Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What are we doing about Russian hacking?

Black mothers are more likely to die....

...than white mothers, particularly from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition. In New York City it's especially bad; black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers. And it's gotten worse; in 2001-2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. They are dying at about the same rate as women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, the World Health Organization estimates.

It doesn't seem to matter whether the women are well-off or not. One study of  years of data found that black, college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons. Black women are more likely to be uninsured outside of pregnancy, when Medicaid kicks in, and thus more likely to start prenatal care later and to lose coverage in the postpartum period. They are more likely to have chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension that make having a baby more dangerous. The hospitals where they give birth are often the products of historical segregation, lower in quality than those where white mothers deliver, with significantly higher rates of life-threatening complications.

Is this another form of discrimination? In a survey conducted this year by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 33 percent of black women said that they personally had been discriminated against because of their race when going to a doctor or health clinic, and 21 percent said they have avoided going to a doctor or seeking health care out of concern they would be racially discriminated against.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Eliminating Student Loans

We know quite well that student loans are a big drain on the economy.

A few schools are starting to do something about it. They are replacing all student loans in their undergraduate financial aid packages with scholarships. The three schools doing this are Yale, Princeton and Brown.

Boston 2017

The Boston Globe has begun a new Spotlight series - Racism in Boston. First startling fact: Using data from the Federal Reserve of Boston, Spotlight found that non-immigrant African-Americans in the Boston area had a median net worth of $8. White households in Boston, on the other hand, average a net worth of $247,500, or nearly 31,000 times more than African-American Bostonians.

The Catholic Church and Alcohol

Okay, Holy Communion requires bread and wine. So, the priests made sure it was available wherever they lived. The Franciscans brought vines to California in 1779 and began making wine, which had never been made before in America. They did the same thing in Argentina, Chile and Australia. But there is more than wine.

Dom Perignon is the name of a Benedictine monk who apparently knew how to make champagne. You can still get a good glass of beer in Trappist monasteries around the world. Whiskey was invented by medieval Irish monks. Chartreuse was perfected by the Carthusian order almost 300 years ago. Bénédictine may have been invented by an Italian Benedictine in the 1500s. And the cherry brandy known as Maraska liqueur was created by Dominican apothecaries in the early 16th century.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Visitor from outer space

Nothing is perfect

Just about everyone I know who has used hospice is pleased with their experience, whether at home or in the hospital. But, Time has an article reporting on an investigation by Kaiser Health which shows that some people are very unhappy with hospice. One survey found that 1 in 5 respondents said that their hospice agency did not always show up when help was needed. Another survey found that 9% were dissatisfied with their hospice experience. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services says that 21% of hospices did not provide crisis care in 2015. 

One thing about hospice I did not realize is that many of these agencies are for-profit businesses. And it's a pretty good business as profit margins are almost 15%.

Is this what we want?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Medicine for Black Women

One Form of Insanity in the 21st Century

Joey Erace travels fairly frequently to California and Texas to play baseball for amateur teams. Such travel is typical for many of us. Joey's difference is his age - 10 years old. He is one of the generation whose parents believe that their child is talented enough in a particular sport to receive a college scholarship. Besides the travel costs, his parents have invested significantly in Joey. Their New Jersey home has a $15,000 backyard batting cage. His private hitting coach charges $100 per hour, as does his Philadelphia-based fielding coach. In the world in which he travels he is well-known. He has more than 24,000 followers on Instagram. Jewelry and apparel companies have asked him to hawk their stuff. But, when asked for an autograph, he suggests a photo as, at age 10, he does not know how to write cursively. 

Joey Erace is not alone. Millions of kids have the same dream as Joey and are as wrapped up in this life which is more like that of pro athletes than neighborhood kids. As a result, neighborhood Little Leagues, town soccer associations and church basketball squads that bonded kids in a community–and didn’t cost as much as a rent check–have largely lost their luster. Joey and company live in a world which seems to be governed by companies trying to make money. 

It is estimated that this youth-sports economy – which includes everything from travel to private coaching to apps that organize leagues and livestream games – is now a $15.3 billion market that has grown by 55% since 2010. The United States Specialty Sports Association, or USSSA, is a nonprofit with 501(c)(4) status, a designation for organizations that promote social welfare. According to its most recent available IRS filings, it generated $13.7 million in revenue in 2015, and the CEO received $831,200 in compensation. The group holds tournaments across the nation, and it ranks youth teams in basketball, baseball and softball. The softball rankings begin with teams age 6 and under. Baseball starts at age 4. 

Is this what we want for our grandchildren when only 2% of high school athletes go on to play at the top level of college sports, the NCAA’s Division 1?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Where have the insects gone

There was a recent study of the insect population over a period of time.  The study covered a 27 year period in 63 nature protection areas in Germany. While no other areas were studied, the results are very scary. The author concluded that the population declined 76% in that time. He states that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline.  

Should we be worried? We've seen the number of bees decline substantially. What else has?