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February 13, 2012 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-13

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4A - Monday, February 13, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Monday, February 13, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Imran Syed is the public editor. He can be reached at publiceditor@michigandaily.com.
Planned atta cks
Divestment threatens women's health care
Last week, amid public outcry, the breast cancer foundation,
Susan G. Komen for the Cure reversed its decision to cut fund-
ing for Planned Parenthood. The foundation's initial decision
to pull funding elicited much opposition and reignited the political
debate over abortion. While it's good that Komen ultimately reversed
its decision, this was only one in a series of attacks on Planned Parent-
hood. Conservative groups need to stop making Planned Parenthood
the face of abortion and attacking its programs, many of which pro-
vide essential health-related services to women.

Do not reply

WhenI think back to my
first e-mail address, it's
with a sense of nostal-
gia that's usu-
ally reserved for
childhood pets
- which my par-
ents didn't love
me enough to
invest in.
It was an AOL
account, from ANDREW
the pioneer- WEINER
ing days of the
Internet. This
was when e-mail
addresses were paid for monthly
and the words "speed" and "Inter-
net" didn't belong in the same
sentence. What e-mails would an
elementary schooler have received?
Still, the blue spectrum of AOL is as
burnt into my memory as the excite-
ment I felt when I saw I had a new
Unfortunately now when I look
at my inbox, which consists of three
accounts routed to my phone, I do so
begrudgingly. I delete, ignore and
respond - and almost always in that
order. Sifting through usually takes
longer than reading and responding
to the important items.
It has to be asked: Is e-mail still
working? And it's not just whiny
students like me asking this ques-
In 2010, Symantec - the compa-
ny behind Norton Antivirus - esti-
mated that 92 percent of e-mail is
spam. While this number is shock-
ing, most of this is caught in increas-
ingly advanced spam filters and
doesn't significantly curb efficiency.
Atos - an information technolo-
gy firm with nearly 80,000 employ-
ees - audited its staff's e-mail
accounts in December. They found
only 10 percent contained impor-
tant information. In response, the
company's CEO announced Atos
would phase out e-mail over the
coming 18 months.
Instead, it'll replace e-mail with
phone conversations, face-to-face
interactions and a business network
tool - a sort of company Facebook,
something many firms already have.
It's a telling sign when one of the
world's largest IT companies finds
it prudent to leave e-mail in the

dumpster of forgotten communica-
tion tools with fax machines and
Other companies, however, are
rethinking e-mail systems for rea-
sons beyond efficiency. On Dec. 23,
Volkswagen decided it would begin
to turn on and shut off company
BlackBerry e-mail services half an
hour before and after work hours,
respectively. This wasn't just a case
of a corporation gaining a sense of
compassion. The move was a result
of serious negotiation with labor
Instant communication like
e-mail has induced the mood that
instant responses are expected at all
hours of the day. That's not a prob-
lem when returning a text from a
friend, but it carries costly implica-
tions for businesses.
Imagine if someone dislikes his
or her job. They don't get the satis-
faction many get from their work
or maybe the management's inepti-
tude isn't as endearing as Steve
Carell's on "The Office." For those
who look forward to non-business
hours and weekends, smartphones
and e-mail provide a constant and
probably unwanted tie to the office.
Job satisfaction is at a discourag-
ing low in America. According to a
2010 Conference Board study, only
45 percent of Americans are satis-
fied with their jobs. Though data
on happiness is always inexact and
contested, the downward trend is
alarming. When the study was con-
ducted in 1987, job satisfaction was
at 61.1 percent. With less distinction
between work and downtime, it will
continue to decrease.
Most companies are not Volk-
swagen. They continue to bar-
rage employees with after-hours
e-mails. Not surprisingly, this has
already spelled trouble for many.
The "e-mail as overtime" debate is
popping up in courtrooms across
America. In 2009, real estate giant
CB Richard Ellis and mobile com-
munications company T-Mobile
both faced lawsuits from employees
about after-hours communications.
The federal Fair Labor Standards
Act regulates overtime pay. The act
itself is lawyer-y and complex. Two
things, however, are easy to under-

First, employers have legal obli-
gation to know when their employ-
ees are working and pay them for
the time. Second, FLSA is in some
ways outdated - especially its over-
time policy.
Some companies have attempted
to work around the system. In 2008,
ABC News attracted legal trouble
when employees refused to sign a
waiver stating they wouldn't be paid
for using company-issued BlackBer-
rys after hours. Employees can't
waive FLSA rights. If they could, all
employers could bully workers into
doing so - defeating the purpose of
employee protection.
I delete, ignore
and respond
- in that order.
The precedent to decide if e-mails
are even overtime is a debate in
itself. In the 1940s, courts ruled
that awarding overtime to employ-
ees performing work at home would
be decided on a basis of de mini-
mis. Judges have to decide the very
minimum amount of work needed
to qualify as compensational. Inter-
pretation of de minimis has varied
from judge to judge. Can the action
be quantified and aggregated? Is ita
matter of effort or time?
Even as it appears e-mail is going
by the wayside, the problem needs to
be addressed before more lawsuits
complicate the matter. The Depart-
ment of Labor needs to have more
explicit and modern definitions
of overtime law. Workers should
know their rights and realize in
most cases they aren't obligated to
keep working when they get home.
Employers need to understand the
risk of costly public lawsuits, work
with employees instead of against
them and explore alternative means
of communication - even if they
entail old-fashioned methods like
actually speaking. In person.
- Andrew Weiner can be reached
at anweiner@umich.edu. Follow him
on Twitter at @andrewweiner.

Komen announced its plans to cut fund-
ing for Planned Parenthood on Jan. 31, cit-
ing a policy that forbids donations to groups
under investigation. The decision elicited
public opposition and was criticized for
being politically motivated. In the aftermath
of the announcement, Planned Parenthood
received an outpouring of support via social
media outlets and it raised more than $3
million. Caving to public pressure, Komen
reversed its decision on Feb. 3 and apologized
to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is unfairly targeted
by anti-abortion groups. Only 3 percent of its
health services are abortion-related. Beyond
that, Planned Parenthood provides cancer
screenings, testing for sexually transmit-
ted diseases and family planning guidance.
These are all services that empower women
and advance women's health. Anti-abortion
groups regularly manipulate the facts to
make Planned Parenthood the scapegoat of
the abortion battle.
Komen prides itself on being a voice for
women's health. It's disappointing that an

organization that shares goals with Planned
Parenthood would resort to cutting funds for
political reasons. There's too much baseless
political rhetoric surrounding Planned Parent-
hood. Organizations need to check the facts
before making such drastic decisions.
Family planning, sexual protection and
STD screening are instrumental in health
education and awareness. Planned Parent-
hood provides a secure and comfortable envi-
ronment for women to use these services, and
it's especially useful for low-income women,
who couldn't otherwise afford care.
Health care for young women should con-
tinue to be easily accessible, and Planned
Parenthood ensures that it is. Abortion oppo-
nents need to stop attacking Planned Par-
enthood for procedures it rarely performs.
Planned Parenthood isn't an abortion orga-
nization - it's an organization that seeks to
empower and educate women about their
health. Conservative anti-abortion groups
need to understand that the variety of servic-
es offered by Planned Parenthood are instru-
mental in women's health care.

The war for oil theory

Aida Ali, Laura Argintar, Kaan Avdan, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Harsha Panduranga, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts, Vanessa
Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Seth Soderborg, Caroline Syms, Andrew Weiner
CliCk to change the world

A recent discussion in one of my Middle
Eastern studies classes on the topic of natu-
ral resources and U.S. foreign policy quickly
spiraled into a melee of rhetoric - one which
showed me how deeply misinformed many
Americans remain about the nature of the U.S-
led coalition intervention in Iraq. Most of my
classmates were adamant that the U.S. unjustly
invaded a sovereign Iraq in reckless pursuit of
the world's most sought-after natural resource.
The biggest flaw of the popular war for oil
theory is that it stands upon a speculative
foundation: the U.S. is a leading consumer of
the world's oil, Iraq is a major producer of oil
and Bush and Cheney were former oil entre-
preneurs. If one digs deep into research, one
may also discover a certain Halliburton sub-
sidiary named Kellogg, Brown and Root that
had contracts with the U.S. military early in
the war. These contracts were for military
logistics - shipping of supplies, construction
of base camps, mail delivery, trash collection
and doing laundry. KBR was granted no con-
tracts for Iraqi oil, and in fact was fired by the
U.S. Department of Defense for overcharging
for its services in 2006.
So what is this foggy concept? Did the U.S.
invade to plunder black gold with brute mili-
tary force? No U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty
Organization theft of Iraqi oil has ever been
reported by an official American private or
governmental source, or for that matter by
any Iraqi source.
Did the U.S. invade in order to open Iraq's
oil market? The U.S. already regularly pur-
chased oil from Iraq prior to the invasion,
though the amount was heavily dampened by
trade sanctions. If the U.S. needed more oil,
removing trade sanctions while requesting
that the United Nations lower financial sanc-
tions on Iraq would have done the job, as the
country was producing well below capacity
due to tight finances. Through the first year
of the invasion in 2003, the U.S. imported
notably less oil from Iraq than it had in the
previous three years - less than 500,000
barrels per day. At the time Iraq was only our
sixth-largest foreign supplier. In 2008 Iraq
was our seventh largest supplier.
Or maybe the U.S. invaded in order to lib-
erate the Iraqis, thus winning special favor in
future oil deals. In December 2009, the Iraqi
Ministry of Oil headed one of the largest oil
auctions in the history of the industry. Some
of the most lucrative contracts were awarded
to companies from China, Russia and France
- the three nations that most vehemently
opposed the 2003 coalition invasion.
The most fundamental law of economics

smashes the oil war hypothesis. Nine days
before the kickoff of the invasion, the average
U.S. retail price of gas was $1.72 a gallon. As
we all know, the price has only continued to
climb since then. Supply and demand proves
the U.S. has clearly not benefited from any
sort of secretive oil deals or increased import
since the invasion.
What the U.S. seems to have forgotten is
the official justification for the intervention:
Saddam Hussein's purported "weapons of
mass destruction." When it was discovered
that no such operational weapons existed, all
derision turned to the Bush administration.
Had Bush intentionally misled the world in
a belligerent quest for oil paid for in blood
rather than in dollars?
Two irrefutable facts contradict this.
First, no hard evidence has been uncovered
that suggests the Bush administration inten-
tionally misled anyone. Considering the
sheer number of diplomats in Washington
and among our NATO allies, this is astonish-
ing. Second, ina series of interviews with FBI
agent and Lebanese American George Piro,
Hussein admitted he did not have WMDs in
2003, but had planned to resume his weapons
program within a year. Out of perpetual fear
of renewed aggression from Iran, he admit-
ted to leading U.N. weapons inspectors on
repeated wild goose chases to convince the
international community he had WMDs,
hopefully scaring off Iranian belligerence.
The Bush administration did not have to
deceive the rest of the world - Hussein did
it himself.
The effect of Middle Eastern political sta-
bility on the global oil market was relevant to
U.S. interest. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s
and Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait caused
slight spikes in global oil prices, and the
effect on gas prices of a hypothetical major
multinational war of attrition in the region
could potentially bring many of the world's
modernized economies to a halt. The ulti-
mate motivation for invasion was in fact a
genuine - if not myopic - fear of Hussein's
weapons capabilities based on faulty intelli-
gence and fueled in part by a post-9/11 state
of semi-paranoia.
At such an outstanding academic insti-
tution like the University, we should really
strive after the facts, not the trendy politi-
cally weighted anecdotes. Sadly, almost nine
years since the invasion, the war for oil myth
still stands as the most popularly accepted
conspiracy theory in American history.
Jared Szuba is an [SA junior.


hile dressed in pajamas
at my breakfast table
last week, I joined more
than 407,000
other Americans
in telling Presi-
dent Barack A
Obama that we
disapprove of his
recent appoint-
ments to the U.S.
Food and Drug
Administration. KRISTEN
With a simple
tap on my smart- KILUK
phone, I was
able to connect
with a body of people who shared
my position.
Voicing my opinion through an
Internet petition was convenient,
but I have to wonder how effective
this process is. A simple click of the
mouse seems way too easy to have
a powerful impact on federal policy
and decision-making. Can it really
make a difference?
However menial my act of Inter-
net participation may seem, it's true
that the face of the World Wide Web
is changing. The Internet is becom-
ing a far more pivotal place - a
breeding ground for massive social
and political collaboration.
Take the Internet-mediated evo-
lution of the Occupy Wall Street
movement for example. It was first
organized on Twitter, and mobilized
many participants to protest through
events, petitions and articles posted
on Facebook. The movement even
has a central website, www.occu-
pytogether.org, where you can find
contact information for regional
Occupy groups and resources to
start up your own Occupy group.
The petition I signed last week,
though first posted at signon.org
in September, has suddenly gained
momentum this month. It's a call to
stop the appointment of government
officials who have ties to the very
industries which they are respon-

sible for regulating. The key request
of the petition is to remove Michael
Taylor, the FDA deputy commission-
er for foods appointed by Obama in
January 2010.
A quick look at Taylor's employee
profile on the FDA website shows
that he has worked in various gov-
ernment positions throughout the
FDA and Department of Agricul-
ture, in addition to some university
research positions. He is well-edu-
cated and experienced with issues
of food safety and policy. But scroll
down to the very end of the profile -
yes, it is listed as the very last detail
on the page - and you see that he
served as the vice president for pub-
lic policy at Monsanto Company. He
held the position from 1998-2001.
If you are not already aware,
Monsanto Company is the same
organization which championed
the use of pesticides such as DDT
and Agent Orange during and after
the Second World War. Given that
these two substances were later
banned by the Environmental Pro-
tection Agency due to their severe
health effects, I can't bring myself
to entrust the laws regarding the
health and safety of the American
population to a former employee
of such a profit-motivated, socially
irresponsible organization.
Though it may be inevitable that
sometimes the best experts in a field
happen to have worked in indus-
try, Michael Taylor's close associa-
tions with Monsanto and past public
stances on agricultural issues seem
to be diametrically opposed to the
purpose of the FDA. Frederick Ravid,
the creator of the petition criticizing
Michael Taylor, emphasizes it in the
body of the petition's text.
"Taylor was in charge of policy
for Monsanto's now-discredited GM
bovine growth hormone (rBGH),
which is opposed by many medical
and hospital organizations," Ravid
wrote. "It was Michael Taylor who
pursued a policy that milk from

rBGH-treated cows should not be
labeled with disclosures."
Taylor's current position in the
FDA makes him responsible for
overseeing U.S. food labeling, cre-
ating a strategy for food safety and
planning new food safety legislation.
Prior to his appointment, his posi-
tion did not exist.



should embrace
online petitions.
SignOn.org, where the petition
wasposted,issponsored by MoveOn.
org Civic Action. "With over 5 mil-
lion members across America, we
have the strength - together - to
stand up to Washington and its cor-
porate lobbyists in order to achieve
real progressive change for real
people," the website states. "We are
democracy in action."
The philosophy of this website
and the example of the Michael Tay-
lor petition may be tools the Ameri-
can people should learn to embrace.
Though it is still questionable
whether such Internet tools can be
successfully used for the people to
gain adequate leverage againstlarge,
well-funded corporate interests, one
thing is for sure- they help keep an
eye on government officials through
the dissemination of information
and public collaboration.
The more tools we can use to let
them know we're watching, the
more they'll need to watch them-
selves.Andifthey're doinganhonest
job, that thought shouldn't bother a
government official one bit.
- Kristen Kiluk can be
reached at kkiluk@umich.edu or
on Twitter @KristenKiluk.

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