Schakowsky: GOP Anti-Abortion Bill Goes ‘Way Beyond’ Current Law

From Talking Points Memo:

Megan Carpentier

January 25, 2011

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show last night to discuss the House Republicans’ push to pass H.R. 3, which they’re calling the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.” But those familiar with federal law — specifically the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited the Department of Health and Human Services from using taxpayer funds for abortions since 1976, and other laws that prohibit members of the military, Peace Corps, those utilizing Native American health services or federal prisoners from obtaining abortions using federal funds — might wonder what the fuss is about.

As Schakowsky explained, the law introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and backed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) actually goes further than all of the current restrictions and increases taxes on people with private insurance plans — if those plans cover abortion.

Schakowsky said:

This says that a person whose employer provides health care but that health insurance policy covers abortions, man or woman, then that employer can’t get a tax break. If an individual who buys a policy that provides for abortion cannot get any kind of health care tax deduction if that policy were to cover abortion. So, now it goes into private money and private insurance policies and things that people do on their own. It’s much further than the Hyde amendment.

Schakowsky added, “I think what it really says is ‘Insurance companies don’t offer abortion coverage.'” She also noted that if companies provided separate abortion coverage policies — or riders — to their employees, those health insurance riders would actually count as additional income to employees and be taxes as such.

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Update: Mass FBI raids target pro-WikiLeaks ‘Operation Payback’

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, January 27th, 2011

UPDATE: Following the arrest of five people in Britain in connection with the “Operation Payback” cyber-attacks in support of WikiLeaks, the FBI announced mass raids across the United States in connection with the case.

“FBI agents today executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation into recent coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations,” a bureau press release states.

Though the bureau did not say if any individuals were arrested during the raids, it did confirm a link between the US raids and the arrests in Britain. The bureau said suspects, if charged, could face up to 10 years in prison.

The police actions indicate that governments on both sides of the Atlantic are determined to prevent hacktivists from taking revenge against companies that ceased to do business with WikiLeaks following the release of US State Department cables late last year.

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Breast Implants May Be Associated With Rare Cancer

FDA Press Release:

FDA requests reports of anaplastic large cell lymphoma in women with implants


For Immediate Release: Jan. 26, 2011
Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988,
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA review indicates possible association between breast implants and a rare cancer
Agency requesting health care professionals to report confirmed cases

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a possible association between saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a very rare type of cancer. Data reviewed by the FDA suggest that patients with breast implants may have a very small but significant risk of ALCL in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant.

The FDA is requesting that health care professionals report any confirmed cases of ALCL in women with breast implants.

In an effort to ensure that patients receiving breast implants are informed of the possible risk, FDA will be working with breast implant manufacturers in the coming months to update their product labeling materials for patients and health care professionals.

“We need more data and are asking that health care professionals tell us about any confirmed cases they identify,” said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., chief scientist and deputy director for science in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “We are working with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and other experts in the field to establish a breast implant patient registry, which should help us better understand the development of ALCL in women with breast implants.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, ALCL appears in different parts of the body including the lymph nodes and skin. Each year ALCL is diagnosed in about 1 out of 500,000 women in the United States. ALCL located in breast tissue is found in only about 3 out of every 100 million women nationwide without breast implants.

In total, the agency is aware of about 60 cases of ALCL in women with breast implants worldwide. This number is difficult to verify because not all cases were published in the scientific literature and some may be duplicate reports. An estimated 5 million to 10 million women worldwide have breast implants.

The FDA notification is based on a review of scientific literature published between January 1997 and May 2010 and information from other international regulators, scientists, and breast implant manufacturers. The literature review identified 34 unique cases of ALCL in women with both saline and silicone breast implants.

Most cases reviewed by the FDA were diagnosed when patients sought medical treatment for implant-related symptoms such as pain, lumps, swelling, or asymmetry that developed after their initial surgical sites were fully healed. These symptoms were due to collection of fluid (peri-implant seroma), hardening of breast area around the implant (capsular contracture), or masses surrounding the breast implant. Examination of the fluid and capsule surrounding the breast implant led to the ALCL diagnosis.

The FDA is recommending that health care professionals and women pay close attention to breast implants and do the following:

  • Health care professionals are requested to report all confirmed cases of ALCL in women with breast implants to Medwatch, the FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program. Report online1 or by calling 800-332-1088.
  • Health care professionals should consider the possibility of ALCL if a patient has late onset, persistent fluid around the implant (peri-implant seroma). In cases of implant seroma, send fresh seroma fluid for pathology tests to rule out ALCL.
  • There is no need for women with breast implants to change their routine medical care and follow-up. ALCL is very rare; it has occurred in only a very small number of the millions of women who have breast implants.  Although not specific to ALCL, health care providers should follow standard medical recommendations.
  • Women should monitor their breast implants and contact their doctor if they notice any changes.
  • Women who are considering breast implant surgery should discuss the risks and benefits with their health care provider.

The FDA published its literature review in a document posted on FDA’s website site today titled “Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) in Women with Breast Implants: Preliminary FDA Findings and Analyses.”

The FDA also plans to provide an update on its review of silicone gel-filled breast implants in the spring of 2011. This update will include interim findings from ongoing post-approval studies for silicone gel-filled breast implants currently sold in the United States, adverse event reports submitted to the FDA, and a review of the scientific literature on these products.

For more information:

ALCL and Breast Implants
Breast Implant Consumer Information3

ALCL and Breast Implants Consumer Article4

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Mortgage Lenders Committed Massive Fraud and Now Wall St. Wants to Escape the Law

From Alternet:

Here they come looking for an out-clause and a way to keep their coffers full. We need to repeat a simple mantra: No more bailouts for Wall Street.

By Joshua Holland

January 27, 2011

They committed widespread fraud – largely whitewashed by the corporate media – and, in the process, threw the economy into a tailspin. They’ve broken into and stolen people’s homes, and, in the name of “efficiency,” bilked state governments out of billions of dollars in real estate transfer fees. They’ve even admitted to ripping off – and foreclosing on – soldiers deployed overseas, in violation of the law.

And they shredded a bedrock principle of capitalism, throwing hundreds of years of settled property law into doubt and in turn creating a massive drag on Main Street’s economic “recovery.”

They got rich in the process. The mortgage industry did all of that for a fat stream of profits while the going was good, but now that they face the prospect of being held accountable by the justice system — as would you or I had we routinely broken the laws — analysts expect the “banksters” to lobby hard for another bailout.

They won’t be looking for the Fed to shower them with free money or buy up trillions worth of “toxic assets” weighing down their books they already got that sort of bailout once, the voters detested it and with the Tea Party ascendant in the GOP, the political atmosphere precludes a repeat performance.

No, the mortgage industry – with the help of its political lackeys in Washington– is reportedly looking for a judicial bailout that would retroactively allow loan servicers to foreclose on properties without running up the costs of getting their paperwork in order, and limit investors’ – and possibly the states’ – ability to sue them for the mess they created in the housing market.

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Obama Urged To Support Regulations On For-Profit Colleges And Student Debt

From The Huffington Post:

By Chris Kirkham

January 26, 2011

As the Department of Education gets closer to finalizing regulations that would hold for-profit colleges accountable for saddling students with debts they cannot repay, a wide array of civil rights, student advocacy and consumer groups wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday urging him to immediately move forward with the proposed rule.

The letter comes in the midst of an intense lobbying and advertising campaign run by the for-profit education sector, which is waging an assault on the so-called “gainful employment” regulations being considered by the federal government. The rules are proposed as a consumer protection measure, aimed at cracking down on schools that leave students unable to repay student loan debts given the low-wage jobs they tend to secure after graduation.

The for-profit sector includes a broad swath of schools, from University of Phoenix and DeVry University to more specialized schools such as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

“Federal financial aid shouldn’t go to career education programs that consistently leave students buried in debt they cannot repay,” reads the letter, signed by 38 groups, including the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza.

The stakes for the for-profit colleges are huge: Many of the publicly-traded corporations that own such institutions derive more than 85 percent of their revenues from federal student aid dollars. By not meeting the criteria of the new rules, schools could be banned from tapping into federal student aid or be forced to disclose the high average debt burdens to prospective students.

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The Media’s Role in the Assault on Working People

From Alternet:

A common theme runs through a variety of news stories: there isn’t enough money around, and so working people must take a hit. But is that really the only solution?

By Russ Baker
January 26, 2011

A common theme runs through a variety of news stories: there isn’t enough money around, and so working people must take a hit. But is that really the only solution? First, let’s look at the stories. There’s growing talk of letting state governments declare bankruptcy so they can get out of paying pension benefits to retired state workers. As The New York Times put it:

Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

The article does not really get into why this is all happening, and the only real defense of not going this route is from—surprise, surprise, a union leader, making it sound like this defense is of only parochial interest:

Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers.

“They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

It also does not interview anyone who would point out that retirees who have less, spend less, meaning less “recovery.” In that sense, it is typical media narrative compartmentalization. Meanwhile, it notes, only very briefly, and so it is easy to miss, the crux of what is going on here:

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F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing of Milk

From The New York Times:

Published: January 25, 2011

Each year, federal inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.

But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.

In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing, and now the two sides are sparring over how much danger the antibiotics pose and the best way to ensure that the drugs do not end up in the milk supply.

“What has been served up, up to this point, by Food and Drug has been potentially very damaging to innocent dairy farmers,” said John J. Wilson, a senior vice president for Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative. He said that that the nation’s milk was safe and that there was little reason to think that the slaughterhouse findings would be replicated in tests of the milk supply.

But food safety advocates said that the F.D.A.’s preliminary findings raised issues about the possible overuse of antibiotics in livestock, which many fear could undermine the effectiveness of drugs to combat human illnesses.

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