the economic outlook in the United States, however cloudy, is still better than in most other regions.

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

A fragile currency can sometimes work as “a buffering mechanism,” causing nations to import less and export more, Mr. Prasad said. But today, many “are not seeing the benefits of stronger growth.”

Still, they must pay more for essential imports like oil, wheat or pharmaceuticals as well as for loan bills due from billion-dollar debts.

debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s.

The situation is particularly fraught because so many countries ran up above-average debts to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. And now they are facing renewed pressure to offer public support as food and energy prices soar.

Indonesia this month, thousands of protesters, angry over a 30 percent price increase on subsidized fuel, clashed with the police. In Tunisia, a shortage of subsidized food items like sugar, coffee, flour and eggs has shuttered cafes and emptied market shelves.

New research on the impact of a strong dollar on emerging nations found that it drags down economic progress across the board.

“You can see these very pronounced negative effects of a stronger dollar,” said Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the study.

central banks feel pressure to raise interest rates to bolster their currencies and prevent import prices from skyrocketing. Last week, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Norway raised interest rates.

World Bank warned this month that simultaneous interest rate increases are pushing the world toward a recession and developing nations toward a string of financial crises that would inflict “lasting harm.”

Clearly, the Fed’s mandate is to look after the American economy, but some economists and foreign policymakers argue it should pay more attention to the fallout its decisions have on the rest of the world.

In 1998, Alan Greenspan, a five-term Fed chair, argued that “it is just not credible that the United States can remain an oasis of prosperity unaffected by a world that is experiencing greatly increased stress.”

The United States is now facing a slowing economy, but the essential dilemma is the same.

“Central banks have purely domestic mandates,” said Mr. Obstfeld, the U.C. Berkeley economist, but financial and trade globalization have made economies more interdependent than they have ever been and so closer cooperation is needed. “I don’t think central banks can have the luxury of not thinking about what’s happening abroad.”

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Voting Equipment To Be Replaced After ‘Unauthorized Access’

By Associated Press
September 24, 2022

Georgia’s secretary of state said an investigation into the unauthorized access to the equipment by former Coffee County election officials continues.

Georgia’s secretary of state on Friday announced plans to replace election equipment in one county following “unauthorized access” to the equipment that happened two months after the 2020 election.

A computer forensics team hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump traveled to Coffee County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 7, 2021. A company representative has said they made complete copies of the election management system server and other election system components. Later that month, two men who have been involved in efforts to discredit the 2020 election results also spent hours inside the elections office with access to the equipment.

Trump and his supporters pushed false claims about certain voting machines after he lost his bid for reelection. Authorities have said there was no evidence of widespread problems with voting equipment.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said an investigation into the unauthorized access to the equipment by former Coffee County election officials continues.

“Anyone who broke the law should be punished to its full extent,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “But the current election officials in Coffee County have to move forward with the 2022 election, and they should be able to do so without this distraction.”

Footage from security cameras shows “former election officials in Coffee County permitting access by unauthorized individuals to equipment that under Georgia law should have been secured,” the release said. The footage was produced in response to subpoenas issued by plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit against state election officials that claims the state’s touchscreen voting machines aren’t secure.

The county’s election management server and central scanner workstation were previously replaced in June 2021, officials have said. The county will receive 100 new touchscreen voting machines, 100 printers, 10 precinct scanners, 21 tablets used to check in voters and new flash cards and thumb drives to be installed and tested before early voting begins next month.

Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the voting machine lawsuit, said the election management server and central scanner workstation should also be replaced. She said that’s because they were used with the other potentially contaminated equipment in elections since their replacement last year.

Separately, election officials in the state’s most populous county, in and around Atlanta, said Friday that they had fired a worker after learning that “personally identifiable information was shared with an individual outside the organization,” news outlets reported.

“The individual responsible for the incident no longer works with Fulton County,” the county said in a news release. “Fulton County is committed to the safety and security of all citizens and employees. Each individual affected by this incident will be notified and will receive credit monitoring services.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

In Parts Of The Mideast, Power Generators Spew Toxic Fumes 24/7

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East.

They literally run the country. In parking lots, on flatbed trucks, hospital courtyards and rooftops, private generators are ubiquitous in parts of the Middle East, spewing hazardous fumes into homes and businesses 24 hours a day.

As the world looks for renewable energy to tackle climate change, millions of people around the region depend almost completely on diesel-powered private generators to keep the lights on because war or mismanagement have gutted electricity infrastructure.

Experts call it national suicide from an environmental and health perspective.

“Air pollution from diesel generators contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances,” said Samy Kayed, managing director and co-founder of the Environment Academy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Greater exposure to these pollutants likely increases respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease, he said. It also causes acid rain that harms plant growth and increases eutrophication — the excess build-up of nutrients in water that ultimately kills aquatic plants.

