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Soap Box Tales

March 2009

USA in Crisis

SIDEBAR: The financial crisis is deepened by the health crisis. Business health premiums are increasing at a greater percentage than profits. The fact that 50 to 70% of health care expenses are the direct result of lifestyle and dietary choices is responsible for much of this increase.

Here is the rub. The current administration is right in that there is room to lower costs. BUT, the catch 22 is that right now there is a very large share of health care costs that go unpaid by insurance carriers and from emergency hospital care costs required for those who cannot pay. This means hospitals, drug companies, and doctors have to elevate costs on the rest of insurance payers to cover this lost revenue. Plus, Doctor fees for Medicare patients are limited and Medicare is late in paying these payments.

All too often Insurance companies authorize a health care expense but later stall and even refuse to pay for it. The percentage of unpaid costs may be as high as 25%. Plus, there is a rather large fraud percentage too. In Medicare it is estimated to be as high as about $80 billion a year, 20% of total expenses. This wasteful spending plus the extra margins that have to be added to the cost of every item or medical procedure eats up perhaps 35% of medical expenses. Plus, the overall profit percentage for health insurance companies keeps shrinking. Not many industries can survive at this low rate of return for long without significant price increases, or in the casse with Doctors, they simply have to limit the number of Medicare patients to regular patients to remain profitable.
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While on paper a government option sounds like it should lower costs, the realities have all shown that with the reductions in services, longer wait times, coupled with less medical advances that result when medical investment returns are limited, the reduced costs prove not be such a bargain. And costs still continue increasing. Profit margins would be squeezed so thin, many insurance companies would not survive this compromised systems, which is the designers real intention.  

To say that just cutting costs will help cover the expense of Universal health care costs is to ignore the current reality that so many costs are simple not paid by insurance companies, even the State run Workman's comp programs. The HMOs and Medicare simply would run out of money if all bills were paid. Medicare is many months behind in paying doctors and hospitals. Substitute government lack of efficiency and the results would be longer wait times, less medical care, and much higher taxes. A better approach is to put more into prevention of health problems in the first place.

A View to an Economic Crisis 

The United States has forever changed. Indeed, even the World. While fingers point in all directions, very few people have clarified the cause. Here is this author's take.

Starting at the beginning, the 1960's ushered in an era of self absorption. Personal and Social Responsibilities that had well served past generations were assaulted. The generation this created entered into ivy league colleges such as Harvard as an escape from the business world of responsibilities they detested. Becoming professors, they kept alive this anti-establishment anti-business model. The colleges became a hotbed for social engineering concepts turning out business sharks without a social consciousness.

The movie "Pretty Woman" depicted the actions of these new business types as they engineered hostile takeovers and cannibalized well run family businesses with low debt and healthy balance sheets, all without a care for the consequences to the people who had invested their whole lives working for these companies. Thanks to Harvard business school, the tried and true hard work and loyalty principles that worked quite well for past generations evaporated into thin air. Companies, seeing what was happening to well run businesses without debt, started increasing debt as a vehicle for expansion instead of using sound cash flow accounting principles. And, rather than a worker staying with one company for a lifetime, workers started playing leap frog from one company to the next to climb up the workforce pay scale ladder. Personal debt started soaring as well. Old world economics of grandparents was abandoned. No longer was it necessary to save up before purchasing (credit cards). Personal saving accounts declined and money was spent or put into stocks instead.

Businesses started a consolidation move into bigger and bigger enterprises, expanding globally. National country boundaries became barriers to business that were changed by government manipulation. Manufacturing moved overseas to lower labor costs and reduce the burden of governmental regulations to remain competitive in this new global market. Then other types of business rather than manufacturing started moving overseas as well, such as phone support and record processing and finally into computer software technology itself. Job losses exceeded gains. 

The ground work for a crisis was being established. Now, enter the subprime no interest or very low teaser adjustable rates and no money down home loans made to people without income or assets to qualify. Home sales soared and home values became inflated. Subprime loans were packaged with more secure traditional loans into investment programs to help sell these hard to sell very risky type loans. Yes, the investment people knew the subprime loans were risky, but home values continued to increase so no one was very concerned until home prices started to fall. Freddie and Fannie were maxed out. A few regulators and governmental officials over the past five years had sounded warnings, but were blown away as "nay sayers".

To take advanatage of the vast sums of money being made from these subprime loan investments, the investment firms such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers asked the SEC to change the asset to debt ratios these companies were required to carry. The rule had been for every dollar they had in holdings, they could have $15 in debt obligations. The SEC approved in 2004 an increase up to $33 to one, more than doubling the risk for these investment banks. The same people in power in the Government today trying to solve this crisis were involved on the business side in pushing this rule change. Of course, when the bottom dropped, these banks could not cover 33 dollars from just one in asset. The SEC 2004 rule change doubled the level of this crisis. This one simple change of the net capital rule proved to be one of the major players in the banking industry downfall. Of course Paulsen was one that requested the change before he moved into the Treasury Secretary job.

Another factor was the use of credit-default swaps, complex derivatives which existed without anyone really knowing how much existed for every dollar of security. Firms bought and sold these hoping to minimize risk, but they created more.

While the Government attempts to limit the damage from the current crisis, they are creating a new crisis that will play out after the first one starts to ease. The inflationary crisis caused by the printing of so much money will prolong the negative financial environment for many years. 

The Harvard types are now in control of the Government, the money, big banks, and even an auto industry giant. We will shortly discover how the antics of the 1960's rebellion ideals would have played out, just now it is in the 21th century. Have business ethics and personal responsibilities been dealt a final death blow? Or will a new set of business ethics emerge? Will the 60's mantra of people power still be served or is it now big government first and people second? The fox is guarding the hen house. Will the hens survive?

A message to those who played by the rules of sound financial behavior: Suckers!  When personal responsibility advocate Dudley Dooright ends up paying for the losses of risk taker Oliver Schnatiguns, the kettle begins to boil. The silent majority has found their revolutionary voice. 

original May 2007         

Opinion Please!

The GLOBAL 2000 project produced papers from all the disciplines of science on the state of planet EARTH. The leading scientists and researchers participated in each of their specialty arenas. Unfortunately, there remained one specialty lacking from the finished report. There wasn't a specialty that was able to decipher all these reports into a coherent meaningful plan of action to safeguard planet EARTH. Myopic tunnel vision seems to prevail in science research.

Remember, this is just opinion and perspective from reading the studies and connecting the dots of physiology and common scense. Welcome to the SOAP Box.

*****GLOBAL WARMING   April 2008

Here is the real story. First, it needs to be pointed out that without the greenhouse effect, the earth would be much colder, even uninhabitable. So, the greenhouse effect is a positive. Historically, CO2 concentrations have cycled in a very similar pattern for thousands of years, up and down, and yes, temperatures also went up and down in similar patterns. There are three questions that arise from these patterns:

Yes, there are dramatic climate changes occurring and the current "politically correct" view created by the media and a large number of scientists is that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are responsible. The fact that this CO2 effect is very insignificant in Nature's Greater Climate Plan is a point usually missing from discussions. The scenario goes like this, CO2 emitted from internal combustion engines burning fossil fuels are adding to the build up of atmospheric greenhouse gases leading to Global Warming. Do the facts support such a view? You are about to find out that these facts are mostly conjecture and "best" computer guesses. Many scientists do not support this theory of Global Warming and offer differing points of view. Another possible theory is that man's CO2 tinkering is actually holding off another ice age.  Anyway, the actual temperatures of late do not support that the warming trend is continuing, all while CO2 levels are continuing to increase.

    1. What is the effect of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on temperature?

    2.  Does CO2 drive tempertures or is it a passenger and just react after temperature changes?

    3. How much influence or percentage does man's fossil fuel burning contribute to or change this natural process? 

Scientific computer models have been developed to try to determine this. The problem with such an approach, is that there are so many variables that this is almost an impossible task. Cloud formation, precipitation levels, water vapor evaporation percentage, convection currents, ocean water temperatures, ocean algae bloom sizes, behavior of ocean currents, ozone holes, tilt and wobble of the earth's axis, solarflares, improved energy and pollution technology, etc.....too many variables for even a computer program to corrrectly analyze and predict.

Scientists often pick and choose one or some of these factors to explore and build a theory around. The current global warming theory so often mentioned in the media as if it was an absolute fact is actually only an educated guess. Since there are no past history computer models to give actual data, no one really knows for sure how the many variables will interact. The computer model attempts to control for many of these variables, but it is impossible to 100% predict future weather, especially when it fails to even predict past actual weather as determined from frozen core samples. Time will tell how accurate the current model performs. There is much division among weather scientists over this one. One small telltale sign of a flawed theory is that it fails to hold up to new current facts, a few of which you will soon learn.

An increasing and responding CO2 absorption and utilization by plants and ocean water may lag well behind atmospheric or ocean water temperature changes. Ocean water is a major carbon holding tank. As ocean water heats up, it holds less CO2. Therefore, isn't it a possibility that first the air gets warmer and than this hotter air causes ocean water temperature to rise which holds less CO2 and drives up CO2 atmospheric levels. This is an example of CO2 as a passenger after the fact rather than the driver of temperature change. Once this initial warming has occurred, the increased CO2 levels given off get trapped as greenhouse gases and could cycle further warming. Past history of earth temperature and CO2 cycles show similar patterns of up and down, but do they fully explain the cause and effect relationships?

Higher CO2 levels should stimulate more growth of trees and thus increase CO2 uptake. This would not be a quick response but one that could take many long growing cycle years. In the opposite direction, the destructive burning of forest trees would immediately release more CO2 into the air. The amount of already lost forest area might be nearing a point of no return for this avenue of carbon cycling balance. The increase in CO2 levels is beginning to have an effect and is causing a re-growth in some desert areas.

SIDEBAR: One often quoted weather scientist, Hansen, first said in the 70's that burning fossil fuels would add so much pollution dust that the sun's radiation would be bounced back to space and cool the earth. Then about ten years ago he changed and said that fossil fuel burning pollution would become greenhouse gas and trap heat resulting in global warming. Now he is saying the sun is in a ten year quiet stage and the earth will cool before it continues to heat up again from man-made greenhouse CO2 gases. To base critical U.S. economic policies on this type of capricious "professional" standard defies logic.

In fact, monitoring the sun's solar activity is a much more reliable predictor of earth's temperatures than any computer model. Thank goodness the solar energy is rather constant, but there are small cycles of higher and lower radiation. A low point is blamed for the 1700's European mini-ice age. Right now the sun has entered into another low activity period which scientists say will last for eleven years and some even say for over 50 years with the 2007 record drop in colder temperatures the starting point. While other scientists are of the opinion that a new high point is expected by 2012. There is no universal agreement on weather patterns. It is conjecture only. 

The CHILL Point  

In the last 100 years, the average earth temperture has increased by .6  to 1 degree C. The sun is responsible for about 25%. But last year 2007 the four earth temperature monitoring stations recorded the largest decrease in yearly average temperature of -.65C to -.75C, effectively canceling out the 100 year increase. How could this have happened if the United Nations' IPCC global warming weather computer model program was correct?

