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Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Nader’

Victimized by Drug Companies

Posted by terres on April 7, 2010

In A Victim of New Zealand’s Biowarfare?

The Moderators linked to the plight of Dr Adu-Bobie, 31, an expert on meningococcal vaccines, who contracted meningococcal septicaemia within days of working at New Zealand government laboratories.


The Victim
: Dr Jeannette Adu-Bobie, an expert on meningococcal vaccines, contracted meningitis while working in NZ govt. Wellington lab. and had both legs, left arm and the digits of her right hand amputated.

We asked: “Was this scientist the perfect “guinea pig” for experimenting a deadly strain of meningococcal virus that only attacks ‘colored’ people?” [Read Original Entry HERE!]

Becky McClain

Then came the story of Becky McClain, a microbiologist who was awarded $1.37 million in damages last week against her former employer, the drug Goliath Pfizer. A federal jury in Connecticut upheld her complaint that Pfizer’s “sloppiness in 2002-03 exposed her to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus related to one that could lead to immune deficiencies.”


Becky McClain,
formerly a molecular biologist at Pfizer, and a member of her department’s safety committee complained to OSHA five times about company’s lab safety standards, and was eventually told to stop documenting safety violations.

Below is a related article by Ralph Nader:

A Win for Whistle Blowers

by Ralph Nader
Why would Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, so mistreat and silence one of their top molecular biologists that a federal jury in Connecticut awarded her $1.37 million in damages last week?The unraveling answer promises to tear open the curtain covering hazards confronting tens of thousands of scientists and assistants in corporate and university labs doing genetic engineering work with viruses and bacteria.

Becky McClain’s lawsuit against Pfizer claimed that the company’s sloppiness in 2002-03 exposed her to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus related to one that could lead to immune deficiencies. Pfizer denied any connection between its lab practices and Ms. McClain’s recurring paralysis and other illnesses.Back and forth over three years came the scientist’s claims and Pfizer’s denials during which she had to leave her job amidst the increasing retaliatory behavior of her ten-year employer.

Pfizer is known for playing hardball and violating laws. Last year it had to pay the Justice Department one of the largest fines – half civil, half criminal – for illegal promotion of its drugs for unapproved uses. The fine — $2.4 billion – avoided criminal charges and prosecution, either of the company or officials, and became just another cost of doing business.

Just last week, soon after buying Wyeth Labs for $68 billion, Pfizer’s CEO, Jeffrey B. Kindler, told a reporter for The New York Times that his company has “invented too few drugs and left its reputation in disrepair after two criminal cases.”

That record does not diminish Pfizer’s advantage over its imperiled lab workers, which is built on the absence of any available risk assessments, the very nature of possible latent, silent violence, and the cruel refusal to give afflicted employees their own exposure records on the grounds that they are company trade secrets.

Pfizer offered Ms. McClain a paltry sum with a gag order, which she promptly refused. She wanted her freedom of speech and her whistle-blowing rights under federal law. Her lawsuit was filed in 2006 in Hartford.

By dismissing the third count, which might be appealed, in her complaint alleging Pfizer’s wanton misconduct, U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant ruled that the plaintiff did not have available the evidence of causality and it was a worker’s compensation matter anyway. Herein started the chicken-egg problem. How could Ms. McClain obtain the evidence in order to prove her case when Pfizer said it was proprietary and secret?

The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG), started by Harvard and MIT scientists, does not believe laboratory exposure records of workers should be trade secrets. Life, health and remedial rights should trump any such alleged, bizarre property right.

Becky McClain has already exhausted any remedies or assistance from the woeful Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This agency has been without any regulations or disclosure requirements about biohazards in laboratories. This inertness might change with the appointment of David Michaels to head OSHA, which should bring the agency closer to its mission of preventing or diminishing tens of thousands of fatalities and injuries each year.

Mr. Michaels told the Times that “new biological materials, nanomaterials, there are many things where we don’t have adequate information, and we think workers need to have protection.” He indicated that OSHA will take another look at the McClain case.

Both Jeremy Gruber, president of CRG, and Steve Zeltzer, chair of the California Coalition for Workers Memorial Day, believe the McClain case will lead to broader scrutiny of biologic laboratories, where research is expanding rapidly with heavy federal funding.

