New focus on voting rights


Staff & Wire Reports

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to Christine Blasey Ford testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court in Washington. Democrats are trying to turn their most painful losses this year into a rallying cry they hope will electrify the 2020 presidential campaign: Every vote matters. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to Christine Blasey Ford testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court in Washington. Democrats are trying to turn their most painful losses this year into a rallying cry they hope will electrify the 2020 presidential campaign: Every vote matters. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Democrats focus on voting rights ahead of 2020 primary


Associated Press

Wednesday, December 12

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are trying to turn their most painful losses this year into a rallying cry they hope will electrify the 2020 presidential campaign: Every vote matters.

Multiple potential contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination are elevating the issue of voting rights as they prepare to launch campaigns. They’re vowing to oppose Republican-backed efforts to require identification to vote, reinstate protections eliminated by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling and frequently highlight the necessity of counting every vote.

The aim is to tap into the anger and frustration among Democrats who argue that Republicans win some elections by making it harder for their constituents, particularly minorities, to vote.

That sentiment has long existed among Democrats but intensified after the party lost closely watched races for governor in Georgia and Florida last month. Both contests featured heated racial rhetoric and charges of voter suppression. The party’s suspicion of Republicans has also grown as a congressional race in North Carolina remains mired in allegations of absentee ballot fraud and GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan seek to weaken the power of incoming Democratic governors.

Democrats ultimately hope to turn the issue of voting rights into an argument that’s just as persuasive to voters in 2020 as health care proved to be in 2018. And there’s already competition among potential presidential contenders to build a reputation as the most aggressive in advocating for the right to vote.

“This is not a new issue, and it is quite frankly the dark history of our country, which is specific populations being restricted from meaningful access to the right to vote,” Sen. Kamala Harris of California told The Associated Press.

“There’s no question that 2018 highlighted an issue that has maybe seemed to be dormant for some time, but it’s very much alive and it should be the subject of dinner table conversations everywhere and it should be of real concern to everyone because, look, when people lose confidence in our democracy, when Americans lose confidence in our democracy, it will impair our strength. It will cause us to be weaker,” she said.

Aides to Harris said that voting rights would be among her top priorities, and that she would likely frame it less as a civil rights issue and as more of a broader Democratic rallying point. She has argued that the entire Democratic agenda is weakened when Republicans restrict ballot access for unions, minorities and other groups.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is weighing his own presidential bid, has framed the issue of voting rights in the context of a traditional civil rights issue. During an October trip to Des Moines, Iowa, Booker sparked cheering standing ovations as he quoted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech from the 1965 voting rights march on Montgomery, Alabama.

“How long will it take? I’m going to tell you, not long now,” Booker proclaimed, turning the moment into a call-and-response. “Because it’s not long until November.”

Harris, Booker and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are among the potential presidential candidates who will hold onto seats on the Senate Judiciary Committee heading into 2020, giving them an important post from which to address voting rights.

That’s leaving some activists pleased that the issue appears to be moving into the mainstream of Democratic politics.

“This is the first time where I feel like there has been a broad conversation because the examples were so egregious,” said Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, which works to mobilize black voters. “It was literally in every community that I went to, in every church that I stopped by, in every neighborhood when I was knocking on doors — that was almost one of the first things that people were talking about because everyone felt like their community was under assault.”

Still, some caution that the focus on voting rights isn’t a successful strategy to win a crucial election and could instead backfire on Democrats who are trying to appeal to broader swaths of voters. Peter Guzman, a Republican who is the president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce in Nevada, said that while he feels every candidate — Democrat and Republican — should talk about voting rights, he didn’t see it as a singularly important issue to center a campaign on.

“I think the conversation should be encouraging everybody to vote, and if anybody feels like that’s being suppressed, they certainly should call the authorities and make it known that they’re not able to vote,” Guzman said in an interview.

He added that he could see potential backlash for a candidate who campaigns on it. “I’m not quite sure everybody in the country believes the problem is that significant,” he said.

“Here in Nevada, I believe that we have some of the best, safest voting in the United States,” he added. “I think we’re a model for the rest of the nation. I do not believe that there’s voter suppression. Whenever I hear voter fraud, I believe those are buzzwords for other things.”

That’s not stopping Democrats for now. At a post-election gathering on Capitol Hill of the National Action Network, the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, multiple senators who appear to be moving toward jumping into the 2020 presidential race eagerly discussed the issue.

“When it comes to elections, there should be no hesitation: Every vote matters, period,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “If you can’t get more Americans to vote for you than the other guy or gal, then you lose. It’s that simple. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade to come vote for them, not how many American citizens they can disqualify, discourage or demoralize.”

Klobuchar, who could stake out a more moderate position among Democrats should she choose to seek the White House, told the gathering, “I think No. 1 on the agenda has got to be our economy.”

“And then,” she continued, “you can’t have a fair economy for everyone if you don’t have fair voting rights.”

Klobuchar noted she has sponsored a bill calling for automatic voter registration and supports reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.

Last week in Charleston, South Carolina, dozens of people attended a town hall led by Tom Steyer, the billionaire investor and Democratic activist, focused on the right to an equal vote.

“I do think we’ve seen more transparency into cheating, and more awareness that cheating actually flips elections,” Steyer, who is considering running for president, told the AP. “We saw it in Georgia this year, we’re seeing it in North Carolina real-time, but we also saw it in Wisconsin in 2016 — it’s not just south of the Mason-Dixon line.”

Even as he pushed his own message that every person deserves the right to an equal vote, Steyer said he wasn’t sure that this issue would become a defining issue of the cycle.

“Voting is a justice issue, but it doesn’t come up that much,” he said.


Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Beware of natural supplements for sex gain and weight loss

December 7, 2018


C. Michael White

Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut

Disclosure statement

C. Michael White does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Connecticut provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Many consumers consider dietary supplements to be natural and, therefore, safe. In fact, the Council for Responsible Nutrition reported in 2017 that 87 percent of U.S. consumers have confidence that dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, oils, microbiome bacteria and amino acids, are safe and effective. Unfortunately, their confidence may be misplaced when it comes to supplements for male sexual dysfunction and weight loss.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 776 dietary supplement products from 146 different manufacturers sold between 2007 and 2016 contained synthetic/prescription drugs. Most of these products are marketed for just two conditions, sexual enhancement (45.5 percent) or weight loss (40.9 percent). Most recently, on Nov. 30, 2018, the FDA advised consumers not to purchase a product called Willy Go Wild, available online and in some retail stores because the product includes hidden prescription drugs.

Why does this matter?

As a pharmacist and dietary supplement researcher, I’m concerned about the hidden inclusion of these prescription drugs in supplements. It increases the risk of patient harm, and it allows people to attribute the benefits and harms they experience to an herb rather than to the true culprit – the added drug. This makes it harder for doctors and pharmacists to decipher in what types of patients these natural therapies could be used and in whom they should be avoided.

Risky sex enhancement pills

It is considered malpractice for pharmacists to fill prescriptions for erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Viagra, Levitra or Cialis if patients are taking nitrate drugs, such as nitroglycerin pills or spray or isosorbide mono/dinitrate. These nitrate drugs are often used to treat chest pain or heart failure. Combining them with a drug to treat ED; as the FDA said the makers of Willy Go Wild did, can cause a patient’s blood pressure to drop precipitously. This in turn can lead to hospitalization or death.

Some patients taking nitrate drugs, who cannot safely take one of the ED drugs, have turned instead to so-called natural products. Had they bought one of the 353 tainted products, they would have gotten the same active ingredients nonetheless.

In addition, prescription erectile dysfunction drugs can cause priapism, a medical emergency where the penis can be irreparably damaged. The higher the dose consumed, the greater the risk. So imagine you want to enhance your prescription erectile dysfunction drug with an herbal remedy only to find out you were getting a prescription drug’s active ingredient instead. There are cases of priapism with herbal sexual dysfunction medications.

ED drugs and antidepressants

Some other dietary supplement products for male enhancement added a drug called daptoxetine. The FDA has not approved it for any reason, including sexual dysfunction. People on other serotonin-enhancing drugs for depression or intestinal issues are more likely to end up with a condition called serotonin syndrome when inadvertently exposed to this undisclosed drug. Serotonin syndrome is a life-threatening problem with high body temperatures, muscle stiffness, seizures and kidney damage.

Sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, was removed from the U.S. market by the FDA in 2010 because its use increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, 269 dietary supplement products touted for weight loss contained sibutramine, and others contained the stimulants ephedrine and fenfluramine.

Ephedrine, a stimulant, was banned in the U.S. because it also increased cardiovascular risk. Fenfluramine, an amphetamine derivative, was combined with phentermine in the popular “fen-phen” diet that was banned after numerous cases of pulmonary hypertension, heart valve damage and heart failure occurred.

Still other dietary supplement products for weight loss contained the laxative phenolphthalein or prescription diuretics. Phenolphthalein is no longer used as a laxative in the U.S. because it may cause cancer and hurt fetuses. Laxatives and diuretics only cause weight loss through diarrhea or loss of water weight. They do not result in fat loss. They can cause dangerously low blood pressure and low blood potassium concentrations.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 estimated that dietary supplements led to 23,000 emergency department visits and over 2,000 hospitalizations a year. Weight loss products or those related to increased energy also caused 72 percent of supplement-related adverse events, including palpitations, chest pain or racing heart rate. I suspect the predominance of deliberate synthetic drug tainting of these dietary supplements might explain some of these findings.

How can you protect yourself?

The FDA does not approve dietary supplements, and in many ways you are on your own. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 created a new category of health product. As long as the product contains natural ingredients intended to promote or support health and not to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease, it qualifies as a dietary supplement. Under DSHEA, the FDA has to prove risk to human health before removing these products from the U.S. market.

The FDA, however, does have an ongoing list of products in which they have detected synthetic or prescription drugs, and you can check that out. If the product you have purchased is on that list, don’t use it. On Nov. 20, 2018, two dietary supplements for pain or drug addiction were found to be tainted with tianeptine, an antidepressant drug that is not FDA-approved for use in the U.S. market. If your product is not on that list, however, it doesn’t guarantee lack of tainting. The FDA simply does not have the resources to check the tens of thousands of dietary supplements on U.S. shelves.

Independent laboratory verification from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) can help assure that the vitamin or herb specified on the label is in the bottle and that the product has a low risk of microbe, heavy metal or PCB contamination. Unfortunately, USP does not routinely test dietary supplements for synthetic or prescription drug tainting. does not usually test for prescription drug tainting during their product verification either. However, for sexual dysfunction drugs, did test for prescription drug tainting.

Beware of dietary supplements manufactured in Asia, because they are more likely to be contaminated and tainted according to the FDA. Also, ethnically diverse, non-English speaking and poor people are more likely to come across tainted dietary supplements because they shop for these products at ethnic stores, flea markets, swap meets or online. Buying from reputable brands in reputable stores or websites might reduce the risk. Finally, don’t believe miraculous claims of effectiveness, especially if the only data to back it up comes from testimonials.

Getting Off Opioids and Other Drugs With Nature’s Remedies

Plant-Based Treatments All The Rage When It Comes To Addiction Recovery & Detoxification

By Avery Phillips November 29, 2018

EarthTalk Q&A

With the opioids claiming so many lives in America, more and more treatments are being developed to help addicts become clean and sober. Drug and alcohol abuse is becoming way too common in our country, but our planet’s natural resources are able to help those struggling with addiction become clean. Plant-based treatments are becoming more widely recognized and eco-friendly, and plant-based addiction treatments are helping to save lives.

Mind Expansion and Relief

One of the many reasons that people use alcohol or drugs is as a means of self-medicating. They are treating a trauma or an undiagnosed mental illness by altering their mind state with legal and illegal chemicals. Some Americans have begun to look toward other cultures and religious practices for relief from what plagues their brain. The following are plant-based relief methods found in other lands and countries:


This tea leaf is native to the rainforest of Brazil and is commonly used by the area’s inhabitants. It has been traditionally used in healing ceremonies led by a local medicine man. The effects of drinking an ayahuasca tea brew are psychedelic and have been said to be transformative for those with PTSD and issues with depression.

Through the tea-induced psychosis, the patient processes past trauma with the help of the medicine man as a guide. Not all experiences are reported to be a healing one when using ayahuasca and varies from person to person. Research has been conducted on the use of ayahuasca medicinally in the United States and has been found to be positive. If an addict can work through the trauma that leads them to use, it is possible that they would no longer feel compelled to self-medicate.


Ibogaine is an African spiritual medicine that is derived from plants in the Apocynaceae family. It is extracted from the bark and used in small doses. Ibogaine is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, also referred to as a psychedelic, and is illegal in America’s effort to fight a war on drugs. In the 1960s, ibogaine was found to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of heroin. It was reported to make users feel alert and energized.

Physiologically, ibogaine works to repair the chemical imbalances caused by drug use within a few hours — something the body can naturally do over the course of days or weeks. Thus, it can reduce the amount of pain and anguish typically associated with recovering from heavy opioid use. Ibogaine is still illegal in the United States and should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional.


Peyote is similar to ayahuasca in that it is a psychedelic in its effect and traditionally used to take the user on a spiritual journey. It is illegal in the United States but still used in Native American religious practices and ceremonies — tribal members being exempt from the national law. The active ingredient in the stunted cactus is mescaline, and it’s sold on the black market in pill form. It has been used to treat alcoholism in the past, and according to the Harvard Medical School, it has similar positive effects on depression as LSD and psilocybin. It is believed that the self-actualization and time of introspection play a vital role in the sobriety-inducing effects after use.


The choice to go into recovery from addiction is the very first step of a longer journey. Drug and alcohol use have adverse effects on our bodies. It takes time for our body to naturally detoxify our organs of toxins completely. Rehabilitation centers tend to be advocates of the use of medications during the detoxification process. If those medications are prescribed and go unused, they are thrown away as waste and may find their way into our water systems, possibly showing up in our drinking water.

If the use of the drug of choice was used intensely, such as meth or heroin, it may be medically necessary to use medications prescribed by your doctor. You can, however, utilize supplements after the initial detoxification process has begun to further support the process.

The following are plant-based supplements that can aid in the detoxification of the body during recovery after drug or alcohol abuse:

• Ginger: Used to treat nausea and can be ingested as a tea or eaten in candied form

• Dandelion: Aids in supporting the liver through detoxification and can be found in tea form or as an herbal supplement

• Milk Thistle: Another liver support found in tea or supplement form

• Turmeric: An anti-inflammatory that will soothe your intestines and joints. Can be eaten raw, used as a cooking spice, drank as tea or used as supplement.

• Peppermint: Diluted with a carrier oil, can be used to reduce nausea by applying directly to the skin of your belly.

No detoxification should be done without the care of a medical professional, and it is best practice to disclose all medical conditions with your healthcare provider. There is a misconception that a plant-based treatment can not be overdosed on. This is untrue. Follow the recommended doses prescribed by your physician to avoid any issues.


Hailed as “the king and queen of the banjo” by Paste Magazine, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn have a musical partnership like no other. 15-time Grammy Award winner Béla Fleck has taken the instrument across multiple genres, and singer/songwriter Abigail Washburn has re-radicalized the clawhammer banjo by combining it with Far East culture and sounds. The two met at a square dance, began collaborating musically, and eventually fell in love. Fleck and Washburn will perform pieces from their Grammy-winning, self-titled debut, as well as their newest album, Echo in the Valley (2017).

The McCoy Marquee Series presents Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (100 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., New Albany) on Sunday, January 20, at 7 pm. Tickets are $31.50-$51.50 and can be purchased in-person at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), online at, or by phone at (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000.

Over the years, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn played together most visibly in the Sparrow Quartet alongside Ben Sollee and Casey Driessen, and informally at a pickin’ party here, a benefit there, or occasionally popping up in each other’s solo shows. Fans of tradition-tweaking acoustic fare eagerly anticipated that Béla and Abigail would begin making music together as a duo.

Fleck has the virtuosic, jazz-to-classical ingenuity of an iconic instrumentalist and composer with bluegrass roots. His collaborations range from his ground-breaking, standard-setting ensemble Béla Fleck and the Flecktones to a staggeringly broad array of musical experiments. From writing concertos for full symphony orchestra, exploring the banjo’s African roots, to jazz duos with Chick Corea, many tout Béla Fleck as the world’s premier banjo player.

Washburn has the earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old-time singer/songwriter who has drawn critical acclaim for her solo albums. She has done fascinating work in folk musical diplomacy in China, presented an original theatrical production, and has contributed to singular side groups Uncle Earl and The Wu-Force. In addition, Washburn has recently created a non-profit with Chinese zither-master, Wu Fei, called the Ripple Effect, whose mission is to unite and open hearts through the unique sounds and harmony of American and Chinese folk music.

With one eye on using the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage and the other pulling the noble instrument from its most familiar arena into new and unique realms, Béla and Abigail present music that feels wildly innovative and familiar at the same time. Whether at home, on stage, or on record, their deep bond, combined with the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, makes theirs a picking partnership unlike any other on the planet.

FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to Christine Blasey Ford testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court in Washington. Democrats are trying to turn their most painful losses this year into a rallying cry they hope will electrify the 2020 presidential campaign: Every vote matters. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP) – In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to Christine Blasey Ford testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court in Washington. Democrats are trying to turn their most painful losses this year into a rallying cry they hope will electrify the 2020 presidential campaign: Every vote matters. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports