One of the few tools for Wisconsin citizens to protect their health and land from the hazards of expanded frac sand mining across the state could be weakened by a newly introduced bill in the state legislature. The state's Senate is considering a piece of legislation today aimed at "limiting the authority" of Wisconsin cities, villages or towns to enact a "development moratorium ordinance" -- a mechanism used recently by several local governments across the state to set aside time so they can investigate the effects of proposed mining on their community.
The herbicide atrazine, one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States has been found in almost 94 percent of U.S. groundwater and can harm human health in multiple ways. ALEC has promoted "model" legislation friendly to Syngenta, atrazine's primary manufacturer, across the country. At least once, this legislation was introduced to ALEC by a lobbyist paid by Syngenta.
Succumbing to public pressure to eliminate the use of bisphenol A (BPA) (a suspected endocrine disruptor) found in baby bottles, plastic bottles and in the lining of food containers, Campbell's announced at a February shareholder meeting that it will begin to phase out the use of BPA in its soup can linings.
MONTPELIER, Vermont — You can't see them. They're hidden from view and probably always will be. But the health insurance industry's big guns are in place and pointed directly at the citizens of Vermont.
Health insurers were not able to stop the state's drive last year toward a single-payer health care system, which insurers have spent millions to scare Americans into believing would be the worst thing ever. Despite the ceaseless spin, Vermont lawmakers last May demonstrated they could not be bought nor intimidated when they became the first in the nation to pass a bill that will probably establish a single-payer beachhead in the U.S.
When he signed Act 48 into law on May 27, surrounded by dozens of state residents who worked for many years to achieve universal coverage, Governor Peter Shumlin expressed great pride in what had been accomplished.
Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, recently unsealed as part of a major lawsuit against Syngenta, reveal that the global chemical company's PR team had a multi-million dollar budget to pay surrogates and others who helped advance its messages about the weed-killer "atrazine." This story is part two of a series about Syngenta's PR campaign to influence the media, potential jurors, potential plaintiffs, farmers, politicians, scientists, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the midst of reviews of the weed-killer's potential to act as an endocrine disruptor.
These documents reveal a string of money going from Syngenta to pundits, economists, scientists, and others. Below is a sample of some of the "third party" surrogates who have been financially supported by Syngenta.
ACSH's Elizabeth Whelan: "A Great Weapon"
Elizabeth Whelan is founder and President of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). ACSH is a network of scientists whose stated mission to "ensure that the coverage of health issues is based on scientific facts – not hyperbole, emotion and ideology." Whelan has used hyperbole to advance her agenda, for example, calling the New York Times reporting on atrazine "All the news that's fit to scare."
Some of ACSH's published materials have a disclaimer saying it accepts corporate donations but it "does not accept support from individual corporations for specific research projects." Documents obtained by CMD show (PDF) that Syngenta has been a long-term financial supporter of ACSH and that in the midst of reports about spikes in atrazine levels reported by the New York Times, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, ACSH sought an additional $100,000 to produce more materials about atrazine in addition to seeking increased funding in general by Syngenta.
Atrazine is an herbicide primarily manufactured by the multinational conglomerate Syngenta and commonly used on commodity crops, forests, and golf courses. Its potential harmful effects on human health have been documented since the 1990s.
"It shouldn't be this way," read the subject line of an email I received Friday morning from a conservative friend and fellow Southerner. "People shouldn't have to beg for money to pay for medical care."
At first, I thought he was referring to my column last week in which I wrote about the fundraising effort to cover the bills, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, that the husband of Canadian skier Sarah Burke is now facing. Burke died on January 19, nine days after sustaining severe head injuries in a skiing accident in Park City, Utah. I noted that had the accident occurred in Burke's native Canada, which has a system of universal coverage, the fundraiser would not have been necessary.
But my friend was not writing about Sarah Burke. He wanted to alert me to another fundraiser, this one on Alabama's Gulf Coast, to help pay for the mounting medical expenses for a beautiful 13-year-old girl fighting for her life at USA Children's & Women's Hospital in Mobile, Alabama.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said very little about health care reform, but what he did say was a reminder of how tight a grip the insurance industry has on the U.S. health care system -- and will continue to have if the Affordable Care Act is not implemented as Congress intended. And it is largely up to the President to make sure that it is.
"I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage or charge women more than men," he said.
That comment drew applause, although certainly not from the insurance industry’s friends in Congress, who continue to call for gutting the law. That’s because when and if it’s fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will make many of the most egregious practices of insurers a thing of the past. Weakening or stripping out the consumer protections in the law that insurance companies despise would make executives and shareholders of those companies very happy, not to mention much richer in the years to come.
The journey I embarked on when I made the decision to leave a successful career in the health insurance business was a spiritual one. I can trace the decision to a true epiphany, to the very moment I saw hundreds of people standing, soaking wet, in long, slow-moving lines, waiting to get medical care that was being provided in animal stalls at a fairground in Wise County, Virginia.
The public has until Wednesday to comment on a plan to open up 85 percent of the state of New York to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." In 2010, a moratorium on this form of "natural" gas and oil extraction in the state was put in place, but a plan to lift it, advanced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, could change this.