Category Archives: United States

NSA

CIA, NSA Aren’t the Only Federal Agencies Violating Privacy

Wikileaks’ recent dump of classified information related to the CIA’s secret hacking operations has once again sparked a conversation about privacy in the digital age. While similar secret surveillance programs like the NSA’s PRISM have been in the public eye for years, other government agencies that mishandle millions of Americans’ private information in the light of day are often left unchecked.

Take the U.S. Census Bureau, for example. Since 2005, Census has selected approximately three million Americans annually to complete the American Community Survey (ACS), collecting information on the nation’s “demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics.” While there’s no question that the ACS collects some valuable information, the intrusive nature of the survey and the poor security measures with which Census handles respondents’ personal information should be a cause for concern no less so than any surveillance by the CIA or NSA.

The methods used by Census Bureau employees can vary in the degree to which they violate a person’s privacy. Some may only receive letters in the mail, appealing to the person’s sense of community, with a veiled threat if they do not comply. Others have received a personal visit from a Census employee, often resulting in pressure or downright intimidation to complete the survey.

Take Kimberly Hayes of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. After being threatened with a fine by mail for refusing to fill out the form because “some of the questions made her uncomfortable,” a man sent by Census visited her home unannounced in the hopes of getting her to complete the ACS. The man “started walking around and was looking in windows,” according to Hayes.

Continue reading at The American Spectator 

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Wolfe: ‘Wrongful birth’ law is a wrongheaded way to curb abortions

Texas Senate Bill 25, currently being sent to the House, is a horrible policy rooted in good intentions. SB 25 prevents parents from suing their physician if their child is born with abnormalities or severe health conditions – even if those are discovered during the pregnancy and hidden from the parents.

As it is currently on the books, parents can file a “wrongful birth” claim against their doctor if they can make the case that they were not properly warned about severe health conditions. In legal terms, “wrongful birth” would no longer be a cause of action in malpractice suits.

The concept is clear: Given disproportionately-high abortion rates for fetuses with abnormalities and disabilities (such as Down Syndrome), some physicians and Texas legislators are attempting to curb that trend. If you simply hide medical knowledge about severe health conditions then parents are less likely to terminate the pregnancy, or so the thought goes.

Although these conditions – and subsequent lawsuits – occur rarely, it’s worth considering whether this will improve medical care or serve as a veiled measure to restrict and reduce abortion. I find it horribly sad to watch the Down Syndrome population decline rapidly as expectant parents choose abortion instead of raising a child with unique needs, but this bill isn’t the way to change that cultural problem.

Read the full piece at Houston Chronicle

St. Louis Immigration Rally 2/4/2017

Deporting dreamers punishes achievers and doesn’t make America safer

As President Trump’s talking point of choice, immigration policy took center stage for much of the campaign. Now, as the new presidential administration attempts to put these promises into action, many are watching how President Trump will handle “Dreamers” — the colloquial term for undocumented immigrants protected under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. As its title suggests, DACA provides temporary relief from deportation for children who were brought to the United States as children by their parents.

If President Trump’s objectives are what he claims, he should be interested in protecting immigration programs that weed out the criminally convicted yet allow those with no record to remain. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) falls into that category and adds requirements of education or military service, meaning those who receive protection are highly contributing members of society with plentiful aspirations.

DACA does not provide blanket amnesty. The program’s stipulations are strict, requiring Dreamers to not have had any felony (or major misdemeanor) convictions and either be currently enrolled in school, have attained a high school degree, or be serving in the military. For those who have not attained a high school degree, a GED can also be sufficient for DACA qualification. Protection expires and must be renewed every two years and only those under the age of 31 are eligible, provided they initially entered the country while under the age of 16. Dreamers, by definition, are contributing members of society who entered the U.S. by no illegal action of their own and who are serving their communities in myriad ways.

Continue reading in the Caller Times 

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Drug reform needed to address Wisconsin’s opioid crisis

A public health crisis is unfolding in America due to a growth in opioid addiction. Over 21 million Americans above the age of 12 are struggling with substance abuse, and drug overdoses have become a leading cause of accidental death as a result. Unfortunately, drug policy change has altered at a slow pace, and Wisconsin continues to rely on outdated medicines and policies.

Over the last 14 years, doctors in Wisconsin have relied on the prescription medicine Suboxone to assist addicts with reducing withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, our state’s current regulatory framework is preventing doctors from choosing the best treatment for their patients, as Suboxone employs a de facto monopoly. In the interest of public health and improving the lives of average Wisconsinites, it’s time for our public health policy to allow for more access to innovative addiction treatments.

Suboxone was classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as orphan drug, a privilege reserved for treatments of rare diseases. One of the perks of this classification has been seven years of exclusive rights to sell the drug, in which Suboxone’s manufacturer has profited to the sum of billions.

Despite Suboxone’s patent expiring in 2012, the company still benefits from its monopoly-like status. In 2012, over 9 million prescriptions were written and the company earned over $1.2 billion in net revenues. The company also tried effortlessly to fight against generic competition, claiming tablet forms would be dangerous to kids, giving the company a market stranglehold due to their patent-protected filmstrip. The FDA disagreed and approved generic tablets and called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission to address the anticompetitive business practices of Suboxone’s manufacturer.

Continue reading at Wispolitics.com.

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President Trump’s Trade Isolationism Could Hurt America’s Diplomatic Influence

The Trump administration recently pressured the G20 to drop its long-standing commitment to free trade as part of its resolve to “protect America’s economic interests.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected multiple phrases emphasizing the importance of resisting protectionism in drafts of the summit’s joint language statement, signaling a major change in trade priorities from the U.S. government. Just like the Trans-Pacific Trade (TPP) withdrawal, the Trump administration’s isolationist position could be detrimental to its diplomatic influence, affect employment, and hinder international efforts against poverty.

Through protectionism and a distorted foreign policy, the Trump administration is toying with the already strained diplomatic relations with long-time allies, especially Germany and the United Kingdom. And if it continues to disagree on crucial economic issues like the G20 Free Trade Agreement (FTA), it might lead to strained relations on other fronts, like the efforts against terrorism or the nuclear disarmament of Iran and North Korea. With the latest developments to both issues, a disparity with allies is the last thing the US needs.

Instead, Washington should look at ways to strengthen economic ties instituted under the previous regime, particularly at a time when China is heavily expanding its trade network in a bid to displace the US.

Continue reading at The Daily Caller.