Fresh off the August recess, the United States Congress got back to business today. Rather than focusing on pressing issues like a potential war, looming budget deadlines, and the growing problem of student loan debt, some Republican lawmakers thought…
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- Big Pharma
- Centers for Disease Control
- Conflict Of Interest
- Dollars for Docs
- Dr. Mark Rosenberg
- Economic Growth
- Election 2012
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Federal Government
- Food and Drug Administration
- Gun Control
- John Boehner
- Karl Rove
- Lamar Smith
- Minimum Wage
- Monsanto Protection Act
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- National Rifle Association
- President Barack Obama
- Public Education
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
- Weekly Address
- Woody Harrelson
- adverse reaction
- anonymous donors
- birth defects
- campaign finance
- corporate subsidies
- could be fatal
- dark money
- disciplinary actions
- educational talks
- engineering studies
- environmental protection agency
- environmental services
- fatal infections
- federal flood insurance
- flood zones
- flu-like symptoms
- genetic makeup
- genetically modified food
- gun violence
- laser pulses
- legal settlements
- limited funding
- liver damage
- local floodplain managers
- medical licenses
- middle class
- muscle aches
- organ damage
- outdated data
- over-the-counter drugs
- patenting rights
- prescription medications
- promotional speaking
- risk analysis
- satellite imagery
- skin pigment changes
- skin reactions
- skin tissue damage
- special flood hazard area
- tax codes
- toxic epidermal necrolysis
- warning labels
Time to clean out the medicine cabinet, perhaps? Acetaminophen, one of the most common medicines used in fever and pain drugs like Tylenol, could trigger dangerous skin reactions in some people, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. The reactions typically start with flu-like symptoms, but could lead to extensive damage to skin tissue and could be fatal. The most serious reactions are Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. The FDA is requiring manufacturers to place warning labels on prescription medications that contain acetaminophen, and potentially on over-the-counter drugs as well.
"Many of the reactions start with flu-like symptoms of fever and muscle aches, which are followed by rash, blistering and sloughing off of the outside of the skin, which can expose patients to potentially fatal infections. It’s possible for victims to experience scarring, skin pigment changes, blindness and organ damage. The recovery can take weeks or months. The FDA says anyone who is taking acetaminophen and is experiencing skin symptoms, should stop taking it immediately.
“This new information is not intended to worry consumers or health care professionals, nor is it meant to encourage them to choose other medications. However, it is extremely important that people recognize and react quickly to the initial symptoms of these rare but serious, side effects, which are potentially fatal,” said Dr. Sharon Hertz, the deputy director of FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia and Addiction in a statement.
The announcement isn’t the first to alert users to the potential harms of acetaminophen. Two years ago, the FDA limited prescription acetaminophen doses to 325 milligrams per tablet or capsule to prevent liver injury. For now, the FDA says people using the drug should not stop the medication unless they develop skin symptoms. The side effects are rare, and for most users, the agency says the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks."
Important to note as well, even though promotional drug meetings are one of the most common ways doctors find out about new medications, a new study shows they're not getting all the information, like potential adverse side-effects. Doing a little research yourself could not only alert you to possible drug interactions, but possibly save your life as well.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood maps for Burnet County, Texas, mistakenly place some homeowners in the high-risk flood areas, said Herb Darling, the county’s director of environmental services. Here, the thin blue line shows the center line of a creek in the county. The thick blue line above it shows the center line according to the new FEMA maps, and the shaded area shows a high-risk flood area, which includes the house marked 501.
Using Outdated Data, FEMA Is Wrongly Placing Homeowners in Flood Zones
By Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica
When Donna Edgar found out that new flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would place her house in a high-risk flood zone, she couldn't believe it.
Her home, on the ranch she and her husband own in Texas hill country about 60 miles north of Austin, sits well back from the nearby Lampasas River.
"Her house is on a hill," said Herb Darling, the director of environmental services for Burnet County, where Edgar lives. "There's no way it's going to flood."
Yet the maps, released last year, placed the Edgars in what FEMA calls a "special flood hazard area." Homeowners in such areas are often required, and always encouraged, to buy federal flood insurance, which the Edgars did.
