Monday, April 10, 2006

The Inquiring Mind

Key to the concept of being better, is feeling more control over one’s own life -- and not just having the capacity to pay off infinitely greater health care bills, with the assurance that whatever ails one is “covered.” Health care should be for the benefit of the client/customer, and not just for the benefit of the health care provider -- of the various stripes and certifications.

So the vision of lifelong, inevitable and premature deterioration has to be re-examined before simply enabling more, and infinitely costly procedures will make life better -- which has never been a serious consideration before -- that the meaning and purpose of life is to get better, no matter what one’s age, status, and financial condition is -- which is the great equalizer. Most of the talk about life in maturity now is a fantasy of finally achieving unlimited wealth and freedom -- which they never achieved before in the prime of their years but are led to expect, if not demand, once they are retired.

For most of the young people’s lives, they are conditioned to believe that they should do what the experts, teachers and media tell them to do -- because they “know better,” or in some cases, “know it all,” when in fact, they may know nothing at all, but may have the power to suppress all inquiry into the matter. A lot of information is lost this way -- suppressed for hundred of years in the past -- until those truths are rediscovered at a better time. But that advantage will have been lost for many until too late to do them any good.

The great probability is that somebody has already discovered the answer for the problem one has in mind -- but for which he doesn’t have a satisfactory answer yet. So the quest in life, is discovering who has that answer -- which may not be those who claim to have all the answers -- even while those answers just seem to make the problems worse. Some people are satisfied that they have the “right” answers even if it doesn’t make a difference; they think that is all that is required for an answer to be “right” -- that it is approved by the right experts.

But even among the experts, some are more knowledgeable than others, and in fact, the best information is likely not to be known to most, because few are on the cutting edge of discovery. In that discovery, most do not immediately embrace the better way -- but have been taught to resist any other than they already know as the foundation of their expertise in that field. To realize they were mistaken is not a realization many can accept and move on to the greater truth -- but may resist their entire lives so as not to threaten their insecure self-image.

That becomes almost a litmus test for the 21st century personalities now emerging -- how quickly they can embrace new information, and avoid the presumptuousness of their absolute certainties that close their minds forever from further inquiries. In this, it doesn’t matter how much a person knows or claims to know already -- because it is the truly inquiring mind that will discover the truth, freshly each time. And the truth, rather than remaining the same for all time, is likely to change with time and every new discovery and development.

So whether it is the businessman, the scientitist, the journalist, the teacher -- what one desires to find are those on the cutting edge of new discoveries, and not those who boast of how old, timeworn and commonplace their knowledge is.


At April 10, 2006 6:38 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Maybe it's not just my imgination.,,3-2128371,00.html

Drugs companies 'inventing diseases to boost their profits'
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

PHARMACEUTICAL companies are systematically creating diseases in order to sell more of their products, turning healthy people into patients and placing many at risk of harm, a special edition of a leading medical journal claims today.

The practice of “diseasemongering” by the drug industry is promoting non-existent illnesses or exaggerating minor ones for the sake of profits, according to a set of essays published by the open-access journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

The special issue, edited by David Henry, of Newcastle University in Australia, and Ray Moynihan, an Australian journalist, reports that conditions such as female sexual dysfunction, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and “restless legs syndrome” have been promoted by companies hoping to sell more of their drugs.

Other minor problems that are a normal part of life, such as symptoms of the menopause, are also becoming increasingly “medicalised”, while risk factors such as high cholesterol levels or osteoporosis are being presented as diseases in their own right, according to the editors.

“Disease-mongering turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources and causes iatrogenic (medically induced) harm,” they say. “Like the marketing strategies that drive it, disease-mongering poses a global challenge to those interested in public health, demanding in turn a global response.”

Doctors, patients and support groups need to be more aware that pharmaceutical companies are taking this approach, and more research is needed into the changing ways in which conditions are presented, according to the writers.

Disease-awareness campaigns are often funded by drug companies, and “more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health”, they say.

