PNN NEWS 10/27/13
New MercuryMedia Presents
PNN - Progressive Voices Sing Out!
Join us News Director Rick Spisak Interviews
Diana Demarest Democratic Strategist and Campaign Consultant
Emine Dilek Publisher Progressive Press
Denis Campbell Producer WorldView You Tube Channel & Publisher UK Progressive
Susan Bucher Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections
Frank Day - Democratic Chairman and National Delegate
1. Diane Feinstein who is member of the senate committee of US and the lawmaker has said that she supports NSA and its surveillance programs. The agency has faced many allegations after Edward Snowden has released a lot of documents that show that NSA has been spying on the telephonic data of millions of US citizens.
StateWeekly reports that Feinstein gave a statement while talking to Wall Street Journal that if the surveillance programs of NSA have been in motion beforehand, the 9/11 incident would have been prevented. She wrote in the journal that:
- “We would have detected the impending attack that killed 3,000 Americans.”
She also said that the collection of telephonic records is not actually surveillance but a tool to counter any sort of terrorism activity. She gave this statement in an op-ed which has been published today.
She also stressed that the operations of NSA has prevented many terrorists attacks against both the USA and its allies.
Mark Udall and Roy Wyden who are the members of senate committee for intelligence have criticized the NSA’s head Keith Alexander by writing a letter which says that:
- “Saying that ‘these programs’ have ‘disrupted dozens of potential terrorist plots’ is misleading if the bulk phone records collection program is actually providing little or no value.”
They also provided detail that only a few terrorist plots have been avoided by NSA and is not as effective as Diane Feinstein has said.
The Guardian has also published a report that Sen. Diane is anticipating to introduce a legislation which would punish all those who make any critical statements against NSA.
The bill would come up at the right time for NSA as the agency is facing lawsuits from EFF and EPIC for their unjustified and non-constitutional surveillance programs.
2. Fracking Activist Silenced for Doing EPA's Work
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Monday morning, Oct. 21, 2013: Vera Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse's aide, was in Common Pleas Court for Susquehanna County, Pa., to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her.
Before her were four lawyers and several employees of Cabot Gas and Oil, who accused her of trespassing and causing irreparable harm to the company that had almost $1 billion in revenue in 2012. They didn't want her on their property they owned or leased in the Marcellus Shale.
Scroggins is an anti-fracking activist, someone who not only knows what is happening in the gas fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, but willingly devotes much of her day to helping others to see and understand the damage fracking causes. Since 2010, she had led visitors, government officials, and journalists on tours of the gas fields, to rigs and well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads damaged by the heavy volume of truck traffic necessary to build and support the wells.
As part of her tours, she introduces the visitors to those affected by fracking, to the people of northeast Pennsylvania who have seen their air and water polluted, their health impacted. The visitors come from New York, which has a moratorium on fracking; from Pennsylvania, which doesn't; from surrounding states and from foreign countries, who want to see what fracking is, and what it does.
And now in a court room in Montrose, she was accused of trespassing and forced to defend herself.
She asked Judge Kenneth W. Seamans for a continuance. She explained she only received by mail the papers the previous Thursday and was told she had 20 days to respond. She explained on Friday a sheriff's deputy came to her house with copies of the same papers that ordered her to court three days later. She explained she had tried to secure an attorney, but was unable to do so over the weekend.
Judge Seamans told her he wouldn't grant a continuance because she didn't give the court 24 hours notice. "He said that to grant a continuance would inconvenience three of the lawyers who had come from Pittsburgh, and I might have to pay their fees if the hearing was delayed," says Scroggins.
In four hours, Cabot called several witnesses—employees, security personnel, and subcontractors—to testify they saw her trespassing. They claimed her presence presented safety risks. "What we've seen is an increase in frequency and also the number of visitors she is putting in harm's way," Cabot's George Stark had told Staci Wilson of the Susquehanna County Independent.
In her defense, Scroggins called three friends who had accompanied her to court. They testified she was always polite and never posed a safety risk. She says when she went onto a Cabot location, she always reported to the security or field office, and never received any written warnings or demands in the two years she was at the sites. "When I was asked to leave, I left," she says.
Cabot personnel replied she was never a visitor, even though she frequently had amicable chats with on-site managers since 2009. They claim she was on company-owned access roads; she replied she primarily used public roads and the times her car or a chartered bus might have been on access roads they never blocked them—unlike gas industry vehicles that often keep drivers bottled up in traffic jams or set times when residents can't use public roads, even leading to their own homes, because of heavy frack-truck traffic.
