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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  May 31, 2016 1:42pm-3:43pm EDT

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started work for us, bonnie leaveman, 1977, and i said, bonnie, let's write a petition to the food and drug administration about salt. and that the government should limit sodium levels in food, put warning labels on canisters of salt and a couple other things. back then, salt, and now salt is considered generally recognized as safe. companies could use as much as they want. so bonnie and i and georgetown law school wrote the petition. we've been working on salt ever since. the government has done virtually nothing on salt, researchers have been busy discovering that if we could cut sodium from salt and other food additives by 50%, that could save as many as 100,000 lives a year, and $20 billion or so,
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every year in medical costs. just an issue of enormous importance. and meanwhile, salt is generally recognized as safe. and it's one of those issues that everybody here, all americans know that it's safe. you know, it's on our tables. we wouldn't have anything dangerous on our tables if it wasn't safe. so we've been working at it. we petitioned the fda in 1978, we sued the fda in 1982 for not taking any action. we lost in 1983 and went on to other things like getting that nutrition facts label on foods. and then thought maybe while sodium would be listed on the label, every food, maybe that would get companies to lower sodium levels, consumers to choose less. but in 2005, we discovered people were consuming as much sodium in 2005 as they were in 1978 when we started this campaign.
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so we went back to court, the court said you've got to petition the fda again and which we did in 2005, and waited for a response. got the institute of medicine to do a study that said the report said that the food industry said it would reduce sodium levels voluntarily. government urged voluntary reduction since 1969. for the past 40 years, there was no progress whatsoever and that the food and drug administration should set formal limits. so that was 2011. the fda immediately said we're not going to set limits, basically because the food industry wouldn't let it. but it would set voluntary targets. so 2011, we have been waiting
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for these voluntary targets. so we finally sued the fda again to respond to our petition. that was last october. and we expect a response in about ten days. so keep your eye on that. and i think that the food and drug administration will probably announce or propose voluntary targets, not mandatory, then we're going to go through some long phase. but it's the first time the fda has taken any real action to lower sodium levels. and hopefully the food industry will go along with them. and that's typical. these big things -- every food company uses salt. every restaurant has salty foods. these issues take a long, long time. there's a tremendous industry resistance. one of the things that happened quickly in the scheme of things is trance trans fats.
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back in 1990, there was almost no evidence that trans fat was armful, and then careful research showed that it raised the bad cholesterol in food, in our blood, and lowered the good cholesterol. and that was the first human study by the department of agriculture. transfat comes from partially hydrogenated oil, which, like salt, has been considered generally recognized as safe. that's been an interesting issue. it went on for -- we petitioned fda in 1994, went through the usual public meetings and hearings and debates, then lawsuits, and finally in 2006, the fda required transfat a labels, which spurred a lot of companies to remove it. finally, last year, the fda banned partially hydrogenated
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oil and transfat with a deadline of 2018. but 90% of transfat. [ applause ] >> thank you. 90% of transfat is out of the food supply. more than 7 billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oil has been removed. i think everybody from the food manufacturers, the seed developers, farmers, everybody deserves some credit for that enormous change in our food supply. the next one is sugar. i should say transfat was causing upwards of 50,000 deaths per year, premature deaths per year. none of those heart attacks had a label that said transfat, which makes it very difficult to deal with, hard to get the victims to be spokespersons. sugar is another biggie. just soda pop is killing about 25,000 americans each year.
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it's something that the battle lines have been drawn. soda consumption is down by 27% since 1998 when we first really started working on this. enormous change. and the president of pepsi, $25 million a year, pepsi sales have declined by 50% since 1998. i would pay her money, a lot of money, to drive sales down further. so we'll see what happens, but i see my time is running out. i just wanted to mention a couple of the challenges. we're not eating more fruits and vegetables despite all the farmers markets and michael pollans, and propaganda, we need to develop effective campaigns to improve the consumption of fruits and vegetables. which are protective of health.
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more broadly, this citizens movement in the food areas needs to do what it's doing in many other areas. keep the pressure on industry. they will respond to public pressure, whether it's over the web in newspapers, or with your shopping dollars at supermarkets. i think they deserve applause from time to time for doing the right thing so that's the challenge in all of these environmental health workers rights and other issues. we've got to use diverse strategies from creative publicity to lawsuits, to legislation. the greatest strength of the citizens movement is facts and credibility, and then persistence, you've got to keep at this basically forever
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because the opponents are going to come back. it's kind of like the ocean and building sand castles. the oceans can continue to try to come back and remove what you have done. but it's very gratifying to wor have done. but it is very gratifying to work on public interest issues because you can have an impact. you are really protecting the public. and not only is it gratifying to do that but it is also a lot of fun. so thank you very much. i really appreciate it. [ applause ] thank you, mike. our next speaker is jamie love who is the director of knowledge ecology international. and that is a fancy phrase for
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saying making pharmaceuticals among other intellectual property subjects affordable to people. if anybody thinks that citizen action may be important but it doesn't have much drama, listen to this story. he's in alaska in his early 20s and producing these incisive policy papers on the oil industry. comes to our attention and my colleague says who's putting this out? it's brilliant. he said well some high school grad, who moved from seattle to alaska. well he was so brilliant that he was admitted to the kennedy school at harvard university skipping four years of undergraduate. and then he went to get a ph.d. in economics from princeton. but he was always too busy seeing how he could save lives. here is the key story i want to relate very quickly. thousands of people dying of aids in africa. every week. the price of the cocktail drugs
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by u.s. drug company, $10,000 per patient per year. in other words pay or die. and they died. jamie went all over the world. and met with w.h.o. people. ministers of the health. advocates for patients. he was in the air half the time. he had help. from people in our center. john weissman, john richard. and he was a singular dynamo that kebl connected with a drug company in india and showed the drug companies here that were backed by the clinton administration that that drug cocktail could be brought down $300 a year, per patient in africa. [ applause ] and he continued -- and it continued to go down. this is a huge drama.
