Category: Ethics

Facebook Shuns Women in Advance of IPO

Facebook's Board of Directors

Fifty-eight percent of Facebook users are women, and women account for over 70 percent of daily fan activity on the site, but when Facebook goes public a few weeks from now, its board of directors will consist of only seven white men, and no women. To address this inequity, the women’s rights group Ultraviolet has started circulating a petition, and a group of women from across the world have started a campaign called “Face It” to pressure Facebook to include women — and expand the diversity — on its board. What’s raising eyebrows even more about the complete absence of women from the board is the extent to which Facebook depends on women, since women are known to be more avid users of Facebook than men and account for about 70 percent of Facebook’s fan activity.  Facebook’s estimated $100 billion public stock offering would not be anywhere as big as it is without massive participation from women — a fact that the demographics of its board fails to reflect.

Republicans Circumvent Democracy in Michigan

A judge has ruled that Republicans in control Michigan’s House of Representatives have been violating their state’s constitution by failing to hold recorded votes on bills. Instead, the House Speaker has been asking members of the legislature stand to indicate their support for a new law taking immediate effect, and no official count was conducted.  Democrats had been asking for votes to be officially recorded, but Republicans refused and kept using so-called “standing votes.” The Democrats sued the Republicans in court, and a Circuit Court judge ruled that Republicans have been violating the state’s constitution by failing to acknowledge Democrats’ repeated requests for recorded votes. The judge issued a restraining order against House Republicans ordering them to hold recorded votes whenever a minimum of 22 Democrats request one. The state’s constitution requires a roll call be conducted whenever one fifth of the House members request one. On another front, the city of Detroit narrowly escaped coming under the state’s new emergency financial manager law enacted in 2011, known as Public Act 4, which allows the state to seize control of financially troubled cities, install an “emergency manager” of the governor’s choosing, terminate city contracts and block elected city officials from making any decisions. So far, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed emergency managers in four Michigan cities: Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint and Pontiac.

Main source: Detroit News, April 2, 2012

Philip Morris Exec: Public Health Authorities are “Muesli-Eating, Stool-Watching Joggers”

In a January, 1988 speech to Philip Morris’ (PM) Australian sales force titled “The Challenge of Change,” John Dollisson, then head of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs Australia, describes the company as “at war” with public health advocates.  On Page 13, he describes the sales force as one of “our most effective weapons” in that war.  Dollisson displays blatant contempt for public health authorities when he calls them “Meusli-eating, stool-watching joggers who know what is best for all of us.”[Page 2] Dollisson discloses the strategies PM has employed to defeat public health efforts in Australia: funding lawsuits against the government, supporting a “spontaneous” smokers’ rights group, finding ways around state advertising bans, running their own ad campaigns during national “quit smoking” campaigns, using strategic sports sponsorships to deliver audiences to favored politicians, forming a “business/liberty group” to “defend freedoms and question the legitimacy of anti-business groups,” giving away gold “Benson & Hedges” pens actually worth $10 that customers “perceive” as being worth $50-60, and much more.

Wave of Aggressive Parenting Linked to “Baby on Board” Car Signs

A traditional Easter egg hunt in Colorado Springs was canceled due to large numbers of aggressive parents who insisted on participating in the event even though it was for children only. Last year when organizers sounded the signal to start the Easter egg hunt, parents poured over the boundary ropes and scooped up all the eggs, leaving many kids without any eggs. The overly-pushy parents turned off other parents who said they would not take their children to the event this year. The wave of aggressive parents at last year’s event led organizers to cancel the event entirely this year. Parenting experts cite a growing wave of over-protective parents they call “helicopter parents” — parents who hover over their children constantly, denying them space to learn from their own experiences. Parenting experts say this trend of overly-aggressive parenting started back in the 1980s, around the same time people started putting “Baby on Board” signs in their car windows. People who want to encourage their kids to think for themselves can go to ThoughtOnBoard.com for an erasable car sign that encourages creativity, independence and free thought.

Source: Washington Post/AP, March 26, 2012

 

Philip Morris: “Get sick children on Oprah”

In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially listed secondhand tobacco smoke as a Group A Human Carcinogen, the same rating the agency gives to asbestos, radon gas and vinyl chloride. The listing was a public relations disaster for the tobacco industry, and their internal documents show how tobacco companies reacted. A 6-page Philip Morris planning document found in the files of Ted Lattanzio (Director of Philip Morris Worldwide Regulatory Affairs), lists strategies and budgets for fighting efforts to ban smoking in workplaces and public places.  Page 4 describes a strategy for dealing with public information about how childrens’ health is disproportionately affected by exposure to secondhand smoke:

“Shift the debate on ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] and children to: Are our schools and day care centers making children sick?”

Tactics proposed for making the public believe that schools and day care centers are making children sick (instead of secondhand smoke) include:

“Feed available information to National School Board Association in D.C.  Feed information to Oprah, et. al. Get sick children on the shows.  Research newspaper clippings of parents who keep children at home because of school environment — pass those on.  Why?  Shift the debate.  Why is EPA not spending research dollars on solving school problem?? I have the research budget for next year — not very much is going to identify or solve the school problem.  Get information to EPA Watch.”

Philip Morris’ estimated budget for the effort to blame day care facilities for making children sick was $100,000.

Justice for Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.


By now millions of people know about of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Far fewer, though, know about the equally, if not more tragic killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. an elderly veteran with a heart condition who lived in White Plains, New York, who was killed by police in his own home last November. Around 5:30 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2011, Chamberlain, 68, unknowingly triggered the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck while he was sleeping. The medical alert company contacted Chamberlain’s apartment through a speaker box in the dining room to ask if he was all right. When Chamberlain didn’t respond, the company called 911 and told police they were responding to a medical emergency, not a crime. The police arrived at Chamberlain’s house and knocked on the door. Chamberlain woke up, went to the door and told the police that he was fine and that he didn’t call them. The police insisted on gaining entry to Chamberlain’s home, though, insisting that they wanted to see that he was all right. Chamberlain kept refusing to open the door and asking them to leave. Finally, after about an hour of this standoff, the officers, uttering racial slurs and expletives, broke down Mr. Chamberlain’s front door. Once inside, they fired a taser at Mr. Chamberlain. The taser prongs apparently missed Mr. Chamberlain and one of the officers shot Mr. Chamberlain in the chest, killing him.

President Obama’s Defense of Planned Parenthood Draws Little Notice

Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood have drawn a lot of media attention in recent months, but a video message from President Obama in support of Planned Parenthood recently posted on the Internet drew little notice. In the video, Mr. Obama talks about how politicians are trying to deny millions of American women the health care they rely on. He says that when people hear “some professional politicians casually say they’ll get rid of” Planned Parenthood, what they are really talking about is eliminating the funding “for preventive care that millions of women rely on and leaving them to fend for themselves.” Mr. Obama talks about how he stood up to Republicans who wanted to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and that it is wrong for legislators to play politics with women’s health. While he doesn’t mention it in the video, Obama has a personal stake in this issue. He was raised by a single mother who died at age 53 from ovarian cancer.

