The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
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The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.Continue reading
This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.
The segment aired in response to a flurry of reports noting a dramatic increase in brain tumors and other serious health issues following the approval of aspartame for use in dry foods in 1981. Fifteen years after its somewhat dubious approval, (the most controversial FDA decision to date), more than 7,000 consumer reports of adverse reaction to aspartame had been delivered to the FDA. As reported by 60 Minutes, the litany of consumer complaints included severe headaches, dizziness, respiratory issues, and seizures. The FDA countered with a statement that aspartame was the most tested product in FDA history.
Dr. Virginia V. Weldon, a pediatrician from Missouri and Vice President of Public Policy for the Monsanto Company from 1989 through 1998, told 60 Minutes that aspartame is “one of the safest food ingredients ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Dr. John W. Olney, a neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine, vehemently disagreed with Dr. Weldon’s assessment of the controversial super sweetener. Notable for his discovery of the brain-harming effects of an amino acid called glutamate, Dr. Olney was influential in legislating the ban of MSG in baby food. At the time of the 60 Minutes segment, he had been studying the effects of aspartame and other compounds on brain health for more than two decades.
Olney told 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace that since the approval of aspartame, there had been “a striking increase in the incidence of malignant brain tumors.” The doctor did not directly blame aspartame for the increase. He did, however, state that there was enough questionable evidence to merit reevaluating the chemical compound. He said that the FDA should reassess aspartame and that “this time around, they should do it right.”
Dr. Erik Millstone, Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex, told 60 Minutes that Searle’s testing procedures in the early 1970s were so flawed that there was no way to know for certain if aspartame was safe for human consumption. Millstone claimed that the company’s failure to dissect a test animal that died during an aspartame experiment was merely one example of “deficiencies” in Searle’s conduct. He also noted that when test mice presented with tumors, the tumors were “cut out and discarded and not reported.” In addition, Dr. Millstone told Mike Wallace that G.D. Searle and contractors hired by the drug company administered antibiotics to some test animals yet neglected to reveal this information in official reports.
In 1974, after the G.D. Searle company had already manufactured a significant quantity of aspartame, then-commissioner of the FDA, Alexander Schmidt, came very close to approving the chemical for human food purposes. Relying solely on evidence provided by Searle, the FDA allowed a mere 30 days for the public to respond before putting the FDA seal of approval on the now-controversial food additive. Dr. John Olney wasted no time in joining forces with James Turner, a public interest attorney who also worked with consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Just before the allotted time for public response ran out, Dr. Olney and his attorney petitioned the FDA with data that indicated the dangerous similarities between aspartame and glutamate.
In his 1970 best seller, The Chemical Feast, Turner detailed numerous ways the FDA shirked its obligation to protect the American people. At the time of its publication, Time magazine described the tome as “the most devastating critique of a U.S. government agency ever issued.”
In response to Dr. Olney’s allegations that aspartame was potentially as brain-damaging as glutamate, the FDA called for a task force to investigate the matter. By late 1975, the FDA found that Searle’s own research into the safety of aspartame was so flawed that they stayed the approval process, citing “a pattern of conduct which compromises the scientific integrity of the studies.”
Former U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum told 60 Minutes that when Searle presented information to the FDA in 1974, the drug company “willfully misrepresented” and omitted facts that may have halted approval of what would soon become its best-selling product. Metzenbaum went on to say that the FDA was so disturbed by its findings, it forwarded a file to the U.S. Attorney’s Chicago office in 1975 in the interest of calling a grand jury to determine whether criminal indictments against Searle were warranted.
When did the grand jury convene? Never. According to 60 Minutes, U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner requested a grand jury investigation in 1977 but recused himself from the case when he was offered a job at the Sidley & Austin law firm, which also happened to be the Chicago law firm that represented the G.D. Searle company. The investigation was stalled until the statute of limitations ran its course, and no grand jury ever heard the case against Searle’s questionable research standards. Skinner, by the way, did eventually accept the job with Searle’s Chicago law office.
In 1977, a new FDA task force convened in Skokie, Illinois, with the sole purpose of investigating the research methods employed by G.D. Searle in its effort to gain FDA approval of aspartame. The task force examined raw data from 15 studies that Searle used to back up its uniformly positive claims about aspartame. According to journalist Andrew Cockburn, the task force noted numerous “falsifications and omissions” in Searle’s research reports.
In 1980, at the tail end of the Carter administration, the FDA conducted two-panel investigations into claims that aspartame caused brain tumors. Led by scientific and medical experts, each panel concluded that more tests were needed to prove the safety of the sweetener. Both panels concluded that aspartame should not be approved at that time.
So, how does the fellow in the cover picture figure into this equation?
If you do not recognize the face in the feature photo, here is a memory refresher: The man in the pic — and up to his ears in the aspartame controversy — is Donald Rumsfeld. Perhaps best known as Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush presidency, Donald Rumsfeld also happened to be CEO of the G.D. Searle drug company when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States on January 1981.
Regardless of its safety or potential peril, the fact remains that without the clout and political influence of Donald Rumsfeld, aspartame might never have been approved for human use at all.
Donald Rumsfeld, who at one time aspired to be Reagan’s running mate, was a member of the new president’s transition team. Part of the team’s duties involved the selection of a new FDA Commissioner. Rumsfeld et al chose a pharmacist with no experience in food additive science to lead the agency.
On January 21, 1981, Ronald Reagan’s first full day as president, the G.D. Searle company, headed by Donald Rumsfeld, reapplied for FDA approval of aspartame. That same day, in one of his first official acts, President Reagan issued an executive order that rescinded much of the FDA commissioner’s power.
In April 1981, newly appointed FDA commissioner Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., put together a five-person panel tasked to reevaluate the agency’s 1975 decision to not approve aspartame as a food additive. At first, the panel voted 3-2 to uphold non-approval of the chemical sweetener. Hayes then invited another member to the official FDA panel, and the vote was retaken. The panel deadlocked, and Hayes contributed his own vote to break the tie. Two months later, the product that the FDA refused to approve for seven long years was suddenly approved for human consumption.
Four years later, in 1985, the Monsanto corporation bought G.D. Searle and established a separate division, The NutraSweet Company, to manage the sales and public relations of one of its best-selling and most profitable products. It may be worth noting that when Monsanto purchased Searle and the patent on aspartame, Donald Rumsfeld reportedly received a fat $12 million bonus.
Before reading this, how much did you know about the origins of aspartame? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is “not much.” And, if you’re like many Americans, your interest in a story such as this one will wane as soon as the next hot topic comes along. Perhaps this is the reason that there has been little if any public outcry regarding aspartame or the weird way that it received FDA approval.
In 1987, UPI investigative journalist Gregory Gordon reported that Dr. Richard Wurtman, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a die-hard supporter of aspartame during its 1981 rush to approval, had reversed his thoughts on the sweetener. He noted the once-ardent supporter as saying his views had evolved along with scientific studies and his increased skepticism of industry research standards.
In 1997, the U.K. government obliged makers of sweetened food to prominently include the words “with sweeteners” on product labels. Ten years later, U.K. supermarket chain Mark & Spencer announced the end of artificial sweetenersand coloring in their chilled goods and bakery departments, according to theDaily Mail.
In his well received 2007 book, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy, author Andrew Cockburn described the results of the 1977 FDA task force that found “falsifications and omissions” in Searle’s research data. The New York Timescalled author Cockburn’s biographical tome “quite persuasive.”
In 2009, Woolworths, a South African retailer, announced that it would no long brand products containing aspartame.
On February 28, 2010, Dr. Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., the FDA Commissioner who hurried aspartame to market and later squelched public fear of Tylenol during the 1982 poisoning scare, died in Connecticut. According to his New York Timesobituary, Hayes was employed as president of E. M. Pharmaceuticals after his term at the FDA. Hayes succumbed to leukemia at age 76.
A 2011 report in the Huffington Post noted that 10,000 American consumersnotified the FDA about the ill effects of aspartame between 1981 and 1995. According to the article, the use of aspartame elicited more complaints than any other product in history, comprising 75 percent of complaints received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In 2013, the EFSA (the British equivalent of the FDA), reiterated its claim that aspartame is harmless. Professor Erik Millstone responded with his ownreevaluation of aspartame, in which he noted that every study the EFSA used to approve aspartame was funded by the same industry that manufactures and profits from the controversial sweetener.
Dr. John W. Olney passed away at the age of 83 on April 14, 2015. In addition to his campaigns against aspartame and glutamate, the doctor devoted half a century of his life to finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, the crippling neurological disease that claimed his own sister when she was 16. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, cause of death of the pioneering brain researcher included complications of ALS, a neurological disorder more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Those interested in learning more about the approval of aspartame are invited to read the FDA Commissioner’s Final Report, published by the Department of Health and Human Services on July 24, 1981. A detailed version of the aspartame timeline is available at Rense.com.
