Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The mysterious death of Shawn Lucas

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Washington, D.C., it has still not determined a cause of death for Shawn Lucas, the 38-year old process server who delivered the class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee and its then Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to the DNC headquarters on July 1. One month later, the girlfriend of Lucas came home to find him dead on the bathroom floor.

It has now been more than three weeks since Lucas died with no cause of death announced. We asked the Chief Medical Examiner’s office if the delay was a result of toxicology tests being conducted. We were told it can make no comment beyond the fact that the cause of death is “pending.”

The official report from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. indicates that officers Kathryn Fitzgerald and Adam Sotelo responded to a 911 call from the girlfriend of Lucas, Savannah King. The officers arrived “at 1913 hours,” or 7:13 p.m. on the evening of  Tuesday, August  2. According to the report, Lucas was “laying unconscious on the bathroom floor” and when “DCFD Engine 9 responded” there were “no signs consistent with life.”

A video of the service of process, which has garnered over 474,000 views as of this morning, shows Shawn Lucas saying he was “excited” and “thrilled” to be the process server on this lawsuit. He comments later in the video that it is like his “birthday and Christmas” rolled into one.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the attorneys for the Sanders’ plaintiffs already had significant evidence that the DNC and Wasserman Schultz had put their fingers on the scale to tip the primary results in favor of Hillary Clinton while overtly undermining the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. (The DNC is prohibited from unfair treatment of Democratic primary candidates under its own bylaws.)

Then on Friday, July 22, 2016 at 10:30 a.m., just as the DNC was set to open its National Convention the following Monday, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attached documents that had been sent by top DNC officials. The emails left no doubt that there had been a concerted campaign to undermine Sanders while boosting Clinton’s chances to win the primary. Wasserman Schultz had to announce she was stepping down before the DNC convention even began to quiet the outrage.

The Wikileaks emails showed DNC executives plotting to undermine Sanders as an atheist (which Sanders says he is not) and plotting to say that Sanders “never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.” There was also DNC plotting on how to respond to press charges that the joint fundraising committee set up by Clinton’s campaign and the DNC was illegally laundering money to boost Clinton’s chances. (See related article below.)

Prior to Wikileaks releasing its emails, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2016 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

How Veterans Are Losing the War at Home: Making America Pain-Free for Plutocrats and Big Pharma, But Not Vets

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Ann Jones writes at TomDispatch.com:

A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, “Thank you for your service,” replied: “I didn’t serve, I was used.” That got me thinking about the many ways today’s veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home.

Near the end of his invaluable book cataloguing the long, slow disaster ofAmerica’s War for the Greater Middle East, historian Andrew Bacevich writes:

Some individuals and institutions actually benefit from an armed conflict that drags on and on. Those benefits are immediate and tangible. They come in the form of profits, jobs, and campaign contributions.  For the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries, perpetual war is not necessarily bad news.

Bacevich is certainly right about war profiteers, but I believe we haven’t yet fully wrapped our minds around what that truly means. This is what we have yet to take in: today, the U.S. is the most unequal country in the developed world, and the wealth of the plutocrats on top is now so great that, when they invest it in politics, it’s likely that no elected government can stop them or the lucrative wars and “free markets” they exploit.

Among the prime movers in our corporatized politics are undoubtedly the two billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their cozy network of secret donors.  It’s hard to grasp how rich they really are: they rank fifth (David) and sixth (Charles) on Business Insider’s list of the 50 richest people in the world, but if you pool their wealth they become by far the single richest “individual” on the planet. And they have pals. For decades now they’ve hosted top-secret gatherings of their richest collaborators that sometimes also feature dignitaries like Clarence Thomas or the late Antonin Scalia, two of the Supreme Court Justices who gave them the Citizens United decision,suffocating American democracy in plutocratic dollars.  That select donor group had reportedly planned to spend at least $889 million on this year’s elections and related political projects, but recent reports note a scaling back and redirection of resources.

While the contest between Trump and Clinton fills the media, the big money is evidently going to be aimed at selected states and municipalities to aid right-wing governors, Senate candidates, congressional representatives, and in some cities, ominously enough, school board candidates. The Koch brothers need not openly support the embarrassing Trump, for they’ve already proved that, by controlling Congress, they can significantly control the president, as they have already done in the Obama era.

