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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Hispanic Population In Portland Is Growing Rapidly

A specific city in Oregon has seen a huge amount of growth in the Hispanic community.

It’s almost 7 o’clock at night and Rosa Ramirez has had a fruitful day. Today her sales were good, but Ramirez says it isn’t always this way.

Rosa Ramirez moved to Oregon from El Salvador. 

She sells pupusas that she makes at a market in Hillsboro, Oregon. It’s a traditional dish from her home country of El Salvador. 

Ramirez says she was pregnant when she almost died at a shooting during the civil war in her country.  

Her unborn child did not survive. Heartbroken, she left El Salvador in 1992. Oregon has been her home for the last 30 years.  

“When I came here there was almost no one who spoke Spanish. Only English, and it was difficult for me because I was a nanny, and I was working for people who only spoke English and then I started fighting with the language,” said Ramirez. 

She is one of the almost 600,000 Latinos living in the state. 

According to the 2020 Census, Oregon’s Latino population grew by more than 30% in the last ten years. 

Latinos are now the largest minority group in the state and their numbers have grown faster than the national rate in each of the last three decades. 

Maria Caballero Rubio is the executive director of Centro Cultural in Washington County.

“That just shows that we are making a mark and we are growing. And I think people are acknowledging that we are a growing population,” said Rubio.  

She has seen steady growth since her farmworker family settled in Washington County in 1969. They migrated from Durango, Mexico.

“Maybe eight years ago, the only flags we had up here were the Mexican flag, because a lot of people were from, [or] have their ethnicity from Mexico. And then we had the American flag. But then the more that we started having visitors, they would say to me, you know, ‘where’s my flag?’ so, we decided that we would bring in the flag for people who’ve come to visit,” said Rubio. 

Caballero says that the thriving Latino population is starting to rise out of the fields and into professional jobs. 

“We had jobs in farm work or we had farms, jobs in in landscaping and those kinds of things. But more and more, as our communities have stayed here and the next generations have grown up and they become educated, they are coming back as professionals,” she continued. 

More than half of Oregon’s Latino population is in three counties: Multnomah, Washington and Marion. There the Latino communities grew by at least 25% in the last decades. 

“We are becoming more visible now, I have to say. Ten years ago, you couldn’t find an elected official here in Washington County or the Portland metro area that was Latino,” said Rubio.  

In fact, Carmen Rubio became Portland’s first Latino city commissioner in 2020. She is Maria’s daughter.  

Maria says the younger population may cause a shift in politics as more become eligible to vote when they turn 18. 

NEWSY’S AXEL TURCIOS: There’s more representation in the Latino community, in the state legislature, city councils, more Latinos getting into office, representing these growing communities across the state. Will this last?

MARIA CABALLERO RUBIO: I think so. I think it will last. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to continue making change, you know, social and systems changes that need to happen because of the historic disenfranchisement of people of color. 

The state once legally banned Black people.

“But, you know, department heads and managers and, you know, police chiefs and all of those. I think that they have not — they have not taken steps to be more inclusive in terms of recruiting and making it more more available to people of color to apply it. That’s an area that we still lack,” said Rubio. 

The increase in the Latino population here in Oregon has also been propelled by new waves of migrants. One of those waves is Venezuelan migration, fleeing poverty and the government in their country. According to the American Community Survey, there are more than 1,400 Venezuelans living in the state of Oregon.

Giselle Rincon is the president and co-founder of Venezuela’s Voice in Oregon.

“Everybody’s struggling to find food, medical supplies or jobs, especially safety,” said Rincon. She says the new Venezuelan migrants are facing new challenges. 

“Mostly access to education, how to find a job, how to navigate the system, where to apply. Most of the Venezuelans are professionals and they want to help prosper the economy of Oregon.”

“I think our new generations are becoming more involved. They are, you know, getting an education,” said Jaime Miranda, the owner of M&M Marketplace. 

Back at the Hillsboro market, Miranda says he was one of only a few Mexican immigrants in his neighborhood when he moved from Chihuahua, Mexico in 1985. He was 10 years old.   

He went to college and has owned this Latino market for 22 years. He started it with only 12 vendors and now the establishment has 66.

TURCIOS: How do you think the new generations of Latinos are shifting culture here in Oregon? 

JAIME MIRANDA: You know, from migrant workers to people who are starting their businesses, own their homes, they are getting a career, an education. So, we are definitely shifting to that second generation where they are integrated, and they understand how to navigate the system and be part of the community as a whole. 

“Now you see more Hispanics than before. Before, you didn’t see any Hispanics. Hispanics were very rare to find here in Oregon,” said Ramirez. 

As for Rosa, she says she carries El Salvador in her heart, but she’s beyond grateful to the United States, a nation that gave her a new life and optimism about the next generation. 

Source: newsy.com

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Weather Helping, But Threat From Western Fires Persists

By Associated Press
September 11, 2022

Cooler temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview Fire after sweltering heat last week.

Firefighters made progress against a huge Northern California wildfire that was still growing and threatening thousands of mountain homes, while crews also battled major blazes Sunday in Oregon and Washington.

The Mosquito Fire in foothills east of Sacramento spread to nearly 65 square miles, with 10% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“Cooler temperatures and higher humidity assisted with moderating some fire activity,” but higher winds allowed the flames to push to the north and northeast, according to a Cal Fire incident report Sunday.

More than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties were under threat and some 11,000 residents of communities including Foresthill and Georgetown were under evacuation orders.

In Southern California, cooler temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview Fire about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles after sweltering heat last week.

The 44-square-mile blaze was 45% contained Sunday. The fire has destroyed at least 30 homes and other structures in Riverside County. Two people died while fleeing flames last Monday.

The southern part of the state welcomed the cooler weekend weather as a tropical storm veered off the Pacific Coast and faded, helping put an end to blistering temperatures that nearly overwhelmed the state’s electrical grid.

Thunderstorms and the risk of flooding persisted in mountainous areas of greater Los Angeles on Sunday. But after Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico last week it quickly was downgraded and weakened further until it largely disappeared, forecasters said.

In Washington state, a raging wildfire sparked Saturday in the remote Stevens Pass area sent hikers fleeing and forced evacuations of mountain communities. There was no containment Sunday of the Bolt Creek Fire, which had scorched nearly 12 square miles of forestland east of Seattle.

“It’s going to be several days” before crews get a handle on the blaze, Peter Mongillo, spokesperson for Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue, told the Seattle Times.

California’s Mosquito Fire has covered a large portion of the Northern Sierra region with smoke. California health officials urged people in affected areas to stay indoors where possible. Organizers of the Tour de Tahoe canceled the annual 72-mile bicycle ride scheduled Sunday around Lake Tahoe because of the heavy smoke from the blaze — more than 50 miles away. Last year’s ride was canceled because of smoke from another big fire south of Tahoe.

The Mosquito Fire’s cause remained under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric said unspecified “electrical activity” occurred close in time to the report of the fire on Tuesday.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the last five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in state history.

And the rest of the West hasn’t been immune. There were at least 18 large fires burning in Oregon and Washington, leading to evacuations and targeted power outages near Portland as the challenge of dry and windy conditions continued in the region.

Sprawling areas of western Oregon choked by thick smoke from the fires in recent days were expected to see improved air quality on Sunday thanks to a returning onshore flow, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

South of Portland, more than 3,000 residents were under new evacuation orders because of the 134-square-mile Cedar Creek Fire, which has burned for over a month across Lane and Deschutes counties. Firefighters were protecting remote homes in Oakridge, Westfir and surrounding mountain communities.

According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, this weekend there were more than 400 square miles of active, uncontained fires and nearly 5,000 people on the ground fighting them in the two northwestern states.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Tens Of Millions Of People Under Heat Alerts In The West

Major western cities like Portland, Sacramento and Phoenix are in or nearing triple-digit temperatures for the holiday weekend.

A brutal heat wave is baking the West, testing California’s infrastructure in Sacramento.

The country’s largest electric utility told its customers in the state to do their part to avoid overtaxing the grid.  

“Set your thermostat to about 78 degrees,” said Megan McFarland, spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric. “Try to avoid using your oven. Use your microwave instead or grill outside. This prevents your house from heating up.”

It’s a concern that could quickly get dangerous as the mercury rises, and with triple-digit highs on the map already, it will quickly get exhausting out west over the course of the week.

