More in US die from prescription narcotics than car crashes, guns, suicide

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More than 100 Americans die each day from prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers. That's more daily deaths than from car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides. In California, two county District Attorneys are suing five of the biggest drug companies in the world, and the lawsuits include the same kind of arguments once used against big tobacco industry, demanding "public protection."

Warren Olney's "To the Point" radio show has a segment on the topic today:

The companies are accused of a "campaign of deception" to persuade doctors that narcotic painkillers are safer than they really are. But the narcotic painkillers involved have been approved by the FDA. Is a government agency helping create a "population of addicts?" What's the role of physicians who write the prescriptions? Are they ill-informed, poorly trained or trying to make money?
More on the case at advocacy group harmreduction.org, and there's a Los Angeles Times writeup here.

Attorney fined for using shock pen on witness

NewImageA Utah judge fined an attorney $3,000 after he zapped a witness with a trick shock pen during a trial. The case is about about whether emissions from a power plant are harming nearby dairy cows.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

In an order released this week, 4th District Judge James Brady wrote that electricity expert Athanasios Meliopoulos was testifying against dairy farmers who claim that "stray" currents from Intermountain Power Plant in Delta were harming cattle.

As part of his testimony, Meliopoulos claimed that 1.5 volts, the equivalent of a AAA battery, could not be felt by a person. Los Angeles-based attorney Don Howarth, who represented the dairy farmers, gave a child’s gag pen to Meliopoulos. According to the package label, the retractable pen zaps the user with "a harmless powerful shock," Brady wrote.

Howarth told Meliopoulos that the pen contained a 1.5-volt AAA battery and challenged Meliopoulos to "go ahead and push the back of the pen and tell the jury whether you feel it or not," Brady wrote.

Meliopoulos, a Georgia Tech professor, pushed the pen and "received a strong electric shock, which caused his body to jerk and to drop the pen," Brady wrote.

Attorney fined for zapping witness with trick pen at dairy cow trial

Ugotarrested: Man charged with operating revenge porn site Ugotposted.com

California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.

California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.

The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.

During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.

"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants.

Read the rest

Mark Dery on Trayvon Martin

Mark Dery on his essay about the death of Trayvon Martin: "It’s a polemic, it’s cultural criticism, it’s Southern Gothic in the greasy faced, lynching-postcard mode, it’s the muck that came up when I dredged the deepest, darkest places in the river bottom of the American psyche." Of course it is. From the essay, titled "Skin in the Game," over at Thought Catalog:
NewImageAmericans hate history lessons because Americans hate history.

It’s the dead weight of centuries, jettisoned (we thought) when we left Europe, a drag coefficient on forward movement. And who doesn’t want to move forward in this land of boundless opportunity, bullish investors, consumer confidence, housing starts, Achieving Your Personal Best, and if all else fails, Reinventing Yourself?

But history, especially the night terrors of slavery and Reconstruction and the century after, refuse to stay buried. There are so many rooms in this old house, some of them bricked up, others perfectly preserved, visions of antique elegance and gentility except for those unsettling spatter patterns, not quite faded, on the cabbage-rose wallpaper.

I’m old enough to remember driving through Mississippi in 1965, the year of the Bloody Sunday march on Selma, two years after Medgar Evers’s murder, one year after the slaying of the CORE field workers by the Klan. I was five, a white middle-class kid nose-deep in his comic books, oblivious to current events, but I’ve never forgotten a non-event that was somehow eventful…

"Skin in the Game: An American Gothic, in Black and White"

Woman flips off judge during absurd hearing

This entire interaction between Penelope Soto, 18, who was arrested on possession of Xanax, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat rivals Wapner and Judge Judy in its absurdity. The climax is at 2:18 when Soto flips off the judge. "Did you say fuck me?… 30 days in the county jail!" (via NBC Miami)