FEMA eventually admitted the maps were wrong. But it took Edgar half a dozen engineers (many of whom volunteered their time), almost $1,000 of her own money and what she called an "ungodly number of hours" of research and phone calls over the course of a year to prove it.
Edgars is far from alone.
From Maine to Oregon, local floodplain managers say FEMA's recent flood maps — which dictate the premiums that 5.5 million Americans pay for flood insurance — have often been built using outdated, inaccurate data. Homeowners, in turn, have to bear the cost of fixing FEMA's mistakes.
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Why do we march?
• Research studies have shown that Monsanto's genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.
• In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that's a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products.
By Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein, ProPublica
Dr. Jon W. Draud, the medical director of psychiatric and addiction medicine at two Tennessee hospitals, pursues some eclectic passions. He's bred sleek Basenji hunting dogs for show. And last summer, the Tennessee State Museum featured "African Art: The Collection of Jon Draud."
But the Nashville psychiatrist is also notable for a professional pursuit: During the last four years, the 47-year-old Draud has earned more than $1 million for delivering promotional talks and consulting for seven drug companies.
By a wide margin, Draud's earnings make him the best-paid speaker in ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database, which has been updated to include more than $2 billion in payments from 15 drugmakers for promotional speaking, research, consulting, travel, meals and related expenses from 2009 to 2012.
Payouts to hundreds of thousands physicians are now included.
Draud is not the only high earner: 21 other doctors have made more than $500,000 since 2009 giving talks and consulting for drugmakers, the database shows. And half of the top earners are from a single specialty: psychiatry.
"It boggles my mind," said Dr. James H. Scully Jr., chief executive of the American Psychiatric Association, referring to the big money paid to some psychiatrists for what are billed as educational talks.
Paid speaking "is perfectly legal, and if people want to work for drug companies, this is America," said Scully, whose specialty has often been criticized for its over-reliance on medications. "But everybody needs to be clear — this is marketing."
By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica
President Obama has directed the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence as part of his legislative package on gun control. The CDC hasn't pursued this kind of research since 1996 when the National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to cut funding for it, arguing that the studies were politicized and being used to promote gun control. We've interviewed Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who led the agency's gun violence research in the nineties when he was the director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
We talked to Rosenberg about the work the agency was doing before funding was cut and how it's relevant to today's gun control debate. Here's an edited transcript.
There's been coverage recently about how Congress cut funding for gun violence research, but not much about what the agency was actually researching and what it was finding. You were in charge of that. Tell us a little bit about what the CDC was doing back then.
There were basically four questions that we were trying to answer. The first question is what is the problem? Who were the victims? Who was killed? Who were injured? Where did they happen? Under what circumstances? When? What times of the year? What times of the day? What was the relationship to other events? How did they happen? What were the weapons that were used? What was the relationship between the people involved? What was the motive or the setting in which they happened?
The second question is what are the causes? What are the things that increase one's risk of being shot? What are the things that decrease one's risk of being shot?
The third question we were trying to answer is what works to prevent these? What kinds of policies, what kinds of interventions, what kinds of police practices or medical practices or education and school practices actually might prevent some of these shootings? We're not just looking at mass shootings, but also looking at the bulk of the homicides that occur every year and the suicides, which account for a majority of all gun deaths.
Then the last question is how do you do it? Once you have a program or policy that has been proven to work in one place, how do you spread it? How do you actually put it in place?
So what were you were able to find before funding got cut off?
One of the critical studies that we supported was looking at the question of whether having a firearm in your home protects you or puts you at increased risk. This was a very important question because people who want to sell more guns say that having a gun in your home is the way to protect your family.
What the research showed was not only did having a firearm in your home not protect you, but it hugely increased the risk that someone in your family would die from a firearm homicide. It increased the risk almost 300 percent, almost three times as high.
It also showed that the risk that someone in your home would commit suicide went up. It went up five-fold if you had a gun in the home. These are huge, huge risks, and to just put that in perspective, we look at a risk that someone might get a heart attack or that they might get a certain type of cancer, and if that risk might be 20 percent greater, that may be enough to ban a certain drug or a certain product.
