T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
A personal blog with diverse topicality and multiple interests!

On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!

Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Je suis un francophile .... Bienvenue à tous!

* Your comments and evaluations are appreciated ! *

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ideology-driven Supreme Court - by E J Dionne

Judicial Activists in the Supreme Court
By E.J. Dionne Jr.,
Washington Post / Opinion
March 28, 2012

Three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health-care law demonstrated for all to see that conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature, diving deeply into policy details as if they were members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senator, excuse me, Justice Samuel Alito quoted Congressional Budget Office figures on Tuesday to talk about the insurance costs of the young. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts sounded like the House whip in discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell. He noted that without various provisions, Congress “wouldn’t have been able to put together, cobble together, the votes to get it through.” Tell me again, was this a courtroom or a lobbyist’s office?

It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called “judicial activists,” remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.

Justice Stephen Breyer noted that some of the issues raised by opponents of the law were about “the merits of the bill,” a proper concern of Congress, not the courts. And in arguing for restraint, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship.

The conservative justices were obsessed with weird hypotheticals. If the federal government could make you buy health insurance, might it require you to buy broccoli, health club memberships, cellphones, burial services and cars? All of which have nothing to do with an uninsured person getting expensive treatment that others — often taxpayers — have to pay for.

Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.

The irony is that if the court’s conservatives overthrow the mandate, they will hasten the arrival of a more government-heavy system. Justice Anthony Kennedy even hinted that it might be more “honest” if government simply used “the tax power to raise revenue and to just have a national health service, single-payer.” Remember those words.

One of the most astonishing arguments came from Roberts, who spoke with alarm that people would be required to purchase coverage for issues they might never confront. He specifically cited “pediatric services” and “maternity services.”

Well, yes, men pay to cover maternity services while women pay for treating prostate problems. It’s called health insurance. Would it be better to segregate the insurance market along gender lines?

The court’s right-wing justices seemed to forget that the best argument for the individual mandate was made in 1989 by a respected conservative, the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler.

“If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street,” Butler said, “Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services — even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab. A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract.”

Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to reject the sense of solidarity that Butler embraced. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli explained that “we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care,” Scalia replied coolly: “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that.” Does this mean letting Butler’s uninsured guy die?

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick called attention to this exchange and was eloquent in describing its meaning. “This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms,” Lithwick wrote. “It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another . . . the freedom to ignore the injured” and to “walk away from those in peril.”

This is what conservative justices will do if they strike down or cripple the health-care law. And a court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United will prove conclusively that it sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws. A Supreme Court that is supposed to give us justice will instead deliver ideology.


© The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sir Peter Ustinov's Last Interviews at BBC - by TPO

Sir Peter Ustinov

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
Sir Peter Ustinov's Last Interviews at BBC
by TPO

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Why Bilinguals Are Smarter" - by Y. Bhattacharjee

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
New York Times
Published: March 17, 2012

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?
* Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fire Alarms - by "Elvis"

"Fire Alarms"
writes Elvis * ...

"Elvis was staying at a short-term-rental flat in London last fall. In this building, he saw a few other people; some obviously were tourists, and some were residents. No one spoke beyond saying 'Hello.'

"On the last night, at 1:30 a.m., the fire alarm right outside his door started going off. Very loud! He put on some clothes and opened the door. No fire. A young Chinese man was standing in the small corridor, saying 'Where fire? Where fire?' Elvis said he didn't know.

"Down three flights of stairs to the ground floor, there was a fire-alarm panel with lights flashing on it. Several other people had come out by now, and we were all standing there looking at the panel and its lock.

"An elderly gentleman came down the staircase in slippers and a satin robe over a long pair of pajamas. As he came down the stairs, he started saying: 'I want you to know that this is totally unacceptable! This must be reported to the building management! I have complained, and they do nothing! It must be reported to management! It continues to happen and is completely unacceptable!' He got to the bottom of the stairs, with the horn blaring, and turned to us all. Again he shouted over the noise: 'You must report this to the management! It is unacceptable! Will you do that?' We all nodded. He turned, pulled open the panel door (it was not locked, after all) and pushed a single button. The alarm ceased. We thanked him, and he walked back upstairs,
again saying 'We must all write to management!' Elvis wished he had pushed the button first and lectured us afterwards.

"At this moment, down the staircase came a young Asian couple. They had several suitcases with them, and the woman was carrying one of those giant panda dolls you see at carnivals. It was almost as big as she was. They passed us and said 'Good night.' Elvis went back to bed wondering where they were going. ....
* Elvis is a contributor to Pioneer Press' BB.
Pioneer Press, March 17, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reverse Robin Hood - by Dana Milbank

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisconsin)

Paul Ryan, helping the poor by hurting them
By Dana Milbank *
Opinion Writer, Washington Post
Published: March 20, 2012

Paul Ryan, outlining his latest budget proposal in the House TV studio Tuesday morning, said the policies of the Republican presidential nominees “perfectly jibe” with his plan, which slashes the safety net to pay for tax cuts mostly for wealthy Americans.

“Do you wholeheartedly believe they will accept your budget?” NBC’s Luke Russert called from the audience.

“Absolutely,” the House Budget Committee chairman replied without hesitation. “I’m confident.”

Makes perfect sense, in a way. Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, is on record as saying, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” And Ryan has just written a budget that supports Romney’s boast.

Ryan would cut $770 billion over 10 years from Medicaid and other health programs for the poor, compared with President Obama’s budget. He takes an additional $205 billion from Medicare, $1.6 trillion from the Obama health-care legislation and $1.9 trillion from a category simply labeled “other mandatory.” Pressed to explain this magic asterisk, Ryan allowed that the bulk of those “other mandatory” cuts come from food stamps, welfare, federal employee pensions and support for farmers.

Taken together, Ryan would cut spending on such programs by $5.3 trillion, much of which currently goes to the have-nots. He would then give that money to America’s haves: some $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, compared with current policies, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Ryan’s justification was straight out of Dickens. He wants to improve the moral fiber of the poor. There is, he told the audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute later Tuesday, an “insidious moral tipping point, and I think the president is accelerating this.” Too many Americans, he said, are receiving more from the government than they pay in taxes.

After recalling his family’s immigration from Ireland generations ago, and his belief in the virtue of people who “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Ryan warned that a generous safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”

How very kind: To protect poor Americans from being demeaned, Ryan is cutting their anti-poverty programs and using the proceeds to give the wealthiest Americans a six-figure tax cut.

Ryan’s budget outline omits specifics about how much he would take from programs. Instead, it provided a string of Orwellian euphemisms. The budget “repairs the safety net” by allowing the states to award public assistance to fewer people — “those who need it most.” Financial aid for college would be slashed — er, “put on a sustainable funding path.” And the Ryan plan would give workers “the tools to thrive in the 21st century” — by killing off various job-training programs.

Ryan would cut Medicaid by a third and ship the remnants to state governments to handle. Or, as the congressman described it: “We also propose to strengthen Medicaid by empowering our states.”

When Ryan released his first budget after becoming committee chairman last year, much of the attention focused on his plans to turn Medicare into a private insurance program. He hasn’t backed away from that, but now he’s making a bolder assault on a full range of social programs.

The shame of this is Ryan once again missed an opportunity to bring some responsible behavior to the capital’s perennial budget fights. He pointed out, correctly, that Senate Democrats have failed for years to produce a budget. He accurately observed that Obama’s budget does little to resolve the debt crisis. And he is right that Medicare and other social programs will collapse if nothing is done to change their revenue-payment structure.

But instead of using the savings from social programs to pay off what he calls a “mountain of debt,” Ryan dishes out tax cuts; the federal debt would continue to grow, by $4 trillion, over his 10-year plan, and the federal budget would remain in deficit.

Such a coupling — tax cuts that disproportionately help the rich and spending cuts that overwhelmingly hurt the poor — makes Ryan’s budget a political loser. His patronizing justification — that he is cutting support for the poor and the old in order to help them — adds insult. “If we have a debt crisis, then the people who get hurt the first and the worst are the poor and the elderly,” he reasoned.

And Ryan thinks the eventual Republican presidential nominee will campaign on this plan? “I’ve spoken to all these guys,” Ryan assured reporters, “and they believe that we are heading in the right direction.”

This explains a lot about the Republicans’ difficulty.
* danamilbank@washpost.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln" - W A Mozart

W A Mozart (1756-1791)

"Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln" *
Sung by Kathleen Battle (1948-)

* From W A Mozart's Singspiel,
"Die Entführung aus dem Serail" (The Abduction from the Seraglio)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A No-brainer? - by Andrew Rosenthal

President Bush Weighs in on Keystone XL

When a politician tells you something is a “no-brainer,” exercise caution, especially if he’s talking about energy supplies and energy prices. If there were no-brainers in this area, Americans wouldn’t be so dependent on foreign oil and so worried about rising prices.

Relatedly, former President George W. Bush called the Keystone XL pipeline proposal a “no brainer” on Tuesday.

Mr. Bush discussed the pipeline, which would carry heavy oil extracted from shale in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast, at an American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers conference (which of course was eager to hear dissenting views about the importance of bringing American fuels and petrochemicals to market).

He said the proposed $7.6 billion project would create jobs in the United States and bolster the economy, and that it would help reduce the government’s current budget deficit (which he actually created with two wars and unnecessary tax cuts for the rich). “The clear goal ought to be how to get the private sector to grow,” he said. “If you say that, then an issue like the Keystone pipeline becomes an easy issue.”

Many other supporters of the pipeline project have made the same argument – that it would create jobs and give a jolt to a dragging economy. House Speaker John Boehner said it would result in 20,000 jobs, and Jon Huntsman prophesied 100,000.

But these claims are greatly exaggerated. The federal government estimates that it would create 6,000 to 6,500 temporary construction jobs at best, for two years.

Keystone would also do little to bring us closer to energy independence, since almost all of the gas refined on the Gulf Coast would be sent abroad, probably to China.

What pipeline supporters don’t mention is that it would create the risk of environmental disaster, since a leak at some point seems inevitable.

Ever since the president rejected Keystone—while leaving open the possibility of building the pipeline along a different route—the Republicans have been trying to sneak amendments into unrelated bills to overturn Mr. Obama’s decision. It’s all part of an election-year effort to blame him for rising prices at the pump – which he has almost nothing to do with – and to promote the industry-pleasing Republican solution, which is more drilling in more places.

Here’s why that policy makes little sense: The oil industry is not short on leases. It’s currently sitting on thousands of permits not in production. If the U.S. oil industry sucked up all its proven reserves – about 22 billion barrels – and put it on the market, it would last this country about three years. Some people say about 135 billion barrels are technically recoverable, and that we should add those to the tally. OK, let’s count them all, and that gets us to 25 years at current consumption. Not a long-term solution in my view. We cannot drill our way to energy independence. That’s a no brainer.
* "The Loyal Opposition"
-From The Desk of Andrew Rosenthal-
New York Times - Opinion Pages
March 14, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Bereft" - by Robert Frost

Robert Frost

By Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar?
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and day was past.
Somber clouds in the west were massed.
Out in the porch's sagging floor,
leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Right to Work" is Deceptive! - by Aaron Sojourner

( tree-climbing goats )
Say no to right-to-work
Published by: Star Tribune
February 18, 2012

A right-to-work law will not work for Minnesota. On the contrary, states with RTW laws should repeal them and join free-bargaining Minnesota. We enjoy a higher standard of living, stronger economic growth, a better education system and a more promising strategic position for the future.

A new report published by the Center of the American Experiment argues that Minnesota has missed growth opportunities because of our free-bargaining policy. But the report's own data, covering 1970 to 2010, show that Minnesotans' average personal incomes grew faster than the U.S. average. We started below average and are now well ahead.

Though this evidence seems to recommend Minnesota as a model, the report stretches to draw a different conclusion: "Had Minnesota grown as much in the first decade of the twenty-first century as it did in the last decade of the twentieth, per capita incomes would have ended the decade an extraordinary $8,972 higher per person. ... Minnesota's recent sluggish growth almost certainly reflects rather meager rates of accumulation of human and physical capital... [and] below-average adaptation of the state to innovations and technological changes."

The report says RTW will get us back on top because reducing wages in the short run will attract globe-trotting capital to Minnesota and raise earnings over time.

In truth, Minnesota's decline in income growth last decade was due to the severe recession set off by the 2007 financial crisis. Growth rates fell everywhere. Minnesota labor law didn't cause the problem, and changing the law won't solve it.

