February 5, 2016

Health Spending Rises Faster



HealthCostGrowthGraphs2016-01-21.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A3) WASHINGTON--Growth in U.S. health-care spending is accelerating after reaching historic lows, a pickup largely attributed to the millions of Americans who have gotten health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Spending on all health care increased 5.3% in 2014, according to a report Wednesday [Dec. 2, 2015] from actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That compares with the 2.9% growth in 2013, which marked the lowest rate since the government began tracking the gains 55 years ago.

The return to more robust growth after a slowdown in spending had been anticipated by economists. Still, it is likely to add to criticism that the 2010 health law isn't doing enough to rein in costs. The report, based on 2014 government numbers and published in the journal Health Affairs, follows five consecutive years where average spending growth was less than 4% annually.



For the full story, see:

STEPHANIE ARMOUR. "Health Spending Picks Up." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec. 3, 2015): A3.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Dec. 2, 2015, and has the title "Growth in U.S. Health-Care Spending Picks Up.")






February 4, 2016

Medical Establishment Relies on "Accepted Dogma"



(p. A3) The Food and Drug Administration and leading cardiologists are warning that aortic heart valves from animal tissue--implanted surgically in thousands of patients world-wide--can develop tiny blood clots, causing the valves to function improperly.

The findings hit the field of cardiology as something of a shock, as these valves from pig and cow tissue have been used for three decades in patients with malfunctioning valves. In addition, the tissue valves have been regarded as less likely to produce blood clots than mechanical valves made of synthetic materials.


. . .


Cardiologist Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego, called it "remarkable" that such a finding could emerge after three decades of use of the animal-tissue valves. The idea that they lead to less clotting, he said, was "accepted dogma that wasn't looked at."



For the full story, see:

THOMAS M. BURTON. "Clot Risk Is Seen in Some Heart Valves." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title "Clot Risk Is Seen in Some Heart Valves." Where there were minor differences between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)


Eric Topol, quoted above, has written persuasively for more medical innovation, in his:

Topol, Eric. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care. New York: Basic Books, 2012.






February 3, 2016

Unusual Array of Groups Strongly Push Breast-Feeding



C-SPAN on Sat., Jan. 17, 2016 broadcast a thought-provoking presentation by Courtney Jung on her book Lactivism. Jung argues that an unusual array of groups strongly advocate breast-feeding for reasons that are independent of the fairly modest health benefits, for baby and mother, that result from breast-feeding.

Jung's book, that she discussed on C-SPAN, is:

Jung, Courtney. Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy. New York: Basic Books, 2015.






February 2, 2016

Gene Therapy Again Showing Promise



(p. B2) Biotechnology startup Spark Therapeutics Inc. said its experimental gene therapy improved vision among patients with hereditary vision impairment in a clinical trial, without the serious safety problems that have dogged the emerging field of gene therapy in the past.


. . .


Spark said it plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to market its treatment next year, which could make it the first gene therapy to reach the U.S. market if regulators approve it for sale. . . .

Gene therapy involves the injection of genetic material into a person's cells to treat or prevent a disease. The research stalled after some study participants died or developed cancer after receiving gene therapies in the late 1990s and 2000s.

But gene therapy is gaining ground again. In 2012, the European Commission approved the Western world's first gene therapy, UniQure NV's Glybera, for the treatment of patients with a rare enzyme deficiency. The therapy hasn't been approved for sale in the U.S.



For the full story, see:

PETER LOFTUS. "Eye Gene Therapy Shows Promise." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title "Gene Therapy for Visually Impaired Shows Promise." Where there were minor differences between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)






February 1, 2016

"America Represents Wilderness and Freedom, and Also a Big House"



(p. A1) JACKSON HOLE, China -- Yearning to breathe untainted air, the band of harried urbanites flocked to this parched, wild land, bringing along their dreams of a free and uncomplicated life.

But unlike the bedraggled pioneers who settled the American West, the first inhabitants of Jackson Hole, a resort community on the outskirts of the Chinese capital, arrived by Audi and Land Rover, their trunks filled with French wine and their bank accounts flush with cash.

Over the past decade, more than a thousand families have settled into timber-frame houses with generous backyards, on streets with names like Aspen, Moose and Route 66. On Sundays, some worship at a clapboard church that anchors the genteel town square, outfitted with bronze cowboys and a giant Victrola that sprays water.

"America represents wilderness and freedom, and also a big house," said Qin You, 42, who works in private equity and owns a six-bedroom home that features a koi pond, a year-round (p. A8) Christmas tree and what he proudly described as "American-style" electric baseboard heating. His parents live in the house and he goes there on weekends. "The United States is cool," he says.


. . .


. . . , Communist Party edicts and conservative commentators have sought to demonize so-called Western values like human rights and democracy as existential threats. Even if the menace is seldom identified by name, the purveyor of such threats is widely understood to be the United States.


. . .


Gao Zi, 60, a retired military employee who organizes an oil painting club for Jackson Hole residents, said that "we accepted the propaganda" back in the 1950s, when China was a closed society. "But now people have the opportunity to travel abroad and see the truth for ourselves."

Like Ms. Gao, Mr. Qin, the investment executive, has never been to the United States but he has long admired American ideals like personal liberty and blind justice. Five years ago, after his wife gave birth to their second child, Mr. Qin says the government fined him nearly $30,000 for violating the country's population-control policies. "This is not freedom," he said, before continuing a tour of his expansive back patio.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW JACOBS. "JACKSON HOLE JOURNAL; Living a Frontier Dream on Beijing's Outskirts." The New York Times (Fri., DEC. 11, 2015): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 8, 2015, and has the title "JACKSON HOLE JOURNAL; Living a Frontier Dream on the Outskirts of China's Capital.")






January 31, 2016

Founder Title Gives Dorsey "the Leeway to Make Significant Changes"



(p. B1) Twitter Inc. is handing the chief executive reins back to Jack Dorsey, entrusting its founding architect to reassure investors and revive the social-media service's sagging user growth.


. . .


(p. B10) Company insiders say there was nothing interim about the way Mr. Dorsey carried himself since July 1, when Dick Costolo stepped down as CEO. He initiated debates about fundamental product features, including Twitter's trademark 140-character limit per tweet. He frequently sends companywide emails late at night, which include news stories that highlight Twitter's value in the world. These messages and his close involvement have shifted the tone and boosted morale, according to these people.


. . .


His reputation as a product visionary will be tested as he tackles his priority: to figure out how to make Twitter easy enough to use by anyone. More than his product ideas, however, Mr. Currie endorsed Mr. Dorsey's leadership skills as the reason the board decided to bring him back on a permanent basis.

In the eyes of employees and users, the founder title gives him the leeway to make significant changes that weren't afforded by Mr. Costolo.



For the full story, see:


YOREE KOH. "Dorsey Is CEO of Twitter Once Again." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title "Twitter Names Co-Founder Jack Dorsey CEO.")






January 30, 2016

Some Heroes Are Punished for Doing What Is Right



At some point in the last few months watched, and jotted a few notes, on a C-SPAN presentation by Ralph Peters related to his historical novel Valley of the Shadow, that I caught part of. C-SPAN lists the show as first airing on June 23, 2015. My attention was drawn when Peters started talking about Lew Wallace. I had a minor curiosity about Lew Wallace for two obscure reasons. The first is that in young adulthood my favorite actor was Charlton Heston, one of whose most notable movies was Ben Hur, which was based on a novel by Lew Wallace. The other was that as an adult Lew Wallace lived in Crawfordsville, Indiana where there is still a small museum in his old study, a museum that holds memorabilia related to the Heston Ben Hur movie. The reason I know about the museum is that I graduated from Wabash College, which is also located in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Peters said that he was fascinated by forgotten figures and that one of these was Lew Wallace. According to Peters, Lew Wallace saved the union during the Civil War. A confederate general named Jubal Early would have seized Washington, D.C., if Wallace and an officer named Jim Ricketts had not taken the initiative to lead a force to stop Early. For doing what had to be done, Wallace risked court martial, and Wallace was indeed fired from the army. After Ricketts gave a full account of what had happened, Wallace was re-instated, but Lincoln did not approve of his receiving a new command. Peters said that this was because Wallace was unpopular with some powerful Indiana Republicans, and that Lincoln was facing an election in which he needed to win Indiana.

The above is a rough summary of Peters's account. I don't know if any of it is disputed by other experts. But it is a good story, and I hope that it is true.

The Peters historical novel discussed on C-SPAN, was:

Peters, Ralph. Valley of the Shadow: A Novel. New York: Forge Books, 2015.






January 29, 2016

"Good News for the Grumpy": Happiness Does Not Lengthen Life



(p. A6) A study published on Wednesday [Dec. 9, 2015] in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded.

"Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality," the researchers concluded.

"Good news for the grumpy" is one way to interpret the findings, said Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.

He and his fellow researchers decided to look into the subject because, he said, there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease.

Such beliefs can fuel a tendency to blame the sick for bringing ailments on themselves by being negative, and to warn the well to cheer up or else.

"Believing things that aren't true isn't a good idea," Professor Peto said in an interview. "There are enough scare stories about health."

The new study says earlier research confused cause and effect, suggesting that unhappiness made people ill when it is actually the other way around.


. . .


Professor Peto said particularly important data came from 500,000 women who reported on their baseline surveys that they were in good health, with no history of heart disease, cancer, stroke or emphysema.

A "substantial minority" of these healthy women said they were stressed or unhappy, he said, but over the next decade they were no more likely to die than were the women who were generally happy.



For the full story, see:

DENISE GRADY. "Happiness Doesn't Bring Good Health, Study Finds." The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 10, 2015): A6.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 9, 2015, and has the title "Happiness Doesn't Bring Good Health, Study Finds.")


The research summarized in the passages quoted above, appeared in:


Liu, Bette, Sarah Floud, Kirstin Pirie, Jane Green, Richard Peto, and Valerie Beral. "Does Happiness Itself Directly Affect Mortality? The Prospective UK Million Women Study." The Lancet (Dec. 9, 2015) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01087-9.







January 28, 2016

Frustrating Failure to Cure Cancer



PiersonEmmaAndGrandfather2016-01-20.jpg"Emma Pierson as a child playing chess with her grandfather, whose cancer she is trying to fight." Source of caption: print version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. D4) . . . in the four years since I learned I carried a BRCA mutation, I have watched my attempts to do something about it repeatedly miss the mark. I joined a laboratory to do cancer research, but the paper we wrote had little to do with cancer; I joined a company that offered the cheapest BRCA tests on the market, and its service was shut down a month after I arrived. I am 24 years old; at 25, I will have to choose between aggressive screening and prophylactic mastectomy. I had hoped to use my brain to protect my body, but I am running out of time.

If life's complexities confound a 20-year-old's desperate idealism, cancer's do as well. The more I learn, the more I worry that we may never find a singular cure for cancer: that each cancer's unique biological filigree necessitates a brutal and byzantine combination of treatments.

I also worry that the end goal is so far away that we sometimes lose sight of its importance, and view biological research as a competitive game rather than a means of saving lives. I feared being the worst student in my first cancer class, even though a roomful of researchers better than I am is exactly what I should want. Since then, I've seen many indications of the competitiveness in cancer research -- a teacher who made us promise not to steal other students' final projects, scientists who snipe at one another or falsify work -- that make me think I am not the only one who sometimes forgets what is at stake.


. . .


I am not going to cure cancer, not even the BRCA cancers. And I am going to watch the people I love die from diseases I cannot understand or prevent. I would be lying if I told you I have made my peace with that. It gives me hope only to fight, as my grandfather did, for futures unseen: to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.



For the full commentary, see:

EMMA PIERSON. "Leaving No Move Untried." The New York Times (Tues., Dec.. 1, 2015): D4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 30, 2015, and has the title "Seeking a Cancer-Free World." The last words in Pierson's commentary quote the final line of Alfred Lord Tennyson's great poem "Ulysses.")






January 27, 2016

Hiring Based on What People Can Do, Instead of Their Credentials



(p. B4) Compose Inc. asks a lot of job applicants. Anyone who wants to be hired at the San Mateo, Calif., cloud-storage firm must write a short story about data, spend a day working on a mock project and complete an assignment.

There is one thing the company doesn't ask for: a résumé.

Compose is among a handful of companies trying to judge potential hires by their abilities, not their résumés. So-called "blind hiring" redacts information like a person's name or alma mater, so that hiring managers form opinions based only on that person's work. In other cases, companies invite job candidates to perform a challenge--writing a software program, say--and bring the top performers in for interviews or, eventually, job offers.

Bosses say blind hiring reveals true talents and results in more diverse hires. And the notion that career success could stem from what you know, and not who you know, is a tantalizing one.


. . .


"We were hiring people who were more fun for us to talk to," says Mr. Mackey. Trouble was, they were often a poor fit for the job, according to the CEO.

So the company, which was acquired by International Business Machines Corp. last year, added an anonymous sample project to the hiring process. Prospective hires spend about four to six hours performing a task similar to what they would do at Compose--writing a marketing blog post for a technical product, for example.


. . .


The sample projects have unearthed hires who have turned out to be top performers, says Mr. Mackey.



For the full story, see:

RACHEL FEINTZEIG. "Why Bosses Are Turning to 'Blind Hiring'." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Jan. 6, 2016): B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Jan. 5, 2016, and has the title "The Boss Doesn't Want Your Résumé.")









Eight Most Recent Comments:



Ed Rector said:

There are more than 2000 colleges in the USA offering tens of thousands of degrees/majors. Oh yes, there are also a few thousand JC's, trade schools and apprentice programs that train welders. Who should decide what any individual student wants to study?? Senator Rubio, the Mercatus Center or the individual student?? And you call yourselves 'freedom-loving Libertarians' !!



Aaron said:

You need a "like" button. Here's to enjoying bacon and eggs on an unusually warm fall day and doing so guilt free.



Aaron said:

I'd also suggest that work is just part of who some people are and a reason they got rich. A friend's dad comes to mind; he's a millionaire and in his 60s and a couple years ago I saw him cleaning one of his rental houses and wondered why he didn't pay someone to do it, but he's just one of those guys who'd rather work than golf or relax.



Jim Rose said:

It is often forgotten that the Minister for International trade and industry in the late 1960s up until 1971 was Tanaka – the most corrupt man in postwar Japanese politics. He had previously been Minister for Public Works, but to generate the necessary bribe income to pay an entire generation of Japanese politicians to step aside to allow him to become Prime Minister in the early 1970s at a young age, he thought the Ministry of International trade and industry was a better position to garner influence and donations. My professors in Japan worked in the Ministry of International trade and industry and the Ministry of Finance in the 1970s and 1960s. None of them seemed to carry over their picking winners skills into their private portfolios when they retired. see http://utopiayouarestandinginit.com/2014/03/14/if-you-are-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich/



Aaron said:

Interested to see how not only did Hamilton gain a vote, but also how Jefferson lost one.



Dave Megan said:

Merging of companies is always better when they have a better goal. It will give better service for the public.



Ed Rector said:

The 'quickened pace of production' of the early Reagan years was directly attributable to RR's massive deficit spending. The national debt almost tripled under the watch of St. Ronnie. BO will have to work overtime to even approach this record of accomplishment.



Aaron said:

The last two paragraphs comport perfectly with what Paul Tough describes in a book you posted on a few months ago, "How Children Succeed." Tough advocates that a stable, loving relationship between kids and their parents, especially in the first few years of life, produces self-assured and less anxious adults due to brain formation or chemical reactions that take place in a baby's brain (simplified summary). As always, appreciate the posts, especially the Paul Tough book.





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Archives















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats