Links, 2/23/10

  • In South Africa, getting proper public transportation is a serious problem, because of classist and/or racist idiots (h/t Josh) – from the article: Just months earlier, Mrs. Hanong, who has never learned to read, was still catching taxis close to home. But her preference for the new buses is so strong that she walks an extra half hour to reach them. They cost about 65 cents each way, a savings of about 50 cents over taxi fare, a considerable sum, given her earnings of $160 a month. “It’s comfort,” she said. Even so, she has to transfer to a taxi to get to Sandton. Transportation still gobbles up a fifth of her salary.
  • Re: Samarra, Iraq (h/t Josh) – it’s a city with a Shiite holy shrine and a Sunni mayor. It is relatively peaceful, thanks to the Americans who of course are leaving. The Sunnis are fearing that Iran is going to be next major international player there. Read the whole thing: it’s essential for discussion about Iraq. From the article, re: U.S. peacekeeping efforts: American forces meet nearly every day with the city’s Awakening Councils — well-armed groups of former Sunni insurgents who acknowledge having killed American troops in the past.
  • Megan McArdle, “The Cost of Living” – from the article: …it illustrates one of the primary problems that will afflict any attempt to control health care costs.  When you read the description, it’s hard not to be awed at the difference this drug made in the lives of people afflicted by a pretty nasty cancer.  But presuming it survives all the trials, this drug will probably be pretty expensive.  It serves only a fraction of people with melanoma, those whose cancer has a very specific gene mutation.  It probably won’t cure them, but only buy them a few weeks or months or years. That’s how cancer treatment has mostly advanced–not with a spectacular cure that can be funded by better targeted NIH money, or identified by comparative effectiveness research.  It grinds out small improvements one at a time, experimenting with combinations of drugs and radiation and surgery, dosages, and timing.  A lot of the improvement in mortality rates comes from better detection–but that means a lot of money wasted on tests, and biopsies for false positives.
  • Steven Greenhut, “Class War” (h/t aldaily) – it’s not just that public sector unions are literally bankrupting the country. It’s the fact that their brand of hardball, factionalized politics is probably too difficult for a democracy to counter effectively. What happens when “government” itself is a faction?

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