Saturday, December 15, 2007

American Healthcare at Its Worst

Evanthia Pappas, a Bay Area prosecutor is diagnosed with an uncommon, aggressive type of breast cancer. Oncologists at the University of TexasM.D. Anderson Cancer Center have offered her hope through a clinical trial. However, this clinical trial is unfunded and costs $235,000. This means that no drug company, the federal government, or any other source will pay for the cost of the treatment. Pappas’ health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, refuses to cover the cost of the trial saying that the procedure does not benefit patients (relying on data of 15 randomized high-dose chemotherapy studies carried out between 1988 and 2002 that found it did not benefit long-term survival rates). However, doctors disagree with Kaiser Permanente and say that the procedure may be successful depending on the patient’s responses to chemotherapy. Since Kaiser Permanente will not cover the cost, M.D. Anderson considers Pappas uninsured. In most cases, clinical trials in which the patient puts himself/herself at risk are sponsored by the federal government or private industry. Dr. John Park, a medical oncologist at UCSF, states “It is extremely unusual for a hospital to require a patient to pay large sums of money to participate in a trial. Usually if patients have to bear some costs, they are relatively small.” He says that insurers usually pay for the routine costs of care related to the trial. Pappas and her doctors believe that this trial may be her best chance for survival and finding a cure. So far, she has already accumulated more than $100,000. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris states, “This is also a statement about what we need to do about health care in this country. She already has to suffer the physical and emotional toll in terms of her illness, and has to suffer the anxiety about whether she can pay for the treatment she needs." Most industrialized countries, like Britain, France, and Canada provide universal healthcare to all citizens, whether they can afford the fees or not. Do you think the American health care industry is doing its job by denying patients that need help? Should Pappas have to pay for the whole bill herself when it is not 100% sure that the trial will cure her and since in most cases, it is rare for the patient to pay a large amount of money to participate in the trial? Or, should Pappas pay for the bill herself since she agreed to the trial?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Senate Passes $696 Billion Defense Bill

Recently, the Senate approved a defense policy bill 90-3. The House passed the bill earlier and will send it to President Bush to endorse. This bill permits $696 billion for military spending, which includes $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $10 billion for ballistic missile defense. The bill would also give more aid to returning troops, establish conditions for contractors involved in the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan, and establish management guidelines for expensive weapon programs. The bill also includes a 3.5% pay increase for service members, guaranteed mental health evaluations for combat veterans within 30 days, no fee raises to the military’s health care system, and a guaranteed three additional years of Veterans Affairs health care for returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan after being discharged. The bill requires that private security contractors working in a war zone obey military regulations and orders from commanders, and an auditing system would be created to watch over reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan. Do you think the US is spending its money wisely? Will this increased military spending help the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or will it just prolong the war? Should the US redirect this money towards domestic issues instead? If so, what domestic issue would you direct it towards?

Is Giving N. Korea Another Chance a Good Idea?

While doing a little more research on the previous post, I came across this cartoon.

Is it wise to trust N. Korea?
It also depicts the worthlessness of the United Nations, does it not?

Improved Relations with North Korea?

Today, North Korea's president Kim Jong-il agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula as long as the US makes an effort to improve relations with them as well.

Bush told the press:
“I got his attention with a letter and he can get my attention by fully disclosing his programs, including any plutonium he may have processed and converted some of that into whatever he’s used it for. We just need to know.”

In October, the communist country had already agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons and publicize all nuclear programs in exchange for 950,000 tons of oil (or the same in money). Some are displeased with this resolution because it doesn't make N. Korea fork over all the warheads and plutonium they have secretly stored up. Others believe that this is one of the few successes Bush has achieved in this period of disappointing foreign diplomacy.

The White House celebrates its victory: a letter passed through N. Korea's representative to the United Nations, from Kim Jong-il, stating that N. Korea would keep its word as long as the US stuck to its side of the bargain.

Do you guys think that Mr. Kim will REALLY disclose all the programs and disassemble all the nuclear warheads so none of them are operational, just for a oil? Is this a victory of Mr. Bush and show his competence in foreign diplomacy?

Full Article:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Jersey First to Prohibit Death Penalty in 40 Years

New Jersey will be the first state in forty years to eliminate the death penalty (the governor will sign the measure in a few days). Government members voted in favor of replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole 44-36. Supporters state that the death penalty has not discouraged murder from occurring and the death penalty sentence provides the possibility of killing an innocent person. Opponents of the measure such as Assemblyman Richard Merkt, state that the bill is “a victory for murderers and rapists. It does not benefit families. It does not benefit New Jersey society. It does not benefit justice.” Senate Republicans offered a compromise of upholding the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officials, rape and murder children, and terrorists, but the Senate denied the suggestion. Since the Supreme Court permitted the death penalty in 1976, 1,099 people have been executed. While some states have deliberated about prohibiting the death penalty, currently, 37 states use the death penalty. Is the death penalty too radical of a punishment, and should other states follow New Jersey’s example of banning the death penalty?

New Energy Legislation Passed by Senate, but Watered Down...

