Who benefits from changes in federal sentencing rules?

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Black men are most likely to go to prison and are doing so at alarmingly high rates says the Obama administration.

When compared to the incarceration rates of white men, black men are worse off and find themselves locked up more often than their counterparts. Offenses related to drugs are the number one reason for a black man in America to get arrested and sentenced to jail time.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, white men are arrested at a rate of 678 per 100,000 of the population, while the rate for black men is 4,347.

These jaw-dropping statistics are a grave cause for concern among criminal justice policy advocates and members of Congress who took the matter to the Justice department. After receiving bipartisan support, sentencing reform has become more than a passing discussion in the halls of Congress. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which curtailed the disparity in the manner which sentencing for crack cocaine offenses is handed down in the federal courts. Prior to the new legislation, the inequality in which judges displayed in punishing those convicted for offenses related to crack cocaine versus cocaine, screamed racism and lead to a disproportionate number of black men serving prison sentences.  These sentences were much longer and harsher than those served by white men convicted of crimes related to cocaine.

Under the old federal sentencing guidelines, 100 grams of cocaine were treated essentially the same as 1 gram of crack and accounted for an overcrowded, underfunded federal prison system. Although the Fair Sentencing Act reduces the penalty down to an 18:1 ratio, the system still remains inherently unfair, as African Americans make up 80 percent of those sentenced for federal crack cocaine offenses. The Obama administration has called for additional bills to address the overwhelming disparity, which would further reduce the penalty to a 1:1 ratio.

Attorney General Eric Holder waged his support and announced that the Department of Justice would instruct federal judges to begin implementing the new guidelines, marking an end to mandatory minimum sentences.

 

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April 8, 2014 · 1:46 am

Hidden dangers of myocarditis

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Myocarditis is described as a silent killer due to the lack of symptoms which accompany the disease and the rapid nature in which it takes control of the body. Caused by inflammation and damage to the heart muscle, myocarditis is typically caused by a viral infection, however can result from other illnesses.

In the United States, approximately 5 to 20 percent of all cases of sudden death are attributed to myocarditis, and this is particularly true in young adults. The disease does not discriminate against who it attacks or the age of its victims, as otherwise healthy individuals have died from myocarditis. Other causes of myocarditis include autoimmune diseases such as lupus, bacterial infections, contact with toxic mold, and adverse reactions to certain medications. However, the most common way that myocarditis infects the body is through a viral infection which quickly weakens the muscle in the heart, eventually leading to heart failure and death in many instances.

The symptoms of myocarditis vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe onset of chest pain, shortness of breath, arrhythmia, fatigue, nausea, and fluid accumulation in the lungs. Many individuals have relatively no symptoms at all and experience sudden and excruciating chest pain prior to collapsing. Symptoms of myocarditis which signal that the body has been invaded by a virus are fever, headache, sore throat, body aches, joint pain, and diarrhea. Sufferers with many of these symptoms often confuse them with flu and will treat with common over the counter remedies, unaware that a more serious medical problem lies. Similarly, doctors will often misdiagnose myocarditis because symptoms mimic other illnesses. It is recommended that patients whose cold and flu symptoms do not subside after seven days of treatment contact their doctor immediately.

A diagnosis of myocarditis is made via chest X-ray, blood tests for enzymes which formulate in the heart muscle when it suffers inflammation, and electrocardiogram (EKG) to detect irritation of the heart muscle. The treatment of myocarditis is dependent on treating the underlying cause of the disease, as well as its severity. In some patients the disease goes away on its own, although very rare. When myocarditis produces damage to the heart, a typical course of treatment include drugs to reduce the heart’s workload and those which eliminate excess fluid.

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March 16, 2014 · 10:29 pm

Possible cure for type II diabetes

Medical research scientists have literally stumbled upon a rare genetic mutation which switches off the mechanisms responsible for type 2 diabetes. The threat of the devastating disease is cut by two thirds through this lucky genetic accident of fate. And this cutting edge research has led to the discovery of new channels. 

Especially the synthesis of a wonder drug that will cause the necessary actions to occur in the human body is being looked into. The finding was made that many people in their eighties did not contract diabetes despite the fact that they smoked, drank and were overweight. 

They all had one thing in common: a mutation that caused changes in the gene responsible for insulin secretion by the pancreas. The individuals who had the gene had pancreas that secreted more insulin thereby lowering their blood glucose levels. 

One thing is definite. The study was conducted by some of the topmost researchers in the field. Their efforts will not go to waste. It is hoped that soon there will be a cure for type 2 diabetes. The funding for this exploration in medical science was undertaken by Pfizer, the famous pharmaceutical company. 

People suppose that genetic research is still in its infancy and hence inapplicable in the real world. But in actuality drugs can be concocted which take genetic engineering into consideration. They cause genetic manipulation to occur on a chemotherapeutic level. Yet some time will have to be endured before a surefire cure arrives on the drug store shelves. 

It will take at least two decades before the theory is put into practice. The allele is termed the SLC30A8 gene and it causes a reduction of 65% in symptoms. The protective influence of this gene was obvious since many people who led healthy lives were type 2 diabetic while many who were the epitome of unhealthiness were disease-free. 

Source: 14UNews

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Dangers of new painkiller

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A new FDA-approved painkiller isn’t set to hit pharmacy shelves until next month, but critics are already warning it could kill  with just two pills.  

Zohydro, which the FDA gave the green light in October against the advice of its advisory panel, will serve as a powerful pain pill for those who can’t get relief from what’s already out there.  It contains the same basic ingredient (hydrocodone) as Vicodin, but it has 5 to 10 times the power, Forbes notes, and without the added acetaminophen.  As an expert on the advisory board who voted “no” tells NBC News, that acetaminophen deters savvy addicts from loading up on Vicodin for fear of liver damage.

Like OxyContin, Zohydro is a “pure narcotic”; but unlike OxyContin, the Zohydro set to be released isn’t tamper resistant, and can easily be crushed, then snorted or injected.

“In the midst of a severe drug addiction epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid,” some 40 experts wrote to the FDA in a call for Zohydro’s reevaluation.

“It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule. It will kill people as soon as it’s released,” says one of those experts.

But one doctor points out that “it all depends on how doctors monitor it. It could be lifesaving. But if used the wrong way, like any medication, it can cause trouble.”  On that front, Forbes reports that experts say someone unaccustomed to opioids could overdose with as little as two pills, and that a single pill could kill a child.

Source: Newser

 

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March 1, 2014 · 5:26 am

Billions of tax dollars go unclaimed

American taxpayers are leaving billions of dollars on the table thanks to unclaimed income tax credits. Designed to help propel the low income working poor out of poverty, the Earned Income Tax Credit or (EITC) is a tax deduction that is based on income level and  available to families and single filers with or without children.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Internal Revenue Service, more than $3 million dollars of Earned Income Tax Credit deductions went unclaimed in 2012, indicating that up to 25 percent of households are missing out on the added deduction. The Earned Income Tax Credit is determined by the amount of income earned in a tax year (wages, salary, tips) from all employment. Other taxable forms of income such as Social Security and unemployment benefits also qualify as earned income. To take the Earned Income Tax Credit, a married couple with two children and an annual income of $15,000 would be entitled to a tax credit of $5,036.  Likewise, a single taxpayer earning $15,000 per year will qualify for the same amount of EITC.

The IRS recommends that taxpayers who are unsure whether or not they are able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit contact either their employer’s human resources department or refer to the Internal Revenue Service website.

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February 11, 2014 · 1:25 am

Banks turn up the heat on mug shot websites

Big banks are jumping on the band wagon to help shut down the mug shot industry.

In what has become the latest effort to stop unscrupulous and unfair business practices among the operators of websites which post booking photographs of individuals who have been arrested, MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express, and Paypal are each in talks to end their relationship with Internet mug shot companies.

When a person is arrested, his or her mug shot photo is obtained from law enforcement agencies by numerous websites which display the photos on the Internet and demand payment sometime up to $400 for its removal, even when charges are dropped or dismissed. In some instances, mug shot companies will remove a photo at no charge if proof of exoneration is provided. However, for the vast majority of these websites, a mug shot serves as a permanent reminder of an exercise in poor judgment. Most agree, a mug shot plastered all over the Internet should not have the power to dictate employment, dating, and other aspects of a person’s life. But, for millions of Americans, this is a sad and unfortunate realization.

By cutting them off financially, banks have essentially prevented mug shot websites from processing payments for the removal of mug shots. As of October, American Express, Discovery, MasterCard, and Paypal had completely severed ties with the mug shot industry. Although, when contacted, some mug shot customer service agents still claim to be able to process a payment for mug shot removal. This may be due to a 30 day “warning period” in which banks give to their business clients.

Officials at VISA reported that it would instruct issuing banks to verify if the actions of mug shot clients were illegal, and if so, cut them off. As of today, VISA continues to provide payment processing services for mug shot companies.

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Natural born suspects

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First, there was Driving While Black, then Stop and Frisk, now African Americans are presumably guilty of “shopping while black.”

In the wake of nationwide attention that New York based Macy’s and Barneys New York department stores received when several black customers were wrongfully accused and falsely arrested in some cases, the problem of retail racial profiling has become widespread. Instances of racial profiling in retail stores occur in the lives of millions of African Americans on a daily basis. There is no immunity to the generalizing and stereotyping, even for those who are highly educated and live middle-upper class lifestyles, or are among the rich and famous, as was the case with Macy’s.

In fact, the majority of African Americans report that they have either suspected or knew that they were being followed around a store while shopping or browsing. What is even further disturbing is that most have been approached by a plain clothes loss prevention employee pretending to be a caring sales associate. One 22-year-old black male living in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina reported that when he was shopping at a local Walgreens for toothache medicine, which had been unbeknownst stocked on a shelf toward the back of the store, a security employee followed him from aisle to aisle, then finally stood next to him for several seconds before asking if he needed help. An occurrence in a different suburb of Raleigh ended with the police being called to a Dollar Tree store while a middle-age, master’s educated and gainfully employed African American woman shopped in the store an hour before closing. The shopper stated that she had been one of two customers in the store (the other Asian) and did not feel as though she were being followed. However, after purchasing her items and leaving the store, the woman noticed a police cruiser approaching her, slowing down as if the officer was going inside the store, but then drove away as the woman got into her car. Following this incident, the woman sent an email to Dollar Tree corporate offices threatening to sue if she were harassed and discriminated by its employees again.

These examples indicate a growing pattern of behavior among retail employees who are instructed by security personnel to target African Americans. Retail security consultant, Chris McGoey, confirms that there is a definite racial bias when it comes to profiling shoppers. McGoey said, “In one major department store the security staff used radio codes (code 3) as an alert anytime a black shopper came into the area.” There seems to be a majority sentiment that all African Americans are shoplifters and this ideology is not only found among Caucasians, however black shoppers say that they have been either accused or suspected (being followed and/or monitored) of shoplifting even by black retail workers. Logic and common sense prevail in every situation, however not when it comes to shopping while black; Simply by virtue of being black makes one a suspect. An employee of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store located in the South revealed that the store has one loss prevention employee, a white female, who makes it a point to only follow African American shoppers. In one instance, there was a black female and a white female shoplifting team that would split up. The white shoplifter knew that her black counterpart would be the target of security, therefore leaving the white female with the task of ripping off the store.

The most unsettling aspect to shopping while black is the notion that white people do not steal. The logic behind this reasoning is that the majority of the shoplifters getting caught are black because white shoppers are neither being watched, nor under any suspicion. The Reverend Al Sharpton and his civil rights organization, National Action Network, has vehemently attacked the retail industry and its treatment of black customers. As a result of the Macy’s and Barneys New York incidents, corporate executives have agreed to a shoppers Bill of Rights which affords black customers the right to refuse to be searched, among other conditions. This is yet one way to fight the practice of racial profiling African Americans during shopping trips. Is this enough? If African Americans boycotted every store where they were victims of shopping while black, there would be no place left to shop. The problem is pervasive, systematic, and by most accounts, getting worse.

Eventually, a nationwide legislative effort to end this form of discrimination will need to be enacted. African Americans cannot afford to allow this degradation to persist, and must take proactive steps to make it illegal to profile black shoppers. A good first step is to reach out to the Congressional Black Caucus member who represents your state in the U.S. House of Representatives. A formal complaint to the National Action Network will also garner positive results. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

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