Wednesday, March 31, 2010

iPad Reviews: Raves For Apple's Latest Product

iPad reviews from technology writers began surfacing Wednesday evening, with most offering glowing appraisals of Apple's latest product. However, one caveat was consistent: iPad's inability to play flash video.

Walt Mossberg, the personal technology reporter for The Wall Street Journal, suggested that the iPad could help touchscreen computers overtake the mouse:

For the past week or so, I have been testing a sleek, light, silver-and-black tablet computer called an iPad. After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.

USA Today's Edward C. Baig says the "stunning" iPad is "rewriting the rulebook":

The iPad is not so much about what you can do -- browse, do e-mail, play games, read e-books and more -- but how you can do it. That's where Apple is rewriting the rulebook for mainstream computing. There is no mouse or physical keyboard. Everything is based on touch. All programs arrive directly through Apple's App Store. Apple's tablet is fun, simple, stunning to look at and blazingly fast. Inside is a new Apple chip, the A4. The machine is the antithesis of the cheap underpowered netbook computers that Jobs easily dismisses.

The New York Times' David Pogue
deemed the iPad "polarizing" and wrote two reviews for groups at either end of the spectrum. One for "techies" and one review for "anyone else."

Pogue's review for "techies":

The Apple iPad is basically a gigantic iPod Touch.

It's a half-inch-thick slab, all glass on top, aluminum on the back. Hardly any buttons at all -- just a big Home button below the screen. It takes you to the Home screen full of apps, just as on an iPhone.

Pogue's review for "anyone else":

The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.
Story continues below

The Chicago Sun-Times' Andy Ihnatko described the tablet as "pure innovation":

The iPad user experience is instantly compelling and elegant. It's not every computer and every function. It's a computer that's designed for speed, mobility, and tactile interaction above all other considerations.

The most compelling sign that Apple got this right is the fact that despite the novelty of the iPad, the excitement slips away after about ten seconds and you're completely focused on the task at hand ... whether it's reading a book, writing a report, or working on clearing your Inbox. Second most compelling: in situation after situation, I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It's not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that's existed for quite some time.

WATCH: ABC's Neal Karlinsky visits a closed Apple store for a hands-on encounter with the iPad and to meet with app developers:

WATCH: USA Today's Graham Jefferson reviews the iPad and shows users what they can expect:

Get HuffPost Technology On Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz! Know something we don't? E-mail us at

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Is he the best 5th grade basketball player in the country? - Chicago Tribune

College and high school coaches are circling, inviting him to games and camps. He has established himself on the all-important AAU circuit. And he has already worked out with the Knicks and with the Bulls' Derrick Rose.

Fleming is regarded by some as the most talented 10-year-old basketball player in the country.

The 5-foot-1 fifth-grader is more restrained: "I'm a humble kid who's trying to achieve a goal."

The push to get kids involved in sports at an early age is nothing new. Nor is the practice of high schools and colleges pursuing young athletes. (In February, DePaul offered a scholarship to a Rosemont eighth-grader.)

But this activity usually begins no earlier than at the sixth-grade level, when scouts start ranking players. Fifth grade is off the radar. So for a kid still in elementary school to get this type of attention is remarkable.

Not everybody says it's a good thing.

"When you start discussing contracts, recruitment and commitment, you're mapping out a life when it should be a time for exploration," said Dave Czesniuk of Northeastern University's Sport and Society center. "Hopefully, this doesn't limit his experiencing everything a 10-year-old should be experiencing."

"It's crazy," St. Joseph High School coach Gene Pingatore said. "The fact that Jaylin's getting all this publicity so early means that the sharks are out there, whether it's colleges trying to set this kid up for future recruitment or agents.

"The good thing is that he has a family that's going to protect him. But think about the kids who don't have a solid family background. They're susceptible to a lot of stuff — offers, money under the table, you can't imagine the stuff that goes on."

Jaylin's father said he knew his son was special the moment he was born.

"All the doctors and nurses noticed (his hands)," John Fleming said. "They were incredibly huge, and I was praying and asking God, what would Jaylin be, what would he do with those hands?"

The answer came seven years later. Jaylin tagged along while his dad and older brother shot hoops with future Marquette point guard Maurice Acker, John Fleming's godson. When his dad left the gym, Jaylin copied Acker's drills.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

ETA News Release: US Department of Labor announces $12 million in funds for prisoner re-entry programs [03/24/2010]

News Release

Printer-Friendly Version-->

ETA News Release: [03/24/2010]
Contact Name: Mike Trupo or Lina Garcia
Phone Number: (202) 693-3414 or x4661
Release Number: 10-0377-NAT

US Department of Labor announces $12 million in funds for prisoner re-entry programs

24 current grantees to receive additional support to continue services

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the award of $12 million in additional funding to 24 programs that are currently operating prisoner re-entry programs through the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders initiative.

"Rehabilitated ex-offenders are returning to communities across the country in record numbers. And today's funding continues our commitment to supporting programs that will help them re-enter society and transition to stable careers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Launched in 2004, the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders initiative provides grants to faith-based and community organizations to help strengthen urban communities and assist ex-offenders re-entering the community. This funding is accomplished through employment-centered programming that incorporates job training, mentoring and other supportive services. Department of Labor grant funds are used to provide a variety of services to ex-offenders including workforce development services, job training, on-the-job training, work experience, basic skills remediation, counseling, case management and mentoring.

In 2008, the Labor Department held a limited competition among 30 existing first-generation grants and subsequently funded 24 of the 30 grants for a fourth year of program funding and operation. The department currently is providing $500,000 in fifth-year funding to each grantee.

These programs operate in conjunction with grants from the U.S. Department of Justice, which provides funding to state criminal justice agencies that offer pre-release and referral services to soon-to-be released offenders.

Visit to learn more about the range of Department of Labor employment and training programs and initiatives.

Editor's Note: A list of grantees and funding amounts is below.

Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Initiative Grantees




Total Grant Award (including $500,000 awarded today)

The Primavera Foundation Inc.




Arizona Women's Education and Employment Inc.




Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry

San Diego







Fresno Career Development Institute Inc.




The Empowerment Program




Community Partners in Action Inc.




OIC Of Broward County Inc.

Ft Lauderdale



The Safer Foundation




The Directors Council

Des Moines



The Church United for Community Development

Baton Rouge



Odyssey House Louisiana Inc.

New Orleans



Episcopal Community Services of Maryland




Span Inc.




Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency




St. Patrick Center

St. Louis



Connections to Success

Kansas City



Career Opportunity Development Inc.

Egg Harbor City (serving Atlantic County)



Talbert House




SE Works Inc.




Connection Training Services




Goodwill Industries of San Antonio

San Antonio



Urban League of Greater Dallas & North Central Texas




People of Color Against AIDS Network




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Social Media & Marketing Strategies For "The New Consumer" - Eventbrite

Learn how to tap into the NEW CONSUMER and find out how to chat the chat and post the post to reach the hardest market to target.

ONE80 and Off Campus Media present:

Lunch and Learn: Chicago
"Emerging Marketing Strategies for the New Consumer and Social Media Tactics"

Take a mid-day break to explore Emerging Marketing Strategies for the New Consumer (Hint: college students) with President of Off Campus Media, Mark Sawyier. Mark will discuss how this young generation relies on all things digital. They shop, play, talk, and work online. As a result, they are the hardest market to target.  Come discover which marketing strategies resonate. Mark will also profile and draw from actual student behavior to help business owners strategically profile the “new consumer”.

Founder of TweetNetworking, LLC and Networking For A Cause, Mark J. Carter will show you how to utilize Facebook to bridge the gap between your online & offline networks by answering the question:

"How can you build a community of clients, referral sources and connections (college students or otherwise) using social media?"

You'll learn...
•    The 3 steps you need to take every day (Be Somewhere, Do Something, Follow Up) and how to utilize social media to get in front of as many people as possible while getting the best ROI for your time
•    How to build a community of business professionals on Facebook by connecting your ONLINE networks with OFFLINE relationships - by providing value first.
•    And more...

Included in your admission is lunch (sandwiches, side dishes and beverages) by our food sponsor Steve's Deli

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Catalyst Ranch

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door

Purchase your ticket today, seating is limited!

Hope you can take advantage of this opportunity to grow your business, membership and support base.

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Apple's Best Buy distribution changes iPad unit calculus | Between the Lines

March 29th, 2010

Apple's Best Buy distribution changes iPad unit calculus

Posted by Larry Dignan @ 7:11 am

Categories: Apple, Ebook, General

Tags: Best Buy Co. Inc., Apple Inc., iPad, Barclays Capital, Sales Strategy, Games, Investment, Sales Force Management, Sales, Personal Technology

Apple’s iPad lands at Apple stores April 3 and Best Buy’s distribution heft will be riding shotgun. The double-barreled distribution channel for the Apple iPad may change the calculus behind Wall Street’s unit guessing game.

Just in case anyone in the tech world forgot, Apple issued a statement noting that the iPad lands April 3. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that company couldn’t “wait for users to get their hands and fingers on it this weekend.”

None of that is new, but the key line in the statement boils down to three words. The iPad will be available in “most Best Buy stores.”

Best Buy means a bigger mass of consumers for the iPad—even if you assume some supply problems out of the gate. It’s unclear how many Best Buy shoppers will pull the trigger on a purchase at first sight, but it’s likely that:

  • Folks will visit Best Buy out of curiosity;
  • They will get to play with the iPad;
  • They will tell their friends;
  • And Apple will expose the iPad to a lot more people than it would if the device merely went through the company’s retail channel.

To wit: Having the iPad at Best Buy changes my personal calculus. For instance, I don’t have an Apple store all that close to my home. It’s Easter weekend, the weather is supposed to be good and there was no way I was going to travel far to go to an Apple store. When it’s 70 degrees and sunny vs. a gadget, the nice day wins every time. Enter Best Buy. I have one of those 5 minutes away. My time investment is minimal and I’ll definitely check out the iPad.

Simply put, it’s all about distribution. The big question is whether this distribution is lumped into Wall Street’s iPad guesstimates. The short answer: Probably not.

  • Morgan Stanley via Digital Daily expects Apple to ship 2.5 million iPads between March and May. That’s up from an estimate of 750,000 for the June quarter. Morgan Stanley now expects 8 million to 10 million iPad shipments in calendar 2010, up from 5 million.
  • Barclays Capital expects Apple will sell about 5 million iPads in calendar 2010 with 1.2 million in the June quarter.
  • Macquarie Research estimates 4 million iPads to be sold in calendar 2010.

All of these iPad estimates will move dramatically higher with Best Buy, which just reported strong earnings. Macquarie analyst Richard Choe wrote in a research note on March 19, well before the Best Buy plans came to light over the weekend:

While Apple has noted some sales through select authorized resellers, third party distribution will be limited early on and we do not model any sell-in units for F2Q10 (March qtr).

Best Buy changes all of that. Just based on distribution and Best Buy, Apple will move a lot more iPads. While analysts are raising Apple’s estimates, they may want to increase Best Buy’s targets too.

Larry DignanLarry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and Smart Planet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet sister site TechRepublic. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Follow Larry on Twitter.

Email Larry Dignan

Subscribe to Between the Lines via Email alerts or RSS.

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This is a great deal for nonprofits interested in doing a better job managing donors, raising funds

Caltech Announces 100 Free Licenses of MS CRM

posted on 29th March, 2010
 by Catherine

29th March 2010

Caltech – one of the UK’s leading suppliers and implementers of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are offering registered charities 100 free licenses of Microsoft CRM.

Discussing this offer, Phil Callaghan – managing director of Caltech – said ‘Microsoft CRM is a great system for not for profit organisations to help influence supporters, gain trust and strategically support the vision and strengths of the organisation.’

Caltech recently launched its white paper ‘Succeeding Beyond Recession : Five Priorities for Not for Profit Organisations which focuses on how technology can help not for profit organisations achieve their goals.

Phil concluded ‘Caltech want to support not for profit organisations and help them do more for less using a great system.  This will help them to strategically manage their donors, sponsors, projects, events and clients.’

For further information interested parties should contact Caltech on 01924 507280, email or visit Caltech online.

- Ends -

For further media enquiries, please contact: Catherine @ Caltech on T: 01924507280 or E:

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Greens: Now it's time to work for real health reform - Medicare For All | greenferret's Blog

Now it's time to work for real health care reform -- Medicare For All, say Greens

• The Democratic "insurance company enrichment" bill burdens millions of Americans and imposes mandates that enrich insurance companies

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green candidates and party leaders said today that the passage of the Democratic health care bill, with its increased financial burdens on millions of Americans, should not slow the movement for Medicare For All (single-payer national health care).

The Democratic bill "falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps," as Jane Hamsher writes in "Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill" (

Physicians for a National Health Program said in a statement on Monday, "Instead of eliminating the root of the problem -- the profit-driven, private health insurance industry -- this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money." (

• Dennis Spisak, Green candidate for Governor of Ohio ( "Now that this bill has passed, those of us who support real universal health care must keep up the demand for Medicare For All. Every American deserves the same high-quality guaranteed health coverage that Congress members enjoy. We will challenge those who insist that further health care reform is no longer on the table. The Democratic bill was mainly written to give the appearance of reform. It forces people to buy insurance or face a tax penalty. It works like a regressive tax, in which in the uninsured -- in the midst of a recession -- must pay for insurance they can't use due to the likely high co-pays and deductibles. Especially vicious is the amendment prohibiting states from enacting their own single-payer programs."

• Jill Stein, physician and Green candidate for Governor of Massachusetts ( ""The position of most Democrats and Republicans on health care is that Americans have no right to medical treatment, but private insurance companies have every right to enrich themselves on our need for health care and to send hundreds of thousands of Americans financial ruin over medical costs. According to Physicians for a National Health Program's critique of the bill, about 23 milion Americans will remain uninsured after nine years, resulting in 'an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering'. In the media coverage of health care reform, the angle was whether President Obama could prevail against the GOP and uncooperative Democrats. It was all about personalities and a horse-race competition. Whether the Democratic legislation -- or obstruction of reform by Republicans -- actually helps people became a
side issue."

• Rich Whitney, Green candidate for Governor of Illinois (
: "The real story of health care reform over the past year is how the insurance and other health lobbies sent millions of dollars in campaign checks to both Democrats and Republicans to make sure their interests came first. We'll get real health care reform when Americans get angry enough to stop voting for Democratic and Republican candidates who are addicted to corporate contributions, and elect Greens, who call health care a basic human right." (Visit the web site of the Center for Responsive Politics to learn how much these corporations donate to each Congress member:

• Nancy Allen, farmer and long-time Green organizer from Maine: "Some of the Tea Partiers showed their true colors this past weekend, when crowds hurled racist and homophobic epithets at Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Barney Frank, and other Congress members. How much did Republican politicians, insurance companies, and other industries encourage such behavior? How did these corporations successfully convince so many Americans that their own medical care is less important than corporate profits and power?"

• Rodger Jennings, Green candidate for US Congress in Illinois, District 12 ( "The winners are the largest for-profit health insurance companies. Both Democrats and Republicans made the bottom lines of the insurance cartel the top priority, rather than every American's need for quality medical care. Private insurance adds cost to health care but provides no value -- physicians, nurses, and other professionals do the actual medical work. The administrative overhead, including CEO bonuses and salaries, of private insurance raises health care costs by up to 31%. The administrative overhead for Medicare is under 3%. By eliminating the corporate insurance middle-man, we'd reduce health care spending from over 15% to about 9% and cut the price of coverage and care dramatically, and every American would enjoy guaranteed, quality health care."


Green Party of the United States

• Green Party Speakers Bureau: Greens available to speak on health care reform:

• Green candidate database and campaign information:

Single-Payer Now! Green Party page on health care reform

Physicians for a National Health Program
PNHP's Frequently Asked Questions page


Single Payer Action

"The Sober Reality of Health Care Reform"
By Jane Hamsher, FireDogLake, March 22, 2010

"Deaths Rising for Lack of Insurance, Study Finds"
By Michelle Andrews, The New York Times (blog), February 26, 2010

"NY Times Reporter Confirms Obama Made Deal to Kill Public Option"
By Miles Mogulescu, Huffington Post, March 15, 2010

Reposted from Green Party Watch

I agree

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Kaiser Permanente :: What Should Health Care Look Like in the Future?

