On Saturday, Amazon.com began collecting sales taxes for the first time on Internet purchases made by California residents. The move, which Amazon battled for years, represented a major victory for brick-and-mortar retailers, particularly small, independent stores who correctly argued that Amazon’s sales-tax exemption had awarded the online giant an unfair competitive advantage. However, there’s a large loophole in the sales-tax deal that is allowing a substantial portion of products sold on Amazon.com to remain tax-free.
Backers of Proposition 32 have argued repeatedly that the November ballot measure will reduce the influence of both corporations and unions in politics. Unions, however, have contended that Prop 32 will actually increase the power of corporations and wealthy contributors in California, because those donors will still be able to spend huge amounts of money, funding so-called Super PACs. A massive donation made last Friday to a new group that is backing Prop 32 proves that unions are right.
A Harvard study suggests that exposures to fine air pollution during pregnancy increases the risk for preterm delivery and low birth weight in newborns. Further, the findings suggest particles from industrial sources may play a bigger role in exposures than traffic pollution. This study — the first of its kind — shows that satellites offer a more accurate and comprehensive way to measure exposure and, therefore, health risks from particulate air pollution, especially in rural areas.
A group of employees from Peet's Coffee's Chicago store have launched a public campaign to improve working conditions at their store and, hopefully, throughout the company — and there's a chance management might actually be listening. The organization, aptly titled Peet's Workers Group, sent a formal request for living wages and better benefits to Peet's' corporate brass earlier this month; representatives from the group say their request was met with much more interest than they expected, and a meeting is set for next Tuesday, September 18. Of course, there's no telling how that meeting will go, but employees are optimistic. "This is a step, and we'll see how it goes, and if it doesn't go well, we'll address it as it happens," said one employee — who, for all the optimism, still asked to be kept anonymous for fear of retribution from his higher-ups.
Jeff Miller and CalTrans just can't seem to get along. In recent years, the East Bay environmentalist has won significant court rulings blocking CalTrans projects in Sunol (through his group Alameda Creek Alliance) and Humboldt County (through the Tuscon-based Center for Biological Diversity, with whom he also works).
Forty years after Congress passed the Clean Water Act — a landmark law sparked in part by the work of Bay Area environmentalists — five local waterways identified by Oakland nonprofit Save the Bay are so cluttered with trash that they’re in violation of federal law.
What has been billed the largest scandal in the history of the organic industry has now resulted in a court settlement on behalf of consumers against Aurora Dairy, a giant factory-farm operator with industrial-scale operations in Colorado and Texas. Aurora has agreed to pay plaintiffs in a class-action consumer fraud lawsuit $7.5 million to end litigation involving fraudulent marketing claims concerning organic milk. Aurora and its major customers — supermarket chains selling private-label organic milk, including Pleasanton-based Safeway — were accused of misrepresenting the authenticity of their products.
A group of Oakland citizens is planning to try to intervene in the federal consent decree overseeing the Oakland Police Department. The San Francisco Chronicle reported late last month that the group, which includes members of Make Oakland Better Now, a good government organization, contends that the federal court monitoring of OPD has deemphasized crime fighting in a city with severe crime problems. The group also is worried that things will worsen if OPD ends up in federal receivership. But while the citizen’s group has every right to publicly criticize the consent-decree process and the court monitoring, its planned attempt to intervene in the federal case is misguided.
A new report published last Friday confirmed earlier revelations that Richard Aoki, a former longtime political activist and Peralta Community Colleges professor, was an FBI informant for sixteen years. The new report from respected journalist Seth Rosenfeld and published by the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered numerous government documents, definitively proving that Aoki repeatedly provided information to the FBI during a time in which he also armed and trained the Black Panthers and was a member of other militant leftist organizations. But while the startling revelations about the iconic Aoki are disturbing, there are still many unanswered questions about his relationship to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For those who missed Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama's amazing speeches this week at the DNC — or if you simply just want to watch them again, here you go. See for yourself why even Republican pundits were impressed: