Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alzheimer's Families Clamor for Drug

In the wake of research suggesting a skin-cancer drug may have benefits in treating Alzheimer's disease, physicians and advocacy groups are getting a flurry of calls from patients seeking to use the drug off-label.
The clamor underscores how urgently patients want solutions to the rising tide of Alzheimer's. But experts caution that more research is needed to determine whether the drug, bexarotene, is effective in humans at all, not to mention what the dosage should be.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, was conducted in mice, and the road to an effective Alzheimer's treatment is littered with failures that looked promising early on in animals.
"The Alzheimer's community is very desperate for anything that shows any sign of hope or promise," said Eric Hall, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, a New York-based advocacy organization that started to field calls from consumers as soon as the paper was published.

"To patients and families who are this motivated, the idea of an off-label pill is not a major leap," he said. The cost would be $1,200 or more a month and unlikely to be covered by insurance, Dr. Gandy said.

Bexarotene, marketed by Japan-based Eisai Co. as Targretin, is approved for use in a particular form of skin cancer. Once a drug is on the market, physicians are free to prescribe it for other conditions, though drug companies can't promote such off-label uses.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One of Congress's Most Damaging (and Racist) Budget Cuts That Flew Under the Radar

The fund for lead-poisoning prevention was almost entirely eliminated. And here's why this is such a big deal.
This Poor poor child, for shame Congress!

For Christmas this year, Congress gave the nation's urban children a gift that will keep on giving -- a 94 percent cut in funds for lead-poisoning prevention. Once a child is poisoned by toxic lead, permanent brain damage reduces I.Q., lowers grades in school, and diminishes self-control. This, in turn, can lead to frustration, a sense of failure, impulsiveness, aggression, and, for some, potentially even violence, crime, and prison. (More on lead and prisons in a moment.)

Lead is a soft, grey metal with many practical uses, from bathroom pipes to bullets. Unfortunately, it is highly toxic to humans. Despite eons of knowledge about the toxicity of lead, during most of the 20th century Congress allowed the paint and gasoline industries to lace their products with millions of tons of the stuff, which of course ended up in the environment where much of it still remains available to poison unsuspecting children. Urban neighborhoods are full of lead today, in soil and in paint flaking off old buildings. Low-income families are hardest hit because they tend to live in old buildings poorly maintained.

With a peculiar mix of frugality and cruelty, Congress's $1 trillion spending bill for 2012 shrank a small ($30 million per year) federal lead-poisoning-prevention program to a minuscule $2 million annual effort, a 94 percent cut. And it's no surprise to anyone that the children harmed by this grinch move are mostly city kids, which means they're mostly African-American and Hispanic.  READ MORE

Has the Market Rejected the Religious Right's Hateful Social Agenda?

It's clear from advertising that the market does not favor the GOP's social agenda.
February 8, 2012

“Gen X” was popularized as an advertising term. Marketers used the label to describe the young people of the late ‘80s. The focus was on how to sell goods to the MTV generation.
Advertisements at that time, just as one example, started to feature unmarried couples to appeal to this group of consumers. This was a first and in the early ‘90s it was pushing the envelope. It apparently resonated. The advertisers gauged correctly: They successfully sold their products to Americans with the now documented lowest marriage rate in history.

The argument could be made (mainly by those who want to take us back to a mythical innocent time of the supposedly recent past) that it’s advertisers who’ve corrupted our culture and changed what’s socially acceptable through their manipulations. Or, if you have sold your proverbial soul to the gods of unfettered commerce – like the rightwing self-described Culture Warriors, or the (formerly) Moral (former) Majority – advertisements are the market speaking for the greater culture at large. And the greater culture, funny enough, largely disagrees with the right-wing.  READ MORE

Michelle Rhee Adds Anti-Immigration State Alabama To Her Portfolio

Posted: 08 Feb 2012 06:00 AM PST

Here are some basic facts about Alabama. They have the most draconian immigration laws in the country, forcing people to produce identification proving they have legal status before they can even get water service, much less an education for their children. Under Alabama's horrible law, teachers are required to check the immigration status of their students. These policies are inhuman in a state where there are already far too many poor people, citizen and immigrant alike. Also? Alabama does not currently have charter schools.

