NEWS: DOJ phase-out of private prisons doesn't apply to states, ICE, halfway houses, or US marshals
- Written by Hank Berger
On Aug. 18 56-year-old Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates of the U.S. Dept. of Justice issued a two-page memo instructing department officials "to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or 'substantially reduce' the contracts’ scope," the Washington Post reported. -- "They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security," Yates wrote. -- The goal, in Yates's words: "reducing -- and ultimately ending -- our use of privately operated prisons." -- The memo presented the use of private prisons by the Dept. of Justice as the consequence of a rapid rise in the federal prison population that is now in decline, "from nearly 220,000 inmates in 2013 to fewer than 195,000 inmates today." -- The director of the ACLU National Prison Project called the announcement "historic and groundbreaking. -- For the last 35 years, the use of private prisons in this country has crept ever upward, and this is a startling and major reversal of that trend, and one that we hope will be followed by others." -- But Matt Zapotosky and Chico Harlan noted that "While experts said the directive is significant, privately run federal prisons house only a fraction of the overall population of inmates. -- The vast majority of the incarcerated in America are housed in state prisons -- rather than federal ones -- and Yates’ memo does not apply to any of those, even the ones that are privately run. -- Nor does it apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are technically in the federal system but not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons." ...
BACKGROUND: Understanding where pandemics come from
- Written by Marie Neptune
Sonia Shah is a 47-year-old independent journalist who has already written a series of interesting books including Between Fear and Hope: A Decade of Peace Activism (1992), Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire (1999), Crude: The Story of Oil (Seven Stories Press, 2004), The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients (New Press, 2006), and The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Picador, 2011). -- This year she published Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). -- In a review published in the New York Review of Books in June, malaria expert Annie Sparrow said that while the publication of her book might seem opportunistic, given the recent Zika outbreak, in fact Shah's work "represents six years’ work and considerable prescience." -- Essentially, Shah explains, civilization is the cause of pandemics. -- (Particularly Christian civilization, since "Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews all have built hygiene into their daily rituals, but Christianity is remarkable for its lack of prescribed sanitary practices.") -- Civilization brings about the "unnatural confinement and proximity" of animals, which "provides pathogens with the opportunities not only to mutate rapidly but also to jump species." -- "[D]evelopment, urbanization, and population growth transform harmless animal microbes into human pathogens. . . . the environment -- biological, social, political, and economic -- is both the source and driver of today’s emerging diseases." -- "Pandemics are caused by zoonoses -- diseases that 'jump' from animals to humans. -- Historically, this was a slow process, requiring considerable personal contact. -- Malaria took millennia to make the leap from primates to mankind. -- About ten thousand years ago, the dawn of agriculture and the domestication of livestock led to new levels of intimacy between humans and animals, which encouraged the emergence of our most familiar microbes. -- Cows gave us measles and TB; pigs gave us pertussis; ducks gave us influenza." -- In other words, it's just natural selection doing its usual thing. -- Such pathogens play a wider role than is generally realized. -- "Many of our most familiar diseases are set off or directly caused by pathogens. -- Viruses lie behind at least 25 percent of all cancers. -- Cervical cancer, for example, the second-most-common cancer among women worldwide, is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). -- Infestation by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori is a common cause of ulcers, but also causes gastric cancer and lymphoma. -- Epstein-Barr virus causes Burkitt’s lymphoma, leukemia, and gastric, breast, and ovarian cancer. -- Hepatitis B and C cause liver cancer. -- Herpes virus can cause brain tumors and Kaposi’s sarcoma. -- Even psychiatric diseases are linked to pathogens: a few years after influenza outbreaks, schizophrenia is more commonly diagnosed." -- Another theme of Shah's book is that governments (another product of civilization) have not been good at facing up to pandemics. -- In the present context, it is important to know that "The structure of the World Health Organization . . . lends itself to giving priority to governmental preferences over public health needs." -- "Shah’s book should be required reading for anyone working in global health," Sparrow concludes, emphasizing the importance of vaccination campaigns, particularly universal measles vaccination, and inveighing against "the false and financially motivated connection made in 1998 between the measles vaccine and autism has permanently damaged the eradication effort." ...
FORUM: 'There has never been U.S. isolationism' (Andrew Bacevich)
- Written by Henry Adams