Tag Archives: Drug

Deadly Outbreaks – Alexandra M. Levitt


Deadly Outbreaks

How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites

Alexandra M. Levitt

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: September 1, 2013

Publisher: Skyhorse


Despite advances in health care, infectious microbes continue to be a formidable adversary to scientists and doctors. Vaccines and antibiotics, the mainstays of modern medicine, have not been able to conquer infectious microbes because of their amazing ability to adapt, evolve, and spread to new places. Terrorism aside, one of the greatest dangers from infectious disease we face today is from a massive outbreak of drug-resistant microbes. Deadly Outbreaks recounts the scientific adventures of a special group of intrepid individuals who investigate these outbreaks around the world and figure out how to stop them. Part homicide detective, part physician, these medical investigators must view the problem from every angle, exhausting every possible source of contamination. Any data gathered in the field must be stripped of human sorrows and carefully analyzed into hard statistics. Author Dr. Alexandra Levitt is an expert on emerging diseases and other public health threats. Here she shares insider accounts she’s collected that go behind the alarming headlines we’ve seen in the media: mysterious food poisonings, unexplained deaths at a children’s hospital, a strange neurologic disease afflicting slaughterhouse workers, flocks of birds dropping dead out of the sky, and drug-resistant malaria running rampant in a refugee camp. Meet the resourceful investigators—doctors, veterinarians, and research scientists—and discover the truth behind these cases and more.

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Deadly Outbreaks – Alexandra M. Levitt

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"I Gotta Go and Hunt Criminals." On the Road With Ohio Highway Patrol.

Mother Jones

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We’re sitting in the middle of the highway looking for drug mules. Specifically, we’re at mile marker 174 of Interstate 80, which I learn is the interstate with the third most drug traffic in the country, and I’m in a highway patrol car next to a garrulous sergeant who has a square face and close-cropped blond hair and alternates between wads of chewing tobacco and sips of an energy drink. His eyes dart from car to car—sedans and SUVs and big rigs—looking for what, exactly, is hard to tell.

Beyond the shallow embankment on either side of the road are forests and farms and vineyards of northeast Ohio, and beyond that, the drug hubs of Detroit and Cleveland and Buffalo and New York City. “As I tell my guys, there’s bulk loads going by us multiple times a shift every day,” the sergeant says, eyes still on the cars. “Our job is to interdict drugs before they get to our community.” Or, as he puts it later: “I gotta go and hunt criminals.”

Ohio has one of the most robust highway drug seizure programs in the country, with 13,300 drug-related arrests last year—or about one every 90 minutes. In 2016, troopers seized 167 pounds of heroin—the equivalent to about 2 million doses on the streets—and 64,708 opiate pills. “Our approach is to stop a lot of cars,” says Lieutenant Robert Sellers, the public affairs commander for the highway patrol. “What we don’t want our troopers to do is walk away. We want to make sure that whatever they thought wasn’t right is right.”

The sergeant’s job is, in the split second that cars pass by, to look for telltale signs of drug couriers. It’s typical for people to see the car, slow down, and then speed back up once they’ve passed him—those are the people he’s not interested in. He’s not interested in people speeding, or the drivers who look confident and relaxed. He is interested in rental cars, overly cautious drivers who stay below the speed limit, people who look in their rearview mirrors at him as they pass by, cars with tinted windows, drivers who look like they’re scrambling to move or adjust something as they pass, cars with recent fingerprints on the trunk. Cars that move into the right lane or that are closely tailing another are also red flags—they’re trying to distance themselves from the patrol car and blend into their surroundings, says the sergeant. Ultimately, a lot of the job is based on gut instinct: After years of watching thousands of cars go by, “your intuition will tell you when something’s wrong,” says Sellers.

