This site provides information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.
"...Every time we buy something, we cast a vote." John Perkins, author of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man , being interviewed by Truthout:
NEW for music lovers: Writings of Ernest Hutcheson, edited by Thomas W. Hutcheson. Ernest Hutcheson was a renowned concert pianist and President of the Juillard.
2016 April 15 BBC News: Orcas in captivity
"Last month SeaWorld announced it was ending its orca breeding programme and said the 29 orcas currently in its parks would be the last. But the company did not step back from its long-held claim that its orcas - also known as killer whales - live long healthy lives. Liz Bonnin was granted unique access to SeaWorld to investigate this claim and weigh the scientific evidence."
2016 April 12 Yahoo News: Major Chinese internet companies agree to cooperate with controversial law to fight terror
Rights groups say the law unnecessarily curbs free speech.
Pfizer is based in New York and Allergan is based in Ireland, where taxes are lower. Such mergers are called inversions.
Pfizer, Allergan and other large pharmaceutical companies have been criticized for large price increasesof many of their drugs in recent years.
2016 March 30 npr.org: "Why Whole Foods Wants A Slower-Growing Chicken"
Modern meat chickens are bred to grow so fast they have difficulty supporting their weight on their legs. Those who live longer because they are kept as breeders get so heavy they have to be on severe diets and are always hungrey. The advantage to the poultry industry is more meat for less feed and less land to grow feed.
2016 March 29 bbc.com: Journalist at Chinese newspaper resigns over government control of media
"Yu Shaolei, an editor at Southern Metropolis Daily, posted a resignation note online, saying he could no longer follow the Communist Party line." He also indicated his social media account had been censored.
"A columnist at the same paper, Li Xin, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances in Thailand after claiming he had been forced to inform on fellow journalists, is now back in police custody in China, our correspondent adds."
2016 March 25 insideclimatenews.org: "Exxon Must Hold Shareholder Vote on Climate Change Resolutions, SEC Says"
Activists have presented shareholder resolutions about moral responsibility and financial risks associated with global warming for consideration at the May ExxonMobil annual meeting. Exxon argued unsuccessfuly that it had already addressed the issues noted in the resolutions. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disagreed and ruled ExxonMobil shareholders must be allowed to vote on the resolutions.
"Separately, the Rockefeller Family Fund said it will divest its holdings in Exxon...." The fund said "Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change's march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change's destructive consequences...." Exxon countered that "the Rockefeller Family Fund provided financial support to InsideClimate News and Columbia University, which he said 'produced inaccurate and deliberately misleading stories' about the company's climate research." For an account of these stories, see the 2015 December democracynow.org report, which stated that "Internal documents revealed Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming in the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Now it turns out that Exxon isn’t alone. A new exposé from InsideClimate News reveals nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change at the same time as Exxon."
2016 March The fund said 17 bbc.com: Good news for whales: SeaWorld stops breeding orcas ("killer" whales)
Animal rights activists celebrated, as they have long criticized the breeding of captive whales and using them for entertainment.
"The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) worked with SeaWorld on its new policies...."
Japan claims the hunt is for scientific research, an exception allowed under international law. "Activists say the programme is inhumane and unsustainable."
"Japan insists it is trying to prove the whale population is large enough to justify a return to whaling for commercial purposes, and says it has to kills the mammals to carry out its research."
2016 March 8 fusion.net: Escalating levels of radioactive chemical in Biscayne Bay, Floridacaused by Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant.
In addition, drinking water for the Florida Keys is threatened. The plant is operated by Florida Power and Light (FPL), which has had its own environmental problems.
2016 March 10 thinkprogress.org: Verizon fined $1.35 million for privacy violations
Hard-to-remove cookies tracked customer data without their knowledge. The data was collected for the benefit of advertisers. Under a new 3-year plan with The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Verizon will be required to give customers the opportunity to opt out of being tracked.
2016 March 9 marketwatch.com: Chipotle customers in Billerica, MA restaurant diagnosed with norovirus
"Chief Executive Steve Ellis has apologized for that incident, as well as E. coli outbreaks across the country last year.
"The fast-casual restaurant chain has taken a series of measures to improve food safety procedures...."
2016 March 7 motherjones.com: "12 Most Toxic Fish (For Humans and the Planet)"Food and Water Watch Smart Seafood Guide notes such things as overfishing, mercury and PCBs, chemicals and antibiotics, damage to marine life and seabirds, pesticides, and lack of regulation.
2016 March 7 bbc.com: Ransomware hits Apple Macs for first time
Ransomware is an infection that locks files on computers and demands payment from computer owners to unlock the files. As the number of Macs in use increases, the attempts by hackers to target them is expected to increase also. Users of Macs and a computer program called Transmission should ugrade their software immediately.
2016 March 7 yahoo.com: "Supreme Court rejects Apple e-books price-fixing appeal"
"Publishers that the Justice Department said conspired with Apple include Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan."
2016 March 7 China Labor Watch: Investigations of China-based factories
2016 March 5 The Washington Post U.S. company Pfizer merges with Irish company Allergan for huge savings in U.S. tax dollars
U.S. company Johnson Controls employed this increasingly popular stragegy last month by merging with Irish company Tyco.Some U.S. Getting legislation passed in an election to slow or halt this trend is unlikely and legislators are divided on what to do about the problem.
2016 March 4 Institute for Southern Studies: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) announces national boycott of Wendy's:
The Coalitionis putting pressure on Wendy's regarding human rights abuses in its supply chain. CIW wants Wendy's to join the Fair Food Program and buy tomatoes only from that program. CIW says Wendy's "stopped buying tomatoes from Florida after the program was implemented there", instead buying tomatoes from Mexico, "where human rights abuses in agriculture are widespread...."
"CIW has won a U.S. State Department award and a presidential medal for its efforts to combat modern-day slavery in Florida's farm fields...."
"CLW’s findings suggest severe discrepancies between what Apple tells the public and its investors about the working hours of workers making its products and the reality on the production line."
"Chinese Labor Law requires that monthly overtime hours not exceed 36 hours, but at Pegatron Shanghai, only 1.1% of workers’ overtime hours are within this limit." The statistical methods and data on which CLW bases its claims are given in writing and a number of graphs on its website. One graph shows a big difference bewteen CLW statistics and Apple Statistics.
Workers interviewed by CLW said they were required to attend unpaid meetings before and after their shifts.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has succeeded in getting four out of five of the largest fast food corporations in the U.S. to join its Fair Food Program. Wendy's is the only one that has not. According to s spokesperson for the CIW, Wendy 's has "chosen to come out with a code of conduct for their suppliers, which actually has no teeth in comparison to the Fair Food Program that the CIW has created." The program has dramatically improved wages and working conditions--which have even included slavery--for farmworkers and has expanded from Florida tomatoes to other states, and to bell peppers and strawberries. For more on the CIW and slavery, use the search box in the top right corner of this page.
2016 Feb. 9 PCWorld.com Cisco warns of security risks in internet-connected home devices.
Devices such as home thermostats that can be set by remote control and home security systems are part of the Internet of Things technology. Because vendors do not always place a high priority on security of these devices, flaws in their designs can enable hackers to infect them with malicious code. An example of such a device is the Trane thermostat, which was not updated to prevent security risks for two years after the risks were discovered. Consumers are urged to take security warnings seriously and install updates as soon as they become available.
2016 Feb. 1 Scientific American BPS (Bisphenol S) animal studies indicate it has similar effects as the BPA it often replaces in plastic products
Even minute amounts of BPS "can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer." A rat study demonstrated heart arrhthmias in female rats.
2016 Jan. 24 Yahoo News, Reuters 5 million more autos with Takata air bags recalled, tens of millions more may be recalled
"Automakers affected for the first time include Volkswagen AG
"Twelve major automakers have previously recalled more than 23 million Takata air bag inflators in more than 19 million vehicles in one of the largest and most complex safety recalls in U.S. automotive history. "
"Takata 's inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments and are linked to more than 100 U.S. injuries."
2016 Jan. 20 , Los Angeles Times: California and New York investigations of what Exxon Mobil knew about climate change
News reports in 1980s and 90s indicated Exxon Mobil used climate change data in its planning but "argued publicly that climate-change science was not clear cut."
2016 Jan. 19 bbc.com: "Apple, Samsung and Sony face child labour claims", along with others.
Amnesty International says the companies do not ensure children as young as 7 are not mining cobalt, used in lithium iron batteries, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Apple, Samsung, and Sony deny this.
"UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 40,000 children working in mines across southern DRC." They are at risk for serious health problems and death.
"The Amnesty report, which was jointly researched with African Resources Watch (Afrewatch), traced how traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife, selling it on to firm Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd."
2016 Jan. 15 ecowatch.com Monsanto seeks permits to grow genetically modified (GMO) corn in Mexico
Monsanto says its GMO corn yields higher yields and profits for small farmers. Mexican opponents of GMO corn say 59 varieties of indigenous corn could be threatened by hybridization from GMO corn, " the development of insect pests or weeds that are resistant to the chemicals used with GMO crops, and the unintentional poisoning of beneficial insects and non-target species."
2016 Jan. 14 Orange County Register Southern California Gas Company gas well leaking methane near Porter Ranch community in Los Angeles
The company's data on elevated levels of benzene, which causes cancer, is substantially less than that of regulators. Safe levels are hard to determine: "For one thing, it is unclear whether the benzene fumes persisted long enough to exceed state exposure limits", but the data and odors from the gas raise concerns, "and some environmentalists are calling it the worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.".
