Archive for January, 2010

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Here are two beautiful graphs I picked up over at The Seitch Blog.

The health care debate in the U.S. is a really twisted business.  And most folks in the U.S. have very little idea just how twisted it all is.   They are still being told and still believing that the U.S. health care system is the best in the world.

The power of stupidity and propaganda never fail to amaze me when they are combined.

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Chart #1 is here: 

Chart #2 is here: 

Original post over at The Sietch is here:

Chemical Exposure Linked to Attention Deficit Disorder in Children

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

So, go ask the folks that make any of the zillion chemicals released into the environment over the last 100 years if they think there’s any chance that their particular chemicals might, in some way, harm people or the environment.  Go ahead and ask – you know what they’re going to say.

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

– Upton Sinclair

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A study of New York City students found that phthalate exposure was linked to behavioral problems

Children exposed in the womb to chemicals in cosmetics and fragrances are more likely to develop behavioral problems commonly found in children with attention deficit disorders, according to a study of New York City school-age children published Thursday.

Scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine reported that mothers who had high levels of phthalates during their pregnancies were more likely to have children with poorer scores in the areas of attention, aggression and conduct.

Children were 2.5 times more likely to have attention problems that were “clinically significant” if their mothers were among those highest exposed to phthalates, the study found. The types of behavior that increased are found in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other so-called disruptive behavior disorders.

“More phthalates equaled more behavioral problems,” Stephanie Engel, a Mount Sinai associate professor of preventive medicine and lead author of the study, said in an interview Thursday. “For every increase of exposure, we saw an increase in frequency and severity of the symptoms.”


Tiger Trade Slashes Big Cats’ Numbers

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I’ve written about this sort of thing before here, here, here and  here.   And it gets sadder to write about it each time.

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Only 350 wild tigers remain in Asia’s Mekong River region, according to a new report from the conservation nonprofit WWF, which says the loss is being driven by trade in tiger parts.

Corporations Are Citizens – What Are We?

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

– A few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made a terrible 5 to 4 decision granting corporations the same rights as individual human beings to make contributions to political candidates.

– The excessive power of corporations in America and their solely profit-centric reason for existing has been a topic I’ve written a lot on.

– At core, human beings are going to have to make some hard decisions about what the purpose of their governments should be.  Should they exist to serve the interests of the people who live under them by maximizing the happiness, health and freedoms of those people?  Or, should they be the minions of those who are all about profit and power and the rest of us are just left to just be the folder for them?

– I know where my vote is.  But most of the world hasn’t realized realized yet that there’s a question that needs to be decided in play.  And in the U.S., the corporations have largely won the day – while the citizens sleep in front of their TVs.

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This week’s Supreme Court ruling that corporations are protected by “free speech” rights and can contribute enormous sums of money to influence elections is a de jure endorsement of the de facto dominance of corporations over our lives. Indeed, corporations are the new citizens of this country, and ordinary Americans, who used to be known as “citizens,” now fall into three categories: consumers, warriors and prisoners.


Biological Imperatives – first sighting

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

If you are a regular reader of this Blog, then you will know that a central point I am often ‘on’ about concerns the Biological Imperatives – which I believe are the deep root and cause of much of why humanity seems so maladapted to long term survival on this planet.

I’ve just finished reading The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin D. Yalom – a brilliant book which I highly recommend.  Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy, as you might expect from the book’s title weaves its way deeply throughout the novel’s plot.

Bit one bit of Schopenhauer’s thought that I noted with particular interest is illustrated in the following quotes:

It has often been noted that three major revolutions in thought have threatened the idea of human centrality.  First, Copernicus demonstrated that Earth was not the center about which all celestial bodies revolved. next, Darwin showed us that were not central in the chain of life but like other creatures, had evolved from other life-forms.  Third, Freud demonstrated that we are not masters in our own house — that much of our behavior is governed by forces outside of our consciousness.  there is no doubt that Freud’s unacknowledged co-revolutionary was Arthur Schopenhauer, who, long before Freud’s birth, had posited that we are governed by deep biological forces and then delude ourselves into thinking that we consciously choose our activities.


…Schopenhauer two centuries ago understood the underlying reality; the sheer awesome power of the sex drive.  It’s the most fundamental force within us — the will to love, to reproduce — and it can’t be stilled.

Schopenhauer may have been the first to name and describe I call the Biological Imperatives.

Of course, it wasn’t until much more recently, with the advent of Evolutionary Psychology, that we can begin to connect his observations into the greater cloth of hard science vis-a-vis what E. O. Wilson called Consilience in his book of the same name.

Democracy’s Wane

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

The world is in a ‘freedom recession.

After the West won the Cold War, democracy flourished in the world as never before. No more. The tide of political and human freedom hasn’t merely slowed but in recent years has turned in the other direction. Seeing that the U.S. midwifed the post-1989 world, these trends are of more than passing interest.

Democracy’s troubles are summed up in “Freedom in the World 2010,” the yearly report card published today by Freedom House. We’re in a “freedom recession,” the advocacy group says. For the fourth consecutive year, more countries saw declines in political and civic rights than advances, the longest such period of deterioration in the 40 year history of this widely cited report.


2009: Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Very little doubt, except among the denialists and those who don’t understand science, that we are seriously losing ground with the climate.

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Jan. 21, 2010

2009 was tied for the second warmest year in the modern record, a new NASA analysis of global surface temperature shows. The analysis, conducted by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, also shows that in the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year since modern records began in 1880.

Although 2008 was the coolest year of the decade, due to strong cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, 2009 saw a return to near-record global temperatures. The past year was only a fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest year on record, and tied with a cluster of other years — 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007 1998 and 2007 — as the second warmest year since recordkeeping began.

“There’s always an interest in the annual temperature numbers and on a given year’s ranking, but usually that misses the point,” said James Hansen, the director of GISS. “There’s substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Niño-La Niña cycle. But when we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find that global warming is continuing unabated.”


– Research thanks to John K.

It’s natural to behave irrationally

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

“With the enemy’s approach to Moscow, the Moscovites’ view of their situation did not grow more serious but on the contrary became even more frivolous, as always happens with people who see a great danger approaching.

At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man’s power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes, and to think about what is pleasant.”

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace

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Climate change is just the latest problem that people acknowledge but ignore

To a psychologist, climate change looks as if it was designed to be ignored.

It is a global problem, with no obvious villains and no one-step solutions, whose worst effects seem as if they’ll befall somebody else at some other time. In short, if someone set out to draw up a problem that people would not care about, one expert on human behavior said, it would look exactly like climate change.


Insurance outside the U.S. (read it and weep too)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

insurance1– Another American Expatriate, Curtis Owings, here in New Zealand writes (below) about insurance and how it is a different experience from what folks in the U.S. know.

– Wake up Americans.   It doesn’t have to be as bad as it is.

– Here in New Zealand, the government has created the ACC (or Accident Compensation Corporation) to cover all accidents for New Zealand residents or visitors.

– The result of this is that businesses do not require Liability Insurance and Vehicles do not require accident insurance.  And, there are NO lawsuits over who was responsible for an accident.

– Nice, eh?  These are major simplifications and cost savings to the people living here.

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There is no requirement for “insurance”. In NZ the “insurance” providers only have access to more (and generally faster) elective medical options. But every one legally in the country is entitled/covered by the national health care system. The optional health insurance agencies provide all the same services, but do so from private facilities that have more capacity–so you’re really paying for convenience, not better care. If you need to file an insurance claim then visit, for legal advice.

Some things are not covered by the national system like basic dentistry (check-ups), emergency rescue, and eye glasses. But the things not covered by the system are also *affordable* by comparison to the US. In Wellington we have “free” emergency rescue services by donations and fund-raising drives. These services are not always free in other areas, but again are much more affordable than in the US.

For us, the only difficulty was changing prescriptions from what we had in the US. If you are currently taking something regularly, the odds are pretty high that it will not be the same thing they prescribe here. NZ uses a single system which means that treatment methods are highly standardized across the country. If the treatment is approved and preferred, then everyone will use it. This often does not match up with practices in the US which tend to follow more options (some that work and some that don’t). There may not be 10 drugs for a particular ailment; there may only be two or three.

But the upshot is that there are never any claim forms to deal with, you can never be rejected for “coverage”, you never have to pick a coverage option, the costs do not vary, and how you get treated is consistent regardless of your job/insurance. (Again, insurance as we know it doesn’t exist here.)


Healthcare outside the U.S. (read it and weep)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Healthcare– I like to report on how health care works in other countries outside of the U.S.    I do this mostly for my U.S. readers who are constantly besieged by propaganda from vested interests in the U.S. that are attempting to convince them that what they have in the U.S. is the best that can be had.

Au contraire, mon ami.

– There’s an entire world of amazing health care options outside the insular U.S.  In all the other advanced western nations, in fact.

– It is a world wherein people automatically expect that one of the functions of their national government is to provide health care for its citizens.  Free.   And, if not free, then certainly easily affordable.

– Recently, in one of the on-line groups I participate in for immigrants (and wanna be immigrants)  to New Zealand, a discussion started up about how health care in New Zealand works.  One of those who spoke up had just been kidded (in a good natured way) about being a ‘Socialist‘ because she thought that the socialized medicine system here in New Zealand was a good thing.

– Here’s her reply just as she delivered it.   I love it and I think readers in the U.S. should be exposed to more information like this.

– To my friends in the U.S.:  You do not live in the best of all worlds with respect to health care.  And those who are trying to convince you that you do have serious financial skin in the game.  The longer they can keep you convinced that the U.S. system is the best system, the longer their profit making streak runs hot.

– Seriously folks, you’ve got to get out there and smell the roses outside the U.S. borders.  At a bare minimum, take a vacation to Canada and talk, seriously, to the Canadians you meet about their health care system – you will be amazed and shocked at how badly you are being treated.

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Hey there – Socialist???

Might take me a second to get use to the idea as I was raised that was a “bad” word.  But guess what?  If LOVING New Zealand health care makes me a Socialist, then a Socialist I am.  I cannot say enough about how GREAT the health care here in Kiwi Land is, and as you know it is one of the main reasons we came here and one of the main reasons we stay here.  Not only was all of my IVF treatment completely FREE of charge, all prenatal, birth and post op care (including the Plunket and Karitane nurses) was included. The Lactation Consultant in the hospital charged me $6 for a nipple shield and I had to buy my own toothpaste in the gift shop as I had an unexpected early admission prior to birth. We pay $37 for a visit to our GP.  ANYONE can walk in off the street (even a visitor who has just arrived) and pay $50 to see my doctor and get the exact same medical care.

A PRIVATE eye specialist charged my husband $95 for the full and complete 45 minute glaucoma workup-medicine included.  He goes yearly as his eyes are not bad enough to qualify for the hospital’s eye clinic but bad enough that we want to keep them from getting worse.  And here a 45 minute Doctor consultation means you get to speak WITH the doctor one on one for up to 45 minutes.  I could not believe how inclusive and involved the Doctors here are. As an American nurse I am use to docs flying in and out of patient rooms for 6 minutes and billing them for the hour.  When I finally did get pregnant, I called up a SPECIALIST OB/GYN as I did not want to trust the delivery of my baby to a Midwife.  They said it would be $1200 ALL INCLUSIVE for all prenatal, delivery, and post op care.  Lucky for me I developed Diabetes before I could get in to see the specialist, so all of my care was transferred to Endocrine Gynecologists for FREE as public health pays for all complicated pregnancys.   There is a $6 charge for blood draws unless of course you are willing to walk your procedure form over to Med Lab (4 blocks away)-wait 5 minutes, and then it is TOTALLY and completely FREE.

Can’t go on enough and despite everything (both good and bad) that has happened to us over the years – the one consistent and GREAT thing that we have had is PREVENTIVE, low intrusive medical care.  Unless you happen to work in the medical insurance business, I think you will find the care here far exceeds anything that I ever worked for or found in the United States.  The idea of ever having to go back to an American doctor while in the United States sends chills up my spine.  Here, I am a person and we are a family.  There, I often felt like a lab rat.  Relax – no one in true need of medical care would ever be denied treatment while waiting for a few pieces of paperwork to get sorted.  The system is set up so that you would be covered under ACC as a visitor until you were covered.

Chanah Luppens
AKA Melissa Luppens RN BSN (an RN for 18 years in the U.S.)
Missouri Nursing Liscense
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– Here’s a glossary of some of the terms Chanah used here for those who are not in New Zealand or do not have a medical background and thus might not be familiar with them:

IVF -In Vitro Fertilization

Plunketa (New Zealand) not-for-profit national organization whose people are passionately committed to supporting families and young children. We are the country’s biggest provider of Well Child/Tamariki Ora services. These include parenting advice and support, child health promotion and health education. They are offered to all New Zealand children and their family/whanau from birth to five years.  Most services are completely free.

ACC – The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.