"I was blocked after going on sites and access roads several times since 2009, and kept up to an hour," says Sroggins, "but then allowed to leave." No police were called, she says. "If I'm trespassing, then charge me," she remembers saying. Cabot had never charged her, nor sent her any written demands to cease her visits.
For Cabot personnel, it had to be frustrating to have to deal with what they may have thought was a nosy pest who kept showing up at their work sites, possibly endangering herself, her own guests, and the workers. For Scroggins, she was there, explaining drilling to many who had never seen a rig or well pad, videotaping what was the truth about Cabot's operations and fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
In court, she tried several times to explain that she had documented health and safety violations at Cabot sites, many of which led to fines and citations. She tried to explain that she has put hundreds of videotapes online or at YouTube to show the damage the company, and other companies, are doing to the people. Every time she tried to present the evidence, a Cabot lawyer objected, and the judge struck the testimony from the record.
However, when Judge Seamans asked her if she wished to take the stand to testify, stated she could be charged under criminal law and advised her she had the right to not speak and possibly incriminate herself—"I stopped talking."
That afternoon, Judge Seamans granted Cabot its preliminary injunction.
The injunction forbids her from going onto any Cabot property. It forbids her to go onto any property where Cabot has a mineral lease, even if the owner of the surface rights grants her permission. That restriction may violate the rights of the owner who retains surface rights. About 40 percent of Susquehanna County is under lease to the gas and oil companies.
"I have a lot of friends who have leased mineral rights," says Scroggins, "this means I can't even go to their homes if invited." She also can't go to the recycling center—Susquehanna County leased 12.2 acres of mineral rights to Cabot.
There may be one advantage, however. If Scroggins is ever arrested, she won't be able to go to the Susquehanna County jail. The jail is also on those 12.2 leased acres.
(Photo: Joshua Doubek)
3. The Lies That Will Kill America
Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it — the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “US robs bank of $13 billion.”
Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.
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This isn’t the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $6 billion settlement with institutional investors is in the works and criminal charges may still be filed in California. The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it’s hard to keep them sorted out – everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids.
Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny. Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks. If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism.
One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch’s Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Obama, whose administration, we are told, “is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies.” But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama’s favorite banker, with so much entree he’s been doing his own negotiating with the attorney general of the United States.
But that’s crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault. Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be “up a creek” without Dimon. “One of the smartest, toughest guys around,” Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch’s exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.
Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well as one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications — at least in its reporting — echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants “to appease their left-wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing congressional districts right before the 2014 election.” We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots.
Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.
While it’s true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures — more than 30 — have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work. Just the other day, Eric Stern at Salon.com fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity’s show. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity declared, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”
Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not. “I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster,” Stern reported. “But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange.”
And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it’s banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it’s true. According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University’s Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.
Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia. It is, as an old song lyric goes, “the self-deception that believes the lie.” The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.
4. Harry Reid: No Grand Bargain in the Near Future
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes and reduce spending. “We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said. Instead, he suggested negotiators should focus on a replacement for sequestration and forget “happy talk” about a grand bargain. The comments came a week after the deal he reached with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
A House-Senate budget conference will be established to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13, 2013. Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline to fund the government again to prevent a shutdown, and a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Reid said a wider deal could happen next year if mainstream Republicans can take control of the GOP away from the Tea Party. Mr. Reid signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. More at http://tinyurl.com/pk6n5to.
“We still have to mobilize vigorously to make sure that seniors’ programs are not cut as part of the budget conference deal,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.
5. Troubling Trade Deal on the Horizon
Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement? If not, you’re not alone – the American people, by design, know very little about what U.S. negotiators are promising in closed-door talks with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries. 600 corporate advisors have access to the text, but the rest of us do not. “What has come to light is that in addition to corporate-favored terms that would send American jobs offshore and decrease environmental and health safeguards, the TPP could undermine the ability of states or the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “That includes limiting the government’s ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs through Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.”
The Alliance is joining with labor, public interest groups and others in urging Congress and the President to make the process of these negotiations transparent, allow public input, and ensure that the TPP agreement and future trade agreements do not limit the tools of states or the federal government to manage pharmaceutical and medical device costs in public programs or bind the U.S. to a 12-year exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs. More at http://www.citizen.org/TPP.
6. HELP WANTED - CALL SAY PENTAGON NEEDS a HairCut
Here's a job for you for Monday!
The Budget Control Act or "sequester" requires that $109 billion be cut equally from military and non-military programs in FY2014, but in FY2013, the Pentagon got a free pass and all the cuts fell on social programs. 57,000 kids were kicked off Head Start, and everything from Medicaid to the EPA to Meals on Wheels for seniors was slashed.
Now Reps Jared Polis and Barbara Lee have written a sign-on letter to the Chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, demanding that the Pentagon face the same cuts as other programs in FY 2014, as required by the BCA.
Please call your Representative's office tomorrow (Monday) and ask him or her to sign on to the Polis-Lee letter.
7. Genetically Engineered Trees
Friday November 1, 7 p.m. Global Justice Ecology Project & the International Campaign to Stop
Genetically Engineered Trees
A teach-in and campaign-building workshop on The Growing Threat: Genetically Engineered Trees and the Future of Forests
Genetically Engineered (GE) trees pose an enormous risk to the biodiverse forests of the southeastern US. GE trees are being promoted for use in industrial monoculture plantations for timber, pulp and bioenergy. GE trees like the highly invasive, flammable eucalyptus are being pushed as 'climate solutions' despite the enormous human health and ecological risks. Native pine and poplar are being engineered to replace more conventional varieties, running the risk of genetic contamination, herbicide-producing trees and increased plantations. Right now there are GE test plots all over the southeast and the USDA is currently considering commercializing them for the first time in history. It's not too late to stop it in its tracks!
Come learn about the important work being done to stop this threat, share you knowledge and let's work together in the global fight to protect forest biodiversity.
Quaker Meeting House
823 North A Street
Lake Worth, FL
8. 28 Signs That the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried with Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima
1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores…
Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.
The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.
2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…
At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”
3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low. Many are blaming Fukushima.
4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.
5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.
6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.
7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.
8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.
9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…
• 73 percent of mackerel tested
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish
10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…
Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.
11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish…
“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”
12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.
13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.
14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.
15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.
18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.
19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.
20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year…
Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.
21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.
22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.
23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning…
“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”
24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time. Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…
Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.
Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.
Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.
25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…
The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.
If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.
There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.
You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…
NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.
26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.
27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.
28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…
“Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.”
9. Big Pharma Paid To Attend Meetings Of FDA’s Panel Of Advisors
A scientific panel that shaped the federal government’s policy for testing the safety and effectiveness of painkillers was funded by major pharmaceutical companies that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to affect the thinking of the Food and Drug Administration, according to hundreds of e-mails obtained by a public records request.
The e-mails show that the companies paid as much as $25,000 to attend any given meeting of the panel, which had been set up by two academics to provide advice to the FDA on how to weigh the evidence from clinical trials. A leading FDA official later called the group “an essential collaborative effort.”
Patient advocacy groups said the electronic communications suggest that the regulators had become too close to the companies trying to crack into the $9 billion painkiller market in the United States. FDA officials who regulate painkillers sat on the steering committee of the panel, which met in private, and co-wrote papers with employees of pharmaceutical companies.
The FDA has been criticized for failing to take precautions that might have averted the epidemic of addiction to prescription drugs including Oxycontin and other opioids.“These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years,” said Craig Mayton, the Columbus, Ohio, attorney who made the public records request to the University of Washington. “Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written.”
Even as the meetings were taking place, the idea of FDA officials meeting with firms that had paid big money for an invitation raised eyebrows for some. In an e-mail to organizers, an official from the National Institutes of Health worried whether the arrangements made it look as if the private meetings were a “pay to play process.”
FDA officials did not benefit financially from their participation in the meetings, the agency said. But two later went on to work as pharmaceutical consultants and more than this, the critics said, the e-mails portray an agency that, by allowing itself to get caught up in a panel that seemed to promise influence for money, had blurred the line between the regulators and the regulated.
In a statement, the FDA said “we take these concerns very seriously.” But, it said, “we are unaware of any improprieties” associated with the group.
Douglas Throckmorton, a deputy director of the agency, said in an interview that strict rules of transparency and funding apply to the public-private partnerships that the agency engages in and that these efforts are important for the government and the industry.
But the group in this case was not initiated by the FDA, he said, and so was a private partnership to which those rules did not apply.
“There are rules in place for us to have these discussions,” Throckmorton said. This group “was set up as a private group.”
The group was organized by two medical professors, Robert Dworkin of the University of Rochester and Dennis Turk of the University of Washington, and the e-mails for the most part describe their efforts at financing and organizing the group’s meetings.
The two professors received as much as $50,000 apiece for a meeting, money that went to their academic research accounts and paid for research assistants and expenses “or to cover a small percentage of faculty effort,” they said. At one point in the e-mails, they proposed that they receive honoraria of $5,000 apiece for a four-hour meeting at a hotel near the FDA offices.
The meetings, typically held around the Washington metropolitan area, focused on the best methods for measuring the effectiveness of painkillers.