The IPCC report says that man-made greenhouse gases such as CO2 ae getting trapped in the atmosphere and will heat up the earth for the next few thousand years (their words). Yes, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 260 ppm to current level of 380 ppm. This may have been a factor in the .6 of a degree increase over the last century, but what the IPCC is not considering is that as CO2 continues to increase, any further warming effect is drastically reduced as the effect is not linear. While the IPCC weather model is predicting a 5 to 6 degree C increase over the next 100 years, assuming the same rate of increasing CO2 output and heat trapping action, the reality would be more like a 1 degree C or less increase since the effects of any CO2 heat index reduce dramatically with further increases.

It is entirely possible that last year's large temperature decrease is already an indication that CO2 levels are nearing their heating peak or that other forces are really driving temperature changes. The computer weather models simply have problems dealing with the amount of cloud formation from water vapor and the many other variables. One surprising fact is that the thousands of ocean robots measuring sea water temperature since 2002 have not shown an increase, which would be expected with the high earth temperatures occurring during this time. Ocean water temperature is a major driving force in weather. Of curious note here is that the ocean water level has risen about one half inch during this period of stable ocean water temperature. Scientists do not know where the heat is going if not into the oceans. Maybe out into space, which is counter to the global warming theory.

The IPCC report and other global warming scientists have been slow to explain how such a one year cooling could happen or why over the last 18 years that NASA has been measuring atmospheric tempertures from a satellite, very little change has occured and maybe a slight cooling trend has emerged? This atmosphere cooling trend occured even while the earth cooked with 6 of the highest average yearly temperatures ever recorded. (Measurable recorded history is rather a short time period) To protect themselves, global warming theorists are now saying the earth might be going into a 11 year cooling trend due to low solar activity before the heat up returns. Many countries experienced record cold winter temperatures this year.

Of Note: Also active in climate temperatures is a process called the Pacific and Atlantic Oscillation effect. This change in temperatures is caused by cold ocean water coming to the surface and influencing air temperatures. These effects can last almost a decade until the ocean water is again warmed up by the sun and then the process can start over.
 

THE PROCESS

What is really involved here is a process called the carbon cycle. Carbon moves between air, land, biomass (plants and animals), and ocean water. There is also a much slower movement between these four and buried biomass as fossil coal and oil. Prehistoric levels of CO2 were much higher than today. In order for life to exist, the carbon content had to be reduced and oxygen levels increased. Hiding carbon underground worked quite well, even if it did take a very long time. Usually this carbon remains traped and only gets moved up by volcanic eruptions and other rarely occuring natural events such as earthquakes.

Thus, the question now is has man speeded up the carbon cycle to a point where the natural processes of control are no longer operating at a balanced level?  The next question at hand is how much does this man-made increase influence the ever changing dynamics of the natural carbon cycle.

While the IPCC says that this man-made CO2 increase is "very likely" driving global warming, the scientific community is not so sure the IPCC computer model is accurate or reliable. It fails in some aspects to even predict past events which are already known. Future effects are still a matter of conjecture. Scientists have some theories but so far, it is still a guessing game as to how the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere will affect global temperatures, to what degree, how high it will go before natural processes gain control, and whether warming continues or cooling starts. 

Another driving force of climate change and CO2 increases is not from man-made emissions, but is due to what will be soon be known as the GLOBAL MINERAL REDISTRIBUTION process. That the carbon cycle and resulting weather patterns are changing is not the question. The question is what is driving this change and what is going to happen.  As Al Gore blames SUVs, other scientists are talking about deforestation and desertification affecting weather patterns. Oceanologists are looking at algae growth levels and ocean water temperatures. The reality is that they are all involved in weathertemperature control and need to be addressed. Attacking only one area amounts to nothing more than a drop in a bucket.

This author believes that the ability of the remaining tree mass to consume its share of carbon recycling is failing. Not just due to the burning of forest land to make way for growing crops or raising cattle, but from a worldwide lack of soil integrity due to natural erosion and unsustainable agricultural methods. This makes the soil too acidic. Forest trees are failing all over the earth. Burning forest trees adds a significant amount of carbon build up attributed to man made actions. Although forest fires are a natural part, the trees there almost always grow back over time while man's burning down of rainsforest areas rearely if ever recover. They are lost forever.

Increasing CO2 levels should be food for plants, trees and algae and they should be growing and expanding. The usually hardy earth's ecosystems are under attack on many fronts. Honeybees, birds, fish, trees, and even humans are paying a price for these consequences.

Al Gore says the earth is warming and that there is a need to reduce carbon emissions. Acting as a broker, he wants to trade carbon emission rights between high producing businesses and countries with low carbon release. While this will make him quite wealthy and somewhat help offset the lost revenue that developing countries would get from burning down forest land and growing crops, it would not change the basic cause and will not change the ultimate climatic outcome. Global temperature fluctations are natural and will probalby get greater with both warming and cooling periods. 

The reality is that over the last century when all the greenhouse CO2 emissions were created and the level of CO2 in the air increased by 40%, the overall temperature of the earth increased by just .6 of a degree. Yes, a few of the years saw record high temperatures, but than a year like 2007 has a dramatic record decrease. The current warming theory doesn't have much to say about the past higher temperatures which occurred before man started burning fossil fuels. Temperatures on Earth have been going up and down on a regular pattern for thousands of years.  

If temperatures on earth were only driven by greenhouse gases, reducing carbon dioxide would be a worthwhile goal. The percentage of effect is being hotly debated by weather scientists.

The simple truth is that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the most dominate greenhouse gas driving tempertures. Water vapor in the air is responsible for the majority of greenhouse warming or cooling. Figures differ from about 60 to 95% of earth heating and cooling is from the action of water vapor making clouds and rain. Carbon dioxide and a few other gases are responsible for the rest, such as methane, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons. Thus, even a complete elimination of manmade CO2 emissions might not change eventual outcomes, but maybe it could slow down changes a little.

MARS POLAR ICE

Of course, the beginning primary factor is the amount of solar radiation energy from the sun reaching the earth. In fact, a seldom mentioned fact plays devil's advocate to confront the CO2 driven global warming scientists. And that is for quite sometime now, the icecap on Mars has been decreasing in size paralleling the decline in some of earth's icecaps. The Mars icecap reduction can't be from CO2 increases since the Mars pathfinder is rather non polluting. 

While the intensity of sunlight can slightly vary, it is the amount of cloud cover that is the ultimate determinant of how much reaches the earth. The amount of clouds and their duration, the brightness of clouds to reflect more solar radiation back into space, and the ability of ocean currents to redistribute the heated ocean water to control water evaporation are the primary factors in determining earth tempertures. Sun activity levels are prime in this model but appear to get relegated to just a minor role in the current global warming weather computer model.

SINGLE CELL ALGAE HIGHER POWER

Sunlight energy has a greater effect on water than on land since water retains heat longer. Plankton, small algae plants floating in the ocean, react to the heated water by giving off a gas that actually participates in cloud formation along with water vapor.  This is the only scientific model that is able to stand up to pre-internal combustion engine history. Yes, the level of CO2 has some influence on these dynamics, but at only .06 to .03% of air, it doesn't play a dominate role. Reducing carbon emissions WILL NOT STOP any climatic processes now in motion, it might slow it down by some insignificant amount of time. Al Gore's carbon exchange program is simply a transfer of weath plan to help stop developing countries from destroying forest trees. Yes, it will slow down oil comsumption and lower pollution levels, worthwhile goals in themselves, but it may come with a price tag of reduced economic growth, including inflation. Everyone will share some of these costs. In the near future due to the natural increases in fossil fuel prices, alternatives will start to contribute a greater share of our energy needs, but it will take time.   

HOW the LAND gets INVOLVED

The loss of soil fertility from years of erosion and unnatural agicultural methods leads to higher soil acidity and causes massive die-off of forest trees and desertification. These processes all further influence nature's carbon recycling program.  Increasing carbon dioxide levels is actually a stimulus for tree and plant growth as leaves consume CO2 and give off oxygen. But since the soil is turning acid from lack of minerals, the overall health of trees is diminishing instead. Limiting carbon emissions at this point might slow down the process by an insignificant timespan, but the only thing that could prevent the next mini-ice age is a massive worldwide re-mineral fertilization program of all landmass and a herculean tree re-planting effort. Even though the amount of CO2 held by plant mass is relatively small, it is very significant overall to creating weather patterns.

GLOBAL COOLING. The earth uses ice age glaciers to initiate the process of replacing lost minerals due to natural soil erosion and now man's agricultural, deforestation, and pastural tinkering. The weight and movement of advancing and retreating glaciers grind up mountain rocks into a fine powder. This powder flows downstream and also is blown around the world to re-fertilize soil.

If you google FOREST DIE-OFF or SOIL ACIDITY or DESERTIFICATION or OCEAN CURRENTS AND TEMPERATURES, you will discover these processes are already in motion. And yes, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels do play a role in this plan. Changing man-made emissions at this point pales in the ovrall natural scheme. Global warming scientistis are not interpreting all the facts correctly, as the referenced facts above reveal. You cannot fix the problem by only modifying one tiny part. Nature has to go through her cycles. They all serve a purpose.   

WHERE GLOBAL WARMING SCIENTISTS FAIL

They simply are not sure how climate will change as CO2 increases, or for that matter, how much it is due to man-made emissions and how much is from natural cycles. They are putting all their eggs in the man-made CO2 basket. 50% of man-made CO2 ends up getting stored in the ocean. This could be the much greater crime than the amount that ends up in the atmosphere as far as affecting life. Ocean life is as critical to food production as land is, or at least will be in the near future.

Forest die-off is only casually mentioned as well as desertification, but few are putting it all together. Soil fertility is rarely discussed as supporting enough plant mass to stablize CO2 levels. They are not sure how water vapor and CO2 will react as CO2 increases. Which is the driver and which is the passenger. Is water vapor on a feedback loop or is it an ampifier of heat indexes interacting with CO2? Water vapor content, which is usually fairly constant, also increases as air temperatures rise. This increases cloud fromation, which might serve to balance out temperature increases. Ocean currents and water evaporation enter here and cloud cover is difficult to factor in to the computer model. Everything seems to be more conjecture than absolute fact, as media reports make it seem. Sun activity levels are in the drivers seat but this factor is negated too. 

Global Warming is driving itself and facts that are counter are not pertinent or become part of the propaganda to protect business polluting rights. Facts are facts, or at least they should be. Educated guesses and theories are not facts.     

Here is a pertinent quote on atmosphere temperature:  

"Unlike the surface-based temperatures, global temperature measurements of the Earth's lower atmosphere obtained from satellites reveal no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. The slight trend that is in the data actually appears to be downward. The largest fluctuations in the satellite temperature data are not from any man-made activity, but from natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions from Mt. Pinatubo, and from El Niño. So the programs which model global warming in a computer say the temperature of the Earth's lower atmosphere should be going up markedly, but actual measurements of the temperature of the lower atmosphere reveal no such pronounced activity."

UPDATE Jan 2010 - Scientists Tweek World Temps

E-mails taken (yes stolen by hackers) from the major weather data center in England have revealed that some scientists have been "doctoring" the data to show more warming when none really existed. The data center gets temperature readings from over 6000 sites worldwide. But, some years ago they simply stopped using all sites and just used about a quarter of them and averaged those to get this new world warmer temperatures. How? They stopped using temperatures from mountain tops, and near the cool oceans and just took a few readings near or in big cities. Of course this showed a higher temperture than the old way of  averaging all 6000 readings.

WRAP UP

If Al Gore and all the Global Warming scientists are right, why did the last twenty years with six of the hottest yearly average Earth temperatures ever recorded, plus the highest levels of greenhouse gases emitted, NOT result in an increase in atmospheric temperature?  BUT actually saw a slight decrease as reported in the paragraph above from NASA satellite readings??????