It is well known that workers in these labs are inhibited from speaking out, either inside or outside their workplace, for fear of losing their jobs. OSHA has long known that companies in old and new industries often do not come close to fully reporting cases of their injuries and sickness either to their insurers or to state or federal job safety agencies. Some have been found to keep two sets of books.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data are not at all comprehensive. Under-reporting can hide half or three-fourths of the actual traumatic injuries.

Mr. Zeltzer has denounced what he calls “the failure of top company officials to even report to OSHA and other government agencies that many workers were getting sick numerous times in their laboratories although this is required by the law.” He called on the US Attorney in Hartford to begin a criminal investigation. (see workersmemorialday.org)

As for Becky McClain, this is just the end of the beginning. She says she has lost her career, her health and her health insurance. But she recognizes her case is in the vanguard of many other cases and worker protests to come before enforceable and openly accessible standards and practices become the way of doing business for these labs.

For when it comes to developing materials that are inherently latent, subvisible forms of silent violence, business as usual can become cruel and unusual punishment for innocent, defenseless scientists, lab technicians and other workers.

Such is the weighty responsibility of David Michaels and the new managers of the long moribund, underfunded OSHA in the coming months.

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Posted in Becky McClain, Council for Responsible Genetics, Dr Jeannette Adu-Bobie, OSHA | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Between Hope and Reality: “Hope and change!”

Posted by msrb on November 8, 2008

In the Public Interest

Wed 11/5/2008

by Ralph Nader

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity– not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas– the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persecu  tion of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. … Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see http://www.atfl.org <http://nader.org/www.atfl.org&gt; for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.'”

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate—Uri Avnery—described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future—if and when he is elected president,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on http://www.votenader.org <http://nader.org/www.votenader.org&gt;). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the “poor” in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics– opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)– and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

Related Links:

Posted in AIPAC lobby, corporate interests, Israel, Palestinians, Wall Street bailout | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

In the Public Interest

Posted by feww on October 2, 2008

Behind The Deregulatory Curtain

by Ralph Nader

The current finger pointing by the deregulation crowd in Congress and their ideological soul mates in the media reminds me of the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. It is as though these spin masters want us to pay no attention to the government officials behind the deregulation curtain.


A demonstrator stands outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, September 29, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton. Image may be subject to copyright.

Indeed, the right-wing pundits and the revisionists in Congress are spending an inordinate amount of time falsely claiming that our nation’s current financial disaster stems from the Community Reinvestment Act, a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. The primary purpose of this modest law is to require banks to report on where and to whom they are making loans. Community organizations have used the data produced as a result of this law to determine if banks were meeting their lending obligations in the minority and lower-income communities in which they do business. Congress passed this law because too many lenders were discriminating against minority borrowers. “Redlining” was the name given to the practice by banks of literally drawing a red line around minority areas and then proceeding to deny people within the red border home loans – even if they were otherwise qualified. The law has been in place for 30 years, but the right-wing f  ringe claims it somehow is responsible for predatory lending practices that date back just to the beginning of this decade.

Notice what these revisionists are not mentioning.

No “thank you” to former Senator Phil Gramm for pushing the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.. This law was passed in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 – and designed to separate banking from securities activities. In 1999, when Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and in so doing repealed Glass-Steagall the banks strayed into rough waters by looking for fast money from risky investments in securities and derivatives.

As predatory lending mushroomed out of control, the regulators — key among them, the Federal Reserve and the Office of Comptroller of Currency — sat on their hands. The Federal Reserve took exactly three formal actions against subprime lenders from 2002 to 2007. Bloomberg news service found that the Office of Comptroller of the Currency, which has authority over almost 1,800 banks, took three consumer-protection enforcement actions from 2004 to 2006.

No “tip of the hat” to the Bush Administration for preempting state regulators and Attorneys General from using state consumer laws to crack down on predatory and sub-prime lending by national banks.

