From Mother Jones: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tony-dsouza-marijuana-growers
For some time, I’d been hearing stories from my sources in the interstate marijuana racket about law-abiding “civilians” turning to the game because of the recession, and so, armed with introductions, I hit the road to meet some of these unlikely criminals face to face. That’s how, on a hot evening in June, I found myself in Dan’s Northern California kitchen.
Dan isn’t his real name. Nor are any of the names in this story, for obvious reasons. But his situation is a familiar, harsh reality for many Americans, as I learned while doing research for my recent novel on this subject. Dan is in his early 40s, a slim, soft-spoken former short-haul trucker who once owned all the toys: a used Mercedes, snowmobiles, Jet Skis. When they were both employed, he and his wife—a retail manager—easily cleared $100,000 a year. “We ate out breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Dan, now a minimum-wage laborer, tells me with folded arms. “That’s the way life was for 17 years.”
Today, Dan’s toys are gone, sold to support an underwater mortgage. His wife, who kept her job, left him three years ago, driving away in the Mercedes. “She didn’t like the fact that I sat at home and she was going to work,” he tells me. “There were no jobs. I filled out a thing for the city, and 400 people were there for one opening—a garbage truck driver.”
Keeping the house has been Dan’s only real goal since 2008, when he was laid off. It’s a simple three-bedroom, two-bath in a prefab, working-class subdivision off the I-5 corridor. “I wanted my kid to grow up in a safe community,” he explains. “I have always made my house payment, and I’ve always made it on time.” But he fretted over things like gas prices. “My daughter would say, ‘Can I take your truck to the store?’ That’s 1.2 miles, which makes it 2.4 miles round-trip. If she went there once, I would not make it to work the next day. That’s how my money was. I’ve fought for it the past three years working two and three jobs. I’ve even changed my morals.”
Continue reading at: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tony-dsouza-marijuana-growers
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/opinion/krugman-springtime-for-toxics.html?_r=1
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: December 25, 2011
Here’s what I wanted for Christmas: something that would make us both healthier and richer. And since I was just making a wish, why not ask that Americans get smarter, too?
Surprise: I got my wish, in the form of new Environmental Protection Agency standards on mercury and air toxics for power plants. These rules are long overdue: we were supposed to start regulating mercury more than 20 years ago. But the rules are finally here, and will deliver huge benefits at only modest cost.
So, naturally, Republicans are furious. But before I get to the politics, let’s talk about what a good thing the E.P.A. just did.
As far as I can tell, even opponents of environmental regulation admit that mercury is nasty stuff. It’s a potent neurotoxicant: the expression “mad as a hatter” emerged in the 19th century because hat makers of the time treated fur with mercury compounds, and often suffered nerve and mental damage as a result.
Hat makers no longer use mercury (and who wears hats these days?), but a lot of mercury gets into the atmosphere from old coal-burning power plants that lack modern pollution controls. From there it gets into the water, where microbes turn it into methylmercury, which builds up in fish. And what happens then? The E.P.A. explains: “Methylmercury exposure is a particular concern for women of childbearing age, unborn babies and young children, because studies have linked high levels of methylmercury to damage to the developing nervous system, which can impair children’s ability to think and learn.”
That sort of sounds like something we should regulate, doesn’t it?
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/opinion/krugman-springtime-for-toxics.html?_r=1
Prescription drugs are more expensive in the United States than in any other developed nation. In 2003, pharmaceutical purchases made up 11 percent of total US healthcare spending, and the amount continues to rise. While these costs hit consumers hard, health systems also feel the pinch, spending more on drugs than any other supply expense. What are some of the reasons behind the astronomical cost of pharmaceuticals, and are there any steps the government could take to make drugs cheaper to US buyers? Check out this interesting graphic from MedicalBillingAndCodingCertification.net and give us your opinion.
Created by: Medical Billing and Coding
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/26/breast-implants-rebranded-dutch-women
Around 1,000 Dutch women have breast implants of the suspect kind made by a French company but sold under a different name, a Netherlands health official has said, broadening a scandal that could affect 300,000 or more women worldwide.
Health authority spokeswoman Diane Bouhuijs said a Dutch company had bought implants made by Poly Implant Prothese, which went bankrupt in 2010 after French authorities shut its doors. It is now under investigation. They were sold rebranded as “M-implants”.
“We estimate 1,000 women in the Netherlands have them. We have advised them to consult their physician,” Bouhuijs said. She declined to name the Dutch company.
The rebranding expands the controversy in which PIP, once the world’s third-largest maker, is accused of using industrial-grade instead of medical-grade silicone in some of its implants, which made them cheaper. They were sold in various European and Latin American countries.
The company’s founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was able to charge lower prices for the implants using the non-approved silicone.
Health authorities have cited no evidence of increased cancer risk, but say they have higher rates of rupture that could cause inflammation and irritation.
France urges its 30,000 women with PIP implants to have them removed, but other countries including Britain and Brazil say women should check with their doctors.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/26/breast-implants-rebranded-dutch-women
First Posted: 12/23/11
A new analysis of the U.S. National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) has revealed some surprising shifts in the sexual activity of teenage girls over the past decade, including a significant spike among those who claim to have had same-sex contact.