Two independent economists recently reported on how wages changed after Oklahoma adopted RTW in 2001, compared with similar states that did not adopt RTW. After the adoption of RTW, wages for nonunion workers in Oklahoma fell behind. After 10 years, Oklahoma employees are still waiting for the promised "long run" wage boost to kick in.

I wouldn't hold my breath. I'd move to Minnesota.

It's true that adapting to new economic realities and building human capital are central challenges facing Minnesota. But we should not emulate the policies of RTW states. They are meeting those challenges badly and losing ground.

In 2010, the Kauffman Foundation ranked states on how well "the structure of state economies match the ideal structure of the New Economy." Minnesota ranked 13th out of 50 -- good, but not great. However, 20 of the 22 states that had RTW at the time ranked below Minnesota. Nine of the top 10 states were free-bargaining states like Minnesota, while 8 of the bottom 10 states were RTW states.

It is also informative to look at changes in this ranking for states that most recently switched from free-bargaining to RTW. They believed the promises of RTW advocates. How is that working out?

In the 35 years prior to 2012, only Oklahoma and Idaho adopted RTW. Today they are failing to adapt to the new economy. Oklahoma experienced the single biggest drop in Kauffman's New Economy rankings, falling from 33rd in 2002 to 42nd in 2010. The best that can be said about Idaho is that it did not fall as far as Oklahoma, though it did fall from 20th to 27th.

How has Minnesota fared over the same years with our free-bargaining policy? We climbed one spot, from 14th to 13th. While we have more work to do, the evidence does not suggest that free-bargaining hampers innovation.

On the challenge of building human capital, free-bargaining Minnesota is again outperforming RTW states. Our median personal income is higher than 21 of the 22 states that had RTW before this year, as is our per capita economic output, our share of adults in the labor force, our share of population with a high school diploma and our share with a bachelor's degree. We have a lower poverty rate and a higher share of residents with health insurance than all of those 22 states. Minnesota also beats them all on eighth-grade math scores and ties for the top on reading.

We don't just beat the RTW average -- we beat the whole group again and again on measure after measure of human-capital accumulation.

The RTW low-wage strategy would be a retreat from what differentiates Minnesota and gives us our competitive advantage. Employers value Minnesotans' work ethic, our well-educated and creative workforce, and the high quality of life Minnesota communities provide. Going into competition for low-wage jobs against southern states, China and Bangladesh is a losing strategy. That's why state economic development officials now focus on attracting higher-tech, higher-wage companies providing jobs that can support local families and that are less likely to be shipped abroad.

Another argument for RTW is that free-bargaining policies violate employees' economic liberty. However, federal labor law guarantees every employee at any workplace the choice to belong to a union or not and to contribute to union political activities or to opt out. State RTW laws add nothing to this but hot air.

Minnesota and the 26 other free-bargaining states allow employees and employers to negotiate and sign a private, voluntary contract that determines the condition of employment in a work group. Conditions of employment usually include wages, benefits and payment of "fair-share" fees to cover the costs of employees' working together to advocate for themselves at work. Wherever fair-share fees are required, both the employer and the majority of employees have agreed to it. RTW laws bar these private, voluntary agreements.

RTW is designed to make it difficult for employees to join together by ensuring that every single employee is tempted to shirk.

Should condo owners be forced to pay association fees just to live where they want? Should we pass a "right to squat" law that frees condo owners from compulsory association dues approved by majority vote? It is irresponsible to demand the benefits of a group arrangement while refusing to bear the costs. But this is exactly the "liberty" RTW demands.

Minnesota's past and future successes depend on our capacity to produce and support a high-productivity, high-skill workforce. We have many ways to do this, and choosing among them should be the central focus of our economic policy debates.

RTW is a false promise that risks dividing us from one another and distracting us from seizing the opportunities ahead.

Aaron Sojourner is an economist at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Statin side effects" - by Deborah Kotz

Statin side effects:
How common are memory loss, diabetes, and muscle aches?
by Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff
Boston Globe, March 9, 2012

When the US Food and Drug Administration told the makers of cholesterol-lowering statins to add new side effect warnings to their labels last week, many of the 40 million statin users may have been unaware of the extent of the risks associated with these drugs that have been touted by some cardiologists to be safer than aspirin.