CVS Drug Stores Tout Healthy Image While Profiting from Disease & Death

Dr. Gerace's CVS protest ad

For 103 days now, Terence Gerace, Ph.D. has stood outside CVS pharmacies in Washington, D.C. protesting their sales of a product that is known to be deadly when used exactly as directed: cigarettes. In press releases and ads, CVS claims it works to improve health and lower health care costs for Americans, but all the while it continues to sell the leading causes of preventable death and disease in the U.S. No matter what they say in their ads, the truth is that CVS, and other national drug chains, like Rite Aid and Walgreens (pdf), do not care about health one bit. They care about profits, and every day they profit from both causing and curing disease. Pharmacies are among the most trusted sources of health information in the U.S., but for decades, national drug chains have actively colluded behind the scenes with tobacco companies not only to market cigarettes, but also to oppose legislation (pdf) to regulate tobacco. Dr. Gerace, a former Research Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Miami School of Medicine, knows all of this, so it’s no wonder he saw red after spotting a full-page CVS ad in the Washington Post that screamed, “To better manage chronic diseases, we needed a new kind of pharmacy…” Incensed, Dr. Gerace made a new sign out of the ad by adding the big words “NEW CVS Cigarette-Free!” above the headline. Now he uses this sign in his ongoing, one-man protest against CVS selling cigarettes. In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association issued a statement urging U.S. pharmacies to stop selling tobacco.  Boston and San Francisco have passed laws forcing pharmacies to stop selling cigarettes, and Target, the nation’s third-largest retailer chain, stopped selling cigarettes in 1996.  It is counter-intuitive, inimical to their mission and just plain two-faced for a business to portray itself as caring about people’s health while also selling cigarettes, but until a law forces them stop, CVS, as well as Rite Aid and Walgreens, plan to keep advertising that they care about health while continuing to sell the leading cause of death and disease in the U.S.

Vodka Ad Jokes About Sexual Assault, Gets Yanked

Offensive Facebook ad for Belvedere Vodka

The makers of Belvedere Vodka yanked a controversial ad that appeared to joke about rape. The ad showed a horrified woman trying desperately to escape from a leering man who was grabbing her from behind. The tagline read, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” The company tweeted the controversial ad and posted it on their Facebook page, only to get strong and immediate backlash. Belvedere moved quickly to remove the post and apologized several times. Belvedere’s ad agency, Arnell Group, has done ads with strong sexual overtones for the brand before, but the agency denies that it created this particularly controversial ad.

Main Source: Ad Age, March 23, 2012

A Grassroots Effort to Track the Side Effects of Prescription Drugs

A new word has entered the lexicon: “Pharmageddon.” Wiktionary defines it as “a dystopian scenario wherein medicine and the pharmaceuticals industry have a net detrimental effect on human health and medical progress does more harm than good.” We are fast approaching pharmageddon, as drugs are increasingly fast-tracked to approval and only later found to do little or no good, or, even worse, to cause harm. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled the breast cancer drug Avastin off the market, after having fast-tracked its approval. Over $6 billion worth of Avastin was sold before two follow up studies showed that the survival rate of patients who took Avastin was no better than patients who took other drugs. Not only did huge numbers of women take this essentially worthless drug to treat their breast cancer, but the listed side effects of Avastin included conditions severe enough to merit  a descriptor of potentially fatal several times in the drug’s informational brochure. Another factor in prescription drug danger is the fact that drug companies are increasingly engaging in criminal behavior aimed at boosting sales at any cost. In 2009, the drug maker Pfizer paid a record $2.3 billion fine and pled guilty to a felony for illegally promoting its painkiller Bextra. Pfizer paid kickbacks to doctors and dished out perks, like massages and all-expense-paid trips to fancy resorts, to get doctors to prescribe Bextra for off-label, or unapproved, uses. Like Avastin, Bextra was ultimately pulled off the market due to safety concerns. This wasn’t the first or even the second time Pfizer had been caught marketing drugs illegally, either. It was the fourth time just  since 2002 that FDA had fined Pfizer or one of its subsidiaries fined for marketing its drugs in an illegal manner.

Taking prescription drugs is increasingly fraught with danger. Adverse side effects have risen over the years to where they are now a leading cause of death, disability, and illness.  It is estimated that only 1 to 10 percent of adverse drug events ever get reported to the FDA. Many people suffer side effects from prescription drugs that are considered “medically mild” but that are nonetheless disabling, like detrimental effects on memory, concentration, and judgment. Often people report adverse side effects to their doctors, only to be told there is little or no evidence linking their problem to the drug. This lack of information is not a mistake — it traceable to the fact that most of the data on prescription drugs is the property of  the pharmaceutical companies, since the companies run most of the clinical trials for the drug. Up to 60% of these trials are never publicly reported. For obvious reasons, companies have a vested interest in not fully disclosing the side effects of their products.

Recognizing the extent and severity of the problem of prescription drug side effects, Dr. David Healy, author of a just-published book titled “Pharmageddon,” along with group of people who, like Healy, have risked their careers to speak out about adverse drug events, are developing a free website where people can share information on the side effects they experience while taking prescription drugs.  RxRisk.org, in effect, aims to crowd-source real-time data about drug side effects, to create a fuller picture of exactly how these drugs  are really affecting people. The site accepts no advertising and is not linked in any way to big Pharma. Use of it is free and anonymous. The site also helps users research drugs they are taking. People who report information on the side effects they experience can get a free report they can take to their doctors, to encourage fuller and more informed discussion of their treatment. Doctors can also add information to their patients’ reports. RxRisk.org’s advisory board is comprised of people with relatives injured by adverse drug events, health care activists and independent scientists. The site is currently in beta development, but RxRisk.org is a much-needed grassroots effort to track the side effects of prescription drugs and build a record of them, so that it eventually it will become unreasonable to say the problem can’t be happening in at least some people. Visit the new, consumer-friendly drug-tracking website here.

DirecTV’s Disappearing-Channels Scam

Thinking of subscribing to DirecTV? Think again. DirecTV pulls a fast one on subscribers to push them into more expensive packages after they sign up. Here’s how it works: Like all cable and satellite TV providers, DirecTV offers different levels of programming that include specific channels. New subscribers select the package with the channels they want — or so they think. A few months after you subscribe to their service, DirecTV pulls some of the channels originally included in your package. All of a sudden when you try to watch those channels, you get a “Channel Not Purchased” message on your screen. When you call DirecTV to tell them about the suddenly-missing channels, they say they’ve taken them out of your package and you’ll need to upgrade to a pricier package to get them back. DirecTV makes little effort to notify subscribers in advance of this change. They don’t announce the changes, for example, in any of the regular emails they send customers announcing special deals and “free” weekends of premium channels. They don’t add any more channels to your package to make up for the ones they’ve removed, and they don’t compensate customers financially for the loss by adjusting your bill for the channels you no longer get. On their website, they explain the loss by saying they took the channels away to help “manage rising programming costs.” Their website also says, “At DIRECTV, we strive to bring you the best entertainment experience available.” All you have to do is subscribe, or peruse the comments at CustomerServiceScoreboard.com/DIRECTV to find out that DirecTV pulls this scam with relative frequency. DirecTV also charges you $10.00/month extra to get a high-definition receiver, where most other pay TV services provide HD to all customers as part of the deal.

Cigarette Exec: How to Make People Think OJ Causes Cancer?

Editor’s note: In this blog, I will occasionally summarize lesser-known but highly important tobacco industry documents that should be part of the public record, and the public consciousness. Following is one such article. — A.L.

Cigarette exec mused about how to confuse the public about which products actually cause cancer

In a twisted 1997 memo, Seth Moskowitz of R.J. Reynolds’ (RJR) Public Relations department recounts a brainstorming session held to address problems facing the tobacco industry at the time, particularly a lack of credibility and an onslaught of lawsuits being filed against the industry by state Attorneys General seeking to recoup the costs of treating sick smokers.

The memo begins by discussing the need to “humanize” the tobacco industry by putting kind and helpful face on the company (RJR).  Moskowitz complains that the public perceives the industry to be “a group of two-faced, conscience-less killers who trade lives for dollars.  Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says, “but the public doesn’t know this.”

The discussion quickly turns to ideas for turning public opinion against the AG’s lawsuits.  One plan was to instigate a wave of frivolous, ridiculous lawsuits against a number of other industries.  For example, Moskowitz proposes using a study to “indicate that drinking citrus juice carries an increased risk of lung cancer.”  Moskowitz muses,

“What if we worked with the state AGs or legislators in some tobacco states (NC, VA), and with a business or citizens group in Florida to sue the citrus producers in Florida and California for reimbursement of state medical expenses paid to treat illnesses ’caused’ by the consumption of citrus products? Under current Florida law, this could be done entirely using a statistical model.  All we need to do is plug in a few statistics and suddenly we can calculate the dollar amount Florida has paid out in medical expenses to treat orange juice-related cancers.  Could also mount a highly emotional PR campaign against citrus growers for harming children (stunting their growth).  We could choose other states and industries and do the same thing (Minnesota and dairy products? California and wine consumption? Beef and any number of states.)  A series of Medicaid reimbursement-type suits simultaneously launched against a number of industries in a number of states would get major coverage and drive home how ridiculous the recent AG attacks on the tobacco industry are.”

