Some states lacking health law authority – or integrity

The White House wants states to take the lead in consumer protection

Faced with the need to review insurance rates and enforce a panoply of new rights granted to consumers, states are scrambling to make sure they have the necessary legal authority to carry out the responsibilities being placed on them by President Obama’s health care law.

Insurance commissioners in about half the states say they do not have clear authority to enforce consumer protection standards that take effect next month.

Federal and state officials are searching for ways to plug the gap. Otherwise, they say, the ability of consumers to secure the benefits of the new law could vary widely, depending on where they live.

Meanwhile, state governments that have for years allowed insurers to set premiums virtually at will are gearing up to establish procedures to review rate increases.

Does that sink in to voters around the country? The bureaucrats and elected officials in your state may have been happily trundling along rubber-stamping whatever rates insurance companies requested.

It certainly happened here in New Mexico. In fact, a mid-level bureaucrat in the state insurance commission granted Blue Cross a 21% rate increase – the day before the public hearing on whether it was legitimate or not!

States have the primary role in enforcing many of the new standards. If a state fails to enforce a standard, the federal government will step in to do so — as it did in several states after passage of a health insurance law in 1996.

Some state regulators said they would ask state legislators to expand their authority by putting the federal standards into state law next year. Others said they would rely on their powers of persuasion, the good will of insurers or general state laws that ban unfair or deceptive trade practices…

Arizona said it was unlikely to pass legislation authorizing any state agency to enforce federal insurance standards, in view of its participation in a lawsuit challenging the federal law. Moreover, it said, Gov. Jan Brewer has “instituted an indefinite rule-making moratorium, so we have no plans to adopt rules related to enforcement” of the law

Yup. Republicans truly have an unusual style when it comes to law enforcement.

Doctor calls for legal assisted-suicide

Elderly people should be allowed to end their lives with the help of a doctor even if they are not terminally ill, according to a new campaign group that claims to have widespread support.

The Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, led by a former GP…says that pensioners should have the human right to declare “enough is enough” and die with dignity.

Dr Michael Irwin says he knows of an elderly English woman who is considering taking her life through Dignitas, the Swiss “suicide clinic”, as she is suffering from progressive arthritis and worsening eyesight.

He believes that many more will want to take the same course of action as Britain’s population ages.

The new group has commissioned a national poll that found 67 per cent of those questioned agreed that very elderly and mentally competent individuals should be allowed to receive a doctor’s assistance to die, if they are suffering from health problems but not terminally ill. Only 19 per cent of the 1,009 adults questioned by ICM said they opposed the move while the rest were uncertain.

It opens up a new front in the war to create a right to die in England and Wales, following the high-profile court battle last year that led to unprecedented legal guidelines being published…

Last year a landmark court case won by Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, forced the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, QC, to set out exactly when prosecutions would be brought against people who assist another to die..

But the new campaign, SOARS, wants to legalise assisted suicide with the help of a doctor for those who are merely tired of life because of their age and health problems rather than a terminal disease.

Its hope is that a future law would allow two doctors and a legal witness to agree that the patient was mentally competent and not being pressured to die by relatives, then for the elderly person to be provided with the “necessary medication” after a two-month cooling-off period.

Organized religion and most conservative political organizations will reject this measure of individual liberty. For no other reason than they think they should in order to appear moral. Whatever that might mean.

Personally, this is a right I intend to exercise if I ever feel I need to or wish to. It’s just a boatload of bother that I would have to engineer the whole process to be certain those I love aren’t attacked by the state afterwards.

Prison escape becomes campaign issue in Arizona

The escape of three convicts from a prison in Arizona last week has become an issue in the state’s campaign for governor.

Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democratic candidate, is accusing incumbent Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of increasing the risk of jailbreaks by favoring for-profit prisons over state-run prisons.

“The Brewer administration has consistently promoted private over public prisons, in spite of the public safety risk,” he said. “The escape of these two violent offenders makes it clear how dangerous this policy has been.”

Goddard is calling for a moratorium on putting violent criminals in for-profit facilities. “They’re going to cut costs wherever they can,” he told CNN Tuesday, “putting public safety at risk…”

The three inmates — all convicted of murder, second-degree murder or attempted second-degree murder — escaped July 30 from a for-profit prison in Kingman, Arizona. The prison is run by Management and Training Corp. of Utah. The facility was built to house minimum-security prisoners, but it was later modified to house medium-security inmates as well. Its current population includes 117 murderers classified as medium-security inmates…

State officials say the inmates escaped through a door at which the alarm failed to sound, then cut a hole in the fence with wire-cutters that had been thrown over the fence by an accomplice. They escaped undetected…

One of the three escapees, John McCluskey, remains at large.

McCluskey is implicated in the murder of a retiree couple from Oklahoma in Santa Rosa, NM – while they were on vacation trailering to Colorado.

As much as Arizona’s Republican governor tries to downplay the role of privatizing prisons in decreased safety and security, we went through the same experience in New Mexico. We had a beancounter Republican governor who sold off every prison he could to private for-profit corporations like the crew in AZ – with the same results.

