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News - July 2001
Revenge of the Downsized NerdsBusiness Week - By Michelle Conlin - July 30, 2001
The agents on the computer intrusion squad at the San Francisco FBI bureau thought they had seen everything when it came to hackers. But since the tech meltdown began late last year, the Silicon Valley G-men have discovered a new breed: laid-off dot-commers and other techies who are out for revenge. In one case under investigation, an axed systems administrator hacked back into his former company's computers, then published user ID's, passwords, and secret company information in public chat rooms. Another pink-slipped worker sent bawdy e-mails--complete with a pornographic picture attached--to everyone at the high-tech company where he had worked. And at an import-export outfit, the CEO can't access any of his old e-mail: A former employee wiped it all out.
These computer criminals are part of a new sort of cyber saboteur: the disgruntled ex-employee. In recent months, axed workers have posted a company's payroll on its intranet, planted data-destroying bugs, and handed over valuable intellectual property to competitors. Although exact numbers are hard to come by, computer security experts say it is fast becoming the top technical concern at many companies. "This is a major threat," says Internet Trading Technologies CEO Craig Goldberg.
Take the FBI's San Francisco office, which saw just three cases of disgruntled ex-employees breaking into corporate networks last year. So far this year, it has 15. In Boston, no cases were reported in 2000; now, there are four. That may not sound like much, but most companies want to avoid negative publicity and don't report such crimes. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," says James Hegarty, supervisor of the FBI's computer crime squad in Boston. "We think it's phenomenally underreported."
Of course, fired workers have always exacted revenge on their former employers. But this time, they're capable of much greater damage. More than ever, companies depend on computer networks that are vulnerable to electronic sabotage. With more than 30,000 Web sites filled with hacking tools that any grade-schooler could use, today's brand of getting even is far easier for alienated workers to pull off. It's also far more costly for companies. The FBI estimates the cost of the average insider attack at $2.7 million.
Many of the attacks amount to low-level extortion. One systems administrator at a hospital encrypted patient files once she learned she would be laid off. She then offered to fix the problem immediately in exchange for severance, a cash payout, and a no-prosecution agreement. The hospital signed the "golden parachute," as computer-security experts call such deals, and subsequently was unable to press charges.
So who is the typical perpetrator of cyber sabotage? An introvert prone to nursing grudges, says Bethesda (Md.)-based Political Psychology Associates Ltd. Researchers have identified six common traits in attackers: a history of personal or social frustrations, heavy computer usage, loose ethics, reduced loyalty, a sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy.
Companies rarely know how many computers they have or who is authorized to use them. And they often don't immediately terminate their ex-workers' access. Worse, one computer-security consultant cites a case in which a laid-off worker even managed to use the password of a dead co-worker to log back into a company's network, because the dead man's profile hadn't yet been deleted. International Data Corp. estimates that as many as 30% of a company's approved users are no longer around. Many executives also make the mistake of assuming firewalls will protect them. But a third of companies using firewalls say they're still hacked into, according to the Computer Security Institute.
That's why taking some simple preventative steps to centralize computer access can save a lot of money. Companies such as E*Trade Group Inc. and Oppenheimer Funds Inc. are racing to install the latest in security software, which offers the ability to instantly block laid-off workers from their entire networks. How times have changed. A year ago, companies begged to get employees to stay. Now, they're doing everything they can to keep former workers away.
Cashless SeveranceCFO Magazine - By Lisa Yoon - July 30, 2001
American Express Co. is laying off another 4,000 to 5,000 people. JDS Uniphase is laying off another 7,000 people. Hewlett-Packard is canning 6,000. Lucent is cutting another 20,000 or so.
The steady drumbeat of layoffs continues week after week, with few signs of a letup.
And wherever layoffs take place, severance is sure to follow. And, as most senior financial executives know, severance could be a big cash drain for companies at precisely the time they are trying to conserve cash.
Don't despair. A new method allows companies to save cash by restructuring the laid-off employee’s pension benefit, says Tom Murphy of Unifi Network, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s human resources and benefits consulting subsidiary.
Through a qualified severance arrangement, a few companies have increased pensions by the amount of the calculated severance package. Companies then save cash while still delivering the value of the severance benefit to the departing employee.
