Posted on

We Don’t Have To Halt Climate Action To Fight Racism

Late last month, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer lit a tinderbox of outrage that has been simmering for months, years, generations. That outrage has pulled Americans out of social isolation and into the streets in all 50 states, and inspired protests around the world. They show no sign of stopping. In fact, they show every sign of winning. 

This is different. This is big. And it’s everywhere.  

Even in the climate movement — which has long stuck to the sidelines in moments like this — advocates and organizations are publicly declaring that Black Lives Matter. They are finally standing up and speaking out in defense of Black people’s right to breathe. It’s about damn time.

There’s just one problem: This new commitment to Black people often seems to come with an assumption that the fight for climate justice has to halt. As a “Climate Person,” my social media feeds are awash in calls to pause climate activism for the sake of supporting Black people, as though the two are mutually exclusive. As a Black Climate Person, I can’t tell you how disorienting that is.

There used to be a myth in environmental circles that Black people don’t care about the environment or about climate issues. There’s a lot of data to prove that that’s not true. But I don’t need that data, because I’ve been around Black people my whole life and I’ve never met one who didn’t care about the environment, or about animals. I’ve met plenty, though, who don’t care for environmentalists. And I understand why. 



A demonstrator walks in front of a row of military police wearing riot gear as they push back demonstrators outside the White House, on June 1.

Typically, when the environmental movement has attempted to reach out to Black communities, it turns into something I’ve called “existential exceptionalism.” The conversation goes something like, “Oh, you’re worried about police violence? Well, you need to be worried about these POLAR BEARS!” Climate change is framed as the issue that threatens “all of us” and therefore should be everyone’s priority. Climate change, the myth goes, is the Great Equalizer.

Not only is this approach dismissive and insensitive, the premise is simply untrue.

It’s been documented again and again that climate change hurts Black people first and worst — both in the United States and globally. Moreover, Black people did the least to create the problem, and our systemic oppression runs directly parallel to the climate crisis. 

Climate change takes any problem you already had, any threat you were already under, and multiplies it. When you take a population that has lived in chronic crisis, under constant threat, for generations — from police violence to housing discrimination to general disenfranchisement — and add yet another threat? That’s not just a recipe for catastrophe. With the climate crisis itself — the storms and the temperatures — it’s not so much that the game is rigged, it’s the playing field. Climate change is not the Great Equalizer. It is the Great Multiplier.

So it’s not just time to talk about climate — it’s time to talk about it as the Black issue it is. It’s time to stop whitewashing it. In other words, it’s time to stop #AllLivesMattering the climate crisis. 

It’s time to talk about how extreme heat exacerbates police violence and increases deaths from tasers. It’s time to talk about what happens in prisons, which often lack air conditioning and heat, as temperatures skyrocket. It’s time to talk about climate gentrification. It’s time to talk about the use of tear gas — which hurts respiratory systems during a pandemic that is already disproportionately affecting Black people — as environmental racism.



A protester rinses the eyes of another with water after police fired tear gas during a protest on May 31.

And, while we’re at it, it’s time to talk about why Black people face higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death: Because we’re far more likely to live in food deserts, and near dumping grounds, power plants and large-scale animal farms, all of which saddle us with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Those are the same preexisting conditions that authorities attempted to blame for the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd

It’s time to talk about what Hurricane Katrina revealed and what I can never, ever unsee: When disaster strikes, the power structure will either abandon us or turn even more sharply against us. When resources run low, we will have the least and when we try to take what we need, we’ll be labeled looters and shot on sight.

It’s time to talk about the white vigilantes who roamed New Orleans after Katrina — and were damn near state-sanctioned — and today’s armed militia groups that are ready and willing to exploit any disaster (including the current protests) to bring about a race war. What do you think they’d do in the aftermath of a hurricane or a fire? 



An aerial view of homes surrounded by floodwaters in New Orleans in September 2005.

It’s time to talk about my biggest fear about the climate crisis. It’s not, “How will we treat each other?” It’s “How will white people treat people who look like me?”

If caring about climate change and caring about Black people were mutually exclusive, I never would have gotten into climate justice. Black people are my first and true love. I mean, who did y’all think I was fighting for? I got into climate justice work because I love Black people. Do you?

Mary Annaïse Heglar is the writer in residence at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Boston Globe, Vox, WIRED and other places. She is also the co-host and co-creator of the Hot Take podcast and newsletterThis piece was adapted from a piece which originally appeared in the Hot Take newsletter, which you can find here.

For more content and to be part of the “This New World” community, follow our Facebook page.

HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com.

Source: Environment

Posted on

In An Election Year, 2 Vulnerable GOP Senators Are Suddenly Conservationists

Public lands activists and a handful of lawmakers have long pushed for full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program established in 1964 that uses offshore oil and gas revenues to establish and protect parks, wildlife refuges, forests and wildlife habitat.

But anti-federal-land conservatives, appalled at the thought of more money being used to expand and improve the federal estate, have always stood in the way. The program has been funded at the full $900 million allowed by law only twice in its history.

Now two vulnerable Republicans are among those championing a bipartisan conservation bill that would permanently and fully fund the LWCF, as well as allocate $9.5 billion to address the mounting maintenance backlog at America’s national parks. Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), co-sponsors of the bill, are claiming credit for the win after the bill advanced by an 80-17 vote this week. A vote on final passage is expected early next week.

“We are on the cusp of passing the most historic conservation legislation in 50 years,” Daines said during a Tuesday news conference on Capitol Hill. “And isn’t it ironic that it will take public lands to bring a divided government and a divided nation together.”



Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a news conference on the Land and Water Conservation Fund on March 4.

In March, Daines and Gardner announced they had secured an about-face from President Donald Trump, a longtime foe of the LWCF who has worked to weaken safeguards for nearly 35 million federal acres. The Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2020 called for all but eliminating funding for the LWCF, from $156 million down to just $7.6 million.

During a meeting at the White House in February, Gardner told Trump that passing a public lands bill would be the biggest conservation win since President Theodore Roosevelt established national parks, refuges and forests across the country in the early 1900s, The New York Times reported this week. Invoking Roosevelt was apparently all it took to get the president to change his stance. Trump’s Interior Department has said it is creating “a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt;” a bold claim that simply does not match reality.

Trump has not been shy about who he thinks should get credit for this moment.

“I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,” Trump wrote in a March post to Twitter. “When I sign it into law, it will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands. ALL thanks to @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines, two GREAT Conservative Leaders!”

It’s a message he and his team are sure to push between now and November.

‘These victories did not happen magically overnight’

Both Daines and Gardner are relatively new to the fight to protect the LWCF, and neither have particularly notable environmental records ― earning lifetime scores from the League of Conservation Voters of 6% and 11%, respectively.

Gardner, while a member of the House of Representatives in 2011, voted in favor of an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have drastically cut the LWCF’s already low funding. In 2015, Daines voted against reauthorizing the program. And in June 2018, hours after participating in a press conference calling for full and permanent LWCF funding, they both voted in favor of a spending cuts package that, among other things, would have slashed $16 million in LWCF funds from the U.S. Forest Service.

Environmentalists and public lands advocates have applauded the two lawmakers’ recent work on the LWCF and embraced the opportunity to secure permanent program funding, but it’s hard not to see Trump’s newfound support as little more than a gift to two Senate allies facing tough bids for reelection. Daines is facing Montana’s Democratic governor and former 2020 presidential candidate Steve Bullock, and Gardner is likely to square off against former Colorado governor and 2020 presidential contender John Hickenlooper. Roll Call named Gardner the most vulnerable Republican senator in 2020.

“It is a desperate attempt to convince their constituents that they aren’t working on behalf of corporations and that they care about what the American people care about,” said Jayson O’Neill, director of public lands watchdog group Western Values Project.

The oil and gas sector has been a top-five contributing industry to both Daines and Gardner over their careers, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.



Sen. Cory Gardner (L) and Sen. Steve Daines (R) face tough roads to reelection in 2020. 

In a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) called the LWCF “the most important conservation tool we have at the federal level” and a key driver of Montana’s ballooning outdoor recreation economy. He also emphasized that he and others ― groups like Montana Trout Unlimited and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) ― have been fighting for more than a decade to secure full, permanent funding.

“These victories did not happen magically overnight,” he said. “The fact is we worked long and hard with local conservation groups and public land enthusiasts around the country to build support where it never existed before. And our years of work finally broke the dam earlier this year when President Trump and Sen. McConnell reversed their opposition to this legislation because of overwhelming bipartisan momentum that we built on the ground. I welcome their change of heart.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), another longtime champion of the LWCF, told HuffPost this week that many people were surprised by Trump’s sudden reversal. “But I say let’s seize this opportunity ― this is a historic chance to realize the vision of the LWCF, and we should take it,” he said in an email.

Udall added that the LWCF was a bipartisan creation ― his father, former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, played a large role in establishing the program ― and he’s excited to see bipartisan support for it so many years later.

“There will be a time and a place for politics and campaigning soon enough,” he said. “We will keep having the conversation about the administration’s unending attacks on conservation, our public lands and the environment more broadly. But right now, let’s just get this done for the American people.”



Flathead National Forest in western Montana is one of hundreds of projects around the country funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Record vs. rhetoric

Efforts to boost fossil fuel extraction, mining and other development have dominated the Trump administration’s public lands policy, often to the detriment of conservation.

The administration has led the largest rollback of national monuments in U.S. history, carving out more than 2 million acres from a pair of protected national monuments in Utah, and last week opening a 5,000-square-mile marine sanctuary off the East Coast to commercial fishing. It has weakened key conservation laws that protect land, water and air, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. And it has repeatedly hosted anti-federal-land advocates and even tapped fierce critics of federal land management for powerful government posts.

Supporting Trump and his anti-conservation agenda at seemingly every turn have been Gardner and Daines. Daines even signaled he’d back William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management who has extreme anti-environmental views and spent his career lobbying for the sale of federal lands, if Trump were to officially nominate him for the post. Gardner has so far avoided taking a stand on Pendley, but touted his relationship with Trump and his own role in the administration’s controversial decision to move BLM headquarters to Colorado.

“These things happen because President Trump and I work together for Colorado,” Gardner said at a Trump rally in February in Colorado Springs.

Protecting public lands and maintaining them under federal control has proven to be a winning platform in Western states. Likewise, the LWCF is extremely popular ― 74% of Americans support fully funding the program, according to a 2018 poll by the National Wildlife Federation.

Daines and Gardner appear to have realized that they need a conservation victory to point to going into the 2020 election. It remains to be seen if this will give them the boost they need to secure another term.

Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado, said she is “thrilled” about the public lands bill and Gardner and Daines deserve credit. But she stressed that environmental leadership requires far more than supporting the LWCF, noting that Gardner has yet to back the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, which would protect approximately 400,000 acres of public land in the state. An analysis by her group last year found that Gardner has voted against the environment 85% of the time since he became a senator.

“Colorado voters are really smart,” Goad said. “They are well-informed on the environment, and I think passing LWCF is just the start for voters.”

In an interview with E&E News this week, a spokeswoman for Gardner’s campaign accused Democrats of being “more interested in playing politics than protecting public lands” and of attempting to “distract from the fact that Gardner accomplished something they failed to do for decades.”

Source: Environment

Posted on

EPA Said Giving Polluters A Pass Protected Its Workers. Its Own Union Says That’s Gaslighting.

The Environmental Protection Agency defended its controversial decision to halt enforcement of bedrock anti-pollution laws amid the coronavirus pandemic on the grounds that doing so protected workers and offered flexibility to companies facing staffing shortages. 

Yet now the union representing the agency’s own workers say the Trump administration is putting them at risk by rushing to reopen federal offices, even as the White House looks to codify the leniency it gave polluters. 

In a letter sent to Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, the EPA said its order in late March to temporarily stop policing pollution “appropriately balances” the need to keep essential services running with steps necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“EPA is mindful of the health and safety of the public, as well as workers, EPA staff, and co-regulators,” Joseph Brazauskas Jr., an associate administrator at the agency, wrote in the May 8 letter, responding to the senator’s inquiry from a month earlier. “EPA is taking these important considerations into account as we all continue our work to protect human health and the environment.”

The letter, which HuffPost obtained, listed steps the agency took to encourage employees to work remotely, and said it was “evaluating options to provide as much flexibility to our employees as possible so that they can balance work and family responsibilities.”



A gas-burning power plant in Oregon.

But the union that represents EPA employees said the agency only made it more difficult to telework when management unilaterally imposed a labor contract on employees almost a year ago. The American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, which represents nearly 7,500 federal workers including much of the EPA, said the agency is now charging ahead to reopen regional offices.

“Lord forgive me, but you can’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining,” union president Gary Morton, a 26-year veteran at the EPA who left the agency last November, said by phone Wednesday. 

Citing concerns for workers as a reason to stop enforcement, he said, amounts to gaslighting. EPA enforcement of anti-pollution rules fell 22% between 2018 and 2019 alone, part of a yearslong downward trend since President Donald Trump took office vowing to gut the agency. 

“This is the same administration that has historically cut our budget, defunded us, put up obstacles to doing our work and called us ‘the swamp’ ― something to be ‘drained,’” Morton said. Defanging enforcement during the pandemic, he added, is “an attempt to cover up what the administration wanted to do from the very beginning.” 

The agency said its order meant “nobody is allowed to increase their emissions under our enforcement discretion.”

Lord forgive me, but you can’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 President Gary Morton

But morale, Morton said, was so low workers at the agency began demanding the EPA adopt an employees’ “bill of rights” earlier this year. 

In a statement emailed to HuffPost, the EPA said it held “seven formal briefings with its unions over the span of 11 weeks to discuss the agency’s status and plans for reopening.” The unions, it said, ”have been regularly informed as the agency moves through its rolling reopening, and in fact, they know that we are encouraging employees to continue to telework, even in the first phases of reopening.”

“Employees continue to have maximum telework flexibilities and will not be forced to return to the office as EPA begins its measured and deliberate approach to reopening that ensures our employees’ health and safety,” the statement read. 

But the Trump administration has charged ahead with more efforts to slash regulations during the pandemic, particularly at the EPA. This month, the agency finalized a reinterpretation of a Clean Water Act rule, making it harder for states to reject pipeline permits. The EPA advanced its widely condemned “science transparency” rule, which aims to severely restrict the use of many epidemiological studies that used anonymized health data ― a common practice to preserve subjects’ medical privacy ― in the agency’s rulemaking process, giving industry-funded research more credence. Just last week, the president signed an executive order allowing companies to bypass key environmental reviews on mines, highways, pipelines and other infrastructure projects. 

Already, states received a tsunami of requests for environmental waivers based on dubious claims of COVID-19 impact, according to an analysis NPR published this week.

“We’ve been advised never to let a crisis go to waste,” Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s EPA transition team in 2017, told E&E News

Source: Environment

Posted on

Snapchat Says It Is No Longer Promoting Trump’s Account

Snapchat said Wednesday that is has stopped promoting President Donald Trump’s content on its “Discover” pages due to recent comments he has made about protesters demonstrating against racial inequality and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover,” a spokesperson for the social media platform said in a statement to HuffPost. “Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

Snapchat’s Discover platform highlights content from news organizations, production companies, and public figures. More than half of the United States’ Generation Z demographic, which is ages 5 to 25, watches news content on Discover, according to the company.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign lambasted the move, accusing Snapchat of trying to “rig the 2020 election” as well as censor conservative content.

“Radical Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel would rather promote extreme left riot videos and encourage their users to destroy America than share the positive words of unity, justice, and law and order from our President,” Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, said in a statement.

Trump’s Snapchat account remains public and available for viewing to users who subscribe to it or search for it, said Snapchat, which added that no account has the right to be promoted on Discover.



President Donald Trump walks to St. John’s Church from the White House with Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley and others, shortly after police used violent tactics to clear the area of protesters. 

The decision to no longer promote Trump’s content was made over the weekend, the company said.

Spiegel, in a memo to his employees on Sunday, said that Snapchat “simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform.” Divisive users will still be allowed to use Snapchat, he added, “as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines.”

“There are plenty of debates to be had about the future of our country and the world. But there is simply no room for debate in our country about the value of human life and the importance of a constant struggle for freedom, equality, and justice,” he said.



Hundreds of demonstrators march toward Lafayette Park and the White House to protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd on Monday.

Snapchat’s response comes after Twitter issued fact checks and warning labels to some of Trump’s tweets that were found to violate the platform’s rules about “glorifying violence.”

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump said in one of the tweets that Twitter put a warning label on.

Facebook, in comparison, has said that it will not take any action against Trump’s comments on its platform. The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a staff-wide call leaked to the press this week, said that suggesting looters would be shot was not inciting violence.

Trump has responded to Twitter’s labels by threatening to impose new regulations on social media companies or even shut them down entirely.

Source: Tech

Posted on

Watch Out For These Possibly Fake Or Ineffective Coronavirus Products

With the coronavirus pandemic still in effect, consumers have turned to online retailers for supplies they can’t find in stores. But buying items online, especially those that claim to prevent or treat COVID-19, can be a risky move.

Amazon, the largest e-commerce retailer, has been criticized in the past for allowing vendors to sell defective or counterfeit products on its platform. At the start of the current health crisis, that problem became even more apparent. In late February, the company barred more than a million items from sale on its third-party marketplace due to price gouging and false claims related to COVID-19.

But that doesn’t mean the website is now completely free of fraudulent or misleading product listings. Here’s what you need to know before buying from Amazon, especially products that supposedly protect against the coronavirus.

Anti-COVID Products To Avoid On Amazon

“Before the crackdown, it was really bad,” said Robert Gross, co-founder and COO of Fakespot, a browser plugin that identifies fake product reviews and low-quality sellers. He said there were people selling fake N95 masks, expired masks, herbal remedies and vitamins that claimed to cure COVID-19, and other overpriced, fake or misleading products.

These products weren’t being offered by Amazon directly, but rather by its third-party sellers. As of 2018, 58% of physical products sold through Amazon were from third parties, and Amazon benefits because it doesn’t pay for this inventory upfront. “It’s a really effective way to have enough inventory all around the world … an unlimited supply of inventory from these third-party sellers,” Gross added.

The drawback is that it provides an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the platform. With the proliferation of these types of listings in the wake of the pandemic, Amazon had to temporarily shut down its third-party marketplace and restrict the types of products that are allowed to be sold.

“Now the problem has resurfaced because they let third-party sellers back on the platform, and they have taken off [some of] the restrictions from COVID products,” Gross said.

“Stay away from any product that claims to cure or prevent COVID-19. That’s the most obvious sign of a scam.”

– Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews

Misleading listings aren’t as widespread or egregious as before ― items like fake cures and testing kits have essentially been eliminated ― but you’ll still come across shoddy face masks, sanitizers that don’t meet the CDC’s guidelines for effectiveness and other products with questionable claims. (HuffPost reached out to Amazon for comment regarding what measures it’s currently taking to prevent these types of potentially fraudulent or misleading listings, but the company did not respond.)

“You might find one or two people trying to get around the system, but Amazon has been very vigilant about shutting those [types of] listings down,” Gross noted. “Unfortunately, problems still exist because these are just general problems with Amazon overall.”

When shopping on Amazon, it’s important to remain skeptical, especially when it comes to the following types of coronavirus-related products:

1. Counterfeit and used medical supplies

One of the most common categories for misleading or fake products is medical supplies, including masks and face shields. Some medical masks, for example, are listed for sale by poorly rated sellers that have been flagged by Fakespot for fake reviews. The problem with these types of listings is that the products can be overpriced, claim to be more effective than they really are or may actually be used, according to Gross.

2. Ineffective or counterfeit sanitizing products

When it comes to products like hand sanitizer and wipes, it’s crucial that they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for effectiveness. Unfortunately, a lot of the products sold online don’t.

A study by online brand protection software provider Incopro found 272% growth in listings of fake hygiene-related products on e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Wish in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the equivalent period in 2019.

“Purchasing these products increases health risks due to consumers believing they are protecting themselves when the products have not been properly tested and are likely to be ineffective,” the press release stated.

3. Ineffective UV sanitizer lights

Amazon has many listings for UV light sanitizer devices. However, “many of these devices are cheap fakes that lack the power or spectrum-specificity to work at all,” said Alex Magnin, founder of The Unwinder, which recently published a guide to evaluating UV light sanitizers. “People are buying and using these products based on the trustworthiness of Amazon, but are not, in fact, killing bacteria and viruses on their phones, pocket goods and household items.”

Magnin noted that there are multiple listings with images that depict cheap and/or underpowered LEDs. We found one listing (which has since been removed) that claimed to make the “encironment [sic] safe within 10 seconds” despite no disclosure of wattage and poor positioning of the LEDs.

Also, beware any UV sanitizing product that’s designed for use on your skin. “We know that powerful UV light can be used to disinfect surfaces that have been exposed to COVID-19. However, you should not buy any product that blasts your skin with UV light, as this can cause skin cancer,” said Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews.

4. Vitamins, supplements and oils

You should avoid any health product with claims that it can prevent or treat coronavirus. “Not a single vitamin, supplement or medication has been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19,” Bonebright said.

When it comes to products that fall under the purview of the Federal Drug Administration, there is an extensive guide to what the agency does and does not approve.

“In particular, if a supplement or food claims to affect the structure or function of the human body without evidence, be aware that the FDA doesn’t approve these statements,” Bonebright said.

For example, if a vitamin C supplement’s label says it protects against scurvy, the statement is OK because studies have proven this to be true, he explained. However, if a Vitamin C label says it protects against coronavirus, the claim is false and against FDA rules.

5. “Informational” books

If you search for coronavirus treatments on Amazon, you’ll likely find several books in the results. However, these generally aren’t worthwhile publications.

“People are selling books about the ‘COVID cure’ or the ‘COVID story,’” Gross said. “What they are is basically articles people have taken off the internet and put in a PDF.”

In other words, these types of publications aren’t written by experts and don’t necessarily contain vetted information.

“Not a single vitamin, supplement or medication has been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19.”

– Bonebright

How To Spot A Shady Amazon Listing

Though Amazon has some measures in place to catch scammers and misleading product listings, they’re not foolproof. That means it’s up to you to use your best judgment when shopping on Amazon (or any other online retailer). Here’s what to look out for.

Avoid anything that claims it can cure the coronavirus. “Stay away from any product that claims to cure or prevent COVID-19. That’s the most obvious sign of a scam as nothing has been proven to prevent or cure the coronavirus,” Bonebright said. And because fake coronavirus cures aren’t tested or vetted by any authoritative organization, there’s a chance they could actually harm you.

Examine the photos. Another big giveaway of a fake product is the imagery, according to Gross. For example, the seller may use images that appear across multiple listings from various sites or that don’t match the actual product. “If the images are off, if something doesn’t seem right … run,” he said.

Double-check the listing’s URL. Gross said that a common practice among fraudulent sellers is to buy existing listings for unrelated products that have a lot of positive reviews and simply swap out the product title and images. They instantly have thousands of glowing reviews, but for something other than what they’re actually selling.

By the time you realize you bought a faulty product, they’re gone. One way to easily check if this is happening is to examine the listing’s URL. If you’re shopping for face masks, for example, but keywords in the URL are a book title or something else completely unrelated, it’s likely a fake or ineffective product.

Find out how long shipping takes. Because the coronavirus originated in China, there has been backlash (likely unwarranted) over products shipped from China. To avoid having their listings ignored in favor of products from the U.S., Gross said some third-party sellers in Asia will say items are “based in the USA” or “shipped from the USA” when they’re actually not.

That could be a sign that the seller is willing to stretch the truth on other details, too. “If the shipping is not Prime, and it’s going to take a month to get your product, see where it’s coming from,” Gross said.

Check seller ratings. Another easy way to avoid getting duped is to review feedback that customers leave for the seller, not just for the product. “Actually take the extra 10 seconds to look at the seller,” Gross said. If the seller has poor feedback, you shouldn’t buy from them. “There are so many great sellers on Amazon that actually deliver what they promise.”

Be wary of new sellers. “There’s not necessarily anything wrong with new sellers, but sometimes a new seller is a sign that someone got kicked off the platform and they’re coming back to do another scam,” Gross said.

We found a listing for a basic plastic face shield (listed at a whopping $189.99) that was posted by a new seller that primarily sells baby clothes — a reason to be cautious.

Look out for price-gouging. In addition to Fakespot, there are other free tools you can use to uncover potentially fake or misleading Amazon listings, including ones that gouge prices to take advantage of panic surrounding the virus.

One is Keepa, which tracks the price history on Amazon listings. If a product’s price suddenly spikes, it’s a sign that the seller is going against Amazon’s rules and engaging in predatory pricing ― a sign they aren’t trustworthy.

Plugins such as Honey or Wikibuy can also alert you to other websites that sell the product for a cheaper price, though it’s important to employ the same safety checks above to ensure it’s not just another scam.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

Posted on

7 Ways To Support Black Lives And Protesters With Your Money

It’s dangerous to be Black in America. The killing of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her own home, the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by white men while he was out for a jog, and the police killing of George Floyd inspired protests across the nation.

As a white woman, I’ve been struggling to respond in a way that feels adequate. Every time I begin to draft my thoughts, I can’t help but feel like my words fall flat and hollow against the gravity of the situation. So many people of color have addressed Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests with an insight I could never match.

But I’m learning that my words don’t have to be eloquent, only earnest. It’s my responsibility to speak out. And one of the loudest statements we can make is by choosing where to put our money.

If you want to support the Black community in the struggle against police brutality and discrimination, here are a few ways you can financially contribute.

1. Help out a victim’s family.

To make an immediate impact in the lives of Black Americans affected by police brutality, consider donating to victims’ families so they’re able to afford the costs associated with the funeral, court proceedings, grief counseling and more.

The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund on GoFundMe has already raised a whopping $9.5 million for Floyd’s family. In addition to covering expenses like those outlined above, a portion will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.

But remember, Floyd is one in a long list of Black Americans to have recently been killed by police. And the sad reality is that he is not the last. In a recent post on supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Daniella Flores of the blog I Like To Dabble suggested searching victim’s names on GoFundMe to find funds set up by their families. She noted that the site has guidelines for determining whether it’s safe to donate to a particular campaign.

“Also, look on Instagram and Twitter to see if there are any family members or friends of victims sharing links to their GoFundMe campaigns. You can search hashtags like #blacklivesmatter #georgefloyd #justiceforgeorgefloyd or any of the victim’s hashtags,” she wrote.

You can also search for protesters who are injured in clashes with police and may need help with medical bills.

2. Contribute to organizations that promote equality and social justice.

It’s also important to shift your philanthropy practices and invest in Black organizations and causes ― “not just organizations for black people, but organizations led by black people,” said Dasha Kennedy, a financial activist for Black women and the creator of The Broke Black Girl.

In addition to your money, you can also invest your time, skills, labor and connections, she added.

Below are a few options you can consider (HuffPost’s parent company, Verizon, recently committed $10 million in aid to these organizations):

  • The National Urban League: A civil rights and urban advocacy organization dedicated to economic empowerment, equality and social justice. The group provides direct services to more than 2 million people across the country.

  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Founded in 1909, the mission of the NAACP is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”

  • National Action Network: This civil rights organization was founded in 1991 by Reverend Al Sharpton and “works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda.”

  • Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights: This is the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil rights coalition, which includes more than 200 national organizations whose mission is to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all people.

  • Rainbow Push Coalition: This organization was formed in 1996 by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. when he merged his two existing organizations: People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH) and the Rainbow Coalition. Today, the Rainbow Push Coalition works to “protect, defend, and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields, and to promote peace and justice around the world.”

  • National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: The NCBCP is a non-profit, non-partisan civic engagement organization dedicated to Black and underserved communities.

  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: This non-profit organization, which now operates independently of the NAACP, is primarily focused on the civil rights of African Americans in the U.S.

3. Donate to community bail funds.

It’s no secret that the U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately targets people of color. Black people are 13% of the population but incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. In five states, including Minnesota, where Floyd was killed, the ratio of Black to white incarcerated people is more than 10 to 1. And the cash bail system, which allows defendants awaiting trial to buy their way out of jail, only reinforces that discrimination with a pay-to-play system.

Bail funds are local, charitable, volunteer-driven collections that help pay bail for those who can’t afford it, including protesters. For example, one of the most high profile bail funds right now is the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which received $20 million in donations in a matter of days following Floyd’s death.

If you’d like to help keep Black people and their allies out of jail, especially those who are protesting police brutality, consider donating to a community bail fund. There are several comprehensive bail fund directories online, which are being updated regularly. You can also check Twitter for a crowdsourced list of local organizations that help bail out protesters who get arrested, as well as this growing Google Doc.

4. Hold law enforcement accountable.

Last year, more than 1,000 people were killed by police. Black people accounted for a disproportionate one-quarter of those deaths. And right now, the country is exploding with grief and anger over the death of Floyd and countless other Black men and women who have been harmed by law enforcement. Change won’t happen unless law enforcement is held accountable for its actions, and money is a huge factor in making that happen.

Advocates recommend supporting the nonprofit National Police Accountability Project, which was established by the National Lawyers Guild and works to “protect the human and civil rights of individuals in their encounters with law enforcement and detention facility personnel.”

Campaign Zero is a police reform group that focuses on limiting police interventions, improving community interactions and ensuring accountability.

5. Buy from Black-owned businesses.

The typical Black family has only 10 cents for every dollar held by the typical white family, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finance. Though the factors contributing to this wealth gap are many, one way you can make a direct impact on the financial lives of Black Americans is by prioritizing Black-owned businesses over big-box retailers.

“As minorities, we struggle with gaining access to capital, lack of resources and support,” Kennedy said. “Supporting a black-owned business supports a black family, which in turn supports an entire economy. That is the ONLY way there will be a shift in the economic development in our country and close the wealth gap.”

From restaurants to apparel, there are plenty of ways to support Black businesses.

6. Help fund the campaigns of Black political leaders.

One of the best ways to ensure Black voices are heard and that necessary policy changes are made is by putting Black people in positions of power. But campaigning often requires a significant financial investment, and one recent report found that only a few Black political leaders were able to fund their own campaigns.

“Simply put, you have to be able to raise enough money to fund your campaign to get your message out to the people,” Kennedy said. “Without proper funding, Black political leaders are unable to have a successful campaign and a fair chance at having a political position in their community.” To help elect more Black Americans, consider donating to their campaigns.

7. Support Black voices.

Allies should be doing the listening, not the talking. By supporting Black voices and representation in the media, we gain empathy, insight and understanding directly from the people most qualified to tell their stories.

Consider donating to organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Newspapers Publishers Association Foundation, which are dedicated to providing the resources and platforms to make the Black perspective heard. And keep in mind that it’s particularly exhausting to be a Black journalist right now. Funds have been established to support Black reporters’ mental health, including the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund.

Posted on

Stop Confusing The Stock Market With The Economy

Stock market performance has long been used as a barometer for the health of the overall economy. For example, the president regularly points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average performance as evidence that Americans are experiencing unprecedented levels of wealth.

The stock market crash that occurred in early March as a response to the coronavirus pandemic appears to be more of a correction now that stocks are back on the rise. So all must be well with the economy, right?

If you ask the nearly 40 million workers who have filed for unemployment benefits, or the third of Americans who were unable to pay their rent or mortgage last month, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Right now, it seems there are two rather stark American realities,” said Daniel Milan, managing partner of Cornerstone Financial Services. “In one, investors are experiencing a prosperous and promising outlook. The other one, felt by millions of American workers, is fraught with economic loss and vast uncertainty.”

By all the usual measures, stocks should be going down in value. The coronavirus pandemic still has many businesses shuttered, some of which have been forced to file for bankruptcy or go out of business completely. Unemployment rose sharply over the past two months, reaching nearly 20%, the highest it’s been since the Great Depression. And we likely haven’t experienced the full financial ripple effect of the shutdown.

Even so, stocks have essentially recovered from March lows, making the three-day bear market from March 23-26 the shortest one in history, Milan said. In fact, over the last two months, major U.S. stock indices have averaged a 34% return from the depths of the market downturn on March 23.

“Frankly, the market is in a confusing spot right now,” Milan said. So how can it be that the stock market appears in great shape while the U.S. economy is still sputtering?

Defining ‘The Economy’

“At the most basic level, the economy is the production and consumption of goods and services. It encompasses all individuals, companies and the government,” explained Lacey Cobb, a chartered financial analyst, certified financial planner and director of advice solutions at Personal Capital.

One of the most widely recognized measures of economic activity is gross domestic product, which represents the monetary value of all finished goods within a country during a specific time period. GDP essentially provides a snapshot of the economy’s size and growth rate. An ideal GDP growth rate is around 2%-3% per year. However, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that U.S. GDP actually decreased by 5% in the first quarter of 2020.

Another indicator that’s probably most relevant to the average American is the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This shows the net total of jobs gained minus jobs lost.

According to the latest report, the number of unemployed Americans rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April. That’s the sharpest month-over-month increase since the BLS started tracking this data in 1948. As a result, new unemployment claims are still highly elevated, though they are substantially down from the 6.9 million claims filed in the last full week of March. “Typically, new unemployment claims peak about two months before the economy hits bottom,” Milan said. “Should that hold true with the current April high, we should see the bottom in June.”

Daily federal tax receipts are also a good gauge of overall economic health, according to Milan, because they show the depth and breadth of our employment income situation. In the first quarter of 2020, before the COVID-19 crisis really took hold, receipts were up 19.7% compared to 2015, a range used for comparison because the date/month cycle is identical.

However, receipts in April 2020 were up just 2.6% versus 2015 data. In other words, “economic activity fell off a cliff,” Milan said. Even so, he noted that these economic indicators that lag equity markets are starting to show progress.

Why Is The Stock Market On The Rise?

The stock market is an exchange where the buying, selling and issuance of shares in publicly held companies takes place. Stock values are largely based on what is expected to happen in the future rather than what’s occurring right now.

“Tying the performance of the economy to the performance of the stock market assumes that what happens in the economy is accurately and promptly reflected in stock prices,” said Mark Carlton, a chartered financial analyst and portfolio manager at Trademark Financial Management. As you might have noticed, that’s not presently the case.

Because the market is forward-looking, it explains why stock values are on their way back up despite our weak economy. As cities begin to open back up and businesses resume operations, there is optimism that production and jobs will return to pre-crisis levels.

Indeed, industries that took a major dive after the coronavirus hit are crawling their way back. Hotel occupancy is back up as of May, as are gas purchases. On May 31, airport security checkpoints cleared 352,947 passengers, more than four times as many travelers as the lowest point on April 14. The number of prospective homebuyers contacting affiliated agents is now above pre-COVID-19 levels, while there were also two straight weekly increases in mortgage applications in May. Uber, which lost 80% of its business in the wake of the pandemic, stated rides were up for three consecutive weeks in early May and on track to continue increasing.

Why The Stock Market Isn’t Representative Of The Overall Economy

The fact that the stock market is a leading economic indicator isn’t the only reason there’s often a disconnect between it and the overall economy.

The market reflects the circumstances of the largest companies in the economy. The Dow Jones, for instance, is made up of just 30 major corporations. The five largest U.S. companies (all mega-growth technology companies) make up 20% of the S&P 500 Index and have been holding up much better than the majority of other companies during the pandemic.

“These firms may be experiencing conditions far different from much smaller companies,” Carlton said. “Access to credit, multiple business lines, product and labor adaptability are just some of the advantages that larger companies have.” And in the age of companies with $1 trillion market capitalization, such as Apple and Amazon, that may be truer than ever.

Small businesses ― independent companies with fewer than 500 employees ― are considered the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. In fact, small businesses account for two-thirds of net new jobs and generate 44% of U.S. economic activity, according to data from the Small Business Administration. Yet they don’t have the same representation in the stock market, Cobb said. “That means the U.S. stock market only represents a portion of U.S. employment and does not entirely reflect how economic gains are distributed throughout the economy.”

Measures taken by the government and Federal Reserve have also done a lot to bolster confidence for investors, but not necessarily for consumers. Particularly, the Fed’s decision to cut rates back down to 0% is good news for the stock market, as low interest rates boost the present value of future earnings. In theory, low rates can also help consumers by making it cheaper to borrow money, which frees up funds to spend and invest. But if people don’t have jobs (i.e., income), their money goes to putting food on the table and paying bills before buying homes and stocks.

The stock market is also often driven by narrative and not necessarily how the economy is doing objectively. “Narrative pulls investor dollars in or it scares [them] out, and the prevailing narrative can change in a hurry,” Carlton said. “We always attribute gains and losses to something concrete, like China or retail sales. But in truth, it is about the willingness of buyers and sellers at that time to accept a trade on the other’s terms.”

Not to mention, individual stocks are largely held by the most affluent investors ― the same people who are least likely to be impacted by an economic downturn. In fact, a staggering 84% of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10% of households.

That’s not to say that the stock market and overall economy are completely unrelated. What’s important to understand is that day-to-day market swings don’t reflect what’s going on in the true economy. Over the long-run, the stock market and the economy do tend to have a stronger correlation, but that gap between Wall Street and Main Street isn’t getting any narrower.

Posted on

Wall Street Slumps As U.S. Sees Uptick In Coronavirus Cases

NEW YORK, June 11 (Reuters) – Wall Street plummeted on Thursday as investors reacted to renewed fears of a pandemic resurgence and digested dour economic forecasts from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

All three major U.S. stock indexes were down about 5%, posting their worst day since mid-March, when markets were sent into freefall by the abrupt economic lockdowns put in place to contain the pandemic. The Nasdaq snapped a three-day streak of record closing highs.

The sell-off was broad, with all 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 falling 3% or more.

“There’s really no buy point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “It’s pretty much selling all the way through.”

Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York, agreed.

“Everything’s for sale,” Ghriskey added. “There’s fear we’re near a top.”

Deaths of Americans from COVID-19 could reach 200,000 in September, a grim result of the United States’ economic re-opening before getting growth of new cases down to a controllable level, according to a leading health expert.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve released its first pandemic-era economic outlook, after which Chair Jerome Powell warned of a “long road” to recovery.

“The Fed keeping rates steady through 2022 could give investors the impression that the Fed may be more concerned about the pace of economic recovery than originally anticipated,” said Joseph Sroka, chief investment officer at NovaPoint in Atlanta.

Economic data appeared to back up the Fed’s gloomy economic projections, with jobless claims still more than double their peak during the Great Recession and continuing claims at an astoundingly high 20.9 million.

A year-on-year drop in core producer prices also reflected the central bank’s disinflationary concerns.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.88% to end at 25,132.25 points, while the S&P 500 lost 5.87% to 3,002.97.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.19%, to 9,500.39.

Interest rate-sensitive banks dropped after the Fed indicated key interest rates would remain near zero through at least 2022.

Travel-related companies, among the hardest hit by mandated lockdowns, were sharply lower.

Boeing Co weighed heaviest on the Dow after its top supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc announced a 21-day layoff for staff doing production and support work for Boeing’s 737 program.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: Business – News, Opinion and Analysis

Posted on

Audrey Gelman Resigns As CEO Of The Wing, Employees Stage Virtual Walkout

Audrey Gelman, CEO and founder of The Wing, stepped down from her post as employees staged a digital walkout from the company, saying it “doesn’t practice the intersectional feminism it preaches.”

Dozens of employees at the women’s social co-working space tweeted a statement Thursday after news broke that Gelman, who launched The Wing in 2016 with Lauren Kassan, was resigning.

Tech reporter Kara Swisher tweeted a screenshot of the resignation email from Gelman that indicated she’d be replaced by a “newly formed Office of the CEO that will include Celestine, Ashley & Lauren,” referring to Celestine Maddy, Ashley Peterson and Lauren Kassan. Gelman also wrote that this was an “interim solution.” 

A spokeswoman for The Wing confirmed Swisher’s tweet. “The past three months have brought change to our society, our culture, our business and our team in ways no one could have imagined,” the spokeswoman said in an email to HuffPost. “The Wing remains a vital resource for thousands of women navigating their path to success. But the moment calls for a rethinking of how we meet their needs moving forward and for new leadership that can guide The Wing into the future.”

Gelman’s resignation will help the company “create a sustainable business, and achieve the bold vision of advancing all women through community,” the statement added.

Several employees shared a statement about the company’s practices, saying “Audrey Gelman’s resignation is not enough @thewing.” Workers “made a list of demands in order to correct” the brand’s not practicing intersectional feminism.

“Today we’re participating in a digital walkout in solidarity with the people without whom The Wing would not exist ― particularly our Black and brown coworkers,” the statement said.

The Wing’s organizing employees said in a statement to HuffPost that they “have been told over and over by our leadership that we’re a mission-driven company, even as the company’s actions consistently prove otherwise.”

The statement added: “In solidarity with so many of our colleagues — past, present, and in particular, the Black and brown people without whom The Wing would not exist —as a united group of employees, we are participating in a virtual walkout beginning today, Thursday, June 11, 2020.” 

The employees said they are “frustrated and saddened by the incompetence and lack of accountability” demonstrated by The Wing’s leadership, adding that “without transparency and clear growth paths for employees,” leadership decisions have “disproportionately failed and continue to fail people of color at The Wing.”

“A quick look at our social media reveals several detailed accounts from former space team members, most of whom are Black and brown people, about the abuse they endured in our spaces and the lack of support they received from The Wing’s leadership. The public perception of The Wing is at an all-time low — and rightfully so,” they said.

The employees did not share the details of their demands, but they said that they have asked for the board to meet to consider them and “several commitments to long term changes once new leadership is instated.”

The employees said that “93% of our current full-time employees — 67 out of 72 people — have signed the petition in support of our demands.”

The statement concluded: “We look forward to working together to rebuild The Wing and create a company, culture, and community that’s equitable, profitable, and representative of the values and causes we claim to uplift.”

Various reports over the last three years have accused The Wing of racism, exclusivity, transphobic admission policies and mistreatment of employees by Gelman specifically.

The New York Times interviewed 26 former Wing employees earlier this year and documented how women of color were tokenized while workers hired to work the front desk were also told to clean — and to do so out of view of the members so as not to disrupt the environment. 

Former front desk employee Vei Darling told the Times that she believed she was hired “only so that they could exploit my presence and my image for their own purposes to make it seem like they were more inclusive than they actually were.”

The Times also reported that employees might “find themselves to be the only black women in the room” and that members and their guests “could be casually racist.” 



Audrey Gelman, the founder of The Wing, on April 9, 2018, in Washington.

Vox reported in 2019 that the company’s “several hundred dollars a month for membership” put it “out of reach of the very women who could use them most, especially women of color and low-income women.”

Vox said the company co-opted “the language and iconography of feminism to make money.”

Writer Daisy Alioto told Study Hall in 2018 that Gelman is less of a “pioneer for feminism” and more of “an opportunist.”

The Wing did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the employee walkout.

Source: Business – News, Opinion and Analysis

Posted on

Intuit Shows Why D&I Remains Important In Maintaining An Inclusive Culture

No matter how tumultuous are the current events of the day, an organization is only as strong and resilient as the culture it fosters for its employees.

In our video above, produced in association with CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, Cherise Slover shows how she acted to create programs that foster a culture of inclusion for the LGBTQIA community at Intuit.

During her time as a senior CX specialist for Intuit, Slover realized that she wanted to start a family with her partner, but, due to the limitations of Intuit’s parental leave policy at the time, she learned that she didn’t qualify for any benefits or time off.

“Non-same-sex couples get to take six months off to spend with their new child, and I get to get my two weeks of vacation time,” she says.

It was nearly a deal-breaker for her, but rather than leave the company, Slover decided to create the culture she wanted to see, and she found that senior leadership was more than willing to support her.

“We always talk about diversity as a fact, but inclusion is a choice,” Sasan Goodarzi, Intuit’s CEO says. “If anyone ever has the courage to come into my office and say, ‘I want to drive change,’ my job is to make sure they have everything at their fingertips, because you can’t just say you want to create an inclusive environment and make it so.”

“Coming from the bottom up and trying to drive that change from the top down was very, very scary,” Slover says, but now, as the global pride chair for Intuit, she has turned trepidation into action by building a network that includes programs such as the Ally program, a multi-level inclusion training that teaches team members how to provide safe spaces so that everyone feels empowered to bring their full selves to work. And to Slover’s surprise, it “spread like wildfire.” 

“I just wanted to make a change for our company and our community,” Slover says. “I didn’t realize it would have a complete ripple effect across the entire industry.”

Watch the video above to see how Goodarzi, Slover and the rest of Intuit worked together to create a company culture for good.

__________________

PwC’s new series, “Act On Change,” produced in association with the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, highlights the many ways companies and their leaders are affecting change for a more diverse, inclusive and better future. With more than 900 CEOs that have taken the pledge, CEO Action is the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S. To learn more, visit CEOAction.com.

This article was paid for by PwC and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.

Source: Business – News, Opinion and Analysis