Friday, August 28, 2009

Statue of U.S. Health Insurance

Barack Obama on brink of deal for Middle East peace talks

by Ewen MacAskill

• US to adopt much tougher line over Iran's nuclear ambitions
• Israel to freeze construction of settlements on West Bank
• France and Russia offer to host Middle East peace conference

Palestinians walk through a door in a section of the barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank
Palestinians walk through a door in a section of the barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: "The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not."

Details of the breakthrough deal will be hammered out tomorrow in London, where the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is due to hold talks with the US special envoy, George Mitchell. Netanyahu met Gordon Brown today in Downing Street, where the two discussed both settlements and the Iranian nuclear programme.

Although the negotiations are being held in private, they have reached such an advanced stage that both France and Russia have approached the US offering to host a peace conference.

Obama has pencilled in the announcement of his breakthrough for either a meeting of world leaders at the UN general assembly in New York in the week beginning 23 September or the G20 summit in Pittsburgh on 24-25 September.

The media can't handle the truth

Media sheep facing truth-hungry Internet wolves

By Gene Lyons
NewsSo yet another Bush administration Cabinet-level official has petitioned to get his conscience and reputation back. This time, it's Tom Ridge, former secretary of Homeland Security. The one-time Pennsylvania governor admits in a new book that he felt political pressure from the White House to issue bogus terror alerts before the 2004 presidential election.
Big surprise, right? By 2004, anybody who didn't grasp that crying wolf was the Bush/Cheney administration's basic game plan was probably also astonished last January when the "Texas cowboy" who's never been seen on a horse chose a Dallas mansion over his beloved ranch. Golly, who's doing all that brush-cutting?

Indeed, the most fascinating aspect of the Ridge revelations has been a flame war that's broken out between establishment Washington pundits and less-reverent bloggers. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder started it by observing in smug inside-the-Beltway fashion that he and like-minded colleagues were actually right to be wrong about fake terror warnings.

People who smelled a rat, see, "based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence." Whereas, sober-sided thinkers like him credited the Bush administration's good intentions.

Confronted with ample contemporaneous evidence of Bush administration flimflams by Salon's Glenn Greenwald and the scholarly Marcy Wheeler of, Ambinder apologized for the "gut hatred" part. But he alibied: "Information asymmetry is always going to exist, and, living as we do in a democratic system, most journalists are going to give the government the benefit of some doubt, even having learned lessons about giving the government that benefit."

Yeah, sure. Purely with regard to terrorism and national security, by 2004, Bush/Cheney had already gotten caught deceiving the public about having "no warning" before the 9/11 attacks, not to mention about Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. If skepticism was still inappropriate, would it ever be warranted?

Yet people who found the timing of terror alerts suspect, such as then-Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, were dismissed as crackpots.

Very murky waters indeed


return.jpgNow that the dust has settled, only somewhat and perhaps only for now, over the return of the Lockerbie bomber, we can see some things with a little more clarity -- but much remains murky in the extreme.

For a start, despite the speculation, nobody has produced clinching evidence to show the British government did a backstairs' deal with Colonel Gaddafi for the bomber's return. On the other hand, it is now quite clear that London was anxious to normalise relations with Tripoli as quickly and as best it could -- and that Gaddafi had made it clear that could not happen unless the bomber was sent back.

As a result, attention has moved away from the Scottish government's decision to free the bomber on controversial "compassionate" grounds to London and the role the British government might have played in facilitating the Lockerbie bomber's release. And here we enter very murky waters indeed.

Official and unofficial British government contacts with Libya have been extensive. Last night we learned that three government ministers have made trips to Tripoli in the last 15 months: the then trade minister Digby Jones (May 2008), Health minister Dawn Primarolo (November 2008) and Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell (February 2009).

We do not know what was said in any of these Tripoli talks. But remember this: Saif Gaddifi, the Libyan dictator's favourite son and a key figure in the bomber's release, has averred that "in all commercial contracts for oil and gas with Britain, Megrahi [the now-released bomber] was always on the table." So it's reasonable to assume the ministers had their ears bent.

