Language Matters For Print/Text Interviews Too | Media Training
2) New rich on the rise in U.S.
3) US household wealth reaches high of $77 trillion
4) Far-Right Lobby Group ALEC Brags That All Politicians in Two State
Legislatures Are Members
5) Middle class getting priced out of ski trips
6) New Report Sheds Light on Damage From BP Oil Spill
7) Zero-Tolerance Policies in Schools are Often Destructive, Fueling a
School to Prison Pipeline
8) Female Libido Drug Remains in Limbo
9) The Unbelievers Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting
10) India's Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Gay Sex Law
Language Matters For Print/Text Interviews Too | Media Training
|New rich on the rise in U.S.|
|December 10, 2013, 05:00 AM By Hope
Yen The Associated|
These new rich, made up largely of older professionals, working
married couples and more educated singles, are becoming politically
influential, and economists say their capacity to spend is key to the U.S.
economic recovery. But their rise is also a sign of the nations
continuing economic polarization.
They extend well beyond the wealthiest 1 percent, a traditional group
of super-rich millionaires and billionaires with long-held family assets.
The new rich have household income of $250,000 or more at some point
during their working lives, putting them if sometimes temporarily in
the top 2 percent of earners.
The new survey data on the affluent are being published in an upcoming
book, and an analysis by The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
provided additional information on the views of the group.
In a country where poverty is at a record high, todays new rich are
notable for their sense of economic fragility. They rely on income from
their work to maintain their social position and pay for things such as
private tutoring for their children. That makes them much more fiscally
conservative than other Americans, polling suggests, and less likely to
support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to
help the disadvantaged.
Last week, President Barack Obama asserted that growing inequality is
the defining challenge of our time, signaling that it will be a major
theme for Democrats in next years elections.
In this country, you dont get anywhere without working hard, said
James Lott, 28, a pharmacist in Renton, Wash., who adds to his six-figure
salary by day-trading stocks. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Lott says he
was able to get ahead by earning an advanced pharmacy degree. He makes
nearly $200,000 a year.
After growing up on food stamps, Lott now splurges occasionally on
nicer restaurants, Hugo Boss shoes and extended vacations to New Orleans,
Atlanta and parts of Latin America. He believes government should play a
role in helping the disadvantaged. But he says the poor should be
encouraged to support themselves, explaining that his single mother rose
out of hardship by starting a day-care business in their home.
The new research suggests that affluent Americans are more numerous
than government data depict, encompassing 21 percent of working-age adults
for at least a year by the time they turn 60. That proportion has more
than doubled since 1979.
Even outside periods of unusual wealth, members of this group generally
hover in the $100,000-plus income range, keeping them in the top 20
percent of earners.
At the same time, an increasing polarization of low-wage work and
high-skill jobs has left middle-income careers depleted.
For many in this group, the American dream is not dead. They have
reached affluence for parts of their lives and see it as very attainable,
even if the dream has become more elusive for everyone else, says Mark
Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who calculated
numbers on the affluent for a forthcoming book, Chasing the American
Dream, to be published by the Oxford University Press.
As the fastest-growing group based on take-home pay, the new rich tend
to enjoy better schools, employment and gated communities, making it
easier to pass on their privilege to their children.
Because their rising status comes at a time when upward mobility in the
U.S. ranks lowest among wealthy industrialized counties, the spending
attitudes of the new rich have implications for politics and policy. Its
now become even harder for people at the bottom to move up.
The group is more liberal than lower-income groups on issues such as
abortion and gay marriage, according to an analysis of General Social
Survey data by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But when it
comes to money, their views arent so open. Theyre wary of any government
role in closing the income gap.
In Gallup polling in October, 60 percent of people making $90,000 or
more said average Americans already had plenty of opportunity to get
ahead. Among those making less than $48,000, the share was 48 percent
Sometimes referred to by marketers as the mass affluent, the new rich
make up roughly 25 million U.S. households and account for nearly 40
percent of total U.S. consumer spending.
While paychecks shrank for most Americans after the 2007-2009
recession, theirs held steady or edged higher. In 2012, the top 20 percent
of U.S. households took home a record 51 percent of the nations income.
The median income of this group is more than $150,000.
