Category: Safety

Brainard Enters Guilty Plea in Mesa County Court

Rick Brainard

Rick Brainard

Grand Junction, Colorado City Councilman Rick Brainard pled guilty in Mesa County Court today to misdemeanor third degree assault for pushing and striking his former live-in girlfriend, Cindy Franzen, in the face April 6.  Mr. Brainard’s attorney, Stephen Laiche, tried to enter a no contest plea on the charge, but Judge Craig Henderson said he would only accept a charge of “guilty” or “not guilty.” After conferring briefly in the hallway with Mr. Laiche, Mr. Brainard agreed to plead guilty. Mr. Laiche, trying to get as much leniency from the judge as possible for Mr. Brainard, indicated that Mr. Brainard did in fact lose his job at  West Star Aviation as a result of this assault incident and the surrounding publicity. Mr. Laiche called Mr. Brainard as “a 51 year old man without a job.” During the court session, the Assistant District Attorney handed the judge an 8 1/2 x 11,” close-up color photo of Ms. Franzen’s face taken shortly after the attack, showing her blackened left eye and bruised face. The judge held the photo up several times for the court to see during the hearing.

Citizens Flood City Hall with Calls of Outrage Over Brainard Issue

Grand Junction City Councilman-Elect Rick Brainard (Photo Credit: GJ Police Department)

Grand Junction City Councilman-Elect Rick Brainard (Photo Credit: GJ Police Department)

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has published audio of telephone calls made by outraged citizens to City Hall about councilman-elect Rick Brainard’s intent to assume office on May 6.  Mr. Brainard was arrested April 6 for assaulting his girlfriend — just four days after he was elected to the Grand Junction City Council. In his police affidavit, Mr. Brainard admitting grabbing and pushing his girlfriend, pulling her hair and hitting her “on the left side of her neck/cheek area,” hard enough to cause a black eye. Mr. Brainard’s arrest affidavit (pdf) states, “Rick stated that he slapped Cindy because she ‘needed to shut her mouth.’ ” Citizens have been calling City Hall to express outrage at Mr. Brainard’s intent to take his seat, and asking the City to do something stop him. One caller was angry at Mr. Brainard’s request to Mesa County Court Judge Craig Henderson avoid all of his court appearances. Another caller complained he cannot get a job because he has the same charge on his record, and yet Mr. Brainard will be allowed to serve on City Council. Following are some excerpts from the calls:

 

“My husband and I voted for this lowlife that is in jail right now. I wish you would ask for his resignation…”

“…Just letting you know that if you keep Mr. Brainard on board, all you are doing is letting the people of Grand Junction know that it’s ok to be a wife beater…”

“The fact that I can’t get a job with the same record, …I’m just curious how it is a man can stay on…I can’t get a job as a CNA or get a CNA license or anything with the same record…”

“If you people keep Rick Brainard on City Council you have everything coming to you that happens. This is only the beginning. I know this guy.”

“I’m calling to express my outrage at Rick Brainard being able to keep his seat after being arrested for domestic violence…”

“I’d just like to register my utter outrage that RB is going to be allowed to still sit on City Council after admitting to the police that he struck a woman for something she said, and I cannot believe the message this sends to the female members of our community…”

“This is not the type of individual I want as part of my City Council. I find it embarrassing…”

 

Citizens are planning to protest Mr. Brainard at his swearing in on Monday, May 6. Mr. Brainard’s first court date coincidentally is that same morning, just two hours before he is scheduled to be sworn onto City Council.