Since they usually use diesel, generators also produce far more climate change-inducing emissions than, for example, a natural gas power plant does, he said.

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East, which is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even without the growing impact of global warming.

The reliance on generators results from state failure. In Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, governments can’t maintain a functioning central power network, whether because of war, conflict or mismanagement and corruption.

Lebanon, for example, has not built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians’ factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country’s few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.

Iraq, meanwhile, sits on some of the world’s biggest oil reserves. Yet scorching summer-time heat is always accompanied by the roar of neighborhood generators, as residents blast ACs around the clock to keep cool.

Repeated wars over the decades have wrecked Iraq’s electricity networks. Corruption has siphoned away billions of dollars meant to repair and upgrade it. Some 17 billion cubic meters of gas from Iraq’s wells are burned every year as waste, because it hasn’t built the infrastructure to capture it and convert it to electricity to power Iraqi homes.

In Libya, a country prized for its light and sweet crude oil, electricity networks have buckled under years of civil war and the lack of a central government.

“The power cuts last the greater part of the day, when electricity is mostly needed,” said Muataz Shobaik, the owner of a butcher shop in the city of Benghazi, in Libya’s east, who uses a noisy generator to keep his coolers running.

“Every business has to have a backup off-grid solution now,” he said. Diesel fumes from his and neighboring shops’ machines hung thick in the air amid the oppressive heat.

The Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people rely on around 700 neighborhood generators across the territory for their homes. Thousands of private generators keep businesses, government institutions, universities and health centers running. Running on diesel, they churn black smoke in the air, tarring walls around them.

Since Israel bombed the only power plant in the Hamas-ruled territory in 2014, the station has never reached full capacity. Gaza only gets about half the power it needs from the plant and directly from Israel. Cutoffs can last up to 16 hours a day.

WAY OF LIFE

Perhaps nowhere do generators rule people’s lives as much as in Lebanon, where the system is so entrenched and institutionalized that private generator owners have their own business association.

They are crammed into tight streets, parking lots, on roofs and balconies and in garages. Some are as large as storage containers, others small and blaring noise.

Lebanon’s 5 million people have long depended on them. The word “moteur,” French for generator, is one of the most often spoken words among Lebanese.

Reliance has only increased since Lebanon’s economy unraveled in late 2019 and central power cutoffs began lasting longer. At the same time, generator owners have had to ration use because of soaring diesel prices and high temperatures, turning them off several times a day for breaks.

So residents plan their lives around the gaps in electricity.

Those who can’t start the day without coffee set an alarm to make a cup before the generator turns off. The frail or elderly in apartment towers wait for the generator to switch on before leaving home so they don’t have to climb stairs. Hospitals must keep generators humming so life-saving machines can operate without disruption.

“We understand people’s frustration, but if it wasn’t for us, people would be living in darkness,” said Ihab, the Egyptian operator of a generator station north of Beirut.

“They say we are more powerful than the state, but it is the absence of the state that led us to exist,” he said, giving only his first name to avoid trouble with the authorities.

Siham Hanna, a 58-year-old translator in Beirut, said generator fumes exacerbate her elderly father’s lung condition. She wipes soot off her balcony and other surfaces several times a day.

“It’s the 21st century, but we live like in the stone ages. Who lives like this?” said Hanna, who does not recall her country ever having stable electricity in her life.

Some in Lebanon and elsewhere have begun to install solar power systems in their homes. But most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.

In Iraq, the typical middle-income household uses generator power for 10 hours a day on average and pays $240 per Megawatt/hour, among the highest rates in the region, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The need for generators has become ingrained in people’s minds. At a recent concert in the capital, famed singer Umm Ali al-Malla made sure to thank not only the audience but also the venue’s technical director “for keeping the generator going” while her admirers danced.

TOXIC CONTAMINANTS

As opposed to power plants outside urban areas, generators are in the heart of neighborhoods, pumping toxins directly to residents.

This is catastrophic, said Najat Saliba, a chemist at the American University of Beirut who recently won a seat in Parliament.

“This is extremely taxing on the environment, especially the amount of black carbon and particles that they emit,” she said. There are almost no regulations and no filtering of particles, she added.

Researchers at AUB found that the level of toxic emissions may have quadrupled since Lebanon’s financial crisis began because of increased reliance on generators.

In Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, miles of wires crisscross streets connecting thousands of private generators. Each produces 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per 8 hours working time, according to Mohammed al Hazem, an environmental activist.

Similarly, a 2020 study on the environmental impact of using large generators in the University of Technology in Baghdad found very high concentrations of pollutants exceeding limits set by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

That was particularly because Iraqi diesel fuel has a high sulphur content — “one of the worst in the world,” the study said. The emissions include “sulphate, nitrate materials, atoms of soot carbon, ash” and pollutants that are considered carcinogens, it warned.

