3p Contributor: Jan Lee

Jan Lee Jan Lee is an independent journalist who lives in Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Her articles on business, eco-travel, history and culture have been published in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Visit her blog at multiculturaljew.blogspot.com

Recent Articles

Berkeley Takes on the Sugary Drink Industry

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

sugary_drinks_supermarketBerkeley, California has been called the epicenter of many things. In the 1960s, it played a pivotal role in the anti-war movement, the counter-culture movement and the free speech movement. And as Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, recently pointed out in his blog, the area may soon have one more attribute to add to its fame: the first city to tax sugary drinks.

If this doesn’t seem like much of an accolade, consider New York. The indefatigable ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to push through a ban on sugary drinks a few years back and was soundly rebuffed by the courts for executive overreach. The credit for that failure was attributed to the soda industry, which lodged a vigorous campaign to stop the restriction and has been equally focused on dispelling criticisms of the sugar industry.

But just because New York is big, populous and has lots of lobbyists and good lawyers, doesn’t mean the fight is over concerning food regulation and sugar, apparently. After all, if our national neighbor to the south can push through a soda tax, well, why not a little American city with a world-famous research center?

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San Francisco Law: Airbnb Wins, Vacation Rentals Lose

Jan Lee
| Tuesday October 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

San_Francisco_residence_Airbnb_DOhmerAirbnb has finally gotten a break. After years of increasing scrutiny by cities like New York — which has contended that the sharing economy business has, in some cases, been operating illegally within the metropolitan area — Airbnb can finally chalk one up on its side.

The coup may not help its legal woes in New York, but it’s bound to make San Francisco home-sharing advocates a bit happier. On Oct. 7, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to legalize home rentals of 30 days or less for the city’s permanent residents.

Residents were previously restricted from renting out their homes for periods of less than 30 days, according to a law that the city said protected housing rates and helped to regulate property rentals. The new law allows residents who live in the city for a minimum of nine months of the year to rent out rooms or residences for short stays for up to 90 days of business per year.

Sharing economy advocates fought hard for the change, arguing that the rentals helped cash-strapped homeowners make their mortgages. As of next February, residents who register with the city, agree to pay hotel tax on their rentals and carry a minimum of $500,000 liability insurance can now legally rent out their digs.

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Not Your Grandparent’s Workplace: What Makes Millennials Tick

Jan Lee
| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests for a Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Follow along at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST/Noon EST.

woman on computer
The global workplace is a changing dynamic these days, and no sector of the population knows this better than the millennial generation. Born at the tail end of the 20th century, a time best known for the advent of the clunky but versatile personal computer, the Walkman and equally hefty video cassette recorder, millennials have inherited a global workplace that belies a the personal me-ism of yesterday’s standards.

In fact, the workplace of today is increasingly more diverse, digitally adept and technically focused than ever before. And the 20 to 35 year-olds that are currently driving that innovation, says Nicolette Van Exel, SAP’s head of the Emerging Entrepreneur Initiative, know this high-paced arena is no longer their grandparent’s marketplace.

“[This] millennial generation grew up with access to information like never before,” said Van Exel. “It is a very, very conscious generation.”

The use of mobile devices like the cell phone, laptop and iPhone were really coming into prominence as this generation was heading off to school. By the time they were entering college, social innovations like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn were becoming a versatile part of school curricula. So for the millennials, technical innovation and social networking have an integral role not only in today’s marketplace but in the millennials’ vision of what really is important to their world. And as van Exel explained, that goes beyond the more rudimentary focus of the standard 9-to-5 job that dominated the economy in their grandparents’ age.

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California Governor Vetoes Antibiotic Resistance Bill, Critics Cheer

Jan Lee
| Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Feeding bunks at a dairy in California.Responding to pressure from environmental groups, last week California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial bill that was designed, on the surface, to regulate antibiotic use in livestock.

In a short statement released Sept. 29, Brown stated that the bill did little more than “codify a Federal Drug Administration standard [Guidance 213, or GFI 213] that phases out antibiotic use for growth promotion.” Reinforcing the standard was necessary, said Brown, “because most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond [it].”

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North American Beekeepers Sue to Stop Pesticides

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

honey_bee_beekeepers_ Rakib_Hasan_SumonLast year, beekeepers and environmental organizations took to the court in what was to be one of the first legal efforts to protect declining bee populations. The move was bold: Citing the Environmental Protection Agency’s purview over the approval of a class of chemical pesticides called neonicitinoids (neonics), they sued the EPA for circumstances that they say led to Colony Collapse Disorder. The suit maintained that through the approved use of pesticides like clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the EPA failed to prevent conditions that have led to mass deaths of bees and untold financial losses for beekeepers.

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Seattle Assesses Fine to Homeowners for Wasting Food

Jan Lee
| Thursday September 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments

640px-Garbage_Truck_landfillThe push for increased sustainable methods can be seen everywhere these days — certainly when it comes to local efforts to pare down on what we toss in the landfill.

Massachusetts’ ongoing effort to increase composting throughout the state is one such example, which will require any company or facility that disposes of at least a ton of organic material a week to compost its food scraps and other compostable materials. The disposal ban takes effect on Oct. 1 and affects more than 1,500 businesses, hospitals, public offices and facilities. Connecticut and Vermont have similar bans for wasting food that exceeds a 2-ton limit on organic waste per week.

The city of Seattle has also embraced the composting idea with a bit more of a creative edge: In an effort to encourage residents to stop wasting food, the city council passed an ordinance this last Monday that allows households to be fined $1 each time that garbage collectors find more than 10 percent of organic waste in their garbage bins.

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Greenpeace India: Tea Leaves Show DDT Pesticide Residue

Jan Lee
| Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Greenpeace_India_pesticides_GPITea is a $2 billion industry in India, which is the fourth-largest producer in the world of the sought-after beverage. The rich, fragrant chai is also unquestionably a domestic market-driver, since more than 80 percent of the product grown in India is sold at home. So when Greenpeace recently released a report stating that tested samples of India’s most prolific brands had traces of pesticides – including the banned substance DDT – well, you can imagine it wasn’t an easy swallow.

The India Tea Board immediately released a statement that all samples met India’s stipulated limits of pesticides and were within safety parameters. With equally rapid speed, Crop Care Federation, which represents the country’s agricultural-chemical industry, demanded a retraction — asserting that Greenpeace had made up the numbers. Within days, Crop Care launched a suit against Greenpeace, stating that the environmental organization had refused to share data with outside sources.

“Greenpeace’s effort to keep essential data away from Indian experts is a clear indication that the report is not just unscientific and fabricated but also done with malicious intent to harm Indian economy at the behest of its foreign donors,” said Crop Care Chair Rajjul Shroff.

This statement piqued our interest. Why would Greenpeace do the extensive research it boasted, and yet refuse to share data with outside sources?

The fact is, it did share the data, said Neha Saigal, senior campaigner for Greenpeace India’s sustainability campaign.

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Companies Sign on to Report on Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments


As we’ve observed in several posts this week, one of the really beneficial outcomes of the increased focus on the United Nations summit on climate change, which launches today, has been the groundswell of companies that have been willing to publicly step up or announce their efforts to offset global warming.

The Climate Disclosure Standards Board and its consortium of signatories has actually been in place since 2007, but its most recent statement is an example of the kind of momentum that is continuing to gain speed from the private sector.

Members of the CDSB have agreed to “to report and make use of climate change information in mainstream corporate reports (such as an Annual Report) to support the U.N. climate change negotiations,” Michael Zimonyi, a Project Officer with the CDSB Secretariat, said in an email.

CDSB offers a suggested Climate Change Reporting Framework that will allow shareholders to have a better sense of how their investments impact or are impacted by climate change, but signatories are not required to use this framework. The CDSB signatories, says the announcement, “believe shareholders and plan beneficiaries have an inherent interest in the completeness and comparability of climate-related information available in annual and other mainstream corporate reports.” The reporting framework also has the support of the U.N. Environment Program.

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University of California Commits $1 Billion to Climate Research

Jan Lee
| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

University_California_climate_change_CharlieNguyenYesterday’s People’s Climate March was predicted to be a game-changer for climate policies across the globe. While nearly 400,000 attended to make their wishes known, unfortunately there can sometimes be a big divide between public demands and institutional action. One public entity in California is already making plans to dramatically increase its support for improved climate initiatives.

The University of California has announced that it will commit $1 billion to climate change research initiatives. And with a $91 billion portfolio behind it and some of the top researchers in climate technology on its payroll, the state university system is in a unique position to lend weight to this endeavor.

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Celebrities Line Up for Global Climate Change March

Jan Lee
| Friday September 19th, 2014 | 7 Comments

peoples_climate_marchSome of the world’s top politicians will meet in New York City this week to discuss global temperatures. If they want any proof that climate change is impacting the globe, they only have to look at the map.

The People’s Climate March, which was organized for Sunday, Sept. 21, to coincide with a U.N. climate meeting in New York City this week, is now set to take place in more than a hundred locations across the globe. Host cities range from San Francisco to Alausa Lagos, Nigeria. Even smaller events, designed to reinforce the global nature of concern, have sprung up in cities on every continent.

But, as is often the case, the largest attractor to this cause may be the names that are lending their weight to the march. More than 50 celebrities, from Prince Albert II of Monaco to actors like Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon and Brad Pitt, are stepping up to support the effort — which has garnered the endorsements of more than 1,000 environmental, labor and civil rights organizations.

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Labor and Environment Issues Plague Apple for Third Year

Jan Lee
| Wednesday September 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

apple_china_annette_bernhardtInternational commerce can be a real headache. It can be especially vexing when your head offices are in California, your primary manufacturers are in China, and environmental watchdogs are everywhere.

Such is the lesson that Apple is learning these days, as it tries to navigate the sticky waters of high-speed manufacturing in developing countries, where prices may be cheap, but laws and employment customs aren’t necessarily in sync with the expectations of its North American customer base.

The problem that seems to have Apple’s management stymied however is that it’s an issue that, well, just doesn’t seem to go away.

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National Chicken Council to Phase Out Some Poultry Antibiotics

Jan Lee
| Tuesday September 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

antibiotic_resistanceOnly about 10 percent of the antibiotics used in chicken are actually used to treat humans, says the National Chicken Council. Its statement comes on the heels of a controversial report by Reuters indicating increasing proof that the prophylactic medications used in chickens are fueling antibiotic resistance not just in fowl, but in humans as well.

In a statement yesterday, the NCC refuted these assertions, claiming that only a small portion of the antibiotics that Reuters journalist Kate Kelland examined – about 10 percent – were also given to humans. The rest of the antibiotics used in fowl do not treat human populations.

“All antibiotics used to prevent and treat disease in chickens are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The majority of these antibiotics are never used in human medicine and therefore represent no threat of creating resistance in humans,” said Ashley Peterson, NCC vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs.

That said, Peterson announced, new changes are on the horizon for those meds that are also used in human populations.

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Chemical Flame Retardant Industry Suffers More Blows

Jan Lee
| Tuesday September 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

chemical_flame_retardants_crib_nerrissas-ringFlame retardant opponents had a big reason to celebrate this weekend. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Sunday that he would get behind the push to ban chemical flame retardants from furniture and children’s products.

Schumer has proposed a ban on 10 specific flame retardants that are used in children’s clothing, bedding and other furniture products. The flame retardant products associated with TDCPP and TCEP in particular have been found to be toxic to humans through long-term exposure.

Plus, Schumer says, there is now question about their efficacy in stopping fires.

“It’s a nightmare scenario that is all too real: Children are being exposed to highly toxic flame retardants — that can cause cancer and developmental delays — just by lying on a changing table and in their cribs, or even by sitting on the family couch. To boot, these carcinogenic chemicals found in foam are not effective in reducing fire risks,” the senator said in press conference on Sunday.

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Hundreds of USDA Violations Linked to Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

Jan Lee
| Monday September 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve been reporting for more than a year on Foster Farms’ mysterious salmonella infections, which earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture linked to three California processing plants. In July, the agency issued a Class I recall after more than 600 people had been sickened by the infection, and a 10-year-old boy was hospitalized – the lynch pin, it seems, to finally linking the epidemic to its point of origin.

What wasn’t disclosed to the public until now, however, was just how extensive the infections were, or the number of times that the factories were found in noncompliance during routine inspections.

All of that came to light last week, when the Natural Resources Defense Council published the results to its recent Freedom of Information Request to the USDA.

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Intel: The Push to Stop Conflict Minerals is Gaining

Jan Lee
| Tuesday September 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment

conflict_minerals_Wolframite_Mining_DRC_Julien_HarneisHuman rights activists have been waiting for at least a year to see the Department of Commerce’s breakdown of global conflict mining sites. Still, the department’s announcement last week that its data was, well, inconclusive, was no surprise.

In a 24-page report that was intended to address the whereabouts of conflict mineral mines and processing facilities, the DOC admitted that while it was able to supply a list of 400 operational sites throughout the world, its hands were tied when it came to determining certifiably which used slave or abusive labor in their camps.

“We do not have the ability to distinguish such facilities,” the DOC said matter-of-factly.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act charged the DOC with the responsibility of identifying “all known conflict mineral processing facilities world-wide” and filing a report by January 2013, a deadline the DOC apparently wasn’t able to meet. And to its defense, the challenge of narrowing down where all gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin come from is formidable. Both the Garmin Corporation (which makes GPS equipment using mined substances) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness has weighed in on this requirement, with the latter questioning whether the Act actually helps or hinders human rights in repressed areas.

Still, the challenge hasn’t deterred some companies and agencies from trying to remove conflict minerals from the marketplace. The Intel Corp., which announced in January of this year that it would source all of its microprocessor materials from conflict-free zones, has now upped the ante. The company says that by 2016, it wants its supply chain to be completely conflict-mineral-free.

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