Teresa Heinz Kerry Visits Liberal Values For A Discussion of Women’s Health and The Environment

Teresa Heinz Kerry joins Liberal Values today on her blog tour. I wish I could say that the above picture was taken as I personally discussed these issues with Teresa, but actually it was taken when she was campaigning in Michigan shortly before the Iowa caucus. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that John Kerry just might manage to pull into second place, keeping his long-shot chances at the nomination alive. I don’t know if it was just optimism for her husband, or if Teresa really knew something, but she did sound hopeful for a first place victory in Iowa. John Kerry did go on to win the Iowa caucus, to win the nomination, and to beat the odds in coming as close as he did to an incumbent President during war time.

Teresa and John Kerry have used the time since the election to promote some of their long-standing interests, including the environment. This includes their recent book, This Moment on Earth, as well as Teresa’s work on women’s health and the environment. Teresa Heinz Kerry and the Heinz Endowments recently sponsored a conference on Women’s Health and the Environment in Pittsburgh. Starting about a week before the conference, Teresa has been on this blog tour. Participating blogs submitted written questions to Teresa at the onset of the tour. These questions were written during the recent conservative attack on those who discuss climate change after Al Gore won his Oscar. Teresa’s responses to my questions follow :

Liberal Values: The Heartland Institute quotes from a September speech from Senator Inhofe attacking those speaking out on global warming, and slurs James Hansen for having received a grant from the Heinz Foundation. Similar attacks have come from House Republicans and right wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. Inhofe’s speech included the following statements:

The 60 Minutes segment made no mention of Hansen’s partisan ties to former Democrat Vice President Al Gore or Hansen’s receiving of a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from the left-wing Heinz Foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry. There was also no mention of Hansen’s subsequent endorsement of her husband John Kerry for president in 2004.”

Many in the media dwell on any industry support given to so-called climate skeptics, but the same media completely fail to note Hansen’s huge grant from the left-wing Heinz Foundation.

The foundation’s money originated from the Heinz family ketchup fortune. So it appears that the media makes a distinction between oil money and ketchup money.”

Could you discuss why you felt James Hansen was deserving of a grant, as well as any comments on the slurs from Senator Inhofe and other conservatives?

Teresa: Let me begin with some background information. The Heinz Awards were established in 1993 in honor of the late Senator John Heinz, to recognize outstanding leaders in areas in which he was most active. Among the largest individual achievement prizes in the world, the Heinz Awards recognize significant and sustained contributions in the Arts and Humanities, the Environment, the Human Condition, Public Policy, and Technology, the Economy and Employment. The annual awards program is the primary activity of the Heinz Family Foundation, which initially began as a charitable trust established by Senator Heinz in 1984, with the first Heinz Awards given in 1994. The Heinz Family Foundation is a part of the Heinz Family Philanthropies and the Heinz Awards program is a distinct part of the philanthropies, with a separate board of directors.

The Heinz Awards nominations are submitted by an invited Council of Nominators, all experts in their fields who serve anonymously. The nominations are reviewed by five panels of 10 jurors each appointed by the Foundation. Award recipients are selected by the Board of Directors of the Heinz Awards upon review of the jurors’ recommendations. The award money is for the recipients’ unrestricted use. Heinz Award winners receive their awards at a private ceremony in Washington, D.C. There are eight board members – I am one of them.

Each year the Heinz Awards board of directors selects an individual(s) in each of the categories who work best personifies the memory of my late husband Senator John Heinz. Jim was selected:

“… for his exemplary leadership in the critical and often-contentious debate over the threat of global climate change. The theory that industrial pollution continues to create an atmospheric “greenhouse effect” or warming has pitted scientist against scientist and politician against politician. In the eye of the storm that swirls around this issue is Dr. Hansen. He calmly pursues his research while scrupulously maintaining his scientific credibility and modifying his views as new data and techniques have become available, all the while acting as a messenger from the esoteric world of computer climate models to the public and policymakers alike. It was Dr. Hansen who, in the sweltering, drought-scorched summer of 1988, went where few scientists were willing to go – before Congress, to explain just how serious the potential for global warming truly was. Dr. Hansen courageously testified that the time had come to recognize that the “greenhouse effect” was real and that new and cleaner sources of energy had to be found. Time has validated his position. The director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, Dr. Hansen has collected and analyzed global surface temperatures and studied the earth’s atmosphere since the 1970s. The advocacy role he has undertaken has placed him squarely in the uncomfortable role of serving as lightening rod in the debate. He is respected among his peers for his creativity, his intellectual rigor and flexibility, and his dogged pursuit of this pressing global problem. Dr. Hansen’s critics, however, claim that his findings and computer models are uncertain, contradictory and prone to induce hysteria. “

With regard to the slurs of Senator Inhofe and other conservatives, it is important to remember that Senator Inhofe and Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Mark Souder (R-IN) or other conservatives have not spent most of their adult lives studying the Earth’s atmosphere. Jim Hansen’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals for nearly 40 years. He is arguably the world’s leading researcher on global warming. Dr. Hansen’s campaign to change federal policy and educate the public about climate change dates back to at least 1988, when he pushed the concept of global warming into the national consciousness with testimony before an often hostile Congressional committee.

As well as earning him a Heinz Award, Hansen’s outspokenness has earned him criticism, as well. Some of those critics, including some inside the Bush Administration, have attempted to silence Dr. Hansen. Failing that, they have tried to undercut his credibility with unfounded attacks on his character. So let me be clear: Dr. Hansen’s views on global warming were well known for more than a decade before he was honored with a Heinz Award.

In fact, on his web page on the Columbia University website, he has a “Statement of Political Inclinations” (http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/polinclin.pdf) which includes this paragraph:

“In the 1980s I met politicians of both parties in the course of testifying to the United States Senate and House of Representatives. My favorite politician then, as I indicated to friends, was Senator John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican, who I hoped would one day run for President. I may have been biased by the fact that he called me at home to tell me that he had intervened with John Sununu (head of President George H. Bush’s staff) on my behalf (I have a 17 May 1989 letter from Heinz describing those interactions) after I complained about alterations of my Senate testimony by the Bush Administration.”

There is no quid-quo-pro involved in the award, it carries with it no obligation to hew a Foundation line or even refrain from criticizing us, should a recipient find a reason to do so. Dr. Hansen’s support of Senator Kerry in the 2004 presidential election was clearly based on Senator Kerry’s recognition – in sharp contrast to President Bush’s willful disregard – of the dangers of climate change. Ad hominem attacks are simply dishonorable attempts to change the subject by those who do not have the facts on their side.

Liberal Values: The press release for your upcoming conference states the conference will include information for women including “protective steps they can take as they make everyday decisions about their health and lifestyles.” What are some of the protective steps that you recommend women take?

Teresa: All of us, including men, need to demand from our leaders in Congress and the White House that cosmetics, personal care and household products are tested in the same manner as food, drugs, air, and water to ensure that we are not using products with known carcinogens. Here is why: according to Dr. Devra Davis and Dr. Ron Herberman in the upcoming newsletter from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Center for Environmental Oncology, “….when experimental animals are tested at the lowest parts per billion level — over the animal’s lifetime — they develop cancer. The levels found in some children’s bathing products are one thousand times greater and measured in parts per million.”

Drs. Davis and Herberman also dispel another myth. While many believe that we are protected by the FDA (which has established a recommended level of no more than 10 parts per million in consumer products), the reality is something completely different.

Davis and Herberman explain:

“David Steinman’s research, discussed in his book Safe Trip to Eden and additional studies after the book was published, shows that at least 15 percent of cosmetic products with 1,4-dioxane exceed the FDA recommended upper limit. But since these so-called limits are only voluntary, companies not meeting them face no consequences from the federal government. Within a day of the Newsweek (http://www.safecosmetics.org/newsroom/newsweek_2_15_07.cfm) article appearing, ATSDR withdrew from its website the toxicological profile of 1, 4- dioxane. The revised posting as of April, 2007 (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp187.html) says,

“In February, 2007, ATSDR, [an agency charged with evaluating toxic hazards,]was informed by the Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Cosmetics and Colors, that an error was present in the Public Health Statement of the toxicological profile. The FDA pointed out to ATSDR that the FDA had not recommended a limit for 1, 4-dioxane in cosmetic products.”

In fact, the only FDA recommendation about 1, 4-dioxane pertains to levels in adhesives and food additives. The ATSDR revised notice advises consumers to read labels: “1, 4-dioxane may be a contaminant in cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos that contain the following ingredients (which may be listed on the product label): “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” “-eth-“ or “-oxynol-.”*Most manufacturers remove 1, 4-dioxane from these ingredients to concentrations recommended by the FDA as safe.”

This alone should convince all parents that every day we are putting are lives in jeopardy and that of our children. It is time for action – not more rhetoric.

Second, a recently released book Michael de Jong entitled Clean: the Humble Art of Zen Cleansing (available on Amazon.com), explains how you can use five basic products to clean your home.

Third, Deirde Imus, in her new book, Green This! Volume One: Greening Your Cleaning, urges people to find less toxic and more environmentally friendly ways to clean their homes.

Fourth, buying organic or other locally grown food and join with others to promote this. Buying organic or other food locally and join with others to promote such efforts: http://www.relocalize.net/ . Consider inviting your friends and neighbors over for a “fifty-mile dinner”, in which everything served comes from within fifty miles of your town

Fifth, switch to safer personal care products, listed here: http://www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep2/?key=nosign

And keep up to date on coordinated efforts at our new website: http://womenshealthandtheenvironment.org/

There are also creative ways to bring attention to the issues, including painting a public mural, memorializing women lost to breast cancer, like the Cambridge-based Women’s Community Cancer Project mural in Harvard Square, which also celebrates political activism against cancer, condemns environmental carcinogens, and insists on the right to a clean environment. http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/pwork/0399/039904.htm

We must all continue to investigate, explore, create, write, research, experiment safely, and change our ways so that our children and their children can live in a world of hope, health, and joy.

Liberal Values: Conservatives have taken on an uncharacteristic disdain of the affluent in their attacks on those speaking out on climate change, including the recent attacks on Al Gore’s energy use. In response we’ve heard about the carbon offsets and other efforts from Al Gore, and the efforts of John Edwards to make his mansion carbon neutral. What are you and Senator Kerry doing to reduce your energy use?

Teresa: We have purchased three hybrids – cars we have been hoping would come on the market for years. Perhaps the most exciting change with hybrids is the introduction (or soon to be introduced) lithium battery which can help a Prius, for example, improve gas mileage to 150 miles per gallon.

Our homes try to maximize the use of energy efficiency where available including the newest light bulbs on the market. These improvements help, but the reality is we all have a long way to go.

We have, or at least I have, reduced my airplane travel and try to accomplish more by calls and soon we will be doing much more video conferencing.

And, we are active in using carbon offsets for all of our travel. While it is not enough, it is a great place to begin.

(Thanks to Teresa for all the effort that went into providing the information in these answers. Tomorrow the blog tour concludes at Freedom’s Fire. Links to previous posts on the tour can be found here.)

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Martin Sims says:

    What does it mean to represent the American people? What do the American people expect from their representatives? How well do you feel your Representatives in Congress are doing the job of representing you, your children, your future? How much longer are we as a people going to allow the two party system of Democrats and Republicans to prevent any real changes in the fabric of our society? When each party pulls its Freshmen Representatives and Legislators into private sessions and tells them they are going to vote the party line or be opposed in the next elections by the party itself, what real change can be expected from them? Such a state of affairs creates an atmosphere in which each party must steadfastly and consistently denounce the other parties’ ideas as a matter of course, regardless of the merits to be found in the oppositions ideas.

    What does the future hold for an America trapped in a 100+ year war on drugs and facing the reality that we have never even been close to winning? How many futures have been lost or compromised by the tendency of the judiciary to throw the harshest sentences at non-violent crimes and a penal system that plays favorites with murderers, rapists and pedophiles? I believe that there are very simple things that can be done that would provide incredible results in a timescale of weeks and months rather than years and decades!!!

    Imagine if you will a national drug policy that would immediately take billions of dollars out of the hands of Hostile Governments, Terrorists, Organized Crime Cartels, Gangs, and corrupt Politicians, Peace Officers, Judges and Lawyers and put that money into practical use by the people and for the people! Imagine a policy that would allow for an evolution in the tax code making it possible to eradicate the property tax on U.S. citizens and for the first time in the history of our country provide Americans the opportunity to truly own the property they have paid for. Imagine a public policy that would provide for the downtrodden, the weak, the elderly and the mentally disabled and addicted, without demanding that more capable and or responsible American’s be held back by being made to pay for those that can’t or won’t pay for themselves.. Imagine a national drug policy that made sense and created results that could be immediately seen and felt throughout the country and the classes!!!

    All of these things are completely possible, but not until we shed some very old and destructive ideas. The first and most damaging belief that neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to be willing to let go, is the idea that you can control an addictive commodity by criminalizing it. For over 100 years we as a nation have continued to believe that by making the most addictive commodities illegal to possess or distribute that we can eradicate the desire for the commodity itself. When that has failed to work we have continued the lunacy by increasing the fines and penalties for dealing in addictive commodities. However, all that these laws have done is increase the demand and the supply by making addictive commodities so lucrative that even people not considering such wares from a point of desperation have been hard pressed to stay away from them. Furthermore the policy trend has brought about an open fear and deep-seated contempt for police officers and law enforcement agencies that have had to become paramilitary organizations to keep up with the gangs and cartels that these policies have created!!!

    Imagine what the reality of decriminalization for addictive commodities would be. I am referring to ALL ADDICTIVE COMMODITIES. If marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other such addictive commodities were decriminalized, HEAVILY taxed and the proceeds for those commodities were used to eradicate the property tax, several things could be reasonably expected to immediately follow. First and foremost, terrorists, organized crime cartels and gangs would lose control of the most lucrative commodities the world has ever known and the best market for such commodities in the world. Property values in the United Sates would soar, and agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars annually without providing comparable results could be closed down. Last year the D.E.A.’s budget was two and one half Billion dollars. How many busses, computers, textbooks, and other educational expenses could that single budget pay for? How many addicts could be brought back to a more productive and healthy lifestyle with an annual budget of 2.5 billion dollars?

    How many Americans are arrested and given criminal records each and every day as a result of our current policies? Between January 12, 2005 and September 30, 2005, there were 4,396 Federal offenders sentenced for marijuana-related charges in U.S. Courts. Think about that for a moment, almost 4,400 people incarcerated just on federal charges and only related to marijuana, in only 9 months! California alone averages 400,000 drug related arrests every year. What would the national impact of immediately ceasing such arrests be? It is time to use public policies at state and federal levels to moderate the use of the most damaging and destructive substances while using the proceeds to help those who want to quit get all the help and care they require to get clean and stay clean.

    History has given us all the lessons we should require on this subject. The criminalization of alcohol created the highest crime and murder rates known to this country until the cartels and gangs made addictive commodities their stock in trade. Now with our National Security threatened by the liquidity of such commodities and the attraction of terrorists to such revenue streams, the war on drugs must be ended to prevent inadvertently aiding the terrorist war against western civilization. It is time to control the commodities and the proceeds in the only manner possible. By legalizing the sale and distribution of these commodities through state controlled and federally monitored retailers and taxing these commodities 300% or more.

    The United States of America could see crime rates drop as much as 50%, possibly more within one year, and I would also expect the same rate of decrease in the national murder rate within a mere matter of months. The men and woman who represent us and our individual states owe it to each constituent to have an honest debate about this issue and to shed the ignorance and fear that has cost so many Americans their lives and the freedom of so many citizens for over 100 years and counting.

  2. 2
    fedup says:

    Actually Ron, I remember that picture and your report on visiting with THK back in ’04.

    Thank you Teresa for all the information and the true facts on Dr. Hansen and the actual workings of the Heinz Familly Foundation and the Heinz Awards.

    We Americans are getting quite sick of the spin and through you, Senator Kerry and Al Gore, I see hope and inspiration to get this movement going in the right direction.

  3. 3
    battlebob says:

    Martin,
    Join LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

    http://leap.cc/About/

  4. 4
    JJ Ross says:

    I was thinking of Senator and Mrs. Kerry on Earth Day last week as I looked around online to see what kinds of child-appropriate resources we could link, to cover its origin and history.

    The child’s eye view of Earth Day is that it took not a whole government but just one dedicated Senator, to generate enough human energy and imagination to get things going. Now, imagine if that one senator had had a wife like Teresa Heinz Kerry!

    Thanks, this is another super interview on a truly superb blog tour —
    JJ

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