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James48

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Member since: Sun Jan 3, 2010, 12:16 AM
Number of posts: 1,908

About Me

Was once a republican. long long ago, in a far, far away place. I apologize.

Journal Archives

Medicare for all? How about this:

One way to get to Medicare for All May be to
Actually allow it to be adopted by a state- one state at a time.

How about this- We propose creating the actual structure of a national program, capable of being scaled up, but premise it on these conditions:

1. In order to participate, a state must vote to participate. If the majority of voters in that state decide, then a process to begin to transition to a single-payer Medicare for all system begins.

2. The transition happens over a three year period. The first year, all public employees and anyone who changes jobs becomes covered under the new system. In addition, it takes a one-year waiting period to come under the new system, to prevent sick people from other states from simply moving in to obtain coverage. The second year, any private company or individual can opt in. The third year, it becomes mandatory for all. The State and the Federal Government both create a Medicare for all tax, with tax credits for those remaining under private insurance for the transition period.

3. As Medicare for All is rolled out, the best ideas from different states are shown and highlighted, so the program can be tweaked based on experience. A participating state is also given money to establish expanded medical schools, nursing and technician training, and medical public service career assistance.

This way nobody can say their state was forced into it; people can see how it actually works, and cost savings are highlighted across the country.

OPM announces Federal Employees don't have to be paid State Minimum Wages

New Memo out this morning.

Since some localities have enacted higher than Federal Minimum Wage ($7.25), OPM announces that Federal Employees are exempt from any such state minimum wage. Federal employees, even in the largest cities, can now be legally paid as low as $7.25 an hour.

(Thanks Trump).

Here is the memo:

https://www.chcoc.gov/content/inapplicability-state-or-local-minimum-wage-federal-employees

MEMORANDUM FOR: HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTORS

From:
MARK D. REINHOLD, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, EMPLOYEE SERVICES

Subject:
Inapplicability of a State or Local Minimum Wage to Federal Employees


An increasing number of State and local governments are establishing or increasing a jurisdictional minimum wage that is higher than the nationwide Federal minimum wage established under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As a result, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has received inquiries regarding the applicability of minimum wages established by State and local governments to Federal employees stationed in affected locations. This memorandum provides agencies with necessary guidance.

Federal employees are covered by the FLSA, which is a Federal law. (See generally 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq.) The FLSA includes a minimum wage provision. (See 29 U.S.C. 206.) Thus, the FLSA minimum wage is generally applicable to Federal employees unless they are exempt from the minimum wage requirements as provided under the FLSA exemption provisions. (See 29 U.S.C. 213(a) and (f).) Under the exemption provisions of section 213(a), the FLSA minimum wage does not apply inter alia to employees who meet the executive, administrative, or professional exemption criteria; criminal investigators paid availability pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545a; certain computer employees; or border patrol agents, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5550(a). (See 5 CFR part 551, subpart B, for more information on exemptions.) Under the exemption in section 213(f), the FLSA minimum wage does not apply to employees who perform services during a workweek solely in foreign areas outside the United States. (See also 5 CFR 551.212.)

Under OPM’s FLSA minimum wage regulation at 5 CFR 551.301, an employee’s “hourly regular rate” as defined in 5 CFR 551.511(a) is used to determine compliance with the FLSA minimum wage provisions. The current minimum wage under the FLSA is $7.25 (except in American Samoa, where it is $5.21 for government employees). By operation of Federal law, the FLSA minimum wage would supersede any lower amount of pay that would otherwise be provided under the applicable Federal employee pay system. Since the hourly regular rate reflects an employee’s rate of basic pay (including locality pay) and since the lowest General Schedule (GS) rate (GS-1, step 1) is above $7.25, GS employees generally are already paid in excess of the FLSA minimum wage requirements. (To illustrate, at GS-1, step 1, the base rate is currently $9.13 and the lowest locality rate in the United States is currently $10.56 (expressed as hourly rates).)

State and local government minimum wage laws are not binding on the Federal Government and its component agencies since, under the preemption doctrine which originates from the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Federal law supersedes conflicting State law. (See U.S. Const. Art. VI. cl. 2.) This is the case when Federal employee pay rates are specifically fixed under Federal law (e.g., GS employees) and when Federal agencies are given discretion in setting rates of pay under Federal law.

In the case of a Federal employee pay system such as the GS pay system in which pay rates are fixed by statute, a statutory change would be needed to allow payment of a State or local minimum wage. There is no administrative authority under which OPM could allow State or local minimum wages to supersede GS statutory rates.

In the case of a Federal employee pay system under which the employing Federal agency has discretion in setting rates of pay, the agency may apply State and local minimum wages to covered employees as a matter of agency policy or through a collective bargaining agreement (where applicable). However, the agency should make it clear that employees are not actually covered by the State or local minimum wage law or any appeal mechanisms established under such a law.

OPM administers the Federal Wage System covering prevailing rate (blue collar) employees in multiple agencies. OPM administratively determines the pay schedules for these employees. OPM has issued regulations (based on a policy choice, not a statutory obligation) requiring payment of applicable State or local minimum wages to Federal Wage System employees. (See 5 CFR 532.205.) Under this regulation, the highest State or local minimum wage in effect in the local wage area is applied in setting wage schedule rates unless there is a higher FLSA minimum wage under Federal law. In other words, if there are multiple State or local minimum wages in effect in different jurisdictions encompassed within the same local wage area, the highest minimum wage will be used in setting wage schedule rates for the entire local wage area, if that minimum wage rate exceeds the FLSA minimum wage rate.

Additional Information

Agency headquarters-level human resources offices may contact OPM at pay-leave-policy@opm.gov. Employees should contact their agency human resources office for further information on this memorandum.

cc: Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs), and Deputy CHCOs

Medicare Tool Gives Seniors the Wrong Insurance Information

The $11 Million Dollar Medicare Tool That Gives Seniors the Wrong Insurance Information

The Trump administration redesigned the online Medicare Cost Finder for seniors to compare complex health insurance options. But consumer advocates have identified instances when the tool has malfunctioned and given inaccurate plan and price data.

By AKILAH JOHNSON,PROPUBLICA ( in Govexec.com)

The federal government recently redesigned a digital tool that helps seniors navigate complicated Medicare choices, but consumer advocates say it’s malfunctioning with alarming frequency, offering inaccurate cost estimates and creating chaos in some states during the open enrollment period.

Diane Omdahl, a Medicare consultant in Wisconsin, said she used the tool Friday to research three prescription drug plans for a client. The comparison page, which summarizes total costs, showed all but one of her client’s medications would be covered. When Omdahl clicked on “plan details” to find out which medicine was left out, the plan finder then said all of them were covered.

So she started checking the plans’ websites, and it turns out there are two versions of the same high blood pressure medication. One is covered. The other is not. The difference in price: $2,700 a month.

In Nebraska, miscalculations offered through the new Medicare Plan Finder were so worrisome that the state in late October temporarily shut down a network of about 350 volunteer Medicare advisers for a day because without the tool, narrowing the numerous choices — more than 4,000 Medicare plans are available nationwide — down to three top selections would be nearly impossible.

Days later, EnvisionRxPlus, a prescription drug plan, sent an email to independent insurance brokers nationwide recommending they not use the Medicare Plan Finder because of incorrect estimates on drug prices and patient deductibles. (It’s a warning they had yet to retract some two weeks later.)

Minnesota’s Association of Area Agencies on Aging said in a news release on Nov. 14 that the Medicare Plan Finder “continues to produce flawed results,” including inaccurate premium estimates, incorrect prescription drug costs and inaccurate costs with extra help subsidies.

MORE:

https://www.govexec.com/technology/2019/11/11-million-dollar-medicare-tool-gives-seniors-wrong-insurance-information/161542/

FDA/CDC Warns- DO NOT EAT Romaine from Salinas, CA

FDA/ CDC issues new warning: DO NOT EAT ROMAINE from Salinas, California.


November 26, 2019

Recommendation

FDA, CDC, and state health authorities are investigating an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 in the United States. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California growing region is a likely source of this outbreak. The CDC is reporting an increase in the case count to 67 and that the most recent illness onset date is November 14, 2019.

Romaine from Salinas, California Label Enjoy By December 2, 2019


Romaine from Salinas, California Label Use By November 29, 2019

Consumers: Consumers should not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. Additionally, consumers should not eat products identified in the recall announced by the USDA on November 21, 2019.

Romaine lettuce may be voluntarily labeled with a harvest region. If this voluntary label indicates that the romaine lettuce was grown in “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location) do not eat it. Throw it away or return it to the place of purchase. If romaine lettuce does not have information about harvest region or does not indicate that it has been grown indoors (i.e., hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown), throw it away or return it to the place of purchase. Consumers ordering salad containing romaine at a restaurant or at a salad bar should ask the staff whether the romaine came from Salinas. If it did, or they do not know, do not eat it.

At this time, romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Salinas region has not been implicated in this outbreak investigation. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine, which is voluntarily labeled as “indoor grown,” from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers to avoid using romaine harvested from these other sources.

Restaurants and Retailers: Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell romaine harvested from Salinas, California. If you do not know the source of your romaine lettuce, and if you cannot obtain that information from your supplier, you should not serve, nor sell it.

Suppliers and Distributors: Suppliers, distributors and others in the supply chain should not ship or sell romaine harvested in Salinas, California. If the source of the romaine lettuce is unknown, you should not ship, nor sell the product.

For Restaurants, Retailers, Suppliers and Distributors: Currently, the FDA does not have enough traceback information to identify the specific source of the contamination that would allow us to request a targeted recall from specific growers. At this stage in the investigation, the most efficient way to ensure that contaminated romaine is off the market would be for industry to voluntarily withdraw product grown in Salinas, and to withhold distribution of Salinas romaine for the remainder of the growing season in Salinas. FDA has made this request of industry.

At this time, romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Salinas region has not been implicated in this outbreak investigation. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine, which is voluntarily labeled as “indoor grown,” from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these other sources.

Background
According to the CDC, as of November 25, 2019, 67 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 19 states. The case patients report that illnesses started on dates ranging from September 24,


More information at: https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/investigation-e-coli-o157h7-outbreak-linked-romaine-salinas-california-november-2019

GQ magazine makes a correction:

GQ corrects story to say Lt. Col. Vindman was hit by IED, not an IUD.

GQ Magazine has issued a correction to an Oct. 29 story about Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, assuring its readers that the soldier earned a Purple Heart for wounds he received from an IED, not an IUD, which is something quite different.

"This story has been updated," a note at the end of the article reads. "Alexander Vindman received a Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED, or improvised explosive device, not an IUD, or intrauterine device. We regret the error."


Oops.

(And thank you for your cervix)


https://taskandpurpose.com/typo-ied-iud-vindman

IGs Unite Against Justice Legal Opinion That Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint Wasn't 'Urgent Concern'

Source: GovExec.com

Inspectors general across the federal government in a letter made public Friday rebuked the Justice Department for its legal opinion that the whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s July call to the president of Ukraine was not an “urgent concern.”

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency repudiated a Sept. 3 memo by the Office of Legal Counsel, a division of the Justice Department, arguing the memo’s conclusion that the whistleblower’s complaint was not urgent ran contrary to intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson’s determination. It was wrong for the Trump administration to try to keep the complaint secret at first and not turn it over to Congress, the inspectors general wrote in their letter to Office of Legal Counsel’s assistant attorney general.

“OLC’s opinion undermines the independence of the [Intelligence Community Inspector General] and wrongly interprets the respective roles and responsibilities of [inspectors general] and agency heads under the [Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act],” the IG council wrote. This “creates uncertainty for federal employees and contractors across government about the scope of whistleblower protections, thereby chilling whistleblower disclosures.”

The letter, written by Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Chairman Michael Horowitz and Vice Chair Allison Lerner, was co-signed by 65 permanent and acting inspectors general, including all the IGs from the intelligence community and Justice and Defense departments. It called for the Office of Legal Counsel to reconsider its opinion. “You can’t have a decision being made by an [inspector general] being second guessed by the head of the agency, said Kel McClanahan, attorney and executive director of National Security Counselors, a public interest law firm that specializes in national security. He said it’s “huge” for the council to “speak in one voice and say this is wrong.”

Read more: https://www.govexec.com/oversight/2019/10/igs-unite-against-justice-opinion-ukraine-whistleblower-complaint-wasnt-urgent-concern/160881/



Thank you Inspector General community for standing up for law and order.


IG’s letter is also here:

https://www.ignet.gov/sites/default/files/files/CIGIE_Letter_to_OLC_Whistleblower_Disclosure.pdf

How Trump's Defiance of Impeachment Probe Could Leave Federal Employees Criminally Liable

Source: GovExec.com

Federal employees being asked to disobey congressional mandates related to an impeachment inquiry into President Trump will have difficult decisions to make as they chart a path forward, legal experts say, but will have certain protections available to them.

The State Department on Tuesday refused to make U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland available for a scheduled deposition related to Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and House Democrats now say they will issue a subpoena to demand his testimony. If the administration continues to block him and other employees from complying with Congress, it could put individuals in a precarious legal position. Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, sent a letter to House leaders Tuesday afternoon informing Congress the administration will not comply with any element of the probe.

"President Trump and his administration reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process," Cipollone wrote. "Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice. In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the executive branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances."

As Congress continues to widen its net for documents and testimony, employees subject to conflicting demands have two options, legal experts told Government Executive. The first is to violate orders from management and give Congress what it wants, assuming protections under whistleblower law. A second possibility is to exercise federal employees’ statutory “right to disobey” orders that violate laws, rules or regulations.

Read more: https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2019/10/how-trumps-defiance-impeachment-probe-could-leave-federal-employees-criminally-liable/160461/



As a federal employee, you have an obligation to comply with the subpenoa, and a legal obligation - and a legal right- to disobey an illegal order from the President.

It’s a Constitutional crisis. We are here.

What REALLY happened today-

This makes so much sense!
From Heather Cox Richardson -

*************************

Impeachment news today was overshadowed by Trump's surprise announcement that he is pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies there to the mercy of advancing troops from Turkey. But my guess is that this and impeachment are actually the same story. This is really complicated, and some of it is outside my wheelhouse, so bear with me as I try to untangle it.

Pundits are spinning Trump's surprise withdrawal of troops as an attempt to fulfill a 2016 campaign promise to end foreign wars, and he certainly mentioned that promise in his declaration about the removal. But I'm shocked that no major American news outlets appear to be talking about oil.

Kurdistan is a region of people who share cultural, historical, and linguistic ties. It overlies the intersection of four countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds have their own leaders and have different political relationships with each of the governments of the nations in which they live, but they have tended to work with the US, especially in our war against ISIS, for which they have done much of the fighting. The base of Kurdish wealth is oil. Their land has a lot of it.

The Russian oil and gas giant, Rosneft, has been trying to gain access to develop Kurdish oil for years. Rosneft is one of the largest companies in the world, worth around $70 billion. It is the tool of Putin and Russian oligarchs, and after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, President Obama put sanctions on Rosneft to freeze its assets in the United States. These are the sanctions Putin wants lifted. Russia bought the Kurdish oil pipelines that run through Turkey almost two years ago, and if it can control the Kurdish oil fields, it will become the dominant foreign power in the Middle East, replacing the United States.

So what does this have to do with impeachment? Ukraine is another developing region with petroleum resources. We recently learned that while Rudy Giuliani and Trump's other people were attacking Hunter Biden's dealings in Ukraine, they were themselves trying to take control of Ukraine's huge natural gas company. They were working with the corrupt president, but the election of Volodymyr Zelensky, a reformer, brought them up short. They successfully torpedoed America's Ukraine Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who stood against them, and pushed for the investigation of Hunter Biden as well as the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that attacked the 2016 elections. Key to this scheme were two Soviet-born Florida real estate men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican campaigns.

I know, you need a scorecard. But here's the full circle: The House impeachment investigating committees asked Parnas and Furman to produce documents and to testify about the Ukraine scandal. Today their lawyer wrote an astounding letter denying Congress had the authority to make such demands and that it was simply trying to "harass, intimidate and embarrass" his clients. He wrote the letter in comic sans font, which seems to suggest he is laughing at the idea he and his clients have to answer to Congress.

And now full circle back to Trump....

It sure looks like Russia wanted Trump to be president so he could loosen US support for Ukraine and lift the US sanctions on Rosneft (this is actually pretty well established, so I won't argue it here). The Steele Dossier of information about Trump, compiled by a former British intelligence agent, suggested that Putin had offered Trump and his associate Carter Page brokerage fees on the sale of up to 19% of Rosneft stock. That has never been proven, but Rosneft's interests were almost certainly in the air in 2016. Once president, Trump did hold back US military aid to Ukraine, but while he has been able to delay some of the sanctions, and to lift a few selectively, he hasn't been terribly successful at removing them altogether.

