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Comment Re:Affordable Care Act (Score 1) 135

@Anonymous Coward

I don't want to sound like a sourpuss, but I'm quite skeptical about "medical deregulation", "loosening prescription restrictions", and "tearing down licensing laws".

I happen to think that medication is one of the few areas where people really are totally incompetent to medicate themselves, and that it would be irresponsible to allow anyone but a trained physician to prescribe drugs, and that prescribing drugs should only take place within a medically correct treatment plan.

As a case in point: almost all of our woes with antibiotics-resistant bacterial strains are due to gigantic and totally irresponsible prescription in the livestock industry, irresponsible and profligate prescription of antibiotics where they aren't needed (doctors being pressured into prescribing antibiotics for the common cold), and ignorant patients aborting their antibiotics treatment the instant they feel better (as opposed to completing the treatment).

I think it's fair to say that if (ignorant and lazy) people had not been able to influence prescriptions, we would not now have any antibiotic resistance to speak of.

I'm happy to discuss increasing competition, but only from fully qualified suppliers. I believe that any other suppliers should be ruthlessly suppressed.

Comment Re:Affordable Care Act (Score 1) 135


You may be right, I just don't know. I'm fairly certain there would be no political majority for that. In fact, the ACA structure of using private companies as insurers makes it a lot easier to swallow for any sort of conservative, thus making it politically feasible instead of politically infeasible.

I am also sensitive to the general argument of letting the private sector do what it can ... and stepping in with government regulations only where absolutely needed.

Part of that is because government bureaucracies function in a much more complex environment than straightforward for-profit companies (e.g. they need to be fair, equitable, compliant with policy etc. etc.). That tends to drive them to complicated procedures and structures that for-profit companies avoid at all costs. In other words: you trade efficiency (and cost-effectiveness) for more equitable treatment of clients.

There's something to be said for that, but in the current climate I'd very much prefer to have an efficient 80% solution in place while trying to take the rough edges off than not having anything, or creating inefficiencies through a new layer of bureaucracy.

Government programs that disburse money also have way of being abused for political gains. As in: "Make government-controlled entities splurge cash on those parts of the electorate you need votes from, hide the costs, and saddle other parts of the electorate with the bill". Sometimes that's justified, but often it isn't.

Think e.g. pork-barrel funding awarded to states. Don't get me wrong: in some way way it's a legitimate way of pumping federal money into weaker sections of the US economy (e.g. Southern and rural states). But it's vulnerable and needs constant scrutiny. Which it doesn't always get.

Turning insurance over to private enterprise has the advantage of keeping it at arms' length from politicians, at the cost of making people dependent on commercial insurers. Well if you find a better (more efficient) solution (and can somehow show it can't be abused) which is also politically feasible (i.e. won't be shot on sight by conservatives), please let us know.

Comment Re:Affordable Care Act (Score 1) 135

@Anonymous Coward

I'm sorry but I have trouble following any of the claims you make here. They're far to broad and a-specific for that.

(1) if you look here you'll find that the ACA reduced the number of un-insured people by a few million. Not bad for a piece of complete trash, eh? Care to re-uninsure a few million first while you think of something brilliantly better?

(2) how are you worse off than without the ACA unless you want to be un-insured?

(3) care to substantiate the "racists" part?

(4) please provide a link to the insurance company's website that offers you such horrendous coverage

Comment Affordable Care Act (Score 5, Insightful) 135

Lets remember that, unfortunately, the ACA is the very best that could be achieved after about 20 years of US political football games concerning national health insurance.

Remember how it was being villified by certain luminaries as leading to "Death Panels"? And when certain folks tried to kill it for being "unconstitutional"? That's the level of sanity of the political environment it was conceived in.

And even now we get posts from people who somehow don't like it (for whatever reason) but who still shy away yanking collective health insurance from a couple of milion people. Couldn't be their sense of ethics getting in the way. They're not like that. Something to do with political fallout I guess.