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he never got any press coverage to speak of. he never got any awards. it didn't matter to him. he was driven. the combination of powerful knowledge and being at the right place at the right time everywhere in the world. he's heading for geneva tonight. needless to say he was helped by groups light act up, which stands for aids coalition to unleash power. and gore's announcement running for president in tennessee. they demonstrated ever where to begin changing the federal government's attitude towards ignoring research and the system. anybody who wants drama, i
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introduce to you the very modest jamie love. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. i'll like to thank ralph for inviting me to this event. i'm going talk today about this issue of -- on pharmaceutical drugs, i'm going to talk about the things that ralph had talked about that i was involved with early on in this debate and also the current state of play where people are interested in changing the relationship between people and medicine around the world. and i'm gonna -- so i'm gonna try and see that -- all the technology, if i can get it here to work here. ralph already talked about some
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of the early issues. i was asked by ralph nader in 1991 to look at the pricing of a drug for cancer called taxol and it's a breast cancer drug. it was invented at the nih and being licensed to bristol-myers squib which is a pharmaceutical company and there was a clause in the agreement that said the drug should be priced at the reasonable price. so i was brought in. and congressman weidman was interested at the time in this issue. and i started working on this drug and that led to taking a look at looking at the federal government and all cancer drugs on the market since 1955 and other types of drugs for hiv and severe illnesses and other rare diseases. and as a result of this work that i was doing on drug pricing in the united states, and
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looking at these issues, i eventually began to get more aware of the role of international agreements and international discussions about what the u.s. could do but also what was happening in foreign countries. and in 1994 i was invited to argentina and then brazil. by people that had picked up my name as someone a that was working on these issues of drug pricing. and i really became aware of for the first time really to the extent to which the united states through the state department and through the trade office and through the whole apparatus of foreign policy was putting pressure on developing countries to extend and put in place monopolies on pharmaceutical drugs. a lot of developing countries up to that point had excluded pharmaceutical drugs from the patent system. and you could buy very inexpensive drugs from other countries. at that point also from brazil. and the u.s. was pushing all
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these countries to put patents in place. but also going way yoend that. and i remember when i was in argentina the first time. the united states was putting pressure on argentina, the congress wouldn't pass an argentina patent law the u.s. wanted. argentina signed on the world trade agreement and already agreed to put in effect a system of patents on pharmaceutical drugs by the transition period within the wto agreement. so in a way the battle was already over. argentina, as india and other countries had agreed that they would start granting patents which created monopoly on pharmaceutical drugs. there was really a question of when that would take place. and the united states wanted it to happen roughly ten years before they were required to under the wto rules. and so the congress wouldn't pass this law because the
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domestic drug manufacturers were influential in argentina. so the white house was pressing the president of argentina to invoke a patent through a executive fiat. argentina has just been a democracy a short period of time and it was causing a the political crisis in arjtd that. the idea that the president could just dictate laws through executedive orders and things like that was or considered to be a back step. and i was strauk at the time in the equation of looking at democracy on the one hand and on the idea of -- you know, the price of drugs on the other hand, that the u.s. was just donald trumping right into the price of drugs as the more important issue. now if you fast forward that to today right this week there is a
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dispute we're involved in for columbia. columbia is trying to deal with a very expensive cancer drug for leukemia. it's a swiss drug company. not even an american company. invented on nih and charitable grants in the united states in terms of early development. but the patent rights are owned by a swiss company. and senator hatch had his staff meet with the colombia embassy recently. and say -- the report from the colombia embassy was of the nature that if colombia breaks the monopoly on the cancer drug because the drug is twice the par kapt income in colombia. i that in they do that it would have negative funding if are the peace process in colombia. which if you think about it. is sort of an astonishing
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lincoln between peace in a place like colombia and that. i work on these issues and i do a lot of work -- another noimg going to go everything we've been working on. but i will say that to really understand the nature of the power that is involved and trying to deal with the issue of access to -- what ralph talked about is true about hiv drugs and i started working on this there was about 9,000 people a day dying for lack of access to aids treatment drugs and there was about somewhere between maybe 10 and1 and 15,000 people subsaharan africa receiving these drugs. and today there are more than 10 -- my colleagues worked on but the people that ralph talked about. the other non government
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organizations. act up. doctors without borders. ox femme. all of these different groups there was a whole wide range of civil society groups that really were involved in this thing. and it's been a big success story. but at the root of all these dispute disputes just understand as i mentioned the power that is involved. for several years my wife took a drug called herceptin which is a cancer drug for woman that are -- about 1/5 of cancer patients have this certain kind of cancer that this is useful. and that drug was generating about a 500 milli$500 million ar roche, the swiss company, which developed initially by u.s.
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subsidiary of roche. and didn't want to really develop the drug at first but pushed by an academic in ucla they finally did. but if you can imagine that is one drug for one company. it is not even like the biggest selling drug now days. there are lots of drugs that generate more cash than that. what political problem do you think you could imagine that you couldn't solve with $500 a month and almostly entirely super high profit margin to address like that. so when you are dealing with these issues the profits are so large on companies, it costs almost nothing. my wife is talking a drug that costs about $150 thousand a year. instead of 5,000 a week. it probably costs -- or 3,000. trying to remember between the sticker and negotiated price. probably about $5,000 a week to
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make this drug. that is the context you are talking about. every time there is some effort and a reform -- by the way i'm just going to skip the slides. i'm way confused on the slides right now. i'm just going to talk a little about what we're doing. every time you try and argue that oh a price is too high for a drug. like for example, a drug for prost cancer, invented in the army, licensed to a japanese company. cost $129,000 per year in the united states. in other countries in europe of high income including like switzerland or norway or countries with higher income than we have or sweden, the price is way less than half. in some countries it is a quarter of the u.s. price. even though this is a drug invented on u.s. dollars. so when we try and every single
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effort to reform abuses in the pharmaceutical area that relate to price, every single effort, whether it is africa, which was a rounding error for the drug companies in terms of sales. or a big ticket item like a prostate cancer drug in the united states. and because people care about innovation and know somebody that does about have a drug and recognize the value of having a pipeline of new drugs they feel powerless to accept the issue.
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and when you are in a situation where you are worried about what price you are going to pay to keep your wife alive, your son alive yourself alive or your neighbor alive, and often that is a big number. people are poor often priced out of that system. right now routinely about 80% of the world's population is completely priced out of market for new cancer drugs for example. it will be a long time before it's available in developing countries. and that is a system that we accept because people think it is necessary to get an innovation. so the important thing we're working on now that i think is forward looking is to change this dlm we're in. this situation of powerless.ile. this situation of powerless. and what we're strtrying to do
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the cost of pharmaceutical drugs from the financing of r&r&d. and every month they are surprised this happens. year. there should be a learning curve that goes along with this. where you realize that it is predictable, that if you grant a monopoly to some profit-making, profit-maximizing firm you are going to observe a high price if the drug is really effective and really important medically. so the idea is get rid of the monopolies all together and make every drug a generic drug from day one. [ applause ] you cannot regulate the monopolies in the public interest in this case. they have too much money.
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they have too much power. they have completely gamd the system from one end to the other. we don't regulate them. they regulate us. that is what's going on right now with the monopoly. now, if you get rid of the monopoly, you have to replace it with something that also provides robust funding for r&d. so when one element would be to have the trade agreements, patents and a million other things down everybody's throat in trade agreements, which are designed to raise the price of drugs. instead of that, the idea is to have the trade agreements focus on national obligations to fund r&d. things like the nih does and that sort of things. to put into place measures and incentives like innovation, inducement pricing. direct funding like the nih
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does. focus on funding etc. funding r&d rather than high prices. make r&d the focus of the -- that's one step. another step is the reinvent the idea of the incentives. so instead of granting monopoly you give them money but design it in such a way that works a sufficient set of are rewards. senator sanders has a set of bills we've worked on him with. and one example up to about $14 billion a year in the united states market for hiv drugs. over the past 30 years we've had about one new hiv drug developed per year on average. if you think about it, $14 million is a lot of money to pay for one new drug a years. these are drugs ugh -- you can
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buy outside the united states. so you are just throwing your money at these guys about $14 billion a year. so senator sanders proposed we put aside 3 billion a year as reward for people who develop new chemical entities for hiv drugs. that's a very big reward system. and you eliminate the monopoly. so what you are looking at is a $10 billion per year freeing up of resources, which is, you know, based on what you were currently doing. we're treating a lower number of hiv patients today than some african countries do. because the prices are high. sometimes patients are not tested in jails because, you know, the authority doesn't really want the obligation of paying for the expensive kind of treatments. we have higher infection rates because we have lower utilization of drugs. but you can do that. you can do it for cancer.
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the good part -- i'm basically got 45 seconds so i'm not going to be able to go through my whole much of my talk here. but we're committed to this. recently the ceo of gsk, can which is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, glaxosmithkline has endorsed the idea that we look forward to finding ways to eliminate delinkage. developing countries propose a fraction of their budget for cancer treatment be set aside to reward developers of new drugs but they get their drugs as generics. they don't pay 3,000 a week for a cancer drug. they extend treatment and make it more equal and more fair. so they recognize the importance of innovation so you set a. it's a different way of financing. a different model. like how the business model w
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was --. so you're not hanging up the phone every time -- you're not afraid to send a e-mail or look at the web page because it is so expensive. because on the margin that is free. even though you pay to have this service you don't pay the use to service. and that is what we're looking at in drugs. we want the price of a drug to be almost free on the margin like aspirin. but we're willing to pay to get the first copy out the door. so it is a change in the business model. it will make the world a better place. it will be the most transformative thing you can imagine for equality when it comes to access to care and really a very important campaign and i'm fully committed. thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. [ applause ]
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now we know -- >> -- i believe in activism and my cause right now is to get the republicans who are running the cooling system to turn it off. [ laughter ] >> it is a little cold here. what's coming out of podium is hot. but it is a little cold. thank youing for s infor saying. his group, knowledge ecology international's budget is equivalent to less than one day's -- one day's compensation package of david zasalov less than one day's compensation package of mario up there. our next speaker is drama conge
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congealed. ralph hodgekis. i first met anymore in over land a sophomore majoring in physics and he came up to me and said can i go to washington this summer and work on problems effecting people with disabilities? i said of course. and he was a paraplegic from a motorcycle accident. a sliding soft sand, soft curve type moik after his freshman year in overland. he was in on the ground floor of the movement, one of the greatest success movements in american history. those who are of older age remember that we didn't even see a student with a physical disability in school. out of sight, out of mind. there were no ramps. they didn't want to take the students up the stairs. they were segregated. and now look at it. there are accesses all over. americans for disabilities act.
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buildings having renovated, buildings have been retroactive. there is still a lot do but whether it is special olympics, whether it's racing down connecticut avenue with four people in wheelchair s joyously talking to one another, whether it's access to schools and hospitals, there's been tremendous progress. and ralph hodgekiss is right hon the ground floor here. he was part of the demonstrations. he was the brillianten inventor of much more resilient and durable reaches. he and a few others broke the wheelchair monopoly of the jennings corporation out of london that was selling high priced, unreliable, flimsy, wheelchairs. he has designed these wheelchairs. he doesn't patent any of his
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inventions. they are for everybody to use. he goes around teaching many people, mostly women how to build wheelchairs from local materials that are strong, durable and inexpensive. and in those countries if you don't have a wheelchair it is almost a death sentence. and every year his network manufactures 15,000 wheelchairs. and he'll tell you, that is only part of it. you are also going to see a demonstration of a swav deveer ralph hodgekis expresses can and his incredible redefinition of people with disabilities which is why he called his non profit group whirlwind wheelchair. i give you ralph hodgekis.
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>> so think about this. put your feet in the stirrups of a wheelchair in the third world. there you are because your spine has been snapped by impact with the hood of a car racing down the rough and narrow streets. somehow you have survived the impact and made it home after limited medical care. you badly need to know how everybody nearby managed to stay alive but you have no way to move beyond your cot. the few wheelchairs in your country were designed long ago for hospital use.
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most are discarded rusting in a large pile behind the national hospital. they don't last long. your family begs to help but what can they do? and who will feed your children through the monsoon? if you are like most you will plead to get out and find solutions but pressure sores and infections will beat you back. and within a year your friends will say she died of a broken back. fifty years ago today i snapped my spine in illinois. wheelchairs for plentiful in the u.s., but they were far from optimal. since the early 1950s, a single company had monopolized the u.s. industry.
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they did what monopolies do best, raising prices while cheapening their products. my first wheelchair came from this company. and with it i left the hospital. but after only half a block i hit a crack in the sidewalk and destroyed the front caster. the company declared the chair beyond repair. so what kind of chair do people need in the developing world? we have cars, we have buses with lifts. we have ramps on our sidewalks. third worlds are different. you have to take a chair that will take whatever you can give it. a chair that won't break whatever you do running over cobblestones every single day. coming down rocks.
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over muddy terrain. fighting to get in and out of your house. an american chair does not work. it's got to be much much tougher than -- than what the gringos get by with. a few years later i was asked to repair a wheelchair after many breakdowns. he told me the monoplows manufacturer of both our chairs was bragging to stokders that his subsidiaries were dumping wheelchairs over seas and effectively keeping foreign competition out of the u.s.
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the sports model, so called, was $750 in england. the same chair listed for $2750 in the u.s., 1973. when activists in the u.s. disability rights movement had tried to import the low priced english chairs to the u.s., their orders were refused. the security exchange commission attorney told me that refusing these purchases was an illegal restriction of international trade and should be challenged. that attorney was evan kemp, an active republican who later became the head of the equal employment opportunity commission under president bush the first. following kemp's advice i went
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to the london shore room of everson jennings ordering ten chairs asking they be sent to washington d.c. everson jennings refused saying that, quote, our parent company does not allow us to ship to the western hemispherehemisphere. the journalist reported this violation and attorney general griffin bell opened an anti-trust investigation. that investigation moved very slowly until 1977 when ralph nader and debra caplan of his disability rights center challenged bell in a public forum shortly after the doj filed an anti-trust lawsuit. in 1979 a settlement was reached. perhaps prodded by the
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likelihood of a new administration that would be very friendly to monopolies. the settlement because the classic consent decree in which they swore they had never broken the law and promised to never do it again. competition blos md in the u.s. wheelchair industry. prices well while dependability improved.somed in the u.s. wheelchair industry. prices well while dependability improved. very little of this improvement though trickled down to the poorer 80% of the world. the costs of imports wheelchairs were still far too high for developing countries where people with disabilities are the poorest of the poorest of the poor. what is needed is a locally based industry where wheelchairs can be bought anywhere and can be repaired anywhere else. the new american chairs made of
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exotic aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, cannot be repaired in the other countries. steel can be repaired almost anywhere. this is why the vast majority of bicycles have been made of steel for well over a hundred years. i have a also a personal interest in improving steel wheelchairs, as wheelchairs made of exotic materials cannot be used to travel safely outside of the wealthy world. reporter john hackenbury, who rides with his wheelchair almost everywhere on the planet travels with a large pack of spare parts. but a traveler with a classic steel bicycle can parts replaced or repaired or custom made by the blacksmiths and bike shops in nearly every corner of the
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globe. with more kpendability mobility in mind i searched europe throughout the 1970s, looking for nvrnters who wanted to bring the steel wheelchair up to the art of the bicycle in the 1890s. i found very little help. most were trying to develop new high-tech wheelchairs, they were not working on providing the basic mobility that would help a farmer complete a hard day's work. i realized i could get more help in the poorest parts of the world than in the west. their i met four young riders all sharing one chair. it was a u.s. hospital model. and it broke down frequently. their shared wheelchair. each time the wheelchair broke,
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they with help -- where's my clicker? uh-oh. they, with help -- thank you. >> you're welcome. >> thanks a lot. let's see. their wheelchair was a u.s. hospital model and broke down frequently. each time the chair broke, they with help from a nearby blacksmith would redesign and it fix it so it would not fail again. i found help i would need to make my own chair much better. as we developed together our early chairs, skilled rider/builders in the
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philippines and mexico showed us how to toughen our bending jigs and welding fixtures without making them anywhere near as heavy or expensive as the american equivalents. but as much as we liked our chairs they were head hard to sell. lacking style, and riders had no money. dozens of these survivors held a marathon riding wheelchairs clear across manning a what to show they were ready and willing to be part of the new nicaragbe. and -- riding the first
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prototype of the new chair would beat them all. [ applause ] within a week a dozen new chairs were sold. and nicaraguan wheelchair shops have continued to sell chairs for the 35 years since then. the nicaraguan wheelchair project got training and support from u.s. a id and from paul silva of the u.s. peace corps. unfortunately this was cutoff soon by the reagan administration. our wheelchair network, as here and in nicaragua has always been tied to the growth of the international disability rights movement. since everyone has equal opportunity to gain a
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disability, the movement opens line s lines of communication that are otherwise not allowed. the national disability group in south africa for example was the first and only multi racial group during apartheid allowed to lobby the south africaen legislature. innovations have come fromn legislature. innovations have come from young and old. there is paul silva of the u.s. peace corps. and this is an ongoing nicaraguan activist group of disabled people. most of them riders of locally made chairs and some of those chairs very old. and some of our inventions come from people very young and very
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old. this fellow rearranged our spoking pattern when he wass a8 years old. and we still take advantage of his great ideas. the greatly improved stability on the chair. it's the 50% longer wheel base and a chair that is 6 inches shorter than a typical chair because my feet are behind the front. makes it, gives it great stability. the biggest injury cause of wheelchair riders world over is falling forward out of the chair. you hit a bump and you fall forward. if you take the ratio of the track length to the height of a typical american wheelchair and apply to it a chevrolet, it's
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three stories tall. hit a curb with that call and it falls on its face and maybe breaks its femur in the process. our training here at san francisco state university includes welding and sawing, spoking, destructive testing. and over the edge learning -- learning how to do over the edge wheelchair riding. and our new shop is the most wheelchair accessible shop yet. feedback from long-term users is critical. to keep on -- it is critical to keep on improving our chairs. gabriel in nicaragua has ridden and abused the same chair since 1985. and he's always proud to show me
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that -- excuse me. this is hard. [ applause ] these folks are the best and the brightest. they put us to shame. he's always proud to show me he's broken something new. [ laughter ] mistakes happen. our original parking brake had a loop in the handle. to make it easier to grab. recently as some of the shops, our shops or the shops we work with. they are all independent but they have switched to this more professional looking rubber handle. but this quadriplegic fellow in
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nicaragua bought a new chair and couldn't work it. he couldn't lock the brakes and thus he couldn't safely transfer. and he had hurt himself several times badly. ao i made him a custom brake. to our old design that he could hook his finger in and operate it that way. and needless to say he's much happier now. [ applause ] chairs are now made in a few countries for shipping to other countries. these chairs were made in mexico and arrive a week later in haiti, shortly after the earthquake. and our chairs have been made now in over 40 countries.
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there have been over a hundred thousand of them made. that of course is hardly the tip of the iceberg. there are easily 50 million people in the world today in developing countries who don't have their first chair. or if they have one, it was one of these substandard chair asks they have already broken it. our greatest disappointment has been that our chairs cannot provide people with mobility that lasts them a lifetime, or even close. our best chairs last 10 or 15 years. several times longer than most other chairs. but think about it. how are these folks going to replace that chair? our chairs cost 200 dollars. that can be for person with disability, legally paid less than half what others are paid.
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illegally paid even less than that. there is just no way they can come one that $200 and replace their chair when it finally becomes beyond repair. there are though wheelchairs being made in uganda, since 1965, that last much longer. many of them last 25, 30 years. and if you look on the chair on the left, it has a fork to the outside of the week and uses a regular bicycle wheel. that is the stumbling block towards making a wheelchair last a lifetime. making it reparable. like a good bicycle, for a lifetime. a regular wheelchair has to have a high strength axle and a
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special hub. a bicycle axle if it is cantilever like this only on one end is not going stand up. the forces are quite for a wheelchair. sideways forces can bend most commercial we'ves. a -- wheelchairs. i can trash them in a few minutes. but that ugandan chair is the only one in the world that has been replaceable pretty much -- been reparable pretty much as long as people give them a lot of tender loving care.
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-- very hard to get in and out of the chair. so when i was in uganda 20 years ago this woman said i had to trade chairs with her. my chair, it folds, it costs one-third as much to travel home on the holidays. she doesn't have to pay for a whole row of seats. and she had another -- trades chairs. then i would go home with chair and maybe i could learn how to make my chair as good as hers. so we're working on that as hard as we can. i've built nine different types of prototypes. in the picture i'm riding one of them. it is hard to see. but in the back of my wheel is a very thin fork that widen the
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chair. but if i make it strong enough, it is too heavy. so number 10, maybe we'll be a little closer. we're zeroing in. but it is not easy. but it sure is worth trying. and i certainly learn lot working with people for whom i have more respect than i've had in my life for anybody. it is pretty amazing. [ applause ] thank you. thank you ralph. tremendous. showing that ingenuity and
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determination are key to being in the public interests world. and passion as well, which ralph showed so clearly. now we're going have robert colter come up. he's a founder of the indian law resources center back in 1978. i remember dloris saying something to out of the pine ridge rebellion several decades ago. question asked well what did your people call this before the white man came to the dakotas. and he said ours. and that was the spirit that robert colter brings to his 40 years of work as an attorney. he's a pottawattamie indian
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himself. and fights for justicis throughout the americas. author of the first draft of the rights of indigenous people that was adopted in 2007 by the assembly. welcome robert colter. [ applause ] thank you jim. it is wonderful to be here. congratulations to ralph on this 50th anniversary of unsafe at any speed. [ applause ] yes. and thanks for this opportunity to be here at this time along with so many others. first i want to show you a very short video about our organization. ♪
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>> for more than 30 years the center has been a global force challenging liam framewoe ining enhance the lives of the native peoples. helping with the unfair rules. we've taken on cases on behalf of many with goal of changing some of these laws. we also seek to strengthen sovereignty rights so tribes can better protect their people. this is more critical now than ever. >> 1 in 3 native women will be raped her lifetime. and 3 out of 5 will be physically assaulted. >> the centers hallmark work is related to the united nations
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declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. >> we wanted to be sure. and we wanted to establish legal rules that would make it clear that indigenous peoples really do own their land. they really do have full and complete legal rights to those lands. that they have rights that can be protected in courts. rights that are protecting by definite rules of law. that can't just be thrown out or ignored by courts or countries and their governments. >> the declaration was adopted by the u.n. general assembly in 2007. >> and as you know in april we announced we were reviewing our position on the u.n. declaration on the rights of inch eindigenous people. and tonight i can announce the united states is lending its support to this declaration. >> this is just a snapshot of the work out of the helena, montana and washington d.c. offices. we at the indian law resource
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center are experts in indian law working to protect and preserve indigenous peoples and their communities. our ultimate goal is to make positive contributions that will have lasting effects. visit >> well, i'm not sure that i actually belong up here with the kinds of organizations and advocates that have been assembled here. we are an american indian organization and we just work hard and worry about our funding and wonder what we can do to improve the future for indian and alaska native peoples. i suppose in that basic way we are a lot like many of these other organizations. but let me try to give you a
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little bit more detail about what we do. what we do is we provide legal representation to american indian and alaska native nations and tribes. and i mean indian nations and tribes in central and south america as well. we are funding just by foundations, individuals and a few indian nations. we don't take any government money. it is a matter of our integrity and independence. and as a result our budget has always been pretty small. it's less than 1.5 million people per year. and that is only in recent years. we have an office as you heard in helena montana. that is our head office but we also have an office here in washington d.c. that's headed by my partner of some 35 years,
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armstrong wiggins. if you are here raise your hand or stand up armstrong. he's done so much to build our program. [ applause ] and when began this work. in the 1970s, indian nations in the united states were just utterly dominated by the federal bureau of indian affairs. they suffered from extreme poverty, tribes have few legal rights. that is still the case actually. and practically no constitutional rights. nearly all tribes were completely dependent on federal support for food, shelter, healthcare and other necessities. indians in mexico, central and south america endured even worse. frequently suffering massacres, murders, genocide and the like. indian communities were and still are typically denied land
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rights and subjected to severe political repression and forcible relocation. as a result indigenous peoples in the americas and worldwide were disappearing along with their cultures and languages. our human rights work effects and involves thousands of indigenous peoples worldwide. though we just work in the americas. there is an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in at least 70 countries around the world. now, indigenous peoples i like to say are american indians, alaska natives, and other peoples like that. but there is a little bit more of a definition. they are peoples that inhabited a country or a region at the time before other peoples of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived and became dominant. we wanted to assist indigenous nations and tribes to change the
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appalling treatment and racist laws that were inflicted on them. a reasonably fair and workable system is always necessary for economic development and improvement of social conditions. but in the united states that doesn't exist for indian nations today. and the result is pervasive poverty, deprivation and suffering. casinos benefit really only a few tribes. lawyers and courts have done virtually nothing to ensure constitutional rights and fair treatment for indian tribes. it was clear that we would have to do something different in order to overcome the incredibly unjust legal system and the system of federal control that had been entrenched for 150 years and still is so entrenched. we decided we must listen to indian nations that ask for our help and follow their decisions. we decided to work for native
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people of the americas, not just in the united states. now, working for indian nations means we were never trying to work alone. we were advise asking assisting indian and alaska native nations sometimes many of them in several countries. that important. we began a long term strategy to overturn the antiquated laws we found almost everywhere. we began a campaign organizing and learned after years of work that the courts in this country were not open to any serious challenge to the legal system that effects indian nations. the very supreme court that had ruled school desegregation unconstitutional also ruled that same year that the federal government is free actually confiscate indian tribe's
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property without any due process or any compensation. that is still the law in the united states. we need an additional strategy for changing the laws. some of the indian nations i was representing pointed out they had never relinquished their rights at participating nations in the international community so we began to look for ways to challenge the laws in the united states and elsewhere. the then newly -- relatively newly emerging law of human rights at the international level was really promising because it condemned in no uncertain terms discrimination, genocide, the denial of cultural rights and other wropgs. in 1976 we had the opportunity tongs. in 1976 we had the opportunity to opportunity to go to geneva switzerland to the united nations there. and i suggested to the indian
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nations that i was working with at the time they consider proposings to the united nations a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. i wrote a draft for them to consider. they did consider it. reviewed it, modified it and took it to the united nations in 1977 and proposed it to the united nations for adoption. our strategy was that by creating international awareness and pressure on the united states and other countries, we might be able to develop international legal standards about the rights of indigenous peoples and might be able to change the policies and practices and might be able to persuade eventually lawmakers to reevaluate their laws and policies. we had very difficult times. our strategies were scoffed at. in this country at least. many people said we'd never
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accomplish anything. we had a statue ff of just phi six. and our budget was never more than a few hundred thousand dollars a year. but the process most heavily at rights process in the u.n.'s history. for the first time the affected people, the indigenous people, were permitted to participate in the human rights process, and they were enormously effective. hundreds and hundreds of them went to the united nations to negotiate and advocate for the declaration. our work on the declaration took 30 years, until finally as you heard, the general assembly adopted it in 2007 and the united states gave its approval in 2010. it made a big difference, because the declaration proclaimed for the first time that indigenous peoples have the
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right to exist. the right to exist as distinct peoples. that was not the case before. the right to exist with their own governments, without discrimination of any kind, with the right to own their lands and resources and a host of other rights. this was a great change in the tide of history, and it's changed how countries see indigenous peoples. now, in 2014, just a little -- about two years ago, we helped to win four more major commitments from the united nations general assembly. we won commitments to develop a permanent monitoring and implementing body for the u.n. declaration, to see that it's carried into effect. we won a commitment to create new rules in the u.n. that will permit indian nations and other indigenous governments to participate on a permanent basis in the united nations.
