Saturday, 25 April 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

Hydroponics is a technology for growing terrestrial plants with their roots in nutrient solutions (water with dissolved fertilizers) rather than soil. Hydroponic production is not mentioned in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990; however, in 2010 the National Organic Standards Board formally recommended that hydroponic systems be prohibited from obtaining organic certification.

In direct contradiction to the Board's recommendations, the USDA's National Organic Program has sided with industry lobbyists pronouncing that hydroponicsis allowed. And, despite the objections of many organic stakeholders, some accredited certifying agents are certifying hydroponic operations.

US officials may have attempted to negotiate the forced return of British resident Shaker Aamer to Saudi Arabia, despite a promise to the UK not to do so, it's been revealed.

Previously-secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in August 2010, less than two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Foreign Secretary William Hague that she 'welcomed... discussing Mr Aamer's case', theUS instructed its Saudi embassy on 'engaging Saudi Arabia on Shaker Aamer'. Another document reveals how, at an August 2013 meeting between senior US officials and theSaudi interior minister, Mr Aamer was described as a 'Saudi citizen with significant ties to the UK'.

Mar 18

The Theory of "Herd Immunity"

By Marco Caceres, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Because of the recent outbreaks of measles in the United States and the re-energized public debate about vaccines and vaccination policy, we're again starting to hear references to the theory of "herd immunity." The theory is the foundation for the mass vaccination campaigns around the world. It currently stipulates that in order to provideimmunity to a population against contagious diseases like measles you must vaccinate at least 95% of the population. Theoretically-speaking, with a vaccination rate of 95%, the diseases should be eradicated.

In an epidemiological review paper titled "Herd Immunity: History, Theory, Practice," written by Paul E. M. Fine and published in 1993, the author notes that the first "published use" of the term herd immunity "appears to have been" in a paper titled "The spread of bacterial infection: the problem of herd immunity," written by W. W. C. Topley and G. S. Wilson and published in 1923. From Fine's paper, it seems that the theory of herdimmunity was originally developed based on some observations with mice and some "simple mathematical formulations," but the paper is unclear about whether the theory was ever validated through some of sort scientific peer review process - as is commonly the case with theories that eventually come to be widely accepted as "proven science."

"Medicine Lake is a sacred place and it needs to be protected at all costs," said Pit River Tribal Chairman Mickey Gemmill. "We're trying to preserve our culture and Medicine Lake is part of the beginning of our people. If we allow these corporations to come in and frack, we could lose that chance to bring back that part of our culture. So we're asking the Calpine Corporation to step back and leave the Medicine Lake Highlands alone." 

On March 12, the Pit River Tribe and their Native American and environmental allies optimistically left the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco following oral arguments in their long legal battle to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands from geothermal destruction and desecration. 

House of Cards presents a hidden agenda against social security. President Frank Underwood says "entitlements" are killing the country - and everyone watching House of Cards takes his words as fact. And besides, if it weren't for social security, our streets would be littered with elderly people. 

Having looked in the last two posts at access and affordable costs of care five years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we now examine its impact on quality of care, the third leg of the stool that defines the structure and performance of a health care system.

The ACA took several initiatives to improve quality of care, most importantly by expanding access to care through subsidizing insurance through the exchanges and expanding Medicaid in those states that participated. Other initiatives include providing preventive services without cost-sharing, pay-for-performance (P4P) changes, accountable care organizations, expanded use of electronic health records, and establishing the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Let's look at what each has accomplished.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

Hydroponics is a technology for growing terrestrial plants with their roots in nutrient solutions (water with dissolved fertilizers) rather than soil. Hydroponic production is not mentioned in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990; however, in 2010 the National Organic Standards Board formally recommended that hydroponic systems be prohibited from obtaining organic certification.

In direct contradiction to the Board's recommendations, the USDA's National Organic Program has sided with industry lobbyists pronouncing that hydroponicsis allowed. And, despite the objections of many organic stakeholders, some accredited certifying agents are certifying hydroponic operations.

US officials may have attempted to negotiate the forced return of British resident Shaker Aamer to Saudi Arabia, despite a promise to the UK not to do so, it's been revealed.

Previously-secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in August 2010, less than two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Foreign Secretary William Hague that she 'welcomed... discussing Mr Aamer's case', theUS instructed its Saudi embassy on 'engaging Saudi Arabia on Shaker Aamer'. Another document reveals how, at an August 2013 meeting between senior US officials and theSaudi interior minister, Mr Aamer was described as a 'Saudi citizen with significant ties to the UK'.

Mar 18

The Theory of "Herd Immunity"

By Marco Caceres, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Because of the recent outbreaks of measles in the United States and the re-energized public debate about vaccines and vaccination policy, we're again starting to hear references to the theory of "herd immunity." The theory is the foundation for the mass vaccination campaigns around the world. It currently stipulates that in order to provideimmunity to a population against contagious diseases like measles you must vaccinate at least 95% of the population. Theoretically-speaking, with a vaccination rate of 95%, the diseases should be eradicated.

In an epidemiological review paper titled "Herd Immunity: History, Theory, Practice," written by Paul E. M. Fine and published in 1993, the author notes that the first "published use" of the term herd immunity "appears to have been" in a paper titled "The spread of bacterial infection: the problem of herd immunity," written by W. W. C. Topley and G. S. Wilson and published in 1923. From Fine's paper, it seems that the theory of herdimmunity was originally developed based on some observations with mice and some "simple mathematical formulations," but the paper is unclear about whether the theory was ever validated through some of sort scientific peer review process - as is commonly the case with theories that eventually come to be widely accepted as "proven science."

"Medicine Lake is a sacred place and it needs to be protected at all costs," said Pit River Tribal Chairman Mickey Gemmill. "We're trying to preserve our culture and Medicine Lake is part of the beginning of our people. If we allow these corporations to come in and frack, we could lose that chance to bring back that part of our culture. So we're asking the Calpine Corporation to step back and leave the Medicine Lake Highlands alone." 

On March 12, the Pit River Tribe and their Native American and environmental allies optimistically left the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco following oral arguments in their long legal battle to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands from geothermal destruction and desecration. 

House of Cards presents a hidden agenda against social security. President Frank Underwood says "entitlements" are killing the country - and everyone watching House of Cards takes his words as fact. And besides, if it weren't for social security, our streets would be littered with elderly people. 

Having looked in the last two posts at access and affordable costs of care five years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we now examine its impact on quality of care, the third leg of the stool that defines the structure and performance of a health care system.

The ACA took several initiatives to improve quality of care, most importantly by expanding access to care through subsidizing insurance through the exchanges and expanding Medicaid in those states that participated. Other initiatives include providing preventive services without cost-sharing, pay-for-performance (P4P) changes, accountable care organizations, expanded use of electronic health records, and establishing the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Let's look at what each has accomplished.