Human Trafficking

There is a bill before the legislature to study decriminalization of prostitution. The bill is broadly written to address many concerns. My concern is specifically focused on the protection of victims of human trafficking. Currently victims are often treated as the criminals. A study is in order to examine the negative consequences to victims of current laws. I strongly believe that making prostitution legal is not the answer, but we must consider how we can protect victims of trafficking. States vary in the ways they address this issue from having no protection for victims to having Safe Harbor laws which try but do not always succeed in their efforts to protect. In the end my primary concern is protection and justice for victims.

I will have an update after the initial hearing. My hope is that a study would promote discussion of the heinous act of human trafficking that most of us wish we could ignore.

Posted on 15 Jan 2017, 10:25 - Category: NH Legislature



Value of Truth

A serious and tragic casualty of the 2016 election is the possible death of Fact, as well as her close companion, Truth. Trump has no regard for facts and wants no one around him who does. He has no qualms about tweeting anything that pops into his head regardless of impact or veracity. He says whatever is expedient for him at the time, or worse, what amuses him or what he thinks will amuse and capture the attention of those who are taken in by his persona, regardless of accuracy or truth.

He surrounds himself with toadies who back him up. In a recent interview with Diane Rehm, Scottie Nell Hughes, a political correspondent and Trump supporter, drove a stake through the heart of truth. She announced to the entire listening audience that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”

What matters now, Hughes suggested, is not whether something is true but instead how many people believe it to be true. Trump followers are happy to accept anything he tweets, but anyone who points out the falseness of what he says is accused of not telling the truth. In their upside down world, those who speak the truth are the liars, as opposed to those who are in fact telling the lies.

Here is a fact. Hughes is wrong. There is such a thing as fact, and fact is, Donald Trump lies, as when he put forward the absurd notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. Or when he claimed there was voter fraud in Virginia and New Hampshire when there is not a shred of evidence to support such a claim.  He takes the position that if he wins, there is no fraud, but when he loses, then there is fraud. He is not only a poor loser but also a poor winner.

Kellyanne Conway put it this way in an interview with  Mika Brzezinski, on "Morning Joe,” saying it is not really a lie when Trump says something untrue because he does not really know that what he is saying is not the truth. Perhaps he should find out before he starts tweeting in the middle of the night. It is an understatement to say that the press has been kind to Trump regarding some of the outrageous things he has said, but I think they finally realize they cannot continue doing that. When Trump says something that is patently untrue, it is the job of the press to call it out. Perhaps this is one reason Trump said he would like to limit freedom of the press. He has taken the position that journalists can say whatever they want and “get away with it” although this also is simply not true and why some people fear that we might well turn into a fascist state.

This begs the question of whether or not truth matters. The answer is of course it does. Lies and this fake news have serious consequences. How is it possible that citizens in the United States, who have presumably benefitted by our educational system, are unable to discriminate between real news and fake news.

Case in point is the person who recently stormed a pizza place after reading a false news report that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from a pizza parlor. Who in the world with anything that even resembles a brain would think such a ridiculous proposition could be true. And beyond that, what kind of  person takes it upon himself to go and investigate such nonsense and brings a gun to boot? It is not only staggering to imagine such idiocy in the American populace but also downright frightening that people are acting on false news.

It is not just the truth that has been compromised. Civilized behavior and respect for others have been kicked to the side of the road as well. Kellyanne Conway says that since Trump is the president-elect whatever he does is presidential behavior. I don’t recall her saying anything like that when Mr. Clinton was president. She goes even further when she says that, “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”

Lewandowski, the quintessential yes-man, blames the press for making his boss look bad. He said “You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.” I remember a past student who in a moment of frustration said “Don’t listen to what I say, listen to what I mean.” It really does not work that way. You had better mean what you say and be clear about it especially when speaking to the press. Their job is to report what you say, not to try to figure out what you might have meant.

This is a call to action. When you hear a false statement, say so and back it up. Truth is not something achieved through popular opinion. Truth is supported by reality. Facts are in fact verifiable. One cannot toss out a statement without evidence to back it up and expect that people will accept it as truth. It is imperative that we name this and stand up for truth, for facts, for the essential value of knowledge. This is our civic duty as citizens.  We must do this because if this nonsense persists, we will most surely fall into a period of dark ages where lies, ignorance and superstition become reality.

Truth will need our support over the next couple of years. Truth needs us to counter false statements, and false news put out by those who seek to plant poisonous seeds which will grow into movements that will undermine the very values that make the United States the country that it is, the country our forefathers intended. Those who deny truth under the guise of patriotism are those seeking to destroy it. Without our courage to stand up to this assault, we will not be able to blame only Trump and his cabinet of incompetents but also ourselves for not speaking out should things go sideways. The only way to maintain our essential humanity and the integrity of our souls is to speak truth, based in fact. This takes courage and effort but this country is worth it. We cannot let Truth down.

Posted on 16 Dec 2016, 12:04 - Category: Politics



Cost of Prolia

Prolia is a drug used to treat osteoporosis. I was recently prescribed Prolia. It is an injection delivered every six months. Prolia is an expensive drug and in the past, my insurance covered an appreciable amount.  I am not sure what changed but the last time I had the injection at my doctor’s office, we received a bill for over $7,000.

The insurance form had the standard explanation about how “they” had worked with the hospital to bring the cost down so that we owed only about $4,000. Curious, I went online to see exactly how expensive this drug is. I found coupons for Prolia from numerous pharmacies for about $1,000, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. It occurred to me there was no way it could cost any hospital $6,000 to administer a single injection.

My doctor was as appalled as I was and was open when I suggested different approach.

Before you can have the injection, you need to be tested to measure the amount of calcium in your system. My doctor wrote lab slip for the blood draw which I would took to the lab I usually go to for this kind of thing. Then, after the doctor received the results and all was well, she wrote the prescription for Prolia and submitted it to a pharmacy, one which offered a coupon. When the prescription was filled, I collected it and then had a health professional administer the injection on my own time.

There are two points I want to make. The first is that one must be vigilant in looking over charges from hospitals. We all know of instances when mistakes were made, like the man who was charged for a pap smear. We also need to be mindful of costs. In addition to mistakes, some of the charges are simply way out of whack. Ice packs for $40.00 dollars, for instance. (Bring your own).

The second point is that it is incumbent on us to take further charge of our health care. My experiment saved us over $5,000, which is substantial. It took work on my part to set this up. Getting the blood work was standard, but then I had to talk to several people about exactly how this was going to work and it also took some time to get all the parts moving in the right order. But I did and I got the prescription filled and the injection given.

Health care costs a lot and we often feel helpless in the face of that, but there are things we can do.

Ask what things cost. You would be surprised at how many people who work in healthcare have no idea what anything costs. Insist they find out.

Check your bills and insurance claims. Mistakes do happen and they are rarely in your favor. If they are, you can be sure the insurance companies will let you know. Similarly, you should let them know when the mistake is in their favor and that you are due a refund.

Participate with your healthcare team to figure out the most cost effective way of receiving your healthcare. Do your own research and come prepared to discuss options.

Horton, in Horton Hears a Who, got all the little voices to speak together in order to be heard and save their community. Likewise, all our voices speaking together about the obscenely high costs of particular medical treatments can make a difference. We need to make sure that hospitals and insurance companies know that we are paying attention.

Posted on 11 Nov 2016, 13:26 - Category: Health Care



Broadpoint's misleading advertisement program

We want to believe that we can trust the community around us to be honest with us, especially as it pertains to issues regarding our health and the health of our children. Sadly, that honesty is not often forthcoming, or even worse, is deliberately circumvented, so as to obfuscate the truth. Indeed there are companies devoted to doing just that. Recently we saw an example of this in the Portsmouth Herald’s Sunday (9-18) medical section; Tip of the Day. The tip, as it were, touted the safety of BPA, an element found in many plastic household products. The takeaway was that BPA is perfectly safe. The text and its presentation were designed to give the impression that this was an actual news item. But this was not the case and in fact, the information presented was, to put it kindly, of questionable nature. This article was submitted to the paper by a marketing company called Brandpoint.

I did a little checking into Brandpoint; who they are and what they do. I found, on their website, a special section dedicated to the pharma industry, called An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies (http://www.brandpoint.com/blog/an-advertising-solution-for-pharma-companies/).

On this page, Brandpoint says that their “native advertising initiative” is of great benefit, specifically, to pharmaceutical and chemical companies because Brandpoint can create “a piece of branded content that mimics a news article.” That is to say, they will write and submit articles promoting products of pharma companies that sound like legitimate news stories as opposed to advertisements.

They go on to say that this “mighty” tool helps companies that are “usually bogged down with legal red tape” to tell anecdotal stories that are presented as proof of a chemical’s efficacy and safety. Brandpoint goes on to remind its clients that  “FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them.” Heaven forbid that potential consumers should have to know about those pesky side effects.

In the “article,” Brandpoint does not mention that it is because of BPA’s that they tell you not to microwave food in a plastic container. In 2009, the FDA banned makers of baby bottles and sippy cups from using BPA’s in their products. And yet,  BPA was still used in the making of containers that held baby formula. The FDA got around to banning that in 2013.

The FDA still considers BPA to be more or less safe for the general population, but there are studies done with laboratory animals that suggest BPA may not be so safe after all. In 2006, a panel of medical experts met in Chapel Hill, NC, to discuss the matter and in their summary said that “BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” (S. Vogel, "The Politics of Plastics: The Making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A 'Safety'". American Journal of Public Health. 99 (S3): 559–566.)

I suppose I should not be surprised that companies like this exist and that their goal is to mislead for the purpose of padding their clients’, and consequently, their own, pockets. But such maneuvers tear at the fabric of our community, which is built on trust. Perhaps we trust too much and have become complacent. Finding out about this company (and I’m sure there are others) reminds me that we must remain vigilant and speak out when we uncover attempts to mislead and put us, and our children, in harm’s way. While we probably cannot influence companies like Brandpoint to not present misleading advertising, we can insist that our local purveyors of the news, like the Portsmouth Herald, not be a party to such misdirection. Let them know that it is not socially responsible to print an item as news when it is, in fact, an advertisement.



 

Native advertising, and the MAT release in particular, is one of those solutions. A MAT release (or master of aligned type, for all you 1950s marketing geeks) is a piece of branded content that mimics a news article. It presents factual information in the form of a narrative, distilled into about 500 to 700 words (minus the disclaimers) and distributed to several newspapers, as well as traditional and digital marketing outlets. And there lies the greatest opportunity for pharma companies.

The mighty MAT release is helping brands usually bogged down with legal red tape to use their most compelling asset: patient stories. These stories of patients, their ailments and their recoveries make these companies truly unique, and this form of native advertising offers the perfect medium. Just like any other story, the best kind is about a person with a specific malady that your product or service helps alleviate, with a clear beginning, middle and end. And just like that, you’ve got a piece of content that is genuine, unique and versatile, whether it’s used as part of an ad, PR or social currency.

FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them. But these brands can utilize the MAT release and its narrative structure to tell patient-centric stories and create a lasting impact on a massive audience. We should know. We’ve written a few thousand of them. It’s perhaps a little more complicated than the minimalist, less-is-more examples you see in those timeless VW ads (and yes, those disclaimers and ISI info still need to be a part of the release), but it’s an incredibly effective means for pharma companies to detach from the visual and focus on the patient to tell the story.

No matter your industry, Brandpoint’s Mat release services don’t stop at writing. We also handle editing and provide access to one of the largest distribution networks in the country. Check us out for more information.

(Copied from Brandpoints page entitled An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies.)

The key conclusions of the report included expression of some concern over the potential for developmental toxicicty for fetuses, infants, and children. And this was based primarily on evidence from animal studies that would suggest that there might be effects on the development of the prostate gland, and the brain, and also for the potential for behavioral effects. There was also a lower level of concern, minimal concern, expressed over potential for changes in the development of the mammary gland and also for the age at which females attain puberty. There was also a level of minimal concern expressed for workers exposed in occupational settings. But with the exception of that, exposures to adults were considered to be not particularly risky for exposures to BPA.

The fact that there are so many levels of uncertainty make it very difficult for us to make any kind of overall recommendations as to how exactly the U.S. public should view bisphenol A right at this point, but it clearly has also identified a number of research areas that we think need to be followed up on in great detail to give us a better handle and reduce some of these uncertainties and allow a clearer picture of exactly what we should be doing as a society with regards to exposures to BPA.(2008, the National Toxicology Program )

In 2006, the US Government sponsored an assessment of the scientific literature on BPA. Thirty-eight experts in fields involved with bisphenol A gathered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to review several hundred studies on BPA, many conducted by members of the group. At the end of the meeting, the group issued the Chapel Hill Consensus Statement,[52] which stated "BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals."[53] The Chapel Hill Consensus Statement stated that average BPA levels in people were above those that cause harm to many animals in laboratory experiments. It noted that while BPA is not persistent in the environment or in humans, biomonitoring surveys indicate that exposure is continuous. This is problematic because acute animal exposure studies are used to estimate daily human exposure to BPA, and no studies that had examined BPA pharmacokinetics in animal models had followed continuous low-level exposures. The authors added that measurement of BPA levels in serum and other body fluids suggests the possibilities that BPA intake is much higher than accounted for or that BPA can bioaccumulate in some conditions (such as pregnancy).[52]  (Chapel Hill bisphenol A expert panel consensus statement: Integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential to impact human health at current levels of exposure)


 

Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:40 - Category: Politics



Trump's Tower of Lies by D. Allan Kerr

I found this article especially interesting and straightforward. I appreciate the honesty of D. Allan Kerr

 

http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20160713/NEWS/160719794/0/SEARCH

Posted on 25 Jul 2016, 14:02 - Category: Politics



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