Archive for July 5th, 2010
And the politicians went with the lobbyists, of course. Public Health is all very nice, but Public Health does NOT give large sums of money to legislators, who are much more interested in getting money than in Public Health. Marion Nestle at Food Politics:
By analogy with cigarettes, taxes on sodas might discourage people—especially young people—from consuming sugary drinks. This might help with weight issues.
According to a new analysis by USDA economists,
A tax-induced 20-percent price increase on caloric sweetened beverages could cause an average reduction of 37 calories per day, or 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year, for adults and an average of 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds over a year, for children. Given these reductions in calorie consumption, results show an estimated decline in adult overweight prevalence (66.9 to 62.4 percent) and obesity prevalence (33.4 to 30.4 percent), as well as the child at-risk-for-overweight prevalence (32.3 to 27.0 percent) and the overweight prevalence (16.6 to 13.7 percent).
Soft drink companies know this all too well. Hence, intense industry lobbying. In the case of New York State, the lobbying succeeded. Soda taxes are history (for now).
Final lobbyist filings are not yet in, but estimates of the amount spent…range from $2.5 million, by Mr. Finnegan’s count, to $5 million, by the beverage industry’s count. The American Beverage Association spent $9.4 million in the first four months of the year to oppose New York’s soda tax, according to a search of public lobbying records by the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance. Most of the money was spent on advertising, media and strategy.
This is a setback, but probably temporary. Sooner or later, soda taxes will come. Bring on the research!
Addition, July 5: Harvard researchers have just published a paper in the American Journal of Public Health showing that raising the price of sodas in a hospital cafeteria does indeed discourage sales.
The NAACP endorsed California’s marijuana legalization bill last week. A report on marijuana arrests among minorities explains their rationale:
Young blacks and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. So why are police in California arresting young blacks and Latinos at higher rates than young whites, and at greater numbers than their percentages of the population? Based on our studies of policing in New York and other cities, we do not think the arrests are mostly a result of personal bias or racism on the part of individual patrol officers and their immediate supervisors. Rather, this is a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California and elsewhere.
Police departments deploy most patrol and narcotics police to certain neighborhoods, usually designated "high crime." These are disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
It is in these neighborhoods where the police make most patrols, and where they stop and search the most vehicles and individuals, looking for "contraband" of any type in order to make an arrest. The item that young people in any neighborhood are most likely to possess, which can get them arrested, is a small amount of marijuana. In short, the arrests are racially biased mainly because the police are systematically "fishing" for arrests in only some neighborhoods, and methodically searching only some "fish." This produces what has been termed "racism without racists."
Scott Morgan opines:
Our marijuana laws have never, and will never, be enforced fairly. The brutality of modern drug enforcement reaches every community, but if young white men were given criminal records and subjected to profiling and police harassment at the same rates as people of color, the criminal justice system would quickly come to a crashing halt. The drug war was built on a foundation of fundamental unfairness, and mitigating its catastrophic impact on communities of color requires measures far more drastic than telling police for the millionth time that there’s more to their job than searching young black men all day and night.
Doesn’t that look scrumptious: a buttermilk pie (a type of custard pie), topped with whipped cream to hold the berries in place. Here’s the recipe.
Very interesting study. Conclusion bold-faced in this abstract:
Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. METHODS: Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality. RESULTS: In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.
PMID: 16569567 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Apparently BP is now in charge of the government, with police now reporting directly to BP. Mac McClelland reports in Mother Jones:
Everyone knows by now that BP is still blocking press access to oil-spill sites even though they’re not supposed to anymore. I’ve been blathering about it for weeks, and it’s been all of three days since four contractors wouldn’t let me through the Pointe Aux Chenes marina outside Montegut, Louisiana. And though as of June 16 the federal government was saying helicopters could fly reporters as low as 1,500 feet around spill sites, on June 17 I was on a helicopter that was prohibited from flying below 3,000 feet (and whose pilot flipped silent birds at the “military guys” coming over the radio and hassling him about being in the area at all). But a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy* pulling over a video camera-wielding private citizen because the head of BP security wanted to ask him some questions is a whole other level of alarming.
Last week, Drew Wheelan, the conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association, was filming himself across the street from the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana. As he explained to me, he was standing in a field that did not belong to the oil company when a police officer approached him and asked him for ID and “strongly suggest[ed]” that he get lost since “BP doesn’t want people filming”:
Here’s the key exchange:
Wheelan: “Am I violating any laws or anything like that?”
Officer: “Um…not particularly. BP doesn’t want people filming.”
Wheelan: “Well, I’m not on their property so BP doesn’t have anything to say about what I do right now.”
Officer: “Let me explain: BP doesn’t want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense.”
Not really! Shortly thereafter, Wheelan got in his car and drove away but was soon pulled over.
It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read “Chief BP Security.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan’s information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he’d recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn’t give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.
“Then two unmarked security cars followed me,” Wheelan told me. “Maybe I’m paranoid, but I was specifically trying to figure out if they were following me, and every time I pulled over, they pulled over.” This went on for 20 miles. Which does little to mitigate my own developing paranoia about reporting from what can feel like a corporate-police state.
The media liaison for the government-run Deepwater Horizon Response Joint Information Center told me BP would get back to me for comment on the incident. I’m still waiting.
* Correction/Update: This story originally stated that a Louisiana state police officer pulled Wheelan over, per Wheelan’s recounting of the incident. My apologies to the state police for misreporting their involvement. After many calls made and messages left, I’ve finally confirmed that the cop in question was actually a sheriff’s deputy for Terrebonne Parish. The deputy was off official duty at the time, and working in the private employ of BP. Though the deputy failed to include the traffic stop in his incident report, Major Malcolm Wolfe of the sheriff’s office says the deputy’s pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice, because Wheelan was acting suspicious and could have been a terrorist.
I, for one, do not welcome our new corporate overlords, though I do recognize their determination to take over our government. They’ve made a good start by muzzling the press.
The casual breaking of the law seems to be increasing. Kathryn Watson reports in the Washington Times:
As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars persist, some employers are becoming increasingly resistant to rehire service members who return from active duty as federal law requires, legal analysts say.
Washington lawyer Matthew Tully, who specializes in these cases, said that as the war on terrorism — which relies heavily on National Guard and Reserve units — stretches into its second decade, companies have become more familiar with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
But Mr. Tully, a founding partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC, said some employers have objections with the law and have been upfront with his firm about their failure to re-employ and sometimes even to hire citizen-soldiers. One prime reason is financial. He said, without specifying names, that airline companies have told the law firm that hiring military personnel has resulted in higher labor costs.
"We’ve seen the number of intentional violations skyrocket in the past three years," he said.
The 1994 law requires employers to rehire workers who return from active military duty and, in the hiring process, prohibits discrimination against those who might become deployed.
A 2008 Labor Department report states that the employment law is entirely "complaint driven" and the government does not bring criminal charges against companies that violate the law. [Well, I think the government should—don’t you? The GOP in particular is incensed by lawbreaking and will support aggressive enforcement of this law that protects American workers just as they support aggressive enforcement of immigration laws. Right? – LG]
Eric Montavo, a partner with the law firm Puckett & Faraj PC, said he also has noticed an increasing number of willful violations by employers. Mr. Montavo said the economic downturn has aggravated the situation because fewer jobs are available.
"The circumstances are driving [service members] to be very aggressive in pursuing their rights," he said…