Cost-Benefit Analysis Shows Cannabis Prohibition Has Failed

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The case for a referendum on New Zealand’s cannabis law was already urgent in 2015 when the supposedly more pressing issue was whether we should change the flag. As I argued at the time, prohibition had failed and was costing society far more than the drug itself.

As with alcohol, tobacco, prostitution and gambling, regulation – not prohibition – seemed the smarter way forward. Nothing has changed as the cannabis legalisation and control referendum looms on October 17. If anything, the evidence from five wasted decades of war on cannabis is even more compelling.

First, tens of thousands of New Zealand lives have been disproportionately damaged – not through use of the drug, but because of its criminalisation.

According to figures released under the Official Information Act, between 1975 and 2019, 12,978 people spent time in jail for cannabis-related convictions (using and/or dealing). In the same period, 62,777 were given community-based sentences for cannabis-related convictions.

These statistics have not been evenly distributed. Māori are more likely to be convicted on cannabis charges, even accounting for higher rates of use.

Each conviction represented real or potential harm to job prospects, ability to travel, educational and other forms of social opportunity.

Despite the law, cannabis use increases

Second, despite these penalties and the millions of hours of police time spent enforcing the law, demand remains stronger than ever. Mirroring international trends (an estimated 192 million people used cannabis in 2018, making it the most used drug globally), the number of people using cannabis in New Zealand is increasing.

The most recent statistics suggest 15% of people used it at least once in the past year – nearly double the 8% recorded in 2011-12. The rate for those between 15 and 24 could be closer to 29% (nearly double the 15% in 2011-12).

Research suggests most New Zealanders (about 80%) born in the 1970s have used cannabis at least once. Despite the hype, propaganda and fear, such widespread use has not sent the nation spinning of control.

This is not a universal rule. For a minority (perhaps 4% to 10% of all users), there is a risk of developing a dependence that impairs their psychological, social and/or occupational functioning. Again, Maori suffer disproportionately in this area.

Despite these risks, overall the damage of cannabis is far less (for both individuals and wider society) than for legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

Black markets only work for criminals

Third, criminals have thrived on the illegality of cannabis. The median price of an ounce fluctuates between $350 and $400. With such attractive profit margins for an illegal product, a black market is inevitable.

In turn, the quality and safety of the product are not regulated, the market is not controlled (children become customers), and no tax is earned from the profits. The spill-over crime rate increases as gangs or cartels seek to monopolise business and expand their territory.

The referendum now offers the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill as a solution to these problems. If it became law the current situation would change in several significant ways:

  • access to cannabis for those aged 20 or over would be restricted to a personal supply (two plants) or purchase of 14 grams per day at a set potency level
  • sale would be through licensed premises selling quality-controlled product from licensed producers
  • standardised health warnings would be mandatory
  • advertising would be strictly controlled
  • cannabis could not be consumed in a public place
  • selling to someone under 20 would risk four years in jail or a fine of up to $150,000
  • cannabis sales would be taxed
  • money would be available for public education campaigns to raise awareness of potential harm and promote responsible use.

Some estimates put the potential tax take as high as NZ$490 million per year. There are also optimistic arguments that criminality and harm associated with the drug will drastically reduce, if not be eliminated altogether.

But these outcomes will depend on the price and quality of the product, the effectiveness of policing the non-compliant, and providing the right help to those who need it.


There is no perfect solution

While overseas evidence suggests legalisation reduces many of the peripheral crimes associated with the illegal supply of cannabis, this tends to turn on the types of crimes examined and the nature of the black market.

New Zealand conditions may differ. These caveats suggest it is overly simplistic to believe that regulation of recreational cannabis will lead to a happy utopia down under. There will always be harm and there will undoubtedly be teething problems if the new law goes ahead.

But that is not the question being asked on October 17. What voters have to answer is this: does regulation offer a better pathway than prohibition when it comes to reducing harm in our society?

Five decades of failure would suggest one of those options offers more hope than the other.

By Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps



If reducing harm to society is the goal, a cost-benefit analysis shows cannabis prohibition has failed — Weedmaps News

Renowned Author Walter Mosley To Receive National Book Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award

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Throughout his entire career, renowned author Walter Mosley has penned powerful, thought-provoking pieces of work and now the bestselling novelist will be honored for his contributions to the literary world. The National Book Foundation announced that Mosley will be the recipient of its 2020 lifetime achievement award.

The honor is historic as it marks the first time in the nonprofit’s 31-year history that a Black man has received the lifetime achievement medal. Mosley has penned over 60 books that span across an array of genres. His first novel—a mystery book titled Devil in a Blue Dress—was released in 1990, became a bestseller and served as the inspiration for the 1995 film starring Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle. The 1998 television film Always Outnumbered, which starred Laurence Fishburne, was also inspired by one of Mosley’s novels. Mosley has also written several plays and has penned essays and op-eds that have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and other publications. He has garnered several accolades for his work including a Grammy award, an Edgar Award, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and NAACP Image awards.

The Los Angeles native has been a fierce advocate for diversity in the publishing industry. Nearly 22 years ago, he founded a publishing certificate program at the City University of New York to align students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds with workshops and career development opportunities. “Mosley is undeniably prolific, but what sets his work apart is his examination of both complex issues and intimate realities through the lens of characters in his fiction, as well as his accomplished historical narrative works and essays,” Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, said in a statement. “His oeuvre and his lived experience are distinctly part of the American experience. And as such, his contributions to our culture make him more than worthy of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.”


Renowned Author Walter Mosley To Receive The National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award — NewsOne

Amy Coney Barrett: quick confirmation under threat as three senators infected

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Emily Holden

Republicans are aiming to advance Barrett’s nomination as quickly as possible after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

Republicans are aiming to advance Barrett’s nomination as quickly as possible after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Photograph: ReutersSat 3 Oct 2020 16.20 EDT

Senate Republicans are facing a shrinking window of time before the November 3 election to confirm Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, following the news that at least three Republican senators have tested positive for the coronavirus and more are quarantining after likely exposure.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and Republican from Kentucky, on Saturday morning said he would seek consent from Democrats to cancel any action on the main floor of the Senate for the next two weeks, until 19 October.

But the Senate judiciary committee, which must vote on the nomination first, will still convene as planned on 12 October to begin the confirmation hearing process for Barrett, he said. While senators have attended recent hearings remotely, Democrats have said there is bipartisan opposition for allowing them to do so for something as high profile as a supreme court nomination that could determine the ideological tilt of the court.

In a letter on Saturday, top Democrats on the committee said that to “proceed at this juncture with a hearing to consider Judge Barrett’s nomination to the supreme court threatens the health and safety of all those who are called upon to do the work of this body”. Many of the senators on the committee are older and have other risk factors for Covid-19.

Republicans are trying to advance Barrett’s nomination as quickly as possible to replace the court’s progressive champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.

This despite refusing to consider Barack Obama’s pick for a supreme court justice in an election year in 2016.

Republican leaders are concerned that if they lose their majority in the Senate in the November election, and if Trump loses the White House, it will be harder to confirm a conservative nominee during the lame-duck session before former vice president Joe Biden could enter office in January 2021.

Utah senator Mike Lee and North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, both of whom sit on the judiciary panel, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday and will quarantine for 10 days, until the committee meeting.

Both had attended an event at the White House announcing Barrett’s nomination last Saturday. Multiple attendees of the event, including Trump, his wife Melania, former White House counsel Kellyanne Conway and Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and a Trump adviser, have now tested positive.

Without Lee and Tillis’s votes, Barrett’s committee approval could be in jeopardy. Democrats could refuse to attend the meeting, denying Republicans the total number of lawmakers required to send the nomination to the full floor.

A third Republican senator on the committee, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who is 87, was also at a hearing last week with Lee. But Grassley’s office argues his doctors have not recommended he be tested and don’t believe he has been in close contact with anyone suspected of having or confirmed to have the coronavirus. At the hearings, senators sit far apart, although neither Grassley nor Lee wore a mask when speaking.

McConnell said the judiciary committee has been meeting since May with some senators present and some participating virtually.

“Certainly all Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings,” he said, of the supreme court confirmation process, which, if completed, would tilt the court dramatically to the right.

Wisconsin Republican senator Ron Johnson, who is not on the committee, has also contracted the coronavirus. He did not attend the White House event last Saturday because he was already isolating following a different potential exposure.

