Maine’s health program learns that people respond to incentives. Maine’s effort to get every citizen covered by health insurance has come up significantly short, reports the New York Times. Maine launched its Dirigo program two years ago with the goal of getting 31,000 of its uninsured covered by the end of 2005 and all 130,000 of its estimated uninsured covered by 2009. So far, only 18,800 have signed up for insurance through the government’s plan, and some of those were already covered. The problem, according to the Times, is that the generous coverage provided by the state’s plan is too expensive for some, and premiums have gone up because not enough healthy people have signed up. Governor Baldacci has proposed a number of reforms, including requiring insurers participating in the plan to offer discounts for non-smokers and those in wellness programs. Some health care activists are trying to get a proposal for a government-run single-payer plan placed on the November 2008 ballot.
India’s doing well. Strong economic growth, especially in the last four years, has led to a boom in the ownership of cars and electronic devices in India, reports Agence-France Press. In urban areas, 66.1 percent of households owned a television in 2004–2005, up from 40.5 percent in 1993–1994. In rural areas, 26.5 percent of households owned a television in 2004–2005, compared to only 7 percent in 1993–1994. Meanwhile, car ownership has nearly quadrupled over that time period, and now stands at 4.6 percent. Refrigerator ownership has also increased significantly. In 2004–2005, 31.9 percent of urban families had one compared to only 12.3 pecent in 1993–1994. For rural areas, the figures are 4.4 percent possessing a fridge in 2004–2005 as against 0.9 percent in 1993–1994. (Just think how well India could be doing if it increased the level of economic freedom enjoyed by its citizens. According to Heritage’s 2007 Index of Economic Freedom, India could improve significantly by tackling corruption and making it easier to start a business.)
Sweden begins sell-off of state shares in industry. Elections matter. Sweden’s new center-right government is moving ahead on its promises to divest the government of its ownership of certain companies, reports AP. First on the sales block is 8 percent of Telecom operator TeliaSonera. The government owns a total of 43.5 percent of TeliaSonera, and says it will sell those shares eventually, too. The government plans, by the year 2010, to sell off 250 billion kroner ($37 billion) worth of assets, which it will use to pay off Sweden’s national debt.
Tenure: What is it good for? According to a survey of faculty opinions, having tenure does not make professors more willing to speak on or publish about controversial subjects, reports Newswise. The survey, conducted by two Cornell professors and a graduate student, “asked 1,004 professors from of all ranks and many disciplines from around the country (derived from an e-mailing to a random sample of 2,700 professors) how they would act and how they believed lower-ranked faculty members would act concerning teaching courses disfavored by senior colleagues, conducting controversial research or whistle-blowing unethical behavior.” The report concluded that all but full professors behave timidly in order to avoid displeasing senior colleagues.
Cities picking green winners. Green practices, technologies, and building materials are gaining favor with a number of hotels and hotel chains, reports Bloomberg. Among the green-friendly features being put into use are low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, recycled paper, solar lights, and recycled construction materials. The trend isn’t exactly a spontaneous expression of virtuous concern for mother Earth, however. Many cities around the country offer a variety of perks for hotels built with green-friendly materials. As Bloomberg notes, the town of American Canyon, Calif., has slashed occupancy taxes for the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel by $1 million per year, and the town of Anderson, Calif., waived a $100,000 environmental impact fee for a similar hotel there. Also, San Francisco has decided to go lightly on the regulations for those who go lightly on the environment. According to city officials, certain projects may have to wait only four weeks for construction to begin instead of eight months. For the truly faithful green traveler, the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel offers something a little extra: Instead of the Gideon Bible, visitors will find a copy of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.