“The intent was to help everybody develop better drug trials,” Dworkin said in a phone interview. He and Turk responded to questions via e-mail, as well. A spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group, declined to comment, saying the organization was unfamiliar with the e-mails.
Exactly how to judge when a painkiller is effective has been a long-running problem for drug companies that believe that some of their products are effective but that their benefits are missed in standard clinical drug trials.One goal of the group was to design clinical trials that would illuminate the benefits of new drugs that might be missed in standard tests, avoiding what the academics called “false negatives.”
The meetings, which involved about 30 to 40 people, included academics, FDA and NIH officials, and often as many as 14 representatives from pharmaceutical companies. Only the companies paid fees to attend.
Dworkin said the scientific guidelines the group produced were of high quality and that “we are not aware of a single negative comment that has been published.” The goal of the group was to publish “consensus” statements on scientific matters related to testing the drugs.
Bob Rappaport, the chief of the FDA’s analgesic division and an attendee at many meetings of the group, did not respond to e-mails or phone calls.
But he has touted the influence of the group, known by the acronym IMMPACT. A 2007 PowerPoint presentation he put together was called “The Impact of IMMPACT” and recognizes the group’s influence on FDA thinking. The presentation describes the committee as “a wealth of opportunity for communication” that was advancing the science and “approving new analgesic drug products.”
While science was the subject of the meetings, the subject of money runs through the e-mails.
Even for a pharmaceutical company, the $20,000 price for an invitation to a Washington meeting seemed high.
When some drug companies balked at the fee, the organizers of the meeting, Dworkin and Turk, were firm.
“20k is small change, and they can justify it easily if they want to be at the table,” Dworkin wrote to Turk in July 2003, after an Eli Lilly representative bridled at the price. “Everybody has been very happy with [the meetings] and they are getting a huge amount for very little money (impact on FDA thinking, exposure to FDA thinking, exposure to academic opinion leaders and their expertise, journal article authorship, etc.) and they know it.”
“Do they really expect it to be any less than 20K per meeting for all this?” Dworkin wrote.
At another point, a company representative called to say that he could come up with $10,000 to attend and was “trying to find more,” as Dworkin told Turk in the e-mail.
“He didn’t realize we were inflexible on the 25k, and then asked, a bit testily, how many companies were already on board and when I said 10 he then asked whether it costs 250K to hold a meeting in DC,” Dworkin wrote. “I gave our standard response to this, which appeared to mollify him fine.”
And in another: “The native(s) is (are) restless regarding finances for IMMPACT,” Turk tells Dworkin in late 2002.
“I don’t know how we will bury the post doc funds if we are too specific,” Turk says in another.
In the interview, Dworkin said that the costs of running such a meeting could run as high as $150,000, and because they never knew how many sponsors they could attract, it was difficult to know where to set the price. To make its gatherings more transparent, the group posted to its Web site copies of meeting presentations.
Even so, at least a few of the government officials attending the meetings seemed to be nervous about appearances.
At one point, an NIH staffer indicated that given the fees paid by drug companies, as well as that the meetings were private, IMMPACT could be criticized because it was “paid for by a few large pharmaceutical firms who are assumed to be influencing the outcomes.”
The NIH staffer suggested holding the meetings on the NIH campus and opening the meeting to all interested parties to “avoid the stigma that this initiative is a ‘pay to play process.’ ”
Dworkin responded in an e-mail: “It is difficult to imagine how an open meeting would develop consensus recommendations.”
10. Congress Spends Several Hours Pretending to Understand Internet
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an impressive white-knuckle performance on live television today, members of Congress spent several hours in a hearing room pretending to understand the Internet.
Beginning this morning, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee devoted four hours to grilling Web-site contractors about site architecture, Web traffic, software, and other I.T. concepts about which their ignorance is nearly complete.
“As members of this committee, we are supposed to have a deep understanding of the technology involved in the health-care Web site,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan). “So it was absolutely imperative for us to fake that we do.”
For the duration of the hearings, the Web contractors offered detailed testimony about “end-to-end testing,” “enterprise identity management,” and other technical concepts to a group of elected officials who can barely use e-mail.
“I would say that, to a man, we did not understand ninety-nine per cent of that computer nonsense they were going on about,” Chairman Upton said. “To me it was a whole lot of blahbitty-blahbitty-blah. I hope it wasn’t too obvious.”
Rep. Upton said that “looking serious and nodding our heads a lot” contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed.
“At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask,” he said. “Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?’”
11. Fuke News
Jeff Christiansen, Seattle Aquarium biologist: We’ve got some sea stars that look like they’re melting on the bottom.
Amy Moreno, KING 5 News: The same thing is happening in the waters near Canada and nobody’s sure why. The cause could be environmental or perhaps driven by disease.
Lesanna Lahner, veterinarian: We often think viral when we think of sea star disease. At this time, we don’t have a good idea of what’s causing it [...]
Moreno: Just a few weeks ago, the populations in Puget Sound waters looked healthy. [...] The news is not good [...] They estimate close to half appear to be sick or dying.
Christiansen: There are a lot of melting sea stars out there, more than even a couple days ago. There would be an apparently healthy animal in really close proximity to a sick animal — no concentration of sick ones and concentration of good ones.
Moreno: The picture becomes more serious when the bags are opened inside of the lab.
Lahner: This animal has a classic appearance of a melting sea star [...] It’s concerning, it’s concerning — and it’s concerning to hear that in a short time period of under a week we’re seeing roughly 60% of this species diseased in this area. [...]
The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2013: For decades, the 62-year-old horse breeder [Tokue Hosokawa] barely registered that his farm was just 40 kilometres north-west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. [...] Like several other farmers in Fukushima, Hosokawa ignored a government order to exterminate all of his horses and cows. [...] “Just after the accident one of the horses gave birth. When I saw that foal get to its feet and start feeding from its mother, I knew there was no way I could leave.” [...] in January this year, he noticed that several among the 30 that remained, mainly foals, had become unsteady on their feet. [...] Within weeks, 16 had died in mysterious circumstances. Autopsies on four of the horses found no evidence of disease and tests revealed caesium levels at 200 becquerels per kilo – four times higher than the government-set safety limit for agricultural produce, but not high enough to immediately threaten their health. [...] “I’m worried that we’ll find more dead horses this winter.” [...]
Source: Photographer Kazuma Obara
KEYSTONE, July 25, 2013: Since the beginning of 2013, 16 horses including foals died in succession within 6 months. Experts performed autopsies on dead carcasses, but they couldn’t find a main cause of the horses’ sudden deaths. The health center of Fukushima inspected the horses and took blood tests, and the results showed that the causes were neither infectious deseases nor parasitic worms. But the symptoms were all very similar. Once the horses became unable to walk, they died within several weeks. [...] “I live here thanks to my horses, so I can’t leave here without them. I’m very sad when they die. My daughter tried to kill herself feeling depressed about their deaths. There is no future in this life,” he says. The word “Restoration of Fukushima” has spread around Japan, but reality is somewhat different.
Photographer Kazuma Obara, Sept. 16, 2013: This May, he tried to reveal the cause of their sudden death, and he decided to euthanize a horse whose symptom was similar to the other dead horses. And femoral muscle was detected cesium 200 becquerel/ kg by the researcher veterinarian Dr.Hiroyuki Ichikawa. They are studying this data tying to find the effect for their sudden death. [...] Japan becomes such a pathetic country. After the accidents, my family fell apart. My daughter tried to commit suicide… I am relieved that she survived. When I saw the foals, I entertained a flicker of hope. but even these foals died… There is no future. Nobody want to live without future. Here is Japan. Do you think it is really okay with this situation in Japan?” He said. [...]
New York Times, Oct. 24, 2013 (Emphasis Added): For months now, it has been hard to escape the continuing deluge of bad news from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. [...] [Scientists] say there are worrisome problems that may be the result of new leaks. [...] [Tepco] says the source of the increased contamination appears to be highly radioactive water that had been trapped since the accident in conduits around the reactor buildings and had slowly found its way out.
Michio Aoyama, oceanographer at a Japanese government research institute: The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, have led , to conclude that radioactive cesium 137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year [Actually PER DAY], or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.
Blair Thornton, associate professor at University of Tokyo’s Underwater Technology Research Center: hot spots [are] spread across at least 150 square miles of the ocean bottom [...] Radiation levels there should naturally weaken over time [...] The fact that radiation levels are still up to hundreds of times as high as they are in other areas of the sea floor raises the possibility that the spots are being blanketed in new contamination from the plant [...] particles could work their way into the food chain [...]
Jota Kanda, oceanographer at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology: “Obviously, there is some continuing source of cesium 137. We are not sure exactly what is happening, but we are seeing a bigger than expected effect on the environment.” [...]
See also: AP: Experts fear giant underground reservoir of extremely contaminated water on verge of entering Pacific at Fukushima -- In contact with melted nuclear fuel? A race against the clock -- Nobody knows when this will end
I know this is terribly radical, but 1) the privacy rights of Americans matter, and 2) the privacy rights of non-Americans do, too.