The Debate Over Alternative Medicine

The Laidlers’ story is a microcosm of the changing debate over so-called alternative medicine and its cousin, integrative medicine. In 2007, Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic medicine, a treatment based on the belief that minuscule amounts of what causes symptoms in a healthy person will alleviate symptoms in someone who is ill. From nutritional supplements to energy healing to acupuncture, treatments outside the medical mainstream are big business. But the vast majority of scientists find much of alternative medicine highly problematic.

The supposed mechanisms of energy healing, homeopathy, and acupuncture are unscientific and violate basic laws of physics and chemistry. Other alternative treatments, including many nutritional supplements, are unproven, unregulated, and occasionally dangerous. This month, the fight came to a very public head when a group of doctors sent an open letter to Columbia University, demanding the school remove Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has used his syndicated TV show to promote integrative medicine, including nutritional regimens, homeopathy, and reiki—a form of energy healing that claims to use “universal life force energy” to “detoxify the body” and “increase the vibrational frequency on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.” But at the same time, integrative medicine has pushed such techniques into the mainstream.

Alan Levinovitz, writing in Wired about the fight over alternative medicine, and Jim Laidler, a man who first turned to alternative medicine after both of his sons were diagnosed with autism.

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‘A Century of Public Policy Designed to Segregate and Impoverish its Black Population’

As I described in the Making of Ferguson, the federal government maintained a policy of segregation in public housing nationwide for decades. This was as true in northeastern cities like New York as it was in border cities like Baltimore and St. Louis. In 1994, civil rights groups sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), alleging that HUD had segregated its public housing in Baltimore and then, after it had concentrated the poorest African American families in projects in the poorest neighborhoods, HUD and the city of Baltimore demolished the projects, and purposely relocated the former residents into other segregated black neighborhoods. An eventual settlement required the government to provide vouchers to former public housing residents for apartments in integrated neighborhoods, and supported this provision with counseling and social services to ensure that families’ moves to integrated neighborhoods would have a high likelihood of success. Although the program is generally considered a model, it affects only a small number of families, and has not substantially dismantled Baltimore’s black ghetto.

In 1970, declaring that the federal government had established a “white noose” around ghettos in Baltimore and other cities, HUD Secretary George Romney proposed denying federal funds for sewers, water projects, parkland, or redevelopment to all-white suburbs that resisted integration by maintaining exclusionary zoning ordinances (that prohibited multi-unit construction) or by refusing to accept subsidized moderate-income or public low-income housing. In the case of Baltimore County, he withheld a sewer grant that had previously been committed, because of the county’s policies of residential segregation. It was a very controversial move, but Romney got support from Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had been frustrated by unreasonable suburban resistance to integration and mixed income developments when he had been the Baltimore County Executive and governor of Maryland. In a 1970 speech to the National Alliance of Businessmen, Agnew attacked attempts to solve the country’s racial problems by pouring money into the inner city as had been done in the Johnson administration. Agnew said that he flatly rejected the assumption that “because the primary problems of race and poverty are found in the ghettos of urban America, the solutions to these problems must also be found there… Resources needed to solve the urban poverty problem—land, money, and jobs—exist in substantial supply in suburban areas, but are not being sufficiently utilized in solving inner-city problems.”

-From Richard Rothstein’s essay at the Economic Policy Institute, examining “a century of public policy designed, consciously so, to segregate and impoverish its black population. A legacy of these policies is the rioting we have seen in Baltimore.”

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How To Get Appointed to the Senate

In late 2008, Democratic Colorado Governor Bill Ritter received a political stick of dynamite when President-elect Obama announced his intention to appoint U.S. Senator Ken Salazar as his Secretary of the Interior. Ritter would have to replace Salazar, a respected Latino legislator and a popular figure throughout the state. Ritter was inundated with resumés from prominent Democrats, including Andrew Romanoff, outgoing speaker of the Colorado House; then Denver mayor John Hickenlooper; U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter; and others. Ritter ultimately interviewed about 15 candidates for the post.

