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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Panis angelicus is the penultimate strophe of the hymn Sacris solemniis written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi as part of a complete liturgy of the Feast including prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The strophe of Sacris solemniis that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" (bread of angels) has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn. Most famously, in 1872 César Franck set this strophe for tenor, organ, harp, cello, and double bass; later arranging it for tenor, chorus, and orchestra, he incorporated it into his Messe solennelle Opus 12. The 1932 performance of that work by John McCormack in Dublin's Phoenix Park became the highlight of his career. Noteworthy renditions have also been performed by tenors Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Richard Crooks, Donald Braswell and Roberto Alagna, as well as by the sopranos Magda Olivero, Renata Scotto, and Chloë Agnew. Singing trio The Priests give an extraordinary rendition in their debut album.

The phenomenon whereby the strophe of Sacris solemniis that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" is often treated as a separate hymn has occurred also with other hymns that Thomas Aquinas wrote for Corpus Christi: Verbum supernum prodiens (the last two strophes begin with "O salutaris Hostia") and Pange lingua gloriosi (the last two strophes begin with "Tantum ergo", in which case the word ergo ["therefore"] makes evident that this part is the continuation of a longer hymn).

Text of Panis angelicus, with doxology

Latin text An English translation
Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum.
Pauper, servus et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
The angelic bread
becomes the bread of men;
The heavenly bread
ends all prefigurations:
What wonder!
consumes the Lord
a poor and humble servant.

Triune God,
We beg of You,
that you visit us,
as we worship You.
By your ways,
lead us who seek
the light in which You dwell.

The article Sacris Solemniis in the Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the merits of a number of different translations.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Love, love changes everything
Hands and faces, earth and sky
Love, love changes everything
How you live and how you die
Love, can make the summer fly
Or a night seem like a lifetime
Yes love, love changes everything
Now I tremble at your name
Nothing in the world will ever be the same

Love, love changes everything
Days are longer, words mean more
Love, love changes everything
Pain is deeper than before
Love will turn your world around
And that world will last forever
Yes love, love changes everything
Brings you glory, brings you shame
Nothing in the world will ever be the same

Off into the world we go
Planning futures, shaping years
Love (comes in) and suddenly all our wisdom disappears
Love makes fools of everyone
All the rules we made are broken
Yes love, love changes everyone
Live or perish in its flame
Love will never never let you be the same
Love will never never let you be the same

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health reform: throwing good money after the bad
The Huffington Post, August 24, 2009 – By Marcia Angell
Dr. Marcia Angell, Harvard Medical School senior lecturer on social medicine and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses her views on how healthcare reform should be approached.

Marcia Angell, M.D.

Marcia Angell, M.D.

Posted: August 24, 2009 08:49 AM

Health Reform: Throwing Good Money After the Bad

It's not just the right-wing crazies who oppose health reform. In addition, there are many sane Americans who worry about committing a trillion dollars to it. They have a point. We already spend more than twice as much per person on health care as other advanced countries, and our costs are rising faster. How much is enough?

Make no mistake, sky-high and rapidly rising costs are the core problem. If money were no object, it would be easy to provide full care for everyone. But even a perfectly designed system will fail if it is unaffordable, or rapidly becomes so.

So it's crucial to ask just why we are spending so much more than other countries. Where is all that money going? Yet, that question is seldom asked in the current debate, even though it's not logical to try to fix something without understanding why it's broken.

In the trenchant words of Deep Throat, let's follow the money. This year we will spend roughly $2.5 trillion on health care. Although about half that money comes from federal and state governments, most of the total is funneled to private insurers and entrepreneurial providers. Alone among advanced countries, we treat health care like a market commodity to be distributed according to the ability to pay, not like a social service to be distributed according to medical need.

For nearly two-thirds of Americans, we rely on hundreds of private insurance companies to set prices and benefits and pay providers. They profit by refusing to cover the sickest patients and limiting services to others. In fact, we have the only health system in the world based on avoiding sick people. Insurers cream 15 to 25 percent off the top of the premium dollar for profits and overhead (mainly underwriting) before paying providers.

Providers themselves have high billing and collecting expenses to deal with the Byzantine requirements of multiple insurers. The innumerable health facilities, both for-profit and nonprofit, also have high overhead expenses to cover their business costs, executive salaries, and the promotion of their profitable services. Altogether, overhead accounts for at least 30 percent of our health bill. If we spent the same percentage on overhead as Canada, we would save about $400 billion this year.

Our method of delivering care is no better than our method of paying for it. We provide much of it in investor-owned health facilities that profit by providing too many services for the well-insured and too few for those who cannot pay. Most doctors are paid on a piecework basis -- that is, fee-for-service -- which gives them a similar incentive to provide too many services for the well-insured. That is particularly true of specialists who receive very high fees for expensive tests and procedures (like cardiac angiography and MRI's).

Not surprisingly, our ratio of specialists to primary care providers is much higher than in other countries. There is no way to know exactly how much money is wasted in medically unnecessary tests and procedures, but it is probably on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Many people point to technology as a cause of our high health costs, but the culprit is not technology per se (all advanced countries have the same technologies), but the flagrant overuse of it for financial gain.

In sum, the answer to the question, "Where is all that money going?" is that much of it is diverted to profits and overhead, and to exorbitantly priced and medically unnecessary tests and procedures. Any reform that has a prayer of containing costs, hence being sustainable, must deal with these two massive drains.
Yet, most reform proposals would leave the present profit-driven and inflationary system essentially unchanged, and simply pour more money into it.

That's what is happening in Massachusetts, where we have nearly universal health insurance, but costs are growing so rapidly that its long-term prospects are bleak unless we drastically cut benefits and greatly increase deductibles and co-payments, or change the system. We're learning that health insurance is not the same thing as health care; it may be too limited in what it covers or too expensive to actually use. It is ironic that the President is said to have looked to Massachusetts as a model for national reform, even though the state has the highest health costs on the planet.

To control costs, the President is pinning a lot on electronic records, disease management, preventive care, and comparative effectiveness studies. But while these initiatives may improve care, they're unlikely to save much money because they don't deal with the underlying problem -- a system based on maximizing income, not maximizing health. Promises by for-profit insurers and providers to mend their ways voluntarily are simply not credible. Regulation of the present system is also unlikely to modify profit-seeking behavior very much, without a bureaucracy so large that it would create more problems than it solves.

Nearly every other advanced country has a largely nonprofit national health system that guarantees universal care. Even countries with private insurers, like Switzerland and the Netherlands, require uniform prices and benefits and limit profits. Not only are expenditures much lower in other advanced countries, but health outcomes are generally better. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, they offer on average more basic services, not fewer -- more doctor visits and longer hospital stays, and they have more doctors and nurses and hospital beds. But they don't do nearly as many tests and procedures, because there is little financial incentive to do so.

It's true that there are waits for some elective procedures in some of these countries, such as the U. K. and Canada (although hardly the long lines of desperately ill patients depicted by the Republicans). But that's because they spend far less on health care than we do. If they were to put the same amount of money into their systems as we do into ours, there would be no waits. For them, the problem is not the system; it's the money. For us, it's not the money; it's the system. We already spend more than enough.

Judging by the current debate, it would seem that Americans think they have nothing to learn from other countries, or perhaps that we are all alone in the world. Still, we might be willing to learn from parts of our system that are similar to systems in other countries. Medicare is a single-payer program very much like the Canadian national health insurance system. (Some of the more vociferous town hall meeting protesters seemed not even to know that Medicare is a government program.) The Veterans Health System is a socialized program very much like the U.K.'s national health service. Both deliver better care at lower prices than our private system.

I believe our best bet now would be to extend Medicare gradually to the rest of the population. We could begin by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55, then after a few years, drop it to 45, and so on. Medicare is the most popular part of our health system; unlike private insurers, it offers free choice of doctors, it covers all eligible beneficiaries for a uniform package of benefits, regardless of medical history or how much care is needed, and it cannot be taken away by job loss or illness.

But it would need some changes. Its costs are rising almost as fast as those in the private sector, despite the fact that its overhead is much lower, because it uses the same profit-oriented providers. If Medicare were extended to everyone, it should be in a nonprofit delivery system. In addition, fees would have to be adjusted to reward primary care doctors more and specialists less, or better yet, doctors should be salaried. There is now a bill in Congress that calls for exactly that -- H.R. 676 ("Expanded and Improved Medicare for All"), which was introduced by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and has many co-sponsors. Unfortunately, given the power of the health industry lobbies, it's unlikely to make it out of committee without strong public pressure.

