Category: Alerts

President Trump Goes on the Offensive Against Justice Department

By Emily Cox
President Trump
Flickr/Gage Skidmore

The Justice Department’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia is still in its infancy; however, the president is already maneuvering to impede on any possible charges. President Trump’s legal team is exploring options to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. In case that fails, the president is looking into his options to pardon himself and those close to him.

The Russian investigation over the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election continues to expand. Trump’s lawyers are already working to bridle the probe, questioning the propriety of the special counsel’s work. According to several of Trump’s legal advisers, they are actively compiling a list of potential conflicts of interest in order to discredit Mueller’s findings. A conflict of interest could also remove Mueller entirely from the investigation.

Members of Trump’s legal team are disputing these allegations. However, they aren’t hesitating in broadcasting the potential conflicts of interest that they claim that they aren’t compiling. Among these potential conflicts of interest facing Mueller are donations to Democrats by some of his prosecutors.

Another potential conflict is an allegation that Mueller had a dispute with Trump National Golf Club over membership fees when he left the club in 2011. However, a spokesman for Mueller denies any such dispute.

President Takes Aim at Sessions

Traditionally, Justice Department leaders strive to maintain a degree of autonomy from the White House to ensure prosecutorial independence. However, Trump lashed out about this very independence. He expressed anger and disappointment in Sessions not coming to heel over the Russian probe.

Trump publicly denounced Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein, whose actions led to Mueller’s appointment. In an interview Wednesday, the president told the New York Times that he never would have nominated Sessions if he knew the AG was going to recuse himself from the probe. Some Republicans with strong ties to the White House are viewing this as a warning sign that the attorney general is on his way out.

One Republican with connections to the administration commented that the president is “laying the groundwork to fire” Mueller with his public actions.

“Who attacks their entire Justice Department?” the Republican questioned. “It’s insane.”

President Explores the Extent of His Pardon Power

Trump has been asking his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members, and even himself from possible probe indictments.

Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, gives the president the power to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachments. This means this authority extends to federal criminal prosecution but not to state level or impeachment indictments. A president can also pardon an individual at any time, even before there are actual criminal charges.

As no president has ever sought to pardon himself, no courts have ever reviewed it. But, if Trump pardoned himself from implications of Mueller’s investigation, it would set off a legal and political firestorm over whether a president can use the constitutional pardon power to save his own skin. The Constitution does not explicitly prohibit the president from pardoning himself. However, some experts argue that, implicitly, a pardon is something you can only give to someone else. Experts predict that such an action would move eventually make its way to the Supreme Court.

A White House advisor says that the president is simply expressing curiosity in the scope of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation. However, the timing of this curiosity is certainly suspect.

President Concerned About Scope of Russian Probe

After FBI Director James B. Comey launched the Russian investigation in earnest, Trump was quick to fire him. Officially, he claimed that Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal deemed him unfit for office. However, the president had previously praised this very handling. Furthermore, he indicated publicly that Comey’s involvement with the Russian probe played a substantial role in his dismissal. Even more damning, Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office last month that firing Comey relieved “great pressure” on him from the Russian investigation.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a document read to the New York Times by a U.S. official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Consequently, when the investigation was handed to Mueller, he not only received broad authority to investigate links between Russian government and Trump’s presidential campaign. He also received authorization to look into “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”  This includes perjury and justice obstruction. Upon Mueller’s appointment, Trump took to Twitter, ranting that the investigation was a “witch hunt.”

Trump’s raging about the probe hit a new high in recent weeks after potential legal questions that he and his family could face came to light. He is specifically concerned that the probe may spread into scrutinizing his finances.

Trump is particularly disturbed that Mueller would be able to access several years of his coveted tax returns. Normally, these records would already be readily available. All presidents since Jimmy Carter have released their tax returns. However, Trump has repeatedly refused to make his tax returns public.

 

Asbestos Fibers Found in Makeup Sold at Popular Tween Clothing Store

By Emily Cox
Asbestos Fibers Found in Tween Clothing Store Makeup
Asbestos Fibers for that Youthful Glow (Flickr/Mike Mozart)

A recent investigation found asbestos fibers in makeup marketed and sold by tween megachain Justice, formerly the Limited Too.

WTVD in Durham, North Carolina, launched the investigation with the Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) in Greensboro, North Carolina. They found that the “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” contained asbestos fibers and traces of other dangerous heavy metals.

When it comes to the powder, Sean Fitzgerald, SAI’s director of research and analytical services said, “I would treat it like a deadly poison, because it is.”

In Your Face, Asbestos Fibers

Usually, when you think of asbestos, cordoned-off old elementary schools and government buildings bedazzled with “Danger” signs come to mind. Teenage beauty powder displayed next to bedazzled jeans…not so much. However, that’s exactly what this investigative team found after testing the popular chain’s makeup.

Manufacturers once used asbestos in countless applications due to its resistance to heat, fire, chemicals, and electricity. However, the minuscule asbestos fibers easily separate, making them a breeze to breath. These fibers can build up in your longs and cause a variety of serious health issues. Breathing in asbestos fibers over long periods of time increases the risk for diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma. But, surely, there isn’t any danger of breathing in these particles while dusting a loose powder on your face by your mouth. You know, where you breath.

“Fibers like this get into your breathing zone, and when you inhale, these fibers can get into the lung and go to the very bottom of the lung and that is exactly where you have the greatest likelihood of asbestos to cause disease,” Fitzgerald said.

“In this powder designed for children, they could die an untimely death in their thirties or forties because of the exposure to asbestos in this product,” he cautions. “Children should not be allowed to breathe it. If a 10-year-old inhaled this fiber today, when he’s 50 years old, it’s still there.”

Nothing Says a Youthful Glow Like Asbestos Fibers, Lead, and Barium

Asbestos fibers aren’t the only frightening thing found in Just Shine Shimmer Powder. SAI also found heavy metals in the product. Lead, barium, chromium, and selenium capped off this delightful chemical concoction for kids. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead’s toxicity. They can suffer profound and permanent adverse health problems, particularly when it comes to the brain and nervous system. At least, Justice may have accomplished one thing. It could do away with the stereotype of fashion-minded young women as being vapid, airheads by making them actually brain damaged.

“The more lead you have in your system, the more negative health effects you’re going to have. Any amount of lead can be absorbed through the skin and go into your blood, and contribute to your overall poisoning of your blood,” Fitzgerald said.

Asbestos Fibers and Lead Contamination

Fitzgerald suggests that the manufacturer wasn’t intentionally using these ingredients to beautify our youth. Rather, talc, a mineral found in many products, is to blame. Talc is a mineral that forms in the other along with other minerals, including…you guessed it – asbestos.

“What we have here is a talc that was contaminated with asbestos that was used to manufacture a product unfortunately aimed at young children,” Fitzgerald said.

However, the FDA requires cosmetic talc to be asbestos-free, and manufacturers are resoundingly compliant. In 2009 and 2010, the agency did test samples of talc from four suppliers along with 34 makeup samples and found absolutely no asbestos fibers.

“The problem is, it’s not necessarily the manufacturer, there was no intent to put this in the talc, but they shouldn’t have been using that reserve, because they should’ve tested it and known that that talc source was contaminated with asbestos,” Fitzgerald said.

Justice has already pulled Justice Shine Shimmer Powder from shelves. The clothing company is current beginning its own investigation into asbestos fibers contaminating the product.

Monsanto Tried to Use EPA Collusion Allegations to Venue Shop for Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

by Emily Cox
Roundup Cancer Lawsuits
Federal Judge Warns Monsanto to Stop with Inane Transfer Theories (Flickr/Donna Cleveland)

In a bizarre move, Monsanto tried to use EPA collusion allegations to move state-level Roundup cancer lawsuits to more corporate-defendant friendly federal court, claiming that this collusion transforms the corporation into a federal officer despite the company’s contradictory denial of this very collusion.

The District Judge overseeing all federal Roundup cancer lawsuits slammed Monsanto’s attempt to venue shop, indicating that the company may face penalties if it continues to file “flimsy theories of removal in the future.”

Overwhelmingly, companies perceive federal courts as more corporate-defendant friendly. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Monsanto filed a notice of removal earlier this year to send a California complaint representing more than 40 people to the federal litigation. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized the federal litigation in the Northern District of California this past October. Judge Vince Chhabri is presiding over these discovery and pretrial proceedings.

However, Monsanto also faces large numbers of Roundup cancer lawsuits in various state courts where the agrochemical giant has adequate contracts to establish local jurisdiction. Some of these states like California and Missouri are notoriously plaintiff-friendly. In fact, California and Missouri top the American Tort Reform Association’s list of “Judicial Hellholes” for tending to side with injured plaintiffs rather than corporate America. These associations have made Monsanto desperate to move these claims to friendlier federal ground.

Monsanto’s Strange Move to Transfer Roundup Cancer Lawsuits to Federal Court

In a perverse twist, Monsanto even tried to use serious allegations against itself to help its cause. Grasping at litigious straws, the weed killer’s manufacturer tried to claim federal jurisdiction based on plaintiff allegations of EPA collusion to influence the regulation of Roundup. Monsanto went so far as to claim that EPA collusion allegations somehow convert the corporation into a federal officer. Unsurprisingly, Roundup cancer lawsuit plaintiffs struck back, contending that Monsanto had no grounds to transfer the case to federal court.

Judge Chhabria agreed wholeheartedly with the plaintiffs and reprimanded Monsanto’s behavior. He issued a caustic order this past week, renouncing Monsanto’s federal jurisdiction theory as “baseless.” He pointed to the absurdity of Monsanto trying to claim federal officer status based on a relationship with the federal government that the company denies even exists. If the courts permitted this, then Monsanto is blatantly admitting to collusion. The judge went on to warn that the Court may consider fee shifting if the company continues with similar transfers.

