Archive for May, 2011

Doctors evaluating juveniles in custody receive payments from big pharma

From the Palm Beach Post via Mother Jones.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thoughts on the media coverage of child homicides

May 26, 2011 1 comment

The Caylee Anthony murder case is almost* inescapable these days.

In spite of the fact that there were three other major criminal justice stories in the news on May 25, the Casey Anthony trial was still easily located on the front page of the internet sites of most major national news outlets. If you search “”casey anthony” trial” on Google you’ll return about 6.5 million hits. A Twitter search for “Casey Anthony” will pop a rapidly moving feed with almost minute by minute commentary.

There is no question that a substantial amount of ink, airtime, bandwidth and, other journalistic resources, have been dedicated to this story since Caylee was reported missing in June 2008. The real question, in my mind at least, is why so much attention is focused on this particular case. Of the more than 1,500 children who die in the United States as a result of abuse or neglect—that’s about one child fatality due to abuse and neglect every six hours—what makes this case particularly newsworthy?

The radically disproportionate coverage of Caylee’s death was thrown into sharp relief for me yesterday, when I read the Chicago Tribune article about the close confinement and subsequent death Christian, of a Northwest Indiana boy. A Google search for “”Christian Choate” murder” returns about 40,000 hits, and Twitter is practically silent. Again, what distinctions can be drawn to distinguish Caylee’s death from Christian’s death to justify the national media attention heaped on one as opposed to the other?

I’m troubled by the singling out of the Caylee Anthony case. I can’t do anything other than speculate as to why it has grabbed the attention of the media and the public in the way that it has. But the caricature of child abuse and neglect that is painted in the Caylee Anthony case unsettles me. First, I think that by focusing such intense attention on one incident of child homicide that it somehow degrades the significance of the volume of child deaths due to abuse and neglect that are out there. Why aren’t the other victims deserving of this public scrutiny? Second, I think that because Casey Anthony is a young, relatively attractive middle-class woman that it is hard for the audience of, say the Today Show, to understand how somebody like that could allegedly commit a crime like this. However, instead of an open, engaged discussion about child abuse and neglect in the United States, what we have ended up with is an energetic attempt to portray Casey Anthony as someone who is significantly different than, and pathological in comparison to, the average young mother (that isn’t to say that child abuse should be normalized, simply to say that by slicing out perpetrators from the “normal” population that it becomes easier for all of us to focus attention on what is wrong with the individual offender rather than on systemic and community problems). By holding up such a case as an example, I think it is easier for all of us to convince ourselves that this is a unique event.

*The Old Grey Lady has remained relatively Anthony free….

Incarcerating juveniles for life

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that it was okay to sentence juveniles to life in prison. Yesterday there was an interesting op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette arguing that Pennsylvania incarcerates too many juveniles for life.

Atlantic: Geography of Hate

I missed this article when it was published, so even though I’m a week behind the times this is worth a read.

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Fun with wages

A nifty little Wall Street Journal infographic lets you play around with some demographic realities of American wages.

One interesting thing is the sheer volume of people who are employed at twice the minimum wage or under. Another is that the median hourly salary is $16 (which is right about $28,000 per year), compared to a mean salary of $21 (which is right about $44,000 per year). At a glace that tells me that there are a whole lot of people working in America who aren’t making very much money doing what they do.

Food for thought

Evidently consumers in rich countries waste “almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Sarahan Africa” (about 200 pounds per consumer per year in the U.S. and Europe, compared to 12 to 24 pounds per person per year in Africa and Asia). And, overall, almost a third of total food production is lost to waste and spoilage.

This makes me think of Gary Becker’s response to the news that world population will reach 10 billion by the end of the century.

A couple of observations:

  1. It’s probably not surprising that people who live closer to the land waste less food than people who live farther from the land.  Not that that alone cancels out the waste produced by industrialization and centralization of food production, as well as excess food supply in the United States and Europe.
  2. It makes me wonder about food distribution systems in high-income urban and suburban communities in the United States compared to those systems in low-income urban and rural communities.  I wonder if there is a waste difference in those distribution systems, and I wonder if there is a waste difference in the consumers living in those different areas.
  3. Finally, it is kind of interesting to consider wealth in terms of available calories.  Just, you know, as a thought experiment.

WSJ: Treating depression in moms helps kids

Reporting on a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Wall Street Journal says that a good way to treat depression in kids is by treating depression in mothers. Tight systems have a disproportionately significant effect on kids (the younger the kid the more significant the effect), so this finding is at least logical. Additionally, it is nice to see a reinforcement of a community theory of treating mental illness.

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