Petition Against Grand Junction City Councilman-Elect Brainard Goes Viral

RBrainard

Embattled Grand Junction, Colorado City-Councilor-Elect Rick Brainard

On Tuesday, April 3, Rick Brainard, Vice President of Business Development at West Star Aviation in Grand Junction, Colorado was celebrating his election to City Council. On Saturday, April 6, he was arrested, put in a yellow jumpsuit and thrown in jail on charges of third degree assault after he admitted to police that he pushed, shoved, and struck his live-in girlfriend in the face. In his police affidavit, Brainard first denied the altercation, then said he had to strike his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” That admission has inflamed citizens and last week  a hundred people rallied at City Hall demanding Mr. Brainard not take office. Sitting Grand Junction City Council members have sent Mr. Brainard a letter to asking him not to assume office amid his legal flap, saying the case is embarrassing the City. The City is legally powerless to keep Brainard from taking his seat on Council, and despite the public pressure,  Brainard has vowed to assume his seat on Council. If he does, citizens have vowed to start a recall effort. The City Clerk estimates a recall would cost the City about $45,000. In the meantime, the matter has gotten coverage across the U.S., including in Denver, San Francisco and Seattle, and an online petition demanding Mr. Brainard’s resignation, titled “Woman-Beating Councilmember Must Go,” has gone viral. As of 3:00 p.m. Sunday, April 21 the petition had 13,731 signatures and the number is growing at the rate of several thousand more a day. Even worse for Mr. Brainard, his mugshot now appears on MugShots.com.

Main Source: Care2 Petition Site, Woman Beating Council Member Must Go, April 21, 2013

To the GOP: If Gun Control Doesn’t Work, Try This Instead

Op-Ed

Camden County, New Jersey gun buyback program brought in 1,137 firearms. Photo credit Tim Hawk, South Jersey Times

Camden County, New Jersey gun buyback program brought in 1,137 firearms. Photo credit Tim Hawk, South Jersey Times

Laws to regulate guns just don’t work. At least that’s what many prominent Republicans say.  In the mean time, the U.S. is awash in guns, judging from the piles of them turned in at buyback programs across the country. While it is unclear whether these programs actually reduce gun deaths, they do prove one thing: Americans have more guns than they know what to do with. Add to this emerging technology that, when gun nuts perfect it, will allow people to manufacture guns using 3-D printers, and we may be so deep in trouble we’ll never dig out. This distribution method will make it completely impossible for government to regulate who gets a gun and who doesn’t. Gun owners and pro-gun legislators repeatedly tout the portion of the Second Amendment that talks about their right to bear arms, but universally ignore the part indicating gun owners are expected to be part of a “well-regulated militia.” All these factors point to one conclusion: the time may  have already passed when we could realistically regulate guns to any desired effect.

So now what?

G.J. Citizens Rally to Protest Brainard Taking Office

A woman attends the rally at Grand Junction City Hall to protest Richard Brainard taking office. Brainard has admitted he struck his live-in girlfriend to get her to "shut her mouth."

A woman attends the rally at Grand Junction City Hall to protest Richard Brainard taking office. Brainard has admitted he struck his live-in girlfriend to get her to “shut her mouth.”

About 100 citizens of Grand Junction, Colorado rallied outside City Hall today to protest city councilman-elect Richard Brainard’s stated intent to assume office in early May. Linda Moran of the Latimer House organized the rally. Latimer House provides shelter for battered women. Brainard was arrested last weekend after admitting to police that he struck his live-in girlfriend. City Councilman Jim Doody  spoke at the rally, saying Mr. Brainard had already highly embarrassed the city and that citizens are rightly concerned about Brainard’s behavior. Doody announced  that he and fellow councilmember Bennett Boeschenstein plan to write a letter, which they will submit to the rest of Council, asking Brainard not to assume office. The crowd cheered and applauded. Doody warned, however, that Brainard, who has been duly elected, could assume office if he wanted to. Several citizens who spoke said they had voted for Brainard and were now sorry they had. One woman, with three children in tow, said the first thing she teaches her children is not to hit other people, ever. Brainard initially lied to the police after they arrived at his residence early Saturday morning, and denied a physical altercation with his girlfriend. He later admitted to grabbing, pushing and slapping her. A non-redacted version of the police report says “Rick stated that he slapped (girlfriend) because she needed to ‘shut her mouth,” saying she said something so offensive to him “that he had to slap her.” It was also announced at today’s rally that a group of state-approved domestic violence treatment providers from across the western slope have issued a statement  asking Brainard not to take office. Brainard’s next court appearance is May 6, the same day he is scheduled to be sworn into office. Brainard’s lawyer has asked the court to waive the requirement that Brainard attend his court status conference May 6, as well as all future hearings, due to conflicts with his “employment.”