“To be sure, evidence that Monsanto influenced the EPA may be indirectly relevant to the [question about the cancer risk with Roundup], as collusion could undermine the value of the EPA’s scientific conclusions,” wrote Judge Chhabri in the order. “But an issue is not ‘necessary’ to resolve for the purposes of federal-question jurisdiction simply because it has relevance. In this case, collusion is, at most, a means for the plaintiffs to impeach certain evidence they disagree with.”

The order and its tone may have wide-reaching implications for hundreds of Roundup cancer lawsuits currently pending in state courts. Consequently, Monsanto may have to face state court juries far before the federal litigation’s own bellwether trials.

Roundup Cancer Lawsuits

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, as a probable carcinogen. After this announcement, lawsuits over the Roundup cancer risk began to emerge. Many agricultural workers assert that the chemical caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Furthermore, Monsanto allegedly went to great lengths to hide Roundup’s risks.

Monsanto continues to defend the safety of Roundup. The company goes as far as to assert that the chemical is “safer than table salt.”

However, worldwide experts are investigating the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides, questioning Roundup’s lack of safety warnings. In fact, earlier this month California regulators moved to require a Roundup cancer warning label as soon as next year.

Adult ADHD Checklist Is More Like an ADHD Cheat Sheet

By Emily Cox
Adult ADHD
Big Pharma Brands Adults with ADHD Label to Increase Sales (Flickr/Leo Brunvoll)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a breeze to diagnose these days. Physicians owe thanks to the handy-dandy Adult ADHD Checklist. This essentially tells patients how to guarantee a prescription by indicating “correct” answers with gray shading. Many physicians rely on this checklist to make a diagnosis after a  5 to 20-minute conversation with the patient. This apparently is adequate justification for subsequently prescribing addictive stimulant medications. Furthermore, Big Pharma may have had substantial influence in the Adult ADHD Checklist to ensure that as many people as possible are diagnosed with the disorder.

Big Pharma’s extraordinary two-decade campaign to publicize ADHD has paid off big time. These efforts resulted in prescription stimulant sales soaring from just below $2 billion in 2002 to almost $13 billion in 2015. ADHD diagnosis is now within a hair’s breadth behind asthma as being the most commonly diagnosed chronic childhood disease.

As pharmaceutical companies began realizing that the childhood market had already met and surpassed its potential, they set their gaze to expand market share by funding studies to substantiate adult ADHD diagnosis. And they have been monumentally successful in the endeavor. Given that the adult ADHD market has grown 8 percent each year since 2010, expert project this growth will continue at an approximate 6 percent rate, reaching $17.5 billion by 2020. Furthermore, the physicians working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the Adult ADHD Checklist all had substantial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that stood the most to gain from breaking down barriers to the adult market.

Big Pharma Created Adult ADHD Checklist to Expand Market Share

Two of ADHD’s heaviest hitters funded the very research that prompted WHO to validate the Adult ADHD Checklist. ADHD royalty Adderall manufacturer Shire Pharmaceuticals supplied an unrestricted educational grant to make the report a reality. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, ADHD drug, Straterra, manufacturer, funded secondary analysis and the managed health plan survey itself.

WHO purportedly developed the Adult ADHD Checklist in conjunction with the Workgroup on Adult ADHD. However, this workgroup’s body of work is relegated solely to this checklist. They haven’t produced any research or literature beyond the checklist. In fact, it appears to be an honorary title bestowed upon three researchers to add legitimacy to the short questionnaire.

Furthermore, the three sole members of the group all have substantial ties to the big players in the adult ADHD market. Dr. Lenard Adler, Dr. Ronald C. Kessler, and Dr. Thomas Spencer have all received substantial financial compensation through their overt loyalties to Big Pharma’s interests.

Dr. Adler is a consultant for Eli Lilly and Shire Pharmaceuticals, as well as Ritalin manufacturer Norvatis, and receives substantial compensation for being on the companies’ speaker’s bureaus to endorse their products. His adult ADHD research has also received substantial funding from these pharmaceutical conglomerates. Dr. Spencer is also a consultant and speaks for these companies’ drugs. In fact, he actually helped conduct clinical trials for Eli Lilly’s ADHD medication. Furthermore, Dr. Spencer came under federal scrutiny for not disclosing at least $1 million in earnings from drug companies between 2000 and 2007. If these undisclosed earnings are any indication, these researchers had much to gain by helping increasing ADHD prescriptions. While Dr. Kessler does not appear to have any ties to Norvatis, his financial and professional ties to Eli Lilly and Shire are almost analogous to his fellow researchers.

Adult ADHD Checklist Gets a Makeover to Expand Big Pharma’s Net

Despite explosive growth in adult ADHD prescriptions, Big Pharma decided that the 18-question checklist with shading to indicate what answers will provide a prescription was still allowing too many patients to slip away. Consequently, ADHD manufacturers tasked Dr. Adler, Dr. Spencer, and Dr. Kessler, along with additional researchers, with establishing adult ADHD as a common impairment.

To combat this disease, threatening to overtake the nation, they cut down indications of the affliction to six to make sure that physicians could medicate as many people as possible.

  1. Do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
  2. How often do you leave your seat in meetings and other situations where you should remain sitting?
  3. Do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
  4. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves?
  5. How often do you put things off until the last minute?
  6. How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?

This adjusted scale still has “correct” answers highlighted in gray and gives the response options of “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” or “very often.” However, physicians believe that this expanded ADHD definition could lead to over diagnosis, as many people who have these tendencies do not necessarily have the underlying condition.

 

 

 

Three of America’s Forefathers Died on the Fourth of July

By Emily Cox

In an eerie coincidence, three out of five of America’s first presidents’ lives faded on the Fourth of July, reflecting celebratory fireworks burning out against the nation’s sky.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both signed the Declaration of Independence…on August 2, 1776, despite the prevailing belief that the Forefathers signed this document on the Fourth of July.  Adams actually believed the day that America declared independence, July 2nd, would mark the anniversary of the nation’s birth rather than the day when the Continental Congress approved the drafting of the Declaration. Teenage James Monroe, who many historians consider a Founding Father, dropped out of college in 1776 to fight in the Revolutionary War. All these early American presidents passed away on July 4th. In fact, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other on the Fourth of July’s 50th anniversary.

Exactly five decades after the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia to approve the Declaration of Independence, Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826. The second and third presidents passed away within hours of each other with puzzling last words. While Adams spoke of Jefferson, Jefferson’s focus remained on the Fourth of July before rejecting his medicine and sending away his physician.

John Adams’ Final Fourth of July

On July 4, 1826, 90-year-old Adams summoned a clergyman. The History News Network reports that the former president instructed the cleric to tell the celebratory crowd, “Independence forever!” when he addressed them later. Adams died several hours after this. Eulogizers claim his last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives” or “Jefferson survives.”

However, the one person present for these words has a slightly different story. Louisa Smith, the 53-yeard-old niece and adopted daughter of Adam’s wife, later told Boston’s mayor’s wife “that the last words he distinctly spoke was the name ‘Thomas Jefferson.’” She was unable to decipher the rest of the sentence. So, while Adams mentioned Jefferson on his deathbed, eulogists may have supplied the word “survives.” Regardless, mysteriously enough, Adams uttered the man’s name moments after Jefferson died 500 miles away.

Thomas Jefferson May Have Chosen His Final Fourth

Jefferson slept through the day July 3, 1826. According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Monticello website, three men wrote on the events following his daytime slumber. Jefferson’s attending physician Robley Dunglison wrote that Jefferson asked him, “Is it the Fourth?” when he awoke that evening. Dunglison replied, “It soon will be.”

Nicholas Trist, Jefferson’s granddaughter’s husband, recorded Jefferson as asking, “This is the Fourth?” Trist wrote that he nodded, pretending that it was. In another slight variation, Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, stated that Jefferson woke and simply said, “This is the Fourth of July.”

Despite the nuances in the accounts of Jefferson’s final hours, he was clearly fixated on the Fourth.  At about 9 p.m. on July 3rd, Jefferson refused to take his medicine and sent his attending physician packing, saying “No doctor, nothing more.” At about 4 a.m., Randolph wrote that Jefferson called out to his servants and spoke with them. However, there are no records of these final goodbyes. Consequently, historians have chosen to accept his statements about the Fourth as his last words due to their implications. Once Jefferson believed he had made it until the Fourth of July, he gave up fighting and accepted a different kind of independence.

Fourth of July 1831 Sees the End of James Monroe

James Monroe, the fifth American president and the last of the Founding Fathers to hold the office, passed away five years after his brethren. He finally succumbed to heart failure and tuberculosis at his daughter’s house in New York City on July 4, 1831. Monroe was attempting to write an autobiography but found himself unable to complete it in the face of his deteriorating health after his wife died the year before. He uttered no ominous last words. However, people could not ignore that Monroe was the third president and Founding Father to die on the Fourth of July. Many Americans believed that the timing of these deaths went far beyond mere coincidence.

“Again our national anniversary has been marked by one of those events, which it may be scarcely permitted to ascribe the chance,” the Boston Traveler newspaper reported July 8, 1831.

“Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers,” the New York Evening Post wrote the day after Monroe’s death.

Americans Saw the Hand of God in Fourth of July Presidential Deaths

Religion was prominent in the lives of many Americans during the 1800s. In fact, during the late 1820s and early 1830s, an era known as the Second Great Awakening took off. Consequently, many Americans saw religious significance in the timing of the presidents’ deaths.

