Debate on human rights organizations in Argentina for Obama’s visit

Hollande in the Parque de la Memoria, Argentina, 2016

The main human rights organizations that were invited to the Memory Park, Thursday 24, to pay homage with Mauricio Macri and Barack Obama to the victims of the dictatorship have not decided yet if they will attend.
Moreover, at this time also they maintain a heated debate on whether or not to go there to remember the 40th anniversary of the coup d’état of 76. Neither decided Estela de Carlotto.

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President Obama Opens the Health Reform Meeting

To kick off the bipartisan health reform meeting, President Obama lays out the plan for the day and his hopes for what can be accomplished. He talks about where we’re at now and why this meeting is so necessary: President Obama explains, “Politics, I think, ended up trumping practical common sense. I said at the State of the Union, and I’ll repeat — I didn’t take this on because I thought it was good politics. This is such a complicated issue that it’s inevitably going to be contentious. But what I’m hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus not just on where we differ, but focus on where we agree.”

The Health Care on the table

Health Care
Health Care
Health Care

It’s hard to imagine how anything very positive will come out of the President’s health care summit in Washington tomorrow.  An article in Politico describes the atmospherics and the haggles involved in detailed negotiations.

A gaggle of congressional Democrats and Republicans will meet with the President at Blair House for about six hours, apparently all of it televised.  The White House has attempted to portray this as an example of long-promised bipartisanship and transparency.  It’s a mystery how they could think that after a year of partisan conflict in Congress, health care reform can be resolved in six hours, particularly in the presence of TV cameras.  But maybe they don’t think that at all — maybe this is just a cynical scheme to portray the opposition as a hopeless obstacle to justify forcing health care reform through Congress in the most partisan way possible.

The President and the congressional Democratic leadership are not going to suddenly see the value of satisfying Republican concerns about specific issues like tort reform and the possibility of tax dollars paying for abortion and medical care for illegal immigrants.  They also aren’t going to accept the Republican argument that their plan is far too expensive and should be scrapped in order to address more specific measures in a less costly way.  In fact, the Democrats can’t even agree among themselves on many health care issues.

Republicans aren’t going to walk into Blair House, take their seats at the table, slap themselves on their foreheads and say, “You know, those Democrats have actually got a great plan.  Let’s all hold hands and be friends.”  If they’re smart, the Republicans will present at least the outlines of an alternative plan that they can support, in full view of the cameras.  That would defuse some of the charges of obstructionism.  If they’re stupid, they’ll do some pontificating and mainly sit with their arms folded and a petulant pout on their faces.

It’s pretty obvious what the objectives of the two sides really are.  As the Politico article noted,

The Democrats’ unstated goal, of course, is to make congressional Republicans look like a bunch of whiny, cynical, ideologically bankrupt crybabies who don’t have a plan of their own.

For their part, the Republicans are determined not to be lectured to by the President, as evidenced by their insistence on a round (or square) table where everyone sits at the same height, with no raised lectern.  They’re not going to sign on to the Democratic plans (now in three versions), but they want to avoid the charge of being totally negative.  We’ll see how that works out.

The real story coming out of the health care summit may be the confusion and disarray among Democrats.  The Senate has their health care bill, the House has theirs, and neither of the two chambers can muster enough votes to accept the other chamber’s version.  But wait — now the President has published his plan, which is more like the Senate bill but includes things the House wants.  And the kicker is, the President’s plan hasn’t been accepted by either the House or the Senate.

And now they’re all going to gather at Blair House, probably to accomplish little more than making themselves look foolish and ineffectual.  One thing is sure — we won’t hear a bipartisan choir singing “Kumbaya” at Blair House.

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The Open Source

The traditional business model for companies is to create a product and/or provide a service to customers in order to receive payment and hopefully exceed operational costs to generate a profit. However, what happens when you are not creating a product or service, but instead ideas? How do you make a profit? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition when your product is perceived as a commodity? This is a common dilemma for companies that engage in Open Source design, development or distribution. As defined by the Open Source Initiative, open source is “a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” The benefits for open source are compelling and the idea of creating a community of the brightest minds to create something new is inspiring. This idea of sharing your creative wealth to accomplish great things is something the Creative Commons embraces.