What Should Health Care Look Like in the Future?


We need data, connectivity, accessibility, and absolute confidentiality.

We need real time data to support patient care.

We need systems that provide medical science as well as medical records.

We need systems that link patients to doctors, doctors to doctors, doctors to nurses and care team members, laboratories to databases, imaging centers to databases. We also need monitoring equipment to computer oversight systems that provide a new safety net and support structure for care.

Patients should be able to do e-scheduling, e-visits, e-referrals, e-tests results, and electronic secure messaging with their caregivers.

The system should be so electronic that the administrative overhead linked to paper sorting, filing, generating, and processing should be instantaneous and extremely accurate.

Paper medical records should be the rare exception rather than the rule.

Imaging results should go directly from the scanners to the physicians with no film or files to be lost in transit.

Patients in their own homes should be able to link up in telemedicine consults with their doctors and nurses—avoiding major transportation headaches and providing instant responses to in-home crises and potential problems.

Homes should have scales linked to caregivers for congestive heart failure crisis and motion monitors for patients with hip or stroke issues. 

Safe reliable in-home care should be the expectation of most patients.

It’s been a long time since most customers have had to set foot physically in a bank to do all banking transactions. Dozens of care-related functions should be able to follow similar pathways.

The challenge is to have a vision of what ultimate connectivity looks like and then build it.

At Kaiser Permanente, we now produce 30,000 lab reports for patients electronically every day.  More than 20,000 patients link up electronically with their doctor. Many more set up office visit appointments on the computer, digital X-rays, digital prescribing, and electronic care counseling are all happening daily.

It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there:

  • Our electronic health records are available, 24/7, in every medical office and every hospital.
  • Our members can access their care from home, online, anytime.
  • We’re already seeing advances in the way we prevent manageable diseases from becoming life-threatening crises. In one pilot study, we were able to reduce coronary artery disease deaths by 76 percent. Now we are testing the same technologies and processes to tackle other chronic conditions. 
  • We are building one of the world’s largest DNA databases to advance clinical research, but we also see the opportunity to one day deliver a new level of information to doctors at the point of care.
  • We have designed the Archimedes Model, a full-scale simulation model of human physiology, diseases, behaviors, interventions, and health care systems. Soon, our doctors will be able to use this model to develop customized treatment plans for their patients.
  • We have been recognized for proving that e-connectivity between and among patients and their caregivers results in better outcomes.

And, we know this is all just the beginning.

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The ObamaCare Writedowns

It's been a banner week for Democrats: ObamaCare passed Congress in its final form on Thursday night, and the returns are already rolling in. Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses.

This wholesale destruction of wealth and capital came with more than ample warning. Turning over every couch cushion to make their new entitlement look affordable under Beltway accounting rules, Democrats decided to raise taxes on companies that do the public service of offering prescription drug benefits to their retirees instead of dumping them into Medicare. We and others warned this would lead to AT&T-like results, but like so many other ObamaCare objections Democrats waved them off as self-serving or "political."

Getty Images


Perhaps that explains why the Administration is now so touchy. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke took to the White House blog to write that while ObamaCare is great for business, "In the last few days, though, we have seen a couple of companies imply that reform will raise costs for them." In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Mr. Locke said "for them to come out, I think is premature and irresponsible."

Meanwhile, Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs."

In other words, shoot the messenger. Black-letter financial accounting rules require that corporations immediately restate their earnings to reflect the present value of their long-term health liabilities, including a higher tax burden. Should these companies have played chicken with the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid this politically inconvenient reality? Democrats don't like what their bill is doing in the real world, so they now want to intimidate CEOs into keeping quiet.

On top of AT&T's $1 billion, the writedown wave so far includes Deere & Co., $150 million; Caterpillar, $100 million; AK Steel, $31 million; 3M, $90 million; and Valero Energy, up to $20 million. Verizon has also warned its employees about its new higher health-care costs, and there will be many more in the coming days and weeks.

As Joe Biden might put it, this is a big, er, deal for shareholders and the economy. The consulting firm Towers Watson estimates that the total hit this year will reach nearly $14 billion, unless corporations cut retiree drug benefits when their labor contracts let them.

Meanwhile, John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader reported this week that ObamaCare could cost the Granite State's major ski resorts as much as $1 million in fines, because they hire large numbers of seasonal workers without offering health benefits. "The choices are pretty clear, either increase prices or cut costs, which could mean hiring fewer workers next winter," he wrote.

The Democratic political calculation with ObamaCare is the proverbial boiling frog: Gradually introduce a health-care entitlement by hiding the true costs, hook the middle class on new subsidies until they become unrepealable, but try to delay the adverse consequences and major new tax hikes so voters don't make the connection between their policy and the economic wreckage. But their bill was such a shoddy, jerry-rigged piece of work that the damage is coming sooner than even some critics expected.

The battle continues

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Health Care Dominates Massachusetts Governor’s Race

Four years ago, when Massachusetts enacted a health insurance plan that became a national template, state leaders deferred any serious discussion about controlling health care costs, with predictable results. While the law succeeded in insuring nearly all residents, the state had to raise taxes and trim benefits to preserve its essential contours.

As with the new federal plan, leaders of both parties here agree that expanded coverage cannot be sustained without arresting the growth of spending. But in what may be another preview for Washington, the campaign for governor has stirred a debate over how best to do that.

Three years into his first term, Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has jolted the health care industry by proposing an aggressive, albeit temporary, solution.

