Feature

Education Savings Accounts: The Poison Pill for Public Education?

(Source)   The current state of public education has been a hotly debated topic since the COVID shutdown in 2020. Reading and math scores have dropped in the United States, further widening the gap between high-income and low-income students. This change has added fuel to the school choice movement. During her tenure in the Trump administration, former Secretary of Education Betsy Devos unsuccessfully pushed for passage of “school choice” bills, but that hasn’t stopped changes from occurring at the state level. Several states are passing Education Savings Account bills that provide funds for parents to send their children to private schools.   (Source) What are education savings accounts? K-12 education savings accounts (ESAs) are funds provided by the government to pay for educational expenses. The public funds are deposited into private savings accounts that parents can use on private school tuition, tutoring, or school supplies (approved uses vary from state to state). 15 states currently have ESA programs; 7 states have universal or almost-universally available programs, and 8 states restrict the programs to families of students with special needs or low-income families. The table below contains an overview of states that enacted or modified ESA programs in 2023 and approximate [read more]

Ozempic: A Miracle Drug or the Start of a Public Health Crisis?

(Source)   Ozempic, an injectable diabetes drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk, has recently increased in popularity and has caught the attention of celebrities and the general public alike. Known for its significant weight loss effects, Ozempic and similar products are changing how Americans approach nutrition, exercise, and body image. In addition to these potentially dangerous changes, the popularity of Ozempic exemplifies the potential dangers of off-label usage of drugs, as Ozempic’s intended audience struggles to access the medication due to its boom in popularity.   What is Ozempic, and how does it work? The Food and Drug Administration first approved Ozempic, a drug used to treat diabetes, in 2017. The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide, which lowers blood sugar levels and regulates insulin, making it a crucial ingredient for those with type 2 diabetes. Semaglutide indirectly promotes weight loss as it imitates a naturally occurring hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 that limits appetite by telling our bodies that we feel full and causes our stomachs to empty at a slower pace. Semaglutide makes patients feel fuller faster, and others have reported that their “food noise,”, or constant thoughts surrounding food, have disappeared after taking the drug. Ozempic is not the [read more]

Minor’s Disaffirmance of Digital Application Contracts: Having Their Cake and Eating It Too?

(Source)   In the United States, there is generally a broad freedom to contract. By default, the courts will hold two parties that have entered into a contract accountable for the conditions of the contract and will enforce the terms of the deal above the objections of either party. However, there are some exceptions to this principle. As a matter of public policy, the courts have decided that there are some groups of people who cannot be bound to a contract, such as the intoxicated or the mentally unfit. When these groups enter into a contract, the courts will often allow them to escape the terms by relying on the assumption that these groups of people are not fully competent to make decisions for themselves. The most common group of people that cannot be bound by contracts are minors, as it is assumed that a minor is not fully competent to make decisions that they will be later bound by. Because of this, most states have laws where a minor can choose to “disaffirm” (declare that they will not be bound by) a contract. As an illustrative example of disaffirmation, let us assume that a car dealership decided to enter [read more]

Let’s Change the “Opt-In” Policy and Save Lives

(Source)   In the United States, over 100,000 people are currently in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. Unfortunately, 17 people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ. The United States currently has a patchwork of laws on organ donation, though there is a model legislation called the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act that has been adopted by many states. Under this model, the “opt-in” system is used, wherein individuals can choose during their lives to become organ donors after death, or the next-of-kin of deceased individuals may choose to have the deceased individuals’ organs donated. While about 54% of the population are registered organ donors, only a small percentage of people who die will die under circumstances that allow for organ donation, approximately just 3 in every 1,000 deaths. In 2021, for example, only about 14,000 deceased individuals donated organs. Under the “Spanish Model” of organ donation, organs may be harvested from deceased individuals unless they affirmatively indicated during their lives that they did not wish to be organ donors after passing away. Even though in practice organs in Spain are usually not donated without family permission, studies show Spaniards’ confidence in the organ donation system [read more]

Tort Creditors in Bankruptcy

(Source)   On December 15th, 2023, a federal jury awarded $148 million in damages  to two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, in a defamation suit  against former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had repeatedly accused the plaintiffs of manipulating ballots during the 2020 presidential election.  Unfortunately for Freeman and Moss, they now find themselves in a position that has become all too familiar for many successful tort claimants: Just one day after a federal judge ordered him to begin paying the judgment, Giuliani filed for bankruptcy, signaling that the plaintiffs can ultimately expect to recover only a fraction of the total amount they are owed. If these facts sound familiar, it may be because they bear a striking resemblance to the ongoing bankruptcy of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.  In December 2022, Jones filed for bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay $1.5 billion in a defamation suit brought by the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.  For nearly a decade, Jones had repeatedly asserted on his radio show the family members were secretly “crisis actors” involved in a government-orchestrated “false flag operation” to facilitate gun control legislation, causing the [read more]

From Actors to Social Media Influencers: Where do Children’s Rights Fit in?

