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Wednesday

Nestlé: Stop trying to patent Fennel.

Nestlé: Stop trying to patent natural cures | SumOfUs

Nigella sativa -- more commonly known as fennel flower -- has been used as a cure-all remedy for over a thousand years. It treats everything from vomiting to fevers to skin diseases, and has been widely available in impoverished communities across the Middle East and Asia.

But now Nestlé is claiming to own it, and filing patent claims  around the world to try and take control over the natural cure of the  fennel flower and turn it into a costly private drug.

In a paper published last year, Nestlé scientists claimed to “discover” what much of the world has known for millennia: that nigella sativa extract could be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy”.

But instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission. Nestlé has filed patent applications -- which are currently pending -- around the world.

Prior to Nestlé's outlandish patent claim, researchers in  developing nations such as Egypt and Pakistan had already published  studies on the same curative powers Nestlé is claiming as its own. And Nestlé has done this before -- in 2011, it tried to claim credit for using cow’s milk as a laxative, despite the fact that such knowledge had been in Indian medical texts for a thousand years.

We know Nestlé doesn’t care about ethics. After all, this is the corporation that poisoned its milk with melamine, purchases cocoa from plantations that use child slave labor, and launched a breast milk substitute campaign in the 1970s that contributed to the suffering and deaths of thousands of babies from poor communities.

But we also know that Nestlé is sensitive to public outcry, and that it's been beaten at the patent game before. If we act fast, we can put enough pressure on Nestlé to get it to drop its patent plans before they harm anyone -- but if we want any chance at affecting Nestlé's decision, we have to speak out now!
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Third World Network (PDF): Food giant Nestlé claims to have invented stomach soothing use of habbat al-barakah (Nigella sativa), 6 July, 2012

5 products you probably buy that are quietly driving human rights abuses - Vox

5 products you probably buy that are quietly driving human rights abuses - Vox

Being a consumer means participating in a vast, global system of supply chains, labor markets, and corporations, and almost all of it beyond the average person's visibility. It can be near-impossible to
judge which products might be tied up in something nefarious or destructive.

Making this more difficult, there is no truly effective international authority to govern private corporations and guide consumers. The United Nations has tried, but of the world's roughly 80,000 multinational corporations, only 323 appear on a UN list of companies with stated human rights policies, according to GWU Professor Susan  Ariel Aaronson and researcher Aaron Higham. Or those companies, Aaronson and Higham finds that only a fraction have policies that meet UN standards for corporate codes.

Here, then, as means of illustrating how the complicated webs  of globalization can link innocuous-seeming products with far-away harm — and thus perhaps help perpetuate that harm — are five common consumer  products that have demonstrated connections to serious human rights  abuses. The intent isn't necessarily to call out these products or their producers as especially egregious — though some are — but to show just  how common these practices have become in the global economy, and how difficult they are to stop.

Fried products at Burger King, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and KFC
First, climate change: tropical forests in those southeast Asian countries are being cut to the point of total destruction — a UN report indicates they'll be 98 percent gone by 2022. As if the habitat destruction were not bad enough in itself, according to May-Tobin, tropical deforestation already contributes about 10 percent of global carbon emissions. Moreover, planting new palm oil trees often involves draining peat soil, which stores huge amounts of carbon.

Second, human rights. A 2013 US Department of Labor study found clear evidence that the Indonesian palm oil industry has used child labor, and the Malaysian industry has used outright slaves.
Still, palm oil is used by Burger King to make its fries and is used for unspecific food products at McDonald's and stores under the Yum! Foods brand: Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. It's not certain that all fried products at these stores use palm oil, but they are confirmed to make use of palm oil, so it stands to reason that french fries or other fried products could include the ingredient.

Now, it isn't inevitable that palm oil contributes to these problems. May-Tobin wrote in September that several companies — including Dunkin' Donuts and  General Mills — have developed more environmentally friendly and ethical sourcing regimes to continue using palm oil in a way that doesn't cause these problems. Still, the fast food chains listed above — and surely  many others — have not embraced such practices. According to May-Tobin, Burger King failed to deliver on a 2010 pledge to reform its palm oil sourcing.

Shrimp
 In June of 2014, the Guardian released a blockbuster report on shrimp production in Thailand. "Large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of [shrimp] sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart,  Carrefour, Costco and Tesco," Guardian reporters , , and wrote, revealing a pattern of beatings, torture, and murder of slave workers on boats that supply Thailand's largest shrimp company.

The named companies responded by promising to reform their purchasing practices. But unless authorities in Thailand address the problem or the global shrimp market somehow develops an entirely new market, it's not clear that the problem is fully possible for buyers alone to solve.

Over 90 percent of shrimp purchased in the United States is imported. According to US government statistics, the bulk of that is farmed in South and Southeast Asia (there's a bit from Latin America as well). A massive Environmental Justice Foundation expose released in April 2014 found evidence of rampant human rights abuses in the South and Southeast Asian shrimp industries

Jansport backpacks and other VF Brands products  (Northface, etc.)
Enormous numbers of Bangladeshi garment sector employees work in unsafe sweatshop factories. These poorly inspected buildings are prone to deadly fires  and wholesale collapses. The employees work long hours for very little  pay. After about 1,100 people died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, this problem became impossible for the world to ignore.

Recently, a great deal of attention has focused on VF Brands — the parent company of Jansport, Nautica, and NorthFace, which contracts from 90-odd factories in Bangladesh. In June 2014, a fire broke out at a Medlar Apparels factory in Dhaka — which, according to customs data reviewed by the International Labor Rights Forum, is a longtime VF supplier. An activist organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, says that VF-linked factories have a lengthy history of fires and labor abuses.

VF is far from the only supplier to use Bangladeshi factories or fail to adhere to safety standards. But it's been singled out because, as of October, it has refused to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a corporate agreement to implement more robust safety inspections. Over 150 brands have signed onto accord; VF and several dozen other  companies (including WalMart) created an alternative agreement on  factory safety that, per the New York Times, labor groups believe is insufficiently robust.

SodastreamWhatever your view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's very hard to argue with one basic point: Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as they currently exist, really hurt Palestinians. Palestinians suffer through a system of checkpoints that choke off economic life in their community, live under a separate- and- unequal justice system from the rest of Israel, and are victims of a vigilante violence campaign designed to make it hard for Israel to ever withdraw from the West Bank.

This is why it's so problematic that SodaStream, the huge home seltzer company, has its largest factory in a West Bank settlement. The factory, which employs 1,100 workers, is in Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement just east of Jerusalem. Ma'ale Adumim isn't just any settlement: it's in a settlement area called E1 that, if further expanded, would threaten to make the Palestinian West Bank non-contiguous. That would make Palestinian travel inside the West Bank far more difficult, and make it much tougher for the Palestinians to establish their own state. In other words, settlement construction in E1 is a literal, physical barrier to peace.

By locating in E1, SodaStream grants legitimacy to — and, indeed, physically and economically entrenches — a settlement project that's widely considered illegal under international law.

Chocolate
Today, over 70 percent of the world's chocolate comes from West Africa, with about a third from Cote d'Ivoire. While activists and legislators have put serious effort into addressing child labor issues since 2001, not all is well. In February 2014, CNN reported that there were still up to 800,000 children working on Cote d'Ivoire cocoa farms. Not all child workers are slaves, of course, but human rights groups agree that child slavery is still a major problem for the cocoa industry.

There are hopeful signs. In May 2014, 12 major chocolate and cocoa companies launched something called CocoaAction, an initiative to make cocoa farming more ethical or sustainable. "The commitment of the industry to share strategy and objectives related to sustainable cocoa is a positive signal," Oxfam Novib policy analyst Frank Mechielsen said of CocoaAction."Besides the productivity and quality agenda, attention is provided to  community development and child labour remediation. It shows the sense  of urgency the companies show to address the challenges and work on  solutions together."
But this is still relatively new. We've got a long way to go before we can give the cocoa industry a clean bill of health.

Sunday

Ban the new "F"-word | Bee pesticide - David Suzuki Foundation

Ban the new "F"-word | David Suzuki Foundation

While dithering over neonicotinoids —
bee-killing pesticides banned in Europe — Canadian regulators are poised to approve a closely-related poison called flupyradifurone. We call it the new "F"-word.
Like neonics, flupyradifurone attacks the nervous system of insect pests. Both are systemic pesticides that are taken up by plants and move through their tissues into pollen, fruits and seeds. Both are also persistent, sticking around in the environment and, with repeated applications, building up over time.

Health Canada says flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, birds, worms, spiders, small mammals and aquatic bugs — familiar words to anyone following Canada’s slow-motion review of neonics. Dust from corn seed treated with neonics is implicated in large-scale bee die-offs during planting season in Ontario and Quebec.
Not only is this is alarming in its own right; the dead bees are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, signalling broader ecological consequences.

Inexplicably, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has yet to take action to curtail the use of neonics, and now the agency is preparing to give the green light to a look-alike chemical, flupyradifurone.

The PMRA is accepting public comments on this move until November 3, 2014.
Join us in calling on the government to put the brakes on flupyradifurone. It’s time for Canada to get serious about addressing the concerns with neonics and related systemic pesticides.

Saturday

Coca-Cola's Attack on Mehdiganj - Petition

Coca-Cola's Attack on Mehdiganj Villagers | Story of Stuff

petition at link above.

Coca-Cola is  determined to drain the village of Mehdiganj, India, dry despite a  government order to shut down the plant for using too much water and  violating pollution limits. According to Indian authorities, the groundwater level in the village has gone from “safe” to “over-exploited” -- the worst designation of groundwater, before it dries up completely --in the time the Coke plant has been operating.

Mehdiganj villagers have been protesting against the Coke plant for years. The villagers' protests have escalated as their wells have dried up,  forcing them to walk ever-greater distances for fresh water. As the water level drops, crop yields are dropping with it, sucking out the economic basis of the village and endangering the livelihoods of thousands of residents. Meanwhile, Coke has spent much of this year pressing for a massive expansion of the plant that would increase water use by five times. The company has shown that it is totally disconnected from the danger it is imposing on the village.

Studies conducted by both the Indian government agencies and independent organizations have found that Coke has located many of its plants in water-stressed areas of India and bottling operations in these areas have threatened groundwater in many places. Furthermore, Coke plants have also been caught polluting the surroundings and selling toxic waste to unsuspecting farmers to be used as fertilizer.

Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource around the world. Many corporations argue that they are free to use as much water as they want, even if it makes entire areas uninhabitable.
Careful stewardship of our resources is at the heart of our Story, ensuring that we'll be around to continue telling stories long into the future.

Thursday

“Lock your office door and stay away from the windows…” – elizabethmaymp.ca – October 23, 2014

“Lock your office door and stay away from the windows…” – elizabethmaymp.ca – October 23, 2014

"So, while it is too early to jump to conclusions, I intend to hold fast to the following: we must ensure that this appalling act of violence is not used to justify a disproportionate response. We must not resort to hyperbolic rhetoric. We need to determine if these actions are coordinated to any larger group or are the actions of one or twoindividuals. If it is the latter we must develop tools and a systematic approach  to dissuade our youth from being attracted to violent extremist groups of any kind. We need to protect  our rights andin a democracy.

We do know that through history these kinds of events open the door to a loss of democracy. Naomi Kleindetails the elements of seizing the opportunity created by tragedy or  tumult in Shock Doctrine.The  of her new and important book on climate, This Changes Everything,is correct – the  threat of the climate crisis changes everything. Theshootings on Parliament Hill do not change  . It is up to all of us to ensure that, to the extent we encounter demands for change, we keep in the forefront of our minds that once we surrender any rights it is very difficult to restore them. Let’s demand answers,  and proportionate response..."

Saturday

Friends of the Earth - Monsanto and Monarchs

Friends of the Earth

Monarch butterflies are in serious trouble. The leading factor in their decline is the increased use of Monsanto’s Roundup®, which has virtually wiped out milkweed -- the only food young monarchs eat. More Roundup® = less milkweed = fewer monarchs.

The leading factor is the loss of their breeding habitat and food. Across the Midwest, millions of acres of “Roundup® Ready” GMO crops engineered to withstand massive amounts Monsanto’s Roundup® have been planted along the monarch’s migration route -- virtually wiping out milkweed, the only food young monarchs eat. The use of Roundup® has skyrocketed in the last decade. More Roundup® = less
milkweed = fewer monarchs.

Monarchs need our help before it’s too late! Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.

The numbers are startling: in the last 20 years, the number of monarchs has declined by 90 percent. They’ve dropped from a recorded high of 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to less than 35 million last winter. For this year, early reports suggest a 50 percent decline in their numbers from last year.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to help. It could restore essential monarch habitat nationwide -- by giving the monarch butterfly protection under the Endangered Species Act. But we need your help to protectthis essential pollinator for future generations.

Tell McDonald's to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy | SumOfUs

Tell McDonald's to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy | SumOfUs

The palm oil industry’s rampage is also fueling climatechange — releasing billions of of tons of greenhouse gases every year, andmaking Indonesia the world’s third largest climate polluter.

McDonald's buys palm oil to make a range of products — from Baked Apple Pie to Spicy Chicken McBites. If we could get McDonalds to adopt a no-deforestation palm oil policy, it  would show the palm oil producers that there's no going back. The palm oil industry would be forced to make its one year separation from deforestation permanent, if it wants to sell to leading consumer brands in the future.

The best part? McDonald's just joined a pledge at a UN Summit to help cut global deforestation rates in half by 2020, so we suspect it's open to the idea of changing its palm oil policy to be tiger-friendly.

But McDonald's has a ways to go still. It currently relies primarily on controversial "RSPO GreenPalm" certificates, which give a few dollars to sustainable producers while allowing McDonald's to buy any palm oil on the marketplace, regardless of its sustainability.

This isn't only about getting McDonald's to clean up its own act, but also to use its significant influence with suppliers to reform the whole palm oil industry, especially those producers who are linked even more directly to rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.

Together, we've already convinced Kellogg's and other big companies to change their ways, causing a shift in the global palm oil supply chain. Similar organized consumer pressure has dramatically slowed the rate of deforestation in Brazil. McDonald's can be moved with public pressure too.

But due to pressure from people like us, the largest palm oil producers have promised to halt deforestation for one year. Now we have an opportunity to fundamentally change how major companies like McDonald’s source their palm oil—or the tiger, the orangutan, and the elephant will be at risk once again.

Tuesday

Sea of Irish Protesters: 'Water Is a Human Right!'

Sea of Irish Protesters: 'Water Is a Human Right!' | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

As many as 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to denounce a new water tax  and declare, "Water is a human right." Protesters say the water charges, to begin next year, are yet more austerity measures that have pushed people towards a "tipping point."

Fifty-year-old Martin Kelly held a sign reading "Stop the great water heist" and told Reuters, "There is absolute fury against what the government has imposed on the people."

"This day will go down in history as the day that the people decided to roar," said Independent TD Clare Daly. "We are here in our tens of thousands to say water is a human right, based on need, not an ability to pay."

Friday

Demand the NEB respect Indigenous Rights! Sign to support Chippewas of the Thames First Nation! | Leadnow.ca

Demand the NEB respect Indigenous Rights! Sign to support Chippewas of the Thames First Nation! | Leadnow.ca

Demand that the National Energy Board respect the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. Enbridge has no right to pump dangerous oil through the community without consultation with, and consent from, Chippewas of the Thames, as well as other First Nations in Southern Ontario and Quebec.

The NEB must reject Enbridge's 'leave to open' applications until the appeal is heard and First Nation rights are respected.

Why is this important? Enbridge has filed 'leave to open' on Line 9 which means that by mid-October or early November, 2014, Line 9 could be pumping tar sands dilbit and fracked Bakken oil throughout southern Ontario and Quebec.

In June, 2014, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation launched a legal challenge to the National Energy Board's approval of Line 9, stating that constitutional obligations for consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal rights had not been met.

THE CASE HAS NOT YET BEEN HEARD.
Enbridge is attempting to bypass the Court of Appeal in order to start pumping heavy oil through an aging pipeline built for light oil through 18 First Nations, many of whom were not consulted on the reversal project, as required by the Canadian Constitution. And the National Energy Board, closely tied to the Harper government and Big Oil, is likely to let Enbridge get away with it.

Tuesday

Cancer Free Cosmetics | Story of Stuff

Cancer Free Cosmetics | Story of Stuff

Procter & Gamble, the largest personal care product  company in the world, spends millions using Breast Cancer Awareness  Month to advertise its products while refusing to remove cancer causing  chemicals from those same products. Major brands such as Tide, Pantene, Herbal Essence, and CoverGirl are packed with carcinogens andsold to customers without so much as a warning on the label.

Meanwhile, the multi-billion dollar company will only donate $100,000 this year to fighting breast cancer. For P&G this is a marketing gimmick – the company has never made a commitment to  protecting its customers from the known carcinogens in its own products and has hidden the danger from them. This month, while the spotlight is on breast cancer, we can hghlight P&G's role in contributing to it and other cancers, ensuring that the company makes areal commitment to protecting its customer's health.

Dozens of potentially dangerous chemicals can be found across the spectrum of P&G products. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), recognized as a carcinogen by the state of California, is one such chemical usedworldwide. The US National Institutes of Health reports that BHA is "reasonably anticipated" to be a human carcinogen. By putting chemicals linked to cancer in P&G products, the corporation is running a dangerous experiment on human health.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has reviewed the scientific literature on carcinogens and found cancer-causing chemicals in Procter & Gamble products including shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, and hair dyes. The CSC cross-referenced this research with authoritative bodies, including the California Proposition 65 list of chemicals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the NationalToxicology Program (NTP).

Many of the chemicals P&G uses are banned in various  places around the world, but the company simpky ships its old, dangerous formula to countries with poor regulations. We are calling on P&G to take action now to end the health threat to people worldwide. There is no reason for Procter & Gamble to put cancer-causing chemicals in its personal beauty products when safer alternatives exist.

Sunday

Toxic waste dumped into Niagara River a threat to Lake Ontario | Toronto Star

Toxic waste dumped into Niagara River a threat to Lake Ontario | Toronto Star

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE–Remember theLove Canal

Just up the road from that notorious toxic neighbourhood in New York state, there’s a new plan to dump more poisonous waste, including radioactive material, right near Lake Ontario and on an earthquake fault line. New York state officials are now considering whether to permit a company called Chemical Waste Management Inc. to expand its landfill in Youngstown, N.Y., perilously close to the Canadian border — and our shared water.
Do we ever learn? The site is less than five kilometres from the Niagara River, already filled with so many chemicals that it’s listed as an official area of concern by the International Joint Commission

that oversees shared Canada-U.S. waters.
Even more concerning for Canadians is that at least once a year, under U.S. permit, the existing New York-side landfill is allowed to dilute the cancer-linked PCBs and other materials it collects and discharge its nasty water into the Niagara River...

Why aren’t Canadians doing more to stop this plan? The biggest reason is that so far, only a few Canadians seem to know about it.

Gary Burroughs, Niagara’s regional chair (on the Ontario side), says he found out about the scheme only recently, when Burmaster contacted him. He attended a public meeting on the U.S. side on July 16.
“I’ve been trying to raise attention about it since then,” he says.
Why hasn't this drawn government attention?

You would think that a problem on the order of toxic and radioactive waste threatening Lake Ontario would draw the attention of the provincial and federal governments, but apparently it hasn’t. It’s
possible that no one on the U.S. side has told the Ontario Environment Ministry anything officially, as this may not be required under law.

As for Ottawa, as many Canadians know, the federal government treats environmental protection as an enemy — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has cut environmental programs, muzzled scientists and ordered tax audits of environmental groups. It’s hard to determine what the feds would do
or even if they would care.

At the same time, Canada’s environmentalists don’t seem to know about this problem either. A spokesperson for the David Suzuki Foundation, asked about the plan for more toxic waste at the edge of the Great Lakes, expressed shock and surprise.

To make matters worse, Burmaster says that the Chemical Waste Management site is on an earthquake fault line: “Should a quake happen and open the landfill . . . in just one hour those carcinogens and
radioactive particles would become airborne and could be carried 60 miles (100 kilometres) away.”

Not to make this too scary, but as he says, that’s “all the way to the Toronto area

David Israelson
is a Toronto writer and consultant.

Wednesday

Matt Damon Does Ice Bucket Challenge With Toilet Water For 800 Million Without Clean H2O

Matt Damon Does Ice Bucket Challenge With Toilet Water For 800 Million Without Clean H2O

"It posed kind of a problem for me,
not only because there's a drought here in California," Damon explained in the video, uploaded to the organization's YouTube channel. "But because I co-founded Water.org, and we envision the day when everybody has access to a clean drink of water -- and there are about 800 million people in the world who don't -- and so dumping a clean bucket of water on my head seemed a little crazy."

The actor -- who nominated George Clooney, Bono and NFL quarterback Tom Brady to do the challenge next -- said swapping clean H2O from the faucet for toilet water seemed fitting for the causes near and dear to his heart, as about 2.4 billion people across the globe still lack access to clean sanitation systems. Toilet water in westernized nations, Damon added, is still cleaner than the drinking water in many underserved communities in developing countries.

The ice bucket challenge has raised an unprecedented amount to combat the fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Between July 29 and Aug. 25, the ALS Association has raised $79.7 million from about 1.7 million donors in its fight against Lou Gehrig’s
disease, according to TIME. During that same period last year, the organization raised about $2.5 million.