Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sarah Palin's Paranoid Death Panel Digest

How does the NHS compare to US healthcare?

As Barack Obama fights to change the system, we asked - when it comes to treatment - is US healthcare any worse than the NHS? See how they compare to other countries, too

US healthcare protestThe NHS has become the butt of increasingly outlandish political attacks in the US as Republicans and conservative campaigners rail against Britain's "socialist" system as part of a tussle to defeat Barack Obama's proposals for broader government involvement in healthcare.

But how does the US compare? We've looked at some key indicators on healthcare, from countries in the G8 - plus Cuba and China, thanks to the World Health Organisation.

Take a look and let us know what you can do with them.

DATA: download the full data on healthcare as a spreadsheet

How the NHS compares

Per capita spending on health ($)
Doctors per 10,000 pop
Nurses and midwives per 10,000 pop
Hospital beds per 10,000 pop
Life expect. at birth
United States 6719 26 94 31 78
United Kingdom 2815 23 128 39 80
Russian Federation 698 43 85 97 66
Japan 2581 21 95 140 83
Italy 2631 37 72 39 82
Germany 3465 34 80 83 80
France 3420 34 80 73 81
Cuba 674 59 74 49 78
China 216 14 10 22 74
Canada 3673 19 101 34

Sorry I'm late

Putting Puppies Behind Bars? (No, It's A Good Thing!)

Of all the unlikely names for a nonprofit group, there may be none unlikelier than Puppies Behind Bars. But it's not what you might think.

The program teams puppies up with prison inmates — who live with and train the puppies to become bomb-sniffing dogs, or service dogs for wounded vets.

The program began at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 1997. Now Puppies Behind Bars is working in six correctional facilities, and nearly 500 dogs have been trained in the program.

Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the nonprofit's founder and president, joins Fresh Air guest host Dave Davies for a conversation about Puppies Behind Bars and the people it serves.

Among them are Nora Moran, a former inmate who was part of the program; after she was released in January 2008, she took a job with Puppies Behind Bars.

Also joining the conversation is former Marine Cpl. Paul Bang-Knudsen. He was awarded a Purple Heart after an ambush in Iraq; he suffered multiple gunshot and shrapnel injuries and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

His dog, Samba — one of the first 10 dogs to graduate from the veterans companion animal program at Puppies Behind Bars — helps him get through the day, making him feel safe and alerting him to any potential surprises.

Marijuana, gateway drug to Jesus

Does pot lead to total enlightenment? Rehab? Scientology? Let's find out!

Behold! I believe I have found it, a flawless specimen, a place where it all collides and coheres and comes together in a madcap, slapdash, whirlwind hellstorm of entirely bogus hype and spin and half-truths, intermixed with hope and despair and Jesus and not just a little methadone, all of it so wonderful and confusing it makes you want to shut it all down, run a hot bath, light up a joint and chill the hell out.

It's all here. I even took a screenshot of it, just to show you. Two, actually. I'll link to them in a moment, because I really, really want you to see The Whole Truth, in all Its Profound Glory. Ready?

The first comes in the form a big study from the University of Pittsburgh, 12 years in the making, that valiantly attempts to answer, with some reasonable authority, the question that's already been answered pretty definitively by 500 million pot smokers throughout world history and also by every ounce of common sense in every commonsensical human alive today, but who cares about that now?

Here's the big question:

Is marijuana a gateway drug to harder, more dangerous 'n' deadly substances later in life? Did a bunch of kids who smoked pot in their teens go on to become addicts and criminals and Libertarians? Did they ruin their lives via meth and coke and sundry other delicious demons in anything resembling dangerous or enlightening percentages, enough that we could finally declare, once and for all, that pot really does lead to destruction and not, as so widely presumed, merely to kinkier sex and fits of uncontrollable laughter and the consumption of rather nauseating food combinations you would never entertain otherwise?

You already know the answer. Marijuana, it turns out for the billionth time, is not a gateway drug at all. Not even a little. Which is not to say excessive pot use throughout one's life is not a gateway to becoming, say, a bit of a slothful 'n' lumpish fan of unwashed dreadlocks and reggae festivals and bad pizza. But that's a different study.

GOOD: A Call for Entries!

New vaccine could save bees from colony collapse disorder

by Nitsana Bellehsen

Keeping our bee communities safe: Israeli company Beeologics may have the cure to the devastating disorder threatening bee populations worldwide. Photo by Nati Shohat / Flash 90.

An Israeli company has developed a revolutionary new drug that could solve the problem of Colony Collapse Disorder, the disturbing syndrome that has been wiping out bee communities and threatening agricultural production all over the world.

The drug, Remembee, which was developed by Beeologics, has completed successful clinical trials on millions of bees in North America. Not only has it proved effective in maintaining bee health, but it also improved the longevity of bees and increased the honey in the hives.

Based on Nobel prize-winning RNAI technology, Remembee helps the bees overcome IAVP virus, also discovered in Israel, which has been associated with colony collapse in scientific literature.

"It's really a tug of war between the virus and the host. We are helping the bee tug the rope more strongly and beat the virus. We take advantage of an immune system that the bees elicit for viral disease. But we are really using naturally occurring phenomenon. It's not a pesticide and it's not toxic," says Nitzan Paldi, CTO of Beeologics.

The US Department of Agriculture has been accompanying Beeologics with its FDA certification process due to the urgency of the need for the drug.

Tourism is alive and well in North Korea!

by Jane Stillwater

     Apparently North Korea, while not exactly having been the media darling of the U.S. press lately, is still encouraging tourism this year.  I just got an e-mail from my friend Hwa-young saying that she is offering several tours this September.  Hwa-young was the tour guide for the group that I went to the DPRK with last year and it was an amazing trip!  I recommend it highly.  If you liked the opening ceremonies to the Beijing Olympics, you will LOVE the Pyongyang Mass Games!  Here's the itinerary:


Tourist testimonies repeatedly rate North Korea as one of the must-see highlights of world travel. It is the optimal cultural tour.  The Tour includes 2 nights/3 days in Beijing and 4 nights/5 days in DPRK.

The schedule is as follows:

1st day (Sundays):  Transportation from the Beijing airport to a 4 star hotel is provided.
2nd day (Mondays):  Tour of Beijing, China– Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and He Yuan [Imperial Palace]

3rd day(Tuesdays):  JS152 Flight Beijing - Pyongyang 11:30 departure, 14:25 arrival. Visit Arch of Triumph en-route to Mt. Myohyang – hike in the mountain.  Stay overnight at Hyangsan International Hotel (4 star) at the mountain.

4th day (Wednesdays): Visit International Friendship Exhibition Hall, Byohyon Temple.  Travel to Pyongyang to visit the Tower of Juche Idea, stone tower with lookout platform at the top and great views of the city, War Museum, ride the Pyongyang Metro with the locals, Mangyongdae School Children's Palace–see performance by the children.  Shopping at Stores.  Stay overnight at the Yanggakdo International Hotel (4 star).  [They gots a golf course, a bowling alley and a casino!]

5th day (Thursdays):  Grand Monument on Mansu Hill, Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, Kim Chaek Technical University, West Sea Barrage, stay overnight at the Ryonggang Hotel (with natural hot spring spa).

6th day (Fridays):  Visit Kaesong, DMZ, Koryo Museum, Tomb of King Wang Gwon, Pueblo, Arirang Mass Games.  Stay overnight Yanggakdo International Hotel.

7th day (Saturdays): JS151 flight Pyongyang-Beijing -- 08:55 departure 09:40 arrival.

What are the Mass Games?
Over 100,000 performers, ranging from kindergartners to professional artists taking part in a gymnastic and artistic spectacle.  Theme this year: Self determination, Peace and Friendship.  This is a rare opportunity for a truly extraordinary experience.

     If you are interested, e-mail your name, sex, passport number, occupation and position, your home address, phone number to for DPRK visa process by above deadline dates.  If you have any questions please contact:  Hwa-young (Michelle) Lee

The official seal of the GOP

Flying Is Getting More Personal

Secure Flight begins phasing in Aug. 15

Get ready to get personal with your travel agent, or from whomever you buy you airline tickets.

A change, which is rolling out airline-by-airline but which officially begins to phase in this weekend on Aug. 15, will require that you hand over to the federal government more personal data than ever before in order to reserve a seat on a domestic flight. The overhauled Transportation Security Administration program is required by law, but many consumers haven't heard much about it.

"It's still kinda a surprise and they (customers) will say we haven't heard much about this," said Schaumburg travel agent Sharon Peterson. "We have to ask for birthdates and that has been a little delicate for most of us but we have to tell them the reasoning behind it."

That reasoning is a new TSA program called "Secure Flight," which transfers the responsibility of pre-screening passengers from the airlines to the TSA. Secure Flight requires that airlines get your birthdate and gender so you can be prescreened against a government watch list.

"If consumers do not include this information, they may face delays at the airport, and our goal is to communicate and educate our customers across the board that this day is coming and they are going to have to add this additional information," said Orbitz Vice-President of Governmental Affairs Brian Hoyt.

