News Section: Investigative reports
Not Just Whistling Dixie: Part 2
In part one of this series, we found that whistleblowers have always had a rough road. Portrayed as traitors, as heroes, under penalty, and for reward; what whistleblowers offer is often more about the source -- and who it serves -- than about the significant factors embodied within the message. Part two demonstrates how the whistleblower's ambition to protect has been highjacked by the bottom line of corporate profit.
Today's whistleblowers are less about the government's $435 claw hammer and $640 toilet seat than they are about leaching chemical plants and bogus vaccines. It would be nice if that meant cleaning up the corruption and waste while restoring public confidence, but it appears to be more about not letting any good deed go unpunished.
President Obama pledged to clean up the corruption and waste that trailed the Bush years, yet more whistleblowers have been prosecuted by the Obama administration than by his four predecessors combined.
Lately, we have had some telling examples of how we are being taken to the cleaners by both Big-Biz and the government they own. Regardless of the polarizing rhetoric and cat and mouse game both play, the public is being milked out of every drop their cow can produce.
Recently, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was fined $3 billion, after pleading guilty to criminal and civil violations related to the off-label use of drugs the company produced.
These drugs were taken for over a decade by millions of Americans, who consequently suffered from the same complications which were the reason these drugs were not approved. Three billion dollars may be the largest fine to date, but for this global pill giant, it's just part of the price of doing business.
Blair Hamrick and Greg Thorpe were the two whistleblowers that eventually put a stop to GSK's illegal marketing of drugs for off-label uses. They first complained to managers in 2001, filed a suit with the federal government in 2003, and in 2012 GSK admitted to their malfeasance -- after making billions of dollars in illegal profits.
Triangle Business Journal reported GSK profits of $9 billion on $44 billion in 2011 sales. Who thinks that $3 billion hasn't already been recouped from the pockets of everyones that uses GSK pharmaceuticals? The government's cut was $2 billion plus. GSK quickly recouped their fine, and the public was left with a permanently inflated drug price. Who loses is not rocket science.
It behooves government to patiently wait for corporations to make or put in place a method that recoups any penalty they intend to impose. Reprimands are simply a facade, because in reality, no one from corporate is going to jail.
Who's watching who?
Whistleblowers have gone from watching to being watched. The actual relationship between Big Pharma and its watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has become so blurred that they actually share the same spy software. There is no fear of each other, no likelihood or need to spy on one another. What both fear most is whistleblowers within their own operation, exposing their cozy relationship.
From 1998 to 2008 Ronald Kavanagh worked for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research as an FDA drug reviewer. In an interview with Martha Rosenberg, for Truth-Out magazine, Kavanagh said, "… drug reviewers were clearly told not to question drug companies, and that our job was to approve drugs. Any criticism about the agency could result in termination." Kavanagh added, "Sometimes we were literally instructed to only read a 100-150 page summary and accept drug company claims without examining the actual data."
When Kavanagh raised objections to FDA procedures, he was replaced as the primary reviewer so he could not document his concerns.
“After FDA management learned I had gone to Congress about certain issues, I found my office had been entered and my computer physically tampered with," Kavanagh tells Rosenberg. He added that he was threatened with prison time after he gave Representative Waxman's office a USB drive with evidence of what the FDA subsequently called, "Trade Secrets."
Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, Stephen Kohn represents five whistleblowers who have come forward with complaints of FDA spying and threats. He said, "For the first time, we now have a glimpse into what domestic surveillance of whistleblowers looks like … the agency sought to destroy the reputation of these whistleblowers forever."
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the drug industry employs over 1,200 lobbyists, spends over $12 billion handing out samples and spends billions more marketing them. From JAMA, "Adverse drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of death in America. Reactions to prescription and over-the-counter medications kill far more people annually than all illegal drug use combined."
The triumph of profit over integrity has long been the code of laissez-faire, but the appearance of a gatekeeper to the tactics and practices by which those profits are made remains paramount.
Without the assurance of oversight, the future of any industry would be solely in the hands of public opinion, and as history has proven, that can be brutal. Oversight provides a comfort zone for the public as well as Big-Biz, by allotting a time-out so both can pledge a return of confidence.
The FDA is not alone, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is equally compromised. NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko has resigned under allegations of bullying and withholding reports. A bipartisan NRC commission was united in requesting his departure.
But who the bad guy is here is not so clear. George Mulley, 26 year investigator with the NRC's Office of Inspector General (OIG) brought forth many findings in one of his final reports.
Mulley found a parade of NRC inspectors ignored reported safety violations, lost critical reports, relied on outdated methods, lagged enforcement on fire rules and corrosion monitoring. The only clear surmise was the NRC, along with its watchdog, the OIG, had completely dropped the ball.
The idea that many of the country's 104 nuclear power plants that are operating beyond their 40-year design and suffering from fatigue, is not a myth. Statements by nuclear industry promoters who state the industry is safe and sound, is illusion. The bane of invested interest makes the truth ever the more priceless.
“Fear is the foundation of most governments.” -- John Adams
For Julian Assange, 'the truth will set you free' has become a dangerous riddle. Whistleblowers throughout the world know him as the courageous prince of WikiLeaks, or the pro bono qui tam king.
Assange has displayed the true value of information -- the power behind the truth. His WikiLeaks website has rocked the world of deceit, exposing much of the sham and trickery of war and has the culprits lying through their teeth and shaking in their boots.
There isn't a more profitable business than war. Of course many a politician and member of Congress will deny that, but I haven't found one that will return the healthy dividends from the war-related stocks they own.
Many will tell you Assange is a traitor, guilty of putting our soldiers in harm's way. Others say, what he actually presents is a roadblock to just that. Assange says he did no more then provide a bulletin board for the horrors of war and the sunshine to disinfect it.
Pvt. First Class Bradley Manning, who now sits in jail facing espionage charges, says he used WikiLeaks to rid himself of what he found war to be. He found himself in a place that was not the ticket he paid for. He says he chose to not participate in the horror and not condone the war crimes that were occurring daily from it.
The U.S. Government has spent millions of dollars trying to lure Assange into their mitts. It's reported Great Britain is currently spending $80,000 a day waiting for Assange to step on the sidewalk outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He is not wanted for a crime anywhere, yet rest assured, once any country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., and gets their hands on him, the U.S. will quickly file espionage charges and insist he is extradited to America.
Information is power
WikiLeaks has had more that 250,000 (mostly government) communiqués sent to its website, 95 percent of which has nothing to do with troop location, equipment being used or future plans -- and the ones that do, Assange has vowed to contain them.
The most respected, diplomatic and effective agreement countries throughout the world share is the sovereignty of embassies located within each other's borders. Only in the rarest of cases is that homage violated, and that action of disrespect is almost exclusively reserved for tyrants.
The United Kingdom has threatened to violate that sovereignty and storm the Ecuadorian embassy to capture Assange. They are willing to take those measures, sever the only international thread respected throughout the world, so to guarantee Assange be extradited to the U.S.
This demonstrates just how powerful information is, and how far those whom behold the power will go to prevent the truth from surfacing. Daniel Ellsberg was the last one to present such a threat to the Military Industrial Complex, aka: The War Machine. Had he not turned over the Pentagon Papers, revealing the criminal deceptions and profiteering of the Viet Nam war, we may have lost many more then the 55,000 boys and girls that perished fighting for reasons other than those announced.
"A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." -- John F. Kennedy
Long live the whistleblower
Part -- 1 (HERE)
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