But in this case, we're talking about a risk not 20 percent, not 100 percent, not 200 percent, but almost 300 percent or 500 percent. These are huge, huge risks.
I understand there was also an effort to collect data on gun violence through something called the Firearm Injury Surveillance System. What did that involve?
We were collecting information to answer the question of who, what, where, when, and how did shootings occur?
We were finding that most homicides occur between people who know each other, people who are acquaintances or might be doing business together or might be living together. They're not stranger-on-stranger shootings. They're not mostly home intrusions.
We also found that there were a lot of firearm suicides, and in fact most firearm deaths are suicides. There were a lot of young people who were impulsive who were using guns to commit suicide.
So if you were able to continue this work, what kind of data do you think would be available today?
I think we'd know much more information about what sorts of weapons are used in what sorts of firearm deaths and injuries.
Speaking from Hyde Park Academy in his hometown Chicago, President Obama says he wants to reignite the "true engine of America's economic growth, a rising, thriving middle class."
"Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions: How do we bring good jobs to America? How do we equip people with the skills those jobs require? And how do we make sure your hard work leads to a decent living?" Obama says in the address.
By launching manufacturing hubs across the country, the president says he believes it will "transform hard-hit regions into global centers of high-tech jobs and manufacturing." America should become a "magnet for new jobs," he says.
Obama explains that getting there should be simple.
"We need to make our tax code more competitive, ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and rewarding companies that create jobs here at home. And we need to invest in the research and technology that will allow us to harness more of our own energy and put more people back to work repairing our crumbling roads and bridges," says. "These steps will help our businesses expand and create new jobs."
The president also notes his goals raising the minimum wage and providing every American child with "high-quality preschool," because, he says, "kids in these programs do better throughout their lives."
"These steps will help grow our economy and rebuild a rising, thriving middle class. And we can do it while shrinking our deficits. We don’t have to choose between the two, we just have to make smart choices," he said.
A full transcript of the President's remarks after the fold, or visit the White House website.
By Kim Barker, ProPublica
In a confidential 2010 filing, Crossroads GPS — the dark money group that spent more than $70 million from anonymous donors on the 2012 election — told the Internal Revenue Service that its efforts would focus on public education, research and shaping legislation and policy.
The group's application for recognition as a social welfare nonprofit acknowledged that it would spend money to influence elections, but said "any such activity will be limited in amount, and will not constitute the organization's primary purpose."
Political insiders and campaign-finance watchdogs have long questioned how Crossroads, the brainchild of GOP strategist Karl Rove, had characterized its intentions to the IRS.
Now, for the first time, ProPublica has obtained the group's application for recognition of tax-exempt status, filed in September 2010. The IRS has not yet recognized Crossroads GPS as exempt, causing some tax experts to speculate that the agency is giving the application extra scrutiny. If Crossroads GPS is ultimately not recognized, it could be forced to reveal the identities of its donors.
The tax code allows groups like Crossroads to spend money on political campaigns — and to keep their donors private — as long as their primary purpose is enhancing social welfare.
Crossroads' breakdown of planned activities said it would focus half its efforts on "public education," 30 percent on "activity to influence legislation and policymaking" and 20 percent on "research," including sponsoring "in-depth policy research on significant issues."
This seems at odds with much of what the group has done since filing the application, experts said. Within two months of filing its application, Crossroads spent about $15.5 million on ads telling people to vote against Democrats or for Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections.
"That statement of proposed activities does not seem to align with what they actually did, which was to raise and spend hundreds of millions to influence candidate elections," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, who reviewed the group's application at ProPublica's request.
Officials with Crossroads GPS would not answer specific questions about the material in the application or whether the IRS had sent a response to it.
"As far as we know, the Crossroads application is still pending, in which case it seems that either you obtained whatever document you have illegally, or that it has been approved," Jonathan Collegio, the group's spokesman, said in an email.