The inherent drama of open source is that it’s the collaboration of peers orchestrated in transparent manner, so competitors can easily observe all of your ideas and replicate. Most economists would argue that open source is not a sustainable business model; there are no tangible “widgets” or returns.

There are also skeptics within in the open source community that claim the open source business model is broken because value is in the collaboration, not in open source itself. However, the true return comes in an intangible form – your brand.

Case Study: Open Source Hardware

In a Wired article titled “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?” Clive Thompson writes about a computer hardware company called Arduino. All of their schematics, design files and software for the Arduino board are open source, so anyone can download them to use or modify and manufacture their own boards – and even sell if they want. Arduino’s open source hardware has been used in everything from DIY MP3 players to mobile phone charges to humidity/temperature monitors for art museums. If Arduino utilizes an open source business model in which they essentially give intellectual property away, how do they make a profit? This is where I find this case study very interesting; it’s all about the brand. As Thompson explains, there are two economic models for open source:

  1. Do not sell your product (i.e. hardware or software), but instead sell your expertise as the inventor
  2. Sell your product, but try to keep ahead of the competition

The Arduino team doesn’t receive a profit when they actually develop boards; it’s usually rolled back into the next production cycle. However, they do receive a “profit” when they act as consultants to companies using their open source hardware. Since the hardware is open source, the open source community collaborates to improve the hardware, so they essentially have free labor. And because Arduino is the creator of this hardware, they are at the epicenter of the community and learn about advancements before anyone, so they are the first one to the fight every time.

To analyze Arduino from a business model perspective, expertise is the service provided to customers. Further, operational costs are minimal, so a profitable return is likely. However, while their competitive advantages are notable, the differentiating factor is their brand – a value proposition providing dependability as a benefit to customers. This is due to their success and expertise as pioneers and leaders in the open source hardware community.

Case Study: Open Source Desktop Operating Systems

Open source technology is most notable in desktop and mobile operating systems, specifically Linux and Google Android respectively. Linux is a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of the open source community. Developed under the GNU General Public License, the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone. Around the world, Linux has great brand recognition with developers, however little to none with consumers. This is likely due to the fact that Linux is used primarily in servers and computer hardware, which is not typically consumer facing. Also, historically the use of Linux in desktop and laptop computers has been quite low. Further, due to the lack of a strategic marketing plan, consumers are not aware of the Linux brand. However, due to the recent Ubuntu distribution and emergence and popularity of netbooks, the market share of Linux is growing. Currently, the market share for desktop operating systems is as follows:

  • Microsoft Windows: 87.90%
  • MAC: 9.73%
  • Linux: 1.02%
  • Apple iPhone: 0.55%
  • Apple iPod Touch: 0.15%
  • Java ME: 0.07%
  • Other: 0.32%

Ubuntu is leveraging the Linux brand and open source technology to create its own product (operating system) and brand (Ubuntu). This is somewhat similar to the co-branding efforts of Intel with many PC brands, but without the licensing fees. While Linux is gaining brand awareness due to the Ubuntu distribution, it is not actively promoting its own brand. Linux is taking an open source approach to branding itself – allowing other brands to help define its brand identity and image. I’m curious to see how this will affect the brand in the future. I would hypothesize that it will only augment the brand’s image and further the popularity of open source. Currently, Linux is not following either of the two economic models presented earlier, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see Linux start selling its expertise more as its market share continues to grow.

Case Study: Open Source Mobile Operating Systems

When Google’s Android mobile operating system was released, specifically in the T-Mobile G1, many thought that this would be a strong competitive force against the Apple iPhone. However, this is an example of an open source initiative that resulted in negative outcomes and poor branding. According to a ReadWriteWeb article titled “Android Vulnerability So Dangerous, Owners Warned Not to Use Phone’s Web Browser,” written by Sarah Perez, in February 2009 a security researcher presented a new vulnerability in Google’s Android mobile OS that allowed hackers to remotely take control of the phone’s web browser and related processes. Hackers could gain access to saved credentials in the browser and browser history. It was recommended that Android users “avoid using the browser until a patch is released. If this is not possible, only visit trusted sites and only over the T-Mobile network (avoid WiFi). This issue with security was the main reason I took the G1 and all smartphones with the Android OS off my consideration list. This infiltration damaged the Google Android brand. This can be a problem with any open source technology because many people have access to the source code. However, this really isn’t any different than a hacker can reverse engineering any product to bypass security – it’s just that open source makes it more convenient. Either way, security systems must be built in to restrict vulnerability. Then Google experienced a problem with branding. According to a TechCrunch article titled “Should Google Be Paranoid About Losing The Android Name?” written by MG Siegler, a person applied for and was granted a trademark to the Android name back in 2002. Google tried to trademark the name in 2007 after the Android campaign, however it was rejected. Google tried again but was repeatedly denied and its trademark application was suspended. So any equity that Google may have built with the Android brand may be gone because they will need to completely rebrand their open source mobile operating system. Which may work to their advantage, so that they can redefine the brand and move on from all the security problems. Hopefully, Google Android will redeem the brand with the new Samsung Android smartphone out later this year and with the enhancements to the G1.

Case Study: Open Source Web Browsers

Mozilla was the first open source initiative that I ever heard about. The Mozilla Foundation began in 1998 to “create world-class open source software” and they did just that. They supported the open source community by embracing the pillars of open source: Openness, Innovation and Participation. Then in 2002, Mozilla released their first web browser, Mozilla 1.1. However, at this time Microsoft Internet Explorer had over 90% of the market share for internet browsers. Mozilla had their work cut out for them. However, in 2003, Mozilla created Firefox a world-class tool to experience the internet and began to experience tremendous growth.

The tipping point, however, was their grassroots approach to branding. Similar to the manner in which Firefox was created, Mozilla turned the marketing and advertising efforts over to its supporters by launching a campaign called “Spread Firefox.” This website became the community hall for the discussion of marketing and advertising strategies. Among many things, supporters were encouraged to place “Get Firefox” buttons on their websites and blogs to help promote Firefox. Each participant would be rewarded referrer points as an incentive to be included among the top 250 referrers, a list that would be featured on the Spread Firefox website. Mozilla’s community marketing guide includes categories such as:

  • Organizing and Attending Events
  • Public Speaking
  • Blogging, Tagging and Social Networking
  • Advertising Mozilla
  • Making T-Shirts and Other Items
  • Guerrilla Marketing Activities
  • Collecting Testimonials
  • Distributing Software
  • Promoting the Mozilla Mission
  • Collecting Press Clippings
  • Speaking to the Press
  • Requesting Sponsorship for a Project
  • Reporting Disreputable Behavior

The last category is very interesting, not only did Mozilla ask supports to help promote the product, but also police online activity and warn Mozilla of harmful behavior to their reputation. Even while Mozilla embraced the pillars of open source (openness, innovation and participation), they managed to control the message as well. From a branding perspective, this is something Mozilla has been relentless at. The name “Mozilla Firefox” is a registered trademark and along with the official Firefox logo, it may only be used when specific terms and conditions are followed. While the code for the Firefox browser is open source, there are usage restrictions placed on the code. If derivative works from the code are created, the browser must be rebranded – the new browser cannot leverage the brand name or logo. The strategic rationale is that Mozilla wants to guarantee a consistent user experience for anyone using the Mozilla Firefox web browser. This is something every brand hopes for. There has been some controversy over this, however this is also the reason why Mozilla Firefox has been so successful. Currently, Firefox is the #2 web browser on the market, with market share just over 20%. Below is the current market share for web browsers:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer: 66.10%
  • Mozilla Firefox: 22.48%
  • Apple Safari: 8.21%
  • Google Chrome: 1.42%
  • Opera: 0.68%
  • Other: 1.11%

This isn’t bad for a non-profit organization, especially when its competition is Microsoft, Apple and Google. A true branding effort that produced results. Mozilla even holds a Guinness World Record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours. To analyze Mozilla from a non-profit business model perspective, they are fulfilling their mission statement: To make the internet better for everyone by embracing openness, innovation and opportunity.

