the notebook
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Anne Michaud: editor & senior writer
Anne Michaud

Bernie Sanders pushes cost-of-college debate to 2016 mainstream

April 21st, 2016

Bernie Sanders supportersWhen Hillary Clinton won big Tuesday in New York’s Democratic primary, she said it’s not enough to diagnose problems, one must have a way to solve them. Her swipe at Sen. Bernie “Free College” Sanders echoed what she told Newsday’s editorial board last week, when members asked whether she’s disappointed that young women aren’t more thrilled by the ceiling-shattering prospect of her candidacy for president.

Clinton responded that young people were “excited by something new and that is a little different and a little revolutionary and promises free college.”

Aha. The price of a college education is front and center in this campaign in a way it never has been before. Democrats like Clinton and Sanders are speaking to their party’s left-most wing, which wants answers. And once the GOP names its candidate, it’s a good bet that he will have to answer the question, too.

Whether Sanders’ “free” college is really free or practical, he has at least put this issue on the front burner. As a country, we have an obligation to take down barriers to people making better lives for themselves. American history, as Sanders often points out, shows that we have traditionally valued education as a public good – not something people should be priced out of. Let’s return to that inspired impulse. More »

Gay Talese had no female role models? How about these women journalists….

April 7th, 2016

Journalist. News confrence.

When I was in my 20s, a friend challenged me about the books I was reading. He said, they’re all by women authors. Do women (like me) only like to read works written by women?

I thought of this when I heard about the conference on narrative journalism at Boston University last weekend and the ruckus caused by keynote speaker Gay Talese, a pioneer in importing storytelling techniques from fiction to enliven magazine and newspaper writing. Asked whether there are female writers he admires, Talese told the room of about 600 men and women, no, there were none.

He has since said he misunderstood the question, and he thought the questioner was asking whether there were women journalists who had inspired him in his youth. Talese is 84, and it’s true that female journalists in the 1950s were more rare.

Still, his response, while perhaps candid, lacked grace. The greenest of public speaking consultants could have told him to pivot and answer the question as if it were phrased, is there anyone you admire today?

Talese might have mentioned journalist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, author of “When Harry Met Sally.” In a documentary about her life, “Everything Is Copy,” by her son Jacob Bernstein, Talese lavished praise on Ephron, specifically for the phase of her career as a magazine journalist.

Perhaps Talese isn’t as nimble onstage as when he has time to reflect. But I can still manage a pivot. Here is my own list of great women journalists who have influenced me. More »

Docs, dentists and other health care pros give too many pills, risking addiction and overdose

March 24th, 2016

overdose pillsWhen I read about the arrest of a person like Steven Parry, a Hauppauge osteopath who’s accused of prescribing 750 pills to a Long Island woman just 20 days after she had overdosed, I think the opioid crisis is well in hand. But in reality, such extreme cases are the easier ones to detect.

Day-to-day overprescribing for routine health issues like a pulled molar tooth, back pain or a broken bone — that’s what alarms anti-addiction advocates.

“We’ve done a good job of locking up the bad actors,” says Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family & Children’s Association treatment center in Mineola. “They’ve been driven out of business, or they understand the game has changed. The other 99.9 percent need more guidance . . . . They’re not doing criminal things, they just haven’t had the education.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that doctors prescribe no more than three days’ worth of pills such as Vicodin or Percocet for an acute problem like a root canal or a sprain during a lacrosse practice. But health care professionals often prescribe 12 or 30 or more. More »

GOP is playing the long game on abortion rights

March 11th, 2016

abortion rightsEven as the Democratic presidential candidates prepped in Miami Wednesday for their debate, state legislators to the north in Tallahassee were passing new restrictions on Florida clinics that perform abortions.

The legislature’s vote seemed to be lost on the three journalists asking questions, none of whom mentioned it. Thank goodness for Joshua Dansby, a law student from Washington, D.C., who submitted a question on Facebook for the candidates. He wanted to know what the Democratic presidential candidates would look for in a Supreme Court justice.

Hillary Clinton said she would look for people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law and that Citizens United needs to be overturned as quickly as possible. Then the panel cut to commercials without asking Sen. Bernie Sanders to respond. Sanders has said elsewhere that he, too, would nominate a justice who would overturn the disastrous lifting of limits on third-party campaign spending.

Small matter to the interviewers, I guess, having one Republican legislature after another ban abortion through these backdoor restrictions on clinics. Just like in Texas, the Florida law would require doctors at these clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and for the clinics to be fitted as mini-hospitals, even when they dispense pills, which are nonsurgical. More »

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