"We saw post-Katrina that as a nation we are not concerned about whether or not people have access to what we think of as 'decent housing'," she said. "They are worried about the image of their community or the fact that it might attract lower income residents speaks to that concern, too."The fact that rural Minnesota is invisible to most people probably doesn't help, either.
The timing couldn't possibly have been worse for the government to release new guidelines on when women should have mammograms to detect breast cancer early enough to save their lives -- right in the middle of the nation's health care debate over the role of government in health care decisions.
The guidelines, if you haven't heard, recommend women not have mammograms until age 50, instead of age 40, as most groups who research the issue suggest.
"There is no doubt that mammography screening in women in their 40s saves lives. To recommend that women abandon that is absolutely horrifying to me," Dr. David Dershaw, director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said.
So why did they? Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society suggests cost is behind this:
The USPSTF says that screening 1,339 women in their 50s to save one life makes screening worthwhile in that age group. Yet USPSTF also says screening 1,904 women ages 40 to 49 in order to save one life is not worthwhile. The American Cancer Society feels that in both cases, the lifesaving benefits of screening outweigh any potential harms. Surveys of women show that they are aware of these limitations, and also place high value on detecting breast cancer early.
"With its new recommendations, the USPSTF is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them.
And what Brawley didn't say, Dr. Sanjay Gupta did. Gupta, who was Barack Obama's initial choice for surgeon general before he decided to stay at CNN, speculated today that once the government recommends guidelines for medical care, private insurance companies will be quick to stop covering anything else.
Not death panels, mamography panels. It's worth pointing out, perhaps, that the government's guidelines now match Canada.
But Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for American Health Insurance Plans, appears to dismiss the concerns:
"Most of our member companies look at [the task force's guidelines] as the standard. But if you are in your 40s and have a discussion about risk and benefits and your doctor gives you a referral slip, then that generally is going to be covered."
Still, the story does highlight the extent to which cost factors into health care decisions, even after the possibility a life being saved is recognized.(11 Comments)
MPR Midday featured a fascinating -- if slightly uncomfortable -- moment today when the question came up of whether news organizations who talk about Sarah Palin are being irresponsible.
The question also revealed that the Tim Pawlenty vs. Sarah Palin camps may already be forming.
National Public Radio national political correspondent Mara Liasson was Gary Eichten's guest to talk about Palin's new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life."
It started when a caller to the show made this point:
"Aren't you by giving this person and this book the kind of coverage that you're giving right now on this program and consulting a national correspondent and so on, aren't you lending a cachet to this sort of mental lightweight that she doesn't deserve? We have... there are very good people on all sides of issues -- qualified people; Tim Pawlenty is one of them. Tim Pawlenty is a guy I don't agree with very often, but he's served many terms in office. He's knowledgeable. He's well spoken. He's well traveled. He understands gray matters and complicated issues. This person does not deserve a national spotlight or the limelight. This is showbiz. This is not how we need to be conducting national politics."
It brings up an interesting question: Do listeners learn more by hearing about people in the news? Or should it be filtered and should someone decide which political players -- we're not seriously arguing that Palin isn't a political player, right? -- deserve to be heard? Are we interested only in hearing our own views reflected back at us?
It's bait that Eichten usually doesn't take. And he didn't.
"Well, obviously Willie is not going to be supporting Sarah Palin."
But Mara Liasson specializes in this sort of thing:
"Well, no, but that's a good question for you. By doing this aren't you giving her a platform... by doing an hour-long show about her?"
Eichten still didn't take the bait:
"No, I'm quizzing a national political correspondent... who covers national politics why Sarah Palin is such a polarizing and interesting figure to America?"
The answer to the caller's question seems obvious. Palin is going to run for president, and Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com today explains why.
But the original point sets up an either/or scenario. You can either talk about Palin or you can talk about Pawlenty. To the extent that's true -- and for the most part, it's not -- the blame has to go to Pawlenty. He rejects most every request from Midday for an interview. The last time he accepted was April 13, 2009.
But both Pawlenty and Palin have similarities. Both claim not to be thinking about being president, even as the actions of both clearly suggest they are:(5 Comments)
Should single mothers of young children be allowed to serve in the military and be deployed to war?
It's the case of Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook and the mother of a 10-month old son in Georgia. She's refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because, she says, there's nobody to care for her child. She's afraid the Army will force her to put her son in foster care.
A spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield said the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child.
According to the group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, more than 40-percent of enlisted women have children, and more than 30,000 single mothers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The current operational tempo has created considerable pressure to change the Defense Department's maternity policy. According to the GAO, "about 10 percent of women in the military become pregnant each year, and 75,000 military offspring are younger than one," as of 2002. The military gives new mothers six weeks of maternity leave before they have to return to work or training. However, each service branch has its own post-birth deferment-from-deployment policy. The Army, which has the longest tours of duty at 12 months, gives women just 4 months to stay stateside with their newborns before deploying to the war zone, leaving little time to bond with or nurse
their infants. Other military branches grant longer stays and have shorter deployment lengths. For example, the Marines offer 6 month deferments and their tours average
According to Maj. Gen. Gayle Pollock, former acting Army surgeon general, the Army should increase its maternity deferments to at least 8 months, with 12 months
being the most ideal: "We need to look at the fact that many women want to serve but they also want to be mothers.
It's a medical issue, it's a mental health issue. Your ability to bond with your children is...very important." Congress has also asked the Pentagon to fix the disparity that exists between the service branches, but no official action has been taken to date."
Today is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, an innovative -- and to be sure, worthwhile, idea whereby seed money from several august foundations is being used to match contributions from people donating online.
My colleague, Marianne Combs, has been looking at the idea with a very critical eye.
But as the day winds down -- and at last check, over $7 million has been donated -- she may have a few additional questions, like, "are the foundations happy where their money went?"
It turns out that the third-leading recipient of donations today (again, at last check. It's standing may not last) is Desiring God Ministries, the ministry of John Piper. You may recall his comments after a steeple was damaged in Minneapolis while nearby, Lutherans were debating whether to allow non-celibate homosexuals to be clergy.
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
As the third-most leading recipient today, Piper is eligible for a "bonus" from the foundations.
Clearly the idea has led people to do what they likely wouldn't have done, today, but it provides a fascinating case study in how money can get directed to public policy efforts that many of these foundations would never have funded individually.
There's also a guilt-by-association danger in underwriting polarizing figures. For example, are you more or less likely to give to the United Way if you knew that some of your went to a ministry with which you do/don't agree?