Detroit Congresswoman Pushes for FDA Action Toward E-Cigarettes

Within the span of less than a decade, electronic cigarettes have evolved from a niche product to one of the most popular ways to satisfy one’s nicotine cravings. In fact, sales of these devices have skyrocketed from just 50,000 in 2008 to more than 3.5 million in 2012. It’s estimated that one in five U.S. adult smokers have tried e-cigarettes today.

However, one Detroit Congresswoman isn’t as keen on e-cigarettes as many local residents.

According to the Detroit Free Press, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is seeking stricter FDA regulations on e-cigarettes after one of the devices exploded in a Wyandotte man’s hand, severely injuring him.

In a letter to FDA acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff, Dingell, D-Dearborn, explained that the incident involving Jason Diekman — an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who suffered burns from the e-cigarette explosion — highlights the need for federal regulations on the devices. Dingell also noted that Diekman’s injury is just one of many similar incidents that have taken place across the country.

“Consumers deserve peace of mind in knowing the products they buy at the store are safe for use,” Dingell wrote. “Such assurances currently do not exist for electronic cigarettes due to the absence of federal regulation of these products.”

While the FDA has proposed rules regarding e-cigarettes, they haven’t yet passed, meaning e-cigarette regulations are largely determined by individual states. When passed, the FDA’s rules will regulate e-cigarettes much like tobacco cigarettes are regulated.

In her letter, Dingell pushed for FDA approval of certain brands of e-cigarettes already on the market. She also decried congressional opposition to the FDA’s proposed rules. Such regulations are necessary to protect American consumers from dangerous injuries, she said.

“It is my hope that this important regulation is finalized as soon as possible because every day we wait is another day that the American people are put at risk of using faulty products,” she wrote.

School Budget Woes Epitomized in Ceredo-Kenova Stadium Case

High school athletics is one of the best developmental tools for teenagers in any situation. Curricula can change regularly, but The leadership, discipline, and team-work abilities gained from organized team sports is one of the most prized exports of the educational system. Unfortunately, government-funded public schools are constantly trying to meet tight budgets and sports is one of the first areas to feel the wrath.

Ceredo-Kenova High School in West Virginia is one school currently in the predicament of deciding what to do with their antiquated facilities. According to the local news site, the community is currently in discussions on whether to refurbish or replace the old concrete stadium that was built and paid for by the people of the town in 1964. Ric Griffith, a community businessman and former mayor, is one of the proponents of restoring the structure to its former glory, and even adding murals of local historical sporting events.

“Can we return to what we once had? No. Can we preserve it? Yes,” Griffith said. “It would provide historic and artistic enhancement. It can be done.”

Unfortunately, he believes many of the school board members are in favor of a complete tear down, even though estimates suggest restoration would actually be cheaper.

“I spoke with David Ferguson with ZMM Architects who said it would be more expensive to demolish the stadium rather than restore it,” Griffith said. “He said restoring the stadium would cost 80% of the price of demolition. We have time to do the analysis and repairs before the new school opens.”

A proposal from the board suggests aluminum bleachers would be bought to replace the concrete ones. Seating capacity would be reduced as the plan calls for bleachers that would seat 800 versus the 2,000 seat capacity of the concrete ones. However, aluminum bleachers can come in many different sizes and adjustments could be made to accommodate more space.

The situation in Ceredo-Kenova isn’t unique except that the stadium they’re thinking of replacing has been around for such a long time. More and more schools across the country will be faced with these tough questions as budgets continue to shrink and athletics suffer the brunt.

What’s the Deal with the ‘Guaca Bowle’ on Jeb Bush’s Campaign Website?

Super PACs may be one of the most popular ways for Presidential candidates to raise large sums of money, but Republican candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seems to have another idea: selling really expensive swag online.

While most of the items on have something to do with the campaign, including t-shirts, buttons, and rally signs, the most baffling item of all is unbranded: the Guaca Bowle.

The “Bowle” is designed to look like a molcajete, which is a sort of mortar and pestle often used for making foods like guacamole. Seeing as Jeb and his wife Columba, who is from Mexico, are apparently guacamole enthusiasts, it almost makes sense that the second-oldest Bush sibling would want to sell one.

But not only does the Guaca Bowle have no branding to indicate it’s part of Jeb’s campaign — the black plastic bowl also sells for a whopping $75.

Most people have probably seen such bowls used for salsa or guac in their favorite Mexican restaurants.

Mexican cuisine enthusiasts can buy real (or close to it) molcajetes for less from brands like Williams-Sonoma and Lenox, both of which market high-priced cookware.

In fact, one restaurant supply website sells the imitation molcajetes for $35.99… for a case of 24. Oddly enough, they look exactly the same as the one in the Jeb! store and would only cost about $1.50 per bowl — an amazing savings of $73.50!

