Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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Explainer: How Russia is applying new laws to stifle dissent on Ukraine

FILE PHOTO – Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman, detained and being investigated for criticizing Russia’s involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine, stands inside a defendants’ cage as he attends a court hearing in Yekaterinburg, Russia August 25, 2022. Natalia Chernokhatova/Octagon.Media via REUTERS

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Aug 26 (Reuters) – A growing number of Russians are being prosecuted under laws aimed at stamping out criticism of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

Here is a look at the laws and how they are being applied.

WHAT NEW LAWS DID RUSSIA PASS AFTER FEB. 24?

Russia introduced important additions to two articles of the criminal code under a law passed on March 4.

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Article 280.3 states that “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation” are punishable by fines and prison terms of up to three years in lesser cases, or five years if there is resulting damage to life, property, public order and security.

Article 207.3 states that “public dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation” is punishable by fines and prison sentences of up to three, five, 10 or 15 years, depending on the circumstances and on whether the offence had “serious consequences”.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO OFFENCES?

The Justice Ministry issued a manual for investigators and judges this month explaining how to differentiate between discrediting the army and the graver offence of spreading false information, Russian media reported.

Kommersant newspaper cited the manual as saying that making a “statement about a false fact”, as opposed to voicing an opinion, would amount to spreading false news.

HOW MANY CASES AND PROSECUTIONS ARE THERE?

Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer, said about 3,500 cases had been launched for discrediting the army and nearly all those involved had been found guilty. These are treated initially as “administrative offences”, leading only to fines, but anyone who then speaks out further against the war risks criminal prosecution, he said.

More than 85 criminal cases related to “false information” had been opened by early August, according to the Agora Legal Group, a human rights association.

The first such case, according to rights activists, was opened just a week and a half after the invasion began.

Following are some of the most prominent cases to come under investigation so far.

YEVGENY ROIZMAN – former mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-biggest city, who has repeatedly described Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as a war and an invasion, and has been charged with discrediting the armed forces. A court this week banned him from attending public events, using the internet or communicating without permission with anyone except his lawyer and relatives until Sept. 29.

MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA – former state TV journalist who protested live on air and on a Moscow street opposite the Kremlin. She has twice been fined, and earlier this month was charged with spreading false information about the armed forces, for which she faces up to 10 years, her lawyer said. She is currently under house arrest.

ILYA YASHIN – opposition politician who is accused, according to investigators, of lying about the army in a YouTube post about Russian actions in Bucha, near Kyiv, where Moscow has denied allegations that its forces committed atrocities. He has been in pre-trial detention since June and faces up to 10 years if convicted of spreading fake news.

VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA – The opposition activist was detained on April 11. He had told the Arizona House of Representatives that President Vladimir Putin was “dropping cluster bombs on residential areas, mothers’ homes, hospitals, and schools”. He is also in pre-trial detention and facing up to 10 years for spreading false information.

ALEXEI GORINOV – The Moscow district councillor was jailed for seven years in July after being convicted of spreading false information under article 207.3. He had told a council meeting in March that children were “dying every day” in Ukraine.

ANDREI NOVASHOV – journalist for Siberia.Realities, a local project of U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe. He reposted a text on his social media page about the Russian bombing of Mariupol. He is currently under house arrest and facing up to 10 years in prison.

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Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Green Cay Life Plan Village, Inc. Announces Plans for $250 Million Boynton Beach CCRC Senior Living Community

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Green Cay Life Plan Village, Inc., a Florida not-for-profit corporation, announced plans to develop a $250 million continuing care retirement community (CCRC) on a 15-acre site at Jog Road and Flavor Pict Road. Acquisition of the site sets the stage for a new generation luxury senior living offering in a market where demand is growing and land for new development is scarce.

Designed for a resort feel and all-inclusive lifestyle, plans call for approximately 200 residences (+/-170 independent living, 16 assisted living and 16 memory care) in a three-story, 340,000-square-foot building. The community will incorporate smart technologies throughout, wide-ranging amenities and services with a focus on hospitality, active lifestyles and wellness. Features include multiple dining options, a bar and bistro, fitness and wellness centers, yoga studio, salon, movie theater, multi-purpose spaces, a pool, patios and outdoor areas, as well as access to the adjacent Green Cay Nature Center.

Independent living residences will range from one- to three-bedrooms; assisted living apartments will include studio to two-bedroom options, and memory care will be provided for in studio apartments. CCRC buy-in costs are expected to begin in the mid-$600,000s. The to-be-named community, for residents 62+, is projected to break ground in 2024 for completion in 2026. A pre-sales office is planned to open in fourth quarter 2022.

Green Cay Life Plan Village, Inc. has engaged BRP Senior Housing Management LLC and Greenbrier Development LLC as co-developers for the project.

Delray Beach, FL-based BRP Senior Housing Management is an affiliate of private equity real estate firm Big Rock Partners (BRP). BRP’s $400 million senior living portfolio of more than 1,000 units includes Florida luxury rental communities Mariposa in suburban Lake Worth, Windsor at Celebration in the metro-Orlando area and Unisen Senior Living, a CCRC in Tampa.

Richard Ackerman, BRP Managing Partner, said, “The Baby Boomer generation’s higher expectations continue to redefine the next generation of senior living communities. With the County’s senior population growth, timing is right for this new upscale buy-in option that gives residents predictable costs for peace of mind.”

Ackerman spearheaded the novel approach of creating a not-for-profit corporation specifically to develop or redevelop a CCRC, enabling the use of tax exempt bonds to lower financing costs. Residents benefit since profits are reinvested in the community, helping to offset the costs of operations and future improvements.

Dallas, TX-based Greenbrier Development LLC, in addition to a co-development role, will market and manage Green Cay. The company is currently responsible for developing and/or marketing 25 senior living communities in the U.S. and has provided strategic consulting services to more than 100 senior living communities and providers since 2006.

Ziegler, a specialty investment bank, underwrote a $36 million dollar Bond Anticipation Note issued through the Palm Beach County Health Facilities Authority for the $18.6 million land acquisition and soft costs.

The community’s location is within two miles of multiple shopping, cultural and recreational alternatives and within 5-10 miles of downtown Delray Beach, the Boynton Beach Art District, 20 golf courses, two hospitals, as well as the 100-plus acre Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands.

Two firms with extensive senior living experience have been engaged by the development team – Dallas-based PRDG, a boutique architectural firm, and Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates as design and pre-construction consultant.

To learn more about Green Cay Life Plan Village, visit GreenCayLifePlanVillage.org.

About Big Rock Partners

Delray Beach, FL-based Big Rock Partners is a private real estate equity firm that has invested in and managed over $1 billion in assets. Its affiliate BRP Senior Housing Management is a vertically integrated firm with capabilities in development, renovation, operation and restructuring, and expertise in both rentals and CCRCs. Big Rock’s senior living properties, in well-located, sought-after areas, are built and operated to support the changing needs of seniors with a continuum of care and an enriching lifestyle that promotes wellness, utilizes smart technology and incorporates first-class amenities.

About Greenbrier Development

Dallas, Texas-based Greenbrier Development provides comprehensive planning, development and management services for the senior living industry throughout the United States. With more than 150 years combined experience in the senior housing and Life Plan Community development arena, Greenbrier principals have been involved in developing some of the industry’s leading senior living communities. Collectively, the team has participated in the planning, financing, development, and marketing of more than $3 billion in senior housing developments, including some of the largest and most exclusive communities in the country, with individual project budgets ranging from $10 million to over $300 million.

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Germany Hopes to Outrace a Russian Gas Cutoff and Bone Cold Winter

Russian natural gas has fired the furnaces that create molten stainless steel at Clemens Schmees’s family foundry since 1961, when his father set up shop in a garage in the western part of Germany.

It never crossed Clemens’s mind that this energy flow could one day become unaffordable or cease altogether. Now Mr. Schmees, like thousands of other chieftains at companies across Germany, is scrambling to prepare for the possibility that his operations could face stringent rationing this winter if Russia turns off the gas.

“We’ve had many crises,” he said, sitting in the company’s branch office in the eastern city of Pirna, overlooking the Elbe River valley. “But we have never before had such instability and uncertainty, all at once.”

Nord Stream 1, the direct gas pipeline between Russia and Europe, was shut down for 10 days of scheduled maintenance.

“gas crisis” and triggered an emergency energy plan. Already landlords, schools and municipalities have begun to lower thermostats, ration hot water, close swimming pools, turn off air-conditioners, dim streetlights and exhort the benefits of cold showers. Analysts predict that a recession in Germany is “imminent.” Government officials are racing to bail out the largest importer of Russian gas, a company called Uniper. And political leaders warn that Germany’s “social peace” could unravel.

The crisis has not only set off a frantic clamber to manage a potentially painful crunch this winter. It has also prompted a reassessment of the economic model that turned Germany into a global powerhouse and produced enormous wealth for decades.

Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels.

More than any other economy in the region, Germany’s is built on industrial giants — mighty chemical, auto, glass and steel producers — that consume enormous amounts of fuel, two-thirds of it imported. The chemical and pharmaceutical industries alone use 27 percent of the country’s gas supply.

Most of it came from Russia. Before Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine five months ago and set off retaliatory sanctions from Europe, the United States and their allies, Russia delivered 40 percent of Germany’s imported oil and more than 55 percent of its imported gas.

Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, cut deliveries in June, and if they are reduced further, German industries may soon confront fuel shortages that will compel them to scale back production, Mr. Kirkegaard said. “I don’t think there are that many other European countries that have to do that,” he said.

Over the next five to eight years, until more of an ongoing transition to renewable energy is completed, the country will be “under acute pressure,” he added. “That is the time period when Germany’s economy is still basically going to be fueled by fossil fuels.”

China, Germany’s biggest trading partner, is expected to see substantially slower growth than in the previous decade, reporting on Friday that the economy expanded just 0.4 percent in the second quarter. That slowdown is likely to ripple through other emerging nations in Asia, dragging down their growth as well.

security risks of globalized trade?

Some economists have argued that the German business models were partly based on an erroneous assumption and that cheap Russian gas wasn’t as cheap as it looked.

The economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said the market failed to accurately price in the risk — however unlikely it may have seemed at the time — that Russia could decide to reduce or withhold gas to apply political pressure.

It would be like figuring the costs of building a ship without including the cost of lifeboats.

“They didn’t take into account what could happen,” Mr. Stiglitz said.

Inflation last month was 7.6 percent. Investor confidence in Germany has dropped to its lowest point in a decade.

in February.)

Households, hospitals and essential services will be considered priorities if gas rationing becomes unavoidable, but industrial representatives have been pleading their cases in Berlin.

as much as 12 percent once ripple effects on industries beyond energy and consumers were taken into account.

Looking ahead to the winter, Mr. Krebs said much depended on the temperature and Russian gas delivery levels.

“The best case is stagnation with high inflation,” he said. But over the longer term, he argued, Germany could come out more competitive if it manages the energy transition well and provides speedy and significant public investment to create the requisite infrastructure.

Marcel Fratzscher, president of the German Institute for Economic Research, agreed. Germany’s industrial success is based on added value more than cheap energy, he said. Most German exports, he said, are “highly specialized products — that gives them an advantage and makes them competitive.”

Labor policy, too, will have an impact.

Wage negotiations for the industrial sector are scheduled to begin in September. The powerful I.G. Metall union will seek an 8 percent wage increase for its 3.9 million members. And starting Oct. 1, a new minimum wage law will establish for the first time a single national rate — 12 euros an hour.

For now, supply chain breakdowns are still causing headaches, and businesses that were only beginning to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic are busy devising contingency plans for gas shortages.

Beiersdorf, maker of skin care products including Nivea, has had a crisis team in place since May to draw up backup plans — including readying diesel generators — to ensure production keeps running.

At Schmees, high costs have already forced the shutdown of one furnace, cutting into the foundry’s ability to meet deadlines. Customers waiting for deliveries of stainless steel include companies that run massive turbines used in icebreaker ships and artists who use it in their sculptures.

Mr. Schmees, an energetic man who prides himself on having nurtured a strong company culture, is planning to ask his employees to work a six-day week through the end of the year, to ensure that he can fill all of the firm’s orders by December. That is how long he’s betting that Germany’s natural gas supplies will hold if Russia cuts off the flow entirely.

“The tragedy,” Mr. Schmees said, “is that we have only now realized what we’ve gambled away with this cheap gas from Russia.”

Katrin Bennhold contributed reporting from Berlin.

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In Buffalo, New Apartments Sprout Up in Vacant Warehouses

BUFFALO — Buffalo was riding a decade-long economic turnaround when a racially motivated attack by a gunman killed 10 people in May, overshadowing the progress. While the city grieved, it also had to reckon with unflattering portrayals of the East Side, the impoverished neighborhood where the massacre took place.

Those harsh takes tell only part of the story, say residents, business owners and city officials. Now, they are determined to put the focus back on the recovery.

Major efforts to improve the East Side have been afoot for years, like new job-training facilities and the overhaul of a deserted train station. And citywide initiatives to pour billions into parks, public art projects and apartment complexes have made Buffalo a more desirable place to live, advocates say.

Those efforts may have even reversed a chronic population decline: The latest census figures show Buffalo’s population has increased for the first time in 70 years.

“The other story about Buffalo needs to be told, that investments are being made,” said Brandye Merriweather, the president of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that works to repurpose empty city-owned lots.

“I am very sensitive to the issues that the shooting has raised,” said Ms. Merriweather, who grew up across the street from where the shooting took place and still has family in the neighborhood.

The wave of progress began in 2012 when New York’s governor at the time, Andrew M. Cuomo, pledged $1 billion in grants and tax credits as part of a revitalization effort, and it has been fueled by a mix of taxpayer funds and private investments in the years since.

Perhaps the most visible sign of Buffalo’s changing fortunes are its new apartments, which turn up in empty warehouses, former municipal buildings and longtime parking lots converted into much-needed housing. In the last decade, 224 multifamily projects — encompassing 10,150 apartments, most of them rentals, the equivalent of about $3 billion in investment — have opened or are underway, according to the office of Mayor Byron W. Brown.

And the pace of new housing appears to be quickening: A third of the total, or 78 projects, were unveiled just in 2020 and 2021, the mayor’s office said.

Among them is Seneca One Tower, the city’s tallest building and one of Buffalo’s most prominent projects. Completed in 1972 as a home for a bank, it sat vacant in recent years. Now, the 40-story downtown spire features a variety of uses after a $100 million renovation.

Douglas Development, which bought the tower six years ago, added 115 apartments while also installing a food hall, a large gym and a craft brewery. It also raised walls around a plaza to curb Lake Erie winds.

Barbara Foy, 64, who began renting a two-bedroom apartment at Seneca One this spring with her husband, Jack, 65, said she enjoyed sleeping with her blinds cracked to enjoy the glitter of the skyline. For almost three decades, Ms. Foy worked around the corner as a social worker, though she never really stuck around at night, instead driving back to her home in the suburbs.

But revitalization has helped her see Buffalo in a whole new light. “There seems to be something going on every weekend,” Ms. Foy said, adding that she enjoyed the city’s Pride parade in June. “Buffalo has really come alive, and I’m so proud of it.”

Office leasing has been slow. About 70 percent of the spaces at Seneca One are rented, most of them to M&T Bank, which is based in Buffalo, as well as a dozen small tech firms. The vacancy rate for top office buildings downtown was 13 percent at the end of last year, according to the brokerage firm CBRE, down from 14 percent in 2020.

Residential leasing, on the other hand, has been robust. It took just nine months to rent all of the apartments at Seneca One after they hit the market in fall 2020 for up to $3,000 a month, said Greg Baker, a director of development at Douglas. Buffalo’s median rent is $800 a month, according to census figures.

Since its Seneca One purchase, Douglas has acquired about 20 properties in the region, including former hotels and hospitals that will be converted to housing.

“People are selling houses in the suburbs to move back into the city, versus when I was younger, when they would live in the suburbs and commute to the city,” said Mr. Baker, a Buffalo native.

In a spread-out city that’s sliced up by highways, improving infrastructure has been a priority, too, though efforts so far have mostly come to fruition on the West Side. For instance, a stretch of Niagara Street near a bridge to Canada that was once lined with auto dealerships now gleams with new sidewalks, streetlights and a protected bike lane. Bike shops and restaurants have revived dilapidated storefronts there, too.

Nearby, workers are about to begin a $110 million overhaul of LaSalle Park, a 77-acre waterfront green space that’s hemmed in by Interstate 190. Plans call for a wide pedestrian bridge over the highway.

Softening the rough edges of Buffalo’s commercial past is also a focus downtown, at Canalside, a neighborhood-in-progress that hugs a short remnant of the original Erie Canal. On a recent afternoon, school groups milled around signs explaining how Midwest wheat and pine once flowed through Buffalo en route to Europe. Movie nights and yoga classes take place on lawns nearby.

“Buffalo may have a ways to go, but it still has come a long way,” Stephanie Surowiec, 32, said as she sat in the sun sipping a hard cider bought from a nearby stand. A nurse who grew up in Buffalo’s suburbs, Ms. Surowiec lives in the city limits today.

If there’s a model for how Buffalo can wring new uses from its industrial hulks, it might be Larkinville, a former soap- and box-making enclave in the city that developers reinvented as a business district about a decade ago. Blocklong factories that now hold offices huddle around a plaza dotted with colorful Adirondack chairs. Wednesday night concerts are a summer staple.

Makeovers of a similar scale are fewer on the East Side, but that could soon change.

This spring, officials announced an infusion of $225 million for the neighborhood, including $185 million from the state. Among the funding is $30 million for an African American heritage corridor along Michigan Avenue and $61 million to redevelop Central Terminal, a 17-story Art Deco train station that had its last passengers in 1979.

In June, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an investment of $50 million for the East Side to help homeowners with repairs and unpaid utility bills.

Some projects have already produced tangible results, like the redevelopment of a 35-acre portion of factory-lined Northland Avenue. Though many of the neighborhood’s properties remain derelict, one, which made machines for metalworking, was reborn in 2018 as 237,000-square-foot Northland Central, an office and educational complex. It includes the Northland Workforce Training Center, which teaches job skills to area residents.

“The impact of the place has been phenomenal,” said Derek Frank, 41, who enrolled in classes after serving an eight-year prison sentence for dealing drugs. Today, Mr. Frank is employed as an electrician, as is his son, Derek Jr., 21, who attended classes alongside his father.

“Them putting that building right here in the heart of the city makes it accessible and convenient,” he added.

But East Side redevelopment plans have sometimes hit bumps. An effort to create a cluster of hospitals called the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has caused gentrification. But advocates point out that the hospitals, which employ 15,000, have picked up some of the economic slack after factories shut down.

Whether spurred on by public investment or other reasons, Buffalo has seen notable growth. Its population of 278,000 in the 2020 census was up 7 percent from 261,000 in 2010.

Buffalo enjoys a steady stream of immigrants, like the family of Muhammad Z. Zaman, which immigrated from Bangladesh in 2004 in part because Buffalo was one of the few places in the United States with an Islamic grade school, Mr. Zaman said.

Today, Mr. Zaman, 31, a working artist, is one of several muralists hired to add bright designs to walls of buildings left exposed by demolitions. One of his creations, which incorporates Arabic calligraphy that translates to “our colors make us beautiful,” jazzes up the side of a structure on Broadway.

“When we first moved here, I felt like we were the only Bangladeshi family,” said Mr. Zaman, who noted that there wasn’t a single halal-style restaurant in Buffalo in the mid-2000s, versus about 20 today. “Now, people are coming here from all over the place.”

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Ecuador cuts gasoline prices in latest concession to protesters

QUITO, June 26 (Reuters) – Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso said on Sunday he would cut prices for gasoline and diesel by 10 cents a gallon, the latest concession to try to end nearly two weeks of anti-government protests in which at least six people have died.

The sometimes-violent demonstrations by largely indigenous protesters demanding lower fuel and food prices, among other things, began on June 13 and have slashed Ecuador’s oil production.

Lasso, whose adversarial relationship with the national assembly has worsened during the protests, had already withdrawn security measures and announced subsidized fertilizers and debt forgiveness, and his government met this weekend with indigenous groups. read more

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The leader of the CONAIE indigenous organization, Leonidas Iza, had flagged gasoline prices and other issues as still outstanding earlier on Sunday, promising to keep up the demonstrations until they were settled.

“Everyone considers that gas prices have become the cornerstone of maintaining the conflict and though we as a government are very clear that this factor isn’t the origin of Ecuadoreans’ problems, we must think of the common good and citizens’ peace,” Lasso said.

“I have decided to reduce the price of gasoline extra and Ecopais (gasoline) by 10 cents per gallon and also diesel by 10 cents per gallon,” Lasso said.

Lasso froze prices for gasoline extra at $2.55 a gallon and diesel at $1.90 a gallon in October last year, setting off an initial series of protests.

Gasoline extra will now cost $2.45 per gallon, while diesel will cost $1.80, both still higher than CONAIE had requested.

Ecuador’s oil production has fallen by more than half because of road blockades and vandalism linked to the protests, the energy ministry said earlier.

“Oil production is at a critical level. Today the figures show a reduction of more than 50%,” the ministry said in a statement. “In 14 days of demonstrations, the Ecuadorean state has stopped receiving around $120 million.”

Vandalism, the takeover of oil wells and road closures have prevented transport of necessary supplies, the ministry said.

Before the protests, oil production was about 520,000 barrels per day.

The public oil sector, private producers of flowers and dairy products, tourism and other businesses have lost about $500 million, the ministry of production said.

Residents of Quito have complained of product shortages and Lasso said earlier on Sunday hospitals in the city of Cuenca were suffering an oxygen shortage.

CONAIE has tallied five protester deaths, while the government says four civilians have died during protests and two died in ambulances delayed by blockades.

Lawmakers continued debate on Sunday on an effort to remove Lasso from office, though it appears opposition groups do not have the necessary support to do that.

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Reporting by Alexandra Valencia
Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb
Editing by Nick Zieminski, Robert Birsel

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Legal clashes await U.S. companies covering workers’ abortion costs

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June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more

Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more

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Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.

Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.

The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.

Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.

State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.

The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.

LAWSUITS LOOMING

It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.

“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.

Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”

For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.

ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.

Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.

“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.

LIMITS

The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.

Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.

And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.

But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Russians Crowdsource Supplies for Their Army in Ukraine

Natalia Abiyeva is a real-estate agent specializing in rental apartments in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow. But lately, she has been learning a lot about battlefield medicine.

Packets of hemostatic granules, she found out, can stop catastrophic bleeding; decompression needles can relieve pressure in a punctured chest. At a military hospital, a wounded commander told her that a comrade died in his arms because there were no airway tubes available to keep him breathing.

Ms. Abiyeva, 37, has decided to take matters into her own hands. On Wednesday, she and two friends set out in a van for the Ukrainian border for the seventh time since the war began in February, bringing onions, potatoes, two-way radios, binoculars, first-aid gear and even a mobile dentistry set. Since the start of the war, she said, she has raised more than $60,000 to buy food, clothes and equipment for Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine.

“The whole world, it seems to me, is supporting our great enemies,” Ms. Abiyeva said in a phone interview. “We also want to offer our support, to say, ‘Guys, we’re with you.’”

Russia, grass-roots movements, led in large part by women, have sprung up to crowdsource aid for Russian soldiers. They are evidence of some public backing for President Vladimir V. Putin’s war effort — but also of the growing recognition among Russians that their military, vaunted before the invasion as a world-class fighting force, turned out to be woefully underprepared for a major conflict.

care packages familiar to Americans from the Iraq war. The most sought-after items include imported drones and night vision scopes, a sign that Russia’s $66 billion defense budget has not managed to produce essential gear for modern warfare.

“No one expected there to be such a war,” Tatyana Plotnikova, a business owner in the city of Novokuybyshevsk on the Volga, said in a phone interview. “I think no one was ready for this.”

155-millimeter shells fired by American howitzers, and that Russia’s leadership may have underestimated the determination of the West to support Ukraine.

“It’s not making the military operation go any faster from our point of view — it’s making our situation more difficult, I don’t deny it,” Mr. Borodai said, referring to Western weapons deliveries. “It’s possible that our military leaders were not ready for there to be such massive support on the part of the West.”

benefiting from a far more extensive crowdfunding campaign that is delivering millions of dollars’ worth of donations in items like drones, night vision scopes, rifles and consumer technology.

Most of the groups collecting donations for Russian soldiers appear to be operating independently of the Russian government. They mostly rely on volunteers’ personal contacts in individual units and at military hospitals who pass along lists of what they most urgently need.

segment in April about such volunteers explained, “but a mother’s heart has a will of its own.”

Outside state media, however, supporters of the war are pointing to private donations as a key to victory. Pro-Russian military bloggers, some of them embedded with Russian troops, are urging their followers to donate money to buy night vision equipment and basic drones.

“Our guys are dying because they lack this equipment,” one blogger wrote, while “the entire West is supplying the Ukrainian side.”

The needed equipment, largely imported, can be bought at Russian sporting goods stores or ordered online. Starshe Eddy, a popular military blogger, wrote that consumer drones made by the giant Chinese company DJI “have become so firmly entrenched in combat operations that it’s become hard to imagine the war without them.”

says the item “makes seeing — and ranging — deer out to 600 yards a reality.”

wrote, adding a winking emoji and a heart emoji.

Ms. Abiyeva says she started crowdsourcing aid after her husband, a captain, was deployed to Ukraine and she felt “powerless” to affect the course of events. She visited the hospital attached to her husband’s local military base and got the contact information for surgeons deployed to the war. Ever since, they have sent requests to her directly and passed her contacts along to colleagues.

When one surgeon at a field hospital asked for arterial embolectomy catheters, for treating clogs in arteries, Ms. Abiyeva found another volunteer in St. Petersburg to make the 700-mile trip to deliver 10 of them immediately. Ms. Abiyeva said that when she met the surgeon on her own trip to the region a week later, he told her that six of the catheters had already been used.

“It’s possible that we saved six lives,” she said.

The Russian military’s apparently urgent need for essential medical equipment and basic, foreign-made consumer devices has led some Russians to wonder how the Kremlin has been spending its enormous military budget, more than 3 percent of the country’s total economic output. On the VKontakte page of Zhanna Slobozhan, a coordinator of donations in the border city of Belgorod, a woman wrote that talk of raising money for drones and gun sights “makes me think that the army is totally being abandoned to the mercy of fate.”

“Let’s make sure that at least we won’t abandon our guys,” Ms. Slobozhan wrote back. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Putin visited a military hospital on Wednesday for the first time since the war began. He later told officials that while the doctors he met had assured him that “they have all they need,” the government should “promptly, quickly and effectively respond to any needs” in military medicine.

documentary about soldiers’ mothers released last weekend by the Russian journalist Katerina Gordeyeva, seen some three million times on YouTube, one woman describes her son using a wire to reattach soles to his boots.

An association of retired Russian officers published an open letter on May 19 noting that the public was raising funds for equipment the military sorely lacked “even though the government has plenty of money.” The letter excoriated Mr. Putin’s war effort as halfhearted, urging him to declare a state of war, with the aim of capturing all of Ukraine.

But on the ground, the concerns are more prosaic. With the approach of summer, Lyme disease-bearing ticks are out, and volunteers in Belgorod have been making homemade insect repellent, putting it into spray bottles and delivering it to the front.

A group of women collecting donations in the area learned that some of the Russian-backed separatist forces were so badly equipped that they were using shopping bags to carry their belongings. In their Telegram account with about 1,000 followers, the group put out an urgent call for backpacks, along with shoes, Q-tips, socks, headlamps, lighters, hats, sugar and batteries.

“This is so they understand that they are not alone,” said one of the coordinators of the Belgorod group, Vera Kusenko, 26, who works at a beauty salon as an eyelash extension specialist. “We hope this ends soon.”

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Ukraine says Russian advances could force retreat in part of east

  • Russian forces advance in east, shifting momentum
  • EU eyes deal on banning oil shipments from Russia
  • Putin says food crisis can be solved by lifting sanctions

KYIV, May 28 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces may have to retreat from their last pocket in the Luhansk region to avoid being captured, a Ukrainian official said, as Russian troops press an advance in the east that has shifted the momentum of the three-month-old war.

A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full. His troops have gained ground in the two areas collectively known as the Donbas while blasting some towns to wastelands.

Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Russian troops had entered Sievierodonetsk, the largest Donbas city still held by Ukraine, after trying to trap Ukrainian forces there for days, though adding that Russian forces would not be able to capture the Luhansk region “as analysts have predicted”.

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“We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However, it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat,” Gaidai said on Telegram.

Gaidai said 90% of buildings in Sievierodonetsk were damaged with 14 high-rises destroyed in the latest shelling.

Speaking to Ukrainian television, Gaidai said there were some 10,000 Russian troops based in the region and they were “attempting to make gains in any direction they can”. read more

He said several dozen medical staff were staying on in Sievierodonetsk but that they faced difficulty just getting to hospitals because of the shelling.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was protecting its land “as much as our current defence resources allow”. Ukraine’s military said it had repelled eight attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.

“If the occupiers think that Lyman and Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian,” Zelenskiy said in an address.

‘PERFORMED POORLY’

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Saturday Ukrainian forces had repelled eight assaults in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the previous 24 hours. Russia’s attacks included artillery assaults in the Sievierodonetsk area “with no success”, it said.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said while Russian forces had begun direct assaults on built-up areas of Sievierodonetsk, they would likely struggle to take ground in the city itself.

“Russian forces have performed poorly in operations in built-up urban terrain throughout the war,” they said.

Russian troops advanced after piercing Ukrainian lines last week in the city of Popasna, south of Sievierodonetsk. Russian ground forces have captured several villages northwest of Popasna, Britain’s defence ministry said.

Reached by Reuters journalists in Russian-held territory on Thursday, Popasna was in ruins. The bloated body of a dead man in combat uniform could be seen lying in a courtyard.

Resident Natalia Kovalenko had left the cellar where she was sheltering in the wreckage of her flat, its windows and balcony blasted away. She said a shell hit the courtyard, killing two people and wounding eight.

“We are tired of being so scared,” she said.

Russia’s eastern gains follow the withdrawal of its forces from approaches to the capital, Kyiv, and a Ukrainian counter-offensive that pushed its forces back from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv.

Russian forces shelled parts of Kharkiv on Thursday for the first time in days killing nine people, authorities said. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation”.

Ukraine’s General Staff said on Saturday while there was no new attack on the city, there were multiple Russian strikes on nearby communities and infrastructure.

In the south, where Moscow has seized a swath of territory since the Feb. 24 invasion, including the port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to impose permanent rule.

STRUGGLING TO LEAVE

In the Kherson region in the south, Russian forces were fortifying defences and shelling Ukraine-controlled areas, the region’s Ukrainian governor told media. Another official said Russian forces had shelled the town of Zelenodolsk.

On the diplomatic front, European Union officials said a deal might be reached by Sunday to ban deliveries of Russian oil by sea, accounting for about 75% of the bloc’s supply, but not by pipeline, a compromise to win over Hungary and clear the way for new sanctions. read more

Zelenskiy has accused the EU of dithering over a ban on Russian energy, saying the bloc was funding Russia’s war and delay “merely means more Ukrainians being killed”.

In a telephone call with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Putin stuck to his line that a global food crisis caused by the conflict can be resolved only if the West lifts sanctions.

Nehammer said Putin expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine but added: “If he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question.”

Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters, and Russia’s blockade of ports has halted shipments, driving up global prices. Russia accuses Ukraine of mining the ports.

Russia justified its assault in part on ensuring Ukraine does not join the U.S.-led NATO military alliance. But the war has pushed Sweden and Finland, both neutral throughout the Cold War, to apply to join NATO in one of the most significant changes in European security in decades.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Conor Humphries, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Vitaliy Hnidyi in Kharkiv and Reuters journalists in Popasna; Writing by Rami Ayyub and Robert Birsel; Editing by Grant McCool and William Mallard

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The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers

In 1789, before the slave rebellion, the marquis bought 21 recently kidnapped Africans before leaving for France. But he didn’t indicate where they were put to work, so the commission valued them at an average rate, down to the cent: 3,366.66 francs.

In the end, it awarded Cocherel’s daughter, a newly married marquise, average annual payments of 1,450 francs, or about $280 in the 1860s, for dozens of years, according to government publications of the commission’s decisions.

By contrast, coffee farmers in Haiti were earning about $76 a year in 1863, Edmond Paul, a Haitian economist and politician, wrote at the time — barely enough to cover one meal a day of “the least substantive foods.”

It was reminiscent, he said, of slavery.

The Haitian government ran out of money right away. To finish its first payment, it emptied its state coffers, sending it all to France on a French ship, sealed in bags inside nailed crates reinforced with iron bands. That left no money for public services.

The French government threatened war to collect the rest.

“An army of 500,000 men is ready to fight,” wrote the French foreign minister in 1831 to his consul in Haiti, “and behind this imposing force, a reserve of two million.”

In response, President Boyer passed a law commanding every Haitian to be ready to defend the country. He built the leafy suburb of Pétionville, now the bastion of the Haitian elite, up the hill from the harbor — out of range of cannon fire.

Even French diplomats recognized their threats had prompted the Haitian government to pour money into its military, rather than send it to France.

“The fear of France, which naturally wants to be paid, does not allow it to reduce its military state,” reads a 1832 letter by one French diplomat.

In late 1837, two French envoys arrived in Port-au-Prince with orders to negotiate a new treaty and get the payments flowing again. The so-called independence debt was reduced to 90 million francs, and in 1838, another warship returned to France with Haiti’s second payment, which swallowed much of Haiti’s revenues once again.

The military sucked up another large chunk, according to the French abolitionist writer and politician Victor Schœlcher. After that, there was very little left for hospitals, public works and other aspects of public welfare. Education had been assigned a mere 15,816 gourdes — less than 1 percent of the budget.

From the very beginning, French officials knew how disastrous the payments would be for Haiti. But they kept insisting on getting paid, and for decades — with some exceptions, notably during periods of political upheaval — Haiti came up with the money.

The Times tracked each payment Haiti made over the course of 64 years, drawing from thousands of pages of archival records in France and Haiti, along with dozens of articles and books from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including by the Haitian finance minister Frédéric Marcelin.

Credit…Cannaday Chapman

In some years, Haiti’s payments to France soaked up more than 40 percent of the government’s total revenues.

“They don’t know which way to turn,” a French captain wrote to the Baron of Mackau in 1826 after collecting a shipment of gold from Haiti.

“After trying domestic loans, patriotic subscriptions, forced donations, sales of public property, they have finally settled on the worst of all options,” the captain wrote: 10 years of exorbitant taxes that were “so out of all proportion to the achievable resources of the country, that when each one sells all that he possesses, and then sells himself, not even half of the sums demanded will be collected.”

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