How? By somewhat raiding their overfunded pension plans.
“Many companies are restructuring now, and at the same time, many of them find they have a run-up in plan assets, despite the stock market's recent collapse,” says Murphy, who declines to name his Fortune-500 clients using the method, explaining it’s too early in the implementation. He adds despite the market’s “less-than-wonderful” recent performance, pension portfolios that are diverse enough should have taken a relatively soft hit.
So, under these qualified severance arrangements, companies are allocating some of the overfunded assets to the accrued benefits of pension plan participants.
Murphy notes that this does not mean “dipping into” a pension surplus to fund a cash severance. According to Internal Revenue Service code, pension trust funds can only be used to finance pension-related activities. While these qualified severance agreements let companies save cash, they also (obviously) reduce the surplus position of the pension fund. “It’s a tradeoff,” says Murphy. “It’s just another way to do it [fund severance packages]…”
Executives Get Rich, Workers Get PeanutsLos Angles Times - by John Balzar - July 29, 2001
"Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can think of no milder term to apply to ... the general prey of the rich on the poor."
My, how things have changed. Today you'd be flayed for repeating what Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago. Class warfare, remember, threatens everything we hold dear in America.
Just look back at the presidential election, or at the recent tax-cut debate. Anyone who dared question the privileges and distribution of wealth was marginalized as a troublemaker and anti-American to boot. These admonitions have been remarkably effective in clearing the path for those few who never tire of preying on the many. Maybe you came across the Wall Street Journal's recent expose on executive pensions. Corporations across the land have frozen or whittled down worker pensions, all the while fattening up executive retirements. The differences are, to use the proper term, shocking.
Lifetime workers at many blue-ribbon companies end up drawing 12% or 15% of their salaries in retirement. Executives, even short-termers, are looting these same companies for 50% to 100% of their already overblown paychecks. Salary employees must work for years to earn a pension. Executives vest right away.
A drugstore chain carried $65 million in retirement obligations for 18,000 employees. For a few dozen executives, the newspaper reported, the company owed another $32 million. An electronics giant was found to have reduced pension liability for 120,000 workers while increasing its pension promises for 71 executives. The "latest twist" described by the newspaper enables executives to transform surplus retirement benefits into trusts that can be passed to heirs tax-free. Cuts in pensions have boosted the bottom line for corporations, allowing executives to justify their salary bonuses. Meanwhile, their own pensions often remain undisclosed liabilities for shareholders.
The Journal contrasted the fate of two men who lost their jobs in a utility company merger. Both had worked there 12 years. A 62-year-old former welder lacked the requisite 15 years to receive a pension. But a 59-year-old executive received credit for 35 years service in his severance package and began drawing $69,070 a month.
How this gluttony occurs is easy to explain. Executives set the terms of compensation for everyone, including themselves. They sit on each other's boards of directors. They solemnly tell each other they need all this money or they couldn't possibly be motivated to get out of bed and come to the office. They listen and nod in agreement. Then they hire factotums to step forward with straight faces and tell the rest of us that this is so.
A more difficult question: How come there is not a backlash?
America's baby boomers are now looking retirement in the face. You might think that a system skewered to exalt 71 of them and diminish 120,000 others would create discontent. Or at the very least, crowd-pleasing politicians would try to make hay of it.
Well so far, no one, except Ralph Nader on the political fringe, has dared even the feeblest counterattack.
Why? Of a dozen or so reasons I've discussed with people, a few seem to make the most sense. One atop another, they amount to hoisting the white flag of surrender:
Campaign financing. The old-fashioned populists who have risen up in the past to restrain corporate privilege cannot get a foothold in politics. Even campaigns for minor offices require huge contributions from the moneyed class. So we are left without a farm club for populists.
The demise of public interest. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, a generation of Americans has been indoctrinated to believe that society's collective good, as expressed by government, strangles free enterprise. Our social restraint mechanism has been stigmatized. Gee, if gub'ment could only be as efficient as business. Yes, if only.
Cynicism. Steal a slice of pizza, go to jail. But if a Wall Street brokerage cheats thousands of people out of their savings and gets caught, well, shareholders of the brokerage may suffer a fine so long as nobody has to admit guilt. Americans feel powerless against institutional injustice, because so few people in positions of authority say it is wrong.
