News Capsules (Spring
What Happened to Civil Defense?
"Some time during the first Bush administration, America completely scrapped any vestige of its fledgling civil defense structure. It had eroded badly during President Carter's administration, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took over as the lead agency for civil defense.
"In other words, the real 'defense' work --- protecting the American people from attack --- was removed from the Defense Department. That is when the Defense Department became the 'Offense Department.'
"It got worse during eight years of Clinton. FEMA's meager efforts to maintain equipment needed for saving lives in a future nuclear war were cut from the budget. The equipment was destroyed, lost, sold or abandoned.
"For years, a political movement determined to disarm America had persuaded the public there was no use in trying to save lives during a nuclear war. We were all going to die.
"We might as well be vaporized. There was no point in trying to prepare, no point in defending ourselves, no point in living if we were attacked.
"This movement ultimately won out and became official national policy during the Clinton years.
"But the movement is based totally on lies. People do survive nuclear blasts.
"Most people survived the initial blasts on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many emerged from the rubble unscathed --- only to die a miserable and unnecessary death from fallout. There were dire predictions the two islands would never be inhabited again --- or at least for 75 years. Nagasaki and Hiroshima today are bustling metropolises --- much bigger, more prosperous and more healthy places to live than they were before the blasts.
"There is no question that properly constructed and stocked shelters can and do save lives during nuclear attacks. The proof? Russia has built them.
"China has built them. The Swiss have built them. All of them, by the way, built based on technology developed by the U.S. government and paid for by U.S. taxpayers --- who remain defenseless.
"There's more proof. Not all Americans are left defenseless. Your federal government has used your tax dollars to build shelters for itself and its key people --- tens of thousands of them. They will survive the inevitable attack on the U.S. You, the taxpaying public, will not."
(Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily.com, December 18, 2001)
Cuba's Lourdes Radar Base, Terrorist Mohamen Atta and the Kremlin
"During his visit to Cuba in December 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Fidel Castro, visited the Lourdes spy center of the Russian Ministry of Defense. At a meeting with center specialists, Putin noted that their work is very much needed, 'not only by the military, but also by the political leadership of the country.'
"Putin said at a press conference in Havana that both Russia and Cuba are currently interested in continuing the operations of the Lourdes base. According to Putin, this center serves the interests of the Russian military and also provides some information obtained for appropriate Cuban government agencies.
"In a separate report, Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat of the Center for the Study of a National Option wrote on September 20, 2001, that Cuban President Fidel Castro, during a visit to Iran, Syria and Libya in May 2001, held talks in Tehran with Iranian Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Castro stated that 'America is extremely weak today' and promised students at Tehran University that the 'imperialist king will finally fall' because 'Iran and Cuba have reached the conclusion that together they can tear down the USA.'
"The Castro regime, this report continues, has continued to harbor internation terrorists, pursued a strategic alliance with terrorist states to create an 'anti-Western' international front, and directly engaged in terrorist attacks and espionage against Americans. In particular, Cuba's close relationships with Iraq and some Middle Eastern terrorist groups are well known.
"Cuba today, Gutierrez-Boronat writes, continues to serve as a base for coordination and mutual support among transnational terrorist organizations, including Colombian and some European-based groups.
"It is also known that Cuba is active in bioweapons development. In October 2000, Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and the Iranian Vice-Minister of Health participated in the groundbreaking for a biotech R&D facility outside Tehran. Experts expressed doubts about the supposed medical objectives of this installation."
The report says that there are links between Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, the Iranian government and the Castro regime. Castro and bin Laden have worked hard to build a common front to bring down the U.S. and to develop biological weapons of mass destruction.
(Dr. Alexandr Nemets and Dr. Thomas Torda, NewsMax.com, December 20, 2001)
Bioterrorism --- Expanding State Power
"The short answer to the question of whether states need expanded powers to prepare for a bioterror attack is 'no, no way and absolutely not!' The states already have too much power over citizens. However, states do need to update their laws and regulations in response to new knowledge about terrorist tactics and scientific advances.
"Only the unlimited imagination of evil people provides any limit to the number of potential threats. For defense against an unlimited list of unknowable threats, we must choose between the feeble strength of a strong or totalitarian government or the unlimited strength of a free people.
"Smallpox, plague, and many other infectious diseases once spread in epidemics, decimating afflicted peoples. In the most virulent epidemics in very poor communities it sometimes kills most of those infected. But this would not be the pattern in America today. Potent poisons and radiation also are touted as possible weapons for terrorists. A combination of vigilance, communication, modern medical practice and laws already on the books greatly have reduced the danger of recent threats and outbreaks...
