Tuesday, August 31, 2010

WORKER SAFETY STUDY NOT COMPLETE_Public Apathetic Toward Worker Safety

A recent study entitled "Public Attitudes Towards and Experiences with Workplace Safety," indicates that an overwhelming percent of workers believe workplace safety is the most important issue among labor concerns.

Despite that fact, the study gave a grave picture of the public’s and the media’s response to workplace safety issues. Unless a disastrous event occurs, the study indicated that the public and media are not concerned with workplace safety issues. And even when a disaster strikes, the public often overlooks the injuries or fatalities to the workers.
The public and the media take workplace accidents for granted.  The public is apathetic toward workers and safety.  This is a major problem.

What this study did not address are the underlying reasons for the public’s apathy toward workplace safety and workplace accidents.

What the public fails to understand is that:
1. most major work industries are self-policing and go essentially unregulated.

2. the average worker lacks serious rights and protections to a safe work environment.

3. government agencies have intimate ties to industry which influences a lack of protections for worker safety.

4. the prevalence of unsafe work practices and consequential injuries and illness are severely under reported to government agencies, providing a false appearance that workplace safety is not a significant problem.

5. many injured workers are kicked to the curb by the employer, obtaining no medical care, no compensation and are forced to become dependent on public resources.

6. the public pays when the employer should.

7. unsafe work does not only harm workers but also can harm the public and their families too...sometimes causing harm to generations to come.

8. unsafe work conditions cost the taxpayers money…lots of money.

9. unsafe work conditions are unethical.
It would behoove the funding agencies of this study to provide more insight into the underlying reasons of why the public and the media are apathetic toward worker safety, when in fact, worker safety is important to the heath and well-being of the public.

Other references:  http://www.publicwelfare.org/NewsRoom/NewsDetails.aspx?newsid=79

"Workers Rate Safety Most Important Workplace Issue in New Labor Day Study"

Monday, August 30, 2010

Professor Joseph LaDou Rightly Takes On ACOEM For Alleged Fraud

ACOEM is the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.  It is tied to controversy in that this professional organization appears to unfairly promote and protect industry financial stature instead of fairly representing public health and safety standards.  Professor Joseph LaDou, an expert of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UCSF takes ACOEM to task in an article in International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.  Below is an excerpt.

"The American College of Occupational and Environmental (ACOEM) is a professional association that represents the interests of its company employed physician members. Fifty years ago the ACOEM began to assert itself in the legislative arena as an advocate of limited regulation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards and laws, and environmental protection. Today the ACOEM provides a legitimizing professional organization for company doctors, and continues to provide a vehicle to advance the agendas of their corporate sponsors. Company doctors in ACOEM recently blocked attempts to have the organization take a stand on global warming. Company doctors employed by the petrochemical industry even blocked the ACOEM from taking a position on particulate air pollution. Industry money and influence pervade every aspect of occupational and environmental medicine. The controlling influence of industry over the ACOEM physicians should cease. The conflict of interests inherent in the practice of occupational and environmental medicine is not resolved by the ineffectual efforts of the ACOEM to establish a pretentious code of conduct. The conflicted interests within the ACOEM have become too deeply embedded to be resolved by merely a self-governing code of conduct. The specialty practice of occupational and environmental medicine has the opportunity and obligation to join the public health movement. If it does, the ACOEM will have no further purpose as it exists, and specialists in occupational and environmental medicine will meet with and be represented by public health associations. This paper chronicles the history of occupational medicine and industry physicians as influenced and even controlled by corporate leaders."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Work-Related Death Statistics Remain Flawed

Deaths caused by work-acquired illness are hardly ever counted.  And the government and companies want to keep it that way.  This allows the government to falsely claim that workplace deaths have fallen to lowest level since 1992.  It makes them appear that they are protecting the public. It makes the companies look peachy clean.

Yet death from work related illness are significant. Illness acquired from work are constantly ignored or purposely covered up. 

Chemical exposure can cause respiratory problems, neurological illness, brain damage and cancer.  New emerging technologies such as genetically engineered infectious agents, synthetic biology and nanotechnology can also cause a variety of work-relatted illness.   They all can kill. Yet no accountability is seen in oversight or regulations to assess this large population of work-related illness causing deaths.  The majority are never counted.

Reports that indicate that workplace deaths are low need to be examined carefully.  Many of these reports are a way to hide inefficiencies in protecting workers, as well as, the public, as new dangerous technologies are created which can cause numerous illness and fatalities. Yet they continue to go unreported and undetected.

Below is one such report which does not provide statistics on any work-related acquired illness and fatalities.

