Monthly Archives:' November 2015

‘I Lied About Toxic Chemicals for Exxon, DuPont, and Their Lobbyists’

A trade group, backed by oil and chemical giants, denied it was behind a campaign to block regulations of potentially toxic flame retardants. But an insider has finally come clean.

By: David Heath, Center for Public Integrity; Source: The Daily Beast.

The chemical industry’s powerful trade group, the American Chemistry Council, has long maintained that it had nothing to do with an enormously successful but deceitful lobbying effort in state capitals to defend the use of potentially ineffective and toxic flame retardants in furniture.

Now, in a rare breaking of ranks, a top industry consultant is discrediting that story—and in so doing providing a window into the shadowy world of corporate advocacy and its use of front groups that aren’t what they appear.

Texas Bans Local Fracking Restrictions


Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on Tuesday a measure that blocks local ordinances against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The move is in response to a fracking ban passed by voters in November in the town of Denton. “This law ensures that Texas avoids a patchwork quilt of regulations that differ from region to region, differ from county to county or city to city,” Abbott said in a statement. It “strikes a meaningful and correct balance between local control and preserving the state’s authority to ensure that regulations are even-handed and do no hamper job creation,” he said.

Read more at The Hill.

Duke Energy Pleads Guilty to Nine Environmental Crimes, Agrees to Pay $102 Million

By: Ari Phillips, Source: Think Progress.

Duke Energy plead guilty to nine federal misdemeanors related to illegally discharging pollution from coal ash ponds in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, and agreed to pay $102 million in fines and restitution.

Federal prosecutors charged Duke with the nine violations of the Clean Water Act in February,asserting that the company had been illegally dumping coal ash from five of its North Carolina power plants since at least 2010.

South Carolina police refuse to release video of officer killing man in driveway

White officer followed African American Ernest Satterwhite, 68, home last year and ensuing shooting was caught on dashcam

By: Associated Press in SC, Source: The Guardian.

When a white police officer in South Carolina chased a black man nine miles by car, then shot him to death in his driveway last year, the shooting apparently was captured on the officer’s dashboard camera – a video that state police have steadfastly refused to release.

North Augusta officer Justin Craven tried to pull 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite over for drunken driving, then followed him with blue lights to his home after Satterwhite refused to stop in February 2014, authorities said.

When Satterwhite stopped in his driveway, Craven ran up to his car and fired several shots through the closed door, telling deputies later that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun, according to a report from Edgefield County deputies who joined the chase after it crossed the county line.

Fracking Increases Quakes in 8 States


Man-made activities like fracking have triggered a sharp increase in earthquakes since 2009 in the central and eastern U.S., according to a new report from the United States Geological Survey. “The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells,” the USGS said. Scientists have identified 17 areas within eight states—Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas—with increased levels of man-induced seismicity. “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby,” Mark Petersen of the USGS said.

Read more at US Geological Service.

As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret

By: Binyamin Appelbaum, Source: The New York Times.

WASHINGTON — As the players here remake the nation’s vast regulatory system, they have been grappling with a subject that is more the province of poets and philosophers than bureaucrats: what is the value of a human life?

The answer determines how much spending the government should require to prevent a single death.

To protests from business and praise from unions, environmentalists and consumer groups, one agency after another has ratcheted up the price of life, justifying tougher — and more costly — standards.

‘My Daughter Was Covered in Welts’: A Mom’s Fight for Cameras in Classrooms

Children with disabilities suffer abuse by teachers at a much higher rate than typical kids. And when they’re non-verbal, parents are left wondering what happened.

By: Elizabeth Picciuto, Source: The Daily Beast.

In June, Texas became the first state in the U.S. to require cameras in certain classrooms—specifically those that serve primarily students with special needs. Now, parents in other states across the country are clamoring for similar laws, including this mom in Kentucky who has over 70,000 signatures on petition.

According to the petition, Kristen Wilcox’s daughter Shelby—who is non-verbal—came home from school “covered in welts.” Wilcox found out Shelby had been restrained in a “wooden high chair,” and that she was no longer receiving a modified curriculum. Instead, she was expected to “process advanced concepts like fractions, rhombuses, and photosynthesis.” Shelby, as her mother explains, doesn’t fully comprehend the alphabet, numbers, or shapes.

How Prosecutors Get Away With Cutting Black Jurors

This term, the Supreme Court will consider an outrageous case of prosecutorial misconduct. But will it do anything about it?

By: Jay Michaelson, Source: The Daily Beast.

A curious thing happened at the trial of Timothy Tyrone Foster, a young black man accused of killing an elderly white woman: Every black prospective juror was dismissed. Foster was convicted, and sentenced to death, by an all-white jury.

Even more curious: There were 42 prospective jurors that morning, five of whom were black. All dismissed, four of whom by “peremptory challenge,” in which theprosecutor strikes a juror at his or her discretion. In Georgia, where Foster’s trial took place, prosecutors have 10 such options.

Peremptory challenges were entirely unreviewable for most of American history. That was their function: In addition to dismissals with reasons, they were meant to give prosecutors and defense attorneys (in Georgia, defense attorneys get 20 such challenges) leeway to strike potentially problematic jurors without explanation.

Cause for Celebration: Idaho "Ag-Gag" Statute Struck Down

First such law to be ruled unconstitutional

By Leslie BruecknerSenior Attorney. Source.

In a landmark ruling issued today, an Idaho federal court struck down the State’s controversial “ag-gag” statute on federal constitutional grounds, holding that it violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. This is the first ruling in the country on the constitutionality of such laws, which have been proposed or enacted in more than a dozen states in recent years at the behest of animal industry lobbyists—with more in the legislative pipeline.

Idaho’s ag-gag statute makes it a crime to conduct an undercover investigation at an Idaho agricultural facility. Under this law, journalists, workers, activists, and members of the public can be convicted for videotaping animal cruelty or life-threatening safety violations.

Is Advair, the Ultra-Popular Asthma Drug, Really Safe?

Millions already take Advair to breathe easy, despite the drug’s “risk of asthma-related death.” Why has it taken the feds more than two decades to fully study those risks?

By: Jeff Gerth, ProPublica, Source: The Daily Beast.

Advair is one of the biggest blockbusters in pharmaceutical history.

The asthma drug has generated more than $80 billion in global revenues for its maker, GlaxoSmithKline, since its U.S. approval in 2000. With its distinctive purple inhaler, Advair has helped legions of asthma sufferers achieve control of their symptoms.

But recent federal research suggests that a significant percentage of asthma patients begin using Advair inappropriately, taking on what the drug’s label describes as an increased “risk of asthma-related death” from one of its two ingredients.