Particular conditions that are highlighted in the journal include sexual function in both men and women. The prevalence of female sexual dysfunction, one paper claims, has been highly exaggerated to provide a new market for drugs, while the makers of anti-impotence medicines, such as Viagra and Cialis, have been involved with their presentation as lifestyle drugs that can boost the sexual prowess of healthy men.

Ordinary shyness is routinely presented as a social anxiety disorder and treated with antidepressants, while newly identified conditions such as “restless legs syndrome” — a constant urge to move one’s legs — are presented as being much more common than they really are.

Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, rejected the accusations, pointing out that Britain has firm safeguards against disease-mongering. Many of the authors’ criticisms, he said, were aimed squarely at countries such as the United States, where pharmaceuticals can be openly advertised directly to patients.

“Drug companies are not allowed to communicate directly with patients, and we do not invent diseases,” he said.

“We provide information that there are treatments out there that might help certain conditions, but at the end of the day it is down to health professionals to decide if they are appropriate.

“The best safeguard is that the doctor who knows the product and knows the patient’s history is the one who decides what to prescribe.”


Symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats and loss of libido
Criticism too often “medicalised” as part of a “disorder” when it is a normal phase of life

Symptoms include constipation, cramps and diarrhoea
Criticism promoted by drug companies as a serious illness needing therapy, when it is usually a mild problem

Symptoms impotence in men, lack of libido or difficulty becoming aroused in women
Criticism drugs such as Viagra marketed not only for treating genuine erectile dysfunction caused by medical problems but as lifestyle improvers

Symptoms thinning of the bones, particularly among postmenopausal women
Criticism portrayed as a disease in its own right, when it is really a risk factor for broken bones

Symptoms urge to move legs because of unpleasant feelings, often at night
Criticism prevalence of a relatively rare condition exaggerated by the media, along with the need for treatment

At April 10, 2006 7:13 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

What will these guys think up next?

Wal-Mart's RX for health care
The retailer is opening cheap, convenient clinics in its superstores -- and calling on Washington to fix the really big problems.
By Rik Kirkland, FORTUNE senior editor-at-large
April 3, 2006: 10:32 AM EDT

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - When Wal-Mart announced recently that it would open medical clinics in supercenters across the country, the news coverage went something like this: Get ready for a battle of the titans. America's most admired, most vilified, most shopped-at retailer is finally taking on the $2-trillion-a-year U.S. health-care market, a hulking giant just begging to be whipped into shape by Wal-Mart's vaunted efficiency and everyday low pricing. It's Ali vs. Foreman, Mothra meets Godzilla, right?

Not exactly. Stop by the Wal-Mart (Research) in a place like Owasso, Okla., five miles northeast of Tulsa, and you do see signs of something interesting going on. Between the Smart Styles hair salon and the Kids Fun Center is the new RediClinic, three freshly painted, stark-white rooms staffed by nurse practitioners licensed to prescribe drugs.

Wal-Mart is speeding up its rollout of in-store clinics.

A smiling receptionist hands out fliers touting a flat $45 fee for "Get Well" visits. That price includes all the tests necessary to diagnose and prescribe for everyday ailments like colds, flu, strep throat and pink eye. If you're uninsured, as roughly half the clinic's customers are, it's a big saving over the $95 or so that a regular doctor's visit would cost in this part of the country, and a huge savings over the $400 a hospital emergency room might charge.

Another pamphlet offers a menu of "Stay Well" screenings for basic preventive medicine. For instance: a $29 blood test to determine your cholesterol profile with glucose, vs. what RediClinic claims is a "retail" price of $65. (Thirty minutes south down Highway 169, the Wal-Mart in Broken Arrow touts an "end-of-season special" on flu shots--"Now only $20.")

This mix of transparent prices, electronic efficiency (patients can access test results online using a password), and convenient hours (7 A.M. to 7 P.M. weekdays, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. Saturdays, and noon to five on Sundays) looks, for now at least, like a winning formula.

"It was pretty awesome," according to Dirk Thibodaux, a landscape architect who dropped by the RediClinic in Fayetteville, Ark., with an ear infection a few weeks back. Visiting his regular doctor, he figures, would have involved a midday appointment and a "minimum of two hours." For roughly the same cost as his regular co-payment, says Thibodaux, "I showed up at 7 A.M., got my diagnosis and prescription in 20 minutes, and wasn't even late for work."

"The initial results on this launch were as good as any test we've done recently. We were seeing satisfaction rates over 90 percent," says Glenn Habern, Wal-Mart's senior vice president for new-business development. This being Wal-Mart, the company promptly stepped up the rollout. It had planned to open 12 clinics with four partners by the end of 2006. (The clinics are owned and operated by vendors; Wal-Mart merely leases them its valuable floor space.) In February it pledged to open 50 more by next January.

Though Wal-Mart is only collecting rent money here, it sees the clinics potentially as a big deal for two reasons: They boost its appeal as a one-stop place to shop by giving customers a much-needed service, and they help fulfill its self-proclaimed mission to be "a champion for working families," as Susan Chambers, head of benefits, puts it.

The model for the clinics, in fact, is the company's bid to drive costs out of the fat-margin check-cashing and money-order business; it now offers those services in more than 3,000 stores and figures it's saving workers and customers $4 million a week.

Still, there's a limit to the dent the clinics can put in the nation's swelling health-care tab -- even if all 2,000 Wal-Mart supercenters eventually get them. Year in and year out, roughly 70 percent of medical bills are generated by just 10 percent of the population, usually folks with serious chronic illnesses, which these places are not set up to treat.

So let's go back and revise that Godzilla vs. Mothra story to reflect reality. Wal-Mart, it turns out, is getting slammed just like every other company by the rising cost of health care. Its spending on health-care benefits has soared 19 percent a year since 2002. At the same time, it continues to get pounded politically on this issue like no other company.

While its benefits are quite respectable by the standards of big retailers, which operate on razor-thin margins, they still leave a lot to be desired. Chambers says she and her team were "surprised" and "disappointed" to discover last fall after a "deep dive" into the data that nearly half the children of Wal-Mart's employees were either uninsured or on Medicaid.

An ever more vocal crowd of critics is trying to force Wal-Mart to adopt the more generous benefit standards of the typical blue-chip corporate giant. Their weapon: state laws mandating that large employers either spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health benefits or pay the difference into a state low-income health-insurance fund. Maryland passed such a law over its governor's veto in January, and unions are pushing for similar legislation in 31 states.

To all this the nation's largest employer is responding in three ways: (1) by vigorously defending itself in the opinion wars, (2) by launching initiatives, large and small, such as opening the new clinics, giving employees big discounts on fruits and vegetables to promote healthy eating, and offering inexpensive "value plan" health insurance to workers that combines high-deductible catastrophic coverage with low co-pays on a limited number of visits, and (3) by insisting that ultimately health care is not a Wal-Mart problem but a national one. CEO Lee Scott recently told the National Governors Association: "The soaring cost of health care in America cannot be sustained over the long term by any business that offers health benefits to its employees."

The fact is, he's right. While it's premature to declare the death of the uniquely American system of delivering health-care security mainly through employers, signs abound that it is dying. A little more than half of Americans now receive health insurance from their employer, down from nearly 70 percent in 1980.

The steepest decline in coverage -- from 46 percent to 26 percent -- has occurred among workers earning roughly $8.50 an hour (the populace of Wal-Mart Nation, in other words). No wonder 25 percent of states now spend 25 percent of their budgets on Medicaid alone.

It's only going to get worse. Princeton University health expert Uwe Reinhardt predicts that the exploding cost of private-sector insurance premiums, up 10 percent to 20 percent a year since 2000, means "low-wage workers and their employers are sailing into a perfect storm."

The number of uninsured Americans, which has already climbed from 40 million in 2000 to more than 45 million today, should soon top 50 million. Meanwhile, most analysts predict that the percentage of large U.S. companies that can afford to offer health-care benefits to retirees, already down from 70 percent in 1990 to 36 percent today, will wind up somewhere close to zero.

What's the solution? Wal-Mart's top brass haven't formulated a plan, beyond calling for business, government, and industry leaders to develop standards and electronic systems that will drive costs out of health care the way Wal-Mart and its allies drove them out of supply chains.

Inevitably, any fix to make the U.S. health-care system more affordable and accessible -- not to mention sustainable -- requires facing down a whole herd of snorting-mad interest groups. That's why politicians won't act unless there's a much stronger sense of crisis than there is today.

The bad news is, such a crisis seems almost certain down the road. And the good news? At least we'll be able to afford those $20 flu shots from Wal-Mart.

At April 11, 2006 12:44 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

There used to be an advantage to being unconditionally plugged into the media, schools, universities -- until realizing that, the manipulators of public opinion and information, turned that into a liability, by exploiting that trust and goodwill. In another era, it was believed things were true because you saw it on the television, or in the newspaper -- because they were better than the average -- but largely because there simply weren’t any alternatives easily known and accessed.

Then the world changed -- and easy access became the name of the game. What worked as the “only game in town,” would not win in a competition for attention open to everyone -- because the gene pool of ability is unrestricted by the past constraints and limitations that favored those who knew how to play the only game in town. Most of the new entrants, continued to play the only game in town, without realizing they could create even better ones -- because they weren’t restricted in their thinking that the models and prototypes of the past, had to be the ultimate limitations of the future also.

Every great human breakthrough is this realization of entirely new possibilities -- that stretches the frontiers of our thinking -- on every front. In the new paradigm of networked information, intelligence is no longer a personal storehouse of information and abilities -- as much as it is one’s ability and willingness to access the total content of that repository of the collective consciousness, including even those wholly unique reformulations of the thinking on that subject.

Simply doing more of the same, is not what is needed or desired. What is particularly treasured is the different, unique perspectives -- rather than simply confirming the old manner of thinking that has created the present great irresolvable great drains on human capacity and resources.

That future does not lay with the young, but with the old. It’s not the young that have to be taught to learn -- but the old, and that conditioning, will revitalize them -- for today’s world. In the past, each generation was conditioned for their time and generation -- and then they were left on their own, some being more successful than others, while most languishing -- left to this neglect, as most did not not change, as the times did.

The young have always been anxious to learn, to grow, to discover -- while the old were convinced they didn’t need to anymore, when in fact, they needed it even more to remain vital and vibrant. That is the new maturity -- and not simply the immaturity of remaining a juvenile all one’s life. Many mistake the cause for the effect, the image for the actuality, the contrived for the authentic. That is the proper discussion of these times -- and not simply how popular are certain personalities and behaviors.

What is authentic -- and not just manipulated to seem so? A previous generation thought that was enough -- just to seem so, and that the public was not interested in anything else. But the few who always are -- set the course of history for everyone else, and those are the few one needs to identify and access, rather than just the overwhelming masses that is now within the reach of anyone and everyone. How do we filter out the best without becoming the victims of the worst?

At April 12, 2006 1:28 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The secret is out; the jig is up; the cat's out of the bag; the apple cart is turned over; the boat is taking on water; don't swim in fecal matter.

Scaring for money
Apr 12, 2006
by John Stossel ( bio | archive )

Email to a friend Print this page Text size: A A If you're a scientist working for private industry, it helps to invent something useful. But if you're a scientist trying to get funding from the government, you're better off telling the world how horrible things are.

And once people are scared, they pay attention. They may even demand the government give you more money to solve the problem.

Usually the horrible disaster never happens. Chaos from Y2K. An epidemic of deaths from SARS or mad cow disease. Cancer from Three Mile Island. We quickly forget. We move on to the next warnings.

This is the story of a looming disaster that never became an actual disaster -- because the science that led to the terror was never sound science at all.

In the late '80s and early '90s, the media used a few small studies of babies born of cocaine-addicted mothers to convince America that thousands of children were permanently damaged. Dr. Ira Chasnoff, of the National Association for Perinatal Addiction Research and Education, after studying only 23 babies, reported that mothers were delivering babies who "could not respond to them emotionally." He told People magazine the infants "couldn't respond to a human voice." This led to a frenzy of stories on "crack babies." Many people still believe "crack babies" are handicapped for life.

It isn't true. It turns out there is no proof that crack babies do worse than anyone else. In fact, they do better, on average, than children born of alcoholic mothers.

Nevertheless, Rolling Stone told us these children were "like no others." They were "automatons," "oblivious to affection," and "the damage doesn't go away." Education magazines warned that soon these children would reach the schools, which would be unable to control them.

It was terrifying news -- thousands of children likely to grow up wild and dangerous.

It wasn't until several years later that the myth started to unravel. Emory University psychologist Claire Coles had her graduate students spend hours observing "crack babies" and normal babies. Her students did not see what Chasnoff had seen. In fact, they couldn't tell which children had been exposed to cocaine.

Coles told me, "They couldn't really tell whether they were looking at the effects of cocaine or the effects of alcohol or the effects of poverty, and everybody ignored that. They just said, 'This is cocaine.'"

How could that happen? "Well," Coles said," they wanted to get published." It is easier to get your work published, and, more importantly, funded by the taxpayers, if you find something dramatic.

Coles said, "If you go to an agency and say, 'I don't think there's a big problem here, I'd like you to give me $1 million,' the probability for getting the money is very low."

It's also easier to get funded if what you conclude feeds someone's political agenda. The idea of crack babies was perfect. It met the needs of liberals and conservatives. Conservatives wanted to demonize cocaine users. Liberals wanted more money for social programs.

When Dr. Coles dared suggest that crack babies were not permanently damaged, she was attacked by politicians, called incompetent, accused of making data up or advocating drug abuse. Dr. Chasnoff, who helped start the scare, did not receive similar criticism. After his scare was shown to have been exaggerated, he denied that he had pushed any agenda: "Neither I nor any of my colleagues were ever pushing junk science. Is everything we thought then -- do we know that every bit of that is correct now? Well, obviously, the answer is no. But that's the process of science."

He said People and Rolling Stone exaggerated the implications of his research -- took him "out of context." Perhaps. Journalists hype risks constantly. But Chasnoff didn't ask the magazines to correct or clarify their reports. So people continued expecting the crack babies -- the real human beings who had to grow up with that label -- to be walking disasters.

Next time you hear dire "scientific" warnings -- and demands to surrender more control over your life to the government in order to avert disaster -- remember the crack babies. The only disaster coming may be an activist-induced panic.

Think about that when you hear dire predictions about global warning or avian flu.

Award-winning news correspondent John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News "20/20" and author of "Give Me a Break."

At April 13, 2006 11:32 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Most people don’t need practice and conditioning in speeding up; they need practice and conditioning in slowing down -- doing things deliberately and thoughtfully, instead of just going through the motions, and faking any understanding of what they are doing.

That is the value of the tai-chi style of movement/instruction -- that one learns to move very deliberately, precisely -- which is the greater skill than just throwing around one’s arms and legs frenetically, erratically, randomly. Once one can move in the desired movement slowly -- he can adjust the speed upward when required and necessary -- because he has systematically built up those neuromuscular pathways.

Muscle control, willful control -- is the mindful movement, the integration of mind and muscle (body), and not just erratic, random movement, mind disconnected from body -- thinking there is no difference. It is the same difference in "just" hitting a golf ball -- and hitting a golf ball with intent and purpose, which those trained not to see any relevant differences (the politically correct people of the world, academics and pseudo-intellectuals), will insist makes no difference.

When randomness and deliberate intention is equated to be the same, no further fruitful discussions are possible with such individuals. There is no difference between progress and detrioration for such individuals -- though most will proudly pronounced themselves to be the most "progressive" thinkers in society, not even aware of the obvious contradiction and hypocrisy - but mostly, just appalling ignorance and unawareness that is the product of their "education."

Yet those are only ones the mainstream press seems to seek out to interview for their "expert" opinions -- those who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, but are readily recognizable to them as speaking the same language.


Post a Comment

<< Home