Once concentrated in the old-money enclaves of the Northeast, the new
rich are now spread across the U.S., mostly in bigger cities and their
suburbs. They include Washington, D.C.; Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San
Francisco and Seattle. By race, whites are three times more likely to
reach affluence than nonwhites.
Paul F. Nunes, managing director at Accentures Institute for High
Performance and Research, calls this group the new power brokers of
consumption. Because they spend just 60 percent of their before-tax
income, often setting the rest aside for retirement or investing, he says
their capacity to spend more will be important to a U.S. economic
In Miami, developers are betting on a growing luxury market, building
higher-end malls featuring Cartier, Armani and Louis Vuitton and hoping to
expand on South Floridas Bal Harbour, a favored hideaway of the rich.
Its not that I dont have money. Its more like I dont have time,
said Deborah Sponder, 57, walking her dog Ava recently along Miamis
blossoming Design District. She was headed to one of her two art galleries
this one between the Emilio Pucci and Cartier stores and close to the
Louis Vuitton and Hermes storefronts.
But Sponder says she doesnt consider her income of $250,000 as upper
class, noting that she is paying college tuition for her three children.
Between rent, schooling and everything it comes in and goes out.
The new richs influence will only grow as middle-class families below
them struggle. The Federal Reserve said Monday that the nations wealth
rose 2.6 percent from July through September to $77.3 trillion, a record
high, boosted in part by a surging stock market. But the gains havent
been equally distributed; the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households own
about 80 percent of stocks.
Both Democrats and Republicans are awakening to the political realities
presented by this new demographic bubble.
Traditionally Republican, the group makes up more than 1 in 4 voters
and is now more politically divided, better educated and less white and
male than in the past, according to Election Day exit polls dating to the
Sixty-nine percent of upper-income voters backed Republican Ronald
Reagan and his supply-side economics of tax cuts in 1984. By 2008,
Democrat Barack Obama had split their vote evenly, 49-49.
In 2012, Obama lost the group, with 54 percent backing Republican Mitt
For the Democrats part, traditional economic populism is poorly
suited for affluent professionals, says Alan Abramowitz, an Emory
University professor who specializes in political polarization.
The new rich includes Robert Kane, 39, of Colorado Springs, Colo.
A former stockbroker who once owned three houses and voted steadfastly
Republican, Kane says he was humbled after the 2008 financial meltdown,
which he says exposed Wall Streets excesses. Now a senior vice president
for a private equity firm specializing in the marijuana business, Kane
says hes concerned about upward mobility for the poor and calls wealthy
politicians such as Romney out of touch.
But Kane, now a registered independent, draws the line when it comes to
higher taxes. A dollar is best in your hand rather than the
governments, he says.
Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey
Specialist Dennis Junius, and writers Suzette Laboy in Miami and Kristen
Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.
US household wealth reaches high of $77
WASHINGTON (AP) A surging stock market and a steady
recovery in home prices drove Americans wealth to a record last summer.
The nations wealth rose 2.6 percent from July through
September to $77.3 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. Household wealth
has been rising gradually since bottoming at $57.2 trillion in 2008. Early this
year, America finally regained all the wealth it had lost to the Great
Rising personal wealth has been a pillar of the slow
but steady U.S. economic recovery and could continue to boost the economy next
year. When Americans feel richer, they typically spend more and fuel economic
Household wealth, or net worth, reflects the value of
homes, stocks, bank accounts and other assets minus mortgages, credit cards and
From July through September, rising stock prices
boosted Americans net worth by $917 billion. Higher home values added $428
The Feds figures dont go beyond September. But stock
prices have continued to rise since last quarter ended, which means household
wealth has, too. Since Oct. 1, the Standard & Poors 500 stock index has
risen nearly 8 percent. Home prices in many areas have continued to rise, though
more slowly than they did earlier in the year.
The Feds report also showed that Americans are
willing to borrow more. This suggests that many are growing more confident in
their jobs and in the broader economy.
When adjusted for inflation, net worth remains about 1
percent below its pre-recession peak. But the gains in stock and home prices
during the current October-December quarter will likely lift inflation-adjusted
household wealth to a record.
Still, the gains havent been equally distributed. The
wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households own about 80 percent of stocks. And
home ownership has declined since the recession, particularly among lower-income
Mondays report also showed that total mortgage debt
rose 0.9 percent from the previous quarter. It was the first such increase since
early 2009. The rise reflects rising home sales and fewer mortgage defaults, an
Americans are also holding more consumer debt outside
of mortgages, in the form of student loans, auto loans and credit cards.
Consumer debt rose 6 percent from the previous quarter.
But with job creation steady and wages rising
gradually, Americans appear able to handle the additional borrowing.
Total after-tax income is rising faster than
borrowing. That trend has boosted Americans debts, as a percentage of income,
to 99 percent. Before the recession, that ratio had peaked at about 125 percent,
an unsustainable level in the view of many economists.
Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Insight,
says that improving household finances could make Americans more willing to
spend. But that could hinge on their willingness to borrow. If consumers remain
hesitant to take on more debt, their improved finances wont necessary lead to
big gains in spending.
Follow Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber
Lobby Group ALEC Brags That All Politicians in Two State Legislatures Are
Politicians of two Midwestern states are in cahoots
with one of America's most destructive organizations.
The far-right American Legislative Exchange
Council claims that every member of the state legislature in two states belongs
Recently leaked documents from the ALEC Board Meeting, Aug. 6, 2013, Chicago, Illinois, list the
number and percentage of each state's legislature that have signed onto ALEC.
Under "# of Legislators," and "# of ALEC Members," Iowa has 150 in each column, and South
Dakota has 105 in each column. The third column, for both states, shows
the "% of ALEC Membership in Legislature" as being "100%." At the opposite end,
the lowest percentage is 1%, in New York. The second-lowest is New Jersey, 2%.
The third and fourth lowest, tied, are just 4%, in both Maine and Vermont. The
fifth-lowest is New Hampshire, 6%. That table appears on page 39 of the report.
Page 20 presents the text of the oath of office that the leading ALEC member
in each state must swear to in order to win or retain his position: "I will act
with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first."
When asked about this, ALEC's senior director of public affairs told Britain's Guardian, "All legislators are beholden to
their constituents' interests first if they are not, they will be held
accountable at the ballot box."
In other words, if ALEC's lead legislator in any state violates his oath to
ALEC, he stands to lose the vast campaign contributions from the corporations
that fund ALEC. The purpose of those corporate campaign donations is to make
sure that state legislators are "held accountable" to ALEC. ALEC survives by
persuading conservative voters to vote for the stooges the corporations that
fund ALEC want to write the laws for them.
In some countries, this is called corruption, or even fascism, but in the
United States, it's called politics, or even (by the five Republicans on the
U.S. Supreme Court) freedom of speech.
A few members of ALEC are conservative Democrats, whom the large corporations
support only because most of the voters in those districts already know that the
Republican Party is controlled by large international corporations (which are
sometimes called, in the U.S., "Wall Street"). The best-financed Democrats in
those less right-wing districts are usually the most conservative Democrats
This is how American politics is controlled from the top. It's also why the
United States has the most unequal distribution of wealth of all of the world's
economically developed nations. When a few aristocrats
control the minds of many fools, that's what happens, and it's not democracy but
instead the Orwellian opposite, commonly called fascism.
Pages 15 and 17 of the report contain a "Memorandum" to ALEC from its law
firm, explaining how the so-called "Jeffersonian Project, Inc., has been
established as an organization exempt from tax," and by means of which
sub-organization their mega-corporate sponsors can get tax-deductions for their
lobbying expenses, via ALEC. The lawyer says, "The Jeffersonian Project is
indirectly controlled by ALEC through a provision in its bylaws requiring that
its board of directors be appointed (or removed) by ALEC."
These people aren't kidding around, and all other U.S. taxpayers have to take
up the tax-load the controlling elite slough off in this way. Conservatives say
that such "social services" (ALEC is, after all, an "educational organization")
should be shed by government and performed instead by the private sector, via
charities, which are really just ways for these people to get tax writeoffs for
things like lobbying the legislators and propagandizing the public. It's a smart
business plan, used by many astroturg groups whose top executives receive
considerable remuneration for their services to the aristocracy.
getting priced out of ski trips
Rob Lovitt, NBC News contributor Monday 09 December
Skiers and snowboarders searching for "the
steep and deep" this winter may find the concept has taken on a much less
appealing connotation: The price of the sport is getting so steep that some
believe it may be becoming the exclusive domain of those whose pockets are
"You have the haves and the have mores," said Douglas Quinby, principal
analyst at PhoCusWright, which conducts market research on the travel industry.
"When you factor in the airfare of the typical ski trip, the accommodations and
the length of stay, you're talking about a pretty significant penny."
Coupled with lift tickets that can top $100 per day and clothing and
equipment that can cost thousands, it's not surprising that both the industry
and its fans are concerned about the sports' long-term viability for those of
more modest means.
Read more at NBCNews.com
Virgin approved for LaGuardia slots
to smooth your journey
looks to 'Game of Thrones' to lure tourists
Skiing, of course, has never been considered an inexpensive activity, but the
sport has seen a significant upward shift in visitor demographics in recent
Last year, 54 percent of skier visits, defined as one skier/snowboarder
riding for one day, came from households earning more than $100,000, according
to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). That's up from 48 percent five
years ago, a 12.5 percent increase.
In contrast, visits from households earning less than $100,000 during the
same period slipped from 52 percent to 46 percent-an 11.5 percent decrease.
"They're chasing existing customers who have the money to spend rather than
going after new customers," said Roger Marolt, a lifelong skier and Aspen
resident. "They're creating all these expensive amenities to attract them, which
drives the price of skiing up even further."
(Read more: Unused
vacation: Too afraid to stay away? )
The average weekend lift-ticket price last season was $85.52, which was
actually a bargain compared to the $129 you'd have paid if you walked up to a
ticket window at Vail or Beaver Creek last Christmas. This year, Deer Valley,
Jackson Hole, Park City and Sun Valley have all joined Aspen and Vail in
charging $100 or more for a lift ticket during peak periods.
Such prices clearly play into the perception that skiing is the exclusive
domain of the well-heeled, but it's also true that few people pay such
stratospheric rates. More than half of so-called ski travelers (as opposed to
day-trippers) now buy their tickets at least a week in advance and just under
half buy them online, garnering potentially significant discounts by doing so,
according to Quinby's research.
Many get discounts as part of lodging packages that include multi-day lift
tickets; others by taking advantage of "dynamic-pricing systems" that peg prices
to seasonal demand and how far in advance they buy.
"Selling lift tickets at the window is like the airline industry selling all
its tickets at the counter," said Evan Reece, co-founder and CEO of Liftopia,
which sells online advance tickets, rentals and other products to 250 resorts
around the world.
For those willing to commit in advance, the site offers deals such as day
tickets at Smugglers' Notch, Vt., in December for as low as $38 (43 percent off)
and 5 of 7 day tickets at Sun Valley, Idaho, in January for $261 (45 percent
off). There's even a one-day lift ticket and bacon Bloody Mary deal at Arapahoe
Basin, Colo., for as low as $58 (24 percent off).
Other skiers and snowboarders save big bucks by buying season passes, some of
which pay for themselves in as few as five or six visits. Traditionally offered
by individual resorts and pegged toward locals, newer passes such as Vail
Resorts' Epic Pass (unlimited skiing at 12 resorts for $729) and the Mountain
Collective pass (12 days at six destinations for $379) extend the concept to
those who don't live at the base of the hill.
(Read more: Bitcoins
in a fountain: Travelers make a go )
"If you look at the season pass deals out there, by some definitions skiing
has never been more affordable for our core participants," said Michael Berry,
And therein lies the proverbial rub. That core audience is getting older and
they're not being replaced by enough new participants to grow the sport. Last
year, the median age on the slopes was 38, compared to 34 a decade ago, a
worrisome shift for the industry.
The overall result is little or no growth in participation and the potential
for future declines as baby boomers "age out" of the sport. Last year, skier
visits hit 56.9 million, an increase of 11 percent over 2011 - which was the
worst season in 20 years - but still below the sport's 10-year average of 57.4
The challenges are only expected to grow. As the major resorts spend millions
on new lifts and posh lodges, smaller areas - so-called "feeder and breeder"
resorts - can't afford to offer competitive amenities. In 1978, there were
approximately 700 ski areas in the U.S.; last year, there were only 477.
The future of the ski industry, Quinby said, looks increasingly like the
travel industry at large: a two-tiered market in which wealthier participants
are more optimistic, more able to travel and more willing to accept higher
costs. The rest, by contrast, are less optimistic and less likely to spend -
with one major caveat.