New energy legislation has been cleared through the Senate! It's good news, but the legislation was cut and stripped of many provisions that would cost the oil industry billions and billions of dollars before finally receiving its wide margin of approval.

This legislation includes an increase in fuel-economy standards for motor vehicles and boosts for alternative fuel. However, the 13 billion dollar tax increase on oil companies, and a requirement that 15% of electricity be from renewable sources were cut in order to secure Republican votes in the Senate.

To end debate on the bill, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, announced the removal of tax provisions, allowing for passage with a vote of 86 to 8.

The oil industry's own voice was clearly heard in their own campaigns to oppose tax increases; they argued that paying the government more money would get in the way of developing new sources of energy in terms of funding.

Do you think that the bill should have been watered down? What does this say about the power of the oil industry in Congress? Do you think the tax provisions should have been passed? Will they ever be able to make it through Congress?

Full Article:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Government Stand to Control Immigration

Last Friday, landowners along the southern border (mainly Texas and Arizona) were told that if they did not comply with the federal government to build a fence meant to help prohibit and prevent illegal immigration, the government would take control of their land. Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary, is allocating thirty days for these landowners to decide if they will permit US officials on their land to see if it is proper for fencing. If landowners decide not to let US officials on to their land, Chertoff warns that he will “turn to the courts to gain temporary access”. Also, if the department deems that the land is suitable for fencing and landowners do not oblige, the department will look to the courts to get permission. The government’s goal is to construct 370 miles of border fencing by the end of next year, but Chertoff says, “dealing with uncooperative landowners” is an obstacle. Many landowners oppose border fencing because they claim that the fence will thwart their access to the Rio Grande, their main supply of fresh water. Also, businesses claim that the border fencing will delay cross border traffic that is essential for local economies. However, some believe that the border fencing is not only to prohibit illegal immigration, but also to mend differences in the Republican Party on the immigration issue. Bush once supported an immigration bill that would provide some legal status to illegal immigrants in the US. Many Republicans were angry at Bush’s “amnesty” and argued that “enforcement should be the government’s sole response”. On one side of the issue, it is unfair to force these private landowners to build a fence on their property that would restrict their access to the Rio Grande and hurt local economies, but on the other hand, the fence prevents the major national issue of illegal immigration.

How would you feel if you were forced to comply with the government’s demand of building a fence on your property while restricting your rights, but it was to help prohibit these illegal immigrants that our taxes are helping to support and who are taking away jobs from your fellow American citizens? Should the government be allowed to force landowners to comply to help the national issue of illegal immigration, while infringing on the landowner’s rights?

President Bush Vetoes Child Health Bill

So President Bush has vetoed a Children's Heath Care Bill again!
His explanation?

“Because the Congress has chosen to send me an essentially identical bill that has the same problems as the flawed bill I previously vetoed, I must veto this legislation, too.”

This is the 10th veto of Bush's presidency and exemplifies his continuing conflicts with the Democrat-led Congress.

What is the debate about? Money! Spending has been the issue of frustration and dispute!

The current plan of which more than 6.6 million children are enrolled in, called the S-Chip program, needs more funding if it is to continue. To continue, an estimated $5.8 billion is needed per year, which is $800 million more than the current annual budget. Democrats sent the bill allowing increased spending of $35 billion and allowed another 4 million children to join the program.

However, the White House responds by saying
“This Congress failed to send the president legislation that puts children first, and instead they sent for a second time one that would allow adults onto the program, expand to higher incomes, and raise taxes,” said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary.
What will become of this constant debate between White House and Congress?

Full Article:

Clinton to Attack Obama on Drug Usage?

How many times have we heard it? Competitors dig up dirt from background and use it against each other.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton feels threatened as Obama has pulled up to become her equal in New Hampshire polls (state that has long been seen as a "Clinton stronghold"). The co-chairman of her campaign, Billy Shaheen, has brought to the public's attention Obama's drug usage when he was younger.

"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," said Shaheen.

Shaheen also stated that this "scandal" would blow up into a whole new realm.

"It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

What do you guys think? Does Shaheen have a valid point in dinging Obama about this?
Personally, I find this annoying. Everybody makes mistakes when they are younger, and just because he made a bad decision when he was younger does not mean he does not has the smarts, ability, and ethics to be a leader.

I feel like Shaheen is just making this a big deal for the sake of publicity and it seems like a bunch of side-fluff not related to the main issues of campaigning, the presidency, and public policy. Thus, I feel this strategy will backfire on the Clinton campaign. What do you think?

Series of Articles:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top Issues for Voters

In a recent poll, 57% of Americans felt that the nation was in a recession. Of those polled 29% believe that the economy is their chief issue. However, in October, 28% of Americans felt that the war in Iraq was the main issue. Besides the economy and the war in Iraq, the other top issues to voters are health care, illegal immigration, and terrorism. Democrats agree with voters that the economy is in a recession. Hilary Clinton states, “"I'd describe the economy as kind of a trap door where you're one medical diagnosis or a pink slip or a missed mortgage payment away from dropping through and losing everything." On the other hand, Republican Rudy Giuliani does not feel that the economy is in a recession, stating, “What country has had more success in creating a society of fairness and decency, in creating a society in which people move out of poverty, in which people have social mobility, have a chance to succeed?” What is your top concern? Is it the economy? Will Giuliani’s lax stance on the economy help him or hurt him in the election since his top issue does not correspond to the electorate’s top issue (his top priority is terrorism which is the fifth issue most important to voters)? Will Clinton’s opinion on the economy make a difference in the election?

Baby Boomers Cutting Into Kid's Inheritance Money

As wealthy Baby Boomers are beginning to retire, financial advisors say that these Baby Boomers are less inclined to pass their wealth on to their grown children and grandchildren, and instead, are opting to spend their wealth on a dream retirement plan of an active, comfortable lifestyle; thus, leaving a small amount or not an ample amount of money for the next generation. Joe Montgomery, a managing director of investments at Wachovia Securities, says, “They’re a lot more worried about maintaining their lifestyle than about leaving everybody else wealthy.” In a Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finance interview, less than half (48.4%) thought that it was “important to leave an estate to heirs.” Do you think that parents should be able to spend their hard-earned money as they please upon retirement on themselves, or do you think they should reserve some money to help their children and grandchildren?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Which G.O.P Candidate?!

There is no clear leading G.O.P. candidate so far in the 2008 presidential election. A new poll has shown that Republican voters are unsure of who to vote for. Not one of the Republican candidates has secured half of the Republican electorate.

Now, Republicans seem to be divided equally between former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rudolph W. Guiliani, and Mitt Romney.

On the other hand, the polls show that Democrat voters are much more settled with Hillary Clinton than contesters Obama and Edwards.
Reasons for this include:
-many voters see Clinton as more likely to be able to unite the country
-more experienced and prepared for the presidency
-she has former President Clinton behind her

New polls also show that public satisfaction with Washington in general is at an all time low. The Democrat-led congress mustered a pathetic 21 % approval rate, while President Bush's is at 28%.

When I looked at this information, although the American people seem unhappy with the political status quo, I believe that they will not be as apathetic. Although they may not be happy with the choices they have, because their perception is so negative at the moment, it is likely that they will try to vote to change things because indeed, many things are wrong with the country at the time. Pressing issues: immigration, the war in Iraq, foreign policy, security, and the economy all need to be changed. Thus even though the public may seem to have an aversion to the political environment currently, I do not believe this will deflect the public's involvement in the 2008 election.

What do you think?
Why is the Republican electorate so undecided?
Will the election bring back a better perception of Washington?

Full Article:

Prison for Juveniles Without Parole

Today, at least 2,381 people in the US are serving life in prison without parole for crimes they committed when they were age 17 or younger. Most are in prison for taking another life. One such case is Michael Lee Perry. At age 16, Perry threw pop-bottle firebombs through a window of a house to settle a score in a game with his friend, killing three children. Now, he says, "I was wrong. I took people's lives who didn't even have a chance to grow up and experience life. But, I mean, I didn't even experience life myself. I'm not saying a child should go unpunished. ... (But) it's like I'm just abandoned, discarded, left for nothing." However, the question is, did these people suffer from a lapse in judgment as juveniles when they committed these crimes, and are they able to learn from their mistakes? Is putting them in prison for life too harsh of a punishment or can they be rehabilitated? Should we feel sorry for Perry, or was life in prison a fair punishment? (The judge had the option of releasing Perry from prison when he turned 21 or putting him in prison for life.) Should the punishment of life without parole be eliminated for all juvenile offenders? Many are hoping to reform the tough punishment law and believe these offenders should be given a second chance. They want to reconsider the life sentences that were dealt out to these people when they were juveniles.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oprah campaigns for Obama!

Oprah Winfrey already raised $3 million for Obama last September after declaring her support for him in May, but now she's appearing with him in campaigning events around the nation.

The duo first held an event in Iowa (state holding first caucus in the 2008 election) which drew by far the largest crowd of any campaign event this year in that state. Oprah rallied for Obama, deflecting charges for his lack of experience by saying "
the amount of time you spend in Washington means nothing unless you are accountable for the judgment you made." She also showed the strength of her support for him with statements such as, "For the very first time in my life I feel compelled to stand up and speak out for the man who I believe has a new vision for America." This event also compelled volunteer work for Obama, rewarding them with priority seats.

Not only will Oprah campaign for Obama in the all too important state of Iowa, but is expected to appear in New Hampshire and South Carolina over the next few days.

While Hilary Clinton, her mother and daughter, also campaigned in the state,
a staff said "Senator Clinton is a big fan of Oprah's, and she thinks it is great for candidates to have surrogates campaign on their behalf."
What do you think? Is this just a publicity stunt? What good comes out of public celebrities rallying for politicians? Will this affect the opinion of the people in the election? What's in it for Oprah?

Article at:

Shooting at Christian Center in Denver

After the mall shooting earlier in the week, it's just bizarre that there would be another in the same week, let alone at a religious center. It's scary to think that at two places which would be considered safe to go would both have shootings.

"Two missionaries-in-training were killed early today and two more were wounded when a gunman burst into a residence hall at the Youth With a Mission center in the Denver suburb of Arvada, the police said."