- Walmart announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes on Friday.
- The company said it made its decision in light of the “uncertainty” regarding the products on local and federal levels.
- Federal health officials have growing concerns about the products and have potentially linked over 500 illnesses and eight deaths to them.
Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales
Walmart plans to end its sale of e-cigarettes due to ongoing concerns about the products.
“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said Friday in a confirmed internal memo obtained by CNBC.
National Concerns About E-Cigarettes
This decision comes as both New York and Michigan have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. President Donald Trump has also suggested his interest in banning flavored products.
Recently, federal health officials have become increasingly concerned about their potential link to serious illnesses. They investigating 530 cases of people who have contracted vaping related illnesses. Eight people have died from diseases believed to be related to vaping since August.
This is not the first decision of this sort the company has made this year. Back in May, Walmart said it would raise its minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 to prevent possible sales to minors.
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Opioid Companies Reach Last-Minute $261M Settlement to Avoid First Federal Opioid Trial
- Five pharmaceutical companies reached a $261 million settlement to avoid a lawsuit that accused them of contributing to the opioid crisis.
- The settlements were reached around midnight Monday, just hours before the trial was set to begin.
- The immediate trial was averted, but these companies—as well as Johnson & Johnson—are not free of the larger case, which is a consolidation of more than 2,500 lawsuits from various state and local governments.
New Settlements Avert Immediate Trial
Five companies involved in a massive federal opioid lawsuit settled with two Ohio counties early Monday morning, paying $261 million dollars to avert the first trial in a larger case.
These settlements do not prevent the full trial, but they do delay it significantly. The portion of the trial scheduled to begin Monday would have involved both Cuyahoga and Summit counties and would have been known as a “bellwether trial,” a beginning trial examining a smaller portion of the larger case.
The outcome of it would have then been used to anticipate the results of the larger case, which is a consolidation of more than 2,500 lawsuits lodged by cities, counties, tribes, and states. It accuses the companies of contributing to the opioid crisis.
Companies originally involved in the lawsuit include AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson—which are known as the “Big Three” drug distributors in the country. Walgreens, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Purdue, and Johnson & Johnson were also named.
Between midnight and 1:00 a.m., the “Big Three” averted the first of the trials by agreeing to pay a combined $215 million to Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Teva additionally reached an agreement to pay $20 million in cash and another $25 million in suboxone, which is a drug used to treat opioid addiction.
Additionally, Henry Schein Medical agreed to pay $1.25 million.
“If this was a war, today was supposed to be D-Day, where we engage the enemy and storm the beach,” Paul Farrell Jr., an attorney for the two counties, told NPR. “So, last night at 11:50 p.m., the defendants retired from the field and decided to settle this particular skirmish rather than fight.”
Previously, the lone judge presiding over the cases encouraged both sides to reach settlements in order to prevent a potentially lengthy and bitter trial, meaning victims of the opioid crisis would begin to start seeing money sooner.
Notably, Walgreens did not reach any settlements, but its trial has now been delayed for up to six months, provided the pharmacy doesn’t end up reaching a settlement of its own beforehand.
As for that larger trial involving the other 2,500 lawsuits, those are still scheduled to begin early next year if these companies fail to reach additional settlements.
The case has been closely scrutinized as a potentially precedent-setting trial; however, by settling, these companies prevent a landmark decision by the federal government that could serve as a legal litmus test for holding opioid companies accountable.
Purdue and Johnson & Johnson Settle
Purdue was the first pharmaceutical company listed in the trial to settle, notably reaching a global agreement of $12 billion.
Purdue then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is still pending and will eventually be expected to form a new company that will continue manufacturing the painkiller OxyContin. The new company is expected to also donate addiction treatment and overdose reversal drugs.
The owners of Purdue were also expected to pay no less than $3 billion and up to $4.5 billion of the grand total, though some state attorneys generals said the fine did not account for the damages they’ve seen their states.
“These people are among the most responsible for the trail of death and destruction the opioid epidemic has left in its wake,” North Carolina AG Josh Stein said in a promise to go directly after the Sacklers.
On Oct. 1, Johnson & Johnson reached a settlement for $20.4 million dollars for Cuyahoga and Summit counties.
Johnson & Johnson Loses Oklahoma Trial
In August, Johnson & Johnson became the first pharmaceutical company to lose a case holding it responsible for the opioid crisis.
The case, which is lost to the state of Oklahoma, was considered a precedent among experts, though Johnson & Johnson has appealed it to the state’s Supreme Court.
At the time, Johnson & Johnson had been ordered to pay $572 million, but that number was later brought down by $107 million after a miscalculation by Judge Thad Balkman. Balkman said the number could continue to change before he gives his final order.
Company Apologizes After Shaming Job Applicant for Bikini Photo
- After applying to a marketing position at a startup, a 24-year-old woman discovered that the business posted a photo of her in a bikini to its Instagram story.
- Without naming the woman in the photo, the company added captions calling her unprofessional and urging other applicants to “not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it,” even though the woman said the company, Kickass Masterminds, had requested she follow them on Instagram.
- The woman, Emily Clow, asked for the story to be taken down multiple times, but it did not disappear until after the story expired.
- On Monday, Kickass Mastermind’s CEO issued a public apology following backlash.
Potential Employer Posts Woman’s Bikini Photo to Instagram
An Austin-based startup apologized to one of its applicants after shaming her on its Instagram story for having a bikini photo on her profile.
The incident occurred after 24-year-old Emily Clow applied to an open marketing position at the business — Kickass Masterminds. Clow said she had been eager to grow her social media and sales experience.
When she heard back from Kickass Masterminds, she said she was asked to fill out additional application forms and to follow the company’s official Instagram account.
Later, Clow noticed Kickass Masterminds had posted a cropped photo of her in a bikini to its Instagram story, removing Clow’s face likely to mask her identity.
“PSA (because I know some of you applicants are looking at this): do not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it,” the photo’s caption read. “I am looking for a professional marketer – not a bikini model.”
“Go on with your bad self and do whatever in private,” the message continued. “But this is not doing you any favors in finding a professional job.”
Clow then messaged the company privately about the photo, warning them that she had screenshotted the post. She then added, in a seemingly sarcastic tone, “I appreciate your advice.”
“Remember that everything that you put on social is public and future potential employers will see it,” Kickass Masterminds then replied. “Best of luck in your job search!”
Clow then said she did not interpret her photo in her bikini as inappropriate and criticized the company for posting her photo to its account.
“I am aware of that, as I worked with social media for two years,” she said. “I didn’t realize wearing a bathing suit and appreciating my body made me an unprofessional. MOST employers and companies, especially those who work with marketing, have that understanding. I am disappointed to see a company I was very interested in decided to go out of their way to shame an applicant.”
She then continued by asking Kickass Masterminds to take down the story for the second time, having previously emailed the company to remove it. Clow asked for a third time after Kickass Masterminds only responded with “best of luck” in her job search.
Instead of removing the post, the company reportedly allowed it to appear until the story expired.
Also following that exchange, Clow said the company blocked her, so she took to Twitter. In a post, she said she felt “objectified” and that she was “baffled that the company handled it in such a manner.”
Later, she shared a photo of the company’s bio from its LinkedIn page, saying, “This is fucking hilarious considering.”
In the bio, Kickass Masterminds stated that it works with “rebellious business owners,” specifically those who are “rebelling from the traditional way of earning a living because they’ve lost faith in corporate America.”
It then goes on to say it works with business owners who “want other like-minded people to have their back when shit gets tough in their quest for personal and money freedom.”
this is fucking hilarious, considering pic.twitter.com/dmjABdm4s3— Emily Clow (@emilyeclow) October 1, 2019
Clow’s Post Goes Viral
Soon after, her post went viral and was met with a wave of support online.
“So they’re all about freedom and calling your own shots except when it comes to your self expression with your own body in a way that in no way affects your job performance?” one user wrote. “Such freedom.”
So they’re all about freedom and calling your own shots except when it comes to your self expression with your own body in a way that in no way affects your job performance? Such freedom.— Danielle Dubill (@buffalodani85) October 2, 2019
Others then shared a photo reportedly from Kickass Mastermind’s Instagram, which showed the company CEO, Sara Christensen posing while holding up her middle finger. Others then pointed to a photo of Christensen in her bra that was posted to her personal Instagram in 2017. Many users then asked how either photo was more professional than Clow’s.
On the other side of the argument, some still criticized Kickass Masterminds for posting the photo while also arguing that the original photo is still unprofessional.
“What the hell, of course it’s unprofessional. Women need to help other women learn how to be taken seriously. At some point maybe you will see that. The way she did it probably lacked, but the message is correct. Maintain some privacy, be aware of the [image] you put out there.”
Kickass Masterminds Apologizes
Christensen remained silent on the situation until Monday when she posted an apology to Medium.
“In a very human moment,” she began, “I made an error in judgment by posting to my Instagram stories about a job applicant’s online persona. To anyone watching: I am a great case study in what NOT to do. To Ms. Clow: I apologize for my behavior. I intended you no harm. I should never have made that post.”
“To those I serve through my business and who have trusted my counsel,” she continued. “Many of you have been affected by this very avoidable event. There are no words to describe how sorry I am that you have felt the consequences of my poor decision. You deserve better and I’ve let you down. I will do my best to earn back your trust.”
She then said she had learned her lesson but also said that she is not ready to publicly talk about it.
Kickass Masterminds has now set its Instagram to private, and the company’s Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages were taken down.
Meanwhile, Clow has somewhat accepted her new title. On her Instagram profile, she now describes herself as “an unprofessional bikini model.”
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Houston Rockets GM’s Pro-Hong Kong Tweet Sparks Controversy
- Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters, which upset Chinese fans.
- The NBA is a major business in China, prompting leaders in the NBA to address the situation and apologize for any offense the tweet, which Morey soon deleted, may have caused.
- The damage of the tweet was already done, however. The Chinese Government, Chinese Basketball Association, China-based sponsors for the team, and a platform that streams NBA games to 500 million Chinese viewers cut ties with the Rockets.
- U.S. politicians are criticizing China for exercising its economic hold on the NBA. They are also upset that the NBA is catering to this hold, instead of showing support for pro-democracy protests.
Morey’s Tweet Stirs Controversy
The NBA is receiving bipartisan backlash from American politicians after apologizing for a tweet in support of Hong Kong’s protesters sent by the Houston Rockets’ General Manager.
While in Japan for pre-season games on Friday, GM Daryl Morey expressed support for the ongoing pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. He tweeted a photo that said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
His tweet received backlash before he quickly deleted it, as China—which has condemned these protests in an effort to expand their influence over the city-state—did not like its message. The NBA has a lot of money to make in China, the Houston Rockets in particular.
Yao Ming, one of the most popular Chinese basketball stars, played on the Rockets. His tenure on the team helped make the game as popular as it is in China today and cemented the Rockets as a fan favorite in the country. He is retired from the sport and is now currently the President of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The team’s leaders and the NBA quickly moved to the damage control front after Morey deleted the tweet. The Rockets’ owner, Tilman Fertitta, sent a tweet noting that Morey’s tweet was a reflection of his personal beliefs and not any political beliefs of the team itself.
Morey posted a series of tweets on his own addressing the situation. He said he did not intend to offend fans in China.
“I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives,” he added.
The NBA took a similar approach in their statement and also worked to downplay Morey’s remarks.
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
China Reacts to Tweet
Their efforts, however, could not stop the impact the tweet already had on China. The Chinese government cut ties with the Houston Rockets, as did several businesses, including the team’s Chinese sponsors. The CBA, along with Tencent, which streams NBA games in China to almost 500 million viewers cut their ties as well.
The owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Tsai, who also co-founded Chinese media company Alibaba also condemned the remarks in a statement.
“I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been,” he said. “But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”
On top of this, a report from The Ringer alleges that Houston Rockets and NBA ownership is debating whether or not to replace Morey as the team’s GM.
This series of events has also stirred up its own controversy among American politicians, who are criticizing the NBA on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike are upset that China has an economic hold on the NBA, and that the NBA is catering to that hold. Many would rather have seen the organization support the sentiment behind Morey’s original tweet instead of China, which has been largely seen as suppressing the pro-democracy protests.
Presidential candidate Julian Castro said that “China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S..
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the situation “Unacceptable.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accused the NBA of “kowtowing” to China. He also called out Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, to criticize the organization’s response.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the NBA’s retreat shameful.
Silver will be in China this week as various teams play preseason games. He is expected to speak during his trip and touch on the matter.