New York Times Attacks Jimmy Carter

Patrick O’Connor in ZNet:

3b52090rThe assault on Jimmy Carter and his new book which criticizes Israeli policy, Palestine Peace not Apartheid, has been led by many of the usual, uncritical, knee-jerk Israel supporters – Alan Dershowitz, Martin Peretz and Abraham Foxman. However, the campaign to discredit Carter among more thoughtful, less partisan Americans is led by powerful, mainstream institutions like The New York Times, that are respected for their seeming objectivity and balance.

In the January 7, 2007 Sunday Book Review, after the dust settled from weeks of frenzied coverage by other major media outlets, the Times made its bid to pronounce the “final word” on Carter’s book. In the review Jews, Arabs and Jimmy Carter, Times Deputy Foreign Editor Ethan Bronner rejected the more hysterical claims that Carter is anti-Semitic, but simultaneously dismissed Carter’s book as “strange” and “a distortion,” and described Carter, the only US President to have successfully mediated an Arab-Israeli peace agreement, as suffering from “tone deafness about Israel and Jews”.

If Carter is “tone deaf,” Bronner’s review provides yet more evidence that The New York Times is willfully blind to Palestinians. New research detailed below shows that Times’ news reports from Israel/Palestine, which Bronner supervises, privilege the Israeli narrative of terrorism, while marginalizing the Palestinian narratives of occupation and denial of rights. Bronner himself has quoted eight times more words from Israelis than from Palestinians in 18 articles he wrote for the Times since mid-2000.

More here.

Dispatches: Sunday Bazaar

Here in Karachi the solidity of the world around you dispels much of that sense of precariousness one gets by reading about Pakistan from afar. My dashing, mustachioed cousin Munib still rides his father’s forty-year old blue Vespa around the chaotic streets, just as he did in his late teens. One change in his riding habits, however, is that he now often has his two children, aged seven and three, hanging on to him, and their mother riding side-saddle behind. When you see them pull up, you might fear for their lives, if you didn’t know they’d been doing this for the intervening three years since you last saw them. Similarly, coming to Pakistan is a good corrective to much of the doomsaying rhetoric about it emitted by public intellectuals, who hold that Pakistan continually teeters on the edge of viability. I suppose this is related to the commonplace that other countries exist in an earlier historical time, that the desired trajectory of all countries is to imitate and approach the United States. On the subject of Pakistan, most commentary is concerned with its precarious deviations from the prescribed path to modernity.

“Failed state,” “stalled democracy,” “sectarian violence,” “torn social fabric,” “endemic corruption.” These descriptions, which I’ve been hearing for decades, are belied by the simple fact that, well, Pakistan rolls on: the kites and kites (hawk-like birds of prey and child’s contraptions, respectively) still circle lazily overhead. Plus, these days, the damage America’s reputation as the anti-banana republic has sustained lessens the accusatory power of such characterizations: if the narrative of U.S. strategic benevolence, political integrity and institutional expertise was once somewhat believable, surely that bubble has burst. (I shudder to imagine what depths of irrationality the U.S. government would sink to if, like Pakistan, the U.S. had been the subject of 600 acts of terrorism, killing over 900, in 2006.) Also, for the entire class of professionals who left for the U.S. and Britain over the generation between 1970 and 1990, repeating Pakistan’s “failed-state” status has become a kind of reassuring mantra, perhaps because it makes it easier to justify having left.

If anything, Pakistan and America are becoming more, rather than less, similar over time. In Pakistan, invented in 1947, political insecurity correlates to defensive national fervor: one of the saddest things is how often people conceive of Pakistan and India’s relationship as a zero-sum game; praise of one automatically implies derogation of the other. It’s utterly silly. (These days, Pakistan is faced with more instability in the form of seditious disquiet in the province of Balochistan.) In the U.S., of course, a similar experience of retrenchment has been underway for five years now, a festering provincialism that was always the least attractive part of America’s cultural self-understanding anyway. In my last dispatch, I tried to suggest, maybe not clearly enough, that it’s wrong to identify a country with the people who proclaim themselves as its most representative representatives. Just as, purely by definition, the residents of Dearborn, Michigan are as representative an American as those of Alexandria, Virginia, regardless of how important Americanness is to either group as an elective affiliation. Every nation, including these two, suffers from boorish patriots who claim to speak for it – that doesn’t mean we should believe they do.

In both countries, a bunker mentality has led to increasing self-isolation, and in both an increasing disparity between haves and don’t-haves has led not to social change, but to greater emotional insecurity and the segregation of “gated communities.” In both places upper-middle class parents wistfully recall the days when children, in their little mobs, could be given the run of the neighborhood without any particular need for an adult overseer. As a replacement for the loss of a more tangible community, the U.S. and Pakistan have turned, inside the home, to the inner space of pixellated screens. Today only the impoverished and privileged children of both countries have access to old-fashioned styles of recreation, like playing outside or swimming, while the average kid makes do with myspace.

The U.S. consumes more provincially. In Pakistan, as flyovers, underpasses, fast food chains, and supermarkets proliferate, its elite more and more resides in a globalized cultural zone, though one that’s not just American – cable TV is an awesome hodgepodge of BBC, Al-Jazeera, Fox, StarTV (India), Geo (Pakistan), Sky (Australia), etc. Britain’s cultural currency is the most widely traded. There are lots of generalizations to be made here about the British colonial experience creating a greater sense of comfort traversing national boundaries, etc., etc., but the basic evidence is that English Premier League matches and English comedians (Ricky Gervais, Sasha Baron-Cohen) have much wider purchase in Pakistani bourgeois pop culture than, say, baseball. (And on the other side of the coin, most Americans are probably unaware of the degree to which their own television is a series of British shows remade.) Pop music is harder to divine, but much of the American pop that makes it here makes it by virtue of British distribution, just as you are much more likely to hear, say, Cheb Mami in Karachi or in London than in Chicago.

However, this global stuff is only one soapy, superficial layer. Beyond, much remains underdeveloped – and I say that with relief, “development” in the real-estate sense being a depressing if hard-to-avoid urban fate. As in most major metropolises, the best escape from mallified sameness is market culture. Here in Karachi, Sunday brings the Sunday bazaar, where people of every variety and class come to shop for kurtas, custard apples, shawls, scissors, canes, shoes, tiny lemons, fabric, tea, greens, spices, toothpaste, sundry. The one by the beach in Clifton is a beautiful place, if wheezing with dust. It’s an enormous tented enclosure that gets seasonal produce (you eat your guavas for the year right now, and there won’t be a mango in sight until March), used clothing, and many other unique items to people much more efficiently and cheaply than any other system I know. I bought a single-buttoned suit jacket, two round-ended fruit knives, and some dried cherry peppers to garnish lentils. The Sunday Bazaar is sanguine proof of the hoary leftist idea that “development” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – a supermarket/big box retailer would so clearly not be an improvement on it.

Even more importantly still in place than weekly markets, however, is the Pakistani tradition of hospitality. If these mannered rituals belong to the historical past, then I hope the slouching future never fully arrives. Paying visits and drinking tea, the scourge of childhood, becomes a little more pleasant as an adult when you realize that second cousins you’ve met once, fifteen years ago, remember you and know your current doings. And it’s not as if people don’t have many to keep track of: I have eighteen first cousins, which I thought was a lot – my niece Tania has forty-five. Much of my trip has been spent visiting an aunt and uncle who are both ailing. My aunt Farhat suffers from cerebellar ataxia, which affects coordination and makes it very difficult for her to walk, talk, write, chew, swallow. She is largely bedridden, as is her brother in the bedroom next door, and has very little outside contact. Her major concern when we visit is making sure, by whatever means necessary, that we are comfortable. She has made it clear that she expects us to lunch with her, so that she may serve as our host. And she most certainly does not live in a timeless past. As I left after our first meeting on this trip, she struggled to pronounce something. “Aaaee ooo eee.” “AAAAee OOO eee.” I couldn’t understand. Frustrating. Before trying again, she stopped and laughed, eyes sparkling. “Happy New Year!!!”

The rest of my Dispatches.

The Emerald City and the Red Fort

by Ram Manikkalingam

I read two books recently. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekeran recounts experiences of the administration of Paul Bremer and the occupying forces of the US in the Green Zone. The Last Mughal: the Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857, by William Dalrymple, on the extra-ordinary story of the last Mughal emperor of India – Bahadur Shah Zafar – in the Red Fort. The disgusting and disturbing spectacle of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and my chief editor Abbas Raza’s constant pressure to name my favourite books of 2006 got me thinking about the curious coincidence that two among my favourite books last year link imperialism and evangelism, and recount the remaking of other societies.

140004487101_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v65593524_

Comparisons are odious, particularly between the tolerant, gentle and cultivated head of a great dying dynasty and the unsophisticated evangelical representatives of a declining superpower, although both were cocooned in their respective courts. The last Mughal built his own world of poetry, music, hunting, dancing and partying in the Red Fort. The Americans built their’s of BBQs, movie theatres, trailers, press conferences, bars and discos in the Emerald City.

Shah Zafar, a poet who understood his condition as a virtual prisoner of the British living out the end of a dynasty, wrote:

Who ever enters this gloomy palace,
Remains a prisoner for life in European captivity.

Although an expert marksman, Zafar was no warrior. He patronized the poets, musicians and intellectuals of Delhi. And focused his energy and effort on the intellectual and cultural life of the city. He was tolerant towards all faiths: refusing to bow to the conservative imam’s demand to change his doctor who converted to Christianity and wary of Muslims who insisted on converting Hindus or slaughtering cows to fulfill Islamic obligations. On non-religious occasions, Shah Zafar is known to have refrained from entering mosques, since he also could not enter temples. He was not very adroit at managing his complex and cumbersome harem of many wives and concubines. His “harem was notoriously lax as far as discipline and security were concerned.” And the punishments he meted to his concubines who crossed the line were lenient, if administered at all.

140004310701_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v49021284_

The mutiny of 1857 took not just the British, but also Shah Zafar by surprise. The Indian troops – Muslim and Hindu – rallied around him as the rightful ruler of India with the political objective of restoring the Mughal Empire. The pious old (he was 82 years at the time) Sufi poet Shah Zafar, suddenly became the reluctant head of a rebel army that rallied to Delhi as the last seat of Mughal sovereignty. He vacillated, not because he was timorous or weak, but because he was torn among knowledge of imminent failure and duty towards the troops rebelling in his name, and a desire to protect his subjects, the Delhi dwellers caught in between two contending armies.

The rebellion had powerful religious overtones to it. The divide was as much between British rulers and Indians ruled, as Christian versus Hindu and Muslim. The rebellion struck a chord, because it was responding to an imperial shift away from a religiously tolerant, even assimilationist form of British rule, to one that combined Christian evangelism with British power. British agents, who had once taken on Indian wives and ways, and even Muslim religion and Hindu rituals, refraining from eating pork and beef, now felt that they were there to remake native societies in their own image. The rebels spared Muslim Englishmen (yes there were some in Delhi) but not Christian Indians. There were atrocities committed against English men and women trapped in Delhi. But all of this paled in comparison with British reprisals after the rebellion collapsed. The British soldiers committed mass murder, rape and the wholesale destruction of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Palaces, mosques and madrasas were destroyed in a misguided effort to punish a city for the rebellion.

Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon, shortly afterwards, and died there in 1862, at the age of 87. He led a sad and humiliating exile. And his chief wife and surviving sons were not allowed to return to India under British rule. Today Shah Zafar’s burial place is, fittingly for a man who loved poetry and was both religious and tolerant, a Sufi shrine where Muslims in Burma come to worship.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City describes a very different form of isolation- rulers choosing to set themselves apart from the ruled by building a bubble around themselves. The members of the occupying authority ate pork (served by Muslim workers), drank alcohol, and touched not a morsel of food grown in Iraq within the green zone. The only contact with Iraqi’s were those who worked under them, and were therefore hesitant to criticize them, and Iraqi politicians dependent on the occupying authority for their power.

The rulers in the green zone demonstrated a remarkable lack of curiosity and interest in Iraqi history and politics. They believed that they had correctly conceived the new Iraq. And all that was required to execute this conception was the right combination of men, guns, dollars, and cement. In their evangelizing zeal, they believed that Iraqi politicians and American soldiers who raised questions about how exactly to execute this conception of Iraq, or needing more men and dollars, were inadequate to the task at hand. As the going got tougher, the plans got fancier.

Efforts were made to privatize state industries running at a loss, lay off workers and secure foreign investors, at precisely the time when unemployment was the biggest challenge facing Iraqis, and no foreigners could travel to Baghdad to view their potential investments, let alone try to turn them around. Other plans that would have had a far-reaching impact on ordinary Iraqis included taking away rations of food in exchange for cash, at a time when transporting goods to the market, not the money to pay for them was the key issue. More fanciful plans included giving debit cards to families to pay for food in a country where phone lines did not work because of regular losses of electrical power.

My favourite is the plan to have a state-of-the-art stock market, with the fanciest computers and the most squeaky clean transparency regulations to ensure that Iraq’s stock market would be up and running, when all the Iraqis wanted was a large room with dry-erase boards. The young American advisor spent months and hundreds of thousands trying to get the stock market off the ground with his grandiose plans. Two days after he left Baghdad, the new Iraqi stock market opened successfully with white boards to write bids and chits of paper to note transactions. The American advisor expressed frustration at the lack of Iraqi cooperation. Still, he felt that if he had not done his job, maybe nothing would have happened at all. When asked what would have happened in the absence of the young American advisor, the Iraqi Chairman of the Stock Exchange responded that they would have opened months earlier. At precisely the moment when no American civilian members of the occupying authority could travel outside the green zone, the planning for the wholesale economic reconstruction of Iraq got more and more ambitious.

