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The News That Matter, All At a Glance

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Pentagon Buries Report on Bureaucratic Waste

Pentagon Waster

It’s bad enough that the military did not implement the methods that would have saved taxpayers $125 billion in administrative costs, but then the Pentagon buried the internal study that identified the wastefulness, The Washington Post reported.

The study revealed an outlay from the Department of Defense for more than a million back-office jobs to support 1.3 million troops on active duty.

Interviews conducted by the newspaper and internal memos revealed that the Pentagon hid the report because military brass feared that Congress would cut the military’s budget after it read how much money was being wasted.

Had the military made better use of information technology, allowed for attrition and early retirements and curtailed the use of high-priced contractors, the money could have been saved, according to the report. Instead, however, the American public continues to be ripped off by the military.

Running for office

In the Running

Within a month of the November 8 election, more than 4,500 women had decided to run for office and had joined an organization that would help them do so, She Should Run.

Not So Childproof Opioid Epidemic Even Affecting Toddlers

Pill Face

With 260 million prescriptions written annually for prescription painkillers—nearly enough to put a prescription in every home in America—almost everyone knows someone affected by the opioid epidemic. Yet it would likely come as a surprise that even toddlers are getting their hands on these deadly prescriptions.

Julie Gaither, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University School of Medicine, and her colleagues published a paper in JAMA Pediatrics that showed a 205 percent jump from 1997 to 2012 in the rate of opioid poisoning for children ages 1 to 4, with the increase for all children being 165 percent.

“A lot of the solutions and interventions needed to address the opioid crisis are complex. But limiting exposure for children doesn’t have to be. We need to realize the opioid crisis is affecting us all, throughout the lifespan from neonates through the elderly,” Gaither told Time.

Water Art

Toxic penalty Cleaning the Water

The California city of Clovis, home to 108,000 people, was awarded nearly $22 million when it won its civil lawsuit against chemical manufacturing giant Shell Oil Co. The jury found that Clovis residents were harmed when the toxic chemical, 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP—a waste product from plastic production—made its way into the city’s drinking-water wells.

According to The Fresno Bee, “Clean-water advocates say the unregulated chemical, which has been linked to cancer and liver and kidney damage in animals, has been in wells throughout the region for decades. TCP is considered unsafe to drink over a lifetime at levels lower than what can currently be detected. It was added to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer in 1999.”

Phone monitoring

Police as Spies If It’s Good Enough for America?

Not only did Québec provincial police spend five months monitoring the phone of a journalist, but when the full extent of the scandal was revealed, six other journalists were also found to have been spied upon by police in Montreal. Search warrants were issued, but the precedent is a bad one. Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the government would seek to make it more difficult to obtain search warrants to spy on journalists. The Québec government also launched a commission of inquiry.

Not So Sweet Why Not Try It in America?

Coke cans

The Mexican people are some of the fattest in the world, partly resulting from their voluminous consumption of sugary drinks. To help stave off heart disease and diabetes among its citizens, Mexico enacted a 10 percent excise tax in 2014 on the sale of sugary drinks. Consumption of these beverages dropped by 12 percent by the end of that year.

A study calculated the health and economic benefits of switching to less-sweet beverages, determining that “the model developed by researchers predicts that over 10 years, the 10 percent excise tax could prevent 189,300 new cases of Type 2 diabetes, 20,400 strokes and heart attacks, and 18,900 deaths among adults 35 to 94,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Pharmaceutical Misdirection Sugar Pill as Effective as Antidepressant

Sugar pills vs Antidepressants

As many as 23 percent of 15-year-olds have migraine headaches, yet a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that taking the antidepressant amitriptyline or the epilepsy drug topiramate grants no more relief than sugar pills do.

Scott Powers, the lead author of the study, said, “The medication didn’t perform as well as we thought it would, and the placebo performed better than you would think.”

The 328 migraine sufferers included in the study, from ages 8 to 17, received no significant differences in relief, no matter which of the three “medications” they took. However, one participant who took topiramate attempted suicide, and one taking amitriptyline said he wanted to hurt himself, and another on that drug had to be hospitalized after writing suicide notes at school.

