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Former Panda Express Worker Sues After Being Forced To Strip in “Cult Initiation Ritual”

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  • A former Panda Express employee is suing the chain, as well as a seminar company, for allegedly forcing her to strip down to her underwear during a “self-improvement” exercise.
  • Her lawsuit claims that seminar leaders also forced her to hug a man while both were in their underwear, that participants were filmed while in their underwear, and that participants were told to wait quietly in a dark room only to have a man later come in and berate them.
  • Panda Express has distanced itself from the seminar company and denied allegations that employees were required to participate in the seminar to be eligible for promotions. 
  • The seminar company has also since said that it does not work with Panda Express, despite a Facebook post on the company’s page indicating otherwise.

Worker’s Lawsuit Describes Disturbing Seminar

A former Panda Express worker from a store in Santa Clarita, California, is suing after she said she was forced to strip down to her underwear in front of other employees during a 2019 “self-improvement” seminar.

According to the woman’s lawsuit, the on-paper goal of that exercise was for participants to open up to one another about their vulnerabilities “until everyone else in the group ‘believed’ them.”

However, she said seminar staff members — which were employed by the company Alive Seminars, not Panda Express — used the moment to “openly [ogle]” at her and other female participants.

At one point during the exercise, the woman claimed that a male participant, also in his underwear, “had some difficulty ‘convincing’ the others and as a result, broke down in tears.” The lawsuit then alleges that the female employee was forced to “hug it out” with him.

Even though she was humiliated, she said she did so, largely because she had been told that completing this seminar was a pre-requisite for promotion at Panda Express and because she’d already shelled out several hundred dollars just to take the course.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of some of the dark claims laid out in this lawsuit.

During that same exercise, the woman said staff dimmed the lights and instructed participants “to stand up and close their eyes, pretending that a light from above would come down and take all the ‘negative energy’ out of them, then pretend that a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed the “negative energy.”

While this was happening, seminar staff turned a cell phone light on and allegedly used that phone to record the participants. 

During another exercise, participants were allegedly left alone in a room and told not to talk. An hour later, a man stormed in yelling in Spanish while berating the participants for doing nothing — even though they had been told to do just that. 

According to the lawsuit, that man then said the participants were “‘nothing’ and ‘don’t matter,’ rounding on some people to berate them individually, spittle flying.”

The woman filing the suit summed up the seminar as “psychological abuse,” saying it began to look more and more like a “cult initiation ritual as time went on.” In fact, after it, she even quit her job.

Panda Express and Alive Seminars Respond

The woman is suing both Alive Seminars and Panda Express, which she maintains sent her and other employees to the program.  

“Panda Express is on the hook because they were fully aware of what was going on,” her lawyer, Oscar Ramirez, told The Washington Post.

Ramirez also noted that other employees have also since joined in a class-action lawsuit.

Panda Express has distanced itself from Alive Seminars, saying it has no interest in or control over the company. 

A spokesperson has also denied that employees were forced to participate in the seminar in order to be considered for promotions, though he did add that the company is investigating the claims detailed in the lawsuit. 

In an interview with La Magazine, Alive Seminars asserted that it doesn’t work with Panda Express; however, a Facebook post from 2019 heavily seems to contradict that. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (LA Mag) (CBS Los Angeles)

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Amazon UK Destroys Millions in Unsold Stock a Year, Including MacBooks, Face Masks, TVs, and iPads

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Amazon claims the unused products aren’t being dumped in landfills, but an investigation by ITV shows otherwise. 


Amazon Destroying Unused Products

A probe by British news outlet ITV has found that one Amazon warehouse in Scotland destroys millions of unsold products every year.

It’s not just perishable items being dumped. The list of discarded products includes Macbooks, iPads, Dyson fans, unopened face masks, TVs, jewelry, unread books, and more.

One anonymous former employee told ITV that the warehouse’s target was to get rid of roughly 130,000 items per week, and on average, about 50% of the items destroyed are still unused and in their shrinkwrap.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed,” the employee said.

In its investigation, ITV received documents that appeared to back up the employee’s information, with one showing 124,000 items marked to be destroyed in a single week. Meanwhile, ITV noted that only 28,000 items were labelled “donate” during that same week. 

Where Are the Discarded Products Going?

It also tracked where the items went after leaving the plant. There, it found Amazon taking some electrical items to a nearby waste management system, but it says the rest was tracked to a landfill site. 

Despite that, in a statement, Amazon told ITV, “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products. No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.” 

Whether it’s telling the truth or not, what Amazon is doing isn’t illegal. In fact, the reason why it’s throwing so much out seems to be connected to its highly successful business model.

“Many vendors choose to house their products in Amazon’s vast warehouses,” ITV explained. “But the longer the goods remain unsold, the more a company is charged to store them. It is eventually cheaper to dispose of the goods, especially stock from overseas, than to continue storing the stock.”

Climate Concerns

As climate activist Sam Chetan-Welsh told ITV, “It’s just an unimaginable amount of unnecessary waste. It’s absolutely shocking. Each of these items requires natural resources and carbon emissions and human labor to make.”

“That is why as long as Amazon’s business model relies on this kind of disposable culture, they’re just going to expand, things are only going to get worse, and that is why we need the government to step in and set legislation immediately.” 

The report has raised questions about how prevalent this destruction practice is and continues to be at other warehouses — especially given past reporting. In fact, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “It sounds incredible to me and an indictment of a consumerist society. If it’s as you say, we will look into it.” 

“Obviously, we don’t like stuff going to landfill under any circumstances that’s why we have the landfill tax and landfill credit scheme, and everything else,” the prime minister added. “I’m afraid it’s one of those things we’re just going to have to look into and get back to you.”

See what others are saying: (ITV) (CNET) (The Verge)

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Europe’s Soccer Championship Ends Investigation Into Whether Player’s Rainbow Armband Is “Political”

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The Union of European Football Associations will continue a probe into potential discrimination at its matches in Hungary, which passed a major anti-LGBTQ+ bill last week.


Pride Armband Isn’t Political, UEFA Says

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has agreed that a rainbow armband worn by German soccer player Manuel Neuer is not political in nature, according to the German Football Association (GFA).

Neuer wore the band at two official matches during UEFA’s Euro 2020 Championship and once during a friendly match with Latvia to show support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month.

Sunday, multiple outlets reported that UEFA was investigating Neuer’s armband as potentially political, possibly because LGBTQ+ rights have become somewhat of a flashpoint topic since the start of the tournament. Since UEFA does not allow players and teams to participate in “political demonstrations” at events, there were concerns the GFA could be hit with a fine. 

Later Sunday, the GFA said UEFA would consider the armband “a sign of support for diversity and thus for ‘good cause,’” and because of that, the team would not face any disciplinary action.

Discrimination Investigation at Hungary Games

The same day outlets reported the investigation into Neuer’s armband, they also reported that UEFA was investigating two matches in Hungary for potential discrimination.

At the first match, an anti-LGBTQ+ banner was spotted in the crowd. At the second, Hungarian fans marched with banners that called on players to stop kneeling to protest racism. 

Both events come as Hungary passed a bill against “LGBT propaganda” last week. Notably, that law bans the promotion or portrayal of homosexuality and gender reassignment. 

In protest of Hungary’s new law, Munich’s mayor has asked the UEFA to allow the city to light up its stadium in rainbow colors on Wednesday when the German and Hungarian teams square off.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (The Athletic) (Mirror)

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Initial Unemployment Claims See First Rise Since April as Fed Estimates Faster Inflation Growth Than Previously Predicted

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The Fed also announced that it expects to raise interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than its previous prediction.


Unemployment Claims Rise

The Labor Department reported Thursday that, for the first time in nearly two months, weekly initial unemployment claims increased.

For the week ending on June 12, 412,000 people filed first-time claims. That’s an increase of 37,000 from the previous week’s estimate of 375,000. It’s also the highest that new claims have been in a month. 

Still, there are positive signs that the labor market is improving. For example, while last week’s continuing claims were largely unchanged from the previous week, the four-week moving average for continuing claims fell to its lowest level since March 2020. 

The Federal Reserve is also optimistic about the labor market eventually returning to form despite the country still being short 7 million jobs. Following a two-day meeting, the central bank predicted that the unemployment rate could fall back to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. 

It also expects economic growth to hit 7% this year, up from the 6.5% it predicted in March. 

Inflation Will Grow Faster Than Expected

At its meeting, the Fed said it now believes inflation will climb higher than it had previously estimated just three months ago. In March, it predicted inflation would rise about 2.4% this year. As of Wednesday, it’s expecting a 3.4% jump. 

That comes on the heels of a report from the Labor Department last week that indicated consumer prices climbed at their fastest rate since 2008 year-over-year in May. Like economists explained then, the Fed said it expects this rise in consumer prices to be temporary.

While the Fed expects the prices for some goods and services to continue to increase over the next few months because of issues such as supply bottlenecks, it also said it believes the labor market will continue to grow since the economy is finally coming out of its massive, pandemic-induced downturn in spending.

Still, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Wednesday, “Shifts in demand can be large and rapid. Inflation could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expect.”

Powell added that the central bank will keep a close eye on inflation and that it would respond quickly if inflation becomes broader or more persistent than current estimates. 

Interest Rates Stay at Historic Lows… For Now

Among other key points from the Fed’s meeting was its decision to move up a projection for an initial interest rate hike from 2024 to 2023. Notably, it also said there could be two rate hikes in 2023. 

That then caused some major stock indices like the Dow Jones to initially stumble, though the markets were more mixed Thursday. That’s likely at least partially because the Fed kept internet rates near a historically low zero for the time being, as expected.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fl.), have argued that the 2023 projection is too slow, saying interest rates need to go up sooner to prevent inflation from rising too much. 

In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the inflation situation is being monitored “very, very carefully” and that while prices are rising, they’re also moving back toward “normal” levels. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (ABC News)

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