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Comment: Re:Best Preference (Score 1) 468

by fredrik70 (#41107407) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: IT Contractors, How's Your Health Insurance?

Actually, as a swede living in the Netherlands, I can inform that we actually have health insurance here (for short term illnesses). The difference is that if you cannot afford to pay one you will get an allowance to cover for it. all long term illnesses are covered by the state.
An insurer cannot reject you due to known health issues and the insurance must cover a minimum set of issues.

More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_the_Netherlands

Comment: Re:Dust by Charles R. Pellegrino (Score 1) 1365

by fredrik70 (#40918401) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Depressing Sci-fi You've Ever Read?

....maybe I should have given a small synopsis. The story is basically about the collapse of our ecosystem by removing some of the lower parts of the food chain. From the top Amazon review (by Tim F. Martin) :

"The action begins when Richard Sinclair, a paleontologist, working at a scientific research facility near his Long Island home, narrowly escapes with his nine year old daughter Tam - purely by accident - an attack by an unknown entity on his neighborhood. Taking dozens of people by complete surprise, the entity looks like a living black carpet. Killing in minutes innocent bystanders, police officers, and later a television reporter crew (as well as Sinclair's wife), the media dubs the threat motes. As the area is quarantined, Sinclair and other scientists come to the conclusion after a harrowing trip into the infected town that the "motes" are mites, a massive horde of starving mites that attack and devour literally to the bone anyone that cannot escape them.

Sinclair and the other researchers of Brookhaven (also called the City of Dreams) discover that the threat of the motes - however bad - is merely the tip of the iceberg and not only the United States but all of humanity faces a grave threat. Looking at data from bee keepers - who were virtually of business - the astronomical rise in orange juice prices, and a host of other bits of data not previously integrated by researchers (bringing to mind for me some of the separate bits of intelligence prior to September 11th), Sinclair and the others come to a startling conclusion; the world's insect have vanished. They have all died out, disappeared completely, and this seemingly good bit of news (at least at first glance, to the uninitiated) rapidly produces vastly dire consequences. With the extinction of fungal gnats (a bit of data an entomologist died procuring), massive fungal blooms are spreading throughout the world's crops (aided by the fact that most of the world's crop plants are of extremely limited genetic diversity). With no insects to control the fungus (and farmers having gotten away from spraying their crops due the gradual decline in insect pests the last few years), the fungus spreads amok, first wiping out crops in India (precipitating an ugly war between it and Pakistan and Sri Lanka as India seeks to annex areas with uninfected croplands, dragging the U.S. into the conflict), later to other countries. Large numbers of animals die throughout the world - insect eating bats, later, fruit eating-bats (which as they die out no longer pollinate plants themselves), many omnivorous animals, freshwater fish that rely upon larval aquatic insects for food - and with no flies or other insect scavengers to remove the bodies, freshwater throughout the world is rendered toxic by the massive amounts of bacteria that now teem in it. Much of this runoff spreads into the sea, creating low or no oxygen areas, wiping out those fish species not already being depleted by frantic nations desperate to replace declining crops as a food source. Even the motes are a result of the end of insects; no longer held in check by insect predators nor having to compete with insects, reach plague proportions in some areas, once harmless mites killing hundreds of people.

Things of course in this novel get worse, much worse. The economy goes into a freefall in the United States as non-mote infected areas refuse to have anything to do with those under quarantine or even suspected of having a mote problem. Entire industries collapse, such as the trucking industry, while those reliant on trucking, such as grocery stores which need regular shipments of goods, collapse as well. As crops start to fail in the United States and as gasoline starts to become scarce thanks to a broken down transportation system, riots begin to happen. Stepping into these chaotic and turbulent times is Jerry Sigmond, a corrupt former talk-show host with unfortunately real skills in making others into fanatical followers of a new mass movement he begins to lead, one that sees scientists and engineers ("eggheads" and "Einsteins") as the real cause of all these problems. Sigmond emerges as a major villain in the book and a direct threat to Sinclair's efforts.

But wait! It gets worse! In some of the scariest parts of the book - it is a horror story after all, though one firmly grounded in science fact with an extensive non-fiction epilogue and bibliography - vampire bats emerge as a villain (yes you read right). The booming cattle industry of Central and South America unfortunately becomes infected with Mad Cow disease and the disease jumps vectors. Transmittable now by vampire bats -which won't feed on sick cattle - they move onto humans, wiping out virtually the entire population of several Caribbean islands as they move in vast numbers from the mainland in search of food. Those that do not die directly from being fed on (a harrowing chapter described one such incident where two researchers meet a very unfortunate demise), die from rapid onset of the disease, a disease that was to have major repercussions in the novel's endgame.

A very enjoyable novel, I found myself really rooting for Sinclair as he and his colleagues race to uncover the nature of the problem - the sudden demise of insects worldwide - and conclude that it is perhaps due to a genetic "timebomb," that the Earth's mass extinctions approximately every 33 million years are not due to a comet or asteroid impact but from the dormancy of the world's insect species (in a manner not unlike the massive periodic bamboo die offs in China that nearly wipe out the pandas periodically). They race to find a solution to this, working in an increasingly chaotic world, working with research stations in other parts of the world that one by one gradually drop off the face of the earth in the growing chaos. A gripping book, it had an action-packed ending. "

panic: kernel trap (ignored)

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