Ethics

Nestle's Christmas Gift to Ethiopia

Faced with a "mounting public relations disaster" over its attempt to sue the famine-stricken country of Ethiopia for $6 million, the Nestle corporation has promised to donate the money to hunger relief. But Justin Forsyth of the hunger organization Oxfam calls the offer a "half measure" and calls on the company "unambiguously to drop the claim and allow the Ethiopian government to spend the money on famine relief. ... Nestle has had lots of opportunities to back down over the last year.

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Memos Cast Shadow on Drug's Promotion

A whistle-blower's lawsuit has unearthed documents showing that the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company circumvented the Food and Drug Administration's drug approval process through a PR and advertising campaign. The company's internal memoranda show that it avoided the large clinical trials needed to gain government approval of off-label uses for Neurontin, an epilepsy medicine. Instead, the company paid for small studies and had the results published in medical journals. "The company also hired advertising agencies to help write the medical journal articles," reports Melody Petersen.

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Bonner Beats Rap for Astroturf Lobbying

PR Watch has reported in the past on the questionable tactics of Bonner & Associates, which specializes in "astroturf" (artificial grassroots) organizing for corporate clients. Earlier this year, Jack Bonner was charged with ethics violations in Maryland, but the Maryland State Ethics Commission has cleared him of charges that he used deceptive tactics on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.

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Inventing a Terrorist Story

Prompted in part by reports that a leaders of the Hezbollah has urged Palestinians to step up their suicide bombings, the Canadian government has banned the Lebanese group. Only problem is, the alleged statement from Hezbollah was probably invented by Washington Times reporter Paul Martin, who has a history of fabricating news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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News Director Resigns Amid Underwriting Questions

The news director of Philadelphia's top public radio station, WHYY-91FM, resigned amid ethical questions surrounding news underwriting. "WHYY's president and CEO, would not say whether [former news director Bill] Fantini's resignation was connected to a story in Tuesday's Daily News that raised questions about a series of stories that were aired earlier this year. The series of environmental news reports was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which in turn is indirectly paid for by taxpayers," the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

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Drug Companies Profit from Deceptive Ads

"Some companies have repeatedly
disseminated misleading advertisements for prescription
drugs, even after being cited for violations, and millions
of people see the deceptive commercials before the
government tries to halt them, Congressional investigators
said today. The investigators, from the General Accounting Office, said
Pfizer, for example, had continued to make misleading
claims in advertisements for its cholesterol-lowering drug
Lipitor, despite several letters from the Food and Drug

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Colombian Journalist Gets Applause, But No Coverage

"Colombian journalist Ignacio Gomez told a roomful of America's most influential journalists Tuesday how Washington-supported Colombian president Alvaro Uribe is connected to drug traffickers and how U.S. military trainers helped organize a massacre in his country," reports Lucy Komisar.

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Hype in Health Reporting

"Do reporters know that so much medical news is actually unpaid advertising?" writes Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families. "The most effective industry influence is so well-hidden that many reporters and producers are totally unaware of it. The role of pharmaceutical companies and other health care industry interests in shaping news coverage of medical products and treatment is as invisible as it is pervasive."

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Stock Exchange Mulls Forcing Media to Reveal Conflicts

"After the bubble burst, the [New York Stock Exchange] regulators decided that it was not nice for an analyst to tout a stock without mentioning that he owned the stock or that his employer was the company's investment banker. So they ruled that such conflicts had to be disclosed. Fair enough. But to whom? Many investors learn analysts' opinions not from reading brokerage reports but from news media reports. So the Big Board said that the firms had to make sure that broadcasters who quoted the analysts had to pass on the disclosure.

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