20 February 2004

Some Updates

I once thought that being on leave meant extra time to do things like blog. Now that I'm not teaching, suddenly 1001 other tasks (some dissertation-related, many not) fill my time. I've been meaning to update three things I've blogged about in the past month and now that it's Friday night, I find that I have time.

First, emergency contraception. The mainstream press hasn't had much to say on this issue, but to make a long story short, the FDA refused to make ED available over-the-counter despite a 24-3 recommendation that it do so. You can read about it here.

I don't really understand how this happened. Well, wait a moment. Yes, I do. This administration's reproductive health policy is controlled by the so-called "pro-life" lobby, which has intimidated the FDA into ignoring the recommendation of medical experts in this matter.

On another matter related to EC, the Texas pharmacist I blogged about below has been fired. I don't usually rejoice when someone loses a job, but this pharmacist's conduct was outrageous. "I went in the back room and briefly prayed about it," said Gene Herr, who had worked for Eckerd for five years. "I actually called my pastor ... and asked him what he thought about it." The question now, I think, is whether or not Mr. Herr committed a HIPAA violation. As I understand it, the new Federal law does contain new rules regarding patient privacy. By calling his pastor and discussing a medical case with him, did he violate HIPAA even without mentioning the woman's name? Interesting to think about.

Lastly, the UC-Berkeley Fulbright issue (see below). The compromise that has been reached--with the US Department of State reading applications and UC Berkeley (and possibly FedEx) would pay for them. To which I say, HUH?

This makes no sense for a number of reasons. UC-Berkeley is a public institution. If it had the funds to send fifteen graduate students abroad every year, it would do so and there would be fewer Berkeley applicants for the Fulbright. Second, why have the State Department read the apps? Other Fulbright apps will be vetted by the Department of Education. So Berkeley's applicants are still not being counted in with other apps.

What I want to know is: where are California's US Senators, Representatives, and Governor in this mess? The moment the controversy broke there should have been resolutions on the floors of the US House and US Senate supporting Berkeley and asking the Department of Education to make an exception this time. Arnie has had plenty of time to whine about gay marriage--where is his support for California's students?

I'm beginning to think there's a discrimination issue here. Berkeley is widely acknowledged to lean left politically; it is no surprise that Department of Education officials appointed by this President are trying as hard as they can to shut the Berkeley apps out.


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