Weekly Pulse: Giffords Shooting Reveals Flaws in U.S. Mental Health Services

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head at a constituent outreach event in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson on Saturday. In all, the gunman shot 18 people, killing 6, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Jamelle Bouie of TAPPED urges President Barack Obama to take up the issue of mental health care in his upcoming speech on the mass shooting. Several people who knew the alleged shooter came forward with stories of bizarre behavior and run-ins with campus police at his community college. College administrators ordered him to seek treatment before he returned to school, but he does not appear to have done so.

H. Clarke Romans of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Arizona explained to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! that mental health services in Arizona have been devastated by budget cuts.

In 2008 the state eliminated support services for all non-Medicaid behavioral health patients and stopped covering most brand-name psychiatric drugs. At least 28,000 Arizonans were affected. Arizonans with mental illnesses can expect even more cuts in the future as the state slashes spending in an attempt to address its budget shortfall.

In AlterNet, Adele Stan, argues that, while we don’t yet know the gunman’s motives, the right wing’s intensifying campaign of anti-government hysteria and violent rhetoric may have emboldened an already disturbed person:

Had the vitriolic rhetoric that today shapes Arizona’s political landscape (and, indeed, our national landscape) never come to call, Loughner may have found a different reason to go on a killing spree. But that vitriol does exist as a powerful prompt to the paranoid, and those who publicly deem war on the federal government a patriot’s duty should today be doing some soul-searching.

Reform repeal vote on hold

The House Republicans had scheduled a vote to repeal health care reform this week, but the vote has been postponed in the wake of the Giffords shooting. However, the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce threw its full weight behind the repeal effort on Tuesday, according to Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones. The Chamber is going back on its earlier pledge not to oppose health care reform outright.

CA insurer hikes rates by 59%

Nearly 200,000 policyholders in California are reeling from a 59% rate hike by Blue Shield, Brie Cadman reports for Change.org. According to the company, the increase was not due to health care reform, but rather to “increased utilization.” State insurance officials are reviewing the rate hike, but they can’t reverse it unless they find that Blue Shield fails to meet the legal medical loss ratio (percentage of premiums spent on medical care).

Reproductive rights in the states

Rachel Gould and Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute recap reproductive rights in the states at RH Reality Check. Last year, 44 states and the District of Columbia considered 950 repro rights-related measures on issues ranging from abortion to sex ed. By year’s end, 89 new laws had been enacted in 32 states and DC. Of these, 39 were abortion laws.

The vast majority of new abortion laws served to further restrict women’s access to abortion. The passage of the Affordable Care Act spurred several states to pass laws restricting insurance coverage for abortions. The District of Columbia’s decision to reinstate public funding was one of the few exceptions to the trend of restrictive new laws.

Autism/vaccine study based on “deliberate fraud”

The author of a discredited study purporting to link autism and vaccines schemed to profit from his tainted research from the very beginning, according to new research published in the British Medical Journal.

It turns out that the lead author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was secretly working on a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers when he published a study in The Lancet that appeared to show a link between vaccines and autism. We now know that Wakefield falsified the findings that sparked a global panic over the safety of childhood vaccines.

The journal retracted the paper last year. Wakefield was stripped of his license to practice medicine.

Some observers think these revelations will finally put the debate over vaccines and autism to rest. Kristina Chew of Care2 is doubtful:

I am very sure that, even with all the facts, data, and evidence laid before them, those who believe that vaccines or something in vaccines caused or somehow ‘contributed’ to their child becoming autistic will stand by their claims, and by Wakefield.  Some of these persons are my friends. They are parents, as am I, of autistic children.

Wakefield’s die hard supporters weren’t swayed by earlier revelations of shoddy research and unethical conduct. It seems unlikely that this new found conflict of interest will change their minds.

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.

 

 

False hype about crime in border cities has tragic implications

From the Restore Fairness blog.

On June 7th, a Border Patrol agent allegedly shot and killed Sergio Adrián Hernández Huereca, a 14- year old Mexican boy in El Paso, Texas. While exact details of the incident remain murky, the FBI said that the shooting was prompted when border patrol agents were assaulted by rock throwers across the Mexican border. Even though no border patrol agent was injured, T.J. Bonner, the president of the union representing Border Patrol agents released a statement saying that given the common occurrence and potential danger of rock throwing incidents at the border, he classified it as a “deadly force encounter” that “justifies the use of deadly force.” Susan Lee, American director of Amnesty International condemned the shooting of the young boy saying-

This shooting across the border appears to have been a grossly disproportionate response and flies in the face of international standards which compel police to use firearms only as a last resort, in response to an immediate, deadly threat that cannot be contained through lesser means.