And how could last year have posted the largest decrease in the earth's average temperatures of almost three quarters of a degree, the largest net change in recorded history?????? Were solarflares on holiday? Well, actually, yes they were.

SIDEBAR: Of course this does not let internal combustion engines off the hook. If all engines stopped today, the climatic conditions would still evolve. Clean alternative sources for energy need to used. Pollution needs to be controlled. The global warming alarmists need to present the real story about the percentage that man-made CO2 plays in this senario, which could be as little as only about 5%.

And what about that hole in the ozone that lets the greenhouse gases escape into space?

The REAL issues today are not going to be resolved by limiting CO2 man-made emissions at this time. The natural processes are already in motion. The weather is changing on it's own. Man's influence is relatively small. While scientists continue debating the facts, more immediate crisises are developing over the availability of FRESH WATER and adequate FOOD PRODUCTION. These should be given priority over any other concerns, even controlling pollution. Putting limits on CO2 emissions at this time will hurt rather than help solve these pressing issues. Future temperatures revealed from past patterns show a profound cooling is approaching, it is just a matter of time. Even if the global warming theory is correct, an increase in temperatures further melting glaciers would soon create this cooling ice age pattern. Fresh glacier water mixing with the salty Atlantic ocean water would effectively stop the ocean current flow which is needed to bring warm surface waters up North creating milder winter temperatures. Just the FACTS.

While these two references are quite long, they are a must read. ref  ref  (Authors Note- this article was written before these references were found.)

 

Universal Health Care = Oxymoron  Feb 2008

The reality is that today there is universal disease care. In 2006, health care expenses in the United States reached 2.1 trillion dollars, or $7,026 per person. In ten years this amount will be 4.3 trillion, or $13,101 per person assuming a consistent trend from past percentages and the influence of the baby boomers. This would mean that for every dollar spent, 20 cents would be for health care, MORE than for education.

Today, even before universal health care, MANY elders and the disabled are getting private insurance coverage at the rate of 1 out of 6 because they know Medicare is not providing adequate coverage. In 10 years, this will be up to 1 out of 4.

President Bush attempted to control medicare costs when he suggested a freeze on the amount of money paid to hospitals and nursing homes for the next three year period as well as increase the share wealthier people pay into Medicare. This was an effort to lower the yearly percentage cost increases from 7% down to 5%, still greater than the rate of inflation. Congress will of course not let this happen, but very difficult choices develop the longer decisions wait.

Reviewing countries that have had universal health care for some time, these facts surface; The level of care diminishes, less billiant people enter the field and shortages result, treatment protocols are decided by "hold back the money" commitees rather than your doctor, and longer wait times occur for surgery. The Canadian model is now swinging back to more private insurance care. The only way Universal health care will survive the high costs is for a major shift in the medical model to PREVENTION.

Empty calorie foods will ultimately be taxed as a way to a more equitable way to cover the health costs these foods help create. You will hear the argument that this will overly tax the poor and that is why food has not been taxed yet. But don't buy it. Some of the most nutritious foods have long been a staple in lower income households, mustard greens and chards. Drinking water is healthier and less expensive than empty calorie, obesity and disease causing sodas. Fruits and vegetable sticks over donuts and cookies. Oatmeal at 60 cents a pound versus boxed sugar-coated cereals at $5.00 a pound. A healthy person is a more productive contributor to society. A hand up is needed over a hand out. It is simpy time for being healthy to become cool. 

Glucosamine Intrigue       January 2007

Let's look behind the health research scene and walk through the intriguing work on glucosamine. This ingredient is widely taken by perhaps millions to help against osteoarthritis pain and joint damage. Many studies report improvement of conditions taking glucosamine. But, you are probably not aware of all the turmoil and questions behind the scenes by researchers on this subject.  ref ref First ref has a good pro and con debate. Second is from the free flow of ideas wikipedia. Click on some of it's references. And be sure to look at all 8 of the external links. A world of information.

