Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

June 27, 2012

The Supreme Court: How to Encourage Police Profiling

By David K. Shipler

It’s too bad that Supreme Court justices can’t ride along incognito with police officers and see firsthand the frequent profiling that occurs. Then we might not get the sort of airy, wishful opinion that the Court delivered as it upheld the “show-me-your-papers” part of Arizona’s immigration law.

The majority warned that the provision would be constitutionally vulnerable if it were later shown to involve racial and ethnic profiling. But how else are officers to enforce it? They are mandated to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to think is in the country illegally. “Reasonable suspicion” is a squishy legal concept, a bit more than a hunch but a lot less than the “probable cause” required for an arrest. What constitutes “reasonable suspicion” near the Mexican border if not a swarthy complexion and a Spanish accent? The Arizona police aren’t going to be on the lookout for suspected Swedes.

June 22, 2012

Invisible Malnutrition and America's Future

By David K. Shipler

Senators from both parties are congratulating themselves for passing the agriculture bill yesterday as a model of bipartisan responsibility and healthy compromise—a model of just what legislators should do. But the result is not an example of what legislators should do. It cuts $4.5 billion from the $80-billion annual food stamp program, which helps keep 45 million Americans—most of them children—from the throes of malnutrition.

Responsible legislators would look ahead to the future of a country where millions of children get inadequate nutrients during critical periods of brain development. We know what that means—“we” being our society, which includes the neurologists and pediatricians and nutritionists and psychologists who have studied the lifelong impacts of early malnutrition. Their expertise never seems to penetrate the walls surrounding Capitol Hill.

A raft of research has found that the timing of nutritional deficiency during the most sensitive periods of brain growth can determine which mental capabilities are damaged. During the second trimester of pregnancy, the creation of neurons can be affected. During the third trimester, neuron maturation and the production of branched cells called glia, can be inhibited. From birth until about age two, food scarcity can assault the rapidly developing brain enough to lower I.Q. And even if good nutrition is restored later, there is no full recovery. Early deprivation creates lifetime cognitive impairment.