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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)
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”