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after this, we won't have to have special permission to go and fight for our rights there. they'll be there all the time. we also got a commitment to combat violence against indigenous women, which you heard about in the video. that, by the way, speaking in the video was our senior attorney jana walker who has accomplished remarkable things in the fight against violence against indigenous women. we also -- we also won a commitment from the united nations to do more to encourage respect for indigenous sacred sites. on the domestic front, our project on violence against indigenous women helped to win a major change in united states law as you heard in the re-authorization of the violence against women act. they used brilliant organizing, brilliant communications work, videos about the epidemic of violence against native women
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and creative advocacy in international bodies, and they won the support of women all over the country who helped bring about a tremendous reform in united states law, returning law enforcement power to indian governments in the united states, power to help prevent some forms of violence against indian women, but much more needs to be done. we've litigated land claims. we've used federal courts to challenge federal government abuses and sometimes state government abuses. we've changed the united states laws in some important ways, but fundamentally the unfair and racist legal framework is still in place, and we're continuing to challenge it. we're going to have to focus on education, to educate a new generation of lawyers and judges, so we're writing materials to do that. it's going to take many more
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years to change the law. assuring that the united nations takes the necessary measures to implement the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and to see to it that countries respect these rights is another priority for our work going forward. and now we're going to have to implement the new american declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, because let me say just four days ago the indian law resource center staff here in d.c. and a handful of amazing indian leaders from the americas, over here at the organization of american states, succeeded after 26 years of work, succeeded in completing the negotiations on the new american declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. and it's stronger than the u.n.
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declaration. now that -- yes. it was a tremendous job they did, and there were so few of them, but it had to be done and they did it marvelously. that declaration is expected to be approved by the general assembly of the organization of american states in a few weeks, in june. so, we're looking forward to that. the greed for indian resources seems to have grown in recent years. much more virulent. at the same time we're seeing a breakdown of the rule of law in the americas, a significant reduction in the willingness or ability of countries to enforce laws or to abide by them. these two factors are extremely dangerous for marginalized people such as indigenous peoples. as indian communities have begun to assert the real legal rights that are being created, indian
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leaders are being murdered in many countries. this is a very alarming development, particularly in central and south america, they're being murdered by those who covet these indian lands and resources. it's a very urgent situation that we must address and must stop. we hope to train more indian lawyers and indian leaders especially in central and south america to help them defend and assert their rights. i hope that perhaps we can create -- i hope that we can create an indian law resource center in that part of the world. i get moved by that because it's been a dream that we've been unable to fulfill for many years, but perhaps we can do that soon. fund-raising concerns -- thank you. thank you so much.
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fund-raising concerns are serious. i'm worried that foundations seem to be trending towards just short-term projects. this isn't good. it took 30 years to get the u.n. declaration and it was worth it. 26 years to get the american declaration. serious work requires serious time. we need to educate philanthropy to be responsive. i think our greatest need -- yes. we may need to look to individuals and families where foundations are falling down. for the long term i think we need to focus more on education and modern communications work. we need to try to engender the rule of law in many countries, and by this i mean encouraging political and social systems so that they are governed democratically by laws and not by the arbitrary dictates of individuals. well, in this long-term view i hope that we will see rich
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cultures and hundreds and thousands of indigenous communities thriving all around the world. but i also want to see a great body of rights, of fundamental rights, recognized for other peoples as well. this need not be just limited to indigenous peoples. i believe that most of the rights in the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples should be the rights of all peoples of the world. so, let's see if we can do something about that. thank you very much. >> thank you. terrific. what a great line-up we have, huh? this is spectacular. i'm learning so much just sitting backstage here. well, next up is a fella who is
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a founder and has been longtime director of public justice. a great organization. his name is paul bland. but he is not. bland. rather, he is a fiery fighter for equal access to the courts in this country, and particularly has been doing yeoman's work in the -- in the case and in the face of corporate arbitration clauses. totally unjust, anti-democratic decision. in fact, corporate arbitration's best defined as two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. well, paul bland has been in the face of the corporate power that has created those clauses, and he is now scoring great victories after years of fighting these. welcome paul bland.
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>> wow, it is incredibly cool for me to be in this building in part 35 years ago when i was in college i was here and i saw the jerry garcia band. i am more into jerry garcia ties so i can feel like i was at home. public justice, what are we? we pursue high-impact lawsuits to pursue social and economic justice, to protect the earth's sustainability and to challenge predatory corporate and government abuses and conduct. so, let me break that down. so, first of all, there's a lot of different public interest law firms out there. why do we feel we're different? there's two things about our model. first is we actually try to leverage resources. that's one of the dilbert words we're going to leverage and synergize and circles. leverage means something for us. what we do is we recruit groups of trial lawyers, people who are really schooled at fairing o i g
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ferreting out the facts and a lot of our cases we'll have 10% or 5% of the time where we're able to recruit and get some of the smartest lawyers in the country to help us actually take on some really big causes that if we just had our own 14 lawyers that we'd never be able to do. the second thing about our model which i think is fairly cool is that we -- we work for impact cases. so, we're not just looking for cases in which somebody has been treated badly, someone's been cheated, so we're different. i love people who do legal aid work but we are looking for cases that will lead to systemic changes, bigger and broader, where you can set a precedent. we look for cases where you can have a class action or some sort of aggregate change where you can get an injunction from a court that will change the way corporations actually practice. we look for cases where our communications can draw a lot of attention to an issue. so, the first part of our mission statement that i read to you talked about economic
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injustice. obviously things are pretty bad in the united states with respect to economic injustice. we have the sharpest division between the very wealthiest, you know, the point one percent since the gilded age and the worst since the 1920s. we rank terribly in the world with respect to economic injustice between the richest and virtually everyone else. most americans live paycheck to paycheck today. the elizabeth warren critique of the way our economy is set up that she first arctticulated in her "two income trap" book has become substantially worse. in the last ten years we've had many millions more people who have had their homes foreclosed and the american economy didn't get this unfair by accident. it didn't jump. it was pushed. okay. there's a lot of corporate cheating going on out there. first of all, there's a traon o predatory lending. most people in america don't understand how high the interest rates and the fees on the loans
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that they're getting are. it's incredible how many people don't understand the products that they are getting. there's wage theft that's on an extremely wide scale. there's a ton of people who live in situations where it's essentially a company town. they are no longer considered employees they are independent contractors but most of the things they need in order to have their job are provided by the corporation. so, you have a lot of people a generation ago were working 60 hours a week and they were making good middle-income salaries and now they're working 60 hours a week and their families are on public benefits because the vast majority of the money that's being given to them is actually going back to the company in various steps. now, how did this happen? there's a bunch of things that can be done about it. the first is a lot of companies are able to get away with this corporate cheating by using the forced arbitration clauses. there's two bad aspects. forced arbitration is what the company puts in the fine print of the contract is a provision that says if we break the law
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you can't sue us in court but instead you have to go to a private arbitrator and we're going to pick the company that will pick the private arbitrator and everything's going to be secret and whatever the arbitrator decide, if they make an error of law or fact none is appealable to a court and most importantly of all you can never bring a class action. so, even if we cheat 100,000 people in exactly the same way through a predatory scheme under our form contract every single one of you is atomized, you are individualized. you have to go out on your own and straightly figure out that you were cheated, splitly figure out what the law is, you have to file your own claim and pay a fee to the arbitrator, you have to go by yourself. that is really what corporate america's end game is around this forced arbitration clause issue. so there's terrific amount of evidence that in individual cases in the employment area, for example, that workers do worse in arbitration than they do in court and if they do get an award the award tends to be
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20% to 25% what it would be in court. but the biggest element of it is the ban on class actions. so, for example, it used to be the law in america that you could challenge a forced arbitration clause that banned class actions and if you could prove as the plaintiff that the ban on class actions had the effect of gutting a consumer protection or civil rights law, then, a court would strike it down. this was my career for a while. going around from state supreme court to state supreme court and getting different states to adopt the law that says if the ban on class actions in an arbitration clause would gut a consumer protection law a court would throw it out. we had three cases against payday lenders in north carolina and it's legal in some places and illegal in some places, regulated a little in some places and regulated a lot in some places. in north carolina it was illegal, they weren't allowed to do it and they were doing it anyhow because they had the arbitration clause.
