Tuesday, December 25, 2007
As a journalist turned graduate student in public health, I am in Uganda for five weeks as part of a research team investigating whether “food insecurity” — a persistent difficulty in finding enough to eat — undermines the effectiveness of H.I.V. treatment.
I am interviewing dozens of patients — anonymously, as is standard in such qualitative research — about what they eat, how much food they have, whether they grow it or buy it and whether the side effects from the medications are worse if they take the pills on an empty stomach. Our team also wants to know whether costs related to treatment limit their ability to cover basic foods and whether hunger forces women to offer men “live sex,” or intercourse without condoms, in exchange for food or money.
. . . . . . .
To make ends meet, parents have to engage in a desperate triage, navigating between bad choices and worse ones.
If they let their hungry children eat everything that the family grows, they will have nothing to sell at the market. If they do not sell part of the harvest, they will not have cash for the monthly clinic trip for the medication that keeps them alive.
But every time they go to the clinic, they lose a whole day of gardening or other work and spend cash they could otherwise use for the children’s diets.
“I feel bad that I have to spend that money for transport when I could have spent it on something else,” one mother says. “And then the days I’m at the clinic, of course, I come knowing that I won’t do anything that day.”
Listening to the accounts of poverty and deprivation, I feel helpless and miserable. I promise myself I will never again take a decent meal for granted.
I want to empty out my pockets and shove dollars at every patient I interview. Instead, I buy them a cup of chai, a milky African tea, from the clinic canteen. The chai costs 300 Ugandan shillings, or 18 cents in dollars. For most, that is a luxury beyond their means.
I wonder sometimes what is the point of researching this? Why not just give food to people so obviously in need? But international donors demand data and documentation. They want proof that an intervention will reduce the total misery index before they will shell out millions of euros for new programs, even if the need appears self-evident.
I get to return home when my work here is done. I will analyze my data, write up my findings and hope that what I have done makes some small contribution to change.
The women and men I have met will trek to the clinic month after month, if they can scrape together $5 or $8 for the bus fare. They will consult with the doctor, grab their drugs from the pharmacy and wonder where they will find enough beans and matoke to feed the kids tomorrow.
Monday, December 24, 2007
BARBOURVILLE, Ky. — In the 18 years he has been visiting nursing homes, seeing patients in his private practice and, more recently, driving his mobile dental clinic through Appalachian hills and hollows, Dr. Edwin E. Smith has seen the extremes of neglect.
He has seen the shame of a 14-year-old girl who would not lift her head because she had lost most of her teeth from malnutrition, and the do-it-yourself pride of an elderly mountain man who, unable to afford a dentist, pulled his own infected teeth with a pair of pliers and a swig of peroxide.
He has seen the brutal result of angry husbands hitting their wives and the end game of pill-poppers who crack healthy teeth, one by one, to get dentists to prescribe pain medications.
But mostly he has seen everyday people who are too busy putting food on the table to worry about oral hygiene. Many of them savor their sweets, drink well water without fluoride and long ago started ruining their teeth by chewing tobacco and smoking.
Dr. Smith has a rare window on a state with the highest proportion of adults under 65 without teeth, where about half the population does not have dental insurance. He struggles to counter the effects of the drastic shortage of dentists in rural areas and oral hygiene habits that have been slow to change.
“The level of need is hard to believe until you see it up close,” said Dr. Smith, who runs a free dental clinic at a high school in one of Kentucky’s poorest counties. He also provides free care to about half of the patients who visit his private practice in Barbourville.
Kentucky is among the worst states nationally in the proportion of low-income residents served by free or subsidized dental clinics, and less than a fourth of the state’s dentists regularly take Medicaid, according to 2005 federal data.
Until August 2006, when the system was revamped, the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rate was also one of the lowest in the country. Experts say this contributed to the shortage of dentists in poorer and more rural areas.
The state dental director, Dr. Julie Watts McKee, said that last year, Medicaid reimbursement for children’s dental services was raised by about 30 percent.
But even with this increase, which was paid for by cutting orthodontic benefits, reimbursement fees remain about 50 percent below market rate, said Dr. Ken Rich, the state’s dental director for Medicaid. And for adults, Dr. Rich said, they are about 65 percent below market rate.
“Not much has changed over the years here, really,” said Glen D. Anderson, who for two decades has made dentures in Corbin, Ky. He sells a pair of dentures for $400 that many dentists sell for more than $1,200. Like his brother, father and grandfather, he makes them without a license.
“Bootleggers exist here for a reason,” Mr. Anderson said. “People need teeth, but they can’t afford to go to dentists for dentures.”
While Kentucky may have some of the worse oral health problems in the nation, it is by no means alone. Residents in neighboring states across the region suffer similar dental problems for many of the same reasons — inadequate access to dental care or the inability to pay for a dentist, widespread use of chewing tobacco and a pervasive assumption that losing teeth is simply part of growing old. West Virginia, for example, which has the highest proportion of people over 65 without teeth, also has one of the lowest percentages of adults who visit the dentist at least once a year. . .
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Predatory Lending Association (PLA) is dedicated to extracting maximum profit from the working poor by increasing payday loan fees and debt traps. The working poor are an exciting, fast growing demographic that includes: military personnel, minorities, and most of the middle class.Visit the site.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
There are several vital points raised by the new revelations in The New York Times that "the N.S.A.'s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before" and includes both pre-9/11 efforts to tap without warrants into the nation's domestic communications network as well as the collection of vast telephone records of American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. The Executive Branch and the largest telecommunications companies work in virtually complete secrecy -- with no oversight and no notion of legal limits -- to spy on Americans, on our own soil, at will.
More than anything else, what these revelations highlight -- yet again -- is that the U.S. has become precisely the kind of surveillance state that we were always told was the hallmark of tyrannical societies, with literally no limits on the government's ability or willingness to spy on its own citizens and to maintain vast dossiers on those activities. The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes -- people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and "tyranny" is something that happens somewhere else -- but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Healthy eating really does cost more.
That’s what University of Washington researchers found when they compared the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. Calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity are seen among people in lower-income groups.
The scientists took an unusual approach, essentially comparing the price of a calorie in a junk food to one consumed in a healthier meal. Although fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, they also contain relatively few calories. Foods with high energy density, meaning they pack the most calories per gram, included candy, pastries, baked goods and snacks.
The survey found that higher-calorie, energy-dense foods are the better bargain for cash-strapped shoppers. Energy-dense munchies cost on average $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for low-energy but nutritious foods.
The survey also showed that low-calorie foods were more likely to increase in price, surging 19.5 percent over the two-year study period. High-calorie foods remained a relative bargain, dropping in price by 1.8 percent.
Although people don’t knowingly shop for calories per se, the data show that it’s easier for low-income people to sustain themselves on junk food rather than fruits and vegetables, says the study’s lead author Adam Drewnowski, director of the center for public health nutrition at the University of Washington. Based on his findings, a 2,000-calorie diet would cost just $3.52 a day if it consisted of junk food, compared with $36.32 a day for a diet of low-energy dense foods. However, most people eat a mix of foods. The average American spends about $7 a day on food, although low-income people spend about $4, says Dr. Drewnowski.
And City Limits:
Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Chelsea claims the unwanted distinction of running the largest lunch feeding operation for the needy in the country. Serving nearly 1,200 meals each weekday, the program is bigger than at any other time in HASK’s 25-year history. At the same time, federal funding for its $2.5 million annual program has dropped to the lowest level in years. Emergency food programs across the city are grappling with similar unprecedented challenges as they confront greater demand combined with fewer or inadequate resources.
The numbers are staggering. About 1.3 million New Yorkers—or roughly one in six residents—currently rely on emergency food programs to eat, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger(NYCCAH). Since 2004, that’s an increase of 24 percent in reliance on EFPs, as they’re known, according to a recent report by the Food Bank for New York City. At the same time, the amount of food received by the Food Bank, which supplies more than 1,000 local food pantries and soup kitchens, is at an all-time low. Federal food aid has been cut in half, and overall supplies are down 12 million pounds just since 2004. EFPs are open an average of one day less per week than only a few years ago, and 12 percent of pantries and kitchens can’t even open every week.
Most of the food shortage has been caused by a holdup in passage of the mammoth federal Farm Bill, covering everything from crop subsidies to biofuel programs – and public nutrition. The U.S. Senate reached a deal last week that could allow the passage for the bill, including The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). But even TEFAP's food supply has dropped by nearly 80 percent in recent years.The severity of the current emergency food shortage highlights the need to broaden the approach to hunger in New York City, some advocates and public officials say.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
It's worth visiting The Cage and checking out the full paper, and the comments section.
“Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?”
Somewhat favor: 29%
Strongly favor: 36%
Another random subset of whites was asked:
“Some people say that the death penalty is unfair because most of the people who are executed are African-Americans. Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?”
Somewhat favor: 25%
Strongly favor: 52%
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
When City Councilman Larry Seabrook took the podium at Thursday's unveiling of the report “The State of Black New York City 2007,” there was good news and bad news to talk about. Coming seven years after the release of the last such report, its completion was itself an achievement by the Black Equity Alliance and New York Urban League, which brought together leading intellectuals for a detailed analysis of where blacks stand. But the resulting report detailed persistent disparities in black New Yorkers’ access to the job market, affordable housing, health care and schools. So, Seabrook told the crowd at the JP Morgan Chase building on Park Avenue, "It's a pleasure to be here … to see how bad we're doing."
Statistics showing the challenges facing black New Yorkers are easy to find; they're often at hand in public discussions about school test scores, incarceration rates, incidence of asthma and so on. What's different about the State of Black New York City (which the Urban League has published off and on for 40 years) is that it presents a broad picture of the multifaceted disadvantages blacks face—and weds those indicators to a critique of what the report calls America's "race-constructed society." Explaining the study's purpose, New York Urban League chairman Noel Hankin told the room that "to monitor, measure and track the effects of racism is very important."
That's especially true when those effects can be multilayered, hidden within crises that also affect whites, or masked by cosmetic changes to a more visible problem. . . .
Read more here.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 seems to mean less now than ever. We have collectively tired of mourning, and the number of people in this country who actually die from AIDS has dropped dramatically since the 1990s. Some HIV organizations have decided not to offer any special events at all this year for World AIDS Day.
Yet nearly 1 million Americans live with the HIV virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We still need World AIDS Day to educate and hopefully prevent thousands more from contracting the virus.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report this fall showing that infection rates for people under the age of 30 in New York City have increased by 33 percent over a five-year period. Within this group, black and Hispanic men received twice as many HIV diagnoses as white men. Even more disturbing, the department reports that new diagnoses last year of black and Hispanic men accounted for more than 90 percent of infected male teenagers who had sex with men.
Update: From the Washington Post:
New government estimates of the number of Americans who become infected with the AIDS virus each year are 50 percent higher than previous calculations suggested, sources said yesterday.
For more than a decade, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pegged the number of new HIV infections each year at 40,000. They now believe it is between 55,000 and 60,000.
The higher estimate is the product of a new method of testing blood samples that can identify those who were infected within the previous five months. With a way to distinguish recent infections from long-standing ones, epidemiologists can then estimate how many new infections are appearing nationwide each month or year.
The higher estimate is based on data from 19 states and large cities that have been extrapolated to the nation as a whole.
The CDC has not announced the new estimate, but two people in direct contact with the scientists preparing it confirmed it yesterday.
What is uncertain is whether the American HIV epidemic is growing or is simply larger than anyone thought. It will take two more years of using the more accurate method of estimation to spot a trend and answer that question.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches, but for this protection to have practical meaning, the courts must enforce it. This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people’s homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for the privacy rights of all Americans.
San Diego County’s district attorney has a program called Project 100% that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family’s home, including the insides of cabinets and closets. Applicants who refuse to let the agents in are generally denied benefits.
The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, rejected a challenge brought by welfare recipients. In ruling that the program does not violate the Constitution, the majority made the bizarre assertion that the home visits are not “searches.”
The Supreme Court has long held that when the government intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, it is a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. It is a fun-house mirrors version of constitutional analysis for a court to say that government agents are not conducting a search when they show up unannounced in a person’s home and rifle through her bedroom dresser.
Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six other Ninth Circuit judges who voted to reconsider the case, got it right. The majority decision upholding Project 100%, Judge Pregerson wrote, “strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections.” These dissenters rightly dismissed the majority’s assertion that the home visits were voluntary, noting that welfare applicants were not told they could withhold consent, and that they risked dire consequences if they resisted.
The dissenting judges called the case “an assault on the poor,” which it is. It would be a mistake, however, to take consolation in the fact that only poor people’s privacy rights were at stake. When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people’s homes, it is bad news for all of us.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
“Studying the Political and Social Attitudes
of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals”
Thursday, November 29, 2007
West Building, Faculty/Staff Dining Room – 8th Floor
NYAAPOR hosts an evening session on new research on discrimination and the health of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals (LGB) – as well as plans for a new study of the political attitudes of LGB populations.
Kenneth Sherrill, presenter, is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College, CUNY and has been doing public opinion research for over 40 years. He has published articles journals such as Public Opinion Quarterly, Comparative Politics, Journalism Quarterly, and PS: Political Science and Politics as well as being the author of Power, Policy, and Participation (Harper and Row) and Gays and the Military (Princeton University Press). In addition, Sherrill has consulted with media on public opinion, voting, and elections since 1968.
Patrick Egan, presenter, is Assistant Professor of Politics at
Ilan Meyer, presenter, is Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Deputy Chair for MPH Programs at the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. His areas of research include stress and illness in minority populations – particularly the relationship of minority status, minority identity, prejudice and discrimination and mental health outcomes in sexual minorities and the intersection of minority stressors related to sexual orientation, race/ethnicity and gender. His model of minority stress is often used in studies of health in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB) and his studies have been quoted as evidence in briefs to several court cases advocating for gay rights.
Murray Edelman, moderator, is a consultant with CBS News and
This event is free to NYAAPOR members and student members as well as to Hunter faculty, students, and staff; $20 for non-members.
No refunds (but you can send someone in your place)
EMPTY BUILDINGS, CROWDED SHELTERS
A panel on vacant property, housing policy, and homelessness
Time:(includes lunch reception)
Organized by Picture the Homeless and the Charles H. Revson Fellowship
Location: Columbia University, Faculty House (Enter through the gate on 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive)
There are enough potential apartments in vacant buildings and lots inalone to house every homeless person on the streets and in the shelters citywide. Yet municipal housing policy has no unified strategy to address this massive dilemma, and existing initiatives focus on developing expensive housing that accelerates gentrification. Join us to learn about new strategies to develop joint solutions to issues of housing, homelessness, job creation, and systemic change.
Featured speakers include:
· Prof. Peter Marcuse,
· Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
· Leaders of the Housing Campaign at Picture the Homeless
Introduction by Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship Program and the Center for Urban Research and Policy,
For more information, call Sam J. Miller at or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University
JPAC / JASA (Joint Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults)
Isabella Geriatric Center
Gentrification, Housing and Us
Thursday November 29th, 2007
8:15 – 11:45 AM
515 Audubon Avenue, at West 190 Street
Harold M. Shultz
Columbia University Medical Center
Director of Legal Services
Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation
Washington Heights B.I.D.
City College Architectural Center, City College of New York
Breakfast will be served.
RSVP Required email@example.com or 212-960-0801
PRESSURES AND POSSIBILITIES:
Family Support, Foster Care and the Future of a Billion-dollar System
A Child Welfare Watch Forum
Wednesday, December 5, 2007, 8:30 am to 11 am
Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall
55 West 13th Street, Second Floor (between 5th and 6th avenues)
The Bloomberg administration is mounting an all-out campaign to reduce the length of time children spend in foster care and to make preventive and post-reunification supports for families more effective. Few disagree with these goals. But in a child welfare system managed by nonprofits, the city must use its power over contracts to drive change. It's an enormous and controversial challenge. Will the city provide enough funding and support for overstretched agencies? What will it take for the sector to follow the road to reform?
John Mattingly, Commissioner, NYC Administration for Children's Services
Followed by a discussion with Commissioner Mattingly and:
Gladys Carrión, Commissioner, NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Bill Baccaglini, Jr., Executive Director, The New York Foundling
Sabra Jackson, Parent Organizer, Child Welfare Organizing Project
Andrew White , Director, Center for New York City Affairs
Admission is free, but you must RSVP. Call 212.229.5418 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan - Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday. The attack, the most lethal against American forces this year, made this year the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
. . . . . .
The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in 2007 to at least 101, according to a count by The Associated Press — the highest annual death toll for the American military here since it invaded to oust Taliban and al-Qaida fighters after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The war has evolved into an increasingly bloody counterinsurgency campaign.
. . . . . .
Violence in Afghanistan this year has been the deadliest since the Taliban's ouster. More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died so far this year in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.
Friday, November 09, 2007
On a hapless morning this summer, James Adams, a 44-year-old day laborer, found himself at the Rite-Aid drug store on Salina Street in Syracuse.
What happened then is in dispute. The police said he tried to steal, among other things, a container of Johnson & Johnson baby oil gel. Mr. Adams said they arrested the wrong man.
What happened later is not in dispute. For the 100 days since he was arrested on July 31, Mr. Adams has been in the Onondaga County jail. He cannot pay his $2,500 bail, and he faces at least three and a half years in prison if he is convicted.
Mr. Adams contends that his lawyer has been no help. He will not return Mr. Adams’s calls, failed to show up at one hearing and did not fight when prosecutors charged Mr. Adams with a felony, he said. Reached for comment, Donald E. Kelly, a lawyer appointed by the court to represent Mr. Adams, denied those charges and said he had provided a vigorous defense.
For years, New York State has been criticized for failing to comply with Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 decision by the United States Supreme Court that required states to provide meaningful legal representation to poor defendants.
Yesterday, in an effort to goad a new governor and a cautious State Legislature to abide by the decision, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against New York State in State Supreme Court in Albany.
The suit is on behalf of 20 indigent defendants who, the Civil Liberties Union claims, were effectively denied the right to counsel. The defendants include Mr. Adams.
The suit charges that inadequate funding, poor oversight and lack of statewide standards deny New Yorkers accused of crimes their right to competent representation at all stages of the judicial process.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the Civil Liberties Union, told reporters yesterday, “Every day throughout the state, people accused of crimes are deprived of justice because they are poor.”
Gary Stein, a lawyer with Schulte Roth & Zabel, pro bono counsel in the suit, added, “No more studies, no more delay. It is time to act.”. . . . . . . . .
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.There's more. . . .
And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.
Friday, November 02, 2007
. . . . This gets to the heart of a long-running debate between left-leaning and right-leaning economists -- namely, are living standards getting better or worse? The Right says they're getting better -- we've got the internet, and iPods, and all sorts of awesome, dirt cheap consumer goods. The Left says that that may all be true, but housing, and education, and health care, and fuel -- the big ticket items in our lives -- are getting far costlier, and incomes aren't keeping pace.
They're talking about two different things. I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security. So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper, more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people, particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The trappings of our wealth are all around us.
Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. . . .
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Those of us without a uniform in this fight have been asked to sacrifice by... shopping. Honestly, if Iraq and Afghanistan were to fall into the great abyss of media forgetfulness (the one that readily swallowed New Orleans), would we know we were "a nation at war?"
But the truth is, we are being asked to make sacrifices.
We're being asked to sacrifice privacy in all our communications. We've been asked to sacrifice morality. We're being asked to ransom the future of our children to pay for the national shopping spree in Iraq. Many of the sacrifices of World War II were open, shared, and in a sense, unifying. The sacrifices of today are secret sacrifices, hidden losses, that pit Americans against each other not by accident, but by design.
Perhaps the greatest sacrifice we've made on the home front is simply one of depleted attention given to things not Iraq. We all have only so many hours in our day. We all have a limited quantity of outrage we can express, before that outrage sours into ennui. I don't want to imply that the invasion in Iraq was plotted only as a distraction, but it is a distraction. And while we've kept so much of our attention focused over there, others have taken advantage of that distraction.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
I'm not sure they really address the central complaint of the NAS, however, which is the insistence that educating about and advocating for "social justice" is an inherently liberal project. What do you think: is it?
Statement from the Council on Social Work Education
Over the past two years several major attacks have been launched against social work education, particularly using its accreditation standards and processes as the vehicle for attacking what is perceived to be a liberal bias in the academy. The attacking entities have been the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the National Association of Scholars (NAS), and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).
First, on November 2, 2005, the NAS sent a letter to the Department of Education (DOE) requesting a review of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Accreditation Standards, based on the erroneous assumption that CSWE was recognized by the DOE as an accrediting body. CSWE responded in a letter to the DOE, correcting the erroneous assumption (CSWE is recognized as the sole accrediting body for social work education by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, CHEA).
Then, again, October 25, 2006, a letter was sent by three organizations to the Assistant Secretary for Health,, requesting a review of the requirement that social workers hired by the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps have MSW degrees from CSWE accredited programs. CSWE sent a letter to the Assistant Secretary and received a response in January 2007, in which the accreditation standards were upheld as being consistently recognized by the uniformed services as “an indicator for validating the quality of social work programs.”
Recently, a study conducted by NAS reports on its review of ten social work education programs located in major public universities. The inquiry was to determine if the programs “conformed to the academic ideals of open inquiry, partisan disengagement, and intellectual pluralism.” The NAS study found “social work programs to be, at every level, chock full of ideological boilerplate and statements of political commitment.” CSWE Accreditation Standards were identified as contributing to this situation.
The study’s arguments, with which most university administrators are familiar, center on excerpted statements from social work program mission statements about social justice, oppression, and advocacy. They suggest a liberal ideological bias to which students must conform through acceptance of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the national social work practice membership organization and for which these same students must lobby and advocate. These organizations, rather than recognizing what the social work profession is about, claim that CSWE through its accreditation of programs, insists on adherence to a liberal ideology, and by statements of social work purpose included in its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards*, coerces social work programs to promote this ideology. Nothing is further from the truth.
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the sole accrediting body for 648 baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs in the United States. These programs currently enroll 52,300 students in a diverse array of 514 colleges and universities in the United States – public, private, liberal arts colleges, religiously affiliated colleges and universities, and research institutions. With a diversity of strength, mission, and resources, accredited social work programs share a commitment to the education of competent, ethical social workers. The mission of CSWE is to provide quality assurance for social work education programs as they prepare professionals for social work practice based on the profession’s history, purposes, philosophy, and body of knowledge, values and skills. It is incumbent upon the individual programs and their faculties to develop appropriate educational formats and curricula within their institutional contexts for the education of social work practitioners.
The profession itself has a long and time-honored practice tradition of advocacy for social justice as well as a commitment to participation and inclusion in the structures of democratic society. Fundamental to social justice is the protection of individual and academic freedom of thought and expression, including religious and political beliefs. Social work education, through the CSWE accreditation process, expects social work faculty and students to respect diversity of thought and practice in the pursuit of social justice and in the academic context that reflects the program’s mission and purpose. The CSWE accreditation standards are explicit in this regard: “The program makes specific and continuous efforts to provide a learning context in which respect for all persons and understanding of diversity (including age, class, color, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation) are practiced.”* In addition, CSWE accreditation standards include attention to student rights and responsibilities and a procedure for filing complaints of non-compliance with the CSWE Commission on Accreditation.
George Will recently commented on the NAS study in an article in the Washington Post. He and the NAS study contend that social work education and practice are devoid of critical thinking and balanced analysis. CSWE requires social work programs to prepare graduates to “apply critical thinking skills within the context of professional social work practice.” * To exclude this requirement in a discussion of social work seriously distorts CSWE expectations and presents an incomplete and inaccurate picture of social work education and practice.Social work education has graduated generations of practitioners who embrace the profession’s historical commitment to social justice and use critical thinking skills in their practice, reflective of the intellectual norms of the academy. CSWE will continue its dedication to quality assurance and program expectations that ensure open and respectful participation by faculty and students.
UPDATE: FWIW, here's where the NAS gets it's money, from Mediatransparency.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
. . . .So when we eliminate the issues on which the judge was simply wrong, we are left with three issues in which either Gore's claims were not entirely supported by the science at the time, but subsequently have proven warranted, or Gore's claims were right at the time, but later proven unwarranted. More or less.
When you think about it, that's just about what you would expect from a science-based presentation about a rapidly evolving subject like climate change, delivered by a well-informed non-scientist. I'd have been surprised if everything Gore had said were still valid, and I'd be even more surpised if none of the science had changed since Laurie David and David Guggenheim filmed his presentations almost two years ago.
On a recent weekday at the BedStuy Campaign Against Hunger, one of Brooklyn’s largest food pantries, shelves that are usually piled high with staples like rice and canned meats were empty, a stark illustration of the crisis facing emergency food providers across the city.
The Brooklyn organization is among about 1,000 food pantries and soup kitchens supplied by the Food Bank for New York City, the largest distributor of free food in the city, whose mission has been crippled by what officials describe as its worst food shortage in years.
At its sprawling warehouse in Hunts Point, in the Bronx, the Food Bank is storing about half what it housed in recent years. Instead of distributing 5.5 million pounds of food a month to food banks and soup kitchens, the Food Bank now offers 3 million pounds. So rather than having 10 trucks on the road at any given time, there are now only 3 or 4.
“It’s the first time in a few years that I could walk into the warehouse and see empty shelves,” said Lucy Cabrera, the president and chief executive of the Food Bank, which helps feed about 1.3 million people a year.
According to a study to be released today by the Food Bank and Cornell University, New York City receives a little more than half the amount of emergency food annually from the federal government that it did three years ago. The shortfall is occurring as the number of families and individuals relying on soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City has risen to 1.3 million from 1 million since 2004.
As a result, food pantry workers say, people in need are getting fewer provisions and less variety, and some pantries have been forced to open less frequently. And the demand for emergency food will most likely rise as families spend more of their incomes on school and holiday expenses, Food Bank officials said.
Rethea Bruno, 63, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is a regular at several local food pantries, described the supply she found at the Campaign Against Hunger pantry as “pitiful.” “You’re getting less food,” she said. “You get the bags home and you’re stunned.”
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
In two separate studies, published in Children and Youth Services Review in 2004 and in the Temple Law Review last year, Schwartz and colleagues analyzed data from thousands of cases of child abuse and neglect nationwide. A neural [computer] network was asked to predict which cases would meet the “harm standard,” the most serious classification of abuse. Ninety percent of the time, the system accurately predicted risk – which the researchers knew because of the actual outcomes – with very few false positives or false negatives. In other words, the neural network was able to determine which variables were most closely associated with child abuse, then identify the cases matching those variables. The first study concludes, “Neural networks…are tools that could help to increase accuracy, reduce errors, and facilitate more effective decisions in child welfare and child protective service organizations.Read the rest. . . . .
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline, President Bush has threatened to veto spending bills that exceed his budget request, even though Congress's non-defense appropriations bills approximately keep pace with economic growth. Meanwhile, the administration has asked for significant increases in both war appropriations and regular defense appropriations for 2008. Defense spending, which rose from 3.0% of GDP when Bush came into office in 2001 to 4.0% in 2005-07, will resume its upward climb to 4.3-5.0% of GDP in 2008 if Congress agrees to the president's request.1
The chart below illustrates what happens if the president gets his way on the war and Congress gets its way on domestic spending. It shows that the entire increase in discretionary spending as a share of GDP since 2002 (the first year President Bush had any input on the budget) will be due to a growth in defense spending rather than domestic initiatives.2
The proposed $70 billion increase in defense appropriations for 2008 would be more than enough to fund the $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that the president just vetoed. In addition, it would make up the $21 billion difference between the president and Congress on domestic appropriations bills that the president has threatened to veto. Polls show that voters are concerned that defense spending—especially on the Iraq war—is placed above government spending on health care, education, and other domestic priorities. The voters are right.
Beginning tomorrow night, the city will stop giving emergency shelter to families who are reapplying for a place to stay after being ruled ineligible, officials said yesterday.
The decision means that families who apply for benefits but are turned down — usually because the city believes they can stay with a friend or a relative — will find themselves without shelter as they reapply one or two more times.
The toughening of the policy, which follows a rise during the summer in the number of families given emergency shelter in free public apartments, was criticized as cruel by advocates for the homeless and by some of the people it will affect. But it was defended by officials as a necessary tightening of a munificent policy that was being repeatedly abused by a few families.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Black infant mortality is a complicated puzzle that includes poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, teen pregnancy, heredity, high blood pressure, stress, obesity, low birth weights and prematurity. However, some neonatologists and child health advocates have pushed for more research to get behind the social reasons why these factors seem to take a higher toll on African-American infants than they do on other babies.
Though the infant mortality rate for all races has decreased over the past two decades, the United States still has one of the highest rates among developed nations. In this country, the infant mortality rate for black babies is 13.5 per 1,000 live births, compared with roughly 5.7 for whites and Hispanics, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem is especially acute in rural areas such as Mississippi's Delta region along U.S. 61, and urban centers such as Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tenn. — which has a zip code where the infant mortality rate is higher than those of many Third World nations.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
JCPA LAUNCHES NATIONAL ANTI-POVERTY CAMPAIGN:
“THERE SHALL BE NO NEEDY AMONG YOU”
“Let the sound of the shofar shatter our complacency” (Mahzor)
On September 18th, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched its national anti-poverty campaign, “There shall be no needy among you”, at a press conference in the nation’s Capitol.
JCPA Executive Director, Rabbi Steve Gutow was joined at the podium by Representatives Jim McGovern and Jo Ann Emerson (co-chairs of the Congressional Hunger Caucus), as well as Representatives Tim Ryan, Chris Van Hollen, and Keith Ellison. Representatives Ryan, Emerson and McGovern took the food stamp challenge in May, and Representative Van Hollen will do so in October. It was Congressman Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, who joined us in taking the food stamp challenge right now. For Jews, this time between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur holds special meaning. For Muslims it is Ramadan. Bringing these two faith perspectives together to highlight the moral imperative to combat hunger was perhaps the highlight of the press conference. . . .
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Is there anything more transparent or absurd than our cheerleading warriors pretending to be concerned about gay Iranians? Mysteriously, they are silent about gays in Uganda, where homosexuality is a crime punishable with imprisonment, and silent about Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has called homosexuals "worse than dogs and pigs" and routinely imprisons them. Gay Africans are widely oppressed -- including arrests, beatings and governmental attacks -- in numerous sub-Saharan countries, and our brave warrior class says nothing.
Gays in many other Muslim countries, including U.S. allies such as Egypt and the UAE, are treated brutally and oppressively. In Iraq, the country we Liberated, the government we support is involved in numerous violent attacks on gay Iraqis, and our ally, Shiite Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a fatwa "forbidding homosexuality and declaring that gays and lesbians should be 'punished, in fact, killed.'"
And in countries too numerous to count, including nations such as Jamaica right here in the U.S. sphere of interest, gay people are forced to remain invisible lest they be the subject of arrest and violent attack. Yet somehow, our bloodthirsty tough guys/new-gay-rights-crusaders could not be any less interested in the plight of gay people in these countries, where they have no interest (currently) in sending their fellow citizens to wage war for them.
And all of this is to say nothing of the measures their own political party supports right here in the freedom-loving U.S. While no rational person would compare the life of gay people in America to gays in Iran and many other nations, the fact is that the U.S. continues to have some of the most reprobate and oppressive anti-gay laws in the Western World, laws supported by the political faction pretending now to be so deeply concerned about the plight of gay Iranians.
In particular, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits any recognition of gay relationships for immigration purposes, thus forcing many American citizens either to live outside of their own country to be with their partner or live in separation from the person with whom they want to spend their lives. Not only European countries, but numerous developing countries, now recognize gay relationships for immigration purposes (.pdf) because they refuse to place their gay citizens in that wrenching predicament.
Even more reprehensibly, the U.S. remains one of the only Western countries to ban anyone with HIV from immigrating to this country. Efforts to repeal both laws have been repeatedly blocked by the political party to which our warrior/gay-rights-crusaders pledge their allegiance. And that same political party happily continued its alliance with the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson even after they both blamed the 9/11 attacks on gay rights. And as Juan Cole documents, as we all scoff at the primitive ignorance of Ahmadinejad, we tolerate quite similar sentiments among some of our most respected political figures.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Update I: More on Bollinger and consistency here
Update II: Iranian University Presidents take a turn
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Over at Tapped, Kate does some interesting work collecting the statements of presidential candidates on the Jena 6, and evaluating how they differ from Obama's. As she concludes, "words that Obama can't use include, but are not limited to: segregation, black, white, racism, criminal justice system, racial tension, and intolerance. He has to temper his statement as an inclusive, all-humanity call to action against injustice, rather than a call to action against a criminal justice system that is inherently racist and a white-dominated society where cases like Jena are still too-common."
I remember being in New Orleans for John Edwards' presidential announcement. He stood in a muddy backyard in New Orleans' 9th Ward, before a tableau of African-American children bussed in by the NAACP. One reporter wondered whether Obama could have announced his campaign in such an overtly racialized setting. "No," agreed the assemblage. That's the fun thing about running for President as a black man: You have to convince the electorate that you never really noticed you were a black man.
Abstract: The Skid Row Collaborative (SRC) is one of 11 projects funded in fall 2003 under the Chronic Homelessness Initiative (CHI) in fall 2003 to demonstrate the feasibility of moving chronically homeless disabled people directly into housing and helping them retain housing with health, mental health, substance abuse, and other supportive services. With much higher housing retention at the three-year milestone than a comparison group (59 vs. 14 percent), the SRC has proved to be a successful model of housing plus services for the Skid Row population—a model that could be adopted more widely in Skid Row and beyond.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Between 2006 and 2017, the share of the budget pie that the federal government will invest in children is projected to decline by 14 to 29 percent. Forecasts of federal government spending indicate that over the same period annual domestic spending will rise by approximately $650 billion in real dollar terms, but investments in children will garner nearly none of this increase. The United States budget is increasingly oriented toward consumption-based programs and less oriented to those investments aimed at enhancing economic growth.Read the report with THIS recent post in mind?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I’ll try to find time for a longer post and a more comprehensive analysis of the Report, but it’s a rather intellectually dishonest sort of exercise, one full of Straw Men, and it’s hard to know where to begin. A few first thoughts:
Standard 6.01 of the NASW Code of Ethics is not, as the NAS claims, a “partisan declaration.” Here’s the text:
Social workers should promote the general welfare of society, from local to global levels, and the development of people, their communities, and their environments. Social workers should advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs and should promote social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are compatible with the realization of social justice.To insist that social workers respect the dignity of all people, and seek to find ways on the micro- and the macro-level to improve their clients’ lives, including (gasp!) through political action, is not a partisan declaration. Nor is, I would hope, an injunction against discrimination on the basis of race, or disability, or sexual orientation. Unless you believe that principles of equality, justice, fairness, and respect for human dignity and difference are the province only of one political party. Or that a call to engage in politics is subversive of democracy itself.
They complain about courses and instructors that “grant a privileged status to a single, arguable view, which is thereby placed above critical examination.” Set aside the clever trick of inserting the word “arguable” here. What they describe is indoctrination and hectoring, not teaching. We could with too little effort, alas, come up with examples of bad teaching, and the academy does not do enough to avoid that (in no small part because of pressures to save costs and reduce faculty power by off-loading courses to under-qualified, under-mentored adjuncts with too little experience in the classroom). But who do you know who celebrates this approach? Who walks into the classroom with the goal to cajole or convert? The plural of "anecdote" is not, contrary to an old saw, "data." Is bad teaching a problem in social work schools? Yes, as it is wherever it occurs. Are such practices widespread? They offer no evidence that it is.
NAS hauls out Nozick and Rawls to argue that ideas of “justice” are contested. Well, of course they are. But when a student in a social work classroom talks about a client who was evicted from her subsidized apartment with her two small children because she never received, and therefore never returned, the paperwork required to keep her there, I can assure you that the room will have little debate about whether this as unjust. Part of what our job is is to teach students how they can effectively intervene – first by making sure their client has shelter, and, perhaps, then by working at the agency, city, state or even national level to get such arbitrary policies changed. Is this ideological? Social Work students are not doctoral candidates in political philosophy, and while Rawls may have his uses, they are being trained to deal with a grim reality, not lofty abstractions. They are men and women who have, usually quite consciously, decided to sacrifice prestige and high wages in favor of making life a little less grueling for Americans with the least political and economic power. Is a determination to reduce misery and suffering partisan? I hope not.
The NAS approach, like the worst habits of “professional” journalism, seems also to imply a naive standard of “objectivity” that means that: there are two (and seldom more than two?) views to any issue; they are equally powerful as explanations; and that the educator’s job is to present divergent viewpoints and then leave it to students to pick among them. That’s more bad teaching, in part because not all viewpoints, not all explanations, and not all readings of the available data are equal. As a teacher of social policy, my task is to present any issue to students with as much complexity as time permits, and then help them to systematically evaluate competing explanations. And what any reputable social scientists will tell you is that some explanations are better than others. (Some disreputable ones might tell you this, too, for all I know.) This false objectivity (see here) is how we get notions that there is serious debate among climate (and other) scientists about whether global warming is occurring, and whether (to some non-trivial degree), humans are contributing to it. In the policy classroom, there’s little room for the deniers' arguments, since there is so little there there. (There’s plenty of room in a politics classroom, of courses, since the legitimation of propaganda is a fascinating and critical issue.)
It seems to me, finally (I know, it was meant to be a short post), that there’s a sub-text to the NAS Report: isn't the real objection that schools of social work (at their best) teach students to identify injustice and seek ways to ameliorate it? That’s the truly radical strain of the profession (one it has not often enough lived up to, arguably), and the real threat to any status quo, for any party in power.
UPDATE: As to their claim that social work is, and historically has been, a “liberal” profession, see Polsky (Rise of the Therapeutic State), Specht and Courtney (Unfaithful Angels), Piven and Cloward (Regulating the Poor), Wagner (What’s Love Got to Do with It?), Poppendieck (Sweet Charity?), Funicello (Tyranny of Kindness), Pimpare (The New Victorians), and even Reisch and Andrews (The Road Not Taken)
UPDATE II: Serendipity -- hot off the presses from the AAUP
UPDATE III: The indispensble Michael Berube on the AAUP Report