Senate Republicans meet several times a week for a caucus lunch, where they sit in a large room and remove their masks. All three of the senators who have tested positive were at those lunches last week, according to CNN 



Amy Coney Barrett: quick confirmation under threat as three senators infected – Emily Holden in Washington Sat 3 Oct 2020 16.20 EDT — Just Sayin’

Ambushed LASD Officers May Have Ties to Law Enforcement Gang That Killed Teenager in June

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“According to Gonzalez, the Executioners are “a band of deputies with matching tattoos that wields vast power at the Compton station” that “celebrates deputy shootings” of civilians. The tattoos in question are of a skull with Nazi imagery and an AK-47, and “members were involved in setting illegal quotas and work slowdowns – which involve ignoring or responding slowly to calls – when they did not get preferred assignments.” Members would only become inked as Executioners, according to Gonzalez, by going out and executing a member of the public in a ritual killing or by “otherwise committing acts of violence in furtherance of the gang.” In August, the same department shot and killed a 29 year-old Black man named Dijon Kizzee. Kizzee was stopped while riding a bicycle for what officers immediately described as a “bicycle code violation.” LASD officers then shot 15 bullets into Kizzee’s body.”


United States Hypocrisy

Andres Guardado was murdered by LASD deputies who were trying to join the Executioners law enforcement gang.

On the evening of Saturday, September 12, two Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies were sitting in a patrol car with the windows down when an unidentified man ran up and shot them, putting them both in critical condition. The 31 year old female officer, who was shot through her jaw, and the 24 year-old male officer had both been on the force for a little more than a year before this incident occurred. In that year the department has had more than its fair share of scandals, including the killing of a teenage security guard by the name of Andres Guardado and revelations that LASD is in fact rife with gang members who call themselves the Executioners. While Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is pushing the narrative that this was an…


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Assange on Trial: Embassy Espionage, Contemplated Poisoning and Proposed Kidnapping

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Meeting between Assange and his legal advisor Geoffrey Robertson illegally spied on by UC Global


September 30. Central Criminal Court, London.

Today will be remembered as a grand expose. It was a direct, pointed accusation at the intentions of the US imperium which long for the scalp of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. For WikiLeaks, it was a smouldering triumph, showing that the entire mission against Assange, from the start, has been a political one. The Australian publisher faces the incalculably dangerous prospect of 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Stripped to its elements, the indictment is merely violence kitted out in the vestment of sham legality. The rest is politics.

Witness statements were read from a veritable who’s who of courageous investigative journalism (Patrick Cockburn, Andy Worthington, Stefania Maurizi and Ian Cobain) and an assortment of legal freight from Guy Goodwin-Gill, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, Robert Boyle, well versed in the dark practices of grand juries and Jameel Jaffer of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

These statements, pointing to the value of the WikiLeaks publications, the care taken in releasing them, and the terrifying prospects for press freedom, deserve separate treatment. But Wednesday’s grand show was stolen by two anonymous witnesses, occasioned by a change of plans. Originally scheduled for Thursday, testimony of the witnesses from the Spanish security firm UC Global S.L. were moved a day forward. Both speak to the aims and ambitions of the company’ owner and director, David Morales, who passed information on Assange and his meetings with allies and associates to the US intelligence service while the Australian was resident in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Judge Vanessa Baraitser had relented on the issue of keeping their anonymity: to have not observed the convention would have been a mark of disrespect for the Spanish court.

Their material is part of a current investigation into Morales being conducted by a magistrate of the Audiencia Nacional court. That process was instigated at the behest of Assange’s legal team, whose filed criminal complaint alleges breaches of privacy and the violation of attorney-client privilege, amongst other charges.

Illegal agreements are born

Witness #1 informed the court of a man determined: Morales “showed at times a real obsession in relation to monitoring and recording the lawyers who met with the ‘guest’ (Julian Assange) because ‘our American friends’ were requesting it.”

The first witness added stitching to the account linking the UC Global with US intelligence. In July 2016, with UC Global already contracted and providing security services to the Ecuadorean embassy, Morales “travelled to a security sector trade fair in Las Vegas, which I wished to accompany him”. This would not be. Morales “insisted he had to travel alone. On this trip, Mr Morales showcased the company UC Global in the Las Vegas security sector trade fair.”