(Source)   Macaulay Culkin, Drew Barrymore, the Olsen twins – these are just a few of the myriad of child actors who have starred in iconic films and shows. The most successful actors have gained international fame and millions of dollars through television shows, movie deals, and advertising contracts. Their legal rights are well-established and upheld, but this wasn’t always the case – child actors in the early 1900s paved the way for actors now. Jackie Coogan, regarded as one of the first child actors, starred in some of the highest-grossing films of the 1920s but didn’t see a dime of his earnings by the time he was 20 years old. After Coogan sued his parents for spending nearly all of his money, California and other states passed the Coogan Law. These state laws require that employers deposit 15% of a minor’s wages into a blocked trust account. Federal law offers little protection for child actors because they are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Today, social media poses a new threat to children that has yet to be fully addressed by the law. There are a myriad of “family influencers” on TikTok, posting daily videos of their children [read more]

Incentivizing Pharmaceutical Pediatric Data with Patent Extensions

(Source)   Patent exclusivity provides lucrative market incentives for companies in the biopharma space to innovate. Companies that receive a patent for their drug from the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) have a limited monopoly for 20 years from the date of filing the patent. The economic incentives are so lucrative that Amgen built a patent portfolio that resulted in a thirty-seven-year patent term through patent thickets (multiple patents that cover a single drug) for its most profitable drug, Enbrel. Beyond the standard twenty-year patent exclusivity for each patent relating to the drug, companies may receive a patent extension of 6 months through pediatric exclusivity granted by the FDA. Pediatric exclusivity under the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA) uses strong market incentives to encourage pharmaceutical companies to provide rigorous clinical data to improve drug label instructions for the pediatric population. Currently, many drugs are used off-label in pediatric patients due to the lack of pediatric data available in medicine. Currently, roughly 50% of medication labels lack guidance for medical providers on a drug’s use in children. Pediatric data is sparse because drugs must go through multiple trial stages in testing drugs and pediatric trials may occur only after [read more]

Is an Executive Order on AI Enough?

(Source)   President Biden’s Executive Order 14110 President Biden signed an executive order on October 30, 2023 about the safe development of AI. However, this is not the first AI-related guidance this administration has published. They previously issued a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and an AI Risk Management Framework. But both the blueprint and framework suffer from the same fatal flaw: they were voluntary recommendations to follow, and thus unenforceable. The question is then, is this executive order any better? The executive order begins by promising that the federal government will take many actions to protect against AI. One of the first promises is that the federal government will create a labeling mechanism so people know when content is generated. While that seems nice in theory, there is no practical way for the government to fulfill this promise. Many AI-generated content detectors already exist, such as GPTZero, Undetectable AI, and Sapling, however none of them are 100% accurate. I even tested this by putting this article in multiple detectors, and half of them detected AI content. A recent study by the University of Maryland also mathematically proved that as AI improves, it will become impossible to differentiate [read more]

Rub Some Dirt in It: An Analysis of Coaching Abuse in Collegiate Athletics

(Source)   College athletics are often seen as an asset to both universities and students. For universities, athletics programs generate revenue and influence student enrollment. For student-athletes, participating in athletics can provide financial assistance through scholarships and may be a pathway towards continuing to professional sports. Additionally, even if students-athletes don’t aspire to continue on to the next level, they still often develop lifelong bonds with their teammates. However, in many instances, the college athletics experience can turn toxic, especially the relationship between coaches and players. There have been increasingly more reports of coaching abuse across both men’s and women’s sports. Coaching abuse takes many forms: physical, verbal, and/or sexual and has long lasting implications on the physical and mental health of athletes. To deal with this issue players can report the behavior to the school and/or litigate their complaints.  However, this process is often stymied by power imbalances between students and universities who prioritize winning records.  To combat this problem, there should be increased oversight from the NCAA,  players should push for employee status at their universities, and states should make legislative changes to protect student-athletes’ rights.   A Tale of Abuse At Colgate University, 20 players left the [read more]

Time To End the Backlog

(Source)   Unfortunately, it is common to read or hear about heinous crimes in the news. What may be more shocking, though, is how frequently stories announce that the offenders’ DNA was later found in untested rape kits, sitting on shelves in warehouses, or police evidence rooms for years, or even decades. When these kits go untested there are severe consequences, as I will discuss. Take the case of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee woman whose abduction and murder last year shocked the nation. The day following the abduction, police officers took Cleotha Abston-Henderson into custody. Shortly thereafter, we learned that a year prior to Fletcher’s disappearance, another Tennessee woman reported to the police that Abston-Henderson had raped her, and she underwent a sexual assault forensic examination. The results, however, came too late, as law enforcement did not get the results of the exam until several days after Fletcher’s disappearance. Had the results come sooner, there would have been a hit on Abston-Henderson’s DNA because he was previously incarcerated for similarly violent crimes, and Eliza Fletcher would likely still be alive today. But this case is no anomaly. For example, in 2011, the Ohio Attorney General launched an initiative to test [read more]