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Inside the corpocracy

Dear Editors:

If you asked most people, “What system of government do we have in the U.S.?” They would probably say democracy, which is the preferred response. Democracy is defined as government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives, i.e. majority rule. What do you think an alien observer would conclude examining a few of the main events of the last decade and the U.S. response?

The Bush Bank Bailout of 2008 was easily the biggest transfer of wealth in history. The Banksters, acting like hedge fund managers and with a compliant government who would bail them out, (just like in the 1980s) gambled, lost big and the U.S. taxpayers bought all their toxic and worthless assets. Did anyone get fired or go to jail? No. Those responsible received some of the biggest bonuses ever. In the American style of capitalism, the biggest and richest corporations make huge profits at excessive risk while we, the taxpayers, are only needed when they fail and we assume their losses.

The BP oil spill: Rep. Joe Barton, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that President Obama went too far in pressuring BP to fund a $20 billion escrow account to pay for environmental and economic damages resulting from the Gulf oil spill. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would consider a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown.” The unusual thing about Joe’s statement was that he actually said what too many of our elected officials really feel.

The Public Option for Health Care Reform debate: The polls varied from 57 to 77 percent in support of the Public Option. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the public option could save taxpayers $68 billion between 2014 - 2020. The Democrats controlled theHouse, Senate and White House. Why didn’t they pass it? The answer is obvious: The major health insurance providers knew they couldn’t compete if profit were4removed from the equation, so they lobbied hard with huge cash contributions and POOF! Public Option gone. The idea that the health of our people is directly tied to the profits of corporations is disturbing, no matter what planet you’re from.

Finally, most recently, Obama’s “tax cut compromise” should’ve brought furious people storming the streets. Without a debate or even a stern statement, the President made a back room deal with Republicans to extend tax cuts for the rich adding $800 billion to the deficit. This will end up being “offset” with cuts in Social Security, Medicare, AIDS programs, etc., referred to as “entitlements.” Steal from the poor to give to the rich. What do you call that, other than just wrong?

The term that more accurately describes our political and economical model is called “corpocracy:” A society dominated politically and economically by large corporations. I think our alien friend would understand U.S.-style democracy as just an elaborate drama performed for the taxpayers at a very high price. Refund please.

– Thanks, Bill Vana, Durango


Affordable Care at a glance

Dear Editors,

Six months after passing of the Affordable Care Act, we are now seeing the first benefits for consumers. Because of apparent confusion and misinformation surrounding provisions of the health care reform, nurses around the country are educating the public about the following changes:

As of Sept. 23, 2010,

1. Insurance companies cannot drop paying customers from coverage after they get sick.

2. Children can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.

3. Routine immunizations for children are provided without cost.

4. Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. Adults in Colorado have the option to enroll in the Pre-existing Insurance Plan.

5. Preventive care screenings, such as mammograms and cholesterol testing, are free of charge to people with health insurance.

6. Health insurance benefits cannot be limited by lifetime maximums, and annual caps are phasing out.

7. Seniors are entitled to a $250 rebate check when reaching the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage.

8. Patients may now choose any primary care provider.

9. Obstetric and gynecologic as well as pediatric services are now handled similarly to primary care visits.

10. Emergency services must be covered regardless of network status.

For more information please visit http://www.healthcare.gov/ .

– Sincerely, Nora Flucke, RN, Durango


Bravo to the Great Old Broads

To the Editors,

I applaud the Great Old Broads for their work in Utah and wish I could join them there. I’m a proud member of GOB now for several years. Yea to those women who worked on, in the face of childish behavior in the printing and distributing of “Wanted” Posters.

– Carolyn Hopper, Bozeman, Mont.


Christmas for canine friends

To the Editors,

Even as donations continue to arrive, Annie’s Orphans wishes to extend sincere appreciation to all who helped make our Giving Tree Fund-raiser a tremendous success! Our 10 sponsor-sites were wonderful to work with (Durango Mall, Kroegers, Durango Animal Hospital, Creature Comforts, Healthy Hounds & Fat Cats, Pet Haus, Trimble True Value, Taylor-Raymond Jewelers, Magpies and Brown’s Shoe Fit). Acknowledgment is also offered to 11 key volunteers who ensured that the project ran smoothly! Local newspapers and radio stations were spot-on in helping get the news out. Point to Point Graphics provided an eye-catching sign and an open heart.

We also extend the most monumental thanks to our generous Durango community and to all within and outside the Four Corners area who have given so freely in order to assist in the mission of providing for the needs of our canine friends. Despite a murky economic atmosphere and a bit of ill-timed turbulence, the outpouring of support has been phenomenal, and the gracious community response and kind words provided a vote of confidence that warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits.

Your help truly made all the difference!

– The staff and volunteers of Annie’s K-9 Orphans,


Durango’s No-Kill Dog Shelter

The politics of medicine

To the Editors,New Year’s is often the time we make resolutions to live healthier lives. Unfortunately the Obama Administration has made that goal harder for women in 2011.For instance, in December, the FDA decided to revoke the cancer-fighting drug Avastin’s approval for treating women with late-stage breast cancer.

For the thousands of American women whose Avastin regimens have kept them alive for months or even years longer than their doctors’ initial prognosis, this move could soon leave them with a new, shortened timeline.In 2008, the FDA approved Avastin in women with advanced breast cancer based on its ability to stop tumor growth, a measure called “progression-free survival.”4 While an increase in overall survival has been considered the gold standard for cancer drugs, progression-free survival has been used as a benchmark for longer and better quality of life.

When results of additional studies this summer concluded that Avastin doesn’t extend life on average, an FDA advisory committee suddenly decided that Avastin should be measured by overall median survival – not progression-free survival. The one-size-fits-all approach of median survival ignores the heterogeneity of treatment response and tumor progression that is the hallmark of breast cancer treatment.

Why would the FDA change the rules of the game at half time? The one-size-fits-all approach to the safety and clinical benefits of a treatment creates a false sense of certainty, giving legitimacy to insurers denying payment for effective treatments. Ignoring variations among patients in the genetic progression and origin of their cancers, as well as the severity of illness, ignores the benefits of Avastin and other treatments for small subgroups of patients relative to the risks. By shifting from a standard that captured patient-level benefit to one that measured one-size-fits-all life expectancy, the FDA essentially cast its vote with Avastin opponents – who have long regarded the drug as a symbol of corporate greed – and lobbied for median survival as the key standard. They know that applying that standard would harm the perception of Avastin’s effectiveness.

As my colleague Peter Pitts pointed out, the Regence Group, a regional health insurer in the Pacific Northwest, has published an Avastin policy listing breast cancer as “medically unnecessary.” And this policy was applied retroactively!

Unfortunately, the FDA’s Avastin decision is just one part of the national war on women’s health. In 2009, for instance, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ruled that it was no longer necessary for American women in their 40s to receive annual mammograms. That move was also driven by a push for cost savings. The one-size-fits-all recommendation ignored evidence that for women of particular racial and genetic backgrounds, early detection of breast cancer significantly improves their chances of survival. Since the Task Force issued its one-size-fits-all edict, screenings have dropped by 10 percent.

Yet even when the FDA approved of using statins to prevent heart disease in specific groups of people, the Task Force concluded that using it – a test to determine who would benefit – was not worth the money. A 17,000-person study called “Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention” (JUPITER) found it was possible to prevent heart attacks and strokes among men and women by testing for and reducing high levels of an inflammatory biomarker called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP). For people with high CRP levels who went on rovustatin, the risk of a heart attack dropped by 54 percent for those taking statins, and the chance of stroke dropped by 48 percent. Most importantly, as Harvard cardiologist Paul Ridker, the study’s director, observed, women with normal cholesterol levels whose high levels of CRP were reduced by statins were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The USPSTF claims such benefits don’t outweigh the risks or costs of testing everyone.

But the point is not to test everyone for CRP, screen everyone for breast cancer, or give every woman Avastin, only those who would benefit the most. A one-size-fits-all decision or demand for data discourages people from doing or getting what’s best for their health. Unfortunately, more and more government-provided health information and health-care decisions ignore patient differences. It might not be happening because bureaucrats want to ration to control costs, but that’s the bottom line.

– Dr. Robert Goldberg, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, via e-mail






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