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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:57pm
Thu Mar 27, 2014

Illinois Lawmakers Wage Fight Against Water-Polluting Agents In Cosmetic Products; BP Oil Spill Clean Up Continues (UPDATED)

An extremely small plastic pollutant poses a big threat to the health of the Great Lakes and the state’s environment. And some Illinois lawmakers are looking to take action against the problem.

At issue are the super-tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of personal cosmetic products like facial wash, body scrubs and even toothpaste. According to scientists, tens of millions of these little plastic particles have made their way into the Great Lakes.

The cosmetic microbeads, which are less than 5 millimeters in size and commonly used to help with exfoliation, often get washed down household drains. Because the plastic beads are so small, they are not captured during the water treatment process, allowing them to get into waterways.

“There’s no way to recover those materials once they’re out in open waters,” said Olga Lyandres, research manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Once they enter the environment, they stay there.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
1:51pm
Thu Feb 6, 2014

Consumer And Immigrant Rights Advocates Meet With FTC, Lawmakers To Press For Federal Probe Into Herbalife

Consumer and immigrant rights advocates from across the country traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to call for a federal investigation into Herbalife International, Inc., a multi-level marketing company they claim is running an illegal pyramid scheme.

“This is not the American dream,” said 68 year-old Miguel Calderon, who claims he lost more than $22,000 within 18 months of investing in Herbalife in 2008.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:10pm
Tue Oct 22, 2013

Consumer Advocates Want An End To Prescription Drug ‘Pay-For-Delay’ Deals

People in Illinois with various medical conditions have had to fork over 10 times more on average than what’s necessary for at least 20 brand name drugs, according to a report from Illinois PIRG and Community Catalyst.

Costs for these 20 drugs, including Lipitor and Cipro, were kept high, because brand name pharmaceutical companies paid generic makers to keep cheaper versions off the market for a time. These agreements are known as “pay for delay.”

“It’s outrageous that drug companies are paying off the competition to keep prices high,” said Illinois PIRG State Director Brian Imus in a statement. “Because of this, people in Illinois pay inflated drug prices, or go without necessary medication. This needs to stop.”

Quick Hit
by La Risa Lynch
5:37pm
Thu Sep 19, 2013

Hearing On The Pros & Cons Of Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods Sparks Intense Debate

Lourdes Garcia is resolute in her belief that genetically modified foods sickened her two small children.

“They had allergies, ADHD and the baby had a tumor,” said Garcia, a native of Brazil who has lived in Chicago for 20 years. “I had to just find out what the problem was, and that’s when I started doing research”

That research led her to genetically modified organisms or GMOs, which she believes contributed to her children’s poor health. So she changed the family’s diet, opting for more organic foods instead. Over time, her children’s health improved.

“All the health problems they had no longer exist,” Garcia said of her sons, now 14 and 19. “To me, food was food, and all the food was good. But I was wrong.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:47pm
Wed Sep 4, 2013

Hart Schaffner Marx, Apparel Union Workers Stand In Solidarity Against Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The Chicago-based apparel firm Hart Schaffner Marx, its factory workers and their union say they will collectively fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement that is currently under negotiations.

In its current form, the agreement will cause serious damage to the U.S. clothing industry and exacerbate poor working conditions in other countries, according to the more than 100 apparel workers and their supporters who rallied Wednesday morning outside Hart Schaffner Marx’s DesPlaines suit factory.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs as factories shut down due to unfair competition from manufacturers in countries that have very low wages and very dangerous working conditions,” said Kathy Hanshew, chief of staff of the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board (CMRJB) of Workers United, an SEIU* affiliate. “TPP will encourage the expansion of these abuses on workers all over the world.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
11:51am
Wed Jul 17, 2013

Consumer Advocates Demand Congress End Farm Bill Subsidies To Food Additive Production, Corporate Farms

If lawmakers are interested in cutting costs during the 2013 reauthorization of the farm bill, they should reduce wasteful spending on subsidies that support processed food additives and already profitable agribusiness corporations, according to members of the consumer advocacy group, U.S. PIRG.

“The way our subsidies are distributed right now is a strong example of how skewed our system is,” said Dani Neuharth-Keusch, assistant community outreach director for Illinois PIRG, who spoke at a press conference Tuesday to release the nationwide research group’s new report, “Apples to Twinkies 2013.”

Federally subsidized crop insurance is intended to help farmers manage the risk inherent to their business. According to the report, the current farm bill, enacted in 2008, fails to “appropriately direct federal dollars” with subsidies that “mirror a pattern of special interest influence.”

“We need to push back against subsidies skewed toward big agribusiness and inadequate subsides for fresh produce,” said Neuharth-Keusch.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
9:48am
Mon Jul 8, 2013

Consumer Advocates Highlight Need For Savings Account Programs For Low-Income Americans

Automatically transferring a small amount of money into a basic savings account every month is the easiest and most effective way for low- to moderate-income individuals to save money, according to a recent report by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

“It’s so very important to build up savings, even if it’s just couple hundred, and park it for emergencies,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the CFA, and author of the report, “Savings Accounts: Their Characteristics and Usefullness.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
10:11am
Fri Jun 7, 2013

Consumer Advocates Say Payday Lending Worsens Debt, Call For Federal Ban

Consumer advocates are calling for a ban on all types of payday lending, saying that without regulatory federal laws, millions of borrowers charged triple-digit annual percentage rates (APR) will continue to be trapped in never-ending cycles of debt.

“Payday lenders destroy wealth in the middle class,” said Robert Lawless, co-director of the University of Illinois Program on Law, Behavior and Social Science.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
8:14pm
Mon Jun 3, 2013

New Report Highlights Need To Reform The Farm Bill’s Sugar Program

Changes made to the federal sugar program in the 2008 farm bill have caused sugar prices to spike to record levels, which hurts businesses, manufacturers and consumers, a new report from the food and agriculture consulting company Agralytica shows.

Extra consumer costs due to the 2008 farm bill have tallied about $3.7 billion each year, according to the report (PDF) released Monday. Currently, sugar prices in the United States are about 46 cents per pound, which is higher than 28 cents per pound under the 2002 farm bill.

Sugar producers in the United States and Mexico have responded to the high prices in the U.S. market by expanding sugar production by 20 percent to 25 percent, said Agralytica’s Vice President Tom Earley.

The 2008 changes have made “a bad program even worse and have destabilized the U.S. sugar market,” said Earley, who is also an agricultural economist and trade policy specialist.

“Now we have too much sugar that’s driving prices down that’s going to result in significant costs for the government,” he explained.

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