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

EPA Launches Criminal Investigation Against Tyson Foods

Jan Lee
| Monday August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Tyson_Monett_wastewater_3_MoDNRPoultry producer Tyson Foods has announced that the Environmental Protection Agency is launching a criminal investigation into last May’s wastewater discharge at Tyson’s Monett, Missouri plant.

The information was revealed in Tyson’s Aug. 7 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, in which Tyson acknowledged that it is also being sued by the state of Missouri for the company’s part in allegedly causing a massive fish-kill in Clear Creek in May of this year.

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Top 30 Cities for Green Real Estate

Jan Lee
| Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

green There are numerous ways to measure the sustainability of a major city these days. Cutting-edge, energy-efficient transportation, renewable energy and recycling/reuse programs are all excellent indicators of a “green” municipal mindset. So is green real estate. Energy-efficient, certified real estate construction has been gaining prominence in recent years, so much so that it is now addressed in bylaws in many cities across North America.

So it’s also no surprise that the real estate group CBRE came up with a list of the top 30 U.S. cities to feature green commercial building construction. What is intriguing is the variation between cities when it comes to what defined that green emphasis.

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India Makes CSR A Requirement for Companies

Jan Lee
| Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 14 Comments

640px-Ä3W_-_Ambulance_in_India_CSRWe laud corporate social responsibility. As a society, we put those generous acts of concern that companies do at the top of the scale when it comes to trust and our concept of product reliability. Safeway’s many local donation campaigns, McDonald’s long-standing Ronald McDonald charities, the numerous companies that have donated to community hunger programs, child education and the like. In fact, these days, it would likely be harder to find a company that doesn’t have a well publicized CSR program than 20 that do.

And American society is not alone. In India, Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of trusteeship to companies in the early 1900s, encouraging them to take a leading role in social responsibility. So, the Indian parliament’s landmark legislation in 2013 that large companies must donate 2 percent of their earnings to CSR projects each year is really not earth-shaking when it comes to social perspectives in the world’s largest democratic nation.

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Malaria Vaccine Offers New Prevention Methods

Jan Lee
| Tuesday August 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Malaria_Teaching_about_mosquito_net_use_sallyforthwitIf you have ever traveled to a densely tropical area, you have probably taken anti-malaria medications. You probably also know that protecting yourself from the disease isn’t a piece of cake. My earliest childhood memories of living in Central America included a battery of shots that protected us from everything from typhus to yellow fever. When it came to shielding us from the bite of a malaria-borne mosquito however, protection was a bit more complex, and involved a regimen of either weekly or daily medications that served as a protective shield from the potentially fatal effects of the disease.

And since it depended upon good memory skills and sometimes the right immune system, the doses weren’t always 100 percent effective in warding off the disease. Although none of my family contracted it, we knew scientists and researchers who, even with their acute instincts for regimen, still ended up contracting malaria.

But the real problem today with anti-malaria meds isn’t the chance that they won’t work, but that the majority of the victims aren’t able to afford a lengthy prescription. That’s because most people who contract malaria aren’t incidental travelers from North America who are on a business trip or an excursion to see the local sights, but residents who would never be able to afford the cost of lifelong prescriptions.

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Wikileaks Targets Australia with New Leak and More Controversy

Jan Lee
| Monday August 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Wikileaks_logo.svgJust when we started to forget about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, the activist organization is back in the news. This time it isn’t the covert tactics of the National Security Agency, Guantanamo prisoners or the touchy nature of the federal government’s overseas relations that Wikileaks is fingering, but the Australian government.

On Tuesday Wikileaks released information about a gag order that prevented Australia’s media from informing the public about investigations into a multi-national graft case. In addition to publishing the information on its website, Wikileaks also released notice of the gag order to the Guardian in the U.K.

According to the Guardian, the Supreme Court of Victoria said it placed the ban “to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations.” What has critics particularly concerned, however, is the nature of the gag order, which prevents Australian media from even acknowledging that there is a ban in place.

“Who is brokering our deals, and how are we brokering them as a nation? Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows,” asserts Wikileaks.

According to its website, the gag order relates to the “secret 19 June 2014 indictment of seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).” Those indictments and the ongoing investigations are linked to a scandal that surfaced in 2012  concerning alleged payments between RBA staff and government officials in Asia.

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The Fight Over Chemical Flame Retardants

Jan Lee
| Wednesday July 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Kaiser_sacramento_chemical_fire_retardantsLurking inside your bed, your couch, your carpet and the upholstery of your car is a secret arsenal. You can’t see it, you can’t usually smell it, and most of the time, you’re likely unaware that it’s even there.

The U.S. chemical industry will tell you that it’s there to save lives. And the truth is, in many cases it has. Since 1976 when the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed, says the North American FlameRetardant Alliance (NAFRA), deaths from furniture and furnishing fires have dropped dramatically. According to studies conducted during 1981-1985 and 2000-2007, “The number of fire deaths fell by 64 percent for furniture and furnishings [f&f] fires.” The American Chemistry Council (ACC) attributes that reduction to flame-retardant chemicals that slow the spread of a devastating house fire.

Chemical flame retardants: Are they helping?

But critics ask, at what cost? Improved technology now places the cause of some cancers, developmental problems and other diseases squarely on the types of chemicals we use in our homes. Substances that have long been used with the blessings of TSCA, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers and phosphate esters, are now showing up in our water, our food and have been detected in the air we breathe. Research has also linked childhood developmental problems to the chemicals found in our furniture and other upholstery

Organizations like Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Health Care Without Harm and Practice Green Health have long argued that spraying the interior of our beds and upholstery doesn’t just change the flammability of the furniture, it just subjects their users to an onslaught of toxic chemicals on a daily basis, and that there are better, safer ways to address f&f fire risk in our homes. 

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Obama’s ‘Economic Patriotism’ Won’t Win Until Firms Do

Jan Lee
| Tuesday July 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Obama_economic_patriotism_Nick_KnupfferThis week, President Barack Obama lashed out at corporations that have taken up the legal but questionably ethical practice of tax inversion.

For those who aren’t familiar with the expression, tax inversion occurs when companies purchase property in another country in order to change their tax base to another, more financially advantageous location. Northern Ireland is the latest geographic sector to benefit from burgeoning U.S. firms like Google and Facebook, which are said to be thriving under more generous tax provisions. Biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which earlier this month attempted to purchase U.K. pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, is also suspected of trying to change its physical address.

“My attitude is: I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama said in a speech in Los Angeles this week. “It’s wrong.”

What I often appreciate about Obama is his ability to come right to the core of the issue, which often doesn’t have to do with pragmatism, or partisanship (although, he’s been known to trump that card as well), but ethics. Few presidents have had the moxie to aim for the moral bull’s-eye as many times as Obama and hit it squarely on the mark.

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Shrink the Solar Power Inverter and Google Will Pay You $1 Million

Jan Lee
| Monday July 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments

LITTLE_BOX_POWER_INVERTER_GOOGLE_2What’s the size of a clunky ice cooler and essential to that off-grid lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of? If you guessed a solar power inverter, then you may be just the techie Google is hoping to hear from. At a time when computers can fit in the palm of your hand and miniaturized pacemakers can be less than 42 millimeters in size and less than 2 cubic centimeters in volume, it may seem surprising that we’re still dealing with solar inverters that can be as big as your grandmother’s knitting chest.

Google’s Green Team has come up with an ingenious answer: Offer what every hobby industrialist has always wanted — $1 million for the guy or gal that can come up with a way to shrink the technology.

For those who are unacquainted with power inverters, it’s that essential piece of equipment that allows us to actually utilize the power we gain through the solar panels or wind turbines. It converts the direct current (DC) that’s stored from say, a solar array, to the alternating current (AC) we use to power appliances.

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Poll: Carbon Tax Reused for Renewables Could Work for U.S. Voters

Jan Lee
| Thursday July 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Thousands rally for climate action and a carbon priceThe concept of a national carbon tax is a hard sell for most people these days. According to a recent poll, only 34 percent of U.S. respondents said they would support taxing fossil fuels like oil, gas or natural gas.

But support for a carbon tax changes dramatically when it comes to scenarios in which the funds are either reimbursed to taxpayers or used to fund renewable energy projects. The 798 respondents were surveyed for each question according to their political affiliations in order to determine what resonated with each of three specific political groups (Republican, Independent and Democrat). The poll was conducted by the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the University of Michigan Center for Local, State and Urban Policy this year.

Sixty percent of those surveyed gave thumbs-up to the more creative form of a carbon tax where it is then used to fund renewable energy. Half (51 percent) of those who identified themselves as Republican said they would support a tax that was then reused for greener purposes. An estimated 54 percent of Independents and 70 percent of Democrats said they would support the idea as well.

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Manufacturers Back Bill to Limit Liability for Energy Star Ratings

Jan Lee
| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

ENERGY_STAR_WASHER_LGIf U.S. appliance manufacturers have their way, consumers who purchase washers, dryers and other appliances based on their Energy Star ratings won’t be able to sue their makers if the energy savings aren’t as good as promised.

A House bill sponsored by Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and co-sponsored by Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would remove consumers’ ability to launch class-action litigation against a manufacturer if actual energy savings did not reflect what the Energy Star rating stated at the time of sale.

The bill, which was submitted for review July 12, has the backing of several large appliance makers, including Whirlpool and LG, which are members of Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). Welch was an honorary co-chair of ASE at the time of the bill’s submission. He now serves as honorary vice-chair.

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California City Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments

oxnard_climate_changeWhen it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change.

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Eden Foods Endures Customer Backlash for Birth Control Stance

Jan Lee
| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1,196 Comments

Eden_Foods_Seth_AndersonUntil June 30 of this year, Hobby Lobby was best known for its arts and craft supplies and do-it-yourself home decor options. But on July 1, that all changed.

As a result of a Supreme Court decision that its owners – and those of other “closely held” companies – did not have to provide insurance coverage for birth control, Hobby Lobby was catapulted into the partisan spotlight. A name that was once synonymous with candle-making supplies is now the poster child for businesses that object to Affordable Care Act regulations on what a company must provide for its workers.

But it isn’t the only business fighting this battle. Hobby Lobby’s unexpected court win gained the most attention, but the ACA was actually being challenged by approximately 100 small, privately-owned businesses. These companies, largely because of religious views, took exception to the idea that the insurance they provide might make it easier for women to access birth control.

And what many have been surprised to hear is that one of the largest proponents of this view (and a litigant in a battle against ACA) is the owner of an organic foods label. He’s well known for his sustainability outlooks and wholesome focus on principles that are often assumed go with, well, more liberal values.

But Michael Potter, owner of Eden Foods, makes no apology for the dichotomy between his objection to being required to pay for his workers’ birth control and his progressive stance on back-to-basics farm food.

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The Real Power of Shareholder Advocacy

Jan Lee
| Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Stockholder_Advocacy_Edmond_Meany_addressing_A-Y-P

Edmond Meany passionately addressing Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition stockholders and president, Seattle, Washington, September 19, 1908: Frank H. Nowell, 1864-1950/PD

Last January, while protesters gathered outside of a shareholders meeting at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters, another smaller, less vocal but just as impassioned discussion was taking place inside.

As protesters chanted slogans and rallied for attention in the parking lot of one of the world’s largest biotech companies, stockholders were quietly adding their own form of input regarding GMO technology: shareholder resolutions.

Investors had asked the company to file a report answering key questions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They also asked the company to stop opposing the labeling of GMO foods.

Although neither resolution was adopted, the shareholders’ message was clear and their effect immediate. Within hours, news media around the world was reporting that Monsanto investors were calling for accountability. They weren’t just listening to the company’s financial report; they were signaling to the board – and to the world – that some of Monsanto’s smallest investors were speaking up.

And the board got it.

“There is a recognition that we need to do more,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant after the meeting.

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Foster Farms Recalls Chicken, Sues Insurer for Rejecting Claim

Jan Lee
| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 17 Comments

Foster_Farms_chickenFoster Farms has a problem, a big problem.

No, it isn’t its long-standing battle with Salmonella Heidelberg infections in the chicken in its processing centers, or the ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose enforcement arm announced a recall of Foster Farm chicken the day before the Fourth of July holiday.

Its looming problem is with its insurance carrier, which is refusing to accept a claim for the $14.2 million that the manufacturer says it has lost from tainted chicken.

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Are We Really Ready to Divest from Fossil Fuels (and Plastics)?

Jan Lee
| Friday July 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Divestment_fossil_fuels_plastic_industry_Cpj24Former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Terry Tamminen came up with an interesting question the other day. In a post on Fast Company, the author and founder of the NGO 7th Generation Advisors asked a simple question regarding the carbon-producing fuels that we are now bent on relegating to the environmental trash heap: Can we really afford to divest from fossil fuels?

What a great question. It’s the kind that only one who has sat in the proverbial hot seat and lobbied for consensus and compromise would be asking right now.

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