For better or worse, the insurance companies are simply the privatised face of national health insurance. And privatised means "for-profit". Which in turn means "maximise revenue and minimise expense". Bad news for anyone taking out or trying to claim on insurance. Fair enough. So what's your alternative? Want to set up an NHS-style system in the US? Perhaps sen. Bernie Sanders will look on that idea with favour, but absolutely no-one else will. Also be prepared to be branded a Communist, Socialist, Atheist, Satanist, Jihadist, Terrorist or simply all-round Un-American. Just a warning.

You might want to think about imposing more regulation on those insurance companies. Such as more financial transparency. Or some sort of nation-wide re-insurance. Well, good luck with either idea.

Sorry but in the mean time the ACA is what we've got. Lets try to smooth out its rough edges while we mull over what to replace it with, shall we?

Comment Re:What are they thinking? (Score 3, Informative) 728

Read the article. It makes sense, sort of. Found another piece, on CNN this time:

The article they refer to is this one:


Didn't have the stomach to read it in one go. It's written from a revanchist religious point of view and it lays every single failure since the fall of the Ottoman empire of the Islamic world to get its house in order and rise from a violently squabbling mob at the West's door. Apparently we have been doing Satan's work on them.

Their preferred response is "savagery", according to the author of that pamphlet. I think we can see what he means..

Somehow I don't see us working out our differences with them through reasoned debate.

It's a religious sect writ large, and it's one huge pitcher of cool-aid they've got there.

The only good news seems to be that this little masterpiece doesn't seem to base itself on the authority of Islamic texts per se. As far as I can see, it's based on an interpretation of Islam that's driven by an revanchist view of history.

That ought to give us something to work with when dealing with radicalising youths (their main supply of manpower).

Revanchism and envy are probably easier to deal with than straight-up religion.

Comment Re:What are they thinking? (Score 1) 728

Well, I thought of that ... but I can't quite make it rhyme.

Russia wasn't bombing ISIS. It was bombing non-ISIS insurgents. That's not against ISIS interests, is it? So why piss Russia off like this?

Besides which ... it must have been useful to try and split the front against them, politically if nothing else. Russia, backing Assad, would never have agreed to anything that helped anti-Assad coalitions. It would even have hindered them.

Last but not least, with the Russians in place, the coalition would have thought twice about doing bomb-runs against Assad, thus ensuring that non-Assad insurgents and Assad forces would continue to bleed each other.

On the whole I still can't see the upside for ISIS in ticking Russia off.

Comment What are they thinking? (Score 5, Interesting) 728

Perhaps someone can tell me, as I can't make head or tails of what motivates ISIS.

It is as if they've got a list of parties (nations) to piss off and are going down the list one by one. By this logic China, Japan, or Brazil ought to be next in line.

Besides which, they do seem to be doing their damnedest to drum up popular support for military action against them. Both the US and the UK will point to this attack and say to their respective electorates: "See? Told you that restraint won't help against these extremists. Now will you believe me? We need to actively engage those criminals *now* before they become too large to contain.".

I could understand (but not agree) if they just wanted to have their "caliphate". If you wanted to build a state you'd want to control territory and then secure it.

But going after a Russian airliner? The country ruled by an ex-soviet KGB colonel? The one who has shown he can (and will) use dumb (read: cheap) bombs to raze whole villages simply to get at one target? The one who comes from a long tradition that has demonstrated that as far as they're concerned normal rules of war don't exist? The one party that might otherwise be persuaded to sell arms (as long as they're to uses against US and UK forces)? Well ... if they looked for another adversary they've just got one.

And France? How much of the coalition's bomb runs are carried out by French aircraft? How many of the drones do the operate over Syria and Iraq? Not all that many? Man! We gotta change that! Lets piss 'em off big time and see if they can't do better.

The only reason I can think of is that they hope to goad Paris into dropping a nuke on Raqa ... decapitating ISIS ... and (I suppose) starting WW-III. Could that be it? Could they really aim at igniting a full-scale war between approx. 1 bln. muslims and 4 bln. non-muslims?

Or is thinking not their long suit? Are they too absorbed in their faith for that?


Comment Fact-based versus Faith-Based ? (Score 1) 345


I think your response seems to lean a little more towards "Faith-based" than "Fact-based".

Let's consider what the article has to say about the reason antibiotics are fast loosing their effectiveness, shall we?

