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Labor Day Open Thread

Every Labor Day, since 2007 I post the same photo. It is a sculpture on a Labor Union memorial walking trail in downtown Omaha. I was in Omaha a lot during 2006-7 due to a drug case there that I was defending. Every morning before court or going to the jail to see my detained client, I'd walk the trail, stopping to read all the placards under each signpost and when I got to the sculputre, I would just stand in awe.

The sculpture is huge, 30 feet wide by 40 feet tall. Here is a photo of it from the web page of the artist who created it, Matthew Plazcek. It is called "Labor Monument".

This massive design – featuring five larger-than-life bronze sculptures – depicts the dignity, inspiration and dedication of the American work force.

Next is Labor Day music. We have a rich history of protest songs but the one that resonates with me the most on Labor Day wasn't even written by an American. [More...]

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War on Pain Meds Leads Man and Wife to Suicide

The mainstream press sells the DEA's story: Opioid deaths and suicides are up among seniors. Time to rachet up the war on pain doctors.

That misses the point, of course, which is why? VICE News gets it right in This Couple Died by Suicide After the DEA Shut Down Their Pain Doctor. Millions of people live in chronic pain, and only strong opioids, including fentanyl patches prescribed by their doctors, brings them down from a pain scale of 10 to something livable, like a 5.

There are millions of chronic pain patients suffering just like me," Danny Elliott wrote before ending his life. "Nobody cares."

It's the war on pain doctors that needs to end, so they can exercise their judgment without fear of intimidation. Prosecutors, legislators and drug agents don't have medical licenses. They shouldn't be making one size fits all rules for what type of pain medicine and how much of it a chronically ill patient is allowed to have.

Just like with lethal injection, you wouldn't do a dog this way. Chronic pain kills. It killed Prince. Leave the pain doctors treating seniors and others with chronic pain alone.

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Trump Ends DREAMER's Program

This is so sad. Donald Trump announced the DREAMER's program created by President Obama through executive action will end.

Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security said the agency would no longer accept new applications for DACA other than those submitted before Tuesday. Immigrants enrolled in the program will be permitted to continue until their two-year work permits expire. And those whose permits expire through March 5, 2018, are allowed to seek renewals provided they do so by Oct. 5, officials said.

Here is the actual announcement.

Obama took to his Facebook page today to call Trump's action cruel and an affront to basic decency. [More...]

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James Corden Schools Trump on HIV/AIDS

James says:

  • 1.1 million people live with HIV in the U.S.60% of whom can't afford medication
  • 36.7 million people world-wide have HIV/AIDS, including more than 2 million children under the age of 15.

Maybe Donald Trump doesn't care because he has never seen the movie "Philadelphia." Seeing that movie is what made James start caring.

Yesterday, James Corden and The Late Late Show sent 297 copies (as many as they could buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., many on Blue-ray) to Trump at Mar-a-lago (The White House was very uncooperative when James called so he didn't send them there.)[More...]

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Mortality Rate Climbs for Underinformed White Males

Brookings Institution released a study of mortality and morbidity in the 21st century.

Case and Deaton find that while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age.

The combined effect means that mortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015.


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Riots in Baltimore After Freddie Gray Funeral

Baltimore was in chaos today when riots erupted after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young African American who died in police custody.

Gray's family was shocked by the violence... they hoped to organize a peace march later in the week, said family attorney Billy Murphy. He said they did not know the riot was going to happen and urged calm.

"They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence," he said. "It makes no sense."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and activated the National Guard.

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Obama's Race Interview on BET

BET aired its interview with President Obama on race tonight. (Warning: video plays automatically.) It's called "BET News Presents: A Conversation with President Barack Obama."

More Ferguson grand jury documents were released today.

The ACLU responds to DOJ's new racial profiling guidelines. It also points out that allowing racial profiling near the border is a bad precedent.

Protests continue around the country.

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NY Protesters Stage "Die In" at Apple Store and Macy's

The protests in New York over the grand jury's failure to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner and over-aggressive police conduct in general continue. Earlier tonight, about 100 protesters staged a "die in" at the Apple store on 59th & 5th (across from the Plaza Hotel and entrance to Central Park)and at Macy's at Herald Square and Grand Central Terminal.

In a surprising departure from previous nights, however, more than a hundred people stormed into an Apple Store on Central Park South and Fifth Avenue to stage a brief "die-in," sprawling on the floor of the crowded showroom as shoppers and employees watched. The group left without incident after about five minutes.

Similar demonstrations were staged at Macy's .... As they did at the Apple store, police stood by but allowed the protesters to briefly occupy both locations.

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Republican Budget Plan to Kill Medicare Gets Vote Next Week

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed a budget plan for 2012. It's scheduled for a vote next week. Among its features: Ending Medicare and gutting Medicaid.

[T]he nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has outlined what adoption of this proposal to supplant Medicare with vouchers and private insurance exchanges would mean. The overall cost of healthcare would go up, and retirees' out-of-pocket medical expenses would double — an increase that would push tens of millions of people living on fixed incomes over the financial brink.

Ryan calls his plan "The Path to Prosperity." For who? No surprise here: it calls for further tax reductions for corporations and wealthy individuals. He claims to be saving Medicare, notwithstanding his plan would push tens of millions of people over the financial edge. Ryan writes: [More...]

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Obama Budget Won't Include Social Security Cuts

The Wall St. Journal reports President Obama's budget, to be released on Monday, won't include changes to social security:

"The president believes that we should strengthen the program without putting at risk current retirees or slashing benefits for future generations, and he believes we can only achieve this goal by working together—Democrats and Republicans—to find a bipartisan solution," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.

Joan at Daily Kos has more.

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Don't Blame it On the Baby Boomers

The first baby boomer turned 65 on January 1. Millions more will follow. ABC News has a video report, dissing the boomers in every way: from calling them "demanding" to implying they are only concerned about themselves and their needs.

The worst is when the reporter says boomers will soon be demanding social security and medicare, "payable by the generations that came after them."

As if baby boomers are asking for a free ride. [More...]

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U.S. Apologizes for Intentionally Infecting Guatamalan Prisoners With STD

Reprehensible news article of the day:

From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors deliberately infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with venereal diseases in what was meant as an effort to test the effectiveness of penicillin.

American tax dollars, through the National Institutes of Health, even paid for syphilis-infected prostitutes to sleep with prisoners, since Guatemalan prisons allowed such visits. When the prostitutes did not succeed in infecting the men, some prisoners had the bacteria poured onto scrapes made on their penises, faces or arms, and in some cases it was injected by spinal puncture.

If the victims came down with the disease, they were treated with antibiotics.

The U.S. officially apologized today. The President of Guatamala appropriately expressed his outrage, calling the tests "crimes against humanity."

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