Fighting big coal with Robert Redford. Plus, important consumer wins!

Citizen Direct: The Newsletter of the Public Citizen Action Network

August 1, 2008

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Send a message to Citibank, Bank of America: No more coal-fired power plants
Meet a few of the people who are a part of Public Citizen, including our president, Joan Claybrook, with our new videos.

Super-size Trucks Are Unfit For Our Roads!Help Protect Government Whistleblowers!  When something fishy happens -- scientific research is suppressed, government contractors waste millions of taxpayer dollars, or national security documents are falsified -- witnesses need to know they can blow the whistle without endangering their careers or their lives. Show your support for honesty and accountability! Demand that your members of Congress protect government employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse.

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Spotlight On Our Texas Office

Fighting Big Coal: Then and Now
Texas has a rich history when it comes to fighting for clean air -- and against the construction of coal-fired plants. Robert Redford and the Sundance Preserve have documented this history in the film "Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars," which includes Public Citizen and its role in helping the state slash potential pollutants. Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office, is participating in the film's national, 11-state tour, which will teach communities how to fight new coal plants.

Read about the film | Learn More

President's View

Note to Congress: Steer Us Toward Energy Independence

We're really in a fix. Gas prices are rising, with no end in sight. As a result, fuel costs are causing a ripple effect throughout the economy because virtually everything we buy is made from petroleum or transported by a vehicle that uses oil. Too many families are making hard choices about whether to put gas in the car or food on the table. What's worse, so far, Congress has done nothing to help the average consumer. Read the full column.

Public Interest Law

Win! Court: No More Secrecy for Crash Data

An appellate court has ruled that information automobile and tire manufacturers submit to the government about crashes resulting in death, injury and property damage should be available to the public. The decision vindicated our efforts to promote public disclosure of the data, which can help prevent needless deaths and injuries.

Learn More | Read the Blog Post

GOP: Hands Off Our Elephant!

GOP: Hands off our elephant!

The Republican National Committee got all huffy over some T-shirts and bumper stickers that bear its elephant logo or the acronym “GOP.” The RNC, which has trademarked the acronym and the logo, had threatened to sue for allowing its users to sell t-shirts that contained either. The Committee even got upset over T-shirts with slogans that supported Republicans! Public Citizen stepped in to represent CafePress and the RNC quickly backed away from its threatened suit. The decision marks a victory for free speech … and common sense.

Learn More | Read the blog posts here and here.

Public Citizen Blogs

Citizen Vox Blog

Another Sweetheart Deal for the Oil Companies

Loophole Spared Oil Companies Billions in Royalty Payments to American Taxpayers. A bureaucratic oversight has allowed 24 oil companies to skip out on more than $1.3 billion in royalties for the privilege of extracting oil and natural gas from U.S. territory in the Gulf of Mexico. But this $1.3 billion in forgone royalties pales in comparison to the $60 billion that Americans stand to lose in royalty revenue over the life of these leases. If Congress repeals the moratorium on offshore drilling, these freeloading oil companies will gain more record profits while American families are left holding the bag.  Read more at Citizen Vox from the director of our energy program.

Watchdog Blog

The Arbitration Debate Trap

Arbitration Harms Consumers, Studies Prove. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has painted a grossly inaccurate picture of the empirical evidence on binding mandatory arbitration, a comprehensive study issued by Public Citizen reveals. In this type of arbitration -- which affects virtually everyone who has a credit card, cell phone, computer, bank account and much more -- consumers lose their right to settle disputes in court and instead are routed to a private, secretive system that favors the company. Read about our scathing report released in 2007 exposing the one-sided nature of “justice” for consumers trapped by the National Arbitration Forum, and our newest report reinforcing our findings. Plus find out more about arbitration legislation and read our most recent report.

Maryland v. The People's Republic of China

It began as an effort to protect the children of Maryland from unsafe toys. Now, thanks to a disgruntled Chinese government and the WTO, Del. James Hubbard’s (D-Prince George's County) proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly on potentially harmful chemicals has entered the ranks of “barriers” to international trade. Hubbard proposed a bill that would lower the permissible level of three toxins in toys. The bill, which would clear Maryland store shelves of dangerous toys, did more than raise international eyebrows. Read more at our Eyes on Trade blog about the effect it had.

Texas Vox

Our Texas Office Enters the Blogosphere

Among July’s Posts: Electricity Deregulation in Texas Is Harmful

Public Citizen's Texas office has launched a blog! Check out what we're up to. One recent post discusses how Texans are experiencing the downside of deregulation. It has turned the idea of competition on its head — people now have a choice of where to buy power, but it’s not cheaper. One thing is clear: Some harmful effects of deregulation on Texans are undeniable. Read about them at Texas Vox.

Press Room

Analysis: ‘Mega-donors’ Pump Millions Into McCain’s Presidential CampaignPublic Citizen posted the names of individuals contributing $25,000 or more to Sen. John McCain’s joint fundraising committees on its Web site, which tracks the candidates’ reliance on big contributors and big donors. FEC filings show that McCain has raised more than $62 million through these joint committees, which can accept donations well in excess of normal campaign contribution limits. McCain’s actions flatly undermine the spirit of his landmark McCain-Feingold legislation. Learn more.

Blame supply and demand for oil price hikes? Not so fast. At a time when Americans are reeling from high energy prices, Congress must provide relief by restoring transparency to the futures markets, Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture in July. This era of high energy prices isn’t just a case of supply and demand. Weak oversight of energy trading markets gives energy companies and financial institutions the opportunity to price-gouge Americans. Learn more.

Consumer Groups Applaud House Passage of Strong Product Safety BillConsumer, public interest and scientific groups applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing by a vote of 424-1 strong product safety reform legislation that would overhaul the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bill will make consumer products safer by requiring that toys and infant products be tested before they are sold, and by banning lead and phthalates in toys. The bill also will create a publicly accessible consumer complaint database. Learn more.

Public Citizen Health Clinic

FDA’s Black Box Warning on Cipro is Not Enough
. Almost two years after Public Citizen first asked the FDA to increase its warnings about the risks associated with Cipro and other fluorquinolone antibiotics, it has finally gotten around to doing something. While these antibiotics are very popular, an alarming number of people who have taken them have suffered tendon ruptures. The FDA says it will require a “black box” warning on the medicines and require a medication guide be given to patients when they get their prescriptions filled. However, that’s still not enough. Read the statement from Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, and check out Public Citizen's lawsuit.

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