The IRS sent Crossroads' application to ProPublica in response to a public-records request. The document sent to ProPublica didn't include an official IRS recognition letter, which is typically attached to applications of nonprofits that have been recognized. The IRS is only required to give out applications of groups recognized as tax-exempt.
In an email Thursday, an IRS spokeswoman said the agency had no record of an approved application for Crossroads GPS, meaning that the group's application was still in limbo.
"It has come to our attention that you are in receipt of application materials of organizations that have not been recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt," wrote the spokeswoman, Michelle Eldridge. She cited a law saying that publishing unauthorized returns or return information was a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years, or both. The IRS would not comment further on the Crossroads application.
"ProPublica believes that the information we are publishing is not barred by the statute cited by the IRS, and it is clear to us that there is a strong First Amendment interest in its publication," said Richard Tofel, ProPublica's general manager.
ProPublica has redacted parts of the application to omit Crossroads' financial information.
With its sister group, the super PAC American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS has helped remake how modern political campaigns are financed.
American Crossroads, which does identify its donors, spent almost $105 million on election ads in the 2012 cycle. For its part, Crossroads GPS poured more than $70 million into ads and phone calls urging voters to pick Republicans — outlays that were reported to the Federal Election Commission. It also announced spending an additional $50 million on ads critical of President Barack Obama that ran outside the FEC's reporting window.
Based on the extent of Crossroads GPS' campaign activities, Obama's re-election campaign asked the FEC in June to force it to register as a political action committee and disclose its donors. The FEC has yet to rule on the request.
Politically active social welfare nonprofits like Crossroads have proliferated since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in January 2010 opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.
Earlier this year, a ProPublica report showed that many of these groups exploit gaps in regulation between the IRS and the FEC, using their social welfare status as a way to shield donors' identities while spending millions on political campaigns. The IRS' definition of political activity is broader than the FEC's, yet our investigation showed many social welfare groups underreported political spending on their tax returns.
During those 19 months, Crossroads spent a total of $64.7 million, of which $1.4 million — or just 2 percent — was identified as being spent on research. That compares with the 20 percent of effort Crossroads said it would devote to research in its application.
A tax return covering this year isn't due until November 2013.
The IRS rarely pursues criminal charges against nonprofits based on statements in their applications. It's more common for the agency to deny recognition or revoke a group's tax-exempt status.
In a letter to Congress in September, the IRS said it was engaged in "more than 70 ongoing examinations" of social welfare nonprofits. Earlier, in its work plan for the 2012 fiscal year, the agency said it was taking a hard look at social welfare nonprofits with "serious allegations of impermissible political intervention."
Campaign finance watchdog Fred Wertheimer, who runs Democracy 21 and has filed several complaints to the IRS about Crossroads, said the group's application for recognition showed why more aggressive enforcement is needed.
"When you read what they say on their application, there are a lot of words there. But I find them to be disingenuous and to have little to do with why Karl Rove founded this organization," Wertheimer said. "If you believe this is a social welfare organization, I have a rocket that can get you to the moon very quickly and at very little cost."
Some patriotic millionaires have a message for Congress:
Ten years ago, Republicans made a mistake. They gave tax cuts to millionaires. They decided our country needed less money and millionaires needed more.
Now our country doesn't have the money we need to build an economy that will work for all of us.
We need better roads to transport our products; faster internet for our technology companies; and more research at universities to spark our innovation.
Taking money from our future and giving it to millionaires is un-American.
Put America ahead of politics. Tax us!
Okay, John Boehner, what are you waiting for?
"Ethos," a powerful documentary hosted by Woody Harrelson, is an investigation into the flaws in our systems, and the mechanisms that work against democracy, our environment and the the common good.
With a stunning depth of research and breadth of analysis, this film delves deep into the inter-connected worlds of Politics, Multi-National Corporations and the Media.
Politicians openly deceive the public with the support of major corporations and the mainstream media. Wars are waged, the environment is destroyed and inequality is on the rise.
Ethos opens a Pandora’s box that has it’s roots in the cross-roads where capitalism-meets-democracy, implicates every power-elite puts profit before people and finally offers a solution whereby you – the viewer – can regain control using the one thing they do care about – your cash.