“The pollutants emitted from these generators exert a remarkable impact on the overall health of students and university staff, it said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Visa To Start Categorizing Gun Shop Sales Separately

Visa’s adoption is significant as the largest payment network, and will likely add pressure for Mastercard and American Express to adopt the code.

Payment processor Visa Inc. said late Saturday that it plans to start separately categorizing sales at gun shops.

It’s a major win for gun control advocates who say it will help better track suspicious surges of gun sales that could be a prelude to a mass shooting. But gun rights advocates have argued that step would unfairly segregate legal gun sales when most sales do not lead to mass shootings.

Visa said it would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun sales, which was announced on Friday. Until Friday, gun store sales were considered “general merchandise.”

“Following ISO’s decision to establish a new merchant category code, Visa will proceed with next steps, while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules,” the payment processor said in a statement.

Visa’s adoption is significant as the largest payment network, and will likely add pressure for Mastercard and American Express to adopt the code as well.

Gun control advocates had gotten significant wins on this front in recent weeks. New York City officials and pension funds had pressured the ISO and banks to adopt this code.

Two of the country’s largest public pension funds, in California and New York, are pressing the country’s largest credit card firms to establish sales codes specifically for firearm-related sales that could flag suspicious purchases or more easily trace how guns and ammo are sold.

Merchant Category Codes now exist for almost every kind of purchase, including those made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops and many other retailers.

“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for his city’s deadly violence.

The city’s comptroller, Brad Lander, said it made moral and financial sense as a tool to push back against gun violence.

“Unfortunately, the credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially lifesaving tool. The time has come for them to do so,” Lander said recently, before Visa’s announcement.

Landers is a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System — which together own 667,200 shares in American Express valued at approximately $92.49 million; 1.1 million shares in MasterCard valued at approximately $347.59 million; and 1.85 million shares in Visa valued at approximately $363.86 million.

In letters to the companies, the New York pensions funds, joined by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, sought support for such a move, saying the companies have a responsibility to prohibit the use of their networks for what public officials deemed illegal activity.

“Failing to do so can result in regulatory, reputational, and litigation risks that may harm long-term shareholder value,” the letters asserted.

Over the years, public pension funds have used their extensive investment portfolios to influence public policy and the market place.

The California teacher’s fund, the second largest pension fund in the country, has long taken aim on the gun industry. It has divested its holdings from gun manufacturers and has sought to persuade some retailers from selling guns.

Four years ago, the teacher’s fund made guns a key initiative. It called for background checks and called on retailers “monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and to proactively assist law enforcement.”

The pension funds argue that creating a merchant category code for standalone firearm and ammunition stores could aid in the battle against gun violence.

In letters to the credit card companies, a pattern of purchases could flag suspicious activity.

Officials said that a week before the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people died after a shooter opened fire in 2016, the assailant used credit cards to purchase more than $26,000 worth of guns and ammunition, including purchases at a stand-alone gun retailer.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Canadian Police: 1 Suspect In Stabbings Has Been Found Dead

The discovery of the body came on the second day of a massive manhunt for the pair, who are suspected of carrying out a series of stabbings.

One of the suspects in the stabbing deaths of 10 people in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has been found dead, and his injuries are not self inflicted, police said Monday as they continued the search for a second suspect.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said Damien Sanderson, 31, has been found dead and that they believe his brother, Myles Sanderson, 30, is injured and on the run. While Damien’s body was found near the stabbing sites they believe Myles is in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan.

“His body was located outdoors in a heavily grassed area in proximity to a house that was being examined. We can confirm he has visible injuries. These injuries are not believed to be self inflicted at this point,” said RCMP Commanding Officer Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore.

The discovery of the body came on the second day of a massive manhunt for the pair, who are suspected of carrying out a series of stabbings in an Indigenous community and a nearby town, which also left 18 people injured. It was the deadliest attacks in Canada’s history.

Authorities have said some of the victims were targeted and others appeared to have been chosen at random on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the town of Weldon in Saskatchewan. They have given no motive for the crimes— but a senior Indigenous leader suggested drugs were somehow involved.

While they believe Myles is in Regina, about 210 miles south of where the stabbings happened, authorities have issued alerts in Canada’s three vast prairie provinces — which also include Manitoba and Alberta — and contacted U.S. border officials.

With one suspect still at large, fear gripped communities in the rural, working class area of Saskatchewan surrounded by farmland that were terrorized by the crimes. One witness who said he lost family members described seeing people with bloody wounds scattered throughout the Indigenous reserve.

“No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. They’re going to be terrified to open their door,” said Ruby Works, who also lost someone close to her and is a resident of Weldon, which has a population of about 200 and is home to many retirees.

As the Labor Day holiday weekend drew to a close Monday, police urged Saskatchewan residents who were returning from trips away to look for suspicious activity around their homes before entering.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the pair of suspects and both men had faced at least one count each of murder and attempted murder. More charges were expected.

Police have given few details about the men. Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “unlawfully at large.”

While the manhunt continued, police also issued a provincewide alert for suspects in a shooting on the Witchekan Lake First Nation. Officials said the shooting was not believed to be connected to the stabbings, but such alerts are unusual and the fact that a second occurred while authorities were already scouring the Saskatchewan for the stabbing suspects was notable.

The stabbing attack was among the deadliest mass killings in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020, when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto.

Deadly mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but have happened around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in China’s southwestern city of Kunming. In 2016, a mass stabbing at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men killed eight people in a vehicle and stabbing attack at London Bridge.

Canadian police got their first call about a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. on Sunday, and within minutes heard about several more. In all, dead or wounded people were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reserve and in the town, Blackmore said. James Smith Cree Nation is about 20 miles from Weldon.

She couldn’t provide a motive, but the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations suggested the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities, and we demand all authorities to take direction from the chiefs and councils and their membership to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.

As the manhunt stretched on, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray urged anyone with information to come forward.

Bray said they got a credible tip they were in Regina and he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that following a “very aggressive investigation” police believe they are still in the city.

The elected leaders of the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation declared a local state of emergency.

Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson — who apparently is not related to the suspects — said everyone has been affected by the tragic events.

“They were our relatives, friends,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty horrific.”

Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, who is the former partner of Michael Brett Burns and the mother of their two daughters.

“It’s sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”

Burns later posted on Facebook that there were dead and wounded people everywhere on the reserve, making it look like “a war zone.”

“The look in their eyes couldn’t express the pain and suffering for all those who were assaulted,” he posted.

Weldon residents have identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson, a retired widower who made he coffee every morning at the senior center. He loved gardening, picking berries, canning, and making jam and cakes, recalled William Works, 47, and his mother, Sharon Works, 64.

“He would give you the shirt off his back if he could,” William Works said, describing his neighbor as a “gentle old fellow” and “community first.”

Sharon Works was baffled: “I don’t understand why they would target someone like him anyway, because he was just a poor, helpless little man, 100 pounds soaking wet. And he could hardly breathe because he had asthma and emphysema and everybody cared about him because that’s the way he was. He cared about everybody else. And they cared about him.”

The pair said there is hardly any crime in the rural town, except an occasional speeding ticket. They always left the door unlocked until the night of the slayings.

“Not even when I go to town, I don’t lock my door,” Sharon Works said. “But now I have to find my key to my house. I never used to lock the doors and nobody around here until this happened.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the flag above Canada’s parliament building in Ottawa would be flown at half-staff to honor the victims.

“Sadly, over these past years, tragedies like these have become all too common place. Saskatchewanians and Canadians will do what we always do in times of difficulty and anguish, we will be there for each other,” Trudeau said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Stabbings In Canada Kill 10, Wound 15; Suspects At Large

Police say some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects, but others appear to have been attacked at random.

A series of stabbings at a First Nation community and at another town nearby in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan left 10 people dead and 15 wounded, Canadian police said Sunday as they searched for two suspects.

The stabbings took place in multiple locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, police said.

Rhonda Blackmore, the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP Saskatchewan, said some of the victims appear to have been targeted by the suspects but others appear to have been attacked at random. She couldn’t provide a motive.

“It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” Blackmore said.

She said there are 13 crime scenes where either deceased or injured people were found. She urged the suspects to turn themselves in.

Blackmore said police began receiving reports before 6 a.m. of stabbings on the First Nation. More reports of attacks quickly followed and by midday police issued a warning that a vehicle reportedly carrying the two suspects had been spotted in Regina.

Police said the last information they had from the public was that the suspects were sighted in Saskatchewan’s capital of Regina around lunchtime. There have been so sightings since.

“If in the Regina area, take precautions & consider sheltering in place. Do not leave a secure location. DO NOT APPROACH suspicious persons. Do not pick up hitch hikers. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or info to 9-1-1. Do not disclose police locations,” the RCMP said in a message on Twitter.

Doreen Lees, an 89-year grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the suspects when a car came barreling down her street early in the morning as her daughter was having coffee on her deck. Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help.

But Lees said the man took off and ran after her daughter said she would call for help.

“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.”

She said the man was by himself and “kind a little wobbly.”

“I followed him a little ways to see if he was going to be OK. My daughter said ‘Don’t follow him, get back here.'”

Weldon resident Diane Shier said she was in her garden Sunday morning when she noticed emergency crews a couple of blocks away.

Shier said her neighbor was killed. She did not want to identify the victim out of respect for his family.

“I am very upset because I lost a good neighbor,” she said.

The search for suspects was carried out as fans descended in Regina for a sold out annual Labor Day game between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Regina Police Service said in a news release that with the help of Mounties, it was working on several fronts to locate and arrest the suspects and had “deployed additional resources for public safety throughout the city, including the football game at Mosaic Stadium.”

The alert first issued by Melfort, Saskatchewan RCMP about 7 a.m. was extended hours later to cover Manitoba and Alberta, as the two suspects remained at large.

Damien Sanderson, 31, was described as five feet seven inches tall and 155 pounds, and Myles Sanderson, 30, as six-foot-one and 200 pounds. Both have black hair and brown eyes and may be driving a black Nissan Rogue.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said multiple patients were being treated at several sites.

“A call for additional staff was issued to respond to the influx of casualties,” authority spokeswoman Anne Linemann said in an email.

Mark Oddan, a spokesman with STARS Air Ambulance, said two helicopters were dispatched from Saskatoon and another from Regina.

He said two carried patients to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, while the third carried a patient to Royal University from a hospital in Melfort, a short distance southeast of Weldon.

“The attacks in Saskatchewan today are horrific and heartbreaking. I’m thinking of those who have lost a loved one and of those who were injured,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.

“We are closely monitoring the situation, and urge everyone to follow updates from local authorities. Thank you to all the brave first responders for their efforts on the ground.”

James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Ex-Barista Says Starbucks Is Engaging In ‘Unprecedented Union-Busting’

Starbucks is fighting to squash a unionizing movement, claiming it’s disruptive, but employees say the chain has fired over 85 pro-union workers.

A Starbucks in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood may look no different from any of the 15,000 other Starbucks stores in the U.S., but as a new union location, it’s part of a growing organizing movement.

The movement is growing so fast it’s prompting Starbucks to engage in what critics call an unprecedented union-busting campaign. 

Jasper Booth-Hodges lives five minutes away from the union store in Hyde Park where he used to work. 

“I have worked 40 hours a week for over two years at this company,” Booth-Hodges said. “I am one of the main openers.”

The former barista said he loved his job, for the most part.

“I had such good rapport with so many customers,” he said.

Then last month, Booth-Hodges said he was fired in retaliation for leading the union push.

“The fact that I was a really active part of the union organizing committee meant that they were going to find anything they could to get rid of me,” he said.

Starbucks denies that, telling Newsy that Booth-Hodges was terminated for violations of the company’s time and attendance policies.

Nationwide, more than 230 locations have voted to join the Starbucks Workers United union since last December, with six of them being in Chicago.

In total, nearly three-quarters of all votes cast have been in favor of unionizing.

Labor experts say the speed and success of the movement is unheard of. 

“There’s just no historical comparison to what they have achieved by winning election after election after election,” said John Logan, professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University.

But Starbucks is fighting tooth and nail to squash it, arguing that unions are disruptive to its relationship with employees.

Meanwhile, Starbucks Workers United tells Newsy the coffee chain has fired over 85 pro-union workers.

“I remember saying, ‘I’ve been here for 13 years. You can’t even explain to me why I’m being separated or provide me any details?'” said Sam Amato, former Starbucks employee.

When Amato was fired last month after 13 years on the job, all of his colleagues at his store near Buffalo, New York walked out in solidarity.  A TikTok video of the incident, posted by the Union, has been seen nearly 30 million times.  

A month later, Amato and his former colleagues are still on strike, picketing at the store every day. 

“It just makes me a little emotional thinking about it,” Amato said. “But they’ve been so incredibly supportive, and I know that they they’re behind me 100%.”

Starbucks has racked up hundreds of labor violation complaints at the National Labor Relations Board, a federal enforcement agency.

Last week, the NLRB said Starbucks has been illegally withholding wages and benefits from thousands of union workers. In response, Starbucks is accusing the agency of being biased and colluding with union organizers to rig elections. 

For labor expert John Logan, the problem lies with weak union protection laws that are too easy for giant corporations to ignore.

“The penalties for violating the law are not sufficient punishment for companies who are egregious lawbreakers like Starbucks,” Logan said.

Back in Chicago, Booth-Hodges is appealing his termination, while open to the possibility of getting his job back.

“I do plan on going back if I get reinstated, but regardless of that, this is so much bigger than just me getting reinstated or not,” Booth-Hodges said. “This is about letting corporations know that they can’t get away with this, that they need to be held accountable when they break labor laws.”

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Meadows, Powell Testimony Sought In Georgia Election Probe

Former chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyer Sidney Powell are among the highest-profile members of Trump’s circle to be called to testify in the probe.

The prosecutor investigating whether Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia is seeking to compel testimony from more allies of the former president, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawyer Sidney Powell.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed petitions Thursday seeking to have Meadows and Powell, as well as James “Phil” Waldron, who met with Meadows, and former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn, testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta next month.

Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff, and Powell, a dogged advocate of the president’s false claims of widespread election fraud, are among the highest-profile members of Trump’s circle to be summoned to testify in the probe, joining other top figures including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. It further raises the legal stakes for the former president as he weighs a 2024 presidential bid.

