Feature Article

Current Issue

Life and Death in Russia

Russia's human capital is in steep decline.

A 15-year-old boy there won't even live as long as one in Afghanistan.

By Nicholas Eberstadt, WSJ

History is full of instances where a rising power, aggrieved and dissatisfied, acts aggressively to obtain new borders or other international concessions. In Russia today we see a much more unusual case: This increasingly menacing and ambitious geopolitical actor is a state in decline.

Notwithstanding Russia's nuclear arsenal and its vast territories, the distinguishing feature of the country today is its striking economic underdevelopment and weakness. For all Russia's oil and gas, the country's international sales of goods and services last year only barely edged out Belgium's—and were positively dwarfed by the Netherlands'. Remember, there has never been an "energy superpower"—anywhere, ever. In the modern era, the ultimate source of national wealth and power is not natural resources: It is human resources. And unfortunately for Russia, its human-resource situation is almost unrelievedly dismal—with worse likely in the years to come.

Let's start with the "good" demographic news for Moscow: Russia's post-Soviet population decline has halted. Thanks to immigration chiefly from the "near abroad" of former Soviet states, a rebound in births from their 1999 nadir and a drift downward of the death rate, Russia's total population today is officially estimated to be nearly a million higher than five years ago. For the first time in the post-Soviet era, Russia saw more births than deaths last year.

Yet even this seemingly bright news isn't as promising as it seems. First: Russia's present modest surfeit of births over deaths comes entirely from historically Muslim areas like Chechnya and Dagestan, and from heavily tribal regions like the Tuva Republic. Take the North Caucasus Federal District out of the picture—Chechnya, Dagestan, etc.—and the rest of Russia today remains a net-mortality society.

Second: Despite its baby surge, which takes Russia's fertility level from below the average to just above the average for the rest of Europe, the 1.7 births per Russian woman in 2012 was still 20% below replacement level. According to the most recent official Russian calculations, on current trajectories the country's population, absent immigration, is still set to shrink by almost 20% from one generation to the next.

But while Russia's childbearing patterns today look entirely European, its mortality patterns look Third World—and in some ways worse. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, life expectancy in 2012 for a 15-year-old male was three years lower in Russia than in Haiti. By WHO's reckoning, a 15-year-old youth has worse survival chances today in Russia than in 33 of the 48 places the United Nations designates as "least developed countries," including such impoverished locales as Mali, Yemen and even Afghanistan. Though health levels are distinctly better for women than men in Russia, even the life expectancy of 61 years for a 15-year-old Russian female in 2012 was an estimated three years lower than for her counterpart in Cambodia, another of the U.N.'s least-developed countries.

How is this possible in an urbanized and educated society? In least-developed countries, life is foreshortened by such killers as malnutrition and communicable "diseases of poverty" such as tuberculosis, malaria and cholera. Data from WHO in 2010 show that in Russia the major threats are cardiovascular disease (resulting in heart attacks, strokes and the like) and injuries (homicides, suicides, traffic fatalities, deadly accidents).

For decades, Russia's death rates from cardiovascular disease have been higher than the highest levels ever recorded in any Western country. For Russian women in 2010, the rate was over five times higher than for Western European women. In 2008—the latest such global figures available from the World Health Organization—working-age Russian men had the worst cardiovascular-disease death levels in the world. . .

Russia's "high education, low human capital" paradox also shows up in Russia's extreme "knowledge production" deficit. Long-term economic progress depends on improving productivity through new knowledge—but this is something Russia appears mysteriously unable to do.

Patent awards and applications provide a crude but telling picture. Consider trends in international patent awards by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, the world economy's most important national patent office. Of the 1.3 million overseas patents awarded since 2000, applicants from Russia have taken home about 3,200—a mere 0.2% of the overseas total. In this tally Russia is behind Austria and Norway, barely ahead of Ireland. The Russian Federation's total annual awards from the Patent Office regularly lag behind the state of Alabama's. . .

If all this were not bad enough for Moscow, Russia's geopolitical potential is being squeezed further by the rapid world-wide growth of skilled manpower pools. According to the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, in 1990 Russia accounted for nearly 9% of the world's working-age college graduates; that share is declining and by 2030 will have dropped to 3%. On this front, as on many others, Russia is simply being left behind by the rest of the world.

Despite Vladimir Putin's posturing, he is leading a country in serious decline. If his dangerous new brinkmanship is a response to that bad news, then we should expect more of it in the future, possibly much more.

Mr. Eberstadt is a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute. His books include "Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis" (National Bureau of Asian Research, 2010).

 

online.wsj.com


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Feature Article

Previous Issue

Life Lessons From Navy SEAL Training

Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, gave a commencement address . . . that graduates, and their parents, won't soon forget.

WSJ

The University of Texas slogan is "What starts here changes the world."

I have to admit—I kinda like it.

"What starts here changes the world."

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com, says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.

That's a lot of folks. But if every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

Eight-hundred million people—think of it: over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—eight billion people.

If you think it's hard to change the lives of 10 people, change their lives forever, you're wrong.

I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the 10 soldiers with him are saved from close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a noncommissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn't right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500-pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn were also saved. And their children's children were saved.

Generations were saved by one decision, by one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is: What will the world look like after you change it?

Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.

And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform. It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long, torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships. To me basic SEAL training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

1. Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—that's Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we’re aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in. Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can't change the world alone—you will need some help—and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class, which started with 150 men, was down to just 42. There were now six boat crews of seven men each . . . Read more . . .


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Feature Article

Past Issue

POTOMAC WATCH

Strassel: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top | WSJ

Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.

President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.

But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.

Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.

Mr. VanderSloot is the Obama target who in 2011 made a sizable donation to a group supporting Mitt Romney. In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a "wealthy individual" with a "less-than-reputable record." Other donors were described as having been "on the wrong side of the law."

This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.

Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot's divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny.

The last of these audits was only concluded in recent weeks. Not one resulted in a fine or penalty. But Mr. VanderSloot has been waiting more than 20 months for a sizable refund and estimates his legal bills are $80,000. That figure doesn't account for what the president's vilification has done to his business and reputation.

The Obama call for scrutiny wasn't a mistake; it was the president's strategy—one pursued throughout 2012. The way to limit Romney money was to intimidate donors from giving. Donate, and the president would at best tie you to Big Oil or Wall Street, at worst put your name in bold, and flag you as "less than reputable" to everyone who worked for him: the IRS, the SEC, the Justice Department. The president didn't need a telephone; he had a megaphone.

The same threat was made to conservative groups that might dare play in the election. As early as January 2010, Mr. Obama would, in his state of the union address, cast aspersions on the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, claiming that it "reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests" (read conservative groups).

The president derided "tea baggers." Vice President Joe Biden compared them to "terrorists." In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. "Nobody knows who's paying for these ads," he warned. "We don't know where this money is coming from," he intoned. . .

The IRS is easy to demonize, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. It got its heading from a president, and his party, who did in fact send it orders—openly, for the world to see. In his Tuesday press grilling, no question agitated White House Press Secretary Jay Carney more than the one that got to the heart of the matter: Given the president's "animosity" toward Citizens United, might he have "appreciated or wanted the IRS to be looking and scrutinizing those . . ." Mr. Carney cut off the reporter with "That's a preposterous assertion."

Preposterous because, according to Mr. Obama, he is "outraged" and "angry" that the IRS looked into the very groups and individuals that he spent years claiming were shady, undemocratic, even law breaking. After all, he expects the IRS to "operate with absolute integrity." Even when he does not.

Read the entire article in the WSJ . . .

A version of this article appeared May 17, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top.


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Feature Article

Past Issue

America’s Privileged Class

We're No. 1 -- In Public Employee Pay

Andrew G. Biggs National Review, August 12, 2013

Pay for state and local government employees has gotten a great deal of publicity. Lost in the press attention, however, is that federal employee compensation remains a problem, too, and new data again indicate that Washington, D.C., may be overpaying for the 2 million workers it employs, says Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

In a 2011 paper with Jason Richwine, Biggs concluded that federal workers receive salaries and benefits around 37 percent higher than do private sector workers with similar levels of education and experience. A study by the Congressional Budget Office, using slightly different methods, showed a smaller wage premium for federal workers, but still reached a qualitatively similar conclusion: Federal workers receive pay and benefits 16 percent above private-sector levels.

Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) allows Biggs to compare how U.S. federal government employees are paid relative to central government employees in 18 other countries.

