Bankruptcy Lawyer and Other Legal Jobs That Require Minimal Time in the Courtroom

164463774

If you have a degree in law, but are either suffering from burnout in your current vocation as a lawyer, just want to try something new, or you are a recent graduate who can’t find work as a lawyer in the ever-tightening job market, all hope is not lost. Because of its focus on law and negotiation skills, a law degree opens the door to many more career opportunities than most other degrees. These careers don’t involve courtrooms and trials, and most of them are very well paid positions, too. It is also important to note that not all practice areas will put you keep you in the courtroom on a daily basis. Practice areas like business law, patent law and bankruptcy law will allow you to be a lawyer and handle much of your business outside of the courtroom.

Employment Benefits Manager

As an employment benefits manager, your job will be to create or modify, and maintain, the entire benefits package of a corporation. The fact that there are so many local, state and federal laws surrounding benefits that must be interpreted and followed makes you a much more viable candidate for the position than most others. As an employment benefits manager you would currently earn an average of$89,456 a year.

Banking and Finance Advisor

With a law degree, you are a shoo-in for finance or banking because the finance sector essentially deals in nothing but law. In the areas of taxes, estates, and business finance, your law degree would make you a perfect fit. Of course, there are a number of occupations to explore in this field, so the salary earned can vary. However, the current average salary of a financial advisor is$83,000 a year.

Politics and Government

If you’re looking for a career that’s a bit nobler, entering politics or working for the government are great options. Law graduates have the opportunity to effect change through policy when working for the government, and, as a politician, you will be center stage in putting those changes into effect. Unfortunately, there’s no way to gauge the salary since this is such a broad category.

Mediator

Obviously no law degree is required to become a mediator, but your knowledge of and comfort with the law will prove to be very effective in this profession. As a mediator you will put to use the negotiation skills you developed in law school. The pay scale for a mediator can vary pretty significantly, depending on the industry in which you work. However, mediators in the legal services sector currently average around$114,000 a year.

Teaching

This one is fairly obvious, but with a law degree you can teach at just about any level. Of course, you may have to seek teaching credentials, but a career as a teacher or professor can be very rewarding. If you choose to become a law professor, it’s also pretty lucrative. The current median salary for a law professor is$111,607 a year.

These represent just a handful of the opportunities available to those who hold law degrees. As someone who is trained in and comfortable with interpreting law, as well as the art of negotiation, you will stand out from the rest of the applicants in nearly every professional field.

 

Small Bussiness Law: The Buy-Sell Agreement

canstockphoto18575190

Three individuals decide to start a business.  They have a unique service to offer and there is a proven need for their service.  The three founders combine talents and personalities that would be near impossible to replicate.  They have put together an extraordinary business plan that demonstrates their attention to detail and ability to plan ahead.

The founders have followed the plan and each is financially invested to the tune of five figures, which was part of the plan.  Their beautiful website is almost complete and will launch within weeks along with other web marketing tools, but they forgot two things: the operating agreement and buy-sell agreement. These documents essentially determine how the members will behave and how ownership is permitted to change.  It is strongly advised to get these things in order as early on as feasible and preferably before each founder is in five figures deep.

Why is an operating agreement so important?

In short, it establishes basic guidelines by which a business will operate and make changes. For example, is a majority vote or can changes to the business only be implemented through a unanimous vote?  Without forethought and agreement the result can be deadlock and result in no action, which is often the worst kind of action.

According to the website of one wealth management firm, “The simple truth is, emotions matter when it comes to financial decisions.” Establishing a buy-sell agreement early in the development of a new business is a good way to set out a plan of action in a rational way. This allows for there to be a plan of action for any situation that may arise in a business’ day-to-day operations.

At what point do the members begin getting paid?

How much and when?  In the case of our theoretical business the owners were so excited to make money and calculate the revenue opportunity that they failed to consider what they would do with it. They all agreed that in the beginning they would be re-investing it all in the business.  However, the goal behind most businesses is for the owners to eventually profit.

At what point do they stop investing it back into the business and start cutting themselves checks?   If a member is gone for her wedding for two weeks in June is her check the same as the others?  It is important to make these decisions before the money is coming in.  For once it is coming, it is often the case that each individual believes they deserve more than another and an agreement may be hard to reach.

To protect the business owners

A buy-sell agreement protects the founders.  You choose your business partners for a reason.  Getting in to business with someone is like a marriage, except it’s often far more difficult to get out of.  A well-done buy-sell will protect the founders by giving them the first right to purchase another founder’s share should they decide to sell.  It will give parameters for a sale to someone who is not currently part of the business.  It can also protect from situations such as divorce or death, which could thrust an unwanted member upon the existing members.