Because they don’t live in Georgia, Willis has to use a process that involves getting judges in the states where they live to order them to appear. The petitions she filed Thursday are essentially precursors to subpoenas. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the special grand jury, signed off on the petitions, certifying that each person whose testimony is sought is a “necessary and material” witness for the investigation.

Willis wrote that each of them has unique knowledge about their communications with Trump, his campaign and others “involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 elections in Georgia and elsewhere.”

George Terwilliger, a lawyer for Meadows, declined to comment Thursday. Epshteyn didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Powell and Waldron could not immediately be reached.

Willis last month filed similar petitions for seven other Trump associates and attorneys, including Giuliani and Graham. Giuliani, who’s been told he’s a target of the investigation, testified before the special grand jury last week. Graham is fighting his subpoena in court.

Also on Thursday, lawyers for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appeared in court to argue that he shouldn’t have to testify before the special grand jury. And Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who was part of the earlier batch of Trump associates whom Willis sought to compel to testify, filed a motion to quash his subpoena.

In the petition seeking Meadows’ testimony, Willis wrote that Meadows attended a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House with Trump and others “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and certification of electoral college votes from Georgia and other states.” The next day, Willis wrote, Meadows made a “surprise visit” to Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, where an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes was being conducted. He asked to observe the audit but wasn’t allowed to because it wasn’t open to the public, the petition says.

Between Jan. 30, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, Meadows sent emails to Justice Department officials making allegations of voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere and requesting investigations, Willis wrote. He was also on a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump suggested the state’s top elections official could “find” enough votes to overturn his narrow election loss in the state.

In the petition seeking Powell’s testimony, Willis wrote that Powell is “known to be affiliated with both former President Donald Trump and the Trump Campaign.” The petition says attorney Lin Wood said in a television interview that Powell was part of a group who met at his home in South Carolina “for the purpose of exploring options to influence the results of the November 2020 elections in Georgia and elsewhere.” Wood, who’s licensed in Georgia, said Powell asked him to help find Georgia residents to serve as plaintiffs in lawsuits contesting the state’s election results, Willis wrote.

In June of this year, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol released a deposition of Powell in which she said that in the weeks following the 2020 election, Trump asked her to be “special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence,” saying he was frustrated with law enforcement agencies, Willis wrote.

Last week, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it is helping the Georgia secretary of state’s office look into an alleged breach of elections data in Coffee County in south Georgia, Willis wrote. She noted that publicly reported emails indicate that Powell coordinated with a data solutions company to get elections data from Coffee County in early January 2021 and was involved in similar efforts in Michigan and Nevada.

Special grand juries are impaneled in Georgia to investigate complex cases with large numbers of witnesses and potential logistical concerns. They can compel evidence and subpoena witnesses for questioning, but they do not have the power to indict. When its investigation is complete, the special grand jury issues a final report and can recommend action. It’s then up to the district attorney to decide whether to ask a regular grand jury for an indictment.

During the hearing Thursday on Kemp’s attempt to avoid testifying, his lawyers argued that he is protected from having to testify by the principle of sovereign immunity, which says the state can’t be sued without its consent. Prosecutors argued that’s not applicable because Kemp is not being sued but instead is being called as a witness to provide facts for an investigation.

Kemp’s attorneys accuse the district attorney of pursuing a “politically motivated” probe, something she has vehemently denied.

Kemp attorney Brian McEvoy argued that, if the governor does have to testify, it shouldn’t happen until after the general election. Kemp faces a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams in November in one of the most high-profile and closely watched gubernatorial contests in the country.

“Your Honor is well aware of where we are, what state we’re in, what race we’re facing, and the governor ought not have to suffer political consequences for invoking a legal right,” McEvoy said.

Prosecutor Donald Wakeford noted that Willis waited until after contentious primary elections in late May to begin calling witnesses before the special grand jury for that very reason. The governor could have quietly honored a subpoena to appear last week without any media attention, Wakeford argued, but instead, his attorneys filed the motion to quash the day before, thrusting the issue into the public eye.

“To continually insist that this is a situation engineered by the district attorney’s office to the intentional detriment of the governor is just not true,” Wakeford said.

Judge McBurney did not immediately rule and it wasn’t clear when he would.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Where Do You Go When You Gotta Go? America’s Public Bathroom Shortage

Discrimination, underinvestment and sanitation concerns have led to a lack of public bathrooms, which has multiple consequences.

If a person has to go to the bathroom while out in public, it may be difficult to find a toilet without some sort of catch. Often, it’s in a coffee shop, a convenience store, a pharmacy or in another private building — so it’s not a truly public toilet.

The U.S. has eight public toilets per 100,000 people. That number is comparable with the rate in Botswana and far behind Iceland’s world-leading 56 public toilets per 100,000.

