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4 posts from January 2020


The US Court of Appeals Rules the Judiciary Cannot Prevent Irreparable Devastation to the Nation Posed by the Climate Crisis (January 20th)

Podcast listeners are likely aware I've conducted several, if not numerous, interviews over the past few years regarding the climate crisis or catastrophe, or as Astra Taylor terms it, our carboniferous capitalist economy.   

Late last week the US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, ruled 2-1 in dismissing the Juliana v. the US case.  (Re: background, there is a related Wiki page.)

I strongly encourage listeners to read the court's 32 page decision by Judge Hurwitz - and the equally long dissent by Justice Staton.  They are both at: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/01/17/18-36082.pdf

Though the majority recognizes the existential threat the climate crisis poses, e.g., they open with "the record left little basis for denying that climate change was occurring . . . an will wreak havoc on the Earth's climate if unchecked" and that "the record conclusively established that the federal government has long understood the risk of fossil fuel use and increasing carbon dioxide emissions," the majority ostensibly argued the court cannot readdress the problem because the plaintiffs claim that the Constitution protects their right to a "climate system capable of sustaining human  life" is "non-justiciable," i.e., the court found the guarantee clause of the Constitution (that protects "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness") "does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim."    Justice Staton argued, in part, "the Constitution does not condone the Nation's willful destruction."     

Plaintiffs' attorneys stated they will appeal. 

Listeners should also be aware last month the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, in a case similar to Juliana with 900 co-plaintiffs, ruled/ordered their government to cut the nation's carbon emissions by 25% from 1990 levels over five years.  The court based its Urgenda decision in part on human rights.  The decision is at: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2006 (hit your "translate" button at the top right to read in English).  

There are currently an estimated 1,400 plus related climate lawsuits pending worldwide.  


Dr. Peter Cram Discusses Health Care Delivery In Canada (January 13th)

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Considering the frequent favorable assessment of Canadian health care of late, by, for example, several presidential candidates and (surprisingly) the Trump administration via its recent decision to propose a regulatory pathway for US entities to import drugs from Canada, the question is begged how or how well do the Canadians deliver universal health care and at what expense.

During this 30-minute interview Dr. Cram begins by providing a general overview of population health in Canada.  He goes on to discuss moreover how care is organized and budgeted (or how spending is managed) in Canada, how care is designed (via an emphasis on primary care), the extent to which providers enjoy autonomy and patients suffer lengthy appointment/referral wait times and the prospects of Americans importing drugs from Canada.  

Dr. Peter Cram, an American citizen (a Connecticut native), is currently the Director Image of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Toronto.  Previously, he was on faculty at the University of Iowa from 2002 to 2013.  Dr. Cram has published more than 180 research papers and is the co-founder of the International Health System Research Collaborative (IHSRC).  He earned his medical degree at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and completed his medical training at the University of Michigan.  

During this interview mention was made of Cram, et al., "Trade-Offs: Pros and Cons of Being a Doctor and Patient in Canada," it is at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5400751/


Andrea Freeman Discusses Her Just-Published Book, "Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race and Injustice" (January 9th)

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Professor Andrea Freeman's recently published, Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race and Injustice, explains how and why Non-Hispanic Black women are significantly less likely to breastfeed their newborn than White, Non-Hispanics and Hispanics.  Black, Non Hispanics are, instead, significantly more likely to feed their newborns formula milk.  That formula, manufactured by Pet, Mead Johnson, Abbott Labs, Nestle and others and consisting of corn syrup and among other ingredients enzymatically dydrolyzed soy protein isolate (Freeman terms junk food for babies) does not compare to breast milk (that consists of living human cells, active hormones, antibodies and hundreds of other unique components ideal for infant health) helps explains why Black infant (and maternal) mortality remains twice that of White, Non-Hispanics.  Why Black women use formula, Professor Freeman explains, is due to a myriad of reasons that include targeted Black marketing, Professor Freeman details Pet's use of the Fultz quadruplets (born in North Carolina in 1946), federal policies that support and endorse formula use by Black women and a web of other laws, polices and practices that obstruct the ability of Black women to initiate or sustain breastfeeding. 

During this 30 minute interview, Professor Freeman discusses Dr. Fred Klenner's contract with Pet to market the Fultz children and numerous other variables that explain why Black women are less likely to breastfeed.  Among others, she discusses the effect 350 years of slavery has played, stereotypes of Black women, formula milk industry motivations, federal policies that reinforce/subsidize these motivations, limited legislative and regulatory oversight and limited efforts by the medical profession to contain or prohibit marketing formula milk and encourage breastfeeding.

Andrea Freeman is an Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii's William Richardson School of Law.  She has also taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, at the University of Denver Strum College of Law and has a Distinguished Scholar of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School. Freeman_AndreaBefore joining the faculty at the University of Hawaii, she taught at Santa Clara University School of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, and California Western School of Law.  Professor Freeman is an active community member serving on the Litigation Committee of the ACLU Hawaii chapter.  She volunteers with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, makes legal presentations to the Hawaii Judiciary History Center and Hawaii State Judiciary, and writes op eds on topics including Hawaiian sovereignty and race and health.  In 2015, Professor Freeman received the Community Faculty of the Year award from Richardson's Advocates for Public Interest Law.  Professor Freeman is the Chair of the AALS Section on Agriculture and Food Law and Treasurer of the AALS Section on Constitutional Law.  She is co-chair of the Law and Society Collaborative Research Network for Critical Race and the Law and a Founding Member of the Academy of Food Law and Policy.  After graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law, she clerked for Judge Jon O. Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former chief Judge José A. Fusté of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  Prior to attending law school, she worked in Toronto as a counselor for women and children who experienced domestic violence and in New York as a production manager in the independent film industry.   

Information on Skimmed is at: https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=28151

The related CDC August 2019 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) report noted during this interview is at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6834a3.htm


Essay: MedPAC and MACPAC Have Never Discussed the Health Effects of the Climate Crisis (December 30th)

On December 30th, The Hill published my essay titled, "Agencies Need to Discuss Health Effects Caused by the Climate Crisis."  At: https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/476217-agencies-need-to-discuss-health-effects-caused-by-the-climate-crisis.  (I had titled the piece, "MedPAC and MACPAC's Historic Failure.")   As the essay or opinion piece notes neither commission has ever discussed, much less mentioned, the climate crisis despite the fact the health effects thereof will disproportionately affect the frail elderly and poor children, i.e., Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, or those whose health these agencies are suppose to protect.