Case Study: Open Source Politics

President Barack Obama’s election campaign was seamless, engaging and effective. And he now continues this sound strategy during his presidency. At 12:01 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20th, just one minute after Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, www.whitehouse.gov was rebranded and the first entry to the White House blog was created: “Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov

Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House, explained that like our new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration’s online programs will put citizens first. And that the initial new media efforts would center around three priorities:

  1. Communication
  2. Transparency
  3. Participation

It’s interesting to note, that these three priorities reflect the philosophical pillars of open source and Creative Commons. Further, at the time I am writing these words, it’s exactly 100 days after President Obama was sworn in. So it seems to be the perfect time to evaluate these priorities.

  1. Communication: Constant communication via an array of channels – the Administration has reached out to citizens online, TV, press, etc.
  2. Transparency: The activity on WhiteHouse.gov alone showcases the level of transparency. However, an interesting example of transparency is the creation of Recovery.gov, which was built on the Drupal platform – an open source platform with a reputation of innovation, stability and malleability. Further, the use of open source is significant because security is an obvious concern for the government. Lastly, due to the community surrounding this open source platform, as developers improve functionality, everyone will benefit.
  3. Participation: President Obama engaged with America and asked them to participate in their government with an initiative called “Open For Questions.” Obama asked people to participate in the community-moderated online town hall by submitting questions about the economy utilizing similar voting functionality as Digg.com

Obama’s brand was clearly defined before he became President, however on the day he entered the oval office not only did he rebrand WhiteHouse.gov, but he also rebranded what it meant to be President of United States of America. President Obama set the precedent for all future presidents: A transparent process that engages American citizens. And once you start the conversation, you cannot leave it. Future Presidents will be expected to work in a similar manner. Lastly, as the Administration integrates more technology (i.e. open source development) the methods and levels of engagement will advance and deepen respectively. Citizens will take an active role in government and expect that their involvement will make a difference. Similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his fireside chats, Obama changed the way the President communicates with Americans. Whether you support Obama or not, the brand Obama has established thus far, is the differentiating factor between him and other presidents – Optimisim, Change, Transperancy and Community. It’s also essential that you live up to your brand promises, otherwise your brand image will deteriorate. So, there is still a lot of work to be done. My only issue with the presidency campaign thus far are the multiple number of websites: WhiteHouse.gov, Recovery.gov, HealthReform.gov, FinancialStability.gov, etc. Multiple destinations for the User can become confusing.

Obama Tells Lawmakers in Private Meetng He Won’t Support Torture Probe

obamaPresident Barack Obama has backtracked on statements he made earlier this week in which he indicated he was open to a 9/11-type commission to investigate the Bush administration’s use of torture, telling lawmakers at a meeting at the White House Thursday he now doesn’t support the idea.

Underscoring Obama’s new stance on the issue, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters: “the president determined the concept didn’t seem altogether workable in this case.”
“The last few days might be evidence of why something like this might just become a political back and forth,” Gibbs said.

Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also said on Thursday he no longer supported the idea of an independent panel to investigate torture. Reid said the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been “reviewing” the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program to determine whether the techniques were effective in thwarting terrorist plots against the U.S., should continue its work. The intelligence committee’s chairman, Dianne Feinstein, said her committee expects to complete its review in six to eight months.

“I think it would be very unwise, from my perspective, to start having commissions, boards, tribunals, until we find out what the facts are,” Reid said. “And I don’t know a better way of getting the facts than through the Intelligence Committee.”

On Tuesday, in a departure from statements he has made since his Jan. 20 inauguration, Obama said he was open to the idea of a 9/11-type bipartisan commission to probe the Bush administration’s torture policies, but he said he was concerned “about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.”

But that changed over the past two days as Republicans stepped up their criticism of Obama in numerous op-ed columns in major publications and on cable news programs.

Republicans have hammered Obama since he decided to release four “torture” memos last week from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that authorized CIA interrogators to waterboard and brutally beat “high-value” detainees.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a long-awaited report that show the seeds for the Bush administration’s policy of torture were planted in December 2001, nearly a year before the Justice Department issued its first legal opinion. The report states that the creation of the policy involved senior Bush administration officials officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

In a statement accompanying the report, committee chairman Carl Levin said he has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder “select a distinguished individual or individuals – either inside or outside the Justice Department, such as retired federal judges – to look at the volumes of evidence relating to treatment of detainees, including evidence in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report, and to recommend what steps, if any, should be taken to establish accountability of high-level officials – including lawyers.”

