Archive for August, 2006

Monitor begins Jill Carroll’s story

Don’t miss Part 1 of Jill Carroll’s story in today’s Christian Science Monitor. Here’s an excerpt:

They took me upstairs to the master bedroom. Within a few minutes an interpreter arrived, and an interrogation began.

They wanted to know my name, the name of my newspaper, my religion, how much my computer was worth, did it have a device to signal the government or military, if I or anyone in my family drank alcohol, how many American reporters were in Baghdad, did I know reporters from other countries, and myriad other questions.

Then, in a slightly gravelly voice, the interpreter explained the situation.

“You are our sister. We have no problem with you. Our problem is with your government. We just need to keep you for some time. We want women freed from Abu Ghraib prison. Maybe four or five women. We want to ask your government for this,” the interpreter said. (At the time, it was reported that 10 Iraqi women were among 14,000 Iraqis being held by coalition forces on suspicion of insurgent activity.)

“You are to stay in this room. And this window, don’t put one hand on this window,” he continued. “I have a place underground. It is very dark and small, and cold, and if you put one hand on this window, we will put you there. Some of my friends said we should put you there, but I said, ‘No she is a woman.’ Women are very important in Islam.”

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TRD101 – The pursuit of ……………..?

Will someone please explain to me how the current health care system helps promote “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”? Those who can’t afford or can’t get health insurance only seek treatment when they absolutely need it, often too late to be cured. Some have been denied needed treatment because of inability to pay their bills expeditiously. Most of us who do have health insurance are increasingly worried about losing it, especially those of us of child-bearing and child-raising age or are nearing retirement .Those of you lucky few who aren’t worried about losing their health insurance still have to deal with an increasingly bureaucratic and bizarre healthcare system. Trying to get treatment is not for the sick.

I’m one of the fortunate ones to have excellent healthcare coverage, through my wife’s employer. However, she works for a small business that had a scare of possibly losing its coverage. Fortunately, the scare was unnecessary, it was an administrative mix up, but all employees and their families were very nervous until continuing coverage was confirmed.

The coverage is PPO, Preferred Provider Organization, which means that you have to select a PCP, Primary Care Provider, from the insurer’s recommended list, it’s “network’ of healthcare professionals. Some insurers allow you to keep your existing out-of-PPO-network PCP and some don’t. PPOs differ from HMOs, Health Maintenance Organization, by allowing you to use an ONP, out-of-network provider, provided you get a referral from your PCP first. That I have to know what the acronyms PPO, HMO, PCP and ONP mean is worrisome.

I have a medical condition that requires the periodic review of a specialist. Even though I live in the greater Boston area, which has the greatest concentration of and some of best doctors in the world, it’s a pain in the keister to go into Boston, unless absolutely necessary. I’ve found a local specialist, but he’s an ONP. I’ve being seeing him for approximately one year and had no insurance problems previously. Out of the blue, his staff informed me that I had to get the approval of my PCP before they’d agree to set up the appointment.

I like this specialist a lot because he doesn’t suffer from MD – Me Doctor – syndrome. We jointly review my status and decide on changes to the treatment program. Since I have the time and resources to find current research on my condition, I do the research, and he accepts that I’m not a doctor wannabe trying to tell him what to do. Or he hasn’t told me that I’m not a doctor wannabe telling him what to do, yet.

So I called my PCP. Her full-time insurance administrator informed me that I couldn’t get a referral because the specialist was ONP. I called the insurance company’s customer service and explained my situation, including their previous payments. No problem, the representative told me, just set up the appointment. Which I did – but now I couldn’t be “squeezed in” for six weeks.

Six weeks minus one day later, I get a phone call from the ONP’s full-time insurance administrator cancelling the next-day’s appointment. Three days and eight phone calls with the PCP’s administrator, the ONP’s administrator, and the insurance company later, I get the appointment rescheduled – squeezing me in five weeks later – but, only if I prepaid the doctor’s fee. What choice did I have?

Eleven weeks from the day of my first phone call and three hours in an overheated waiting area, I finally get in to the ONP specialist’s office. I asked his nurse-practitioner what was the problem. She told me since I was out-of-the-specialist’s insurance network, my status was changed to “referral only”. No referral, no appointment. I asked what had changed over the past year of visits. She looked into my file.

“Nothing has changed. We made an administrative error in changing your status. We have had a number of patients who are on referral status who haven’t paid their bills, but you have.”

The doctor came into the room. He looked at me and shook his head, “Why weren’t you here eleven weeks ago when you were supposed to be?” I told him, in explicit detail. After all, I was paying for his time to be there.

He scheduled my next monthly appointment, right there and right then.

As management consultants, my partners and I had to deal with some of the most screwed-up companies in the world, but since we didn’t specialize in healthcare, we had no healthcare clients. Healthcare companies, like most industries in trouble, believe their industry is unique and require being managed differently. Unless you specialize in healthcare consulting, then supposedly you “don’t know the business”. Oh, I know their business, all too well.

In retrospect, I don’t know if not consulting in healthcare was good, because we might have been able to effectuate some changes in the system, or bad, because we would have driven ourselves crazy in the process trying to get any changes made. This craziness has to be infuriating to doctors, who did enter the profession to help sick people, not totally unlike consultants trying to help sick companies.

As a patient today, you have to spend way too much time pursuing the opportunity to get to see the doctors pursuing their passion. The current insurance company controlled system is too costly and inefficient. A single payer health care system would let doctors be doctors and patients not have to have extraordinary patience.

If I were a doctor, I would refuse having the insurance companies control my life, demand the liberty to treat patients as necessary and pursue my happiness to practice medicine, without being buried in paperwork. I especially would be torqued off being told what I know is good medicine by someone who doesn’t know the patient, hasn’t seen what I’ve seen, heard what I heard, or experienced what I’ve experienced.

Until the doctors take action, then the rest of our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness are increasingly at risk.

TRD101 knows this: Sick companies only get well when the management and employees know they need to change and work together to make change happen.

And that’s The Real Deal’s basics for today, like it or not.

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New Indy-based freelancer debuts blog

A former staff reporter at Gannett’s Indianapolis Star has started her own blog, sending sparks (it seems) worldwide.

Catch all the fireworks at (don’t miss her series of posts about the death, in the city room in early July, of a Star photographer).

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From Rick Knee: Update on jailed Calif. freelancer

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee plans to conduct a
public hearing next Thursday on a resolution calling for the federal
government to respect First Amendment free press guarantees.

The session is to take place at 10 a.m. in city hall room 263.

The Bush administration has taken its assault on freedom of the press to
San Francisco:

— Video journalist/blogger Joshua Wolf was jailed on Aug. 1 for refusing
to give unedited footage of a July, 2005, anti-G-8 rally to a federal
grand jury. The case is under appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of

Law enforcement authorities are seeking Wolf’s tape because, they claim,
it could shed light on an altercation that took place during the rally,
during which a police officer was allegedly injured and a patrol car was
allegedly damaged in a possible arson.

Wolf used the shield law in the state Constitution to fend off a Police
Department effort to obtain the tape.

But there is no federal shield law, and federal authorities are claiming
there is federal jurisdiction because the SFPD receives some funding every
year, thus there is partial federal ownership of police facilities and

The Chronicle last Thursday ran an editorial under the headline “Free Josh
For the latest information on Wolf, visit his Website.

— Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams are resisting
a federal grand jury demand to identify who fed them information in the
BALCO sports steroids probe in which Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds might be

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White postponed ruling on the matter Friday
but pointed to a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared reporters
must identify their sources to federal grand juries in criminal

Both cases have frightening implications. Forcing reporters to identify
confidential sources, and/or to turn over unpublished/unaired notes,
photos, video outtakes, etc. will intimidate people who want to expose
wrongdoing by the power elite, or who want to exercise their First
Amendment right “peaceably to assemble and to petition their Government
for a redress of grievances.”

The cases underscore the need for a federal shield law. And, in fact,
shield-law bills have been brought in both chambers of Congress.

The Senate is considering the Free Flow of Information Act of 2006
(S.2831), introduced by Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and co-sponsored by
Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Arlen Specter

The House version (H.R. 3323) is co-sponsored by Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and
Rick Boucher (D-Va.), and is considered the stronger of the two in terms
of the protections it would provide to journalists. Both bills represent
an improvement over the status quo and merit our support.

Details on the measures are available at the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press web site; the URL specific to the bills is
here .


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SPJ is helping California freelancer/blogger

SPJ national and the Northern California Pro chapters are helping an independent journalist/blogger fight a federal subpoena to turn over video from a G8 protest. Yesterday’s New York Times reports that Josh Wolf has been jailed after defying a judge’s court order to appear before a federal grand jury.

Here’s SPJ’s statement announcing that the Legal Defense Fund awarded him $1,000 grant to continue his legal fight.

What’s your opinion on the proposed federal shield law?

UPDATE: Here’s interesting commentary, begging the question: “Why is Josh Wolf in jail?”

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