Footage of a collapsing apartment building and rockets streaking through the night sky quickly reached a worldwide audience.
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The New York TimesExchange Over ‘Purity’ of Vote Puts Texas GOP Firebrand in SpotlightAUSTIN, Texas — It was an awkward few minutes for Briscoe Cain, the conservative provocateur and hand-picked Republican chair of the state House Elections Committee, as he fumbled through his defense last week of the restrictive new voting bill his party is moving through the Texas Legislature. Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Democrat, was grilling Cain, the bill’s sponsor, about a phrase in it calling for the “purity of the ballot box,” asking Cain if he knew that it evoked the discriminatory voting restrictions of Texas’ Jim Crow past. “Are you aware that references to purity of the ballot box used throughout this country’s history has been a justification for states to disenfranchise groups they deem unfit to vote or somehow lacking?” Anchia asked. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “I didn’t know that,” Cain said haltingly, claiming he adopted the language because it was in the state’s Constitution, before admitting that “these are troubling things.” That opened floodgates for Democrats’ opposition, as they began hammering the structure of the bill, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities for the legislative session. Democrats eventually raised a point of order and added amendments that softened some of the harshest measures. Some of them may be restored in the next week as the House and the Senate meet in conference to work out the final bill. Viewed by some as a legislative lightweight and others as a rising conservative firebrand, Cain, 36, was a surprise choice when he was named to lead the House Election Committee earlier this year. As head of the committee, he would be charged with the critical responsibility of helping pass the Republicans’ voting bill, a priority with Abbott and a measure that adds restrictions to voting in a state that is already considered the hardest in the country in which to cast a ballot. There would be tricky waters to navigate against legions of detractors. Cain had only four years of legislative experience and a reputation as a brash and unpredictable combatant for his deeply conservative causes. In 2018, he crashed the state Democratic Party convention and handed out lawn signs that said, “This home is a gun-free safe space.” After the November election, he flew to Pennsylvania to help the Trump legal effort to overturn the results while posting selfies. He drew national attention in 2019 after being temporarily barred from Twitter for what was interpreted as a threatening post against Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Cain’s fumbling of the questions about the “purity of the ballot box” phrase has brought even greater scrutiny to the Houston-area lawmaker. A clip of the exchange with Anchia went viral on social media, with views climbing into the millions, and exposed Cain as lacking knowledge about Texas’ history of discrimination against Black voters. The “purity of the ballot box” language was eventually removed. With just weeks left before the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourns, Cain will again play a lead role in the next round of sparring over the bill, this time as one of two committee co-chairmen shaping a final version. Critics who have protested Cain’s appointment to the committee say his lack of familiarity with the purity phrase and overall stewardship of the panel raise questions about his effectiveness going into the next phase of the debate. They also cite a chaotic committee session that was forced to recess after Cain refused to let Nicole Collier, chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, sit in on the session to question witnesses as a nonmember. His error led to a lengthy delay in moving the bill forward and enraged Democrats and civil rights groups. She was permitted to ask questions during a subsequent session. “This is our first rodeo with Briscoe Cain,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who has engaged in legal battles against the state in behalf of Texas Latinos since 1996. “And after recovering from the shock that he was appointed chair of the election committee, I mean it’s been one misstep after the next.” Cain’s office declined a request for an interview or to answer questions about his exchange with Anchia. But several of his Republican colleagues gave high marks for his leadership and his handling of one of the governor’s top priorities. “One of the hardest bills to pass in this building is an omnibus election bill,” said Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican who preceded Cain as Election Committee chair. “I think he’s done amazing being able to get an omnibus bill in his first session as chair.” Bryan Hughes, chairman of the Elections Committee in the state Senate, said he had a “great relationship” with Cain and gave him a strong endorsement for his grasp of election law. “He knows the election code very well,” said Hughes, who is from East Texas. “He’s really immersed in it. He’s the ideal representative to be carrying this bill.” But Democrats on Cain’s Republican-dominated committee said the chairman led in a highly partisan and autocratic manner, shunning any effort to work with Democrats. Rep. Jessica González, a former White House intern who served in the Obama-Biden campaign and is vice chair of the Elections Committee, said Cain basically kept her out of the loop despite her position as No. 2. “Hey, just give us some notice,” she said in describing her frustration. “We’ve got to be able to communicate.” Rep. Michelle Beckley, a Democrat who represents a North Texas district that was in Republican control for decades, sat next to Cain on the House floor during the last session and said she normally had a friendly relationship with him, despite their partisan differences. “Our politics are a hundred percent polar opposites, but the one thing with Briscoe is that he does keep his word, which I will have to say is a rarity in this building,” she said. But the voting bill has been a different story, she said. “I really don’t want to be mean to him, but it was very disorganized from day one,” she said, recalling that Cain frequently did not follow protocols and rushed through bills, a practice that often led to procedural errors. Perales questioned Cain’s professed unfamiliarity with the toxic racial history of the “purity of the ballot box” phrase. She noted that at least two prominent civil rights organizations had submitted written testimony to Cain’s committee condemning the phrase. But Beckley said she too was unaware of the roots of the language. The day after the House debate, she recalled, Cain came to her desk and asked, “Did you know about this?” “I’m not going to lie,” she said in an interview, “I did not know that history.” In 2019, Cain revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome during a speech on the House floor during Autism Awareness Month. He also injected a humorous note: “I suspect many of you are thinking to yourself, so that explains it. And yes, your assumptions are correct — that’s why I’m highly intelligent.” He lives with his wife and five children in Deer Park, where he grew up, and serves as a captain in the Texas State Guard. Cain’s four-year tenure in the Legislature has been somewhat of a roller coaster, at least by outside observations. As a freshmen legislator in 2017, Cain was put at the top of Texas Monthly’s “worst legislators” list, which called him “uninformed and belligerent.” The article cited an instance when Cain debated a member of his own party, Rep. John Zerwas, who is a doctor, over funding a state council that promotes palliative care. Cain repeatedly referred to the practice as a “death panel,” though when pressed by Zerwas, he was unable to further explain the practice. Eventually he conceded, “I recognize that you know about this and my apologies.” During his tenure in office, Cain has cultivated a quippy and lashing social media account that often seeps into right-wing troll territory. He buttresses his online reputation with a penchant for public stunts. He drew national outrage when he tweeted at O’Rourke, then a Democratic candidate for president, that “My AR is ready for you” when O’Rourke advocated taking away AR-15 rifles after the mass shooting in El Paso. O’Rourke likened the tweet to a death threat, and Twitter suspended Cain’s account for 141 days. Cain’s attention has recently turned to voting, and he has authored numerous bills in 2019 and 2021 that would have brought a raft of new restrictions with varying degrees of severity. Last year, he opposed any expansion to voting by mail during the pandemic, and Texas was one of five states that did not expand the option during the general election. In November, when it became clear President Donald Trump had lost to President Joe Biden, Cain was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s false claims that the election was rigged. “Election fraud is real and we must put an end to it,” he wrote on Facebook on Nov. 6. He quickly joined the Trump legal effort and took off for Pennsylvania. Before leaving, Cain posted a selfie to his Facebook account, clad in a cowboy hat and clear aviator glasses, captioned, “This Texas lawyer is flying to Philadelphia this morning to link up with a team of attorneys from across the country to fight for a fair and honest election.” His brief tenure as an election lawyer in Pennsylvania ended with the state Supreme Court rejecting his effort in a unanimous decision. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
The case sought damages from firms that produced the notorious defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
New due diligence tool aims to help businesses uphold their responsibility to protect human rights at sea as new COVID variants threaten to further delay crewNew York, NY, May 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — UNITED NATIONS, New York, 6 May 2021 — A wide-ranging human rights checklist has today been issued to business enterprises engaged with the maritime industry to protect seafarers stranded on ships due to new COVID-19 variants and government-imposed travel restrictions, under a joint initiative by the UN Global Compact, the UN Human Rights Office, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).The Human Rights Due Diligence Tool for cargo owners and charterers has been issued amid concerns that the number of crew stranded working beyond their contracts at sea by COVID-19 restrictions could surge from the current level of 200,000, potentially returning to the peak of 400,000 seafarers at the height of the crew change crisis in September 2020. UN agencies hope the new guidance will help ensure that the working conditions and human rights of seafarers are respected and comply with international standards.The new guidance aims to ensure that seafarers have their rights safeguarded in areas such as physical and mental health, access to family life and freedom of movement. Whilst recognizing the importance of the maritime industry in transporting more than 80% of global trade goods, UN agencies have expressed concern at reports of seafarers working beyond the 11-month maximum limit of service on board set out by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).The UN agencies have also expressed strong concern at reports that companies engaged in international trade are avoiding chartering vessels where a crew change is due, with some demanding ‘no crew change’ clauses in charter party agreements, preventing needed crew changeovers and adding further pressure on the maritime industry. UN agencies have reminded that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), companies engaged with the maritime industry have a distinct responsibility to respect the human rights of seafarers as workers along their value chain.Story continuesThe new human rights tool complements current industry-led collective action, such as the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing, which has been signed by more than 750 companies. The tool aims to provide guidance and a checklist for cargo owners, charterers and logistics providers to conduct human rights due diligence across their supply chains to identify, prevent, mitigate and address adverse human rights impacts for seafarers impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director and CEO of the UN Global Compact said: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains as seafarers continue to endure tremendous, and yet largely invisible, hardship and suffering. The maritime industry is responsible for transporting over 80% of global trade goods and so it must ensure it builds resilience to future shocks. The mental and physical wellbeing of seafarers must be a priority and this tool is an important step in building awareness of how to address human rights abuses in the maritime sector. It sends a powerful message of the importance of incorporating maritime workers in due diligence mapping to ensure that adverse human rights impacts are identified, prevented, mitigated and addressed.”Guy Ryder, ILO Director General, said: “As the ILO Committee of Experts said in its general observation last December, it is precisely at times of crisis that the protective coverage of the MLC, 2006, assumes its full significance and needs to be most scrupulously applied. This is even more so given that the Convention contains only minimum standards for the protection of seafarers’ rights. The ILO has urged Governments to ensure the protection of seafarers’ rights, and welcomes this initiative that will help businesses to play their part in this collective effort”.Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary General, said: “Seafarers are at the heart of the global supply chain. They are also at the mercy of COVID-19 restrictions on travel and transit. This has led to hundreds of thousands of seafarers being denied repatriation, crew changes, shore leave and ultimately being forced to stay working on ships long beyond their contracts. It is incumbent on everyone involved with shipping, across the entire supply and logistics chain, to ensure seafarers rights are protected. This tool is an important step forward, providing a practical approach for cargo owners, charterers and logistic providers to consider the human rights of seafarers and ensure they are put first and foremost as they work to deliver the goods that people need and want.”Michele Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The COVID-19 seafarer’s crew change crisis has put the spot on one the weakest links in global supply chains. This is an urgent and grave humanitarian and human rights crisis that is impacting the lives of thousands of maritime workers. All companies involved in global supply chains may be linked to this crisis. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require that companies identify whether they are involved with the crisis, including through their business relationships, and take any necessary measure to seek to address the situation.”Guy Platten, International Chamber of Shipping Secretary General, said: “The recent Suez Canal incident has reminded governments and the markets just how important global shipping is to the supply chains. Seafarers are continuing to work to maintain global trade through exceptional circumstances, and the Suez incident has only exacerbated the already dire crew change crisis. Seafarers must not be forgotten now the canal is open again, and we call on businesses to urgently adopt these important recommendations.”Stephen Cotton, International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary, said: “For far too long, shipping has been a human rights blind spot for global brands. Responsible companies in today’s world want to understand how they or partners in their supply chains might be violating human rights, even inadvertently. That’s why in the midst of the crew change crisis, the launch of this tool couldn’t be more timely. It spells out exactly the questions that companies need to ask their suppliers or charterers about what’s happening to seafarers in their supply chains, and provides worker-led pathways for monitoring and enforcement to remedy any violations or mistreatment.”The International Transport Workers’ Federation, the International Chamber of Shipping, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, and the OECD actively contributed to the development of the tool. The tool is supported by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, the World Economic Forum, the Global Maritime Forum, the Ethical Trading Initiative, and The Consumer Goods Forum, who welcome this key initiative in addressing the Covid-19 crew change crisis.Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum, Wai-Chan Chan, said: Wai-Chan Chan, Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum, said, “The Consumer Goods Forum welcomes this new tool to urgently support the safety, health, and wellbeing of those working at sea. As our Board of Directors wrote to the UN Secretary-General last fall, not only has the Covid-19 crisis disrupted the maritime industry’s contribution to global supply chains, but it has also inadvertently created a modern form of forced labour. This is an unacceptable situation and we support the call for all actors across sectors to work collaboratively and quickly to resolve it.”Johannah Christensen, Managing Director, Head of Projects & Programmes, Global Maritime Forum, said: “We are witnessing a humanitarian tragedy on the world’s ocean. As one of the architects behind the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, we welcome the Human Rights Due Diligence Tool. We call on all stakeholders to work together to put an end to the crew change crisis to protect the 1.6 million seafarers who continue to face extreme risk to their safety and livelihoods.”Margi Van Gogh, Head of Supply Chain & Transport Industries, World Economic Forum: ”This pandemic continues to highlight the central role that transport workers and seafarers play in enabling global trade and recovery. Supply system resilience requires collaboration across the private and public sector. Such resilience can only be achieved through assuring the safety, well-being and human rights of those responsible for moving the essential goods and food we all rely on. The Forum applauds the collective action that resulted in development of a valuable guidance tool, comprising practical checklists that cargo owners, charterers and logistics providers can reference to ensure human rights impacts for our seafarers, and indeed all essential transport workers are addressed, and future risks can be mitigated. Keeping people and goods moving safely is not only an obligation, it is vital for business continuity and a sustainable global recovery.Andrew Stephens, Executive Director, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting crew change crisis has highlighted the critical role that seafarers play in the global economy, keeping our hospitals, pharmacies, retail and food chains supplied. At the same time, it has made clear many of the labour and human rights risks for seafarers worldwide. By providing concrete, clear guidelines for charterers and cargo owners, this due diligence tool enables shipping stakeholders to better understand, identify, and address the labour and human rights risks exacerbated as a result of this crisis, paving the way for increased collaboration and dialogue to address long-term impacts.”Peter McAllister, Ethical Trading Initiative Executive Director, said: “Seafarers were initially one of the invisible victims of COVID-19, which shone a light on exploitative practices in the shipping industry. We are therefore very pleased to see the Seafarers Checklist that has been developed in rapid time in consultation with the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Chamber of Shipping to help address this situation. We urge business to use this tool to help improve the working conditions for seafarers and underpin a more sustainable shipping industry”NOTES TO EDITORS:About the United Nations Global CompactAs a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Our ambition is to accelerate and scale the global collective impact of business by upholding the Ten Principles and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable change. With more than 12,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and 69 Local Networks, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative — one Global Compact uniting business for a better world.For more information, follow @globalcompact on social media and visit our website at unglobalcompact.org.CONTACTMedia ContactsAlex Gee+447887 firstname.lastname@example.org@unglobalcompact.orgA full media contact list of partners, supportive companies, and supportive organisations available for interviews, including TFG Brands London, can be found hereCONTACT: Media Team United Nations Global Compact (212) 907-1301 email@example.com
Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a larger climate problem than the world anticipates, and cutting its emissions will be crucial to slow global warming, a new United Nations report warns. The greenhouse gas is many times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, and its concentration in the atmosphere is increasing faster than at any time since record keeping began in the 1980s.Methane is much more than a climate problem, though, and this is where the report gets interesting. As methane emissions are reduced, the world reaps several benefits quickly, for health as well as the climate. In most cases, the benefits of taking action far outweigh the cost – in fact many of them make money.The report’s lead author Drew Shindell, a climate scientist and physicist, explained the findings and the urgency.What are the most important lessons from the methane report?The top takeaway is that methane is going up very quickly, and it needs to drop by nearly half by 2030 to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) if we hope to stay on the lowest-cost path. That means we have a rapid U-turn to make.The good news is that we have a lot to gain by cutting these emissions.Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it’s also a precursor of surface ozone, which is a toxic air pollutant. So, reducing methane improves the quality of the air we breathe at the same time that it reduces climate change, and the results are almost immediate.A lot of steps to reduce methane also save money, because methane is intrinsically valuable. If you capture methane from a landfill, you have a source of income right there. Capture it from leaking pipelines, and it pays for itself, because that’s the whole point of these pipelines – they transport methane as natural gas.With the technology already available today, the world could cut methane emissions from fossil fuels, agriculture and rotting waste by 45% within a decade. That would avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius (0.5 F) of warming, which might not sound like much, but it’s one-fifth of the Paris climate agreement budget of 1.5 C.Story continuesSo, you get climate benefits, you get public health benefits and it’s also a financial win for the companies capturing the methane.It’s not like this is rocket science. A large part of the methane being released is from natural gas pipelines and storage, oil and gas pumping and landfills – and those are all problems we know how to fix.How does cutting methane improve health?Methane causes ground-level ozone, which contributes to a lot of respiratory problems, including asthma in children, respiratory infections or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. There’s pretty robust evidence that it can also exacerbate cardiovascular disease.Both methane and ozone are also greenhouse gases that cause warming, which creates more health risks, particularly through heat exposure.We looked at medical research and modeling, and used that to figure out what’s at stake. We found that for every million tons of methane emitted, about 1,430 people die prematurely, there are about 4,000 asthma-related emergencies and 300 million work hours are lost to the health effects. To put that into context, around 370 million tons of methane are released annually due to human activities.If you reduce methane emissions in 2022, you’ll see the ozone response in 2022, whereas you have to wait to see the climate effects until the climate system adjusts over at least a decade.What’s causing methane emissions to rise so quickly?We know global emissions are going up. That’s easy to measure by chemical sampling of the air, and satellites can monitor large methane sources. But which sources are most responsible is a tougher question.Global methane emissions were fairly level about 15 to 20 years ago, and then they started creeping up. Now, especially over the past five years or so, they’ve been rising at a fast rate.Some studies point to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, which quickly expanded gas production and roughly parallels the recent methane increase. Others say livestock and the increasing global demand for meat played a big role. Some point to natural sources – particularly wetlands in the tropics responding to climate change.The most likely scenario is that it’s a combination of all three.The bottom line is that the overall methane emissions have to be lowered to slow climate change. If the increase is coming from fossil fuel or waste or livestock, then we need to go after the human sources. If it’s coming from natural systems that are responding to climate change, we still have to go after those human sources of methane. Cutting methane emissions is the strongest leverage we have to slow those feedbacks down.If cutting methane pays for itself, and the technology exists, why isn’t more being done?The oil and gas industry itself is divided on methane. Many of the big companies supported the U.S. methane emissions rules that were set by the Obama administration – and later rolled back by the Trump administration – because they know capturing methane pays for itself. It’s not an onerous economic burden on them, and supporting it can improve the image of the industry.For small operators, however, the upfront costs of equipment and the need to hire labor to inspect the pipelines may be harder.For example, if a company is going to repair a pipeline, it can close off a section, bring in a compressor, and pump all of the excess gas farther down the line before starting to work on it. Doing that requires getting a compressor and having the trucks to move it and the staff to maintain it. A lot of studies have found that these investments pay for themselves in a few years because of the value of the methane saved. But many small operators find it simpler and less costly for themselves to just vent the gas into the atmosphere when they want to work on the pipe.There’s a similar problem with landfills and waste. As organic matter like food waste decomposes, it releases methane. Many landfills in developed countries already capture some of that methane gas. But many developing countries don’t have managed landfills or even trash pickup, making it impossible to capture the biogas.The report lists a few recommendations, in addition to technical solutions, that can be used for landfills everywhere, including better waste sorting so organic material is kept out of landfills and used for compost instead, and reducing food waste overall.Agriculture also has some straightforward solutions. Eating a healthy diet that, for many people, means cutting out excess red meat would go a long way in reducing the amount of livestock being produced for slaughter. Encouraging changes in food consumption can be politically dicey, but this is a huge emissions source. We’re not going to keep warming under 1.5 C without dealing with it.What does this mean for natural gas as an energy source?The report shows why adding more natural gas is incompatible with keeping warming to less than 1.5 C.The only way to keep using natural gas far into the future is to pull carbon out of the air. That’s a huge risk, because it assumes we’ll make up for today’s harms later. If that technology turns out to be too expensive or not socially acceptable, or it simply doesn’t work the way we think it will, we can’t go back in time and fix the mess.As the report explains, the world will have to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure. The better route is to be responsible now and take care of the climate rather than counting on cleaning up the mess later.[Explore the intersection of faith, politics, arts and culture. Sign up for This Week in Religion.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Drew Shindell, Duke University.Read more:Drew Shindell receives funding from the UN Environment Programme and NASA.
Data rights organizations have warned that patients lack a clear understanding of how information about their health, employment, contact or location details may be used if it is collected by private entities during the Covid-19 vaccine drive.Some advocates have already expressed concerns that the information could be used for marketing, targeted advertising or de-identified and sold into the multibillion-dollar health data industry.“This [vaccine] is a miracle of modern science, and it’s so important to get it as fast as possible to all the people, and yet all the secondary questions have been left aside,” said Adam Tanner, an associate professor at the Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science.He is also the author of Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records, which explores the market for de-identified health data. “What happens to all these people whose data you now have in great volume?”Privacy advocates warn retail pharmacies in particular are blurring the line between public health and commerce. For example, Walgreens required all customers seeking a vaccine appointment to make an account, including an opt-in to marketing emails, ReCode reported.The company also encouraged people seeking vaccine appointments to join its loyalty program, which supplies data to the pharmacy’s advertising arm, Walgreens Advertising Group.Non-profit hospitals have also opted in to the bonanza. RWJBarnabas Health, a large New Jersey hospital group which operates the Jersey City medical center, asked patients receiving a vaccine there to sign a form stating in part: “I understand I may be contacted as part of the hospital’s marketing activities”, and that patients could be contacted “as part of its fundraising activities”.The US has relatively strong health information protections for individuals under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, best known as Hipaa. This law regulates how hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and insurers can share people’s health information.However, it does allow for “de-identified” data to be sold and in an era when data behemoths such as Google are partnering with healthcare providers, the extent to which Hipaa protects personal information is now being considered by courts. One distinct risk is, in partnership with large corporations which already own a huge amount of consumer data, individuals’ health records could effectively be “re-identified”.Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also appears concerned about how data is being collected by private entities in the vaccine distribution campaign, and warned against using data for commercial purposes.“Providers are prohibited from using any data gathered in the course of their participation in the CDC Covid-19 vaccination program … for commercial marketing purposes,” the agency wrote. The agency continued: “Such data cannot be sold or otherwise provided to any other entity, except as required by the provider agreement.”However, privacy experts are skeptical such guidance is sufficient.“I would be surprised if that had any legally binding effect,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney and privacy expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I would love it if it were, but I would be surprised by that.”In a statement, RWJBarnabas said it “is committed to protect patient privacy and conduct any outreach subject to patient authorization and use patient identified data only as permitted by state and federal law, as stated in our consent.” The hospital group also said it would review, “and, if necessary, will make changes to our policies consistent with the April 2, 2021 CDC guidelines”.Tanner said patients are being asked to submit all sorts of information that might be useful both medically, for example to avoid serious adverse vaccine reactions, but which also might be useful for private companies.In his own example, he was asked to update his address with CVS to get a vaccine. This important information is vital for vaccinators, no doubt, but also could be used to market to Tanner in the future without any proof it came as a result of the vaccine drive.“That information is medically useful but it’s also useful for sales and marketing, so I’m just raising the question – is the data properly protected amid this very important vaccination campaign?” he said.“The answer is a little bit murky still.”
Global Water Use to Surpass Supply by 56% by 2030ST. PAUL, Minn., May 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services, launched Water Flow Intelligence, a digital service that provides industry with real-time visibility of water usage at the enterprise, site and asset levels.The launch of this new service comes at a time when rising industrial water use continues to contribute to the world’s growing water stress and scarcity challenges. According to the World Resources Institute, the world will experience a 56% freshwater shortfall by 2030 if nothing changes, an increase from the 40% shortfall projected by the U.N. in 2015. At the same time, S&P Global reports that corporate water use progress is currently insufficient to prevent the projected freshwater gap.To help address these growing water challenges, Water Flow Intelligence enables companies to identify opportunities that help improve water management across their operations, deliver on sustainability goals and reduce operational costs by combining smart water meters and sensors with advanced water flow measurement and monitoring, asset performance insights and machine learning.The service is powered by ECOLAB3D™, a secure, cloud-based digital platform that translates data from multiple sources into actionable insights. ECOLAB3D uses advanced algorithms and predictive analytics to power better business outcomes, enhancing the value and impact Ecolab delivers to businesses through its programs, products and services.“Water Flow Intelligence uses cutting-edge digital technologies to enable real-time insights and response,” said Pedro Sancha, senior vice president and general manager of Ecolab’s Industrial Digital business. “By gaining visibility to water use across their organizations, companies can optimize their operations and make real progress on their water-related sustainability goals, from the enterprise level to individual facilities.”Story continuesManual data collection and analysis to track water use is often tedious, resource-intensive and difficult to execute consistently across sites. Through the data and insights provided by Water Flow Intelligence, developed by Ecolab’s Nalco Water business, users can efficiently pinpoint on a user-friendly dashboard where water is being consumed across the connected assets and processes within their facilities, set enterprise-wide benchmarks and strategically target improvement efforts to help maximize water savings.At the local plant level, Water Flow Intelligence helps users protect their facilities against water damage and excess water use – which can negatively impact the local community and result in costly fines. Through the combination of real-time monitoring, advanced alarm notifications and 24/7 oversight by engineers at Ecolab’s System Assurance Center, the service alerts users to out-of-spec conditions as they occur, enabling faster responses to address leaks and other issues.In addition to managing risks, Water Flow Intelligence can help reduce costs by reducing water use. In the auto industry, pretreatment of water used to prepare vehicle bodies for painting is one of the most water-intensive processes and the biggest opportunity for water savings. One of the world’s largest automakers asked long-time partner Nalco Water to help reduce water consumption without negatively affecting product quality or production. Water Flow Intelligence was installed in the pretreatment area at one of the automaker’s North American assembly plants, where it has helped the customer cut water use at the facility by 15%, saving 25 million gallons of water and $193,000 per year.1“Paired with the knowledge and expertise of our on-the-ground sales and service teams, Water Flow Intelligence can help businesses gauge the effectiveness of their water management plans and improve their water footprint,” said Darrell Brown, executive vice president and president of Ecolab’s Global Industrial group. “This is more important than ever as the gap between freshwater availability and demand continues to grow, and companies worldwide step up their sustainability commitments to build resilience and drive action in the face of both climate change and water scarcity.”Water Flow Intelligence is currently available to industrial businesses in North America and Europe, with expansion to Australia and New Zealand by the end of 2021. To learn more, go to ecolab.com/waterflowintelligence.About EcolabA trusted partner at nearly three million customer locations, Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services. With annual sales of $12 billion and more than 44,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and personalized service to advance food safety, maintain clean and safe environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies and sustainability for customers in the food, healthcare, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. www.ecolab.comFollow us on LinkedIn at Ecolab, Twitter @ecolab, Instagram at @Ecolab Inc or Facebook at @Ecolab.Contacts:Mesa Denny, Ecolab+1 651 250 firstname.lastname@example.orgMay 6, 2021(ECL-P)1Because of factors outside of Ecolab’s control, such as water conditions, operational procedures and any other factors, results to be obtained including but not limited to water and energy savings cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Ecolab.
West Virginia lawsuit accuses drug distributors of fuelling opioid epidemic with excessive shipments of painkillers.Drug companies accused of fomenting opioid addiction in the United States are facing millions of dollars in damages in a trial that opened on Monday in the state of West Virginia, which has been hit hard by the epidemic of addiction and overdoses.
The city of Huntington filed a federal lawsuit against three big drug distributors -AmerisourceBergen Drug Co, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp – alleging they pumped addictive painkillers into the state.
“It is fitting that the trial will proceed in West Virginia, which has been ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” the plaintiff’s lawyers, Paul Farrell and Anne McGinness Kearse, said in a statement.
More than 400,000 people have died in the US of overdoses since the early 2000s, when producers of prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone ramped up sales through pharmacies and doctors with few controls.
West Virginia has the nation’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate.
A US judge last month rejected the companies’ attempt to dismiss the West Virginia case.
Hundreds of similar lawsuits have been filed across the country, but the Huntington case has become the focus of national efforts to make drug companies pay for the social and medical costs of the addiction epidemic.
“Between 2006 and 2014, manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids have showered the state of West Virginia with 1.1 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills,” the lawsuit alleges.
“The massive over-shipment amounts to 611 pain pills for every man, woman and child in the state.”
Leading pharmaceutical makers and distributors, including bankrupt Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma and top US pharmacy chain CVS, are also named in the lawsuit.
The drugmakers and pharmacy chain have blamed the epidemic on doctors who overprescribed the drugs, fuelling a massive black market for some 15 years that was only brought under control beginning in 2015.
But the federal government has prosecuted and jailed or fined hundreds of doctors, pharmacies and drug producers for everything from trafficking to poor controls on opioid distribution.
The US Justice Department sued Walmart Inc in December, accusing the retailer of fuelling the opioid crisis and ignoring warning signs from its pharmacists.
US prosecutors reached an $8.3bn settlement with Purdue Pharma in October, when the company admitted criminal conduct in the distribution of its painkillers and agreed to asset forfeiture while in bankruptcy reorganisation.
Major US consultancy McKinsey & Co agreed to pay $573m to settle a lawsuit by US states, which accused the firm of helping fuel the opioid crisis by providing marketing and sales advice to Purdue Pharma and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
Since controls on legal opioids were tightened, many people whose addiction began with prescription drugs have turned to illegal heroin and fentanyl, prolonging the epidemic.
About 90,000 total overdose deaths were reported last year across the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which nearly three-quarters involved opioids.
The Xpeng P7 electric vehicle displayed outside the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 27, 2020 when the Chinese electric vehicle launched its initial public listing.Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesBEIJING — Chinese companies are rushing to go public in the red-hot IPO market in the U.S. — before it loses steam.The first three months of the year marked the busiest quarter for overall U.S. initial public offerings since 2000, according to consulting firm EY.Despite the coronavirus pandemic and tensions between the U.S. and China, half of 36 foreign public listings in the U.S. during that time came from companies based in Greater China, EY said.More are coming.About 60 Chinese companies plan to go public in the U.S. this year, Vera Yang, chief China representative for the New York Stock Exchange, said Tuesday.”From our interaction with companies, our sense is they would like to lose no time (in listing),” Yang said in a Mandarin-language interview, translated by CNBC. She pointed to uncertainties such as those brought by the pandemic, and a likely tightening of monetary policy in the longer term that would reduce the availability of capital.Our phone is ringing off the hook. We’re trying to hire more people. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Nasdaq bubble in ’99. Makes me worried.Gary Dvorchakmanaging director, BlueshirtDelisting concerns have calmed down since President Joe Biden took office in January, and market participants expect a compromise, said Blueshirt managing director Gary Dvorchak, who advises Chinese companies interested in listing in the U.S.”It’s a tidal wave,” he said of the Chinese IPO pipeline.”Our phone is ringing off the hook. We’re trying to hire more people. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Nasdaq bubble in ’99,” he said. “Makes me worried.”The rich get richerIn the late 1990s, a surge of speculation in new technology companies ranging from Pets.com to Cisco fed a U.S. stock market bubble that began to burst in 2000, in what came to be known as the “dotcom bubble.”This year, investor caution about viable business ventures caused capital to pile into just a few of the same companies, rather than spreading out their bets. The trend holds in China, home to many of the world’s so-called unicorns — or start-ups valued at $1 billion or more.Hongye Wang, China-based partner at venture capital firm Antler, said that anecdotally, more people are asking him for shares in unicorns than in earlier-stage start-ups.”A lot of companies cannot raise a lot of money, or their valuation(s) are decreasing. But if you look at the unicorns, especially the pre-IPO unicorns, their valuation is still crazy,” he said.Just take popular Chinese soda water company Genki Forest, which earlier this month reportedly secured another capital injection — of $500 million — bringing its valuation to $6 billion. In contrast, one of the biggest fundraising rounds in yuan that week was a much smaller 600 million yuan ($92.3 million) series B injection into Abogen Biosciences, according to Crunchbase.In a sign that some valuations may be too high, many Chinese stocks listed in the U.S. and Hong Kong have slumped after their initial public offerings this year.For example, in February Chinese short-video app Kuaishou soared 160% to $300 a share in the biggest internet company IPO since Uber, and the largest Hong Kong debut since the pandemic. But its stock has struggled to build on those gains, and closed at $274 a share on Tuesday.”The after-IPO pricing trend is not as good as last year,” said Ringo Choi, Asia-Pacific IPO leader at EY. He expects a slowdown in public offerings beginning in the third quarter of this year, especially if the macroeconomic environment takes a turn for the worse.For now, a few of China’s largest start-ups are still in the IPO pipeline, although the timing is unclear. Beijing-based ByteDance, owner of popular short-video app TikTok, is the biggest unicorn in the world, while Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing ranks fourth, according to CB Insights.Investors are “supportive, but more selective” of Chinese companies that might be able to sustain high valuations, Yang said, citing conversations with various investment funds.She said that among China-based businesses listing in the U.S. this year, the first area of interest is a category known as technology, media and telecommunications. That’s followed by consumer brands and business services, Yang said.