Yet for all their influence, the Koch name means nothing, pollsters report, to more than half of the U.S. population. In fact, the brothers Koch largely stayed under the radar until recent years when their roles as polluters, campaigners against the environment, and funders of a new politics came into view. Thanks to Robert Greenwald’s film Koch Brothers Exposed and Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, we now know a lot more about them, but not enough.

They’ve always been ready to profit off America’s wars. Despite their extreme neo-libertarian goal of demonizing and demolishing government, they reportedly didn’t hesitate to pocket about $170 million as contractors for George W. Bush’s wars.  They sold fuel (oil is their principal business) to the Defense Department, and after they bought Georgia Pacific, maker of paper products, they supplied that military essential: toilet paper.

But that was small potatoes compared to what happened when soldiers came home from the wars and fell victim to the profiteering of corporate America. Dig in to the scams exploiting veterans, and once again you’ll run into the Koch brothers.

Pain Relief: With Thanks from Big Pharma

It’s no secret that the VA wasn’t ready for the endless, explosive post-9/11 wars.  Its hospitals were already full of old vets from earlier wars when suddenly there arrived young men and women with wounds, both physical and mental, the doctors had never seen before.  The VA enlarged its hospitals, recruited new staff, and tried to catch up, but it’s been running behind ever since.

It’s no wonder veterans’ organizations keep after it (as well they should), demanding more funding and better service. But they have to be careful what they focus on. If they leave it at that and overlook what’s really going on — often in plain sight, however disguised in patriotic verbiage — they can wind up being marched down a road they didn’t choose that leads to a place they don’t want to be.

Even before the post-9/11 vets came home, a phalanx of drug-making corporations led by Purdue Pharma had already gone to work on the VA.  These Big Pharma corporations (many of which buy equipment from Koch Membrane Systems) had developed new pain medications — opioid narcoticslike OxyContin (Purdue), Vicodin, Percocet, Opana (Endo Pharmaceuticals), Duragesic, and Nucynta (Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) — and they spotted a prospective marketplace.  Early in 2001, Purdue developed a plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting the VA.  By the end of that year, this country was at war, and Big Pharma was looking at a gold mine.

They recruited doctors, set them up in private “Pain Foundations,” and paid them handsomely to give lectures and interviews, write studies and textbooks, teach classes in medical schools, and testify before Congress on the importance of providing our veterans with powerful painkillers.  In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration considered restricting the use of opioids, fearing they might be addictive. They were talked out of it by experts like Dr. Rollin Gallagher of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and board member of the American Pain Foundation, both largely funded by the drug companies. He spoke against restricting OxyContin.

By 2008, congressional legislation had been written — the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act — directing the VA to develop a plan to evaluate all patients for pain. When the VA objected to Congress dictating its medical procedures, Big Pharma launched a “Freedom from Pain” media blitz, enlisting veterans’ organizations to campaign for the bill and get it passed.

Those painkillers were also dispatched to the war zones where our troops were physically breaking down under the weight of the equipment they carried. By 2010, a third of the Army’s soldiers were on prescription medications — and nearly half of them, 76,500, were on prescription opioids — which proved to be highly addictive, despite the assurance of experts like Rollin Gallagher. In 2007, for instance, “The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide,” distributed by the American Pain Foundation and edited by Gallagher, offered this assurance: “[W]hen used for medical purposes and under the guidance of a skilled health-care provider, the risk of addiction from opioid pain medication is very low.”

By that time, here at home, soldiers and vets were dying at astonishing rates from accidental or deliberate overdoses. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2016 at 10:05 am

Yosemite National Park Used to Be 30 Percent Bigger

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Sarah Emerson reports in Motherboard:

There’s something about Yosemite National Park that seems indomitable. Between its monolithic rock faces, mighty waterfalls, and yawning valleys, the iconic landscape is a tangible force of nature that draws 4 million visitors every year.

But Yosemite has been shrinking. The park used to be 30 percent larger until hundreds of square miles were surrendered over untapped gold, timber, and mineral resources between 1905 and 1937. Over the last century, Yosemite has lost 505.5 square miles to private interests, according to a new study published this week inEcology and Society.

“Conservation doesn’t end when a protected area or park is established. The conversations and debates continue over many years,” Mike Mascia, the study’s co-author and senior director of social science at Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science, told me.

“The interesting thing about Yosemite is that we have 150 years of history, beginning when the park was established in 1864 as a land grant, so we can see the legacy of these legal changes early on and, now, decades later.”

The exploitation of national parks was why, one hundred years ago this week, the National Park Service was created. Its first ward, Yellowstone National Park, was designated to defend it “from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within,” according to the Yellowstone Act of 1872. Today, nearly 84 million acres are protected under the National Park System.