Here's the skinny. Many studies show benefit from taking glucosamine. But, it turned out that most of these reports were sponsored by manufacturers of this product. Later research by neutral sources did not show the same level of benefits, often not significant differences from the control group. Then came a new rub. Twenty years ago, studies on rats caused quite a stir when injected glucosamine caused the animals to exhibit diabetic symptoms in only 3 to 4 weeks. Since one symptom of diabetes that the rats exhibited was vascular damage, this immediately prompted many studies to find out if this condition would also happen in humans taking glucosamine, or in animals given glucosamine orally. The research has yet to completely settle this issue. Fortunately, the rats did not develop these symptoms when given glucosamine by mouth. Not exactly sure why this difference, but it could have something to do with glucosamine changing during digestion, or being rapidly destroyed in the first pass to the liver. The reported benefits of oral glucosamine may be that it stimulates the body to produce more of its own glucosamine naturally.

Another symptom was insulin sensitivity. This means that the body cells are starting to not recognize insulin and let it carry glucose, blood sugar, into cells, especially muscle cells for energy production. The resulting higher blood glucose level leads to many adverse health conditions, including blood vessel wall damage, or vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. A human study did not show any abnormal affects on blood sugar markers, but then it only lasted 4 weeks and tested only 7 subjects with 7 controls. A 90 day study on 18 subjects also didn't show any signs of abnormal blood sugar markers in diabetics using glucosamine. Now, were these studies long enough to be convincing? Also, vascular damage could take many months or even years to show up. A very disturbing study did find that diabetics with vascular damage measured higher glucosamine levels in vascular tissues than diabetics without vascular disease.

When you read all this controversy, one has to wonder if there isn't a safer, less controversial way for osteoarthritis pain relief and joint support. Anyone like some ginger before they exercise?

Glucosamine is a metabolite of glucose sugar that combines with a protein part called an amino acid. Thus it is a protein sugar. Most of the early animal studies in the 1990's, especially test tube ones, revealed that glucosamine increased markers for growth of vascular smooth muscle cells, a condition present in atherosclerosis, more than glucose by itself. ref  Read some of the titles of the referenced studies.

 

Return soon for a personal story of glucosamine intrigue and to find out what might increase glucosamine's effects and lessen any possible negatives.

 

Scourge of the Nightshades Feb 2007

Questions keep coming up when talk centers around members of the nightshade family; potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Actually, yes it is true that they can contain or form a poisonous compound called solanine. Usually, it is destroyed in the intestinal tract during digestion. At high levels, it is toxic and can cause symptoms, gastrointestinal disturbances and neurological disorders.  People with osteoarthritis may have lost the ability to destroy solanine and its ingestion aggravates the condition in some, but not all OA cases. It is worth a try to stay away from them and see if that helps. When white potatoes turn green, it can be a sign that the solanine levels are increasing. A sack of potatoes left over from a prior semester and fed to school children, did make several quite ill.

The average amount of solanine in the American diet is about 12.75 mg per person each day calculated from the amount of potatoes eaten. This equals about .18 mg/kg of weight. Animal studies show symptoms develop at between 2 - 5 mg/kg. Other than the nightshades, apples, cherries, and sugar beets can also have a little solanine. Most of the solanine in potatoes is near the skin, so peeling can remove most. Just food for thought.

SELF-HELP Health Care

This topic needs addressing as more and more people postpone visiting doctors until aches and pains get more intense. Here is a valuable site from the MayoClinic that could help suggest possibly sources for pain and disconfort that may not be considered by most. There is an old saying "a stitch in time saves nine" that shows how wise an early doctor visit could prove to be if that ache is really a sign of a more serious condition. ref  

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