Monday, January 28, 2008

faceless Facebook?

The Goddess of Justice is blindfolded. This symbolizes Justice as strictly impersonal, unmoved by individual preferences. Facebook, the social networking site, is faceless when it comes to deciding on the fates of its users. Any user is free to report any other user and such reports are eagerly accepted at face value. The user against whom a report is made sees his account disabled forthwith. Any further inquiry with Facebook only elicits the mechanical response that Terms of Use agreed upon has been violated and the decision is final. No information is given on the nature of the complaint or the specific violation alleged as committed by the user. It is a harsh judgement, without trial, instantly dispensed, similar to that among Bedouin tribes. The guilty find themselves deprived of their contacts , the graffiti they draw, the pictures and messages they post, and the mails they receive with no access whatsoever. A trauma, barbaric in social terms, is inflicted on the hapless Facebook user. And the helpless individual user is left with no means to challenge Facebook. One patiently waits for a David who will match this Goliath. And going by the plenty of messages posted on the web alleging harshness, arbitrariness and unfair treatment from Facebook , I am sure the day is not far off when a David’s stone will fell this Goliath.

Disabled users of Facebook should’nt silently sit through the tyranny unleashed on them. They should network, share thoughts, discuss among themselves, and devise creative and innovative ways to face this injustice and expose the undemocratic and high-handed methods of Facebook. How about mounting a legal challenge to Facebook’s arbitrariness in US or European courts?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Michael O Leavitt

Michael O Leavitt, the US Secretary of Health, was in India to see for himself recent advancements in health care and the product facilities being developed. In an interview with ‘The Hindu’ he made two points worth pondering over.

Referring to the unsustainably high costs of health care in US ( in India too health care costs in the private sector is no different) he called for developing techniques to measure their quality and value. People should have access to information which enables them to compare the quality of health care they receive against its costs. In health care as in every other sector, says Mr.Leavitt, if people have information about the cost and quality, they will make choices that will drive the quality up and the costs down. A market based on value will emerge.

The second point he makes is on validating treatments and formulations from alternative and complementary systems of medicine. He says that the US National Institutes of Health have a centre that focuses on them. How different from India where there is very little interaction between modern medicine and the traditional systems, both of which occupy separate spheres and where the experts in each field encounter each other as adversaries in a battle!. Mr. Leavitt says that US policy is to take traditional systems of healing, understand it better, apply good science to it and apply it or use it. Mr. Leavitt mentions of the considerable time he spend in China looking at their traditional systems of medicine and his meeting with Mr.Chim, renowned in treating leukaemia , who successfully introduced arsenic in its treatment based on traditional practices.

The thrust on providing full information to users of health care and the positive approach to traditional systems of medicine being practiced the world over for centuries is proof that a change in approach, qualitative in nature, is taking place in health care in USA. The pace of change may be slow, yet the shift in emphasis is a welcome development. The United States should take the lead in integrating traditional healing practices with modern systems of medicine so that we gain the best of both. India's health administrators(and there's a surfeit of them) too should make sensible use of these suggestions of Mr.Leavitt.