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April 2012

A look at health care real estate

As my latest HND piece indicates, this portion of the real estate market, deemed by many to be virtually recession-proof, is starting to show some signs of weakness—at least in certain regions. And now that Obamacare is anything but a sure thing, the doubts continue to pile up.

Among other sources, I cite Kiplinger's Personal Finance, and talk to some real experts from BRC Advisors, based in Beverly Hills, CA. Yep, there are even challenges in that rarefied environment!

In less affluent regions of the country, thoughtful observers wonder how long the old model of redundant private medical offices, housing practices that are barely solvent, can be sustained.

Read the complete article.


A fun new action movie from Jason Statham. As always, there are a few themes in here that merit additional thought, even if the plot itself is a bit farfetched. Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of the film's MacGuffin—an endlessly long number, that must be kept from the baddies at all costs.

Read the complete review.

Schooling Mr. McCartney

Robert McCartney is an old school journo with the Washington Post. As he puts it in his own bio...

I write broadly about the D.C. region, including the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, focusing a lot on government and politics, transportation and development, education, crime, the environment and, sometimes, the Redskins. Previously, I was the Metro section's top editor for four years. I've been at The Post since (gulp) 1982.

As you might expect, after being in this environment for so many years, McCartney can't help it. He's a liberal, but really more of an à la mode liberal. That is, while his positions are always predictable, the ones he articulates are usually those which are the most fashionable. Additionally, he likes to shoehorn these into places where they are truly unnecessary.

Case in point: In a recent piece entitled "It took Salahi for me to side with Cuccinelli," he damns Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II with faint praise. Cuccinelli, of course, is an evil Republican, but now he has does something that Bob Mc can finally approve of. He is suing idiotic White House gate crasher and swindler Tareq Salahi.

Fair enough, but he tries to slip this one by, in a short list of Cuccinelli's supposed misdeeds...

"He twisted himself into legal knots to persecute a former University of Virginia professor for daring to join the rest of the scientific establishment in asserting that humans are causing climate change."

So, I sent an e-mail to McCartney...

Believe what you will about climate change, but assuming that you as a journalist have a limited science background, please note:

1.      Consensus, as you are promoting here, has nothing whatsoever to do with scientific truth. Indeed, as a moment's reflection will indicate, virtually all major scientific discoveries have gone against the prevailing consensus.


2.     The only "consensus" that matters in science is if one researcher's results can be duplicated in a specific experiment by another researcher. That, of course, is the reason why scientific research results are published in journals. Bear in mind that the majority of current climate science is based on models--and not real scientific experimental data, so the notion of consensus does not even apply in this case.


3.      Given the above, it is extremely disheartening that so many climate scientists are using consensus in an attempt to convince the lay public that they are correct.


4.      While consensus never meant much in the world of science, it probably means less than nothing now, in view of the very political nature of obtaining research grants, and being invited to the right cocktail parties, etc.


5.      More than that, science by consensus is downright harmful. For example, the prevailing "consensus" lipid/cholesterol theory of heart disease has been disproven dozens and dozens of times in large studies, but since that is still where the money is, the lie continues. Ironically, the studies that supposedly proved this theory in the first place...don't. It's just that few people, including most doctors, actually read them. Yes, statins lower cholesterol; but no, they do not prevent heart disease, except in very limited cases.


6.      Finally, PC is more important than a true consensus, anyway. Example: The attacks on BPA, which have been disproven in well over 6000 published articles still continue, since fear entrepreneurs such as NRDC and EWG can use them for fund raising purposes.


Sad to say, very little actual science is being done these days, compared to, say, 40 years ago. Back then (and when I was at MIT) it meant something to get a paper published. Nowadays, there are so many journals that they are calling researchers, asking for papers to be submitted. And, the public suffers.


I hope this helps.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for a reply. Maybe you should e-mail him also.

Dry labbing and how it might be affecting you

This HND piece looks at dry labbing, referring to a practice whereby labs simply fabricate results, usually to please the client. The clients—in current controversies—are manufacturers of dietary supplements. The term is sometimes also used in a broader sense, to indicate overall shady or misleading activities perpetrated by labs, their consultants, or the manufacturers themselves.

Dateline NBC recently ran a segment on dry labbing, setting up a sting intended to expose a suspect lab. I discovered, though, that like way too many so-called exposés, the process here was not exactly simon pure. Instead, the show was set up to deliver the maximum shock value, built on a pretty shaky foundation.