Today, with the places from which “merchants” draw their gains spread across the planet, corporations are even less likely to feel loyalty to any country in particular. Some of them have found it profitable to reincorporate in tax havens overseas. Giant multinationals, sometimes withannual earnings greater than the combined total gross national products of several dozen of the world’s poorer countries, are often more powerful than national governments, while their CEOs wield the kind of political clout many prime ministers and presidents only dream of.
No corporations have been more aggressive in forging their own foreign policies than the big oil companies. With operations spanning the world, they—and not the governments who weakly try to tax or regulate them—largely decide whom they do business with and how. In its quest for oil in the anarchic Niger Delta, according to journalist Steve Coll, ExxonMobil, for example, gave boats to the Nigerian navy, and recruited and supplied part of the country’s army, while local police sported the company’s red flying horse logo on their uniforms. Jane Mayer’s new book, Dark Money, on how the brothers and oil magnates Charles and David Koch spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the Republican Party and America’s democratic politics, offers a vivid account of the way their father, Fred, launched the energy business they would inherit. It was a classic case of not letting “attachments” stand in the way of gain. Fred happily set up oil installations for Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin before the United States recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, and then helped Adolf Hitler build one of Nazi Germany’s largest oil refineries that would later supply fuel to its air force, the Luftwaffe.
His unsavory tale is now part of the historical record, thanks to Mayer. That of another American oil tycoon of the 1930s, who quietly lent a helping hand to a different grim dictator, has, however, gone almost unnoticed. In our world where the big oil outfits have become powerful forces and his company, Texaco, became part of the oil giant Chevron, it’s an instructive tale. He helped determine the course of a war that would shape our world for decades to come.
From its beginning in 1936 until it ended early in 1939, some 400,000 deaths later, the Spanish Civil War would rivet the world’s attention. For those who no longer remember, here’s a thumbnail sketch of what happened. A group of right-wing army officers calling themselves Nationalists, with a ruthless young general named Francisco Franco emerging as their leader, went into revolt against the elected government of the Spanish Republic. They fought with a brutality that would soon become far more common and global. Newspapers around the world reported on the deadly aid that Franco received from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Squadrons of aircraft on loan from Adolf Hitler infamously bombed the town of Guernicainto ruins and leveled whole blocks of Madrid and Barcelona, killing thousands of civilians, something that was shockingly new at the time.
By war’s end, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had dispatched 80,000 Italian troops to fight for the Nationalists. Hitler and Mussolini would supply them with weaponry ranging from the latest tanks and artillery to submarines. Totally ignored by the world’s press, however, would be one of Franco’s crucial allies, a man who lived neither in Berlin nor Rome. With a globe on his desk and roll-down maps on the wall of his elegantly wainscoted office, he could be found high in the iconic Chrysler Building in the heart of New York City.
Not one of the hundreds of foreign correspondents who chronicled the bombing of Madrid looked up at the ominous V-shaped formations of Hitler’s bombers and wondered: Whose fuel is powering those aircraft? The oilman who supplied that fuel would, in fact, prove to be the best American friend a Fascist dictator could have. He would provide the Nationalists not only with oil, but with an astonishing hidden subsidy of money, a generous and elastic line of credit, and a stream of strategic intelligence.
Torkild Rieber was a barrel-chested, square-jawed figure whose presence dominated any occasion. At elegant gathering spots, like New York’s 21 Club, where a hamburger-and-egg dish on the menu was named after him, he captivated listeners with tales of his rugged past. Born in Norway, he had gone to sea at 15 as a deckhand on a full-rigged clipper ship that took six months to make its way from Europe around Cape Horn to San Francisco. For the next two years, he signed on with ships carrying indentured laborers from Calcutta, India, to the sugar plantations of the British West Indies. In his deep, gravelly voice, Rieber would tell stories for the rest of his life about climbing to a yardarm to furl sails far above a rolling, pitching deck, and riding out Atlantic hurricanes with a shipload of desperately seasick Indian laborers. On shore years later, however, his dress of choice wasn’t a sailor’s. He liked to wear a tuxedo when he went out to dinner at “21” and elsewhere because, as he said, “that’s the way the Brits ran the colony in Calcutta.”
At the age of 22, having survived a knifing by a drunken crewman, he would be naturalized as an American citizen and become the captain of an oil tanker. Forever after, his friends would call him “Cap.” The tanker he commanded was later bought by the Texas Company, better known by its service station brand name, Texaco. That was when he realized that, in the oil business, the biggest money was to be made on dry land. As the company expanded and the red Texaco star with its green “T” spread to gas stations across the world, he would marry his boss’s secretary and climb the corporate ladder to become, in 1935, CEO.
“He cannot sit at a desk,” wrote an awestruck reporter from Life magazine, who visited him at Texaco’s New York headquarters. “He bounces up and down, fidgets and jumps up to pace the floor as if it were a deck. He is perpetually restless, on a terrestrial scale. He cannot stay long in one office or in one city or on one continent.” Life’s sister magazine, Time, was no less susceptible to his rough-diamond charm, calling him a “hard-headed, steel-willed” corporate chieftain with “horse sense, a command of men, and the driving force of a triple-expansion engine.”
At the time, Texaco had a reputation as the brashest, most aggressive of the big oil companies; its founder, who first hired Rieber, flew a skull-and-crossbones flag atop his office building. “If I were dying at a Texaco filling-station,” a Shell executive once said, “I’d ask to be dragged across the road.”
For the company, Rieber muscled his way into oilfields around the world, making deals with local strongmen. In Colombia, a new city called Petrólea arose in the midst of the Rhode Island-sized expanse of land where Texaco had won the right to drill. To pump the oil to a port where tankers could collect it meant building a 263-mile pipeline across the Andes at Captain Rieber Pass.
Beneath his broad shoulders, iron handshake, sailors’ oaths, and up-from-the-lower-decks persona, however, lay something far darker. Although not particularly anti-Semitic by the standards of the time—“Why,” he would say, “some of my best friends are goddam Jews, like Bernie Gimbel and Solomon Guggenheim”—he was an admirer of Adolf Hitler.
“He always thought it was much better to deal with autocrats than democracies,” a friend recalled. “He said with an autocrat you really only have to bribe him once. With democracies you have to keep doing it over and over.”
In 1935, the Spanish Republic signed a contract with Rieber’s Texaco, turning the company into its major oil supplier. The next year, after Franco and his allies made their grab for power, however, Rieber suddenly changed course and bet on them. Knowing that military trucks, tanks, and aircraft need not just fuel, but a range of engine oils and other lubricants, the Texaco CEO quickly ordered a supply at the French port of Bordeaux to be loaded into a company tanker and shipped to the hard-pressed Nationalists. It was a gesture that Franco would never forget.
From Nationalist officials came messages explaining that, much as they urgently needed Texaco’s oil for their military, they were painfully short on cash. Rieber instantly replied with a telegram—“Don’t worry about payments”—that became legendary in the dictator’s inner circles. Not surprisingly, soon after that, he was invited to Burgos, headquarters of the Nationalist insurgency, where he promptly agreed to cut off fuel sales to the Republic, while guaranteeing Franco all the oil he needed.
Few were paying the slightest attention to where Franco’s bounteous supply of oil was coming from. Not a single investigation on the subject appeared in any major American newspaper at a time when the civil war in Spain was front-page news almost daily. Yet the question should have been obvious, as more than 60% of the oil going to both sides in the bitter conflict was being consumed by the rival armed forces and Germany and Italy were incapable of offering Franco any oil, since both were petroleum importers.
The US neutrality legislation of the time made it difficult for American corporations to sell even non-military goods to a country at war, and posed two major obstacles for Franco’s Nationalists. The law banned such cargo from being transported in American ships—and the Nationalists had no tankers. In addition, it was illegal to supply a warring country with credit—and the Nationalists had little money. Spain’s gold reserves were in the hands of the Republic.
It didn’t take long for American customs agents to discover that Texaco tankers were breaking the law. They would leave the company’s pipeline terminal at Port Arthur, Texas, with cargo manifests showing their destinations as Antwerp, Rotterdam, or Amsterdam. At sea, their captains would open sealed orders redirecting them to ports in Nationalist Spain. Rieber was also violating the law in yet another way—by extending credit to a government at war. Nominally, the credit was for 90 days (startlingly lenient terms for the oil business of that era). The real terms were far more generous. As one Nationalist oil official later explained, “We paid what we could when we could.” In effect, an American oil company CEO had become Franco’s banker. Unknown to American authorities, Texaco was also acting as a purchasing agent when the Nationalists needed oil products not in the company’s inventory.
FBI agents did indeed question Rieber about those tankers, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt was leery of getting drawn into the Spanish Civil War in any way, even by prosecuting such a conspicuous violation of American law. Instead, Texaco received no more than a slap on the wrist, eventually paying a fine of $22,000 for extending credit to a belligerent government. Years later, when oil companies began issuing credit cards to consumers, a joke began making the rounds among industry insiders: Who did Texaco give its first credit card to? Francisco Franco.
President Roosevelt continued to maintain a studied neutrality toward the Spanish Civil War that he would later regret. Texaco, on the other hand, went to war.
In recent years, in the archives of the Nationalist oil monopoly, a Spanish scholar, Guillem Martínez Molinos, made a discovery. Not only did Texaco ship its oil illegally to Franco, but that oil was priced as if the Nationalists had transported it, not the company’s fleet of tankers.
Nor was that the end of the gifts Rieber offered. Mussolini had put Italian submarines in the Mediterranean to work attacking ships carrying supplies to Republican Spain. Franco had his own vessels and planes doing this as well. Commanders directing these submarines, bombers, and surface ships were always remarkably well informed on the travels of tankers bound for the Spanish Republic. These were, of course, a prime target for the Nationalists and during the war at least 29 of them were either damaged, sunk, or captured. The risk became so great that, in the summer of 1937, insurance rates for tankers in the Mediterranean abruptly quadrupled. One reason those waters became so dangerous: the Nationalists had access to Texaco’s international maritime intelligence network.
The company had offices and sales agents across the world. Thanks to Rieber, its Paris office began collecting information from port cities about oil tankers headed for the Spanish Republic. His Paris associate William M. Brewster coordinated this flow of intelligence, passing on to the Nationalists data he received from London, Istanbul, Marseille, and elsewhere. Brewster’s messages often listed the quantity and type of fuel a tanker was carrying and how much had been paid for it, intelligence that would help the Nationalists in assessing Republican supplies and finances. Whenever he could, however, he also delighted in relaying information useful to bomber pilots or submarine captains looking for targets.
On July 2, 1937, for example, he sent a telegram to the chief of the Nationalist oil monopoly about the S.S. Campoamor, a Republican tanker a Texaco agent had spotted at Le Verdon, a French port near Bordeaux. It had covered its name, hull, and funnel with new coats of black paint, and was preparing to sail soon under a British flag. It had already twice left its anchorage and returned because of reports of Nationalist ships and submarines lying in wait outside Santander, the Republican-held port where it was supposed to deliver its cargo of 10,000 tons of aviation fuel. The news of that repainting and re-flagging would have been useful to the commanders of Nationalist naval vessels. As it happened, though, an even more valuable piece of information was included in Brewster’s message: much of the crew left the ship “almost every evening.” Four days later, with many of the crew attending a dance on shore, the Campoamorwas boarded near midnight by an armed Nationalist raiding party, which quickly sailed it to a port held by Franco.
Rieber traveled to Nationalist Spain twice during the war, at one point getting a VIP tour of the front lines near Madrid. By April 1939, Franco had won the war and Rieber was assured that the gamble he had made would pay off big time. Texaco’s coffers would at last receive the money for the nearly three years’ worth of fuel he had supplied on credit. In total, he sold the Nationalists at least $20 million worth of oil during the war, the equivalent of more than $325 million today. Texaco’s tankers took 225 trips to Spain, and ships the company chartered another 156. Franco later made Rieber a Knight of the Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic, one of Spain’s highest honors.
After the Spanish war ended, Texaco continued to make its own foreign policy. Even after Germany went to war with Britain and France in September 1939, Rieber made no secret of his enthusiasm for Hitler. He sometimes joked with friends that the Führer’s anti-Semitism might be a touch excessive, but he was just the sort of strong, anti-communist leader with whom one could do business. This Rieber did, with gusto, selling Texaco oil to the Nazis, ordering tankers built in Hamburg shipyards, and traveling to Germany after the PolishBlitzkrieg so that Hermann Göring could take him on a tour by air of key industrial sites. On that trip he spent a weekend at the Luftwaffe commander’s country estate, Carinhall, soon to be extravagantly decorated with art treasures looted from across Europe.
Eventually, Rieber’s love of dictators got him in trouble. In 1940, it was revealed, among other things, that several Germans he had hired were Nazi spies using Texaco’s internal communications to transmit intelligence information to Berlin. Rieber lost his job, but thanks to a grateful Franco the deposed tycoon landed on his feet: the dictator made him chief American buyer for the Spanish government’s oil company. He went on to a succession of other high-paying positions and directorships in the oil industry and shipbuilding and died a wealthy man in 1968, at the age of 86.
Rieber is long forgotten, but we still live in a world he had such a hand in shaping. Texaco oil helped Franco win the Spanish Civil War and so be in a position to aid the Nazis in the far larger war that followed. Untold numbers of American sailors lost their lives thanks to the 21 German U-Boats based on Spain’s Atlantic coast. Forty-five thousand Spaniards volunteered for Hitler’s army and air force, and Spain supplied an essential stream of strategic minerals to Germany’s war industry. In the United States three-quarters of a century later, well-funded climate change deniers and the political network supported by the Koch brothers are testimony to the enduring power of the oil industry.