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24 марта, 14:57

State Department Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); President Donald Trump’s administration, as expected, has officially greenlighted the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon on Friday signed a presidential permit for the controversial project ahead of a Monday deadline for evaluating it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, had recused himself from the process.  The developer, TransCanada, confirmed the news in a move that would undo one of former President Barack Obama’s defining environmental decisions.  Trump has been a vocal cheerleader of the 1,700-mile pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands oil through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would link up with existing pipelines. Like other advocates for the project, the president has said it will create construction jobs and strengthen the country’s energy security. In a statement from the Oval Office on Friday morning, Trump said the pipeline had been delayed too long. “TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long overdue project with efficiency and with speed,” Trump said. “The fact is that this $8 billion in investment in American energy was delayed for so long demonstrates how our government has too often failed its citizens and companies over the past long period of time.”  He added that TransCanada shouldn’t pay its consultants, because they didn’t help the company get approval for the pipeline. Trump has a history about refusing to pay people for work he is unhappy with. “I hope you don’t pay your consultants anything, because they have nothing to do with the approval. You should ask for the hundreds of millions of dollars back that you paid them because they didn’t do a damn thing except get you a no vote,” he said. As an extra lift to American workers, Trump had previously promised the pipeline would be constructed with domestic steel. The administration earlier this month abandoned that pledge and granted TransCanada an exemption to use foreign steel during construction.  Winning the support of the Trump administration, though crucial, is not the final barrier TransCanada officials need to clear. The Nebraska Public Service Commission must also sign off on the plans for building there. Their review is expected to take months. Part of the fight there may hinge on the use of eminent domain. Some landowners are resisting orders to sell their property to TransCanada. The company has said it has agreements for more than 90 percent of the route on the U.S. side, according to The Washington Post.  Environmentalists opposing the project argue it will contribute too much to climate change, because extracting oil from tar sands is a particularly intensive process. The Sierra Club’s Lena Moffit, director of the organization’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, threatened to file lawsuits against the federal government, saying they’d possibly argue the Trump administration rushed through necessary environmental checks.  Soon after taking office, Trump signed an executive action that gave the State Department 60 days to issue an opinion on Keystone. That deadline is set to expire Monday.  Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, after years of debate. He did so saying it was not in the national interest and that approving it would undercut the country’s leading role combating climate change.  This story has been updated with a statement from Donald Trump. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 14:53

WWII Veteran Gets A Lottery Ticket For 94th Birthday, Scoops $300,000 Jackpot

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Good luck beating this birthday present! Ervin Smolinski celebrated turning 94 last Friday with a $300,000 win on the Michigan Lottery, on an instant ticket his daughter-in-law had gifted him. Despite scooping such a large amount of money with the Double Bonus Cashword scratch card, the World War II Navy veteran from South Branch said he’d managed to stay calm. “I’ve seen a lot in my time, and I don’t get worked up too easily,” he said, via a statement. “I think my son-in-law was more worked up than I was.” Best. Birthday. Ever. South Branch man wins $300,000 on his 94th birthday! https://t.co/xf5WlHO6Lk pic.twitter.com/SLwfRb4c5Q— Michigan Lottery (@MILottery) March 21, 2017 Smolinski said he regularly sends instant tickets to relatives for their birthdays, and that it had become “a bit of a tradition” in the family.  He doesn’t plan to blow all of his winnings, however, and said he’ll probably invest it in a new shed and a newer but still used car. “I’m pretty frugal, I always shop sales and take care of my money and that won’t change,” said Smolinski. “The only thing that will change is I won’t have as much stress in my life worrying about money.” type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=58d0edd9e4b00705db523a26,56dd2bbee4b0000de4050c52,5879d565e4b0b3c7a7b19854,568fc4c1e4b0a2b6fb6fa4da -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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24 марта, 05:20

Sea Ice, Nature, And The Trump Budget

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Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent on March 7, the lowest maximum in the 38-year satellite record, according to a new report by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In other words, both winter and summer sea ice continue to decline. That report followed another piece of recent sea ice news: A new paper, in Nature Climate Change, reported that CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for up to two-thirds of Arctic sea ice loss. The study suggests that the rest, a higher proportion than previously thought, may be due to natural variability in the climate system. That polar bears depend on sea ice and that sea ice can only decline as temperatures rise are both well established by numerous studies. In addition, we have known for over 150 years that global mean temperatures can only increase as long as CO2 levels rise. This means that sea ice and polar bears will ultimately disappear if we don’t stop CO2 rise. But What About Nature’s Role? We’ve always known that natural variability creates uncertainty in exactly how fast sea ice will disappear and when the world will warm beyond other important thresholds. Because different climate models use different assumptions about the role of natural climate variation, existing projections suggest the first summer without Arctic sea ice could occur between 2030 and 2080—a 50-year range. A better understanding of natural variation’s role could help scientists narrow that predicted time span. The new paper, which focuses on the effects of large-scale swings in air circulation patterns, suggests that natural variability could account for 30-50 percent of the sea ice loss recorded since satellite tracking began in 1979. If the role of natural variability is that great, it could mean a small bright spot for polar bears. For the past 38 years, we’ve experienced rapid sea ice loss. If 30-50 percent of that loss was natural, the pace should slow when natural cycles swing the other way. And that slower sea ice loss could give polar bears some temporary relief. But, if we don’t soon see a slow-down, it’s probably evidence that natural variability has less impact on sea ice than predicted in this new paper. The Bottom Line Knowing how much sea ice retreat has been caused by greenhouse gas increases, and how much by natural variation, may help sharpen predicted time lines. But a better understanding of the role of natural variation does not alter the physical laws requiring sea ice to continue to decline as CO2 levels rise. Therefore, if we don’t stop increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere, record low ice extents like the one just reported can only continue—even if a bit more slowly. Ultimately, the polar bear’s future is in our hands. Unless we take action to curb emissions, sea ice will be drastically diminished by the end of this century, and the earth’s climate will be largely unrecognizable. Yet, President Trump’s proposed budget serves up devastating cuts to climate action. These cuts only make sense if we don’t care about the future world we are leaving to our children. Now, more than ever, we need to write and call our elected representatives and tell them we do care about our children’s future, and we want to stay the course on meaningful climate action—for polar bears and for all of us. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 03:27

Uncertain Fate Of Obamacare Causes Some Hospitals To Halt Projects, Hiring

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); (Reuters) - Uncertainty surrounding the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is forcing someU.S. hospitals to delay expansion plans, cut costs, or take on added risk to borrow money for capital investment projects, dealing an economic blow to these facilities and the towns they call home. Hospitals typically lay out multi-year operating plans that prioritize investments, such as new clinics, medical wings, technology or other projects that help draw in more patients and increase revenue. In addition to enhancing patient care, these projects are vital to the local economy as a driver of jobs ranging from construction and maintenance to restaurants and transportation. Denver Health Medical Center, for example, opened a new $26.9 million clinic in the city’s southwest in 2016 to provide care to an area lacking in health services and saw more patients within six months than it had expected over two years. The health system planned to build or remodel five more facilities based on the new clinic’s success. But since November’s election, when Republicans swept the White House and Congress, Denver Health has deferred $73.7 million-worth of construction projects that had been planned to serve more low-income residents, many of whom were newly insured under Obamacare. “We want to know what will happen with the Medicaid expansion population, and what will be the timeline for that,” said Peg Burnette, Denver Health’s chief financial officer. “Due to theuncertainty, we’re not going to issue new debt. We have no plans for that in the near future.” Denver Health is not alone. Across the country, hospitals are shifting to a more conservative stance as they await sweeping changes to the nation’s healthcare law that for the first time in U.S. history would reverse a government healthcare entitlement program. The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, provided coverage to 20 million Americans and brought higher revenues to many hospitals. The law’s likely overhaul puts many hospitals in a uniquely daunting position of being unable to predict how many of their patients will be insured and what type of coverage they will have in the future. As a result, many are more wary than in years past to invest in expensive capital projects, issue debt, or expand into new regions, said healthcare experts and hospital executives. This is playing out in Arizona, where Kingman Regional Medical Center is taking cost-cutting measures by renegotiating medical supply and service contracts. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System, which includes six hospitals, is largely holding off hiring non-clinical staff, a trend also evident in national data. Across the industry, hospital jobs so far in 2017 grew by 8,775 monthly on average, compared to 11,413 jobs for the same period last year, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. (Graphic http://tmsnrt.rs/2mtyO0w) The Republican-proposed bill, set to come before the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday for a vote, would unwind the Medicaid expansion, cap federal payments to states and replaceObamacare’s income-based tax credits with flat age-based credits. The bill would still need approval in the Senate if it clears the House this week. When asked about the early signs of hospitals putting spending on hold, a White House spokesperson expressed confidence that “the disastrous Obamacare law will be replaced with the American Health Care Act — the vehicle which will reform our broken healthcare system.” The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the new proposal would cause 14 million people to lose health insurance next year and 24 million by 2026. The bill has divided House and Senate Republicans and sparked fierce criticism from Democrats and leading medical and hospital groups, including the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association. (Graphic http://tmsnrt.rs/2n0ZMKf) “It’s very challenging to plan for your future in an environment like this,” said Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at America’s Essential Hospitals, a group that represents safety-net hospitals nationally. Not all hospitals are on hold. Some healthcare groups in areas with growing populations, such as Atlanta and Houston, are pushing ahead with capital expansion projects. Others, such as Maryland’s Prince George’s County, are still planning to move forward with construction plans, thanks in part to a partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System. With the new medical center, Prince George’s County hopes to end its long-time reliance on $30 million annually from public subsidies to help cover operations. But that goal assumed Obamacare would remain intact, said Thomas Himler, Prince George’s deputy chief administrative officer. “It could be that three years out we are no longer making money, we are losing money,” said Himler. The uncertainty has seeped into the municipal bond market, where nonprofit hospitals access capital. The sector sold 36 percent less debt for new projects so far in 2017, compared to the same period last year, while the rest of the municipal market increased the amount of new money issued by 23 percent, Thomson Reuters data shows. While municipal analysts say it’s too early to draw conclusions, the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare is a likely cause for the decline. “There’s a wait-and-see feeling,” said Kevin Holloran, a senior director at S&P Global Ratings. “Hospitals are saying, we’ll revisit this in six months or more.” REVENUES AND RESTRAINT Since enrollment started in 2014, the Affordable Care Act brought significant changes to Denver Health Medical Center, a safety-net hospital with the busiest trauma center in Colorado. Historically, nearly two-thirds of patients were either uninsured or covered by Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. Almost immediately after Obamacare went into effect, rates of uninsured dropped and Medicaid coverage jumped to over half of all patients. With so many more patients covered, hospital margins grew and days of cash-on-hand climbed. Such financial improvements enabled the hospital to invest in new projects, including the Pena Family Health Center in southwest Denver. The hospital planned to construct three more clinics, to expand two existing clinics, and to build a new parking garage to drive new revenues and expand its coverage. But since November’s elections, much of those plans have been deferred, including a $24 million expansion of a second clinic, largely financed through bonds. The health system still plans to move forward with the construction of one clinic and the remodeling of another. But those plans could be bigger. “There’s great demand that we’re concerned about not being able to meet in the future,” said Burnette.   (Reporting by Robin Respaut in San Francisco and Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington; editing by Edward Tobin) -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 03:06

Mylan Recalls 81,000 EpiPens Outside U.S. After Reports Of Failure

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Generic drugmaker Mylan NV has recalled about 81,000 EpiPen devices in countries outside the United States, following two reports of the life-saving allergy shot failing to work in emergencies. In both situations, patients were able to obtain treatment through the use of an alternate EpiPen, Mylan said on Wednesday. The recall affects devices distributed in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Japan only, according to the company. Mylan said it is working with the regulatory authorities, where appropriate, to inform them about the recall. The U.S. drugmaker, which is the focus of multiple federal investigations, has come under fire for staggering price increases on the emergency shot in the United States. Mylan has also been heavily criticized for classifying EpiPen as a generic rather than a branded product, which led to much smaller rebates from the company to state Medicaid programs. (Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Shounak Dasgupta) -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 02:51

Let Us Now Praise A Coal Miner: Chuck Nelson Is An American Hero

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Among the hundreds of coal miners I have interviewed over the years, retired coal miner Chuck Nelson has always been among the most fearless truth-tellers in the coal country of West Virginia. An indefatigable presence at hearings, meetings, media briefings, and in his beloved mountains, Nelson’s powerful voice and witness have never been needed more than now—during this unending “war” on Appalachia by the coal industry and its sycophants in state halls and Washington, DC. “Chuck Nelson is an invaluable member of our community,” said Maria Gunnoe, the Goldman Prize Award recipient with Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia. “The coal industry may have broken his health down, but they sure didn't break his Appalachian spirit to always fight for something better.” A 4th generation union coal miner, who spent 30 years working in underground mines, Nelson has witnessed first-hand the demise of a once strong union movement for workplace safety and wage justice, the unraveling of deeply rooted communities, the clear-cut destruction of his mountain forests and poisoning of his neighbors, and the fierce struggle of local communities to defend their health, land and ways of life. In a time of so many challenges in coal country, Chuck Nelson’s courage has given a generation of coal miners, Appalachians and community activists a reason to believe. We’re long overdue for a reckoning in so-called coal country—to hold coal outlaws accountable, to regenerate coal-mined regions like my native southern Illinois that have been left in utter ruin and despair. That reckoning should begin by listening to coal miners like Chuck Nelson. As 22,800 retired miners receive letters that they may lose their health benefits, as black lung disease needlessly surges as state legislatures gut mining safety regulations, as coal companies shake free of their obligations to workers and reclamation through backroom bankruptcy deals, and as Congress and the Trump administration strip basic stream and clean water protection against toxic strip mining discharges, Nelson remains a rare voice of clarity amid the “war on coal” banter. “Being a coal miner for nearly half my life, I clearly understand the position that we've always been put in,” Nelson wrote on Facebook last week. “It's give, give, give, until there is nothing more to give. The coal companies have taken our health, and promised, "don't worry, we will take care of you." We have made these companies billions and billions of dollars. And what do they do, they take our lungs, they take our dignity, and have always said, "the mule is always more important than the man." Don Blankenship, ex-Massy CEO said, "there's not a coal miner anywhere, that's worth $10.00 an hour." They have got their billions, and now are taking our healthcare saying, thanks, see you later, you're on your own, while giving their executives millions in bonus checks, and saying, "we are broke, and now cannot afford to give you your insurance that we promised." Watch an interview with Nelson from the recent film, Blood on the Mountain: “Coal miners have always been for sale to the highest bidder,” he added. “When do we say, enough is enough. We are the hardest, and best, working men and women in the world. You will give us our respect and dignity that we've have earned. NOW Is the time to make a stand. These companies, WV Coal Association, are allowed to continue their assault on the coal miner, and continue to operate in our back yard. We are not friends of coal, like they hope we are. Stand and fight for your dignity and respect, and your life. "Blood on the Mountain." “Chuck's experience as a miner provides a broader view of the conflict between sides in the battle over the future of coal in Appalachia,” said Melissa English, with Ohio Citizen Action. “Talking with him, one can see how if he and others had been treated better by the mine operators, there would have been no need for sides at all. Chuck wanted what we all want - a decent living, respect and to be left alone to pursue his definition of happiness. But the operators' decision to value profits over people changed all that. He became a reluctant activist, fighting for economic and environmental justice and a chance at a better life for those who will come after him. He could have been just another worker, putting in his time and retiring to go fish and hunt, but King Coal radicalized him. He is an extremely credible and formidable foe.” “He is always there to help anyone he can in any way he can,” added Gunnoe. “I simply don't know where we'd be without him. “ -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 01:06