Like Shah Zafar who wrote his beautiful poetry and encouraged his court musicians to sing and intellectuals to write, because he knew he had no power outside the Red Fort, the rulers in the Emerald City were encouraged to formulate plans and promulgate laws they need not ever worry about implementing. But unlike Zafar in the Red Fort, these officials of the occupying authority were out of touch with reality. Zafar was a sad old man, who wrote poetry because he knew he had no power to do anything else. By contrast, the new rulers in Iraq were strutting around the Emerald City, spending more and more time drawing up grander and grander plans, without realizing that they were doing so at precisely the moment when they no longer had the ability or power to implement them.

Web of Lies

by Beth Ann Bovino

[For information about 3QD and what we are all about, click here, or here for our main page. Also, after appearing on 3QD, this story was picked up by several news organzations, and even the FBI commented on it. For example, see this from the front page of the NY Daily News.]

Bab0A man called the other night and asked to speak with Beth Ann Bovino. Not interested in a conversation about the midterm elections or whether I need a new phone service, I considered “She’s not home”. Instead, I asked “whom may I say is calling?” He said his name (correctly, I had caller ID). He then ran into a series of statements about me: that I live at 304 West XXth Street (I do) and that I have a one bedroom with a fireplace (yes again). He asked if I am renting my place (I’m not). That’s when he told me that someone had placed an ad on Craig’s List in my name.

According to the ad, I live on the 5th floor of an elevator building (an upgrade from my 5th floor walkup). It comes at the low monthly rent of $1500 including utilities. (Later I found out they also had it listed at times for $1190 and $1100.) It has a deli, a grocery store, and a laundry room. I have a washer/dryer in my apartment, so maybe they could have charged more.

I had it delisted from Craig’s list, but decided to apply. I know from experience it’s a pretty nice place, and even at $1500 it’s a steal. I applied to the ad’s email Annbovino@aol.com. Ann Bovino (she said “Beth Ann Bovino is my full name.”) got back to me. She wrote “I have available the apartment but now I’m in Fremont – CA. This is the reason that I want to rent it. To start this deal you have to send me 1 month in advance and I will ship you the keys overnight. You can move in the apt in the same day when you receive the keys.”

Bab1_4She included pictures of “my” home: http://pictures.aol.com/galleries/annbovino. [All photos here are taken from this site.] Aside from the picture of my building, the rest are fiction. The bathroom fixtures received a lot of attention. The tub made it in over half the photos, while the modern faucet got a close up. However, I already have furniture and since there wouldn’t be any moving costs, I asked for a discount if the place comes unfurnished. I also asked if there was anyone else at the building who could show me the apartment? A super or someone else?

Ann Bovino wrote: “I understand your position but the keys are with me and the only option is to ship you the keys. I have an idea for this deal. First you have to send me money on your friend or relative name via MoneyGram because I want to be sure that you are a serious person and you really want to rent my apt. In the same day I will ship you the keys via UPS and after you will see the apt and you make a decision you have to resend the funds on my name for pick up the money.” She generously offered to support all MoneyGram fees. She also cut the rental price to $1400, unfurnished.

I responded that I was concerned about sending money without talking to someone over the phone. The same “I understand your position” piece was sent in reply, but it added “PS. I would love to speak with you by phone but I can’t because I’m a deaf-mute person and I am teaching in CA for a deaf-mute school.”

Bab2So there it is. I’m a deaf-mute person who moved to Fremont, California to teach deaf-mute children. I understand other people’s positions and will even bend on the price. I may even be able to pro-rate the agreement (though that was unclear). While this was entertaining, my real self got concerned. Ann Bovino reposted the apartment rental. A number of people came by to check out this dream apartment. I let them know just that. It was a dream. And a fraud. I called 311 to find out how to stop this. 311 didn’t have the facts to help much. Though they were supportive, they sent me to the N.Y. State Attorney Local Office, who sent me to Consumer Affairs, who told me, for some unexplained reason, to contact my local post office. However, an intensive internet search gave me some information to act, or at least know what I was up against.

I found out that this kind of fraud is a variation of the “Four-One-Nine” (419) or “Advanced Fee Fraud,” which has been around since the early 1980’s and that we have all seen. Emails sent with the SUBJECT: URGENT!!! in the header undoubtedly lead into this kind of fraud. It was dubbed “419 Fraud” after the relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria. Usually it operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter, usually from Nigeria or another African nation (though not always), and contains either a money laundering or other illegal proposal. Or you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal. Variations of Advance Fee Fraud seem endless. At some point, the victim is always asked to pay an Advance Fee upfront.

There are a number of web sites that look into this. One particularly interesting and very funny site is http://www.scamorama.com. Together with the book, scam-o-rama, it is designed specifically for scam busters (or those that support their cause). On their site they ask the question: “Can a scammer pretending to be an orphan from a Sierra Leone mining town find happiness scamming people? Well yeah, if he gets away with it.”

Their research, on an admittedly small data set, suggests disturbing trends: Travel and banking in West Africa are fatal to imaginary people. Airplane crashes have the most fatalities overall, while the Sagbama Express is most dangerous road. They write “the ‘bank customers’- all foreigners (European, Asian, Arab, American) – have died, usually in ghastly (air, motor) accidents. The banks may exist. The victims’ names may belong to real people who probably want them back. (I do.) Some names belonged to real people whose tragic deaths were lifted from obituaries. Some victims have died multiple times, not learning from previous experience. Some died from combinations of natural disaster.”

The book and the web site detail the ‘419’ advance fee fraud scam and the damage it does (hundreds of millions of dollars yearly). They also document the people who try to get back at them. On one side are the scammers, those who commit the fraud. Then there are the ‘scambaiters’- those who write back to lead the scammers on with stories and waste their time. There is one scambaiter who actually got money FROM the scammer (about $3). It inspired my game.

It has now been over three weeks since I first heard that my name has been used. Given the stats, my name has now likely been involved in a few more devastating accidents/illnesses/natural disasters. I could suffer still more virtual tragic ends if I do nothing. I contacted the local police department with no luck. However, one web site finally offered a chance to redeem my name. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) http://www.ic3.gov/faq/ is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

The IC3’s mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. The IC3 aims to give the victims of cyber crime an easy-to-use reporting mechanism. The web site receives thousands of complaints each month. The complaints filed are all processed and may be referred to the appropriate law enforcement or regulatory agencies for possible investigation. Ultimately, however, investigation and prosecution are at the discretion of the receiving agencies.

If you’re a victim, keep any evidence you may have relating to your complaint, such as payment receipts, mail receipts, a printed copy of a website, or copies of emails. Keep phone numbers or addresses of anyone connected, either the culprit or other targets. You may be requested to provide them for investigative purposes. While it seems farfetched, there have been arrests. Most recently, the FBI and Spanish police have arrested 310 people in Malaga, Spain in connection with a €100m bogus (email) lottery scam run by Nigerian gangs. The gang also offered rewards for those willing to stash money taken out of Iraq by the family of Saddam Hussein or money found after the 9/11 attacks. It was the biggest 419 bust in history, and may result in drastic reductions of scam mails.

The scammer posted my apartment again. I remain a Californian deaf-mute. As of this date, my horrible airplane or automobile death has not been announced.

Beth Ann Bovino is a new columnist at 3 Quarks Daily. She will be added to our About Us page presently.

Teaser Appetizer: Economics of Death

No, it is not about the death by the deranged beast in us that wages war and genocide, nor is it about the economics of episodic mania of nature unleashing its fury, but of that death which takes us away quietly in our un-heroic old age. It is about the economics of snatching a few extra days from the clutches of death when frayed emotions bargain with the inevitable.

How furiously should we ‘rage against the dying of the light’?

Here is a true story: cast your decision.

An 86 years old man, afflicted with shakes and frequent ‘fall attacks’ of Parkinson’s disease, stumbles at home. His skull crashes against the travertine and spews blood. The paramedics whisk him away; the neurosurgeon valiantly operates on him and admits him to the ICU. He is unconscious but his lungs bellow with the help of a respirator. The doctor says that the skull has fractured; the brain is lacerated and delivers ‘no hope’. You are the family; what would you do now?

1. Do every thing possible to keep him alive.
2. Disconnect the life support.

Both the answers are right; that is the dilemma.

********

THE COST BURDEN

‘I want to die on schedule.’

Man lived up to the age of 47 years in 1900 in the USA and many years less in other less fortunate lands in Asia and Africa. Good nutrition, improved sanitation, mass immunization and a few antibiotics increased the life expectancy to 67 years by 1960. But since then, in the past 40 years, it has struggled up by only 7 more years. (See table: Life expectancy of males at birth in the USA: National Center For Health Statistics):

1900-1902 47.9
1909-1911 49.9
1919-1921 55.5
1929-1931 57.7
1939-1941 61.6
1949-1951 65.5
1959-1961 66.8
1969-1971 67.0
1979-1981 70.1
1989-1991 71.8
1997 73.6
1998 73.8
1999 73.9
2000 74.3
2001 74.4
2002 74.5
2003 74.8
2003 74.8

Expenditure on health in1960 in the US was $144 per capita which amounted to 5% of the GDP. By 2003 the corresponding figures had escalated to $5,635 and 15%. The gluttonous medical industrial complex gobbled up hundreds of billions of dollars without proportionate improvement in health. Ironically, it is not the old age but the process of dying that devours a substantial part of this swollen sum; the last year before death consumes between 26% and 50% of total lifetime health care expenditure.

Investigators at Rutgers University compared expenditure of terminal year with non-terminal year for people over 65 years. Between 1992 and 1996 the mean expenditure was $37,581 in the terminal year compared to $7,365 for the non-terminal year.

US Medicare spends 28% of its budget in the last year of the life and most of it in the last 30 days. Death in the hospital is costly. 4,692,623 persons died in the US hospitals in 2003. The hospitals received an average of $ 24,429 per person for terminal care for an average stay of 23.9 days. [Dartmouth Atlas of health care.]

Larger percentage of older people in the population strains the healthcare financing, as far greater numbers at an advanced age are likely to die in the following year. According to the Canadian health tables ‘the probability that a male aged 40 will die during the next year is 0.2%, while at age 70 it is 3.0%, and at age 90 it is 18.6%’.

But people who express their wishes about terminal care fare differently. In a study done between 1990 and 1992, persons who had directed in advance about the intensity of service they wanted near death, spent much less: $30,478 compared to $ 95,305 by those without an advance directive. [Archives of Internal Medicine, 1994.] Those with an expressed ‘do not resuscitate’ before admission to the hospital spend much less than those who order this during the course of their hospital stay.

Can we afford the ever-increasing cost of the terminally sick? Maybe, it needs a different perspective.

***********

THE REVENUE MODEL

‘Don’t agonize about prolonging life, just postpone my death.’

The flip side of cost is revenue. The cost to one business system shows up in the revenue column of another business. The transfer of this cash creates jobs in its transit and in this case, in an industry, which tends to the sick and attempts to keep the rest healthy.

In 2004, health care was the largest industry, had 545,000 establishments and employed 13.5 million people. About 19% of new jobs will be created by this industry up to 2014 — more than any other industry.

Hospitals comprise only 2% of the healthcare institutions but they employ 40% of all workers. It is calculated, that hospitals accounted for Medicare revenue of 114.6 billion dollars in 2003, for the care of the terminal 23 days of persons over 65 years.

Health expenditure in the US in 2005 was $1.7 trillion, which makes it probably the largest single industry in the world. One could make a reasonable argument that the economy generated by the health care industry is more desirable than many other industries like alcohol, tobacco and the other two big industries: war and religion.

Health care’s contribution to the GDP was 15.3% in 2005 and should increase in coming years. And why not!

************

THE AGONY OF ETHICS

‘Economics is the bastard child of ethics.’ –TS Elliot.

An isolated cost versus benefit matrix should not determine the end of life measures. The insatiable appetite for technology makes the choice between cost and ethics even more difficult for the family and the health care providers. In the absence of an advance directive, often, all the options in the care of the terminally sick seem ethically right. Sometimes, the quality of remaining life helps in deciding the course.

About 10% of all who die after age 65 are severely impaired and 14% are fully functional. Between these two ends of the spectrum are partially functional people. Disability increases with age. In a survey done in 1986, only 20% between the ages of 65 and 74 were completely functional and 3% were severely disabled. At age 85 about 22% were incapacitated and only 6% were functioning fully.

Most people will agree that prolonging life of everyone irrespective of the disability is the right choice, but standing by the bedside of the terminally sick person the questions are: is it worth it and at what emotional and financial cost? There are no wrong answers.

“Most Americans can’t afford a comfortable death. More than likely, their savings accounts won’t hold up after intense hospitalization. And, as the insurance system now works, benefits will cover ample surgeries and procedures, but once those limits are met there is nothing left for palliative care…”

“At least three barriers block the way for a more comfortable death… (1) The health-care system fails to offer an institutional structure to support appropriate choices for dying patients. (2) Insurance mechanisms fall short of providing adequate support beyond high-tech care. (3) American culture embraces high-tech medicine while harboring an overwhelming fear of painful death. Discussions of palliative care rarely enter into the picture.”— From the September 1996 Medical Ethics Advisor.