Alabama's education system is underfunded and in need of reforms, but not Rhee's flavor of reforms. To get a sense of who she really is, watch the video at the top where she admits she was a bad teacher while selling herself as a reformer.

And now she's sold herself to Alabama as The Great Education Savior, under what can only be described as very strange and odd circumstances.

Let's have a look at the parallels between Michelle Rhee's priorities and ALEC's.

On Fox News, Karen Handel Plays the Victim, Accuses Planned Parenthood of 'Vicious Attacks and Coercion'

Posted: 08 Feb 2012 07:00 AM PST

Karen Handel, who according to reports was the party primarily responsible for Komen's decision to pull grants from Planned Parenthood, went sobbing into the open arms of Faux News on Tuesday afternoon, where she played an all-too familiar role: the right-wing martyr.
What's great about this segment was Handel still can't get her story straight. She claims that the Planned Parenthood decision was all about "the mission" -- whatever the hell that means -- then started rambling about Congressional investigations.
HANDEL: You know, I think the Congressional investigation along with the various state investigations, those were a factor in the decision. But make no mistake about it, you know, it was a bigger picture than that. There was a granting criteria as well as the controversies that were surrounding Planned Parenthood. And it's no secret Megyn, that Komen and other organizations that were funding Planned Parenthood had been under pressure for some years long before my time, um, that had been going on, the pressure around the controversy.
Pressure from whom, Karen? And what "controversies" would those be? READ MORE

US elections: no matter who you vote for, money always wins

Mitt Romney's personal wealth is double that of the
last eight US presidents combined.
Photograph: TJ Kirkpatrick/Corbis

Dollars play a decisive role in US politics. And more so since the supreme court allowed unlimited campaign contributions,

Republican presidential debates are not for the faint-hearted. Last week in Jacksonville, Florida, Rick Santorum warned of the "threat of radical Islam growing" in Central and South America. Newt Gingrich advocated sending up to seven flights a day to the moon, where private industry might set up a colony, and reaffirmed his claim that Palestinians were invented in the late 70s. Mitt Romney argued that if you make things tough enough for undocumented people, they will "self-deport".

Given the general state of the Republican party, such comments now attract precious little attention. Truth and facts are but two options among many. The party's base, overrun by birthers, climate change deniers and creationists, floats its warped theories and every now and then one makes it to the top and bobs out into the airwaves.

So the oft-touted notion that these debates have been responsible for shifting the trajectory of this primary race would be worrying if it were true. It is difficult to think of anywhere else in the western world where these debates would have any credibility outside of a fringe party (even if the fringes in Europe are now spreading). Far from indicating America's exceptionalism, it looks more like an awful parody of the stereotypes most outsiders already believed about American politics at its most bizarre. "Those who follow this race daily may have long since lost perspective on how absurd it is," said the German magazine Der Spiegel last week. "Each candidate loves Israel. They all love Ronald Reagan. Each loves his wife, a born first lady, for a number of reasons."

The good news is, with the exception of Perry's demise, the debates have not been pivotal. The bad news is that the truly decisive element has been something even more insidious: money. Lots of it.

550 sexual abuse claims filed against Milwaukee Archdiocese

Sex abuse claims too much
updated 2/2/2012 9:53:48 AM ET

About 550 people are asking for restitution for alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — more than in any of the other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy protection, according to a lawyer involved in the Milwaukee case.

The archdiocese has paid more than $30 million in settlements and other court costs related to allegations of clergy abuse and more than a dozen suits against it have been halted because of the bankruptcy proceedings. One priest alone is accused of abusing some 200 boys at a suburban school for deaf students from 1950 to 1974.

James Stang, a bankruptcy lawyer who represents creditors in the Wisconsin case, estimated that about 550 claims had been filed by the Wednesday afternoon deadline set by the bankruptcy court.
Those who filed claims will end up splitting a settlement amount that will be determined by the creditors' committee, archdiocese and its insurance company. The archdiocese had only $4.6 million in assets to be applied to claims in 2010.