The facts presented were stark and chilling. The antibiotics that have protected us from an array of lethal microbes for more than half a century are rapidly becoming ineffective. And the blame rests entirely at our own door. Rampant, irresponsible overuse of these miracle drugs, to the extent that more than 63,000 tons globally are pumped into livestock production every year, has driven the evolution of a new breed of superbugs. Before long the world may be faced with a situation last seen in the pre-penicillin era when even the most minor infections, such as those resulting from a childs grazed knee, could prove life-threatening, and every operation was fraught with danger.

Unless you want to take issue with the majority of medical practitioners and microbiological researchers, I think we can agree to take the waning effectiveness of existing antibiotics as a given. Simply because microbes evolve, and resistance to antibiotics is a strong survival trait. And why is it a survival trait? Because use in livestock industry (continuous sub-lethal doses of antibiotics in order to increase meat yield) produces the perfect environment for bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.

As many of the posts remark, we're seeing the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics, some that are resistant to most of our antibiotics, and a very few that are resistant to every single one of our antibiotics. Way to go, especially since bacteria swap pieces of their DNA on a continuous basis.

The mere fact that "Some people die of multidrug resistant infections, but not many." doesn't mean it's a big problem. That's like someone dropping out of a 40 story building and saying, as they pass the 30th story, "Well, nothing happened so far. The risks must be over-hyped. So lets talk 'economics' about deploying our parachute".

The most effective way to avoid finding ourselves without effective antibiotics is to stop the production of antibiotics-resistant bacterias. As in stop antibiotics use in livestock immediately, barring perhaps genuine veternarian use to treat infection. Also infection rates in livestock production can be reduced fairly sharply by avoiding overcrowded pens. That costs money of course, but in the end it's *our* money and *our* health problem.

The next thing to do is to enforce existing limitations on antibiotics (make sure that loud ("concerned and assertive") patients cannot pressure doctors into prescribing them antibiotics where they aren't medically necessary) prescription and to ensure that people actually finish their antibiotics treatment.

Last but not least we might have a look at how we can ensure development of new antibiotics. E.g. by issuing a fresh 20-year patent if and when an antibiotic actually makes it to market within the first 20-year patent period. If it doesn't make it to market within 20 years, it's not eligible for patent extension.

That ought to ensure profitability. In addition, why not fund additional (university) research into developing new antibiotics, and seek international cooperation to spread the cost? The current road from compound to medicine is a very long one: why not focus more research on shortening that a bit?

It looks like money well spent to me.

Comment Re:Nothing patient related I hope (Score 1) 50


Yes, starting with copyright lawyers. As soon as anything in this sphere emerges that is useful, it will be copyrighted.

And because of that, there will be very real legal risks for a hospital that allows its staff to just print anything and use it. Not from irate patients but from copyright holders. So they will have to impose tight controls on what gets printed and by whom, or face copyright liabilities. The field is likely thick with copyright mines already.

As a result it's only to be expected that this practice will be tightly regulated. Not by "da gubbamint" but by hospitals and commercial firms trading in "medical grade object designs".

Comment Re:Gun-free zone? (Score 1) 1165

Gun-free zone means a zone, smack in the middle of a country bristling with guns of all descriptions (at the insistence of gun-rights advocates and "proud" of it), where the rule is that you're not allowed to bring guns ... which then then isn't enforced at the gate.

So, yes. This guarantees that any borderline psychiatric case can and will pick up a gun (because we're not allowed to vet people in too much detail before they get their hands on lethal hardware), and can proceed to walk into an area where guns are considered not part of daily life and start unloading.

Your suggestion: "More guns ... so we can have a proper shootout when someone pulls a gun."

Instead of strapping a gun on any adult and child just in case some other American with a gun decides he wants to pull the trigger for a bit, why not actually enforce no-gun policies on campus?

Besides which ... what are we talking about? Everybody goes to town about a few shootings now and then we have significant and sustained casualties every day from heart disease (i.e. overweight people due to indiscriminate production, marketing, and consumption of fat and sugary food), respiratory problems (lung cancer caused by smoking), road accidents, falls, and with assault with firearms coming in last.

Comment Not if you understand where he's coming from (Score 1) 142

Just consider this: Facebook's popularity is waning among the latest generations of teenagers.

See e.g. and

People are (at last) getting tired of facebook. That means: less growth, a user-base that isn't rejuvenating at the same rate as it could, and the spectre of *gasp* declining numbers of acebook users.

Bad news for a company that just supplies a fashionable fad (as opposed to something that people actually need) and which derives revenues from advertising and resale of its users'(private) information for marketing purposes don't you think?

So it's time for a little executive involvement in keeping those warm bods signing up.

"We're getting a smaller slice of the cake? Well then .. let's make the cake bigger!"

Aha! We need more Internet users!

Cue Zuckerberg's public appeal to the UN: "more Internet users please, it's practically a Human Right!"

Besides, it's the easiest way to get more Facebook users and it doesn't cost Facebook a dime (it's supposed to be tax money that pays for increased Internet access you see).

Seen this way it's the most natural thing for mr. Zuckerberg to do. And food, shelter and healthcare? Meh. He's not active in those markets, is he?

Comment Sloppy work ... need to protect the data too (Score 2) 126

Yes, the Volkswagen affair starkly highlights the fact that data from consumer products is insufficiently protected, leaving a window of vulnerability.

Protecting e.g. the code of the motor management system is a good first step. Leaving it at that however is sloppy work, as evidenced by the Volkswagen affair.

A more comprehensive protection would entail protecting the actual data with copyright safeguards too. Especially emission data. This data is, after all, proprietary and commercially sensitive data. Such data merits a high level of protection.

With adequate legal protection on the data itself, irresponsible and needlessly alarmist publication of unconfirmed, undigested and potentially misleading data can be prevented.

Of course there would be adequate means of raising questions and concerns with the manufacturer, on a full disclosure basis of course.

Let this be a warning for all of us: with the coming "Internet of Things" we must have DMCA protection for the data produced by devices too or risk a deluge of unauthorised, unconfirmed, and possibly alarmist data publication. We need legislative action today! Vote pro-business!

Comment Don't tinker ... get something that works (Score 1) 212

In this case I'd check in any DIY urges at the front door. You want this to work and work reliably, right?

Get a system from a reputable make and have it installed by a firm that's been doing this for awhile. This means that the central part will have a battery (in case someone cuts the mains), will be protected by tamper detection (in case mr. burglar tries to disable your alarm system), will probably have a UPS for your modem, ADSL modem, cable modem or whatever (mains again plus blown fuses), and perhaps a backup channel for alerting you that uses mobile telephony (in case they cut the cable or the phone line first).

Get a system with motion sensors, glass breakage detectors, and smoke detectors that can send alerts to your mobile phone.

Also have a few IP camera's plus a recorder installed so that you can actually check up on your home in real time if you get an alert.

That way you'll be able to actually call the police (or the fire brigade). They'll respond when you tell them you have seen the burglar / fire live on camera.

So ... err ... make a choice between a hobby project and a system that just works (and covers a few beginner's mistakes in installation).

Comment Re:Ordinarily, yes, it works out. (Score 1) 137

@ Hognoxious

It's generally allowed in the US. But for it to be worthwhile (i.e. to get interesting projects) you have to offer something interesting. Various consultancies have people of the calibre of (run of the mill) assistent profs. under contract.

Such consultancies also offer support services. E.g. people able to do the grunt work in projects (e.g. datacollection, production of drawings, coding up solutions and algorithms in end-user proof software, writing documentation, training, a helpdesk). Students are often used for drudge work in such projects but the quality of their work can be flaky.

Consultancies usually also offer continuity like replacements when the principal consultant falls ill or is otherwise incapacitated and credible guarantees of support for the next 5-10 years. Consultancies are usually able to bring in experience gleaned from other projects, and are often able to offer related specialities, aid in applying for patents, deployment on a client's specific hardware, or interfacing with a client's specific software, etc..

You've got to be pretty good as a professor to compete with that, or to be offered a consulting project while some other consultancy is hired to do the routine work. Usually you need to have a good or excellent reputation in your field when compared to other professionals .

Or you can try to undercut regular consultancies on price (you already have a day job) ... but I doubt if you really want to do that.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles