Tuesday, September 02, 2014


This is not an edited photograph. It is NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

It was taken by Jeff Dai after a thunderstorm over Bangladesh in late April. The picture shows the air over Tibet and China. NASA says that "The unusual pattern is created by waves of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up."

A little bit excessive?

The NFL has fined the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, James Irsay, $500,000, suspended him for six games and forbade him to use Twitter. How many people do you suppose looked at Irsay as a role model before his arrest for drunken driving back in March? The city recommended that his license be suspended for 90 days and fined him less than $500.

I can understand the NFL penalizing Irsay in some way but this is ridiculous, particularly when you compare Irsay's punishment to that of some players who did much worse.

Are the medical needs of our soldiers being met?

The forty military hospitals across the country are responsible for the medical needs of 1.35 million active-duty service members and their families. However, of the 8.2 million people whose health care was covered by the Defense Department last year, including military retirees who served more than 20 years and their families, only about 2.4 million were treated exclusively at military hospitals and clinics. And more than half of those were active-duty service people. The basic reason is that the quality of care in many military hospitals is not at the same level as at civilian hospitals.

The care is not as good for many reasons:

  • Many of the hospitals are so small and the trickle of patients so thin that it compromises the ability of doctors and nurses to capably diagnose and treat serious illnessesTwo-thirds of the hospitals last year served 30 or fewer inpatients a day — less than a third as many as the typical civilian hospital. Nine served 10 or fewer.
  • Many military doctors, including general surgeons, were not busy enough to keep their skills sharp.
  • Most hospital supervisors are military officers, even though civilians make up almost half of the staff. As more seasoned military doctors move up to desk jobs, junior physicians sometimes end up heading clinical departments just months after completing their residencies. In 2012, fewer than half of Army hospitals were run by health care administrators.
  • Continuity of management and care is lost as hospital commanders and doctors, as well as patients, constantly rotate from post to post. 
  • Bigger hospitals offered better care than the smaller military hospitals.

Medical care accounts for about 10% of DOD's budget. The Pentagon would like to scale back the system but this will be difficult as it would take jobs out of some Congressional districts.

Here's a great candidate for the Senate

She's from Iowa.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Good and the Bad

The news of recent days touted the potential of a new heart drug by Novartis. Today's news is not favorable to Novartis. Its Japanese subsidiary has admitted it did not report more than 2,500 cases of serious side effects in patients using its leukemia and other cancer drugs, reportedly including some fatalities.

This follows news in July when Japanese prosecutors laid charges against the unit over claims that falsified data was used to exaggerate the benefits of a popular blood-pressure drug. Plus, Japan indicted a former employee, alleging he manipulated the data in clinical studies that were later used in marketing the drug Valsartan.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rather different wedding photos

Martha's Vineyard is still beautiful

Living Underground

Our Florida correspondent sometimes looks at odd web sites. His latest find is the World News Daily Report, which is based in Tel Aviv but refers to itself as an American Jewish Zionist newspaper that has been in business since 1988 and publishes more than 200,000 copies every day. Some of today's headlines:

  • German scientists prove there is life after death
  • 600-pound alligator shot down in Central Park
  • 36-year-old auctions his virginity to highest bidder
  • Cannabis discovered in prehistoric tomb
  • Alabama man cheated on his wife with a goat
  • Janitor claims to be Obama's half-brother
  • Japanese whaling crew eaten alive by killer whales
  • Man diagnosed with multiple personality disorder has 16 wives and 63 children
  • And then there's the story that caused me to write the title of this post, Miner found alive after 17 years underground.

The miner has spent the last 17 years living underground in a mine that had collapsed in 1997. When the mine collapsed 78 of the miner's coworkers died. He, however, fell near a ventilation duct that connected to the surface and that gave him air to breathe. His first supply of food came from an emergency stash of rice and water, which had been stored in the mine. He augmented his diet by catching and eating rats and collecting some sort of moss. 

Don't you want to read the other stories in this "newspaper"?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Publishing Scientific Experiments

Researchers at Stanford investigated the fate of 221 sociological studies conducted between 2002 and 2012, which were recorded by Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS), a US project that helps social scientists to carry out large-scale surveys of people's views. They found that only 48% of the completed studies had been published. So, my assumption is that 52% of the studies did not give the results the researchers hoped for. 

However 20% of these "failed" studies did reach the publications stage, but 60% had not been written up. In some cases the studies were not written up because the researchers felt they would not be published. Would it be worthwhile for researchers to know that some ideas have already been tried and failed? Or, should be informed only of successful experiments?

Friday, August 29, 2014

What a strange country

In July police in Florida arrested a woman for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play unsupervised in a park while the woman was at work. In August nothing has happened to the parents of the 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed her instructor with an Uzi at a gun range in Arizona.

My childhood included unsupervised play almost exclusively. It did not include a trip to a gun range. Times have changed.

Dark Money is growing

The Citizens United case opened the floodgates for people to donate to political causes without having to identify themselves. They do so by donating to a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, which supposedly doesn't have politics as its primary purpose. And the amount of money is increasing dramatically as shown here.

Furthermore, unless the group is pushing a candidate, rather than an "issue" it does not have to report money spent on such ads. 

Can you imagine how much money will have been spent by December 2014?

3-D Printing for Medicine?

From Business Insider

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here are your questions for the day

From Stephen Walt:
No. 1: Will there be a deal on Ukraine? 
No. 2: When will anyone in Israel or Palestine try something different?
No. 3: Will Europe ever get its act together? 
No. 4: Where will the borders be drawn in the greater Middle East?
No. 5: Will a stable equilibrium emerge in East Asia?
No. 6: Will there be a deal over Iran's nuclear program?
No. 7: Where is Afghanistan headed?
No. 8: Will Obama's climate change gambit work?
No. 9: Will the United States, its allies, and other concerned countries come up with a better approach to "violent extremism" of the sort represented by al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and others?
No. 10: Can Western democracies roll back the "surveillance state"?
Pretty simple, aren't they? Once you have answers here start thinking about domestic issues.

Guns and Kids

In 2005 the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation launched News21, a program for journalism students. Their work has been run by most of the big media players - NY Times, NPR, Washington Post, etc. They are now working on gun control and have published a report on the subject. 

Raw Story has published News21 work on the number of children (age 19 and younger) killed by guns.  Here are some of the frightening excerpts: 

  • For every U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were shot and killed in America. 
  • More than 450 kids didn’t make it to kindergarten. 
  • Another 2,700 or more were killed by a firearm before they could sit behind the wheel of a car. 
  • Every day, on average, seven children were shot dead. 
  • At least 28,000 children and teens 19-years-old and younger were killed with guns. 
  • Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 made up over two-thirds of all youth gun deaths in America. 
  • Most of those killed by firearms, 62 percent, were murdered and the majority of victims were black children and teens. 
  • Suicides resulted in 25 percent of the firearm deaths of young people: The majority of them were white. 
  • More than 1,100 children and teens were killed by a gun that accidentally discharged. 
  • Accidents involving guns are the third-largest cause of firearm deaths for youths, after murder and suicide. 
  • More than 1,100 kids have been killed by a gun that accidentally discharged. Teens between 15 and 19 were the most likely to be killed by the unintentional pull of a trigger,
  • More than 19,000 high school-aged students never got to walk across the stage and get a diploma.

We're paying for firearm assault injuries

The Urban Institute has just released a study of the total national hospital costs associated with firearm assault injuries. They amount to $669,000,000 in 2010. The study concludes that the bulk (about 75%) of these costs— are paid for by us, either through public insurance programs such as Medicaid or as uncompensated care for the uninsured.

The study also found that gun assault injuries are disproportionately concentrated among young males—young men aged 15 to 34 accounted for 70 percent of such injuries. And young black males are the largest victims.

Citigroup, the preferred bank

At least in the eyes of bank regulators. Wall Street on Parade has a sampling of the fines imposed on Citi since 2002. The sampling of 17 (better than one a year) is from all over the world. The fines range from $25,000,000 to over $7 billion. Citi has paid fines to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) 408 times. Yet from 2007 to 2010, in the largest bank bailout in history, Citi received over $2.3 trillion, including TARP funds $45 billion plus $306 billion in asset guarantees.

Interestingly enough, while Citigroup was being charged interest of less than one percent by the government, the bank was charging double digit interest rates to some of its credit card customers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Step 3 in freeing college athletes?

A big time lawyer who has defeated the NFL and NBA has stepped into the fray vis-a-vis college athletes. Jeffrey Kessler, a big-time sports lawyer, has filed a lawsuit which seeks an open market that would allow colleges to compete for the services of top athletes by offering enhanced scholarships, better medical care — or cash.