Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
Businesses really like to keep their environmental degradations (for which they have no intention of paying) a secret, since otherwise they would have to acknowledge responsibility for what they’ve done. It’s the same imperative to secrecy that drives criminal enterprises, corruption in politics, CIA criminal behavior, police misconduct, and so on: if the offense is kept secret, then the offender cannot be held to account. (And in fact, we’re seeing more and more of society becoming secret—a very bad sign.)
This interesting article by Brian Merchant in Motherboard shows how people are using drones to look at what industrial farms do:
Since 2012, Mark Devries has been flying drones over America’s largest factory farms. In just-released aerial footage, he reveals the sheer size of the massive, toxic, feces-filled “lagoons” that they create.
Those lagoons you’re looking at belong to Smithfield Foods, which bills itself as is “the largest pork producer and processor in the United States.” They are often hundreds of feet long, and are fetid cesspools of waste—they are the result of pig excrement being sprayed out of the compounds where the animals are packed in like dirt-encrusted, antibiotics-loaded sardines.
“These factory farms make it exceedingly difficult to see the giant, open-air cesspools of toxic waste on their property,” Devries tells me in an email. “They are surrounded by trees, and often barbed-wire fences. With drones, I can bypass the trees and barbed wire, and see close-up what is being hidden.”
What he did end up seeing repulsed him, he said.
“Even though I knew what to expect in the abstract, I was shocked by the sheer size of these open-air pits of toxic waste—they can stretch on for the surface area of several football fields.
Factory farms are quickly becoming one of the hardest places to photograph in the nation. The sprawling operations—which cram an enormous number of pigs, chickens, and cows into cramped quarters for harvesting—have responded to animal rights critics by pushing for state-level “ag-gag” bills that prevent journalists and activists from photographing their grounds.
It’s brazen, patently absurd, and one of the most egregious free speech violations that hardly anyone is talking about. Devries took care not to film any farms in states that have ag-gag bills, but hopes his footage will offer viewers an idea of the practices of operations of those that do.
“I was also particularly struck by how close they are to the houses of neighbors, who are forced to deal with the dangerous chemicals and stench in their own homes.”
The segment is part of Devries’ full-length documentary Speciesism; learn more about the film here.
Needless to say, big agriculture is lobbying aggressively to make it illegal to take pictures and videos what they are doing because they understand that if people know what they are doing, they’ll have to stop doing it. And there’s money to be made, so who cares about the environment?
Hannah Block reports for NPR:
Checking into a hospital can boost your chances of infection. That’s a disturbing paradox of modern medical care.
And it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re hospitalized. From the finest to the most rudimentary medical facilities, patients are vulnerable to new infections that have nothing to do with their original medical problem. These are referred to as healthcare-acquired infections, healthcare-associated infections or hospital-acquired infections. Many of them, like pneumonia or methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA), can be deadly.
The World Health Organization estimates that “each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected” by healthcare-acquired infections. In the United States, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the Health and Human Services Department estimates that 1 in 25 inpatients has a hospital-related infection. In developing countries, estimates run higher.
Hospital bed safety railings are a major source of these infections. That’s what Constanza Correa, 33, and her colleagues have found in their research in Santiago, Chile. They’ve taken on the problem by replacing them, since 2013, with railings made of copper, an anti-microbial element.
Copper definitely wipes out microbes. “Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term “contact killing” has been coined for this process,” wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. That knowledge has been around a very long time. The journal article cites an Egyptian medical text, written around 2600-2000 B.C., that cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.
Correa’s startup, Copper BioHealth, has not yet assessed the railings’ impact in Chilean hospitals. But a study of the effects of copper-alloy surfaces in U.S. hospitals’ intensive care units, published last year in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, showed promising results: Their presence reduced the number of healthcare-acquired infections from 8.1 percent in regular rooms to 3.4 percent in the copper rooms.
Correa spoke with Goats and Soda a few hours before she presented her work at a Latin America innovation conference earlier this month, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C.
You have a simple strategy to combat hospital-associated infections. Tell me what it involves. . .
Very interesting article by Scott Keyes at Pacific Standard:
Living on the cold streets of Seattle—decades after a war left his body 70 percent disabled—John would have never thought of himself as a role model.
He wasn’t just an alcoholic. He was the type who was so committed that he’d earned a reputation around town. After drinking for 25 years on the Seattle streets, alcohol had consumed his life. He’d survived Vietnam, but it seemed that he might wind up losing his life to the bottle.
In 2005, a new kind of housing unit for homeless people opened up in downtown Seattle. John was one of the first people to move in. The building, named for its address 1811 Eastlake, specifically targets homeless individuals who are dependent on alcohol. Unlike most shelters, however, 1811 Eastlake permits residents to continue drinking, even in their rooms, if they so desire.
So John kept drinking. Why wouldn’t he? There was no rule prohibiting it. And just because he had a bed and a roof didn’t mean he craved alcohol any less. But over the next 12 months, John’s life gradually improved. He no longer had to worry about violence or finding a place to sleep. He met with a counselor who encouraged him to drink less. By his second year at 1811 Eastlake, John decided he was going to stop drinking, and he did.
“He became a role model,” says Bill Hobson, the executive director of Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center, which runs 1811 Eastlake. After all, John had been drinking on the streets for decades. Most other residents knew him and had likely shared drinks with him. “He could tell people they looked like shit today, and that he didn’t want to see them that way,” Hobson says. After more than six years, John moved out and got his own apartment. 1811 Eastlake had saved his life.
MOST SHELTERS AND HOMELESS housing units would have turned John away, though, employing the same reasoning with alcohol that conservatives use to block sexual education: abstinence-only. In 1997, when the idea for 1811 Eastlake first arose from a meeting of Seattle and King County officials, “everyone was still locked into the idea that the way you cure an addict is to demand they stop doing drugs/alcohol,” Hobson says. . . .
$1 spent influencing politics = $760 received from the federal government. America’s most politically active corporations – like Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s and Bank of America – pumped $5.8 billion into federal lobbying and campaign contributions between 2007 and 2012. An analysis of 14 million records by the Sunlight Foundation found that in return, these companies got $4.4 trillion in federal business and support. To put that in context, the federal government paid $4.3 trillion in Social Security benefits over the same period to 50 million Americans. — Sunlight Foundation via @jake_bernstein
The pastor calls it “work therapy.” Advocates and labor lawyers call it “exploitative,” and possibly illegal. Pastor Tom Atchison is founder and CEO of New Beginnings, one of Tampa’s largest homeless programs. For years, “Pastor Tom” has supplied a homeless labor force to work concessions at major sporting events, for local construction jobs and even grant writing for the center itself. While these workers get food and shelter, they remain as penniless as when they arrived. Employing this population in for-profit work for no pay may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, experts say. And, Atchison is applying to run a new multi-million dollar homeless shelter, potentially entrusting him with an even larger homeless population. — Tampa Bay Times via @Rachael_Bale
“They put poison on his skin and in the air he breathed.” Benzene is the 17th most-produced chemical in the U.S. It’s a key ingredient in gas and cigarettes. It’s a component for producing plastics, adhesives, lubricants and pesticides. And chronic exposure is linked to leukemia and other cancers. But being the 17th most-produced chemical in the U.S., it has a powerful industry behind it. An investigation by The Center for Public Integrity found that a $36 million study funded by America’s oil and chemical titans was “designed to protect member company interests.” Industry reps say research is sound. Authors of the work claim no bias. But experts say the research, and the strategy the industry employs, shields companies from workers compensation claims. — Center for Public Integrity via @Smaczni
The road to hell is famously paved with good intentions…
Very interesting article by Scott Kellogg in Pacific Standard:
Anyone who believes in progressive drug policy reform and in embracing a more humanistic system of care would agree that we are living in a time when amazing things are happening. Both the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance, among others, have helped us realize that the War on Drugs has actually been a war on people, and that while drug use can clearly be destructive, the impact of prohibition and incarceration is frequently even worse. It is also an exciting time in the field of addiction treatment because that, too, is in the middle of a major paradigm struggle. The question at the heart of this conflict is: Are individuals who have difficulties with drugs and alcohol bad people who should be punished or sick people in need of healing?
The Moral/Social Model: The “Bad” Tradition
The mainstream addiction treatment system is filled with thousands of dedicated and compassionate clinicians and other professionals. Nonetheless, the belief that people who use drugs and alcohol in problematic ways are fundamentally bad is an assumption that permeates the system. It is also at the heart of what I call the Moral/Social model of treatment.
This model is not only supported by the larger culture and the criminal justice system, but also, tragically, by the 12-step fellowship tradition and the Therapeutic Community movement. “In the AA understanding, the core of alcoholism, the deep root of alcoholic behavior, lies in character,” write Dr. William Miller and Dr. Ernest Kurtz in “Models of Alcoholism Used in Treatment.” “‘Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles,’ reads a key passage of AA’s description of ‘How It Works.’”
