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Home Depot (NYSE: HD), the world's largest home-improvement chain, has announced that it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides, a leading driver of global bee declines, from 80 percent of its flowering plants and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. This announcement follows an ongoing campaign and letter by Friends of the Earth and allies urging Home Depot to stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids and remove neonic pesticides from store shelves.
"Home Depot's progress in removing neonics shows it is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides," said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology program director at Friends of the Earth U.S. "However, we know that Home Depot and other retailers can do even more to address the bee crisis. Along with allies, we will continue to challenge retailers to engage in a race to the top to move bee-toxic pesticides off their shelves and out of garden plants as soon as possible. Bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act quickly to protect them."
A study released by Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Research Institute, Gardeners Beware 2014, showed that 51 percent of garden plants purchased at Lowe's (NYSE: LOW), Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained neonicotinoid pesticides at levels that could harm or even kill bees. Following the release of this report, Home Depot announced it would require its suppliers to label all plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm and kill bees, by the fourth quarter of 2014. It also committed to "find alternative insecticides for protecting live goods and bees."
Friends of the Earth and allies have called on Home Depot to strengthen its existing commitments to protecting bees and other pollinators and nursery workers by immediately disclosing the progress it has made to date in phasing out neonicotinoid pesticides in all of its plants and off-the-shelf products. The coalition also called on the retailer to make a public commitment to complete its phase-out of neonicotinoids in all plants and off-the-shelf products, while transitioning to least-toxic alternatives that are benign to human health and the environment, by December 2016.
"Home Depot's public commitment will better position the company to meet the demands of an increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer base. And, it sends an important market signal that restricting the use of bee-harming pesticides is essential to stemming chronic bee declines," said Susan Baker, Vice President of Trillium Asset Management. Trillium and partners in the Investor Environmental Health Network, Domini Social Investments and the Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge, have been in active dialogue with management on this issue.
"Home Depot's progress in removing neonicotinoids from the majority of its flowering plants shows how fast a corporation can move when it needs to respond to consumer pressure and science," said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada. "We expect all garden retailers, big and small, to be specifying right now to their suppliers to stop use of neonics for 2016 flowering plants."
"We welcome Home Depot's announcement that it has removed 80% of bee-killing pesticides from its plants. Together, over 750,000 SumOfUs members told Home Depot to stand up for the bees, and together we will be watching closely to make sure that Home Depot phases out these bee-killing pesticides as quickly as possible," said Angus Wong, campaigner, SumOfUs.
"It's important that retailers like Home Depot begin to make the switch towards safer products for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. By phasing out neonicotinoid products, Home Depot is helping consumers break away from a dependency on the use of toxic pesticides in their homes and gardens," said Jay Feldman, executive director, Beyond Pesticides.
In the past year, more than thirty nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers have taken steps to eliminate bee-killing pesticides from their stores. A growing body of scientific evidence has continued to mount that neonicotinoids are a major contributor to both wild bee and honey bee declines and that they are contaminating the environment, harming a variety of other organisms essential to healthy ecosystems and sustainable food production.
"Even though Home Depot has taken these steps in the right direction, it's important for gardeners to be aware that many plants in stores today still contain neonicotinoids. We look forward to the day when we can all buy home garden plants without worrying about harming pollinators. In the meantime, gardeners should choose organic and neonic-free starts, seeds and soil," said Katherine Paul, associate director, Organic Consumers Association.
"It's time for other retailers, such as Ace and True Value, to take a stand against toxic, bee-killing neonicotinoids by making a full-fledged, public commitment to eliminate bee-killing pesticides from store shelves," said Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's pollinator protection program coordinator.
Earlier in 2015, Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Research Institute surveyed nurseries and released the report Growing Bee Friendly Garden Plants: Profiles in Innovation, to find out how growers and retail stores were working to meet consumer demand for neonicotinoid-free plants.
"The survey showed that many growers are stepping up to the plate to ensure that their plants are safe for pollinators," said Dr. Susan Kegley, principal scientist at Pesticide Research Institute. "These growers are using innovative approaches to control pests such as application of beneficial insects or fungi that eat or disable pest insects, as well as tried and true common-sense pest prevention methods like proper sanitation, frequent monitoring for pests, and selection of pest-resistant plants. Their success shows that harmful systemic insecticides are not necessary to grow bee-friendly plants."
Greenhouse Grower magazine surveyed the one hundred largest greenhouse growers in the industry, and found 31 percent of the growers surveyed are not using neonicotinoids at all, and 38 percent have eliminated neonicotinoid use for some of their plant products.
Last April, the EPA placed a moratorium on new and expanded uses of neonicotinoids. In September, the 9th Circuit Court suspended the EPA's approval of sulfoxaflor, a neonicotinoid.