Workplace deaths fall to lowest level since 1992
By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 19, 12:33 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The number of workers who died on the job fell by 17 percent last year to the lowest level in nearly two decades, as workers logged fewer hours during the recession, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The 4,340 workplace fatalities recorded in 2009 was the smallest total since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first began tracking the data in 1992. It's the second straight year that fatal work injuries have reached a historic low, following a 10 percent drop in 2008.

High unemployment and layoffs in more dangerous industries like construction played a major role in the decrease, the agency said. The construction unemployment rate is 17.3 percent, nearly double the overall jobless rate of 9.5 percent.

Workers on average logged 6 percent fewer hours last year than in 2008. Employees in construction worked 17 percent fewer hours in 2009 than the previous year.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called the decrease encouraging and pledged to continue her agency's stepped-up enforcement of workplace safety laws.

"As the economy regains strength and more people re-enter the work force, the Department of Labor will remain vigilant to ensure America's workers are kept safe while they earn a paycheck," Solis said.

Workplace suicides declined by 10 percent to 237 after reaching a historic high in 2008. But that count is still the second-highest total recorded since the agency began tracking workplace deaths.

For the second straight year, commercial fishing was the deadliest occupation in the country, with a fatality rate about 60 times higher than the average rate for all workers.

One of the few sectors where the fatality rate increased was in building and grounds maintenance, where the number of deaths rose 6 percent.

The report is based on preliminary numbers. A final report is scheduled to be released next year.

In other findings:

_Transportation incidents, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of all work fatalities last year, fell 21 percent from 2008.

_Fatalities among black workers declined 24 percent. Black employees also saw a larger decline in the number of hours worked than white or Hispanic workers.

_Workplace homicides declined 1 percent to 521 cases. That is nearly half the all-time high of 1,080 homicides recorded in 1994.

ADHD in Children Linked to Pesticide Exposure_Scientific Study

UC study links pesticide exposure to ADHD

Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Friday, August 20, 2010

A new study from UC Berkeley of children in the Salinas Valley adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that exposure to organophosphate pesticides is a prime cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The study, reported Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, examines the effects of both prenatal and childhood exposure to the pesticides, which are widely used in the United States to control insects on food crops.

UC Berkeley epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi and her colleagues have been studying more than 300 Mexican American children living in the heavily agricultural Salinas Valley.

Because they live in a farming community, the children are more likely than others to be exposed to the pesticides, but the problems resulting from environmental exposure are often first seen in those with the highest exposure.

Eskenazi and her team tested for levels of pesticide metabolites in urine in the mothers twice during their pregnancies and several times in the children after birth.

They then tested the children at ages 3 1/2 years and 5 years for attention disorders and ADHD, using the mothers' reports, performance on standardized computer tests and behavior ratings from examiners.

After correcting the data to account for lead exposure and other confounders, they found that each tenfold increase in pesticide levels in the mothers' urine was associated with a fivefold increase in attention problems as measured by the assays. The effect was more pronounced in boys than in girls.

The study comes three months after a Harvard study, looking at much lower levels of malathion in urine, found that a tenfold increase in pesticide levels was associated with a 55 percent increase in ADHD. The researchers believe that most of the children in the study were exposed to the malathion through food.

"It's known that food is a significant source of pesticide exposure among the general population," Eskenazi said in a statement. "I would recommend thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating them, especially if you are pregnant."


New Emerging Bird Disease-Fatal

Emerging Infectious Disease Leads to Rapid Population Declines of Common British Birds
Robert A. Robinson 1#, Becki Lawson 2#*, Mike P. Toms 1, Kirsi M. Peck 3, James K. Kirkwood 4, Julian Chantrey 5, Innes R. Clatworthy 6, Andy D. Evans 3, Laura A. Hughes 5, Oliver C. Hutchinson 2, Shinto K. John 2, Tom W. Pennycott 7, Matthew W. Perkins 2, Peter S. Rowley 6, Vic R. Simpson 8, Kevin M. Tyler 9, Andrew A. Cunningham 2 (Aug 18, 2010 published)