Campaign advertising is often competitive, and by the time election season gets into full swing, attack ads dominate every commercial break on TV. One survey stated that 37% of consumers report looking at outdoor ads and business signs most of the time or every time they see one, so Presidential candidates have to look for other means to attract voters.

But the unbranded and substantially overpriced Guaca Bowle is something of a head-scratcher. So far it’s been lampooned all over the internet and on Comedy Central’s @midnight, and has referred to it as the “mockajete” and an “abomination.”

Yet perhaps most disappointingly of all, Bush’s website gives this disclaimer: “Jeb’s secret guacamole recipe not included… yet.” It also takes about three weeks to ship.

This week hasn’t been a good week for Bush, who is the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush. He took part in the Republican Presidential debates on Aug. 6 and was asked about his gaffe earlier in the week, where he claimed that the U.S. may not “need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Lake Elsinore Campers May Be Subject to New Regulations

Lake Elsinore, California city officials hope a compromise will ease relations between residents and the lakefront property owners who use their land for camping after several complaints from the former.

The Press-Enterprise reports that the Lake Elsinore City Council reviewed a proposal regarding camping on such properties on July 27th in a public hearing. The city has received many complaints from local residents over several months about campers leaving trash, being loud, and using glaring lights (among other grievances) on the lakefront properties.

Lake Elsinore’s northeast shore is composed of more than 170 private properties, most of which are uninhabited and sparsely developed due to the lack of infrastructure such as sewer lines, electricity, and Internet access as well as the strict municipal codes that regulate the area.

Instead of developing the lands, many landowners use their parcels for camping. Camping on those lands technically require permission from both the city government and the Riverside County Department of Health, and is restricted to recreational vehicles.

However, city officials such as Community Development Director Grant Taylor complain that few landowners actually seek official approval and that the city has done little to enforce their camping laws.

For these reasons, a compromise proposal was drawn up to satisfy the local residents, government officials, and the landowners.

“I think we came to a pretty reasonable balance that protects everybody’s interests and is consistent with state law and constitutional rights,” Taylor said. “We don’t want people living there year-round and we want to protect against trespass.”

The proposal would remove the requirement of camping permits for tent camping on the condition that campers keep their noise and light levels to a minimum and do not litter. Campers will also be allowed to camp on any weekend. However, campers cannot be on the land for more than 20 consecutive days and must wait nine days between each 20-day visit (excluding weekends).

Landowners who want to rent their properties as campgrounds, however, will still be required to apply for a permit.

“Camping is a temporary use,” Taylor said. “It’s not meant to be housing and we’re trying to discourage that.”

Camping is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States. In 2012 alone, more than 38 million Americans went camping.

Mired in Delays and Corruption, Russia Confident It Will Be Able to Host the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Russian President Vladimir Putin assured soccer fans around the world that his country will be prepared to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

Yahoo! Sports reports that last Saturday, Putin shared the stage with departing FIFA President Sepp Blatter in St. Petersburg during a preliminary draw for the upcoming World Cup. Putin told audience members that Russia is making preparations for hosting the World Cup a top priority.

“I’d like to emphasize again that all the plans to prepare for the World Cup will be fulfilled,” Putin said. “Hosting it is one of our key tasks.”

Some critics are concerned that Russia will be unprepared to host the international tournament. Russia plans on constructing 12 stadiums in various cities for the World Cup, including one in St. Petersburg known as the Zenit Arena. The Zenit Arena is particularly troubling to observers, considering its construction has been repeatedly delayed since construction began nearly a decade ago. The project looked so bad at one point that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev publicly commented that it looked “disgraceful.”

However, the 68,000-seat, 38 billion ruble (or $650 million) stadium is 75% complete, according to project chief Vitaly Lazutkin. Lazutkin claims that the rest of the project involves installing seats and working on the stadium’s retractable roof and other sophisticated systems.

Regardless of the stadium’s progress, many soccer fans are also concerned about the state of FIFA itself. Blatter is set to leave office after his organization was charged with several counts of fraud, money laundering, and racketeering by the United States Department of Justice earlier this year. Fourteen FIFA officials were indicted. Many of the charges were related to FIFA’s decision to host the World Cup in Russia in 2018 as well as in Qatar in 2022.

Still, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke is nonplussed by the charges or by Russia’s progress. He deemed the situation “relaxing.”

“Russia is really way on track and I have no concern,” Valcke said. “The next FIFA Secretary General should be happy with the work that I give him because he will have a very organized World Cup.”

Like Blatter, Valcke is set to step down from his position soon.

Soccer is one of the world’s most beloved sports. FIFA estimates that more than 240 million people around the world play soccer regularly.

How Birth Control Could Soon Be Over-the-Counter in Oregon

On Wednesday, June 24, bipartisan legislation that would allow birth control pills and hormonal patches to be sold over the counter via on-demand pharmacy prescriptions cleared the Oregon Senate, with the bill just shy of heading to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk to be signed into law.