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we built the strong evidentiary record and got a court to find the arbitration clause in that case prevented anyone from going forward, made it impossible for someone to bring a case. once we proved that we were able to go forward and we had five cases. this rural judge said, i can only handle a couple cases at a time, three cases in one round and two cases in another round. the first three cases go forward, we beat the arbitration clause. we got $45 million in relief for the people. we paid out checks to 200,000 people. thank you. then in april of 2011, by a 5-4 vote, you can guess who the 5-4, justice scalia writing the opinion, invented a new rule of federal law that never existed before and even an arbitration law would gut a consumer protection law, it still has to be enforced. single worse case in the history of consumer law. in the wake of this case literally hundreds of class
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actions thrown out across the country even where there was proof that the case -- that the arbitration clause was going to gut the case from going forward. so, we had two more cases against payday lenders and they were thrown out and nobody got anything. no one's credit was fixed and no one got checks. the forced arbitration system worked as planned and it worked really well. so, we still have not given up since 2011. we find all sorts of different problems. when anytime the company makes a mistake in its forced arbitration clause, they get a little greedy or sloppy, we go after them. we have 20 different cases we're pending right now where we're challenging forced arbitration clauses. this year we won eight different appeals in courts around the country knocking out these type of clauses and doing other access to justice work. we've been fighting hard with the consumer protection bureau, and a new rule for lending, about 20% of the economy, under the dodd/frank act they had the
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power to wipe away the forced arbitration clause that banned class action and the richardson agency said they are going forward with it. the chamber of commerce is losing its mind about this and fighting like crazy and you are hearing all these arguments we don't need the consumer protection laws because the magic of the free market will work and so forth. we've heard that story many times but there's finally progress going on and we're taking down the clauses where companies make mistakes. admittedly some of the cases, i'm not handling as many cases against dell and at&t but more against car dealers and scam artists because their lawyers are a little weaker. if you are a predator animal going behind the herd you don't get the sleekest, youngest healthiest thing so we find the companies with lousy lawyers and they've drafted a crappy arbitration clause and we pull it down as a message to the others sort of thing.
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but anyhow there's a lot of different issues around this economic injustice where there are barriers like arbitration, excessive court secrecy, the use of federal laws that wipe away good state consumer protection laws and we work on a variety of different cases in order to fight against economic injustice. so, earth sustainability. the core problem here is that corporations can externalize the costs of what they do. in other words, when you hear someone say, well, coal is cheaper than solar energy. it's cheaper if you don't count all the different things that coal does, like, it makes it harder for people to breathe and it contributes enormously to climate change and it destroys streams and so forth. as long as they can take all of the costs the product creates and tick them on other people it looks a lot cheaper than it really is and the company makes a lot more money. that's really our model. for example, sustainability of the earth, the single biggest threat of the sustainability of the earth is climate change.
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and what are probably the two biggest drivers of climate change? first is coal and the second is factory farms. we've come at this from a different way than a lot of other environmental litigation. the two different approaches is first of all to sue the epa. there's been some great work in that area and there are times that we sue the government but we're much more interested in suing the corporations that are polluting and we focus on that. and i think it's a better use of our resources. and then the second thing is that there's a lot of people litigating over air quality and there's some great work being done in that area. what we focus on, though, it turns out that the coal plants frequently dump all kinds of stuff in streams that render them dead zones. there are places that look like something out of that mccarthy movie, you know, the road where everything is gray and there's nothing living? there are dead zones throughout america where coal pollution's gotten into plants, where there's coal ash and other wastes have simply wiped away every single living thing in
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streams. and the second biggest driver of climate change factory farms, they frequently dump enormous amounts of manure into streams and so what we've done, we've gone after coal facilities, so we've in a series of cases we've had success stopping mountaintop removal mining in which people bring the gigantic machines -- thank you. that look liking? out of "star wars" and they simply rip the entire top of the mountain off and then dump all of the rock into a valley, what used to be a valley. so you actually have parts of west virginia that used to be the beautiful rolling hills that are now just flat, they're like a parking lot what used to be the mountain is flat and what used to be a stream is now filled and a lot of people were saying, wow, does it violate the surface mining control act or what sort of situations are there. and we argue it violates the clean water act, there used to be a stream there, and when it
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doesn't exist anymore we consider it polluted. so we've had a lot of success in that area. the factory farms, there were four megadairies in rural washington. the four rural dairies. they have so many cows they cram the cows together side to side to side. they can't even clean out where they are. so they put them in a big concrete bowl more or less and they have them just stand there in their own excrement up to their knees and they take this incredible number of cows and periodically they wash it all out and they're producing more waste than the entire human population of hoboken, new jersey. and then they were having these piles of waste that could be as high as 50 feet high and, like, eight football fields wide and they said it's not pollution because it's fertilizer and fertilizer is really valuable. it would be really valuable if you could spread it over the state of iowa, okay? when you pile it 50 feet high several football fields wide, it's not fertilizing anything.
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it's killing everything. and so what was happening was it was all getting into the ground water and the company said, oh, well, you know, it's impossible it could get into the ground water. it's amazing because it turns out the ground water downgrade from your factory farm is polluted and upstream it isn't. the factory farm is saying all the water is safe. they bring in bottled water for all the people that work and live there, right? the water is safe enough for you but it's not safe enough for us is sort of the way they were approaching it. we sued these guys and we ended up winning. the first ruling ever. thank you. that said that polluting a factory farm -- that the polluting -- dumping wastes in a way, agricultural waste, manure, that gets into the water supply violates the federal statute and we are heading towards a court order. we ended. settling in which they have new complete protocols they're dealing with the waste completely differently and none of it will get in the ground
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water and the first time in a generation many indigenous americans are actually going to drink clean water for the first time. and we have a lot of cases like this. and the last thing i wanted to talk about is abuse of powers. there's a lot of different ways in which people's civil rights are violated. we have experts who are going after several different types of cases. for example, we have a case right now in texas, latino american guy gets arrested for -- he's behind on his child support by two months. he had custody of his children for most of his life and he lost custody and his ex-wife has custody and they arrest him. three days later he's dead. seven jailers were on top of him in his cell. he died of the dts. he had the shakes. the shakes do not manifest themselves through enormous bruising of your chest and through broken ribs and severe external hemorrhaging and the guy also has boot and lace marks on his back and torso, okay?
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he was murdered. all right? this is not okay. the black lives matter movement is abouting? that's really important. this is something that trial lawyers are particularly well situated to go after. thank you. we have an anti-bullying project where we have changed the way some schools approach things. we had a case in fine bupinebus york. and our friends at the southern poverty law center said there's a significant klan presence in upstate new york not that far from albany, if you can imagine it. we had kids going to school and being beat up all the time and kids were held down while some other kid puts a swastika on their forehead. totally wrong. that is not an appropriate way for schools to deal with it. we win and sue them. we got money and we got them to
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completely change the way they approach the problems. we got them to adopt a variety of things to train the teachers to have the students to go through educational programs. every single incident as soon as there's a swastika on the wall has to be painted over in a day, a variety of different things to change the way the school operated. it wasn't enough to get money, we wanted a change in the system and that's what we were fighting for. we were doing this in -- thank you. we have a lot of different situations we're going about violence against women on campuses where some schools are good and some schools try to discourage women from coming forward. that's not okay. we're going after that. there's a variety of different things we can fight about. you know, some of these problems seem so big that they are hopeless to people. and when we first started working on climate change, for example, a good friend and litigator for a long time said that's an issue that's too big.
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you're never going to be able to make a dent in that. in the last couple of years we've shut down, twice in the last ten years, we shut down one of the ten biggest carbon dioxide polluters in america and if we are able to hold coal to internalize their own costs and they zwswallow their own costs then alternatives won't seem so expensive by comparison. if we can do it bit by bit and document the case and push the government to take the action and with the change of the supreme court relitigating some cases and going after these situations we're going to make a dent in predatory lending. a lot of the reason it's thrived is when there wasn't enforcement. the problems are not hopeless. i'm filled with hope. i'm filled with anger. i mean, i'm filled with a sense that is incredibly unfair the way things are going but i don't think it's something we have to give up on. i think if we double down and take the anger and turn it into something positive and we fight
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case by day case and build the story, we can change this country. thank you. >> thank you. and this concludes our morning session. while congress is on break this week we're going to bring you "american history tv" programming normally seen on the weekends here on c-span3. the 50th anniversary of the vietnam war with filmmaker ken burns and secretary of state john kerry who is a vietnam vet. tonight at 8:00 eastern. c-span's "washington journal" begins a two-day look at issues on the u.s./mexico border. they visited laredo, texas, and learned about trade across the border there. >> throughout the laredo field office, $166 billion in goods
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imported in fiscal year '15. over 3 million commercial conveyances. here at the laredo port of entry alone, a little over 2 million trucks, $115 billion in trade. that translates, here where we're at today, a little over 6,000 trucks a day are coming through this lot. customs and border protection employees, the layered enforcement strategy that involves the advanced information that's transmitted to us. we use that information to identify the higher-risk conveyances tat s that we want dedicate our resources to. really it's about even before the shipment gets to the border, it's about working with your stakeholders, our other government agency partners, our trusted trade importers, custom trade partnership against terrorism partners to make sure
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they're employing very secure controls throughout their import process. and then the shipment gets here to the compound. we risk assess it. we determine what needs to be examined. the shipment is released. and then even after the shipment is released our job hasn't ended. we still continue to look at paperwork after the fact. the post entry review, to make sure that we're collecting all of the proper revenue. making sure the goods are in compliance with all u.s. government rules and regulations. cbp enforces the laws and regulations of 40 other federal agencies. the last fiscal year laredo field office, $271 million in duties collected. >> are user fees different? >> user fees are a straigeparat fund. and that goes -- the master of the conveyance, the trucker, will pay. and that goes into the general -- kind of our general
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funds. it helps to pay, you know, offset the costs of our exams and otherwise our operations. >> the money from duties, that goes to the treasury? >> the duties go to the treasury, that's correct. it goes into the general coffers. so, we see a lot of different commodities. some of our highest volume, automobiles, automobile parts, medical devices, computer equipment, telecommunications equipment. i would also, you know, point out we're seeing more and more agricultural goods. throughout the field office especially down in the rio grande valley here in laredo as well, so we see a lot of perishable fruits and vegetables coming across as well. we have textile products as well. we see quite a bit. but definitely the automotive industry and parts that support the automobile industry are our largest commodities by volume
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coming in and value. >> does it ever slow down? >> not really. you know, there's some seasonal peaks and troughs, but it's pretty steady throughout the year. when the holidays roll around, you know, everybody kind of takes a chance to take a deep breath. but even, you know, i was here reported last summer, and even over the christmas holidays, we still had significant volume coming across, so, you know, basically it's a 365-day-a-year operation. >> we'll be live at the u.s./mexico border starting tomorrow. brandon darby managing director and editor for breitbart texas talks about illegal immigration in the area. and we discuss citizenship and deportation laws and "dallas morning news" examines the impact of mexican drug cartels.
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thursday's focus is trade and we'll discuss trade across the laredo border. congressman henry cuellar of texas talks about how trade benefits texas and the country and bob cash state director, and a nafta critic, looks at the impact on jobs from southern texas to mexico. live from laredo, texas, wednesday and thursday starting at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. vice president joe biden delivered remarks on reducing gun violence in the u.s. his comments came in the afternoon of meetings held at the white house with state and local officials looking for ways to deal with gun violence across the country. this is about 35 minutes.
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>> you don't want to be caught doing that. it could hurt you. >> earlier today i led off with my remarks acknowledging and commending the president, president obama and vice president biden, for reigniting a national conversation on gun violence prevention that had laid dormant in the united states since 1994. it was in 1994, after all, of course, that congress took meaningful action to address gun violence. and it was chairman biden of the senate judiciary committee who was the author and champion of those provisions banning certain assault weapons, establishing a temporary waiting period before
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purchasing a firearm, the brady bill, and that would -- and that brady bill would sunset once a national criminal instant background check system was established. of course, the assault weapon ban expired in 2004. and we have not achieved a universal background check system in the united states. in fact, we've been thwarted from achieving that goal. after the shooting at sandy hook elementary school, president obama visited connecticut and pledged to the families and the victims, indeed every parent in the nation, that he would take meaningful actions to protect their children. five days later president obama stood in the james brady press room and announced that vice president biden would lead a task force charged with producing a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence. vice president biden didn't waste a moment.
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he engaged the american people. he engaged lawmakers. he even engaged a governor. he engaged with members of the obama administration and with mental health professionals and with law enforcement officials as well and he spoke with the parents including parents of the children who died at sandy hook. he did all this to try to find solutions to the scourge of gun violence. a month later vice president biden reported back to the president. he recommended executive actions to be taken and as a result this administration has strengthened the existing background check. has given law enforcement officials more of the tools they need to prevent and respond to gun crimes, made schools safer and ensured that they are prepared to respond to emergencies and improve access to mental health care as well. he also recommended that congress pass legislation to make background checks truly universal. make guns -- make gun trafficking a federal crime. and ban assault weapons and
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high-capacity magazines. unfortunately for so many, congress failed to act on the vice president's recommendations. but the administration's call to action has galvanized state and local governments to do what they can to reduce gun violence. we've done so in connecticut, enacting some of the toughest and smartest and most commonsense gun safety laws in the nation. vice president biden helped us do that. he visited our state to make sure that we got it done. no one has more credibility on this issue than vice president biden. so, it is my great honor, and it is a pleasure, to introduce the vice president of the united states, joe biden. >> please sit down. please. thank you. thank you. please. you've already had a long day,
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and for you mayors, governors, state legislators, you know, there's an old saw that they always use in my favorite town other than wilmington, delaware, philadelphia, which is sort of a suburb of delaware, and w.c. fields said, one night i spent a week in philadelphia. well, you know, one day you spent a week in washington. i don't want to extend that week too much further. but gov, thank you. you have -- you've been remarkable. you and o'malley have done incredible things, as has the others. you've taken some real chances. you've taken some real hits, but you've made real progress. and a lot of you mayors have done the same, and we have members of congress here who have been steadfast in trying to
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get done what the president and i feel so strongly about, as they do as well. you know, i don't have to tell you, i'm not going to go through what they prepared for me, which is good, but the bottom line here is that we know that gun violence -- gun violence is ravaging our communities. i mean, this is not -- this is not -- of all the civilized countries in the world, this is an exception. it doesn't have to be this way. there is no reason for it to be this way. and, you know, we always extend our prayers and sympathies for those who are -- who are victims of gun violence, and, you know, there's horrible, horrible, horrible events like sandy hook. i spent a lot of time up there.
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i still keep in touch, gov, with at least 10 or 12 of those parents, i mean, on a fairly regular basis. and -- because a lot of them are still fighting very hard, very hard, for the kind of rational changes. but, you know, and any street corner in some of the bigger cities in america, you know, in a month there's equally that many people, you know, shot dead. and a number of bystanders that are badly injured and/or killed. and, you know, and how many children, it's not as large, that pick up a gun that doesn't have a trigger lock on it or is not safely stored and, you know, blows their own brains out or the kid next door. and so -- and the frustrating part for me is -- and i'll be blunt with you. i mean, i -- i'm the guy who did the first real serious gun bill
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in the last 40 years. i mean, i actually sat down -- no, no. i didn't say it for that reason. i don't say it for that reason. i really don't, it's not like i did this. i don't mean it that way. but, it took a hell of a long time. it passed in the '94 cycle, '93 cycle, but i started writing this legislation as chairman of the judiciary committee back in the early '80s. and i'm so damn old, i got here right after all the fights on gun control after the assassination of president kennedy. i got here in '72. and you had guys like joe clark, senator of pennsylvania, and tidings in maryland, great senators, who lost on the gun issue, on, quote, gun control back in the '70s -- excuse me, in the '60s. and so this is a perennial fight
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that's been going on in the united states of america for a long time. but one of the things that i've learned in the effort that ultimately succeeded -- and i have to admit to you we're not the overall crime bill that had $30 billion in it to help localities. i'm not so sure we could have gotten some of what we got done on the gun -- rational gun policy side. so, we're all pros here. i'm not trying to sell you a bill of goods that this is an easy thing to do, but it took a long time. and so i'd like to start off by saying to you all that we don't think this is the end of the process. and a lot of people keep saying why are we still pushing the congress, you know you're not going to get anything done. well, i'm more of a -- i was a legislator for 36 years in the senate. and i'm going to say something outrageous, i was a fairly successful legislator. i got a lot of stuff passed. and i don't know anything that is difficult that comes quickly.
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the only example i can give you in my entire career is what the president did on the affordable care act. it was a bit of an epiphany that that happened as rapidly as it did. but most of this stuff takes a whole lot of time. and the reason i say this is that after newtown as the governor said, the president asked me to put together a package. and it had a number of legislative recommendations, but it also had, you know, 40 recommendations relating to executive actions that the president could take. and the irony is it had overwhelming support. overwhelming. it had the support of the -- of the health care community. it had support of the -- everyone engaged in the effort. 80% of the american people supported the proposals.
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56% of homes with gun owners in the home supported the proposals. this wasn't something that was somehow -- that didn't immediately make sense to the average american and overwhelmingly made sense. as a matter of fact, what struck me in the polling data was the significant number of people thought we already had laws like that. you know, it's a little bit like if i can make an analogy, you know, you can go have a same-sex marriage in about 37 states and show up at work the next -- that same day and get fired because you're gay. most people don't know that states still allow that to happen. because don't we have, you know, the constitutional right to marry whomever you wish. it's the same kind of thing when you start talking about these gun issues.
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and so one of the things that i want to say to you because you've been meeting all day is that the things we're talking about, universal background checks, supporting gun violence research for the disease, the centers for disease control, smart guns, all the stuff you've had on the agenda, domestic violence, these are things th that -- the hard part is not convincing your constituents as a whole that it makes sense. the hard part is convincing congress that is -- no. because, look, i served there a long time. i have great respect for the house and senate. i really do. but where we are today politically in the makeup of the how we get elected, the
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gerrymandering that exists in the house seats. some states that are now all red or all blue, it's hard to get -- generate consensus because both parties are worried about either the left or the right. they're not worried about the center. the rational center as some would say. and so one of the things that we have done, the president has implemented 23 of the executive orders, and you know them, i'm thought go i not going to go through, expanding mental health benefits to 60 million more people so there's access, et cetera, but has come up with some pretty controversial in the minds of some executive actions that are helping. but one of the things that you talked about today, background checks. i asked because the president
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has asked me to lead this effort, i asked us to go back and take a look at how well are we at the federal level doing our job to deal with, let's say, background checks. i'm the guy with brady who actually insisted on the nik system being set up. it was the compromise that was going to allow for instant purchase, instant background checks could occur, et cetera. and the truth is that two things happened that aren't good. one is the demand for these background checks outran the capacity for the system to be able to handle them. so, we called for, as we went through and back and scrubbed what we were doing, called for 261 i think it is new employees to be able to handle these calls, to be able to move quickly. because right now if you go into
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any one of your states and you are at dick's sporting goods, you want to buy a shotgun or whatever you want to buy, pick up the phone and call and if they can't get an answer in the next 24 hours, guess what, you can -- we've extended it for three days. you can go ahead and get the gun no matter what your background is. and so that's partially our fault. because we've had trouble getting funding for things we care about these last eight years. and it's clear when we wrote the legislation, the only way we could get it passed is it would sunset in ten years. it had to be reauthorized, some of it, like the assault weapons ban. and where they were unable to do away with the legislation itself, what they were successful in doing is diminishing the funding for the agencies in charge of implementing various pieces of the legislation. we also found out which we already knew, a lot of your states are not doing their part.
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a lot of the states are not reporting what they are required to report. when we first drafted the law a lot of states said it's going to cost us money to do this. so we provided seed money to help set up the computer systems and the mechanisms by which to transfer the information. but it's amazing what is not reported. we recently talked to the governor of a state that is very progressive on these issues, and we pointed out that there was only one case of reported to the system relating to mental health. and they said, one? well, that's the only one in the whole state. that's the state i'm moving to, you know, you only have one person needing mental health, you know, work. but the point is, you guys can make a big difference back at home. you guys can make a big difference, state legislators, mayors, et cetera, insisting that your state step up and
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abide by the reporting requirements that are written law. now, some of your states have gone further, which is a good thing, and had your own background check system and added to the exclusionary provisions, what would exclude you from being able to own a weapon. you've added additional personnel or additional categories of that. and so some states have moved on. but the generic point i want to make to you is, you just had a piece -- you just had a roundtable or a long table on background checks. there's a lot more that we can do if we just reported. if the states just reported the information that's available to them or figure out how to better aggregate that information to transfer to the system. because it would save lives. we can save lives. and i know, quote, the system is not an acronym that jumps to the lips of every legislator.
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a lot don't know what it is. you all do. but it matters. it matters if you put pressure on your systems in order to make sure the information is transferred. transferred to the system. i think it's down in virginia. and be able to get that information so when that clerk from dick's calls it's on the list if, in fact, they shouldn't -- they wouldn't qualify. and so we've extended the time to three days before you can, you know, purchase the weapon if you get no answer back from the system. but this is going to -- you're going to see a lot of pressure for that to change and to go back to the 24 hours unless we actually are able to get more rapid response from the system and more information in the system that gives us some reason
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to believe that we are -- we are getting the cadre of people who are appropriately, constitutionally able to be prohibited from owning a weapon. now, some of your states you'll hear that there's -- i think it's three to five states that have legislation saying that we can't give mental health information because it's violation of hipaa rules. simply not true. the department of health and human services has put out a regulation saying it is not a violation. so, when you hear if it's brought up in your legislature or it's brought up in your community that, well, we would provide this information, we can't do it because it's a violation of the privacy rules of -- in hipaa. it's not true. that is simply not true. and it surprised me but it's understandable because i would be the same way if i


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