07/08/2015 archive

CVS Ditches US Chamber of Commerce

Last week the New York Tines reported that the US Chamber of Commerce was working to fight anti-tobacco measures in foreign countries:

The U.S. Chamber’s work in support of the tobacco industry in recent years has emerged as a priority at the same time the industry has faced one of the most serious threats in its history. A global treaty, negotiated through the World Health Organization, mandates anti-smoking measures and also seeks to curb the influence of the tobacco industry in policy making. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, has been ratified by 179 countries; holdouts include Cuba, Haiti and the United States.

Facing a wave of new legislation around the world, the tobacco lobby has turned for help to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the weight of American business behind it. While the chamber’s global tobacco lobbying has been largely hidden from public view, its influence has been widely felt.

Letters, emails and other documents from foreign governments, the chamber’s affiliates and antismoking groups, which were reviewed by The New York Times, show how the chamber has embraced the challenge, undertaking a three-pronged strategy in its global campaign to advance the interests of the tobacco industry.

In the capitals of far-flung nations, the chamber lobbies alongside its foreign affiliates to beat back antismoking laws.

Last year the drug store chain CVS stopped selling tobacco products. Now, in light of the Chamber’s activity on behalf og the tobacco lobby, CVS has announced that it is resigning its membership.

“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.” [..]

The campaign runs counter to efforts by some of the chamber’s members. Four health care companies that serve on its board – Anthem, the Health Care Service Corporation, the Steward Health Care System of Boston and the Indiana University Health system – all support antismoking programs. [..]

For CVS, which has 7,800 locations nationwide, the move is the latest step in rebranding itself as a health care destination, rather than a convenience store with a pharmacy. The company now operates nearly 1,000 walk-in clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.

Its executives have said that selling cigarettes is not consistent with its new strategy. The company has begun offering smoke cessation programs and recently helped conduct a smoke cessation study involving its employees and their relatives and friends.

“We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues,” Mr. Palombi said. “Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber.”


The NYSE shutdown prompts irrepressible, apocalyptic glee: “In Zuccotti Park, Goldman Sachs boys build a squatters city out of Hermes gift boxes”

by Scott Timberg, Salon

Wednesday, Jul 8, 2015 02:59 PM EST

“I’m here in FiDi reporting from the front lines of the financial meltdown, wearing a flak jacket woven from golden parachutes #NYSEdown”

In another, “In Zuccotti Park, Goldman Sachs boys build a squatters city out of Hermes gift boxes, communicate in wiggling fingers #NYSE”

What does this all tell us? Well, partly it’s that many Americans hate the stock market and the corporate airlines. The former helped crash the economy a few years back and has for decades siphoned money from the nation at large and sent it to the very richest in a sick reversal of trickle-down economics. The people who work there make enormous sums even while the middle-class works harder and harder and sees its wages stagnate.

The latter has gone from being a bit stodgy but reliable to a hectic and unpleasant way to travel – all the delays and cancellations and the charging for things that used to be free, like baggage, bad food, leg room, and easy check-in. Air travel is now only bearable if you are rich enough to pay for first-class or various kinds of “platinum” treatment – in this way they resemble American life in general.

In other words, both Wall Street and airlines deserve our wrath and mockery. As  the hacker in the sky surveys its next targets, maybe the NSA, Fox News and medical insurance companies will come next.

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Home In The Sky

Mom died the Sunday before last at ten in the morning, after spending one last night beside my Dad. After her second hospital stay it was clear that her kidneys would continue to fail, so we brought her home, where she wanted to be. We called hospice in. They were there every day and on call 24/7. They told us what great care we were taking of her, I’m grateful for that.

When she first came home she had a brief rally, there was no more anger, no paranoia. She smiled at Cleetus when we went in late night to move her and he brushed the hair back off her forehead. That made me incredibly happy. People got to come see her, but a few missed that window, that brief few days that she spoke, and smiled, they only saw mom in a semi-conscience state, but they did get to talk to her, and I’m sure she heard them.

The night before she died Dad and I were both in the room with her, talking softly to her and telling her it was all going to be all right, that we would be okay, and I saw tears roll down her face. I said, “Dad, look.” That was the only time she ever cried. I knew then that it wouldn’t be long. I felt certain that it was her only way of saying goodbye.

At poker that night I told Jon what had happened and what I thought it meant. I said, “You can go up there, Jonny, if you want, but…don’t feel like you have to. You can choose to let that memory of her coming to visit us here at the poker table be your last memory of her. Her smiling, and happy, and loving us all.” He said that was exactly what he wanted and I’m so glad he did, because by that point seeing his Mom Mom that way would have broken his heart, and it wasn’t necessary. By ten the next morning she was gone.

She was laid to rest in a beautiful, and historic churchyard, in a sunny spot by the treeline. I’ve been overwhelmed By people sharing memories of Mom. People who know well what we’ve lost, who she was before that terrible disease got a hold of her. How generous, how kind, and how much fun she was, all of that and more.

There’s a terrible emptiness in the house now. I keep expecting her to come up behind my chair. We’ve been starting to sort through and give away, her care supplies have been donated, her clothes, well, there’s a lot, but we’ll get there. Me and Dad are both sleeping too much, and not enough. Not enough at night, and too much during the day. Memories wash over me and I find myself crying at the damnedest things, but that’s okay, I tell myself, give it time. Mom is home in the sky now, she’s free.

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Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Will Europe’s Leaders Come to their Senses About Greece?

The Greeks have made their choice. Faced with two painful alternatives, they chose to stand with their elected leaders and to reject overwhelmingly the harsh, unending austerity that their creditors demanded. Now Europe’s leaders must make their choice. Will they come to their senses and open new negotiations with the Syriza government? Or will they remain unbending, force Greece into official bankruptcy and inexorably out of the euro?

Too much of what has been reported in the U.S. media in these last, fraught weeks has echoed fulminations of the creditors that distort reality. Syriza has been painted as a party of the extreme left, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government depicted as irresponsible and irreverent. This scorn comes from troika functionaries committed to enforcing utterly ruinous policies and whose behavior towards a democratically elected government has been insulting in the extreme.

Polly Jones: TTIP in the EU: Rejecting Democracy at Every Turn

After many twists and turns, MEPs decide today what sort of Transatlantic Trade and Investment deal (known as TTIP) they want the European Commission to negotiate on their behalf with the USA.

Negotiations were launched with many grand statements at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne in July 2013. TTIP was to be Europe’s saviour from austerity and to be the blueprint for all future world trade, wherever it takes place in the world. [..]

Trade deals have traditionally been about lowering particular tariffs for imports and exports of goods from one country to another. Trade is not as simple as that any more and for TTIP tariffs are a tiny part of the negotiations because tariffs between the EU and US are virtually non-existent these days. Trade in TTIP is about issues that are relevant and important to us all: from which services are publicly provided, to the safety of the food on our plates; from the regulations which keep us safe at work, to the very decisions governments can make in the best interests of us all. TTIP is so broad, we have every reason to be bothered about its contents.

But trade deals are not negotiated with any real democratic accountability. On TTIP we have seen democracy thwarted at every turn.

Roisin Davis: Something’s Missing From Pope Francis’ ‘Radical’ Vision of Equality: Women

Pope Francis this week embarked on a seven-day “homecoming” tour of Latin America on his unstoppable quest to defend the planet and the poor.

The continent-the most unequal region in the world, and the Argentine pontiff’s home turf-will likely provide fertile ground for more of his legendary sermons on poverty and inequality. After addressing a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Monday, Francis is scheduled to attend a meeting of grass-roots political activists and visit one of the continent’s largest prisons, in Bolivia, as well as a slum and a children’s hospital in Paraguay.

While he advocates for South America’s impoverished and disenfranchised, its prisoners, its indigenous peoples and its children, one group is unlikely to feature in Francis’ apparently radical agenda: its women.

Despite his efforts to champion his constituency-the world’s poor, of which the vast majority are women-the pope tends to overlook the feminized nature of poverty and inequality.

Amy B. Dean: Wisconsin swindled by Scott Walker’s jobs scam

When corporations fail to deliver on promises to create jobs, taxpayers deserve real accountability

Over the course of the last month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been scrambling to do damage control in the wake of revelations about one of his signature economic programs.

In the name of creating jobs, this trademark initiative of the potential Republican presidential candidate handed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to businesses across the state. But Walker’s administration apparently neglected to check if these companies actually hired any new employees as a result.

Wisconsinites have been understandably roiled – but this is not a problem that’s confined to their state.

Across the country, “economic development” programs in states such as Texas, Florida, Michigan and New York are handing out public resources to private hands in the name of spurring “job creators.” Astoundingly, they often fail to uphold even the most minimal level of accountability and oversight over how this public money is used.

The solution to this problem is simple: When corporations fail to deliver on job creation promises, they should be forced to pay back the money.

Jessica Zimmerman: Rightwingers think capitalism’s great – if you’re selling something they like

Part of the reason crowdfunding draws so much ire is that it necessarily happens before the product is a reality. It’s the old-as-the-hills technique of the “presale” – small manufacturers take money to reserve a product before it’s made, so they know what demand is and avoid overproducing (It’s also related to the even more venerable Proper Capitalist approach that you might know as “looking for investors”.) There’s nothing new or weird about it, presuming that your belief in the free market economy is sincere. The atheist shoes, the inflatable Lionel Richie head, the TARDIS launch – these pass without comment, or at least without outrage. It’s their money, right? One born every minute.

And yet, when a woman entrepreneur like Ijeoma Oluo or Anita Sarkeesian asks for investments or gauges interest pre-production, it’s taken as begging at best, a con at worst. How dare they just ask for money? That’s not what leaning in means! Well OK, it is what it means, but you’re not supposed to actually do it!

Is the problem that women are not supposed to take part in this economy – not supposed to be creators or entrepreneurs? Or is it just that they’re hawking a product that makes men mad – so mad their commitment to personal freedom suddenly transforms into a sacred duty to protect vulnerable wallets from rapacious feminists?

Jessica Evans: World Bank’s silence ignores repression

The bank should develop a strategy to end attacks on community members and activists and provide remedies to victims

In countries around the world, people who suffer harm because of development projects financed by the World Bank Group take grave risks to speak out and often face severe consequences. Yet the bank has taken few concrete steps to protect community members from harassment and ensure that people can speak freely without putting themselves or their family members at risk.

In Cambodia security forces have jailed Nget Khun, a 75-year-old community activist on several occasions for protesting evictions stemming from projects financed by the World Bank (PDF). Grandma Mommy, as Khun is known locally, and her fellow community members have been in and out of jail for years. During a May 2012 arrest, she said, four or five security personnel carried her “like they were carrying a pig” and threw her in a car.

After a summary trial in which her defense lawyer was given no time to prepare his case or call defense witnesses, she and 12 other activists were convicted of illegal occupancy of public property and obstructing public officials. An appeals court later suspended their sentences after public pressure, but they spent a month in jail. In November 2014 she and six other women were convicted of obstructing traffic and spent five months in jail before being pardoned in April. The government has also violently cracked down on protesters and threatened community activists.

The bank has strongly opposed the government’s plan to evict people from their homes in Khun’s community, but it has been silent about the attacks on outspoken community members.

Megan Condis: #RedditRevolt is harassment dressed up as free speech

Users’ protest pushes back against inclusive democratic participation in virtual spaces

It is growing difficult to keep track of the so-called scandals continuously erupting in geek culture. First there was #GamerGate, the opening salvo in the fight against feminist criticism of games and gaming’s male-dominated culture. Then there was #GamesSoWhite, which, depending on who you ask, is either an attempt to call attention to the lack of racial diversity in video games or a demand that game developers abandon their artistic vision to please a mob of PC police.

Now we have #RedditRevolt, a hashtag that originated as an attempt to oust Reddit Interim CEO Ellen Pao over the decision to ban several of the site’s controversial message boards dedicated to specific topics, called subreddits. (Reddit is both a social networking site and an online bulletin board; users determine what content is featured on the front page by voting posts up or down. Currently the tenth most visited website in the United States, it has received more than 7 billion page views in the last month.)

The hashtag was most recently revived over the weekend in response to the firing of a popular Reddit staffer, with volunteer moderators shutting down a huge number of subreddits in protest and making entire sections of the site temporarily go dark. In a second piece to follow, I’ll discuss how this most recent use of the hashtag provides so-called “consumer revolt” cover for what is essentially an anti-progressive agenda. But to understand the most recent turn of events, let’s first consider the original #RedditRevolt.

The Breakfast Club (Lovely Work of Art)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Commodore Matthew Perry arrives in Tokyo Bay; Industrialist John D. Rockefeller born; Word of what becomes known as ‘The Roswell Incident’; North Korea’s Kim Il Sung dies; Ziegfeld stages first ‘Follies.’

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

Pablo Picasso

On This Day In History July 8

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 8 is the 189th day of the year (190th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 176 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1951, Paris celebrates 2,000th birthday. In fact, a few more candles would’ve technically been required on the birthday cake, as the City of Lights was most likely founded around 250 B.C.


The earliest archaeological signs of permanent settlements in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 BC, with a permanent settlement by the end of the same century on the Left Bank Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia, but later Gallicised to Lutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.

The collapse of the Roman empire and the 5th-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline. By 400 AD, Lutèce, largely abandoned by its inhabitants, was little more than a garrison town entrenched into a hastily fortified central island. The city reclaimed its original appellation of “Paris” towards the end of the Roman occupation.

The Paris region was under full control of the Germanic Franks by the late 5th century. The Frankish king Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508. The late 8th century Carolingian dynasty displaced the Frankish capital to Aachen; this period coincided with the beginning of Viking invasions that had spread as far as Paris by the early 9th century. Repeated invasions forced Parisians to build a fortress on the Île de la Cité; one of the most remarkable Viking raids was on 28 March 845, when Paris was sacked and held ransom, probably by Ragnar Lodbrok, who left only after receiving a large bounty paid by the crown. The weakness of the late Carolingian kings of France led to the gradual rise in power of the Counts of Paris; Odo, Count of Paris was elected king of France by feudal lords, and the end of the Carolingian empire came in 987, when Hugh Capet, count of Paris, was elected king of France. Paris, under the Capetian kings, became a capital once more.