Dylan and Freedom

There is so much one could say about the White House’s announcement yesterday that Bob Dylan is among this year’s distinguished recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country’s highest civilian honor. Of course, I immediately thought of Dylan’s music.

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Citizens DisUnited
Voting booth

Today is election day in Pennsylvania. With Rick Santorum out of the Republican nomination hunt, Pennsylvania’s local media surely must have lost out on millions of dollars in political advertising booty.

That realization led to another revelation: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, finding that corporations are persons and free to spend virtually without limit in political campaigns, is going to bring dramatic and dangerous change to our electoral process.

Because I represent individuals and families often against powerful and wealthy companies, I find myself sometimes pointing out that we are not the ones with influential lobbyists in Washington or Harrisburg. The Citizens United decision makes that observation sound anachronistic. No matter how powerful the army lined up in opposition, there was always the quaint notion that we all were entitled to the same vote on election day.

That just isn’t true anymore.

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Dow’s Rules, Dow Rules
Spraying-Pesticides

How many aces should one player be allowed to have?

As the New York Times reported last week, the EPA has denied a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke approval of the herbicide 2,4-D. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/business/energy-environment/epa-denies-request-to-ban-24-d-a-popular-weed-killer.html. A story about an environmental advocacy group coming up short – - unfortunately, we have heard that tale before.

Further down in the Times’ article, however, comes the real story that explains what happened here and also why efforts to limit environmental and human exposures to toxic substances is such a challenge.

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PA Supreme Court: Dow Must Face Questions On Brain Cancer Epi
Dow HQ

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that Dow Chemical must produce witnesses to testify about alleged scientific irregularities in epidemiology studies the company sponsored to look at links between vinyl chloride and brain cancer.

In an April 10, 2012 decision, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of Rohm and Haas, now a subsidiary of Dow, which means the opinion of the Superior Court (Pennsylvania’s intermediate appellate court) stands.

And that means Dow and Rohm and Haas have lost their challenge to a court order compelling Dow to make available certain witnesses to answer questions about whether Dow concealed from epidemiology researchers evidence of workers who had been exposed to vinyl chloride and who later were diagnosed with brain cancer. The reason Dow allegedly concealed such evidence: To weaken the scientific links between vinyl chloride, a key ingredient in the making of plastic, and brain cancer.

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