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Becoming more energy efficient, which has long been one of the keys to a sustainable future, may have just gotten a little easier. TopTen USA, a new non-profit group, just launched a new website that ranks electronics based on energy efficiency. The website contains information on virtually every electronics product category.  It has an attractive easy-to-use interface that makes it very easy to find what you are looking for.

The World Wildlife Foundation, which is a partner in the project, wrote on its blog yesterday:

Since energy efficiency is one of the quickest, cheapest and easiest routes to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one of TopTen’s goals is to generate greater demand for efficient products, helping to catalyze a market shift toward more climate-friendly products.

One problem with TopTenUSA is that it only ranks based on energy usage. It appears that the environmental impact of the manufacturing process is not considered. Nor does the website have any information on recyclability of products. Hopefully, as it develops, TopTenUSA will add information about those factors as well.

TopTenUSA  has exciting potential and  will hopefully prove an invaluable resource to consumers.

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An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times calls on Congress to take action on pending mine and workplace safety legislation before another tragedy like the Upper Big Branch mine disaster or the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurs.

The House and Senate are each considering similar versions of the “Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety and Health Act,” legislation that would promote safer workplaces by protecting whistleblowers who report unsafe conditions, increasing penalties for mine and workplace operators who endanger the lives of their workers, and giving the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more authority to force employers to quickly abate hazardous conditions.

Earlier this summer, the House voted its bill out of committee and it currently awaits a floor vote. As usual, the Senate is moving at a slower pace. Public Citizen has called on Congress to take action to reduce the 5,000 worker fatalities that happen each year by passing this important legislation.

For more information on this legislation, check out our fact sheet, letter to Congress, and backgrounder (all are in PDF format). Or view the text of the House and Senate bills.

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A new video from our friends at FairElectionsNow.org features real people describing in their own words the profound impact of corporate corruption in Washington. You can see from the video that big agriculture, corporate coal and BP are all playing the money game to make government work for them and not the American public.

As long as members of Congress must rely on donations from corporations and lobbyists to fund their campaigns, these special interests will continue to have a huge advantage over real people when it comes to finding policy solutions for the people’s problems.

After you watch the video, urge your members of Congress to end the political money chase by supporting public financing of elections via the Fair Elections Now Act at http://www.citizen.org/supportfairelectionsnow.

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Political cartoonist Tom Toles has an excellent cartoon in today’s Washington Post about DISCLOSE and Citizens United.

By pointing out the importance of knowledge, Toles suggests something important about one of the fundamental pillars of our country. The media shapes the national debate. From discussions around the dinner table at home to debates in corporate boardrooms, this country is driven by the stories on television, in newspapers, books, magazines, on the radio, etc. Knowledge, as Toles notes, is power. Therefore those who control what knowledge we get and what knowledge remains hidden have immense power.

So even if Congress and the Supreme Court do not protect our right to know what our government does and who is behind its actions, the media has the ability to correct that wrong. In fact, the media must tell the country who are involved and what they are doing. To put it colloquially, the media has to tell us what’s up.

Some readers might see an immediate problem. There is a serious conflict of interest in the media. The media is funded almost exclusively by corporations running advertisements alongside the news. One can see how this precarious situation might pose a very serious dilemma.

Luckily for us, we have one more tool for those times (and they are increasingly more frequent) when the media fails to report or misrepresents an important issue. We have each other. We can fact-check and report stories on blogs,  Twitter, Facebook and in so many different ways. We can petition the government and media outlets for fairer reporting and for more transparency. Public Citizen fights for all people, because, as global citizens, people are the ones who must run the world.

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Robert Weissman speaks about oil companies' influence in Congress at a demonstration on Capitol Hill July 20.

We just got back from Capitol Hill where Public Citizen President Robert Weissman spoke about the powers of corporations in Congress and about shifting our economies to sustainable forms of energy.

Weissman noted:

The first step is to get the oil money out of Congress. We’ve got to clean up Congress. We need clean money in our elections.

The demonstration marked not just the three-month “anniversary” of the BP oil spill but also the 41st anniversary of the moon landing. Echoing similar speeches by former Vice President Al Gore, activist Ted Glick called for the United States to use the same motivating energy that (more…)

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ThinkProgress.org blogged over the weekend about BP’s attempts to “control scientific research of [the] oil disaster.” Essentially, BP has been buying up researchers in the Gulf Coast region and asking to review all their data before it is released to the public. The company is adding to its payrolls (either directly or through grants to Gulf Coast are Universities) many of the scientists working in the Gulf Coast are who are best qualified to study the spill. Because BP has such deep pockets, it can afford to pay all of these scientists to study the effects the oil is having on wildlife. In return for being paid by BP, the scientists will now send all their research to the oil giant for review before it is released to the public. Needless to say, this goes a long way towards eliminating any hope of transparency we might have.

While it is understandable and entirely legal for BP to hire these scientists and to control the data, it is not right to the American people if BP does not disclose all the research the company receives. Failing to disclose the data and reports could seriously inhibit recovery and restoration efforts.

There is only one entity with the power and financial weight to challenge BP. The federal government must both force BP to disclose all its findings and counter BP’s army of scientists with a government-sponsored team.

The oil spill seems to be coming to an end. As we hope and pray that stage two of this disaster is coming to a close, we must begin to focus on the next step. The government has failed to adequately deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. President Obama and Congress must ensure it does not fail to handle the aftermath of this disaster.

Boycott BP: http://www.citizen.org/page.aspx?pid=3311

Join us to demonstrate on Capitol Hill on the three-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion.

You can also sign the “Congress: You Have Oil on Your Hands” petition.

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On Tuesday, Public Citizen researchers published an article in PLoS Medicine about the safety of various medical devices. The authors of the article found that the FDA approval process does not adequately weed out ineffective and sometimes dangerous devices. From the press release issued Tuesday:

The weaknesses identified by the authors include:
• A lower approval standard for devices than for drugs;
• Lax interpretation of the requirements for the medical device approval process;
• A loophole that allows manufacturers of novel devices to circumvent the premarket approval process;
• Failure of the FDA to appropriately regulate many types of devices that were first marketed prior to the 1976 enactment of the current regulatory scheme; and
• A superfluous appeal mechanism that gives manufacturers a second go for approval after FDA has rejected a device.

The authors enumerated specific cases where FDA allowed dangerous products to be sent to market. In one particularly egregious instance, a device was approved by the FDA director after other FDA board members had expressed significant concerns about the device, the vagus nerve stimulator, which is supposed to treat severe depression. Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid considers the device to be of such questionable value that it refuses to reimburse for it.

In the words of one of the researchers, Dr. Sidney Wolfe,

“The FDA’s mission is to protect public health, but allowing questionably effective products onto the market is inconsistent with that mission.”

The article can be found in the latest issue of PLoS Medicine.

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