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An American spider bites

And a British Guardian reporter now understands exactly why our for-profit health care system is so fucked:

Socialised healthcare is in my blood but, unfortunately last Wednesday, so was a hefty dose of spider venom and several billion extra bacteria – the unfriendly sort that make an infected limb sweat and swell like a rotten root vegetable. I had travel insurance, but no idea if it stretched to the snacking habits of urban arachnids. So I uttered the words familiar to any uninsured or precariously insured American: “I’ll just wait for a little bit and see if it gets better.”

Had I waited another 24 hours, I might have lost my arm. By the time I was persuaded to go to the emergency response unit at Beth Israel hospital I could no longer move the limb, which was developing worrying purple track-marks. The triage nurse sent me straight through to ER, where I was given a bunk next to a groaning man in his mid-30s who, like me, had been so worried about the cost of treatment that he had allowed an infection to spread, in this case from a rotten tooth. He was already missing several teeth. He told me he was a postal worker with no health insurance, and that he wouldn’t have come for treatment had his girlfriend not driven him to hospital when he collapsed with a fever.

Compared to the accident and emergency unit at my local London hospital, the waiting period was civilised; it was a mere hour before a stern-looking registrar arrived to take my money. He explained the covering clauses of my travel insurance and showed me where to sign on several complicated forms. When I explained I was unable to do so because my arm wasn’t working, he gave me a look that suggested I’d have had to find a way to sign even if I’d come in with all four limbs off. I signed with my left hand.
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Sheriff Joe

Doesn’t care about child molesters!

Ginger White

Reading this story about Herman Cain’s kept woman made me feel bad for her. I can tell you what it feels like as a struggling single mom with two young kids to have your landlord offer to “forget about the rent” if you’d just be “nice” to him. Maybe if he hadn’t been such a disgusting pig, I might have been tempted. But probably not.

That sort of thing was never an option for me. I wouldn’t dream of it. I dated guys with money, too, men who wanted to help; I didn’t let them. I didn’t want anyone to have something to hold over me.

I suppose it helped that I never felt the same pressure to give my kids status symbols that many women do. I kept a roof over their heads, food on the table and plenty of books in the house. I did the best I could, and that had to be enough.

I also dealt with a couple of evictions and bankruptcy. (I wasn’t very good with money when I struck out on my own. I wasn’t even aware that bills arrived on the same day each month, so you could plan.) It wasn’t easy, but I kept my sense of humor and eventually pulled my financial act together.

Luckily for me, I had a couple of good friends who loaned me money at critical junctures, but they were never men. Again: Unthinkable to me.

But reading this, I can understand how trapped she felt, an intelligent and hard-working person who never seemed to be able to keep herself afloat for very long.

Booed

It’s what I’ve been saying for years: Decent people should shun those who exploit us all and despoil the planet.

Spectrum crunch

If you’ve ever been to Europe (I haven’t, but lots of my friends have), you know that wireless broadband access is everywhere and often free — unlike here, where it’s clustered in the cities, with frequently spotty coverage, and always expensive. The telecom companies prefer to keep it that way, and that seems to be behind an all-out assault on a company named LightSquared:

LightSquared sent the satellite for its wholesale wireless network in 2010, but has had trouble getting federal approval for the project due to a dustup over GPS and other political woes. Now the start-up has decided to launch a political counteroffensive.

Already mired in a complicated technological debate over how to prevent its network from interfering with GPS, the wireless start-up LightSquared has faced withering political criticism over the past few months. Now the company has a message for its detractors: Two can play that game.

LightSquared is struggling to launch a nationwide, wholesale wireless network based partially on satellites and had been focused on the technical aspects of its argument — much of it over whether the company’s planned network would interfere with existing GPS technology. But after a flurry of unflattering headlines alleging that the company won Federal Communications Commission approval for its plans through campaign contributions and backroom deals, LightSquared is now trying to shift the focus to its critics.

LightSquared has hired dozens of top lobbyists, including at least seven former elected officials — including ex-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri; former Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas; and Democratic former Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Most recently, LightSquared has taken aim at Bradford Parkinson, known as one of the founders of GPS and a member of the National Space-Based Positioning Navigation & Timing Advisory Board, which advises the government on GPS issues. Parkinson is also an investor and a member of the board of Trimble, a GPS manufacturer that has led the fight against LightSquared’s plans.

That, LightSquared officials contend, is a conflict of interest.

“It seems highly incongruous and even inappropriate to us that the government’s top outside adviser on GPS matters would be simultaneously helping to oversee the same company that is leading the public-relations and lobbying campaign against LightSquared, and that has a financial interest in the outcome of that battle,” said LightSquared spokesman Terry Neal.
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War against the American people

Obama says he’ll veto the National Defense Authorization Act. I think it’s unlikely that he signs it, but it’s scary that Democrats even supported it in the first place.

Chicken and carrots

Just ate my first vegetables in three weeks. Ate actual meat, too!

The umbrella man, part 2

More from Russ Baker on his strange connection to the JFK assassination.

Tribes

I’ve been fascinated with the DNA ancestry testing ever since I saw the National Geographic special, “The Human Family Tree”, about the Genograph Project. They take a diverse group of various ethnic people in New York, and trace back to their common origins. It’s so powerful, I’d love to see it made mandatory viewing in every school in the world – because when you find out that you’re related to everyone else, it’s a little silly to feel like any one group is better. So I thought this story about one man’s response to his DNA testing was illustrative:

Onorato’s best guess is that his people shuttled between southern and eastern Europe, driven by disease, religious persecution, changing weather patterns, and the search for fertile soil.

But where does that non-Caucasian blood come from, he wondered. Probably from slaves who’d been kidnapped from Australia and sold along the Silk Road, the trade route that linked Asia and the Mediterranean.

Does knowing this make a difference in how you see yourself? I asked.

“I have always thought of myself as a white Italian American from South Jersey, and I’m really 25 percent non-Caucasian,” he said. “I was very prejudiced. I don’t think I wanted to hurt anyone, but I wanted to be able to live where I wanted to and pick my friends. I definitely wasn’t very liberal with that stuff. I think as I grew up, that changed.

“My wife and sister say now I should be more sensitive to other people, which maybe I am. You always hear, regardless of religion, we’re all made in God’s image. Maybe we’re all mixed up and not that uniquely different.”

Secret Santa

When you’re a blogger, you become so used to bad news, you’re thrilled when something good happens. So I love to pass along stories like this one from the Reading Eagle. Enjoy!

Calling himself Secret Santa, an anonymous businessman doled out scores of $100 bills Tuesday in Reading, one of America’s poorest cities.

In all, about $20,000 was given out by the light-haired, clean-shaven man, who sported a red shirt and a red cap with the word Elf on the back as he was accompanied by police at a bus station and other locations.

The generosity brought at least two people to tears, as seen on a Reading Eagle video.

“There’s a lot of happiness that comes of this,” he says in the footage. “I get more out of this than they do.”

In the newspaper’s write-up, the man tells how he is following in the boot steps of Kansas City’s Larry Stewart, who gave away more than $1 million over 25 years as a Secret Santa. Stewart died in early 2007, shortly after revealing his identity.

“I promised him on his deathbed that I would continue the tradition,” the latest Santa said.

He plans to spread more cheer in other cities, accompanied by the likes of comedian Larry the Cable Guy, the newspaper said.

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