"Modern medical practice and the high standard of living in America probably are more important in preventing and treating these possible outbreaks. In recent decades, the power of medical treatment likely to be helpful in treating the disease has exploded. New treatments include antivirus medicines and supportive measures such as intravenous fluids and medicine to help control dehydration, fever, nutritional deficiencies and pain. Many of these treatment techniques are routine. Today, they would reduce the severity and save many lives from exposure to many infectious and toxic agents.
"In short, while immunizing or protecting everybody against all possible threats might seem like a logical option, in reality it would not be necessary or desirable. America's high standard of living allows a great deal of flexibility in responding to possible emergencies. For example, many Americans wisely have a stockpile of food, water and other necessities stored in their homes so that survival at home is possible for several days to several months. In poorer societies food often is consumed when and if available, without any stockpile for emergencies. In theory, even in America, a total war against all possible threats could consume all the resources of the country, even food, with nothing left over for anything else.
"Because of medical advances in supportive medical treatment and the relatively small supply of vaccine now available, we agree with public-health experts who recommend holding off vaccinating the general public against rare or uncommon conditions until there is a demonstrated outbreak. Obviously, stockpiles of emergency vaccine should be widely distributed around the country; stockpiling an entire vaccine reserve in one location could complicate distribution if air transportation were shut down, as it was on September 11.
"So long as threats remain hypothetical, the general public should not be encouraged or required to risk injury or death from treatments they may never need."
(Robert J. Cihak, MD, and Michael A. Glueck, MD, The Washington Times, January 7, 2002)
Refundable Tax Credits Would Help the Uninsured
"People who get their health insurance through their employers are not taxed for that cost. There are proposals in Congress to help those who must buy their own insurance with after-tax dollars by giving them a refundable tax credit (one that is paid regardless of whether the recipient paid that much in taxes).
"Two recent studies show that a $1,000 refundable tax credit (for individuals) would substantially lower the numbers of uninsured in the United States.
"A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, with the credit: As many as 85 percent of the uninsured would buy health insurance with a $1,000 deductible, a 20 percent coinsurance requirement and a $2,000 limit on out-of-pocket spending. And, more than 25 percent of the uninsured could get the policy without paying anything beyond the tax credit.
"Another 25 percent would have to pay no more than $168 a year beyond the tax credit."
(Greg Scandlen, NCPA Senior Fellow in Health
Policy, "Tax Relief For The Uninsured: Scholarship vs. Political Hype,"
Brief Analysis No. 381, 12/04/01, NCPA)
Doctors Face Spiraling Malpractice Insurance Rates
"Some physicians are seeing their malpractice insurance premiums increasing anywhere from 8 to 100 percent. As a result, some are dropping procedures that put them at risk of malpractice suits, moving to areas with lower rates or even retiring early.
" 'Executives at the St. Paul Companies, the country's second largest underwriter of medical malpractice insurance, have notified virtually all customers who are obstetricians, general surgeons or emergency medicine doctors --- the three specialties most likely to be sued --- that their policies will not be renewed.
"Rates for physicians insured by the company in 27 states have increased an average of 24 percent this year.
"One six-member OB-GYN practice in North Carolina, whose insurance had been cancelled, found itself paying $277,000 a year for new coverage --- more than double what it had been paying.
"Lawrence Smarr, president of the Physician Insurers Association of America --- a trade group of doctor-owned companies that insure about 60 percent of U.S. physicians --- sees tort reform as the cure. 'The whole system is basically a lottery for the lawyers,' he says. 'They don't win often, but when they win, they win big,' he adds."
(Rita Rubin, USA Today, December 4, 2001)
AMA's Secret Conference on Guns
"When AMA president, Dr. Richard Corlin, launched his presidency in June 2001, his inaugural address included the pronouncement that the nation's most well-known doctor's group should openly admit to political activism in the firearm debate. NRA reported on this 'new' agenda (AMA has actually been supporting attacks on the Second Amendment for years) in the August 2001 issue of America's 1st Freedom. And NRA members responded, inundating both Corlin and the AMA with objections to this aggressive, anti-gun agenda. Apparently, Dr. Corlin took notice.
"In the December 17 issue of the American Medical News, Corlin revealed in an opinion piece that he had chaired a conference in November he described as including 'the whole spectrum of organizations involved with the issue of gun violence,' including 'representatives of advocacy groups, both pro- and anti-gun.' But the accuracy of this statement is highly debatable: NRA --- the largest organization dedicated to promoting the safe, responsible ownership of firearms, public safety, and law and order --- was neither present, nor, does it appear, were we invited. In fact, we may simply have to take Dr. Corlin's word that America's approximately 65 million safe, responsible gun owners were well represented. When we asked the AMA who participated in this conference, we were told that such a list is not currently being made public. We may never really know who attended the meeting, who was invited, or what was actually discussed, as the AMA could choose to not make any specific information available to the general public.
"Such secrecy, as well as the anti-gun history of Corlin and the AMA, raises serious doubt about the veracity of every claim made in Corlin's December 17 piece regarding this conference, including: the assertion that all participants agreed that physicians and the AMA should be involved in the debate over 'gun control,' that the AMA is 'the one national organization' capable of coordinating efforts to reduce firearm-related fatalities, and that the AMA has the support of members of the pro-gun community. Corlin even makes the claim that one of the 'pro-gun participants' stated, 'If people outside of this room knew how the AMA conducted the meeting, it would go a long way to changing the perception of the AMA.' Unconfirmed reports, however, indicate the 'quote' is either a fabrication, or a case of extremely selective, and perhaps intentionally deceptive, editing, or a combination of the two.
"Corlin claims that his inaugural address comports with the policies the AMA has passed regarding firearms, that these policies do not represent attacks on the Second Amendment, and that AMA's policies do not 'call for a ban on guns of any kind.' In fact, several firearm-related AMA policy statements do mention supporting bans, while other policies include supporting legislation that would 'restrict the sale and private ownership' of affordable handguns and certain semi-automatic firearms. Another specifically supports allowing any municipality to pass any restrictions on firearms it wants, including, one must presume, bans such as those that currently exist in crime-riddled cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C. Plus, the AMA is an organizational member of the HELP Network, whose goal is an America where it is 'socially unacceptable for private citizens to have handguns.'
"...If the AMA would like to see fewer accidents that involve firearms, it should promote proven safety programs such as those developed by NRA."
(NRA-ILA Fax Alert, Vol. 8, No. 50, December 21, 2001)
Irradiating the Mail and Food
"Following the recent deaths of four persons due to anthrax exposure from letters, postal official launched an effort to start irradiating the mails so as to kill anthrax spores.
"Irradiation could prevent literally thousands of American deaths and millions of non-fatal infections that attack Americans each year through the food supply. But plans to do just that have been put on hold due to protests by anti-technology activists --- even while other countries have been safely irradiating their foods for decades.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food microbes cause more than 75 million illnesses, kill 5,200 Americans every year and hospitalize more than 300,000.
"Yet the Food and Drug Administration didn't approve irradiation of red meat and pork to prevent E. coli and Salmonella until 1997.
"The AMA, the World Health Organization and dozens of respected health and medical organizations around the world endorse irradiation.
"Food irradiation is now approved in more than 40 countries.
"Groups such as the Center for Food Safety and Public Citizen continue to derail proposals to extend irradiation to foods not currently on the government's approved list. They claim that further FDA approvals 'would amount to a serious potentially scandalous error in judgment.' "
(Alex Avery, Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues, "The Irradiation Solution," Washington Times, December 26, 2001, and NCPA Policy Digest 12/26/01)
Bias Blasts the News Mongers
"Bias, by 28-year veteran CBS News cor-respondent Bernard Goldberg, exposes the pervasive liberal bent of television news, according to reviewers. Bias is so pervasive, in fact, that network anchors like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings are oblivious to it.
"Among the examples in Goldberg's book:
· In a chapter entitled 'How Bill Clinton Cured Homelessness,' Goldberg notes that 'In 1990, when George Bush was president, there were 71 homeless stories on the ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN evening newscasts. But in 1995, when Bill Clinton was in the White House, the number had gone down to just nine!'
· A typical 1996 CBS news broadcast strongly implied that average teenagers were contracting AIDS by having 'unprotected' heterosexual sex, whereas 'almost all of these teenage AIDS cases involve homosexual sex or IV drugs or tainted blood.'
· Also typically, Peter Jennings, when calling the roll of U.S. Senators during President Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial, identified several Republican senators as 'conservative' but didn't identify a single Democratic senator as 'liberal' (in Jennings' world, leftist Democrats are 'moderates').
"Goldberg started having problems when in a 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed he took CBS correspondent Eric Engberg to task over a report on the CBS Evening News. Engberg spoke of Steve Forbes's 'Number One Wackiest Flat-Tax Promise' and interviewed three liberal economists --- none identified as such --- and zero conservatives."
(Mona Charen and Rich Tucker, Townhall.com, December 21, 2001; NCPA Policy Digest 12/26/01)
U.S. Students Average in International Comparisons
"Over the past several years, various international assessments of students' factual knowledge of math and science have placed U.S. students midway in comparison with their peers in other industrialized countries. Shortages of workers with the ability to apply scientific reasoning and mathematical logic may signal decline in U.S. leadership.
"The Third Inter-national Mathematics and Science Study, taken in 1995 and repeated in 1999, showed U.S. eighth graders ranking 14th out of 38 countries.
"The National Assess-ment of Educational Progress in science, released in November, showed that 47 percent of high school seniors don't have 'basic' science skills --- declining from 1996, when 43 percent of seniors couldn't answer basic questions about earth, life or physical science.
"Another international student assessment found that American 15-year-olds have average science-literacy scores, ranking 14th out of 31 countries.
"Nobel laureate Milton Friedman assigns the blame to lack of school choice and said that the science scores are 'disastrous' but not unexpected, given the 'Soviet-style' monopoly of public K-12 education in the U.S."
(Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, December 27, 2001)
Patients Wait for Cancer Treatment in the United Kingdom
"A joint Commission for Health Improvement/Audit Commission reports that the care of British cancer patients has improved since 1995. Survival rates for most cancers are improving, and there are more specialist cancer surgeons. But how long patients wait to get treatment varies according to where they live and the type of cancer they have.
"Among the key findings: Almost all patients (92 percent) who are referred by their general practitioner (GP) to a specialist as an urgent case are seen within two weeks.
"But people referred as non-urgent (50 percent of cancer patients) can wait much longer for an appointment and GPs vary widely in how many cases they refer as urgent.
"There is wide variation by geography and type of cancer in how long patients have to wait for diagnostic tests.
"There were particularly long waits for diagnostic bladder endoscopy, for which the average wait was 88 days in England.
"Delays in receiving treatment are often caused by a lack of equipment or poor use of equipment, says the report. For instance, there is a five-fold variation in the number of patients per MRI or CT scanner between hospitals. Some hospitals scan more patients with one MRI machine than others do with three or four. Finally, communication between cancer specialists and GPs is often poor, with GPs missing out on key information about their patients. This hampers GPs' ability to discuss diagnosis and prognosis with their patients."
("NHS Cancer Care in England and Wales," National Service Frame-work Assessment No. 1, Commission for Health Improvement/Audit Commission, December 2001)
Fraud and Waste in the British National Health Service
"Between $10 billion and $14 billion of the British National Health Service budget is lost through waste, fraud and inefficiency, according to a recent report.
"Stuart Emslie, a risk control expert at the Department of Health, told a meeting of health experts last month that between 16 percent and 20 percent of the government's $77 billion annual budget was being lost.
"Among the losses: Between $1.4 billion to $4.3 billion are lost through fraud such as patients falsely claiming free prescriptions and dentists charging for treatment not carried out.
"Almost $3 billion are lost because of 'bed blocking' by elderly people who do not need acute care but cannot be discharged because they have nowhere to go.
"Almost $3 billion go to sick pay and agency nurses --- 40 percent of the sickness being caused by back injuries to nurses who tried to lift patients incorrectly.
"Just under $1.5 billion is required to treat hospital-acquired infections.
"The annual losses more than wipe out the extra $7.2 billion a year which the Treasury would need to pump into the NHS to meet the prime minister's pledge to match average spending on health in other European countries."
(Rosie Waterhouse and David Cracknell "Fraud and Waste Cost NHS £7bn a Year," Sunday Times, December 2, 2001)
Colleges Don't Require History
"A survey by the Roper organization for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reveals the severe deficiencies in history teaching at the highest-ranked colleges and universities.
"Just three of the top-ranked 55 schools --- Columbia, Colgate and the University of the South --- require a course in Western civilization. None of the 55 requires a course in American history.
"At Berkeley, students who earned a C or better in high school history are exempt. At M.I.T., students can satisfy the historical studies 'requirement' by taking a course in Environ-mental Politics and Policy.
"No more than 22 percent had any idea that 'government of the people, by the people, for the people' came from the Gettysburg Address.
"More than half could not identify the Consti-tution as the source of the separation of powers.
"Only 34 percent knew George Washington was the general commanding the Americans at Yorktown - whereas 37 percent thought it might be Ulysses S. Grant.
"Given students' in-creased interest in world affairs and American history since Sept. 11, observers suggest that it is time to provide young Americans with a serious education in their history and civilization."
("The Pilgrims' Magna Carta," Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2001)
This edition of News Capsules was compiled by Miguel A. Faria, Jr.,
M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the AAPS. It appeared
in the Medical Sentinel 2002;7(1):1-6 Copyright©2002 Association
of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).