5 myths about health care around the world

As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we’ve overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world. All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they’ve found ways to cover everybody — and still spend far less than we do…

First we have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:

1. It’s all socialized medicine out there.

Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others — for instance, Canada and Taiwan — rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries — including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland — provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.

In some ways, health care is less “socialized” overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet’s purest examples of government-run health care.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.

Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation’s 200 private health insurance plans — a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn’t like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.

In France and Japan, you don’t get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer…You pick any doctor, you get treatment — and insurance has to pay…

In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don’t bother to make an appointment. One Thursday morning in Tokyo, I called the prestigious orthopedic clinic at Keio University Hospital to schedule a consultation about my aching shoulder. “Why don’t you just drop by?” the receptionist said. That same afternoon, I was in the surgeon’s office. Dr. Nakamichi recommended an operation. “When could we do it?” I asked. The doctor checked his computer and said, “Tomorrow would be pretty difficult. Perhaps some day next week?”

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North Carolina court rules that convicted drug dealer can own a gun

North Carolina loves colorful characters

A state law barring felons from owning firearms unfairly prevented a Garner man from owning guns, the N.C. Supreme Court has ruled, thrusting the court into the national debate over gun ownership.

The opinion applied only to Barney Britt, who was convicted of a drug crime in 1979, and it didn’t have an immediate effect on the thousands of other felons in the state. Criminal defense lawyers who practice in federal courts said they don’t know what effect, if any, the opinion will have on federal rules, which prevent felons from buying and owning weapons except when a state has restored that right…

Though the opinion focused just on Britt’s case, both sides of the gun control issue saw the ruling as significant because the state’s highest court found that Britt had a right to bear arms that trumped the state’s ability to restrict him from owning any weapons…

“This has implications beyond just North Carolina,” said Robert Levy of the Cato Institute, a Washington-based Libertarian think tank that opposes gun control. “North Carolina has now decided that some felonies are not so serious to result in deprivations of the right to defend oneself…”

Of course, the [hopefully] ex-drug dealer wasn’t asking to defend himself [from whom?] – he wants to go hunting.

The office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who defended the state law in the case, declined to comment on the ruling.

A passionate hunter who never had any subsequent arrests, Britt had his right to own guns restored from 1987 until 2004, when the new law went into effect.

I wonder how passionate he was about earning a living dealing quaaludes?

Analyst finds 150 million “missing” handsets

Hey! Look! Only $66 in Shenzen.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Linley Group has released a report in which it claims that about 150 million handsets are missing from the official calculations of phones sold in 2008. The research firm notes that while some 1.2 billion cell phones shipped last year, 1.43 billion cellular baseband chips shipped, too, almost all destined for handsets. After accounting for waste and non-handset devices such as modems, analyst Bob Linley Gwennap guesses that 1.36 billion handsets were actually sold, while the missing chips were put into some 150 million unlicensed phones produced in China.

‘We believe that most handset-market estimates are missing the large number of unlicensed handsets produced in China. These “shanzhai” phones are produced by many small suppliers, some even operating out of apartments. This market is largely supplied by MediaTek, which provides complete handset chip sets and reference designs to the shanzhai vendors…

The bottom line is that Linley believes a total of 1.41 billion cellular devices shipped in 2008. Thanks to anticipated growth in the shanzhai market, a need to restock inventories and better economic condition, the firm estimates that despite the down handset market, baseband chip sales from vendors such as Qualcomm, MediaTek and Infineon will only decline by 2.5 percent in the second half of the year.

China’s not exactly having a great deal of success at licensing and protecting intellectual property, yet.


Marriage starts today in Vermont – for everyone

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Wedding bells are ringing for Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan in Vermont today. The two men are among the first same-sex couples to legally marry under a new state law that took effect at 12am.

Vermont is now the fourth state in America where gay marriage is legally recognised. The other states include: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Gay marriage will be legal in New Hampshire on 1 January 2010.

Same-sex marriage in the US can only be recognised at the state level due to the Defence of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman…

Slimback, an out-of-work Teamster, said the longtime couple has been “waiting for a chance to actually solidify” their relationship. He said: “It feels wonderful. It’s a day I have been long waiting for, and a day I truly honestly thought would never come.”

Meanwhile Vermont-based Ben&Jerry’s has temporarily renamed their popular Chubby Hubby ice cream to Hubby Hubby to commemorate the new law.