Buy-Sell agreements can help avoid conflict

Often times conflict and disputes will arise in businesses, this is especially true for new businesses. One owner may pay a bill late resulting in a significant late fee and discord among the group, for example.  One member doesn’t feel she can invest personal funds anymore and needs to focus on her “day job” for a bit, and one member found out she is pregnant.  She is hoping to take a paid maternity leave for nine weeks, after which she may want to sell her share and stay home.

The above outline very real and frequent situations, having a Buy-Sell agreement in place helps your business put a plan of action in place to know how to deal with these items before it is too late.

These issues can all be resolved, but would have been better (and more rationally) planned ahead.  You can’t plan for everything, but you can try.  If you are willing to invest money into starting a business you should be wise enough to protect your investment with some forethought and planning.  If you are an investor, ask the business to provide you with their corporate documents.

If you are considering investing in a start-up business you should ask to take a look at their corporate documents.  Your investment is valuable and you should feel confident that it is going to a business prepared to handle rough waters.

 

The Knockout Game: Real or Ruse?

knockout

It’s been called many things, including “knockout king”, “point ‘em out, knock ‘em out”, and most commonly, “the knockout game”.  Whatever label you slap on it, however, the purpose of this violent game is the same – knockout an unsuspecting victim with a single punch. Unfortunately, incidents of this specific form of brutality are increasing in frequency across the United States, most notably in many major cities and regions, such as Boston, St. Louis, and New York.

What is “The Knockout Game”?

The reason for the surge in this type of crime is hotly debated, with many people feeling that it has to do with the notoriety of recording the event and uploading it to social media. Others believe there are socio-economic elements at play. Still, there are those who believe that the events are in no way connected, and that it’s all much ado about nothing. The history of reported knockout game-style assaults, however, tells another story.

The Brutal History

The media seems split on whether or not the knockout game is even real. However, to the countless victims who are left to heal emotionally and physically from the brutal assaults, it is no myth. In fact, one only has to do a quick search on YouTube to discover just how real the knockout game has become. Countless videos have been posted showing the knockout game in action, Self-defense videos have sprung up, and news media from around the world are shown debating the racial implications of this violent game.

The participants in the knockout game also show a pattern of behavior that indicate the game has evolved, and has moved well beyond being just a trend. Reports from the earliest attacks suggest that, at one point, the game involved a group of assailants who took turns hitting the victim until he or she was rendered unconscious. The assailant who was responsible for the punch that knocked out the victim was then considered to be the “knockout king”. The first known fatality of the knockout game represents this version perfectly.

On September 18, 1992, the first known fatality reported in the U.S. as a result of the knockout game occurred on the campus of MIT. Three youths, one of whom later told the police they were playing a version of the knockout game, attacked two young men and robbed them. In this instance, the victim who died was also stabbed.

If there is any good news to come out of this very real and brutal game it is the fact that the attacks have seemed to scale back in terms of their level of violence. Instead of taking turns to see who can land the knockout punch, the majority of the attackers are now ‘only’ hitting their victims once with the goal of attaining the knockout with a single blow. So, who is now being targeted for these one punch attacks?

Age and Gender Implications

No FBI data exists regarding the knockout game because they aren’t singling it out as a unique act. Instead, the game is lumped into the FBI’s violent assault categories, so it makes it difficult to gauge exactly how many assailants and victims there have been altogether. However, the data that has been collected by the media shows that in many cases, specific groups of people are being targeted, including females and the elderly. In other words, the assailants seek out those they consider to be weak targets who will not fight back. Here are several examples:

  •  On November 24, 2013, Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, allegedly struck a 79-yr old man in the face, fracturing his jaw in two places with a single blow.
  • On November 29, 2013, 76-yr old Yvonne Small became a victim of the knockout game after she was punched from behind while walking down the street in East New York.
  • In April, 2011, 72-yr old Hoang Nguyen was murdered in St. Louis in a knockout game attack.
  • Phoebe Connolly was attacked while riding her bicycle on November 15, 2013 in Washington D.C.
  • In late December, 2013, a woman in Port Allen, Louisiana was punched in the neck while walking to pick up a newspaper.
  • In early January, 2014, a woman in Los Gatos, California, was punched in the face after dropping off her daughter at dance class.

Fighting Back

Unfortunately for the aggressors, as the knockout game spreads and the victim tally grows, people have started fighting back. Citizens have had enough. Reports are cropping up of men and women turning the tables on their attackers, victims shooting their assailants, and others who are teaching their communities how to defend themselves against such assaults.

State lawmakers are taking notice, as well, and introducing bills intended to provide for stiffer penalties for those convicted of assault while playing the knockout game. For example, lawmakers in Oklahoma, Illinois, and New York want to try juveniles as adults. Illinois also wants to automatically upgrade knockout game-related charges to felonies, which would come with a prison sentence ranging from three to seven years. Wisconsin takes it a step further and wants to charge anyone videotaping such assaults, while in New Jersey, lawmakers are hoping to pass a bill that would require mandatory minimum sentences for these types of assaults. New York is proposing the stiffest penalties, with convictions potentially coming with a mandatory sentence of up to 25 years.

Whether or not the knockout game is real is not open to debate. It is a very real and sometimes lethal game that carries lifelong consequences for its victims. Along with the help of lawmakers though, the survivors, who have now started fighting back, may soon be able to deliver a powerful one-two punch, making their assailants victims of their own game.

 

Horrific Truth behind the movie “Puncture”

It is not a very well-kept secret that medicine is big business and that money and corporate influence play a significant role in to what medications, treatments and equipment reach patients and healthcare workers.  This reality was highlighted in the 2011 movie Puncture.  Puncture details how control over the market for needles contributed to the death of a nurse.

The Movie

The screenplay for Puncture was written by attorney Paul Danziger, who along with attorney Michael Weiss, brought a lawsuit against needle manufacturers.  The problem of needle manufacturer monopolistic activities was brought to light after a nurse named Vicky was stuck by a contaminated needle while caring for a patient.  As a result of the needle prick, Vicky contracted HIV.  She eventually died from AIDs.  Saddened by her predicament, Jeffrey Dancort, a friend of Vicky’s and an inventor, designed a needle with built in safety features that would substantially cut down on the number of accidental needle pricks.  While healthcare workers were eager to use safer needles, Dancort encountered significant roadblocks in attempting to bring the needle to market.  This led Dancort to tell his story to Danziger and Weiss.

Puncture details the story of how Vicky’s needle prick and Dancort’s desire to prevent this from happening again led to the discovery by Danziger and Weiss of a conspiracy involving  a needle manufacturer and its distributor to monopolize the medical needle market.  Danziger and Weiss agreed to take Dancort’s case and sued the needle manufacturer that blocked him from entering the marketplace.  Along the way they discovered that only manufacturers who were willing and able to buy their way into the distribution channels could get their products into the hands of hospitals and healthcare workers.

Hospitals purchase equipment and goods through group purchasing organizations (GPOs).  In theory this allows several hospitals to pool their buying power and take advantage of savings that the bulk purchasing would provide.  Ironically, another goal of GPOs is to promote quality healthcare.  However, GPOs and manufacturers often enter into long-term exclusive agreements that have financial repercussions if the GPO purchases products from another manufacturer.  Thus, even if a hospital wanted to purchase the safer needle at the same price, the GPO refused to sell it because of the agreement it had with the current needle supplier.

After several dramatic twists and turns and with the help of a third attorney, Mark Lanier, the lawsuit was eventually settled for over $100 million.

The Reality

The problem of healthcare workers getting injured by needle sticks is a significant one.  Each year there are 800,000 accidental needle stick injuries in hospitals.  Over 1,000 healthcare workers who are stuck contract HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases.  Worldwide the statistics are even more shocking.  Because hospitals purchase medical devices through GPOs, legislative intervention has been necessary to help get safer needles into the hands of healthcare workers.  In 2000, President Clinton signed the Needle-Stick Safety and Prevention Act which requires the use of safer needles.  As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued rules requiring hospitals and other employers to “identify, evaluate, and implement the use of safer medical devices.”  On a local level several states including California have enacted laws with similar requirements.   Such legislative intervention is sure to have an impact on the number of needle sticks as well as healthcare worker illnesses and deaths from needle sticks.  But how much of an impact?

Despite the federal and local government attempts to get safer needles into the hands of healthcare workers, hospitals may be able to continue to use needles that are arguably not very safe.  OSHA’s rules do not specify which needles are safer as it has a policy of not endorsing specific products.  Furthermore, an employer can circumvent the requirement of using safer needles if such needles are not readily available in the market.  Could an employer skirt OSHA’s requirements by either arguing that the needles that is uses are safe, or by arguing that because a particular needle is the only one its GPO offers, it is the only one available in the marketplace?

Blackfish: Sea World v. OSHA

Workplace safety has been a cause of concern in the United States for over a century.  Such concern has led to a slew of federal and local workplace safety regulations. The Railroad Safety Appliance Act helped significantly reduce the number of worker injuries in the railroad industry.  Coal mine worker fatalities averaged over 2,000 a year in the early 1900s, leading to the passage of the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.  Activism over children working in factories resulted in passage of the Keating–Owen Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The most well-known set of regulations related to labor is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that was designed to ensure that employers provide employees with an environment free from hazards.

Animals Work for Food

However, in the entertainment industry, “work” is also performed by animals.  While considered by most as property, many animals routinely perform and in some instances get “paid” to do so.  Indeed, the entertainment industry relies heavily on animals for revenue.  Zoos, circuses, carnivals, aquariums, theme parks, television and movies all regularly feature animals.  Even though there is a history of maltreatment and accidental injury and death to animals who work, there are very few laws in place to protect animals, and certainly none as comprehensive as OSHA.  The only federal law that addresses the treatment of animals that are exhibited to the public is the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.  The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.  States also have animal welfare laws.  For example, 41 states make certain types of animal cruelty felonies.  Six states, however, exempt exhibited animals from their animal cruelty rules.  Most laws focus on animal safety during transport.  Others are concerned with making sure that worldwide animal populations are maintained.

Blackfish Documentary

Blackfish, a documentary released at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2013 and recently shown on CNN documents the poor treatment of Tilikum, a dolphin, at Orlando’s Sea World.  According to filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite and animal rights advocates such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, dolphins in captivity at Sea World suffer from boredom and stress.  They are simply too large, too socially aware, and too intelligent to thrive in captivity.  In other words, these dolphins go “stir crazy” in captivity.  They become aggressive.  According to Cowperthwaite, Tilikum’s aggression led to the 2010 killing of his trainer Sea World employee Dawn Brancheau as well as the deaths of two other people.  In the aftermath of Brancheau’s death OSHA stepped in.  But OSHA is charged with ensuring the safety of people.  Thus, it stepped in out of concern for the safety of Sea World employees, not out of concern for the health and safety of Tilikum and other whales.

Nonetheless, Brancheau’s death and Blackfish have had an impact.  They have brought the conversation about how exhibit animals should be treated out of the meeting rooms of scientists and animal advocacy groups into elementary school classrooms and the homes of consumers across the country.  Many believe that Sea World and similar businesses should change how they treat dolphins.  Children and celebrities are refusing to patronize Sea World until it changes it policies.  Perhaps if there were regulations in place that looked at animal health and safety in a similar way that legislators have looked at the safety of workers, animals might be treated vastly differently.  Indeed, there are some dolphin experts who would produce evidence to support the position that dolphins should not be kept in captivity at all.

Sea World vehemently disagrees with the conclusions reached in Blackfish about the treatment of dolphins at Sea World.  Regardless of who is right– Sea World or Cowperthwaite–wouldn’t a set of OSHA-like regulations for exhibit animals at least force the scientific community to look at the research and come to a consensus on how to best treat animals in captivity?

Moscow: Punk-Rock Prank Leads to Two Year Prison Sentence

On February 21, 2012, five members of the all-girl punk rock group, Pussy Riot, staged a “punk prayer” inside one of Russia’s most prominent Orthodox Churches. In their protest, which lasted mere moments, the group members denounced what they perceived as Vladimir Putin’s regime and his ties to the Orthodox community.

The History of Soviet “Hooliganism”

For their minor protest, which the Russian government labeled as “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, the five women (two in absentia – they fled Russia) were each sentenced to two years in prison.

From the moment of their arrest, through their trial, and up to their subsequent sentencing, the ladies of Pussy Riot have had the backing of almost the entire Western world. World leaders from the United States, France, Britain, and the European Union called the ladies sentence “disproportionate”. Musicians including Madonna, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Peter Gabriel came out in support of the women in an effort to use their celebrity to affect change. Amnesty International even got involved. It was to no avail. Apparently, hooliganism is a big deal in Russia, but what exactly is it?

What is Hooliganism?

An accepted definition of hooliganism is a group of people (usually youth) who join together to commit illegal acts of violence, including damaging property and injuring others. Some define hooliganism in more general terms as simply violent or destructive behavior. In Russia, however, the definition of hooliganism is a bit different. It is defined as an “average gravity” crime. In other words, it carries a broad definition that can easily be applied to any number of actions, whether destructive or not.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Brian LaPierre, author of Hooligan’s in Khrushchev’s Russia, said the charge of hooliganism is now the “go-to instrument for Russian governments who want to get things done and stigmatize a certain social group. That’s now political protestors, environmentalists or anyone seen to be outside the cultural mainstream.” His words seem to reflect current Russian events with precision.

More Charges of Hooliganism

On September 18, 2013, 30 occupants of the ship “Arctic Sunrise”, were arrested by the Russian Coast Guard after having their ship seized outside of an oil rig off the coast of Russia. The group included 28 Greenpeace activists, a British videographer and a Russian photographer. They were stationed near the oil rig because they were protesting arctic oil drilling. Known as the “Arctic 30”, the group was initially charged with piracy and hooliganism. However, in part because of international pressure, the piracy charge was dropped. The 30 protesters still face up to seven years in prison each for the charge of hooliganism. In an October 23, 2013 press release, Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia called the charges “disproportionate”, saying “They arrived at that oil rig in a ship painted with a dove and a rainbow.”