Following condemnation from the Mexican President and government and from civil rights groups in the US, the FBI has launched a full scale investigation into the shooting. At this point it is still not known whether the boy was even involved in the rock throwing. This incident comes only weeks after Anastacio Hernandez, a 32- year old father of five U.S. born children, was hit in the stomach with a baton and then shocked with a stun gun fired by a Customs and Border Protection officer at the San Ysidro border crossing when he resisted being deported. Once again, the officers involved were completely unharmed and insisted that their use of force was necessary given the situation. Last week, the San Diego County coroner ruled his death a homicide.

Speaking to CNN, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley acknowledge that the death of the young Mexican boy is not an isolated incident and committed to a fully transparent, large-scale investigation. He said that the only long-term solution to tragic incidents like these was the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

Instead of working towards comprehensive immigration reform, the White House has succumbed to political pressure to increase immigration enforcement. This tragic incident occurs in the wake of the White House decision to add $500 million to border enforcement and send 1200 more troops to “secure the border” against so-called waves of violence at the border. Bipartisan members of Congress wrote to President Obama about the “urgent” need for increased border enforcement saying-

Violence in the vicinity of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate. We believe that this violence represents a serious threat to the national security of the United States as well as a serious threat to U.S. citizens that live along the 1,969-mile long border.

In spite of numerous reports that constantly disprove such hype about increased border crime rates, politicians continue to take recourse to it time and again. As politicians like John McCain and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer insist on the need for increased enforcement at the border to protect U.S. citizens from crime committed by immigrants, a recent FBI report obtained by the Associated Press on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act has found that the top four safest big cities in the U.S. are all in the border states. According to the new FBI report, San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin are big cities that have the lowest rates of violent crime in the U.S. With respect to killings at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol it is important to note a Customs and Border Protection report that shows that Border agents face far less danger than local law enforcement in most U.S. cities. From the Associated Press:

The Customs and Border Protection study, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, shows 3 percent of Border Patrol agents and officers were assaulted last year, mostly when assailants threw rocks at them. That compares with 11 percent of police officers and sheriff’s deputies assaulted during the same period, usually with guns or knives. In addition, violent attacks against agents declined in 2009 along most of the border for the first time in seven years.

In the face of concrete research, evidence and admissions from U.S. Border and Customs personnel themselves stating that the southern U.S. “border is safer now than it’s ever been,” is it astonishing that politicians and lawmakers continue to use the myth of the “immigrant threat” to safety as justification for increased immigration enforcement. Arizona Gov. Brewer, who signed off on the draconian anti-immigrant law, SB1070, made numerous statements justifying the law that relied on the myth of widespread crimes being perpetrated as a result of immigration at the border. Before her meeting with President Obama to express her frustration at the Federal Government’s lack of action in securing the border, Gov. Brewer told the press-

We are out here on the battlefield getting the impact of all this illegal immigration, and all the crime that comes with it.

A few days ago we brought you concrete statistics proving that Arizona’s “crime wave” is nothing but racist hype and fear-mongering. Research released by the Immigration Policy Center proves that immigrants are, in fact, less likely to commit crime than non-immigrants, with crime rates being lowest in cities with El Paso, Texas, with a high population of undocumented immigrants. El Paso, where 14-year old Sergio Adrián Hernández Huereca was killed, is one of the poorest and safest cities in the United States.

It would be useful if lawmakers and politicians took note of police chiefs from around the country who have taken a stance against the implementation of SB1070, Arizona’s new law. 8 police chiefs, including two from Arizona, met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on May 27 to urge the Department of Justice to put a stop to SB1070, which they believe will make their jobs harder by diverting resources away from policing actual crime and eroding the trust between the community and local police; trust that is necessary for effective law enforcement. It is surprising that more local law enforcement officials have not spoken out against laws such as SB1070. On June 10th, 55 organizations in NYC, including us at Breakthrough, signed a letter to NYPD chief Raymond Kelly urging him to break his silence and publicly condemn SB1070 just as New York Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council has done.

With states like Arizona taking immigration law into their own hands, and the Federal Government pushing an enforcement only approach appeases politicians and invests in border security and partnerships between Federal immigration officials and local law enforcement, valuable time and energy is being diverted away from the only sustainable solution- humane and comprehensive immigration reform.

Photo courtesy of the elpasotimes.com

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Devastating! An 88-Year-Old Anti-Semite Attacks the Holocaust Museum.

I've spent the better part of the afternoon flipping the television channels to hear more report about this 88 year old monster who killed a guard in his attempt to kill even more people at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.

This was a guy that the authorities KNEW ABOUT. He ran a web site which attacked Jews, Blacks and Catholics. He self-published a book that he gave the first six chapters of away for free on line (then advertising the last six chapters for money).