Kroger-Owned City Market’s Fake “Your Health Matters” Ad Campaign

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Recently City Market grocery stores, a chain owned by Kroger Company, started running billboards in Grand Junction, Colorado that say “Your health matters to us.” The ads boast that City Markets have dietitians, pharmacies, “natural and organic” foods, “health centers” and “NuVal,” a scoring program that ranks the nutritional value of some foods they sell on a scale of 1 to 100.  I called a local City Market store to find out how to get in touch with one of their dietitians but was told they didn’t really have any. “It’s misleading,” said Pansy Hubbard, a Grand Junction City Market service counter employee, about the billboard campaign. She said there aren’t any registered dietitians at any of the Grand Junction stores.  People with a computer and an Internet connection can find their way to Kroger’s website, where, if you dig a little you can find links to email addresses of dietitians, but the inference that City Markets have dietitians available at their stores is patently false, at least in our area. But the stores’ claim about dietitians isn’t even the most misleading part of the ad.  The biggest thing that negates City Market’s claim that “Your health matters to us” is that all their stores knowingly continue to sell a product that is well-known to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year: cigarettes. Cigarettes are a known addictive and deadly product, and City Market makes lots of money off them despite what they do to peoples’ health.  This makes it very clear that money is what matters to City Market and the Kroger Company, not their customers’ health.

Some other store chains besides Kroger/City Market can now make a more honest case that they care about their customers’ health. Target stores, for example, stopped selling cigarettes chain-wide in 1996, and are still very much in business. Other stores that truly promote healthy lifestyles have quit selling cigarettes and said publicly that selling tobacco products is not conducive to their pro-health mission.

They are absolutely right.

Gun Maker Freaks Out, Retaliates Against Colorado Gun Safety Bill

Magpul's Internet Ad

Magpul’s Internet Ad

Magpul Industries of Erie, Colorado, which makes and sells  high-capacity ammunition magazines, has declared war on Colorado over a gun safety bill currently moving through the state’s legislature. HB 1224, currently in Colorado’s House of Representatives, would limit high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds, and add a more restrictive 8-round limit for shotguns. Magpul makes 30-round magazines. Magpul threatened to move its business out of state if the bill passes. The House then voted to amend HB 1224 to allow Magpul to keep making its high-capacity magazines and selling them in other states, but that wasn’t enough for the company.  Magpul launched an Internet-based campaign to flood the state with high-capacity, military-grade magazines and weaponry in advance of a vote on the bill. Magpul posted a cold-war style ad on its Facebook page announcing that the company will sell up to ten 30-round AR or M4 ammunition magazines per customer directly to Colorado residents, and will expedite shipping for a discounted price of just $5.00. The ad shows a little girl with pigtails, smiling and reaching up to catch 30-round gun magazines as they are dropped, airlift-style, from an airplane. The copy reads, “In the battle for Colorado Freedoms, support for second amendment rights is being delivered by Magpul Industries Corporation. Fielded in the millions by US and its allies since 2007, the PMAG is the magazine of choice for those defending freedom and democracy around the world…Now, with the ability of Coloradans to purchase new standard capacity magazines in jeopardy, Magpul Industries is working to supply as many as possible to the good people of Colorado. Similar to the Berlin Airlift, the Boulder Airlift will bring much-needed gun supplies to freedom-loving residents trapped inside occupied territory.” In addition to high-capacity magazines, Magpul also makes rifle grips, buttstocks, rifle sights, gun mounts and other gun-related parts and accessories. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. Colorado has a history of gun massacres, including the Aurora Theater massacre in 2012, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and the Chuck E. Cheese massacre in 1993, also in Aurora, Colorado, in which a gunman killed four restaurant employees.

Documents Show Philip Morris Yielded to Scientific Blackmail

This tobacco industry document from the Philip Morris collection is a translation of a letter written by a German scientist named Dietrich Schmaehl, who was performing biological research for Philip Morris in 1979 in a quest to find a “safer cigarette.” Schmaehl was doing experiments to determine the carcinogenic effect of the smoke condensates, so-called “tar,” from specific brands of cigarettes.  Philip Morris performed such research overseas to help prevent any findings from being discoverable in American courts.

