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August 21st, 2009
05:00 AM ET
August 19th, 2009
10:29 AM ET

Prof: Health care 'rationing' not as scary as it sounds

In the debate over health care reform, we keep hearing the word "rationing." For Republicans, it's been one of the top talking points. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “…rationing is underlying all of this. …If you don't get health care when you need it, you know, ultimately it's going to affect your life.”

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Prof. Peter Singer says rationing is already happening in private health insurance companies."]

Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, says rationing isn't as scary as it sounds. He joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.

John Roberts: When you talk about rationing health care, what specifically is it that you mean?

Peter Singer: Firstly, it’s the public part of health care that I'm talking about. I’m not talking about stopping people paying for whatever they can afford to pay for or paying for whatever extra insurance they can pay for. But if you have public funds going for something, you want and the taxpayer wants to get good value for that public funds.

So that means you’re going to have to say, look, at the margins, if there's a very expensive new treatment or new drug that perhaps doesn't do any good anyway – perhaps there's no good scientific studies that show it's going to help you significantly – we're not going to provide that. We're going to say, we want to get a certain standard of value for money, just like you would if you're shopping at the supermarket. That's rationing.


Filed under: Commentary • Health • Politics
July 29th, 2009
08:03 AM ET

Commentary: America's drug problem got so bad because we didn't raise the alarm

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Kerlikowske says drugs that come out of parents’ medicine cabinets are just as deadly as other drugs."]

Michael Jackson’s alleged addiction to prescription drugs has been part of the ongoing investigation into his death. Dr. Conrad Murray is said to have given Jackson the powerful anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep. Police believe that drug may have contributed to his death.

Director of the office of national drug control policy at the White House, R. Gil Kerlikowske spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Wednesday

John Roberts:
I wanted to ask this, not as a law enforcement question but from a substance abuse perspective which falls into your arena. To use the drug Propofol, which is used either as a sedative for surgery or a general anesthetic, to use it as a sleeping medication would that constitute the abuse of that drug?

Director R. Gil Kerlikowske:
You know I’m not an M.D. I can tell you the prescription drug issue is really significant throughout the United States. And of course, we've seen that in paper after paper after paper. I don't have the facts about the Michael Jackson case, the very sad and tragic loss that occurred there, but I can tell you that prescription drug problems are a problem in this country.

Roberts: The police and drug enforcement administration are looking to whether or not he used aliases to try to get drugs, whether he was doctor shopping. We hear about people doctor shopping and prescription drug abuse. How did it get so bad in this country?

Kerlikowske: I think it got so bad because we didn't raise the alarm. It's been bad for a while. If you look, the most recent data, which unfortunately is 2006, tells us that more people have died from overdoses than have died from gunshot wounds in this country. And frankly, this is something that in many ways can be prevented.

Roberts: So, when you talk about prevention, you talk about trying to curb demand and education from that standpoint. And then there's also enforcement. How do you effectively enforce something like this? You take a look at the fact that more than 56 million prescriptions were written for sleeping medication in 2008 alone, that's up 54% since 2004.

Kerlikowske: Well, there are two things. One is that 38 states have prescription drug monitoring programs. These are electronic databases and they help health officials and in some cases depending on how the law is written, law enforcement. And they can look at over-prescribing by a physician but they can also look at patients who are, as you mentioned, doctor shopping. The other thing, of course, is that a lot of this comes out of parents' medicine cabinets.

Parents can do an awful lot. We have a website, http://www.Theanti-drug.Com. Parents can get a huge amount of information. We've seen significant problems with kids that have experimented thinking that, ‘hey, these are prescription drugs, these are safe,’ and, in fact, they are just as deadly and just as addictive as anything that comes from anyplace else.

Roberts: You came to this job from your former job. You were the police chief of Seattle. Was it possible in Seattle to effectively police this?


Filed under: Commentary • Crime
July 28th, 2009
01:16 PM ET

Commentary: Vick could come back as early as week 1

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Smith says Vick's impact as a humane spokesperson could be far-reaching"]

Michael Vick is back in the game. Now he needs to find an NFL team that will let him play. The former star quarterback, who just finished serving 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, received a conditional reinstatement Monday from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A ruling on Vick’s full reinstatement is not expected until October but he could be cleared before then.

Ryan Smith is sports attorney and BET talk show host and spoke to CNN’s Kiran Chetry Tuesday.

Kiran Chetry: Were you surprised that Roger Goodell said Vick could come back in?
Ryan Smith: Not at all. He had to give him some sort of second chance. Playing in the NFL is privilege, not a right but there has to be some sort of forgiveness. He served 18 months. Goodell is thinking let's let him back in, at a time frame that’s not immediate after he served his sentence but after a little bit of time.

Chetry: When we talk about conditional what does he have to do, what obligation does he have to meet to be fully reinstated?

Smith: Well Michael Vick submitted a plan to the commissioner about what he’s willing to do to show that not only that he has remorse but also that he's going be an active good citizen and spokesman on the behalf of dogs. He's going to work with the humane society possibly to be a spokesman for them because his voice as a convicted felon of these kinds of crimes has a greater impact than someone just coming out and saying ‘don't abuse jobs.’ Look at what he lost, he could say, this is why you should not hurt dogs.

Chetry: Just to remind people who may have forgotten the federal conspiracy charge against Vick for his role in the dog fighting venture which was on his property. It included executing eight dogs who underperformed. One of them, he got the okay to wet the dog down and electrocute them. In one case they hung the dogs, in one case he drowned them, and in another case they slammed the dog's body against the wall. If you and I faced prison time for that, would we get our old jobs back?

Smith: We would never get our jobs back. That makes it surprising in the overall scheme of things. That's why the commissioner is taking this approach. Look at it this way, the NFL doesn't just want people to come and play in their league and be good players, they want good citizens. So what he's trying to say, look, I don't want to take everything away from him. He served 18 months in jail. He did his time but I’m not going to let him right back in unless he shows me complete remorse. Not only is he going to be somebody who’s going to say ‘I’m sorry’, but he's going to be somebody to fight for the rights of dogs and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Chetry: The other interesting thing is you said that Roger Goodell said in his statement that the playing for the NFL is a privilege, its not a right. But he also said that a player is held to a standard of conduct higher than that generally expected in society and is held accountable when the standard isn't met. In this case, it seems, yes, he served his time but that wasn't being held to a higher standard. The dog-fighting ring is not anything that's acceptable to society but he's getting his job back.

Smith: Yes because most people would not get their jobs back but I think what he’s trying to show is if he cuts the player off now then NFL players might look and say, you know what, this is unfair. I served my time. You're trying to hold me to a standard that's higher but I'm in the public eye all the time. Maybe if I can show remorse, maybe if I can go out there and do things that the normal citizen can't do because of my stature maybe I should be let back in.

Chetry: He cleared that first hurdle. The next hurdle is finding a team that will take him on. What's the likelihood of this?


Filed under: American Morning • Commentary • Controversy
July 14th, 2009
12:27 PM ET

Commentary: What the 'wise Latina' remark meant

Editor's note: Laura Gómez is professor of law and American studies at the University of New Mexico. Gómez, who has a Ph.D. in sociology and a law degree from Stanford University, is the author of "Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race."

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Laura Gómez says Sonia Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' comment has been taken out of context."]

By Laura E. Gómez
Special to CNN

(CNN) - It is likely that Judge Sotomayor will face some questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week about her 2001 "wise Latina" remark.

In a speech at a Berkeley conference on Hispanic judges, Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Her comment has been lampooned on the cover of the National Review, where cartoonists apparently could not quite fathom a wise Latina judge, choosing to portray Sotomayor as a Buddha with Asian features. It has caused Rush Limbaugh and others to label her a "racist," and it has caused even liberals to bristle.

I was a speaker at the conference Sotomayor's speech kicked off, and I would like to put her comment in context.

Keep reading this story »

Related: Sotomayor: 'Wise Latina' remark a bad choice

Filed under: Commentary • Supreme Court
July 3rd, 2009
09:18 AM ET

Why Marriage Matters

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol June 24, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina."]

By Caitlin Flanagan

Around the time of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, I turned to my father at the dinner table one night and said, "It's amazing, Dad — 50 years, and you never once had an affair. How do you account for that?"

He replied simply, "I can't drive."

Watching the governor of South Carolina cry like a little girl because his sexy e-mails got forwarded to his local newspaper, the State, made me wonder whether the real secret to a lasting marriage lies in limiting your means of escape. Whether you're putting the Buick Regal in reverse or hitting "Send" on a love note, you're busting out of your marriage, however temporarily, and soon enough there will be hell to pay.

During the press conference in which he admitted his affair, Mark Sanford warbled that he had broken "God's law," a sentiment that served only to emphasize the narcissism that had gotten him in trouble. Wrestling with God's law had apparently been the subject of many sessions of his Bible-study group, a seminar that may have spent a little too much time on the Song of Solomon, given Sanford's e-mailed encomium of his lover's physique: "I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night's light." Finally a bit of prose that makes us long for the clinical precision of the Starr report. Sanford told reporters the affair had begun "very innocently," which reveals that he still hasn't been honest with himself about the willfulness of his actions. When a married man begins a secret, solicitous correspondence with a beautiful and emotionally needy single woman, he has already begun to cheat on his wife.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Commentary
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