Tag Archives: Women’s Issues

Thanks to the North Carolina case, partisan gerrymandering’s day of reckoning may soon be upon us

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The word ‘gerrymandering’ comes from the name of Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts governor in the 1800s. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Christopher Beem, Pennsylvania State University

Gerrymandering was already shaping up to be an important issue this year, with huge implications for American democracy. But after the ruling this week on the North Carolina congressional map, the stakes have been raised still higher.

For the first time, a federal panel of judges ruled that a state’s map of its congressional districts was unconstitutional. The North Carolina map didn’t just give an advantage to Republicans – it manifested “invidious partisan intent.” The panel directed the state to draw the districts again by Jan. 24. Continue reading

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Viral Video of Hospital Dumping Woman Into Freezing Cold Stirs Demand for ‘Medicare for All

“Attempted murder” is how one analyst described the medical center’s decision to leave an incapacitated young woman at a bus stop in frigid weather

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-12-2018

A video screenshot of a woman who was discharged from University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Imamu Baraka/Facebook video screenshot)

Described as a horrifying depiction of “the reality of U.S. for-profit healthcare,” a Baltimore-based psychotherapist this week caught on video University of Maryland Medical Center staff “dumping” a clearly incapacitated young woman into the freezing Maryland weather wearing only a thin hospital gown and socks.

“Is this what healthcare in Baltimore City has come to?” asked Imamu Baraka, who captured the “disturbing” scene on his cell phone. The video has since garnered more than two million views.

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Baraka’s video soon sparked national headlines and widespread outrage, with many noting that “patient dumping” is a pervasive and under-discussed product of a system that does not guarantee healthcare as a right to all.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, concluded that the only solution is to “implement single-payer, Medicare for All or Americans continue to suffer/die.”

Others echoed DeMoro’s call, arguing that the medical center’s behavior is essentially “attempted murder.

The hospital issued an apology following the flood of outrage, taking “full responsibility for this failure” to provide “basic humanity and compassion.”

“We are taking this matter very seriously, conducting a thorough review, and are evaluating the appropriate response, including the possibility of personnel action,” hospital spokeswoman Lisa Clough said in a statement.

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‘No One Should Be Fooled’: Warren Rips Trump’s HHS Pick Over Desire to Gut Medicaid

“You want to smile and pretend otherwise until you get the job,” Warren said.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-9-2018

Alex Azar. Screenshot: YouTube

While President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Alex Azar—a former pharma executive—spent most of his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday ducking and dodging pointed questions about his long history of “price gouging,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) decided to call Azar out on his support for gutting Medicaid and turning the program into a block grant.

After Azar suggested he supports block granting Medicaid as a “concept to look at” but refused to say whether he would move in that direction if confirmed, Warren said, “Mr. Azar, you can own up to the fact that you want to cut Medicaid and gut the Affordable Care Act, like every other member of the Trump administration.”

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‘Appalling’: Acting ICE Director Denounced for Threatening to Jail Elected Officials of Sanctuary Cities

The ACLU said Thomas Homan’s “outrageous threat” to charge local officials “for not carrying out Trump’s deportation agenda” should “disqualify” him from permanently filling the director post

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-3-2018

Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Jan. 2 that politicians who lead sanctuary cities should face federal charges. (Photo: Fox News/screenshot)

Immigrant rights advocates are denouncing an “appalling and disqualifying” proposal by the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to charge with federal crimes elected officials who lead sanctuary cities, which often refuse to turn over or identify undocumented residents to the government’s immigration agents.

The ACLU said Wednesday that acting director Thomas Homan’s “outrageous threat” to bring charges against local politicians who enact and carry out sanctuary city policies “should disqualify [him] from consideration for the permanent ICE director post.” Continue reading

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‘Anti-Trump Rhetoric Not Enough’: Bold, Progressive Agenda Demanded for 2018

“We must act together. And we must act strategically. 2018 is the year the people fight back like never before.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-1-2018

“Empty platitudes and anti-Trump rhetoric is not enough to win seats in Congress,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

As Republicans and President Donald Trump turn toward the new year with destruction on their minds, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a chorus of voices in expressing the urgent need to reach beyond merely resisting the right’s agenda and articulate an inspiring alternative that will sweep progressives into positions of power.

