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Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 78,357

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Texas Still Won't Say Which Nursing Homes Have COVID-19 Cases. Families Are Demanding Answers.

by Lomi Kriel, Vianna Davila, ProPublica, and Edgar Walters, The Texas Tribune

As elderly and vulnerable citizens continue to die from COVID-19 in closed-off long-term care centers around the country, many of their relatives have begged elected leaders to release the locations of these outbreaks.

Their pleas have carried weight with governors in Georgia, New York, Oklahoma and Florida, among others, who mandated an accounting of where the virus had spread.

Not in Texas. Despite more than 300 deaths in such facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott has not moved to make public where patients and caretakers have fallen ill or died.

The state’s expansive medical privacy law has made Texas among the most opaque for releasing information about the spread of the coronavirus, even as deaths in these facilities surged nationwide. More than 10,300 elderly people in 23 states have died in long-term care centers, according to the most recent available government data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a national health policy think tank.

Read more: https://www.propublica.org/article/texas-still-wont-say-which-nursing-homes-have-covid-19-cases-families-are-demanding-answers

As economy sinks, McClatchy's plan for quick sale hits roadblock in bankruptcy court

McClatchy Co.’s attempt to quickly exit bankruptcy by finding a buyer hit a snag Wednesday when a federal judge ordered all parties to reach an agreement on the sales process even as the nation’s economic uncertainty deepened.

The local media company had asked bankruptcy Judge Michael E. Wiles to sign off on modifications to some terms of its bankruptcy financing. Also in the motion was the first official notice that the company has been speaking to potential buyers, prompting objections from a committee of less protected creditors as well as the trustee serving as an independent watchdog in the case.

Wiles must approve the sale of the bankrupt company, so pursuing buyers before obtaining the court’s input on the process puts any potential deal at risk, the judge said.

“I cannot say strongly enough how crazy that seems to me,” he said, ordering the parties to come back to him Monday with an agreement on process, or risk having him decide. “Maybe you don’t trust what I will do with a sale process?”

Read more here: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article242366581.html

Donna Shalala, on coronavirus oversight board, pays fine for not revealing stock sales

WASHINGTON -- Miami Rep. Donna Shalala, who admitted last week that she broke federal law requiring the disclosure of stock sales, will pay a $1,200 fine for six violations because she failed to report hundreds of transactions made last year by a broker setting up a blind trust, according to the Democratic congresswoman’s office and a newly filed disclosure published Tuesday.

A 62-page report from Shalala made public Tuesday by the House Clerk details 556 stock transactions made by the congresswoman in 2019. She did not make any stock transactions in 2020.

There is no indication that Shalala engaged in insider trading, though her stock holdings on her previous financial disclosure, from 2018, led to criticism from left-leaning outlets that her portfolio conflicted with her work on an oversight committee set up oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Shalala to the committee as the lone representative for House Democrats on April 17. Pelosi said on April 24 that Shalala’s position on the committee is secure despite her failure to disclose the stock trades.

Read more: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article242347411.html

Push to Liquidate Murray Means Coal Mines Will Close, Union Says

Consol Energy Inc.’s effort to push rival coal company Murray Energy Corp. into liquidation is aimed at shuttering mines and reducing output in an oversupplied industry, according to the largest U.S. coal miners’ union.

“Liquidation plays to the benefit of all the competitors in the region,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said during an online news conference Thursday.

Murray, America’s biggest privately held coal producer, filed for Chapter 11 protection in October. Last week, Consol petitioned the court to convert the case to Chapter 7, a liquidation. Putting mines up for sale piecemeal would likely result in some being acquired primarily to take over their existing sales contracts, then closed, Roberts said.

A new owner, which may include Consol, “would take orders and fill them from their other mines,” he said.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-30/push-to-liquidate-murray-means-coal-mines-will-close-union-says

U.S. Steel Announces More Closures and Expects 2,700 Layoffs

U.S. Steel Corp. expects to lay off about 10% of its workforce due to the coronavirus, with the pandemic forcing the company to idle most of its blast furnaces.

The Pittsburgh-based company said in a filing it sent out notices of plans for layoffs to 6,500 employees, but that it expects the actual number affected to be about 2,700.

It’s temporarily idling a blast furnace at its Gary Works facility and Mon Valley Works site, effective immediately, and will also indefinitely idle its Lone Star Tubular Operations as well as its Hughes Springs coupling production facility in Texas.

The announcement comes just a month after it idled other facilities, cut spending and increased its borrowings under a revolving credit facility. U.S. Steel reported an adjusted loss of 73 cents in the first quarter, better than the 85-cent loss that analysts on average estimated.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-30/u-s-steel-announces-more-closures-and-expects-2-700-layoffs

The Renters' Revolution

Not since the 1930s has America seen the combination of working-class vulnerability and working-class militance that we’re beginning to see today.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what may likely be the first nationwide rent strike in our history. We’ve had plenty of rent strikes before, of course, but they usually are limited to a single building or group of buildings owned by a particularly negligent and abusive landlord. During the Great Depression, however, such actions occasionally expanded across whole neighborhoods where a pervasive loss of income led to an equally pervasive inability to make the rent. Such spontaneous, self-organized actions as urban rent strikes, farmer mobilizations (sometimes at gunpoint) to prevent evictions and property seizures, and neighbors’ restoration of water and power to homes that had been cut off were common. In a few big cities, neighborhood rent strikes, such as those in Harlem, were organized by a combination of local tenants and such radical organizations as the Communist Party.

The two groundbreaking aspects of tomorrow’s rent strike are its nationwide scale, and the fact that it’s been organized by local tenants and many mainstream militant working-class organizations—that is, groups without an avowedly revolutionary ideology.

Initiated by the Action Center on Race and the Economy, the organizing sponsors include the union-backed Jobs With Justice; such ACORN-successor community groups as the Center for Popular Democracy, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and New York Communities for Change (which initiated the Fight for $15); the living-wage/worker-power advocacy group Partnership for Working Families; the labor militants of Bargaining for the Common Good; People’s Action Homes Guarantee; and a host of local tenant groups.

Read more: https://prospect.org/blogs/tap/the-renters-revolution/
(American Prospect)

Trump Helps Health Insurers Swell Their Profits

Few industries have escaped the squeeze of the coronavirus crisis. That’s true of obvious sectors like restaurants and hotels, of places where mandatory shutdowns have led to mass layoffs, as well as of reopened regions where supply now exists but demand still doesn’t. It’s also true of industries where demand remains high, like health care. Hospitals, of course, have been strained to a breaking point treating coronavirus patients, necessitating federal bailout money, though the decline in elective procedures has been so drastic that it alone has accounted for a 2.25 percent drop in quarterly GDP, nearly half of the total quarterly decline, according to figures released Wednesday. That’s bad news for providers and insurance companies alike.

The nation’s largest health insurers have responded by accelerating their customary practice of squeezing their payouts. UnitedHealthcare, along with other insurance giants including Aetna and Cigna, have pushed for significant pay cuts for doctors. Specialists, physicians, emergency room employees, and even nurses and technicians treating COVID-19 patients have seen salaries slashed in recent weeks. Meanwhile, those same insurers have severed contracts with anesthesiology and neonatal care providers, also in the name of cost-cutting. A recent survey by the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that 42 percent of anesthesiologists had contracts terminated in the previous six months, while 43 percent of respondents experienced payment rate cuts from insurers of as much as 60 percent.

With such aggressive rate-cutting, one might think that UnitedHealth and its peers have sustained substantial losses to their extremely profitable businesses as well; indeed, according to estimates, coronavirus will cost insurance companies tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in additional expenses. But so far, that’s not the case. In fact, on an earnings call last week, UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest insurer, announced that profits from operations rose 3.4 percent to $5 billion in the first quarter, making this one of its most profitable quarters this decade, though down slightly from its all-time-high pre-coronavirus mark. Its revenues rose by nearly 7 percent to $64.4 billion. The company even found enough money lying around to continue buying back its own stock. This, of course, while millions of Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance due to mass layoffs. Meanwhile, the company just reported that its CEO, David Wichmann, received a 233 percent pay raise over the year prior: In 2019, he made more than $52 million, while Executive Chair Stephen Hemsley took home over $50 million himself.

There’s even reason to believe that these insurance companies expect the crisis to benefit them even more. According to documents reviewed by the Prospect, Wall Street investment firms are under the impression that the Trump administration will waive the medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement on insurers this year, which could allow the companies to pocket an unprecedented windfall of profits beyond what they made in that record-setting first quarter. Bearing such glad tidings, investment firms are telling their clients to buy health insurance stocks—one reason why those stocks have soared in the past two months.

Read more: https://prospect.org/health/trump-helps-health-insurers-swell-their-profits/
(American Prospect)

'They cut all of our hours'

For the past five years, Juanita*, a resident of the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, has spent the spring and summer seasons in Southern California’s Eastern Coachella Valley, picking grapes, beets, blueberries and bell peppers, and then heading north for similar work in Northern California come July, once Coachella’s daytime temperatures become unbearable — 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This year, however, the 66-year-old grandmother finds herself unexpectedly idle. At the end of March, she was working only two days out of six. “They cut all of our hours,” she said, wondering just how much longer she could afford to linger here, waiting for work — and pay.

In California and across the country, agricultural businesses have remained open, classified as “essential.” The farmworkers who are still employed continue to work, despite the lack of protective gear, or unemployment benefits if they fall ill. Farmworkers are especially vulnerable given the difficulty of social distancing in the fields and the underlying health conditions, like asthma, diabetes and long-term exposure to pesticides, associated with agricultural work. Many also share housing and the buses that bring them to and from work.

Coachella Mayor Stephen Hernandez is not surprised by the furloughs. The closure of restaurants, schools and large businesses has affected farms’ bottom lines, and some can’t afford to keep their workers employed. One report, from the National Agriculture Sustainable Coalition, projects that shutdowns of non-essential businesses may cause small farms selling locally to lose up to $688.7 million. Eastern Coachella Valley is “probably another two or three weeks from plowing unsold crops into the ground, as has happened in other parts of the country,” Hernandez said.

The Coachella Valley stretches 45 miles from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea. The west side’s mid-century homes draped in blooming bougainvillea and its lush green golf courses vanish as you move to the east, where many of the region’s low-wage workers reside. There, rundown mobile homes and squat abodes appear even smaller against the vast desert and intermittent fields and orchards, which produce 95% of the country’s dates and nearly a billion dollars in fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/covid19-they-cut-all-of-our-hours
(High Country News)

Bolsonaro says WHO encourages kids to be gay, masturbate

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the World Health Organization encourages homosexuality and masturbation among young children, his latest clash with an organization whose advice on social distancing and other anti-coronavirus measures he has repeatedly questioned.

The far-right leader made the claim, without citing a source, in a Facebook post he later deleted.

"This is the World Health Organization whose advice on coronavirus some people want me to follow," he wrote late Wednesday.

"Should we follow their education policy guidelines, too? For children zero to four years old: satisfaction and pleasure when touching their bodies, masturbation.... For children four to six years old: a positive gender identity... masturbation in early childhood, same-sex relations.... Nine to 12 years old: first sexual experience."

Read more: https://news.yahoo.com/bolsonaro-says-encourages-kids-gay-masturbate-173750174.html

J. Crew is preparing for a bankruptcy filing that could come this weekend

Clothing apparel company J. Crew is preparing for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as this weekend, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.

Privately held J. Crew is working to secure $400 million in financing to fund operations in bankruptcy, said the people, who requested anonymity because the information is confidential. They cautioned that timing could still slip, and plans are not yet finalized.

A spokesperson for J. Crew declined to comment.

The New York-based retailer had already been struggling under a heavy debt load and sales challenges, as it suffered criticism that it fell out of touch with its once-loyal customers. In the past few years, the brand lost both its longtime design chief, Jenna Lyons, and famed retail executive Mickey Drexler.

Read more: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/30/coronavirus-j-crew-prepares-bankruptcy-filing-that-could-come-this-weekend.html
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