A victims' advocacy group called the number of filings "extraordinarily tragic," but said that represented only a small portion of people abused by clergy. READ MORE

States seek currencies made of silver and gold

February 3, 2012, CNN

A growing number of states are seeking shiny new currencies made of silver and gold. Worried that the Federal Reserve and the U.S. dollar are on the brink of collapse, lawmakers from 13 states, including Minnesota, Tennessee, Iowa, South Carolina and Georgia, are seeking approval from their state governments to either issue their own alternative currency or explore it as an option.

Just three years ago, only three states had similar proposals in place.  

Unlike individual communities, which are allowed to create their own currency -- as long as it is easily distinguishable from U.S. dollars -- the Constitution bans states from printing their own paper money or issuing their own currency. 

But it allows the states to make "gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts." And since gold has grown exponentially more valuable, while the U.S. dollar continues to lose ground, the notion has become increasingly appealing to state lawmakers, he said.

The states' proposals have been gaining steam among Tea Partyers and Republicans, many of whom also endorse a nationwide return to the gold standard, which would require the U.S. dollar to be backed by gold reserves.READ MORE

Revealed: the men with stolen identities

September 23, 2001, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)

Four Found Alive

Their names were flashed around the world as suicide hijackers who carried out the attacks on America. 

But yesterday four innocent men told how their identities had been stolen by Osama bin Laden's teams to cover their tracks. The men - all from Saudi Arabia - spoke of their shock at being mistakenly named by the FBI as suicide terrorists. 

None of the four was in the United States on September 11 and all are alive in their home country. The FBI released the list of 19 suicide terrorists three days after the attacks. The Saudi Airlines pilot, Saeed Al-Ghamdi, 25, and Abdulaziz Al-Omari, an engineer from Riyadh, are furious that the hijackers' "personal details" - including name, place, date of birth and occupation - matched their own.  

The other two men accused of being terrorists are Salem Al-Hamzi and Ahmed Al-Nami. Mr Al-Hamzi is 26 and had just returned to work at a petrochemical complex in the industrial eastern city of Yanbou ... when the hijackers struck. Mr Al-Nami, 33, from Riyadh, an administrative supervisor with Saudi Arabian Airlines, said that he was in Riyadh when the terrorists struck.  

The FBI admitted that there was some doubt about the identities of some of the suspects. A spokesman said: "The identification process has been complicated by the fact that many Arabic family names are similar. It is also possible that the hijackers used false identities." The spokesman declined to say whether the FBI would apologise but added: "If we have made mistakes then obviously that would be regrettable."

Note: The deceptions in the official story of 9/11 are nowhere more clearly shown than in this important story. The FBI never revised its list of alleged hijackers, and these four are all later listed in the official 9/11 Commission report as the hijackers. Click here and scroll down a little over half way to see their photos in the official report. For more on this, click here. For an abundance of reliable information suggesting a major 9/11 cover-up, click here. For other revealing news articles on 9/11, click here.

Could A Club Drug Offer 'Almost Immediate' Relief From Depression?

Club Drug "Special K"

January 30, 2012, NPR blog

Traditional antidepressants like Prozac work on a group of chemical messengers in the brain called the serotonin system. 

Researchers once thought that a lack of serotonin was the cause of depression, and that these drugs worked simply by boosting serotonin levels. 

Recent research suggests a more complicated explanation. Serotonin drugs work by stimulating the birth of new neurons, which eventually form new connections in the brain. 

Ketamine, in contrast, activates a different chemical system in the brain – the glutamate system. 

Researcher Ron Duman at Yale thinks ketamine rapidly increases the communication among existing neurons by creating new connections. 

This is a quicker process than waiting for new neurons to form and accomplishes the same goal of enhancing brain circuit activity. Ketamine has been used for decades as an anesthetic. It also has become a wildly popular but illegal club drug known as "Special K." 

Mental health researchers got interested in ketamine because of reports that it could make depression vanish almost instantly.  

Carlos Zarate ... does ketamine research at the NIH. Zarate says patients typically say, "'I feel that something's lifted or feel that I've never been depressed in my life. I feel I can work. I feel I can contribute to society.' And it was a different experience from feeling high. This was feeling that something has been removed."

Note: For many inspiring potential treatment breakthroughs in health issues, click here.

The US schools with their own police

Texas is a huge state. There are 1229 Independent
School Districts (ISDs) and Charter Schools in Texas
serving over 4 million students.READ MORE
January 9, 2012, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers) More and more US schools have police patrolling the corridors. Pupils are being arrested for throwing paper planes and failing to pick up crumbs from the canteen floor.

Why is the state criminalising normal childhood behaviour? Like hundreds of schools in the state, and across large parts of the rest of the US, Fulmore Middle [school] has its own police force with officers in uniform who carry guns to keep order in the canteens, playgrounds and lessons.

Each day, hundreds of schoolchildren appear before courts in Texas charged with offences such as swearing, misbehaving on the school bus or getting in to a punch-up in the playground. Children have been arrested for possessing cigarettes, wearing "inappropriate" clothes and being late for school.

In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 "Class C misdemeanour" tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later. "We've taken childhood behaviour and made it criminal," said Kady Simpkins, a lawyer.

"They're kids." The very young are not spared. Texas records show more than 1,000 tickets were issued to primary schoolchildren over the past six years . Note: For a long list of bizarre arrests of children, for behavior not at all unusual, that have been reported in the mainstream media, click here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thomas Frank Talks to Joshua Holland About the 'Hard-Times Swindle' and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right

Frank talks about Communism, the Tea Party and his new book, "Pity the Billionaire."
February 6, 2012

On Sunday, we were proud to debut the AlterNet Radio Hour, hosted by Joshua Holland, on We Act Radio in Washington DC. It's a weekly show featuring progressive journalists, activists and maybe a few wonks.
Among our first guests was Thomas Frank, a columnist with Harper's and author of the 2005 best-seller, What's the Matter With Kansas, and his new book, Pity the Billionaire
In the podcast below, which runs about 16 minutes, Frank and Holland discuss the great bait-and-switch that allowed the right to bounce back after conservative economic policies led directly to the greatest downturn since the Great Depression.  Hear The Podcast

How Rich Executives Extract Concessions From Workers -- While Playing the Good Guy in Public

Photo Credit: United Steelworkers

That's what's on the rise: Management attempting to exercise control over their workers -- in a brutal display of power. Give in to us or lose your paycheck right now.

February 6, 2012

When a contract expires and the union and the company bargain over a new one, there are a few possibilities. In the majority of cases, after negotiation, they come to an agreement, in all likelihood involving compromises on both sides. If they can't reach an agreement, a strike by workers is a possible outcome—but one that's declining in frequency, "just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago," Steven Greenhouse reports. Another outcome, or perhaps cause, of stalled negotiations is becoming more common, though: The lockout, which has:
... grown to represent a record percentage of the nation’s work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA, a Bloomberg subsidiary that provides information to lawyers and labor relations experts. Last year, at least 17 employers imposed lockouts, telling their workers not to show up until they were willing to accept management’s contract offer.
We've seen it in both the NFL and the NBA in the past year, of course. But in many cases, companies lock out workers who are struggling even to stay in the middle class, because they won't give up the things that might put them in the middle class. Companies lock out workers to get them to give up their pensions, to pay more for health care, to accept pay cuts, to sacrifice job security. They rely on no one noticing (besides the workers, for whom their contempt is already clear), and on any public notice the lockouts do gain assigning blame at least equally to the workers—after all, shouldn't they feel lucky just to have jobs, and be willing to make whatever concessions management demands? As Charles Pierce wrote of the NBA lockout:   READ MORE

Why the Right Wing Is Petrified of Letting Voters, Instead of the Electoral College, Pick Presidents

Photo Credit: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)
via Flickr
A movement to reform the Electoral College and elect the president based on the national popular vote has half the states it needs.
February 7, 2012

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell calls it “absurd and dangerous.” The Wall Street Journal says it deserves to “die.” The Heritage Foundation calls it “unconstitutional.” The Washington Post calls it “flawed.” A Republican National Committee resolution says it is a radical, un-American, “questionable legal maneuver.”  

It is awarding the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes. 
“The United States is not a democracy and shouldn’t be,” said Michael Munger, Duke University’s Political Science Department chairman and a 2008 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate attacking it at a League of Women Voters forum. “There is NO moral force in the majority. It is just what most people happen to think.” 

