Category Archives: United States

Bill Moyers and Dr. Sidney Wolfe on Health Care Reform

Washington’s abuzz about health care, but why isn’t a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program’s Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform.

Bill Moyers Journal

Leave a comment

Filed under Government, health, Politics, United States

And That Ends the Entomology Lesson…

About a year ago my son, Ben called from his apartment in a Minneapolis suburb, he had just returned from a week of camping at an outdoor concert when he noticed a massive beetle about the length of his hand on his bag. He thought it was dead so he poked it. The beetle began vibrating, opened its massive wings and took a flying leap to his wall.

Ben was quite on the phone for a minute then said…”yeah,” in a low quiet voice, pausing again, “…all I could do was scream.” He paused, “I gave the guy down the hall beer to kill it”

Yesterday, my oldest son Nick called me over to an area of the driveway where a similarly large beetle had landed on the dogs rear end before falling to the ground. It reminded so much of the beetle Ben described that I decided to take a picture and see if it was the same bug and maybe even find out what kind of beetle it was.

As I snapped the camera the beetle vibrated, opened its wings and took a flying leap at me.  Like my son,  I screamed, so loud that all noise from activity in the neighborhood went silent including the birds and the only audible sound was Nick mumbling “…and that ends the entomology lesson.”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Writing, Home & Garden, Humor, Life, Minnesota, Science, United States

How I’d Improve the American Education System

My daughter is immune deficient and has been an online high school student for about 2 years. I think the best and most cost effective solution to improving the American education system is to build a hybrid that blends the best online education has to offer in a public school setting.

Here’s how it could work:

Each student is provided a laptop computer to work off of  and they independently study digital textbooks, watch podcasts on  subjects they are studying and complete assignments, all within an online learning environment.

At first blush it doesn’t sound earth shattering but consider these net impacts:

The use of podcasting would allow the US Dept of Education (DOE) to hire the worlds best and brightest educators to deliver the curriculum because the person doesn’t need to be in each classroom to teach students. (Imagine  Stephen Hawking podcasting a high school physics course.) Such a change in the delivery of material would allow the US DOE to establish uniformity in the quality of instructors and instruction being provided to all schools EVERYWHERE regardless of the communities financial health. On site teaching staff can then focus on the students who are struggling and need additional instruction.

An education hybrid of public and online education would also allow the US DOE to offer a huge variety of courses to ALL schools everywhere regardless of who is available in that geographic location to teach. As a public school student my daughter could choose from a couple foreign languages, as an online student in rural Minnesota she studied Mandarin Chinese.

Even more important, these courses are self paced, students can move through coursework as quickly as they like or they can take the the time they need. Unlike the current industrial model of education, a 9th grader could work well above grade level while remaining grouped among his or her peers, students could even graduate early and or start college from the very same classroom environment. This would mean that the best and the brightest in our country would no longer have to wait for average learners to catch up and it can all be done within the confines of a single classroom.

Individual schools could allow rural students  the option of attending in person or online cutting the need for additional space and busing. Students with health problems, like my daughter, could still attend their local school by attending online when they are sick. School districts could eliminate the need for home-bound tutors, substitute teachers and even snow days.

Digital textbooks are cheaper to produce than standard textbooks and easier to update without mowing down a forest. They are also hyperlinked to dictionaries and wikipedia’s should students needs more information to grasp a given concept. Whereas a standard textbook might have offered a photo of an Egyptian tomb, in online schooling teachers can podcast an actual tour inside a tomb where students can pan the interior of the tomb right from their computer.

As as a parent of an online student I can log on and see the teachers grade books, I can see how my student scored on each assignment and I can see how much time she is spending studying each subject. This allows me as a parent a clearer view of daughter’s education and more importantly, her work habits.

The post-industrial model I’m suggesting also relieves the pressure on overburdened instructors and quells the issue of classroom size by allowing the human resources within our education system to concentrate on the areas they are most needed.  Even better, this model would allow the US to deliver the highest, most uniform standard of education to learners everywhere regardless of how wealthy or impoverished their community. Equal education could truly mean equal quality and an equal opportunity regardless of geography and its highly likely we’d save money doing it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

8 Comments

Filed under Education, Fiction Writing, Government, Life, Science, Technology, United States

Vaccine Makers Enjoy Immunity

NEW YORK - JANUARY 26:  A Pfizer sign hangs on...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I haven’t read this in its entirety, I don’t always agree with the Wall Street Journal but it was one of the few publications that recently covered the issue of vaccine injury and the liability limits of the pharmaceutical industry. There are also limits established by government when an “epidemic” is formally announced, I’ll have to do some additional digging to find that information.

Wall Street Journal,  Feb. 23, 2009

One of the little-noticed reasons that Wyeth was attractive enough to command a $68 billion price for rival Pfizer Inc.’s planned takeover sits in a building catty-corner from the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue. That is where a special “vaccines court” hears cases brought by parents who claim their children have been harmed by routine vaccinations.

The court — and the law that established it more than two decades ago — buffers Wyeth and other makers of childhood-disease vaccines from much of the litigation risk that dogs traditional pill manufacturers and is an important reason why the vaccine business has been transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s to one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most attractive product lines today.

The legal shield, known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, was put into place in 1986 to encourage the development of vaccines, a mainstay of the nation’s public-health policy. A spate of lawsuits against vaccine makers in the 1970s and 1980s had caused dozens of companies to get out of the low-profit business, creating a public-health scare.

Read More…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a comment

Filed under Government, health, Life, Science, Uncategorized, United States

How to Recognize GM Produce in the Supermarket

These apples have PLU stickers with the number...
Image via Wikipedia

Often the fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarket carry a sticker with a PLU code, that code doesn’t just tell the cashier how to ring up your produce it tells you how the food was grown and whether or not it was genetically modified.

Produce that has been conventionally grown consists of 4 numbers and organically grown produce has 5 numbers prefaced with the number 9.  The PLU code on produce that has been genetically modified also has five numbers but the number is prefaced with the number 8.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 Comment

Filed under Food, health, Life, Science, United States

More People Died From the Swine Flu Vaccine than Swine Flu

pigs_crop
Image by johnmuk via Flickr

I’ve followed the opinions of Dr. Mercola for over a decade,  he does a good job of separating industry driven hype from consumer-centric need-to-know facts. Since I found the information helpful I’m passing the link on to you.

Critical Alert: The Swine Flu Pandemic – Fact or Fiction?

American health officials declared a public health emergency as cases of swine flu were confirmed in the U.S. Health officials across the world fear this could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, where seven people are confirmed dead as a result of the new virus.

On Wednesday April 29th, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level to five on its six-level threat scale,1 which means they’ve determined that the virus is capable of human-to-human transmission. The initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection already traveling at higher velocity than did the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

Phase 5 had never been declared since the warning system was introduced in 2005 in response to the avian influenza crisis. Phase 6 means a pandemic is under way.

Several nations have imposed travel bans, or made plans to quarantine air travelers2 that present symptoms of the swine flu despite the fact that WHO now openly states it is not possible to contain the spread of this infection and recommends mitigation measures, not restricting travel or closing borders.

Read the full story

***update 10.22.2009 There is no compensation for individuals injured by the current swine flu vaccine and you can’t sue your doctor even in instances of gross negligence.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

8 Comments

Filed under Education, Government, health, Life, Travels, United States, World News

The Spirit of Christmas during Lent

Cookie I like to bake right before the holiday’s. This year I invited family over on baking day, pulled out the ornaments and decorations and served cookies, hot cinnamon rolls and drinks as people came and went during the day .  It was loads of work but I enjoyed it so much that I’ll definitely do it again next year with a few changes.  I especially loved that so many people added ornaments to the tree and embellishments to the house and the cookies.

Unfortunately some of the cookies that came out of the oven broke and they lingered on the table undecorated until Rachel arrived. Rachel is my son Benjamin‘s housemate and girlfriend. As I pulled trays of cookies from the oven she visited with me and began mending the broken cookies, fusing their decapitated heads and disemboweled bodies with frosting. It was so Nightmare Before Christmas I was sorry I didn’t break more cookies in the process of baking finding them darkly entertaining and befitting to our holiday history.

For years we topped our tree with an angel. We were very poor the year I bought the angel tree topper, she was affordable but didn’t look very angelic…more evil and she never stood erect at the top of the tree, she leaned forward with her wings spread like she was hawking over us…leering.  Over time she became known among family members as our Archangel* and long after we could afford to replace her she maintained her place atop our Christmas tree fusing us together with memories of dark humor and harder times. Holiday cookies with stitches fit right in even if Rachel was too new to our family to fully realize it.

Throughout the holiday season the decorated cookies were stored in tins and eventually were pared down to a single plastic storage container where a single disemboweled cookie got stuck to the side of the container. I left him there because it made me laugh and even after the container was completely empty he went undisturbed out of fear he would break. On random occasions I’d talk to him and even ask his preferences as to the evenings dinner menu… he noted a marked preference for lamb.

Cookie is no longer stuck to the plastic container and has since taken up residences on my baker’s rack in the kitchen. Next Christmas I’ll bake a girl cookie named Ginger with Angelina Jolie’s lips, plastic surgery stitches and a bent for short, bald guys who smell like sweetened vanilla.

*In true biblical fashion the Archangel perished during a flood in 2004 …really.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Events, Fiction Writing, Food, Holiday, Humor, Life, Minnesota Fiction, United States