Regardless of their economic status,
skiers and snowboarders are nothing if not passionate about the sport, and most
will find a way to satisfy their passion.
They're people like Elizabeth Rodgers, a lifelong skier who lives in Boise,
Idaho. She can hit the local slopes at Bogus Basin, where season passes sold for
$229 earlier this year, or drive 2.5 hours to Sun Valley, where day tickets
during peak periods are $105.
For Rodgers, a mother of two who skis about 20 times a year, the economics
are simple: "Bogus is much smaller but it's accessible, it's affordable and you
can still ski a lot."
And Sun Valley? "It's just heaven-it's only
gotten more beautiful and more fancy-but only the one percent can afford to have
a real family vacation there."
New Report Sheds Light on Damage From BP Oil
09 December 2013
The report, presented by US Secretary of the Interior
Sally Jewell, was met with complaints from environmental
A new federal proposal on remedies to damage stemming from the
2010 BP oil spill shed light on the environmental impact of the spill, and
caused controversy among environmentalists when it was presented Friday.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell presented the plan of 44
restoration projects at a national park outside New Orleans.
The report also included briefs of several studies that provided
clues as to the extent of the damage caused by the spill. The studies showed
myriad environmental issues that could be traced back to the incident, including
trouble with growing oysters, concerns about the health of bottlenose dolphins,
sea turtles, waterfowl and coral reefs, according to analysis by the Times-Picayune.
Money for the projects is coming from a $1 billion fund for
early restoration work created in response to the damage caused to 1,110 miles of beaches and marsh along Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama and Florida by BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig disaster in
2010. BP will also have to pay potentially billions more once a lawsuit is settled in the
"The Gulf of Mexico watershed is a large and diverse landscape
that is critical to our nation's culture, economy and environment," Jewell said
in prepared remarks. "Today's announcement is an important step as we work to
not only restore the natural resources that were impacted by the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill, but to also build back the resiliency of the region."
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain
in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Some of the projects, though, are being criticized by
environmentalists as inappropriate uses of money that's meant to aid the
environment and restore public access lost during the oil spill.
Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration
Network, said the pot of money that includes these grants is supposed to restore
environments or lost access to the coast, but shouldn't be used for tourism.
Her group's biggest criticism is of the $85 million that Alabama
wants to spend at its Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. Much of that money would
go to build a new hotel that would be leased out to a private operator. Sarthou
said the hotel could damage habitat of an endangered beach mouse species.
"They are essentially building a tourist attraction," Sarthou
said of the plan.
Alabama officials have been considering various hotel plans
since before 2004's Hurricane Ivan destroyed a beachfront lodge at the park, in
hopes of luring convention business that now gravitates to Florida.
Sarthou is also critical of some of Mississippi's plans,
including a proposal to spend $10.4 million on the Infinity Science Center along
Interstate 10 near Pearlington. She says the plan to install Gulf-related
exhibits and a trail to the Pearl River isn't appropriate.
Of the new projects, 16 have been added in Florida since a
preliminary announcement last spring, giving Florida more than $105 million from
the fund. Based on a list provided by the Interior Department, most of the new
Florida projects appear to be piers, boat ramps, boardwalks and other
Louisiana, which had the widest expanse of oiled coast, is the
only state that does not have tourism or recreation projects in the latest batch
of projects. Its $340 million includes $318.4 million to restore four barrier
islands and $22 million for fish hatcheries.
Meetings will be held across the coast to get public comment on
the 44 proposals.
Jewell took an aerial tour of the Gulf on Thursday and visited
the Breton and Big Branch national wildlife refuges.
"When Hurricane Katrina came along, it wiped out about 70
percent of the whole refuge, and yet it's critical habitat" for birds such as
brown pelicans, terns and skimmers, Jewell said. "Close to 30 percent of all the
brown pelican habitat in the northern Gulf is in this very small island" called
North Breton Island, she said.
About $72 million of the BP money would go for restoration
there, she said.
Some real good comments at the URL.
Policies in Schools are Often Destructive, Fueling a School to Prison
States are realizing that when it comes to student
behavior, positive reinforcement may deliver better results than punitive
In 2011, a 13-year-old
in Albuquerque, New Mexico burped audibly in class (perhaps the
school lunch didnt agree with him). His instructor summoned the school resource
officer, one of a new generation of police
officers and specially trained go-betweens stationed in school environments
and the student found himself booked into a juvenile detention facility. He had
fallen victim to his schools zero-tolerance policy, a framework used across the
nation to crack down fast and hard on unwanted behaviors, but one that has
resulted in what critics are calling a school-to-prison
, as students are fast-tracked to juvenile courts for offenses like
writing their names on desks.
Its a pipeline that consumes some students more than others; students of
color and disabled students are being suspended, expelled, and sent into the
justice system at much
higher rates than their white, nondisabled counterparts. Growing criticism
policies has highlighted the way they ruin lives, burden the justice system
and create more work for everyone, with experts like the National Association of
School Psychologists (NASP) noting that
research [on such policies] indicates that, as implemented, zero tolerance
policies are ineffective in the long run and are related to a number of negative
consequences, including increased rates of school drop-out and discriminatory
application of school discipline practices.
Forcing students out of school and onto the street or into the justice
system, it turns out, may not be the best way of dealing with behavioral
infractions. In recognition of the mounting evidence against zero-tolerance
policies and the increasing outcry to radically rethink disciplinary policies,
school districts in several parts of the country are now dropping
or radically modifying their zero-tolerance policies, including in locales
like Broward County, Florida.
Florida is a particularly interesting locale for a test case, since the
Florida Code specifically carries a segment discouraging widespread use of such
tactics. In Section 1006.13(1), the legislature
It is the intent of the Legislature to promote a safe and supportive
learning environment in schools, to protect students and staff from conduct
that poses a serious threat to school safety, and to encourage schools to use
alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement agencies by
addressing disruptive behavior through restitution, civil citation, teen
court, neighborhood restorative justice, or similar programs. The Legislature
finds that zero-tolerance policies are not intended to be rigorously applied
to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, including, but not limited to,
minor fights or disturbances. The Legislature finds that zero-tolerance
policies must apply equally to all students regardless of their economic
status, race, or disability.
Florida schools, in other words, have been put on notice by the legislature
that it wants to see any application of such policies conducted in a fair and
reasonable way, and that it would prefer to see schools pursuing alternatives to
zero tolerance. Along with schools in New York, Chicago and other locations
across the country, Broward County is exploring what that looks like for
students, administrators and teachers.
NASP has identified three areas of focus when it comes to replacing zero
tolerance with a more holistic and effective disciplinary approach: violence
prevention, early intervention, and social skills training and behavioral
support. Intervention not just from instructors but also from social workers,
siblings, parents, and other potential authority figures is considered an
important element of these alternatives to zero tolerance, creating a supportive
but firm environment for students who may experience behavioral problems.
Students in schools that are rethinking the zero-tolerance approach to
discipline are attending counseling, completing community service, and going to
behavior intervention programs when they commit behavioral infractions, rather
than being sent to court. This keeps them in the educational environment instead
of pushing them out of school, and it minimizes contact with the juvenile
justice system. If offenses escalate, students face more severe consequences,
culminating in the risk of a referral to court if other means are not effective.
The focus on rehabilitation and integration into the school community may reduce
the risks that a student will drop out or move on to more violent and antisocial
behaviors outside of schoolas it stands now, such policies clearly
increase dropout and arrest rates, and, in cases like Chicago, are
contributing to school
deserts, where students have nowhere to go thanks to a combination of zero
tolerance policies and school closures.
Female Libido Drug Remains
The multi-decade search for a pill that boosts sexual
desire in women has hit another roadblock, raising questions about the future of
efforts to develop a female equivalent to Viagra.
Sprout Pharmaceuticals said Wednesday it has reached
an impasse with the Food and Drug Administration over its drug, flibanserin. The
daily pill is designed to increase libido in women by acting on brain chemicals
linked to mood and appetite.
The FDA questions whether the drug's benefits outweigh
its risks, considering its "modest" effectiveness and side effects including
fatigue, dizziness and nausea.
Sprout, based in Raleigh, N.C., said it is appealing
an October letter from the FDA that denied approval and asked for more
information. But chances for approval appear slim: Of the 17 appeals FDA
considered last year, 14 were denied, according to government figures.
