Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Cuban Suprise

As a perspective enthusiast, I am often intrigued with the way the prevailing winds of rhetoric can simply blow vision aside and render people blind to certain realities. One such example; Cuban medical exports. I found out about the Cuban surge in medical exports and humanitarian aid through small trickles of information in the cracks of the internet that smell like conspiracy theories.

Still, after some persistence I have discovered a facet of Cuba that I have to admire. I think the Cuban medical trend is amazing given what they have to work with... First, a Marxist regime, complete with inefficient management and antiquated technology. Second, uncompromising trade embargoes imposed by the US which forbids all other countries in the world from trading or associating with Cuba in any way. Third, the disappearance of their only source of external support, the Soviet Union.

Still, despite all this, Cuba has managed to turn itself into a healthcare superpower that has developed the only meningitis B vaccine available, exports the world's most effective hepatitis B vaccine to more than 30 countries, developed the first synthetic vaccine for the prevention of pneumonia and meningitis, which is much cheaper than what is offered by Western pharmaceutical companies, and is poised to provide anti-cancer therapies to the European market by 2008. Cuban R&D is also working on a new cholera vaccine and seeking to match the efforts of Western countries in the race to find the first vaccine against Aids. The country of only 11 million people, now boasts 52 scientific research institutes in the capital and more than 12,000 scientists on the whole island. (Source - Yale Center for the Study of Globalization)

In addition to developing and exporting products, Cuba has been providing medical services, free of charge, to nations all around the world as humanitarian aid. The system is capable of maintaining more than 16,000 health professionals working in Third World nations.

For instance, when Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in 1998, Guatemala and Honduras asked Havana for help. Within 72 hours, the first Cuban doctors arrived. 1,700 Cubans have worked among these people since then, tending their needs. According to Guatemalan sources, in this time, they have managed to bring childhood death rates down from 40.2 per thousand to 13.8 per thousand live births, and they have saved 157,226 lives. (Source - http://www.pww.org/article/articleprint/4878/)

And yet the average American knows nothing about this. I recently mentioned this to some friends of mine. They thought I was pulling their leg. The contrast between a super-effective biotech industry and the sluggish and inefficient state-controlled economy just doesn't make for a believable story. But what strikes me is the scarcity of information in American media. Any positive light on Cuba simply seems taboo in the American culture. Do a Google search on Cuban medicine and you get a result set of unofficial chat forums, foreign sites, Marxist sites and conspiracy sites.

Still, I was able to find a few reliable sources such as the official UN press conference on Haiti humanitarian aid that notes the astounding accomplishments of Cuban doctors and support technicians dispatched to Hati. (Source - http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2004/CanadaPressCfc.doc.htm)

...A testimonial from an American who suffered from retinitis pigmentosa - a degenerative eye-disease often referred to as "night blindness" who was told by American doctors that nothing can be done, so she went to Cuban doctors and was promptly treated with positive results. (Source - http://www.marmer2020.com/pr05.htm)

...Even coverage of a letter from Castro to Bush offering free medical care to save the lives of 3,000 poor U.S. citizens over the next five years as a symbolic gesture in reference to the roughly 3,000 killed in the 9/11 attacks. Bush never responded, probably taking the letter as a stab at the 44 million in the US without medical insurance, which it probably was. Nevertheless, Castro was right when he said, "By a very conservative estimate, dozens of thousands of lives are lost in the U.S. every year because of this, maybe 30 or 40 times the number of people who died in the Twin Towers." (Source -http://www.cubafriends.ca/news/Free_Health.php

The most interesting confirmation of the Cuban medical industry however comes from a right-wing military geek site that insists that the Cuban medical exports are a weapon for spreading communism. (Source - http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200447.asp)

Now I wouldn't be surprised if medical support from Cuba came with a little pep talk about socialized medicine, but then again I can't walk through a single day in America without getting assaulted by commercial ads on the radio, on billboards, public transportation, the t-shirts people wear, websites, e-mail, postal mail, TV, sports venues, even schools... It's pretty much the same thing, spam. But if I need my life saved by a Cuban doctor, I'm not going to mind a little spam with it. I might even be convinced that socialized medicine is at least worth considering.


Syndicated Stat-to-Blabber Ratio

I've been searching the RSS Universe for syndicated statistics. Amazingly, in this world of numbers and indexes, my extensive searches through the NNTP and RSS feeds, which consist mostly of blog blabber, have found very few statistics at all. I'm still looking, but so far I have found only one RSS feed that I can really say has a decent stat-to-blabber ratio. John Cletheroe's Statistics, http://freespace.virgin.net/john.cletheroe/rss/stats.xml puts statistics on the RSS feeds. Of course the RSS feeds will need to carry a lot more statistics to provide much usefulness to online research, but John's site is a start. I hope more bloggers will catch on and contribute to the stream.
Why? :) .. So I can build a simple agent for monitoring specific stats that apply to whatever topics I may be interested in.
Why? :) .. because I'm to lazy to click and read through thousands of Google results.



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* Human Decline
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* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
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Books That I am Reading:

The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism

Books That I've Read Lately:

Catcher in the Rye


My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present

Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less

Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative

Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader

Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels

Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money

Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".