But not them alone. In recent years two British prime ministers, a Russian oligarch, the scion of a European banking dynasty, a Prince of the Realm, a leader of Big Oil and our very own "Prince of Darkness" (aka Business Secretary Peter Mandelson) have all had walk-on parts, if not more, in events that preceded the release of the Lockerbie bomber. It's a cast of characters that would do justice to a Bond film.

At the centre of this possible web of intrigue is Saif, the shaven-headed, London School of Economics-educated son of the Libyan dictator. Turns out he is a good friend of Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminium baron, and Nat Rothschild, of the eponymous banking dynasty.

Saif invited both to his 37th birthday party in June in Becici in Montenegro, into which Deripaska and Rothschild have poured around $1 billion to create a sort of St Tropez in the Balkans. Saif is also pumping Libyan money into Montenegro from his country's vast investment fund, reason enough for Rothschild last year to host a party in his honour in New York.

Thumbnail image for mandelson.jpgWhat's all this got to do with the Lockerbie bomber? Well consider this. Peter Mandelson's love of holidaying with the rich and famous in exotic places took him to Corfu this month for the second year in a row. Last August he visited Rothschild in his $60m Corfu estate and stayed on Deripaska's luxury yacht. This August he stayed at the Rothschild villa - and met Saif Gaddafi.

Mandelson claims the meeting was only "fleeting" but officials admit they did discuss the Lockerbie case. A week later it became public that the bomber might be released on "compassionate" grounds though, of course, there may be no connection. It was then revealed that Mandelson had previously met Saif at a reception in London in May.

The Business Secretary maintains that any suggestion that a deal was being cooked up is not just wrong but "offensive", which we should accept at face value until facts suggest otherwise.

But we have it from Saif's own mouth that there could be no real progress in British-Libyan business co-operation unless the matter of the Lockerbie bomber was dealt with.

CIA Documents Provide Little Cover for Cheney Claims

Washington Independent 

Documents Fail to Exonerate 'Enhanced Interrogation' Techniques

By Spencer Ackerman

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (Associated Press) For months, former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that two documents prepared by the CIA, one from 2004 and the other from 2005, would refute critics of the Bush administration's torture program. He told Fox's Sean Hannity in April:

"I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country," Cheney said. "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."

Those documents were obtained today by The Washington Independent and are available here.  Strikingly, they provide little evidence for Cheney's claims that the "enhanced interrogation" program run by the CIA provided valuable information. In fact, throughout both documents, many passages — though several are incomplete and circumstantial, actually suggest the opposite of Cheney's contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA's interrogations.

Illustration by: Matt MahurinThe first document, issued by the CIA in July 2004 is about the interrogation of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and whom, the newly released CIA Inspector General report on torture details, had his children's lives threatened by an interrogator.  None of that abuse is referred to in the publicly released version of the July 2004 document. Instead, we learn from the July 2004 document that not only did the man known as "KSM" largely provide intelligence about "historical plots" pulled off from al-Qaeda, a fair amount of the knowledge he imparted to his interrogators came from his "rolodex" — that is, what intelligence experts call "pocket litter," or the telling documentation found on someone's person when captured. As well, traditional intelligence work appears to have done wonders — including a fair amount of blundering on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's part:

In response to questions about [al-Qaeda's] efforts to acquire [weapons of mass destruction], [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] revealed that he had met three individuals involved in [al-Qaeda's] program to produce anthrax. He appears to have calculated, incorrectly, that we had this information already, given that one of the three — Yazid Sufaat — had been in foreign custody for several months.

This is a far cry from torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into revealing such information. It would be tendentious to believe that the torture didn't have any impact on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — he himself said that he lied to interrogators in order to get the torture to stop — but the document itself doesn't attempt to present a case that the "enhanced interrogation" program was a factor, let alone the determinant factor, in the intelligence bounty the document says he provided.

Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess

by Gary Wolf
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

The Internet's great promise is to make the world's information universally accessible and useful. So how come when you arrive at the most popular dating site in the US you find a stream of anonymous come-ons intermixed with insults, ads for prostitutes, naked pictures, and obvious scams? In a design straight from the earliest days of the Web, miscellaneous posts compete for attention on page after page of blue links, undifferentiated by tags or ratings or even usernames. Millions of people apparently believe that love awaits here, but it is well hidden. Is this really the best we can do?