No question, statins -- which include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin) -- are relatively safe drugs, and they’ve saved thousands of lives over the past 20 years, particularly in men with established heart disease. But like any drug they can cause problems in some, including muscle aches, an increased risk of diabetes, and, gaining recent attention, memory loss.

University of California-San Diego researcher Beatrice Golomb published a paper two years ago describing 171 statin users who reported that they had developed memory problems and dementia-like symptoms that the statin users attributed to their use of the medications. The vast majority experienced an improvement in their symptoms after stopping the drugs and many saw their symptoms return after going back on statins.

Robert Grindell, a state employee from Makinen, Minn., told me his short-term memory began to deteriorate after he started taking Zocor in his early 50s. (He contacted Golomb after hearing about her research.) “My co-workers told me I was coming in to ask them the same question three times in one day,” he said. “I had a CT scan to determine if I had a stroke, but it came back fine; the next day, I couldn’t even remember where I had the test performed.” After learning that Zocor caused memory problems, Grindell decided to go off it and said within a few days he noticed an improvement in his memory, not having to glance down several times at a printed phone number as he dialed it to remember the digits.

Unfortunately, the exact incidence of these memory problems isn’t known. Manufacturer-sponsored clinical trials show that they occur in fewer than 1 percent of users, but statin researcher Dr. Paul Thompson, chief of cardiololgy at Hartford Hospital, said the real incidence is probably much higher. He has a study expected to be published sometime this year that measured cognitive effects in statin users compared with those on placebos that he said will provide a better estimate; the findings can’t be disclosed until the study is published.

The diabetes risks of statins are more well-established. One review study published last year calculated an extra two cases of type 2 diabetes in every 1,000 patients who took a high-dose statin (80 milligrams per day) compared with those who took a lower dose (20 to 40 milligrams). And one clinical trial found that statin users had about a 25 percent increased risk of developing diabetes over a two-year period compared with those who took placebos.

Experts, though, agree that in people at high risk for heart disease, the increased diabetes risk is outweighed by the statin’s protection against heart attacks and deaths from any cause.

The danger of muscle destruction from statins -- which can damage the liver and kidneys -- is also clear but slight. According to Thompson, about 1 in every 1,000 statin users will develop severely elevated levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, which indicates muscle death, and only 1 in 10 million die from developing an extremely severe case of the condition called rhabdomyolysis.

Muscle aches are far more common: occuring in about 1 in 10 users, according to Thompson. “It seems to be more common in people who do a lot of exercise.” In fact, a study he conducted found that marathon runners taking statins developed a greater increase in creatine kinase right after their race compared with runners who weren’t on statins.

“We also see more muscle aches in older people and women since they have less muscle mass,” he said. Lowering the statin dose or switching to a different statin doesn’t always help, Thompson said. “In our studies, those who develop statin myalgia tend to get it again and again; they’re body may get sensitized to statins.” There may also be a genetic component, with statin muscle aches occuring more often in those whose parents also had them.

And there may be a link between memory loss and muscle aches. “In our database, the majority of patients who had cognitive problems also had muscle problems,” Golomb said. She recommends that those who are having memory loss or muscle aches speak to their doctor about going off statins -- especially if they’re not in a high-risk group for heart attacks.

Those who get the most benefits are men under 65 who’ve already had a heart attack, she said. Women, elderly people, and those without heart disease get much smaller benefits from statins, and it’s unclear whether the drugs extend their lives.

“Many patients have told me that their doctor said going off statins would kill them,” Golomb said, “but that’s not an accurate representation of the evidence.”

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Demotivating Your Workers - by T. Amabile & S. Kramer

"How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life"
by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
Washington Post, March 6, 2012

Recall your worst day at work, when events of the day left you frustrated, unmotivated by the job, and brimming with disdain for your boss and your organization. That day is probably unforgettable. But do you know exactly how your boss was able to make it so horrible for you? Our research provides insight into the precise levers you can use to re-create that sort of memorable experience for your own underlings.

