Some Drug Company Executives Criminally Charged in America’s Flawed Democracy

A major producer of opioids known as the Rochester Drug Cooperative has recently witnessed its executives criminally charged with illegally distributing controlled substances. With the prosecution of corporate criminals at a 20 year low in America, amidst a major wave of corporate crime — crime in the suites instead of crime in the streets — it is a notable development during the despair-ridden opioid crisis.

Much of this opioid crisis is attributable to the patent monopolies on prescription drugs, which enable American pharmaceutical companies to charge ridiculously high prices. A patent monopoly on a drug legally prevents competitors from producing or selling that drug, and the lack of governmental negotiation to rein in prices allows pharmaceutical companies to charge to a large extent whatever they want. Purdue Pharma would have had nowhere near as much incentive to market Oxycontin if it was sold at generic prices, but since they had a tremendous incentive, many communities have suffered as a result of the addictive drug.

The case of patent monopolies on prescription drugs such as Oxycontin is another example of the government using its power in a way that’s overall against the public interest. The government is not necessarily an evil or inefficient entity, as people sometimes believe or that propaganda might suggest. There is plenty of evidence that structured properly, the government can be a force for the common good — government-run programs such as Medicare and Social Security remain popular because they work well. The administrative overhead on Medicare is about 2 percent, while the administrative overhead on corporate health insurance is often 12 to 20 percent.

It is beneficial for much of the corporate sector if the public automatically despises the government and doesn’t pressure for public interest control of it. Unlike the corporate sector, where the boards of directors (those who run the corporations) are largely determined by top management, in a undemocratic process where one share of the corporation equates to one vote in the board of directors election, there is a built-in democratic process in the government. This built-in process of one person (rather than one share) and one vote may currently be quite dysfunctional, but it is a mechanism of democratic values nonetheless, and one of the things to be strengthened for an improved society.

About every year at least, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists meets to discuss the most significant threats to human societies, and if necessary they adjust their famous Doomsday Clock. The Doomsday Clock measures the probability of major catastrophe by the minute hand’s closeness to midnight, and it is now 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been since 1953, when America and Russia detonated thermonuclear weapons. In 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists added a third major problem to climate change and the potential of nuclear war — the breakdown of and threats to democracy. This is significant because lively and functioning democracy offers perhaps the only way to solve many of the world’s most serious problems.

Activism that is deservedly popular (and therefore democracy-based, or majority supported) is very often how things change for the better, from worker’s rights to new government programs and movements producing a beneficial change in public consciousness. Instead of only examining problems, it’s necessary to remember that to achieve progress.

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Data Debunks Propaganda on Immigrants Being a Major Source of U.S. Crime

Immigrants have overall had half the crime rates of native born American citizens for a few decades now. The use of immigrants as scapegoats for the real problems facing society — with its lack of focus on corporate crime in the suites — still remains a common ploy used by corrupt officials today though.

As of 2017, according to Gallup polls, almost half of Americans agreed that immigrants make crime worse. But is it true that immigration drives crime? Many studies have shown that it does not.

Immigrant populations in the United States have been growing fast for decades now. Crime in the same period, however, has moved in the opposite direction, with the national rate of violent crime today well below what it was in 1980.

In a large-scale collaboration by four universities, led by Robert Adelman, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo, researchers compared immigration rates with crime rates for 200 metropolitan areas over the last several decades. The selected areas included huge urban hubs like New York and smaller manufacturing centers less than a hundredth that size, like Muncie, Ind., and were dispersed geographically across the country.

According to data from the study, a large majority of the areas have many more immigrants today than they did in 1980 and fewer violent crimes. The Marshall Project extended the study’s data up to 2016, showing that crime fell more often than it rose even as immigrant populations grew almost across the board.

In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980.

Lingering Damage from the Vietnam War

The estimates are that “at least 350,000 tons of live bombs and mines remain in Vietnam.” This is another reason that the U.S. should stop all of its current military interventions abroad — the track record after World War II has been too horrifying for it to continue bombing and invading countries overseas.

Bombs and other ordnance were dropped on thousands of villages and hamlets. The most common were cluster bombs, each of which contained hundreds of baseball-size bomblets; the bombs are designed to explode near ground level, releasing metal fragments to maim and kill. But many of the cluster bombs failed to release their contents or, in other cases, their bomblets failed to detonate.

For the Vietnamese, the war continues. Loss of arms, legs and eyesight are for the more fortunate ones. Others have lost their family breadwinners, or their children. Children find baseball-size metal objects and unwittingly toss the “toys” to one another in games of catch until they explode. Nearly 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed since the end of the war in 1975, and 67,000 maimed, by land mines, cluster bombs and other ordnance.

That’s not the only, or even the worst, legacy of the war that Vietnamese families still face. Seeking to defoliate entire forests to expose enemy forces to spotter planes, the Americans dropped 18 million gallons of chemical herbicide over South Vietnam from 1962 to 1972. There were several defoliants used, but the best known was Agent Orange. In 20,000 spraying missions, planes drenched the countryside and an estimated 3,181 villages.

While entire forests dried up and died typically within weeks of spraying, it would be years before scientists established that one of the active ingredients in the defoliants, a group of compounds called dioxin, is one of the deadliest substances known to humankind. Just 85 grams of dioxin, if evenly distributed, could wipe out a city of eight million people. But illnesses and deaths from Agent Orange exposure were only the initial outcomes. Dioxin affects not only people exposed to it, but also their children, altering DNA. Large numbers of Vietnamese babies continue to be born with grotesque deformities: misshapen heads, bulging tumors, underdeveloped brains and nonfunctioning limbs.

The deadly defoliants also rained down on American troops. Researchers led by Jeanne Stellman of Columbia examined military records of the flight paths of Agent Orange spraying missions. Comparing those flight paths to the position of nearby villages and American ground troops revealed a direct association between exposure and later health problems.

These findings, published in 2003, put an end to the longtime denial by the government that Agent Orange spraying did not harm American troops. The Department of Veterans Affairs now assumes, as a blanket policy, that all of the 2.8 million troops who served in Vietnam were exposed to chemical defoliants, and provides some medical coverage and compensation for that. But the United States has never acknowledged that it also poisoned millions of Vietnamese civilians in the same way.

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The indiscriminate use of ordnance and chemical weapons against civilian populations is prohibited under international law, dating back to the Hague and Geneva Conventions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But for more than a decade, the United States acted in direct contravention of those agreements, which it had pledged to uphold. Since that time, numerous additional international treaties and conventions have come into force that not only prohibit the types of weapons used by the United States in Vietnam, but also require their cleanup after hostilities cease.

The United States, however, has done very little to fulfill such obligations, leaving it largely to the Vietnamese to suffer the results and to clean up what they can nearly 50 years later. Some have suggested that because much of the relevant international law requiring cleanup came into effect after the United States left Vietnam, the country is absolved of such obligations. But this assertion hangs on a thin thread, as the unexploded ordnance and defoliants still injure and kill people today. American responsibility for cleanup is therefore applicable under international law, not something to be dismissed with a historical wink.

The Misconduct of the “World’s Most Admired Companies”

In terms of misconduct, usually what is found among the biggest multinational corporations is exploitation and benefits from immense public subsidy without providing adequate returns to the public. There are numerous examples showing that to be true, but they often manifest as the use of super-exploited workers and the highly profitable use of technology that was originally developed through public investment.

For example, Walmart long hasn’t paid workers living wages, resulting in those workers (among other things) having to use publicly-funded programs such as SNAP. Then there’s computers, which were developed in large part through taxpayer-funded research at the Department of Defense in the latter half of the 20th century. And speaking of the military, Lockheed Martin’s weapons manufacturing has been complicit in U.S. war crimes that violate international law for decades, and Lockheed likely wouldn’t even exist today if it hadn’t been bailed out by the public under the Nixon administration in 1971.

Literally trillions of dollars worth of taxpayer research and subsidies over the past several decades has been fundamental to the advancement of industries such as the aerospace industry, the computer industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology industry, and the telecommunications industry. Much of this taxpayer funding into developments that otherwise probably wouldn’t exist today has often translated into the phenomenon known as public costs and private profits, which is hardly a fair return on investment.

Fortune magazine recently released its 2018 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. From a pool of roughly 1,500 candidates, Fortune picked the 50 “best-regarded companies in 52 industries.” Apple topped the list for the eleventh year straight. General Electric plummeted in the last year from number 7 to number 30. Lockheed Martin and Adidas both cracked the top 50 for the first time.

Of course, Fortune’s ranking is somewhat skewed and self-serving. It is based on a survey of corporate executives and financial analysts. “Admiration” is measured according to criteria that emphasize companies’ financial shape over their track record of integrity and business ethics.

So, we took it upon ourselves to document the dark side of the world’s 50 most admired companies. Ten of the companies are in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), which includes civil, criminal, and administrative misconduct instances dating back to 1995 for 220 of the federal government’s largest contractors. All but 3 of the top 50 are in Good Jobs First’s Violation Tracker corporate misconduct database, which includes enforcement data from the federal regulatory agencies and the Justice Department dating back to 2000 for over 2,800 companies. Both databases show that most of the companies have multiple instances of misconduct for which they paid millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, and settlements.

DuPont Concealed Dangerous Health Risks Caused by Teflon Globally

This DuPont case is a significant example of corporate crime and the damage it causes. The toxic chemicals in Teflon provide ample reasoning to simply use different products (such as cast iron pans) and avoid exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals in Teflon.

Broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival, we are joined by three guests who personally battled with DuPont and are featured in the new documentary called “The Devil We Know,” that looks at how former DuPont employees, residents and lawyers took on the chemical giant to expose the danger of the chemical C8, found in Teflon and countless household products—from stain- and water-resistant apparel to microwave popcorn bags to dental floss. The chemical has now been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers.

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AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Nearly 70 years ago, the chemical giant DuPont introduced a product that would transform how people around the world cook: nonstick Teflon pans.

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AMY GOODMAN: The chemicals in the product, C8, went on to be used in countless household products, from stain- and water-resistant apparel to microwave popcorn bags to dental floss. But DuPont had a secret it never told the American public or many of its own workers: C8 is highly toxic. But that didn’t stop them from discharging C8 into the waterways around its manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. It’s now been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers. The chemical has been used so widely, it’s now in the bloodstream of 99 percent of Americans, even newborn babies. And the chemical is bioresistant, meaning it does not break down.

The struggle to discover the truth about C8 and hold DuPont accountable is the subject of a stunning new documentary that premiered here at Sundance. It’s called The Devil We Know.

Additional article: The Case Against DuPont