In November, the U.S. Geological Survey released a reconnaissance study demonstrating native bees collected in an agricultural landscape are exposed to multiple pesticides and of the bees tested, 70 percent contained pesticides, including neonicotinoids.
*Organizations partnering with Friends of the Earth U.S. in the campaign to urge garden retailers including Home Depot to phase out the use and sale of neonicotinoids include: American Bird Conservancy, Atlanta Audubon Society, Beyond Pesticides, Beyond Toxics, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, CREDO Action, Ecology Center, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment New York, Environment Texas, Environmental Youth Council, Farmworker Association of Florida, Friends of the Earth Canada, Georgia Organics, GMO Inside, Green America, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maryland Pesticide Network, Mercola.com, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Olympia Beekeepers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, Planet Rehab, Save our Environment, Sierra Club, Smart on Pesticides Maryland, SumOfUs, Toxics Action Center, Toxic Free North Carolina, Turner Environmental Law Clinic and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Friends of the Earth fights for a more healthy and just world. Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.(202) 783-7400
"Today is a day of justice. It's a day of justice for those brave men of the SAS who stood up and told the truth about who Ben Roberts-Smith is—a war criminal, a bully, and a liar," said one of the journalists sued for defamation.
An Australian federal judge on Thursday ruled in favor of three newspapers sued for defamation by the country's most decorated living soldier, who the court found committed war crimes in Afghanistan, including the murder of civilians and unarmed prisoners.
Following harrowing testimony from fellow soldiers, Afghan civilians, and others, Justice Anthony Besanko of the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Fairfax Media newspapers The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Canberra Times had "established the substantial truth" that former Special Air Service Regiment [SASR] Cpl. Ben Roberts-Smith is a war criminal who murdered four unarmed prisoners in Afghanistan.
Roberts-Smith—whose multimillion-dollar defense was bankrolled by billionaire Australian media mogul Kerry Stokes—is a recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, the nation's highest military honor, as well as other awards including the Medal for Gallantry and Commendation for Distinguished Service. He fought in the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Today is a day of justice. It's a day of justice for those brave men of the SAS who stood up and told the truth about who Ben Roberts-Smith is: a war criminal, a bully, and a liar," Sydney Morning Herald and The Age journalist Nick McKenzie—a defendant in the suit—said following the ruling. "Today is a day of some small justice for the Afghan victims of Ben Roberts-Smith."
\u201cAustralia's most decorated living veteran was not defamed when accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan, a judge has ruled \u2014 calling the allegations he killed unarmed prisoners 'substantially true.'\u201d— DW News (@DW News) 1685634121
Besanko found that in 2012 Roberts-Smith marched a handcuffed civilian prisoner named Ali Jan to a cliff in the southern village of Darwan and kicked him off the edge. Jan survived but was severely injured; Roberts-Smith ordered a subordinate soldier to execute the man.
"Ali Jan was a father, Ali Jan was a husband. He has children who no longer have a father. He was a wife who no longer has a husband," McKenzie said.
While Roberts-Smith argued Jan was a suspected Taliban scout, Besanko wrote that the soldier "murdered an unarmed and defenseless Afghan civilian," that he "broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement and is therefore a criminal," and that he "disgraced his country Australia and the Australian army by his conduct as a member of the SASR in Afghanistan."
In 2009, Roberts-Smith is alleged to have pressured a newly deployed soldier to execute an elderly Afghan man found hiding in a tunnel in order to "blood the rookie," according to the court. Roberts-Smith machine-gunned the man's younger disabled companion to death and then took his prosthetic leg back to Australia, where he encouraged fellow soldiers to drink beer from it, an act the court called "callous and inhumane."
\u201cCW: Afghanistan War Crimes\n\nAustralian soldier Ben Roberts-Smith kicked a handcuffed Afghan man off a cliff and then ordered him shot; shot a teenage prisoner point-blank in the head; and gunned down a disabled man, whose prosthetic leg SAS soldiers later used to drink beer.\u201d— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@Rebecca J. Kavanagh) 1685599535
Besanko also found that Roberts-Smith bullied a fellow soldier, while finding that the papers did not prove an allegation that he punched a woman with whom he was having an affair in the face after a 2018 argument in Canberra.
University of Sydney professor David Rolph, a defamation law expert, told the Morning Herald that the court's judgment "is a comprehensive victory for the media outlets" and "a vindication of the journalism in question."
"Defamation losses have a chilling effect for the media, particularly for serious investigative journalism," he added. "This decision should give media outlets some confidence that they can undertake public-interest journalism and prevail."
Sen. David Shoebridge (Green-New South Wales) called Besanko's ruling "an important win for fearless journalism in the public interest."
"It's a tragic fact that private media companies, not any part of the federal government, have taken on the public task of telling the truth about Australia's war record in Afghanistan," Shoebridge told the Morning Herald. "The official silence must now end."
\u201c"@benmckelvey said Australia needs to launch a royal commission \u2014 akin to a U.S. congressional inquiry \u2014 to understand what went wrong.\n\nThe defamation trial, he said, was \u201cjust a little peek through the crack in the door.\u201d"\u201d— White Rose Society (Australia) (@White Rose Society (Australia)) 1685600983
In 2017, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation obtained leaked documents—known as the Afghan Files—detailing SASR war crimes such as the murder of unarmed civilians including children. A subsequent parliamentary probe confirmed the commission of war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
On Wednesday, Reutersreported Australian defense chief Gen. Angus Campbell was warned by the United States—which has a long history of war crimes in Afghanistan and other countries invaded or attacked during the open-ended War on Terror—that allegations of SAS atrocities could trigger the Leahy Law, which prohibits military assistance to countries that violate human rights with impunity.
Troops from other coalition forces—including Afghans, British, Germans, Polish, and Canadians—have committed or been complicit in atrocities during the Afghan war, as have Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State fighters.
The Biden appointee accused the Court of overstepping its bounds in a ruling denounced by one labor leader as "shameful."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 8-1 in favor of a concrete company and against its striking workers, in a decision progressive advocates called "de-facto union busting."
The lone dissenting voice, liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, argued that her colleagues overstepped their authority in siding with the company instead of deferring to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
"Today, the Court falters," she wrote in her dissent.
\u201cBREAKING: The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a concrete company that wanted to sue a union because a strike cost them money.\n\nThe 8-1 decision means the company, Glacier Northwest Inc., can sue the union over a strike where truck drivers left wet concrete in their trucks.\u201d— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1685632085
The case dates back to 2017, when Seattle-area truck drivers belonging to Teamsters Local 174 engaged in a week-long strike against company Glacier Northwest, as The Seattle Timesexplained. At the time of the strike, the workers had wet concrete in their mixer trucks, but abandoning the trucks during the stoppage meant the cement could no longer be used and could have damaged the trucks, the company claimed.
"What Glacier seeks to do here is to shift the duty of protecting an employer's property from damage or loss incident to a strike onto the striking workers."
Glacier Northwest sued the Teamsters for damages in Washington state court, but the union argued that the suit conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects collective bargaining rights. The Washington State Supreme Court agreed with the workers, but the Supreme Court reversed this decision, meaning the lawsuit can proceed. Labor advocates worry that this decision could embolden other companies to file similar lawsuits against striking workers.
"The Supreme Court decision in Glacier, Inc. vs. Teamsters is the latest in a long line of examples that the conscience of this court is clearly up for sale to the highest bidder. The institution that was at one point the last line of defense for working people against oppression and corporate greed is now a bludgeon wielded against those very people by the wealthy and well-connected," Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell said in a statement.
Thursday's ruling, added Mitchell, "is nothing more than a de-facto union-busting, strike-breaking tactic. It clears the way for deep-pocketed corporations to sue workers for withholding their labor in the face of exploitation and deplorable job conditions."
In her majority opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett argued that the NLRA did not protect the workers because "Glacier alleges that the Union took affirmative steps to endanger Glacier's property rather than reasonable precautions to mitigate that risk."
However, Jackson said the Court had historically deferred its judgment on labor cases involving a complaint pending with the NLRB, as in this case.
"[W]e have no business delving into this particular labor dispute at this time. But instead of modestly standing down, the majority eagerly inserts itself into this conflict, proceeding to opine on the propriety of the union's strike activity based on the facts alleged in the employer's state-court complaint," she wrote.
Further, Jackson expressed concern that the Court's ruling would interfere with the NLRB's development of labor law and "erode the right to strike."
Moreover, she pointed out that, in siding with Glacier, the Court was infringing on how the workers chose to carry out their right to strike.
"What Glacier seeks to do here is to shift the duty of protecting an employer's property from damage or loss incident to a strike onto the striking workers, beyond what the Board has already permitted via the reasonable-precautions principle. In my view, doing that places a significant burden on the employees' exercise of their statutory right to strike, unjustifiably undermining Congress's intent," she wrote.
\u201cShe also argues that the court is putting the onus on workers and their union here, when it is actually incumbent on Glacier, the company, to take steps to negotiate with the union and mitigate their losses. /3\u201d— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1685632085
Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh, signed on to Barrett's majority opinion, while Justice Clarence Thomas authored a concurring opinion joined by Neil Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito filed another concurring opinion joined by Thomas and Gorsuch.
Progressive advocates and lawmakers called out the majority for its ruling. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) tweeted it was "another dangerous decision," while the Center for Popular Democracy Action said the current Court, with a right-wing majority, is one where "labor rights go to die" and argued in favor of legislation that would expand the Court to 13 justices.
"This morning, our highest court issued a ruling that makes it easier for companies to sue unions for striking," the group said in a statement.
"This is yet another example of this extremist court siding with the rich and powerful over workers—the everyday people who deserve the hard-fought right to have a union that fights for them against corporate abuses," the group continued. "More and more, we see how disconnected the Supreme Court is from the realities of communities that need and deserve good-paying union jobs to thrive. If we don't take immediate steps to expand the court by passing the Judiciary Act, we can expect these egregious decisions to continue."
Teamsters General President Sean M. O'Brien decried the Court's decision, but vowed to keep fighting.
\u201c\u203c\ufe0fStatement from #Teamsters General President Sean M. O\u2019Brien on the Supreme Court\u2019s ruling today in #Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174, which opens the door for corporations to sue their own workers. \n\n#1u @TeamsterSOB 1/9\ud83e\uddf5...\u201d— Teamsters (@Teamsters) 1685632539
"The Teamsters will strike any employer, when necessary, no matter their size or the depth of their pockets. Unions will never be broken by this Court or any other," O'Brien said.
"Today's shameful ruling," he continued, "is simply one more reminder that the American people cannot rely on their government or their courts to protect them. They cannot rely on their employers. We must rely on each other. We must engage in organized, collective action. We can only rely on the protections inherent in the power of our unions."
Days when "hazardous" levels of particle pollution were recorded were virtually nonexistent in the U.S. for much of the early 2000s, but 73 were recorded in 2021.
As wildfire smoke from Nova Scotia drifted south this week and resulted in haze that blanketed parts of New England, New York, and New Jersey, the American Lung Association reported Thursday that rampant wildfires are triggering a significant rise in unhealthy air alerts in cities across the United States—enough to begin reversing progress policymakers have made in reducing ozone pollution.
The organization's State of the Air report warns that particle pollution—which includes soot from wildfires and has been linked to increased risk for heart attacks, asthma in children, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—is putting more people at risk than ever.
Overall, 17.6 million fewer people in the U.S. are breathing unhealthy air compared to the group's 2022 report, an improvement that was credited to "falling levels of ozone in many places around the country, the continuation of a positive trend that reflects the success of the Clean Air Act."
"However, the number of people living in counties with failing grades for daily spikes in deadly particle pollution was 63.7 million, the most ever reported under the current national standard," reads the report.
Eight of the 10 cities with the most days in which authorities warned of high particle pollution were in California, which experienced a relatively "mild" year for wildfires last year, but still counted nearly 7,500 wildfires including the destructive Mosquito Fire.
Other cities that are thousands of miles away from areas prone to wildfires have also reported numerous days with high levels of particle pollution, including Fargo, North Dakota and Pittsburgh.
Source: American Lung Association, State of the Air report, 2023
"A few weeks ago, I was speaking with someone from Colorado who was staying indoors because of smoke from forest fires in Calgary," William Barrett, national senior director for clean air advocacy at the American Lung Association (ALA), toldThe Hill Thursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says planetary heating creates hotter and drier conditions, leading to longer and more severe wildfire seasons in areas that are prone to them.
Michelle Donaldson, communications director for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, told the CBC on Tuesday that people living far away from wildfire sites may not realize they are at risk for particle pollution.
"Wildfire smoke can travel really far and it can linger in the air for weeks at a time, so even if you can't see the smoke in your area, the particulate matter and the level of air quality go down, so people have to take precautions to protect their lung health," she said.
Emissions standards set by the Clean Air Act have been credited with significantly cutting down on ozone pollution in recent decades. New York City reported more than 50 days with high ozone pollution in the early 2000s, compared to 17 now, The Hill noted. Washington, D.C. has cut its high ozone pollution days from 60 per year to seven.
But the ALA's State of the Air report shows that the number of days when particle pollution levels are considered "very unhealthy" has skyrocketed in the last five years. Warnings were issued 10 times in 2016 compared to 113 in 2021.
The number of "hazardous" days—when the entire population of an area is likely to be affected by the pollution—has also gone up significantly. These warnings were not given between 2002 and 2014, but 73 of them were recorded in 2021.
Source: American Lung Association, State of the Air report, 2023
"Spikes in particle pollution related to heat, drought and wildfires are putting millions of people at risk," said the ALA, "and adding challenges to the work that states and cities are doing across the nation to clean up air pollution."