Patrolling Robot Plotzed

 

Robot VIDEO  A security robot patrols Washington Harbour in Washington, D.C..     Its predecessor drowned in a fountain.

 

Robot said to target the homeless is terminated
(Marvin Joseph/Washington Post )  Chicago Tribune  112.28.17
By Peter Holley The Washington Post
Like so many classic Western anti-heroes before him, he rolled (literally) into town with a singular goal in mind: cleaning up the streets, which had become a gritty hotbed of harassment, vandalism, break-ins and grift.
The only difference was that he was a slow-moving, 400-pound robot with a penchant for snapping hundreds of photos a minute without people’s permission, and this was San Francisco’s Mission District in 2017.
What could go wrong? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
In the last month, his first on the job, “K-9” — a 5-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide K5 Autonomous Data Machine that can be rented for $6 an hour from Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope — was battered with barbecue sauce, allegedly smeared with feces, covered by a tarp and nearly toppled by an attacker.
As if those incidents weren’t bad enough, K-9 was also accused of discriminating against homeless people who had taken up refuge on the sidewalks he was assigned to patrol. It was those troubling allegations, which went viral last week, that sparked public outrage and prompted K-9’s employers — the San Francisco chapter of the animal rescue group SPCA — to pull the plug on their newly minted robot security pilot program.
“Effective immediately, the San Francisco SPCA has suspended its security robot pilot program,” Jennifer Scarlett, the organization’s president, wrote in a statement emailed to the Washington Post last week. “We piloted the robot program in an effort to improve the security around our campus and to create a safe atmosphere for staff, volunteers, clients and animals. Clearly, it backfired.”
SPCA officials said the robot was rented to patrol the parking lot and sidewalk outside the animal shelter after the building had been broken into twice and employees had become fed up with harassment and catcalls.
The backlash began after an animal shelter spokeswoman, in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times last week, seemed to suggest that the robot was an effective tool for eliminating the homeless encampments outside the SPCA, leading to a sudden reduction in crime. SPCA officials now say they didn’t mean to imply that they wanted to be rid of the homeless and have pointed out that they partner with several local organizations to provide veterinary care for homeless pet owners.
Nevertheless, a public outcry, complete with calls for the robot’s destruction, quickly ensued.
A flurry of headlines implied that the robot was specifically employed to target the homeless.
“Robot wages war on the homeless,” a particularly inflammatory Newsweek headline read.
SPCA officials said, they’ve received hundreds of messages encouraging people to seek retribution against the animal shelter. So far, officials said, the facility has experienced two acts of vandalism.
“The SF SPCA was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus — like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti — not to disrupt homeless people,” Scarlett’s statement said.
“We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness,” the statement added.
In a statement, Knightscope referred to accusations that its robot was hired to target homeless people as “sensationalized reports.”
“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” the statement said. “The SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”
K-9 is not the first Knightscope machine to have a short-lived security career. In July, a K5 robot patrolling Washington Harbour in Washington, D.C., ended up in a fountain, its cone-shaped body halfway submerged.

Living With Wild Animals

Last week, a cairn terrier was out of her Northfield home for less than a minute when a coyote attacked and wounded her. Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor, after viewing a home surveillance video of the attack, described it as a defensive attack, with the coyote defending territory during its reproductive season.

Image result for coyote photos

Coexisting with coyotes (and wolves and bears and …) Tribune 2.21.17

I heard a note in the radio news about a woman who’d had a house built on a wooded mountainside in Colorado without much fore-thought.  When a coyote took her little dog, she called the sheriff and asked him to send a deputy to shoot the coyote.  When he refused, she called the Colorado DNR who also refused.  She couldn’t understand that she had planted her home among coyotes, lions, and bears and had to live with them. In a way, haven’t we all done the same thing?  Hey Joe, how do you feel about those skunks?  RJN.

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When unfamiliar residents move into your neighborhood, they may raise concerns, fear and even hostility among those already there. This is particularly true if the new arrivals are of a different species. Coyotes found this out a long time ago when human settlers began taking over much of their habitat. Now, people are finding out the same thing about coyotes.
Last week, a cairn terrier was out of her Northfield home for less than a minute when a coyote attacked and wounded her. Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor, after viewing a home surveillance video of the attack, described it as a defensive attack, with the coyote defending territory during its reproductive season.
Fine, and we accept Anchor’s point that there’s never been a documented case of a coyote biting a person in Cook County. But how should we humans react to increasingly frequent encounters with wildlife in this sprawling metropolis?
In Grayslake, police Chief Phil Perlini was confronted with two separate attacks on small dogs by coyotes near the village. This fall, he posted on Facebook that he was in the market for trappers “to control and/or curb the coyote population.”
But like these animals, people are adaptable. “When I posted that very first Facebook post, I didn’t know anything about coyotes,” he told the Daily Herald. “The thought of humanely trapping the coyotes and humanely relocating them was a possibility in my head.”
Give the chief credit for trying to address the problem without bloodshed. But he learned from wildlife experts that catching and moving the critters wouldn’t solve anything. Remove one coyote from a livable area, and another one will jump at the vacancy.
Those relocated stand a good chance of being killed by other coyotes guarding their territory. Some will be hit by cars trying to get back to where they were caught. Killing campaigns don’t work, either, because the surviving coyotes adapt: They tend to breed at younger ages and bear larger litters in response.
“There is no eliminating this problem,” Perlini concluded. “There’s only coexisting.”
There is a lot more coexisting than there used to be. Coyotes have greatly expanded their range and numbers in recent years, making them a frequent sight in many suburbs and also in Chicago, which is believed to have an established population of at least 2,000. They’ve found that residential areas offer plenty of food and sufficient cover to avoid detection.
Living in such places does present them the risk of unwanted encounters, most often involving dogs or cats, though actual attacks by coyotes are rare. Trying to protect pets by getting rid of coyotes, though, is a futile endeavor. It’s much more feasible to take simple precautions — such as not leaving pets outside unattended, not walking dogs without a leash, and not leaving pet food or garbage in places where it might attract coyotes. There are even ways to “coyote-proof” fences.
As wildlife goes, this type is not exceptionally frightening. People in the Southwest have to contend with rattlesnakes, whose bites can be fatal. People in Montana and Wyoming know the deadly capacity of grizzly bears. In Maine, hundreds of cars collide each year with moose, sometimes killing motorists. In recent years, northern Illinois has had occasional visits from mountain lions, wolves and black bears — animals whose ancestors freely roamed these lands.
Humans, who once took for granted their right to exterminate any creatures that pose a danger, increasingly accept their presence as a sensible accommodation with nature. Anyone leery of coyotes might consider that if these small-brained creatures can learn to coexist, we should be able to do the same.

Whales in Trouble

 

Image result for right whale photos
Only about 450 right whales are left, and 17 of them have died in 2017, NOAA says. ( Stephan Savoia/AP 2008)
By Patrick Whittle Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine — Officials with the federal government say it’s time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.
North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died in 2017.
The situation is so dire that U.S. and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The year of high mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.
“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”
Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.
The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths. “The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” he said.
The animals give birth in temperate southern waters and then head to New England and Canada every spring and summer to feed. All of this year’s deaths were off of New England and Canada.
Some recent scientific studies have shed some light on why whale deaths have ticked up. One, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, stated that the whales move around much more than previously thought. Some scientists have posited that whales might be venturing outside of protected areas in search of food, putting themselves in harm’s way.
In another study, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined right whale feces and found whales that suffer long entanglements in fishing gear produce hormone levels that indicate high stress. The stress negatively impacts their ability to reproduce even when they survive entanglement, scientists said.
“My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish, but not entangle whales,” said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
A five-year NOAA review of right whales that was released in October said the animals should remain on the endangered list. It also included recommendations to protect the species. They included developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use, and studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales.

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Thanksgiving Poem

Thanksgiving Poem

                    Thanksgiving  1978

(for Peggy, Lisa and Rich, Philip, and Steven)

Perhaps I should have said it just between                                                           The wine and grace, the wishing and the blessing.                                                           That was the time for words, when the scene                                                                  Had just begun, before we passed the dressing,                                                            Before the knife cut deep into the breast,                                                                               I might have paused, looked up and all around                                                                      Into the eyes of each of them.  A jest                                                                             Came easier, wit tossed into the sound                                                                           And lost.  Between the stuffing and the pie                                                                       Was yet another quiet moment when                                                                                    I could have told them all.  Instead I sighed                                                                        And let it pass. Just once before the end

I should have cried:  “Listen.  Before you go,                                                                          I love you.  I just wanted you to know.”

Pete died recently.

Nestle’s Sins

We eat/use lots of Nestle products, candy bars to dog food, and don’t often think about the evil that company has done.  In one bright move, they sent a sales force into Africa to dress as doctors and persuade women to stop breast-feeding and give their babies a Nestle formula which had to be prepared with questionable local water.  They ran a marketing campaign among the poor in Brazil by setting local people as dealers to push junk food

Here’s the story.

Maggi advertisement in Senegal  Wikipedia

 Why Nestle is one of the most hated companies in the world  

Child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling – those are not words you want to see associated with your company. Nestle is the world’s largest foodstuff company, and it has a history that would make even hardcore industrialists shiver. We’re gonna look at why Nestle has such a bad reputation and whether or not it deserves it.

Introduction

Nestle company

Just some of Nestle’s more well-known brands. Image via Rasica.

People love to hate, and they really love to hate on big companies – whether or not they have a reason to. I especially dislike it when the latter happens. Companies (big companies included) are the very backbone of our economy, and they often get a bad rep for little or no reason. But sometimes there is a reason, or as in this case, several solid reasons, as we’ll see below. Which brings me to the next point: why are we writing this article? ZME Science is a science website (crazy, right?), and this is not strictly science, at least not in the way our regular articles are. But we also write about environmental issues, especially when they affect many of us, and especially when we can make a difference.

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. They have 447 factories across 194 countries and employ around 333,000 people. They truly are what you would call a giant. They’re also considered to be one of the best employers in Europe with six LEED certifications and sponsor numerous activities and sustainable projects. Looking at only these stats, it would seem that Nestle is one of the “good guys”… but then why are they so hated? Let’s take it step by step.

Baby Formula and Boycott

We’re in the ’90s, and this is a sad story about poverty, breastfeeding, and greed. Nestle aggressively pushed their breastfeeding formula in less economically developed countries(LEDCs), specifically targeting the poor. They made it seem that their infant formula was almost as good as a mother’s milk, which is highly unethical for several reasons.

Nestle ad. Image via Unlatched.

The first problem was the need for water sanitation. Most of the groups they were targeting – especially in Africa – didn’t have access to clean water (many don’t to this day), so it was necessary for them to boil the water. But due to low literacy rates, many mothers were not aware of this, so they mixed the formula with polluted water which put the children at great risks. Nestle seems to have knowingly ignored this and encouraged mothers to use the formula even when they knew the risks. Breastfeeding, one of the most important aspects for an infant, especially in unsanitized areas, was cast aside. Baby formula was “the nearest thing in the world”, and this “splendid triumph of care and science” is “so like mother’s milk that the tiny stomach won’t notice the difference”. But the tiny stomach did notice the difference.

“Breastfeeding is unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants.The optimal way to feed a baby is exclusive  breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods until the child is two years old…” –  a 2007 Save the Children report.

Many mothers were able to read in their native language but were still unable to read the language in which sterilization directions were written. Even if mothers understood the need to boil the water, they might not have had the facilities to do so. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child. Another problem was that mothers tended to use less formula than needed – to make the jar last longer, resulting in many infants receiving inadequate amounts.

But even if the water was boiled, and even if the formula was administered in the right proportion and in the right quantity, it is lacking in many of the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. Breast milk contains the required amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development, and to some extent, protects the baby from many diseases and potential infections. According to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Nestle used unethical methods to promote their infant formula to poor mothers in developing countries. But it gets even worse.

boycott nestle

Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade
Boycott Nestle, 1978
poster
Courtesy Inkworks Press Archive, Berkeley, CA

IBFAN claims that Nestle distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards; after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. Nestle denies those allegations… sort of.

“Nestlé takes reports on non-compliance with the WHO Code very seriously and we have endeavored to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, despite the fact that in many cases we are not provided with accurate details substantiating the accusations. This makes it difficult for us to investigate how, where and when the alleged infringement could have occurred. Some of the allegations are several years old before they are brought to public attention, which also could complicate the investigation.”

Back then, Nestlé’s response was that their critics should focus on doing something to improve unsafe water supplies, which contributed to the health problems associated with bottle feeding. They also later used this approach to promote their bottled water. As The Guardian puts it, “its huge marketing budgets clearly influence peoples’ behaviour, even if direct causality can’t be demonstrated.”

Today, several countries and organizations are still boycotting Nestle, despite their claims to be in compliance with WHO regulations. There’s even a committee, the International Nestlé Boycott Committee that monitors their practices. Several universities and student organizations have also joined the boycott, especially in the UK.

There is no clear, public number of lives that were lost due to this aggressive marketing campaign, and of course, Nestle is not directly responsible for their tragedies. But it was easy for them, as it was easy for everybody to see the risks and the negative effects their formula was having. It was easy for them to save many lives, but they chose the money instead. Profits before children – check. Let’s move on.

Nestle and Water

Brown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. Image via Sum of Us.

Few people know it, but Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. In fact, they’re so keen on their water business (which also involves many of their other products), that they believe water isn’t a universal right. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said:

“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Having access to water is not an extreme solution. It’s what we have called a basic need for centuries. Even Brabeck, after the media attack that followed, backed down. He said that he “believes that water is a human right” and “advocates for universal access to safe drinking water”. But his actions, as well as Nestle’s actions, show that that’s just greenwashing.

If you care about the environment, find out the latest news — join our community!
At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestle pushed for making access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need,” a defining change. Meanwhile, Nestle drains the aquifers it controls as much as possible, without any regards to sustainable usage or environmental concerns. A recent case is the California drought – an issue without precedent in the past 1,200 years. But Nestle doesn’t care. Even as Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestle CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”

Yes, if he could, he’d increase water bottling operations, even though Nestle has been working without a permit since 1988. Inhabitat reports that the company has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit and they’ve been recently been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime as long as they pay a laughable $524 annual fee. Also, California doesn’t know how much water Nestle uses, because they have no legal grounds for making the company divulge this information, and Nestle hasn’t published any reports. An independent analysis puts all their water usage at 1 billion gallons a year.

Arguably, that’s not much when you considering that 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions, but there’s something absurd and immoral about a private company using as much water as they want while the rest of the state is facing severe restrictions.

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LATE BULLETIN
Richard,

We just beat Nestlé!

For nine years, we’ve worked with the community in Hood River County and people across Oregon to stop Nestlé’s plan to grab their water and build a water bottling plant.

The community never gave up the fight against Nestlé’s attempt to take their water — and they won.

After years of building opposition locally, the issue was finally put on the ballot last year. Voters in Hood River County overwhelmingly voted to ban water bottling in the area and keep Nestlé out. But the state still tried to move forward with a deal that would give Nestlé access to the area’s water. After more pressure from the community, Oregon Governor Kate Brown directed her Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop the deal!

This is your victory, too. Food & Water Watch supporters like you stood in solidarity with the community in Oregon, and many pitched in to help win the ballot fight last year.

This win is also a testament to the power of people standing together to stop corporations more interested in record profits than protecting our communities.

Forward this email or click here to share the good news on Facebook.

Victory over Nestle

We never doubted that a victory like this was possible. We’ve seen time and again that when communities stand together in the face of corporate interests, they can win. It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible, and we wanted to share this good news with you right away.

We know there will be more fights in other places, and we’ll be ready for them. But I wanted to let you know that your support makes victories like this possible.

Thanks for everything you do,

Sarah Spooner
National Email Program Manager
Food & Water Watch
act(at)fwwatch(dot)org

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But other areas in the world have it even worse than California.In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water.

“The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)

water nestle

The small village of Bhati Dalwan is suffering a water crisis following the development of a Nestle water bottling facility. Image source.

Indeed, unsustainable usage of aquifer water can lead to a significant decrease in water levels, and can even exhaust the aquifer. That’s right, underground water isn’t the inexhaustible source many people believe it to be. In the case of Bhati Dilwan, people are getting sick because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestle of its money source – bottled water under the Pure Life brand. Greedily using natural resources for profits? Check.

But when Nestle isn’t trying to privatize water or use it without regards to the environment, it’s simply bottling… tap water. A Chicago-based business has sued the company (again), claiming that the five gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water they bought were nothing else than tap water. It may come as a shock to you, but nearly half of the bottled water in PET plastic bottles is actually from a tap – though Nestle never advertised this. They know what’s likely going to happen though, as this is almost a dress rehearsal of a previous scandal. Twelve years ago Nestle Waters was sued over allegation of false labeling, and ultimately settled for $10 million in charitable contributions and discounts.

 

Child labor, abuse, and trafficking

Most people love chocolate, but few know the dirty deals behind chocolate production. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slave labour. The children are usually 12 to 15 years old, and some are trafficked from nearby countries – and Nestle is no stranger to this practice.

child work Nestle

Children labor was found in Nestle’s supply chain. Image via Crossing Guard Consulting.

In 2005, the cocoa industry was, for the first time, under the spotlight. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The suit alleged the children were trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, forced into slavery, and experienced frequent beatings on a cocoa plantation. In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California determined corporations cannot be held liable for violations of international law and dismissed the suit – a controversial decision which has since been appealed. But even if Nestle wasn’t legally liable for these abuses, they are, at least morally. But that wasn’t the only case of this kind.

A report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), says it found “multiple serious violations” of the company’s own supplier code. It was reported that Nestle hadn’t carried out checks against child labor and abuse. Additionally, many injuries caused by machetes, which are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. Nestle’s excuse can be summed up broadly as ‘everybody does it’:

“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

The FLA reported that Nestle was fully aware of where their cocoa was coming from and under what conditions, but did little to improve conditions. Child slavery and abuse? Check.

Health Threats

In July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers to avoid eating any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes illness). In the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 people in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. In particular, one woman had a fatal infection before the batch was reclaimed.

“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?

But this is just a minor incident compared to the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants were killed and 860 were hospitalized with kidney problems after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products to increase their apparent protein content.

In October 2008, Taiwan Health ministry announced that six types of milk powders produced in China by Nestlé contained low-level traces of melamine and were removed from the shelves.

The scandal quickly escalated, with China reporting over 300,000 victims, raising concerns about the security of major food companies operating in China. Two people were executed and several life prison sentences were issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it has had to deal with in recent years.

Nestle denied implication and claimed that all its products are clean, but the Taiwan government linked their products to toxic melamine. As a response, Nestle says it has sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants to strengthen chemical testing.

Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck.

Pollution

As with any “respectable” large company, Nestle has been involved in several incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report found that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits were breached 2,152 times in 830 locations by companies that included Cabdury and Nestle. But again, the situation in China was much worse.

While people in the US and Europe are slowly becoming more environmentally concerned and some are opting for more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to another market – Asia. Alongside companies such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made several environmental violations.

Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for starting operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.

“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China, since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”

Another article claims that Nestle capitalizes on China’s already-polluted waters to make a good profit, while Corporate Watch highlights the fact that Nestle continues to extract water illegally from Brazil for their Perrier brand. Although Nestlé lost the legal action, pumping continues as it gets through the appeal procedures, something which can take ten years or more.

Ethiopian Debt

Ethiopia was going through a nation-wide famine. Image via Wikipedia.

In 2002, Nestle made what turned out to be a colossal error: demanding that Ethiopia pay them back a debt of US$6 million. There’s nothing wrong with that per se… if Ethiopia wasn’t facing extreme famine at the time. For a company that has 29 brands that make over $1 billion a year, asking a famine-stricken country to pay you back 6 million seems questionable, to say the least.

Nestle’s claim dates back to the 1970s when the military regime in Addis Ababa seized the assets of foreign companies.

The public roar came almost overnight; with the company receiving 40,000 letters from outraged people, in one of the most famous cases of public opinion beat corporate greed. In the end, Nestle took a U-turn, settling for a partial debt which was also invested in the country’s bouncing back from famine. For Nestle, who initially insisted that the compensation issue was “a matter of principle” and that it was in the best interest of Addis Ababa to settle the demand to repair its record with foreign investors, it was a huge moral defeat. For analysts, it was an exciting case which showed that even giants can falter in the face of public opinion.

“This is a welcome result because it shows that Nestle is not immune to public pressure,” said Phil Bloomer, a senior policy analyst.

A Deal With Mugabe

Striking dubious partnerships to make a profit seems to be a recurring theme. The Swiss multinational made a deal with the wife of the infamous dictator from Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, buying 1 million liters of milk a year from a farm seized from its rightful owners by Grace Mugabe

Grace has taken over at least six of Zimbabwe’s most valuable white-owned farms since 2002, building a farming empire from illegally confiscated farms, which led to an international boycott, as well as EU and US sanctions. She is known for her ridiculously lavish lifestyle, which includes overseeing the construction of two luxuriant castles. In 2014, she was given a doctorate diploma only three months after signing up for the program. Nestle went forward with the deal though, even as the country’s agriculture-based economy was collapsing and inflation was reaching unheard of levels.

Price Fixing

The price fixing was arranged for Kit Kat and other chocolates. Image via Wikipedia.

In Canada, the Competition Bureau raided the offices of Nestlé Canada (along with those of Hershey Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc) in an investigation on price fixing. Nestlé and the other companies were subject to class-action lawsuits and ultimately settled for $9 million, without actually admitting liability. Furthermore, former president and chief executive officer of Nestle Canada is facing criminal charges.

In the US, another, larger trial was rejected, because even though it was plausible that the same thing happened in the US, there was no clear evidence of any foul play. The suspicion remained however and still lingers with the company.

Promoting Unhealthy Food and Mislabeling

That Nestle is promoting unhealthy food should come as no surprise, but the level at which they operate it is simply staggering. A recent report by the UK Consumers Association claims that 7 out of the 15 breakfast cereals with the highest levels of sugar, fat, and salt were Nestle products.

“Nestlé claims to be ‘the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company’, but when it comes to food marketing to kids, Nestlé is a laggard, not a leader,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.

Nestle dismissed all responsibility in promoting healthy food. To pour even more salt in the foods wound, mister Brabeck came out with a dismissive interview in the Telegraph, claiming that he is not obese yet ‘every morning I have a tablet of dark chocolate as my breakfast’ and that it is the perfect balance and contains everything he needs for the day. Hey, after all, who would actually think that Nestle’s cereals are healthy, right?

Image via Vevivos.

But while Nestle’s labels aren’t simply misleading, they have also been downright false. In November 2002, police ordered Nestle Colombia to decommission 200 tons of imported powdered milk, because they were falsely relabeled, not only as a different, local brand, but also with a different production date. A month later another 120 tons suffered the same fate, causing uproar among the Colombian population.

Nestle bringing old powdered milk from a different country and labeling as local and new is not only unethical and illegal, but it poses health hazards for consumers.

Drawing the Line

All major companies have incidents, accidents and scandals. When you have so many people working for you, it’s virtually impossible to maintain a clean sheet. Someone will eventually screw up, someone will eventually do something they should. As I was preparing to write this article, a friend actually asked me if other companies don’t have a similar record, and advised me to look at Mars, for example. What I found was that Mars and other big companies have indeed had their share of scandals (sometimes the same ones as Nestle), but not nearly on the same scale. Nestle has shown, time and time again, that they have few ethics and little interest in a real social responsibility. From promoting their formula to uneducated African mothers to lying about production dates, to using water without a permit to dealing with ruthless dictators, they have often gone the extra mile to make an extra profit – even when the extra mile meant hurting people, directly or indirectly.

 

 

Comments

Oh, oh.  I discovered this morning that friends of the blog had made several comments to which I hadn’t replied.  Usually I get an email  “comment alert” and I reply. For those I missed I hadn’t been alerted by the blog system, but I have now replied.

Please do reply to blog posts.  I enjoy comments very much and intend to answer all but the ones selling sunglasses and “make money with your blog” rackets.

Love, RJN

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Nurse Arrested

Nurse dragged out of hospital, arrested for doing her job

A nurse in Utah was forcibly arrested after she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient, screaming “I’ve done nothing wrong” as an officer dragged her out of a hospital.Video footage of the interaction between nurse Alex Wubbels and Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne on July 26 at University Hospital in Salt Lake City shows the nurse calmly explaining to the detective that blood cannot be taken without a warrant from an unconscious patient unless he or she consents or that individual has been arrested.

“This is something that you guys agreed to with this hospital,” Wubbels says while showing Payne the policy in writing. “The three things that allow us to do that are if you have electronic warrant, patient consent or patient under arrest … and neither of those things … the patient can’t consent, he told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant and the patient is not under arrest. So, I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”

A 2-minute video of the interaction then cuts to Wubbels holding a phone, as a man’s voice warns that a “huge mistake” is being made by threatening a nurse. That sets off Payne, who then places Wubbels in handcuffs and leads her out of the hospital as the woman shrieks in agony.

“OK, no, we’re done, we’re done — you’re under arrest,” Payne says. “We’re going, we’re done, we’re done, I said we’re done!”

“You can’t put me under arrest, this is not OK,” Wubbels says while backpedaling before being led out of the hospital. “Somebody help me. Stop! You’re assaulting me, stop! Stop — I’ve done nothing wrong!”

Two hospital officials then try to intervene, but Payne warns them not to interfere or they will be arrested as well.

“I’m leaving now — with her — anybody who wants to prevent that, that’s your option,” Payne says. “So, take your hand off her, please.”

Payne then leads Wubbels to a waiting police vehicle as the woman claims the officer is hurting her.

“Then walk!” the officer responds.

“What is going on?” Wubbels tearfully asks another employee at the hospital.

Parts of the footage were shown Thursday during a news conference held by attorney Karra Porter, who is representing Wubbels, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Wubbels, who was not charged, told the newspaper that she’s watched the footage about five times.

“It hurts to relive it,” she said.

Hospital officials, meanwhile, said they supported Wubbels’ actions.

“She followed procedures and protocols in this matter and was acting in her patient’s best interest,” according to a statement obtained by The Post. “We have worked with our law enforcement partners on this issue to ensure an appropriate process for moving forward.“

No notice of claim or lawsuit had been filed as of Thursday, but Porter had discussions with the department, which will provide better training to its officers, she said.

Payne, meanwhile, has been suspended from the department’s blood-draw program, but remains on duty as an investigation is conducted, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Brandon Shearer told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Inside German Bomber

 

An Inside Look at the Germans’ Deadly Bomber

Cutaway diagram shows a German Gotha bomber.CreditB. Corvinus/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

Awful though it was, some good came of a German air raid on London in July 1917. Twenty-two Gotha bombers had flown in for the attack, but only 19 returned, Prime Minister David Lloyd George told a secret session of the House of Commons a few days later. The incursion had not been made with impunity, he said.

“A stalwart American fighter now in active service at the American camp ‘somewhere in France.’” (Censors would permit no more specific identification.)CreditThe New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

The downing of the bombers allowed an artist working for The Times Mid-Week Pictorial to render the airplanes’ general structure and arrangements in a cutaway diagram, including the racks and chutes in which 14 60-pound bombs were carried over the target, and the bombardier’s sighting window on the underside of the fuselage. The diagram also showed the biplane’s 260-horsepower Mercedes engines, manufactured by Daimler Motors.

(This was the month in which King George V restyled the British royal family as the House of Windsor, and dropped the names Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for fairly obvious reasons.)

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