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Johnson & Johnson Woes Continue, CDC to Announce Updated Recommendations Today

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A federal advisory panel will vote today at 4:30 p.m. ET on updated recommendations for Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine. (Stayed tuned for our update).

Today's vote was scheduled after Tuesday's joint announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the federal government's J&J vaccination program was being paused after reports of "potentially dangerous" blood clots.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is reviewing clinical data gathered to date on six women, one who died, between the ages of 18 and 48 years who developed blood clots after receiving the single-dose J&J's vaccine, according to the draft agenda of the meeting. The CDC said Tuesday it is investigating the death of the Virginia woman who died of a blood clot.

Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Danny Avula released a statement confirming  the death is being investigated by the CDC over a potential link to the vaccine. The Virginia woman's death was reported to the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Avula said.

A 29-year-old woman told NBC News she was one of the six people who reported a case of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot after receiving the J&J vaccine. The woman said she got the vaccine March 19 and experienced a fever, trouble breathing and uncontrollable shaking. She was hospitalized for a week and placed in the intensive care unit.

"Since then, [I] have just had a few strange symptoms that could have been chalked up to a viral infection, mostly just a headache that persisted for two weeks, and some leg pain and swelling," she told NBC News during a phone interview from her hospital bed.

Though the CDC is reviewing clinical data on six women who developed blood clots after receiving the J&J vaccine, VAERS shows 55 reports of blood coagulation disorders from the J&J vaccine through April 1 and 972 reports from all three vaccines combined, including Pfizer and Moderna through April 1.

States and countries react to U.S. pause

Tuesday's decision to pause the J&J vaccine triggered a cascade of announcements by U.S. states and other countries.

In the U.S., more than two dozen states paused J&J vaccinations. The states said they were acting out of "an abundance of caution, as more than 6.8 million doses of J&J's vaccine have been injected and only six of the blood clotting cases have so far been reported," CNBC reported.

The EU Commission said Wednesday it will not renew COVID contracts next year with AstraZeneca or J&J, Italian daily La Stampa reported, citing a source from the Italian health ministry.

"The European Commission, in agreement with the leaders of many (EU) countries, has decided that the contracts with the companies that produce (viral vector) vaccines that are valid for the current year will not be renewed at their expiry," the newspaper reported.

It added that Brussels would rather focus on COVID vaccines using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, such as Pfizer's and Moderna's.

Although the focus to date on blood clots and COVID vaccines has been on AstraZeneca and J&J, scientists have found evidence of thrombocytopenia following vaccination with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

On Wednesday, the president of the European Commission said the EU was in talks with Pfizer and BionTech for a new contract for 1.8 billion doses. He confirmed later that day an agreement had been reached with the company to provide 50 million more doses of COVID vaccine.

"We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth — mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point," an EU spokesperson added.

The announcements came after J&J said Tuesday it was delaying the rollout of its COVID vaccine across Europe, in response to the decision by U.S. health officials to pause the vaccine.

"We have made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe," J&J said.

South Africa suspended the J&J vaccine Tuesday as a "precautionary measure," according to ABC News.

South African health minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, told reporters "in the unlikely event" that the J&J vaccines are permanently halted, South Africa would continue with its vaccination campaign in May using doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.

On Monday, the Australian government said it won't buy the J&J vaccine. Government officials had previously relied on AstraZeneca and Pfizer, but announced last week that Pfizer's vaccine is now the preferred option for people under 50 because of a potential health risk from AstraZeneca.

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J&J rollout has not been smooth

As The Defender reported Monday, J&J's rollout in the U.S. has been anything but smooth. Last week, J&J vaccine sites in four states shut down after reports of adverse reactions, some of which resulted in vaccine recipients being transferred to hospitals.

Reports of COVID breakthrough cases in people who received the vaccine, marketed under its subsidiary, Janssen, continue to be reported, including a man in New Jersey who was hospitalized in critical condition after testing positive for COVID almost a month after being fully vaccinated.

In early April, the vaccine maker had to throw out 15 million doses of its vaccine after they were contaminated with AstraZeneca vaccine ingredients at an unapproved manufacturing plant in Baltimore.

In March, The Defender reported on J&J's long history of civil and criminal lawsuits, resulting in the company having to pay billions in fines to settle lawsuits, including some involving product recalls.

On Monday, the company faced backlash from investors after its CEO was awarded a 17% pay raise while billions are being paid out for the company's role in the nation's opioid epidemic.

The post Johnson & Johnson Woes Continue, CDC to Announce Updated Recommendations Today appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

translate | Wed, 14 Apr 2021 19:19:05 +0000

Tucker Carlson: Either the Vaccines Work. Or They Don’t.

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In the segment below on last night's "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the Fox News commentator said there are two things the public wants to know about COVID vaccines "and neither has anything to do with how many professional athletes or Netflix stars have been vaccinated."

People want to know: Are the vaccines safe? And, are they effective?

Carlson said the public was assured the vaccines are safe, that the risks were so small we could ignore them completely. In fact, we were told that the clinical trials revealed "no evidence at all" that the vaccines could cause any life-threatening injuries," Carlson said.

But after Tuesday's decision by federal health officials to shut down the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout — because six people experienced blood clots, including one who died — Carslon had a lot of questions.

And those questions aren't being answered by federal health officials, who are sending a lot of mixed messages these days, Carlson explained.

What about the question of effectiveness, Carlon asked.

After being told that everyone must get the vaccine, the rollout is "more important than the moon shot," health officials are telling people even if they're fully vaccinated, they must avoid crowds and wear masks.

"That's not what we expected at all," Carlson said. "If the vaccines work, why are the vaccinated still banned from living normal lives?"

It's a "legitimate public health mystery," Carlson said, adding: "Either it works, or doesn't. But it can't be simultaneously 'highly effective' and at the same time not restore people's lives to normal."

As for journalists asking these questions on behalf of the public, forget it, Carlson said. "Journalists have decided their job is to enforce the regime's rules, no matter how often those rules change."

Watch the "Tucker Carlson Tonight" segment here:

The post Tucker Carlson: Either the Vaccines Work. Or They Don't. appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

translate | Wed, 14 Apr 2021 18:22:43 +0000

Connecticut Lawmakers to Vote on Repealing Religious Exemption to Vaccine Mandates

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Two bills that would repeal religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations in Connecticut are one step closer to passing.

Despite strong opposition by some lawmakers, members of Connecticut's Public Health Committee on March 31 passed SB-568 and HB-6423 out of committee. The bills passed along party lines, with 22 Democrats voting in favor and 11 Republicans opposed.

A floor vote could take place as early as April 19.

If the bills pass as currently written, the religious exemption would be removed immediately for children in daycare, preschool and kindergarten through sixth grade in public and private schools. However, religious exemptions already on file for students currently enrolled in grades seven through 12 and college would be upheld and those students would be allowed to remain in school. New students would be unable to obtain religious exemptions.

Connecticut health freedom advocates faced a number of challenges this year, including changes in membership on the Public Health Committee. State Reps. Jack Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, and David Michel, D-Stamford, who were the only two democrats to vote against the measure last February, did not get reappointed to the health committee.

When asked about the shuffle, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter (D) Hartford stated, "I did my very best to give people the committees they wanted to be on. But there are dozens of members of the caucus who were not able to get all the committees they wanted. It's a tough juggling act."

Connecticut families opposed to the bills are fighting back. Many are canvassing neighborhoods, arranging town halls, launching petitions, throwing rallies, setting up group Zoom calls with legislators and sending out press releases — but they need your help.

Consider signing this national petition, "5 Reasons To Veto, a Petition to Governor Ned Lamont," even if you don't live in Connecticut.

The petition covers these five main points:

  1. The repeal of the religious exemption is unnecessary: School vaccine mandates and religious exemptions can co-exist without harming public health according to Connecticut's own school survey.
  2. The fetal DNA issue alone makes this a legitimate religious issue, and protecting religious liberty is also a compelling state interest.
  3. Mandates violate the human right to informed consent.
  4. Mandates violate international bioethics standards, which prioritize the individual over the state.
  5. Repealing religious liberty creates religious freedom refugees within the U.S. as families move to states which respect religion.

Other ways you can help:

If you live in Connecticut, please sign your senate district petition.

Consider donating to our proactive efforts to assemble a dream legal team to challenge the repeal if it were to go through.

Consider donating to our efforts to push our petition to Governor Lamont in as media outlets as we can.

Keep Connecticut a place people will want to move and attend school. Please sign for every member of your household, even children, and share with others.

The post Connecticut Lawmakers to Vote on Repealing Religious Exemption to Vaccine Mandates appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

translate | Wed, 14 Apr 2021 17:28:56 +0000

Lawyers Signal More Lawsuits Likely Against Syngenta, Alleging Paraquat Causes Parkinson’s Disease

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Lawyers suing Swiss chemical company Syngenta are asking a U.S. judicial panel to consolidate more than a dozen similar lawsuits under the oversight of a federal judge in California. The move is a telling sign of the expansion of litigation that alleges the company's weed-killing products cause Parkinson's Disease.

According to the motion, filed April 7 by the Texas-based Fears Nachawati law firm with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, there are currently at least 14 lawsuits filed by eight different law firms in six different federal courts across the country. The lawsuits are all filed on behalf of plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder, and they allege exposure to Syngenta's weed killers made with a chemical called paraquat for the disease. Several other cases making the same allegations are pending in state courts.

"The cases are excellent candidates for coordinated pretrial proceedings because they arise from the same poisonous toxin causing the same crippling disease resulting from the wrongful conduct of the same three defendants," the Fears Nachawati brief in support of its motion states. "Movant expects that the number of similar cases filed in state and federal courts across the country will expand rapidly."

The motion seeks transfer specifically to Judge Edward Chen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Majed Nachawati, a partner with the Fears Nachawati firm, said the firm was still investigating the size and scope of the overall litigation but believes the paraquat litigation against Syngenta "will be significant and material in nature …"

"Very soon, there is going to be litigation in dozens of federal courts across the country," Nachawati said.

The plaintiffs' lawyers will be seeking internal corporate documents as well as depositions of corporate officials related to the "testing, design, labeling, marketing and safety of paraquat herbicides," along with corporate research and evaluations of the toxicity and safety of its paraquat products.

The Miller Firm of Virginia, which helped lead the Roundup cancer litigation against Monsanto that resulted in an $11 billion settlement with Monsanto owner Bayer AG, is among the law firms joining in the paraquat litigation. The Miller firm supports the effort to consolidate the federal actions in California, where thousands of Roundup cases were also consolidated for pretrial proceedings, according to the firm's lead attorney Mike Miller.

"We are confident that science strongly supports the causal connection between paraquat and the devastation of Parkinson's disease," Miller said of the motion. "The Northern District of California is well equipped to handle these cases."

The cases against Syngenta also name Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. as a defendant. Chevron distributed and sold Gramoxone paraquat products in the U.S. starting with an agreement with a Syngenta predecessor called Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which introduced paraquat-based Gramoxone in 1962. Under a license agreement, Chevron had the right to manufacture, use and sell paraquat formulations in the U.S.

Syngenta and Chevron have denied the allegations.

Syngenta says that its paraquat products have been approved as "safe and effective" for more than 50 years and it will "vigorously" defend the lawsuits. Syngenta is owned by China National Chemical Corporation, known as ChemChina.

Scientific studies

Parkinson's is an incurable progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain, leading in advanced cases to severe physical debilitation and often dementia. Many Parkinson's experts say the disease can be caused by a range of factors, including exposure to pesticides such as paraquat, as well as other chemicals.

Several scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson's, including a large study of U.S. farmers jointly overseen by multiple U.S. government agencies. That 2011 research reported that people who used paraquat were twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease as people who did not use it.

"Numerous epidemiological and animal studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson's disease," said Dorsey Ray, a professor of neurology and director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics at University of Rochester in New York. Dorsey is also the author of a book about prevention and treatment of Parkinson's Disease.

"The evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson's disease is probably the strongest of any pesticide commonly used," he said.

Some studies have not found any clear links between paraquat and Parkinson's and Syngenta asserts that the most recent and authoritative research does not show a connection.

Indeed, a study published in 2020 found connections between some other pesticides and Parkinson's, but no strong evidence showing paraquat causes the disease.

Upcoming trial

One case filed in a state court is scheduled to go to trial next month. Hoffman V. Syngenta is slated for trial May 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois. A status conference is scheduled for the end of this month.

Missouri lawyer Steve Tillery, who is representing the plaintiffs in the Hoffman case as well as several other plaintiffs in other paraquat lawsuits, said despite Syngenta's assertions to the contrary, he has accumulated evidence that includes internal company records showing Syngenta has known for decades that its product causes Parkinson's Disease.

"They shouldn't be selling this product, said Tillery. "This chemical should be off the market."

Originally published by U.S. Right To Know.

The post Lawyers Signal More Lawsuits Likely Against Syngenta, Alleging Paraquat Causes Parkinson's Disease appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

translate | Wed, 14 Apr 2021 15:54:54 +0000

‘This Week’ With Mary + Polly: ‘Not Even a Handful’ of Children Should Get This Vaccine

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This week, Mary Holland, Children's Health Defense president, and Polly Tommey, co-producer of "Vaxxed," cover the latest on vaccine passports and how they're more about getting everyone on the "digital platform" than about vaccines and public safety, attempts to weaken existing rules about research on human embryos, latest attacks on CHD and its chairman, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and what doctors in Israel think about COVID vaccines for kids … and much more.

Here are just a few of this week's highlights:

  • As The Defender reported this week, U.S. health officials paused Johnson & Johnson vaccines after reports of "extremely rare" blood clots. They're trying to normalize vaccine side effects, but if people keep dying, and stories keep getting out, this is going to be a "real problem" for health agencies.
  • Emergency departments in the UK are being "swamped" with people seeking treatment for AstraZeneca vaccine side effects. Meanwhile AstraZeneca has suspended its vaccine trials involving children.
  • CBS News reported that only people who were vaccinated against COVID were allowed to board cruise ships evacuating people after a volcano erupted on St. Vincent Island in the Carribean.
  • Pentagon scientists working inside a secretive unit set up at the height of the Cold War have requested Emergency Use Authorization for a microchip they've created which would be inserted under the skin, to detect COVID-19 infection. "It's like a 'check engine light' for your body — what could go wrong?"
  • A "next-gen army COVID vaccine you've never heard of" has just begun human trials, suggesting there will soon be a "super-duper vaccination for all COVID viruses," Holland said.
  • In Israel, 93 (it's now up to 100) doctors signed a letter stating that "not even a handful of children should be endangered through mass vaccination for a disease that is not dangerous for them," citing the known and unknown risks of the COVID vaccines in use.

Watch "This Week" with Mary + Polly:

The post 'This Week' With Mary + Polly: 'Not Even a Handful' of Children Should Get This Vaccine appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

translate | Wed, 14 Apr 2021 15:08:52 +0000

6 Ways Chevron Is Failing on Climate and Human Rights

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Although we're barely one quarter into 2021, multiple forces are squeezing Chevron for the preventable harm it is inflicting on the global climate. The company is also being dragged for its greenwashing, its role in perpetuating racial injustice in the U.S. and its violations of Indigenous peoples' rights and other human rights from Burma/Myanmar to Ecuador.

The table is now set for Chevron's annual meeting in May, where several climate-related shareholder proposals will be on the agenda. Campaigners are calling for votes against both the board chair and the lead independent director on the basis of failures to oversee climate performance.

Last year, a majority of Chevron shareholders rebuked corporate leadership by demanding increased disclosure of the company's climate lobbying. Here are six issues the Union of Concerned Scientists and our partners will be watching in the lead-up to Chevron's annual meeting this year.

1. Failure to reduce global warming emissions

According to an analysis by Richard Heede published by The Guardian in 2019, Chevron is responsible for more carbon emissions since 1965 than any other investor-owned fossil fuel company.

In early March, Chevron announced new climate goals and published a new climate report, which said Chevron intends to reduce its global warming emissions by about 5% over the next seven years. Underwhelming to say the least.

No wonder my colleague Nicole Pinko says Chevron is in a fight for second-to-last place with ExxonMobil on climate action (read her recent blog post for more details). And in its new Net Zero Company Benchmark, the investor-led Climate Action 100+ initiative found that Chevron met none of the criteria related to net-zero ambition by 2050 or short-, medium-, and long-term emissions reduction targets toward that aim.

Fortunately, shareholders will have a chance to weigh in on Chevron's climate ambitions and targets. Over the company's objections, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will allow shareholders to vote on a proposal put forth by the investor advocacy group Follow This, calling for Chevron to substantially reduce its heat-trapping emissions.

The SEC also allowed a proposal by As You Sow — another investor advocacy group — calling for an audited report on how a significant reduction in fossil fuel demand would affect Chevron's financial assumptions and position. This is further evidence, if we needed it, that the SEC and other financial regulators are concerned about climate-related financial risks and moving to strengthen climate change disclosures.

2. Foot-dragging on climate policy

Chevron's climate-related policy positions are as pathetic as its emissions-reduction goals. In February, when Chevron issued a report on climate lobbying in response to last year's shareholder vote, the company falsely claimed that its positions line up with the Paris Agreement. (Climate Action 100+ agrees that Chevron's lobbying is not Paris-aligned).

From that deception, it was an easy sidestep for Chevron to give a seal of approval to each of the trade associations to which it belongs — including the American Petroleum Institute (API). Earlier this year, French oil and gas company Total withdrew from the API over the lobbying group's lack of support for the Paris Agreement.

API has done some fancy footwork since Total's departure, including releasing a new "Climate Action Framework" — but the latest greenwashing by a group with a decades-long history of climate disinformation deserves its own blog. For now, check out this story on recent research by Stanford University scholar Ben Franta.

Chevron now publishes a list of trade associations to which the company pays more than $100,000 in annual dues. But trade associations aren't the only industry groups through which fossil fuel giants wield influence over climate policy. Take the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a "bill mill" that has opposed renewable energy and emissions reduction policies at the state level. As far as we can tell, Chevron has not joined Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil in severing ties with ALEC. More on ALEC a bit later.

3. Greenwashing

While Chevron's climate actions are decidedly understated, its climate ads are dangerously overstated. That's why Earthworks, Global Witness, and Greenpeace USA, represented by Richman Law and Policy, filed a greenwashing complaint to the Federal Trade Commission against Chevron.

The complaint argues that Chevron's ads are unlawfully deceptive because they overstate the company's investment in renewable energy and its commitment to reducing fossil fuel pollution. The groups are asking the commission to require Chevron to remove the ads, refrain from placing similar ads in the future and face relevant penalties. See how UCS scientists reacted to one of Chevron's deceptive ads back in 2018.

With greenwashing attracting unwelcome attention, fossil fuel clients could become a liability for public relations firms — and some ad agencies are already starting to back away, as they did from the tobacco industry.

4. Perpetuating racial injustice in the U.S.

After tweeting that "Black Lives Matter" during racial justice protests in June 2020, Chevron faced scrutiny over the harm it has inflicted and continues to inflict on communities of color near its facilities in Richmond, California, and elsewhere around the world. Faith- and values-based investors submitted a shareholder proposal requesting that Chevron commission an independent third-party report analyzing how the company's policies, practices and the impacts of its business perpetuate racial injustice and disparately impact people of color.

The SEC ruled that Chevron could prevent shareholders from considering the proposal, on the basis that it relates to the company's legal strategy and could harm its defense in ongoing litigation, and thus interfere with its "ordinary business." In Chevron's case, "ordinary business" means burning fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow, and the litigation in question seeks to hold Chevron and other fossil fuel polluters accountable for climate damages and fraud. Or — as Chevron's legal team at Gibson Dunn put it in the SEC filing — "the alleged resulting injuries, including the alleged harmful impacts of climate change on communities of color."

Indeed, many of these legal complaints — including those filed by Charleston, South Carolina; Hoboken, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Delaware; Minnesota and most recently, Annapolis, Maryland — emphasize how climate impacts hurt low-income communities and communities of color first and worst.

The proposal that won't be put to a shareholder vote next month also called for an examination of how Chevron's public policy advocacy aligns with respect for civil rights. While Chevron professes support for Black lives, Global Witness found that the company gave over four times more funding to politicians who fail to uphold voting rights than to those who do. And back to ALEC here: the group is crafting model legislation and lobbying to roll back voting rights in dozens of states to a level not seen since the end of Reconstruction. Rollbacks recently passed in Georgia will disproportionately affect Black voters. ALEC is also behind "critical infrastructure" laws that target Indigenous and environmental activists protesting oil and gas pipelines.

5. Supporting the Burma/Myanmar military

Chevron is the largest U.S. corporate investor in Burma/Myanmar. It partners with the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), France's Total, and other international companies to extract and transport natural gas in Burma/Myanmar. The country's government earns close to $1 billion annually from sales of natural gas.

Since the February military coup, protesters in Burma/Myanmar have been putting their lives on the line to oppose and disrupt the military regime. Activists around the world are demanding that Chevron stop bankrolling the Myanmar military.

Last month, UCS signed onto a joint civil society letter to Chevron calling on the company to use its ownership stakes in joint ventures with MOGE to ensure that payments of royalties and other revenues are not made to MOGE. The letter urged companies instead to make revenue payments into protected accounts until the legitimate and democratically elected government is returned.

While Chevron joined a public statement by concerned businesses operating in Burma/Myanmar, it has not responded to the specific request made in the civil society letter.

6. Evading accountability in Ecuador

Nearly a decade ago, Indigenous people and farmers won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron over deadly pollution from oil and gas production in the Ecuadorian Amazon dating back to the 1980s. Not only does Chevron refuse to pay to clean up its mess and address the ongoing health crisis it created, the company and its lawyers at Gibson Dunn (remember them from the SEC challenges?) are blocking access to justice for the affected communities.

Chevron has engaged in a ruthless, unprecedented and sustained attack on the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' attorney, Steven Donziger, who estimates that the company has spent $2 billion on lawyers, public relations teams, and private investigators fighting the case. Donziger will have spent 630 days under house arrest on contempt charges by the time he faces trial in May. Learn more about this painful saga of corporate abuse in Season 5 of the "Drilled" podcast, and on this episode of Democracy Now!

In February, UCS joined with allies in the "Protect the Protest" coalition, which works to end strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. We urged the attorney general to review Chevron's legal attacks on attorney Steven Donziger and, by extension, the rural people and communities of the Amazon that he represents. In light of President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to "strategically support ongoing plaintiff-driven climate litigation against polluters," we're hopeful that the administration's Department of Justice will send a clear signal that it will not help Chevron evade, obstruct or pervert justice any longer.

These six examples illustrate a stunning array of corporate abuse, deception and misconduct by one of the world's largest and most powerful corporations. They also provide incredible opportunities for cross-sector, cross-issue organizing and campaigning to hold Chevron accountable as it prepares to face its stockholders. UCS and our partners are up for the challenge.

Originally published by Common Dreams.

The post 6 Ways Chevron Is Failing on Climate and Human Rights appeared first on Children's Health Defense.

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