Senate Republicans Vote To Overturn Internet Privacy Protections

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By David Shepardson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted narrowly to repeal regulations requiring internet service providers to do more to protect customers’ privacy than websites like Alphabet Inc’s Google or Facebook Inc . The vote was along party lines, with 50 Republicans approving the measure and 48 Democrats rejecting it. The two remaining Republicans in the Senate were absent and did not cast a vote. According to the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing. The vote was a victory for internet providers such as AT&T Inc , Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc , which had strongly opposed the rules. The bill next goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, but it was not clear when they would take up the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate was overturning a regulation that “makes the internet an uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation, and infrastructure investment.” But Democratic Senator Ed Markey said, “Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama administration internet provider rules. In a joint statement, Democratic members of the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission said the Senate vote “creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements.” Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter Inc or Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus dominate digital advertising. The FCC earlier this month delayed the data rules from taking effect. The Internet and Television Association, a trade group, in a statement praised the vote as a “critical step towards re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.” Websites are governed by a less restrictive set of privacy rules overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for advocacy group Consumers Union, said the vote “is a huge step in the wrong direction, and it completely ignores the needs and concerns of consumers.”   (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis) -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 01:03

Trump's Agriculture Pick Sure Doesn't Seem Opposed To Food Stamp Cuts

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); The long-delayed confirmation hearing of Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finally arrived before the Senate on Thursday. For two hours, members of the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee peppered the former Georgia governor with questions mostly centered on elements of trade, crop insurance and forest policy, but largely avoided more controversial topics. The most glaring omission was any real interrogation regarding the nutrition programs overseen by the USDA, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known colloquially as “food stamps.” Perdue faced only one question on SNAP on Thursday. About an hour and a half into the hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) asked whether he would commit “to focusing on how we can deliver more food to more families throughout this country” by supporting the program. Perdue stopped short of making that commitment, appearing to suggest changes could be coming to the program, though he offered no detail on what sort of reforms he might support or anticipate. “I hope we can do that even more efficiently and effectively than we have,” Perdue said. “It’s certainly important to the children and families of America. I hope we can work together to accomplish that.” That response was a red flag to Mike Lavender, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists’s food and environment program. “What’s left out of the conversation is just as important as what’s brought in,” Lavender told HuffPost Thursday. “You can read into that in a number of ways, but [Perdue’s comments] doesn’t increase my confidence that SNAP is going to be able to reach more people and get more healthy food to more people.” The absence of further questions on SNAP or any questions on the agency’s other nutrition programs — such as the National School Lunch Program — belies the fact that these programs eat up about 71 percent of the agency’s annual spending. Despite its well-documented success at reducing participants’ food insecurity, SNAP has also been the subject of numerous hearings exploring potential reforms, and has been viewed as a likely target for cuts under the Trump administration. Other controversial topics were left entirely off the table at the Thursday hearing. Climate change — which Perdue has downplayed, despite the close link between farming and greenhouse gas emissions and the significant impacts it is having on farmers’ livelihoods — was not mentioned in any of the questions. In addition, Perdue’s ethics record and potential conflicts of interests, which have been the subject of a series of detailed recent reports from a number of media outlets, were also left unaddressed. Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, said she was “deeply concerned” that questions on these topics were avoided by committee members. “With all of Perdue’s history on denying climate change and all his conflicts of interest that have come out, to have no mention of all these things is a complete missed opportunity,” Finck-Haynes said. “They are not fully fulfilling their duties to make sure he is actually fit for this role and that he is going to prioritize the interests of the American public and the environment over big agribusiness.” Some of the committee members’ most pointed questions on Thursday concerned the president’s proposed slashing of the USDA’s budget, which is slated for a 21 percent reduction — percentage-wise, one of the largest cuts proposed for any federal agency. Perdue said Thursday he was not consulted by the administration before they published the agency’s proposed budget. In response to a number of questions concerning those cuts, the nominee stated his support for some USDA programs that have been slated for funding reductions, such as the rural water program and conservation efforts like those impacting the Chesapeake Bay. “Agriculture is in my heart,” Perdue said in response to a question from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). “I look forward to fighting for the producers of America. We know how vital it is and I will absolutely be a tenacious advocate and fighter [for agriculture] where necessary to do that.” Committee members can still submit further questions to Perdue until the end of Friday, ahead of a full Senate vote on his confirmation. Finck-Haynes was hopeful senators will push for more detail from the nominee. “We have very few answers on what he is actually going to do in terms of protecting farmers, consumers and our environment,” Finck-Haynes added. “The American public deserves to know where and what he’s going to do.” It doesn’t appear likely that Perdue will face much additional grilling or pushback on his nomination, however. He has a wide base of support from farm industry groups who tout his farming background — Perdue grew up on a dairy farm, was trained as a veterinarian and has owned several agriculture related businesses — as evidence that he’s the right pick for the post. Farm groups are antsy for Perdue’s confirmation. The National Farmers Union, the farming industry’s second-largest organization, reiterated its support for Perdue on Thursday, urging the Senate to move forward with the nominee. “If confirmed, Sonny Perdue will be stepping into a position of great importance within this administration,” NFU president Roger Johnson said in a statement.“To this point, agriculture and rural America have not had a seat at the table in this administration.” To date, Perdue is one of only two Trump Cabinet positions yet to be confirmed by the Senate. The other, Department of Labor nominee Alexander Acosta, was nominated in February following the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder. Acosta faced his confirmation hearing Wednesday. type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related... + articlesList=588010e9e4b02c1837e9a38d,58d3ff76e4b02d33b749866e,58c992bfe4b0be71dcf102ce ―- Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food, water, agriculture and our climate. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email [email protected] -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 00:21

Republican Senator Hails Goldman Sachs As A Champion Of 'The Little Guy'

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); WASHINGTON ― Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced on Thursday that he is trapped in a Randian nightmare where members of Congress seek to “beat down” the virtuous organization Goldman Sachs ― a benevolent force in American democracy that goes to great lengths to “employ the little guy.” “I feel like sometimes I’m living a reality TV version of Atlas Shrugged,” Tillis declared at a Senate hearing. “There are a lot of people in this Congress that wanna just beat down job creators and employers ... People want to demonize Goldman Sachs. That’s an easy thing to do, right? Just beat up on a financial services institution. An institution that’s committed to, let me look at the general numbers here ― they have 36,500 employees. There’s probably a lot of little guys in there. They’ve contributed billions of dollars to nonprofits.” “Demonizing employers that employ the little guy isn’t looking out for the little guy,” Tillis concluded. Tillis was speaking at the confirmation hearing for Jay Clayton, President Donald Trump’s nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton is a top Wall Street attorney who helped Goldman Sachs with its 2008 government bailout. Tillis’ outburst appeared to be a response to earlier questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom Tillis griped about in a previous hearing for highlighting a conflict of interest involving President Donald Trump and federal affordable housing programs. Under government ethics rules, Warren noted, Clayton would have to recuse himself from any enforcement actions the SEC takes against companies that he represented, or companies that his law firm Sullivan & Cromwell represents in cases before the SEC. That creates a scenario in which the agency’s two Republican and two Democratic commissioners are likely to deadlock about enforcement ― a common occurrence during the tenure of SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who was also a prominent corporate attorney before going into government. “Based on your personal client disclosures then, for half of your tenure as SEC chair, you would not be able to vote to enforce the law against several big banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and UBS,” Warren told Clayton at the hearing. “Those banks have repeatedly violated securities laws in the past few years. But if they violate securities laws again in your first two years as SEC chairman, you can’t vote to punish them. And I think that’s a problem.” And indeed, Goldman Sachs has faced a long list of charges that it’s run afoul of the law. Last year, the bank agreed to pay $5 billion to settle charges that it defrauded its clients by selling them toxic mortgage-backed securities. It paid a $120 million penalty to settle charges that it manipulated foreign exchange markets. It paid a separate $36.3 million penalty to resolve charges that it accepted confidential regulatory information from the New York Fed and used it to get clients. In 2014, the company paid $3.15 billion to settle charges that it defrauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2012, the bank paid $12 million to settle “pay-to-play” campaign contribution violations involving the Massachusetts state treasurer, paid $22 million to settle charges that its research and sales teams were holding meetings that allowed them to improperly share insider information, and paid $1.5 million and $7 million to settle two other supervision problems. A member of Goldman Sach’s board of directors was sentenced to prison the same year for illegally tipping off a hedge fund manager to the company’s boardroom secrets. In 2010, the bank paid $550 million to settle charges that it defrauded its own clients by selling them mortgage-linked securities that were designed to fail, and which Goldman Sachs itself bet against. That just covers the years since the financial crisis. Prior to that, Goldman Sachs had settled charges that it had rigged the auction-rate securities market, cheated while managing initial public offerings, and illegally traded government bonds.  Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment for this article.  “Any financial services executive or anybody in a financial services business that acts badly needs to suffer the consequences,” Tillis said Thursday. “But if we just make the American people think that they’re all bad, you are hurting the little guy.” Still, Tillis’ most grievous error at the hearing was one of literary interpretation. Tillis simply does not understand the book he referenced during his tirade. Atlas Shrugged is a novel about a railroad tycoon who has an affair with a married steel magnate before joining a clan of very bright rich people who go on “strike,” letting society collapse without their talents while they enjoy the ubermensch lifestyle in a peaceful valley. Atlas Shrugged is not a novel about all the charities supported by good-hearted corporations. Its heroes literally abandon society to chaos and destruction rather than deploy their talents for the public good. Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, would not have approved of Goldman’s philanthropic work, because she believed all charitable activity fostered weakness and opposed it on principle. She literally wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness, which celebrates people who act in their own interests at the expense of their communities.   It’s not exactly an alien worldview on Wall Street. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 марта, 00:12

