Henrietta Lacks’ living relatives gathered Tuesday morning in a sunny Baltimore waterfront park to herald the settlement they reached with a multibillion-dollar biotechnology company that for years has profited off its free use of regenerative cells taken from her decades ago without her consent. News of the agreement between the Lacks family and Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific came after two years of litigation in federal court on what would have been the Turner Station wife and mother’s 103rd birthday. Several family members attributed the serendipitous timing of the development to divine intervention.
Why is the Pentagon budget so high? On March 13th, the Biden administration unveiled its $842 billion military budget request for 2024, the largest ask (in today’s dollars) since the peaks of the Afghan and Iraq wars. And mind you, that’s before the hawks in Congress get their hands on it. Last year, they added $35 billion to the administration’s request and, this year, their add-on is likely to prove at least that big. Given that American forces aren’t even officially at war right now (if you don’t count those engaged in counter-terror operations in Africa and elsewhere), what explains so much military spending?
The US charges against Chinese officials for allegedly tampering with a Huawei investigation were just the tip of the iceberg. The US has also arrested and/or deported scores of Chinese nationals who are scientists, academics, and professionals in recent years. Peace activist K.J. Noh, also a scholar on the geopolitics of Asia & an organizer with Pivot to Peace, explains the alarming trend.
The current public health crisis is demonstrating how deficiencies in our approach to intellectual property (IP)—a unique set of rights and protections that applies to the creations of the human intellect—and research and development (R&D) imperil the health, safety, and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. As has happened all too often in the past, the choice to prioritize corporate profits and an exclusionary version of IP rights and R&D over affordable medicines and medical supplies is proving not only to be deadly, but also threatens to dramatically increase economic, geographic, and social inequality.
After decades of declining strike activity, data on major work stoppages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—including new 2019 data released this morning—show that there was a substantial upsurge in 2018 and 2019, with 485,000 workers involved in major work stoppages in 2018 and 425,500 workers involved in major stoppages in 2019—together they make up the largest two-year average in 35 years. In 2017, only 25,300 workers were involved in work stoppages.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some welcome news late last month: Americans are living a tiny bit longer. In 2018, the federal health agency reported, U.S. life expectancy at birth inched up about a month, from 78.6 to 78.7 years. The Trump administration, predictably, claimed credit for the increase, the first since 2014.
Washington State University researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate, the world’s most popular weed killer and main ingredient in Roundup herbicide. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities. Michael Skinner, a Washington State University professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues exposed pregnant rats to the herbicide between their 8th and 14th days of gestation.
Science. Evidence. Facts. Do these even matter anymore in U.S. policy? They should — especially when it comes to issues that affect our health and environment, like fracking. Concerned Health Professionals of New York and my organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, recently released a remarkable compendium of research on the subject. It summarizes and links to over 1,500 articles and reports and has become the go-to source for activists, health professionals, and others seeking to understand fracking. The new studies we looked at expose serious threats to health, justice, and the climate.
The Department of Health and Human Services is diverting millions of dollars in funding from a number of programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, to pay for housing for the growing population of detained immigrant children. In a letter sent to Sen. Patty Murray, D.-Wash., and obtained by Yahoo News, HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlined his plan to reallocate up to $266 million in funding for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Nearly $80 million of that money will come from other refugee support programs within ORR, which have seen their needs significantly diminished as the Trump administration makes drastic cuts to the annual refugee numbers.
The study is indeed impressive. Census researchers Kevin Rinz and John Voorheis used data from the bureau's Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which surveys more than 75,000 households. The authors then link this data with administrative filings from the Social Security Administration on wages and track the changes between 1991 and 2013. The study stands out for covering such a large number of people over such an extended period. "[R]aising the minimum wage increases earnings growth at the bottom of the distribution, and those effects persist and indeed grow in magnitude over several years," the authors write. At the same time, there's little indication that other people will lose their jobs as a result of the minimum wage—the outcome conservatives always warn about.
By Mack Burke for The Norman Transcript - NORMAN — Oklahoma’s former lead seismologist has testified he was pressured by officials at the University of Oklahoma to suppress findings linking earthquakes with fracking wastewater disposal. In a deposition taken on Oct. 11, Austin Holland alleges he was reprimanded for publishing a peer-reviewed journal article connecting the two and was pressured to alter his findings by Larry Grillot, former dean of OU’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, and Randy Keller, the former director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Holland said his decision to leave OU and the Oklahoma Geologic Survey in 2015 was a direct result of pressure from his employers. “I don't know if ‘angry’ is the right word, but just disappointed … that I'd spent my time working towards something, and I thought I was in my dream job, and then I couldn't be a scientist and do what scientists do, and that's publish with colleagues,” he said. “Well, that’s the point at which I realized that for my scientific credibility, I had to leave the position I was in.” In the deposition, Holland claims that Keller and Grillot influenced or altered wording in his findings or presentations. Holland said he met with Grillot and provided an advance copy of a report he co-authored linking seismicity with wastewater disposal. He said Grillot’s response was “this is unacceptable.”
By Charles Ornstein for Pro Publica - The government had planned to share data with researchers on patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage health plans. Then, suddenly, it didn’t. In the past few years, many seniors and disabled people have eschewed traditional Medicare coverage to enroll in privately run health plans paid for by Medicare, which often come with lower out-of-pocket costs and some enhanced benefits. These so-called Medicare Advantage plans now enroll more than a third of the 58 million beneficiaries in the Medicare program, a share that grows by the month. But little is known about the care delivered to these people, from how many services they get to which doctors treat them to whether taxpayer money is being well-spent or misused. The government has collected data on patients’ diagnoses and the services they receive since 2012 and began using it last year to help calculate payments to private insurers, which run the Medicare Advantage plans. But it has never made that data public. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have been validating the accuracy of the data and, in recent months, were preparing to release it to researchers. Medicare already shares data on the 38 million patients in the traditional Medicare program, which the government runs.
By John Zangas for DC Media Group. The March for Science was deemed by organizers as a non partisan, non political event but based on the wording of many signs political viewpoints were evident everywhere. By the hundreds they carried various hand made signs spelling out topics of concern over recent policy changes which they believe if enacted will adversely affect people and planet. Some signs were technical references to science facts, while others were plain and direct. “There is no Planet B” read one sign, “Science is not right or left”, and “The Oceans are rising and so are we” read others. “I see a lot of good science has done for my patients and I feel like it’s vital that we continue to support it,” said Erika McKee, a nurse from Washington DC, marching with friends who are doctors and scientists working at the NIH.
By Staff for Popular Resistance. On April 22, 2017, Earth Day, the March for Science too place across the United States and around the world. The organizers proclaimed "The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments." The mission for the March for Science is: The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest. The March for Science is a celebration of science. It's not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world. People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world.