Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 10, 2021

When I was a kid, there is a little ritual that happened in private. I later learned my parents referred to it as “The Talk”. At some age-appropriate point, my dad would invite “just the two of us” out for a fishing trip. After we dropped an anchor and threw our baited hooks into the water, I was trapped. After we caught a fish or two, he would bring up changes he was seeing underway in my body, and how I was probably beginning to face new biological urges. He explained that these changes carried with them moral and ethical responsibilities. The discussion was uncomfortable - but necessary. He was a good parent. As you contemplate your future and think about how your survivors will manage after you leave them, talking with them about your inevitable death is potentially a similarly stressful conversation, but because your parent can no longer trap you in a boat, you can avoid it. Most of us do. We stop behaving like responsible adults and shirk our responsibility as parents.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 27, 2020

My mom and dad always ended the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period exhausted. They took six kids and grandma on a holiday schedule filled with choir rehearsal, church events, pancake breakfasts, and fundraisers. There were serious moments - as kids, we were asked if we had been naughty or nice, and by the time we entered high school we were reminded of our obligation to become a role model for others. We were often asked, “Are you walking your talk?” I have been thinking about this. Are we, as a country, being "naughty or nice?" Does our behavior reflect what we proclaim are our values? I do not think so. Across our country, our life expectancy has been falling, particularly among the poor, even before the Covid epidemic.[1] [2] Many years of failure to adapt public policy to scientific findings is causing great pain and suffering.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 20, 2020

Chances of catching Covid-19 are up to 18 times higher if you are exposed to someone who has it while you are indoors compared to being outdoors.[1] This is because the virus particles do not blow away like it would if you were both outside. If you are in a modern building with a new air conditioning system, the danger is less because it was designed bring in oxygen rich fresh air frequently. If you are unlucky enough to work in an old building, the virus concentration grows hourly as the infected folks near you continue to breathe it out. This infection is spread by people who do not know they are infected and for a 10 day period unknowingly infect others until symptoms begin to show up. Every unknowing but infected person appears to infect one other person during that period.[2] On the single day of December 9, 2020, Covid-19 killed more than 3,157 Americans[3], and almost 300,000 newly infected were identified.[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 12, 2020

When I was a kid, my mother used to start all serious conversations with some remark about “The only certainty in life is death and taxes”. I did not like hearing this, because it was usually followed by some explanation of why some exciting planned trip to the beach was not going to happen. Now I learn she was wrong (one of only a few times, I must admit.) Turns out for an astonishing number of Americans, even having to pay taxes is not certain. The IRS estimates that individuals and corporations fail to pay one dollar out of every six that should have been paid to the federal government.[1] This is enabled by our Congress who cut funding for law enforcement audits and collections. Starting in 2010, Congress has reduced the IRS law enforcement budget by millions of dollars each year. It is now only 80 % of what it was in 2010. The number of employees was also reduced by one fifth. [2] In 2019 the IRS had 8,004 auditors – less than it had back in 1953 when the economy was about one-seventh its current size.[3],[4],[5] As a consequence, three major bad things happened.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 6, 2020

My father was a fireman and ambulance driver in a small town in Ohio. I have clear memories of going to the funeral of a fireman killed in the line of duty in a neighboring town. I was very young and had to hold my dad’s hand when we walked from the church to the cemetery. Flags at half-mast still have a powerful impact on me. Over Thanksgiving, I had a chat with a friend who is a lifelong member of the law enforcement community. We were discussing the existing and expanding stresses on First Responders as Covid-19 explodes around the coming holidays. I was explaining how awful the next few months are going to be, given the fact that it took 3 months for the first one million Americans to be infected, and 6 days for the latest one million, and the rate is rising.[1] I said I was worried about the stress on our doctors and nurses. He replied, “Do you know that more law enforcement officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty?” I did not. After we parted, I could not shake the emotions that statement caused in me. Got out my laptop and started researching. He was right.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 22, 2020

There are four facts in this article you do not know. Our population of Covid-19 infected people is split into two groups.  The first group is those who have developed symptoms and are now visible and counted.  That number is growing about 162,000 per day in America.[1]  That highly visible group is spawned by a second invisible group – those who are infected but do not know it.   Scientists have shown that during last week, 3,600,000 Americans had the virus, did not know it, and each of those will infect about 3 others during the next 10-day window.[2],[3],[4],[5] We live in a country that is #1 in the world both in the number and the percentage of our population of `Covid-19 infections.[6]  Our hospitals are already overwhelmed, do not have enough doctors and nurses, and patients are in beds in parking garages, tents, and hallways.[7]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 15, 2020

Our country is having two epidemics, not one. The first one is Covid-19. In the past eight months, the Covid-19 virus has infected almost 11 million Americans and killed four times more than were killed in the entire Vietnam war. [1],[2] The projections are that by the end of February 2021, the numbers of infected will double to more than 22 million, and the number of dead will equal that of those Americans killed in WWll.[3],[4] Family members of patients who have Covid-19 are also learning that it can cause long term damage to the heart, lungs, brain, and other parts of the bodies of those who survive.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] Depressing, isn’t it?  And that is just the first epidemic. The second epidemic is actually impacting far more people, but almost no one is talking about it. Chances are you have it or know someone who does. It is called Depression.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 1, 2020

We can look at the state of our nation through two lenses – The state of our economy, and the state of our happiness. The United States has the #1 ranked economy in the world.[1] Turns out this does not have much to do with our state of happiness. For almost a decade, researchers have been studying annually the happiness of 156 countries, looking at citizen’s perceptions of their happiness in many areas including their sense of freedom, their economy, education, the ability to improve oneself, healthcare, life expectancy, and lack of public corruption. Using these indicators, our United States ranked only 18th for happiness. [2] Among all the countries in the world, we rank number 35 for life expectancy and falling. [3] Even among just the richest countries in the world, our life expectancy ranks 12th in the world and is falling.[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 25, 2020

When compared to other wealthy countries The United States has a life expectancy that ranks 35th in the world, and it is falling. If that was not bad enough, among the 50 states in America, the life expectancy of citizens of North Carolinas ranks 37th.  [2]  Why is that? When I was still working as an administrator in pediatrics, I would often pass through waiting rooms full of mothers holding crying children who had a birth defect.  With proper care during pregnancy, much of this damage was preventable.  These memories still break my heart. A key tool that prevents these birth defects and raises life expectancy is health insurance. As my dad used to say, “All behavior has consequences – good behavior, good consequences, bad behavior, bad consequences”.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 19, 2020

I have powerful memories of my mom, the mother of six, counting money at the kitchen table, sighing and scratching items from her shopping list because she realized we could not afford them. Sometimes she cried. While shopping, she taught me how to look out for overpriced items.  If her suspicions were aroused, she would do something like take a five-pound bag of potatoes over to the meat department and ask them to weigh it.  She was usually correct and they would have to reduce the price.  After a series of such events, we switched to another market. All behavior has consequences.


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