This site provides information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.
2016 July 12 BBC News: Kimberly-Clark: Venezuela seizes and re-opens US-owned factory
"Over the weekend [Kimberly-Clark] became the latest multinational to close or scale back operations in the country, citing strict currency controls, a lack of raw materials and soaring inflation.General Mills, Procter & Gamble and other corporations have reduced operations in Venezuela as the country is gripped by economic crisis and widespread shortages of basic household goods."
Ryan Mallett–Outtrim of Counterpunch argues the main cause of Venezuela's woes is mismanagement of the currency rate--a capitalist rather than socialist phenomenon, he says. Focusing on the booming oil industry left other sectors of the economy dependent on imports by private industry, which because of currency devaluation has been unable to buy needed goods.
Getting currency at cheap rates unsustainably subsidized by the government led to corrupt speculators buying currency from the government supposedly to import needed goods but not importing goods at all, instead using the government currency to buy still cheaper currency on the black market, then repeating the practice in a vicious cycle. Political factors have made tough currency decisions difficult, ensuring that no matter what is decided, some powerful groups will be unhappy. Ryan-Mallet says former President Hugo Chavez was more willing to make these kinds of decisions than current President Nicolas Maduro.
A report by John Holman on Al Jazeera shows in human terms how desperate the situation in Venezuela is.
2016 July 12 Yahoo News (Reuters): "Ikea to recall 1.7 million chests, dressers in China"
The recall followed one in the U.S. prompted by child deaths from chests tipping over. Ikea decided to extend the recall to China after criticism from the Xinhua news agency for not doing so.
2016 July 8 Yahoo News (Reuters) Dupont must pay half a million dollars to victim of Teflon ingredient C-8
Dupont will appeal the jury decision. "DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said the verdict resulted in part from jurors being misled about the risks of exposure to C-8."
2016 July 6 BBC News: "Half a million hoverboards recalled in US"
Overheating battery packs in models made in China have caused burns and property damage. "Models involved include: 267,000 Swagway X1s 84,000 iMotos 70,000 Powerboards 28,000 Hovertraxs 25,000 Hype Roams 16,000 Hover-Ways".
"Customers are also being asked to return a further 5,000 Swagway hoverboards distributed in Canada."
2016 July 3 Yahoo News (Reuters) Volkswagen says will not compensate European customers same as it did U.S. customers.
Volkswagen CEO Maatthias Muller said the situation is not comparable. He said emissions standards in the U.S. are stricter, buyback is voluntary in the U.S. but not Germany, and VW has to offer German customers incentives.
"China, where an animal-loving middle class has been trying to change old ways, has promoted substitutes for tiger bones, rhino horns and certain other wild animal products, but doubts persist about their usefulness even among some officials."
2016 July 1 labornotes.org Chinese Walmart workers on wildcat strike against flexible scheduling
Strikes in China are not officially allowed but are not illegal. Ironically the only union is tightly controlled by the communist government and not by workers. Hence the great number of wildcat strikes not called by union leaders.
The system of flexible scheduling allows Walmart to avoid overtime pay for days longer than 8 hours by assigning fewer hours on other days, as long as they assign no more than 174 hours in a month. In addition, irregular scheduling makes it very difficult to maintain a second job.
"Moreover, workers fear the system will open the door to replacing more full-time jobs with part-time and casual ones—a familiar development for Walmart workers in the United States."
Workers say Walmart has used coercive tactics to get them to sign agreement with the new flexible scheduling policy. They also have been intimidated by Walmart management to refrain from effective organizing. Lack of real collective bargaining has led to falling wages after accounting for inflation.
"This struggle offers a chance to build international solidarity." Chinese and American Walmart workers have been in contact regarding flexible scheduling and the fight for a $15 minimum wage.
2016 July 1 Yahoo News (AFP Relax News): U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation: bacteria in flour in uncooked products, such as cookie dough and baking mixes, can make you sick
- "FDA offers these tips for safe food handling to keep you and your family healthy:
- Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
- Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
- Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily due to its powdery nature.
- Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked."
2016 June 29 Yahoo News (Reuters): "Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> has recalled 3.37 million cars worldwide over possible defects involving air bags and emissions control units."
"Sweden-based auto safety gear maker Autoliv Inc confirmed on Wednesday that it supplied the air bag inflators involved."
2016 June 28 The Guardian Buenos Aires zoo will close
Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta says captivity is degrading for animals.The zoo will be converted to an ecopark and the animals who live there and are in good enough condition to be moved will be transfered to nature reserves. "Older animals and those too infirm to be moved will remain at the current site", but "will no longer be exhibited to the public".
The zoo's private concessionaires had been losing money and the zoo had been criticized for bad conditions of the animals.
2016 June 28 BBCNews: "Ikea recalls Malm drawers in North America after child deaths"
The drawers can tip over when not attached to a wall. Ikea is urging customers to follow assembly instructions to attach the chests to a wall. "Consumers can choose between a refund or a free wall-anchoring repair kit."
2016 June 10 Yahoo news: "Tesla to clarify how customers may disclose problems"
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tesla has satisfactorily clarified troublesome language regarding nondisclosure of agreements to repair vehicles.
The issue arose because complaints of suspension problems in Tesla cars had been filed with the NHTSA, and one of the owners had "said Tesla agreed to pay 50 percent of a $3,100 repair bill if the owner agreed to keep the arrangement confidential."
"Tesla said in a blog post late on Thursday that it 'has never and would never ask a customer to sign a document to prevent them from talking to NHTSA or any other government agency.' But the company said it often requires customers to sign a 'goodwill agreement' with a nondisclosure clause when the company agrees to cover or discount repairs even if it is not responsible.'"
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted "that 37 of 40 suspension complaints filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were fraudulent." He said "a false location or vehicle identification numbers were used."
The NHTSA said Tesla "was cooperating fully with its review and that no suspension problems had been found 'to date.'"
2016 June 9 Yahoo News: More Japanese auto recalls
Defective Takata airbags, plus Nissan engine bracket mount and steering issues cause hundreds of thousands of Honda and Nissan cars to be recalled.
2016 June 4 Truth-out.org: Sound pollution in world's oceans threatens lives of whales and other marine species
"'Marine species need sound for everything they do, and have exquisite hearing,' says Dr. Kenneth Balcomb. 'But now the sounds of ships is ubiquitous in all of the open oceans.'"Whales use sound for such things as long-distance communication and detecting far-away storms. Greatly increasing human-produced sound is drowning out sounds marine species use for such things as long-distance communication and detection of far-away storms. It also causes serious physical damage: "There have been several documented instances of US Navy sonar causing brain hemorrhaging, organ lesions and bleeding from the ears in whales."
Despite lawsuits won by the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Marine Mammal Protection, the Navy has a long way to go to improve protection of the environment.
2016 June 2 Ecowatch Chile metro system renewable energy breakthrough
"California solar company SunPower, an affiliate of French oil company Total," will provide 42 percent of the Santiago metro's energy per year. 18 percent will be provided by a "San Juan wind project developed by Spain-based Elecnor and owned by Brazilian renewable energy firm Latin America Power...." Service will start in 2018.
2016 June 3 endangeredspeciesdnews.com US bans significant amount of ivory trade
The US is one of the largest markets for ivory in the world. Because it is impossible to distinguish between illegal ivory and legal ivory, the only way to control poaching is to ban all ivory sales. "The final revision for of the 4(d) rule of the Endangered Species Act for African elephants allows for exceptions for items containing de minimis amounts of ivory and documented antiques."
An interesting, readable, and informative description of African and Asian elephants' relationship to human society and the ecosytem is at bagheera.com.
2016 May 29 Truth-out.org Duke Energy fights restrictions on fracked gas and coal ash in home state of North Carolina
Environmental groups say Duke Energy is shielded from scrutiny by commissioners appointed by a governor who is a former Duke executive. Duke also has powerful lobbyists and large political contributions.
The environmental groups have been ordered to post an impossibly high bond to pursue efforts to show Duke plans to increase fracking. The environmentalists also object to Duke's plans to clean up leaking coal ash pits in ways the environmentalists think are good in some ways but not adequate.
2016 May 19 bbc.com Campaigners ask McDonald's to drop New Zealand fish
Campaigners allege New Zealand government covered up amount of overfishing and dumping of unwanted fish, as well as threat to endangered dolphins from fishing nets.
2016 May 16 Truthout.org U.S. Navy authorized to harm millions of marine mammals in course of military projects
"A multistate, international citizen watchdog group called the West Coast Action Alliance (WCAA), tabulated numbers that came straight from the Navy's Northwest Training and Testing EIS (environmental impact statement) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Letters of Authorization for incidental 'takes' of marine mammals issued by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service."
Use of sonar and explosives contributes to injury and sometimes deaths of the animals. Other species and areas, such as the Gulf of Alaska, are also severely threatened by greatly increasing military activities.
Critics note a lack of transparency to the public about the numbers of animals harmed and collusion between agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Navy. They also say that when it comes to legal restrictions on harm to marine life, national security trumps environmental impacts in the political arena.
May 10 is the deadline for the public to submit comments. Many view "natural" as being good in a moral--and historically, often in a religious--sense, but there is no clear consensus as to what "natural" means in a scientific sense. The confusion has led to a proliferation of lawsuits against companies which use the term.
2016 May 6 truth-out.org: Peabody Coal blockade
Missouri activists demand justice in handling bankruptcy settlements for workers, indigenous communities, and others affected by "the environmental devastation, residential displacement and unsafe labor practices of Peabody Coal, the world's second-largest coal producer, which is based in St. Louis."
2016 May 5 BBC News: Plastic microbeads in exfoliant cosmetics harm marine life
"The problem is that microbeads are so tiny they slip through water treatment works and enter the ocean, where they are ingested by fish and other creatures." The United Kingdom may unilaterally ban their use in shower gels and facial scrubs if the European Union doesn't. Unilever has begun to remove them voluntarily.
2016 May 3 Wall Street Journal Johnson & Johnson jury verdicts over talc in baby powder
2016 May 3 BBC News China's internet regulator investigates search engine Baidu
A student who had searched for cancer treatment "from a hospital that came top of the list on his Baidu web search" died last month. Baidu has been accused of selling paid search results without indicating they are paid and "without adequately checking their claims."
2016 April 28 Ecowatch Cousteau tells SeaWorld captive orcas should be freed
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 increases of 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 isnâ€™t alone. A new exposÃ© 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, Florida caused 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 Coalition is 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...."
"CLWâ€™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 workersâ€™ 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 cellâ€™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.
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.