What followed was UC Global obtaining “a flashy contract, personally managed by David Morales, with the company Las Vegas Sands, which was owned by the tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose proximity to Donald Trump is public knowledge (at the time Trump was the presidential candidate).” Morales’s point of contact at Las Vegas Sands was its chief of security, Zohar Lahav. Lahav is also the subject of interest for the Audiencia Nacional, which has asked the US Department of Justice to seek a statement from him. The investigating judge, José de la Mata, is keen to examine details of the Morales-Lahav association and whether their meetings involved discussing information illegally obtained from Assange.

UC Global was hired to provide security services to Queen Miri, the luxury vessel owned by Adelson. “The contract did not make sense,” claimed the witness. Morales seemed to be overegging the pudding. “The most striking thing about it was that he boat had its own security, which consisted of a sophisticated security detail, and that the contract consisted in adding an additional person, in this case David Morales, for a very short period of time, through which David Morales would receive an elevated sum.”

Thrilled at getting the contract, Morales was in celebratory mood, gathering employees in the Jerez company office to say that “we have moved up and from now on we will be playing in the big league”. What did “big league” mean? Morales, replying to the query from the first witness, claimed that “he had switched over to ‘the dark side’ referring to cooperating with US authorities, and as a result of that collaboration, ‘the Americans will get us contracts all over the world’.” In 2017, Morales asked for a secure phone and encrypted computer to communicate with his American contacts.

Along with news of the contract came an uncomfortable revelation: “that we had entered into illegal agreements with US authorities to supply them with sensitive information about Mr Assange and [Ecuadorean President] Rafael Correa, given that UC Global was responsible for the embassy security where Mr Assange was located.” As a result of this parallel agreement, “reports would also be sent to ‘the dark side’.” Morales made regular trips to the US to facilitate this, “principally to New York but also Chicago and Washington” where he would “talk with ‘our American friends’.” The first witness pressed Morales at points who these “‘American friends’ were”. “US intelligence,” came the reply.



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Denial: An Unlikely Path to Sexual Transition

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Denial: The First Step to Acceptance

Directed by Derek Hallquist (2016)

Film Review

This is a very unusual documentary. I assumed it would profile the climate denial movement, but it does so only very indirectly. The film is actually a very touching profile of the filmmaker’s father, the obsessive compulsive CEO of a Vermont electrical utility who makes the difficult decision at age 50 to transition to female.

David Hallquist, whose Vermont Electricity Cooperative runs on hydropower, has been an industry pioneer in promoting the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. In the film, his wife and adult children struggle with his decision to become female. It features clips from the therapist they work with. The latter helps other family members fully understand and work through their feelings of denial.

For me, the most intriguing segment of the film concerns Hallquist senior’s diagnosis of state 3 prostate cancer. When his oncologist recommends castrations (which has a 90% success rate), he’s almost gleeful to be relieved of the difficult decision whether to move from occasional cross dressing to full hormonal transition.






Wikileaks: Gates Foundation Sees Environmental Activists as Threat

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6 Wikileaks Revelations Expose Corporate Abuse at Expense of People and Planet

By Jeremy Loffredo

People around the world are watching as U.K. Judge Vanessa Baraitser hears arguments and decides whether or not to extradite Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange to the U.S.

While the Obama administration chose not to charge Assange, wary of the precedent it might set in criminalizing journalism, the Trump administration indicted him with 18 criminal charges that may land Assange in one of the U.S.’s most notorious prisons for 175 years.

Assange’s Wikileaks has won numerous journalism awards and has never had to retract a single publication despite releasing more than 10 million documents exposing, among other things, U.S. war crimes. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta recently indicated that the ongoing persecution of Assange is meant to “send a message to others not to do the same thing.”

As the world debates whether Assange is a hero or a traitor, Children’s Health Defense takes a step back to examine some of the things his organization has revealed for those fighting for health and environmental justice.

1. U.S. diplomatic efforts to overturn resistance to GMOs at the behest of Monsanto

Wikileaks published hundreds of diplomatic cables exhibiting attempts by the U.S. to quell opposition to genetically modified organisms or GMOs. As reported by The Guardian, “the cables show U.S. diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto.”

In a 2007 cable, Craig Stapleton, then U.S. Ambassador to France, advised the U.S. to prepare for economic war with countries unwilling to introduce Monsanto’s GM corn seeds. He recommended the U.S. “calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the E.U.”

Another dispatch, this one from 2009, demonstrated that the U.S. funded a GMO workshop in Mozambique that, according to the authors, helped advance biotech-friendly policies in the country.

In another cable from 2009, a U.S. diplomat stationed in Germany relayed intelligence on Bavarian political parties to several U.S. federal agencies and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, telling them which parties opposed Monsanto’s M810 corn seed and tactics that the U.S. could impose to resolve the opposition.

One cable from Hong Kong shows a State Department employee requesting $92,000 in U.S. public funds for “media education kits” to combat a growing popular movement calling for the labeling of GMO foods in Hong Kong. The cable indicates a desire to “make it much more difficult for mandatory labelling advocates to prevail.” The State Department’s Anita Katial, who wrote the cable, also recalled a time when her office facilitated the sending of pro-biotech and bio-agriculture DVDs to every highschool in Hong Kong.

According to Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, the trove of cables “really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops.”

2. Multinational commodities trader dumping toxic waste in West Africa

In 2006, Trafigura, the world’s second largest oil trader, illegally discharged more than 500 tons of highly toxic oil waste near the Port of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Some of the dump sites were near agriculture fields or water supplies, and the UN estimates that more than 100,000 people sought medical treatment due to the incident. Wikileaks would later call this incident “possibly the most culpable mass contamination incident since Bhopal.”

Trafigura’s lawyer commissioned a confidential study that listed what the environmental and health impacts of the dumping incident would be after people living near the port started flooding hospitals.

The report explained that contact with the offloaded compounds could lead to eye damage, lung damage, skin burns, headaches, breathing difficulty, permanent skin ulceration, coma and death. The report also states that the chemical compounds would have a “severe and negative effect” on the environment.

As recently as 2016, residents were complaining about the smell of the waste, headaches, breathing problems and skin problems.

Wikileaks published the classified report in 2009, the first time the public could see the company’s true negligence.

3. Gates Foundation sees environmental activists as a threat

In 2008, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hired an intelligence firm called Stratfor to put together a “threat assessment report” and determine current and future threats to the foundation.

Stratfor’s report saw environmental activists, indigenous farming groups, and peasant political parties in Asia and South America, as “potential threats” to the foundation.




9/11: Phone Calls from People Trapped in the Towers | 911 Documentary | Reel Truth History

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Phone calls from the Twin Towers shed new light on what really happened.



After the 9/11 attacks, many people were trapped inside The World Trade Centres desperate to make contact to the outside world. Some were able to speak on the phone to loved ones, others were only able to leave messages. Many of these calls have never been heard but now they are being featured in this documentary to help shed light on what really happened inside the towers.


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Childhood Cancer Caused Largely by Environmental Factors

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Childhood Cancer Caused Largely by Environmental Factors, Report Finds

By Jeremy Loffredo

For children in the U.S., cancer is the leading cause of death from disease. Worldwide, cancer has become so prevalent and devastating that some may use the phrase “like curing cancer” when describing something unfeasible or highly complicated. Yet in September, a team of more than 60 stakeholders and leaders in the health, science, business, policy and advocacy sectors collaborated to take a different, perhaps less flashy approach — preventing cancer, specifically by ending the use of toxic chemicals. Under the umbrella of the Childhood Cancer Prevention Initiative (CCPI), this collection of organizations published a report examining the impact of different cancer-causing chemicals and calling for a “national plan” to address the rising incidence of childhood cancer.

In 2020, an estimated 1,806,590 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 606,520 people will die from the disease, including an estimated 16,850 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 being diagnosed and 1,730 children will die of the disease. Researchers estimate that only 10% of all childhood cancers come from hereditary factors, meaning the lion’s share of childhood cancers come from environmental factors. To CCPI, this means 90% of all childhood cancer is preventable.

The authors of the report indicate that cancer charities and research organizations don’t devote enough resources to prevention.

“The vast majority of childhood cancer research funding goes towards studies of childhood cancer treatment and survivorship, leaving only a small portion for the critical work on prevention,” the report explains.

The CCPI report identifies pesticides, traffic-related air pollution and paints/solvents as the three groups of chemicals giving rise to the most common types of childhood cancer.

The report points out that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has listed several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticides as either known, probable or possible carcinogens, including glyphosate. The report cites multiple studies that indicate increased risks of childhood leukemia and brain cancer with exposure to residential pesticides, including a recent study showing “increased risk of childhood leukemia associated with higher levels of the residential herbicide chlorothalonil and possibly alachlor, used as an agricultural herbicide.” It also explains that a child with parents working in the agriculture sector is more likely to have a brain tumor, because of their exposure to agricultural pesticides.

The IARC has classified many air pollutants as known, probable or possible carcinogens as well. CCPI describes one study demonstrating that “soot in air pollution, which is a mixture of known carcinogens … can cross the placenta and expose the developing fetus.”

The report explains that a third category, paints and solvents, can increase a child’s risk of leukemia, lymphoma and brain tumors. For example, benzene is a chemical present in many solvents and a known cause of leukemia. The CCPI report lists multiple studies documenting that a mother’s exposure to benzene during pregnancy puts the child at elevated risk for childhood leukemia.

The authors furthermore acknowledge that children living near industrial manufacturing, agricultural facilities, major transportation routes or hazardous waste sites are at a higher risk for chronic diseases.

CCPI also emphasizes a need for research into the more than 85,000 manufactured chemicals in use in the U.S. today. “Known carcinogens are used throughout the economy … but recent research suggests that many chemicals in addition to those known to be carcinogens may contribute to cancer,” the report reads. “Because most of these chemicals have never been tested for safety or toxicity, we do not have a comprehensive list of those that may cause cancer in children.”





Bezos Doubles Wealth as Amazon Essential Product Prices Rise 1000% Amid Pandemic

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A report by Public Citizen found that “Amazon is engaged in price gouging on products it sells directly” through its Amazon Essentials line, with products like facemasks and corn starch seeing elevenfold increases in price.

by Alan Macleod

A new report from advocacy group Public Citizen details how retail giant Amazon “misled the public, law enforcement, and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic,” raising their prices on essential products “to levels that would be considered violations of price gouging laws in many states.” The prices of many products in high demand during the pandemic jumped by over 1,000 percent when compared to this time last year.

As accusations of price gouging began, Amazon blamed “bad actors,” declaring in an official statement that, “there is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” committing itself to “working vigorously” to ensure fair pricing, and “collaborating with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies” to “hold price gougers accountable” and to protect the interests of their customers.

Yet Public Citizen’s report found that “Amazon is engaged in price gouging on products it sells directly” itself, through its Amazon Essentials line. Disposable face masks and corn starch were the most inflated prices, jumping elevenfold from earlier in the year. Below is a list of ten Amazon Essential products tracked, including the percentage the items increased in cost. Similar price rises were tracked among third party sellers on the platform as well.

  • Disposable face masks — 1,000%
  • Hand sanitizer — 48%
  • Disinfectant spray — 87%
  • Antibacterial soap — 470%
  • Disposable nitrile gloves — 336%
  • Toilet paper — 528%
  • Paper towels — 303%
  • Flour — 425%
  • Sugar — 520%
  • Corn starch — 1,010%

While there is no federal law protecting the public from the practice, price gouging is illegal in 35 states, with some states deeming that increasing prices by just 10 percent constitutes breaking the law.

Thanks in no small part to increased profits from sales, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his wealth almost double during the pandemic, from $113 billion in March to $206 billion today, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, who calculated that America’s billionaire class of 467 plutocrats have seen their wealth spike by nearly a trillion dollars since lockdown began on March 18. Much of this has been down to an enormous tax break for the ultra-wealthy that the Trump administration snuck into its first coronavirus relief bill. Bezos, who retook the title of the world’s richest individual from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates late last year, has said that he is so rich that he can only imagine spending his wealth by plowing it into space travel.

Yet even as he becomes the world’s first individual to reach a net worth of $200 billion, Bezos’ employees are struggling just to eat or avoid homelessness. According to the company’s own data, a great number of Amazon employees rely on SNAP (food stamps) just to eat. That number is as high as one third of all Amazon workers in Arizona, with company employees nationwide far more likely than most to need to use food stamps. Instead of giving his employees a pay rise, “arch-philanthropist” Bezos decided to start a charitable foundation for them, asking the public to donate money to help them pay for basic necessities. And when staff at Bezos-owned Whole Foods Market asked for higher pay and better working conditions, the company instead gave them a free t-shirt that called them “hardcore” “heroes” for working through the pandemic […]

Source: Bezos Doubles Wealth as Amazon Essential Product Prices Rise 1000% Amid Pandemic