Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barack Obama: Too conservative for liberals, too black for conservatives.

President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan "triggered" into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.

The administration retreat runs counter to the letter and the spirit of Obama's presidential campaign. The man who ran on the "Audacity of Hope" has now taken a more conservative stand than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), leaving progressives with a mix of confusion and outrage. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have battled conservatives in their own party in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Now tantalizingly close, they are calling for Obama to step up.

"The leadership understands that pushing for a public option is a somewhat risky strategy, but we may be within striking distance. A signal from the president could be enough to put us over the top," said one Senate Democratic leadership aide. Such pleading is exceedingly rare on Capitol Hill and comes only after Senate leaders exhausted every effort to encourage Obama to engage.

The president's retreat leaves Reid as the champion of progressive reform -- an irony that is not lost on those who have long derided the Majority Leader as too cautious.

"Who knew that when it came down to crunch time, Harry Reid would be the one who stepped up to the plate and Barack Obama would shy away from the fight," emailed one progressive strategist.

Outside Congress, anger trumped confusion. On Saturday, the activist group Progressive Change Campaign Committee - which just days earlier had targeted Reid in a separate campaign, took out a television advertisement in Maine accompanied by an "emergency petition." Titled, "Time to Fight," the spot featured a former Obama campaign volunteer pleading with the president not to abandon the public plan.

"If this once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass a public option goes down the drain after we were just a couple votes away in each house of Congress, everyone will remember exactly who was and was not willing to fight when it counted," said the group's co-founder, Adam Green, when asked why he aired the ad. "Our grassroots pressure is an attempt to get President Obama to live up to the mandate for sweeping change that was given to him in the 2008 election." rallied its base on Friday. "The President has said many, many times that a public option is the best way to keep insurance companies honest and lower skyrocketing health care costs. Senate Democrats are ready to fight for a public option--if the White House gives up now, it would be a tragic mistake," said an e-mail to the group's membership.

It is not philosophical, one White House aide explained, but is a matter of political practicality. If the votes were there to pass a robust public option through the Senate, the president would be leading the charge, the aide said. But after six months of concern that it would be filibustered, the bet among Obama's aides is that Reid is now simply being too optimistic in his whip count. The trigger proposal, said Democratic aides, has long been associated with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

"He's been so convinced by his political people from the beginning that we can't get a bill with a public option, he's internalized it. Even though it's now become obvious we can get a bill without selling out the public option, he's still on that path," said a top Democratic source. The White House, he said, continues to assure progressives it'll improve the bill in conference negotiations between the Senate and House, but advocates are unconvinced.

"If we're this close in the Senate and they're not helping us, I have a feeling they could screw us in the conference," said one.

Advocates of a public option consider a "trigger" the equivalent of no public option at all. A trigger would implement a public option only if insurance companies failed to meet certain benchmarks over time and it would only be implemented in the regions of the country where those benchmarks weren't met. The Medicare prescription drug proposal passed in 2003 includes a "trigger," but the public provision has never been activated despite soaring drug costs. The industry can help craft the trigger language and can game its stats to prevent it from becoming reality.

"The current state of our health system should be trigger enough for anyone who's paying attention," said a congressional aide in the middle of the health care battle. "The American people pulled the 'trigger' in November."

The intellectual father of the public option, Yale Professor Jacob Hacker, told HuffPost that the trigger proposal is a betrayal.

"The trigger is an inside-the-beltway sleight of hand that would protect private insurers from the real competition that a strong public health insurance option would create," he said in an e-mail. "It is unworkable in the current Senate bills, unwise as public policy, and unwanted by the substantial majority of Americans who say they want a straight-up public option."

(Barack Obama needs to remember that the President should lead the charge from the beginning, not only lead if he feels its an easy victory because the votes are already there. LBJ never backed down due to being short on votes. He did his job, he lobbied congress better than anyone on K Street and Barack Obama is president because of it. You don't fight the fights you can win, you fight the fights worth fighting.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm sorry you were raped, sorry it didn't happen sooner so we could save more money! DENIED!

Christina Turner feared that she might have been sexually assaulted after two men slipped her a knockout drug. She thought she was taking proper precautions when her doctor prescribed a month's worth of anti-AIDS medicine.

Only later did she learn that she had made herself all but uninsurable.

Turner had let the men buy her drinks at a bar in Fort Lauderdale. The next thing she knew, she said, she was lying on a roadside with cuts and bruises that indicated she had been raped. She never developed an HIV infection. But months later, when she lost her health insurance and sought new coverage, she ran into a problem.

Turner, 45, who used to be a health insurance underwriter herself, said the insurance companies examined her health records. Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free.

Stories of how victims of sexual assault can get tangled in the health insurance system have been one result of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund's citizen journalism project, which is calling on readers to provide information and anecdotes about the inner workings of the insurance industry. The project aims to uncover details and data that can inform the larger debate over how to fix the nation's health care system. As the Investigative Fund reported in September, health insurance companies are not required to make public their records on how often claims are denied and for what reasons.

Some women have contacted the Investigative Fund to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted.

Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for the health insurance industry's largest trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, said insurers do not discriminate against victims of sexual assault and ordinarily would not even know if a patient had been raped.

"These issues you are bringing up, they deserve to be brought up," said Pisano. "People who have experienced rape and sexual assault are victims and we want them to be in a system where everyone is covered."

Turner's story about HIV drugs is not unusual, said Cindy Holtzman, an insurance agent and expert in medical billing at Medical Refund Service, Inc. of Marietta, Ga. Insurers generally categorize HIV-positive people as having a pre-existing condition and deny them coverage. Holtzman said that health insurance companies also consistently decline coverage for anyone who has taken anti-HIV drugs, even if they test negative for the virus. "It's basically an automatic no," she said.

Pisano, of the insurance trade group, said: "If you put down on a form that you are or were taking anti-HIV drugs at any time, they [the insurance companies] are going to understand that you are or were in treatment for HIV, period," she said. "That could be a factor in determining whether you get coverage."

Some doctors and nurses said that the industry's policy is not medically sound. "The chance of a rape victim actually contracting AIDS is very low. It doesn't make any sense to use that as a calculus for determining who get health insurance," said Dr. Alex Schafir, faculty instructor at Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, Ore.

Nurses who deal with sexual assault cases say the industry's policy creates a significant problem for those treating women who have been assaulted. "It's difficult enough to make sure that rape victims take the drugs," said Diana Faugno, a forensic nurse in California and board director of End Violence Against Women International. "What are we supposed to tell women now? Well, I guess you have a choice - you can risk your health insurance or you can risk AIDS. Go ahead and choose."

Turner, now a life and casualty insurance agent, said she went without health coverage for three years after the attack. She second-guesses her decision to take the HIV drugs. "I'm going to be penalized my whole life because of this," she said.

Several women told the Investigative Fund that after being sexually assaulted they had been denied care or ruled ineligible for health insurance because of what were deemed pre-existing conditions stemming from their assaults -- particularly post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

A 38-year-old woman in Ithaca, N.Y., said she was raped last year and then penalized by insurers because in giving her medical history she mentioned an assault she suffered in college 17 years earlier. The woman, Kimberly Fallon, told a nurse about the previous attack and months later, her doctor's office sent her a bill for treatment. She said she was informed by a nurse and, later, the hospital's billing department that her health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, not only had declined payment for the rape exam, but also would not pay for therapy or medication for trauma because she "had been raped before."

Fallon says she now has trouble getting coverage for gynecological exams. To avoid the hassle of fighting with her insurance company, she goes to Planned Parenthood instead and pays out of pocket.

A New Mexico woman told the Investigative Fund she was denied coverage at several health insurance companies because she had suffered from PTSD after being attacked and raped in 2003. She did not want to disclose her name because she feared that she would lose her group health insurance if she went on the record as a rape victim. "I remember just feeling infuriated," she said.

"I think it's important to point out that health plans are not denying coverage based on the fact that someone was raped," said Pisano of the insurance trade group. "But PTSD could be a factor in denied coverage."

"That might not be a discriminatory action, but it certainly would seem to have a discriminatory impact," said Sandra Park, staff attorney at the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Insurance discrimination against rape victims will only further discourage them from coming forward to law enforcement and seeking medical help."

Even when patients have coverage, there are fundamental disagreements between insurance companies and doctors about what mental health treatment is medically necessary. The Investigative Fund spoke with doctors, psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers around the country who work regularly with victims of sexual assault. They said that their patients have been experiencing an increase in delays and denials, particularly for talk therapy.

"There's a lot of anger about this in the medical community," said Dr. George Shapiro-Weiss, a psychiatrist in Middletown, Conn. "You don't realize what an Alice in Wonderland web this has become."

"A lot of my patients are being told that their treatment isn't medically necessary," said Keri Nola, an Orlando, Fla., psychologist, who said about 75 percent of her patients are victims of sexual violence.

Several therapists cited problems with managed care companies that specialize in mental health. Such firms generally work under contract with health insurers to hold down costs while still authorizing appropriate care.

Some therapists and patients said the managed care companies have cut off necessary treatment for sexual assault victims in the name of cost containment. "The companies are peppering them with questions about their symptoms, and about their histories, and asking, 'Well, are you sure you really need therapy?'" said Jeffrey Axelbank, a New Jersey psychologist. "For someone who has been traumatized, it can feel like another trauma, and it makes the therapy less effective."

Pisano, of the insurance association, said it was not fair to draw a larger pattern from such anecdotal evidence. "These situations are evaluated on a person-by-person basis," she said. "There is nothing routine about this."

Jim Wrich, a Madison, Wis., a consultant who helps employers evaluate the companies that manage their mental health care, said his work has made him wary of the industry. "This is absolutely routine - these denials," Wrich said. "The default position is to reject care."

Magellan Behavioral Health Services, Inc., one of the nation's largest managed-care companies with more than 58 million customers, said that it does not routinely turn down treatment requests from victims of sexual assault or other clients. "We're not denying care. We are exercising our responsibility to make sure that medical necessity is met," said Dr. Lawrence Nardozzi, Magellan's medical director. "I think the process works well."

Asked if cost is a factor in the company's decisions, Magellan spokeswoman Erin Somers said: "If all the safeguards are in place to determine whether treatment is medically necessary and appropriate" then "the cost takes care of itself."

A former care manager for Magellan said in an interview that she felt pressure to deny care for cost reasons. Lois Gorwitz, a psychologist with thirty years of experience who went to work for Magellan in California in 2000, said her superiors would tell her: "We are not denying this person treatment, we are denying them their benefit. If they want the treatment they can still pay out of pocket." But, Gorwitz said, "You know that means that the person is not going to get the treatment because they can't afford to pay out of pocket."

Gorwitz quit after two years. "It's a very uncomfortable feeling of not being able to offer help," she said.

Asked for a response, Magellan's Somers said, "I think you should keep in mind that there have been a lot of changes at Magellan in the last seven years. I think the people who work at Magellan now are not having that experience."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Times bygone

Today is a sad day indeed my fellow action rangers, as "Captain" Lou Albano passed away. He died of natural causes at the age of 76.

Now he is best known as a wrestler from the 70s and 80s but oddly his most iconic was his portrayal of Mario on the Super Mario Bros Super Show.

As a kid this show was every kind of amazing. First of all, just the title. I'd run around excited as kid yelling, "its time for the super mario brothers SUPER SHOW." Second it was the first time that the iconic Mario was a living person, not a cartoon or some pixels. A real person who would tell jokes and do funny antics and talk about loving italian food and pizza. I naturally thought back then that doing the Mario was a legitimate dance craze. The show didn't run long due to Lou wanting to focus on wrestling, but it reran for years after and cemented mario as being a fat italian in red overalls. So much so, that when Mario debuted on the N64, People were pissed he was so thin, and that his overalls were blue. Never realizing until later that they were always more often blue.

In the end all of Lou's fans owe him thanks for being a character we could love and enjoy. Whether in wrestling or on TV, he always hammed it up, for us. So thank you Lou.

In honor of his legacy I think we should all, one last time, do the Mario.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

They should be THANKING loggers for making it so they can get a notebook for 76 cents at walmart. >_>

Decline of a tribe: and then there were five

The last surviving members of an ancient Amazonian tribe are a tragic testament to greed and genocide

By Guy Adams

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

They are the last survivors: all that's left of a once-vibrant civilisation which created its own religion and language, and gave special names to everything from the creatures of the rainforest to the stars of the night sky.

Just five people represent the entire remaining population of the Akuntsu, an ancient Amazonian tribe which a generation ago boasted several hundred members, but has been destroyed by a tragic mixture of hostility and neglect.

The indigenous community, which spent thousands of years in uncontacted seclusion, recently took an unwelcome step closer to extinction, with the death of its sixth last member, an elderly woman called Ururú.

"I followed the funeral," says Altair Algayer, a local representative of Funai, the Brazilian government agency which protects Indian territories. "She died in a small house. We heard weeping and rushed over, but she had already died." Ururú's death means the entire population of the Akuntsu now consists of just three women and two men. All of them are either close family relations, or no longer of child-bearing age – meaning that the tribe's eventual disappearance is now inevitable.

The slow death of this indigenous community is far more than an unfortunate accident, however. Instead, it represents the long-planned realisation of one of the most successful acts of genocide in human history. And the fate of the Akuntsu is seen by lobby groups as an object lesson in the physical and cultural dangers faced by undiscovered tribes at so-called "first contact".

Much of the Akuntsus' story is – for obvious reasons – undocumented. For millennia, they lived in obscurity, deep in the rainforest of Rondonia state, a remote region of western Brazil near the Bolivian border. They hunted wild pig, agoutis and tapir, and had small gardens in their villages, where they would grow manioc (or cassava) and corn.

Then, in the 1980s, their death warrant was effectively signed: farmers and loggers were invited to begin exploring the region, cutting roads deep into the forest, and turning the once verdant wilderness into lucrative soya fields and cattle ranches.

Fiercely industrious, the new migrant workers knew that one thing might prevent them from creating profitable homesteads from the rainforest: the discovery of uncontacted tribes, whose land is protected from development under the Brazilian constitution.

As a result, frontiersmen who first came across the Akuntsu in the mid-1980s made a simple calculation. The only way to prevent the government finding out about this indigenous community was to wipe them off the map.

At some point, believed to be around 1990, scores of Akuntsu were massacred at a site roughly five hours' drive from the town of Vilhena. Only seven members of the tribe escaped, retreating deeper into the wilderness to survive.

Those seven were not formally "contacted" until 1995, when Funai investigators finally made it to the region and were able to have a 26,000-hectare area of forest protected for them. They included the late Ururú, who was the sister of the tribe's chief and shaman, Konibú.

"We know little of what Ururú's life was like," says Mr Algayer, who was among the Funai team that first discovered the tribe. "In the 14 years that we have been with her, she was a happy, spontaneous person ... She recounts that she had four children who were all shot dead during the massacre. We don't know who her husband was or how he died."

One other member of the group of seven, known as Babakyhp, was killed in a freak accident in 2000, when a tree blew over in a storm and landed on her hut. The others, who still survive, are Pugapía, Konibú's wife, who is roughly 50 years old, their daughters, Nãnoi and Enotéi, who are around 35 and 25 respectively, and a cousin, Pupak, who is in her forties.

Evidence of their suffering is visible in bullet wounds which both Konibú and Pupak showed to cameramen making a documentary about their struggle – Corumbiara: they shoot Indians, don't they? – that was filmed over the last 20 years and has just been released in Brazil.

It is also evident in a simple fact: on its own, the Akuntsu gene pool cannot allow it to survive another generation. Since tribal custom will apparently not allow outsiders to marry in, it is therefore effectively doomed.

The Akuntsu story is not unique. Even if they escape persecution, communities that have never encountered the outside world often face tragedy. Typically they lose between 50 and 80 per cent of their population in a matter of months, since they have no immunity to common diseases.

Ancient ways of life are also frequently corrupted by the arrival of outsiders. Though indigenous tribes rarely have much interest in material possessions, and often don't understand the concept of money, their traditional clothes and rituals are vulnerable to change.

Campaigners now hope the fate of the tribe, which will be publicly highlighted by Ururú's death, will persuade the Brazilian people to further strengthen government protections for indigenous people.

Stephen Corry of Survival International, a human rights organisation that has been working with Funai, said: "The "Akuntsu are at the end of the road. In a few decades this once vibrant and self-sufficient people will cease to exist and the world will have lost yet another piece of our astonishing human diversity.

"Their genocide is a terrible reminder that in the 21st century there are still uncontacted tribes in several continents who face annihilation as their lands are invaded, plundered and stolen. Yet this situation can be reversed if governments uphold their land rights in accordance with international law.

"Public opinion is crucial – the more people speak up for tribal rights, the greater the chance that tribes like the Akuntsu will in future survive."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

a la mode: sexiness

Once again we find it befitting to award the best of the best with the highest honor we have to bestow. Lifetime membership to our organization. *cough* OK not like, a gift certificate but still pretty awesome.

A change in programming to note. We have decided to make this a bi-monthly affair. At first we thought there were plenty of these to go around and there is, but we didn't want any previous winners to feel like they are just a drop in the bucket. So 6 a year feels exclusive enough without too long an interval in between. We hope. OK lets start the show!

With over 80 sets to her name, Toryn is one of the hardest working Godsgirls there is, and we are always grateful for it. Her fun, natural beauty is the classic girl next door. The girl next door who you'd wish would accept any of your marriage proposals. The girl next door who, like in so many movies, you wish you had some kind of "in" or cool trait to get her attention. Well, you get the point. Godsgirls is where it is today because of the work done by girls like Toryn. Who with her smile, form, and deep dark eyes, made sure the site never went stale. She hasn't had a new set in sometime but we wait with bated breath.

Every now and then a girl comes along who when you look at her pictures you don't know if your just looking at a beautiful girl, or actual living art. Coley is one of the few who blur that line each more and more each time. By looking at her you'd think she herself was the origin for the word "statuesque". If she were alive centuries ago, there's no doubt we'd see her portrait hanging in a museum today, no doubt the muse for many a legendary artists.

Congratulations to the winners and as always, thank you. XD