And, let us not forget the folks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Imagine allowing these two government sponsored enterprises–that were weakly regulated by HUD–to claim they were meeting the national housing goals by counting the purchase of subprime loans. Back in May of 2000, our associate Jonathan Brown warned that it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to encourage Fannie and Freddie to meet the housing goals by purchasing subprime loans. Too bad our members of Congress and the regulators at HUD were infected with deregulatory zeal. Former Texas Senator and current UBS executive Phil Gramm — would-be President John McCain’s Treasury Secretary-in-waiting — pushed through the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated the derivatives market. With help from his wife, Wendy, the former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who went on to a post on the Enron board of directors, Gramm removed the controls on Wall Street so it could in  novate all sorts of exotic financial instruments. Instruments far riskier than advertised, and now at the core of the financial meltdown.

The SEC, through its “consolidated supervised entities” program, decided that voluntary regulation would work for the investment banking sector. Not surprisingly, this was a scheme cooked up by Wall Street itself. The investment banks were permitted to double, triple and go 20 times (and more) down on their bets by using lots of borrowed money. They made minimal disclosures to the SEC about what they were doing, and the SEC didn’t bother to review those disclosures adequately. Too bad for the investment banks — and the rest of us — they made lots of bad bets. The SEC has now closed the voluntary program, though now there aren’t any major investment banks left (the two remaining ones have converted themselves into conventional banks).

It is time to start paying very close attention to government officials behind the deregulation curtain. Let your Members of Congress know you are not willing to bailout the gamblers on Wall Street with a no-strings attached pile of taxpayer dollars. The time for regulation is upon us.

Posted in Fannie Mae, Federal Reserve, Glass-Steagall Act, SEC, subprime | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Reality Shows: The Greatest NOTHING!

Posted by terres on July 23, 2008

When you know you are being shafted!

TV for the Dogs
by Ralph Nader
July 22, 2008

CBS’s new reality show is called “Greatest American Dog,” with pet expert-zoologist Jarod Miller as the host. Twelve “dog-and-human teams are vying for the grand prize of $250,000. These teams are in intense training “by running, jumping, fetching and just looking adorable,” reports the Washington Post.

The show’s executive producer, R.J. Cutler requires the teams to all live together during the weekly competition at a “canine academy” where they will be carefully observed acting and interacting.

There is 5 year old Andrew, a Maltese, whose owner Laurie is a dog day-care owner in Stafford, Virginia. Then there is 1 year old Beacon, a miniature Schnauzer owned by a Los Angeles fashion designer. Beacon will have to get along with Kenji, also a 1 year old, a giant Schnauzer owned by Elan, described as an aspiring dog-salon owner in Portland, Oregon. Other dogs include a Pomeranian, an English bulldog, a Border Collie, a Boxer and a Boston Terrier named Ezzie whose owner, Michael, is an aspiring comic in Los Angeles.

“Although the dogs are beautiful, this is not a beauty contest,” Cutler cautions, adding that “the dog-owner relationship is the central part of the show.”

Non-dog owners, especially cat-lovers, may be snickering at the fastidious details and the presumed smarts of dogs. But behind this contest are standards for judging these dogs, beyond aerial tricks and obedience commands. The Post writes that “Each episode tests a specific quality, such as loyalty, courage or intelligence, and is developed to show how humans and animals cooperate.”

Ah, would that the television networks create reality shows highlighting the courage and intelligence of humans working to improve our society at all levels.

What about “Greatest Community Organizer” or “Greatest Consumer” which would include astute non-consumption or “Greatest Taxpayer” in terms of demanding and receiving efficient government services, or “Smartest Voter.” Or, what about “Greatest Mother, Father, Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law, Grandmother and Grandparent,” “Greatest Storyteller, Hitch-Hiker, Babysitter, Gardener, Youth-Hobby-Instructor, Temper-Tantrum-Reducer, Neighborhood Myth-Buster, Complainer, Injustice Fighter,” or just plain “Greatest Neighbor?”

“Bah,” say the reality-show promoters. These “greatest” are not low enough on the sensuality ladder. Reality shows have to evoke, greed, danger, ego, adventure, sex, manipulation and self-absorption. Raw cravings!

Some of you may remember that Hollywood had a formula for popular films. Celebrities, romances of the rich and powerful, extravaganzas or thrillers, but above all don’t show the common folk for they live in Dullsville.

But, then after World War II, different films began to come to the screens. Out of war-torn Italy came “The Bicycle Thief” and “Bitter Rice” about ordinary people negotiating the travails of life. Presto, the movie screens became wider in more ways than one and a larger panorama of life entered the cinemas.

The point about these possible reality shows is that they help recognize or reinforce standards in a fast-changing, evolving, devolving society which blurs, depreciates, and jettisons standards that form the connectedness and meaning of inter-generational life lived on small-scales in small communities or neighborhoods.

Sure, such shows would require breakthrough imaginations by their creators. Knee-jerk prejudgments would not be given the benefit of the doubt.

Whole worlds of daily life would open up for audiences accustomed to being treated as Pavlovian specimens—who were, after all, dogs.

end

Posted in bush, dumbing down Of America, environment, human rights, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Black Holes Suck!

Posted by terres on June 12, 2008

One Day Soon, A Tiny Wall Street Black Hole Will Suck In the Rest of Your Assets! —TERRES

Casinos on Wall Street

by Ralph Nader
June 10, 2008

Move over Las Vegas. The big time gamblers are on Wall Street and they are gambling with your money, your pensions, and your livelihoods.

Unlike Las Vegas casinos, these big investment banks, commercial banks and stock brokerage houses are supposed to have a fiduciary relationship with your money. They are supposed to be trustees for the money you have given them to safeguard, and tell you when they are making risky investments.

Because Washington, D.C. has increasingly become corporate-occupied territory, the Wall Street Boys have been taking even greater risks with your money. The more they produce cycles of financial failure, the more they pay themselves through their rubberstamp boards of directors.

With each cycle of failure, the burden of government bailouts grows larger, meaning debt, deficit and your tax dollars. The Savings and Loan collapse in the late Eighties—costing before the bailout instruments are paid off at least $500 billion, looks small by comparison with what is going on today.

Why is it that these financial bosses never learn? Because they never pay for their gambling. They may be let go, as happened recently to the CEOs of Merril Lynch and Citigroup, but they ride away from their managerial wreckage loaded with compensation and severance gold. Some of it is clearly hush money from those buddies they left behind.

Now comes the latest installment of disastrous management that has been running the venerable Wall Street investment bank, Lehman Brothers. With its stock plummeting because of avaricious risktaking with other people’s money, mixed up with their huge pay packages, Lehman Brothers’ employees look to their leader, Richard S. Fuld. For some time, he and his fellow executives would exude confidence about their ability to manage their risking financial instruments compared to their tanking competitors.

This week, the Lehman Emperor really had no clothes. Mr. Fuld reported a staggering $2.8 billion loss in the second quarter, exceeding the most dire forecasts. Even the hedges that Lehman used to temper the losses from its mortgage investments soured, adding to the losses.

It was just last April that Mr. Fuld announced his belief that “the worst is over” in the markets. For this type of management, he got paid $40 million last year, or nearly a million dollars a week, not counting vacations.

The Wall Street Boys, like all charlatans, develop words and phrases to dress up their megagambling practices. They say they are trying to avoid a “crisis of confidence” when these proclaimed capitalists go to Uncle Sam for a socialistic bailout. That only increases the “moral hazard”—another euphemism—and sets the stage for another round of reckless Wall Street Goliaths being deemed “too big to fail”.

One of Wall Street’s sharpest analysts—Henry Kaufman—believes that the “too big to fail” phenomenon undermines market discipline and encourages the smaller firms to merge with the larger companies to avail themselves of Washington’s bailout criteria.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last August, Mr. Kaufman acutely traces the growth of ever more complex, abstract financial instruments, removed from their empirical underpinnings in the economy, accelerated by the lightening speed of computerized transactions. He called for “increased supervision over financial institutions and markets.”

“Supervision” was once called federal regulation. Call it what you will, Mr. Kaufman is not expecting anything soon. He writes: “In today’s markets, there is hardly a clarion call for such measures. On the contrary, the markets oppose it, and politicians voice little if any support. For their part, central bankers [read, the Federal Reserve] do not posses a clear vision of how to proceed toward more effective financial supervision.”

Though couched in polite, non-normative language, this is a very troublesome indictment of corporate intransigence and regulatory paralysis. Since August 2007, the situation has gotten worse with the Wall Street Boys producing more huge losses and phony asset valuations.

A few weeks ago, former Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker, delivered an address in New York voicing similar worries and calls for “supervision,” as did Mr. Kaufman, though in his own inimitable style.