“Here is a New Year’s resolution I hope you will share with me,” Sanders wrote on Twitter just before midnight on Sunday. “In 2018, we will not only intensify the struggle against Trumpism, we will increase our efforts to spread the progressive vision in every corner of the land.” Continue reading

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The most important person in America is not Trump

Our most admired, most important Person of the Year for 2017 goes to…

Written by Carol Benedict

Screenshot: Euronews

2017 is a year no one will miss much. We struggled through the year with the “deer in the headlights” syndrome across our populace; so much so that “not normal” became expected, and the expected became obscure.

But what did we find when we looked at the year to decide who was the biggest influence on us, who did we turn to for hope and inspiration in our darkest moments? Our collective minds turn to the voice of the resistance – every person, team, organization, group and crowd that forged a line and said “ENOUGH!” in one great shout. Continue reading

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Want to Lower Health Care Costs? Stop Wasting Our Money.

This year ProPublica documented the many ways waste is baked into our health care system, from destroying perfectly good medication to junking brand new supplies. Eliminating the waste could insure millions of Americans.

By Marshall Allen. Published 12-28-2017 by ProPublica

Photo: PrEP

In Maine, there’s a warehouse the size of a middle school gymnasium, stuffed with brand-new medical supplies and gently used medical equipment. Several pallets are piled with boxes of surgical sutures, still in their shrink wrap, each box worth hundreds of dollars. Tubs overflow with diabetes supplies and surgical instruments that may run hundreds of dollars apiece. There are bins of bandages and gauze and saline and ostomy bags and every other medical supply you can imagine. These materials, unexpired, could easily stock any hospital or clinic. But each item has actually been thrown away by a local medical facility.

The cost of health care has been rising for decades, and Americans are paying the price. In a recent Gallup poll, people cited the high cost of care as their No. 1 financial concern. It’s an enormous problem, and trying to solve it all at once brings on panic and paralysis. But after reporting for a year on the ways the medical industry blows through our money, I have one idea: Let’s end the egregious waste that’s draining our health care system.

The National Academy of Medicine has estimated the health care system wastes around $765 billion a year — about a quarter of what we spend. Eliminating all the waste could allow us to insure 150 million Americans, the Academy of Medicine said, and saving half of it could provide groceries for every household in the country for a year. Eliminating the waste would also stop our rising health care costs from eating up our wage increases. My premiums go up 9 percent next year. Same thing happened last year. Odds are your costs are rising, too.

It’s hard to downplay what I found when I began investigating the issue. Hospitals throw out so many valuable supplies that a cottage industry of charities has sprung up to collect this stuff and ship it to the developing world — otherwise, all those goods in that Maine warehouse would be headed for a landfill.

Nobody tracks how much hospitals waste rather than donate, and I couldn’t track down where each item came from. But experts told me when hospitals change vendors for a type of supply, they often toss the old stuff. Or, if they take over a clinic or facility, they get rid of the items that come with it, even if they are unused and unexpired.

The operating room is a major source of wasted spending. One hospital tracked the value of unused items that went to waste during neurosurgery procedures in a single year. The total: $2.9 million — for one type of surgery at just one hospital. In that case, the surgeons hadn’t updated their system of telling the staff which supplies to prep for each operation. They were opening many items they didn’t need, which then had to be thrown away even though they were unused. The hospital updated its approach to make sure they aren’t setting up for operations with excess supplies.

I learned that nursing homes throw away hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of valuable medication every year. They typically dispense drugs a month at a time for patients and often have them discontinued if the patient dies or transfers. The excess drugs get trashed, incinerated or even flushed down the toilets, contaminating our water supply. The chief executive of a pharmacy that serves nursing homes in Florida told me that his company alone throws away about $2.5 million a year in valuable medication.

In Iowa, the state government funded a program to recover these castoff nursing home meds and donate them to needy patients, for free. This year, they’re on pace to recover and redistribute $6 million in medication. My story led policymakers in Florida and New Hampshire to introduce legislation to try to replicate the Iowa program.

Drugs are a huge source of waste, partly because drug expiration dates don’t mean what we think they mean. The Food and Drug Administration makes pharmaceutical companies show their medication is safe and effective until its expiration date. It doesn’t make them find out how long they actually last.

Studies show it’s common for a drug to be safe after its expiration date. The FDA runs a program that tests and then extends expiration dates on drugs in the federal government’s stockpiles. Those same drugs get thrown away in pharmacies when they “expire,” even though many of them are in short supply. How much of our money does it waste? One midsize hospital in Boston throws away about $200,000 worth of drugs a year that hit their expiration date. If that’s true for other hospitals, the total would be about $800 million a year for hospital pharmacies alone.

Meanwhile, drug companies are making eyedrops two or three times larger than what the eye can even contain. We are paying for the wasted medicine running down our cheeks. I spoke to the former head of research for Alcon Laboratories, a global leader in the eye care industry now owned by Novartis. He told me that in the early 1990s his team created a “microdrop” that eliminated the waste. The microdrops were effective and reduced the burning caused by larger drops. But Alcon’s leaders killed the project because they were worried it could reduce sales.

Vials of cancer drugs are also made too large, which one study said wastes about $1.8 billion a year in the valuable medication. Earlier this year, one drug company switched from a multiuse vial, which could be shared by patients, to a single-use vial that could not be shared, thereby increasing the amount of wasted cancer medication. The change would make the supply chain more reliable worldwide, the company said. But one cancer center calculated that the change would cost each patient an average of $1,000 in waste per infusion. Imagine: You’re fighting cancer and then get billed an extra thousand dollars for medication they toss in the trash. Two U.S. senators responded to my story by introducing legislation to solve the problem of oversized eyedrops and cancer drug vials.

These are not isolated examples or small sums being squandered. Let’s say my reporting identified about $10 billion in wasted spending. That’s a rough estimate because no one is actually tracking how much we’re wasting. What else could we be doing with that money? The Kaiser Family Foundation says it costs an average of $6,690 to pay one person’s insurance premium in 2017. At that rate, the $10 billion saved could insure about 1.5 million people for a year. Tell those people it isn’t important to reduce our wasted health care spending.

The Academy of Medicine did something smart when it reframed our health care overspending as waste. We may be a wasteful country, but we still teach our kids to eat everything on their plates. “Waste not, want not,” is baked into our cultural DNA. It’s a powerful concept because it’s a moral one. It’s wrong to squander the hard-earned dollars Americans are paying into the health care system and then demand they pay more.

We can’t be naive and think it will be easy to fix this problem. Our wasted spending represents revenue and profit for the medical industry. But our health care spending should not be an entitlement program for the medical industrial complex. I put together a prescription for reducing the wasted spending I identified. Our policymakers should stand up to the medical industry and stamp out the waste.

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Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

Among the companies we found doing it: Amazon, Verizon, UPS and Facebook itself. “It’s blatantly unlawful,” said one employment law expert.

Written by Julia Angwin, ProPublica, Noam ScheiberThe New York Times, and Ariana Tobin, ProPublica and published 

This story was co-published with The New York Times.

Mark Edelstein, a social media marketing strategist who is also legally blind, says he never had serious trouble finding a job until he turned 50. (Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Verizon is among dozens of the nation’s leading employers — including AmazonGoldman SachsTarget and Facebook itself — that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found.

The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers.

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

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Net Neutrality Fight ‘Not Over’: Groups Launch Internet-Wide Campaign Pushing Congress to Overrule FCC Vote

“The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-14-2017

“Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year,” said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

The Republican-controlled FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal net neutrality, but open internet defenders are urging the public to not be swayed by the proliferation of “net neutrality is officially dead” headlines—the fight is “not over,” they say.

Just hours after the FCC’s vote, the coalition of activist groups behind Team Internet and BattlefortheNet.com announced the launch of “a massive internet-wide campaign” calling on members of Congress to overturn the FCC’s move by passing a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate. Continue reading

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#TrumpToo: Amid Reckoning, Calls to Hold President Accountable Swell

Donald Trump has so far escaped the scrutiny of sexual assualt allegations levied at him that has come to other high profile figures. “That has to change now.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-8-2017

A sign held during the Jan. 21, 2017 Women’s March in Chicago. (Photo: bradhoc/flickr/cc)

The #TrumpToo movement, which is demanding accountability for President Donald Trump’s history of alleged sexual harassment and assault, is gaining more steam this week after the resignations of Democratic lawmakers Al Franken and John Conyers.

A MoveOn.org petition calling for a Congressional and Justice Department investigation into the claims against the president gathered over 150,000 signatures in a week, the group said. As of this writing, it has 161,405 signatures. Continue reading

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