The OECD analyzed the salaries, benefits and paid leave for government employees; the combined value of these three categories equals total compensation. The OECD looked at four main categories of public employees:

  • Senior management.

  • Middle management.

  • Professionals. The OECD examined two specific professional positions, statisticians and economists/policy analysts.

  • Secretarial staff. This category is made up of two groups, senior/executive secretaries and office secretaries/general office clerks.

The key factor is benefits:

  • U.S. federal employees don't merely receive more generous benefits than do private-sector workers; they receive much more generous benefits than do public employees in most other developed countries.

  • The OECD data show that U.S. federal employees' total benefits add up to 37 percent of their wages, compared with 16 percent for central government employees in Australia, 25 percent in the Netherlands and Belgium, 27 percent in Great Britain, and 23 percent across the OECD as a whole.

Source: Andrew G. Biggs, "We're No. 1 -- In Public-Employee Pay," National Review, August 12, 2013.


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Feature Article

Past Issue

There Oughta Be a Law

by Adam Allouba

You may not hear that precise expression every day, but you recognize the sentiment. It’s one that you probably feel yourself now and then: The government should do something to fix some problem or another. It may be something gravely serious or nothing more than a minor nuisance; it may be something that oughta be mandatory or oughta be illegal. But whatever it is, it needs to change and using the law is the way to change it.

“There oughta be a law” is not something you’re likely to hear coming out of the mouth of a libertarian, however, except as sarcasm. Most libertarians believe that government legislation leads to bad outcomes for all kinds of reasons, from warped incentives to unintended consequences. More fundamentally, libertarians are against government legislation because we believe that it is inherently wrong to initiate coercion against other human beings. Now, that is a decidedly minority view; most people believe the state should adopt rules that govern our conduct in order to (presumably) make the world a better place. So why the disagreement on such a basic question?

In my view, the reason that non-libertarians are so comfortable with government action is that they have not thought through what exactly it means to say, “There oughta be a law.” Of course, they know that it means that something should be mandatory or illegal—but they haven’t taken a step back to think about what exactly that means in practice. 

So what does it mean to assert that government should do something? Let’s start at the beginning. The textbook definition of the state is an entity with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force (within its borders). It’s vital to understand that this is not some eccentric libertarian viewpoint—any introductory political science textbook will tell you the same thing. In practice, that means that if you violate the state’s rules, you get punished through force. Drive too fast? Get fined. Flunk a health inspection? Get shut down. Sell drugs? Get arrested.

Wait a minute, you might say. I see how being thrown in jail for selling drugs is using force, but shutting down a restaurant? That doesn’t seem like force. And a speeding ticket? Getting pulled over is inconvenient and no one likes paying up, but where’s the force there? In fact, having your property seized or your business shut down is a use of force. This can be made clear by thinking about what happens to people who don’t comply.

Imagine a simple scenario: You’re a business owner who buys and sells second-hand goods. One day someone enters your store with an old baby walker that’s been sitting in their basement for the past decade. Figuring someone might be interested, you take it off their hands. Unbeknownst to either of you, however, that walker has been banned since last it was used. And because it’s your unlucky day, later that afternoon, in walks an employee of Health Canada’s product safety division. “That’s illegal!” he says, pointing to the offending device. Thinking he should mind his own business, you ignore him and, when he insists, politely ask him to leave. Unfortunately for you, our hypothetical do-gooder is fully seized of his mission to protect the public. The next day, he informs his supervisor of your contraband. When the inspector comes through the door, you tell him that your mother used a walker with you, you used one with your kids, that he’s out of his mind and that he has until the count of 10 to get out before you get him out. Undeterred, our friend returns—this time, with police backup. At this point, your choice becomes clear: Either let the man onto your property to carry out his task, or risk finding yourself staring down the barrel of a gun. Kicking out a man with a clipboard is one thing, but trying to kick out a police officer is liable to get you shot dead.

“To say that there oughta be a law is to say, People should be compelled under threat of violence. It is to say that whatever the rule is, it should be applied not by persuasion but by compulsion.”

The point is this: Every rule and regulation adopted by the state is ultimately backed up by the threat of physical force—if necessary, deadly force. That’s not to say that public workers are aspiring Robocops. The vast majority of them are ordinary people who do a job like anyone else—except that theirs grants them the right to force other people to comply with their instructions. And while it may be unheard of for, say, a workplace safety inspector to call in a SWAT team so she can check a factory floor, that’s precisely because the threat of violence hovers over her as she goes about her day. After all, if the mob showed up at your door “asking” for their cut of the day’s profits, the interaction would probably unfold very cordially, since you know what would happen if you were to refuse. The same is true of anything the state does: As people know that there are serious consequences for refusing to comply, they do so cheerfully.

To say that “there oughta be a law” is to say, “People should be compelled under threat of violence.” It is to say that whatever the rule is, it should be applied not by persuasion but by compulsion. Anyone who fails to comply should be required to yield or else to face physical force and—if it comes to that—potentially lethal consequences. Walk through the scenario with any government edict and the penalty for stubbornly refusing to obey is ultimately the same. Whether it’s extracting fossil fuels from rocks, exchanging money for healthcare or broadcasting the wrong kind of music, a persistent, stubborn refusal to follow the rules will not just get you in trouble but will ultimately result in physical damage to your person, should you refuse to cooperate.

I don’t doubt that many people would still support all kinds of laws even if they fully understood that uniformed men brandishing firearms will be called in to enforce them if necessary. Some things are arguably worse than the threat of violence, and if you think that a rule is necessary to prevent starvation or disease or societal collapse, it’s entirely reasonable to insist that it should be enforced at the barrel of a gun. But how many laws and regulations even purport to have so critical a purpose? How many are supported merely on the grounds that there is some nuisance or inconvenience that should be done away with? Put in these terms, is it right that the state mandate the colour of one’s home? Should it prevent you from accessing a Wi-Fi network? What about fixing the price of books, the hue of margarine, the layout of your keyboard, the type of bulb in your socket or how you open your bathroom door?

It’s doubtful that people would support anywhere near as large a government as they do now if they fully appreciated the implications of every law that the government adopts. And instead of casually calling for legislation to fix almost every difficulty in existence, they would be much more likely to see it as a last resort—one to be used only when there seems to be no other way to solve a major problem that simply cannot be allowed to continue. It is a very grave thing indeed to say that people should be compelled under threat of physical force to behave in a certain manner, and there should be an extremely demanding burden of proof on those who argue for such a thing, every time they argue for it.

So the next time you find yourself tempted to say, “There oughta be a law,” ask yourself whether you really mean it. Is this something that really merits the use of force? Should someone who doesn’t behave in the manner you like really be coerced into doing as you say? Or it is best to address the problem through education, persuasion, or plain and simple tolerance of one another? I’m not a pacifist through and through, but I prefer to live in a world with as little violence—actual or threatened—as humanly possible. And I suspect that, when they think about it, that’s a sentiment that most people can agree with.

To read the entire opinion, go to http://www.quebecoislibre.org/14/140115-10.html


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Feature Article

Past Issue

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

A Special Message from Lew Rockwell

April 15th is a horrible day, because it sums up all the wealth destruction called taxation that we are subjected to all year long.

As Murray Rothbard pointed out, taxation is the worst method of looting us. Inflation is destructive, of course, and it might make a loaf of bread cost $10. But at least you get a loaf of bread. With taxation, you get nothing—except theft and other violations of our civil liberties.

Society, as Mises noted, is divided into two competing classes by interventionist government: the taxpayers and the tax consumers. If you are a payer, you are automatically demonized as greedy. On the other hand, those who want the fruits of your labor involuntarily transferred to themselves and their favored pressure groups are the compassionate.

At the Mises Institute, we have a different view. You have a right to what you earn, and those who use the threat and reality of government violence to take it from you are muggers in expensive suits. As Murray said, the State is just a Gang of Thieves writ large.

The politicians blab about spending cuts, but it is all lying propaganda. They plan to increase spending, but use the specter of alleged spending cuts as another excuse to pick your pocket with more taxes. (Spending cuts? Please throw us in that briar patch, Br’er Government.)

Then there are the attacks on tax “loopholes,” when you are allowed to keep some of your own money. As Mises said, it is through these loopholes that capitalism breathes.

But centuries of pro-tax indoctrination has had its effect. Eighty percent of people, according to a Pew study, think it’s immoral to “underreport” one’s income. It’s as if the politicians own us, but generously let us keep some of our own earnings.

That Pew survey does provide one ray of hope: more and more young people dissent from the morality of coercive taxation. We saw the anti-tax passion of the Ron Paul movement, and we see it at the Mises Institute.

It’s true, more and more young people reject the notion of taxation. They want lower taxes. Most of all, they want no taxes. They think they should be able to keep their own earnings.

With our publications, classes, website, and conferences, we are reaching these young people about taxes and the rest of government.

The young don’t want to be sheared. And they are looking for the freedom answers, for example that private property should be inviolate, for moral and economic reasons. They understand, as did 16th-century economist Juan de Mariana, that the only free country is one where no one is afraid of the tax collector.

The Mises Institute is rallying the young to our ideas on taxes and everything else. Please help us, in the shadow of April 15th, continue to do so, and to step it up.

PS: Needless to say, the Mises Institute does not accept one zinc penny of government funding. We depend on generous supporters like you to make our ideas widely available. Won’t you help?


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Feature Article

Past Issue

It’s a good day for BABIES

Or so says Rep Bette Grande, who introduced the bills.

North Dakota has all but enacted what would be two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. .

Even those in North Dakota who normally balk at government spending don't seem concerned about spending money on a fight over the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

"We have a lot of important things to spend money on," said Sen. Dwight Cook, a Republican from Mandan who chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee and calls himself a fiscal conservative. "But I didn't give any consideration to the cost (of abortion litigation)."

Lawmakers on Friday sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple two anti-abortion bills, one banning the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and another prohibiting women from having the procedure based on the fetus' gender or because it has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. Abortion-rights activists have vowed to fight the measures in court. The battle is likely to be closely-watched by abortion foes and supporters of legal abortion across the U.S. 

Dalrymple hasn't offered any hints as to where he stands on the abortion bills. . . "I think plenty of people in the party would love to push this to the Supreme Court and they would love to be the state that overturns Roe v. Wade," said Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota political science professor who expects Dalrymple to sign the abortion measures into law. . .

Cook, who has served in the Legislature for 17 years, said he expects Dalrymple to sign the legislation.

"He's as pro-life as I am, and to what degree he looks at cost, I don't know," Cook said. "If I had to bet, I'd bet he signs them."

North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and GOP governors that is looking at abortion restrictions. Arkansas passed a 12-week ban earlier this month that prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. . .

A fetal heartbeat can generally be detected earlier in a pregnancy using a vaginal ultrasound, but Arkansas lawmakers balked at requiring women seeking abortions to have the more invasive imaging technique. North Dakota's measure doesn't specify how a fetal heartbeat would be detected.

North Dakota is uniquely positioned to undertake an expensive legal fight. Fueled by the unprecedented oil bonanza in the western part of the state, North Dakota now leads the nation in population growth, boasts a nearly $2 billion budget surplus and has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. . .

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/ND-governor-faces-choice-on-abortion-restrictions-4359538.php#ixzz2NklgbJCl

Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another person, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). As the loss of a human being inflicts enormous grief upon the individuals close to the victim, and the commission of a murder is highly detrimental to the good order within society, most societies both present and in antiquity have considered it a most serious crime worthy of the harshest of punishment. In most countries, a person convicted of murder is typically given a long prison sentence, possibly a life sentence where permitted, and in some countries, the death penalty may be imposed for such an act – though this practice is becoming less common.[1] In most countries, there is no statute of limitations for murder (no time limit for prosecuting someone for murder). A person who commits murder is called a murderer.[2]

States have adopted several different schemes for classifying murders by degree. The most common separates murder into two degrees, and treats voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as separate crimes that do not constitute murder.

·         First degree murder is any murder that is willful and premeditated. Felony murder is typically first degree.[5][6]

·         Second degree murder is a murder that is not premeditated or planned in advance.[7]

·         Third degree murder is a catch all for all other murders in some states.

·         Voluntary manslaughter (often referred to as Third degree murder) sometimes called a "Heat of Passion" murder, is any intentional killing that involved no prior intent to kill, and which was committed under such circumstances that would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed." Both this and second degree murder are committed on the spot, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter.[8]

·         Involuntary manslaughter stems from a lack of intention to cause death but involving an intentional, or negligent, act leading to death. A drunk driving-related death is typically involuntary manslaughter. Note that the "unintentional" element here refers to the lack of intent to bring about the death. All three crimes above feature an intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is "unintentional," because the killer did not intend for a death to result from their intentional actions. If there is a presence of intention it relates only to the intent to cause a violent act which brings about the death, but not an intention to bring about the death itself. [9]

·         The Model Penal Code classifies homicides differently, without degrees. Under it, murder is any killing committed purposefully and knowingly, manslaughter is any killing committed as a result of recklessness, and negligent homicide is any killing resulting from negligence.[10]

·         Fetal Homicide in the United States

Under the common law, an assault on a pregnant woman resulting in a stillbirth was not considered murder; the child had to have breathed at least once to be a human being.[citation needed] Remedies were limited to criminal penalties for the assault on the mother and tort action for loss of the anticipated economic services of the lost child and/or for emotional pain and suffering. With the widespread adoption of laws against abortion, the assailant could be charged with that offense, but the penalty was often only a fine and a few days in jail.

·         When the Supreme Court greatly reduced laws prohibiting abortions in Roe v. Wade (1973) those sanctions became harder to use. This meant that an assault which ensured that the baby never breathed would result in a lesser charge. Various states passed "fetal homicide" laws, making killing of an unborn child murder; the laws differ about the stage of development at which the child is protected.

·         After several well-publicized cases, Congress passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which specifically criminalizes harming a fetus, with the same penalties as for a similar attack upon a person, when the attack would be a federal offense. Most such attacks fall under state laws; for instance, Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his unborn son as well as his wife under California's pre-existing fetal homicide law.

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Feature Article

Past Issue

Practice Fusion, #1 in EMR With 25M Electronic Medical Records, Debuts IPad App

With great power comes great responsibility, and in few places is that more true than the healthtech industry. Practice Fusion is the leading provider of electronic medical records, now helping 130,000 doctors to track records for 25 million patients, CEO Ryan Howard told me today. That’s over 3x the EMRs hosted by Kaiser Permanente or the VA. Practice Fusion is free for doctors and patients. It monetizes through a marketplace for labs, pharmacies, and drug companies who pay for preferred placement in front of doctors who direct a staggering $40 billion in spend a year through the platform. Its new iPad app, debuted today at Practice Fusion’s annual conference, will let these doctors access records while out of the office.

In addition to saving lives, the average doctor in California directs about $2.3 million a year in spend. Just imagine how much decision and recommendation power doctors have: “take this pill not that one”, “pick it up from this pharmacy”, “your test is being analyzed by this lab”. By next year, Howard tells me that figure will have grown well past the $60 billion a year spent through eBay. These medical service providers buy expensive banner ads in the Practice Fusion platform to ensure doctors choose them, and it’s making the company a lot of money.

Practice Fusion’s doctor and record uptake rate is growing exponentially. It counted 70,000 clients in April when it raised a $23 million series B, and by September when it took $6 million more in funding it had 100,000 health care providers on board. Now Practice Fusion is at 130,000, and with each new doctor comes roughly 2,000 new patients who can access their own medical records from anywhere. Doctors can begin using the product in minutes, and can pay to have all their existing paper records scanned in over a few days. Practice Fusion’s competitors can take 6 months or longer to get doctors set up.

Howard tells me “We’re effectively the Salesforce for doctors, and the Facebook for health.” He explains that through its APIs, Practice Fusion will become the hub for personal medical data from consumer devices and services such as FitBit and wireless weight scales. This includes 100Plus, the personalized health prediction platform Howard co-founded with funding from Peter Thiel and Founders Fund to let people see how healthy decisions can expand their lifespan. That hub could become another lucrative medical advertising magnet. More altruistically, Practice Fusion is working with Palantir and the CDC to power disease outbreak detection with its data.

At its core, though, Practice Fusion’s goal is to make medical record access instant and efficient. That’s why it debuted an iPad app for doctors on the go, designed by Cooper, the firm headed by Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic. It securely provides access to records so if a doctor gets an after-hours call about a patient, they have all their necessary medical data at hand so they can make informed decisions.

Prioritizing usability, doctors can see their day’s appointments and instantly dive into each patient’s chief complaint, allergies, problems, medications, family history, hospitalizations, and more. Doctors can record patient dictations of their symptoms, and combine their own assessment and treatment plan with pre-defined treatment plans for common ailments to minimize typing. They can also view lists of tasks, and receive push notifications of updates from their office . . .

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