According to, House Bill 2879 passed the Senate with a 24-4 vote. As the Senate’s rules committee amended its age requirements, the bill will now head back to the House for a final vote before reaching the governor’s desk.

Under House Bill 2879, teens and women would be able to get birth control directly from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, proposed the bill in order to make it as easy for women to obtain preventive contraception as it is to obtain emergency contraception.

“I noticed the inconsistency of the fact that pharmacists can dispense emergency contraception, but they can’t dispense preventive contraception,” Buehler said in an interview. “It just seemed like something that was just not very rational.”

In the bill’s original draft, girls younger than 18 would have been required to have at least one prior prescription from a doctor before getting a birth control prescription from a pharmacist. The Senate revised the bill so this provision will expire after four years in order to collect more data that shows birth control is safe for women of all ages.

Nearly every American woman of reproductive age has used birth control, the Guttmacher Institute reports, with 99% of sexually active women aged 15 through 44 having used at least one method of birth control. Currently, 16% of women in this age group use the birth control pill and 0.4% use a hormonal patch to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In 2010, doctors and pharmacies ordered or provided an incredible 2.6 billion prescriptions total to patients across the country for their myriad health conditions.

The revised bill is expected to pass the House and earn Brown’s signature without incident. The law will effectively give Oregonians the best access to birth control in the country, reported the Bend Bulletin.

The States Where Drunk Drivers Get Away With It

Drunk driving is a major problem in the United States, causing almost a third of all auto-related fatalities and costing around $60 billion per year in economic losses. Around 1.4 million drunk driving arrests are made every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Now, WalletHub has ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to crack down on drunk driving.

Arizona was found to be the strictest state when it came to both criminal penalties and prevention efforts for drunk drivers, followed by Alaska, Connecticut, West Virginia and Kansas.

South Dakota came 51st, with Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Maryland being nearly as lenient.

WalletHub used a points system for ranking the states, assigning more points for stricter policies in 15 categories such as minimum jail sentences, minimum fines, felony charges, penalties for exceptionally high blood alcohol concentration, mandated ignition interlock device installation, and insurance increases. These added up to a potential 55 points.

Points were awarded based on policies only, not outcomes or drunk driving statistics.

Arizona earned 43.75 points, making it far and away the strictest state; Alaska, the runner-up, earned 33.75 points. South Dakota earned only 7.25 points.

Leniency, or Progressive Treatment?
Officials in South Dakota, however, have responded to the study saying it wrongly equates more progressive policies with leniency.

Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that the state has been very successful with alternative programs that try to keep people both sober and out of jail.

He further explained that the state has tried to place more emphasis on actually addressing the root cause of drunk driving and changing that behavior, citing the 24/7 sobriety program and SCRAM transdermal alcohol monitoring bracelets as examples.

“Multiple offense DWI [drivers guilty of driving while intoxicated] may end up in prison, but there are a significant number of programs in place to reduce the chances of the person reoffending as opposed to throwing them in jail and throwing away the keys,” he said.

Business Owners in Glendale, CO, Allege Abuse of Eminent Domain

The city council of Denver suburb Glendale, CO, unanimously voted to allow the use of eminent domain to facilitate a $175 million development, despite the 100-plus protesters who packed the chamber last month.

“If you pass this measure tonight, every business in Glendale — whether it’s Target or Shotgun Willie’s — will have to ask if they’re making the right decision investing in this city,” Denver resident Jeanne Price said in her testimony. “The answer would be no.”

Still, the council decided that the city’s urban renewal authority should be allowed to use eminent domain to acquire the property in question, a 42-acre site on the banks of Cherry Creek now slated to become a dining and entertainment complex. Eminent domain refers to the government’s right to take ownership of a property for public use. The government is required to compensate the owner, but the owner need not consent to the sale.

The city currently owns about 40% of the total site.

In an apparent attempt to soften the decision, however, the council did add provisions requiring that the city attempt to negotiate with current property owners of the other 60% of the land.

That would still displace small and medium-sized businesses such as Authentic Persian and Oriental Rugs, which owner Saeed Kholghy says has been run as a family business in that same spot for two and a half decades. Supporters of the council’s decision might say that the company can sell Persian rugs (defined by their thick pile of 160 knots per square inch, distinct knotting and unique designs) somewhere else. But many long-time customers bemoaned the possibility of the council forcing it to move.

Kholghy also asserted that he has been negotiating with the city for almost 10 years, but that the exchange has become adversarial in the past year. “If you want to do something, you have to work with us,” Kholghy told the council.

After the vote, some in attendance left demanding recalls of council members.

New VA Secretary Nominee Comes as a Surprise to Many

What is a onetime Army Ranger and a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company going to do in a Veterans Affairs Department? It has yet to be seen, but Robert McDonald faces a daunting task of righting the wrong in the scandal-riddled department.