Philip Morris had threatened to cut off funding for Schmaehl’s research.  After finding this out, Schmael wrote to PM consulting scientist Dr. Franz Adlkofer (presumably his boss), saying, “In our conversation it was argued that the Industry could not support such experiments since this might prove that the previously manufactured products have a carcinogenic effect and that such experiments could especially not be supported because they would be financed with Industry funds.  I am totally unable to follow these arguments.”

In no uncertain terms, Schmaehl threatened that if his funding was cut off, he would continue performing the investigations on his own and publish the results, naming the brands (currently on the market) that he used in the experiments:

“I want to tell you again that in case this project . . . is refused support by the Industry, I will carry out such investigations in my Institute on my own account; in that case I will, in my publication of this work, call a ‘spade a spade’; this means I will name the brands currently on the market which were used to prepare the smoke condensates.”

A related internal memo about Schmael’s letter from Alexander Holtzman, PM’s Assistant General Counsel, to Thomas Osdene, PM’s Director of Research, shows that PM clearly considered Schmaehl’s threats blackmail, but decided to fund his work anyway to keep him quiet.  Holtzman says,  “I do feel that this letter is tantamount to blackmail by Schmaehl. I am very much afraid that unless financial support be provided to Schmaehl he will chastise the industry.”

Main Source: Letter, (Author: Schmael) October 12, 1979, Philip Morris Bates No. 2016000963/0964A

 

The NFL: A Disability Factory for Young Men

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players' health and safety

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players’ health and safety

As of January 23, 2013, the National Football League (NFL) is facing 199 lawsuits filed by a total of more than 4,000 retired professional football players who suffered head injuries while playing for the NFL. In June, 2012, the lawsuits of about three thousand of those injured players were consolidated into a single Master Complaint (pdf) which charges that the NFL was negligent and committed fraud because it was “aware of the evidence and risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries…but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information” from players and others involved in NFL football. The lawsuit says that to promote the game, the NFL glorifies the brutality and ferocity of NFL football by “lauding and mythologizing the most brutal and ferocious of players and collisions,” while simultaneously fraudulently representing that getting hit and putting big hits on others is a badge of courage, and does not seriously threaten one’s health. The suit charges that to heighten this belief and further promote football,  NFL Films, a PR instrument of the NFL, creates and markets videos that focus solely on the hardest hits that occur on the fields. 

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.

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)

NRA Blocks Data Collection on Public Health Impact of Guns

stopsignbulletholesThe U.S. government has invested billions to determine the causes behind traffic fatalities and used that information to make policies that have markedly reduce traffic deaths in the United States. Government research on traffic safety has led to the widespread use of seat belts, front and side impact air bags, child safety seats and other advances that have greatly advanced road safety and reduced vehicular deaths for Americans. The number of deaths annually from firearms in the U.S. closely approximates the number of traffic fatalities — roughly 30,000 deaths per year from each. Yet there has been little research into, or advances made in reducing gun deaths. Why? Because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long worked behind the scenes to block laws allowing the collection and dissemination of data about the impact of gun ownership on Americans’ safety. The NRA quietly pushed a provision that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) restricting the data doctors can collect from their patients about their ownership and use of firearms. From 1986 and 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted peer-reviewed research into the impact of the presence of guns in people’s homes. While there is a widespread belief among gun owners that the presence of guns in their homes makes them safer, the CDC found the opposite — that having a gun in the home creates a 2.7 times greater risk of homicide and a 4.8 greater risk of suicide for the occupants. The NRA took action to prevent CDC from publicizing these results, and blocked continued funding of government research into the impact of firearms on citizen safety.

New FDA-Approved Anticoagulants Have No Antidote; Patients Bleeding to Death

Pradaxa

FDA allowed the new anticoagulant Pradaxa to go on the market without any known way to quickly reverse its effects.

Cardiac patients who experience atrial fibrillation are routinely prescribed anti-clotting drugs to help prevent strokes. For many years, the most popular anti-clotting agent has been warfarin, marketed as Coumadin. Warfarin is the active ingredient in rodenticides like D-Con, which work by causing rats and mice to bleed to death internally. Coumadin works by depleting the body’s level of active Vitamin K, a clotting factor present naturally in many foods. But Coumadin has major drawbacks. Patients taking it require frequent monitoring to assure they have the correct levels of the anticoagulant in their blood, and have to be careful about what they eat, because foods high in Vitamin K can alter Coumadin’s effectiveness. Recently new anti-clotting drugs have come on the market that have been hailed as major improvements over Coumadin because diet not a factor and patients taking them require little or no monitoring for blood levels. With brand names like Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and Eliquis (apixaban), the new drugs are being hailed by investors in Big Pharma as “blockbuster” drugs, and their manufacturers are, as usual, aggressively marketing them through television ads. But these drugs can be quite costly in several ways. Pradaxa and Xarelto cost around $3,000 a year, while warfarin costs as little as $200. But a much bigger problem for patients is that there is no known antidote to the new drugs for patients who experience bleeding emergencies.

Republican Senator Michael Crapo’s Religious Hypocrisy

Senator Crapo's mug shot (Source: Alexandria, Virginia Police Department)

Senator Crapo’s mug shot (Source: Alexandria, Virginia Police Department)

U.S. Senator Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), a Mormon who has portrayed himself to the media as a teetotaler due to his religion, was arrested Sunday morning, December 23 in Alexandria, Virginia on a charge of drunken driving. The arrest occurred at 12:45 a.m. after Senator Crapo blew through a red light. No one was hurt. The officer who pulled Senator Crapo over arrested him after he failed several field sobriety tests. Senator Crapo’s blood alcohol level was .11%, which is above Idaho’s legal limit of 08%.  Crapo was named a bishop in the Mormon church thirty years ago, when he was 31 years old. He attended Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution, and graduated from Harvard Law School. The Mormon church prohibits use of alcohol, coffee, tea and other substances containing caffeine. Despite this, in 2010 Crapo sponsored a bill to cut taxes on microbreweries. At the time he told the Associated Press that he does not drink due to his religion and that if the bill passed, he planned to celebrate by drinking root beer. Crapo issued a public apology after getting his DUI: “I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance,” Crapo said. “I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.

NRA Uses Classic Corporate PR Dodge

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gave an instructive lesson in PR techniques during his talk last Friday about NRA recommendations to prevent further machine-gun massacres of innocent people. LaPierre completely dodged the central safety issues on everyones’ mind — the rise of public massacres and massive numbers of gun deaths in the U.S., — and instead switched the subject to video games, a lack of armed guards in schools and other topics well-removed from the central issues at hand. In so doing, La Pierre applied the classic PR playbook techniques of changing the focus and broadening the issue. It goes like this: If you can’t wage a successful battle on the issue you currently face, then change the issue to one you think you can win more easily.

PR techniques like this were first used to great effect by tobacco industry, which provided a model for other industries to follow. Back in the 1990s, when the EPA labeled secondhand smoke a Group A Known Human Carcinogen that kills 3,000 people a year, the cigarette industry reacted by redirecting public concern at great cost onto entirely new, previously-unknown issue called “sick building syndrome,” that focused on poor building ventilation and the supposed off-gassing of new carpet, drywall and other building materials. Thus it was no longer secondhand smoke that was making people sick in their homes and workplaces, it was bad construction materials and poor air circulation. Proposals to ban smoking in restaurants and bars were portrayed as threats against private property rights. Cigarette taxes became issues of fairness and effective tax policy, cigarette marketing became an issue of freedom of commercial speech, cigarette-related fires become an issue of fire safety programs, and so on.

Obama Takes on America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

In keeping with his track record of tackling tough political issues during his time in office, President Obama today took steps today to address what he and many others are recognizing as an epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The mass slaughter of innocent people, including 20 six and seven year old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday has spurred President Obama to make addressing gun violence a top priority for his second term in office. In lightening-quick time by Washington, D.C. standards, the President established an interagency task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden that is is charged with immediately developing a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence and address mental health care issues in the U.S.  Mr. Obama also said he supports efforts in Congress to revive the lapsed ban on military-style assault weapons and enact restrictions on high-volume ammunition clips, noting a majority of Americans support these policies.  In giving his talk, President Obama listed off all the gun deaths that have happened across the U.S. just since the Sandy Hook incident on Friday, noting that 10,000 Americans each year die from gun violence. He sought the help of the American people, including responsible gun owners, to help him change things in the U.S. for the better, challenging lawmakers to summon a fraction of the courage that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary summoned last Friday as they tried to protect their students.