Other astute, former men of Wall Street, have raised alarms about the stock and derivatives marketplace, including former SEC chairman, Arthur Levitt and William Donaldson. Long before anyone came cautionary wisdom of John Bogle, who pioneered stock market indexing and launched Vanguard Fund. (See his new book, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns)

Still, there is no regulatory action in Washington which doesn’t even move on behalf of consumers to regulate the New York Mercantile Exchange where rampant speculation, not supply and demand, decides what you are paying for gasoline and heating oil.

With the politicians sleepwalking in Washington, while their campaign pockets are filled by Wall Street cash, isn’t it time for the people of America to rouse themselves civically and politically? Act before the financial sector, using your money, shreds itself under the weight of its own top-heavy greed and cliff-hanging mismanagement.

For starters, start demanding more from your politicians, much more!

Posted in bush, china, environment, human rights, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Health Business in Uninted States of Sheepland

Posted by terres on May 6, 2008

The Sorry State of Health Care in the United States

By Ralph Nader

This is a tale of pay or die that recurs again and again all over our country and only in our country in the entire western world.

Advised by her physician to go to M.D. Anderson for urgent treatment of her leukemia, Mrs. Kelly was told she had to pay $105,000 up front before being admitted. The hospital declared her limited insurance unacceptable.

Sitting in the business office with seriously advanced cancer, she asked herself – “Are they going to send me home?” “Am I going to die?”

Time out from her torment for a moment. M.D. Anderson started this upfront payment demand in 2005 because of a spike in its bad debt load.

The Journal explains – “The bad debt is driven by a larger number of Americans who are uninsured or who don’t have enough insurance to cover costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured patients also have trouble paying hospitals.”

It isn’t as if non-profit hospitals like M.D. Anderson are hurting. Look at this finding in an Ohio State University study: net income per bed at non-profit hospitals tripled to $146,273 in 2005 from $50,669 in 2000. And you also may have noticed the huge pay packages awarded hospital executives.

M.D. Anderson, exempt from taxation, recipient of funds from large government programs and research grants has cash, investments and endowment totaling $1.9 billion, with net income of $310 million last year, the Journal reports.


A twelfth-century Byzantine manuscript of the Hippocratic Oath in the form of a cross dagger.

Hippocratic Oath Modern Version written by Louis Lasagna, former Dean of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences of Tufts University, in 1964.

Back to the 52 year old, Lisa Kelly. She and her husband returned with a check for $45,000. After a blood test and biopsy, the hospital oncologist urged admittance quickly. Then the hospital demanded an additional $60,000-$45,000 just for the lab tests and $15,000 for part of the cost of the treatment.

To shorten the story, she received chemotherapy for over a year. Often her appointment was “blocked” until she made another payment.

In a particularly grotesque incident, she was hooked up to a chemotherapy pump, but the nurses were not allowed to change the chemo bag until Mr. Kelly made another payment.

She endured other indignities and overcharges. Reporter Martinez cites $360 for blood tests that insurers pay $20 or less for and up to $120 for saline pouches that cost less than $2 retail.

Imagine anything like Mrs. Kelly’s predicament and pressures occurring in Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland, England or any other western country. It would never happen.

These countries have universal single payer health insurance. No one dies because they cannot afford health care. In America, 18,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Many more get sick or become sicker.

None of these countries spend more than 11% of their GDP on healthcare. The U.S. spends over 16% of its GDP on health care and does not cover 47 million people and tens of millions are under covered

In the U.S. the drug companies charge their highest prices in the world, even though we, the taxpayers, subsidized them in large ways. In other countries like Mexico and Canada, they cannot get away with such drug price gouging, with a pay or die ultimatum.

In the U.S., computerized billing fraud and abuse cost over $200 billion last year, according to the GAO arm of Congress. In other counties, single payer prevents such looting.

In other countries, administrative expenses of their single payer system are about a third of what the Aetna’s and other insurers rack up.

In other western countries, medical outcomes for children and adults and paid family leave are far superior to that of the U.S. The World Health Organization ranks the US health care system 37th in the world.

When apologists in Washington hear these statistics, they say “but we have the best medical research centers in the world, like M.D. Anderson.”

Clearly much is wrong with the nature of pricing health care.