The agency's latest rejection raises serious questions
for more than a half-dozen companies working to develop therapies for women who
report stress due to lack of libido. It's a market drugmakers have been trying
to tap since the blockbuster success of Viagra, an erectile-dysfunction drug
approved in the late 1990s to increase blood flow to the genitals.
But unlike sexual problems in men, most of women's
sexual issues are psychological, not physical. As a result, there are a number
of alternate causes doctors must consider before diagnosing female sexual desire
disorders, including relationship problems, hormone disorders, depression and
mood issues caused by other medications.
Experts say that developing drugs for female sexual
dysfunction is so difficult because of how poorly we understand the root
"Erectile dysfunction is a really easy thing to
measure," says Emory University researcher Kim Wallen. "Motivation is a hard
thing to measure and, quite honestly, we don't know enough about what creates
sexual motivation to manipulate it."
And Dr. Virginia Sadock, a psychiatrist, says the idea
that a single pill can restore female libido oversimplifies the problem. Even if
the FDA eventually approves a drug for female sexual dysfunction, she says it
will likely be used with non-drug techniques to reduce stress and improve
"A pill just doesn't take care of it," says Sadock,
who teaches human sexuality at New York University's School of Medicine. "You
may take a statin drug to control your cholesterol, great. But you should also
exercise and you should also watch your diet."
Drugmakers have made several unsuccessful attempts at
tweaking their approach to boosting female libido over the years. Initially,
Pfizer tested Viagra on women, hoping that the drug's ability to increase blood
flow to genitals would increase sex drive in women.
When that didn't work, drugmakers turned to hormones,
including the male hormone testosterone. In 2004, an FDA panel rejected Procter
& Gamble's testosterone patch, Intrinsa, due to questions about its
long-term safety despite evidence of effectiveness.
Sprout's flibanserin is the first drug to approach the
problem through brain chemistry. Sprout acquired flibanserin from Boehringer
Ingelheim in 2011, after the German drugmaker abandoned development of the pill
following an FDA rejection letter.
Researchers believe the drug works by boosting
dopamine a brain transmitter associated with appetite while lowering
serotonin another transmitter linked with feelings of satiation. Studies of
the drug show that it boosts sexual desire, reduces stress and increases
"sexually satisfying events," reported by women with hypoactive sexual desire
disorder, or a lack of sexual appetite that causes stress.
Amanda Blackie of Nashville, Tenn., said she decided
to enroll in a trial of the drug after noticing a lack of sexual interest in her
fiancé. After a few weeks on flibanserin, Blackie said she got sexual cravings
from simply talking to her partner on the phone something she'd never
Still, identifying the original source of her low
libido is tricky. Like many women, Blackie talks about the demands of working a
full-time job and caring for her teenage children.
"We're so consumed and so bogged down ... that most
women are too tired to mess with it," Blackie, 50, says.
Despite experiences of women like Blackie, the FDA has
twice rejected flibanserin since 2010. A key issue for the agency is that women
taking the drug reported only 1.7 more satisfying sexual experiences per month
than women taking placebo.
Sprout executives argue that number is statistically
significant and warrants approval for their product, considering there are no
other drugs approved for the condition.
"We've now got 24 drugs for men for either
testosterone replacement or erectile dysfunction," says Cindy Whitehead,
Sprout's chief operating officer. "Yet there are zero drugs for the most common
form of sexual dysfunction in women."
The FDA, which does not comment on drugs under appeal,
is expected to make a decision on Sprout's appeal in the first quarter of next
Intellectuals on a Mission
Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason
Two years ago, a pair of scientists set off on a
barnstorming tour to save the world from religion, promote science and reason,
and sell a few books.
Their adventure is now the subject of The
Unbelievers, a documentary out just in time for Christmas, opening for a week
in Manhattan on Friday.
If you think a road trip with a pair of intellectuals
wielding laptops is likely to lack drama, you havent been keeping up with the
culture wars. A
reviewer in The Los Angeles Times called it a high-minded love fest between
two deeply committed atheistic intellectuals and their rock-star-like fan base.
The Bing Crosby and Bob Hope of this road movie
alas, there is no Dorothy Lamour are Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary
biologist, recently retired from the post of professor of public understanding
of science at Oxford University, and Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona
State University. They are among the most outspoken of the new atheists:
scientists and other intellectuals who have tired of having sand kicked in their
faces by the priests and mullahs of the world. So the scientists are indeed
mobbed like rock stars at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside,
they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning
them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted
by counterprotesters chanting, Where are your women? In between, there are
airports and taxi rides and endless cups of coffee.
"The Unbelievers" official movie
They make an engaging, if contrasting, couple. Dr. Dawkins,
perhaps the worlds best-known atheist after the success of his books The
Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, cuts a dapper figure, often in a suit and
flowery tie, a shock of silver hair falling across his forehead. Science is
wonderful; science is beautiful, he says in that irresistible English accent.
Religion is not wonderful; it is not beautiful. It gets in the way.
Dr. Krauss, the author of A Universe From Nothing:
Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, is more rumpled, peppery and
casual; his wardrobe often features red sneakers. He comes across as a tireless
fount of ideas and quips, with a puppy-dog enthusiasm for science and the
spotlight, dancing on the stage in one affecting moment and eager to provoke. At
one point, Dr. Krauss asks his companion which he would prefer: a chance to
explain science or destroy religion?
He is blessed with a professionals sense of comedic
Ive told you that you are far more insignificant
than you ever thought, he tells an audience, after explaining that the universe
can spring from nothing, with no recourse to a God or a miracle. And thats
what I want you to celebrate, he continues, to laughter. Instead of being
depressed or looking to God to give your life meaning, You create your own
meaning and enjoy your moment in the sun, he says. Gus Holwerda, the movies
director and co-writer with his brother Luke and Dr. Krauss, said he got the
idea after attending a symposium in 2009 on the subject of origins, organized by
Dr. Krauss. The university auditorium was packed and sold out for 12 hours of
talks by scientists like Dr. Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.
I was like a fan boy, ranting and raving, Mr.
Holwerda recalled. Weve been in bands. It felt very rock n roll in a way.
He pestered Dr. Krauss to make what he called a rock-tour film about science.
As it happened, Dr. Krauss had just arranged a book
tour of Australia with Dr. Dawkins. Dr. Krauss found funding for the film, which
made him a producer.
So off they went for six months, Australia to England
and points in between. This is a road warrior movie. True to its intended genre,
there are many airports and hotels, lugging of laptops and scenes in quiet
backstage rooms that end with the passage into warm thunderous applause by the
audience. A few quips and were off again on another airplane, helped along by a
lively soundtrack, gazing out the window at another set of clouds and
You dont need to know much about biology or physics
to follow what amounts to highlight reels of the speeches the scientists gave,
although an explanation by Dr. Dawkins about why there was no first man or
first rabbit could be worth the price of your ticket.
Evolutionary change is simply too slow and
imperceptible for humans to notice, he says, adding, Nobody ever goes to bed
middle-aged and wakes up and says, oh no Im old.
Nor should you expect to hear much about the other
side of the culture wars, either from the religious establishment or from
scientists and thinkers who argue that the new atheists are too abrasive or
naïve about theology and philosophy.
Dr. Krausss last book received a rocky reception from
some philosophers, who said it left unanswered where the laws of physics
themselves came from.
George V. Coyne an astronomer, Jesuit priest and
former director of the Vatican Observatory, now a professor of religion at Le
Moyne College in Syracuse wrote in a 2000 book on religion and the evolution
of life, for example, that the success of modern science has trapped many of us
into thinking of God as explanation, thus the notion of finding the mind of
God as the ultimate goal.
But he wrote, We know from Scripture and from
tradition that God revealed himself as one who pours out himself in love and not
as one who explains things. God, he goes on, is primarily love: Even if we
discover the Mind of God, we will not have necessarily found God.
In the lectures presented here, however, Dr. Krauss
and Dr. Dawkins are preaching mostly to the converted or if you like, the
unconverted people hungry for plain, honest talk about the universe and the
plight of humans in it.
The movie ends at the Reason Rally in Washington, billed as the
largest convention of atheists in history. Dr. Dawkins looks out at the crowd
standing in a light rain and pronounces it the most incredible sight I can
remember ever seeing.
Dr. Dawkins, who we have seen earlier speculating on
which recent American presidents were secret atheists, declares that too many
people have been cowed out of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics.
We are far more numerous than anybody realizes, he said.