related crimes amounted to US$1.7 billion.

The criminals use both old-fashioned and new-technology tactics to swindle their marks in schemes based on digital currencies exchanged through online databases called blockchains.

From researching blockchain, cryptocurrency and cybercrime, I can see that some cryptocurrency fraudsters rely on tried-and-true Ponzi schemes that use income from new participants to pay out returns to earlier investors.

Others use highly automatized and sophisticated processes, including automated software that interacts with Telegram, an internet-based instant-messaging system popular among people interested in cryptocurrencies. Even when a cryptocurrency plan is legitimate, fraudsters can still manipulate its price in the marketplace.

An even more basic question arises, though: How are unsuspecting investors attracted to cryptocurrency frauds in the first place?

Generic drug makers sued for price-fixing

The Other Collusion
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

Image result for generic drug price fixingThe Trump crowd may have escaped prosecution on charges of colluding with the Russians, but another case involving collusion is moving full steam ahead. 

Attorneys general from 43 states and Puerto Rico are pursuing a blockbuster lawsuit against the generic drug industry on charges of conspiring to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition and unreasonably restrain trade for more than 100 different products.

Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, the coalition claims to have extensive evidence in the form of emails, text messages, telephone records, and statements from former company insiders documenting that 20 companies such as Teva, Sandoz and Mylan engaged in a “broad, coordinated and systematic campaign” to conspire with each other to generate prices increases that in some instances exceeded 1,000 percent.

The case, which could result in a multi-billion-dollar settlement, is a reminder that price-fixing, one of the oldest forms of corporate crime, remains a live issue. 

Department Of Education Agenda: Make room for the Holy Ghost

Amid Budget Cuts, DeVos Supports Christian Bible Classes in Public Schools
By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

Image result for nun teaching classThe Trump administration has proposed a 12% cut in Department of Education spending under its yearly budget. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is busily eliminating programs to help public schools and promoting private education efforts under the motto of choice. 

Yet somehow, magically, there is support for the growth of teaching Christian Bible classes in public schools.

Once again, we have an out-and-out statement about what is important in this administration—not school shootings, not affirmative efforts to improve public education, not help with student debt or even the pursuit of growing sexual assault on school campuses.

Counseling Today magazine argues, for example, that it has become necessary to lobby seriously to keep federal money for school mental health.

The Trump administration’s federal budget proposal cut $8.5 billion from the Department of Education, including the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. That program supported, among other things, mental health, school security and safety, community engagement—the kind of programs that would address the issues we hear after every school shooting.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

America needs a long term care program for seniors

A state model worth examining

Related imageBy 2035, seniors are projected to outnumber children in the U.S. population.

Maybe then we’ll look back and credit Washington state activists for being on the forefront of tackling America’s elder care crisis. 

On May 13, the state became the first in the nation to adopt a social insurance program for long-term care benefits.

“This is a huge victory for organizing and people power, for care and caregiving, and for older adults and people with disabilities,” said Josephine Kalipeni of Caring Across Generations, one of more than 20 groups that formed Washingtonians for a Responsible Future to push the path-breaking legislation.

Nationally, our long-term care financing system is broken. Medicare doesn’t currently cover home care or nursing facility care, while Medicaid coverage varies widely by state. To qualify, you have to meet poverty criteria, which requires people to spend down nearly all of their savings before getting coverage.

So what do people do?