So why is it so hard to find a public toilet in the U.S.?

It’s a question with a complicated answer and that has a long history. Surprisingly, it relates to a ton of different issues, including public health, social services and just about every form of discrimination imaginable.

Public toilets were a fact of life in the U.S. and elsewhere for centuries — at least as far back as the Roman Empire. But they were pretty public, without any walls or barriers between them. The expectation for privacy while going to the bathroom in a public space emerged in the 19th century, with the industrial revolution and houses with modern plumbing.

Later on in the 19th century and into the early decades of the 20th century, sanitation became a greater priority. As leaders began to understand sanitation’s role in containing outbreaks of water-borne diseases, cities built and celebrated their public toilets.

Temple University history professor Bryant Simon, who has studied and is writing an upcoming book on the history of toilets, shared more about how toilets used to be a big deal. 

“City officials get on their soapboxes and brag about how much they spend on public bathrooms,” Simon said. “They brag about the touch points in these bathrooms. They brag about the brass fittings. They brag about the marble countertops. They brag about the floors. They’re proud of their accomplishment.”

Bathrooms quickly became points where people were segregated. Bathrooms were split up by gender, as they still frequently are. But the splits can be broader than that and led to discrimination against many different groups.

For example, public toilets started closing as early as the 1930s, with the LGBTQ community as a target.

“Beginning in the 1930s, 1940s, that early public officials begin to complain about perversions,” Simon said. “They begin to complain about same sex sex in bathrooms. As there’s fears about gay sex in bathrooms, there’s fear about people drinking in bathrooms. It’s not a very popular city sort of thing to build anymore.”

In the first half of the 20th century, bathrooms often were segregated by race, with Black Americans, or Latinos in the Southwest, having their own separate facilities. 

“The bathroom sort of operates as a kind of hardware of inequality because, essentially, you needed a public bathroom or a bathroom of some sort in order to be out and in public,” Simon said.

Racial segregation in toilets may sound like a distant thing or a footnote, but that legacy extends into the present.

In 2018, two Black men were blocked from using the restroom at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia’s Center City. The incident prompted Starbucks to take on a role as America’s de facto public toilets, as it changed its policy to allow people to use the restrooms at its more than 15,000 U.S. locations without buying anything.

While money can be a barrier to private toilets in stores, historically it’s limited access to public standalone toilets, too. By the 1960s and 70s, public toilets requiring small payments sprung up, but those ended up closing after concerns about gender discrimination.

The other big push to remove public toilets came in the 1980s, as part of a broader push to drive unhoused people to the edges of cities by taking away their access to public spaces and aggressively enforcing public urination laws.

Now if you don’t have a home of your own, it can put access to a restroom pretty far away. 

“Most of us are used to having our own bathroom,” said Raven Drake, Street Roots ambassador program manager. “Where I lived when I was unhoused, the nearest bathroom was a one mile walk away. Imagine walking a mile to the bathroom, and most of us can’t fathom walking 50 feet to our left a mile.”

Drake works with unhoused people in Portland as part of the local newspaper Street Roots. She’s an advocate for bathroom access as a central part of addressing homelessness, and she was unhoused herself in late 2019 and early 2020, during some of the strictest shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We ran a survey around bathrooms, around the importance of bathrooms and access to clean water with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and a resounding amount of people answered that they had no access to public restrooms,” Drake said. “So we took forth on this initiative of placing out throughout the city 172 porta-potties.”

Underinvestment has been a major concern, too. If public toilets aren’t funded or attended, they can fall into disrepair. They can potentially become unsafe or unhygienic.

Starbucks announced in July that it would close 16 stores due to safety concerns. CEO Howard Schultz said in June that the coffee giant may restrict its currently public restrooms to customers only, as part of its broader push for store safety.

So, if Starbucks makes this decision to no longer serve as America’s public restroom, where will people be able to go? Even if a person isn’t homeless, bathroom access advocates like American Restroom Association president Steven Soifer point out this is an issue.

“For everyone, for people with shy bladder, for people with incontinence, for people with bladder issues of different sorts,” Soifer said. “People who had health issues and families with children who often struggle to find a place.”

Soifer is calling on government officials to step up here, but it may have to be local officials taking the lead. 

“There are going to be fewer and fewer options for people to be able to relieve themselves, and that becomes a public health issue as well,” Soifer said.

If there are no bathrooms available, the consequences can be deadly for communities. In 2017, at least 16 people died and hundreds more got sick in San Diego in an outbreak of hepatitis A. The disease spread in large part due to contact with fecal matter and public defecation. 

The city acknowledged that a lack of public restrooms, especially for unhoused people, was part of the issue and helped contain the outbreak by installing public toilets and handwashing stations.

But even then, a lack of funding or upkeep can quickly lead to toilets disappearing. A report earlier this year from researchers at San Diego State University found many of the toilets closed after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and that nearly half the county’s census tracts, home to 40% of the population, had no public restrooms.

Other cities are moving ahead with plans to install new public toilet facilities, including Portland, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But, there’s still a shortage of public toilets in the U.S. and it’s pretty dire.

In 2011, a United Nations independent expert, Catarina de Albuquerque, studied water and sanitation rights on a mission to the U.S. Her report found an instance in Sacramento, California where public restroom closures and enforcement of public urination and defecation laws led to a homeless person traveling miles to dump a whole community’s human waste.

In the report, she indicated that the laws had a discriminatory effect and led to “a violation of human rights that may amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Starbucks Asks Labor Board To Halt Union Votes Temporarily

Starbucks alleges St. Louis labor board officials made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at its office.

Starbucks on Monday asked the National Labor Relations Board to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional NLRB officials improperly coordinated with union organizers.

In a letter to the board chairman, Starbucks said the unnamed career NLRB employee informed the company about the activity, which happened in the board’s St. Louis office in the spring while it was overseeing a union election at a Starbucks store in Overland Park, Kansas.

The store is one of 314 U.S. Starbucks locations where workers have petitioned the NLRB to hold union elections since late last year. More than 220 of those Starbucks stores have voted to unionize. The company opposes the unionization effort.

The Seattle coffee giant alleges that St. Louis labor board officials made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at its office when they did not receive mail-in ballots, even though Starbucks and the union had agreed that store elections would be handled by mail-in ballot.

In its letter, Starbucks referred to memos the regional office sent confirming that workers were allowed to come to the office and vote in person after the union told the regional office that some workers had not received ballots in the mail. The memos, citing “board protocol,” said the workers voted alone in an empty office, according to Starbucks.

“Because observers were not present, no one can be sure who appeared to vote, whether NLRB personnel had inappropriate communications with the voters, told them how to vote, showed them how to vote or engaged in other undisclosed conduct,” Starbucks wrote in its letter.

Starbucks said regional board officials also disclosed confidential information to the union, including which workers’ ballots had arrived in the mail to be counted.

Starbucks Workers United, the group seeking to unionize U.S. Starbucks stores, accused the company of trying to “distract attention away from their unprecedented anti-union campaign, including firing over 75 union leaders across the country, while simultaneously trying to halt all union elections.”

“Workers have spoken loud and clear by winning 82 percent of union elections,” the group said in a statement. “Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

A spokesperson for the NLRB said Monday that the agency doesn’t comment on open cases.

Press secretary Kayla Blado said the NLRB will “carefully and objectively” consider any challenges that Starbucks raises through “established channels.” Starbucks can also seek expedited review in the case, Blado said.

Workers at the Overland Park store petitioned the NLRB to hold a vote in February. In April, workers voted 6-1 to unionize, but seven additional ballots were the subject of challenges from Starbucks or the union. A hearing on those challenges is scheduled for Tuesday; Starbucks has asked for that hearing to be delayed.

Starbucks said there is evidence of misconduct in other regions as well. The company wants the NLRB to thoroughly investigate other Starbucks union elections and make public a report on its findings. The company said the board should also implement safeguards to prevent regional officials from coordinating with one party or another.

Starbucks also asked the NLRB to issue an order requiring all pending and future elections to be conducted in person with observers from both sides.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the board can represent itself as a neutral agency,” the company said in the letter.

Starbucks has long opposed unionization, dating back to CEO Howard Schultz’s acquisition of the company in the late 1980s. The current unionization effort has been riddled with accusations and lawsuits on both sides.

Starbucks Workers United has filed 284 unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Starbucks or one of its operators, according to the labor board. Starbucks has filed two charges against Workers United.

Earlier this month, the labor board dismissed one of the charges filed by Starbucks, saying the company failed to prove that pro-union workers blocked store entrances or intimidated customers during a spring rally.

In June, the NLRB asked a federal court in western New York to order Starbucks to stop interfering with unionization efforts at its U.S. stores. It also asked the court to order Starbucks to reinstate seven Buffalo employees it says were unlawfully fired for trying to form a union. That case is pending.

But the NLRB’s actions against Starbucks haven’t always been successful. In June, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Starbucks didn’t have to rehire three workers who claimed that the company had retaliated against them for organizing a union.

Starbucks isn’t the only large company facing a unionization effort that has attacked the voting process.

Amazon has also levied accusations of improper conduct against the NLRB’s regional office in Brooklyn in its attempt to re-do a historic labor win at a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. Among other allegations, Amazon said the agency tainted the voting process by seeking reinstatement of a fired Amazon worker in the weeks leading up to the March election.

Attorneys representing the e-commerce juggernaut argued their case in an agency hearing during the summer. Attorneys for the agency have pushed back. A regional director for an NLRB office in Phoenix is expected to issue a ruling on that case in the coming weeks.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<