There's more...

Creeping Police State Stories

- More info and what you can do about the police execution of Oscar Grant. The unarmed, SF Bay Area 22 year old was lying face down on the ground when a BART officer shot him in the back.

- Although a study of survey data showed that 98 percent of ER doctors suspect excessive force has been used on some patients during police encounters, there's no requirement to report these suspicions and few say anything.

- In Norfolk, Virginia, an officer tased an unarmed, mentally ill woman because she explained that pins in her shoulders made it hard for her to put her hands behind her back, and would he please look at her medic alert necklace, which she helpfully holds out to him. After he tases her the first time, she can still be heard in video of the incident still asking him to look at her medic alert info in her back pocket. The officer was under no threat, and he tortured a helpless woman anyway, while responding to a noise complaint raised by a neighbor.

- This past Thursday, in Martinsville, VA, a 17 year old died after being tasered. A neighbor called in suspicious behavior, and an officer interrupting a bout of underage drinking ended up killing the teen in his own home.

There's more...

Who's to blame for the Ark. Shooting?

I'm somehow a mix of "livid" and "numb" regarding the shooting at the Arkansas Democratic Party Headquarters right now. We don't know the motive of the assailant yet -- we don't know if Gwatney was the target for reasons other than his role in the state party.

But didn't we just go through this last month a guy killed two people at Unitarian churchfor it being "too liberal?"

We don't know if this is the same thing. But it is far too easy to imagine the motive. Because for some reason, conservatives love the idea of Democrats being shot. Oh, not all do. And those that publically call for it claim to just make a "joke" of it. Like those "Liberal Hunting Permit" that Dave Neiwart cited recently in a post about conservative "eliminationism". Neiwart collected a disturbing, but media-ignored list of major conservative voices calling for the death of Americans they disagree with. Here are a few:


Rush Limbaugh: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for."

Stop the ACLU [post since removed]:

Rope + Tree + ACLU Lawyer = Pinata

Ann Coulter: "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee. ... That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Melanie Morgan: "A great deal of good could be done by arresting Bill Keller having him lined up against the wall and shot."

Lee Rogers: "[T]he day will come when unpleasant things are going to happen to a bunch of stupid liberals and it's going to be very amusing to watch."

Bill O'Reilly: They ought to hang this Soros guy.

Whatever happened to the crime of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? I know there's a fundimental right of these blowhards calling for the death of their so-called enemies (re: us) but where do you draw the line? The recent NRA wallet-sized handout saying that Obama will take away everyone's guns,perhaps?

In it, they state "never in NRA's history have we faced a presidential candidate -- and hundreds of candidates running for other offices -- with such a deep-rooted hatred of firearm freedoms." Surely that won't inflame people with guns, ironically since they must be confusing the gun-quiet Obama with another candidate.

But the most disgusting account I can imagine is an upcoming one. Pandagon links to a review of an upcoming "conservative comedy" called An American Carol about an irresponsible unamerican filmmaker modeled after Michael Moore who is visited by 3 ghosts who turn him conservative.

Amidst 9/11 jokes and various moralizations about what it means to be an America, comes this nugget:


In a scene that Sokoloff described, but didn't bring, Patton and his soldiers storm a courthouse that's about to remove the Ten Commandments and start opening fire on the people trying to stop them. "You can't shoot these people!" Malone says. "They're not people!" says Patton. "They're the ACLU!" At this point we see that the ACLU members are unkillable George Romero zombies.

It's always important to dehumanize your enemies, especially if you're looking to get them shot. (See: "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder", "Obama Nation" and "Unfit for Command" for other examples of how 'dem librals ain't like us.)

I'm sure an endorsement of violence is not what irresponsible filmaker David Zucker is endorsing by showing just that in his film about how unamerican and, apparently, inhuman Liberals are. Maybe he'll be visited by 3 ghosts and learn the error of having a fake mass shooting of liberals at a time in which people seem to be doing that on their own accord.

Sure, he's protected by the First Amendment. But during a crucial in the film, the Michael Moore charactor is faced with the carnage of 9/11 (hilarious!) and told that those deaths are on his hands because of "freedom of speech, which you abuse."

If fake Michael Moore's abusive use of freedom (as Atrios suggests, that's truly a conservative logistical stretch) makes him responsible 9/11 deaths, somehow -- is real David Zucker, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, et al. responsible for the deaths at the Unitarian Church and the shooting today in Arkansas?

Will they even notice?

UPDATE: I forgot one of the most egregious examples, House minority leader John Boehner's call for the American people to "hang" House Speaker Pelosi. He's yet to apoligize for that statement.

There's more...

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