Saturday, March 18, 2006

Interesting News

Study: Most get mediocre health care

USA Today: Health and Behavior

Posted 3/15/2006 6:19 PM By Jeff Donn, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON — Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans — rich, poor, black, white — get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all.
"This study shows that health care has equal-opportunity defects," said Dr. Donald Berwick, who runs the non-profit Institute for health care Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.

The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only urban-area dwellers who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: These blacks and Hispanics actually got slightly better medical treatment than whites.

Overall, patients received only 55% of recommended steps for top-quality care — and no group did much better or worse than that.

The story above leaves me wondering just what Congress might be spending our money on if our health care is so bad. You also now have the explanation for my mistrust of the medical profession. Hell, if you can't even buy a good doctor, how are you supposed get decent health care?

Politics Drives a Senate Spending Spree

The New York Times -- March 18, 2006 News Analysis By CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON, March 17 — The largess demonstrated by the Senate in padding its budget with billions of dollars in additional spending this week showed that lawmakers are no different from many of their constituents: they don't mind pulling out the charge card when money is tight.

Just hours after opening a new line of credit through an increase in the federal debt limit, the Senate splurged on a bevy of popular programs before approving a spending plan that was as much a political document as an economic one, its fine print geared to the coming elections.

Forced to choose between calls for renewed austerity and demands for more money, many Republicans joined Democrats in reaching deeper into the Treasury, leaving the party's push for new fiscal restraint in tatters.

Some of their colleagues said it was an open-and-shut case of nervous politicians ducking a tough spending stance to avoid starring in negative campaign commercials. Republicans in some of this year's tightest races — Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Jim Talent of Missouri and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — all backed the chief budget-busting provision as they endorsed an extra $7 billion for medical research, education and worker safety.

Ah, here's some money for health research. The question is, how do we know that money is actually going to people who will produce any results?

Lawmakers, analysts and others said the Senate's reluctance to clamp down on spending was a natural result of an approach that fails to recognize a sharply changed reality. In some respects, the administration and Congress act as if the surplus that greeted President Bush when he checked into the White House is still in the bank, rather than recognizing that whatever windfall was available then was eaten up and more by tax cuts.

The reality is that the cuts, plus two wars, new domestic security needs, natural disasters and a big expansion of Medicare have left the government's account badly overdrawn with no prospect of getting it back in balance anytime soon.

Well, if I owned a company and the people that I hired to run it for me took it from a budget surplus to a nine trillion dollar debt in just six years or so, I'd be asking some pretty serious questions. Gave all our money away, got us bogged down in a foreign war, lost most of our allies and friends; why it's positively Nixonian.

I do have an answer though. I'm gonna get me some of these bionic muscles and become a superhero, so I can set the world to rights. Watch for it in the news!

Scientists make 'bionic' muscles

BBC News -- March 18, 2006

Scientists have developed artificial, super-strength muscles which are powered by alcohol and hydrogen. And they could eventually be used to make more advanced prosthetic limbs, say researchers at University of Texas.

Writing in Science, they say these artificial muscles are 100 times more powerful than the body's own. They could even be used in "exoskeletons" to give superhuman strength to certain professions such as firefighters, soldiers and astronauts.

Two types of muscle are being investigated by US researchers at the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas in Dallas, working with colleagues from South Korea. Both release the chemical energy of fuels, such as hydrogen and alcohol, while consuming oxygen. In effect they are replicating the first stage in "breathing" - by taking in oxygen. The existing form of artificial muscles are driven by batteries. However, neither of the types developed by the Texan researchers resembles a normal muscle - being made up of wires, cantilevers and glass bottles.

Created on ... March 18, 2006

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