We can devise the cost controls, extol the virtuous revenue, debate the knotted ethics but which balm will soothe the emotions?

**********

The cremated remains of my father slid from my fingers. The slow breeze hugged the ashes gently and floated them away into the heaving Ganges. His last remains bobbed and crested the waves and then merged with the primordial waters from whence he had sprung as ‘life’ many eons ago.

I saw him disappear –forever. But a thought lingered: maybe we shouldn’t have pulled the plug.

bad sex in fiction awards

Blackswangreen_060410051753288_wideweb__

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (Sceptre):

If Dawn Madden’s breasts were a pair of Danishes, Debby Crombie’s got two Space Hoppers. Each armed with a gribbly nipple. Tom Yew kissed them in turn and his saliva glistened in the April sun. I know watching was wrong but I couldn’t not. Tom Yew slipped off her red panties and stroked the cressy hair there.
‘If you want me to stop, Madam Crombie, you have to say now.’
‘Oooh, Master Yew,’ she croodled, ‘don’t you dare.’
Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from-Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck.
Now her grubby soles met like they were praying.
Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat.
Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.
Now Tom Yew’s body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he’d been booted in the balls.
Her fingernails’d sunk salmony welts into his arse.
Debby Crombie’s mouth made a perfect O.

more from Literary Review here.

6 years of W: a celebration of courage

Bushnightmarearticle

Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.”

“My fellow Americans,” Bush said, “at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us.”

more from The Onion here.

modern, and timeless

Executionofmaximillian372

Last week images of the execution of Saddam Hussein were beamed around the world. News travelled much more slowly in June 1867, when a political execution took place under very different circumstances: the idealistic emperor Maximilian of Mexico, who had been installed three years earlier by a French intervention, faced a firing squad of resurgent nationalists. Learning the news, Edouard Manet made some of the greatest of all political paintings.

In January 1862 – exactly 145 years ago – the news of the day was that over 10,000 British, French and Spanish troops were disembarking at the port of Veracruz, Mexico, with the aim of forcing Mexico to pay its foreign debts. However, it soon became clear that France had something else in mind: regime change. Britain and Spain had the sense to withdraw quickly from what was turning into an ugly imperialist adventure, on Napoleon III’s part, in search of mineral wealth abroad and prestige at home. The news, then, of what happened to the French on May 5 was utterly unexpected: the most renowned army in Europe was humiliated by the ferocious resistance of the forces of Benito Juárez. But this, of course, was only the beginning.

more from The Guardian here.

Tipping Over Malcolm Gladwell’s Defense of Enron

Joe Nocera in the Lakeland Florida Ledger:

Hp_gladwellThis week, The New Yorker ran an article by Mr. Gladwell, entitled “Open Secrets,” that the author describes on his blog as “my semi-defense of Enron.” No kidding. The article opens, rather poignantly, with the scene of the former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling — “a pillar of the Houston community”— receiving a harsh 24-year sentence last October for his role in the Enron fraud, “one of the heaviest sentences ever given to a white-collar criminal.”

From there, Mr. Gladwell goes on to make the argument, provocatively, of course, that the Enron debacle was always hidden in plain sight. The signs were there in the company’s financial disclosure documents. Yes, they were complicated and convoluted, but if you knew what to look for, you could, at the very least, sniff out the fact that Enron was a company with lots of problems.

He dismisses the notion that “senior executives,” including Mr. Skilling, withheld critical information from investors. The problem, Mr. Gladwell concludes, is that the potential receivers of that information, the investing community, primarily, either didn’t know how to dissect Enron’s financials or couldn’t be bothered. Thus, the Enron scandal was as much the fault of investors as it was any Enron executive now in prison.

More here.  [See the Gladwell (shown in photo above) article here.]

The most business-friendly socialism ever devised

James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:

HugochavezandfidelcastrohavesignedanenerTo people on both the left and the right, Hugo Chávez is a kind of modern-day Castro, a virulently anti-American leader who has positioned himself as the spearhead of Latin America’s “Bolivarian revolution.” He calls for a “socialism of the twenty-first century,” and regularly floats radical economic ideas; during his recent campaign for reëlection, he suggested he might move Venezuela to a barter system. When he spoke in front of the United Nations General Assembly in September, a day after President Bush, he said, “The devil came here yesterday.” And, just last month, after he was overwhelmingly reëlected to the Presidency, he dedicated the victory to Castro and proclaimed it “another defeat for the devil who tries to dominate the world.”

