Category Archives: Featured

Alzheimer’s – The Faces Behind the Numbers

By: Nolan Hale

Everyone likely has been affected by the cruel disease known as Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are living with the Alzheimer’s disease. 

Like many families, my family watched the steady decline of a wonderful human being who we lost too young. My grandmother had the disease when she was in her early 70’s. I remember there being many hurdles that my family had to overcome, like getting the proper treatment and competent nursing home care. While I was young, I remember the stress on the faces of my family members up until the very end. My grandma is one of millions who go through this nightmare and researchers have been trying to find answers. Unfortunately, there have been new developments that are not so promising. 

Last Monday, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix released the results of a study of people who are destined to develop Alzheimer’s at a young age because of rare gene flaws. The study involved 200 people in the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, the results were a disappointment for scientists. The drugs failed to prevent or slow mental decline of the people who inherited rare gene flaws. Each person had a genetic mutation that almost guaranteed Alzheimer’s in your 30’s to 50’s. While these people account for 1% of Alzheimer’s cases, their brains are similar to those who develop the disease at a later age.

The numbers surrounding Alzheimer’s are staggering and there are many reasons to lose hope. Behind these numbers is something that people seem to forget – the caregivers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Additionally, these caregivers provide an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care valued at $234 billion.

Is there any hope left? I am sure many of you are wondering. Meet Jack and Beverly Blackard. Jack has been battling Alzheimer’s since 2019. They live in Clarksville, Tennessee and Beverly has been Jack’s full-time caregiver. The Alzheimer’s Association is pushing to pass a three-year policy program that would provide state funded home care and delivered meals for caregivers. Jack and Beverly are advocates for passing the bill by meeting lawmakers and telling their story. Some assembly members are taking notice.  Assembly members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Monique Limón (D- Santa Barbara) introduced Assembly Bill 2047 and Assembly Bill 2048, flanked on the floor of the State Assembly. The bills provide seniors, providers, and caregivers with the tools they need to recognize and plan for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Other lawmakers are taking notice and many hope that the bills will take steam. However, like trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, passing a bill of this magnitude will take a long time. In the meantime, families should be aware of their options.

According to Karl Steinberg, a California geriatrician, “If you’ve got the resources, where you’ve got family and paid caregivers at home, you’re all set.” However, he states that if you are living in a facility, you are likely to die in the facility. Many Americans have turned to dementia directives created in recent years. The Advance Directives are growing in demand because a patient can refuse oral assisted feeding when they are in an advanced state of dementia and cannot make decisions. It is controversial because terminally ill patients will likely die within two weeks after refusing food and water. The directives drafted in New York and Washington State have drawn hundreds of users. 

People need to be aware that Alzheimer’s can put you in a situation where you can no longer take independent action. There are many different viewpoints as to whether someone should be able to decline medical intervention in advance. Dementia is different for everyone and it may be difficult for doctors to determine when they can no longer make decisions. Some are at home with a caregiver while some are in a facility that may be understaffed and poorly operated. If a doctor does not give food or water because of a directive against the family’s wishes, legal battles could ensue. Where should the doctor draw the line? 

In conclusion, there are many ways to fight Alzheimer’s. The harsh reality is that having Alzheimer’s and caring for one with Alzheimer’s is a long uphill battle. It is best to have a plan in place if you or a loved one is struck with dementia before it is too late. This includes talking with your loved ones about how they would like to be taken care of and financially planning for any disease. There are options like Long term care Medicaid, a special needs trust, and powers of attorney. In the meantime, love your family like Beverly loves Jack – unconditionally and through thick and thin.

JoNel Aleccia,Diagnosed with dementia, she documented her wishes for the end. Then her retirement home said no,Washington Post(Jan. 18, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/diagnosed-with-dementia-she-documented-her-wishes-for-the-end-then-her-retirement-home-said-no/2020/01/17/cf63eeaa-3189-11ea-9313-6cba89b1b9fb_story.html.

John Ross,What an Elder Law Attorney Has to Say About Alzheimer’s Disease, cbs19 (Feb. 16, 2020), https://www.cbs19.tv/article/news/health/what-an-elder-law-attorney-has-to-say-about-alzheimers-disease/501-f20f8c29-a4a5-478f-a85c-b2370e2d7bcb.

Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry and Limón introduce legislative package to tackle Alzheimer’s crisis, Lake County Record-Bee (Feb. 5, 2020), https://www.record-bee.com/2020/02/05/assemblymembers-aguiar-curry-and-limon-introduce-legislative-package-to-tackle-alzheimers-crisis/.

Facts and Figures, Alzheimers Association, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures (last visited Feb. 18, 2020).

Dementia Advance Directive, End of Life Choices New York,

https://endoflifechoicesny.org/directives/dementia-directive/(last visited Feb. 18, 2020).

Joshua Prestonet al., The Legal Implications of Detecting Alzheimer’s Disease Earlier, AMA Journal of Ethics (Dec. 2016), https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/legal-implications-detecting-alzheimers-disease-earlier/2016-12.

Vaccination Nation

By: Maddie Loewenguth 

In the summer of 2019, after a series of measles outbreaks in New York schools during the previous academic year, a new state law was passed that ended the religious exemption for vaccinations.

Under the new law, Public Health Law Section 2164 and New York Codes, Rules and Regulations Title 10, Subpart 66-1, all children attending public, private or parochial school in New York State must be immune to diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, varicella, and meningococcal in accordance with Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations. 

In the fall of 2019, all children had to begin getting their vaccines within the first two weeks of classes and complete them by the end of the school year, June 2020. This new law affects about 26,000 New York children who previously obtained religious exemptions. Parents who chose not to vaccinate their children had two options, home school or move out of New York. 

The measles outbreak began in New York City in October of 2018. There were 654 reported cases in New York City and 414 in other parts of the state. The majority of the cases involved unvaccinated children in Hasidic Jewish communities. Dr. Oxibris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner issued a statement that the “best defense against renewed transmission is having a well immunized city.”

The passage of the New York State law took place on June 13th. New York is now the fifth state following California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia, to enact a law requiring children in public schools to be vaccinated and barring all nonmedical exemptions to vaccinations. New York is now considered the state with the strictest policies in the nation. 

Maine’s law does not go into effect until 2021 and makes exceptions for special education students. California, where nonmedical exemptions ended in 2015 allows districts to exempt disabled children. 

All states require children to receive certain vaccinations before entering public school, but every state allows exemptions for children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. There are also states that allow for religious exemptions and for nonreligious exemptions based on personal belief. 

Several states have banned nonmedical exceptions, others have imposed rigorous requirements for parents seeking nonmedical exemptions. For example, in Nebraska, parents must submit “an affidavit signed by a legally authorized representative stating that the immunization conflicts with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious denomination of which the student is a member.” 

Three states also specify that “philosophical arguments” must not be cited as a basis for granting a religious exemption. For example, Alaska law states that “statements indicating philosophical or personal opposition to vaccines will invalidate religious documentation.” 

Parents are advocating on both sides of the issue, those against vaccines, either believe that their children have been injured by previous vaccinations or that it is against their religion to vaccinate their children and are exploring homeschooling options. Parents on the other side are worried about the effect non-vaccinated children will have on the health of their children and are asking schools not to place their children in classrooms with students who have not been vaccinated. 

The most recent news regarding the NYS immunization battle is the introduction of the HPV vaccine to be added to the mandatory list of vaccines for New York schoolchildren. HPV is associated with many cases of cervical cancer and the rates at which parents are vaccinating their children is dropping. It will be interesting to see if the HPV vaccination bill will pass and be added to the list of mandatory vaccines, as well as what states will follow New York in barring non-medical exemptions.  

Sharon Otterman, Get Vaccinated of Leave School: 26,000 N.Y. Children Face a Choice, New York Times, (Sept. 6. 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/nyregion/measles-vaccine-exemptions-ny.html.

Leksandra Sandstrom, Amid Measles Outbreak, New York closes religious exemption for vaccinations but most states retain it,Pew Research Center(June 28, 2019). https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/28/nearly-all-states-allow-religious-exemptions-for-vaccinations/.

N.Y. Pub. Health Law§ 2164 (Consol. 2019). 

David Robinson, HPV Vaccine Joins NY school immunization battle, (Jan 11, 2020). 

https://www.mpnnow.com/news/20200111/hpv-vaccine-joins-ny-school-immunization-battle.

Tragedy of the Commons: Snowden’s Reformation and the Balkanization of the Internet

By: Matthew Funk

Introduction: In 1517, Martin Luther put into motion events that would uproot the hegemony of the Catholic Church in Western religion. His Ninety-Five Theses would be the basis for an enormous upheaval of the sacred status quo, and challenge centuries of religious ordering. His “protest” of the practices of the Catholic Church would be disseminated with the power of the printing press, the pinnacle of information technology at the time, and lead to a great fork in the history of Christianity. Protestantism, with unique movements springing up throughout Europe, would ultimately separate from the oversight of the Catholic Church and create a new religious paradigm.

No different in principle, but perhaps in scale, has been the upheaval caused by the confessions of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. His “leak of [National Security] [A]gency documents has set off a . . . debate over the proper limits of government surveillance.” These leaks have “opened an unprecedented window on the details of surveillance by the NSA, including its compilation of logs of virtually all telephone companies in the United States and its collection of e-mails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies.” This, in turn, has rippled into raucous calls for a new Reformation—one of Internet, not religious, sovereignty and sensibilities. Such calls implicate the principles undergirding the purposes, governance, and even geography of the Internet. And while the calls may not lead to a catastrophic schism on the scale of Christianity’s division in the 16th century, they are certainly loud enough not only to question policy choices regarding the defining information technology of the new millennium thus far, but also to challenge the traditional dynamics of sovereignty-retention in the face of a global online commons.

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Can You Hear Me Now? Spectrum is Shaping the Telecommunication Industry in an Increasingly Connected America

By: James Zino

The way in which Americans communicate has changed rapidly over the past decade, and the cellular phone has been at the forefront of this revolution, reaching levels of market maturation faster than any mainstream technology since the television. What started as a tool to place calls while on the go has evolved into a device with the processing power of a small computer, where millions of people call, text, tweet, video chat, and stream hours of content every day right from the palm of their hands. While there is no doubt that consumer technology has made incredible strides since the first iPhone ushered in a new product market in 2007 with estimated opening day sales of up to 1 million units, what has changed even more is the invisible infrastructure that allows consumers to be wirelessly connected from even the most remote parts of the country.

Although most Americans are familiar with the country’s “Big Four” national cellular providers, (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile), what actually enables these companies to provide wireless internet and cellular service is less well-known. This capability comes from certain bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, which have become an increasingly indispensable commodity for network providers as demand for cellular service surges. Control and licensing of radio spectrum is controlled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). While the NTIA handles the use of spectrum for federal government purposes, the FCC administers spectrum regulation and licensing for all other uses, including state, local, and commercial functions.

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