Emerging infectious diseases are increasingly cited as threats to wildlife, livestock and humans alike. They can threaten geographically isolated or critically endangered wildlife populations; however, relatively few studies have clearly demonstrated the extent to which emerging diseases can impact populations of common wildlife species. Here, we report the impact of an emerging protozoal disease on British populations of greenfinch Carduelis chloris and chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, two of the most common birds in Britain. Morphological and molecular analyses showed this to be due to Trichomonas gallinae. Trichomonosis emerged as a novel fatal disease of finches in Britain in 2005 and rapidly became epidemic within greenfinch, and to a lesser extent chaffinch, populations in 2006. By 2007, breeding populations of greenfinches and chaffinches in the geographic region of highest disease incidence had decreased by 35% and 21% respectively, representing mortality in excess of half a million birds. In contrast, declines were less pronounced or absent in these species in regions where the disease was found in intermediate or low incidence. Also, populations of dunnock Prunella modularis, which similarly feeds in gardens, but in which T. gallinae was rarely recorded, did not decline. This is the first trichomonosis epidemic reported in the scientific literature to negatively impact populations of free-ranging non-columbiform species, and such levels of mortality and decline due to an emerging infectious disease are unprecedented in British wild bird populations. This disease emergence event demonstrates the potential for a protozoan parasite to jump avian host taxonomic groups with dramatic effect over a short time period.


Commercialization of the Human Genome_Issues of Privacy and Protection

Last week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) instructed UC Berkeley to modify its “Bring Your Genes to Cal” program. From the beginning, UCB’s controversial plan to test the DNA of incoming freshman for three genes, brought into bold relief many of the complex questions that engulf emerging biotechnologies, for example: how best to protect privacy rights; informed consent; the integrity of medical testing and research; and how to identify and reduce conflicts of interest?

Mark Schlissel, UC Berkeley’s dean of biological sciences, underscored another issue likely to be the subject of ongoing consideration: academic freedom. Defending the UCB program against the CDPH’s interpretation of relevant law, Schlissel declared that, "We have taken every precaution and are committed to following the letter of the law…, but we believe this is a flawed reading of the statute that raises questions about who has control over teaching at the university…" How expansively we view academic freedom depends, in part, on recognizing the conflicts of interest that exist on the part of those doing the “teaching.”

Deep structural conflicts of interest exist when science-entrepreneurs, who may stand to benefit downstream from emerging biotechnologies, use their positions as university academics to normalize the commercialization of those technologies. UCB’s press release describes the lead professor associated with the program, Jasper Rine, as a “genetics professor.” Yet he, like many of his academic colleagues, has strong commercial ties to the industry developing genetic technologies. Rine has served on the advisory boards of a number of biotech companies and has co-founded several California biotech companies, including his own genetics testing company. UCB’s implicit endorsement of genetic testing as consumerism is especially audacious given the serious criticism that this type of testing has come under. Testifying at last week’s California Assembly Committee on Higher Education oversight hearing, Council for Responsible Genetics President, Jeremy Gruber, related that federal sources had dubbed such testing “snake oil,” and “not ready for prime time.”

From the 1940's to the 1960's, Princeton, Yale, Wellesley, and many other elite universities required incoming freshman to participate in medical anthropology/eugenic research by posing nude for photographs designed to document posture and body type, seeking correlations between physique and temperament. Since then, in the clear-sightedness of another era, many such photos have been destroyed. But many yet remain. How much humiliation and trauma could have been prevented if more disinterested authority could have prevailed? Those incoming freshmen who laid bare their DNA revealed the most intimate biological information not only of themselves but of those related to them. They chose to do so without prior opportunity to discuss the ramifications of their decision, without full disclosure of the scope of the conflicts of interest involved, and without clarity as to when or how the information would ultimately be disposed. They, and those who come after them, need protection from the overzealous interests and conflicts of interest of the institutions in which they arrive, trusting, to learn.

M. L. Tina Stevens, PhD
Director, Alliance for Humane Biotechnology
Visit AHB online

Government Using Public Money to Fund Work with Dangerous Infectious Agents

Human Infectious Agents
 BL3 Labs
The government gives large amounts of public money to universities to perform dangerous biological laboratory research using a variety of native and genetically engineered infectious agents.  These agents are capable of causing disease.

At the same time adequate safety measures for the public and the worker remain unmet. 

Biotech workers continue to lack rights to exposure records for healthcare, lack rights to safe work environments, lack rights to safety forums and lack whistleblower protections, making the probability of a biological release into the environment more probable and imminent. 

No oversight on research laboratories or private laboratories are mandated.  OSHA and other public agencies have been shown to be inept in protecting scientists, as well as, the public's interest, as biological technologies in BL2 and BL3 laboratories advance and threaten public health and safety.

Despite the fact that the public has to pay for this research, a network of cloaked secrecy and lack of public rights purposely prohibit public transparency within this industry. 

Sources of biological releases are difficult to track, but will cause increases in cancer, re-emerging disease, new emerging disease and chronic illness.
In 2003, UTHSC was awarded nearly $18 million in federal funding from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to be used to build a laboratory on the UT-Baptist Research Park site for biomedical and biodefense research and research training. The UTHSC RBL is one of 13 NIAID funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratories in the country. The primary purpose of the research conducted at the RBL will be to develop new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to protect the general population from infectious diseases and bioterrorism. One of 13 NIAID funded regional biocontainment labs in the country; the UTHSC RBL will be limited to research requiring Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) containment as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. BSL-3 facilities are designed to safely and effectively study contagious materials. Scientists at the UT RBL will investigate: multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, tularemia, streptococci, cholera, and Chlamydia infections. Other pathogens will be added as the facility and faculty expand.
(ref:  http://cancertype.me/uthsc-regional-biocontainment-laboratory.html#respond)

Wanted: Public Service Attorneys

Young Lawyers Turn to Public Service
Published: August 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — In August 2008, Nathan Richardson committed to following in the footsteps of so many young lawyers before him: a summer position with a big law firm, followed by a job offer before he ever cracked open a third-year textbook. And then everything changed.

With offers of employment made in August 2008 and the full force of the recession hitting in October, many big law firms — like Latham & Watkins, where Mr. Richardson was a summer associate — had to re-evaluate the job offers made to members of the class of 2009. As a way to keep their costs down while holding on to promising associates, many offered the graduates the chance to take up to a year off before starting as associates, complete with a stipend of $60,000 to $75,000. They could travel, do research, or choose — as many did — to work in the public sector.

With the deferral year ending, some of these newly minted lawyers are surprised to find themselves reconsidering their career goals and thinking about staying with public interest law. When Latham & Watkins asked Mr. Richardson to defer his start date until at least October 2010, he took his interest in environmental issues to Resources for the Future, a nonprofit policy group based in Washington, where he did legal research on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and climate change.

Now, despite heavy student-loan debt and a family to support, he has decided to say no to Latham and stay with public interest law, even though it pays far less.

"This is an amazing work environment,” said Mr. Richardson, who graduated from the University of Chicago Law School. “I’m working with a lot of really smart people and getting published. I’m not sure if there’s anywhere else I could do this, at least at this point in my career.”

Mr. Richardson claims that everyone he knows has at least considered staying in public interest — and law school faculty members confirm that they are seeing a growing interest in that field.

Other deferred associates like Avi Singh see public interest law as a “sustaining motivation” that keeps him coming to work every day. Mr. Singh is a 2009 Harvard Law School graduate who decided to stay on with the Santa Clara County public defender’s office in San Jose, Calif., instead of returning to the firm Quinn Emmanuel after a four-month deferral. “Here, I’m helping clients on a very basic level,” he said.

“What’s interesting about the deferral process is that, even though I thought it wasn’t right, it got me to pursue what I wanted to do in the first place,” Mr. Singh said.

Educators say more students are holding on to their attraction to public interest law throughout law school.

“For the first time, there is now a public interest lawyer in the Oval Office,” said Diane T. Chin, the director of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School, as one explanation for why more young lawyers are considering service careers.

In 2009, 25 students entering their third year at Stanford Law indicated a commitment to public service. In 2010, that number was 36, according to Ms. Chin. The average class size is 180.

Alexa Shabecoff, the assistant dean for public service at Harvard Law School, said: “There is an uptick in global interest in public service that has trickled down to the high school level, and students go on to college and law school with a public service ethos.”

For some, an interest in public service is why they go to law school, but a load of debt and a traditional pipeline move them toward the private sector.

David Stern, executive director of Equal Justice Works, an organization devoted to getting new legal talent in the nonprofit and public sectors, notes that the pay gap between public interest and private firm work is steep. “The gap is multiples of the public interest salary, with a public interest attorney starting at, on average, $35,000 to $39,000 a year,” he said. “In a big law firm, these attorneys are starting at $140,000 to $150,000.”

Someone who took a stipend from a law firm and then opted for public service law could also find themselves negotiating a payback plan for the stipend; policies differ from firm to firm on whether or how much of a stipend must be repaid.

Jennifer Romig, another 2009 University of Chicago graduate, decided to return to the Washington office of Ropes & Gray after her deferral year, but said her experience at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in New Orleans would color the rest of her career.

“Like most law students, I had intentions of doing pro bono work,” Ms. Romig said. “Now, after having spent an entire year seeing what a difference you can make, the theoretical has become real. And I cannot imagine forgetting that.”

Some in the legal community perceive a sense of competition among recent graduates who were once on different career paths. “I think it is hard for those wholly committed to public interest to see their deferred friends getting jobs at great public interest organizations while they struggle to land their dream jobs,” said Ms. Shabecoff, the assistant dean at Harvard.

But it could be that nonprofits would have few, if any jobs, for entry-level lawyers because of the economic climate, and deferred associates are picking up the work for public interest groups that would otherwise be slashing services because of budget cuts.

Tiela Chalmers, the executive director of the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the San Francisco Bar Association, said the seven deferred associates who worked there for a year were invaluable in providing legal services for the indigent. After three full-time employees left in 2009, Ms. Chalmers was prepared to freeze hiring and make do with a depleted staff. Then she heard about this wave of graduates being offered stipends from law firms to work in the public interest sector, often with salaries higher than those of an entry-level legal aid attorney.

Her group, like other nonprofits, was able to offer training and substantive work without the burden of paying a salary.

“It’s a win-win, even if public interest firms have to take on the training,” Ms. Chalmers said. “Given the realities of the economic climate, a year is a long time to have these very bright folks. We get eight or nine months of really strong work out of them” before they return to their firms. Without the deferral program, she believes her group would have handled only half of the landlord-tenant disputes and domestic violence cases from the past year.

For Mr. Stern and Equal Justice Works, the short-term benefit is evident: “In the relay race for justice you always need fresh legs, because it’s really hard work.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GE Foods Regulated in Europe but Not in US_WHY?

Article from Huffingtonpost:

Anniversary of a Whistleblowing Hero
by Jeffery Smith

Part 1

Twelve years ago, a 150-second TV broadcast changed our world; everyone everywhere owes a debt of gratitude to the man whose life it turned upside down—in his effort to protect ours. On August 10, 1998, eminent scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai (pronounced Poos-tie) dared to speak the truth.

He had been an enthusiastic supporter of genetic engineering, working on cutting edge safety research with genetically modified (GM) foods. But to his surprise, his experiments showed that GM foods were inherently dangerous. When he relayed his concerns during a short television interview in the UK , things got ugly. With support from the highest levels of government, biotech defenders quickly mobilized a coordinated attack campaign trying to distort and cover up the evidence.

It worked for a while, but when an order of Parliament lifted Dr. Pusztai's gag order, the revelations touched off a media firestorm that ultimately kicked GM foods out of European supermarkets, and derailed the industry's timetable to quickly replace virtually all food with genetically engineered alternatives.

I recount the dramatic story of Dr. Pusztai below. In Part 2, I respond point-by-point to the biotech industry's denial and spin over the Pusztai affair, which is still being hyped in their new attack website.

Pusztai's Hot Potatoes
By early 1996, genetically modified tomatoes had been sold in US supermarkets for more than a year, and GM soy, corn, and cottonseed were about to be widely planted. But not a single peer-reviewed study on the safety of GM foods had been published, and there was not even an agreed-upon protocol for answering the question,"Is this stuff safe?"

The UK government was about to change all that, and Hungarian born chemist Dr. Arpad Pusztai was their man to do it. He beat out 27 competing scientists for a £1.6 million grant to develop a safety testing protocol; it was supposed to eventually be required for all GM food approvals in Europe .

A Spud with Fire-Power
Pusztai's team was working with the vegetable equivalent of a James Bond car—complete with built-in weaponry. A potato was outfitted with an assassin gene from the snowdrop plant; the gene produced"GNA lectin," a protein that kills insects.

How did Dr. Pusztai feel about the fact that his prestigious Rowett Institute was preparing to release killer potatoes into supermarkets worldwide? Fine, actually. He knew that the GNA lectin was harmless—not to insects mind you, but to us mammals. Dr. Pusztai was the world's leading expert on lectin proteins, and the GNA lectin was the one he knew most about. He had studied it for nearly seven years.

But when Dr. Pusztai fed the GM potato to rats using his new safety testing protocol, he got a shock. Nearly every system in the rats' bodies was adversely affected—several in just 10 days. Their brains, livers, and testicles were smaller, while their pancreases and intestines were enlarged. The liver was partially atrophied. Organs related to the immune system, including the thymus and the spleen, showed significant changes. Their white blood cells responded to an immune challenge more slowly, indicating immune system damage.

In all cases, the GM potato createdproliferative cell growth in the stomach and small and large intestines; the lining was significantly thicker than controls. Although no tumors were detected, such growth can be precancerous.