[Michael] Bennet was considered a long shot. Then the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he was best-known for his attempts to reform the district. He had never run for office, and his political name recognition was nil. The field to replace Salazar was so rich and contentious that when Bennet met with the governor, he immediately mentioned his anonymity. “He started by saying, ‘I’m the one person that if you don’t appoint me, nobody will be mad at you,’ ” Ritter says.

Patrick Doyle writing in 5280 about Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to the Senate in 2009, won his seat in 2010, and is now rumored to be in consideration as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton.

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Stereotyping in 170 Milliseconds

During a Skype conversation, Quadflieg explained that MRI-based brain studies show stereotypes are activated in about 170 milliseconds. No matter how open-minded we fancy ourselves, these biases kick in without our realizing it, she says.

In a 2011 study in the journal Neuro­image, Quadflieg reported that the areas of the brain associated with body recognition had to work much harder when the test subject was shown a person who didn’t fit his or her expectations — for instance, a woman in a pilot’s uniform.

Quadflieg says a process known as “implicit stereotyping” allows these split-second biases to kick in despite political or personal beliefs. When a woman defies these biased expectations, “You’re very good at coming up with reasons for why that might be: ‘Oh, her dad was a professor, too.’” But with a man, “They just think, ‘OK, yeah, there’s a man who’s good in math. Big deal.’”

Jessica P. Ogilvie writing for LA Weekly about the difficulties faced by women in Hollywood.

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Stevie Nicks, Feminist

Stevie Nicks: The legend from Fleetwood Mac is a rock star, because she’s always been ruthlessly honest and fearless. The first time she picked up a guitar and wrote a song, it was about heartbreak, and when she wrote for Fleetwood Mac, many of those songs were about her doomed relationship with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. But through all the struggle, Nicks was sexy and sophisticated, and strove for equality by embodying the equal. 

“We fought very hard for feminism, for women’s rights,” Nicks told a crowd at South by Southwest in 2013, according to Rolling Stone. “What I’m seeing today is a very opposite thing. I don’t know why, but I see women being put back in their place. And I hate it. We’re losing all we worked so hard for, and it really bums me out.”

Nicks completely owned her femininity and her vulnerability, all while proving that she could hold her own as a creative contributor to a high-powered popular band. She completely disproved the “man behind the music” myth.

Kate Beaudoin writing for Mic about the fate of the female rock star. For Beaudoin, feminism and female rock stardom are deeply intertwined; she expands on that thesis with a look at four of rock’s greatest feminists.

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See Also: “Stevie Nicks, The Fairy Godmother of Rock” (Jada Yuan, New York Magazine, June 2013)


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The Roots of the Insanity Defense

For centuries, courts have struggled to protect the mentally ill while also trying to distinguish between sanity and insanity. In the 1700s, the British courts relied on the “wild beast” test as their barometer for the latter: if the defendant’s understanding of his crime was no better than that of a infant or beast, he couldn’t be found guilty. From there, the insanity defense began its tortuous evolution.

In 1843, a Scottish woodcutter named Daniel M’Naghten attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister Robert Peel, shooting and killing his secretary instead. M’Naghten believed that Peel and the British government had singled him out for persecution and were responsible for all his personal and financial woes. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and acquitted, leading to public outrage over the verdict.

In response, the House of Lords and a panel of the Queen’s judges put together the M’Naghten Rules, a specific, multifaceted bar the defense was required to clear in order to prove not just plain old madness, but exculpatory insanity. They established a presumption of sanity, shifting the burden of proof solely to the defense.

Mike Mariani, writing for Hazlitt about how the law defines madness.

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Nonviolence: The Right Answer to the Wrong Question

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on the absurdity of calling for nonviolence in a city whose citizens — conditioned by decades of lethal police mistreatment and abuse of authority — expect violence and disrespect from the very police force that is supposed to serve and protect them.

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