Ben&Jerry’s CEO Walt Freese said: “The legalisation of marriage for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont is certainly a step in the right direction, and something worth celebrating with peace, love – and plenty of ice cream.”

Rock on, Vermont!

Sooner or later, the rest of the United States of Bigots will come along and join the land of freedom.

Yet another religious nutball to watch out for!

Another brain-dead Christian for love and brotherhood

A Tempe pastor who delivered an inflammatory sermon praying for the death of President Obama is now under scrutiny by the US Secret Service and the nation’s leading tracker of hate groups.

Pastor Steven L. Anderson delivered the sermon, “Why I Hate President Obama,” while the president was visiting Arizona in August.

Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow,” he said in the sermon. “Let his children be continually vagabonds and beg.”

On Sunday, Anderson repeated his wish outside his church: “I hope it happens today, not when he gets older. I hope he (the president) dies of brain cancer today…”

Heidi Beirich, research director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, places Anderson’s comments against a larger backdrop of increasing militia activity in the U.S. and growing hostility toward the government and the president.

“We’re facing a revival of the militia movement, a revival of extreme anti-government beliefs and a lot of that has also turned very racial,” Beirich said…

Bill Straus, Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, adds that Anderson has the First Amendment on his side.

“Was it in any way over the line of protected speech? It wasn’t,” Straus said…

“We are aware of the comments and appropriate follow-up will be conducted,” said Darrin Blackford, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C.

As usual, all the nutballs crossover into each other’s specialty. One of the pastor’s loyal flock was part of the militia group that showed up at an Obama town hall – toting a rifle and a handgun. He will be supported by the NRA who say their focus is on our self-defense, guns for sport.

I didn’t know that harassing political discussion was sport.

Take it back to Anderson. Who organizes the hardcore teabaggers, disrupters of town hall discussions, demonstrations of super-patriots who want to kill the majority of the world that doesn’t think or look like them?

It ain’t traditional American conservatives or liberals. It ain’t progressives and radicals who believe in electoral politics. It’s direct action nutballs on the Left who haven’t the smarts or emotional stability for a long haul political campaign. It’s gun-crazy militia, John Birchers and Klan-types on the Right – so consumed with fear of folks even a little bit outside their gray conformist world they want to kill ’em all.

The voice of a newly “moderate” Republican

Bob McDonnell isn’t the first politician whose past writings have gotten him into hot water, but he is the latest now that a 20-year-old graduate thesis he penned has surfaced.

The paper, submitted in 1989, shows McDonnell’s thoughts at the time about the harmful social impact of working women, feminists and nontraditional families; the flaws of public education; and his disagreement with a federal court decision allowing the use of contraceptives by unmarried couples.

The contents of the thesis were first reported Sunday in The Washington Post. McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor, wrote it at age 34 as a candidate for law and master’s degrees at what is now Regent University in Virginia Beach…

What potential harm McDonnell’s thesis will cause his campaign is unclear, according to observers who have long followed Virginia politics…

The thesis argues in support of a range of public policy changes aimed at supporting what McDonnell calls “traditional family values” by rewarding people who adhere to them and refusing government aid to those who don’t.

“Every level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators,” McDonnell wrote in one passage. “The cost of sin should fall on the sinner not the taxpayer.”

McDonnell may have already learned the essential lesson of American Republicanism as practiced in the 21st Century – Lie like Hell about being a moderate and a centrist – screw the voters afterwards!

Turkey and Armenia move towards establishing national ties

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Turkey and its neighbour Armenia have moved closer to establishing diplomatic ties after decades of bitter mistrust on both sides.

They are to hold six weeks of domestic consultations on the move after which their parliaments will vote on it, their foreign ministries announced…

Turkey has resisted widespread calls for it to recognise the mass killing of Armenians during World War I as an act of genocide.

A roadmap for the normalisation of the relationship between the two countries was agreed in April…

The foreign ministries said the two countries had agreed to start internal discussions on two protocols: one establishing diplomatic relations and the other developing bilateral ties.

According to Reuters news agency, the Turkish-Armenian border – closed by Turkey in 1993 – will re-open within two months of the protocols coming into force.

The border was closed when Armenia exited the Soviet Union and assumed an independent political life. It’s been a spell; but, it looks like sensible relations can begin to pass between the two nations.