By: Jon Queally of Common Dreams
By: Ephrat Livni of QZ
No kid ever dreamed of growing up and driving for Uber or styling for Stitch Fix. In part, that’s because none of those companies existed when most of today’s adults were young. It’s also because, besides its much-touted “flexibility,” the gig economy isn’t much of a place to build a career. Instead, over the course of less than a decade, the self-described “tech companies” that connect people to gig work have managed to erode hard-fought labor protections in place for a century.
In Hustle and Gig, to be published in March by University of California Press, sociologist Alexandrea Ravenelle interviews 80 gig workers who are struggling, striving, and succeeding. She analyzes their stories in the context of US employment history and concludes that “for all its app-enabled modernity, the gig economy resembles the early industrial age…the sharing economy is truly a movement forward to the past.”
Although gig work was initially seen as a way to maximize worker freedom and create opportunities, it has, in its short history, proven corrosive. Ravenelle notes that a small percentage of people are making lots of money via side hustles, but they tend to be those who need it least. For example, she speaks to independent hoteliers in New York renting out rooms and apartments via AirBnB, including a corporate lawyer and a man with a chain of laundromats. Because they already had capital, have steady sources of income apart from their side gigs, and are willing to skirt rental laws, these two individuals are able to invest heavily in their “gigs” and create lucrative businesses.
Sadly, those who most need to work can find themselves trapped in a cycle of struggle. Ravenelle interviewed men and women signed up to do tasks on Task Rabbit—prior to its acquisition by IKEA—and who drove for Uber, for example. They were not employees and so had no health insurance, workers’ compensation protections, employer contributions to Social Security and payroll taxes, paid time off, family leave protections, discrimination protections, or unemployment insurance benefits.
Sometimes, this gig work also requires an initial outlay of capital. (My own neighbor just traded in her old vehicle for a new car, taking on thousands of dollars in debt so that she can make extra money driving for Lyft.) At the very least, a potential worker needs a smartphone and wi-fi service. Ravanelle’s book boasts an image inside of a young man in a park panhandling for $30 to activate his phone service so that he can start picking up work.
By: Chris McGreal of the Guardian
The Food and Drug Administration is sacrificing American lives by continuing to approve new high-strength opioidpainkillers, and manipulating the process in favor of big pharma, according to the chair of the agency’s own opioid advisory committee.
Dr Raeford Brown told the Guardian there is “a war” within the FDA as officials in charge of opioid policy have “failed to learn the lessons” of the epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years and continues to claim about 150 lives a day.
Brown accused the agency of putting the interests of narcotics manufacturers ahead of public health, most recently by approving a “terrible drug”, Dsuvia, in a process he alleged was manipulated.
“They should stop considering any new opioid evaluation,” said Brown. “For every day and every week and every month that the FDA don’t do the right thing, people drop dead on the streets. What they do has a direct impact on the mortality rate from opioids in this country.”
Brown, an anesthesiologist who chairs the FDA committee of specialists advising the agency on whether to approve new opioid painkillers, said he no longer had confidence in repeated assurances by the FDA leadership that it was taking the epidemic seriously and prepared to put public health above the commercial interests of drug makers.
“I think that the FDA has learned nothing. The modus operandi of the agency is that they talk a good game and then nothing happens. Working directly with the agency for the last five years, as I sit and listen to them in meetings, all I can think about is the clock ticking and how many people are dying every moment that they’re not doing anything,” he said. “The lack of insight that continues to be exhibited by the agency is in many ways a willful blindness that borders on the criminal.”
By: Tyler Durden
Having successfully closed on its $66 billion purchase of the agrochemical company Monsanto in June, we suspect Germany’s Bayer AG, is more than a little concerned now after failing to persuade a judge to set aside a jury’s $289 million verdict in the first trial over allegations that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.
a San Francisco Jury awarded $289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller gave him terminal cancer. The award consists of $40 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
Johnson’s trial was fast-tracked due to the severe state of his non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system he says was triggered by Roundup and Ranger Pro, a similar glyphosate herbicide that he applied up to 30 times per year. His doctors didn’t think he’d live to live to see the verdict
By: Lauren Hirsch of CNBC
PepsiCo is taking a hard look at the cannabis industry as other beverage makers explore the market.
“I think we’ll look at it critically, but I’m not prepared to share any plans that we may have in the space right now,” Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston told Jim Cramer and Sara Eisen on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street on Tuesday.
Cannabis, which is federally illegal in the U.S., but legal in some states and in Canada, has attracted increasing attention from food and beverage companies as either an opportunity for future growth, or conversely, a threat to their brands.
Corona beer maker Constellation this summer announced an additional $4 billion stake in Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth, following up on a previous investment in October.
Coca-Cola last month said it is “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages,” after reports surfaced it may be eyeing the cannabis-infused drink market.
The CBD is derived from the marijuana plant that some people believe provides therapeutic relief. It does not include THC, which is what gives cannabis-users a “high.”
By: Telegraph Reporter
By: Ryan O’hare of Imperial College London
The findings come from a study in which researchers from Imperial College London used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression in whom conventional treatment had failed.
In a paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment, and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.
Comparison of images of patients’ brains before and one day after they received the drug treatment revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms.
The authors note that while the initial results of the experimental therapy are exciting, they are limited by the small sample size as well as the absence of a control group – such as a placebo group – to directly contrast with the patients.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial, who led the study, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.
“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.
“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”
By: Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo
I know what you’re thinking: Amazon’s got some hot deals for its made-up holiday, and even though you don’t exactly need an AmazonBasics portable air compressor, you would be foolish not to save $14 by buying it on Amazon Prime Day. Resist these thoughts, fellow consumer. Amazon Prime Day is bullshit.
The first Amazon Prime Day happened in 2015, the year of Amazon’s 20th birthday, when the company boldly said “Step Aside Black Friday.” Prime Day deals were going to be so good, the world might run out of money before all the good could be bought. Yes, to celebrate two decades of selling discount books and weird sex toys, Amazon invited its most loyal customers to spend even more money and to do so in a limited amount of time. It was such a fun celebration that Amazon decided to do it every year. Now, Prime Day is even longer than a day. It’s 36 hours of unbelievable deals. And if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, Amazon will let you sign up for a free 30-day trial that you will definitely forget to cancel.
The only problem is that Amazon Prime isn’t necessarily the incredible deal that it used to be. I recently downloaded all of my Amazon data, only to learn that all my Amazon Prime membership seemed to do for me was to make me buy more stuff on Amazon. The fact that there’s now a fake holiday that encourages even more spending seems slightly insulting. Than again, nobody is forcing me to be a Prime member and to buy stuff on Amazon. And I’m certainly not compelled to buy stuff on Prime Day. That’s not what bothers me about this 36-hour bargain bonanza.
I’m actually starting to think that Amazon is a bad company. There must be a reason why Amazon workers in Europe are marking this year’s Prime Day by going on strike. A one-day strike at six Amazon facilities in Germany is currently in effect, while a three-day strike is happening in Spain. Workers in Poland are staging a work-to-rule action, meaning they’ll only do the bare minimum required by their contracts. The workers are universally demanding healthy working conditions, which seems like a reasonable thing for any employee to want. Amazon, however, has developed an infamous reputation as a terrible and dangerous place to work. Pay is so low that many warehouse workers are reportedly on food stamps. Third-party contractors often work long hours with no benefits. People even die in Amazon fulfillment centers from time-to-time.
Billionaire Elon Musk has committed to fund efforts to fix Flint homes that still have contaminated water.
The Tesla owner tweeted in response to another user who asked him to respond to people saying there was “NO WAY (he) could help get clean water to Flint”. Musk responded and said “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding.”
How serious Musk is with his claim is not known.
The Flint water crisis started in 2014 when city officials switched off of Detroit’s water supply and drew water from the Flint River instead. The goal was to cut costs, but the move triggered a city-wide health crisis with lead contaminated water flowing into people’s homes.
Flint’s water was tainted with the toxin for at least 18 months, as the city tapped the Flint River but didn’t treat the water to reduce corrosion.
The switch to the Flint River yielded smelly discolored tap water, later determined to be responsible for leaching lead from the pipes in people’s homes, poisoning thousands while also leading to dozens of cases of Legionnaires disease. Twelve of those of were fatal.
Twelve people have died and thousands have been poisoned,
City residents were receiving free bottled water from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Back in April, the DEQ said that the water quality “has been restored” and that it tests below federal action levels in lead and copper for nearly 20 years.
In a DEQ release, the state says that tests representing four consecutive six-month monitoring periods shows that 90 percent of the Tier I (high-risk) samples collected are at or below 4 parts per billion, which is well below the federal action level of 15 ppb. Nearly two years of LCR data and thousands of other tests show that Flint’s water is testing the same as or better than similar cities across the state.