2016 Jan. 12 IDG News Service Electronic Frontier Foundation says Cisco Systems "built a security system for the Chinese government knowing it would be used to track and persecute members of the Falun Gong religious minority"
Cisco denied the allegations.
2016 Jan. 8 reuters.com Pfizer drug price increases as high as 20%
"...A novel breast cancer drug launched last year at a list price of $9,850 per month, or $118,200 per year." Other drug manufacturers also increased prices. A planned merger between Pfizer and Allergan "would create the world's largest drugmaker and shift Pfizer's headquarters to Ireland, would also be the biggest-ever instance of a U.S. company re-incorporating overseas to lower its taxes."
Consumerreports.org has an article entitled "Save Money on Meds: 6 Tips for Finding the Best Prescription Drug Prices". The article puts a human face on the situation: a woman could not afford to fill her prescription when the price skyrocketed, took a different, cheaper drug instead, and had a bad reaction.
Consumerreports says it pays to shop around: some insurance co-payments are higher than the price you would pay without insurance at some stores (go figure!)Not only that, but "drugs could cost as much as 10 times more at one retailer vs. another." Prices vary widely even in the same area. It also pays to ask for a discount, which the store may not tell you about unless you ask, even though retailers do not expect consumers to pay gigantic list prices.
Such shenanigans have a lot to do with prices insurance companies will pay pharmacies and how those prices are set. Mergers could make the situation worse. The article lists strategies that can help consumers save. Consumerreports.org's site "Best Buy Drugs"links to lots more information. You can look up specific drugs, their uses and prices and side effects.
Getting informed on the options for handling drug expenses takes a lot of research, something a sick person is not likely to be able to do. Responsibleconsumer.net hopes that providing this summary and these links will help people to access the information with less difficulty and will motivate them to find and save the information before they desperately need it.
2016 Jan. 7 npr.org: Most people would rather not know a product is produced unethically
A study gave college students a choice of two out of four options to be given information about characteristics of brand name jeans. One option was to find out "whether the company used child labor". "More than 85 percent" not only did not choose that option, but "tended to denigrate" those who did.
"Further testing suggested that the willfully ignorant participants may have been unconsciously compensating for the guilt they felt when compared with ethical consumers." Such comparisons drive people away from consumer responsibility, rather than draw them toward it. ResponsibleConsumer.net submits that the same test should be performed using ethical concerns other than child labor to see whether the results hold up; child labor could be viewed differently than, say, slave labor.
2015 Dec. 28 Truth-out.org: Should philanthropy by wealthy capitalists be celebrated?
A new book by Linsey McGoey, No Such Thing As A Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, examines whether massive philanthropy by billionaire capitalists is a net gain for social good or expands the political and economic power of billionaires.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to receive 99% of his Facebook shares as "charity", but an LLC is "exempt from non-profit rules against political expenditures and profit-making" and from "any requirements to publicly list any grants made to either for-profits or non-profits". This is different from the Gates Foundation, which must justify grants to for-profit corporations as being for charity rather than profit, but such gifts still can involve rich corporations giving to other rich corporations rather than to non-profits. In spite of this, the author says, public scrutiny that existed in the days of Rockefeller and Carnegie "seems almost absent today."
The author does not accuse Bill Gates of using philanthropy for personal gain. Rather, she says, he misplaces faith in for-profit corporate recipients such as Mastercard using the money--which because of the tax and legal structure, is subsidized by US taxpayers--for charitable rather than commercial activities.
An argument for such faith is "the idea that the 'data-driven' and 'market-based' philanthropic efforts of today are far more efficient and productive than social services provided by the government." McGoey answers this argument by saying that poverty and inequality in the US are rising, not falling in the face of all this philanthropy, and that "an organization called Eurodad, the European Network on Debt and Development, has studied the rise of public-private partnerships in global development and concluded that partnerships with the private sector can often double the costs expended by governments."
McGoey states that "My own view is that nothing will change unless large media outlets such as the New York Times nuance the fawning way they cover large foundations such as the Gates Foundation and start asking tougher questions."
Special Report: Chocolate
2013: How to make sure your chocolate purchases do not support child slavery.
Special Report: Torture
There is hope!Please see the post on a January 2012 anti-torture resolution by the city of Chicago, and how other municipalities can do the same. If you do not see it at first, refresh the page by clicking the refresh button on your browser bar or pressing the f5 key.
Special Report: Fair Trade
2013 update summarizes changes in standards and controversy over increasing availability of products with the certification by making it easier to get certified vs. maintaining more rigorous standards. Fair World Project offers suggestions for resolving the conflict by making product labels more transparent about percentage of ingredients that are certified.