By Jonathan Safran-Foer
Everyone has a mental image of a farm, and to most it probably includes fields, barns, tractors and animals, or at least one of the above. I doubt there's anyone on earth not involved in farming whose mind would conjure what I'm now looking at. And yet before me is the kind of farm that produces roughly 99% of the animals consumed in America.
This Californian turkey farm is ¬surrounded by barbed-wire fencing and set up in a series of seven sheds, each about 50ft wide by 500ft long, each holding in the neighborhood of 25,000 birds. Adjacent to the sheds is a massive granary, which looks more like something out of Blade Runner than Little House on the Prairie. Metal pipes spiderweb the outsides of the ¬buildings, massive fans protrude and clang, and floodlights project weirdly discrete pockets of day.
By Gardiner Harris
Hundreds of people taking Avandia, a controversial diabetes medicine, needlessly suffer heart attacks and heart failure each month, according to confidential government reports that recommend the drug be removed from the market.
The reports, obtained by The New York Times, say that if every diabetic now taking Avandia were instead given a similar pill named Actos, about 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure would be averted every month because Avandia can hurt the heart. Avandia, intended to treat Type 2 diabetes, is known as rosiglitazone and was linked to 304 deaths during the third quarter of 2009.
“Rosiglitazone should be removed from the market,” one report, by Dr. David Graham and Dr. Kate Gelperin of the Food and Drug Administration, concludes. Both authors recommended that Avandia be withdrawn.
By Pat Sullivan
Almost 30 years ago, whistleblower therapist and stress expert Donald Soeken asked my help to write some how-to materials on whistleblowing. I got the gig not based on any published clips (I didn’t have any then), but because the writing sample I gave him was my father’s story of blowing the whistle on an embezzling college president when I was just a baby. In that sample, I detailed the story I knew all too well about how the retaliation Dad suffered impacted our whole family for decades.
Almost all the people I told about the writing gig made what they thought was a joke: “Whistleblowers? Oh, you mean ratters? Snitches? Stool pigeons?” Given my father’s story, and given the 95-5 odds that my mother’s early death from a rare illness was caused by the FDA’s lack of attentiveness to under-reported side effects of a popular prescription drug, it’s amazing I didn’t do bodily harm to those jokers.
Today, it’s still considered okay to slander whistleblowers, then wonder why more people don’t speak out to warn us about fraud, waste or abuse. And there are many who are so focused on not being “negative thinkers” or buttinskies or poor team players that we become complicit in all types of wrongdoing. Fortunately, there are a whole bunch of resources to help you tell truth to power and thrive and/or to support those who dare to speak on your behalf.
By Michael Cooney
Network World - After almost a year of wrangling, the U.S. government today said it wants to set up a National Climate Service that is designed to meet the burgeoning demand for climate information.
The Climate Service would be akin to the National Weather Service and would be the single point of contact on information climate forecasts and support for planning and management decisions by federal agencies, state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector.
In announcing the intent to form a National Climate Service, the Commerce Deptartment said the service will provide critical business and community planning information about climate changes as well as discover new technologies and build new businesses. The new service would require congressional approval, but if all goes smoothly, it could be running by October.
By Helena Bottemiller
On Tuesday, members of the Safe Food Coalition (SFC) delivered a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging an immediate change in the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS's) E. coli O157:H7 traceback policy.
The request follows a similar letter delivered in April 2009, which recommended that the FSIS trace meat contamination back to the source, and remove all affected product from commerce.
As it stands now, when FSIS finds E. coli O157:H7 in meat that has not yet entered commerce, it does not look up the supply chain to find the source of the contamination.
But in a global supply chain, one positive sample at the bottom of the chain--at a meat grinding plant, for example--could indicate a problem further up the supply line. According to SFC, this is "a dangerous loophole in agency procedure."
By David McFadden
A Bahamas court has rejected a U.S. bid to extradite a Czech-born financier on charges of plotting to bribe officials in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan in the late 1990s to get favorable treatment in oil deals, officials said Wednesday.
The Bahamas Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court ruling that Viktor Kozeny, who has lived in the islands since 1995, cannot be extradited to stand trial in New York because bribing foreign officials isn't a local crime and he is not subject to American anti-bribery laws.
"An extradition offense must be an offense under the law of both states," wrote Justice Hartman Longley, one of three judges on the Bahamian panel.
Kozeny was indicted in October 2005 on 27 counts of bribery in U.S. District Court in Manhattan under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime to offer payment to foreign government officials to obtain or retain business.
Several news stories and a white paper report, all address the subject of drug researchers having a conflict of interest due to the money from the drug companies, and the inability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adequately reform the situation. The Government Accountability Project released an April 2009 report called "The ABC's of Drug Safety", that questions the safety and results of drug trials.
According to their website, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. Mark Cohen, GAP Executive Director and coauthor of the report, stated "The current clinical trial reform process is rife with conflicts of interest that put trial subjects at risk and produce suspect data on drug safety and efficacy. Making matters worse, federal oversight is wholly inadequate."
"The FDA system of ensuring drug safety is a work-in-progress," stated Sheila Fleischhacker, author of the GAP report. "Some of the FDA's new regulations are steps in the right direction, but the overall process still has too many gaps that put the public at risk."
A group of nonprofits that lobby have sent President Barack Obama a letter requesting changes in the year-old executive order restricting lobbyists from jobs in the administration.
The letter, dated Jan. 21, describes the current ban as well-intended, but flawed. They want to revise who is covered by the law.
"It does not cover the vast majority of 'special interest' insiders," such as corporate executives, public relations consultants, and legal advisers, the groups wrote. A copy of the letter is available here (.pdf).
Yet, the letter says, the order as written does cover people who lobby for charities and public interest causes, and who don't have any type of financial interest in government policies. The order covers all those registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the letter notes, which means that "countless charities that have no actual or perceived financial conflicts of interest are treated as 'collateral damage,' and discouraged from much-needed policy involvement."
By Bill Blakemore
Despite Error, Report's Glacier Warning 'Consistent With Underlying Science'
A sloppy mistake in one paragraph of a 938-page U.N. climate report issued in 2007 has alerted the panel responsible for it to the high standard the world now demands of them.
Not surprising, since the U.N. climate reports, due every four years, are the most comprehensive and authoritative texts for understanding the human-induced global warming which, if left unchecked, scientists say, will become a global catastrophe.
The faulty paragraph stated that Himalayan glaciers providing water to hundreds of millions of people could "disappear" in the rising heat as soon as the year 2035.
Indian government scientists and others have shown this estimate to be based at best on flimsy evidence and at worst on a misread Internet article -- possibly even involving a typo confusing the year 2350 with 2035.
By Julia Davis
Federal criminal charges have been filed against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, for his attempt to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft by detonating an explosive device on board the plane during its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on December 25, 2009.
Prosecution against Abdulmutallab is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
A preliminary FBI analysis found that the suspect's makeshift bomb contained a powder explosive PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.
Powder explosives are difficult to detect with current screening procedures and equipment, and are the main target of the whole body scanners, which can locate non-metallic items concealed beneath passengers' clothes.
Michael Chertoff, who co-authored the Patriot Act and served as former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Bush administration, now works as a security consultant for companies that make screening devices that can identify explosives hidden under clothing.