The Free Press, Mankato, MN


September 15, 2013

Lesson from Cuban crisis


E-cigarettes contain small amounts of liquid that an atomizer vaporizes for inhalation. They aren’t regulated heavily, so there isn’t much public information available on what’s in them, and the contents probably vary widely by brand. But they clearly contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Public health advocates warn that e-cigarette makers are using the same strategies that tobacco companies employed to attract young people to start smoking — candy flavorings such as “Atomic Fireball,” for example.

Public health advocates also should appreciate the other side of e-cigarettes — their potential value to those already struggling with addiction. If the FDA asserts its authority over e-cigarettes, it can ensure that they are a less unhealthy tobacco alternative, at least as far as that’s possible.

Washington Post

Labor embraces new America

Having banged its head against a wall for years with nothing to show for it but a headache, the American labor movement is devising a plan to bypass the wall altogether. The AFL-CIO has acknowledged that the laws protecting employees who seek to join a union have been rendered so ineffectual that labor must come up with new ways to advance workers’ interests.

With just 6.6 percent of the private-sector workforce enrolled in unions in 2012, traditional collective bargaining has all but vanished from the economic landscape — taking raises, benefits, job security and much of the American middle class with it as it goes.

Unable to build traditional unions the traditional way, the AFL-CIO has committed itself to building the kinds of coalitions that won expanded health care and affordable lofts in San Francisco. For several decades, unions have aligned with other key liberal constituencies on a host of discrete battles — immigration reform, voting rights (again), financial regulation, universal health coverage — but now it wants to cement these alliances in permanent coalitions.

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