:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

Ah yes, another effective use of our tax dollars.

In the meantime, Bush signs parts of Patriot Act II into law — stealthily

"On December 13, when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush not only celebrated with his national security team, but also pulled out his pen and signed into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers...By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism...

"The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business 'whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters.' ....

"While broadening the definition of "financial institution," the Bush administration is ramping up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters. "

posted by Rahat | 12/30/2003 10:33:00 AM | (0) comments |

Monday, December 29, 2003  

posted by Rahat | 12/29/2003 06:30:00 PM | (0) comments |

Saturday, December 27, 2003  

Some Doctors Letting Patients Skip Co-Payments

"For years, health plans have sought to control medical costs by negotiating fees with a group of preferred doctors and requiring patients to pay extra for going outside the network. But some doctors and clinics - eager to help hard-pressed patients or calculating that it can benefit their business - have begun to foil the cost-control efforts by waiving those extra charges."

Patients are seeing this as a sign of benevolence from their physicians. However, "Doctors are waiving coinsurance payments for several reasons, analysts say: to recruit patients who would otherwise go to doctors on a health plan's preferred list; to help people struggling with the cost of care, and to reduce their own costs for processing insurance paperwork and dunning patients who are slow to pay.

These doctors can afford to pass up the payments because the out-of-network fees they collect from insurers often are higher than those they would collect as members of a health plan's network."

Routinely waiving copayments however can be construed as fraud, according to this article. Hmm, I wonder what helped lobby put those laws on the books?

Just another example of how utterly screwed up our healthcare system is.

posted by Rahat | 12/27/2003 07:02:00 AM | (0) comments |

Thursday, December 25, 2003  

Venture-capital for global social change innovations -- music to my ears!

"The elephant pepper is one of 47 ideas for social change in poor countries that the World Bank recently financed through its Development Marketplace. The bank's grants for these ideas - the farmers got $108,000 - fall a few zeroes short of what the bank usually spends on its projects. But this venture-capital approach is a useful way of looking at social change. It is also a good investment, spurring innovations for very little money...

"Some of the marketplace's winners are projects with global promise. Researchers in Tanzania are training rats to detect tuberculosis. Turkish engineers are helping people who live in substandard housing in earthquake zones to fortify their walls using discarded tires. South Africa's Playpump project provides free clean drinking water by installing wells - each owered by a merry-go-round - in playgrounds or at primary schools. As children make the merry-go-round spin, water is pumped into a tank decorated with messages about AIDS prevention, as well as with commercial ads that are sold to maintain the well. South Africa has already installed 500 Playpumps, which are more efficient, easier to use and cheaper to run than wells with hand pumps...

"One of the Development Marketplace's most cost-effective ideas is helping people in India improve their reading by putting subtitles in their own language on popular music videos shown on TV. Viewers can read along with songs they already know, and initial studies show that the program does help reading comprehension. Such subtitles could be used worldwide to increase literacy, and cost almost nothing."

Comment: this is SO exciting! This is really what the World Bank should be doing more of (and less of the strings-attached, destructive Structural Adjustment Programs).

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/25/2003 09:31:00 PM | (0) comments |


How Poor are We?

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people can be?" the father asked. "Oh Yeah" said the son. "So what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

With this the boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are."

- received from an email forward.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/25/2003 09:23:00 PM | (0) comments |


'Tis the Season of...Instruction Books!
"The result is that this is no longer the season of good will or gift giving, or even of zero percent interest. It is the season of instructions. Everything has them. Some even come on CD-ROM, with instructions on how to boot up the CD so you can read the instructions. You must already have your computer hooked up to the Internet, in some cases, since the CD only carries instructions for the computer to download animated instructional videos from a server somewhere in the sixth circle of hell. Not to worry. There are instructions on how to connect to the Internet that come with the computer... You are completely on your own. This is not because cheating is discouraged. But although all your neighbors and their therapists will come to your aid if you suffer holiday depression or begin to abuse a substance you thought you had put behind you, no one comforts a person who can't work a cellphone. The pseudo-helpful will quickly arrive. But they will just press a sequence of buttons too fast for you to follow and say: 'Here you are. What's the problem?'"

From "The Getting is Over; The Confusion, Just Starting," New York Times. Great commentary. I think my generation has actually thrown out the instruction book and decided to either learn as we play with a new gadget, or to perform the "randomly press a bunch of buttons and something should work!" game.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/25/2003 12:36:00 AM | (0) comments |

Monday, December 22, 2003  

With the TV you sit. With the internet you engage.

Simon from NDNBlog has this to say about (somewhat) participatory/internet campaigning:

"Think of the difference between your experience watching TV and being online. With TV you sit. With the Internet you engage. One is passive, the other active.
If you believe all this, it helps explain why Dean is succeeding this time. It wasn't just the boost he got from being anti-war. It is that he is clearly a work in progress, not fully formed as a candidate, and there is a sense that by engaging with him over your computer from wherever you sit that you are engaged in building a value system, a candidate and a community. Simply, with Dean, there is something for everyone to do. You can be part of building something, not just consuming it.

What has changed now is the expectation of the voter/activist/consumer. They will come to expect greater intimacy, greater engagement, greater choice, and greater community in their politics. The medium is the message now, and the message is participation..."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/22/2003 05:56:00 PM | (0) comments |

Sunday, December 21, 2003  

A touching (and timely) piece on income disparities
"Some images linger in the mind forever. Earlier this year as I walked along the streets of the well-off Ipanema district in Rio de Janeiro, I noticed a poor woman and her boy sitting on a sidewalk. They clearly relied on the charity of others, plying pity for a few coins. But at that moment, they were mother and child, consumed with one another, as if their shared love made them forget why they were there that morning.

To his great joy and to my surprise, the woman lifted the boy into the air, his elated face unconscious to either his poverty or the fact he had no legs. And so they played until a stranger approached and offered money. Both smiled in gratitude, somewhat surprised by the interruption of their simple bliss.

At the time I couldn't help thinking how this charitable gesture would do nothing to change their lives, particularly the boy's, in a world where his disability would most likely close the few doors of opportunity available even to the able-bodied poor of in Rio..."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/21/2003 04:27:00 PM | (0) comments |


The Republicard - spending away the bad bad government's money!
All new! The Republicard, how fitting! Tom Toles created a similar credit card theme for Bush's legacy.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 12/21/2003 04:20:00 PM | (0) comments |

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