Conservatives and women

Via here, we get this:

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

The report is here and its interpretation is much more circumspect:

The Texas data are puzzling in that they show a modest increase in maternal mortality from 2000 to 2010 (slope 0.12) followed by a doubling within a 2year period in the reported maternal mortality rate. In 2006, Texas revised its death certificate, including the addition of the U.S. standard pregnancy question, and also implemented an electronic death certificate. However, the 2006 changes did not appreciably affect the maternal mortality trend after adjustment, and the doubling in the rate occurred in 2011–2012. Texas cause-of-death data, like with data for most states, are coded at the National Center for Health Statistics, and this doubling in the rate was not found for other states. Communications with vital statistics personnel in Texas and at the National Center for Health Statistics did not identify any data processing or coding changes that would account for this rapid increase. There were some changes in the  provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics. Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely. A future study will examine Texas data by race–ethnicity and detailed causes of death to better understand this unusual finding.

The study is actually much more scathing in regards to something much more basic:

It is an international embarrassment that the United States, since 2007, has not been able to provide a national maternal mortality rate to international data repositories such as those run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.22 This inability reflects the chronic underfunding over the past two decades of state and national vital statistics systems. Indeed, it was primarily a lack of funds that led to delays (of more than a decade in many states) in the adoption of the 2003 revised birth and death certificates. This delay created the complex data comparability problem addressed in this study. The lack of publication of U.S. maternal mortality data since 2007 has also meant that these data have received a lesser degree of scrutiny and quality control when compared with published vital statistics measures such as infant mortality. For example, had the National Center for Health Statistics and the Texas vital statistics office both been publishing annual maternal mortality rates, the unusual findings from Texas for 2011–2014 would certainly have been investigated much sooner and in greater detail. Accurate measurement of maternal mortality is an essential first step in prevention efforts, because it can identify at-risk populations and measure the progress of prevention programs.

The study notes the same thing as the WHO does here, the US is one of the few countries in the world where the mortality rate for pregnant women is going up and it has one of the highest in the developed world (for example it is double that of Canada). That’s pathetic.

 

Hmm, it’s still hot

So July broke the record for the month again:

July 2016 was the warmest July in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Because the seasonal temperature cycle peaks in July, it means July 2016 also was warmer than any other month on record. July 2016’s temperature was a statistically small 0.1 degrees Celsius warmer than previous warm Julys in 2015, 2011 and 2009.

That would sound comforting after the first several months this year, but remember that 2015 was easily the warmest year on record … until this year.

The NOAA doesn’t have the July data yet, but let’s look at some bits from the first half of the year:

  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.89°F above the 20th century average of 56.3°F. This was the highest for January-June in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2015 by 0.36°F.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 3.17°F above the 20th century average of 45.0°F. This was the highest for January-June in the 1880–2016 record, exceeding the previous record of 2015 by 0.70°F.
  • The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.42°F above the 20th century average of 60.9°F. This was the highest for January-June in the 1880–2016 record, besting the previous record of 2015 by 0.25°F.

 

Government works, part two

Republicans keep saying that Obamacare has been a disaster. Let’s see what a recent study says:

A study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

Their survey found people in Arkansas and Kentucky were nearly 5 percent more likely than their peers in Texas to say they were in excellent health in 2015. And that difference was bigger than it had been the year before.

The survey also asked about other subjects. It found that people in the expansion states were more likely to have a doctor and to have a place to go for care. They said they were more likely to have their chronic disease treated, and that they were more likely to have received screening for high cholesterol or high blood sugar, markers for heart disease and diabetes.

On financial measures, the study was in line with some previous studies, finding that people in Kentucky and Arkansas were less likely to postpone care or avoid taking prescribed drugs because of the cost, and that they were less likely to be struggling with a medical bill.

Gee, a government program has made people healthier. That’s going to end civilization as we know it.

Government works, with a big push

The court case for the clean up of the Boston harbor has been declared finished:

US District Judge Richard G. Stearns last month issued the 239th compliance order in the 1985 lawsuit that led to the Boston Harbor cleanup project, declaring an end to the construction phase of the massive combined sewer overflow project.

Stearns issued the order after a presentation in March by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority — which was created as a result of the lawsuit — showed how three decades of litigation since have transformed the harbor into one of the country’s cleanest with people boating, kayaking, and swimming in its waters again. With the project completed, all that remains is a mandated three-year post-construction monitoring program.

The litigation dates back to a time in the 1980s, when Boston was known nationally for its dirty water, and public health officials warned that anyone who fell into the Charles River or Boston Harbor should go to a hospital to be checked.

Following the merger of several cases in 1985 — in which the Environmental Protection Agency was alternately a defendant and a plaintiff — the Conservation Law Foundation of New England became a lead plaintiff.

The EPA, which initially had been blamed for failing to enforce environmental regulations, allowing the pollution to occur, then took a leading role in demanding cleanup efforts. The Metropolitan District Commission, which used to run sewer operations for Greater Boston, became the lead defendant.

What followed was a series of federal judicial orders mandating a timeline for the completion of cleanup projects, first set by A. David Mazzone, the initial judge to oversee the case, and later by Stearns, who took over just before Mazzone died.

This is how government works. There were powerful forces aligned against doing anything, but citizens with the levers of power put into the government were able to get it done. The process wasn’t pretty, but the end result is one of the cleanest harbors in the country. Without the government, this would not have happened, without the citizens push this would not have happened, without the courts this would not have happened. Thanks to all three.

Trump’s lips move, which means he lying

So, Donald Trump gave a speech in Portland, Maine:

In his remarks on terrorism, Trump paid particular attention to Maine’s Somali refugees.

“We’ve just seen many, many crimes getting worse all the time, and as Maine knows — a major destination for Somali refugees — right, am I right? Well, they’re all talking about it. Maine. Somali refugees. We admit hundreds of thousands — you admit, into Maine, and to other places in the United States — hundreds of thousands of refugees,” Trump said.

Let’s see how things really are:

In Lewiston, where an estimated 7,000 Somalis live, police said Friday that crime is going down, not up.

“The Somalis have not caused any increase in crime. They’re integrated here in our city,” the acting police chief, Brian O’Malley, said Friday. “The Somalis come here because they want somewhere safe and good schools to raise their kids, and that’s what Lewiston has.”

Crime in the city fell 17 percent in 2015 compared with the year before, continuing a steady, downward trend, O’Malley said.

So an ignorant lie, typical of Trump. You might notice another lie in that short bit by Trump: crime in general is going down. He also through this in:

“If we keep going the way it is, our whole country is becoming different,” he said. “They’re shooting our police at record levels.”

The article doesn’t even bother to note that police are not being shot at record levels. Trump lies so often, it’s impossible to correct all his lies.

Some good news

Given the dystopia that Donald Trump paints for the current state of the US, it’s good to look at actual statistics to see what’s really happening:

  • Violence is way down from its peak in the 1990’s (although there is some sign that it might have increased a bit in the last year or so):

From 1993 to 2014, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 20.1 per 1,000.

Since 1993, the rate of property crime declined from 351.8 to 118.1 victimizations per 1,000 households.

The number of murders in New York City really drives this home: there were 2262 murders in 1990 and 352 in 2015. That is an astonishing drop.

The national teen pregnancy rate has declined almost continuously over the last two decades. The teen pregnancy rate includes pregnancies that end in a live birth, as well as those that end in abortion or miscarriage (fetal loss).* Between 1990 and 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), the teen pregnancy rate declined by 51 percent—from 116.9 to 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls.

For the fourth straight year, the U.S. high school graduation rate has improved — reaching an all-time high of 82 percent in the 2013-2014 school year, the Department of Education announced Tuesday.

  • The private sector has been adding jobs for the longest stretch ever:

The White House is right about the numbers. The “longest streak” claim was true in 2014, as the Washington Post’s Fact Checker found back then, and the streak has only grown. This was the 73rd straight recorded month of private sector job growth (barring revisions).

