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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Do No Harm

Open Letter to the CEO of BP from a Brooklyn Buddhist.

(thanks to Huffington Post)

Josh Schrei

Josh Schrei

Posted: May 27, 2010 08:51 AM

"The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living."
--Thich Nat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk

"I had my eyes opened. I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero-accountability. I came to realize that I had more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries."
--"Tony Stark," Iron Man

Dear Mr. Hayward:

We have never formally met, but in the fall of 2000 I attended BP's annual shareholder meeting in London at which you -- though not yet CEO -- were present. At the time, I was there to raise concerns over BP's investment in a PetroChina pipeline across the Tibetan plateau, which many individuals of conscience around the world felt would be an environmental and political disaster. The investment, no surprise, went through, despite widespread shareholder concern. And the results, no surprise either, have been pretty much as predicted.

That was an important and exciting year for your company. In a massive makeover, the archaic and somewhat intimidating BP shield morphed into something far fresher and more consumer friendly -- a blooming green and yellow sunflower, indicative of the company's dedication to moving "beyond petroleum." The campaign worked well. Up until last month, when consumers were asked to name the "greenest" oil company, yours continually came out on top. Amazing what a little splash of color can do.

However, those of us who were at that meeting were privy to a very different reality -- namely the admitted fact that your company actually had little intention of truly moving "beyond petroleum." At one point during the meeting, when fielding questions over the level of BP's commitment to alternative energy, the chair of your board -- bizarrely underlit like Dr. Strangelove and seated in a futuristic looking plexiglass pod -- proudly stated: "Just because we have changed our slogan to Beyond Petroleum does not change the fact that our primary function as a company is and will remain the extraction and distribution of hydrocarbons."

Nothing like telling it like it is.

Fast forward ten years. Today, your company's failure to move in any meaningful way towards greener practices, environmental safeguards, and alternative energy sources has directly resulted in what can only be called an unmitigated disaster. A disaster which -- beyond the immediate and long-term environmental repercussions -- represents a far deeper crisis in basic human ethics. The crisis is this, Tony: your livelihood is directly based on the distribution of a substance that poisons, kills, and destroys. And ultimately, in the face of a mounting global crisis of climate change and environmental degradation, for anyone in your industry to continue business as usual is 100-percent morally indefensible. It is beyond time for humanity to get off oil. That change has to start quickly, and it has to start with with people like you.

In the complex web of economic interconnectedness, it is easy to remove responsibility from individual people, since it is rarely one individual who directly causes a disaster like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also easy to point to a company's responsibility to its shareholders and mark quarterly profit as the ultimate measure of appropriate action. It is easy to divorce ethical concerns such as the environment and human rights as secondary to this prime responsibility. It is easy to point to the large global demand for oil and to feel comfortable that your company is supplying that demand and that it is therefore not you who are responsible for the consequences of your poisonous tar, that it is a burden of responsibility we all share as an oil-dependent society.

Yeah, it may be easy to think this way, but it is wrong. You are responsible. You are directly responsible.

Systems are made up of individuals, and individuals have choice. History is full of individuals who in the face of ethical dilemmas chose the higher path. History fondly remembers such Schindlers of years past. Those who continue on with business as usual and therefore become accomplices and instigators of unthinkable destruction are also remembered by history, with quite different names. Quite often they are called traitors.

How will our children, and their children, and their children generations beyond remember us if our greatest defining legacy is that given all the facts we had on the table about the environmental consequences of our actions and our lifestyles, we continued on as if nothing was wrong? More to the point, how will they remember you?

In the Buddhist worldview of my upbringing, the livelihood of a human being must be based on one basic criterion -- do no harm. The more complex the economy of our world becomes -- and the more fragile its environment -- the more vital it is for individuals to personally adopt this ethical outlook and this way of living. When trapped in a system of quarterly profits and immediate demand, individuals of vision must take action and carve a legacy rather than wait for one to be written for them. It is your ethical responsibility, as the CEO of a company that is, as I write, committing unimaginable harm in the oceans and wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico and among its fishing communities, to re-earn the trust of the people of world by changing your company to one that does no harm.

