Policy

By Kim Gilhuly Reforming California’s sentences for low-level crimes would alleviate prison and jail overcrowding, make communities safer, strengthen families, and shift resources from imprisoning people to treating them for the addictions and mental health problems at the root of many crimes, according to a study by Human Impact Partners. Rehabilitating Corrections in California, a Health Impact Assessment of reforms proposed by a state ballot initiative, predicts the changes would reduce crime, recidivism, and racial inequities in sentencing, while saving the state and its counties $600…
Larry Clifton has suggested that Michael Mann’s law suit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the National Review, Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg is ruining it for everyone, and a lot of his right wing conservative friends agree. But they are all wrong, so wrong that one wonders how they could be so wrong. It smells to me like willful ignorance. This is Michael Moore. For a while, Clifton had a picture of Michael Moore instead of Michael Mann on his Digital Journal post. Made me laugh. For people who spend most of their time whinging about how other people are ruining the…
The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably…
What do these places have in common: Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; Mountain View, California, where Google headquarters are located; Endicott, NY – the birthplace of IBM; and 389 Superfund sites in at least 48 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands? All are contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE), a volatile organic compound classified as a carcinogen that’s been widely used as a solvent and degreaser in large-scale industrial processes, small commercial shops and in some products used by individual consumers. On June 25th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its…
Three months ago, I wrote about how the Cleveland Clinic had recently opened a clinic that dispensed herbal medicine according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice. As regular readers might expect, I was not particularly impressed or approving of this particular bit of infiltration of quackademic medicine into a major, generally well-respected academic medical center, particularly given some of the amazingly pseudoscientific treatments espoused by the naturopath who was running the clinic. I also pointed out that, although herbalism is the most plausible (or perhaps I should say the…
Right around the time I shut things down for the long holiday weekend, the Washington Post ran this Joel Achenbach piece on mistakes in science. Achenbach's article was prompted in part by the ongoing discussion of the significance (or lack thereof) of the BICEP2 results, which included probably the most re-shared pieces of last week in the physics blogosphere, a pair of interviews with a BICEP2 researcher and a prominent skeptic. This, in turn, led to a lot of very predictable criticism of the BICEP2 team for over-hyping their results, and a bunch of social-media handwringing about how the…
A few of the recent pieces I’ve found worth bookmarking about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision: Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West at Slate: Quick Change Justice: While you were sleeping, Hobby Lobby just got so much worse“To prove that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was not the “least restrictive alternative,” the court pointed to a workaround in the law for nonprofits: If there are religious objections to a medical treatment, third parties will provide coverage to the employees. Yet in an unsigned emergency order granted Thursday evening, the very same court said that…
Last week’s White House Summit on Working Families – hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Labor, and the Center for American Progress – served both as a pitch to employers to adopt more family-friendly policies, and as a push for policies that require all employers to evolve for 21st-century realities. Wages, paid leave, flexibility, and caregiving were major topics in the day-long event, and speaker after speaker returned to the same themes. I was honored to attend the event, and left it feeling hopeful that we’ll keep seeing improvements in workplace…
Chris Mooney is galloping around on his anti-science education hobby-horse again. That's a harsh way to put it, but that's what I see when he goes off on these crusades for changing everything by modifying the tone of the discussion. It's all ideology and politics, don't you know — if we could just frame our policy questions and decisions in a way that appealed to the conservative know-nothings, we'd be able to make progress and accomplish things. And, as usual, I expect he won't recognize the irony of the fact that the way he communicates his message alienates scientists and science…
I almost feel sorry for "America's Quack," Dr. Mehmet Oz. Well, not really. Remember last week when I took note of an upcoming Senate hearing, specifically a hearing on weight loss scams in front of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, which is chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). At the time, I wasn't pleased, because I assumed that the reason Dr. Oz had been invited to testify was in order to bring some star power to the proceedings and get some television coverage, given that the rest of the witnesses consisted of representatives from government…
