Anne Landman

Subway Finds Size Really Does Matter

Subway's trademark "Footlong™" subs are coming up short all over

Subway’s trademark “Footlong™” subs are coming up short all over

Subway stores are in big PR trouble. It all started when earlier this month an Australian man posted a photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page of a Footlong™ sandwich he had just bought, and asked why it was only 11 inches long. Soon, other Subway sandwich buyers started making similar posts and uploading images of their too-short “footlong” sandwiches. Then two men from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Subway accusing the stores of selling trademark Footlong™ sandwiches that were really just 11 inches. Stephen DeNettis, the lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, said he measured sandwiches from 17 different Subway stores and they all came up short. He says Subway should either make sure its Footlong™ sandwiches are really a foot long, or stop advertising them as such. For its part, Subway issued a statement apologizing for it’s short sandwiches, saying “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” For good measure, Subway added that the length of each bread cannot be assured every time because the “proofing” process may vary. Buzzfeed called that answer “amazingly stupid.” One commenter on Buzzfeed wrote, “So…when I pay them with my TWENTY DOLLAR BILL™, and it turns out to be nothing more than an envelope of grass shavings, there will be no hard feelings, right?” Another wrote, “After closer measurement, I’m returning those inch worms I bought at a yard sale.” Who knows? Maybe Subway is shorting people as part of their  sponsorship of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser.”  After all, shorter Footlong™ sandwiches will help people lose more weight and shorting patrons like this makes Subway customers the Biggest Losers.

In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

hypocrisy-meterOn New Year’s Day in 2006, 31 year old Lori Stodghill went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado, short of breath, vomiting, and seven months pregnant with twins. As they wheeled her into the examining room, she passed out. The ER staff tried to resuscitate her, but a blockage in the main artery going to Lori’s lungs caused her to have a massive heart attack, killing her and her twins less than an hour after she arrived at the ER.  Her obstetrician, who was supposed to be on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Stodghill’s husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado. Catholic hospitals do not offer abortion services or even contraception based on their belief that legal personhood starts at contraception, not at birth, and that fetuses are viable people. CHI even has an advocacy website that implores visitors to help them oppose the provision in Obamacare that requires employers to pay for contraceptives, because “Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.” But to get its client out of this wrongful death suit, CHI’s lawyers are arguing the opposite — that Lori’s fetuses weren’t really viable persons. In a brief the defense filed with the court, CHI’s lawyers say the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define a ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on the two unborn fetuses.” 

Source: Colorado Independent, January 23, 2013

Updated Jan. 26, 2013

Dick Armey’s Tobacco Ties

Dick Armey in his younger days

Dick Armey in his younger days

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who recently left his job with the astroturf group Freedomworks, has a history of taking tobacco money and doing Big Tobacco’s  bidding. The tobacco industry was a friend to Armey throughout his career on Capitol Hill, but Armey, who was an uneven ally to the industry while in the House, arguably became a more reliable ally when, under his guidance, FreedomWorks reflexively opposed higher cigarette taxes in states all across the union. Despite this, we found that some in the industry has less-than-complimentary things to say about Armey. We also found  Armey engaged in dubious and dishonest tactics get new members an increase his group’s muscle while at FreedomWorks.  Read all about Dick Armey’s tobacco ties and how he used FreedomWorks in a three-part series on my new blog at DeSmogBlog.com.

Virginia Republicans Rush Through Redistricting Vote While Key Democrat Attends Obama’s Inauguration

Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh

Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh

While Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, a 79 year old African-American civil rights advocate and a Democrat, was out of the state attending President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, Virginia’s Republican legislators seized the opportunity afforded by his absence to rush through a vote on a new Congressional redistricting map that maximizes the number of seats safe for Republicans. Virginia’s legislature is evenly split with 20 Republican members and 20 Democratic members, but while Marsh was out of town, there were 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats present to vote. Republicans seized upon that short window of time when they had a voting advantage to take a vote on the redistricting measure. It passed by a single vote, 19-20 with 19 Democrats voting against it, and handed an electoral advantage to Republicans. Virginia Democrats said they would challenge the measure in court.

Main Source: Talking Points Memo, January 21, 2013

Christian Group Distributes Bibles at Public Schools, Gets Pushback

The book secularists plan to give away at Orange County, Florida high schools when they get their  date to distribute literature from the school district

The book secularists plan to give away at Orange County, Florida high schools when they get their date to distribute literature from the school district

An Orange County, Florida school district allowed the Christian group World Changers of Central Florida to distribute Bibles to high school students at eleven area high schools on January 16, 2012, by placing the books on tables near the school’s lunchroom. Orange County secularists who were offended by the overt advertisement for Christianity on public school grounds has asked the school district to change its policy to disallow distribution of religious materials on school grounds. If the school district refuses to change the policy, members of American Atheists and Central Florida Freethought Community say they will ask the school district for a date on which they can distribute information to students about atheism and humanism in the same manner.  World Changers’ mission is to promote prayer in public schools and push to have creationism taught in public schools.

Stealth Anti-Science Bills Disguised as “Academic Freedom” Bills

Creationist cartoonThe National Center for Science Education is warning that a bill introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives on January 16,  HB13-1089 (pdf), called the “Academic Freedom Act,” is really a trojan horse anti-science bill. The bill directs teachers “to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.” It sounds innocent enough, but such bills use an “academic freedom” guise to tacitly permit teachers to misinform students by allowing the teaching of creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution, or by allowing teachers to misrepresent evolution as being scientifically controversial. The last time such an anti-evolution bill was introduced in Colorado was in 1972, when a lawmakers tried to put a measure on the ballot that would have allowed “all students and teachers academic freedom of choice as to which of these two theories, creation of evolution, they wish to choose.” That measure never made it onto the ballot. All of the primary sponsors and co-sponsors of Colorado’s 2013 “Academic Freedom Act” in both the House and the Senate are Republicans. These tricky, shifting strategies state and local school boards, state legislatures and teachers are using to undermine the teaching of scientific subjects like evolution, climate change and cloning are described in depth an article published in a September, 2010 article in the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics titled Dispatches from the Evolution Wars: Shifting Tactics and Expanding Battlefields

Republicans’ REDMAP Strategy to Skew Future Elections in Their Favor

Voter ID wasn't enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Voter ID wasn’t enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Republicans, finding themselves less able to win elections on the merits of their candidates and policy positions, are continuing to tinker with election processes at the state level to disadvantage voters who disagree with their policies and dislike their candidates.  In 2010 and 2011, Republicans worked frenetically in state legislatures to pass so-called “voter ID” laws, which, just prior to the election, were officially outed as a strategy to make voting harder for the people most likely to vote against their candidates: African Americans, the elderly, the poor, students and those with disabilities. As voter ID laws were increasingly discredited and blocked by the courts, Republicans started working on a new strategy: REDMAP, short for “Redistricting Majority Project,” an effort to skew the redistricting process to assure Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives even though more Democrats than Republicans are now casting ballots across the country. The GOP’s REDMAP strategy involves a plan to win control of state legislatures. Once they achieve that, they initiate an aggressive gerrymandering campaign to redraw the states’ electoral maps and create districts that are completely safe for Republicans. But beyond eliminating competitive elections in Congressional races, a new part of the GOP’s strategy is to change the rules about how the states apportion their electoral college votes. The new strategy will magnify the effect of Republican votes in the Electoral College in future elections. The GOP wants to change the current winner-take-all rule for apportioning electoral college votes to instead apportioning electoral votes based on the winner in each individual Congressional district within the state. The change would hand beleaguered Republicans a huge process advantage over Democrats. As an example, if the GOP’s hoped-for rule had been in place in Pennsylvania in the November, 2012 election, for example, Mitt Romney would have won 13 of that state’s 20 electoral college votes, even though Obama won the state with 52 percent of the popular vote.

Main Source: Huffington Post, January 17, 2012

Grassroots Group Succeeds in Peeling Away Heartland Institute’s Funding

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 11.48.55 AMA group called Forecast the Facts is leading a campaign to peel away corporate funders who give money the Heartland Institute, a prominent think tank that has been a leader in the effort to deny climate science. Heartland is known for its harsh and divisive anti-climate change PR tactics, like running cringe-inducing billboards along major highways that liken people who believe in climate change to mass murderers like Charles Manson and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczyinski.  The Heartland Institute has flourished through funding from large corporations and industries that have a stake in climate change denial, including ExxonMobil, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Murray Energy Corporation, Altria/Philip Morris, Microsoft, General Motors and biotech companies like Amgen and Bayer. Forecast the Facts’ grassroots effort to peel away funders looks like it’s paying off, too. The group calculated Heartland’s corporate and trade association funding for 2012 based on the amounts Heartland projected they would take in in their 2012 fundraising plan. Of $2.3 million in projected funding, Forecast the Facts has succeeded in getting corporations to withdraw $1.3 million, leaving about $990,000 remaining. More than 150,000 people have weighed in with various corporations through the project and urged them to pull their funding from Heartland. On its website, Forecast the Facts lists Heartland’s remaining corporate funders, the approximate amount the companies donate to the think tank, and phone numbers at each corporation that people can call to ask the company to stop funding Heartland.

Praise Jesus and Pass the Taxpayer-Funded Football

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Christian evangelicals are hard at work recruiting young athletes into Christianity in publicly-funded schools all across the country, and taxpayers are footing the bill. The injection of Jesus into school athletics is being carried out by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a Christian group that encourages and rewards school sports coaches for using their influential positions to spread Christianity among youth.

For those who are unfamiliar with FCA, it is a Christian religious group whose existence is dedicated to turning school athletic departments into missionaries for Christ. FCA’s website states, “The purpose of [FCA’s] Campus Ministry…has been to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost and to seek and grow a mature follower of Jesus Christ. The ‘win’ of Campus Ministry is to see campuses impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” An answer to the question of “What is FCA?” on the group’s website states, “Since 1954, FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.” FCA also encourages coaches to conduct Bible studies on campus.  The group is open about its use of the platform of athletics to spread Christian “evangelism, discipleship, outreach and fellowship.” One of FCA’s corporate sponsors is Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food restaurant chain whose president, Dan Cathy, expressed strong views against same-sex marriage in a July, 2012 interview in the Biblical Recorder.

How “Breast Cancer Awareness” Campaigns Hurt

BoobsTeeBreast Cancer Awareness month comes around every October, a now-familiar time when pink ribbons adorn department stores, grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls and many other places. But this particular big “awareness” push may have reached its peak and maxed out its usefulness. By now most everyone is aware of breasts and breast cancer, but ignorance still abounds in other cancer areas. For example, people are still woefully unaware that lung cancer kills twice as many women each year than breast cancer.  More women every year in the U.S. die from lung cancer than from breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers combined. In 2009 alone, 31,000 more women died of lung cancer than breast cancer. So why aren’t there aren’t any ribbons, rubber bracelets, theme-colored products, corporate promotions, colored car magnets, festivals or fundraisers to make people aware of lung cancer’s devastating toll, or to support lung cancer victims or raise money for a cure?

Because lungs just aren’t as effective as selling crap for marketers, that’s why.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: NY State Passes Comprehensive Gun Safety Bill

Sandy Hook victims

Sandy Hook victims

With lightening speed for a state legislature, New York became the first state to pass a comprehensive gun safety bill since the massacre December 14, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut. New York’s gun control bill, passed and signed today, is the toughest in the nation. It expands the definition of “assault weapon” to include semiautomatic weapons to include those with just one feature commonly associated with military weapons, like a bayonet mount, flash suppressor or pistol grip. Previously the definition required two features. New York’s bill also revokes or suspends gun licenses held by people whom mental health experts determine to be a danger to society. The new law limits magazines to just seven rounds of ammunition instead of ten, and provides for enhanced monitoring of ammunition purchases to flag high-volume buyers. Gun licenses must be re-certified every five years. (They used to never expire.)  The law increases penalties for illegal gun possession and for using a gun against emergency responders. “Common sense can win,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed the bill, less than an hour the New York State Assembly passed it by a vote of 104 to 43 . “You can overpower extremists with intelligence and with reason and common sense,” Cuomo said. The National Rifle Association called the law “draconian,” and said it was passed “under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.” The bill passed on the second day of New York state’s 2013 legislative session.

Main source: Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2012

NRA Puts President Obama’s Kids in the Political Crosshairs

The National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a 35 second Internet ad called “Stand and Fight” that takes aim at President Obama’s children over the issue of gun safety regulations. The ad accuses President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for accepting armed secret service protection for his children, Sasha, age 11, and Malia, age 14, while other children attend school without armed guards. The voiceover in the ad asks “Are the president’s kids more important that yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when HIS kids are protected by armed guards at THEIR school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.” There were reports on MSNBC that the NRA pulled the ad almost as quickly as they posted it, but as of this evening the ad was still visible at the NRA’s new website, NRAStandandFight.com.

Trojan Horse Ag-Gag Bill Introduced in New Hampshire

Chickens in a battery cage  (Wikimedia image)

Chickens in a battery cage (Wikimedia image)

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sounding alarm bells about a bill introduced in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that requires people who photograph or make video recordings of cruelty against livestock to report it to police within 24 hours and turn over their unedited video or photos to authorities. So what’s wrong with that? And why does the HSUS oppose it? After all, it sounds like it’s aimed at exposing animal abuse, right? Nope. It’s a particularly tricky form of an industry-crafted “Ag-Gag” bill meant to stifle reporting on animal cruelty in commercial livestock operations. How? When whistleblowers expose cruelty at commercial animal enterprises, a common excuse put forth by business owners is that the abuse was a one-off occurrence or a single event perpetrated by a rogue employee who has, of course, since been fired. People working to expose animal abuse in big agribusiness enterprises have learned that they must document repeated instances of cruelty in order to make a solid case against the company that will hold up in court. Such high-quality evidence is animal advocates’ only leverage to try and stop to the abuse. If people are required to turn over a video recording of a single instance of abuse the same day it was taken, it would make it virtually impossible to document a pattern of abuse to the extent necessary to make a tight enough case to stop it.

Agribusiness Pushes “Ag-Gag” Laws Aimed at Keeping Animal Abuse Secret

Whistleblowing employees in the food industry have been credited with exposing horrible instances of animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental and public health violations on industrial factory farms by filming these conditions and exposing them to the public. But instead of fixing the problems these workers expose, the agribusiness industry is responding by pushing through laws that effectively block the pubic from finding out about these abuses in the first place. These whistleblower suppression, or “ag-gag” bills, criminalize taking photographs or video recordings at factory farms without permission, ban the distribution of such photos or videos and make it a crime to take a job at a commercial farm operation for the purpose of exposing what goes on there. These industry-backed bills would stop undercover activity like that used by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in 2008 to expose animal cruelty at a Vermont slaughter plant that led to a felony conviction and the plant’s closure, and a landmark investigation at a cow slaughter plant the same year that prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and spurred a new federal law banning the slaughter of “downer” cattle.

For more info: What are Agribusiness Groups Trying to Hide with “Ag-Gag” Bills? Humane Society of the United States, January 18, 2012

FDA- Approved “Buttery” Food Flavoring Makes People Sick

diacetylA chemical flavoring used to create that delicious, buttery flavor in microwave popcorn, when heated, can cause a life-threatening, irreversible obstructive lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterates. The chemical, called diacetyl, was first found make popcorn manufacturing workers sick in 1985, after two workers employed in a factory where the flavoring was used developed a rare lung disease. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), tested the air in the employees’ workplace, found a high concentration of diacetyl, and confirmed a link between workers’ exposure to the chemical and their reduced lung function. Since then, hundreds of workers have reported becoming sick after working around the chemical. According to NIOSH, diacetyl is used extensively in the flavoring and food manufacturing industries. Diacetyl doesn’t just affect factory workers, either. Wayne Watson of Denver, Colorado, ate two bags of microwave popcorn every day for ten years and developed the lung disease now known as “popcorn lung.” In September, 2012, he was awarded $7.2 million in a lawsuit against Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, which made the popcorn, and the Kroger and Dillon Companies, the grocery store chains that sold it. In his suit, Watson pointed out that neither the manufacturer nor the grocery stores warned customers that diacetyl — also recently linked to Alzheimer’s disease — was dangerous. In December, 2012, Sensient, a flavoring company in Indianapolis, Indiana, agreed to pay a fine for violating Indiana OSHA workplace standards for use of diacetyl. The company also agreed to reduce its use of the chemical. In 2004, a jury awarded another couple, Eric and Cassandra Peoples of Joplin, Missouri, a total of $20 million for health injuries they incurred due to workplace exposure to the chemical. So far, food manufacturers have paid out over $100 million in damages to workers who were exposed to the chemical and got sick. Despite this, FDA still lists the chemical as safe on its website. 

Resource: U.S. Centers for Disease Control 2011 Review and Recommendation for Standard for Use of Diacetyl  (pdf)

Oklahoma Judge Orders Church as Punishment for Manslughter

ChurchOrJailOklahoma 17 year old Tyler Alred pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter after drinking and driving last December 3 and getting into a vehicular crash that killed his 16 year old passenger, but instead of sentencing Alred to prison, Oklahoma district judge Mike Norman sentenced Alred to complete high school, finish welding school, take drug and alcohol tests for a year, wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet and attend church for ten years. Judge Norman had sentenced people to attend church before as punishment, but never for manslaughter. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cited the sentence as a clear violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Norman himself acknowledged the sentence is illegal, but believes he can get away with it because he doesn’t think anyone will appeal it. No parties who have standing in the case are likely to object to the sentence because it keeps Alred from having to go to prison. The pastor of the church Alred has attended in the past questioned the judge’s use of church as criminal punishment, saying “What will the judge do if the young man changes his [religious] affiliation in the next few years? Will he be allowed to switch to a mosque or become an atheist?” The ACLU is particularly concerned that the judge was fully aware that the sentence he handed down was illegal, but did it anyway. Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU said, “The Constitution is not exercised at your discretion. You take an oath to uphold it all the time, not just sometimes.”

Bushmaster Gun Company Forced to Pull Tasteless Ad

A portion of Bushmaster's tasteless online promotion. (The company has since pulled it.)

A portion of Bushmaster’s tasteless online promotion. (The company has since pulled it.)

Bushmaster, the company that makes the machine gun Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre December 14, 2012, was forced to pull a shockingly bad ad campaign from its website that taunted men about their masculinity and portrayed them as not masculine unless they owned a gun. Bushmaster’s site quizzed men about whether they ate tofu, knew how to change a tire or had ever watched figure skating “on purpose.” If men passed the “quiz,” they would get awarded a “Man Card” that entitled them to “leave the seat up without shame.” A “Man Card” could be revoked if a man was a “coward,” a “cry baby” or found himself on a “short leash.” One part of the site said “Colin F. avoids eye contact with tough-looking 5th graders. MAN CARD REVOKED.” The ad also made it clear that a man could reclaim his manhood by buying a Bushmaster assault rifle,  like the one Adam Lanza allegedly used at Newtown.

Source: Buzzfeed, December 17, 2012