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November 21, 2012

Health experts call for all Americans to get tested for HIV

If accepted into law, the HIV test would be covered by all insurance providers. Joe. My. God.: Feds Call For HIV Tests For All
The draft guidelines were written by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group that operates under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services to advise the government and the nation's physicians on the medical evidence for preventive health measures. Posted online Monday on the task force website for a four-week period of public comment, the guidelines also recommend that doctors offer HIV tests to people under 15 or over 64 if they are at high risk for contracting HIV and — in advice that has not changed — to all pregnant women. The recommendations, which would apply to all but very-low-risk populations, are a clear shift toward broader testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The task force's 2005 guidelines suggested routine HIV screening only for adolescents and adults at increased risk, including men who have sex with men, injection drug users, people who trade sex for drugs and those who have multiple sexual partners.

November 19, 2012

FCC to look at criminally expensive phone rates for prisoners

Facing Rates Of $17 For 15 Minutes, FCC Takes Up Regulation Of Prison Phone Industry | ThinkProgress
Phone calls between prisoners and their families can cost as much as $17 for a 15-minute call, reaping generous profits in many states for both the phone companies that provide the service and the states, which receive what amount to legalized kickbacks. Recognizing the drastic obstacle these costs impose on children staying in touch with their parents, a bipartisan coalition launched a campaign this past Mother’s Day calling for regulation of this industry. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission entertained these calls, announcing at a rally that it would seek public comment on prison phone rules and rates. In a scathing September report, the Prison Policy Initiative’s Drew Kukorowski explains why the industry needs regulating: Exorbitant calling rates make the prison telephone industry one of the most lucrative businesses in the United States today. This industry is so profitable because prison phone companies have state-sanctioned monopolistic control over the state prison markets, and the government agency with authority to rein in these rates across the nation has been reluctant to offer meaningful relief. Prison phone companies are awarded these monopolies through bidding processes in which they submit contract proposals to the state prison systems; in all but eight states, these contracts include promises to pay “commissions” — in effect, kickbacks — to states, in either the form of a percentage of revenue, a fixed up-front payment, or a combination of the two. Thus, state prison systems have no incentive to select the telephone company that offers the lowest rates; rather, correctional departments have an incentive to reap the most profit by selecting the telephone company that provides the highest commission. The prison telephone market is structured to be exploitative because it grants monopolies to producers, and because the consumers — the incarcerated persons and their families who are actually footing the bills — have no comparable alternative ways of communicating.

November 13, 2012

A Modest Proposal: Let's Name Storms After Oil Companies

A Modest Proposal: Let's Name Storms After Oil Companies | Crooks and Liars
As gutsy New Yorkers begin the task of drying out the city, here's one thought that occurred to me last night watching the horrifying pictures from a distance. It's obviously not crucial right now – but in the long run it might make a difference. Why don't we stop naming these storms for people, and start naming them after oil companies? Global warming didn't "cause" the hurricane, of course – hurricanes are caused when a tropical wave washes off the coast of Africa and begins to spin in the far Atlantic. But this storm rode ocean waters five degrees warmer than normal, so it's no great shock that it turned into a monster. By the time it hit land, it had smashed every record for the lowest barometric pressure and the largest wind field. Most of its damage, of course, came from the savage storm surge, washing over the Rockaway, into Holland Tunnel. It was astonishing to watch on TV as the Lower East Side became a part of the East River. And one reason that surge was so high? The sea level in New York harbour has gone up a foot as the climate has warmed. Sandy had a big head start on flooding out the city. The fossil fuel companies have played the biggest role in making sure we don't slow global warming down. They've funded climate denial propagandists and helped pack Congress with anti-environmental extremists, making sure that commonsense steps to move toward renewable energy never happen. So maybe it's only right that we should honour their efforts by naming storms for them from now on. At the very least it's fun to imagine the newscasters announcing, "Exxon is coming ashore across New Jersey, leaving havoc in her wake", or "Chevron forces evacuation of 375,000".