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Contributors: Meet Some of the People Behind Our Latest Print Issue

More on Jeneen Interlandi, Christopher Leaman, Francie Diep, Joe Eaton, Maya Dusenbery—and how they reported their latest Pacific Standard stories.



Newtown. Aurora. Santa Barbara. The roster of recent mass shootings haunts the American body politic, yet serious policy responses have failed to materialize. The New York-based journalist Jeneen Interlandi looks at a law already on the books in California that could make a difference if enforced. Named after one of the victims of a violent rampage committed by a mentally ill man, Laura’s Law aims to create a legal framework for family members and caregivers to treat the potentially violent without impinging on their rights as citizens who have not yet committed crimes.



On a fall day in New York, photographer Christopher Leaman gingerly stepped into a canoe and paddled out into the Gowanus Canal at what he called the “epicenter of disgusting”—the place where the city’s sewage overflows into the canal during storms. Leaman trailed two scientists and the aquatic robot they have built to do the dirty work of monitoring clean-up efforts. And while Leaman was careful not to touch the toxic water, it wasn’t the filth that stuck. “The striking thing was that it was really beautiful,” says Leaman, whose photos appear in “The Gowanus’ Beacon of Hope.”



Staff Writer Francie Diep first encountered researcher Cristin Kearns while working on a story for Intrigued by Kearns’ own history as a dentist-turned-investigative researcher, Diep explores in greater depth not only Kearns, but the subject of her life’s work: the sugar industry, which Kearns alleges steered the consensus science about the ill health effects of eating too much sugar. “Steering science could potentially be a common strategy for companies,” Diep says. “The consensus science has a big effect on public-health messages and what habits people may try to adopt.”



In his decade of reporting on Medicare, Joe Eaton has always been amazed at how simple it is to scam the system. And while the use of Big Data to combat fraud still has the potential to work, Eaton argues, there has to be a more serious effort to implement it. Eaton details the crime rings that have evolved around Medicare. “Physicians have tremendous political power, and doctors don’t want to be questioned on billing,” says Eaton, a professor at the University of Montana. “That’s essentially what it comes down to. It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist. It’s that the political will doesn’t.”



It was Maya Dusenbery’s aversion to abstinence-only sex ed that piqued her interest in the intersections between health and feminism. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved flibanserin—the first drug to treat low sexual desire in women—Dusenbery has followed a heated argument. She explores why supporters tout the drug as a victory, while critics argue the FDA was pressured into approving a faux-feminist sham drug. “A lot of feminist groups are on different sides, when usually we’re all lined up against the conservative opposition, particularly around women’s health, ” Dusenbery says.


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