Category: Business

Pepsi and Coke battle for the lead among losers


Still cranking out profits from carbonated water and sugar

Americans bought less soda for the 10th straight year in 2014…An annual report by the industry tracker Beverage Digest found that overall soda volume slipped 0.9% last year, moderating from the decline of 3% the previous year.

And the poor performance of diet sodas in particular led to a shake-up in the top 10 US soda rankings; even though people bought less Pepsi, it managed to regain the No 2 spot from Diet Coke, which suffered an even steeper decline. Diet Coke had knocked Pepsi off the No 2 spot in 2010…

Interesting to investors and hedge funds. Meaningless compared to good news for the health of the nation.

John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, attributed the moderation in soda’s decline in 2014 to the continued growth of energy drinks. He also noted that Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group have improved marketing for their soda brands.

Soda volume has been declining in the US since 2004 amid concerns that sugary drinks fuel weight gain, and a proliferation of alternatives in the beverage aisle.

They’re still cranking out easier profits from stuffing people with sugar.

Despite the ongoing decline of soda volume, the broader US beverage industry performed better than in the previous year with growth of 1.7%, according to Beverage Digest. That increase was driven by an increase in bottled water sales.

How dumb is that? Continued growth in designer water sales confounds any measure of intelligence.

ALEC, rightwing law writers, lose a really important sponsor

BP bails on ALEC
Oh well, plenty of dirty money left for us

BP has severed its ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded nonprofit group that promotes a pro-business, free-market agenda through state legislatures.

There’s nothing pro-biz or free market about the racist and outright reactionary crap they polish up for their Republican flunkies.

Other members of the council, such as EBay, Microsoft, and Google departed last year, with Google citing the group’s opposition to climate-change regulation. A spokesman for London-based BP said the company had determined it didn’t need ALEC, as the group is called, to advance its legislative priorities.

“We continually assess our engagements with policy and advocacy organizations and based on our most recent assessment, we have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said in an e-mail.

ALEC develops model legislation for state legislatures. It was behind Florida’s so-called Stand-Your-Ground law, which drew scrutiny after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer who later was acquitted of murder. The group also has pushed to repeal state mandates for renewable energy use.

One of the sleaziest and most secretive fronts for the fossil fuel finks. Like their peers in the US Chamber of Commerce, they often mask their hatred of progress in some flavor of conservatism – though always closer to Mussolini’s version of fascism as corporatism. Racism and other bigotries fit them well.

How to win friends & buy influence in Washington DC — Google edition

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report based on accidentally released documents about FTC’s two-year investigation into Google. The 160-page document concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” I am sure Yelp and others would agree with that conclusion, and are contemplating further action.

The search results manipulation by Google has resulted in complaints that are far worse than anything FTC could have done — people have complained of declining quality and user experience. The emergence of social and mobile environments have taken some zing out of Google. Nevertheless, the WSJ report and reading through the excerpts made me wonder if there is a correlation between FTC investigation and Google’s lobbying efforts…

And after Om’s intro to the topic – we might look back at this:

Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation

After the embarrassing leak of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation that described how Google shifted around its search results to harm competition, Google News has shifted its search results to harm journalism, promoting instead a fluff piece glorifying Google…

The exposé of Google’s “strategy of demoting or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories,” as described in the FTC’s 2012 investigation, which concluded that “Google’s conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation,” was essentially erased from existence in 2013 when Google agreed to make a few minor changes to avoid a federal antitrust lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the FTC Commission watered down its public conclusions issued about Google before letting the company off the hook, leaving the findings of the staff investigation secret for two years.

Daniel Lyons reply is included in the AppleInsider article as an update.

Read it – and judge for yourself.

Map of the day – Republican liars

right to work for less

Let me note they stuck Arizona next to Texas for a tight, tidy map – don’t include New Mexico in with these fools. We may be poor; but, we stopped our Republican governor and Republican-controlled House from passing the right-to-work-for-even-less this past legislative session.

Though they have managed to make us one of the few states NOT to acquire jobs during the economic recovery.

Thanks, SmartAlix

Dangerous trains, aging rails, what could possibly go wrong?

A CSX freight train ran off the rails last month in rural Mount Carbon, W.Va. One after another, exploding rail cars sent hellish fireballs hundreds of feet into the clear winter sky. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency, and the fires burned for several days…

These explosions have generally been attributed to the design of the rail cars — they’re notoriously puncture-prone — and the volatility of the oil; it tends to blow up. Less attention has been paid to questions surrounding the safety and regulation of the nation’s aging network of 140,000 miles of freight rails, which carry their explosive cargo through urban corridors, sensitive ecological zones and populous suburbs.

Case in point: The wooden trestles that flank the Mobile and Ohio railroad bridge, built in 1898, as it traverses Alabama’s Black Warrior River between the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa. Oil trains rumble roughly 40 feet aloft, while joggers and baby strollers pass underneath. One of the trestles runs past the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Yet when I visited last May, many of the trestles’ supports were rotted and some of its cross braces were dangling or missing.

The public has only one hope of finding out if such centenarian bridges are still sturdy enough to carry these oil trains. Ask the railroads. That’s because the federal government doesn’t routinely inspect rail bridges. In fact, the government lacks any engineering standards whatsoever for rail bridges. Nor does it have an inventory of them.

The only significant government intrusion into the railroads’ self-regulation of the nation’s 70,000 to 100,000 railroad bridges is a requirement that the companies inspect them each year. But the Federal Railroad Administration, which employed only 76 track inspectors as of last year, does not routinely review the inspection reports and allows each railroad to decide for itself whether or not to make repairs…

Five oil trains have exploded in the United States in the last 16 months. Miraculously, there have been no deaths. Canada, however, hasn’t been so lucky. In July 2013, an oil train carrying North Dakota oil burst into flames in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, about 10 miles from the Maine border, killing 47 people…

But more than a year and a half after Lac-Mégantic, new regulations have yet to be finalized as the railroad and oil industries argue about various proposed provisions…And without regulations, reporting or penalties, the public has only the railroads’ word they are complying with the 50 m.p.h. speed limit…

Before leaving office last year, Deborah A. P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, questioned whether industry representatives and regulators had a tombstone mentality when it came to oil trains. If nobody dies, she suggested, there’s no pressure to act. So far, the tombstones have all been in Canada.

Does any of this sound like a successful industry in a modern, progressive nation?

Like all of the 19th Century economy remaining in North America, we witness only the greed of those who inherited, stole or otherwise acquired control of the assets of out-of-date industries – and the technology that came with it. If unionized, they bring in every flavor of corrupt politician to take away rights and safe practices. Any portion of their fiefdom out of sight of urban watchdogs is fair game for ignoring safety. And state governments – who could count on corporations and Congress to actually work together at building out and growing, say, in 1955 – haven’t admitted to themselves that maintaining this old infrastructure is necessary; so, let’s just ignore it. Maybe it will go away?

That will happen the same way highway bridges and overpasses will heal themselves with magic concrete and gasoline will stay under $3 a gallon right on into the 22nd Century.

Mattel ready to introduce Creepy Barbie

Creepy Barbie
Click to enlarge

Child advocates want toymaker Mattel to pull the plug on a new interactive Barbie doll that records children’s voices and uploads them to a cloud server.

The Hello Barbie doll – expected to arrive in stores this fall – uses WiFi to hold two-way conversations by “listening” to a child’s words and responding appropriately.

In a videotaped demonstration of the doll at the New York Toy Fair last month, a saleswoman chatted with Barbie about New York City. “I love New York, don’t you?” Barbie gushes. “Tell me, what’s your favorite part about the city?”

When the saleswoman says she enjoys Italian restaurants, Barbie says, “You have to take me to try it!”

Susan Linn, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says the doll is “creepy” and “dangerous.” The group is calling on Mattel to stop all production and marketing of Hello Barbie…

Mattel says Hello Barbie was developed in response to the wishes of girls from around the world, whose top request was to be able to have a conversation with Barbie.

Hello Barbie conforms to government standards and employs safeguards to protect children’s data from access by “unauthorized users,” Mattel said in a statement.

The last thing I have any confidence in is United States government standards about creepiness and privacy.

Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil admits guilt — $25 Million fine for contaminated meds

McNeil-PPC Inc. pled guilty to one count of an information charging the company with delivering for introduction into interstate commerce adulterated infants’ and children’s over-the-counter (OTC) liquid medicines.

As part of the criminal resolution, McNeil, a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay a criminal fine of $20 million and forfeit $5 million…

In addition to McNeil’s guilty plea, McNeil remains subject to a permanent injunction entered by the U.S. District Court in 2011, requiring the company, among other things, to make remedial measures before reopening its manufacturing facility in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania…

According to the information, the OTC liquid drugs manufactured by McNeil at its Fort Washington facility, including Infants’ and Children’s Tylenol and Infants’ and Children’s Motrin, were bottled on four lines of machinery dedicated to liquid formulations. On or about May 1, 2009, McNeil received a complaint from a consumer regarding the presence of “black specks in the liquid on the bottom of the bottle” of Infants’ Tylenol. The foreign material was later identified as including nickel/chromium-rich inclusions, which were not intended ingredients in this OTC liquid drug.

The information alleges numerous other instances in which McNeil found metal particles in bottles of Infants’ Tylenol at its Fort Washington facility but failed to initiate or complete a Corrective Action Preventive Action (CAPA)…

During the 2010 inspection, the FDA asked McNeil for the CAPA plan covering the particles and foreign material found in the Infants’ and Children’s OTC drugs, and a McNeil employee confirmed that McNeil did not have such a CAPA plan.

RTFA if you want all the legalese.

In short, these creeps knew about the contamination problem for a year before they were caught. In my mind, that’s about as corrupt as you can be – short of deliberately trying to harm children.

Let’s don’t forget this case goes back to 2010. McNeil have had their corporate lawyers drag this case out hoping to cut their losses over time – pleading guilty after five years.

Indigenous communities in Peru win settlement from Occidental Petroleum


What Occidental oil operations originally gave the Achuar communities

The Peruvian Achuar indigenous community announced…it reached a settlement from a U.S. oil giant over contamination of the Corrientes River. The river runs through Achuar land in the Amazon rainforest.

The company accused of the contamination is Occidental Petroleum, which is one of the largest U.S. oil producers, with operations in four continents. The lawsuit started nine years ago, and the agreement was reached in September 2013, but the Achuar were only able to make it public now.

Under this settlement, most stipulations are confidential but it was revealed that the transnational, also known as Oxy, will have to pay for community development projects chosen by the Achuar communities affected by the contamination.

Marco Simons, a lawyer representing Achuar communities…concluded by saying that this case sets a precedent that will help future communities affected by pollution, and it is already being quoted in courts.

Achuar representative Pablo Kukush Sandi, explained the process by which the communities will decide how to use the development funds:

“The five communities will decide on their desires at a general assembly. As their representatives, we will fulfil the objectives they have and in accordance with the needs of each community. At the moment, in the most recent assemblies, they only focused on projects for the creation of fish farms.”

The fish farms will provide a much-needed source of protein that the contaminated river no longer can supply. Other projects these communities are looking at are education and technological services for the youth and an on site health care system and infrastructure.

Overdue.

Still – benefits and compensation are a start – after nine years.