GOP or Dems in charge — Americans still get less healthcare, shorter lifespan, for our dollar$

❝ “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care—you watch,” President Donald Trump declared in March. “We’re coming up with plans.” Alas, like many of Mr Trump’s claims, this one proved untrue…

Republican reluctance to embrace health care, despite the president’s best efforts, is understandable. On the one hand, America’s health-care system is woefully dysfunctional: the country spends about twice as much on health care as other rich countries but has the highest infant-mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy (see chart). Some 30m people, including 6m non-citizens, remain uninsured. And yet, though costs remain a major concern—out-of-pocket spending on insurance continues to rise—Americans say they are generally satisfied with their own health care. Eight in ten rate the quality of their care as “good” or “excellent”. Few are in favour of dramatic reform.

Yes, Americans are as ignorant about disposition of their tax dollars as they are about, say, healthful living in general. I doubt that most have any idea about how US healthcare stacks up against our peers. Poisonally, both topics are important to me. They will count towards how I vote in 2020.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Some Americans getting more physically fit, some growing more obese


The exercise part of the story

❝ It may seem like a contradiction, but more adults in the U.S. say they are exercising at the same time more of them are becoming obese.

About 24 percent of adults last year said they exercise enough each week to meet government recommendations for both muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise, according to a large annual health survey. That was up from 21 percent in 2015.

The same survey says 31 percent of adults indicated they were obese last year, up slightly. Another, more rigorous government study has also found adult obesity is inching up.

❝ In a report…released Thursday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at survey responses from 2010 through 2015 and found that level of leisure-time exercise was more common in some states than others.

Nearly a third of non-elderly adults in Colorado, Idaho, and New Hampshire met exercise guidelines. Only about one-seventh in Mississippi, Kentucky and South Carolina did.

Higher levels of exercise were more common in people who were working than those who weren’t, the study also found.

❝ Of course, unhealthy eating has a lot to do with obesity. Research indicates that “a change in diet is needed to see any dent or reduction in obesity,” said the CDC’s Tainya Clarke…

RTFA. Better yet, get off your butt and go for a walk. There are more than graphic reasons for reports like this to be called a dumbbell curve.

Japan has a drug that kills the flu in 24 hours. Why doesn’t the U.S. have it?

❝ This has been an especially deadly flu season here in the U.S., but a new breakthrough medication promises to kill the flu virus in 24 hours. The catch: It’s only available in Japan.

On Friday, officials in Japan approved the single-dose drug, known as Xofluza, for use in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a clinical trial, Japanese and American patients who took the drug when they had the flu saw the virus wiped out, on average, in 24 hours.

❝ Xofluza is manufactured by Japanese drug maker Shionogi and won’t hit shelves until at least May — again, in Japan. According to the Wall Street Journal, the drug won’t be available in the U.S. until at least 2019.

When it does show up in our pharmacies, any bets on how the price here in the GOUSA will compare to what Japanese patients pay?

20% of Americans don’t know hamburger is beef. Ask them about chocolate milk!

❝ Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey…

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania…does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

❝ But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners…the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

❝ For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

❝ …Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk…

❝ Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

RTFA. Makes a few good points about understanding agriculture. Overall, it reinforces my perception of American education. We make ourselves look good – compared to the least educated 3rd World countries – on the basis of testing for what our children are taught. Both the testing and subject matter are lacking as far as I’m concerned. The tidy little curriculum that satisfies a Middle American education has little or nothing to do with a global economy, the needs and future of all of the humanity on this planet, citizens of Earth.

Feds say they will disclose an estimate of Americans spied upon early in 2017


I’ll be keeping an eye on all of you

❝ The U.S. intelligence community will soon disclose an estimate of the number of Americans whose electronic communications have been caught in the crosshairs of online surveillance programs intended for foreigners…

The estimate, requested by members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is expected to be made public as early as next month…Its disclosure would come as Congress is expected to begin debate in the coming months over whether to reauthorize or reform the so-called surveillance authority, known as Section 702, a provision that was added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008…

❝ The government has long held that calculating the number of Americans subject to Section 702 surveillance might be technically impossible and would require privacy intrusions exceeding those raised by the actual surveillance programs…blah, blah, blah…!

Intelligence officials have said that online data about Americans is “incidentally” collected under Section 702, due to a range of technical and practical reasons. Critics have assailed such collection as back-door surveillance of Americans without a warrant.

❝ Section 702 will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, absent congressional action. It enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream that were revealed in a series of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden more than three years ago.

Prism gathers messaging data from…Google, Facebook , Microsoft, Apple and other major tech companies that is sent to and from a foreign target under surveillance. Upstream allows the NSA to copy web traffic flowing along the internet backbone located inside the United States and search that data for certain terms associated with a target.

The priority for government spooks, from the NSA to the FBI is mining data. The more the merrier as far as official scumbags are concerned. Privacy is meaningless, not a human right, not constitutionally protected…for their remit as spies. None of us are exempt.

Our Congress-critters have collectively rolled over and stuck their feet in the air, time and again. They may as well be listening to Gulf of Tonkin declarations or Dick Cheney’s contrived WMDs. No serious questioning comes from pimps for the military-industrial complex. Only a few voices from a few souls touched with integrity.

Brits FAIL at claim that Americans are dumber


Click to enlarge

Across the United Kingdom on Friday, Britons mourned their long-cherished right to claim that Americans were significantly dumber than they are.

Luxuriating in the superiority of their intellect over Americans’ has long been a favorite pastime in Britain, surpassing in popularity such games as cricket, darts, and snooker.

But, according to Alistair Dorrinson, a pub owner in North London, British voters have done irreparable damage to the “most enjoyable sport this nation has ever known: namely, treating Americans like idiots.”…

In the face of this startling display of national idiocy, Dorrinson still mustered some of the resilience for which the British people are known. “This is a dark day,” he said. “But I hold out hope that, come November, Americans could become dumber than us once more.”

Between TV Talking Heads too lazy to try their own hand at journalism and white Americans who claim that behaving like racists doesn’t make them racist – I agree. You’ll rarely go broke betting against American ignorance.

Revisit the legacy of Agent Orange


Click to enlargeReuters photographer Damir Sagolj

As April 30 approaches, marking 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, people in Vietnam with severe mental and physical disabilities still feel the lingering effects of Agent Orange.

Respiratory cancer and birth defects amongst both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to the defoliant. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange onto Vietnam’s jungles during the conflict to expose northern communist troops.

Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj travelled through Vietnam to meet the people affected, four decades on.

I would say, “Never again”; but, I haven’t that much trust in our government, our politicians.