Russian performance artist, Petr Pavlensky, nailed his scrotum to the street in Red Square outside the Kremlin walls on November 10, 2013. In a statement posted at www.themoscowtimes.com, Mr. Pavlensky said he did it in protest of the “police state” and that it was “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference, and fatalism of contemporary Russian society.” Originally charged with disorderly conduct which leads to a potential 15-day jail sentence and a 1,000 ruble fine (about $30 U.S.), he has since seen the charge escalate to hooliganism. Mr. Pavlenesky now faces seven years in prison.

To many observers, those who have been charged with and convicted of hooliganism in Russia face “disproportionate” sentences. In other words, for the individuals facing such charges, the punishment does not fit the crime. Still others see something more sinister at play. Personal expression, even if it’s against the establishment, is a universal right that should be protected, not punished.

 

What are the Legal Penalties for “Sippin on Sizzurp”?

“Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp” Can Leave You Sittin’ in a Cell

Sizzurp is one of a number of slang terms used for a potent prescription strength cough syrup. Other names for the drug include purple drank, lean, and purple jelly, among others. There are also several potential drug combinations that, when mixed together, can produce a variation of sizzurp. But, the most popular recreational use combination is codeine and the prescription antihistamine promethazine because it’s considered to be the most potent. Regardless of the drug combination, however, sizzurp is a controlled substance and, unless it’s been prescribed to you, sizzurp is illegal. It’s also illegal to drive while under the influence of sizzurp, even if you have a prescription.

Sizzurp Drug Classification

Separate from promethazine, codeine is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule II drug, though when combined with other drugs it can fall anywhere between a schedule I and a schedule V drug on the DEA schedule list. Prescription cough syrups are currently classified as schedule V drugs. However, depending on the amount of codeine in the drug combination, the sizzurp could be classified as high as a schedule III drug. This is important because the higher the schedule number the more serious the illegal possession charges.

Sizzurp and the Law

Since there aren’t any laws that currently exist to distinguish the use of sizzurp from any other controlled substance, federal and state sentencing guidelines for the cough syrup would fall in line with the federally mandated drug schedules. Since sizzurp is a controlled substance, you will be arrested and charged with a DUI if you’re caught driving under the influence of it. What happens to you from that point is going to depend on several factors. These include:

 

  • Valid prescription: If you have a valid prescription, you will not be charged with any laws related to illegal possession of a controlled substance. If you don’t have a prescription, and the bottle is in your possession, you will be charged based on the content of the syrup. The higher the codeine content the more serious the charges.

  • Level of Intoxication: If you appear to be slightly drowsy to the officer who stopped you, but you have a valid prescription for the drug, it’s not unheard of that you could be released without formal charges (though you may be required to call someone to pick you up). However, if you appear to be inebriated (slurred speech, inability to pass sobriety tests), you will be charged with a DUI regardless of whether or not you have a valid prescription.

  • Reason for Stop: If you are pulled over by the police because they suspect you are driving while impaired, you could face charges relevant to the outcome of the investigation. However, if you were involved in an at-fault accident and you are found to have been driving under the influence of sizzurp, you will face additional, more serious charges, just as you would for being under the influence of any other controlled substance. Those charges will be dependent upon property damage and whether or not your actions resulted in injury or death to others.

Each state differs related to DUI/DWI laws. If you are under the influence of sizzurp while you’re driving, you will face criminal charges just as you would for being under the influence of any other controlled substance. Additionally, just as with any other controlled substance, you will face even more severe charges if you don’t have a prescription for the cough syrup.

 

Horse: It’s What’s for Dinner?

Eating Horse: A Social Taboo in The U.S.A. and the U.K.

In both the United Kingdom and the United States, the act of eating horse meat, or hippophagy, is taboo, and even appalling to many, though it’s not illegal. So, when it was revealed in February 2013 that up to 100% of the meat found in some frozen lasagna meals, burgers, and spaghetti Bolognese being sold in the UK was actually horse meat, and not beef, consumers in both countries became alarmed.

The revelation didn’t impact only a small minority of Britain’s population either. The products that tested positive for horse meat were being sold at major food chains, including Aldi and Tesco. To put it into perspective, Tesco is the second-largest retailer in the world, second only to Walmart. One reason consumers in the United States continue to be up in arms about their food supply possibly being tainted with horse meat is that both Aldi and Tesco have stores in the U.S. The assumption is that there has to be a connection.

So far, though, there has been no direct link connecting the horse meat saga in the United Kingdom with the United States food supply chain. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, no beef is imported into the United States from any country that was involved in the horse meat scandal. Even so, U.S. consumers remain uneasy about the integrity of the meat they purchase. But, why would something that happened in the United Kingdom continue to have such a visceral effect on United States consumers, even after they’ve been assured that there is no connection between the two?

The Emotional Connection

The thought of eating horse meat versus eating other animals comes down to two primary factors: cultural norms and individual emotions. That’s what makes the act taboo for some people, but a regular practice for others, according to psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer, who was interviewed by FOX News for a February 15, 2013 online article. Dr. Archer told FOX news “It’s the perception of what the animal represents in the culture.” He continues on to say “No one’s thinking logically that it’s wrong; it’s an emotional reaction…”

Apparently it’s a highly emotional subject and culturally unacceptable act in the United States. In 2011, the federal government lifted a five year ban on funding inspections for horse meat processing, but since then there has not been one plant that has opened across the U.S. The only two plants that tried to open, one in Missouri and the other in New Mexico, failed because of public outrage.

History of Hippophagy in the U.S.A.

Prior to the original 2007 ban on inspection funding, there were only three horse meat processing plants operating in the United States. Two of those plants were in Texas and the other plant was located in Illinois. Even then those processors primarily exported horse meat to Mexico and Canada because Americans just weren’t interested in eating it.

Going back even a bit further, horse meat wasn’t a hot commodity at all in the United States during the 20th century, though it did serve as a temporary protein staple for a short period of time during World War II. Even then, it was only because beef, and other traditionally accepted meats, were being rationed. Similarly, during the recession of 1973-1975, horse meat sales surged because inflation increased the price of traditional meats so much that it made those meats cost-prohibitive for many families.

The slaughtering of horses for consumption in the U.S. has historically only been culturally acceptable during the leanest of economic times. According to William Hallman “It’s a hugely political issue.” Hallman, director of Rutger University’s Food Policy Institute, told ABC news in a February 26, 2013 online article that “It has to do with the slaughter of horses and whether that’s acceptable to U.S. society or not.” Apparently, it’s not.

Current Cultural Resistance

Public opposition to the slaughtering of horses is strong in the United States, according to a poll conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The poll results, which were released on February 1, 2012, reflect that 80 percent of American voters oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Further, the survey suggests that the opposition holds regardless of political affiliation, gender, or geographic location.

In the ASPCA’s online press release announcing the survey results, Nancy Perry, who serves as the ASPCA’s Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations, said that “Americans have a responsibility to protect these intelligent, sensitive animals from being butchered.” Senator Mary Landrier (D-LA) agreed, saying in the same article “I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and other advocates to ensure that the American people are heard and that we stop this inhumane practice once and for all.”

The Argument for Slaughterhouses

As is the case with any controversial subject, there are two sides to the story. Those who advocate for the slaughtering of horses speak of the inhumanities horses currently face because of the economy. Dave Duquette is president and founder of United Horsemen, a non-profit organization that advocates for the acceptance of horse slaughterhouses. In the ABC news article of February 26, 2013, Mr. Duquette is quoted as saying “The problem has gotten worse with horses that are abandoned, neglected, abused and starving to death and the direct cause is this and the economy.”

Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) agrees with Mr. Duquette’s assessment. In a July 15, 2013 article posted at http://www.time.com, Rep. Kingston is quoted as saying “While we all love horses and their contributions to our culture, the ban led to unintended consequences and increased inhumane treatment of the animals.”

Representative Kingston, along with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), commissioned a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2010 that is largely believed to be the benchmark that was used to reestablish funding for horse slaughterhouses. Since then, the GAO report has come under serious scrutiny with allegations that the number of horse abuses was intentionally inflated just to get the funding back in place.

Aside from an alleged increase in the number of neglected and abused horses, according to Mr. Duquette, Native American Indian reservations have been flooded with feral horses since the slaughterhouses were originally shut down. He’s right. In an online New York Times article dated October 7, 2013, Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, estimates that the tens of thousands of feral horses on the Navajo’s land cost them about $200,000 in repairs annually. However, in the same article, Mr. Shelly, who previously supported the rounding up of feral horses for slaughter, reversed course. Saying “Horses are sacred animals to us”, Ben Shelly indicates in the article that he no longer supports the practice.

All of the controversy surrounding horse slaughterhouses in the United States lends credence to Dr. Archer’s assessment that the reason animals are viewed differently as food sources from person-to-person and place-to-place is because of individual emotions and cultural acceptance. For example, Australian scientists promote the idea of eating kangaroos, saying it’s a greener alternative to beef. In other parts of the world, elephants, silk worms, camels, and guinea pigs are common fare. Unless there’s a major cultural shift towards acceptance of hippophagy in the United States, however, horse will not be on the menu.

 

The Digital Drug Trade: Shutting Down the Silk Road, Will More Follow?

Closed for Business, or Not?

Vice ecommerce are online marketplaces and much like the familiar Amazon and Ebay they exist to provide products to anxious customers. Unlike your typical ecommerce sites, however, these sites specialize in selling illegal products. Selling products ranging from drugs to counterfit documents and weapons, these illicit websites are the virtual equivalent of the real world black market.

The most prominent of these black market sites was The Silk Road, which launched in February 2011. In late September, 2013, however, after a two-and-a-half year investigation, The Silk Road was shut down by the FBI, and its alleged kingpin, William “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht was arrested.

Online Kingpin

The Silk Road was no small endeavor and was far from being a common street corner drug peddler. According to the FBI, total Bitcoin sales (‘anonymous’ virtual currency) for the Silk Road was $1.2 billion. Sales commission alone was $80 million. The FBI has so far seized about $33.6 million in Bitcoin assets belonging to Mr. Ulbricht, making it the biggest crypto-currency seizure ever.

The takedown by the FBI was no small endeavor either. It cost them well over two years’ worth of manpower and resources to get to this point, and the investigation isn’t even over yet. The prosecution of the case against Mr. Ulbricht is being handled by the DOJ’s Complex Fraud Unit with Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner leading the charge.

The FBI and the DOJ aren’t working alone though. Britain’s newly formed National Crime Agency, as well as other international organizations, is also participating in the global effort to end black market internet sales. In a statement related to the seizure of Bitcoins and the arrest of U.K. dealers, Keith Bristow, the agency’s general director, said “The latest arrests are just the start; there are many more to come.”

The Silk Road Continues

Even as the governmental agencies issue warnings and push forward to bring down all of the players involved with the Silk Road, as it turns out, they have merely scratched the surface of the black market internet underbelly. Just over a month after the shutdown of the Silk Road, the Silk Road 2.0 was already up and running. It was as if the Silk Road was merely closed for renovations while consumers lined up outside waiting for the big “Grand Reopening”.  Just as they did with the original Silk Road, Reddit users simply picked up where they left off, openly posting information such as product and vendor reviews. For them, it was as if nothing ever happened.

Not only do the FBI and the DOJ now have the new Silk Road enterprise to deal with but, in the true spirit of capitalism and supply-and-demand economics, the Silk Road 2 (“Under New Management”), just like its predecessor, has its share of competition. The two biggest competitors to the Silk Road 2 are Black Market Reloaded and Sheep Marketplace.

Enter the Competition

Black Market Reloaded (BMR) is possibly the Silk Road’s biggest competition. It did have its own hiccup to contend with early on but, after being shut down for two days in early October (somebody published some of the source code), BMR was up and running again in no time. Black Market Reloaded changes its URL fairly often and, like all of the other major players, can only be accessed via .onion through Tor. On the BMR Reddit page, just like with the Silk Road, customers can post product reviews and advice on which vendors sell the best product, and who has the best customer service and shipping timeframes.

Sheep Marketplace, like Silk Road 2 and Black Market Reloaded, is accessible only via .onion, and only through the anonymizing network, Tor. Sheep Marketplace also sells a variety of illegal merchandise, but just like the other black market internet ventures, the bulk of its trade is through illicit drug sales. Reddit users also post vendor and product reviews and consumer advice.

There are even sites on the ‘regular’ internet that provide step-by-step instructions on how to safely and anonymously access Silk Road 2.0, Sheep Marketplace and Black Market Reloaded, and they’ll even tell you where to find the URL. It seems that, with the reviews being openly posted on Reddit and the other mainstream sites offering information on how to tap into the black market sites, no one is taking the actions of the FBI and the DOJ seriously.

It’s possible that these buyers have a ‘catch me if you can’ attitude because they feel a certain level of invincibility since their identities are supposed to be protected through Tor. Unfortunately, that’s what Mr. Ulbricht may have thought. Of course, as it states at the bottom of the FBI’s Ulbricht-related press release, “the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.” As such, the ending to Mr. Ulbricht’s story has yet to be written.

Regardless of the flourishing virtual black market and the indifferent attitude of its consumers, it really is a “buyer beware” industry. In a Forbes.com interview discussing the arrest of the alleged Silk Road mastermind, William Ulbricht, an anonymous FBI spokesman said “This is supposed to be some invisible black market bazaar. We made it visible. When you interviewed [Ulbricht], he said he would never be arrested. But no one is beyond the reach of the FBI. We will find you.”

PMDD: A Women’s Only Mental Disorder?

When the fifth edition of the Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) was issued, there was a newly classified mental disorder tucked away in the voluminous 991 page book. It’s called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PPMD) and, up until the book’s publication, it was known merely as a condition. Now, however, because of its reclassification as a mental disorder, the potential implications are far reaching.

What is PPMD?

PPMD is a serious form of premenstrual syndrome with profound and debilitating symptoms ranging from irritability and marked depression to social withdrawal, headaches, anxiety, and hypersomnia or insomnia. Often called ‘PMS on steroids’, PPMD affects roughly 3% to 9% of women. It’s a cyclical condition that occurs approximately two weeks before a woman’s period.

Why the Controversy?

Mental disorders in the United States have historically had stigma attached to them. Some believe that if PPMD is labelled as a mental disorder, women will be socially stigmatized in that regard. According to PhD author and psychologist, Paula Caplan “It is really appalling that using PMDD for women who want recognition for discomfort is a very clear message that goes something like: ‘OK, OK, we’ll believe you are feeling bad if we get to call you mentally ill for feeling bad.’ Can you imagine if we did that to men?” In an online article, posted at www.apa.org, Dr. Caplan explains “It’s a label that can be used by a sexist society that wants to believe that many women go crazy once a month.”

But, there could be legal consequences as well. According to Sarah Gehlert, who studies health disparities at Washington University in St. Louis, it could even come down to custody disputes. In an October 21, 2013 online article posted at NPR.org, Sarah said “Say a poor woman is in court, trying to see whether she could keep custody of her child. Her partner’s or spouse’s attorney might say, ‘Yes, your honor, but she has a mental disorder.’ And she might not get her kids.” Considering the fact that the DSM is the psychological disorder authority, Ms. Gehlert’s assessment may not be too far off base.

Is the DSM Just a Conspiracy for Marketing and Profit?

Maybe all of the fiery dialogue is just par for the course. In an online article for The New Yorker, Gary Greenberg writes “Every revision of the DSM causes controversy; that’s what happens when experts argue in public about the nature of human suffering.” If the rhetoric surrounding the classification of PMDD as a mental disorder is just reflective of a natural response to change, maybe the social implications are much ado about nothing, and they will pass just as they usually do when a new DSM is issued.

The problem is, according to Greenberg, that there is something more sinister at work. Namely, the potential connection to pharmaceutical companies, and how they stand to profit greatly from these changes. In the April 9, 2013 article, Greenberg, author of the book The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry, argues that the revised DSM is going to lead to an increase in the eligibility for people to receive a psychiatric diagnosis which, in turn, leads to more drugs being prescribed.

His statement carries weight, too. The last major revision of the DSM was in 1994, and, partly as a result, antidepressant prescriptions jumped from 5.84% in 1996 to 10.12% in 2005. In fact, prescription medication use has increased overall, with the CDC reporting that in 2008, $234.1 billion was spent on all prescriptions across the board, which was more than double the figure from 1999.

To take the point further, it is estimated that approximately 70% of Americans are currently taking at least one prescription drug and, of that number, 13% are antidepressants. That is according to findings published in the online medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The prescription records for Olmstead County, Minnesota were evaluated, and published online June 21, 2013. They showed that a total of 68.1% of the Olmstead County population had been given one prescription, 51.6% were on two prescriptions, and 21.2% of the population had five or more prescriptions.

The male-female gender divide in Olmstead County mirrors that of the United States. In the United States, women represent 50.8% of the population, and in Olmstead County, 51.1% of the population is female (2012).

Overall, the report concludes that “women received more prescriptions than men for several drug groups, in particular for antidepressants.” The Mayo Clinic’s findings stand up to the information contained in the Center for Disease Control’s report, which reflects that between 2005 and 2008, 12.7% of the United States female population had been prescribed an antidepressant within the preceding 30 days. That’s compared to only 5.0% of the male population during the same timeframe. What does all of that mean for women and pharmaceutical companies? And, what does it have to do with PMDD?

 

Rebranding for Profit

 

Maybe everything, according to the article at NPR.org. In the article, the prescription drug, Sarafem, is used as an example. Identical to Prozac, Sarafem has been approved to treat PPMD since 2000. It’s marketed as a PPMD-specialty drug, but the only difference between Prozac and Sarafem is the cost. While generic Prozac only costs about 25 cents a pill, Sarafem costs about $10 a pill. Aside from the cost, the only other difference between the two pills is their color. Prozac is green and Sarafem is pink. Other than that, they are chemically identical.

The manufacturer of Serafem, Lilly Pharmaceuticals, lost its patent on Prozac in 2000, and market analysts recognize that Lilly engaged in a marketing ploy when it attempted to repackage Prozac as something more socially acceptable. It took $30 million in advertising to do it, but it worked. With Sarafem, pharmaceutical companies again found a way to take advantage of women and the DMS classifications.

What’s next for pharmaceutical companies now that PPMD is officially a mental disorder, and not just a condition? Based on their history of rebranding (Sarafem was just one example of many), and how women’s antidepressant prescriptions outnumber men’s by more than 2 to 1, as well as the fact that prescriptions surge when a new DMS revision is issued, it’s safe to assume that the pharmaceutical companies will likely seize the opportunity to rebrand other drugs. They’ll paint them pretty colors, inflate the price and market them as ‘new’. The problem? Regardless of how pretty they package it, for women who will now be facing the stigma of being classified with a mental disorder, it will be a hard pill to swallow.