Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Just the facts, ma'am


You might have seen Mr. Mark Bertolini, CEO, Aetna, announcement the other day that Aetna will “stop offering policies on the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states where it currently operates” due to incurring a loss of “$430 million in its individual policies unit since the 'Obamacare' exchanges opened in January 2014”. "Providing affordable, high-quality health care options to consumers is not possible without a balanced risk pool," he said. (1)

I wondered about Mr. Bertolini’s announcement. For some reason I was reminded of how Sgt. Joe Friday* of the long ago TV series Dragnet, would focus on “facts” in order get a handle on “truth”. “Just the fact, ma’am”, I remember him saying.

Here are the facts:
1. Aetna made a boatload of money between April and June of 2016. Both revenue and profits were up considerably over the same period in 2015. Aetna’s operating earnings increased 8.5 percent, from $722.1 million during the second quarter of 2015 to $783.3 million in the second quarter this year. Total revenues for the quarter increased to almost $16 billion.
2. During the first six months of this year, Aetna actually got almost as much revenue from taxpayers via the government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs ($13 billion) as it got from its privately insured customers ($14 billion). In fact, Aetna’s government business is growing while its commercially insured book of business is shrinking.
3. Since Jan 2014 Aetna reported operating profits of $6.7 billion
4. Since March 5, 2009 — the day President Obama kicked off the debate on what would become Obamacare — Aetna’s stock price has increased 631 percent.
5. Aetna revenue growth “was primarily due to higher Health Care premium yields and membership growth in Aetna’s Government business, partly offset by membership declines in Aetna’s Commercial Insured products.”

"So even though Aetna is still hugely profitable, it will stop offering coverage in most Obamacare markets because its bean counters recently noticed what Bertolini described as a spike in “individuals in need of high-cost care.”

Aetna’s not alone. Most of the other for-profit insurers have also been losing private-paying customers for some time but more than making up for that loss from revenue they get from taxpayer-financed government health care programs. (2)

Conclusion
Aetna’s announcement only underscores this American Capitalistic fact: even when the for-profit insurance companies are making billions, they will dump the most vulnerable people in favor of making more bucks. Let’s get the job done in service to our people. It’s way past time to cover everyone under Medicare / Medicaid.

References
1. Aetna to pull out of most Obamacare exchanges, Tami Luhby, CNN Money, 16 Aug 2016. 
2. Cry Me a River, Aetna, Wendell Potter, Moyers & Co., 29 Aug 2016.

*Jack Webb, played the role in the TV series. Later Dan Aykroyd was Sgt. Joe Friday in the movie version.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

About Mice and Breakthroughs


It literally mind boggling how much is happening everyday in the worlds of science and technology. Below are just three breakthroughs. By the way, thanks to the thousands of mice who have given their all for science:

“Our understanding of Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative condition that, according to Alzheimer's Disease International, affects a staggering 46.8 million people across the globe, is constantly improving. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute have taken another step in the right direction. They're using a laboratory mouse model of the disease to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific protein at breaking up plaques in the brain, that are central to the progression of the condition.”

“Medical researchers have been interested in the potential of the protein, known as Neuregulin-1, to tackle neurological diseases for a while. It has many functions across the brain, and according to the Salk team, might be useful in tackling everything from Parkinson's to schizophrenia.”

Protein successfully combats Alzheimer's in mice, Chris Wood, New Atlas, 25 Aug 2016

About those Rainbows

“There's more to rainbows than meets the eye. Knowledge gained from studying these multicoloured arcs of scattered light can be incredibly useful in ways that may not immediately spring to mind. Rainbow effects can warn of chemical contamination in the atmosphere, help to develop more efficient combustion engines and possibly even provide insight into the mechanics of reinforced concrete.”

“Writing in European Journal of Physics, Alexander Haußmann of the Institute of Applied Physics at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, has reviewed the latest developments in the field of rainbow research. His article takes a comprehensive look at natural rainbows and touches on the many practical applications of this fascinating interaction between light, liquid and gas.”

Rainbows in nature: recent advances in observation and theory, Alexander Haußmann, 2016, Eur. J. Phys., (as cited in Physorg.com)

Your Roof Can Multitask!

