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Top violators among fracking companies range from Chesapeake and Cabot to smaller firms

January 31, 2015 Comments off

Top violators among fracking companies range from Chesapeake and Cabot to smaller firms
Source: Environment America

From Fortune 500 companies like Cabot Oil, to fly-by-night operators, to firms like Chevron who tout their clean records — virtually all types of fracking outfits are prone to breaking rules intended to protect the environment and public health, a new report says. The analysis of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry over a four-year period found that the top offenders, representing a diversity of companies, averaged more than an environmental violation every day.

+ Full report (PDF)

China — Labor Rights Violations Continue in the Toy Industry

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Labor Rights Violations Continue in the Toy Industry
Source: China Labor Watch

China Labor Watch (CLW) today published a 66-page investigative report on continued labor rights violations in the toy industry. The four-factory investigation includes plants that manufacture for Mattel and Fisher-Price, Disney, Hasbro, Crayola, and other major international toy brand companies. During the investigation, the factories were making toys like Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Transformers’ Optimus Prime, and Thomas the Tank Engine.

The investigation, carried out from June to November 2014, targeted labor conditions in four facilities in Guangdong, China: Mattel Electronics Dongguan (MED), Zhongshan Coronet Toys (Coronet), Dongguan Chang’an Mattel Toys 2nd Factory (MCA), and Dongguan Lung Cheong Toys (Lung Cheong).

Collecting data through undercover probes and off-site worker interviews, the investigation exposes a set of 20 legal and ethical labor violations that include hiring discrimination, detaining workers’ personal IDs, lack of physical exams despite hazardous working conditions, workers required to sign training forms despite little or no safety training, a lack of protective equipment, ill-maintained production machinery, fire safety concerns, incomplete or nonexistent labor contracts, overtime hours of up to 120 hours per month, unpaid wages, underpaid social insurance, frequent rotation between day and night shifts, poor living conditions, environmental pollution, illegal resignation procedures, abusive management, audit fraud, and a lack of effective grievance channels and union representation.

See also: Working Conditions and Factory Auditing in the Chinese Toy Industry (Congressional-Executive Commission on China)
Hat tip: IWS Documented News Service

Regulation costs Canadian businesses $37.1 billion a year

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Regulation costs Canadian businesses $37.1 billion a year
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

According to Canada’s Red Tape Report, the total cost of complying with government rules and paperwork has reached $37.1 billion a year. In the smallest businesses, the average employee can spend more than a month each year (185 hours) just dealing with regulations.

The onerous burden of excessive regulation is also deterring the next generation of entrepreneurs, as the report notes 42% of small business owners would not advise their children to start a business.

Although not all regulation is red tape, business owners say the regulatory burden could be cut by about 30%, or $11 billion a year, with no negative effect on health, safety and environmental goals of regulation.

The Myth of America’s Manufacturing Renaissance: The Real State of U.S. Manufacturing

January 30, 2015 Comments off

The Myth of America’s Manufacturing Renaissance: The Real State of U.S. Manufacturing
Source: Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

To listen to most pundits and commentators, U.S. manufacturing has turned a corner and is roaring back after the precipitous decline during the 2000s. Long gone are the dismal days when manufacturing jobs and output were lost due to foreign competition. Higher foreign labor costs, cheap oil and gas here at home and automation are combining to make America the new global manufacturing hub: at least according the now dominant narrative. Indeed, the term “manufacturing renaissance” is used to describe this new state of affairs.

However, as a new ITIF report shows, the data do not support such a rosy scenario. In fact, at the end of 2013 (the most recent year available) real manufacturing value added (the best measure of the health of U.S. manufacturing) was still 3.2 percent below 2007 levels, despite GDP growth of 5.6 percent. Moreover, there are still two million fewer jobs and 15,000 fewer manufacturing establishments than there were in 2007. Much of the growth since 2010 appears to be caused by a cyclical recovery as demand, particularly for motor vehicles and other durable goods, returns. In fact, 72 percent of jobs gained and 187 percent of the heralded real value added growth in manufacturing between 2010 and 2013 came from transportation sector or primary and fabricated metals.

It is true that some jobs are being brought back to the United States. However, reshoring numbers are modest and the manufacturing sector is also still sending jobs overseas, roughly at the same rate. While this new equilibrium between companies coming and going is certainly an improvement over rapid off-shoring, it is hardly indicative of a renaissance.

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions
Source: Center for American Progress

One of the most pervasive, durable, and detrimental myths in transportation policy is that highways pay for themselves, while public transportation does not. In reality, both modes require significant public subsidies, as user fees—such as fuel taxes and farebox revenues—cover only a portion of total costs. States and the federal government supplement these user fees with property taxes, bonding, and general revenues. On average, these nonuser fee revenues represent 26 percent of total annual highway expenditures.

Moreover, treating all highways equally obscures the fact that per-mile construction and maintenance costs, driving levels, and motor fuel tax revenues vary substantially depending on the location, size, and population around a particular road. While the overwhelming majority of driving occurs within metropolitan areas, many large urban highways and arterial roads cost substantially more money to maintain than they generate in fuel taxes. This is also true of many rural and exurban arterial roads. This means that states must cross subsidize thousands of miles of roads that generate insufficient gas tax revenues each year.

Research by the Center for American Progress shows that nearly 4 in 10 miles of interstate highway and other principal arterial roadways fail to generate enough in user fees to cover their long-term maintenance costs. For the purposes of this analysis, maintenance costs include one reconstruction and multiple resurfacings over the course of three decades while excluding the costs of land acquisition, engineering, construction, and inflation.

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years, the latest IIHS calculations of driver death rates show. Among 2011 models, a record nine vehicles have driver death rates of zero. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide, and three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.

Improved vehicle designs and safety technology have a lot to do with the continuing decline in fatality risk. In a related study, Institute researchers estimated how much of the decline was due to changes in the vehicle fleet during 1985-2012. They found that vehicle changes — including improved structural designs, the addition of safety features and an evolving mix of vehicle types — were the main source of declining risk from 1993 through 2006. These changes continued to contribute to later declines as well, though other factors such as the weak economy also appear to have played a role.

There were 7,700 fewer driver deaths in 2012 alone than there would have been had vehicles remained the same since 1985.

2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card

January 29, 2015 Comments off

2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card
Source: Center for Plain Language

Each year, the Center for Plain Language evaluates how effectively federal departments comply with letter and the spirit of the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In 2014, each department received 3 grades:

  • Compliance
  • Writing
  • Information Design
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