Blogs

Criminal Charges Against Pfizer In Nigeria

| Thu May 31, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

Nigeria is bringing criminal charges against Pfizer pharmaceuticals in the wake of its 1996 drug testing during a meningitis epidemic. The Washington Post reports that authorities filed eight charges this month, including counts of criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous harm. They also filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $2 billion in damages from the world's largest drug company.

The move represents a rare -- perhaps unprecedented -- instance in which the developing world's anger at multinational drug companies has boiled over into criminal charges. The government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffmann-La Roche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer's actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain-damaged. The lawsuit says that the researchers did not obtain consent from the children's families and that the researchers knew Trovan to be an experimental drug with life-threatening side effects that was "unfit for human use." Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria.

Here's a link to a bunch of MoJo coverage of Big Pharma's trixsy ways. --JULIA WHITTY

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Extinction Stinks

| Thu May 31, 2007 4:19 PM EDT

500 Years Of Women In Art

| Thu May 31, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

NASA Finds Earth's Climate Approaching Dangerous Point

| Thu May 31, 2007 3:16 PM EDT

NASA and Columbia University Earth Institute research finds that human-made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth's climate close to critical tipping points. Using climate models, satellite data, and paleoclimate records, the scientists conclude that the West Antarctic ice sheet, Arctic ice cover, and regions providing fresh water sources and species habitat are under threat from continued global warming. Lead author James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, concludes: "If global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise at the rate of the past decade, this research shows that there will be disastrous effects, including increasingly rapid sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones."

Meanwhile, GW Bush appears to have woken from his Rip-Van-Winkle slumber and is proffering ideas to the world that the world has already processed & left to the dust of history. Somebody give him a cup of coffee, please, and brief him on the fact the G-8 already has proposals on the table ready to be acted on NOW. The only thing holding them up? His administration. --JULIA WHITTY

Iraq's a Disaster, NCLB Not Far Behind

| Thu May 31, 2007 2:35 PM EDT

This week's Time offers up its take on how to fix No Child Left Behind. The piece is a good primer on all-things NCLB; worth a read if, a) You don't know much about it but you're curious, or b) You need a refresher course on where things stand in 2007.

To fix NCLB, Time suggests that schools go beyond basic NCLB and Adequate Yearly Progress jargon when reporting on their school's progress and provide a fuller, more descriptive picture of school quality. Agreed, but guess what? More expansive reporting requirements are costly and give teachers less time and energy for teaching.

The article also suggests stopping the Feds from slapping "failure" labels on schools and investing in more localized remedies. Great idea. Who likes being told they're a loser? Try investing in local, neighborhood organizations that are already in the school trenches but doing so on shoestring budgets. Solid, community relationships are often already in place, so a little bit of cash from D.C. could go a long way.

Mentioned in the piece are David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, authors of Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools, who say that Bush's NCLB policies are as ineffective as his policies in Iraq. Harsh, maybe, but considering that they found evidence of administrators falsifying test data and forcing low-scoring students out of their schools to avoid public humiliation, maybe they're about right.

Time points out that where Europe has a uniform national curriculum and national tests, state and local jurisdiction is still prominent in the states. In response to state autonomy, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings reacted by saying, "Do you really want me sitting in Washington working on how we teach evolution or creationism? I don't want to!"

Umm, no, we probably don't want you meddling in how, and if, for that matter, teachers teach evolution or creationism. You don't have a teaching credential, so that would be against your own rules.

—Gary Moskowitz

Interim U.S. Attn. and Rove Protege Timothy Griffin Resigns

| Thu May 31, 2007 1:25 PM EDT

I wrote yesterday about the rumors that Thompson's campaign-to-be was courting Karl Rove lackey and interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Timothy Griffin. Griffin's appointment caused a stir as it became apparent during the imbroglio that is the U.S. Attorneys scandal that Bud Cummins (the former U.S. Attn. Griffin replaced) had been forced out to make way for a Rove protégé. Yesterday, the Arkansas Times blog (thanks to ThinkProgress for spotting this) reports that Griffin has resigned, effective June 1. No word on whether he is joining the Thompson campaign, but the timing seems opportune, no? Griffin is the young prosecutor Monica Goodling mentioned in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week. According to Goodling, former coworker Paul McNulty was being untruthful when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February that he knew nothing of Griffin's involvement in "caging" (a voter suppression technique). I stand by what I said yesterday. This not the best move for Thompson's campaign. Stay tuned.

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FOX Loves New Debate Lineup: Biden, Kucinich, and Gravel

| Thu May 31, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

You've probably heard about this FOX News debate that is slowly bleeding participants. You see, it's a debate for the Democrats, and while some Dems thought it might be a good idea to get their ideas in front of FOX's largely conservative viewership, others felt it legitimized FOX's place at the serious-news table. And serious news FOX is not.

So everyone's been bailing. Edwards, Obama, and Clinton left a while back. Now, Richardson and Dodd have announced they will not participate either. So who's left? Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden.

You're kidding yourself if you don't think this will be the most entertaining debate of the season. FOX would probably just cancel it if they weren't certain this circus will make Democrats look completely silly and extremist.

George Bush is Concerned About America Losing its Soul

| Thu May 31, 2007 10:56 AM EDT

Dan Froomkin notes at White House Watch that George Bush was recently asked why he cares so much about the issue of immigration.

"I'm deeply concerned about America losing its soul," Bush said. "Immigration has been the lifeblood of a lot of our country's history." He added: "If we don't solve the problem it's going to affect America. It will affect our economy and it will affect our soul."

He was not concerned about our soul when he mislead a country into war and questioned the patriotism of anyone who objected, nor when he failed to provide health care for the wounded of that war, nor when he suspended habeas corpus, nor when he fought Congress to keep it from passing an anti-torture bill. He was not concerned when he authorized the government to spy on American citizens, nor when the Abu Ghraib photos were released, nor when he underfunded the very education reform bill he touts as his greatest domestic achievement. He was not concerned when federal agencies left a city to drown, nor when Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham turned Congress into a cash register, nor when a congressman was exposed preying on little boys. He was not concerned when he rang up the biggest budget deficits of all time, nor when he appointed a man who had just attempted an end-run around the Justice Department to run the Justice Department, nor when his vice president invited energy companies to help make energy policy, nor when his administration ignored global climate change, the greatest threat to our nation and the world in his lifetime. He wasn't concerned when he pushed to enshrine bigotry against homosexuals into the Constitution, nor when his Administration paid American journalists to support its policies, nor when it was revealed that the military was planting stories in the Iraqi media while simultaneously teaching Iraqis about the freedom of the press.

No. After six and a half years of turning this country into a banana republic that is hated by most of the world, our president is finally concerned. Well, thanks George. We're glad to see you're paying attention.

British Contractors Outnumber British Soldiers Three to One -- Is This the Future of Iraq?

| Thu May 31, 2007 10:08 AM EDT

On AMERICAblog, I spotted an article from the UK's Independent that says there are 21,000 British private contractors in Iraq. That's approximately three times the number of British soldiers in Iraq.

Is this the future of Iraq? Let's say September comes and goes the surge hasn't improved security conditions in Baghdad or elsewhere. Republicans may abandon the president in large numbers, forcing a withdrawal to begin over a presidential veto. The Defense Dep't can simply pay more and more private contractors -- who have no oversight over their spending or their actions on the ground -- to execute a bastardized version of their current mission.

The Democrats can enact laws that mandate stronger accountability over contractors, or even limit the number of contractors the Pentagon can employ. While a bill did pass in May that supposedly provided for stricter oversight over contractors, the bill was criticized by anti-contractor activists and suffered a credibility deficit because it had the support of the contracting industry itself. Congress may not want a strong light shone on the business of contracting, and the military probably likes it that way, but until we know exactly how many contractors operate in Iraq, and specifically what they are doing, we will never be fully sure the war is over.

As an example of the murkiness that surrounds contractors, estimates for the number of private contractors in Iraq range anywhere from 44,000 to 130,000. Mother Jones rode along with a couple of them in our latest issue.

Eat Less Meat To Save The Planet, Brits Say

| Wed May 30, 2007 8:26 PM EDT

Eating less meat and dairy could help tackle climate change by reducing the amount of methane gas emitted by cows and sheep. Reuters reports on an email leaked to a vegetarian campaign group, Viva, wherein a British Environment Agency official expressed sympathy for the green benefits of a vegan diet, which bans all animal product foods. The official said the government may in future recommend eating less meat as one of the "key environmental behaviour changes" needed to combat climate change… Blimey, the Brits threaten to take the lead again. --JULIA WHITTY