News & Notes

Wednesday

California Regulators Propose $1.4 Billion Fine for Deadly Gas Pipeline Blast in 2010

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. faces biggest utility fine ever in California over the explosion that killed eight in San Bruno. Regulators proposed that the company, California’s biggest utility, pay $1.4 billion for the 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area community. The decision by two administrative law judges at the California Public Utilities Commission was based on 3,798 alleged violations of state and federal laws and regulations that govern gas pipeline safety and operations. In addition to the deaths, the explosion and firestorm in San Bruno, near San Francisco International Airport, destroyed 38 houses and injured 66 people. Federal investigators concluded that the blast — which left a 167-foot crater in the street — was caused by defective welds in the 54-year-old, 30-inch-diameter pipe. The company still faces 27 federal criminal charges related to allegations it lied to officials investigating the disaster. Los Angeles Times

Second-biggest U.S. drugstore chain stops selling tobacco, a month ahead of schedule. CVS Caremark also said it is changing its name to CVS Health. In February CVS said it would rid all of its stores of tobacco products by Oct. 1, forgoing $2 billion in annual sales. The financial risk was balanced by the hope that being the first major pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco would create a public relations halo. CVS is banking that the distinction can help it win business in other parts of the company, like administering prescription-drug programs for clients, and position it as a broader provider of basic health services. But it is unclear whether the move has yielded any financial benefits, and no other national pharmacy chain has followed CVS in dropping cigarettes. The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press

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Tuesday

Report Finds Global Surge in People With Access to Clean Water

WHO assessment says more than 2 billion have gained access to improved drinking water since 1990. In addition, the World Health Organization found that about 4 billion people now have achieved the gold standard: Clean is water piped directly into their homes. That’s well over half the world’s population. The movement toward providing universal access to clean water has been the result of a massive global effort by governments, philanthropists and nongovernmental organizations. Still, the WHO says improved sanitation operations still are needed, and the 2015 deadline set by the United Nations in 1990 for upgrading those operations is expected to be missed. That will leave 2.4 billion people without protection from contaminated water. Separately, a research organization pointed out that the anticipated global boom in fracking — an energy drilling technique that requires lots of fresh water — could leave countries in the difficult position of choosing between seeking more oil and gas or ensuring water supplies for their citizens. The Christian Science Monitor, Fortune

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March, 2011 crash at a 7-Eleven store in Midland, Texas (Photo by Roger Primera)

Bread, Milk and Mayhem

Storefront Crashes More Common Than You Think, and Often Preventable

Just as Kimmy Dubuque was about to enter a Cumberland Farms convenience store to get a cup of coffee, she was struck and killed by an SUV. Police said the SUV, driven by an 81-year-old man who suffered a stroke, had sped through the parking lot of the Chicopee, Mass., store and smashed into the […]

A Note to FairWarning Readers

Today FairWarning launches an important change in our coverage and on our website’s homepage.

We will begin providing more frequent FairWarning Reports — shorter articles on public health, safety and environmental issues that we believe are important to our readers.

We will continue to produce our deeply reported FairWarning Investigates stories, which break new ground on significant topics that are widely ignored by other news media. But, by complementing those in-depth stories with shorter stories and updates, we plan to keep readers posted more frequently on developments related to our mission.

To accommodate the change, our Daily Briefing feature will be discontinued and, in its place on the right side of our home wage, the most recent FairWarning Reports will appear. Frankly, this is a resource question, and part of an effort to expand our output of original stories. At some point, we might bring back the Daily Briefing, and we apologize to Daily Briefing subscribers who have come to rely on this informative news roundup. We hope you will like the change. We value your feedback, and thank you for supporting FairWarning.

iStock photo. FairWarining Reports

Federal Wage Investigation Snags Another Major League Baseball Team, the Oakland A’s

A third Major League Baseball team—the Oakland Athletics—has agreed to pay back wages and damages to a group of current and former employees to resolve government claims that they had been illegally underpaid. In a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Athletics agreed to pay $266,358 to 86 employees. Among them were clubhouse […]

A Little History and a Reality Check on GM Safety Scandal

A Little History and a Reality Check on GM Safety Scandal

When General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared before Congress in early April to apologize for the company’s 10-year cover-up of a lethal safety defect, it was a headline-grabbing moment. But it was not unprecedented. Hovering over  Barra was the ghost of another momentous GM mea culpa, delivered to Congress nearly half a century ago. On […]

FairWarning Investigates

A wage theft protest in Seattle. Photo credit to Alex Garland/Demotix.

Fear Stifles Complaints of Wage Abuse

Karim Ameri decided to play hardball after learning that his Los Angeles recycling business was under investigation for allegedly failing to pay the minimum wage or overtime to workers putting in 60-hour weeks. Court records say Ameri pressured employees of Recycling Innovations, a string of bottle-and-can redemption centers, to lie to federal officials about his […]

A Walmart Warehouse Workers for Justice protest in Illinois. Photo credit to Peoplesworld/Flickr/Creative Commons.

Pay Violations Rampant in Low-Wage Industries Despite Enforcement Efforts

For workers stuck on the bottom rung, living on poverty wages is hard enough. But many also are victims of wage theft, a catch-all term for payroll abuses that cheat workers of income they are supposedly guaranteed by law. Over the last few years employers ranging from baseball’s San Francisco Giants to Subway franchises to […]

Despite High Death Toll, Push Is On To Open More Public Roads to ATVs

Despite High Death Toll, Push Is On To Open More Public Roads to ATVs

Last Mother’s Day, Jaret Graham, 14, climbed on the back of an all-terrain vehicle driven by his 12-year-old cousin. As they sped down a paved stretch of country road in west Texas, the 12-year-old lost control, went into a ditch and fell off the vehicle, injuring his leg. Jaret was thrown off and hit his […]

Jacob Helvey. (The Helvey family.)

Elevator Safety Flaws Persist Despite History of Tragic Accidents

A type of elevator increasingly found in townhouses and single-family homes has been involved in rare but horrific injuries to small children, and the manufacturers have long been aware of the problem. But the companies, which set their own voluntary standards through an industry-dominated committee, have yet to address the hazard.

(iStockphoto)

Labor Department Investigating Pay Practices of 2 Major League Baseball Teams

Two Major League Baseball clubs–the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins—are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for possible federal wage law violations. The investigations come amid wider concern about questionable pay practices throughout professional baseball, according to interviews and records obtained by FairWarning under the Freedom of Information Act.

Legal Battles Smolder Six Decades After 'the Greatest Health Protection in Cigarette History'

Legal Battles Smolder Six Decades After ‘the Greatest Health Protection in Cigarette History’

It’s hard to think of anything more reckless than adding a deadly carcinogen to a product that already causes cancer — and then bragging about the health benefits. That’s what Lorillard Tobacco did 60 years ago when it introduced Kent cigarettes, whose patented “Micronite” filter contained a particularly virulent form of asbestos.

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FairWarning Reports

Zach Roberts FairWarining Reports

Latino Workers Dying at Higher Rates in Job Accidents, Report Shows

As Latino workers take on more and more of the nation’s toughest and dirtiest jobs, they increasingly are paying for it with their lives. Preliminary federal figures released last week showed that of the 4,405 U.S. workers killed on the job in 2013, 797 were Latinos. That equates to 3.8 of every 100,000 full-time Latino employees in […]

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Commentary

‘Stand Up to Cancer’ Not Standing Up to Cigarette Promoters

In three previous national telethons, Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars for cancer research. Contributions to the “War on Cancer” pledged in the fourth such telethon on September 5 would seem to be welcome. But several sponsors that were praised in the telecast appear to be doing […]

FairWarining Commentary

A Little History and a Reality Check on GM Safety Scandal

When General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared before Congress in early April to apologize for the company’s 10-year cover-up of a lethal safety defect, it was a headline-grabbing moment. But it was not unprecedented. Hovering over  Barra was the ghost of another momentous GM mea culpa, delivered to Congress nearly half a century ago. On […]

It’s Time to Accelerate the Shift to a Low-Carbon Future

In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and complete the transition to a low-carbon civilization. There […]