Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kasich to defund Planned Parenthood

Honest John Kasich, who never saw an abortion restriction he didn't like, or a camera, is about to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio,spurred by the phony videos circulated last summer.
An Ohio bill that seeks to divert government money away from Planned Parenthood is headed to Republican Gov. John Kasich for his expected signature.
The GOP-led state House cleared the legislation Wednesday as Kasich, a Republican presidential contender, campaigned for the coming GOP primary in South Carolina.
 Signing the bill might help Kasich with conservatives who dominate the state's Feb. 20 primary.
It will, however, hurt the people in his state. But hey, most of them are women and their newly unplanned babies, so they don't count enough to get in the way of pandering for votes.
Final passage of the Ohio bill comes a day after the New Hampshire primary, where a tough stance against Planned Parenthood might have been received with less enthusiasm by its many moderate Republican voters.
Earlier Wednesday, Planned Parenthood supporters delivered handwritten valentines to state lawmakers in an effort to urge representatives to oppose the bill.
They also gave condoms and pamphlets about the organization's services.
That won't work. Lawmakers have good health insurance that pays for their birth control and vasectomies. (It would pay for their brain transplants too, but alas, those are not yet available, even if much needed in the State House.) Ohio should expect a large increase in the number of medicaid supported babies, starting around Thanksgiving. Nice going, Mr. Voice of Moderation Kasich.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Medicare for all: more realistic than current health insurance system

Whether you live on Planet America and deal with insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, with far too much of this money going not to doctors, nurses, therapists, hospitals, but to for-profit health insurance companies, or whether you are just an economist who runs the numbers, you come to the conclusion that what is unrealistic is the sustainability of our current patched together, frankenstein monster for-profit system of private health insurance heavily subsidized by the federal government. Recently, two economists made that case:
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' proposal to create a single-payer "Medicare for all" system has drawn criticism because, opponents say, it would lead to a big increase in taxes. But a new study estimates that the federal, state, and local governments paid for 64.3% of US health spending, or $1.877 trillion, in 2013 and that it would not take much higher taxes to finance a single-payer system.
According to David U. Himmelstein, MD, and Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, from the City University of New York School of Public Health at Hunter College, who wrote the article, the government share of national health expenditures will rise to 67.1% by 2024. At that point, they argue, there will be only a 4-point spread between what the US government pays for in our public/private healthcare system and the 71% of Canadian health spending that that country's government spends on its single-payer system. [my bolding]
The article was published online January 21 in the American Journal of Public Health.
 Mark V. Pauly, PhD, a professor of healthcare management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told Medscape Medical News that Dr Himmelstein's and Dr Woolhandler's methods are sound. As the coauthors point out in their article, most health economists, as well as the US Office of Management and Budget, regard the tax exclusion for private insurance as a form of healthcare spending. People who receive employer-sponsored health insurance do not have to pay taxes on the part of the insurance premium their company pays on their behalf. As a result, the government has to increase other taxes, Dr Woolhandler explained in an interview with Medscape Medical News.
She and Dr Himmelstein calculated that tax subsidies for private health spending totaled $295.9 billion in 2013. Federal income and payroll tax subsidies accounted for about 80% of that, they said.
Government employers made 28% of all employer payments for private health insurance in 2013; by 2014, the study projected, that will increase to 31%. More than 80% of those payments were made by state and local governments, which employ far more people than the federal government.
Overall, US tax-funded healthcare spending accounts for a larger share of GDP (11.2% in 2013) than does total health spending in any other country, the coauthors said, and they project that that figure will rise to 13.2% of GDP in 2024.
Pauly does maintain that much higher taxes would be required to fund a Canadian style single payer system. But as people like Bernie Sanders point out, the tax increase will be offset by the disappearance of insurance premiums and related expenses.This would not be socialized medicine; this would be single payer health insurance, like medicare. The providers would remain independent of the government, as is currently the case under Medicare. Their payments, however, would now flow from the federal government, as is currently the case with Medicare, and doctors would not have to spend 10 hours a week fighting with for profit insurance companies. (and no, it is seldom the case that they have to fight with Medicare; it's Aetna and similar companies they wrestle with in order to provide care for their patients.).

Solicitation from fake academic publisher SCIRP

Just in time for valentine's day, a new email from my old friends at fake academic journal publishing powerhouse SCIRP, this time soliciting contributions for their fake academic journal : The Journal of Environmental Protection. To protect your own intellectual environment, my advice is to stay away. SCIRP has a PO box in Irvine, CA, but lists its HQ in Wuhan, China.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Reflections on Stubblefield

In the NYTimes, Daniel Engber reflects on the final testimony as Anna Stubblefield was sentenced:
The most extensive statement came from Anna herself. Her five-page jailhouse letter, written in meticulous longhand, recounts the background of her love affair with D.J.: the deep commitment of her parents to the cause of disability rights and her own lifelong pursuit of the same ideals. By age 11, she said, she was already working with her mother to help a teenage girl with cerebral palsy communicate using a computer. “Thus, when I met [D.J.], I saw him as someone I could potentially help as a friend,” she wrote. “And then something happened that took me by surprise — we fell in love.”
D.J.'s brother had a very different take:
 He began by saying that his family had been told that D.J. wouldn’t live to see his third birthday and that 34 years later D.J. was a beautiful brother and a beautiful son. Then he recalled the moment at the end of Stubblefield’s trial, when the verdict was announced and Anna cried out, “Who is going to take care of my daughter?” It was as if the question had only just occurred to her, Wesley suggested. It was as if only then had she considered the meaning of the bond between a mother and her child. How else could you explain her actions — “the rape of my brother, the harassment of my family, her condescending attitude toward my mother?”
“She tried to lay claim to him and rename him,” he said of Anna, breaking into sobs. Early in Anna’s relationship with D.J., she started calling him by a nickname — one she said he asked for in his typed-out messages. In her view, this was an act of self-determination. But to Wesley, it was a way of taking ownership, with all the echoes of slavery the word implies.
As an academic — and Wesley’s graduate-school professor — Anna had been a scholar of racial ethics; in one paper, she even wrote that well-meaning white people like her “all too often invade or destroy the space of nonwhite people.” Now Wesley called her out for what he saw as that very behavior. She had tried to overlay her values and her views, he said, on the people she pretended to be helping. “She tried to supplant [D.J.’s] life — a life steeped in the history and culture of his God-fearing, Southern-rooted, African-American family — with some version of life she thought was better.”
It’s time to stop thinking of this case as being “simply strange,” he continued, and imagining Anna as some kind of “tragic she-ro.” (He may have been referring to my article, which was published under the headline “The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield.”) If the genders were reversed, he said — if D.J. were “Diana” and Anna were “Anthony” — then the details would seem more mundane: a tragic tale of sexual abuse. “Anna is not Sandra Bullock, and this is not ‘The Blind Side,’” he said to the judge. Then, directly to his former teacher: “An able-bodied woman raped a disabled young man that could not consent to sex. You were wrong, Anna. You committed a crime. There is no gray area.”
Wesley is wrong in that last: most human actions fall into a gray area, admitting of multiple, true characterizations. That's why we rework them in fictional form (and according to Engber, a film and an opera (!) might be in the works. Is this a rape story or a love story? Is this a case of clear-eyed exploitation or delusional mental dysfunction? All of the above?
It is also a black and white rape case---we shouldn't neglect the racial dynamics any more than the rape dynamics, and race is a subtext of this whole horrible business. So yes, it is a black and white case, in that sense, and a rape case, involving unbalanced power dynamics and exploitation of a position of trust. But a core ambiguity, the gray area, is not whether the sexual activity violated the law, but the story Stubblefield told herself, and what she was capable of acknowledging.Even as she wrote the letter to the judge, she was constructing her current narrative for a course of events that must perplex her now, perhaps even then. The other ambiguity, the more important,  is what DJ wanted, experienced, understood, then and now. 

Read Engber's piece here.

Christie lies: travelers edition

Christie did two remarkable things during last night's debate, things unrelated to his evisceration of poor Marco Rubio: i) he stated flatly he would quarantine people coming into New Jersey from Brazil and ii) he lied about his detention last year of nurse Kaci Hickox who had flown into Newark after returning from a stint nursing people with Ebola.
Recalling that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey had quarantined a nurse during the Ebola outbreak, ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Mr. Christie if he would consider imposing a quarantine on travelers from Brazil because of the Zika virus.
“You bet I would,” he responded, citing the “strong action” he took during the Ebola outbreak.
So, travelers, consider this a warning: if you are coming from Brazil (and only Brazil?)---Christie will put you in mandatory detention if you fly into Newark. I doubt the airlines or Newark airport will be happy about that one.

This is what Hickox says in her lawsuit against Christie:
Kaci Hickox, the nurse detained at a Newark hospital last year over fears she had contracted the Ebola virus, filed suit against Gov. Chris Christie and members of his administration Thursday, saying the governor violated her civil rights for political gain.
Hickox, 34, whose confinement made international headlines for weeks, had been caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone before her arrival at Newark Liberty International Airport, a waypoint to her home in Maine. She was held in isolation for more than three days, first at the airport and then at University Hospital despite testing negative for the deadly virus.
Her detention marked the first test of strict new policies put in place earlier in the day by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning returning health workers.
"I never had Ebola. I never had symptoms of Ebola. I tested negative for Ebola the first night I stayed in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's private prison," Hickox said in a statement Thursday. "My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear."
Did she have symptoms? Well, no.

The lawsuit details, for the first time, that Hickox was actually cleared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while still at the airport. That information was in documents her attorneys acquired from the CDC in preparing the lawsuit.
Those documents also show Hickcox was told she would be quarantined almost immediately after disclosing she'd been a medical volunteer in West Africa — before any kind of screening took place, the lawsuit states.
Did she have a fever? No. She had inconsistent elevated readings on a temporal scanning thermometer but not an oral thermometer.
 She left the African nation on Oct. 22 and spent two days in Brussels before flying to Newark, where she disclosed she had treated Ebola patients overseas.
Following protocol, airport officials escorted her to a quarantine site operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A temporal scanning thermometer showed her temperature to be normal, the suit says, but Hickox was repeatedly questioned by a succession of people, one of whom acted aggressively and wore a weapon belt.
"Hickox was tired from jetlag and traveling for two  days, hungry, thirsty, confused and emotionally exhausted," the suit states. "No one told her what was going on or what was going to happen to her."
Meanwhile, at a press conference, Christie confirmed a health worker returning from West Africa had been quarantined as a precaution despite her apparent fine health.
Later in the afternoon, as Hickox's frustration mounted, a nurse again used a temporal scanning thermometer on her forehead, indicating to Hickox she had a fever, the suit states. Fever is one indication of Ebola.
"Hickox explained to the woman that her face was flushed from frustration," the suit states. "Hickox also said she did not believe the temporal scanner was accurate. Despite her emotional distress, Hickox felt physically healthy. She did not feel fevered."
By evening, over her continued protests, Hickox was taken by ambulance — accompanied by an escort of eight police vehicles, sirens blaring — to University Hospital, where she was placed in an isolation tent that would become her home for nearly three days.
While an oral thermometer repeatedly showed her temperature to be normal, a temporal thermometer at times continued to show a slightly elevated temperature as high as 102 degrees, the suit states, adding that a doctor told Hickox he did not believe the temporal thermometer was working properly.
The isolation tent, in a cold room with exposed pipes, had no telephone and no computer, leaving Hickox with limited access to the outside world.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Indian Point nuclear power plant leaking radioactive material

Oh dear. The Indian Point nuclear power plant outside of New York City is leaking radioactive tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) into the groundwater.
 Radioactive material has leaked into the groundwater below a nuclear power plant north of New York City, prompting a state investigation on Saturday and condemnation from governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo ordered an investigation into “alarming levels of radioactivity” found at three monitoring wells at the Indian Point energy center in Buchanan, New York, about 40 miles north of Manhattan.
“Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat,” Cuomo wrote in a letter that directed health and environmental officials to investigate.
In one location radioactivity levels rose nearly 65,000%, from 12,300 picocuries per liter to over 8,000,000 picocuries per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter, though Entergy, the company that owns the plant, emphasized that only groundwater, and not drinking water, were contaminated.
The governor’s office said the contamination had not moved offsite. Cuomo has encouraged Entergy to shut down Indian Point, but to keep its other plants further upstate open.
He directed health and environmental officials “to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health”.
“While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public,” Entergy said in a statement released late Saturday. “Releases are more than a thousand times below federal permissible limits. The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite.”
This leak is the latest of many, though it seems to be the worst so far.
 There have been many tritium leaks at the plant in recent years, though Saturday’s leak appears to be the most serious so far. Public service commission chair Audrey Zibelman faces a deadline for the results of the pre-existing investigation by President’s Day, 15 February.
The two reactors, unit 2 and 3 (unit one was shut down in 1974) have operated since the mid-'70's. Their original 40 year operating licenses have expired and their operator, Entergy has applied to the NRC for twenty year extensions. Perhaps these leaks should make the NRC rethink?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Medicaid births rose after Texas cut Planned Parenthood funding

Cause, meet effect:
Women stopped using the most effective types of contraception and more babies were born on the government's tab after Texas cut off funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, a team of Texas researchers said Wednesday.
The number of claims for long-acting contraception plummeted by more than a third and births paid for by Medicaid rose 27 percent, the team at the University of Texas at Austin reported.
Unfortunately, for the fanatics who are running states like Texas, the rise in pregnancy is a feature, not a bug. I suspect they view unwanted pregnancy and the miseries this causes women and their children as  punishment for the crime of having sex. Having more and more children on medicaid is a political plus, providing the politicians cheerleading resentment a growing target to be angry about.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CFP from fake academic journal: groundhog day edition

It's groundhog day, so it is fitting that I've gotten another call for papers from a fake academic journal, this one from the splendidly titled International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Review from the bogus academic publisherResearch Institute for Progression of Knowledge (RIPK).  The editor, one "Dr. Willard Nicholas", uses a hot mail address and seems to leave no google-able academic footprint so you know this is on the up-and-up.