July 8, 2010
ABC World News
By: Ron Claiborne
Scientists and government officials fired back at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal today, saying homegrown plans he is backing to protect the state’s delicate coastline could actually do more harm than good.
Jindal flew over Barataria Bay on this 79th day of since BP’s Deepwater Horizon well exploded, sending up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. He was there to take another look at the environmentally sensitive coastline where oil has been encroaching for weeks. It is in that location that he and other Louisiana officials want to build their latest controversial attempt to stop the oil from reaching their coast — a rock barrier.
Jindal supports a plan to build artificial islands made of tons of rocks and boulders, which he says would slow the flow of oil into the bay, but federal officials have refused the state the necessary permissions to build, and that has triggered an increasingly heated political confrontation.
“We don’t have time for meetings, we don’t have time for red tape,” Jindal has said. “Get in the game to win.”
Jindal has used similar highly critical language to poke at the Obama administration for more than a month.
“No is not a plan,” the governor said at a press conference today.
Privately, federal officials are furious with Jindal’s behavior and say they’re baffled by his plans, but it’s not just federal officials that are opposed to Jindal’s rock jetty proposal.
Scientist Express Opposition to Rock Jetty Plan
Multiple government agencies have weighed in opposing the plan, but an army of scientists has also come forward to express their concerns.
The scientists worry that the rock plan could do more harm than good, fearing that in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, water and oil would rush in the remaining gaps between the natural islands at an even faster rate than now.
When that water inevitably flows back out to sea, they say, it could erode the fragile barrier islands and create new gaps for oil to get in.
The scientists also note that there is currently no funding in place to remove the rocks once they’re in place. However, the Governor has said that local officials have requested BP set up an escrow account to pay for the rock removal.
Jindal: Same Old Bureaucracy
Today, Jindal said he doesn’t buy the scientists’ arguments and promises to push forward.
“This is the same bureaucracy that has turned down every other plan. They don’t have an alternative,” the governor said. “Their resolution is [to] let the oil come into the bay.”
It’s not the first time that a Jindal plan has been blocked by federal authorities. Just last month, the governor made headlines by appealing all the way to President Obama, asking for permission to build sand berms. In fact, the Governor’s office notes that the rock jetty is the third plan they have tried to get approved, all in order to save their coast lines.
For its part today, the White House offered up a new prediction, claiming that they will reach their goal of closing off 90 percent of the oil coming out of BP’s leaking well head by the end of this week.
A new tanker will be in place to collect a lot more oil, though the development comes a week later than initially promised due to the bad weather caused by Hurricane Alex.
October 23, 2009
By Marilynn Marchione
Air “sterilizers.” A photon machine. Supplement pills to boost the immune system. Protective shampoos and face masks. Even fake Tamiflu.
These and other products making bogus claims to prevent or treat swine flu are flooding the Internet as scam artists prey on the public’s fears while the vaccine is delayed and real Tamiflu — made by Switzerland’s Roche Group — is rationed.
Every problem, it would seem, is a sales opportunity. Some of the products appear to have been pitched for other emergencies, such as one called “Quake Kare” and masks and purifiers sold during the SARS scare.
Federal officials have sent warning letters to promoters of more than 140 swine flu-related products, including well-known alternative medicine advocate Dr. Andrew Weil for his “Immune Support Formula.”
Consumer Reports also has warned subscribers to be wary.
“It’s harmful, disappointing, frustrating to see folks take advantage of the public like this,” said Dr. John Santa, who evaluates health claims for Consumer Reports.
Fraudulent products emerged shortly after swine flu did last spring — about 10 a day, said Alyson Saben, head of a swine flu consumer fraud team formed by the Food and Drug Administration. The pace slowed over the summer as the flu abated, but “it’s picked up” in recent weeks, she said. “We are seeing new sites pop up.”
Most worrisome: sites that claim to sell Tamiflu without a prescription. The FDA bought and tested five such products. One contained powdered talc and generic Tylenol — no Tamiflu. Several others contained some Tamiflu but were not approved for sale in the U.S.
“We have no idea of the conditions under which they were manufactured. They could contain contaminated, counterfeit, impure or subpotent or superpotent ingredients,” Saben said.
Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza are the only drugs recommended for treating swine flu.
Rogue Web sites are not the only ones trying to cash in on flu fears. Makers of some well-established products are making claims that may be close to the line, the FDA says.
This week, the makers of Dial Soap, Kleenex, Clorox and other big brands launched a joint promotional campaign costing up to $1 million. The FDA is reviewing the campaign, which includes a video that says:
“Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease. According to the CDC, up to 80 percent of infectious diseases, like the flu, are spread by your hands. That’s why frequent, proper handwashing is so important in preventing spread of the flu, other viruses and germs. An antibacterial soap like Dial Complete foaming hand wash kills 99.9 percent of germs.”
Flu is caused by a virus, so killing bacteria is of uncertain benefit.
The campaign is “not being specific down to swine flu,” said Scott Moffitt, an official with Dial Corp.’s parent company, Germany-based Henkel AG. He also contends the video is not misleading, even though the germ-killing claim follows a sentence about flu and other viruses.
One product that drew a warning letter from the FDA is the Photon Genie, a gadget that delivers “energy waves.” Its Web site claimed it “helps strengthen the immune system, and a strong immune system is KEY to preventing swine flu symptoms and KEY to treating swine flu.”
July 18, 2009
by Mike Stobbe
ATLANTA — The last time the government embarked on a major vaccine campaign against a new swine flu, thousands of people filed claims contending they suffered side effects from the shots. This time, the government has already taken steps to prevent that.
Vaccine makers and federal officials will be immune from lawsuits that result from any new swine flu vaccine, under a document signed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, government health officials said Friday.
Since the 1980s, the government has protected vaccine makers against lawsuits over the use of childhood vaccines. Instead, a federal court handles claims and decides who will be paid from a special fund.
The document signed by Sebelius last month grants immunity to those making a swine flu vaccine, under the provisions of a 2006 law for public-health emergencies. It allows for a compensation fund, if needed.
The government takes such steps to encourage drug companies to make vaccines, and it has worked. Federal officials have contracted with five manufacturers to make a swine flu vaccine. First identified in April, swine flu has so far caused about 263 deaths, according to numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.
The CDC said more than 40,000 Americans have had confirmed or probable cases, but those are people who sought health care. It’s likely that more than 1 million Americans have been sickened by the flu, many with mild cases.
The virus hits younger people harder than seasonal flu, but so far hasn’t been much more deadly than the strains seen every fall and winter. But health officials say the virus could mutate to a more dangerous form, or at least contribute to a potentially heavier flu season than usual.
“We do expect there to be an increase in influenza this fall,” with a bump in cases perhaps beginning earlier than normal, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the regular winter flu vaccine, a final step before shipments to clinics and other vaccination sites could begin.
The last time the government faced a new swine flu virus was in 1976. Cases of swine flu in soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J., including one death, made health officials worried they might be facing a deadly pandemic like the one that killed millions around the world in 1918 and 1919.
Federal officials vaccinated 40 million Americans during a national campaign. A pandemic never materialized, but thousands who got the shots filed injury claims, saying they suffered a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome or other side effects.
“The government paid out quite a bit of money,” said Stephen Sugarman, a law professor who specializes in product liability at the University of California at Berkeley.
Vaccines aren’t as profitable as other drugs for manufacturers, and without protection against lawsuits “they’re saying, ‘Do we need this?’” Sugarman said.
The move to protect makers of a swine flu didn’t go over well with Paul Pennock, a prominent New York plaintiffs attorney on medical liability cases. The government will probably call on millions of Americans to get the vaccinations to prevent the disease from spreading, he noted.
“If you’re going to ask people to do this for the common good, then let’s make sure for the common good that these people will be taken care of if something goes wrong,” Pennock said.