We ran a monthly pool on escapes.

Cult of digital nothingness

I love “hair shirt” stories like this. Especially if they’re about someone living nearby. It’s good for a garage sale with everything for free – when they go through this crisis of ownership.

Usually, the dimwit acting out his heroic monkish self-image isn’t even bright enough to sell off his creature comforts.

Many have begun trading in CD, DVD, and book collections for digital music, movies, and e-books. But this trend in digital technology is now influencing some to get rid of nearly all of their physical possessions – from photographs to furniture to homes altogether…

Meet Kelly Sutton, a spiky-haired 22-year-old software engineer with thick-rimmed glasses and an empty apartment in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood – a hotbed for New York’s young, early adopters of new technology.

Mr Sutton is the founder of, a website which has helped him sell or give away his possessions – apart from his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a “few” articles of clothing and bed sheets for a mattress that was left in his newly rented apartment.

This 21st-Century minimalist says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.

“I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation – cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact,” said Mr Sutton…

Mr Sutton sold or gave away most of his assets, apart from his iPad, Kindle, laptop and a few other items

The tech-savvy Los Angeles “transplant” credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life…

Beaucoup apocrypha fleshes out an article on living the puritan life.

Pretty much tales of folks who think the monastic life brings some sort of liberation. Rather like hitting yourself in the forehead with a ballpeen hammer – “because it feels so good when you stop!”

China + American greed = #2 world economy

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy last quarter, capping the nation’s three- decade rise from Communist isolation to emerging superpower.

Japan’s nominal gross domestic product for the second quarter totaled $1.288 trillion, less than China’s $1.337 trillion, the Japanese Cabinet Office said today. Japan remained bigger in the first half of 2010, the government agency said. Japan’s annual GDP is $5.07 trillion, while China’s is more than $4.9 trillion.

China led the world out of last year’s global recession with an economy that’s more than 90-times bigger than when leader Deng Xiaoping ditched hard-line Communist policies in favor of free-market reforms in 1978. The country of 1.3 billion people will overtake the U.S., where annual GDP is about $14 trillion, as the world’s largest economy by 2027, according to Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill.

China’s surpassing of Japan “is a marker of its increasingly dominant role in the global economy,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former head of the China division at the International Monetary Fund. “The resilience of China’s growth during the crisis enabled a number of other countries, particularly commodity-exporting economies, to ride on its coattails.”

RTFA. Lots of stats confirming what we already knew.

16 years of collusion between politicians and Western corporations produced the inevitable diminishing of the role of native corporations from the USA to the UK. From Clinton through George W., our federal government refused to enforce laws on the books governing runaway shops. Though in the latter case, the Feds actually subsidized firms moving out of American to Asia.

You got what you voted for, folks. Screwed!

You just thought you’d be the one having the most fun.

For the ancient mariner, olives ruled!

Tree-ripened olives in Cyprus

A huge quantity of olive stones on an ancient shipwreck more than 2,000 years old has provided valuable insight into the diet of sailors in the ancient world, say researchers in Cyprus.

The shipwreck, dating from around 400 B.C. and laden mainly with wine amphorae from the Aegean island of Chios and other north Aegean islands, was discovered deep under the sea off Cyprus’s southern coast.

Excavation on the site, which started in November 2007, has determined that the ship was a merchant vessel of the late classical period.

“An interesting piece of evidence that gives us information on the conditions under which the sailors of antiquity lived, are the large numbers of olive pips that were found during excavation, since these pips must have been part of the crew’s food supply,” Cyprus’s antiquities department said in a news release…

Olives and olive oil are a staple of the Mediterranean diet and their consumption over hundreds of years has been well documented.

Italian archaeologists discovered that some of the world’s oldest perfumes, made in Cyprus, were olive oil based. The commodity was also used to fire copper furnaces.

The center, the root and source of so much that is healthy about a Mediterranean diet.

Olive oil, olives.

Swiss win the Gruyère war

It was nicknamed the Gruyère War: a bitter three-year battle between French and Swiss cheesemakers over who made the real celebrated cheese.

In the end, the conflict was over before it began after the Swiss – backed by European Union experts – emerged victorious.

Makers of French Gruyère and Swiss Gruyère, which have a different taste and appearance, had both claimed the prestigious mark of quality the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in their respective countries. AOCs are an official mark of quality awarded to regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods.

But the French got greedy and sought to have their gruyère recognised more widely with a prestigious Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP) handed out by the EU as a mark of international recognition. The Swiss complained, arguing the very name Gruyère comes from one of their towns nestling in the Alpine foothills, and that they had been making the celebrated cheese for centuries…

The EU was called in to adjudicate and found the French argument had a few holes of its own, namely that it was matured outside of the area it was produced in – mostly near France’s border with Switzerland – and so did not appear to qualify for an AOP. Having digested the official report, which said the French case was “weak”, Gallic Gruyère makers threw in the towel.

Swiss Gruyère rules.

You needn’t be a Packers’ fan to be a proper cheesehead.