I was in Madrid in 2008 when CNN-Europe interrupted their programming to announce that South Ossetia had been invaded by Georgia. Minutes later the announcement was revised: the new story was that S. Ossetia had been invaded by Russia. A clearly bewildered Vladimir Putin received the condemnation of the Western world.
As I walked down the hospital corridor to visit an ailing friend, I was struck by the number of rooms with closed doors covered in yellow ‘caution – keep out’ tape. These were rooms housing a patient with a deadly and highly contagious hospital-acquired infection, like MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphlococcus Aureous) or C Diff (C Difficile). Both are caused by easily corrected hospital practices that endanger patients, including a lack of hand washing, contaminated instruments, and unsanitary procedures.
Something strange and ominous is happening to young people, especially women but also to lesser numbers of men. They are dying of sudden heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction, AMI) without the classic symptoms of heart disease, chest pain or blocked arteries. They die quickly, as though blind-sided by a devastating accident.
I drive across I-70 periodically between St. Louis and Denver. Something unnerving is happening to the farmland that I pass in Kansas. Sinkholes are opening, only yards from the highway.
The massive Ogallala Aquifer, an ancient underground fresh water lake that made the Plains cornucopia possible after the 1930s Dust Bowl, is located below 8 states in the High Plains, including Kansas. It stretches, at depths ranging from a few feet to 1000 feet, from Texas to South Dakota, and covers roughly 175,000 square miles. Widely exploited only since the 1940s, it has been depleted at an alarming rate since, almost entirely for farming. The problem is causing increasing concern in a number of states including Oklahoma and Texas.
It is painful to watch the media glom on to incompetent ‘research’ published in medical journals. It would be nice if they made sure of their facts before they spread misinformation and create a bandwagon full of misleading and dangerous hot air.
The New York Times ran a recent article about income disparity in the U.S., this time focusing on geography. It seems that the Atlantic corridor, centered in New York City and Washington, DC, has far and away the greatest concentration of household wealth per square mile, and has benefited also as income disparity has turned into a runaway freight train.
My plane was taxiing into the gate at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport when the end-of-flight announcements came on. Seatbacks in upright position, trays closed and locked, baggage under the seats, you know the drill. On an in-bound international flight, I was headed for my second trip through TSA security in 3 hours.
If one listens between the lines, it seems clear that the U.S. government has serious doubts about who it murdered in Abbottabad. The problem is not just the changing account coming from spokespersons. The problem is the facts themselves.
At first they were 90% sure that they had killed Osama Bin Laden, meaning a one in ten chance that they had screwed up. Pretty poor odds for an assassination. Then the odds went to 95%, and finally, after the fastest DNA analysis in history, to 99.9%.
The American media has been joyous about the U.S. trained SEAL guerrillas who murdered an unarmed man in cold blood. The are described as heroes, supermen, and courageous, but one national correspondent got it right. She said they were assassins.
If Bin Laden could have been eliminated with 25 commandos, why have 4800 Americans, so far, been sent to a desert to die?
A Swedish study published recently maintains that mammograms for women in their 40s saves lives. It contradicts numerous studies done over the past 20 years, as well as recommendations from The American College of Physicians in 2007 and from the expert U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 which concluded that the benefits of mammography screening before age 50 do not outweigh the risks, something that has been widely acknowledged in public health circles since mammography became big business in the late 1980s.
Wouldn’t you know it. Just when we thought that we had made choices that made the adulterated American food supply manageable, Corporate Agriculture finds new ways to quietly and unobtrusively pollute our lunch. We figured a way around the colors, texturizers, hidden gluten, preservatives and taste enhancers with unpronounceable names, and thought we were home free at dinner time.
That’s the way it used to be. As the twenty-first century arrived the dark clouds that had been gathering for several decades finally turned American food production into a torrent of bad news for consumers and a bonanza for agribusiness.
It’s happened again. Another well meaning soul insisting that EveryOne is to blame for the mess that engulfs the U.S. politically, militarily and economically because in our political system, the country gets what it votes for. Therefore, ‘we are all responsible.’
Some may get their kicks from an existential guilt trip, but please count me out.
First, we almost never get what we think we voted for. Just a few examples: Remember George W. saying he’d be a ‘uniter, not a divider’? Before the vote he also said yes to more social programs, lower taxes and a balanced budget. Franklin Roosevelt said he’d keep the U.S. out of foreign wars and Richard Nixon said he’d end the war in Viet Nam.
It’s not easy to establish a clear line in history between the time when American democracy belonged to citizens and when it was lost, but wars give us starting point.
The first wars were fought over ideas. There was the Revolutionary War in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, the Civil War ‘preserved the union’ and ended slavery.
In the 20th century came the wars for national imperialism. First, Teddy Roosevelt’s wars in the Philippines and Cuba, then WWII which more or less accidentally resulted in imperial expansion.
After 1945, the U.S. was very good at waging war but no longer so good at winning, so we kept practicing. Wars waged against Korea and Vietnam failed to accomplish anything but massive destruction on somebody else’s land, ratchet up the hate index for the U.S., and give the Pentagon an excuse to exercise its military muscles and escalate its budget.