Mês: julho 2017


Chipotle says sick employee responsible for latest outbreak

julho 26, 2017

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Watch: Mice caught on tape in Dallas Chipotle

A sick Chipotle employee caused a norovirus outbreak at a Virginia restaurant earlier this month.

The incident helped drag down the company’s stock price.

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Multiple customers who ate at a Sterling, Virginia Chipotle (CMG) complained of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Those symptoms are consistent with the highly contagious norovirus, which has impacted Chipotle restaurants before.

After completely sterilizing the location, Chipotle conducted an investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak. On a call with Wall Street analysts Tuesday evening, CEO Steve Ells said a breakdown in the company’s sick policy was the culprit.

“We believe someone was working while sick,” Ells said.

In response, Ells and other Chipotle executives said they are drilling with employees that they cannot work while contagious. The company’s employees will undergo another round of “comprehensive communication and training” to make sure everyone working at Chipotle understands how to prevent another similar outbreak from occurring again. Ells called the new messaging strategy “relentless training.”

Meanwhile, Ells defended the company’s existing health protocols on Tuesday, calling them “excellent” and “designed by leading experts.” But those rules are only effective if employees follow them, he said.

“We took swift action and made it clear to the entire company that we have a zero-tolerance policy for not following these protocols,” Ells said. “Compliance with our procedures is non-negotiable and a condition of their employment.”

Related: Chipotle tanks on new illness report

Chipotle suffered multiple outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus starting in 2015 that sickened hundreds of customers across about a dozen states. It temporarily closed restaurants and implemented strict health protocols in an attempt to fix the problem.

Last year, a U.S. Attorney for California and the FDA opened a criminal investigation looking into Chipotle’s outbreaks. The company revealed Wednesday that the government subpoenaed Chipotle’s records of the latest outbreak as part of its investigation.

The company can’t seem to keep the bad health news away. Last week, several mice were spotted in a Dallas Chipotle. The rodents squeezed through what Chipolte called “a structural gap in the building,” which was eventually closed.

Ells apologized to Chipotle’s customers on Tuesday.

Wall Street, which had sent the company’s stock down 14% this month, was wooed by Chipotle’s relatively strong second-quarter sales. Shares grew by nearly 3% in pre-market trading Tuesday.

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 26, 2017: 9:28 AM ET




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Cluster of power plants divides a Maryland community

julho 26, 2017

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Power plants bring big money and big concerns to Maryland community

“Five are enough,” says Earl Mitchell, the president of a local civic association in Brandywine, Maryland. “We shouldn’t have any more here.”

Within the next three years, five large power plants will be operating within a 15-mile radius of this Washington, D.C.-area bedroom community. There are already three plants up and running — one burns coal and two use natural gas — and two more are under way.

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Mitchell, 76, is retired and has lived in Brandywine’s North Keys neighborhood for 22 years. His house is just one-eighth of a mile from where the fourth — the PSEG Keys Energy Center power plant — is being built.

He and other area residents worry about the lasting consequences this growing cluster of power plants could have on the environment, their quality of life and their health.

And they are concerned about Brandywine’s youngest inhabitants, too.

Three years from now, when the fifth plant — Panda Mattawoman — opens, Brandywine Elementary school will be within just a handful of miles of two new natural gas-fueled facilities, which will emit a mix of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter that can trigger respiratory and other health problems.

“The power plants here are a Catch-22 for us,” said Mitchell, who retired from a 30-year career with the federal government in 1996. “Everyone wants the jobs and tax revenue they bring to a rural area, but we also have concerns.”

Fueling a local economy

Brandywine lies in the southeast corner of Maryland’s Prince George’s County. It’s home to just over 6,700 residents, a vast majority of whom — roughly 72% — are African-American.

Here, newly built residential communities and the sprawling Brandywine Crossing shopping center, are surrounded by farmland, wetlands and historic homes, some of which date back to the late 1800s.

The local economy used to rely on farming. “The sandy soil here was especially conducive to tobacco farming at one time,” said Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, who represents Prince George’s County.

brandywine farm
Farms are still a large part of the landscape in Brandywine.

The tobacco plantations started giving way to more industrial activity in the 1960s as the local government changed its zoning laws to allow for more industrial use.

That zoning helped pave the way for sand and gravel mining operations, a fly ash landfill — and eventually a couple of power plants.

In 2012, after Maryland put out a call to energy companies seeking to produce more power within the state, more power plants came calling. Brandywine offered wide open spaces and existing infrastructure, including transmission lines from the state’s Pepco electricity provider and a nearby interstate natural gas pipeline. There are 74 power plants that are currently active in the state of Maryland, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

brandywine map
In three years, five power plants will be operating within a 15-mile radius of Brandywine.

For Prince George’s County, the new plants promised big economic benefits.

“[They] are going to probably be in the top five largest taxpayers of the county,” said Prince George’s County Councilman Mel Franklin. “And they will add to our commercial tax base, which helps us fund education, public safety, transportation.”

The PSEG Keys plant, for example, is expected to contribute $640 million in new tax revenue over the 40-year life of the project and the company said it has committed to using dozens of local small businesses during construction.

The plants are expected to add jobs, too. The two-year construction of the PSEG Keys plant is expected to create 900 jobs — many of them with union representation, said Paul Rosengren, spokesman for PSEG Power. But once the plant is up and running, the full-time slots will dwindle to 28.

Like PSEG, Mattawoman will create 600 to 700 union construction jobs but just 27 permanent jobs to operate the plant. “We’ve committed to hiring locally as much as possible,” said Bill Pentak, vice president of investor relations and public affairs with Panda Power Funds.

pseg plant
PSEG Keys Energy Center is under construction and slated to open next year.

John Russo, who owns a deli restaurant in Brandywine, welcomes the power plants. Over the past six months, the ongoing construction of the PSEG plant has already increased his business by 5%, he said.

“I hope more come around,” he said.

A case of ‘environmental injustice?’

But there are tradeoffs. Some local residents say the economic benefits aren’t worth the toll these plants will take on the surrounding environment and on residents’ health.

PSEG’s plant, for example, is being built on 188 acres of land, much of it wetlands — which local environmental groups say are fragile and need to be protected.

When the fifth plant — the Mattawoman plant — was approved in 2015, several residents said enough.

Last May, the nonprofit Patuxent Riverkeeper and community advocacy Brandywine TB Coalition, filed a federal civil rights complaint against several of the state agencies that approved the construction of the Mattawoman plant.

mattawoman rendering
An illustration of the Panda Mattawoman plant. It will generate enough electricity to power 990,000 homes in Maryland.

The complaint alleges that the agencies failed to assess whether the pollution, traffic and noise caused by the plant and its construction would have a disproportionately adverse impact on the area’s predominantly black community.

Fred Tutman, who heads the Patuxent Riverkeeper, calls it “environmental injustice.”

While Brandywine’s power plants will affect everyone who lives in the community, “the most acutely affected live closest to where these plants are, they are predominantly black communities,” he said.

The complaint cited data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that found the population within both five and 10 miles of the Mattawoman plant site is 67% black.

Tutman believes the community lacks the power to effectively fight back. “By power I don’t mean electricity, I mean political power. I mean economic power,” he said.

riverkeeper two fred tutman
Fred Tutman worries about the area’s wetlands.

But councilman Franklin rejects the environmental injustice claim.

“Brandywine became predominantly African-American 10 to 15 years ago. The history of the industrial uses here predates that, by decades, when Brandywine was an overwhelmingly white and rural community,” he said.

Moreover, he argued the power plants are helping Maryland become more energy-efficient and self-sufficient. “Maryland imports 30% of its energy. These new natural gas plants are cleaner sources of energy that will also help reduce our reliance on imports,” said Franklin.