At a congressional hearing Thursday, Holder told lawmakers that he would not “permit the criminalization of policy differences. However, it is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law.

“If I see wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law,” Holder said.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is due to release a report that is said to be critical of former attorneys who created the legal framework for the White House’s torture policy.

Other Democratic lawmakers who have stepped up their calls for an independent investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Sen. Russ Feingold, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

Conyers and Leahy have both formally proposed an independent commission to probe the Bush administration’s interrogation tactics. But Conyers has also said that Holder should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a probe simulataneously.

On Thursday, civil liberties groups presented Holder with a petition signed by 250,000 people demanding he appoint a special prosecutor to further probe the policy of torture enacted by the Bush administration.

But at the White House meeting Thursday, attended by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Pelosi and Rep. John Boehner, Obama said he would not support any attempt to investigate the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies.

Whether Congress decides to act in defiance of Obama’s wishes remains to be seen.

Consumer/Nutrition Groups Urge Obama Administration and Congress to Update Alcohol Policies for the 21st Century

Shape Up AmericaOrganizations Issue Four-Step Plan Calling for Mandatory Alcohol Labeling and More Resources to Combat Underage Drinking

A coalition of public interest groups today called on Congress and the Obama Administration to overturn decades of inattention to the nation’s alcohol policies by finally issuing a useful final regulation to require standardized labeling information on beer, wine and distilled spirits products and providing the government resources needed to address such pressing problems as underage drinking, binge drinking, and drunk driving.

Using the observance of National Alcohol Awareness Month to rally attention, four leading nutrition and consumer advocacy organizations — Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League and Shape Up America! — released a new action plan, Alcohol Policy for the 21st Century: A Platform to Give Americans the Facts to Drink Responsibly, intended to bring the nation’s policies into the 21st century. Issued as a nationwide call to action, the platform urges the new Administration and Congress to make meaningful changes both in how information about the content of alcoholic beverages is communicated to the public and how the nation mobilizes to reduce underage drinking.

Specifically, the platform urges swift action on four regulatory and legislative measures:

  1. Gaining swift action by the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco
     Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to issue a final regulation that requires
     complete and easy-to-read labeling information on all beer, wine and
     distilled spirits products. To provide the information needed for
     consumers to make informed purchasing and consumption decisions, the
     advocates continue to press for a standardized "Alcohol Facts" panel
     that lists the alcohol content, the amount of alcohol per serving, the
     definition of a standard drink, the number of calories and facts about
     other ingredients.
  2. Enlisting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make
     increased access to alcohol content information a new national health
     objective when HHS issues Healthy People 2020, the updated ten-year
     health goals, in early 2010.
  3. Including detailed advice on responsible alcohol consumption levels for
     the public when HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
     release the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010, with a
     specific focus on what constitutes a "standard drink" and the calorie
     content of "non-standard" mixed alcoholic drinks now gaining in
     popularity.

  4. Gaining Congressional passage of the "Support 21 Act of 2009," which
     will expand the nation's underage drinking prevention efforts by
     allocating an additional $35.5 million to federal and state programs.

Among these actions, the top priority for the public health community is for TTB to move quickly to issue a consumer friendly final alcohol labeling regulation. This step would end the stalemate in modernizing beverage alcohol labels that traces back to 1972, when consumer organizations first asked the federal government to require meaningful alcohol labeling. In 2003, the National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America and 75 other public health and consumer organizations submitted a formal petition to TTB resulting in the agency issuing an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” in April 2005. Then, in 2007, TTB proposed a mandatory “Serving Facts” panel on beer, wine and distilled spirits that left out alcohol content and the amount of alcohol in a serving and was widely attacked by consumer groups and the public health community for being incomplete.

“There is no debate within the public health and consumer community about the need for mandatory and complete alcohol labeling,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. “It’s time to give consumers the same helpful and easily accessible labeling information that is now required for conventional foods, dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs.”

Although TTB’s 2007 actions were roundly criticized, the advocacy groups believe the record in the current rulemaking is sufficient for the agency to act now to issue a final alcohol labeling regulation in 2009. The advocates also urge TTB to consult with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the most effective format and graphic design for the “Alcohol Facts” label.

George Hacker, Director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project, said: “TTB has had a comprehensive response to its haphazard rulemaking to develop labels that will be helpful to consumers in measuring and moderating their alcohol consumption. The agency should accept the guidance it has received and find the political will to act.”

From a public health perspective, the advocacy organizations also urge HHS and USDA to provide detailed information on what constitutes a “standard drink” and the calorie content of popular “non-standard” mixed alcoholic drinks when the departments issue the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. The reason, according to the advocates, is insufficient information in the marketplace for consumers to know what constitutes a “standard drink” — 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40%) distilled spirits — and to understand that standard serving sizes of beer, wine and spirits are equal in alcohol strength and their effect on the body. As a result, research finds nearly 20 percent of current drinkers regularly consume more than the up to two standard drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women that the Dietary Guidelines defines as moderate drinking.

“Those consumers who choose to drink absolutely need alcohol and calorie information per serving to help them comply with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Without it, alcohol consumers continue to be left in the dark.”

The alcohol platform encourages HHS to add specific objectives to the upcoming Healthy People 2020 national health goals that reflect the current scientific knowledge about the calorie content of alcoholic beverages. Because alcohol is metabolized quite differently from these other macronutrients and provides 7 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates, increased access to alcohol content information through nutrition counseling and government education initiatives is needed both to combat the obesity epidemic and to reduce alcohol-related mortality resulting from hypertension, liver disease and certain cancers, as well as injury.

“To encourage weight management and reduce the health risks associated with alcohol requires that the 55 percent of adult Americans who drink have the information they need to make responsible decisions,” said Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., president of Shape Up America!, “Anything less is a setback for public health.”

Addressing the pervasive problem of underage drinking, the platform calls on Congress to pass H.R. 1028 — the “Support 21 Act of 2009” — which allocates an additional $35.5 million to federal and state efforts to reduce underage drinking. Recognizing that lowering the drinking age is not the answer, the bill focuses on delaying alcohol use through education and a stronger focus within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on disseminating research on effective strategies to reduce underage drinking. The bill also calls for a National Academies of Science report on available research regarding the impact of alcohol on adolescent brain development and the public policy implications of that research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), underage drinkers are responsible for 11 percent of all the beverage alcohol consumed in the U.S. and on average, consume more drinks per occasion than adults. Moreover, new research on brain development shows that adolescent brains are not fully developed before age 21, and alcohol abuse damages this development process.

  To view a copy of the alcohol policy platform, go to www.nclnet.org/news.

  About the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. Founded by executive director Michael Jacobson, Ph.D. and two other scientists, CSPI has long sought to educate the public, advocate government policies that are consistent with scientific evidence on health and environmental issues, and counter industry’s powerful influence on public opinion and public policies.

About the Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of some 300 organizations, with a combined membership of over 50 million Americans. Since its founding in 1968, CFA has worked to advance the interest of American consumers through research, education and advocacy. CFA’s Food Policy Institute was created in 1999 and engages in research, education and advocacy on food and agricultural policy, agricultural biotechnology, food safety and nutrition.

About the National Consumers League

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

About Shape Up America!

Shape Up America! was founded in 1994 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to raise awareness of the health effects of obesity and to provide responsible information on weight management to the public and to health care professionals. The organization maintains an award winning website — www.shapeup.org — accessed by more than 100,000 visitors each month and an “opt-in” e-newsletter with more than 24,000 subscribers.

Source: Shape Up America!

Web Sites: http://www.nclnet.org/ http://www.shapeup.org/

How to Bail Out GM

So it’s come to this: General Motors, once the world’s mightiest industrial enterprise, is now flirting with bankruptcy. Ford and Chrysler may not be far behind. Car and truck sales have collapsed. With cash reserves rapidly falling, GM may soon be unable to pay its bills. Here’s the dilemma: GM and other U.S. automakers ought to be rescued to minimize damage to the economy, but the rescue should require tough conditions that neither the Democratic Congress nor the incoming Obama administration yet supports.