The Chinese Connection Chemical Smuggler Pleads Guilty

Marijuana leaf

A man in Newport Beach, California pleaded guilty to drug, weapons and money-laundering charges resulting from the sale of more than $12 million of synthetic drugs, which go by the names “bath salts” and “spice” on the street. Ringleader Sean Libbert, according to prosecutors, orchestrated the importation of chemicals used to create designer drugs that often cause seizures and hallucinations in users, despite being promoted as a legal way for users to get a marijuana-like high. Libbert’s group smuggled in the chemicals from China, then produced its own brand of synthetic marijuana, dubbed “Da Kine Blend,” which was then sold over the internet.

“This defendant controlled an organization that was one of the largest importers and distributors of dangerous, synthetic drugs in the nation,” U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. In 16 months, the organization smuggled in more than 600 pounds of “spice.”

Closing Minds Teaching Kids Religious Bigotry

Coexist

Apparently, teaching students about Islam is the same as indoctrinating them to the religion, at least according to a parents’ group in Tennessee. Michelle Edmisten, a founder of Sullivan County Parents Against Islam Indoctrination, believes that a textbook her daughter uses, My World History, should be “yanked from the school immediately” because it “promotes Islamic propaganda,” according to WJHL.com. Being asked to name Islam’s holy book and the five pillars of the religion “went against her beliefs as a Christian,” Edmisten said of her daughter.

As reported in The Guardian, the National Coalition Against Censorship said that the controversy “sadly reflects larger efforts to purge lessons on Islam from schools in Tennessee,” removing information “on the history and spread of Islam, the life and teachings of Muhammad, and the study of Islamic art.”

Ah, the benefits of education.

Dollar bill origami

Progress Delayed Disparities Between Men, Women Still Large

According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the wages that women receive worldwide still lag far behind those for men. Referring to the economic divide, the report states, “at the current rate of change, and given the widening economic gender gap since last year, it will not be closed for another 170 years.” Yet the largest gap between the genders is in political empowerment.

In the Global Gender Gap Index overall, the U.S. fell from 28th in 2015 to 45th in 2016 out of the 144 countries surveyed. The United States, however, according to the report, has achieved educational parity between the genders.

Leveling the Playing Field

In an attempt to address wage inequality, the city of Portland, Oregon passed a measure that would tax CEOs of public companies who make more than 100 times the pay of the average workers. Corporate income tax rates will increase by 10 percent for companies whose ratio is more than 100-1 and by 25 percent for those with a 250-1 ratio or higher.

Kabuki face

Fraud x 89 Psychs Have Licenses Revoked

Upon receiving recommendations to do so from the Medical Ethics Council, Japan’s health minister revoked the licenses of 89 mental health doctors who had the power to hospitalize patients involuntarily. A probe had determined that the “psychs” had committed fraud while acquiring their credentials.

An expanded hit-list Protecting the Planet Can Get You Killed

Protecting the planet

In Brazil, the state of Pará is largely lawless, with illegal logging, unregulated mining and slavery rampant. People there who attempt to protect the environment—and the future of the planet—put their lives at risk. Last year, Luiz Alberto Araújo, secretary for the environment on the Altamira City Council, was assassinated, one of more than 150 environmentalists murdered in Brazil since 2012.

The 54-year-old was hit by seven bullets, and because he was a government official, and not an environmental activist as many of the other victims have been, officials are particularly concerned.

“The killing of Luiz Alberto Araújo marks a new low in the war waged against environmentalists in the Brazilian Amazon,” Billy Kyte, campaign leader at the NGO Global Witness, told The Guardian. “It sends a message that no one is untouchable.

“The government must urgently protect activists under threat and hold to account those responsible for this killing spree,” Kyte said. “Until prosecutions are made and protection is guaranteed, this deadly spiral of violence will continue unabated.”

Marcelo Salazar, of the Socio-Environmental Institute in Altamira, told The Guardian, “You have to be very careful with this work [combating deforestation]—and who you denounce.”