News Release

* Trade Deal “Death Sentence Clause” * Killer Coal Mine CEO Trial


Wall Street Journal/William Mauldin

ZAHARA HECKSCHER, zaharapeace at
The New York Times reports: “Pacific Trade Deal Talks Resume, Under Fire From U.S. Presidential Hopefuls.”

Public Citizen in a news release states that Wednesday, ‘cancer patient Zahara Heckscher was arrested after disrupting the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in a protest aimed at maintaining access to affordable cancer medicines in the 12 countries affected by the trade treaty.” Heckscher is pictured and quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal: “Rift Over Drug Protections Complicates Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Talks.”

Public Citizen (see full news release) notes: “Heckscher, in a T-shirt reading ‘I HAVE CANCER. I CAN’T WAIT 8 YEARS,’ and holding an IV pole that read ‘TPP: Don’ t Cut My IV,’ refused to leave the Westin Hotel, the site of the negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the other TPP trade ministers. She demanded that they show her the secret TPP text to verify for herself and other people living with cancer around the globe that TPP would not include a ‘death sentence clause,’ the text of the U.S. proposal to extend de facto monopolies on biological medicines by up to eight years.”

RENA STEINZOR, rsteinzor at
Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland Law, is author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction. She said today: “Don Blankenship, dubbed the ‘Dark Lord of Coal Country’ by Rolling Stone, was directly responsible for the death of 29 miners when the Upper Big Branch mine collapsed. On April 5, 2010, at approximately 3:02 p.m., just as two of three daily, eight-hour shifts were changing places, a massive explosion shook Massey Energy’s UBB mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. The explosion of combustible coal dust spread over two and a half miles in mine shafts 1,000 feet underground. It traveled at speeds up to 1,500 feet/second, packing an overwhelming force of up to 65 pounds/square inch. The explosion roared through underground tunnels, hit walls, reversed direction, and came back again. The UBB explosion was the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

“Veteran rescue experts said they had never seen so much destruction over so great an area, with rail ties twisted like pipe cleaners, and equipment blown to bits. Toxic gas produced by the blast was pervasive, even affecting above ground rescue teams attempting to bore vent holes into the mine. Recovery of the dead took days because travel to the blast site was dangerous and time-consuming, requiring a slow ride in low-slung ‘man trips’ that traveled on rails from the mine entrance two miles away. The dead were scattered in small groups, thousands of feet from each other, felled either by the force and heat of the explosion or suffocated by carbon monoxide. One miner’s remains were impaled on the ceiling.

“U.S. attorney Booth Goodwin indicted Blankenship when he compiled a lengthy record, including numerous handwritten notes from Blankenship to his senior management team, demanding that the men ‘dig coal’ and neglect time-consuming but crucial safety precautions. Blankenship threatened to fire people who protested. The executives’ decision to preserve these notes and turn them over to the U.S. attorney illustrates just how frightened they were of what would happen and, as it turned out, these fears were tragically prescient.

“Some may dismiss the implications of the Massey case as showing that only crazy CEO’s who meddle in daily affairs will get caught. In companies where chains of command are long and attenuated, they may say, executives are protected. This short-sighted view does not comprehend how practices that kill or maim people, whether consumers or workers, and destroy the environment, are most subject to desperate efforts at an internal cover-up that ultimately involves dozens of people. The rapid resignation of the Volkswagen CEO as soon as the discovery of cheat devices on 11 million cars sold here and in Europe suggests that the internal paper trail was wide and long, and likely led right into his office.” See: “Over 100 Killed, Government Lets GM Off, Ignores Legal Tools.”