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By Jeffrey D. Barnett (a Marine officer and Iraq War Veteran):
"Before my deployment [to Iraq] I was disposed to always be active. Whether it was with work, hobbies, reading, social activities, or other things, I did not like to be idle. Now I am sometimes content to sit idle with only my thoughts. Watching the ocean, sitting in my front yard with my dog, driving at night: moments when I can contentedly reflect on life alone. Adding a few friends and a pleasant discussion to this activity is now probably my favorite pastime. I now place a much greater value on experiences, while before I almost exclusively valued achievement. And I don’t necessarily mean grand, individual achievements, but also group achievements through things like playing poker or gaming with friends.
Now, I certainly enjoyed experiences before Iraq. Going to the movies to see the latest Will Ferrell film was just as gratifying then as it is now. However, my perspective on activity has changed, and now I am content to relax and just let things happen rather than relentlessly steer every activity towards an ultimate goal. I still steer towards goals, and be sure that I am still relentless, but I now have a far more balanced desire for simple experiences. This has given me a much deeper appreciation for my experiences and those who share them with me, because I know they are just as mortal as I am.
The second change runs slightly counter to the first, causing disconnect with others: After experiencing real chaotic violence and seeing how ugly humanity can be it’s difficult to get excited about some things the rest of the world views as important. For example, about a year after I returned from Iraq a new video game was released and heavily criticized in the media for brief scenes of semi-nudity, I remember feeling frustrated that some of my friends were deployed at that time and probably facing worse circumstances than I had, yet America was in a tizzy over whether its children should be exposed to alien buttocks. At the end of the day, after you’ve seen school children walk in a single-file line past the dead body of a man executed at gunpoint, it’s difficult to care about the social degradation caused by bare buttocks in a video game."
"... XMRV had been discovered in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a malady whose very existence has been a subject of debate for 25 years. For sufferers of this disease, the news has offered enormous hope. Being seriously ill for years, even decades, is nightmarish enough, but patients are also the targets of ridicule and hostility that stem from the perception that it is all in their heads. In the study, 67 percent of the 101 patients with the disease were found to have XMRV in their cells. If further study finds that XMRV actually causes their condition, it may open the door to useful treatments. At least, it will be time to jettison the stigmatizing name chronic fatigue syndrome.
The illness became famous after an outbreak in 1984 around Lake Tahoe, in Nevada. Several hundred patients developed flu-like symptoms like fever, sore throat and headaches that led to neurological problems, including severe memory loss and inability to understand conversation. Most of them were infected with several viruses at once, including cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr and human herpesvirus 6. Their doctors were stumped. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s presumed bulwark against emerging infectious diseases, dismissed the epidemic and said the Tahoe doctors “had worked themselves into a frenzy.” The sufferers, a C.D.C. investigator told me at the time, were “not normal Americans.”
When, by 1987, the supposed hysteria failed to evaporate and indeed continued erupting in other parts the country, the health agency orchestrated a jocular referendum by mail among a handful of academics to come up with a name for it. The group settled on “chronic fatigue syndrome” — the use of “syndrome” rather than “disease” suggested a psychiatric rather than physical origin and would thus discourage public panic and prevent insurers from having to make “chronic disbursements,” as one of the academics joked.
It’s amazing to me that anyone could look at these patients and not see that this is an infectious disease that has ruined lives,” Dr. Mikovits said. She has also given the disease a properly scientific new name: X-associated neuroimmune disease."
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Here we go again - about the Health Care Reform... and why we need it:
"...the part of America's health care system that consumers like best is the government-run part.
Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high.
...68 percent of those in Medicare feel that their own interests are the priority, compared with only 48 percent of those enrolled in private insurance.
...Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting.
So almost every country moved to what today's health insurance lobbyists might label 'socialized firefighting.' In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.
We have the same for policing. If the security guard business were as powerful as the health insurance industry, then it would be denouncing 'government takeovers' and 'socialized police work.'
...The truth is that government, for all its flaws, manages to do some things right, so that today few people doubt the wisdom of public police or firefighters. And the government has a particularly good record in medical care.
Take the hospital system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest integrated health system in the United States. It is fully government run, much more 'socialized medicine' than is Canadian health care with its private doctors and hospitals. And the system for veterans is by all accounts one of the best-performing and most cost-effective elements in the American medical establishment.
A study by the Rand Corporation concluded that compared with a national sample, Americans treated in veterans hospitals 'received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.' The difference was particularly large in preventive medicine: veterans were nearly 50 percent more likely to receive recommended care than Americans as a whole.
'If other health care providers followed the V.A.'s lead, it would be a major step toward improving the quality of care across the U.S. health care system,' Rand reported.
...But the biggest weakness of private industry is not inefficiency but unfairness. The business model of private insurance has become, in part, to collect premiums from healthy people and reject those likely to get sick - or, if they start out healthy and then get sick, to find a way to cancel their coverage.
A reader wrote in this week to tell me about a colleague of hers who had health insurance through her company. The woman received a cancer diagnosis a few weeks ago, and she now faces chemotherapy co-payments that she cannot afford. Worse, because she is now unable to work and has to focus on treatment, she has been shifted to short-term disability for 90 days - and after that, she will lose her employer health insurance.
She can keep her insurance if she makes Cobra payments on her own, but she can't afford this. In her case, her company will voluntarily help her - but I just don't understand why we may be about to reject health reform and stick with a dysfunctional system that takes away the health coverage of hard-working Americans when they become too sick with cancer to work.
...A public role in health care shouldn't be any scarier or more repugnant than a public fire department."
"Long-term care constitutes a difficult and expensive challenge in any health system. But the American patchwork, full of cracks through which people fall, has a special problem with medical expenses of all kinds bankrupting couples.
A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance, but the gaps and inadequacies left them unprotected when they were hit by devastating bills.
M. still helps her husband and, quietly, continues to live with him and care for him. But she worries that the authorities will come after her if they realize that they divorced not because of irreconcilable differences but because of irreconcilable medical bills...
'It's just crazy,' she said. 'It twists people like pretzels.'
The existing system doesn't just break up families, it also costs lives. A 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, found that lack of health insurance causes 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year. That's one person slipping through the cracks and dying every half an hour.
In short, it's a good bet that our existing dysfunctional health system knocks off far more people than an army of 'death panels' could - even if they existed, worked 24/7 and got around in a fleet of black helicopters."