Everett, Washington, a city of 100,000 people north of Seattle, sued Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, claiming the company knew of the extensive damage its product was causing to the region yet did nothing to prevent it. The suit claims that Purdue reaped “large and obscene profits.”
“There is clear evidence that Purdue ignored their responsibility to stop the diversion of OxyContin into the black market, directly leading to the heroin crisis on our streets today,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. “Their drive for profit caused this epidemic, which has overwhelmed our treatment and emergency systems. We are taking a stand, and holding Purdue accountable for their actions.”
Authorities in Snohomish County, where Everett is located, attribute more than half of the crimes in 2010, when the epidemic was at its most intense, to OxyContin and the heroin epidemic it helped to spawn.
In its complaint in state Superior Court, Everett city lawyers accused Purdue of gross negligence, creating a public nuisance and other misconduct. The suit states that the company should pay the costs of dealing with the opioid crisis—a figure that Mayor Stephanson said could run into the tens of millions of dollars—in addition to punitive damages.
“We know this is a bold action we are taking, but it is the right thing to do,” the mayor told the press.
Across the BoardsReligion Warming Trend
According to a Pew Research Center survey released in February 2017, Americans’ feelings toward religious groups have grown more positive in the last three years. Participants in the survey were asked to rate a variety of religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” scaled from 0 to 100. The results showed warmer ratings for nearly all groups when compared to the same Pew Research Center survey done in June 2014.
One of the largest increases in ratings is toward Muslims: The 2014 survey yielded a cool rating of 40; today, that rating has increased to what the Pew center describes as a “more neutral” 48.
The increased ratings are across the demographic boards, including political views, religion, age and gender.
Ratings of religious groups vary more widely among older Americans (age 65 and over)—from a rating of 75 toward Protestants and 74 toward Jews to a rating of 44 toward both Muslims and atheists.
The survey follows from a 2016 Pew Research Center study on religions and public life, which found “highly religious adults more engaged with family, more likely to volunteer and happier overall.”
Bucking the TrendMaking Progress Against Opioids
Nearly 75 percent of patients head to emergency rooms because they are in pain, yet some ERs are not reaching for prescription opioids as a first option, bucking the trend that has plagued the country for the last two decades.
At St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, doctors are treating patients who enter the ER complaining of lower-back pain with lidocaine patches and trigger-point injections. Wandering harpists playing soothing music are also used to help ease patients’ pain.
Other hospitals are following St. Joe’s lead, according to The New York Times, and some patients are choosing to visit St. Joe’s because they know opioids aren’t automatically the first option there. “We are different now, as a result of these tools,” Dr. Mark Rosenberg, Chairman of Emergency Medicine, told the Times.
Global DealsFomenting Peace?
According to a Congressional Research Service report issued in December 2016, the United States signed worldwide arms-transfer agreements in the previous year totaling $40.2 billion—a figure representing 50.3 percent of the total of all the arms-transfer agreements signed globally. France ranked second with $15.3 billion.
Follow the MoneyWhat Conflict of Interest?
In a classic case of follow-the-money, a report funded by the International Life Sciences Institute—which is funded by such multinationals as Coca-Cola, General Mills and Kellogg’s—attacked the nearly universal medical advice that says people should eat less sugar.
Despite soaring rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes worldwide, the report appears to take aim at the World Health Organization’s sugar guidelines, which recommend that people consume less sugar, particularly the added sugar in sweetened cereals, soft drinks and candy. The report, which appeared in “The Annals of Internal Medicine,” seems to employ the same “merchants of doubt” strategy that the food industry and others have used in the past.
Mass ExodusRefuge in Uganda
The number of South Sudanese fleeing from civil war has doubled in the last year, according to humanitarian and human rights organizations. In March 2016, 832,000 South Sudanese had been displaced. By March 2017, that number had risen to 1.7 million. In the first months of the year, an average of 2,270 South Sudanese arrived in Uganda each day. Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee camp now has surpassed Kenya’s Dadaab as the largest refugee camp in the world.
Minus SignsLower Wages for College Graduates
According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., the bottom half of American wage earners with college degrees have lower wages today than they did in 2007 and in 2000. “What we’ve seen is a pulling away of the very top, and that’s been growing wage inequality, income inequality, wealth inequality,” said Elise Gould, an EPI senior economist and author of the report. “By any measure of economics, we’ve seen this growing inequality happen. And what that means is that the vast majority of workers have really not seen gains in wages over the last several years, and that affects college grads too.”
Brutal CrackdownMyanmar Army Violates Human Rights
The Myanmar army was implicated via satellite images and interviews with refugees in the torching of more than 1,500 homes and other buildings belonging to the minority Rohingya Muslims, according to human rights observers. An estimated 66,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since October 2016 amid growing reports of an army crackdown and allegations of rape as well as the murder of hundreds, including children. The United Nations’ human rights envoy for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, warned that evidence indicates the actions of Myanmar security forces are approaching what could be called crimes against humanity.
Off BalanceDistancing the American Dream
The Equality of Opportunity Project released a report showing that “Children’s prospects of achieving the ‘American Dream’ of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90 percent to 50 percent over the past half century. This decline has occurred throughout the parental income distribution, for children from both low and high income families.”
The report concludes that most of the decline is due to an unequal distribution of economic growth, not to a slowdown in gross domestic product.