‘Candy should not be more important than our lives’: Mars Wrigley warehouse workers are calling for safe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mars Wrigley Candy Health Safety
Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley's warehouse.
  • Workers at an Illinois distribution center for candy maker Mars Wrigley have been demanding the company provide hazard pay and improve safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Mars Wrigley produces popular candies like Twix, Skittles, and M&Ms. Ahead of this Halloween, the National Confectioners Association reported a 25% increase in chocolate sales.
  • Michael Samuel, a former worker at the Mars warehouse in Illinois, told Business Insider supervisors reprimanded him for taking extra time to wipe down equipment. Samuel helped get 100 signatures in a petition for safer working conditions before being fired on October 1, he said.
  • Mars declined to comment on the claims regarding working conditions in its Joliet, Illinois, warehouse because it said the workers are employed by third-party firms XPO Logistics and DHL. 
  • "They are not employed by Mars Incorporated," said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars, regarding Samuel and his colleagues. 
  • DHL refuted "any allegations of unfair labor practices," but declined to comment further due to an ongoing NLRB complaint regarding the Joliet warehouse. XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company's "primary focus is the health and safety of our employees."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Michael Samuel said he used to spend 10 hours a day, seven days a week loading trucks with popular Halloween candy like Snickers, M&M's, and Twix — until October 1, when he was fired from his job at a Mars Wrigley distribution center. 

Samuel, 45, said he joined the Mars distribution center near Chicago in 2017 as a forklift operator, having been hired through the logistics firm DHL. 

Samuel was part of a group of workers from the warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, organizing to demand hazard pay and better working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential employees of many large companies have fought for better benefits since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.

As shoppers are set to spend $8 million on Halloween this year, including 25% more on candy purchases than in recent years, some workers warn of a nightmare within the Mars distribution center.

Samuel said he had been reprimanded by supervisors for taking bathroom breaks to wash his hands and spending extra time wiping down equipment. 

protest mars wrigley
Mars Wrigley workers demonstrate outside company headquarters on September 4.

Because logistics companies DHL and XPO Logistics hired all workers in the Illinois warehouse where Samuel worked, Mars declined to comment on the claims detailed in this story. "They are not employed by Mars Incorporated," said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars. A DHL spokesperson said the firm refutes "any allegations of unfair labor practices," and XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company's "primary focus is the health and safety of our employees."

But Samuel said after his experience working at the Mars plant, he'll be buying candy from someplace else.

"You cannot find a better worker that was dedicated, came in every day, put my life in danger every day," Samuel told Business Insider. "Candy should not be more important than our lives."

Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley warehouse 

Mars Wrigley Candy Health Safety

Samuel said problems at the Mars Wrigley warehouse in Joliet began in March.

When the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in the US, the federal government shut down businesses except for those deemed "essential," which included manufacturing plants and transportation operations. Samuel and his colleagues at the distribution center continued to go to work, risking exposure to the virus.

Samuel said he and other workers felt Mars did not do enough to keep them from contracting the virus. He said they initially did not receive masks to wear, and that the company did not offer hazard pay. Samuel said he made $16.30 an hour at the distribution center.

A DHL spokesperson said the company provided $350 to all frontline workers in September 2020.

Sandy Moreno and Tommy Carden, representatives for Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), began organizing with Samuel and others at the Mars warehouse in May. Moreno and Carden said DHL told workers to use vacation time to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 at the warehouse. DHL said there was a "low number" of positive COVID-19 cases in the Joliet warehouse, but did not disclose the total number of cases.

DHL, which has a contract with Mars, employed Samuel and other workers who load and ship candy, per WWJ. But some warehouse employees are employed by XPO Logistics, a transportation company that also has a contract with Mars. Ninety percent of US Fortune 500 companies sought assistance from at least one third-party logistics provider as of 2017, according to supply chain consultancy Armstrong & Associates.

In the past, some large companies that use third-party companies to staff factories and warehouses have distanced themselves from contract workers when facing criticism. After a contractor died making chocolate for Hershey in 2009, for instance, the US federal government didn't cite the large brand for his death because it didn't technically employ him. 

Carden said Mars has put responsibility for not meeting safety requirements on DHL and XPO Logistics, even though Samuel and his colleagues performed work for Mars. 

"Although Mars can throw up their hands here, they are effectively hiding behind their contractors," Carden said. "This is Mars Wrigley candy going through this warehouse at one of the most critical points in their supply chain, and Mars has the power to stop the retaliation and ensure that the workers' basic demands for safety are met."

WWJ helped Mars workers write a petition addressed to Mars, as well as DHL and XPO Logistics, asking for paid sick leave during mandated COVID-19 quarantine, hazard pay, more protective equipment like masks, and adequate sanitation. 

Samuel and some other warehouse workers began circulating the petition addressed to Mars, XPO Logistics, and DHL in May. He helped to get over 100 signatures.

"A lot of people look up to me because I'm a very positive guy," he said. "Once I got the petition moving, people wanted to sign the petition. Because they know if I believe in it, and I'm not scared or worried about it, they're going to follow me." 

Mars Wrigley Candy Health Safety

In mid-July, the group of workers handed the petition to a general manager of DHL who worked with the Joliet plant, but DHL handed the petition back to workers the next day. DHL did not comment on the petition.

The group has since held multiple virtual press conferences and protests outside Mars headquarters. The petition, now open to the public, has more than 2,000 signatures

Moreno said the company began intimidating workers who were active in circulating the petition. Raise the Floor, a low-wage worker advocacy group in the Chicago area, has filed four complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against XPO Logistics and DHL claiming they retaliated against employees who worked at the Mars warehouse and signed the petition. Neither XPO or DHL commented on the NLRB complaints.

In Samuel's case, he said he was fired. On October 1, after working a 10-hour shift, Samuel said his managers called him into their office to tell him he'd been let go. He was terminated, they told him, for not wearing his mask when talking to another colleague at the warehouse. DHL did not comment on Samuel's termination.

Samuel didn't buy it. "If you review the cameras, I wear my mask every day, all day, for the whole day," he said. 

Still, Samuel said he handed in his badge, got his bag, and left in silence. 

Mars' sour history with labor issues

The Mars family, America's third-richest family dynasty, has amassed an $89.7 billion fortune. Frank Mars founded the private company, worth around $37 billion according to Forbes, in 1911 selling hand-dipped chocolate from his Tacoma, Washington, kitchen. 

Mars's empire expanded in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis with the help of fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, who helped orchestrate a deal that allowed Mars to buy out his stake in Wrigley, the chewing gum maker. Buffett had pocketed $6.5 billion from the deal by 2016.

mars family
The Mars family is worth an estimated $89.7 billion. Pictured: Jacqueline Mars and granddaughters.

Mars has made billionaires out of a handful of Americans in its 100-year history — but along the way, some people that make the candy said the job wasn't so sweet. 

Mars and other US chocolate makers' use of African child labor within the cocoa supply chain created an uproar after a report from the BBC in 2000 documented the use of child slave labor on cocoa farms sourced by Mars and other big US confectioners. After the high profile investigation, Mars vowed to eradicate use of child labor completely.

However, The Washington Post reported in 2019 the company continues to source from farms that use child labor. In general, child labor continues to be an issue in West Africa, as the Department of Labor recently determined the prevalence of child labor and hazardous child labor in the region's cocoa sector has gone up by 14% in the last 10 years.

Mars chairman Stephan Badger told Business Insider's Cadie Thompson in 2018 the company, which has not gone public and has no plans to do so, agreed to become more transparent, in part to address "labor issues" in its supply chain.

"Child labor has no place in the cocoa supply chain which is why Mars Wrigley has committed $1 billion USD as part of its Cocoa for Generations strategy to help fix a broken supply chain," Mars Wrigley said in a statement to Business Insider.

Mars's website lists four actions the company is taking to reduce child labor in its supply chain, including sourcing from plants that implement Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems, or CLMRS. The company also committed to increase access to education for women and children in areas it sources cacao from.

But Charity Ryerson, the executive director and founder of the Corporate Accountability Lab, told Business Insider that tribal leaders and farmers at cacao growing villages in Cote d'Ivoire told her agency they had not been impacted by corporate social programs touted by Mars and other candy makers. Ryerson said Mars does not clearly indicate how many of the farms it sources from have protections against child labor.

"Corporate social responsibility representation should be assessed by impact, and not by commitments or public claims, because that is not actual responsibility," said Ryerson. "That is PR."

Mars workers are planning to spook the company on Halloween 

mars wrigley protest
Mars Wrigley workers hold a press conference on October 27

Today, the battle to get hazard pay for the Mars distribution center workers continues, but without Samuel leading the charge. 

The federal government had proposed federal hazard pay for essential workers in March, but it never materialized as Democrats and Republicans could not reach a consensus on how much to offer.

"These workers are taking on a greater risk for wages that did not incorporate that risk when they were hired," said Pamela Meyerhofe, a post-doctoral researcher at Montana State University who has studied the demographics of COVID-19 frontline workers.

Sophia Zaman, executive director of Raise the Floor, told Business Insider her group is pushing for a statewide just-cause campaign that would make it harder for DHL and other firms to fire workers like Samuel. Montana is currently the only state that demands employers have a "good cause," or proven work-related reason that "disrupts" business operations, before firing, NOLO states.

Zaman said the company should offer hazard pay and additional safety requirements before Halloween, when candy sales boost Mars' bottom line. This year Mars could benefit more than ever, as the National Confectioners Association reported a 25% increase in Halloween chocolate sales in 2020, per The Washington Post

"We shouldn't be fired for demanding quarantine pay, these are just basic protections and benefits that many of us have and should be in place for a candy company that's owned by the richest family in the world," Zaman said. "In anticipation of their most profitable day of the year, Mars Wrigley certainly has the resources to offer these benefits."

Current and former Mars workers and Warehouse Workers for Justice will host a "Halloween action" on October 31 in front of the company's headquarters in Chicago.

Samuel said he will continue to be a "big voice" outside of Mars by advocating for his former colleagues to get better workplace protections.

But first, Samuel said he's on a much-needed vacation.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The UK privacy watchdog’s ruling against Experian is a warning to data brokers that hoover up personal details

analyst data charts
  • The ICO served credit agency Experian with an enforcement notice, ordering it to change the way it handles its data broking business.
  • Data broking is the process of companies acquiring people's data, assigning it to a profiled dataset, and then selling it on to marketers.
  • The ICO's decision has the potential to significantly disrupt the way data brokers are able to acquire and share people's data en masse.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Credit agency Experian got slapped on Tuesday with an enforcement notice from the UK's data watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The notice informed Experian that it will have to "make fundamental changes to how it handles people's personal data" because of its business as a data broker.

The enforcement notice is the culmination of a two-year investigation, which was sparked by a 2018 complaint from digital rights nonprofit Privacy International.

Although it doesn't come with an immediate fine – Experian has nine months to comply or face a penalty of up to £20 million ($25.7 million) – it has the potential to significantly shape the future how companies hoover up, package, and sell on your personal data in future.

What are data brokers?

Due to Facebook, Google, and Amazon taking up headline space on stories about hoovering up your digital footprints, data brokers such as Experian  tend to fly under the radar.

They are, however, an integral part of the adtech economy, as they do a huge amount of the legwork that lets companies microtarget you with ads.

It works like this: data brokers assimilate vast amounts of people's personal data. They they then place you in distinct profile "sets", which can be sold on and used to target digital marketing at you. These profile sets are then sold on to the marketing companies that deploy them.

Caroline Wilson Palow, legal director and general counsel at Privacy International, told Business Insider: "That data then becomes the basis of how those businesses choose to advertise to you on a platform like Facebook, when they're bringing that data into Facebook, as opposed to using Facebook's [own] data," Caroline Wilson Palow, Legal Director and General Counsel at Privacy International, told Business Insider."

The names of some of these profile sets, which were unearthed in Privacy International's original 2018 complaint (page 56), offers some insight into the assumptions Experian makes about people using categories such as their age, income bracket, and internet usage.

Examples include: "Uptown Elite," "Bank of Mum and Dad," "Classic Grandparents," "Childcare Squeeze," and "Asian Heritage" (which Experian describes as "Large extended families in neighborhoods with a strong South Asian tradition").

A "serious breach" of people's rights

Although the ICO's enforcement notice was focused on Experian, it highlighted what the watchdog views as serious problems with the data broking industry. This is namely that it acquires and passes on people's data without enough checks and balances, nor without obtaining proper consent.

The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said in a statement: "The data broking sector is a complex ecosystem where information appears to be traded widely, without consideration for transparency, giving millions of adults in the UK little or no choice or control over their personal data. The lack of transparency and lack of lawful bases combined with the intrusive nature of the profiling has resulted in a serious breach of individuals' information rights." 

Palow added that from a privacy perspective, data brokers pose a particularly large threat because they are generally opaque organisations that people aren't aware of in their daily lives.

"It's [a] lack of transparency and the fact that they're not household names that make them such a big problem," she said. "People just don't understand that they're collecting their data and that that data collection can have such major impacts on their lives."

Facebook and Google are more transparent in the sense that most people know about them, she added. "They expect that they do have their data."

mark zuckerberg facebook
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Another cause for concern is that data brokers are no longer just selling people's data on to advertisers. As Palow notes: "We know that data brokers' data has fed into how political campaigns decide who to target and even how to craft their messages [...] even more troubling now it's started to be used in some cases by law enforcement." Police can glean facial recognition data from data brokers, she adds.

What will the new ruling change?

The first part of the ICO's ruling orders Experian to inform people that it has their data, and to tell them exactly how it plans to use it or sell it on for marketing purposes.

The ruling could also set a precedent by stopping companies from taking data from a different part of their business and quietly selling it on as data brokers.

Another significant part of the ICO order means that from January 2021, Experian won't be allowed to take data from the credit referencing side of its business and fold that into its data broking business.

Palow said this is significant, because people who give their data over to Experian to get a mortgage or a credit card don't realise it could then be repurposed for data brokerage.

The ICO also found Experian was buying up data from other sources, for example other data brokers, without obtaining sufficient consent from people – i.e. they had no say in whether that data could be sold on to Experian.

Experian is appealing against the ICO's decision so there's a chance it could weaken the enforcement notice, but it's still got huge potential to set the tone for how governments rein in data brokers.

Palow is encouraged by the ICO's decision. She said: "I think that the enforcement notice is pretty powerful." She believes it could set a good international precedent, which is essential given that data brokerage is rapidly expanding in many countries.

"They [data brokers] are based all around the world because I think a lot of companies are seeing that this is quite big business now, to collect the data in all its forms," she added.

The ICO's findings were an interpretation of GDPR, Europe's strict overarching data protection laws, which came into force in 2018. This means they have the potential to quickly set an international precedent within Europe.

If similar rulings start to snowball elsewhere in the world, it might not be long before smaller, little-known data brokers face the same intense scrutiny reserved for the likes of the big tech platforms.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A government watchdog says White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spent campaign funds on personal expenditures

meadows
  • The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said in a complaint Friday that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows allegedly misused campaign funds by spending them on personal expenditures.
  • The watchdog group is urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate Meadows.
  • The FEC prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. 
  • CREW found that Meadows' campaign dropped thousands of dollars on cupcakes, restaurants, jewelry, and business at Trump-owned establishments.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A government watchdog is calling for an investigation into White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after accusing him of misusing thousands of dollars in campaign funds. 

Nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint Friday that alleges Meadows spent campaign funds on personal expenses. Salon first reported the news. 

The complaint asks the Federal Election Commission to "impose sanctions appropriate to these violations and take such further action as may be appropriate, including, but not limited to, referring this case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution."

CREW identified personal expenditures made by Meadows' campaign after the White House staffer formally resigned from Congress. Meadows joined the White House in March. 

On the same day as Meadows' official resignation from Congress, his campaign spent $2,650 on jewelry in Washington, the complaint says. The campaign continued to use its funds after the former representative announced his retirement from Congress, spending over $6,500 at various restaurants and establishments — including at the Trump International Hotel.

The campaign also racked up charges in groceries and "a cupcakery," according to the complaint, and paid a field representative at least $5,800 despite an announcement from Meadows that he would no longer run for re-election. 

"One of the clearest rules in campaign finance is you can't spend your campaign's finances on yourself," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. "That is what it looks like happened here, and it must be thoroughly investigated."

Rules from the Federal Election Commission, the regulatory agency that oversees campaign finance law in the United States, specify that candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use. The FEC defines any personal expenditure as one "used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign or individual's duties as a holder of Federal office."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The "timing and circumstances surrounding the expenditures make them unlikely to be legitimate campaign expenses, raising serious questions about whether Meadows and Meadows for Congress violated legal prohibitions against converting campaign funds for personal use," the CREW complaint says.

The allegations come months after Meadows' former colleague, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, said he would plead guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds. Hunter and his wife were charged with more than 60 criminal counts of campaign finance violations. He is now serving a prison sentence. 

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Global Cloud Email Security Software Market Development Report: Current Growth, Size, New Technology, Demand, Sharp Details and Future Prospects by 2026 – TechnoWeekly

Global Cloud Email Security Software Market Development Report: Current Growth, Size, New Technology, Demand, Sharp Details and Future Prospects by 2026  TechnoWeekly

Global Cloud Email Security Software Market Development Report: Current Growth, Size, New Technology, Demand, Sharp Details and Future Prospects by 2026 – TechnoWeekly

Global Cloud Email Security Software Market Development Report: Current Growth, Size, New Technology, Demand, Sharp Details and Future Prospects by 2026  TechnoWeekly

We need to abolish America’s prison system. Here’s how we can do it.

Inside US prisons
Inmates walk around a gymnasium where they are housed due to overcrowding at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino, California, June 3, 2011.
  • For Black and brown Americans, the prison system in the United States is ripe with false incarcerations and oppresive sentences.
  • This system cannot be fair, and should be abolished. While this may seem impossible, it is important to think big in order to reshape society.
  • Instead, we should create a system that focuses on rehabilitation and restorative justice.
  • Ashish Prashar is the Sr. Director of Global Communications for Publicis Sapient.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

Imagine a world without prisons. For millions of Black and brown Americans, this radical imagination is urgent and necessary. Prison has been a blight on their lives for generations, reaching back to the 13th Amendment, which freed their enslaved ancestors in the 19th century.

The world is now seeing in stark relief the result of 150 years of a poisonous criminal justice system. We know that if we were to cut the current prison population in half but keep the prison-industrial complex intact, we would still be consigning millions of people to isolation and violence. We can't abide this inhumanity.

Prison and police abolitionists are calling for a fundamental shift in thinking, approach and design. While complete elimination of the current justice system can't be done in one fell swoop, there are steps that can put us on that path. 

The majority of the reasons for incarceration are false, oppressive or due to societal deprivation. Survival and care for one's family and identity can push us over the line. Take Cyntoia Brown, a victim of human and sex trafficking, who shot and killed her abuser. She deserved far more understanding of the context of her situation than a life sentence in prison. After a letter-writing and legal campaign, her sentence was commuted last year, after she served 15 years. 

The work of abolitionists is to reveal the fundamental problems with the prison system and imagine a different structure-- one that is predicated on restoration and healing. Instead of beginning with punishment, we begin with care.

Redesign for rehabilitation 

In a system designed for rehabilitation, the restriction of personal liberty is the punishment. Remove no other rights. Therefore, life inside prison must resemble the best version of life outside, and prisoners should serve their sentence at the lowest possible security level. Any deviation from this requires a compelling reason; justification is required to deny a person their rights, not to grant them.

The more institutionalized a system, the harder it is for incarcerated people to thrive when released. Therefore, instead of keeping people in stasis, let's design a journey of ever-expanding freedoms, so when the sentence ends, inmates can step back fully into freedom. 

No further sentence, written or unwritten, should be imposed exceeding the loss of liberty. This includes the withholding of medical treatment, privacy, food and water, solitary confinement, or any other abuse. In practice, this means providing critical non-security services to incarcerated people using local and municipal – non-correctional – service providers. Prisons do not have staff for medical, education, employment, clerical, or library services; these are imported from the local community and overseen by local governments. Incarcerated people also have normal contact with community members and organizations while in prison. As a result, continuation of care and services after release can be easy, while community perceptions of incarcerated people will improve – enabling their reintegration. In this system, once a sentence is served, the debt to society is paid: previously incarcerated people can move freely, without prejudice. 

How do we reduce the prison population in the US?

About 40% of the incarcerated population doesn't present a public safety concern, according to a 2016 Brennan Center for Justice report.  If we commit to a restorative system instead of a punitive one, there is opportunity for fundamental change and community-based alternatives to incarceration and detention. 

Let's begin with three policies already in play, which fully embraced could redefine criminal justice: restorative justice, misdemeanor reform and legislation that would eliminate punishment for parole violations.

Restorative justice, not punitive justice

Restorative justice focuses on the relationship between the offender and the victim and centers the survivors' needs in ways the traditional court system does not.

Youth courts use programs like these, such as the Red Hook Community Justice Center, Harlem Community Justice Center and the Impact Justice's Restorative Justice Project. The work interrupts the cycle of offending, repairs harm caused to the victim and the community and incorporates restorative healing circles.

Restorative programs have higher survivor satisfaction rates than punitive systems. Programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion in Seattle are also important. The program joins civilians with  police to divert offenders to needed resources without making an arrest. 

Misdemeanor reforms

Misdemeanors vary in severity from jaywalking to unpaid parking tickets and third-degree assault. While the latter may need stronger consequences, facing jail time for not being able to pay a moving violation or jaywalking isn't just. Misdemeanors make the U.S. criminal justice system a profit center, consisting of 80% of state criminal dockets, putting throngs of people in U.S. jails and prisons and providing millions of dollars for city and state governments.

Don't eliminate misdemeanor sanctions, but enforce appropriate consequences for offenses rather than disproportionate punishments.

Don't arrest for parole violations

Passing legislation that would eliminate parole violations would go a long way toward keeping people out of prisons and jails.

New York City's Less is More Act is an example. The act, if passed, would eliminate technical parole violations. The state's taxpayers spent millions of dollars last year incarcerating people for technical parole violations. New York wouldn't be alone in this. After South Carolina adopted sanctions — which included disciplinary actions outside of incarceration — violations decreased and recidivism dropped. 

Committing to restorative justice, implementing these reforms and other changes will focus the justice system on in the principle of care. 

Do not stop at the prison walls

We can't stop at the prison walls. The aim should be to reshape our society as a whole. We are not doing enough to address the root causes of the prison cycle: poverty, addiction, homelessness, mental-health issues, harsh fines and debt regulation and heavy-handed drug laws. This is one of the key differences between reform and abolitionism: The former deals with pain management and the latter with the actual source of the pain.

The Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic has taught us that we're all in this together, allowing us to explore building a new care-based reality. People are flexing their visionary skills and imagination, something we're often kept from in our society.

We need a vision—that drives better structures: a future in which vital needs like housing, education, and health care are met, allowing people to live big, beautiful,  fulfilled lives—with not a prison in sight.

Ashish Prashar is a justice reform campaigner, who sits on the Board of Exodus Transitional Community, Getting Out and Staying Out, Leap Confronting Conflict and the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice and is a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 haunted houses that were once worth over $1 million

pillars estate
The Pillars Estate in Albion, New York.

One of the most common horror movie plotlines involves innocent folks believing they're getting an incredible deal on a new home, only to discover the place is haunted. However, what if that were to happen in real life?

Many homes are made only more valuable due to their haunted reputations. Some haunted houses have become tourist attractions or even the subjects of big Hollywood horror franchises, attracting fans from across the world to their doors. However, other haunted houses have only been sold after dramatic price cuts. 

We consulted Zillow records to determine the price history of some of America's most notorious haunted houses. While they were all priced at more than $1 million at one point, they are all now worth considerably less, either due to changing housing markets, dilapidation, or perhaps even paranormal occurrences scaring away buyers. 

Here are seven haunted houses that were once listed for millions, but are now worth much less. 

The Amityville Horror House in Long Island, New York, has a reputation for being extremely haunted.
amityville horror home
The Amityville Horror House in Long Island, New York.

Popularly known as the Amityville Horror House, 112 Ocean Avenue still stands and is remembered as the site of a mass murder in which six people were killed. According to Biography, on the night of November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald J. DeFeo Jr. shot and murdered his entire family while they slept. Those murdered included DeFeo's two parents and his four siblings. 

A little over a year after the murders, the Lutz family purchased the home for a reduced price of $80,000, on account of the house's sinister reputation. They only lasted 28 days before moving out of the house, citing paranormal happenings like strange odors, green slime oozing out of the walls and keyholes, and cold spots appearing throughout the house.

Stepfather George Lutz also reported waking up at 3:15 a.m. every night, around the time DeFeo carried out the murders. Perhaps the strangest and most terrifying instances of all, the family claimed wife Kathy and sons Daniel and Christopher levitated off their beds.

The home, which underwent renovations and an address change in order to deter investigators or horror fans from visiting the property, was listed for $1.15 million in 2010. However, it sold for $950,000. In 2017, it sold for $605,000. It has been repeatedly cited as one of the most haunted places in America

Charming Forge Mansion in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, has reportedly been the site of multiple paranormal occurrences.
Charming Forge Mansion
Charming Forge Mansion in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania.

Built in 1784 and restored in 1994, this Georgian-style mansion has seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, seven working fireplaces, and original Colonial-era details and woodwork. 

Described by Realtor.com as the perfect home for "thrill-seekers," the Charming Forge Mansion in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, has been the site of multiple reported paranormal occurrences. Ghost stories include reports of a woman heard crying in the hallways, sightings of a man in the house's backyard, and various noises reportedly sounding like German prisoners of war circa the American Revolution. 

The mansion was originally listed for $2,500,000 in 2009 but has been on and off the market for the past ten years. Its most recent listing was for $695,000 but it sold for $650,000 in 2019, according to Zillow. 

Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Ohio, has a seriously spooky history.
Franklin's Castle
Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Ohio.

Considered one of the most haunted places in Ohio, Franklin Castle in Cleveland has quite the paranormal history. According to Atlas Obscura, the Victorian-style home was originally built in the 1880s by grocer-turned-banker Hannes Tiedemann. Many of Tiedemann's close relatives died in the house, including his 15-year-old daughter, his mother, his wife, and three other of his infant children. 

After Tiedemann died in 1908, it spent many years as a German cultural center and base for the German Socialist Party. However, throughout the 1960s, tales surfaced of paranormal activity within the castle walls. Visitors have claimed they've experienced electrical surges, heard crying babies, and even saw a mysterious woman emerging from black steam.

According to Cleveland.com, rumors of heinous acts, like multiple murders and a mass shooting motivated by Nazi politics in the basement, have emerged. However, many of these claims are unsubstantiated. Regardless, people have claimed to see apparitions such as Tiedemann's illegitimate daughter, who is rumored to have been hanged by her father, and his mistress, who he also allegedly killed with an axe. 

In early 1984, Michael DeVinko, an actor and the last husband of Judy Garland, purchased Franklin Castle. DeVinko spent close to $1 million renovating Franklin Castle before selling, according to Cleveland.com. However, fires occurred over the years that damaged the home. In 2011, it only sold for a mere $260,000, down from its $350,000 selling price in 1999. The home has since been converted into apartments.

The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the most notoriously haunted homes in the country.
LaLaurie Mansion
The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Located at 1140 Royal St in New Orleans, Louisiana, the LaLaurie Mansion has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and one horrifying history. Originally built for visiting French royalty, the mansion dates back to the 1800s.

According to New Orleans Historical, in 1832, Madame Delphine LaLaurie moved into the mansion. Many lavish parties were thrown in the residence, and LaLaurie established herself as a member of New Orleans' elite class. However, rumors and accusations surfaced of LaLaurie's mistreatment of her slaves.

When a fire broke out at the residence in 1834, firefighters attempting to contain the blaze discovered "seven horribly mutilated slaves who had been imprisoned in the house for some time," according to Atlas Obscura. An angry mob descended on the house, destroying as much as they could get their hands on. Madame LaLaurie then fled to Paris, where she lived out the rest of her days. 

The house is still featured on many New Orleans ghost tours, as people speculate the souls of the slaves mistreated within its walls still haunt the premises. However, no one is allowed inside as the home is now a private residence. 

Zillow values the property at an estimated $910,527, compared to its $2,100,000 selling price in 2010.

The Pillars Estate in Albion, New York, was once worth millions.
pillars estate
The Pillars Estate in Albion, New York.

The Pillars Estate in Albion, New York, was built in 1878 and has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, and many antique and original details that seemingly transport you back in time to another era.

According to Realtor.com, members of the household staff have said they've heard footsteps following them as they walk up the stairs. Cora Goyette, hired by owner Tony McMurtrie to help him care for the historic home he bought in 2006, claims to have heard the piano located in the parlor being played when no one was in the room. Apparitions like a woman in a white dress have also been spotted by McMurtrie throughout the house.

In 2015, the Pillars Estate was listed for $1,000,000. However, the price of the home has lowered over the years. In July 2020, the home sold for $450,000.

The Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas, has been investigated by multiple ghost hunters.
Sallie House
The Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas.

According to a post by Visit Atchison, one residence in the small Kansas town has quite the paranormal reputation. Built around the 1900s, the home served as the place of business for an Atchison physician.

According to legend, a 6-year-old girl was brought to the doctor's office, believed to be experiencing appendicitis. The doctor reportedly began operating on the young girl before the anesthesia took full effect. She died on the operating table, and her spirit is said to haunt the house, reportedly causing strange scratches to appear on visitors' bodies, objects to move, unexplained fires, and cold spots being felt in what used to be the operating room. 

The home's listing on Zillow actually calls attention to the home's ghostly reputation, saying it "is the internationally known home of Sallie the Heartland ghost," and that the home has a "record of $400 per night with word of mouth only," inciting potential owners to actually rent out the house to investigators and fans of the paranormal.

In February 2016, it was listed for $1,000,000. By August of that same year, the asking price had lowered to $499,900. In November 2017, the three-bedroom, two-bath residence went off the market. However, visitors are able to take self-guided tours or even stay a night in the Sallie House in the hope of catching a real ghost on tape.

Highland Cottage in Ossining, New York once served as a mental hospital.
squire house google maps
Highland Cottage (The Squire House) in Ossining, New York.

The Highland Cottage, or Squire House, has quite the eerie history. Built as a single-family home in 1872, the Swiss-inspired home has been owned by multiple people over the years. The estate is located in Ossining, New York, home to the infamous Sing Sing prison.

In 1905, the home was bought by Sing Sing's chief physician, Dr. Amos Osborne Squire, who reportedly witnessed more than 138 executions during his time working at the prison. Around 1912, Squire converted the home into a privately run mental institution, giving the home a creepy and even haunted reputation, according to local legend.

The extravagant and beautifully constructed home was once listed for $1.25 million but sold in 2018 for $925,000.

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President Trump has a plan to continue holding rallies after Election Day, says report

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President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Rochester International Airport October 30, 2020 in Rochester, Minnesota.
  • President Donald Trump might continue holding campaign rallies after Election Day if no winner is declared on election night, campaign officials told Politico. 
  • The president's rallies are at the heart of his political brand, and he has continued to hold them throughout his presidency. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump could continue holding campaign rallies after Election Day if no winner is immediately declared, Politico reported. 

Trump campaign surrogates have been told to keep their diaries clear after November 3, reported the outlet. It cited two campaign officials and a surrogate who said it was a real possibility that the president would continue to hold rallies in key states even as election officials tallied up ballots.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. 

Trump's raucous rallies, where the president rails against enemies, boasts of his achievements and basks in the adulation of his core supporters, have long been the centerpiece of his campaigns.

They frequently feature a roll-call of allies and administration officials praising him and his achievements.

Breaking with convention, Trump registered for reelection the day after taking office in January 2017 and has continued to stage rallies throughout his presidency. In the wake of his 2016 victory, the president embarked on a 'thank you" tour in key states that had handed him victory. 

The president is currently crisscrossing the country on a final tour of swing states before polling day, with 14 rallies planned in the final three days of the election. 

Even the coronavirus pandemic has not stopped the president from staging the rallies, breaching federal government guidelines, and sometimes state laws. The packed events have been linked to surges in the virus in several counties. 

Trump has long spread baseless claims that mail-in votes are exposed to widespread fraud and would likely use post-Election Day rallies to ram home the claims and whip up supporters.

 

 

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Joe Biden snaps at ‘ugly’ Trump supporters who disrupted his Minnesota rally by beeping car horns

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Supporters of President Trump rally outside the gates of the venue as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on October 30, 2020 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
  • Democratic nominee Joe Biden called a crowd of Trump supporters "ugly folks" after they tried to interrupt his campaign rally by beeping their car horns, ringing cowbells, and chanting. 
  • "Dr. Fauci called for a mask mandate last week, this isn't a political statement like those ugly folks over there beeping their horns, this is a patriotic duty for God's sake," Biden said over the noise.
  • Biden's campaign rally in Minnesota comes as both campaigns are storming key battleground states in a last-minute bid to rally support ahead of election day.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden snapped at a crowd of  Trump supporters who were disrupting his campaign rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday, calling them "ugly folks" who were "not very polite."

Videos of the rally show Biden trying to speak over a group of Trump supporters who stood outside the gates of the event, beeping their car horns, ringing cowbells, and chanting "Joe's a crook." 

The drive-in rally, held in a parking lot, was an invite-only.

In keeping with the pandemic precautions and like most of Biden's campaign events, the small group of attendees was required to socially distance and park about 10 to 20 feet apart.

However, a group of maskless Trump supporters had gathered by the gates outside the parking lot, heckling the former vice president as he tried to speak about the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Dr. Fauci called for a mask mandate last week, this isn't a political statement like those ugly folks over there beeping their horns, this is a patriotic duty for God's sake," Biden said, according to a video of the event.

"These guys are not very polite but they're like Trump. But look, they're going to be OK. We're going to take care of them as well. We need to come together, made a fight for all these folks," Biden added.

"There's a reason they don't want to hear me because they know the president doesn't' say anything. So they're used to not hearing anything."

Watch the moment below:

 

 

Here is a closer look at the scene in front of the gates, which appeared to be peaceful.

 

Biden's campaign rally in Minnesota comes as both his and Trump's campaign are storming battleground states in the Midwest in a last-minute bid to rally support ahead of election day on Tuesday.

Biden began the day with an event in Iowa and then delivered two speeches in Minnesota.

He is due to appear with former President Barack Obama in Michigan on Saturday to "discuss bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country," the Biden campaign announced, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Trump is focusing on historically Democratic industrial states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the next few days.

He also spoke in Minnesota on Friday, which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972.

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No matter if Biden or Trump wins the presidency, there is one thing the next president must do to help rebuild the US economy: boost innovation

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump during Thursday night's debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • As election day arrives, COVID-19 still wreaks havoc on the nation.
  • Our greatest strength, innovation, must be utilized in our recovery, no matter who wins the presidency.
  • Rick Lazio is currently a Senior Vice President at alliantgroup, and is a former US Representative from New York's 2nd district.
  • Joe Crowley serves on alliantgroup's Strategic Advisory Board, in addition to being a Senior Policy Advisor at Squire Patton Boggs. He is also a former U.S. Representative from New York's 14th district.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Americans are just days away from choosing the country's next leader in what is arguably the most impactful Presidential election in decades.

As November 3 approaches, the US continues to witness what has become a focal point this election: the novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc on our country and the world. Apart from the lack of a readily available vaccine, COVID-19's impact on the world economy has also reached catastrophic levels. And, as relief talks continue to go nowhere, Americans are looking to our candidates for a path forward. 

Although this election cycle has unfortunately left little room for substantive policy discussions, candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden still have time to clearly speak to voters about how they will leverage one of America's greatest strengths —innovation — in order to spur growth for our bruised economy.

It's crucial that our next leader recognize that countries who leverage innovation are the winners of the global economy. Those countries that harness the strength of innovation open new markets, develop emerging goods and services, and ultimately create a higher standard of living for their citizens.

We've talked to hundreds of American business owners in the last year, and it's clear to us that those companies that have chosen to lean into innovation efforts are in a stronger economic position than their counterparts. However, it's equally clear that even those who are managing to survive the pandemic still need help moving forward.

There are dramatic differences in both candidates' plans to leverage innovation as a means to spur economic growth. However, both candidates do seem to recognize the positive role that government policies can play in fostering innovation. It will be up to voters to decide who is up to the task in this time of need.

Business taxes

When it comes to innovation among companies, taxes are a primary focus for both business leaders and policymakers. So it's worth examining each candidate's tax plan.

Looking at business taxes, Trump has taken the traditional Republican stance that tax cuts will enable businesses to invest further in innovation efforts.

Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered the headline corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, and allowed pass-through business — that is companies where the owner counts profit as their personal income —  to deduct 20%of qualified business income.. 

Although the president has not come out with a tax agenda for his second term, his administration has continued to push for tax breaks, a move that they argue will help American businesses thrive and innovate. Trump's team has pitched the idea of an unspecified "Made in America" tax credit, capital gains tax relief for businesses investing in defined opportunity zones, as well as permanent cuts to the payroll tax. 

The president's stance has obviously been to focus on the reduction of government barriers, including taxes, that he feels limit innovation efforts.

Biden and his team have seemingly been more targeted with their tax relief proposals, hesitating to provide tax cuts that don't amount to concrete public outcomes that will outweigh the government's investment.

Biden has pitched raising the corporate income tax rate to 28% while instituting a minimum tax on corporations who hold book profits of $100 million or more. However, Biden has also pitched certain tax breaks to spur innovation efforts, including the expansion of several renewable energy related tax credits, a small business retirement tax credit, and a "Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit" that would reduce the tax liability for businesses experiencing layoffs.

While the two candidates are mostly using the standard playbook from their party, both candidates should consider investing in education for America's small businesses on the tax options available to them. 

Fortune 500 companies leverage whole tax departments to claim every available incentive to spur growth, a luxury that the average American small business doesn't have. If our next leader wants to leverage tax policy to spur innovation efforts, informing all American businesses of available opportunities will be a key first step.

Incentivizing onshoring

Another critical issue that will face the next president will be creating an economically viable environment for businesses to innovate and produce here in the US. 

One of the main challenges, of course, will be dissuading companies from offshoring to countries like China and India, which tout cheap labor, utilities, and infrastructure development.

The pandemic was also a wakeup call. The US scrambled to get the needed equipment to deal with the coronavirus and was forced to rely on adversarial countries like China to obtain the lifesaving goods. 

Despite the need to rebuild America's manufacturing infrastructure, reasonable minds, including our own, have disagreed with President Trump's trade war. The president's tariffs on aluminum, steel, and lumber were meant to drive business to American providers, but the punitive approach has seemed to have made it more difficult to conduct business overseas. 

By contrast, Biden has proposed a 10% surtax for corporations that specifically offshore manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, which would effectively raise the corporate tax rate to 30.8%. 

His team points to his "Made in America" plan as a way to combat offshoring, which also proposes a 10% tax credit for companies that invest in "revitalizing closed or nearly closed facilities, retooling or expanding facilities, and bringing production or service jobs back to the US." Biden appears to take a more balanced approach, offering proposals that serve as both targeted protection and incentives for businesses to stay here. 

The truth is that an effective plan for incentivizing onshoring will lean more heavily on incentives that will allow businesses to view the US as the economically viable country for their operations and, in turn, their innovation efforts.

Federal Funding for R&D

An important question remains: how would a President Trump or President Biden leverage the federal government to financially support the development of new technologies that could strengthen the US's position as a mecca for innovation — one that ensures that the next Apple or Facebook is founded here?  

During his first term President Trump's approach to funding innovation was the reverse of his phi tax policy — favoring targeted investments instead of going for a broad-based strategy to lift all companies. So while the Trump administration has increased funding for the so-called "Industries of the Future" — including quantum computing, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, 5G and AI — the president has overall proposed cuts to the federal research budget in each of his four years in office. 

Biden, who has also cited China as a threat to American economic prosperity, has proposed broader policies including partnerships between companies and the government as well as direct federal funding for R&D activities — including $300 billion over four years toward the advancement of critical "new industries and technologies" such as 5G and AI. 

Overall, federal funding of R&D is an area of considerable crossover appeal. The value behind these efforts is not something either party owns, and is evidenced by broad support on both sides of the aisle. 

However, the great challenge for our next president will be ensuring that America's small and medium sized businesses aren't overshadowed by the tech conglomerates of our country. An enormous amount of innovation and disruptive technology is birthed from our country's smaller businesses, and new policies mustn't bypass the businesses that need it the most. 

Building a STEM Support System

Regardless of what business policies either candidate were to implement, it would all be for naught if we do not address the innovation "elephant" in the room: a dire lack of future innovators.

The US has consistently fallen behind countries like Germany, India, Russia and China in terms of total STEM graduates, leaving technical jobs that could inject necessary capital into our economy unfilled year after year. Our next leader must make changes to reinvigorate our country's approach to STEM education in order to create a more viable pipeline of technical talent.

President Trump released a five-year plan for STEM education, focusing less on direct funding and more on emphasizing apprenticeship programs. Trump has, however, proposed increasing education spending by $900 million in order to teach technical skills and trades, while prioritizing STEM in education grants by investing $540 million in 2019.

Biden has proposed investing further in vocational training and partnerships with high schools and community colleges, particularly in minority communities, in order for students to harness necessary technical skills. His campaign claims it would invest approximately $5 billion in graduate STEM programs that focus on internship and career pipelines.

Finding Common Ground Through Innovation

In sum, it seems that Trump and Biden have taken normal stances for their party lines towards encouraging business innovation. Biden has pitched public-private partnerships as the key to innovation and economic development, while President Trump has focused on tearing down government roadblocks such as taxes and regulations that he feels limits innovation efforts.

Glimmers of hope, such as bipartisan support for tax credits that incentivize research and development, prove that there is an understanding in Democratic and Republican circles for the need to retain technical talent, keep jobs here in the US and reward innovation.

The question now becomes whether we have the political will to make these aspirations a reality.

Small and medium sized businesses make up the backbone of our economy, with more than 99% of all businesses being small, and employing half of the country's workforce. As a result of the pandemic, however, millions have filed for unemployment while countless businesses have shuttered.

These companies have historically been a driving force behind our country's innovation efforts, and will ultimately be the key to our economic recovery in the days after COVID-19. That's why it's critical for our next president to embrace policies that foster innovation and offer the necessary support to American businesses so they can chart a path toward sustainable growth.

Whether we see a President Trump or Biden, one thing remains certain, our next leader must recognize the economic imperative of embracing policies that will enable our country's small to mid-sized companies to flourish. American businesses need the tools necessary to accelerate and meet their maximum potential today more than ever before.

The good news? There is a path forward, and unleashing American innovation will be the key.

Rick Lazio is currently a Senior Vice President at Alliantgroup, and is a former U.S. Representative from New York. Lazio served in Congress from 1993-2001. After Congress, Rick moved to the private sector working for JP Morgan Chase as a Managing Director and then Executive Vice President. 

Joe Crowley is a Senior Policy Advisor at Squire Patton Boggs in Washington and serves on alliantgroup's Strategic Advisory Board. He was first elected to Congress in 1998 to represent New York's 7th District. After redistricting following the 2010 census, in 2012 he was elected as the representative of New York's 14th District. While in Congress, Crowley served as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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