A round-up of reactions to Obama's announcement. Work gets the FT, so I saw Obama proposes biggest ever US push for carbon cuts in print on the front page, and I think Obama will be happy with that, and with what the FT have written: Under the plan, each US state is given a different target for cutting carbon emissions from its power sector. They will decide how to achieve the cuts by switching to cleaner energy sources such as natural gas, nuclear or wind power, by improving grid efficiency or by reducing electricity consumption And, in US carbon curbs raise hopes for Paris deal we have His…
Last week was National Women’s Health Week, and the Kaiser Family Foundation used the occasion to release the report Women and Health Care in the Early Years of the ACA: Key Findings from the 2013 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey, by Alina Salganicoff, Usha Ranji, Adara Beamesderfer, and Nisha Kurani. The telephone survey of 3,015 women ages 15 – 64 was conducted before the launch of the health-insurance exchanges and several states’ Medicaid expansions, but after several other key provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect. Starting with plan years beginning after September 22, 2010,…
A week ago or so, I was perusing my Google Alerts, along with various blogs and news websites, looking for something to blog about, when I noticed a disturbance in the pseudoscience Force. It's a phenomenon I've noticed many times before from a wide variety of cranks and quacks, but it all boils down to how we as supporters of science-based medicine are viewed by those who are, in essence, victims of the quackery that we are trying to combat. I think it's a topic worth revisiting periodically; so here's the 2014 update. A week ago, Sharon Hill published a post over at Doubtful News entitled…
"I'm a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds." -Mike Tyson It's been another busy but fun week over at the main Starts With A Bang blog, where we've gone and looked at: A Flight Without Stars (for Ask Ethan), Building your own iron-rich star (for our Weekend Diversion), A Most Unusual Elliptical, M105 (for Messier Monday), Happy Earth Day from the Universe, Striking Cosmic Gold, and the need for science to inform your politics (for Throwback Thursday). And, as always, you've come through here on our forum with some outstanding…
Great interview with Michael Mann on The Lang and O'Leary Exchange, CBC, on climate change, faux pause, denialism, policy, and politics.
By Sara Satinsky Should pregnant women who use drugs be charged as criminals or given help? From a public health perspective the choice is clear: provide treatment to help women quit drugs before their use harms their child. Less than a year ago, Tennessee adopted a progressive policy to provide such treatment, but now is on the brink of taking a big step back. It could become the first state to criminalize pregnant women whose drug use harms a fetus or newborn baby. The state legislature has passed a bill that, if signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, would authorize the filing of criminal assault…
This might look somewhat familiar to people, but I have a good excuse. Yesterday was Easter, and, although by no stretch of the imagination can I be accused of being particularly religious, we still did have family to visit. Add to that the fact that I have a two talks to give today that as of Friday night I hadn't even started working on (OK, two versions of the same talk, which makes it perhaps 1.5 talks), and a little—shall we say?—creative recycling is in order. Even so, if you don't follow the other locales where my written meanderings may be found, it'll still be new to you. It all…
One of my favorite shows right now is True Detective, an HBO show in which two cops pursue a serial killer over the course of over 16 years. Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, it's an amazingly creepy show, and McConaughey is amazing at playing his character, Rustin Cohle. I'm sad that the show will be ending this week. Unfortunately, as much as I like Matthew McConaughey as an actor, he is in part responsible for re-inspiring a movement that has the potential to do profound harm to patients and cancer research. That's because his other big role over the last year has been in…
The billion-dollar poultry industry chews up its workers and spits them out like a chaw of tobacco. One of those workers is in Washington, DC this week to make a plea to the Obama Administration. For 17 years, Salvadora Roman, 59 worked on the de-boning line at a Wayne Farms poultry processing plant in Alabama. The production line ran at an incessant pace that forced her (and her co-workers) to make tens of thousands of repetitive motions on each and every work shift. Her hands and wrists eventually became so swollen and painful that she requested to be moved to a less hand-intensive task.…
In last night's State of the Union speech, President Obama addressed several ways to "make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American." Here's what he said about wage increases: To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don't have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks I will issue…