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Blog Post | Public Health

What’s that toxic smell? One Father Clashes with the Chemical Industry | Anna Low-Beer

The movie Stink! originated with one pair of children’s pajamas that Director John Whelan bought his daughters for Christmas in 2011. The new pajamas, when taken out of their plastic packaging, smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. That one smell prompted Whelan to look deeper into fragrance and the chemical industry’s use of secret and often toxic chemicals in our everyday products. He simply wanted to know – what’s in the stuff we buy? “It seemed like a common-sense question to ask…I’m just trying to find out what chemicals they would put on kids’ pajamas,” he said. A common-sense question, yes. One with a simple answer? Not so much. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

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Video Blog | Consumer Protection

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The retirement industry is a minefield -- but here’s the answer

In this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver called out three main problems hurting consumers when it comes to retirement: First, financial advisers aren’t currently required to work in their clients’ best interest. Second, high fees compound over time. Third, actively managed investment funds aren’t the answer. 

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Blog Post | Democracy

Losing the Voting Rights Act: A Timeline | Sarah Friedman

A historic piece of legislation, the Voting Rights Act has protected fair access to the polls since 1965. But recent changes have gutted critical protections offered by the VRA. Here's what you need to know.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Food recall season off to a big start | Anya Vanecek

Once again, the shift from spring to summer has carried with it a string of contamination-related food recalls. Twenty in the last month -- and that number is climbing.

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News Release | U.S. Public Interest Research Group | Tax

34 Thousand Tell Justice Dept: Deny BP Tax Write Off for Gulf Oil Spill

Today, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group delivered over 34,000 petitions to the Department of Justice calling on the agency to deny British Petroleum (BP) tax deductions for its remaining payments to address the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. A forthcoming decision to address BP’s liability under the Clean Water Act could earn the company a $4.9 billion tax windfall if the Justice Department signs an out-of-court settlement and fails to specify that the payments are non-deductible.

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News Release | U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund | Budget

New Report Ranks All Fifty States on Government Spending Transparency

Government spending transparency is improving, but many states still lag far behind, according to “Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the sixth annual report of its kind by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. Some states have improved their spending transparency web portals significantly, and even introduced entirely new state-of-the-art transparency sites with innovative features, while others are still barely achieving the minimum standards.

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News Release | US PIRG | Transportation

Statement on New Federal Driving Data for 2014

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst and Transportation Program Director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, about the Federal Highway Administration’s release today of data showing an increase in the total number of vehicle miles travelled for 2014.

 

 

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

Achtung Baby! German Bank Settlement Could Include $490 Million Loophole

As the German-based Commerzbank approaches a settlement agreement to resolve allegations surrounding the bank’s role in illegal money laundering with sanctioned states, the Justice Department will need to forbid tax deductions for this corporate wrongdoing or the bank will likely deduct the payments as an ordinary cost of doing business. In that case, ordinary taxpayers would ultimately shoulder up to $490 million of the deal.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Show Me The Money

This report updates a 1998 CFA survey on the consumer costs of payday lending and includes a survey of 230 payday lenders found in 20 states. It finds that payday lenders continue to make short term consumer loans of $100-400 at legal interest rates of 390-871% in states where payday lending is allowed. More disturbingly, the report finds that payday lenders are exploiting new partnerships with national banks to make payday loans in states, such as Virginia, where the loans are otherwise prohibited by usury ceilings or other regulations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 1999

Over 12 million American families can't afford bank accounts. The rest of us are paying too much, especially if we bank at big banks. Meanwhile, in 1998 banks recorded nearly $62 billion in profits, an eighth straight record year.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Dirty Dollars, Dirty Air

This report documents the influence of the auto and oil industry on public policy and debates surrounding the control of pollution that causes smog, soot and global warming. It tracks the amount of campaign contributions made by the 164 largest companies in the automobile and oil industries and how those contributions influenced members of Congress on clean air issues.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Pushing The Limit

At least five proposals to increase limits on contributions by individuals to congressional candidates -- either as stand-alone measures or as part of a package of campaign finance measures -- have been floated by important political groups and individuals in the past year. The following paper analyzes the likely impact of these proposals on which candidates get elected and on the power of wealthy interests vs. the general public in governmental decision making.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

ATM: Always Taking Money

This PIRG national survey, done in March 1999, compares surcharging practices at 336 banks and 31 credit unions to the results of PIRG's spring 1998 report, "Big Banks, Bigger ATM Fees."

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join FTC Event on Big Data E-Scores | Ed Mierzwinski

Companies on the Internet are tracking you with vastly powerful Big Data algorithms to determine what to sell you and for how much and what financial opportunities to offer you. Today at 10am, I join an FTC workshop on Alternative Scoring Products to debate the transparency and fairness of the system with privacy and technology experts from industry, academia and the public interest. You can attend or watch online.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We testify on data breaches again | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, I testify in the House Financial Services Committee in the latest hearing on the Target data breach. As I did in the Senate last month, I will try to shift the debate from the supposed need for a "uniform national data breach notification standard" to more important issues, such as improving consumer rights when they use unsafe debit cards to ensuring that standards for payment card and card network security are set in an open, fair way that holds banks and card networks accountable for forcing merchants and consumers to rely on inherently unsafe, obsolete magnetic stripe cards.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

While CFPB Takes Action To Aid Consumers, U.S. House Acts Against CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the CFPB sued ITT, a for-profit school, for a variety of alleged violations, including pressuring students into high-cost predatory loans with little promise of a future job. This morning, I join CFPB leaders for a panel on how it can help fix the credit reporting system. Yet, this afternoon, the House will probably vote to hobble the CFPB in several ways. Go figure.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Trade negotiations need more public input | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the President has sent U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman out to convince the public that trade deals are good for everyone, not only special interests. In my role as U.S. chair of the TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, I respond to his latest proposal for a "Public Interest Advisory Committee."

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Blog Post | Budget

Our Taxpayer Dollars: Going to Waste and Wealthy Corporations | Jaimie Woo

 

Congress just passed a Farm Bill that will put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, wealthy agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies were stripped out or watered down at the last second by the chairs of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees.

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DEFEND THE CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

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