'SANITIZING' WEB SITES
Government watchdogs say in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal agencies have aggressively scrubbed Web sites and eliminated public reports in an effort to keep previously public data out of the hands of terrorists.
However, they say the uncoordinated decisions to pull data are being made on an ad-hoc basis without much regard for the benefits of making some information public in the first place.
"It is a clumsy effort made on an ad-hoc basis," Reece Rushing, a policy analyst at the government watchdog OMB Watch said. "There has not been any guidance on what goes up and what stays down ... and no public dialogue."
Since Sept. 11, the Environmental Protection Agency has removed "Risk Management Plan" data from its Web site. The data, collected under the Clean Air Act, is designed to let citizens know what chemicals are used in nearby plants and how to respond to an emergency because of a release.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry eliminated a report from its Web site on the relative security of chemical facilities, and the Federal Aviation Administration has stripped tools from its Web site that allow users to download databases on accidents and pilot training and maintenance schools.
The states have followed suit. New Jersey stripped information from its Web site on chemicals stored at some 30,000 private sector facilities and Florida is withholding data on crop dusters.
The effort reflects continued actions by the government to prevent U.S. freedoms from being used as tools to attack the United States.
On Oct. 12, Attorney General John Ashcroft clamped down on the release of information through the Freedom of Information Act -- a leading and powerful tool to request information from the government. The order reversed a memo signed by former Attorney General Janet Reno in 1993, ordering federal agencies to release as much information under FOIA law as possible.
Doctors say the distribution of influenza vaccine is as bad this season as it was a year ago. They cited price gouging, lack of supplies and even contacts from black marketers as they discussed reports on the distribution system at the semiannual meeting of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates -- the policy-setting body of the organization -- in San Francisco.
Even among the normally government-phobic members, there were suggestions that a federal takeover of the vaccine distribution and pricing system was warranted. "The private sector has failed us," said Dr. George Green of Abington, Penn., a delegate representing the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Green commented as the AMA's public health committee debated a report delivered Sunday from the AMA Board of Trustees which had investigated vaccine shortages during the 2000-2001 influenza season. "We believe that the situation is better this year than last," said Dr. Ron Davis, a member of the board and a preventive health specialist from Detroit. "The uneven allocation of the vaccine was not as dramatic this year."
Davis said part of that conclusion was based on the fact that complaints to the AMA office have declined.
But other delegates were not buying that explanation. "Physicians have just given up calling about problems in getting vaccine supplies," said Dr. Donald Van Giesen, a urologist in Santa Rosa, Calif. He also said doctors who can get supplies of drugs have to deal with what appears to be price gouging as well as patient anxiety when they're told vaccination supplies aren't available.
"There is a black market in vaccine," said Dr. Morton Kurtz, a general practice physician from Flushing, NY, who said he'd received some phone calls from individuals who claimed they had vials of vaccine available. "These callers talk in guttural voices and want to meet at night in secluded places and always seek payment in cash," he said.
Physicians told the panel that costs for vaccine ranged from $2.30 a dose to as much as $20 a dose -- if any vaccine was available. While the vaccine is supposed to be delivered to patients at high risk, doctors complained that inappropriate vaccinations were being given to healthy athletes while frail patients in nursing homes couldn't get the vaccine.
Working-class men find their dignity and self-worth in leading moral, disciplined lives, which function as an alternative to economic measures of success.
That's according to Princeton University sociologist Michèle Lamont, who told a forum at the New America Foundation Monday that at a time when the upper-middle class is becoming more isolated socially and geographically from other groups, it has become increasingly difficult for the college-educated to understand how distinctive -- and ethnocentric -- their particular understandings of the world are.
Lamont sees the living standards of the self-defined "lower-middle class" as being in uninterrupted, long-term decline despite the prosperity of the 1990s. Her in-depth interviews of 150 randomly selected white and black men living in the suburbs of New York, as well as white French and North African immigrants living in the suburbs of Paris resulted in the book "The Dignity of the Working Man: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class and Immigration," published last year by the Russell Sage Foundation and Harvard University Press.
The French Canadian scholar asked her subjects to describe their friends and foes, role models, and the kinds of people they like and dislike. She found that these men derived their self-worth from their ability to discipline themselves, delay gratification and conduct responsible yet caring lives that ensure order for themselves and others.
"These moral standards function as an alternative to economic definitions of success and offer them a pathway to maintain dignity and make sense of the world in an ever more out-of-reach American dreamland," Lamont said.
American professionals and managers who assume that their values permeate U.S. society will certainly be surprised by how little admired they are by those in blue-collar and "lower white collar" occupations. "Workers judge them to lack in personal integrity and sincerity and to have poor interpersonal relationships," using others and casting aside erstwhile friends when expedient, Lamont said. She characterized the feeling as, "I'd like their money, but I don't want their values."
ENJOYING THE HOLIDAYS
From Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl, it's one festive gathering after another for most Americans.
But for many, there's one party that's probably the most important of them all -- the one where they're the host. According to a recent nationwide survey by the National Pork Board, 85 percent of Americans plan to host their own holiday gathering.
But with guests comes the pressure to perform. The survey also revealed that more than half (51 percent) of holiday hosts say orchestrating a festive get-together leaves them feeling moderately to highly stressed.
Katie Brown, author of "Katie Brown Entertains" and lifestyle consultant on ABC's "Good Morning America," recognizes that while parties are mostly joyous occasions, many hosts experience feelings of anxiety before their celebration.
She has three simple suggestions for those faced with "host anxiety." First, select a centerpiece entrée that's elegant, but easy. Then, round it out with side dishes that can be assembled ahead of time and heated before serving. Finally, encourage mixing and mingling -- for guests and the host -- with a buffet-style meal.