Monday, May 23, 2011

Deadly New Emerging Illness in Children_Nodding Disease

Leadership, Power and Women

Leadership, Power and Women

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 the 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, 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 at this talk at the AAUW meeting. She was intelligent, articulate and friendly. She gave a well structured talk, 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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Silicon Valley Injured Workers Unite

Why We Are Building a Global Movement to Challenge the Chip

Ted Smith




For more than four decades, people in Silicon Valley

in California, United States, have known that the manu-

facture of computer chips requires many toxic chemicals

and that workers have been getting sick from exposure

to those chemicals. At the same time, we’ve also known

that the electronics industry has built a ‘fi re wall’ against

unions and resisted efforts by workers to organize to pro-

tect their health, wages and working conditions. Lessons

learned in Silicon Valley need to be shared throughout

Asia since electronics manufacturing is now centred

there. Here are some key examples:

1. The right-to-know is essential! Information is

the best defense!

In Silicon Valley, as in Asia, electronics production

workers were not informed about the toxic hazards for

themselves and their families and since many were mi-

grant workers from rural areas, they had no way of know-

ing about these hazards. Early efforts in Silicon Valley

included documenting the chemical hazards, informing

workers through publications and a telephone ‘hotline’,

organizing victims into a support group called ‘Injured

Workers United’, and providing medical and legal sup-

port for affected workers. While electronics executives

were uniformly hostile to unions (people who tried

to organize unions were often fired and/or harassed),

organizing to protect workers’ health was more diffi cult

to suppress. While industry executives could complain

about the evils of unions, they found it more difficult to

discredit people coming together to organize for safer

working conditions.

2. The right to say no – The Campaign to end the

miscarriage of justice3

The growing awareness that toxic chemicals were

causing reproductive harm in the community gave rise to

a demand for additional health studies to assess the extent

of miscarriages and birth defects for electronics workers.

Three separate epidemiological studies all demonstrated

a high rate of miscarriages amongst semiconductor work-

ers, leading to the demand to ban the use of glycol ethers

and other reproductive toxins. Women began to demand

that they be provided a safe work place, particularly when

they were pregnant or contemplating pregnancy.

3. The right to act – Taking workers concerns

directly to the Semiconductor Industry

In 2002, after years of organizing in Silicon Valley

and other high-tech centres in the US, we organized an

international gathering to bring together people from

other parts of the world to share stories and strategies

and to form a common agenda. This is where we formed

the International Campaign for Responsible Technology

(ICRT).4 We were all energized to learn that we had much

in common and shared similar goals. We also realized

that we were facing the same opposition and denial

from industry offi cials who ignored and minimized the

concerns that we were witnessing. We decided to take

our unifi ed message directly to the source of the problem

– to the headquarters of the Semiconductor Industry As-

sociation (SIA), which is the trade association that acts

as the global lobby for the industry. We showed up as a

large group and confronted George Scalise, President of

the SIA, and made sure that he listened to the fi rst-hand

accounts from people from all around the world who

were suffering from cancer, birth defects, and abuses of

workers’ rights. We demanded that the industry protect

its workers wherever they are – in the US, Scotland, Tai-

wan, China, etc. But the industry is still a long way from

providing a safe workplace where workers can survive

with dignity and justice. These demands still need to be

acted upon all around.

4. Moving from reaction to precaution – why we

need to get ahead of the curve

One of the most difficult challenges of dealing

with the electronics industry is that it is both extremely

powerful and changes very rapidly. In little more than a

single generation, it has become one of the most domi-

nant economic engines on the planet and has developed

a wide variety of products that have become essential

to communications, defense as well as the consumer

economy. No wonder that governments compete for new

high-tech development and are uninterested in regulating

the ‘golden goose’ that sees itself as the gateway to the

future. Moreover, since it is still governed by ‘Moore’s

law’ (which proclaims that every 18 months each new

generation of technology will be twice as fast, twice as

small and twice as cheap),5 the industry changes so rap-

idly that by the time you fi gure out what the main chal-

lenges or hazards are, the technology has moved on to the

next generation and is creating new problems even before

the older ones have been understood or addressed.

If ever there was a poster child for the need for the

precautionary principle, the electronics industry presents

itself as Exhibit A! If we spend all of our effort trying to

clean up the messes created yesterday, we will never get

ahead of the curve. Likewise, if we always have to wait

for the ‘body count’ we will continue to be overwhelmed

by too many funerals. We need to develop better ways to

screen new materials before they are introduced into the

workplace and we need to establish increased bargaining

power to make sure that management listens to the con-

cerns of the workers rather than just give lip service.

to this most powerful industry. That’s why

it is essential that we build stronger links between our

various networks, especially the newly renamed (see Box,

p. 40) Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and

Environmental Victims (ANROEV),8 the European Work

Hazards Network (EWHN)9 and the National Council on

Occupational Safety and Health (COSH)10 in the U.S.

5. Forming worker-community-environmental

coalitions is necessary.

Early organizing efforts to expose the toxic underside

of electronics production in Silicon Valley was essential

in building awareness and piercing the ‘clean industry’

mythology, but it was the linkage to community and

environmental pollution that really got people mobilized

to make the industry more accountable. Even when the

local media began to cover the growing occupational ill-

nesses, most people still ignored it if they weren’t directly

and personally affected. But when the toxic chemicals

leaked into our groundwater (which is our drinking wa-

ter supply) and residents started giving birth to babies

with serious birth defects, the residents came together

to demand that the industry change its practices. And

often it was the workers in the lead, who were suffering

from ‘double exposure’ both on the job as well as in

the community. That’s when we started passing laws to

provide greater protections and established

the legal right-to-know about which toxic

chemicals were being used in which fac-

tory. We made the point that there was no

difference between occupational health

and environmental health – that people

were getting sick from exposure to the

same toxic chemicals, whether it was in

the workplace or in the community. It was

the combined power of the broad coalition

that was able to generate enough people

power to make changes.

Now that the industry has become

truly global, we need to further develop

our people’s networks to also become

truly global. More than ever, it’s true that

an injury to one is an injury to all – that’s

why the cancer cluster at Samsung affects

us all; and that’s why the rash of suicides at

Foxconn7 is a tragedy for all of us. And it is

only through our combined resources and

common strategies that we stand a chance

to bring accountability and sustainability

to this most powerful industry. That’s why

it is essential that we build stronger links between our

various networks, especially the newly renamed (see Box,

p. 40) Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and

Environmental Victims (ANROEV),8 the European Work

Hazards Network (EWHN)9 and the National Council on

Occupational Safety and Health (COSH)10 in the U.S.


See Eds. Ted Smith, David A. Sonnenfeld, David Naguib

Pellow, and Leslie A. Byster, Challenging the Chip:

Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global

Electronics Industry, Philadelphia: Temple University

Press, 2006. les/





and.html les/favicon.jpg

A delegation from the founding conference of International Campaign for Responsible

Technology in November 2002, visiting the National Semiconductor factory in Santa Clara,

California. Photo: Ted Smith


See Eds. Ted Smith, David A. Sonnenfeld, David Naguib

Pellow, and Leslie A. Byster, Challenging the Chip:

Genetically Engineered Food Toxin Found in Human Blood Samples

Discovery of Bt insecticide in human blood proves GMO toxin a threat to human health, study finds

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The biotechnology industry's house of cards appears to be crumbling, as a new study out of the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, recently found Bt toxin, a component of certain genetically-modified (GM) crops, in human blood samples for the first time. Set to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology the new study shreds the false notion that Bt is broken down by the digestive system, and instead shows that the toxin definitively persists in the bloodstream.

Industry mouthpieces have long alleged that Bt toxin, which is derived from a soil bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, is harmless to humans. The built-in pesticide has been integrated into certain GM crops to ward off pests. Bt corn, for instance, has actually been designed to produce the toxin directly inside its kernels, which are later eaten by both livestock and humans (

In the recent study, researchers Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc evaluated 30 pregnant women and 39 non-pregnant women who had come to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) in Quebec, Can., for a tubectomy. Upon taking blood samples, researchers detected the Bt Cry1Ab toxin in a shocking 93 percent of maternal and 80 percent of fetal blood samples. And 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for the toxin in their blood.

All women involved in the study had been consuming a typical Canadian diet which, like in the US, is riddled with GM materials and toxins. Conventional soy, corn, canola, and potato products, for example, are in many of the foods eaten in both the US and Canada, which explains why Bt toxin was highly prevalent in the women's blood samples.

And the fact that Bt toxin was detected even in unborn babies shows that the chemical is easily passed from mother to child, and that it persists far longer than the biotechnology industry claims it does. Clearly, the toxin is harmful both to pests and to humans. Earlier studies have already shown that Bt toxin and other pesticides end up contaminating and persisting in the environment, which makes it a major public health concern.

Sources for this story include:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Misuse of Public Funds for Scientific Research

Certain universities are misusing public funds for scientific research. These universities, funded by the tax-payers dime, are networking and conducting scientific research to develope and increase “for-profit” pharmaceutical pipelines.

Thus enters a new world of academic industrialization of science, a relationship that makes for a conflict of interest not benefiting the public. It is not in the public’s interest to fund such university labs. And why should we?

Pfizer Inc, the largest and wealthiest pharmaceutical giant is one company that is benefiting from such networking practices with publically-funded universities. Through Pfizer's Center for Therapeutic Innovation, Pfizer scientists are relocating onto university campuses and working with publically funded labs and scientists for the sole purpose to increase Pfizer’s drug development, pipeline and patent holdings.

University scientists that “double dip” into both private and public money to support “for profit” private enterprise are not working in the public's interests.  "Double dipping" is not ethical, is not efficient, and is not in the best interest for the public or for science. Public funding should be withdrawn from universities laboratories which network to support “for-profit” industry research.

These public funds should instead be reallocated to other universities that need monies to conduct scientific exploration directed toward the public's good. Many universities remain underfunded while others double dip into private and public funds. Reallocating public monies to well-deserving and well-qualified universities who need funding for scientific exploration will create additional jobs to many qualified scientists.
Don’t misunderstand the reasoning behind this strategy. The public is not demanding to stop scientific research. Rather the public demands reallocation of public money for the public good. Reallocating public monies to universities which are in need of money and conduct research in the public’s interest instead of private interest is a sound economic strategy. In our hard hit economic times, this strategy will create jobs. It also will expand the scientific base which is a more efficient use of public funds to enhance scientific exploration.

It’s budget crisis time. Now is the perfect time to take a closer look at how our public money is being misused by some members in the scientific community for private profiterring. In fact it is time to reevaluate public funding strategies to certain research universities and institutes who double dip into both private and public funds.

Below is a partial list of the universities that are currently networking with Pfizer and double dipping into research funding. These universities and laboratories should undergo reevaluation in their ability to obtain public funding for scientific research:

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
Rockefeller University
New York University Langone Medical Center
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center
Columbia University Medical Center
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshive University
Weill Cornell Medical College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)