Category Archives: Safer

A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

Mother Jones

For decades, Missouri has embarked on a quest to eliminate abortion access. Earlier this year, state legislators filed some 14 anti-abortion proposals before the start of the session, making it a prominent example of emboldened efforts on the state level in the Trump era. Those measures were dealt a blow last week when a federal judge suspended two longstanding abortion restrictions in the state, but with the GOP controlling every level of the state’s government, state lawmakers are undeterred in their efforts to restrict abortion access.

Today, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is the state’s sole abortion provider licensed to serve approximately 1.2 million women of reproductive age, many of whom would face a 370 mile drive to access services, a process further protracted by a mandatory 72-hour waiting period. “People are driving hours to St. Louis, or they’re crossing over the state line into Kansas or other states in order to access services,” says Laura McQuade, the President and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, one of the Planned Parenthood affiliates that filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Missouri restrictions.

As a leader in restricting abortion access, Missouri passed laws more than a decade ago that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the same structural requirements as ambulatory surgical centers. These laws were subsequently also passed in Texas, where they were challenged and finally struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.

Last week, in response to a challenge filed last fall by two Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri clinics, US District Court Judge Howard Sachs agreed to enjoin Missouri’s version of the restrictions. Sachs first announced his decision in an April 3 memo sent to the parties involved in the case. In his decision, Sachs noted that the restrictions had negatively affected women in the state and failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion,” he said. “The public interest clearly favors prompt relief.” The restrictions will be halted while the effort to permanently strike down the laws moves through the courts.

Sachs’ ruling could have an immediate impact on abortion access in the state. Shortly after the decision was announced, the Missouri Planned Parenthood affiliates released a joint statement confirming their desire to increase the number of local abortion providers by expanding services to four additional Planned Parenthood locations. But Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has promised to appeal the decision, saying that it was “wrong” with the dire consequence that laws that “protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion” can no longer be enforced.

Last week’s ruling, however, is unlikely to deter state legislators from pursuing further abortion restrictions. Around the same time that Sachs issued the April 3 memo announcing his intent to grant the injunction, two Republican state Senators, frustrated that they were unable to block a St. Louis nondiscrimination ordinance protecting women that are pregnant, use birth control, or have had an abortion, took time during a discussion of tax hikes benefiting the state zoo to joke that women should go to the St. Louis Zoo for abortions, suggesting that it was “safer” and better regulated than the state’s lone abortion provider.

Meanwhile, shortly after Republicans in Congress moved to defund Planned Parenthood, state Republican Rep. Robert Ross proposed an amendment to House Bill 11—an appropriations bill for the Missouri Department of Social Services—that would allow the state to prevent “abortion services” providers from receiving state family planning funding. This could potentially include any group that provides even abortion referrals upon request. Allison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri characterized the amended bill as having the potential to create “a public health crisis in our state, if family planning clinics, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood are defunded from Medicaid reimbursement.” The measure passed the House on a 107-39 vote and is now with the Senate.

Missouri lawmakers have faced some unintended consequences in their zeal to cut back on family planning services. In 2016, the state rejected the federal family planning funding it had received through Extended Women’s Health Services, a Medicaid program for low-income women funded by both the state and federal governments. Federal law already prevents Medicaid from reimbursing providers for the costs of most abortions, but Missouri legislators hoped to go further by completely cutting off funding to groups like Planned Parenthood by rejecting some $8.3 million dollars in federal funds, opting to create a state-funded program that would no longer have to abide by federal rules mandating that patients have the ability to choose their health care provider.

In the months leading up to the measure taking effect, Missouri has moved to block all abortion providers, including hospitals, from receiving family planning funding. But to the consternation of Missouri conservatives, many Planned Parenthood clinics in the state remained eligible for the program because they are not permitted to provide abortions. “Despite that being a simple amendment last year, apparently the Department of Social Services was confused,” Ross said when discussing his proposed amendment earlier this month, according to reports from the Missouri House of Representatives newsroom. Ross’ HB 11 amendment would change things by ensuring that even those who provide information about or referrals for abortions are excluded from the funding program.

“They have defined ‘abortion services’ so broadly that it is going to basically decimate the entire family planning network across the state of Missouri,” says Michelle Trupiano, the executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, which allocates funding to 71 clinics in the state under the federal government’s Title X family planning program.

