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Barbara O'Brien

Barbara O'Brien

Political and Social Issues Advocate

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Prize-Winning Series Exposes Injustice to Sick Miners

Coal miners

This year a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting went to Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization. Hamby’s “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine,” was a year-long investigation of how the coal industry denies benefit claims of coal miners who are sick and dying of black lung disease.

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The Effect of the Recalcitrant Cancer Act on Cancer Research

Recalcitrant Cancer Act

The words “cancer research” may evoke an image of white-coated scientists working diligently in their laboratories. But cancer research is also about money.

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The Deadly Toll of Shipbreaking

Shipbreaking in Bangladesh Image: A satellite image of the Bangladeshi coast shows the dangerous shipbreaking yards.

Shipbreaking is another name for ship demolition. It is the work of taking old ships apart for whatever can be salvaged — steel, bolts, cables, machine parts. It is dangerous work. Many old ships are oozing flammable fuel, for example, and sometimes workers die in fires. Other workers are killed when rusted decks give way beneath their feet, or when they are crushed by falling debris.

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The Impact of Asbestos Use Worldwide

Impact of asbestos

Although the danger of asbestos was acknowledged decades ago, and although the mineral is entirely or mostly banned in most industrialized nations, the world is still feelings the effects of asbestos use. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), deaths from asbestos-related disease worldwide increased from 90,000 in 2006 to 107,000 in 2010. These are deaths from lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis caused by asbestos exposure, mostly in the workplace. As many as one in three deaths from occupational cancer may be caused by asbestos WHO says. Several thousand more deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.

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Why the "Loser Pays" Provision Means No One Wins

Under the Law Code of Hammurabi, which dates to about 1772 BC, if Bob accused Jim of a capital crime but failed to prove his case, Bob would be put to death. And since just about everything — including serving watered-down beer — was a capital crime in those days, one suspects Hammurabi’s judges had a lot of free time on their hands. The cause of justice may not have been well served, however.

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Resources for Mesothelioma Patients and Their Families

Being a Wise Health Care Consumer

Wise Health Care Consumer Month

February is Wise Health Care Consumer Month, says the American Institute of Preventative Medicine. But why?

The argument is that if more people become smarter health care shoppers, this by itself could “bend the curve” of our rising health care costs, slowing the rate at which costs increase. Too many people have been getting unnecessary diagnostic tests and treatments, it is said, which means more money spent on health care.

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Help Running Out for 9/11 First Responders?

World Trade Center

It has been two years since Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. President Obama signed the Act into law on January 2, 2012. The law provides health care and other compensation to the growing number of 9/11 first responders who are gravely ill from exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

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Courts Are Bouncing Tort Reform

tort reform

Over the past 20 years or so, many state legislatures have passed “tort reform” laws. “Tort” is lawyer talk for “personal injury,” and it refers to the process by which people sue for damages when they’ve been injured. “Tort reform” usually means passing laws that make it more difficult to file lawsuits and limit the amount of damages that can be awarded.

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