For example, in 1826, Massachusetts Representative Daniel Webster delivered a two-hour eulogy in Boston on the matter. He indicated that these deaths were a sign of God’s intervention to protect the country.

“As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?” Webster said.

Generally, scholars don’t approach unexplained phenomena. However, in 2005, historian Margaret Battin toyed with the meaning behind the same-day deaths of Adams and Jefferson. She offered six possibilities:

  • Coincidence
  • Suicide
  • Allowing one’s own death
  • Murder
  • “Hanging on” until July 4
  • Divine Intervention

However, all of these theories are purely speculative and lack historical evidence. Regardless, it’s been 186 years since the last U.S. president died on the Fourth of July. So, it appears that this particular fate was reserved for our Founding Fathers. Interestingly enough, the only president born on the Fourth of July initially secured the position when the current president died. When President Warren G. Harding passed away unexpectantly, Vice President Calvin Coolidge assumed the presidency.

 

 

Daily Roundup Exposure Could Be Life-Threatening

By Emily Cox
Roundup Exposure Can Be Deadly
Is Roundup Killing More Than Grass and Weeds?(Flickr/Mike Mozart)

According to one of the latest lawsuits against Monsanto over the popular weed killer, daily Roundup exposure for more than two decades caused an Oregon man to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Gary Couch filed the complaint in Delaware’s Superior Court this past Friday. He alleges that the agrochemical giant protected its economic interests rather than the public by misrepresenting the safety of Roundup, exposing countless innocent people to an unreasonably dangerous chemical. According to the lawsuit, Couch’s job as a project superintendent at Valenzuela Engineering involved almost daily Roundup exposure. Couch mixed and sprayed the chemical using a five-gallon backpack spray pump. In June 2015, Couch was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Numerous studies have found that Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, may cause this specific type of cancer. Couch is still undergoing treatment for the deadly disease. Even if Couch manages to survive NHL, he’ll never truly escape the cancer. The disease’s lasting effects will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“Plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, from serious and dangerous side effects including, but not limited to, NHL, as well as other severe and personal injuries which are permanent and lasting in nature, physical pain and mental anguish, diminished enjoyment of life, and financial expenses for hospitalization and medical care,” the lawsuit states.

“Further, Plaintiff suffered life-threatening NHL, and severe personal injuries, which are permanent and lasting in nature, physical pain and mental anguish, including diminished enjoyment of life.”

Round-up Exposure “Safer Than Table Salt”

In 1996, the New York Attorney General (NYAG) filed a lawsuit against Monsanto over Roundup product advertising misrepresenting the safety of the product line. Specifically, the NYAG challenged Monsanto’s assertions that its spray-on glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, were “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic” to mammals, birds, and fish. The lawsuit named numerous other such false and misleading statements that the NYAG found deceptive and misleading about the products’ human and environmental safety.

In November 1996, Monsanto entered into an Assurance of Discontinuence with the NYAG. The conglomerate agreed, among other things, to stop publishing or broadcasting any advertisements in New York that imply that Roundup exposure is “safe, non-toxic, harmless, or risk-free.” This extended to assertions that the chemical is “practically non-toxic” as well. Monsanto also had to cease and desist all New York marketing that Roundup is “good” for the environment or known for its environmental characteristics, as well as claims that the chemical is safer or less toxic than common consumer products. Monsanto did not alter its advertising in this manner in any state other than New York.

In 2009, France’s high court ruled that Monsanto had been deceitful about the safety of Roundup exposure.

California officials announced this Monday that state regulators will add Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, to a Californian list of potentially cancerous chemicals on July 7. While this won’t keep Roundup off fields or store shelves, it could mean a California warning label for Roundup. As early as next year, California could require Roundup to carry a warning label in the state. The label would warn that the chemical is known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

Roundup Exposure Lawsuits

The World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in 2015. Since then, hundreds of NHL patients like Couch have come forward to file lawsuits against Monsanto. These farmers, landscapers, and other agricultural works allege that extensive Roundup exposure gave them cancer. They further claim that they may have avoided their injuries if Monsanto had provided warnings about Roundup exposure risks.

Unfortunately, if H.R. 1215 passes the Senate, the life-long suffering from Roundup exposure injuries will go largely unacknowledged by the U.S. court system. The Protecting Access to Healthcare Act would impose a $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages. This means that individuals can only hope for fair compensation for medical costs and lost wages. The courts will not take Monsanto to task for causing continued pain and suffering.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday. but you can still help it stop it at the Senate. Your elected officials need to hear from you before H.R. 1215 strips us of some of  our most essential rights and protections. Tell them to vote NO before this bill can cause irreparable harm. You can easily write and call members of Congress by visiting www.takejusticeback.com/protectpatients.

Roundup Warning Label May Loom in Monsanto’s Future

By Emily Cox
Roundup Warning Label
Roots might not be the only things Roundup is killing. (Flickr/Mike Mozart)

California regulators took a crucial step this Monday toward becoming the first state to require the popular weed killer to come with a Roundup warning label, indicating that the chemical is known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

Officials announced that Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, will be added to a Californian list of potentially cancerous chemicals starting next Friday. Inclusion on this list will not keep the chemical off fields or garden store shelves. However, it could come with a California Roundup warning label as early as next year. However, California’s success in this endeavor is not a given.

The weed killer’s maker, Monsanto, has filed an appeal after failing to block the Roundup warning label in court. The company claims that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer and will harm the its business. Monsanto, which is soon to be absorbed by agrochemical giant Bayer, accused the state Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of “cherry-picking” the science to justify the warning label. A state Superior Court judge ruled against the company in Mach, clearing the way for Monday’s decision. State health regulators must also determine if the amount of the chemical in Roundup poses a human health risk. State officials have received more than 1,300 public comments regarding the matter.

California Roundup Warning Label Would Pack Big Punch

California Roundup Warning Label
More than 250 types of California crops use Roundup. (Flickr/Malcolm Carlaw)

Monsanto introduced the colorless and odorless chemical in 1974 as an effective way to kill weeds while leaving crops and plants intact. Today, more than 160 countries sell glyphosate. And, farmers use it on 250 types of California crops spread over 4 million acres. It is undoubtedly the most widely used herbicide in the state, according to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. California is the nation’s leading farming state. Consequently, a warning label on Roundup there could pack quite a punch into Roundup’s impressive revenue stream. Burbank, Irvine, and Glendale school districts have already banned the chemical from their properties.

Is Roundup Warning Label Necessary?

Despite Monsanto’s claims that Roundup is “safer than table salt,” there is much evidence to the contrary. Since the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” more than 800 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients and their loved ones have come forward and filed lawsuits against the agrochemical giant, alleging Roundup gave them cancer after extensive exposure to the product. Furthermore, an internal Monsanto company email indicated that an EPA official had even offered to “kill” a separate investigation into glyphosate. Since his retirement, this official has become a central figure in many of the lawsuits against Monsanto. Further studies have shown a strong carcinogenic link in animal research.

Environmental groups cheered OEHHA’s move to list the chemical and push to require a Roundup warning label.

“California’s decision makes it the national leader in protecting people from cancer-causing pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that has pushed to ban glyphosate. “The U.S. EPA now needs to step up and acknowledge that the world’s most transparent and science-based assessment has linked glyphosate to cancer.”

A Monsanto spokesman indicated that the company “will continue to aggressively challenge” the court’s ruling.

 

 

H.R. 1215 Removes Accountability from Healthcare Industry

By Emily Cox
H.R. 1215 Protects Big Pharma, Leaving Americans Vulnerable
Sunrise Over the House of Representatives (Flickr/Kevin Wolf)

Updated June 29, 2017 — While the Senate’s impending vote to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act has cast a thick shadow over much of the nation, lurking in its shadow is a much more nefarious opponent to the health and safety of Americans. In a startling development, despite no Democratic support and divided lines in the GOP, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1215 yesterday. Don’t let the bill’s innocuous title fool you. The Protecting Access to Care Act is a true wolf in sheep’s clothing. The bill could eliminate the ability of everyday people to take the healthcare industry, including Big Pharma, to task for egregious harms.

19 Republicans joined their Democratic brethren as the entire party stood opposed to H.R. 1215 on Wednesday. However, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide against the bill that leaves our most vulnerable citizens with little recourse for unimaginable harm while strengthening protections for an industry that is already practically bulletproof against liability actions.

In the face of unprecedented progressive and conservative opposition, as well as harsh amendments added Tuesday, the originally cruel bill has grown into a hulking monster over the past few months, threatening to devour American rights and protections. The bill would immunize the healthcare industry from retribution for most misconduct even at its most horrendous. This includes life-altering medical malpractice and even sexual assault by doctors, as well as nursing home abuse and neglect.

H.R. 1215 Values Our Lives…But Apparently, They’re Not Worth Much

Even the more benign aspects of the bill have horrifying implications. Even at the surface, H.R. 1215 will make it impossible for individuals seriously harmed by hospital negligence to be adequately compensated or even bring a case. The bill imposes a federal “cap” on “non-economic damages” that are usually awarded for injuries like mutilation, permanent disability, trauma, blindness, limb loss, and sexual or reproductive harm, as well as other types of pain and suffering. H.R. 1215 federally mandates that even the most severe non-economic injuries are worth exactly $250,000. This is the price tag for lifetimes of suffering for those harmed by the medical industry. It’s nothing short of appalling Congress has placed a finite monetary value on our lives, as well as those of our families, friends, and children.

What would your baby’s lifelong suffering be worth if she were severely burned and disfigured in a preventable operating room fire like Dahlia Ramirez? How about your life if doctors caused irreparable damage, resulting in a lifetime of pain and disfigurement? Congress thinks it should be a little less than what they make in a year and a half. The 2016 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year.

Such compensation caps are unconstitutional in many states. In fact, the 10th amendment allocates these types of decisions to the states. However, H.R. 1215 would force them on everyone regardless.

H.R. 1215 Is Truly A Gift to Big Pharma

Granted, 26 states already have these types of caps in place. However, few are as harsh as the federal mandate and many are constitutionally-questionable. Furthermore, as bad as some of these state laws are for patients, almost none of them limit liability for Big Pharma. In fact, the vast majority believe it’s inherently wrong to cap liability for the makers of unsafe drugs and medical devices. While Congress has hidden these additional measures, the legislation unquestionably affords it. It’s insidiously woven into the bill’s buried definition of “non-economic damages.” The definition applies the $250,000 cap to cases involving “the provision or use of (or failure to provide or use) health care services or medical products.” The bill goes on to clarify that “medical products” are a “drug, device, or biological product.” And the provisions to protect poor Big Pharma don’t stop there.

H.R. 1215 Further Pushes Against

H.R. 1215 also eliminates join liability for economic and non-economic loss, caps attorney fees, institutes a more restrictive statute of limitations, and mandates that plaintiffs cannot name doctors and pharmaceutical companies in the same suit.

Also, surely the courts would apply the $250,000 cap separately to each individual plaintiff in large actions with multiple plaintiffs, right? Wrong. It applies to the entire action, no matter how large. This would include mass torts, class actions, and multidistrict litigations. This means that $250,000 is supposed to cover the ongoing, sometimes lifelong, pain of hundreds or thousands of people injured by defective drugs or devices.

Unfortunately, House floor debate did nothing to improve the bill. The only amendments allowed were ones that made the bill worse for patients. The House didn’t even allow any Democratic amendments.

Stand Against H.R. 1215

We cannot sit idly by while H.R. 1215 tears down some of our most essential protections and safeguards to protect an industry that already has more liability protections than any other group in the nation. With the Affordable Care Act vote pushed back to July, the time to act is now. The bill may have passed the House. But the divided vote sends a clear message to the Senate that the bill is embroiled in controversy and is simply bad policy. Your voice adds strength to this message and could be the one that finally tips the scales.

Your elected officials need to hear from you to preserve your rights. Tell them to vote NO before this bill can cause irreparable harm. You can easily write and call members of Congress by visiting www.takejusticeback.com/protectpatients.

 

 

Jurisdiction in Securities Lawsuits to Come Before Supreme Court

By Emily Cox
Securities State Jurisdiction to Come Before Supreme Court
Flickr/Matt Wade

On the heels of limiting state jurisdiction in general mass torts, the Supreme Court on Tuesday accepted network support products provider Cyan Inc.’s petition to review state court jurisdiction to hear security offerings’ investor suits, finally resolving an issue that has divided lower courts.

The court will decide whether the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) strips state court jurisdiction over cases that allege claims only under the Securities Act of 1933. SLUSA amendments to the Securities Act indicate that state and federal courts have co-current jurisdiction over federal claims. However, covered class actions are an exception. Cyan claims that if the case doesn’t assert any state law claims, then the action needs to be remanded to district court. These courts are historically more favorable towards corporate defendants.

The underlying action in Cyan, Inc v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund began in June 2014. Purported purchasers of Cyan’s stock filed a putative class action in California state court, claiming violations of Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act. However, no state laws were asserted. Cyan immediately moved for judgement. The company argued that SLUSA deprived the state court of subject matter jurisdiction over covered class actions. These are defined in Section 77p as any suit with more than 50 people seeing damages.

However, investors interpreted the law differently. They responded that the exception only removes co-current jurisdiction over class actions brought under state law that allege either false statements and omissions or deception and manipulation connected to purchases or sales of covered securities. SLUSA subsection, Section 77p(b), explicitly prohibits federal and state courts from both hearing these types of cases. This restricts plaintiffs from using state law to delineate federal limitations on securities suits.

Solicitor General Weighs in on Securities Lawsuit Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court asked the solicitor general’s office to review the petition in October. Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall returned with a brief in May with the conclusion that the language in the exception didn’t support Cyan’s interpretation. However, he did concede that the statute does authorize the remanding of federal 1933 Act claims to federal court when they involve allegations that state law prohibits plaintiffs from bringing in state court.

The certiorari grant comes one day after the high court established a strict time limit on securities suits. The justices based the 5-4 decision on another case related to the 1933 Act. In CalPERS v. ANZ Securities, the court ruled that the three-year time limit on claims brought under the act is a statute of repose that class action filing cannot negate. This means that individuals who participate in securities class actions will have to file individual lawsuits as well in order to protect their opt-out rights and in case of class decertification.

Cyan is the second securities class action case the justices will review for the 2017 term. The Supreme Court also granted contractor Leidos Inc’s petition. They will review whether courts can be hold companies responsible for securities fraud under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for omitting disclosures required by a Securities and Exchange Commission provision.

 

Supreme Court Partially Unblocks Trump’s Travel Ban

By Emily Cox

The Supreme Court capped off a busy term of tightening restrictions on mass torts by partially reinstating the White House’s travel ban on refugees and citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

Travel Ban Protest
February Travel Ban Protest in Washington (Flickr/Ted Eytan)

 

 

 

 

On the last day of its term on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the travel ban case when its new term starts in October. Given the gravity of the associated issues, this comes as no surprise. However, the court’s unanimous decision to allow parts of the order to go into effect until then gave pause to much of the nation. The entire court ruled that the order would take effect for people with no bona fide relationship with the U.S. Consequently, people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen with no formal relationship with the U.S. cannot enter the country for the next 90 days. Furthermore, no refugees from any country can enter the U.S. for 120 days without a documented relationship to America. However, immigrants’ rights advocates argue that refugees do have a relationship with American refugee organizations.

Travel Ban Exceptions

Debate on how many people this development will affect and what exactly constitutes a credible claim of a “bona fide relationship” has already embroiled the nation. But, the court offered some guidance:

  • Students admitted to an American university.
  • Foreign nationals who want to enter the U.S. to live with family members. The court specified that this must be a close familial relationship
  • Anyone who has accepted a job offer from an American company.
  • Lecturers invited to address an American audience.

The court further clarified that the relationship must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban. This means, for instance, that a nonprofit immigration advocate cannot put foreign nations on their client lists, claiming exemption from the ban.

What’s Next for the Travel Ban?

Trump signed a memorandum earlier this month that allows administration officials to begin implementing court-approved parts of the order 72 hours after the court rules. This means that the travel ban could go into effect as early as Thursday. How these officials go about implementing the ban could result in the same chaos that ensnared worldwide airports when Trump executed his first iteration of the travel ban in January before lower courts blocked it.

The Department of Homeland Security released a statement indicating that it would coordinate with the Justice and State departments to implement the ban “professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in a coordination with partners in the travel industry.”

The Supreme Court held that refugees with “concrete hardship” could seek safety in the U.S.  However, in the end, this means absolutely nothing if they cannot claim “any such connection the United States.”

Those with a “concrete hardship” but without one of the outlined relationships to the U.S. will be turned away “in favor of the government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.”

T is for Triumph…Trump…and Travel Ban

Trump issued his first travel ban executive order one week into his term. The ban barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. He wished to block all refugees for 120 days. He claimed this was a stop gag measure until the administration could develop better vetting procedures.

Lower courts rose up against the order, questioning its constitutionality and blocking its implementation. Trump revised the order in March, calling it “watered down” and “politically correct.” The revised order excluded Iraq from the travel ban and attempted to clarify problems with the first order that created uncertainty with the rights of dual citizens and U.S. visa holders. However, lower courts used Trump’s own words against him as justification to stop the revised ban from taking effect. The Supreme Court did not cite Trump’s campaign rhetoric, calling for the “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. The court also did not take his presidential statements into account in their decision. Consequently, experts agree that the President has the best chance at winning at the Supreme Court.

“This is about the executive order itself. It is not about the campaign or anything else,” CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

Trump is significantly short on political victories in his presidency and facing scandal with virtually every off-the-cuff tweet. So, President Trump’s pleasure with the Supreme Court’s decision comes as little surprise. He is already counting the high court’s announcement as a definitive win. He even went so far to call it a “clear victory for our national security.”

T Is for…Temporary Travel Ban?

However, opposition to the ban isn’t waving a white flag or admitting defeat quite yet. In response to Trump’s victorious claims, the ACLU tweeted, “No, @POTUS, today’s Supreme Court decision does not allow your travel ban to take effect. We look forward to seeing you in court.”

Admittedly, the high court conceded some ground to the White House. However, the justices managed to make significant concessions to ban opponents as well in narrowing the scope of the order. It is already extremely difficult to get a visa to the U.S. from most developing countries. The right family connections or justifications such as employment or American university enrollment are already practically prerequisites. Consequently, the people likely to be affected by the current ban is drastically diminished.

Furthermore, this compromise only remains in effect until October when the high court will hear arguments. Trump drafted the executive order as a temporary solution while the White House administration revamped vetting procedures. As a result, the court could rule that the need for such a blanket ban is no longer needed. Furthermore, no one has died in a terrorist attack on American soil carried out by a citizen from one of the six nations covered by the ban. Also, since the Refugee Act of 1980 established a system to vet refugees to the U.S., no refugee the U.S. has accepted has been involved in a fatal terrorist attack. Travel ban critics have also noted other “terror-prone” nations conspicuous absence from the order. These include Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Singling out immigrants, tourists, and refugees based on nationality will do little to keep the U.S. safe. But, it could tear the nation’s reputation abroad to shreds.

 

 

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