Top Hospitals Have 27% Lower Mortality Rate

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:29 PM EST

793567365_fb45589496_m.jpg This according to HealthGrades, in the largest annual study of hospital quality in America, analyzing more than 40 million hospitalization records over the most recent three years. The results indicate that patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide are nearly one-third less likely to die, on average. Patients who undergo surgery at these high-performing hospitals also have an average five percent lower risk of complications during their stay. Overall, 171,424 lives may have been saved and 9,671 major complications avoided during the three years studied, had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top five percent. "This disparity in the quality of care at U.S. hospitals is disappointing," says Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades chief medical officer.

You can check the ratings of your local hospitals for free here.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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Campaign Ad Factoids

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:26 PM EST

obama150.jpgPolitical Punch has an interesting little collection of facts about candidate advertising. Among the most interesting:

* Mitt Romney was the No. 1 advertiser in both parties—35,000 ads—and spent as much as all of his GOP opponents combined—and almost four times as much as John McCain in Florida

* Barack Obama led the Democratic pack with almost 30,000 ads, worth almost $23 million; Hillary Clinton aired more than 25,500 ads, worth well over $18 million.

* Who did the talking? Barack Obama narrated nearly 83% of his own TV ads, while Hillary Clinton narrated fewer than half (43 percent) of hers.

* McCain used images of the American flag more than any other leading candidate, with 77% of his TV ads displaying the Stars and Stripes…compared with 40% of Obama's and 33% of Clinton's.

Another interesting fact: Obama was the only candidate to air an ad during the Super Bowl. Take a look:

The Best Music of 2007: What My Dad Thinks

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:21 PM EST

2007 Music

Here we are, a month into 2008. The Village Voice and Idolator 2007 critics polls were recently released, and it feels like it's probably time to wrap up our thoughts on the previous year in music. But rather than inflict my own opinions on you once again, I thought I'd turn to a less-pretentious source: my dad.

Larry Gill is a 67-year-old farmer who's spent most of his life in a small town in Nebraska and has no musical training to speak of (other than church choir). But his taste in music always surprises me: he's a big Coldplay fan and raves about the Zero 7 CD I got him for Christmas a few years back (and my mom assures me he really does listen to it all the time). So I wondered what he'd think about critics' picks for '07. I sent him a CD of some of the year's notable songs (along with a few of my own random picks) and we talked on the phone while he listened to it.

President Bush's Budget - Money for Defense and Not Much Else

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:28 PM EST

bush-deficits-graphic.gif According to the Washington Post, the budget that President Bush is introducing today is set to "slow the growth of big federal health programs, reduce anti-terrorism grants for states and cities, and cut spending on anti-poverty, housing, and social service programs." The early education program Even Start is going to be eliminated, and funding for education technology, programs for incarcerated youth, and college affordability measures are being stripped.

Medicare will see deep cuts. Poison control centers and rural health programs will be drastically reduced. The Community Services Block Grant, "a $654 million program that provides housing, nutrition, education and job services to low-income people," will be cut completely.

Is President Bush finally embracing the fiscal conservativism that has been more myth than reality during his two terms?

Don't be silly. The budget introduces "a flood of new red ink that will rival the record deficits of [Bush's] first term." The deficit will go from $163 billion in 2007 to about $400 billion in 2008 and 2009. So where is all the money going?

Remembering Clinton and Obama on Israeli Bombing of Syria

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:02 PM EST

Seymour Hersh has written a new article about Israel's bombing of Syria last September. Laura Rozen may have more to say about it, but it seems inconclusive. No one—Israeli, Syrian, or American—has a convincing explanation of what happened. But certainly there doesn't appear to be strong evidence Syria truly was, as Israel claimed, building a nuclear reactor. Moreover, the hazy evidence, long links of supposition, and hints of other agendas are strongly reminiscent of the Iraq/WMD story.

With that in mind, it's interesting to remember what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were saying about the bombing soon afterward, at the September 27 MSNBC debate. Here's Clinton:

George Bush, Tree Hugger

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:00 PM EST


Fun fact about the President's $3.1-trillion budget proposal: It may kill more American soldiers, but it saves money—and trees! How, you ask? From the LA Times:

In a cost-saving gesture, the government for the first time did not provide free copies of the four-volume proposal to Congress, instead releasing it online and charging $200 per printed copy ordered through the Government Printing Office.

Glad somebody's finally taking a stand against government waste.

—Casey Miner

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Election '08: Ch-ch-ch-changes

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 2:32 PM EST

If you aren't smiling half way through this video, you're the election grinch.

Also on the topic of videos, Barack Obama is having so much success online he now has his own YouTube. Introducing YouBama. No affiliation with the campaign, apparently.

A Primer on the All-Important Role of Delegates

| Sun Feb. 3, 2008 4:07 PM EST

obama-clinton-happy250.jpg In the early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, the presidential candidates pushed hard for victories that would yield few delegates but garner them momentum and media buzz, and separate them from the rest of the pack. But now that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have reached February 5's almost-nationwide primary, they've adopted a new strategy: pushing for "close enough."

It's a product of the all-powerful but little-understood role of delegates in deciding primary elections. In this historic and unique election, the technical details of how delegates are awarded may have more to do with choosing a Democratic nominee than all the media buys, GOTV operations, and newspaper endorsements put together.

Under Democratic Party rules, states divide their delegates proportionally according to vote totals at the state and district level. The rules for awarding delegates are very complex and vary from state to state (which will make figuring out the true results of Super Duper Tuesday a challenging task for the media). But in most places, the system works like this: say four delegates are up for grabs in a congressional district; if one candidate wins 30,000 votes in that district and the other wins 20,000, both will take home two delegates.

In the example, one candidate won 60 percent to 40 percent—a very substantial victory. But in order to give three delegates to the winner and a single delegate to the loser, the final vote would have had to be closer to 75/25. The less unfair but still imperfect way to divide the district's four delegates is to give two to the winner and two to the loser.

This creates a focus on districts that have an odd number of delegates. Districts which, through the quirks of state party rules, have five delegates will give three to the winner and two to the loser in even a 51/49 split of the popular vote.

Check out "Yes We Can," Pro-Obama Video

| Sat Feb. 2, 2008 7:02 PM EST

From ABC.

I have no idea who most of these extremely young people are, but I have it on good authority that they're big stars.

Update: Check out the video by clicking "continues inside."

These Guys for Colbert's New Black Friends: Negroes for Huckabee

| Sat Feb. 2, 2008 2:31 PM EST

A press release I received just now:

Black Conservatives Rally to Urge Mike Huckabee to Stay in Presidential Race
Monday, February 4, 2008
9:45 AM
National Press Club
529 14th Street NW, DC

(DC) – A broad coalition of black conservatives from across the country are holding a press conference to urge former Governor Mike Huckabee to stay in the presidential race for the Republican nomination until the Convention.

"Governor Huckabee should not be intimidated to stop his bid for the republican nomination," states Don Scoggins, veteran GOP activist and among other conservatives hosting the press conference. "The momentum of the grassroots that propelled this party into victory is behind Mike and will not stop fighting for him regardless of his bank account," also states Scoggins, president of Republicans for Black Empowerment, a DC based national grassroots organization.