How does this look in the real world? It means a far more aggressive, far more substantive move to alternative energy investment, starting now. Our oil policy can no longer be one of using it until its gone and dropping a few research dollars in place along the way. We need a comprehensive plan to get us off of it. It means calling for a moratorium on offshore drilling. It means shutting down the Atlantis rig in the gulf, which your own internal investigators have concluded is a safety risk.... Read the rest on HuffPo

Don't be a mess. Do the right thing. And do no harm.

Josh Schrei
May 27, 2010

Follow Josh Schrei on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brooklynjosh

"The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode ...
"The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode ...


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Please, Pres. O! Don't listen to the spin that drags us to the MIDDLE.

The middle is the quickest way down the drain. The only path to "middle" or "centrist" way is to create a more solid progressive agenda on the left. We musn't court the conservatives who WILL NOT change their minds or break ranks.


Read this article at   t  r  u  t  h  o  u  t


President Obama, Remember Who Your Friends Are

by: Staff, t r u t h o u t | Editorial

President Obama plays basketball with members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries at the White House in October, 2009. (Image: White House)

In the wake of a crushing Democratic defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race, we find ourselves faced with the one-year anniversary of a spirit-changing day in the history of the United States, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This odd confluence of events provides an opening for a very timely warning: It is time to remember who your friends are, Mr. President.

Your friends are not the suits on Wall Street, the same ones who fooled Timothy Geithner for years. Your friends are not the timid centrists, who Rahm Emanuel coddles. Your friends are not the giants of the mortgage industry, who fought you tooth and nail to keep the foreclosure crisis out of the courts. Your friend is not George W. Bush, whose crimes you continue to conceal.

Your friends are the progressives across this country, who, when you asked for their faith and inspired them with beautiful words, placed you on their shoulders and carried you to a historic victory.

The progressive movement needs results - we're too smart to be placated and spun. We're too cynical - and too determined - to compromise. And, soon, we'll be too jaded to believe that Democrats are anything but limp windsocks, pointing whichever way the wind blows.

Some have already walked away, according to a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, which states that 45 percent of Democrats are not likely to vote in the 2010 election.

We know that, in your heart, you're one of us. Your heart is the element you seem to have forgotten, the element we miss. You used to wear it on your sleeve; we could hear it pounding in your chest when you spoke.

We heard your heart during your 2002 speech at a Chicago antiwar rally, when you called out the "arm-chair, weekend warriors" in Washington for keeping our soldiers engaged in a "dumb war, a rash war." We heard your heart during your 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, when you said of the American people, "They know we can do better." We heard it beating loud and clear on New Hampshire Primary Night, when you spoke of true progress, saying, "Whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction."

And upon your inauguration, one year ago today, we dared to believe you when you said, "The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history."

The right wing thrives on vitriol, hate and divisiveness. When the bile they spew goes unchallenged, their disease infects the people around them. They will not lie down, Mr. President. You are going to have to put them down - with true progressive action, not the frail rhetoric of appeasement.

No one has ever proclaimed a die-hard commitment to centrism. No one has ever held a rally to support bipartisanship. Those are Washington DC catchphrases that mean nothing, serving only as a fog for professional politicians huddling together inside the beltway, too timid and too immersed in campaign logic to stand for anything.

Your job is not to get re-elected in 2012, Mr. President. Your job is to fight tomorrow and then fight the next day. If you're constantly looking up at the scoreboard, worrying about the outcome, you're going to trip over your own laces. Watch the shot clock instead, and fire up three-pointers like you know they're going to sink every time. Get in your opponents' faces and make them work for every single point.

You have a choice now, Mr. President. With your help, 2010 could usher in a host of substantive policy changes: better health care access for millions of Americans, a strategic path to peace in Iraq and Afghanistan and a resounding series of Democratic victories in the midterm elections. However, if you stand aside and fail to challenge every shot, 2010 could give way to a fractured, crumbling Democratic Party - and the re-emergence of a vicious, feudal corporatism.

Choose our better history.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Full-Body Scanners May Damage Human DNA

Thanks to Truthout...

by: Mike Adams  |  NaturalNews.com

In researching the biological effects of the millimeter wave scanners used for whole body imaging at airports, NaturalNews has learned that the energy emitted by the machines may damage human DNA.

Millimeter wave machines represent one of two primary technologies currently being used for the "digital strip searches" being conducted at airports around the world. "The Transportation Security Administration utilizes two technologies to capture naked images of air travelers - backscatter x-ray technology and millimeter wave technology," reports the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit currently suing the U.S. government to stop these electronic strip searches.

In order to generate the nude image of the human body, these machines emit terahertz photons -- high-frequency energy "particles" that can pass through clothing and body tissue.

The manufacturers of such machines claim they are perfectly safe and present no health risks, but a study conducted by Boian S. Alexandrov (and colleagues) at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico showed that these terahertz waves could "...unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication."

In layman's terms, any time you're talking about interfering with "gene expression" and "DNA replication," you're essentially talking about something that could be a risk to human health.

Never Approved as Safe for Humans

"At first glance, it's easy to dismiss any notion that they can be damaging," reports TechnologyReview.com. "But a new generation of cameras are set to appear that not only record terahertz waves but also bombard us with them. And if our exposure is set to increase, the question that urgently needs answering is what level of terahertz exposure is safe."

And yet no such long-term safety testing has ever been conducted by a third party. There have been no clinical trials indicating that multiple exposures to such terahertz waves, accumulated over a long period of time, are safe for humans. The FDA, in particular, has never granted its approval for any such devices even though these devices clearly qualify as "medical devices."

(If you try to sell an X-ray imaging device yourself, without FDA approval, you'll be arrested. So why do these TSA suppliers get away with selling human body imaging equipment that has never been adequately safety tested or approved by the FDA?)

The study cited in the TechnologyReview article mentioned above is visible here.

There, study authors conclude: "Based on our results we argue that a specific terahertz radiation exposure may significantly affect the natural dynamics of DNA, and thereby influence intricate molecular processes involved in gene expression and DNA replication."

In other words, millimeter wave scanning devices may damage your DNA.

(These images depict what the TSA sees when air passengers are subjected to full-body scans using millimeter wave technology and / or backscatter X-rays.)

Could These Scans Cause Cancer and Birth Defects?

Could these scans cause infertility? Cancer? Shortened lifespan? We don't yet know the answers to these questions, but then again neither does the TSA. This technology is being recklessly rolled out without adequate safety testing that would prove it safe for long-term use.

How many times in the past have the "experts" told us technologies were perfectly safe and then later we found out they were dangerous? X-Rays were once used in shoe stores to see if new shoes would fit the bone structure of your feet. High-voltage power lines are perfectly safe, we're told -- but then why do children who live closer to those lines have higher rates of cancer?

Dentists still claim that mercury fillings are perfectly safe for your health -- a preposterous notion -- and cell phone companies continue to insist that cell phone radiation isn't hazardous to your health at all. Time and time again, the public has been lied to by the authorities during the roll-out of some new technology. Why should we believe that full-body scanners are safe when they've never been proven safe? Furthermore, there is now reason to believe they may damage human DNA.

What if the experts are wrong about their safety and ten years later we find out that there is cumulative DNA damage that causes infertility and cancer? What if air travelers who subject themselves to this radiation wind up suffering some currently-unknown health condition as a result? At no time in the history of human civilization have large numbers of humans ever been subjected to terahertz bombardment of this type and frequency.

Sure, you can argue that you get more radiation sitting in an airplane at high altitude than you get from a full-body scanner, or you can explain that cell phones emit far more radiation on the whole (which they do, when you're talking on them anyway). But if there's one thing we all should have learned about radiation by now it's that frequencies matter. The terahertz frequencies have never been rolled out en masse in a scanning technology. Who's to say they're going to be safe?

