Tuesday, December 8, 2009
But Hollywood has it right in trying to convey some of these concepts that Mr. Lyman talks about through cinematography. It is important that Hollywood stay the course, too.
Science is now so tied into big money that corruption and loss of public health and safety rights are inevitable, not only from the egregious behavior from powerful Pharma, but also from the academic world who froth over patent rights and who has become monetarily entrenched with big Pharma. Together, pharma and academia, make one powerful network of scientific machinery that is able to manipulate media, government and legislation to their favor without due consideration of public rights and public health and safety.
Unfortunately there is little funding for public advocacy groups to protect public health and safety. So to some extent the public needs Hollywood to continue to tell stories which help educate us about these issues, issues that are subject to human rights and public health and safety abuses.
Even old movies are helpful. With human cloning now a scientific possibility, Hollywood’s portrayal of the human rights issues in the movie, Frankenstein, are issues the public should try to grasp.
Here is the link to Lyman’s article: http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2009/12/07/hollywood-sees-corruption-in-pharma-and-suddenly-scientists-are-the-bad-guys
Monday, December 7, 2009
A Fort Detrick laboratory worker has been infected with Tularemia, a bacteria which causes skin lesions, flu like symptoms, pneumonia or typhoid forms of the disease.
Tularemia can penetrate into the body through damaged skin and mucous membranes, or through inhalation. The natural form of Tularemia (i.e, not genetically engineered) typically is not spread from person to person. Rather, it is usually contracted through tick bites or handling diseased animals.
The infected researcher had been working with Tularemia in a BL3 lab at Fort Detrick at the time she became ill around November 23, 2009.
A BL3 (Biosafety level 3) laboratory is a biocontainment level having high levels of containment in hopes of preventing release of dangerous microorganisms into the environment.
How BL3 biocontainment of Tularemia was not maintained and, consequently, caused an illness, remains a mystery.
There is very little regulatory oversight in dangerous BL2 to BL4 laboratories that work on natural or genetically engineered human infectious agents throughout the United States. Worker's rights to a safe work environment are legally limited. This lack of protection for the public presents a serious public health and safety threat which seems to get very little attention and is usually kept from the public’s eye.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
3 November 2003
The effects of some of these engineered biological agents could be worse than any disease known to man.
The genomic revolution is pushing biotechnology into an explosive growth phase. Panelists asserted that the resulting wave front of knowledge will evolve rapidly and be so broad, complex, and widely available to the public that traditional intelligence means for monitoring WMD development could prove inadequate to deal with the treat from these advanced biological weapons.
Detection of related activities, particularly the development of novel bioengineered pathogens, will depend increasingly on more specific human intelligence and, argued panelists, will necessitate a closer--and perhaps qualitatively different--working relationship between the intelligence and biological sciences communities.
The Threat From Advanced BWIn the last several decades, the world has witnessed a knowledge explosion in the life sciences based on an understanding of genes and how they work. According to panel members, practical applications of this new and burgeoning knowledge base will accelerate dramatically and unpredictably:
As one expert remarked: "In the life sciences, we now are where information technology was in the 1960s; more than any other science, it will revolutionize the 21st century."
Growing understanding of the complex biochemical pathways that underlie life processes has the potential to enable a class of new, more virulent biological agents engineered to attack distinct biochemical pathways and elicit specific effects, claimed panel members. The same science that may cure some of our worst diseases could be used to create the world's most frightening weapons.The know-how to develop some of these weapons already exists. For example:
Australian researchers recently inadvertently showed that the virulence of mousepox virus can be significantly enhanced by the incorporation of a standard immunoregulator gene, a technique that could be applied to other naturally occurring pathogens such as anthrax or smallpox, greatly increasing their lethality.
Indeed, other biologists have synthesized a key smallpox viral protein and shown its effectiveness in blocking critical aspects of the human immune response.
A team of biologists recently created a polio virus in vitro from scratch.
According to the scientists convened, other classes of unconventional pathogens that may arise over the next decade and beyond include binary BW agents that only become effective when two components are combined (a particularly insidious example would be a mild pathogen that when combined with its antidote becomes virulent); "designer" BW agents created to be antibiotic resistant or to evade an immune response; weaponized gene therapy vectors that effect permanent change in the victim's genetic makeup; or a "stealth" virus, which could lie dormant inside the victim for an extended period before being triggered. For example, one panelist cited the possibility of a stealth virus attack that could cripple a large portion of people in their forties with severe arthritis, concealing its hostile origin and leaving a country with massive health and econmic problems.According to experts, the biotechnology underlying the development of advanced biological agents is likely to advance very rapidly, causing a diverse and elusive threat spectrum. The resulting diversity of new BW agents could enable such a broad range of attack scenarios that it would be virtually impossible to anticipate and defend against, they say. As a result, there could be a considerable lag time in developing effective biodefense measures.However, effective countermeasures, once developed, could be leveraged against a range of BW agents, asserted attendees, citing current research aimed at developing protocols for augmenting common elements of the body's response to disease, rather than treating individual diseases. Such treatments could strengthen our defense against attacks by ABW agents.Implications for WarningThe experts emphasized that, because the processes, techniques, equipment and know-how needed for advanced bio agent development are dual use, it will be extremely difficult to distinguish between legitimate biological research activities and production of advanced BW agents.
The panel contrasted the difficulty of detecting advanced bioweapons with that of detecting nuclear weapons, which has always had clear surveillance and detection "observables," such as highly enriched uranium or telltale production equipment.
Consequently, most panlists argued that a qualitatively different relationship between the government and life sciences communities might be needed to most effectively grapple with the future BW threat.They cited the pace, breadth, and volume of the evolving bioscience knowledge base, coupled with its dual-use nature and the fact that most is publicly available via electronic means and very hard to track, as the driving forces for enhanced cooperation. Most panelists agreed that the US life sciences research community was more or less "over its Vietnam-era distrust" of the national security establishment and would be open to more collaboration.
One possibility, they argued, might be early government assistance to life sciences community efforts to develop its own "standards and norms" intended to differentiate between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" research, efforts recently initiated by the US biological sciences community.
A more comprehensive vision articulated by one panelist was for the bioscience community at large to aid the government by acting as "a living sensor web"--at international conferences, in university labs, and through informal networks--to identify and alert it to new technical advances with weaponization potential. The workshop did not discuss the legal or regulatory implications of any such changes.
Posted from webiste on Dec 5, 2009: http://secretsofthecia.blogspot.com/2009/12/darker-bioweapons-future.html
Becky A. McClain
November 21, 2009
I find it ironic that in a crowded room full of women who had been lured to a talk entitled “Stepping into Power: How to Get it and How to Use It”, the lone person dozing off at the event was the only man in attendance.
Sponsored by a professional women networking group called the Lower Connecticut Valley Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the public event last Wednesday held in Old Saybrook’s Acton Library featured Dr. Nancy Hutson, a 25 year career Pfizer executive who had retired in 2006.
Hutson’s talk was advertized to discuss the subject of POWER – getting it and how to use it in the context of her experience as a woman during her career climb from a bench scientist to Senior Vice President in the male-dominated pharmaceutical organization at Pfizer Inc.
I was intrigued, not only because of the topic of power and how it relates to working women, but also, because of the past history of Pfizer and their use of power.
You see, Pfizer has not displayed the best reputation for getting and using power. In fact, Pfizer’s reputation has become seriously tarnished this past decade both locally and internationally. Their role in the imminent domain take over of New London homes, and subsequently bugging out of New London after their 10 year tax incentive deal expired, their role in public health and safety violations accompanied with research building explosions causing serious injuries, their role in unethical clinical trials resulting in deaths of Nigerian children, and finally, their egregious behavior in criminal fraud against the government for promotion of off-labeled use of their drugs are some of Pfizer’s most recent notorious acts, costing the company billions of dollars in criminal fines and settlements.
So how was Hutson going to deliver her topic on the use of power in light of what some could allege was a grand collection of abuse of power from Pfizer during her tenure?
But Hutson was slick to avoid such topics, as any savvy executive would.
And in the end her talk was disappointingly empty. Not only in her uncanny assertion that Pfizer’s bad reputation resulted from healthcare reform, baby boomers and bad economy, but also for her bland subject matter relating to power, women and her workplace experiences.
One would think that a woman who has climbed the corporate ladder of success at Pfizer from bench scientist to Senior Vice President in charge of 4500 Groton scientists would have SOME gripping stories to share, stories containing her trials and tribulations of being a woman within the highly charged political terrain of a male dominated pharmaceutical industry.
But Hutson’s worst experience shared with us was the time her supervisor performed email tasks while she was trying to have a discussion with him. Apparently her supervisor was not being completely “present” with her, making her feel discounted.
It was then when I turned to my side and noticed my husband beginning to nod off. And as I dug my elbow into his side to make him “be present”, I realized that Hutson did not even bother to tell us how she resolved the dilemma of having such a multi-tasking un-present supervisor.
Matter a fact, Hutson gave us very little insights about the true struggles women face in the workplace, like harassment, discrimination, glass ceilings, managing work and family, and unequal pay scales.
Instead she gave us an ordinary package of self-help steps to leadership, wrapped in jargon, ringing of mundane familiarity, …“Develop relationships”, “be present”, “manage your energy”, “practice leadership”, “have defined purpose, mission and goals”. Abracadabra. You’ve got power.
And of course, not a whisper of ethics. Hutson’s experience with ethics at Pfizer apparently had little connection in defining her steps in how to get power and use it.
Despite Hutson’s cookbook and carefully constructed talk, what was apparent, however, was at the conclusion of her presentation, you could not help but like Nancy Hutson.
And that’s because Hutson fits the part.
Nancy Hutson fits the part of our present day executives, people who look and act intelligent, self assured, but down to earth, and who have the ability to develop relationships because of their knack for the art of massaging communication. They are the type of person you seemingly could trust with any personal issue, a person that one would love to share a cup of coffee and perhaps become friends.
But in reality, many corporate execs who have “stepped into power” have often watched unethical practices unfold in their businesses. And while “practicing leadership”, standing composed and smiling, and carefully managing their energy and their speech, they do nothing, as well as, say nothing about these unethical practices.
You see, good executives deliver for their corporations, reporting to the bottom line. And that is exactly what Hutson told us on Wednesday. One of her opening statements was that her career role shifted from bench science to politics and the bottom line. Hutson went on to say that those who deliver for corporations are rewarded by power, title and money.
Hutson surely delivered for corporate America at the AAUW meeting. She was intelligent, articulate and friendly. She gave a well structured non-controversial talk, avoiding the tough issues women face in the workplace and avoiding Pfizer’s history of ethical troubles.
But a discussion about leadership and power, without involving ethics, sells cheap. It holds no real substance for the majority of professional women of Connecticut who want to succeed while making the world a better place.
And ironically, it put the only man attending such a discussion, right to sleep.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Written by Dina J. Padilla
MAJOR 1st amendment and very human VICTORY occurred on 11-13-09, The kaiserpapers.org website, the website owner, Vickie Travis and myself, Dina J. Padilla won the Slapp suit because the judge dismissed it WITH prejudice, MEANING that Stuart Lichter can never bring the same lawsuit against us on the same material that was on the website. This Slapp suit was filed in 8-08 by Stuart Lichter and his Attorney David S.White. An article in the L.A. Times referred to this lawsuit n 8-2-09 with Downey Studio workers getting sick. Leonard Martin had also won the suit earlier on but Stuart Lichter and his attorney fought it and it went to the Calfornia Applellate Court. The outcome is hopeful for Leonard Martin since we won.
Future P&FP Candidate Dept.of Insurance Commissioner
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
November 17, 2009
Work-Related Injuries Underreported
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Employers and workers routinely underreport work-related injuries and illnesses, calling into question the accuracy of nationwide data that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration compiles each year, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.
The report, by the G.A.O., the auditing arm of Congress, said many employers did not report workplace injuries and illnesses for fear of increasing their workers’ compensation costs or hurting their chances of winning contracts.
The report also said workers did not report job-related injuries because they feared being fired or disciplined and worried that their co-workers might lose rewards, like bonuses or steak dinners, as part of safety-based incentive programs.
“The widespread underreporting so clearly documented in this report is undermining the health and safety of American workers,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “If we don’t know the full extent of the workplace hazards workers face, we cannot fully address these risks.”
Mr. Harkin was one of the Congressional leaders who requested the report.
In response to the report, which examined OSHA’s audits from 2005 to 2007, the safety administration said it would adopt the accountability office’s recommendations, which include requiring inspectors to interview employees during all audits to check the accuracy of employer-provided injury data.
The accountability office noted that the rate of workplace injuries — there were 4 million in 2007, including 5,600 fatalities — has declined fairly steadily since 1992, which OSHA attributed to improvements in workplace safety and the decline in the number of manufacturing jobs.
But the G.A.O. report cited several academic studies that found that OSHA data failed to include up to two-thirds of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
The report noted that because of OSHA’s “sole reliance on employer-reported injury and illness data” in one of its major surveys, “some academic studies have reported that the survey may undercount the total number of workplace injuries and illnesses.”
The accountability office also found that more than a third of the occupational health practitioners it surveyed said that employers or workers had pressured them to provide insufficient medical treatment to hide or play down work-related injuries or illnesses.
The safety and health administration requires employers with more than 10 workers to record every work-related injury or illness that results in lost work time or medical treatment other than first aid. Some occupational health practitioners say that to avoid recording an injury, some employers will try to limit treatment for a serious injury to just first aid.
In other cases, the practitioners said, employers might seek alternative diagnoses if the initial diagnosis would result in a recordable injury or illness.
One manager took an injured worker to several medical providers until the manager found one who would certify that treatment required only first aid, thus making it an injury that did not have to be recorded, one practitioner told researchers, according to the report. Many employers fear that reporting numerous injuries will prompt a full-scale OSHA inspection.
The accountability office said that 53 percent of health practitioners had reported experiencing pressure from company officials to play down injuries or illnesses, and that 47 percent had reported experiencing this pressure from workers.
“This report confirms that when it comes to the documenting of workplace injuries, we can’t just take employers at their word,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. “The system, to this point, has been all too easy to game.”
According to the G.A.O. report, 67 percent of the 1,187 occupational health practitioners surveyed had reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness, and 46 percent said this fear had some impact on the accuracy of employers’ injury and illness records.
One reason workers fail to report injuries, the report said, was that their employers required drug testing after incidents resulting in reported injuries or illnesses, regardless of any evidence of drug use.
The report also questioned employers’ safety incentive programs, which reward workers when their worksites have few recordable injuries or illnesses.
While these programs can promote safe behavior, the report said three-quarters of health practitioners said they believed that workers sometimes avoided reporting work-related injuries and illnesses as a result of these programs because they feared that doing so would cause them or their co-workers to miss the chance of winning prizes.
Correction: November 16, 2009
A previous version of this article gave an incorrect name for the Government Accountability Office.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Click here for a link to a video called 16 Deaths Per Day.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
At the end of April 2009, two letters were sent to EFSA by Monsanto's European subsidiary company Renessen, withdrawing applications originally submitted in 2005 . The whole episode was shrouded in secrecy before being uncovered by Dr. Brian John of GM-Free Cymru. There has been no mainstream press report, and no record on the EFSA website. Not only LY038, but also the stacked variety LY038 x MON810 - derived from a cross between LY038 and another GM variety MON810 - has been withdrawn. MON810 is currently banned in many countries in Europe  Europe Holds the Key to a GM-Free World, 5th Conference of GM-Free Regions, Food & Democracy ( SiS 43), and has its own hazards [4-6] ( GM Maize Disturbs Immune System of Young and Old Mice , GM Maize Reduces Fertility & Deregulates Genes in Mice , SiS 41; MON810 Genome Rearranged Again , SiS 39).
Like other “nutritionally enhanced” GMOs, LY038 is created by grossly unbalancing the metabolic network ; and that is where the metabolic hazards arise. It is well known that overdose of many single nutritional factors is toxic, and it is not surprising that overproduction of any single metabolite creates further toxicities. Another case in point is the notorious ‘Golden Rice', now mired in controversy as phase 2 clinical trials have been conducted on children with unapproved experimental events. It is well known that high concentrations of pro-Vitamin A can cause birth defects and developmental abnormalities, and the potential for further toxicities in Golden Rice is uncomfortably high  ( The Golden Rice Scandal Unfolds , SiS 42).
However, there are also important hazards unique to each GMO, and in the case of LY038, it is due to the high concentrations of the amino acid lysine and derivatives - saccharopine, a -aminoadipic acid (a neurotoxin), pipecolic acid and cadaverine – present in the grain [9, 10] .
The excerpts above were taken directly from ISIS Press Release 11/11/09.
For the complete press release please see this link: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/HighLysineGMMaize.php
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It was January 2004, and the attorneys were negotiating in a conference room on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse in Boston, where Loucks was head of the health-care fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. One of Pfizer’s units had been pushing doctors to prescribe an epilepsy drug called Neurontin for uses the Food and Drug Administration had never approved.
In the agreement the lawyers eventually hammered out, the Pfizer unit, Warner-Lambert, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of marketing a drug for unapproved uses.
New York-based Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, and the company’s lawyers assured Loucks and three other prosecutors that Pfizer and its units would stop promoting drugs for unauthorized purposes.
What Loucks, who’s now acting U.S. attorney in Boston, didn’t know until years later was that Pfizer managers were breaking that pledge not to practice so-called off-label marketing even before the ink was dry on their plea.
On the morning of Sept. 2, 2009, another Pfizer unit, Pharmacia & Upjohn, agreed to plead guilty to the same crime. This time, Pfizer executives had been instructing more than 100 salespeople to promote Bextra, a drug approved only for the relief of arthritis and menstrual discomfort, for treatment of acute pains of all kinds.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
November 04, 2009
By Turna Ray
A New York federal district court has denied Myriad Genetics’ motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its patents covering BRCA gene mutations associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer based on the novel circumstances presented in the case and the sweeping implications of the issues involved.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of four scientific organizations — representing more than 150,000 medical professionals, researchers, women's health groups, and individual women — alleging that the BRCA gene patents held by the University of Utah Research Foundation and exclusively licensed to Myriad stifle research and limit women's treatment options. Additionally, the lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. US Patent and Trademark Office, et al., challenges the constitutionality of Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, by asserting that Myriad’s exclusive licensing practices hinder the free flow of information and therefore obstruct the First Amendment protecting free speech [see PGx Reporter 05-13-2009].
However, Myriad and other defendants challenged the plaintiff’s ability to bring the lawsuit, by filing a motion-to-dismiss memorandum, calling ACLU's case "a thinly veiled attempt to challenge the validity of patents" [see PGx Reporter 08-05-2009].
In deciding to dismiss Myriad's motion to dismiss on grounds that it lacked technical merit, Robert Sweet, the federal district court judge on the case, recognized the "uniqueness" of the plaintiffs' case with regard to "scope and significance of the issues presented, and the consequences of the remedy sought." Furthermore, the court acknowledged the right of the plaintiffs, particularly "women facing the threat of breast cancer … who are in the midst of their struggle with the illness," to challenge the practice of gene patenting.
"The challenges to the patents-in-suit raise questions of difficult legal dimensions concerning constitutional protections over the information that serves as our genetic identities and the need to adopt policies that promote scientific research," the court said in its decision.
In its decision, the court cited the example of Plaintiff Wendy Chung, a professor of molecular genetics at Columbia University who studies genetic and environmental factors linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Although Chung's lab sequences BRCA1/2 genes of research participants, researchers cannot inform subjects of their mutation status because of Myriad's patents.
Additionally, the court cited numerous examples provided by the plaintiffs where academic studies that would essentially improve BRCA sequencing methods were stopped by Myriad, who informed researchers that their work would infringe the firm's patents.
For example, according to court documents, in 2005, Yale DNA Diagnostics Laboratory asked Myriad for permission to perform genetic screening of BRCA genes looking for large rearrangement mutations correlated with cancer risk. Studies had previously shown that Myriad's full sequencing test missed some large gene rearrangements associated with disease risk. However, Myriad informed Yale that BRCA testing could not be done by the university's laboratory as it would infringe the company's patents.
The mother of a worker who believes his health was ruined as a result of working in California's cutting edge biotech industry has expressed her anger at the refusal by the firm's health insurers to pay his medical bills. Sandi Trend's son, David Bell, was sickened at the Davis based company AgraQuest. She says the firm's owner, Pam Marrone, and its health insurer Liberty Mutual have refused to provide his healthcare despite evidence that he had the genetically engineered products in his body. She says these products have wrecked her son's immune system. The campaigning mother has also accused the California Fraud Assessment Commission of failing to bring fraud charges against the firm. She alleged the watchdog and district attorneys care more for wealthy companies in the state than for sick workers. David Bell says the lack of proper health and safety protection at AgraQuest led to his contamination and sickness. He also alleges the company sought to cover-up their responsibility for his illness. A US poll published last week found 90 per cent of Americans think that the public should be better informed about the development of cutting-edge technologies including synthetic biology. Two-thirds of the respondents supported regulation of this emerging technology. 'Regardless of their awareness of synthetic biology, or where they come down on the risk-benefit tradeoff, a strong majority of adults think this research should be regulated by the federal government,' said Geoff Garin, president of Peter D Hart Research, the organisation that conducted the poll.
Blip TV - labor Video Project. Biotechnology Awareness webpages on David Bell. PEN news item.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
By DAVID MACARAY
Even people who genuinely admire the United States say they are astonished by our sense of exceptionalism—our rock-ribbed belief that we, above all others, deserve to be fulfilled. Arguably, no citizens on earth have a greater sense of entitlement and special privilege than Americans, as evidenced not only by our personal conduct, but by our military adventurism, cultural hegemony, and corporate welfare.
We see it in the collusion between the federal government and the big drug companies. Even though Mother Nature clearly intended otherwise, the Pfizer Corporation—with the blessings of Congress—decided that elderly men have a constitutional right to unlimited erections. Accordingly, even though eyeglasses are NOT covered by Medicare, Viagra is. It’s true. Impaired vision is less important than impaired orgasms. A defeat for the optics industry, a victory for Hugh Hefner.
The logical extension of this arrangement is that someday our streets will be filled with 85-year old men staggering and stumbling about, frail, barely able to see, but sporting huge erections. Not a pretty picture.
Confoundingly, America’s sense of economic entitlement doesn’t extend to working people. It applies to the rich, to the well-connected, to the military-industrial complex, to farmers and ranchers and corporations, to every manner of businessman, consultant, hustler, advertiser, and entrepreneur—but not to the people doing the actual work, putting their shoulders to the wheel, keeping the country going.
Take the recent banking crisis. While the media registered grave concern and disappointment over the Wall Street debacle, they saved their vitriol for working people, churlishly blaming the UAW for Detroit’s woes, implicating Big Labor for its role in the recession by driving away our manufacturing base, and scolding poor people for trying to buy houses they couldn’t afford. The bankers who encouraged and profited from these “sub prime” loans were given a pass.
Further bias was shown in the coverage of the recent (last week) vote by UAW members employed by the Ford Motor Company. The vote was an eye-opener, a shocker. Despite UAW president Ron Gettelfinger’s plea for ratification, the offer was voted down by so many union locals, the UAW executive board, seeing the writing on the wall, was forced to admit defeat even before all the votes were in.
This was a bad contract, and the membership knew it. Among other things, it included a 6-year wage freeze for new hires, radical changes in work rules, and, incredibly, a provision that prohibits the union from going on strike until the year 2016. Stripping a union of its right to strike is like asking a person to walk naked through a blast furnace. You are totally vulnerable and defenseless—exactly the way a corporation prefers its workers.
But instead of dutifully reporting why the rank-and-file was voting this thing down, the media vilified them for being greedy and short-sighted, for not looking at the Big Picture (of course, by “Big Picture” they meant “management’s version”). Had the media been paying attention they would have seen this train wreck coming from a mile away.
Of the Big Three Detroit automakers, Ford is the only one not hemorrhaging red ink, the only one to have avoided bankruptcy. Ford is making money, having reported a $2.3 billion profit for the second quarter alone. But because Chrysler and GM were able to get staggering concessions from their union (as these hapless companies were now broke and facing receivership), Ford wanted to dip its snout in the same trough, hoping the membership would play ball. To their credit, the membership (41,000 UAW members work for Ford) refused to go along.
Because this latest offer would have been the third round of major concessions in the last two years, Ford’s workers simply felt that they had sacrificed enough. The company was healthy; the CEO, Alan Mulally, made $17.7 million last year The workers had had enough. Recommended settlements are rarely voted down; so a revolt like this one (some locals voted 92-percent against it) has to be a shattering blow to union leadership.
Moreover, if there were any lingering doubts as to where the mainstream media stands in regard to the traditional Management vs. Labor struggle—going all the way back to the late 1970s, when Japanese imports first began skewing the market—their continued coverage of the UAW has dispelled them.
Instead of criticizing the hubris and poor decision-making of Big Three executives (going for the short-term money, selling frills and glitter, living like Grosse Point oil sheiks, etc.), the media attacked the union. They focused on the greed of Detroit’s ungrateful assembly line workers, portraying them as overpaid and undeserving factory apes, despite earning salaries that have them clinging to the edge of the middle-class by their fingernails.
If the U.S. does, indeed, have an over-developed sense of entitlement, it certainly doesn’t extend to working men and women. Proof? Despite working harder, longer hours, and more productively (statistics put American output at an all-time record), the middle-class is collapsing, disintegrating, dissolving before our eyes.
Which is why workers need to look to themselves for assistance; there’s no one else to help them. In order to have any hope of prospering, workers need to form collectives and alliances. Given the lay of the land, it’s their only choice.
David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright, and the author of “It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor” (available on Amazon.com). He can be reached at email@example.com
Monday, November 2, 2009
NEW YORK—New York, 13 other states and the District of Columbia sued Amgen Inc. and other drug suppliers over an alleged kickback scheme designed to boost sales of the anemia drug Aranesp, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
Mr. Cuomo said in a statement the multistate intervenor lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston alleges that Amgen, AmerisourceBergen Corp., and AmerisourceBergen's drug wholesaler, ASD Healthcare, and specialty group purchasing unit International Nephrology Network encouraged doctors to bill third-party payers, such as Medicaid, for free samples of Aranesp.
David Polk, an Amgen spokesman, said in a statement, "We believe that the allegations are without merit, and we look forward to the opportunity to examine these matters with the states before the court."
Mr. Cuomo said the lawsuit alleges that Amgen conspired with INN and ASD Healthcare to offer improper kickbacks to medical providers—such as sham consultancy agreements, weekend retreats or other services—to induce them to purchase and prescribe Aranesp.
"Drugs should be prescribed to patients on the basis of need, effectiveness, and safety, not on a corporate giant's promise of an all-expense paid vacation," Mr. Cuomo said. "In an egregious violation of the law, Amgen allegedly bribed medical providers and left taxpayers footing the bill for free drug samples."
The lawsuit was filed in connection with a whistleblower complaint first brought in U.S. District Court in Boston in 2006 against Amgen and others for allegedly illegal marketing of Aranesp. The whistleblower complaint was brought on behalf of the U.S. government and a number of states, including New York.
Amgen's Mr. Polk said the company has a solid compliance program and a code of conduct called "Do The Right Thing." The company expects all employees to follow it at all times, he said.
Michael Kilpatric, an AmerisourceBergen spokesman, said in a statement, "We've had no contact in this case with anyone in the N.Y. AG's office or any other state attorneys general offices and we expect to defend ourselves vigorously. We have received a subpoena from the Department of Justice related to the issues that are set forth in this case and we have been cooperating fully with the Department of Justice, and DOJ has not intervened in this case to date."
The states which brought the suit Friday are California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Write to Chad Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a link to an interesting website and organization called Front Line who report and defend the protection of human rights. Although they report on numerous issues, the protection of human rights surrounding the use of science and public health and safety should also be defended.
Here is Front Line's mission: Front Line is working to ensure that the principles and standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders are known, respected and adhered to worldwide. The Declaration, which was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly, makes clear that all Governments have a duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It states in article 1 that "'Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.'"
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
See story: Harvard: Lab workers poisoned by tainted coffee
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It won’t get you anywhere except in jail or in a straight jacket.
Unfortunately, injured workers find out too late, only after they are seriously injured, that the WC system is broken, leaving many of them without adequate medical care, no avenue for future employment and without adequate compensation. Many injured workers become desperate and angry, realizing that the system has failed them and their future.
It can lead to desperate measures like the one took by this rifle-toting man, demanding help at gunpoint.
I am almost certain that every injured worker who has been mistreated by Worker’s Compensation can empathize with the struggles that this man must have endured to make him act so desperately. But his desperate act was not the right choice and it doesn’t help anyone. The way to solve the problem is not with violence but with unity.
The problem, however, is that there is no adequate organization that is currently available to help injured workers who are getting dumped on by the Worker’s Compensation system.
Injured workers around the world must show leadership and organize as a group. There is no other group that understands the problems beset within the Worker’s Compensation system better than the injured worker.
Injured Workers need to unite to help educate other workers about the real problems that exist. Injured Workers also need to support union representation to protect worker and public health and safety.
If injured workers do not unite, nothing will get accomplished. Desperate times and desperate measures will continue and injured workers will remain abandoned and mistreated as they are today.
Excerpts from the article state that “…employers learn they can 'game the system.' " …” the OSHA process is stacked against regulators and employees.”
What happens is that companies appeal any violation that have been cited against them and the appeals board often dismisses or reduced fines. Coerced settlements are used also.
"The (appeal) board's actions have done more than save companies money. They have undermined Cal-OSHA's efforts to prevent future accidents, according to labor advocates, inspectors and state documents. "
OSHA's inability to enforce violations and to correct unsafe work conditions, unfortunately, has led to documented repeated injuries, deaths and amputations at companies that had been previously cited for workplace safety violations, but later dismissed by the board of appeals.
California OSHA’s appeal board had a backlog of 2500 cases indicating a serious problem with worker safety. There is pressure to dismiss these cases in order to get them off the docket.
For the complete story go to this link.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Many advanced biological endeavors such as nanotechnology, embryonic stem cell technologies, gene therapy and genetically engineered foods have moved into our lives with benefits promised but still to be discovered. Nevertheless, with the push to advance these technologies for discovery and profit and to endear them to the public, little research and money is given to understand the risks and threats that are inherent in developing these technologies. This is bad news for the public.
The dangers that these advanced technologies pose can impact our health, society and culture. Some of the health related threats to name a few are chronic illness, cancer and new emerging disease in humans and other species of life.
Within the past few years another new scientific advancement has been slowly emerging: Synthetic Biology.
Synthetic Biology is the science of creating new life, new biological systems and new biochemical pathways that are not found in nature. It can even create new pathogens.
Synthetic Biology employs a variety of interdisciplinary skills using microbiology, recombinant DNA technologies, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biochemistry and cell biology.
As with other advanced technologies, synthetic biology is an open research field with little regulatory oversight to protect the public. It is another technology that the public needs to be concerned about as new advanced technologies are developed, patented and used on the public without appropriate risk management and public education.
Friday, October 9, 2009
McCollum is found saying, “It’s time Congress get serious about taxpayer funding of corporate cheats, crooks and criminals.”
Her position came after Pfizer had to pay $2.3 billion settlement with the Justice Department after Pfizer defrauded government health care programs and paid kickbacks to health care providers, inducing them to prescribe their off-labeled marketed drugs. All of this fraud cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars.
Apparently Pfizer is a habitual violator. They have intentionally violated the law over an extensive period of time and even continued to do so when settling prior cases with the government. As quoted by attorney general Tony West, Pfizer’s behavior “puts the public health at risk”, corrupts medical decisions by healthcare providers and costs the government billions of dollars.”
Despite Pfizer’s historical bad conduct, they continue to win massive government contracts. McCollum is mad as hell.
McCollum wants to place penalties onto corporate cheats like Pfizer by inhibiting their ability to obtain federal contracts, grants or any other form of benefit for a 5 year period beginning 30 days after the date of the criminal conviction. McCollum also wants to stop corporate cheats from contributing to campaign politicians for 5 years which will limit their political prowess. She is introducing her bill entitled, “Against Corporations Organizing to Rip-off the Nation Act of 2009” which ironically is abbreviated as ACORN Act.
I think McCollum is on to something here. Her bill won’t throw the criminals in jail (where actually they belong), but it will somewhat limit their political power for at least 5 years. It is a step in the right direction to dissuade big wealthy corporations from their continued unethical business practices which harm the American people, cost us billions of dollars and harm the integrity of the American system.
For more on this topic, see an excellent article by Jeremy Scahill, published in The Nation on Oct 5, 2009, entitled, “An ACORN Amendment for Pfizer.”
Friday, October 2, 2009
California Dina Padilla Runs for Insurance Commissioner, Claiming Fraud Is Used Against Injured Workers
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Unfortunately the report for oversight does not cover infectious agents used in BL2 laboratories which are more numerous in number, found in every major research institute and which also pose significant worker and public health and safety threats.
Some information in the report is a bit shocking. The government doesn’t even have a current registry of all BL3-BL4 labs where extremely hazardous and contagious biological agents are being used. In addition, the government does not have a centralized incident-reporting analysis for injuries or mishaps in biological laboratories.
Some of the information in the report is also a bit skewed in my opinion. For example, the report includes a table of injury statistics in R&D facilities from OSHA which I find to be unreliable data. The result of this OSHA study gives the impression that R&D facilities have a much lower average of injuries than general private industry. But “not all private R&D facilities were surveyed, and no Federal high or maximum containment research facilities were surveyed”
Also, through my own personal experience, I am more than skeptical regarding OSHA data. When I was employed as a biologist working in R&D in 2002, at least 5 people became ill (incapacitating, headaches, nausea or vomiting) from an exposure from a biological hood and NOT one of the illnesses was reported to OSHA. So much for trusting OSHA data and the dangers at R&D facilities.
Although the report does a good job summarizing the current agencies and regulations which impact biological laboratories, it is a bit slanted in not reporting the weakness of the laws and oversight. For example, the report gives a good summary of the OSHA laws but never mentions that the statute of limitations are so restrictive that the OSHA law is impractical for scientists to report safety problems or illness in biological laboratories.
Similarly they mention that the State of Connecticut instituted a law regarding agents capable of infecting humans. But what they do not mention is that this law does not cover genetically engineered agents or recombinant DN A infectious agents.
The other major weakness in the report is that it does not address our poor whistleblower laws which currently are so weak they provide no protections for scientists and protections for public health and safety. In addition, important human rights issues such as the lack of worker’s right to obtain appropriate exposure records necessary for medical care after incurring a biological exposure was purposely left out of the report.
Despite the fact of its deficiencies, the report is a step in the right direction in an attempt to clarify some objectives needed for better governmental oversight on the most dangerous biological research laboratories in the United States. In short, the report identifies eight new objectives to increase biological safety in these labs. They are listed below:
Summary of Objectives
1. Enhance the overarching framework for biosafety and biocontainment oversight of high and maximum containment research through improved coordination of oversight activities.
2. Encourage a robust culture of accountability characterized by individual and institutional compliance with biosafety and biocontainment regulations, guidelines, standards, and policies.
3. Develop a national strategy to enable and ensure the appropriate training and technical competence of all individuals who work in, oversee, support, or manage high or maximum containment research laboratories.
4. Obtain and analyze information about laboratory incidents to enable trend analysis, minimize the number of future incidents, and share lessons learned, with the overall goals of optimizing laboratory safety and oversight.
5. Ensure that biosafety and biocontainment regulations and guidelines cover current and emerging hazardous biological agents, and develop an agricultural equivalent of the BMBL.
6. Ensure that the infrastructure and equipment necessary for biosafety and biocontainment at high and maximum containment research facilities are in place and properly maintained.
7. Develop and support a national research agenda for applied biosafety and biocontainment to improve the management of biohazard risks.
8. Improve and share strategies to ensure effective public communication, outreach, and transparency about biosafety and biocontainment issues.
TowerShim Dong-hee, right, leader of the Pfizer Animal Health “labor union,” holds a signboard saying “I will never bow down to unfair pressure” with a colleague in front of Pfizer Tower in Myeongdong, downtown Seoul, Friday afternoon. The multinational firm does not recognize the union.
/ Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Article By Kang Shin-who Staff Reporter
A usually busy footpath in front of the Pfizer Korea building in downtown Seoul turned into the scene of a small disturbance Friday. Only five people participated in this condemnation of the multinational pharmaceutical firm's labor practices. But banners and placards they used were big enough to catch the attention of passersby. This demonstration has been going on three times a week since August. Shim Dong-hee, 38, the fired head of a workers' organization at Pfizer Animal Health, demanded that he be reinstated and that the company recognize their right to organize as a union. "The company disbanded our union three times since the late 1990s," Shim told The Korea Times during Friday's protest. He was attempting to set up a union for the fourth time but was fired instead. Shim and his colleagues chanted a slogan calling for dialogue, with pickets saying "Pfizer Is No Good" and "Pfizer Cares More About Animal Rights Than Human Rights.""I will continue to fight and will not stop protesting until the vicious company comes to the negotiating table," he said. Pfizer's animal health department, which Shim used to work for, has 46 workers, making it eligible for union formation. Company officials were not available for comments despite repeated calls. Pfizer Korea, however, allows a union separately from the animal experimentation department. This union has 320 workers as members out of 700 email@example.com
Jesse Gelsinger: Ten Years Later
Last Thursday marked the ten-year anniversary of Jesse Gelsinger’s death. The 18-year-old died while participating in a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania. News of his death in September 1999 and the shady circumstances surrounding it rocked the medical research world. These circumstances included a failure to disclose the deaths of monkeys in pre-clinical trials, adverse reactions among humans in prior tests, and financial ties between a researcher and a private biotech company, in which the main investigator stood to make millions if the trial was successful. In the wake of this tragedy, investigative journalists and federal hearings dug up mounds of evidence concerning the inadequacy of human research protections and, in particular, the many failings that led to Jesse’s death. While some of the findings from the federal investigation were made public, several key documents remain hidden from public view to this very day. Last week in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, Jesse’s father renewed his plea for their release:
I thought the lawsuits brought by me and the government would change research practices and the rules governing research. When I settled, real reform seemed likely. The Senate had held hearings, the FDA was investigating whether mistakes were made in the trial, and influential medical bodies such as the Association of American Medical Colleges had begun to examine disclosure practices and financial ties.But, sadly, we have not yet learned enough from Jesse's death. The shroud of secrecy that envelops legal settlements has helped hinder reform. No one has publicly accounted for the mistakes that led to Jesse's death.We don't know whether the FDA was misled or dropped the ball. We don't know whether the researchers' claims of efficacy had any basis in fact or were just wishful thinking. We don't know why Penn approved the deal despite warnings. And we don't know whether the researchers' decision to administer the virus to Jesse was reasonable or reckless.Ten years ago today, my son died in a science experiment. A complete record of what the researchers and FDA regulators knew is the best precaution against future tragedies like Jesse's death.I am asking that the University of Pennsylvania and the FDA finally do the right thing and release their records. If they did nothing wrong, let us see the proof. If they made a mistake, let us all learn from it and do better in the future. We owe it to Jesse to make his life and death mean something.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The Plague of Biosafety
There is mounting evidence that biosafety is not being regulated efficiently in the biotech and academic laboratories. Despite the fact that the media altogether downplays the public health and safety ramifications of biological research, this is serious stuff. It costs lives in more ways than one.
Recently, University of Chicago Professor Malcolm Casadaban died from the plague bacteria he was studiying. For more on this story click here.
Public Health and Safety has taken a back seat when it comes to biological research and development. Laws and regulations are lacking in this field of research. It is increasingly difficult to obtain information about laboratory aquired infections since institutions are self-policing. Bio-terrorism could easily be produced from a lab in the U.S.
As new emerging disease and chronic illness rise, laboratories, using dangerous genetically engineered organisms and other infectious agents, fail to ensure public health and safety. People with chronic illness or new disease remain to suffer with unexplained ailments, conditions that could be a result of biological research.
Sep 19, 2009 3:45 pm US/CentralPlague Bacteria May Have Killed Chicago ResearcherUniversity Of Chicago Insists The Public Is Not In DangerCHICAGO (CBS)
read full article here: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/1780803,CST-NWS-plague20.article
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Sharon Kramer, an expert on mold and ACOEM spoke at a press conference called by the California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day for injured workers at the Downey toxic dump site. She spoke on the conflict of interest between the trade group ACOEM and the need to defend people who are sickened by mold. She also reported on her efforts to get a Congressional investigation on this conflict of interest by ACOEM and the role of Senator Edward Kennedy on deleting this aspect in this important expose in a Congressional study. www.workersmemorialday.org
Thursday, August 27, 2009
- Yes, it is true. In the future it looks like a child may be born from three biological parents. But just like the hype with human embryonic stem cells promising that “the paralyzed will walk”, here comes more “save mankind from disease” propaganda in an attempt to legalize genetic engineering and cloning of humans.
A team of scientists from Oregon have cloned a monkey from three different parents using an advanced genetically engineered reproductive technique.
Let me explain. In a natural birth in forming a fertilized egg, the mother contributes both the mitochondrial DNA and her female set of chromosomes in her egg, while the father contributes only his male set of chromosomes from his sperm. All three sets of DNA are needed for normal development of the fetus.
In this monkey experiment, the scientists engineered a fertilized egg from three parents by artificial means: They isolated mitochondrial DNA from one female donor, isolated a female set of chromosomes from another female donor and retrieved a male set of chromosomes from a male donor. Add all three sets of DNA to an egg in a test tube and Waaaalaaa…a cloned genetically engineered fetus from three different parents! (Well the later was simplified a bit..but you get the point.)
What was the scientist’s explaination to why they genetically engineer these baby monkeys? To cure inherited mitochondrial disease.
What were their real reason to do this experiment?…To initiate the first step toward legalizing the ability to genetically engineer and clone human beings.
The fact of the matter is that this technology CANNOT cure any born human being who carries a defective mitochondrial DNA. It can only be used to scientifically create a test tube baby whose one of two mothers has a known transferrable mitochondrial defect.
Before we start singing alleluia over this scientific advancement we should ask ourselves these questions:
If a woman KNOWS she has bad mitochondrial genes, then why doesn't she adopt a child instead of making a genetically engineered child that is essentially not naturally her own but is constructed from three different parents?
Alternatively why doesn’t the mother who has defective mitochondrial genes choose to do surrogate birthing instead of the genetically engineered option?
Why does our society have such a fetish of finding all types of scientific ways to create children, when our earth is already over-populated with limited resources?
What purpose does this advanced reproductive technology really serve humanity in allowing parents to genetically engineer their children?
What is the cost of this technology to our society?
In light of our current healthcare cost and access woes, is our public funding of these advanced reproductive technologies being used efficiently and appropriately in regards to our limited resources?
Again, this advanced reproductive technology cannnot be used to help any born human being. Using mitochondrial disease as an excuse to create cloned genetically engineered babies from three parents is the first step toward using advanced reproductive technology to clone human beings for any purpose.
Yes, human mitochondrial disease is a very serious and debilitating disorder, but should we as a society permit genetic engineering of a fetus to make babies from three parents when there are other viable options? Or alternatively should parents have the rights to scientifically create any baby they want when society has to pay for the development of this technology?
What do you think?