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Archive for January, 2007

Wednesday, January 31st 2007

Nigeria's First Bird Flu Death

The title says it. A 22 year old woman from Lagos has died from H5N1 in Nigeria.

That brings the death total from avian flu to 164.

Wednesday, January 31st 2007

Aren't We On The Same Team?

The Governator Was In The Hospital To Get His Horn Transplanted…

California GOP legislators have submitted a counter proposal to Schwarzenegger’s health plan.

Schwarzenegger’s plan would…expand government spending, but he would mandate that all but the smallest employers provide coverage or pay into a state pool that would offer subsidized policies.

The governor’s plan would also impose a tax on the profits of hospitals and doctors in exchange for higher reimbursements on state-funded services.

Obviously that second paragraph has caused some concern for health care providers. Of course the Republican (or the true Republican) plan has little chance of gaining any traction in a state dominated by Dems. However, the article raises some hopeful news about the proposed provider tax,

While the plan is not likely to gain much traction in the Democratically controlled Legislature, minority leaders made it clear they will not support a new tax to pay for more health care — a critical position because Republican votes would be needed to achieve the two-thirds majority for passage of a tax.

“We do not believe we need one,” said Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks (Sacramento County). “I can’t imagine we would be voting for it.”

While I have endorsed pay-or-play mandates as a part of any compromise health care reform, how can any physician or physician in training endorse a provider tax?

One of the greatest concerns about health care in this country should be the death of primary care, which is largely tied to reimbursement issues. PCPs have some of the highest overhead-to-earning ratios and since the tax would be on gross practice revenues this would be a terrible thing for the earning power of primary care (which, as said, is already in semi-bad shape).

Wednesday, January 31st 2007

Chinese Harvesting Organs…Still

Well, my last impression was they were going to try to cut down on this (also see: this post). However, a report from a former Canadian official says the military is harvesting organs for sale from LIVE PRISONERS (not just the ones who are executed).

[The] report, released today, includes interviews with organ recipients in 30 countries and Canadian hospital staff who cared for more than 100 patients who had undergone suspicious transplant surgeries in China.

“The involvement of the People’s Liberation Army in these transplants is widespread,” Mr Kilgour said at a press conference.

Like many civilian hospitals in rural China, military hospitals turned to selling organs to make up for government funding cuts in the 1980s, the report said.

But military personnel could operate with much more secrecy, it said.

“Recipients often tell us that even when they receive transplants at civilian hospitals, those conducting the operation are military personnel,” the report said


Wednesday, January 31st 2007

Bush's Health Care Plan

Managed Care Matters doesn’t like Bush’s health plan.

Insurance companies work very hard to not cover anyone with a current or past health care condition that may at some point in the future lead to claims. They are not purposely being bad; if they cover everyone their competitors won’t, they will soon find themselves bankrupt. Moreover, the individual insurance companies are “insurance” companies – and insurance is the spreading of unforeseen risks among a large number of policyholders.

Anyone with a pre-existing condition does not belong in a pool of those with no pre-ex conditions.

But they still need health care and a mechanism to fairly pay for same.

And therein lies the problem with Bush health care. His plan seeks to use the insurance markets and tax policy to reduce the number of uninsureds, who will use tax credits to fund their new insurance plans.

Except no one will sell them a plan if they have a pre-existing condition.

Earlier Mr. Paduda called it,

Bush’s plan relies on the incredibly screwed up individual health insurance market. You know, the market that won’t cover your eyes if you had pink eye, or your ankles if you sprained one a few years back, or your heart if you take Lipitor. I’m not blaming the insurance companies; they operate in the Alice-in-Wonderland system as best they can. And if they start acting altruistically they go bust.

If there isn’t supply, creating demand won’t solve the problem. And if there is supply, it has to be at a price level that consumers can afford.

Hard to argue with this. However, I think it is a matter of what the expectations for the plan were. This isn’t a universal coverage plan and I’m not sure how it can hurt (although that might be my lack of understanding).

Wednesday, January 31st 2007

The City of "Lights"?

The IPCC report to be released soon, which I’ve shaken my head at, will prompt the Eiffel Tower to turn off its lights for five minutes the day the report will be released.

The Eiffel Tower is to turn its famous night-time illuminations off for five minutes on Thursday to help draw attention to energy consumption and the environment on the eve of the release of a U.N. report on climate change.

The IPCC report is basically a giant literature review. Yet somehow it prompted those who collaborated on it to conclude that it was 99% likely (God knows how they came up with that figure) that man made fossil fuels were the cause of Global Warming. In one light perhaps that speaks to the strength of the evidence. In another, quantifying the odds that man is causing Global Warming, so specifically seems ridiculous.

As I’ve made clear though, that isn’t my point of contention. My point of contention is the confidence they present in their models on the consequences of Global Warming. Would you really care that the earth is heating up if the consequences weren’t going to be tragic? Of course not.

We need to judge the level of accuracy with which these models are being presented to the public and whether the level of freak out going on is really in line with the level of certainty that the experts can speak to what is going to happen.

But apparently criticism for the level of alarm being presented (considering there is no all inclusive GCM which can even get what happened in the past all right) isn’t what is in question. Apparently the level of freak out has been actually suppressed (scary to think what is could be) by the Bush administration.

“High-quality science [is] struggling to get out,” Francesca Grifo, of the watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists, told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. A UCS survey found that 150 climate scientists personally experienced political interference in the past five years in a total of at least 435 incidents.

“Nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’ or other similar terms from a variety of communications,” Grifo said.

Rick Piltz, a former US government scientist, told the committee that former White House official Phil Cooney took an active role in casting doubt on the consequences of global climate change. Piltz said he resigned in 2005 as a result of pressure to soft-pedal findings on global warming.

Tuesday, January 30th 2007

O.J. Mayo Was Set Up

…as much as it is easy (and fun…don’t forget fun) to make fun of the state of West Virginia, I’ll refrain from passing undue judgment on the referee in the following video.

In case you don’t know, O.J. Mayo is perhaps the nation’s most highly touted high school basketball player. Stunningly, he has committed to the University of Southern California. We’re talking, perhaps Top 10 team in just a year. It goes without saying O.J. will only play for one year before scooting for the NBA. Despite that, Mayo had USC fans (myself included) excited about basketball.

In anycase, the kid is a true talent and from all scouting and words written unselfish with the ball and just a general team player. In the media he has been known to have somewhat of a mouth, but as far as I know he’s never been in trouble with the law or authority and he certainly doesn’t have a selfish attitude on the basketball court.

O.J. made national headlines when he got ejected from a game and appeared to knock over a referee.

But forget all that. Try to watch this video without knowing anything about Mayo except that the team he is playing is his high school’s archrival.

Those Are Sketchy Calls

I wasn’t there. I’m not a ref. But we need to realize that this is West Virginia high school basketball. We’re not talking NBA ref skills (or scruples) here. Indeed, this is what referee Mike Lazo had to do to become a ref.

I have two points. While it certainly doesn’t look like Mayo was taunting the opposition before the first technical, we obviously cannot know that for sure from the video. What I will call ridiculous though is that the ref with the best view and closest to the alleged taunting wasn’t even the one who called the technical.

And it is a giant mystery (besides it being a flopping act as bad as Manu or him tripping over his own feet), how Mike Lazo managed to fall down.

I’m convinced from this video this was a set up. I wouldn’t even fault Mayo for bad choices. Seriously, to fault him for, say, not staying far enough away from the ref? I’m as mild mannered as they come and there’s nothing there I could’ve chastised myself for when I played HS basketball.

I can also dunk just like that.

[True Hoops on the setup]
[FoxSports incident story]

H/T Trojanwire

Tuesday, January 30th 2007

The Camera…

…that helped capture what I have been convinced is the most important image ever recorded has shut down.

The newest and most heavily used camera on the Hubble Space Telescope shut down over the weekend and appears to be permanently damaged, NASA said Monday.

Though other cameras on Hubble remain operative, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is used to peer back to the earliest and most remote galaxies in the universe, appears to be irreparable…

The newest and most heavily used camera on the Hubble Space Telescope shut down over the weekend and appears to be permanently damaged, NASA said Monday.

Though other cameras on Hubble remain operative, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is used to peer back to the earliest and most remote galaxies in the universe, appears to be irreparable

I’ve posted on this before but I believe, as many have claimed, that the Deep Field images (especially the Ultra Deep Field) taken by Hubble (and specifically the ACS) are the most telling images ever.

This Image Has 10,000 Galaxies In It

The Deep Fields were the furthest any human had ever looked into the universe’s past in the visible spectrum. Some of the light from galaxies in the image above (and even those little specks that might just be scratches are galaxies representing millions of stars) is from just 700 – 800 million years after the Big Bang. Far, far before the sun or earth even existed.

That is amazing in and of itself. However, what makes the Ultra Deep Field image the most important/amazing image ever is what it tells us about our place in the universe.

As mentioned, there are more than 10,000 galaxies in that picture above. But this image isn’t a sweeping survey of the universe. Far from it, as NASA says,

Looking into the Ultra Deep Field is like peering through an eight-foot-long soda straw.

The Hubble telescope was peering into a tiny portion of space. Now, the light from these galaxies obviously isn’t visible to the naked eye. Indeed, the vast majority of these galaxies aren’t even observable in the visible spectrum with ground based telescopes. However, consider that if these galaxies were visible you could go outside, look up into the night sky, hold a tennis ball at arm’s length and probably obscure all of them from your view.

10,000 galaxies. Perhaps trillions of stars. All in a relatively teeny tiny section of the universe.

I’ve Posted This Video Before, But Watch It Again

The observable universe contains an estimated 80 billion galaxies. But no matter how big the galaxy is (and even the current thought based on this paper has its major critics) we clearly cannot observe all (perhaps even most of it). Indeed, imagine what it says for our place if the universe is infinite.

But 80 billion, infinite, 78 billion light years (as a radius). They’re numbers. They’re nothing. When you read them they allow your mind to no more grasp the TRUE size than if you read pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism.

If the Ultra Deep Field does anything it is to put the size of the universe in slightly more visual terms.

Unfortunately the camera responsible for the majority of the Ultra Deep Field has cronked out. Get a visible light camera of similiar power and capabilities up and working NASA!!

Tuesday, January 30th 2007

Grand Rounds Is A Burden…

…on your server that is.

Envision 2.0 is running slow as I write this. Perhaps because all of the Grand Round link backs. In anycase, it is a very interesting topic this week: health care consumerism.

Tuesday, January 30th 2007

TV Drug Ads Tug At The Heart

Hmmm…yes, this is all pharm’s problem that this is what works. It says nothing about the actual viewers.

“Ninety five percent of the ads are using positive emotional appeals — people looking happy after taking the drugs,” Frosch says. The commercials, he says, present “a very black and white portrait of the benefits of prescription drugs — ‘Take this drug and everything is going to be back in order.’”

For instance, one commercial pitching Valtrex for genital herpesherpes shows a young woman first saying, “Living with genital herpes can be a hassle.” After taking the drug, the final scene shows her kissing a partner in the surf, with Rio de Janeiro in the background.

“Lifestyle changes are sometimes mentioned as an adjunct [to taking the drug],” Frosch says, when in some cases changing behavior — such as exercising more to reduce high cholesterol — might actually prevent the need for the medication.

But they found that no commercials mentioned lifestyle change as an alternative to the medication.

Tuesday, January 30th 2007

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

I missed this week’s Public Domain Film Festival addition. Truly it was because I had an exam today. But we’ll pretend that I was simply too embarrassed.

This week’s public domain film festival movie is the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers movie.