Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

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A Black Box for Botox?

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 10:51 AM EST

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In a move likely to be protested by TV anchorwomen and medi-spas everywhere, the consumer group Public Citizen has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to place a black box warning label on Botox indicating that the popular anti-wrinkle treatment can be deadly. The FDA has received reports of at least 16 Botox-related deaths, including four in children under 18, as well as 180 cases of serious adverse reactions to the drug.

The adverse reactions are much worse than a few laugh lines. The botulism toxin, which smooths wrinkles by relaxing muscles, occasionally migrates far beyond the creased brow. Botox can paralyze the respiratory muscles or cause difficulty in swallowing, a problem that leads to food and liquids lodging in the lungs and causing life-threatening pneumonia.

European regulators have already widely publicized the risk, but the FDA has been slow to react, leaving Americans blissfully ignorant about the perils of vanity and doctors free to administer the drug for all sorts of unapproved uses. (The only cosmetic use of Botox approved by the FDA is for smoothing wrinkles between the eyebrows.) While the new FDA data are striking, didn't we all sort of know, deep down, that paralyzing your face with a deadly poison was probably a bad idea? Here's hoping that Public Citizen helps make wrinkles fashionable again.


"Hillary: The Movie" Headed For The Supreme Court

| Thu Jan. 17, 2008 5:10 PM EST

Yesterday, a lawyer for Citizens United filed a notice with the U.S. District Court that it will be taking its challenge of the McCain-Feingold act to the Supreme Court. The conservative advocacy group has sued the Federal Election Commission to try to win approval to broadcast ads for its anti-Hillary movie without having to comply with campaign finance laws requiring the group to disclose its donors. Citizens United has argued that "Hillary: The Movie" is a documentary, not campaign propaganda, and that the ads are protected commercial speech advertising the film.

Those arguments literally got laughed out of federal court last week in a hearing on the case. Tuesday, a three-judge panel formally ruled against Citizens United, saying that, "The Movie is susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her."

Undaunted, Citizens United has notified the court that it intends to appeal, and will be asking the Supreme Court for an expedited decision so that it could potentially air the ads during the election season. While some of the group's arguments about the nature of the film are indeed enough to get a federal judge to laugh, some of the more substantive arguments in its appeal should cause concern for campaign finance watchdogs. If Citizens United should happen to win its case, outside interest groups will be free to run all sorts of "issue ads" against political candidates during elections, without ever having to disclose who paid for them.

What Was Jeff Gerth Thinking?

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 4:33 PM EST

The new right-wing movie about Hillary Clinton ("Hillary: The Movie") is generally populated with all the usual suspects: Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich and other conservative commentators, along with a couple of convicted felons, none of whom have anything nice to say about the senator. One headliner, though, is not like the others: Former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth. The Pulitzer-Prizing wining Gerth is not a pundit, and in his 30-year-career at the Times, he says he never even did so much as a radio interview about his work. But there he is, on the big screen with Ann Coulter in a film created by a conservative group known for playing dirty.

Gerth's comments are mostly limited to material from his new book on Hillary, such as observations about her attempts to redefine herself. But it's clear that the filmmakers are psyched to have someone from the mainstream media participating in the project to offset its heavy reliance on felons as sources. They've even used Gerth's interview in an ad for the film, which is now at the center of a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission. All in all, it does beg the question: What was Gerth thinking?

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