The complaint also alleged that local residents were not adequately informed about the plant or meaningfully involved in the decision-making process by the state.

Senate President Miller said he didn’t even know the state had approved either the PSEG or the Mattawoman plants.

“By the time I came to know about the PSEG plant, it was too late for me to do anything to stop it,” he said. “And I wasn’t at all aware about Mattawoman or that it had been approved.”

The state declined to comment on the complaint, citing ongoing mediation.

Panda Power’s Pentak said he is aware of the complaint against the state agencies and noted that his company is not part of the mediation process.

“This has been a two-and-a-half year process for us, including public hearings with community members. At the end of it, seven state agencies reviewed our proposal and approved it,” said Pentak. “We’ve done our environmental impact studies and submitted them for review. We are not trying to hide anything.”

For now, Tutman and the other complainants are in the mediation process with the state and cannot comment further.

“We probably can’t stop Mattawoman from being built, but our aim is to at least change the process to ensure the community has more say in decisions on future plants of any kind planned for Brandywine,” Tutman said.

‘It’s the health of my child’

But it may be too late for residents like Brandi Banks-Wells.

Banks-Wells, 36, grew up in Brandywine. She said she had “no clue” the state approved two new plants in such close proximity to the school attended by her 10-year-old son Dallas. If she had known, she would have opposed them. “I feel disappointed. We live here and should have the right to say what comes in [and] what goes out,” she said.

Dallas developed asthma as a baby. He just finished fourth grade at Brandywine Elementary and he’s already been to the doctor eight times so far this year.

“No one’s allowed to smoke around him. Any type of car exhaust, anything like that, can trigger [an asthma attack],” she said.

brandi and dallas
Brandi Banks-Wells is concerned about her son Dallas’ asthma getting worse.

While much less polluting than coal or oil, natural gas plants still emit a dangerous mix of ozone and particulate matter, said Sacoby Wilson, associate professor, University of Maryland School of Public Health.

“Those are small particles that get into your lungs and basically get into your circulatory system. It can cross the blood brain barrier,” said Wilson, who noted that children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with underlying conditions are particularly at risk. “These communities are vulnerable.”

Respiratory symptoms are the number one cause of emergency room visits in Prince George’s County, according to the County Health Department’s 2016 Community Health Assessment.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Brandywine currently doesn’t meet the 2008 ground level ozone standard, even though the agency has noted the air quality there has been improving in recent years. Breathing air containing ozone can reduce lung function and increase respiratory symptoms, thereby aggravating asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Power providers argue natural gas plants are the good guys.

“When a new, highly efficient natural gas power plant comes online, it generally [displaces] an old coal-fired plant. So, what is happening across the United States is that new natural gas generation is displacing less environmentally-friendly coal-fired generation,” said Pentak.

Both PSEG and Mattawoman said they have taken environmental precautions by using advanced technologies to reduce harmful emissions and recycling water for cooling purposes.

Panda Power’s Pentak said the Mattawoman project underwent extensive air quality reviews. Those tests found the plant “would not cause or contribute to a violation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard,” which measures the level of pollutants considered harmful to public health. Pentak also noted that Mattawoman will be continuously monitored to ensure it meets standards.

But try telling that to residents like Banks-Wells.

“With these plants, honestly, [it’s] the health of my child,” she said. “To put them right next to schools [is] a lack of sensitivity for our health, our children’s health, and for us as a community.”

“I don’t agree with the plants at all coming here,” she said. “I will pick up and move for my kids. It’s just not worth it.”

ethel powell
Ethel Powell doesn’t want any more power plants in and around Brandywine.

Of Ethel Powell’s three grandchildren who live in the county, two have asthma.

Powell, 70, has lived right outside of Brandywine for nearly three decades and fears the two new power plants will further exacerbate the problem.

“Come summertime, when the wind moves East across the area, it picks up all the pollutants in its path,” she said.

She and other community activists have declared the area a dumping ground of sorts. They point to Brandywine’s coal-ash landfill and disposal facility, which stores waste from the coal power plant, another facility for processing soil contaminants, numerous surface sand and gravel pits– even a local Superfund site (an area designated by the EPA as contaminated by hazardous waste), which was previously used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force to store waste and other excess materials.

“Our voices get drowned out because of the money poured into Brandywine by companies behind these [power plant] projects,” said Powell.

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 26, 2017: 6:18 AM ET




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Trump says Apple to build "3 big plants, beautiful plants" in US

julho 26, 2017

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Apple unveils new 'spaceship' headquarters

Apple typically condemns any leaks of its plans, but perhaps this time it will make an exception.

President Trump said Tuesday that Apple CEO Tim Cook has “promised” to build “three big plants, beautiful plants” in the US.

“I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “He called me, and he said they are going forward.”

Reps for Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It’s unclear where those manufacturing plants will be located, how many people they may employ and which products they might produce.

During the campaign, Trump said he would “get Apple to to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.”

Related: Silicon Valley’s impossible balancing act

Trump echoed the sentiment shortly after winning the election, telling The New York Times it was his goal to “get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants.”

Contrary to public perception, however, Apple does rely on some domestic manufacturing.

Displays for the iPhone and iPad are made by Corning in a factory in Kentucky. It uses cell and Wi-Fi radios made in Texas by Avago Technologies and processors made by Samsung in Austin and New York.

Apple also now manufactures the Mac Pro in Austin.

But the iPhone, Apple’s flagship product, is largely assembled by hundreds of thousands of workers at Chinese manufacturers. By comparison, Apple has 80,000 employees in the U.S., much of which comes from its retail stores.

Earlier this year, Cook said Apple would put $1 billion in a fund intended to bring advanced manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, is also planning a new factory in the U.S.

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 25, 2017: 5:29 PM ET



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CEO's pay is under fire amid opioid epidemic

julho 26, 2017

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Ohio sues drugmakers over opioid epidemic

McKesson CEO John Hammergren has earned $692 million in the past 10 years. The Teamsters think that’s too much.

On Wednesday, the union plans to protest Hammergren’s compensation at the drug distributor’s annual shareholder meeting. They argue that McKesson, as a distributor of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, has played a role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.

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“For years, McKesson allowed opioids to flood into our communities, and despite the irreparable harm and growing reputational and financial risks, the company has continued to reward [Hammergren] with ballooning bonuses and some of the most lucrative pay packages in the country,” Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall said in a statement.

The union, which holds more than $30 million worth of McKesson shares, has also filed a shareholder proposal to install an independent board chairman who hasn’t previously served as a top executive.

Hammergren, who has been CEO of McKesson since 2001, has served as chairman of the firm since 2002 as well.

“We can’t afford another decade of business as usual at McKesson,” Hall said.

For its part, McKesson is asking shareholders to approve Hammergren’s compensation and oppose the Teamster’s chairman proposal, and says it’s working hard to address the opioid crisis.

“We take our responsibility to help manage the safety and integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain extremely seriously and are committed to maintaining — and continuously improving — strong programs designed to detect and prevent opioid diversion,” the company said in a statement to CNNMoney.

Related: The opioid epidemic is draining America of workers

The state treasurers of West Virginia, Illinois and Pennsylvania backed the idea of an independent board chairman in a letter sent to McKesson on Monday. They also said McKessen should include a “metric for senior executive compensation related to progress towards the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

McKesson shareholders, including the Teamsters, worry about the company’s financial exposure.

In its petition, the union cites the “potential reputational, legal and regulatory risks McKesson faces over its role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

In January, McKesson agreed to pay a $150 million settlement and suspend sales of controlled substances from distribution centers in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Florida, according to Justice Department documents. The government said it concluded that the company had not properly identified pharmacy orders that should have been scrutinized due to their frequency and size. In 2008, McKesson was fined $13.25 million for a similar problem, the department said.