Using untapped authority, he has directed his insurance commissioner to deny proposed health insurance premiums that are deemed “unreasonable or excessive,” starting April 1. Mr. Patrick, who took office just in time to implement the health care overhaul here, also has submitted a bill to allow state regulation of the fees that hospitals and doctors command from insurers. That is seen as an audacious move in a state where prestigious academic medical centers hold heavy sway over pricing.

Mr. Patrick’s assertiveness is widely interpreted as a shot over the bow of his chief rival, Charles D. Baker Jr., a Republican who, as it happens, spent the last 10 years as chief executive of one of the state’s largest insurers, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Emboldened by the January victory here of another Republican, Senator Scott Brown, Mr. Baker has been raising record sums, much of it from the health care industry, and has drawn nearly even with Mr. Patrick in recent polling.

As Mr. Baker gains standing, the governor has worked to remind voters of his opponent’s role in an industry roundly vilified by the Obama administration. He asserted in an interview in his office that Mr. Baker had done little to control escalating premiums during his tenure at Harvard Pilgrim.

“It is actually somewhat dismaying the number of people who stand on the sidelines and root for failure, who could lift a finger, but don’t, to help,” Mr. Patrick said of Mr. Baker. “You have to make powerful interests mad if you want to change the status quo. And I have never, ever seen any evidence from Charlie of a willingness to do that.”

Mr. Patrick said his emergency measures would bring quick relief to individuals and small businesses as the state tries to spur its recovery. He said the price controls would be a bridge until the legislature could consider a second phase of restructuring.

Mr. Baker, who has long called for more transparency in health care pricing, questioned why Mr. Patrick waited until his re-election year to tackle the problem.

“He’s really late to the game,” said Mr. Baker, formerly a top aide to two Republican governors. “That’s a long time to sit on your hands.”

The Massachusetts race has taken shape in the shadow of the national debate, which produced a law that Mr. Patrick supports but Mr. Baker derides as “a bad deal.”

The contest has been complicated by the candidacy of the state treasurer, Timothy P. Cahill, who left the Democratic Party to run as an independent.

Appealing to Mr. Brown’s voters, Mr. Cahill charged this month that the Massachusetts health plan had “blown a hole” in the budget and warned that the federal changes would “bankrupt this country within four years.”

In 2006, Mr. Patrick’s Republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, joined with Democratic lawmakers to enact legislation that required most residents to have insurance, offered subsidized coverage to those with low incomes, and set up an insurance exchange to encourage comparison shopping. But to preserve a fragile coalition of powerful stakeholders, state leaders put off the painful work of cutting costs, and the slumping economy made the problem worse.

This year’s state budget is out of balance by $295 million, partly because of rising health costs, meaning more cuts may lie ahead. Insurance premiums continue to grow far faster than inflation. State regulators are thinking about exempting more people from the insurance mandate because they cannot afford to buy policies.

Despite Mr. Patrick’s threat to deny unreasonable premiums, health insurers are seeking approval of increases from 7 percent to 34 percent. Mr. Patrick said he would use a medical inflation rate of 3.2 percent as a rough benchmark. “It’s a soft cap,” he said. “We’re not going to be jerks about it.”

Any relief would give the governor and legislature time to design and enact a “global payment” system that would reward doctors and hospitals for keeping patients healthy, rather than reimbursing for each office visit, test and procedure. That plan, recommended by a state commission, is designed to remove incentives for needless treatment, and would take five years to implement.

Health insurers and providers predict market chaos if Mr. Patrick follows through and rejects rates. They warn that existing contracts with doctors and hospitals will be broken, leading to lawsuits.

“Our concern,” said Jay McQuaide, vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, “is that this be an actuarial review of the rates, not a political review of the rates.”

Two of the state’s four largest insurers lost money in 2009, and the others, including Harvard Pilgrim, posted only modest profits. Premium increases at Harvard Pilgrim generally have tracked the Massachusetts market during Mr. Baker’s tenure, typically hovering around 10 percent a year. Mr. Baker, who made $1.7 million in his last full year, is widely credited with pulling the company back from the precipice of financial ruin.

As secretary of health and human services under Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, Mr. Baker oversaw deregulation of the health care industry in 1991, ending the state’s last experiment with price-setting. Like other health insurance executives, he argues that Mr. Patrick’s singling out of health insurers, a strategy plucked from the White House playbook, is misdirected.

He points to a recent investigation by Attorney General Martha Coakley that identified doctor and hospital prices as the main drivers of health care inflation. Ms. Coakley concluded that wide variations in prices paid by insurers to hospitals and physicians were related to providers’ market leverage, but not to quality.

Mr. Baker said he would demand that hospitals and doctors disclose their prices, and would generate savings by converting the state’s Medicaid program to managed care.

With Mr. Baker faulting Mr. Patrick for inattention to the cost problem, the governor has set out to convey a sense of action. The doomsday talk from the industry is unfounded, he said.

“I think people are exaggerating to protect the status quo,” he said. “It’s about time they got off their duffs and came in here and tried to solve this with a sense of urgency.”

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The next attacks on health-care reform : The New Yorker

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law. In public memory, what ensued was the smooth establishment of a popular program, but in fact Medicare faced a year of nearly crippling rearguard attacks. The American Medical Association had waged war to try to stop the program, and doctors weren’t about to abandon the fight against “socialized medicine” simply because it had passed into law. The Ohio Medical Association, with ten thousand physician members, declared that it would boycott Medicare, and a nationwide movement began. Race proved an even more explosive issue. Many hospitals, especially in the South, were segregated, and the law required them to integrate in order to receive Medicare dollars. Alabama’s Governor George Wallace was among those who encouraged resistance; just two months before coverage was to begin, half the hospitals in a dozen Southern states had still refused to meet Medicare certification.

Either boycott could have destroyed the program. Hundreds of thousands of elderly and black patients would have found their hospitals and doctors’ offices closed to them. But, as David Blumenthal and James A. Morone recount in “The Heart of Power,” their riveting history of health-care politics, Johnson recognized the threat and outmaneuvered his opponents. With the doctors, he cajoled and compromised, giving the A.M.A. a seat on an advisory council that oversaw the rules and regulations, and working with it on a series of thirty “improving” amendments to the legislation. With hospitals, however, the President brooked no compromise. He convened a battle council of top advisers; set Vice-President Hubert Humphrey phoning mayors to pressure resistant hospitals; and deployed hundreds of inspectors to make sure that participating hospitals integrated their wards. There was fury and acrimony. In the final weeks before Medicare’s start, though, the hospitals decided to abandon segregation rather than lose federal dollars. Only then was Medicare possible.

The health-reform bill that President Obama signed into law last week—the unmemorably named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—could prove as momentous as Medicare. Yet, because most of its provisions phase in more slowly than Medicare did, they are even more vulnerable to attack. The context, of course, is different. As Robert Blendon, of the Harvard School of Public Health, points out, the war against health reform in 2010 has not been an interest-group battle. The A.M.A. endorsed the legislation; hospital associations were supportive. Once the public option was dropped, most insurers favored the bill. The medical world will wage no civil resistance. This time, the threat comes from party politics. Conservatives are casting the November midterm elections as a vote on repealing the health-reform law. If they regain power, they are unlikely to repeal the whole thing. (No one is going to force children with preëxisting conditions back off their parents’ health plans.) Instead, they will try to strip out the critical but less straightforwardly appealing elements of reform—the requirement that larger employers provide health benefits and that uncovered individuals buy at least a basic policy; the subsidies to make sure that they can afford those policies; the significant new taxes on household incomes over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars—and thereby gut coverage for the uninsured.

Opponents may also exploit the administrative difficulties of creating state insurance exchanges. The states have four years to prepare, and creating an exchange is, in theory, no more complicated than what states do in providing health-benefit options to public employees. Massachusetts, which has achieved near-universal coverage this way, had its exchange working in six months. Still, with fourteen state attorneys general already suing to stop parts of the reform, some states may refuse to coöperate, forcing a showdown.

The major engine of opposition, however, remains the insistence that health-care reform is unaffordable. The best way to protect reform, in turn, is to prove the skeptics wrong. In 1965, health care consumed just six per cent of U.S. economic output; today, the figure is eighteen per cent. Nearly all the gains that wage earners made over the past three decades have gone to paying for health care. Its costs are curtailing all other investments in the economy, and, if they continue to rise as they have been doing—twice as fast as inflation—the reform’s subsidies, not to mention America’s prosperity, will indeed prove unsustainable.

But the reform package emerged with a clear recognition of what is driving costs up: a system that pays for the quantity of care rather than the value of it. This can’t continue. Recently, clinicians at Children’s Hospital Boston adopted a more systematic approach for managing inner-city children who suffer severe asthma attacks, by introducing a bundle of preventive measures. Insurance would cover just one: prescribing an inhaler. The hospital agreed to pay for the rest, which included nurses who would visit parents after discharge and make sure that they had their child’s medicine, knew how to administer it, and had a follow-up appointment with a pediatrician; home inspections for mold and pests; and vacuum cleaners for families without one (which is cheaper than medication). After a year, the hospital readmission rate for these patients dropped by more than eighty per cent, and costs plunged. But an empty hospital bed is a revenue loss, and asthma is Children’s Hospital’s leading source of admissions. Under the current system, this sensible program could threaten to bankrupt it. So far, neither the government nor the insurance companies have figured out a solution.

The most interesting, under-discussed, and potentially revolutionary aspect of the law is that it doesn’t pretend to have the answers. Instead, through a new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, it offers to free communities and local health systems from existing payment rules, and let them experiment with ways to deliver better care at lower costs. In large part, it entrusts the task of devising cost-saving health-care innovation to communities like Boise and Boston and Buffalo, rather than to the drug and device companies and the public and private insurers that have failed to do so. This is the way costs will come down—or not.

That’s the one truly scary thing about health reform: far from being a government takeover, it counts on local communities and clinicians for success. We are the ones to determine whether costs are controlled and health care improves—which is to say, whether reform survives and resistance is defeated. The voting is over, and the country has many other issues that clamor for attention. But, as L.B.J. would have recognized, the battle for health-care reform has only begun. 

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Elections: Can Democrats "Win"?

For some time, I've been part of the doom-and-gloom brigade when it comes to Democrats' fortunes at the midterm elections this November. As early as last August, on a panel at the Netroots Nation conference, I said that I expected a loss of 20 to 50 Democratic seats, which necessarily implied that a loss of their majority was quite possible. I've since revised the low end of that estimate downward, to a loss of 20 to 60 seats.

I'm not sure that there's yet been enough time to assess whether the Democrats' passage of health care reform seven days ago could mitigate -- or broaden -- their losses. Most polls suggest that the health care reform bill itself has become somewhat more popular since passage. But President Obama's approval ratings are little moved, and there has thus far been little new polling on the generic ballot or perceptions of the Democratic congress. Moreover, any changes in the polling may prove to be temporary.

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From homeless dropout to new head of City Colleges :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Education

The tenacity to achieve

At 17, the future head of the largest community college system in the state became a homeless dropout.

For Cheryl Hyman -- now the recently appointed chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago -- it was a matter of simple survival: Her mother was addicted to drugs. Her stepfather struggled with alcoholism. Her birth father had moved out years earlier and struggled with his own addiction problems.

City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman (third from left) stands in front of the town home of her grandmother, Willye Mae Payne (right), near 101st and Cottage Grove. With them are Hyman?s parents, Robert Hyman and Katherine McMurtry.
(Keith Hale/Sun-Times)

Who is the new chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago?

Hyman's family no longer lived in the Henry Horner Homes, a Near West Side public-housing complex whose bleak conditions were exposed in the book There Are No Children Here, by journalist Alex Kotlowitz. But things became far worse when her family moved to Humboldt Park and lost the strong support network they had at Horner.

She stayed away from home as much as she could, even doing homework in a car under a streetlight. But she couldn't stay.

"I was not going to survive being there,'' she says now. Taking drugs "was not something you want to watch your parents do. I was angry and confused. I packed up a bag and decided I was never coming back.''

And even though she made it to senior year at Orr High School, was a cheerleader and generally earned B's and C's, she dropped out.

"I was not going to school until I got a stable environment where I could concentrate,'' she said.

But that would take some time. She started sleeping at friends' homes but was embarrassed by her situation.

"There was this shamefulness,'' she said.

She got a full-time job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and rented a studio apartment -- but "quickly realized a fast-food career was not a bright one.'' She quit.

She moved in with friends whose mother was known to the kids in the neighborhood as "Mama Jackie'' because she never turned anyone away who was looking for a meal.

Jackie Stephens, now 60, had five children of her own, but she gave Hyman her own room and bed -- and a ear to listen.

"I just opened my arms and my doors,'' Stephens said. "She needed stability, and I tried my best to give it to her.''

The next year, Hyman decided to finish her high school work at an alternative school, but only after the principal at Orr agreed to let her participate in the normal graduation ceremonies. She was 19.

Throughout this, her grandmother on her mother's side, Willye Mae Payne, didn't know of Hyman's woes. When she found out, "I was shocked,'' says Payne, now 83. Hyman moved in with Payne, who was then a nurse at Cook County Hospital. The two even slept in the same bed at Payne's town home near 101st and Cottage Grove.

"I needed the comfort,'' Hyman said. "It felt safe. It was starting to feel real again.''

Although she never had a computer at home -- and didn't have much access to them in school -- Hyman decided she wanted to study computer science. "I always had a passion for technology,'' she said. She enrolled in a now-defunct vocational school that claimed to teach computer programming in six months, but left when she realized "they were teaching secretarial skills.'' So she set out to find the best place for computer training, and learned it was the Illinois Institute of Technology.

She met with an IIT counselor, who advised her to go to a community college, get good grades and transfer in.

The closest community college to her grandma's home? Olive-Harvey, one of City Colleges' seven schools that she will now oversee as chancellor. Although skeptical at first, she was soon impressed with the faculty, including a professor who helped her grasp calculus and other difficult math concepts.

"The staff was very committed. There was pride. There was this sense of hope and inspiration,'' she said. She got nearly all A's -- and later transferred to IIT, where she helped do research on a cutting-edge computer programming language called C++ and was even acknowledged in a professor's book.

"The community college really did give me my start,'' she said.

She moved to her own apartment -- and then someone from her past came knocking at her door.

"I told her I needed help,'' her mother, Katherine McMurtry, now 60, says. "I decided enough was enough. She took me in and got me back on my feet. It was a struggle.''

Hyman said she had matured and was willing to forgive by then.

"I no longer wanted to focus on what I had lost but what I had left,'' she said.

Her mother got clean -- and Hyman got her bachelor's degree in computer science on Dec. 15, 1996: the first member of her family to get a four-year college degree.

"You're talking about a celebration that went on for five days,'' says Lorraine Norsworthy, a mentor from the Henry Horner Homes who later had given Hyman her first tech job: running a computer lab at a Boys & Girls Club.

For Hyman, life was good.

"My eighth-grade graduation, daddy missed. For high school, mommy missed. But for college, both of them were there.''

The day after she graduated, she started as an analyst at ComEd and quickly rose through the ranks. As head lobbyist, she instituted a computerized system to track issues that "brought us from the 20th century to far deep into the 21st century,'' said ComEd Executive Vice President John Hooker. In 2008, Hyman co-chaired a team that evaluated the company internally and found $120 million in savings, a "monumental'' effort, Hooker said.

"She's always been a driver of change,'' he said.

All along she has done extensive volunteer work with students at risk by sharing what she overcame.

Hyman set up a mentoring program with ComEd and the Boys & Girls Club where she had worked with Norsworthy. ComEd also gave money for students to buy their own laptops and expanded a computer lab at the club. "When somebody helps Cheryl, she is going to give back immediately,'' Norsworthy said.

At the request of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, she started a youth summer employment program for 1,000 low-income youth.

Hyman raised money to stop the closure of the Black Star Project, a Chicago group dedicated to eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.

Hyman was invited to apply for the chancellor job. She met with Mayor Daley, who is known to prefer skilled managers for top city positions: Last year he appointed Ron Huberman, a former police officer with no background in education, to run the Chicago Public Schools.

Although Hyman doesn't have a Ph.D. or teaching experience, Daley recommended her for the job earlier this month. The City Colleges board made an exception to the posted job requirements and appointed her -- a move City Colleges lawyers said is allowed under district policies. Six of the 18 candidates for the job did not have doctoral degrees.

"The concept that only educators can educate -- I don't subscribe to that,'' Hyman said. "It's up to us to teach each other. My successful track record as a proven manager in the private sector speaks for itself.''

At 40, she will be the second-youngest chancellor in City Colleges history.

Norsworthy, 53, says the community should get an assist in Hyman's rise.

"For her to become chancellor, it not only put her on the map, it put us there,'' she said.

Earlier this month, Hyman sat on a couch in her grandma's modest town home, which is packed with family photos, stuffed animals and odds and ends. Sitting next to her were her parents -- long divorced but both now working for the same airline caterer.

Hyman holds her grandma's hand. They show off childhood pictures of Hyman playing in the grass outside Henry Horner, and inside their housing unit, next to her "favorite curtains'' featuring pictures of dogs. There are also graduation photos and a shot of her standing next to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama while she worked for ComEd.

Putting a finger on how Hyman was able to overcome so many hurdles to become chancellor of City Colleges isn't easy even for them.

She "didn't like the zoo, didn't like the circus,'' her mother recalls. But she liked "exploring'' and was very independent.

And despite the stereotypes of life in public housing, Hyman and her family said she was surrounded by an extremely tight-knit community and had a sheltered upbringing because she had extended family and friends looking out for her.

"She was protected by people who knew her,'' her father says. "She was able to experience many things and not get physically harmed.''

Norsworthy said overcoming her parents' woes gave Hyman the ability to cope with just about anything.

"She won't sink,'' said Norsworthy. No matter what happens, "she's going to find another boat that don't have a hole in it.''

Hyman describes herself as "tenacious'' and "driven.'' She remembers, at age 12, firing off an angry letter to then-President Ronald Reagan to protest the firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers.

"Strength has always been her middle name,'' longtime friend Debra Carson said.

Hyman said she thinks taking the job as chancellor was her "destiny.''

"I wasn't blessed to make it through all the things I made it through and not help other people,'' she said.

Congrats and good luck

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Mexico’s drug violence can be stopped.

An unconventional cure for Mexico’s drug violence


Behind a windshield shattered by gunfire, a policeman guards a crime scene after a drug shootout in Acapulco earlier this month. (PEDRO PARDO, AFP/Getty Images / March 10, 2010)

Legalization of marijuana is the cartels’ worst nightmare

Steve Chapman

March 28, 2010

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When someone next door is coping with trouble, the neighborly thing to do is help. Mexico has a growing problem with extreme violence. And many people in California have a good idea of how to help.

Mexico has been wracked by murders connected to the drug trade. Last year, it suffered more than 6,500 drug-related killings, triple the number in 2007. And 2010 looks worse. As of mid-March, more than 2,000 people have died in drug-related homicides – which puts Mexico on pace for more than 10,000 such deaths this year. That's more than one every hour.

This is not an epidemic of crazed meth addicts slaughtering people at random. It's the byproduct of a war involving narcotics traffickers, who sometimes kill each other, sometimes kill police and soldiers, sometimes kill journalists who report their crimes and sometimes kill innocent bystanders.

So what can the Golden State offer in the way of assistance? Something potentially valuable. In November, Californians will vote on a ballot initiative that would make it legal not only to use marijuana but to grow and sell it.

You may think this would help only by allowing Mexicans to flee northward and escape their troubles in a stoner fog. But it would do more. Mexico is the biggest supplier of cannabis to the United States. Control of that market is one of the things that Mexican drug cartels are willing to kill for.

Legalizing weed in this country would be their worst nightmare. Why? Because it would offer Americans a legitimate supply of the stuff.

Criminal organizations would no longer be able to demand huge premiums to compensate for the major risks that go with forbidden commerce. If the referendum passes, some 39 million Californians will have access at lower prices, from regulated domestic producers.

So the drug cartels would see a large share of their profits go up in smoke. Those profits are what enables them to establish sophisticated smuggling operations, buy guns and airplanes, recruit foot soldiers and bribe government officials. Those profits are also what makes all those efforts — and the murderous violence the merchants employ — worth the trouble.

By now, it should be clear that using force to wipe out the drug trade is a task on the order of bailing out the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon. Law enforcement can interdict shipments and imprison dealers, but the success is invariably short-lived.

Each seized cargo is an opportunity for another seller to fill the gap. Each arrested trafficker is an invitation for a competitor to grab his business. The more vigorous and successful the law enforcement campaign, the higher the prices drug suppliers can command — and the more people will be enticed to enter the market. It's a self-defeating process.

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  • COMMENTS (32) | Add Comment

    Every State that draws revenue from gambling, be it horses, casinos, or lottery, will legalize Marijuana once they see the financial windfall it will provide them. Washington, however, will continue to find this %u201Cpolitically infeasible%u201D, even with all fifty states in agreement.

    Please report the spam post that follows this one.

    Modar_Copeland (03/28/2010, 10:54 AM )

    In a long list of mistakes, Obozo once again did the
    wrong thing...sending $ to Mexico where the drug
    cartels, government & citizens are one of the same,
    further ignited countless killings.
    Steve, continue to ride on float#5 covering the
    Gay Parade for the Tribune...serious issues
    should be covered by Charles Krauthammer!!!

    kabcpa5205 (03/28/2010, 10:53 AM )

    Legitimization of drugs would make absolutely no difference to the gangs from Mexico.They are gang members not because of drugs but because they are outside of the government;they are criminals period.Only an incompetent fool would follow the infantile advise of this column.

    syzito1 (03/28/2010, 10:49 AM )

    Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

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