But what does that protection really mean? The answer was hiding in plain sight, said Rachel Golden Kroner, a PhD candidate at George Mason University and lead author of the study.

Environmental archives revealed that since the early 1900s, five legal changes to the park’s protected areas were enacted or proposed. Yosemite’s boundaries shifted seven times over industrial-scale forestry and mining interests. As a result of these downgrades, roads, dams, electrical lines, and pipes began to cover Yosemite’s fringes.

This phenomenon, which is sometimes referred to as PADDD, or “protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazettement,” left its mark on Yosemite’s ecological well-being. “Places that were removed from Yosemite’s forests have a higher density of roads, which suggests these ecosystems are now more fragmented, less contiguous, and less healthy,” Kroner told me. . .

Continue reading.

The guidance one gets from focusing solely on profit is quite misleading and seems to often incur serious long-term losses, such as the loss of natural environments.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2016 at 9:58 am

Drug companies spend millions to keep charging high prices

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Of course, drug companies must charge high prices to cover their lobbying expenses. David Lazarus writes in the LA Times:

Pharmaceutical heavyweight Mylan, the latest poster child for drug-industry greed, finally stuck up for itself Thursday. It argued that “the system,” not avarice, was to blame for the company jacking up the price of EpiPens, a common (and life-saving) allergy remedy, by over 400%.

“Look, no one’s more frustrated than me,” Mylan Chief Executive Heather Bresch declared on CNBC.

Actually, millions of people — those with chronic medical conditions or other illnesses — are more frustrated than her. [And, I’ll point out, if the high price is so damn frustrating to her, she has the power as CEO to lower the price. Probably didn’t occur to her. – LG]

Despite Mylan’s offer Thursday of discount coupons for some EpiPen users, the only system at work here is a cash-fat industry routinely preying on sick people. It’s a system that the drug industry will do whatever’s necessary to protect.

Of roughly $250 million raised for and against 17 ballot measures coming before California voters in November, more than a quarter of that amount — about $70 million — has been contributed by deep-pocketed drug companies to defeat the state’s Drug Price Relief Act.

Contributions aimed at killing the initiative are on track to be the most raised involving a single ballot measure since 2001, the earliest year for which online data are available, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics.

The Drug Price Relief Act would make prescription drugs more affordable for people in Medi-Cal and other state programs by requiring that California pay no more than what’s paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It would, in other words, protect state taxpayers from being ripped off.

Industry donations to crush the Drug Price Relief Act “will top $100 million by the election, I’m quite certain of it,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a leading backer of the state measure, also known as Proposition 61. “They see this as the apocalypse for their business model.”

The drug industry already has succeeded in eviscerating Senate Bill 1010, legislation in Sacramento that would have required pharmaceutical companies to detail the costs of producing medicine and explain any price increases. The bill’s author, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), pulled it from consideration last week after industry lobbyists succeeded in watering it down with business-friendly provisions.

Mylan’s money-grubbing approach to EpiPens is only the latest example of a drug company mercilessly putting the squeeze on patients.

EpiPens are a decades-old way of delivering epinephrine, a hormone that counters the potentially fatal effects of severe allergic reactions to things such as bee stings and peanuts. There’s about a dollar’s worth of epinephrine in each EpiPen, to which Mylan acquired the rights in 2007 and proceeded to steadily impose double-digit price hikes.

But don’t forget Gilead Sciences charging $1,000 a pill for its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi. Or Turing Pharmaceuticals, which purchased rights to a well-established parasite drug used by AIDS and cancer patients and promptly raised the price by 5,000%.

A recent Reuters investigation found that prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs have more than doubled since 2011, with the remaining six jumping in price by at least 50%.

“It’s like being held hostage,” Weinstein told me. “The public’s hatred of this industry is an incredible thing. They create life-saving drugs, but, because of their greed, people can’t afford them. What good is a life-saving drug if you can’t get it?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2016 at 9:44 am

Fine Classic, Tallow + Steel “Grog,” and the Black Mamba

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SOTD 2016-08-26

The Fine Classic brush easily worked up a good lather from Tallow + Steel’s “Grog” shaving soap. The soap uses 100% essential oils, and the fragrance is quite nice: “West Indies Bay + Key Lime + Labdanum + White Fir + Rosemary + Ylang Ylang” is the vendor’s description.