Sexual Harassment Isn’t About Sex, It’s About Power

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It was only 26 years ago that Anita Hill became one of the most talked about women in the country, thanks to her sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court Justice hopeful Clarence Thomas. Just 26 years ago, when we began, as a culture, to talk openly about sexual harassment in the workplace ― what it looks like, what it means, and how to deal with it.  For all the progress that’s been made in discourse around this topic, there’s no denying we have a long way to go. One in three women, after all, can expect to be sexually harassed in the workplace in her lifetime. Generally, when we talk about sexual harassment in the workplace, we tend to think of a rigid cast of character ― a man in a position of power who’s hitting on a female subordinate. But in painting a narrow picture, we fail to see the whole problem, and therefore we won’t be able to fix it. On Monday, New York Mag reported complaints that an employee made about Thinx founder Miki Agrawal. The controversy brought up a reality of harassment that’s rarely discussed: that sexual harassment is rarely just about sex. It’s about power, and women in positions of power are also capable of behaving inappropriately with employees.  A former Thinx employee, Chelsea Leibow, claims that over the course of her time at the company, Agrawal made repeated unwelcome comments about her breasts, fondled her breasts, and even asked to see them. New York Mag reported that nothing was done after Leibow’s repeated attempts to report Agrawal to management and, eventually, Leibow was terminated for apparently unrelated reasons. Agrawal has since denied the allegations.   Sexual harassment is rarely just about sex. It’s about power. Cases that accuse women of making unwelcome sexual advances to coworkers and employees may be rarer because less women hold positions of power ― especially in the corporate world.  But also, this type of foul play may be harder to recognize. Women aren’t socialized to be sexually aggressive the way men are, which may make it harder to read the signs of harassment, according to Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.  “It is difficult for people to acknowledge that they are being victimized, and even harder to do so when the circumstances don’t follow well-known patterns, such as having a female perpetrator,” Houser told The Huffington Post. “Most frequently, survivors of sexual harassment, exploitation and violence delay making an official report of what has happened out of fear of how others will respond,” she added. “From retaliation by the perpetrator to gossip, dismissive responses and outright victim blaming by colleagues, friends and family.” In the Thinx situation, Leibow told New York Mag that she often bit her tongue during the numerous instances of assault because, “Thinx was a culture of we’re all women here, this is to be expected.”  Indeed, there’s a well documented history of sexual assault cases where victims of female perpetrators aren’t taken seriously due to that grey area. This leads to a culture where victims have to ask themselves what does and does not constitute sexual harassment  ― and that question often isn’t easy to answer.  It’s about the objectification of a victim, emphasizing their role as a helpless subordinate. The first ever court case where a man named a woman as the offender in a sexual harassment case was in 1995. The victim, a male manager at Dominos Pizza, claimed his female supervisor would periodically “caress his shoulders and neck, and pinched his buttocks.” The behavior went unnoticed for months.  More recently, in 2015, the theater chain Regal Entertainment made a $175,000 settlement in a lawsuit by a male employee who accused a female co-worker of repeatedly touching his crotch. According to the suit, the harassment went on for some time because neither the theater’s supervisor or general manager did anything about the male employee’s frequent complaints ― in fact, they actually disciplined him with low performance evaluations.  And in March of this year, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against wireless retailer, ABC Phones of North Carolina, Inc. According to the federal agency, a female sales associate was the victim of harassment from a female coworker ― her complaints about inappropriate touching and comments to management reportedly were ignored.  Victims of harassment at the hands of men also face the same challenges, of course. But there’s a running thread in all instances of sexual harassment, a running thread of intimidation and the assertion of control. Again, it’s rarely just about sex. It’s about the objectification of a victim, emphasizing their role as a helpless subordinate.  Perhaps part of the reason that there’s so little discussion about women harassing employees and coworkers lies in how we view women in positions of power.   Isn’t it funny, films and TV shows seem to ask, to see a woman being sexually aggressive? If we look to pop culture, so often a mirror of society, we’ll see the trope of the hilariously violent or sexually aggressive woman ― from Grace Jones in “Boomerang” to Jennifer Aniston in “Horrible Bosses.” These women aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but rather are meant to be laughed at. Isn’t it funny, films and TV shows seem to ask, to see a woman being sexually aggressive? Their behavior, no matter how horrifying, is presented as a joke, like when Aniston’s character in “Horrible Bosses” threatens her male employee to sleep with her or lose his job.   So, how do we end the apparent stigma surrounding women as perpetrators of harassment, a stigma that obscures the fact that this kind of abuse is often far more subtle than it is overt? Does it mean encouraging victims to speak out?  According to civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, the onus should not be on victims to end the stigma around sexual harassment, especially harassment from women. “I deal with individuals, and they have to decide what is best for them,” Allred told The Huffington Post. “I never believe in sacrificing an individual for the cause. But I do think that if women fight back in some form to assert their right to be free of sexual harassment, then they’re doing a service for all of us.” The solution it seems, isn’t solely about shifting the ways in which we react to sexual harassment, but about shifting the environments and circumstances that breed sexual harassment.  The onus should not be on victims to end the stigma around sexual harassment. “Cultures are the result of our collective behaviors, and leaders often set the tone,” Houser explains. “High profile cases of sexual harassment allegations such as [Thinx] and similar allegations from Uber and Sterling Jewelers are a reminder to all corporations and institutions to revisit policies and procedures on sexual harassment and assault. These include ensuring that victims feel comfortable reporting allegations to human resources, training all employees in bystander intervention, and discouraging behaviors that create hostile work environments.”  In other words, it’s time for us to expand our ideas about what does and does not constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s time for us to rid ourselves of the assumption, for instance, that only men engage in sexual harassment, or that women who are sexually aggressive are purely sources of humor. Perhaps, in the case of Thinx, if there had been a more broader conception of harassment (and better tools and structures to deal with it), Leibow would not have had to deal with the hazy grey area of trauma that she says she finds herself in now.  -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

23 марта, 21:39

Trump's Agriculture Pick Vows To Fight For Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Despite Budget Cuts

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function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue on Thursday vowed to defend efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, even though the White House has proposed eliminating funding for its cleanup. If confirmed, the former Georgia governor would not have power over the Environmental Protection Agency’s $73 million initiative targeting runoff from farming fertilizer, the chief source of the nitrogen and phosphorus contaminating the Chesapeake Bay. But he said his Department of Agriculture would continue to work with farmers to reduce pollution. “I don’t believe we can continue the progress that’s been made,” he said, referring to the the across-the-board cuts proposed in President Donald Trump’s skinny budget. “I certainly hope we can even increase and continue the progress.” Perdue offered scant details as to how he would secure gains made through decades of federally funded work. Trump has suggested slashing the USDA’s budget to $17.9 billion, a 21 percent reduction that halts funding for rural clean water projects and agrarian business services. The proposed cut also targets the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which provides assistance to farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, at a time when farm incomes are down 50 percent from four years ago. Roughly 30 percent of the watershed ― which stretches north from Virginia, through Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania and into parts of western New York ― is made up of agricultural lands. Nitrogen and phosphorus, often from chicken manure used to fecundate soil, are carried from streams and rivers into the bay. The elements feed toxic algae blooms that absorb oxygen and block out the sun, which prevents marsh grasses from growing underwater. Oysters and blue crabs die from lack of oxygen or by slipping into soft mud that would normally be made taut with grass roots. The oyster industry, once a regional cash cow, has staged a major comeback as results from the cleanup effort began to show over the past decade, as The Huffington Post reported this week. The wild oyster population has yet to bounce back, but farmers who raise bivalves in underwater cages on the bay and its estuaries have seen business boom since the water became less cloudy about six years ago. “I’m a farmer, we’re farmers, we’re members of the Farm Bureau,” said Bob Rheault, executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. “Yet we find ourselves at odds with land farmers, unfortunately, who resist efforts to use best management practices and limit impacts of fertilizer on the watershed.” Perdue doesn’t seem to see it that way. He called the Chesapeake Bay “a vital resource nationally” that will be preserved “much to the credit of farmers, agribusiness and others who acknowledged the runoff.” “Hopefully we can continue the education and the national NRCS there so we can continue that program,” he said. type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=58cc4ad5e4b0ec9d29dc23bb,58d0923ee4b0be71dcf773f5,58d2c735e4b0b22b0d19390c,58d17a7be4b0ec9d29e00dca,58c992bfe4b0be71dcf102ce -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

23 марта, 21:27

Starbucks Gives Corporate Employees 3 Times More Maternity Leave Than Baristas

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Starbucks grabbed headlines and accolades earlier this year for giving its hourly workers parental leave, but few people paid attention to the inequality baked into the fine print: The coffee giant is providing vastly better benefits to its already well-paid, white-collar corporate employees. Under the new policy, which takes effect in October, Starbucks white-collar employees who give birth to a baby are eligible for up to 18 weeks paid time off. That’s three times as much as the six weeks a woman working in a Starbucks store would get if she has a baby. All other corporate employees can take 12 weeks paid time off after the arrival of a child, including fathers, adoptive and foster parents. Hourly workers? They get 12 weeks, too. Unpaid. Known for giving generous benefits to the hourly workers that comprise the vast majority of its 180,000 employees in the U.S., Starbucks called this new policy “exceptional” in a press release in January. Now some Starbucks workers are protesting the policy, decrying the unfairness of giving one class of workers more time to spend with their children than another and shining light on a problem that plagues Americans across the country. This week a few Starbucks employees traveled to the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle to deliver three petitions, with more than 80,000 signatures from employees and others, demanding equal parental leave benefits.    “I think my baby is just as important as the babies of the parents in the corporate office,” said Kristin Picciolo, who works part-time at a Starbucks in Medina, Ohio, and traveled to Seattle this week to deliver the petition.  “We should have equal benefits and time to spend with them.” This is not about Starbucks, this is about people who have more actually noticing and placing value on the people that have less. Jess Svabinek, Starbucks employee Just four months ago, while she was in labor at the hospital, Picciolo got the surprising news that she fell slightly short of Starbucks’ hourly work requirements to qualify for paid maternity leave. (The current policy allows for six weeks paid leave at 67 percent pay for those that work 20 hours a week or more.) Since then, her partner’s picked up double-shifts for his job as a server in a restaurant. She went back to work last month ― sooner than she would’ve liked. “We’re stressed out,” the 22-year-old new mom says of her current situation, laughing when this reporter asked about their savings. If she worked in corporate, she’d still be home with her son, she said. And that would be better for everyone. Few would argue that big companies like Starbucks should practice equality when it comes to pay. Employees get paid different salaries and that’s how it works. A cashier probably shouldn’t make the same salary as the CEO. But parental leave is a different ballgame. And, as Starbucks is finding out, it’s hard to justify why some types of workers “deserve” more time with their children than others. Netflix ran into a similar issue a few years ago, after the Huffington Post reported that its hourly workers weren’t eligible for the same amount of parental leave benefits as its salaried workers. When asked to explain the discrepancy, a Starbucks spokesperson reiterated phrasing from its January press release, saying the expanded benefits for corporate employees were intended to “seek and retain non-store talent.” In other words, the company is competing more fiercely for these workers and needs to do more to attract them.  When Picciolo asked Starbucks president Kevin Johnson if there were any plans to equalize the benefit at the shareholder meeting on Wednesday, he skirted the question, noting that the company also raised hourly pay last year and expanded health benefits. He said that the benefits conversation is ongoing. (You can watch the video below.) Johnson, who is slated to take the reins as CEO in April, said the parental leave policy was what they were able to offer at this time. The more generous non-store worker policy actually applies to very few Starbucks employees. Of its 170,000 U.S. workers, all but 8,000 work in its stores, according to company data. And that handful of workers makes lots more money. While store workers at the company make around $10 or so an hour; pay at corporate headquarters ― for roles like systems analyst, human resource manager or IT manager ―  can run into the six-figures, according to data on Glassdoor. Starbucks is hardly the only retailer to give better benefits to its white-collar workers. Walmart gives women in its corporate office 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and its hourly workers get none, according to data compiled by Paid Leave U.S., a nonprofit advocacy group. Yum Brands only gives paid leave to corporate full-timers; not to workers in its fast-food restaurants, according to PLUS’s data. The group is planning on releasing its analysis later this year.   A handful of big companies have decided to buck the trend and offer all of its workers ― hourly or salaried ― equal benefits, including Ikea, Nordstrom and Levi’s. But they’re unusual. Paid leave inequality is something that labor groups are starting to pay more attention to, said Brianna Cayo Cotter, chief of staff at Paid Leave U.S. “The people that most need paid leave benefits are the ones being left out of these policies,” said Cotter. Her nonprofit is working alongside Working Washington, a local labor group, to push Starbucks to further improve its policy. The rub is that a typical low-wage worker is in far greater need of paid time off than her higher-paid counterpart. Nearly half of low-income workers who take unpaid or partially paid leave turn to government benefits to get by, according to a Pew study released Thursday afternoon. An even larger percentage take on debt. One in four women are back to work less than two weeks after they give birth, that’s not enough time to even physically recover from labor. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that doesn’t offer new mothers paid maternity leave. It’s the only advanced economy with no mandated sick time. That means that it’s left to the private sector to dole out what is essentially a public benefit. And of course that leads to inequality. The most competitive, highest paying jobs are the ones that offer paid leave.   And Americans apparently want to leave this policy in the private sector’s hands, the Pew study found. While the majority of survey respondents said they support paid parental leave, respondents also said that companies should be the ones to offer it. Americans were split on whether the government should require employers to offer the benefit. Most Democrats said yes; while Republican respondents disagreed. Jess Svabinek is a 37-year-old barista at a Starbucks about 40 miles outside of Seattle. She makes $11 an hour and is expecting baby this summer ― her fourth. She’ll have her baby before the benefits go into effect and she’s not sure if she is up to 20 hours a week, so she’s been tucking away her tips to save up for diapers. Her husband earns $21.50 an hour at Trader Joe’s. “We’re lucky,” Svabinek says, noting that last year they made slightly more than $50,000. He works days; she works nights; handing off the kids, an 11-year-old and six-year-old twins, in a tag team parenting style that carries a lot of hourly workers through their days. She was at the shareholder meeting Wednesday and had time to visit the Starbucks store at corporate headquarters. She said she watched the store workers smiling and serving their corporate employee counterparts coffees. “This is not about Starbucks, this is about people who have more actually noticing and placing value on the people that have less,” she told HuffPost in an email. “There is not a difference between [a corporate worker’s] baby and the barista’s baby. The only difference is that she sits upstairs in a building and the barista works down below in an apron. The time for this kind of class discrimination is over.” -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.