Many Teamsters also come from areas afflicted by the opioid epidemic — and for them, the subject of addiction hits home.

At the 2016 Teamsters international convention Travis Bornstein, president of the Local 24 group in Akron, Ohio, spoke about his son Tyler, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at age 23.

The Teamsters raised more than $1.4 million to fight addiction after he spoke, according to a union statement about the event.

Hammergren’s 10-year payout of $692 million includes his salary and bonus, as well as the value of his vested shares and the money he made when he exercised his options, according to executive compensation data firm Equilar.

Much of that value comes from the dramatic rise in the company’s stock price. The value of shares has nearly tripled since mid-2007, Equilar said.

McKesson says its board has appointed an independent committee to review the company’s distribution of controlled substances, and that the company has invested millions of dollars to revamp its system for monitoring the distribution of controlled substances.

The Teamsters’ efforts “do little to address the root causes of the opioid epidemic,” the company said. McKesson also said it believes the Teamsters’ actions are related to a labor dispute at one of its facilities.

The Teamsters represent about 1,500 McKesson workers and one group is bargaining for its first contract, according to a union official. But the group said its efforts to hold drug distributors accountable for the opioid crisis stem from the response the issue received at last year’s national convention.

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 25, 2017: 9:03 PM ET




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Scaramucci begins White House press shop shake-up

julho 25, 2017

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Will WH shake-up lead to more combative press strategy?

Newly-minted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told Politico on Tuesday that he planned to fire an assistant press secretary at the White House.

That was news to the staffer, Michael Short, who told CNN minutes after the story broke: “No one has told me anything.”

Scaramucci has said that he would reshuffle the White House’s press and communications operations in an effort to stem the flow of internal leaks and Scaramucci warned in the Tuesday Politico interview that he would continue to oust members of the White House’s communications team until the leaks stopped.

“No one has told me anything and the entire premise is false,” Short said Tuesday morning, referring to the Politico story that suggested his firing was tied to Scaramucci’s efforts to root out leaks.

Early Tuesday afternoon, though, Short told multiple reporters that he had resigned.

At a gaggle with reporters late Tuesday morning, Scaramucci specifically pointed to the report of Short’s possible firing as a reason that leaks need to stop — even though he was reportedly the one who’d told Politico that Short would be fired.

“Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic,” Scaramucci said. “I should have the opportunity if I have to let somebody go to let the person go in a very humane, dignified way, and then the next thing… is help the person get a job somewhere, OK, because he probably has a family, right? So now you guys are talking about it, it’s not fair. … Here’s the problem with the leaking, why I have to figure out a way to get the leaking to stop, because it hurts people.”

The dismissal shed some light on how Scaramucci, a New York financier and trusted adviser to the president, will run the White House’s communications and press outfits and how he might plan to handle the firing of staffers now under his purview.

Scaramucci has guaranteed job security to only three White House staffers involved in the White House’s communications operations: newly-appointed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, director of strategic communications Hope Hicks and social media director Dan Scavino.

“As it relates to the other people in the comm shop, I’ve got to get to know them,” Scaramucci said Friday in the White House briefing room, hours after he was tapped for his new post. “I got to get to know the people. They got to get to know me. Hopefully they’ll like me and they’ll want to stay and we’ll see what happens.”

Scaramucci has said in a series of interviews in recent days that he plans to take a hard line on leaks. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday he urged White House officials to “stop acting like Mean Girls.”

“Just think about the extraordinary opportunity and the blessing that we have here to serve our country and serve our president. So if you’re going to fight with each other and leak on each other, and say stupid things about each other in the corridor, maybe we can stop doing that, and stop acting like Mean Girls from the 2004 movie,” Scaramucci told Hewitt.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the White House said, “Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders accepted the resignation of Senior Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short. We are grateful for Michael’s service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 25, 2017: 1:50 PM ET



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