Opinion

Chicago to Wall Street: Pay US Back!

While the Occupy Wall Street movement is sweeping the country and peaceful arrests are mounting, Chicagoans took to the streets this week to hold the big banks accountable for crashing the economy and to demand city, state and federal policies that work for working families.

For many, the goal was stopping the foreclosure mill and telling the big banks it was time to Pay US Back! for the $4.7 trillion bailout. For others, the demands focused on the fallout from the financial crisis including contentious contract negotiations with the administration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

For most, the range of issues were inextricably linked.

"Occupy Wall Street" Should Protest Wall Street Takeover of Health Care

The lobbyists for U.S. health insurers surely have to be feeling a little uneasy knowing that thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been marching and protesting in Washington as well as New York and other cities might target them in the days ahead. After all, the headquarters of the insurers' biggest lobbying and PR group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., is just blocks away from Freedom Plaza, where the demonstrators have set up camp -- and problems with health insurers appear to be near the top of the list of protesters' concerns.

Children Gardening in Sewage Sludge: Los Angeles Schools Alerted

Emmanuelle Chriqui gardening with kids at Carson Senior High School, with an empty bag of Kellogg sludge productThis week, CMD's new Food Rights Network sent letters to thirteen schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that have "organic" school gardens adopted by Hollywood's Environmental Media Association (EMA). As we reported in May, EMA teamed up with sludge-marketing corporation Kellogg Garden Products, which sells products made from Los Angeles area industrial and human sewage sludge with the label "quality organics" and which used the gardens for photo ops with sludge products.

Gardens in which kids grow vegetables and fruits were contaminated with sewage sludge as a result of EMA's partnership with Kellogg, which donated hundreds of cubic yards of sewage sludge products. EMA, which hosts its annual green carpet awards this Saturday, October 15th, has failed to take any steps to help remediate the children's "organic" gardens that were sludged.

The Battle Between O'Dwyer and PRSA

Jack O'DwyerThe Public Relations Society of America, the trade group for the American public relations industry, and Jack O'Dwyer, who has specialized in reporting on the PR industry for over 40 years, are at war, and the battle is getting heated -- and harmful for PRSA.

Why should people care about this obscure fight? Because the conflict is a microcosm of the battle against the unethical and harmful PR trends that are hurting this country.

Raw Milk Raids and Court Cases Enter New Territory

This is the first in a series of articles about raw milk by the Center for Media and Democracy's Food Rights Network.


The nationwide battle over the right to consume foods produced on local farms entered a new phase this summer.

Rawesome Food Club and Healthy Family Farms

In August, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested three individuals -- James Stewart, manager of the private Rawesome Food Club in Venice, Sharon Palmer, owner of Healthy Family Farms, LLC, and her associate Eugenie Bloch -- "on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese and other products" after "a year-long investigation" during which "investigators made undercover purchases of unpasteurized dairy products."

Synagro's Shiny New Patina

Synagro protest in DetroitSynagro Technologies is the latest big corporation trying to ditch a scandal-ridden past by re-branding itself. In an August 10, 2011 press release, the company announced it is launching a new website as part of a "rebranding initiative." The press release says the initiative "is a reflection of the enhanced and growing service and solution offerings that have resulted from organic growth and recent acquisitions." Of course, the press release fails to mention the back-to-back scandals that have plagued Synagro since 2008 as well as earlier controversies.

Synagro is in the business of marketing sewage sludge as "compost," or, as the company's new, PR-approved website puts it, "Transforming natural waste challenges into sustainable, planet-friendly solutions." The company is a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Carlyle is also a sizeable part of the military-industrial complex with ties to numerous national politicians, including former British Prime Minister John Major, Alice Albright (daughter of former Secretary of State Madelyn Albright), and both George W. and George H.W. Bush.

Health Care Reform Opponents Winning the PR War

The Kaiser Family Foundation just released the findings of its annual survey of businesses to determine how much the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage has gone up. There were some unexpected findings.

Expensive health careOne was that the average cost of annual premiums for family coverage is now more than $15,000. The 9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance over last year caught many people by surprise because it represented a bigger hike in premiums than in recent years.

Susan G. Komen, Pinkwashing? "Promise Me" It's Not True

Promise Me PerfumeOctober is fast approaching, with its annual deluge of pink ribbons and cause marketing campaigns that leverage emotions surrounding breast cancer to sell products. In past years, PRWatch has reported on questionable "pinkwashed" products like buckets of fried fast food, cringeworthy "I Heart Boobies" bracelets marketed to teenagers, and even a pink "breast cancer awareness" Smith and Wesson handgun.

This year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- the nonprofit organization that created the corporate phenomenon of pinkwashing -- is hawking its own highly questionable pinkwashed product: a perfume called "Promise Me" that retails for $59.00 a bottle and reportedly contains chemicals, some of which are not listed on the label, that are a suspected hormone disruptor, a known neurotoxin and an anticoagulant banned for use in human food, respectively.

Health Care Front Group Provides New Clothes for GOP Medicare Privatization Plan

Wolf in sheep's clothingIf you think Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare is dead, think again.

Last week, the insurance industry and its allies began what I predict will be a massive campaign to sell the public and policymakers on the idea of moving forward with the Ryan plan -- albeit with a few tweaks and new a new sales pitch to make it seem more consumer-friendly.

An outfit called the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) announced in a press release a scheme that could be called Ryan-lite, but don't be fooled: the plan would -- to use a favorite industry term -- take us down the "slippery slope" toward a complete corporate takeover of the Medicare program. (Insurers and their allies for years have warned Americans that enacting sweeping health care reforms they don't like would lead us down the slippery slope toward socialism.)

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