A major goal of the program is to prevent mismatches like that kind that happened to a Burr Ridge teen last year at the Miami International Airport.

Omar Jano and his mother Martha said that the TSA's mistaken detention of Omar last year -- because his name resembled one on the watch list -- terrified their family. And Jano is not alone. Mistaken detentions have played out thousands of times; most famously perhaps with Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. He has been detained six times because his name is close to a suspected terrorist's alias.

Not everyone's convinced that Secure Flight will improve the screening process.

Judge Rules DVD-Copying Software Is Illegal

By David Kravets
picture-20SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge ruled here late Tuesday that it was unlawful to traffic in goods to copy DVDs.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's ruling came in a decision in which she declared RealNetworks' DVD copying software was illegal. She barred it from being distributed.

Patel said the RealDVD software violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 that prohibits the circumvention of encryption technology. DVDs are encrypted with what is known as the Content Scramble System, and DVD players must secure a license to play discs. RealDVD, she ruled, circumvents technology designed to prevent copying.

But the decision, although mixed, left open the door that copying DVD's for personal use "may well be" lawful under the fair use doctrine of the Copyright Act, although trafficking in such goods was illegal.

"Because RealDVD makes a permanent copy of copyrighted DVD content, there is no exemption from DMCA liability, statutory or otherwise, that applies here. Whatever application the fair use doctrine may have for individual consumers making backup copies of their own DVDs, it does not portend to save Real from liability under the DMCA in this action," Patel wrote (.pdf) in a lawsuit brought by Hollywood.

However, she stopped short of sanctioning personal use copies, and gave a conflicting message on whether it was legal. "So while it may well be fair use for an individual consumer to store a backup copy of a personally owned DVD on that individual's computer, a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies," Patel said. She added, "fair use can never be an affirmative defense to the act of gaining unauthorized access" — a simple way of saying it was illegal to hack into the encryption to make a copy.

"These seem to be contradicting points," said Fred von Lohmann, a copyright attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group based in San Francisco.



Cracks Emerging In NAFTA

By Shamus Cooke

The once-solid North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) is starting to show its age. The 1994 trade agreement that laid the foundation for the economic/political integration of North America is encountering serious internal ruptures, threatening future "progress."

The problems are numerous: fights over trade, immigration, and military cooperation are all issues that Obama recently discussed in Mexico with his NAFTA partners, Mexico and Canada. The annual meeting that usually delivers plans for additional integration was instead used to remedy these heated issues, none of which were fully solved.

Both Mexico and Canada are angry with the U.S. for the "buy American" provision in Obama's stimulus bill, which they label correctly as "protectionist." The bill is explicit that many of the raw materials used in construction projects must be bought from U.S. corporations only, in violation of NAFTA. Mexico soon retaliated with taxes (tariffs) on dozens of U.S. goods entering Mexico, a spat that was hoped to have been solved with Obama's visit.

Other conflicts involve immigration — between all three countries — and the transportation of goods.

Although NAFTA was written with U.S. corporations first in mind, many of them have been out-competed by companies in Canada or Mexico. It was these U.S. corporations that pressured Obama into promising to "re-negotiate" NAFTA.

A danger for U.S. workers, however, is to think that any re-negotiation of NAFTA is intended to help them. Some "fair trade" and anti-free-trade groups — many with connections to labor unions — used Obama's promise to re-negotiate NAFTA as proof that he should be supported. Since being elected, EVERY significant policy implemented under Obama has been anti-worker — bank bailouts, wars, killing EFCA, etc. The issue of "trade" will not be a progressive exception.

This is because being "against free-trade" is not automatically progressive. The many U.S. corporations that hope to re-negotiate NAFTA to shut-out foreign competitors should not be admired for their actions. They are for the opposite of free-trade, protectionism, and instead of looking for low wages and poor working conditions abroad, seek to further implement them in the U.S.

Carbon-eating "green" cement wins funds for UK firm


By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - A British start-up company developing a cement that absorbs carbon dioxide has raised 1 million pounds ($1.7 million) to fund its work, underscoring the growing interest in eco-friendly construction ventures.

Novacem, a spin-out from Imperial College London, is one of a number of young companies tapping new technologies to reduce the cement industry's notoriously large carbon footprint.

With an annual production of more than 2.5 billion tons, conventional Portland cement is responsible for an estimated 5 percent of global CO2 emissions, more than the airline industry.

Novacem believes its "carbon-negative" cement answers the problem because it absorbs more carbon dioxide over its life cycle than it emits.

The trick is to make cement from magnesium silicates rather than calcium carbonate, or limestone, since this material does not emit CO2 in manufacture and absorbs the greenhouse gas as it ages.