Immediately following this self-serving idea to cause havoc in other industries, Moskowitz flips back to seeking ways to “humanize” the industry.  One idea was to use an ad campaign to highlight the good works RJR employees do in their private lives, like helping school children and carrying the torch for the Olympics.

Moskowitz currently still works for Reynolds American as Director of Communications for Reynolds’ subsidiary, the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.

See the memo here.

 

 

Santorum: Puerto Ricans Need to Comply with Imaginary Federal “English Only” Law

Rick Santorum told the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia that Congress would require English to “be universal here on the Island…” before Puerto Rico could gain statehood, adding that universal English would be a “condition for coming into the country” as America’s 51st state. No federal law exists requiring English to be universal in a commonwealth or territory prior to being admitting to the union. After his comments angered Puerto Ricans, Santorum tried to walk back his statements by claiming he was misquoted. “What I said is English has to be learned as a language and this has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used …” A Santorum campaign representative also tried to soft pedal the candidate’s remarks, saying, “Rick is an advocate of making English our official language — just like 90% of Americans. He knows there’s no current federal law in place — but what he was talking about — is that once English is made the official language — obviously all states would need to comply.” Attempts to backpedal his statements proved useless. Santorum lost the Puerto Rican primary election to Mitt Romney in a landslide.

Main Source: Washington Post, March 15, 2012

Pink Slime Manufacturer Starts New Website, “PinkSlimeIsAMyth.com”; USDA Backs off Pushing Pink Slime in Schools

Pink Slime (photo by Beef Products, Inc.)

Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the manufacturer of pink slime, has started a new website, PinkSlimeIsAMyth.com, to battle the growing tide of anti-slime public sentiment. One of the pages of Beef Products’ new website attempts to discredit Kit Foshee, who formerly worked as Manager of BPI’s Quality Assurance Group. Foshee, who questioned the byproduct’s safety, has become an outspoken critic of pink slime — a position the company characterizes as “revenge.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sticking to its story that “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (pink slime) is safe, but on March 15 the agency bowed to public pressure and issued a press release saying it will now “adjust procurement specifications” to give schools “additional options in procuring ground beef products.” Translation? USDA will now offer schools a choice whether or not to feed their students ground beef that contains pink slime. The change assumes that USDA will now distinguish beef containing the additive from beef that  does not. Ground beef is currently not labeled as to whether it contains the additive or not since USDA considers the additive “beef.” Pink slime is a cheap meat filler made of rejected meat scraps that are heated, mixed, and treated with ammoniated gas to kill pathogenic bacteria like E Coli and salmonella.

Secretive Republican Attack Group “Compass Colorado” Runs Anti-Obama Ads

Compass Colorado billboard

Billboards have just gone up across Grand Junction featuring Obama’s iconic campaign logo. At first glance — and that’s about all you get when driving by — all you see is the logo and it looks like the ads are pro-Obama. But if you look a split second longer, you see they are anti-Obama. The ads show someone in a pair of jeans, pulling out their empty pockets. Large wording over the photo says, “Still hoping for change?” The bottom of the board says has the website, “compasscolorado.org.”

Compass Colorado is a new conservative 501(c)4 political attack group formed in September, 2011 and headed by career Colorado Republican operative Tyler Quill “T.Q.” Houlton, who was Communications Director for Republican former Rep. Tom Tancredo. Rep. Tancredo gained fame for a speech he gave on February 4, 2010, to National Tea Party Movement Convention in which he said that Barack Obama won the presidency because of “people who could not even spell the word ’vote’ or say it in English.” He then proposed people undergo “a civics literacy test” as a prerequisite to voting.

Houlton also worked for Scott McInnis’ failed campaign for governor of Colorado. That campaign imploded after it was revealed that McInnis had plagiarized an extensive essay about water law that a nonprofit group had paid him to write. McInnis blamed the plagiarism on an elderly research assistant and refunded the $300,000 the organization had paid him.

Not much has been heard from McInnes since.

Tyler Q. Houlton

Like other conservative attack groups, Compass Colorado doesn’t reveal its donors, so we don’t know who is really behind the ads they are running. Compass Colorado’s first target was Democratic Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak of Westminster, Colorado, a former teacher and member of the Colorado Board of Education. Last election season, Compass Colorado took out $60,000 worth of TV ads to attack Sen. Hudak over her support for Proposition 103, a ballot measure that sought to increase the state income tax to help fund K-12 education. (K-12 education is now suffering financially to such an extent in Colorado that school districts across the state are moving to 4-day school weeks.) Compass Colorado also was behind robocalls attacking Proposition 103. Houlton narrated the robocalls, which went out to approximately 100,000 Colorado voters.

The domain name “CompassColorado.org” is registered to Domains by Proxy in Scottsdale, Arizona, — an entity that exists purely for the purpose of keeping domain registrations secret.  Why is Compass Colorado so secretive about their funders and domain name registration? We won’t find out, unless Tyler Houlton and his Republican funders start believing in transparency and informing voters about who is really doing the attacking.

Goldman Exec Resigns, Blows Whistle on Company’s Loss of Morals

Goldman CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein

If you read just one thing today, it should be the remarkable open resignation letter of Goldman Sachs’ executive Greg Smith, who was head of  the firm’s U.S. equity derivatives business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After a highly successful 12 year career with Goldman, Smith — a Rhodes scholar — explains that felt he could no longer tolerate working Goldman because of the severe downward trajectory of its corporate culture, and the company’s loss of moral fiber. “I can honestly say that the environment [at Goldman] now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it,” he wrote, explaining that best interests of clients is now not even on Goldman’s radar screen. The only thing that matters now behind closed doors at Goldman, Smith says, is how to make money off of clients. The clients’ goals, desires and best interests are of absolutely no interest anymore. “It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off,” Smith writes, confessing that over the previous 12 months he’s personally witnessed five different managers refer to their own clients as “muppets,” even doing so over corporate email.  He lays the blame for the company’s completely loss of integrity on the current CEO, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn. Smith formally resigned the day his open letter was published in the New York Times.

Source: New York Times Op-Ed, March 14, 2012

Know Your Slime

Photo of beef pink slime, provided by its manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc.

Mechanically-separated chicken

A photo that has been published recently alongside articles on “pink slime” — the highly-processed, barely-beef byproduct ABC News revealed last week is commonly added to hamburger — is not actually “pink slime,” but another scary byproduct called “mechanically separated chicken,” reportedly used to make chicken nuggets. A March 5 article on Common Dreams titled “What’s on the School Cafeteria Menu? ‘Pink Slime,’ ” for example, mistakenly showed a photo of mechanically-separated chicken pink slime while discussing beef-based pink slime. Mind you, it’s an easy mistake to make. Mechanically-separated chicken more closely resembles a pink slime than even beef pink slime. In the oft-circulated photo of mechanically-separated chicken, a ribbon of bright pink, gelatinous mixture oozes out of a huge spigot looking like a giant, curling stream of strawberry flavor self-serve yogurt.

Yuck.

But it isn’t beef-based pink stuff, it’s chicken-based pink stuff.

People need to get their slime photos straight, so readers are clear on which super-gross food byproduct big agribusiness is attempting to feed us.

Carbonite Ends It’s Sponsorship of Rush Limbaugh Show

Dave Friend,the CEO of the online backup service Carbonite, announced today that he was pulling his advertising from the Rush Limbaugh show in response to Limbaugh’s over-the-top insults against a third year law student who Friend says is about the same age as his own two daughters. Friend made the announcement via email to people who had contacted his company to complain about Carbonite’s sponsorship of Limbaugh’s show.