These right-wingers are truly worried that a plan reforming the way the president-electing Electoral College works is gaining legal ground and could bring the biggest change in the political landscape in decades. The National Popular Vote plan would replace the current system, in which states award Electoral College delegates to whomever wins the presidential vote in that state, with a new interstate agreement where a participating state’s delegates would be bound to the national popular vote winner. 

The Upside of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a complex disorder, and there is much that is still not understood about it. But a series of ingenious experiments have shown that many people with dyslexia possess distinctive perceptual abilities. For example, scientists have produced a growing body of evidence that people with the condition have sharper peripheral vision than others. Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used a mechanical shutter, called a tachistoscope, to briefly flash a row of letters extending from the center of a subject’s field of vision out to its perimeter. Typical readers identified the letters in the middle of the row with greater accuracy. Those with dyslexia triumphed, however, when asked to identify letters located in the row’s outer reaches.
Mr. Geiger and Mr. Lettvin’s findings, which have been confirmed in several subsequent studies, provide a striking demonstration of the fact that the brain separately processes information that streams from the central and the peripheral areas of the visual field. Moreover, these capacities appear to trade off: if you’re adept at focusing on details located in the center of the visual field, which is key to reading, you’re likely to be less proficient at recognizing features and patterns in the broad regions of the periphery. 

Dyslexia is a complex disorder, and there is much that is still not understood about it. But a series of ingenious experiments have shown that many people with dyslexia possess distinctive perceptual abilities. For example, scientists have produced a growing body of evidence that people with the condition have sharper peripheral vision than others. Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used a mechanical shutter, called a tachistoscope, to briefly flash a row of letters extending from the center of a subject’s field of vision out to its perimeter. Typical readers identified the letters in the middle of the row with greater accuracy. Those with dyslexia triumphed, however, when asked to identify letters located in the row’s outer reaches.
Mr. Geiger and Mr. Lettvin’s findings, which have been confirmed in several subsequent studies, provide a striking demonstration of the fact that the brain separately processes information that streams from the central and the peripheral areas of the visual field. Moreover, these capacities appear to trade off: if you’re adept at focusing on details located in the center of the visual field, which is key to reading, you’re likely to be less proficient at recognizing features and patterns in the broad regions of the periphery.   READ MORE

FBI: Paying Cash For a Cup of Coffee a ‘Potential Indicator of Terrorist Activity’

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An FBI advisory aimed at Internet Cafe owners instructs businesses to report people who regularly use cash to pay for their coffee as potential terrorists.

The flyer, issued under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program, lists examples of “suspicious activity” and then encourages businesses to gather information about individuals and report them to the authorities.

“Each flyer is designed for a particular kind of business,” writes Linda Lewis, a former policy analyst and planner for the U.S. government. “For example, this list was prepared for owners of internet cafes. 

Unquestionably, someone planning a terrorist attack has engaged in one or more of the “suspicious” activities on that list. But so, too, have most of the estimated 289 million computer users in this country.”
Indeed, the flyer aimed at Internet Cafe owners characterizes customers who “always pay cash” as potential terrorists.

Of course, the vast majority of people who visit Internet Cafes use cash to pay their bill. Who uses a credit card to buy a $2 dollar cup of coffee? A lot of smaller establishments don’t even accept credit cards for amounts less than $10 dollars.  READ MORE

Sunday, February 5, 2012

More Proof the System is Broken: Bee Colonies Are Collapsing Left and Right

That the panicked news stories about it have died down doesn't mean that the honeybee die-offs due to "colony collapse disorder" have gone away. It's still happening with a vengeance, and it's almost certain that pesticides are to blame:
Although news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has died down, commercial beekeepers have seen average population losses of about 30 percent each year since 2006, said Paul Towers, of the Pesticide Action Network. Towers was one of the organizers of a conference that brought together beekeepers and environmental groups this week to tackle the challenges facing the beekeeping industry and the agricultural economy by proxy.
"We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point," said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and a beekeeper for 35 years. Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he'll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In addition to continued reports of CCD -- a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear, alien-abduction style, leaving not even their dead bodies behind -- bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.

Gingrich to Obama: ‘Respect our religion,’ not ‘every other religion’

By David Edwards
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 10:45 EST

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says he’s had it with President Barack Obama “respecting every other religion on the planet,” and thinks it’s time for him to “respect our religion” instead.
At a campaign event in Florida on Monday, Gingrich seized on letters read at Catholic Churches across the U.S. that condemned the Obama administration for making birth control more available to women.

“Callista and I were at mass last night, and I believe at every Catholic Church, they are reading a letter about the Obama administration’s attack on Christianity,” Gingrich explained. “This is a fundamental assault on the freedom of religion. … If you help me win the nomination and then you help me win the election, on the very first day I’m inaugurated, I will sign an executive order repealing every Obama attack on religion across the entire government.”   READ MORE

Orrin Hatch: Obama thinks he’s Jesus Christ

By David Edwards
Friday, February 3, 2012 11:05 EST

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is offended that President Barack Obama quoted scripture to make the case for a fairer tax policy.

Speaking to a group of mostly-conservative politicians at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, the president proved that conservatives do not have a monopoly on using religion to advocate for specific public policies.

“And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe at a time when folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income or young people with student loans or middle class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone,” Obama explained. “And I think to myself, if I am willing to give something up as someone who has been extraordinarily blessed, give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy — I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.”

“But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,” the president added.

Only a few hours later, Hatch, who normally favors co-mingling government and religion, was on the floor of the Senate expressing outrage at the president for using the Bible to make a point. 

Santorum to sick kid: Don’t complain about $1 million drug costs

By David Edwards
Thursday, February 2, 2012 10:32 EST

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told the mother of a child with a rare genetic disorder on Tuesday that she shouldn’t have a problem paying $1 million a year for drugs because Apple’s iPad can cost around $900.
Speaking to more than 400 people at Woodland Park, Colorado, the former Pennsylvania senator said that demand should set prices for drugs.
“People have no problem paying $900 for an iPad,” the candidate explained. “But paying $900 for a drug they have a problem with — it keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned to think health care is something you can get without having to pay for it.”
The mother replied that she could not afford her son’s medication, Abilify, which can cost as much as $1 million a year without health insurance.  READ MORE

  video platform
  video management
  video solutions
  video player

‘Daily Show’ asks Gov. Rick Scott to take drug test

By David Ferguson
Friday, February 3, 2012 8:50 EST

On Thursday night’s The Daily Show, correspondent Aasif Mandvi traveled to Orlando, Florida to meet Louis Lebron, a Navy veteran on public assistance who refuses to submit to a state-ordered drug test.
Florida’s state legislature, led by Governor Rick Scott, mandated that all recipients of welfare should be tested for drugs in order to continue to receive benefits. Lebron believes that government drug testing is an infringement on his right to privacy.
Given that lawmakers also receive public money, Mandvi asked one legislator to take a drug test, then crashed a press conference with Governor Rick Scott and asked him to do the same. Surprisingly, the governor declined.
Watch the clip, embedded via Comedy Central, below:

How the GOP Is Resegregating the South

Photo Credit: kristin_a (
Meringue Bake Shop) via Flickr
Republicans—to protect and expand their gains from 2010— are diluting the minority vote in swing districts held by white Democrats.
February 4, 2012

The following article first appeared on the Web site of the Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its email newsletters.

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. 

North Carolina State Senator Eric Mansfield was born in 1964, a year before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote for African-Americans. He grew up in Columbus, Georgia, and moved to North Carolina when he was stationed at Fort Bragg. He became an Army doctor, opening a practice in Fayetteville after leaving the service. Mansfield says he was always “very cynical about politics” but decided to run for office in 2010 after being inspired by Barack Obama’s presidential run.
He ran a grassroots campaign in the Obama mold, easily winning the election with 67 percent of the vote. He represented a compact section of northwest Fayetteville that included Fort Bragg and the most populous areas of the city. It was a socioeconomically diverse district, comprising white and black and rich and poor sections of the city. Though his district had a black voting age population (BVAP) of 45 percent, Mansfield, who is African-American, lives in an old, affluent part of town that he estimates is 90 percent white. Many of his neighbors are also his patients.

But after the 2010 census and North Carolina’s once-per-decade redistricting process—which Republicans control by virtue of winning the state’s General Assembly for the first time since the McKinley administration—Mansfield’s district looks radically different. It resembles a fat squid, its large head in an adjoining rural county with little in common with Mansfield’s previously urban district, and its long tentacles reaching exclusively into the black neighborhoods of Fayetteville. READ MORE

7 Privacy Threats the Constitution Can't Protect You Against

When it comes to a spate of new technologies, our privacy protections are wildly outdated.
February 4, 2012

The week before last, the Roberts Supreme Court uncharacteristically handed down a decision that doesn't radically infringe on civil liberties. The justices unanimously ruled that police overshot their authority by planting a GPS device on suspected drug dealer Antoine Jones' car without a warrant, tracking his movements for over a month. For now, Americans can rest assured that police can't secretly tag them -- at least without a warrant.
At the same time, privacy advocates pointed out -- and some of the justices admitted -- that the court's majority opinion in US vs. Jones completely skirted more pressing privacy issues. The problem, the majority argued, was that police had trespassed on Jones' private property by planting a GPS device on his car. The majority opinion did not address whether or not it's okay for law enforcement to use a sophisticated surveillance technology to log someone's movements for a whole month without a warrant. 

In separate, concurring opinions Justices Alito and Sotomayor both warned of the multitude of surveillance technologies that do not require intrusion onto private property to trample privacy rights. Here's a (non-comprehensive) breakdown of existing or impending technologies that make our privacy protections wildly outdated. 

1. Everything you use, all the time.

Why Do Dangerous Financial Criminals Roam Free?

 Prosecutors like Eric Schneiderman need cops on the beat to put financial crooks behind bars. But thanks to Bush, these cops are missing in action.
February 4, 2012

American Public Media's "Marketplace" had a recent segment focused on why it has taken so long to bring criminal prosecutions related to the financial crisis. Reporters observed that at the beginning of the crisis, the Obama administration wanted to calm the financial industry rather than impose accountability. They speculated, along with Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street participants, many of whom have been calling for prosecutions, that Obama’s creation of a new group to prosecute mortgage fraud led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was likely to be politically motivated. And they indicated that financial crimes are complex and prosecutors need time to develop their cases.

But here's what they didn't say: A major reason the prosecutions don’t exist is that President George W. Bush took the cops off the beat.

Think about street crime. Imagine, for example, a protection racket in which gangs extort payment from fearful shopkeepers. Prosecutors rarely initiate criminal prosecutions; indeed, they may not even know that the crime is occurring. The police pound the beats that keep them aware of the increase in crime, respond to complaints, investigate, determine that a crime may have occurred that warrants attention, create a file and send it to the prosecutor’s office. In routine cases, the prosecution proceeds on the basis of the police report alone. In more complex cases, the prosecutor may supplement the police investigation. But prosecutors rarely initiate cases. Even when a task force is appointed to target crime in a particular sector, it typically involves prosecutors working with the police. The prosecutors simply don’t have the skills or the manpower to detect crime, conduct investigations and make the record necessary to prosecute.   READ MORE

Why Don't We Pay People Enough? 8 Facts About America's Struggling Working People

Millions of people in the U.S. work and are still poor.
January 23, 2012

“Our nation, so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population, should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied men and women, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937
Millions of people in the US work and are still poor.  Here are eight points that show why the US needs to dedicate itself to making work pay.
  • One.  How many people work and are still poor?  
  • Two.  What kinds of jobs do the working poor have?
  • Three.  Which workers are most likely to be working and still poor?
  • Four.  What about benefits for low wage workers?
  • Five.  What rights do the working poor have?
  • Six.  What about wage theft from the working poor?
  • Seven.  What is a living wage in the US? 
  • Eight.  What about jobs for the unemployed and underemployed?

Kansas GOP House Speaker "Prays" That Obama's "Children Be Fatherless and His Wife a Widow"

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal

ThinkProgress reported last week that Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) was forced to apologize to First Lady Michelle Obama after forwarding an email to fellow lawmakers that called her “Mrs. YoMama” and compared her to the Grinch.

Earlier that same week, the Lawrence Journal-World was sent another email that O’Neal had forwarded to House Republicans that referred to President Obama and a Bible verse that says “Let his days be few” and calls for his children to be without a father and his wife to be widowed.

Nick Sementelli at Faith in Public Life notes that Psalm 109, which is a prayer for the death of a leader, became a popular conservative meme after Obama’s election. The “tongue-in-cheek” prayer for the president was seen on bumper stickers. The relevant part of the psalm reads: READ MORE

Swedish Companies Take Advantage of Cheap Labor in US

Swedish furniture giant IKEA located a plant in
union-averse Virginia, 08/10/10. (photo: AP)

By Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov
14 January 12

s far as some companies in Sweden are concerned, America is the land of corporate opportunity - and worker exploitation. So why not take advantage of a business culture that seeks every chance to increase profits at the expense of U.S. employees.

In Virginia, furniture giant Ikea set up a manufacturing plant after it convinced the town of Danville to provide $12 million in tax breaks. It then brought in a "union-busting outfit to keep the IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) from making a run at the employees," writes David Macaray at Huffington Post.

Ikea also cut employee wages and changed work and overtime rules.
"Needless to say, these measures not only would have been frowned upon by Swedish society, they would've been illegal," adds Macaray. "They would have been in violation of Sweden's federal labor laws."

Election 2012: 'Swift-boat on Steroids'

Activists rally in Washington, D.C. on January 21,
2011 for an amendment overturning Citizens United.
(photo: Public Citizen/Flickr)
By Ruth Conniff, The Progressive
14 January 12

he Presidential primary season has never seemed less relevant to ordinary Americans.
As the Mitt Romney juggernaut moves through New Hampshire and South Carolina, the sense that voters, even in early primary states, have anything at all to say about the eventual outcome of the elections is rapidly diminishing.

"This will be the most spending, in 2012, that we've ever seen in the history of the country - and even the world," Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy said in a telephone conference with reporters today. Thanks to the Supreme Court's two-year-old Citizens United decision, most of that spending, she added, is "dark money" - money spent by shadowy groups in order to influence the outcome of elections.
"It's swift-boat on steroids," Graves quipped.

No wonder Americans have trouble mustering much enthusiasm for the process.

But even as the presidential primary carnival devolves into more of a sideshow than ever this year, citizens' groups are mobilizing unprecedented political energy to combat the hijacking of our democracy by corporate cash.  READ MORE

The Foreclosure Crisis: A Government in Denial

Foreclosed homes behind a padlock in North
Las Vegas, 11/17/11. (photo: Jewel S
amad/AFP/Getty Images)
By Bruce Judson, New Deal 2.0
14 January 12

s we start the New Year, the executive branch and Congress continue to pretend the gravest risk to our economy and social stability does not exist: the ongoing foreclosure crisis. The financial crisis began with the housing crisis and it will not end until we resolve housing. Government policymakers who seemingly ignore this basic fact are leading the nation to another potential catastrophe.

This past week, a number of important events occurred in Washington, including important recess appointments by President Obama. However, the most noteworthy event did not make front page news: the Federal Reserve's (apparently) unsolicited memo to the committees of Congress that oversee financial services warning of the dangers the current housing market poses for the economy.

This represents an extraordinary action and underscores both the seriousness of the continuing crisis and the absence of meaningful discussion of the problem in Washington. Bernanke's memo reviewed federal actions to date and effectively concluded that they were unlikely to solve this national tragedy. The memo concluded, in part: READ MORE

We're All Guilty of Dehumanizing the Enemy

Author and 'Restrepo' film director Sebastian Junger
at the Restrepo outpost in the Korengal Valley,
Afghanistan in 2008. (photo:
By Sebastian Junger, The Washington Post
14 January 12

he video that emerged in recent days appearing to show four U.S. Marines urinating on several dead Taliban fighters has outraged many people in this country. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have condemned the act, the military has promised an inquiry, and some experts are even suggesting that the act could qualify as a war crime.

Mainly, however, people seem simply to not understand it. Why would America's warriors - for that matter, why would anyone - urinate on a dead body?

I spent a year, off and on, with a platoon of U.S. soldiers in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of casualties and an enormous amount of stress on the men I was with. I never saw anyone do anything like this, but then again, I never saw any dead Taliban fighters - the enemy always recovered their casualties before we could get there.

Nevertheless, the things the soldiers shouted during combat were very revealing of the state of mind that war produces. (For the record, I'm sure the Taliban was screaming pretty much the same things about us.)