Nominated by President Barack Obama, McDonald may lead the VA group, but veterans are skeptical about his qualifications. They state that he may have trouble adjusting to the nitty gritty political details and bureaucracy of the 300,000 employees that make up the department.

The VA Department is comprised of hundreds of hospital directors and other executives that are sitting quite comfortable at the top of the group’s food chain, far away from the agency’s Washington headquarters and therefore are not monitored as much as they should be.

To understand the fraud underlying the group, from 2003 to 2012, the VA healthcare funding increased by 106%, while the number of patients increased by only 30%. Where did all the funding money go? Other scandals include putting patients on secret waiting lists while others are pushed to the top. At the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for their appointments.

A year after McDonald was forced to step down from his CEO position at Procter & Gamble, he was tapped by Obama to deal with a health care agency dealing with the reveal of falsified records and the admition of month-long waits for appointments.

“Procter & Gamble is going to feel like a Ferrari compared to the VA,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Obama is clearly concerned with the way the U.S. veterans are being treated in the health care department, with the White House releasing a statement accusing the VA of lacking resources and being ill-prepared to deal with the influx of new and older veterans. With a budget of $154 billion (one of the largest in the federal government), Obama was hoping that more would be done for this group of citizens.

The only glaring issue: McDonald has no direct health care experience, so it will be difficult for him to relate to the vast majority of veterans suffering disabilities and not being offered adequate care. How he got the job remains unknown, but White House officials say the President was looking for someone who has had experience leading a large organization and familiar with military culture.

After the scathing report given to the VA by the White House, the chief medical inspector for the department has retired on accusations that his office avoided complaints outlining serious problems at VA medical facilities across the nation.

As a result, Obama was urged by both parties to fill the spot quickly and, as of now, McDonald appears headed for an easy Senate confirmation.

What Can the U.S. Do About the Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children?

A couple weeks ago, a public forum was held in the Brunswick High School’s auditorium to ascertain the public’s opinion on a proposed plan to have Saint Paul’s College used as a housing facility for unaccompanied alien children — kids who have illegally immigrated to the U.S. without their parents. When Essey Workie, the Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families, announced that the plan was put on hold, the crowd erupted in applause.

However, the issue is far from resolved and several questions still linger in the wake of the controversy. How long have unaccompanied children been entering the United States? What’s currently being done about the issue? Are there any long term solutions?

The surge of child migration began back in 2011, but has only just hit a crisis point this year. So far in fiscal year 2014, an approximate 70,500 kids are expected to be apprehended at the border, including 52,000 children from Central America. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children are up by a staggering 92% from this time in 2013.

When Mexican children are caught at the border, an agent will quickly interview them. If the child can persuade the Border Patrol agent that he or she is scared of being trafficked or prosecuted, the child is then put into custody. If he or she doesn’t pass, the child is immediately returned to Mexico. Central American children, though, are immediately put into custody and given full court proceedings. Since more Central American have been coming to the U.S. this year, the government has been forced to find much more housing.

At the end of last month, President Barack Obama asked Congress to modify the law that deals with migrant children. The proposal asks to treat kids coming from Central America the same children from Mexico are — to screen them to determine whether or not they could stay in the country.

Though the proposal is expected to help staunch the flow of migrant children, it would also send the kids back to their home countries that are persecuting them.

“We’re extremely concerned that the administration is continuing to refuse to see this as a refugee issue and that they are really taking drastic steps to roll back a long tradition of child welfare-friendly policies in this country,” said  the Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program of the Women’s Refugee Commission, Michelle Brane.

If sent back, children face a myriad of dangers, including: violence (Honduras had the highest murder rate in the entire world in 2011), gang violence (El Salvador has one of the lowest school attendance rates in the world because gangs target the children there), and human and drug trafficking (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that organized criminal groups coerce children into prostitution and to work as drug mules, often using gang rape as a means of forcing compliance and because these children escape the threat of death in their home countries alone, they have no choice but to comply).

The proposals would also put more strain on Border Patrol. In truth, no branch of the federal government is really equipped to hand the influx of migrant children, but the brunt of the overload falls on the Border Patrol since they’re the first ones to come in contact with them. By having to screen 52,000 more children, Border Patrol agents would naturally have more work to do, making them incapable of being able to catch the criminals sneaking into the country, which is their intended role.

“I don’t think the flow will stop until a message of deterrence is sent back to Central America,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul. “I know the president came out with a strong statement today. I applaud that. But I think, you know, we have to be humanitarian at the same time, let them know that if they do come, they cannot stay here; otherwise, we’ll never stop the flow.”

Though the surge of unaccompanied alien children is a much more pressing issue than previously thought, what else can be done about the crisis besides providing them with a place to stay until a solution is figured out?