Side Effects of Genetic Engineering Implicated

For the entire story go to huffingtonpost website @: 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Becky McClain Speaks on Biotechnology and Public Health and Safety

On July 17, 2010 in San Francisco, Pfizer injured biotech molecular biologist Becky McClain discussed her firing for making OSHA complaints and also the potential and real dangers of unregulated development of products in the biotech and nanotech industry without proper oversight. The first US conference on biotechnology and health and safety was sponsored by the California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day www.workersmemorialday.org Additional presentations at the conference are Biotech, CA Osha & Health And Safety Presentation With Dr. Larry Rose http://blip.tv/file/3916683 The Toxic Environment, Public Health, ACOEM And Pfizer:Presentation By Dr. Jack Thrasher http://blip.tv/file/3921769 Conflict of Interest By Judge Says Sandi Trend, Mother of Injured Agraquest Biotech Worker Bell http://blip.tv/file/3924484 Dina Padilla Speaks At Biotech & Health And Safety Conference http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_-_XEnaiNg It was also endorsed by Council For Responsible Genetics www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org For additional information go to http://www.cpab.info/


Saturday, August 14, 2010

US Pharmaceutical Companies Under Scrutiny for International Bribery

US probes corruption in big pharma

Financial Times
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner
August 12, 2010

The US Department of Justice is scrutinising payments by leading pharmaceuticals companies for hospitality, consultants, licensing agreements and charitable donations in markets around the world as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe.

GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly, among others, have disclosed being contacted by the DoJ and Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the investigation. Merck, the US drugs group, announced last week that it had also been contacted and was co-operating with investigators.

An industry attorney familiar with the probe said that the DoJ was looking at whether pharma companies had ignored a “systematic risk” inherent in the global drugs business and ignored obligations under local and US anti-bribery law.

The highly regulated nature of the business, combined with the fact that healthcare officials in many non-US markets were government funded, made the industry a natural target for such a probe, the person added.

The investigation is at a relatively early stage but is considered a priority for the DoJ.

While hospitality – including meals and all expenses-paid travel for conferences – has long been considered a potential risk for pharma groups, the DoJ’s probe is looking at all aspects of companies’ dealings in non-US markets, people familiar with the matter say. That includes the recruitment of physicians for clinical trials. In some markets, the same physicians may serve on regulatory boards that approve or deny drugs.

The DoJ declined to comment. But last November, Lanny Breuer, head of the DoJ’s criminal division, announced that investigators would be focusing on international corruption in the pharmaceuticals industry for “years”.

Mr Breuer warned a conference of pharmaceutical industry lawyers that prosecutors were gearing up for an investigation of international corruption in the sector. The drugs companies took notice.

That threat has now become a reality. Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Baxter, SciClone, and Bristol-Myers Squibb have in recent months received inquiries from the DoJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with an industry-wide bribery ­investigation.

GlaxoSmithKline, the UK drugmaker, told the Financial Times on Thursday that it too had received “inquiries” from US authorities, but that it disclosed the issue “reactively” only to selected reporters in April.

Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical group, said in February that it had voluntarily provided the DoJ and SEC with information concerning potentially improper payments outside the US and was exploring resolution of the matter.

There is perhaps no industry that is as vulnerable to violations of US anti-bribery laws as the pharmaceutical industry. In markets round the world, the companies deal, sometimes thousands of times in a single day, with doctors, clinicians, hospital operators and regulators who are considered under US law to be government officials, because they are employed by state-owned facilities.

Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the US anti-bribery law, companies may not offer items of value to foreign government officials for profit. One industry lawyer involved in the matter said global pharmaceutical companies operating in countries with state-run medical institutions deal with government officials at every turn of their business: whether it is seeking the go-ahead for a manufacturing site; obtaining drug licences; conducting clinical trials; importing drugs; selling and marketing drugs to physicians; or getting a product on to a hospital’s approved list.

“What most companies will find is that all of these areas are risky and, if they don’t train and educate their people, they are going to find themselves with issues. For example, if you have hired customs brokers, how do you know they aren’t bribing officials?” the attorney said.

According to the law firm Arnold & Porter, the DoJ is particularly interested in corrupt payments that may have influenced the reliability or integrity of data in clinical trials performed outside the US. A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services found 80 per cent of marketing applications for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US had relied on at least one foreign trial.

“Companies may find themselves facing critical legal issues if approval of products rested on the results of studies the DoJ deems corrupt,” Arnold & Porter said in an advisory letter to clients last month.

A person familiar with the investigation confirmed that clinical trials were one of several areas the DoJ was examining.

Alexandra Wrage, the president of Trace, a non-profit organisation that helps companies establish anti-corruption practices, said that alleged wrong­doing at pharmaceutical companies could often centre on inappropriately lavish hospitality, such as wining and dining doctors from state-run hospitals at conferences in Bali or Monaco.

Read entire article here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9a8e8f90-a63e-11df-8767-00144feabdc0.html

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Physicians harrassed for treating Lyme patients

A North Carolina physician, Dr. Kovacs is reported to be harrassed for treating Lyme patients.  Below are excerpts from a story entitled, "N.C. doctors conceal Lyme disease expertise" by Caitlin Coaklye published in News fro the Mecklenburg Times on 8/6/10.
"Jemsek treated patients like Kovacs with long-term courses of oral and intravenous antibiotics, often for years at a time. The unusual and arguably dangerous methods attracted the attention of the North Carolina Medical Board in 2005.

By diagnosing the disease without laboratory tests or evidence like Lyme’s signature bull’s-eye rash — which one in four patients never develop — by prescribing the long courses of antibiotics and by failing to inform his patients that his methods ran outside generally accepted practices, Jemsek had, the board ruled in August 2006, engaged in unprofessional conduct. The board suspended Jemsek’s license with stay for 12 months.

Jemsek declined to comment for this story. According to his website, shortly after the board’s notice, the dominant insurance provider for the North Carolina market, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, withdrew insurance reimbursement for Jemsek’s services from late 2005 onward. The withdrawal immediately put the Rosedale Medical Clinic, which Jemsek opened in February 2006, in debt and, Jemsek claimed, led to his personal and professional bankruptcy.

A Blue Cross spokesman would not confirm or deny whether insurance reimbursements were withheld from Jemsek’s clinic nor answer questions relating to the policies for Lyme disease coverage, including the claim that there’s no medical benefit to IV antibiotic therapy for longer than four weeks, that were released in March 2006."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Vatican Radio_Human Trial on Embryonic Stem Cell is a Crime

Human trials for embryonic stem cell treatment a crime, says Bishop Sgreccia

Posted August 3, 2010

Rome, Italy, (CNA/EWTN News).- Following Friday’s news that a U.S. company has been given the go ahead to experiment with embryonic stem cells on human patients, a former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life told Vatican Radio that the trials are unacceptable. He said that regardless of whether the result of testing is positive or negative, “morally it remains a crime.”

Biopharmaceutical developer Geron, which has its headquarters in California, announced last Friday that it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing injections of an embryonic stem cell derivative in treatments for severe spinal-cord injuries.

Geron celebrated the FDA’s approval which, they said, gives them the ability to legally “move forward with the world’s first clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-based therapy in man.”

The clearance had been blocked since last January after preliminary trials on animals resulted in the growth of small cysts in treated regions. Further testing led to the FDA’s recent approval.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, who led the Pontifical Academy for Life for more than three years, told Vatican Radio in an interview released on Saturday that the use of human embryos in treatments should be rejected, “not only from the Catholic moral code but by whoever respects the human individual.”

Bishop Sgreccia noted that researchers carry out their experiments under the assertion that embryos remain only “a human being in the making.” But considering that embryos are “sacrificed” for the treatments, he said, “from an ethical point of view (it) can only receive a negative judgment.”

Looking at the results of embyronic stem cell testing, he said, it can be seen that, to date, the expected results have not been obtained. This, said Bishop Sgreccia, is due to the fact that embryonic stem cells are meant for the creation of a human being, not just other cells.

“In any case,” he added, “in the remote possibility that there was a positive result, morally it remains a crime.

Public at Risk for Health Hazards through Marketed Products_ Chemical Exposure

The Washington Post reports that "under current laws, the government has little or no information about the health risks posed by most of the 80,000 chemicals on the U.S. market today."  This comes in their coverage of their story on Kellogg cereals that were recalled for chemical contamination.

See their story entitled, "U.S. regulators lack data on health risks of most chemicals".

Physicians GAGGED to Speak about Problems with Patient Care

The Independent published a report on August 2, 2010 providing a good overview about legally gagging physicians who would otherwise talk about serious problems in patient care.  See story at this link.

Pfizer Injured Biotech Molecular Biologist Becky McClain Speaks on Public Health and Safety

On July 17, 2010 in San Francisco, Pfizer injured biotech molecular biologist Becky McClain discussed her firing for making OSHA complaints and also the potential and real dangers of unregulated and development of products in the biotech and nanotech industry without proper oversight. The first US conference on biotechnology and health and safety was sponsored by the California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day http://www.workersmemorialday.org/

See McClain's talk at:  http://blip.tv/file/3960030

Genetically Engineered Crops Escape to the Wild

A report from NPR finds that genetically engineered Canola has escaped into the wild, along roads throughout North Dakota.  The study highlight the ease with which GE crops can spread and escape and that these plants breed in the wild.

The NPR report gives an embarrassing one-sided view suggesting that escaped GE crops pose no risk to altering ecosystems.  NPR did not interview any environmental activists regarding their report.

For the article:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129010499

Willfull Disregard for Safety --Keen Energy Plant Is Fined

$16.6 Million in Fines After Fatal Blast at a Connecticut Plant

Published: August 5, 2010 New York Times
Federal safety officials on Thursday issued $16.6 million in proposed fines in connection with a huge explosion at a power plant that killed six workers in Middletown, Conn., determining that construction companies had blatantly disregarded industry procedures designed to safeguard workers.
The fines, the third largest ever issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a single episode, stem from accusations of 371 violations, including 225 considered “willful,” found after the Feb. 7 blast, which occurred as flammable natural gas was being shot through a supply pipe to purge it of debris. Fifty people were injured in the explosion.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said the companies had “blatantly disregarded” accepted industry procedures, their own safety guidelines and “common sense.” Ms. Solis added that the deaths and injuries could have been prevented.

“These fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site,” Ms. Solis said during a conference call with reporters. “No operation and no deadline is worth cutting corners and costing a single human life.”

Local and state law enforcement agencies are still determining whether to bring criminal charges in the case. Civil lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of injured and deceased workers.

David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said companies stood to collect “very significant financial incentives” if they met deadlines at the construction site for Kleen Energy Systems. Dr. Michaels said OSHA believed that the general contractor, O&G Industries, stood to collect a $19 million bonus if it could get the plant running by May 31.

“What I can’t say is what role those played in the incident occurring,” he said. “But there is no question that they were there.”

The dangers of using flammable gas to clear pipes have been well established. Less than a year before the Middletown explosion, a similar blast at the ConAgra Foods Slim Jim plant in Garner, N.C., killed four workers. A 1999 explosion at a power plant in Dearborn, Mich., killed six.

In Middletown, natural gas was vented into an area that was partly enclosed by buildings, where dangerous concentrations built up and met one of several possible igniting sources, including welding torches being used nearby, safety investigators found.

The construction companies were cited for failing to vent the gas so it would disperse, failing to remove nonessential workers, allowing welders to keep working during the procedure and failing to train workers.

In June, the United States Chemical Safety Board urged OSHA to prohibit the release of natural gas during purging operations. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the safety board, said he believed that OSHA had sufficient authority to issue a six-month emergency ban. “There is no safe way to blow hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of flammable natural gas to a workplace,” Dr. Moure-Eraso said. “It shouldn’t be done, and the practice needs to be banned as soon as possible.”

Dr. Michaels said OSHA saw the use of flammable gas to clear pipes as inherently dangerous and requiring immediate attention because there were plans for 125 similar power plants across the country.

OSHA has issued a warning letter to other operators of gas-fired power plants urging them not to make the mistakes made in Middletown and to consider using alternatives to flammable gas. But the agency stopped short of issuing an emergency ban on the practice, and is reviewing whether a ban could sustain a legal challenge.

“We would love to be able to ban this, but we can’t,” Dr. Michaels said.

The companies have 15 days to contest the fines, and Dr. Michaels said companies typically did challenge the findings when the fines were so large. OSHA calls the penalties “proposed” and considers the violations accusations until the challenges are addressed.

The largest fine, $8.3 million, was issued to O&G Industries, stemming from 139 violations, including 119 considered willful. O&G said it intended to contest the findings. In a statement, the company said that workers had logged 1.7 million hours of labor before the explosion with only one workplace accident.

"This is an impressive safety record by any standard and demonstrates the rigor of O&G’s safety programs,” the statement said.

Keystone Construction and Maintenance Inc., which was in charge of the piping and oversaw the gas blow, was fined $5.7 million. Keystone issued a statement saying it “strongly disagrees” with the citations and intended to “confer with OSHA and, if need be, contest the citations.”

Bluewater Energy Services, which was to handle the startup operation, was fined $896,000. Fourteen subcontractors were fined a total of $686,000.

Dr. Michaels said the only larger fines in OSHA history were both issued to the oil giant BP, including an $87 million penalty issued last year for failing to correct safety problems after a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers at its refinery in Texas City, Tex.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wildlife BATS Still Dying of Mysterious Disease_Extinction Is Probable

Science Codex (UC, Santa Cruz, CA) provides an update on an infectious fungal disease that is rapidly moving across the NE United States killing bats at a rate that may lead to extinction.  Bats are important for insect control and their extinction or decline may cause other serious ecosystem balance problems.  For more click on this link: