Archive for November 2019
Posted by NYPIRG on November 25, 2019 at 6:29 am
Posted by NYPIRG on November 18, 2019 at 9:05 am
is the kick off of the holiday shopping season.
It’s a time when many adults look for gifts for children. And while the holidays are a time for fun and
giving, it is important that it gift givers keep safety in mind when shopping
recent survey of toys found that some posed health and safety threats to
children. Among the toys surveyed were
examples of choking and excessive noise hazards and toys with potentially
hazardous concentrations of toxins. The
continued presence of these hazards in toys highlights the need for constant
vigilance on the part of government agencies and the public to ensure that
children do not end up playing with unsafe toys.
For more than 30 years, the
United States Public Interest Research Group’s (USPIRG) Trouble in Toyland has called for stringent toy safety guidelines
and has provided examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose
potential safety hazards to young children.
Here are some important
things to keep in mind as you gift shop for children. Beware of small parts choking hazards, if you
want to test to see if a toy or a part of a toy is too small, see if it fits
inside a toilet paper roll, if so, it’s not appropriate for small
children. Uninflated balloons should
be kept away from kids under eight and popped balloons should not be left
around. If an action figure, toy gun or
other toy produces loud sounds, it can hurt a child’s hearing. Test the toy by holding it near your ear and if
it’s too loud for you, it’s too loud for your child. You can remove the batteries, put tape over
the speaker, or decrease the volume.
Sculpture kits or puzzles may include powerful magnets that
can seriously injure children if ingested. Also, toys marketed to adults may be a hazard in the hands
of children. For example, fidget spinners may not meet the same safety
standards as other toys because they are primarily designed with adults in
mind, though they can still be marketed directly or indirectly to children.
recent progress in making toys safer, the report highlighted the need for
continued attention to shortcomings in existing standards and vigilance on the
part of the shopping public. To keep
children safe from potentially hazardous toys, there is still more to do.
toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe
just because they are on a store shelf or available online.
unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov.
to government announcements of recalled products at www.recalls.gov.
For toys already owned:
small batteries if there is any question over their security or accessibility
and keep them out of reach of children;
batteries from or tape over the speakers of toys you already own that are too
small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your
older children are not left within reach of younger children who still put
things in their mouths.
it’s important for parents and other adults to shop smart, there are steps that
New York can take to protect children from dangerous products. One example is a bill that passed both houses
of the Legislature and awaits action by the governor.
The legislation is
designed to promote the removal of the most dangerous toxic chemicals—those
either known or suspected of causing cancer, reproductive injuries or
interfering with children’s development—from everyday children’s products and to
steer industry towards safe substitution.
bill passed at the end of April with overwhelming bipartisan support, but the
governor has not yet acted on the bill.
Advocates hope that with the holiday season looming, the governor will
finally approve the legislation.
then adults should be on guard when it comes to purchasing toys. In order to view the full Trouble in Toyland
report go to www.nypirg.org. Parents can
find a list of unsafe toys, as well as tips for safe toy shopping this holiday
season, at toysafetytips.org. Have a
happy and safe holiday season.
Posted by NYPIRG on November 11, 2019 at 8:29 am
Antibiotics save lives and are critical tools for treating a number of common and more serious infections, like those that can lead to sepsis. However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 30% of the antibiotics in U.S. outpatient settings are prescribed unnecessarily. Any time antibiotics are used, they can lead to antibiotic resistance, a growing and urgent threat to the public’s health.
According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant
bacteria are most prevalent in environments associated with high antibiotic
use: healthcare settings, the general community, and in livestock production. Antibiotic resistance can spread from person
to person, from animal to person, via the natural environment or contaminated
food and from bacteria to bacteria. Some
bacteria have developed resistance to multiple antibiotics, making them
especially difficult to treat, and thus very dangerous and sometimes deadly. Common infectious diseases such as tuberculosis,
pneumonia, blood poisoning, food poisoning, and gonorrhea have already become
harder and sometimes impossible to treat due to multidrug-resistant bacteria.
The problem of antibiotics-resistance is not just one found in the
United States, it is a worldwide problem.
And worldwide problems demand global responses.
This week the United States, in coordination with nations across
the world, are focusing in educating the health care providers, policymakers,
and the public on the growing threat posed by antibiotic resistant infections,
also known as “superbugs.”
Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria develop the ability to
defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Each
year in the United States, more than 2.8 million infections from bacteria that
are resistant to antibiotics occur and more than 35,000 people die as a direct
result. Many more die from complications
from antibiotic-resistant infections.
A study commissioned by
the U.K. government predicts that if action is not taken now to combat antibiotic
resistance,by 2050 the annual death toll will have risen to 10 million globally.
The situation is getting
worse with the emergence of new bacterial strains resistant to several
antibiotics at the same time (known as multidrug-resistant bacteria). Such
bacteria may eventually become resistant to all existing antibiotics.
Without antibiotics, the world could return to the “pre-antibiotic era”, when
organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and other medical
procedures would no longer be possible. Bacterial
diseases would spread and could no longer be treated, causing death.
There is hope. Data from European agencies show that
interventions can work. Medical data
shows that Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands have low rates of
“superbugs,” but that there are higher rates in Southern Europe. Countries with lower resistance rates have
generally lower use of antibiotics, while countries with higher antibiotic
resistance rates use more antibiotics.
One area of antibiotic misuse is relatively simple to address: use
on farms. Nearly two-thirds of
antibiotics that are important for human medicine are currently sold for use in
livestock, not people. These drugs are routinely given as poor compensation for
inappropriate diets and the stressful, crowded and unsanitary conditions on
industrial feedlots. This practice hastens the spread of antibiotic resistance
in bacteria and increases the risk of drug-resistant infections in people.
When antibiotics are
given to food-producing animals, they kill most of the bacteria in them. The
resistant bacteria, however, survive and can contaminate animal products during
slaughtering and processing. They can also contaminate fruits and vegetables
via contaminated soil or water, especially when animal manure is used as
fertilizer. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can contaminate food prepared on
germ-filled surfaces and the environment via animal feces. According to the
CDC, approximately 1 in 5 antibiotic-resistant infections are caused by germs
from food and animals.
However, awareness weeks
are only as good as the change they produce.
It is clear from the Scandinavian experiences that policies can
significantly reduce the rise of “superbugs”: policies that focus on
cleanliness in health care settings, a reliance on antibiotic use in humans
only when medically necessary, and a drastic reduction in use on farm
animals. The most obvious way to reduce
use among farm animals is for veterinarians to stop the use of antibiotics on
healthy farm animals.
This is a worldwide
problem, unless the rise of “superbugs” can be stopped, the next generation
will be faced with a world without effective antibiotics, one in which
illnesses like urinary tract infections will be untreatable, leaving people to
suffer and perhaps die, from infections easily treatable today.
Posted by NYPIRG on November 4, 2019 at 8:39 am
New York State’s campaign financing system has been
notorious – sky-high contributions that allow the wealthy and powerful to legally
donate over $100,000; ineffective enforcement; loopholes galore and inadequate
disclosures. The result? Scandals. Most recently the convictions of big donors
and top-ranking state officials in an incredible scheme that rigged government
contracts for big campaign donors.
The lousy system is not something new – for decades, blue
ribbon commissions, federal prosecutors, and experts have roundly criticized
New York’s campaign financing practices and its anemic laws.
And for decades Governors and state lawmakers have pledged
to fix the system, only to complain that partisan gridlock blocked necessary
New York City’s experience, on the other hand, was
different. In the 1980s, it too
experienced stunning levels of corruption.
But a politically unified city government coupled with public outrage yielded
the creation of a system of public financing that shifted the emphasis away
from raising money from special interests who write big checks to getting small
donations that are amplified by public matching funds. New York City’s program is now considered a
model for the nation.
After the 2018 election, Democrats took firm control of the
state government when they won a working majority of seats in the state senate. Governor Cuomo had regularly advanced
legislation to create a voluntary system of public financing modeled on the New
York City program. The new Democratic Senate
majority had also pledged to support establishing a New York City-style
system. The Assembly had approved
legislation creating a New York City-style system regularly for years since the
1980s. Reform seemed like a done deal.
But something happened.
Democrats’ great enthusiasm for public financing evaporated during the
first half of the legislative session.
Eventually, instead of directly voting to adopt a New York City-style
system, the governor and the legislative leaders established a commission
empowered to create a public financing system in New York State. The legislation was approved at the end of
March and this new Commission was charged with releasing its plan by December 1st
of this year, giving the group only eight months to get its work completed.
But the games continued.
The leaders made no appointments to the commission until early July,
thus cutting the timetable to a mere five months. The commission had no staff, few resources
and couldn’t pull off its first meeting until late August.
Now the timetable was cut to 3 months.
The commission then wasted its time publicly debating
whether to curtail the involvement of minor parties in elections. The commission is now down to a few precious
weeks to get its monumental work completed.
You would think that under the circumstances the Commission
would focus on a program that has had a three-decade track record of success. A program that already exists in New York
State. The commission could then focus
on how best to scale it up to a statewide program.
But you would be
Instead, the commission seems to want to develop a system
very different from New York City’s. At
its most recent meeting, the commission approved an outline of a program that would
diverge from the New York City model by prohibiting public financing matches
for out-of-district. Instead, in-district
contributions would be matched up to $250 according to a tier of ratios: the
first $50 at 12:1, the next $100 at 9:1, and the next $100 at 8:1.
This untried, complicated system is being cooked up with
less than three weeks to go. It almost
seems like they are doing all they can to develop a program too flawed to
This has happened before.
In 2014, the governor rushed through a campaign financing change that
covered only the Comptroller’s race. The program was so flawed that the Comptroller
did not choose to participate and his opponent couldn’t meet the complicated
Why is the commission operating this way? Since so much of what they do is done in
secret, it’s hard to know. But it’s safe
to say that the governor and the legislative leaders are comfortable with the
ways things are going.
New Yorkers, on the other hand, should not be. New York’s corrupt campaign financing system
needs drastic change. If the unelected commission
fails to make it happen, New Yorkers should look to the actions of the governor
and the legislature before, during, and after the commission acts. It is their leadership that should be under
One of the big changes in how New York runs
its elections is a measure to allow “early voting.” Early voting allows for people to cast their
ballots in advance of Election Day. And
early voting has been tested across the nation.
When New York acted it became the 39th
jurisdiction to do so. Thus, the
overwhelming number of states had already made the change. It has long been clear that early voting is
the type of convenience that is popular and necessary.
From Saturday October 26th through
this past Sunday, New Yorkers could vote in advance of Election Day, Tuesday,
November 5th. And while the
final numbers are not yet in, it looks like over 250,000 voters showed up at
nearly 250 early voting polling sites across the state and that the glitches
were kept to a minimum.
There are some issues that need to be
addressed before the next votes are cast.
Under the recently passed law, local boards of elections were given
discretion in how many early voting sites that would be required and where they
would be located.
First, the new law stated that each county
should provide at least one early voting polling place per 50,000 registered
voters. Seems simple enough. For those counties with voting populations
less than 50,000, they had to have at least one early polling place.
However, the early voting law has one big
loophole: counties with large numbers of voters are not be required to keep to the 50,000 voters per early voting
polling site ratio. The law states that
in no case shall a county be required
to have more than seven sites, no
matter how large the population. Thus,
the largest counties have a lot of room in terms of the number of early voting
Sixteen counties had a ratio greater than one early voting location per 50,000 voters. Some large counties provided many voting sites. For example, Erie County had 37 early voting sites with a ratio of about 16,000 voters per location. On the other hand, Manhattan had a ratio of one early voting place for every 100,000 voters – double what was the goal in the law. Not illegal, but unfair to Manhattan voters as compared to Erie County.
The law also requires local boards of
elections to consider, but does not require, certain factors when deciding
where to locate early polling locations.
The law states that factors like “population density, travel time to the
polling place, proximity to other early voting poll sites, public
transportation routes, commuter traffic patterns” be considered. Yet, “consideration” is not a mandate. In the county of Rensselaer, the city of Troy
(population is about 50,000) had no early voting locations.
Having New York’s initial experience be
during an “off-year” election makes good sense.
Fewer voters show up at the polls and the elections bureaucracy learns
from the experience.
But policymakers need to learn too. Both houses of the Legislature should hold
hearings to review the early election experience.
It is clear, however, that the state needs to
be more demanding. New York should
require that no county is allowed to ratios of voters to early voting poll of
more than 50,000 to one. And that every
local community that relies heavily on mass transportation, or ones that have
dense population centers, or rural areas in which distances are far, have
One additional lesson to be learned involves money. For unknown reasons, the state government
didn’t immediately let flow the $10 million earmarked to help counties, slowing
down efforts to plan and cover the costs.
The counties should get the resources that they need.
Early voting is a reform that helps voters
cast their ballots, a constitutional right.
New York should do all it can to make voting easier. In the modern world, allowing voters to cast
their ballots during the time before election day makes sense and must be
But it must be done in a manner that makes it
easier for all voters, not just those in selected areas. Thus, new standards should be put in place
that ensure areas with the most people get the most early voting sites. And resources must be made available for those
areas in which voters must travel long distances.
We live in a representative democracy. Making the choice about who represents us should be easy and uncomplicated. Let’s make sure that is the case.