Health Care

Age of Autism book explores history of mercury and mental disorders

August 15, 2010

Four researchers from government and academia told a panel of U.S. senators on Aug. 3 that exposures to environmental toxins are a likely cause of autism in genetically predisposed individuals.

"ASDs [Autism Spectrum Disorders] could result from a variety of factors, including combinations of genes, environmental exposures and gene-environment interactions," EPA's Assistant Administrator for Research and Development and Science Advisor Paul Anastas said in a written version of his remarks to the Senate Environment and Public Works' Subcommittee on Children's Health.

August 8, 2010

"The new health care legislation is a step toward elimination, by slow strangulation, of private health insurance and establishment of government as the 'single payer.'" - George Will, in his weekly newspaper column, Sunday, July 11, 2010


Everyone loves to pick on the Affordable Care Act, and well they should. This 2,000-page contraption, this heap of handouts to the special interest lobbyists with a few shiny baubles thrown in to placate the common folk, was not only written by the for-profit health insurance industry but now will be implemented by former WellPoint/Anthem Vice President Liz Fowler, who actually penned much of the law in her role as Max Baucus' chief healthcare staff person for the Senate Finance Committee.

U.S. Social Forum draws 15,000 progressive activists to Detroit

July 11, 2010

Editor's note: Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene participated in last month's U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. What follows are some of her observations from the experience.


"This is what democracy looks like!" is a familiar chant at progressive marches and rallies. The second U.S. Social Forum (USSF), held in Detroit on June 22-26, put the chant into practice. Some 15,000 activists of all colors and kinds gathered for what the USSF Web site billed as a "U.S. movement-building process."

"It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples' solutions to the economic and ecological crisis," the Web site says. "The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful, multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history."

July 4, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, IND. -- Every conversation I've had with parents of Americans with autism has been riddled with salient moments, when essential truths are revealed about this extraordinarily complex developmental disorder. "Ah ha!" moments, so to speak. Such was the case with my July 2 conversation with Lisa Roach, who lives just outside the Ohio River town of Mount Vernon, Ind.

I had driven to the Posey County capital with Bloomington Alternative intern Megan Erbacher, who had grown up just down the road and has been friends with Roach's daughter Chelsea since childhood. Stan and Lisa Roach's oldest, 26-year-old Travis, has Asperger's Disorder, which is commonly known as "high-functioning autism." While his symptoms had been evident for years, Travis wasn't diagnosed until he was 8. At that time, Lisa learned her son was the first autistic child in the Mount Vernon school system.

Says ObamaCare squeezes insurance companies

June 13, 2010

Editor's Note: In the May 30 edition of The Bloomington Alternative, I published an open letter to Congressman Baron Hill, D-Ninth, about my experiences with America's health care system, specifically with my health insurance company. What follows is the congressman's unedited reply. - sh

June 9, 2010

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your recent open letter to me regarding H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I appreciate you taking the time to share your own experience and make your opinion known to the readers of The Bloomington Alternative on such an important issue as health insurance reform. I hope my response will provide an adequate assessment of the bill, as well as my reasons for supporting it when it passed the House of Representatives.

Throughout my congressional tenure, I have heard countless stories like yours of how our current health care system has failed hard-working Hoosier families, and how insurance companies have engaged in unconscionable practices not deployed by any other industry. And while I cannot speak firsthand about the personal experiences you shared in your letter to me, it does sound like the system failed you by not providing adequate information, as well as attributing added costs and other burdens on you as a patient during the care you received over the past few years.

After 16 years, Asperger’s apparently doesn’t exist

June 6, 2010

I spent the past week organizing and reviewing my research on the connections between autism and the environment, which once again reminded me just how little anyone -- experts, doctors, parents, journalists, whoever -- actually knows about the subject. The only truth I’ve found in almost two years immersed in the subject is that definitive answers to the most fundamental questions about autism -- What is it? What causes it? What can be done about it? -- are virtually nonexistent.

On a journalistic level, that’s pretty damned exciting. There’s always something new to explore and write about. But on a societal level, it’s downright scary. Take the what-is-it angle. Here we have a range of mental disorders that, depending on how the spectrum is defined, impacts the lives and families of roughly one out of every 100 American children. Scientists and experts have studied it for more than 70 years. And yet, they haven’t even agreed to a firm diagnosis.

Re: Unsavory characters and health care reform

May 30, 2010

Editor's note: The following letter was sent to Indiana Congressman Baron Hill, via his aides John Zody and Trent Deckard, simultaneous with its publication here. The Bloomington Alternative will publish any response the congressman sends, in full and unedited.


Dear Congressman Hill:

Before I get to the point of this letter, I want to thank you for your vote to support health care reform. And I want to say I hope you were sincere and not just tailoring your message when you told Dr. Rob Stone and other Indiana citizens that the ultimate solution to America's health-care crisis will be a single-payer system.

It seems to me that you may understand that this first step, so-called ObamaCare, will do little more than further enable and enrich those who have destroyed what at one time was a health-care system to be proud of. So, as both a journalist and a registered, Ninth District constituent, I am going to share with you my personal experience with these people.

And, Congressman, as I've told anyone in the health-care system who would listen over the past two years, you really need to hang around with a better class of people. Seriously.

May 30, 2010

The WellPoint Inc. annual meeting on May 18 in Indianapolis was contentious and dramatic. The first story out was about the collapse of Board member William "Bucky" Bush, followed later by CEO Angela Braly's sudden adjournment of the meeting, while a line of concerned shareholders waited to have their questions answered.

That story went 'round the world, picked up by even the Singapore Straits Times, given legs by the irony of Mr. Bush getting assistance from the very doctor who had been regaling the board minutes before. That physician, of course, was me.

This was the fourth annual meeting of WellPoint that I have attended in my role as "a cheery thorn in [their] side," as the Indianapolis Business Journal called me in a May 29 article, "ER doc is affable WellPoint activist."

May 16, 2010

The modern era of fire as a weapon of war came with jellied gasoline, or napalm, dropped from bombers in the latter days of World War II. The bombing of Tokyo created a firestorm that incinerated more people than the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

The modern era of corporate shareholder activism was born during the Vietnam War when the Medical Committee for Human Rights and its leader, Dr. Quentin Young, were given shares in Dow Chemical Company, infamous for manufacturing the napalm used in Vietnam. In 1968, Young submitted a resolution to Dow saying "napalm shall not be sold to any buyer unless that buyer gives reasonable assurances that the substance will not be used on or against human beings."

Dow fought inclusion of the proposal in its proxy statement, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initially sided with the company. Young appealed, and the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that part of the original intent of Congress in creating the SEC was "to give true vitality to the concept of corporate democracy," and the resolution made it onto the proxy.

April 18, 2010

The public-speaking trick of looking directly over the heads of your audience reportedly gives the illusion of eye contact without the speaker having to actually engage with the folks in the room.

I was reminded of this technique while watching Governor Mitch Daniels' press conference the day after Congress passed health care reform into law. The governor was addressing Indiana media, but it was clear he was looking over the heads of Hoosiers to gaze longingly at the Republican donors and pundits who are sizing up 2012 presidential hopefuls.

There was a nationwide surplus of hysterical reactions to the health care legislation, but for sheer cynicism and callousness, our governor had few equals.

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