Comments like this make me uneasy: The operation seems like a perfect recipe for profiling. The sergeant makes clear that race is not something that goes into his calculation of red flags—as he says later, “If you do this job based on stopping a certain race or age group or gender, you’re not gonna succeed.” But I cringe a little when, as we pull over the one car that we’ll pull over that afternoon—a sedan that had been closely tailing another car, in the far right lane, with recent fingerprints on an otherwise dirty trunk—the window opens to reveal a black man. (The sergeant lets him go with a warning.)

“Our professional operations policy forbids bias-based policing,” said Sellers. The troopers go through annual implicit bias training as part of their continuing education, he added, and each month, supervisors check the arrest data of their troopers to gauge for abnormally high arrest rates by race. According to highway patrol data online, 14.4 percent of drivers during all Ohio highway patrol stops were black. African Americans make up 12.7 percent of the state’s population.

Highway patrol drug arrests so far in 2017 Ohio State Highway Patrol

If a car catches the sergeant’s eye, he’ll turn onto the road and floor it so he can get a better view. Are the people moving around in the back just toddlers? Did the car speed up after all? If, after this, he’s still interested, then he pulls them over, typically for a minor violation like going over the lane marker or tailing another car. He maintains his friendly demeanor as he talks to drivers through their windows, but he’s also looking for clues: Nervous, sweaty drivers, pill bottles—especially in a different name than the driver’s—the scent of marijuana, recent receipts from a different place than the driver says he or she has been. And if anything looks suspicious, a German shepherd hops out of a squad car to sniff around. The dogs, who live with their handlers when they’re not on duty, are trained to look at or scratch around the area where they smell drugs. The sergeant tells me the story of a recent seizure, when a driver insisted there weren’t drugs in the car, and yet the dog kept calmly staring at the rooftop carrier—where the troopers later found 14 pounds of marijuana.

The day I’m there, troopers in the area use the tactic to find a car with a bucket full of marijuana, and another with two quarts of marijuana Kool-Aid, which I didn’t know was a thing, even as a Californian. The day before, there was a couple in a 2016 Nissan Ultima with more than 200 OxyCodone pills. The state highway patrol website features a strangely captivating running tab of the seizures, complete with photos of drugs in trunks or duct tape packages. There’s also a regularly updated map of drug busts, with a web of tiny blue dots for each seizure.

Marijuana and marijuana Kool-Aid seized by Ohio Highway Patrol in March Ohio State Highway Patrol

Unlike so many tight-lipped cops that make the news, the sergeant is eager to show me his work, and rattles on about recent busts, complete with details of the weight and the type of drug and where in the car it was. He’s seen what drugs can do to families—he was adopted because of his mother’s substance abuse—and he gushes about his daughters, 15 and 20. A few years ago, he says, “I decided I needed a hobby—all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe drugs.” When I ask him what the hobby is, a sheepish grin crosses his face as he mumbles, “fish.” I assumed this meant he liked fishing, but no—he has 16 aquariums with all sorts of exotic fish at his house. After a long day, he’ll sit in the aquarium room—where it’s quiet and things move slowly and there is no addiction or violence—and just watch.

I like the sergeant, yet I can’t stifle the questions that keep popping up in my head as we’re sitting there, looking for criminals. In addition to the profiling concern, there’s the question of efficacy: Are the troopers finding drugs just because they’re making so many stops and drugs are so prevalent, or are they finding drugs because they’re focusing on the right cars? Which is to say, is this even working?

The sergeant says he doesn’t think much about that higher-level question—as he put it, “I’ve got one goal in mind: If they’ve got drugs, to get their drugs.” Sellers admits that efficacy is hard to prove, but he says, “We do know we’ve had an impact.” He notes the heroin seized last year: “That’s 2 million doses of heroin that we took off Ohio roads that were destined for Ohio communities.

And finally, there’s the concern about the casual nature with which troopers arrest and imprison. When he describes a trooper with a particularly high seizure rate whom we’re about to visit, the sergeant simply says, “He’ll probably have someone in handcuffs by the time we get there. He’s that good.” Indeed, he does—when we arrive a half hour later, the trooper has pulled over the car with four pounds of marijuana in a bucket. The troopers playfully compete with each other—as we’re leaving, the sergeant says, “Now we have to find five.” The sergeant routinely calls the drug couriers “bad guys,” as in “the bad guy is in the sergeant’s car.”

I press him on this “bad guys” thing—aren’t some of these folks just desperate people in desperate situations? His face softens and he begins to tell me about an arrest a few weeks ago—a man and young pregnant woman, who voluntarily produced a bag of marijuana and 10 Xanax pills. But watching the video of the couple in the back of the patrol car, the troopers noticed that the woman kept sticking her hands down her pants, adjusting something. When confronted about it, she tearfully reached into her vagina and pulled out a condom full of hundreds of pills. The sergeant shakes his head recalling this. “I would love to see her show up for court looking good, have her act together. But unfortunately, those kinds of endings don’t happen that often.”

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"I Gotta Go and Hunt Criminals." On the Road With Ohio Highway Patrol.

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The FDA Has Revolutionized Drug Approvals Over the Past Decade

Mother Jones

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I was reading something yesterday about President Trump’s desire to speed up FDA approvals for new drugs, so I decided to check: how long does FDA approval take these days? Here are the numbers over the past decade:

I’ve used a 3-year rolling average to smooth out the spikes, but the trend is pretty obvious. In the past ten years, the time to approve new drugs has been cut in half and the approval rate has tripled. Note that this is only for “standard” drugs, not “priority” drugs, so it’s not contaminated by special treatment given for certain lifesaving compounds.

I’m sympathetic to arguments that our narrow escape from the thalidomide disaster traumatized FDA scientists, and they overreacted by making approvals too hard. The problem is that the lesson of thalidomide approval in Europe isn’t that approvals were done too quickly, it’s that approvals shouldn’t be based on handwaving from pharmaceutical companies. As long as the testing regimen is rigorous enough, there’s no reason that approvals shouldn’t be done in a timely way.

That said, how much faster does Trump want approvals to go? A recent study suggests that the average FDA approval time is now considerably faster than Europe’s, and that “the vast majority” of new drugs were first approved for use in the United States:

If anything, the FDA may have become too aggressive. They’ve made some far-reaching reforms in only a decade. Ten years from now, the chart to look at will be a comparison of drug catastrophes before and after this change.1

1I don’t mean this in a snarky way. There’s no cosmic “right answer” for how fast new drugs should be approved. It’s all a matter of how much risk we’re willing to take vs. how long we’re willing to delay potentially effective therapies. A decade from now, we’ll need to look back and see just how much extra risk, if any, the FDA has introduced into the system.


The FDA Has Revolutionized Drug Approvals Over the Past Decade

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Let’s Be Careful With the "White Supremacy" Label

Mother Jones

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Bernie Sanders has taken some heat recently for his remarks to a woman who said she hoped to someday become the second Latina senator and asked him for some tips about getting into politics. His reply, essentially, was that being Latina wasn’t enough. She also needed to “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.” Nancy LeTourneau was pretty critical of Sanders’ answer:

It is true that in order to end racism and sexism we have to begin by giving women and people of color a seat at the table. But that accomplishes very little unless/until we listen to them and find a way to work with them in coalition. To the extent that Sanders wants to avoid doing that in order to foster division within the Democratic Party, he is merely defending white male supremacy.

I’m not suggesting that the senator’s agenda is necessarily white male supremacy.

I was listening in on a listserv conversation the other day, and someone asked how and when it became fashionable to use the term “white supremacy” as a substitute for ordinary racism. Good question. I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that it started with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who began using it frequently a little while ago. Anyone have a better idea?

For what it’s worth, this is a terrible fad. With the exception of actual neo-Nazis and a few others, there isn’t anyone in America who’s trying to promote the idea that whites are inherently superior to blacks or Latinos. Conversely, there are loads of Americans who display signs of overt racism—or unconscious bias or racial insensitivity or resentment over loss of status—in varying degrees.

This isn’t just pedantic. It matters. It’s bad enough that liberals toss around charges of racism with more abandon than we should, but it’s far worse if we start calling every sign of racial animus—big or small, accidental or deliberate—white supremacy. I can hardly imagine a better way of proving to the non-liberal community that we’re all a bunch of out-of-touch nutbars who are going to label everyone and everything we don’t like as racist.

Petty theft is not the same as robbing a bank. A lewd comment is not the same as rape. A possible lack of sensitivity is not a sign of latent support for apartheid. Bernie Sanders is not a white male supremacist.

Likewise, using a faddish term is not a sign of wokeness, no matter who started it. Let’s keep calling out real racism whenever we need to, but let’s save “white supremacy” for the people and institutions that really deserve it.1

1For example, there’s the faction of the alt-right that really is dedicated to white supremacism. You can read all about them here, here, and here.

POSTSCRIPT: I may be wrong about this, but I gather that some people use “white supremacy” because they want to avoid the R word as too antagonistic. Needless to say, this is also a bad idea. If something is racist, call it racist. If it’s not, don’t call it that.

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Let’s Be Careful With the "White Supremacy" Label

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This November, Marijuana Activists are Pushing Pot Over Pills

Mother Jones

With less than a month to go before Election Day, several state level marijuana legalization campaigns have rolled out messaging that pitches weed as an alternative to deadly opioid painkillers.

This week, groups backing recreational legalization in Arizona and Massachusetts launched ads arguing marijuana should be an option for pain patients. Arizona’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign ran its ad during Thursday night’s NFL game, featuring former pro quarterback Jim McMahon, whose career included a stint with the Arizona Cardinals, talking about the painkillers he was prescribed for injuries.

“I was using them daily pretty much the rest of my career,” he says in the ad. “It takes its toll.”

Framing marijuana as an alternative medical treatment is of course not a new argument for pot proponents, but the strength and prominence of the country’s opioid epidemic has given marijuana activists a new chance to argue that cannabis offers a safe, overdose free option to fight pain.

Legalization activists are pointing to recent studies to make their case. One paper that came out last month found that states with medical marijuana saw fewer suspects in fatal traffic accidents test positive for opioids. And earlier this year, researchers at the University of Michigan found chronic pain patients who used medical marijuana were able to reduce their use of opioid drugs by 64 percent.

“It’s not just an argument, it’s an argument based on solid data,” said Jim Borghesani, communications director for the legalization campaign in Massachusetts, a state with one of the higher rates of drug overdoses in the country.

Earlier this month, Nevada backers of recreational marijuana legalization ran an ad showing a marine veteran who says he was prescribed OxyContin, Percocet, and Hydrocodone. After taking so many pills, “You’re addicted; You know you’re addicted,” he said. With marijuana, he says he can treat his pain but “I can also live.”

Proponents of a Florida bill legalizing medical use are running an online ad similar to the TV spots from the recreational legalization campaigns, showing a doctor who condemns prescription painkillers as “dangerous narcotics that have significant risks.”

The death toll from opioid painkillers is staggering, rivaling that of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the late ’80s and early ’90s. In 2014, there were nearly 19,000 opioid painkiller deaths, along with more than 10,500 heroin overdose deaths, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Painkiller abuse has ravaged communities across the country, and opened the door for a heroin addiction crisis in some towns.

Marijuana advocates have long pitched the drug’s promise to bring relief to people diagnosed with serious diseases, highlighting an evolving series of conditions.

“For years, it was all about cancer and AIDS and glaucoma and these things, and then all of a sudden in 2013 with Sanjay Gupta it became about epilepsy and kids with intractable seizure disorders,” said Ben Pollara, head of the pro-medical-marijuana campaign in Florida. “What you’re seeing with opiate use and abuse and addiction as a rationale for marijuana reform has come about it a similar way.”

Just about three weeks out from the election, a new Gallup Poll shows 60 percent of Americans support legalization.

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This November, Marijuana Activists are Pushing Pot Over Pills

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A Judge Just Slammed San Francisco Cops for Racist Policing

Mother Jones

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A federal judge has ruled that there is “substantial evidence of racially selective law enforcement by the San Francisco Police Department.” The holding came on Thursday in a drug-related case, and as several SFPD officers are under investigation for allegedly sending racist and homophobic text messages. That’s the city’s second police texting scandal, and after a record year for fatal police shootings, it serves as more troubling background to the reform efforts following the firing of police chief Greg Suhr.

US District Judge Edward Chen ruled in favor of 12 defendants arrested during Operation Safe Schools, a series of drug stings carried out in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood by the SFPD and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2013 and 2014. All 37 people arrested during the stings were black. The defendants maintained they were the victims of racial policing. Noting that ethnicities of drug dealers in the Tenderloin vary, Chen’s ruling signaled he would dismiss all charges if the defendants could prove civil rights violations, and allowed them to seek further information, presumably on the races of arrestees and the agencies’ profiling policies, from law enforcement for the next steps of the trial, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Trial evidence included video of an undercover informant declining to buy drugs from an Asian dealer and waiting for another one, who was black, before making a purchase, according to the Chronicle. In a second video, an officer involved in the sting could be heard saying “fuck BMs”—a law enforcement term for black men—the officer holding the camera offered a warning: “Shhh, hey, I’m rolling!”

The ruling “sends a clear message to the government that racial discrimination and selective enforcement will not be tolerated,” said San Francisco’s chief public defender Jeff Adachi. Adachi has said that if the information obtained by the defendants shows a pattern of racism, it could be used to seek dismissal in other criminal cases.

Under new interim police chief Tony Chaplin, the SFPD has undertaken several reform efforts. Recently, the city’s Police Commission unanimously approved a new use-of-force policy that mandates officers attempt to deescalate conflicts before using force. The department’s policies and practices are also under review by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing.

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A Judge Just Slammed San Francisco Cops for Racist Policing

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Conservatives Just Lost a Big Weapon Against the Abortion Pill

Mother Jones

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The US Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday morning that it had approved updated information for physicians about mifepristone, the drug known as the “abortion pill.” The move is a notable one in debates surrounding reproductive health: Research has consistently shown that the previous FDA regulations for the drug were outdated and ineffective, and anti-abortion lawmakers have long been using that to their advantage by requiring doctors to adhere to the original FDA labeling.

The new labels will list the recommended dosage to be taken as 200 milligrams; the previous dosage was 600. Medical groups such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been recommending that mifepristone be taken at lower dosage for years, because the lower dosage is more effective when used with a higher dosage of a second medication, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract. The lower dosage of mifepristone is less expensive for patients, and comes with fewer side effects. Patients can also take the pill up to 70 days after their last period, as opposed to the original 49 days.

As previously reported in Mother Jones, a 1998 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the original FDA regimen failed by the ninth week of pregnancy for one in four women (out of a sample size of 2,100). The abortions were either incomplete or the women were still pregnant. Although the outdated FDA labeling was never unsafe per se, 99 percent of women in the study experienced some negative side effect: nausea, cramps, faintness, vomiting, back pain, and fever.

The label update is a long time coming—the drug was first approved in 2000, and its labeling came from restrictions that were set in France in the 1980s. Anti-abortion groups and conservative lawmakers have used the outdated FDA regimen to restrict access to what abortion providers hail as a safe and simple method for women throughout the country. Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas all have laws requiring providers to adhere to the FDA labeling established when the pill first went on the market. Doctors in other states commonly practice “evidence-based” or “off-label” prescribing, meaning they use methods developed by physicians over time after a drug has been put on the market.

According to Molly Redden at The Guardian, the changes could also come into play in state law.

“But in addition to providing clearer guidance to doctors, the change could have the effect of undermining several state laws, supported by abortion foes, that force clinicians to administer mifepristone according to the old regimen that the FDA approved in 2000. The old protocols called for patients to make up to three separate trips to a clinic—one for the dose of mifepristone, one for the dose of misoprostol, and one for a follow-up—rather than a minimum of one, for the mifepristone, in addition to specifying the different levels of medication.”

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement in support of the new labeling, but warned that “there is still work to be done in updating the mifepristone label to reflect the current evidence.”

“For example, while the agency notes rare cases of fatal infections, it is important to note that no specific connection exists between medication abortion and these infections, which can also occur with other obstetric and gynecologic processes and procedures,” the statement reads. “The mortality rate associated with medication abortion continues to be lower than the mortality rate associated with childbirth.”

NARAL also issued a statement, saying the changes “will go a long way towards allowing women to make their own decisions about
their health care, and their futures.”

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Conservatives Just Lost a Big Weapon Against the Abortion Pill

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Medicare Wants to Try a New Way of Paying for Expensive Drugs

Mother Jones

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For drugs administered in clinics and hospitals, Medicare reimburses doctors a flat 6 percent of the price of the drug. This has never really made much sense, since it doesn’t cost any more to attach a $1,000 vial to an IV line than a $100 vial. So now the Obama administration is proposing a five-year test of a new system that pays a flat fee plus a smaller percentage of the cost of the drug. Here’s what it looks like:

The current rule is an update of an older rule that was even stupider than reimbursing based on price. But it’s still pretty stupid. If two drugs are about the same, and you can make $6 from one and $60 from the other, then you might as well prescribe the more expensive one. That’s exactly the wrong incentive. Not everyone sees it this way, of course:

The test program is also likely to meet stiff opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and some providers—especially cancer centers where many high-price specialty drugs are used—because of the drop in reimbursement….Providers may also feel they are being pressured by the federal government into selecting cheaper drugs they don’t feel are as effective.

This makes no sense. No one is being pressured into selecting cheaper drugs. You just won’t get paid an artificial bonus for avoiding them in favor of more lucrative options that don’t work any better. If that’s your idea of “pressure,” I’d recommend you go into a less demanding field.

The new system, I assume, is designed to recognize that administering a drug is mostly—but not entirely—a flat cost operation. The reason the cost isn’t completely flat is that clinics and hospitals have to pay for the drugs up front and keep them in stock. There’s a carrying cost involved in that, which means that expensive drugs really do cost a little more to administer than cheaper ones.

But not that much more. The new system seems well worth a try.

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Medicare Wants to Try a New Way of Paying for Expensive Drugs

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Oklahoma Cop Convicted of Raping Four Black Women and Assaulting Four Others

Mother Jones

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An Oklahoma police officer was found guilty of 18 counts of sexual assault against 8 women in a case that largely escaped national media attention. He could be sentenced to up to 263 years in prison. Here’s what you need to know about the case.

The allegations: Daniel Holtzclaw, a 29-year-old former college football player, was accused of raping and sexually assaulting 13 women—at least 12 of them black—over a 7-month period from December 2013 to June 2014. All the attacks occurred in a predominantly black, low income neighborhood in Oklahoma City that Holtzclaw regularly patrolled, police say. His victims ranged in age from 17 to 57—the youngest a high school student and the oldest a grandmother.

The women testified that Holtzclaw stopped them while they were walking or driving alone. He often forced his victims into his squad car and drove them to isolated areas such as empty lots, fields, or an abandoned school, according to court testimony. Some said that Holtzclaw assaulted them in their homes while wearing his police uniform and with his department-issued gun holstered at his side. One woman, who testified she was 17 at the time of the attack, told the jury that Holtzclaw used a drug search as a pretense to grope her. He later raped the teen on her mother’s front porch while she was home alone. Another—the grandmother—said Holtzclaw forced her to perform oral sex on him during a traffic stop. Holtzclaw was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and was eventually fired. He was arrested in August 2014 after investigators used GPS tracking devices to corroborate his accusers’ stories.

The charges: Holtzclaw was charged with 36 counts, including rape, forcible oral sodomy, burglary, stalking, and sexual battery. He pleaded not guilty to all of the allegations. He faces the possibility of spending multiple life sentences in prison.

The prosecution strategy: Prosecutors argued Holtzclaw deliberately selected his victims. They were almost all poor and black. (Holtzclaw’s father is white. His mother is Japanese.) Some were suspected or convicted of drug possession or prostitution, and others had active warrants. Holtzclaw thought they would be too afraid to report him or no one would believe them if they did, prosecutors argued in court. The officer often threatened victims with arrest and violence if they did not cooperate.

Some of his victims were hesitant to come forward. The youngest accuser asked while on the witness stand, “What’s the point of telling on the police?” Another testified that she never told anyone because she had “never been on the right side of the law.” Police began investigating the case only after the 57-year-old victim came forward. Prosecutors said that she had no criminal record and thus no reason to fear going to the police. A middle-class woman, she was passing through the neighborhood where Holtzclaw stopped her but did not live there.

The defense: The defense argued that all of the sexual acts were consensual. They argued that Holtzclaw is an upstanding, three-year veteran of the police force and an “all-American good guy.” According to media reports from the courtroom, the defense attempted to discredit Holtzclaw’s accusers by grilling them about their past drug use and criminal histories. Holtzclaw did not take the stand.

The jury: The jury included eight men and four women. All of the jurors were white.

The verdict: The jury found Holtzclaw guilty on 18 counts involving 8 of his accusers. The convictions included five counts of rape and several counts of sexual assault, such as sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy. The jury recommended a sentence of 263 years in prison. Holtzclaw will go before the judge for sentencing Jan. 21. He faces multiple life sentences.


Oklahoma Cop Convicted of Raping Four Black Women and Assaulting Four Others

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It’s Not Just Middle-Aged Men Who Are Dying Younger

Mother Jones

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That paper by Angus Deaton and Anne Case about middle-aged white men dying at higher rates seems to be having a second life, so I want to highlight something that I might have buried in my initial post about it: it’s not just middle-aged men. This is right in the paper, with a colorful chart and everything. Every single white age group, from 30 to 65, has seen a big spike in deaths from alcohol, suicide, and drug overdoses:

And it’s white women too:

The change in all-cause mortality for white non-Hispanics 45–54 is largely accounted for by an increasing death rate from external causes, mostly increases in drug and alcohol poisonings and in suicide. (Patterns are similar for men and women when analyzed separately.)

So why is everyone focusing solely on middle-aged men? Because that’s what the paper focuses on. However, the authors make it very clear that every age group is affected:

The focus of this paper is on changes in mortality and morbidity for those aged 45–54. However, as Fig. 4 makes clear, all 5-y age groups between 30–34 and 60–64 have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999–2013; the midlife group is different only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality.

In other words, the phenomenon they describe applies to all white men and women between the ages of 30-65. The only difference among midlife white men is that declining overall mortality has turned into increasing overall mortality. Among other groups, declining mortality presumably turns flat, or perhaps declines less rapidly—though the authors don’t say.

In other words, midlife men make for a more dramatic chart because the line actually changes direction. But there’s nothing magic about zero. If you go from a slope of -5 to -1, that’s still a lot even if the line hasn’t changed direction. What’s more, whatever it is that makes the change in overall mortality bigger for midlife men, it’s not the suicide, alcohol, and drug overdoses that the authors focus on. The chart above makes that clear. In fact, the midlife group appears to have seen a smaller growth in those things than both the younger group and the older groups. This would be clearer if the chart were drawn differently, but since the authors don’t include a table with raw data, I can’t do that.

Bottom line: There’s been a sharp increase in death by suicide/alcohol/drugs among all whites of all age groups from 30-65. Whatever the reason, it’s not something that applies solely to middle-aged white men.

Originally posted here: 

It’s Not Just Middle-Aged Men Who Are Dying Younger

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