Sunday, September 28, 2008

Metairie legislator proposes sterilization for poor women


State Representative John LaBruzzo of Metairie said many of his constituents are tired of paying for children from poor families and that is why he is considering proposing legislation that would pay women on government assistance $1,000 if they choose to be sterilized.

“You have these people who are just fed up with working their buns off to try to provide for their own family and being forced by the government o provide for others’ families who just want to have unlimited kids,” he said.

LaBruzzo said he is studying voluntary sterilization for women whose sole financial support comes from the government in the form of welfare or other public assistance. His idea would be to give the women $1,000 if they had their tubes tied.

His proposal has come under harsh criticism by some civil rights groups.

The ACLU called it a misguided and mean-spirited attempt to eliminate poverty by eliminating the poor.

LaBruzzo said his office has been flooded by emails, many supporting his position.

“We have more in favor, saying, ‘good job, keep it going.’” he said. “Of course we have a lot saying you’re going in the wrong direction.”

LaBruzzo said that in addition to the sterilization of women, he would consider vasectomies for welfare dads and tax incentives for higher income families with children in private schools.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Call for more searches of pupils

BBC News

Teachers should be able to search pupils for alcohol and drugs, inside or outside of school, says a review on tackling bad behavior among pupils.

Sir Alan Steer has delivered the proposals in a government-commissioned review of ways to improve discipline.

Alcohol is identified as a growing problem and Sir Alan wants teachers in England to have the legal power to search pupils and confiscate drink.

At present, teachers only have the right to search for weapons.

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls has welcomed the report - and its conclusion that "behaviour is generally good and is improving in our schools".

Stolen property

The call for wider powers to search pupils is a response to the concerns of head teachers about the influence of alcohol and, to a lesser extent, illegal drugs.

This power "should apply when pupils are on the school site, or off site on school trips and activities," says Sir Alan.

But he rejects as "unviable" suggestions that schools should introduce drug testing on pupils.

Teachers should also have the power to search for suspected stolen property in pupils' pockets or bags, in situations such as disputes over stolen mobile phones or music players.

Last year, schools were given legal powers to search pupils they suspected of carrying weapons - and they were allowed to refuse entry to any pupil who refused to be searched.

Sir Alan is also expected to call for more ways to involve parents in improving school discipline.

This could include using text messages and e-mails to make immediate contact with parents where there are concerns about pupils' behaviour or if they are absent from school.

The review also calls for more parent advisers and parent councils and a local authority panel to hear parents' complaints about schools.

The review on behaviour in school comes against a background of growing concern over teenage knife crime - and Sir Alan highlights the responsibility of adults in creating the cultures of good and bad behaviour.

Sir Alan, head teacher of Seven Kings High School, Ilford, has warned that adults can too often set a bad example for young people, showing them behaviour that is greedy and aggressive.

Safe havens

This latest interim report from Sir Alan, published on Monday, will be the latest instalment of his work on improving behaviour, which was initially commissioned by the education secretary in 2005.

Sir Alan reported in March that good progress was being made in tackling bad behaviour - and he highlighted a range of important influences on behaviour.

These included the quality of teaching, clear and consistent rules, mutual respect and the support of parents. But he cautioned against assuming there were "simple solutions".

Sir Alan has also emphasised that schools are not the places of danger in young people's lives - and that often they can be the safest havens in disrupted lives.

This latest report emphasises that young people's behaviour is not deteriorating within school.

"I remain extremely optimistic about the current situation in schools," says Sir Alan.

"There will always be problems in bringing up the young but these should not be exaggerated. I believe that the vast majority of young people are as idealistic, committed and enthusiastic as they ever were and that standards of behaviour in schools are generally good."

I was a government guinea pig, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Gargantuan US child health study - all take?

Published Friday 5th September 2008 12:08 GMT

What will the US government owe the hundreds of thousands of Americans it will swab, prick, track and trace over the next 21 years, in the largest children's health study ever? So far, the answer from the National Children's Study is "not much".

The study, a joint effort led by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Health, also raises questions about a patient's right to privacy and to his own health records, according to a bioethicist who reviewed the NCS plan.

To understand the causes of asthma, obesity and other troubling childhood disease trends, the NCS will sample DNA and monitor the health and environmental exposures of 100,000 kids, throughout their youth, from the womb to the dorm room.

Such a huge sample will ensure that less common diseases, such as autism, are captured in the study.

To aid their hunt for lead and countless other toxins, NCS organizers in 2004 explored the use of RFID and GPS transponders, wireless motes and sensors implanted under the skin.

But the government balked at having to corral an overload of data from the devices, said Sarah Keim, NCS associate study director for operations and logistics. A 2004 report for the NCS, commissioned by the EPA, also envisions fashion-conscious teens rebelling against the sensor-laden clothes mom gave them.

The report concludes that implantable sensors, while promising, "are still too invasive and prompt numerous ethical concerns". There are similarly "no plans" to chip babies' diapers and men's underwear - another idea mentioned in the EPA report - according to Keim.

The NCS will still get its pound of flesh from volunteers, quite literally, through extensive biological sampling. At the top of the NCS doctors' wish list for samples: hair and nail clippings, baby teeth, saliva, urine, blood for genetic testing, breast milk, umbilical cord blood, placenta and meconium (a newborn's first poop).

All data collected for the NCS will be scrubbed of any personally identifiable information before researchers can see it, said Keim. The NCS is one of several colossal epidemiological studies coming online globally, made possible by ubiquitous sensors, faster computer processors and advances in genetic testing. Like the UK Biobank, which will examine the health of a half-million middle-aged Britons, the NCS is expected to generate a mountain of genetic test results.

And many study participants will want to see their results, the NCS has discovered in its surveys. The problem is that doctors will not know what most of the DNA test results mean. "Science has not advanced to the point where we know the clinical significance of many genetic markers," Keim said.

Test results can also be wrong, said Vanderbilt University bioethicist Ellen Wright Clayton, who reviewed the NCS research plan as part of a National Academy of Sciences panel. "Research labs do not have the same quality control measures as diagnostic labs," said Clayton.

Clayton declined to speak on behalf of the NAS panel, or specifically about the NCS. In a world already full of hypochondriacs self-diagnosing themselves via Google, doctors now fear raw research data and early findings might prompt patients to make bad choices. "Returning incidental findings (to patients) is one of the most vexed topics in research ethics," Clayton said. "We are in the middle of a huge debate."

In other words, scientists aren't sure whether or not they should return DNA test results to volunteer subjects, even those fearing they might have a genetic disposition to a particular form of cancer, for example.

The budget for the NCS - about $100 million per year - might not be enough to cover genetic counselling for individuals. Even as it searches for a full-time bioethicist, the NCS is moving forward. NCS workers in January 2009 will begin fanning out in a door-to-door search for test subjects. Recruiters in several US cities will be seeking a "vanguard" sample of pregnant women, and those not yet pregnant - asking them to commit themselves and their kids to 21 years of interviews, physical exams and lab tests. Getting poor Americans on board will not be easy, however.

Many Native Americans, for example, will not want to part with their hair, the NCS has found. Hair and the placenta are considered sacred by many tribes. Pregnant and parenting teens in one NCS focus group placed a high price on their umbilical cord blood and placentas, and their baby's blood. Volunteers can opt out of any part of the study that makes them feel uncomfortable, said Keim.

To ensure proper consent, women with cognitive impairments and some with mental illnesses will be excluded. NCS recruits, many living in dire poverty in housing projects and on Indian Reservations, might feel they are giving more than they are getting.

A promotional video for the NCS says participation is all about family and country. "People will look back on this and say, 'My kid was in the National Children's Study,' and that will be a point of pride for that family,'" said Dr Donald Dudley, an advisor to the NCS from the University of Texas, in the video.

NCS subjects, then, can expect little more than gestures of thanks for their prolonged assistance. "Volunteers," said Keim, can expect a "t-shirt, small toy, or gift certificate, and also modest monetary incentives for completing each visit." ®

How perfumes and scented creams could make your unborn baby infertile

Daily Mail

Pregnant women are being urged to stop using perfumes or scented creams after research suggested the products could cause unborn boys to suffer infertility or cancer in later life.

It found the reproductive systems of male foetuses were damaged at as early as eight weeks' gestation by chemicals found in cosmetics.

Professor Richard Sharpe, who led the research at the Medical Research Council's Human Sciences Unit, said that he had discovered a 'time window' of eight to 12 weeks' gestation, when certain hormones in the foetus are activated and the male reproductive system comes into being.

At that time, future problems of male fertility, including undescended testicles, low sperm count and the risk of testicular cancer could be determined if these hormones, such as testosterone, do not work properly, he added.

The experiments on rats confirmed that if the hormones were blocked, the animals suffered fertility problems.

Professor Sharpe said he had discovered the male programming window occurred far earlier in foetal development than was previously thought, before the reproductive organs fully develop, and when androgens in the foetus are most active.

'If the male foetus does not receive enough androgens it may not realise its full reproductive potential,' he added.

'Women could stop using body creams and perfumes.

'Although we do not have conclusive evidence they do harm, there are components about which there are question marks; for example, it could be certain combinations of chemicals.'

Professor Sharpe is due to unveil his findings this week at the Simpson Symposium in Edinburgh, a gathering of fertility experts organized by Edinburgh University.