Tag Archives: National Health Service

WILL NATO MAKE IT TO 70?

President Emmanuel Macron of France concerned about a “brain dead” NATO.. (Reuters)

NATO leaders are meeting in London December 3rd & 4th to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the organization, which has been credited with maintaining world peace.   President Macron of France has declared the organization “brain dead.”   Could NATO fall apart?

President Emmanuel Macron of France has described Nato as “brain dead,” stressing what he sees as waning commitment to the transatlantic alliance by its main guarantor, the US.

Interviewed by The Economist, he cited the US failure to consult Nato before pulling forces out of northern Syria.  He also questioned whether Nato was still committed to collective defense.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key ally, said she disagreed with Mr. Macron’s “drastic words.”

Nato, which celebrates 70 years since its founding at a London summit next month, has responded by saying the alliance remains strong.

What else did the French president say?

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Mr. Macron told the London-based newspaper.

He warned European members that they could no longer rely on the US to defend the alliance, established at the start of the Cold War to bolster Western European and US security.   (BBC News 11/7/2019)

Franco-German disagreements are accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron’s current trip to China, where he is assuming the role of a leading EU representative.   He is promoting a speedy conclusion of an economic treaty between the Union and the People’s Republic.   He is accompanied by the Union’s designated Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, and Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek.   This is his way of seeking to lay the groundwork for a unified EU policy regarding China – contrary to Germany’s pursuit of its national interests in its relationship to Beijing.   Germany usually seeks a common approach toward the People’s Republic of China, when other EU countries, such as Greece or Italy, begin to closely cooperate with China within the framework of the “New Silk Road” project.   Macron is making an effort to set both confrontational and cooperative EU policies toward Beijing, and thereby position the Union on an equal footing between the USA and China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/8/2019)

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ENERGY BOOST FOR ISRAEL

Before discovering major natural gas field

, which began with the Noa gas field off the shores of Ashkelon in 1999 and the more significant findings in 2009 of Tamar and Leviathan, it was widely assumed that the country lacked natural resources.   Finding large sources of natural gas has freed Israel from its dependency of energy sources from abroad and transformed the country into an energy supplier, both domestically and abroad.

Israel is pegged to deliver natural gas to Jordan and Egypt, valued at $26 billion.   It is also planning to construct a 2,000-km pipeline to supply Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.   (United with Israel)

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BRITISH LABOUR PARTY ANTI-SEMITIC                                                  From the Jewish Chronicle, UK, November 8th:

The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite.  In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.

Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult.   But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that.   Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr. Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.

There is racism on all sides of politics and it must be called out wherever it is found.   History has forced our community to be able to spot extremism as it emerges — and Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 is one such example.

Throughout his career, he has allied with and supported antisemites such as Paul Eisen, Stephen Sizer and Raed Salah.   He has described organizations like Hamas, whose founding charter commits it to the extermination of every Jew on the planet, as his “friends.”   He has laid a wreath to honor terrorists who have murdered Jews.   He has insulted “Zionists” — the word used by antisemites when they mean “Jew” because they think it allows them to get away with it — as lacking understanding of “English irony.”

Mr. Corbyn should take note of Genesis 12:3. 3 – And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

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AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT RELIEF PACKAGE HITS THE POLITICAL SPOT BUT MISSES THE BIGGER POINT

There are two basic components to the Morrison government’s latest A$1 billion package response to the drought affecting large parts eastern Australia.   One part involves extra subsidies to farmers and farm-related business.   The other involves measures to create or upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.

Unfortunately, most funds will be misdirected and the response is unlikely to secure the long-term prosperity of regional and rural communities.   This is a quick fix to a political problem, appealing to an important constituency.   But it misses the point, again, about the emerging economics of drought.

Hitting the political target

The bulk of the A$1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund.   The terms of the ten-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past.   They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year.

Farmers will be able to borrow up to A$2 million.   In addition, loans of up to A$500,000 will also be available to small businesses in drought-affected towns.

Because recipients are not having to pay the full cost, these loans are in practice a form of subsidy.   (The Conversation, 11/6)

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ATTACK BY ISLAMISTS ON CANADIAN COMPANY WORKERS

Gunmen in Burkina Faso have killed nearly 40 civilians in an ambush on a convoy transporting workers for the Canadian goldminer Semafo, regional authorities have said.

The attack on Wednesday underlines the growing instability in the Sahel, where Islamist extremist groups have grown in influence and power over the past decade.

Semafo said in an earlier statement that the attack on a convoy of five buses with a military escort took place on the road to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40km (25 miles) from Boungou, and that there had been several deaths and injuries.   (The Guardian, 11/7)

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OHIO MAN PLOTTED ATTACK

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to planning a Fourth of July bombing in Cleveland.

Demetrius Pitts, 50, also pleaded guilty to threatening the life of U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s immediate family.   Pitt, who is from Philadelphia, planned to park a van full of explosives in the downtown area and detonate it during the annual fireworks display.   He also wanted to join al-Qaeda.

Pitt, who also went by the names Abdul Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, became radicalized and began expressing anti-American sentiments in 2015.

He scouted downtown Cleveland on a reconnaissance mission before the attack, looking for a place to park his van for the Fourth of July bombing.   (Clarion Project, 11/7/2019)

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THE THIN VENEER OF CIVILIZATION COLLAPSING IN HONG KONG

The same deterioration in norms is glaringly evident in the actions of the Hong Kong Police Force, which was once considered the finest in Asia, if not the world, and whose slogan is to “serve with pride and care.”   Today, they openly refer to Hong Kong citizens as “cockroaches” and “trash.”   Protesters respond by calling them “dogs.”   This is the language of genocide.

“This willingness to stomach previously unthinkable acts is astonishing in a place ranked seventh by the UN in terms of human development, with some of the healthiest, longest-living, best educated, richest and most worldly citizens on earth.   If this breakdown can happen in Hong Kong it can happen anywhere.   And while a civil society can be torn apart virtually overnight, it almost always takes decades to build it back up.   (“Events in Hong Kong reveal the thin veneer of civilization,” Jamil Anderlini, Financial Times, 11/13).

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ISLAMISTS CROSSING BORDER

Often lost in the discussion of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans pouring over the southern border is that migrants from Muslim-majority countries where Islamist terrorist groups operate arrive among them almost every day.   The corporate media hates talking about this.   But most border-crossers show up without any identification and little vetting, giving rise to U.S. national security efforts to stifle this human traffic for fear of terrorist infiltration, a threat about which I have written extensively.

Every so often, smugglers of migrants from countries of national security concern — known in government parlance as “special interest aliens” — are caught and brought to American justice.   Such was the case last week, when a federal judge in a Del Rio, Texas, courtroom empty of news reporters sentenced a Mexico-based Jordanian smuggler named Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi to three years in the federal penitentiary on a guilty plea.   (MEF, 11/8/2019)

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IRAN’S NETWORK OF INFLUENCE IN MIDEAST IS GROWING     by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, 7 Nov 2019

Iran is winning the strategic struggle for influence in the Middle East against its rival, Saudi Arabia, according to a study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).  Iran’s regional rivals have spent billions of dollars on Western weaponry, much of it from the UK.   Yet for a fraction of that cost, sanctions-bound Iran has been able to successfully embed itself across the region into a position of strategic advantage.   It has a major influence – verging on a controlling influence in some cases – over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50324912)

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that US President Donald Trump is the “best US president” so far in his opinion, because he is honest about American intentions to grab Arab oil, Reuters reported on Friday citing Syrian official television.

Assad also said he is skeptical about Trump’s declaration US forces killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.   In this perspective, he seems to be in-line with the Russian view as Russia also expressed desire to see further evidence to the claim.  (JPost).(https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Syrian-leader-Bashar-Assad-Donald-Trump-is-the-best-US-President-606534)

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 TO THE POINT

  • “The Scottish government’s statistics show that 60% of Scottish trade goes to the rest of the UK; that Scottish public spending is boosted by $2,530 per person via Westminster’s Barnet formula; and that Scotland’s deficit is over twice as high as the 3% level which would be required if an independent Scotland were to try to join the European Union.”   (Alastair Cameron, Director, Scotland in Union; Letters, The Economist, 11/2/2019)
  • China, with control of 5G, will be in a position to remotely manipulate the world’s devices.   In peacetime, Beijing could have the ability to drive cars off cliffs, unlock front doors, and turn off pacemakers.   In war, Beijing could paralyze critical infrastructure.   (Gatestone, 11/7)
  • After a rocky start to Britain’s general-election campaign for the ruling Conservatives, the main opposition Labour Party also ran into problems.   Tom Watson—often at odds with his chief, Jeremy Corbyn—resigned as the party’s deputy leader and an MP and minister.   And Ian Austin, a former Labour MP, said Mr. Corbyn was “completely unfit” to be prime minister and voters should back the Tories.   (The Economist, 11/7)
  • The National Health Service (NHS), the government-run medical system in the UK, is being discussed a great deal in the election campaign.   Labour accuses the Conservatives of wanting a trade deal with the US that will open up the NHS to American companies, particularly pharmaceutical companies.   This would, they claim, make the price of many drugs too expensive for consumers.   It’s scare mongering, as Mr. Johnson has already said that won’t happen.   But it belies the fact that a serious discussion is needed on the future of the NHS, the biggest employer in Europe and a sacred cow if ever there was one.   The last time I saw figures, the cost of the NHS was rising by 8% a year, while the economy was growing at only 2%.   As viewers of Dr. Finley on British TV will be aware, there was a great deal of opposition to the NHS when it started in 1948.   It may be time to look again at the arguments and see if there isn’t a better way of delivering health care.
  • If you want to see accurate history portrayed on television, try Russian TV.   At least, the programs offered on Amazon Prime.   We’ve just finished watching “Ekaterina,” a ten-part series on the rise of Catherine the Great, the eighteenth century Russian Czar who was actually from Germany.   Earlier this year, we watched “Sophia,” an 8-part series on Ivan III, who was 300 years earlier. Ivan chose to marry the heir to the Byzantine throne after the fall of Constantinople.   Fascinating stuff.   If the Russians keep this up, they could put Mel Gibson out of business (his two movies “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” were notable for their historical inaccuracies!)

 

 

A TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES

high-cost-of-healthcare-mount-sinai

My mother died fifteen years ago today.   That year, October 2nd was the Last Great Day, the biblical eighth day of the Feast. The significance was not lost on me.

My father had died a few months earlier, suddenly of a heart attack. Mom was found one morning by two of my brothers, having had a stroke the night before. I flew over to England as soon as I heard the news and was able to stay there in her home, visiting the hospital every day. A few days after her death, I was able to officiate at her funeral, which I had also done for my father.

She was in the hospital six weeks. This year, I was in two different hospitals, both in Michigan, for a total of just over four months, though I had a few days at home in the middle.

Consequently, I’m in a better position than most people to compare the two health systems.

I cannot complain about my mother’s treatment.   She was 73. Her stroke left her paralyzed down the left side. She could not move without help. She couldn’t even feed herself.

After consultations with the head of the cardiac unit at the Princess Diana Hospital in our hometown of Grimsby, it was decided that she should be made as comfortable as possible for as long as necessary. The hospital could have kept her alive indefinitely by inserting a feeding tube into her stomach but she would never be restored to her former state of health. The cardiologist did not want to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

There was no “death panel” making a decision on her life. My brothers and I made the decision in consultation with the cardiologist. We knew that mom would not want to stay alive, dependent on a feeding tube, relying on others for all her basic needs. None of her sons would want that and we knew she wouldn’t.

She had her own room and was able to receive visitors at any time.

I have often wondered how things might have gone differently if she had been in an American hospital. It is more likely that the feeding tube would have been inserted and she could have lived a few more years, albeit in the hospital. As long as Medicare (i.e. the government) would pay, the hospital would have kept her alive. But that would not have been good for her.

My hospital stays this year involved two major back surgeries, MRSA, abscesses on my spine and all the complications that came directly from my treatment. On two occasions, my wife was told that I might not make it. I was told on one occasion. I’m thankful they continued to treat me.

The complications I suffered were mostly due to the painkillers and strong antibiotics they gave me. They caused chronic nausea and vomiting that left me demoralized and enervated. Eventually, I took myself off all my medications, arranged for my discharge and have been improving ever since.

The biggest problem with both health care systems comes down to one word – money.

In England, where the government controls most health care, they are always trying to save money. In the US, the health care providers are always trying to make money and will often give you treatment and medications you really don’t need. It’s not surprising that Americans have the most expensive health care system in the world, spending almost 20% of GNP on health, compared to an average figure in the western world of 8%. Yet, in spite of the amount spent on health care, we rank 37th in the World Health Organization’s annual ranking of national health care systems. The UK is at number 18. France and Canada compete for number one.

One area in which the US is seriously deficient is in prevention. Governments presiding over socialized medical systems want to save money, so prevention is important. In the US, there’s no money to be made from prevention.

In a study comparing the US and UK’s medical systems a few years ago, it was found that you are twice as likely to die from a heart attack in the United States as in England.

One of my doctors knew of this and said that the hospital I was in was making every effort to improve on this statistic. Personally, I think one factor is that in the UK, heart attack victims will, on average, live closer to a hospital than the average American.   There is little that can be done about this. There are, of course, other factors and hopefully improvements are being made. This is a concern of mine as both my parents died from heart problems.

The same study showed that you are more likely to survive cancer in the US than in the UK. American hospitals are more likely to have all the latest equipment, reflecting advances made in medical research. My wife’s cancer was dealt with very quickly and she is now cancer free. In the UK, she might have had to wait longer for treatment.

I was surprised to read that the US lags behind England and many other western countries when it comes to childbirth and early childcare. The US infant mortality rate is quite high when compared to other advanced nations.

I believe that free enterprise serves people better than government. It is also the most cost-efficient way of delivering anything, whether it be food at the supermarket, gas at the pump, utilities, education or health care. However, the American system is not really a free enterprise system.

For a start, over half of health care is now government. Most of my costs were taken care of by government. In one way I’m thankful for that but a part of me asks: where is the money coming from? Somebody has to pay for it. Government is not careful with money. It’s willingness to foot the bill regardless of cost inevitably pushes up the price and leads to abuse.

Hospitals are now taking maximum advantage of this. Some of the procedures I was subject to seemed unnecessary. They simply ran up my bill.   When I was going through a long period of chronic nausea, they kept giving me additional medications, which only made things worse. The cost of all these pills was added to my bill, for a much higher charge than the pharmacy would make you pay.

Insurance companies also distort free enterprise. The cost of health care has risen dramatically in recent years. Roughly 20% of the cost is administrative, charges added by medical insurance companies. Healthcare is big business in the US and has made a lot of people very wealthy. This was not the case before World War II, before insurance companies got in on the act. If an individual patient had to negotiate his own health care with a provider, it would help keep the bill down. A doctor’s visit would cost closer to $20 than the $100+ it costs now. Doctors could only charge what the market could stand, just as supermarkets do when selling us groceries.

My wife and I scrutinized my bills closely and found a number of charges that we questioned. They charged me $220 for a psychiatric evaluation, which I don’t remember having. Now, I’ve no doubt I would benefit from a psychiatric evaluation but how come I was charged $220 for something I don’t even remember. My hospital room was $2,000 a night, surely excessive when you consider that you can stay in the best hotels in the world for far less? I was also charged $3,000 for a back brace that I never got.   Physical therapy was also $2,000 a day for a ninety-minute session.

As I said, the two systems come down to money. I do not see how either system is sustainable long-term. The UK has been in steady decline as a global and military power as each year the National Health Service requires more funding. In the US, medical bills are now the biggest cause of bankruptcy. The average family is now spending $5,000 per year more on health care than it did ten years ago – and this in a time of declining real wages. Something has to give. There needs to be real changes, whether in the United Kingdom or the United States.

After leaving the hospital I had to consult with a G.I specialist about my nausea. I am still having digestive problems. He recommended a colonoscopy. I had my first one with him seven years ago, so he was rather insistent I have another, as I was overdue.

I didn’t say anything but my first thought was of the comparison study I mentioned earlier.

Colonoscopies are not routinely done in the UK. They are only done when it is felt necessary. The conclusion of the study was that this costs only 25 lives a year in Britain. That’s a small cost, compared to the financial cost, which would force economies in other areas.

As I’m no fan of colonoscopies, I sat there wishing I were in England!