Elon Musk has decided to make and sell Tesla solar roof tiles. Other companies have been trying to create and sell them, but their efforts have failed to bring home the bacon.

Mr. Musk has a history of bacon-bringing. He plans to make your roof keep you dry and produce your electricity, too.

There’s a name for it, too, Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

BIPV “replaces materials of the building envelope with photovoltaics. This is in contrast with traditional rooftop solar installations, which entails attaching a PV module to a building separately. The goal of BIPV is to integrate installation as part of a construction project, rather than a separate post-construction addition. In theory, this would result in significant savings by reducing labor and installation costs and eliminating the need for separate racking equipment. With BIPV, solar becomes an efficient building material rather than a luxury add-on.”

Please go here for the rest of the story:
Will Tesla’s Solar Panel Roof Be the Next Solar Shingles?, energysage,com


Friday, August 26, 2016

Seriously

Come this November I know who will win my vote! So, whatever happens later...

(Maybe they will be pre-marked on your ballot, too.)
*Please forgive me Berkeley Breathed, my newly adopted cartoon-philosopher-in-chief! For real humor, go here: https://www.facebook.com/berkeleybreathed/


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gerrymandering, too


Hartmann is right. I’d add one more important factor: gerrymandering. Most recently, throughout the U.S., under Republican control, districts have been gerrymandered to favor continuation of Republicans in Congress and on the state level and hence continuation of the status quo.


In a Word... or, two...

Well... just thinking....

Monday, August 22, 2016

Three Important Breakthroughs


This Monday afternoon… following the usual struggle to find meaning in daily activities, i.e. “work”… I offer three breakthroughs for your consideration. The first two are life-saving discoveries that portend hope for us all in the days ahead.

The third is a re-discovery of a way of thinking. Dr. Michael Sandel, Harvard University, challenges the reigning (American capitalist) school of thought that “sees economics as a discipline that has nothing to do with morality, i.e. that ‘markets’ are morally neutral” and resolution of social problems is simply a matter of providing the appropriate dollar incentive to the top dog and everything will “trickle down” to the “others”.

Legions of Nanorobots Target Cancerous Tumours With Precision

“Researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal and McGill University have just achieved a spectacular breakthrough in cancer research. They have developed new nanorobotic agents capable of navigating through the bloodstream to administer a drug with precision by specifically targeting the active cancerous cells of tumours. This way of injecting medication ensures the optimal targeting of a tumour and avoids jeopardizing the integrity of organs and surrounding healthy tissues. As a result, the drug dosage that is highly toxic for the human organism could be significantly reduced.”

“The legions of nanorobotic agents are actually composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria -- and therefore self-propelled -- and loaded with drugs that moved by taking the most direct path between the drug's injection point and the area of the body to cure.” –more–

New test looks Parkinson's disease straight in the eye

“New research suggests changes in the retina may reveal Parkinson's disease in its early stages.”

“An ability to detect Parkinson's before it imparts irreparable damage on the brain would be a game changer when it comes to treatment options. This has inspired the development of blood tests and biosensors with the potential to pick up on the disease's early biomarkers, and now new research has raised the prospect of a simple, low-cost eye test to catch the disease before it evolves into telltale symptoms like tremors and muscle stiffness.” -more-


Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? Episode 08: "What’s a Fair Start?"
Dr. Michael Sandel

Part One: What's a Fair Start?
Is it just to tax the rich to help the poor? John Rawls says we should answer this question by asking what principles you would choose to govern the distribution of income and wealth if you did not know who you were, whether you grew up in privilege or in poverty. Wouldn’t you want an equal distribution of wealth, or one that maximally benefits whomever happens to be the least advantaged? After all, that might be you. Rawls argues that even meritocracy—a distributive system that rewards effort—doesn’t go far enough in leveling the playing field because those who are naturally gifted will always get ahead. Furthermore, says Rawls, the naturally gifted can’t claim much credit because their success often depends on factors as arbitrary as birth order. Sandel makes Rawls point when he asks the students who were first born in their family to raise their hands.

Part Two: What Do We Deserve?
Professor Sandel recaps how income, wealth, and opportunities in life should be distributed, according to the three different theories raised so far in class. He summarizes libertarianism, the meritocratic system, and John Rawls egalitarian theory. Sandel then launches a discussion of the fairness of pay differentials in modern society. He compares the salary of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor ($200,000) with the salary of televisions Judge Judy ($25 million). Sandel asks, is this fair? According to John Rawls, it is not. Rawls argues that an individuals personal success is often a function of morally arbitrary facts—luck, genes, and family circumstances—for which he or she can claim no credit. Those at the bottom are no less worthy simply because they weren’t born with the talents a particular society rewards, Rawls argues, and the only just way to deal with society’s inequalities is for the naturally advantaged to share their wealth with those less fortunate.

Go here for background on the PBS/Harvard series Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do? 



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Another Mysterious Crash in the Offing?

News Flash: Pentagon Cannot Account For $6.5 Trillion Dollars

According to the report by the Fiscal Times:

"An increasingly impatient Congress has demanded that the Army achieve “audit readiness” for the first time by Sept. 30, 2017, so that lawmakers can get a better handle on military spending. But Pentagon watchdogs think that may be mission impossible, and for good reason…"

"The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the behemoth Indianapolis-based agency that provides finance and accounting services for the Pentagon’s civilian and military members, could not provide adequate documentation for $6.5 trillion worth of year-end adjustments to Army general fund transactions and data."
"The DFAS has the sole responsibility for paying all DOD military and personnel, retirees and annuitants, along with Pentagon contractors and vendors. The agency is also in charge of electronic government initiatives, including within the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Energy and the Departing of Veterans Affairs."

The last time a large amount of funds were reported missing - only $2.3 trillion - the people charged with the investigation and their records were obliterated by an "aircraft" which smashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. I wonder, will this be déjà vu all over again?



Please go here for the complete article: Pentagon Cannot Account For $6.5 Trillion DollarsJay Syrmopoulos, Global Research, August 16, 2016.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Good News!


NEWS FLASH
This from AP:
McConnell: GOP chances to keep Senate are 'very dicey'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that GOP prospects for keeping control of the Senate after the November elections are "very dicey," sounding an alarm amid mounting Republican concerns about presidential nominee Donald Trump,

Speaking to a Louisville-area civic group in his home state, McConnell said Senate Republicans were going to be "on defense" in this year's election, regardless of who led the ticket as the party's presidential candidate.

Twenty-four GOP-held seats are on the ballot this year, compared with 10 for Democrats, he noted. McConnell was promoted to majority leader two years ago when a Republican surge wrested Senate control from Democrats.

McConnell did not mention Trump as being a drag on Republican down-ballot races, but he chided Trump's campaign tactics. The Kentucky senator said he hopes Trump "settles down and follows the script."


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Myth Busting


Do you believe that one must by “young” to be tech-savvy?

I've never been big on myth-busting because I've never been sure about what a myth is and what is not. Still, I have experienced with regard to one "myth". That's the one about “tech-savvy” being the domain of "younger" people compared with "older" people.

The myth is: one must be “younger” in order to be tech-savvy. According to myth believers, “older” people are presumed to be past the age of 35. The myth goes on to suggest that these old fogies can’t turn on their smartphones without guidance from someone perhaps no older than 10.

Recent research explodes that myth and actually found that: “Tech employees over age 55 are actually less stressed using technology in the workplace, and better at using multiple devices than their younger peers.”

“We've seen them in movies for years: The bumbling, out-of-touch older person at the office who just can't figure out how to turn on a computer or send a text. Contrary to this pervasive stereotype, a recent Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using tech in the workplace stressful.”

On average, people 55 and up used 4.9 forms of technology per week, compared to the overall average of 4.7 per week, the survey found. Only 13% of respondents aged 55 and older reported having trouble working with multiple devices, compared to 37% of 18-to-34-year olds.”

“Despite their evident tech skills, workers in all age groups tended to believe that older workers were slower to adopt new technology, with 59% of 18-34 year olds reporting feeling this way.”

“’It's dangerous for companies to assume that if you're under 35, you're tech savvy,’ said Paul Bernard, an executive coach and regular contributor to Next Avenue, a website for 50-plus-year-olds. ‘In many cases, I've seen that many older people are able to combine tech-savvy with communication skills—almost without exception, it's easier for older workers to pick up more tech skills than younger workers, who are tech savvy, to pick up communication skills.’” (1.)

The Real Problem is Age Prejudice
While the facts explode the tech-savvy myth, the real problem in our society – and played out on a daily basis in the workplace is – AGEISM. That is prejudice against anyone due to their age.

I’d hazard a guess that nearly every job hunter who happens to be older that 40, has encountered one or all of these stereotypes as a reason (s) for not being hired: due to your age, you are not creative, not “in touch”, cannot learn new things, or are too costly to hire.

Managers who submit to these hiring myths are not only breaking federal law, they are just plain missing out on perhaps the most productive team members they could hire.

Consider NASA’s cross-generational team which put the Spirit and Curiosity Rovers on Mars:

"When open-to-experience people find each other across generations, we can see the creative power of teamwork. The multi-generational team becomes an idea generator. It wasn’t just one generation that put Curiosity on Mars." (2.)

1. Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey, Alison DeNisco, TechRepublic, 10 Aug 2016.

2. Why Not Teamwork Across Generations? Gary R. Baker, The Movement - The Encoreboomer Movement.

3. 28 Months on Mars, Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, Jonathan Corum and Jeremy White, The New York Times.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This Election is about YOUr Legacy

Your Legacy

Rodgers' Family Free Garage Sale


By David L. Dyer

There is another free garage sale coming up. This will be the seventh annual Rodgers' family free garage sale. First a little history: It was in the year of 2013 that I first met the lovely Bethann Rodgers. Bethann, a former gymnast was at that time into her 20th year with multiple sclerosis.

She told me of a vacation to Africa in 2010 and how that vacation with her husband Steve, daughter, Annie and son, Tommy prompted the beginning of these free garage sales. Annie was very disturbed when she learned first hand how the little orphaned girls were treated. When they became young teenagers they were either sold, married off or destined to a life of poverty. She asked her mom “what can we do to help them?” They put their heads together and came up with the idea of a free garage sale.

All items would be given away at no cost. They would in turn ask for donations in an attempt to collect the $2000 price tag of sending an orphaned girl in Kenya to a Christian Boarding School for grades K-12. For the first three years they were able to do just that.
I asked Bethann if I could join her in the year 2013. Of course she could use all the help she could get. My wife, Janet and I had stored many an item in our basement, attic and garage for the garage sale that never happened. I told Bethann “Let’s try to collect $4000 this year and send two little girls to school.” So of course she was all for that.

I began writing articles for our local newspaper, the Ile Camera asking the community for assistance in donating items for the sale.  Janet and I took over not less than seven car loads of items. This sale took place on the same day as the Island wide garage sale, which was the third weekend in August, so we competed with over one hundred other sales.
At the end of that Saturday the donations totaled a little over $3000. There was no doubt in my mind if we continued on Sunday we would reach our goal of $4000. We decided to go for it and called it God’s day.  As it turned out God did hear our prayers for the grand total collected came to exactly $4000. My brother Wayne, better known as Dr Wayne Dyer, World renowned Author/Speaker, often seen on PBS, who succumbed to a heart attack one year ago was so touched by that story he matched the $4000 and four little girls were on their way to school in Kenya.

The dates for this year’s free garage sale will be August 19-20. Items may be dropped off at 26225 West River Road, Grosse Ile, MI.  If there are any of you that may need help in transporting items let me know and I will make arrangements.
davidldyer@gmail.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

"It doesn't take much to be helpful"


Thanks to my brother, Gary, for sending this story for the Downriver USA blog.

Three cheers for Mr. Mark Adams, bus driver. He went out of his way to help another human being. Unusual in today's world... but I for one am thankful for his kindness! Thanks, Mark. YOU ARE THE MAN!

Here's the story:

Bus driver's simple act of kindness goes viral

A bus driver has become a local celebrity after a picture of him helping an elderly lady to cross a road was published online.

Mark Adams was spotted parking his bus in the Jericho area of Oxford to help a 90-year-old lady called Maureen.

His act of kindness was captured by a builder using his smartphone and sent to the bus company.

The driver, from Wallingford, said his act of kindness was something he did for people every day.

Free bus dream
The 54-year-old, who has been a bus driver for 30 years, said bus services provided a lifeline for the elderly and he would "run all services for free if I was a millionaire".

"I saw Maureen looking confused standing on the corner of the street as I was driving my bus," he said.

"I had seen her before and knew she was on her way to do some shopping, so I pulled over and helped her to cross.

"I made sure I was able to pick her up on the way back to make sure she got home."
'Thousands like me'

Keith O'Connor caught the moment on Tuesday and sent his photograph to the Thames Travel bus company, for whom Mr Adams works.

The story has now been published in local and national newspaper websites.

The modest driver said there were "thousands of bus drivers like me".

"There are so many old ladies in this area who rely on the bus for their independence," he said.

"It doesn't take much to be helpful."


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Research Discoveries Give Reason for Optimism


Over the past few weeks several science and technology breakthroughs were announced. They give me significant reasons to be optimistic about our future. That is, of course, if we survive after the November U.S. Presidential election.

Here are two research discoveries which give me reason to be optimistic about our future:

1. Brain Diseases -  For the first time, researchers can see structures that allows brain cells to communicate. Thomas Blanpied, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), and leader of the group that performed the work… “Now by using single-molecule imaging to map where many of the key proteins are, we have finally been able to reveal the core architectural structure of the synapse."

“… researchers turned to an innovative technology known as single-molecule imaging, which can locate and track the movement of individual protein molecules within the confines of a single synapse, even in living cells. Using this approach, the scientists identified an unexpected and precise pattern in the process of neurotransmission.”

“Understanding this architecture will help clarify how communication within the brain works, or, in the case of psychiatric or neurological disease, how it fails to work. Blanpied is also focusing on the activity of "adhesion molecules," which stretch from one cell to the other and may be important pieces of the "nano-column." He suspects that if adhesion molecules are not placed correctly at the synapse, synapse architecture will be disrupted, and neurotransmitters won't be able to do their jobs. Blanpied hypothesizes that in at least some disorders, the issue may be that even though the brain has the right amount of neurotransmitter, the synapses don't transmit these molecules efficiently.”

 “Blanpied says that this improved comprehension of synaptic architecture could lead to a better understanding of brain diseases such as depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease, and perhaps suggest new ideas for treatments.”

For the first time, researchers see structure that allows brain cells to communicate, University of Maryland School of Medicine, medicalxpress.com, 27 July 2016.


2. Fresh Water - "A new system of bi-layered biofoam may provide the means to purify vast bodies of water simply by overlaying them with sheets of a new material." The researchers claim that the material is exceptionally light, cheap to make, and can easily be produced in vast quantities. And, unlike even exceptionally simple systems designed to do similar things, the graphene biofoam material is simply laid over a body of water and does not require systems of pipes or energy to run the water through for decontamination. 

"Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) have developed graphene-based biofoam sheets that can be laid on dirty or salty dams and ponds to produce clean drinking water, using the power of the sun. This new technique could be a cheap and simple way to help provide fresh water in countries where large areas of water are contaminated with suspended particles of dirt and other floating matter."

"The biofilm is created as a two-layered structure consisting of two nanocellulose layers produced by bacteria. The lower layer contains pristine cellulose, while the top layer also contains graphene oxide, which absorbs sunlight and produces heat. The system works by drawing up water from underneath like a sponge where it then evaporates in the topmost layer, leaving behind any suspended particulates or salts. Fresh water then condenses on the top, where it can be drawn off and used."

"The process is extremely simple," said Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials at WUSTL. "The beauty is that the nanoscale cellulose fiber network produced by bacteria has excellent ability to move the water from the bulk to the evaporative surface while minimizing the heat coming down, and the entire thing is produced in one shot."