By Monday, it’s still expected to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Boise, Idaho, and Sacramento could hit 111, as Phoenix, Arizona cools to 109.

“Close your blinds,” McFarland said. “The sun beating in on your house actually raises the temperature and makes your air conditioning work harder.”

As tens of millions get some type of heat alert and settle in for a sweltering week, cities like Scottsdale, Arizona have already tried to be prepared.

“We wanted to get more data to make sure that we really understood where it’s hotter, why it’s hotter in some of those places,” said Lisa McNeilly, Scottsdale’s sustainability director.

The city is studying its landscape to analyze heat patterns block by block, trying to figure out how to make the hottest parts of the city cooler.

“We hope that the resources provided really will help people better understand all of those differences in heat, also what they can do, but then also let the city have a good basis for developing a heat mitigation plan,” McNeilly said.

That’ll mean things like taking out or covering up asphalt and planting more trees. It’s part of living in the extremes of a warming climate where heat waves like this one are much more common.

Source: newsy.com

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Police: Heroic Safeway Employee Confronted Gunman In Store

Police hailed 66-year-old Donald Ray Surrett Jr. as a hero for attempting to disarm the gunman and possibly saving lives in the supermarket.

A Safeway employee who previously served in the U.S. Army for two decades attacked a gunman in the produce section of the Bend, Oregon, supermarket, police said Monday, possibly preventing more casualties from a shooting that left the employee and one other person dead.

Police hailed the employee, 66-year-old Donald Ray Surrett Jr., of Bend, as a hero and said his actions may have saved shoppers at the store in the high-desert city ringed by mountains in the central part of the state. Customer Glenn Edward Bennett, 84, of Bend, was also killed Sunday evening, police spokeswoman Sheila Miller said.

“Mr. Surrett engaged with the shooter, attempted to disarm him and may very well have prevented further deaths. Mr. Surrett acted heroically during this terrible incident,” Miller said at a news conference as she struggled against tears.

Police said Monday the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; his body was found by police near an AR-15-style weapon and a shotgun. Police identified the gunman as Ethan Blair Miller, 20, of Bend.

The gunman lived in an apartment complex behind The Forum Shopping Center. Witnesses said he began shooting Sunday evening as soon as he left the complex and continued firing as he entered the shopping complex’s parking lot and then went into the Safeway.

Bennett was killed at the store’s entrance, police said, and the shooter then moved through the aisles “spraying shots” from the assault rifle until Surrett confronted him. The entire incident — from the first 911 calls to officers discovering the suspect dead in the store — unfolded in four minutes, Miller said.

Police entered the supermarket from the front and rear as shots were still being fired.

Debora Jean Surrett, the ex-wife of the Safeway employee killed in the attack, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Surrett served in the Army for 20 years as a combat engineer.

He wasn’t deployed to active combat zones, but during the 20 years they were married from 1975 to 1995, they were stationed in Germany three times and lived on military bases across the U.S.

“They’re trained to be the first ones to go into war and the last ones to come home,” she told the AP.

Authorities later found three Molotov cocktails and a sawed-off shotgun in the shooter’s car. The Oregon State Police bomb squad was called in to sweep the store, the car and the suspect’s apartment for explosives, authorities said, forcing the evacuation of eight surrounding apartments on Monday morning.

Miller said reports that there was a second shooter were not true.

Authorities are seeking a search warrant to comb through online materials on an unspecified number of digital devices they found at the shooter’s apartment but declined to comment on reports that the suspect posted his plans online in advance. Bend police are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine where the suspect got his weapons and if he did so legally, Miller said.

“We are aware that the shooter may have posted information online regarding his plan. We’re investigating this,” she said. “We have no evidence of previous threats or prior knowledge of the shooter. We received information about the shooter’s writings after the incident had taken place. And the shooter has no criminal history in the area.”

The shooter graduated from Mountain View High School in Bend in 2020, according to online records, and a former classmate remembered him as an extremely combative person who had few friends.

He was a huge fan of mixed martial arts and “tried to fight everyone at Mountain View and kept getting his (expletive) kicked and he just never learned,” said Isaac Thomas, who was suspended for a week as a freshman for fighting with the gunman. The gunman held onto a grudge from that fight and once threatened to shoot him, Thomas told AP.

“At one point he said he was going to shoot me and I was like, ‘Get over yourself’ because I didn’t think he had a gun, but I guess I was wrong,” Thomas said.

Thomas recalled running into the shooter in 2020 in the parking lot of the Safeway, where the gunman was gathering up carts as part of his job. He recognized him and threatened him again although several years had gone by, Thomas said.

“It was kind of crazy when I heard about it,” he said of the shooting. “But it makes sense that he chose Safeway because he worked there and he knew the layout.”

Oregon’s elected leaders reacted to the shooting Monday with pledges to fight for more gun control.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement that the shooting was one of several in Oregon over the weekend and that “Oregonians deserve to be safe from gun violence.”

Oregon residents will vote in November on one of the strictest gun-control measures in the nation. If passed, Measure 114 would ban large capacity magazines over 10 rounds — except for current owners, law enforcement and the military — and require a permit to purchase any gun.

To qualify for a permit, an applicant would need to complete an approved firearm safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing and pass a criminal background check. The state police would create a firearms database.

Bend is a city of about 97,000 approximately 160 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Police: 2 Killed In Oregon Grocery Store, Suspect Found Dead

By Associated Press
August 29, 2022

Before the shooter entered the store, he fired shots in the shopping center’s parking lot and multiple people called 911.

Terrified shoppers and employees fled for safety when a gunman entered a Safeway supermarket in Bend, Oregon, “spraying shots” from an assault rifle, killing two people, police said.

Police officers found the gunman, whose name has not been released, dead “in close proximity” to an AR-15-style weapon and a shotgun inside the Safeway supermarket, Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said during a Sunday night news conference.

On Monday morning, the Forum Shopping Center remained closed as law enforcement officials continued their investigation, Bend police tweeted.

The shooter fired shots in the shopping center’s parking lot at about 7:04 p.m., and multiple people called 911, the chief said.

Molly Taroli, 40, was shopping for dinner with her husband when the shooter started “spraying shots,” she told The Bulletin newspaper.

Taroli told the newspaper she took her own handgun from her purse, as employees yelled, “go, go, go!” as they tried to help people flee the store.

Josh Caba, another shopper in the store, told KTVZ he was with his four children when he heard multiple shots.

“I immediately turned to my children and said, ‘Run!’ People were screaming,” Caba told the news outlet. “It was a horrifying experience.”

Heather Thompson, who was across the street from the shopping center, told the Central Oregon Daily that she heard multiple shots.

“I heard anywhere from five to eight shots. I thought it sounded like backfire,” Thompson said. “Less than a minute later, there were 10 to 20 shots and then another 10 to 20 shots. And by that time, I went inside and told my dad to get away from the window. And people were running out of Safeway.”

Krantz, the police chief, said the shooter shot one person in the store’s entrance. That person was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

The shooter continued firing inside the store, fatally shooting another person, the chief said.

Police entered the supermarket “still hearing shots,” Krantz said. They did not fire any shots, he said, adding that they found an AR-15 style rifle and another shotgun near the deceased shooter.

Krantz did not identify the shooter or the victims. He said multiple agencies are working together on the investigation.

“This will take a long time to collect evidence,” Krantz said. “We know this is a frightening thing for our community.”

In a tweet, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley offered his condolences to the victims’ families and to “the many people whose routine Sunday evening shopping turned into a terrifying run for their lives.”

Bend is a city of about 97,000 approximately 160 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Walmart Ordered To Pay Oregon Man $4.4M For Racial Profiling

By Associated Press
August 23, 2022

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove called into question some of the claims and said Walmart considers the verdict “excessive.”

DDA Multnomah County grand jury has ordered Walmart to pay $4.4 million in damages to a man who sued the store, saying he was racially profiled and harassed by a Walmart employee at a Portland, Oregon, area store in 2020.

According to the lawsuit the employee “spied” on Dovey Mangum while shopping, ordered him to leave and called police when he refused, KGW reported.

According to the lawsuit and a news release from his attorneys, Mangum, who was 59 at the time, visited the Walmart in Wood Village on March 26, 2020, to buy a light bulb for his refrigerator. After Mangum arrived, he noticed store employee Joe Williams watching him as he shopped.

Williams told Mangum to leave the store, but Mangum refused, saying he’d done nothing wrong. Mangum’s lawyers said Williams told Mangum he was going to call the police and tell them Mangum had threatened to “smash him in the face.”

Williams called the non-emergency police dispatch line and told the operator he “had a person refusing to leave,” the lawsuit states.

According to Mangum’s lawyers, deputies from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office responded and “refused to take action against Mangum.” The lawyers said deputies made that decision based on Williams’ “shifting explanations” for the reason he called and because of his “reputation for making false reports to police.”

According to Mangum’s lawyers, the next day, Sheriff’s Sergeant Bryan White and another deputy met with the director of the Walmart and the assistant manager and explained that deputies had noticed a “pattern of behavior” in which Williams would call police to report “dangerous active situations, such as customers physically assaulting him or other employees,” that were not happening.

The store and Walmart corporate officials kept him on the job for several more months. and fired him in July 2020 for “mishandling $35 of Walmart property,” the lawsuit said.

Williams in a deposition denied the allegations that he wrongly called the police, saying Mangum had threatened to hit him.

Mangum filed the lawsuit against Walmart for negligent retention and action against person who summons police with improper intent.

“He lives the same message of self-respect that he teaches to young people, ‘stand up for yourself when you know you’re right,'” Mangum’s trial lawyer, Greg Kafoury, said in a statement. “Because of his courage, we were able to show the jury an unconscionable failure of responsibility by the world’s largest corporation.”

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove called into question some of the claims and said Walmart considers the verdict “excessive.”

“We do not tolerate discrimination. We believe the verdict is excessive and is not supported by the evidence,” Hargrove said in a statement to the news outlet.

He said Mangum interfered with Walmart associates as they were surveilling and stopping confirmed shoplifters, and then refused to leave despite being asked to repeatedly.

“We are reviewing our options including post-trial motions, he said.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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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

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Scorching Heat Wave In U.S. Northwest Forecast To Last Longer

The Oregon county that includes Portland said there has been an uptick in the number of people visiting emergency rooms for heat-related symptoms.

The scorching heat spell in the Pacific Northwest is now expected to last longer than forecasters had initially predicted, setting parts of the normally temperate region on course to break heat wave duration records.

“We warmed up the forecast for the latter part of this week,” said David Bishop, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon. His office is now forecasting up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Portland already hit 102 F on Tuesday, a new record daily high, prompting the National Weather Service to extend the excessive heat warning for the city from Thursday through Saturday evening.

Seattle on Tuesday also reported a new record daily high of 94 F.

The duration of the heat wave puts Oregon’s biggest city on course to tie its longest streak of six consecutive days of 95 F or higher.

Climate change is fueling longer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, a region where weeklong heat spells were historically rare, according to climate experts.

Heat-related 911 calls in Portland have tripled in recent days, from an estimated eight calls on Sunday to 28 calls on Tuesday, said Dan Douthit, a spokesperson for the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management. Most calls involved a medical response, Douthit added.

Multnomah County, which includes Portland, said there has been an uptick in the number of people visiting emergency departments for heat-related symptoms.

Emergency department visits “have remained elevated since Sunday,” the county said in a statement. “In the past three days, hospitals have treated 13 people for heat illness, when they would normally expect to see two or three.”

People working or exercising outside, along with older people, were among those taken to emergency departments, the statement added.

On Wednesday, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office said at least two people have died from suspected hyperthermia during the heat wave. One death occurred in Portland on Monday, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

The state medical examiner’s office said the heat-related death designation is preliminary and could change after further investigation. The official cause of death may not be confirmed until several months later.

People in Portland’s iconic food cart industry are among those who work outside. Many food trucks have shut down as sidewalks sizzle.

Rico Loverde, the chef and owner of the food cart Monster Smash Burgers, said the temperature inside his cart is generally 20 degrees hotter than the outdoor temperature, making it 120 F inside his business this week.

Loverde said he closes down if it reaches above 95 F because his refrigerators overheat and shut down. Last week, even with slightly cooler temperatures in the mid-90s, Loverde got heat stroke from working in his cart for hours, he said.

“It hurts, it definitely hurts. I still pay my employees when we’re closed like this because they have to pay the bills too, but for a small business it’s not good,” he said Tuesday.

Multnomah County said its four emergency overnight cooling shelters were at half capacity on Tuesday with 130 people spending the night. But anticipating more demand, officials have decided to expand capacity at the four sites to accommodate nearly 300 people. The overnight shelters will remain open at least through Friday morning.

William Nonluecha, who lives in a tent in Portland, sought out shade with some friends as the temperature soared on Wednesday afternoon. Nonluecha was less than a minute’s walk from a cooling shelter set up by local authorities but wasn’t aware it was open. He said the heat in his tent was almost unbearable.

His friend Mel Taylor, who was homeless last year but now has transitional housing, said during last summer’s record-breaking heat wave a man in a tent near his died from heat exhaustion and no one realized it. He’s afraid the same thing might happen this summer.

“He was in his tent for like a week and the smell, that’s how they figured out that he was dead,” Taylor said. “It’s sad.”

Residents and officials in the Northwest have been trying to adjust to the likely reality of longer, hotter heat waves following last summer’s deadly “heat dome” weather phenomenon that prompted record temperatures and deaths.

About 800 people died in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia during a 2021 heat wave that hit in late June and early July. The temperature at the time soared to an all-time high of 116 F in Portland and smashed heat records in cities and towns across the region. Many of those who died were older and lived alone.

Other regions of the U.S. often experience temperatures of 100 degrees. But in regions like the Pacific Northwest, people are not as acclimated to the heat and are more susceptible to it, said Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

“There’s a much greater risk for individuals in areas such as the Northwest to have higher instances of heat-related injuries and death,” Crandall said.

Crandall said people who are continually exposed to heat have certain bodily adaptations allowing them to cool off more efficiently. A main acclimation response is an increase in the amount of sweat released from sweat glands.

“The combination of lack of air conditioning and not being exposed to the heat and not having those adaptations” can put people in the Northwest more at risk during heat waves compared to warmer parts of the country, he said.

Portland officials have opened cooling centers in public buildings and installed misting stations in parks. TriMet, which operates public transportation in the Portland metro area, is offering free rides to cooling centers for passengers who cannot afford to pay.

Officials in Seattle and Portland on Tuesday issued air quality advisories expected to last through Saturday.

Further south, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory on Wednesday for western Nevada and northeast California that is set to last from the late Thursday morning until Saturday night. Across the region, near record daytime high temperatures will range from 99 to 104 degrees F.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

Source: newsy.com

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Spokane was the Next Affordable City. Now, It’s Too Expensive.

Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with zero drama. This year it went back on the market, and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen offers and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.

When Mr. Silbar got into the business, he said, his clients were “nurses and teachers,” and now they’re corporate managers, engineers and other professionals. “What you can afford in Spokane has completely changed,” he said.

The typical home in the Spokane area is worth $411,000, according to Zillow. That’s still vastly less expensive than markets like the San Francisco Bay Area ($1.4 million), Los Angeles ($878,000), Seattle ($734,000) and Portland ($550,000). But it’s dizzying (and enraging) to long-term residents.

Five years ago, a little over half the homes in the Spokane area sold for less than $200,000, and about 70 percent of its employed population could afford to buy a home, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. Now fewer than 5 percent of homes — a few dozen a month — sell for less than $200,000, and less than 15 percent of the area’s employed population can afford a home. A recent survey by Redfin, the real estate brokerage, showed that home buyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a budget 23 percent higher than what locals had.

One of Mr. Silbar’s clients, Lindsey Simler, a 38-year-old nurse who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a home in the $300,000 range but keeps losing out because she doesn’t have enough cash to compete. Spokane isn’t so competitive that it’s awash in all-cash offers, as some higher-priced markets are. But prices have shot up so fast that many homes are appraising for less than their sale price, forcing buyers to put up higher down payments to cover the difference.

A dozen failed offers later, Ms. Simler has decided to sit out the market for a while because the constant losing is so demoralizing. If prices don’t calm down, she said, she’s thinking about becoming a travel nurse. With the health care work force so depleted by Covid-19, travel nursing pays much better and, hopefully, will allow her to save more for a down payment.

“I’m not at the point where I want to give up on living in Spokane, because I have family here and it feels like home,” she said. “But travel nursing is going to be my next step if I haven’t been able to land a house.”

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