February 8th, 2011
By: Emily Tan
While today’s women are advancing in the workplace and making more money, a new study found that few of them know how to do the same domestic chores their mothers and grandmothers did every day.
Researchers found that only 51 percent of women under 30 knew how to cook a roast while 82 percent of baby boomer females thought it was a cinch. “Women of today tend to be busier, juggling more roles, and are quite prepared to compromise a bit of the homemade just to save some time,” social researcher Mark McCrindle told Australia’s Courier-Mail.
McCrindle also noted that because these women have bigger paychecks, they don’t feel the need to have to bake a cake from scratch or iron their own clothing when instant mixes and dry cleaners are readily available.
“We live in a throw-away culture where, rather than repair something, we will buy a new one, even if it is just a matter of darning holes or sewing on buttons,” he said. “As such, many women have lost these skills. If we do want something repaired, women today are more likely to take it to their local drycleaner because they are busy and can afford it.”
While older generations may find it disheartening to know that their daughters and granddaughters are without these “lady skills,” there are some jobs that research has found women today do more readily than in the past. Over 70 percent of women under 30 admit to taking out the trash, mowing the lawn and washing their own cars.
Which leads us to ask: Why is sewing a button back on still a “lady skill” if we’ve taken over in all of these departments?
October 13th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
For more than a decade, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been conducting bio-monitoring studies to see what types of chemicals people are harboring in their bodies. The most recent report from 2009 shows that there are 212 — and counting — artificial chemicals lodged in human tissues and circulating throughout the blood, many of which are known carcinogens.
Modern society, despite all its conveniences, is a minefield of toxins. Personal care products, food, clothing, furniture, cookware — all these things and more are loaded with harmful chemicals that destroy health. Bisphenol-A (BPA), for instance, is so common in food and beverage containers that most people likely consume more of it on a daily basis than they can expel through urine, which has untold, long-term health consequences.
Earlier this year, NaturalNews highlighted six of the most common chemicals found in the human body today. These include BPA, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOAs), acrylamide, mercury, and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Flame retardant consumer products, non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, gasoline, certain types of food packaging, and even overcooked, heavily-fried foods all contain one or more of these chemicals.
Knowing how much of these chemicals each person has and what effects they have in combination with one another is difficult to ascertain, say scientists, but they recognize that there is a serious problem nonetheless. Either way, the research shows that chemical contamination is far-reaching.
“For the public, I think the basic point is just the understanding that chemicals … in our environment do in fact actually get into your body,” said Dr. John Osterloh, chief medical officer of the CDC’s division of laboratory sciences.
With this in mind, it is vital to take active steps to reduce exposure. Buying organic, avoiding chemical cleaning products, and cooking with stainless steel or cast iron are some examples of a few simple ways to avoid toxic chemical exposure.
July 23, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Miguel Bustillo
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns.
Starting next month, the retailer will place removable “smart tags” on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart’s more than 3,750 U.S. stores.
“This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business,” said Raul Vazquez, the executive in charge of Wal-Mart stores in the western U.S.
Before now, retailers including Wal-Mart have primarily used RFID tags, which store unique numerical identification codes that can be scanned from a distance, to track pallets of merchandise traveling through their supply chains.
Wal-Mart’s broad adoption would be the largest in the world, and proponents predict it would lead other retailers to start using the electronic product codes, which remain costly. Wal-Mart has climbed to the top of the retailing world by continuously squeezing costs out of its operations and then passing on the savings to shoppers at the checkout counter. Its methods are widely adopted by its suppliers and in turn become standard practice at other retail chains.
But the company’s latest attempt to use its influence—executives call it the start of a “next-generation Wal-Mart”—has privacy advocates raising questions.
While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can’t be turned off, and they are trackable. Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers’ homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.
They also worry that retailers will be able to scan customers who carry new types of personal ID cards as they walk through a store, without their knowledge. Several states, including Washington and New York, have begun issuing enhanced driver’s licenses that contain radio- frequency tags with unique ID numbers, to make border crossings easier for frequent travelers. Some privacy advocates contend that retailers could theoretically scan people with such licenses as they make purchases, combine the info with their credit card data, and then know the person’s identity the next time they stepped into the store.
“There are two things you really don’t want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that’s where we are seeing adoption,” said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering and author of a book called “Spychips” that argues against RFID technology. “The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors.”
Smart-tag experts dismiss Big Brother concerns as breathless conjecture, but activists have pressured companies. Ms. Albrecht and others launched a boycott of Benetton Group SpA last decade after an RFID maker announced it was planning to supply the company with 15 million RFID chips.
Benetton later clarified that it was just evaluating the technology and never embedded a single sensor in clothing.
Wal-Mart is demanding that suppliers add the tags to removable labels or packaging instead of embedding them in clothes, to minimize fears that they could be used to track people’s movements. It also is posting signs informing customers about the tags.
“Concerns about privacy are valid, but in this instance, the benefits far outweigh any concerns,” says Sanjay Sarma, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The tags don’t have any personal information. They are essentially barcodes with serial numbers attached. And you can easily remove them.”
In Europe some retailers put the smart labels on hang tags, which are then removed at checkout. That still provides the inventory-control benefit of RFID, but it takes away other important potential uses that retailers and suppliers like, such as being able to track the item all the way back to the point of manufacture in case of a recall, or making sure it isn’t counterfeit.
Wal-Mart won’t say how much it expects to benefit from the endeavor. But a similar pilot program at American Apparel Inc. in 2007 found that stores with the technology saw sales rise 14.3% compared to stores without the technology, according to Avery Dennison Corp., a maker of RFID equipment.
And while the tags wouldn’t replace bulkier shoplifting sensors, Wal-Mart expects they’ll cut down on employee theft because it will be easier to see if something’s gone missing from the back room.
Several other U.S. retailers, including J.C. Penney and Bloomingdale’s, have begun experimenting with smart ID tags on clothing to better ensure shelves remain stocked with sizes and colors customers want, and numerous European retailers, notably Germany’s Metro AG, have already embraced the technology.
Robert Carpenter, chief executive of GS1 U.S., a nonprofit group that helped develop universal product-code standards four decades ago and is now doing the same for electronic product codes, said the sensors have dropped to as little as seven to 10 cents from 50 cents just a few years ago. He predicts that Wal-Mart’s “tipping point” will drive prices lower.
“There are definitely costs. Some labels had to be modified,” said Mark Gatehouse, director of replenishment for Wrangler jeans maker VF Corp., adding that while Wal-Mart is subsidizing the costs of the actual sensors, suppliers have had to invest in new equipment. “But we view this as an investment in where things are going. Everyone is watching closely because no one wants to be at a competitive disadvantage, and this could really lift sales.”
Wal-Mart won’t disclose what it’s spending on the effort, but it confirms that it is subsidizing some of the costs for suppliers.
Proponents, meanwhile, have high hopes for expanded use in the future. Beyond more-efficient recalls and loss prevention, RFID tags could get rid of checkout lines.
“We are going to see contactless checkouts with mobile phones or kiosks, and we will see new ways to interact, such as being able to find out whether other sizes and colors are available while trying something on in a dressing room,” said Bill Hardgrave, head of the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas, which is funded in part by Wal-Mart. “That is where the magic is going to happen. But that’s all years away.”
May 17, 2010
By David Gutierrez
Clothing purchased new off the retail rack may be contaminated with potentially disease-causing organisms from bodily secretions, according to an investigation conducted by “Good Morning America.”
The television program hired microbiologist Philip Tierno of New York University to culture 14 articles clothing purchased from three different high- and low-end chain stores in New York City. Several articles of clothing tested positive for bacteria indicating contamination with feces or other bodily secretions.
“On this black and tan blouse we found representation of respiratory secretions, skin flora, and some fecal flora,” Tierno said.
Another jacket contained similar secretions, especially in the armpit and “buttocks” area, he said. One blouse even contained vaginal organisms and yeast in addition to fecal bacteria.
“Some garments were grossly contaminated with many organisms … indicating that either many people tried it on or … someone tried it on with heavy contamination,” he said.
According to the “Good Morning America” report, the clothing probably became contaminated in changing rooms. Alternately, the supposedly new clothes might have actually been returned items put back on the rack without washing.
“The customer probably gets the wool pulled over their eyes,” said former retail saleswoman Tori Patrick.
“A lot of people just come home and if it has a tag attached, they think it’s brand new and they wear it. You really never know where it’s been.”
According to Tierno, the risk of becoming sick from wearing or trying on such contaminated clothing is rare, but real. Therefore, he recommends that consumers wash all new clothing in hot water or run it through a dryer cycle before wearing.
“In a sense, you are touching somebody’s arm pit or groin,” he said. “So you want to be protected that’s all.
“You may not come down with anything and, most cases you don’t, but it’s potentially possible.”
January 14, 2010
By Martin Crutsinger
Retail sales fell in December as demand for autos, clothing and appliances all slipped, a disappointing finish to a year in which sales had the largest drop on record.
The weakness in consumer demand highlighted the formidable hurdles facing the economy as it struggles to recover from the deepest recession in seven decades.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales declined 0.3 percent in December compared with November, much weaker than the 0.5 percent rise that economists had been expecting. Excluding autos, sales dropped by 0.2 percent, also weaker than the 0.3 percent rise analyst had forecast.
For the year, sales fell 6.2 percent, the biggest decline on records that go back to 1992. The only other year that annual sales fell was in 2008, when they slipped by 0.5 percent.
The 0.3 percent decline in December was the first setback since September, when sales had fallen 2 percent. Sales posted strong gains of 1.2 percent in October and 1.8 percent in November, raising hopes that the consumer is starting to mount a comeback.
Consumer spending is considered critical to any sustained economic revival since consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity.
The December drop in sales was a surprise given that the nation’s big retailers had reported better-than-expected results last week, reflecting a surge of last-minute holiday shopping. But even with the rebound reported by the nation’s biggest chains, these retailers suffered their worst annual performance in more than four decades in 2008, according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The 6.2 percent fall in the government’s retail sales figure is only the second decline on records that go back to 1992. In all other years, even during previous recessions, retail sales, which are not adjusted for inflation, have managed to increase.
For December, sales of autos dropped by 0.8 percent following a 1.2 percent rise in November.
Sales at specialty clothing stores fell by 0.6 percent while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes big retailers such as Wal-Mart, were down by 0.8 percent while sales at department stores were flat.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores dropped by 2.6 percent and sales at hardware stores dropped by 0.4 percent.
The weakness over the year reflected the battering that consumers have taken from the worst recession since the Great Depression, a downturn that has cost 7.2 million jobs and left households trying to rebuild savings depleted by losses on Wall Street and a crash in housing prices.
Economists are worried about consumer spending in the months ahead given their forecasts that unemployment, currently at 10 percent, will keep rising until perhaps midyear.
The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the July-September quarter and many economists believe that growth strengthened even further in the final three months of last year. However, the worry is that GDP will slow significantly in the early part of 2010 unless consumers continue to spend.
For December, a diverse group of retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp., Macy’s Inc. and TJX all reported increases. Luxury stores like Saks Inc. and Nordstrom also saw strong December sales gains and even Sears Holdings posted a small gain on rising sales at its Kmart chain.
Also helping to support retail spending in December was a hint of better days ahead for the battered auto industry. Automakers in the United States ended their worst year in almost three decades in December with slight improvements, led by gains in sales of small cars.