In economic terms, health care is a highly successful industry -- profitable, growing, and virtually recession-proof -- but it's a massive burden on the rest of the economy. I'm aware that phasing out private insurers would mean a loss of jobs. But I believe the job loss in that sector would be more than offset by job gains in the rest of the economy, which would no longer be saddled with the exorbitant costs of an industry that offers very little of value to justify its existence.

One thing is certain: We need a complete overhaul of our health system. Tinkering at the edges won't do it. Expanding coverage through government subsidies and mandates, as advocated by the president, won't either. Besides being a windfall for insurers and drug companies, that approach will just add to our soaring costs and be a temporary fix, at best. In my opinion, it makes no sense to throw good money after bad.

Marcia Angell, M. D., is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She was the first woman to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, a post she stepped down from in June of 2000. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case, as well as The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.

Many other issues were surfacing, and when Massachusets Senator Ted Kennedy saled across the Boston Harbor with Presidential Candidate Al Gore (and his running mate, Joe Lieberman), I got to look them each in the eyes, and they me, but Senator Kennedy's hand I was able to shake, as I shared my long-pondered thought: ""Work on Healthcare"

On the other hand, Joe Lieberman looked me straight in the eye, then in the midst of my long-pondered comment to him, Senator Lieberman quickly turned away to a yarmulka/yarmulke-wearing gent three rows behind me and energetically pumped his hand.

Senator Kennedy was much more gracious (and less knee-jerk), I thought, in thinking through his international and domestic policies.


And Senator Kennedy DID continue working on US healthcare until the very end. Thank you very much!

I could ONLY wish that he had understood and worked for primary prevention at the same time!
I want to wish you a Happy Chinese Valentine Day! August 26th

China's Qixi Festival takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (mid-August by our calendars) and has its root in an ancient legend about two lovers separated by the Milky Way who can only meet once a year on this night. This year the festival takes place on Wednesday, August 26.

Some conservative Chinese citizens have criticized the traditional festival for its Westernization as couples have participated in Valentine's Day rituals on the day. In recent years, the West's Saint Valentine's Day on February 14 has exploded in popularity in China. Flower vendors hit the streets, convenience stores sell stuffed animals (though not much chocolate, given the Chinese traditional aversion to sweets), and tables are full at restaurants.

In China's metropolitan areas, it's not difficult to find young men who complain about the difficulty in finding girlfriends or wives. Not only is there a well-known shortage of available women because of the country's "one-child" policy, but Chinese women are increasingly practical and look for suitors with promising jobs and those who already own cars or apartments. In China's countryside, arranged marriages are still the norm.

Qixi festival tells the story of Niulang, the cowherd, who fell in love with a beautiful fairy Zhinu when grazing his cow. But their love was interfered with by Wangmu, wife of the Jade Emperor, the Supreme Deity in Taoism. She separated the couple by drawing a river, the Milky Way, with her hairpin between them.

Touched by their love, magpies come in flocks every Qixi festival to form a bridge spanning the galaxy with their bodies so that the couple can meet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A fellow named Wheeler del Torro spoke last Sunday at the Boston Vegetarian Society's month meeting (which we of the Boston Vegetarian, Veggie, and Vegan Meetups 'follow' or tag along to attend).

Wheeler’s place is near the Symphony stop (the first underground stop when going inbound from NEU; the last underground stop when going outbound towards Longwood and Brigham Circle) on the Boston MBTA - in a shop that intersection.

Wheeler is the creative international traveler who has rightfully become much loved in Boston (particularly around NEU, Colleges of the Fenway, and LMA) because of what he's made for those of us who pass through the Fenway area.

He passed around vegan ice cream samples, and I’m confident that 98.5% of all humans alive today would consider his vegan ice cream SUPER DUPER!

While there's a Vegan Ice Cream for All! Boston, MA meetup, I’d like to see Wheeler’s storefront operation inundated with numerous small group outings, perhaps once or more each month.

It could be possible for someone to organize some social event (likely working with Wheeler to just call 1-2 (or even 3-4) monthly outings to Wheeler's, maybe hold some discussions, or more.

For a college student to do this, the ~$20/month could become a challenge, problem, or possible issue in organizing a Meetup group, but perhaps Wheeler could get a local ‘sponsor’ who could front the ~$20/month fee (if asked, I’d suggest someone who might be eager to sponsor the Meetup outreach tool).