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Archive for May, 2009

Dedicated to Diversity

Friday, May 29th, 2009

This has been an excellent week for our country to showcase to the world our diversity. Our country was built on one big melting pot.  Yet we know the melting pot is not always open and inclusive to everyone. The melting pot has often times excluded minorities, women, gays and lesbians from reaching the top of the pot. Yet,  some major strides were made this week.

President Obama nominated Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr.,  a retired space shuttle astronaut, as the first African-American to head NASA.  If approved by the Senate, he  will take over NASA and lead us to another dimension  in our space exploration.  Ursula Burns, new CEO of Xerox, became the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 corporation. Benita Mosely Fitzgerald, a former  Olympic gold medalist, becomes the  first African-American named as  USA Track and Field’s first Chief of Sports Performance. And then came more good news.  President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic nominee to  the U.S. Supreme Court. This was truly a week of historic proportions.

There are still many more “firsts” that need to come. There are so many mountains for us to climb in becoming a truly diverse society.  Yet, I await the day when we no longer recognize or say “the first” Hispanic, African-American, woman, Asian-American, Native American, gay or lesbian made an achievement. When that day comes, we will truly be a true melting pot. We will then know change has come to America.  Diversity is critical to our country’s success and the advancement of our society.

Is Cheerios a Cereal or a Drug?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

     The law is sometimes funnier than fiction. Recently, I blogged that the FDA needs to change its current regulations  on over the counter diet pills and products due to Hydroxycut causing liver damage.  The FDA should include regulation of over the counter diet pills before they reach store shelves and harm consumers. Then I read  the FDA is going after our breakfast cereals for false and deceptive advertising and labeling one as a drug.  Is Cheerios and Frosted Mini-Wheats really going to harm or kill anyone?

      Cheerios has been claiming  on TV commercials that it can lower your cholestral  by 4%  in six weeks. Well now the FDA has informed General Mills, maker of Cheerios,  that these claims makes it a drug under federal law.  Who but the FDA would classify Cheerios as a drug based on these claims? Yet, Cheerios is not the only cereal the FDA has investigated recently. Frosted Mini-Wheats previously claimed it could improve kids attentiveness by nearly 20%.  I guess all the sugar in it could do that.  Kellog settled its dispute over Frosted Mini Wheats with the FDA.

     Are our priorities in order in investigating Cheerios and Frosted Mini-Wheats? If Cheerios and other breakfast cereals are misinforming consumers, then they should withdraw any misbranded claims. Yet   shouldn’t the federal government close the huge gap in its regulation of diet pills and products which harm and kill?

   Most  over the counter diet pills are not required to get pre-approval by the FDA before hitting the store shelves. They are not governed as drugs which require FDA approval. The FDA takes a wait and see approach before taking any regulatory action.  It should be taking a better safe than sorry approach and regulate beforehand.

     I have never heard of anyone dying from eating Cheerios or Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Change is Coming to the Supremes

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

         The Supremes are about to change.  I listened to the announcement of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice Nominee to replace Justice Souter with eyes filled with tears.  Judge Sotomayor, of course, has sterling credentials in the law, a vigorous intellect and  the judicial ability to apply the law to the facts. President Obama says her life’s experience is an equally important and necessary quality.  Is life experience a necessary component for a Supreme Court Justice? Is having the “common touch” really a necessary ingredient to apply the law to the facts in a case before the Supreme Court?

 

I know the Republican Senators will probably disagree with President Obama’s emphasis on her life’s experience. Yet, any challenge of her, as the first historic Hispanic  Supreme Court Justice nominee by Republicans will be problematic.

 

Her inspiring life’s story could make for a Hollywood movie. Her parents moved from Puerto Rico to the United States.  Her father, a factory worker, with a third grade education, spoke no English and died when she was nine.  Her mother, a nurse, raised her and her brother. From the South Bronx housing projects, to Princeton and Yale, she never dreamed this moment would occur.  Her own reality has exceeded even her dreams. Touching as it may be, it is not her Hollywood story which will make her an excellent Supreme Court Justice.

 

 

Her finest quality for serving is her life’s experience as a former prosecutor and trial court judge. When confirmed, she will be the only  Justice who has served as a trial judge and as a prosecutor. It is this experience that will be her greatest asset as a Supreme Court Justice. Many Supreme Court Justices have never so much as uttered a word in a trial court. It is in a trial courtroom where the cases that ultimately appear before the Supreme Court begin. The nuances and life’s experiences seen first hand tolling in a trial courtroom are the ones which will serve her best on the Supreme Court.  I’ve always felt it’s difficult to judge from up on the bench if you’ve never seen any action down in the field. It’s akin to a general leading in a war who’s never been in a battlefield. Leaving the ivory glass tower and venturing in the courtroom battle should be a necessary ingredient to serve.

 

Having represented international corporations, fought for justice as a prosecutor and served as a trial and appeals court judge, it gets no better than this.  I salute Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the historic first Hispanic to soon serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  You go girl!!

 

Chatterbox Cheney

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

     Back in the day, if you talked too much, you were called a chatterbox. Dick Cheney has now become a chatterbox. In a historic duel speech on May 22 Cheney  was pitted against President Obama. Cheney, once known as the quiet one behind the scenes, has now become front and center. Mr. Cheney remained closed lips while he was vice president.  He allowed George W. Bush to make all the speaking blunders. Now that he’s no longer vice president, he appears to be making up for lost time.   He has now found his voice. 

      Yesterday’s speech duel between Cheney and President Obama struck me as odd for several reasons.  First, when has a former vice president ever done such a thing? Historians say it’s never happened before.  I know President Obama expressed no concern about Cheney’s speech.  Dialogue is  a good thing. Yet, I wondered what Cheney was up to with such a forceful attack on the President in a duel speech.

     Is Cheney planning to head the Republican National Committee and replace Michael Steele?  Is he planning to run for President in 2012?  Is he merely seeking to join Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh and all the other clamoring Republican dissenters of change as the new voice of the Republican Party?  Whatever the case, I wish he would take George W. Bush’s lead for once and remain silent. To me he’s acting in the words of singer James Brown and “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing”.

     Perhaps, Attorney General Eric Holder should give him something to say. Attorney General Holder should investigate Cheney for any of his alleged illegal acts committed during the Bush Administration. Those are the same waterboarding acts that Cheney is defending.  Perhaps, that might quiet his voice.

Busting Through The Glass Ceiling

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

     On May 22 Ursula Burns shattered the glass ceiling at every Fortune 500 company.  She became the first African American female to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company at Xerox Corporation. Rising from the ranks at Xerox, she takes over  the reins from another woman.  She is eager to move the company forward and break a little glass in the process.

     Another African American woman also broke some glass this week.  Benita Fitzgerald Mosely became the first USA Track and Field Chief of Sport Performance. She is the current CEO of Women in Cable Communications. Fitzgerald Mosely, a former Olympic gold medalist and critic of USA Track and Field performance during the 2008 Olympic games, was a member of an independent panel reviewing  USA Track and Field performance. Remember the 2008 Olympic mens and womens relay dropped  baton debacle, drug issues and disorganized coaching. Fitzgerald Mosely will demand higher standards.

     These women were not selected because of their gender or race. They were chosen because of their superior qualifications and their ability to lead. No quotas were set for their hiring. Both are highly qualified for their respective roles. Yes, diversity and superior qualifications do co-exist. Those who think otherwise are sadly misinformed.

     Congratulations to Ursula Burns and Benita Fitzgerald Mosely for busting through the glass ceiling. Ladies, we’ve come a long way. Yet we still have a long way to go. This is only the beginning.

FDA and Hydroxycut Diet Pill Debacle

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

            Recently the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of Hydroxycut diet pills and products due to liver problems associated with them.  When is the FDA going to change and start regulating over the counter diet products before they hit the stores?  The first wrongful death Hydroxycut case stems from the February, 2007 death of Dennis Lopez.  He died from liver failure after taking Hydroxycut for 2 months in 2006. How many more  people will die before the FDA changes and scrutinzes these products before they reach our store shelves?

           The over the counter diet product industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and steadily growing more as our waistlines grow. Their revenues are hardly shrinking in these tough times. Neither is our weight or body fat.  The shelves of almost every drug store, pharmacy, grocery, health food and fitness stores are lined with diet pills and products claiming to rid us of our excess weight and burn all our fat off effortlessly.

         Before Hydroxycut problems, there were deaths related to Ephedra. Remember the professional baseball player who died taking Ephedra while trying to lose a few pounds for spring training? Before Ephedra there was a host of  other products doing more harm than help. Yet, the FDA refuses to tighten its belt and rein these diet drugs in under greater scrutiny.   Taking many of these diet products are akin to a health Russian roulette.   Today there are even so called “natural” diet pills causing health problems.

           The FDA’s regulation of diet pills and products starts after the products go on the market. Isn’t that like the cart pulling the horse?  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?   Of course, as we have seen from prescription drugs, problems  still occur even with FDA regulation beforehand.  That was the case of Fen-Phen. Yet, I feel assured that some lives would still be saved.  How many more deaths will occur before the FDA sees the light?