Chávez’s rhetoric might not be out of place in “The Little Red Book,” yet everyday life for many Venezuelans today looks more like the Neiman-Marcus catalogue. Thanks to the boom in the price of oil, many Venezuelans have been indulging in rampant consumerism that might give even an American pause. In the past year, auto sales have doubled, property prices have soared (mortgage loans are up three hundred per cent), and, thanks to this buying frenzy, credit-card loans have nearly doubled. And while Chávez has done a good job of redistributing oil revenue to the Venezuelan poor, via so-called misiones, designed to improve education, health care, and housing, and has forced oil companies to renegotiate contracts, there has been no nationalization of industry, relatively little interference with markets, and only small gestures toward land reform. If this is socialism, it’s the most business-friendly socialism ever devised.

More here.

Rugs of War

From the Rugs of War website:

Rugs of War is a project which investigates the history, iconography, production and distribution of “the war rug”.

The traditional knotted rugs made by the semi-nomadic Baluch people of northern Afghanistan are famous for their distinctive designs, their rich yet subdued palette and the quality of their construction and materials, which feature traditional patterns and motifs.

The “war rug” is an evolution of these Baluch rugs through the inclusion of militaria and other references to the experience of war and conflict in the region. These significant changes became apparent almost immediately after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when rug-makers began incorporating complex imagery of war planes, helicopters, machine guns, maps and texts into their designs.

Screenhunter_02_jan_07_1454_1

More here.

‘No proof’ organic food is better

From BBC News:

Carrots The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said organic food was more of a “lifestyle choice that people can make”. He insisted that food grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals should not be regarded as inferior. In an interview with the Sunday Times he said: “There isn’t any conclusive evidence either way.”

Mr Miliband: “It’s only 4% of total farm produce, not 40%, and I would not want to say that 96% of our farm produce is inferior because it’s not organic.” He said despite the rise in organic sales being “exciting” for shoppers, they should not think of conventionally-produced food as “second best”.

According to the Soil Association, organic food sales in the UK increased by 30% to £1.6bn in 2006.

More here.

How to Speak a Book

From The New York Times:

Book_18 Except for brief moments of duress, I haven’t touched a keyboard for years. No fingers were tortured in producing these words — or the last half a million words of my published fiction. By rough count, I’ve sent 10,000 e-mail messages without typing. My primary digital prosthetic doesn’t even have keys.

I write these words from bed, under the covers with my knees up, my head propped and my three-pound tablet PC — just a shade heavier than a hardcover — resting in my lap, almost forgettable. I speak untethered, without a headset, into the slate’s microphone array. The words appear as fast as I can speak, or they wait out my long pauses. I touch them up with a stylus, scribbling or re-speaking as needed. Whole phrases die and revive, as quickly as I could have hit the backspace. I hear every sentence as it’s made, testing what it will sound like, inside the mind’s ear.

More here.

A new book argues the case for the mugshot as art

Katy June-Friesen in Smithsonian Magazine:

Mugshot_bevhillsThe faces are “right out of central casting,” says Mark Michaelson. For a decade, the graphic designer collected old mug shots—he got them from a retired cop in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from a file cabinet bought at a Georgia auction and stuffed with pictures, and from eBay—until he had tens of thousands. All of them might have remained the personal collection of this self-described pack rat. But with the growing popularity of vernacular, or found, photographs, Michaelson’s trove suddenly had wider appeal. This past fall, he exhibited the mug shots in a New York City gallery and published them in a book slicker than an L.A. loan shark.

Michaelson, who has worked at Newsweek, Radar and other magazines, got interested in underworld imagery after a friend gave him a Wanted poster of Patty Hearst. For his collection, however, he avoided famous people and notorious criminals in favor of what he calls “the small-timers, the least wanted.”

More here.

The DNA so dangerous it does not exist

Linda Geddes in New Scientist:

Could there be forbidden sequences in the genome – ones so harmful that they are not compatible with life? One group of researchers thinks so. Unlike most genome sequencing projects which set out to search for genes that are conserved within and between species, their goal is to identify “primes”: DNA sequences and chains of amino acids so dangerous to life that they do not exist.

“It’s like looking for a needle that’s not actually in the haystack,” says Greg Hampikian, professor of genetics at Boise State University in Idaho, who is leading the project. “There must be some DNA or protein sequences that are not compatible with life, perhaps because they bind some essential cellular component, for example, and have therefore been selected out of circulation. There may also be some that are lethal in some species, but not others. We’re looking for those sequences.”

More here.