Should Menthol Be Illegal in Cigarettes?

June 17, 2008

Is menthol a flavor that should be banned from cigarettes? That’s a tricky question, according to the American Medical Association whose members on Tuesday found themselves opposing some government health heavyweights.

Menthol flavoring would not be banned under a bill before Congress that gives control of tobacco products to the Food and Drug Administration. The bill would ban flavor additives such as mint, clove and vanilla, which appeal to young people.

Menthol is preferred by more than 75 percent of black smokers, according to government estimates. Fewer than 25 percent of whites smoke it.

“If we’re banning things such as clove and peppermint, then we should ban menthol,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, health secretary from 1989 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and one of seven former health secretaries who sent a letter to lawmakers voicing opposition to the menthol exemption. “If it doesn’t happen, this bill will be discriminatory against African-Americans.”

Normally, the nation’s largest organization of doctors probably would agree. But in this case, the AMA president and many delegates support the menthol exemption pushed by the cigarette industry. The AMA voted Tuesday to refer the decision on menthol to its board, effectively silencing the doctors who wanted the organization to speak out against the exemption.

The reason is that the menthol exemption helped congressional leaders reach a bipartisan compromise on legislation that would put cigarettes under government regulation. Supporters say it would give the FDA authority to reduce harmful ingredients in cigarettes, require new health warnings and bar misleading labels such as “light” and “mild.”

Dr. Ron Davis, a preventive medicine specialist who is wrapping up his one-year term as president, said removing the menthol exemption from the bill might derail the legislation.

And while other flavor additives are aimed at luring young smokers, menthol is different, he said. Banning it would merely drive mature black smokers to other brands, said Davis. “It would change the entire political dynamic.”

Menthol cigarettes such as Kool were marketed during the 1960s in advertising campaigns targeting urban blacks, according to the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network. That group withdrew its support from the tobacco control bill last month over the menthol exemption and found allies in the former health secretaries.

The exemption harms the black community, said Robert McCaffree of the American College of Chest Physicians, the group that introduced the AMA proposal. He noted that cigarette maker Philip Morris USA supports the bill and the exemption.

William S. Robinson, executive director of the African American Tobacco Prevention Network, said the group believes a superior tobacco control bill could be crafted without the support of Philip Morris, which makes several menthol brands.
“We understand from an industry perspective why menthol is off the table,” Robinson said. “We think part of it is because menthol represents almost 30 percent of the $70 billion U.S. cigarette market.”

Philip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps said the bill would give the FDA authority to remove ingredients that are determined harmful to health.

“Based on our scientific judgment, menthol does not increase the inherent hazards of smoking,” Phelps said.

Originally found @ AssociatedPress.com

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Are You Too Young to Know About Whitewater and the Clintons?

April 29, 2008

The Whitewater scandal was a CRIME not just a scandal. It involved extreme levels of corruption and greed. A thorough investigation took place and ultimately, the Clintons were never charged, but 14 other persons were convicted of more than 40 crimes, including a sitting Governor who was removed from office. Here are just some of the names involved – some of the criminals were pardoned by Bill;

Jim McDougal: banker, Clinton political supporter: (18 felonies, varied)

Susan McDougal: Clinton political supporter (multiple fraud) at the very center of the scam. Bill Clinton pardoned.

Stephen Smith (Whitewater): former Governor Clinton aide (conspiracy to misapply funds). Bill Clinton pardoned.

Chris Wade: Whitewater real estate broker (multiple loan fraud) Bill Clinton pardoned.

Robert W. Palmer: Madison appraiser (conspiracy). Bill Clinton pardoned.

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Remembering Bill Clinton’s Testimony

(a complete version is online)

Q: Mr. President, during the course of your direct examination, sir, you made a reference to different versions of David Hale’s accounts. Can you tell us, sir, what is your source of information concerning different versions of David Hale’s accounts?
A: Well, just from press accounts and from reports that my counsel have given me.
Q: Okay. Are you aware, sir, of what he testified to?
A: I believe he testified —
Q: I’m not asking you, sir, what he said. I’m saying, has anyone related to you a version of what his testimony was under oath?
A: I read the press accounts of it.
Q: Okay. You read how — to what extent, sir, were they quotations, were they direct quotations?
A: Well, I read — I don’t remember, but I read the press accounts, and of course, my counsel has briefed me. They said that under oath he said that I was in jogging shorts in the cold weather on 145th Street.

Q: Okay.
A: And some other things.

Q: So, you did receive, then, direct information concerning what it was that Mr. Hale had apparently testified to under oath; is that correct?

Q: You indicated, sir, that your counsel provided you information concerning how Mr. Hale had testified. I believe you indicated there was something along the line of wearing jogging shorts while you were at the 145th Street. What other information did you receive, not from the newspapers, but what other information did you receive concerning the subject matter and the content of Mr. Hale’s testimony?
A: None, sir. I mean, my impression is that all of us were talking about what we read in the paper.

Q: Were you aware, sir, or are you aware, sir, that the law firm that was formerly — Mr. Lindsey was formerly associated with was buying a transcript of the testimony provided in the court, sir?
A: No, sir, I was not aware of that.

Q: Is Mr. Lindsey still associated with the White House, sir?
A: He is.

Q: What is his current association with the White House?
A: Mr. Lindsey is one of my aides, he travels with me, and he does political work for me.

Q: Has he ever related to you, sir, accounts as to what Mr. Hale allegedly said under oath during the course of this trial?
A: I don’t believe so.

Q: I believe the question, sir, was whether or not anyone other than your attorney had related subject matter concerning what Mr. Hale had allegedly testified during the course of his testimony?
A: No, sir. I believe that all of us, including my attorneys, I believe we were all discussing what we read in the paper about Mr. Hale’s testimony.

Q: You, sir, in your position, receive extensive briefing and briefing books concerning virtually every item that occurs to you on your daily schedule; is that correct, sir?
A: Well, I get a national security briefing in the morning and I get a scheduling book for the rest of the day, yes, sir.

Q: Have you received a briefing book concerning your testimony, sir?
A: I have received a briefing book which contains what I have said before in my interrogatories, and our notes on the three times I have been interviewed already by the Special Counsel’s Office.

Q: Did that briefing book contain any accounts concerning what Mr. Hale had allegedly said under oath during the course of this trial, sir?
A: No, sir, it didn’t.

Q: Okay. You were asked by Mr. Heuer, sir, concerning whether or not you had ever gone to Mr. McDougal and sought financial aid from Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan concerning your joint business ventures; do you remember that, sir?
A: Yes, sir, I do.

Q: You and Ms. Clinton – well, perhaps maybe I’m misphrasing it. There was, in fact, an occasion in which you did go to a financial institution controlled by Mr. McDougal concerning financial assistance to the Whitewater Development, was there not, sir?
A: That’s correct.

Q: All right. Can you tell the jury, sir, what arose, what was the circumstances by which – first of all, who was it that did it?
A: My memory is that when Mr. McDougal had the bank up in Madison County, in the mountains of north Arkansas, Madison County is a county that adjoins Marion County were the Whitewater property was, that I had borrowed some money there, either Hillary or I one borrowed some money there, but it was our – our family, Hillary and I borrowed the money to build a house on one of the lots, one of the Whitewater lots that Jim thought would make it easier for us to sell the lots, make it more attractive, make it more realistic. And he had called me and said he had put some money into the developing of the lots and I should build a house, and we agreed to that, and that’s what we did. I think that’s what the loan was for.

Q: Okay. And that was the Bank of Kingston; is that correct, sir?
A: I believe that’s right.

Q: All right. Later became called Madison Bank and Trust, I believe. Were you familiar with the change in name at a later date?
A: I am now, I don’t know that I knew when it happened.

Q: And were you aware at the time, sir, that that was a financial institution owned jointly by Mr. McDougal and Stephen Smith?
A: I knew that Steve had an interest in the bank, yes.

Q: Okay. I believe the question was something along the line of, kind of describe for the jury’s benefit your knowledge of Stephen Smith and your relationship with Stephen Smith.
A: I met Mr. Smith I believe in 1972 when he was a young Arkansas state legislator from Madison County. And in 1974, when I ran for Congress, Mr. Smith supported that effort, worked in my campaign. He later came to work for me and he worked in my first term as governor, in the governor’s office. He left shortly before the election of 1980, and that’s the last time he ever worked for me. I maintained a limited but occasional contact with Steve in the years after that.

Q: And while he worked for you in the governor’s office was the same time that Mr. McDougal also worked with you in the governor’s office?
A: That’s right, they worked there together.

Q: And was that also the same time that Mr. McDougal advanced to you or sought you out concerning your investment in what later became Whitewater Development Corporation? Was that also about the same time?
A: Mr. Jahn, I think that was before that. I believe that Mr. McDougal and Susan and Hillary and I invested in Whitewater in 1978, before I became governor.

Q: Okay. But in 1978, was Mr. Smith working for you as attorney general, sir?
A: He was working in the attorney general’s office.

Q: Okay.
A: But Mr. McDougal wasn’t.

Q: Okay. Thank you. I’m sorry. Again, if I ask a question that’s not a hundred percent within the confines of your memory, please correct me on that particular regard.
A: All right, sir.

Q: So, there did come an occasion then where you were approached, or you and Mr. McDougal discussed obtaining some financing for the benefit of Whitewater Development Corporation, and Mr. McDougal made the arrangements, did he not, sir?
A: Well, I assume that we made them together, since we took out the loan and we took it out from that bank.

Q: Do you recall you and your wife going to the Bank of Kingston and executing notes and the like?
A: No, I think we signed the note without going up there.

Q: Okay. And so, at the time that you did it, you knew that it was Mr. McDougal’s institution?
A: I did.

Q: Okay. And you knew that he and Mr. Smith were basically in control of that institution?
A: I did.

Q: Now, at the time that it was done, though, is it fair, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth that aren’t fair, sir, is it fair to say that you actually considered that to be a debt of Whitewater Development Corporation, even though you were personally, or perhaps your wife was personally responsible, didn’t you really consider that to be part of the Whitewater Development Corporation Enterprise, itself?
A: Mr. Jahn, I think the fair way to characterize it was, I considered that loan in the same light that I considered the other loans that we had taken out to finance Whitewater. That is, I had hoped that the company would generate enough income from the sales of lots to repay those loans, but I was well aware that if it did not generate that income that I would be personally liable on them.

Q: Okay. And that hope, sir, was based upon representations that Mr. McDougal made to you; is that correct, sir?
A: Yes, sir. He had been in the land development business for some years, and he had enjoyed quite a bit of success in that.

Q: And you and your wife had no experience in land development; is that correct?
A: No. I had had that one very limited experience where I had made an investment with him and it had returned a nice profit in a modest amount of time.

Q: But as far as putting in roads and developing tracts —
A: No.

Q: — and developing marketing programs and the like, that was Mr. McDougal’s expertise?
A: That’s right. And that was the understanding, that we would put in half of the money but that he would manage it.

Article assistance provided by CNN.com

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Democracy Means More than One Choice

March 5, 2008

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Reagan. H W Bush. Bill Clinton. G W Bush. Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain?

With the exception of Obama, all of these represent the Establishment. The very same Establishment that refuses to see that they are killing democracy. Democracy inherently means choice. Where is the choice? The Establishment only seeks to do to two things:

1) Maintain power / further the gap between the classes

2) Eliminate choice, covertly or overtly, as a means to maintain power.

Eliminating choice means closing the gap between the right and the left. Since the Carter Administration, the Liberal Left has been becoming more and more disenfranchised, less motivated, and less inclined to even vote. Because the Christian Right Wing tends to vote for their issues as if it was about the word of “God”, the voter turnout on the Right has always been good, thus out performing the Left at the elections. This, in turn, closes the gap between left and right even more, leaving only a moderate center. Where is the choice in that? Democracy was born out of debate and disagreement with the government in England. Our government is slowly reducing the possibilities of debate. “Pick a number between 1 and 10, but it cannot be 1-4 or 6-10!” Wow, what a choice!

The Clintons are the pinnacle of liberal democracy? I voted for Clinton, but I did not realize that he would be responsible for policies that jailed more people (particularly non-violent drug offenders) than almost any other administration previous.  If you look at the record of most of the Administrations of the last two decades, they all said one thing and did another.

Reagan came down hard on crack and cocaine, but then the whole Iran-Contra Affair happened. Hmmm. Bush #1 said, “Read my lips, NO NEW TAXES”. We all know that was a lie. Clinton smoked pot, did not inhale, but was responsible for some of the hardest and most strict drug policies. Bush # 2 has said he is doing what is best for the American people, yet he has the worst approval rating. While he was supposedly elected for the people, by the people, he will not answer questions about some of his activities in office. He has gone as far as to create Executive Orders to avoid prosecution.

Hilary Clinton took money from a pharmaceutical company NOT to talk about Universal Health care, her pet project since she lived in the White House. Hilary also voted FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ when the constituency in her state, New York, was clearly opposed to it at the time. McCain co-authored a bill in the Senate called the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill. Not long after that, after many diatribes about reforming Campaign Financing laws, he came out as one of the first and only Independents, eventually running against Gore and Bush for the presidency. Recently, during the current race, McCain became “conservative republican”. Ha. Is the collective memory of the American people that bad? Have you been smoking with Bill Clinton? It is evident that these people will say and do anything to maintain the power of the Establishment, both fiscally and legislatively. There are so many more things that I could point out, but I think it is pretty clear that they are all the same. Tell me, what is the difference between McCain and Clinton. What they say seems slightly different when it comes to the war and health care, but what will they do given the chance. Their track records should speak for themselves.

Here is to the fight to maintain individualism, choice, and liberty. I would argue that we should not get rid of the Right Wing either, as choice means having a bad option, too. Two-party politics began to die in the last two decades. I do not have a problem with moderates or Right Wingers, per se, but I do have a problem with not having a choice. If we need more voter turnout, then we should be allowed more choices. How many times in the last twenty years have the voters said, “I am picking the lesser of two evils”. UGH!

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