So why is there suddenly this Syrian announcement, an announcement that goes against not only established US policy but against most Republican Senators, whom Trump needs very badly right now to protect him from conviction if he is impeached? A few days ago, Rosneft announced that it was switching its operations to euros rather than dollars, because it wanted to lessen its exposure to future US sanctions. That suggests to me Russian leaders have lost faith that Trump can end sanctions, and that they are going to figure on doing business without him.

I think they see the writing on the wall that Trump's presidency is crumbling. I think Trump does, too, so he's trying to help out his friends in the Russian oil industry as much as he can, while he still can, come hell or high water. In addition to pulling troops out of Syria, we learned this afternoon that Trump is considering pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which would likely bring the whole treaty crashing down. It enables countries to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others' territories. Without it, Ukraine will not be able to monitor the Russian troops on its border. America will have ceded its influence in the Middle East and Asia to Putin.

Ever since July 23, 2016, when I read the first story about Russian interference in the American election, it has seemed to me that it has always been about Russia. No matter how the story twists and turns, always Russia seems somewhere around. This Syria story floored me because... why are we abandoning our allies?!? and why now, when it looks like an end is in sight?!?... and then I read that after Trump began the troop drawdown, the Russian foreign minister met with the Kurdish Prime Minister first thing this morning.

Trump Officials Threatened With Fines, Jail Time Over Illegal Spending During Shutdown

Two federal agencies illegally spent money during the record-setting partial government shutdown earlier this year, an oversight body has ruled, warning that future violations could result in penalties including fines and jail time.

The Government Accountability Office’s review followed an unusual decision by the Trump administration instructing agencies to continue funding a variety of functions typically suspended during a lapse in appropriations. As the shutdown dragged on and agencies were increasingly strained by a lack of resources, the administration diverted funds from their normal purposes to mitigate its impact. Those decisions led congressional Democrats to ask GAO, the agency tasked with enforcing appropriations laws, to investigate if any of the spending was improper.

In one legal decision, GAO said the Interior Department violated the Anti-Deficiency Act when it used recreation fees collected by the National Park Service to keep parks open and continue services such as trash collection and restroom maintenance. In another, GAO faulted the Agriculture Department for disbursing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits early during the shutdown.

More: Govexec.com

https://www.govexec.com/oversight/2019/09/trump-administration-threatened-fines-jail-time-over-illegal-spending-during-shutdown/159709/

SHE GOT HER HEART TRANSPLANT! IT'S A SUCCESS!

You may recall last November, when a woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan received a letter from Spectrum Health Care's "Devos Heart Center" stating that she was not a candidate for a heart transplant, because she needed "a better financial plan for post operative care".

The hospital suggested she start a "go-fund-me" to raise money for her post-operative drug and care needs.

See https://wwmt.com/news/local/grand-rapids-woman-denied-heart-transplant-due-to-lack-of-money-for-post-operative-care

for more history.


Well, here is the GREAT NEWS today I have to share.

Hedda DID, in fact, establish a Go-fund-me site, and was successful in raising OVER $40,000 !

And the better news is- LAST WEEK, HEDDA GOT THE PHONE CALL AT 11:00 pm. July 23rd, that a Donor Heart was enroute to the hospital, and she was to immediately drop everything and go there. Less than 24 hours later, Hedda got her new heart.

I just spoke with her yesterday. She's doing wonderful! She's having a few issues with blood pressure stability, and had some problems at first with a collapsed lung, but she has made it through the first week now on her new heart, and is on the mend.

Yesterday she posted at update on HER GOFUNDME site, and wanted to express sincere thanks to everyone who pitched in to help her get a new heart. Hedda is a RADICAL progressive and looks forward to spreading the word that health care should not be limited by the ability to fund raise, but rather should be a right of every human being to receive top notch care to stay alive.

Congrats HEDDA MARTIN on your NEW HEART, successfully implanted on July 24th.
https://www.gofundme.com/hedda-needs-a-heart-transplant?viewupdates=1&rcid=r01-156505908164-bb31c05fbd0f4242&utm_medium=email&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_email%2B1137-update-supporters-v5b



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