Trupiano notes that under the conditions of Title X, many of the state’s family planning providers are required to offer abortion referrals upon request, a mandate that could open them up to losing funding should HB 11 be adopted. “There wouldn’t be a single provider that could participate in the program,” she adds. With less than a month remaining in Missouri’s legislative session, advocates have begun lobbying lawmakers in hopes of defeating the amendment.

But given the history, advocates say, some lawmakers in Missouri will do anything to restrict abortion, even if it means an overall reduction in access for women to health care options in the process. “Responsible legislators want to move forward to other issues,” McQuade says. “But this is what Missouri is choosing to spend its time on right now. It’s deeply disheartening.”

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A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

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Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

Mother Jones

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Policymakers reacted swiftly this week to the outrageous viral video of police officers forcibly removing an innocent passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight. A new passenger bill of rights, including regulations on bumping people from flights, was announced on Tuesday—by Canada’s transportation ministry.

Here in the United States, at least one party has a long history of siding with the airlines at the expense of their passengers. “It’s an ongoing frustration that we haven’t had good cooperation on the Republican side,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “Their constituents are being mistreated, just like Democratic constituents. I’m disappointed and frustrated.”

In 2016 alone, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced 22 different consumer-protection riders to a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. Among other things, the proposals would have placed a moratorium on seat-size shrinkage, required more transparency about ticket fees and passenger complaints, promoted competition between airlines, and ensured that passengers had the right to sue airlines instead of being forced into arbitration. (See the complete list below.) None of the proposals made it through the GOP-controlled Senate.

“The degrading treatment of this United passenger is the latest example of a major US airline disrespecting passengers and denying them their basic rights,” Blumenthal wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Tuesday. “Your agency must conduct a swift, sweeping investigation into United Airlines and the industry practices that led to this incident.”

Congressional Republicans delayed for years the passage of the handful of consumer protections that exist for airline passengers. During the George W. Bush administration, GOP senators killed a passengers bill of rights that, among other things, would have restricted how long people could be confined to a grounded airplane without food and drinks. In 2011, the Obama administration enacted a stricter version of the rule administratively, adding requirements that airlines reimburse passengers for lost bags, disclose extra ticket fees on their websites, and compensate bumped passengers financially.

“The Republicans can be viewed as the party of big business, whereas Democrats are more for personal rights and equality,” says Rainer Jenss, director of the Family Travel Association. One provision his group backed that requires airlines to let families with children sit together on flights free of charge became law last year—but only after it attracted support from a Republican congressman who’d had a family member get separated from his kids during a flight, Jenss says.

Not all Republicans, after all, are airline industry lapdogs. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked the TSA’s Chao to suspend the federal regulation permitting airlines to overbook flights and remove passengers as a result. “This conduct is abusive and outrageous,” Christie said in a press release. “The ridiculous statements, now in their third version, of the CEO of United Airlines displays their callousness toward the traveling public with the permission of the federal government.”

The airline industry, however, favors Republicans. In the most recent election cycle, United Continental Holdings gave them $547,000, versus $497,000 for Democrats—a split that roughly mirrors the industry’s spending patterns. The main airline lobbying group, Airlines for America, leans far more toward Republicans: It donated about $85,000 to Democrats in the latest cycle. It gave nearly six times that much (about $478,500) to Republicans and conservative groups, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2015, Politico reported that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) was actually dating Shelly Rubino, an Airlines for America executive. Republicans “are literally in bed with the industry!” says the National Consumers League’s Greenberg.

She hopes the United scandal will convince Republicans to end their love affair with Big Air: “I think Congress is going to be under a lot of pressure to take some decisive action because of what people saw in that video.”
______

Here’s what Sen. Richard Blumenthal proposed last year to keep airlines in check.
But not one of his amendments made it past Mitch McConnell et al.

A commission on airline competition
A Government Accountability Office study of international airline alliances and their immunity from antitrust laws
A moratorium on seat size shrinkage
A review of aircraft evacuation procedures
Establishing a private right of action under federal consumer protection law
Establishing a private right of action under state consumer protection law
Requiring research on ways to avoid toxic air on planes
Banning the use of e-cigarettes on commercial aircraft
Requiring air carriers to disclose ancillary fees to consumers
Requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider additional protections against canceled or changed reservations
Extending the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection through September 2022
Requiring an airline to forward all complaints to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Improving access to aviation consumer protection information
Modifying requirements for a study on air carrier fees
Modifying requirements for passenger seat assignment
Modifying requirements for the review of flight delays and cancelations
Permitting the DOT to investigate and take action on unfair and deceptive practices relating to travel insurance contracts
Authorizing state regulation and claims relating to reward program contracts and frequent flyer contracts
Providing refund of baggage fees when baggage is damaged during transit
Increasing the civil penalty amount for violations of aviation laws
Invalidating mandatory pre-dispute arbitration and class-action waivers in certain air travel contracts
Prohibiting carriers from limiting consumer access to carriers’ flight data

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Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

Mother Jones

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When newly minted Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch takes the bench later this month, he will likely have an immediate impact on a court that has been somewhat paralyzed since the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February last year. The court, evenly divided with eight members, has waited to tackle a number of potentially thorny cases, either because they were unable to agree on whether to hear them or they were reluctant to adjudicate them. Gorsuch has been confirmed just in time to change all that.

He will also shape the future when, on April 13, he participates in his first court conference, where the justices decide which new cases to hear in the new term and which they’re rejecting. Decisions from that meeting may demonstrate quickly whether fears Senate Democrats have raised about his views on everything from religious freedom to gay rights to corporate power were on target.

Here are a few of the pending cases where Gorsuch will have an opportunity to make an early mark:

Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: In 2012, a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips refused to make a custom wedding cake for two men getting married in Massachusetts, one of the few states where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. The couple was planning a reception in Colorado, where they lived and wanted to celebrate. Phillips claimed making the cake would violate his religious beliefs. The couple sued and has prevailed at every level in Colorado courts, which found that baking a gay wedding cake would not violate Phillips’ free speech or religious freedom rights, but refusing to make one would constitute illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.The case has been stuck in conference purgatory, relisted multiple times for consideration, but probably not for long.

The gay-cake case seems custom-made for Gorsuch, who was one of the lower court judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, the craft store that claimed providing health insurance to its employees that covered contraception violated its corporate religious freedom rights. The Supreme Court later upheld the ruling in a 5-4 decision, and critics have warned it will be used to justify the kind of anti-gay discrimination at issue in the cake case. The presence of Gorsuch on the high court, instead of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s court nominee who was denied the seat by Senate Republicans, is likely to be decisive. It probably doesn’t bode well for the LGBT community, despite Gorsuch’s claims to have gay friends.

Salazar-Limon v Houston: Even though police shootings have been in the news and the source of intense protest over the past couple of years, the eight-member Supreme Court seems to have been reluctant to wade into the fray. This case is another one that’s been languishing at the court for many months, waiting for a decision on whether it will be heard. It involves what might be called the “reaching for the waistband” defense frequently deployed by cops who shoot unarmed people of color.

In 2010, 25-year-old Mexican immigrant Ricardo Salazar-Limon had a wife, children, and a construction job. One night after a long day of work, he was out with friends and driving to see another friend when a Houston cop pulled him over for speeding. He had no criminal record, no outstanding warrants, a valid drivers’ license, and insurance on his truck. He was in the country legally and was unarmed. But the cop told Salazar he was going to jail and tried to put him in handcuffs. Salazar jerked back and walked towards his vehicle, annoyed because the officer refused to even tell him why he might be going to jail. As he was walking the officer told him to stop and then shot him in the back, leaving Salazar paralyzed from the waist down.

Salazar sued the police department alleging excessive force. In his defense, the officer claimed that he feared for his life when he shot Salazar because he had moved his hands towards his waistband while walking away. It’s the same argument that’s been employed by cops in at least two other shootings of unarmed citizens in Houston, and it works. The District Court dismissed Salazar’s case, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The Supreme Court is now being asked to decide whether a court can dismiss a case against an officer in a suit for excessive force “by concluding that it is an ‘undisputed fact’ that the person reached for his waistband just because the officer said he did.”

