Have prisons become the most viable industrial complex of our generation? And what will corporations do to keep the prisons full?


Last week, it emerged that the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had sent a letter to 48 states offering to take their prisons off their hand in exchange for a quick infusion of cash. The only small catch was that the states would have to sign a contract guaranteeing 90% occupancy of those prisons for the next 20 years…

For decades now, many small towns across America that fell on hard times were only too happy to embrace the prison industry as their economic salvation. The CCA’s website features an article from the Texas Monthly magazine, entitled “Yes in my Back Yard: How Eden learned to stop worrying and love its private prison”, about one such town called Eden, which is apparently besotted with its CCA-owned detention center. While the CCA has become one of the leading local employers, the article cheerfully notes that “At least half the town’s 2,500…

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Some good charts to help understand how the Obama stimulus helped the economy, and why the recovery is slow.

Phil Ebersole's Blog

It is a fact that economic recovery began after President Obama took office.  I believe that the recovery was helped by his economic stimulus program and by programs already in place such as food stamps and unemployment insurance.  These helped cushion the effects of the recession and allow recovery to take place.  I can’t prove this.  There is no way to go back in time and run another scenario in which the government stood aside and allowed events to take their course.

The problem is that the recovery is so slow, and that even when and if economic conditions get back to the way they were before.  During the supposed expansion preceding the 2007 recession, wages were declining (in terms of buying power), American manufacturing was being eroded and poverty was increasing.

Below are some charts which illustrate the weakness of the current economic recovery.

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Day at the Statehouse

This Tuesday the Rhode Island Tobacco Control Network sponsored a panel discussion on how to lobby our representatives. In Rhode Island, there are many opportunities. You might, for instance, encounter a rep in the frozen foods section of the Stop and Shop, and bend their ear for a minute or forty-five. This is not always the optimal strategy.

You can meet them in The People’s House, when they’re supposed to be working.

Sadly, you must first talk to an officer with a metal detector. This is our post-9/11 world. But after that you are at home in one of the grandest civic temples in our country. This week’s panel was held in the State Room, so beautiful with ceiling murals, gilt carving, marble and antiques that you could sit happily through even the driest presentation just taking in the architectural beauty.

The five panelists gave expert advice on how to bring an issue to our legislature, some highlights,(not direct quotes, but the general drift)–

Peter Asen, Senior Policy Analyst, House of Representatives, formerly of Ocean State Action–

We have a part-time legislature. They make $14,000/year so all of them work other jobs. Time is important. One technique of lobbying is to find a spokesperson who will bring sympathy to your cause, which is why a big tobacco company will have a small store owner speak against a tobacco tax.

Sylvia Weber, Lobbyist, Rhode Island State Nurses Association–

Don’t let others dictate your behavior. The lobbyist is a link between a cause and the Statehouse. She reports back from the Legislature. Know what hat you’re wearing, and be aware of boundaries. Respect the Statehouse staff. You need to be clear and brief. People come to hearings with eight pages and start reading. Don’t do that, stick to your main points. You can get large groups of people together to write letters. We had a mailing campaign to allow prescription privileges for advance practice nurses.

Rep. Art Handy, District 18,Cranston–

Use the power of your vote. There are 2 kinds of power, money and votes. If you like a representative, consider volunteering in their campaign. Representatives need to know that you pay attention to what they’re doing. It makes a difference. Acknowledge small gains, it can take time. I have been supporting a bill for marriage equality for ten years.

Rep. Grace Diaz, District 11,Providence–

I get my priorities from my constituents, the issues they bring to me. We count on advocacy groups for research, statistics and contacts. Testify at hearings, check the Statehouse web site to follow the progress of a bill, and don’t miss deadlines. Don’t be afraid and give good testimony. Lobbyists can influence the legislature to change the language of a bill. Think about running for office.

Helen Drew, Associate Director of the RI Department of Health in Gov. Carcieri’s administration–

Tell your story, have your data, know who your friends and who your enemies are. You may be on the same side of an issue with someone, but on the opposite side of another issue with that same person. Be true to yourself and build honest, long-term relationships. The best thing you can do is to put sunshine on an issue.  The role of the lobbyist is often to provide information. If you hear something in testimony you disagree with, you can refute it in a letter and email it to your representatives.

Good advice from all. I took the point about brevity, having testified in the wee hours on marriage equality. Please, citizens, don’t be the one who brings eight pages and mumbles through them while the reps take a bathroom break.

Time to go to work, catch you all on my next cup of coffee.

Someone who is thinking my thoughts — that medicine is not giving clear enough messages on what we can do to prevent cancer through good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Frances L Arnold's Blog

Most of us know someone who is a cancer survivor or is currently fighting this ravaging disease. I’ve taken a strong interest in cancer prevention and survival largely because I’m shocked over and over at how confused many healthcare providers and consumers appear when it comes to cancer and nutrition. I’ve met several people who tell me that their doctors believe there isn’t a connection between nutrition and cancer. Yet some nutrition professionals and researchers argue that the cancer-nutrition connection is almost 100%! When I talk with patients or families, they are often confused about what the connection is, and often consume foods that I think no cancer patient should consume (and these foods are provided by the hospital!). What further confuses patients is that the education around the connection is inconsistent, or even influenced by profit. For example, formulary companies have helped set industry standards to promote weight maintenan

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Keeping Faith With Our Veterans

by Kevin DeJesus
As I wrote back in October, 2011, one means by which opponents
of the war in Iraq can employ their good, positive energy for social
justice, human rights and accountability at home (the stuff which
keeps a democracy a democracy), one key means by which we can support
our soldiers, many deployed in Afghanistan as well as those returned
home from Iraq, is to express our outrage and expectations that the US
Military face the necessary legislative scrutiny to disallow the
culture of “diagnostic meddling” as I like to call it, and the
consequent interference with the right of soldiers to obtain vital
medical benefits when needed, in order to cut rising costs. Perhaps we
ought to have thought about this before we went to war? Our stellar US
Senator to the north, Senator Patrick Leahy, the conscience of our
nation, indeed has reminded us of our failure to consider this whilst
jumping on the bandwagon to take Iraq on a consistent basis. He should
be lauded for demanding more of us as a responsible democracy. Alas, back to
the central purpose of my post.

Here is an important article from the New York Times which robustly
details the military’s internal turmoil over this issue of apparently
fudging and foiling psychiatric diagnoses as a means to prevent the
US military from going bust, as NY Times writer James Dao explores in
his important piece, ‘Personality Disorder’,a disputed diagnosis

Dao cites reports of military doctors and social workers being pressured to change psychiatric diagnoses from conditions such as PTSD, that can be considered a war injury, to ‘personality disorder’, a pre-existing condition…

But the issue [of improper command influence on a clinician] has roared back into national focus with recent reports out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord that a special forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center was reversing diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers being medically evaluated for discharge. In several of those cases, the soldiers were left with diagnoses of personality or adjustment disorder — illnesses that, unlike PTSD, did not automatically qualify them for medical discharges and certain benefits.

Remember, if our legislators know that we as a
concerned, committed public will not allow our military to engage in
such utterly disrespectful practices toward our soldiers, the needed
scrutiny on this issue will be sustained. Raise this issue at your
legislator’s community dinners, in email/letters to the editor, and of
course, by writing or phoning your US Senators and congressional
representative. Raising your compassionate, well-argued voice matters!

Kevin DeJesus is a recently minted PhD in Critical Human Geography
from York University in Toronto, Ontario. His areas of focus include
Africa and the Middle East. Kevin is particularly interested in the
geographic processes of violently divided societies, human rights and
survivor effects of war-trauma and political violence amid the
geographies of everyday life. During his undergraduate and graduate
studies, Kevin was a visiting student at the American University
of Beirut, Cape Verde, West Africa, Gaza, and the American University
of Cairo, Egypt. Kevin carried out his doctoral research in Beirut, Lebanon. Kevin resides in Providence, and is a happily active member of the First Unitarian Church of Providence.

Rick Santorum’s latest sound byte: Hooray for Inequality!


“Santorum Praises Income Inequality.”

That was Fox News’s headlineabout Rick Santorum’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday. Santorum said, “I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.”

Unbelievable. Maybe not, but stunning all the same.

Then again, Santorum is becoming increasingly unhinged in his public comments. Last week, he said that the president was arguing that Catholics would have to “hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues.”

Also last week, he suggested that liberals and the president were leading religious people into oppression and even beheadings. I kid you not. Santorum said: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is…

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