A new website created in Colorado, CleanSlateNow.org, is the first and only site so far to publicly list candidates for office at all levels of government nationwide who have pledged to forgo all special interest money. The listed candidates do not accept any funding from political action committees, big banks, insurance companies, unions, big oil, pharmaceutical companies or any other corporate interests. As CleanSlateNow states, the only problem is that these candidates are little-known. The website aims to fix that. CleanSlateNow.org was founded in October, 2011 by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who was term-limited out of office in 2009. Gordon is famous for making a chilling 2007 “No Stuntman Used” campaign video in which he appears in person in scuba gear from inside a shark tank to demonstrate his independence from local political sharks. The goal of CleanSlateNow is to create an environment where people, and not money, will start determining the outcome of U.S. elections.
Two young British men desperate to pay off student debt and facing dismal prospects for employment have started selling ad space on their faces — and are doing remarkably well at, it while having a blast. Ross Harper and Ed Moyse, both 22, created BuyMyFace.com, where people go to schedule the time they want rent the two young mens’ faces. Customers then upload a logo or picture along with any brief text they want displayed, and then, on the appropriate dates, Harper and Moyse have the specified graphics expertly painted on their faces and go out and about in public sporting the ads. Advertisers can send the two men to festivals, skiing, skydiving, go-karting or on other adventures to help boost visibility of their ads. The two are advertising their service on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, as well as through newspapers and word of mouth. The big, London-based audit and financial advisory firm Ernst and Young bought ten days’ worth of advertising on BuyMyFace.com in December, 2011, and have since become exclusive sponsor of the BuyMyFace.com website. In addition to winning the firm’s valuable sponsorship, thousands of people are visiting BuyMyFace.com every day. Days are sold for the next two months, ranging in price from £150-600 (U.S. $238-955). Now, at day 180 of their unique effort, Harper and Moyse have earned £32,682 (about U.S. $52,000) toward paying off their student loans.
Source: PRWeb UK, March 29, 2012
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.
Previously-secret internal documents released during the course of a lawsuit in Maine reveal the National Organization for Marriage had a PR strategy to turn blacks against gays in an effort to stir up opposition to gay marriage. NOM, a right-wing, anti-gay group founded in 2007 to fight efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, works to defeat marriage equality laws in states where they are advancing.
A confidential 2008-2009 report to NOM’s Board of Directors states,
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…Find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally…”
Lifting directly from the tobacco industry strategy, one NOM’s document states (on page 23) “Identify and nurture a worldwide community of highly credentialed intellectuals and professional scholars, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers and writers to credential our concerns and to interrupt the silencing that takes place…around gay marriage and related family matters… Expert Witness Project 2010 Budget: $50,000.”
NOM released a statement defending its strategies of pitting minorities against each other, saying “Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine. We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”
Main Source: Human Rights Campaign, March 26, 2012
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.
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.
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.
After weeks of silence, the Kroger Company — America’s biggest supermarket purveyor — announced in a short press release March 22 that it will no longer use “pink slime,” the ground beef filler that has caused an uproar among consumers. Critics of pink slime, including former USDA scientists, publicly contend that the ammonia-treated meat filler, made from low quality meat scraps previously used only in cooking oil and dog food, is less nutritious than pure ground beef, and a riskier product due to its higher potential for bacterial contamination. Kroger’s announcement followed similar announcements from smaller grocery chains like Safeway and Food Lion, which moved more quickly to address consumer concerns about the filler. Other grocery chains, like Whole Foods and Costco, told ABC News immediately that their products have never contained the additive. Kroger operates Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, Dillons, Food 4 Less and other stores, and King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado. Consumers were unaware that 70 percent of ground meat contained pink slime because USDA doesn’t require labeling to make consumers aware the additive is in their ground meat.
Main source: The Kroger Co., March 22, 2012
Media Matters for America is embarking on a long-term effort to further weaken bombastic radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh by peeling away advertisers from his show. The group bought $100,000 worth of radio air time to run two ads in eight major U.S. cities that already have active local campaigns to push Limbaugh off the air: Boston, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Detroit, Macon (Georgia), Milwaukee, Seattle and St. Louis. The ads use recordings of Limbaugh making his repeated verbal attacks on Ms. Fluke to make their point. After railing against law student Sandra Fluke by calling her a “slut” and “prostitute” for her testimony before members of Congress about the necessity of funding contraception, Limbaugh made 46 additional personal attacks on her over the next three days. Attacks against Limbaugh are continuing on other fronts, as well. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is also protesting Limbaugh. Members of the Missouri chapter of NOW sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Missouri’s Speaker of the House, Steve Tilley (R), to encourage him to “flush Rush.” On March 5, Tilley made the decision to add Limbaugh to the Hall of Famous Missourians in the states’ capitol building. People inducted into the Hall are represented by sculpted busts displayed at the Capitol. Numerous lawmakers have protested Limbaugh’s inclusion in the Hall, and sent letters to Tilley asking him to reconsider his decision. Currently the decision over who to include in the Hall is made solely by Missouri’s House Speaker, but Missouri Democrats are trying to change that so bipartisan approval will be required for future inductees. In still another front in the assault on Limbaugh, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 in favor of a resolution urging L.A. television and radio broadcasters to ensure on-air hosts do not use racist or sexist slurs over public airwaves. In addition to Limbaugh’s extended and particularly vile outburst, they were also prompted to issue the resolution after KFI radio hosts of the “John and Ken Show” — and L.A. talk show –referred to Whitney Houston as a “crack ho.” The show was pulled off the air briefly as a result.
Click here to hear one of Media Matters’ radio ads against Rush Limbaugh.
“Stand your ground” laws — also called “Shoot First” laws — are drawing greater scrutiny in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old African American in Florida who was allegedly shot while simply walking home from a convenience store. Shoot First laws are versions of “Make My Day” laws that allow people who claim they fear for their life or bodily safety to freely shoot to kill someone who enters their home. Florida’s version confers a shoot-first right on people who are even in public places outside their homes. Many Shoot First laws were enacted starting in 2006 in large part due to the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive collaboration between corporations and legislators that helps advance corporate agendas in legislatures across the U.S. ALEC composed and circulated Shoot First model legislation (pdf), which they then got into the hands of conservative legislators, helping to greatly advance their spread. ALEC’s “model” Shoot First law (which they dubbed the “Castle Doctrine Act,”) was composed by ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections” committee. In 2011, the National Rifle Association was the corporate co-chair of this ALEC committee. The NRA is funded by gun manufacturers (pdf). ALEC apparently got the idea for the law from Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, taking the idea from him and adopting it as their “model legislation” in 2006, after which the laws spread across the nation.
Even some Coloradans who lack the sports gene are relieved to hear that the Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning as their new star quarterback. This could mean Tim Tebow is on his way out. For people who aren’t fans of overt proselytizing — whether they follow football or not — that is a good thing.
Religiosity is doubtless important to lots of football stars. That’s fine, but none of them have ever promoted their religion as overtly as Tebow. While in college, Tebow literally shoved his religion into viewers’ faces by writing Bible verse references in the black spots painted under his eyes, a practice that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) then had to ban, in a rule dubbed “the Tebow rule.” In 2010, he pushed his luck further, appearing in a $2.5 million anti-abortion ad that aired during the Super Bowl, paid for by Focus on the Family.
Then there was “Tebowing,” his trademark prayer-bow, which he was always careful to do in front of the crowds that came to watch the games. He tried to portray this as a humble act, but had he really been humble, he could just have easily dropped to his knee in prayer in the locker room before he went out in front of the crowds. Instead he exploited the opportunity to show everyone what a super-religious guy he is. Tebow even told one reporter that he considered his rise to fame a “great opportunity to get a public platform” for his public prayer. Indeed, some news reporters labeled him a football “phenomenon,” and then spoke more about his public prayer than how well he played.
Tebow’s overt hyper-religiosity also sometimes drew ridicule to both him and the Broncos. In October, 2011, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tullock knelt in mock-prayer after sacking Tebow in a game where the Lions trounced the Broncos 45-10. Saturday Night Live even did a skit ridiculing Tebow. In it, Jesus appears in the Denver Broncos’ locker room to have a talk with the team. Jesus says he can’t always be there to rescue to the team in the fourth quarter, and says he needs their help. He tells Tebow, “I could throw better, and I’m 2,010 years old!” He says the team “should be thanking your kicker…Matt Prader.” Jesus then turns to Prader and says, “I pray to you, brother.” Prader replies, “Wow, I didn’t know you prayed to me!” Jesus then looks directly at Tebow and says “That’s because I’m not in everyone’s face about it.”
When we ask evangelical Christians to please not foist their religion on others, they complain they are the victims of a “war on Christianity.” What they don’t get is that when Americans who belong to different religions — or no religion — have messages promoting Christianity foisted on them in public venues like shopping malls, sporting venues or in legislative hearing rooms, it starts to feel like the war is on them, for believing in something other than Christianity. It’s a turn-off, and so, for many people, was Tebow’s public religious behavior.
Tim Tebow deserves credit for avoiding harmful behaviors that so often turn pro-football players into front page news, like drinking, dog-fighting and domestic violence. But Tebow turned himself into front-page news for other reasons which not everyone view as positive. His penchant for using his fame to blatantly promote his Christianity no doubt made some football fans, and maybe even his bosses, uncomfortable. After all, it’s a simple concept to grasp that people go to football games to have fun and not to get preached to. For that, there’s church.
So now we get to say with great relief, “Goodbye, Tim Tebow, and the best of luck to you.” Maybe if you’re lucky the Church will start a football team someday. Now wouldn’t THAT be perfect.