  • Drug use is down among teens (this is from June 2016):

This year’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes among American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders continues to show encouraging news, with decreasing use of alcohol, cigarettes, and many illicit drugs over the last 5 years—many to their lowest levels since this survey’s inception; no increase in use of marijuana among teens; decreasing use of synthetic drugs; and decreasing misuse of prescription drugs. However, the survey highlighted continuing concerns over the high rate of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use and softening of attitudes around some types of drug use, particularly a continued decrease in perceived harm of marijuana use.

For many substances, past-year use has declined to the lowest levels since the MTF survey began. This includes heroin, synthetic cannabinoids, Vicodin®, methamphetamine, amphetamines, inhalants, Ecstasy, alcohol, and cigarettes, among all ages surveyed; hallucinogens, Ritalin®, OxyContin®, bath salts, and over-the-counter cough medicines among 8th and 10th graders; cocaine among 8th and 12th graders; and prescription pain relievers (narcotics other than heroin), sedatives, and crystal methamphetamine in 12th graders (the only grade sampled for these substances). Past-year use of illicit drugs was reported by 23.6 percent of 12th graders.

There are still large problems in the US, but, in many ways, the US is in better shape than ever.

Trump vs. Clinton circa 1972

Let’s go back to 1972 to see what the candidates for President were doing.

First Hillary Clinton:

The future Mrs. Clinton, then a 24-year-old law student, was working for Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and prominent advocate for children. Mrs. Edelman had sent her to Alabama to help prove that the Nixon administration was not enforcing the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to so-called segregation academies, the estimated 200 private academies that sprang up in the South to cater to white families after a 1969 Supreme Court decision forced public schools to integrate.

Her mission was simple: Establish whether the Dothan school was discriminating based on race.

In 1972, Mrs. Edelman’s Washington Research Project, which later became the Children’s Defense Fund, and other groups published a seminal report, “It’s Not Over in the South: School Desegregation in 43 Southern Cities 18 Years After Brown.” That year, an estimated 535,000 students attended private schools in the South, compared with 25,000 in 1966.

Mrs. Clinton was one of a handful of young researchers and interns who worked in Washington reviewing documents, looking into the schools that had been granted tax exemptions, and coordinating with activists and lawyers in the South who had been at the forefront of integration efforts.

After Mrs. Clinton spent several weeks studying the issue and establishing relationships in Atlanta and Alabama, she and other researchers were sent to different parts of the South to gather data and report firsthand on the private schools. They delivered their findings to Mrs. Edelman’s and other advocacy groups that were trying to pressure the Nixon administration.

Now Donald Trump:

When a black woman asked to rent an apartment in a Brooklyn complex managed by Donald Trump’s real estate company, she said she was told that nothing was available. A short time later, a white woman who made the same request was invited to choose between two available apartments.

The two would-be renters on that July 1972 day were actually undercover “testers” for a ­government-sanctioned investigation to determine whether Trump Management Inc. discriminated against minorities seeking housing at properties across Brooklyn and Queens.

Federal investigators also gathered evidence. Trump employees had secretly marked the applications of minorities with codes, such as “No. 9” and “C” for “colored,” according to government interview accounts filed in federal court. The employees allegedly directed blacks and Puerto Ricans away from buildings with mostly white tenants, and steered them toward properties that had many minorities, the government filings alleged.

That’s just a bit of a contrast.

For fun, it turns out that Woody Guthrie went to live in a complex owned by Donald’s father, Fred,  and was so disgusted by the bigotry that he wrote a song about it:

It turns out that Fred didn’t have a problem making money from corruption when building housing for veterans:

He explained, for example, that the land under his Beach Haven development was held by a trust devoted to his children. The buildings, however, were owned by half a dozen corporations. Every year these six entities paid rent to the trust—really his children—for the use of the land. Under the terms of the lease the Trump kids might receive $60,000 or more in pure profits every year for 98 more years. Then lease could be renewed for another 99 years.

Fred wasn’t convicted since he didn’t do anything explicitly illegal, it was just very scummy.

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