This site provides information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.
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.
"The study found virtually all U.S. and European companies buying seafood from Thailand are exposed to the same risks of abuse in their supply chains."
"Nestlé said it would post the reports online — as well as a detailed yearlong solution strategy throughout 2016 — as part of ongoing efforts to protect workers. It has promised to impose new requirements on all potential suppliers and train boat owners and captains about human rights, possibly with a demonstration vessel and rewards for altering their practices. It also plans to bring in outside auditors and assign a high-level Nestle manager to make sure change is underway."
2015 Nov. 13: New U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety rules
The rules pertain mainly to fresh fruits and vegetables, including imports, and irrigation water, following large outbreaks of sickness caused by contaminated foods. "The final rules [were] released under a court-ordered deadline after advocacy groups sued over the delays...." Congress will have to approve money to implement to rules and enforce them.
An EU source said labels on certain products from Israeli occupied territories "would have to include the word 'settlement'" as the point of origin.
"The EU, the source added, does not view the occupied territories as legally part of Israel, so products from there cannot be labelled as from Israel or benefit from preferential trade agreements." The Israeli foreign ministry called the new regulation "discriminatory".
2015 Nov. 7: Truthout reprint of report by Earthjustice.Residents of African American neighborhood in Tallahassee, Alabama fight stench from landfill.
Earthjustice has filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of Tallahassee and several other communities, alleging racial discrimination by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which gave a permit to the landfill and receives federal money. "Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, agencies that get federal money can't discriminate on the basis of race. Discrimination doesn't have to be intentional; it includes any decision that has an unjustified, unequal impact on a particular racial group.""Agency rules say the EPA must determine whether or not there's discrimination within 180 days of receiving a complaint. Residents of Tallassee have been waiting 12 years."
2015 Nov. 5 Another move to cage-free egg production
If you are a hen, this move may not come during your lifetime, but at least there is a bit of progress in the industry. "Bakery-cafe chain Panera Bread Co will stop using eggs laid by caged hens by 2020, following similar moves from McDonald's Corp and other large U.S. restaurant chains."
2015 Nov. 4: USA Today: Expanding Takata air bag probe
"U.S. automotive safety regulators on Tuesday said Japanese auto supplier Takata has agreed to accept penalties for failures involving exploding air bags that have killed at least eight people and injured at least 98."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will impose the largest fine in its history on Takata. "'Takata acknowledged "that it was aware of a defect but failed to issue a timely recall,' NHTSA said."
Ammonium nitrate propellant is the suspected cause of the explosions. "Vehicles that have been housed in hot, humid climates for at least five years are most at risk, suggesting that climate is a contributing factor." 19 million vehicles have been recalled from BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Daimler.
The Coalition's Fair Food Program Code of Conduct is "informed by workers themselves". Supervisors who violate the Code are immediately terminated and barred from employment at other farms in the Program and must proactively prevent violations.
2015 Oct. 26 bbc: "Nestle set to resume sales of Maggi noodles in India"
Sales had been banned in May after lab tests in India had shown some packets to be high in lead. The ban was overturned in August.
2015 Oct. 26: Yahoo News: Cancer-causing meats
World Health Organization (WHO) research shows processed meat is carcinogenic to humans; mammalian meat as probably carcinogenic.
" A new investigative report from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based nongovernmental organization that has revealed a litany of labor abuses throughout the tech, toy and apparel sectors in China, details inhumane, illegal and dangerous work conditions at Lens Technology, Apple's main supplier of glass for its iPhone and Apple Watch products. Among the worst offenses is the use of benzene, a known carcinogen that is linked to high rates of adult leukemia among those exposed to it, in improperly ventilated areas."
2015 Oct. 23 Truthout: Poverty wages and fire hazards in Asian factories: Clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) promises wage and labor reform, but has yet to name specifics or make real progress.
2015 Oct. 17: Truthout: Facial scrubs
Plastic microbeads "(listed as polyethylene and polypropylene in the ingredients)" in facial scrubs and other products release dangerous pollutants into our water. They have been banned in several states.
2015 Oct. 16: bbc: U.S. Arctic drilling for oil and gas curtailed
Two potential lease sales canceled, current leases not extended. Environmentalists applauded the move. They say "fossil fuels such as oil and gas must be left in the ground if the world is to avoid runaway climate change."
2015 Oct. 14: Truthout: Blood diamonds, gold, and the Central African Republic (CAR)
The government of the CAR is ineffective due to more than a decade of civil war over the country's natural resource of diamonds and gold. Instead of building wealth for the people, they have financed armed Christian and Muslim groups whose fighting has impoverished the people and brought them human rights violations, including child slavery.
From Amnesty International: "With the diamond industry due to gather at the Jewellery Industry Summit in March 2016 to discuss responsible sourcing, Amnesty International is challenging governments and international diamond companies like de Beers and Signet to support stronger regulation of the sector." Certification by the Kimberly Process, set up to prevent blood diamonds from being sold in the international market, is no longer reliable.
2015 Oct. 9 bbc: California forbids Seaworld from breeding whales
Ruling may spell end of Seaworld park killer whale (orca) program. Critics say Seaworld's program is inhumane. Seaworld says it is inhumane to prevent the whales from exercising a natural behavior.
2015 Sept 27: Associated Press in Seattle Times Shell Oil abandons Arctic drilling project
Although the region is expected to have enough potential to keep the U.S. one of three top oil producers in the world, Shell said this drilling did not produce enough oil to make the project worth while. Environmental activists worried about climate change from fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions, cheered.
Land trusts limit the resale value of homes on their land to keep the homes affordable. Opponents of the model say it unfairly prevents homeowners from building wealth through appreciation of home value at a market rate. Proponents say it allows people who would otherwise not be able to buy a home to do so and still build wealth, but at a more modest rate. They say most land trust homebuyers are able to move to a market rate home with a combination of appreciation of home value and personal savings. Their "returns on initial investments far exceed those that would have been possible if they had invested their down payment in stocks or bonds."
Real estate value doesn't always appreciate, as many learned in the foreclosure crisis. Low income people without appreciable savings or equity in their homes can have a hard time dealing with maintenance and repairs or avoiding defaulting on the mortgage when unemployment hits. Less favorable credit scores bring less favorable mortgage terms.
"One study found that only 47 percent of first-time homeowners and less than 80 percent of those with median incomes still owned their homes five years later." One homeowner "notes that if she needs to make repairs, she can look to the land trust for a list of contractors." Another "credits the land trust's homeowner education program for helping him understand what is affordable and sustainable."
The "Environmental Protection Agency says Volkswagen intentionally violated the Clean Air Act by using sophisticated software in its diesel-powered cars that detects emissions testing — and 'turns full emissions controls on only during the test.'" The report lists specific cars that have the device. With the device turned off, the cars can produce up to 40 times the allowed pollution. The EPA says drivers are not endangered and "do not need to take any action at this time."
2015 Sept. 10 npr.org: McDonald's will no longer buy eggs from caged hens, but hens don't go outside.
The Humane Society explains what the different labels mean.
2015 Sept. Huffington Post: Dupont chemical C8, found in Teflon and "thousands of household products", wrecked havoc on the West Virginia town of Parkersburg.
The post reads like a fascinating and horrifiying exposé with lots of human interest and is hard to put down. It relates the long struggle of a farm family's devastating illnesses, their lawyer's determination to demonstrate the link between C8 and other chemicals and the illnesses and birth defects besetting families in the region, Dupont's distortions and covering up of data, smears of legitimate researchers, and irrational hold on the minds and hearts of residents due to badly needed jobs and desirable products the company provided, and finally the partial bringing to account of Dupont but grandfathering in of chemicals already in use. "Only a handful of the 80,000-plus chemicals on the market have ever been tested for safety—meaning that we are all, in effect, guinea pigs in a vast, haphazard chemistry experiment."
Although C8 has finally been phased out, it takes decades to break down in the body, and other similar chemicals are taking its place. The fight to control them continues.
2015 August 18 U.S. News & World Report: Environmentalists disappointed over Obama allowing Shell to drill in Arctic following his strong support for protecting the environment.
"'It sends a terrible signal to the rest of the world for the United States to be using public resources to promote that development,' said Niel Lawrence of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 'We have to make clear to the rest of the world that we are all in on a clean energy future. And we've got to stop giving the rest of the world license to go exploring by permitting Shell to do it.'"
Obama has said "I would rather us, with all the safeguards and standards that we have, be producing our oil and gas, rather than importing it, which is bad for our people, but is also potentially purchased from places that have much lower environmental standards than we do." A spokesperson for the administration said that while the goal is to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, it will take time. Critics say the Arctic is an especially dangerous area in which to drill.
2015 August 17 npr.org: More on Red Cross transparency
In a June 2014 letter, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern wrote privately to Rep. Bennie Thompson asking that the Government Accountability Office investigation into Red Cross disaster relief be called off, saying the investigation was consuming limited resources and she would prefer to answer questions in face-to-face meetings.
"'Over time, the public has come to accept the American Red Cross as a key player in the nation's system for disaster relief,' Thompson said in an email. 'It is unfortunate that in light of numerous allegations of mismanagement, the American Red Cross would shun accountability, transparency, and simple oversight.'"
2015 August 13 Yahoo News: Nestle's Maggi instant noodle packages
"An Indian court on Thursday ruled in favor of Nestle in its battle to overturn a nationwide ban of its Maggi instant noodles, but demanded the popular snack be tested again for safety before it can go on sale again."
"The Bombay High Court order said these tests must be conducted at specific laboratories, after media reports criticized the [Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)] facilities as ill-equipped and under-staffed. The regulator itself has said India needs to strengthen food safety infrastructure."
2015 August 1 Truth-out: Senator questions secrecy in Red Cross aid to Haiti
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa wants to know more about the spending of nearly half a billion dollars, overhead, and results of Red Cross partners working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Grassley asked "'why the Red Cross enters into contracts with other organizations stipulating that details of grants can't be disclosed to the media or donors'".
The Red Cross claims it keeps careful track of what happens to money it grants to its partners, but internal assessments indicated that was not always the case. In an earlier article, Truth-out referred to "documents newly obtained by ProPublica and NPR" that showed lack of oversight by the Red Cross.
The Red Cross responded on its website: "The American Red Cross is committed to the welfare of the people of Haiti and is a responsible steward of donated funds. We monitor our projects and spending as well as that of our many partners to identify areas that are working well and those that need improvement. The 2012 reports, from which NPR and ProPublica selectively quote, are an example of such an evaluation. It is not surprising that in the $488 million dollar relief and recovery operation in Haiti areas for improvement were identified. The 2012 reports demonstrate that we continuously evaluate our work to find ways to improve. While areas for improvement always exist - in particular when operating at this scope and scale, addressing many demanding challenges and needs - we are proud of our achievements which include, among many other things, providing clean water and sanitation facilities to hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti."
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.