Senators ask FDA to update rules on certain pot products
By ANDREW SELSKY
Wednesday, January 16
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s two senators on Tuesday urged the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to update federal regulations to permit interstate commerce of food products containing a key non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.
The appeal by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley came after Congress legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp derivatives, including cannabidiols, known as CBD. Wyden and Merkley had been behind a hemp provision that Congress passed and was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
But after President Donald Trump signed the bill in December, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated his agency’s stance that CBD is a drug ingredient and therefore illegal to add to food or health products without his agency’s approval. The FDA has sent warning letters to some companies making health claims for CBD.
In a letter to Gottlieb, the senators asked the FDA to update “outdated regulations” that prohibit food products containing CBD from being sold across state lines.
“Farmers in Oregon and nationwide are poised to make real economic gains for their communities once these regulations are updated,” they wrote. They said it was Congress’ intent in the bill to ensure producers and consumers have access to hemp-derived products, including CBDs.
The Oregon Democrats asked the agency to clarify to the public several issues, including its authority in the production and marketing of hemp and its derivatives, and whether the FDA will consider issuing a regulation to allow hemp derivatives in food, beverages or dietary supplements that cross state lines.
CBD oils are increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods. Proponents say CBD offers health benefits, including relieving pain and anxiety.
Scientists note there have been few comprehensive clinical studies on how CBD affects humans. Harvard Medical School said the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndromes which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications. The FDA recently approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions which contains CBD. Studies suggest CBD may also help those with insomnia to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Hemp looks like marijuana but contains less than 0.3 percent of THC, the compound that gives pot its high. Both hemp and marijuana are species of cannabis.
Merkley and Wyden noted that the FDA is operating with limited staff due to the partial federal government shutdown and requested a response within 30 calendar days of the government reopening.
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Toward a circular economy: Tackling the plastics recycling problem
January 16, 2019
Author: Margaret Sobkowicz, Associate Professor of Plastics Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Disclosure statement: Margaret Sobkowicz receives funding from the National Science Foundation.
Partners: University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Why has the world continued to increase consumption of plastic materials when at the same time, environmental and human health concerns over their use have grown?
One answer is they are immensely useful to humankind, and despite problems they create, they have provided countless benefits. They are used to construct lighter automobiles and planes, improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic food packaging has dramatically reduced food spoilage, improving human health as well as decreasing emissions associated with transportation and decomposition of waste. In addition to all these upsides, another benefit often quoted is that plastics are recyclable.
At UMass Lowell, where I am based, we argue that “recyclable” must be clearly distinguished from “recycled.” Unfortunately, society has a long way to go before we could declare plastics recycling a success.
My group has been working for the past eight years on sustainability of plastic materials for a range of applications. We study plant-based and biodegradable polymers, improved technologies for recycling plastics and reducing plastics toxicity. Polymers (long-chain organic molecules) are fascinating materials, and they have provided so many benefits to society; however, as population and consumption rates grow, humans must always be mindful of our relationship with the Earth. It is my goal as a researcher, educator and citizen to harness the tools of engineering for environmentally sound plastics production and use.
The plastics recycling infrastructure is flawed
Polymers are large molecules made up of many repeating units. They exhibit diverse mechanical, thermal and chemical properties that make them suitable for a wide range of applications. They are called “plastics” because in theory they can be reshaped multiple times into new products – that is, they are recyclable. In practice, unfortunately, remelting and forming new packaging often degrades the properties of these recycled products, as they are contaminated with impurities from food, labels and other materials.
With the introduction of fines for littering and increasing environmental awareness, the fraction of waste Americans recycle increased steadily starting in the 1970s. In recent decades, however, recycling rates have stalled due to limited technological and logistical options for the materials collected from residential and industrial sites. Today, chemical and polymer companies have become experts at making new plastic products that are durable and inexpensive. Since this new “virgin” plastic is cheap, there is little incentive for using the recycled versions if properties are compromised in any way. Improving recycling performance depends on several complex factors.
The key to recycling plastics: People
The first and most important variable is that people need to participate. In general, Americans show a strong commitment to using recycle bins – when they are made available. But far too many large event centers and point sources of plastics waste do not prioritize collection of recyclable items. Furthermore, the public is confused about which plastic types can and should end up in the recycling bin.
Complex plastic products such as multi-layer film and electronics housings are more difficult to recycle. And current trends suggest that manufacturers are shifting to more complex materials. Bright, multicolored designs end up as a dull brown color when the different packages are melted down. Advanced functionality such as embedded electronics, oxygen barrier layers and other exciting technologies have the unfortunate downside of decreasing the package value in a recycled stream, because separations are difficult and costly.
The technology to sort different varieties of plastic is also lagging. The quality of a recycled plastic depends on its purity. It must be decontaminated from food waste, labels and other polymer types before it is melted down and resold to a product maker. While some automated technologies exist, a large amount of the sorting is still done by hand and the results are imperfect at best.
Once industry demands high quality recycled plastic, then reprocessors will have the confidence to produce a consistent stream to replace some or all of the virgin material they use in their products. The industry needs to standardize the metrics by which the quality of recycle streams are measured.
This wish list for improving the recycling infrastructure may seem insurmountable, but public-private consortia like the REMADE institute are gathering industry stakeholders, university researchers and national labs to tackle the challenge.
An urgent call to action
In July 2017, China announced that it would stop accepting imports of certain classes of waste that come from the recycled streams in other parts of the world. These included contaminated bales of mixed plastics and forms that are challenging to reprocess. This has left piles of waste plastics sitting on loading docks at municipal recycling facilities around the U.S., Canada and Europe.
At the same time, the public outcry over the plastics pollution problem is growing. From the recent efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the viral image of a turtle with a straw in its nose that led to widespread rejection of drinking straws, the public is increasingly aware of and demanding solutions to the problem.
Where do we go from here?
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a U.K.-based charitable organization that is focused on environmental issues. The foundation has called for a circular economy approach to work toward a new plastics economy. They are working with business, government and academia to shift the way humans consume. Currently society’s throwaway culture supports a linear economy in which items, especially plastics, are used once and tossed out. In a circular economy, plastics would be designed, manufactured and collected in such a way that they could easily be broken down, separated and recycled. As an example, a thoughtfully designed cellphone could be separated into plastics, electronics, glass and other components, and each stream could then be recycled into something just as high quality the second time around – hence the phrase “circular economy.”
The concept introduces a three-pronged approach to eliminate unnecessary plastics we consume, innovate new packaging designs that are more easily recycled or reused, and recirculate more of the plastics we do use through appropriate diversion and reprocessing strategies.
The time is ripe for innovation, but academics, regulatory agencies and stakeholders from multiple points in the value chain must work together. The Plastics Engineering Department here at UMass Lowell is poised to take on the challenge. We are working on new biodegradable polymer recipes and new processes for recycling plastics. We are sharing our findings with the public, collaborating with industry-leading partners and educating next-generation plastics engineers so they can be leaders of change.
Joshua M. Pearce: Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University
Thank you for the great overview on a very serious and now acute problem that China has turned off the outlet for our plastic waste. The key problem is that people need to have a good incentive to recycle correctly and the best methods are those that enable consumers to benefit economically directly. This can be done by tightening the loop on the circular economy to encourage distributed recycling in the home with recyclebots that turns waste plastic into 3-D printing filament or directly recycle in fused particle 3-D printers. Using either technical route can save the average household real money by offsetting plastic product purchases for pennies on the dollar.
Why victims of Catholic priests need to hear more than confessions
January 16, 2019
Joan M. Cook, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University
Jennifer J. Freyd, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon
Disclosure statement: Joan M. Cook, Ph.D. has received grant funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD, is a Fellow, 2018-19, at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She receives book royalties and honoraria for giving presentations, and she is paid as a consultant on some legal cases and for some organizations.
Partners: University of Oregon provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Pope Francis has criticized U.S. Catholic bishops for how they handled the pervasive sexual abuse of children by predatory priests. He even called for a new management method and mindset in dealing with this crisis. Most recently, the pope summoned presidents of every bishops’ conference from around the world to come to the Vatican on Feb. 21 through 24 for a meeting on how to respond to the pervasive scandals.
As trauma psychologists who have collectively spent nearly 60 years investigating and treating the devastating effects of violation and assault, we have concrete suggestions based on clinical experience and research for such change.
People have been talking for years about the need for the Catholic Church to treat survivors of clerical sexual abuse with respect and dignity, to remove perpetrating priests, and to have real accountability for bishops who facilitated and enabled the abuse. But, when the key Catholic bishops gather for their February meeting, they need to address the dark cloud that overhangs the Synod – something called institutional betrayal.
Wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon which individuals are dependent can be as devastating as familial abuse. Up until now, the Catholic Church’s failure to prevent sexual assault or respond supportively to survivors has been a tremendous violation of trust and confidence, and produced fountains of reverberating harm.
Because institutional betrayal is so serious and its effects so deep, something called institutional courage will be needed to put into place tangible turnarounds for meaningful correction and future prevention.
Trauma on a different level
Research on betrayal trauma can help to illustrate the damage the Church has done. Betrayal trauma, or trauma perpetrated by trusted people, such as familial rape, childhood abuse perpetrated by a caregiver and domestic violence, are especially toxic. The brain appears to remember and process betrayal trauma differently than other traumas. Likely the impact on the heart and soul is different as well. When a victim is dependent upon a perpetrator for survival and sustenance, the foundation of their very existence is at stake. Everything they believe about themselves, other people and the world can be unreliable, distorted and harmful, like a carnival fun-house mirror. Except there is no walking away, no easy escape and no validation that the images are warped.
People, especially children, can trust and depend upon institutions in much the same way that people depend on family. For many members of the flock, the Catholic Church was not only a place of worship and community, but a source of safety and spiritual growth.
A growing body of psychological science has examined the role of institutions in traumatic experiences. When sexual abuse survivors are met with denial, harassment and insensitive investigative practices, this is institutional betrayal. There is no doubt that the Church is guilty in taking action to harm its members, such as knowingly hiring clergy with abuse allegations, as well as failing to take action to protect, such as not acting on reports of abuse.
Institutional betrayal has been linked to physical and mental health problems in survivors. For example, experiences of institutional betrayal are associated with post-traumatic stress and depression, as well as increased odds of attempting suicide. On top of the direct sinister effects of being sexually assaulted by a priest, these institutional betrayals lay an extra thick, sticky coating of shame, disgust, alienation and loss.
Healing the hurts
Beginning in early 2002, The Boston Globe’s investigative team, Spotlight, reported on a pattern of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and cover-ups by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Over time, shocking, credible allegations poured forth. The world learned these were not isolated incidents. This widespread assault and wrongdoing is clearly systemic in nature. And, this doesn’t just happen in the U.S., but in other countries as well.
It’s 2019. The sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church have not stopped. In fact, it seems to have had a resurgence, at least in its reporting. At least 16 states have begun to seriously examine allegations, issuing subpoenas and outing predation, within their borders. Some Catholics are despondent, losing faith and feeling intense anger. For many, the scars have not healed.
The pope has been an ardent defender of migrants – bringing attention to the difficulty of their plight and the compassion needed for their embrace. The survivors of clerical abuse can be viewed as refugees of sorts. These survivors are without the shelter of their spiritual home, fleeing from past dangers and current, ongoing disbelief and derision. They are in need of assistance and protection, and soothing salve. Many are exhausted from raging a war to be heard and depleted from spiritual famine.
Hosting the February bishops’ conference and meeting with survivors ahead of time is not sufficient. This is a start. But not nearly enough. The answer in our view is institutional courage. The Roman Catholic Church needs to do more than take ownership, institute deserved repercussions to perpetrators, and demand better. More specifically, they need to set and enforce meaningful, substantive, corrective and preventative measures. These include genuine, concrete changes, such as acknowledging wrongdoing, apologizing, correcting and retracting false statements, committing to conduct regular ongoing self-assessments, operating with transparency, and engaging wholeheartedly in a reparation process. An introductory institutional reparations checklist could be followed and made public for the world to see.
Healing from trauma can be complicated, but is possible. While the perpetrator or institutional betrayers’ acknowledgment of the trauma is not often sufficient for healing, apology and restitution can positively impact the recovery process. As part of truly embracing institutional courage, providing meaningful education to all church leaders about betrayal trauma and institutional betrayal is necessary. In addition, it will be crucial to publicly commit funding to each of these steps of institutional courage.
At this upcoming bishop presidents’ meeting in Rome, we pray that Pope Francis stands on the balcony above St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, with his arms outstretched, calling to his congregation, honoring those who have dared to blow the whistle, and asking for forgiveness. The survivors deserve nothing less than acknowledgment, address and apologies for these horrid individual and institutional betrayals. This is a grand opportunity to repair and prevent continuation of trauma as well as future injustices.
Mark Crawford, logged in via Facebook: Professors Cook and Freyd….THANK YOU, I have not read a more succinct expression of what is needed from the institutional church. I myself a survivor of Catholic Clergy abuse from the Archdiocese of Newark, who had tried to tell countless church officials, time and time again of my abuse and that of my younger brother, simply went nowhere. Broken promises and the clear indication of what was most important was that the Perpatrator and church officials involved where not exposed. Repeated requests for silence and secrecy were the order of the day. I must say that I have hoped, so often, that just one of them would listen and act with moral courage that I no longer trust just about any church official to act with the true contrition and concrete actions you have spelled out here. From your mouth to Gods ears I sure hope these men hear what you have said hear, believing they will act on it…I no longer believe they truly have the interest to do so and I often wonder how can they even believe in a God and have acted in the manner of abandonment and betrayal they have time and time again displayed. These are well educated men, they were not mistakes but intentional acts in which they repeatedly put the interests of an institution above the very people who are the institution. The walls we built our faith on are crumbling, mere words without action can no longer fool the faithful.
Andrew Taylor: “At this upcoming bishop presidents’ meeting in Rome, we pray that Pope Francis stands on the balcony above St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, with his arms outstretched”… and announces the closing of this criminal organization according to the laws of every nation in which it is present, and the forfeiture of all assets to survivors’ organizations. Soon afterwards, governments around the world announced they had read the Australian Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse and banned all religions entirely because of the PROOF that all religions abuse children.