A comparison of 2002 NSFG data to figures from 2006-2008 showed that 11 percent of 17-year-old girls in the latter pool had engaged in contact with other girls, compared with just five percent in 2002. Furthermore, those same girls also claim to have been significantly less heterosexually active, at just 46 percent in 2006-2008, whereas the 2002 survey found 63 percent of girls in the same age group had been active.
The decrease in heterosexual activity could, at least in part, account for another one of the survey’s findings: a slight drop (18 percent to 12 percent) in the number of 17-year-girls who have been pregnant. “Factors that may account for this drop include our findings that more were waiting until later in adolescence to become heterosexually involved, more were using emergency contraception if they were heterosexually active, and perhaps even that more were engaging in same-sex behavior,” Dr. Nanette Gartrell, NSFG lead author, is quoted as saying by the Windy City Times. “It will be interesting to see if the next cycle of NSFG data collection reveals whether these changes are a long-term trend.”
Take a deep breath. Despite the headlines this week, there is no need to panic about kids having group sex.
By Tracy Clark-Flory
December 25, 2011
This week saw the creation of the next “rainbow party” panic. An ABC headline warned: “Teens as Young as 14 Engaging in Group Sex.” The Daily Mail took a sexier angle with: “Group sex is the latest trend for teenagers, says distubing new report.” Even feminist ladyblog Jezebel fell for it with the not intentionally ironic teaser: “Group Sex Is the Latest Disturbing Teen Trend.”
As is often the case with reports on the latest wild-and-crazy teen sex trend, this was all total and complete BS. The original research inspiring these proclamations had been distorted and exaggerated beyond recognition. But if you’re interested in the real story behind these salacious reports, you’re in the right place. (If you want to be titillated by tales of teenage orgies, you’ll have to look elsewhere — sorry.)
I just knew this is what would happen when I first came across the study, which was published earlier this month in the Journal of Public Health. That’s why I reached out last week to the lead researcher, Emily Rothman. I was curious: Did she worry that her findings would be misconstrued in the press to give rise to the latest teen sex panic? At the time, Rothman told me in an email that she was indeed “concerned about reporters ignoring the methodological limitations” — that’s why she tried to include all the important caveats and “frame things responsibly” in early press interviews — but, regardless, most outlets found a way to make her worry come true. The good news is that the study and its mainstream coverage offer up a useful cautionary tale.
Researchers surveyed 328 girls and young women who had visited an urban health clinic in the Boston area. The key thing here is that a study with such a minute sample size is designed to be preliminary; it’s not meant to be definitive. What’s more, the population surveyed places further limits on the findings: These are girls who have gone to a community or school-based clinic in search of services, which excludes those with access to different types of healthcare, or those who weren’t seeking care of that sort. That isn’t to disregard the potential implications of this survey for the health of this particular population, but the findings simply aren’t broadly applicable or representative. On top of all that, the participants ranged in age from 14 to 20: Perhaps you’re already aware, 20-year-olds are not teenagers — so those headlines trumpeting this as “the latest trend for teenagers” are sloppy at best and willfully misleading at worst. That’s not to mention that the difference between a 14-year-old and a 20-year-old is often — at least one should hope — profound.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/story/153565/the_bogus_teen_orgy_trend/
From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/14535718993
By Robert Reich
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican crackup threatens the future of the Grand Old Party more profoundly than at any time since the GOP’s eclipse in 1932. That’s bad for America.
The crackup isn’t just Romney the smooth versus Gingrich the bomb-thrower.
Not just House Republicans who just scotched the deal to continue payroll tax relief and extended unemployment insurance benefits beyond the end of the year, versus Senate Republicans who voted overwhelmingly for it.
Not just Speaker John Boehner, who keeps making agreements he can’t keep, versus Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who keeps making trouble he can’t control.
And not just venerable Republican senators like Indiana’s Richard Lugar, a giant of foreign policy for more than three decades, versus primary challenger state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who apparently misplaced and then rediscovered $320 million in state tax revenues.
Some describe the underlying conflict as Tea Partiers versus the Republican establishment. But this just begs the question of who the Tea Partiers really are and where they came from.
Continue reading at: http://robertreich.org/post/14535718993
From Common Dreams: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/26
by Fred Grimm
Published on Monday, December 26, 2011 by Miami Herald
Compared to modern school kids, I was a downright worthless student.
I don’t mean worthless as a pejorative. (My father would have used a more colorful term to characterize my scholarly pursuits.) But worthless as a commodity. Us kids at Montrose Elementary School weren’t making anyone rich. Not like today’s pupils, particularly those in Florida, who’ve become valuable cogs in a burgeoning industry.
Such precious little dummies, these wayward students. Their benighted ways in the classroom have given rise to a recession-proof enterprise. To a no-lose sort of capitalism. Educational entrepreneurs (some backed by Wall Street hedge funds who know a sure thing when they see it) have figured out how to make millions without the usual risks of the marketplace, drilling for profits in the ever lucrative field of school reform.
No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s 2001 education reform package, since embraced by President Obama, may have forced needed attention onto failing schools, but the law also created an extraordinary new industry funded exclusively with public money.
The NCLB mandate for standardized tests requires the nation’s public schools to administer some 50 million tests annually, costing some $700 million a year, most of that money going to corporations that create and publish the tests, score the results and provide “interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports.” Since I was a school boy, testing costs have risen by 3,000 percent. And so too has the opportunity to make a buck.
Continue reading at: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/26