Even if the extent of the dry labbing problems might be overblown in the current hype, the natural products industry would be well advised to start policing their own, or the Feds will be only too glad to step in and take over.

Read the complete article.

Drop the curtain, and pay no attention to this man

As you are surely aware, the line "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" comes from the classic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939). It is spoken by the Wizard himself, in an attempt to divert attention from his elaborate contrivances, used to portray the illusions of his wisdom and power. This role—and four others in the film—were played by beloved character actor Frank Morgan (1890-1949).

Not so beloved is another Oz—the TV and media Doctor Mehmet Oz.

When he first came on the scene, the former Harvard-educated cardiovascular surgeon made it a point to appear unconventional, endorsing all manner of "alternative" approaches to better health. At some point, probably based on getting roundly condemned by his peers, he pretty much switched gears. Now, he dispenses the most conventional possible advice (such as avoiding red meat), and jumps on every single fashionable and stupid Green trend, such as hating BPA and Pink Slime.

He got rightly slammed for jumping on the ridiculous arsenic in apple juice scare of several months ago, and is taking heat for one of his few recent forays into the unconventional: His ringing endorsement of raspberry ketone as the ultimate weight loss aid. He cites research on obese mice to "prove" his point. Despite his elite educational background, Oz has demonstrated repeatedly that he understands little about science.

Worse, he seems to mostly lend his considerable influence to quite questionable causes. I agree with him that we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables. Why doesn't he take on the wasteful and overblown ag subsidy program, which mostly supports corn and soybeans, thus causing the price of more healthy produce to be inflated? And why doesn't he get current with his understanding of heart disease? Really now, a guy like him still believing in the long-disproven lipid/cholesterol theory?

But, then again, when the money is rolling in with no end in sight, why does he even need to think at all?

Johnny comes marching work in health care

This HND piece starts off explaining why our country is losing so many jobs, and then suggests that job-seekers—as well as salespeople—should focus on enterprises that can't leave. These would include academia, agriculture, finance, government, mining, utilities, and, of course, health care.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in health care rose to 14.19 million in October 2011 from 13.88 million a year earlier. Even though there are probably more jobs in this field than applicants, employers are still looking to improve the odds of making a good hire. That's why many health care institutions are taking a special look at military veterans.

David C. Dickey, former major in the Marine Corps, and now CEO of The Patriot Group Inc. puts it this way:

You're going to get a bright, reliable, and motivated individual. This is not to imply that the rest of society may not also have these traits. Rather, it's just that a preponderance of veterans seem to exhibit this. They've been asked to do more with less, and in many cases, to operate independently, given tasks to complete with little or no supervision—and that happens frequently.

Read the complete article.

You can't fix stupid: The sad saga of "pink slime"

It should come as no surprise to any sentient individual that the entire "Pink Slime" uproar is complete and utter BS. However, it would appear that there are many out there who aren't sentient, after all.

My latest HND piece compares this travesty with William Randolph Hearst's horrific trashing of silent move star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, solely to sell newspapers. If public opinion could be force-fed by unscrupulous media barons back in 1921, you'd think that it would be much harder to do this in 2012—given the instant availability of unlimited amounts of information via the Internet. But you would be wrong.

H.L. Mencken got it right when he said, in his column in the September 19, 1926 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, entitled “Notes on Journalism”:

“No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

His topic was a recent trend in the American newspaper business: Tabloid newspapers that were geared toward uneducated readers, including those Mencken described as “near-illiterates.”     Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Read the complete article.

Hoarding, etc.

This HND piece starts off discussing pathological hoarding, and then segues into the far more common problem of clutter—both physical and mental.

What's the difference between living in a cluttered house and being a hoarder? Ultimately, the hoarder will find it difficult or impossible to remove items to clean up the mess, until such point that it might become life-threatening. But, there are also hoarders who are extremely neat, and given enough space, could easily hide their compulsion.

That's why we also discuss a "Structured Interview for Hoarding Disorder," identifying six criteria, all of which must be met to give the examiner a diagnosis of pathological hoarding. We then introduce you to professional organizer Carmen Coker, who can help you get organized virtually.

Read the complete article.

Skin deep

This HND piece focuses on our largest organ—the skin. We discuss its profound reaction to the turmoil that may be going on inside you, referencing Ted Grossbart's breakthrough book, as well as the interesting research from Japan's Hajime Kimata, in which laughter is shown to be great medicine for those with skin conditions.

We also spotlight topical abdominal toning creams, including a new product from Aviator Skin and Hair.

Read the complete article.