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Donald Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speak at a meeting in February. The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—many of them having ﬂed the country during the Vietnam War. This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows—the White House had hesitantly backed off the plan in August before reversing course. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.The new stance mirrors White House efforts to clamp down on immigration writ large, a frequent complaint of the president’s on the campaign trail and one he links to a litany of ills in the United States.The administration last year began pursuing the deportation of many long-term immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries who the administration alleges are “violent criminal aliens.” But Washington and Hanoi have a unique 2008 agreement that specifically bars the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995—the date the two former foes reestablished diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War.
The White House unilaterally reinterpreted the agreement in the spring of 2017 to exempt people convicted of crimes from its protections, allowing the administration to send back a small number of pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants, a policy it retreated from this past August. Last week, however, a spokesperson for the U. S. embassy in Hanoi said the American government was again reversing course.Washington now believes that the 2008 agreement fails to protect pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants from deportation, the spokesperson, who asked not to be identiﬁed by name because of embassy procedures, told The Atlantic.“The United States and Vietnam signed a bilateral agreement on removals in 2008 that establishes procedures for deporting Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States after July 12, 1995, and are subject to ﬁnal orders of removal,” the spokesperson said. “While the procedures associated with this speciﬁc agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases.”The about-turn came as a State Department spokesperson conﬁrmed that the Department of Homeland Security had met with representatives of the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, D.C., but declined to provide details of when the talks took place or what was discussed.Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for DHS said: “We have 5,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with ﬁnal orders of removal—these are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge. It’s a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country.”Spokespeople for the Vietnamese embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.But the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said in a statement that the purpose of the meeting was to change the 2008 agreement. That deal had initially been set to last for ﬁve years, and was to be automatically extended every three years unless either party opted out. Under those rules, it was set to renew next month. Since 1998, ﬁnal removal orders have been issued for more than 9,000 Vietnamese nationals.When it ﬁrst decided to reinterpret the 2008 deal, Donald Trump’s administration argued that only pre-1995 arrivals with criminal convictions were exempt from the agreement’s protection and eligible for deportation. Vietnam initially conceded and accepted some of those immigrants before stiffening its resistance; about a dozen Vietnamese immigrants ended up being deported from the United States. The August decision to change course, reported to a California court in October, appeared to put such moves at least temporarily on ice, but the latest shift leaves the fate of a larger number of Vietnamese immigrants in doubt. Now all pre-1995 arrivals are exempt from the 2008 agreement’s protection.
Read: The U. S. used to criticize countries that didn’t allow their citizens to leave.Many pre-1995 arrivals, all of whom were previously protected under the 2008 agreement by both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were refugees from the Vietnam War. Some are the children of those who once allied with American and South Vietnamese forces, an attribute that renders them undesirable to the current regime in Hanoi, which imputes anti-regime beliefs to the children of those who opposed North Vietnam. This anti-Communist constituency includes minorities such as the children of the American-allied Montagnards, who are persecuted in Vietnam for both their ethnicity and Christian religion.The Trump administration’s move reﬂects an entirely new reading of the agreement, according to Ted Osius, who served as the United States ambassador to Vietnam from December 2014 through October 2018. Osius said that while he was in ofﬁce, the 2008 agreement was accepted by all involved parties as banning the deportation of all pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants.“We understood that the agreement barred the deportation of pre-1995 Vietnamese. Both governments—and the Vietnamese-American community—interpreted it that way,” Osius told The Atlantic in an email. The State Department, he added, had explained this to both the White House and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.News of the Trump administration’s renewed hard line quickly made the rounds on Vietnamese American social media, with advocacy groups warning of potentially increased deportations.“Forty-three years ago, a lot of the Southeast Asian communities and Vietnamese communities ﬂed their countries and their homeland due to the war, which the U.S. was involved in, ﬂeeing for their safety and the safety of their families,” said Kevin Lam, the organizing director of the Asian American Resource Workshop, an advocacy group. “The U.S. would do well to remember that.” We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Krishnadev Calamur is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers global news. He is a former editor and reporter at NPR and the author of Murder in Mumbai.
My Dad’s Friendship With Charles BarkleyCopy the code below to embed the WBUR audio player on your sitePlayWhen Charles Barkley’s mother, Charcey Glenn, passed away in June 2015, Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, came to the funeral to pay respects. But there was also an unexpected guest. Barkley’s friends couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a basketball player, he wasn’t a sports ﬁgure, and he wasn’t from Barkley’s hometown. Here’s what I can tell you about him: He wore striped, red polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts and got really excited about two-for-one deals. He was a commuter. He worked as a cat litter scientist in Muscatine, Iowa. In short, he was everyone’s suburban dad. More specifically, he was my dad.“You know, it was obviously a very difﬁcult time,” Barkley told me recently. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.’ “”You know, [Barkley] has a big personality,” my dad, Lin Wang, told me last year, when I recorded him talking about Barkley.My dad told me that he knew about Barkley long before he met him.“Well, yeah, he’s a top-50 player in the history of the NBA,” he said. “For many years, he was the No. 2 guy, right after Michael Jordan.“Whenever we attended dinner parties, my dad would talk about his friend Charles Barkley. The ﬁrst time my dad told the story, I didn’t pretend to know who this person was. Basketball has never been my thing.Like a good millennial, I Googled Charles Barkley. He seemed pretty famous — and definitely not like anyone who would be friends with my dad. But again, as a good millennial, I knew that people have very loose definitions of the word “friend.“About two years ago, I asked my dad if I could see their texts. My dad handed me his phone. Their texts were mostly messages from my dad that ended with an excessive number of exclamation points.I told my dad the conversation seemed pretty one-sided and handed the phone back.As I talked about the relationship with more and more people, I began to think that either my dad was one of the luckiest basketball fans ever — or this whole thing was an elaborate joke, a “Dinner For Schmucks”-type situation.But no. The friendship was real.“It was, like, one of the most random things,” Barkley recalled with a laugh.“I was on a business trip,” my dad said, “and stayed in one of the hotels and was walking in the lobby, and I saw Charles Barkley.“”I was in Sacramento speaking at a charity event,” Barkley said.“So, I just went to say hi and take a picture with him,” my dad said.“I was just sitting at the bar,” Barkley said. “And me and your dad were the only two people in there. And we just sit down and started talking.“”And, before we know it, we looked at each other, like, ‘Yo, man, I’m hungry. Let’s go to dinner,’ ” Barkley said. “It turned into a two-hour dinner. And then we actually went back to the bar and just sit there and talked for another couple of hours. And the rest is history.“My dad and Barkley saw each other again in the bar the next night. And the night after that. At the end of the third night:“Certainly, I told him I had a good time talking with him, hanging out with him,” my dad said. “He said the same thing to me, and he left the phone number. He said, ‘Whenever you’re in Atlanta, New York City or Phoenix, check out with me. If I’m in town, we’ll hang out and have a good time.’ “Over the next few years, whenever my dad was in those cities, he would text Barkley, and they would hang out.“I mean, it was just a fun time,” Barkley said. “My friends — Shaq, Ernie, Kenny — they enjoyed just meeting him.“They got dinner together.“I think I had Thai basil noodle,” my dad recalled. “It was pretty good. I had it right inside the ofﬁce.“They spent time on the set of Barkley’s TNT show, “Inside the NBA.“”He likes to clean,” my dad said. “There were several big can of cleaning wipes right on his desk. Every time he sit down, he cleaned his desk.“”Iowa lost to Maryland that day,” my dad said.I’m pretty sure they did some partying too. But that, I don’t know much about.“Your dad is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Barkley said. “I’m not just saying that — I mean, think about it: It’s fun to be with your friends, you know? ’Cause, I don’t have that many friends that I want to be around, to be honest with you. I mean, you know a lot of people. But when you go spend time with your friends, it’s a whole different animal.“Back home, my dad’s coworkers would tease him about Barkley and ask him about the story all the time. My dad didn’t mind that they didn’t believe him. He even made a slideshow of photos of him and Barkley together for our community’s Chinese New Year celebration — totally irrelevant to the holiday.I asked my dad what he thought it was about him, of all people, that made him and Charles Barkley become friends.“I think we had a good conversation,” he said. “We agree with each other [on] a lot of point of views.“You know, he grown up in the ’70s in Alabama. His father left him and his mother when he was little. He grown up with grandma and mother. And the grandma and mother cleaned up houses for somebody else to make a living.“Tough life for him. But he’s well-respected professionally. And that’s his story.““Your dad is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life.” My dad moved to Iowa from China in the ’90s. He felt that Barkley and him had similar experiences.“So, to me, as an Asian in the U.S., I felt as long as I do a good job, people will respect me,” my dad said.Barkley and my dad both worked hard — so hard, they believed, that the color of their skin didn’t matter. In Chinese, we’d say that dad sometimes would 胡说八道(hú shuō bā dào) — that meant that sometimes he was known for spewing rubbish. I know that basketball fans might say Barkley often does the same.In June 2015, Barkley’s mother passed away. When my dad heard the news, he looked up the funeral details and hopped on a plane to Leeds, Alabama.“It ain’t easy to get to those places,” Barkley said. “I’m from a very small town.“And my dad showed up for his friend. Afterward, he went to dinner with Barkley and his family.“For your dad to take the time to come to the funeral meant a great deal to me,” Barkley said.Then, in May 2016, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He had tumors in his heart.I took that fall off from school. My dad and I watched mobster movies together. Action movies. Kung Fu movies. When the credits rolled, we’d ﬂip to a basketball game. Just me and him, watching a lot of TV in our living room.Then, it was two years.My dad never told Barkley that he was sick.“I called him and got mad at him when I found out,” Barkley said. “I was, like, ‘Dude, we’re friends. You can tell me. You’re not bothering me. You know me well enough — if you were bothering me, I would tell you you were bothering me.’ “What Barkley didn’t know was that my dad watched him almost every night on TNT. And while he rested and healed, my dad was laughing along with Barkley. He kept my dad company.June 2018. NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. My dad was staying in palliative care at the hospital. He loved the Warriors. I visited and read him sports highlights.He didn’t get to watch J.R. Smith’s late mistake in Game 1 live. I tried to get him to laugh about Smith dribbling away from the hoop because he thought his team was ahead.But it was a Sunday afternoon, and my dad was tired. The summer light ﬁlled his room. Then, the day faded, and dusk began to enter.After it was all over, I went through my dad’s phone and texted all his friends. I wrote:Hi. This is Shirley. My dad just passed away.The funeral was the day after the NBA Finals. My dad’s favorite team, the Golden State Warriors, had won the night before.“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his.” The funeral was set near the outskirts of Iowa City in a house by the woods. I was talking to my childhood friend when she suddenly looked stunned. I turned to look behind me.And standing there — drenched in sweat from the Iowa summer, towering over everyone in the room at 6 feet, 6 inches tall — was Charles Barkley.“I had not met anybody in your family,” Barkley said. “I didn’t know anybody there.“Everyone watched, astonished, as this man — this man we only knew from TV, this worldwide celebrity — walked down the aisle, looked at us and sighed.Later, after it all, I texted Barkley and asked him: “Why my dad? Why did he matter so much to you?” And recently, I called him up and asked: “What did you even have to talk about?“”Well, I think — ﬁrst of all, clearly, he was a fan,” Barkley said. “But I think the main thing we talked about was you and your brother.“”What did you guys talk about — what did he say?” I asked.“I think it was more that he was proud,” Barkley said. “Because I’ve got a daughter, too. I’m just really, really proud of her, because I think she’s a good person. And your dad was so proud of you and your brother.“Listen: As an adult — and you’re too young to understand this now — all you want is your kids to be happy. That’s what you work for. To give your kids everything in life.“The more Charles Barkley and I talked, I realized just how close he and my dad were. Barkley knew so much about me and my life — even though this was the ﬁrst time he and I had ever talked.“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his,” Barkley said. “Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself.“”So, let me get this straight: you were impressed by him?” I asked.‘I Was Blessed To Know Him’At the funeral, people shared memories of my dad and made me realize that, for example, he was not just a cat litter chemist — but an industry-changing scientist with a Ph.D. And not just an immigrant — but someone who reached out to Chinese newcomers. And not just a thoughtful guy — but someone people trusted for advice. I realized that, even after he passed away, I would continue to learn things about my dad.Before Barkley and I hung up, he had one more thing to say:“Hey, listen. You stay in touch. Please tell your mom I said hello. Give her a big kiss. Tell your brother I said hello. And listen: Just keep doing you. It’s your time now. Don’t forget that. That’s the most important thing.“Your dad prepared you to take care of yourself. He prepared you for that. I was blessed to know him — and know you, too.“”Thank you for your time,” I said.“You’re welcome, baby. You take it easy, you hear?“I know how much his friendship with Charles Barkley meant to my dad. It was not just a relationship with a celebrity — it shed light on the possibilities of this world. A world where someone like him could just say something cool, something charming, and befriend someone like Charles Barkley.I’m so glad that now I get to share my dad’s No. 1 dinner party story.How Emily Hsieh’s Olympic Dream Led Her To Rugby Refereeing’I Should Have Done More’: Bob Cousy’s Letter To Bill RussellThe Nike Air Swoopes And The Disappearance Of Women’s Signature Shoes
A scathing report by the Ofﬁce of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U. S. Customs and Border Protection to ﬁll thousands of new jobs to satisfy President Trump’s mandate to secure the southern border is “nowhere near” completing its hiring goals and “risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.”
The audit found that as of Oct. 1, CBP had paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million of a $297 million contract to recruit and hire 7,500 applicants, including Customs and Border Protection ofﬁcers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction agents. But 10 months into the ﬁrst year of a ﬁve-year contract, Accenture had processed only “two accepted job offers,” according to the report.
The inspector general called for immediate action. The report is titled “Management Alert — CBP Needs to Address Serious Performance Issues on the Accenture Hiring Contract.” It alleges the consulting company — which CBP agreed to pay nearly $40,000 per hire — failed to develop an “efﬁcient, innovative, and expertly run hiring process,” as the company pledged to do when it was awarded the lucrative contract. Instead, the probe concluded the company “relied heavily” on CBP’s existing infrastructure, resources and experts in all of its recruiting.
“We are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided,” the report states. “Without addressing the issues we have identiﬁed, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations.”
According to the report, CBP has bent over backward to accommodate Accenture.
When it became clear the company would miss a 90-day deadline to reach the “full operation phase” outlined in the agreement, the agency modiﬁed the contract granting Accenture another three months to ramp up operations to meet the terms of the contract.
CBP also allowed the company to use the government agency’s applicant tracking system when Accenture failed to deploy its own, leading to another contract revision.
The result of both changes meant that as recently as July 1, CBP staff continued to carry out a “signiﬁcant portion of the hiring operations,” the OIG noted. And because there was no way to track which applicants were recruited through Accenture’s efforts, CBP agreed to “give credit and temporarily pay Accenture for a percentage of all applicants.”
The OIG’s conclusion: “CBP must hold the contractor accountable, mitigate risk, and devise a strategy to ensure results without additional costs to the Government.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog launched the investigation after receiving complaints about Accenture’s performance and management on an OIG hotline.
A spokeswoman for Accenture Federal Service — a subsidiary of Accenture, a global security consulting ﬁrm based in Ireland — didn’t answer questions from NPR, but instead emailed a statement that said the company remains “focused on fulﬁlling our client’s expectations under our contract.”
Meanwhile, Henry Moak, a senior CBP ofﬁcial, disputed the OIG’s ﬁndings in a letter dated Nov. 28. Moak argued that Accenture has successfully “created a hiring structure, tailored technology solutions to support and manage the hiring process” and has “recruited thousands of new applicants.” Further, Moak claimed that the suggestion that the changes in the contract were due to a failure on Accenture’s part is “inaccurate.” He said the changes were requested by CBP “because it offered better overall efﬁciency in our mutual hiring activities.” Additionally, for any cutbacks in Accenture’s responsibilities, the agency “made equitable adjustments to decrease the cost-per-hire.”
Accenture was awarded the contract in November 2017 as a way to help CBP meet the Trump administration’s Border Patrol stafﬁng demands — a week after taking ofﬁce Trump signed an executive order calling for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Border Patrol jobs with the CBP have been notoriously difﬁcult to ﬁll, in large part because of the polygraph exam applicants are required to undergo. The AP reported that 2 out of 3 applicants fail the exam.
“The US Border Patrol, the CBP’s law enforcement arm at the US borders, has a statutorily established minimum stafﬁng level of just over 21,370 agents, not including the additional request from the president. “Border Patrol stafﬁng levels peaked in 2010 with 21,444 agents nationwide, down to 19,555 in 2018. “However, there was a net gain of 120 agents in 2018 — the ﬁrst year that had had a net gain since 2013, according to CBP data.”
Ultimately, CBP did agree to recommendations in the OIG report, including assessing Accenture’s performance and whether the payment system established in the contract is the most cost-effective way to hire new employees.
“While we take some exception to the OIG’s characterization of the contract, we do agree the contract has been a challenge, primarily due to the innovative efforts by both parties and we are reviewing how best to use it moving forward,” a CBP spokesperson told NPR in an emailed statement.
Archaeologists in Egypt have made an exciting tomb discovery - the ﬁnal resting place of a high priest, untouched for 4,400 years.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, described the ﬁnd as “one of a kind in the last decades”.
The tomb, found in the Saqqara pyramid complex near Cairo, is ﬁlled with colourful hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs. Decorative scenes show the owner, a royal priest named Wahtye, with his mother, wife and other relatives.
Archaeologists will start excavating the tomb on 16 December, and expect more discoveries to follow - including the owner’s sarcophagus.
When a staid American institution is declared dead, the news media like to haul the same usual suspect before the court of public opinion: the Millennial generation. The 80 million–plus people born in the United States between the early 1980s and the late 1990s stand accused of assassinating various hallmarks of modern life. The list of the deceased includes golf, department stores, the McDonald’s McWrap, and canned tuna. Millennials tore up napkins, threw out mayonnaise, and mercifully disposed of divorce and Applebee’s before graduating to somewhat postmodern crimes: “Have Millennials Killed Serendipity?” With the national murder rate in long-term decline, it may even be said that Millennials are killing killing.But according to a new report by economists at the Federal Reserve, this genre of news analysis is pure ﬁction.Read: How WeWork has perfectly captured the Millennial idWhen researchers compared the spending habits of Millennials with those of young people from past years, such as the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, they concluded that “Millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.” They also found that “Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth.”
Millennials aren’t doing in the economy. It’s the economy that’s doing in Millennials. My history with the accused goes back several years.In 2012, I published a column in The Atlantic with Jordan Weissmann, now a writer at Slate, called “The Cheapest Generation.” That headline—which got us in trouble because it was the only thing most people read—was a bit of a misdirection. The deeper question of the piece was whether the Great Recession might permanently reduce young people’s taste for houses and cars—two of the most vital engines of the economy.For years, various outlets, including The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, continued reporting that young people were buying fewer cars and houses than those in previous generations at a similar point in their life. In 2016, about 34 percent of Americans under 35 owned a house; when Boomers and Gen Xers were under 35, about half of them did.But the fact that young people are buying fewer houses and cars doesn’t prove that they want fewer houses and cars. It might mean they simply can’t afford them. That latter conclusion is now supported by research from the Federal Reserve.Fed economists found that the depressed rate of homeownership among Millennials was entirely about income and affordability. Young Boomers and young Gen Xers made significantly more money at a similar point in their life cycle, they said, and controlling for income and employment wiped out all generational differences.Read: How Friendsgiving took over Millennial cultureJust as important, homes in the United States are less affordable than they used to be. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the typical sale price of an existing single-family home in 2017 was 4.2 times greater than the median household income; that’s 30 percent higher than in 1988. It’s even worse in some cities. Since the late 1980s, price-to-income ratios have more than doubled in metro areas such as Miami, Denver, and Seattle. In San Francisco, the median house price doubled in just ﬁve years to more than $1.6 million. That’s a lot of foregone avocado toast.On the car front: News reports sometimes ﬁnd that the average age of new-car buyers is quickly rising, which makes it sound like young people are ditching their ride. But as the Fed economist Christopher Kurz has shown in several studies, that factoid is somewhat misleading. Young people actually buy the same number of cars per capita today that they did in 2005, at the height of the housing bubble. The average age of car buying is going up almost entirely because Americans older than 55 are buying more new vehicles than they were 20 years ago. In 1995, Americans over 55 bought about one-third of all new cars. Today they’re buying almost two-thirds.It’s also true that Millennials spend less than previous generations on transportation. But everybody is spending less; total transportation spending has declined as a share of the typical household’s budget by almost 5 percent in the past 30 years, according to the Fed. Perhaps that’s because people hold on to their car for longer, or own a more efﬁcient car that requires fewer tune-ups. Or maybe that’s a result of the declining cost of new vehicles under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which shifted some auto-manufacturing work to Mexico.
The economists ultimately found “no evidence that Millennials have preferences for vehicle purchases that are lower than those of earlier generations.” Case closed. It’s typical for Millennials to bear blame for dramatic cultural and economic changes when their only crime is behaving like everybody else. For example, last year The Wall Street Journal published a report that cited young people for killing grocery stores. The proof? Consumers ages 25 to 34 are spending less at traditional grocers than their parents’ generation did in 1990. Seems pretty damning. But upon closer examination, the stagnation of grocery stores is a complex story that implicates just about everybody. Americans of all ages are relying more on convenience stores, such as CVS, and superstores, such as Walmart, for food to eat at home, and those institutions aren’t typically counted as grocers in government data. Also, Americans of all ages are eating out at restaurants more. The group shifting its spending toward restaurants the fastest? It’s not 20-somethings. It’s people over 65.In the biggest picture—from cars and houses to restaurants and grocers—Millennials aren’t serial killers. They’re serial scapegoats.If there is one category in which the generation born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s really is different, it’s politics.Young people are not only to the left of the country, but also to the left of previous generations of young people. In national elections, Millennials have voted for Democrats over Republicans by unprecedented margins. They are far more open to various strands of socialism—including social democracy and democratic socialism. As I wrote in summarizing their political views in 2016, Millennials “sense that they are both America’s impoverished generation and its moral guardians—absent on the payroll, but present at the revolution.”Why would young people feel such revolutionary fervor? Maybe it’s not because Millennials have rejected the American dream, but rather because the economy has not only blocked their path to attaining it but punished them for trying to.Millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history to date. They bought into a social contract that said: Everything will work out, if ﬁrst you go to college. But as the cost of college increased, millions of young people took on student loans to complete their degree. Graduates under 35 are almost 50 percent more likely than members of Gen X to have student loans, and their median balance is about 40 percent higher than that of the previous generation.And what has all that debt gotten them? “Lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth,” according to the Federal Reserve paper’s conclusion. Student debt has made it harder for millions of young people to buy a home, since “holding debt is associated with a lower rate of homeownership, irrespective of degree type,” as Fed economists wrote in a previous study. In other words, young people took on debt to pursue a college degree, only to discover that the cost of college would push the American dream further from their grasp.
Is it any wonder that Millennials are eager to overthrow a system that has duped them into a story of permanent progress, thrown them into debt, depressed their wages, separated them from the trappings of adulthood, and then, for good measure, blamed them for ruining canned tuna?When the 20th-century sociologist James Chowning Davies studied the political convulsions of France and 20th-century Russia, he observed that the conditions for revolution are ripest “when a prolonged period of economic and social development is followed by a short period of sharp reversal.” These revolutions occurred, he said, when a large group of people felt that reality had suddenly fallen short of their expectations for social or economic development. Millennials were promised rising wages, homes, and cars; they got 140 characters. Okay, ﬁne, 280 characters. That’s nothing to live on. But it’s just enough to efﬁciently articulate one’s despondency alongside 80 million frustrated peers, all of whom are exasperated with a system that keeps ﬁnding new ways to brand its young economic victims as cultural criminals. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com. Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makers.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Texas struck down on Friday the entire Affordable Care Act on the grounds that its mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it.
The ruling was on a lawsuit ﬁled this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. A group of intervening states led by Democrats promised to appeal the decision, which will most likely not have any immediate effect. But it will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, threatening the survival of the landmark health law and, with it, health coverage for millions of Americans, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and much more.
In his ruling on Friday, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.”
Accordingly, Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee said that “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid.
The Voyager 2 probe, which left Earth in 1977, has become the second human-made object to leave our Solar System.
It was launched 16 days before its twin craft, Voyager 1, but that probe’s faster trajectory meant that it was in “the space between the stars” six years before Voyager 2.
The news was revealed at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington.
And chief scientist on the mission, Prof Edward Stone, conﬁrmed it.
He said both probes had now “made it into interstellar space” and that Voyager 2′s date of departure from the Solar System was 5 November 2018.
On that date, the steady stream of particles emitted from the Sun that were being detected by the probe suddenly dipped. This indicated that it had crossed the “heliopause” - the term for the outer edge of the Sun’s protective bubble of particles and magnetic ﬁeld.
And while its twin craft beat it to this boundary, the US space agency says that Voyager 2 has a working instrument aboard that will provide “ﬁrst-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space”.
The probe’s present location is some 18 billion km (11 billion miles) from Earth. It is moving at roughly 54,000km/h (34,000mph). Voyager 1 is further and faster still, at 22 billion km and 61,000km/h.
The Voyagers were sent initially to study the outer planets, but then just kept on going.
Prof Stone said that at the start of the mission the team had no idea how long it would take them to reach the edge of the Sun’s protective bubble, or heliosphere.
“We didn’t know how large the bubble was, how long it would take to get there and if the space craft would last long enough,” he added. “Now we’re studying the very local interstellar medium.
“It’s a very exciting time in Voyager’s 41 year journey.”
Scientists deﬁne the Solar System in different ways, so Prof Stone has always been very careful not to use the exact phrase “leave the Solar System” in relation to his spacecraft. He is mindful that the Nasa probes still have to pass through the Oort cloud where there are comets gravitationally bound to the Sun, albeit very loosely.
But both Voyagers certainly are in a new, unexplored domain of space.
Decades and billions of kilometres. Voyager 1 departed Earth on 5 September 1977, a few days after its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2.
The pair’s primary objective was to survey the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - a task they completed in 1989.
They were then steered towards deep space. It is expected that their plutonium power sources will eventually stop supplying electricity, at which point their instruments and their 20W transmitters will die.
The Voyager project manager, Suzanne Dodd told BBC News that she would like to see them both keep going until 2027.
“It would be super-exciting to have a 50-year mission still operating,” she added, describing the probes as “pioneers” of interstellar space.
“Every so often they phone home and say - ‘I’m still going. Don’t forget about me!’”
Voyager 1 will not approach another star for nearly 40,000 years, even though it is moving at such great speed. But it will be in orbit around the centre of our galaxy with all its stars for billions of years.
Facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc caused cancer, J&J insists on the safety and purity of its iconic product. But internal documents examined by Reuters show that the company’s powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public.
Darlene Coker knew she was dying. She just wanted to know why. She knew that her cancer, mesothelioma, arose in the delicate membrane surrounding her lungs and other organs. She knew it was as rare as it was deadly, a signature of exposure to asbestos. And she knew it afﬂicted mostly men who inhaled asbestos dust in mines and industries such as shipbuilding that used the carcinogen before its risks were understood.Coker, 52 years old, had raised two daughters and was running a massage school in Lumberton, a small town in eastern Texas. How had she been exposed to asbestos? “She wanted answers,” her daughter Cady Evans said.Fighting for every breath and in crippling pain, Coker hired Herschel Hobson, a personal-injury lawyer. He homed in on a suspect: the Johnson’s Baby Powder that Coker had used on her infant children and sprinkled on herself all her life. Hobson knew that talc and asbestos often occurred together in the earth, and that mined talc could be contaminated with the carcinogen. Coker sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging that “poisonous talc” in the company’s beloved product was her killer.
J&J didn’t tell the FDA that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc — in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”
J&J denied the claim. Baby Powder was asbestos-free, it said. As the case proceeded, J&J was able to avoid handing over talc test results and other internal company records Hobson had requested to make the case against Baby Powder.Coker had no choice but to drop her lawsuit, Hobson said. “When you are the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof,” he said. “We didn’t have it.”That was in 1999. Two decades later, the material Coker and her lawyer sought is emerging as J&J has been compelled to share thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other conﬁdential documents with lawyers for some of the 11,700 plaintiffs now claiming that the company’s talc caused their cancers — including thousands of women with ovarian cancer.A Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and ﬁnished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.The documents also depict successful efforts to inﬂuence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientiﬁc research on the health effects of talc.A small portion of the documents have been produced at trial and cited in media reports. Many were shielded from public view by court orders that allowed J&J to turn over thousands of documents it designated as conﬁdential. Much of their contents is reported here for the ﬁrst time.
The earliest mentions of tainted J&J talc that Reuters found come from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab. They describe contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as ﬁbrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. That’s one of the six minerals that in their naturally occurring ﬁbrous form are classiﬁed as asbestos.At various times from then into the early 2000s, reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier yielded similar ﬁndings. The reports identify contaminants in talc and ﬁnished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos, such as “ﬁberform” and “rods.”In 1976, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured the regulator that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973. It didn’t tell the agency that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc — in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”Most internal J&J asbestos test reports Reuters reviewed do not ﬁnd asbestos. However, while J&J’s testing methods improved over time, they have always had limitations that allow trace contaminants to go undetected — and only a tiny fraction of the company’s talc is tested.The World Health Organization and other authorities recognize no safe level of exposure to asbestos. While most people exposed never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later. Just how small hasn’t been established. Many plaintiffs allege that the amounts they inhaled when they dusted themselves with tainted talcum powder were enough.The evidence of what J&J knew has surfaced after people who suspected that talc caused their cancers hired lawyers experienced in the decades-long deluge of litigation involving workers exposed to asbestos. Some of the lawyers knew from those earlier cases that talc producers tested for asbestos, and they began demanding J&J’s testing documentation.
What J&J produced in response to those demands has allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to reﬁne their argument: The culprit wasn’t necessarily talc itself, but also asbestos in the talc. That assertion, backed by decades of solid science showing that asbestos causes mesothelioma and is associated with ovarian and other cancers, has had mixed success in court.In two cases earlier this year — in New Jersey and California — juries awarded big sums to plaintiffs who, like Coker, blamed asbestos-tainted J&J talc products for their mesothelioma.A third verdict, in St. Louis, was a watershed, broadening J&J’s potential liability: The 22 plaintiffs were the ﬁrst to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012, caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used J&J talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant.At the same time, at least three juries have rejected claims that Baby Powder was tainted with asbestos or caused plaintiffs’ mesothelioma. Others have failed to reach verdicts, resulting in mistrials.J&J has said it will appeal the recent verdicts against it. It has maintained in public statements that its talc is safe, as shown for years by the best tests available, and that the information it has been required to divulge in recent litigation shows the care the company takes to ensure its products are asbestos-free. It has blamed its losses on juror confusion, “junk” science, unfair court rules and overzealous lawyers looking for a fresh pool of asbestos plaintiffs.“Plaintiffs’ attorneys out for personal ﬁnancial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media,” Ernie Knewitz, J&J’s vice president of global media relations, wrote in an emailed response to Reuters’ ﬁndings. “This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”J&J declined to comment further for this article. For more than two months, it turned down repeated requests for an interview with J&J executives. On Dec. 8, the company offered to make an expert available. It had not done so as of Thursday evening.The company referred all inquiries to its outside litigation counsel, Peter Bicks. In emailed responses, Bicks rejected Reuters’ ﬁndings as “false and misleading.” “The scientiﬁc consensus is that the talc used in talc-based body powders does not cause cancer, regardless of what is in that talc,” Bicks wrote. “This is true even if - and it does not - Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos.” He dismissed tests cited in this article as “outlier” results.In court, J&J lawyers have told jurors that company records showing that asbestos was detected in its talc referred to talc intended for industrial use. Other records, they have argued, referred to non-asbestos forms of the same minerals that their experts say are harmless. J&J has also argued that some tests picked up “background” asbestos — stray ﬁbers that could have contaminated samples after ﬂoating into a mill or lab from a vehicle clutch or fraying insulation.
The company has made some of the same arguments about lab tests conducted by experts hired by plaintiffs. One of those labs found asbestos in Shower to Shower talc from the 1990s, according to an Aug. 11, 2017, court report. Another lab found asbestos in more than half of multiple samples of Baby Powder from past decades — in bottles from plaintiffs’ cupboards and acquired from eBay, and even a 1978 bottle held in J&J’s corporate museum. The concentrations were great enough that users “would have, more likely than not, been exposed,” the plaintiffs’ lab report presented in several cases this year concluded.Matthew Sanchez, a geologist with consultants RJ Lee Group Inc and a frequent expert witness for J&J, dismissed those ﬁndings in testimony in the St. Louis trial: “I have not found asbestos in any of the current or modern, what I consider modern, Johnson & Johnson talc products,” Sanchez told the jury.Sanchez did not return calls seeking comment. RJ Lee said it does not comment on the work it does for clients.Since 2003, talc in Baby Powder sold in the United States has come from China through supplier Imerys Talc America, a unit of Paris-based Imerys SA and a co-defendant in most of the talc litigation. Imerys and J&J said the Chinese talc is safe. An Imerys spokesman said the company’s tests “consistently show no asbestos. Talc’s safe use has been conﬁrmed by multiple regulatory and scientiﬁc bodies.”J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has dominated the talc powder market for more than 100 years, its sales outpacing those of all competitors combined, according to Euromonitor International data. And while talc products contributed just $420 million to J&J’s $76.5 billion in revenue last year, Baby Powder is considered an essential facet of the healthcare-products maker’s carefully tended image as a caring company — a “sacred cow,” as one 2003 internal email put it.“When people really understand what’s going on, I think it increases J&J’s exposure a thousand-fold,” said Mark Lanier, one of the lawyers for the women in the St. Louis case. The mounting controversy surrounding J&J talc hasn’t shaken investors. The share price is up about 6 percent so far this year. Talc cases make up fewer than 10 percent of all personal injury lawsuits pending against J&J, based on the company’s Aug. 2 quarterly report, in which the company said it believed it had “strong grounds on appeal.”J&J Chairman and Chief Executive Ofﬁcer Alex Gorsky has pledged to ﬁght on, telling analysts in July: “We remain conﬁdent that our products do not contain asbestos.”Gorsky’s comment, echoed in countless J&J statements, misses a crucial point. Asbestos, like many environmental carcinogens, has a long latency period. Diagnosis usually comes years after initial exposure — 20 years or longer for mesothelioma. J&J talc products today may be safe, but the talc at issue in thousands of lawsuits was sold and used over the past 60 years.That point is recognized in a 2013 markup of a statement for the “Safety & Care Commitment” page of J&J’s website. The original version conveyed a blanket assurance of safety. The edited version was less deﬁnitive: “Our talc-based consumer products have always been asbestos free, as conﬁrmed by regular testing since the 1970s.”
THEN AND NOW: A 2013 markup of a statement for J&J’s website implicitly recognizes the possibility that the company’s talc could have been tainted in earlier times.
In 1886, Robert Wood Johnson enlisted his younger brothers in an eponymous startup built around the “Safety First” motto. Johnson’s Baby Powder grew out of a line of medicated plasters, sticky rubber strips loaded with mustard and other home remedies. When customers complained of skin irritation, the brothers sent packets of talc.Soon, mothers began applying the talc to infants’ diaper-chafed skin. The Johnsons took note. They added a fragrance that would become one of the most recognizable in the world, sifted the talc into tin boxes and, in 1893, began selling it as Johnson’s Baby Powder.In the late 1950s, J&J discovered that talc from its chief source mine for the U.S. market in the Italian Alps contained tremolite. That’s one of six minerals — along with chrysotile, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite and crocidolite — that occur in nature as crystalline ﬁbers known as asbestos, a recognized carcinogen. Some of them, including tremolite, also occur as unremarkable “non-asbestiform” rocks. Both forms often occur together and in talc deposits.J&J’s worry at the time was that contaminants made the company’s powder abrasive. It sent tons of its Italian talc to a private lab in Columbus, Ohio, to ﬁnd ways to improve the appearance, feel and purity of the powder by removing as much “grit” as possible. In a pair of reports from 1957 and 1958, the lab said the talc contained “from less than 1 percent to about 3 percent of contaminants,” described as mostly ﬁbrous and “acicular” tremolite.Most of the authors of these and other J&J records cited in this article are dead. Sanchez, the RJ Lee geologist whose ﬁrm has agreed to provide him as a witness in up to 100 J&J talc trials, has testiﬁed that tremolite found decades ago in the company’s talc, from Italy and later Vermont, was not tremolite asbestos at all. Rather, he has said, it was “cleavage fragments” from non-asbestiform tremolite.J&J’s original records don’t always make that distinction. In terms of health risk, regulators since the early 1970s have treated small ﬁber-shaped particles of both forms the same.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, “makes no distinction between ﬁbers and (comparable) cleavage fragments,” agency ofﬁcials wrote in a response to an RJ Lee report on an unrelated matter in 2006, the year before the ﬁrm hired Sanchez. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), though it dropped the non-ﬁbrous forms of the minerals from its definition of asbestos in 1992, nonetheless recommends that ﬁber-shaped fragments indistinguishable from asbestos be counted in its exposure tests.And as the product safety director for J&J’s talc supplier acknowledged in a 2008 email to colleagues: “(I)f a deposit contains ‘non-asbestiform’ tremolite, there is also asbestiform tremolite naturally present as well.”
In 1964, J&J’s Windsor Minerals Inc subsidiary bought a cluster of talc mines in Vermont, with names like Argonaut, Rainbow, Frostbite and Black Bear. By 1966, it was blasting and bulldozing white rock out of the Green Mountain state. J&J used the milled powder in its cosmetic powders and sold a less-reﬁned grade to roofing, ﬂooring and tire companies for use in manufacturing.Ten years after tremolite turned up in the Italian talc, it showed up in Vermont talc, too. In 1967, J&J found traces of tremolite and another mineral that can occur as asbestos, according to a table attached to a Nov. 1, 1967, memo by William Ashton, the executive in charge of J&J’s talc supply for decades.J&J continued to search for sources of clean talc. But in an April 9, 1969, memo to a company doctor, Ashton said it was “normal” to ﬁnd tremolite in many U.S. talc deposits. He suggested J&J rethink its approach. “Historically, in our Company, Tremolite has been bad,” Ashton wrote. “How bad is Tremolite medically, and how much of it can safely be in a talc base we might develop?”Since pulmonary disease, including cancer, appeared to be on the rise, “it would seem to be prudent to limit any possible content of Tremolite … to an absolute minimum,” came the reply from another physician executive days later. The doctor told Ashton that J&J was receiving safety questions from pediatricians. Even Robert Wood Johnson II, the founder’s son and then-retired CEO, had expressed “concern over the possibility of the adverse effects on the lungs of babies or mothers,” he wrote.“We have replied,” the doctor wrote, that “we would not regard the usage of our powders as presenting any hazard.” Such assurances would be impossible, he added, “if we do include Tremolite in more than unavoidable trace amounts.”The memo is the earliest J&J document reviewed by Reuters that discusses tremolite as more than a scratchy nuisance. The doctor urged Ashton to consult with company lawyers because “it is not inconceivable that we could become involved in litigation.”
By the early 1970s, asbestos was widely recognized as the primary cause of mesothelioma among workers involved in producing it and in industries that used it in their products.Regulation was in the air. In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s newly created OSHA issued its ﬁrst rule, setting limits on workplace exposure to asbestos dust.By then, a team at Mount Sinai Medical Center led by pre-eminent asbestos researcher Irving Selikoff had started looking at talcum powders as a possible solution to a puzzle: Why were tests of lung tissue taken post mortem from New Yorkers who never worked with asbestos ﬁnding signs of the mineral? Since talc deposits are often laced with asbestos, the scientists reasoned, perhaps talcum powders played a role.They shared their preliminary ﬁndings with New York City’s environmental protection chief, Jerome Kretchmer. On June 29, 1971, Kretchmer informed the Nixon administration and called a press conference to announce that two unidentiﬁed brands of cosmetic talc appeared to contain asbestos.The FDA opened an inquiry. J&J issued a statement: “Our ﬁfty years of research knowledge in this area indicates that there is no asbestos contained in the powder manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.”Later that year, another Mount Sinai researcher, mineralogist Arthur Langer, told J&J in a letter that the team had found a “relatively small” amount of chrysotile asbestos in Baby Powder.
NOTORIETY: Langer and Kretchmer ended up on an internal J&J list of “antagonistic personalities.”
Langer, Selikoff and Kretchmer ended up on a J&J list of “antagonistic personalities” in a Nov. 29, 1972, memo, which described Selikoff as the leader of an “attack on talc.”“I suppose I was antagonistic,” Langer told Reuters. Even so, in a subsequent test of J&J powders in 1976, he didn’t ﬁnd asbestos — a result that Mount Sinai announced. Langer said he told J&J lawyers who visited him last year that he stood by all of his ﬁndings. J&J has not called him as a witness.
TOP TESTER: Irving Selikoff, who led the Mount Sinai team that investigated asbestos and talc, was also listed among J&J’s “antagonistic personalities.” Photo courtesy of Arthur Langer
Selikoff died in 1992. Kretchmer said he recently read that a jury had concluded that Baby Powder was contaminated with asbestos. “I said to myself, ‘How come it took so long?’ ” he said.In July 1971, meanwhile, J&J sent a delegation of scientists to Washington to talk to the FDA ofﬁcials looking into asbestos in talcum powders. According to an FDA account of the meeting, J&J shared “evidence that their talc contains less than 1%, if any, asbestos.”Later that month, Wilson Nashed, one of the J&J scientists who visited the FDA, said in a memo to the company’s public relations department that J&J’s talc contained trace amounts of “ﬁbrous minerals (tremolite/actinolite).”As the FDA continued to investigate asbestos in talc, J&J sent powder samples to be tested at private and university labs. Though a private lab in Chicago found trace amounts of tremolite, it declared the amount “insigniﬁcant” and the samples “substantially free of asbestiform material.” J&J reported that ﬁnding to the FDA under a cover letter that said the “results clearly show” the samples tested “contain no chrysotile asbestos.” J&J’s lawyer told Reuters the tremolite found in the samples was not asbestos.But J&J’s FDA submission left out University of Minnesota professor Thomas E. Hutchinson’s ﬁnding of chrysotile in a Shower to Shower sample — “incontrovertible asbestos,” as he described it in a lab note.
NO DOUBT: In a lab note, a University of Minnesota professor recorded ﬁnding “incontrovertible asbestos” in a sample of J&J’s Shower to Shower talc.
The FDA’s own examinations found no asbestos in J&J powder samples in the 1970s. Those tests, however, did not use the most sensitive detection methods. An early test, for example, was incapable of detecting chrysotile ﬁbers, as an FDA ofﬁcial recognized in a J&J account of an Aug. 11, 1972, meeting with the agency: “I understand that some samples will be passed even though they contain such ﬁbers, but we are willing to live with it.”By 1973, Tom Shelley, director of J&J’s Central Research Laboratories in New Jersey, was looking into acquiring patents on a process that a British mineralogist and J&J consultant was developing to separate talc from tremolite.“It is quite possible that eventually tremolite will be prohibited in all talc,” Shelley wrote on Feb. 20, 1973, to a British colleague. Therefore, he added, the “process may well be valuable property to us.”At the end of March, Shelley recognized the sensitivity of the plan in a memo sent to a J&J lawyer in New Jersey: “We will want to carefully consider the … patents re asbestos in talc. It’s quite possible that we may wish to keep the whole thing conﬁdential rather than allow it to be published in patent form and thus let the whole world know.”J&J did not obtain the patents.While Shelley was looking into the patents, J&J research director DeWitt Petterson visited the company’s Vermont mining operation. “Occasionally, sub-trace quantities of tremolite or actinolite are identiﬁable,” he wrote in an April 1973 report on the visit. “And these might be classiﬁed as asbestos ﬁber.”J&J should “protect our powder franchise” by eliminating as many tiny ﬁbers that can be inhaled in airborn talc dust as possible, Petterson wrote. He warned, however, that “no ﬁnal product will ever be made which will be totally free from respirable particles.” Introducing a cornstarch version of Baby Powder, he noted, “is obviously another answer.”
UNACHIEVABLE: J&J research director DeWitt Petterson warned the company that producing pure talc was impossible.
Bicks told Reuters that J&J believes that the tremolite and actinolite Petterson cited were not asbestos.Cornstarch came up again in a March 5, 1974, report in which Ashton, the J&J talc supply chief, recommended that the company research that alternative “for defensive reasons” because “the thrust against talc has centered primarily on biological problems alleged to result from the inhalation of talc and related mineral particles.”
A few months after Petterson’s recognition that talc purity was a pipe dream, the FDA proposed a rule that talc used in drugs contain no more than 0.1 percent asbestos. While the agency’s cosmetics division was considering similar action on talcum powders, it asked companies to suggest testing methods.At the time, J&J’s Baby Powder franchise was consuming 20,000 tons of Vermont talc a year. J&J pressed the FDA to approve an X-ray scanning technique that a company scientist said in an April 1973 memo allowed for “an automatic 1% tolerance for asbestos.” That would mean talc with up to 10 times the FDA’s proposed limit for asbestos in drugs could pass muster.The same scientist conﬁded in an Oct. 23, 1973, note to a colleague that, depending on what test the FDA adopted for detecting asbestos in cosmetic talc, “we may have problems.”The best way to detect asbestos in talc was to concentrate the sample and then examine it through microscopes, the Colorado School of Mines Research Institute told J&J in a Dec. 27, 1973, report. In a memo, a J&J lab supervisor said the concentration technique, which the company’s own researchers had earlier used to identify a “tremolite-type” asbestos in Vermont talc, had one limitation: “It may be too sensitive.”
“No mother was going to powder her baby with 1% of a known carcinogen irregardless of the large safety factor.”
In his email to Reuters, J&J’s lawyer said the lab supervisor’s concern was that the test would result in “false positives,” showing asbestos where there was none.J&J also launched research to ﬁnd out how much powder a baby was exposed to during a diapering and how much asbestos could be in that powder and remain within OSHA’s new workplace exposure limits. Its researchers had strapped an air sampling device to a doll to take measurements while it was powdered, according to J&J memos and the minutes of a Feb. 19, 1974, meeting of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA), an industry group.“It was calculated that even if talc were pure asbestos the levels of exposure of a baby during a normal powdering are far below the accepted tolerance limits,” the minutes state.In a Sept. 6, 1974, letter, J&J told the FDA that since “a substantial safety factor can be expected” with talc that contains 1 percent asbestos, “methods capable of determining less than 1% asbestos in talc are not necessary to assure the safety of cosmetic talc.”Not everyone at the FDA thought that basing a detection method on such a calculation was a good idea. One ofﬁcial called it “foolish,” adding, according to a J&J account of a February 1975 meeting: “No mother was going to powder her baby with 1% of a known carcinogen irregardless of the large safety factor.”
Having failed to persuade the FDA that up to 1 percent asbestos contamination was tolerable, J&J began promoting self-policing as an alternative to regulation. The centerpiece of this approach was a March 15, 1976, package of letters from J&J and other manufacturers that the CTFA gave to the agency to show that they had succeeded at eliminating asbestos from cosmetic talc.“The attached letters demonstrate responsibility of industry in monitoring its talcs,” the cover letter said. “We are certain that the summary will give you assurance as to the freedom from contamination by asbestos for materials of cosmetic talc products.”In its letter, J&J said samples of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 were tested for asbestos, and none was detected “in any sample.”J&J didn’t tell the FDA about a 1974 test by a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire that turned up asbestos in talc from J&J — “ﬁberform” actinolite, as he put it. Nor did the company tell the FDA about a 1975 report from its longtime lab that found particles identiﬁed as “asbestos ﬁbers” in ﬁve of 17 samples of talc from the chief source mine for Baby Powder. “Some of them seem rather high,” the private lab wrote in its cover letter.Bicks, the J&J lawyer, said the contract lab’s results were irrelevant because the talc was intended for industrial use. He said the company now believes that the actinolite the Dartmouth professor found “was not asbestiform,” based on its interpretation of a photo in the original lab report.Just two months after the Dartmouth professor reported his ﬁndings, Windsor Minerals Research and Development Manager Vernon Zeitz wrote that chrysotile, “ﬁbrous anthophyllite” and other types of asbestos had been “found in association with the Hammondsville ore body” — the Vermont deposit that supplied Baby Powder talc for more than two decades.
Zeitz’s May 1974 report on efforts to minimize asbestos in Vermont talc “strongly urged” the adoption of ways to protect “against what are currently considered to be materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.”Bicks said that Zeitz was not reporting on actual test results. The following year, Zeitz reported that based on weekly tests of talc samples over six months, “it can be stated with a greater than 99.9% certainty that the ores and materials produced from the ores at all Windsor Mineral locations are free from asbestos or asbestiform minerals.” J&J’s selective use of test results ﬁgured in a New Jersey judge’s decision this year to afﬁrm the ﬁrst verdict against the company in a case claiming asbestos in J&J products caused cancer. “Providing the FDA favorable results showing no asbestos and withholding or failing to provide unfavorable results, which show asbestos, is a form of a misrepresentation by omission,” Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Ana Viscomi said in her June ruling.“J&J respectfully disagrees with the Judge’s comments,” Bicks said. “J&J did not withhold any relevant testing from FDA.”The FDA declined to comment on the ruling.Lacking consensus on testing methods, the FDA postponed action to limit asbestos in talc. Years later, it did set limits on asbestos in talc used in drugs. It has never limited asbestos in cosmetic talc or established a preferred method for detecting it.Instead, in 1976, a CTFA committee chaired by a J&J executive drafted voluntary guidelines, establishing a form of X-ray scanning with a 0.5 percent detection limit as the primary test, the method J&J preferred. The method is not designed to detect the most commonly used type of asbestos, chrysotile, at all. The group said the more sensitive electron microscopy was impractical.The CTFA, which now does business as the Personal Care Products Council, declined to comment.X-ray scanning is the primary method J&J has used for decades. The company also periodically requires the more sensitive checks with electron microscopes. J&J’s lawyer said the company’s tests exceed the trade association standard, and they do. He also said that today, J&J’s X-ray scans can detect suspect minerals at levels as low as 0.1 percent of a sample.But the company never adopted the Colorado lab’s 1973 recommendation that samples be concentrated before examination under a microscope. And the talc samples that were subjected to the most sensitive electron microscopy test were a tiny fraction of what was sold. For those and other reasons, J&J couldn’t guarantee its Baby Powder was asbestos-free when plaintiffs used it, according to experts, including some who testiﬁed for plaintiffs.As early as 1976, Ashton, J&J’s longtime talc overseer, recognized as much in a memo to colleagues. He wrote that talc in general, if subjected to the most sensitive testing method, using concentrated samples, “will be hard pressed in supporting purity claims.” He described this sort of testing as both “sophisticated” and “disturbing.”
By 1977, J&J appeared to have tamped down concerns about the safety of talc. An internal August report on J&J’s “Defense of Talc Safety” campaign noted that independent authorities had deemed cosmetic talc products to be “free of hazard.” It attributed “this growing opinion” to the dissemination to scientiﬁc and medical communities in the United States and Britain of “favorable data from the various J&J sponsored studies.”In 1984, FDA cosmetics chief and former J&J employee Heinz Eiermann reiterated that view. He told the New York Times that the agency’s investigation a decade earlier had prompted the industry to ensure that talc was asbestos-free. “So in subsequent analyses,” he told the paper, “we really could not identify asbestos or only on very rare occasions.”Two years later, the FDA rejected a citizen request that cosmetic talc carry an asbestos warning label, saying that even if there were trace contamination, the use of talc powder during two years of normal diapering would not increase the risk of cancer.In 1980, J&J began offering a cornstarch version of Baby Powder — to expand its customer base to people who prefer cornstarch, the company says.The persistence of the industry’s view that cosmetic talc is asbestos-free is why no studies have been conducted on the incidence of mesothelioma among users of the products. It’s also partly why regulations that protect people in mines, mills, factories and schools from asbestos-laden talc don’t apply to babies and others exposed to cosmetic talc — even though Baby Powder talc has at times come from the same mines as talc sold for industrial use. J&J says cosmetic talc is more thoroughly processed and thus purer than industrial talc.Until recently, the American Cancer Society (ACS) accepted the industry’s position, saying on its website: “All talcum products used in homes have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.”After receiving inquiries from Reuters, the ACS in early December revised its website to remove the assurance that cosmetic talcs are free of asbestos. Now, it says, quoting the industry’s standards, that all cosmetic talc products in the United States “should be free from detectable amounts of asbestos.”The revised ACS web page also notes that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classiﬁes talc that contains asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans.”Despite the success of J&J’s efforts to promote the safety of its talc, the company’s test lab found asbestos ﬁbers in samples taken from the Vermont operation in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Bicks said: “The samples that we know of during this time period that contained a ﬁber or two of asbestos were not cosmetic talc samples.”Then, in 1992, three years after J&J sold its Vermont mines, the new owner, Cyprus Minerals, said in an internal report on “important environmental issues” in its talc reserves that there was “past tremolite” in the Hammondsville deposit. Hammondsville was the primary source of Baby Powder talc from 1966 until its shutdown in 1990.Bicks rejected the Cyprus report as hearsay, saying there is no original documentation to conﬁrm it. Hammondsville mine records, according to a 1993 J&J memo, “were destroyed by the mine management staff just prior to the J&J divestiture.”Bicks said the destroyed documents did not include talc testing records.
MISSING: A J&J memo reveals that records of the Hammondsville mine, the main source of Baby Powder talc from 1966 until 1990, were destroyed by mine managers while J&J still owned the business.
In 2002 and 2003, Vermont mine operators found chrysotile asbestos ﬁbers on several occasions in talc produced for Baby Powder sold in Canada. In each case, a single ﬁber was recorded — a ﬁnding deemed “BDL” — below detection limit. Bicks described the ﬁnding as “background asbestos” that did not come from any talc source.In 2009, the FDA, responding to growing public concern about talc, commissioned tests on 34 samples, including a bottle of J&J Baby Powder and samples of Imerys talc from China. No asbestos was detected.FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency continues to receive a lot of questions about talc cosmetics. “I recognize the concern,” he told Reuters. He said the agency’s policing of cosmetics in general — fewer than 30 people regulating a “vast” industry — was “a place where we think we can be doing more.”Gottlieb said the FDA planned to host a public forum in early 2019 to “look at how we would develop standards for evaluating any potential risk.” An agency spokeswoman said that would include examining “scientiﬁc test methods for assessment of asbestos.”
Before law school, Herschel Hobson worked at a rubber plant. There, his job included ensuring that asbestos in talc the workers were exposed to didn’t exceed OSHA limits.That’s why he zeroed in on Johnson’s Baby Powder after he took on Darlene Coker as a client in 1997. The lawsuit Coker and her husband, Roy, ﬁled that year against J&J in Jefferson County District Court in Beaumont, Texas, is the earliest Reuters found alleging Baby Powder caused cancer.Hobson asked J&J for any research it had into the health of its mine workers; talc production records from the mid-1940s through the 1980s; depositions from managers of three labs that tested talc for J&J; and any documents related to testing for ﬁbrous or asbestiform materials.J&J objected. Hobson’s “ﬁshing expedition” would not turn up any relevant evidence, it asserted in a May 6, 1998, motion. In fact, among the thousands of documents Hobson’s request could have turned up was a letter J&J lawyers had received only weeks earlier from a Rutgers University geologist conﬁrming that she had found asbestos in the company’s Baby Powder, identiﬁed in her 1991 published study as tremolite “asbestos” needles.Hobson agreed to postpone his discovery demands until he got the pathology report on Coker’s lung tissue. Before it came in, J&J asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that Coker had “no evidence” Baby Powder caused mesothelioma.
Ten days later, the pathology report landed: Coker’s lung tissue contained tens of thousands of “long ﬁbers” of four different types of asbestos. The ﬁndings were “consistent with exposure to talc containing chrysotile and tremolite contamination,” the report concluded.“The asbestos ﬁbers found raise a new issue of fact,” Hobson told the judge in a request for more time to ﬁle an opposition to J&J’s dismissal motion. The judge gave him more time but turned down his request to resume discovery.Without evidence from J&J and no hope of ever getting any, Hobson advised Coker to drop the suit.Hobson is still practicing law in Nederland, Texas. When Reuters told him about the evidence that had emerged in recent litigation, he said: “They knew what the problems were, and they hid it.” J&J’s records would have made a “100% difference” in Coker’s case.Had the information about asbestos in J&J’s talc come out earlier, he said, “maybe there would have been 20 years less exposure” for other people.Bicks, the J&J lawyer, said Coker dropped her case because “the discovery established that J&J talc had nothing to do with Plaintiff’s disease, and that asbestos exposure from a commercial or occupational setting was the likely cause.”Coker never learned why she had mesothelioma. She did beat the odds, though. Most patients die within a year of diagnosis. Coker held on long enough to see her two grandchildren. She died in 2009, 12 years after her diagnosis, at age 63.Coker’s daughter Crystal Deckard was 5 when her sister, Cady, was born in 1971. Deckard remembers seeing the white bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder on the changing table where her mother diapered her new sister.“When Mom was given this death sentence, she was the same age as I am right now,” Deckard said. “I have it in the back of my mind all the time. Could it happen to us? Me? My sister?”
Johnson & Johnson developed a strategy in the 1970s to deal with a growing volume of research showing that talc miners had elevated rates of lung disease and cancer: Promote the positive, challenge the negative.That approach was summed up by a J&J applied research director in a “strictly conﬁdential” March 3, 1975, memo to managers of the baby products division, which used the talc in J&J’s signature Baby Powder.“Our current posture with respect to the sponsorship of talc safety studies has been to initiate studies only as dictated by confrontation,” the memo said. “This philosophy, so far, has allowed us to neutralize or hold in check data already generated by investigators who question the safety of talc.”
A J&J executive laid out the company’s policy of countering negative research about the health effects of talc in a memo to managers.
Also, the memo said, “we minimize the risk of possible self-generation of scientiﬁc data which may be politically or scientifically embarrassing.”J&J’s effort to protect its iconic Baby Powder franchise by shaping research was led by physician and scientist executives. An early 1970s study of 1,992 Italian talc miners shows how it worked: J&J commissioned and paid for the study, told the researchers the results it wanted, and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the ﬁndings in a journal.The effort entailed other attempts to inﬂuence research, including a U.S. government study of the health of talc workers in Vermont. J&J’s Windsor Minerals Inc subsidiary, one of several mine operators involved in the study, developed a relationship with the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health researchers to “even inﬂuence the conclusions” through suggestions of “subjective interpretations,” according to a 1973 Windsor Minerals memo.Peter Bicks, outside counsel for J&J, told Reuters in an email that for the Vermont study, company “representatives acted in an ‘educational and advisory capacity’ to provide the researchers with a realistic study plan.”A 1979 article in the Journal of Environmental Pathology and Toxicology detailing the ﬁndings of the study was not good news for talc. It reported a “signiﬁcant increase” in “respiratory cancer mortality” among miners. A subsequent analysis of the underlying data published in 1988 determined that at least one of the workers died of mesothelioma, the cancer most closely associated with asbestos.The proposal to study the health of miners of the Italian talc used in Baby Powder for decades came from William Ashton, J&J’s longtime talc supply chief. Ashton had obtained a summary of miners’ medical records compiled by an Italian physician, who also happened to control the country’s talc exports.J&J should use those records “for maximum beneﬁt,” Ashton said in a May 8, 1973, letter to Dr Gavin Hildick-Smith, J&J’s director of medical affairs. “It seems to me that the Italian records give us the opportunity to fortify a position on talc safety.”At the time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was considering a limit on asbestos in talcs. In an Oct. 18, 1973, memo, Hildick-Smith advised J&J: “The risk/beneﬁt ratio of conducting an epidemiological study in these mines must be considered.”By early 1974, the study was a go. Hildick-Smith sent money to the Italian talc exporter-physician to hire a team of researchers. Hildick-Smith told the lead researcher in a June 26, 1974, letter exactly what J&J wanted: data that “would show that the incidence of cancer in these subjects is no different from that of the Italian population or the rural control group.”That is exactly what J&J got, Hildick-Smith told colleagues a few months later. At a meeting on Sept. 27, 1974, for a “Talc/powder Safety Studies Review,” he reported the Italian study would dispel the “cancer concern associated with exposure to talc.”The following spring, Hildick-Smith got a draft of the Italian study from the lead researcher. It needed work to meet the “form and style” requirements of the target journal, he told colleagues in a March 31, 1975, memo. He added that he would send it to a scientiﬁc ghostwriter “who will hold it in conﬁdence and rewrite it.”
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The article that appeared in 1976 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported results even better than J&J had bargained for. The study found fewer lung cancer deaths than expected, a result that the authors said supported “the thesis of no cancerogenic effect attributable to pure talc.”It also found no mesothelioma, the signature cancer of asbestos exposure. There is no evidence J&J manipulated or misused the data. Experts for plaintiffs have testiﬁed that the Italian study was too small to draw any conclusions about the incidence of such a rare cancer. J&J’s expert witnesses have concluded the opposite.Bicks noted that the Italian study has been updated three times — in 1979, 2003 and 2017 — “conﬁrming the lack of association between exposure to asbestos-free talc, lung cancer and mesothelioma.”J&J got a lot of mileage out of the study. It was cited in a review article titled “The Biology of Talc,” published Nov. 1, 1976, in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine. In addition to dozens of published studies, the review cited unpublished research, including one experiment that used a doll as a proxy for infants and that supported the company’s position on the safety of talc. It didn’t disclose that J&J had commissioned the unpublished research.The author of the review article concluded that the “concern that has been expressed about the possible health hazard from consumer exposure to cosmetic talc is unwarranted … There is no evidence that its normal use poses a hazard to health.”The author was Hildick-Smith, the J&J physician executive who had overseen the Italian study and played a key role in the company’s talc safety research. The article did not disclose his J&J connection, identifying him only as a Rutgers University clinical assistant professor. Hildick-Smith died in 2006.
If you listen to management pundits, “collaboration” is all the rage. While the term is a bit fuzzy, what’s usually meant by “collaboration” is 1) plenty of ad-hoc meetings and 2) open-plan ofﬁces that increase the likelihood that such meetings take place.
In previous columns, I’ve pointed out that open-plan ofﬁces, with all their interruptions, distractions, and noise pollution, are productivity sinkholes. I’ve also pointed out that collaboration tends to penalize the competent who end up doing most of the work.
A recent study published in Applied Psychology has now conﬁrmed that a collaborative work environment can make top performers–the innovators and hard-workers–feel miserable and socially isolated.
The problem is that rather than seeing a top performer as a role models, mediocre employees tend to see them as threats, either to their own position in the company or to their own feelings of self-worth.
Rather than improving their own performance, mediocre employees socially isolate top performers, spread nasty rumors about them, and either sabotage, or attempt to steal credit for, the top performers’ work. As the study put it: “Cooperative contexts proved socially disadvantageous for high performers.”
This social isolation creates special difﬁculties for introverted employees who work in open-plan ofﬁces. While some extroverts seem to draw energy from a chaotic environment, introverts ﬁnd such environments draining.
Sometimes the only way that introverts can get their work completed is to work from home, creating even more potential social isolation. Indeed, top performers who work from home are natural and easy target for workplace gossip and backbiting.
Unless checked, this tendency can result in an exodus of top talent. As a recent Inc.com column pointed out: “The No. 1 reason high performers leave organizations in which they are otherwise happy is because of the tolerance of mediocrity.”
This is not to say that teamwork is a bad thing, per se. Indeed, most complex projects require a team to successfully complete. For teams to be effective, though, they need leaders who can swiftly squelch any attempt to isolate or denigrate a top performer.
In other words, your teams may need hierarchical leadership more than they need additional collaboration opportunities. Similarly, your company may need more private spaces than “open” areas that encourage more social interaction.
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