Fear. When a cutthroat culture turns on itself and poverty becomes a cause for individual blame, not collective sympathy, the Employee Class accepts many indignities for fear of losing even more ground. We cower under the thumb of the sheriff of Nottingham because Robin Hood is on the run.
The lottery. Don't laugh. Tens of millions of Americans tell themselves that they are just a few lucky numbers away at any given moment from joining the aristocracy. It's hard to rouse these working people on to war footing when they think they have a chance each week to escape to the enemy camp.
Morale, performance slump after layoffsUSA Today - By Stephanie Armour - July 29, 2001
There's a downside to all this downsizing. Mounting concerns over job cuts have managers grappling with a surge in job-performance problems.
Work quality is declining. Some employees are so concerned about layoffs that work is suffering. ComPsych, a Chicago-based employee-assistance provider, has seen a 20% jump in calls from employers wanting help with workers' performance.
"You're seeing people whose performance is deteriorating because of the stress of the economy and increased demands," says Richard Chaifetz, CEO of ComPsych. "How do people deal with stress and the unknown? A lot of people retreat into a shell."
Injury rates are up. Employees in an environment of job insecurity are less likely to follow safety rules and more apt to experience injuries, according to a new study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. "If employees feel production is of primary concern, they're going to focus on production and take safety risks," says Tahira Probst, assistant professor at Washington State University at Vancouver. "Their physical health is also affected. They're more stressed about job insecurity and have more headaches, insomnia and ulcers."
Workplace relationships are suffering. The recent economic downturn has led to an 11% decline in satisfaction with relationships between co-workers and supervisors, according to a study this year by Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut.
"If you have a lull in customers, it can really de-motivate people," says Rohan Mahadevan, CEO of Aftermind, a Fremont, Calif.-based provider of integrated technology and services solutions.
At PeopleSupport, a provider of Web-based customer care solutions, managers have seen some workers improve performance because of the uncertain financial outlook. But that's not always the case.
"Some people get into analysis paralysis, where their work suffers because they're so worried about what's around the corner," says Paul Birdseye, director of St. Louis operations.
Experts say the morale, performance and other problems stemming from job cuts can have a bottom-line impact that employers often underestimate.
"Companies take these knee-jerk reactions and cut people, but they don't expect the fallout," says Perry Ludy, author of Profit Building: Cutting Costs without Cutting People. "After a layoff, there's survivor syndrome. Digging yourself out takes money and time."
Many managers feel they can't let such problems slide, experts say, because productivity is at a premium now that companies are becoming leaner.
"Some people, when they feel vulnerable and stressed, don't take charge. They feel they're victims of the situation," says Vivian Golub, an organizational consultant and president of San Jose, Calif.-based Ariel Consulting. "But companies are much more ready to deal with such performance issues."
ACLU Defends Ohio 8th GraderACLU - Press Release - July 26, 2001
CLEVELAND--The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the suspension and expulsion of an 8th grade student over a web site he and his friends created off-campus.
Jonathon Coy, 15, together with several friends created an off-campus web site dedicated to skateboarding and humor. In April 2001, officials at North Canton Middle School suspended him for five days and placed him on in school expulsion until November.
"This is yet another sad example of school officials reacting hysterically to innocent student expression," said Raymond Vasvari, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which is representing the Coy family in federal court. "What students say and do on their own time is between them and their parents, and is not the business of over-zealous administrators."
Nothing on the site was obscene, Vasvari noted, and teachers, administrators and the North Canton Schools generally were not even mentioned. Despite this, school officials charged Coy with bullying. Local police were also sent to the Coy household to review the tape with Jonathon's parents, but could find nothing wrong with it.
The web site, which Coy created on his home computer on his own time, featured him and friends in humorous photos and focused on skateboarding, videography and juvenile humor.
The Supreme Court has held that schools may limit student speech in connection with school activities and events, but has never allowed administrators to censor student speech off campus, the ACLU said in legal papers.
"Schools have got to stop playing fast and loose with the constitutional rights of their students," said Jillian Davis, ACLU Staff Counsel, who also represents Coy. "Jonathan Coy is the latest victim of the zero-tolerance mindset of our schools. He did nothing wrong, but has suffered academically and emotionally as a result of his punishment. This has to stop."
The ACLU is asking the federal court to declare the school's action unconstitutional, to end Jonathan's expulsion and erase it from his record. The lawsuit also seeks money damages.
True Cost of New Drug R & DPublic Citizen - Press Release - July 23, 2001
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The pharmaceutical industry spends about one-fifth of what it says it spends on the research and development of new drugs, destroying the chief argument it uses against making prescription drugs affordable to middle and low-income seniors, a Public Citizen investigation has found.
The findings are contained in a Public Citizen report, Rx R&D Myths: The Case Against the Drug Industry's R&D Scare Card.
The report reveals how major U.S. drug companies and their Washington lobby group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, have carried out a misleading campaign to scare policymakers and the public. PhRMA's central claim is that the industry needs extraordinary profits to fund "risky" and innovative research and development to discover new drugs. In fact, taxpayers are footing a significant portion of the R&D bill, which is much lower than the companies claim.
"This R&D scare card is built on myths and falsehoods that are maintained by the drug industry to block Medicare drug coverage and measures that would rein in skyrocketing drug costs," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.
Public Citizen based the study on an extensive review of government and industry data and a report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the National Institutes of Health. Among the report's key findings:
§ The actual after-tax cash outlay - what drug companies really spend on R&D for each new drug (including failures) - is approximately $110 million (in year 2000 dollars.) This is in marked contrast with the $500 million figure PhRMA frequently touts.
§ The NIH document shows how crucial taxpayer-funded research is to the development of top-selling drugs. According to the NIH, U.S. taxpayer-funded scientists conducted at least 55 percent of the research projects that led to the discovery and development of the five top-selling drugs in 1995.
§ Public Citizen found that, at most, about 22 percent of the new drugs brought to market in the past two decades were innovative drugs that represented important therapeutic advances. Most new drugs were "me-too" or copycat drugs that have little or no therapeutic gain over existing drugs, undercutting the industry's claim that R&D expenses are used to discover new treatments for serious and life-threatening illnesses.
"The drug industry is stealing from us twice," Clemente said. "First it claims that it needs huge profits to develop new drugs, even while drug companies get hefty taxpayer subsidies. Second, the companies gouge taxpayers while spending millions from their profits to buy access to lawmakers and defeat pro-consumer prescription drug legislation."
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, added, "Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies have been deceiving Congress and the American public for years. I commend Public Citizen for exposing the industry's long-standing attempt to hide the truth about R&D spending."
Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), said, "This well-documented Public Citizen report shows just how much the pharmaceutical industry exaggerates its commitment to research and development and focuses instead on the bottom line."
Added Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), "Millions of our seniors have paid taxes for decades and contributed to the development of new drugs. Now in their retirement, they pay the highest prices in the world for these drugs. . . .The public deserves better."
Power Lines Create Health RiskSan Diego Channel 10 News - July 15, 2001
Electromagnetic fields from such sources as power lines or interior wiring may put people at slightly higher risk for miscarriages and other health problems, a study by the California Department of Health shows.
Researchers stressed that the study, released Friday by the health department, is not conclusive. However, the study's warning of possible health risks is stronger than similar research over the past two decades.
"This is basically trying to explain the best science available so it could be used in policy development," said Kevin Reilly, deputy director of prevention services at the health department.
Reilly added that there "certainly is a chance" that no link exists between electromagnetic fields and cases of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer and Lou Gehrig's Disease, a degenerative nerve disorder.
EMFs are invisible lines of force created wherever electricity is generated or used, such as near power lines, electric wiring, electrical equipment and appliances.
The study did not look into potential risks from appliances including televisions, computers and cell phones.
The study will undergo public review over the next few months and could reshape health and safety regulations for schools, workplaces and even private homes.
Current state building regulations recommend that new public schools be built at least 100 feet away from power lines.
The report has already been reviewed by a panel of outside scientists and will be scrutinized further in August. In the meantime, the public should not panic or avoid sources of electricity, said Thomas McKone, a University of California, Berkeley public health professor who reviewed the report.
The state Public Utilities Commission requested the report in 1993 to asses the risks of electromagnetic fields.
Summertime, and the Accountin's EasySmartMoney.com - By Igor Greenwald - July 14, 2001
IT'S NO SECRET: the fix is in. Barring disaster or a sudden outbreak of legally unnecessary honesty (which would be a catastrophe in its own right) the companies Wall Street loves best will hit their earnings targets next week.
That means investors can stop fretting about Intel's report Tuesday evening, AOL Time Warner's release the next morning and IBM's numbers after Wednesday's close. Microsoft has already promised not to disappoint Thursday evening, while Nortel Networks and Sun Microsystems have offered sneak previews of the ugly numbers they'll deliver that night.
Who else? Only about a thousand other companies spread over five days, including a dozen other blue chips, many of them humming some variation on this now familiar refrain: "The world is weak/The dollar's strong/Our coffers leak/Boy were we wrong."
Not that the markets will pay much attention. They will be too busy celebrating the financial wizardry of their bellwethers, which will use their fat balance sheets the way camels use humps to get through the current dry spell.
Which isn't to accuse anyone of illegal fiddling, only to note that the necessity to make the quarterly nut is the mother of complex modern accounting. The standard bag of tricks includes profits derived from bulging pension funds, revenue from written-down inventory, estimated tax-rate fudges, contracts brought forward, channels stuffed, extraordinary expenses that aren't — and that's before we get to employee stock options. Count the last (as companies seldom do) and tech earnings last year would have been some 60% lower, according to a Merrill Lynch study of 37 big firms.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that S&P 500 companies have written off about $50 billion in "special" charges between October and March. Such write-downs are often a byproduct of overstated profits in the past. A slide away down the slippery slope, the Securities and Exchange Commission is up to its eyeballs in accounting probes, including 40 of S&P 500 companies, according to another recent Journal story. "If we had nothing else to do, the accounting investigations alone could keep us busy for the next five or 10 years. The size and magnitude are crushing," the agency's enforcement chief told the newspaper...
Report on The Great CEO Pay HeistDuke Energy Employee Advocate - July 12, 2001
Fortune Magazine published “Inside the great CEO pay heist” and “EXECUTIVE PAY - The Great CEO Pay Heist” The titles are self-explanatory.
Scott Burns (scottburns.com) made some insightful comments regarding the data presented: “The editors of a major business magazine refer to executive pay as a criminal activity - a ‘heist.’ As in: steal, lift, purloin, plunder, loot, boost, light finger, or just plain rob. That’s not the kind of language we’re accustomed to seeing in the same sentence with the erstwhile heroes of corporate America.”
In the last decade, the minimum wage rose 36 percent, CEO pay increased as much as 12,444 percent! Examples were given of CEO’s being rewarded for utter failure.
Mr. Burns predicts a backlash against high-rolling executives. He also predicts that the Social Security fund will not be privatized.
The reason why:
“America’s business leadership has scorched the territory of privatization with a ten-year blast of jellied self-aggrandizement. It is true that Congress has joyfully looted the Social Security trust fund ever since we started paying in a surplus. But why would we bother to trade elected looters for executive looters?”
Court Protects Anonymous Internet CriticsPublic Citizen - Press Release - July 11, 2001
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Adopting arguments made by attorneys for Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of New Jersey, a New Jersey appeals court today rejected a company's attempt to discover the identities of anonymous Internet message critics by going to court. The case is the first time any appeals court in the nation has considered this question.
The company, New Jersey-based Dendrite International, failed to meet the stringent legal standards required to obtain subpoenas for the disclosure of the identities of people who post Web messages about companies, Judge Robert Fall ruled in an opinion for a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division.
"Several other courts have articulated similar standards for deciding whether to compel the identification of anonymous Internet speakers, but this decision marks the first time that any appeals court has considered such a request for identification," said attorney Paul Levy, who filed a brief for Public Citizen as a friend of the court. "Because it sets forth strict procedural and evidentiary standards for compelled identification, and then shows that these standards can truly protect anonymity, this decision is a tremendous victory for free speech."
Levy predicted that the decision is likely to be especially influential in future cases. Yahoo! recently told a judge in another case that it has received thousands of subpoenas like Dendrite's.
The court issued the ruling in a case in which Dendrite International, a supplier of sales force software products and support services to the pharmaceutical industry, sued four people who anonymously posted messages critical of the company on a Yahoo! message board. Dendrite alleged that three of the message posters had made false statements, that two of the posters who identified themselves as employees had violated employment agreements, and that three of them had published secret information. After Dendrite asked the court to require Yahoo! to identify the defendants, Superior Court Judge Kenneth MacKenzie ordered Dendrite to post a notice of its request on the Yahoo! message board to alert the posters that their anonymity was at issue. Two of the posters hired lawyers to defend their right to remain anonymous, and Public Citizen entered the case as a friend of the court to argue for a limited right to anonymity. After Judge MacKenzie ruled in favor of the two posters, Dendrite appealed the denial of its request to identify just one of the posters.
The court accepted Public Citizen's argument that courts must "strike a balance between the well- established First Amendment right to speak anonymously, and the right of the plaintiff to protect its proprietary interests and reputation [against] actionable conduct of anonymous, fictionally named defendants." To achieve this balance, Judge Fall adopted a four-part test, following the standard proposed in Public Citizen's brief, to ensure that the right to speak anonymously can be lost only if the plaintiff can show that it had a valid case against the speakers that could not be pursued without identifying the speakers.
Under this standard, the court should first require the plaintiff to attempt to notify the anonymous posters that their identities are being sought and give the defendants an opportunity to oppose the request. The plaintiff must identify the exact statements alleged to be unlawful. The court must then decide both whether the complaint states a valid claim for relief and whether the plaintiff has enough evidence to support its claim. Finally, if these first three criteria are met, the court must balance the defendant's First Amendment right of anonymous free speech against the strength of the case and the necessity of identifying the poster.
The court upheld Judge MacKenzie's ruling that Dendrite had not met this standard, because there was no proof that the messages had caused its stock price to fall or had otherwise caused it harm.
Public Citizen argued in its brief that because the main purpose of such suits is often to unmask company critics, the identification of those critics should be treated as a major form of relief that cannot be awarded without proof of wrongdoing. A company should not be able to deny members of the public the right to speak anonymously simply by filing a complaint and making vague allegations of wrongdoing.
"Judge Fall has set an important precedent protecting the free speech rights of all Internet posters," Levy said. "He established tough standards that we hope other courts will follow."
Public Citizen filed the brief because it champions free speech rights. The organization recently represented a person who posted anonymous messages on a Yahoo! message board about Thomas & Betts Corporation, a Tennessee manufacturer of electrical components. That company dropped the case with a statement that it did not want to chill free speech on the Internet. Public Citizen is also representing an employee who anonymously posted a message on the Internet about an executive of Ohio-based AK Steel Company. The executive has sued to learn the identity of the employee.
J.C. Salyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Foundation was local counsel in this case. Judges Edwin Stern and Ariel Rodriguez joined Judge Fall's opinion. A second similar case, Immunomedics v. Doe, was argued in tandem with the Dendrite case but has not yet been decided.
AARP Joins Age Discrimination LawsuitDuke Energy Employee Advocate - July 11, 2001
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has taken an interest in a class-action age discrimination lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, according to The Detroit News. The AARP will provide attorneys, research, and legal services.
The lawsuit was filed by managers challenging the “employee-ranking system.” They allege the system is a scam to eliminate older workers.
``We only get involved in cases we think are important and will set a precedent for the future,'' said Laurie McCann, head of AARP Foundation Litigation. ``This could be a very important case.''
The AARP is a very worthwhile organization. They provided a meeting room for those of us who gathered in Washington, last year. It provided a base of operation to discuss with employees of other companies the meeting with the Department of Labor and the Treasury Department. The cash balance plan untruths of several companies were exposed to the Treasury and DOL at this meeting. The AARP has exposed cash balance plan injustices at hearings in Washington. They do more than just send out a newsletter.
Membership in the AARP is open to anyone at least fifty years of age. Dues are ten dollars per year. Membership is recommended to all who are eligible.
Your Boss Could Be Analyzing Your BloodNewsNet5 - July 10, 2001
CLEVELAND - What does your boss really know about you? It may be more much more than you think.
In Monday's Special Assignment, NewsChannel5's Ron Regan reports that your boss may secretly be gathering medical information that's being used to deny you a promotion -- or even your job.
A huge corporation secretly collects blood from its workers, quietly looking for genetic flaws. Although it sounds like the latest Michael Crichton book, it's not.
"It's real -- it's not science fiction. They are doing it," genetic-testing target Gary Avary said.
For 27 years, Avary has worked for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. But what happened to him in his small Midwestern town is sending shock waves all the way to Washington.
It began when he had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Soon, Burlington Northern sent him and 34 others who had the surgery a letter asking for a mysterious follow-up exam.
"They were looking much deeper than carpal tunnel," Avary said, "This was just their way into our blood."
The lab took a lot of blood -- seven vials of it. Avary's wife, Janice, said that she was suspicious before he even went for the exam.
"Seven vials of blood for routine laboratory work?" she said.
Janice investigated and found out that the railroad was doing genetic tests on the workers -- and no one knew.
"They never asked for any permission," Gary said.
The Avarys, along with a growing number of privacy and consumer advocates, fear that companies could use genetic test results to cancel insurance benefits or determine who gets a promotion.
"Because if they have that information that I potentially will get cancer or Reyes disease or ASL, they're going to use it against me," Gary said.
Burlington Northern insisted that the test was appropriate because their workers' contracts state that the company can "determine when medical examinations are necessary." The company claims that it was looking for a genetic predisposition to carpal tunnel syndrome. But there is no carpal tunnel gene, WEWS reports.
"When it comes to the most private of medical information, your genetic makeup and what diseases you may be predisposed to, no one has a right to that information except your doctor," U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said.
Kucinich said that Americans have very little protection for medical privacy, and he's co-sponsoring a bill to change that. Medical ethicist Dr. George Agich of the Cleveland Clinic said that in some instances, such testing can be appropriate.
"Employers certainly have some reason to engage in medical examinations, to require employees to undergo medical examinations for safety reasons for themselves and others, but they're not allowed to engage in fishing expeditions," he said.
No one knows how many more companies might be doing covert testing. For the Avarys, once was enough. "It's happening right now," Gary said.
Burlington Northern agreed to stop genetic testing after being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Right now, 32 states have laws on the books protecting employees from genetic testing -- Ohio does not.
Free Trade Area of the AmericasPublic Citizen - Press Release - July 3, 2001
FTAA "Draft" Text Made Public Today Is Missing Vital Information; Has Been Released Too Late
Sanitized Text Released After Seven Years of FTAA Talks Shows That the Proposal Would Expand NAFTA Flaws to 31 More Nations
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Some text of a controversial trade agreement government officials promised to release in mid-April was made public today, but the version that was released lacks vital information and represents only a fraction of the entire pact, Public Citizen said today.
Government officials agreed to a one-time release of a negotiating text of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), hoping to eliminate criticism about the secrecy of the FTAA process. However, today's "release" of a partial text for negotiations, which have been under way behind closed doors for seven years, is likely to fan growing opposition to the proposed pact.
"This was supposed to be a PR move aimed at calming FTAA opposition, but the governments obviously have put out a fragment of the total agreement, one that has been sanitized by eliminating vital information," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "They say that this release is a one-time event and future texts will not necessarily be made be available.
"This one-time public relations stunt will not deceive the broad-based civil society opposition to negotiating a trade agreement, which is being drawn up at the behest of special interests who flatly refuse to address the concerns of environmentalists, labor organizations or consumers when they negotiate secret agreements."
The FTAA text made available is only 434 pages, even though it is a "bracketed text," which means that it contains several versions or options for many clauses. Yet public documents reveal that FTAA is slated to cover the same vast array of issues as NAFTA, with nine FTAA negotiating groups under way for years. Given that the NAFTA text is more than 700 pages long, the FTAA text released today is only a fraction of the whole agreement.
"Even with a sizeable chunk of the negotiating text remaining concealed from the public, it is clear that FTAA is all about cramming NAFTA-on-steroids down the throats of people from Toronto to Tierra del Fuego," Wallach said. "FTAA was supposed to represent the improved renegotiation of NAFTA. Instead it worsens and expands NAFTA's worst provisions."