In turn, Dr. George De Leon, a student of therapeutic communities, emphasized the importance of values and morals in the Therapeutic Community model. “Drug abuse is regarded as a disorder of the whole person…. Cognitive, behavioral, and mood disturbances appear, as do medical problems; thinking may be unrealistic or disorganized; and values are confused, non-existent, or antisocial. Frequently there are deficits in verbal, reading, writing, and marketable skills. Finally, whether couched in existential or psychological terms, moral issues are apparent,” he wrote in “The Therapeutic Community: Toward a General Model.”
To be fair, mutual aid societies are free to have any beliefs they wish, and the Therapeutic Community movement continues to evolve. Nonetheless, this underlying moral vision has, at times, served as a foundation for attitudes and actions toward addicted patients that we would deem to be unacceptable for patients with other disorders. (I call this a social model because of the overwhelming emphasis on groups as a vehicle for change. This stands in direct contrast to the general emphasis on individual therapy in the treatment of other psychiatric or mental health disorders.)
A recent example of this model’s continuing influence can be seen in a report released by the Institute for Behavior and Health earlier this year. Entitled “The New Paradigm for Recovery,” the report was spearheaded by psychiatrist Robert DuPont, a former drug czar and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Starting in a scientific vein, the report affirms NIDA’s view that substance use disorders are now understood to be a chronic disease that involves a “hijacked” brain.
But in an unexpected shift, the authors then advocate for a public policy that promotes the stigmatization of problematic substance use: “Unhealthy patterns of drug and alcohol use warrant ‘stigma,’ to warn others to avoid such behaviors and to help persons engaged in such behaviors [to] identify the need for help.” (This recommendation is quite striking because there have been a number of efforts to reduce the stigma around addiction, including some by NIDA.) Although the IBH report clarifies that it is the behavior, not the person, that should be stigmatized, it seems to me that the damage is already done. . .
In ThinkProgress, Bryce Cover has a summary report of what strikes me as a new and mean-spirited attitude:
First grader Xavier says that when the lunch lady at his Snohomish County School District school was recently handing out bagged lunches to all the students, she told him, “Guess what, you can’t have a lunch.”
His father says Xavier is on the school lunch program, but he was sent home without eating and with a slip saying he had a negative lunch balance.
A school spokesperson told Q13 Fox News that if a student’s account goes $20 or more into the red, he should still get a cheese sandwich, a drink, and unlimited fruits and vegetables. But Xavier says he didn’t get anything to eat, and his father argues that this shouldn’t apply to his son anyway since he gets federally funded lunches. “My question was never answered as to why he was denied,” he said.
“It happened to me as a child and I can still feel that hurt and I can only imagine what he went through,” Xavier’s dad said. “It made me feel really bad for him. That’s not right. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have your book bag so you can’t have your education.’ You can’t do that. Feed them. They need to eat. They need to concentrate. They can’t concentrate without eating. I just don’t want this to happen to any other kid. It’s hurtful.”
But these kinds of incidents are not uncommon. A school in Utah threw out about 40 elementary students’ lunches because their parents were behind on payments. [Threw out the food rather than have the children eat it! I thought Utah was religious. – LG] A school in Texas threw out a student’s breakfast because his account was 30 cents short. [Again: better to destroy food than allow children to eat it. – LG] Those who get free lunches have also been humiliated, as students in a Colorado school who had their hands stamped in front of better off classmates. A Congressman even floated the idea that students who get free meals should be made to earn them by sweeping school floors.
Some school districts are taking a different approach that could do away with hunger problems, public shaming, and fights over account balances altogether. They’re participating in a federal program that allows them to give all students in the district free breakfast and lunch, regardless of income. So far districts in Boston, Chicago,Dallas, Indianapolis, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina have signed up, and New York City has explored the idea. The change reduces paperwork for parents and for schools, which reduces costs, while it also helps parents who had originally fallen just outside income eligibility limits.
It also addresses the hunger crisis in America’s schools. Three-quarters of the country’s teachers say they have students regularly showing up to class hungry. More than one in five children live in a food insecure household. Hunger has a particular impact on the young, as it can hamper their cognitive and social development and puts them at greater risk of mental illness. If more students got free breakfast, it would mean a significant boost to test scores and graduation rates and a drop in absences.
In districts that haven’t enrolled in the federal meals program, however, some private citizens have stepped in. A man in Texas paid off students’ balances so they could keep eating full meals. A first grade teacher in New Mexico started a program to send students home with backpacks full of food.
There is something seriously wrong with the attitude reflected in these stories.