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Good News….or Maybe Not Such Good News August 27, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The Middle East, The War in Iraq.
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In some circles much is being made of a recent announcement by the Iraqi government that agreements have been made on several issues dividing the Shia and Sunni camps. But hold on there. The National Concord Front is still so unhappy that they are continuing their boycott of the government. The Herald Sun reports on not only this fact but several other items that make how much progress this announcement really marks seem highly questionable.

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And On a Related Subject August 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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MSNBC also informs you of 9 Things the Insurers Don’t Want You to Know. Among them is that if you become expensive to them they’ll go over your records to see if there is absolutely anything that they can use against you as a reason to drop your coverage retroactively. They call it recission.

You know how the insurance companies tell you that you should get things pre-approved? Look at this little gem.

 “Preapproval is often what triggers the rescission review,” says Shernoff. “If it’s for hip surgery, that’s an expensive item that they’ll look at and see if you’re a candidate for rescission.

Catch-22, anyone?

Is it Defensible? August 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care.
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At almost any blog that discusses politics the subject of health care will come up. There is no lack of people to defend the current system if it’s been good to them. Of course good to them generally means no serious illness in their life or the lives of those close to them. Because the great shock is that often those who are hurt worst by the system, having their financial lives destroyed are in fact insured when their ordeals begin. MSNBC had this report about what is not nearly as rare as it ought to be. In fact it just shouldn’t be allowed to happen at all. Don’t forget that your credit rating is looked at now by potential employers and landlords as well as places you want credit from. Destroying your financial life has far greater implications than most people realize.

Electric Paper August 14, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Technology, What a Century!.
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Scientific American tells us about research that has resulted in cellulose being combined with nanotubes, liquid salts or lithium to produce (depending on the combination) either long lasting batteries or commercial grade supercapacitors. The research was a collaboration of three different labs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

About that positive review of the surge… August 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The War in Iraq.
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Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo points out some interesting details about the op-ed in the NYT by O’Hanlon and Pollack. First, in spite of the embrace of this article by the political right as somehow proving something about their belief in how to handle Iraq the only progress they noted was on the military front, not the political. No progress on the political front means no progress towards a long term solution. Secondly, the majority of the people they were able to speak to were those who were included in an itinerary developed by them for the DoD. There’s nothing damning about it but hopefully it would make for a more restrained and realistic assessment of what that op-ed meant.

A Very Cool Contest August 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Environment, Futurist Spec, Geek Stuff, Science & Society, Technology.
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CNet news has an article on the Energy Department’s 2007 Solar Decathlon. It’s a really good idea and I’ve seen something of it before when a television special hosted by Tom Friedman went there. Of course the day Friedman and his crew visited it was cloudy and raining.

But there is another contest that I wish would get a lot more exposure and hopefully more ideas that would then be put into use. It is the Affordable Housing Development Competition, sponsored mainly by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. Heck, until I thought to look for one because the thought that a contest such as this would be a good idea I didn’t even know it existed though I thought that surely somebody would be doing something similar.

Just think if we could merge the concepts from the two and begin producing some affordable housing that’s also energy efficient so the energy bills of the people who can’t afford huge bills could be minimized.

Big Meeting, Nice Words, Foolish Words August 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Show Me, Terrorism.
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There is coverage of a big meeting of tribal leaders that Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf addressed in order to show that he’s doing something about the terrorists that use Pakistan as a base to launch attacks into Afghanistan. I have a very simple phrase for this: “Show me.”. I’ll believe it when I see some results. The most ludicrous thing was this quote from Musharraf

“Taliban are part of the Afghan society. Most of them may be ignorant and misguided, but all of them are not die-hard militants and fanatics who defy even the most fundamental values of our culture and our faith,” he said.

This would presumably include those who kidnapped 23 Koreans and have murdered two of them in cold blood so far? There is a vast difference between those who might have some sympathies for the Taliban because of central government ineptitude and corruption and the actual members of the Taliban themselves. Apparently Musharraf doesn’t grasp the distinction.

Didn’t everybody already know that? August 10, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Science, Science & the Media.
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Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars writes about some really bad science reporting. I know that when I saw it I had some of the same thoughts he expresses so well. It’s just mind boggling that someone would report as a startling new discovery something that has been known for decades, which is that one species evolved from another species will co-exist with the ancestor species for a while.

Don’t Mirror the Republicans August 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Politics.
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This Washington Post piece by Martin O’Malley and Harold Ford is, like so many similar op-eds, pretty vague. But that isn’t really meant as a criticism. No one writes articles about capturing the center of the American electorate in order to make specific policy proposals. Honestly, in spite of criticisms otherwise I haven’t noticed the major Democratic candidates going as far to the left as the Republicans have gone to the right. And they desperately need to avoid any temptation to do so just to appeal to a perceived political base. It’s what the Republicans are putting as much effort as they can into and I hope that it comes back to haunt them in the general election. Many Americans are tired of the rule of the extremes and justifiably so.

Discoveries Can Be Anywhere August 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Medical Research.
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Ketamine is an approved anesthetic. It is also a club drug nicknamed “special K”. It has effects as an anesthetic and hallucinogen. But it does something that no other drug has ever been able to do. It can relieve depression in some of the most intractable cases in hours, not the days that every other anti-depressant takes. Technology Review reports that the mechanism that allows the drug to have such an astonishing effect is being tracked down and compounds that can do the same thing without the other effects of ketamine might not be too far down the road as such things go.