The Black Mamba is extremely comfortable and also highly efficient, producing an effortless BBS result. This  is another RazoRock razor that I wish had gone into full production. But, like the RazoRock Baby Smooth, an equally good razor, it seems to be permanently out of stock with no plans to bring it back.

A splash of T+S Grog aftershave and the day begins. The aftershave has interesting ingredients:

Water + Witch Hazel + Organic Aloe Vera + Organic Glycerin + Organic Licorice Root + Organic Willow Bark + Organic Cucumber + Organic Rosemary + Polyglyceryl Oleate + Radish Root Ferment + Lactobacillus + Coconut Fruit + Essential Oils

If you’re interested in the reason for those ingredients, take a look at this page, which explains the benefits of each ingredient in T+S soap and aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2016 at 8:23 am

Posted in Shaving

When Bail Is Set, the Rich Walk and the Poor Go to Jail

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Lael Henterley reports in the Seattle Times:

Cedric Smith learned that a warrant for his arrest had been issued when he was turned down for an apartment.

The warrant connected back to a pending low-level assault charge stemming from a complaint made after a drunk woman tried to barge into his apartment but was blocked by the door, and he was confident the case would be dropped as soon as he explained the circumstances. Smith took a day off work at K2 Sports and headed to Seattle Municipal Court to resolve the warrant. He expected he’d be given another court date—after all, he’d shown up to take care of this on his own free will.

The judge set Smith’s bail at $10,000; he went from the courtroom to the ninth floor of the King County Detention Center to await his next court date. Smith, who was employed and had some money saved, thought he’d be able to put up $1,000 and bond out. But the bail-bond agency said he lacked the collateral to secure his release. After 10 days the court offered Smith time served in exchange for a guilty plea, but he refused. He sat in jail and waited until, 41 days later, his case was dismissed.

When Smith went into court at the beginning of the ordeal, his life was as stable as it had ever been. He had a full-time job, a stable place to live, and the means to support himself. After his release, he found himself back on food stamps and struggling just to make it to the next day.

Smith isn’t the only low-level defendant whose life has been turned upside down because he was accused of a crime. A 2015 study by the Seattle Municipal Court’s Research, Planning and Evaluation Group found that in 2014, 31 percent of in-custody defendants charged with misdemeanors in Seattle Municipal Court—the busiest court in Washington—ended up waiting for their next court date in jail because they couldn’t come up with the cash to secure the freedom they’re supposedly entitled to until found guilty. While there, they lose jobs, homes, children, and dignity.

Every Monday morning Judge Willie Gregory oversees the new-arrest court calendar in the municipal courtroom inside the King County jail. On Monday, August 8, the list of new arrests is so long that one court personnel quips that it’s a good day for the bail-bond agencies.

The defendants file in one by one, clad in red jail scrubs, and look up at Justice Gregory as he decides their future. The city attorney serving as prosecutor requests that bail be set in most cases; often in staggering amounts. A woman stands beside her public defender as the prosecutor rattles off the reasons he doesn’t think she’ll show up to court: She’s missed court several times in the past two years, he says, and has a poor history of complying with the conditions of release set by the court. The woman’s public defender counters that things are different now: Her client just started methadone treatment and signed up for social services. Gregory, who declined to comment for this article, weighs the arguments and sets bail at $25,000. It’s a sum the defendant couldn’t possibly raise; she’ll be sleeping in jail that night.

This isn’t how bail is supposed to work in Washington. State law mandates a presumption of release in all but capital cases. All pretrial defendants should be released on their promise to show up for court unless a judge determines a person is likely to fail to appear in court, commit a violent crime, tamper with witnesses, or obstruct justice. When conditions are imposed to guarantee appearance at future court dates, the law says they should be the least restrictive conditions necessary. Electronic home monitoring, day reporting, and community court are all far less restrictive than incarceration, but only 11 percent of those arraigned in custody at Seattle Municipal Court are assigned to specialty courts or less-restrictive supervision. Instead, judges are quick to assign bail, even in cases where defendants don’t have the means to pay $50, let alone $10,000, creating a two-tiered justice system.

“The system is flawed when people with money can afford to bail out who might actually be a danger to the community and poor people can’t afford to get out on a simple misdemeanor trespass charge,” says Twyla Carter of the King County Department of Public Defense. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 7:44 pm

“This Interactive Game Is The Reason My Daughter (Finally) Likes Science”

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If you have young children, this science-education game might be of interest. The author describes how his daughter took to it.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 4:35 pm

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