Over the past 15 years, we have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work. In discovering the answer, we also learned a lot about misery at work. Our research method was pretty straightforward. We collected confidential electronic diaries from 238 professionals in seven companies, each day for several months. All told, those diaries described nearly 12,000 days – how people felt, and the events that stood out in their minds. Systematically analyzing those diaries, we compared the events occurring on the best days with those on the worst.

 Leadership experts from Warren Bennis to Tom Peters share their picks of the best leadership books to hit shelves this year.

What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.

People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement. In fact, on one-third of those 12,000 days, the person writing the diary was either unhappy at work, demotivated by the work, or both.

That’s pretty efficient work-life demolition, but it leaves room for improvement.

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment. When we analyzed the events occurring on people’s very worst days at the office, one thing stood out: setbacks. Setbacks are any instances where employees feel stalled in their most important work or unable to make any meaningful contribution. So, at every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference. One of the most effective examples we saw was a head of product development, who routinely moved people on and off projects like chess pieces in a game for which only he had the rules.

The next step follows organically from the first.

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. Every day, you’ll see dozens of ways to inhibit substantial forward movement on your subordinates’ most important efforts. Goal-setting is a great place to start. Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them. If you get this formula just right, the destructive effects on motivation and performance can be truly dramatic.

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. You’re probably already doing many of these things, and don’t even realize it. That’s okay. In fact, unawareness is one of the trademarks of managers who are most effective at destroying employees’ work lives. As far as we could tell from talking with them or reading their own diaries, they generally thought their employees were doing just fine – or that “bad morale” was due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics. Rarely did they give themselves credit for how much their own words and actions made it impossible for people to get a sense of accomplishment. You may be better at this than you think!

Step 4: Kill the messengers. Finally, if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back. Here’s a great example from our research. In an open Q&A with one company’s chief operating officer, an employee asked about the morale problem and got this answer: “There is no morale problem in this company. And, for anybody who thinks there is, we have a nice big bus waiting outside to take you wherever you want to look for work.”

A good quote to keep in your back pocket.

Teresa Amabile is a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and researcher. They are coauthors of "The Progress Principle".

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Loose Nut" - by IGHGrampa

"Subject: Loose nut"
By IGHGrampa
Bulletin Board, Pioneer Press - 3/1/12

"There's a nut on the garage floor - the metal type, not an acorn or walnut.

"I hate to find little mechanical-type parts lying where they shouldn't. Something is coming apart and is about to collapse.

"It's too small, about a quarter-inch center diameter, and isn't the right type to have come from the car. It was by the right end of the garage door. It looks like it might have come from one of the hinges. I looked at them, and they all seem secure - no nuts missing. About eight months ago, I had to have one of the hinges replaced. It was still there; no missing nuts. The garage door seemed secure when I pulled and pushed at it. I imagine it suddenly giving out and crashing down on the car - all for the loss of one little nut.

"It's plain that I'm going to have to 'apply myself more' (in the vernacular of one of my old grade-school teachers) and do a more thorough search. It had to have come from the garage door - maybe that long horizontal brace.

"Maybe there's a nut gremlin who dropped it there just to drive me nuts."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Obama with Backbone! - by TPO

Obama is beginning to show backbone, at last!
by TPO

Recipe for the Perfect Marriage - Red Skelton

Recipe for the Perfect Marriage
Red Skelton (1913-1997)
1. Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship.
She goes on Tuesdays, I go on Fridays.

2. We also sleep in separate beds.
Hers is in California and mine is in Texas .

3. I take my wife everywhere.....
but she keeps finding her way back.

4. I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary.
"Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said.
So I suggested the kitchen.

5. We always hold hands.
If I let go, she shops.

6. She has an electric blender, electric toaster and electric bread maker.
She said, "There are too many gadgets and no place to sit down!"
So I bought her an electric chair.

7. My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in the carburetor.
I asked where the car was; she told me, "In the lake."

8. She got a mud pack and looked great for two days.
Then the mud fell off.

9. She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, "Am I too late for the garbage?" .... The driver said, "No, jump in!"

10. Remember: Marriage is the number one cause of divorce.

11. I married Miss Right.
I just didn't know her first name was Always.

12. I haven't spoken to my wife in 18 months.
I don't like to interrupt her.

13. The last fight was my fault though!
My wife asked: "What's on the TV?"
I said, "Dust!"