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Corporate Espionage Non Profits Without Legal Consequences

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Greenpeace received word that the DC Court of Appeals has ruled against them in their lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Sasol, Dezenhall Resources, Ketchum, and the former operates of the now-defunct Beckett, Brown, Inc. corporate espionage firm. The court dismissed the case because Greenpeace rents its office space and the court ruled that as tenants and not owners, Greenpeace had no standing to sue the burglars for intruding on our premises.

Some of you that have been with CHEJ for a while might remember this is the same suit in which CHEJ and Lois Gibbs was targeted with both her home address listed in the espionage firm’s documents as well as photos of the front of her house.  Too bad the case was dismissed but not surprising.  CHEJ knows that they are watched and our phone and internet wires cut a few years ago also went unsolved. For a recap of the case read Ralph Nader’s recent article.

Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as “D-line” operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as “possible sites” for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York’s Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police. Ridgeway Mother Jones Article.

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Three new reasons retailers must ban triclosan

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Last week, Bloomberg News broke a major story that shined the light on the dangers of triclosan, a hormone-disrupting chemical commonly used in antibacterial soaps and even Colgate Total toothpaste.

#1 – FDA approved use of triclosan, despite evidence to suggest harm

Bloomberg News’ story reveal an all too common practice in Washington – where chemicals are approved to be used based on limited studies conducted by the same companies that profit from their use. The expose revealed how In the case of the FDA’s approval of triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste, the agency approved the chemical despite the fact that there was early evidence suggesting it could be harmful to consumers. These revelations have come to light only after NRDC sued the FDA to make these documents public, after the FDA withheld them from public view.

I had the opportunity to appear on live national TV to discuss this breaking story, and talk about our Mind the Store campaign, which has been challenging the nation’s largest retailers to eliminate the worst-of-the-worst chemicals like triclosan. Check out the video below to see the story. Bloomberg News also ran a great follow-up story on our campaign’s work to get retailers to scrub their supply chains of unnecessary dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

#2 – Brushing teeth with Colgate Total = 5 time the level of triclosan

The Bloomberg story came on the heels of a brand new study which found that brushing your teeth with Colgate Total toothpaste can lead to higher exposures to this dangerous substance. Our colleagues at NRDC wrote:

“It’s a study of hospital workers at two different hospitals. One hospital used triclosan-containing soap, the other did not. Not surprisingly, the study shows that people who washed their hands with the triclosan-containing soap had higher levels of triclosan in their urine.

The really interesting part of the study showed that the numbers were skewed heavily by brushing with Colgate Total toothpaste. As it turns out, people who brushed their teeth with Colgate Total had more than five times as much triclosan in their urine as people who didn’t use it.“

#3 – Babies and pregnant women exposed to triclosan

Along with these new reports come yet another brand new study which found that pregnant women and fetuses in the womb are being exposed to triclosan and its cousin chemical, triclocarbon. Every single one of the women tested had triclosan in their bodies, and half of newborns tested were also exposed to triclosan.

“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products,” says Benny Pycke, Ph.D. “We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples.”

Will Retailers Mind the Store?

In the absence of real federal chemical form, many leading brands are filling the regulatory void and have already taken precautionary steps to eliminate triclosan, such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Avon. Even Colgate has eliminated it from their dish and hand soaps. Colgate Total should join them and move swiftly to remove triclosan.

Alliance Boots, who Walgreens is merging with, has banned triclosan as part of its its corporate chemicals policy. We’ve been calling on Walgreens to adopt Boots’ chemicals management program as a first step in developing a comprehensive chemical policy, and are hopeful Walgreens will do what’s right for American consumers. Both Target and Walmart have identified over 1,000 chemicals to reduce and work to eliminate, though it’s unclear whether triclosan has made it onto their priority lists.

In light of the Bloomberg story and the ever-growing evidence that triclosan is harmful to our health and getting into our bodies, big retailers like Walgreens should leverage their purchasing power to eliminate this unnecessary toxic chemical from products on their shelves once and for all. Will you join us and call on the nation’s top retailers to Mind the Store?

TAKE ACTION: Tell the nation’s biggest retailers to ban dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

Protect yourself from triclosan:

1. Check the label: avoid products with the words triclosan and triclocarban on the ingredient labels of personal care products, soaps and hand sanitizers. Triclosan may also marketed under the trade name Microban™ when used in plastics and clothing, and Biofresh™ when used in acrylic fibers.

2. Be wary of products like cutting boards that are labeled as “anti-microbial” or “anti-bacterial.”

3. Stick to washing your hands with hot water and soap and alcohol based hand sanitizers when on the go.

Written by Mike Schade, Mind The Store Campaign

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Public Health Risks & Corporate Profits

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People’s bodies are being contaminated with industrial chemicals without their consent or knowledge. Unlike food and drugs, most of these industrial chemicals have never been tested to determine their effects on human health or the environment. Diseases linked to chemicals like childhood cancers are on the rise. Our laws need to be changed to protect public health and the environment. We must phase out the worst chemicals and switch to safer, effective and affordable alternatives that already exist. Because our country’s laws are outdated—prevention, substitution and proof of safety—are not our nation’s goals. Instead calculated harm and sacrifice are the goals of today’s regulations and laws. Risk of harm and cost of change (regardless of how large or small) dominate decisions around chemical exposures of innocent people and the environment.

Corporations and our government try to confuse the public about risks or make a certain level of risk somehow acceptable. To simplify the entire mathematical formula to justify unnecessary risks for the average person I came up with this analogy. Although this may be a bit of over simplification it is the formula that is used to dismiss risks and allow corporations to expose people, innocent children, to very dangerous chemicals in order to increase their profits.

Here is the analogy to demonstrate their technique.

Protective Gates vs. Cheap Pillows

Most people believe if you have a toddler and an open staircase it makes sense to be cautious and place a gate across the stairs to prevent the child from falling down the stairs.

U.S. chemical industries would argue investing in the gate may not be necessary—instead they would do studies to determine how many toddlers would fall and the level of harm from each tumble down the stairs.

After defining statistically how many toddlers would likely fall down the stairs and the percentage that could be harmed, industry would still argue the gate is too expensive and purchasing them would cause financial harms.

They would argue that instead of expensive gates, believed to be overkill, they would invest in cheap pillows at the bottom of the stairs which would provide adequate protection for tumbling toddlers.

So the next time you are faced with a risk benefit equation from corporations or government ask them (using this analogy) if they are suggesting pillows instead of a gate? Are they really interested in protecting public health especially from involuntary risks?

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Obama Stop Exporting Our Energy

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Some people support fracking for the issue around jobs while others are totally opposed. I’m not going to talk about that debate but rather about the larger issue that gets lost in the overarching debates. One “talking point” that consistently resonates with the American people is they want to be energy independent. The public buys into this position put out by the fracking industry. Yet it’s a lie because you can’t have energy independence if you are exporting the resources. The fact is that the U.S. economy, in order to grow, must have an abundance of low cost energy. To keep our energy prices low it makes no sense for President Obama to approve export terminals for natural gas.

If we allow our resources to be exported overseas to other foreign markets then our domestic costs of gas will increase, there is no debate over that, and instead of attracting new industry both our jobs and economic opportunity will continue to move out of this country. In the Asian market the worker costs are low because they don’t pay a living wage or offer benefits to workers in many of the countries that U.S. gas will be sold. However, their energy costs are high.

If we stop the export of our gas to other nations America might be in a better position to attract new industries or at a minimum keep and expand the industries we have. Exporting is a foolish idea that provides the opportunity for corporations who are selling the gas to make huge profits while keeping America in a less competitive edge. Why does this make any sense to our leaders in Washington?

CHEJ has been very supportive of groups working to prevent fracking harms. Additionally, we have supported the efforts of groups like Chesapeake Climate Action Network who are fighting the export terminal in Maryland. At this time that terminal has received a delay while the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the departments that contributes to assessments of LNG projects, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 30-day extension to conduct a review of Dominion Resources Inc’s Cove Point liquefaction project. The additional time “will allow the agency to compile comments from its regional associate internal reviewers and the required need for EPA headquarters’ review,” the EPA said in a June 3rd letter to FERC.

It is time that Americans stand up and speak out louder to the administration about jobs. We want our low costs energy to stay in America to create the economic incentive to attract new industry and to keep and expand our existing industries. Our men and women have fought too many wars over oil and energy let’s to do what the gas industry is saying in their propaganda making America Energy Independent by keeping our gas in America. There is no way we can achieve energy independence when we ship our energy resources out of the country. So get involved and tell the White House no to export, whether you are opposed to fracking or supporting fracking we can likely agree that shipping our energy resources overseas is a bad idea.

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Memorial Day A Special Day

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On this day we remember and honor those who have served and protected our country. I’ve known a few that passed in the line of duty and others who have returned to their families injured. It’s a day set aside to take note, to acknowledge personal sacrifice and give thanks to all of the men and women who have kept my family, friends and fellow citizens safe.

CHEJ has worked over the past thirty years with many veterans. In fact, the organizations founding group was first introduced at a conference for Vietnam Veterans who were looking for benefits for themselves and their families from exposure to Agent Orange chemicals, dioxin. CHEJ’s attorney ran a Law Clinic for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in 1982 at American University in D.C.

I shared many values with the veterans, that our country and our democracy is worth fighting for, worth making the personal sacrifices, but our country has a responsibility to care for those who fought to protect America. Yet when the veterans came home from Vietnam they were not greeted with fanfare, parades and celebration. Not only did they come home to unfriendly citizens, with all of the issues any veteran faces when re-entering society after being on the front lines, but they were faced with serious health impacts from the chemicals used to defoliate.Veterans asked for studies to explain why they had rashes over so much of their bodies, why their children were being born with birth defects and why so many developed and died from cancer.

It was the issue of exposures to Agent Orange, dioxin, which brought the Vietnam Veterans of America and CHEJ closer together. Our struggles were similar. The veterans of course sacrificed their lives for this country and our government turned it back on them, refusing to cover diseases clearly associated with exposure to dioxin. CHEJ’s members, some veterans, homemakers, taxpayers and the “American Family” that our country works to protect when we go to war were also being exposed to toxic chemicals in their environment. Like the Vietnam veterans the government refused to step up and make the polluters clean up the mess.

It has been a long and positive relationship. I am proud and thank all of our country’s veterans and especially the many brave and compassionate Vietnam Veterans.

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.” -Bob Marley

NJ Roxbury

Gov. Christie’s Wastegate in Roxbury, NJ

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Gov. Christie reopened a landfill without following the states regulatory procedures, allowed a burner to be built without even a stack test, allowed waste to be placed in the landfill without knowledge of what was in the waste stream, and allowed a convicted felon to operate the landfill which is also against the law. Why is the Gov. ignoring his own state laws and regulations pout in place to protect public health and the environment? Does Christie think he is above the law?

By MIKE CONDON Editor

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NC Wants to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals

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This is one of the most outrageous bills yet. The North Carolina proposed bill would also prevent local governments from passing any rules on fracking and limit water testing that precedes a new drilling operations. Read more.

Community Organizing

DON’T AGONIZE, ORGANIZE

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Russ Dondero

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to have met many famous people who have engaged in our national political life – AJ Muste, William F. Buckley, Jr., Gene McCarthy, William Sloane Coffin, Carlos Fuentes to name just a few.

But meeting with and talking to Lois Gibbs was an incredible experience because like Rosa Parks it wasn’t her station in life which has earned her such respect and notoriety but her determination to confront injustice most would have ignored.

Her message to those of us who want to organize to address pollution issues be it in urban, suburban or rural Oregon must follow three strategic rules

  • Good science is the first place to start to combat those who have been given what amounts to a license to pollute by government agencies like DEQ;
  • Develop good law by asking the right question – not how do you stop the damage from the polluter but how do you make industry safe for its employees and neighbors?
  • Advocates for change must first speak out and then organize.  And as they organize they must learn how to think “outside the box” of conventional politics. Read More from Russ.

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Granted Right To Know -Oil Trains Through Your Community

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This Order is issued to all railroad carriers that transport in a single train in commerce within the United States, 1,000,000 gallons or more of UN 1267, Petroleum crude oil, Class 3,[1] sourced from the Bakken shale formation in the Williston Basin (Bakken crude oil). By this Order, DOT is requiring that each railroad carrier provide the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) for each state in which it operates trains transporting 1,000,000 gallons or more of Bakken crude oil, notification regarding the expected movement of such trains through the counties in the state. Read More.

Film Demonstrates How We Win

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A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet Premiers Earth Day on PBS – tomorrow evening. If you want to understand how change happen this is the film to watch.

It clearly demonstrates through historical film that so much of what has been accomplished was done through people joining together and raising their voices. Saving the Grand Canyon, rivers, whales and so much more was the result of organizing voices not a smart group of people in Washington, D.C. The documentary—which airs on Earth Day, nationwide—opens with a stirring montage of idyllic nature, followed by ecosystem despoliation and devastation, such as mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Scenes of global activism appear, including NASA scientist Jim Hansen getting busted at the White House for protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai declaring: “We will shed blood for land!” This riveting, rapidly cut sequence is set to the pulsating beat of the Chamber Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today.”

Coming together with other leaders from your group and watching the film with a discussion afterwards could help think through how you might proceed to win justice for your community.