This site provides information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.
2017 Jan. 18 bbc news Mold inside rubber toys
When some rubber toys get water inside, they can grow mold. Water may enter through a small hole that makes the toy squeezable. This is apparently what happened in the case of French company Vuilli's popular Sophie the Giraffe, often used for teething babies. The story went viral and caused a lot of worry for parents, but doctors say exposure to mold is virtually inevitable because it is ubiquitous in the environment. It is not likely to cause harm unless the amount of mold in the environment is excessive or the person is allergic to it.
2017 Jan. 13 PCWorld Straight Path Spectrum fined $100 million by Federal Communications Commission (FDC)
Licenses to build next-generation 5G licenses to serve the public had not been built as Straight Path Spectrum claimed. $85 million of the fine "is suspended pending Straight Path's transfer or assignment of the licenses in the next 12 months."
2016 Dec. 28 democracynow.org Dakota Access Pipeline construction hindered by delayed investment
"A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Enbridge Energy Partners and Marathon Petroleum Corporation won't meet a previous deadline of December 31 to complete a sale. The companies will now have until March 31 to consider whether to walk away from an investment in the pipeline."
The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners. Protesters of the pipeline, who call themselves Water Protectors, have fought powerful forces against construction of the pipeline with notable and increasing success. They maintain it violates human and environmental and sovereign government rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe, located in North and South Dakota.
2016 Dec. 23 therealnews.com Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht fined for bribery
"Latin America's largest construction company, Odebrecht, agreed with the U.S. Justice Department to pay a fine of up to $4.5 billion on Wednesday for having engaged in widespread bribery of government officials around the world. The agreement is the largest penalty in U.S. history under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977."
2016 Dec. 20 The Intercept Exxon Mobil and phthalates (plastics softeners) in toysExxon Mobil is a giant among both energy and chemical chemical companies. So far the company has successfully fought implementation of a 2014 ban on eight phthalates by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).
"The inaction "speaks to the power of Exxon to frighten federal agencies away from doing their jobs," as Earthjustice's Gartner put it. And that was before the company's CEO [Rex Tillerson] had a top government job[Trump nominee for Secretary of State]."
2016 Dec. 17 Yahoo News Seven banks resolve class action suit re interest rate rigging
The banks include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Credit Suisse Group, and Deutsche Bank.
"The remaining defendants are BNP Paribas SA
"The case is Alaska Electrical Pension Fund et al v. Bank of America Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-07126."
Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the pipeline, vows to complete the project, saying the Obama administration's refusal to approve the final leg of the pipeline under the Missouri River and close to the Standing Rock Sioux's lands is political. The tribe says it would endanger their sole water source and sacred sites.
"While the Friday decision does not put a final nail in the coffin, it still is of advantage to the demonstrators. Since there is a clause in the company's contract that allows investors to pull out starting Jan. 2, further delays - which the company estimates cause a loss of $20 million per day - could see many investors turning their back on the money-losing project."
2016 Dec.10 truth-out.org: Little-known Sabal Trail fracked gas pipeline from Alabama to Florida
Critics say users do not need more natural gas, that Sabal Trail can take their properties by eminent domain, and that it has violated multiple construction regulations designed to protect homeowners and the environment.
"Sabal Trail is a joint project of Spectra Energy Corp., NextEra Energy, Inc., and Duke Energy." There is a connection between the Sabal pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline because "Enbridge, which is a stakeholder in the Dakota Access pipeline, has announced plans to buy Spectra...."
2016 Dec.10 truth-out.org: Sioux tribes developing wind energy in Dakotas
"Seven Sioux tribes in the Dakotas are developing what would be an enormous collection of wind farms on six reservations scattered across what is generally rated as one of the windiest areas in the country." The tribes have done prliminary assessments but need more detailed studies before they can solicit investors. Previous efforts by the tribes for clean energy development have been hampered by investors not wanting to let the tribes "control their own energy resources."
2016 Dec. 5 bbc.com: Whirlpool criticized for slowness repairing fire-prone dryers
"Some five million affected machines were sold in the UK, under the Creda, Indesit and Hotpoint brands, between April 2004 and September 2015."
2016 Dec. 4: theguardian.com Army Corps of Engineers denies permit for Dakota Access pipeline
One day before the previously announced deadline for protesters to leave the camp of Native Americans and environmental activists set up to block drilling for oil under a major source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which has authority over the project, announced it will not permit the drilling. The Corps will look for alternative routes for the pipeline.
The tribe and its many supporters joyously celebrated the decision as a major victory after months of effort in the face of great difficulties, but the tribe's attorney warned it could still be overturned by the incoming Trump administration.
2016 Dec. 3: theguardian.com Chinese workers producing Christmas toys not so merry
ChinaLabor Watch says wages are very low and living conditions in dormitories that house workers are very harsh. Families are separated by conditions of work and living accommodations. "Overtime can run to nearly three times the legal limit." Some of the most popular brand name toys, such as Barbie dolls, Thomas the Tank Engine Minis, and Fisher-Price Learn with Me Zebra Walker, are made in Chinese factories.
2016 Nov. 25: npr.org Dakota Access Protesters ordered to leave by Dec. 5
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has today written to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that the camp being used by protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be closed on December 5 and all occupants evicted. Tribe chairman Dave ArchambaultII has stated the tribe's resistance to the pipeline will continue.
2016 Nov. 23: huffingtonpost.com 85% of food samples in 2015 had pesticide residues
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the levels found are not risky for consumers, but some scientists say this is misleading because the data does not show effects of "regular, repeated consumption".
"Spinach, strawberries, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon were among the foods found with illegal pesticide residue levels. Even residues of chemicals long banned in the United States were found, including residues of DDT or its metabolites found in spinach and potatoes."
There was no data on glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen, "the most widely used herbicide in the world", and the most important ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.
Tests by the Federal Department of Agriculture and private concerns also produced disturbing results and lack sufficient data to support safety claims. They raise the question whether regulations are designed more to protect producers of the pesticides than consumers of the foods.
2016 Nov. 16: wikipedia.org Dakota Access Pipeline
The $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. This oil pipeline has highlighted controversy between protesting Native Americans and environmental activists vs. corporations that stand to profit from fossil fuels, with accusations of violence against both sides.
The election of Donald Trump as incoming U.S. President has made Dakota Access owner Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren "100 percent sure that the pipeline will be approved". Trump has sizable investments in the project, and has spoken in favor of using America's large fossil fuel reserves, but has not commented on this particular pipeline.
Thousands of protesters planned nationwide protests starting yesterday, Nov. 15. They claim sacred sites and safety of water in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are threatened by a potential leak in the pipeline. The pipeline is scheduled to go under Lake Oahe, the reservoir on which the Sioux depend for their water.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has final authority over construction of the pipeline. Sioux tribe Chair David Archambault wants the Corps to deny a permit to cross Lake Oahe and require the pipeline to be rerouted farther from Sioux lands.
For a a concise summary of the issues and legal actions, see nbc news Nov. 4.
For more detailed but fascinating information well worth your time, including history of relations between American Indian tribes--legally sovereign nations--and the U.S. government, see The Atlantic, Sept. 9. Of particular interest is the section on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the land beneath the pipeline.
The Atlantic notes that "Of course, this history does not answer whose land it really is: American law still respects the underlying logic of the 'doctrine of discovery,' the idea that European Christians could lay claim to land if they were the first to document it. But it is in partial recognition of the painful history of colonial land grabs that modern federal law accords certain rights to Native groups. Since 1992, one of these rights could be described as the right to be consulted: Whenever a federal agency undertakes or approves a construction project, it must consult with local Native nations or tribes about whether sacred sites or places are nearby."
2016 Nov. 16 Yahoo News: "Business calls for Trump, world leaders to support Paris climate pact"
The statement by more than 360 businesses and investors including "DuPont, Gap , General Mills , Hewlett Packard , Hilton , Kellogg , Levi Strauss & Co., L'Oreal USA, Nike , Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks and Unilever" asked for prompt implementation of the Nov. 4 Paris agreement on climate change. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to scrap the agreement.
2016 Nov. 6 Yahoo News: Volkswagen Board Chairman investigated
"The company says in government documents that an electrical connector for the passenger seat air bag sensor can become disconnected. That can cause the air bag to inflate when a child is in the seat or deploy with too little force to protect an adult. In both cases, passengers could be hurt, but Hyundai says it has no reports of injuries."
2016 Oct. 12 bbc.com/news/technology Update on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones
Questions remain, such as whether moving to batteries that could not be removed by users contributed to the phones catching fire.
2016 Oct.11 bbc.com/business "Samsung permanently stops Galaxy Note 7 production"
The phablets had problems with some of them catching fire and exploding. Some of the replacement devices also caught fire. Samsung has stopped all sales, replacement, and production of the phones. "The handset was never released for sale in the UK."
2016 Oct.7 npr.org EpiPen-Medicare/Medicaid dispute settledfor $465 million
The EpiPen auto-injector is used to reverse serious allergic reactions. Medicaid claimed EpiPen maker Mylan misclassified the drug as generic, thus paying far less in required rebates to Medicaid than it should have for a brand name drug.
2016 Sept. 30 EcoWatch.com Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sues ExxonMobil
The Foundation accuses Exxon of misleading the public and regulators about effects of climate change on its facility outside Boston and consequent pollution of Boston Harbor estuary.
Samsung asks consumers to enter their machine's serial number, "located on the rear of the washing machine", on their website to see if they have a machine that is affected.
2016 Sept. 27 EcoWatch.com China and the tiger trade
"In legal tiger farms across China, some 6,000 caged cats are kept in filthy conditions and will be killed for dubious medicinal uses and as home decor for the country's newly-rich elite. The sordid business is mostly legal, but hides behind carefully-worded agreements and pretensions of conservation. The issue is expected to be addressed at this week's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg."
2016 Sept. 26 EcoWatch.com Criticism of Nestle and bottled water
"NestlÃ©'s grab of a Canadian community's water supply has sparked international outrage and calls to boycott the company and bottled water."
"The Guangzhou Grandview Aquarium said it wanted to take in giant pandas among thousands of other animals."
2016 Sept. 21 Reuters via Yahoo news U.S.Congress vs. EpiPen price increases
EpiPen is a device that saves lives of children with severe allergic reactions. The company that manufactures it, Mylan N.V., has raised the price drastically since 2007. "Several lawmakers noted EpiPen's growing profits over the same period as well as [the CEO's] annual salary, which has increased from around $2.5 million to more than $18 million."
2016 Sept. 16 EcoWatch.com "France Becomes First Country to Ban Plastic Silverware, Plates and Cups"
"The measure was part of the Energy Transition For Green Growth bill that was passed in 2015 and went into effect last month. But producers of disposal plates, cups and cutlery will have until 2020 to make sure their products are made with biologically sourced materials and can be composted."
2016 Sept. 15 pcworld.com Tesla Motors Autopilot problems
"Tesla Motors is once again facing controversy over the safety of its Autopilot technology for assisting car drivers, this time in connection with the death of the driver in a Model S crash in China."
Problems with lithium-ion batteries in the phones have caused some of them to catch fire. These types of batteries are also used in many other devices, including toys.
2016 September 9 BBC News Lions bred in captivity in South Africa so "hunters" can take expensive trophies
"'Canned' lion hunting is illegal in South Africa, but captive-bred lion hunting is allowed. Amid a raft of regulations there is a fine line between the two - and something which differs by province." A guide whistles to a lion, the lion stops, and the "hunter", who pays big bucks for the privilege, shoots.
Proponents of the practice (sport??) argue it expands the habitat of these endangered animals and others introduced as prey, and that "managed breeding can strengthen the gene pool".
2016 September 3 BBC News Plastic microbeads cause environmental damage
Microbeads used in scrubbing in cleaners and cosmetics end up in the ocean and damage marine animals who eat them, adding to the damage caused by plastic bags. They are hard to detect in ingredients lists. See to see products that do/do not contain them.
2016 September 2 Yahoo News Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery fires
"Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has recalled all Galaxy Note 7 smartphones equipped with batteries it has found to be fire-prone and halted their sales in 10 markets...."
"Models in China feature a different battery and are not being recalled by Samsung...."
2016 Sept. 1 Truthout Apple workers labor under violations in Chinese factories
According to China Labor Watch, Pegatron and Foxconn continue to exploit workers with excessive required overtime, wages below the legal minimum, "daily unpaid labor of more than one hour, cramped and unsanitary living conditions in factory dormitories, and the failure to provide necessary protective equipment, which puts the health and safety of workers at risk".
Violations "are happening a full decade after they were first brought to Apple's attention", according to the article.
2016 August 25 TheHill.com Milan response to critics of huge price increases for EpiPen allergy treatment
Savings amounted to 50 percent but "Mylan announced the changed [sic] a day after Hillary Clinton denounced the company for hiking the cost of EpiPens 400 percent in recent years."
The chemical, dicamba, is a herbicide. "This past spring, Monsanto Co. started selling GM Roundup Ready Xtend soybean and cotton seeds to farmers in Missouri and several other states. The seeds are genetically engineered to withstand sprays of glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. The problem is that the Xtend dicamba herbicide designed to go with the seeds has not yet been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading many farmers to spray their GMO soybeans and cotton with older formulas of dicambaâ€”illegally."
"While Monsanto's GMO crops can tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops can't." Farmers in areas affected by dicamba drift may be forced to stop growing non-GMO crops and start using Monsanto's seeds instead. Some have experienced massive damage to a wide range of crops, such as soybeans, cotton, fruits and vegetables.
Resistance to current herbicides grows rapidly, creating a vicious circle of new herbicides and new GMO crops that resist the herbicides. Farmers' and home gardeners' choices of what they can grow and still stay in business may become severely limited.
2016 Aug. 15 Yaho news Tesla Beijing crash
The Aug. 2 crash with another vehicle damaged both cars but did not cause injuries. A previous crash in Florida was fatal. Tesla removed the terms "autopilot" and "self-driving" from its website and replaced them with the term "self-assisted driving". Chinese law requires a driver to keep both hands on the wheel. Additional training for employees demonstrating the autopilot function re-emphasizes the two hands rule and that drivers are "responsible for always maintaining control of the vehicle", but "other Tesla drivers interviewed by Reuters said China sales staff took their hands off the wheel while demonstrating the function."
2016 Aug. 11 USA Today Cruelty in Tyson chicken plants
Once again, animal rights activists have posed as employees to take undercover videos of the cramped living conditions and appallingly abusive treatment chickens go through to render billions of dollars in poultry sales for Tyson. One of the videos is shown in the link above. Forewarned is forarmed: if you watch it, you may never enjoy eating chicken again.
2016 Aug. 7 New York Times Results of research can be biased by donations to research institutions
The New York Times reveals the long arm of corporate money and influence reaches even to respected tax-exempt Washington think tanks like the Brookings Institution. "Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings and other donors â€” like JPMorgan Chase, the nationâ€™s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate â€” show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide â€œdonation benefits,â€ including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials...."
2016 Aug. 7 Aljazeera Protests against display of polar bear in Chinese shopping center
"More than half a million people have signed an online petition calling for the closure of a theme park in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where a polar bear is on show." China has no animal welfare law, but people are concerned the bear is kept in a small space and has no company.
2016 Aug 2
UBS Asset Management and two professors,"Drs. Spengler and Vorosmarty", set out to measure effects of company actions on "climate change, water and health".
"Vorosmarty and Spengler say they expect to have a working prototype by the end of the year."
2016 Aug 2: openDemocracy Human rights treaties and foreign investment
"Evidence suggests that human rights treaties provide a reputational shield for companies to invest in the worst rights-violating countries.
"Violating more human rights is associated with less FDI, but only for countries that have committed to three or fewer human rights treaties."
Related: see Measurement of change by green companies above.
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 Mallettâ€“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 or not doing so.
"Peabody Energy was revealed as a funder of a web of groups and organisations that have worked to spread doubt over human-caused climate change while fighting rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions."
2016 July 9 Truthout Restaurant franchises
"The average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate", contributing significantly to carbon emissions. Darden, owner of brands such as Olive Garden Yard House, and Long Horn Steakhouse, could help considerably by buying locally grown food. It could also help by paying the full federal minimum wage to tipped workers, which is required in only 7 states.
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 onesâ€”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."
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.