Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Mary Otto has a story in the Metro Section, page B1, of today's Washington Post, "For Want of a Dentist: Prince George's Boy Dies After Bacteria From Tooth Spread to Brain," link here. Because of difficulties with Medicaid and finding dentists who took it, the boy had six abscessed teeth, and one of the abscesses leaked to his brain, causing fatal encephalitis, after $250000 of care at public expense. Prince George's MD is the poorest suburban county in the DC area.
I can relate this to personal experience. In 2004, I had a peridontal infection that spread below the gum and resulted in permanent numbness in the chin and lip on the left side. The literature on this is scary, since "numb chin" is often associated with metastisized malignancies, especially lymphomas. The dentist had done numerous root planings and treated it with a synthethic penicillin, but insufficient dose. The left side of my face swelled up and I had trouble opening my mouth. I went to a specialist, and it was treated with clindamycin, which quickly resolved all the swelling, although the numbness remained. It may be that a small seed or particle got down beneath a peridontal pocket and produced the infection. Cat scans were inconclusive.
Monday, February 26, 2007
The September 2006 issue of Congressional Digest featured the stunning pro-con debate “Should the All-Volunteer Force Be Replaced by Universal Mandatory National Service”? Congressional Digest Pro & Con features debated presentations in the spirit of the “Opposing Viewpoints” book series.
My correspondence with Rep Moran (D-Va) on this matter is at this link.
My earlier (2004) editorial on the draft and national service is at this link.
Update: March 11, 2007
On March 11, 2007, on CBS 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney called for conscription "whenever the United States decides that it really needs to go to war, in Iraq or anywhere else" so as to share the burden and not scrape "the bottom of the barrel." He also indicated that he never thought he would say that.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
It should come as no surprise that not only are employers requiring employees to pay more for weaker coverage, they are sometimes taking a more paternalistic attitude toward unhealthful employee behavior or inclinations, particularly smoking. A story by Michael Conlin in the Feb. 26 2007 Business Week (story here, might require a subscription or charge) "Get Healthy or Else -- Inside One Company's All Out Attack on Medical Costs", discusses a lawn care company in Ohio, Soctt's Miracle Gro, where both executives and line employees apparently are pressured to listen to "health coaches." Employees have been fired for positive nicotine tests.
Back on Feb 2004 ABC hard run a story about a Michigan benefits company, Weyco, and its policy of prohibiting smoking even off duty. Apparently it still does. Here is Weyco's current link on its policy. The company has a Feb 2005 essay by Howard Weyers, "Why Business Should Get Serious About Smoking," link here. I originally had reported this story on one of my domains, here, footnote 123c.
As far as I am concerned, cigarette smoking is gross. Health textbooks in high school show health and smoke-ruined lungs, the latter filled with black soot. The pictures are quite graphic. Furthermore, cigarette smoking reduces peripheral circulation and causes men to go bald in the legs.
I have always been concerned that one can make arguments like this about high-risk sexual behavior because of HIV, although actual experience shows that HIV has become much more manageable for employers than many other conditions.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It's happened again. On Feb 14, during an ice storm, passengers were stuck for 11 hours or so in a Jet Blue plane at Kennedy during an ice storm. The plane was supposed to go to Aruba. Again, the media reports show that conditions on the plane were horrendous.
Later media reports indicated that up to tenJet Blue planes were held up for hours departing or arriving.
In December, American Airlines stranded passengers for 10 hours in Austin, TX. Fort Worth Star Telegram by Trebor Bansteer story is here.
But it happened to passengers of Northwest Airlines in Detroit in December 1999. This story by Claire Cummings of The Dallas Morning News discusses both incidents.
There are efforts in Congress to force airlines to return passengers after three hours, and provide services while passengers are trapped. This would be the so-called "Passenger Bill of Rights" legislation. But why are airlines unable to respond to such obvious crises in customer service? Snow and ice from December through March are common in places like Detroit and New York, as are severe thunderstorms everywhere.
I travel by air a few times a year and personally have a very good experience with few cancellations.
Another Valentine's Day Blizzard catastrophe happened on I-78 on Pennsylvania, with a 50-mile backup, lasting 13 hours, after a truck jacknifed.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Amit R. Paley has a story in the Feb. 14, 2007 The Washington Post, "'No Child' Commission Presents Ambitious Plan," here. A commission now proposes testing all graduating high school seniors one more time in reading and math, and all high school students at least once in science. Bill Gates is supposedly behind this proposal, and nobody objects to the idea that employers give input into what they need. When I substitute teach, I tell students, when the lesson plans call for a classwork to be collected at the end of the period, that the class will be a sword drill for "the workplace." I had some idea what the grade 1-8 ideas for reading and math are last year when I scored some SOL (Standards of Learning in Virginia) binders. Nobody disputes that some other pairs of eyes besides the original teachers' looking at student accomplishments is a good thing. And if teaching is your profession, there is nothing wrong with being measured on how well your students do, although I have some other ethical (from a "libertarian" perspective) issues with scoring by race and ethnicity.
Students who do have difficulty with academics may think they have a good reason to wonder why they are hustled about it. If I can make a living as a pop musician or model, why do I need to know how to factor polynomials? That's probably a fair question. It sounds like this is some kind of scheme to provide moral justification for an individualist meritocracy. But by that reason, why don't we measure things like physical fitness? (That gets into a boondoggle of areas that will raise loud objections, I know; but on principle it is a good question.) Why not measure, say, hours of or accomplishments in community service? One point to bear in mind is that, given the problems we face in the future (all of those "inconvenient truths" that challenge us today), it's reasonable to want everyone prove that he or she can carry his or her own weight. That is the attitude of the workplace, after all.
Monday, February 05, 2007
First, it is medically controversial that we have a cancer vaccine at all, even if this has been anticipated for decades. Only a few cancers are definitely proven to be connected to viruses, although many more are suspected, as we have learned with experience with HIV and various lymphomas. HPV, related to viruses that cause benign tumors caused warts, definitely, with one strain, can cause cervical cancer. And there is now a vaccine that should prevent it if given to young women.
What about the mandatory aspect of Texas Governor Rick Perry's order? Actually, there is an opt-out provision, but the idea of big government pressure is certainly offense to any sort of libertarian spirit. It is insulting to parental rights. Remember, this is a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease. But the worst thing is that it presumes that any young girl is going to "submit" to intercourse at sometime in her life, that this will not be a personal choice or decision that a woman will take full responsibility for. One can even draw this kind of thinking out all the way to the attitude toward women (as chattel) that seems to be practiced in some radical Islamic societies. A particularly disturbing observation seems to be that Merck lobbied for this executive order, and put its own fiancial interest above any objective thought about the underlying social and political principles.
Imagine the questions we will ask ourselves if we ever have an effective vaccine against HIV.
On the other hand, if we had effective vaccines against H5N1 and avian influenza, there would be a much more compelling, and less invasive argument, for free universal vaccination.
Friday, February 02, 2007
The Centers for Disease Control in
On 2/2/2007 Britain reported an H5N1 outbreak on a turkey farm (Reuters story by Luke MacGregor).
Representative Jim Moran 's (D Va 8th District) letter to me on June 1, 2006 on this topic is available here. It is certainly disturbing.