11 corporations you should protest and 2 more that aren't quite as bad as you thought.

We all love a good David and Goliath story. Maybe that's why hating on corporations is so easy. (And fun!)

But the fact is that corporations, like people, aren't innately bad. (Can we go ahead and agree that they're not actually people though?)

If we're being technical, corporations are simply groups of people authorized to act as a single legal entity. And while it's easy to use for the word "corporate" to take on a pejorative meaning in casual conversation (hey, I'm totally guilty of it), it's not exactly fair or accurate.


Except in the case of these corporations who are totally The Worst and have this one thing in common:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the corporations that you hear the horror stories about have a longstanding history with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Again, if we're being technical, ALEC is simply a nonprofit organization dedicated to free-market capitalism. But if we scratch the surface (like, just the tippy top), it becomes glaringly obvious that ALEC's primary function is to help corporations write fill-in-the-blank laws for congresspeople to sign and pass.

Basically everything you've ever heard or suspected about American political corruption starts with ALEC.

You can find their fingerprints all over the prison-industrial complex, voter disenfranchisement, privatizing education, undermining consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, "stand your ground" laws, pollution and anti-environmental initiatives, and more.

Here are just a few of the corporations that are still in cahoots with ALEC:

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.

1. Anheuser-Busch

In addition to sponsoring the open-bar cocktail hour at the 2015 ALEC annual conference, beverage giant Anheuser-Busch is also a member of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force — responsible for numerous anti-worker and union-busting initiatives. So, why not consider getting your drink somewheres else? (Uh, also: no big loss. Their beer tastes like pee.)

Photo by Dorisal/Wikimedia Commons.

2. AT&T and
3. Sprint Nextel

In case you were wondering why your cellphone bill is so impossibly convoluted or why your supposedly "public" utilities look a lot more like a group of private companies that put profits over people, it might have something to do with the insane-o ALEC-sponsored legislation that AT&T and Sprint Nextel have pushed through Washington. For example: Ever wonder why your local public utility commission still hasn't laid any high-speed fiber-optic Internet cables in your town? Yep: ALEC.


Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

4. Comcast Corporation and
5. Time Warner Cable

Like our friends above, Comcast and Time Warner Cable use ALEC to help them maintain oligarchical control over Internet and television utilities. They're also responsible for throttling your download speeds on certain websites, and — oh yeah — making it impossible for you to switch services because there are no other available competitors in the area.


Photo by Shane Dwyer/Wikimedia Commons.

6. ExxonMobil

OK, this one isn't much of a surprise. I mean, they're an oil company. Are you surprised that ExxonMobil has contributed more than $1.5 million to ALEC's hardline climate-change-doubting agenda over the last 17 years?


Photo via Coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons.

7. FedEx and
8. UPS

How's this for cozy? UPS's vice president of corporate public affairs is the second vice chairman of ALEC's private enterprise advisory board. Meanwhile, FedEx has at least one lobbyist on the executive committee for ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. Good thing can we still rely on the U.S. Postal Serv ... I can't even type that sentence with a straight face, ugh.


Photo by Andreas Lischka/Wikimedia Commons.

9. Pfizer and
10. Novartis

Both Pfizer and Novartis benefitted greatly from ALEC's Data Quality Act, which made it legal for corporations to validate and regulate their own scientific data (thus enabling them to get away with using cheaper chemical shortcuts in products that cause damage to human beings as well as the environment). They've also played a major part in fighting against health care reform and in protecting pharmaceutical companies from liability lawsuits.


Photo by Editor182/Wikimedia Commons.

11. The Wall Street Journal

So much for free press, huh? It might be acceptable for media companies to have corporate relationships, but not when they disguise ALEC propaganda as independent editorial content. (Perhaps not that surprising, considering that The Wall Street Journal is also owned by Rupert Murdoch.)


Photo by Steve Rainwater/Flickr.

But recently, ALEC's schemes have gotten so bad that some supposedly awful corporations have cut ties with them.

In March 2015, oil giant BP — yes, that BPfinally pointed at ALEC and said, "Hey, we've done some bad stuff in our time. But at least we're not those guys." Harsh.


Photo via Dirtyharry667/Wikimedia Commons.

And thankfully, it make have sparked a trend: Fellow oil giant Royal Dutch Shell also cut ties with ALEC in August 2015, and they actually had something sensible to say about it: "We have long recognised both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world," a spokesman said. "As part of an ongoing review of memberships and affiliations, we will be letting our association with ALEC lapse when the current contracted term ends early next year."

Granted, Shell still forged ahead with their plans to drill for oil in the Arctic despite the potentially disastrous environmental impact and only stopped when they decided it wouldn't be profitable enough. But still; we'll take it.


Photo by Stefan Kühn/Wikimedia Commons.

ALEC may still have a stronghold on politics — but we can still vote with both our ballots and our dollars.

What can you do in the face of seemingly endless political corruption and board rooms building built-to-fail schemes to keep the sway of power in their favor? Simple: Refuse to play their games. They can't win if there's no one to play against.

For starters, you can refuse to support the ALEC-affiliated corporations above. Be a conscientious consumer and take your business elsewhere whenever possible. If there's no alternative, you can always sign this petition to pressure companies to cut their ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

And finally, refuse to give your vote to any politician who still has ALEC's dirt on their hands. It won't fix everything, but it's a darn good start.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."