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The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country does, and studies have suggested that as much as 30% of it— perhaps $700 billion a year— may be wasted on unneeded care, mostly routine CT scans and MRIs, office visits, hospital stays, minor procedures and brand-name prescriptions that are requested by patients and ordered by doctors every day. Orszag is particularly obsessed with research by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, documenting huge regional variations in costs but virtually no variations in outcomes. For example, chronically ill patients in Los Angeles visited doctors an average of 59.2 times in the last six months of their life, vs. only 14.5 times in Ogden, Utah; they still ended up just as dead. –“How to Cut Health-Care Costs: Less Care, More Data,” Michael Grunwald, Time
In Mr. Jobs’s case, doctors say there was no need, and little opportunity, to cheat the system. Under current procedures, any transplant center ranks potential liver recipients on its waiting list, with the highest rankings based on how sick the patients are and how long they have been that sick. Jumping ahead of a sicker patient is not allowed. And yet, there are ways to work the system to one’s advantage. Waiting times for a liver vary in different parts of the country, and people who can afford to travel are free to go to a city or state with the shortest wait and bide their time until they have reached the top of the list, a donor dies and an organ becomes available. Indeed, some patients rent apartments or stay in hotels near a hospital and wait for the phone to ring. It may not seem fair, but it is not illegal. It is even conceivable that someone could go to the time and expense of registering for the waiting lists of several transplant centers around the country. “If you had access to a jet and had six hours to get anywhere in the country, you’d have a wide choice of programs,” said Dr. Michael Porayko, the medical director of liver transplants at Vanderbilt University, one of the Tennessee centers that has said it did not treat Mr. Jobs. –“A Transplant That Is Raising Many Questions,” Denise Grady and Barry Meier, The New York Times
Beijing’s airport noted (via); the Educated Youth Wheat Harvest Festival; “‘We cannot really say that poppyseeds are narcotics,’ acknowledged a U.S. official, speaking on background. ‘They are potential narcotics.’”
Deep in the bowels of a brutalist concrete building on the Strand, long shelves are packed – crammed, really – with some of the world’s strangest substances, from the past, present and sometimes, it seems, the future. Take Aerogel: the world’s lightest solid consists of 99.8 per cent air and looks like a vague, hazy mass. And yet despite its insubstantial nature, it is remarkably strong; and because of its ability to nullify convection, conduction and radiation, it also happens to be the best insulator in the world. Sitting next to the Aerogel is its thermal opposite, a piece of aluminium nitride, which is such an effective conductor of heat that if you grasp a blunt wafer of it in your hand, the warmth of your body alone allows it to cut through ice. Nearby are panes of glass that clean themselves, metal that remembers the last shape it was twisted into, and a thin tube of Tin Stick which, when bent, emits a sound like a human cry. There’s a tub of totally inert fluorocarbon liquid into which any electronic device can be placed and continue to function. The same liquid has been used to replace the blood in lab rats, which also, oddly enough, continue to function. –“A library of the world’s most unusual compounds,” George Pendle, Financial Times (via)
Number of free condoms handed out by the Brazilian government in advance of Carnival this year:
The best way to measure happiness is simply to ask people how happy they are.
Following three weeks of clashes between protesters and government forces that killed at least 17 people, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced a two-day extension of Carnival. “Happiness will conquer the embittered,” he said during an appearance at a recreation center.
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”