The facts in this case are infuriating, yet it’s clear that the court has been unable to get the requisite four votes needed to hear it. Whether Gorsuch will provide that additional vote is anyone’s guess, but criminal justice reformers shouldn’t hold out hope that he’ll change the outcome. He’s ruled in a similar case before. In 2013, he wrote the majority opinion in a 10th Circuit ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who was tased in head by a cop and died. The cops in that case also used a “reached for his waistband” defense.

Alaska Oil and Gas Association v. Zinke: One of the biggest concerns raised by those opposing Gorsuch’s confirmation was that his record suggested he would be hostile to environmental regulations and the agencies that create them. That theory will be tested soon after Gorsuch’s swearing in, with a case involving the fate of polar bears.

In 2008, the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Two years later, the agency designated 187,000 square miles around the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean and the Alaskan North Slope as critical habitat for the bears, which created new restrictions on oil drilling in the region. The Alaskan oil industry sued and alleged that the Fish and Wildlife Service had overreached and made an arbitrary decision in selecting the boundaries for the critical habitat. The trial court partially agreed, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and sided with the wildlife agency. The appeal of that decision is pending before the Supreme Court, which will decide in the next few months whether to hear the case.

Federal agency overreach is something Gorsuch has a clear record on. He wrote a lengthy concurrence to one of his own opinions on the 10th Circuit, calling on the Supreme Court to limit the requirement that judges defer to federal agencies such as Fish and Wildlife when considering the implementation of laws made by Congress. This may be a sign that, despite his love of skiing, Gorsuch probably is not going to side with the polar bears.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer: The court agreed to hear this case last year, shortly before Justice Scalia died, but it took its own sweet time scheduling it for oral arguments. When it finally did, a year later, the case was set for the second-to-last week of arguments for the term. The court’s reluctance to decide this case may stem from the fact that it’s the most controversial church-state separation case on the docket this year, and the closest thing to a culture war case that’s likely to break out before the court recesses in June.

Here’s how we described it last fall:

A Michigan church applied for a grant from Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant program for assistance resurfacing a playground at its preschool with a safer, rubber top made of old tires. While the church’s grant proposal was well rated, the state ultimately turned it down because the state constitution prohibits direct aid to a church. The church sued, with help from a legion of lawyers fresh off the gay marriage battles. They argue that Missouri’s prohibition, originally conceived as part of an anti-Catholic movement, violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, especially when the money was going to a purely secular use.

While this might have been an easy win for the church before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was on the court when the justices took the case in January, the remaining eight-members might not be quite so well-disposed to rule in its favor. Forcing taxpayers to underwrite improvements to church property is in direct conflict with some of the court’s earlier rulings. Critics see a ruling for the church as a slippery-slope sort of argument, leading to compulsory government support of religion, which the Founders deeply opposed.

Once again, Gorsuch’s views in Hobby Lobby and religious freedom seem likely to predispose him to support church, but we’ll know more about his position on April 19, when he will be on the bench for the oral arguments in this case.

Liberal court watchers, having lost the confirmation fight, are now moving into breath-holding mode as they look to these cases for clues as to just what sort of justice Gorsuch is really going to be. As Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center said Friday, “Now that he has been confirmed, we certainly hope that Justice Gorsuch will fulfill Judge Gorsuch’s commitments: To be an independent jurist, to be a good judge who respects precedent, to be an originalist who respects the Constitution’s radical guarantee of equality, and follows the text and history of the Constitution wherever it leads.She added, “The burden remains on Gorsuch to prove that he will be a Justice who fairly applies the law and the Constitution and does not, contrary to President Trump’s promises, just represent certain segments of the population.”

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

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Sass, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

Mother Jones

Forty years ago, when Julia Negron was married to a rock star and addicted to heroin, ODs were so common in her household that she kept a paramedic on call. When someone nodded out, he would dispense emergency injections of naloxone, a drug with a reputation for bringing seemingly lifeless bodies back from the dead. Today, the back of Negron’s black SUV is loaded with the drug as she pulls into a Sarasota, Florida, parking lot and pops the trunk. A trickle of people approach to grab doses of the drug, which may one day revive a friend, a spouse, or a child.

Drugs Kill More People Than Cars or Guns

Naloxone, which has been around since 1971, reverses the effects of overdoses from opioids like heroin, OxyContin, and fentanyl. It has saved countless thousands of lives. Between 1996 and 2014, more than 26,000 potentially fatal overdoses were stopped, not by medical professionals, but by users, family members, or strangers who quickly administered a nasal spray or injection of naloxone. Yet it isn’t widely available in many places where the opioid epidemic has hit hardest—like Negron’s backyard.

Negron runs the Suncoast Harm Reduction Project, a scrappy group that’s pushing to make naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, more accessible in Florida. The 68-year-old “former injection drug user cleverly disguised as a nice grandma” oversees a team of about 15 volunteers, mostly stylish suburban moms whose children have struggled with drug use. They give away free naloxone and conduct trainings on how to administer it, using Facebook to announce “pop up” distributions. Negron estimates her group has given out more than 500 naloxone kits, though she doesn’t keep track. “I’m like a Johnny Appleseed who doesn’t remember how many trees he’s planted,” she says in a raspy voice. Over the past three years, her giveaway program has saved 25 lives that she knows about—and likely many more.

Negron lives near Manatee County, which has the highest number of opioid overdoses in Florida. In just three months last year, there were 550 overdoses in the county. The local morgue got so full that it had to transfer bodies to another location. “My life is spent feeling like I’m trying to stop a tornado or stick my finger in a dam,” says Mark Sylvester, a young psychiatrist who was Manatee County’s only addiction doctor until 2015. Sylvester, who also serves as Suncoast’s medical adviser, says he routinely loses three or four patients to overdoses each week.

“And yet I go to a lot of meetings and town halls and it’s like they don’t get it,” says Negron. “It’s an overdose epidemic! Why isn’t naloxone on every corner?” Naloxone is readily available in some places: Billboards throughout Ohio read, “Stop Overdoses. Carry Naloxone.” Baltimore runs a how-to website called DontDie.org. New York state prisons have given out 5,000 kits to inmates and staff members. When San Francisco was hit with a lethal batch of heroin in the fall of 2015, naloxone reversed more than 340 overdoses in four months. But it can be hard to come by in Florida. Only 11 of the state’s 400-plus police departments have officers carrying the drug. Though the state has asked local CVS and Walgreens stores to stock it, many do not. In 2014, there were 644 community programs nationwide that distributed free naloxone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was only one distributor in Florida: Julia Negron.

I Went to a Town Hall Meeting in a County Ravaged by Opioids. What I Saw Broke My Heart.

Before Sylvester joined her group, Negron would only say that “naloxone fairies” supplied her pop-up giveaways. That’s because handing out free naloxone if you’re not a doctor is legally tricky. Under federal law, the drug can only be acquired with a prescription. To get around this, Florida and 43 other states let pharmacists sell the drug without a doctor’s order. Making naloxone available over the counter would require a lengthy review by the Food and Drug Administration. It would also require the cooperation of one of the pharmaceutical companies that make the drug, whose price has shot up more than tenfold in a decade. (Two doses cost about $150.)

Drug-related deaths have skyrocketed

A major reason naloxone is scarce in the Sunshine State is that not everyone sees it as a miracle drug. Critics say naloxone, like needle exchanges, further fuels the opioid epidemic by enabling users to overdose without consequences. “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” wrote Maine Gov. Paul LePage last April as he vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense the drug.

Negron and Sylvester don’t buy the argument that stopping overdoses enables users. While some people may be saved by naloxone several times before they seek treatment, Sylvester says, “I can’t treat a dead patient.” Negron adds that the stigma surrounding addiction compounds the problem. Though drugs kill more Americans than cars or guns do, there is no equivalent of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the parents of OD victims. “When your kid dies of an overdose,” she says, “people don’t show up with casseroles.”

Julia and Chuck Negron Courtesy of Julia Negron

Negron learned about addiction the hard way. At 12, she was put into foster care because of her mother’s barbiturate addiction. She promised herself she would never follow in her mom’s footsteps. But as an 18-year-old in the late ’60s Sunset Strip scene in West Hollywood, California, she started snorting coke and dancing at the Whisky a Go Go. It was there that she met a handsome man with big blue eyes and shaggy hair named John Densmore, the drummer in an up-and-coming band called the Doors. As Jim Morrison and other stars sang “Here Comes the Bride” at her wedding to Densmore, Negron thought to herself, “How could anything possibly go wrong?”

But things went wrong quickly. Negron soon left Densmore and took up with Berry Oakley, the bassist of the Allman Brothers Band. In 1972, while Negron was pregnant with their son, Oakley died in a motorcycle accident. As a single mother in her 20s, Negron started using the drug du jour: heroin.

In 1976, Julia Negron married Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron, a fellow heroin user. The drug worked its way into the couple’s every waking hour. In the mornings, Julia dosed at a glitzy methadone clinic attended by the Hollywood elite, and in the afternoons she injected or snorted heroin with Chuck. They burned through money, taking out multiple mortgages and selling off furniture. Just before Negron gave birth to her second son, the couple snorted heroin in the delivery room. “We had a great marriage because every drug we got was split 50-50,” she later told People. Negron overdosed twice, waking up in a hospital bed feeling like she’d been run over by a fleet of trucks.

Meet the 33-Year-Old Genius Solving Baltimore’s Opioid Crisis

Meanwhile, the people she knew and loved “started dropping like flies.” Morrison died in 1971 from a possible drug overdose, followed by Negron’s mother a year later. “Now that I’m an old broad, I spend a lot of time thinking what it would be like to still have her and be old broads together. We would have worn Golden Girls outfits and hung out,” she says. Quietly, she adds, “That’s gone. No family.” An overdose took her sister in 1984. Her youngest son is in recovery.

Once sober, she split with Chuck and went to school to become a drug counselor. By the mid-2000s, she had become a prominent advocate of “harm reduction,” which emphasizes making illicit drug use safer so users may seek treatment. Three years ago, she moved from Los Angeles to Florida for the low taxes and the weather. Stunned by the lack of drug treatment options, she began the Suncoast Harm Reduction Project. She’s testified in support of opioid-related bills, and she made news last fall when she grilled Sen. Marco Rubio in a town hall meeting about federal funding for opioid treatment and overdose prevention drugs.

For Negron, any concerns about the legality of her operation are trumped by the avoidable overdoses she constantly hears about. “Do you mean to tell me,” she recalls the mother of one overdose victim asking her in disbelief, “that when I heard him making those noises, that if I’d had naloxone, I could have saved him?”

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Sass, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

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Leverage and Liquidity Are the Keys to a Strong Banking System

Mother Jones

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I’m a big fan of higher capital ratios (i.e., lower leverage) as a way of making the banking system safer, so I was disturbed when Tyler Cowen pointed to a new paper suggesting that high capital ratios don’t reduce the likelihood of financial crises. Instead, a team of researchers suggests that what’s more important is the type of capital. Deposits are the most stable source of funding for any bank, and liquidity is king. Put these together, and what’s important is the loan-to-deposit ratio:

As you can see, the LtD ratio rose steadily in the postwar era, doubling from 50 percent to over 100 percent by 2008. This indicates that credit was expanding, with banks making more loans for every dollar in deposits they took in. This, the authors say, is a better predictor of financial crises than raw leverage:

In this triptych, capital ratios are in the middle, and they don’t change much before and after a financial crisis (denoted by Year 0). However, right before a financial crisis there’s a steady decline in deposits as a percentage of total assets (which indicates a decline in the quality an;d stability of a bank’s capital base) and a steady rise in the loan-to-deposit ratio. These are the indicators that seem to be associated with financial crises.

So is there any point to higher capital standards? Yes indeed: they may not prevent financial crises, but they make recovery from a financial crisis much quicker. Just compare the green line and the red line in the charts below:

Both of these charts show the same thing: in countries with higher capital ratios, recovery from a financial crisis was far faster. Five years out, the difference was a full 13 percentage points of GDP per capita.

If these researchers are right—and I’ll add the usual caveats about this being only one study etc.—then the key to a strong, resilient banking system is twofold: a low loan-to-deposit ratio produces a liquid capital base that helps avoid financial crises, while a low leverage ratio produces the necessary capital to recover quickly if a financial crisis hits anyway.

Leverage and liquidity are key. In one sense, this is nothing new, since anyone could have told you that. But this paper suggests that they’re important for slightly different reasons than we thought.

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Leverage and Liquidity Are the Keys to a Strong Banking System

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