Wedding Planner, Caterer, “Brand Builder”: Trump’s Food Aid Program Is Paying $ 100+ Million to Unlicensed Dealers
Contractors with no experience in food distribution are looking for suppliers on Facebook while some food banks scramble to find desperately needed deliveries.
 
A food relief program championed by President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka is relying on some contractors who lack food distribution experience and aren’t licensed to deal in fresh fruits and vegetables.
 
The contractors on Friday began delivering boxes containing fresh produce to food banks and other nonprofits. Forty-nine out of the 159 contractors picked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deliver boxes containing produce don’t have a requisite license from the same agency, according to a search of the USDA’s database using the information released about the contractors.
 
Some of the contractors are established companies, and many food banks told ProPublica they’re successfully and gratefully receiving shipments. But other contractors have eclectic backgrounds with little track record in food distribution, such as a wedding planner, a caterer and a “brand builder.”
 
As a result, some food banks are left scrambling for shipments or even callbacks.
 
“We thought this would work very well, and we really needed the food due to rising unemployment and business closings,” said Pamela Irvine, CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia, which serves the poorest and most rural counties in that state. The USDA, she said, “had money and wanted to respond quickly, which they should have because you saw all this produce grounded and milk being dumped. However, they didn’t think about how that product should end up on a table somewhere and didn’t communicate and didn’t have a process in place for bidders to understand.”
 
The awards to firms for which no licenses could be found amount to $105.3 million, about 15% of the total for produce boxes. The USDA also hired contractors for boxes containing meat and dairy, at a total cost of $1.2 billion for six weeks, with the possibility of extending.
The licenses under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, or PACA, are required for wholesalers, processors, truckers, food-service firms and anyone else who buys or sells more than 2,000 pounds of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables a day, according to the USDA’s website.
 
“Much like you need a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, the law requires that you have a PACA license to operate a produce business,” the agency’s website says. “A PACA license is proof to your customers and suppliers that you are a serious business person who can be trusted to honor the terms of your contracts.”
 
The licenses give vendors a way to resolve payment disputes, and many producers won’t sell to someone who isn’t licensed.
 
“We don’t do business with people without a PACA license,” said Noah Murguia, the CEO of Murguia Fruit, an orange wholesaler in California. Murguia said he is selling oranges to licensed contractors in the program but doesn’t understand why anyone without a license would be allowed to participate. “To me, it’s a big joke,” he said.
 
The USDA’s official solicitation and application form don’t mention PACA licenses. An agency spokesman said contractors that don’t already have one will need to get one. Continue Reading...
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org
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    How VW Paid USD25 Billion for Dieselgate — And Got Off Easy
    On Dec. 6, former Volkswagen engineer Oliver Schmidt was led into a federal courtroom in Detroit in handcuffs and leg irons. He was wearing a blood-red jumpsuit, his head shaved, as it always is, and his deep-set eyes seemed to ask, “how did I get here?” As Schmidt’s wife tried to suppress tears in a second-row pew, U.S. District Judge Sean Cox sentenced him to what, had it been imposed in Schmidt’s native Germany, would rank among the harshest white collar sentences ever meted out: seven years in prison.
     
    Schmidt was being punished for his role in VW’s “Dieselgate” scandal, one of the most audacious corporate frauds in history. Yet his sentence brought no catharsis, least of all to Cox, who at times seemed pained while imposing it. Sometimes, he told Schmidt apologetically, his job requires him to imprison “good people just making very, very bad decisions.”
     
    Schmidt was a henchman, everyone understood, and his sentence, a stand-in. The judge was addressing a set of people in Germany who are beyond the reach of U.S. prosecutors because Germany does not ordinarily extradite its nationals beyond European Union frontiers. Above all, the Detroit courtroom was haunted by the shadow of an individual who was absent: Martin Winterkorn, who was VW’s CEO during almost all of the fraud. His name was uttered only twice, yet his aura loomed over the entire hearing.
     
    The outlines of the scandal are well known. For nearly a decade, from 2006 to September 2015, VW anchored its U.S. sales strategy — aimed at vaulting the company past Toyota to become the world’s No. 1 carmaker — on a breed of cars that turned out to be a hoax. They were touted as “Clean Diesel” vehicles. About 580,000 such sedans, SUVs and crossovers were sold in the U.S. under the company’s VW, Audi and Porsche marques. With great fanfare, including Super Bowl commercials, the company flacked an environmentalist’s dream: high performance cars that managed to achieve excellent fuel economy and emissions so squeaky clean as to rival those of electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
     
    It was all a software-conjured mirage. The exhaust control equipment in the VW diesels was programmed to shut off as soon as the cars rolled off the regulators’ test beds, at which point the tailpipes spewed illegal levels of two types of nitrogen oxides (referred to collectively as NOx) into the atmosphere, causing smog, respiratory disease and premature death.
     
    At first, Volkswagen insisted the fraud was pulled off by a group of rogue engineers. But over time the company has quietly backed away from that claim, increasingly focusing on protecting a small cadre of top officials. The crime may well have started among a relatively small number of engineers afraid to admit to feared top executives that they couldn’t reconcile the company’s goals and the law’s demands.
     
    Over the past two years, prosecutors in the U.S. and Germany have been tracing who was aware of the scheme and have identified more than 40 people involved, spread out across at least four cities and working for three VW brands as well as automotive technology supplier Robert Bosch. In a new, potentially explosive move, some U.S. prosecutors are pushing to indict Volkswagen’s former CEO. Such a step would be largely symbolic — the U.S. has no power to extradite them — but it would send a message that the misconduct was egregious and directed from the top.
     
    And it would highlight a stark contrast in punishment. U.S. authorities have extracted $25 billion in fines, penalties, civil damages and restitution from VW for the 580,000 tainted diesels it sold in the U.S. In Europe, where the company sold 8 million tainted diesels, it has not sustained any major fines, nor offered snookered owners a single Euro in compensation.
     
    There’s no doubt that Schmidt was guilty. He admitted that he’d been part of a cover-up. Yet he was far from the mastermind. Schmidt claimed not to have learned…Continue Reading… 
     
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    US jury orders Johnson & Johnson to pay USD417 mn compensation
    A jury panel in California has ordered the world's largest health-care company Johnson & Johnson to award USD417 million to a 62-year-old woman with ovarian cancer.
     
    The ruling by the jury panel of Los Angeles county Superior Court came on Monday after it found the company was liable for failing to warn the woman about the cancer risks of using talcum products, Xinhua news agency reported.
     
    In the first such case going to state-court jury in California, Eva Echeverria said she used the Johnson's Baby Powder from age 11 until 2016, when she saw a news about a woman with ovarian cancer who also used the product.
     
    Echeverria, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, was too weak to show up in the court after a surgeon removed a softball-sized tumour.
     
    She said that if Johnson & Johnson had put a warning label on the product showing a linkage between talc and cancer, she would not have used it for so many years.
     
    Moreover, her attorneys stressed that Johnson & Johnson had known long ago about cancer risks of using its talcum products but still marketed the unsafe products without any warning label as some experts advised.
     
    The company argued that the plaintiff's allegations were not supported by scientific evidence and studies conducted by federal agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration.
     
    After two days of closing arguments by lawyers, the jury decided to award Echeverria with $68 million in compensatory damages and $340 million in punitive damages.
     
    In May, a Missouri jury awarded a Virginia woman $110.5 million for a similar allegation, by then, three other Missouri juries had awarded $197 million to plaintiffs who made similar claims.
     
    There are more than 300 similar cases pending in California and about 4,800 in other courts across the US.
     
    The company immediately announced it would seek to overturn Monday's verdict, saying science supports the safety of Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder.
     
    Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up mainly of the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture well so that is widely used in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult facial powders for keeping skin dry and helping to prevent rashes.
     
    According to the American Cancer Society, even though many studies have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, researches on this field are continuing since findings have been mixed.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    COMMENTS

    N.Hanumanta Rao

    3 years ago

    All products made/marketed by Johnson &Johnson must be banned and ordered to be removed from the shelves of all stores all over India and all advertisement s of such products must be banned . The Government must swing into action immediately.

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