What about pregnant women? Can the TSA absolutely guarantee that these full-body scanners won't damage the DNA of the unborn babies? What if this technology becomes the next Thalidomide and ten months from now women start giving birth to mutant babies who were damaged by terahertz radiation?

I'm not saying this is going to happen, but wouldn't it be wise to determine the safety of this technology in advance of its global rollout?

Read more at truthout.org

Friday, October 16, 2009

Call you Senators to insist on the Public Option

It is NOT too late.

Snowe Job? Insider Says Senator Is "Disingenuous or Naive"

by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | Report


Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast health insurers' dirty secret.
Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast health insurers' dirty secret. (Photo: Fighting Bob Fest)


Special Feature: Listen to Greg Palast's exclusive interview with health insurance company whistleblower Wendell Potter. Press play below to hear the clip.

Also, read Greg Palast's expert analysis,
The S-Word and Dr. Kevorkian's Accountant.

Former insurance executive Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast, in an exclusive interview for Truthout.org, that "the system's rigged" to kill off so-called "health cooperatives." Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine cast the only Republican vote on the Senate Finance Committee for the Obama health care plan, but only on the condition that Democrats drop their demand for a "public option" insurer in favor of private doctor/hospital cooperatives.

Earlier today, Potter told Truthout.org that the senator's plan is "disingenuous or naive," because, in most states, "the system's rigged" to lock up all patients under one for-profit monopoly. While a publicly-funded insurer might succeed in forcing insurers to cut premium charges, Snowe's cooperatives "don't stand a snowball's chance" of competing against the for-profit monopolies.

Potter, once vice president of CIGNA, told Truthout.org that, "The insurance industry, if it were honest" would admit that it "loves" the Senate Finance Committee's version of the health care legislation as the bill provides nearly half a trillion dollars ($461 billion) in subsidy payments directly from the Treasury to the industry.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm so done with hearing stories like this...


Real "Norma Rae" Dies of Cancer After Insurer Delayed Treatment

by: Sue Sturgis  |  Facing South

Thanks of course to   t r u t h o u t


A screenshot of Sally Field in the film "Norma Rae." The North Carolina union organizer who inspired the movie died on Friday of brain cancer. (Photo: shavawnmarie / Flickr)

The North Carolina union organizer who was the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae" died on Friday of brain cancer after a battle with her insurance company, which delayed her treatment. She was 68.

Crystal Lee Sutton, formerly Crystal Lee Jordan, was fired from her job folding towels at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in her hometown of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. for trying to organize a union in the early 1970s. Her last action at the plant -- writing the word "UNION" on a piece of cardboard and standing on her work table, leading her co-workers to turn off their machines in solidarity -- was memorialized in the 1979 film by actress Sally Field. The police physically removed Sutton from the plant for her action.

But her efforts ultimately succeeded, as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers won the right to represent the plant's employees on Aug. 28, 1974. Sutton later became a paid organizer for the union, which through a series of mergers became part of UNITE HERE before splitting off this year to form Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

Several years ago, Sutton was diagnosed with meningioma, a type of cancer of the nervous system. While such cancers are typically slow-growing, Sutton's was not -- and she went two months without potentially life-saving medication because her insurance wouldn't cover it initially. Sutton told the Burlington (N.C.) Times-News last year that the insurer's behavior was an example of abuse of the working poor:

"How in the world can it take so long to find out [whether they would cover the medicine or not] when it could be a matter of life or death," she said. "It is almost like, in a way, committing murder."

Though Sutton eventually received the medication, the cancer had already taken hold. She passed away on Friday, Sept. 11 in a Burlington, N.C. hospice.

"Crystal Lee Sutton was a remarkable woman whose brave struggles have left a lasting impact on this country and without doubt, on me personally," Field said in a statement released Friday. "Portraying Crystal Lee in 'Norma Rae,' however loosely based, not only elevated me as an actress, but as a human being."

Read the rest at   t r u t h o u t

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