Good news, we’re smoking fewer cigarettes

Bad news, some states and territories arranged very expensive loans against the promise of a percentage of the profit from cigarette sales. The cigarette money was a settlement promised to states from a lawsuit against the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Ideally the settlement could have been used for public health programs that provided education about the risks of smoking and promoted smoking cessation but the settlement money was provided to states without stipulations about how the money could be used. Higher taxes on the individual purchase of cigarettes may have done more to promote smoking cessation. There was no requirement that the settlement money be used public health programs. [1]

Ironically less purchase of cigarettes has resulted in smaller than expected payments of the settlement money. Lower cigarette profit has left the communities with high interest loans owing more than they receive from the settlement agreement. So should we smoke more cigarettes to help out the places that made bad financial arrangements? – probably not if we care about the health risks of tobacco. The Centers for Disease Control website has links to a variety of resources for smoking cessation both for individuals and for states and health professionals (CDC).

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Trust in love, World Humanitarian Day

The little girl carrying a big poster in the photo at this link is not a typical Humanitarian Relief worker but she carries a powerful message, “Hate breeds hate.” The exact quote from the poster was not found in an online search, but the search engine did lead to a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a similar concept, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” The passage also includes the phrase “violence multiplies violence,” read the rest of the passage here : []

Photo via []

World Humanitarian Day 2014, remembering the relief workers who place themselves at risk in order to help others. []

Pros have a plan for improving politics

A bipartisan group of former legislators and other business professionals have written a proposal for improving our political system. The proposal, “Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” [1] is the work of a group of former Senators, state Governors and other former appointed officials and has the support of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington. The proposal includes changes for improving the voting system and the work schedule of Congress, and it includes a plan for encouraging more citizens to serve at community and national levels. [2]

The group worked towards a consensus proposal. Not all of the ideas are equally supported by all individuals that worked on the document however the goal was to produce a group of recommendations through compromise. The group called, the BPC Commission on Political Reform, also held town hall meetings during 2013 and 2014 to gather input from citizens. The commission’s goal was to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide. The proposal includes more than 60 recommendations grouped into suggestions for improving the election process, [Rec. 1.1-1.19, pp 31-51],  for improving the daily flow of work in both branches of Congress, [Rec. 2.1-2.19, pp 53-72], and ideas to help return a sense of national duty and pride to the average citizen, [Rec. 3.1-3.24, pp 73-99]. A summary of just the recommendations is available at the beginning of the proposal.  [pp 13-18, 1]

“E pluribus unum. “Out of many, one.”” [p21, 1]

One nation, with many voices, can work together and achieve. Working together with a goal of a compromising win/win is needed. One united nation is not half red and half blue, it is red, white and blue.

The Commission on Political Reform provides strategies for improving the daily work of the Congress and for improving the election process. The report shares a concern over the changes that have occurred in campaign funding since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision on Citizen’s United and the 2014 decision on McCutcheon. The Commission on Political Reform includes recommendations for improved disclosure of campaign contributions, {Rec. 1.16}, and for limiting use of leadership PACs, {Rec. 1.17 and 1.18}, but proposes that an additional bipartisan commission be appointed to assess the impact of the Supreme Court decisions on our nation’s election process and to make further recommendations regarding campaign finance reform. {Rec 1.19} [pp 48-51,1] The expense of the election process has made fund raising an ongoing need for members of Congress and reduces time available for working towards a functional government.

Not voting or running for office in a system that seems corrupt and dysfunctional might seem like a simple solution for American citizens who want to stay out of politics but it is our nation, our elected officials, our appointed Supreme Court — it is our system to improve for all of us whether we currently like it or not.

The Commission recommends coordinating the time that members of the House and Senate spend in Washington D.C. and in their home districts with a schedule including the same three five-day workweeks spent in Washington and the remaining week of the month spent in their home district. [Rec. 2.1, p 55-56, 1] Currently the House and Senate are frequently not in session at the same time and the mismatched schedules are sometimes used as leverage to encourage take-it-or-leave voting or reduce time for deliberations.

More scheduled time for joint party meetings for formal and informal discussion is recommended [Rec. 2.2 and 2.3, p 57, 1], as well as monthly meetings with the President in attendance [Rec 2.4, p 58, 1]. Improving the effectiveness of committees is the focus of Recommendations 2.5 through 2.9, 2.11 and 2.12 [p 59-60, 64-67 1]. Submitting bills  at least three days in advance of a vote to provide time for members and the public a chance to read the proposed legislation and comment is Recommendation 2.10 [p 61, 1].

The budget cycle currently is an annual duty of Congress; the Commission recommends that the budget approval be changed to a two year cycle which would allow more time for oversight. A two year cycle would also allow agencies affected by federal budget changes to be able to better plan their agency’s budget. [Rec. 2.18, p70, 1] Limiting additions to appropriations bills is the focus of Recommendation 2.19 [p 71, 1].

Read it and weep that the system needs work, or read it and rejoice that some are still ready to work on improving the system, but read the proposal because it is our nation to care about and to take care of.
Not voting might seem like a simple way to stay out of a system that seems corrupt and dysfunctional – but whether we, American citizens, vote or not it is still our nation, and our elected officialsGoverning in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at:
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at:
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at:
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at: