Weekly Pulse: Bloomberg Shaking up Soda Pop with Politics

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking the USDA to approve a pilot program that would prevent his city’s residents from buying sugar-sweetened soda with food stamps. Some have called the proposal paternalistic. However, at In These Times, Terry J. Allen argues that Bloomberg’s proposal makes sense.

Allen notes that New Yorkers may spend up to $135 million in food stamp benefits on sodas. Nationwide, the food stamp program funnels about $4 billion into the pockets of soda manufacturers. Sugary carbonated drinks are artificially profitable for Big Pop because they are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heavily subsidized by-product of our broken agricultural system.

There are already restrictions on what you can buy with food stamps. Nobody thinks it’s patronizing that alcohol is off-limits, even though alcoholic beverage are a potential source of calories. A little discussed benefit of ending the soda subsidy within the food stamp program would be the incentive it gives to small storekeepers in poor neighborhoods to devote less floor and refrigerator space to carbonated drinks and more room to real food. Many low income New Yorkers struggle to buy healthy food in their neighborhoods. Soda subsidies only make the “food desert” problem worse.

Impatient to die

Prisoners on Death Row in Texas spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. The death house in Texas is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Conditions are so bad that many inmates are actively looking forward to their execution day to put an end to the crushing isolation, Dave Mann reports in the Texas Observer. There is a growing consensus among psychiatrists that solitary confinement is a form of torture. Some experts, and many inmates, believe that solitary confinement is literally driving Texas death row inmates insane.

Daniel Lopez is in a hurry to die: “I don’t see no point in waiting 20 years for them to finally decide to execute me.” That’s the first thing he tells me when I sit down to interview him. We are seated in the Polunsky Unit’s visiting room. Lopez is encased in a small booth. We are separated by thick, soundproof glass and talk through phones. [...] [Lopez] says he has no desire to remain on death row. He says he’s looking forward to execution day. He doesn’t want to live much longer in his small cell. “I don’t think that’s a life for somebody,” he says.

Health reform and the courts

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones takes a closer look a the legal challenges to health care reform. Republicans in Virginia have been given the green light to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate in court. In October, a U.S. District judge in Detroit refused to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of health care reform in Michigan. On Monday, a U.S. District judge in Lynchburg, VA, dismissed Liberty University’s anti-health reform lawsuit. Another Virginia judge says he will rule on a similar suit by the State Attorney General by the end of the year.

The current crop of politically motivated lawsuits challenging the individual mandate are legally tenuous at best. Aziz Huq wrote in The Nation: “Among constitutional scholars, the puzzle is not how the federal government can defend the new law, but why anyone thinks a constitutional challenge is even worth making.”

As Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger explained to Chris Hayes of The Nation earlier this year, the constitutionality of the individual mandate is basically a “no-brainer.” The way the Affordable Care Act is written, everyone who doesn’t have health insurance from some provider has two options: Buy subsidized health insurance or pay a tax. The federal government obviously has the right to collect taxes. The case is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court, but it seems unlikely to prevail. The real fear is that a lower court will paralyze the implementation of health care reform while the decision is pending.

Crisis pregnancy center bill

Shakthi Jothianandan of Ms. Magazine has the latest on proposed legislation that would force so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in New York City to disclose that they are not real reproductive health clinics. The New York City Council held a hearing on the proposed legislation in mid-November, which brought together officials from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, Planned Parenthood, Concerned Clergy for Choice and staff from CPCs around the city. The representatives for the CPCs claimed that the bill violates their free speech rights, but the head of the New York Civil Liberties Union testified that requiring organizations to disclose that they are not real health care facilities and don’t provide a full range of services does not infringe on any First Amendment right.

CeCe Heil, senior counsel with the Christian anti-abortion group American Center for Law and Justice, claimed the legislation was unnecessary because women are already smart enough to know that “abortion alternatives” means “alternatives to abortion.” Many of the CPCs have “life” in their name, which should signal to potential clients that they do not provide abortion or abortion referrals. But if it’s really so obvious that CPCs are just anti-choice ministries posing as reproductive health clinics, why oppose a law that simply requires all facilities to disclose the obvious?

Boehner meets with anti-choice extremist

Future Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) met with anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry, as Miriam Perez of Feministing reports. Terry is the founder of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which has a long record of advocating violence against abortion providers. After Dr. George Tiller, one of the country’s last high-profile late-term abortion providers, was assassinated, Terry called Tiller a “mass murderer” who “horrifically, reaped what he sowed.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Shocking News About Gun Laws and Crime

Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate.
Peter Daou, The Demise of the Left

Ah, another day, another campus shooting. This time it happened in my home town of Austin, TX. I'm surprised to see the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" is cancelling his speech scheduled for tonight near campus. Apparently there is just a tiny modicum of shame left on the right. But never fear, UT Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (yes that's a real organization) are working to get his speech rescheduled ASAP.

I wonder if they'll even pay attention to the latest research on gun trafficking. The New York Times reports on a new study released by Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Guns:

A study due to be released this week by a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns uses previously unavailable federal gun data to identify what it says are the states that most often export guns used in crimes across state lines. It concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.

The study also seeks to draw a link between gun trafficking and gun control laws by analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas like background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers. It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws. An advance copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.

It's sad that it requires research to show what ought to be obvious. But I guess if house flies had a lobby as well-funded as the NRA, window screen supporters would have to organize and put out studies like "screens on your windows keeps flies out of the house."

 

Shocking News About Gun Laws and Crime

Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate.
Peter Daou, The Demise of the Left

Ah, another day, another campus shooting. This time it happened in my home town of Austin, TX. I'm surprised to see the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" is cancelling his speech scheduled for tonight near campus. Apparently there is just a tiny modicum of shame left on the right. But never fear, UT Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (yes that's a real organization) are working to get his speech rescheduled ASAP.

I wonder if they'll even pay attention to the latest research on gun trafficking. The New York Times reports on a new study released by Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Guns:

A study due to be released this week by a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns uses previously unavailable federal gun data to identify what it says are the states that most often export guns used in crimes across state lines. It concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.

The study also seeks to draw a link between gun trafficking and gun control laws by analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas like background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers. It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws. An advance copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.

It's sad that it requires research to show what ought to be obvious. But I guess if house flies had a lobby as well-funded as the NRA, window screen supporters would have to organize and put out studies like "screens on your windows keeps flies out of the house."

 

Shocking News About Gun Laws and Crime

Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate.
Peter Daou, The Demise of the Left

Ah, another day, another campus shooting. This time it happened in my home town of Austin, TX. I'm surprised to see the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" is cancelling his speech scheduled for tonight near campus. Apparently there is just a tiny modicum of shame left on the right. But never fear, UT Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (yes that's a real organization) are working to get his speech rescheduled ASAP.

I wonder if they'll even pay attention to the latest research on gun trafficking. The New York Times reports on a new study released by Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Guns:

A study due to be released this week by a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns uses previously unavailable federal gun data to identify what it says are the states that most often export guns used in crimes across state lines. It concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.

The study also seeks to draw a link between gun trafficking and gun control laws by analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas like background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers. It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws. An advance copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.

It's sad that it requires research to show what ought to be obvious. But I guess if house flies had a lobby as well-funded as the NRA, window screen supporters would have to organize and put out studies like "screens on your windows keeps flies out of the house."

 

Bloomberg's 3rd Party run

With the possibility that Obama and Huckabee win Iowa, I wasn't surprised to hear the political chatter start to talk about Bloomberg. So Rasmussen did a poll in NJ&CT:

New Jersey    

Obama              42
Huckabee           27
Bloomberg          18



Connecticut

Obama             40
Huckabee          29
Bloomberg         18
You'd also have to add in the possibility that Ron Paul runs on the libertarian line, further dividing the Republican vote. Though I'm pretty skeptical that Obama and his campaign would win a one-on-one general election against the Republican machine, this is one way he could win.

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