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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
A 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Rifle Association has gone dark, shutting down its Facebook page, going silent on Twitter and staying silent on it’s blog as it hunkers down in face of anti-gun protesters marching on its Washington, D.C. headquarters in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. WalMart, one of the world’s largest sellers of both guns and kids’ toys, announced it is pulling Bushmaster rifles off its shelves nationwide. And another large gun seller, Dick’s Sporting Goods, tastefully removed all guns from view at its store closest to Newtown, Connecticut, where the mass killing took place last Friday, and announced it will stop selling “modern sporting rifles” at stores nationwide. The California state treasurer is considering purging the state’s pension investment funds of stock in companies that manufacture guns, and Cerberus Capital Management, a big investment firm, divested itself of holdings in Freedom Group, which makes Bushmaster rifles like the one the shooter used at Sandy Hook. The California State Teachers’ Retirement Fund is also looking to divest itself of funds invested in Freedom Group. Meanwhile, online petitions demanding legislators move quickly to better regulate guns and gun purchases are gathering signatures at phenomenal rates. One petition we’ve been following on SignOn.org — the biggest one so far — continues to gather hundreds of signatures every hour and is currently up to almost 380,000 signors. Another petition on the White House’s “We the People” petition website that sprang up demanding the Obama administration take immediate action to limit access to guns has gathered 184,202 signatures. It needed just 25,000 signatures to get serious consideration by the Obama administration.
In almost the blink of an eye, an online petition demanding sensible federal-level gun safety laws has gathered more than 230,000 signatures, and is continuing to gather signatures at a rate of almost 2,000 per hour. The response to the petition was so overwhelming that shortly after starting it, the woman who began the petition changed the goal for the number of signers to 250,000. The petition’s impetus was the December 14 bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which a 20 year-old gunman entered the school and slaughtered 20 six and seven year old pupils and six adult employees who tried to save the children. The petition seeks closure of gun show loopholes that allow people to buy guns without background checks, an end to the online sale of ammunition, mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases during which thorough background checks are conducted, and mandatory psychological and medical evaluations prior to making gun purchases. The petition also requests that character references be provided and evaluated out prior to gun purchases. More accountability should be placed in the hands of retailers, the petition says. When patrons refuse wait periods, authorities should be notified. Gun handling training and testing should be mandatory, as should a renewal process that includes many of the above-mentioned evaluation terms. “Our second amendment rights are long overdue a reevaluation. How many more senseless and entirely PREVENTABLE shootings have to occur before we do something about Gun Control,” asks Staci Sarkin, the petition’s creator. The petition will be send to the House of Representatives. “As a citizen and constituent of this great country, I am asking that you take a firm stand and make a positive change by restricting access to guns and saving lives,” Sarkin’s petition states. Sign the petition here.
Last Thursday, ironically just one day before the latest tragic school massacre in Connecticut, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper became a lone voice of political sanity on gun issues in the U.S. when he said it’s finally time to have an open discussion about guns and gun control in Colorado. Hickenlooper said he wanted to wait until a few months had passed after the Aurora Theater massacre to raise the issue, and no sooner did he mention it than yet another horrific mass shooting took place in an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 very young children and seven adults. Today, on the day of that tragic massacre, President Obama backed up Hickenlooper. Obama, reacting at a White House briefing as many of us do to such shootings, with great sadness, uttered a statement that it is finally time for action to be taken to reduce gun violence in the U.S.:
“As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We’re going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.
A U.S. District Court has ordered American tobacco companies to start running ads in which they must openly admit they lied to the American public about the health hazards of smoking and secondhand smoke. Judge Gladys Kessler, who presides over the case of United States v. Philip Morris, U.S.A., Inc., et al, specified the wording to be used in the corrective ads:
“A Federal Court has ruled that the Defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, and has ordered those companies to make this statement. Here is the truth:”
The subsequent must contain truths about the dangers of tobacco use. Some examples:
* “Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.”
* “When you smoke, nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.”
* “Smoking kills, on average, 1200 Americans. Every day.”
* “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.”