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Boycott Nestlé, but don’t stop there

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:18pm

In the wake of the massive lead crisis that left the city of Flint without drinkable water, Michigan is once again facing a ballooning controversy over how it manages its public waters. This time around, the controversy centers on how the world’s biggest food company is seeking to suck out more spring water from Osceola Township’s White Pines Spring. Nestlé, a corporation that’s been involved in more than its fair share of scandals and has faced accusations of misconduct, is profiting from an admittedly sweet deal in which it pumps out water for free and sells it throughout the Midwest under the Ice Mountain brand name. The company already pumps about 250 gallons per minute and wants to ramp up to 400 gallons per minute, for a whopping 210 million gallons every year.

Not surprisingly, the company’s application to sell public goods for private profit has faced massive opposition since it came out. While Nestlé has claimed that its extractions would have no significant impact on stream flow or wetland habitats, the local Sierra Club and other groups have countered that it’s impossible to trust their self-reporting on a resource that takes years to accurately study.

The activists have every reason to distrust Nestlé, a company that’s been involved in a range of scandals over the past decades that stretches far beyond what you’d expect for even a firm of that size. In addition to the Michigan controversy, Nestlé has also been the target of criticism for pumping millions of gallons of public water out of California for profit, even as residents have been ordered to cut their own usage in the midst of the state’s ongoing drought. And its behavior in developing countries, where there is even less government oversight and regulation, has caused even greater damage. More than 40 years after NGOs such as the The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) first pulled the lid off the company’s unethical marketing practices, it looks like it’s time for a new round of action.

Even in the past couple of years, the corporation has left a considerable number of misdeeds in its wake. In September 2015, a report from the Fair Labor Association found that children younger than 15 were working at cocoa farms in Ivory Coast that had links to the Nestlé empire. At one farm, investigators found that a worker had never been paid for a year’s worth of labor. While the company gets a nod for commissioning the report, it came more than a decade after Nestlé promised to end the use of child labor in its supply chains, raising the question of why the issue has continued unresolved. Only two months after that report came out, Nestlé admitted that a series of labor abuses, including coercion, human trafficking, and even slavery, had been discovered in their seafood supply chain in Thailand, which the company uses for its Fancy Feast cat food brand. The company was sued over these findings, but there is still a fair amount of murkiness surrounding its vast network of suppliers, especially in Southeast Asia.

Another ongoing Nestlé scandal that simply won’t fade away centers on the company’s questionable tactics to market infant formula. Decades after the WHO enacted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981, international watchdogs, such as the IBFAN, say the company has continued to use unethical methods in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to promote infant formula to poor families. Some of these tactics include distributing free samples that interfered with lactation, forcing mothers to buy formula instead of breastfeeding. Nestlé has also encouraged families in developing countries to use milk powder that needs to be mixed with sterilized water – a directive that’s often impossible to fulfill in developing countries due to low literacy rates and unclean water supplies. This means that babies have a much higher risk of being exposed to potentially fatal diseases like cholera.

The most recent round of allegations concerns misconduct by Nestlé employees in China. According to a massive investigation by Reuters, the company’s staff were accused of cozying up to doctors, greasing their palms in order to get them to recommend the company’s formula, flagrantly ignoring a 1995 regulation stipulating that doctors must remain impartial in recommending products to families of infants under six months old. Nestlé’s aggressive marketing tactics have even extended to the realm of private medical data. This summer, six of the company’s employees were charged with bribing doctors and medical staff to obtain patients’ personal information as a way to improve their marketing strategy.

Although the firm has been targeted with a range of lawsuits over these kinds of issues, they’ve had a spotty history, with some failing due to technicalities. In the case of Nestlé’s facilitation of child labor and other abuses in West Africa, the judge dismissed the charges this March, blaming lack of jurisdiction over a foreign complaint involving foreign allegations. But there are other ways to combine the power of boycotts with legal and political action to hit Nestlé where it hurts. For instance, under the vast jurisdiction of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the government can sue any company with US-based branches or bank accounts for bribing foreign officials – charges that could well apply to Nestlé’s misdeeds in China. While there’s been a dry spell in FCPA enforcement since Trump took office, at the very least, the attorney general has called efforts to enforce the law “critical.” It’s a promising sign, since when it comes to tackling corporate misbehavior on such a grand scale, a multi-pronged approach is the only way to get results.

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs

MI-Sen: Sen. Gary Peters (D) Warns Us To Not Laugh Off Kid Rock's (R) Senate Campaign

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 10:38pm

Received this e-mail today from U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (D. MI) in support of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D. MI) re-election campaign:

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D. MI)

Kid Rock is hinting that he's running for Senate against my friend Debbie Stabenow.

He even launched a "campaign" website from a record label.

Here's the thing: folks thought that Donald Trump’s campaign was a public relations stunt, but now he's president. That is why we can't assume, even for a moment, that Kid Rock's Senate campaign is anything but the real deal.

Can you donate to Debbie's campaign today? She's not taking anything for granted and we can't either. Please click here and donate to help re-elect my friend Debbie Stabenow.

Debbie's been a friend, a mentor and a champion for Michigan as our Senior Senator.

We can't afford to lose her as we fight back against Donald Trump's agenda.

Please click here and donate to Debbie's campaign today.

Thank you for standing with my friend Debbie,

Gary

Click here to donate to Stabenow’s re-election campaign.

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs

Progressive Lion: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13)

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 4:06pm

John Conyers Jr. is Dean of the House of Representatives, he was first elected to Congress in 1965. He is currently in his 26th term, and is one of only seven people to have served over 50 years in Congress.

Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rosa Parks served on his staff for over twenty years and he visited Selma to meet with Freedom Riders multiple times in the 1960s. In many ways, his longevity makes him a living link to our past.

Four days after MLK was assassinated, Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make his birthday a national holiday. It was finally signed into law 15 years later, in 1983. Conyers has been a indefatigable champion for many other progressive causes, chipping away for decades at resistance working to create a breakthrough.

His commitment is exemplified by his determined sponsorship of two bills:

  • H.R. 40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
  • H.R. 676 —  Medicare For All.

Conyers has re-introduced HR 40 in every Congress since 1989. In the current (115th) congress, it has 30 co-sponsors.Conyers has introduced HR 676 in every Congress since 2003. In the current Congress, it has 113 co-sponsors, the most support it has ever received.

Congressman John Conyers is on DKos and was posting intermittently till 2015. In a remarkable diary in 2008, he republished a 1974 article he’d written for the The Black Scholar. It made the case for Nixon’s impeachment. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers had helped draft the articles of impeachment that were prepared but never voted on, since Nixon resigned. The article begins:

Richard Nixon, like the President before him, was in a real sense a casualty of the Vietnam War, a war which I am ashamed to say was never declared. 

Weeks after the 2016 election, Conyers highlighted the dangerous concordances between Nixon and Trump. Rep. Conyers enjoys a close working relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America and has been one of the most reliable progressive votes in Congress. He is also a staunch champion of individual rights, often getting the highest rating from the ACLU. He gets a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating his steadfast support for LGBT rights.

Under his chairmanship, the House Judiciary committee issued contempt citations to John Bolton and Harriet Miers for failing to produce documents related to the firing of nine US district attorneys. Committee staff, under his leadership, issued a report on the Bush administration’s rush to war in Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers and contractors. It was titled: “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” He has found opportunities to work across the aisle on certain issues, notably a bill to limit the Patriot Act. As chair of the House Judiciary committee, he argued against prosecuting Wikileaks for publishing documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In supporting the right of the ordinary Americans to know how their government was using its vast surveillance powers, Conyers stood in opposition to senior Democrats and Republicans who wanted to prosecute. 

After graduating from high school, Conyers became a member of the UAW (as his father was). He worked in the Lincoln Car Factory an on the staff at Local 900. Conyers served in Korea for a year and is skeptical of our military adventures. He favors dialog and diplomacy with North Korea (see the placard by the sofa):

x

You can’t be dean if you don’t look this clean. @RepJohnConyers – "Serving 🔥in Congress Since 1965"  #Detroit #ClassicMan 💯 pic.twitter.com/DUvuTpsnnF

— The CBC (@OfficialCBC) June 29, 2017

Oh, and he’s pretty dapper.

Conyers remains committed to responsible defense, he’s sponsored an amendment to prevent the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as they’ve been used by the KSA against civilians in their war on Yemen.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. is a Progressive Lion.

Progressive Lion is an occasional series celebrating a politician or activist exemplifying progressive values. The goal is to recognize their achievements and lives. Our initial focus will be on those whose names do not come up frequently here. If you know aspects of their career or work that are not in the diary, please share them in comments.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org and TheProgressiveWing.com

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs

Voting Rights Roundup: Kris Kobach claims 'we may never know' if Clinton won the popular vote

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 10:04am

Leading Off

Voter Fraud Commission: On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s “Election Integrity Commission” held its first official meeting, which was closed to the public and only available via online broadcast. Vice-chair Kris Kobach, one of America’s most notorious vote-suppressors, inaugurated the proceedings with a brazen lie in order to undermine public confidence in our electoral system, claiming that we “will probably never know” whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016. There is utterly no evidence that millions of illegal voters cost Trump the popular vote, but that hasn’t stopped the administration and Kobach from furthering the notion.​

Campaign Action

​The commission is already facing at least seven lawsuits against its proceedings for a variety of legal violations, chiefly over privacy—a concern there’s good reason to think the panel has little regard for. In a breach of confidence that could lead to harassment, the commission recently released thousands of comments submitted by the public and failed to redact accompanying personal information, making email addresses and even home addresses available for all to see.

Even more concerning, states began reporting last week that they’ve seen a surge in voter requests to cancel their registrations after Kobach requested that election officials send the commission their full registration records. New data from Colorado, for instance, shows that nearly 4,000 voters have done so there, with 54 percent of cancellations coming from Democrats and just 12 percent from Republicans. While that represents just a small fraction of the voter pool, no voter should have to fear for their privacy to exercise their right to cast a ballot.

This commission’s end goal is for Congress to amend the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (better known as the Motor Voter law) and impose new voting restrictions at the federal level for the first time in the modern era. Indeed, a newly released email discovered in an ongoing ACLU lawsuit against Kobach revealed that he had emailed a Trump transition team member the day after last November’s election to explicitly propose amending the NVRA. However, his scaremongering is already having its intended effect by diminishing public confidence in our very democracy and even inspiring people to opt out entirely—and the commission has barely even begun its work.

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs