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Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens to Stop Locking Up Black Beauty Products

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  • Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS have all announced they will stop locking up multicultural beauty products. 
  • The moves come amid criticism that the companies were engaging in a form of institutionalized racism by locking up Black beauty products but not their mainstream counterparts, implying that Black people are more likely to steal.
  • While this criticism is nothing new, it gained traction this week after KCNC-TV in Denver reported on a woman who had criticized the practice on social media. 

Companies Unlock Black Beauty Products From Behind Glass

Major retail chains like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS now say they will stop locking beauty products aimed at people of color behind glass cases.

The move is the latest in a series of sweeping changes that have happened this week alone. TV shows like “Cops” and “Live PD” were canceled, the film “Gone with the Wind” was temporarily pulled from HBO Max, confederate monuments are being removed or defaced at a rapid pace, and confederate flags were banned from being displayed by the Marine Corps and NASCAR

All of those changes largely come in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as well as those of Breonna Taylor and Ahamud Arbery. Among massive calls for reform to law enforcement, protests over these deaths have also sparked conversations on other racist aspects of American culture.

It’s not uncommon for retailers to lock up products they say have higher theft rates (video games, tools, razor blades, etc). Beauty products aimed at people of color, however, tend to be among those products that find themselves behind a glass barrier, even if their generic counterparts aren’t.

Many times, those products are also locked up in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, and stores have faced criticism for locking up more items in Black neighborhoods compared to those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

“If you lock up products for Black people and you aren’t doing that for products for white customers, that is discriminatory,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, told The Associated Press. “It is out of step with the times we are living now.”

On Wednesday, Walmart—the largest grocery retailer in the United States—said it would ban locking up multicultural beauty products.

“We’re sensitive to the issue and understand the concerns raised by our customers and members of the community and have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products—a practice in place in about a dozen of our 4,700 stores nationwide—in locked cases,” the company said in a statement.

“As a retailer serving millions of customers every day from diverse backgrounds, Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

The move comes after KCNC-TV in Denver reported that Walmart was locking up Black beauty products at a location in the city.

Notably, Walmart was sued for discrimination over the practice in 2018. That lawsuit, which claimed that Walmart was implying Black people are more likely to steal, was dropped last year.

Following Walmart’s announcement, both Walgreens and CVS followed suit.

“We are currently ensuring multicultural hair care and beauty products are not stored behind locked cases at any of our stores,” Walgreens said in a statement on Thursday.

“We have a firm nondiscrimination policy that applies to all aspects of our business and our product protection measures have never been based on the race or ethnicity of our customers,” CVS said in a statement on Thursday. 

“After reviewing the security measures we have in place for many different products and categories, we are taking steps in our stores to ensure that no hair, beauty or personal care products for communities of color are kept in locked displays or shelving units,” it added.

CVS went on to note that the company has grown its “textured hair and color categories” by 35% recently. It said it has also added new items and brands targeted towards communities of color. 

Customers Criticize the Practice as Racist

KCNC-TV reported on Walmart locking up Black beauty products after a customer complained of the practice on social media. 

“White privilege also extends to hair care products apparently in Walmart,” that customer, Lauren Epps, says in the video.

“But apparently, the multicultural hair care is all locked behind the glass cause I bet you think we’re just going to run up in here and steal it. That’s so ridiculous.”

Epps later told KCNC-TV that this is just another form of implicit bias people of color face daily. She also said the practice is personally frustrating because it makes it difficult for her to browse and read product descriptions.

In another practice that is not uncommon, Epps said once she selected a product, an sales associate then took it out of the case and put it in another locked case, this one portable. From there, Epps said she left without buying the product.

Epps also criticized Walmart for saying it locks up more expensive products that are prone to higher rates of theft, especially since she said she found more expensive, mainstream hair care products not behind glass.

“They could say these are the most shoplifted items, but you can’t convince me that every single item in there is on their radar,” Epps said. 

Epps is not alone in her criticism. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, a Black digital marketing leader, said she finds it annoying to have to wait for employees to unlock beauty products at certain locations only to find them not locked up in predominantly white neighborhoods. In fact, she said she’s stopped going to stores with such practices in place.

“It sends a message of being prosecuted as soon as you walk in, disrespected and generalized in a way that is psychological troubling because it is based on the race of your skin or where you live and nothing more,” she told the AP.

See what others are saying: (MarketWatch) (The New York Times) (CNN Business)

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Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices

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A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.


As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits

American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.

In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers. 

To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.

But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.

ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.

According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above —  earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.

“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.

Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.

Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices

To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.

In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.” 

The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.

The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.

“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”

“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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