Like other hospitals, M.D. Anderson is caught in a macabre spider’s web of cost allocations mixing treatment costs with research budgets, cash reserves, and just plain accounting gimmicks that burden patients. (Documents from Mrs. Kelly’s case are available at http://online.wsj.com today.)

When a friend showed the Journal’s article to a Dutch visitor, the latter blurted in anger – “you are a nation of sheep.” Not a very flattering description of “the land of the free, home of the brave.”

Someday, soon maybe, Americans will finally band together and say “enough already,” we’re going for full Medicare for all- without loopholes for corporate profiteers and purveyors of waste and fraud.

Last month after being in remission, Lisa Kelly’s leukemia has come back.

END.

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Posted in bush, cabal, Congress, corporate profiteering, corporate racketeering, corruption, human rights, medical care, military budget, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fueling Food Shortages

Posted by terres on April 27, 2008

Fueling Food Shortages
By Ralph Nader

Where is Harry Chapin when you need him? The popular folk singer (Cat’s in the Cradle), who lost his life in an auto crash 27 years ago, was an indefatigable force of nature against hunger—in this country and around the world.

To hear Harry speak out against the scourge of hunger in a world of plenty was to hear informed passion that was relentless whether on Capitol Hill, at poverty conferences or at his concerts.

Now the specter of world hunger is looming, with sharply rising basic food prices and unnecessary food shortages sparking food riots in places like Haiti and Egypt. Officials with the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) are alarmed. The WFP has put out an emergency appeal for more funds, saying another 100 million humans have been thrown into the desperate hunger pits.

Harry would have been all over the politicians in Congress and the White House who, with their bellies full, could not muster the empathy to do something.

Directly under Bush and the Congress is the authority to reduce the biggest single factor boosting food prices—reversing the tax-subsidized policy of growing ever more corn to turn into fuel at the expense of huge acreages that used to produce wheat, soy, rice and other edibles.

Corn ethanol is a multifaceted monstrosity—radiating damage in all directions of the compass. Reducing acreage for edible crops has sparked a surge in the price of bread and other foodstuffs. Congress and Bush continue to mandate larger amounts of subsidized corn ethanol.

Republican Representative Robert W. Goodlatte says: “The mandate basically says [corn] ethanol comes ahead of food on your table, comes ahead of feed for livestock, comes ahead of grains available for export.”

Corn growing farmers are happy with a bushel coming in at $5 to $6—a record.

A subsidy-laden, once-every-five-years farm bill is winding its way through Congress. The bill keeps the “good-to-fuel” mandates that are expanding corn acreage and contributing to a rise of global food prices.

Of course, more meat diets in China, futures market speculation, higher prices for oil and some bad weather and poor food reserve planning have also contributed to shortages and higher prices.

But subsidized corn ethanol gets the first prize for policy madness. It not only damages the environment, soaks up the water from mid-west aquifers, scuttles set asides for soil conservation, but its net energy equation qualifies for collective insanity on Capitol Hill. To produce a gallon of ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy (mostly coal burning) as it produces.

Designed to alleviate oil imports, hold down gasoline prices and diminish greenhouse gases, corn ethanol has flopped on all three scores.

Princeton scholar Lester Brown, an early sounder of the alarm of global food shortages and higher prices, writes in Science Magazine “that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions—and thus a catalyst for climate change.”

Can Congress change course and drop its farm subsidy of corn ethanol this year? Observers say, despite the growing calamities and the real risk of severe malnutrition, even starvation in Africa, Congress will do nothing.

Farm subsidies, once installed, are carved in stone—unless there is enough outcry from food consumers, taxpayers and environmentalists. They are paying from the pocketbook, from their taxes and health. That should be enough motivation, unless they need to see the distended stomachs of African and Asian children on the forthcoming television news.

Unless we wake up, we will continue to be a country stuck in traffic—in more ways than one.

Don’t rely on the election year political debates to pay attention to destructive corn ethanol programs. For years I have been speaking out against this boondoggle, while championing the small farmer in America, but no one in positions of Congressional leadership has been listening.

They must be waiting for the situation to get worse before they absorb a fraction of Harry Chapin’s empathy and care.

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Posted in America, ecosystems, environment, ethanol, food riots, human rights, hunger, poor, UN, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »