News & Notes

Wednesday

Draft of UN Report on Global Warming Warns of ‘Severe, Pervasive and Irreversible Impacts’

United Nations assessment cites runaway growth in greenhouse gas emissions. In a draft of a major new report, the UN says the rise in heat-trapping gas emissions is raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades. According to the report, higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, and those problems are likely to intensify. The report, intended to summarize and restate a string of earlier assessments released over the past year, is to be unveiled in early November. In a separate development, the Obama administration is working to forge an international agreement to compel nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but without ratification from Congress. The New York Times (UN Report), The New York Times (Obama plan)

Climate change and other environmental factors blamed for devastation of seabirds in Iceland. Surrounded by the food-rich currents of Atlantic, Arctic and polar waters, Iceland is the Serengeti for seabirds. It provides the breeding grounds for 23 species, hosting an indispensible share of Atlantic puffins, black murres, great skuas, northern fulmars, razorbills, black-legged kittiwakes and more. But the nests have gone empty in the past few years, and colonies throughout the North Atlantic are shrinking. The chief suspected culprits are the profound changes under way in the world’s oceans – their climate, their chemistry, their food webs, their loads of pollutants. Alarmed scientists have returned from fieldwork throughout the North Atlantic with sobering descriptions of massive chick die-offs. Environmental Health News

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Tuesday

Industry in Japan Resisting Global Pact Aimed at Curbing Use of Mercury

Effort builds to undercut a pending mercury treaty in Japan, where an industrial catastrophe spurred the push for the pact. One year after the Minamata Convention on Mercury was sealed in southwestern Japan, Japanese industries from smelters to cement makers are digging in to fight storage costs and emission curbs the treaty would impose. The global pact, so far ratified only by the U.S. as other nations deal with domestic regulations, would require countries to ban nearly all exports of the toxic metal. But industry pressure in Japan could prevent the government doing much more than the bare minimum to comply, weakening the global crackdown. The pact is to take effect after it has been ratified by 50 nations, which is expected no sooner than 2016. Industrial mercury pollution during the 1950s and 1960s in the Japanese city of Minamata killed or injured thousands. Reuters

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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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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 […]

FairWarining Commentary

GM Ignition Switch Scandal Echoes Infamous Fire-Prone Pickups Case

Recent disclosures about the ignition switch defect in millions of General Motors cars–and the company’s early and secret knowledge of the hazard–are disturbing by themselves. But they are also an eerie echo of the terrible carnage from an earlier, even bigger safety scandal involving millions of fire-prone GM pickup trucks. Thanks to a bailout from […]