Odd perhaps, but no odder than what you see at the most popular job-search site: another wasteland of hypertext links, one line after another, without recommendations or networking features or even protection against duplicate postings. Subject to a highly unpredictable filtering system that produces daily outrage among people whose help-wanted ads have been removed without explanation, this site not only beats its competitors—Monster, CareerBuilder, Yahoo's HotJobs—but garners more traffic than all of them combined. Are our standards really so low?

But if you really want to see a mess, go visit the nation's greatest apartment-hunting site, the first likely choice of anybody searching for a rental or a roommate. On this site, contrary to every principle of usability and common sense, you can't easily browse pictures of the apartments for rent. Customer support? Visit the help desk if you enjoy being insulted. How much market share does this housing site have? In many cities, a huge percentage. It isn't worth trying to compare its traffic to competitors', because at this scale there are no competitors.

Each of these sites, of course, is merely one of the many sections of craigslist, which dominates the market in facilitating face-to-face transactions, whether people are connecting to buy and sell, give something away, rent an apartment, or have some sex. With more than 47 million unique users every month in the US alone—nearly a fifth of the nation's adult population—it is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down.

No Ordinary Fad
Making sense of the Beatles, whose music has been digitally re-mastered and featured in a new video game

Someone once noted that, other than Shakespeare, the Beatles may be Western culture's only instance of the best and the most popular being the same thing. It's not hard to imagine 500 years from now people questioning, as they have with Shakespeare's plays, how four young working-class guys with no training could have made so much music so varied and so consistently first-rate in less than a decade, evolving at a pace that would exhaust amoebas. It may take U2 five years to produce an album, but only 38 months (five albums, more than 70 songs) separated the Beatles' winningly naive "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the nuclear Debussy of "Strawberry Fields Forever," which sounded like nothing else in 20th-century pop before or after. Shakespeare didn't have a digital age to bear witness, but the reissue this month—for the first time since the mid-'80s—of the Beatles' work on CD not only verifies the scope of their accomplishment but snatches it from the noisy distractions of their mystique.

Two different audiences for the Beatles exist. For anyone much over 50 the Beatles' impact was so massive, it still feels immediate; that this music was made nearly half a century ago is an invitation to mortal terror. Those under 50 must groan at the mere mention of the band let alone the oppressive cast of its shadow. It doesn't hurt, then, to remember the messy beginning, acknowledging there does seem something slightly supernatural about it, particularly when you consider that in the early '60s, the post-World War II U.K. was crawling with such bands. The Beatles themselves existed in other incarnations early on, first as the Quarrymen, then the Moondogs, erratically numbering five or six who always included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. They were the bottom of the barrel. On the Liverpool circuit Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, the seaport's hottest drummer and coveted by the Beatles until they landed him for their first album, was the bigger star. Surrounding the band is a bit of the Robert Johnson legend, having to do with a '30s Mississippi singer-guitarist of no special faculties who disappeared one night and returned at dawn the greatest blues artist of all time, a deal with the Devil in his back pocket. Not competent enough to get a gig in their hometown, the Beatles decamped to the ash heaps of Germany, playing among the strippers in depraved hellholes where pickpockets worked the crowd, then returned a few months later to Liverpool in Robert Johnson style as the greatest band of all time, to the astonishment of anyone who remembered them.

Hometown triumph notwithstanding, the band's records were released in the United States to indifference a year before a momentous television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. In retrospect the performance was less impressive than boomer memory allows. McCartney trilled songs from The Music Man, the big Broadway show of the day. So the new CD reissues are a testament to what no 21st-century skepticism can assail: If the band's second album, With the Beatles (released in England on the day of John Kennedy's assassination), was a powerhouse consolidation of their gifts, the Brit version of A Hard Day's Night just four months after the American breakthrough, timed to coincide with a witty, irrepressible movie, was the quantum leap that put any doubters in their place. It was the first album on which the band, mostly Lennon and McCartney, wrote everything, demonstrating the freshest melodic sense since Puccini. The singing was almost as spectacular.

With A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles began to assert their individual personalities as they continued cohering into a single superpersonality. This was a gestalt no other band ever has quite replicated, with talents, viewpoints, and temperaments overlapping and complementing one another. McCartney and Lennon shared the loss of orphans, McCartney's mother taken by cancer and Lennon's run over by a cop (which must have cemented his antiauthoritarian tendencies), and each responded in ways that distinguished him, McCartney with plucky opportunism, Lennon with pain and rage. Growing up the youngest of four siblings, Harrison again found himself the "kid" whose frequent dismissal by a new set of older brothers only drove him to prove something. Starr, the product of a broken marriage and a childhood of crises (in a coma at the age of six, then a sanatorium for two years of his adolescence), had learned not to take too much too seriously. What he couldn't give the band in vision he supplied in professionalism, perspective, and bonhomie. These were four psyches in the kind of lucky alignment that any Vegas slot machine pays off in millions.

Marijuana Compounds May Offset Alcohol-Induced Toxicity, Study Says

San Diego, CA--(ENEWSPF)--August 27, 2009. Compounds in cannabis may protect the human brain against alcohol-induced damage, according to clinical trial data published online by the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

Investigators at the University of California at San Diego examined white matter integrity in adolescents with histories of binge drinking and marijuana use.

They reported that binge drinkers (defined as boys who consumed five or more drinks in one sitting, or girls who consumed four or more drinks at one time) showed signs of white matter damage in eight separate regions of the brain.

By contrast, the binge drinkers who also used marijuana experienced less damage in seven out of the eight brain regions.

"Binge drinkers who also use marijuana did not show as consistent a divergence from non-users as did the binge drink-only group," authors concluded. "[It is] possible that marijuana may have some neuroprotective properties in mitigating alcohol-related oxidative stress or excitotoxic cell death."

1,000 cameras 'solve one crime'

Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city's surveillance network has claimed.

CCTV camera in the Embankment, central LondonThe internal police report found the million-plus cameras in London rarely help catch criminals.

In one month CCTV helped capture just eight out of 269 suspected robbers.

David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, said: "It should provoke a long overdue rethink on where the crime prevention budget is being spent."

He added: "CCTV leads to massive expense and minimum effectiveness.

"It creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security.

"The Metropolitan Police has been extraordinarily slow to act to deal with the ineffectiveness of CCTV."

Nationwide, the government has spent £500m on CCTV cameras.

Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data
One of the problems with any proposed law that's over 1,000 pages long and constantly changing is that much deviltry can lie in the details. Take the Democrats' proposal to rewrite health care policy, better known as H.R. 3200 or by opponents as "Obamacare." (Here's our CBS News television coverage.)

Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and "other information as is prescribed by" regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for "affordability credits."

Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details -- there's no specified limit on what's available or unavailable -- to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify "affordability credits."

Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a "low-income prescription drug subsidy" but has not applied for it.

Over at the Institute for Policy Innovation (a free-market think tank and presumably no fan of Obamacare), Tom Giovanetti argues that: "How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee.... So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years."

I'm not as certain as Giovanetti that this represents privacy's Armageddon. (Though I do wonder where the usual suspects like the Electronic Privacy Information Center are. Presumably inserting limits on information that can be disclosed -- and adding strict penalties on misuse of the information kept on file about hundreds of millions of Americans -- is at least as important as fretting about Facebook's privacy policy in Canada.)

A better candidate for a future privacy crisis is the so-called stimulus bill enacted with limited debate early this year. It mandated the "utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014," but included only limited privacy protections.

China admits death row organ use

British Broadcasting Corporation

Chinese criminals are sentenced to death in Wenzhou, file image
China executes more people than any other nation

China is trying to move away from the use of executed prisoners as the major source of organs for transplants.

According to the China Daily newspaper, executed prisoners currently provide two-thirds of all transplant organs.

The government is now launching a voluntary donation scheme, which it hopes will also curb the illegal trafficking in organs.

But analysts say cultural bias against removing organs after death will make a voluntary scheme hard to implement.

Thriving black market

About 1.5 million people in China need transplants, but only about 10,000 operations are performed annually, according to the health ministry.

The scarcity of available organs has led to a thriving black market in trafficked organs, and in an effort to stop this the government passed a law in 2007 banning trafficking as well as the donation of organs to unrelated recipients.

But in practice, illegal transplants - some from living donors - are still frequently reported by the media and the Ministry of Health.

Obtained: The RNC’s Health Care Survey

Washington Independent

By David Weigel

I just chatted with Raymond Denny, the 64-year-old La Center, Wash., man who received the RNC's "2009 Future of American Health Survey," which alleged that President Obama's health reform plans might discriminate against Republicans. Here's the survey question:

Picture 59

"I've been getting these things for years," said Denny, who opened the letter with his wife Louise, "getting them from the Republicans, getting them from the Democratic Party, usually with the wrong name on it. This thing says I'm a sustaining member. They word these things to solicit the answer they wanted. This one here we looked at and said, "Wow, that's way beyond the pale of what should be done."

Denny confirmed that he's a "lifelong independent" who became a Democrat last year to vote for Obama. "I'm a fiscal and constitutional conservative," he said, although he hasn't made up his mind on the health care debate yet. "I don't know why I got this. Maybe something in my demographic or something convinced them that I was a lifelong Republican."

Click on the pages below to see larger .jpg images of them.

Health Care Reform: lessons from Sicko


by Kathleen Kelly


You're denied.

You don't qualify for health care insurance.  What do you do now?  Or you have health insurance but once you become ill, your insurance company's loopholes can and will negate your coverage.

Medical bills are now the number one cause of bankruptcy and homelessness in America.  These daunting statistics are what keep me running circles (literally) on the elliptical at the gym.  Is is that I enjoy running and going nowhere? No, I'm fearful.  Scratch that, I'm petrified that I will become ill--that like my father I will become obese, have Type II diabetes, and experience complications from high blood pressure.  It's maddening since there are illnesses (cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's) and accidents for that matter that I have no control over.  If the current healthcare system in the United States was about providing acute, quality care for patients, I could rest easy.  But let's be honest, it's about the bottom line, it's emblematic of capitalism--it's about money and the millions that health insurance and pharmaceutical companies earn each minute of the day on the pain and suffering of average Americans.

Michael Moore's 2007 documentary "Sicko" is reminiscent of "Roger and Me"--the story of David (in this case, everyday working Americans) versus Goliath (the insurance companies and pharmaceutical giants--think Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and PhRMA).  What Moore stresses in this provocative, captivating, and historicizing account of how the American healthcare system got "off its rails" and privatized (in 1971 while we were in the midst of Vietnam--Albert Kaiser, Richard Nixon, and the Oval Office--you get the picture) is that not only do the 48 million uninsured in this country not have access to affordable let alone effective healthcare, the insured among us are living under the false security that no matter what ailments we suffer, we are "covered"; that we have access to all tests and treatments to improve our quality of life.

Guess again.  Moore casts a caustic light on the objectives and end goals of health insurance companies.  In his interview with Becky Malke, a health insurance consultant, the truth of the matter is damning to say the least.  It was her role to "weed out" the customers.  There are a multitude of conditions--the number would wrap around Becky's house many times according to this industry insider--that would exclude you from qualifying for health insurance.  And preexisting conditions--you can forget about healthcare coverage.  Just ask Maria Watanabe (Maria Watanabe vs. Blue Shield of California) whose surgery cost reimbursements were denied because she had failed to disclose a previous yeast infection.  If the treatment is "experimental" that will save your life, you'll denied access to this treatment.  If you condition is not deemed "life threatening" as in the case of a cancer survivor, who was not insured and seeking treatment since her cancer had returned; she was told to take some ibuprofen and go home.  Sarah Palin and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) egregiously and irresponsibly speak about the nonexistent and fabricated (yes, nonexistent and fabricated) "death panels" in "Obamacare." Mrs. Palin, Mr. Grassley--look around you.  Avoidable deaths are rampant in the current, broken, and yes, corrupted system.  Cease and desist with your fear-mongering.

Michael Moore addresses such fear-mongering and lobbying within the throes of the 1994 President's Task Force on Healthcare headed by then FLOTUS Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Hillary demanded universal health coverage, a demand that was met with fierce, wrathful and condemnatory criticisms--Hillary was trying to unleash the "red menace" into God-fearing, capitalist America.  She was a Bolshevik, a statist, just call her Comrade Clintonovska.  Moore's voice becomes deflated though as he relates the cautionary tale of Hillary Rodham Clinton--once feared (not loved) by the health insurance industry, in her bid for the New York Senate seat, allied herself with the very people she had opposed only years earlier.  She and her political campaign profited from the unethical antics of this money-grubbing industry.

But surely even such a corrupted system would take care of our nation's heroes--heroes like the volunteer emergency responders who worked relentlessly at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.  How did the U.S. health care system and politicians honor our heroes?  These volunteers were denied health care benefits and treatments for illnesses they sustained while working in the ruins of what were the World Trade Center towers.  John Graham, Willam Maher, and Ms. Reggie Cervantes were first responders whose ailments are debilitating--pulmonary fibrosis, post traumatic stress, and severe respiratory illnesses.  Yet these volunteers were denied health care coverage. As volunteers, the government maintains, they were not employees. Therefore, these emergency responders were ineligible for health care benefits, benefits paramount to their recovery from their individual illnesses.

Michael Moore, accompanied by Mr. Graham, Mr. Maher and Ms. Cervantes, sets out on his own "freedom flotilla" from Miami to Guatanamo Bay to acquire the same medical treatment that the enemy combatant detainees were receiving (minus the torture presumably).  Denied access to Gitmo, Moore and his compadres enter the Havana Hospital (yes, that Havana--the one in Cuba).  The inhalers and medications are so much cheaper in Cuba--Reggie's inhaler that costs $120 in the U.S. costs mere pocket change in Cuba.  John is able to get tests and scans that he could ill afford in the U.S. and the Cuban doctors provided him with a daily regimen; and Bill, having once ground his teeth down during his PTS-induced sleep, had a new set of teeth both set and fit.  His was a welcomed smile.  The land of Castro had come to our heroes' rescue.  Hmmm. . . . it makes you rethink those ill notions of socialized medicine, doesn't it?

Don't Get Sick!

by Gail Pellett

photo    Don't get sick! Those were the last words my grandfather said to me as I left Vancouver for the United States. It was 1964. Canada was in the process of implementing a universal health care system. I hadn't noticed, because I was young, healthy and restless.

    Now, these many years later, as I witness the health care reform "debate," my grandfather's words have returned to haunt me. He had been a pioneer farmer in Saskatchewan on the Canadian prairies. That's where Canada's universal health care system was conceived during the hard years of the depression and its aftermath.

    Medicare (Canada's health care plan) was largely the brainchild of a Baptist minister turned politician, T. C. (Tommy) Douglas. He and others founded a new party in Saskatchewan (which later became the New Democratic Party) based on "humanity before private interests." Universal health care was at the top of their agenda. By 1964, Saskatchewan implemented a health care plan that treated everyone according to their needs regardless of their ability to pay. Despite a doctor's strike that tried to kill it, the farmers - including my grandfather - made sure that this new health care plan survived. Then, just as now, there were those who thought it made total sense and others who thought it was a Communist conspiracy. However, it proved so popular in Saskatchewan that within a few years the federal government adopted it for the entire country. Imagine the audacity of this during a raging cold war. The year the plan went into effect was the year of the Cuban missile crisis.

    In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a poll to determine whom Canadians thought was the greatest Canadian of all time. It was not Pierre Trudeau, Joni Mitchell, Dan Aykroyd, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Lorne Michaels, Oscar Peterson, Peter Jennings, Celine Dion, Neil Young, Keanu Reeves, nor Wayne Gretzky. It wasn't even Keifer Sutherland or his dad, Donald. No, it was Keifer Sutherland's grandfather, Tommy Douglas, who is credited with making sure that Canadians would have universal, government-funded health care. When Canadians are periodically polled and asked what they are most proud of, in addition to peacekeeping, it is their national health care system.

We distort! You comply!